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Cancer fraudster Belle Gibson’s home raided over $500,000 in unpaid fines

Northcote 3070

Cancer fraudster Belle Gibson has been raided by Victoria’s Sherriff’s Office in a bid to recoup more than $500,000 of outstanding fines and penalties.

Sheriff’s officers executed a “search and sale” warrant on Gibson’s Northcote home today, a spokesperson for Consumer Affairs Victoria said.

Gibson made hundreds of thousands of dollars from apps, cookbooks and a social media empire after claiming alternative therapies and nutrition cured her brain cancer.

It was later revealed she never had the disease.

Gibson was fined $410,000 in 2017 after she was found guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct.

The court found Gibson made false claims about donating a large portion of her profits to charities and to the family of a boy who had an inoperable brain tumour.

The outstanding amount is now more than $500,000, including penalties and accrued interest.

A spokesperson for Consumer Affairs Victoria said Gibson would be pursued until her debt was “repaid in full”.

Questions over lavish spending

In June, Gibson was quizzed in court about $90,000 of spending between 2017 and 2019, including on trips to Bali, clothes and cosmetics.


Belle Gibson was fined for failing to donate proceeds from the sale of her book. (Supplied)

At the time, Gibson said the trip to Bali was to “take leave of her situation … in Melbourne” and that she was not sure who transferred $1,600 to her to support her travel.

“Is it seriously your evidence that $1,600 was deposited into your account, in three deposits in the space of about a week, and you don’t know who deposited it?” asked Carl Moller, who was representing Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has also applied in court for information about cryptocurrencies, sports betting accounts and social media influencer payments possibly made to Gibson.

In a court appearance in May, Gibson — who has often been absent during court proceedings — said she could not pay her outstanding fines.

The court has heard her rent, utilities and even her legal fees were often paid for by her housemate, Clive Rothwell, whom she described as a friend.

Gibson said Mr Rothwell also paid for a $5,000 holiday she took to Kenya and Ethiopia with her young son.

Her $410,000 fine in 2017 consisted of:

  • $90,000 for failing to donate proceeds from the sale of The Whole Pantry app, as publicly advertised
  • $50,000 for failing to donate proceeds from the launch of The Whole Pantry app
  • $30,000 for failing to donate proceeds from a 2014 Mother’s Day event
  • $90,000 for failing to donate other company profits
  • $150,000 for failing to donate profits from a week’s app sales to the family of Joshua Schwarz, a boy who had an inoperable brain tumour

The Sheriff’s Office has the power to seize items and sell them to settle debts.


Frustration over face masks as coronavirus cases in China climb to 440, nine dead as virus adapts and mutates


China’s National Health Commission says 440 people in 13 Chinese provinces are now infected with the new coronavirus, with nine people dying — and there is evidence of respiratory transmission from patient to patient.

Key points:

  • Chinese authorities say the outbreak can spread through human contact
  • The coronavirus strain is believed to have started in a Chinese seafood market
  • Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific flight attendants are asking to wear masks on flights

The number of confirmed cases as of Tuesday (local time) marks a rise from the more than 300 previously reported.

What is a coronavirus?
Here’s what we know about the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, and how worried you should be.

Chinese officials said the new virus was also adapting and mutating, underscoring the challenges for health authorities in controlling the outbreak.

An official from the country’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the coronavirus originated from a market dealing in illegal wildlife transactions.

The virus, which started in the city of Wuhan at the end of last year, has spread to Beijing and Shanghai, as well as overseas to the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

The Chinese special administrative region of Macau also confirmed its first case of pneumonia linked to the outbreak, state-owned news agency Xinhua said.

China is taking more strict measures in hospitals to protect healthcare workers from the outbreak, and will increase training for healthcare workers nationwide, officials from the health commission said.

Authorities added that infection of medical staff in the outbreak showed there were loopholes in treatment methods as authorities were still learning about the new virus.

Chinese residents vented their frustrations on social media over the limited availability of face masks being available to purchase in many cities such as Chengdu, as well as online.

Hong Kong confirms first case


A sign at a local pharmacy in the city of Chengdu says all facial masks are sold out. (Weibo: Chengdu News)

Hong Kong confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus strain on Wednesday, local broadcasters RTHK, Cable TV and TVB said.

The infected patient arrived in Hong Kong via high-speed railway from the mainland, and has been quarantined at the Queen Elizabeth hospital, the reports said.

The Hospital Authority enhanced laboratory surveillance for pneumonia cases to include patients with travel history to all of mainland China.

Hong Kong had deployed temperature-screening machinery at the airport and the high-speed rail station.

Coronavirus spreads to the US and Thailand

Earlier today, a United States man from Washington state who recently travelled to China was diagnosed with the coronavirus, becoming the first confirmed US case of the newly identified illness.

The patient, identified only as a man in his 30s who recently returned from his hometown in China, fell ill over the weekend and was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Monday (local time), Washington Governor Jay Inslee told reporters at a press conference in the United States city of Seattle.

He was in a satisfactory condition at Providence Regional Medical Centre in Washington and was not known to have infected anyone else, Mr Inslee said.

“This is not a moment of high anxiety,” Mr Inslee said

“This is a low risk. It appears to have a transmission vector that really should not prevent anyone from going anywhere in Snohomish County [in Washington], except maybe the isolation ward at the hospital.”

Last week, the World Health Organisation said there was limited human-to-human transmission, and the global community would be prepared if an outbreak occurred, however authorities now say the virus can spread through human contact.

Video: Death toll from Wuhan coronavirus rises to nine

(ABC News)

The coronavirus, which causes respiratory symptoms similar to a cold or flu, has been linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, the largest city in central China with a population of about 11 million. That market has since been shut down.

The disease has spread to other parts of China, including the capital Beijing where there have been five cases. People have also been diagnosed in Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Washington State said the agency was preparing for more US cases of the coronavirus to emerge, and the CDC raised its travel alert for Wuhan to a level 2, calling for enhanced precautions.

Under that alert level, the CDC recommends people travelling to Wuhan to avoid contact with sick people, animals and animal markets.

The agency said it had developed a new test that allowed it to identify the presence of the virus in a traveller.

A CDC medical officer said all travellers from Wuhan would be redirected to five US airports in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco for screening.

Airline crews fear being infected

Video: Footage circulating on Chinese social media shows medics checking the temperature of passengers on a Wuhan to Macau flight.

(ABC News)

The flight attendants union at Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways said it has asked the airline to let crew wear face masks on all flights to mitigate the risk of staff catching the new coronavirus.

The coronavirus struck as millions of Chinese prepared to travel for the Lunar New Year, heightening contagion risks and posing a fresh threat to the airline, which has been battered by months of sometimes violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union said it had received a “tremendous” amount of emails and messages from members concerned about catching the virus given they were exposed to more than 300 passengers from numerous places on a single flight.

“All of them are worried about the risk they are taking every time they go to work,” the union said on its Facebook page on Tuesday (local time).

“It is time for the company to properly address their concerns and allow cabin crew to wear masks on all flights.”


The new coronavirus strain has been linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, the largest city in central China.

So far, it said, the airline was not allowing cabin crew to wear masks except on flights to and from Wuhan.

Cathay did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Cathay told the South China Morning Post, which first reported on the issue, that as required by Hong Kong health authorities, it was distributing health declaration forms and making face masks and antiseptic wipes available at the boarding gate to passengers travelling from Wuhan to Hong Kong.

Wuhan virus ‘super-spreaders’
One of China’s top health experts warns potential “super-spreaders” could worsen the impact of the new coronavirus strain, which can now be passed between humans.

Financial Services analysts from Jefferies said shares in Cathay and mainland Chinese carriers could remain under pressure for some time if the coronavirus situation became similar to the 2003 SARS outbreak and cases continued to increase. That coronavirus outbreak killed nearly 800 people.

Britain’s Heathrow Airport would introduce separate areas for passengers travelling from regions that had been affected by the new flu-like coronavirus in China, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Wednesday.

“That is something which we are keeping a very close eye on,” Mr Shapps told Sky News.

“There’s been some announcements this morning about flights that come direct from the infected region to Heathrow with some additional measures there. This is to ensure that when flights come in directly to Heathrow there is a separate area for people to arrive in.”



It is over for now but this is why the hail happened

Adelaide 5000

From extreme heat to severe storms, Australia has been through the weather wringer in recent weeks.

In the past few days it has been hail; the same weather pattern triggering storms in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and the Gold Coast, according to Dr Joshua Soderholm, research scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

He said the broad surface trough and strong upper-level low system that moved through eastern Australia was a “quite remarkable, multi-day event” (which is meteorologist for lots of exclamation points).


Large hailstones lay on the lawn of Parliament House following Monday’s violent storm. (ABC News: David Foote)

What was the set-up?

Synoptically (that means on a national scale), Dr Soderholm said it was a fairly unusual set-up.

The trough and low reached all the way from Victoria to Queensland and moved slowly across eastern Australia from Friday through until Tuesday.

The upper-level low brought instability to the atmosphere, cooling the mid and upper-level air temperatures.

“Then the surface trough was drawing in moisture from the Coral Sea right down into Victoria,” he said.

This hot moist air, combined with the instability aloft, made the perfect conditions for thunderstorms and hail.

External Link:

What is a severe thunderstorm?

Dr Soderholm said the trough that moved through Canberra was particularly vigorous.

“Even early in the morning we had rain and some weak thunderstorms through the Wagga Wagga, Gundagai region.”

There were multiple storm systems along the trough, and by the late morning some started to intensify.

“The Canberra cell in particular, it actually had developed along the trough line just west of Yass. This was only on the order of one hour before it impacted Canberra,” Dr Soderholm said.

“So, we saw initially a shower and then a weak thunderstorm, then it was rapidly intensifying into this severe thunderstorm which eventually impacted Canberra.”

The conditions were ripe for severe hailstorms and supercell thunderstorms — and they popped up all over the place.

“It was just unfortunate that one of them had to impact Canberra,” Dr Soderholm said.

What makes a storm super?

Hail is formed when tiny ice seeds are pulled through supercooled water by storm updrafts.
(Supplied: BOM)

A supercell thunderstorm is basically a thunderstorm on steroids.

Lots of cold air aloft creates instability in the atmosphere as well as strong winds.

This creates a special environment where storms can get more organised than they normally do, by generating a spinning updraft.

“This allows them to become more intense and persist for longer, which allows them in turn to generate larger hail,” Dr Soderholm said.

“Every hailstone starts as a little ice crystal; we call it an embryo.”

The embryo moves from the outer edges of the thunderstorm into the centre, where the strong updrafts and moisture being pulled from the surface allow it to grow.

“Supercells are special because they have very wide, strong and persistent updrafts, so you can imagine the hail growth conditions are ideal for hailstorms.

“This little ice crystal will grow from a few millimetres up to a few centimetres, five to six centimetres, in the order of 20 minutes or so within the supercell storm.”


This hailstone fell in Sydney on Monday. (Supplied: Laurie Wilson)

How much warning do we get?

Not long at all. Those hail embryos have a very short incubation.

“It’s only in the order of tens of minutes that we can go from a marginal storm to a very high-end storm which is producing giant hailstones,” Dr Soderholm said.

He said the BOM watched these thunderstorm cells and issued its warnings up to an hour ahead.

On days when storms are looking likely, there will be a watch out over a large area around 24 hours in advance.

“But if we have a thunderstorm which rapidly intensifies and starts producing giant hailstones only 20 minutes before it impacts the city, then that’s when you’ll get the cell-based warnings.”

External Link:

ABC reports of wild weather on January 19

In the case of the Canberra hail on Monday, Dr Soderholm said there were cell-based warnings out for several cells along that line in the hours before it approached the capital.

“That specific cell, they attached the ‘very dangerous’ tag to it approximately 20 minutes before it hit Canberra, and that was just as it really got going and started to produce those giant hailstones.”

Is this normal for Canberra?

South-east Queensland and northern New South Wales are Australia’s giant hail hot-spots, but southern areas do get pelted from time to time.

Dr Soderholm said south-east Queensland and northern NSW had one to two severe hailstorms per region every year; in Canberra it is more like once every five years (approximately).

External Link:

hail winter wonderland

But he did say that Monday’s storm in Canberra was significantly more than just a run-of-the-mill storm.

“It was producing giant hail, so we would call that significantly severe.”

It is difficult to say how often these significantly severe storms occur in any given region because they are so rare and records are relatively short.

But there may be more opportunities for observation in future as climate change is expected to make thunderstorms more common.

Dr Soderholm, however, said what it would do to hail was less certain.

“The general consensus is that the environments are going to become more unstable, so we’re going to be seeing more thunderstorms developing across, particularly, through south-eastern Australia,” he said.

