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Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says there is no evidence yet the new Omicron variant is more severe, but officials are waiting for more laboratory test results in the coming days and weeks. 

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Live updates3m ago3 minutes agoSun 28 Nov 2021 at 9:31pm

By Dannielle Maguire

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10m ago10 minutes agoSun 28 Nov 2021 at 9:25pm

By Dannielle Maguire

National public health advisory committee meeting today

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly was asked whether tighter border restrictions would be imposed in response to this new variant when he appeared on ABC News Breakfast. 

He said he was "actively engaging with our international partners" to get an idea of how the world was dealing with the new strain. 

But he wouldn't be drawn on whether we should go back to a blanket 14-day hotel quarantine rule for international arrivals. 

"We're taking a risk-balanced approach at the moment and concentrating on those nine southern African countries.

"We have increased our surveillance at the border, and after the border, we're working very closely with our colleagues in NSW and Victoria, particularly, because they're the ones that have had quarantine-free travel, as well as in the ACT, as to what is the best approach.

"At the moment, we've bought time to get more information and to consider that balance, but there's always pros and cons for these sorts of decisions.

"That's what we're doing at the moment."

He says the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), which is Australia's peak decision-making body for emergency disease control, is meeting today.

"There will be further discussions on that matter and, you know, when decisions are made, of course, we'll always communicate those."

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25m ago25 minutes agoSun 28 Nov 2021 at 9:09pm

By Dannielle Maguire

Looking for yesterday's blog?

It's right here!

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27m ago27 minutes agoSun 28 Nov 2021 at 9:07pm

By Dannielle Maguire

Would we be able to tweak vaccines to counter Omicron?

Professor Kelly says this may not be necessary — again, there's a lot we still don't know about this variant — but all three vaccines licensed for use in Australia are "working on that". 

He pointed out that, a day after the strain was declared a variant of concern, Moderna put out a statement to say its researchers were working on a specific vaccine for the variant.

"It is one of the major technological and scientific advantages that has happened from this pandemic, that mRNA platform can be changed very quickly.

"And the other ones also, AstraZeneca, can change the make-up of the vaccine very quickly.

"So we are well placed, if that was to be the case.

"But I would stress at the moment that there is no evidence that that would actually be necessary."

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33m ago33 minutes agoSun 28 Nov 2021 at 9:01pm

By Dannielle Maguire

What do we know about this Omicron variant? 

Earlier this morning Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly was on ABC News Breakfast. 

He says it's still early days, so we need to be careful about how we talk about the variant: 

"But there's no sign that it is more severe at the moment.

"It does transmit from person-to-person quite readily — at least at well as the Delta virus and so that means that it will spread.

"And thirdly, in terms of the vaccines, there is no solid evidence at the moment that there is a problem with that.

"Although we will wait for further advice and laboratory studies in coming days and weeks."

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37m ago37 minutes agoSun 28 Nov 2021 at 8:57pm

By Dannielle Maguire

Good morning!

The ABC's website is alive with the sound of COVID blogging, with blogs we have blogged for what feels like a thousand years…

Anyway, let's get into it.

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Baby born on boat among hundreds of migrants rescued off Italian coast

The Italian coastguard has rescued 244 migrants, including a newborn baby, from a boat drifting a few kilometres off the coast of the Calabria region.

Key points:

  • Among 244 rescued, 41 were minors, including a baby born on the boat 
  • The rescue lasted more than 16 hours due to dangerous weather conditions
  • Around 62,000 migrants have arrived in Italy in 2021, almost doubling in a year 

It comes as the European Union agreed to dispatch a plane to monitor the shores of the English Channel for migrant activity after 27 people died when their overcrowded, inflatable boat sank en route to Britain last week. 

Carried out overnight on Saturday and Sunday, the Calabria region rescue lasted more than 16 hours, complicated by difficult weather and sea conditions, the coastguard said in a statement.

Among those rescued, 41 were minors, including the baby born on the boat on Saturday.

Italy has seen a sharp increase in boat migrants in recent weeks and the latest arrivals will put further pressure on Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government to secure an agreement with European Union partners over how to deal with the influx.

Another 296 migrants were saved by the Italian coastguard in the Mediterranean on November 25 as they tried to reach Europe.

In a separate statement, German NGO Sea-Watch said on Saturday that 461 people were disembarking from its rescue ship in Augusta, Sicily.

The Italian coastguard carried out a similar rescue on November 25, involving nearly 300 migrants.(Reuters: Italian Coastguard)

This year the busiest, and deadliest, migrant route to Europe has been the central Mediterranean, where people travel in crowded boats from Libya and Tunisia — and, in some cases, all the way from Turkey — towards Italy.

According to Interior Ministry data, some 62,236 migrants have landed in Italy so far in 2021, against 32,542 in the same period last year.

This year alone, UN officials estimate that 1,600 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea.

Last week, 85 people died in two separate incidents while trying to reach Italy from Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration.

EU plane to monitor migrants on Channel shores

European migration officials agreed to deploy a plane to monitor the shores of the English Channel at an emergency meeting on Sunday in the French port of Calais.

At least 27 die as dinghy capsizes on English Channel

Officials have described the tragedy as the worst disaster involving migrants to occur on the waterway.

Read more

They also pledged to work together more closely against migrant-smuggling networks, and the trade in inflatable boats that are being used in increasingly frequent journeys by people fleeing conflict or poverty in Afghanistan, Sudan or beyond.

UK officials were notably absent from the gathering at the Calais City Hall, after Wednesday's sinking prompted a new political crisis between UK and France.

The neighbours accuse each other of not doing enough to deter people from crossing the Channel.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson defended the need to work together with the UK to address the issue, by exchange of information and intelligence.

Starting on December 1, a plane operated by EU border agency Frontex will help France, Belgium and the Netherlands monitor their shores to better identify smuggling networks, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.



PM says it is ‘too early’ to decide if hotel quarantine will be reinstated in face of Omicron variant

The Prime Minister says he plans to call a meeting of state and territory leaders today or tomorrow to discuss how to respond to the Omicron variant, but it is "too early" to make decisions about reinstating quarantine before Christmas.

Key points:

  • Omicron has been declared a variant of concern by the WHO
  • Scott Morrison says Australia has dealt with other coronavirus variants
  • The Chief Medical Officer says there is currently no evidence vaccines will not work against the strain

Scott Morrison described the emergence of the coronavirus variant as "concerning" but said Australia had dealt with other strains of the virus before.

"We have had many new variants, we have had many variants of concern," he said.

"This is another variant of concern and it is one that the initial information is suggesting some [increased] transmissibility but even that, as yet, is not fully proven.

"So it is important we just calmly and carefully consider this information."

Mr Morrison also noted Australia was not in the same position that it was at the beginning of the pandemic, with over 86 per cent of the population now fully vaccinated.

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said he would not speculate on whether Australia was likely to have to close its international border again, but authorities were working on a "risk-balanced" approach.

"There's always pros and cons for these sorts of decisions," he said.

Mr Morrison also said it was "too early" to make a decision but it would be on the agenda at the National Cabinet meeting.

"National Cabinet will come together over the next couple of days and a key purpose of that is to ensure we are all working off the same information," he said.

Scott Morrison is calling for calm while authorities consider how to respond to the new variant.(ABC News: Tamara Penniket)

The federal government on Saturday announced that non-Australian citizens who had been in nine countries in southern Africa where Omicron had been detected were barred from entering Australia.

Two COVID-positive travellers from southern Africa who arrived in New South Wales on Saturday have tested positive for the variant.

Mr Morrison said as well as National Cabinet, the National Security Committee would meet this afternoon to consider the decision to allow fully vaccinated temporary migrants and international students to enter Australia from December 1.

Here's what we know about the Omicron variant

The emergence of a new COVID-19 variant has scientists, health officials and the public concerned, and the World Health Organization monitoring the situation closely. 

Read more

Professor Kelly said it was "early days" and the evidence at the moment suggested that while Omicron was as infectious as the Delta strain, it did not appear to cause a more severe disease.

"On severity, there are some signs in South Africa but particularly those in other countries … that it is relatively mild compared with previous versions," he said.

"But it's early days and we need to be careful of that.

"In terms of the vaccines, there is no solid evidence that there is a problem with, that but we're looking very closely and we're looking for further advice.

"There's a lot of things we don't know yet about this virus."

Will Omicron spread like Delta?

The emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 shows Africa needs greater access to vaccines, and there is more we can be doing at home too, experts say.

Read more'Society won't accept' more lockdowns

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce pushed back against the idea of locking down any parts of Australia in response to the Omicron variant, saying there had to be an approach that balanced health with business.

"We can't just shut down every time there's a new variant, because there's going to be new variants, and they're going to continue on," he said.

"And, you know, the economy won't work and society won't accept it if we just keep shutting the show down.

"So I think there will be a sort of a tempered, sober approach to the assessment of what we do next."

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 3 minutes 18 seconds3m 18s What COVID-19 travel insurance doesn't cover you for(Emilia Terzon)What you need to know about coronavirus:

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Australia needs a social housing future fund, Grattan Institute says

Australia's housing crisis for low-income families has become acute, but it could be partly fixed with a unique solution, a think tank says.

Key points:

  • Australia's stock of social housing has barely grown in 20 years
  • A $20 billion future fund could support the construction of 3,000 to 6,000 dwellings a year
  • With state government involvement, there could be over 100,000 extra social houses by 2040

The federal government should establish a "social housing future fund" to generate the income needed to construct thousands of social housing dwellings every year, the Grattan Institute said.

If the fund was created with an endowment of $20 billion, it could soon be funding the construction of 3,000 social housing units every year, or double that number if its payments were matched by state government funding.

Why is it necessary?

Australia has failed to build enough social housing in recent decades.

Brendan Coates, the Grattan Institute's director of economic policy, said the facts were alarming.

He said social housing — where rent was typically capped at 25 per cent of a tenant's income —could make a huge difference to the lives of vulnerable Australians.

But Australia's stock of social housing, which is currently about 430,000 dwellings, had barely grown in 20 years, even though the country's population had increased dramatically over the same period (by 33 per cent), he said.

In 1991, about 6 per cent of housing in Australia was social housing, but now it is less than 4 per cent.

According to Mr Coates, most tenants stay in social housing for more than five years.

That means there is little "flow" of available social housing stock for people whose lives take a turn for the worse, and more vulnerable Australians are being forced into the private rental market where they have to pay more of their weekly income on housing.

"With fewer low-income Australians owning their home or living in social housing, their housing costs are rising," Mr Coates said.

Low-income is defined as the poorest 40 per cent by equivalised household disposable income.

"The median low-income social renter pays 24 per cent of their income on rent, compared with 37 per cent for the typical low-income private renter," he said.

"The bottom 20 per cent of households by income now spend 29 per cent of their income on housing on average, up from 22 per cent in 1995."

How would the social housing future fund work?

Mr Coates said the federal government should establish a social housing future fund.

He explained the idea in a short piece called A place to call home: it's time for a Social Housing Future Fund.

He said the fund could make regular capital grants to state governments and community housing providers every year.

If the fund started with an endowment of $20 billion, and had an investment mandate to target real (after-inflation) returns of 4 to 5 per cent, it could deliver 3,000 social housing units a year.

That number assumes capital grants of $300,000 per dwelling to cover the up-front subsidy gap for social housing.

House prices and interest rates

House price falls are all but baked in as interest rates start rising over the next couple of years, writes Michael Janda.

Read more

Mr Coates said such a fund would boost social housing with little or no hit to the federal government's budget bottom line.

"Since the initial endowment is an investment, it wouldn't appear on the underlying budget balance," he said.

"The federal government already manages $247.8 billion in assets across six future funds to address long-term problems ranging from covering federal public servants' superannuation entitlements to funding medical research."

He said capital grants from the fund could be allocated by the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation.

The grants could be awarded via competitive tender, with requirements for dwelling size and location.

How many social housing dwellings could be built?

If the $20 billion fund generated after-inflation returns of 4 to 5 per cent a year, it could generate an annual dividend averaging $900 million.

If the fund was up and running by 2022-23, it could build 24,000 social housing dwellings by 2030, and 54,000 dwellings by 2040.

If future governments chose to top up the fund endowment, it could fund even more social housing.

Mr Coates said the federal government had been "clear" it regarded social housing as state governments' responsibility.

However, he said the history of Australia's federation showed large social programs, from Medicare to the post-WWII expansion of social housing, only succeeded with federal support.

He said this reflected the reality that Australia's federal government had more powerful revenue-raising abilities: For every $5 in taxes levied in Australia every year, the federal government collected four and the states only one.

Nonetheless, he said, the federal government's frustration with state inaction on social housing was partly justified.

He said in the five years leading into the pandemic, the total stock of social housing increased by just 1,600 homes.

If state governments matched the funding it would double the housing

Therefore, Mr Coates said, the federal government should require state governments to match federal contributions to new social housing as a condition of any grants being allocated by the fund.

"If matched state funding was forthcoming, the future fund could provide 6,000 social homes a year — enough to stabilise the social housing share of the total housing stock," he said.

"It would double the total social housing build to 48,000 new homes by 2030, and 108,000 by 2040."

However, Mr Coates said a social housing future fund alone would not solve the housing crisis for low-income Australians.

He said even with an extra 108,000 social housing dwellings by 2040, more than two-thirds of low-income Australians would still be in the private rental market.

For that reason, he said the federal government ought to also boost Commonwealth rent assistance by "at least" 40 per cent and index the payment to changes in rents.

That would immediately reduce financial stress for some of Australia's most vulnerable families.

"This would be a fairer and more cost-effective way to reduce financial stress and poverty among poorer renters," he said.

"It's well targeted. About 80 per cent of Rent Assistance goes to the poorest fifth of households."

On Friday, a new report from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) found between 1.5 million and 2 million Australian renters aged 15 and over were potentially one life shock away from homelessness.

The paper, Estimating the population at-risk of homelessness in small areas, said a person was considered at risk of homelessness if they experienced at least two of the following:

  • Living in a tight housing market
  • Low income
  • Vulnerability to discrimination
  • Little social resources and supports
  • Needing assistance to maintain a living situation (due to chronic ill health, disability, mental illness, or drug or alcohol problems)

The AHURI said the lack of affordable rental housing for low-income households in Australia — be it private rental or social housing — was amplifying various forms of disadvantage.

"There is a need for greater provision of rental housing that is specifically targeted to those on low incomes and/or those at risk of homelessness," the paper concluded.


Live: NSW Now: Police charge man over Illawarra shooting spree and hostage situation

Here's what you need to know this morning.

Charges laid over siege A 40-year-old man was arrested after a police stand-off.(Supplied)

A 40-year-old man who allegedly fired "random shots" at people and took a shopkeeper hostage yesterday on the south coast has been charged.

Around 9:30am yesterday a masked man, clad entirely in black, was seen firing a rifle several times on the main strip of Windang, a coastal suburb in the Illawarra.

Assistant Commissioner Joseph Cassar said the man took several "random shots" at passing vehicles and pedestrians before "barricading himself" inside a nearby dive shop, holding the store owner hostage.

After the man surrendered, police searched his home and found two unsecured firearms, five gel blasters, military knives, six replica handguns, a police uniform and child abuse material.

The man has now been charged with a number of offences and will front Wollongong local court today.

More than 200 close contacts of Omicron-positive cases The two Omicron-positive cases travelled to Sydney on Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha.(Supplied: Facebook Qatar Airways)

NSW Health says about 260 passengers and air crew are close contacts of the two Omicron COVID-19 variant cases confirmed yesterday.

These passengers have been directed to isolate for 14 days, regardless of their test results.

Urgent genomic testing on Sunday confirmed two travellers from southern Africa — who flew into Sydney on Saturday, November 27, on Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha — were infected with the new variant.

They are now in isolation in the Special Health Accommodation.

Also in hotel quarantine are another 12 passengers from southern Africa who were on the same flight.

Travellers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles are now required to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days, irrespective of their vaccination status. 

Travellers from other countries are now also required to immediately go to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours pending further health advice.

William Tyrrell search enters week three There were no significant discoveries yesterday in the search for missing boy William Tyrrell.(ABC News)

The renewed search on the New South Wales Mid-North Coast for the remains of missing boy William Tyrrell is entering its third week. 

A cadaver dog was back on site yesterday, sniffing out the most recently dug-up sections of bushland in Kendall, close to the home where William was last seen seven years ago.

Wet weather is again expected to plague search efforts over the coming week, with significant rainfall expected on Wednesday.

Two pieces of potential evidence were recovered on Saturday but there were no new discoveries yesterday.

Councils call for compensation Linda Scott says councils are spending thousands each year on health services.(Supplied: Local Government NSW)

New South Wales councils are demanding reimbursement for helping to subsidise state and federally funded health services. 

A late submission to a parliamentary inquiry lists the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by councils each year to attract doctors and prop-up medical centres.

The president of Local Government NSW, Linda Scott, says they want to be compensated. 

"Asking us to be responsible for core state and federal responsibilities, for example, health care, is just wrong," Ms Scott said.

"We hope, ultimately, this will be a legislated scheme to ensure that where councils are having to make emergency payments to hold our health systems together, that those payments are refunded by the state or Commonwealth government." 

Theo Hayez inquest Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez vanished on one of the coldest and darkest nights of 2019.(Facebook)

A coronial inquest into the disappearance of backpacker Theo Hayez, 18, will begin today in Byron Bay on the New South Wales North Coast. 

The Belgian backpacker was last seen leaving Byron Bay nightclub Cheeky Monkey's on May 31, 2019.

Mobile phone data revealed he travelled in the opposite direction to his hostel and toward the Cape Byron lighthouse.

A two-week inquest will begin today into Theo's disappearance, which will involve several site visits to "key locations" in the area.

