Tag: sydney

The flaw at the heart of the Government’s tracing app plan


As governments look to ease general social-distancing measures and instead use more targeted strategies to stop coronavirus transmission, we face a social dilemma about the limits of cooperative behaviour.

Consider the controversy over contact-tracing phone apps, which can help authorities identify people with whom someone diagnosed with COVID-19 has recently come into close contact.

Oxford University research suggests such apps could effectively stop the epidemic if 60 per cent of the population use them, though even with lower uptake they still have some value.

The Australian Government’s goal is for 40 per cent of the population to use its app. It is hoping people will do this voluntarily.

That’s double the uptake so far achieved in Singapore, which launched its TraceTogether app on March 20. This despite a six-nation survey (including Australia) suggesting Singaporeans are the most relaxed about the personal privacy concerns.

My research into cooperative behaviour suggests there’s no reason to believe voluntary uptake will be higher anywhere else.

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

What is a social dilemma?

Economists define a social dilemma as a situation where individual interests conflict with collective interests. More specifically, it is a situation in which there is a collective benefit from widespread cooperation but individuals have an incentive to “free ride” on the cooperation of others.


If more of us had cooperated for the greater good we could have avoided the toilet paper crisis. (ABC News: Freya Michie)

For example, we would have collectively benefited if everyone had shown self-restraint in buying toilet paper and other items in the early weeks of the crisis. But selfish behaviour by some created a crisis for everybody else.

Economists, political scientists and evolutionary biologists have used social dilemma paradigms for more than half a century to study the evolution of cooperation in societies.

One of the most influential contributions to the field was a 1981 paper, The Evolution of Cooperation, by political scientist Robert Axelrod and evolutionary biologist William Hamilton.

The paper’s key point is this: cooperation depends not on altruism but reciprocity.

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Most cooperation is conditional

My research (with behavioural economist Christian Thöni of the University of Lausanne) confirms this.

Based on reviewing 17 social dilemma studies involving more than 7,000 individuals, we estimate no more than 3 per cent of the population can be relied on to act cooperatively out of altruism — independent of what others do.

About 20 per cent can be expected to act selfishly (ie a free ride).

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The majority — about 60 per cent — are “conditional cooperators”. They cooperate if they believe others will cooperate.

Another 10 per cent are so-called “triangle cooperators”. They behave similarly to conditional cooperators, but only to the point where they believe enough people are cooperating. They then reduce their cooperation.

The remainder — about 7 per cent — behave unpredictably.

This infographic illustrates the four cooperation types and levels of cooperation over time.

The four cooperation types and levels of cooperation over time. Altruistiic cooperation does not depend on others. Conditional cooperation depends on others cooperating. Triangle cooperation is similar to conditional cooperation to a point, then falls away. Free-riding behaviour is always uncooperative and can only be modified by the fear of punishment.
(Supplied: Stefan Volk)

The need for punishment

The most important group to consider in social dilemma situations is, of course, the majority.

Conditional cooperators are very sensitive to what they believe others will do. They will only pay taxes, save water, donate to charities or protect the environment if they believe most others are doing the same.

To maintain their cooperation, therefore, it is essential to uphold their beliefs in equality and egalitarianism, where everyone does their part, nobody gets preferential treatment, and nobody gets away with free riding.


‘Free-riders’ who ignored social distancing rules at Bondi in Sydney were punished by the ‘conditional cooperators’ when the beaches were closed. (AAP: John Fotiadis )

Research by Swiss economists Ernst Fehr and Urs Fischbacher has found just a small minority of free riders is sufficient to cause a breakdown of cooperation over time.

Conditional cooperators will reduce their own cooperation as soon as they realise one or a few others are not complying with the collectively agreed rules. This in turn causes others to reduce their cooperation. It creates a downward spiral.

What stops this happening more is that many conditional cooperators will punish free riders, even at their own expense.

Fehr and Fischbacher demonstrated this through experiments involving “ultimatum games”.

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They observed games in which one person got to propose how to split a pot of money between two players. If the other player rejected the split, neither got money.

In another scenario, the allocator was free to make the split however they liked. But a third party unaffected by the split could spend money from their own allocated pot to deny the allocator income.

In 55 per cent of cases, third parties were prepared to spend money to punish allocators who didn’t split the money fairly. Fehr and Fischbacher called this “altruistic punishment”.

Their results also showed anticipation of punishment deterred non-cooperative behaviour by free riders and reassured conditional cooperators’ beliefs in maintaining their commitment to collective cooperation.

Two things are essential

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

The evidence from behavioural economics research indicates two mechanisms are essential to ensure cooperative behaviour on COVID-19 measures.

First, the majority of us must be reassured others are doing the right thing. This involves showcasing exemplary acts of cooperation and granting no preferential treatment to any kind of interest group.

Second, we must be assured others aren’t getting away with uncooperative behaviour. In other words, free riding must be swiftly and visible punished.

Without these conditions, an expectation of widespread cooperative behaviour is merely a hope.

Stefan Volk is an associate professor and co-director of the Body, Heart and Mind in Business Research Group at the University of Sydney. This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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Video: Government's COVIDSafe tracing app explained.

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


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

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

Anger at the decision did not stop there.

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

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

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

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

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Cooperation not confrontation

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

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How the Chinese Communist Party infiltrated Australia's universities

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

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

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

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

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

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Sister-city relationships have value

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But do they really work?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Relationship stronger than rhetoric

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

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

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

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

What you need to know about coronavirus:

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Easter was not the same this year — but this might help if you’re feeling lonely


It’s no exaggeration to say Easter has been very different this year.

Traditionally it’s a time for catching up with family and friends, going to church, enjoying lavish meals based on seafood and lamb, and perhaps an Easter egg hunt in the park with the littlies.

But with social distancing rules putting paid to almost all of that, it’s been a pared-down Easter for most.

If you’re missing catching up with loved ones and feeling particularly alone at the moment, you’re not the only one.

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Experts say loneliness is on the increase as COVID-19 precautions take their toll on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The good news is there are many things you can do to stay connected.


Large family gatherings may be off the Easter agenda this year, but there are ways to stay connected. (Unsplash: Gor Davlyan)

Michelle Lim, a senior lecturer in clinical psychology at Swinburne University, is helping conduct a global study on the impact of loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Lim is an expert in loneliness — she’s also head of the university’s Social Health and Wellbeing Laboratory, which was set up to understand how loneliness and lack of social connections influence health, and she’s the chair of the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness scientific advisory committee.

Is loneliness worse for young people?

The current situation with coronavirus is beyond our control, and Dr Lim says that could be making things worse.

“Previously, people could say, ‘I’d rather be alone,’ and be happy in making that choice — but this is different, we’re kind of forced into it,” she said.

Loneliness can be particularly acute for young people, who need more social connections than older people, who typically have a smaller social circle as they age.

“Loneliness is a result of feeling your relationships are not what they should be,” Dr Lim said.

“Young people have high expectations and very different social needs.”

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Technology doesn’t necessarily help

And just because young people are more tech-savvy and connecting more online, it doesn’t mean they’re meeting their need for deep connection.

“They are definitely more comfortable with online social interactions, but what we don’t know is whether social media platforms actually enhance our relationships or simply help us stay connected,” Dr Lim said.


Dr Lim says loneliness is a perception your relationships are not what they should be. (Supplied: Michelle Lim)

“You can be gaming or using Zoom — but you’re not necessarily saying anything of value. You can have 1,000 Facebook friends and still be lonely.

“So you can use tech to reduce social isolation, but do you really reduce loneliness?”

But everyone’s different, Dr Lim says. While some people may get a buzz out of a friendly hello and a chat with neighbours, for others “it’s just small talk and not relevant to their feelings of isolation and loneliness”.

What about people who live alone?

Dr Lim says research shows people who live alone make more of an effort to stay connected with others.

“Often their lives are richer because they are more resourceful, and they have much more extensive networks of friends,” she said.

This may mean that they are better equipped to handle the social isolation imposed by the new pandemic reality than others.

Dr Lim’s tips to combat loneliness:

  • Remember that these are unusual circumstances. And if you never felt lonely before and you do now, that is normal. You will have to make an effort to connect. This means making the time and being flexible with what you can do in your current circumstance.
  • Focus on meaningful social interactions as opposed to interacting for the sake of doing so. Making it count by building on people’s conversations. And even if you are feeling lonely, you can still support others who are struggling.
  • Identify your resources and think about how and when you can use them. Resources can include people who you can call on to help, or using technology to connect.

Lesley Brookes has lived on her own for the past 10 years and has been self-isolating for nearly a month in her Sydney home because her chronic heart condition and age put her in a high-risk category for coronavirus.

Developing strategies to combat loneliness has been particularly important for her.

These include having professional psychological support available when she needs it, and maintaining her connection to her friends and neighbours, even those to whom she has not been especially close.

Taking pleasure in simple things

Being unable to leave her home, Ms Brookes has been taking pleasure from looking out from her balcony and watching familiar faces from her neighbourhood pass by on the street or in the park opposite.


Lesley Brookes has been self-isolating alone in her Sydney apartment for nearly a month, but she has developed strategies to cope. (Supplied: Lesley Brookes)

Neighbours have been dropping off groceries and other essentials, and she has weekly contact with her personal trainer online. Her fitness routine currently includes running up and down her hallway, and doing push-ups against the window.

Other things that have helped her are having online drinks with a neighbour on a Friday night, joining an online book club, and talking to people on the phone.

“People are really consciously reaching out — I’ve heard from probably 10 people in the last week or so that I haven’t heard from in three months,” she said.

She recommends making it easy to do the things you enjoy by writing a list of them: “So when you’re low on emotional energy, you don’t have to do the hard work of coming up with something.”

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Flexibility can be key

Loneliness can be particularly acute at times like Easter, when you may not be able to be with those you traditionally spend time with.

Dr Lim says the key lies in being flexible.

“Use the phone if you don’t want to use technology — no-one says you have to use Zoom or Facetime if you’re not comfortable with it.”


There are other ways to connect if you don’t want to or are unable to use technology. (ABC News: Natasha Johnson)

If it is allowed under your state or territory’s rules, drop off some food to family, friends or neighbours, and use it as an opportunity for a 5 or 10-minute, appropriately socially-distanced chat.

“It’s important to adhere to public health recommendations, but think of ways to maintain the quality of your relationships through safe means,” Dr Lim said.

She is hoping the Global Survey of Health and Wellbeing will help identify how prolonged self-isolation affects people in the long term, and offer evidence-based recommendations to help people who are feeling lonely.

