Author: Azlyrics

Netflix doco reveals what fans have always known — cheerleaders are tougher than footballers

United States

Cheerleaders are nothing but bimbo garnish on the sidelines of football games, right?

Wrong. Contrary to the sexist stereotype of cheerleader-as-a-sort-of-slutty-human-parsley, Netflix’s new docuseries Cheer reveals what those of us die-hard cheerleading fans have known for eons: this extreme sport demands extraordinary guts.

Super-shapely guts that must ripple hotly in eye-scorchingly sparkly uniforms, but extraordinary guts, nonetheless.

Cheer — enthused reactions to which are currently breaking the internet — follows the members of Texas’ Navarro College team as they prepare a gobstoppingly dangerous routine for a national competition in Florida.


Cheer follows the members of Texas’ Navarro College team as they prepare a gobstoppingly dangerous routine for a national competition in Florida. (Netflix)

Never seen competitive cheerleading?

Imagine a cross between human aerobatics, reverse skydiving and juggling — only instead of balls, imagine you’re hurling a bunch of your friends up to six metres into the air while also standing on a bunch of your other friends’ shoulders.

Now imagine you’re doing all this with broken ribs, a bruised spine, and tampons shoved up one or both nostrils to stop the bleeding.

All these things happen in Cheer.


Imagine you’re doing all this with broken ribs, a bruised spine, and tampons shoved up one or both nostrils to stop the bleeding. (Netflix)

Cheerleading was like nothing I’d imagined

In one episode, a young “flyer” casually ducks down to the nearest emergency room to have her ribs “popped” back into place between practices. Cheer’s director Greg Whitely describes these young women and men as the toughest athletes he’s ever filmed.

Many of them had horrific backgrounds and say cheerleading changed their lives which, weirdly enough, is a sentiment to which I can relate.


Many of those featured in the docuseries had horrific backgrounds and say cheerleading changed their lives. (Netflix)

My first contact with real-life cheerleading was back in the 1990s when I was asked to join the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs cheer squad as a gonzo journalism assignment.

My editor was expecting I’d produce a piece of feminist snark — and to be honest, so did I.

Remember that scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when a recovering cheerleader sarcastically tells another that she’ll miss the intellectual thrill of spelling out words with her arms?

That used to be my view of the genus jumpus skirtupicus. But neither the cheerleaders nor the cheerleading were anything like I’d imagined.


Emma Jane (left) first tried cheerleading in the 1990s. (Supplied:

The former were a feisty delight (not least because of their hilarious bitching about having to sit through so much “boofmeister” sports ball), while the latter was unbelievably hard.

I won’t tell you how many weeks of private lessons were required for me to nail a single, modified nano-second of a routine or how nervous I was when I eventually performed in front of 20,000 bellowing footy fans at a match.

Let’s just say I still find one-size-fits-all unitards very triggering.

It’s time to bust some myths

That day, however, really did represent a turning point in my life.

In addition to rethinking my feminism, I became increasingly fascinated by the extraordinarily sexist disconnect between the reality of competitive cheerleading (it vies with football as America’s most dangerous sport) and the bizarre things haters say about it (in Australia, cheerleaders have been routinely blamed for footballer sex scandals even when no cheerleaders were present or involved in any way at all).


Emma Jane (centre) was asked to join the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs cheer squad as a gonzo journalism assignment. (Supplied: Emma Brasier)

Why did cheerleading have so many vitriolic anti-fans? And what was up with all the cheerleader-themed porn?

(Of the 50 bestselling X-rated videos and DVDs in Australia in 2003, two were cheerleading-related titles. None of the other 48 involved women’s sport).

Like any other normal nerd-lord, I decided to spend eight years at uni doing a Masters degree and a PhD in order to find out.

Here then, are just four of the myths I am now insanely overqualified to bust.

Myth #1: Cheerleading has always been girly

Believe it or not, cheerleading actually started out as a separatist sausagefest.

Its origins stretch back to US universities in the late 1800s, when big men on campus began mustering school spirit using military chants and clever rhymes such as “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-U-Mah! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!”.


Believe it or not, cheerleading actually started out as a separatist sausagefest. (Netflix)

Trivia note: those early male “cheer leaders” were also known as “yell leaders”, “yell kings”, “yell masters” and “rooter kings”.

Other trivia note: In 1911, an editorial in the Nation observed that: “The reputation of having been a valiant ‘cheer-leader’ is one of the most valuable things a boy can take away from college. As a title to promotion in professional or public life, it ranks hardly second to that of having been a quarter-back.”

Given that cheerleading was also turning out to be a hot house for presidents (see Myth #3 below), can you blame upstart ladies for wanting in on the rooter kingdom?

Myth #2: Cheerleading has no secret feminist history

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, a handful of girls and women tried infiltrating US collegiate cheering and all hell broke loose.

Objections included concerns that girls were incapable of performing the requisite acrobatic stunts and might develop harsh voices and unladylike, “smart alecky” conduct.

The story of women becoming cheerleaders closely paralleled the story of women becoming workers during World War II.

External Link:

As this 2018 viral video of Cheer star LaDarius shows, both smart alecky conduct and killer voguing are highly regarded

In their book Cheerleader! An American Icon, Natalie Guice Adams and Pamela Jean Bettis note that: “In both cases men left their jobs to become soldiers and inadvertently opened doors that previously had been closed to women. When men returned from the war, they fought to regain their ‘rightful’ place in the worksite and on the cheerleading squads.”

These days, the gender split of collegiate cheerleaders in the US is a neat 50/50 and — as this 2018 viral video of Cheer star LaDarius shows — both smart alecky conduct and killer voguing are highly regarded.

Myth #3: No famous people or US presidents have ever been cheerleaders

Exhibits A through Z (in no particular order) are: Halle Berry; Renee Zellweger; Paula Abdul; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Jack Lemmon; Jerry Lewis; Shirley MacLaine; Steve Martin; Susan Sarandon; Madonna; Ronald Reagan; Rick Perry; Aaron Spelling; Reese Witherspoon; Sandra Bullock; Kirsten Dunst; Meryl Streep; Jennifer Lawrence; Kirk Douglas; Michael Douglas; Samuel L Jackson; Amy Poehler; Cameron Diaz; George W Bush; and Danielle Brooks (aka Taystee in Orange is the New Black).

I could go on but I’d need more alphabet.

External Link:

Samuel L Jackson was a former college cheerleader

Myth #4: There are always pom poms

In addition to morphing from an elite, dude-only affair into a hyper-feminised and then equal-opportunity activity, cheerleading is now split into two very different forms.

Professional cheerleading — designed from the outset as a subsidiary of ultra-commercial professional sport — is mainly all about hot girls with short skirts, high hair, and steroidal perk.


Competitive cheerleading involves high-level tumbling and stunting comparable to elite gymnastics. (Facebook: Queensland Cheer Elite)

Competitive cheerleading, on the other hand, involves high-level tumbling and stunting comparable to elite gymnastics (in 2016, cheerleading achieved the provisional status required to become an Olympic sport).

This is the type you’ll see in Cheer. For the most part, it’s a pom-pom-free zone.

Say goodbye to the tired tropes

Sadly, neither variety of cheerleading is particularly popular in Australia. Most clubs have scrapped sideline cheerleaders (they’re still widely regarded as footballer kryptonite) and the competitive stream only has a fraction of the estimated 4 million participants in the billion dollar US scene.

Cheer, however, may change this.


Emma Jane (right) admits that cheerleading was nothing like what she had expected. (Supplied: Emma Jane)

Just as the 2000 movie Bring It On is credited with kickstarting steadily growing global interest in competitive cheerleading, Australia’s next generation of athletic thrill-seekers may well discover they are cheer-curious — especially given that Insta-ready “cheer-lebrities” such as Cheer’s Gabi Butler are now a thing.

At the very least, let’s hope Cheer will be the final nail in the coffin of the tired trope of cheerleading being something other a “real” sport requiring a seriously-sized set of fallopians.

Emma Jane is a freelance writer and an associate professor in the School of the Arts & Media at UNSW.


Australia in danger of ‘sleepwalking straight into an extinction crisis’

Adelaide 5000

Ecologists have calculated that at least 6 million hectares of habitat that is home to at least 250 different threatened species has now gone up in smoke.

Key points:

  • About 70 threatened species lost more than half their habitat to recent bushfires
  • Of the 250 overall species to lose habitat, 25 are listed as critically endangered and include plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and fish
  • A panel of senior ecologists has met in Canberra with the Threatened Species Commissioner to plan the next phase in the response

Twenty-five of these species are listed as critically endangered — in other words, on the brink of extinction in the wild.

Michelle Ward from the University of Queensland says about 70 threatened species, including the fire-sensitive long-footed potoroo, lost more than half their range to recent fires.

“We used a combination of NASA satellite imagery and intersected that with the threatened-species range maps,” Ms Ward said.

While most of the threatened species hit by fire are plants, there are also a mix of threatened birds, mammals, reptiles and fish.


Threatened species habitat impacted by fire across mainland Australia. (Supplied: Michelle Ward)

James Watson, director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland, sees the impact of the fires as particularly problematic because many of these threatened species only have small amounts of habitat left.

“We’re seeing catastrophic loss of remaining habitat for threatened species right across the southern states of Australia,” Professor Watson said.


Long-nosed potoroos have had their habitat burned by fires. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

He said even before the fires Australia faced a threatened-species crisis.

“People should know that we’ve actually lost more mammals than any other nation on the planet,” he said.

The list of threatened species hit by the fire reads like a menagerie of rare and shy creatures. There’s the Hastings River mouse, spot-tailed quoll, mountain pygmy possum, southern brown bandicoot, and large-eared pied bat just to name a few.


Mountain pygmy possums are a critically endangered alpine species. (Supplied: Zoos Victoria)

The road to recovery

“The next step is to get people on the ground looking for these species, ascertaining how much, how many populations are left, how endangered they are,” Professor Watson said.

“And realising that some of these species will need urgent attention, and the need for professionals to go and grab some populations and safeguard them in zoos so that they can persist in the long term.”


Victorian wildlife officers check trees for injured animals. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

Across the firegrounds, that work has already begun.

In east Gippsland, wildlife officers from Parks Victoria and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning have been scouring burnt land for injured wildlife.

“In this area, we’re seeing koalas most frequently, that’s not to say that there aren’t other species that have been impacted,” senior Forest and Wildlife officer Lachlan Clarke said.


Wildlife officers coax a koala out of a tree in a burnt area in east Gippsland. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell )

They use a special technique to get koalas down out of trees to check them.

Wildlife officers extend a long pole with a flag on top, called a bat, which they wave above the koala’s head.

The koala moves down the tree away from the flag, where another team member ushers it into a hessian sack.


Wildlife officers check an injured koala in the Gelantipy fireground in east Gippsland. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

In some cases, the animals are healthy but stranded with no food. They’re quickly relocated to some unburnt forest.

Amid the blackened landscape, Mr Clarke spots patches of refuge for these animals.


A mother and baby koala escaped the fires with only minor injuries. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

“I’m really happy to see some large, intact areas of habitat that hasn’t been burned, particularly along water features like creeks and gullies,” he said.

Animals that need treatment are taken to a special mobile unit, where Zoos Victoria veterinary staff attend to them.


Zoos Victoria vet Meg Curnick and vet nurse Ellen Richmond treat a koala injured in the fires. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

Top wildlife experts head to Canberra

While rapid-response teams do what they can for injured wildlife, on Wednesday a panel of senior ecologists met in Canberra with the Threatened Species Commissioner, Sally Box, to plan the next phase in the disaster response.

“Some of the immediate actions might be things like protecting those unburned refuges where the plants and animals are still there and are vulnerable,” Dr Box said.


One of the key priorities is to identify unburnt habitat for animals and work to restore burnt habitat. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

“It may be about protecting them from feral predators and herbivores. It may be that we need to protect areas that we thought before were secure and we may need to focus on those areas now. It’s a different landscape now.”

Reproductive biologist, Marissa Parrott, said Zoos Victoria was clearing space in preparation for receiving animals, while also planning for potential expansion of its captive-breeding programs.

“Every species is different, particularly when we’re bringing in a new species that needs care after a massive catastrophe like these bushfires,” Dr Parrott said.

“There’s a lot of research that we need to do to ensure that the species will come and thrive in captivity, that we can breed them appropriately and, importantly, we can get them back out into the wild where they belong.”


Fire has affected the habitat of the endangered alpine Guthega skink. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

Ecologists like Professor Watson are recognising what is needed to save a species will in some ways clash with current government forestry policy.

“I think we’ve got to really re-evaluate how we think about forestry and logging in Australia,” he said.

“The science is pretty clear. Many of these fires got out of control in logged areas and logging is the very reason why many species are already endangered.

“If we want to maintain threatened species in these landscapes, we’ve got to realise that forestry does not work to save them.”


The burns on this koala’s paws had already started to heal well by the time wildlife officers checked it. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

James Todd, executive director of biodiversity with the Victorian Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning, said there were some native fish in Gippsland whose entire range had burned in the fires.

He said when it rained heavily, there would be a real danger they could be caught up in a fish kill.


A badge huntsman survives in a patch of unburnt forest. (ABC News: Rachel Carbonell)

“One of the key actions that we need to look at for a range of species, including those fishes, [is] whether we need to pull those fish and other species out and salvage them until their habitat is suitable for them to return,” Mr Todd said.

“[That] means going in, literally collecting the fish and taking them to an aquarium that we’ve got set up within the department to handle that.”

None of this will be cheap.

“In the longer term, it is looking at funding and getting the right people the right money,” Mr Todd said.


The regent honeyeater’s range has contracted dramatically in the past 30 years. (Supplied: Birdlife Australia)

Funding wildlife recovery

On Tuesday, Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced an initial $50 million for wildlife recovery.

Described by the Government as a “down-payment”, half the money was earmarked for first responders like zoos and wildlife groups, and half to programs driven by the Threatened Species Commissioner.

Professor Watson said tackling the wildlife crisis would require a sea change in government policy.

“Right now, there is a paucity of money going towards threatened-species management in Australia at the federal level,” he said.


Professor James Watson warns an extinction crisis beckons. (Supplied: University of Queensland)

“The budgets have gone down over the last 10 years in terms of how much money is being spent on endangered species.”

But the alternative, he said, was unthinkable.

“There is no doubt that if we just tackle this problem using business-as-usual strategies, we are going to sleepwalk straight into an extinction crisis,” Professor Watson said.


$76 million funding package aimed at tackling Australian tourism’s ‘biggest challenge in living memory’


The Federal Government has announced a $76 million recovery package in response to this summer’s bushfires, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying Australian tourism is facing “its biggest challenge in living memory”.

Key points:

  • The recovery package includes funding to attract domestic and international visitors
  • While money has also been allocated for grants for “new attractions” in bushfire affected regions
  • The Australian Tourism Industry Council estimates the bushfires have cost the country “hundreds of millions” of dollars

Mr Morrison described the funding — drawn from the Government’s national bushfire recovery fund — as an “urgent injection” of funds for businesses impacted by the bushfire crisis.

The Australian Tourism Industry Council has estimated the bushfire crisis has cost the national industry “hundreds of millions” of dollars and damaged Australia’s brand internationally, with a perception “the whole country’s on fire”.

