Tag: External Link

Scientists discover microplastics in decade-old Antarctic ice core sample


It is one of the world’s most remote locations and home to few inhabitants, but despite this, researchers say they have discovered plastic microfibres for the first time in Antarctic sea ice.

Key points:

  • Researchers found 96 microplastic particles from 14 different types of polymer, including the material used in plastic bags
  • It’s believed to be the first time plastics have been found in an ice core in Antarctica
  • Local pollution from boat traffic, tourism and researchers is the likely source of the plastic microfibres

The pollution was discovered by a team of Tasmanian researchers who took an ice core from the eastern side of the continent in 2009.

External Link:

Antarctica Ice Tweet

The lead researcher with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), Anna Kelly, said the ice core, which was kept in a freezer for years, was recently melted down and its contents put under the microscope.

“If we’ve got plastic particles in Antarctica, in one of the most remote habitats on Earth, [then plastics] are extremely widespread and we are having a big impact even in places that most of us will never get to visit,” Ms Kelly said.

While microplastics have previously been found in sea ice in the northern hemisphere and in sea surface water samples in Antarctica, this is believed to be the first time microplastics have been identified in an ice core from Antarctica.

Ms Kelly said the research was a complicated process that took about a year of laboratory work.


Lead scientist Anna Kelly says the research took a year to complete. (Supplied)

“We had to do quite a few test runs to make sure no plastic from me or from anywhere in the lab was getting into the ice, so I actually made some fake ice cores and practised,” she said.

“The plan was to cut it up into different sections, melt the different sections, filter the water and then look at the filter under a microscope to see what type of plastics we had.

“I had a special body suit I would wear over all of my clothing so that none of my sweaters or jumpers would contaminate the sample,” Ms Kelly said.

Plastic bag particles found

The researchers from IMAS and the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) found 96 microplastic particles in the decade-old ice core from 14 different types of polymer, including polyethylene which is used in plastic bags.

Other fibres identified were polyester and nylon.

Ms Kelly said the amount of microplastics found equated to almost 12 particles per litre.

“The more microplastics you have in the sea ice, the easier the ice melts, so it could have some big implications for biogeochemical cycles,” she said.

“And if the plastics are small enough, it could have some big implications if they get out of the ice and how that is affecting the marine life in the Antarctic.”

Boat traffic, tourism likely sources of pollution

Researchers believe the pollution most likely came from somewhere nearby due to the large size of the microfibres.


Once the sea ice was melted, 96 microplastic particles were found beneath a microscope. (Supplied)

“The microplastic polymers in our ice core were larger than those in the Arctic, which may indicate local pollution sources because the plastic has less time to break down into smaller fibres than if transported long distances on ocean currents,” Ms Kelly said.

“It could be coming from the continent and travelling through the currents, it could be coming from boat traffic or more local pollution like tourism or researchers, but we don’t have any solid data on that yet,” she said.

Ms Kelly, who grew up in America before moving to Tasmania, said she hoped to take ice core samples from the western side of Antarctica to help determine more about the sources of pollution.

“In my PhD I’m doing right now, I’m looking at more ice cores and broadening the scope of the study,” she said.

“It is worth noting that plastic contamination of west Antarctic sea ice may be even greater than in our ice core from the east, as the Antarctic Peninsula hosts the bulk of the continent’s tourism, research stations and marine traffic.”

Researchers also hope to discover if sea ice contains more pollution now, compared with the 2009 sample.

The research has been published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The NT election is going ahead, but there’s concern about the remote vote

Darwin 0800

The Northern Territory Electoral Commission says hosting elections in the NT’s remote regions is already a challenge and will be even more difficult during the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • The NTEC says remote polling will be possible but the NT Election will be “different” this year
  • A face-to-face enrolment campaign for remote communities has been postponed
  • The NT has poor voter participation and a low Indigenous enrolment rate

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has insisted the election, set for August 22 by a fixed term, will go ahead and that voting can be safely managed during the public health crisis.

“Running elections in the Territory, particularly in remote areas, is challenging at the best of times,” NT Electoral Commissioner Iain Loganathan said.

“It’s even going to be more challenging with the pandemic and the restrictions in place.”

But Mr Loganathan said he was confident a “good service” could still be provided to voters.

“There’s no intention to reduce the level of service to remote electors,” he said.


The NT had the worst voter participation rate in Australia at the last federal election and low Indigenous enrolment. (ABC News: Tom Maddocks)

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

Several NT politicians have suggested the election should be postponed, because it could be unfair to remote voters and candidates.

In a letter to Mr Gunner, the leader of new party Territory Alliance, Terry Mills, said the democratic right to cast a vote could be threatened — particularly in remote areas — because of physical distancing and travel restrictions.

Mr Mills said the restrictions would limit the NTEC’s ability to conduct its usual voter enrolment drives and mobile polling in remote Indigenous communities, where voter engagement was already low.

“They’re the ones that most need to be engaged, it’s going to be very difficult for the electoral commission to get increased numbers on the roll,” Mr Mills said.


Local council elections went ahead in Queensland last month but Tasmania’s upper house election has been postponed. (ABC News: Brendan Mounter)

NT COVID-19 snapshot

  • Cases detected in the NT: 28
  • Tests conducted: 3,810
  • People recovered: 16

Get the latest information from the SecureNT website.

Mr Mills said electoral laws should be changed to put off the NT election until at least October.

He also asked Mr Gunner how pre-polling for vulnerable people, in hospitals and aged care homes where visitor restrictions exist, would take place.

Mr Gunner said there was four months to plan for the election and pushing ahead with the August date was in-line with democratic principles.

“We don’t live in a dictatorship, this is democracy, Territorians decide who the government of the Northern Territory is,” he said.

“I’m not going to give myself as Chief Minister an extra day than what Territorians gave to me.”


Inaccessibility during the Top End wet season from November to April is one reason elections are held in August. (News Video)

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Remote polling can take place

Local government elections were recently held in Queensland but Tasmania has postponed its upper house election indefinitely to avoid breaching the state’s new health directions on gatherings.

External Link:

@AntonyGreenABC Tweet: The impact of Covid-19 on the #BrisbaneVotes election can be seen in the table of votes by type below. Polling day votes slumped from 66.0% to 26.5%, pre-polls and postals doubled, telephone votes up from 151 to 8,428. Pre-polls counted as Absents also leapt.

Mr Loganathan said the upcoming NT election would be “very different” from previous NT elections.

He said electoral staff would be deemed essential workers for travel into biosecurity zones.

Strict hygiene and cleaning protocols would also be in place at polling booths, Mr Loganathan said.

“At the local government elections in Queensland, there was no door-knocking, there was no handing out of how-to-vote cards, there were no scrutineers in polling places,” he said.

“We’re going to see more Territorians early voting, we’re going to see more Territorians applying for postal votes and we’re not going to see sausage sizzles on Saturday.”

But the NTEC has already had to postpone its face-to-face enrolment drive, which was due to roll out this month.


Education campaigns in 1979 encouraged Aboriginal people to vote and stand as election candidates. (Supplied: AIATSIS)

More than 25,000 of the NT’s Indigenous people are not currently enrolled to vote, according to Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) data.

“It is disappointing, we know that there is under-enrolment in remote areas,” NT Electoral Commissioner Iain Loganathan said.

“History has taught us that face-to-face service delivery in remote communities is the best way of getting the message about enrolment and voting to remote Aboriginal Territorians.”

Vulnerable residents the priority, remote candidates say

Central Land Council chief executive Joe Martin-Jard said more effort was needed to get remote voters signed up for the election.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

“It is not good enough to use the challenges communities in lockdown are facing to further disenfranchise remote Aboriginal voters,” Mr Martin-Jard said.

Mr Loganathan said the rest of the NTEC’s enrolment campaign was still going ahead, including work with Aboriginal media organisations on social media content and radio advertisements.

A spokesman for the NTEC also said a team was working on a COVID-19 plan to gain access to remote communities for election officials, including for face-to-face enrolment promotion before the August election if possible.

Independent Yolngu politician Yingiya Mark Guyula, who will be running in the seat of Mulka, said he supported an August election only if it was safe for elders and vulnerable remote community members.

“We don’t want to see visitors moving around communities who have not self-isolated and we don’t want community members to move through polling booths if it’s a risk to their health,” Mr Guyula said.

Mr Guyula said any change to the voting system, such as increased postal or online voting, would cause “great confusion” and limit the ability of many to cast their vote.

Delaying the NT election until October would require changes to NT legislation.

How do I get tested in the NT?

  • If you can’t contact or get to your GP, but you have the symptoms, you should call 1800 008 002
  • This is a dedicated NT-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) number for people who need to arrange testing only
  • If you live in Darwin and need to arrange testing, call the Public Health Unit on 8922 8044
  • Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results
  • For general advice, Territorians can call 1800 020 080

Latest information from SecureNT website

Video: Why you should get your flu shot early this year


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

A small Aussie city got into a diplomatic spat — and it holds a lesson for us all


When Wagga Wagga City Council announced last week that it would end its sister-city relationship with the Chinese city of Kunming after 30 years — citing concerns over coronavirus and Communism — it didn’t take long for the Chinese Government to respond.

State-owned newspaper The Global Times accused the council of being an American “mouthpiece”, but has since removed the original editorial. The Chinese Consulate in Sydney also responded.

Anger at the decision did not stop there.

Local Wagga Wagga community leaders, Chinese-Australians and even Nationals’ leader Michael McCormack, expressed concern and the Council has now announced it will reconsider the plan. This will be discussed at an extraordinary council meeting on Wednesday.

So why such a big reaction from a decision by a small Australian city?

For a start the Chinese are unlikely to view Wagga’s move to end all agreements and friendship programs with Kunming as the unilateral action of one Australian local council.

The plan, which would have caused some diplomatic embarrassment for both Beijing and Canberra, threatened China’s view of Australia as a whole, and undermined much-needed diplomacy at a time when Australia needs to strengthen the relationship with its largest trading partner.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

Cooperation not confrontation

Australia’s view of China has been growing increasingly fraught.

External Link:

How the Chinese Communist Party infiltrated Australia's universities

From being first to ban Chinese technology giant Huawei from its 5G network and deepening competition for impact in the Pacific, to allegations of improper influence in Australian domestic politics, Australia has emerged in recent years as a major critic of China’s growing global influence.

The coronavirus outbreak appears to have created a new forum in which to air criticisms of China — from references to COVID-19 as a “Chinese disease” to a surge in virus-inspired racism directed at Chinese-Australians, and those of Asian appearance living in Australia.

There is a growing culture that discourages discussion around areas of collaboration and commonality with China.

While Australia most certainly needs to defend its national interests and push back strongly against China when necessary it is wrong to use the spread of COVID-19 as an excuse to engage in political point scoring.

Now is the time to seek deeper cooperation with China, not to step back and engage in unnecessary confrontation.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Sister-city relationships have value

Sister-city relationships might seem to rank far down the diplomacy food chain, but I have seen first-hand how they can build good will, support respect and understanding between culturally and politically different nations.

And I saw how seriously our Chinese counterparts take sister relationships and how deeply they are valued.

Australia has more than 500 global sister city relationships. More than 100 of them are with Chinese cities.

From 2013-15 I co-initiated and facilitated such a relationship between Hobart and Xi’an — China’s ancient capital and starting point of the Silk Route that built connections between Central Asia and the Middle East. These days most Australians know Xi’an as the home of the terracotta warriors.


Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan visited Tasmania in 2014. (Supplied: Chin Communications)

Chinese culture and tradition greatly values trust and relationships. Sister-city connections offer powerful symbolism that can be used to counteract rhetoric that blames China for the coronavirus pandemic.

The City of Sydney used a similar connection with Wuhan in February when Lord Mayor Clover Moore offered to assist with the provision of medical equipment if needed.

The idea of these relationships is to highlight what cities have in common. In the case of Hobart and Xi’an this includes growth potential to serve as leading economic and cultural hubs for their respective countries, especially in the areas of agriculture, research and development, education, cultural exchange and tourism.

Retracting sister-city relationships, like what was considered in Wagga Wagga, risks being seen as reactionary.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

Certainly China’s comments in The Global Times suggest such a move is seen as being supportive of the rhetoric of figures like Donald Trump who have accused China of “lying” about the coronavirus outbreak.

Local residents and communities in Wagga Wagga were quick to realise the Council’s announcement could impact not just their city, but also Australia’s bilateral relationship with China, and broader messages to the Australian community that undermine cultural diversity and social cohesion.

Irrespective of the different politics and political systems between Australia and China, sister-city relationships help to build a network of resources to share knowledge, business and trade opportunities.

But do they really work?

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

RMIT University’s research report Australia-China Sister Cities: Seizing Opportunities Together found that while Australian entities such as local councils and business delegates involved in these relationships felt goodwill and friendship between sister cities, there is a need to improve economic and business outcomes.

Some Australian cities have bucked the trend — with clear strategic objectives, understanding their motivations and interests, financial and staffing resources devoted to the relationship, was successful in the development of export markets in China for local Australian businesses.

Over time, sister-city and sister-state relationships have proven to be important drivers in promoting economic, cultural and educational outcomes and on occasions serving as a springboard to enhancing bilateral ties at the national levels.

An example of this was President Xi Jinping’s decision to visit Tasmania, and only Tasmania, after the 2014 G20 Brisbane Summit. The reason was Tasmania’s 39-year-old sister state relationship with Fujian province, a province where Xi was once governor.


Former Tasmanian Premier Doug Lowe in China in 1980. He was the first Tasmanian leader to visit the super-power and signed a sister state agreement with Fujian province which was later strengthened by Jim Bacon. (Supplied)

Another major driver for Xi was to fulfil a promise he made to late Tasmanian Premier Jim Bacon, whom Xi awarded honorary citizenship of Fujian province, as a way to recognise his contribution in strengthening the sister state relationship.

Xi’s visit brought international attention to Tasmania, including interest from Chinese citizens to visit the state.

Relationship stronger than rhetoric

Responses from representatives of the Wagga Wagga community demonstrated the sister-city relationship is stronger than political rhetoric.

This demonstrates the very best of Australia — a tolerant and inclusive society that embraces multiculturalism, diversity and engagement.

We shouldn’t turn our backs on our friends when the going gets tough.

Jieh-Yung Lo is a writer, commentator and director of the ANU Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Video: Four Corners looks at how coronavirus unleashed a financial wrecking ball right through the Australian economy.

(Four Corners)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The Goodies co-stars remember ‘great friend’ Tim Brooke-Taylor after death from coronavirus

United Kingdom

British performer Tim Brooke-Taylor, a member of comedy trio The Goodies, has died after contracting coronavirus. He was 79.

Key points:

  • Brooke-Taylor’s agent said the comedian died from COVID-19
  • His fellow Goodies members remembered him as a funny man and a great friend
  • Their television show was a hit in the UK, Australia and New Zealand in the 1970s

Brooke-Taylor’s agent said he died on Sunday morning (local time) “from COVID-19”.

Fellow Goodies star Graeme Garden said Brooke-Taylor was “a funny, sociable, generous man who was a delight to work with”.

“Audiences found him not only hilarious but also adorable,” Garden said.

“His loss at this dreadful time is particularly hard to bear.”


The Goodies in 2003, from left: Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor. (PA via AP: Yui Mok)

Bill Oddie, the third member of the trio, remembered Brooke-Taylor as a “true visual comic and a great friend”.

External Link:

Bill Oddie on Twitter: Fifty years and he only got cross with me once… well maybe twice… no quite a lot actually! No one could wear silly costumes or do dangerous stunts like Tim. I know it hurt cos he used to cry a lot.