A "large number" of overseas witnesses are also expected to give evidence.

The missing man's family say they hope the inquest will provide some long-awaited answers, and investigate a number of scenarios that they believe were not considered by police.

Monday's weather:

Partly cloudy








New COVID-19 variant, Omicron, set alarm bells ringing over the weekend. Here’s what you need to know

The Omicron variant — previously known as the South African variant and the B.1.1.529 variant — has been declared a COVID-19 variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) over the weekend.

Some international borders closed, travel guidance changed, the markets took a nosedive, the variant got its official name and the WHO called for calm, all within a few days. 

Omicron is the fifth strain of COVID-19 to be designated a  variant of concern by the WHO.

While scientists do not know a lot about this strain yet, it is believed to be more transmissible than previous variants. 

Here is a rundown of what happened over the weekend:

  • Two cases were confirmed in Australia on Sunday
  • Australia changed its travel guidance for international arrivals 
  • Cases were detected in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Belgium, Austria and the United Kingdom
  • Many countries closed their borders to southern Africa
  • Israel closed its borders to all foreigners 
  • The WHO called for calm.

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemicOmicron confirmed in Australia

The variant has officially reached Australian shores, with the first cases detected in hotel quarantine in Sydney, where two overseas travellers tested positive for the variant on Sunday afternoon.

Another traveller in quarantine was tested in the Howard Springs facility in Northern Territory after arriving from South Africa.

He tested positive to COVID-19 and the details of his results will be shared in the coming days.  

Travel advice for arrivals to Australia changesNew COVID-19 variant explained

After a new COVID-19 variant emerged in southern Africa, scientists, health officials and the public are concerned, and the World Health Organization is monitoring the situation closely. Here is what we know.

Read more

Australia has tightened its borders for international arrivals coming from southern African countries.

Any travellers arriving from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi and the Seychelles must undergo 14 days' quarantine. 

In an effort to reduce the spread of the new variant, NSW updated its international travel regulations for arrivals from southern Africa. 

Anyone arriving in the state from the nine impacted southern African countries is now required to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days, regardless of of their vaccination status. 

Travellers from other countries into NSW, Victoria and ACT are now also required to immediately go to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours pending further health advice. 

At a press conference on Sunday, Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said vaccines would help provide protection against the Omicron variant, but it would only be known in the coming weeks just how much protection they offered.

He said the emergence of the new variant did not mean Australians were "back to square one". 

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 2 minutes 7 seconds2m 7s Brett Sutton says Omicron variant is 'likely to be very transmissible'.Cases confirmed in Europe, Hong Kong    

While the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Belgium, Austria and the United Kingdom all have confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, the Czech Republic is investigating probable infections. 

The Netherlands, alone, has at least 13 confirmed cases.

Testing is underway on the variant but is not yet known how transmissible or how severe the symptoms of the new strain are.

However, case numbers in South Africa have ballooned, and that is believed to be linked to the emergence of the new variant. 

International borders close to southern Africa

Many countries including the United States, United Kingdom and European Union nations have also closed their borders to southern Africa in an effort to reduce the spread of the new variant, which was first detected in South Africa. 

Israel has closed its borders to all foreigners, making it the first country in the world to do so. 

WHO calls for calm

The WHO and medical experts have warned people not to overreact while studies of the variant are underway. 

It made the statement, after Friday's slump in the markets, and urged nations to help developing countries get vaccinated. 

Meanwhile, the makers of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax vaccines said they had plans to adapt their shots to combat the Omicron variant.

The pharmaceutical firms expect to be able to tweak the vaccines to be effective against the new variant within 100 days. 

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 3 minutes 18 seconds3m 18s What COVID-19 travel insurance doesn't cover you for(Emilia Terzon)What you need to know about coronavirus:

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Public servants have been told to return to the office, but what risk do they face as COVID-19 remains in the community?

Federal public servants have been told to return to the office in the wake of eased COVID-19 restrictions in the national capital, sparking debate over whether it is the safest approach as the virus continues to circulate in the community.

Key points:

  • Public Service Minister Ben Morton says staff should return to the office now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased in the ACT
  • Cafe owner Tim Manning says he hopes workers will return to the Canberra CBD to support businesses
  • But a leading epidemiologist says employers should allow staff to work from home as COVID-19 continues to circulate

Last week, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said his government would not be pushing for the territory's public servants to return to the office.

He said that he believed a flexible model — public servants working from home when they liked — would be the norm for the foreseeable future.

"The ACT Public Service's approach is focused on flexibility, allowing employees to choose the space they work in depending on the nature of the work they are doing," the ACT government said in a statement.

"[ACT public servants] can attend an office when they need to, but work elsewhere at other times, provided it is safe and productive to do so.

"Many ACTPS staff have transitioned to a new way of working over the last 18 months. This has shown that embracing a flexible way of working can be productive and sustainable."

But Public Service Minister Ben Morton took another view of things when it came to the city's federal government staff.

"If a public servant can’t outline their productivity gains from working from home, well then they shouldn’t do it," he told ABC Radio Canberra.

"Start gathering some evidence, jotting down examples in your diary, get ready to make the case that if you want to continue working from home in a flexible working arrangement."

Liberal MP Ben Morton has urged public servants back to the office after months of working from home.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Mr Morton said COVID-19 was increasingly becoming a "thing of the past" in the ACT, where more than 97 per cent of eligible people are fully vaccinated.

"We look forward to a default working-from-home arrangement as a result of COVID being a thing of the past," he said.

Mr Morton urged federal government departments to oversee the transition of their staff back to the office in the coming weeks, insisting it would be better for productivity.

Buildings sit empty as public servants continue working from home ACT Property Council executive director Adina Cirson says workers aren't returning to the office as quickly as after the previous lockdown.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

According to ACT Property Council director Adina Cirson, workers were voting with their feet and some buildings in the city were operating at less than 10 per cent capacity as a result.

She agreed that workplaces would be "forever changed" due to COVID-19 lockdowns, but said she wanted to see "the majority of workers in the office, the majority of the time".

"I'm regretful to say that this year we've only seen seven per cent of office workers go back to work," she said.

"In one ACT government office block there were 30 people back in a building built for 1,600. In another, there were 22 in a building for 750. 

"The businesses in the bases of those buildings just cannot survive until January."

Without workers, venues struggle Cafe owner Tim Manning is hoping to see many more workers return to their offices before Christmas.(ABC News: Niki Burnside)

Tim Manning, from ARC cafe in Canberra's city centre, said they had reopened after lockdown to lacklustre business, due to the fact that many public servants remained working from home.

"We're still nowhere near where we were pre-lockdown, the numbers are probably 60 to 70 per cent of where we were," Mr Manning said.

Mr Manning said he hoped that workers would be back in offices the majority of the time well before Christmas.

"There's a lot of new venues that opened up in the past 12 to 18 months and it's really difficult for those guys to get the start that they really deserve," he said.

"I hope that people can come back out and support those businesses because it really is important to making Canberra the city that we all love."

Flexible approach safest: epidemiologist Workplaces still pose a risk to staff, even with a strong vaccination rate.(ABC News)

Epidemiologist and head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health Nancy Baxter said it was understandable some workers were reluctant to return to the workplace.

"I think people have reason to have some concerns — I mean, there's still a fair amount of COVID in the region," Professor Baxter said.

She said the onus should instead be on employers to make their workplaces as COVID-safe as possible, rather than on employees to prove they should be at home.

"[Employers should ] make sure things are in place to either give them some security that the workplace is safe or allow them options in terms of being able to participate online," she said.

Read more about the spread of COVID-19 in Australia:

Professor Baxter said while some might want to forget about COVID-19, "COVID is not going to forget us".

She said if workers were to return en masse to the office, it would likely follow that new infections would be detected.

"Almost certainly increasing mixing and mingling that you'll get with returning to work, and particularly if people aren't wearing masks in the office … that is going to increase transmission," she said.

"The vaccine is very good for preventing people from getting seriously ill or dying of the disease, but it's not quite as good for stopping you from getting tor transmitting the disease."

She said while an increase in cases would not lead to many hospitalisations, they were still possible.

"There will be some — low isn't none," she said.

Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter said it was understandable some workers wanted to continue working from home.(Supplied)

Professor Baxter said that among the steps employers needed to take to make workplaces safer was to ensure they were well-ventilated with "clean, fresh indoor air", as well as allowing for working from home.

"There's always been a thought that we might not be as productive at home, but we've demonstrated over the past 18 months that we actually can be as productive at home," she said.

Many workers who would ordinarily be making use of this inner-city precinct continue to work from home.(ABC News: Niki Burnside)

The Community and Public Sector Union agreed, saying there was no reason to rush back to the office.

"The last year-and-a-half has demonstrated just how capable and effective APS employees can be whilst working from home," CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said.

"We think that the future of these arrangements is hybrid arrangements where there's greater choice and greater flexibility for employees."

Last week, a new COVID-19 variant was identified in South Africa that has sparked concerns, which Professor Baxter said was a reminder that COVID-19 remained a serious threat.

She said that especially in light of the new variant, being vaccinated was not the only protection measure required.

"There's more that we can do to protect ourselves, to protect our co-workers, to protect our families and protect our community," she said.

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By dethroning a would-be king, George Kambosos Jr sits atop Australian boxing

Bathing in the afterglow of his stunning split-decision victory over Teófimo López at the storied Madison Square Garden on Sunday, George Kambosos Jr made a proud boast.

"I'm the greatest Australian fighter in history," he said.

That audacious claim is yet to be confirmed, but one thing is certain: Kambosos delivered the most seismic upset in a boxing ring in 2021.

Although Kambosos never wavered in his belief that he could shock the world throughout the nine-month frustration caused by video-sharing app Triller's pie-in-the-sky bid to host the contest, there were few who backed the 7-1 underdog.

Rewind 12 months and López was the talk of the boxing world.

Teófimo López (left) was unbeaten in 16 professional fights before his meeting with Kambosos.(Getty Images: Adam Hunger)

The number-two-ranked pound-for-pound fighter combined phenomenal power and speed with a brash personality, and equally brash father, that American audiences just lapped up.

After stunning Vasiliy Lomachenko, López stood atop a mouth-watering lightweight division that featured a group of young fighters some had already crowned the next four kings with Ryan García, Devin Haney and Gervonta Davis.

'Emperor' dethrones would-be king

The inactivity of the last year — caused by a COVID-positive test result and the Triller debacle — halted that momentum, but nobody seriously considered an upset of the scale Kambosos delivered, dethroning one would-be king by declaring himself "emperor".

Through 12 pulsating rounds of boxing in which Kambosos out-foxed the lion in his own den in a tremendous contest, nobody could doubt Kambosos had done enough.

Kambosos (right) lands an overhand right against his opponent at Madison Square Garden.(Getty: Al Bello)

The Australian landed the cleaner punches by far, delivering superbly-timed double-jabs and a bruising overhand right that bewildered López to the point of distraction — although the startlingly mixed messages coming from the American's corner could not have helped either.

Even the vocal home crowd agreed.

So hostile to the Aussie pre-contest, before he stunningly silenced them with that scene-setting first-round knockdown, they booed as López ill-advisedly hijacked Kambosos's in-ring interview with delusional claims of robbery.

López claimed in that diatribe that he was "a true champion … not a sore loser" but his swollen, bloodied eyes told the true story, wildly staring as they were into a now-uncertain future.

Kambosos says conditioning and stamina were crucial in his split-decision win against López.(Getty: Al Bello)

It will go down as a split decision, but most pundits gave Kambosos the win on their cards, with only López and judge Don Trella demurring to the accepted view that a new unified champion had been crowned.

'Too sharp, too fast, too strong'

"I'm an unbelievable boxer," Kambosos said in the ring, following the fight.

"They can't believe how good I box. My defence, my movement. [I'm] too sharp, too fast, too strong.

"My conditioning and my stamina were unbelievable."

Many will add Kambosos's resilience to that list.

Although he had stunned López with a knockdown courtesy of beautiful overhand right in the first, many imagined that would merely be a hiccup on the way to a knockout victory for the noticeably larger American.

Kambosos, seen here beating Qamil Balla in 2017, improved to 20-0 with his latest professional victory.(Getty Images: Hannah Peters)

However, Kambosos boxed brilliantly, mixing hugely intelligent ring craft with enough smack-talk to make an Ashes cricketer blush.

That belligerent taunting at the end of every round infuriated López, keeping him in a state of constant aggression that worked almost perfectly until Kambosos got too cocky, going down in the 10th.

"I was trying to entertain the fans too much," said Kambosos, who even indulged in a spot of showboating in the sixth.

"I got excited too much, I got caught. But you know what? What a warrior.

"I got back up against all odds and still finished the fight and won the next round."

Kambosos Australia's number one The Tokyo victory by Lionel Rose (left) over Masahiko 'Fighting' Harada in 1968 is considered one of the finest by an Australian boxer.(Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images))

Kambosos can now lay claim to arguably the best away-from-home performance by an Aussie boxer since 1968 when Indigenous bantamweight Lionel Rose beat Fighting Haruda at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan.

Fans of Kostya Tszyu may have something to say about that, his stunning win over Zab Judah at the MGM Grand in 2001 a certain contender.

That victory gave Tszyu senior the undisputed light welterweight championship.

Kambosos now has three of the four lightweight belts in his locker — not including the gaudy, much-disputed WBC Franchise belt

That means Kambosos is not undisputed champion, not yet at least.

Devin Haney holds the regular WBC belt, but has indicated that he wants to fight Kambosos in the new year for the undisputed title.


First, Haney has to get past Joseph Diaz Jr next week in order for that fight to be attractive enough for Kambosos, who how has serious clout in the division.

Davis and Garcia also loom as attractive possibilities at the 135-pound limit, with blockbuster world title fights in Australia surely a possibility.

There is no doubt we are now in a rich era of Australian boxing, with the sport reaching new levels of popularity off the back of the exploits of likeable champions Jeff Horn and Tim Tszyu.

But now Kambosos can justifiably lay claim to being the biggest fish in Australia's rapidly expanding pool of world-ranked stars.

His next fights will determine his real legacy, but few can doubt he's made everyone sit up and take note now.

As Kambosos noted after his fight, he's been the underdog throughout his career.

After a performance of such quality, there will be few who make the same mistake of overlooking Kambosos again.


Omicron is now in Australia. What does that mean for Queensland?

Queensland Health says the state's reopening plans have not changed despite the detection of the first cases of the COVID-19 variant Omicron in Australia.

Key points:

  • Fewer than 10 people from southern African countries are in Queensland hotel quarantine
  • None of those people has tested positive to any strain of COVID-19
  • Other states are tightening rules for all international arrivals in light of the Omicron variant

Queensland Health said officials were monitoring the situation closely, but Queensland remains on track to reopen once 80 per cent of residents over 16 are fully vaccinated. 

NSW Health confirmed on Sunday that two passengers who arrived in Sydney on Saturday night via Doha had tested positive to the strain.

Both were fully vaccinated, asymptomatic, and now in isolation, as were 260 passengers and air crew who were on the same Qatar Airways flight.

Queensland's acting Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken said on Sunday there was "no need to do anything different" in Queensland.

He said "fewer than 10 people" who had recently travelled from nine southern African countries now subject to travel restrictions were in Queensland hotel quarantine.

As of Sunday, Dr Aitken said none of those travellers had tested positive for any strain of the virus.

Australia has imposed restrictions on flights from nine southern African countries.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)Worldwide alert

The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed Omicron a "variant of concern" and scientists are still determining its qualities and potential threat.

Still, dozens of countries including the United States and the United Kingdom have already closed their borders to the southern African nations were the variant is spreading.

On Saturday, Australia announced it would bar entry to foreign citizens from nine southern African countries: South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles.

Australian citizens and residents will be allowed to return from those countries but must spend 14 days in quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status.

Dr Aitken said the measures were sensible and there was no need for alarm.

"These are all sensible measures to buy us time, because at this stage, this is a new virus, and we don't know the details of what it means for our communities or anybody else at this stage," Dr Aitken said.

"We need to be cautious — we don't need to be alarmed".

Queensland Health has not announced any changes to the state's reopening plan in light of Omicron.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)State rule changes 

A number of states and territories have introduced new rules since the emergence of Omicron.

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NSW and Victoria now require all international arrivals to travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours, pending further health advice. 

The ACT has taken similar measures, with all recent international arrivals from all other countries required to quarantine until November 30.

South Australia now requires people from any country to quarantine for 14 days instead of seven, and Western Australia tightened its border with SA due to the Omicron strain.

Dr Aitken said Queensland was still on track to open its borders when 80 per cent of the eligible population over 16 had received two doses of vaccine.

Then, fully vaccinated people who test negative to COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival will be able to enter without quarantining. 

International arrivals will still need enter hotel quarantine, though that requirement is expected to lift for fully vaccinated people once the double vaccination rate hits 90 per cent, likely sometime in January.

As of Sunday, 75.91 per cent of Queenslanders over the age of 16 were fully vaccinated and 86.17 per cent of the same cohort had received at least one dose.


Dr Aitken has said Queensland was tracking to meet the 80 per cent double vaccination milestone on December 10, a week before the initially projected December 17 date.

Dr Aitken said the two key factors would determine if tougher measures were needed.

They included whether Omicron was a "more severe illness" than the Delta variant, and whether current vaccines were effective against the new strain.

"If it's not a more severe illness, there really isn't much to worry about," he said.

Dr Aitken said that at this stage "there's no significant change in severity of illness or any leak of vaccine effect with this new strain."

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Hubert the Eurasian hobby makes history, a long way from home

A rare European bird of prey has been found for the first time in eastern Australia — and researchers say its unprecedented journey could be the result of a changing climate.