“However, the link to hail is less certain because if you think about a warm atmosphere, hail is also going to be melting as well in a warm atmosphere to a greater extent than what it would now.”

External Link:

BOM forecast cold front and fire danger

What now?

Believe it or not, we are back to talking about fire weather. What a difference a few days makes.

The trough which brought all the rain and hail has finally moved off and a new front is making its way across the country.

The front is dragging down warm air from the interior and bringing blustery conditions as the front moves east, upping the fire danger.

The recent rain has at least helped to dampen things down a little, but the fires are far from out.

Meanwhile, Brisbane and much of the east coast is forecast to stew under muggy heatwave conditions for the rest of the week.

Beautiful one day, pummelled the following, and sweaty the next.


Keeping community sport alive is tough enough, let alone on an uneven playing field


After spending much of my working life traipsing around in the footsteps of high-profile athletes, I have re-engaged with the supposedly less-glamourous world of community sport.

As many who coach in the nets, serve at the canteen window or work the scoreboard when their kids start to play discover, this experience can be as fulfilling as another trip to cover Augusta or Wimbledon.

Having been tapped on the shoulder to join a few committees, I have also rapidly gained a greater respect for the volunteer administrators than I had as a young participant who was the mostly unwitting beneficiary of their hard work.

What strikes you most when you sit down at a local sports club committee meeting is that matters such as team selection and performance, which occupy the minds of the playing group, are relatively peripheral.

Far more time is spent negotiating the red tape that now envelopes every aspect of club life from player safety to the rental of venues and, topically, sourcing the funding required to prosper or even survive.

Such is the onus on business-related matters that committees once manned (the word is used advisably) by a clique of senior players now have a senior lawyer, top-flight accountant and someone skilled in sourcing and writing government grant applications at the table.

Video: Michaelia Cash defends embattled Nationals deputy leader

(ABC News)

The sports clubs in my area are fortunate because the inner-city neighbourhood has been gentrified and regenerated, bringing an influx of young families and, by extension, a large pool of fee-paying participants and skilled professionals.

But we are also just like many other clubs across the country attempting to exploit the explosion in entry-level and early-age junior sport by introducing youngsters to the hopefully life-long benefits of organised sport.

This creates another obvious challenge — funding the rejuvenation and expansion of once abandoned and neglected facilities to meet the explosion in female participation particularly.

Clubs elsewhere have a similar challenge providing grounds of sufficient quality and, equally as importantly, rooms that are both functional and help create the sense of community that is a major part of local sport’s appeal.

We all do our own fundraising but you can only hold so many sausage sizzles and auctions, and not everyone can rely on the whims of local benefactors; particularly those clubs in less well-heeled locations.

Video: 'There's a problem supporting this program,' Anne Twomey says

(ABC News)

Significantly, the need to cater for increases in junior participation while simultaneously trying to stem the drop-out rate among spoilt-for-choice older-aged teens and work and relationship-oriented 20-somethings comes at a time when the volunteer model has changed greatly.

There are still plenty of people willing to run a skills session or take their turn on one of a team’s rostered tasks. But, increasingly, providing the expertise needed to fully engage and train young players requires some form of remuneration.

Which, at length, bring us to the current scandal that has engulfed the Federal Government over what an auditor-general’s report claimed was the misappropriation of the $100-million Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program.

Local sports clubs are not naive about the pork-barrelling that can mean the difference between gaining a major grant for a clubhouse improvement and being lucky to get enough taxpayer funding to oil the hinges on a squeaky clubhouse door.

A swing of the electoral pendulum that makes your local electorate marginal and ticking the right boxes about female inclusion are among the factors that can give you a leg-up. My local clubs and many others have benefitted from the timing of our needs.

Video: The Lilli Pilli Football Club in the Prime Minister's electorate benefited from a grant for a clubhouse, which he opened in 2019.

(ABC News)

But if the process has always been skewed and many clubs are left aggrieved, there is usually at least a skerrick of procedural integrity in that the hard work of those who lobby for grants and meet the specific needs of targeted funding are met.

In the case of the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program, however, it appears a supposedly visible and all-inclusive process has been circumvented.

You can imagine the nation-wide flurry at club level when the program was announced. Volunteers making applications in the hope an old change room could be revamped or lights installed to increase the use of a training venue.

Yet many will have been left feeling like they bought a raffle ticket but their stub was never placed in the hat. Thus another thankless task in an already difficult job was performed without reward, nor even due respect.

Inevitably, the spotlight has fallen on clubs in well-to-do neighbourhoods that received funding. The Mosman Rowing Club in Sydney’s north was the first exemplar and The Guardian reports that an “up-market” tennis club in Perth and a golf club in the Adelaide Hills were among the beneficiaries

This will be salt in the wounds of less salubrious clubs that missed out, although it should be noted that no grant makes a real difference unless the recipient adopts the practices and principles required to meet its objective — in this case, improved participation and retention rates.

Most pertinently, the alleged misappropriation of grants is an insult to those volunteers who wasted their time preparing applications in good faith.

Running a community sports club is hard enough work without being set fools’ errands by those who are supposed to be easing the load.


It’s a boring expense, but in the wake of the fires we all need to think about it


It’s the one thing you pay for that you never want to use.

But with thousands of homes burnt down or damaged in this season’s unprecedented bushfires, it’s a reminder that a nightmare can become a reality.

For some, it’s returning home to smouldering stumps and realising you’d let the insurance lapse.

For others, it’s counting the cost of overnight flash flooding and hail.

But even if you’re not in a disaster zone — if a truck ran through your house, if an electric blanket caused a house fire — would you be covered?

Most households simply don’t have enough insurance

It may not be a surprise to discover that 1.8 million households don’t have any home insurance at all, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Often, that’s because people simply can’t afford to pay the premiums.

But even for those households that do have insurance, a whopping 80 per cent of us don’t have the right cover, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

It’s often not until a disaster hits that people realise what sort of cover they’re missing.

After the bushfires in Canberra almost 20 years ago, it was found between 27-87 per cent of properties were underinsured.

And research published by the Victorian Government in 2017 estimated more than half of all Victorian households didn’t have enough insurance to recover from disaster.

Some people deliberately underestimate the rebuild costs

“They do that to lower their insurance premiums,” said the council’s Lisa Kable.


The remains of a family home after bushfires swept through the Blue Mountains in 2013. (ABC News: Alison Branley)

But for most, it’s by accident — because they don’t understand the true value of their home and all the contents.

That was the case for Susan Templeman, whose family home burnt down in the 2013 Blue Mountains fires.

She’s now a Labor MP in federal politics, but at the time she’d just lost an election and was working as a communications specialist.

“So you had this mass community experience in my street. About 16 houses burnt down,” she said.

“And the first thing I know went through our minds was, ‘Oh, I hope I paid the insurance’.”

Thankfully, they had. And an insurance assessor came out quickly, but it wasn’t good news.

“They sort of shook their head and said, ‘We’ll pay you out. But you’re underinsured’,” she recalled.

Their highly combustible wooden kit home had been built in the early ’90s and was insured to the value of $400,000.

But they quickly realised it would cost at least $600,000 to rebuild something to a similar standard meeting the latest fire standards.

Many older-style homes are less fire-proof, as they aren’t built to modern building standards.

“It was an absolute shock to find out that we didn’t have sufficient insurance to rebuild the house we’d lost,” she said.

With so many families in a similar situation, rentals were hard to find — as were builders.

Susan and her family took 12 months to decide what they would do and eventually decided to pay extra to build a bigger, better home on the block.

It then took another year to get council approval and they eventually moved into their new home about two years ago.

But many others in the area who were underinsured couldn’t afford to rebuild.

“I have a block either side of me that is still vacant,” she said.

“And the homeowners, one is still deciding what to do whether one day they can rebuild on it, the other has decided to sell that land.”

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So how do I work out how much insurance is enough?

Well to start off with, it’s important to understand what sort of insurance you’ll need.

If you own and live in the property, you’ll need to be covered by building and contents insurance. That covers the rebuild of the actual building and your possessions inside the house.

If you’re a renter, you will need your own insurance to cover your contents, as the landlord’s building insurance will not cover your belongings.


Many homes were flooded in Townsville early last year. (Supplied: Reece Booij)

Then you’ll have to decide whether to get total replacement cover (which can mean more expensive premiums but will cover the cost to rebuild your home to the standard it previously was) or sum-insured cover (this is more common and will cover you to a certain amount selected by you to rebuild your home).

The Insurance Council suggests doing a room-by-room inventory of goods and then use an insurance calculator to help you better estimate how much insurance you might need.

Just remember, when estimating what your house will cost to rebuild, many make the mistake of estimating based on their home’s market value.

Building is often more expensive and can include things like rubble removal, tip fees, council and architectural costs.

You may also want to check with an independent financial adviser or even get some quotes from builders to help get the most accurate estimation.

And if you’re struggling to pay your insurance premiums, you may want to check out the options for low-income earners through not-for-profit Good Shepherd Microfinance.

But be careful

It’s important to check the fine print on your policy and find out about any exclusions.

Kitty Lam, the owner of Kitty’s Nail Salon in Townsville, had no idea her business wasn’t covered for floods until the shop was already under 700 millimetres of water.

The store was in one of several Townsville suburbs which flooded last February during record rains, which led to the opening of the Ross River Dam.

“You’re not covered,” her insurance company told her over the phone.


Kitty Lam, owner of Kitty’s Nail Salon in Townsville, works with her daughter and niece. (ABC News: Dwayne Wyles)

“I was shaking,” Kitty said.

“I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t say anything.”

While all policies generally include storm cover, not all include flood.

“I thought I was insured. I paid the insurance. I’ve been in business for more than eight years now and this is my first claim and I never thought I wasn’t covered,” Kitty said.

Many of Kitty’s neighbouring businesses were also underinsured — some hadn’t realised they only had cover for storm damage.

“Not a lot of people read their policy carefully until they get to that point,” she said.

“All the managers and owners, we all [had] a meeting and looked at our policy, going, ‘Look, this is what happened, this is what we’ve done wrong — we didn’t read our policy right!'”

The small business is the sole income for her family, with both her husband and daughter working there.

“Everything pretty much had to be replaced,” Kitty explained.

“Walls stripped out, all the equipment, bar, tables, chairs all had to remove.”


After the floods, it took Kitty two months to get back up and running and cost about $80,000. (ABC News: Dwayne Wyles)

It took two months to get back up and running and cost about $80,000.

They received a $50,000 grant from the Queensland Government for the clean-up and rebuild, but they had to pay the costs upfront before they received reimbursement.

With no cashflow, they had to borrow the money from family.

They still owe the remaining $30,000.

“I have five kids and a mortgage to pay, bills to pay,” Kitty said.

“I really struggled to pay a lot of stuff and to feed my kids.”

Her advice to others? Read your policy carefully.

This article contains general information only. It should not be relied on as finance advice.

You should obtain specific, independent professional advice from a registered financial planner in relation to your particular circumstances and issues.

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After getting banned again, Rabada pledges to learn from his mistakes … again

South Africa

South Africa paceman Kagiso Rabada will be left to rue letting his teammates down once again as they try to tie the Test series against England without him.

Key points:

  • Kagiso Rabada ran down the pitch and screamed in Joe Root’s space after getting him out
  • It saw him earn his fourth demerit in 24 months from the ICC, meaning he has been banned for a Test
  • South Africa trails England 2-1 in the series with the last Test starting in Johannesburg on Friday

The seamer was surprised to be sanctioned for his exuberant celebration of Joe Root’s dismissal in the third Test against England but said he needs to be smarter.

After bowling out Root, he ran down the pitch, went down on his haunches, clenched his fists and roared into the ground right under the nose of the England captain.

The umpires reported him to the match referee at the end of play and he was fined 15 per cent of his match fee and, crucially, handed one demerit point after being found guilty of breaching the ICC’s code of conduct.

External Link:

Kagiso Rabada screams right next to Joe Root

It was his fourth demerit point in a 24-month period and Rabada was handed a one-match ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC), ruling him out of the last match of the four-Test series, where South Africa will try to level the series after a heavy defeat in the third Test at Port Elizabeth left them trailing 2-1.

Rabada’s rocky record

  • Feb 2017: Making inappropriate contact with Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella in an ODI. Both fined 50% of their match fee and copped three demerits.
  • July 2017: Received a demerit point and was fined 15% of his match fee for giving England’s Ben Stokes a send-off, including an audible obscenity. He was banned for a Test for too many demerits.
  • Feb 2018: Received a demerit and a 15% fine for giving India’s Shikhar Dhawan a send-off.
  • March 2018: Initially received three demerits and a two-Test ban for bumping Steve Smith after a wicket. It was reduced to one demerit on appeal.
  • March 2018: Received another demerit for giving David Warner a send-off in the same Test.
  • Jan 2020: Received his fourth demerit point in 24 months for an overzealous celebration of England’s Joe Root’s wicket. Banned for a Test.

