Fresh highs for ASX on company earnings, job figures


The Australian share market has hit a fresh record high, as company reporting season continues and overseas markets provide a strong lead.

ASX at 12:00pm (AEDT):

  • The ASX 200 has gained 0.5 per cent to 7,182 points
  • The consumer and utilities sectors are leading the broad-based rally
  • Technology stocks are dragging, led by a fall in WiseTech Global shares

The ASX 200 had risen 0.5 per cent to 7,182 points by 12:00pm (AEDT), boosted by some well received earnings reports.

The best performing stocks were Smartgroup Corporation (+12.4pc), Southern Cross media (+10.9pc) and Iluka Resources (+9.9pc).

The rally gained steam after the jobless rate increased to 5.3 per cent in January, a worse outcome than economists had forecast, making further interest rate cuts likely.

“The labour market started 2020 on a weak note … There is a real risk that the unemployment rate spikes in the coming months,” Callam Pickering, economist at job website Indeed, said.

“We believe it is likely that the Reserve Bank will need to cut rates again by mid-year, with a second cut not out of the question.”

Qantas shares rallied (+5.8pc) as the company increased its interim dividend and announced a share buy-back.

The airline’s half-year profit fell 3.9 per cent to $445 million and the company has flagged a $100-150 million hit to full-year earnings from the coronavirus outbreak.

Qantas will cut capacity to Asia by 15 per cent until at least the end of May as it responds to a fall in demand across the region.

Shares in Super Retail Group have also risen strongly (+4.5pc).

The company announced a 20 per cent drop in first-half profit to $57.4 million but maintained its interim dividend at 21.5 cents per share.

Super Retail — which owns Rebel Sport, BCF and Supercheap Auto — said it owes workers a further $8 million due to underpayments, taking the total estimated back-payments to more than $61 million.

Tech stocks rebound on Wall Street

After a warning on lower sales and supply disruptions from Apple earlier this week hit global tech stocks, the iPhone maker bounced back this session.

Apple shares (+1.4pc) recouped most the previous day’s losses, while shares in chipmaker Nvidia Corporation rose (+6.1pc) after a broker upgrade.

Shares in fitness device company Garmin jumped (+6.7pc) as its revenue forecasts beat analysts’ estimates.

Energy stocks also boosted US markets amid a rise in crude oil prices.

Market snapshot at 7:35am (AEDT):

  • ASX SPI futures +0.2pc at 7,106, ASX 200 (Wednesday’s close) +0.4pc at 7,144
  • AUD: 66.74 US cents, 51.64 British pence, 61.78 Euro cents, 74.31 Japanese yen, $NZ1.046
  • US: Dow Jones +0.5pc at 29,377, S&P 500 +0.6pc at 3,389, Nasdaq +1pc at 9,827
  • Europe: FTSE 100 +1pc at 7,457, DAX +0.8pc at 13,789, CAC +0.9pc at 6,111, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.8pc at 3,539
  • Commodities: Brent crude +2.5pc at $US59.17/barrel, spot gold +0.5pc at $US1,608.87/ounce

The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting were released, reiterating that the US central bank expects to keep interest rates steady this year, despite the new risks posed by the coronavirus outbreak, which it said “warranted close watching”.

“Participants generally saw the distribution of risks to the outlook for economic activity as somewhat more favourable than at the previous meeting,” the minutes of the Fed’s January meeting read.


Hannah Clarke did ‘everything she could to protect’ her children, friend reveals

Brisbane 4000

A Brisbane mother who was set alight with her three young children “did everything she could to protect” them from her estranged husband, a friend says.

Key points:

  • Rowan Baxter and his 31-year-old wife Hannah Clarke both made it out of the burning car
  • The three children died in the car and Hannah died in hospital early on Wednesday night
  • Friends of the couple told the ABC the Baxters’ lives were unravelling

Hannah Clarke, 31, also known as Hannah Baxter, was pulled alive from the driver’s seat of the family car as it was engulfed by flames on a Camp Hill street about 8:30am on Wednesday, during what should have been a routine school run.

Her children — Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3 — all died inside the car.

Ms Clarke died hours later in hospital.

Her estranged husband and the children’s father, former Warriors rugby league player Rowan Baxter, allegedly poured petrol on his family in a suspected domestic violence incident.

Police said he was in the front passenger seat but made it out of the burning vehicle.

He died with self-inflicted wounds on the footpath, police said.


Friends of the couple have told the ABC that signs of the Baxters’ lives unravelling were there. (Facebook)

Friend Caitlin Langford said Ms Baxter was “just the most beautiful woman”.

“She was kind, and strong, and lit up any room,” she said.

“She was the most beautiful mama to her babies and the most inspirational role model.”


Flowers have been left near where the family died in the Brisbane suburb of Camp Hill. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

Hannah and Mr Baxter, 42, ran a fitness business at Capalaba for about five years. Ms Clarke was a champion in trampoline sports and specialised in kids and “Mums n’ bubs” classes.

Video: Residents reported hearing explosions

(ABC News)

The gym shut its doors late last year.

Friends of the couple told the ABC that signs of the Baxters’ lives unravelling were there.

Ms Clarke had moved out with the children, and Mr Baxter was living alone in the three-bedroom Carindale home the family had shared.


Hannah Clarke with her son Trey, who died yesterday in Brisbane. (Facebook)

Friends said problems in the marriage had been visible for some time.

“She loved them so fiercely and she was doing everything she could to protect them,” Ms Langford said.

Family violence support services:

For the months after the separation, Mr Baxter peppered Facebook with messages wishing his children goodnight, posting pictures of them cuddling together, and telling them he missed them.

A fundraising page has been set up for Ms Clarke and the children’s funeral.

Police are expecting to give more details of their investigation into the suspected murder-suicide this afternoon.

‘It doesn’t feel real’

Korri Lauder, who has known Ms Clarke for more than a decade, said her friend was “the definition of love”.

“It’s not just her family that’s crushed it’s the entire trampolining community and gymnastics Australia,” she said.


Korri Loader reacts at the makeshift shrine near the scene of the car fire. (AAP: Dan Peled)

“It doesn’t feel real, it doesn’t feel like it’s her.

“She lived, breathed [her kids]. She’d do anything for those kids.

“When you think of family, you just think of her.”

Rowan Baxter posted video of himself rough-housing with children


Mr Baxter (on left), used to train with the NRL club New Zealand Warriors. (Facebook: Rowan Baxter)

Mr Baxter, born in New Zealand, proclaimed he was “one of the top fitness coaches in Brisbane”, and his expertise was once bolstered by a video testimonial from rugby league star Sam Thaiday.

But it was another online video of Mr Baxter that provoked the attention of many in the wake of the tragedy.

Last month, he posted a video on Facebook of him play-fighting with his children.

Video: Rowan Baxter plays a wrestling game with his three children.

(ABC News)

He responded to their playful “attacks” with practised demonstrations of the kind of headlocks used in mixed martial arts, and laughed out loud after slamming toddler Trey’s face into a mattress.

“Sweet dreams my babies xo Love you to the moon and back #nowords #dad #myworld”, he posted.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Others read something more sinister into the muscular man’s rough-housing with the young children.

In the wake of yesterday’s tragedy, more than 700 people piled onto Mr Baxter’s page to post mostly damning comments under the video.

Arguments raged about whether his handling of the kids in the video represented some kind of warning sign.

The suspected killings of Ms Clarke and her children echo a series of disturbing cases more than four years ago which thrust the protection of women at risk from former partners onto the state political agenda.


Hannah Clarke and Rowan Baxter on their wedding day. (Facebook)

The public outcry in response to a cluster of highly-publicised homicides in 2015, including Tara Brown and Karina Lock, prompted moves to overhaul police and government responses to family violence.

The Palaszczuk Government fast-tracked recommendations from Quentin Bryce’s Not Now, Not Ever report.

Local MP Joe Kelly was among those who laid flowers at the scene and said he had been “sickened” to hear the news.

Video: Former Broncos player Sam Thaiday trained with Rowan Baxter at his gym.

(ABC News)

“I think this would would rock any community,” he said.

“People are being killed by domestic violence every week in Australia and sadly it’s now our community’s turn.

“We have to continue to work really hard to stop people dying.

“To do that we have to change our attitudes and culture and we have to make sure that we treat people with respect and relationships are based on collaboration, not control.”


The Baxter family doing handstands together at the gym. (Facebook)


Rare bird blown south to Cronulla pub flown home to Darwin for release

Darwin 0800

A rare bird normally found in the central Pacific, which lost its way and ended up on a pub balcony in Sydney, has been released back into its natural habitat.

Key points:

  • A rarely seen Bulwer’s petrel, usually found in the central Pacific, blew way off course and ended up in Cronulla in NSW
  • After spending a week recovering, the bird — nicknamed Buggerlugs — was flown to Darwin and released
  • An ornithologist involved in Buggerlugs’ release says letting him go in New South Wales would have been “like releasing it in the desert”

In the first officially recorded appearance of a live Bulwer’s petrel in Australia, the bird nicknamed Buggerlugs, is thought to have been blown south by adverse weather. He may even be an undiscovered species.

He was found on the balcony of the Cronulla RSL, and later dug in his claws when two attempts were made by well-meaning wildlife carers to release him onto the chilly waters off Sydney.

Ornithologist Lindsay Smith OAM from the Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association in Wollongong said Buggerlugs was a long way from home.

“He didn’t have ID so couldn’t get a drink,” he said of the appearance at the RSL.

When he was identified as a Bulwer’s petrel, the international birding community became excited.

“To release Buggerlugs here off Wollongong would be like releasing it in the desert,” Mr Smith said.


The lost Bulwer’s petrel, nicknamed Buggerlugs, recuperates post-rescue at the Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association in Wollongong. (Supplied: Lindsay Smith)

Travelling in style

Buggerlugs was fattened up with southern bluefin tuna (at $130 per kilo), wombaroo, insectivore mix, and sea water.

Funds were raised and tickets booked to bring Buggerlugs to Darwin on a scheduled commercial flight.

He was checked into the luggage compartment like any other pet, and was in the Larrakia Nation Rangers’ boat Mardma within an hour of arriving in Darwin on February 14.

They were battling an outgoing tide of only 2 metres and unpredictable wet-season winds to get Buggerlugs back into a hospitable environment as quickly as possible.

Larrakia Nation Land and Sea ranger Javadd Andersen said it was anything but hospitable for humans.

“It was very rough and we had a lot of swell coming over,” he said.

“We couldn’t head out too far because we had a bit of water coming over the front deck and we decided not to push ourselves too far.”


Lost Bulwer’s petrel Buggerlugs on board the Larrakia Marine Rangers boat from which he was released. (Supplied: Amanda Lilleyman)

Leap of faith

Damien Stanioch from NT Parks and Wildlife was also on board.

“The conditions were ideal for the bird — a good strong headwind and fairly choppy, so he could use the wind to gain lift,” he told the ABC.

“Lindsay gave him the final check to make sure he was still bright-eyed.

“We simply held him in the hand and as soon as that offshore wind hit him in the face he just started flapping.

“It was one of those now-or-never moments.

“Lindsay opened his hand and he flew off beautifully — nice and strong into the wind.

“He went off down toward the water and used that air pressure from the water and just beautifully followed the waterline until he disappeared over the water and then reappeared over the swell.

“It was just so good to see.”


Buggerlugs spent a week eating and recuperating before being flown to Darwin and released. (Supplied: Lindsay Smith)

Anxious wait

The team waited for 20 minutes before heading for home once they were confident Buggerlugs was safe.

“Because he was housebound for a week or so we weren’t sure how his flight patterns would be,” Mr Stanioch said.

“We were all very, very nervous.”

Mr Anderson said: “I hope the bird survives and lives a long and healthy life. It flew off pretty strong, so I hope it flies off in the right direction.”

The Bulwer’s petrel is typically found in the latitudes between 10 degrees south and 40 degrees north.

By comparison, Cronulla RSL is close to 34 degrees south. The Bulwer’s petrel has also been found in the Indian and Atlantic oceans.

Blood samples have been taken for DNA testing.


The bird is released successfully despite some nervousness from Larrakia Nation Marine Rangers and NT Parks and Wildlife. (Supplied: Amanda Lilleyman)


‘It’s a crisis’: Case worker overload draws concern for kids in out-of-home care

Sale 3850

Gippsland children in out-of-home care are being left out of decisions about how often they see their families, where they live, and where they attend school because case workers are swamped with paperwork, a researcher has found.

Key points:

  • PhD candidate Lynda McRae says case workers are supposed to see children in care at least once a fortnight, but this is not happening
  • Her study has found case workers in Gippsland are bogged down in paperwork, and sometimes live a long way from their clients
  • The Victorian Government has appointed a new practice leader position, but Ms McRae says this is not enough to solve the problem

Federation University PhD candidate Lynda McRae interviewed 30 case managers from the child welfare sector in Latrobe City, South Gippsland, Baw Baw Shire, and Bass Coast as part of a research project.

Under both Victorian legislation and human rights law, children should be involved in making choices about their care.

However, case workers said meeting this legal obligation was simply not possible because paperwork took up the majority of their time.

“It’s a real irony, because they’re reporting in but they’re not seeing any of the young people anywhere near the amount they’re supposed to be,” Ms McRae said.


Lynda McRae says children in care are supposed to be seen every two weeks. (Supplied: Lynda McCrae)

“There’s a big gap between what is there, enshrined in legislation and embedded in policy, and what is actually possible and practical on the ground.

“[Children in care] are supposed to be seen between every week to every two weeks, and certainly on the whole that’s not regularly happening at all, and there are anecdotal stories about kids just not being seen full stop before the major decisions are being made about them.”

Sale’s Heather Baird grew up as a ward of the state and runs A Better Life for Foster Kids in Gippsland, which provides clothing, toys, and support to foster families.

She liaises with foster carers on a daily basis.

“Kids very rarely, unless they’re playing up, see a child protection worker. It’s as simple as that,” Ms Baird said.

“I got a question from a carer today … they hadn’t seen any case workers since 2018.

“I’ve heard of kids who have gone for five years without seeing a case worker.”

‘It’s a crisis, there’s no mistaking that’

State Minister for Child Protection Luke Donnellan said the Government had appointed a new practice leader position to try to ensure young people in care had their views sought.

However, Ms McRae said one practice manager was not enough.

“My findings clearly indicate there is far more required in this space than the appointment of one practice leader,” Ms McRae said.

Her study found, while paperwork was a large contributor to the severe lack of face-to-face contact between case workers and kids in care, there were many other factors at play.

“It’s a crisis, there’s no mistaking that,” Ms McRae said.

“There are crisis levels of placement instability because of the shortage of carers coupled with the rise of kids coming into care and the shortage of beds in the region.”


Heather Baird says geographical distance between case workers and children in care was often a problem. (ABC Gippsland: Zoe Ferguson)

Ms Baird said geographical distance between case workers and their assigned children could make visits very difficult.

“We’ve got kids in Sale originally from Wagga Wagga and their case worker is in Preston,” Ms Baird said.

“I’ve got a family in Rosedale and their caseworker is in Portland.”

Mr Donnellan drew on statewide figures and said the percentage of children allocated caseworkers had grown from 81 per cent to 90.4 per cent since 2014.

But Ms McRae said, while the rest of the state might have improved in allocations, inner Gippsland still had the highest number of child protection substantiations in the state.

“I am led to believe [inner Gippsland] has the highest numbers of kids coming into care nationally — hence it is extremely challenging to ensure such a high percentage of kids can be allocated to workers,” she said.

“It would be very helpful if these stats were broken down according to regions.”

A report by the Commission for Children and Young People published in November 2019 showed that in Victoria the number of children in out-of-home care grew from 3,767 in 2008/2009 to 7,863 in 2017/2018.

In that same period, the number of child protection reports received tripled from 42,851 to 115,600 despite a 73 per cent increase in State Government funding.

According to the Victorian Government, there were around 900 foster carers in the state.

Ms McRae said this meant children had limited options to choose from, in terms of their placements, they were also often placed a long distance from their case workers, or were not assigned case workers at all.


Ms McRae said while the rest of the state might have improved in allocations, inner Gippsland still had the highest number of child protection substantiations in the state. (Supplied)

“Frontline workers are saying ‘we’re actually getting further away from [meeting legislative obligations]’,” Ms McRae said.

Case workers told Ms McRae paperwork, compliance and placement instability had spiralled in the past five years. 

“They’re saying it is harder now to see young people than at any other time,” Ms McRae said.

Mr Donnellan said the Government was acting on problems addressed in the study.

