Tag: New South Wales

Footy’s back: Your questions answered ahead the 2022 AFLW season

Footy is back, with AFLW kicking off earlier than usual and in the context of yet another COVID-19 outbreak.

In this explainer, you'll find answers to some of the most common questions about the season.

When does it start?

The sixth season of AFLW kicks off on Friday, January 7, 2022.

The AFLW vision is bold, but are players already at 'breaking point'?

The AFL aspires to make AFLW players the highest-paid sportswomen in a domestic competition in Australia, but their vision is light on detail. 

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It was originally planned to take place in December 2021, but was pushed back to January on account of ongoing uncertainty over COVID-19 (at that time the Delta variant), including border restrictions. 

Moving forward, head of women's football Nicole Livingstone has committed to December as the ideal time to start the AFLW season.

At the fixture launch, however, she acknowledged that it could start earlier than December if the season length increases.

Who won last year?

The perennially underrated Brisbane Lions clinched their first Premiership with an 18-point victory over two-time Premiers the Adelaide Crows.

The win was all the more impressive given it was achieved in front of a shell-shocked Adelaide Oval crowd of 22,934. 

When and where is the season opener?

The AFL surprised many this year by announcing the season opener would take place at Frankston Park on Friday night.

Over five seasons, the opening game of the season has taken place at Princes Park all but once.

AFLW fixture full of compromises and surprises

The upcoming season of AFLW features a number of breaks with tradition, including a Frankston opener and an early January start. 

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Traditional rivals Collingwood and Carlton also generally play in the opener (with Geelong and Richmond respectively filling in for one of those teams in their inaugural seasons).

Frankston Park is an unusual choice given the ground's capacity of approximately 8,000, and around 1,000 seats.

This compares to Princes Park's capacity of approximately 24,500, which was reached in season one.

With the exception of the 2021 season, which had crowd capacity limits due to COVID-19, the season opener has never drawn fewer than 15,000 spectators.

The game will also controversially be contested by St Kilda and Richmond — two teams who did not make finals in 2021.

What other round one match-ups are there to look forward to?

The opening round features a series of highly-anticipated contests including:

  • The grand final re-match between Adelaide and Brisbane 
  • The Hampson-Hardeman cup between women's football stalwarts and traditional rivals the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne 
  • The Western Australian derby between Fremantle and West Coast (one of two re-scheduled matches for the round due to the ongoing Omicron COVID-19 outbreak), and
  • The traditional match-up between Carlton and Collingwood on Sunday.

Fremantle and West Coast will face off in a round one Western derby.(Getty Images: Paul Kane)Which teams are in the competition?

You may have heard the announcement that all AFL clubs will join the AFLW competition shortly.

The remaining four teams to join the competition are: Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney.

They will join the competition in season seven, beginning in December 2022 (later this year).

At present, there are 14 clubs in the competition.

They are:

  • New South Wales: Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants.
  • Queensland: Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns.
  • South Australia: Adelaide Crows.
  • Victoria/Tasmania: Carlton Blues, Collingwood Magpies, Geelong Cats, Melbourne Demons, North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos, St Kilda Saints, Richmond Tigers, Western Bulldogs.
  • Western Australia: Fremantle Dockers, West Coast Eagles.

How long is the season?

Season six is the longest yet at 10 regular rounds followed by three weeks of finals.

Season length has long been a point of contention for the AFLW playing cohort, with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring at the end of this season.

A number of players have vocalised their desire to see a full-length season in which each team plays each other once.

Is it a regular fixture, or will there be conferences?Loading

Breathe easy, everyone — conferences have been banished for another season.

This means the AFLW ladder will operate as per "usual" AFL protocol: 14 teams ranked on the one ladder, as per their wins and losses and percentage (calculated as a measure of the team's points scored versus against).

Will we see themed rounds again, like Pride Round?

Yes, fan favourite Pride Round will be back in round three (beginning Friday 21st January).

The Western Bulldogs and Carlton, who played in the inaugural pride match before it was extended to a full round in 2021, have been fixtured to play on the Sunday (the same day as the Midsumma Festival — the start of Victoria's three-week LGBTQI+ carnival).

Indigenous round then kicks off in round eight.

Held for the first time in 2021, AFLW's Indigenous round pays tribute to an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has contributed to the game and community.

Last year's recipient was Aunty Joy Murphy AO.

The Brisbane Lions wore their Indigenous guernsey on grand final day in 2021.(Getty Images: Mark Brake)How has COVID-19 affected the competition?

The short answer is that COVID-19 has affected the competition in almost every way.

In terms of rescheduling matches, the AFL has announced that games will go ahead until clubs have fewer than 16 primary-list players (including five-top ups) available.

After that, a club's situation will reportedly be dealt with on a "case-by-case" basis, with options including rescheduling the match for another time that round, another time later in the season (with a minimum four-day break) or cancelling the match altogether.

The idea of re-scheduling matches will no doubt cause some anxiety among the playing cohort given AFLW players are not paid as professional athletes and are balancing careers with other responsibilities.

It also has the potential to cause havoc among administrators who are balancing the ever-emerging threat of Omicron with shifting border and travel policies (with Western Australia being the most difficult to manage).

What about the mandatory vaccination policy?

This has also wreaked havoc, with the most high-profile case being St Kilda's Georgia Patrikios.

AFLW player still unvaccinated

Georgia Patrikios reveals her vaccination status, however St Kilda is yet to place her on the club's inactive list ahead of the season kicking off in January.

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On Tuesday's AFLW "captains' day", Saints captain Hannah Priest said the playing group was no closer to discovering whether the two-time best-and-fairest winner would play this AFLW season.

In late November 2021, Patrikios revealed she was not vaccinated and had not yet made up her mind about whether to get vaccinated.

As it stands, Patrikios is named on the Saints' active list, but it would seem unlikely that she will be vaccinated in time for the season start.

Deni Varnhagen, meanwhile, made waves last year by not only refusing to get vaccinated, but becoming one of four South Australian workers to challenge the state government's COVID-19 vaccine mandate in court.

Varnhagen works as a nurse and was moved to her club's inactive list last year.

Is anyone in doubt for round one because of COVID-19?

The short answer is yes — with the most high-profile being Kangaroos captain Emma Kearney, who Sarah Black from the AFL Women's website revealed had returned two positive rapid antigen tests.

Emma Kearney has not missed a game of AFLW, but is in doubt for round one because of positive rapid antigen tests.(Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

The best and fairest winner has not missed a match in five seasons of AFLW and is currently awaiting her PCR result (as of Wednesday).

The Gold Coast Suns, meanwhile, has five players still in isolation, but Black reports they should be available for selection.

How can I attend matches?

Tickets can be purchased by following the link on the AFL website to the fixture and then clicking the "Buy Tickets" button below the specific match you are interested in attending.

As with last season, tickets must be purchased in advance, with no tickets available for sale at the ground on the day (unless purchased via the relevant ticket agency app or website).

How much do tickets cost?

Tickets cost $10 for adults or concession card holders, while juniors under 18 can attend for free.

As with last season, fans won't be able to purchase tickets at the ground on game day.(Getty: Michael Willson)

However, juniors must also obtain their free ticket prior to the match.

Some clubs allow AFLW members to attend home games for free, but tickets must again be purchased in advance.

How can I watch it?

Every AFL Women's game is available to be streamed live on the AFL Women's, AFL Live and Telstra TV AFLW apps. You can also stream games via the womens.afl and AFL.com.au websites.

AFLW matches are broadcast live on the Seven Network, Fox Footy and Kayo.

How can I listen to it?

ABC Grandstand will be broadcasting AFLW matches, while ABC also just launched The W podcast with Sam Lane and Sharni Norder.

OK, but who will win?

I can't answer that, but the 14 club captains were polled on their thoughts and most answered Melbourne (7), followed by Brisbane (5) with Collingwood and Adelaide receiving a vote each. 


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

Victoria has fewer COVID-19 cases than New South Wales, so why are more people dying?

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's how quickly fortunes can change.

Less than a month ago, Victoria was recording more COVID-19 cases than New South Wales.

Now, weeks later, NSW is clocking more than three times as many active cases as its southern neighbour. 

Much of that is due to the super-infectious Omicron variant that first began ripping through Sydney in November, and has since seen COVID-19 cases climb in most states.

Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from January 5 with a look back at our blog

But, despite a lower caseload, Victoria has suffered a greater human toll from COVID-19.

In the past week alone, more than 45 people have died with COVID-19 in Victoria, while in NSW that figure stands at around 30.

Comparing outbreaks between states can be incredibly difficult — ever-changing variables and inconsistencies with how and when data is recorded make it challenging to draw precise conclusions.

But, as Australia's strategy shifts from eliminating transmission to reducing severe illness and death, it's important to ask why more families in Victoria are losing loved ones to COVID-19 than in any other state.

What is behind the greater COVID-19 mortality rate in Victoria, and what can it tell us about the future of the Omicron outbreak?

Delta vs Omicron: The different variants Testing sites in Sydney face long queues as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across communities.(AAP: Brendon Thorne)

Part of the answer lies in the proportion of variants in each community.

So far, evidence suggests that Omicron carries a lower risk of severe disease than previous coronavirus strains.

In recent months, Victoria has recorded higher proportions of the Delta variant compared to NSW, where cases have been dominated by Omicron.

Epidemiologist Tony Blakely from the University of Melbourne said the difference in the outbreak's make-up could be influencing how it is playing out in each state. 

"If we get infected with Omicron, we've got something like a 70-odd per cent reduction in the chance of hospitalisation compared to Delta," Professor Blakely said.

"Even when you go to hospital, you're likely to be less severe than somebody with the Delta variant in hospital.

"So if one looks at the ICU numbers in New South Wales, about 10 per cent of the people in hospital … are in ICU, whereas that might have been 20 per cent with Delta."

Professor Tony Blakely says Victoria's outbreak will become similar to NSW once the Omicron variant spreads further.(ABC News)

Since it can take a week or two from when a person becomes ill with COVID-19, to the time they are hospitalised or die, the higher level of Delta that circulated in Victoria weeks ago could still be contributing to deaths today. 

"The deaths at the moment in Victoria are almost certainly more likely to be due to Delta than Omicron," Professor Blakely said.

"So that's the explanation for why the death rate is higher."

Read more about the Omicron variant:

But as Omicron becomes the dominant variant, Victoria is likely to see its proportion of severe cases and deaths go down.

Authorities suspect Omicron is now the dominant strain in Victoria, with 76 per cent of samples collected over the Christmas period linked to that variant.

Further testing in the coming weeks is set to confirm that figure.

"Once we get up to 80 or 90 per cent of our infections being Omicron, we will end up having a similar death rate to what's been observed in New South Wales at the moment," Professor Blakely said.

Vaccination rates play a role Vaccinations provide effective protection from severe illness, but the rise in infections from Omicron means more people will end up in hospital.(Shutterstock: Halfpoint)

Experts around the world are still investigating how effective current vaccines are against the Omicron variant.

The vaccines continue to offer protection against severe disease and death.

But early studies suggest they are less effective in stopping the spread of Omicron.

Victoria and New South Wales both had high vaccination rates of around 91 per cent of people aged 16 and over when the Omicron variant hit, helping reduce the number of people getting severe COVID-19.

But Victoria's vaccination rate is slightly behind that of NSW — at 92 per cent of people over the age of 16 fully vaccinated, compared to NSW's 93 per cent.

James Trauer, head of epidemiology modelling at Monash University, said that 1 per cent difference might be having a "minor effect" in Victoria's death rate.

Professor James Trauer says Victoria has had some of the worst outcomes during the pandemic, and it's unclear why.(Supplied: James Trauer)

"It might not seem like much, but if you look at the proportion of the population who's not vaccinated, there's a bit of a difference between New South Wales and Victoria," Professor Trauer said.

"Even if you've got 95 versus 94 per cent vaccination coverage in New South Wales versus Victoria, that means 6 versus 5 per cent of the population not vaccinated, so that could be having, I think, a minor effect."

According to data from the NSW government, 72 per cent of the deaths recorded since mid-June were people who were unvaccinated.

This is similar to the situation in Victoria, where 73 per cent of people who died in the current outbreak were unvaccinated. 

'The worst epidemics' are in Victoria Epidemiologists aren't exactly sure why Victoria has had more COVID infections and deaths than any other state. (AAP: Con Chronis)

An unfortunate reality for Victorians, which has puzzled many epidemiologists, is that their state has borne the brunt of the pandemic.