“It was something I didn’t expect,” Rabada said.

“Whether it was the right thing to ban me or the wrong thing, the reality is that I’m banned.

“It cannot keep happening because I’m letting the team down and I’m letting myself down. That’s why it hurts so much, but it gives me a chance to work on my game and a chance to have a bit of a rest.”

Rabada, fourth in the ICC’s rankings of Test bowlers, was described by former England captain Mike Atherton as “a slow learner because he’s done it before”.

After bumping shoulders with Steve Smith in 2018, which earned him a demerit and in part led to his current ban, Rabada said similar things, admitting “it’s going to have to stop”.

“I have to see it as a big learning curve and not repeat the same mistake. I am not happy about it but time moves on,” he said during Australia’s ill-fated 2018 tour of South Africa.

“There are a lot of grey areas but rules are rules.”


Rabada’s latest quotes echo his comments after his sanction for this incident in early 2018. (Reuters: Mike Hutchings)

He is backing his team to level the series without him, but little has gone right for the side, with the ban just one of several setbacks.

Keshav Maharaj did his bit to raise spirits on the last day at St George’s Park, hammering Root for 28 runs off one over to tie the Test record held by George Bailey and Brian Lara.

But all that did was delay the inevitable, which ultimately turned out to be a loss by an innings and 53 runs.

“We haven’t done ourselves any favours, it feels as if we are always chasing,” Rabada said.

“We’ve played long enough to know how to get out of a slump but it’s difficult. There is more pressure, we just have to realise our strengths and trust our ability and play the way we know how.”



Prince Harry touches down in Canada to join Meghan and Archie after weeks of Royal split talks

United Kingdom

The Duke of Sussex has arrived in Canada to begin a new life with his wife Meghan and son Archie after sparking a crisis in the Royal family by unexpectedly announcing that they would be stepping back from their duties.

Key points:

  • Prince Harry’s arrival in Canada comes after it was revealed he and Meghan would no longer be working Royals this month
  • Meghan returned to the country earlier in January to be with the couple’s son
  • In their announcement, the pair said they would split their time between North America and the UK

Prince Harry was shown arriving on Vancouver Island by Sky News, accompanied by security guards as he entered a car that had been waiting for him on the tarmac.

Before leaving London, the Prince admitted he was taking a “leap of faith” in an attempt to build a more peaceful life, free from Royal constraints.

His arrival in Canada came days after striking a deal with Queen Elizabeth II and senior Royals that will see him and his wife Meghan exit official roles to seek an independent future.

Buckingham Palace and the Queen said on Saturday that Prince Harry and Meghan would no longer be working members of the monarchy.

They can also no longer use their “Royal Highness” titles and now have to pay their own way in life, freeing them to forge new careers in Canada and the US.

Prince Harry and Meghan have struck a deal with the Queen. Here’s how it works
Buckingham Palace says Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, will no longer use the titles “royal highness” or receive public funds under a deal struck for them to step aside as senior Royals.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as they are formally known, spent six weeks in Canada at the end of last year before returning to the UK.

Their first official engagement of 2020 was to visit Canada House to thank consular staff for what they said had been an “unbelievable” welcome.

Meghan returned to Canada to be with her son Archie on January 10.

Prince Harry had remained in the UK to host the 2021 Rugby League World Cup draws at Buckingham Palace last week.

In a speech to the Sentebale charity on Sunday, a clearly upset Prince Harry said the final outcome of the Royal crisis talks pained him.

“I want you to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry, the same person that many of you have watched grow up over the last 35 years, but with a clearer perspective,” he said.

Video: Prince Harry delivers speech saying he and Meghan were left with no other option

(ABC News)

“The UK is my home and a place that I love. That will never change. It brings me great sadness that it has come to this. The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly.

“It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges.

“And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”



Victoria on watch for fresh fires amid hot and windy conditions

Melbourne 3000

Victoria’s emergency services are on alert for fresh fires amid hot and windy conditions in areas across the state.

Key points:

  • Total fire bans have been declared in the central and western districts
  • Authorities are particularly concerned about new fires starting
  • A cold front approaching the state from the west is expected to bring some relief

A total fire ban has been declared for all six of the central and western fire districts, with the fire danger rating reaching “severe” in five regions and “extreme” in the Mallee.

Temperatures were expected to reach the mid-30s on the northern plains, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) warning of wind speeds up to 70kph and gusts up to 90kph.

A strong cold front approaching Victoria from the west should bring relief. BOM said it should reach areas in the south-west this afternoon before crossing east by Thursday morning.

A severe weather warning for damaging winds is currently in place for areas including Mildura, Horsham, Warrnambool, Seymour, Maryborough, Ballarat, Geelong and Melbourne.

Grass fires the main concern

At a briefing yesterday, Country Fire Authority chief officer Steve Warrington said authorities were monitoring fires in the Mallee region and areas west of Melbourne.


Country Fire Authority chief officer Steve Warrington is on watch for dangerous weather conditions. (Supplied: Emergency Victoria)

“In that area around Ballarat as you go into Melbourne, where we have a very dry grass, the strong winds, the high temperatures and certainly thunderstorms ahead of the change as well, new [fire] starts are a concern for us tomorrow,” he said at the briefing.

“We believe that we will struggle to extinguish a running grassfire at the height of those winds and that’s why we’ve put a total fire ban in to try and stop those starts occurring in the first place.

“But if they do, we’ll do everything we can to make sure we get on top of them as quick as we can.”

A grassfire that triggered an emergency warning at Pastoria, east of Kyneton, on Sunday night was an example of the kind of threat authorities were concerned about, he said.

“At the moment we’re noticing fire behaviours that are quite extreme,” he said.

‘Merry-go-round’ of weather

BOM senior meteorologist Kevin Parkyn said it had been a “merry-go-round” of weather over the past few days going from fires to storms, floods and giant hail.

Mr Parkyn said that on the back of that eventful 48 hours of weather, Victoria was bracing for a return to an elevated fire danger across the western and central districts due to hot, dry, northerly winds preceding the wind change.

Mr Warrington said following recent rains the fires in the Gippsland and north-east areas were largely contained.

“There are certainly active fires within those fires and we’ve got good breaks around those and we’ll continue to build those breaks in and around there,” he said.

He said the authorities were concerned the Pastoria fire could jump containment lines, but existing fires were not the main concern.

“New starts in unprepared communities are the biggest risk,” he said.

“If communities are not prepared for a fire, whether they live or die, whether their property is saved or not saved is very much dependent upon the decisions people make right now.”


Kyrgios victorious, Popyrin advances as childhood hero Tsonga retires hurt at Aus Open

Melbourne 3000

Nick Kyrgios has encountered little trouble in reaching the second round of the Australian Open, with a clinical straight-sets defeat of Lorenzo Sonego on Melbourne Arena.

Key points:

  • Nick Kyrgios did not face a break point in defeating Lorenzo Sonego in three sets, while he fired down 14 aces
  • Kyrgios could meet world number one Rafael Nadal in the round of 16
  • Alexei Popyrin lost the opening set in a tiebreak, but dropped just three games to win the next two

Kyrgios defeated Italy’s Sonego 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/1) in two hours and 13 minutes to move a step toward what would be a blockbuster clash against Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.

The Australian last met Nadal in last year’s thrilling Wimbledon second-round match, which the Spaniard won in four tight sets.

But Kyrgios may still need to get past 16th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov before he can entertain a clash with the world number one.

Earlier on Melbourne Arena, Kyrgios’s compatriot Alexei Popyrin enjoyed safe passage through to the second round after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to retire because of injury.

Although Kyrgios produced a number of unforced errors (28) against Sonego, it was a measured performance from the 23rd seed.

His serve was dominant when it needed to be — he did not give up a single break point — and he fired 14 aces to provide a healthy contribution to the bushfire relief efforts he announced earlier this month.

Day two results (men’s draw)

  • Rafael Nadal (ESP, 1) def. Hugo Dellien (BOL) 6-2, 6-3, 6-0
  • Daniil Medvedev (RUS, 4) def. Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
  • Dominic Thiem (AUT, 5) def. Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3, 7-5, 6-2
  • Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP, 9) def. Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-2, 6-2, 7-5
  • Gael Monfils (FRA, 10) def. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
  • Fabio Fognini (ITA, 12) def. Reilly Opelka (US) 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (10/5)
  • Diego Schwartzman (ARG, 14) def. Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
  • Stan Wawrinka (SUI, 15) def. Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4
  • Karen Khachanov (RUS, 16) def. Mario Vilella Martinez (ESP) 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3
  • Andrey Rublev (RUS, 19) def. Chris O’Connell (AUS) 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)
  • Ernests Gulbis (LAT) def. Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN, 20) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4

“I was excited to get out here,” Kyrgios said in a courtside interview.

“Obviously it’s been a pretty emotional couple of months for all of us, so I wanted to come out here and put on a good performance. I was really excited.”

The first set saw Kyrgios dig into his bag of tricks, with neat drop shots, sliding forehands and blistering backhand service returns prominent among the highlights.

He was not afraid to approach the net when he had Sonego pinned behind the baseline and at times he force the Italian to chase after the ball, as he looked to play the corners.

The turning point came when Kyrgios secured a double break to leap out to a 5-2 lead and despite being 0-30 down in the following game, he eventually served his way out of trouble to seize the opening set.

There were no histrionics from Kyrgios to speak off early on, nor any berating of his entourage sitting in the stands, while he showed admirable sportsmanship when he clapped clean winners from his opponent.

The emotional side of Kyrgios’s on-court demeanour began to show in the second set, although he was never in danger of violating the probation conditions handed down by the ATP in the wake of his behaviour at the Cincinnati Masters last August.


Kyrgios stayed composed for most of the first-round match on Melbourne Arena. (AP: Andy Wong)

His muted outbursts did not upset his rhythm during his service games and this was illustrated when he barrelled down three consecutive aces to force a second-set tiebreaker, which he won 7-3.

The third set also came down to a tiebreaker, but Kyrgios dictated terms early to close out the match with minimal fuss.

‘That is a painful one’


Alexei Popyrin was only eight years old when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reached the 2008 Australian Open final. (AP: Andy Wong)

The 20-year-old Popyrin was leading 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-1 when Tsonga called for the doctor to treat a back injury, before the 2008 finalist made the decision not to continue in the first-round match.

Day two results (women’s draw)

  • Karolina Pliskova (CZE, 2) def. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-1, 7-5
  • Simona Halep (ROU, 4) def. Jen Brady (USA) 7-6 (7/5), 6-1
  • Elina Svitolina (UKR, 5) def. Katie Boulter 6-4, 7-5
  • Belinda Bencic (SUI, 6) def. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3, 7-5
  • Kiki Bertens (NED, 9) def. Irina Camelia Begu (ROU) 6-1, 6-4
  • Madison Keys (US, 10) def. Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3, 6-1
  • Ons Jabeur (TUN) def. Johanna Konta (GBR, 12) 6-4, 6-2
  • Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) def. Marketa Vondrousova (CZE, 15) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
  • Alison Riske (US, 18) def. Yafan Wang (CHN) 7-6 (7/5), 2-6, 6-3
  • Donna Vekic (CRO, 19) def. Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-3, 6-4
  • Karolina Muchova (CZE, 20) def. Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (10/7)

“That is a painful one,” Popyrin said.

“I never felt like this after a match. He was my hero as a kid. When he made the final here I was in my living room jumping around like a crazy kid.

“Seeing him retire in this match is just painful.”

The 96th-ranked Popyrin played confidently against Tsonga in the first set despite going down to the 28th seed in a tiebreak.

He struck back to win the next two convincingly, although it was clear Tsonga was in distress prior to requesting medical assistance.

Popyrin’s booming serve was finding it mark, with 12 aces for the match, while he tallied 34 winners off his racquet against Tsonga’s 31.

The win gives Popyrin a strong chance of matching his run last year to the third round, which included a win over French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

He will meet either French wildcard Hugo Gaston or Spain’s Jaume Munar in the second round, but a potential clash with fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev awaits in the third round.


Alexei Popyrin was leading two sets to one when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to retire. (AP: Andy Wong)

Popyrin’s win followed victories to fellow Australians in the men’s draw, John Millman, Jordan Thompson and Marc Polmans.

Australian wildcard Alex Bolt, who made the third round last year alongside Popyrin, came from two sets to one down to win in five against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 7-6 (7-1), 1-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4.

Ajla Tomljanovic’s upset win over Latvian 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova earlier on Tuesday saw her join world number one Ash Barty in the second round of the women’s draw.


‘No respect’: Police charge teens after video reveals bus robbery

Townsville 4810

Police have condemned the actions of a group of young people caught on camera accosting a bus driver and robbing passengers in north Queensland.