Key points:

  • A Eurasian hobby has been found in eastern Australia for the first time in recorded history
  • The small falcon, named Hubert, has a fractured wing and will soon undergo surgery
  • Researchers say environmental factors could have influenced the bird's journey from Europe to south-east Australia

The Eurasian hobby has only been seen in Australia five times in recorded history, with all sightings having occurred near Perth over the past five years. 

The small falcons normally migrate from Europe south to Asia and Africa, but this male, dubbed Hubert for his "lovely, quiet nature", was found wandering around on foot in a paddock in Sale, in Victoria's south-east. 

Wildlife carer Linda Cunningham was the first responder on the scene.

"It's the first time it's been held in someone's hand in Australia," she said.

Linda Cunningham, with Hubert, who was found a long way from home, wandering around a paddock in Gippsland. (Supplied: Linda Cunningham)

But the experienced carer was perplexed at what bird species it was that she had in her hands. 

"I've been at the wildlife shelter looking after birds of prey for over 25 years now," she said. 

"This one I stared at for quite a while, and my brain was quite confused." 

The Eurasian hobby is similar in size to the Australian hobby — one of the nation's smallest raptors at about 30cm long — but it has different markings.

Bird surgeons waiting in the wings

When an X-ray revealed that Hubert had a fractured wing, he was taken to a veterinarian,  where he is being assessed for an upcoming surgery. 

"They're planning a surgical procedure, near the elbow joint, chances are it'll be okay," Ms Cunningham said. 

It is thought Hubert most likely sustained the injury by flying into a wire fence. 

"It's what's called hawking — flying over the tops of grass to disturb insects to then eat," Ms Cunningham said. 

"It could've done this and unfortunately not seen the wire fence."

It is not yet known when Hubert will be released to migrate back to Europe, but Ms Cunningham said his rehabilitation would take considerable time. 

Australian hobbies have different colourings, but are of a similar size to Hubert.(Supplied: frankzed/Flickr)How did Hubert get here? 

There are a few possible explanations for how Hubert came to be chasing bugs in regional Victoria. 

Monash University ornithologist Rohan Clarke confirmed Hubert's rarity to Ms Cunningham. 

"It's possible that it ended up on the wrong flyway — rather than going south into Africa, it's come across a bit too far east, or west, depending on how you look at it," Dr Clarke said.  

The La Nina weather system means migratory birds often end up in different places from their usual flight patterns.(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

Or perhaps, he said, the recently declared La Niña weather system could be wreaking havoc on birds' orientation.  

Ornithologist Rohan Clarke says climate changes could be affecting birds' orientation. (Supplied: Monash University)

"In La Niña years, we get more vagrants turning up in different places," Dr Clarke said. 

But research conducted for BirdLife Australia suggests "it is likely the species is more than just an accidental vagrant to Australia".

Dr Clarke agreed it was possible that a changing climate and increasing competition had driven Hubert further afield from his peers. 

"We're also seeing a couple of species that didn't previously occur in Australia at all, now turning up on a regular basis," he said. 

"Maybe a Eurasian hobby in eastern Australia is kind of a vanguard, which goes on to mean Eurasian hobbies could occur moderately frequently over summer months. 

"A lot of species will do very poorly under climate change scenarios, especially with changes to habitat."

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‘A fashion superstar’: Louis Vuitton’s star designer Virgil Abloh dies of cancer

Designer Virgil Abloh, a leading fashion executive hailed as the Karl Lagerfeld of his generation, has died of cancer. He was 41.

Key points:

  • Abloh's family says he managed a rare form of cancer in private
  • Abloh, who grew up in Chicago, was often referred to as a Renaissance man in the fashion world
  • He was named one of Time magazine's most influential people in 2018

His emploer LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) said Abloh had been dealing with cancer privately for years.

"We are all shocked after this terrible news. Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom," Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH, said in a statement.

Abloh was the menswear designer of Louis Vuitton.

A statement from Abloh's family on the designer's Instagram account said Abloh had been managing cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer in which a tumour occurs in the heart, for the past two years.

"He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture," the statement read.


Abloh is survived by his wife Shannon Abloh and his children, Lowe and Grey.

In 2018, Abloh became the first black artistic director of men's wear at Louis Vuitton in the French design house's storied history.

A first generation Ghanaian American whose seamstress mother taught him to sew, Abloh had no formal fashion training but had a degree in engineering and a master's in architecture.

Abloh, who grew up in Chicago, was often referred to as a Renaissance man in the fashion world.


He moonlighted as a DJ. But in a short time, he emerged as one of fashion's most heralded designers.

Abloh called himself "a maker." 

He was named one of Time magazine's most influential people in 2018.

In 2009, Abloh met Kanye West — now called Ye — while he was working at a screen-printing store.

After he and Ye interned together at the LVMH brand Fendi, Abloh was Ye's creative director.

Abloh was art director for the 2011 Ye-Jay-Z album Watch the Throne, for which Abloh was nominated for a Grammy.

His work with West served as a blueprint for future border-crossing collaborations that married high and low.

With Nike, he partnered his Off-White label for a line of frenzy-inducing sneakers remixed with a variety of styles and Helvetica fonts.

Abloh also designed furniture for IKEA, refillable bottles for Evian and Big Mac cartons for McDonald's.

His work was exhibited at the Louvre, the Gagosian and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.


Fashion designer Donatella Versace said she was lost for words after hearing of Abloh's death.

"Virgil, I am lost for words," Versace said. 

"The world has lost a fashion superstar. An innovator. A creator for the history books.

"I am thinking of all your loved ones on this tragic day. Love, Donatella."

In a statement, fashion house Gucci said Abloh was an inspiration.

"We would like to extend our most heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of Virgil Abloh, an immense inspiration to us all both as a designer and as a person," the statement said.

"He will be deeply missed though his vision will live on through the trails that he blazed throughout his career." 


The COVID-19 pandemic positives for Australians living with disabilities

The pandemic has brought with it different challenges for everyone. But for some Australians with a disability, it's been a chance to find joy, independence and new passions.

Cancer survivor James Norquay honed his passion for photography, despite the fact he "can't see any of my surroundings whatsoever".

Mr Norquay, 21, is legally blind after surviving brain cancer 10 years ago.

Initially, photography was a tool to assist with his sight impairment as it allowed him to zoom in on an image — such as bus timetable or menu — and observe detail he usually could not see.

But during downtime throughout the pandemic he realised what was once a necessity, is now a lifelong passion.

"When I'm looking through my camera I go from having 2 per cent sight to 101 per cent vision," he said.

"I love really rich, vibrant colours for sunrise and sunsets," Mr Norquay says.(Instagram: norquaydesigns_photography)

"I really love being able to capture that emotion and bring it to life.

"I'm so grateful for where I am now and I wouldn't change the journey I've gone down because I don't know where I'd be and probably wouldn't be in such a bright place like where I am now."

'I thought I was too disabled to live by myself'

Kristie McCarthy celebrated a year of independent living during Sydney's 2021 lockdown.

It was a "massive" achievement the 39-year-old never thought would be possible.

"I kind of feel like Superwoman to be honest," she said.

"It didn't matter whether it was a pandemic, a zombie apocalypse, I was moving out," Ms McCarthy says.(Supplied: Sandra Henri Photography)

"I'm so proud of myself and what I've done. I thought I was too disabled to live by myself."

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Ms McCarthy lives with spinal muscular atrophy, a neuromuscular condition that impacts the messages between muscles and the brain.

She is "100 per cent reliant on other people".

"That's showering me, getting me in and out of bed, feeding myself, wiping my nose. I need a lot of assistance and it's going to get worse as I get older.

"I can move my head but everything else is a struggle for me.

"That's why moving out was one of those challenges I wanted to achieve."

Ms McCarthy was living with her parents when the opportunity to move out arose.

Living alone has had its challenges, like learning how to ask for — and accept — help, getting used to feeling vulnerable and at times lonely, and teaching support workers how to cook.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.ListenDuration: 3 minutes 4 seconds3m 4s Don't revert back to old ways, expert warns(ABC Sunshine Coast: Gavin Salmon)Download 2.8 MB

But she wouldn't have it any other way and has even embraced the opportunity to work from home in a "perfectly" set up workspace.

"My disability is neuromuscular so part of that is quite a lot of fatigue," she said.

"While I've been working from home it means that I'm not spending an hour a day commuting to work and spending that energy.

"I really hope that employers can recognise that working from home is actually a viable option."

Roller skating benefits mental health

Melbourne-based Carly Findlay, 39, rediscovered a childhood passion during the city's numerous lockdowns. 


"I saw that Instagram was showing me a lot of videos of women roller skating and I thought, 'Oh, this looks amazing, I could do that'," she said.

But rolling down the pavement wasn't as easy as it looked on social media, or as she remembered as a teenager.

"I'm a bit taller … and a little bit heavier as well, so there's further to fall and more weight to fall on, so that was a bit scary," she said.

As her confidence on the skates grew, she noticed multiple benefits throughout the challenging times during the pandemic.

"It allows me to exercise in a way that I hadn't done before.

"I found it's really good for my mental health, particularly mindfulness.

"Roller skating allows me to keep focused on the one thing that I'm doing — which is standing up moving on eight wheels."

But even being outside in the elements can be difficult for Ms Findlay — an author, appearance activist, speaker and access adviser — who lives with the skin condition ichthyosis.

Her body and skin get sore and inflamed and it can be hard to regulate her body temperature.

"So, the weather has to be pleasant for me to go out, not too hot, not too cold.

"Being outside in the summer is quite hard for me because I don't cool down and also it's quite hard to warm up as well."

During the pandemic's "uncertainty and loneliness", Ms Findlay rediscovered her joy for roller skating.(Instagram: Carly Findlay)Technology brings new connections

Justin Scanlon also lives in Melbourne and said the pandemic had been challenging for his 15-year-old, non-verbal son — but there were positives too. 

"Technology opens up many, many possibilities that we didn't think possible," he said.

"I have noticed that his ability to be more patient and his ability to focus and sit there, just focusing on a screen is a skill that he's picked up through the pandemic.

Mr Scanlon says beyond the pandemic, they'll continue to use a mix of face-to-face and online video calls to support his son.(Supplied: Hearth Australia)

"Tristan is six feet, so getting out to see people et cetera is a bit of effort, whereas Zoom it's very, very quick."

Mr Scanlon, who founded the charity Hearth Australia, said the technology gave Tristan more options for sourcing education, allied health and music therapy.

He said online communication had also boosted his son's informal support network.

"His grandparents are [in their] early 80s and they connect on Zoom and he loves it," he said.

"Together with music therapy that's one of the other very exciting opportunities that has come about because of COVID.

"It's been a positive impact of the pandemic that we wouldn't have done before."

ABC is partnering with International Day of People with Disability to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the 4.4 million Australians with disability.


An experience I deserve: Nas Campanella on preparing for motherhood

Thousands of people were watching when I played a pregnant woman who was blind on the Channel 10 show Offspring in 2016. 

I'd never acted before. The filming was intense, but the crew took care to coach me through everything. I admit it all felt hilarious and my family told me it was a very bad attempt at birthing.

When the baby was placed on my chest, it was confirmed the child wasn't blind like her mum.

There I was, playing a mother, elated her daughter wasn't born with the same disability as her.

On the way home I felt overwhelmed. I kept thinking that could be me one day.

Now it is. I'm six months pregnant.

Nas Campanella and her husband Tom are preparing to navigate parenthood together.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

Until my acting debut I'd never considered the real prospect of my own offspring inheriting either of my disabilities. No-one could have predicted I'd feel anything after that experience, but I felt conflicted.

Both my neurological condition, Charcot-Marie-Tooth — which affects muscle strength and nerve sensitivity — and my blindness are genetic.

On the one hand, I was disappointed that the happy storyline was the focus on the baby not being disabled. I am a proud disabled woman.

I also felt worried at the thought of my own child being born with disability. I was conflicted. And that made me feel guilty.

Hard work — but worth it

Most conversations around pregnancy turn to whether the parents-to-be are going to find out their baby's gender. If someone says no, the immediate response is usually "Oh it doesn't matter, so long as the baby is healthy".

But what if they aren't? It's ingrained in many people to feel that any baby less than perfectly healthy is bad.

And there I was, against my better judgement, worried about those same prospects. I'm the last person who fears disability. Thirty-three years of lived experience means I know more than most about it and where to get support.

Nas has always found unique ways to navigate the world, and parenting will be no different.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

I realised I was worried about how my child with disability would navigate the world, one that at times had tested me and so many others with disability. The world isn't always inclusive or kind to us.

Would my disabilities prevent me from being a good mum? Would it be too much pressure for my husband who would need to provide more support than usual? Would my child miss out because I couldn't read to them or teach them numbers or the alphabet the same way other parents could? Would I physically be able to manage all that parenting required given the lack of strength in my arms?

If my child was born with disability, would I be strong enough to help them navigate the world one negative comment or inaccessible building at a time?

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In the years following my Offspring appearance, I've had many conversations with lots of parents with disability.

They've told me about the negative comments from strangers and overcoming parent guilt. They showed me the equipment they used and how they figured out ways to supervise their kids at the park.

They didn't sugar-coat anything. They said it was hard work. But they also said it was worth it.

In talking to both mums with and without disability, I realised that parenting isn't easy for anyone.

I decided it was an experience I deserved. And if my child had disabilities then my lived experience meant I'd be the best mum for them.

Finding unique ways to navigate parenting

From the moment I discovered I was pregnant I swung into action, getting an occupational therapist to help choose equipment so I can be independent and the baby will be safe. A talking thermometer will help me check their temperature, squeaky shoes will let me know where they are, and their clothes will be carefully arranged so I know what they're wearing.

Two years ago, I started training with an exercise physiologist to build up the strength in my arms so I'll be able to hold my baby without getting tired. We're also working on maintaining my balance so I'm less prone to falls as my bump grows.

Getting ready for parenting has involved a lot of planning and preparation.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

There are things I won't be able to do. Sometimes those realities make me a little sad. I'll never see my baby smile or be able to take photos of their milestones. And going up the road for a coffee independently using a pram is tricky when you also need a cane.

My husband and I will navigate those things the way we do everything in life: together. I've always found unique ways to navigate the world and parenting will be no different.

Even with all the planning, I know nothing will truly prepare me for motherhood. What I do know is whatever my baby is born with or without, I'll be their biggest advocate. My lived experience of disability will be an asset. Not a liability.

They'll grow up accepting people for who they are and learning to navigate the world their own way.

There are no fake birth scenes and certainly no acting this time, my precious bump. I can't wait to meet you and to conquer this next chapter together, one step at a time.


The idea of the Chinese government’s ‘three nos’ with regard to the LGBTQI+ community is a bit misleading

People often ask me what it's like to be queer or trans in China. 

It was the number one question I encountered when I returned to Melbourne after three years in Shanghai, much of it spent reporting on China's LGBTQI+ community.

Often the question is posed with a frown and a heavy tone because Australians tend to assume the worst.

Jinghua (far left) found a number of different events for the LGBTQI+ community while they were living in China. (Supplied.)

But honestly, I had an amazing time: I went to a trans summit in Ningbo, a drag show in Hangzhou, and a lesbian-run skate rink in Shanghai. I interviewed retired gay men and trans high school student activists.

Everywhere I travelled, I managed to find my people, and it felt like China abounded in queer stories I was excited to tell.

A different sort of homophobia

Homophobia in China isn't what we're used to in Australia.

First, there aren't really any religious lobbies in China. The government is officially atheist, and while religious practice is on the rise, most polls still report that the majority of Chinese people aren't affiliated with any religion.

There also aren't many laws explicitly targeting LGBTIQ+ individuals.

People often say that homosexuality was decriminalised in China in 1997, but the offence that was abolished ('hooliganism') did not explicitly refer to same-sex acts.

Nowadays, suppression of queer and trans representation in the media is often deputised to industry bodies and concealed within professional guidelines that prohibit same-sex relationships and gender nonconformity alongside other verboten topics like adultery and superstition.

Reports often describe the Chinese government's attitude to us as the 'three nos': no approval, no disapproval, no promotion. But that's a bit misleading.

Many LGBTIQ+ services and businesses operate with the government's approval and even cooperation — for instance, HIV awareness campaigns targeting gay men might work with the local health department.

Shanghai Pride festival abruptly shut down in August 2020 after more than a decade.(Reuters: Aly Song)

At the same time, queer organisations get raided and harassed by the police, or blocked from major online platforms like WeChat. In 2020, ShanghaiPRIDE — the country's largest LGBTIQ+ festival — called it quits after 12 years, citing safety concerns.

Queer activists face the same risks as other organisers: workers, feminists, ethnic minorities, religious groups and human rights advocates.

So it's perhaps more accurate to say that there is both approval and disapproval, and that homophobia is inextricable from human rights generally.

Most of the time LGBTIQ+ groups come into conflict with the authorities, it's because they're seen as a political threat.

Queers and patriots

"In recent years in China, there has been a crackdown on civil society organisations and different forms of social and political activism," says Dr Hongwei Bao, a China studies and queer theory scholar at the University of Nottingham.

"At the same time, there's also an intensified sense of nationalism and patriotism, so a lot of things can be artificially divided into a kind of Chinese or non-Chinese, or Chinese or Western lines."

The new generation of online nationalists often paint the LGBTIQ+ community as foreign — despite the long history of sexual and gender diversity in Chinese culture.

Chinese queer activists have been accused of being puppets of the west or agents of 'hostile foreign forces'. 

As a result, it's tricky for the international community to support Chinese activists without fuelling nationalist backlash. 

Receiving donations or other support from overseas can lead to accusations of collusion with foreign governments. Any association with global movements risks the perception that LGBTIQ+ advocacy in the Chinese mainland is not Chinese enough.