The crisis has led to the highly publicised ‘Matesong’ tourism campaign being paused in the UK as well as the United States upgrading its travel advisory for Australia to “level two” — warning Americans to “exercise increased caution”.

This week, the Australian Tourism Export Council told the Australian Financial Review cancellations by tourists from large markets such as the US, UK and China was hurting the industry and could cost the country at least $4.5 billion by the end of the year.

The Government’s package includes $20 million for marketing to domestic travellers and $25 million for a global tourism campaign to advise international visitors that Australia is “safe and open for business”, as well as $10 million towards creating new attractions in bushfire affected regions of the country.

Video: The Tourism Australia ad 'Matesong' was pulled from UK screens

(ABC News)

“Australian tourism is facing its biggest challenge in living memory,” Mr Morrison said in a statement announcing the funding package.

“One in 13 Australian jobs rely on tourism and hospitality, so our $76 million investment is an urgent injection to help all those hotels, restaurants and cafes and tour operators get back on their feet.

“This is make or break for many businesses and tourist hot spots and not just in those areas directly hit by the bushfires.

As Australia burns, is our reputation at risk?
Could the international call to arms and subsequent influx of foreign aid and donations damage our national reputation?

“This is about getting more visitors to help keep local businesses alive and protect local jobs right across the country and especially in those areas so directly devastated such as Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains and right along the NSW Coast and East Gippsland in Victoria. “

The funding will provide grants of up to $1.5 million per project for events such as concerts and festivals — as well as permanent attractions such as art installations and tourist walks — in fire-affected regions, with the worst-impacted areas to be prioritised.

The package also includes funding to encourage international publicity for Australia’s tourism industry and spread the message that Australia’s educational and export sectors are still open for business, as well as drive attendance to the Australian Tourism Exchange.

Industry welcomes funding but warns of tough times ahead

The tourism industry broadly welcomed the Government’s announcement, but warned there was a long road ahead for businesses doing it tough.

“People are believing everything they see on social media — the country’s on fire, top to bottom, coast to coast, don’t go to Uluru because it’s on fire, Sydney airport’s on fire — crazy stuff,” Margy Osmond from the Tourism and Transport Forum said.

External Link:

The Canberra, Come Back video was made by Batemans Bay businesses.

“We have an enormous international problem, in terms of how people are now viewing us.

“We’re going to have to do another big piece of brand work, but I think that’s a bit further down the track.”

Early figures from Tourism Australia showed international bookings were down by between 20 and 30 per cent for the first fortnight of 2020, with visitors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France and China among those choosing to stay away.

As with most of the money being announced for fire recovery, the response across the political spectrum has been welcoming.

‘This is a marathon, not a sprint’
Charities on the front line of the bushfire recovery effort are pleading with corporate Australia not to go too hard out of the blocks with big cash donations while ignoring long-term commitments.

However, the Greens argued damage to the tourism sector was another example of the Coalition’s mismanagement of the bushfire crisis.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the Coalition had repeatedly ignored warning signs about the threat of fires, and the deaths of hundreds of millions of animals was just one consequence.

“We’ve got a huge social and health crisis on our hands, with the impact of poor air quality, which won’t be known for years to come,” Senator Di Natale said.

“What we’ve seen is a catastrophe — it is unprecedented, but unprecedented doesn’t mean unforeseen.”

The threat posed by the bushfires to the country’s tourism industry has inspired Australians to launch their own community-driven campaigns to encourage people to go back to impacted areas, such as a video by Batemans Bay businesses urging Canberra residents to return to the South Coast of NSW.

The community campaigns come on top of hundreds of millions of dollars donated to charities by the public, celebrities and philanthropists.


Four new pneumonia cases sparks concern ahead of busy Chinese New Year travel period


Four more cases have been identified in a viral pneumonia outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan that has killed two people and prompted countries as far away as the United States to take precautionary measures.

Key points:

  • Chinese authorities say the latest cases bring the number of people who have contracted the illness to 45
  • But the London-based Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis says there were likely to be “substantially more cases”
  • Heath experts say it is hard to screen people for the virus as the symptoms are “quite general”

The latest cases bring the number of people who have contracted the illness to 45, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said. Five are in serious condition, two died and 15 have been discharged. The others are in stable condition.

The cause of the pneumonia has been traced to a new type of coronavirus.

Health authorities are keen to avoid a repeat of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, another coronavirus that started in southern China in late 2002 and spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people.

Though experts say the new virus does not appear to be as lethal as SARS, there is little known about its origins and how easily it can spread.

At least a half-dozen countries in Asia have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China.

The list includes Thailand and Japan, which have together reported three cases of the disease in people who had come from Wuhan. It is an unusually busy travel period as people take trips to and from China around Lunar New Year, which falls on January 25 this year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned that a wider outbreak is possible, though it has advised against any travel restrictions for China.

The US announced it would begin screening passengers at three major airports arriving on flights from Wuhan.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it would deploy 100 people to take the temperatures and ask about symptoms of incoming passengers at the Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City’s Kennedy airports.

But Alexandra Phelan, global health legal expert at Georgetown University’s Centre for Global Health Science and Security, said such screening may be insufficient in preventing the virus from spreading as its symptoms, which include fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, are “quite general”.

“There are likely to be many individuals with matching symptoms due to an illness that is not 2019-nCoV,” Mr Phelan said, referring to the new virus.

Doctors began seeing a new type of viral pneumonia — fever, cough, difficulty breathing — in people who worked at or visited a food market in the suburbs of Wuhan late last month.

The city’s health commission confirmed a second death this week, a 69-year-old man who fell ill on December 31 and died on Wednesday.

Officials have said the pneumonia probably spread from animals to people but have not been able to rule out the possibility of human-to-human transmission, which would enable it to spread much faster.


The outbreak comes ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday when many of China’s 1.4 billion people will be travelling. (Reuters: China Daily CDIC)

No related cases have been found so far among 763 people who had close contact with those diagnosed with the virus in Wuhan. Of them, 665 have been released and 98 remain under medical observation, the Wuhan health authorities said.

A report published by the London Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis said there were likely to be “substantially more cases” of the new coronavirus than currently announced by Wuhan authorities.

The agency estimates that there would be 1,723 cases showing related symptoms by January 12.



Xi Jinping heralds ‘new era’ of China-Myanmar relations as he courts isolated Aung San Suu Kyi


China and Myanmar have inked dozens of deals to speed up infrastructure projects in the South-East Asian nation, as Beijing seeks to cement its hold over a neighbour increasingly isolated by the West.

Key points:

  • Xi Jinping has declared a “new era” of ties between China and Myanmar
  • Both countries have been accused of genocide against Muslims, with China defending Myanmar on the global stage
  • Chinese investment in the South-East Asian nation remains contentious locally

But no major new projects were agreed during the two-day visit by President Xi Jinping, the first of any Chinese leader in 19 years.

Analysts said Myanmar was generally cautious of investments by Beijing and was also being careful ahead of elections later this year.

Reading the BRI’s fineprint
More and more countries are choosing to ink agreements with China on its trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative, but what are countries actually agreeing to when they sign on?

Still, Mr Xi and Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi signed 33 agreements shoring up key projects that are part of the flagship Belt and Road Initiative, China’s vision of new trade routes described as a “21st-century silk road”.

They agreed to hasten the implementation of the China Myanmar Economic Corridor, a giant infrastructure scheme worth billions of dollars, with agreements on railways linking south-western China to the Indian Ocean, a deep sea-port in conflict-riven Rakhine state, a special economic zone on the border and a new city project in the commercial capital of Yangon.

Video: China attempts global dominance with One Belt One Road project

(ABC News)

“While a large number of different agreements have been signed, there is no Big Bang here,” said Richard Horsey, a Yangon-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

“The overall impression is that Myanmar is being cautious about Chinese investment, especially ahead of elections planned later in the year.

“China will be hoping that this is an incremental step towards realising its mega-infrastructure goals and that further progress can be locked in over the coming months.”


Xi Jinping received a warm reception on his two-day state visit to Myanmar.
(AP: Aung Shine Oo)

‘Derailed’ by the West

At a welcoming ceremony, Mr Xi hailed a “new era” of relations between the countries.

“We are drawing a future road map that will bring to life bilateral relations based on brotherly and sisterly closeness in order to overcome hardships together and provide assistance to each other,” Xi said.

Ms Suu Kyi called China “a great country playing an important role in the international affairs and the world economy” but urged for economic projects that avoid environmental degradation and benefit locals.


Myanmar’s military has been accused of genocide against the Rohingya. (ABC News: Liam Cochrane)

What happened to Aung San Suu Kyi?
A few short years ago, Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi was an international human rights icon. This week, she returns to Europe to defend her country against accusations of genocide.

Mr Xi also met leaders from political parties in ethnic areas riven with civil conflict where Chinese infrastructure projects are underway.

Sai Kyaw Nyunt, joint-secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, one of the ethnic politicians invited to meet Mr Xi, said it was only a handshake.

“Our country is very small and powerless,” he said, “So they treat us that way.”

The two countries have historically had a fraught relationship, but have moved closer since 2017, when Myanmar was internationally condemned for its treatment of minority Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.


A woman waits for aid in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Reuters: Cathal McNaughton)

More than 730,000 Rohingya were forced to flee western Myanmar after a military crackdown that the United Nations has said was executed with “genocidal intent”.

China has defended the country on the global stage and is viewed as the biggest obstacle to the prosecution of its leaders at an international war crimes tribunal.

‘A prison for the Rohingyas’
A disappearing island, cyclone season and Rohingya refugees with nowhere else to go. What could go wrong?

Beijing itself has come under fire for its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, deemed by some observers a “cultural genocide”.

An article in Chinese state media ahead of the state visit said Myanmar had been “derailed” by its engagement with the West and only China was willing to “pull Myanmar from the sludge”.

“But after some turbulence, Myanmar realised there were double standards in the approach Western countries had taken on human rights issues and began to turn to China for diplomatic and economic help,” the article in the Global Times said.

Video: Uyghurs dancing in defiance of 'cultural genocide'

(ABC News)



Fan ‘saved life’ of former yellow Wiggle Greg Page after heart attack

Sydney 2000

A nurse who has been a fan of the Wiggles since she was a child has “saved the life” of founding member Greg Page after he suffered a heart attack during the group’s bushfire relief concert in Sydney.

Key points:

  • Page was performing a reunion show with his original Wiggles bandmates when he suffered a heart attack
  • He received first aid on-site by a nurse in the audience as well as two Wiggles crew members, before undergoing a procedure at Westmead Hospital
  • Page first retired from the Wiggles in 2006 due to orthostatic intolerance, which causes fatigue and blackouts

Former yellow Wiggle Page required CPR and a defibrillator after he had a heart attack and went into cardiac arrest as he left the stage at the end of the show.

He could be seen falling to the ground as he walked off stage at a Sydney reunion concert for bushfire aid on Friday night.

Nurse Grace Jones performed CPR on Page with the help of Wiggles drummer Steve Pace and staff member Kimmy Antonelli.

She then used a defibrillator supplied on-site at the Castle Hill RSL, where the incident occurred in front of a crowd of hundreds along with thousands more watching via live stream.

External Link:

@TheWiggles tweet: We've visited Greg this morning & he wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes. He's so grateful for the messages of love & support from around the world. Greg's main concern was that the show tonight should go on. Let's do it for Greg whilst raising much needed funds

“I took charge,” Ms Jones said on Saturday morning. “I didn’t mean to, but I did.

“I think I was the only one there who had any first aid training, so I just started to do what I do at work.”

Chief Inspector at NSW Ambulance Brian Parsell said the quick response “saved Greg’s life”.

“When I was on stage and Greg was stabilised I asked who the person who used the defib was and Grace anxiously stepped forward,” he said.

Video: Chief Inspector at NSW Ambulance Brian Parsell said the bravery and courage of nurse Grace Jones saved Page's life.

(ABC News)

“I told her she needed to be congratulated because she had saved the man’s life.

“She did an extraordinary job and it was only through her efforts and those who also performed CPR, that Greg is alive.”

Page was performing with original Wiggles bandmates Field, Murray Cook and Jeff Fatt, with all proceeds from the show and livestream going towards the Red Cross Appeal and WIRES.


Wiggles members look where Greg Page collapsed to the side of the stage during their bushfire relief concert at Castle Hill RSL. (Supplied:

After a brief moment of confusion, Cook came back out to announce Page’s condition.

“Greg’s not feeling real well. I think he’s going to be OK. He’s not feeling real well,” Cook told the live audience.

“He’s going to be alright. We’ve got some medical attention.”

An encore performance of Hot Potato was carried out without Page.

Mr Parsell said Page suffered a coronary occlusion, a blockage of one of the major blood vessels to the heart.

“He has had a heart attack which then led to a cardiac arrest,” he said.

“He had been on stage for an hour, and you can imagine having been to a concert with my own children, it is an energetic concert.


Greg Page performing on stage at the Castle Hill RSL for bushfire relief. (Supplied:

“We performed an ECG and that identified that he had a blockage of one of the major primary vessels. We transmitted that ECG through to Westmead Hospital.

“We had the cardiology team already on the way in, out of bed and coming into the hospital so that we could reopen that blocked vessel.”

He said Page was likely to make a full recovery.

“The timeline, from the time he collapsed and the time that vessel was reopened is very short,” he said.

“So chances are he will make a fantastic recovery.”

When asked if she had a message for Page, Ms Jones said: “I hope your chest is not too sore.”

“I’ve been a Wiggles fan since I was five or six,” she said.

“I didn’t go to the concert expecting to do that, so it all feels a bit surreal.

“I do stuff like that every day at work but I have never had to do it with that equipment.”

External Link:

@RFScommissioner tweet: Thoughts, prayers & best wishes with wonderful Yellow Wiggle Greg Page following his heart attack last night during the Wiggles bushfire relief concert. Like so many, we had every VHS tape & knew every song thanks to our girls growing up with Greg, Murray, Jeff & Anthony. #NSWRFS

Mr Parsell credited Ms Jones for her “courage” in stepping forward.

“Of all the people that were in the crowd, for Grace to come forward and offer her services to help and have the courage to use a defibrillator is an extraordinary story of survival, and we should be very thankful,” he said.

Second show to go on tonight with Page’s blessing

The 18+ concert on Friday night was the first of two planned with the original Wiggles line-up, with another scheduled for tonight.

External Link:

Tweet: @TheWiggles As has been reported, our friend Greg Page suffered a cardiac arrest at the end of the bushfire relief performance and was taken to hospital. He has had a procedure and is now recovering in hospital. We appreciate your kind messages and concern.

On Twitter, The Wiggles confirmed tonight’s show would go on, with a substitute yellow Wiggle, with Page’s blessing.

Donations for bushfire relief are approaching the $200 million mark from major companies and celebrities, but it is unknown yet how much the Wiggles fundraiser added to that tally.

Before walking off stage, Page farewelled the audience: “Thanks for coming to support all those wonderful people doing all that great work for everyone.”

‘He said to me: ‘Did I finish the show?’

Wiggles manager Paul Field told ABC News he was able to visit Page at 3:00am in hospital.

“He was very groggy obviously,” Field said.

“He couldn’t remember anything about how it happened.

“Being a performer, he said, ‘Did I finish the show?’

“I said, ‘Yes mate, you finished the show.'”

Field was emotional while talking about last night’s emergency.

Video: Wiggles' manager breaks down describing Greg collapsing

(ABC News)

“It was an awful experience for him and all those around him,” he said.