Key points:

  • Two teenage boys charged after bus driver assaulted and passenger robbed
  • One also charged over convenience store robbery
  • Police still seeking up to eight other suspects

Two boys aged 13 and 14 have been charged with robbery after police were handed CCTV vision of the incident, which occurred in Townsville last Wednesday.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Miles said it was a prolonged and brazen incident.

“We had a number of young people — about 10 males and females — who have accosted a bus driver and also a number of members of public on the bus,” he said.

He said police will allege money, headphones and other personal items were stolen from people on the bus.

The bus was also graffitied.

Detective Senior Sergeant Miles said the teenagers also tried to assault a female passenger.

He said the CCTV shows the woman fending off one boy as he tried to take her handbag when she boarded the bus.

“It’s clear from the footage that they have no respect for property or any of the persons involved,” he said.

“Quite frankly, they think it’s a joke.”

Detective Senior Sergeant Miles said no-one was seriously injured in the incident.

“We are positive that we’ve been able to identify who those eight young people are, and will be attempting to have them placed either before the courts or have them dealt with under youth justice provisions in the near future.”

Two boys will appear in Townsville Children’s Court on Wednesday over the bus incident, and one of them also faces charges for a convenience store robbery that occurred afterwards.

“Two young people have walked into the store and observed the attendant to be at the rear of the store,” Detective Senior Sergeant Miles said.

“[The attendant was] shoulder charged and then physically assaulted by the young people before they made off with a small amount of goods.”


Man abused by Christian Brothers deserves lower payout due to poor upbringing, lawyer says

Perth 6000

In an open letter, delivered on the eve of a WA trial, the Christian Brothers have admitted several brothers sexually abused child migrant John Thomas Lawrence for years from the age of nine in two Perth boys’ homes.

Key points:

  • Mr Lawrence says he was sexually abused by four people while in two orphanages
  • The abusers included three Christian Brothers and a lay teacher
  • Mr Lawrence says he was left suicidal and is seeking compensation

WARNING: This story contains material that some readers may find upsetting

But a lawyer for the organisation has argued he deserves a lower compensation payout than what his lawyers have sought because his poor upbringing meant he had a low earning capacity, regardless of the abuse.

The case is the first of its kind to go to trial since Western Australia removed a time limit restricting when child sexual abuse cases could be brought.

A similar case brought by a terminally ill man, Paul Bradshaw, was settled for $1 million before proceeding to trial in 2018.


Paul Bradshaw received a $1 million settlement after he was abused by the Christian Brothers. (ABC News: David Weber)

Mr Lawrence’s trial was due to begin today, but his barrister, Tim Hammond, revealed the Christian Brothers had admitted “many facts” about the abuse at the Clontarf and Castledare orphanages in an open letter delivered on Monday night.

The facts Mr Hammond detailed included an incident at Castledare Boys’ Home, which began when Mr Lawrence wet the bed.

Mr Hammond told the Perth District Court Mr Lawrence was nine at the time and his abuser, now deceased brother Lawrence Murphy, was in his mid-30s.


The Castledare Boys’ Home was run by the Christian Brothers in Perth. (Wikimedia: Moondyne)

The court heard after Mr Lawrence wet the bed, Brother Murphy ordered him to take off his clothes.

Mr Hammond said Brother Murphy then raped him as Mr Lawrence cried and screamed.

It was the first of six rapes Brother Murphy perpetrated against Mr Lawrence.

Molestation by multiple people

But Mr Hammond said the abuse was not contained to one offender.

He said another brother, Francis Marques, who is also dead, molested Mr Lawrence while they watched movies.

In another case of abuse, a third now-deceased brother, Alonzo Angus, fondled his genitals.

In a fourth case, a lay teacher, Joey Jackson, who has also since died, made Mr Lawrence wear lipstick and a dress while he abused him.


Many instances of abuse against Mr Lawrence have been admitted to by the Christian Brothers. (ABC News)

Mr Hammond said Mr Lawrence, who is now 75, had attempted suicide many times throughout his life and struggled to hold down a job.

Losses estimated in the hundreds of thousands

Mr Lawrence’s legal team estimated lost earnings to be worth between $715,000 and $850,000, with an estimated $48,000–$58,000 submitted regarding lost superannuation.

Bettina Mangan, the barrister representing the Christian Brothers, has indicated she would argue for a lower amount.

Ms Mangan told the court Mr Lawrence would have had lower wage-earning capacity because of his poor upbringing, regardless of whether he was abused.

“It seems illogical and unfair,” she conceded under questioning from Judge Mark Herron.

“Brutal,” he responded.

“The court can’t escape from the fact he didn’t come from well-off, middle-class [parents],” Ms Mangan said.

A sum of $111,000 already paid to Mr Lawrence by the Christian Brothers for his abuse would be deducted from any compensation payment determined by the court.

The trial continues.


Wild storms rumble across South East Queensland

Brisbane 4000

Severe thunderstorms have moved across parts of South East Queensland, bringing down powerlines and trees.

Energex said more than 18,000 customers were left without electricity across the region and crews were restoring supply.

The storms hit parts of Brisbane, the Scenic Rim, Moreton Bay, Logan, the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast this afternoon.

Earlier warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) have been cancelled.

Video: Hail at a home at Beaudesert during afternoon storms.

(ABC News)

There were wind gusts of 96 kilometres per hour at Nambour on the Sunshine Coast.

Small hail fell at Beaudesert south-west of Brisbane.


Peregian Beach was plunged into darkness as the storm approached. (Supplied: TJ Jarrett)

The storms swept in from the west on Tuesday afternoon.

On the Darling Downs, authorities were called to a home at William Street in Clifton, south of Toowoomba, after the roof was ripped off during a storm.

Live wires trapped a man and two children inside the house, but they were not injured.

Video: A storm rips the roof from a home at Clifton on the Darling Downs.

(ABC News)

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) said the State Emergency Service (SES) crews were on their way to install a tarp over the roof.


The storm cell dumped hail on gardens and backyards in Beaudesert. (Supplied: Emma Davis)

BOM forecaster Lauren Pattie said the storms had been fuelled by hot unstable air that had made it feel “very tropical outside, quite sticky as well“.

“We got to a top of 30.9 degrees [Celsius] around the [Brisbane] city,” she said.

“The dew points are really high — that’s the amount of moisture in the air — so you walk out in the air and it feels really heavy.

“A dew point above 20 is considered very sticky and at the moment we’re sticking around 24.9 and it’s been like that all day.”


Beaudesert, west of the Gold Coast, was hard hit by hail during the storm. (Credit: Linda Mahaffy)

Ms Pattie said the same weather system brought rain to other parts of the Queensland coast.

“We have had some moderate falls around the tropical coast thanks to a surface trough, which is sitting around Cairns and is not really shifting at all,” she said.

“By the time we get to Friday, there’s a lot of tropical moisture that comes to north-west Queensland.”


There was enough hail at Beaudesert to fill a bucket. (Supplied: Emma Davis)

Are you Weather Obsessed?
If you’re reading this article, it’s possible the answer is yes. Then why not join the ABC-facilitated Weather Obsessed group on Facebook — thousands of others are already going troppo for the troposphere!

QFES advises that people should:

  • Move your car under cover or away from trees.
  • Secure loose outdoor items.
  • Never drive, walk or ride through floodwaters. If it’s flooded, forget it.
  • Seek shelter, preferably indoors and never under trees.
  • Avoid using the telephone during a thunderstorm.
  • Beware of fallen trees and powerlines.

For emergency assistance contact the SES on 132 500.


The storms rolled in across Surfers Paradise as beach-goers quickly sought shelter. (ABC News: Solua Middleton)


Storm clouds over the Brisbane CBD on Tuesday afternoon. (ABC News: Kerrin Binnie)


The storm approaches Cooroy Mountain on the Sunshine Coast, near Noosa. (ABC News: Arlie Felton-Taylor)


Two inconvenient truths are being overlooked in our climate change debate


There are two inconvenient truths being largely overlooked as our nation discusses the link between climate change and natural disasters.

The first is that regional Australians will wear the bulk of the destruction and suffering linked to our changing climate.

The second, and perhaps more painful truth to realise as the impact of climate change worsens, is that metropolitan Australia’s perpetual neglect of our regions is eroding the security we once enjoyed as a resilient and prosperous nation.

Over the past year in my role living and travelling in regional Australia I have witnessed first-hand the suffering of individuals and communities grappling with unprecedented bushfires, catastrophic flooding, broken temperature records, compounding drought and the ongoing collapse of our continent’s largest river system.

Bushfires: before and after
This bushfire season was always predicted to be ferocious, but with months of hot weather to go, it has already left a scar on the nation.

It is clear to me that the greatest challenges facing Australia this coming decade will need to be fought and won here in regional Australia. Climate change. Drought. Bushfires and land management. Community resilience in the face of natural disaster. Water security, food security and biosecurity. Habitat depletion and species extinctions. Renewable energy generation. Our defence capabilities, border security and the inevitable emergence of climate refugees.

Like it or not, Australia’s rise or fall over coming years will be played out in the regions, by the regions. The main problem is this: Regional Australia lacks both the quantum and dispersion of infrastructure, resources and specialised workforces required to meet these challenges, and metropolitan Australia appears comfortable with this vulnerability. The politely passive attitude of our city cousins towards our regions, combined with regional Australians’ frustrating propensity to be the ultimate “Quiet Australians”, is our recipe for self-harm.

We accept an inferior spot on the ladder

As regional Australians we generate our fair share of national prosperity, yet we seem to expect very little from our country in return. With an attitude of resigned indifference, regional Australians appear to simply accept an inferior position on our nation’s economic, cultural and social ladder.

Since Federation we’ve allowed our geography to validate our inequity, but this horse-and-buggy-era mentality sustains a perceived irrelevance of the regions that is dangerously incompatible with the climate war now on our doorstep.

If properly armed, regional Australia is fully capable of meeting our sovereign climate challenges, but only following a major mindset shift from both city and country dwellers alike. Regional Australia is as remarkable as it is underestimated; we are a vibrant multicultural success story, a showcase of commercial diversity, a driver of innovation, and an unrelenting economic powerhouse fuelling our nation’s coffers.


Despite 50mm of rain over four days, the ground is still cracked and parched at this Scenic Rim property. (ABC News: George Roberts)

So why is it that as regional Australians we accept — indeed expect — poorer health outcomes, lower life expectancies, inferior roads and infrastructure, reduced services, slower internet, public transport rations, fewer opportunities and, as we in the education sector are acutely aware, much lower levels of education attainment?

How did we all decide to quietly indulge the metropolitan prejudices that infect our centralised bureaucracies, our parliaments, and our media, manifesting as mediocre dividends for our regional communities?

And why are we so accepting of the meagre rates of post-school training and education being undertaken by regional youth?

Yawning education gap

Of all the ways regional Australia is being held back in this fight, the “education attainment gap” is perhaps the most crippling of all, leaving the entire nation vulnerable and lacking the specialised workforces needed to meet the climate battle on the front line.

Consider Brisbane city, where higher education and training levels are at near saturation point; 73 per cent of school leavers go on to attend any one of the 10 local university campuses or countless training providers. Essentially, Brisbane’s workforce is awash with highly skilled graduates spoilt by education opportunities, benefitting the city immeasurably.


Brisbane’s workforce is awash with highly skilled graduates. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

Now consider Bundaberg, a large regional centre just a few hours’ drive north. Here, just 47 per cent of school leavers progress to university or undertake vocational training, and of the modest numbers of students who do progress to university, the majority leave home for city institutions, often never to return.

This gaping discrepancy between Brisbane and Bundaberg has nothing to do with the aptitude of city kids over country kids, and everything to do with opportunity. Or missed opportunity, to be more precise.

Imagine the national impact on our economy, let alone on our sovereign security and resilience, if Bundaberg and every other regional centre like it reached skilling saturation on par with our capital cities.

If we disappeared, the GDP would too

Ordinarily, this is where the predictable arguments of “economies of scale in service delivery” put regional Australia back into its box. But far from being the stereotypical dead weight of the nation, the regions have always paid their way — and often much more. Regional Australia, for instance, accounts for two-thirds of national export wealth and about a third of Australia’s gross domestic product.

If regional Australia vanished overnight, our national economy would shrink to the size it was around the turn of the millennium, and we would disappear from the list of the world’s largest economies.

Australia could fall apart under climate change
If effective global action on climate change were to fail, I fear the challenge would be beyond contemporary Australia, writes Ross Garnaut.

Here in Central Queensland, the median wage in the regional centres of Rockhampton, Mackay, Emerald and Gladstone exceed those of CBD Sydney and Melbourne.