Representatives from Shanghai Pride attend World Pride celebrations in New York City.(Supplied.)'Part of the world'

The fact is that modern LGBTIQ+ activism in China has been part of a global, cross-border movement since its inception — a movement that was never just driven by the West.

Dr Bao traces the emergence of queer advocacy groups in China to the mid-1990s.

In 1995, Beijing hosted the UN World Conference on Women, and the decade also saw rapid development of the country's NGO sector as the government introduced a policy framework for not-for-profits, where previously China's political system left little room for non-governmental organisations.

South African activist Bev Ditsie's documentary, Lesbians Free Everyone: The Beijing Retrospective, shows how activists from every continent converged on Beijing in 1995.


In the decades since, China's LGBTIQ organisations have continued to work with allies overseas, especially in other non-Western and Sinophone countries.

For Dr Bao, it's vital to rethink the common misconception that the LGBTIQ+ community is not Chinese enough.

"I think that we need to think about things in a more cosmopolitan way, first to understand China's history of its diverse genders and sexualities," he says.

"And second, to see China as a part of the world, where international practices are already deeply embedded."

China Tonight returns in 2022 – catch up on episodes with iview.


Brittany’s 10km commute used to take around an hour. In Melbourne’s west, she’s not the only one

Take a turn off the busy Princes Freeway at Werribee, about 30 kilometres from central Melbourne, and you'll come to a big paddock.

Among the broken fences, thistles and long-condemned former government buildings is a big plan.

It's a plan to convert the 775-hectare site into a thriving CBD, creating nearly 60,000 local jobs in health, medical research and education.

The local council is keen to turn the surging population in Melbourne's west into a hub for jobs and families.(ABC News)

Despite being listed as a state government priority precinct in 2013, the site the size of nearly 400 MCGs is still just paddocks.

Locals say that needs to change, and quickly, to create tens of thousands of jobs in the second fastest-growing part of Australia.

World-class research in Werribee

Vasso Apostolopoulos conducts world-renowned research in infectious diseases nearby, at Victoria University's Werribee campus.

She used to commute to work at the University of Melbourne in Parkville, but she's now much happier with a shorter trip to work from her home nearby.

Vasso Apostolopoulos would like to see more job opportunities in the west.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

Professor Apostolopoulos is not alone.

"There's a lot of people who do research, but they all travel into the city to do their research, that's their job, they're doctors or medical researchers," she said.

"It'd be fantastic if they could stay locally, it'd ease the traffic going into the city and just keep them locally, keep the talent local."

The East Werribee Employment Precinct structure plan was completed in 2013. In 2018, plans were announced for the area to be Melbourne's second CBD, with a private consortium Australian Education City.

The plan fell over, locals say they still don't know why, and the paddock became overgrown.

After the grand vision fell over, locals are calling on government to come up with a new plan.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)Jobs and traffic on election agenda

With a state election a year away, local jobs and traffic are high on the agenda for many residents in Melbourne's booming outer west.

At Werribee train station, Year 10 student Hamdaan Ahmed can see how the daily commute eats into people's lives.

Hamdaan Ahmed (left) and Daniyal Qidwai (right) say more local jobs could cut down the crammed commute so many people in Melbourne's west live with.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

"The trains are packed every hour and I think if the government maybe put more jobs in the local vicinities, maybe citizens don't have to go far for their jobs," he said.

"Office jobs maybe, because lots of people just go to the city for office jobs, so maybe tax offices, stuff like that, it would help the community."

Legal industry worker Brittany Reiner rates Werribee's transport infrastructure as "very poor".

Brittany Reiner says the roads around Melbourne's west often feel more like a carpark during peak hour.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

"I was travelling from Wyndham Vale into Werribee main street, which is about a 10-kilometre drive, and it would take me about 50 minute to get there," she said.

"So I would start at nine o'clock and I would have to leave before eight o'clock to get to work on time."

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The council says developing the East Werribee precinct is key to solving the jobs and traffic dilemma.

Data from the City of Wyndham shows 63.5 per cent of working locals leave the area to go to work.

Councillor Mia Shaw said that means residents spend a long time commuting, often on very crowded roads and trains.

"We don't need more housing, we need local jobs," she said.

The Committee for Wyndham agrees, and is calling for the state government to work with the council and businesses to develop a plan for the area.

Committee for Wyndham chairman Peter Mayall wants the East Werribee site to house up to 60,000 jobs.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

"We'd love to see this precinct developed as an educational precinct, a commercial precinct," said the group's chairman, Peter Mayall.

He said the committee has written to the state government, but received no reply.

Werribee's research history

East Werribee has a proud history of animal research, and a vet school is part of the current site.

Former mayor Bob Fairclough worked as an animal researcher at the state research farm on the site in the 1980s.

"The research was relating to reproduction, a lot of the artificial insemination that's currently in use was developed here at this site," Dr Fairclough said.

For local stakeholders, a plan to build up a hub at East Werribee can't come soon enough.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

These days, he is the president of the Point Cook Residents Action Group, which is collecting signatures on a petition in favour of developing the site.

He said reducing the congestion on the roads is locals' number one complaint — and listeners to local radio in Melbourne are all too familiar with traffic being heavy on the Point Cook bend.

"It can sometimes take one-and-a-half hours to get to the city from Point Cook, and we'd like to get it down to 45 minutes — that's just traffic," he said.

The government points to its investment in Geelong Fast Rail and upgrades to the local law courts and hospital as proof of its commitment to the area.

In a statement, a spokesperson did not comment directly on the precinct idea, but said the government was "reviewing possibilities for Werribee".

"We continue to consider more ways to support major investments, jobs and enhanced services and amenities in Werribee," they said.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 1 minute 41 seconds1m 41s State political reporter Bridget Rollason breaks down the seats that could decide the next election.


‘A female coach really understands the female game’: A-League Women welcomes record number of female coaches

There was only one female head coach in the W-League last year, but that number has risen for the new-look A-League Women season.

Key points:

  • Wellington Phoenix coach Gemma Lewis hopes having more women in positions of authority can help shift the status quo in women's football 
  • The A-League Women's season kicks off on December 3 when the Phoenix meet the Western Sydney Wanderers
  • Despite the competition name change, elite level football is still a juggling act for women says Newcastle Jets coach Ash Wilson

This year, four out of 10 A-League Women head coaches are female — the highest number of female coaches in the league's 13-year history.

The women in charge include Ash Wilson (Newcastle Jets), Catherine Cannuli (Western Sydney Wanderers), Gemma Lewis (Wellington Phoenix) and Vicki Linton, who took on the head coaching position at Canberra United last season.

For Wilson it was a long road top job, having served a five-year apprenticeship as an assistant coach.

"To go through all of the training and assistant work to get here shows a real commitment to the trade; I am really excited," Wilson said.

"It's great the clubs are recognising the value and the contributions of some of these coaches.

"To see more females stepping up is great, but for me it's not a female or male thing, it's who's the right coach for the job."

Jets player Hannah Brewer is about to clock up her 100th club game but has never played under a female head coach.

Before stepping into the head coaching role Ash Wilson spent five years serving as assistant to Craig Deans.(Supplied: Newcastle Jets)

"A female coach really understands the female game," the veteran defender said.

"They understand everything that comes along with being an athlete and being a female, and work and family commitments."

Having played in the league since the inaugural year of 2008, Brewer is pleased to see how the game's opportunities are changing for women.

"I couldn't speak any higher of Ash, she's is a great person on and off the field, she knows us girls and takes the time to get to know us as people and as footballers, which is not something all coaches do," Brewer said.

"Ash really deserves where she is going with her career."

Lewis, coach of this year's newcomers the Wellington Phoenix, has also had to work hard to earn her stripes.

"I have been coaching for the past eight years in New Zealand, I've worked with the national team Auckland and Northern, on the international stage with the under 20's and under 17's and assisted the Football Ferns for the World Cup," Lewis said.

Wellington's women's team, coached by Gemma Lewis, has been several years in the making. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

"The more we can demonstrate that females are more than capable at that level, that will show others and mean [more] female coaches coming through the pathways."

"Getting more females is about visibility … coaches are now thinking, 'is this sustainable and something I can make a career out of?'

"We can break down those barriers and show if you've gone through that training, you've got your badges, you will be given that opportunity."

Elite football still a juggling act

In a bid to make the game more gender-equal, this year's top-flight men's and women's football competitions have been rebranded as A-League Men and A-League Women.

While progress is being made, the semi-professional nature of women's football is still a juggling act for women.

Most of the players in Australia's elite competition have to balance full-time or part-time work or study commitments.

On top of coaching the Jets, Wilson is also a full-time teacher at Hunter Sports High School.

"During the week I'll get to school around seven, teach all day, head straight to training after work, come home from training and spend the night planning the next session," the physical education teacher said.

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Australia's top-tier men's and women's football leagues, the A-League and W-League, have been collectively rebranded as the A-Leagues ahead of the upcoming seasons.

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"A typical weekend is mixed with planning, football, marking [school work].

"At the end of the day I love football, I love teaching – I just have to balance them both to make sure I get everything done."

Growing up, Wilson dreamed of making it as a footballer and came close making her national league debut at 15.

"I could choose an occupation that was going to make me some money – I didn't have that opportunity through football," Wilson said.

"I made the very hard decision to step back from the top level and there are times I regret it, but my passion for football has allowed me to work at the highest level again with talented athletes (as coach)."

Wilson applauds the growth of female football but believes there is still room for improvement.

"The commitment to continue to mentor female coaches and give them opportunities has been excellent," she said.

"But everyone can look at it now and say it still needs to be better, which it does and obviously the leagues and the players are going to continue to work and fight for those things."

The A-League Women's season kicks off when the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers go head to head on December 3. 


Susan Neill-Fraser will find out tomorrow if she can walk free from prison — here’s what her appeal is about

Hobart woman Susan Neill-Fraser will find out on Tuesday if she will walk free from prison, with the Court of Criminal Appeal set to hand down its decision on her appeal against her conviction for murdering her partner, Bob Chappell.

Key points:

  • The Court of Criminal Appeal will hand down its decision on Tuesday at 9:45am in Susan Neill-Fraser's latest appeal against her murder conviction
  • In 2010, a Supreme Court of Tasmania jury found Neill-Fraser guilty murdering her partner Bob Chappell, on board the couple's yacht
  • The court has had to consider whether Neill-Fraser has "fresh and compelling" evidence that casts doubt on the jury's verdict

A Supreme Court jury in 2010 found Neill-Fraser guilty of murdering Mr Chappell, 65, on board the couple's yacht, the Four Winds, which was moored off Sandy Bay, on Australia Day in 2009.

Neither Mr Chappell's body nor a murder weapon has ever been found.

Neill-Fraser, now 67, has always argued she was innocent.

What is the appeal all about?

The appeal rests on questions about how DNA from a then-homeless 15-year-old, Meaghan Vass, came to be on the Four Winds' deck.

During the appeal hearing in March, the court heard that in 2010, Ms Vass told the jury she did not remember ever being on or near the yacht at the time of Mr Chappell's disappearance, and could not remember where she was on the night of January 26, 2009.

The prosecution argued Susan Neill-Fraser killed Bob Chappell on their yacht in 2009.(AAP/Supplied)

The prosecution at trial argued Ms Vass's DNA got onto the deck as a result of secondary transfer — such as from the sole of a shoe.

Evidence from Ms Vass herself was abandoned by Neill-Fraser's lawyers after she made contradictory statements to the court.

But the DNA remains central to the appeal. Neill-Fraser's lawyers are relying on evidence previously given by Victoria Police forensic specialist Maxwell Jones to argue the prosecution was wrong at trial to dismiss the DNA deposit as a red herring.

"There is … a significant possibility that the jury would have delivered a different verdict if the evidence of [Mr] Jones had been before it," barrister Chris Carr SC told the court.

Director of Public Prosecutions Daryl Coates SC told the court the evidence was not fresh nor compelling — which is required for the appeal to succeed — and Mr Jones had not been able to rule out secondary transfer.

He also said the DNA swab was taken three days after Mr Chappell's disappearance, and, according to Mr Jones, the DNA matching Ms Vass's was likely to be a day or two old when it was swabbed.

The prosecution argued Meaghan Vass's DNA got on the yacht via a secondary transfer.(Facebook: Meaghan Vass)

After the hearing, there were calls to reopen the appeal.

This is not the first time Neill-Fraser has appealed against her conviction. Her 2012 appeal was dismissed.

A Tasmanian law change in 2015 gave convicted people the right to a second or subsequent appeal if they had "fresh and compelling" evidence and could argue that as a result of that evidence not being considered in the original trial, there may have been a substantial miscarriage of justice.

If such an appeal is successful, the court can order a re-trial or acquit. If she is acquitted, she will be able to leave prison.

The couple's yacht, the Four Winds, was moored off Sandy Bay.(AAP)What happens if the appeal fails?

Neill-Fraser's supporters say they will not give up the fight if the appeal fails.

Her legal options could include applying to the High Court for special leave to appeal against the Court of Criminal Appeal's decision if it does not go in her favour.

Susan Neill-Fraser is eligible for parole in August.(ABC News)

Neill-Fraser could also appeal again to the Court of Criminal Appeal, but she would need fresh and compelling evidence to mount a new appeal.

As things stand now, Neill-Fraser will be eligible for parole in August, but her supporters say she wants to leave prison as an innocent woman.

The 2010 trial

A Supreme Court jury deliberated for more than 18 hours before unanimously finding Neill-Fraser guilty of murder.

Then-director of public prosecutions, Tim Ellis SC, urged the jury to conclude that Neill-Fraser had told numerous lies in the days and months after Mr Chappell's disappearance, and that those lies had been told out of a consciousness of guilt.

Neill-Fraser's lawyer, the late David Gunson SC, told the jury Mr Ellis' arguments were "based entirely on suspicion and nothing else".

"You've got Meaghan Vass's DNA, you've got the total denials by the accused repeatedly to the police and here in this court room on her oath that she is in no way responsible," Mr Gunson said.

"Yes, lies were told, she admits that, but they were not told through a consciousness of guilt. They were silly. They were silly lies … it doesn't mean that she committed the crime of murder."

The appeal against the murder conviction will be handed down at 9:45am on Tuesday.(Supplied)

When sentencing Neill-Fraser in October 2010, then-justice Alan Blow said he was "satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Neill-Fraser attacked Mr Chappell on board the yacht, the Four Winds", either in the saloon or the wheelhouse.

In his sentencing remarks, Justice Blow said Mr Chappell probably died on board the yacht, but he could not rule out the possibility that the attack left him deeply unconscious and that drowning was the cause of death.

Justice Blow said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Neill-Fraser:

  • Manoeuvred Mr Chappell's body into the yacht's tender (small boat for going back to shore)
  • Attached a 14kg fire extinguisher to his body
  • Dumped Mr Chappell's body in the River Derwent some distance away from the Four Winds

Justice Blow said the evidence upon which he based those findings included blood found on the Four Winds, and on a torch on board the yacht, the state of the yacht's ropes and winches on January 27, 2009, the absence of the fire extinguisher and sections of carpet from the vessel's saloon, the finding and scientific examination of the tender, and evidence that Mr Chappell's body was not found in sections of the river searched by police divers.

He said Neill-Fraser also attempted to sink the Four Winds in order to destroy evidence, and that her motive was material gain.

The question the Court of Criminal Appeal — comprising justices Helen Wood, Stephen Estcourt and Robert Pearce — has been concerned with is not whether Neill-Fraser is guilty or innocent, but whether there is fresh and compelling evidence that casts doubt on the original verdict.

Want more Tasmanian news?

Set the ABC News website or the app to 'Tasmania Top Stories' from either the homepage or the settings menu in the app to continue getting the same national news you love but with a sprinkle of more relevant state stories.

Here's a taste of the latest stories from Tasmania:


‘Like the wild west’: No protections as homes unfinished after builder goes under

Kate and Rod Iskander's building site with views across Hobart's River Derwent is littered with bricks and hardening bags of cement after their builder stopped work on their home two months ago.

Key points:

  • The Iskanders are one of a number of clients of a Tasmanian builder left in the lurch after the company went broke
  • Sisters Maddy and Victoria Stansfield say they could lose their life savings after work stopped at their home
  • Labor's Jen Butler says consumers have better protections when "buying a toaster" than when building a home in Tasmania

They say they are financially out of pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars and are faced with the prospect they may not be able to finish their home.

"I haven't slept, I cry all the time … the kids are devastated," Kate Iskander said.

Their builder, Inside Out Construction — owned by Corey Wills — has gone into administration.

"We've sort of been scrambling ourselves trying to find out what our rights are calling CBOS [Consumer Building and Occupational Services], Master Builders Association, getting legal advice," Ms Iskander said.

"But there's really not much we can do."

The Iskanders say the "process has taught us there's absolutely nothing for you as a consumer".(ABC News: Scott Ross)

The Iskanders have described their financial loss as "a scar on our financial lives going forward forever".

"My estimation and based on the couple of quotes we've got [to complete the house] is we're nearly $250,000 out," Rod Iskander said.

"We might have to walk away from this and not be able to have our home … yeah, it's devastating," Kate Iskander said.

The Iskanders say something "has to be done" to better protect consumers in Tasmania when building homes.(ABC News )Couple's new home nightmare

A couple's dream to build a home for their blended family on a waterfront block has been shattered, with experts advising the only way to fix the building's defects is to demolish it and rebuild.

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The couple embarked on the build for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in August this year.

The couple said they paid their builder prior to the completion of the base stage.

"We stupidly put the progress claim through because [the builder was] telling us there was material shortages," Mr Iskander said.

"We did that, you trust the builder … and then literally the work stopped pretty much after that."