“His mum and dad were there. It was quite traumatic to witness. But he was lucky to have those people who jumped in and did CPR.

“It was very touch-and-go and those people who did CPR on him saved his life.”

Field said Page was likely to be in hospital for “some days”.

He added Page was “adamant” Saturday night’s scheduled show should go ahead.

“He said, ‘so many more people are doing it tough’.”

External Link:

@sophgordon tweet: This man PUT HIS HEALTH AT RISK to perform a reunion concert to raise money for bushfire relief, and that is why the Yellow Wiggle has and always will be my favorite. Greg Page, you are a king.

Messages of goodwill to Page

Following the news, fans flooded The Wiggles’ social media pages with messages of goodwill.

“Someone needs to tell me Greg Page is okay [because] I think I speak for all Australians when we say this is NOT how we are starting 2020,” Liz Saunders wrote on Twitter.

Others expressed their sadness that Page suffered ill health while performing for charity.

“Greg and all the Wiggles are just so awesome and we were thrilled at the announcement of this bushfire relief gig,” Janine Shearer said on Facebook.


Founding Wiggles member Greg Page (far right) collapses on stage at the Castle Hill RSL. (Supplied:

“The news of Greg’s collapse is just devastating … sending massive positive healing vibes to our favourite yellow Wiggle of all time.”

Page formed The Wiggles with Field, Cook and Fatt in 1991.

He retired due to illness in 2006 and was diagnosed with orthostatic intolerance, which causes fatigue and blackouts.

But he returned to his role as the Yellow Wiggle in early 2012.

Page, Cook, and Fatt retired together later that year, paving the way for the current iteration of Wiggles — Field, Emma Watkins, Lachlan Gillespie and Simon Pryce.

Major bushfire donors Donor/sAmountAndrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation$70mPaul Ramsay Foundation$30mSeven Group Holdings and Australian Capital Equity$10mNews Corp and Murdoch Family$9mCrown and The Packer Family$5mNAB$5mLeonardo DiCaprio via Earth Alliance$4.3mMurdoch family$4mColes$4mAFL$2.5mBHP$2mWesfarmers$1.7m+Tabcorp$1.5m+Westpac$1.5m+Woolworths$1.5mMicky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation$1.5mAustralian NBA stars$1m+Commonwealth Bank$1m+South32$1m+Boeing$1m+Chevron$1m+Petbarn Foundation$1m+ANZ$1mBlueScope$1mJeff Bezos/Amazon$1mShell Australia$1mJBS$1mRio Tinto$1mQantas$1mOrica$1mPratt Foundation$1mRio Tinto$1mJohn and Pauline Gandel$1mElton John$1mChris Hemsworth$1mFortescue$1mKylie Jenner$1mHains family via Portland House Foundation$1mThe Perich Group $1mMacquarie$1mLa Trobe Financial$1mLion$1mAuction for Shane Warne’s baggy green cap (purchased by the Commonwealth Bank)$1mHolden$1mJames Gorman $1mMetallica$750kLewis Hamilton$725kJP Morgan$725kBP$635k+ASX$520k+PwC$500k+Scentre Group$500k+Suncorp$500k+Stockland$500k+McDonald’s$500k+Mirvac$500k+Woodside$500kJustin Hemmes$500kKylie and Dannii Minogue$500kNicole Kidman and Keith Urban$500kLendlease$500kPink$500kBette Midler$500kBrambles$500kNick Cave and Warren Ellis$500k
*Table does not include fundraisers, such as Celeste Barber’s efforts to raise tens of millions, or pledges conditional on future events, such as Nick Kyrgios’ commitment to donate $200 for every ace he hits.


Australians celebrate ‘most welcome and beautiful sounds’ of rain


People in Queensland and New South Wales have enthusiastically celebrated the return of rainfall to their towns and cities, dancing and jumping as rain fell on regions hit by drought and bushfires.

More than 100 millimetres of rain fell across parts of drought-stricken Queensland on Friday, with children filmed celebrating the rainfall and dogs shown dashing through puddles in Quilpie, while station workers jumped for joy in the mud as rain fell in Meandarra.

External Link:

Welcome rain in Queensland (ABC News)

Bowenville farmer Kim Bremner said although some in his area had not received a lot of rain, there may be enough to stop people carting water for a while.

“It’s really been a godsend at this time of the year,” Mr Bremner said.

“We’ve had no rain virtually since March last year.”

In New South Wales, farmer Bryce Chapman yelled with delight as he filmed himself welcoming rainfall west of Karuah.

Video showed water flowing through Halls Creek near Bingara in northern NSW for the first time in five years, as cattle grazier Dan Landers used the heavy rain in Glen Innes to do some impromptu wakeboarding.

External Link:

Rain falls in New South Wales (ABC News)

The rainfall across the state brings some relief to areas hit by recent bushfires and drought, with more rain expected this weekend.

On the Central Coast, Australian Reptile Park Director Tim Faulkner said staff had recently been preparing for bushfires — but spent Friday closed, trying to protect animals and buildings from flash flooding.

“This is incredible. Just last week, we were having daily meetings to discuss the imminent threat of bushfires,” Mr Faulkner said.

“We haven’t seen flooding like this at the park for over 15 years.”

The wet weather hasn’t just been welcomed in the regions.

Sydney’s Centennial Parklands posted photos to Twitter on Friday showing the transformation of Busbys Pond after Sydney copped a drenching this week.

External Link:

twitter: centennial parklands

The rain on Friday morning inspired Sydneysiders to do their own celebrating.

External Link:

Kylie Abigail: The heavy rain outside the window is one of the most welcome and beautiful sounds. #NSWbushfires #sydneyrain

External Link:

Annie Parker: It’s an excellent day for a celebratory rain paddle!! #sydneyrain

Falls continued on Friday night, with puddles forming around the city’s tourist landmark.

External Link: Sydney is soaking up some much needed rain today! ☔ Even when the sky breaks open, our city looks just as beautiful as ever

Earlier in the week, Cunnamulla man Fred Wharton captured his nephews Joshua and Jamaine playing in the mud after an extended dry period for the region which included temperatures as high as 46 degrees Celsius.

Video: Children in Cunnamulla make the most of the downpour after receiving more than 30mm in some areas

(ABC News)

An estimated 33mm of rain fell on the town on Wednesday, to the delight of the youngsters.

“It’s the best rain I’ve seen here for a while,” Mr Wharton said.

“There were two little bursts of it, the first one seems to be the heaviest of it and then there was a follow-up little storm after that.

“Next minute I hear the young fella’s outside screaming, went outside and here they are running up and down in the water — they just loved it.”

Other children celebrated the long-awaited rainfall in similar style across Queensland and New South Wales on Wednesday, with children filmed playing in the mud in Winton and others filmed playing in the rain in Springsure.

Video: Kids playing in the rain across Queensland on Wednesday

(ABC News)

The Bureau of Meteorology predicts showers will be concentrated over the north and east of New South Wales on Saturday and Sunday, while wet weather in Queensland is expected to ease by the end of the weekend.

Video: Children play in the rain in Dalton, NSW earlier in the week

(ABC News)


‘Bloody nuts’: Kagiso Rabada’s Test suspension after wicket celebration prompts mixed response

South Africa

South Africa paceman Kagiso Rabada has been suspended for a Test after an overzealous celebration of a dismissal in the third Test against England.

Key points:

  • Kagiso Rabada ran down the pitch and screamed right next to Joe Root after bowling out the England captain
  • Rabada was fined 15 per cent of his match fee for the level-one offence, but an accumulation of offences means he is suspended
  • The offences include two in the same Test of Australia’s ill-fated 2018 tour of South Africa

Rabada ran down the pitch and let out a prolonged scream about a metre away from Joe Root after removing the England captain’s off stump on day one of the Test in Port Elizabeth.

The Proteas star was found to have breached article 2.5 of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) code of conduct, relating to “using language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batter upon his or her dismissal during an international match”.

External Link:

Kagiso Rabada screams right next to Joe Root

Rabada was fined 15 per cent of his match fee by the ICC for the level-one offence, but because it was his fourth violation of the code of conduct in the past 24 months, he will now miss the fourth Test in Johannesburg.

The offences date back to February 2018, when he gave India batsman Shikhar Dhawan a send-off during a one-day international.

The next month he copped two whacks from the ICC during the ill-fated Test series against Australia, after giving aggressive send-offs to Steve Smith, including a light bump of shoulders, and David Warner in the second Test.


This exchange with Steve Smith in 2018 drew demerits from the ICC, but it was far from the worst thing that happened in the series. (Reuters: Mike Hutchings)

That run of offences came on the back of a suspension for a Test in July 2017, which was also due to an accumulation of four demerit points, that time in the space of five months.

In commentary of the current series, former England skipper Michael Atherton said Rabada was “a slow learner, because he’s done it before”.

“But I don’t have a problem with that celebration … it’s a little overzealous and it’s a little close to Joe Root, but is that worthy of a demerit point and subsequent ban? I don’t think so,” Atherton said.


Rabada’s celebration does not look like much until you see where he was standing. (Reuters: Siphiwe Sibeko)

“You’ve got to allow players some leeway. It’s baking hot, he’s charging in and he’s not swearing at the opposition, he’s not abusing the opposition.”

One of the West Indies’ greatest fast bowlers, Michael Holding, agreed that the system was unfortunately set up, but that Rabada should have been smarter.

“You’ve got to understand the conditions under which you’re playing,” Holding said.

External Link:

@MichaelVaughan: Rabada getting a 1 game ban for celebrating taking the Wicket of the opponents best player is absolutely bonkers … Over rates & slow play nothing gets done … Celebrate a wicked and you are banned … The World is bloody nuts

“If you’re driving on the road and the speed limit is 30 miles per hour, whether it’s in a school zone or you’re on the highway and you think ‘oh this is too slow’, you still have to abide by the speed limit.

“If you want to go over the speed limit, go, but if you get caught don’t complain. It’s as simple as that.

“You know the playing conditions under which the ICC have put down their code of conduct; do not abuse it.”


Ukrainian Prime Minister resigns after recordings caught him mocking President Zelenskiy


Ukraine’s Prime Minister submitted his resignation on Friday, days after he was caught on tape saying the country’s President knows nothing about the economy.

Key points:

  • The PM said he wrote the resignation letter “to dispel any doubts about our respect and trust for the President”
  • He was caught on tape saying the country’s President knows nothing about the economy
  • The Parliament must now vote on whether to accept his resignation

In a Facebook post, Oleksiy Honcharuk said that he had given his resignation to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“I took this post to implement the President’s program. He is an example of transparency and decency to me,” he said.

“However, in order to dispel any doubts about our respect and trust for the President, I have written a resignation letter and submitted it to the President for introduction to Parliament,” Honcharuk’s statement read.

Earlier this week, an audio recording surfaced in which Mr Honcharuk appeared to make disparaging comments about Mr Zelenskiy’s understanding of economics.

Mr Honcharuk said that the recording was a compilation of “fragments of recorded government meetings” and blamed unidentified “influential groups” for making it look like he doesn’t respect the President.

“It is not true,” the Prime Minister insisted.

On Thursday, politicians from the opposition party Opposition Platform-For Life demanded Mr Honcharuk’s resignation.

They said he and his cabinet discredit Ukraine’s President and exacerbate the economic crisis in the country.


Volodymyr Zelenskiy was criticized for a vague campaign platform and never holding public office but voters appeared to cast aside those concerns. (AP: Emilio Morenatti)

Members of the ruling Servant of the People party said there were no grounds for Honcharuk to resign.

Ukraine’s Parliament must now vote on whether to accept the Prime Minister’s resignation.

Mr Zelenskiy has mainly only ever worked as an entertainer since he was a teenager.

However, he is best known for his role in the popular 2015 Ukrainian television series Servant of the People, in which he plays a high-school teacher who becomes president after a video of him denouncing corruption goes viral.

There have also been concerns that Mr Zelenskiy has ties to controversial oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky.



Chinese birth rate falls to its lowest in 70 years


China’s birth rate last year fell to its lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China more than 70 years ago, posing a long-term challenge for a government concerned by an ageing population.

Key points:

  • The number of babies born in China in 2019 dropped by about 580,000 to 14.65 million
  • The abolition of the One Child Policy has failed to lift the country’s birth rate
  • China’s population grew to 1.4 billion

The country’s birth rate in 2019 stood at 10.48 per thousand — the lowest since 1949 — data released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China showed on Friday.

The number of babies born in 2019 dropped by about 580,000 to 14.65 million.

The abolishment of the One-Child Policy at the end of 2015 has not provided much of a tangible boost to the country’s birth rate.

From 2017 to 2018, total births fell by nearly 2 million.

The One Child Policy — introduced in 1979 — was aimed to control the population explosion in the decades after the Communist Party came into power in 1949, when Chairman Mao Zedong encouraged large families and condemned birth control to boost manpower.

But many young couples in China are reluctant to have children because they cannot afford to pay for healthcare and education alongside expensive housing.

Concerns for ageing population

The One-Child Policy is also regarded as one of the driving forces behind the country’s ageing population.

China’s overall population totalled 1.4 billion as of the end of 2019, the data from the bureau showed, inching up from 1.39 billion a year earlier.


China’s elderly population is expected to reach 400 million by the end of 2035. (ABC News: Bill Birtles)

But the country’s population is approaching what Chinese government scholars predict to be a peak of 1.44 billion in 2029, which is anticipated to be followed by “unstoppable” population decline.

Figures published by the China Association of Social Security in 2018 showed China’s elderly population is expected to reach 400 million by the end of 2035.

The US-China trade deal is more of a ceasefire
Questions remain as to how Donald Trump’s US-China trade deal will affect the global economy.

This rapid ageing is creating policy challenges for China’s leaders as they promise to guarantee healthcare and pension payments amid a slowing economy.

Figures from the bureau showed the world’s second-largest economy grew 6.1 per cent last year amid a bruising trade war with the US, down from 6.6 per cent in 2018.

Though still strong by global standards, and within the Government’s target range, it was the weakest expansion since 1990.

This week the US and China signed phase one of a new trade deal, defusing an 18-month conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

Meanwhile, as China’s birth rate falls, divorce rates in the country are hitting record highs.

In the first three quarters of 2019, about 3.1 million couples filed for divorce — compared with 7.1 million couples getting married — according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.



Thailand finds second case of new Chinese virus, authorities confident spread can be contained


Thailand has found a second case of a new Chinese coronavirus, authorities said on Friday as they ramped up checks on Chinese visitors, nearly a million of whom are expected for Lunar New Year holidays next week.

Key points:

  • Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause infections, from the common cold to SARS
  • Thailand’s Health Minister said, “We’re fully alert”.
  • Japan has also reported one case of the infection

The latest patient is from China’s central city of Wuhan, which has reported 41 cases of pneumonia potentially linked to the new type of virus, with two deaths, as hospitals worldwide scramble to guard against any spread.

The 74-year-old woman, quarantined since arriving in Thailand on Monday, was found to be infected, health officials said.

“We’re very confident that we can control the spread of this kind of disease,” Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters, adding that the situation was under control and there was no outbreak in Thailand. “We’re fully alert.”

The two Chinese patients were now safe but needed to go through a few more procedures before Thai authorities could let them return home, he added.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Thailand, which is on high alert ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, said on Monday it had found a 61-year-old Chinese woman carrying a strain of the coronavirus, the first time it was detected outside China.