Black Dog Institute tips to stay connected:

  • Be creative about trying new ways to connect
  • If socialising helps your mood, schedule a virtual coffee with a friend each day
  • If going to the gym or yoga helps you reduce stress, try an online class
  • If you love to sing and dance, join a virtual choir or dance group
  • If you don’t want to use virtual connection, try calling a friend or sending letters

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


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WA announces major expansion in COVID-19 testing starting tomorrow

Perth 6000

Western Australia will significantly increase coronavirus testing starting from tomorrow, with anyone who has had a fever or acute respiratory infection in recent days now eligible to be checked for the virus.

Key points:

  • Anyone with a fever or respiratory infection can be tested from tomorrow
  • There are now 481 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in WA, an increase of 11
  • Random community testing has so far not detected any cases

Health Minister Roger Cook made the announcement as he confirmed WA had recorded 11 new cases of the virus, taking the state’s total number of infections to 481.

WA’s COVID-19 death toll remains at six, following two fatalities yesterday.

Mr Cook said the expanded testing criteria meant from tomorrow any person with a fever of 38 degrees Celsius or higher — or who had one in recent days — or an acute respiratory infection would be eligible to be tested.

That would include anybody with symptoms such as a shortness of breath, cough or sore throat.

“This is a significant change and means we will capture a much wider proportion of the public,” he said.

“This will ensure we are able to find new cases, protect the vulnerable and ensure we track the movement of the virus in the community.

“If you have symptoms, then please go to the clinics and be tested.”

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

Second testing change in last week

The revamped testing rules is the second time testing criteria has been expanded in barely a week, with previous restrictions eased after concerns over a shortage of testing chemicals dissipated.

Until just a week ago, only people who had recently returned from travel or who had come into contact with a confirmed case of the virus was able to be tested.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 517
  • Deaths: 6
  • Tested negative: 22,601

Latest information from the WA Health Department

Anyone who meets those criteria will still be eligible for testing at one of WA’s nine COVID clinics — seven of which are in Perth, with one in Bunbury and another in the Kimberley.

Patients in other regions can be tested through hospitals.

WA has already been conducting random examination of testing samples of people being checked for respiratory infections, but that process is yet to pick up a single case of COVID-19.

More than one-third of WA cases linked to cruises

One of the new infections today is in the Kimberley, taking the total in that region to 15.

Mr Cook said the latest Kimberley case was a close contact of a person previously identified as infected, but was not a healthcare worker.

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.

“We are very encouraged by the numbers … but at the moment we need to keep our foot down on the break,” Mr Cook said.

“These are early days and we are not going to see a quick fix for this.”

But significant concerns remain about cruise ships, which are responsible for 176 — or 37 per cent — of WA’s cases, after seven new cases stemming from those vessels.

Premier Mark McGowan confirmed Commonwealth health authorities had reboarded the Artania, which remained docked at Fremantle, to assess 18 crew members.


The Artania cruise ship remains a cause for concern for the WA Government. (ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

Thirteen of those assessed have now been removed from the ship and taken into quarantine on shore.

“Clearly the Artania continues to be an issue,” Mr McGowan said of the ship, which still has about 400 crew members on board.

Thirty-four passengers from the crew remain in WA hospitals, with many more in quarantine.

Six more cruise ships heading to WA

The State Government is also concerned about six cruise ships heading into WA waters, having departed from Sydney or Melbourne.

Mr McGowan said between them, they had 6,000 crew members on board but all had been directed to return to their home ports.

“We don’t want those cruise ships coming here because it would be very difficult for us to deal with,” the Premier said.

“It is obviously a matter of some concern.”

Sailing into a cruise ship storm
It is a problem creating headaches for authorities around the world — what to do with hundreds of foreign passengers aboard a cruise ship infected with coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Mr Cook defended the handling of a case where a man with COVID-19 was denied permission to visit his wife in intensive care before she died of the virus.

“These protocols are in place to make sure we can protect the public, other patients in the hospital and healthcare workers,” he said.

“We don’t want to have people who are COVID-positive coming into ICU unless they are the patient.”

Mr McGowan described the situation as “shocking and awful”, saying he had raised it with Health Department director general David Russell-Weisz.

“He committed to me that there would be a review of the protocols around that and I look forward to that review taking place,” Mr McGowan said.

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Video: The Virus: latest developments on COVID-19 for April 10

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NSW Premier says some coronavirus restrictions could be eased next month

Sydney 2000

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state’s tough coronavirus social-distancing rules could be relaxed as early as next month.

Key points:

  • The Premier said lifting restrictions came with “risks”
  • There were 48 new COVID-19 infections in NSW, the lowest number since March 19
  • NSW Police will increase social-distancing patrols over the Easter long weekend

Yesterday, she described social distancing as “a way of life” that would remain until a COVID-19 vaccine was found.

When asked today about the chances of the restrictions being eased on May 1, she said that was possible, and that the laws would be assessed on a month-by-month basis, based on health advice.

“If the advice in a couple of weeks is that there might be a couple of aspects that we can tweak to provide relief to our citizens, well then, we’ll take that advice,” she said.

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

However, she said despite the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state stabilising, lifting restrictions “comes with a risk”.

“When you do lift any of the restrictions, it does mean that more people will be admitted to our hospitals and more people who will succumb to the virus,” she said.

“Every time you relax a restriction, more people will get sick. More people will die.”

Coronavirus rules explained Can I go fishing? Can I visit my parents? The 16 reasons you can leave home under NSW’s tough COVID-19 measures.

Last week, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the state’s tough social-distancing laws would be in place until the end of June, and that he would not seek to extend them.

“People will have gotten the message by then, hopefully,” he said.

NSW Health confirmed 48 new coronavirus infections this morning, taking the state’s total to 2,734.

It is the lowest number of new cases recorded since March 19 — the day the Ruby Princess cruise ship docked in Sydney.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant said 2,900 people were tested for COVID-19 yesterday, up from 2,100 the day before.

The Premier said she wanted to quadruple NSW’s ICU capacity and that there were 1,000 beds with ventilators available already.

“That is something that we’re working hard on behind the scenes and it’s positive news,” she said.

“We’ve been able to double our capacity already.”

Commissioner Fuller said officers would be out in force over the Easter weekend in a bid to enforce social-distancing bans.

“We will be going through caravan parks early, issuing warnings to people who may think that they can get around these laws,” he said.

“It’s important over this weekend that we continue the good work and we continue to isolate, as frustrating as that may be.”

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Sanjaya Senanayake discusses coronavirus latest and the need to maintain social distancing


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

Life on board the Ruby Princess: 1,000 staff adrift and in fear of the virus

Sydney 2000

The parties are over, the passengers are gone and in their place an eerie silence has fallen over abandoned restaurants and bars.

But, more than 1,000 staff remain onboard the Ruby Princess with limited medical support after the ship became a major source of coronavirus infection and was banished to the horizon off NSW’s coast.

Earlier this week, six crew members were whisked from the ship and in to Sydney hospitals for treatment of a “respiratory illness”.

The medical evacuations, which happened in the middle of the night, only served to stoke fears among those left onboard that the virus was still spreading.

Hundreds of cases and five deaths are linked to the Ruby Princess, which docked in Sydney on March 19.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap


Crew members were evacuated this week to receive “better care” according to NSW Health. (ABC News)

A crew member who spoke to the ABC on the condition of anonymity said staff that remained on the boat had done nothing wrong, and were desperate to get home.

The employee, who was isolating after potential exposure to the virus, said many of their colleagues felt trapped and terrified.

“It’s all a nice political chess game, but I strongly believe now is not the time for this,” they said.

“I am concerned, as we are in a closed environment.

“The medical evacuations [this week] did spark some fears and concerns.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak


A cordoned off area on the Ruby Princess. (Supplied)

The ship was at the centre of a political blame-game earlier this month when the 2,700 passengers disembarked at Circular Quay despite several people onboard being tested for coronavirus.

Cruise ships have now been banned from docking in Australia but many, including the Ruby Princess, are drifting off the coast.

Carnival Cruises, which owns the Ruby Princess, said the ship had to remain close to Australian health services in case more staff on board contracted the virus.

But the Department of Home Affairs has refused to budge, ordering all cruise liners to leave Australian waters before June 15 or face up to five years in jail or a $63,000 fine.


Passengers disembark from the Ruby Princess at Circular Quay. (AAP: Dean Lewins )

The cruise giant said it was talking to Australian authorities about allowing most staff to leave the ship.

The staff member told the ABC that the crew felt helpless knowing the Australian Government wanted to send them out into open waters with no access to emergency healthcare.

“It’s a mental challenge thinking about the future and what it holds for us [while] reading everywhere that Australia wants us out,” they said.

“Going back to the US [where the company’s headquarters are] is doable on a technical aspect but what if a crew member suddenly needs heavy medical care and we’re in the middle of nowhere?”

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The Ruby Princess remains off the NSW coast. (AAP: Joel Carrett)

The ship has a small medical team onboard which is working around the clock, but has only limited resources.

“They have to face unusual situations that might require outside help,” the employee said.

There are approximately 1,000 crew members trapped on the ship — 800 are in strict quarantine in their rooms while 200 remain on duty to provide services to those in isolation.

The working crew are following social distancing protocols and restricted to their rooms outside of work hours.


A note on a cabin door of the Ruby Princess. (Supplied)

The ship’s performers are live-streaming entertainment, others are conducting online yoga classes and many are leaving messages of appreciation on their doors for the working staff.

But beneath the distractions are unshakable feelings of confusion and fear.

Coronavirus questions answered
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“There is not much information being shared about whether the virus is still spreading or plans to get us back home, which is definitely a source of stress for a lot of us,” the crew member said.

Although the ship is being sanitised extensively, the employee said the ship needed external specialists to assist with infection control measures.

Carnival Cruises has urged the Australian Government to take a “humanitarian” approach and care for foreign nationals the same way they would expect other nations to care for Australian seafarers.

“Being able to send home those crew members who are not required for the safe operation of the ship is the right thing to do both from a humanitarian point of view and Australia’s international standing as a maritime nation that looks after foreign nationals in its care,” president Sture Myrmell said.

Earlier this week however NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller had a stern message to all cruise ship operators.

“They don’t pay taxes in Australia, they don’t park their boats in Australia … time to go home,” he said.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Coronavirus under the microscope

(ABC News)

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

Police fine Darwin man for breaching self-quarantine rules, as NT confirms more COVID-19 cases

Darwin 0800

A 52-year-old man has become the first person in the Northern Territory to be given an on-the-spot fine for breaching self-quarantine rules.

Key points:

  • The man had returned from overseas last Monday and was meant to be self-quarantining
  • NT Police have said fines of $1,099 will be issued for any breaches after a warning
  • Four new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the NT on Tuesday

Northern Territory police said the man was fined in Darwin for failing to comply with directions of the Chief Health Officer.