In my hometown of Rockhampton, commuting to and from our workplaces robs just 2.5 per cent from our workday, which pales against the unmitigated productivity theft perpetrated by capital city congestion.

Compared to the capital cities we carry far less of the crippling national household debt load, given the affordability of our homes, therefore enabling us to be greater discretionary consumers.

And contrary to the perception of many, we’re not all farmers and miners. The largest industry in my town is health care and social assistance, and our single largest employer is a university.


Will a business-as-usual attitude towards regional Australia prevail after the bushfires? (Supplied: NSW Fire and Rescue Oberon)

Of course, different regions have different strengths, but collectively we’ve been pulling our weight, paying our taxes, lightening the national load, and shaping the economy this whole time. This makes the benign neglect we experience from our capital cities all the more baffling.

The need for a national, war-like pivot to arming the regions with the resources and workforces required to meet our looming climate challenges is patently obvious to me.

My hope is that out of the horror of the recent bushfires will emerge a national conversation on positioning Australia for the new climate “normal”. My fear, however, is that a business-as-usual attitude towards regional Australia will prevail.

Nick Klomp is vice-chancellor of CQUniversity.


‘We can go broke’: Businesses frustrated as fire-prevention technology is linked to blackouts

Apollo Bay 3233

While the eastern end of Victoria is dealing with extreme bushfires, regional businesses in the west are contending with blackouts that have been linked to a new powerline technology that is meant to prevent bushfires from starting.

Key points:

  • REFCL technology is being installed in some parts of Victoria to help prevent powerline faults from starting bushfires
  • Businesses in Apollo Bay have complained that the technology is causing blackouts in their town
  • The local bakery has bought a $70,000 generator to use when blackouts occur

The technology is called REFCL, or Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter.

Late last year 7.30 revealed the $700 million REFCL technology may not work to reduce the risk, and could even potentially start fires.

In the town of Apollo Bay on Victoria’s Surf Coast, REFCLs have been linked to a series of blackouts that have caused big problems for local businesses at the height of the tourist season.

“The population of Apollo Bay goes from 1,500 to 15,000, so it’s a very busy time for everybody,” Apollo Bay Bakery owner Sally Cannon told 7.30.

While Ms Cannon and other Apollo Bay traders agree bushfire safety must be the highest priority for the town, she is worried about the impact of power cuts on her business.

She has had to invest in a large generator that cost about $70,000 after a number of power cuts over the past several months that have cost her tens of thousands of dollars in lost business.

“We can’t trade, we basically have to close the door,” she said.

“We can’t open our fridges, the ovens go off, the coffee machine can’t work.”

With stock worth $30,000 in her cool room over the summer, she says she cannot afford another blackout.

But the same day 7.30 visited Apollo Bay, the power was cut off for three hours due to the operation of the REFCL system.

And it is not just Ms Cannon’s business that has had to bear the cost of REFCLs.

About 90 of the state’s biggest regional employers have been forced to upgrade their connections to the grid because there is a risk the REFCL technology could damage their electrical equipment.

The total cost is expected to reach about $20 million.

While the Victorian Government is contributing about half that amount, several big Victorian businesses have told 7.30 REFCLs have been a frustrating and expensive problem.

‘We can go broke’


Fisherman Nick Polgeest says power cuts have become a regular event. (ABC News: Scott Jewell)

When 7.30 visited the Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-op, fisherman Nick Polgeest was looking after about $200,000 worth of live lobsters, which were being prepared for export to China.

The lobsters must be kept in tanks of oxygenated water, at a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, for up to three weeks.

“It takes power — 240 volts — to run it, and it takes a heap of it,” Mr Polgeest said.

“If the power goes off for whatever reason we’re in deep strife, we can go broke.”

But he says over the past few months power cuts have become a regular event.

Mr Polgeest says he has been at the co-op most nights to re-set the electrical equipment that keeps the lobster tanks running.

The local electricity network Powercor has been operating REFCLs on high-voltage lines in the area since June last year.

“What I’m frightened of is that we are the guinea pigs at the moment, that the system hasn’t been proven,” Mr Polgeest said.

“That’s what everybody’s frightened of at the moment in Apollo Bay.”

Powercor has acknowledged it had to turn off the REFCL system temporarily in September last year because it is not compatible with existing backup systems meant to guarantee supply.

But Powercor insists the devices do work and are keeping communities safer.

It also says REFCLs do not cause power outages, but power may be cut after a REFCL device activates, as the network tries to find out the cause of the fault.

How much of a problem are powerlines in starting fires?


REFCLs act like a safety switch for powerlines. (ABC News: Cate Grant)

While authorities say electrical faults are not suspected of starting any of the larger blazes in Victoria this fire season, powerline faults spark hundreds of fires in the state each year.

A recent report from the Victorian electrical safety regulator found that over the 2018-19 financial year, there were 568 fires related to the electricity network, with 242 of those spreading across the ground.

Associate Professor Kevin Tolhurst from the University of Melbourne told 7.30 powerline faults were responsible for the deadliest fires in Australia’s history because they tended to happen near where people lived.

“They’re a very significant threat because they really only cause a significant problem when it’s very windy, it’s very hot,” he said.

“Fires that start from powerlines are generally very difficult to stop, but they’re also occurring in populated areas.”

One hundred and seventy three people died on Black Saturday in 2009, the vast majority of them in fires started by powerlines.

What are REFCLs and how does it work?


REFCLs are being installed around Victoria. (ABC News)

REFCLs function like a safety switch, rapidly detecting a powerline fault and reducing the power flowing through the faulty line.

There is no suggestion that the REFCL devices are in any way defective.

REFCL devices can only function on certain types of powerlines and are only designed to prevent fires starting when powerlines hit a tree branch or the ground — just two of the ways that powerlines can start a fire.

Electrical engineer David Sweeting, who gave expert evidence at the royal commission into the 2009 Black Saturday fires, argues REFCLs will not work because they cannot stop the first droplets of molten metal caused by a powerline fault.

“I don’t think REFCL will reduce the number of electrically ignited fires by any significant amount,” Dr Sweeting told 7.30.

He says fires start from just one droplet of molten copper or burning aluminium, and while REFCLs can reduce the number of droplets, fires will start regardless.

Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) says this fire season REFCLs have “activated more than 15 times in circumstances where a line fault has occurred and not cleared within a few seconds”.

In a statement, the DELWP said “at least six of these REFCLs activations, and probably more, likely prevented potentially catastrophic bushfires”.

Watch this story tonight on 7.30.


AMP slammed for milking fees from customer compensation


Former AMP customers and consumer rights groups have been outraged by the troubled wealth manager’s latest tactic to delay returning money it stole in the fees-for-no-service scandal.

Key points:

  • AMP wrote to former clients informing them their refunded fees had been placed in new AMP superannuation accounts
  • Super Consumers Australia says the AMP Eligible Rollover Fund has underperformed comparable funds
  • The fund does not charge entry and exit fees but does have administration and investment fees

The banking royal commission found charging fees for no service was “taking money for nothing” and AMP is now putting that money into new accounts and charging new fees.

AMP has been forced to refund hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and charges it took from clients following scandalous revelations at the royal commission.

Late last year, AMP started to contact former clients to alert them AMP owed them the money it took in fees while providing no service.

However, instead of asking customers where they would like the money sent, AMP opened a new super account in their name.

“As your account with us is closed and we can’t pay super benefits directly to you, we’ve paid this amount into a new AMP Eligible Rollover Fund [ERF] account that was opened in your name,” it told them.

AMP move slammed as ‘simply unbelievable’

The strategy of opening new accounts has shocked regulatory and corporate governance academic Andy Schmulow, who lectures at the University of Wollongong and is currently an adviser to the World Bank on market conduct rules.

“It is simply unbelievable that after the horror show of the royal commission, AMP has learned nothing, it hasn’t changed, won’t change and demonstrates that the company no longer has the right to exist,” Dr Schmulow said.


AMP wrote to former clients informing them a new account had been opened without their prior knowledge. (ABC News)

An independent advocacy centre for superannuation customers criticised AMP’s move as a shameless grab for new accounts that could be sapped of fees.

“This is absurd — people left the fund because it was ripping them off, they’re now being forced to re-join to get their money back,” Xavier O’Halloran from Super Consumers Australia said.

“To make matters worse, they are being thrown into an AMP fund which has massively underperformed comparable funds over the longer term.”

Banks repay fees for work not done
The big banks and AMP repay fees for financial advice never received, but where’s the penalty? asks Stephen Letts.

The AMP ERF has performed poorly, returning just 2.6 per cent over the past decade, significantly underperforming other ERFs in the market, which have a median return of 4.6 per cent according to APRA data.

Clients who have had money taken from them by AMP have now had the money they are owed put in the second worst-performing fund in the category.

“The fund’s rate of return of 1.1 per cent over the last year was below inflation and had that money gone directly into a balanced MySuper account, they would have earned 6.89 per cent,” Mr O’Halloran said.

Refunded money to be charged fees

AMP’s letter states there are “no exit or entry fees” but says nothing about the fees charged while the account is open, which are quite steep.

Compensation, crackdowns and overhauls
Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s final report offers 76 recommendations, all of which the Federal Government and Labor say they will support and implement. Find out more here.

Fees start at 2.36 per cent for “administration” and there is another 0.69 per cent investment fee.

These are far heftier than the fees charged by some of Australia’s top-performing investment funds, which return in excess of 20 per cent,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“For people with low balances, this looks like a naked attempt by AMP to claw back its ill-gotten gains.”

AMP’s letter states in bold type that no action is required: “You don’t need to do anything — the payment has already been made.”

However, those payments were made to new accounts customers did not know anything about.

Former client furious money back with AMP

Two months after the first letters were issued, AMP sent welcome packs to clients, including information about the ongoing fees and a form to fill in to move the money and close the new account.

Four Corners: ‘I was a puppet’
A former planner says financial services giant AMP was a “dictatorship”, he was pressured to sell in-house products.

One former client of AMP told the ABC they were furious AMP had set them up with an account without their consent and lumped them with the hassle of now applying to get their money out of the account and closing it.

“This is bullshit,” the former client said.

Mr O’Halloran said: “People would have been much better off being reunited with the money AMP stole from them by having it put into their existing super accounts.”

Dr Schmulow highlighted that AMP’s financial success rested on it opening new accounts and keeping funds within the institution.

“If there was anybody at AMP that said opening new accounts with the stolen money is a clever strategy of keeping funds under management, they should have been sacked. This is so bad,” he said.

“They obviously have these former clients’ details — addresses, emails, phones. It’s clear they put no effort into actually trying to give people their money back.”

While regulator ASIC has published detailed instructions on how it expects firms to review files and assess whether compensation or remediation is warranted, it does not have the power to tell companies how to do it, just that it should be in a “timely manner”.

In March last year, ASIC commissioner Danielle Press criticised banks, including AMP, for delays in reimbursing customers.

AMP responded to the ABC’s questions about why it didn’t first contact former clients before setting up new accounts on their behalf by saying the practice was legal.

It declined to say how many new accounts had been set up, or why information about moving the money into another super account wasn’t included in earlier correspondence.

“Remediating customers as quickly as possible is our priority — for members without a current AMP super account, payments were made through an eligible rollover fund (ERF), which was the fastest way to return money to clients and meets the legal requirement for the money to remain within superannuation,” an AMP spokesman said.


‘No way’ of stopping coronavirus from entering Australia, virus has no vaccine


Australia is ramping up airport screening of passengers arriving from China, after authorities in that country confirmed that a new strain of coronavirus has been passed from person to person, sparking fresh fears of a global epidemic.

Key points:

  • A Brisbane man who recently returned from Wuhan is being tested for the virus
  • The total number of worldwide cases of the virus is 222
  • There is no vaccine for the new virus

China’s National Health Commission said the virus, which causes pneumonia, had spread to new cities and that some medical staff had been infected by patients, the country’s official Xinhua news agency said.

What is a coronavirus?
Here’s what we know about the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, and how worried you should be.

On Tuesday morning, it was confirmed a man was in isolation in his Brisbane home as Queensland Health authorities ran tests on whether he was carrying the new strain.

The outbreak, which began in the central city of Wuhan, has now spread to other cities including the capital Beijing and Shanghai. Five new cases were confirmed in Beijing and 14 more in Guangdong province. A new case was reported in Shanghai.

The number of cases has tripled to more than 220, and three people are known to have died.

Cases have been reported in Thailand, South Korea and Japan, all involving people who had visited Wuhan.

Today Australia’s chief medical officer said the risk to Australia was low but warned that the disease had an incubation period of about a week, during which time symptoms would not be apparent.

He said stricter screening measures would apply particularly to the three flights a week that arrived in Sydney from Wuhan.

Those flights will now be met by border security and biosecurity staff as well as New South Wales Health officials.