The same factors that have seen it record the greatest number of cases across Australia might also be contributing to its higher death rate.

"Victoria has always seemed to have have the worst epidemics in Australia, and I don't think we fully understand why that is," Professor Trauer said.

"In terms of infections, and then also now in terms of what we're seeing with deaths, that seems to follow that pattern as well."

He believes factors like seasonality, population density, connectedness or demographics could all be contributing to the trajectory of Victoria's outbreaks.

Victoria's Department of Health said that it was not possible to provide a clear comparison with NSW, since there were so many other factors to take into account.

"The death rates between NSW and Victoria cannot be compared at this time without a detailed study of the cases concerned, taking into account the ages of cases and other co-morbidities," a spokesperson said.

Hospitalisations have risen sharply in NSW, as the Omicron wave takes hold.(Supplied: Kate Geraghty)

As Omicron takes hold in several states around the country, Professor Trauer says severe infection and hospitalisation, not just deaths, will be a "key metric" for all governments.

"We're at a substantial risk of overwhelming our health services and our hospitals over the next few weeks," he said.

"Perhaps, people just won't receive the care that they need and [we] will have deaths that would otherwise have been avoidable."

High infection rates pose serious concern

Omicron might be less severe, but it is incredibly infectious.

How the world is dealing with Omicron

Early research suggesting the Omicron variant is less deadly is giving hope to some countries, but others fear the sheer number of cases will put additional pressure on all sectors of society.

Read more

So, even though you may have only a small chance of developing a severe infection if you do catch Omicron while fully vaccinated, "sheer maths" dictates that at a population level, hundreds of thousands of active cases will still put a lot of pressure on health care systems.

"The next few months will be difficult" Professor Blakely said.

"January could be particularly ugly for New South Wales, possibly Victoria, South Australia and Queensland."

Professor Trauer said state governments needed to ramp up rates of third vaccinations, particularly among vulnerable groups, to stave off the most dire predictions for the outbreak.

"I think there's still more we could do in terms of programs to get particularly elderly, vulnerable people vaccinated," he said.

"It's really critically important to look at boosters at this point."

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 3 minutes 15 seconds3m 15s New website launched to track down rapid antigen testsWhat you need to know about coronavirus:

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

‘I definitely wouldn’t have bought one without the subsidies’: Julie got $16,000 to buy her first EV

When Julie Hoang needed to upgrade the family's ageing diesel car, she didn't at first consider buying an electric vehicle (EV).

Then she saw the subsidies, and pretty soon she was swanning around in a sleek white electric Peugeot.

"I definitely wouldn't have bought one without the subsidies," she says.

'Third World dumping ground'

Surveys show Australians want to buy electric vehicles, but they continue to languish at less than 1 per cent of new car sales. What's going on?

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The four-door hatchback would have cost an eye-watering $50,000, but the government gave her an $11,000 rebate.

On top of this, it bought back her diesel clunker for about $5,000.

"That's a higher value than what it's worth," Julie said.

All up, the subsidy and buy-back reduced the cost of the car to $34,000; more expensive than a diesel model, but not by too much.

The catch? (And sorry to get your hopes up).

Julie lives in France. 

Public EV chargers are fast becoming a familiar sight in European cities.(Getty: Carsten Koall)

Governments around the world are offering juicy purchase incentives to speed car ownership to EVs — and it appears to be working.

EVs made up 22 per cent of new car sales in France in September 2021.

In Australia, which has some small state EV subsidies but no overarching national ones, EVs account for about 1.6 per cent of new car sales.

Converting classic cars to EVs

Converting classic cars to electric vehicles is booming in popularity. Here's what it costs, how long it takes, and what cars are the most suitable.

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Industry groups have been calling for sizeable national incentives for years and hoped they'd arrive with a long-anticipated federal government EV strategy, which was released last week.

But they didn't arrive: The Prime Minister ruled them out, saying Australians would have to wait for the carmakers to offer cheaper cars.

"I trust Australians that when they are presented with good options at good prices — they'll make good choices," he said.

So what subsidies and tax concessions (known collectively as purchase incentives) are other governments dangling before the car-buying public?

Here's what's on offer in Australia, compared to a selection of other countries around the world.


  • Australian Capital Territory: New EVs are exempt from stamp duty (about $1,350 for a $45,000 car)
  • New South Wales: The first 25,000 EVs sold (worth less than $68,750) attract a $3,000 rebate. New and used EVs (worth less than $78,000) are also exempt from stamp duty (roughly the same as in ACT)
  • Victoria: New electric and hydrogen vehicles (worth less than $68,740) attract a subsidy of $3,000 and pay a lower rate of stamp duty
  • Queensland: Electric and hybrid vehicles pay a reduced stamp duty
  • Tasmania: New and used EVs are exempt from stamp duty
  • South Australia: The first 7,000 EVs purchased in the state attract a $3,000 subsidy, and new EVs are exempt from registration fees up to 2025
  • Northern Territory: Slightly lower registration fees for EVs.

But these purchase incentives are, or will be, cancelled out by "EV taxes" in some states:

  • Victoria: EV drivers pay a road user charge of 2-2.5 cents per kilometre (for an average distance covered per year, that's about $300, so over 10 years it cancels out the subsidy)
  • South Australia and New South Wales: From 2027, EVs will pay a road user charge

New Zealand

New Zealand offers rebates of $NZ8,625 for new EVs and $NZ3,450 for used ones, and has flagged a "cash for clunkers" buyback scheme.

United States

EV buyers get a federal tax credit of up to $US7,500 and President Joe Biden is pushing to increase that figure to $US12,500 for US-made models.

There are also extra state-based EV subsidies. In California, residents can access a rebate of up to $US7,000 on new EVs.

An electric vehicle charging station in California.(Getty: Frederic J. Brown)China

The world's largest EV market has electric car subsidies of 18,000 Yuan ($3,822).

United Kingdom

The UK offers grants of up to 3,000 British pounds ($5,500), as well as other incentives, such as exemption from the vehicle excise duty and London's congestion charge.


Ireland offers subsidies and tax relief of up to 10,000 euros ($15,700) for purchasing a new EV.


Germany has EV subsidies of up to 9,000 Euros ($14,200).

German carmakers are also offering generous diesel vehicle buyback schemes, ranging from 6,000 ($9,400) to 10,000 euros ($15,700).

Volkswagen employees assemble the body and powertrain of a VW EV in a Dresden factory.(Getty: Sebastian Kahnert)Norway

Norway offers generous exemptions from various carbon, road and sales taxes that make EVs cheaper to buy than petrol or diesel cars.

In September 2021, EVs made up 77.5 per cent of all new cars sold in the country.

Are Australia's incentives enough?

The Grattan Institute says that to get Australia's transport sector emissions to net zero by 2050, 50 per cent of new car sales will need to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2035.

(Zero-emission vehicles can also be hydrogen cars, but most of the time we're talking about EVs, which are much more popular.)

How feasible is this with existing incentives?

According to government modelling, we will fall short of these targets.

The federal government's EV strategy released last week estimates that, under current policy settings (and without national rebates), EVs will make up only 30 per cent of new light vehicle sales by 2030.

The EV strategy states: "Reducing the total cost of ownership through subsidies would not represent value for the taxpayer, particularly as industry is rapidly working through technological developments to make battery electric vehicles cheaper."

France, meanwhile, has seen so many EV sales that it's even slightly reduced its subsidies since Julie bought her Peugeot.

Speaking from a small village in the south of France, Julie said she was also benefiting from a low-interest loan for EV purchases, as well as avoiding paying sales tax to insure the car.

"It reduces the insurance quite a bit," she said.

These incentives haven't removed all the barriers to buying an EV— there's still the problem of limited public chargers and a new anxiety about running out of juice if she ventures to Lyon or Marseille.

"It's the blocking issue at the moment," she said.

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

Scott Morrison now shares the same ambition on emissions reduction as Queensland’s Labor government. Here’s why that’s awkward

When the Prime Minister promised last month that Australia would reach net zero emissions by 2050 he was not only trailing some of our international partners, but following behind every premier and chief minister in the country.

Indeed, Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon mocked Scott Morrison's tardiness with a tweet that included a yawning emoji.

Her partner, Transport Minister Mark Bailey, retweeted a speech by federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese, criticising the Morrison plan with the caption: "Australians deserve a government that is serious about climate change."


But while most states are out in front of the federal Coalition on climate change policy — including Coalition states New South Wales and South Australia — Queensland's Labor administration now finds itself with the same ambitions as Mr Morrison.

The Prime Minister says Australia is on track to cut emissions by 30 to 35 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels (although he declined to revise the official target of 26 to 28 per cent).

Queensland's current 2030 target is a 30 per cent reduction, set back in 2017.

But the passage of time has seen this eclipsed by most other jurisdictions:

  • Tasmania: net zero emissions by 2030
  • ACT: 65-75 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030
  • South Australia: a cut of "at least 50 per cent" by 2030
  • New South Wales: 50 per cent reduction by 2030
  • Victoria: a 45-50 per cent cut

The governments of Northern Territory and Western Australia are yet to announce targets for 2030, although federal Labor MP Anne Aly said her home state of WA "probably should".

"The idea of … having a target by 2050 I think is a good idea but increasingly the world is talking more about 2030 and I think that's where we need to start focusing our attention, on a plan towards 2030," she told the ABC's Afternoon Briefing on September 29.

The Premier's office says Queensland is currently about 14 per cent below 2005 carbon emission levels.(ABC News: Jasmine Hines)

All this raises some challenges for Mr Albanese, who is just months away from a federal election and without his own target for 2030.

What's in the federal government's net zero modelling?

The government has dropped the modelling that underpins its net zero emissions by 2050 plan, two weeks after it announced the target. Here are a few of the key takeaways. 

Read more

"We'll have more to say, we need to see the government's modelling.. and of course Glasgow, COP26, is still going and we await the final communique," he told Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio Melbourne.

If he announces a more ambitious target (such as the 45 per cent called for at the COP26 summit) and condemns Mr Morrison's 35 per cent projection, fingers will be pointed at Labor-run mining states such as Queensland and Western Australia.

Queensland swung the last election for Mr Morrison, but maybe in the intervening years the public mood has shifted towards more action on climate change.

If it has, this hasn't been picked up on by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk — or perhaps she has confused two different issues, because twice recently (including yesterday) when asked about her state's 2030 emissions reduction target, she responded by talking about the Renewable Energy Target of 50 per cent by 2030.

When informed by a journalist the two targets were different things, she said: "I'll get back to you."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has referenced the state's Renewable Energy Target of 50 per cent by 2030 when asked about emission targets.(ABC News: Lucy Murray)

The Premier's office says Queensland is currently about 14 per cent below 2005 levels. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the National Press Club that getting to 45 or 50 per cent is "very doable" with one key move.

"It's done essentially by a very early retirement of coal-fired generation," he said.

The tricky thing for Queensland is that while it owns a fleet of coal-fired power stations they are relatively young, with just one due for retirement this decade — Callide B in 2028. And at 700 megawatts, it is only half the size of the big boppers of Queensland coal — Gladstone (1680MW), Stanwell (1460MW) and Tarong (1400MW).

So either the Queensland and federal Labor parties will have different targets going into the federal election, or there is a big policy change in the works in the sunshine state.

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

Perth Ruby Princess passenger dies from coronavirus, taking WA toll to four

Perth 6000

Western Australia has recorded its fourth coronavirus death, with a man in his 80s becoming the latest victim of COVID-19.

Key points:

  • The man was a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship
  • WA’s coronavirus total stands at 460 after seven new cases
  • A dedicated COVID clinic will open in Broome on Wednesday

Health Minister Roger Cook confirmed the man was 84 years old and died at Royal Perth Hospital, where he was being treated.

The man was formerly a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which has been responsible for hundreds of cases of the virus across the country.

“This is an insidious disease and it can take a life so easily,” Mr Cook said.

“It is important people take this seriously.”

The national COVID-19 death toll now stands at 41.


WA Health Minister Roger Cook says there are seven new WA cases of coronavirus. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

WA new cases continue to drop

WA announced seven new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 460 — with 162 people having recovered.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 495
  • Deaths: 6
  • Tested negative: 20,217

Latest information from the WA Health Department

A total of 58 cases are in hospital in WA, with 18 people in intensive care.

Mr Cook said the fact all seven new cases related to cruise ships or overseas travel meant there was “no hard evidence of community spread in WA”.

One of the cases is from the Artania cruise ship, which remains docked at Fremantle, but that person had already been taken off the vessel.