“While we know there’s more to be done, since this study was conducted we’ve done an enormous amount of work to increase staff and lower caseloads for child protection practitioners,” Mr Donnellan said.

Ms McRae also noted education levels in staff also varied between Gippsland child protection workers and their metropolitan counterparts.

Despite Gippsland having the highest demand for workers, there was no university-level social work course on offer in the region.

One senior participant in the study said, while the State Government had funded new positions in the sector, there were not enough appropriately qualified people to fill the positions.

“Our teams are slowly starting to fill, but the system is forced to play catch-up and they are doing this with a very inexperienced base, mostly diploma-qualified,” they said.

“I don’t think the Minister and the policymakers truly know or understand that, and the impact it has on the work.”


Angry? Sad? Reduced to tears? How to deal with your emotions at work

Canberra 2600

There is a scene in the new film A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood when children’s entertainer Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, sings a tune about what to do with the “mad you feel”.

“What do you do with the mad that you feel, when you feel so mad you could bite? When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right?,” the song asks.

But the most poignant advice comes when the song insinuates that when you feel angry, it doesn’t have to take control of you:

“It’s great to be able to stop, when you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong.

And be able to do something else instead, and think this song:

I can stop when I want to, can stop when I wish, can stop, stop, stop any time.

And what a good feeling to feel like this, and know that the feeling is really mine.”

The song originally appeared in the award-winning television show Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, an American program created to give children “positive ways of dealing with their feelings” and widely lauded for “creating an atmosphere in which a child is accepted and allowed to grow”.

So what do you do, then, when you’re all grown up, but realise you’ve forgotten the lessons you learned as a child about how to calm yourself down, or pick yourself up, or address the way you’re feeling?

Moreover, what do you do when the “mad you feel” threatens to bubble over into your workplace — an arena where you’re expected to be professional, and to know how to deal with your anger, or sorrow, or pain?

It all comes down to emotional intelligence


Tom Hanks stars as Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood, and does a gorgeous rendition on ‘What do you do with the mad that you feel’. (Supplied: A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood)

Emotional intelligence is defined by Macquarie Dictionary as “an innate ability to manage one’s own emotions and emotional responses in others”.

“Emotions are naturally useful and functional. Some of our ‘natural’ emotions are integral to work,” Dr David Cheng from the ANU’s Research School of Management said, noting that strong emotional intelligence is of increasing value within workplaces.

“There is a lot of research that says if you stifle your natural emotions, it can lead to poorer performance and mental health.

“But we need to understand what our natural emotions are and why we are feeling them. We need to be emotionally intelligent.”

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be taught, and if you can master your own feelings, it can benefit your colleagues.

What do you do with the mad that you feel?


Dwight, from television program The Office, goes through a spectrum of emotions. (Supplied: NBC)

As both Fred Rogers and Neighbourhood director Marielle Heller would attest, one of the most dominant emotions we have is anger — the Mad You Feel song was used as a thesis for the entire film.

Anger, according to Dr Cheng, is the emotion you feel “when harm has been done and you are, in some respect, crying out for something to be done to fix the harm”.

In a workplace context, this could be anything from having someone else take credit for your work, to finding out there are imminent company-wide redundancies.

“Sometimes it’s appropriate to feel sad or down or angry, [like] if you find out a fellow employee has stolen money from the office,” Dr Cheng said.

“It’s not wrong to show anger at times, but you want to show it in an emotionally intelligent way. Sometimes you need to cool down for a bit so that when you show it, it comes out right.”


Pencils aren’t food. Try taking a break, having some lunch and going for a walk. (Supplied: Unsplashed/

Dr Cheng and his colleagues have also found that when leaders show anger about ethical or moral violations people respect them more. However, if they show anger about lack of skill or ability, people think less of them as leaders.

“If possible, take time to think about whether showing that anger is useful or not,” Dr Cheng said.

“If you show that anger by throwing things around and threatening physical harm on people, the message that harm has been done and you want somebody to help gets lost.

“People get worried about their safety around you or get distracted from the message by your telling and screaming.

“It’s important that the anger you show is tempered and not flying off the handle with intense rage.”

So what happens if you show up to work angry, after an argument with your partner or a fight with your child?

Many of us have been there, but how can we stop it from changing the mood of the office?

According to Rachel Green, director of The Emotional Intelligence Institute, feeling angry about external things is okay — you just need to learn how to manage it.

“It’s a myth that we’re supposed to leave our emotions at the door,” said.

“We’re not robots. We want emotions at work.

“A lot of people at work who don’t have high emotional intelligence let their emotions drive what they do or say, and that’s where it becomes problematic.

“You just need to take time to pause, and know what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that, and take action,” she said.


Crying at work is nothing to be embarrassed about, says Ms Green. (ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

Ms Green said that, alongside confiding in a colleague, taking a moment to write in a journal or going for a run to expel some energy can help take the edge off any angry feelings.

“It’s better to go for a run and be an hour late … than push it down or carry it in with you,” she said.

“It might explode like a volcano later in the morning.”

Big girls don’t cry … or do they?

It is not uncommon for strong emotions to bubble over into tears, and it can happen for men and women alike.

“You need not feel awkward,” Ms Green said.

“Crying is not an emotion, it’s a behaviour that is a result of an emotion.

“People can cry from fear, from sadness, from hurt or worry or anger. Some people cry during performance reviews; if someone tells me I’m bad at my job, I’m going to cry!

“It’s not a terrible thing. It’s just that people feel embarrassed when other people cry.”

If you are able to identify the emotions that have pushed you or your colleague to the point of tears, Ms Green said you’ll be able to deal with it better.

“If you can become comfortable with people crying, and allow it to pass, then you’re doing well,” she said.


Try and read the room, and if being happy when everyone else is sad isn’t helpful, take a step back. (Supplied)

But emotional intelligence is not just consigned to mastering your anger, tears or frustrations. If you are a naturally happy person, you need to be aware of how you come across too.

“Generally speaking, people prefer a positive mood in others, and so if you are naturally a little more positive that’s a good thing and you should generally be ok in displaying that emotion,” Dr Cheng said.

“If you are naturally happy and you help improve the mood of your office a bit, this is a good thing. But you need to be aware that it may not always be a good thing to show it.

“If you get some flowers from somebody you are really interested in romantically and walk into the office super happy, but the office announces they have to cut jobs, showing your natural emotion of happiness would not be good.

“You should be mindful.”

And herein lies the key: emotional intelligence isn’t just about knowing your own emotions. It’s about reading the room, too.

While yelling, crying or bursting out in laughter aren’t inherently bad expressions of emotions, there are some situations where it may not be helpful to show those reactions.

In these situations, Dr Cheng advises people “to do everything you can to slow down your immediate reaction”.

“Take deep breaths, count to 10, take a break, go to the bathroom if you need to — do whatever you need to do. Then when you come back, try a different response to your first reaction,” he said.

“Often this thought-out reaction, even though it may feel unnatural, is very effective. Once you see [that], you may find it much easier to exercise emotional intelligence.

“It may not work every time, but if you know your natural emotional reaction doesn’t usually improve the situation, it may be worth trying.”


Do more to recognise why you feel the way you do and what impact it may have on others. (Unsplash: Carl Heyerdahl)

Something that may be helpful in a workplace context is establishing emotional ground rules and developing “the vocabulary to say how we are feeling”.

“We need to be able to talk about it, not just be driven by it,” Ms Green said.

“Establishing emotional ground rules — what do we foster — shows that emotions aren’t something to be punished, but can be utilised.

“Anger or hurt can build to revenge or resentment if left unaddressed. So knowing what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, means you will be able to take action [and] have the vocabulary to say, ‘I’m feeling vulnerable, at a loss, worried’.”

A culture that fosters positive ways of dealing with emotions can unify a team and change the mood.

“Being able, as a team or an individual, to shift a change in emotions so the team is more relaxed or brighter, means they’re more likely to solve problems well,” Ms Green added.

“My dream is that we have emotionally intelligent team leaders and managers, who can role model emotionally intelligent behaviours to their team.

“It’s not weak to show emotions, it can be a point of great strength.”


‘Like licking an ashtray’: Bushfire smoke destroys 2020 vintage

Canberra 2600

While the haze blanketing Canberra has finally lifted, local wineries are only just beginning to feel the effects of months of smoky air.

At its worst, Canberra’s air quality reading during the bushfire period topped 7,000 — anything over 200 is considered hazardous — and there were 49 days locals were encouraged to stay inside because the air was too smoky.

But for local winemakers, the smoke has had a devastating effect, penetrating their grapes and, for several wineries, destroying their 2020 vintage.

“It’s been pretty devastating actually,” Tim Kirk from Clonakilla Wines, based in Murrumbateman, said.

“We’ve had bushfires before, but this was something else. The fires all around us, we just seemed to cop all of smoke and it hung around for weeks and weeks.

“What happens is it sits on the skins of the grapes and gets sucked into the grapes as they start to ripen. Once you crush the grapes and begin to ferment them, those smoke compounds are released into the wine.

“It is not what you want with a great Canberra district wine.”

Why Canberra is a smoke bowl Bushfire smoke’s movements can’t be predicted precisely, but meteorologists say it’s likely to stay for some time.

As a result, Mr Kirk and his team, who usually produce between 15,000 and 20,000 cases of wine each year, made the “painful” decision not to have a 2020 vintage.

“The impact is going to be significant, there’s no doubt about that, and it will be quite a heavy financial blow for us,” Mr Kirk said, estimating a loss in the millions of dollars.

“At Clonakilla we have 35 acres of vines just on our estate vineyard. That’s over 100 tonnes of grapes right there, that will end up carpeting the vineyard floor.

“We’re not going to make any wine from this vineyard at Murrumbateman, or indeed any of our vineyards from suppliers that we have in the Hilltop district or the Canberra district.

“We’ve been in this game a long time, it’s 50 years next year. We’ve never actually written off a whole vintage before.”


Graeme Shaw from Shaw Wines is hoping the discarded grapes will nourish the soil and feed his sheep. (ABC News: Kate Midena)

It is a similar story five minutes down the road at Shaw Wines, where owner Graeme Shaw has also decided to discard his 2020 vintage and feed the grapes to his sheep.

“For our vineyard, it’s through every single variety. There’s not a variety we’re able to pick, unfortunately,” he said.

“The Cabernet absolutely stank and it’s just like licking an ashtray.

“The Riesling wasn’t as bad, but it wasn’t good. It had quite a harsh taste on it, you could definitely get the smoke, and for a fragrant wine you can’t have that in it.”


Canberra’s wine region is best known for its Riesling and Shiraz. (Unsplash)

Mr Shaw is bracing himself for a twofold financial loss from not producing a vintage, and from the decrease in cellar door visitors because of the smoke.

“There was a definite decrease in foot traffic, probably half of what we would have had this time last year,” he said.

“Then we’ll lose over 200 tonnes of grapes, and 11,000 cases. For the wine itself, it’s way over $1 million worth of product lost.

“It’s a bugger, having 12 months of hard work to produce top quality fruit and then having to drop it all; that’s hard. But it’s expected now and then.”


The discarded grapes will be used to feed local wildlife, livestock, or as mulch. (ABC News: David Sciasci)

Indeed, while growers are no stranger to weather extremes — Shaw Wines lost their entire 2007 vintage to frost — the variety of weather events throughout December and January have undoubtedly taken their toll.

“It hasn’t been a great year in farming,” Sarah McDougall from the Canberra District Wine Industry Association said.

“This year not only did we have the worst drought we’ve ever had, there was also hail, then water, then smoke taint.

“Some wineries are already calling the harvest, but others are still doing some testing, as we’re all in different stages of ripening. So all is not lost.”

That is a sentiment Mark Bourne from the New South Wales Wine Industry Association agrees with.

“It is clear that there will be a significant amount of product from 2020 not on the market from New South Wales wineries,” he said, which includes Canberra district wineries in Murrumbateman and around Lake George.

“But wineries still have great vintages coming along — 2018 and 2019 vintages, which were some of the best in New South Wales, are about to be released this spring.

“I’d encourage all wine lovers to go along, and support their wineries.”


Sarah McDougall is still uncertain whether Lake George Winery’s 2020 vintage will be usable. (ABC News: Kate Midena)

Ms McDougall, who herself is a winemaker at Lake George Winery, is quick to point out that indeed, most makers do have “contingency plans” — and cellar doors are still open.

“At Lake George we have some great 2018 reds that we’ll be releasing in the next week, and of course we have some 2019 whites and reds that we’ll be releasing in the next few months,” she said.

“We’re all open, our cellar doors are open, we still produce quality wines.”

Adds Tim Kirk: “To lose a whole crop to smoke taint, that’s a first for us. But we’re farmers. So we’ll live through this and thrive through it I’m sure.”


$1,000-a-day rents see small retailers flee shopping centres


Company reporting season is now well underway and one thing we’re learning is that owning a shopping mall is getting a lot tougher.

Key points:

  • Two of Australia’s major listed shopping centre operators are worth less than they were two years ago on the share market
  • Some shopping centre owners are still demanding 4 per cent annual rent rises, but this has seen vacancy rates rise
  • The mix of shops in centres is shifting from retail (which tend to pay higher rents) to services (which generally pay less)

For example, GPT, which has centres such as Rouse Hill Market Town in north-west Sydney and Melbourne Central in the heart of Melbourne, saw income from its retail division flatline last year.

It blamed this on fixed rent increases for existing tenants not making up for empty stores staying vacant for longer between tenancies.

As well, with sales growth almost non-existent, the proportion of rent tied to sales fell.

Retail veteran Jacqueline Major, who owns swimwear store Oz Resort, has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of landlords in her 30 years in business.

But she said Westfield Bondi Junction, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, nearly put her out of business.

“Westfield was a 220-square metre store,” Ms Major told the ABC.

“It was $1,000-a-day rent, and we had five staff to run it each day, so it was a very expensive store.”

When she struggled to find that thousand dollars a day, Jacqueline Major said Westfield’s reaction was swift.

“They rip out your shop fit,” she lamented.

“It doesn’t matter how much it cost you, they put it in the dumpster basically.”

No retail revival on the horizon

But what goes around comes around, and now it’s the landlords who have a problem.

“You’ve had a Coalition victory and three rate cuts, which have seen house prices improve, but we haven’t seen that wealth effect translate into strong retail sales and we don’t think you will for a while yet,” explained Sholto Maconochie, who analyses shopping centres for US investment bank Jefferies.

Foreign competition hits retail
Australian shops are struggling to adapt to a much more competitive marketplace generated by foreign retailers seeking a share of the consumer dollar.

Even the biggest players are feeling the pinch.

Scentre Group, the operator of Westfield, is Australia’s premier retail landlord and saw operating income grow by just 2 per cent last year.

“It’s not shooting the lights out,” admitted Scentre Group CEO Peter Allen.

“But you’ve also got to recognise you’re in a low-inflation environment.”

Scentre Group’s earnings have been sustained by the traditional practice of landlords — automatic rent increases.

This year it was 4 per cent, well above sales growth.


Scentre Group CEO Peter Allen says, “you’ve also got to recognise you’re in a low-inflation environment”. (ABC News: Grant Wignall)

“Provided that we have that demand for customers coming to our centres, we believe we will be able to have that growth in those contractual obligations,” Mr Allen said.

“It’s important for us, and I think it’s sustainable as far as the business is concerned.”

Shopping centres lose market value

But a number of things are putting the brakes on income growth.

The demise of so many fashion chains in recent times — the most recent of which is Jeanswest — has many centres renting to a different type of tenant.


Sholto Maconochie is an analyst at Jeffries, covering shopping centres. (ABC News: John Gunn)

“More food and beverage, more services — so doctors, medical, government services, banks — where people want to be in the mall, not leave the mall,” Sholto Maconochie observed.

But there’s a catch.

“These types of tenants typically don’t pay the same rent as a fashion or apparel retailer,” he added.

In these straitened economic times, landlords are being forced to offer discounts to persuade existing tenants to renew their leases, or to get new tenants to sign up.

“We think those [discounts] will persist for some time, until retail sales improve and retailers can pay more rent,” Mr Maconochie added.

Do the banks have a big problem with retailers?
As big retailers shut up shop, losses are mounting. It’s not only bad news for the owners, it’s not great for the banks and the economy.

And that’s reflected in the market’s view of retail landlords.

Scentre Group is trading lower today than it was two years ago.

Another pure-play retail landlord, Vicinity, has also seen its share price fall in that time.

The stock market represents investors’ views of companies’ future earnings and Scentre Group’s Peter Allen admits the current environment is putting a brake on earnings growth.