Announcing the death, his agent said he was “an exceptional client” who had “many fans whom he always treated cheerfully, even after long and exhausting rehearsals and recordings”.

Comedians David Walliams, Ross Noble and Stephen Fry were among some of the British entertainers who paid tribute to Brooke-Taylor on Twitter.

External Link:

David Walliams on Twitter: I was obsessed with ‘The Goodies’ as a child, the first comedy show I really loved. I queued up to get the Goodies’ autographs as a grown-up, and got to meet Tim Brooke-Taylor more recently at a party

“He was so kind and generous. It is so sad he is gone,” Walliams said.

External Link:

Stephen Fry on Twitter: Just heard the devastating news of the death of Tim Brooke-Taylor. A hero for as long as I can remember, and –on a few golden occasions – a colleague and collaborator on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

External Link:

Ross Noble on Twitter: So sorry to hear that Tim Brooke Taylor has passed away. He was such a lovely funny man. I watched him as a kid and it was always a thrill to work with him.

External Link:

Rob Brydon on Twitter: So sad to hear that the great Tim Brooke Taylor has died. A wonderful man, so many happy times sat next to him on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

London-based Australian comedian Adam Hills wrote that Brooke-Taylor was “a lovely, wonderful, talented, generous, friendly human being”.

External Link:

Adam Hills on Twitter: No. Just no. Such a lovely, wonderful, talented, generous, friendly human being. Absolutely devastated. Our heroes are dying from this thing. Please stay inside. Please stay safe.

Brooke-Taylor was part of Cambridge University’s Footlights revue, the breeding ground of several generations of British comedic talent.

He broke into radio and television comedy in the 1960s alongside future Monty Python members John Cleese and Graham Chapman.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Brooke-Taylor then went on to form The Goodies with Garden and Oddie. The trio specialised in slightly surreal sketches incorporating visual inventiveness, slapstick and songs.

Their song Funky Gibbon even became a UK top 10 chart hit in 1975.

External Link:

The Goodies perform their song Funky Gibbon, which was a hit in the UK.

Their TV show, which ran throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, was a hit in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

For more than 40 years, Brooke-Taylor was also a panellist on BBC radio’s much-loved comic quiz show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.


Brooke-Taylor is being remembered as a generous and friendly person. (Wikimedia Commons)

Brooke-Taylor is survived by his wife, Christine, and two sons.

His death comes just months after Monty Python star Terry Jones passed away.

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Norman Swan looks at some of the drugs that could treat COVID-19 and their drawbacks



Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

How George Pell’s lawyers convinced the High Court that his convictions should be quashed

Melbourne 3000

The George Pell case was always going to be a flashpoint.

Cardinal Pell has already said his case was never about the Catholic Church’s response to child sex abuse.

But there are many who saw it as exactly that, and have been watching on with close interest.

For his supporters who have been equally engrossed in the case, Tuesday was a vindication of their belief in his innocence.

The key question was whether it was open to the jury to arrive at a guilty verdict or whether the evidence provided reasonable doubt about the Cardinal’s guilt.

On Tuesday, after a journey through the Victorian criminal courts and the Court of Appeal, the High Court found there was room for reasonable doubt and Cardinal Pell is now free.

Cardinal Pell faced two juries on child sexual abuse charges involving two choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick’s Cathedral when he was archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s.

One of the boys had died by the time of the prosecution, so Cardinal Pell was convicted on the evidence of the other.

Cardinal Pell never gave evidence, but when he was interviewed by police he vehemently denied the allegations.


The High Court found the Court of Appeal had made a subjective assessment about the complainant’s truthfulness. (ABC News: Gregory Nelson)

The first jury could not reach a verdict, but the second found him guilty.

That was later backed up a Victorian Court of Appeal ruling.

To unpack why the High Court overturned both these findings, it is necessary to look to the evidence in the case.

The question of reasonable doubt

The central question in the case was whether it was open to the jury to find George Pell guilty, or whether the jury should have had a reasonable doubt after hearing the evidence.

The prosecution relied entirely on the truthfulness and reliability of the complainant’s evidence.

That was upheld by the Victorian Court of Appeal, which described him as a witness of truth.

The defence relied on evidence from people who worked in and around the cathedral, whose evidence suggested the opportunity for the alleged offences was unlikely.

This included then-archbishop Pell’s practice of standing on the steps outside the cathedral after mass, the tradition that he would never be alone while robed, and the hive of activity in the area near where the alleged offences were said to have happened.

Indeed, in the original trial the defence had described the evidence as showing the alleged offences were impossible.

But by the time the case reached the High Court the language had softened to improbable.

Witness vs ‘opportunity evidence’

Cardinal Pell’s lawyer set out a cogent case to explain why the jury and the Court of Appeal should have found that the “opportunity evidence'” suggested there should be reasonable doubt about his guilt.

On Tuesday the High Court agreed.

In its ruling, it took aim at the Appeal Court judgment, saying the majority had made a subjective assessment of the truthfulness of the alleged victim.

“[That] drove their analysis of the consistency and cogency of his evidence,” the High Court judgement said.

The High Court said that was at the expense of defence evidence which suggested there could be reasonable doubt about his account.

“The analysis failed to engage with whether, against this body of evidence, it was reasonably possible that A’s account was not correct, such that there was a reasonable doubt about the applicant’s guilt,” the court said.


Cardinal Pell’s lawyers maintained there was reasonable doubt about his guilt because of the “opportunity” evidence. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

The conduct of appeals has long been in the High Court domain.

Rules suggesting appeal courts are to make an independent assessment of the evidence and then decide if it was open to the jury to arrive at its verdict, now known as the M test, were established in a 1994 High Court case.

One question in the George Pell case was whether the Court of Appeal had gone too far in its assessment by viewing video evidence from the case, or whether it should have stuck to the transcripts.

On Tuesday the High Court ruled that videos were allowed, but only in exceptional circumstances.

The hearing was run over two days.

Things did not go well for the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd, who found herself on the wrong end of several exchanges with the judges, particularly when she shifted ground on whether the alleged incident was longer than five or six minutes, something not put during any earlier hearing.

On Tuesday the High Court ruled unanimously Cardinal Pell’s guilt was not established to the requisite level.

The appeal was allowed, the convictions quashed and George Pell was acquitted.

Read the High Court summary:
External Link:

High Court of Australia: Pell v The Queen

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Frydenberg calls on G20 to put global economy into ‘controlled hibernation’


Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has called for the global economy to be put into “controlled hibernation” during the coronavirus emergency, in a virtual meeting of Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers and central bank governors last night.

Key points:

  • Mr Frydenberg said the G20 should aim to minimise job losses globally
  • The Federal Government has its own economic “hibernation” strategy
  • The G20’s coronavirus plan will be fleshed out over the next fortnight

The meeting saw the economic leaders of the world’s top economies discuss a new plan to address the risk of debt vulnerabilities in low-income countries hit by the pandemic, and deliver financial aid to emerging markets.

Mr Frydenberg said leaders should take quick, strong and co-ordinated action to “minimise the permanent human and economic damage.”

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

“First, our priority should be putting the global economy into controlled hibernation while quarantine measures are in place,” he said in a statement.

“That is — finance the global health response, maintain financial stability, minimise job losses, keep businesses going, and ensure the basic needs of the global population are met.

“This includes committing to a G20 fiscal support target, to encourage all economies to act urgently, and send a clear signal to citizens that the G20 is doing whatever it takes.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Australia’s own economic hibernation strategy involves $130-billion worth of wage subsidies to try to keep as many people in jobs as possible, even if businesses close for up to six months.

Mr Frydenberg also said the G20 must lead the long-term global recovery once the health crisis passes, and that all members should unblock global supply chains, especially for vital medical supplies.

External Link:

Josh Frydenberg on Twitter: Tonight I joined G20 Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors to discuss the G20's Action Plan and the importance of the IMF…

A joint statement released after the virtual meeting said details of the plan would be fleshed out before the group’s next meeting on April 15.

It said roles for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in deploying resources and exploring measures to alleviate a lack of liquidity in emerging markets were discussed.

G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over US$5 trillion ($8.2 trillion) into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the outbreak, while working to ease supply disruptions caused by border closures intended to limit transmission of the virus.

Video: G20 leaders have been meeting over video conference due to the pandemic.

(ABC News)

They also committed to fund all necessary measures to stop the virus’s spread and expressed concern about the risks to fragile countries, notably in Africa.

They told their top finance officials to coordinate regularly with each other and with international organisations to develop an action plan in response to the pandemic.

G20 trade ministers agreed on Monday to keep their markets open and ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies, equipment and other essential goods.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

The group has been accused of being slow to respond to the outbreak, which is expected to trigger a global recession as governments impose curfews and shut businesses.

The G20 comprises Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United States, India, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, the European Union, China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

Video: Under the microscope

(ABC News)


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

My five-star coronavirus quarantine hotel has great views, but it’s not a holiday

Sydney 2000

Spontaneous applause broke out in the cabin around me when the last Qantas flight from Santiago landed in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.

After three weeks in Chile — two of them spent trying to get home as the global coronavirus pandemic escalated — I felt a sense of relief as the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac.

But there were more difficult times to come.

Today, I woke up in a room at Sydney’s InterContinental hotel.

I am among the first to be quarantined in hotels as part of the Federal Government’s new measures aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.


My room at the InterContinental is comfortable. (ABC News: Jarrod Whittaker )

As the plane’s wheels rolled on the tarmac yesterday afternoon, I switched on my phone and saw stories of cruise ship passengers comparing their isolation to prison.

The social media comments were equally strong.

Some said those quarantined in hotels were “entitled”. Some said a trip to the Christmas Island detention centre was in order.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

The truth, as with most things, lies somewhere in the middle.

Our room at the InterContinental Hotel is extremely comfortable.

The beds are great, the internet fast and we have a view of Sydney Harbour most people can only dream of.


The view across iconic Sydney monuments from the room is not half-bad. (ABC News: Jarrod Whittaker)

On the flip side, it’s not exactly a holiday.

We can’t leave our rooms. That’s fine for me and my partner, but concerns me as a parent.

Our daughter is entering what is essentially her third week of a month-long quarantine.

We don’t know when she’ll be able to go outside next — something we were looking forward to about home isolation in Australia.

Our other issue, the absence of a laundry service in hotel quarantine, has been fixed by a good old-fashioned return to hand washing.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:


Our isolation instructions made it clear conventional clothes washing was not an option. (ABC News: Jarrod Whittaker)

I set off on March 7 from our home in regional Victoria, embarking on a trip Chile and Peru for a family wedding with my partner and our four-year-old daughter.

When we left, toilet paper and hand sanitiser had just started disappearing from the nation’s shelves.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

A week after we arrived in Peru, the Government closed the borders.

My brother-in-law’s wedding in Santiago, the reason for our trip, was cancelled.

Suddenly things went from a relaxing holiday to a frantic effort to get myself and my family home.

We rescheduled our flights and when they were cancelled, we booked new ones.

But we were told we had to stay in Santiago for two long weeks of quarantine before we could go home.

During those two weeks, we’d only leave our apartment in Santiago to pick up supplies at the supermarket.

People grappled with diminishing supplies in the supermarkets, but the calmness of Chilean shoppers contrasted with the videos of Australians fighting over toilet paper I saw in social media.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

The biggest concern at the time was the looming deadline of Qantas’ suspension of commercial flights at the end of March.

We lived in fear about a complete lockdown of Santiago or that the cancellation of our precious return flights would leave us stranded.

External Link:

@JarrodWhittaker: There’s been some interest about what life’s like in hotel quarantine. I’m hoping to give you an insight into what it’s like. So, for insight here’s breakfast on day one. @abcnews @abcsydney

In the end, Santiago only went into partial lockdown and we had enough notice to relocate to a hotel near the airport before we flew home.

It was while we were there we learnt all people arriving in Australia from overseas would need to quarantine for two weeks as soon as they landed.

Which leads us to the InterContinental hotel.

My hunch is whether hotel quarantine is difficult or not will come down to the individual.

The more introverted, indoors-y types (I include myself in this group) will probably manage just fine.

The more extroverted or those with special needs could find it difficult.

And, despite the view, we’re really, really looking forward to getting home to regional Victoria.

Jarrod Whittaker is a journalist in the ABC’s Gippsland newsroom.

Video: The rate of COVID-19 infections appears to be slowing but don't celebrate yet


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Schools in the Barossa Valley region to close after ‘cluster’ of 34 coronavirus cases identified

Adelaide 5000

Schools in South Australia’s Barossa Valley region will be shut from Monday, with SA Health raising concerns about an increasing number of positive cases from the region.

Key points:

  • A coronavirus cluster has been identified in the Barossa Valley region
  • SA Health has called for schools in the region to be shut to help control the spread of the virus
  • South Australia now has 299 confirmed cases of the virus

South Australia’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said on Sunday a cluster of 34 positive cases from the region had been linked to two groups of tourists from the US and Switzerland.

The towns of Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Williamstown, Angaston and Lyndoch have been identified as of high concern, and as a result, all schools, early childhood facilities and out-of-school services will be closed from Monday.

The move came as 12 new cases were recorded in the state on Sunday, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 299.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

Seven of the new cases are linked to the Ruby Princess cruise ship, taking the number of positive cases from that ship up to 68.

The state’s new cases range in age from 20 to 70 years, and there are no further suspected cases of community transmission.

Dr Spurrier said the closure of schools in the region was designed to get on top of the cluster of cases.

“What we’re trying to do is reduce non-essential travel in that area,” she said.

“It’s not that the schools themselves are considered at risk, but it is a way of reducing the amount of travel.”


The Department for Education said principals were in the process of notifying parents and staff. (AAP: Dan Peled)

Anne Millard from the SA Department for Education said work was being done to identify each of the schools impacted.

She said principals were now in the process of contacting every parent and staff member affected.

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“One of our immediate actions is to work across the sectors of schooling and making sure everyone is moving as one,” she said.

Dr Spurrier urged people in the area to restrict their movement as much as possible and asked people to avoid travelling in or out of the region.

She also urged anyone who had travelled to the region since Saturday March 14 and developed symptoms to immediately self-isolate and seek testing.

“If we can put some effort into that [region] now, what it’s doing is it gives us an opportunity to stop that ongoing community spread,” she said.

Patients to be housed at Adelaide holiday park

Earlier today, SA Health Minister Stephen Wade announced coronavirus patients requiring community care could now be accommodated at an Adelaide holiday park.

Mr Wade said housing and treating people at the Marion Holiday Park, in Adelaide’s south, would ease mounting pressure on the state’s emergency departments.


The Marion Holiday Park will be used to house coronavirus patients. (Facebook: Marion Holiday Park)

He said the additional accommodation was part of the State Government’s plan to moderate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic ahead of any potential surge in patient numbers.

Flinders Medical Centre staff will assess and care for patients and their families at the facility.

“If any patient deteriorates, the close proximity of the Flinders Medical Centre means they will be able to have access to medical care,” Mr Wade said.

“We’re able to support local jobs, we’re able to provide care for people with COVID-19 when they need it, we’re able to ease the pressure on emergency departments.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Mr Wade said those eligible for the accommodation and care at the holiday park would include vulnerable people, those in shared accommodation and students.

“It’s an environment where we can support strong infection control,” he said.

He said the holiday park had about 60 units and could accommodate up to 250 people.

The facility will add to the 278 beds secured at ECH College Park, the old Wakefield Hospital, and the Repat Centre in Adelaide.

Opposition calls for free parking for hospital staff

The announcement comes as the South Australian Opposition called for the State Government to waive hospital car park fees for staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

After raising hospital car park fees to more than $700 per year, Mr Wade said the Government was considering its options.