The Government said excluding the Artania patients and those who had recovered, there were 240 active WA cases.

The WA Government released a chart showing a breakdown of active WA cases, recoveries, Artania cruise ship cases and deaths.
(Facebook: Mark McGowan)

Six of the seven new positive tests are from the metropolitan area, while the remaining one was recorded in the Kimberley.

The Kimberley case is the 13th in the region and involves a healthcare worker who had returned from overseas travel and was yet to return to work. They are the sixth healthcare worker in the region to test positive.

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

A dedicated COVID clinic will open at Broome Hospital on Wednesday to increase the amount of testing available in the Kimberley and detect any community transmission.

Mr Cook said anyone who had either a fever or acute respiratory illness could present at the Broome clinic for testing.

Who should present to COVID-19 clinics?

  • People who have EITHER a fever of 38 degrees Celsius OR acute respiratory infection
  • Symptoms to look out for include fever, shortness of breath, cough or sore throat
  • Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results.

Major clinics have been set up at Perth hospitals including Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner, Fiona Stanley, Joondalup, Armadale, Rockingham and St John of God Midland.
They are open from 8:00am–8:00pm daily.
In Southern WA a clinic is operating at Bunbury Health Campus from 10:00am–4:00pm daily.
In Northern WA a clinic is operating at Broome Hospital from 8:30am–4:00pm daily.
Outside these areas, people with symptoms should present to their local hospital.
For more information go to the Health Department website.

“In other areas of the Kimberley they can go to a country hospital, an Aboriginal medical service or the Royal Flying Doctor Service to undertake those tests,” he said.

He said 240 tests had been conducted in the region as of Saturday night, 170 of them in Broome.

Premier warns against COVID-19 complacency

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the low number of cases was an encouraging result, but cautioned that trend would need to continue before any social restrictions could be reduced.

“Just because we have low figures now it does not mean we always will,” Mr McGowan said.

WA begins to ‘flatten the curve’
The stream of COVID-19 cases in WA has slowed to a trickle in recent days, but there are some big risks if the state limits the outbreak too effectively.

“Look at what happened in America, in Italy and Spain.

“But if we keep doing what we are doing, hopefully we will continue to have very low rates of infection.”

With warm weather set to hit Perth for much of the week, the Premier again warned WA Police would close beaches if social distancing rules were not followed.

“It is an extreme measure but this is a time of extreme measures,” he said.

“Do the right thing or we will be forced to close beaches around the place.”

State border closure in place

Mr McGowan said WA’s new hard border closure had taken effect at midnight on Sunday and was working well.


In an unprecedented move, WA has closed its borders to restrict the spread of COVID-19. (ABC Goldfields-Esperance: Jarrod Lucas)

“I’m advised our interstate border, our temporary border, has been implemented very, very smoothly,” he said.

“There are now police at the airport ensuring the border arrangements work properly. There’s police on checkpoints on the border between Northern Territory and South Australia ensuring that our border arrangements work properly.”

How will WA’s border closures work?
WA is closing its borders to the east for the first time in its history. Here’s how you might be affected.

Police said between midnight Sunday and 3:00pm today, 124 people were allowed to enter WA by road and air as exempt persons, with 24 of them given self-quarantine directions.

Two people were refused entry at road borders.

Mr McGowan said while it was upsetting for people who had been turned around at the border, their experience should be an example to others.

“We don’t want people from the east coming here. I want that to get through the heads of the people in the eastern states. Don’t come, we don’t want you. Stay away,” he said.

“Don’t drive across because if you’re not exempt you’re going to be turned around and [have to] drive back, and it’s a three or four-day drive back to Sydney.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

The Premier said operations on intrastate borders were also going well.

“The police tell me there’s about a 98.5 per cent compliance [rate]. That means 1.5 per cent of vehicles are turned away, and obviously there’s checkpoints but there’s also spot checking as well on vehicles throughout regional WA,” he said.

WA obtains $5.5 million worth of PPE

The latest information about the WA outbreak came as the Government confirmed it had received $5.5 million in new personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies for healthcare workers.


Premier Mark McGowan (right) and Health Minister Roger Cook (left) have inspected the new PPE. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

The extra material includes:

  • 1 million face masks
  • 600,000 gloves
  • 100,000 face shields, and
  • 40,000 gowns

That material was being inspected but officials believed it was of appropriate quality to be distributed within the system.

“That will be a welcome relief for many people in our hospital system,” Mr Cook said.

“The Government has moved heaven and earth, using our own charter flight … and we will get this out to ensure everyone has all the PPE they need.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Healthy people don’t need masks: Minister

Mr Cook said there was no reason healthy members of the public should be wearing masks on the street, urging people to save hospital-grade PPE for healthcare workers.

He confirmed some of the PPE sourced by Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation was not of clinical grade, but said it could be used outside of the hospital system.

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.

“It is good equipment and will be a great boost for our hospital workers,” Mr Cook said.

Meanwhile, the Westin hotel has now been made available for WA healthcare workers who need to go into isolation because of contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

WA now has eight “accommodation centres” for people required to isolate, including several hotels and Rottnest Island.

Mr McGowan said many of these centres were now relatively full, but patients quarantined on Rottnest from the Vasco da Gama cruise ship would be allowed to leave “in the next four or five days” which would free up some capacity.

Artania criticised over ‘frolicking’ passengers

The Premier also strongly criticised how the Artania cruise ship, which has been responsible for dozens of cases in WA, had handled passengers on board.


The Artania remains docked at Fremantle Port after an outbreak of coronavirus on board. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

While most passengers were flown back to Germany last week, hundreds of crew remain on board and about 50 passengers are in isolation in Perth hotels or hospitals.

Mr McGowan said it was clear passengers on the vessel had not been isolated quickly enough.

“We saw those images of people circulating on deck, frolicking in the pool,” he said.

“Clearly they weren’t doing the appropriate isolation on board and there is a consequence to that.”

The comments follow the decision by New South Wales authorities to open a criminal investigation into the Ruby Princess saga.

Man charged over alleged hotel quarantine breach

Meanwhile, WA Police have charged a man with breaching quarantine requirements under the Emergency Management Act.

It is understood the 35-year-old had travelled to WA from Victoria, with police alleging he breached the requirements several times, putting the community at risk.

He arrived in WA just over a week ago and was placed in a Perth hotel for two weeks of quarantine.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Police have alleged that during that time, he wedged open a fire exit door at the hotel so he could leave and re-enter without being seen.

They said he used public transport to travel around the metropolitan area.

He was arrested and charged with two counts of failure to comply with a direction.

The man was refused bail on the basis he would likely continue to breach quarantine requirements and endanger public safety.

Video: Norman Swan looks at the Federal Government's coronavirus modelling


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

World-renowned koala bushfire victims released back into the wild

Port Macquarie 2444

Several world-renowned koalas rescued from a New South Wales fireground have now returned home having recovered in the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

Key points:

  • Several koalas rescued from a New South Wales fireground have returned home
  • Following a full recovery, the koalas have been released back to the Lake Innes Nature Reserve
  • The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus

It has been more than five months since a bushfire razed a large area of Lake Innes Nature Reserve, a known koala hotspot on the NSW mid-north coast.

One of the first koalas to be rescued and treated at the hospital was Anwen.

“Pictures of her had gone around the world. She was quite severely burnt,” said the hospital’s clinical director Cheyne Flanagan.

The koala became part of many homes around the world through the hospital’s online adoption page and her recovery was closely watched.

“She’s recovered really well, gained weight [and is] looking really good,” Ms Flanagan said.

“Her burns have healed, she’s good claw-return, so it’s all about letting them be koalas again.”

Home at last

Anwen was one of several koalas released back into their habitat.


The hospital’s goal is to get animals returned to where they came from. (ABC Mid North Coast: Kirstie Wellauer)

Whilst the bushland is looking quite different to what they knew, Ms Flanagan is confident they will settle in nicely.

“There’s good vegetation here and there’s plenty to sustain them so we’re really happy,” she said.

“This is our goal, to get animals returned to where they came from, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

A mother and a joey, a young male, and another female koala were released in neighbouring trees.

There is a method to the release program, aimed at encouraging breeding.

“We’re putting a ratio of males to females to mimic what happens in the wild,” Ms Flanagan said.

“So this young male here, oh boy, he’s in for a surprise in the next few months.

“Hopefully there will be heaps of young koalas in the near future.”


Laundry baskets are used to transport the koalas from the koala hospital to their natural environments. (ABC Mid North Coast: Kirstie Wellauer)

Koala Hospital volunteer Jeremy Bear said it had been a great achievement to be able to bring them back.

“It’s great to see that we are doing such a good job that we can get these koalas back out there,” Mr Bear said.

“Some of them we obviously lost along the way. But [there are] the amazing stories of the ones that have survived and hung in there and bounced back very well.

“Seeing them up in a tree in their native environment is wonderful.”

COVID-19 closes hospital

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has temporarily closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But hospital president Sue Ashton said it may give volunteers some much-needed respite.

“Because of the bushfires we all worked, our volunteers worked, almost around the clock to keep the koalas in good health, to treat them, to keep the facility open,” she said.

“This is a forced break and I think some of our volunteers are probably well overdue for a bit of a break.”


Final checks before Anwen’s release. (ABC Mid North Coast: Kirstie Wellauer)

Mr Bear agreed, saying it “does just take the pressure off”.

“If someone’s not feeling well they don’t have to feel guilty for not coming in. They can do the right thing and stay home,” he said.

“Most of the volunteers have said they still want to come in, they still want to be there, they still want to help.

“If we’ve got less koalas it’s easier to spread the load between us and it also means we can get in, get the job done, and leave the hospital so we are not having too much contact with other people.”

The outlook for the koalas is “really questionable”, Ms Flanagan said, with potentially up to an 85 per cent decline in NSW with the changing climate.

“It’s a long road ahead. Whether they’ll ever recover good numbers we don’t know,” she said.

“But we certainly are going to do our best to try and achieve that goals with buying land and conserving habitat and trying to breed as many as we can.”

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

Queensland to impose border controls after recording highest daily coronavirus tally

Brisbane 4000

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will impose border controls that include travellers being placed in quarantine for two weeks after the state recorded 60 new coronavirus cases in the last day.

Key points:

  • There are now more than 300 COVID-19 cases in Queensland
  • The teachers’ union is threatening strike action if schools are not closed
  • Queensland cabinet has voted to begin border control measures

The Queensland Government will close the state’s borders beginning midnight Wednesday.

The initial stage of the restriction will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after arrival.

Authorities will convene in the coming days to establish how road-based restrictions can later be placed along the state’s borders.

But Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said it would be “business as usual” for those commuting between northern New South Wales and Queensland on a daily basis, even after the border closures were in place.

“We have a very close relationship with northern New South Wales — a lot of people live there and work in Queensland and vice versa,” Dr Young said.

“People in northern New South Wales come to Brisbane and the Gold Coast for everything … healthcare, shopping, everything.”

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

Dr Young said the border closures were in place to stop travellers from other capital cities with high community transition rates visiting remote areas of Queensland.

“We do not want people who are currently in Sydney or in Melbourne who have been exposed to go up to the Whitsundays for instance — we’ve got no cases up there,” she said.

“We want to keep the rest of the state free of the virus as long as possible.”

Freight transport will continue as normal, both in and out of the state.

“We need to bring goods from other states into Queensland — that’s important and Queensland goods need to go from our state to other states,” Dr Young said.

“We are a massive food bowl for our nation.”

But Tweed Shire councillor Warren Polglase said people were confused and concerned about the implications.

“The Queensland Government has created a lot of uncertainty and this is not a time for uncertainty,” he said.

“Roughly 20 to 30 per cent of our population goes north to work in Queensland and about 15 to 20 per cent come from Queensland or work in Tweed.

“There’s cross-border [travel] every day for very many various trades and business people and I don’t know how it’s going to work.”

He said two of the Tweed Shire Council’s senior managers and directors lived in Queensland.

“Are they going to be quarantined once they go over and back, or how are we going to handle that?” he said.

“I think the proposal was made on the run in many ways and I think if the police are asked to police this issue I don’t think they know exactly what to do.”

‘Enough’s enough’ says teachers’ union

Ms Palaszczuk also urged people to “stay in your suburb” but remained adamant schools would stay open.

However, Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) president Kevin Bates called on the State Government to close schools by mid-week, saying he could not rule out strike action if negotiations fail.

Mr Bates said the safety of teaching staff was being put at risk.