The couple have been left with the base for a driveway into the garage and some steel posts on site.

'It's the wild west out here'

The Iskanders moved to Tasmania from New South Wales and were shocked to discover that there was no insurance covering their losses.

In all states, bar Tasmania, there is mandatory building warranty insurance. It covers a range of different issues — mainly builders who die, lose their licence or become insolvent.

"I guess the whole process has just taught us that there's absolutely nothing for you as a consumer," Mr Iskander said.

"You sign a contract, you're on your own.

"If the builder dies or disappears that's it, it's on you, there's no insurance, there's nothing.

"I am absolutely shocked that that is the case."

Inside Out is "not the only building business that we've seen go under" in recent times, says an industry head.(ABC News)

The couple are calling for the Tasmanian government to agree to an inquiry to look at how consumer protections can be strengthened.

"It's quite embarrassing to be here and go through this, put ourselves out there like this. But we're here to try and prevent this from happening to other people," he said.

"Something has to be done, it's the wild west out here, it's just crazy."

Sisters face losing their life savings

Maddy and Victoria Stansfield signed a contract with the same builder.

"It's been a very stressful time, but we're really grateful to have the support of our family. It's had a big emotional toll on both of us," Victoria Stansfield said.

Maddy (left) and Victoria Stansfield say "we've put our life savings into building this home".(ABC News)

The sisters have dreamed of becoming home owners since high school and have been putting money aside.

"We have been working since high school so we have been saving up since then."

"When the government grants came out we thought that was a great time with the help from them to start to look into the housing market," Victoria said.

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The sisters could not afford to buy on their own so pooled their money to invest in building a house to share.

"We wanted our own spaces in the house … so we had it three bedrooms, two living and we're keen to share it with our family and friends," Maddy said.

Work started on their block in July, but then there was no progress for months.

"We heard nothing pretty much until we questioned what was happening and we've been going around in circles with meetings pretty much ever since," Maddy said.

The sisters face the prospect of losing close to $75,000, with the builder in administration.

"That's really one of our main concerns, we've put our life savings into building this home," Victoria said.

Work at the Stansfield sisters' property has not progressed for months.(ABC News )Calls for better protections

Alistair Dennis said he feels like one of the lucky ones — he and his business partner were also clients of Inside Out Construction.

Their two-unit development on Hobart's eastern shore is almost complete.

"I just feel sorry for people … we know of people who have half-built houses and framework," he said.

Alistair Dennis was also a client of Inside Out Construction.(ABC News: Andy Cunningham)

Nevertheless, Mr Dennis said their build had taken a toll.

It started in 2020 and he said it had been a long and difficult journey to get the building company to finish the job.

"It's just been one debacle after another. My business partner, who has got the other unit, his mental health is not good because of it."

Mr Dennis is also calling for better consumer protections in Tasmania.

"There needs to be some sort of insurance scheme. If it can operate in other states, why can't it operate in Tasmania?"

Home owners are not the only ones to have been let down by Inside Out Construction.

The Master Builders Association say there are "no winners when a builder or a business owner goes out of business".(ABC News)

The ABC has spoken to one of the company's former employees who said he is owed about $44,000 in wages plus about $7,000 in superannuation.

He said there were about 20 employees who stopped working for the company last month.

They have received emails from Corey Wills directing them to the federal government's Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme — a safety net of last resort.

Mr Wills has not responded to requests for comment.

Matthew Pollock says it is an "extremely challenging environment for builders" at the moment.

The Master Builders Association in Tasmania is helping 23 clients of Inside Out Construction find new builders.

"We provide contracts and part of that service is that we do provide support and advisory services to builders and their clients," said the association's executive director, Matthew Pollock.

He said under the Residential Construction Contracts Act, a builder "cannot claim for work that hasn't been done".

"The tragedy in this whole circumstance is there are no winners when a builder or a business owner goes out of business," Mr Pollock said.

"It's an extremely challenging environment for builders at the moment … cashflows have been affected substantially across the sector due to COVID-induced supply chain issues. This unfortunately is a result of that.

"Inside Out is not the only building business that we've seen go under in the last few weeks."

A Tasmanian surveyor says there "doesn't seem to be any assistance for [consumers] other to than go to court".(ABC News)Building surveyor says new home owners 'are at their wit's end'

Building surveyor Gabriel Barnes said his work at times brings him in contact with people who have been let down by their builder.

"I find I am a social worker and marriage consultant when I am dealing with some of these people," he said.

"They are at their wit's-end, they have spent all their money on the biggest investment of their life and they don't know where to turn and there doesn't seem to be any assistance for them out there other to than go to court."

He believes an insurance scheme would help both consumers and builders.

"Builders used to be restricted in the number of houses they could take on at any one time by the number of assets that they had," he said.

"You'd get a builder that may have a ute and tools, he might be able to have one house on the go at a time until he builds up his assets.

"But now, that insurance doesn't exist … we have builders out there who are basically taking on 20 homes at a time and all they've got is their ute and tools behind them."

One of Inside Out Construction's former employees says he is owed about $44,000 in wages plus about $7,000 in superannuation.(ABC News)

Mr Barnes said insurance was even more important with the state and federal government offering first home builders grants.

"We've had builders who have done nothing but sign up clients en masse since December last year and then have been pouring concrete slabs ever since," he said.

"As material prices have been going up by 15 to 20 per cent minimum, those contacts that they signed 12 to 18 months ago are now looking very shaky in some cases. It's bringing builders undone."

'More protection when you buy a toaster'

Some in the building industry argue that the insurance was too expensive and too few claims were made.

"I am not suggesting the insurance was the rolled gold standard by any means, and yes, it was expensive," Mr Barnes said. "But to go from something to nothing.

"I tell you what, it's more expensive to go through the Supreme Court trying to get blood out of a stone," he said.

"I just wish government would stop telling us how good their system is when clearly it's not and start listening to those of us who have been in this industry and dealing with the ramifications of it."

Attorney-General Elise Archer said in a statement it was the "government's intention to investigate the possibility of reintroducing a model for home warranty insurance in Tasmania".

Jen Butler says Labor will continue to fight for more protections.(ABC News)

Labor's Jen Butler said she would continue to fight for a government inquiry into building in Tasmania, despite it being rejected by the state government last month.

"At the moment in Tasmania you've got more protection when you buy a toaster than what you do when you build a home," she said.

Ms Butler referred to the long campaign that resulted in the banking royal commission becoming a reality.

"Sometimes it takes many times for a government to agree to a parliamentary inquiry, for instance for the banking royal commission that took 18 times of tabling a notice of motion and asking a government to actually agree to an inquiry," she said.

"We will keep going, we won't stop until the government agrees."

Want more Tasmanian news?

Set the ABC News website or the app to 'Tasmania Top Stories' from either the homepage or the settings menu in the app to continue getting the same national news you love but with a sprinkle of more relevant state stories.

Here's a taste of the latest stories from Tasmania:


The COVID-19 tests expected to form a ‘line of defence’ when WA opens its doors to the world

When Western Australia lets COVID back into the community early next year, the state will need to step up measures to limit the spread of the virus. 

Key points:

  • Rapid antigen tests were approved for personal use on November 1
  • But they are not permitted in WA and SA as a diagnostic tool for COVID
  • The ban may be revisited when WA opens its border early next year

Vaccination will remain the most important line of defence when WA opens its doors, with face masks, contact registers and the SafeWA app to continue playing central roles in the reopening road map.

But there is another measure that has been widely used overseas, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe, which is gaining traction in Australia's eastern states hit hard by COVID. 

Rapid antigen self-tests have been a useful screening tool that can achieve early detection to allow isolation of positive cases sooner.

They could prove instrumental in preventing outbreaks if scientists discover the new Omicron variant is more infectious, and more resistant to vaccines, than other strains of the virus.

The tests have been used successfully in aged care settings over east, including in TLC Healthcare homes in Melbourne. (Supplied: TLC Healthcare)

In some parts, a daily swab of the throat or nose has become a part of everyday life for people wanting to gain access to indoor venues like theatres, cinemas, nightclubs and restaurants.  

The tests can be undertaken at home or in the workplace, making them more convenient, cheaper and faster than the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests West Australians have become accustomed to.

The downside is they are less accurate than PCR tests, which remain the gold standard for confirmation of a positive result. 

Tests hit supermarket shelves over east

Testing kits are already being sold at major supermarkets and chemists on the east coast after the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved their supply in Australia on November 1, but they have not been given the tick of approval by state governments in WA and SA.

The TGA has approved more than a dozen types of tests for sale in Australia. (Reuters: Denis Balibouse)

The absence of COVID in the community means the tests are currently of no value in WA, where they can be sold but are not approved as a diagnostic tool without specific approval from the Chief Health Officer — such as their use on mine sites and to screen truck drivers entering WA from high-risk states

Australian Medical Association WA president Mark Duncan-Smith said the ban was currently "appropriate" because they were not as accurate as PCR tests in places where there is a low prevalence of COVID, due to a high rate of false positive and negative results. 

Mr Duncan-Smith says the tests will have a place in WA once the virus starts circulating in the community. (ABC News: James Carmody)

"When COVID does become more prevalent in society such as in Victoria, NSW, Europe, USA for example, this prohibition would be reassessed and the use of the test would become appropriate," Dr Duncan-Smith said. 

"RAT has a role when there is COVID in the community. As such, it will have a role in WA after we allow travel and invite the killer virus COVID-19 into our state."

Mr Duncan-Smith said if a close contact of a COVID case tested positive with an antigen test, they could be placed into full isolation pending the outcome of a PCR test.

Where could rapid tests be used in WA?

The Victorian government has led the way in Australia by rolling the tests out in schools, after The Doherty Institute recommended a "test to stay" approach rather than locking down entire schools when a student was exposed to a positive case.   

Free, at-home rapid antigen tests have been made available to Victorian schools. (ABC News: Oliver Gordon)

In its final modelling delivered to state and territory leaders including WA Premier Mark McGowan earlier this month, the institute stated incursions of the virus into schools would be "inevitable" as community transmission becomes established. 

"Returning students to in-person learning and keeping schools open safely during this phase has been identified as a national priority," it stated.

"Daily rapid antigen testing of contacts, with exclusion only if positive, is as effective for outbreak prevention as 14-day contact quarantine and dramatically reduces days of missed face-to-face learning."

Professor Catherine Bennett says the tests could be effective in high-risk settings. (Supplied)

Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett said the tests could be used to screen the class of a child who has a COVID-positive family member. 

"If no students test positive, you keep screening them for a week while keeping the school open and allowing them to come to school if they continue to test negative," Professor Bennett said.

What is a rapid antigen test?

Australians will be able to buy rapid antigen tests from November 1 that will allow them to test at home whether they have COVID-19. Here's what you need to know.

Read more

She said the tests had a place during an outbreak or in high-risk settings such as hospitals, aged care homes, mine sites and isolated communities.

"It's a way of managing local exposures when there is a real risk rather than saying everyone should test themselves everyday before they leave the house," she said.

"If you do too much testing in low risk settings, it starts to become meaningless and more disruptive than it's worth."

Professor Bennett said tests could also play a role at large indoor events and venues like nightclubs. 

"A strength of the test is their ability to detect the virus in people when they're most infectious," she said.

"So if you knew the virus was circulating in the communities that your attendants are coming from, then you might use rapid antigen testing because it's a high-risk spreading environment, so you could screen people as they come in."

The tests are used to screen visitors at the Nellie Melba Retirement Village near Melbourne. (ABC News: Michael Barnett)

She said the they could also be used to screen staff and visitors to prevent outbreaks in aged care homes. 

"Sometimes testing actually helps people realise they are very low risk and that might ease their minds to go visit their elderly relatives.

"People need reassurance because that is the scary thing about a virus, it is invisible in the community and testing is one way giving the community better eyes on what is happening and I think that can be important during your transition.

"As long as people realise, these tests are not perfect tools, they're just another layer, like a Swiss cheese with all the different strategies we put in place to manage the risks."

Tests a 'line of defence' in aged care homes

The federal government is making rapid antigen test kits available to aged care services and providers in high-risk local government areas. 

Brightwater Care Group was the first aged care provider in Western Australia to use rapid antigen tests, which it used to screen staff and residents during a trial at two of its homes, in Subiaco and Inglewood.

Brightwater will submit a research paper on the trial to the Australasian Journal on Ageing in the next week. (Supplied: Brightwater)

Brightwater CEO Jennifer Lawrence said the trial was aimed at testing the operational feasibility of the technology to their environment, and whether it would be accepted by staff and clients. 

"Overwhelmingly we had no pushback and the trial proved this could be a really effective line of defence in the event of an outbreak," she said.

"There have been some really sad situations on the east coast in aged care of people losing their lives and the industry and the government has really stepped up to put in a number of [measures] like face masks, infection control, training and vaccination.

"But during an outbreak, if you are able to get two days notice that there is COVID circulating by doing some rapid testing, it will make a big difference.

"If we're able to pick up a staff member who may be carrying the virus early, before it circulates within the aged care home, that saves a lot of pain down the track. 

Brightwater CEO Jennifer Lawrence said a trial of the tests was well received among staff and patients. (Supplied: Brightwater)

"Not only for our logistics and the care of our clients, but it just gives us a head-start with a positive case, which will obviously be confirmed by the government PCR testing.

"I think once COVID is circulating in WA, I suspect many homes will consider it."

Tests gain support from pharmacists

Pharmacy Guild of WA branch president Andrew Ngeow said the current ban on the use of the tests as a diagnostic tool in WA was limiting the state's ability to protect itself against COVID-19. 

WA COVID-19 snapshot

Latest information from the WA Health Department

"The Delta variant will enter Western Australia at some point," Mr Ngeow said.

"In order to reduce its impact on both public health and the hospital system, its early detection is paramount." 

"What we currently have is policy madness, as RATs can be sold legally in Western Australia, but not used by the vast majority of people."

Woolworths started selling self test kits online and in stores in NSW, Victoria and the ACT this month.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 3 minutes 18 seconds3m 18s What COVID-19 travel insurance doesn't cover you for(Emilia Terzon)

A WA Health spokesperson said PCR tests remained the most accurate diagnostic tool for COVID, but the rapid tests had been approved for some companies with a structured program to manage the detection of positive cases.

"Currently, rapid antigen testing is of little or no value in WA given that there are no community cases of COVID-19.

"It is likely that false positives could be detected, causing undue concern in the current climate.

"National guidance is being developed in regards to the use of rapid antigen testing. 

"Once complete, WA Health will consider any recommendations and may change its position if required."

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How the ‘threat of disclosure’ could bring Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial to a swift end

Sixteen months after FBI agents swooped in on her remote hideaway to arrest Ghislaine Maxwell on sexual abuse charges, the trial of the British socialite and former partner of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein is beginning in New York.

For her alleged victims, they hope this trial will be a chance for justice. 

For everyone else, it may be the last chance to unravel the mystery surrounding the American financier, who took his secrets to the grave in 2019. 

We still don't know the extent of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged sex trafficking ring, the origins of his shadowy fortune, or which powerful men were involved. 

But later today, lawyers in New York will start trying to get to the bottom of what Ms Maxwell did and didn't know — and if she committed crimes at his behest. 

Prosecutors say the 59-year-old aided and abetted Epstein in grooming, trafficking and abusing underage girls in crimes dating back to the mid 1990s.

Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and vehemently denies any wrongdoing. 

Here's what you need to know as the highly anticipated trial of the former jetsetter gets underway.

What charges does Ghislaine Maxwell face? 

The daughter of the late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell is facing sex trafficking charges.

What we know about Ghislaine Maxwell's upcoming trial

Ghislaine Maxwell was once photographed with New York's celebrity elite. Now she is known as inmate 02879-509 and is about to go on trial for grooming girls for Jeffrey Epstein.

Read more

If found guilty, she faces up to 80 years in prison.

She allegedly played a key role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple underage girls by Jeffrey Epstein over several years. 

During this time, court documents allege that Ms Maxwell's relationship with Epstein was both intimate and professional, and he paid her to manage his multiple properties.

The couple's modus operandi, according to prosecutors, was to have Ms Maxwell develop a rapport with the girls and to normalise sexual abuse. 

She allegedly did this by discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of a victim, or being present for the abuse of the minor. 

Why is it being called a 'trial by proxy'? 

Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his prison cell after an apparent suicide in August 2019 following his arrest on accusations of sex trafficking. 

It was not the former financier's first brush with the law. 

In 2007, Epstein had secured a controversial plea deal for admitting to soliciting a prostitute under the age of 18. It allowed him to escape a federal conviction, but did see him registered as a sex offender. 

The #MeToo movement generated renewed interest in the case more than a decade later, and prompted the US Justice Department to look at the case again.

His death, weeks after his second arrest, meant Epstein's many alleged victims were never able to testify against him in court.

Now, lawyers representing Ms Maxwell argue that she is facing trial by proxy because authorities have no more "fish to fry".

Jeffrey Epstein died in 2019 after he was arrested on accusations of sex trafficking underage girls. (Supplied)

That argument is unlikely to fly in court, according to Stephen Gillers, professor of legal ethics at NYU School of Law.

"Her lawyers have claimed that this is sour grapes for the government. They couldn't get Epstein so they want to get [Ghislaine] Maxwell," he said.

"The government's position is that she made much of what he did possible."

There is a possibility, however, that Ms Maxwell may be compelled to divulge details about Epstein that are not yet public.

"Certainly even more of Epstein's deeds, I think, will come out in this trial," said Tiffany Jeffers, Associate Professor at Georgetown University Law Centre.

Will the contents of Epstein's black book be revealed?

Epstein and Ms Maxwell lived a lavish lifestyle, hob-knobbing with the rich and famous, and that's led to much speculation about a contact book purported to have belonged to the financier.