The SA Opposition has called for free parking for doctors, nurses and workers at hospitals. (ABC News: Brett Williamson)

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas this morning urged the State Government to offer a reprieve for doctors, nurses and hospital workers.

“These people are literally putting themselves in harm’s way at the service of others,” he said.

“Now is not the time to be fleecing them with higher hospital car parking fees.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

He said providing free parking for hospital workers would lower the need for them to use public transport, which could put them at greater risk of contracting the virus.

“We don’t particularly want to see doctors and nurses, who are on the front line, to have to catch public transport,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“That potentially puts people at risk unnecessarily. And providing free hospital car parking is one way we can make sure everyone is kept safe.

“It’s been done in other parts of the world … we can do the same thing here in South Australia, I think it’s something the whole South Australian public would support.”

Fines introduced for breach of coronavirus rules

Yesterday, it was announced that gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned in the state, and fines would be issued to those who failed to follow self-isolation orders.

Premier Steven Marshall said people who disobeyed order to self-isolate would be hit with a $1,000 fine, while businesses “flouting laws” to control the pandemic would cop a $5,000 fine.

“SA Police have established a new team dedicated to enforcing quarantine rules, social-distancing restrictions and business closure rules, and will be knocking on the doors of individuals and businesses to ensure pandemic restrictions are being adhered to,” he said.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The ‘cancellation apocalypse’: How coronavirus is threatening Australian writers


Like hundreds of thousands of other Australians, Heather Rose — the author of the Stella Prize-winning Museum of Modern Love — spent two and a half hours on hold to Centrelink on Tuesday.

The Tasmanian writer counts herself lucky though, with a relatively short wait time compared to others who called up, tried to use the Centrelink website, or waited in line to begin the process of claiming welfare payments.

Rose had given up her usual teaching jobs to embark on a national and international tour to promote her latest novel, Bruny (Allen and Unwin) — but all those paid festival appearances and books events have now been cancelled as a result of coronavirus.

“This is my cash flow, this the income I was relying on,” Rose says.

That leaves her, a single mother with a dependent child, without income for the next few months.

While many industries, particularly those with a casualised or self-employed workforce, are suffering, writers’ lives are already precarious.

“This is a fairly long-suffering group in the arts generally, where incomes have been falling for years,” says Olivia Lanchester, the CEO of the Australian Society of Authors.

A 2015 Macquarie University study found that Australian writers earn on average $12,900 a year from their craft.

“This crisis has helped to expose maybe just how little generally writers earn,” says Lanchester.

‘An unprecedented and damaging time’

Dozens of writers told RN’s The Book Show about how their book events had been cancelled as a result of coronavirus, including Sydney-based novelist and freelance writer Liam Pieper.

“This is a really unprecedented and damaging time for everyone in the arts. It feels like we’re mid-apocalypse,” says Pieper.


Liam Pieper has had to cancel the tour for his newest book, Sweetness and Light. (Suppled: Penguin Random House/Matt Collins)

Pieper was meant to be launching his latest book Sweetness and Light in Melbourne last week before going on a national book tour, but that won’t be happening now.

“It’s a little cataclysmic from a personal point of view, because you spend three or four years working on a book and then you get a very brief window to bid them bon voyage into the world,” he says.

The first few weeks after a book is published are key to a book reaching an audience.

“The book tour is really an indispensable part of publishing a book, it’s a rare chance to meet readers and touch base with bookstores and shore up those relationships,” says Pieper.

Like most other writers and artists, he has other part-time jobs — but he says dozens of his freelance writing gigs have disappeared as a result of COVID-19, which means he will be mostly living off savings, while he can.

“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I will survive … at least I have the option of the little work I still have, I can do from home. So I am aware of my blessings,” says Pieper.

‘It’s all fallen to pieces’

The same week that Omar Sakr‘s poetry collection The Lost Arabs (University of Queensland Press) was shortlisted for a NSW Premier’s Literary Award, his upcoming readings, panels, and writers festival appearances were all cancelled as a result of coronavirus.

But what hurt him the most was the cancellation of a multi-city US book tour to promote the US edition of his collection.

“It’s rare and difficult to get an international book deal as a poet, let alone an Australian poet, let alone a tour. I’d been working really hard to get to this point — and it’s all fallen to pieces,” Sakr says.


Poet Omar Sakr says “a full-time writer’s income is fluid and precarious”. (Supplied: Tyler Aves)

The Lost Arabs was published in Australia in May 2019.

“The first year or two after the book comes up you’re typically heavily involved in literary festivals and things like that, and half of my income — if not more — has been coming from festivals and these kinds of events,” says the poet.

Sakr says that writers’ incomes in the year that they sign book deals, or the year they release a book, might paint a pretty, but unrepresentative, picture — and render them ineligible for Centrelink.

“It might feel like you’re doing OK [if you’re at that point in the book cycle] but the next few years are typically abysmal,” says Sakr.

The ‘cancellation apocalypse’

Claire G. Coleman was meant to be promoting The Old Lie (Hachette Australia), the follow-up to her Stella Prize-shortlisted novel Terra Nullius, at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May — but that’s now been cancelled, along with a number of other appearances and artistic developments.

She described what’s been happening as a “cancellation apocalypse”.

“It felt apocalyptic because all of us writers require these events to make a bit of money, but also to promote our books.”


Coleman is particularly concerned for how First Nations writers will fare during the pandemic. (Supplied: Jen Dainer )

As with Rose, Pieper and Sakr, Coleman has now lost income from event payments as well as the book sales that would have been boosted by those events.

“[And] for freelancers, our margins are quite small — so losing any money at all is really dramatic,” Coleman says.

Coleman counts herself lucky, as she’s still got royalties and commissions and she wasn’t trying to promote a newly released book, but she’s worried about lost momentum.

“Every event you do, every project you do, builds interest in the next project you do … to someone who is relatively early in their career that could mean a loss of future income greater than what I’ve lost already.”

Coleman, a Wirlomin Noongar woman, says she is particularly concerned for First Nations writers.

“We’re only a very small segment of the industry, and except for the few big names, everyone is very new … and we’ve already had it difficult, so that means the loss of momentum will hit us harder,” she explains.

External Link:

Claire G Coleman tweet

Playwright and filmmaker John Harding is a founding member of Ilbijerri Theatre Company and a board member of the First Nations Australia Writers Network.

He’s concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 on elders.

“You’re looking at possible devastation for remote and regional communities and we have just a handful of elders left that are the custodians and keepers of knowledge … and these people are writers too,” Harding says.

Harding asks: “Who is protecting these communities?”

Short and long-term impacts

The Australian Society of Authors is a professional association of Australian authors and illustrators with over 3,000 members.

CEO Olivia Lanchester agrees that authors who have had to cancel appearances and launches will be most directly impacted by COVID-19, but says other writers will feel impacts further down the track.

Lanchester says that “we really don’t know yet the effect on royalties,” because royalties are paid to authors biannually, in March and August: “We won’t see the impact on authors for six months at least.”


There’ll be a knock-on effect for writers once bookstores close. (Supplied: Renee Fisher/Unsplash)

And she says that while booksellers have reported strong sales as readers rush to stock up for quarantine, it’s likely that bookstores will be forced to close at some point.

Publishers, particularly the smaller independent presses, will also be vulnerable.

Sector-specific responses

Heather Rose, who is still completing the process of applying for government support, describes herself as a “job waiter, not a job seeker. I’m waiting for my industry to pick up again, I’m waiting for future royalties, to do my job out there in the world again.”

The latest government stimulus is welcome and does assist in protecting the most vulnerable writers, which is great, but I think it would be good to have sector-specific funding now,” Lanchester says.

Lanchester and many other stakeholders would like to see an increase in funding for the Australia Council of the Arts, the federal government’s arts funding body.

Government per capita spending on the arts and culture has been in decline, and writing and literature has been neglected by the Australia Council, with only 2.7% of its total funding going to this area.

The Australia Council has recently announced a COVID-19 response package that includes $5 million of the council’s own “uncommitted funds from this financial year”, now directed towards immediate relief for Australian artists, arts workers and arts organisations.

Lanchester also suggests that the government bring forward the annual payments for PLR (Public Lending Right) and ELR (Educational Lending Right) — the royalties that the government pays to writers for their works held in libraries and schools.

She’s also recommending that the government extend PLR and ELR to cover digital versions of books, as readers in social isolation will be primarily accessing books digitally.


Australian author Carly Findlay has many tips for those interested in supporting writers. (Supplied: Camille Condon)

How to support writers

“This is a really scary time, right now, for writers,” says Carly Findlay, author of the memoir Say Hello (HarperCollins, 2019) and the editor of upcoming anthology Growing Up Disabled in Australia (2021, Black Inc. Books).

“It’s really important to help writers at this time, and help the writing industry too,” says Findlay.

Findlay told RN’s The Book Show that there are a number of ways that people, while in social isolation and depending on their financial circumstances, can support writers and the industry.

Ways to support writers and writing

  • Buy books
  • Give or lend books to friends
  • Share what you’re reading on social media
  • Review books on social media and other websites
  • Contact writers and tell them you love their work
  • Pledge to a writer’s Patreon or Ko-fi or donate to them in other ways
  • Listen to book-related podcasts
  • Download eBooks and Audiobooks
  • Buy a friend or yourself a subscription to a writers’ centre or pass to a future festival
  • Build a street library

“Tell a writer that you’re thinking of us. It’s a really scary time, but I think that reading and writing will get us through this,” Findlay says.

Heather Rose says quarantine or isolation “is a beautiful time to get to know our country better, our history better, your local place better, and get to know Australian writers better.”

While libraries are closed, you can still access ebooks and audiobooks from home. And bookshops are still operating at time of writing, with many offering free delivery.

“If you can do it, our message is please buy our books,” Omar Sakr says.

Coleman urges readers to buy books from local independent bookstores in particular: “Otherwise they won’t be there at the end of this.”

Harding asks those who are concerned about Indigenous writers to consider donating to the First Nations Australia Writers Network, as they’ll be finding ways to support their writers through the pandemic.

Shifting online

If you’d like to support a particular author, many writers have details of ways to directly donate on their social media or websites — for example, you can follow #coughupforafreelancer on Twitter and you’ll find writers seeking support.

Sakr has started posting videos of himself reading his poetry on Twitter under the #InternationalPoetryCircle, as a way to find an audience for the US edition of The Lost Arabs.

“Reading my poems out loud is a joy, and I think we’re going to need as much of that as possible,” says Sakr.

Listen to The Book Show on RN
Tune in for author interviews and news from across the book world.

Some bookstores are moving their writers’ events online — including Brisbane’s Avid Reader bookstore, which will host a virtual book launch for Liam Pieper’s Sweetness and Light on March 30.

“It’s heartening to see the arts community scramble to find ways to stay vital and provide entertainment to people who need it more now than ever,” says Pieper.

Sweetness and the Light by Liam Pieper is out now through Penguin Random House

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

What about the sports fans? Coronavirus has thrown their season out too


Michael Shillito puts the fan into fanatic. The 49-year-old has missed only two GWS Giants home games since their inaugural season in 2012.

One because of illness eight years ago and the other last weekend when fans were locked out of all games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I hope I don’t miss another game as long as I live,” Mr Shillito laughs.

After watching his team work their way up from easybeats in the early seasons to grand finalists in 2019, Mr Shillito approached this season with great optimism.

“Of course this was going to be our year,” he said.

“You look at how the club was building, we got ourselves into a grand final last year, recruited well and had a great pre-season.”

Over in the NRL camp, 41-year-old Troy Worner loves the Parramatta Eels with such a fervour that he has a “Parra cave” in his house.


Mr Worner has mountains of Eels memorabilia in his ‘Parra cave’. (Sideliners)

He reckons after finishing fifth in 2019, Parramatta was all set this year to end its 34-year premiership drought.

“You get all hyped up in the off-season, you look at the team and think, yes, this could be the year!” Mr Worner said.

Both fans are now dealing with the crushing blow that their teams’ premiership hopes could all be over after the AFL and NRL seasons were suspended.

“It’s pretty devastating on top of everything else that’s happening because the footy, it gives joy and hope to people’s lives.”

“And we’re having that taken away from us at this time when everything else is crashing down around us [too],” Mr Shillito said.

Mr Worner added: “I was probably a little bit shocked and overwhelmed, but at the end of the day I thought it was inevitable that it was going to get suspended, it was only a matter of time.”

Inevitable toll on fans’ mental health


AFL teams Richmond and Carlton played their round one match to an empty stadium at the MCG. (AAP: Michael Dodge)

Jess Richards is a lecturer in sports management at Western Sydney University.

She said having no AFL or NRL to watch on the weekends would take a toll on the mental health of thousands of fans who didn’t know when or if competitions would resume.

“Sport’s often an escape for people, it’s something that we can count on, it happens every weekend,” Dr Richards said.

External Link:

AFL wish you were here tweet

“It might have been a really stressful week at work but we know that the weekend is the time when we can get together with our mates.

“Whether that be at the stadium or your local pub or at home, [you can] sit down and have a jovial experience watching sport.”

For many people like Mr Shillito and Mr Worner, attending games means much more than the result on the scoreboard.

“Football’s not just a game, it’s a community, it’s what brings people together, we’re a pretty diverse group [but] the one thing that brings us together is the footy,” Mr Shallito said.

Dr Richards believes clubs now need to reach out to their fans while competitions are on hold.

“For some [supporters] it’s life, it’s everything to them,” she said.

“I think they [the clubs] have an incredible platform to reach thousands of people and see this as an opportunity to engage with their fans in new and innovative ways, through social media and smartphone applications to keep the conversations happening.”


Mr Worner in the stands at Western Sydney Stadium. (Supplied: Troy Worner)

Mr Worner is wondering what he’ll do without his fortnightly fix of seeing the blue and golds play at their home stadium.

“It’s going to be interesting, I might have to go through the catalogue of DVDs and videos and watch some re-runs of some classic games, I guess,” he said.

“Who knows, might take up the guitar and learn that, I’ll have a bit more time on my hands.”

Mr Worner acknowledged it was not just the fans who were feeling the pinch. He won’t be asking for a refund on his Eels membership.

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NRL Tweet thanks for watching

“At this crisis time with unemployment going up everyone’s financial situations are different. If it keeps them [the club] surviving, it’s only a little bit but every little bit adds up,” he said.

Mr Shillito believes clubs like the GWS Giants will need every bit of help they can get in the coming months too.

“Make no mistake this is a devastating blow, I just hope it’s not fatal. With everything the game is losing, there’s gonna have to be drastic cuts and you hope that we’re not one of them.”

Dr Richards suggests hard core fans stuck at home might have to turn everyday activities into sporting contests like “competitive cooking, vacuum relays or laundry-hamper basketball”.

But for fans, nothing can replicate the feeling of being at the ground to support their teams.

“It’s a massive buzz, the experience of being there, creating the atmosphere. That of course is why you go to the games rather than watching them on tele,” Mr Shillito said.

Dr Richards said sports clubs and fans were incredibly resilient.

“They’ve taken a pretty big hit here but I know they will bounce back.

“What we do know is we’ll have sport again and maybe we’ll appreciate it a little bit more and support our clubs more than ever when we get sport back.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

We’ve learnt a lot of lessons in a week but MPs haven’t got the memo


We live in a time of rapid escalation. Infection. Horror. Dawning awareness of how quickly the earth can move under our feet.

But we are also learning at a furious pace; all sorts of things.

How incredibly filthy our hands have been this whole time; that’s more or less universal.

Awareness of how frustrating it is to apply for unemployment benefits is also spreading fast.