Japan reported its first case of the infection on Thursday after a Japanese man returned from visiting Wuhan, known for its picturesque lakes.


The origin of the virus has been traced to the Chinese city of Wuhan. (Reuters: China Daily CDIC)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the virus could spread and warned hospitals about it.

Thai health officials have stepped up monitoring at four airports receiving daily flights from Wuhan — Suvarnabhumi, Don Muang, Chiang Mai and Phuket — and others that receive charter flights from the Chinese city.

Since January 3, Thailand has screened 13,624 passengers.

Health officials also asked Thai AirAsia and China Southern Airlines, which run direct daily flights from Wuhan, to halt boarding by those suffering from high fever and respiratory symptoms and reschedule their flights.



Teenage woman charged with possessing child abuse material after US tip-off

Adelaide 5000

A young woman from South Australia’s south-east has been charged with possessing child abuse material, after a tip-off was provided to local police by US authorities.

Key points:

  • A 19-year-old woman has been charged with possessing child abuse material
  • Authorities seized electronic devices from her home
  • The woman has been bailed to appear in court in March

The 19-year-old woman was arrested on Thursday by the South Australia Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team after investigators conducted a search of the family home.

An investigation was launched in June 2019 after a tip-off from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about a person allegedly uploading a video on social media of a child being sexually abused.

Investigators seized electronic devices when they searched the teenager’s home and allegedly uncovered stored child abuse material.

She has been bailed and is expected to face Naracoorte Magistrate’s Court on March 27.

Police said the maximum penalty for the offence was 15 years in prison.

AFP Acting Commander South Australia Gail McClure said while it was rare for a woman to be charged with this type of offence, it was a reminder that there was no single profile of a child sex offender.

“This case highlights the importance of the AFP’s strong partnerships, both locally and overseas, to prevent the spread of child abuse material,” she said.

“To anyone thinking of accessing or sharing child exploitation material, this is not a victimless crime.

“Each of those images represents a real child being abused and that is heartbreaking.

“The AFP and its partners are dedicated to working together to keep children safe and pursue offenders who exploit children.”


Australian marathon legend Rob de Castella says these ‘ludicrous’ shoes should be banned


The shoe that Nike developed to help Eliud Kipchoge break the mythical two-hour barrier for the marathon in Vienna last year should be banned, Australian marathon legend Rob de Castella says.

Key points:

  • Rob de Castella says running in Nike’s Vaporfly shoes is akin to ‘running with springs on your feet’
  • Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier wearing the shoes in Vienna
  • Athletes say they will be ‘shocked’ if the shoes are banned, despite reports suggesting they will be

The 62-year-old former world champion told the Sydney Morning Herald Nike’s high-tech Vaporfly shoe goes against the “spirit” of athletics.

“The concept of running with springs on your feet is just ludicrous,” de Castella said.

“It definitely needs to be addressed. “I’m not for technology where it is providing an unfair or unnatural advantage.”


Robert de Castella says the shoes offer an unnatural advantage. (ABC News, File)

The IAAF, athletics’ international governing body, is understood to be likely to ban the shoes and issue a limit on the depth of a shoe’s midsole, according to a report in the UK Times.

However, The Guardian’s Sean Ingle reported that the World Athletics working group was still deliberating over how to deal with the shoes.

World 24-hour running record holder Camille Herron, a Nike-sponsored athlete, added to the debate on Twitter, saying that no rules had been broken by Nike.

“I don’t believe it,” Herron wrote in response to a tweet saying the shoes would be banned.

External Link:

runcamile tweet: I don’t believe it. This is not what David Katz, who wrote the current IAAF shoe rule, discussed a month ago at the USATF meeting.

“This is not what [IAAF technical committee member] David Katz, who wrote the current IAAF shoe rule, discussed a month ago at the USATF [United States of America Track and Field] meeting.”

Shoes can be banned by the IAAF if found to confer an “unfair assistance or advantage” to those wearing them, or if they are not “readily available” to other athletes.

In a subsequent tweet, Herron said she did not believe there would be any change ahead of the Olympics and she would be “shocked” if the shoes were banned.

“The World Athletics rules don’t define what ‘unfair advantage or assistance’ is, so you can’t ban a shoe simply because it’s better,” she said.

“Also, the shoes are ‘reasonably available’. No rules violated. Other companies are welcome to innovate too and many have over the years.”

‘Road racing shoes have evolved drastically’

De Castella, who set the Oceania record for the marathon with a time of 2:07.51 in the 1986 Boston Marathon — a record that still stands, said despite the fact that shoes had evolved, artificial assistance should not be provided to the runner.


Shoes have developed significantly since de Castella’s record-setting days. (Wikicommons)

“Road racing shoes have evolved drastically, but it never got to the point [where] there was an artificial performance enhancement,” he said.

She claimed a world record. Few believe it
At a time when women weren’t even allowed to compete in marathons, Adrienne Beames cracked a time barrier many thought impossible. Five decades on, debate rages over whether it was all a fantasy.

Kipchoge, in the face of growing criticism about the use of the shoe during his record-breaking marathon attempt, told the UK’s Telegraph: “Technology is growing and we can’t deny it, we must go with technology.”

The development of shoes to aid athletic performance is nothing new.

Nike was established by Bill Bowerman in the 1960s to help give athletes at the University of Oregon, where Bowerman was coach of the track team, an edge by developing trainers with a lighter outsole.

However, in the quest for faster and faster times, Nike has pushed the boundaries with its new Vaporfly.

The shoes include multiple carbon fibre plates separated by foam in the midsole, that Nike claims will improve running performances by as much as 4 per cent.


Eliud Kipchoge’s support team urges him on as he approaches the finish line in Vienna. (Reuters: Lisi Niesner)

The four fastest official times in history have been set by athletes wearing the shoes since Kipchoge set his world record of 2:01:39 in September 2018.

Seven of the top 10 men’s marathon runners of all time, all wearing the shoes, have set their best times in the last year.

Women’s world record holder Brigid Kosgei — who broke Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old mark last year — was also wearing the same footwear.

Echoes of super-suits controversy

The argument is similar to the controversy that ripped through swimming during the super-suit era.

The suits, made of polyurethane as opposed to textiles, were used by swimmers who proceeded to smash world records.

Over 100 world records were broken in 2008 alone, with some labelling the trend a form of technological doping.

The arms-race between swimming equipment providers came to a head at the 2009 world championships in Rome, when Michael Phelps was dethroned as 200-metre freestyle champion and world record holder by German Paul Biedermann.


Paul Biedermann is no longer allowed to wear his non-textile suit. (Reuters: Stefano Rellandini)

It was Phelps’s first significant defeat in four years of competition and was acknowledged, even by Biedermann, as being a result of the respective suits they were wearing.

“I hope there will be a time when I can beat Michael Phelps without these suits. I hope next year. I hope it’s really soon,” Biedermann told ESPN after that race.

Phelps, meanwhile, prayed for a return to “when swimming is back to swimming”.

He got his wish, when swimming’s international governing body FINA banned the super-suits after the 2009 world championships.


Widow accepts bravery award at her volunteer firefighter husband’s funeral

Sydney 2000

The wife of a volunteer firefighter who was killed when a fire tornado flipped his truck near the NSW-Victoria border has received a bravery award on his behalf at his funeral in Holbrook.

Key points:

  • Samuel McPaul has been remembered as a “hero” who brought positive energy to those around him
  • His wife, Megan, is expecting to give birth to their first child in May
  • The Prime Minister, New South Wales Premier and Rural Fire Service chief are among the mourners

Hundreds of mourners were told of Samuel McPaul’s selfless and compassionate nature, with one friend saying that Mr McPaul’s unborn child would grow up hearing stories about the “amazing man” who was their father.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons were among those to attend the 28-year-old’s funeral, which was held at the Holbrook Sports Stadium.

Mr McPaul died after a “freakish weather event” flipped his truck while he was fighting the Green Valley blaze in Jingellic, 70 kilometres east of Albury on December 30.

Video: Speakers at the funeral paid tribute to Mr McPaul's dedication to helping others.

(ABC News)

Before the service, uniformed firefighters carried in his helmet, and his firefighting colleagues formed a guard of honour afterwards for Mr McPaul’s family to walk through as they left.

Opening the service, senior chaplain Ian Spall described Mr McPaul as a creative spirit who was “always looking for a better way to do things”.

“A very honest person — sometimes he had no filter,” he said.

“He was generous and his kindness was infectious.


International firefighters joined local emergency services workers to pay their respects to Mr McPaul. (Twitter: NSW RFS)

“The basketball court was where he loved to be.

“Some young people have his face on their screen savers in this community, those who played basketball with him. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Friends recall ‘magical’ wedding

Mr McPaul had been married to his wife Megan for 18 months and their first child is due in May.

His friend Jennifer Hyde said he was an only child who had a passion for reading and developed an affinity for animals at an early age.

He studied animal science at Charles Sturt University, which is where he met his wife-to-be Meg.

“Sam also had a passion for custom cars so decided to become a mechanic,” Ms Hyde said.

“Sam always did things faster and better than everyone or so he thought.”


Mr McPaul’s wife, Megan, is expecting their first child in May. (Twitter: NSW RFS)

Another friend, Rebekah Hargreaves, said that whenever Mr McPaul spoke about Meg, he beamed.

“The day he married Meg was the most magical day we have witnessed,” she said.

“Together, Sam and Meg made sure every moment was perfect. It’s an event we’ll treasure forever.”

“The day before Sam was tragically taken from us, he and Meg shared ultrasound photos with us, which showed Bub with long lanky legs. He said: ‘Yep, that’s my kid alright!’

“You have touched the lives of so many in your short life. Your final act of bravery has touched the lives of so many in this country.

“But we know you will forever be watching over us. You will always be our hero and we love you so much.”


Dozens of RFS career firefighters, volunteer firefighters and basketball players formed a guard of honour for Samuel McPaul. (ABC NEWS: Rosie King)

Basketball teammate, Michael McPherson, said Mr McPaul spent so much time at the stadium some might think he almost lived there.

“It was hard to feel down when you were around Sam because he’s such a positive person,” he said.

Jarrod Anderson, an emergency services colleague, said Mr McPaul would give you the shirt off his back if he thought he could help in any way and never expected anything in return.


The funeral service was held at the basketball court in Holbrook where Mr McPaul loved to play. (ABC News: Mikaela Ortolan)

“His heart is even bigger than his smile,” Mr Anderson said.

“Sam will be missed more than he ever could have realised.

“Sam’s Bub is going to grow up hearing many stories about their dad and know how special they are to have such an amazing man as their father.”


Samuel McPaul’s wife Megan is due with their first child in May. (Facebook: Supplied)

Fire chief mourns ‘remarkable young man’

Mr Fitzsimmons told those gathered that Mr McPaul loved and wanted to contribute to his community and was diligent as a firefighter after joining the RFS in 2016.

“He was very close to his colleagues and would lend a hand to anyone who needed it,” he said.

“The message from the family to the other firefighters who were there that terrible night is ‘don’t doubt your judgment’.

“Meg wanted me to say thank you for your part, your role for staying there and not letting go until Sam was safely and respectfully removed.

“Please take those words with you, they’re heartfelt and sincere.”


RFS helicopters staged a flyover at the funeral. (ABC News: Rosie King)

Mr Fitzsimmons awarded Mr McPaul’s wife Megan a bravery award on his behalf.

“We pass on our respect and admiration for a wonderful father-to-be and wonderful husband,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.

“He paid the ultimate price for making a difference to his community.

“Sam was a remarkable young man who lost his life as a hero.

“Thank you for sharing Sam with us at the Rural Fire Service.

“If we don’t have the support of partners, we don’t have the volunteers who make up our Rural Fire Service.”


Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the funeral along with other political leaders and senior emergency services staff. (ABC News: Erin Somerville)

Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears In Heaven’ played as the family laid a floral tribute before a long line of RFS career firefighters, volunteers and basketball players formed an honour guard for Mr McPaul.

A fire truck with lights flashing then led the hearse away from the sports centre while a number of RFS helicopters flew overhead.

On the day Mr McPaul died, he and two others had been mustering cattle caught in a paddock on flat ground.

Several other firefighters were injured and a second vehicle was also blown over in the same weather event.

He is among three NSW firefighters killed this fire season and another three people who were working to fight fires have been killed in Victoria.


Spike in animal surrenders as financial pressures mount for Darwin dog owners

Darwin 0800

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, 30 pet owners took their animals to a shelter in an industrial area in Darwin, trying to give them up.

Key points:

  • PAWS Darwin has been overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to surrender their pets
  • The shelter says people are surrendering their pets due to financial difficulty
  • It currently has 100 animals and is at capacity

“One person rocked up at I don’t know, 3:00pm and said I’m getting on a plane at 5:30pm, I need to leave my dog here,” said the operations manager at PAWS Darwin, Lisa Hansen.

The “crazily busy” festive season capped off a period where Ms Hansen, who’s been at PAWS for 15 years, says she’s increasingly seen people giving up their animals because they’re struggling financially.

“I think we’ve probably heard about every excuse,” she said.

“Losing their income has played a bigger role this year than I’ve ever noticed before.


Lisa Hansen says the shelter has been at capacity for the last month. (ABC News: Emilie Gramenz)

“There’s a lot more people saying, ‘hey, we need help’ … it’s just hard when you don’t have enough to feed the kids or feed yourself or do what you need to do, sometimes it can be hard to look after your pets as well.

“Obviously you can’t blame people for that.”

PAWS has 100 animals currently being fostered and Ms Hansen says their shelter has been at capacity for the last month — but the community has been generous in its support over Christmas.

“We haven’t had to buy a spot of food thanks to the people of Darwin. We can’t do that many animals without the people in Darwin.”

‘Really concerning’ trend

The Litchfield Council, which covers a large swathe of Darwin’s rural area, recently impounded 23 dogs in seven days — more than they’d usually round up in a fortnight.

“We only had three dogs that were de-sexed out of the 23, and we only had 5 that were registered to owners,” said Litchfield Council infrastructure and operations director Nadine Nilon.


Ms Hansen says she “can’t blame” people who give up their pets because they are struggling, but wants all the animals in her shelter to find homes. (ABC News: Emilie Gramenz)

“That’s really concerning that only eight [people] had done anything about looking after their dogs and being responsible dog owners.”

Litchfield Council does provide vouchers towards the cost of de-sexing to ease the financial burden.

“We’ve got about 60 left at the moment, where people can come and get a voucher for $100 off their de-sexing costs,” said Ms Nilon.

Darwin City Council had five dogs surrendered after Christmas.


Hanson joins Labor, Greens’ call for Senate investigation into McKenzie’s sports grants program


There is growing support for a Senate inquiry into the Government’s handling of a $100 million pre-election sports grants program cash splash, with One Nation leader Pauline Hanson backing the push from Labor and the Greens.

Key points:

  • The Greens and Labor want the Senate to investigate the sports grants program
  • An audit accused the Government of bias in how some grants were awarded
  • Pauline Hanson says the grants were used as a “slush fund” to win the federal election

Those parties want the Parliament to investigate Cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie and the Federal Government following a scathing audit of a sports grants program, which accused the Coalition of bias in its distribution of funds.

An Auditor-General’s report found hundreds of applicants recommended by government agency Sport Australia were rejected by then-sports minister Senator McKenzie in favour of clubs in electorates the Coalition wanted to win in last year’s federal election.