In court, it's officially known as 'Government Exhibit 52', but it's more commonly known as the 'little black book'.

The address book, which was leaked online in 2015, contained the names of several prominent people.

Many have said they have no idea how their phone numbers ended up in Epstein's possession.

Prosecutors say they only plan to use limited excerpts from the book, and claim it contains "compelling evidence" of Ms Maxwell's guilt.

Ms Maxwell's lawyers have cast doubt on the authenticity of the book, and want it excluded from the trial.

They say the pages entered as evidence show "unexplained faded marks" that "suggest that pages have been added, omitted or altered".

Why wasn't a plea deal struck?

It's possible for a defendant to cut a deal with prosecutors.

In exchange for pleading guilty and, in some cases, giving authorities information or agreeing to testify against others, a defendant might receive a shorter sentence.

But in this instance, neither prosecutors nor Ms Maxwell have pursued a plea bargain.

Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges she is facing and vehemently denies any wrongdoing. (AP via United Nations: Rick Bajornas)

"I imagine the government feels it has a very strong case and would not agree to a plea unless the sentence would be at least 10 years, maybe more," said Professor Gillers.

"As for [Ms] Maxwell, she's closing in on 60 and she might see 10 years as the same as a life sentence now, and may rather go for broke and hope for an acquittal."

However, Professor Gillers said a late plea deal was not impossible, speculating that the defence could use as leverage the "threat of disclosure" of the identities of high-profile men by the defendant.

"Letting it be known who [Ms] Maxwell will identify were she to testify, or through their own witnesses, as a way of encouraging the government to make an attractive plea offer," he said.

Will Ghislaine Maxwell speak during her trial?  

It's not known whether or not Ms Maxwell will take the stand in her own defence.

Ms Jeffers, who previously prosecuted sex crimes and child abuse cases in Baltimore, said it was "risky" for defendants to testify.

"But she also has resources to prep. She's been in the spotlight for a long time and was kind of used to being under pressure in that spotlight way," she said.

Ms Maxwell "looks forward to her trial", according to her lawyer. (Reuters: Jane Rosenberg)

"So the defence may think it's a good strategy to put her up and to testify and to explain the state's evidence in a way that's more favourable to her."

After having failed to have the case thrown out, the former socialite's lawyers say his client is now eager for her day in court.

"Ghislaine Maxwell looks forward to her trial," lawyer Bobbi C Sternheim wrote in a recent court filing.

"And to walking out of the courthouse uncuffed and unshackled following her acquittal."


Your super could be taxed up to 32 per cent when you die — here’s how to avoid it

Most people don't know it, but there are death taxes by stealth in Australia.

While it's not an inheritance tax per se, millions of Australians' retirement savings may be taxable upon death.

It all depends on your marital status and whether you have "dependants" (that is children or someone else who lives with you and financially depends on you).

If you are single and childless, and no one else depends on you, your super money will be taxed before being handed to the person you nominate to receive it — assuming you nominated someone prior to your death to get the money.

If you've got hundreds of thousands of dollars in your retirement savings and die, that money will be taxed up to 32 per cent before the remaining portion is transferred to your nominated beneficiaries.

Conversely, married people, those in a de facto arrangement and those with dependent children don't face the same tax consequence in the event of their death.

Many people choose to withdraw their superannuation tax-free at retirement age to avoid any tax that would be payable on it if they die.

However, for those who don't have the option to withdraw, it begs the question: Is having a hefty tax on some and not others a fair outcome in a society where more Australians are making life choices to stay single and not have kids?

If you've got hundreds of thousands of dollars in your retirement savings and die, that money will be taxed at up to 17 per cent on any previously taxed amount and up to 32 per cent on any untaxed portion before the remainder is transferred any nominated beneficiaries.(Alistair Kroie)Tax rate applied to super payments upon death differs

The amount of tax levied before funds are transferred to any nominated, non-dependant beneficiary depends on various factors.

If you have not nominated a beneficiary, the super fund trustee would follow the relevant laws to decide who receives your balance.

When death combines with taxes

A review is now looking at how the tax system can be made easier to deal with after a loved one dies owing money to the ATO.

Read more

However, assuming you have nominated one or more beneficiaries, they are not dependants and they are to be given your super as a lump-sum payment upon your death.

Super that is tax-free when withdrawn is known as the 'tax-free component' of your super. Super that is taxable when withdrawn is known as the 'taxable component' of your super.

The taxable component (you can check with your super fund to find out if the full amount if taxable) then has a taxed and untaxed element. 

The taxed element will be subject to a maximum tax rate of 17 per cent — 15 per cent plus the Medicare levy.

Meanwhile, the untaxed element will be subject to a maximum tax rate of 32 per cent — 30 per cent plus the Medicare levy.

You can contact your super fund to nominate beneficiaries and check what tax rate would apply upon your death.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website also has information about it.

Single households are becoming more common around the world

So, back to the question of fairness.

While lone-person households used to be an anomaly, they are becoming more common.

According to ABS data, about one quarter of Australian households are now made up of people living alone.

This figure is projected to increase over time.

In 2016, the ABS recorded 2 million lone-person households, with that projected to increase to between 3 million and 3.5 million by 2041.

On Wednesday, the ABS reported that just 78,989 marriages were registered in Australia in 2020, a 30.6 per cent decrease compared with 2019, with COVID-19 lockdowns playing a big part in people being unable to tie the knot.

ABS director of health and vital statistics James Eynstone-Hinkins said 2020 saw the largest annual decrease in registered marriages ever reported by the ABS, and the lowest number of registrations reported since 1961.

While the rate of marriages locally is likely to bounce back with lockdowns ending, globally, divorce rates are also rising and there is also a trend of more lone-person households.

The number of single-person households is on the rise globally. (Pixabay)

According to market research company Euromonitor International, single-person households were the fastest-growing household type globally in 2010-2019, expanding 31 per cent, with nearly half this growth in absolute numbers attributable to the Asia-Pacific region. 

It also released a report in 2019 about how the traditional definition of the family is transforming. 

Its Future of Family report ​predicted that single-person households would record 128 per cent growth between 2000 and 2030, while the total number of household heads aged 60-plus will reach 807 million by 2030. 

It also noted that divorce rates have been surging globally and populations with a divorced marital status will be, by far, the fastest growing over the 2000 to 2030, at 78.5 per cent.

Over the same period, the number of single-parent households will grow at three times the rate of couple-with-children households.

It predicted almost all countries would see a decline in children per household between 2000 and 2030.

Almost all countries will see a decline in children per household over the period 2000 to 2030, according to Euromonitor International.(Shutterstock: James Jiao)

The decline will be larger in developing countries (-33.8pc) than in developed markets (-26.5pc), as the number of children is, on average, higher in developing households.

As fewer couples have children, the report suggested, the number of childless-couple households will surge worldwide, far outpacing growth in couple-with-children households. 

It argued that, to deal with this, the design of cities needs to shift to smaller-sized housing, and that workplaces will increasingly have to rely on robotics as the workforce ages.

But what about our tax system? Can it be changed to suit the new type of household?

Singles without children get less welfare 

Superannuation is not the only area where singles can lose out.

Australia's tax and transfer system is designed with families in mind.

As the graph below shows, singles get far less in social assistance.

Social assistance varies for different demographics. 

Singles don't get as much welfare support, such as family tax benefits.

This, many argue, is a fairness measure since they do not have the added financial pressure that comes with having a family.

Super rip-off

Thousands of employers are failing to pay superannuation, and it's costing workers billions every year.

Read more

Singles face higher Medicare levy surcharges. Again, this may be an in-built fairness measure, since for families, the same income is being used to support both the earner and dependents.

And singles tend to fork out more for private health insurance, rent and some other living costs.

This may mean that the impact of bracket creep — where wage inflation places you into higher tax brackets — also bites singles harder.

'Family trusts' are a tax advantage for some

While both singles and married couples can structure their affairs to reduce their overall tax bill, some tax benefits are only available to those who are married with children.

The family trust is one of those.

How do trusts work?

The Labor Party is preparing to announce a crackdown on tax minimisation through trusts this weekend, but what are they and how do they work?

Read more

Rather than get taxed at the rate of the highest income earner in the family, income from any assets in the trust is distributed to family members — beneficiaries — with low tax rates.

This allows the higher earners in the family to pay less tax.

At the 2019 election, Labor had proposed introducing a minimum tax rate, of 30 per cent, on distributions from a family trust. It's not clear if it will now take this same policy to next year's election.

Consecutive governments have long ignored issues affecting singles in policy design and in federal budget announcements.

However, they are becoming a bigger, and more important, voting demographic.

It may be worth considering whether our tax and super system needs to shift in line with societal changes.

Is it currently fair to those who fend for themselves?

Ask your single friends what they think.


Father manufactures medicine for sick son in China after COVID-19 limits treatment

Two-year-old Haoyang has likely just months to live — but the only medicine that can help his rare genetic condition is not found anywhere in China and closed borders due to the pandemic mean he cannot travel for treatment.

Key points:

  • Two-year-old Haoyang suffers from a rare genetic condition called Menkes Syndrome 
  • Treatment is not available for him in China 
  • The boy's father researched a medicine online and used translation services to manufacture it 

Instead, his desperate father, Xu Wei, has created a home laboratory to create a remedy for the boy himself.

"I didn't really have time to think about whether to do it or not. It had to be done," the 30-year-old told AFP from his DIY lab in a high-rise apartment building in south-western Kunming.

Haoyang has Menkes Syndrome, a genetic disorder that impacts how copper — which is crucial for brain and nervous system development — is processed in the body.

Sufferers rarely survive beyond the age of three.

However, Xu — who has only high school education and ran a small online business before his son became ill — is determined to give him a fighting chance.

"Even though he cannot move or speak, he has a soul and feels emotions," he said, holding Haoyang in his lap to give him honey mixed in water.

After being told the disease was incurable and the only medication that could help ease his symptoms was not available in China, he began researching and teaching himself pharmaceuticals.

"My friends and family were against it. They said it was impossible," he recalled.

Most online documents on Menkes Syndrome were in English. Undeterred, Xu used translation software to understand them, before setting up a home lab in his father's gym.

On discovering copper histadine could help, he set up the equipment to create it himself, mixing copper chloride dihydrate with histidine, sodium hydroxide and water.

Xu Wei created a home laboratory in his father's gym.(AFP: Jade Gao)Blocked by pandemic 

Xu now gives Haoyang a daily dose of homemade medicine, which gives the child some of the copper his body is missing.

The amateur chemist claims that a few of the blood tests returned to normal two weeks after beginning the treatment.

While the toddler can't talk, he gives a smile of recognition when his father runs a gentle hand over his head.

His wife, who didn't want to give her name, cares for their five-year-old daughter in another part of the city.

Menkes Syndrome 

Menkes Syndrome is more prevalent in boys than girls, and it is estimated one in 100,000 babies are born with the disease, globally, according to the organisation Rare Diseases.

There is little information or data available, but Xu said pharmaceutical companies have shown little interest as the treatment "does not have commercial value and its user group is small".

Under normal circumstances, he would have travelled abroad to bring back treatments for Haoyang from specialist centres overseas, but China has largely closed its borders since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Xu felt he had no choice but to make it himself.

"At first, I thought it was a joke," said Haoyang's grandfather Xu Jianhong.

Xu Haoyang was diagnosed with Menkes syndrome, and has likely just got months to live.(AFP: Jade Gao )

"[I thought] it was an impossible mission for him."

However, six weeks after throwing himself into the project, Xu produced his first vial of copper histidine.

To test it, he first experimented with rabbits and then injected the treatment into his own body.

"The rabbits were fine, I was fine, so then I tried it on my son," he said.

Reassured, he then started gradually increasing the dosage.

But the medicine is not a cure.

Professor Annick Toutain — a specialist of rare diseases at the Tours University Hospital in France — said the copper treatment was "only efficient against certain genetic anomalies and, if it is administered very early on, in the first three weeks of life".

She said that, after that, the treatment would alleviate symptoms, "without leading to recovery".

Xu has accepted that it can "only slow down the disease".

Gene therapy 

His work has led to interest from VectorBuilder, an international biotech lab, who are now launching gene therapy research with Xu into Menkes syndrome.

The company's chief scientist, Bruce Lahn, described it as "a rare disease among rare diseases" and said they were inspired after learning about Xu's family.

Clinical trials and tests on animals are planned for the next few months.

Xu has even been contacted by other parents whose children have been diagnosed with Menkes, asking him to make treatment for their relatives too, something he has refused.

"I can only be responsible for my child," he told AFP, while health authorities have said they will not intervene as long as he only makes the treatment for home use.

Huang Yu of the Medical Genetics Department at Peking University told AFP that, as a doctor, he was "ashamed" to hear of Xu's case.

He said that he hoped that, "as a developing country, we can improve our medical system to better help such families".

With a full-time role as an amateur chemist, Xu has little income and relies mainly on his parents.

Friends tried to talk him out of his medical efforts but, undeterred, the young father is planning to study molecular biology at university and do everything he can to protect his son.

"I don't want him to wait desperately for death. Even if we fail, I want my son to have hope."



Ashlie used to help feed the homeless, now at 64 she’s homeless herself

Just a few years ago, Ashlie Stevenson was volunteering to feed the homeless in Sydney's inner suburbs — now she's homeless herself. 

Key points:

  • New report shows more than 155,000 households on waiting list for public housing across the country
  • Rising rents in regional and inner city areas pushing people towards the brink of homelessness
  • National lobby group calls for increase to rental assist payments for low-income earners

After falling into an unforeseen cycle of disadvantage, the 64-year-old is one of hundreds of thousands of Australians languishing on growing waiting lists for public housing.

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) is calling on the federal government to step up its funding for new social and affordable housing projects to arrest a crisis fanned by ballooning rental prices across the country.

A new joint ACOSS and University of NSW report to be released today has found more than 155,000 households are registered on social housing waitlists, with more than 400,000 households in need of affordable housing.

Ms Stevenson joined the list seven years ago as a precaution when she left work to study for a Diploma of Ministry at bible college in 2014.

Unable to find paid work in her new field, she volunteered to help the less fortunate instead.

Ms Stevenson says she would be happy to find full time work but has been unsuccessful.(ABC News: Jack Fisher)

She lived off Newstart student payments of $400 per fortnight and dipped into the last of her superannuation to make ends meet. 

"I was able to keep renting most of that time, but I could see … that things were getting worse, rents were going up," Ms Stevenson said.

"Unemployment income was going down in real terms, and people weren't hiring me. Despite my experience, knowledge, qualifications, I wasn't getting any answers."

Then in March 2020, the first COVID-19 lockdown hit and her two younger flatmates decided to move out of their share house.

With nowhere to go, she ended up in emergency housing — a stopgap system she described as "cruel" — before accepting the kindness of friends who offered a bed or couch to sleep on.

For the first time in her adult life, she has been unable to find full-time work despite handing out more than 100 resumes detailing her decades of experience in both horticulture and pathology.

Ms Stevenson describes emergency housing as "cruel".(ABC News: Jack Fisher)

Without a steady income, she lives off JobSeeker but rental prices in Sydney are so high she's unable to afford her own place even with the Commonwealth rent-assist supplement.

Recently, Ms Stevenson has come to the grim realisation she is likely waiting on someone to die before taking their place in a government home.

"I'm hoping after seven years I'm somewhere near the top [of the list]," she said.

"And I'm still hoping that I'll get somewhere before I die."

The ACOSS report found housing stress due to affordability and availability has increased in both metropolitan and regional areas, particularly in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

In regional Australia, the proportion of dwellings low-income tenants can afford has declined from 41 per cent to 33 per cent over the course of 2021.

ACOSS has called on the federal government to resume its "historical role" as the main funder of social housing developments by delivering a funding boost to build at least 20,000 new dwellings.

It has also recommended the Commonwealth Rent Assistance payment to low-income households be increased by 50 per cent.

Federal Minister for Homeless, Social and Community Housing, Michael Sukkar, said although state and territory governments had the primary responsibility for such developments, the Morrison government had supported the creation of more than 13,000 dwellings through the National Housing Financing and Investment Corporation (NHFIC)

Public housing towers at Waterloo, in inner Sydney, will be redeveloped to mixed private and social homes.(ABC News: Peter Rothwell)

Mr Sukkar said the establishment of the NHFIC was "one of the most significant national investments to support social and affordable housing in recent history".

"The government is also delivering across the housing spectrum, with around $9 billion expected to be spent on housing and homelessness in the upcoming financial year," he said.

State governments in Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have committed to self-funded public housing projects worth nearly $10 billion, set to deliver 23,000 homes.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said state governments had done a "remarkably good job" in supporting people who found themselves homeless during the pandemic but state resources for public housing weren't enough to meet demand.

"We need the federal government to step up and step back into this space and do some heavy lifting to both address the massive social housing shortfall and meet the future needs of a growing and ageing population," Ms Goldie said.

A NSW government spokesperson said it would welcome any additional support from the Commonwealth in the building of new social and community housing.

Last financial year, 408 social homes were built in the state by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, which aims to complete another 3,200 new dwellings over the next five years.

There are more than 150,000 social homes in NSW, compared to just over 80,000 in Victoria, and the number of social housing in NSW has increased by 10 per cent since 2011.

Ms Goldie says state resources for public housing weren't enough to meet demand.(ABC News)


Housing affordability is a national crisis, but for one group of young people it can be life changing

It's no secret that the costs of purchasing a home have increased rapidly, particularly in the past year

Recently described by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet as one of the biggest challenges in a generation, many young people and first home buyers are finding themselves unable to break into a rising market, a problem being exacerbated by stagnate wages and increasing costs of living. 