“My bad,” said Government Services Minister Stuart Robert on Tuesday, explaining he hadn’t quite registered in advance how busy Centrelink’s website might immediately become when the economy was placed under sedation at the weekend (the site has been crashing all week, prompting a rethink of the decision to run it off Mr Robert’s historically overworked home internet server. Jokes.)

Video: Queues form outside Centrelink offices for the second day.

(ABC News)

Workers lucky enough still to have a job and be able to work from home have found themselves on an exponential learning curve, picking up everything from alarming new insights into their workmates’ home decor to top-range proficiency in completing a crucial teleconference while a 10-year-old burps the alphabet at the other end of the kitchen table.

How hard is it to be a teacher? Lots of people are finding out the answer to that one pretty fast.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Whole organisations are learning at the speed of light, and despite the desperate fear and horror that drives this innovation, the feats of ingenuity on display send exhilarating pulses of light out to other humans in lockdown.

The Rotterdam Philharmonic playing the finale to Beethoven’s Ninth together from their disparate loungerooms.

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Rotterbam Philharmonic

A “Couch Choir” of 1,000 humans singing Close To You together from 1,000 locations.

Large employers have found ways of moving their workforces online. The Sydney Morning Herald, for the first time, produced a newspaper from an empty office.

As a journalist myself, I am permitted to observe that there is no professional grouping more grumpily resistant to technological change or more averse to computer training of any kind.

And so I ask: if vast chunks of the Australian workforce can evolve and rapidly learn new ways of doing our jobs, why the hell can’t our federal Parliament?

If we are obliged to view each other’s nose hairs and download Zoom, why can’t they?

Morrison’s socialist acid dream

The House of Representatives rose on Monday night at 11:11pm after a sombre day legislating a costly rescue program that would have seemed like a socialist acid dream to Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg a couple of months back.

MPs are not scheduled now to sit again for nearly five months. The Budget’s been postponed, and the Parliament’s great chambers will sit quiet until August 11.

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Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

The general uncontroversiality of the proposition that we can simply do without our principal decision-making body for five months during the biggest disaster most of us will ever see is informative in itself.

In fact, it’s kind of frightening that the closure of pubs is getting more comment than the shutdown of the Parliament.

Labor and the Greens opposed the new schedule as the shadows lengthened on Monday.

“Of all the decisions that have been made procedurally, this is the only one where we have disagreement,” said the manager of Opposition business, Tony Burke.

“Let’s not forget, in terms of legislation, some of what we dealt with in legislation today was only announced and determined by the Australian Government yesterday. It is unthinkable that we will make it through to 11 August without the nation needing us to convene.”

“If further urgent decisions need to be made then surely we should be able to work out how to make them if Parliament has to be cancelled,” added Greens leader Adam Bandt.

“But the starting point in an emergency is to have more democracy, not less. The presumption that simply because there is a crisis we should cancel Parliament is a worrying one.”

Video: Scott Morrison foreshadows stronger social distancing measures.

(ABC News)

Baby steps to a new regime

The House of Representatives made a number of concessions to COVID-19 on Monday.

One was cutting the numbers of MPs present. Another was having MPs fetch their own glasses of water (baby steps).

Another was changing the way they voted to minimise the number of times MPs trooped back and forth.

There was no overt discussion of moving to a virtual Parliament, and it’s understood this is not an option under active discussion.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

But the House did agree on another variation of standing order, providing that: “the House may meet in a manner and form not otherwise provided in the standing orders with the agreement of the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business, with the manner in which Members may be present (including for the purposes of achieving a quorum) to be determined by the Speaker”.

If this country is in lockdown for many months, the prospect of Zooming the House of Representatives without taking the risk of shipping 151 MPs and their staff around the continent becomes — you’d think — a decreasingly silly proposition.

For representatives to speak from the heart of their suffering communities — rather than the hermetically sealed suites of Parliament House where whips and factional heavies can easily find them — might actually lead to a different kind of advocacy.

Certainly, adopting a model for a virtual Parliament long term would address some of the most stubborn barriers that currently keep women out of the joint.

This crisis is changing our country already. Our Parliament should lead, not follow.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Turtle births mark important milestone for ‘living, breathing dinosaur’

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Ten turtle hatchlings may not seem like a lot, but it is an important milestone for the Manning River turtle, an endangered freshwater species that dates back 85 million years.

Found only in the Manning River catchment on the New South Wales mid north coast, the turtle is the focus of a captive insurance and conservation program run by Aussie Ark.

The group’s president, Tim Faulkner, said it was the oldest turtle species in Australia and essentially a “living, breathing dinosaur” that played an important role in the river.

“They’re actually garbage cleaners of the river … anything that goes into the water, be it plant or animal that’s diseased or rotting, they clean it up, and you can imagine what that does for the water quality,” he said.


The turtle eggs were rescued from a river bank. (Supplied: Aussie Ark)

The eggs were rescued from the river bank as waters rose following rainfall earlier this year.

The hatchlings, the first of their kind to be born as part of a captive insurance population, will be kept for several months before being released.

“Essentially we get them up and fit and healthy, and then we figure out where we put them back in the system,” Mr Faulkner said.


One of the 10 hatchlings from the first clutch collected by Aussie Ark. (Supplied)

“Ten turtles might not seem like many, and I’m the first to say it’s not, but there’s somewhere around 1,000 of these things — that’s it, that’s the world population.

“This is our first year of breeding or rescuing eggs like that; we’ve also got another 20 in the incubator that are due to hatch in the coming weeks.”

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This week Aussie Ark staff checked in on the Manning River turtle eggs currently incubating. This heartbeat monitor shows a strong, steady heartbeat inside the egg!

It is hoped that as the program expands, hundreds of turtles will be released each year.

“The thing is that there are no young turtles in the system, there really is no recruitment,” Mr Faulkner said.

“The feral fox is annihilating them, so when the females come out to lay their eggs, the foxes have turtle egg season — they go along and eat all the eggs, and sometimes they eat the females while they’re laying them.

“I’ve snorkelled those rivers and I’ve been surveying the turtle for many years, and I’ve seen three smallish ones, cup-saucer size.”

Community group celebrating

The Manning River Turtle Conservation Group is working in the community to improve knowledge of the turtle’s plight.


Bob was rescued during dry conditions and is in rehabilitation. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)

“They’ve survived 55 million years and we don’t want to see them disappear on our watch,” co-founder Kerrie Guppy said.

“It’s such exciting news with all the sad news, the bad news in the world … it’s definitely inspiring, we’re really excited.”


Manning River Turtle Conservation Group members Brenton Asquith, Kerrie Guppy and Clare Rourke. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)

A turtle rescued from the river before Christmas is doing well and has been taken into a local school as part of an education program.

“It was very ill at the time and malnourished, and that’s sort of expected with the conditions of the river at the time,” carer Brenton Asquith said.

“The turtle’s shedding, which is a sign of growth; it’s fattening back up, it’s looking healthy and it’s a lot more active.”

Bellinger River turtles also doing well

Another population of turtles, these ones critically endangered, has also received a welcome population boost.

Taronga Zoo’s insurance population of the Bellinger River snapping turtle had 35 babies hatch this year.


A mystery virus killed 90 per cent of the Bellinger River snapping turtle population. (Supplied: Taronga Zoo/Paul Fahy)

Endemic to the Bellinger River, the species of freshwater turtle was almost wiped out in 2015 when a novel virus infiltrated the river.

A group of healthy turtles was rescued to establish the insurance population.

Taronga reptile keeper Adam Skidmore said it was the population’s fourth successful breeding season.

“We now have nearly 100 of these turtles living at our quarantine facility and the hatchlings are doing really well — eating lots and growing — and we are really happy with their development,” he said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Coronavirus is forcing families apart, but it doesn’t mean you have to cut off contact

Perth 6000

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to change the way we live our lives, families are having to make some tough calls to protect their most vulnerable members and for many grandparents it could mean being isolated in their own home.

Key points:

  • People over 70 have been advised to avoid contact in the UK
  • Many in Australia are already self-isolating or preparing to
  • Older people are advised to maintain social connections remotely

The Federal Government has yet to officially call for Australians over a certain age to avoid social contact — as in the UK where those over 70 have been told to avoid going out for three months — yet many among that age group are already bracing for a life behind closed doors.

Add to that the Government’s decision to keep schools open, at least for now, and grandparents are facing an unknown time period where visiting their grandchildren is ill-advised.

But people who already live on the other side of the world from their families say there are ways to stay close without face-to-face contact.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Lessons from those already kept apart

Emelyn Fuller is three years old and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Her paternal grandmother, Alice Fuller, lives in Virginia in the United States.

They only see each other in person about once every 18 months and rely on technology to keep their bond alive.

Emelyn’s mother, Kara Fuller, is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Glasgow and is about 5,000 kilometres from her own parents, who also live in the United States.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

She said families separated by distance have long found ways to maintain connections and the lessons they have learned would be especially important during these difficult times.

“It is about changing your frame of mind to focus on the bond that you have and the social connection, rather than focusing on the physical distance,” Dr Fuller said.

“Everywhere in the news now we see the advice to practice social distancing.

“This is clearly important and responsible behaviour and it helps to ensure we minimise the spread of COVID-19.

“However, the term is misleading in a sense, because it seems to suggest that we will have fewer social connections — these can happen in person of course, but also through video, post, phone calls, messages and more.”


Kara Fuller says grandparents can stay close, even when they can’t have physical contact. (ABC News: Briana Shepherd

Technology key for social connection

Bronwyn Harman, an expert on family psychology from Edith Cowan University’s School of Psychology and Social Science, said forced isolation was difficult for anyone.

“We know that human beings in general are social people, we like groups, we like to be with people,” she said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“Even introverts like to be with people to some extent, so having forced isolation is not good for anyone’s mental health.

“But despite the myth, many old people are good with technology.

“They might bumble through to start with, but older people have lived through times of lots of change and they’re pretty good at adapting when they have to.”


Bronwyn Harman says despite the stereotypes, many older people can learn to use new technology. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)

Dr Harman suggested taking the time now to make sure those vulnerable to COVID-19 were technologically prepared and knew how to use video applications like Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.

“And don’t forget the phone call, ring them up and talk to them. Even talking to them is sometimes enough to alleviate feelings of isolation,” she said,

“If it’s the case of people being isolated to an extent where they can’t go out into the community at all, I would really be ringing them every day just to check that they’re OK.

“And rope in as many family members as you can — children are very good with technology now, so you can even get a five-year-old to ring nana and grandad or to have a chat.

“Set up family dinners via Skype — the options in that sense are almost endless.”


Children may enjoy writing letters to their grandparents while they are isolating. (Flickr: will

Write letters, use the post

For some people learning how to use a new technology might be overwhelming, especially if they are already struggling with heightened anxiety as the coronavirus crisis develops.

Dr Harman said if that were the case, it might be time to revisit a long-lost art of the past — letter writing.

“Get kids to write letters or draw pictures and post them, and that can be exciting for the kids because most don’t even know what a mailbox is anymore,” she said.

“They can send something in the mail and then nana or granddad will receive it a few days later, and maybe write one back.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Honest communication a must

In the event schools were to be closed, Dr Harman said doing those types of activities would help the whole family in a lock-down situation.

She said whether they remained at school or not, children, especially those who were close to their grandparents, would be feeling the impacts of the already introduced measures around social distancing and isolation.

“I think it’s going to be particularly hard for little children because little children don’t understand time and so for them an hour can sometimes feel forever,” Dr Harman said.

“If they’re used to seeing their grandparents, for example, every day or every second day, in a few days they’re going to get really uptight … and may not understand why they can’t see them.”

External Link:

Tweet – Julia Baird on Norway PM children's press conference

In the same way the Norway Prime Minister recently held a children-only COVID-19 press conference, Dr Harman said communicating with our younger generation would be integral for them in the long term as well.

“I believe in telling children the truth, but not scaring the life out of them,” Dr Harman said.

“I would use age-appropriate language and explain to them what’s going on.

“An example might be to say there’s some germs around at the moment and nobody really knows what the germs are or where they’re coming from, so to keep nana and granddad safe, we decided to stay away from them — just so they don’t catch any germs.”

Video: Question of whether to close schools divides medical experts

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘Abhorrent’ hangman game played by Canberra prison staff using name of detainee

Canberra 2600

A game of hangman played on a whiteboard in a staff-only area of Canberra’s prison featuring the name of an Indigenous detainee has been labelled “extremely disappointing” by the Corrective Services Commissioner.

Key points:

  • A hangman game played by staff using an inmate’s name was discovered in 2018
  • The case was settled in the ACT Administrative and Civil Tribunal last week
  • The Commissioner has issued an apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees

The incident, which occurred at the Alexander Maconochie Centre in 2018, was taken to the Human Rights Commission by a fellow Indigenous detainee after he overheard staff talking about the image, which also featured a boat with the people onboard “celebrating as indicated by the word ‘yay’ while they looked at the hanging man”.

The complainant’s lawyers, from Canberra Community Law, told the ABC that the complainant had “suffered significant emotional and psychological harm as a result” of the incident.

“The reference to the boat cuts deeply given the history of this country and what has happened to our people since colonisation,” he said.

“It is hard for me to articulate just how terrible the impact of this blatant hate and racism has been on me.

“The realisation that the people entrusted with our care think and behave in this way is frightening.”

Matter referred to ACAT

After efforts between the prison and the detainee to reach an agreement broke down, the matter was referred to the ACT Administrative and Civil Tribunal (ACAT).

ACAT and the detainee reached a settlement last week, and the process has reportedly prompted “significant reform” within ACT Corrective Services (ACTCS) to “ensure that our operations are focused on maximising opportunities for offenders to positively change their lives”.

In a statement on Wednesday, the ACTCS Commissioner Jon Peach apologised for the behaviour of his staff.

“This type of behaviour is abhorrent and reflects badly on all those staff that do the right thing every day,” he said.

“There is no place for it within ACTCS and it will not be tolerated.

External Link:

The tribunal ordered the hangman image be accompanied by this statement, which the parties agreed to on March 4, 2020.

“Any staff member who cannot meet these basic expectations, should rethink their career.”

Mr Peach also issued a separate apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees, given the drawing was of an Indigenous prisoner, and the complainant was also Indigenous.

“I acknowledge that this incident is particularly distressing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees and for this I further offer my sincere apology,” Mr Peach said.

“As a society it is our duty to call out this behaviour when it happens and to convey our apology to those who are directly affected by the reckless actions of others.”

However, Mr Peach confirmed to the ABC that the detainee who was the subject of the hangman drawing still does not, to this day, know it was about him.

In response to the Commissioner’s statement, Canberra Community Lawyers said that “too often stories involving Aboriginal People silence the voices of the Aboriginal victims directly affected. The statement from the Commissioner is yet one more example of that.

“The image is much more than a game of hangman. It represents the persistent racism that plagues our systems.

“Our client is pleased to have received a robust apology through the litigation process, but it is disappointing that the ACT Corrective Services has subsequently minimised the serious nature of the image.”

Rattenbury also condemns the drawing


Corrective Services Commissioner Jon Peach described the drawing as ‘abhorrent’. (ABC News)

Following the ACAT settlement, Mr Peach told the ABC his team had no way of identifying who did the drawing and so had instead taken a “systemic” approach to the response, including more cultural awareness training.

Mr Peach also said he was disappointed the “despicable” actions of one staff member “undermined the professionalism and reputation of ACTCS and my staff”.

“The vast majority of my staff are highly dedicated and professional,” he said.

“It is my expectation that ACTCS employees act with integrity, decency and respect at all times.”

Minister for Corrections and Justice Health Shane Rattenbury echoed the Commissioner’s condemnation of the drawing.

“I am personally appalled by this incident,” he said.

“It is deeply regrettable and frankly offensive.”