“As we curate the right mix, we’re not necessarily going to get the same level of rent as what we’ve had from a previous retailer, and I don’t necessarily expect that,” he conceded.

You don’t pay rent in cyberspace

Even in well-to-do areas, such as Mosman on Sydney’s lower north shore, shops and their landlords are doing it tough.

Mosman is one of Australia’s wealthiest suburbs, but when the ABC visited last week, we counted 14 shops for lease.

Jefferies’ Sholto Maconochie says the problem is simple — rents are too high.

“It shows that the demand for tenants is weak, but the rent expectations of landlords are way above what tenants are prepared to pay. They need to meet somewhere in the middle.”

For Jacqueline Major at Oz Resort, paying $1,000-a-day in rent is long gone.

When Black Friday comes
While the tradition of Boxing Day sales isn’t likely to die overnight, it is being challenged by online sales events like Black Friday.

She’s about to move out of her warehouse back into a store — at a tenth of the rent she was paying at Westfield Bondi Junction.

“We’ve found a landlord that wanted to listen to us and give us a rent that we could achieve and we can retail quite happily knowing we can pay the rent at the end of the day,” Ms Major explained.

But, in another ominous sign for landlords, Oz Resort now does the bulk of its business online.

And you don’t pay rent in cyberspace.


Fleas and ticks may be creating new sub-species of shingleback lizards


South Australian researchers will lead an international study into whether fleas and ticks are creating new subspecies of sleepy lizards.

Key points:

  • Parasites are a major selective force in host evolution
  • Fleas and ticks could be creating new species of sleepy lizards
  • Parasites might be impacting the ability shinglebacks have of recognising each other

Fleas, ticks and other parasites live on sleepy lizards — also known as shinglebacks — and other lizards.

The international study, led by Flinders University in South Australia, will be conducted two hours north of Adelaide, between Burra and Morgan, where the environment consists of both Mallee scrub and grassland.

This location was chosen because it is where lizards with different parasites interact with one another.

“Parasites represent a major selective force in host evolution,” said lead researcher, Associate Professor Mike Gardner.

He said parasites could alter their hosts’ immune gene — which was what they use to fend off diseases.

“The parasite type in a geographic area might cause the lizards there to all have the particular form of that gene that has the ability to resist the parasite,” Professor Gardner said.


Researchers are trying to determine whether parasites can cause sub-species of shingleback lizards. (ABC RN: Ann Jones)

The study will be looking at how parasites cause host divergence, which is when one species becomes two.

Professor Gardner said the immune gene was how sleepy lizards recognised each other and if the parasites caused a change in that gene, it would make it difficult for the lizards to recognise one another.

“If the parasites’ ability to cause differences in the lizards’ genes is really strong, then maybe lizards with different parasites will stop recognising them [lizards] as being the same species,” he said.

One species becomes two

Sub-species can sometimes occur when a physical barrier is put up, making it difficult for one group of sleepy lizards to interact with another.

But Professor Gardner said it was also possible for that to happen without a physical barrier.

“It can occur through other measures such as parasites,” he said.

“The selection pressures that are occurring in the host sleepy lizard on either side of that barrier may actually be driving some level of host divergence where individuals on either side are unable to recognise each other.”

The study will investigate whether parasites can act as a similar barrier.

“It all comes back to the parasites evolving ways to attack their hosts and the lizards evolving ways to defend against those parasites,” he said.


Shingleback lizards are also known as Pinecone Lizards because of their bumpy scales. (Supplied: Dr David Phalen)

Lizard monogamy

While sleepy lizards commonly interact with one another, they are monogamous when mating, meaning they only have one partner.

“Males and females come together for three months of the year during the breeding season and then move about in the landscape and encounter other individuals,” said Martin Whiting, an Associate Professor in animal behaviour at Macquarie University.

He said sleepy lizards were well suited for the type of research in SA, because they interacted with each other.

“Understanding how the social system might be driven by the types of parasites that they’re dealing with is a really interesting question,” he said.

The effect of climate change

Professor Gardner said the research would also look at whether or not climate change was affecting where the parasites called home.

“If parasites are going to change their ranges according to the changing climate, they’re going to come into contact with different hosts than they would normally,” he said.

“So, that may affect how the species reacts to the parasites; it may affect how those interactions occur.”


Miner’s body not found for hours after he was mistakenly sent to deadly ‘goaf’, inquest hears

Middlemount 4746

Employees who first responded to high gas warnings raised at a central Queensland mine after the death of a worker have told a coronial inquest they initially thought it was a false alarm.

Key points:

  • A coronial inquest into the 2014 death of Paul McGuire at a Queensland mine has heard it took two hours for the engineer’s body to be found
  • Employees who gave evidence said they had previously suspected that the sensor that detected a dangerous level of methane gas was faulty
  • The inquest will probe the circumstances surrounding Mr McGuire’s death, including why his job card sent him to the wrong location

Thirty-four-year-old electrician Paul McGuire was sent to an underground area of the Grasstree coal mine near Middlemount, to calibrate a gas monitor, but the job card had sent him to the wrong location.

He opened a hatch to the sealed room and suffocated on methane gas in a disused area known as a “goaf”.

The father of two died almost instantly at about 1:05pm on May 6, 2014.

His body was found almost two hours later.

One of the objectives of the inquest is to determine whether the actions of employees following this alarm were in accordance with best practice.

Suspicions of faulty sensor

A coronial inquest Mr McGuire’s death, underway in Mackay, has shed some light on what happened during those hours.

Scott Adams, an electrical engineer for Grasstree operator Anglo American, told the inquest he was in a control room when a “high high” gas alarm, which signalled that levels of methane had exceeded 1.25 per cent, was recorded.

An investigation by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy found the alert came through about two minutes after Mr McGuire had opened the hatch.

“In past history, there was always a suspicion that the sensor was faulty,” Mr Adams told the inquest.

“I was uncertain about … whether it was real.”


Mr McGuire’s body was not found until about two hours after he died. (ABC News)

No malfunction

Mr Adams went underground with a handheld gas monitor to verify the methane reading, and also spent time recalibrating and checking sensors.

The monitor’s reading confirmed the initial alarm was not a malfunction, and Mr Adams then raised the alarm.

“The gas levels that they were seeing upstairs were actually what was reading underground,” he said.

“The handheld monitor was reading the same levels as the real-time fixed monitoring.”

He told the court he was underground working on sensors for about 20 minutes.

He said in hindsight, he would have raised the alarm much more quickly.

“I should have withdrawn immediately and made a telephone call … to the control room to say, ‘yes it was real,'” he said.

Mr Adams also described his encounters with Mr McGuire.

“He was very confident, very safety-minded, very proficient in his work,” he said.

‘Man down’

Jason Fairweather, who was a supervising officer on the day Mr McGuire died, also testified.

“We had a discussion about whether something had gone wrong with the sensor because there was such a sudden spike,” he said.

Mr Fairweather and another deputy, Garth Zerner, went underground to locate the source of the gas leak.

“You could see the door was open like a small tunnel and the goaf gas was coming out,” Mr Fairweather said.

Mr Fairweather said they struggled to open a door to the goaf due to pressure differences.

The pair also had to ensure they ventilated the area appropriately.

“I opened the door and Garth grabbed a disused pallet nearby,” Mr Fairweather said.

“I opened and cracked the door and Garth got the pallet around and shoved it into the door so it was wedged open.

“Garth turned to me and said ‘man down, man down.'”

The coroner’s inquest listing, which details topics to be examined, said Mr McGuire’s body was found at 2:50pm.

A report by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy said mine staff attempted CPR and made an emergency call just after 3pm.

The inquest is set to explore whether training and supervision was adequate, and why Anglo’s job card system issued Mr McGuire the wrong location to service equipment.

Lawyers representing Anglo Coal, the Mines Department, the CFMEU and Mr McGuire’s family have been present for proceedings.


Failings of ‘well-intentioned’ officers laid out in Bourke Street police report

Melbourne 3000

The police officers who chased James Gargasoulas in the hours before he went on a murderous rampage treated the pursuit as a “routine investigation” and failed to consider what would happen if they couldn’t catch up to the now-convicted killer, a stinging internal review has found.

Key points:

  • Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana’s review found officers “failed to consider” what would happen if attempts to negotiate Gargasoulas’s surrender failed
  • His report said police should have “regrouped and rethought their strategies” after an initial pursuit
  • But he said officers had few low-risk options to safely stop Gargasoulas once he had reached the CBD

The 496-page report by Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana, one of the force’s most senior officers, also found rank and file members were too focused on negotiating Gargasoulas’s surrender and failed to pass on critical information that would have helped key decision-makers.

But Assistant Commissioner Fontana acknowledged officers had few options available to them once Gargasoulas arrived at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston streets in Melbourne’s CBD, where he did doughnuts in a stolen Commodore before embarking on his rampage.

“There was very little they could do from here on in terms of decisive action to stop him, without endangering the lives of many people,” he said.

“A deliberate full-frontal collision with Gargasoulas’s vehicle as he proceeded along Swanston Street was the only real option left for police to stop him from this point onwards.”

The review into the force’s policies, procedures and response to the massacre was released on Wednesday afternoon after being tendered to the Bourke Street coronial inquest, which is probing the actions of Victoria Police in the lead-up to the rampage and how Gargasoulas was on bail at the time.

But it almost did not see the light of day, with Victoria Police opposing its release.

Bourke Street victims:

  • Yosuke Kanno: 25-year-old student from Japan. He had just been to lunch with a friend when he was struck
  • Jessica Mudie: 22-year-old insurance consultant from Sydney who was in Melbourne for a business meeting. She was returning from lunch with colleagues.
  • Matthew Poh Chuan Si: 33-year-old architect and father of an 18-month-old daughter. He had just been to lunch with his wife.
  • Bhavita Patel: 33-year-old accountant. She had been to lunch with colleagues.
  • Thalia Hakin: 10-year-old primary school student. She was on her way to a circus show with her mother and sister.
  • Zachary Matthew-Bryant: The 3month-old was in a pram with his sister when he was struck.

Police could not have predicted ‘big step’ in offending

In his review, and on the witness stand on Wednesday, Assistant Commissioner Fontana stressed his findings were made with the benefit of hindsight and that officers were “well-intentioned”.

“Any commentary made in this report regarding failings identified, does not mean that if other action had been taken a different and better outcome would have been achieved,” he wrote.

He also said there was nothing to forewarn police that Gargasoulas was any different from other reckless and dangerous drivers, before he drove into the city.

“Police did not have prior knowledge that he had expressed intent to run everyone down in the city ‘if the cops came to find him’,” the report said.

“They did not know of his murderous intent and so from their experience, they would not have expected Gargasoulas to deliberately drive into a crowd of pedestrians along Bourke Street.

“It is a big step for anyone to progress from offending and behaviour such as that displayed by Gargasoulas.”

Officers had ‘no alternative plan or strategy’

But he also noted that the police plan to intercept Gargasoulas “was never going to succeed” without the help of specialist officers.

“It seems that they were so focused on negotiating surrender that they failed to have awareness of a dynamically changing situation,” Assistant Commissioner Fontana wrote.

“When they did try to intercept him, a pursuit eventuated but was almost immediately terminated.

“Despite this, they continued to adopt the same strategy but failed to consider what would happen if he failed to stop for them again, or if their attempts to negotiate a surrender failed.

“They had no alternative plan or strategy … It was treated as a routine investigation when it should have been prioritised as an active ongoing investigation.”

Assistant Commissioner Fontana said police failed to be decisive at critical moments, which in turn allowed Gargasoulas to evade their clutches.


Gargasoulas killed six people and injured 27 others when he drove into pedestrians on Bourke Street. (ABC News: Patrick Rocca)

“Police members were not prepared to take a risk in what they perceived to be a breach of policy, due to fear of repercussions and lack of confidence in their management to support them,” he said.

He also said it was clear Gargasoulas wanted to get the police’s attention.

“Police would have been better prepared to re-engage with him again if they had regrouped and rethought their strategies following the pursuit,” he said.

“In my view, what should have been a well-planned operation to resolve this evolving situation, unwittingly turned into a poorly coordinated, unplanned response.

“I am of the view that this is a failing of Port Phillip CIU management.”

His report also contained some praise for officers.

“Once systems and processes were in place, Victoria Police employees performed in a way the community would expect,” he said.

“Whilst responding units were initially unable to identify who was in control, they acted immediately to arrest Gargasoulas, treat victims and to identify triage areas for victims and witnesses.”

Assistant Commissioner Fontana is expected to continue giving evidence until Friday.


Solar-powered plane could stay aloft for a year, defence giant says

Woomera 5720

South Australia is emerging as a location of choice for cutting-edge aviation projects, with a local company reaching a deal to build electric planes just days after another milestone in the state’s outback.

Key points:

  • BAE Systems has successfully tested a solar-powered aircraft in SA’s outback
  • It is capable of staying aloft for up to a year, the company said
  • An Adelaide company will become the first to make electric aeroplanes in Australia

SA-based Eyre to There Aviation today said it would become the country’s first manufacturer of electric planes, after signing an agreement with European aircraft maker Pipistrel.

It comes two days after British defence giant BAE Systems revealed a solar-powered, unmanned military aircraft had completed its first flight at Woomera, in the state’s outback.

The Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft (PHASA-35) “has the potential to stay airborne for a year” without touching down on land, the company said.

BAE Systems engineering director Ian Muldowney said it took less than two years for the aircraft to go from design to its maiden flight above the Royal Australian Air Force’s Woomera test range earlier this month.

“This is an outstanding early result that demonstrates the pace that can be achieved when we bring the best of British capability together,” Mr Muldowney said.

“To go from design to flight in less than two years shows that we can rise to the challenge the UK Government has set industry to deliver a future combat air system within the next decade.”


The PHASA-35 aircraft can avoid weather by going into the stratosphere. (Supplied: Prismatic)

The aircraft, which has a 35-metre wingspan, was built in collaboration with the company’s Slovenian subsidiary Prismatic, BAE Systems said.

It said the aircraft was a “persistent and affordable alternative to satellites” and could be used for surveillance and communications, including the 5G network.

Further flight trials are scheduled for later this year.

Electric planes to reduce reliance on fossil fuels

Meanwhile, Eyre to There Aviation today said its deal with Pipistrel would allow it to build up to 100 Alpha Electro aircraft every year in Adelaide, providing 20 jobs.


The Pipistrel Alpha Electro electric training aeroplane. (Supplied: Pipistrel)

The two-seat plane will be tailored for use in flight schools, with a short take-off distance and a 1,000-feet-per-minute climb capability.

Managing director Barrie Rogers said electric aircraft had a range of benefits, including avoiding fossil fuels.

“We’re using battery technology rather than fuel technology, less maintenance and from a training point of view, obviously, a lot less operating cost,” he said.

Mr Rogers said he hoped the deal would encourage other countries to use electric aircraft for training.

“More importantly, I think it’s about Australia getting recognised on the global scale [with] technology such as this,” he said.


King penguin usually seen en route to Antarctica spotted on Tassie mainland

Port Davey 7001

A second king penguin has been spotted on mainland Tasmania, with one wildlife officer calling the sighting especially rare “unless you’re on a tourist ship going to Antarctica”.

Key points:

  • A king penguin was spotted by kayakers on a beach at Port Davey in Tasmania’s far south-west
  • The species is usually seen 1,500km further south in Sub-Antarctic regions such as Macquarie Island
  • It is the second such unusual sighting this year, but a wildlife officer says it is no cause for concern

The penguin was spotted by kayakers at Port Davey in Tasmania’s far south-west.

Wildlife officer Julie McInnes said it was a different penguin to the bird spotted at Seven Mile Beach near Hobart last month.

Dr McInnes said it was unusual to have two king penguins sighted in one year.

“This is a really rare thing for people to see, unless you’re on a tourist ship going to Antarctica,” Dr McInnes told ABC Radio Hobart.

The birds usually call Macquarie Island, about 1,500 kilometres from Tasmania, home.

“Given the remote location of the second bird, there may be a number of birds that come ashore over the years which are not seen or reported,” Dr McInnes said.

She said “vagrant” juvenile penguins were known to come ashore away from their colonies from time to time.

“They can disperse quite a way,” she said.


The second king penguin was spotted by kayakers at Port Davey in Tasmania’s remote south-west. (Supplied: Roaring 40s Kayaking)

“They aren’t as tied to the colony during that age, they can be at sea for three years and come up in different locations.”

Authorities were able to distinguish the second penguin from the first by its coat.