The man returned from overseas last Monday and was meant to spend 14 days in self-quarantine.

No details were given about how he breached the quarantine order.

A police spokesman said the man was handed an infringement notice for $1,099.

Police officers, along with Australian Defence Force personnel, are carrying out about 200 spot checks each day on people who are in quarantine.

NT Police have said someone would be fined if they breached a quarantine order again after being warned.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

NT COVID-19 snapshot

  • Territorians diagnosed with COVID-19: 21
  • Cases detected in the NT: 22

Get the latest information from the SecureNT website.

Four positive tests in overseas arrivals

Four new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Northern Territory on Tuesday, bringing the number of people diagnosed in the NT to 19.

All four were people who had returned from overseas.

There has been no community transmission of the virus in the NT to date.

Two Darwin men in their late 20s were admitted to Royal Darwin Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

One flew from Sydney to Darwin on flight VA1351 on Friday, March 20.

The other flew from Melbourne to Darwin on flight QF838 last Wednesday.

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Secure NT said both men had been in self-quarantine since arriving in the Northern Territory.

Earlier on Tuesday Health Minister Natasha Fyles said two women in their 40s had tested positive for the virus.

One woman who had been in the Philippines flew to Darwin from Sydney last Friday on flight QF 840.

The NT Public Health Unit planned to contact passengers sitting near the woman and two men on their flights.

The second woman recently returned from a European cruise on MSC Fantasia.

Secure NT said no contact tracing would be done in that woman’s case because of the delay between her return and becoming unwell.

How do I get tested in the NT?

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

Latest information from SecureNT website

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

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(ABC News)

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

Clearance rate dives, house prices expected to follow amid auction ban


About 40 per cent of the country’s real estate auctions were withdrawn over the weekend as stricter social-distancing measures announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to fight the coronavirus pandemic slowed down property market activity.

Key points:

  • There were 3,203 homes scheduled for auction across the combined capital cities
  • But 40 per cent were pulled from the market
  • The preliminary auction clearance rate dropped to 51.4 per cent

Social-distancing rules introduced by the Federal Government last week include a ban on auction gatherings and open homes, forcing agents to instead undertake online auctions and private sales mostly negotiated by phone.

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After meeting with state and territory leaders on Sunday night, the Prime Minister said the previous gathering limit of 10 people had been cut to two.

Real estate agents say it will take some time for the market to adjust to this new reality.

In the meantime, the property market, like the rest of the economy, is taking a big hit, with the number of Australians struggling to repay their mortgages expected to lift to higher levels than seen during the global financial crisis.

One economist warned that Australia could see unemployment reach about 10 per cent and house prices drop 20 per cent.

Auction clearance rate dives to lowest level since June

The past week was set to be the busiest week of the year with 3,203 homes scheduled for auction across the combined capital cities, the majority in Melbourne and Sydney.

But of those, 40 per cent were pulled from the market, CoreLogic said, with the withdrawal rate up from 7.5 per cent the previous week.

The preliminary auction clearance rate dropped to 51.4 per cent — the lowest level since June 2019.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

This compares to the previous week when the clearance rate was 56.9 per cent across 2,599 auctions.

Sharp rise in unemployment could trigger house price crash
The spread of coronavirus across Australia could see unemployment reach about 10 per cent and house prices drop 20 per cent, says one economist.

At this time last year there was a 50.9 per cent clearance rate across 2,164 auctions.

“Overall, we are expecting a substantial drop in new property listings, regardless of the selling method, as buyers and sellers retreat to the sidelines and wait for some certainty to return to their decision making,” CoreLogic said.

“Some vendors will choose to convert their listing to a private treaty method, while others will likely pull their property from the market altogether until confidence and selling conditions improve.”

The proportion of properties sold prior to auction, lifted from 22 per cent to 36 per cent over the past week.

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CoreLogic said it expected the number of withdrawn auctions to rise in coming weeks, but the final clearance rate to adjust lower.

It said once agents have time to adjust it could be that methods such as online or over-the-phone solutions would become a successful replacement to traditional auctions.

To date there had been “a rapid transition to online auction formats”, but some agents reported technical challenges and connectivity issues.

“No doubt many of these challenges will be resolved with the benefit of more time to prepare,” CoreLogic said.

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Melbourne, Sydney clearance rates fall, prices expected to follow

In Melbourne, a preliminary auction clearance rate of 58.6 per cent was recorded across 1,517 auctions.

This compares to the week prior when there were 1,343 auctions returning a final clearance rate of 58.4 per cent, and one year ago, when the clearance rate was 52.1 per cent across 978 auctions.

The preliminary numbers show 32 per cent of Melbourne auctions were withdrawn from the market.

RBA slashes interest rates to 0.25pc
The Reserve Bank cuts interest rates to a record low and announces a quantitative easing program for the first time in its history to help prevent a coronavirus-driven recession.

In Sydney there were 1,263 auctions scheduled, of which 385 had been confirmed as withdrawn so far, for a preliminary clearance rate of 47.3 per cent.

In comparison, there were 946 auctions held in the week prior and the final auction clearance rate was 58.8 per cent.

One year ago, 801 auctions were held in Sydney and the clearance rate was 54.3 per cent.

NAB’s David de Garis, director, economics, markets, said there were very large falls in both buying and selling enquiries last week.

“CoreLogic reports that the demand for their Comparative Market Analysis reports, reports sought by agents ahead of property listings, fell a further 38 per cent in the week to 25 March,” he said.

“This meant requests were down 20 per cent on year earlier levels when the property market was in a downturn.

“It’s hard to see buyers and sellers as anything other than very cautious until there is more clarity about COVID-19 and what it means for social distancing, the economy and job market conditions.

“There are already signs that the rate of increase in eastern seaboard prices is slowing.”

CoreLogic’s monthly house price statistics will be released on Wednesday.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

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


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

‘Protecting our citizens’: Cruise ship passengers blocked from disembarking in NSW

Sydney 2000

The State Government will block anybody from disembarking cruise ships in New South Wales until new border protections are in place.

Key points:

  • NSW strengthened its rules for cruise ships after being criticised over Ruby Princess passengers disembarking in Sydney
  • The Federal Government last week restricted all cruise ships from entering Australia
  • About a dozen cruise ships waiting to dock are now in limbo

The move will leave thousands of people who have been trying to get back to port stranded.

The Federal Government last week restricted all cruise ships from entering Australia for 30 days.

The ABC understands there are close to a dozen cruise ships wanting to dock because they were at sea when the restriction was put in place.

But they are now in limbo.

“No-one will be allowed to leave any of these cruise ships until we have settled on the agreed new measures,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

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

The State and Federal Government are working on new guidelines, but what they will include and when they will be decided upon is unclear.

“Today I have personally spoken to the Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram and Minister Peter Dutton and we agree we stand shoulder to shoulder on protecting our citizens,” Ms Berejiklian said.


The Ruby Princess was docked in Sydney while several passengers had COVID-19. (Instagram: Supplied)

The move came after a war of words broke out between federal and state authorities over who was to blame for allowing 2,700 passengers to disembark from the Ruby Princess cruise ship last week.

More than 130 passengers from the vessel have tested positive for coronavirus, including a 77-year-old woman who died earlier this week.

When the ship docked in Sydney 13 people were suffering from respiratory problems and were tested, but passengers were allowed to leave before the results came back.

Earlier on Wednesday Ms Berejiklian said “all of us have to take responsibility” for the Ruby Princess being allowed to dock.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) said it was NSW Health that allowed the passengers to disembark.

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

“The Department of Agriculture officials advised my officers that New South Wales Health had conducted a risk assessment, had rated the risk as low and that health officials would not be attending the vessel,” Mr Outram said.

“As a result of that information, all of the passengers were given a green light to disembark.”

But NSW Health has defended itself, saying it followed national protocols and even exceeded them.

The state has already strengthened its rules for cruise ships after being criticised for its handling of the Ruby Princess.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

If there is any suspicion of coronavirus, tests must be carried out and results returned before passengers can disembark.

A report will be released in the coming days on the decisions the Berejiklian Government made about the Ruby Princess.

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez tracks the major coronavirus developments

(ABC News)

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

‘The problem is just over the horizon’: Rise in NSW coronavirus infections, state’s total passes 400

Sydney 2000

Health authorities in NSW have confirmed 83 new coronavirus infections in the 24 hours to 8:00pm on Friday.

Key points:

  • NSW Health has banned travel to Lord Howe Island
  • Four cruise ships have experienced cases of COVID-19 in relation to travel out of Sydney
  • A religious service attended by 300 people on March 8 in Ryde has resulted in seven cases

The new cases take the state’s total number of COVID-19 infections to 436 and represent NSW’s largest increase over a 24-hour period.

A total of 46,456 people have been tested and cleared in NSW.

Out of the 436 cases, 218 were picked up overseas, 92 have been cases caught from a contact and 74 have been diagnosed as locally acquired, but with an unidentified contact.

The remainder are being investigated.

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

NSW Health has also declared a ban on travel to Lord Howe Island from 5:00am on Sunday in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus.

The ban means access to Lord Howe Island is restricted to residents, health workers and other essential service workers.

Any new arrivals within permitted categories will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard encouraged people to heed advice on social distancing, amid the rising number of infections.

“The problem is just over the horizon on the basis of the numbers that we’re now seeing,” he said.

“Particularly here in New South Wales, they are showing a substantial increase.

“We will all remember the numbers in the last few days, they’ve effectively doubled just in the last week.

“Save yourself and save your family. Listen to the messages that are coming out, not just from Government officials but from doctors.”

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.

Elsewhere, seven people have been confirmed as COVID-19 cases after attending a church service with a congregation of more than 300 people.

The Sydney Church of Christ service took place at Ryde Civic Centre on March 8.

Close contacts of cases have been put into self-isolation and NSW Health is warning attendees of the service to be alert for symptoms.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Yesterday, Mr Hazzard revealed several people on board the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which docked in Sydney earlier in the week, had tested positive to coronavirus.

He warned the 2,700 passengers that disembarked they could have been exposed to COVID-19, and urged them to self-isolate for 14 days.

Today, NSW Health named three other cruise ships which have had confirmed COVID-19 cases onboard.

A 67-year-old passenger has been diagnosed after travelling on the Ovation of the Seas out of Sydney.

The ship is now at sea with only crew on board.

A woman in her 20s has been diagnosed with COVID-19 after travelling on the Voyager of the Seas, which returned to Sydney from New Zealand on March 7.

On a later trip on the Voyager of the Seas, a 66-year-old man was confirmed as having COVID-19.