For young people with a disability, however, purchasing a home can be an even greater financial challenge, partly because the hidden costs of having a disability can make it much more difficult to save a deposit and pay off a mortgage. 

While having access to secure housing is important for all Australians, for people with disabilities it can significantly increase opportunities for community participation and quality of life. 

Alecia Rathbone, the general manager of Summer Foundation's Housing Hub, says having a secure home can help people with a disability be more independent. "An accessible home increases your ability to be part of your community — to work, to study, to socialise with family and friends — while reducing your need for person-to-person support and the costs associated with that," she says. 

Summer Foundation's Alecia Rathbone says having a secure home can help people with a disability be more independent.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

It can also reduce reliance on short term rentals, which director of the Centre for Disability Research and Policy at Sydney University, Jennifer Smith-Merry, says is important because renting can "increase the degree to which people with a disability are vulnerable to abuse and neglect".

Renters are also more likely to live in housing that damages their health, experts have warned — a problem likely to have repercussions for people with pre-existing health concerns. 

Living with disability can be expensive

Crucially, having a disability can be expensive. The latest figures suggest at least 4.4 million people living in Australia (about 17.7 per cent of the population) have some form of disability. However, if all other factors — such as age, location and education level — remain constant, people with a disability have a lower standard of living, or "require higher income to maintain the same living standard as those without a disability". 

International Day of People with Disability

Find out how you can get involved this year on the IDPwD website.

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A study published last year found that in the short term, "people with a disability need to increase their adult-equivalent disposable income by 50 per cent to achieve the same standard of living as those without a disability". In the long run, the average cost associated with disability was equivalent to 63 per cent of disposable income. 

With average house prices in Australia estimated to be more than six times greater than annual incomes — and eight times incomes in Sydney — diminished disposable income also significantly diminishes purchasing power. 

According to Dr Michael Palmer, an economist at the University of Western Australia, people with disabilities are more likely to have health conditions that require specialised health care, rehabilitation and drugs.

Higher electricity costs including increased heating and cooling due to having limited mobility at home, specialised transportation and dietary requirements can add to this. Meanwhile, assistive devices like wheelchairs can cost tens of thousands of dollars

Without financial support from governments, people with disabilities will continue experiencing a lower standard of living compared to those in the broader community, says Michael Palmer.(Supplied)

And while some government support is available in Australia, it often doesn't cover all the costs associated with disability. 

"Many people with disability also need to access therapies and supports which are not fully costed under either the NDIS or schemes such as the Medicare Better Access schemes," says Smith-Merry. 

Having to choose between housing and healthcare

For me, these figures ring true. I have a musculoskeletal disorder which, according to the ABS, is the most common type of disability reported. While I am grateful to receive subsidised access to medication and several sessions of physiotherapy and exercise physiology each year through Medicare, I generally use these services on a weekly basis, so the vast majority is not covered. 

The cost of these services is one of my most significant expenses, accounting for 30-50 per cent of my weekly budget, often ahead of other "essentials" such as rent or food.

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With house prices rapidly rising, I worry about how my inability to save and pay a mortgage now could affect my longer-term health and financial security. I also worry about what would happen if I found myself unable to work in the future: How would I cover my rent?

These costs can hit families particularly hard. Linda*, who requested her real name not be used to protect her family's privacy, says she struggles every day with the cost of essential services for her children, who have neurological disabilities and specific language disorder. The speech and occupational therapy they need costs more than $500 each month — and they are not eligible for any support under the NDIS, as they've been classified as having only "mild" disabilities. 

Then there's the additional burden of getting to and from their appointments — an hour away from where Linda lives in regional NSW. 

Although it has been recommended that Linda's children attend therapy weekly, she says the rising costs of living mean her family just "can't afford" it.

Tackling a big problem with inclusive solutions

So, what's being done to fix these problems? Tackling housing affordability issues appears to be a high priority for federal and state governments. The NSW Government, for instance, has identified housing affordability as one of the key "pillars" to be addressed in the state budget. 

However, in developing new initiatives, experts warn policy makers must consider ways to improve housing affordability for everyone — including people with disabilities. 

Stable housing can help ensure people with disabilities can access the supports they need to live the life they want, says Jennifer Smith-Merry.(Supplied: University of Sydney)

For Jennifer Smith-Merry, one way of improving housing affordability for people with a disability would be through an employment strategy focusing on reducing under-employment and increasing wages. In Australia, people with a disability are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as those without one, and Australia's disability employment rate is far lower than other OECD countries. 

"Our current strategy is not working very well because it looks to employers for action, but whether they act [to hire people with disabilities] or not is up to them," Smith-Merry says. "With high levels of stigma towards some people with disability, to really raise the level of disability employment the government may need to look towards things such as a Disability Job Guarantee and other forms of job creation programs."

Increasing the accessibility and range of subsidised disability services under schemes like the NDIS and Medicare would also likely reduce the cost of living with disability.

The emotional toll of house hunting

As the average house price jumps by more than 20 per cent — the biggest increase in more than 30 years — first home buyers say they're struggling to remain positive. 

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"Without strong financial support by governments, households with members with disabilities will continue to experience a lower standard of living compared to otherwise similar households without disability," says Michael Palmer.

More specific strategies to help people with disabilities purchase homes could also have a positive impact. For example, a disability home buyer guarantee, modelled off first home buyer schemes or the First Home Super Scheme — similar to a program that exists in Canada — could help people build up a deposit. 

But while getting together a deposit can be "tricky", Smith-Merry says it's also important that people have "enough money" to pay their mortgage. And for too many, this will unfortunately remain unachievable until the prohibitive costs associated with having a disability are addressed.

"Stable housing is essential for physical security and for having a stable base so that people with disabilities can access the supports that they need to live the life that they want," she says.

The ABC is partnering with International Day of People with Disability to celebrate the 4.4 million Australians with disability.


The reason for the “Tajik revolt” at the embassy lay in the status of Gorno-Badakhshan

Troops surrounded the rebellious city

Hundreds of Tajik citizens came to the Tajik Embassy in Moscow yesterday. The reason was the events in the Tajik Khorog, the main city of Gorno-Badakhshan, where a local resident was killed. We found out what happened to the Tajiks so much.

Khorog Photo:

In the city of Khorog, for the second day, mass protests over the murder of a local resident did not subside. Different versions circulate on this score. “Narodnaya”: a man allegedly stood up for his sister, who was harassed by the assistant prosecutor of one of the districts of Gorno-Badakhshan. The troops cordoned off the mountains around the city and turned off the Internet, and inside Khorog people are cutting down trees to block the road for vehicles. The protesters have already injured 5 police officers. According to local media reports, 6 people were injured among the protesters, two were killed. At the same time, people begin to move to political demands.

A mass protest action began in the center of Khorog on November 25 with several dozen people, but, according to local residents, people continue to flock there not only from all over the city, but also from surrounding villages. People spent the night right on the street, for this they made a fire in the square.

The killed – a resident of the Roshtkala region of Gorno-Badakhshan Gulbiddin Ziyobekov. The police accused him of kidnapping the assistant prosecutor. Ziyobekov was wanted on suspicion of taking hostage by an organized group and inciting ethnic, racial or religious hatred.

On the morning of November 25, security officials came to Ziyobekov's home and tried to detain him. The police used a service weapon, as a result of which the attacker and two of his friends were wounded, one of whom was also a policeman and told his colleagues that their actions were illegal. According to eyewitnesses, Ziyobekov was taken out of the house alive, put in a police car, and after a while they reported his death.

Police say that Ziyobekov offered armed resistance during the arrest – he shot them with a Makarov pistol …

Eyewitnesses say that in the afternoon of November 25, the protesters brought the body of Ziyobekov to the central square of Khorog.

The protesters claim that the murdered person became a defendant in a criminal case due to an incident that took place in February 2020. Then Ziyobekov, together with his family and friends, kidnapped the assistant prosecutor Abdusalom Abirzoda and kept him for 8 hours, periodically beating him and demanding an apology for harassing his sister. There is even a video in which Abirzoda, surrounded by a crowd of men, asks for forgiveness from all residents of the autonomous region for his behavior.

The head of Gorno-Badakhshan, Alisher Mirzonabot, promised the protesters in the next 2-3 months to sort out the unfolding tragedy and punish those responsible. This is not only about the killed Ziyobekov, but also about those who were killed and wounded during the protests. However, people believe that this is not enough. First, they already know who committed the crime and when, so the investigation must be completed 10 days in advance. Secondly, they put forward political demands.

First of all, they want 70% of the military in Khorog to be formed from local residents. At the same time, the Interdepartmental Headquarters for Ensuring Order and Law should be disbanded. The roadblocks in Khorog must be removed, the Internet must be restored, and the head of the autonomous region must be fired.

Expert on Central Asian countries Arkady Dubnov told MK how serious events are unfolding in Khorog and whether they can develop into something big:

– First of all, I want to emphasize that the events in Khorog have nothing to do with to the threats that official Dushanbe constantly repeats when talking about Afghanistan. Secondly, Gorny Badakhshan is an unremovable thorn in the discourse of Tajik internal politics, its integrity and stability.

The Pamiris, who live in the autonomous region, are really different from the lowland Tajiks. They are Shiites and their spiritual leader is Prince Aga Khan IV. Moreover, all conflicts between the residents of Gorno-Badakhshan and the central government were always resolved through the mediation of the Aga Khan. Their current demands only underline the desire for isolation from Dushanbe.

Usually, incidents that lead to a conflict between the center and the autonomous region occur unexpectedly. They occur due to the fact that Dushanbe seeks to resolve domestic conflicts using tough methods of force.

If the Tajik authorities promptly and respectfully treat the claims of the Pamiris, then the incident will be able to be neutralized and resolved. Otherwise, a full-fledged armed confrontation may begin. Local residents are armed. The situation in Gorno Badakhshan may turn out to be a fuse for the already more than tense situation in Tajikistan.

– Local residents feel like a real autonomous structure within Tajikistan. People do not feel obligated to Dushanbe for anything, and this is precisely their main claim. They themselves want to form local government bodies.

– They believe that this will lead to an increase in the threat of separatism and the concentration of opposition structures in Gorno-Badakhshan.

– Today there is no real danger from the Pamiris resistance to official Dushanbe. During the civil war, the Pamiris, being part of the opposition forces, really posed a threat to the authorities of the republic.


“The European left would have dealt with a hunter in its ranks in 10 minutes.”

Valery Rashkin's eager story revived discussions about whose interests the Communist Party protects

The scandalous situation with Communist Deputy Valery Rashkin, as experts believe, is not so much an accident as an indicator of the state of affairs in the Communist Party, its intellectual state, ideological baggage. During the discussion at the “round table” organized by the Expert Institute for Social Research, the personnel and ideological crisis of the party was discussed.

Photo: Gennady Cherkasov

Speaking about the ideological crisis in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, political scientist Alexander Asafov began not even with the essence of ideas, but with the approach practiced by the party, which implies not developing an adequate response to events, but creating some kind of alternative information reality. In his opinion, the party for a long time, contrary to common sense, supported various fantastic versions about the incident with Rashkin: not he, not a moose, etc. Such a strange approach, the expert believes, against the background of the actions of other parties in the same situation, puts the Communist Party in a strange position – everyone, including United Russia, immediately recognized everything and punished those who made a mistake.

As for the ideas and agenda, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has recently chosen as the central topics, which, according to Alexander Asafov, do not have a worthy practical solution. This concerned the issues of the pension system and the monetization of benefits, and now the fight against the pandemic. At the same time, criticism without proposing a real program leads us further and further away from reality and forces us to seek support from marginalized groups. In the sphere of basic ideology, Gennady Zyuganov's party simply failed – the protection of the proletariat in view of its disappearance is not relevant, and nothing long-term is offered in return.

The head of the EISI Expert Council Gleb Kuznetsov spoke more specifically about the ideological baggage that the Communist Party has. He noted that in reality the party today is not so much left-wing as right-conservative, and its ideological cousins ​​are more likely the US Republican Party or British conservatives. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation has nothing to do with Marxism or anything like that, it is “a party of bosses that draws samples from the past.”

Director of the Institute of Newest States Alexei Martynov, in turn, recalled that even if the Communist Party were indeed the heir to the Communist Party of the USSR, there would be nothing special to inherit – Marxism in the USSR was already bad by the 80s of the last century. Now everything has degenerated, the expert believes, into open political business, mandates to oligarchs and receiving political rent from the status of a conditional opposition. Alexei Martynov voiced his opinion about the reserves for the growth of its influence revealed in the last elections to the State Duma – the growth was due to games with anti-Axeist sentiments, which, in fact, is already on the verge. This idea was supported by the political scientist Anna Fedorova. She stressed that in a crisis situation, as now with the coronavirus, the least rational fears and urges come to life in society, so there is no point in blaming ordinary people here. Unlike politicians who are trying to solve their momentary tasks at the expense of frightened people. According to the expert, this “works to split the society.” At the same time, Anna Fedorova recalled that the key to the future of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation is in the attitude of a fairly large number of young people of leftist views to the party. But these young people perceive Zyuganov's party as a kind of relic, and nothing more. And given that, in general, the left of all stripes today is more likely on the side of effective means of fighting covid available to all classes, mutual understanding cannot be achieved even situationally.

Regarding the situation with Valery Rashkin, or rather about what she can do To “help” the Communist Party, a lot was also said at the round table. The bottom line: the party, due to its proprietary approaches to resolving such situations, showed itself not from the best side for all its electorates – both the nuclear existing and the possible ideological Marxist.

As for the first, as Aleksey Martynov noted, the point is not in Rashkin, but in the party. Although the information itself about the license for elk hunting, which allegedly was available and costs 80-100 thousand rubles, is unlikely to please the “age” nuclear electorate. But for the Communist Party, some members of which declare incomes of 1.5 billion rubles. there is little new here per year.

At the same time, Gleb Kuznetsov, in his review of world practices, noted that in any European left-wing party, a disgraced hunter would be sorted out in 10 minutes. The reason is simple: leftists, leftists, and simply Marxists practically everywhere work in a strong coalition with environmentalists, and the topic of hunting in general is perceived by them as a reason to earn political points. And there is a good reason for this – in modern public opinion, hunting is perceived as the entertainment of the rich and very rich. That is, hunting and “protecting the interests of a working man” are incompatible there. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation does not see anything shameful here – there and Brezhnev was a hunter, etc. And therefore, “hunting” scandals haunt her quite constantly – one can recall the Irkutsk communist governor Levchenko. According to Sergei Shmidt, associate professor of the Department of World History and International Relations of the ISU, who participated in the round table, by the way, in the opinion of the party organization, he was also “not guilty of anything”: at the request of the residents, he shot a sleeping crank bear in a den./p>

Taking into account the Irkutsk experience, as suggested by Sergei Schmidt, the party leadership may try to present Valery Rashkin as a martyr for his ideas. Moreover, it is in the ideas that Gennady Zyuganov sees the reason for the persecution of the unlucky head of the Moscow City Party Committee.


Zelensky was invented a bad scenario with a coup

A series of conspiracy theories

President Volodymyr Zelensky in one day got involved in a war with everyone – with the richest Ukrainian Akhmetov, with his former colleague Arsen Avakov and all more or less influential journalists of Ukraine .


During his surprise press marathon, Zelenskiy fired perhaps the strongest possible response salvo at the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, accusing him, no less, of participating in the planning of a coup d'état. Perhaps in planning … Perhaps – a coup … Perhaps with the participation of Russian services and part of the former employees of the Ukrainian special services, and possibly December 1-2. Everything is “probably” and is based on some reports of foreign intelligence services and wiretapping of conversations of some Russians and Ukrainians, in which Akhmetov was mentioned – such a cocktail of “quite probable” events cannot be refuted by the oligarch so quickly.

However, one can argue about the sequence of the volleys here. Recently, Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada with a demand to provide him with a tribune for an extraordinary appeal to parliament. Oleg Lyashko, “probably financed by an oligarch”, immediately spoke on the air of Rinat Akhmetov's most rating TV and radio company “Ukraine” and said that the President of Ukraine plans to introduce martial law on December 1.

Prior to that, Volodymyr Zelenskyy passed a law on oligarchs through parliament. The law is populist, empty and toothless, but the register of oligarchs, according to it, should have been created. Many observers believe that Akhmetov, who has not been running for parliament for many years, does not participate publicly in the activities of political parties and invests serious money in creating the image of a solid investor, philanthropist and president of a successful football club, when included in this register of “people influencing on politics “in one hour can turn into an outcast inside the country. But, most importantly, it can get unexpected problems with attracting loans in the international market. SCM management company Rinat Akhmetov has $ 6.5 billion in debts.

Immediately after the adoption of the law on oligarchs, the tone of political news and shows on Akhmetov's TV channels instantly changed, critics of the current government suddenly received a rostrum. And the ratings of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Servant of the People party suddenly and quickly began to decline.

The second front in the war between oligarch Akhmetov and President Zelensky was the energy market. On it, as they firmly believe in Kiev, Russia is fighting against Ukraine, which has stopped supplies to the country of thermal coal and does not allow the supply of such coal through Russia from Kazakhstan. And here on the side of Russia, according to Zelensky, is Rinat Akhmetov's DITEK company, which apparently maliciously created a coal reserve, but the state-owned company Centrenergo did not.

If we continue this chain of mutual grievances and accusations, then we will have to remember that the state energy company “Centrenergo” is controlled by an ally of Vladimir Zelensky, oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, whose reputation does not allow to quickly attract borrowed money for the purchase of coal … Vladimir Zelensky and Rinat Akhmetov, surprisingly, really are at war.