“After it moulted its feathers it was looking pretty shiny and sleek,” Dr McInnes said.

“This one has older, worn feathers and hasn’t moulted recently.”

Video: Suprise antarctic visitor to Tasmania

(ABC News)

A fish feast before fasting

The first penguin underwent its “catastrophic moult” at Rheban on the state’s east coast, after stopping by the busy Seven Mile Beach.

Dr McInnes said it was a rare sight for a king penguin to be in such a populated area.

During the moult, the penguin needs to be onshore for about two weeks because its feathers are no longer waterproof.


The first king penguin was sighted on Seven Mile Beach near Hobart, before conducting its moult on the east coast. (Supplied: James Smith)

“They find random locations and come ashore, and that seems to have been Tassie for these guys,” Dr McInnes said.

She said the second penguin appeared to be in good condition, and “quite fat”.

“They do feed up quite a lot beforehand and put on additional body weight,” she said.

“By the end they are a lot slimmer, then they head out to sea and feed up again.”

Dr McInnes said the first penguin appeared to be very healthy after its moult, and would be on its way back to Macquarie Island.

“They are obviously finding some good local food,” she said.

Other ‘vagrant’ penguins spotted this summer include royal penguins and rockhopper penguins.


Hospital dismissed Rachel’s son as a ‘grizzly child with Down syndrome’ months before his death


A mother has choked back tears as she recounted harrowing details of her son’s death, telling an inquiry health professionals wrote him off as “a grizzly child with Down syndrome”.

Key points:

  • Rachel Browne said there was a “lack of urgency” to treat her son Finlay, who died 71 days later
  • Ms Browne said a nurse rolled her eyes at Finlay after he collapsed at a hospital
  • She said a GP discharge summary said Finlay had “poor dental hygiene”, which was irrelevant to his condition

Rachel Browne was giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability in Sydney.

She said her 16-year-old son Finlay, who lived with Down syndrome, died in December 2016 after an excruciating 71-day battle in hospital which included multiple surgeries for a serious bowel obstruction.

The ordeal started at Bathurst Hospital, in regional NSW, a few months earlier in September.

Ms Browne said when she arrived at the hospital in the afternoon, Finlay, who had to be held up, collapsed on the ground.

“The triage nurse, when I looked up rolled her eyes, and I thought that’s it, we’re not going to get the help we need,” she said.


Ms Browne said she felt medical staff at Bathurst Hospital did not taker her son illness seriously. (ABC News: Brad Markham)

Ms Browne said the junior doctor who assessed her son 45 minutes later, had to be asked to speak directly to her son.

“He stood between Finlay and myself with his back to Finlay,” she said.

Ms Browne said she was told a special paediatric helicopter medical service would transfer Finlay to Sydney’s Westmead Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery, but it never came.

He was operated on at Bathurst Hospital later that night and flown to Westmead Children’s Hospital about 5.30am the next day where he spent 65 days in ICU.

She said it caused her to feel the people involved in Finlay’s treatment had already written him off.

“There was a distinct lack of urgency,” Ms Browne said.

“Given the serious nature of what they had discovered [they] would be actioning better monitoring of Finlay.”


There are over 13,000 people living with Down syndrome in Australia. (ABC News: Larissa Romensky)

Ms Browne choked back tears as she told the inquiry about her son’s last days.

“It became evident that if he did recover he would have no quality of life,” she said.

“By the final surgery, which was quite aggressive, he was put back onto ventilation which he hated.

“I implored the medical team to stop, it was cruel to continue, he had been through enough.”

Ms Browne said she did not want to discourage people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities from seeking medical help.

“There are decent people out there, there are good people.”

She said there was an urgent need for better education.

The ABC’s commitment to accessibility
We are committed to ensuring our coverage of the disability royal commission is accessible to all Australians no matter what their abilities or disabilities.

On a separate occasion, when she took Finlay to the emergency department at Bathurst Hospital, she said staff “took umbrage” to the fact she had come ready for Finlay to be admitted.

“He felt that Finlay… was just a whingy child and suggested I go home and give him more Panadol and let the antibiotics take effect and in essence just let him get over it.”

Ms Browne was handed a discharge summary letter for her GP which distressed her.

“It referred to Finlay as a grizzly child with Down syndrome who had poor dental hygiene and I felt that comment was completely irrelevant as to why we were there,” she said.

The royal commission continues in Sydney this week and next week.


A mother’s love pays for ‘breakthrough treatment’ for stroke patients

Toowoomba 4350

A mother’s love has driven Coralie Graham to tirelessly raise funds for a clinical trial into an arthritis drug to treat stroke patients.

Key points:

  • The mother of a 32-year-old man with an acquired brain injury raised money for a clinical trial using perispinal Etanercept
  • Previously used to treat arthritis, Etanercept is injected into the spine to enter the vascular system
  • Doctors believe it could also be used to treat other neurological conditions, but there is red tape around its affordability and availability

Her son, Joel Shepherd, 32, suffered a brain injury when he was three years old as a result of complications from gastroenteritis.

“He was on life support, in a coma for eight weeks, and left with a catastrophic disability across his life,” Ms Graham said.

The registered nurse, from Toowoomba, completed a degree in psychology to understand more about his condition and mortgaged the family home to get the off-label treatment in the United States in 2014.

“So we lived at the doctor, he lived on antibiotics, and was often really, really sick,” she said.

“Previous to treatment he was very, very aggressive because he couldn’t get his needs met.

“[After treatment] Joel had significant improvements in his swallowing, his speech, his concentration, mobility, and a whole range of things.

“To me that is worth it; there’s no amount of money that you can measure that against.”

‘I’m not giving up’

She started the charity Stroke Recovery Trial Fund, which funded the first clinical trial into the treatment involving perispinal Etanercept.

“I can spot a neurological injury a mile away … And I just think there’s a treatment for you,” she said.

Entanercept is a drug commonly used to treat arthritis, but American doctor Edward Tobinick developed a new use for the drug.

The perispinal method involves injecting the drug into the spine to enter the vascular system.

“The perispinal Etanercept treatment really is very likely to be able to treat other neurological conditions as well because, at a cell level, the pathology is very similar in things like cerebral palsy, even schizophrenia, some types of depression, Parkinson’s disease,” Ms Graham said.


Stephen Ralph (left) says the treatment trialled at Griffith University School of Medicine was pioneered by American Dr Edward Tobinick (second left). (Supplied: Stephen Ralph)

Positive results

Associate Professor Stephen Ralph said Griffith University’s School of Medicine was conducting a randomised clinical study of 22 patients.

“There was a significant reduction in pain levels and mobility improved greatly in terms of their ability to raise their arm from the shoulder,” Dr Ralph said.

“It’s nerve-wracking pain that they cannot treat with other drugs and it just does not go away.

“In fact, it was quite surprising because patients would go from 65–70 out of 100 on the pain scale down to zero after the treatment, so almost immediate responses within 15 to 30 minutes.”

He said 90 per cent of patients in the group who received the drug showed a significant increase in their ability to raise their arm above the shoulder.

Their mobility improved by 35 degrees on average after the first treatment and went up to 55 degrees on average in the second treatment.

“That improvement was dose related, so that’s even more significant because it shows that it’s related to the treatment,” he said.

“Some of our patients did not respond … but there was a benefit for the majority of patients.

“They [patients] say it’s fantastic, it’s amazing, and it’s basically … a breakthrough treatment.”

Dr Ralph said no change was noticed in the control group, which had “no apparent effect at all”.

Treatment could replace sedative drugs


Joel Shepherd with his mother, Coralie Graham, receiving perispinal Etanercept in the US. (Supplied: Coralie Graham)

Dr Ralph said stroke patients were forced to rely on very strong sedative drugs to deal with their pain, which really limited their scope in terms of their ability to function.

“These sedative drugs basically knock them out. They either have poor quality of life, or they suffer the pain.”

He said larger studies were now needed to fight the “tremendous resistance” to approving the treatment in Australia.

“The problem was that I think it was almost too miraculous for people to believe that it was possible,” he said.

“I’ve seen patients who are now back to work, basically functioning normally … back to their normal life again.”

Dr Ralph said it was “extremely disappointing and frustrating” to see the benefits of the treatment firsthand, but it was not available publicly.

He was in the planning stages of a future bigger study looking into the drug’s ability to treat fatigue.

Red tape limits availability

Australian National University Emeritus Professor Ian Clark has studied the TNF protein, which is elevated in stroke patients in the area around the stroke site, in Australia and internationally for decades.

He said the patent of the drug had expired and there were large legal battles regarding its use in the United States.

“It’s about patent expiry and money and keeping out cheaper versions of the drug,” he said.

“It’s [the drug] had an effect that got people intensely interested when it was published, but a trial never ran because no-one wanted to pick it up and run with it because ‘big pharma’ didn’t want it done.

“This is really the key.

“For any drug like this they [Therapeutic Goods Administration] need a number of trials for them to gain confidence that it’s worth the government subsiding and therefore becoming available and more cheaply.”


Tyre dump owner to pay millions for clean-up operation

Numurkah 3636

The owners of a tyre dump in northern Victoria have been ordered to pay almost $2 million to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for the removal of half a million tyres stockpiled in a paddock, which posed a ‘catastrophic’ fire risk to the community.

Key points:

  • The owner of a tyre yard in Victoria who was jailed last year following a stoush with the EPA has been ordered to pay clean-up costs
  • The EPA took 10 weeks to clear the yard, which had been deemed a serious fire risk
  • Concerned residents say they are relieved that the site has been cleared, and that they hope the State will be able to recover its costs

The Supreme Court ordered the Sidebottom Group to foot the bill of the massive clean-up undertaken by the EPA, which removed a 5,000-tonne stockpile at Numurkah.

The Victorian Government sent a letter of demand to the company for payment of the costs by July last year, but had not received payment from the defendant.

It came after the Government dipped into $1.5 million of public money to clean up the tyres after exhausting all other legal options.

The EPA took over and had cleared the stockpile by February last year — a job that took 10 weeks.

EPA executive director Mark Rossiter said the settlement sent a strong message to the industry that it must comply with regulations.

“It proves illegal activities don’t pay, as it would have been much cheaper to comply with regulations in the first place,” Mr Rossiter said.

The order to pay back clean-up costs comes after Sidebottom director Shanan James Sidebottom was sentenced to four months’ jail for criminal contempt in October 2018.

At the time, Supreme Court Justice Rita Zammit said Mr Sidebottom had tried to lay blame with others and described his actions as a “perverse refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the court”.

Fire could have been ‘catastrophic’

The Court heard the Sidebottom Group started collecting tyres in 2007 after the Moira Shire Council granted a permit for the site.

The project initially promised jobs and security for the small community but by 2013 the land and infrastructure had not been developed and tyres began to pile up.

The council initially held high hopes for the development until a fire broke out at the site in 2013, sparking a legal battle to have the tyres removed.

In June 2018 the CFA assessed the potential consequences of a fire at the premises as “catastrophic” and the likelihood of a fire at the premises to be “likely”, resulting in an overall risk rating of “extreme”.

As a result of this assessment, Mr Rossiter said the stockpile had created an unacceptable risk to the environment and local community.

“The environmental impacts that can occur from a tyre fire are many, including air quality, firewater runoff into local waterways, and land contamination,” he said.

“During a fire, the tyre product breaks down into hazardous compounds including gases, heavy metals and oil, generating a great deal of smoke.”

According to court documents, the defendant said part of the land was subject to a “leasing arrangement” to the Australian Rubber Manufacturers Pty Ltd — a company that was deregistered in 2015.

Community pleased with ruling

Numurkah business owner David Forman said it was a huge relief to see the tyres disappear, and was pleased with the ruling.

Mr Forman, who runs a motor dealership within metres of the site, said the stockpile had been a dark cloud hanging over the town for the past decade and hoped the Government had the power to recover the money.

“It’s definitely what should’ve happened, it was a massive operation,” Mr Forman said.

“I’ve been here since they started collecting them and saw them sit there for many years.”

The ABC approached Sidebottom for comment.


Victorian woman ‘unlikely’ to be jailed for crash that killed four linedancers

Melbourne 3000

Lawyers for accused dangerous driver Lorraine Nicholson have told a Melbourne court she will plead guilty over the deaths of four linedancers in a crash in western Victoria last year, after a Melbourne judge indicated she was “unlikely” to serve a jail term on a guilty plea.

Key points:

  • County Court Judge Michael Bourke said there were “exceptional circumstances” in Ms Nicholson’s case
  • Judge Bourke said Ms Nicholson was “genuinely and highly remorseful” over the deaths of the four women
  • Ms Nicholson earlier gave evidence that she thought she had put her foot on the brake at a stop sign before the crash, but the car took off

Prosecutors alleged Ms Nicholson, 66, drove her car through an intersection near Navarre, outside of St Arnaud, hitting another vehicle driven by Elaine Middleton, 75, on the evening of May 5, 2018.

Ms Middleton and her three passengers — Dianne Barr, 64, Claudia Jackson, 71 and Margaret Ely, 74 — died in the crash.

The women had been returning from a linedancing afternoon at St Arnaud, west of Bendigo.

County Court Judge Michael Bourke said there were “exceptional circumstances” in Ms Nicholson’s case, and that she was “genuinely and highly remorseful” and was a person of “exemplary good character”.


A memorial was set up at the scene of the crash for the four women who died. (ABC News: Sarah Jane Bell)

In brief remarks after a sentencing indication last week, Judge Bourke noted that while the “danger created was high”, Ms Nicholson’s moral culpability was “relatively low”.

Judge Bourke said it was because of a combination of those factors “that I am not likely to impose a term of imprisonment”.

Her lawyers said Ms Nicholson would now plead guilty.

Accused’s remorse ‘well beyond’ what judge usually encounters

Last week, during a sentence indication hearing, Judge Bourke was asked to spare Ms Nicholson from a jail term on the grounds of her “intense remorse”.

Judge Bourke inspected four cards Ms Nicholson keeps in her purse, each with the name of one of the dead women.

The cards have details about the women’s lives, including the names of children and grandchildren.

During last week’s hearing, psychologist Krystal Browne said Ms Nicholson talks to the women and tells them goodnight.

Ms Browne gave evidence that Ms Nicholson felt hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness and had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the crash.


The court heard Ms Nicholson passed a number of 80 kilometre per hour signs before the crash. (ABC News: Sarah Jane Bell)

Judge Bourke said the cards of the four women were a way for Ms Nicholson to “connect and reflect” on what had happened.

“The level of the accused’s remorse presents well beyond what I usually encounter,” he said.

The court heard Ms Nicholson drove her 4WD through a stop sign at more than 90 kilometres per hour at dusk.

Prosecutors said she passed a number of 80kph signs, as well as a reduce speed sign.

In her police statement, the court heard she said just before the crash she turned on her wipers to clean a grimy windscreen.

She thought she put her foot on the brake, but the car took off instead, the court heard.

Judge Bourke acknowledged the victim impact statements from the families of those who died, as “moving statements of grief, enduring sadness, distress, psychological impact, anger and frustration”.

“This will not pass for most,” he said.

“[It was] the loss of four fine people who made lasting contributions to those close to them and to their community.”


The four women were killed in the crash at an intersection near the town of Navarre in western Victoria. (ABC News)

Ms Nicholson cried and wiped tears from her eyes while sitting in the dock.

A large group of her supporters were in the court to hear the ruling.

Families and friends of the victims were watching the proceedings via videolink from Ballarat.

‘I lost my everything’

The families of those killed submitted victim impact statements to the court, a process that usually takes place after a person has pleaded guilty.

Elaine Middleton’s daughter, Annette Finnigan, said she would remember May 5, 2018 “for the rest of my life, for all the wrong reasons”.

“The pain of knowing I will never give her a hug, or tell her I love her will torture me for the rest of my life,” Ms Finnigan said.


Four women, including Elaine Middleton (left ) and Tess Ely (Right), from Hamilton, were killed in the crash. (Supplied)

Claudia Jackson’s husband, Garry, told the court in a statement that he lost “the love of his life” when his wife of 57 years died.

For 30 years they had run the family’s dairy farm.

They also volunteered with the Red Cross, helping people get to their medical appointments.

“I lost my everything,” he said.

The court heard Darren Ely struggled to write his statement about his mother Margaret Ely, admitting to “ongoing waves of depression and sadness” especially because of the time the court case was taking.

Gavin Barr said his “honest, loving, caring” wife of 39 years, Dianne, was “loved and remembered every day”.