The other case involves a passenger on the Celebrity Solstice, who travelled on the cruise ship before it docked in Sydney on March 20.

The Ruby Princess remains at sea between Sydney and Wollongong after recording four confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Video: What is it like to actually have coronavirus?


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

Canberra records new cases of COVID-19 as prison visits suspended

Canberra 2600

The ACT Health Minister has praised the actions of three Canberrans newly diagnosed with COVID-19, saying each of them followed guidelines to minimise their transmission to others.

Key points:

  • All three new cases had recently travelled overseas
  • Canberra’s jail will suspend visits to inmates to slow the virus’s spread
  • There are now nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in the ACT

But a search is still underway for people who may have come into contact with the infected people, including on Canberra-bound flights.

The cases, a man in his 70s and two women in their 50s and 60s, all recently returned from overseas travel and went into self-imposed isolation.

The announcement of three new positive results is the largest jump in COVID-19 cases in Canberra so far, bringing the total to nine.

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

ACT Health is now working on reaching the close contacts of the three, including passengers on flights used by two of the new cases while they may have been infectious.

The third case was not believed to have been infectious while she was travelling.

Authorities are looking to contact people sitting on rows 79 to 83 on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney, which arrived on Tuesday March 17, and rows 12 to 16 on flight VA672 from Sydney to Canberra, landing at 9:30pm on the same day

They are also looking into whether passengers on flight QR906 from Doha to Canberra on Monday March 16 could have been exposed to the virus, though were yet to determine the infectious person’s seat number on the flight.

The two women remain at home in isolation, while the man has been admitted to hospital.

Prison visits halted to stop virus spread

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said all three new cases had “done the right thing” by self-isolating to limit their contact with other people.

“It’s an important reminder to those people who may have returned from overseas and are wondering whether they really do need to self-quarantine — yes you do,” she said.

The ACT Government has also cancelled visits to Canberra’s jail from Monday, in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading inside.

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.

ACT Corrective Services Commissioner Jon Peach said one prisoner at the Alexander Maconochie Centre had been tested for coronavirus after exhibiting flu-like symptoms, but they had returned a negative result.

“We have to make sure that people put into the centre are protected … from the potential spread and we have to limit the number of people actually entering the jail,” Mr Peach said.

“We have a number of prisoners that are obviously concerned about the virus, we’ve also got a number of prisoners that really, really want to see their families.

“We are working very very hard to ensure that there are opportunities for detainees to maintain those family ties, which would [include] increased access to telephones.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

In the ACT, more than 2,200 people have been tested for COVID-19.

Yesterday, the ACT Government released details of a stimulus package aimed at helping the territory to weather the economic storm the coronavirus outbreak has brought.

It includes a $150 rebate on bills for every household, credit for businesses and cash payments to public housing tenants.

Farmers markets allowed to go ahead amid social distancing

While several events in Canberra have been postponed or cancelled in the wake of the pandemic, farmers markets were allowed to go ahead over the weekend, as they are classified as an essential service.

Sarah Power, the manager at the Capital Region Farmers’ Market, said staff had worked hard to accommodate for social distancing requirements.


Shoppers were encouraged to keep their distance at the markets. (ABC News: Holly Tregenza)

“We’ve taken out all tables and chairs, removed them entirely, so that we are encouraging social distancing,” she said.

“We’ve also spread the majority of our stalls out as much as we can so that allows people to distance themselves.”

Food sampling has also been scrapped, but Ms Power said there had been no need to institute purchase limits on goods, as major supermarkets had done in response to panic buying.

“We are certainly up in terms of a lot of people but it’s calm, it’s orderly, people are forming lines and every one is really just happy to be here,” she said.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak


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

Gold Coast after-school care worker tests positive to coronavirus after working while sick

Brisbane 4000

A worker at an after-school care program on the Gold Coast has tested positive for coronavirus, forcing all students to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Helensvale State Primary School has written a letter to parents saying the employee of YMCA Helensvale returned the positive result on Friday and was at work on Wednesday.

“It is understood that they had some sign of illness in the days prior,” the letter, obtained by the ABC, said.

All students and staff must now be quarantined, and the centre is expected to be closed for the rest of the term.


Helensvale State Primary School, where the YMCA runs the after-school program. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

Qld COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 221
  • Deaths: 1
  • Patients tested: 29,867

Latest information from Queensland Health.

The school will remain open, on advice of Queensland’s chief health officer, the letter said.

“I wanted to make this information available to all families as soon as possible so that you can be alerted to your own child’s health over the coming days,” the letter said.

Federal and state authorities maintain there is no need to close schools at this stage, although more than 100 other countries have.


The school was being washed-down after one staffer at the YMCA Helensvale tested positive to COVID-19. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

Health Minister Steven Miles said the Helensvale case was one of 37 people diagnosed in the past 24 hours.

There are now 221 positive results in Queensland, which is the third highest tally in the nation.

Mr Miles said the staff member had been working for some days.

“It underlines the message, we all have a responsibility to one another, if you’re unwell and in contact with a lot people, you should seek medical advice,” he said.


Helensvale State School will remain open, despite the case at its after school program. (ABC News)

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said the increase of 37 cases overnight was a similar level as the past two days.

She said all the country’s chief health officers are considering escalating travel restrictions, including domestic travel bans should the situation deteriorate.

“We are keeping it under control,” she said. “We are keeping it in hand.”

Brisbane, Logan libraries close, Gold Coast open

Brisbane City Council will close all 33 of its libraries from Monday until further notice.

For those who already have books out, loan periods will be extended to June 30 and book return chutes and bins will still be operating.


The Annerley library is one of the Brisbane libraries which will close. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

If people wanted to loan books out on Saturday, they were able to get out 60 per person, instead of 20.

All nine Logan City Council libraries will also be closed by noon Monday, but on the Gold Coast libraries will remain open and people will be able to get out 40 items. Loan periods have also been extended.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Parents stuck on cruise ship

The daughter of a Brisbane couple stuck on a cruise ship in the South Pacific is pleading with the Federal Government to bring her parents home.

Marcia Kretschmer said her parents, both in their 70s, left Sydney on the Norwegian Jewel more than three weeks ago.


The Norwegian Jewel cruise ship docked in Sydney on Valentine’s Day. (AAP: James Gourley)

The ship was supposed to disembark in Tahiti but it has been denied entry to several ports which have closed in response to coronavirus.

“If there is no other country that will accept this boat then I think it’s Australia’s responsibility to return them where they actually embarked on the journey,” she said.

The Foreign Affairs Department and the cruise line have been contacted for comment.

‘Stay home this weekend’

Residents are being told to stay indoors this weekend.

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It is now a requirement that all indoor venues have spacing of four square metres per person, which equates to 25 people per 100 square metres.

Mr Miles said there were some reports last night that some pubs and clubs were not following the guidelines.

“If we work together, stick together, we will be able to keep more people out of hospital and more people alive,” he said.

Coffee vendor Sebestian Velasquez said unclear messaging from the government could be the reason people were still crowding together.


Unlike crowded scenes at Bondi Beach, people practiced social distancing at South Bank in Brisbane on Saturday. (ABC News: Julie Hornsy)

He worked on Saturday morning at the West End Markets in Brisbane.

“I think the information is a little scattered, people aren’t sure what they should or shouldn’t be doing,” he said.

Until stricter messaging is released, he does not think people will stay home.

“It’s human nature to not think that those rules [don’t] apply to you, or make exceptions when they don’t suit, so maybe until there is a clear line that is set out, stuff like this is going to keep happening.”


West End market on Saturday morning. (ABC News: Jessica Rendall)

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

Two more coronavirus cases recorded in the NT as travellers arrive in Darwin

Darwin 0800

The Northern Territory has recorded two new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total number of cases detected in the NT to three.

Key points:

  • A Territorian in his mid-30s who recently returned to Darwin from Europe has tested positive to COVID-19
  • The man, who had been in self-isolation, is the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in the NT
  • Close contacts of the man, including plane passengers, will be contacted by health authorities

Earlier today, health authorities revealed a man in his mid-30s had tested positive after flying into Darwin yesterday from Zagreb, via Istanbul and Denpasar.

He flew from Denpasar to Darwin on JQ82, arriving at 5:00am on March 19.

The second case was a 21-year-old woman who arrived in Darwin on March 19 after flying from Utah, via San Francisco and Brisbane.

She flew from Brisbane to Darwin on QF824, arriving at midday.

Both people went into self-isolation on arrival in Darwin, as is now required under Australian regulations.

People on those flights are being contacted as part of contact tracing procedures.

“We want to remind Territorians to stay calm,” Health Minister Natasha Fyles said at a press conference following the first confirmed case today.

“This person had recently returned from overseas, and therefore, was in isolation, as all Territorians and Australians need to be if they have been overseas.”

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

NT COVID-19 snapshot

  • Cases detected so far: 5

Latest information from SecureNT website

Close contacts to be followed up


Health Minister Natasha Fyles has reminded Territorians to stay calm. (ABC News)

NT Centre for Disease Control director Vicki Krause said the man in his 30s had been in Darwin for about 24 hours and had very limited contact with the outside community.

“At this time, he has been basically off his plane, in quarantine, drove himself to the [pandemic] clinic, went home, was in quarantine,” she said.

Dr Krause said close contacts who were on the plane with the man would already be in self-quarantine as per Australian requirements for all international arrivals.

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.

However, she said health officials would be in daily contact with them.

Dr Krause praised the man for following all requirements, including calling ahead to his GP before trying to attend a clinic.

She said the man was “moderately unwell”.

“He’s a young man, not in the age dynamic that we expect to be that affected,” she said.

The Territory detected its first case of COVID-19 two weeks ago when a tourist from Sydney arrived in Darwin.

That case is now counted in the national COVID-19 statistics as a NSW case, despite the man still being treated at Royal Darwin Hospital.

The NT’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Dianne Stephens said Katherine Hospital would open its pandemic assessment clinic to check its procedures, despite not much demand at this stage.

Other pandemic clinics in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy will open when required, she said.

The NT’s drive-thru testing clinic at Howard Springs is expected to open by Monday, although it could open earlier if necessary.

How do I get tested in the NT?

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

Latest information from SecureNT website

Video: Dr Norman Swan answers some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak


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

Sydney cafe owner sacks workforce amid coronavirus downturn as landlords refuse to budge on rents

Parramatta 2150

A Sydney cafe owner says he has been forced to fire four employees in the past week as small businesses across Australia stare down the threat of a coronavirus-induced recession.

Key points:

  • Business at Malik Houchar’s cafe has dropped by about 60 to 70 per cent
  • Mr Houchar has been left “disgusted” by his landlord
  • Coronavirus means some businesses “won’t make it”

Malik Houchar runs Samira’s Lebanese Kitchen in Parramatta and said sales had plummeted by about 70 per cent over the past week.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.