“The audit has proven that they have used pork barrelling as a slush fund,” Senator Hanson told the ABC.

Senator McKenzie has dismissed calls from political opponents and clubs that missed out on funding for her to stand down.

She insists she followed the rules and all clubs that received funding were eligible for the money.

Video: Bridget McKenzie dismisses calls for her to resign following a scathing audit of sports grants.

(ABC News)

Senator Hanson has been in a long-running dispute with Senator McKenzie over the minister’s handling of the dairy industry, having become the Agriculture Minister after May’s federal election win.

“If it’s going to prove that they’ve used that money, taxpayers’ dollars, to feather their own nest and further themselves [then] yes I do [support the inquiry],” the One Nation leader said.

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Senator McKenzie’s position on the frontbench was untenable.

Political pork-barrelling
Australia has a long, not so proud and not particularly creative history of political pork-barrelling, but this time it’s different, writes David Speers.

“This is outrageous behaviour by a Government that really believes that it has a right to do whatever it likes, whenever it likes, wherever it likes,” he said.

“The truth is that her position is untenable as a minister.”

The Parliament is currently on its summer break, with politicians returning to Canberra for the first sitting of the year in February.

That will be the first opportunity for the Opposition and crossbench to seek to set up the inquiry into the Government’s management of the sports grants.

“Australians expect transparency and accountability from those in power,” Greens senator Janet Rice said on Thursday.

“Senator McKenzie’s decision-making process was completely unsporting, with clubs in safe seats hampered in their chances of winning a grant.

“We will pursue this in Senate Estimates and will consider seeking the support of the Senate for an inquiry.”

Video: Lisa Miller said the funding was used for "political self-interest purposes".

(ABC News)


Too privileged, too bogan: How ‘postcode prejudice’ affects rich and poor


It’s the street everyone avoids. The place you’re warned against, or make jokes about. The rough suburb.

Postcode prejudice is rife across Australia — it might be Sunshine in Melbourne, the western suburbs of Sydney or Logan, south of Brisbane — and it leads to us making judgments about people based on where they live.

Those judgments are often rooted in classism, says Rebecca Wickes, a criminology expert and the director of the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre.

“I think class is a fundamental fault line that runs through stigma,” she tells ABC RN’s Life Matters.


Class, made recognisable through concentrations of public housing, “is a fundamental fault line that runs through stigma.” (Getty: kokkai)

That stigma has a real impact on people, who might feel a deep sense of personal shame, or even hide their address on a resume.

“There’s a perception that if you put the postcode of a poor neighbourhood on your job application that might affect your chances of getting the job,” says Ilan Wiesel, senior lecturer in urban geography at Melbourne University.

For richer, for poorer

Dr Wickes says postcode stigma particularly affects disadvantaged people and minority groups — a consequence of “structural decisions and policies that encourage particular groups of people to live in particular kinds of places”.

But there’s a flip side, too.

Dr Wiesel says residents of very affluent suburbs — like Melbourne’s Toorak, Sydney’s Mosman or Perth’s Cottesloe — can face stigma too.


Residents of Sydney’s harbourside suburbs might have it good, but they too face stigma. (Getty: vale_t)

“Stigma is about stereotypes and preconceptions, and we have preconceptions about wealthy neighbourhoods as much as we have about poor neighbourhoods,” Dr Wiesel says.

And he says those preconceptions seem to change, depending on a person’s sex.

Dr Wiesel says many older men say living in affluent suburbs is “a sign of their own success, their business success, their professional success”.

Not so for women he has interviewed from the same areas.

Class Act
Australia has a class system, and it has real consequences in people’s lives. Explore the full RN series.

“They’ll say, ‘I’m from the eastern suburbs’ or ‘I’m from the northern suburbs’, avoiding actually saying Toorak or Mosman,” he says.

“They felt they were being judged as privileged; that it wasn’t a sign of their own success but rather their father’s success or their husband’s success; that they have inherited that privilege.

“And there was negative stigma associated with it, that they are self-entitled.”

While Dr Wiesel says any stigma can have a real impact on people’s lives, it’s important to acknowledge that negative stigma in affluent areas coincides with “a lot of privileges that you earn by living in those neighbourhoods in terms of access to facilities [and] the networks that you have around you”.

Whereas in poorer neighbourhoods, he says, that negative stigma compounds “many other forms of disadvantage”.

‘I was told to avoid the west side of the river’

When Nic Healey arrived in Dubbo earlier this year he was warned by numerous people about where not to rent a house.


Nic Healy, who presents radio for ABC Western Plains, “totally ignored” warnings about living in West Dubbo. (Supplied: Nic Healy)

“I was told to avoid the west side of the river, West Dubbo,” says Nic, who presents breakfast radio for ABC Western Plains.

“People said it was a bit rough — the phrase I heard a couple of times was ‘Wild West Dubbo’.”

But the best rental he could find was in West Dubbo, so he “totally ignored” the warnings, first renting and more recently buying into the area.

“You could not get a more friendly area and I’m a bit stunned that it still has a bit of a rep,” he says.

Which is not to say he believes suburb warnings are never warranted.

Nic says he was “an inner-westie in Sydney for ages”, living in Surry Hills in the 1990s “when people were telling me … it’s nothing but junkies and slums”.

“It’s where I saw my first dead body, so they weren’t entirely wrong,” he adds.

He was also “mugged a couple of times” in Redfern, back when that was “regarded as a very rough area of Sydney”.

“So sometimes these warnings do have an actual meaning to them,” he says.

But, Nic argues that “every town, wherever you are, is going to have some areas that are doing less well than other areas”.

The important question, he says, is whether that makes an area a place to avoid, or whether “that should be the area where we’re concentrating resources and empathy”.

He believes how you answer that question will “depend on how you see the world around you and how want to change that world around you”.

Changing the narrative – or running with the stigma

So can a community reinvent its image, or band together and change the narrative?

Dr Wickes believes to achieve that would require “a lot of funding” and “a lot of goodwill from people who have access to the means to be able to make change”.

But it is possible.

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Life Matters is here to help you get a handle on all the important stuff: love, sex, health, fitness, parenting, career, finances and family.

About a decade ago, the Mayor of Logan, south of Brisbane, set out to change the area’s reputation.

Dr Wickes says he “made an absolute policy change to have a more socially inclusive area” and to be more economically inclusive — an idea marketed to all residents.

“That was really backed up with a set of policies and practices that were geared towards creating socially and economically inclusive spaces for the residents of Logan,” Dr Wickes says.

And it’s had an impact.

“I think that you could find some evidence to say that over time Logan’s stigma has decreased and it is seen as an area where there are affordable homes, where there is access to employment, and that that diversity is actually a good thing, not a bad thing in that area,” she says.

There’s also the option of taking your suburb’s stigma and running with it.

That’s what residents of the Wollongong suburb of Albion Park did after it was included on a list of the 10 “most bogan suburbs” in Australia.


Claim the Ugg boot, claim the stigma. (Getty: southerlycourse)

Instead of rejecting the label, residents appropriated it, and proposed to their local council that a giant Ugg boot statue be erected in the centre of town in celebration of their bogan-ness.

“I think it’s a good example of how you can actually take the stigma and turn it over its head really,” Dr Wiesel says.

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Outback nurse killed in APY Lands was already victim of assault on the job, inquest told

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South Australian outback nurse Gayle Woodford, who was raped and murdered in the APY Lands, was assaulted by a different criminal in the same remote community two years before her death, an inquest has heard.

Key points:

  • Dudley Davey was jailed for life with a 32-year non-parole period
  • Nganampa Health Clinic closed one clinic in the APY Lands after an attack
  • The inquest was told hiring a security guard would cost $2.6 million

The 56-year-old mother was employed by the Nganampa Health Council (NHC) as a nurse and was working in the APY Lands community of Fregon when she was murdered by convicted rapist Dudley Davey in March 2016.

She was on-call alone on the night she was raped and killed after responding to Davey, who was seeking medical assistance.

Davey was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 32 years.

The inquest is expected to probe the overall safety of on-call remote area nurses, the police presence in remote communities and Davey’s release from prison prior to the attack.

On Thursday, the inquest was told Mrs Woodford was attacked while working in Fregon by a different serial criminal in 2014.

David Busuttil — who was NHC’s health services manager when Mrs Woodford was killed — has been in the witness box over two days.

Former NHC manager quizzed over nurse safety

He was questioned about the prior attack on Mrs Woodford and another three alleged attacks on nurses across the APY Lands.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Ahura Kalali, asked Mr Busuttil: “Do you agree it’s an extremely frightening position to be in as a nurse?”

Mr Busuttil replied: “Yes”.

The counsel assisting also asked: “Wasn’t it foreseeable to you, prior to Mrs Woodford’s death, a nurse could be harmed or sexually assaulted?”

Mr Busuttil agreed with that suggestion.


Former NHC health services manager David Busuttil leaves the Coroner’s Court. (ABC News: Claire Campbell)

The inquest has previously heard that senior APY Lands police had warned NHC management not to allow nurses to work alone after another nurse was attacked in a different community — which the ABC has chosen not to name for legal reasons.

That community’s clinic was closed down following the attack.

But Mr Busuttil told the inquest he could not recall the specific meeting with police where they advised him and other NHC staff not to allow nurses to work alone, but he said officers “did say something like that”.

“I don’t recall doing anything specific with [the advice],” he said.

The inquest has also previously heard that Fregon was akin to the “Wild West” and without a police presence, had become “lawless”.

On Thursday afternoon, NHC medical director Dr Paul Torzillo told the inquest that having nurses work in pairs across remote APY Lands communities would “triple the nursing budget”.

“We’re funded by the taxpayer through the Commonwealth, it’s something that wouldn’t be possible,” he said.


Gayle and Keith Woodford before the murder in March 2016. (Supplied: Keith Woodford)

He said hiring security guards for nurses would also be costly.

“The primary reason that was not implemented was that it would never be funded,” he said.

“Two people fly in, fly out in six communities — it’s $2.6 million … if you’re adding travel costs, that’s $3.5 million.

“Nobody else in the sector was doing it.”

He said other health service providers across the Northern Territory and Central Australia did not provide security guards for staff.

But when Dr Torzillo was questioned about whether any “official costings” had been completed in relation to security guards, he responded: “I’m reasonably confident there weren’t [any]”.

Dr Torzillo told the inquest he had done “some costings” recently as part of his statement to the coroner.

The inquest continues.


Australian Open draw treats Barty well while fans eye Kyrgios-Nadal fourth-round blockbuster

Melbourne 3000

Aussie world number one Ash Barty has enjoyed the benefits of her stature in the game, with a relatively easy draw for the Australian Open.

Key points:

  • Ash Barty’s first match is against Lesia Tsurenko, who knocked Barty out of the Brisbane International in 2018
  • Nick Kyrgios could meet men’s world number one Rafael Nadal in the fourth round
  • Defending champion Naomi Osaka could play both Williams sisters before the semi-finals

While top-seeded Australian male Nick Kyrgios could face world number one Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, Barty kicks off against 120th-ranked Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko.

While there is a significant gap in the rankings, Tsurenko won the most recent match-up between them, knocking Barty out of the round of 16 at the 2018 Brisbane International.

The likely toughest match-up in Barty’s part of the draw is American 18th-seed Alison Riske or former top-10 German Julia Goerges, both of whom she could face in the fourth round.

Video: Ash Barty answers a call from a journalist's phone during Adelaide International press conference

(ABC News)

Last year’s runner-up, Petra Kvitova, and 10th-seed Madison Keys are possible quarter-final opponents for Barty.

Fellow Australian Sam Stosur is in the same section of the draw as defending champion Naomi Osaka and will start off against a qualifier, ahead of a possible second round against 24th seed and 2017 US Open champ Sloane Stephens.

Meanwhile, the best Aussie hope on the men’s side, 24-year-old Kyrgios, was placed in the same eighth of the draw as Nadal, which sets up a potential blockbuster clash in the round of 16.


Kyrgios and Nadal split wins in their two matches last year. (AP: John Minchillo, file photo)

To reach the mouth-watering match-up, Kyrgios will have to get through Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the first round. In the third round he could face fellow rising star Karen Khachanov, against whom he had a major meltdown last year.

If he does progress to face Nadal, it would be the eighth meeting of the pair, with the Spaniard holding a slight 4-3 edge in the head-to-head record.

They played twice last year, with Nadal winning a four-set thriller at Wimbledon after Kyrgios had won a tight three-setter on his way to the Acapulco title.

Whoever makes it through could be in line to play fifth-seed Dominic Thiem in the last eight.

Kyrgios is seeded 23rd at this year’s tournament after the withdrawal of 21st-ranked Aussie Alex de Minaur, as well as Lucas Pouille (ranked 23rd) and Kei Nishikori (ranked 17).

Defending men’s champion and world number two Novak Djokovic has a tough first round against 37th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff, building towards a possible quarter-final clash with last year’s surprise packet and now sixth seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas.


Naomi Osaka won her second major at Melbourne Park last year. (AP: Mark Schiefelbein)

Meanwhile, defending women’s champion Osaka could play both Williams sisters before the semi-finals.

Osaka’s idol and the woman she beat to claim her first major crown at the 2018 US Open, Serena, is her projected quarter-final opponent, with elder sister Venus a possible third-round match-up.

But only if 39-year-old Venus can get by 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the first round, in a clash between the oldest and the youngest players in the draw.

It is also a rematch of the first round of last year’s Wimbledon Championships, when Gauff burst into the scene by upsetting the seven-time major winner to kick off her shock run to the fourth round.


Joining the ‘mosquito army’ to fight fires when the RFS can’t get there

Canberra 2600

Small community-based firefighting teams emerging from the Braidwood bushfires have proved to be well-organised groups that save the properties — and potentially the lives — of local farmers and distant neighbours.

The so-called Mongarlowe Mozzies is one, with other groups coming together at Araluen, Bombay Road and Cooma Road.

The Mongarlowe Mozzies, who have professional firefighters in their midst, came together realising that Braidwood RFS, with its limited resources, could not be everywhere.

These community members work together, putting out spot fires while recognising that safety is number one, and that accountability and back-up means that they are never alone.


Filmmaker Matt Thane fought fires with the Mongarlowe Mozzies and shot video to capture the action as it unfolded. (Supplied: Matthew Thane)

Braidwood residents embrace the Mozzies

Mongarlowe filmmaker, farmer and mechanic Matthew Thane, a member of the Mozzies, has been busy over the past month documenting the region as it burns, camera in one hand, fire hose in the other.

“We make sure that we’re all sent out with food, water, a radio, comms on the RFS channel, and we also use an app to stay in touch and alert others when spot fires appear,” he said.

“Local residents catered for us, they looked after us. People donated water, food, time, fuel to us. Pumps, tanks, everything. It’s a very supportive gang because they see the effect the Mozzies have had on the community, of slowing the fire down or stopping it in some cases.”

In the Mongarlowe area, the RFS response has been to include the Mozzies in fire briefings. This ensures that they can be in the right place at the right time, not getting in the way, but backing them up.

“Without the Mosquito crews a lot more properties, houses, lives, may have been lost. I believe the RFS acknowledge that and they’ve been terrific,” Mr Thane said.

Working with limited resources

Braidwood RFS deputy captain Danny King is clearly supportive of the Mozzies’ ability to band together and get things done.