Activist abused by Tyler, The Creator fans wants Splendour headliner to address his past

Byron Bay 2481

For some, the return to Australia of US rapper and singer Tyler, The Creator, as part of the Splendour In The Grass line-up, will be exciting news.

The 28-year-old, real name Tyler Okonma, is an alternative hip-hop star whose widely praised 2019 album IGOR won a Grammy last month for best rap album and went to number three on the ARIA album chart.

But for Coralie Alison, the announcement just represents an opportunity for the musician to right past wrongs.

“I still receive abuse from his fans four-and-a-half years on,” Ms Alison, director of the women’s rights group Collective Shout, told the ABC.

In 2015, the singer told his millions of Twitter followers that he had been “banned” from Australia following a campaign by Collective Shout.

They had argued he should be refused a visa on character grounds because of lyrics on his early records depicting the rape and murder of women.

The Federal Government did not actually ban him — his tour was cancelled — but Okonma’s tweet tagged Ms Alison.

External Link:

Tweet from Tyler, The Creator in 2015

She said she was subsequently inundated with “hundreds” of rape and death threats from the rapper’s fans, something the singer never acknowledged or condemned.

“I had to go to the police about it and there were fans trying to track down where I lived, threatening my relatives and family members,” she said.

In 2013, during a performance as part of his first Australian tour, the singer called another member of Collective Shout, Talitha Stone, a “f***ing whore” during an on-stage rant.

Tyler shouts out former UK PM over ban

Ms Alison would like to see Okonma, who is one of the headliners of July’s festival at the North Byron Parklands, address that abuse and his past lyrical content when he takes the stage for his only Australian show.

She wants him to use his platform to express a positive message to his fans in Australia “where violence against women is at epidemic rates”.

“If Tyler, The Creator is still profiting off the harmful misogyny he released in the early days then he is complicit in advocating the messages those songs portray,” she said.

The festival’s organisers have been contacted for comment.

External Link:

Tyler, The Creator – Earfquake

Critics have noted Okonma’s last few records have drifted away from what was dubbed “horror-core”, exploring more personal themes, and he has spoken of how he was still a teenager when his first album, Bastard, was released in 2009.

When asked about his lyrics in 2012, he told the BBC: “My lyrics aren’t offensive … Some people find everything offensive.”

Overnight, the musician called out former UK prime minister Theresa May, who — according to the rapper’s manager — banned Okonma from the UK in 2015 when she was home secretary based on lyrics that “encourage violence and intolerance of homosexuality”.

“Shout out to all the UK boys that keep this place fun for me at night,” the musician said during an acceptance speech at the BRIT Awards, where he won Best International Male Solo Artist.

“And I want to give a shout to someone who holds a special place in my heart, who made it so I couldn’t come to this country five years ago.

“I know she’s at home pissed off. Thank you to Theresa May.”

Men feature heavily at the top of the bill

While the full line-up is not yet out — there is often more than one announce — Splendour faced some criticism online on Wednesday for the number of all-male acts at the top of the bill.

There is only one woman, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, among the permanent members of the first five acts listed in promotional material for the festival. The headliners of each of the three nights — Tyler, The Creator, Flume and The Strokes — are all male.

The issue of a lack of gender representation in headline acts has dogged many Australian festivals in the past, including Splendour, and it has become a major point of discussion in the music business in the past few years.

External Link:

Tweet from Nic Kelly about Splendour

External Link:

Tweet from Paddy Braden about Splendour In The Grass

Vicki Gordon, founding executive director of the Australian Women in Music Awards, said the Splendour line-up was another example of the industry’s unwillingness to tackle the issue.

“We have heard the excuse that women just don’t pull the numbers,” she told the ABC.

“The industry has always had extraordinary women that deserve a lot more than what the industry or the culture has enabled.

“I know what many of the programmers and producers are juggling, and I know it is not easy … but without that leap [of putting female acts in headline slots], we are just not going to see cultural change.”

This month, the singer of British band The 1975, Matt Healy, said his band would only perform at festivals with a gender-balanced line-up.


Employers ‘go as close to the line as possible’: Target staff the latest in underpayment ‘epidemic’


A leading employment lawyer says big companies are getting caught out for pushing the boundaries of minimum legal payments, with Target the latest business to admit underpaying staff.

Key points:

  • Wesfarmers has set aside a total of $24 million in its half-year results to repay staff for underpayments
  • This includes $9 million to repay current and former Target staff who were underpaid
  • Until recently, Wesfarmers also owned Coles, which revealed that it had underpaid workers to the tune of $20 million

Wesfarmers has admitted to further underpayment of staff, including Target workers, after previously underpaying the superannuation of Bunnings employees.

In its half-year earnings report, the conglomerate set aside $9 million to repay Target staff.

This is on top of $15 million that had already been set aside to fix underpayments in its industrial and safety division, which includes tools and safety gear supplier Blackwoods and the Workwear group, including the King Gee and Hard Yakka brands.

The underpayment of the industrial and safety division staff was first revealed in October last year, when Wesfarmers said it owed 2,000 current and 4,000 former staff members underpayments going back almost a decade, around half of which related to superannuation on loadings and allowances.

The underpayments were uncovered as the company audited its pay arrangements, something employment lawyer Andrew Jewell said had become common since the Woolworths underpayment scandal was exposed.

Months after apologies, workers still waiting for wages
As a growing list of companies admit to underpayments, it can be months or years before workers receive any money owed.

“There’s been so much media coverage about underpayments that large organisations have actually gone and done audits to try and get ahead of the potential issues,” the principal at law firm McDonald Murholme told ABC News.

Union wants payroll checks

The largest union representing retail workers said there was an “epidemic” of underpayment in the sector.

“The fact is that a decade ago there were few instances of systemic underpayment when unions had the right to conduct spot checks of company payrolls,” Gerard Dwyer, the national secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association, said.

“All the recent examples of underpayment have emerged since the Coalition Government changed the law.”

“We will only know that he [Attorney-General Christian Porter] and the Morrison Government are fair dinkum about ending this epidemic if they restore the rights of unions to have ready access to company payrolls to conduct spot checks.”

In response to the Coles worker underpayments revealed yesterday, Mr Porter promised to introduce legislation within weeks to criminalise the worst cases of worker exploitation and underpayment.

“Corporate Australia surely now has got the message that they need to get their house in order,” he said.

“And if they haven’t got that message, they’re going to be absolutely and utterly compelled to in the future by the most vigorous, robust and complete set of laws around wage underpayment that Australia’s ever seen.”

At the time the industrial and safety division underpayments were revealed, Wesfarmers said the amounts equated to less than 1 per cent of the division’s total payroll for the period.

“These were inadvertent errors but they are deeply regrettable and we apologise sincerely and unreservedly to our team members who have been affected over a number of years,” the division’s managing director David Baxby said in a statement last year.

“We are also investing heavily in our payroll system, processes and capabilities to fix this issue and ensure it cannot happen again.”

Administrative excuses ‘a bit of a cop out’

However, Mr Jewell said the excuse of payroll errors did not really fly for large organisations.

“The wage system can be somewhat complex, and I think that’s a valid argument for smaller businesses who say that they just don’t understand,” he argued.

“I think when you get to the level of a Coles or a Woolworths, they’ve got the resources, they’ve got the lawyers, the HR [human resources] professionals to get it right.

Overworked? Underpaid?
Here’s your guide to getting the money your boss owes you.

“So I think that’s a bit of a cop out for larger businesses who in different business units — pricing and things like that — I’m sure they have much more complex things going on that they get right.”

Mr Jewell said the payment of large numbers of workers below minimum rates likely resulted from deliberate efforts by companies to minimise wage costs and avoid the risk of overpaying staff.

“They go as close to the line as possible, I would say, and so if they get it wrong then there’s an underpayment. Very rarely do they accidentally overpay people,” he observed.

“The easiest way to avoid underpayments, though, is to not play it so close to the line.

“So, if your Coles and your Woolworths really don’t want to get in trouble in areas like this, it’s to have a buffer between what you pay someone and what the minimum is so that if you get your calculations a little bit out you’re safe from underpayment claims.

“They’re not going to do that though.”

Wesfarmers said a review of its payroll system did not identify any further underpayments in its other businesses.

Wesfarmers profits rise

Wesfarmers updated its estimates on worker underpayments in its half-year results, where it also reported a 5.7 per cent rise in net profit to $1.13 billion.

The company unveiled a 75-cent fully-franked interim dividend for shareholders.

Yesterday, Coles supermarkets revealed a $20 million provision for staff underpayments dating back years. Coles split off from Wesfarmers in late 2018.

In a separate announcement coinciding with today’s results release, Wesfarmers said that it had executed trades to sell off a further 4.9 per cent of Coles Group shares.

The sale of the shares at $16.08 is expected to raise $1 billion for Wesfarmers, with a pre-tax profit of $160 million.

Once the sale is completed, Wesfarmers will still hold a 10.1 per cent stake in Coles and retain the right to nominate a director to the supermarket group’s board.


‘She scares people’: Aussie fast bowler Tayla Vlaeminck tipped for big T20 World Cup

Sydney 2000

Tayla Vlaeminck is shaping up as Australia’s World Cup x-factor with former star Mel Jones declaring she can become the woman to break the 130-kilometres-per-hour barrier.

Tayla Vlaeminck in formFor Australia:

  • 1 Test
  • 6 ODIs: 6 wickets at average of 25.83
  • 9 T20Is: 11 wickets at average of 14.63

Last three games:

  • 2-32 (4 overs) – T20 International v India
  • 2-18 (4 overs) – T20 International v England
  • 3-13 (4 overs) – T20 International v India
    (Stats: ESPN Cricinfo)

Vlaeminck has hit form at the right time before the Twenty20 World Cup, taking seven wickets at an average of nine in the recent tri-series against India and England.

A teenager when Australia won the title in the Caribbean two years ago, Vlaeminck played just one match.

But she now looks set as the Aussies’ third quick on bouncy home wickets likely to suit her out-and-out speed.

No bowler in the women’s game is known to have clocked 130kph, with 29-year-old New Zealander Lea Tahuhu and 31-year-old South African Shabnim Ismail the quickest at above 125kph.


New Zealand’s Lea Tahuhu is the equal-fastest women’s bowler in the world right now. (Reuters: Craig Brough)

Vlaeminck sits just above 120kph, but is aged 21 and is yet to have a long injury-free run.

External Link: tweet: Stumps rattled in the first over at North Sydney Oval. Tayla Vlaeminck with the perfect start #AUSvSL

“A lot of it is confidence in her own body,” Jones, who played 66 games for Australia across all formats, said.

“She’s had two ACL [injuries], a shoulder and she’s still quite young.

“Once she has that confidence to just wang it down there. It’s not unfathomable to say that she will be our 130kph bowler.”

“You don’t want to put pressure on her, but I think that’s capable.

“And if she doesn’t, she will generate the next generation of bowlers who want to be the next Tayla Vlaeminck.”

Jones has tipped a breakthrough World Cup for Vlaeminck when it begins against India on Friday, and for her to finally provide the solution to Australia’s search for a regular third quick.

Things to watch at the Women’s T20 World Cup
Ahead of the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup opener, questions linger over Australia’s form and whether the no-ball rule has finally been fixed.

While Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry have been mainstays for the Aussies, 11 other quicks and pace all-rounders have been used across all formats since Rene Farrell and Sarah Coyte’s international retirements in 2016.

But a fit Vlaeminck shapes as a possible answer.

“I just think at the moment she scares people. She puts a scare factor into sides,” Jones said.

“Megan Schutt is the number one bowler in the world and she can swing the ball. But I think teams will go ‘we can handle her and not get out’.

“But they’ll say, ‘we don’t know what this young kid is going to give us’. We haven’t seen that in women’s cricket for a while.”



Sunshine Coast man on stricken Diamond Princess contracts coronavirus just before evacuations

Brisbane 4000

A Sunshine Coast man who has been in quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship has tested positive for coronavirus and will be separated from his wife.

Paul and Coralie Williamson have been in isolation on board the stricken ship, docked off Yokohama in Japan, since February 4.

Mr Williamson said he would be transferred to hospital and his wife would “remain on board at this stage”.

It is unfortunate timing for the couple.


Paul and Coralie Williamson’s room, which has a bathroom and balcony. (Supplied: Paul Williamson)

The official quarantine period aboard the ship finishes today and the Federal Government has arranged a charter flight to evacuate the Australians on board, leaving about midnight.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said of the about 220 Australians onboard, 36 have tested positive. Another 15 have decided not to return on the chartered flight.

What you need to know
Here’s a rundown of all the facts about coronavirus, and how you can make sure you’re protected.

“The predominant reason for that is they are staying in many cases with family members who have actually contracted the virus and are receiving medical attention in Japan,” he said.

“But the good news is we will be bringing [the others] home today.”

Mr Williamson said there was still a lot of questions about what would happen to his wife.

“We are prioritising our needs at the moment,” he said.

The couple had been extremely careful during their containment.

Their room had an ensuite and balcony, unlike others on the ship, and they declined invitations to get fresh air on the deck in an effort to limit their exposure to the virus.


The Diamond Princess at Yokohama Port, with thousands onboard. (AP via Kyodo News: Sadayuki Goto)

Those who did go were asked to stay 2 metres away from other passengers and crew.

Monash University professor of infectious diseases, Allen Cheng, said the virus was most likely spreading through poor hand hygiene and contaminated food trays.

Although the Williamsons isolated themselves, the crew are living much closer together.

The decision to keep the travellers onboard the ship was the wrong one, Professor Cheng said.

“There are potential infections in the crew and the crew don’t have rooms like the passengers rooms,” he said.

“Clearly there’s been a problem with the quarantine procedures on the ship.”


The Williamsons said their extended isolation had been trying on their mental health. (Facebook: Paul Williamson)

During previous interviews with the ABC, Mr Williamson said they were going stir crazy aboard the ship.

To keep mentally healthy, they had decided to ration their movie stash and used their Fitbits to track their exercise in their cramped quarters.

Passengers have been unable to interact with one another, with the only outside human contact coming from staff members delivering food to the rooms.

What are the signs and symptoms of coronavirus and how is it spread?
As the number of confirmed cases of deadly coronavirus in Australia continues to grow, experts are beginning to get a greater understanding of the disease and its impact.

“It is surreal, it’s quite bizarre,” Mr Williamson, a former school principal, said earlier this month.

Of 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on the ship, about 542 people have caught the virus.

The Australians being evacuated will fly to Darwin, where they will be quarantined for another fortnight.

The Government has said passengers will be tested for coronavirus five times throughout the journey; once on the ship, twice during the flight, once at the RAAF base after they land, and then when they arrive in Darwin.

“At the end of the day the safety of Australians, the health of Australians, has to be put first and that’s what we’ve done,” Mr Morrison said.

More on the coronavirus outbreak:


Trump administration slaps new rules on ‘draconian’ Chinese media operating in US

United States

The Trump administration says it will begin treating five major Chinese state-run media entities with US operations the same as foreign embassies, requiring them to register their employees and US properties with the State Department.

Key points:

  • US officials say the move comes after China intensified use of media to spread pro-Beijing propaganda overseas
  • President Xi Jinping sees media as a way to promote Chinese soft power abroad
  • Western media outlets operating in China already face harsh restrictions

Two senior State Department officials said the decision was made because China had been tightening state control over its media, and President Xi Jinping had made more aggressive use of them to spread pro-Beijing propaganda.

The control over both the content and editorial control have only strengthened over the course of Xi Jinping’s term in power, said one official.

“These guys are in fact arms of the CCP’s [Chinese Community Party’s] propaganda apparatus.”

China’s ‘Xi Jinping thought’ app
China’s new hottest app on the block is a propaganda resource that teaches “Xi Jinping thought” and requires the Communist Party’s 90 million members to read it daily.

Beijing was not informed in advance of the decision and would be notified on Tuesday afternoon, one official said.

Beijing’s control of China’s state-owned media has become “more and more draconian,” the second official said. Both officials spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Tensions between the two superpowers have escalated since President Donald Trump came to office three years ago, with disputes ranging from trade tariffs to accusations of Chinese spying in the United States and to US support for Taiwan.


Media freedom in China is among the worst in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. (Reuters: Thomas Peter)

Global ambitions for expanded influence

Tuesday’s decision, the officials said, is not linked to any recent developments in Sino-US relations and has been under consideration for some time.

The new determination is being applied to the Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network (CGTN), China Radio International, China Daily and Hai Tian Development USA, the officials said.

When the international arm of China Central Television (CCTV) news rebranded and became CGTN in 2016, Mr Xi urged the media organisation in a congratulatory letter to “tell China stories well” and spread China’s voice.