“Governments are talking about shutting down all of the businesses apart from essential services, and yet there’s still talk about schools remaining open. Those two things are contradictory,” Mr Bates said.

Mr Bates said he appreciated that medical advice suggested it was OK to keep schools open, but said that: “We can’t see how the logic of that plays out.”

“We don’t accept that you have to have social distancing in terms of closing down parks and beaches and other things but you can have 3,000 students at a school and that is OK.

“What we are saying is, enough’s enough.”


Jeannette Young says one patient with COVID-19 is in intensive care. (ABC News)

Ms Palaszczuk urged teachers over the age of 60 or those with an underlying health condition to seek advice from their school principal about working from home.

But Mr Bates said teachers had lost faith in the “ad-hoc” approach.

“The words that we know have been used are ‘sacrificial lamb’, ‘glorified babysitters’ — that’s how they’re feeling,” he said.

Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland state schools would remain open but said parents could keep children home if they wished.

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.

“Parents have a choice — if they choose not to send their child to school, that can that make that choice,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But schools will remain open.

“Also, we know that the school holidays are coming up in a couple of weeks’ time. I want to send a clear message to people to stay in your state, and stay in your suburb. There are no school holidays. It is not about packing up the car and going to the beach for a picnic or going for a swim on the beach.”

Dr Young said schools that recorded a positive case of COVID-19 would have to take their own circumstances into account when deciding whether to reopen.

“Every school has got different arrangements, so you can’t just have one process,” Dr Young said.

“Whether or not the school reopens is up to that school.”

Case tally goes past 300

A total of 319 cases have now been recorded across Queensland.

Dr Young said one patient with COVID-19 was being treated in intensive care, and described that person as “unwell”.

“They are in ICU and are ventilated. I don’t have all the specific details,” Dr Young said.

Dr Young said the sharp rise in cases underscored the importance of adhering to social-distancing measures.

Government staffer tests positive

Meanwhile, it has been revealed contact tracing is underway within a busy Government department after a public servant based in an office in the Brisbane CBD tested positive for COVID-19.

Staff within the Department of Housing and Public Works were updated on the situation in an email from department deputy director-general Trish Woolley a week ago.

“We have traced staff members who have been in contact with this staff member and invoked business continuity arrangements in our service delivery network and senior executive team to ensure we continue to manage the implications of COVID-19 on the delivery of essential services,” she said in the email.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“It is important to remember, that as part of any trace contacting that occurs, we are not looking for people the person may have passed on the street or in a shop, as the risk in these situations is extremely low.

“The same applies for a passing interaction in an office.”

The ABC understands several staff are still working in the office, despite raising health concerns.

Surge in cases ‘justifies’ venue closures, Minister says

The previous highest daily case total for Queensland was last Thursday, when 50 new patients were announced, with another 40 on Friday.

Health Minister Steven Miles said some hospitals in Queensland had begun rescheduling non-urgent surgeries, and urged people to keep donating blood.

“That is the highest single-day figure we’ve had so far, and it justifies the strong action that the Premier and other national leaders have taken overnight to restrict people from accessing large gatherings and events,” Mr Miles said.

Last night, following a meeting with state and territory leaders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that from midday Monday places like pubs, indoor sporting venues and churches would be closed.

Mr Miles said Queensland Health had conducted 32,000 tests for COVID-19 so far.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

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

New South Wales reports biggest daily jump with 20 new coronavirus cases: As it happened


New South Wales has confirmed 20 new cases of coronavirus in the state, bringing its total to 112.

Many of the new cases are recently returned international travellers.

But NSW Health authorities say they can’t work out how 11 new cases contracted the virus.

Look back at how the day unfolded in our blog or catch up in our wrap.

External Link:

Saturday blog

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

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

Canberra 2600

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A ‘signature of climate change’: Residents fearful of toxic fumes from peat fire in Gippsland

Sarsfield 3875

Residents of Sarsfield, north-east of Bairnsdale in eastern Victoria, are concerned about the ongoing threat of carbon monoxide poisoning from an underground peat fire that has been burning in a paddock for almost a month.

Key points:

  • Peat fires, which burn underground, can release toxic fumes that can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning
  • Drought can exacerbate the conditions that lead to the ignition of peat fires; once ignited however, rainwater can fuel them further as the oxygen in the water is absorbed by the sponge-like dried peat, causing flare-ups
  • The only ways to attack a peat fire are to dig it out or saturate it

The 20-hectare fire, burning in decaying organic matter underground, has been emitting potentially dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur and nitrogen.

Specialist firefighters and a large fire retardant pumper from the Tasmanian Fire Service have been brought in to try to get a hold of the Sarsfield fire before the next spike in warm weather.

The Environment Protection Authority has installed air monitors around the Sarsfield peat fire to detect elevated levels of CO.

Bairnsdale operations officer, Andrew Murton said carbon monoxide level readings had been “minimal” in the past week.

“Over the past four to five days, the air quality is very, very good,” Mr Murton said.


Bairnsdale operations officer Andrew Murton says carbon monoxide level readings of the area had been ‘minimal’ in the past week. (ABC Gippsland: Sarah Maunder)

Carbon monoxide exposure

Gippsland paediatrician Jo McCubbin said exposure to bushfire pollution, including carbon monoxide can cause lower birth weights.

Dr McCubbin said the small PM2 compounds can enter a person’s bloodstream, and pregnant women and those with respiratory or heart conditions should stay away or indoors if they can.

“You can’t smell the carbon monoxide, but you can smell the burning peat so if you can smell that, be careful,” she said.

CFA acting director of people, culture and safety, Garry Cook said five firefighters in East Gippsland have been treated for carbon monoxide (CO) exposure but they were not involved in fighting the Sarsfield peat fire.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to detect because the symptoms can be confused with fatigue, the common cold or the flu.

Water from the mains system and a nearby river is being used to douse the peat fire and 50 millimetres of rain fell on the fireground on Monday.

“The control strategy we’ve been using on it is similar to what we did in the south-west of the state at Cobden last year, and basically it just needs a lot of water,” Mr Murton said.


CFA fire fighters are briefed on the progress of the efforts at the peat fire in Sarsfield. (ABC Gippsland: Sarah Maunder)

“Part of the control strategy is also to turn over the peat and flood it with water and when we looked at the trenches that we’d dug, they were full of water.”

Helicopters are being flown over the fire to take thermal images to allow firefighters to home in on hot-spots.

“We’ve also had drones looking at it, and it is steaming in areas,” Mr Murton said.

A crew came over from Tasmania on Wednesday, to specifically help fight the peat fire with a specialist ultra-large compressed air foam system appliance truck.


Commander Greg Kinross speaks to residents in Sarsfield about the peat fire. (ABC Gippsland: Sarah Maunder)

Senior firefighter with the Tasmanian Fire Service Roger Brown said the truck was designed for spreading air foam over large distances, keeping firefighters safe.

“It’s A-class PHOS-CHeK foam, and it’s biodegradable,” he said.

“We were requested [to help] the day before, we were lucky enough to get a crew to Victoria within 24 hours.”

At a community drop-in session on Wednesday night, nearby residents were told the peat fire is about 70 per cent under control.

“We’ve worked from the south-end, where the gas-pipe line plays and moving forward to the north up to Tully Nully Road,” Commander Greg Kinross said.

“Crews have been working on a rotational basis.”


This fire truck was brought specially over from Tasmania to help fight the peat fire. It can distribute PHOS-CHeK foam, which is a biodegradable foam. (ABC Gippsland: Sarah Maunder)

Peat fires ‘a signature of climate change’

Peat fires are difficult to suppress because they burn in old swamps that have accumulated organic matter over thousands of years.

University of Tasmania School of Natural Sciences Professor David Bowman said the severe drought has caused water tables to drop and the best way to put a peat fire out is with soaking rain.

“These environments were ever-wet and now we’re seeing right around Australia swamp lands burning up because the water tables are dropping in south-west Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales due to the drought,” he said.

“Basically the peat becomes this side of brown coal and if you get an ignition in there, a burning root, the fire can then creep into the soil and really nasty smoke comes out.

“It can burn down there, grumble away and the paradoxical situation is that if you get light rain, the rain brings oxygen down in the water and the water evaporates making the peat flare up.”


About 50 CFA volunteers are working on the peat fire at Sarsfield. (ABC Gippsland: Sarah Maunder)

Professor Bowman said the only ways to attack a peat fire are to dig it out or saturate it.

“And that’s difficult in a drought because the peat profile is like a dry sponge and it can just absorb so much water and you’ve got to ask the question, have you got the water to spare?”

“It’s a real signature of climate change because these were little natural archives of carbon that were incombustible and because of the drying, they’ve become combustible and are burning.”

Authorities have used pivot irrigators to extinguish a peat fire in north east Tasmania and waste water was used to saturate a peat fire at Port Macquarie in New South Wales.

Professor Bowman said the increase in peat fires had serious ecological consequences on hydrology, wildlife habitat and farmland cleared on swamp country.

“It even lowers the ground,”

“There have been places in Victoria where the ground has dropped by half a metre because the ground is literally burning up,” Professor Bowman said.

Fire could burn for months


The peat fire is burning on Charlie Seehusen’s Sarsfield property. (ABC Gippsland: Sarah Maunder)

The peat fire is burning on Charlie Seehusen’s property.

On the night of the fire, he tried to fight the fire himself by digging it up.

“I couldn’t handle it, I had to get help,” he said.

“When it does burn, you have red ash on top and people don’t realise that red ash might sink and you will drop a few feet, and that’s obviously very dangerous.”

Mr Seehusen said he was not concerned by the health risks.

“The [EPA has got monitors there,” he said.

“They were doing checks on people who had been down there, as far as that goes, I was clear.”


Sean Bolton lives near Sarsfield, and came along to the drop-in sessions to find out more about the peat fire, and the risk to his home. (ABC Gippsland: Sarah Maunder)

Sarsfield residents attended a briefing at Mossiface on Wednesday afternoon to learn about the health dangers from the peat fire burning near their homes.

Sean Bolton lives just outside of Mossiface, near Sarsfield.

“I wanted to learn about the peat fire, I don’t know much about them other than they’re underground, and I wanted to know what the threat was to my house,” he said.

“We’re always concerned about something that is unknown.”

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

Australians celebrate ‘most welcome and beautiful sounds’ of rain


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

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

External Link:

Welcome rain in Queensland (ABC News)

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

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

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

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

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

External Link:

Rain falls in New South Wales (ABC News)

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

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

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

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

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

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

External Link:

twitter: centennial parklands

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

External Link:

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

External Link:

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

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

External Link:

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

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

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

(ABC News)

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Kids playing in the rain across Queensland on Wednesday

(ABC News)

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

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

(ABC News)

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

Outback kids hit the mud as severe storms rumble across much of Queensland

Cunnamulla 4490

Severe thunderstorms are rumbling across parts of Queensland’s central interior from the coast to the outback, with many regions that had been struggling through drought now receiving drenching rain.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said in its warnings abut 7:30pm that severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and heavy rain that may lead to flash flooding would impact parts of the South Burnett and Toowoomba council areas.

Locations that may be affected include Dalby, with the storms moving towards the east.

Other areas affected include the Central Highlands and Coalfields, Wide Bay and Burnett and Darling Downs and Granite Belt districts.

The BOM also said damaging winds and large hailstones from severe thunderstorms would also affect parts of the North Tropical Coast and Tablelands, Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders, Herbert and Lower Burdekin, Central Coast and Whitsundays, Central Highlands and Coalfields, Central West, Channel Country and Maranoa and Warrego districts.

Areas that may be affected include Thargomindah, Charters Towers, Cunnamulla, Quilpie, Isisford, Barcaldine, Collinsville, Ingham and Lucinda.

Some western parts of Queensland have already received decent rain over the last 48 hours.

For locals in tinder-dry western Queensland, the downpours have turned the red earth into mud pits ripe for fun.

Video: Rain across western Queensland welcomed by children who make their own fun.

(ABC News)

‘They just loved it’

Fred Wharton and his family had been enduring 46 degree Celsius days at Cunnamulla, before the rain came late Wednesday with about 33 millimetres recorded.

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

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

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


Children at Springsure in central western Queensland enjoy the mud after some much-needed rain. (Supplied: Chantal Iker)

Mr Wharton captured video his nephews frolicking in the mud.

“Talking to the old people here they said this is the driest they have ever seen Cunnamulla in a lifetime,” he said.

Showers and thunderstorms rolled across the west, central interior and into parts of the south-east overnight.