Video: A video circulating on Chinese social media apparently shows medics checking temperatures of passengers on a flight from Wuhan to Macau

(ABC News)

“We’re doing some careful modelling to see if there are any other flights from China that have a high proportion of Wuhan-origin passengers, and we may consider expanding that too,” he said.

“But we have to do the analysis to find out where they come from, because there are apparently 160 flights from China a week.”

There is no vaccine for the new virus, and China’s President Xi Jinping said curbing the outbreak and saving lives was now the top priority.

“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” he was quoted as saying by state television.

Adding to the difficulties of containing the virus, hundreds of millions of Chinese people will be travelling domestically and abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday that starts this week.

Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have also stepped up screening of travellers from Wuhan.


Medical staff at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, where patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated. (Reuters)

In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said chief medical officer Brendan Murphy briefed him on the coronavirus on Tuesday.

He said precautions were being taken to protect Australians, adding: “We will be raising the level of our travel advice for Wuhan City to level 2 — exercise a high degree of caution. I urge all Australians travelling to check the DFAT Smart Traveller website for specific updates.”

He said state medical workers had initiated measures to mitigate the risk of infectious people entering the country.

“We are well prepared to respond to this situation and we will continue to monitor and take action where necessary,” he added.

Specialist in infectious disease epidemics and Wellcome Trust global health charity director, Sir Jeremy Farrar, said there was a need to be vigilant.

“Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast-approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high,” he said.

“There is more to come from this outbreak.”

The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-03 outbreak that also started in China.

Its symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.


Pedestrians wear protective masks as they walk through a shopping district in Tokyo after the first case of pneumonia detected in Japan. (AP: Eugene Hoshiko)

Virus spreads beyond China’s borders

Overnight South Korea confirmed its first case, a 35-year-old Chinese national who had travelled from Wuhan, the fourth patient reported outside China.

Thailand has reported two confirmed cases of the virus, both of whom were Chinese tourists from Wuhan.

Japan also confirmed one case of a Japanese citizen who visited Wuhan.

A report by London Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimated that by January 12 there were 1,723 cases in Wuhan City with onset of related symptoms. Chinese health authorities have not commented directly on the report.

“This outbreak is extremely concerning. Uncertainty and gaps remain, but it is now clear that there is person-to-person transmission,” Sir Jeremy said.

The World Health Organisation said on Monday that “an animal source” appeared most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak and that some “limited human-to-human transmission” occurred between close contacts.


A computer artwork of a coronavirus, named after the corona, or crown, of surface proteins (outer dots) that are used to penetrate a host cell. (Science Photo Library: PASIEKA)

Shares in pharmaceutical firms and mask makers in China surged because of the outbreak.

“Who knows how many people who have been to Wuhan may be unaware that they have already been infected?,” said one commentator on Chinese social media platform Weibo

Many of the initial cases of the coronavirus were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, which has been closed as authorities investigate.

The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial the Government needed to disclose all information and not repeat the mistakes made with SARS.

Chinese officials covered up the SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumours forced them to reveal the epidemic.

“We have made great strides in medicine, social affairs management and public opinion since 2003,” the editorial said.

“Concealment would be a serious blow to the government’s credibility and might trigger greater social panic.”


A person wearing a white biohazard suit at the hospital treating patients in Wuhan.



Parents came from UK to meet daughter’s partner, but argument over loud music ended in his death

Perth 6000

A “professional, educated” 41-year-old woman fatally stabbed her partner in front of her parents — who had come to Perth to meet him — after he “exploded” in “an extreme and inexplicable psychotic rage”, the WA Supreme Court has been told.

Key points:

  • Tracey Bridgewater’s UK-based parents were meeting her partner of two years
  • They got into an argument with Nicholas Josephs about loud music he was playing
  • Mr Josephs allegedly attacked her parents and Ms Bridgewater fatally stabbed him

Tracey Elizabeth Diane Bridgewater, 41, is on trial accused of unlawfully killing Nicholas Josephs, 44, at their Hamilton Hill home in Perth’s southern suburbs in September 2018.

The court has been told the couple had been in a relationship for about two years. Her parents had come to Perth from the United Kingdom in September 2018 to celebrate Ms Bridgewater’s birthday and to meet Mr Josephs for the first time.

On Sunday September 23, 2018, the day after Ms Bridgewater’s birthday party, the four of them went to a local bar before returning home, where an argument developed about Mr Joseph playing music too loud.

State prosecutor James Mactaggart told the court a violent scuffle broke out in which Ms Bridgewater’s father had his eye socket fractured and her mother was pulled to the ground and possibly kicked.

Mr Mactaggart said it was alleged Ms Bridgewater then “massively escalated what was taking place”.

“The accused went to the kitchen sink and retrieved a large black-handled knife … with a very sharp blade,” Mr MacTaggart said.

“The accused proceeded to fatally stab Mr Josephs … she deliberately inflicted a wound that penetrated his chest … causing his death.”

Father ‘punched repeatedly until unconscious’

In his opening statement to the court, Ms Bridgewater’s barrister, Jonathan Davies, said his client maintained she acted lawfully in defence of herself and her parents.

Mr Davies said Ms Bridgewater and her parents were that night “confronted with a level of extreme, inexplicable, psychotic rage, the likes of which they had never experienced”.

He said after being asked to turn down the music, Mr Josephs “went out of his tree and exploded into a rage”.


Nicholas Josephs was stabbed to death by his girlfriend who argued she was acting in self defence. (Supplied)

Mr Davies said Ms Bridgewater was lifted off the ground and slammed into a wall by Mr Josephs, who then “turned his anger” to her father, pinning him down and repeatedly punching and headbutting him until he lost consciousness.

Mr Davies said Mr Bridgewater had a bad heart and both his client and her mother were concerned he was going to have a heart attack.

But he said when Ms Bridgewater’s mother tried to intervene, she was grabbed by the hair and “violently” thrown to the ground.

He also claimed Mr Josephs was yelling threats such as, “I am going to kill you all and kill the dogs”.

Mr Davies said when Ms Bridgewater believed Mr Josephs was not going to stop, she picked a knife up from the bench and used it as a weapon and to try to deter him from further attacks.

“She held the knife in front her [and] Mr Josephs lunged towards her,” Mr Davies said.

“He looked like a crazy man, she feared for her life.

“She took steps forward, at the same time as he lunged and the blade penetrated his chest.”

Mr Davies said the stabbing was the culmination of a “troubled relationship” in which Mr Josephs had been “periodically and irrationally violent” to Ms Bridgewater.

He claimed at times Mr Josephs was “irrationally jealous, controlling and obsessive” towards his client, and she had the year before gone to a doctor to seek help for his “anger and jealousy issues”.

The court was told in 2017 she had called police after one of his “outbursts” and he was ordered to leave their home for 72 hours, but he returned and she had to call police again.

‘It was self defence’, operator told

The court earlier heard Ms Bridgewater immediately called triple zero after the stabbing and when first asked what happened she replied, “I’ve hit [him] with a knife”.

She was asked where and said, “I’m not sure, he’s bleeding a lot”. But when she was asked again, she said. “In his chest”.


Tracey Bridgewater claims she acted in self defence. (ABC News)

Mr Mactaggart said when police and ambulance officers arrived Ms Bridgewater told them, “I stabbed him” and when advised she was under arrest she added, “but it was self defence”.

Mr MacTaggart said it was the state’s case Ms Bridgewater had no lawful justification nor excuse for stabbing Mr Josephs.

He said she had taken, “the drastic and unnecessary step of going to the kitchen and retrieving a large knife”.

“Her actions drastically escalated an already tense situation … to a new and deadly level.”

The trial continues.


Phoenix praises Joker predecessor Ledger, Brad and Jen have a cuddle at the SAG Awards

United States

With their proximity to the Oscars — only three weeks away — the Screen Actor’s Guild awards are closely watched as an Academy Awards harbinger.

Key points:

  • South Korean dark comedy Parasite is quickly accruing Oscars hype, winning the SAG Awards’ top honour
  • Brad Pitt watched Jennifer Aniston’s acceptance speech backstage before they warmly congratulated each other
  • Fleabag, the Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Joaquin Phoenix and Laura Dern also picked up awards

Held on Monday morning (Australian time) at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, the awards honour both film and TV and are voted on by members of the main actor’s union.

The ceremony made history, with South Korean film Parasite becoming the first foreign language film to win the SAG Awards’ top honour — only adding to growing Oscar buzz for the dark comedy.

In case you were not counting down the sleeps to the Oscars, this is your reminder that the ceremony will be broadcast from 11:00am AEST on February 10.

We will have full coverage of the red carpet, the ceremony and what it all means once all the gongs have been handed out.

But — for better or worse — the moment everyone will be talking about tomorrow was the reunion of former husband and wife Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston backstage.

If you can get over that, here’s a roundup of our top five takeaways from the evening.

The Parasite cast received a two-minute standing ovation

Parasite has officially infected this year’s award season.

Director Bong Joon Ho’s film won the Outstanding Performance by a Cast gong over starrier productions like Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood and The Irishman.

The audience greeted the victory for Parasite with a standing ovation.

External Link:

@thr tweet: What a moment. The cast of #Parasite get a standing ovation at the #SAGAwards as they present their film in the best ensemble cast category

The win sets the dark comedy up as a legitimate best-picture contender to the frontrunner 1917 at next month’s Academy Awards.

But it’s not a given: for the last two years, the SAG ensemble winners — Black Panther in 2019 and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in 2018 — has not gone on to win best picture at the Oscars.

This year’s Oscars front-runner, 1917, more acclaimed for its technical acumen, wasn’t nominated for the SAG ensemble award.

External Link:

@ScottFeinberg tweet: PARASITE wins — the first non-English-language film ever to win the best ensemble SAG Award — and in a better position than ever to become the first non-English-language film ever to win the best picture Oscar! The little engine that could…

In fact, the Producers Guild Awards (PGAs) is generally more predictive than the SAG awards.

In 21 of the last 30 years, the PGA winner has lined up with the eventual best picture winner.

The PGAs, which were held on Sunday Australian time, chose 1917 as its top film.

Brad and Jen reunited backstage, breaking the internet

One reunion trumped all others at the SAG Awards, where both Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston took home awards and celebrated each other’s wins.

Pitt is headed toward his first acting Academy Award for his supporting performance in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, and he added to his front-runner status with a win from the actors’ guild.

External Link:

@sagaftrafound tweet: Here's #BradPitt & #JenniferAniston congratulating each other backstage at #SAGawards. What a moment! Both actors were @SAGawards recipients tonight.

Along the way, his speeches have been full of one-liners and he didn’t disappoint on Sunday night.

Pitt, who said he was nursing a flu, looked down at his award and said, “I’ve got to add this to my Tinder profile.”

“Let’s be honest, it was a difficult part,” he said.

“A guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife.

“It was a big stretch.”

External Link:

@JohnCohen1 tweet: A Brad Pitt / Jennifer Aniston story in two photos:

The audience laughed and clapped, including — as the cameras captured — Aniston, his ex-wife.

Aniston later won an award of her own for best female actor in a drama series for the Apple TV Plus show The Morning Show.

Backstage, Pitt watched Aniston’s acceptance speech.

After she got off stage, they warmly congratulated each other on their first individual SAG Awards — promptly breaking the internet.

External Link:

@jduboff tweet: the entire staff of Us Weekly just got a text that was like, “GET TO THE OFFICE NOW”

Joaquin Phoenix praised his Joker predecessor, Heath Ledger

Along with Pitt, all the Oscar favourites kept their momentum, including wins for Renee Zellweger (Judy), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) and Laura Dern (Marriage Story).

As expected, Phoenix took best performance by a male actor.

After individually praising each fellow nominee, Phoenix concluded with a nod to his Joker predecessor.

“I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favourite actor, Heath Ledger,” said Phoenix.

Dern also further established herself as the best supporting actress favourite with a win from the actors’ guild.

On her way to the stage, she hugged her father, Bruce Dern (part of the Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood ensemble).

External Link:

@tntdrama tweet: Joaquin Phoenix with a great acceptance speech honoring his fellow nominees

Awkward! A Marvelous Mrs Maisel cast member admitted she voted for competitor Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge continued her awards sweep for Fleabag, a winner at the Emmys and the Golden Globes.

Waller-Bridge added a SAG win for best female actor in a comedy series and took a moment to reflect on the show’s parade of accolades.

“This whole thing really has been a dream, and if I wake up tomorrow and discover it was just that, then thank you,” said Waller-Bridge.

“It’s been the most beautiful dream.”

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel also continued its streak, winning best comedy series ensemble for the second straight year, along with Tony Shalhoub taking home the statue for best male actor in a comedy series.

But while accepting the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble, the show’s shocked Alex Borstein said she had voted for Fleabag.