The message was seen as part of Beijing’s ambition to build a new global narrative around China while also challenging liberal democracy as the ideal developmental and political framework.

The ABC’s Chinese service
The ABC Chinese Service provides trusted news, analysis, and features to keep you up-to-date with the stories that matter.

In late 2018, CGTN billboards began springing up across Australia, as the network became available on Foxtel and Fetch TV.

China Daily is an English-language newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party. Hai Tian Development USA distributes the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the party’s Central Committee.

Fairfax media — now taken over by Nine News — raised eyebrows when it included the China Watch lift-out in its newspapers on a monthly basis as part of a paid deal with China Daily, although it is understood to have ceased in November 2018.

Republican Florida senator Rick Scott applauded the State Department’s decision, tweeting he had “been saying for months now outlets like China Daily should clearly be marked as the Chinese propaganda that they are”.


China Watch was a monthly supplement published by China Daily that used to be distributed in papers including the Sydney Morning Herald. (Supplied)

US a ‘far more liberal environment’

The five entities’ US operations will have to disclose their personnel rosters and hiring and firing decisions and register properties in the United States that they rent or own with the State Department, the officials said.

They also will have to seek advanced approval before they lease or purchase new US properties, they said.

Asked if there were concerns that Beijing would retaliate against Western media based in China, one official noted that foreign news outlets there already worked under strict rules and that the new disclosure rules imposed no restrictions on the five state-owned Chinese entities’ US operations.

“These guys operate in a far more liberal environment here in the United States than any foreign press enjoy in the People’s Republic of China,” the official said.


Chinese President Xi Jinping urges CGTN to “tell China’s stories well”. (Reuters: Ludovic Marin)

Media freedom in China is among the worst in the world — ranking 176 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

A leaked 2013 government edict openly attacked Western media saying: “the West’s idea of journalism undermines our country’s principle that the media should be infused with the spirit of the party.”



Facing barrage of sexual assault lawsuits, Boy Scouts file for bankruptcy

United States

The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy in the first step toward creating a huge compensation fund for potentially thousands of men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders.

Key points:

  • The Boy Scouts estimate 1,000 to 5,000 victims of abuse will seek compensation
  • The bankruptcy claim will enable the organisation to continue operating and raise money for a victims’ fund
  • The organisation’s finances have been strained in recent years by declining membership and sex-abuse settlements

The 110-year-old organisation resorted to Chapter 11 in the hope of surviving a barrage of lawsuits, many of them made possible by recent changes in US state laws to allow people to sue over historical sexual abuse.

Bankruptcy would enable the organisation to put those cases on hold for now and continue operating. But ultimately the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) could be forced to sell some of its vast property holdings, including campgrounds and hiking trails, to raise money for a victims’ fund that could top $US1 billion ($1.5 billion).

The Boy Scouts estimated 1,000 to 5,000 victims would seek compensation.

“The BSA encourages victims to come forward to file a claim as the bankruptcy process moves forward,” the organisation said in a statement.

James Kretschmer of Houston, one of those suing, said he was molested by a Scout leader in the mid-1970s in the Spokane, Washington, area.

The bankruptcy, he said, was “a shame because, at its core and what it was supposed to be, the Boy Scouts is a beautiful organisation”.

“But you know, anything can be corrupted,” he added.

“And if they’re not going to protect the people that they’ve been entrusted with, the children, then shut it down and move on.”

If you or anyone you know needs help:

More than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 abusers since the 1920s, according to Boy Scout files revealed in court papers.

Evan Smola said two new victims had already called his law office in Chicago on Tuesday morning, bringing the firm’s total to 319.

“The opportunity to tell your story is a cathartic and healing experience,” Mr Smola said. “It’s very painful when they actually do it, but getting it off your chest is a big step.”

It will be up to the court to set a deadline for filing claims. The amount of money each victim will receive is likely to depend on what assets are turned over and how many people come forward.

Painful turn for a pillar of American life


James Kretschmer, who says he was molested by a Scout leader in the mid-1970s, holds photographs of himself at age 11 and 12. (AP: David J Philip )

The filing in Wilmington, Delaware, sets in motion what could be one of the biggest, most complex bankruptcies ever seen, given the Scouts’ presence in each US state.

The Boy Scouts are the latest major American institution to face a heavy price over sexual abuse. Roman Catholic dioceses across the country and schools such as Penn State and Michigan State have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.

The bankruptcy represents a painful turn for an organisation that has been a pillar of American civic life for generations and a training ground for future leaders.

Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout has long been a proud accomplishment that politicians, businessmen, astronauts and others put on their resumes and in their official biographies.

“I’m sad for all the victims who were preyed upon by people entrusted with their care. I’m sad that no amount of money will undo their trauma,” Jackson Cooper, an Eagle Scout who is now a prosecutor in Louisville, Kentucky, said.

“Whatever consequences come for BSA are no concern of mine. I only hope, if they continue to operate, they build robust systems to protect the young people in their care.”

The Boy Scouts’ finances have been strained in recent years by declining membership and sex-abuse settlements.

The number of youths taking part in scouting has dropped below 2 million, down from a peak of more than 4 million during the 1970s.

Its membership rolls took a big hit on January 1 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cut ties with the organisation and withdrew more than 400,000 scouts in favour of programs of its own.

Most of the new cases date to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, before the Boy Scouts adopted mandatory criminal background checks, abuse-prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and a rule that two or more adult leaders must be present during all activities. Many of the lawsuits accuse the group of negligence and cover-ups.

Wayne Perry, a member of the organisation’s national board and a past president, said Scout families would not notice any differences as a result of the bankruptcy. He touted the protections now in place for young people.

“Today, we are really, really good. Were we always good? No, nobody was good 50 years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago,” Mr Perry said.



From a single lightning strike to Australia’s largest bushfire



Highlighted fire scarring near Newcastle and Sydney on 30 January 2020 (European Union, contains modified Copernicus Sentinal data 2020, processed with EO Browser)

From above, Australia is a nation torched and scarred. Nowhere is this more evident than the eastern seaboard.

The yellow you see is infrared imagery that shows where the fires have been.

The charred landscape, now doused in torrential rain, is a reminder of the awesome power of fire, and the mammoth recovery task ahead.

The crisis has found a way to touch almost every Australian state and territory — a truly national emergency.

When our federal politicians left Canberra in December, the bush capital was untouched by fire.

Now they fly in over a blackened landscape.

Since July, the fires have burned through almost 16 million hectares in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, WA, SA, Tasmania and the ACT.

Conservative estimates put animal deaths at over 1 billion nationwide.

More than 3,500 homes have been destroyed.

And 33 people lost their lives. Among them, volunteer firefighters selflessly lending a hand.

So how did this happen?


Highlighted fire scarring near Sydney on 30 January 2020 (European Union, contains modified Copernicus Sentinal data 2020, processed with EO Browser)


Highlighted fire scarring near Canberra on 30 January 2020 (European Union, contains modified Copernicus Sentinal data 2020, processed with EO Browser)


Highlighted fire scarring near Mallacoota on 30 January 2020 (European Union, contains modified Copernicus Sentinal data 2020, processed with EO Browser)

A bushfire relies on four main factors to take hold: high temperatures, low humidity, strong winds, and a fuel source.

In early September 2019, in the Gold Coast hinterland, these four factors conspire to create a kind of bushfire rarely seen in Australia — a warning of what is in store for the rest of the country.

The southern half of Australia has just come off its driest January to August on record. Three years into a record drought, much of the country is bone-dry.

This is Lamington National Park in south-east Queensland as seen from one of the European Union’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites. It is an outpost of an ancient rainforest surrounded by farmland 30 kilometres from the Gold Coast.


Lamington National Park, 2016 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

In 2016, the ridges of the area are tinged green.


Lamington National Park, 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

But as several years of drought take their toll, the green recedes.

It creates the perfect conditions for a fire to take hold. All that is needed is a spark somewhere in the right place and the right weather conditions.


Lamington National Park, 2 September 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

On September 2, a fire starts in difficult terrain at Sarabah. Higher-than-average temperatures, very low humidity and gusty winds lead to very dangerous fire conditions.


Lamington National Park, 7 September 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

On September 6, the temperature hits 33.6 degrees Celsius. Strong and dry west-to-north-westerly winds send the fire through the wet sclerophyll, the eucalypt forest that grows on the boundaries of the sub-tropical rainforest near Binna Burra.

The yellow you’re seeing among the smoke is infrared satellite data, which allows us to show the fire front.

The vegetation in this area is normally noted for its fire resistance, but conditions have caused the fire to take hold in an area where it normally wouldn’t.

Days later the historic Binna Burra Lodge, a hub of eco-tourism opened 86 years ago, is taken by the fire.


Lamington National Park, 12 September 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

The difference in the infrared imagery before and after the fire highlights the extent of the damage.


Highlighted fire scarring at Lamington National Park, 12 September 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

The fires burn through more than 3,600 hectares and continue to smoulder for months, re-igniting when temperatures push into the extremes, and each time pushing further into the rainforest. The area around the Binna Burra Lodge has never before burned in modern times.


Binna Burra (Ben Spraggon)

By September 9, 80 fires burn across Queensland, and another 50 in New South Wales.

Forest Fire Danger Indices in south-east Queensland are around the highest they have ever been at that time of year.

Grant Williamson, a senior research fellow for the NSW Advanced Bushfire Research Hub, says the fires show just how dry conditions are.

“[In Queensland] we do have fires through the winter … but the fact that these fires were severe enough to burn through rainforest really suggests a huge moisture deficit there,” he says.

“The conditions were very dry and very hot, compared to what you’d expect.”


Fires burn across Queensland and northern New South Wales on 14 September 2019 (NICT Science Cloud)

Imagery from the Japanese Himawari weather satellite shows plumes of smoke clearly visible from space.

These are from vast fires burning through the forests of northern New South Wales.

“Once we started to see fires coming up in September through these parts of NSW it became clear to me that this was going to be a very long season.”

Beneath the smoke are towns such as Nymboida, where close to 100 homes are lost when a wall of fire rips through the town.

More than 500 houses across the region are destroyed and four people are killed.

A confluence of climate events

Against the backdrop of record global warming, 2019 was a particularly bad year for bushfire weather.

Cooler waters off Western Australia combined with relatively warmer waters closer to Africa — a phenomenon known as a positive Indian Ocean Dipole — and resulted in less moisture in the atmosphere in the continent’s north-west, changing the path of weather systems coming towards the country from the Indian Ocean.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology says this phenomenon was long-lived, lasting from May until the end of the year. Lower than average rain during that period was the result.

Furthermore: “Spring brought an unusual breakdown of the southern polar vortex which allowed westerly winds to affect mainland Australia. This reduced rainfall, raising temperature and contributing to the increased fire risk.”

It was amid these conditions that a bushfire, the size of which Australia had never seen, was sparked.


Gospers Mountain & Green Wattle Creek (Ben Spraggon)


Gospers Mountain, 27 October 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

On October 26, a single lightning strike amongst dry tinder north-west of Sydney is the progenitor of Australia’s largest recorded bushfire.

The blaze begins innocuously enough. Against the backdrop of a great number of fires at emergency level, it barely rates a mention at first.


Gospers Mountain, 21 November 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

But by mid-November, the fire has grown to 85,000 hectares and is poised to threaten properties.


Highlighted fire scarring at Gospers Mountain, 21 November 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

Infrared imagery shows the scale of the expansion in less than a month.


Gospers Mountain, 21 November 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

The fast-expanding fire soon begins to blow smoke over the Sydney basin.


Gospers Mountain, 21 December 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

By December 16, the Gospers Mountain blaze joins with other nearby fires. Together, they have already burned through nearly half a million hectares, and would go on to burn close to 900,000.

On December 17, temperature records begin to tumble across the country. The average maximum temperature for Australia is 40.7C, surpassing the record of 40.3C set in January 2013, previously Australia’s hottest year on record. Then on the 18th, the record is topped again, with 41.9C — more than a degree higher than the day before.


Highlighted fire scarring at Gospers Mountain, 21 December 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

Satellite imagery from December 21 shows the scale of the blaze.

Sydney is ringed by the Gospers Mountain blaze, and to the south the Green Wattle Creek blaze, which is threatening properties and townships on the outskirts of the city.

The harbour city’s backyard, which it has long been driving its fingers into in the quest for more land, has caught fire.


Highlighted fire scarring at Green Wattle Creek, 21 December 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

Dr Williamson says weather, topography and vegetation combined to allow the mega-fire to burn through such a vast area.

“We didn’t have any significant rain events to slow it down, to put it out,” he says.

“There aren’t many breaks in terms of natural rivers, or roads or settlements, where the fire would naturally come to a stop, and be unable to spread.

“When you’ve got essentially a wilderness area with continuous vegetation going on for such a large area it’s difficult to stop a fire. The length of the boundary you’ve got to fight it across just makes it very difficult to do.”

Extreme heat

Amid the unfolding chaos, renowned US climatologist Michael Mann begins a family holiday in Australia ahead of a long-planned sabbatical in Sydney to study the very type of crisis he has just flown into.

Dr Mann was part of a group of scientists who were the first to show the drastic impact fossil fuels have had on global temperatures compared to historic records, and has been at the forefront of communicating the science of climate change for the past two decades.

“Given that I had planned my sabbatical more than a year ago — and the topic of my research was to be the impact of climate change in extreme weather events in Australia — it was rather surreal to arrive just in time to experience the most extreme example on record,” he says.

On holiday in the Blue Mountains, sandwiched somewhere in between the two blazes, Dr Mann witnesses the devastating effects of the tragedy firsthand.

“I travelled with my family to see the Blue Mountains, only to arrive to see smoke-shrouded valleys and largely hidden cliffs and ridges.”

Dr Mann is unequivocal about the cause of the tragedy: “Take record heat, combine it with unprecedented drought in already dry regions and you get unprecedented bushfires like the ones engulfing the Blue Mountains and spreading across the continent. It’s not complicated.”

It’s during these unprecedented conditions that two volunteer firefighters die when the cabin of their truck is crushed by a falling tree near Buxton, on the front line of the Green Wattle Creek fire.

Both men were fathers to young children.


The tanker rolled after it was hit by a falling tree near Buxton. (ABC News)


Rural Fire Service volunteer Geoffrey Keaton, who died battling the Green Wattle Creek blaze, with his son Harvey. (Supplied: RFS)


RFS firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer, who was killed fighting the Green Wattle Creek fire, with his daughter Charlotte. (Supplied: RFS)

Days later the fire tears through the regional town of Balmoral.

Twenty of the village’s 120 homes are destroyed.

Under red skies

Christmas fails to bring respite, as the danger shifts to the south coast of NSW.

The area is dotted with towns set among eucalypt forests. Australians have holidayed here for generations.


Nowra, Cobargo & Mallacoota (Ben Spraggon)


Nowra and NSW east coast, 31 December 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

Fires have been burning in the region around the town of Nowra since before Christmas, but the scorching temperatures supercharge the blaze.

The extreme heat from the fire front is clearly visible here in yellow and orange, as picked up by the Sentinel satellite’s infrared sensors.

Further south, at 5:00am on New Year’s Eve, an emergency warning is issued to residents of the small town of Cobargo.

Firefighters expect a southerly change to move the fireground north, and residents are advised to evacuate.

By 6:23am the fire is moving so fast that the Rural Fire Service is advising people in the town that it is too late to leave and to take shelter instead.

Satellite imagery from New Year’s Eve shows thick smoke from infernos in Victoria’s East Gippsland, burning since mid-December, blocking out the sky.

Underneath this smoke the bushfire is bearing down on Cobargo.


Cobargo and NSW east coast, 31 December 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

The tight-knit community of only 700 loses two of its members — a father and son defending their property. Many historic buildings on the main street are lost to the blaze.

Also beneath the plumes of smoke, the small holiday town of Mallacoota is under siege from the flames.

Thousands of people choose this spot to holiday during summer every year. But now the fire front has them trapped — there is no way out by road.

Sunrise on New Year’s Eve brings an ominous, red glow; each photo emerging from the besieged town looks as if it is still developing in a darkroom.


A child steers a boat on the water at Mallacoota. (Supplied: Allison Marion)


A photo posted to Facebook by resident Mariska Ascher about 1:00am on December 31, 2019, showing the red sky as a fire approached the town of Mallacoota. (Facebook: Mariska Ascher)


An image of a home in Mallacoota as a bushfire beared towards the town on the morning of December 31, 2019, at approximately 7:33am. (Facebook: Mariska Ascher)

The fire front pushes holiday-makers and residents onto the beach or the town’s jetty — a small sliver of refuge against the blazes.