Hole in fence findings


The Corrections Minister described the game as “offensive”. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Today the Commissioner also released the review into an incident in November 2019, when a hole in the perimeter fence at Canberra’s jail was discovered.

It found the hole went undetected for a day because of changes to the perimeter checks by staff that did not meet established procedures.

But it did note that “ACTCS responded appropriately in securing the centre and following established emergency management protocols” once the hole was detected.

“I am pleased that the review has confirmed our security procedures are appropriate,” Mr Peach said.

“However it is disappointing that potential human error led to the delay in identification of this breach for a day.

“There is no excuse for those systems not to have worked in this instance.”

Mr Peach said there had been no similar breaches of the perimeter since November.

A formal investigation is still ongoing into the alleged human error that led to the delay.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Jillaroo’s video send-up of Kylie Minogue pays tribute to life in the bush

St George 4487

Lucy Sevil is comfortable in jeans and boots as a jillaroo but jumped at the chance to “glam up” like Kylie Minogue and sing a tribute to life in south-west Queensland.

Key points:

  • The good-humoured send-up is a celebration of a community struggling through tough times
  • Tourism Australian not only approves of the send-up, “they love it”
  • Locals have extended an open invitation to Kylie Minogue, Adam Hills and all Australians to come for a beer

Inspired by Tourism Australia’s Matesong video, released in December and featuring Minogue and TV presenter Adam Hills, locals in St George wrote their own version with the river banks of the Balonne standing in for the beaches of Sydney.

“Our community has been struggling through some pretty tough times,” Ms Sevil said.

“But we wanted to celebrate that, regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us, with the drought and then the floods, this is a great place to come and see all the colourful and quirky people and locations.

External Link:

St George Matesong

“I guess our video is a tribute to Kylie’s video, which itself was a tribute to Australia, and we’re all working to the same cause of celebrating our unique lifestyle.”

The St George song shares a number of similarities with its star-studded inspiration.

While Minogue and company point out a quokka, the Queenslanders point out Thallon’s big wombat sculpture; the original’s beachballs by the sea are instead kicked around the riverbank.

“But our video does feature a horse in a bar, which the original didn’t,” organiser Kim Wildman said.

External Link:

The official Matesong video from Tourism Australia

Rain forces rushed rethink on river shoot

The new Matesong was originally meant to feature brown, parched landscapes.

“We were going to be making fun of ourselves by cruising on a dry riverbed,” Ms Wildman said.

“But then it rained, so we had to change the plan when the river started running again, which has ended up being a lot better.”

Basing the song on an international ad campaign meant treading carefully around copyright.


Thallon residents re-enact a scene from the Tourism Australia video. (Supplied)

“The first thing we did was contact Tourism Australia to let them know what we wanted to do,” Ms Wildman said.

“We didn’t want to have to deal with anything like copyright infringement, so we were very open with them in what we wanted to do.”

The song was co-written by country musician Josh Arnold.

“He made sure to change the music entirely and we’ve shown it to them [Tourism Australia] and I’ve heard unofficially that they love it.”

From SES controller to comedian

Ben Gardiner works for the local council and is the local SES controller, but it was his facial hair that snagged him the role of Adam Hills.


Ben Gardner (top) says singing and acting are not part of his day job as the local SES controller. (Supplied)

“I didn’t shave on holidays, and when I got home they said, ‘You look like Adam with your beard’,” he said.

“I pretty much got the job because I didn’t shave.”

But he’s happy.

“I got to eat a lot of ice creams in that one scene,” he laughed.

“But seriously, it was a chance to get out of my comfort zone because singing and dancing is not on my list of to-dos usually.”

Mr Gardiner said the hardest part of the performance was not singing, but knocking over a lamp on cue at the start of the video.

“I had to do it about six times,” he said.

“It’s actually hard to knock something over when you’re normally not supposed to.”


Farmers, school kids — even a horse — made it to the Nindigully Pub for the film shoot. (Supplied)

While he followed in Hills’s footsteps in the video, Mr Gardiner has no plans to follow the comedian to the UK.

“Nah, mate. Life here is too good.”

And the south-western Queenslanders have extended an open invitation to Minogue and Hills — and the rest of Australia — to visit the towns on the Balonne River.

“Absolutely, we can line up a beer for them easily,” Mr Gardiner said.

A horse at the bar cannot be guaranteed.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Donald Trump not tested for coronavirus despite Republican politicians’ self-quarantine

United States

United States President Donald Trump has not been tested for the coronavirus, the White House said, despite a number of Republicans announcing they were going into self-quarantine.

Key points:

  • Mr Trump does not have any coronavirus symptoms, the White House says
  • He announced a possible economic relief to remedy the impact of the virus
  • Mr Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Mark Meadows, will also self-quarantine

United States senator Ted Cruz and House Representatives Paul Gosar, Doug Collins and Matt Gaetz have announced they will self-quarantine after attending a conservative political conference where an attendee later tested positive.

Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence also attended the conference.

Mr Gaetz travelled with Mr Trump aboard Air Force One and Mr Trump also reportedly shook hands with Mr Collins.

“Thank you for everyone’s well-wishes and concerns … I should have the COVID-19 test results back tomorrow. Health officials maintain the risk to people I have been in contact with remains low,” Mr Gaetz tweeted.

External Link:

@RepMattGaetz Congressman Gaetz was informed today that he came into contact with a CPAC attendee 11 days ago who tested positive for COVID-19.

Mr Cruz also released a public statement through Twitter explaining his encounter with the individual who tested positive, saying the interaction was “a brief conversation and a handshake”.

External Link:

@SenTedCruz Today I released the following statement

He said he decided to remain home in Texas this week until a full 14 days have passed since the interaction out of “an abundance of caution”.

Republican Representative Mark Meadows, Mr Trump’s incoming chief of staff, will also self-quarantine until Wednesday, a spokesperson said.

The White House said there was no indication Mr Trump and Mr Pence came into contact with the infected attendee, and Mr Pence said the risk of the American public contracting the new virus “remains low”.

“The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms,” a White House spokesperson said.

“President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him.”

‘Major’ steps to prepare economy against coronavirus impact: Trump


Mr Trump and Mr Pence attended the conference where an attendee tested positive for the coronavirus. (AP: Carolyn Kaster)

The Trump administration scrambled on Monday to assure Americans it was responding to a growing coronavirus outbreak as stock markets plunged and top health officials urged some people to avoid cruise ships, air travel and big public gatherings.

Mr Trump, who has repeatedly played down the threat posed by the flu-like virus sweeping the globe, said he will be taking “major” steps to gird the economy against the impact of the spreading coronavirus outbreak and will discuss a payroll tax cut with congressional Republicans.

“We’ll be discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief, that’s a big number,” Mr Trump told reporters.

External Link:

@RepMattGaetz Reviewing the coronavirus supplemental appropriation and preparing to go vote.

Paid sick leave is among policy steps being considered, the official said on condition of anonymity.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow advocates specific tax credits, loans or direct subsidies to certain industries or hard-hit areas.

A payroll tax cut could encourage consumer spending and help households that might otherwise struggle to make rent and mortgage payments on time or pay medical bills if family members’ work hours are reduced during a coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders said they’re consulting with public health experts to plan their next campaign moves.

Senator Sanders cancelled a major rally because of the outbreak and Mr Biden told US media that he would consider doing the same if health authorities said it was necessary.

Mr Biden held a rally in Detroit on Monday and passed out hand sanitiser to attendees and the media.

Florida health officials said everyone returning from China, Iran, South Korea and Italy must isolate for 14 days while travellers from other countries affected by the outbreak should monitor their health.

The number of confirmed US cases reached 605, with 22 deaths, according to the running national tally kept by the Johns Hopkins University.

Thirty-four US states and the District of Columbia have reported to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) infections of the respiratory illness COVID-19 that can lead to pneumonia.

A nursing home the hardest hit place in US


The dizzying action in financial markets escalated as stocks and oil prices fell. (AP: Mark Lennihan)

As worries over the virus deepened, the Dow Jones fell a record 2,000 points when trading opened and the S&P 500 posted its largest single-day percentage drop since December 2008, the depths of the financial crisis. A plunge in oil prices contributed to fears of a looming recession.

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

Mr Trump, who often points to the stock market as a gauge of his economic record, criticised news media organisations’ coverage of the outbreak in a tweet and accused Democrats of hyping the situation “far beyond what the facts would warrant”.

Rate cuts can’t cure COVID-19
Reserve Bank interest rate cuts will do little to keep Australia out of a deep recession if coronavirus becomes a severe pandemic, but there are some unconventional policies that could help save the economy.

The CDC advised colleges and universities to consider asking students studying abroad to return home and cancel or postpone upcoming travel.

Several US universities were either moving to virtual instruction or considering the step and limiting gatherings on their campuses.

The hardest-hit place in the United States has been a nursing home in the suburb of Kirkland in the Washington state capital of Seattle, and the state is considering mandatory measures such as banning large gatherings, but not necessarily imposing massive quarantines.

The Life Care Center facility has accounted for most of the 18 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in Washington state.


The crew of 1,100 from the Grand Princess will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship. (AP: Noah Berger)

In California, officials planned to offload 2,400 passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was barred from returning to San Francisco last week due to a coronavirus outbreak on board.

The coronavirus emergency plan has been activated
The Australian Government has pulled the trigger on its emergency response plan and is now operating on the basis the virus is a pandemic. Here’s what that means.

Most of the passengers will go into quarantine at four military bases across the country, with those requiring immediate medical attention heading to hospitals.

The crew of 1,100 will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship unless they need acute care.

California has more than 100 confirmed cases, while on the East Coast, New York state now has 142, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked employers in the nation’s most populous city to consider staggering workers’ start times to ease crowding on public transport and to allow more telecommuting where possible.


Video: A coronavirus reality check from Dr Norman Swan


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Dozens killed as gunmen attack Kabul ceremony attended by top politicians


At least 27 people have been killed in an attack by gunmen on a remembrance ceremony attended by top political leaders in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Key points:

  • The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack
  • Chief executive and former presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah escaped the attack unharmed
  • The ceremony marked the anniversary of the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara leader who was killed in 1995 after being taken prisoner by the Taliban

Chief executive and former presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah escaped the attack unharmed but at least 55 others were injured, officials said.

It is the first major attack on the Afghan capital since the United States reached an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw US troops last week.

But the Taliban — the largest Islamist militant group in Afghanistan — denied responsibility for the attack.

“The attack started with a boom, apparently a rocket landed in the area, Abdullah and some other politicians … escaped the attack unhurt,” Mr Abdullah’s spokesman, Fraidoon Kwazoon, who was also present, said.

Broadcaster Tolo News showed live footage of people running for cover as gunfire was heard.

Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said the casualty toll could rise as wounded were taken to hospitals in Kabul.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said all of the casualties were civilians.


Afghan security personnel cordon off the site of the attack in Kabul.

Afghan security forces were still trying to flush the gunmen out of a half-finished apartment building, Mr Rahimi said.

Dozens of Afghan security forces had cordoned off the area.

Mr Abdullah was runner-up in the last three Afghan presidential elections.

He has served as chief executive of a coalition government since 2014 and is also a former foreign minister.

‘Crime against humanity’

The gathering marked the anniversary of the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara leader who was killed in 1995 after being taken prisoner by the Taliban.


Dozens of relatives gathered at hospitals, with many breaking down in tears. (Reuters: Omar Sobhani)

Several people were killed in a similar attack on the same commemoration last year, which Islamic State said was carried out by its militants.

President Ashraf Ghani tweeted that the attack was “a crime against humanity and against the national unity of Afghanistan”.

Dozens of relatives gathered at the morgue of a hospital not far from the blast, with many breaking down in tears as they waited to identify their loved ones.

“I was at the ceremony when gunshots started. I rushed toward the door to get out of the area but suddenly my foot was hit by a bullet,” Mukhtar Jan said.

External Link:

@USAmbKabul We strongly condemn today’s vicious attack against Afghans commemorating the anniversary of Abdul Ali Mazari’s assassination. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims & thank the Afghan security forces for swift response. We stand with Afghanistan for peace.

Ali Attayee, at the hospital to support his wounded brother, said: “Those who committed this crime want to destroy our people at this juncture in society, we’re sorry for those committing such crimes.”

Representatives of the United States, European Union and NATO condemned the attack.

“We strongly condemn today’s vicious attack … We stand with Afghanistan for peace,” the United States charge d’affaires in Kabul, Ross Wilson, wrote on Twitter.

The attack was one of the largest on civilians in Afghanistan in a year.

“Horrific attack in Kabul today … heartbreaking and unacceptable. We are tired of war and violence,” Shahrzad Akbar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said.

The United States has sought to spearhead efforts towards a lasting peace arrangement.

Violence decreased during a seven-day hold-down accord with the Taliban before last Saturday’s deal, though the Taliban has since resumed attacks on Afghan forces.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Matildas crush Vietnam to stand on verge of Olympic qualification

Sydney 2000

Sam Kerr led the way as Australia routed Vietnam 5-0 in the first leg of the women’s Olympic football tournament play-off in Newcastle.

Key points:

  • The Matildas should have won by a larger margin, spurning numerous goalscoring chances
  • The win came in the first leg of Australia’s Olympic football qualifier, with the second leg on Wednesday in Vietnam
  • A win on aggregate will see the Matildas qualify for the Games for the fourth time, following success in 2000, 2004 and 2016.

Star striker Kerr took just 10 minutes to get the scoring underway and added a second from the penalty spot on 80 minutes as the Matildas virtually locked up their ticket to July’s Tokyo Olympics.

Kerr’s opener was followed by further first-half goals from Chloe Logarzo and Newcastle-born Emily van Egmond.

The Matildas carved out a hatful of chances in an open match, although Vietnam had a couple of bright moments in attack and notably Pham Thi Tuoi spurned a golden opportunity to draw the visitors level during the early stages.

External Link:

The Matildas tweet: .@samkerr1 scores goal number 40 for @TheMatildas! #WeAreMatildas @AUSvVIE

Australia should have won by a larger margin and missed numerous goalscoring chances in front of a crowd of 14,014.

Caitlin Foord hit the post, Kyah Simon had a shot blocked off the line and Van Egmond spurned a couple of golden openings.

It took until midway through the second half before Australia added to their advantage as defender Clare Polkinghorne swept home a low cross for a rare goal.

Having won all seven previous matches against Vietnam, Wednesday’s second leg in Cam Pha should be a formality in terms of Olympic qualification for the Australians who are chasing a fourth Games appearance.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Cricket underdog Thailand lights up T20 World Cup with upbeat attitude

Homebush 2140

Coming from the Land of Smiles, the Thailand women’s cricket team has been the feel-good story of the T20 World Cup hosted by Australia.

Key points:

  • Thailand was the first team from South-East Asia to qualify for a Women’s T20 World Cup
  • The Thai players have taken the tournament by storm with their infectious and positive attitude
  • Thailand lost three of its pool matches but gave itself a chance of victory against Pakistan before the match was abandoned

Thailand’s rapid rise — in a country where cricket is largely unknown — to make its T20 World Cup debut has been incredible to watch.

The nation has only 11 contracted cricketers, all of whom are women, and it became the first team from South-East Asia to quality for the Women’s T20 World Cup.

Thailand did not win a match at the tournament — although it did set Pakistan a competitive target of 151 in this afternoon’s abandoned pool match in Sydney — but its impact has been profound.

“When we were preparing, nobody really even knew we were coming for a World Cup,” Thailand’s vice-captain Nattaya Boochatham said.

“But off the back of this, we’ve got a lot of attention around the world.”

Thailand was soundly beaten by England, South Africa and West Indies, prior to its final match against Pakistan being called off early because of rain.