“These people I’m letting go, they’re my mates, they’re not just workers … and they have rent to pay and families to look after.”

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

On a busy day, Mr Houchar would normally have seven staff rostered on, now he has one.

“That’s how much it’s dropped, it’s devastating.”

Economists are forecasting a recession in Australia this year and say businesses face solvency problems.

But Mr Houchar holds no bitterness towards his customers for staying away.

“People are just genuinely scared for their lives, for some people, this is life or death,” he said.


Malik Houchar and head chef Ahmed Abdelrahman are hoping to just earn enough to pay rent. (ABC News: Maryanne Taouk)

However, the cafe owner said some of the burden should be shared by landlords, who could reduce or suspend rents.

Mr Houchar said his own negotiations to do that had not been successful yet.

Coronavirus questions answered
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“Everyone is going to be affected, we have got to think about who’s going to be affected the least,” he said.

“The big guys should be taking some hits, not the workers who work for $17 or $18 an hour.”

NSW Business Chamber spokesperson Damian Kelly said landlords should be as “sympathetic as humanly possible”.

“We are absolutely encouraging tenants to have those conversations during this crisis,” he said.

Mr Kelly acknowledged the coronavirus pandemic would be the final blow to some small businesses who had already suffered extensively through bushfires and drought.

“Some businesses won’t make it,” he said.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

On Tuesday the NSW Government announced a $2.3 billion stimulus package, with $1.6 billion dedicated to keeping people in jobs.

As part of the measures, $80 million will go towards waiving fees and charges for small businesses such as cafes and restaurants.

There is also $450 million to waive payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months.

In the face of uncertainty, Mr Houchar is doing his best to stay hopeful that when normality resumes, the restaurant he named after his mum will still open for business.

Video: Question of whether to close schools divides medical experts

(ABC News)

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

Man dead, traffic in chaos after truck rolls and catches fire north of Sydney

Sydney 2000

A truck has rolled and caught alight north of Sydney this morning, leaving a man dead and causing major delays between Sydney and the Central Coast.

Key points:

  • The body of a man, believed to be the driver, was found at the scene
  • Drivers are being warned of major delays and are advised to take the train if possible
  • The truck was driving on the M1 at Mount Kuring Gai when it crashed into the median strip

The truck was driving on the M1 Pacific Motorway at Mount Kuring Gai when it crashed into the median strip and rolled before catching fire.

Emergency services were called to the southbound lane about 2:30am on Tuesday and discovered the body of the man.

NSW Police said the man was believed to be the driver but the body was yet to be identified.

Officers from Kuring Gai Police Area Command have established a crime scene and an investigation is underway.


Emergency services called to the southbound lane of the M1 found the truck, carrying wool, in flames. (ABC News)

There are major delays in the area, with traffic on the M1 queued for about 8 kilometres, while traffic on the Pacific Highway, where motorists are being diverted, is queued for around 17km.

The Transport Management Centre said due to the serious nature of the crash, there was no forecast for when the motorway would reopen.

Southbound motorists are being diverted on to the Pacific Highway at Berowra.

Northbound motorists can no longer access the M1 from the Pacific Highway or Pennant Hills Road at Wahroonga.

The Transport Management Centre said people travelling between Sydney and the Central Coast should delay their journey, allow plenty of extra travel time due to increased volumes on the Pacific Highway or consider catching a train instead.

The B-double truck was carrying wool which was destroyed in the blaze.

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

Students and overseas workers could help aged care sector deal with coronavirus


Visa holders and students could be used to help boost Australia’s aged care workforce under a proposal to help the sector deal with coronavirus.

Key points:

  • The aged care sector is concerned about a possible shortage of workers as
  • Suggestions include extending the amount of hours of work overseas workers can work in the sector
  • An elderly woman died during an outbreak at a Sydney nursing home

An outbreak of the illness at a Sydney nursing home where one woman died has raised questions about whether providers have enough workers to care for elderly residents, who are especially vulnerable to the disease.

Several staff members at the facility have tested positive themselves while a number of others did not return to work.

Leading Age Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney said the sector put several new options to the Federal Government during a meeting in Canberra on Friday.

“Currently, we have overseas worker visas that allow people to work up to 20 hours a week in residential aged care, we could extend the hours of work available for those people,” he said.

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“[Also] looking at the regulatory arrangements around general practice and the use of graduates and students in circumstances where additional capacity is required.

“If we have people that are currently being trained in the sector but are not fully qualified, they may be useful to be able to do particular tasks in either the acute sector or the aged care sector or indeed in primary care.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said a number of “novel” ideas would be considered by the Government.

“There have been a range of suggestions that have been pulled together … whether [staff] come in from some outside providers, whether it’s the way we manage the existing workforce,” he said.

“So there’s a range of things that we can work on.”

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.

The meeting received a briefing from the operators of the Sydney nursing home, BaptistCare, about what it had learned from the outbreak so far.

Mr Rooney said all aged care operators were being urged to take extra steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re seeing training being conducted, refresher training conducted across residential care facilities with their staff in regards to infection control, systems and protocols,” he said.

“We’re seeing screening being conducted in facilities, screening of visitors to ensure that all visitors are aware of what the risk factors are and if they believe they have any of those risks that they would not enter the facility.

“And then significant planning with regards to ensuring there’s adequate supplies of masks and gloves and handwash.”

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

Harrison’s death weeks after his 18th birthday was ‘far from gentle’


A mother has told a royal commission her son’s death in the Queensland healthcare system was “preventable”, saying “he didn’t need to die”.

Key points:

  • Harrison Creevey was born healthy but contracted encephalitis virus from a mosquito bite
  • His official cause of death was a flu infection just days before his 18th birthday in September 2015
  • His mother said doctors questioned whether his respiratory problem was influenced by his disability

Kim Creevey gave evidence about her son’s death at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability in Sydney.

She said although her son Harrison, who lived with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), would have had a shortened life, “he didn’t need to die at the hands of people that knew better than to let him go that way”.

He died just weeks after his 18th birthday in September 2015 and did not have a chance to open his presents.

Harrison was born healthy but at the age of three contracted Murray Valley encephalitis virus from a mosquito bite, which left him with a brain injury and spasticity quadriplegia.

His official cause of death was from an infection after complications with the flu, but his parents believed doctors did not give them treatment options.


Matthew and Kim Creevey, parents of Harrison Creevey who died from flu complications. (ABC News: Josh Bavas)

Ms Creevey said doctors questioned whether Harrison’s respiratory problem was influenced by his disability and did not observe him appropriately.

And when oxygen alarms sounded, Ms Creevey said nurses adjusted the machines to stop alarms.

Harrison’s mother said her son was denied “the gold standard care”.

The commission was told Harrison’s “passing was far from gentle”, after he spent two weeks in Mater Public Hospital just after his 18th birthday.

The senior counsel assisting the commission Kate Eastman SC asked Harrison’s mother if he had any peace or dignity when he died.

“No, absolutely not,” she said.


Harrison Creevey as a toddler, on his third birthday, before contracting an encephalitis virus. (Supplied)

Ms Creevey said despite living with a disability, Harrison was “quite comfortable in his own abilities” and “wanted to participate in life”.

“He was certainly a victim of unconscious bias without a shadow of a doubt,” she said.

The ABC’s commitment to accessibility
We are committed to ensuring our coverage of the disability royal commission is accessible to all Australians no matter what their abilities or disabilities.

Although his ABI was not the cause of death, it is listed on Harrison’s death certificate as the first reason.

Ms Creevey said mandatory reporting standards need to change so that deaths in care were reported to the coroner.

She also said this was not the first time her son had experienced discrimination in the healthcare system.

She told the royal commission that a paediatrician had asked in front of Harrison, “How much more money are we going to spend on him, keeping him alive. Do you have an end of life plan for him?'”

The royal commission continues in Sydney next week.

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

Flight MU749 to Sydney emerges as key link in effort to contain coronavirus


Health officials say there is one more “probable” case of coronavirus in Sydney, and they are on alert for infected travellers who could have slipped through China’s quarantine.

Key points:

  • Authorities are trying to track down anyone who was on board China Eastern Flight MU749 on January 20
  • The death toll from the virus in China has risen to 56
  • Australia has four confirmed cases, and another probable

NSW Health yesterday confirmed three cases of the deadly disease in the state, bringing the national total of confirmed cases to four, after a man in his 50s in Victoria became the first confirmed case in Australia on Saturday morning.

On Sunday afternoon NSW Health said another four people who had been tested for the virus had been cleared.

Earlier in the day, Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said he would not be surprised if more cases were to crop up.

“Knowing what’s happened in other countries and knowing the traffic from that part of China to Australia, it’s highly likely we may see some more,” Professor Murphy said.

He downplayed the risk of an outbreak in Australia because Chinese authorities had locked down Wuhan, which is believed to be ground zero for the infection.

“However … people left the province before the lockdown and could come to Australia over a number of flights,” he said.

Should Australians be worried? Australia has a number of measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus — but with warnings the disease has a week-long incubation period, carriers could already be in the country.

Professor Murphy said every passenger from flights touching down in Australia from China would be given an information sheet asking them to identify if they have symptoms of the disease.

“There is no cause for general concern … there is no risk to Australian population other than people with that travel history or who have been in contact with those people.”

“The chances are they won’t have this condition, the really important thing in Australia is we identify and be able to isolate people with this virus.”

Authorities chasing ‘highest risk’ travellers

Professor Murphy said both NSW and Victorian health authorities were “working flat-out” to track down passengers who sat within two rows of the infected individuals.

He said these were the passengers with “real potential of any cross-infection” and were at “highest risk”.

However, it is proving to be a tedious task, with authorities having to decipher contact details on the landing cards which passengers are required to fill out by hand upon arrival.

Two of the men diagnosed in Sydney on Saturday had travelled to Wuhan, and one person is believed to have had direct contact with a confirmed case while in China.

NSW Health said one of those men arrived in Sydney on China Eastern Flight MU749, which touched down at 11:35am on Monday, January 20.

Video: The flight from Wuhan touches down in Sydney on January 23.

(ABC News)

Another, in his 30s, arrived in Sydney from China on January 6 but did not develop symptoms until January 15, when he saw his doctor. The third man, aged in his 40s, arrived on January 18 after spending time in Wuhan but did not show symptoms until January 24. Because those travellers did not have symptoms during the flight it is believed the risk of spreading the virus was still relatively low.

“We do not believe that they were infectious at the time of their international flight,” NSW chief medical officer Kerry Chant said.