Blackwater, north-east of Cunnamulla, received 63mm, Richmond had 44mm and other regions received between 25 to 40mm.

“The inland activity in the west was more extensive that what we’d typically see for shower and thunderstorm activity and so we did see a few good falls,” Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecaster Matthew Bass said.

More showers and storms are likely Friday, from the Peninsula and Gulf down through the west to the New South Wales border.

“This inland trough really is bringing quite a few showers and storms,” Mr Bass said.

“It is pretty normal this time of the year to be seeing shower and thunderstorm activity across Queensland and I guess it is noteworthy because it has been so dry particularly out in the west.”

Dust haze to impact south-west of state

Despite rain in some parched areas of Queensland, BOM forecaster Rosa Hoff said dust haze had been covering other parts of the south-west this morning.


The dust haze could be seen over Thargomindah on Wednesday afternoon just before a storm hit the area. (Supplied: Janet Beetson)

“We can see on our satellite image that some dust has been picked up from South Australia and some possibly from areas of New South Wales as well and it’s blowing towards areas such as Birdsville,” she said.

“This area of dust is only affecting the south-west at this time, that’s because it’s been picked up behind a surface level trough which is lying through the interior, generally south of around Mt Isa and it’s then going down towards the Maranoa Warrego district.

“We’re expecting this dust activity to be confined to areas to the south and west of this trough.”

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

My mid-life crisis is cheaper than a younger bloke, but a bit more accident prone


When I was a kid, all I wanted for Christmas was a pony.

Just after my 52nd birthday, Santa finally delivered.

I’m now the ridiculously excited owner of a sweet-natured, 10-year-old mare named Reyn.

How did a city slicker who grew up in the suburbs end up happily stomping through muddy paddocks with dirt under her nails and poo on her boots, my friends and family have wondered.

It’s my mid-life crisis.

“Better than me running off with a younger bloke,” I tell my poor suffering husband.


Owning a horse is an expensive hobby, but have you priced golf clubs lately? (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

“I think a new bloke would be cheaper,” he shoots back.

It is an expensive hobby, but have you priced golf clubs, bikes and boats lately?

I didn’t just saddle up on a whim

Ok, maybe horses are a tiny bit more costly — several thousand dollars for a good one and several hundred dollars per month in agistment.

Don’t forget to factor in feed (prices are high due to the drought), tack (believe it or not saddles can cost almost as much as the horse), clothing (important to look the part), farrier (between $80 and $150 every two months depending on whether your horse is barefoot or shod), an equine dentist (yes, horses need their teeth filed down once a year) and vet fees (I clocked up $800 for three visits in four weeks, but more on that later).


My animal-loving teenage daughter and I started having riding lessons about four years ago. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

I may as well have simply opened my wallet and set fire to $100 bills.

But after a couple of life-threatening illnesses in the past few years, I’m big on fulfilling lifelong dreams — although I do sometimes question the logic of having cheated death twice and then taking up a hobby riding an animal that often tops the charts among Australia’s most dangerous.

They can kill with a kick and a highly-tuned flight response means they can be spooked and bolt by the sight of a mere plastic bag drifting in the breeze.

For that reason, I didn’t just saddle up on a whim.


My daughter and I did several trail rides and then leased a horse at a riding school for a year. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

My animal-loving teenage daughter and I started having riding lessons about four years ago, did several trail rides and then leased a horse at a riding school for a year.

The owner taught us all aspects of horse care, handling and safety.

We were on a massive learning curve and got off to a bad start when we lassoed the wrong horse on the first day.

Both were grey and about the same size, although we just needed to look underneath to realise our mistake. Our horse was a boy and we’d caught a girl.


There were plenty of horses for sale online, but making an informed choice can be difficult. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

Honesty is in short supply when you’re buying a horse

Eventually, we felt confident enough to buy our own. But how to go about it?

“Whatever you do, don’t buy a thoroughbred,” every experienced horse person I knew told me.

It was around the time of the 7.30 investigation into the treatment of retired racehorses which exposed the problem of overbreeding and wastage.

Footage of slaughtered racehorses ‘will shake the industry to its core’
An extensive ABC investigation has revealed the widespread slaughter of racehorses for pet food and human consumption at abattoirs and knackeries in New South Wales and Queensland.

There were certainly plenty for sale online (and cheap). Rehoming a racehorse seemed like a good thing to do, but it’s not like rescuing a greyhound.

While there are programs dedicated to retraining racehorses for equestrian and recreational riding, I quickly realised that they’re mostly for experienced riders — not a novice like me.

Never has “buyer beware” been more necessary than when purchasing a horse. Honesty is in short supply when someone is trying to unload a troublesome horse.

I’ve heard numerous horror stories of people who’d bought a horse advertised as healthy, calm and with no vices only to discover when they brought it home that it was anything but, having apparently been drugged to mask injury, lameness or behaviour problems.

So, the best advice I got was to buy from someone you know, and trust, or who knows the history of the horse. Which is what we did.

They have an uncanny knack for getting into trouble

Having found a horse perfectly suited in purpose and temperament for us newbies, we thought the hard part was over.

But as it turns out, horses have an uncanny knack for getting into trouble — and our lovely mare proved to be a bit accident prone.


Reyn ripped a shoe off and was a bit lame, which meant we couldn’t ride her and required a special visit by the farrier. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

When she walked off the float that was delivering her, she had a fist-sized hematoma (swelling) on her chest, having apparently bumped herself on the trip to the agistment property.

That caused a few days of anxiety but settled down. Then she ripped a shoe off and was a bit lame, which meant we couldn’t ride her and required a special visit by the farrier.

Just as that was coming good, she had a sudden (and scary) onset of colic — abdominal pain which can become life-threatening — and needed after-hours emergency treatment by the vet.

Her upset stomach could have been triggered by ovulation (who knew horses could get PMS?) or grazing on sandier soil than where she’d been, the vet thought.

“Give her some psyllium husk every month to flush the sand out,” he said.

“And by the way, she’s overweight with small feet, so you better get some weight off her pretty quickly or she’s at risk of laminitis [a crippling condition of the feet also known as founder].”

I thought I’d done the right thing in choosing an agistment property with lush green paddocks, but now the spring grass could be deadly?


I thought I’d done the right thing in choosing an agistment property with lush green paddocks, but now the spring grass could be deadly? (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

It was high in sugar and poor Reyn only had to look at it to start stacking on the kilos. I knew her pain only too well.

So, like all of us desperately trying to lose weight before summer, she was put on a strict diet and exercise regime.

No delicious grass, just tasteless, low-sugar hay to munch on.

The hard work and worry is worth it

There have been moments on this ride into horse ownership when I’ve asked myself, “What the hell was I thinking?”.

At times I’ve felt the same kind of “I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing” terror I experienced as the mother of a newborn baby.


There have been moments on this ride into horse ownership when I’ve asked myself, “What the hell was I thinking?” (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

Can I actually keep this horse alive?

“That’s just life with horses,” my horsey friends reassure me.

They’ve all got wild stories of various dramas, including one whose horse tried to jump a fence and got stuck two legs on either side of the top rail. She had to actually dismantle the fence to free it.

But being connected and in sync with your horse — albeit, often only fleeting moments for beginners — is a seductive bliss that makes all the worry and hard work worth it.

Reyn is now in great shape (fingers crossed) and my daughter and I are back in the saddle, riding every second day over the summer holidays and enjoying the best Christmas present ever.


Being connected and in sync with your horse makes the worry and hard work all worth it. (Supplied: Natasha Johnson)

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

‘Just perfect’: Man who lost everything in bushfire snags $1 million lottery win

Brisbane 4000

A Queensland man whose uninsured family home was destroyed by bushfire late last year has won $1 million in a lottery that will allow him to rebuild.

The winner — who wished to remain anonymous — is from Mount Cotton in Redland, south of Brisbane, but owned a family property in a part of northern New South Wales hit by the fires.

Lauren Cooney from The Lott notified him of the win on Thursday morning and said he was incredibly emotional.

“He told me his family had just lost their home in the bushfires,” she said.

“The home wasn’t insured, so this prize meant that they would be able to rebuild which initially, they thought they wouldn’t be able to,” she said.

The man detailed how his family had returned to the property several weeks ago, which was said to be “very sentimental and special to them”.

“They were going through the site looking for any special family mementoes that they could salvage, but all they could find was some teacups.”

The man held the only division one winning entry to Wednesday night’s draw, claiming all of the $1 million prize.

He told Ms Cooney the circumstances surrounding the win were “just perfect”.

“He said he couldn’t have imagined more impeccable timing which meant that he could use his prize to rebuild their family home,” Ms Cooney said.

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

Drumlines rolled out after 4m great white spotted at Gold Coast beach

Palm Beach 4221

An international conservation group says Queensland’s shark control program is “lagging far behind” other states — and countries — after more drumlines were installed on the Gold Coast.

Key points:

  • A shark control manager says new drumlines on the Gold Coast are a precautionary measure after multiple shark sightings
  • The Humane Society International says the move ignores overwhelming scientific evidence and a legal case
  • There is a push for Queensland to follow New South Wales and trial high-tech ‘smart drumlines’

Six drumlines have been installed 400 metres off Palm Beach after a four-metre great white shark was spotted in recent weeks, and days after a diver was killed by a shark off Western Australia’s south coast.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the drumlines will be in place “as long as they need to [be]”.

“Human life is absolutely paramount,” she said.

“When we get that information we have to act, and they’ve acted quickly.”

But Humane Society International (HSI) said the decision flies in the face of scientific evidence and will put marine ecology at risk.


A still from vision taken by conservation group Sea Shepherd showing a dolphin tangled in a drumline off the Gold Coast. (Supplied: Sea Shepherd )

New drumlines a ‘precaution’

Michael Mickitis, the manager of Queensland’s Shark Control Program, said the drumlines at Palm Beach are a precautionary measure.

“We’re hoping the shark actually moves off of its own accord,” he said.

“Obviously the other alternative is that we catch the shark.

“We’ll be assessing the situation everyday and we’ll remove the drumlines as soon as the immediate risk has passed.”

Mr Mickitis said installing drumlines after individual shark sightings is not a regular practice, but he said that the shark had been in the area for longer than normal.

He said 40-60 sharks are caught in drumlines on the Gold Coast annually, but ‘occasionally’ other animals like dolphins, rays, whales and turtles are also caught.

“We do everything we can to try and minimise the by-catch including deterrents and alarms on the nets, and alternatives baits on the drumlines,” he said.

“We have trained people that go and release those animals as quickly as possible.”

Answers still slipping through the net

In April 2019 Humane Society International won a legal bid with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to stop the killing of sharks caught in drumlines within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The State Government later lost an appeal and removed the drumlines after Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said authorities could not “immediately or safely comply” with the tribunal’s findings.


A 2015 trial of drumlines in NSW caught 43 sharks, including this great white. (Supplied: Department of Primary Industries)

In its decision, the tribunal stated that culling sharks caught in the drumlines “does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark interactions”.

“The scientific evidence before us is overwhelming in this regard,” the tribunal said.

Mr Mickitis said the Government’s position is that “human safety comes first.”

HSI marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said the Queensland Government should be “acutely aware” of the tribunal’s findings and that the state is “lagging far behind”.

“Queensland’s marine ecosystems are the crown jewel of the ocean environment in this country, and one would say perhaps the whole world,” Mr Chlebeck said.

“Yet it’s one of the only places on the planet where lethal culling still exists.”

Drumlines a ‘good response’: Opposition

Opposition spokesman for Environment and Tourism, David Crisafulli, said the installation of drumlines on the Gold Coast should be a catalyst for reinstalling them in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.


David Crisafulli says drumlines are needed, and should be more widespread. (ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)

“Drumlines are effective and they are the right response,” Mr Crisafulli said.

“If it’s good enough for one part of Queensland, it should be good enough for everywhere.”

In September, the State Opposition committed $15 million to install high-tech ‘smart drumlines’ in the marine park, similar to those trialled in New South Wales.

The smart drumlines alert a fisheries operator when an animal is caught, and the animal is then tagged and relocated.

Mr Chlebeck said New South Wales, and other countries, have had positive results with the technology, but that it will take additional training and resources.

“When these sharks are tagged you get a better idea of shark movements,” Mr Chlebeck said.

“Any bit of research, any bit of education is going to improve people’s safety in the water more than just killing a few random sharks in the area.”

‘People versus sharks’ the wrong debate

Mr Chlebec said human safety must be a top priority, but that the political debate around drumlines and culling has become misleading.