“They’ve taken it upon themselves. They’ve used their time and energy, at their own expense by running their vehicles, the equipment and so forth to basically support the effort for containing this fire,” he said.


Fire chief Danny King was glad of assistance from the Mozzies. (Supplied: Matthew Thane)

Mr King stressed that the fires were an ongoing concern, but it gave RFS volunteers some comfort knowing the Mozzies were out there.

“Those guys are out there putting out spot fires we can’t necessarily get to because our resources are limited, so a big thank you from the local RFS,” he said

“We enormously appreciate the effort that they’ve done. Without them, I think the outcome would have been very different.”

‘Putting wet stuff on the hot stuff’

At one point, Braidwood was completely cut off by fire.

Nerriga Road was cut off, Kings Highway to Batemans Bay was cut, Cooma Road was cut, and the smaller roads that run around Braidwood were cut as well.


Mr King says it gave RFS volunteers some comfort knowing the Mozzies were out there. (Supplied: Matthew Thane)

Residents were on their own.

“The Mosquito Army came about where the need was for it, I suppose firstly to protect your own farm,” Mr Thane said.

“Most farmers have got a ute, most farmers have got a 1,000-litre IBC water tank, most farmers have got a pump, or they went and got one.

“A thousand litres does not sound like a lot, but it can actually put out a fire.

“Twenty or 30 units turn up to a fire, and you’re putting 30,000 litres of wet stuff on the hot stuff. You know, that’s got to have an effect.”

Filmmaking on the fire front

Mr Thane has been making amateur films most of his life, and most of them have been about people he knows.

In this case, with the fires, he was hesitant about doing it but considered that this was a story people would want to know about.

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“I suppose the motivation for documenting and capturing what’s going on in Braidwood was, one day this is going to stop,” he said.

“When the rains come, and things settle down people are going to want to see what we all went through as a community, and celebrate what we went through as a community, and how we all pulled together.”

Mates helping mates

Farringdon’s former fire captain, Cathy Noakes, got involved with the Mosquito Army when she realised how stretched the RFS were, and that the Mozzies were quite capable of putting out spot fires to help save farms.


Cathy Noakes was fighting fires with Mozzies this month. (Supplied: Matthew Thane)

“We are a tight, organised group. A lot of the people in our group are RFS qualified. We all had UHF radios and we were in very tight communication between us and triple-zero and the fire control centre at Braidwood,” she said.

“We weren’t just renegades running around getting in the way, and I think the Mozzies played an important part in stopping the fires from going through to Majors Creek.”

Winning, grinning, working, and learning

James Boljkovac joined the Mongarlowe Mozzies’ fleet to try to help the local RFS, which he is doing, but his sentiments were strongly affiliated with his neighbourly crew.


James Boljkovac enjoyed his time watching the RFS work and learnt a lot about how to fight fires. (Supplied: Matthew Thane)

“I can’t talk for all the mosquito fleet, but I know there’s a lot of us out there,” he said.

“Thanks, guys. We are making a big difference out here. Following the RFS around, just watching the RFS doing their job has taught us a lot.

“These guys [the RFS] are amazing. They are smashing fires and we are just backing them up.”


A South Australian financial adviser is accused of swindling $170,000 from clients, court told


An Adelaide Hills man accused of defrauding more than $170,000 from owners of self-managed superannuation accounts could flee the country with a large sum of money, a court has heard.

Key points:

  • Christopher Lloyd George is charged with 69 counts of deception
  • He was acting as senior financial advisor for self-managed superannuation funds
  • Many of his alleged victims live interstate

Christopher Lloyd George is accused of 69 counts of deception.

The Adelaide Magistrates Court heard the 33-year-old was acting as senior financial adviser for the victims’ self-managed superannuation funds when he allegedly defrauded five people.

The court heard one victim who lives in New South Wales invested $455,000 in what he believed was a legitimate investment fund overseas which failed.

Mr George then allegedly deceived the victim into believing he could recover the lost funds if he invested a further $81,000.

Another man in Victoria allegedly paid Mr George a further $94,000 believing he too could recoup his losses.

Police prosecutors told the court Mr George — who is a dual Australian-UK citizen — was an “extremely strong flight risk” who had access to large sums of money and carried false identification.

The court heard Mr George had previously been apprehended at an airport leaving the country with false identification and without a return ticket.

Prosecutors alleged Mr George was a flight risk

Police have seized his Australian and United Kingdom passports, but prosecutors told the court he had connections overseas, including in Bali and the United Arab Emirates, and had the means to flee the country if he chose to.

Mr George’s lawyer, Edward Stratton-Smith, told the court Mr George had no criminal history and the evidence of a flight risk was “sparse”.

“It is true my client has worked overseas, he worked in the United Arab Emirates for some time; it’s no surprise, therefore, that he has friends and associates overseas,” he said.

“There’s no evidence that any of them are prepared to help him flee the country, particularly when he has no passport at hand.

“This is clearly a white-collar allegation rather than something that puts people in danger.”

Magistrate John Fahey refused bail on the grounds Mr George could attempt to contact alleged victims and he still had access to a significant amount of money.

“Therefore, in my view even on home detention conditions he remains a flight risk,” he said.

The matter will return to court in August.


Anti-LGBT raids and ‘crisis centre’ planned as Indonesian mayor calls for a crackdown


An Indonesian mayor’s planned crackdown on his city’s LGBT community, including through the use of police raids and a so-called “crisis centre”, has spread fear and outrage among local sexuality- and gender-diverse people and their supporters.

Key points:

  • The crackdown comes after a high-profile rape case in the UK involving an Indonesian student
  • There are plans for raids on the homes of LGBT people and the places they frequent
  • Homosexuality is mostly not illegal in Indonesia, but LGBT people face growing hostility

The controversial decision comes after the sentencing of Indonesian student Reynhard Sinaga in the UK, who authorities there have dubbed “the most prolific rapist in British legal history” after he was convicted of 136 rapes against men.

Sinaga was originally from Depok, a city on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta.

Sexual assault support services:

Now, Depok Mayor Mohammad Idris is planning to order raids on the residences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, according to a statement posted last week on the city’s official website.

The Mayor also said the town would establish a rehabilitative centre to assist “victims” in the LGBT community — but little is known about what would go on at the centre, with local media reporting the centre may seek to “re-educate” LGBT people and their supporters.


Sinaga was sentenced to life in prison for assaulting 48 men who he drugged. (AP: Greater Manchester Police)

“The increase in prevention efforts is to strengthen family resilience, especially protection of children,” Mr Idris said in the statement.

Indonesia’s human rights commission has since condemned the plan, saying it would “increase the risk of persecution and other law-defying acts” against sexual and gender minorities.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the mayor’s plan?


Police raids, like those that have occurred in Jakarta in the past, are part of the proposal. (Reuters: Beawiharta, file)

The Public Order Agency will be instructed to raid places like shopping malls, boarding houses and apartments, according to the BBC, who spoke with the Mayor about the proposal.

They would subsequently be offered some form of religious counselling.

“If they claim to be LGBT and ask for help wanting to get out of that circle, we do some sort of recovery or advice,” Mr Idris told the BBC.

According to media reports in Indonesia, this would be done through what the mayor has termed an LGBT “crisis centre”, which would also be open to people who support sexuality- and gender-diverse people.

Mr Idris told the BBC he considered being gay to being like “a virus” that could “spread”.


Homosexuality is only a criminal offence in Indonesia’s Aceh province, however police elsewhere still target the LGBT community. (ABC News: Adam Harvey)

Homosexuality is not regulated by law in Indonesia, except in Aceh province where Islamic law bans same-sex relations, but the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation has seen a rise in hostility toward the LGBT community.

Last year, Indonesia’s national police and military said being LGBT was an “emergency and a disease”, and recent raids on transgender beauty salons have forced many women to give up their livelihoods.

A police raid at a gay club in Jakarta in May 2017 saw more than 100 men arrested, while a raid on a gay sauna in the capital later that year led to 58 arrests.

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As homosexuality is not illegal outside Aceh province, police elsewhere often charge LGBT people under anti-pornography laws.

Asfinawati from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, who goes by one name, said the plan would not prevent rapists like Sinaga from committing crimes in Depok, and would instead foster public hatred towards LGBT groups.

“Perpetrators of sexual violence can be anyone with any sexual orientation,” she said.

“Idris must learn from history that many genocides in this world started with hatred towards certain groups.”

What’s the response been?


Mommy Yuli (left) from Depok believes the local community will protect her from any planned raids. (Supplied)

The ABC spoke to several Depok residents about their views on the proposed crackdown.

Mommy Yuli, a transgender woman, said her community was not worried about the Mayor’s plan — she believes the local community will protect them.

“I still believe that people around us will help and protect us if the raids occur,” she said.

As a founder of a nursing home for transgender people, Mommy Yuli said her community mingled very well with the wider society in Depok.

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Despite verbal assaults from government and religious figures, some in Indonesia’s transgender community are living their lives undeterred.

She said LGBT people never break any laws, and show good manners as citizens.

“We still have the same rights to be protected, just like other people, unless if we violate crimes,” she said, suggesting the Mayor should focus on “other more serious problems” in the city.

Adji, who declined to give his full name due to his sexuality, said the plan to raid places where LGBT people meet was “ridiculous”.

“What is wrong with that? We are socialising with others,” he said.

“If they think that we are going to misbehave or hold sex parties, then they also need to do the same thing with the straight people.”

Like Mommy Yuli, others the ABC spoke to also said the Mayor should be tackling more important issues, like traffic jams and waste management.


Audi Manaf said she was concerned the mayor’s plan would cause problems for LGBT people. (Supplied)

Another transgender woman in Depok, Audi Manaf, said the LGBT community never experienced any “friction” in their ordinary lives, and said she was worried the Mayor’s plan would create new problems

“This policy will legalise discriminatory raids and it means the state fails to protect the minorities,” she said.

Arif Harahap, a heterosexual Depok local, said he condemned the plan because it would potentially discredit LGBT groups — he said even though homosexuality was not accepted from a religious perspective, it was a private matter.

However the criticism was not universal: Dian Suprapto told the ABC that even though she considered the raids to go against human rights, she welcomed the plan for her hometown.

“LGBT people have their rights, but also us parents, and our kids,” she said, adding that she was worried her children would become gay.



So, you want to live in a tiny house? Here’s what you need to know


The reasons for choosing to go tiny range from reducing debt, inability to afford a conventional home, the search for sustainability, a life crisis, or even preparing for an uncertain future in the face of climate change by going off-grid. Or perhaps a combination of these.

An important first step is to decide what type of tiny house you want.

To many, the phrase “tiny house” brings to mind an archetypal tiny house on wheels, a miniature cottage on a trailer, often made of wood, with a pitched roof and dormer windows.

Indeed, most tiny housers prefer some degree of mobility, whether a ready-made or DIY tiny house, converted caravan or bus/van.

A survey by the Australian Tiny House Association found most (78 per cent of 109 respondents) lived in tiny houses on wheels, but a small but growing proportion live in converted caravans, vans or buses.

A survey by the Australian Tiny House Association found most respondents lived in tiny houses on wheels.
(ATHA Survey, 2019)

Why do you want to go tiny?

First you need to evaluate your motives, which may differ according to your situation or stage of life. The most important question here is, how often do you want to move?

Do you want to be ultra-mobile, and live like a digital nomad, perhaps in a “stealth van” in the city, changing parking spaces every night? Or do you want to travel around Australia like a “grey nomad”, staying in caravan parks or roadside camps for a week or so before moving on?


To many, the phrase “tiny house” brings to mind an archetypal tiny house, often made of wood, with a pitched roof and dormer windows. (Instagram: Cabin Lifestyler)

Alternatively, do you want to be more settled, perhaps moving occasionally, to be closer to work, medical facilities or schools for children? (Yes, some tiny housers have children). Or do you want to travel between the houses of adult children or do petsitting, staying from weeks to months?

Many off-the-shelf caravans are extremely well designed and are accepted everywhere, at caravan parks or roadside parking areas. On the other hand, a tiny house on wheels is less mobile, and not suited to frequent moving (they are also extremely heavy, not aerodynamic and large tow vehicles are costly).


A tiny house on wheels is less mobile, and not suited to frequent moving. (Flickr: Think Out Loud, CC BY-NC)

They’re also less accepted in caravan parks, and most local councils consider them caravans, with restricted periods of occupancy and often onerous conditions. Vans and buses are the most flexible (in the “stealth van” or vanlife movement, people live rent-free by parking, mostly illegally, often in industrial estates, and using public or work/gym bathrooms).

They are, however, extremely small and while it may seem glamorous to live in a van like celebrity rock climber Alex Honnold, the reality may not be practical.


Vans and buses are the most flexible. (Instagram: wanderrlex)

What can you afford?

Cost will likely be the next factor to consider. Ready-built tiny houses range from around $50,000 – $120,000; DIY are cheaper, especially if self-built, with some costing under $2,000. The higher end, architect-designed ones are more expensive.


First you need to evaluate your motives, which may differ according to your situation or stage of life. (Supplied)

Converted caravans can be affordable, even under $10,000, but prices vary markedly, with some ultra-luxurious five-wheelers costing more than a typical suburban house (>$600,000).

Converting old buses and vans is much cheaper, with the cost of the vehicle tending to be under $20,000.

Of note, unless you are living under the radar or free camping, you are going to have to factor in the ongoing cost of renting someone’s backyard or caravan park space.


Cost will likely be the next factor to consider. (ABC News: Jane Cowan)

How sustainable is your choice?

Sustainability is a more nuanced aspect of tiny house living; living small means less energy needed for heating and less room for superfluous stuff, encouraging or enforcing a minimalist lifestyle.

Most tiny houses on wheels are off-grid to some extent, relying on solar power, rainwater and composting toilets. They are often built entirely out of sustainable or reclaimed materials.


Tiny houses, whatever the type, are just that: tiny. (Unsplash: Andrea Davis)

On the other hand, most caravans and vans are not particularly sustainable — they’re often built out of mass-produced material and may produce outgassing from carpets and paints. Vans and busses are generally no more or less sustainable than any similar vehicle.

What kind of life do you want?

Tiny houses, whatever the type, are just that: tiny. Space is at a premium and living tiny requires reducing stuff, such as clothes, sporting and hobby equipment. Tiny houses on wheels, where parked more permanently, allow for decks and even sheds, but caravans and vans are self contained, unless in a permanent caravan park.

If you are used to living in a very large space, it may take time to adapt to the practicalities of tiny living; people often complain about cooking smells and composting toilets.

Despite the popularity of tiny houses however, very few people actually live in them.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of people who live or have lived tiny, view their experience positively, and feel it has greatly enriched their lives, and helped them re-evaluate their life choices, especially consumerism even after moving to more conventional dwellings.


If you are used to living in a very large space, it may take time to adapt to the practicalities of tiny living. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)

Heather Shearer is a research fellow at the Cities Research Institute, Griffith University. She is a member of the Australian Greens Party and has also received a complementary membership of the Australian Tiny House Association for helping analyse their tiny house survey. Samuel Alexander is a research fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.


Village ‘abandoned’ by RFS in its hour of need, local fire chief says

Balmoral Village 2571

The Rural Fire Service withdrew vital firefighting equipment from a small NSW community on a day it came under intense bushfire attack, an RFS captain has said.