Authorities are urging anyone who has developed symptoms of the virus and was on last Monday’s flight to contact their emergency department by phone.

NSW Health says it had been flooded with calls from concerned passengers since Sunday morning.

China’s coronavirus lockdown
Chinese cities covering more than 20 million people have been placed into lockdown.

Authorities have conducted extensive interviews with people who had come into contact with the infected men but conceded the patients may have come in contact with hundreds of people since arriving in the country.

Dr Chant said some cases could have been caught sooner by GPs, and urged doctors treating those with coronavirus-like symptoms to contact NSW Health.

“Make sure you have processes in place and consider where people have travelled and particularly be conscious of people returning from China,” she said.

Professor Murphy said updated information would be distributed to GPs and emergency departments across the country after reports a doctor failed to flag a possible infection in Victoria.

“That was one of the reasons prompting me to send [the message out again],” he said.

“We have previously provided information but we are trying to reinforce it.”


China is swiftly building a 1,000-bed hospital dedicated to patients infected with the virus. (AP: Chinatopix)

Chinese state media says 13 more people have died from the coronavirus outbreak in the central Hubei province.

Shanghai also reported its first death from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 56.

The global infection rate has shot past 2,000 — at least 40 of those cases are outside China.

Eighteen people across NSW have now been tested for the virus, with 12 of those cleared, but two are still under investigation.

Some of those being tested are believed to be children.

More on the coronavirus outbreak:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Michaelia Cash defends embattled Nationals deputy leader

(ABC News)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(ABC News)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(ABC News)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gun shop owner admits selling weapons to underworld figures

Port Kembla 2505

A NSW South Coast gun shop owner who masterminded an illegal interstate firearms racket has pleaded guilty to supplying hundreds of guns over a six-year period.

Key points:

  • Shane Simpson illegally supplied 279 firearms, including Glocks and Desert Eagles, to multiple people between 2013 and 2019.
  • A Glock 17A pistol supplied by Simpson was used in the alleged murder of Craig Anderson, 51, in Sydney last May
  • Simpson claims he committed the crime to protect his family

Wollongong gun shop owner Shane Simpson illegally supplied 279 firearms, including Glocks and Desert Eagles, to multiple people including underworld figures between 2013 and 2019.

A Glock 17A pistol supplied by Simpson was used in the alleged murder of 51-year-old Craig Anderson in Doonside in Sydney’s west in May last year.

The pistol, with a defaced serial number, was found in a vehicle after the alleged murder.

Six people, including a lawyer and an alleged Comanchero bikie, have been charged over the killing.

“[I] wasn’t doing it because I wanted to do it … [I] just wanted to make sure my family is going to be OK,” Simpson said.


Shane Simpson was arrested and charged by NSW Police following a raid on his gun shop at Port Kembla. (Supplied: NSW Police)

Court documents today revealed the elaborate way Simpson distributed the firearms on the black market.

Using the front of his Port Kembla gun shop, Simpson Sports Pty Ltd, Simpson acquired hundreds of weapons and then on-sold them to unknown parties, police said.

He would then fraudulently update the NSW Firearms Registry to show he sold the firearms to interstate arms dealers, but they had no knowledge of this and never received the weapons.

In an interview with police, Simpson said he would trawl the internet looking for a random firearms dealer to attribute the sales to, or invent a fictitious one.

Simpson admitted he would use an angle grinder to remove the serial number from the guns, making them difficult for authorities to trace.

Most significant arrests in organised crime

Strike Force Myosoti was established to investigate the movement of firearms between states, and used forensic analysis to link Simpson with weapons used in crimes across the country.

In an interview with police after his arrest, Simpson said he had been “pushed and pushed for a long time”.

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Ten of the guns he sold were later linked to serious criminal activity, including the alleged murder of Mr Anderson and a drive-by shooting in Greystanes.

Simpson was initially facing hundreds of charges but the majority were withdrawn in court.

In Wollongong Local Court he pleaded guilty to just seven, including six counts of ongoing supply of firearms over six years.

Simpson is facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail.

He will be sentenced in February.

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

Turtle eggs relocated 500 kilometres following unusual nest discovery

Coffs Harbour 2450

In a precise operation, 144 green turtle eggs have been relocated from a Sydney beach to a beach more than 500 kilometres north in the hope they will hatch successfully.

Key points:

  • A green turtle has laid her eggs on a Sydney beach where it is to be too cold for the eggs to hatch
  • All 144 eggs were removed from the sand and relocated to a Coffs Harbour beach in the same way order and orientation they were found
  • The eggs are expected to hatch in two months time with hopes they will increase the male green sea turtle population

The unusual operation was launched when the vulnerable species of turtle was spotted on at North Steyne in Manly.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) ranger, Peter Bergman, who received the call, was immediately concerned that the turtle had laid a clutch of eggs somewhere on the busy stretch of sand.

What came next was an hours-long extraction process, followed by a 500km road trip with the precious cargo of 144 eggs packed into four coolers.

After that, the eggs had to be carefully placed in sand at an undisclosed location near Coffs Harbour, where they were more likely to hatch.


The female green turtle was spotted before dawn by staff from Northern Beaches Council. (Supplied: Northern Beaches Council)

A once-in-a-lifetime experience

Mr Bergman said the exercise was a special experience.

“I’ve been in this outfit for 30-odd years and I’ve seen turtles laying and I’ve seen them hatching,” he said.

“But this is the first turtle relocation I’ve personally been involved in and the first time for some of the officers who work for me.

“For the people on the beach this is something they would rarely — if ever — see in their lifetime.

“For a lot of us, with all the work we’ve been involved in with fires recently, this is a fantastic distraction.”


Tracks of the female green turtle led to the nest. (Supplied: Northern Beaches Council)

Mr Bergman said this was the southern-most green turtle nest he had heard of.

The eggs, each about the size of a ping-pong ball, had to be removed and relocated carefully and put back in the new location the same way they were found.

Holly West, the project officer for NSW TurtleWatch, which operates out of Australian Seabird Rescue based in Ballina and is funded by the State Government’s Saving Our Species program, said the eggs were incredibly important.

“One nest in the scheme of things, it is a big deal, because that nest is going to contribute back into the population,” she said.

“The statistic is one out of every 1,000 hatchlings will make it to adult size and be able to reproduce.

“That’s a really, really low number so any and every hatchling that we can get back out into the water is important.”

Careful extraction


Some of the 144 eggs found in the sand at North Steyne at Manly. (Supplied: NPWS)

NPWS, Taronga Zoo and Northern Beaches Council worked together on the operation.

Mr Bergman said once located, the eggs were pulled out of the sand and lined up in the order they came out.

“We’ve got to be very careful to keep them orientated the same way, vertically, so we can put them back in the same way,” he said.

“That way the turtle embryo is still orientated towards the top so they come up and out of the nest at the other end.

“There is the possibility that some of the eggs would not respond as well if they were twisted on the side and the turtle came out upside down or sideways.”

Then it was a matter of getting the eggs ready for the seven-hour drive.

Males and females


The eggs were relocated to a beach on the Coffs Coast and are expected to hatch in about two months time. (Supplied: NPWS)

The eggs almost certainly would not have hatched at North Steyne.

“Where she laid her nest down in Sydney, that beach is very highly likely too cold for those eggs to hatch,” Ms West said.

“It’s right on that bottom range of them being able to hatch out successfully.

“We had a discussion about what was best for these eggs and to leave them in a natural setting obviously is one of the best things too.

“To allow the eggs to hatch out and go through the whole process of coming out of the nest naturally is best.”

It was also hoped that most of the eggs would hatch as males as most hatching in Queensland have been females.

“With rising temperatures what we’re seeing is most of our northern nesting beaches are producing mostly females off their beach,” Ms West said.

“What I like to say is ‘Hot chicks, cool guys,’ so warmer temperatures produce all females, cooler temperatures produce all males and there’s a nice line in the middle there where you get about 50:50 within a nest.

“Most of those northern nesting beaches are producing predominantly females and we’re really focusing on these southern hatchlings to help us replenish males back into our sea turtle populations.”

Citizen scientists will check on the site twice a day to monitor for predators, and keep an eye out for signs that the turtles are hatching in about two months time.

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

Thousands protest against climate change policies amid bushfire emergency

Sydney 2000

Climate change rallies have been held in most capital cities around Australia in the wake of the bushfire crisis, with thousands of protesters criticising Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s handling of the fire emergencies in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Key points:

  • Organisers want to “sack Scomo”, and secure compensation for volunteer firefighters
  • A number of people attending the Sydney rally were bushfire victims or had family who had lost homes
  • Some people said it was the first protest they had ever attended because they were so upset

Protesters were criticised by politicians and police, who said resources had to be diverted from bushfire fronts to manage the crowds at the rallies.

The Uni Students for Climate Justice organised the protests that were intended to shut down parts of the CBD during peak hour in those capital cities.

Rallies were also held in a number of regional cities.

Organisers said they wanted to “sack Scomo”, and secure compensation for volunteer firefighters, as well as emergency housing and compensation for those paying for accommodation after their houses burnt down.

They also demanded the Federal Government end the multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel subsidy.

Follow our live blog of the bushfires burning around the country

‘Get rid of Scomo’

In Sydney, thousands of climate protesters packed into the area around Town Hall.

Several people told the ABC it was the first protest they had ever attended because they were so upset about bushfires and the climate change situation.

External Link:

Tweet: @isabellahiggins Very loud crowd at Sydney climate rally. Several people have told me this the first protest they’ve ever attended because they’re so upset about bushfires and climate change situation @abcnews

Crowds spilled across several city blocks, causing delays to car traffic and light rail services.

Protesters chanted “we want climate justice,” and “get rid of Scomo”.

The crowds at the Sydney rally were so densely packed in places that people were struggling to move.


Several people at the Sydney rally told the ABC it was the first protest they had ever attended. (ABC News: Isabella Higgins)

Sydney father Lachlan James told the ABC he hoped the rally sparked a political response.

“I’m doing this for my daughter really,” he said.

“I haven’t been to a protest before but I’ve just been absolutely disgusted by 20 years of political paralysis.

“Politicians would rather see the planet burn than admit ‘yeah, we were wrong’, so it’s really important to be here.”

A number of people attending the Sydney rally were bushfire victims or had family who had lost homes.

External Link:

Tweet: @isabellahiggins Big crowd at Sydney climate protest. Chanting “what do we want, climate justice!” @abcsydney

In Melbourne, despite rain, there were at least 5,000 people blocking off the middle of Melbourne’s CBD and part of La Trobe Street.

Some people held signs with pictures of animals that had died in the nation’s bushfires while others held up photos of the Prime Minister calling for him to be sacked.