“There are big challenges within the state, which are recorded by the intelligence services of other countries. For example, we received information that there will be a coup d'état on December 1-2, '' Volodymyr Zelensky literally said this Friday. – I have no right to speak and share information, but I can say that there is not only agent information, but also sound information, where representatives from Ukraine and Russia are discussing Akhmetov's participation in the coup, which will attract billions of dollars. I believe that this is Akhmetov's setup, he is being dragged into the war against Ukraine. I think that if he started it, it would be a big mistake, because you cannot fight against your people “

” We have a country called Ukraine, it is not called DITEK. I think it is fighting the state, I think this is a mistake, “Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said. and from the Servant of the People faction.

Only the last accusation looks plausible – that of buying up deputies. Rinat Akhmetov, indeed, has a very solid and proven reputation for decades – he always negotiates, and does not fight, rather strangles enemies in his arms than beats them in any forceful way.

It was Rinat Akhmetov who, in the distant 1995, after the murder of Akhat Bragin, closed for a year in his Lux residence, was able to reach an agreement with all enemies during this period and go out into the public world. This is how Akhmetov tried to act all the years until 2014, when the oligarch's combat capabilities were tested by the war. Akhmetov did not allow the Donetsk regional state administration to be stormed by the supporters of the “Russian Spring”, refused to become the governor of the region and, when it became very bad, announced the operation “Whistle” – so that the armed people left the streets, he seriously urged everyone to buzz into the horns of cars.

Akhmetov is about anything, about purchasing thermal coal and TV channels, but not about organizing coups d'état. The producers of Studio Kvartal 95 have built a weak script here.

What is he talking about? The President of Ukraine has a heap of insoluble problems. He is accused of treason, disrupting the special operations of his special services, attracting “Russian agents” in the person of Andrei Ermak and Ruslan Demchenko and, for dessert, celebrating for four days in the state residence of Guta the 50th anniversary of the head of his office and transporting guests there. medical helicopters of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. All this has been trumpeted by the Ukrainian media in recent weeks, journalists have been asking the Ukrainian president about all this in the face, using the words in relation to Volodymyr Zelensky: “Your lies have tired everyone!”

They tried to interrupt all this with loud words about “ coup “and sensational information that the disgraced head of the military intelligence of Ukraine, General Vasily Burba, stole the formula of some Western vaccine and offered to transfer it immediately to China and Russia.

This is even a little funny.

“I don't plan such complex strategies!” – said Volodymyr Zelenskyy in response to a question from journalist Sonya Koshkina about the sequence of the presidential and parliamentary elections and planning an appeal to the Constitutional Court to extend the cadence of parliament for one year. The President of the country honestly tried to understand a long and difficult question, asked a couple of times, and then gave this thought about strategies.

The Ukrainian president now has few successful strategies, in Kiev more and more early elections are discussed, and not an imminent attack by Russia .


A coup that does not exist: why Zelensky needed a fake putsch

Will the Kiev internal political tornado suck in Russia?

This Friday in the former USSR suddenly turned into the day of fake coups d'état. President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Zhaparov put the start of the “fun relay race”, and the leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, immediately picked it up. Most likely, the two leaders of the post-Soviet states did not agree on anything like that? In this case, I willingly believe in the version of a purely random coincidence. But in any case, the like-mindedness of the two presidents turned out to be simply remarkable: both the one and the other declared that some villains and internal political competitors are trying to overthrow them by means of a coup d'etat. And in fact, and in another case, such “information” raises serious doubts. However, this is where the similarities end: the significance of the political move by the knight of the leadership in Bishkek is limited by the borders of the republic. A similar “move by Rinat Akhmetov” by Vladimir Zelensky threatens to further draw Russia into the internal Ukrainian political swamps.

Photo: ua

I'll start with Kyrgyzstan. A little over a year ago, Sadyr Japarov came to power in Bishkek as a result of a series of very “creative” political steps. But now “creativity” in local politics is no longer welcome. According to the official statement of the state security, “evidence has been obtained of the criminal activities of the group under the leadership of certain destructive political forces,” including parliamentarians and former high-ranking officials. According to this “evidence,” the “destructive forces” planned to protest the results of the parliamentary elections, organize mass protests, clash with the security forces and storm the buildings of state authorities.

Although this statement describes a standard scheme for changing the top leadership of Kyrgyzstan, this time it is hard to believe in something similar. The current ruling tandem in Bishkek, which consists of President Zhaparov and the head of the main local special service Kamchybek Tashiev, keeps the situation in the republic in such tight iron gloves that even a mosquito will not slip past him without a “pass”. Of course, the version with the presence of frostbitten conspirators cannot be ruled out 100%. It is not for nothing that the president prefers to work not in his official office in the White House in the city center, but in his country residence Ala-Orcha, which, unlike the long-suffering White House, has never been taken by storm.

But the preemptive strike version is much more likely. On the eve of the parliamentary elections, Prime Minister and President's namesake Akylbek Zhaparov promised that the authorities would not “use administrative resources” (how touching!) social protection “(in the first years of Soviet power, execution was officially called the” highest measure of social protection “.) However, God bless her, Kyrgyzstan. By and large, the maneuvers of politicians in Bishkek in Russia are neither hot nor cold. Unfortunately, this cannot be said about the similar maneuvers of the leaders in Kiev.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy suddenly held a press conference (or, to use the current Kiev official jargon, “press marathon in a coworking space”). And just as suddenly he accused the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who fell into disgrace with him, of preparing a coup d'etat: “Some people-representatives of the Russian Federation and some comrades from Ukraine are discussing that it is necessary to convey information that today Rinat Akhmetov is ready to get involved in the issue of a coup d'état, changing the current president … I believe that this information is specifically in order to drag Akhmetov into a war, into an informational one, he is already involved against, well, me, against the state. ”

Having issued this statement, the President of Ukraine for some reason switched “to the language of the aggressor country” and added: “I don’t believe in coups d'etat, just as I don’t believe that Akhmetov will run straight into it.” If Zelensky “does not believe in coups,” then why did he say that a coup d'etat was being prepared in Ukraine? Of course, there is a great temptation to hint at the fact that this coworking space serves especially picky coffee (you know what I mean). But for some reason I have no time for jokes. Attaching “representatives of the Russian Federation” to the conspiracy is a standard Kiev political device. Not a single conspiracy in Ukraine can be considered as such if “representatives of the Russian Federation” do not participate in it. However, this is what was not there before.

During my journalistic career, I probably used the phraseologism “fight of bulldogs under the carpet” a hundred times. But for the first time I had the feeling that we are all sitting on a chair that stands on this wildly wobbling carpet. Something is happening in the Russia-Ukraine-West triangle. And this something is not at all positive. An article by Putin about Ukraine, published a few months ago. VVP's statements that the West treats Moscow's “red lines” with excessive frivolity. Publication of Lavrov's correspondence with colleagues from Berlin and Paris. Constant statements by the West about the “inadmissibility of the invasion of Ukraine.” The “ticking bomb” introduced by the Kiev Cabinet of Ministers to parliament in the form of a de facto bill “On the State Policy of the Transitional Period” canceling the Minsk Agreements. A recent visit to the Russian capital by a CIA director (since when are CIA directors engaged in diplomacy?)

The atmosphere of the conflict has radically changed. Elements of “pretense”, watchfulness and frozenness disappear from it. And all this against the backdrop of the growing political crisis in Kiev and the erosion of the power foundation of President Zelensky.

The transfer of the conflict with Russia from the rhetorical to the forceful phase looks in such a situation as an increasingly logical political move. The “external enemy” rallies, eliminates all internal conflicts. Why, for example, is Poland so furiously fanning the flames of the conflict with Belarus and slapping Angela Merkel, who is trying to negotiate a compromise with Lukashenko on migrants from the Middle East? Because Warsaw does not need any compromise. She needs a continuation of the fight. This fight has consolidated the EU. Not so long ago, Poland was considered a “hooligan” within the European Union, who should be severely punished for “violating the norms of the community.” And now she is “a victim of the aggressive policies of Putin and Lukashenka,” which should be supported in every possible way.

Zelensky also needs a similar metamorphosis. The goals of the President of Ukraine have reached perfect balance with the goals of the conditional war party in Kiev and in the West. Where these goals are in radical conflict is with Russia's fundamental national interests. An article by Vladislav Surkov calling for “imperial expansion” recalled that a conditional war party exists in Moscow as well.

This article also showed that this “party” lacked reasonable argumentation. Russia will gain nothing from reigniting the conflict in Ukraine, but it has a lot to lose. The best position that we can take in relation to the crumbling of the Zelensky regime is the position of maximum detachment. Let the Kiev political elite cook (and drown) in their own juice. But won't we be dragged into this “juice” by force? This question now belongs to the category of not rhetorical, but quite politically applied.


Aliyev and Pashinyan, who came to Sochi to see Putin, were disinfected

Peace enforcement

Vladimir Putin managed to bring Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan together at the same table. According to the Russian president, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan need to make at least “some step forward” before meeting at alternative venues, in particular in Brussels. The Kremlin considers this step to be the unblocking of transport corridors in Nagorno-Karabakh and the beginning of the process of demarcating the borders between the two republics. Aliyev and Pashinyan declared their readiness for “constructivism”.


Vladimir Putin planned to organize a trilateral meeting with Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan on November 9, the anniversary of the signing of an agreement to end the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. From the Kremlin's side, the matter looked so resolved that the holding of the summit was officially confirmed by the presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

However, the Armenian prime minister, who did not promise anything but shame and another portion of reproaches at home, refused to fly to Moscow, motivating its decision by the absence of a specific agenda. Indeed, Armenia still has enough problems in connection with the loss in Karabakh, but there is absolutely nothing to celebrate.

Talk about a trilateral meeting seems to have dwindled. But then two important things happened. First, in the course of the next conflict on the border of the Syunik region of Armenia, through which Azerbaijan expects to lay a corridor to the Nakhichevan enclave, people again died. Secondly, Aliyev and Pashinyan agreed to the proposal of EU President Charles Michel to hold talks on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership summit “on December 15, in order to try to ease the ongoing tension between the countries.

Naturally, reaching an agreement on a meeting on an alternative platform could not please Moscow, which suspected the “European partners” of wanting to pull the blanket over itself, become the main mediator between the warring parties and oust the Russian Federation from the negotiation process.

The new date was agreed upon during a telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Nikol Pashinyan on November 21. The Armenian leader could no longer refuse the Russian president. This would be a violation of all the rules of political etiquette. In addition, the Russian president is certainly doing no less than Charles Michel to resolve the smoldering conflict, and, no less important, to maintain the stability of the Armenian economy. In general, the meeting was agreed on November 26 in a convenient place for all participants: the road to Sochi, where the GDP is located since the beginning of the week, took no more than 60 minutes for Pashinyan and Aliyev.

First, Vladimir Putin received the Azerbaijani president at Bocharov Ruchei, whom he had not seen since July (he has met the Armenian leader four times this year, the last one most recently on October 12). The public conversation, as Peskov had warned, concerned various aspects of bilateral relations – trade, investment, humanitarian ties.

Obviously, against the background of talks about the close proximity of Baku and Ankara, Vladimir Putin in his speech tried in every possible way to emphasize that relations with Moscow are also of a special nature. “34% of schoolchildren in Azerbaijan study in Russian in one way or another or study Russian. This is such a good indicator, which speaks of the desire of the leadership of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people to maintain close and diversified contacts, ”VVP noted. He recalled that in 2022 Russia and Azerbaijan will celebrate 30 years of establishing diplomatic relations. “This is definitely a milestone that needs to be celebrated accordingly.” – suggested the president.

Aliyev did not object: strategic partnership, in his words, is “not just a phrase” – “this is actually the case” and there is a disposition to raise the level of relations in all directions.

At the same time, both Putin and Aliyev did not hide the fact that they had gathered not at all to exchange pleasantries, but to discuss problems – primarily around the Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement. “Unfortunately, there are problems, there are incidents. There are still casualties, ”stated Putin, noting that before the summit he had a detailed discussion on this topic with Deputy Prime Minister Overchuk, who oversees economic aspects, and with the Minister of Defense, and with the head of the FSB, and with the border service. There are a lot of questions, the president said. “But that's why we have gathered – to see what has been done and what everyone needs to do to calm the situation,” he said.

According to Aliyev, everything that happened between Armenia and Azerbaijan after the signing of the agreement is not “serious events.” There were only sporadic incidents “not a systemic crisis”. And most importantly, all the clashes have nothing to do with the Russian peacekeepers. “There were clashes on the border of Azerbaijan and Armenia, but this is not their area of ​​responsibility,” Aliyev stressed.

Nikol Pashinyan, who by that time had already arrived in Sochi, did not wait long for the completion of the Russian-Azerbaijani tete-a-tete. Less than an hour later, all the leaders gathered at a round table, and Aliyev and Pashinyan were seated opposite Putin, with an impressive air disinfectant installed behind them.

At the beginning of the talks, the Russian president emphasized the positive: in the year that has passed since the signing of the agreement, a lot has been done, according to his estimates. The main thing is that they managed to stop large-scale hostilities and return the refugees. “And this is already good,” VVP considers. Ilham Aliyev added that “practically all the points of the agreements”, except for the unblocking of transport corridors, have already been fulfilled. And Azerbaijan “during the whole year showed maximum counter-constructivism” on all problematic issues. “We are ready to immediately begin the process of delimitation and demarcation of borders, as well as work on a peace treaty in order to recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each other and to learn to live as neighbors anew,” the Azerbaijani leader said.

Unlike Aliyev, who spoke confidently and calmly, Nikol Pashinyan was noticeably nervous, and the strong accent did not allow the Armenian prime minister to clearly place semantic accents. However, he nevertheless conveyed the main idea: Azerbaijan wants to pass off wishful thinking. In addition to transport corridors, there are other points of the agreement that remain unfulfilled – in particular, the issue of the return of prisoners of war and hostages has not been resolved. According to Pashinyan, there are not “sporadic incidents” on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but a systemic crisis situation that has continued since May 12, when Azerbaijani troops again invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia. “Although the borders are not demarcated, the state border exists,” he stressed. The Prime Minister noted that Yerevan is no less interested in the registration of borders, as well as in the unblocking of all transport and economic communications. As for Nagorno-Karabakh, without determining the status of which the signing of a peace treaty is impossible, then, according to Pashinyan, the issue should be resolved within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. And in Sochi, it is necessary not only to outline the problems, but also to make progress in solving them.

Vladimir Putin made it clear that this will be so. “There is reason to believe that in the near future we will be able to make the decisions necessary for everyone to unblock transport corridors,” he said, adding that there is also an opportunity to start the procedure of demarcation and delimitation of borders. According to him, in a trilateral format, it is necessary to take “some step forward” in order to take further steps at some other sites, in particular, in Brussels. As a result of the summit, an agreement is expected to be reached on the creation of a working group that will deal with the borders.


Weki Meki – First Dream lyrics

Weki Meki

First Dream lyrics

Weki Meki – First Dream lyrics

[위키미키 “First Dream” 가사]
Oh, first dream, déjà vu, oh yeah
Ooh-woah-oh-oh, oh
[Verse 1]
기억 너머 울린 whistle이
바람결에 들려온 것 같아
아득히 밀려오는 history
I love it (Oh I love it, boy)
발자국을 따라 prism이 (Yeah)
무지개다리를 만들어
I’ll show you, 속삭여 오듯
비춰오는 tonight
떨린 맘을 흠뻑 적셨던
간절했던 꿈에 몰려온
I can do, do, do
아득한 추억들
때론 외로운 밤이 가득 번질 때
저 새벽달이 차고 기울 때
조용히 꺼내 본 일기장의 하루 속
설레이던 smile, yeah (Be mine)
손을 잡고 함께 걸어갈 이 길이
시작되던 그 순간
너무 눈부신 first dream déjà vu
기분 좋은 꿈속
아름다웠던 고운 것들만
남아 있어
First dream memories
지금 나란히
발걸음을 맞춘 기억과
포근히 빛난 déjà vu
Hello, hello, hello (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Hello, hello, hello (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Hello, hello, hello
Give me first dream déjà vu
[Verse 2]
Uh, yeah
Excuse me, 왠지 낯이 익은 표정의 the others
분명히 우린 같은 곳을 향해 가 together
Take a slow, 한 걸음씩 절대 멈추지는 마, yeah
You’re my wannabe, wannabe my dreams
같이 울고 같이 웃었고
때론 아무 말이 없어도
Yeah, we do, do, do (Yeah we do, da-la-di-da)

늘 같은 마음들 (How do you feel? Da-la-di-da)
눈을 감고 함께 빌던 소원들이
이뤄지던 그 순간
너무 눈부신 first dream déjà vu
기분 좋은 꿈속
아름다웠던 고운 것들만
남아 있어
First dream memories
지금 나란히
발걸음을 맞춘 기억과
포근히 빛난 déjà vu
Hello, hello, hello (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Hello, hello, hello (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Hello, hello, hello
Give me first dream déjà vu
여전히 같은 꿈을 꿔
영원히 잊지 못하게
수없이 다가올 시간들 속
매일 새로운 special days (Ooh-wee, ooh-wee)
저 멀리 손짓하듯 비춘
빛을 향한 답은 늘 say yes
눈을 감아 봐
더 높이 high, high, high, high
Yeah, just like a first love
밤 새 이어진 first dream déjà vu (Oh, whoa, yeah)
날 이끄는 꿈속 (Ooh, baby, I love you)
우리다웠던 빛난 것들만
가득해, oh (가득해)
First dream memories (Memories)
헤일 수 없이 (Oh yeah)
온 가슴이 벅찬 기억만 (벅찬, won’t you)
따스히 번진 déjà vu (Déjà vu)
Hello, hello, hello (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Hello, hello, hello (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Hello, hello, hello
Give me first dream déjà vu

Weki Meki – First Dream lyrics

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