Key points:

  • Brendon O’Connor said that as Green Wattle Creek fire ripping through bushland in the Southern Highlands, vital firefighting services were directed elsewhere
  • In December, bushfires burnt 20 of Balmoral Village’s 140 homes
  • The town is now undertaking an enormous clean-up effort to remove many of its trees burnt in the fire

Balmoral Village RFS captain Brendon O’Connor said he did not want to “point fingers”, but bluntly added that his community was “abandoned” in its hour of need last month.

With the Green Wattle Creek fire ripping through bushland in the Southern Highlands, vital firefighting services were directed elsewhere, he said.

By the time the fire was bearing down on Balmoral on Saturday, December 21, he said, the local brigade was drastically understaffed and ill-equipped.

“On the Thursday and Friday we had a great number of resources, but unfortunately a decision was made on Friday evening to remove all resources from Balmoral, including bulk water, and that was replaced with a small water truck,” he said.

“We were asked to remove our own trucks from the village, which I refused to do.

“To have all resources removed and when it went bad, those resources couldn’t get back into us and the whole village was burning.”


Balmoral RFS captain Brendon O’Connor has criticised his organisation for ignoring warnings and stripping the village of resources at a vital time. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

A small team of RFS volunteers who chose to stay and fight successfully saved much of the village, but 20 of the town’s 120 houses were lost and the brigade ran out of water mid-fight.

“We were abandoned during the fight on the Saturday until much later and we’ve been abandoned since,” Mr O’Connor said, adding that help had come but after the fact.

“We haven’t seen any government agency, and it’s been too hard for them to come into the village and offer assistance.

“Now we’re seeing it, but that’s probably due to the power of media [coverage].”


Power lines were damaged in the December bushfire, cutting electricity to the town for days. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Counselling, clean-up help needed

Mr O’Connor has been asking for counselling for residents and firefighters, and help to remove hundreds of burnt trees.

As much as 90 per cent of Balmoral’s trees have been burnt, bringing the new risk of falling branches for those moving around the village.

“The big thing about this is learning from it and how can we try and reduce these impacts on communities in the future,” he said.

“A lot of us haven’t been at our workplaces for weeks and it’s a big drain on everyone.

“If we can learn to do things better in the future. It’s not about pointing fingers at individuals — it’s about having the right resources and funding to do the work we’re here for.”

The RFS has been approached for a response to Mr O’Connor’s comments but is yet to provide one.


Steve Harrison stands next to the remains of his pottery building in Balmoral village. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Surviving in a custom-made kiln

Balmoral Village potter Steve Harrison had laboriously prepared his house to survive a fire, but it was a last resort option to shelter in a kiln that saved his life.

After switching on his pump-operated sprinkler system, he was ready to drive out of town but was met with a wall of fire on his street.

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“I realised that I was going to die so I grabbed my bag to hide in my kiln, which I’d built specially a few days before as a fall-back position.

“No heat escapes from a kiln and no heat can get in — they’re amazing things.”

While he saved his own life, his beloved pottery building and kiln shed that he built was burnt.

He now faces the prospect of rebuilding in the latter years of his working life, cleaning up enormous trees on his property and working out complicated insurances claims.

He is also struggling with the after-effects of his traumatic experience.


Pat Lawrence and her husband escaped to Bowral as bushfire threatened their Balmoral house. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Resident grateful for aid agencies during crisis

Pat Lawrence has lived in Balmoral Village for 57 years, and despite living behind the RFS brigade she evacuated with her husband to nearby Bowral during the December bushfire.

It was here the Red Cross welcomed them, processed their registration and arranged for seven nights’ accommodation in a local motel, as well as providing meals at the Mittagong RSL.

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In addition to feeding evacuees, the RSL has provided over 5,000 hot packaged meals that have been sent to RFS volunteers on fire grounds.

“The council organised a bus from Bowral to come and have a look [at Balmoral],” she said.

“It helped us all because we saw what we were coming back to, but driving in that day was terrible, our mouths were dropping.”


The December bushfire claimed 20 of Balmoral’s 140 houses, including this one across the road from the RFS. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

She said that amid the devastation, the fire had made one positive impact on the community.

“New people that have moved in haven’t integrated and it’s brought us all together,” she said.

“Every time we see each other it’s a big hug-a-thon.”

Stay across the latest bushfire coverage


‘We will get justice’: Family’s plea for help after 39yo woman found dead in tiny town

Lightning Ridge 2834

The family of Christine Neilan, who was found dead after she failed to return home from a walk last week, say they “will get justice”.

Key points:

  • 39-year-old Christine Neilan had moved to Lightning Ridge late last year
  • She went missing last Wednesday after going for a walk
  • Her body was discovered on Thursday having suffered fatal head injuries

Ms Neilan was known to take walks through the quiet streets of Lightning Ridge with her dog, Sooky. Last week, she left home for a walk alone and never returned.

NSW Police are appealing for information about the suspicious death of the 39-year-old Ms Neilan, whose body was found in bushland of the small outback town late last week.

Ms Neilan’s daughter Julianne, 22, broke down as she appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

“Mum is a loving, beautiful, caring person that would never even hurt a fly.

“We just want justice. We want somebody to come forward.”

Ms Neilan’s sister Shaunna Dench, 29, insisted the family would fight for justice.

“Somebody in Lightning Ridge knows something. Please come forward and tell police everything you that you know.

“My sister did not deserve this and we will get justice.”


Christine Neilan died in suspicious circumstances from serious head injuries. (Supplied: NSW Police)

Homicide Squad Commander, Danny Doherty says a taskforce has been set up to investigate Ms Neilan’s death.

“She’s from a large family, her Mum lives in town, you know it’s a sad time for them, in they want answers to what happened,” he said.

“I’m sure there are people from that area who know what happened to her.”

Police say she left her home last Wednesday, wearing an orange and blue short-sleeved shirt with an Indigenous pattern and black shorts.

Officers were called to bushland near Sunflash Street and Black Prince Drive last Thursday and discovered Ms Neilan’s body.

A post-mortem determined she had died from serious head injuries.

Video: Police said a post mortem revealed Christine Neilan died from serious head injuries

(ABC News)

“Police are particularly interested in speaking with anyone who had contact with or saw Christine in the 24 hours before her body was located,” Det Supt Doherty said.

“On Wednesday last week, we know that Christine left home for a walk alone, without her dog and did not return.

“We urge any member of the community who may be able to assist detectives with their investigation to come forward and help us provide answers for Christine’s family.”

Ms Neilan and her mother moved to the area, located in the state’s north-west near the Queensland border, late last year.


The clock is ticking for Putin — but he has a surprise plan to hold on to power

Russian Federation

Twenty years into his tenure at the summit of Russian politics, Vladimir Putin is planning his next move — and unfortunately for a group of senior politicians, it means they’ve got to look for a new job.

The Russian constitution, adopted on Christmas Day 1993, was explicitly written to prevent someone like Vladimir Putin from ruling the country in the way he has.

It imposed a limit of two consecutive terms of four years for people elected president.

So when Putin became president in 2000, an eight-year countdown began.

As the deadline approached, he was an incredibly powerful and popular figure.

High oil prices had fuelled a booming economy.

He had been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, and he had started releasing an annual calendar showing him shirtless in various action-man scenarios.


Putin is renowned for these shirtless publicity shots. (AP/Kremlin: Alexei Nikolsky)

Musical chairs at the Kremlin

But the rules are the rules — sort of. Keen to hold onto as much power as possible, he supported his long-time sidekick Dmitry Medvedev to succeed him as president.

Medvedev appointed Putin as prime minister, and immediately set about introducing a constitutional amendment to extend the length of the next president’s term to six years, and making sure Putin would be back in the top job as soon as possible.

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During his four years in office, Medvedev mostly stayed within the parameters set for him by Putin, with a few exceptions.

The Medvedev years were characterised by warmer relations between Russia, Europe and the United States than were seen under Putin.

In 2009, the Obama administration attempted to capitalise on this with an attempt to “reset” relations with Russia, and the two countries signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty.

But under Medvedev, the popularity of the ruling party waned.

The global economic crisis hit Russia hard, and while Putin was successful in being re-elected as president of Russia in 2012, he received more than 4 million fewer votes than he had in his last election.


Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev during Putin’s inauguration ceremony in 2012. (Reuters/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool )

Popularity waxes and wanes

His popularity slump wouldn’t last long.

In 2014, beginning with the annexation of Crimea, he engaged in a spectacular campaign of foreign interference, aimed at restoring Russia’s status as a global superpower.

That came at a cost though. Sanctions imposed by the countries he meddled with and a slump in oil prices tanked the Russian economy.

In mid-2018, as he was at the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in Moscow, his political party introduced a significant raising of the retirement age in an effort to lessen the country’s economic stress.

The reforms were wildly unpopular.

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There is every reason to believe Moscow is rehearsing a global war scenario, along with other smaller ones that may build into that, mobilising the entire panoply of reservists and multiple militaries at its disposal, writes Stephen Blank.

They lit a spark among Russians which became large, sustained anti-Putin protests.

Polls — even those controlled by the Kremlin — showed a significant drop in his popularity, which has remained low in the year and a half since the reforms were announced.

And yet Putin sees another constitutionally mandated deadline looming.

In 2024 he will, for the second time, reach the presidential term limit — and Putin knows he cannot risk reaching it without a plan to stay in power.

Putin hatches a plan

Overnight, he unveiled his plan — and it was a surprising one.

Instead of amending the constitution to allow him another term as president, he appears to be setting himself up to switch roles to prime minister once again.

But this time he will not be risking even a loyalist like Medvedev having more power than him.

In his state-of-the-nation address overnight, he announced that he would be amending the constitution to transfer many of the president’s powers to the office of the prime minister.


With the resignation of his cabinet, Putin can appoint new loyalists to see through the constitutional changes. (AP: Dmitry Astakhov)

The suite of constitutional changes is extensive — altering not just offices of president and prime minister, but increasing the power of the State Council — a presidential advisory body, and the role of the judiciary.

An hour after the announcement, Medvedev and the entire cabinet resigned to facilitate the changes, leaving Putin open to appoint technocratic loyalists without political ambition to do his bidding.

Public support won’t be tested

Why Putin chose this path instead of staying on as president — as many predicted — is still unclear.

Perhaps with his popularity low, he was hesitant to risk calling a term-limits referendum which would so obviously benefit him.

Anything less than emphatic support for him remaining in office indefinitely could damage him even more.

His chosen path may allow him to rewrite the constitution to suit his purposes without turning it into a plebiscite on his personal popularity.

Another consideration on his mind may be his own longevity.

At the 2024 election he will be approaching his 72nd birthday, and while he is unwilling to relinquish power, he may be crafting a powerful role for himself as head of the State Council, where he could enjoy a semi-retirement.

By making the announcement with four years on the clock, Putin has left his options open.

Matt Bevan is the host of Russia, If You’re Listening.


Tennis players livid after ‘slap in the face’ email from Australian Open officials


Tennis players have lashed out at officials after being asked to play in smoky conditions during qualifying for the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Tuesday and Wednesday.

British player Liam Broady led the condemnation after describing an email from the ATP and the Australian Open as “a slap in the face”.

External Link:

LiamBroady tweet: We can't let this go.

The 26-year-old world number 234 said the email described conditions as “playable”, but Broady questioned whether they were “healthy”.

Broady, who was beaten by Belarus’s Ilya Ivashka in straight sets on Tuesday in the first round of qualifying, tweeted his grievance in a message with the heading, “We can’t let this go” and called for the establishment of a players’ union.

“Citizens of Melbourne were warned to keep their animals indoors the day I played qualifying, and yet we were expected to go outside for high-intensity physical competition?” Broady wrote.

The Brit cited examples of “multiple” players needing asthma medication, despite never having suffered from asthma, and women’s player Dalila Jakupovic being forced to retire.

German player Dustin Brown appeared to confirm Broady’s claims after he was knocked out by top seed Dennis Novak in qualifying on Wednesday.

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“In 35 years, its the first time I had to use an asthma spray to help me breathe better …” Brown wrote, quoting Broady’s tweet.

Brown, currently ranked 203 in the world and in his 19th year on the tour, said that the doctor on court told him that he had “a virus coming on” before adding the hashtag “well said, Liam”.

Broady’s 21-year-old compatriot Jay Clarke said his “body literally failed” on Tuesday when he lost in three sets to Slovenian Blaz Kavcic.

“I pride myself on being one of the fittest players on the circuit I play,” Clarke said.

“My body literally failed me on that day and I wasn’t the only one. 25 seconds between points felt like five!”


Players are unhappy at having been asked to play in smoky conditions. (AAP: Michael Dodge)

Broady says lower-ranked players not treated equally

Broady also alluded to the inequality between players outside the top level of the sport, saying that players are not being treated equally.

“On tour, we let so many things go that aren’t right, but at some point, we have to make a stand,” Broady wrote.

“All players need protection, not just a select few.”

Despite playing in Tennis Australia’s bushfire fundraising match on Wednesday night, the game’s leading players have not commented on the conditions for players in the qualification tournament, aside from Novak Djokovic, who proposed delaying the tournament last week.

World number 23 Lucas Pouille said in French on Twitter that players had the option to not play.

“I keep reading that it is dangerous to play, reading messages from players saying that it is scandalous to play,” Pouille wrote in French.

“My question is this, why are you going on court?”

Tennis Australia has been contacted for comment.


Outback kids hit the mud as severe storms rumble across much of Queensland

Cunnamulla 4490

Severe thunderstorms are rumbling across parts of Queensland’s central interior from the coast to the outback, with many regions that had been struggling through drought now receiving drenching rain.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said in its warnings abut 7:30pm that severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and heavy rain that may lead to flash flooding would impact parts of the South Burnett and Toowoomba council areas.

Locations that may be affected include Dalby, with the storms moving towards the east.

Other areas affected include the Central Highlands and Coalfields, Wide Bay and Burnett and Darling Downs and Granite Belt districts.

The BOM also said damaging winds and large hailstones from severe thunderstorms would also affect parts of the North Tropical Coast and Tablelands, Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders, Herbert and Lower Burdekin, Central Coast and Whitsundays, Central Highlands and Coalfields, Central West, Channel Country and Maranoa and Warrego districts.

Areas that may be affected include Thargomindah, Charters Towers, Cunnamulla, Quilpie, Isisford, Barcaldine, Collinsville, Ingham and Lucinda.

Some western parts of Queensland have already received decent rain over the last 48 hours.

For locals in tinder-dry western Queensland, the downpours have turned the red earth into mud pits ripe for fun.

Video: Rain across western Queensland welcomed by children who make their own fun.

(ABC News)

‘They just loved it’

Fred Wharton and his family had been enduring 46 degree Celsius days at Cunnamulla, before the rain came late Wednesday with about 33 millimetres recorded.

“It’s the best rain I’ve seen here for a while,” Mr Wharton said.

“There was two little bursts of it, the first one seems to be the heaviest of it and then there was a follow up little storm after that.

“Next minute I hear the young fella’s outside screaming, went outside and here they are running up and down in the water — they just loved it.”


Children at Springsure in central western Queensland enjoy the mud after some much-needed rain. (Supplied: Chantal Iker)

Mr Wharton captured video his nephews frolicking in the mud.

“Talking to the old people here they said this is the driest they have ever seen Cunnamulla in a lifetime,” he said.