But even near the water, it isn’t entirely safe. Evacuees are told they may need to get into the ocean to protect themselves if the fire gets too close.

A thousand people are eventually evacuated on Navy ships, with several hundred more leaving by air.

A new record for a new year

Early in the new year, the Bureau of Meteorology confirms what we all felt.

Not only was 2019 the hottest year on record for the country, 1.52C above average, but the nation also experienced its lowest rainfall since these two records began. December 2019 was a full 3.2C above average.

“Persistent drought and record temperatures were a major driver of the fire activity, and the context for 2019 lies in the past three years of drought,” the bureau says.

Tom Beer is often referred to as the ‘godfather’ of bushfire and climate science in Australia. In 1988, he released the first research on the effects of climate change on bushfires in Australia.

While researching in 1987, when climate science was in its infancy, Dr Beer attempted to find a year where the temperature had varied more than 3.5 degrees above the average so that he could study what happened in that year as a model for the future. He was unable to find one.

“Even finding a year that was 1 degree warmer was impossible,” he says.

And according to Dr Beer, the 2019 fires may already be the new normal, even if the world limits emissions under the Paris Agreement.

“Even limiting warming to 1.5 degrees under the Paris Agreement is more or less, in terms of bushfires, what you’re seeing this year. If we get up to 3 degrees, then the fires are going to get worse.”

Flames further west


A fire in Eucla closed a 400 kilometre stretch of the Eyre Highway. (DFES: Evan Collis)

The eastern states are not the only ones affected by blazes.

The same catastrophic temperatures in the lead-up to Christmas drive a blaze through the Adelaide Hills. More than 80 homes are destroyed, and one person is killed.

In the early days of the new year, the only sealed road between South Australia and Western Australia is closed for 12 days due to an out-of-control fire nearby.

And South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, long a draw for holiday makers, becomes a microcosm for the situation facing the country, as soaring temperatures turbocharge fires that have been burning on the island since December.


Kangaroo Island (Ben Spraggon)


Kangaroo Island, 31 December 2019 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

Lightning sparks a number of fires on the island in mid-December; by New Year’s Eve, two fires on the western end of the island are still burning out of control and threatening lives and property.


Kangaroo Island, 15 January 2020 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

Two weeks later, the fires have laid waste to large swathes of the island’s vegetation.


Highlighted fire scarring on Kangaroo Island, 15 January 2020 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

Around half of the island’s area is touched by the inferno.


Kangaroo Island, 15 January 2020 (European Union, Contains Modified Copernicus Sentinal Data 2020, Processed With EO Browser)

Two volunteer firefighters lose their lives …

As well as countless native animals which call the island home.

Summer, the time of year when we as a nation collectively agree to switch off, had turned on us.

The picturesque scenery which undoubtedly drew tourists to the area, now black.


A general view of the damage done to the Flinders Chase National Park after bushfires swept through on Kangaroo Island, southwest of Adelaide, Tuesday, January 7, 2020. (AAP: David Mariuz)


A road sign damaged by the fire. (AAP: David Mariuz)


Blackened trees on Kangaroo Island after a bushfire tore through. (ABC News)

A national crisis goes global

As the new decade dawns, the rest of the world watches on in horror as Australia burns. Images of the tragedy make front-page news around the globe, and we become the face of what a climate future could hold.


Plumes of smoke weave their way across the Tasman in early January (NICT Science Cloud)

But it is more than just images that spread: plumes of smoke from the east coast crisis cross the Tasman in early January …

Turning the sky in Auckland orange …

And glaciers brown with ash.

While New Zealand had received ash and smoke from Australian bushfires before, Dr Williamson says the sheer quantity of this year’s event was “probably unprecedented”.

“[It’s] a product of how much smoke there has been over such a long period that it’s hanging around and able to travel a long way,” he says.

“It’s just indicative of the size of the event — it’s quite rare.”

In time the smoke circles the globe and then returns to Australian skies.

Mega blaze 2.0

As the season’s first mega-blaze is brought under control, a second mega-blaze is already forming.

The Dunns Road and Adaminaby Complex fires in NSW combine with two other blazes straddling the Victorian border near Albury, forming a fireground that will eventually burn through more than 800,000 hectares.


Smoke from fires in New South Wales and Victoria settled upon Canberra and Melbourne (NICT Science Cloud)

Smoke from the fires settles over Canberra, trapped again by the surrounding mountainous terrain. Flights are cancelled, national museums temporarily shuttered.

Melbourne doesn’t escape the haze either.

The mega-blaze and East Gippsland fires send their payload to our second-largest city, a poignant reminder of a still evolving threat.

The eyes of the world are on Australia once again as the city gears up for the Australian Open.

The poor air quality makes headlines around the world as players speak out about the conditions; some matches are cancelled or forfeited in the lead up to the tournament.

Five people were killed in the blazes in Victoria, and more than 400 homes were consumed by the flames.


The Melbourne city skyline shielded by the smoke haze during an Australian Open practice session at Melbourne Park. (AAP: Michael Dodge)

From fire to flood

After an agonising wait, rain finally arrives, in the same fashion as all the weather this summer — with extreme, destructive force. A tropical low dumps record amounts of rain, extinguishing the fires and creating flash flooding.

Down the coast firegrounds are turned to flood zones and Sydney streets are inundated just weeks after they were wreathed in smoke.


Bushland is seen burnt by fire as rain falls at Bilpin, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Friday, January 17, 2020. The Gospers Mountain Fire impacted the town on December 21. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)


A group of boys direct traffic through floodwater at Tempe in Sydney, Sunday, February 9, 2020. (AAP: Joel Carrett)


This farm on the South Coast of NSW got burnt in the recent fires but 200mm should spur recovery. (Joanna Gall)


Train lines were disrupted when a tree toppled on overhead wiring at Blackheath on February 9, 2020. (Twitter: TrainLinkWest)

Even this is an example of what climate change can look like. Because the atmosphere can hold more water in warmer temperatures, when it does rain we’re seeing more high-intensity, extreme rain events — the ones that are associated with flash flooding. Every degree of warming creates a 7 per cent increase in the intensity of those rain events.

There’s still more summer to run, which means the threat of national disasters looms large over the continent. And experts warn this threat will only increase as the world heats and Australia’s climate warms.

Michael Mann says it will “only get worse” and result in “more extreme heat and drought, more destructive, faster-spreading bushfires, worse floods, more loss of life, more lost species”.

He says that even a 1.5C rise in average world temperatures, as mandated under the Paris Agreement, leads to a scenario “in which Australians need to accept a new reality”.

“Many fire-prone regions may become uninsurable, the first stage of uninhabitability. The cost of climate change is very real and we are already seeing it here.”


Satellite Imagery

  • Geostationary satellite imagery: © Science Cloud, National Institute of Information and Communications, Japan; via Zoom Earth.
  • Repeated survey satellite imagery: European Union, contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2020, processed with EO Browser.
  • Bushfire and burn scar visualisation techniques developed by Pierre Markuse.
  • Yellow burn filters created using Sentinel 2 satellite short wave infrared imagery (SWIR), and overlaying this on true colour Sentinel 2 Imagery. Because of this, smoke and cloud may obscure the extent of the burns in some areas, as in the opening image from January 30, 2020.


Sarah’s obsession with exercise and the secret struggle it caused


Over her 14 years as a personal trainer, Jen Dugard has seen it all.

From people hoping to lose weight, to clients wanting to gain muscle — or those just looking to maintain it all.

But according to Ms Dugard, there’s another element to fitness that is not often discussed.

“People overtraining? I’d say a lot,” she told the ABC.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there that think that what they’re doing is healthy and I’ve definitely come across people who feel bad if they don’t work out or they’re counting their calories.

“They’re clearly overtraining, but they can’t see it themselves.”

It is an area of growing concern for health professionals, with overtraining in turn fuelling a more serious issue: eating disorders.

Yet, it is an area fitness professionals are not routinely trained to deal with.

It is why experts from the Inside Out Institute for Eating Disorders is teaming up with the fitness industry to help trainers identify people who might be secretly struggling with an eating disorder.


Sarah Maguire from Inside Out said over-exercise could become ritualised and lead to eating disorders. (ABC News: Aaron Hollett)

From Wednesday, the 18,000 registered personal trainers and fitness instructors across Australia will be given guidance on identifying people who might be over-exercising, exercising when injured or cutting out multiple food groups.

Gyms will also be encouraged to change their language and not use body-shaming terms such as “fat”, “fugly” or “skinny” and instead focusing on building health, wellbeing and strength through healthy exercise.

Sarah Maguire, director of Inside Out, said both men and women with eating disorders struggled with over-exercising — a cycle they needed to break in order to recover.

“For many people, exercise is actually of greater concern than the food,” Dr Maguire said.

Types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa: Restrictive energy intake leading to being unable to maintain a normal weight, with an intense fear of gaining weight
  • Bulimia nervosa: Repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours, with an emphasis on body shape or weight
  • Binge eating disorder: Eating large amounts of food over very short periods of time while feeling a loss of control
  • Muscle dysmorphia: Engaging in excessive exercise and over training to gain a certain type of muscularity
  • Disordered eating: Behaviours such as food restriction, skipping meals and binge eating that can be indicators of a disorder developing.

She said anything marked by “obsession and compulsion” with exercise could rapidly become unhealthy.

“Once it becomes ritualised, compulsive or obsessive, or once you can’t take days off and if you feel guilt and shame when you don’t do it, then we are moving into the territory of eating disorders forming part of a mental illness.”

‘Living off caffeine’

According to the Butterfly Foundation — a group supporting those with eating disorders and negative body image issues — as many as 1.2 million Australians live with an eating disorder.

Cricketer Sarah Coyte was one of them. It forced her to give up the sport she loved.

“It got pretty bad,” she said.

“We did a lot of fitness testing and I wasn’t comfortable with it a lot of the time.

“It got to a point where I was basically living off caffeine because I couldn’t stomach food, I didn’t like how I felt after I would eat and I needed to perform so for me the lighter I felt, the better I would feel and perform.

“It just became an obsession.”


Cricketer Sarah Coyte said it was “pretty easy” to slip into an eating disorder as a professional athlete. (ABC News: Aaron Hollett)

Ms Coyte, now 28, lived with the disorder for eight years.

With support and hard work, she has since recovered and is now back playing professional cricket.

She believed the problem was “pretty widespread” and a lot of people involved in professional sport — as well as normal training — did a “pretty good job hiding it”.

Ms Coyte said the recommendations for personal trainers could help save lives.

Health system ‘failing’ patients with eating disorders
Raia Darin-Cooper fought anorexia for 14 years before she ended her own life at just 25 years old. Her family wants a shake-up of the health system.

Fitness Australia chief executive Barrie Elvish said he hoped the guidelines would be adopted across the fitness industry.

“We want our registered exercise professionals to be working within their scope of practice, including knowing when and where to refer a client for medical review,” he said.

Dr Maguire said Inside Out wanted to see gyms include screening for eating disorders as part of the regular medical screening at all gyms.

“Obviously, when it is raised it needs to be done sensitively, you need to have an awareness of how the illness can affect the individual and it needs to be done with skill, hence the need for guidelines,” she said.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing an eating disorder we encourage you to reach out for support.

You can call the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline on 1800 33 4673.


China’s Uyghurs detained for simple acts of faith, leaked documents show


For decades, Uyghur imam Memtimin Emer was a bedrock of his farming community in China’s far west. On Fridays, he preached Islam as a religion of peace. On Sundays, he treated the sick with free herbal medicine. In the winter, he bought coal for the poor.

Key points:

  • The leaked database has information on 311 individuals and more than 2,000 of their relatives, neighbours and friends
  • It shows the Chinese Government detained them for religious activities such as praying, attending a mosque, and growing a beard
  • Information leaked last year showed the “training” camps were centres for forced ideological and behavioural re-education

But as a Chinese Government mass detention campaign engulfed his native Xinjiang region three years ago, the elderly imam was swept up and locked away, along with all three of his sons living in China.

Now, a newly revealed database has exposed in extraordinary detail the main reasons for the detentions of Mr Emer, his three sons, and hundreds of others in Karakax County: their religion and their family ties.

The leaked database contains details of 311 individuals and lists information on more than 2,000 of their relatives, neighbours and friends.

It shows the Chinese Government focuses on religion as a reason for detention — not just political extremism, as authorities say, but ordinary activities such as praying, attending a mosque, or even growing a long beard.

Each entry includes a detainee’s name, address, national identity number, detention date and location, along with a detailed dossier on their family, religious and neighbourhood background, the reason for their detention, and a decision on whether or not to release them.

Issued within the past year, the documents do not indicate which government department compiled them or for whom.


Uyghur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China’s Xinjiang region. (AP: Han Guan)

Taken as a whole, the information offers the fullest and most personal view yet into how Chinese officials decide who to put into and let out of detention camps, as part of a massive crackdown that has locked away more than a million ethnic minorities, most of them Muslims.

It also shows people with detained relatives are far more likely to end up in a camp themselves, uprooting and criminalising entire families like Mr Emer’s in the process.

Similarly, family background and attitude are bigger factors than detainee behaviour in whether they individuals are released, the documents show.

“It’s very clear that religious practice is being targeted,” Darren Byler, a University of Colorado researcher studying the use of surveillance technology in Xinjiang, said.

“They want to fragment society, to pull the families apart and make them much more vulnerable to retraining and re-education.”

The Xinjiang regional Government did not respond to faxes requesting comment.

When asked whether Xinjiang was targeting religious people and their families, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said “this kind of nonsense is not worth commenting on”.

Beijing has previously said the detention centres are for voluntary job training, and that it does not discriminate based on religion.

‘It underscores the witch-hunt mindset of the Government’

China has struggled for decades to control Xinjiang, where the native Uyghurs have long resented Beijing’s heavy-handed rule.

Following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, officials began using the spectre of terrorism to justify harsher religious restrictions, arguing young Uyghurs were susceptible to Islamic extremism.

After militants set off bombs at a train station in Xinjiang’s capital in 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a so-called People’s War on Terror, transforming Xinjiang into a digital police state.

The leak of the database from sources in the Uyghur exile community followed the November release of a classified blueprint on how the mass detention system really worked.

The blueprint, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, showed the centres were forced ideological and behavioural re-education camps run in secret.

Another set of documents leaked to the New York Times revealed the historical lead-up to the mass detention.

China’s frontier of fear Satellite imagery lifts the lid on the size and spread of China’s internment camps, used to indoctrinate vast numbers of the Xinjiang region’s Muslim population.

The detainees listed come from Karakax County, a traditional settlement of about 650,000 on the edge of Xinjiang’s Taklamakan desert where more than 97 per cent of residents are Uyghur.

The list was corroborated through interviews with former Karakax residents, Chinese identity verification tools, and other lists and documents.

Detainees and their families were tracked and classified by rigid, well-defined categories.

Households were designated as “trustworthy” or “not trustworthy”, their attitudes were graded as “ordinary” or “good”, and families had “light” or “heavy” religious atmospheres.

The database also kept count of how many relatives of each detainee were locked in prison or sent to a “training centre”.

Officials used these categories and information to determine how suspicious a person was — even if they had not committed any crimes.

“It underscores the witch-hunt mindset of the Government and how the Government criminalises everything,” Adrian Zenz, an expert on the detention centres, said.

Reasons listed for internment included “minor religious infection”, “disturbs other persons by visiting them without reasons”, “relatives abroad”, “thinking is hard to grasp” and “untrustworthy person born in a certain decade”.

The last seems to refer to younger men — about 31 per cent of people considered “untrustworthy” were in the age bracket of 25 to 29 years, according to an analysis of the data by Mr Zenz.

‘He never bowed down to them’

When former student Abdullah Muhammad spotted Mr Emer’s name on the list of the detained, he was distraught.

“He didn’t deserve this,” Mr Muhammad said. “Everyone liked and respected him. He was the kind of person who couldn’t stay silent against injustice.”

Even in Karakax county, famed for its intellectuals and scholars, Mr Emer was one of the most renowned teachers in the region.

Mr Muhammad studied the Koran under Mr Emer for six years as a child, following him from house to house in an effort to dodge the authorities.

He said Mr Emer was so respected the police would phone him with warnings ahead of time before raiding classes at his modest, single-storey home of brick and mud.

Though Mr Emer gave Party-approved sermons, he refused to preach Communist propaganda, Mr Muhammad said, eventually running into trouble with the authorities.