“It’s important to take this debate away from people versus sharks,” Mr Chlebeck said.

“There’s better ways to protect people in the water, especially on the Gold Coast — things like drone surveillance, personal shark deterrence, education.”


Alex Carvalho and Jimmy Martinovich do not support the drumlines at Palm Beach. (ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)

Palm Beach resident Alex Carvalho said the drumlines at his beach are “no good at all”.

“There is no shark problem mate,” he said.

“We don’t see them a lot.”

Byron Bay local Jimmy Martinovich said, “we know the risks when we go into the water, and sharks are in the water.”

“It’s just doing its thing, it’s just living its life,” Mr Martinovich said.

“If there’s a way for them to not have to kill the shark and they can move it on, I think that’s a better idea.”

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

Difficult day burns long into night: As it happened


The fire situation in Victoria and New South Wales is still very volatile and fire crews are expected to battle blazes all through the night with New South Wales still experiencing strong wind gusts.

Multiple fires are burning at emergency level in both states, while in South Australia lives were lost on Kangaroo Island in a day of tragedy.

Look back at how the day unfolded on Saturday.

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

NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott labels his absence during bushfires ‘inexcusable’


NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott, who went on a European holiday during the ongoing bushfire crisis, has labelled his absence “inexcusable”.

Key points:

  • Mr Elliott said he “should have put [his] RFS family first”
  • NSW is in a State of Emergency, bracing for catastrophic conditions on Saturday
  • The NSW bushfire death toll rose to 17 on Friday

Mr Elliott had been away in Europe as the bushfires ravaged much of the country and his state of New South Wales.

On Friday night, he tagged himself in a social media post as being at the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and admitted his decision to leave the country for a holiday was not the right one.

“Just received the evening briefing from Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers ahead of tomorrow’s Statewide Total Fire Ban and Extreme Fire Danger,” Mr Elliott posted on his Facebook account.

“My absence over the last week was inexcusable.

“I should have put my RFS family first and foremost given the current conditions [even my own family acknowledge that] and now it’s time to get back to work.”

Mr Elliott went on to say he is most concerned for some of the areas that have already been decimated by the bushfires raging across the state, with catastrophic conditions predicted at the weekend.

“The areas of most concern tomorrow are the South Coast, Wollondilly and Snowy Mountains and we will have 3,000 firefighters in the Area of Operations with a further 600 on standby to be deployed at short notice,” Mr Elliott wrote.


Evacuees on a beach at Batemans Bay amid bushfires across the NSW South Coast. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

“On top of that we have 104 aircraft providing air support to the more than 700 appliances.

“The good news is that after tomorrow’s extreme weather we should have a week of milder conditions which should provide relief to the firefighters and an opportunity to start the process of containment.”

At a press conference on Saturday morning, Mr Elliott was asked if he planned to resign.

“I came back to step up, not step down,” he said.

The RFS had already said that Saturday will be a “bad day”.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers warned southern areas of New South Wales would be in the most danger.

“It is likely we will see some areas during the day reach the catastrophic forecast, particularly in the southern part of New South Wales,” he said.

“Obviously we are gearing up to that and while it is rated extreme it is in the upper end of extreme and it will be a bad day. Whatever the rating is, it will be pretty bad.”


Much of Cobargo, New South Wales, has been destroyed. (Supplied)

Deputy Commissioner Rogers said authorities were as ready as they would ever be.

“This state of readiness for New South Wales can’t be matched anywhere. We are as ready as we can be,” he said.

The fears for the catastrophic weekend conditions come as the NSW death toll rose to 17 on Friday.

Authorities announced a man had died from injuries he sustained in a fire in the Northern Tablelands last year.

It is believed the 59-year-old man suffered serious burns after taking shelter in a water tank during the Stockyards Flat fire in November.

He was airlifted to the Royal North Shore Hospital for treatment but died on Sunday.

So far since Monday, eight people have died.

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

Scientific modelling ‘not coping’ with scale of current bushfires

Bairnsdale 3875

Scientific modelling used to predict how bushfires will behave is “not coping” with the current fire situation in south-eastern Australia because the fires are so big, an incident controller says.

Key points:

  • As fires build they create their own weather, so data from the weather bureau becomes less relevant
  • “Significant movement” of all fires in Gippsland is expected from Friday afternoon through to Sunday morning
  • For the latest information visit the VicEmergency website.

Andy Gillham, from the Bairnsdale incident control team in Gippsland, Victoria, said in coming days some communities would have fires approaching “from almost all directions”.

“Everybody’s saying the same thing; and that is that a lot of the scientific modelling that we use to try and predict where fire might run is not coping with what’s happening in the landscape just purely because of the fire load,” he told ABC Gippsland.

Mr Gillham said as fires build they create their own weather, so data from the weather bureau becomes less relevant.

“We know roughly what’s happening but the fires are basically doing what they want in the landscape,” he said.

“That’s why the state of disaster was declared in Victoria and the state of emergency in New South Wales — because we just need to get people out of the way.”


A firefighting helicopter tackles a bushfire near Bairnsdale on New Year’s Eve. (AAP: State Government of Victoria)

Fires exceeded human and computer predictions

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the fires in New South Wales on New Year’s Eve exceeded all predictions.

“We saw extraordinary fire behaviour with fires, five of them, burning at the emergency warning alert level from 8:00am or earlier,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.

“Those fires exceeded all the manual predictions and all the computer-based predictions for what was to be the expected fire spread.

“Those fires spread at what we call the absolute worst case scenario, which typically is not what happens when it plays out on the ground.”

He said the RFS had rerun a number of the models and forecasts, as they do routinely.

They are expecting conditions on Saturday to be even worse than on New Year’s Eve.


Thousands of people are in evacuation centres across New South Wales, including this one at Bega. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

No safe place, only ‘safer places’

Mr Gillham said the unpredictable nature of the fires, and the fact that some communities could see fires approach from multiple directions, meant staying to defend properties was only an option for the few extremely well-prepared people who were experienced and understood fire.

But even then, he urged them to think twice.

“We expect significant movement of all fires starting from this afternoon, running through until about Sunday morning when conditions will ease off,” he said.

“We just want to reinforce that message. Just leave.”

He suggested people go to their nearest evacuation centre or if that wasn’t possible, the middle of their nearest large community.

“There’s no sugar-coating on this,” he said.

“There is no safe place, but there are safer places.”

More bushfire coverage:

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

Son of fallen firefighter, dummy in mouth, receives his dad’s bravery award: Australia’s bushfire crisis in pictures


As bushfires continue to rage across swathes of Australia, harrowing scenes of apocalyptic red skies have become embedded in the national consciousness.

But for all of the devastation there has also been a resounding resilience, from fire-affected communities through to first responders and those they leave behind.

While the battle is far from over, with authorities warning conditions could worsen into the weekend, these are some of the photos that have captured the heart of the crisis to date.

Fallen firefighter farewelled in moving tribute


A funeral was held for Geoffrey Keaton on Thursday. (NSW RFS)

It was the heart-wrenching moment a young boy, still sucking his pacifier, was forced to farewell his father for the last time.

The son of Geoffrey Keaton, a volunteer firefighter who was tragically killed last month, received a posthumous medal for bravery honouring his dad.

Mr Keaton and his colleague, Andrew O’Dwyer, died when their fire tanker rolled after being hit by a tree in Sydney’s south-west less than a week before Christmas.

Dressed in a miniature Rural Fire Service uniform, little Harvey was awarded a posthumous Commendation for Bravery and Service by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons at Mr Keaton’s funeral on Thursday.

Child steers family to safety


Allison Marion took the photo of her son, 11-year-old Finn, as they fled the fiery shores of Mallacoota on Tuesday. (Supplied: Via Twitter @Nic_Asher)

The striking image of a young boy steering his family to safety through blood-red skies garnered headlines across the country — and for good reason.

Allison Marion took the photo of her son, 11-year-old Finn, as they fled the fiery shores of Mallacoota on Tuesday.

Ms Marion said she was taking the photo “to record our story for our family”.

But the image has since been shared across news sites and newspapers as a dramatic visual of the impact the fires are having on Australian towns.

Community spirit is alive and well


Erin Lehman managed to keep her kids busy by drawing a thank you sign for the Country Fire Authority (CFA). (Facebook: Erin Lehman)

As emergency services race to save properties across Victoria and New South Wales, and authorities warn conditions could worsen into the weekend, those in fire-affected communities have been quick to show their gratitude.

Mallacoota resident Erin Lehman managed to keep her kids busy by drawing a thank you sign for the Country Fire Authority (CFA), while those in Tahmoor, in New South Wales, left a “little message to all the bombers in the sky”.


A thank you message left for NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers in Tahmoor. (Facebook: Beau Bromley)

“The conditions those pilots are flying in all day and the RFS on the ground you are all legends,” wrote Beau Bromley, who took the photo of a thank you message scrawled across a rooftop.

“And once this is all over [you] deserve more than one beer.”

The story hits closer to home

Matt Roberts, a photographer for the ABC, took these photos of his sister’s property, which was lost in the fires.
(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

ABC photographer Matt Roberts is used to being behind the camera, but he couldn’t have anticipated his family would soon be a part of the story.

While covering the aftermath of the fires in Quaama on New Year’s Day, Roberts discovered the burnt remnants of his sister’s home.

“My kids loved visiting. I found her late today,” he tweeted, alongside before and after shots of the property.

“Her young family is safe but unsure what to do next.”

Emergency services don’t stop for the holidays


Thousands of firefighters and emergency services gave up their holidays to help contain blazes burning across the country. (NSW RFS)

While the vast majority of Australia may have come to a standstill to enjoy the Christmas festivities, fires unfortunately don’t play by the same rules.

Thousands of firefighters and emergency services gave up their holidays to help contain blazes burning across the country.

They appear to have taken the predicament in their stride, however, with one crew from NSW opting for a chainsaw instead of a knife to cut a gingerbread house.

Australia’s wildlife fights to survive


A kookaburra perching on the burnt remains of a tree attracted viral attention last month. (NSW RFS via Adam Stevenson)

Australia’s fauna may be renowned around the globe, but it’s made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks.

The striking image of a kangaroo fleeing from a burning house was front page news in the United Kingdom, while a kookaburra perching on the burnt remains of a tree attracted viral attention last month.

“My last day of the decade felt like the apocalypse,” photographer Matthew Abbott, who captured the kangaroo’s escape, tweeted on Wednesday.

“Been covering the Australian bushfires for the last 6 weeks, but haven’t seen anything like yesterday’s fire that decimated the town of Conjola, NSW.”

The striking image of a kangaroo fleeing from a burning house was front page news in the United Kingdom.
(The Guardian)

More bushfire coverage:

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

‘It will be a bad day’: RFS warns catastrophic fire conditions could hit NSW

Bega 2550

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) says tomorrow will be a “bad day” with bushfire conditions expected to reach catastrophic levels.

Key points:

  • The total number of confirmed dead in NSW this bushfire season is 17
  • At least three volunteer firefighters were killed in the past two weeks while battling blazes
  • The latest stocktake of destruction comes amid mass evacuations on the NSW South Coast

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers today warned southern areas of New South Wales would be in most danger.

“It is likely we will see some areas during the day reach the catastrophic forecast, particularly in the southern part of New South Wales,” Deputy Commissioner Rogers said.

“Obviously we are gearing up to that and while it is rated extreme it is in the upper end of extreme and it will be a bad day. Whatever the rating is, it will be a pretty bad.”

Deputy Commissioner Rogers said authorities are as ready as they will ever be.

“This state of readiness for New South Wales can’t be matched anywhere. We are as ready as we can be,” he said.

Death toll now at 17, nearly 500 homes lost over New Year period

The NSW bushfire death toll has now risen to 17, after authorities announced a man had died from injuries he sustained in a fire in the Northern Tablelands last year.

It is believed the 59-year-old man suffered serious burns after taking shelter in a water tank during the Stockyards Flat fire in November.

He was airlifted to the Royal North Shore Hospital for treatment but died on Sunday.

So far since Monday, eight people have died.

That toll includes a man whose body was found at Belowra in the state’s south yesterday.

The body has not been formally identified, however, it is believed to be that of a 72-year-old who was missing in the area.

The RFS also confirmed 449 homes had been destroyed on the South Coast since New Year’s Eve.

This takes the total number of properties destroyed this fire season to 1,365, with 501 homes damaged.