External Link:

@T20WorldCup video tweet: "During the rain delay, Thailand kept the fans entertained on the big screen with an impromptu dance-off. Thank you for being part of #TheBigDance!"

Despite recording three heavy defeats, the joy and energy of the Thailand players has been infectious, highlighted when they bowed to the crowd, umpires and opponents during their matches.

“We can smile wholeheartedly and enjoy what a World Cup feels like, the experience has been invaluable for us,” Boochatham said.

Thailand has also experienced displays of sportsmanship from other teams.

New Zealand gave the Thais an impromptu coaching clinic when they met in a warm-up fixture.

Thai players feel ‘like a big family’

Most of Thailand’s team are semi-professional, forced to juggle their playing duties with jobs or education commitments.

“When we go back we will take a bit of a break, enjoy [time] with our families, go back to studying, then after that, it’s straight back to planning for the [one-day World Cup] 50-over qualifier,” Boochatham said.

There was a significant amount of preparation put into the T20 World Cup campaign, as the squad of 15 came from different parts of Thailand to live under the one roof in a Bangkok house rented by the Cricket Association of Thailand.

The players became “like a big family”, as they ate, slept and breathed cricket while undergoing a strict training regime.

“Always being together [makes] you understand the dynamics of everyone,” Boochatham said.

“We know each other inside out, which is great when we are on the field, [as] we back each other.”


The Thai players created a family-like environment in the build-up to the World Cup. (ICC)

Most of Thailand’s World Cup team switched to cricket from other sports such as softball, basketball and volleyball.

Captain Sornnarin Tippoch was scouted playing softball at university at 21, while Boochatham enjoyed a similar journey across to cricket.

“I thought, ‘this is going to hurt a lot because I don’t have my [softball] mitts on’, but once I got into it and started batting I fell in love and have been playing ever since,” Boochatham said.

The young team is hungrier than ever to match the standard set by the world’s best.

“How we’ve underperformed is a wake-up call to us to motivate us,” Boochatham said.

“We have been exposed but that’s not a bad thing. We have to get stronger and bring our A game.”

The tough initiation has paved the way for younger Thai players, according to Boochatham.

“We want the world to know that we can play, for us to set the benchmark for the new generation of Thai cricketers to show this is the level you have to be performing at,” she said.

“Hopefully, we are good role models for the future.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Indonesia’s most active volcano erupts, forcing airport to shut amid 6km column of ash


Indonesia’s most active volcano has erupted, sending a 6-kilometre column of ash into the sky and triggering the closure of the airport in the nearby city of Solo on Java.

Key points:

  • Villagers living on Merapi’s fertile slopes are advised to stay 3km from the crater’s mouth
  • The eruption lasted almost eight minutes
  • The last major eruption of Mount Merapi, in 2010, killed 353 people

The eruption of Mount Merapi on the main island of Java also unleashed searing gas clouds 2km down its slopes, Indonesia’s Geology and Volcanology Research Agency said on its website.

The agency said villagers living on Merapi’s fertile slopes were advised to stay 3km from the crater’s mouth as the ash made the rain thick and muddy in several villages.

It said the eruption lasted almost eight minutes after it began at 5:22am on Tuesday (local time) and warned of a risk of further eruptions due to continuing movements of magma.


Volcanic ash has engulfed roads in Boyolali, Central Java province. (Antara Foto/Aloysius Jarot Nugroho via Reuters)

The volcano is a popular site for tourists and its fertile soil is also farmed.

External Link:

@IFRCAsiaPacific Earlier this morning, Mount #Merapi erupted, sending a plume of ash and smoke into the air. #RedCross volunteers in #Indonesia are helping to keep communities calm and providing face masks.

“Outside a 3km radius it’s still safe,” Biwara Yuswantana, the head of Yogyakarta’s disaster mitigation agency, said.

Yogyakarta city centre is located about 30km from the volcano.

The international airport in Solo was shut at 9:25am (local time), Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said. Four flights were affected.

Witnesses said the sound of the eruption was heard 30km away.

The agency did not raise the alert status of Merapi, which was already at the third-highest level due to its ongoing activity.

The 2,968-metre-high mountain is the most active of about 500 Indonesian volcanoes.

The volcano, located near the cities of Yogyakarta and Solo, has rumbled and generated dark hot clouds since last year.


The eruption spewed out a column of ash as well as searing gas clouds along the mountain’s slopes. (AP: Slamet Riyadi)

Its last major eruption, in 2010, killed 353 people.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 240 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines around the ocean.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Nick Kyrgios booed off court after retiring with wrist injury in Acapulco


Defending champion Nick Kyrgios has slammed the crowd at the ATP World Tour event in Acapulco after being booed off the court when he was forced to retire from his first-round match because of injury.

Key points:

  • Nick Kyrgios lost the first set 6-3 to Ugo Humbert before withdrawing with a wrist injury
  • Kyrgios said he found the crowd’s booing “disrespectful” in light of his injury troubles
  • The Australian has been struggling with injury since exiting the Australian Open last month

Kyrgios pulled the pin after losing the first set 6-3 to France’s Ugo Humbert, with his decision met with a chorus of boos as he departed the tournament that he won 12 months ago.

The Australian wore an ice pack on his injured left wrist while attending his post-match media conference, where he let his feelings be known about the crowd’s behaviour.

“I couldn’t give a f***,” Kyrgios said.

“I literally couldn’t give a f***. I’m not healthy, I tried to come here, I tried to play. I’ve been doing media for the tournament … helping out.

“I tried to play, I tried to give the fans a little bit of tennis … they [were] disrespectful, so I honestly couldn’t give a f***.”

External Link:

@TennisTV video tweet: "Unfortunately defending champion @NickKyrgios has had to pull out with a wrist injury, sending Ugo Humbert through to round two. Get well soon, NK"

Kyrgios, who was the sixth seed in Acapulco, received treatment for his wrist injury during a medical timeout in the first set.

He informed the trainer he was “going to pull out” as he had his wrist taped, eventually doing so four games later.

Kyrgios said he had been troubled by the injury in the wake of the Australian Open in Melbourne, where he reached the fourth round last month.

“I’ve been dealing with a wrist injury the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“After the Australian Open I took a week-and-a-half off and then I started hitting again. I started feeling my wrist. I didn’t play last week in Delray [Beach].

“I still came here, I still thought I’d be able to play but my wrist is not ready to play.

“I could feel it on every backhand. It’s unfortunate. After the memories I had last year, it was tough for me to come here and pull out.”


Kyrgios was booed of the court after withdrawing with his injury. (AP: Rebecca Blackwell)

Kyrgios had been a late scratching from last week’s Delray Beach tournament, while he had also withdrawn from the New York Open earlier this month because of a shoulder injury.

The world number 23 will slide down the rankings as a result of his early exit in Acapulco.

Kyrgios may now be in doubt for Australia’s Davis Cup tie against Brazil in Adelaide beginning on March 6.

In other Australian results in Acapulco, John Millman lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 to American Taylor Fritz, and Alex Bolt went down to Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Racial vilification decision ends player’s career

Darwin 0800

A 23-year-old Aussie Rules player will be kicked out of the sport for a second time after being found guilty of racially vilifying an opponent earlier this month.

Key points:

  • A complaint was made against the player after a heated end to an AFLNT match in Darwin in early February
  • The player had been re-registered in October after having a life ban overturned following an on-field incident in 2018
  • It happened as racial tensions heightened after the re-airing of Adam Goodes’s The Australian Dream

The playing career of Leroy Larson is finished after he was given a five-week ban rising from an incident at a game in Darwin on February 8.

There was a scuffle between players after the final whistle of the St Marys-Tiwi Bombers clash at Marrara Stadium, in which Tiwi captain Paddy Heenan could be seen approaching and shoving Larson.

NT Grandstand presenter Shannon Byrne said a vilification complaint stemmed from a comment made by Larson to Tiwi forward Austin Wonaeamirri.

On February 21, an independent tribunal found Larson guilty of breaching the AFL’s National Vilification and Discrimination Policy.

Appeals against the ban were dismissed, and the AFL’s policy bars any parties from discussing the case for seven years.

Larson was re-registered as a player last October after he successfully had a life ban overturned following an on-field incident in South Australia in 2018.

External Link:

The Australian Dream ad on ABC Darwin Facebook

Hopes of a second comeback were dashed on Thursday when  an AFLNT statement confirmed the AFL has de-registered Larson. “

Both the AFL and AFLNT will work with St Mary’s Football Club to ensure the player’s well-being is supported during this time,” the AFLNT statement read

‘Not good enough’

Heenan was asked about the incident on ABC Radio after the finding.

“We’ve come together and we want to move forward from that, and we want to talk to the boys and just focus on what we need to do out there on the field instead of what’s happened in the past.”

AFLNT chief executive Stu Totham told ABC Radio Darwin he was following national guidelines and policies.


Stuart Totham says there is no place for discriminatory behaviour on or off the field. (ABC News: Matt Garrick)

“It’s really disappointing that we’ve had to deal with this sort of issue at the footy, and we don’t take it lightly,” he said.

“It’s just not good enough to have that sort of behaviour on the ground or off the ground or anywhere, for that matter.

“He’s a young man in this situation and that’s disappointing.

“I think the more important issue is that we can’t be tolerating any sort of racial or discriminatory behaviour around sport or anywhere in society.

“I think something we can all do better is recognising and calling it out and not accepting it, not accepting any of that type of behaviour.”

How does it feel?

Victoria University’s Dr Matthew Klugman, who co-authored Black And Proud, the story behind the iconic photograph of Nicky Winmar, said vilification had a devastating effect on the victim.


Matthew Klugman says constant re-airing of the comments are hurtful for all involved. (Supplied)

“It is a deeply humiliating process that is deeply alienating,” he said.

“It affects mental health, as we saw with the way booing was turned into an act of racial hatred.

“We saw what that did to Adam Goodes, and the airing of [The Australian Dream] just the other night on the ABC kind of brought all of that up again.

“These things link back and evoke the trauma of our violent colonisation of this land.”

But why the silent process?

Dr Klugman said he believed the league was trying to respect the mediation process and limit the damage done by the vilification.

“The airing of and re-airing that over and over again is intensely hurtful for those people,” he said.

“It can limit the abilities of both parties to speak out.


The iconic photo of Nicky Winmar reacting to racist taunts. (Supplied: NewSouth Books)

“But I think it is really important to approach these matters from a trauma-informed perspective and to know that certain comments or phrases can have a devastating effect, not just on the individuals concerned, but then is read over and over again by other people who have also been the target of racial vilification.”

He likened it in some respects to the vilification of Carlton player Tayla Harris, who called out the AFL for not moderating social media comments.

Given a second chance

Larson was kicked out of the sport in 2018 after he struck Robe player Craig Pitt while playing for Kalangadoo in the Mid South-East Football League in South Australia.

He incurred a seven-match suspension for that incident, invoking the rule that a player banned for more than 16 weeks in their career shall be deregistered from the AFL.

But less than 18 months later, an application from his childhood club St Marys passed through the NTFL re-registration panel and Larson was back on the field just in time for the 2019-20 season.

An AFLNT statement at the time said: “The panel was satisfied that Leroy displayed genuine commitment to his rehabilitation over the course of the past 12 months, which will continue into the future.

“The love he has for the game and the club will contribute to Leroy’s success in returning to the game.

“Leroy talked to what he needs to do if he ever found himself in a position on field, and that should he reoffend, the opportunity to ever be back involved in the sport he grew up playing will be gone for life.

“The panel felt that his dedication to the mentoring of the juniors and talking about his past to the younger players coming through while out of the sport, highlights that he doesn’t want to be back in this position.”

Editor’s Note 27/02/2020: This story has been updated since its original publication date of 26/02/2020 to say that a decision has been taken to deregister Leroy Larson

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Dramatic footage shows moment large tree crushes car during Perth storm

Perth 6000

Dramatic footage has emerged of a lucky escape on Perth’s roads during a destructive storm authorities have described as the most severe to hit the city in almost a decade.

Key points:

  • Emergency services received 280 calls for help due to the bad weather
  • Cars were crushed by falling trees as the storm hit during peak hour
  • The town of Calingiri lost power and could not pump water

Workers have been mopping up damage after the short-lived but severe storm hit Perth and parts of the Wheatbelt on Tuesday afternoon, causing widespread damage, creating peak-hour traffic chaos and knocking out power to thousands of WA homes.

One driver on Harborne Street in the suburb of Wembley escaped serious injury when a large tree fell onto her car, stopping it in its tracks and crushing the middle section of the vehicle.

Police said the woman was trapped in the car for some time but was eventually freed.


The tree crushed the middle section of the car but the driver escaped without serious injury. (Supplied)

Dashcam footage of the near miss was recorded by another motorist who was driving on Harborne Street at the time and saw the tree fall before other passers-by rushed to help.

The witness, Ron, told ABC Radio Perth he could not believe the woman survived.

“The guys who jumped out to help, they couldn’t open the front door and I thought ‘oh no’,” he said.

“I was certain that the person had been killed, it’s a very big tree.

“I was convinced the person wasn’t going to get out of the car. It was only when I saw it on the news or someone told me later that the person had got out that I was so relieved.”

Video: The storm hit Perth during rush hour, flooding roads and knocking over trees.

(ABC News)

The woman was assessed by St John Ambulance at the scene before being taken to Royal Perth Hospital as a precaution.

Tennis-ball-sized hailstones and no water supply

Water has been trucked in to one regional WA town after the storm cut off supplies.

Victoria Plains Shire President Pauline Bantock, whose remit includes the town of Calingiri, told ABC Radio Perth she had “never seen hail like it”.

“It was bigger than golf-ball-size and they came down initially as a ‘bang, bang’ and then it just came down in a flood, and lasted for about 10 minutes all up,” Ms Bantock said.


Aaron Edmunds collected hail stones the size of tennis balls in East Calingiri. (Twitter: @AaronEdmonds9)

She said she had received many calls reporting damage to infrastructure.

“There’s a lot of towns out of power, I know there are reports of Calingiri … and that’s actually affected the water supply to about 100 residents,” she said.

“They [the Water Corporation] are now trucking in drinking water from Bindoon. Hopefully that will restore some drinking water in the meantime to the town.

“I think our roads crew will have a busy few days ahead of them assessing the whole area of the shire.”

Jenny Ash runs the local and only store in Calingiri and said her water supply was cut off, but they could still provide petrol to motorists as they had a generator to run the pump.

External Link:

Facebook: Councillor Pauline Bantock

But she said she had heard many other towns had lost power, which meant their petrol supplies were affected.

“We’re on limited power because we had internal damage to some of our power boards,” she said.

“We’re just doing what we can.”

Most severe storm to hit Perth since 2010

According to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, the main areas affected were East Victoria Park, Menora, Nollamara, Clarkson, Carlisle and Heathridge.

Over the course of six hours, more than 700 calls were made to emergency services, including almost 300 requests for help as homes were damaged, trees uprooted and power lines brought down.


Dozens of trees were brought down onto busy roads in Perth during the storm. (ABC News: James Carmody)

DFES chief superintendent Stuart Wade said it was the most severe storm to hit Perth in a decade.

“Perth experienced its most severe storm since the 2010 March hailstorms,” he said.

“There were over 350 calls to triple zero and another 350 calls to the 132 500 [emergency assistance] number, which resulted in 280 calls for assistance and 140 responses from the Fire and Rescue Service.

“Most of our requests were in the northern suburbs relating to trees down, water damage and structural damage.”

In addition to the Wembley near-miss, emergency services responded a number of other reports of fallen trees hitting cars, but nobody was seriously hurt.