External Link:

Tweet: @kristian_silva La Trobe St in the Melbourne CBD turned into a protest dance party. @abcmelbourne

Premier not happy with timing of rally

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews criticised the organisers for pushing ahead with the protest in Melbourne, putting pressure on police resources during the fire emergency.

“The protest against advice of police in the middle of a disaster —that’s when you start losing public support, not adding to your public support,” Mr Andrews said.

“Common sense tells you that there are other times to make your point.”


Protesters stood in the rain at the Melbourne climate rally. (ABC News: Kristian Silva)

Victoria Police would not confirm how many officers were covering the Melbourne protest, due to operational concerns.

However, they confirmed no police officers were pulled back from the bushfires in Victoria for the protest.

Protesters said now was the time for protest.


Despite the rain, there were more than 1,000 people outside Melbourne’s state library. (ABC News: Kristian Silva)

Greens MP Adam Bandt was forced to deliver his speech under a tarp on the back of a truck as the rain bucketed down in the city.

“We want to stop the country we love from burning,” he told the crowd.

“We were warned it was going to be like this. Scott Morrison, you share some of the blame for these fires.”

‘Shame Scott Morrison, shame’

In Brisbane, emotions ran high at the climate change rally where more than 3,000 people gathered in King George Square to demand Mr Morrison’s resignation.

Carrying a sign saying ‘A Quite Angry Australian’, the Connoly family said Mr Morrison’s actions had fallen “completely short” of “what’s expected of a leader”.


Protesters at the Brisbane rally. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

Waving banners and signs including “climate change is killing Earth” and “how hot is this ScoMo”, protesters voiced anger at the Prime Minister.

The crowd also paused for a minute’s silence to remember the bushfire victims.

Shortly after 6:00pm, protesters began to march along Adelaide Street while chanting “Scomo’s got to go”, shutting down some city streets to traffic.


Protesters marched down Adelaide Street in Brisbane about 7:00pm. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

“They cannot say they didn’t know, but can only say they didn’t care to act,” Brisbane rally organiser Priya De told the crowd to cheers.

“Shame Scott Morrison, Shame.”

She also hit out at spending on military jets in her speech.


Protesters gathered at the Brisbane climate rally in King George Square. (ABC News: Kate McKenna)

In Hobart, about 200 people gathered on the city’s Parliament House lawns.

Angus Bylsma from Extinction Rebellion Tasmania said the bushfires were “indisputably a result of the climate crisis”.

“We need to publicly declare a climate emergency and acknowledge that,” he said.

“These fires are unprecedented and they are huge and devastating, which is why now is the time to act.

“If there’s one way to get into the public consciousness and say what needs to happen is climate action right now, then these bushfires are an amazing visual example of why that’s the case.”


About 200 people gathered at the rally in Hobart. (ABC News: Ainsley Koch)

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

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

‘We can’t stop these fires’: Emergency and evacuation warnings issued across Vic, NSW

Bega 2550

Bushfire activity across south-eastern Australia has picked up as the region is swept by hot, gusty winds that authorities fear could render blazes unstoppable.

Key points:

  • Temperatures have reached into the mid-40s in parts of NSW and Victoria as strong winds fan bushfire activity
  • Authorities fear existing bushfires will spread and join and dry lightning could start new ones
  • The NSW Rural Fire Service says fires could move “frighteningly quickly” like they did on New Year’s Eve

In New South Wales, emergency warnings have already gone out for several communities who are being hit by bushfires, which have closed a stretch of the Princes Highway south of Nowra.

Further south, six evacuation notices and about a dozen emergency warnings have been issued as bushfires threaten communities in Victoria’s north-east and east.

Authorities are also concerned that the weather front sweeping the region could result in dry lightning strikes, starting new fires across parts of New South Wales and Victoria that have not already been devastated over recent days.


Dozens of communities in East Gippsland are being threatened by bushfires. (Supplied: Australian Maritime Safety Authority)

Temperatures in parts of each state have already climbed into the 40s, with Albury-Wodonga reaching 45 degrees Celsius by 2:00pm.

Victoria’s Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville has identified the second person to die in the state’s fires as Fred Becker, a timber worker from Maramingo Creek, near Genoa in East Gippsland.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said the number of people missing now stood at 21, seven fewer than the number unaccounted for 24 hours earlier.

Meanwhile, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has confirmed two people have died in the bushfires on Kangaroo Island.

The fire has burnt up to 150,000 hectares, including most of Flinders Chase National Park.

Mr Marshall expressed his condolences and said next of kin were being notified.

Almost 60 evacuees from the fire-hit Victorian coastal town of Mallacoota have arrived at Hastings, south-east of Melbourne, on the Navy training ship MV Sycamore.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and evacuations.

Video: The MV Sycamore was carrying 58 people, two dogs, a cat and a rabbit.

(ABC News)

About 1,000 more people are expected to arrive on another Navy ship, HMAS Choules, later today.

Across the state around 100,000 people were urged to evacuate ahead of today’s dangerous conditions.

Fires have burned about 820,000 hectares across Victoria in recent days, and about 50 blazes are continuing to burn in the state.

“We can expect that with the winds this morning and the higher temperatures followed by this change later in the day, south-westerly change, that the fires will be quite unpredictable in their behaviour and spread and that’s going to make firefighting difficult,” State Control Centre spokesperson James Todd said.


Evacuees gather at Batemans Bay as fire burns close to the coastline. (Supplied: Mark Cuddy)

‘We’ve never been as prepared,’ NSW Premier says

Across the border in NSW, thousands more heeded warnings to leave large parts of the NSW South Coast, from Nowra to the Victorian border and the Snowy Monaro region.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Saturday morning there were 137 bush and grass fires burning across the state, with about 60 uncontained.

More than 3,000 firefighters will be on the ground in NSW today.

“We’ve never been as prepared as we are today for the onslaught we’re likely to face due to the deteriorating conditions,” she said.

“Today is all about saving lives,” she said.

What makes a horror fire danger day?
Australia is experiencing horrendous fire weather. Find out why and what to watch out for.

Fires ‘spreading quickly’ across southern NSW

There are several fires burning at Emergency Warning level in the Snowy Mountains, close to the NSW-Victoria border.

Closer to Sydney, the Green Wattle Creek blaze is also threatening properties.

Numerous other fires are listed at “watch-and-act” level, stretching from the Kerry Ridge fire north of Sydney to Werri Berri, south of Bega.

The RFS says “several fires are spreading” in the Kosciuszko National Park.

A “temperature inversion” that has been keeping conditions cool across NSW has started to lift, with rising rising mercury and increasing winds causing headaches for firefighters.

Fires expected to spread in NSW

A total fire ban is in place across NSW with extreme fire danger in much of the state’s south-east, and authorities are warning conditions could become catastrophic.

Existing fires are expected to spread significantly under difficult conditions.

An RFS map of predicted fire paths shows a blaze at Green Valley could impact nearly the entire Mount Kosciuszko National Park with either actual fire spread or ember attacks.

The NSW RFS issued this map showing the predicted fire spread for January 4.
(ABC News)

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said the fires could move “frighteningly quickly”, as they did on New Year’s Eve.

“Even those areas that have already been impacted by fire, there’s still a lot of pockets among the bush that we’re quite concerned about that might flare up,” Mr Rogers said.

He pleaded with people to avoid the path of fires and head to a larger town or beach for safety.

“Our pure focus … is about the preservation of life.”

Mr Rogers warned a stretch of fire that has crossed into Victoria could return on Saturday, potentially merging with another blaze and creating a fire front stretching up to 70 kilometres.


Locals wait for a community meeting in the town of Narooma on the NSW South Coast. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

“We can’t stop those fires. We can’t stop the fires we already have.”

Closer to Sydney, another point of vulnerability is on the southern side of the Green Wattle Creek Blaze burning near Mittagong.

“Our strategy is to lay retardant on it ahead of it just to try and slow its progress, so it doesn’t get to places like Mittagong,” Mr Rogers said.


Some in Mallacoota were forced to flee the flames via water. (Supplied: Via Twitter @Nic_Asher)

The RFS is also closely watching a section of the Gospers Mountain blaze, north-west of Penrith, where predictions suggest fire and ember attacks could creep towards Sydney.

Mr Rogers said there was a “breakout” there on Friday and while crews were confident of getting on top of it, the blaze remained a concern.

Huge fire fronts raging across Victoria

In Victoria, a huge complex of fires in East Gippsland stretches from north of Bairnsdale to the New South Wales border, with areas not already burnt under threat.

Another complex of fires in the Alpine region, started by dry lightning this week, is threatening a number of ski resorts and could join up with a third group of fires burning in the north-east of the state, around Corryong and Walwa.


Scores of properties or structures have been destroyed in Victoria. (AAP Image)

There are also serious fires burning near Portland in the state’s south-west, in the Budj Bim National Park and in pine plantations at Wade Junction.

Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the state had “literally hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of active fire edge, of uncontained fire”.

“The major risk is the fires we don’t know about, the new starts,” he said.

“Crews will be so busy protecting communities that fighting new fires in dangerous conditions will be very difficult.”

The ranks of Australian crews will be bolstered by the addition of 41 firefighters from the United States today, and up to 70 aircraft will be used to attack the blazes.

Authorities are urging people across affected areas not to become complacent and to expect an escalation in bushfire behaviour later in the day.

The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting hot, dry north-westerly winds ahead of a southerly change.

The change has already reached Victoria’s south-west and crossed metropolitan Melbourne about 8:00am.

It will push into the Gippsland region — the area most affected by the recent fires — by the early afternoon and will move into the north-east of the state by evening and later on into NSW.

Temperatures on Sunday are expected to drop dramatically, into the high-teens and low-20s.

More bushfire coverage:

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

Hot air to hang around for longer before Saturday’s dangerous wind change


Firefighters and communities left devastated by bushfires this week will be given a reprieve by cooler weather today, ahead of “unprecedented” conditions on Saturday.

Key points:

  • New South Wales is facing a “very dangerous day” for bushfires on Saturday
  • Victorians have been warned conditions on Saturday are likely to be worse than on New Year’s Eve
  • A total fire ban applies for NSW and a seven-day state of emergency has been declared

Thursday’s cool change will continue today as firefighters prepare for a “dangerous day” tomorrow.

Soaring temperatures and strong winds on Saturday mean conditions could be worse than those that fanned deadly blazes on New Year’s Eve, NSW and Victoria authorities are warning.

Blazes on the NSW South Coast have claimed seven lives, while in Victoria’s East Gippsland region two people have died and 17 are unaccounted for as several major fires continue to rage.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) says Saturday’s danger zones will cover a broader geographical area, dominating the south-east corner of the state, where the most destructive fires have already struck.