The RFS said more than 9,000 homes were saved by the efforts of firefighters across the state.


Tourists and residents on the NSW South Coast were still evacuating ahead of dangerous weekend forecasts. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

However, these figures remain conservative while firefighters and emergency services continue to lead mass evacuations out of the state’s South Coast.

Following the extensive losses, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today announced the appointment of a recovery coordinator for Southern NSW.

Mr Dick Adams retired as a Deputy Commissioner after 35 years in the NSW Police Force and was a former State Emergency Operations Controller who led the bushfire recovery efforts in Wyong, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens in 2013.

Ms Berejiklian said while damage assessments were ongoing it was clear many properties had been destroyed and Mr Adams’s appointment to the role would “ensure recovery operations begin as soon as possible”.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said earlier this week authorities were having difficulty accessing isolated communities where there was only access by one road.


Robert and Patrick Salway, died defending their property near Cobargo. (Supplied)

Yesterday, the NSW Police confirmed three more bodies were found at the Conjola region where bushfires razed at least 89 properties.

And on Wednesday, the RFS confirmed a father and son died defending their property in Cobargo.

Patrick Salway, 29, and his father Robert, 63, had stayed behind at their family home on Monday night as the fire approached.

Volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul, 28, also died after his truck flipped in the Green Valley blaze in Jingellic, 70 kilometres east of Albury near the NSW-Victoria border.

Mr McPaul was the third volunteer firefighter to die while battling fires in NSW in less than two weeks.


RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and Harvey Keaton, whose firefighter father died last year. (Twitter: NSW Rural Fire Service)

Two young fathers, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer, were killed after their truck was struck by a tree south-west of Sydney.

An emotional funeral was held for Mr Keaton yesterday in Minchinbury, which was also attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons gave a commendation medal for bravery to Mr Keaton’s 19-month-old son, Harvey.

The toddler continued to suck on his dummy while the Commissioner pinned it to his child-sized RFS uniform.

More bushfire coverage:

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

Rescuers battle to reach cut-off Victorian communities before weekend weather hits

Melbourne 3000

Firefighters, police and the army are making extraordinary efforts to bring relief to thousands of Victorians cut off by bushfires, as they brace for extreme weekend weather which could see huge bushfires merge in the state’s east and north-east.

Key points:

The huge bushfire that struck Mallacoota is one of several destructive blazes still burning in East Gippsland, and another massive fire continues to rage near Corryong, close to the New South Wales-Victoria border.

A large navy ship has arrived at Mallacoota, where fire authorities said about 500 people could be evacuated today, as they urge people in other parts of East Gippsland to get out before conditions worsen on the weekend.

At Corryong, in Victoria’s north-east, a convoy of over 120 vehicles travelled out of the fire zone last night — more than double the number of vehicles expected.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.


A CFA strike team arrived in Cann River yesterday ahead of worsening conditions on the weekend. (Facebook: Joe Stephens)

Late yesterday, six patients were flown out of Mallacoota on an Australian Defence Force Black Hawk helicopter to the RAAF base in East Sale.

About a dozen smaller communities have been isolated and are running short on supplies including the town of Cann River in far eastern Victoria.


Cann River was cut off and communications remained difficult as the fire closed in on Wednesday. (Facebook: Sherylle Holster)

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said work was underway to drop satellite phones, food and water into those communities.

But smoke and the dynamic fire situation was making it difficult.

“I know it seems quite simple to do an air drop into some of these communities, but if visibility is poor and you’ve got other aircraft that are still fighting the fire, it is very, very complex,” he said.

“We wish it was much more simple, but it isn’t.”

Video: "We need farming help": Residents devastated by fires in Victoria's north-east

(ABC News)

Red Cross relief packages, including food, water and other basics will be dropped into Cann River today.

Police officer drives through flames to help Genoa

The tiny community of Genoa, which is nestled in far eastern Victoria near the New South Wales border, has also been cut off by fire.

CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said they actually spoke to authorities in New South Wales to try to get some fire trucks in from the other side of the border.

Video: CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington says authorities are working to rescue thousands of Victorians trapped by bushfires.

(ABC News)

A police officer responded by driving 60 kilometres through the bushfires to reach the town, he said.

“A New South Wales police officer drove from Eden through the fire to get into Genoa to provide a bit of leadership into that community,” he said.

Emergency officials are trying to encourage more people to leave the fire zone before the bad weather on the weekend.

The message is clear: if you’re in a remote community anywhere near the fires, get out early.

As I waited on the Mallacoota foreshore, I felt helpless
Gus Goswell recounts the moment he and his family prepared to enter the water as a fire roared towards them like “a freight train” on New Year’s Eve.

Authorities said they were concerned they would not be able to get to these towns if they were cut off.

“Every community that is lying to the south and south-east of the Bairnsdale complex of fires is under threat,” Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner Chris Stephenson said.

“We’ll offer the opportunity to get as many people out as we can into a more comfortable place, however logistically that’s quite a challenge.

“The best options are to be in a major centre where you have the services and the things you require for your family’s welfare.”

Concerns fires around Corryong, East Gippsland could merge

At Corryong, officials are door knocking as many properties as possible warning residents to get out.

Work is being done to get generators up and operating but communications and power are still in the area.


Burnt trees on the way into Corryong, in north-eastern Victoria. (ABC News: Ashlee Charlton)

Numerous road blocks, including along the Murray Valley Highway, remain in place.

The big threat is that the hot weather forecast for the next few days could cause the Corryong fire to merge with the East Gippsland blaze to the south and a fire in the Victorian alpine region around Bright.

Crews are also keeping an eye on the fire burning across the border in New South Wales, which has gone through areas close to Tumbarumba.

Video: A father and daughter defend their home against an ember attack at Goongerah, Victoria.

(ABC News)

Incident controller Leith McKenzie said if the Corryong and NSW fires burned as predicted, the could “suck each other in” and merge as well.

Animal welfare officers are going through the fire damaged area.

It is estimated 12,000 cattle and 6,000 sheep survived the fire but will have to be put down due to burns and other injuries.

Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) building assessors are checking properties in the region.

So far, around 12 homes have been lost in Cudgewa, west of Corryong.

Fears number of missing people will rise

One man is unaccounted for at this stage.

It is understood he left the Corryong relief centre in the early hours of the morning to check on his property but as of 10:30am, he hadn’t been heard from.

The fires have claimed at least one life — Buchan resident Mick Roberts, who was being remembered as a community “hero”.

At least three other people are unaccounted for across the state, but Premier Daniel Andrews warned that number was likely to rise.

Authorities have said the full scale of the damage may take days or weeks to assess.

Video: Footage revealed the extent of the destruction in Mallacoota.

(ABC News)

Country Fire Authority State Agency Commander Tony O’Day said authorities are working to access cut-off towns, where firefighters and combat agencies were also isolated.

Communities across the state’s east, where more than 500,000 hectares have been burnt, remain cut off and are running low on supplies.

“[There’s] no power, no water in many of them [the towns], but just the conditions are just too hot, too dangerous,” Mr O’Day said.

“There’ll be extensive work before most of these roads can be opened to be safe enough.”


The scene in Mallacoota in East Gippsland on New Year’s Day. (Facebook: Claire George)

While conditions eased yesterday, Mr O’Day said this morning the fires were “by no means contained or controlled”.

Emergency authorities are working to set up containment lines before the weather heats up again tomorrow, and winds are forecast to pick up and create dangerous fire conditions again by Saturday.

Video: Much-needed water and relief supplies reached Mallacoota by boat on Wednesday.

(ABC News)

“And just the large, the sheer scale of some of these fires … the scale of them makes the task of containing them and building control lines incredibly difficult,” Mr O’Day said.

“Unfortunately these fires will continue to burn for the foreseeable future.”

More bushfire coverage:

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

Fuel and food shortages and sleeping in cars: The bushfire limbo awaiting communities


Residents and holidaymakers by their thousands have escaped the flames, only to face another trial … what next?

Key points:

  • Thousands remain stranded in New South Wales and Victoria
  • Shortages of fuel, food and water have been reported, as well as communication and power outages
  • People face days before roads can be reopened

The bushfire crisis engulfing New South Wales and Victoria has filled evacuation zones up and down the coast.

For many, the start of the new year has brought fatigue and frustration.

The major road link in and out of the Bega region on the far NSW South Coast has reopened, despite smouldering fields and bush adjacent to the road.

Traffic congestion has been reported along the Snowy Mountains Highway at Brown Mountain and for those that can get out, many face a full day’s travel to return home.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

A chunk of the New South Wales coast between Nowra and Batemans Bay remained inaccessible on New Year’s Day morning.

Another part of the coast further south between Moruya and Narooma was only accessible via the Princes Highway through Tathra.

That has left thousands stranded in evacuation centres facing an uncertain start to 2020.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the availability of power, communications and fuel were concerns for isolated communities.

“We’re focusing very much on [opening] the northern road back towards Sydney through the Princes Highway and the route is open further south,” he said.

“But even people opting for the route further south, the real challenge there is availability of fuel and given the power outages trying to get power restored to petrol stations and fuel is a challenge.”

Mike Tregallas from Mallacoota in Victoria — which remained completely cut off — said it had been a very hard 24 hours for the township.

“People are going around checking their homes and finding their animals and horses, checking what’s missing,” he said.

He feared it could be many days before he could drive anywhere, with 23 kilometres of road through fire-affected bush connecting the town to the highway.

“If there are major trees down along that road, it will take crews some time.”


Holidaymakers face delays in coastal communities such as Ulladulla as the bushfire crisis continues. (ABC News: Joh McDiarmid)

Fuel, food, phones and accommodation

Low availability of food and fuel was already reported in affected communities on New Year’s Eve, and some families were forced to sleep in their cars.

Kerry from Mirador phoned into ABC South East saying it had been “panic stations” in the town of Tura Beach.

“A car queue of 50 waiting to get petrol and people in Woolworths clearing the shelves … apocalyptic,” she said.


Craig Scott from Woolworths Ulladulla said supplies of milk and bread were running low. (ABC News: Joh McDiarmid)

Reports this morning from the region were sparse following a communications blackout on Tuesday between Nowra and Moruya — a large portion of the New South Wales coastline.

But it is clear many are also without power, while others are relying on generators.

In Ulladulla, Woolworths store manager Craig Scott said the power was down and they were relying on a generator they had only ordered two months ago.

300 people were waiting in a queue at lunchtime on Wednesday.

“The power’s out in town, but we decided to open the store just for necessities, so people can get nappies, baby food, all that sort of stuff.”

He said the generator was due to run out of fuel on Wednesday, but there was a plan to refill it with diesel from local fishing boats to prevent food spoiling.

More bushfire coverage:

There was enough food to sustain the town for the next day, but people were waiting for food for around two hours and he said supplies were low of milk and bread.

“As soon as they open the highway we’ll have trucks coming back down.”

Local business Three Friends Fishing was making saltwater ice and was donating it to those in the town.


Those stranded in Ulladulla lined up for ice to keep supplies cool. (ABC News: Joh McDiarmid)

ABC reporter Joh McDiarmid said her family went to Ulladulla to get supplies but got stuck there as the fires came in quickly, and they haven’t been able to return to their holiday home.

She said the only phone network in operation was Telstra, so lots people were unable to make calls.

“We’ve had no power since midday yesterday,” she said.

“We’re in the car driving around just to charge my husband’s phone battery but we also need to conserve petrol because the petrol stations aren’t open.”


Petrol supplies were running out in coastal communities. (ABC News: Joh McDiarmid)

She said she did not know how long it would be until they could get out, and most hotels were booked out.

“We’re hearing the power won’t come back on until tomorrow night at least,” she said.

“People are just wandering the streets of Ulladulla, there’s no power.”

Erin Riley has set up a website connecting people in affected communities who have space to offer with those who need beds or room for animals.

Already, around 60 people have offered accommodation.

“We’ve had an awesome response from people offering, but not much from people who need somewhere to stay yet,” she said.

“We’re just hoping to have enough places registered that if and when people need somewhere for them or their animals, we can try to meet some of their needs.”


Many don’t have access to mobile phone coverage, prompting queues at phone boxes. (ABC News: Joh McDiarmid)

Water concerns

Water supplies in towns in both Victoria and New South Wales have been affected by the fires.

Steve McKenzie, managing director of East Gippsland Water, told ABC Gippsland the water supply for Mallacoota could not be disinfected Tuesday, prompting a boil water notice that would remain for at least another day until water could be tested.

Mr McKenzie is pleading with people to minimise demand.