A car was hit by a fallen tree in Balga in the storm. (Supplied)

Perth recorded 19 millimetres of rain between 4:30pm and 9:30pm on Tuesday as the storm passed.

More rain forecast as disruption lingers

Up to 10mm of rain was predicted in Perth on Wednesday, but the city had only recorded 1mm by late evening while reaching a top of 30 degrees Celsius during the day.

More storms are predicted for Thursday and Friday before conditions ease on the weekend.

Western Power restored electricity to 18,000 customers on Tuesday night but about 5,000 houses remained without power on Wednesday in Perth and 7,200 in regional WA, with towns including Northam, Cunderdin, Moora, Wongan Hills, Dalwallinu and Bencubbin affected.

Somerly Primary School in Perth’s north was closed while cleaning and repairs were carried out, after various classrooms were inundated with water.

The school is expected to reopen on Thursday.

Repairs were also organised at Lathlain Primary School and West Leederville Primary School after trees were brought down.


A tree came down near the bike shed at West Leederville Primary School. (Facebook: West Leederville Primary P&C)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Across the ditch, NZ politics is looking ugly. Will it bring Jacinda Ardern down?

New Zealand

Around the world, Jacinda Ardern has received acclaim from those who see the charismatic New Zealand Prime Minister as a leader for the modern age.

Key points:

  • New Zealand First has been accused of dealing with opaque loans and donations
  • Ms Ardern has refused to reprimand, criticise or even question her Deputy Prime Minister
  • Polling shows a National-led coalition garnering more support than a second term for the Labour Government

The progressive young mother, who is due to make a short visit to Australia on Friday, has been lauded for steering her nation compassionately through terrorism attacks and natural disasters.

But at home, Ardern’s leadership and judgement are under question.

New Zealand’s political scene is currently beset by donations scandals, with the most dubious elements embroiling her Deputy Prime Minister and her Government’s junior coalition partner.

Ardern has refused to reprimand, criticise or even question her Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, and his party, despite — or perhaps because of — her prime ministership depending on his support.

With a general election due in September, will Kiwis see Ardern as flying above the political fray? Or will her hands-off attitude taint her as just another politician trying to dodge difficult questions about murky fundraising?

What’s going on?


Jacinda Arden’s prime ministership depends on the support of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. (AP: Nick Perry)

At the centre of this saga is Peters: long-time political provocateur, leader of the nationalist minor party New Zealand First and, crucially, holder of the balance of power in NZ’s Parliament.

Back in 2017, Peters kept everyone in New Zealand on tenterhooks for a month after the national election, before declaring he would back the Labour Party to govern.

His decision catapulted a new, inexperienced leader — Ardern — unexpectedly into power, and in the process snagged himself the deputy prime minister and foreign minister titles.

Fast forward to 2020 and NZ First has been exposed as dealing with opaque loans and donations.

The party received three significant loans in three years from an entity called the New Zealand First Foundation that were never made public.

Under New Zealand’s electoral laws, only donations, not loans, have to be disclosed.

But these loans haven’t been repaid and Peters initially denied any knowledge of them — despite being a trustee of the foundation and the party’s founder and leader.

It’s also worth noting that NZ First Foundation is the sole declared source of funding for NZ First.

But wait, there’s more


The Serious Fraud Office is investigating donations made to Winston Peters’s NZ First Party. (AP: Achmad Ibrahim)

Further investigative reporting dug up more information about where Peters’s NZ First gets its money from.

It turns out that some of NZ’s wealthiest business owners were making large donations to the NZ First Foundation, but splitting them up into multiple, smaller donations to avoid having to reveal them.

Two businesses owned by Graeme Hart — NZ’s richest man — made donations on the same day to NZ First Foundation, both worth $NZ14,995.

Do you feel a twinge of Kiwi envy?
The world looked longingly at the young and inspiring female leader who had unexpectedly catapulted the Labour Party into office. Jacinda Ardern created an undefinable aura of promise and that’s hard to live up to.

The amount is significant — it just happens to be $NZ5.01 short of the disclosure threshold under New Zealand law.

In another case, three separate entities linked to the wealthy Van Den Brink family made donations on the same day, totalling $NZ36,000 but each falling under the $NZ15,000.01 disclosure limit.

In fact, every donation to the NZ First Foundation since the 2017 election has fallen under the disclosure limit.

To add to the ethical mire, another trustee for the foundation is a former MP-turned-lobbyist, who has lobbied for businesses while at the same time accepting political donations from them for the foundation.

The Serious Fraud Office, New Zealand’s specialist financial crimes investigator, is now examining the donations.

Then it gets really weird

It was in the midst of these revelations the saga took a seemingly nefarious turn.

A right-wing blog published photographs of the reporters who had uncovered the donations details meeting with sources connected to NZ First.

At the time, Peters bragged, “We took the photograph just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”.

After a backlash for appearing to be trying to intimidate the media, he backtracked, saying on Twitter the picture was an opportunistic snap from a supporter.

External Link:

Winston Peters on Twitter: NZF has no interest in following Mr Espiner or any other journalists. The very reverse applies. No private investigators have been engaged to follow Mr Espiner or anyone else

Ardern has been under pressure from opposition parties to stand Peters down while the Serious Fraud Office investigation takes place

But she has declared the scandal has nothing to do with her.

Ardern told Radio New Zealand that while she was in charge of the Government, she was not in charge of the two other parties that form part of her Government’s ruling coalition — NZ First and the Greens.

“These aren’t matters that I have any responsibility for,” she said.


Ms Ardern says says she is not in charge of the two other parties that form part of her Government’s ruling coalition. (Reuters: Carlo Allegri)

“I’m the leader of the Labour Party, I had nothing to do with this and I’m not going to stand here and explain it or defend it because it’s not for me.

“I cannot run both a government and three political parties.”

It stands in contrast to the leadership of former Labour prime minister Helen Clark, who in 2008 stood Peters down in remarkably similar circumstances.

Ardern a one-term prime minister?

Despite the strength of Ardern’s leadership image abroad, at home her political reign is a little more fragile.

If Peters were to baulk at any criticism from her and pull his support, the Ardern Government would fall, forcing a snap election.

Ardern is yet to put a foot wrong
Few leaders have been tested like Jacinda Ardern, but from cries of baby brain to the unthinkable tragedy of Christchurch, she is yet to put a foot wrong, writes Annabel Crabb.

The election date has been set for September 19, but recent polling gives a good hint as to why Ardern and Labour aren’t keen to risk that being brought forward.

Despite her strong lead as preferred prime minister, voting intentions suggest the election outcome would be on a knife edge.

Some of the most reputable polling shows a National-led coalition garnering more support than a second term for the Labour Government.

National may have been pleased at this point with the pressure the donations saga is piling on Ardern and her deputy, but it is the subject of a donations scandal itself.

Former National MP-turned-independent Jami-Lee Ross and three other people — Yikun Zhang, Shijia Zheng and Hengjia Zheng — are facing criminal charges over donations to the party.

They have all pleaded not guilty over allegations they split up $NZ200,000 worth of donations into smaller amounts to hide their origin.

Ross says he was directed to hide the donations by National leader Simon Bridges and is blowing the whistle, while Bridges says the claims are false and part of a vendetta by a disgruntled former party member.


Ms Ardern is due to make a short visit to Australia on Friday. (AAP: David Rowland)

On the international stage, New Zealand’s clean, green image has been complemented by its youthful, optimistic leader.

But there has been a strong undercurrent of political skulduggery in the country in recent times.

The donations saga engulfing Peters is drawing in Ardern through her reliance on NZ First’s support.

How she wields her leadership at home could determine whether she’ll still have a role on the international stage after September 19.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘Aussie Kim’ Clijsters loses first match in latest tennis comeback

United States

She may not have had quite as many comebacks as Dame Nellie Melba, but Kim Clijsters has shown plenty of promise in her latest return to professional tennis — despite a loss in her first WTA Tour match since 2012.

Key points:

  • Kim Clijsters has won 41 WTA Tour titles, three US Opens and an Australian Open in singles — plus doubles crowns at the French Open and Wimbledon
  • She retired for the first time in 2007 after 10 years on tour, came back in 2009 before retiring again in 2012
  • The popular Belgian player has now returned again to professional tennis as a mother-of-three

The 36-year-old was always one of the most popular players on the tour, and the crowd gave her a huge reception as she lost 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Championships.

The Belgian, a four-time winner of singles major titles, is now a mother of three.

She announced in September 2019 she was returning to the tour for a second time.

Known affectionately in Australia as “Aussie Kim” because of her former relationship with Lleyton Hewitt, Clijsters had rivalries with fellow Belgian Justine Henin and an early-career Serena Williams in her first stint on tour.

She initially retired in 2007, got married and had the first of her children.

Clijsters returned about two years later and won her second and third US Opens and an Australian Open.

She retired again after the 2012 US Open.


Kim Clijsters retired for the second time after the 2012 US Open, but now she’s back for another shot at the WTA tour. (Reuters: Jessica Rinaldi)

For her re-introduction to the tour, Clijsters had a tough opponent in Muguruza, a fellow former world number one who lost in the final of the Australian Open less than a month ago.

She was broken in the opening game and struggled throughout the first set, throwing in five double faults.

External Link:

WTA tweet: .@Clijsterskim ends a phenomenal rally at the net. #DDFTennis

Muguruza broke again for a 5-2 lead and was two breaks up at 3-0 in the second set before Clijsters found her stride.

Her powerful groundstrokes put Muguruza back on the defensive, and Clijsters showed she had the confidence to come to the net and finish points.

The Belgian excited the crowd by levelling the set at 4-4, but Muguruza then converted her second match point in the tiebreaker, before graciously leading the crowd in an ovation for her opponent.

“I had a good feeling out there,” Clijsters said. “Second set, I felt I was really in the match.”

“I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.

“I think that’s a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set. With the type of tennis I played, it’s something that is the positive about this match.

“I’ll take that with me for the next matches.”

Muguruza will play either Veronika Kudermetova or Dayana Yastremska in the next round.

“I think this is just special because I didn’t know how [Clijsters was] going to play,” Muguruza said.

“I’m sure she’s going to get better and better, for sure, give us a lot of trouble.”

Barbora Strycova and Elise Mertens also advanced in Dubai.

Strycova ousted Amanda Anisimova of the United States 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-4 and Mertens eased past Wang Qiang of China 6-3, 6-0.


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos sets up nearly $15b fund to fight climate change

United States

The world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, says he will commit $US10 billion ($14.9 billion) of his own money to fund scientists, activists, non-profit organisations and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change.

Key points:

  • The Bezos Earth Fund will start issuing grants by mid-2020
  • Mr Bezos is urging large and small companies to help him fight global warming
  • He was named the richest man in history in 2018 with a net worth of $US150 billion

Making the announcement on Monday, Mr Bezos joined a growing list of billionaires dedicating substantial funds towards combating the impact of global warming.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Mr Bezos said in an Instagram post.

“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways, and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

The Bezos Earth Fund will begin issuing grants by the middle of this year as part of the initiative.

“It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organisations and individuals,” Mr Bezos said.

Counteracting climate change has become a popular cause for US billionaires in recent years, with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer counted among the world’s wealthiest environmental philanthropists.

Last year, Mr Bezos pledged to make online retailer Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040, the first major corporation to announce such a goal.

He also announced his intention to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from US vehicle design and manufacturing company Rivian Automotive LLC.


Mr Bezos has pledged to make Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040. (ABC News: Alistair Kroie)

Mr Bezos said at the time that Amazon would meet the goals of the Paris climate accord 10 years ahead of schedule, and would invest $US100 million ($149 million) to restore forests and wetlands.

Cutting emissions related to Amazon, which delivers 10 billion items a year and has a massive transportation and datacentre footprint, promises to be challenging.

The company has faced recent protests by environmental activists in France, and rising pressure from its own employees to take action on climate change.

Mr Bezos, who started Amazon in a garage near Seattle in 1994, was named the richest man in history in 2018 after his net worth increased to $US150 billion ($223 billion), having briefly overtaken Microsoft founder Bill Gates the year before.

External Link:

IG: Jeff Bezos to donate $US10 billion to climate change


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

10 children dead as families burn rubbish to keep warm amid ‘catastrophic’ Syrian winter

Syrian Arab Republic

Families fleeing air strikes and advancing troops in Syria’s Idlib province are sleeping rough in streets and olive groves, and burning toxic bundles of rubbish to stay warm in the biting winter weather, aid workers say.

Key points:

  • 3 million civilians are stuck between advancing Syrian forces and the Turkish border
  • A family of four suffocated after inhaling fumes from a fire made from old clothing
  • The UN says displaced Syrians are being ‘abandoned by the whole world’

Hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted by a Syrian government assault which has corralled ever growing numbers of people into a shrinking pocket of land near the Turkish border.

Humanitarian agency officials say it is the biggest single displacement of civilians in the nine-year-old war. But they lack the shelter and supplies to support them.

Relief workers say 10 children have died in the last week alone in makeshift camps that now dot the border area.

A seemingly endless flow of cars and vehicles packed with belongings of fleeing civilians jam the roads. Some have also fled on foot.


Syrian civilians have fled from Idlib toward the north in an attempt to find safety near the border with Turkey. (AP)

In one camp in northern Idlib, a family of four died of suffocation on Tuesday after inhaling fumes from a fire they had made from shoes, old clothing and cardboard, their neighbour in the camp, known as Dia3, said.

“Most people are bringing bundles of shoes or clothing and burning it … the family were sleeping and suffocated,” they said.

The father, mother and their two children were among tens of thousands of people who had driven north to escape the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive.

Syrian kids send messages to bushfire victims
More than 12,000 kilometres from Australia, in a small town in Jordan, nine-year-old Syrian refugees Ayman and twin brother Anas Tahleh began drawing pictures of kangaroos and koalas to lift the spirits of Australian bushfire victims.

Up to three million civilians are stuck between the advancing Syrian government troops and the closed-off border with Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot take more.

Storms which blanketed much of northwest Syria in snow this week has worsened the plight of the displaced.

Shelter is scarce, with houses and tents already packed with dozens of people. Many who have become destitute have little money to buy fuel or heaters.

“People are burning anything they have available to them, things that are often dangerous to inhale just to stay warm,” said Rachel Sider of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Mark Cutts, United Nations deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria Crisis, said the situation in Idlib was catastrophic.

“We keep hearing stories of babies and people dying as a result of cold weather and the inability to stay warm,” he said.

With the Syrian army on the outskirts of Idlib city, currently home to an estimated 1 million people, a full military assault there could lead to even greater upheaval.


Humanitarian agencies have long pointed to the impact of the Syrian conflict on children. (AP)

‘No place left’

International humanitarian agencies say the number of people on the move has swamped existing camps in northern Idlib, set up to shelter families displaced by earlier fighting, and people were being turned away.

External Link:

@GerrySimpsonHRW tweet: Rusian & Syrian forces indiscriminately bombing #Idlib are displacing catastrophic number of civilians

“We are seeing people who simply have nowhere else left to go. They are being squeezed into a smaller and smaller area and are feeling very abandoned by the whole world and that the world is just failing them,” Mr Cutts said.

The once agricultural rural terrain of Idlib province, Syria’s main olive growing district, now resembles the shanty towns on the edges of large congested cities.

“Families are sharing tents with up to 30 to 35 other people so there is very little space for people to seek refuge in northern Idlib at this stage,” Ms Sider said.

A resident from the once sleepy border town of Atma said the many people in the human wave pouring north are now sleeping in cars and under olive trees along congested routes.

Some families, with relatives further east, are able to cross from Idlib into areas of northern Syria controlled by Turkish troops. For most, there is no escape.