“I voted for Fleabag! This is really weird,” she said.

“This makes no sense, Fleabag is brilliant.”

External Link:

@birdiedraper_ tweet: alex borstein: i voted for fleabag, this is really weird, this makes no sense (…) honestly, this makes no sense. fleabag is brilliant, you guys are brilliant. i didn't vote for rachel, i didn't vote for tony… rachel brosnahan: i forgot to vote.

And of course, an awards show couldn’t go by without a reference to Trump

Robert De Niro was given the guild’s lifetime achievement award, an honour presented by Leonardo DiCaprio who, like De Niro, is a frequent leading man for Martin Scorsese.

The two co-star in Scorsese’s upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon.

A raucous standing ovation greeted the 76-year-old actor.

De Niro, a fiery critic of Donald Trump, referenced the President in his remarks.

“There’s right and there’s wrong,” he said.

“And there’s common sense and there’s abuse of power.

“As a citizen, I have as much right as anybody — an actor, an athlete, anybody else — to voice my opinion.

“And if I have a bigger voice because of my situation, I’m going to use it whenever I see a blatant abuse of power.”



Roger Federer loses only seven games in Australian Open first-round triumph

Melbourne 3000

The domination of the ‘big three’ in men’s tennis may take some stopping at this year’s Australian Open, as Roger Federer showed his class with a comfortable first-round win on Rod Laver Arena.

Key points:

  • Roger Federer only lost seven games in his first-round victory over Steve Johnson
  • Federer has won six Australian Open titles, his most recent tournament wins coming in 2017 and 2018
  • He has 20 major singles titles, one ahead of long-time rival Rafael Nadal

Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have won 13 of the last 14 men’s singles titles at Melbourne Park and the form of the Swiss in his opening-round clash with Steve Johnson suggested that run could continue for another year.

He triumphed 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 against the American journeyman, his momentum halted only by a brief rain delay that forced the closure of the roof on the centre court.

Federer was satisfied to open his account in Melbourne with a straight-sets result, having avoided a tricky first match.

“I think for me, really, the first three rounds are [the] key to get going,” he said in his post-match media conference.

“To get used to the pressure, stay calm, [know] when to save breakpoint, or [on] 30-30 points or whatever it may be, or just to stay calm if you’re down a set and a break or whatever it might be.

“This is sort of the unknown that can be a little bit scary at times. But today there was none of that because I broke early each set and was able to get on a roll, play freely after that.

“And also [I] felt I had margin. I felt like I had the game under control.”

Federer is a six-time winner at Melbourne Park, with his tally including back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2019, but he was sensationally dumped from last year’s tournament in the fourth round by young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.

It was a defeat that stung Federer, with Melbourne having proven to be such a happy hunting ground, and he signalled his intent to capture a seventh crown with a clinical display against Johnson.

The third seed secured a break of serve in just the second game and despite having to cool his heels when the roof was closed, he settled quickly once play resumed to close out the first set in 27 minutes.

External Link:

@Australian Open tweet: "The Fed Express is in full flight"

The second and third sets were one-way traffic, with Federer’s ground strokes finding their mark, while he was also impressive on serve with 11 aces for the match and only a single double fault to his name.

Federer has 20 major singles titles in his keeping, the most wins by a male player, but a Nadal tournament victory in Melbourne will see the Spaniard draw level with his long-time rival.

Top seed Nadal plays Bolivian Hugo Dellien in his opening match tomorrow, while defending champion Djokovic begins his campaign tonight against German Jan-Lennard Struff.

Grigor Dimitrov, a semi-finalist in Melbourne in 2017, needed four sets to beat Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero to progress to the second round.

The 18th seed dropped the first set, but recovered to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4 under the roof on Melbourne Arena.

It was a mixed opening to the tournament for several of the other men’s seeds, with rising Italian star Matteo Berrettini making light work of local wildcard Andrew Harris, while Canadian Denis Shapovalov had a surprise first-round exit.

The eighth-seeded Berrettini dispensed of Melburnian Harris 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 and Shapovalov, the 13th seed in Melbourne, fell in four sets to the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, 7-6 (7-3).

Harris’s countryman, John-Patrick Smith, was also a first-round casualty, losing to Argentina’s 22nd seed, Guido Pella, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

Borna Coric, seeded 25th, made his way out of the tournament following a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 defeat to former top-20 player Sam Querrey of the US.


Why this photo has sent the Chinese internet into a frenzy


As it would turn out, driving your Mercedes-Benz into an off-limits area of one of Beijing’s most iconic locations — for the sake of taking a selfie — is a great way to make a lot of people very angry.

Key points:

  • Cars are banned from the area in order to help preserve the site
  • Even motorcades for visiting heads of state are not permitted to drive in
  • Managers for the UNESCO World Heritage Site say they are “deeply distressed”

One woman in China found this out the hard way after snapping a photo of herself and a friend posing in front of an SUV in the Forbidden City, China’s 600-year-old former imperial palace in the heart of Beijing, on a day when it is usually closed to the public.

Cars have been banned from that particular area of the popular tourist location, which houses the Palace Museum, since 2013 to “show respect for ancient Chinese culture”, according to the state-owned China Daily newspaper.

“As it’s closed on Monday, we avoided the crowds and enjoyed the palace,” one of the women in the photo, Lu Xiaobao, wrote on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.

It is not known if the woman’s real name is Lu Xiaobao, or if that was just an online nickname.

The online backlash to the photos was swift — one key issue was the age and value of the paved bricks at the site, some of which date back to the 18th century, and which already suffer wear and tear from foot traffic alone.


The Forbidden City, which houses the Palace Museum, is a popular tourism destination. (ABC News: Karen Barlow)

Staff at the Forbidden City ride bikes to work in order to mitigate damage to the paved bricks; even motorcades for visiting heads of state are not allowed to drive in.

However other Chinese social media users questioned whether the women had special connections, considering they were able to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site on a day when it is usually closed.

‘Flaunt your wealth challenge’ Photos of people lying face down on the ground — surrounded by luxury bags, shoes, and sometimes wads of cash — have gone viral on Chinese social media.

“It wasn’t a big deal that she drove her Benz on the bricks with 600 years history or showing off her wealth, it is a matter that the closed day is a VIP day for people with privilege,” one Weibo user wrote.

“Such privilege is China’s characteristic style, it is more disturbing when you can openly see it.”

The People’s Daily newspaper also chimed in, questioning in an editorial why certain people were being given private access to the Palace Museum.

“Why are guests still able to enter on a closing day? Why were people allowed to drive in? Is this a loophole in management or is this the flaunting of privilege,” the paper wrote.

“In front of the rules, everyone is equal. No one should be entitled to use their privilege.”

After the post began to go viral on social media, Ms Lu responded saying she had been given permission to drive in the area, China Daily reported.


Managers for the Palace Museum apologised after the incident became public. (AP: Mark Schiefelbein)

“I was just there for an exhibition while the Forbidden City was closed for public,” she wrote.

“It is legal to take a picture, isn’t it?”

The Palace Museum apologised for the situation in a post on Weibo, saying it would implement “strict management” to avoid any similar incidents in the future.

“The Palace Museum is deeply distressed and sincerely apologises to the public,” the post said.



Residual bushfire ash blackens soles, but water catchments stay clean

Adelaide 5000

If you’re in Adelaide and wondering why the soles of your feet are black, then blame the bushfires for covering your floorboards with a residual layer of ash.

Key points:

  • There is residual bushfire ash in Adelaide households and rainwater tanks
  • SA Water is working to prevent contamination of catchments
  • The loss of vegetation may lead to an increased risk of dust storms

The ash has also landed in metropolitan rainwater tanks, but, according to SA Water, there is little to be concerned about.

“If the water is discoloured or has a funny taste, it should still be OK to drink but it might be a bit unpleasant,” said SA Water Asset operations and delivery general manager, Mark Gobbie.

“SA Health are advising to look at getting that tank cleaned out and the roof cleaned out and a fresh source of water put into the rainwater tank.”

Environmental Protection Authority science and information director, Keith Baldry, said residual ash in metropolitan areas outside the bushfire grounds posed little risk for people.

“Other than dirty floorboards, there wouldn’t be any issues in regards to poor air quality from that,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s any more issues with ash than there is with any other general pollution in the air.

“There’s nothing particular about the ash that presents a hazard in comparison to other things but, obviously, if you’re going to be drinking from your rainwater tank, the advice from SA Health is that you manage it correctly and test the water.”

Those living on the bushfire grounds, however, did have “genuine issues” with large amounts of ash potentially making it into their water catchments.


Cleared vegetation due to bushfires can result in dust storms. (ABC News: Haidarr Jones)

Silt traps considered for catchments

Mr Gobbie said parts of the Adelaide Hills and Middle River (Kangaroo Island) catchments had been impacted by the bushfires that have ravaged both regions since December.

“We’ve been looking at various ways of managing that situation going forward, like silt traps, hay bales, and the regeneration of growth within the catchment,” he said.

“Pretty much all of the Middle River [reservoir] catchment was impacted by the fire and we have a team of people who’ve been over there for the past couple of weeks looking at what steps we can put in place.

“We’ve also got the treatment plant at Middle River up and running again, and that gives us another source to be able to manage any of those water quality issues that we may experience over the next few months.”

Parts of the Adelaide Hills received up to 40 millimetres of rainfall in the 24 hours to 9:00am, but Mr Gobbie said SA Water had no concerns about contaminated run-off making it into its reservoirs.

“The rain we’ve had over the past 24 hours, we think, will be more of a help than a hindrance,” he said.

“It it has been fairly steady and we think that will actually help with revegetation and regrowth in the catchments.”


Kangaroo Creek Dam water supplies have not been negatively affected by the bushfires. (Supplied: SA Water)

He said the ash itself was not a health concern, but that the “organics” that came with it — both in the run-off and the algal growths that can be prompted by ash contamination — posed some concern.

Mr Gobbie said there was flexibility in the way SA Water provides water to customers in the Adelaide Hills.

“We need to wait for the catchments to revegetate, and [we] expect that to start to happen over the autumn and winter period,” he said.

“So we’ll have some pretty active management of the impacted catchments over the next six to eight months.”

Loss of vegetation to raise dust

Mr Baldry said the EPA did have some concerns about dust rising due to vegetation loss in areas subject to fire.

“You can potentially get more dust storms and poor air quality,” he said.

“Those people in vulnerable groups, particularly those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, should try and minimise their exposure to poor air quality by staying indoors.

“And for the rest of the population, when air quality is poor, they should limit the amount of exercise in open spaces.”

The EPA monitors air quality and publishes results hourly from multiple sites across the city and from four country locations.

As of 9am Monday, air quality ranged from good to very good, with the exception of Port Augusta where it was rated as “fair”.

There was no data on Kangaroo Island, where South Australia’s worst bushfires of the summer so far have taken place.

SA Water’s reservoirs are currently at 50 per cent capacity, compared to 54 per cent at the same time last year.


He’s back! Conor McGregor takes down Cowboy in 40-second UFC demolition job

United States

Conor McGregor has stopped Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone with a head kick and punches 40 seconds into the first round at UFC 246, announcing his return to mixed martial arts with his first victory since 2016.

Key points:

  • Conor McGregor’s last UFC win came in 2016, and the win over Cowboy Cerrone brings a stunning end to a year of inactivity
  • Cowboy could not block McGregor’s decisive kick or the punishment awaiting him on the ground as McGregor won inside 40 seconds
  • McGregor had Cowboy on the canvas as early as 20 seconds in, to the delight of the sell-out Las Vegas crowd

The Irish former two-division champion returned from a three-year stretch of inactivity and outside-the-cage troubles with a performance that echoed his greatest fights during his unparalleled rise.

McGregor (22-4) floored Cerrone (36-14) only 20 seconds into the bout with a perfectly placed kick, and he mercilessly finished on the ground to the delight of a sell-out crowd in Las Vegas.

McGregor’s hand hadn’t been raised in victory since November 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously.

With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought his only boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.

After a year McGregor vowed to return to elite form in this bout against a fellow UFC veteran and stoppage specialist. His dramatic victory over Cerrone indicated he’s on his way.


Cowboy Cerrone had no hope of recovery after Conor McGregor landed a brutal knee early on. (Reuters: Mike Blake)

Cerrone has the most wins of any fighter in UFC history with 23 victories inside the octagon, a mark that reflects both his durability and commitment to an uncommonly busy schedule.

Cerrone, who also holds the UFC record with 16 stoppage wins, had fought a whopping 11 times since McGregor’s win over Alvarez, and he was in the cage for the 15th time since he lost his only UFC title shot in December 2015.

But Cerrone’s last two fights were stopped when he took too much damage, and he couldn’t block McGregor’s decisive kick or recover from the punishment on the ground.


Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone crumpled in the face of a Conor McGregor barrage. (AP: John Locher)

McGregor believes he can recapture the fearsome form he showed during his meteoric rise to unprecedented MMA success.

He won 15 consecutive fights during a five-year run from low-profile shows in Dublin to the world’s biggest MMA events, stopping five straight elite UFC opponents with punches on the way up.



Impeachment proceedings a ‘dangerous attack’ on rights of American people, Trump says

United States

United States President Donald Trump’s legal team issued a fiery response ahead of opening arguments in his impeachment trial, while House Democrats laid out their case in forceful fashion, saying the President betrayed public trust with behaviour that was the “worst nightmare” of the founding fathers.

Key points:

  • Mr Trump’s legal team issued a rejection of the impeachment charges
  • They encouraged the Senate to reject “poisonous partisanship”
  • The House released a document supporting impeachment charges

The duelling filings previewed arguments both sides intend to make once Mr Trump’s impeachment trial begins on Tuesday (local time) in the Senate.

Their challenge will be to make a case that appeals to the 100 senators who will render the verdict and an American public bracing for a presidential election in 10 months.

“President Donald J. Trump used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain,” House impeachment managers wrote.

“[He] then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress’s investigation into his misconduct,” they added.

In a 111-page document, they laid out their arguments supporting charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against the President.

The road to impeachment started with a phone call
Whether or not Donald Trump keeps his office might come down to what transpired in a phone call.

“The Senate should convict and remove President Trump to avoid serious and long-term damage to our democratic values and the nation’s security,” the document said, for the first time formally calling for the Senate to convict the President and remove him from office.

“The case against the President of the United States is simple, the facts are indisputable, and the evidence is overwhelming,” they said.

The document was an appeal directly to the senators.

“History will judge each senator’s willingness to rise above partisan differences, view the facts honestly and defend the Constitution,” the managers said in a statement noting “the President is not a king”.

‘A dangerous attack on the right of the American people’


The document released by Democratic impeachment managers received a fiery response from Mr Trump’s lawyers. (AP: Matt Rourke)

Mr Trump’s legal team issued a resounding rejection of the impeachment charges, which were read out in the Senate earlier in the week during formalities setting the stage for the trial.

“President Trump categorically and unequivocally denies each and every allegation in both articles of impeachment,” the Trump lawyers’ document said.

The Trump legal team called the two articles of impeachment “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president” and encouraged politicians to reject “poisonous partisanship” and “vindicate the will of the American people” by rejecting both articles of impeachment approved by the House.

“This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election — now just months away,” they argued in a six-page document released on Saturday (local time).

It was the first time Mr Trump formally responded to the two articles of impeachment that the Democratic-led House approved late last year.

External Link:

@realDonaldTrump “Nancy Pelosi said, it’s not a question of proof, it’s a question of allegations! Oh really?” @JudgeJeanine @FoxNews What a disgrace this Impeachment Scam is for our great Country!

The politically polarising impeachment case involves Mr Trump’s attempt to persuade Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden last year.

As well as the charge of abuse of office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter Biden, Mr Trump is also accused of obstructing Congress in its investigation into his conduct by refusing to hand over documents and barring administration officials from testifying, even when subpoenaed by House investigators.


Mr Trump faces the charge of abuse of office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. (Reuters: Carlos Barria)

The document filed by the Democratic House impeachment managers explained why the House passed the two articles of impeachment, and listed evidence supporting the charges.

The evidence included references to information released in the past few days from Lev Parnas, an associate of Mr Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was involved in Giuliani’s contacts with Ukraine’s government.

Trump’s impeachment will end one of these five ways
Predicting what happens next in impeachment is almost impossible. But when it ends, it’ll be in one of these five ways.

It also included a finding by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) that Mr Trump broke the law when he withheld military aid that Congress had designated for Ukraine.

The trial in the Republican-led Senate is unlikely to lead to Mr Trump’s ouster, as no Republican senators have voiced support for doing so and a two-thirds majority vote is required to convict.

Mr Trump, at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, for the weekend, played a round of golf on Saturday (local time).

The Trump lawyers, in their document, argued the President acted at all times with full constitutional legal authority, said one of three sources close to Mr Trump’s legal team who briefed reporters on a conference call.

“We will take the facts head-on and we believe that the facts will prove, and have proven, that the President did absolutely nothing wrong,” the source said.



The most serious outbreak of locusts in 25 years is swarming across East Africa

Central African Republic

The most serious outbreak of locusts in 25 years is spreading across East Africa and posing an unprecedented threat to food security in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, authorities say.

Key points:

  • An increase in locust swarm activity has been reported in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Ejibouti, and Eritrea
  • The infestations are a major threat to food security across the entire Horn of Africa, which is already reeling from floods and droughts
  • Hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops are estimated to have been destroyed

The “extremely dangerous increase” in locust swarm activity has been reported in Kenya, with one swarm in the country’s northeast measuring 60 kilometres long by 40 kilometres wide.

In a statement, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said a typical desert locust swarm could contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometre.

“Swarms migrate with the wind and can cover 100 to 150 kilometres in a day,” the IGAD said.


These two Samburu men work for a county disaster team identifying the location of the locusts, pictured in Samburu county, Kenya. (AP: Patrick Ngugi)

“An average swarm can destroy as much food crops in a day as is sufficient to feed 2,500 people.”

Thousands of hectares of crops destroyed

The outbreak of desert locusts, considered the most dangerous locust species, has also affected parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea, and IGAD warned that parts of South Sudan and Uganda could be next.

Breeding is continuing on both sides of the Red Sea, in Sudan and Eritrea and in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.


A Samburu man holds a locust on his hand near the village of Sissia. (AP: Patrick Ngugi)

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) warned the outbreak could worsen the region’s poor food security situation, with hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops destroyed.

“These infestations represent a major threat to food security in Kenya and across the entire Horn of Africa, which is already reeling from floods and droughts,” said Bukar Tijani, UNFAO’s Assistant Director General, calling the swarms “vast and unprecedented”.

Already millions of people cope with the constant risk of drought or flooding, as well as deadly unrest in Ethiopia, extremist attacks in Somalia and lingering fighting in South Sudan as it emerges from civil war.

The further increase in locust swarms could last until June as favourable breeding conditions continue, IGAD said, helped along by unusually heavy flooding in parts of the region in recent weeks.


Desert locusts cover the ground in Ceel-Gaal village, in the Salal region of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Somaliland. (UNFAO via AP: Isak Amin)

Major locust outbreaks can be devastating: a major one between 2003 and 2005 cost more than $US500 million ($727 million) to control across 20 countries in northern Africa, the UNFAO has said, with more than $US2.5 billion ($3.6 billion) in harvest losses.

To help prevent and control outbreaks, authorities analyse satellite images, stockpile pesticides and conduct aerial spraying.

Police shoot bullets and teargas at bugs

In Ethiopia, officials said they had deployed four small planes to help fight the invasion.


Mohamed Omar, left, from the Ministry of Agriculture, and farmer Abdilahi Bataax, right, in Somaliland. (UNFAO via AP: Isak Amin)

Kenyan media showed police shooting bullets and teargas at an oncoming swarm as residents banged on buckets and hooted car horns to try to frighten the insects.

A farmers’ association in Kenya’s northern Laikipia area said it was planning aerial spraying of pesticides.

“These things are in their millions and will eat all the vegetation here,” said Peter Learpanai, a herdsman in the northern Samburu region who was flapping his jacket at a cloud of the insects that had descended on his grazing land.

“Our animals will not have anything to feed on.

“The government needs to get serious about fighting them.”



‘Many trees in space?’: Ridicule as US Space Force shows off camo uniform

United States

“Why do you need camo in space?”

It’s a question some people are asking the United States Space Force after the new military service released an image of its official uniform on social media.

The post on the Space Force’s official Twitter account attracted plenty of comments and questions from users who could not see the benefits of standard army woodland camouflage in space.

Walter Shaub, a former director of the US Office of Government Ethics asked: “Have you been to a part of space where this camouflage would blend in?”

Another person asked: “How many trees are you expecting to find in space?”, while others pointed out that the appropriate camouflage for space was black.

External Link:

@JimMFelton tweet: How many trees are you expecting to find in space?

External Link:

I know this is hard to understand, but on the left there is a picture of camouflage and on the right there is a picture of space. Study these carefully until you can see the difference.

External Link:

Really disappointed with the green. Surely a pattern like this would have given more camouflage in space.

External Link:

@d__el photo tweet: Personally, I think the camo is going to work. Not sure what all the noise is about.

There’s a reason for the camo

Amidst the Twitter onslaught, the US Space Force replied to one tweet saying the design was a cost-saving measure.

It said that Space Force members would look like their Army and Air Force counterparts who they work alongside on the ground.

External Link:

USSF is utilizing current Army/Air Force uniforms, saving costs of designing/producing a new one. Members will look like their joint counterparts they’ll be working with, on the ground.

Space Force, which officially launched in December last year, is the first new military service since the Air Force was spun off from the Army in 1947.

The service is not designed or intended to put combat troops in space, but will be the provider of forces to US Space Command — a separate organisation established last year as the overseer of the military’s space operations.

Instead of being its own military department, like the Navy, Army and Air Force, the Space Force will be administered by the Secretary of the Air Force.


President Donald Trump speaks before signing the National Defence Authorisation Act at Andrews Air Force Base. (AP: Kevin Wolf)

Last year, during a signing ceremony outside of Washington, US President Donald Trump said “space is the world’s new war-fighting domain”.

“Among grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough, and very shortly we’ll be leading by a lot,” he said.



Hole big enough to swallow a car opens up on suburban Sunshine Coast road

Helensvale 4212

A road has partially collapsed on the Sunshine Coast in what the local council believe could have been caused by recent heavy rain.

Key points:

  • A large hole several metres wide opened up on a Sunshine Coast road after heavy rain
  • It follows flash flooding on the Gold Coast where a caravan park at Helensvale went underwater
  • One guest told the ABC the park had not warned her or her family about the rising waters

Police were called to Tingira Crescent at Sunrise Beach around 11:00pm on Saturday night to a large hole in the road and contacted the Noosa Shire Council to assess the damage.

“It’s taken out half the road, so my estimate would be roughly 10-15 metres wide and 3 to 4 metres deep,” Noosa Shire Council spokesman Ken Furdek said.

“What we have been able to ascertain is that it’s been quite a big slip that has been caused by either the heavy rain overnight and Friday night or by a burst water main.”

A specialist contractor was expected to be onsite during the week to start stabilising the site.

“A full repair of the road is likely to take some time,” he said.

“Our priority is to get that land stabilised near the unit block and once that’s done then our council crews will be on-site to repair the road.

“We encourage people to stay away from the area.”

Local resident Tracey Stevens was at a cafe down the road when she saw it.

“A car would disappear in there for sure,” she said.

“If you didn’t know it was there it would be hard to see, people are very lucky they didn’t get hurt.”

Deluge at Gold Coast caravan park

On the Gold Coast, a massive clean-up was underway at a caravan park after what locals describe as “life-threatening” flash flooding ripped through the area, forcing 400 guests to flee to higher ground.

Saturday’s deluge smashed through the Helensvale Big 4 Caravan Park during high tide on a nearby creek.


Parts of the Gold Coast received a month’s worth of rain on Friday night. (Supplied: @rnrwanderers)

The fast-rising floodwaters consumed caravans and cars and were so strong they carried away a minibus.

Tow trucks were called in to remove damaged vans.

Guest Jenny Cowman was camping with her grandchildren and said they were traumatised.

“About 4:00am my son-in-law came screaming in ‘Jenny, Jenny! Wake up quick! We have to go!'” she said.

“I thought I was having a dream.

“My daughter’s child was screaming and she saw there was water all through the camper.

“She said later to me she was not worried … but they could have drowned, they were only on little, thin air mattresses at the time, they could have rolled over. It only takes a few minutes in water.

“The kids were so scared.”


One resident told the ABC her family was not warned by the park about the rising floodwaters. (Supplied: @rnrwanderers)

Ms Cowman, who lives in Chinchilla, said it was their first family holiday with their camper trailers.

“My mum who was with us is 85 years old and she nearly had a heart attack being so scared,” she said.

“We tried to stay as calm as possible but it just kept rising.


Jenny Cowman was staying at the Big 4 Holiday Park at Helensvale when it flooded. (ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

“Apparently they have 24-hour security here and CCTV surveillance, but nothing, no-one came to warn us.”

The family lost two cars and two camper trailers and fear their damage bill will be around $100,000.

Only the cars were insured.


Movie World’s car park also flooded on Saturday. (Instagram: mickeylou15)

The park staff refused to let media in to talk to other residents or look at the damage.

No-one was injured during the flooding event and the park remains closed.


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.



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