“We are noticing, en masse, a large surge of demand where people are probably turning on sprinklers and filling water tanks. The system isn’t designed to cope with that sort of demand. Use the water wisely so we can maintain supply,” he said.


One sandwich shop in Ulladulla is offering free food to support those stranded. (ABC News: Joh McDiarmid)

Bottled water is available at the local supermarket for free and water and other supplies will be brought into the town by sea.

“We may be able to get supplies in by road, but that’s something we’re working on,” Mr McKenzie said.

“We are working on a fill point in the middle of town with safe drinking water where people can fill containers that should be available later today.”

On Tuesday the Bega Valley Shire Council issued a boil water notice for Quaama, Cobargo, Bermagui, Beauty Point, Fairhaven, Wallaga Lake, Wallaga Lake Heights, Wallaga Lake Koori Village and Akolele after disinfection infrastructure was lost.

“All water for drinking, food preparation, the cleaning of teeth and ice-making needs to be boiled before use,” it stated.

The Shoalhaven City Council warned that power outages had caused sewerage overflow to impact rivers and beaches in the area between Sussex Inlet and Lake Tabourie.

External Link:

Thousands on the road heading south to Tathra, to then try to get to safety in Cooma. Traffic is heavy, but flowing. #NSWfires @abcnews

Restoring essential services

John Preston from AusNet Services told ABC Radio Melbourne just over 7,000 households were without power within its distribution area, mostly in Gippsland. This includes 5,000 households in the Bairnsdale area, and about 1,500 households in the north around Corryong.

Mr Preston could not give an estimate of when the power would be back on.

“We completely understand how inconvenient and difficult it is to be without power. We’re trying to get crews in there just as quickly as possible to get people up and running,” he said.

Mr Preston said they were working to get generators started to restore power, but conditions were proving difficult, particularly in Mallacoota.

“We have a helicopter that is trying to get in to land a crew there to activate that [generator], and that will certainly help if they’re able to get there,” he said.

“Stay safe and prepare for the fact that while we will get our crews in there as quickly as possible, this outage may go on for a little bit more until that area is safe.”

President of Chamber Commerce in Eden, Peter Whiter, said the town is struggling, and that if people holidaying in the area have a safe home to go to, now is the time to leave.

“The message we would like to give the visitors who are visiting with us is that perhaps now is the time to go home,” he said.

“We just want them to come back when the Sapphire Coast is a bit more sapphire.”

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

Corryong bushfire survivors grieve destroyed livelihoods, desperately search for family

Melbourne 3000

Bushfire survivors in Victoria’s north-east who lost power and communication for days have broken down in tears and are desperately asking for supplies after thousands of hectares were burnt, leaving their stock with no food.

Key points:

  • Authorities are attempting to reach cut-off communities with shipments of water, food and supplies
  • Authorities have warned there is “every chance” fires burning in the state’s east could join up and work their way towards NSW
  • For the latest information, visit the Vic Emergency website

Buildings were razed, properties destroyed and four people remain unaccounted for after fires tore through townships and communities across Victoria’s east and north on Tuesday.

Families in Corryong, near the New South Wales border, said they were desperate for food, fuel and farming equipment and some are still searching for family.

Helena Pluim said she had not been in touch with her daughter for almost 24 hours.

“I got onto her last night, but the fires came around,” she said.

Locals and visitors to the area sheltered in a relief centre in Corryong overnight and are now moving to a safer centre in Tallangatta.

Video: People were evacuated from Corryong on Tuesday night, after a bushfire leapt over the New South Wales border.

(ABC News)

‘We need help’

Sarah Klippel lost 1,475 acres of land and only had 15 acres left.

She said there were four to five years of fencing that needed to be rebuilt.

“We have cattle alive but no food,” Ms Klippel said.

“My husband has been fantastic, but he breaks down in the evening.

“It’s an unbelievable experience, we have three children, we don’t want to take them home because their chooks are dead, their animals are not well, it’s just been awful.”

Amy Paton broke down in tears as she begged people to help her community.


Amy Paton broke down in tears and said farmers desperately needed generators so their cattle can be milked. (ABC News)

She said generators were desperately needed so cows could be milked.

“We need help for our families with fencing, with feed, we need farming help, we need people up here who can donate their time,” she said.

Ten-year-old Scarlet Leone came to northern Victoria with her family after fleeing fires in their home of Narooma on the New South Wales coast.


Scarlet Leone fled fires in NSW before being trapped by fires in Victoria. (ABC News: Matthew Doran)

“We live an hour south of Bateman’s Bay, we came here to escape the fires which as you can see didn’t turn out very well,” Scarlet said.

“The whole thing’s been very stressful.”

Three Melbourne boys in Corryong have been cut off from their parents for days.

See how Wednesday, January 1 unfolded in our live blog

Teenagers Tom and Monty Linnestad and 11-year-old Harry Linnestad were in the area visiting their grandmother when the fires hit.

Monty said the fire was just 100 meters away from the evacuation centre on Wednesday.

“The whole place was full overnight. The power went off and smoke started to fill the place, everyone had masks and found it hard to breathe,” Tom said.

Harry said everyone “was filled with anxiety and nervousness”.


Burnt trees on the way into Corryong in north-eastern Victoria. (ABC News: Ashlee Charlton)

All warnings for bushfires in Victoria have now been downgraded to watch and act level, but communities are once again preparing for high temperatures and winds starting Friday.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said new fires were started by dry lightning overnight and there were 45 fires burning in Victoria’s east.

He said there was a possibility fires in East Gippsland could merge with fires moving south in New South Wales when conditions worsened over the weekend.

More bushfire coverage:


Cann River was enveloped in an orange haze as bushfire threatened the town. (Supplied)

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said the current fires were “not like others”.

“This is still very dangerous, it is ever-changing, it is complex. The coming days and weeks are going to be very challenging, we have not seen this before,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s going to test all of us.”

About 100 people took shelter in a school in Cann River, where the same fire that tore through Mallacoota on Tuesday is threatening lives and homes.

Alison Rainey, the owner of a local cafe, told ABC Radio they had plenty of supplies for now and were trying to get a generator up and operating.


Children and parents are sheltering in an evacuation centre in a school in Cann River where they are running out of supplies. (Facebook: Sherylle Holster)

Several families remained in the school by late on Wednesday, but most had returned to their homes ahead of more forecast hot weather for the weekend.

“Communication is a problem. The mobile coverage is patchy, that could just go and everyone’s relying on the VicEmergency apps,” she said.

“All services are so stretched … everybody needs help, everyone’s doing the best they can and hopefully we’ll be getting more help shortly.”

She said while there is a lot of anxiety in the community, everyone was rallying around.

“I don’t think we’re going to starve or anything like that, but it is concerning,” she said.

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

How the wallet business is adapting to a cashless economy

Orange 2800

From velcro polyester to leather, designer or discount, wallets have long been the handy sidearm carrying our cards, cash and collection of half-stamped coffee cards.

Key points:

  • Wallet manufacturers are diversifying designs to accommodate changing consumer trends
  • The use of smartphone-based digital credit cards and identification is increasing
  • Digital credit cards can help combat fraud

Their designs have changed little over the past century but now manufacturers are having to adapt to developing trends and an increasingly cashless society.

Artisan leather goods store Angus Barrett Saddlery is based in the regional New South Wales city of Orange.

Their collection of traditional bi-fold wallets and more modern phone pouches appeal to a totally different demographic, retail and sales manager Amy Lyon said.

Ms Lyon said the shift to a cashless, and even cardless, economy had not harmed business and the demand for leather phone pouches outstripped supply.

“[Phone pouches are] pretty much being made-to-order; they haven’t even made it into the shop as a stocked item,” she said.

In line with the latest statistics, Ms Lyon said older generations were still opting for traditional bi-fold wallets with coin pouches, whereas younger customers wanted card holders and smartphone-integrated wallets.

While older styles of the wallet might be on the way out, Ms Lyon said stocking new styles would keep the business relevant into the future.


Younger generations are almost unanimously purchasing card holders and smartphone-integrated wallets. (ABC Central West: Luke Wong)

“I don’t think people are moving away from wallets; it’s just changing in terms of what they physically want to carry on them,” she said.

She said the uptake of digital cards accessed on smartphones was not as widespread in the regions as it might be in major cities, due to patchy reception and occasional telecommunications outages.

“The general consensus with customers is even though they’re cutting right back on what they’re carrying in their wallets, there’s almost a sense of not quite being able to entirely rely on the digital forms just yet,” Ms Lyon said.

“[Regional reception] improves all the time obviously[and] then we’ll see a stronger shift, more so into the digital wallets, I think.”

But the uptake of digital, smartphone-based credit cards and identification is changing how Australians use their wallets.


Smartphone-based card users made up 12 per cent of the market in the 12 months to March 2018. (Unsplash: Nathan Dumlao)

All of Australia’s big four banks offer digital credit cards, while optional digital drivers’ licences are available in South Australia and New South Wales.

Market researcher Roy Morgan found in the 12 months to March 2018, 12 per cent of bank customers were purchasing with virtual cards.

Australians aged 25 to 34 were the highest proportion of early adopters, with 21.6 per cent having ditched their physical cards for digital ones.

The second highest age group was 14 to 24-year-olds, with 17 per cent jumping onto to the cardless economy.

Digital credit cards help combat fraud

Adopting digital credit cards saves you space, but it may also save you money.

Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, said merchants preferred virtual card purchases because they were safer than a physical card, which could be easily pay-waved if stolen.

“From a retailer’s perspective, a transaction done on a mobile phone is far more likely to be a secure and non-fraudulent transaction,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“So, [there’s] very little chance of the retailer having to give a refund, or be responsible for the fact that they’ve taken a fraudulent transaction.”


Cashless card payments rely on a simple encryption method of tokenisation, making it more secure. (AAP (file image))

Data from the Australian Payments Network found that in the 2019 financial year, card-not-present credit card fraud dropped 5 per cent to $455.5 million.

This included digital sales where virtual cards were used to purchase online goods as well as in-store purchases.

The simple encryption method of tokenisation is key to the drop, where transactions are given bespoke ‘tokens’ that hide card details as payments are processed online.

Mr Zimmerman said the proliferation of tokenisation would help grow consumer confidence in the security of digital credit cards.

“If we can get secure transactions and people know they can’t be compromised, then I think we are in a position whereby people will feel very happy about purchasing on the internet, or bricks and mortar, using a mobile phone as a wallet,” he said.

Mr Zimmerman said more ways to pay would also help keep prices low for consumers.

“More competition generally means the prices are kept lower,” he said.

“That means that merchants don’t get charged, which means that we don’t have to surcharge customers.”

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

Horrible Histories – Australia Song lyrics

[Verse 1]
In Britain’s Georgian times
There were so many crimes
No time to hang each crook guilty of a felony
Cos there’s no room to jail you
They’d send you to Australia
To live in our new-fangled penal colony
Think that sounds like heaven?
In 1787, it wasn’t that kind of once in a lifetime trip
First fleet took the journey
Months at sea so churny
Over 40 died while they were on the ship

Those that lived were plucky
Plucky, plucky, plucky
Crammed on board with rats and vermin, cockroaches in bed
Stench inside was sicky
Yucky, yucky, icky
Lice not very nice, can’t get them out of my head

[Verse 2]
Landed Bay of Botany
Convicts’ life was rotteny
Needed food and shelter but everything failed
Threes too strong for felling
Stagnant water smelling
A real step back in time in New South Wales
Soil too poor for budding
Huts washed up by flooding
Plans for building houses came to sticky ends
The best of all their labours
Attacked by local neighbours
And that is when your neighbours don’t become good friends

Situation tricky
Tricky, tricky, tricky
Then a second fleet of ships was due aground
Some thought this was lucky
But illness had strucky
Half were dead or I’ll
Fever was spinning around

[Verse 3]
After seven years
Convict record clears
Just one catch
You got to pay your own way back
No wages meant no money
No choice, but what’s funny
Many stayed, became farmers and made a stack
Original arrivers
Proved hardy survivors
Sydney turned into a place you’d choose to go
Think that they’d be fairer
To convicts who were sent there?
No way they built prisons even more remote

[Verse 4]
Port Arthur was one of the jails
Where every escape attempt fails
Was one man who nearly got through
Billy Hunt dressed as a kangaroo

Inmate’s life still sucky
Sucky, sucky, sucky
Life behind bars was not very nice
Hideous and messy
Who would ever guessy
This hellhole would become a
Holiday paradise?

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