The once agricultural terrain of Idlib province now resembles the shanty towns on the edges of large congested cities. (Reuters: Khalil Ashawi)

“Along the border area in northern Idlib it’s overcrowded and the situation is much more difficult,” said local aid worker Adi Satouf.

Despite the turmoil and constant upheaval in the shrinking area of rebel rule, few people say they would return to areas now under the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s Government.

“People are no longer thinking of returning as long as Assad is there,” said Ibrahim Islam, a rescue worker now struggling with his family in a camp on the outskirts of Idlib.

“They are ready to put up with every injustice and hardship here but not go back to the regime.”

Video: Civilians flee an offensive by Russian-backed Syrian Government forces

(ABC News)


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

New Jane Austen movie Emma is no Clueless, but it should please newbies and die-hards alike

United Kingdom

Cinema returns to the snappy sense and sumptuous sensibilities of Jane Austen with Emma, the latest adaptation of the author’s social satire concerning the exploits of everyone’s favourite literary matchmaker.

With Greta Gerwig’s widely acclaimed Little Women slicing and dicing another beloved 19th-century classic for a more contemporary perspective, you’d be forgiven for expecting a similar sort of fashionably radical reworking here.

But this new Emma. (which the studio spells with a full stop), from veteran photographer and music video director Autumn de Wilde, is a relatively faithful rendition of the text, albeit with a ravishing design palette and an otherworldly star in Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch).

With her enormous, wide-set eyes and CGI-immaculate complexion, the actress could be a 21st-century alien materialised into Georgian-Regency England, corkscrew ringlets beaming back findings to the mothership.

As carefree, romance-immune society girl Emma Woodhouse, Taylor-Joy brings an appropriate air of modern nonchalance to Austen’s fictional setting of Highbury, where she devotes her unvexed days to plotting the love lives of the less socially fortunate.


Mia Goth (right) says her pre-rehearsal costume fittings were instrumental in developing her portrayal of the young and eager-to-please Harriet Smith. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

The actress’s single eye peels open like Jurassic Park’s T-Rex in the film’s opening frame, sizing up a world ready for match — if not mischief — making.

Famously “handsome, clever, and rich”, Emma splits her time between obsessing over the entanglements of those around her, bickering with her sister’s principled, slightly older brother-in-law Mr Knightley (the shaggy-haired Johnny Flynn), and humouring her doddering old father — an underused but always reliable Bill Nighy, whose paper-cutout limbs and patterned coats give him the impression of a man recently emerged from the wallpaper.


Bill Nighy plays Mr Woodhouse, Emma’s valetudinarian father. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

Emma seems even more self-possessed here than the independent woman of Austen’s prose; note the emphatic period after the film’s title, severing family ties and asserting its protagonist alongside other, historically mononymous heroines like Cher and Madonna.

The arrival of klutzy, unsophisticated teenager Harriet Smith — Suspiria and High Life star Mia Goth, initially unrecognisable as the plain understudy — is a gift for our bored and rich meddler. At last, Emma has her very own plaything she can set up with the local vicar, Mr Elton (an earnest and amusing Josh O’Connor, from The Crown.)

As anyone familiar with Austen’s story, or its many filmed iterations knows, Emma’s best laid plans soon comically crumble, when Harriet’s intended reveals his true crush — and our matchmaker begins to experience a world from which she’d remained cleverly aloof.


British folk musician Johnny Flynn plays George Knightley, a neighbour and close friend to Emma. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

Emma’s emotional awakening runs parallel to her deepening friendship with Mr Knightley, with whom she often critiques the frippery of society life. But even the world-weary, progressive Knightley has a thing or two to learn from his younger companion, whose inexperience also brings a fresh perspective — allowing her to size up a class system where women aren’t permitted agency, and marriage is the only hope for those without wealth.

As spins through Austen’s classic go, Emma is bright and lively, though it isn’t about to supplant Amy Heckerling’s vivacious, bratty Clueless (1995), a loose adaptation that remains the standard to which all filmed versions of the text must aspire.

First-time feature filmmaker de Wilde, whose work includes photoshoots and clips for the likes of Fiona Apple, Beck, and Florence and the Machine, directs with confidence and an instinct for the story, although the movie’s plot-ticking breeziness occasionally feels mechanical.

The screenplay, adapted from Austen by Booker-prize-winning New Zealand novelist Eleanor Catton, offers little in the way of surprise — not necessarily a bad thing with a book so admired.

Frivolous in all of the ways it should be, de Wilde’s film feels purposefully airy, sliding around on its character axes in ways that splinter and shift Emma’s worldview — the kind that seems so unshakeable in the mind of a 21-year-old.

The momentum is powered by brisk, funny performances, Christopher Blauvelt’s (Certain Women, The Bling Ring) spacious cinematography, and a soundtrack that mixes perky classical cues (Beethoven, Mozart) with folksy ballads — with Mr Knightley himself, musician Johnny Flynn, contributing some of the audio accompaniment. (Flynn has the considerably more unenviable task of playing David Bowie in the forthcoming movie, Stardust.)


Screenwriter Eleanor Catton says Emma and Harriet’s friendship is at the heart of the film and not treated as secondary to either character’s romantic relationships. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

And of course, there are looks to water the eyes, courtesy of make-up and hair designer Marese Langan, and Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), whose work has garnished productions from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Thor (2011) to last year’s Mary, Queen of Scots.

Emma’s luminous, rapidly revolving ensembles and the pastel panoramas in the drawing rooms show off de Wilde’s eye for the aesthetic, giving the film the look of an animated fashion spread.

In fact, the director’s film and photographic work for fashion label Rodarte is all over Emma, a fitting influence on a story where characters are defined by their poses — both socially and physically within the frame.

(Rodarte founding sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s 2017 curio Woodshock, starring a stoned and delirious Kirsten Dunst, would make for a fascinating double feature.)

De Wilde also offers some distinctive touches. Hers must be the first Emma to introduce Mr Knightley via a full-body, rear nude shot, and then to linger on his shapely legs as they’re being fitted with undergarments — the sort of period drama primping traditionally reserved for the ladies. And the chattering flocks of Harriet’s schoolmates, who float through scenes in red capes and winged bonnets, evoke future visions of The Handmaid’s Tale.


Director Autumn de Wilde describes Jane Austen as a talented satirist of early 1800s small town life. (Supplied: Universal Pictures)

Meanwhile, there are more cakes being ravished than anything since perhaps Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006).

De Wilde plays off this pristine world to startling effect at one point, when an unexpected nosebleed ruptures the icy surface of manners. (Or whatever alien host that’s been occupying Taylor-Joy decides it’s time to escape.) The dash of red comes as a minor shock, particularly in a film where — as often happens in English period dramas — one can find their attention adrift in a sea of interchangeable white faces.

And though Emma’s supposedly wiser perspective still leads her to the not-so-smart destination of the marriage altar, de Wilde’s adaptation honours Austen’s progressive intent within the context of the period it was created.

It’s not perfect happiness, but it’s a pleasing diversion.

External Link:

Emma YouTube Trailer

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Chernobyl scientist still backs nuclear power for Australia’s future energy mix


A former Soviet scientist who witnessed one of history’s worst nuclear disasters has called on Australia to embrace nuclear power.

Key points:

  • A former Soviet scientist who witnessed the Chernobyl disaster unfold says a clean energy future for Australia is impossible without nuclear power
  • Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld now works in the field of medical radiation at the University of Wollongong
  • Amid passionate views on both sides of the issue, a parliamentary inquiry last year recommended a partial lifting of the moratorium on nuclear power plants

Anatoly Rozenfeld visited the Chernobyl nuclear power plant more than 50 times in the three years following the 1986 nuclear meltdown.

The malfunction of a reactor triggered a mass release of radioactive material into the atmosphere — the extent of the fallout is still being assessed more than 30 years later.

Despite witnessing the disaster’s devastating impacts, Professor Rozenfeld said he was confident there was a place for nuclear power in Australia’s future energy mix.

“It’s impossible to avoid nuclear power in the future because of the reliability of modern reactors,” he said.


Anatoly Rozenfeld remains a strong supporter of nuclear energy. (Supplied: University of Wollongong)

Vast improvements in nuclear technology since Chernobyl, he said, have made it one of the most stable sources of energy.

“Nuclear energy is very reliable, and with modern reactors there’s a very low probability of accidents,” Professor Rozenfeld said.

“Most reactors designed in France and the United States are very stable; if you look at France, where they have so many reactors, they’ve never had any problems.”

Impossible to forget

Since moving to Australia, Professor Rozenfeld entered the field of medical radiation, establishing the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics at the University of Wollongong (UOW).

But it was his work developing technology to measure levels of radiation in the Soviet Union that took him to the epicentre of the Chernobyl disaster.

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“I was part of a research team in Kiev at the time and we were very dedicated to helping everyone and making sure the reactor was fixed as soon as possible,” he said.

“I worked there for several years, sometimes in Chernobyl and sometimes in Kiev — it was impossible to forget.

“We were a lot like liquidators, applying our innovative technology to understand what happens when a reactor breaks.”

His work in dosimetry — the measuring of ionising radiation — was critical in allowing clean-up crews to work safely at ground zero.

“With our equipment we could measure the level of radiation and understand when it’s safe to work and what time to work to avoid over-exposure,” Professor Rozenfeld said.

“There were thousands of people working there who were exposed much more than me wearing little more than a coat, which doesn’t provide any protection against radiation.”


Dozens of scientists helped in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. (Supplied: Igor Kostin)

The nuclear question

A nuclear power station has never been built in Australia, and their construction has been banned since the Howard government introduced a moratorium in 1998.

Last year, Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor commissioned the first inquiry into nuclear power in more than a decade, to consider the “economic, environmental and safety implications of nuclear power”.


Angus Taylor is the minister responsible for national energy policy. (ABC: Marco Catalano)

The House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy delivered its findings in December, acknowledging passionate views on both sides of the debate, yet recommending a partial lifting of the moratorium.

It also suggested assessing a new generation of nuclear reactors and examining their feasibility and suitability to Australia.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency said the rise of renewable energy alternatives made nuclear energy a less-attractive option.

It said a lack of investment in nuclear technology meant Australia would be beginning from a standing start.

“It costs a lot of money and takes a long time to build, and it takes a lot of money to decommission, and then you have to deal with a nuclear waste issue,” AREA chairman Martijn Wilder told ABC’s Q&A program.

“At the end of the day, will an investor invest in nuclear? I think, in this country, probably no.”

External Link:

@QandA (with video): Should Australia be focusing on nuclear energy instead of renewables? #QandA

Jacopo Buongiorno, the director of the Centre for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems at MIT, said it did not have to be an either-or decision.

He backed the findings of the parliamentary inquiry that recommended a cautious approach to investigating next-generation nuclear technologies.

“Renewables and nuclear are not competitors — they’re strongly synergistic,” Professor Buongiorno told RN Breakfast.

“What our studies show is that if you are trying to minimise the overall cost of decarbonisation from where we are now to where we need to be … then the optimal mix is solar, wind, hydro and nuclear.

“Nuclear, being controlled and dispatchable, allows you to cope with the variability of renewables. All the studies we’ve done indicate having some nuclear in the mix is a good thing.”

It is a sentiment echoed by Professor Rozenfeld, who claimed there was no reason why all viable energy technologies could not be included in the national power supply.

“There’s nothing wrong with using all types of energy, and nuclear can be complementary — nothing should be excluded from the current available sources of energy.”

More on Chernobyl:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘We are Nokia and the iPhone is coming’: Gunsberg likens coal-fired power to outdated tech on Q+A


On a night dedicated to finding solutions to climate change, Q+A eschewed politicians in favour of sustainability entrepreneurs, renewable energy experts and a business lobby group representative.

But it was a television host of a popular dating show who best captured the audience’s attention, raising a series of relatable analogies for Australia’s climate change position.

Osher Gunsberg, host of the Bachelor and Bachelorette programs, compared the push by some Government MPs for new coal-fired power stations to an electronics store selling outdated telephone technology.

“If they were selling us mobile phones, they’d be saying the Nokia 3210 is the only phone we’ll ever need,” he said.

“I’m telling you that we are — as a country exporting coal — we are Nokia with a 3210, thinking people will only ever want to play Snake forever. And the iPhone is coming.”

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As for Australia’s attempts to use carryover credits to meet its emission reduction targets, Mr Gunsberg compared it to doing housework in a past relationship.

“Trying to say the Kyoto credits work is like … saying to my current wife, ‘I did heaps of dishes in my first marriage, so I don’t need to do the dishes in this one’,” he said.

Too scared to have children

One audience member revealed climate change anxiety meant she was “too scared” to have children.

The audience member, Alice Trumble, said her studies in environmental and climate science had shaped her opinion on becoming a mother.


Q&A audience member Alice Trumble revealed her experiences with climate anxiety, saying she did not want to bring children into the world. (ABC News)

“I came to the conclusion that it was unsafe, unethical probably and just a bad choice for me to make to bring children into the world,” she said.

“I would really like a family but I’m way too scared to do it.”

Mr Gunsberg said having a five-month-old son gave him hope, while small decisions, like driving an electric car and having an electric bike, gave him a sense of agency.

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“As someone who has suffered incredible climate anxiety, I had episodes of psychosis that manifested as paranoid delusions,” he said.

“I was on two different kinds of antipsychotics and was seeing things, it was horrible. I can say to you, you’re not alone and when you know what you know, it’s a completely ordinary normal reaction to have when you look at what is coming.

“Having Wolf in my life, with a baby in your life that is hope. That is absolute hope. What can we build for this child?”

He said the world needed parents who thought about climate action to bring children into the world and urged her to “please” reconsider.

External Link:

@QandA: Does the panel see a role for Australia’s brown coal reserves in the future? #QandA

The television host also said giving politicians space to change their positions towards climate change solutions might help develop a plan.

“You’re allowed to say, ‘I’ve got it wrong. Let’s do this instead’,” he said.

“Let’s just allow our politicians some room to move. If we go, ‘Aha, you said something else eight years ago’, they’re so tied into this idea of catching each other out, they’ve painted themselves into a corner.

“Even though it’s very clear, we stand on the cusp of economic abundance in this situation, they’re so terrified to move.”

Australia has ‘good story’ to tell

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, said she thought climate anxiety was real but argued there was a collective responsibility to create a plan that gave people hope to want to have children.

“The point that people have been making is that in Australia particularly, we’ve got the technology, the skills to actually be a global superpower in exporting renewables, in exporting hydrogen and exporting lithium,” she said.

“This should be a good story for Australia if we get things right.

“And I think we’ve got an obligation or a responsibility to actually take control of this issue and paint a positive story for people.”

Ms Westacott said the Australian Government making a plan and sticking to it — such as agreeing to net-zero emissions by 2050 — might give young people faith.

External Link:

@QandA: How will the BCA support businesses in the resources and energy sectors to transition to a strong renewable energy market?

Martijn Wilder, chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, said he had similar discussions about bringing children into the world with his teenage children.

He said the debate was very different in other parts of the world and there were many exciting innovations in technology.

“One of the real issues is in Australia, in the US, climate is a toxic issue,” he said.

“In the rest of the world we don’t have this debate. The rest of the world is moving very fast. A completely different story and narrative.”

‘Pretty much everyone wants’ a solution

The episode also heard from people employed in the energy sector in the La Trobe Valley and farmers wanting to use new, environmentally friendly practices.

Chef and farmer Matthew Evans said there was a broad spectrum of people wanting a solution.

“The farmers want it. The people want it. The businesses want it. Pretty much everyone wants it. It’s just the tiny [minority] of federal politicians who seem to be in the way,” Mr Evans said.

Watch the full episode of Q+A on iview or enjoy the replay by watching it again on Facebook.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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