Showers and thunderstorms rolled across the west, central interior and into parts of the south-east overnight.

Blackwater, north-east of Cunnamulla, received 63mm, Richmond had 44mm and other regions received between 25 to 40mm.

“The inland activity in the west was more extensive that what we’d typically see for shower and thunderstorm activity and so we did see a few good falls,” Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecaster Matthew Bass said.

More showers and storms are likely Friday, from the Peninsula and Gulf down through the west to the New South Wales border.

“This inland trough really is bringing quite a few showers and storms,” Mr Bass said.

“It is pretty normal this time of the year to be seeing shower and thunderstorm activity across Queensland and I guess it is noteworthy because it has been so dry particularly out in the west.”

Dust haze to impact south-west of state

Despite rain in some parched areas of Queensland, BOM forecaster Rosa Hoff said dust haze had been covering other parts of the south-west this morning.


The dust haze could be seen over Thargomindah on Wednesday afternoon just before a storm hit the area. (Supplied: Janet Beetson)

“We can see on our satellite image that some dust has been picked up from South Australia and some possibly from areas of New South Wales as well and it’s blowing towards areas such as Birdsville,” she said.

“This area of dust is only affecting the south-west at this time, that’s because it’s been picked up behind a surface level trough which is lying through the interior, generally south of around Mt Isa and it’s then going down towards the Maranoa Warrego district.

“We’re expecting this dust activity to be confined to areas to the south and west of this trough.”


Lyn’s pacemaker pulsed 48 electric shocks through her heart in 38 minutes. She survived


At 3:31am, Lyn Farley felt the first shock.

Two minutes later her dual pacemaker-defibrillator shocked her again — five times.

“It lifted [me] off the bed,” the 67-year-old from Karuah in New South Wales told the ABC.

“And then it just kept going off, and off and off.”

On that night in July 2015, the powerful electric shock to jolt her heart into action went off 48 times in 38 minutes.

The instrument that was supposed to keep her alive almost killed her.

Key points:

  • Lyn Farley was shocked by her pacemaker device as many as 60 times in one night — most patients don’t live past 15 shocks
  • The device was made by manufacturer Biotronik, which has denied any systematic failures
  • Doctors that spoke to the ABC said there was a conflict of interest in reporting device failures and a lack of a valid government registry

“I’d pass out some of the time, but it just kept going,” Ms Farley said.

“I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”

The incident was so rare the ambulance had to stop and pick up a specialist paramedic on the way.

Readouts from the device showed, overall, Ms Farley was shocked up to 60 times by the time she got to the hospital.

In most emergency cases patients don’t often live past 15.

A large magnet over her chest eventually stopped the device, which, at the time, had been inside her for six years.

In order to stay alive, Ms Farley had to be flown to Sydney and kept on adrenalin for a week until she got a new pacemaker.

“Some of the doctors would laugh because it [went] off so many times,” Ms Farley said.

“They said: ‘just feel lucky that you’re still here’.”

The device responsible


Dr Wilsmore said it was “a surprise” Ms Farley’s heart was able to keep going after the shocks. (ABC News: Alison Branley)

Ms Farley’s new cardiologist Bradley Wilsmore was astounded by her case.

So he started to investigate.

He found the insulation on one of the three leads, connecting the dual pacemaker-defibrillator to her heart, had eroded leaving the internal wires exposed.

It meant the defibrillator thought her heart had stopped, when it actually hadn’t — so one of the other leads was trying to shock her heart back into action.


The area of the fault in Ms Farley’s pacemaker lead. (ABC News: supplied)

The pacemaker and the leads were made by manufacturer Biotronik, based in Germany.

Further investigation by Dr Wilsmore revealed the lead model, known as Linox, had been mentioned in a number of international case reports a year earlier showing similar erosions that led to unnecessary shocks.

Dr Wilsmore reported Ms Farley’s case to Biotronik.

“The formal report back was ‘there’s no lead issues, there’s never been any lead issues and we take no responsibility for any lead and it’s because we think the lead is fine’,” he said.

“I found that very unsatisfactory.”

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When Dr Wilsmore spoke about Ms Farley’s case at a medical conference, other cardiologists also reported issues with the product.

He said he treated an elderly man as recently as October last year with a similarly eroded Linox lead who received an unnecessary shock.

“Biotronik just refuse to accept there’s a problem,” he said.


The insulation around the lead in Ms Farley’s pacemaker eroded and exposed the internal wire. (ABC News: Supplied)

In a statement — which can be read in full here — Biotronik spokesman Roman Borkowski said all devices carried risk, and inappropriate shocks were a “well-known” complication of having a pacemaker-defibrillator.

He said the company had been transparent in its dealings and abided by relevant local regulations.

“Linox leads have received regulatory approvals globally and have not been recalled in any market,” he said.

However, according to doctors who spoke to the ABC, the issue stems back to regulation itself.

Registry to track issues a failure in Australia

In Australia, the companies that make heart devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators are required to have internal company databases about their products.

These registries track patients, surgeons, devices and potential side-effects over time to detect problems with products or surgical techniques.

But the information is controlled by the manufacturers, and doctors rely on the companies to notify them of safety concerns.

What happens when an internal defibrillator activates?

  • There are few recorded cases, mainly because it is impossible to know when it’s going to happen
  • But in 2009, video emerged of Belgian soccer player Anthony Van Loo being shocked by his internal defibrillator during a Belgian League game
  • After the shock he was able to sit up and was taken to hospital to recover
  • After collapsing again in 2018 because of the heart condition he was forced to retire

External Link:

Anthony Van Loo was shocked by his internal defibrillator while playing

Only four companies worldwide make pacemakers and leads.

“It’s dependent on the company [releasing the information] who obviously have a vested interest,” Dr Wilsmore said.

The Federal Government recognised this potential conflict of interest with device registries back in 2014, and after years of lobbying by patient groups funded two national registries.

One was the breast device registry. The second was the cardiac devices registry which was designed to monitor cardiac stents, valves, pacemakers, defibrillators and similar devices.

In 2017, the Therapeutic Goods Administration commissioned a review of the registry.

The ABC has obtained documents through a Freedom of Information request that show serious problems with the registry’s operation.

The registry had just 43 doctors sign up over its five years of operation — a participation rate of less than 5 per cent.

By comparison, the breast device registry has 95 per cent participation.

The review was damning, citing a “low level of engagement” from the Australia New Zealand Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons, and said the registry “lacks clinical utility” and had “governance issues”.


Dr Wilsmore, here inserting a pacemaker, said there was a conflict of interest in the industry. (ABC News: Alison Branley )

The ABC has discovered as recently as 2019, there was $2.2 million in the federal budget for the breast and cardiac registries, even though emails to surgeons suggest the cardiac registry had all but collapsed.

Professor David Playford, a cardiologist who specialises in registries, said some of the problems stemmed from the highly competitive nature of cardiology, and the clinics that offered it.

“[What they] don’t want to do is have a situation where only the bad outcomes are displayed,” he said.

Further, he said, the registry was voluntary, so the data collected was not comprehensive.

“Particular hospitals or groups may say ‘look I don’t really want to share this’.”

Complicating the issue is the number of state-based registries and others run by private clinics and colleges, some of whom have concerns about data being absorbed into a national database.

In a statement, Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand president Professor Len Kritharides conceded the registry had been unsuccessful.


Ms Farley’s pacemaker — not pictured here — is no longer manufactured. (ABC News: Alison Branley)

He said it was developing a new registry that would collate data from registries run by the states.

“These more recent endeavours have successfully engaged all states and territories with the recruitment of thousands of patients and will allow us to monitor quality outcomes,” Mr Kritharides said.

The new registry has a steering committee and its first job will be to create a registry for stent procedures — a form of heart surgery.

Another registry for pacemakers is planned, but not yet in action and will still be voluntary.

Following inquiries from the ABC, a spokesman for the Federal Department of Health said the money in this year’s budget was for the new cardiac stent registry, even though the budget papers indicate it was for the device-specific registry.

Damning findings

One New Zealand study into the Linox leads, released in 2018, found “the seven-year survival of [the] leads was significantly worse than shown in Biotronik surveillance reports”.

“Canada actually looked at their [own] national registry [in 2014] and showed the failure rates of the Linox lead were five to six times higher than similar leads,” Dr Wilsmore said.

“And some other reports indicated there’d been even higher failure rates.

“There is potential for death without notifying us or identifying this early.”

Mr Borkowski said the industry, and Biotronik, worked “tirelessly” to reduce the burden of inappropriate shocks on patients, which could happen for multiple reasons.

“The performance of Linox leads is fully comparable with the typical performance of current, non-recalled competitor leads,” he said.

“There is no evidence of systematic failure in the Linox lead family or in any other Biotronik leads.”

But other patients have also had distressing experiences with the “Linox lead family”.

Tom Scutts got a pacemaker-defibrillator in 2011 after his second heart attack.


Tom Scutts was rushed to surgery after his pacemaker shocked him five times. (ABC News: Elena De Bruijne)

Within a week of getting his new dual pacemaker-defibrillator, things took a turn during a rehabilitation exercise class at the hospital.

“Then all of a sudden, bang, that got me wide awake,” he said. “And when I mean shocks, I mean it shocks [the heart]. It is a very powerful feeling.

“I went back and sat there and while I was sitting, it went bang four more times. So I had five shocks.”

Mr Scutts was rushed back into surgery.

The culprit was his Linox lead, which hadn’t attached to his heart properly.

Again, the device thought his heart wasn’t beating, when it actually was.

Warning: Don’t be alarmed

  • Patients with pacemakers and defibrillators in Australia will have a card indicating the make and model of their device and its leads
  • Dr Wilsmore said if they did have a Linox lead they did not need to be worried
  • “The failure rate is still relatively low and in most instances the patients won’t know that there is a lead issue,” he said
  • In most cases, doctors believe it is safer to keep the device and leads implanted, rather than try and remove them

Years later, Mr Scutts said he was grateful for the device — and for the other times it had genuinely saved his life — but it had left him with lasting emotional effects, which led him to see a counsellor.

“It doesn’t leave my mind. Even now.”

The Linox lead is no longer available for use, having been superseded by a newer model.

But Dr Wilsmore said there were still an unknown number of patients living with the problematic leads.

“There’s likely to be hundreds of people [in Australia] walking around with these types of leads [but] we just don’t know because we don’t have a registry to document it,” he said.


Lyn Farley said she never received an apology from Biotronik. (ABC News: Elena De Bruijne)

For Ms Farley, the aftershocks continue.

It has also impacted her family, who had to call the ambulance and were powerless as the product took over her body.

She now has a standalone pacemaker without a defibrillator, but for months afterwards she couldn’t go into her bedroom.

She has given up her hobbies and also needed counselling.

She expected an apology from Biotronik but she said no-one from the company ever got in touch with her.

“It was horrendous,” she said.

“I never want to go through it again.”


Phase one of US-China trade deal signed

United States

The United States and China have announced an initial trade deal that will roll back some tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of US goods and services, defusing an 18-month conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

Key points:

  • The centrepiece of the deal is a pledge by China to purchase an additional $US200 billion of US farm products and other goods
  • Mr Trump said China would buy $US40-50 billion in additional US services and $US75 billion more in manufacturing goods
  • The deal fails to address many of the structural differences that led the Trump administration to start the trade war

Beijing and Washington portrayed their “Phase 1” agreement as a momentous step on Wednesday (local time) after months of start-stop talks punctuated by tit-for-tat tariffs that uprooted supply chains and stoked fears of a further slowdown in the global economy.

“Together we are righting the wrongs of the past and delivering a future of economic justice and security for American workers, farmers and families,” US President Donald Trump said as he touted the deal at the White House alongside Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and other officials.

The US-China trade deal is more of a ceasefire
Questions remain as to how Donald Trump’s US-China trade deal will affect the global economy.

The centrepiece of the deal is a pledge by China to purchase at least an additional $US200 billion ($290 billion) of US farm products and other goods and services over two years, over a baseline of $US186 billion in purchases in 2017.

The deal would include $US50 billion in additional orders for US agricultural products, Mr Trump said, adding he was confident that US farmers would be able to meet the greater demand.

He also said China would buy $US40 billion to $US50 billion in additional US services, $US75 billion more in manufacturing goods, and $US50 billion more of energy supplies.

Officials from both countries have touted the deal as ushering in a new era for US-Sino relations, but it fails to address many of the structural differences that led the Trump administration to start the trade war.

These differences include Beijing’s long-standing practice of propping up state-owned companies, and flooding international markets with low-priced goods.

Trump’s trade wars The US-China trade war has been dominating headlines, but Beijing is not the only trading partner in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs.

Mr Trump, who has embraced an “America First” policy aimed at rebalancing global trade in favour of US companies and workers, said China had pledged action to confront the problem of pirated or counterfeited goods, and that the deal included strong protection of intellectual property rights.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Mr Donald Trump in a letter, read by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the signing of the deal in Washington, that he welcomes the Phase 1 trade deal reached with the US.

Mr Xi also told Mr Trump in the letter that he is willing to stay in close touch with the American leader and that the agreement shows how the two countries can resolve their differences and find solutions based on dialogue.

Meanwhile, Charles Schumer the Senate Minority Leader, slammed the news of the trade deal saying it “does next to nothing of substance for workers feeling the brutal, merciless weight of China’s trade and industrial abuse.”

Mr Schumer added: “I greatly fear that President Xi is laughing at us behind our backs for having given away so little at the expense of American workers, farmers and businesses.”

‘Radical shift in Chinese spending unlikely’

Earlier, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News the agreement would add 0.5 percentage points to US gross domestic product growth in both 2020 and 2021.


Officials from both countries have touted the deal as ushering in a new era for US-Sino relations. (AP: Steve Helber)

But some analysts have expressed scepticism it will set US-China trade on a new trajectory.

“I find a radical shift in Chinese spending unlikely. I have low expectations for meeting stated goals,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group in Minneapolis.

“But I do think the whole negotiation has moved the football forward for both the US and China.”

The deal doesn’t end retaliatory tariffs on American farm exports, makes farmers “increasingly reliant” on Chinese state-controlled purchases, and doesn’t address “big structural changes,” Michelle Erickson-Jones, a wheat farmer and spokeswoman for Farmers for Free Trade, said in a statement.

What next in the US-China trade fight?
The US has now declared China is a “currency manipulator” — but what does that mean and what effect will it have on the trade war?

The Phase 1 deal, reached in December, cancelled planned US tariffs on Chinese-made cell-phones, toys and laptop computers and halved the tariff rate to 7.5 per cent on about $US120 billion worth of other Chinese goods, including flat panel televisions, Bluetooth headphones and footwear.

But it will leave in place 25 per cent tariffs on a vast, $US250 billion array of Chinese industrial goods and components used by US manufacturers, and China’s retaliatory tariffs on over $US100 billion in US goods.

Market turmoil and reduced investment tied to the trade war cut global growth in 2019 to its lowest rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund said in October.

Tariffs on Chinese imports have cost US companies $US46 billion. Evidence is mounting that tariffs have raised input costs for US manufacturers, eroding their competitiveness.

Mr Trump, who has been touting the Phase 1 deal as a pillar of his 2020 re-election campaign said he would agree to remove the remaining tariffs once the two sides had negotiated a “Phase 2” agreement.

He added that those negotiations would start soon.

He also said he would visit China in the not-too-distant future.



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