He was stripped of his position as an imam and barred from teaching in 1997, amid unrest roiling the region.

When Mr Muhammad left China for Saudi Arabia and Turkey in 2009, Mr Emer was making his living as a doctor of traditional medicine.

Mr Emer was growing old and, under heavy surveillance, he had stopped attending religious gatherings.


The database is part of a massive crackdown in China that has locked away more than a million ethnic minorities, most of them Muslim. (AP)

That did not stop authorities from detaining the imam, aged is in his 80s, and sentencing him on various charges to up to 12 years in prison over 2017 and 2018.

The database cites four charges in various entries: “stirring up terrorism”, acting as an unauthorised “wild” imam, following the strict Saudi Wahhabi sect and conducting illegal religious teachings.

Mr Muhammad called the charges false. Mr Emer had stopped his preaching, practised a moderate Central Asian sect of Islam rather than Wahhabism and never dreamed of hurting others, let alone stirring up “terrorism”, Mr Muhammad said.

“He used to always preach against violence,” Mr Muhammad said. “Anyone who knew him can testify that he wasn’t a religious extremist.”

None of Mr Emer’s three sons had been convicted of a crime. But the database showed that over the course of 2017, all were thrown into the detention camps for having too many children, trying to travel abroad, being “untrustworthy”, being “infected with religious extremism” or going on the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

It also shows their relationship to Mr Emer and their religious background was enough to convince officials they were too dangerous to let out from the detention camps.

“His father taught him how to pray,” notes one entry for his eldest, Ablikim Memtimin.

‘Deeply disturbing’
Australia’s Foreign Minister and members of the Uyghur community condemned a video that purports to show a mass transfer of Uyghur men — their heads freshly shaved —blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs in Xinjiang.

“His family’s religious atmosphere is thick. We recommend he continue training,” said an entry for Mr Emer’s youngest son.

Even a neighbour was tainted by living near him, with Mr Emer’s alleged crimes and prison sentence recorded in the neighbour’s dossier.

The database indicates much of the information was collected by teams of cadres stationed at mosques, sent to visit homes and posted in communities.

This information was then compiled in a dossier called the “three circles”, encompassing the individuals’ relatives, community, and religious background.

It was not just the religious who were detained. The database shows Karakax officials also explicitly targeted people for activities that included going abroad, getting a passport or installing foreign software

Pharmacist Tohti Himit was detained in a camp for having gone multiple times to one of 26 “key” countries, mostly Muslim, according to the database.

Xinjiang families torn apart China’s mass internment of its ethnic Uyghur population appears to be the largest imprisonment of people on the basis of religion since the Holocaust.

Mr Emer is now under house arrest due to health issues, his former student, Mr Muhammad, has heard. It is unclear where Mr Emer’s sons are.

It was the imam’s courage and stubbornness that did him in, Muhammad said. Though deprived of his mosque and his right to teach, Mr Emer quietly defied the authorities for two decades by staying true to his faith.

“Unlike some other scholars, he never cared about money or anything else the Communist Party could give him,” Mr Muhammad said.

“He never bowed down to them — and that’s why they wanted to eliminate him.”



Wheel clampers brought to heel by new ban on ‘predatory’ parking measures

Perth 6000

Wheel clamping will soon be banned across Western Australia to prevent residents from being inappropriately charged for breaching parking regulations after community outrage at recent clamping abuses.

Key points:

  • Premier Mark McGowan says wheel clamping is a “disgraceful scam”
  • The ban follows reports of overzealous contractors policing car parks
  • Motorists still face the threat of their car being towed if they park illegally

The WA Government has begun drafting legislation to make the practice illegal after a series of wheel clamping cases across Perth suburbs including Scarborough.

But the new legislation does not mean motorists would get off without incurring penalties, as towing could still occur as a last resort.

Those costs would be capped and include a requirement for WA Police to be notified.


Rampant wheel clamping has been heavily criticised in Perth’s City of Stirling. (Supplied)

The Government said prominent signage with the penalties and consequences for breaching parking conditions would be required at carparks and every effort needed to be made to locate the owner of the vehicle before it could be removed.

Premier Mark McGowan said his Government was also working on amendments to regulations that would lift standards in the towing industry, with the changes to come into effect later this year.

“Wheel clamping is a disgraceful scam, it’s un-Australian and it has to stop,” he said.

“The WA community have made their voice heard on this issue … and we are acting immediately to stamp out this infuriating practice.”

Even parking inspectors get clamped

The debate about wheel clamping in parts of Perth hit a new level two months ago when a photo emerged of a parking inspector car that was clamped in Scarborough.


A City of Stirling parking inspector was among those who had their car clamped last December. (Supplied: Christy Phillips)

The City of Stirling was forced to look into banning the practice amid reports of overzealous contractors policing private car parks.

But the managing director of Auto Clamp in Perth, Sue Chapman, denied claims at the time that people clamping cars were intimidating or threatening.

She defended the practice and said the owners of private property had a right and a purpose for keeping parking available for their employees or customers.

Ms Chapman also raised concerns that a move to outlaw wheel clamping in WA would cause at least 20 people to lose their jobs.

Perth Security Services director Neville Mader said he supported changes to industry regulation but warned the entire workforce should not be punished for the actions of a few.


Perth Security Services director Neville Mader said business owners would suffer if the legislation passed. (ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

“The only people that will really suffer are property owners, building owners, facilities mangers, people like that who are going to be left without a resort for people who park illegally on their property,” he said.

“People like us who responsibly enforce the rules won’t have a tool to be able to enforce those rules.”

Mr Mader said he had already heard from a number of his customers who were worried about how to manage illegally parked cars if the legislation was passed.

Cracking down on ‘predatory behaviour’

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti told ABC Radio Perth banning the practice would tackle intimidating behaviour towards motorists.

“We’ve seen I think the advent of predatory behaviour over recent years and it seems to be becoming more common,” she said.

“But what we’ve seen is wheel clamping being an easy way to make money and we just don’t want that to happen in WA.

“There will be some instances, with small business in particular, blocking access and so forth, there’ll be infringements and access to towing, but there’ll be a whole framework around that so people don’t just jump from clamping to towing.”

Ms Saffioti said the Government had looked at wheel clamping legislations other states had enforced in designing its approach to the new laws.


The clamping ban follows reports of heavy-handed contractors policing private car parks. (Supplied)

“We’ve learned from what’s happened in other states, making sure our legislation bans clamping but then making sure small businesses have access to deal with cars blocking off driveways and so forth,” she said.

Shadow police minister Peter Katsambanis said it was about time the Government recognised the public anger over the practice and put a stop to it.

“Nobody wants to come out of a store, find their car clamped, unable to pick up their children from school, unable to get to their job, unable to get to medical appointments,” he said.

Mr Katsambanis said he wanted to see more details of the proposal before giving it his full support but expected it to be widely supported across the community.

Damage done, Scarborough businesses say

Business owners in Scarborough welcomed the move towards a clamping ban.

Owner of the Surf Boardroom surf shop, Wayne Bowen, said he had seen the practice drive out many customers from the area.


Surf Boardroom owner Wayne Bowen had to erect signs warning customers about clamping. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)

“Some people are saying, ‘I’ll never come back to Scarborough again’ or, ‘I can’t afford this’, or are just totally awestruck by the fact they’ve parked there, left their car no longer than five or 10 minutes [and been clamped],” he said.

“The impact on tourism and businesses down here is quite serious, and all the work that’s been done on the beachfront to get tourism and people down to the beachfront, it gets negatively impacted.”

Mr Bowen said he had even been forced to erect signs warning people about the potential of their car being clamped.

“We’ve had instances where [someone] has come in and put in a deposit on a surfboard, for example … and they’ve gone back to their car and they’ve got a $170 fine,” he said.

“They’ve come back and said, ‘Look can I delay that, can I have my $100 back, I can’t afford that’.

“So that was when it really first impacted on us as to how serious it was.”


‘End of an era’: Last survivor of iconic Kokoda Track campaign photo dies

Townsville 4810

The last surviving World War II veteran depicted in an iconic photo of the bloody Kokoda Track campaign has died in North Queensland.

Key points:

  • Arnold Forrester was one of six soldiers captured in a photograph by award-winning war cinematographer Damien Parer, on the Kokoda Track in 1942
  • He celebrated his 100th birthday in August 2019 and outlived the other men in the photo
  • As a younger man he did not discuss the war or participate in Anzac Day, but when the photo resurfaced he felt pride in reliving the legend of the historic campaign

Arnold Forrester was in his early 20s when he joined the fabled 39th Infantry Battalion and was one of the last surviving members of the group.

Untrained and under-equipped, Mr Forrester was a company runner during battles against the Japanese on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea in 1942.

More than 600 Australian troops died.

Margi Pavlovic, one of his four children, said she was glad she visited him at his Townsville nursing home on Sunday morning before he suffered a suspected cardiac arrest.

“He did a lot for his country and his family and he will be deeply missed,” Mrs Pavlovic said.

“Arnie was a fix-it man of sorts — he was always trying to fix things in a not-so-fashionable way.

“His drawers of his side table were sticking, so he oiled them with hand cream or Vaseline.

“‘And look how well they’re going now,’ he was telling me and we were having a laugh.

“Then he just sort of clutched his chest.”

Mr Forrester celebrated his 100th birthday in August 2019.

Photo carries Kokoda legacy


Arnold Forrester (second from left) on the Kokoda Track with the 39th Infantry Battalion. (Supplied: Australian War Memorial; Photographer: Damien Parer)

Mr Forrester outlived the other veterans in a photo captured by award-winning war cinematographer Damien Parer.

The group of six are depicted smiling and carrying rifles as they trudge through the muddy track after a battle at Isurava.

It has been printed in history textbooks and displayed at war memorials.

“It’s an end of an era. Every year that photo surfaced,” Mrs Pavlovic said.

Mrs Pavlovic said the ‘lost’ photo resurfaced when her husband was looking through Mr Forrester’s ‘special tins’ of war relics.

“We didn’t talk about his time in the war or the army at all as children,” Mrs Pavlovic said.

“He didn’t do Anzac Day … it was just sort of like buried and forgotten.

“That photo has created so much bringing out of history.

“Dad then started to talk about the people in the photo, his mates, and he sort of relived everything once that photo was brought back to life.”


Arnold Forrester has participated in Anzac Marches during his later years. (ABC News: Tom Edwards)

Mrs Pavlovic said her father carried the photo with him on Anzac Day marches in recent years.

“He was just very proud of [the photo] — that was mateship,” Mrs Pavlovic said.

“Even though it was a terrible battle, that was the biggest thing in his life.”

She said her father had faith the younger generations would carry the Kokoda Track legend on.

The funeral will be held in Townsville next week.


Worker’s body retrieved three weeks after mine collapse


The body of Cameron Goss has been retrieved three weeks after a section of the Henty Gold Mine, in Tasmania’s west, collapsed.

Key points:

  • Rescue crews had made previous attempts at recovering Mr Goss’s body in the weeks since the accident
  • Limited mine operations have resumed at the mine
  • Mr Goss’s death is the fifth mining death in the area in six year

Mr Goss, 44, died after the ground underneath his loader caved in, plunging his machine down a 15-metre-deep crevasse on January 23.

Heavy-lift winching gear was successful in lifting the loader, which he was operating at the time, from its position about 3:00am today, police said.

They said Mr Goss’ body was recovered by the mine’s Emergency Response Team with the help of other mining experts.

Rescue crews had earlier made a number of attempts to find his body but were unsuccessful.

West Coast Mayor Phil Vickers said it had been a difficult time for the community.

“Our thoughts are now with the family, it allows them to have a little bit of closure,” he said.

“People who’ve been involved since the 23rd of January in trying to retrieve Cameron, they’ve worked tirelessly.”

Limited mine operations have now resumed at the Henty Gold Mine.

The loss of Mr Goss marks the fifth mining death in the area in six years.


The accident occurred at Henty Gold Mine late last month. (Supplied: Google Earth)


‘Aussie Kim’ Clijsters loses first match in latest tennis comeback

United States

She may not have had quite as many comebacks as Dame Nellie Melba, but Kim Clijsters has shown plenty of promise in her latest return to professional tennis — despite a loss in her first WTA Tour match since 2012.

Key points:

  • Kim Clijsters has won 41 WTA Tour titles, three US Opens and an Australian Open in singles — plus doubles crowns at the French Open and Wimbledon
  • She retired for the first time in 2007 after 10 years on tour, came back in 2009 before retiring again in 2012
  • The popular Belgian player has now returned again to professional tennis as a mother-of-three

The 36-year-old was always one of the most popular players on the tour, and the crowd gave her a huge reception as she lost 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Championships.

The Belgian, a four-time winner of singles major titles, is now a mother of three.

She announced in September 2019 she was returning to the tour for a second time.

Known affectionately in Australia as “Aussie Kim” because of her former relationship with Lleyton Hewitt, Clijsters had rivalries with fellow Belgian Justine Henin and an early-career Serena Williams in her first stint on tour.

She initially retired in 2007, got married and had the first of her children.

Clijsters returned about two years later and won her second and third US Opens and an Australian Open.

She retired again after the 2012 US Open.


Kim Clijsters retired for the second time after the 2012 US Open, but now she’s back for another shot at the WTA tour. (Reuters: Jessica Rinaldi)

For her re-introduction to the tour, Clijsters had a tough opponent in Muguruza, a fellow former world number one who lost in the final of the Australian Open less than a month ago.

She was broken in the opening game and struggled throughout the first set, throwing in five double faults.

External Link:

WTA tweet: .@Clijsterskim ends a phenomenal rally at the net. #DDFTennis

Muguruza broke again for a 5-2 lead and was two breaks up at 3-0 in the second set before Clijsters found her stride.

Her powerful groundstrokes put Muguruza back on the defensive, and Clijsters showed she had the confidence to come to the net and finish points.

The Belgian excited the crowd by levelling the set at 4-4, but Muguruza then converted her second match point in the tiebreaker, before graciously leading the crowd in an ovation for her opponent.

“I had a good feeling out there,” Clijsters said. “Second set, I felt I was really in the match.”

“I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.

“I think that’s a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set. With the type of tennis I played, it’s something that is the positive about this match.

“I’ll take that with me for the next matches.”

Muguruza will play either Veronika Kudermetova or Dayana Yastremska in the next round.

“I think this is just special because I didn’t know how [Clijsters was] going to play,” Muguruza said.

“I’m sure she’s going to get better and better, for sure, give us a lot of trouble.”

Barbora Strycova and Elise Mertens also advanced in Dubai.

Strycova ousted Amanda Anisimova of the United States 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-4 and Mertens eased past Wang Qiang of China 6-3, 6-0.



Amazon boss Jeff Bezos sets up nearly $15b fund to fight climate change

United States

The world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, says he will commit $US10 billion ($14.9 billion) of his own money to fund scientists, activists, non-profit organisations and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change.

Key points:

  • The Bezos Earth Fund will start issuing grants by mid-2020
  • Mr Bezos is urging large and small companies to help him fight global warming
  • He was named the richest man in history in 2018 with a net worth of $US150 billion

Making the announcement on Monday, Mr Bezos joined a growing list of billionaires dedicating substantial funds towards combating the impact of global warming.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Mr Bezos said in an Instagram post.

“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways, and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

The Bezos Earth Fund will begin issuing grants by the middle of this year as part of the initiative.

“It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organisations and individuals,” Mr Bezos said.

Counteracting climate change has become a popular cause for US billionaires in recent years, with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer counted among the world’s wealthiest environmental philanthropists.

Last year, Mr Bezos pledged to make online retailer Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040, the first major corporation to announce such a goal.

He also announced his intention to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from US vehicle design and manufacturing company Rivian Automotive LLC.


Mr Bezos has pledged to make Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040. (ABC News: Alistair Kroie)

Mr Bezos said at the time that Amazon would meet the goals of the Paris climate accord 10 years ahead of schedule, and would invest $US100 million ($149 million) to restore forests and wetlands.

Cutting emissions related to Amazon, which delivers 10 billion items a year and has a massive transportation and datacentre footprint, promises to be challenging.

The company has faced recent protests by environmental activists in France, and rising pressure from its own employees to take action on climate change.

Mr Bezos, who started Amazon in a garage near Seattle in 1994, was named the richest man in history in 2018 after his net worth increased to $US150 billion ($223 billion), having briefly overtaken Microsoft founder Bill Gates the year before.

External Link:

IG: Jeff Bezos to donate $US10 billion to climate change



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