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

“We are expecting the conditions on Saturday to see temperatures in the low to mid 40s,” RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

“It’s going to be a very dangerous day, it’s going to be a very difficult day.”


Exhausted firefighters have been battling dozens of blazes across NSW amid a heatwave. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

A state-wide total fire ban applies in NSW on Friday and Saturday, and a seven-day state of emergency has been declared.

South Coast towns that have already been hit by fires could again come under threat, according to RFS spokesperson Cathie Moore.

“If it’s an area that the fire may not have burnt through previously when it came through and it’s still got vegetation there, there is always that potential with the wind shift that a fire could come back through,” she said.

Ms Moore said since July last year, when the fire season began early, more than 3.6 million hectares of land had been scorched — more than the last three years’ seasons combined.

Closer to Sydney, the Grose Valley and Green Wattle Creek fires are another concern on Saturday because of their proximity to urban areas.

Both of those fires have previously broken containment lines and crews have been using a reprieve in the conditions to strengthen defences.


Saturday’s heatwave will bring difficult conditions across the country. (ABC News: Mary Lloyd)

In Victoria, Emergency Management Victoria’s Deputy Commissioner, Deb Abbott, warned the state had “very, very deep and quite serious challenges ahead” that were “quite unprecedented” as the East Gippsland crisis continued.

The state’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) has been attempting to remove remaining fuel around existing blazes with backburning operations, including at Clifton Creek, as the flames move south.

But incident controller Andy Gillham says every community lying to the south and south-east of the Bairnsdale fire zones will be under threat, regardless of whether the fires have already approached their towns.

“All of the communities need to be well prepared for the weather that’s coming,” he said.

How to get out of the ‘leave zone’
As authorities race to prepare for horror bushfire conditions along the NSW South Coast on Saturday, the message being sent to tourists stranded in the area since New Year’s Eve is clear: get out now.

According to Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Jonathan How, Saturday’s conditions differ because the southerly wind change will sweep through NSW much later than it did on New Year’s Eve.

“It does mean there is more time for the landscape to really heat up,” he said.

“With that change coming through later it could coincide with peak heating around 5:00pm or 6:00pm for the South Coast. That would mean a very dangerous fire day right up until the evening for many communities.”

The bureau predicts winds will arrive in Gippsland by early Saturday afternoon before moving through the NSW South Coast, not reaching Sydney until midnight.

“We could see wind gusts in excess of 100 kilometres per hour on exposed coastal locations,” Mr How said.

“It’s going to be very dangerous before and after the change.”


People seek refuge at Mallacoota Wharf as bushfires close in on the town on New Year’s Eve. (Instagram: @travelling_aus_family)

Authorities have already stressed the need for people to leave the regions of most concern, including an enormous stretch of NSW coastline from Bateman’s Bay to the Victorian border, Mount Kosciuszko National Park, and in the Victorian Alpine areas and East Gippsland.

Victorians warned ‘dangerous day’ ahead

Mr How warned Victorians to prepare for a “dangerous day” on Saturday, with conditions likely to be as bad or even worse than those experienced on New Year’s Eve.

“There could be a repeat of Tuesday’s conditions … these impacts will continue to go on for the next few weeks and unfortunately there’s just not much rain in the outlook,” he said.

“It’s looking like a very dangerous day on Saturday, particularly for those in Gippsland and the north-east of the state.”

Fire-ravaged Mallacoota in Victoria’s far east is forecast to reach a top of 42 degrees Celsius with “very strong” northerly winds which will push the fire danger into the extreme rating.

Fire danger is also forecast to be extreme in the state’s Mallee and northern county.

Mr How said dry lightning strikes had sparked a number of new fires earlier this week, therefore increasing the broader fire risk.

More bushfire coverage:

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

House prices finish 2019 on a high, as Sydney and Melbourne lead gains nationally


House prices in most Australian cities finished 2019 on a high, with national average dwelling prices lifting 1.1 per cent during December and by 2.3 per cent over the year, according to CoreLogic.

For the three-month period to December, national average house prices soared by 4 per cent — the fastest rate of national dwelling value growth over any three-month period since November 2009.

Key points:

  • Australian home prices rose an average of 1.1 per cent last month, with Sydney (1.7 per cent) and Melbourne (1.4 per cent) leading the gains
  • Although the monthly capital gains trend remained fast-paced, the 1.1 per cent rise in December was softer relative to the 1.7 per cent gain in November
  • Nationally, house prices are still off their previous record highs in all capitals except Hobart and Canberra

On an annual basis, five of eight capital cities, and five of the seven “rest-of-state” regions, ended the year with price rises.

Among the capitals, Sydney and Melbourne recorded the highest annual capital gain, with both cities posting a 5.3 per cent rise in dwelling values over the year.

During December, Sydney house prices rose 1.7 per cent, while Melbourne house prices shot up 1.4 per cent.

CoreLogic’s head of research, Tim Lawless, said that although the monthly capital gains trend remained fast-paced, the 1.1 per cent rise in December was softer relative to the 1.7 per cent gain in November and the 1.2 per cent rise in October.

“This would suggest that the pace of capital gains may have been dampened by higher advertised stock levels or worsening affordability pressures through early summer,” he said.

Mr Lawless said if the current quarterly rate of growth persisted this year, the national housing market would record a nominal recovery in March as dwelling values rose to new record highs.

“A nominal recovery in housing values implies home owners are becoming wealthier, which may also help to support household spending,” he said.

“However, the flipside is that housing affordability is set to deteriorate even further as dwelling values outpace growth in household incomes, signalling a setback for those saving for a deposit.”

If the strong gains continue, Sydney median house prices could shoot back up over the $1 million mark.

The data shows the typical Sydney free-standing home was worth $973,664 at the end of December, while the median Sydney unit was worth $746,017.

The typical Melbourne free-standing home was worth $778,649 at the end of December, while the median Melbourne unit was worth $576,475.

Monthly rise

(all dwellings)

Annual rise

(all dwellings)


(median price)


(median price)

Sydney1.7%5.3%$973,664$746,017Melbourne1.4%5.3%$778,649$576,475Brisbane0.7%0.3%$546,781$386,023Adelaide0.5%-0.2%$471,419$323,662Perth0.0%-6.8%$456,289$352,099Hobart0.2%3.9%$506,395$393,399Darwin-0.5%-9.7%$464,625$279,357Canberra0.1%3.1%$691,551$439,496National1.1%2.3%$552,196$511,111Darwin only region to record falls for the month

Across the other capital cities, Brisbane rose 0.7 per cent for the month and 0.3 per cent for the 2019 year.

Adelaide was up 0.5 per cent for the month but fell 0.2 per cent for the year.

Are real estate agents underquoting?
Properties in Melbourne and Sydney are selling for $100,000 to $200,000 above the advertised price.

Perth values were unchanged for the month and 6.8 per cent lower for the year.

Hobart lifted 0.2 per cent for the month, and 3.9 per cent for the year.

Darwin was the only region among the capital cities and “rest-of-state” areas to record a fall in values over the month, with a 0.5 per cent decline. And Darwin house prices dropped 9.7 per cent over the year.

Canberra prices rose 0.1 per cent for the month and 3.1 per cent for the year.

For the three months to December, the best performing capital city was Sydney, which lifted 6.2 per cent, and the weakest performing capital city was Darwin, which dropped 1.4 per cent.

However, Darwin had the highest rental yield for the three-month period at 5.9 per cent, and Sydney had the lowest rental yield at 3 per cent.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said Sydney home prices were up 66.7 per cent over the decade and Melbourne prices lifted 53.5 per cent over the decade.

“Wealth is at record highs and incomes are still running faster than consumer prices,” he said.

“The missing ingredient is confidence with many Aussies preferring to save and live more simply rather than spend and add to the mountain of possessions,” Mr James said.

A year of highs and lows

Mr Lawless said the positive year-end results masked a year of two distinct halves.

“We saw capital city dwelling values fall by 3.8 per cent over the first six months of 2019, and then rebound by 7 per cent over the second half of the year,” he said.

“The housing value rebound was spurred on by lower mortgage rates, a relaxation in borrower serviceability assessments, improved housing affordability and renewed certainty around property taxation policies post the federal election,” he said.

Australia’s house of cards
Australia’s housing downturn appears to be over … for now. But huge household debts leave the nation vulnerable to a shock.

“Lower advertised stock levels persisted, providing additional upwards pressure on prices amidst rising buyer activity.”

Despite a strong rebound over the second half of 2019, Mr Lawless said, property values across most regions of Australia were still below their previous record highs.

Nationally, the CoreLogic index recorded a peak in October 2017.

The only regions where housing values were currently tracking at new record highs were Hobart, Canberra and regional Tasmania.

Tapas Strickland, a director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank, said the national gains meant prices were now 3.1 per cent below the all-time high reached in 2017, with Melbourne 2.3 per cent below its peak and Sydney 6.4 per cent away from its high.

“Assuming price growth remains solid into 2020, then house prices are set to exceed their prior peaks by early to mid-2020,” he said.

Mr Strickland said NAB expected the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates again February and June from its current rate of 0.75 per cent, and that this was likely to support house prices in 2020.

But he said higher prices were yet to translate into an improved construction outlook, given building approvals were currently down 18.2 per cent year on year, and financing conditions for property developers remained tight.

“At the same time, population growth continues to be strong, which will support underlying demand for housing into 2020 and also lead to tighter housing market conditions,” he said.

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

‘The monster is on its way’: Fire bore down on us and there was only one option

Nelligen 2536

The monster is on its way to us at Batemans Bay.

We watch as the fire starts to spot in the industrial area. I’d been there earlier in the morning to buy some smoke masks — I’d find out later that several of the factories I visited had gone up in flames.

Traffic queues head out of town and line up at petrol stations. Hundreds have joined the exodus north. The only way out. The firestorm gathers pace. It’s lunchtime, but no one has eaten. Not the way any of us had expected to spend New Year’s Eve.

Only the night before my family been enjoying ourselves on the river bank of our farm — swimming, fishing and getting ready to welcome in the new year.


On December 30, the fires still seemed far from Nelligen, but the peace wouldn’t last. (ABC News: Liv Casben)

I had watched the fire on the horizon. It was a way off, but I had read every piece of information I could about wind, hotspots and predictions.

It was creeping forward but later that night came the warning that strong winds meant the village of Nelligen —and our farm — could come under threat.

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

Under siege

We had already decided I would leave with my two young children. I have covered enough bushfires to know I did not want them there. My mother and brother had decided to stay and defend the property from ember attacks — my husband would join them.

I drove out with the children early in the morning, heading to Batemans Bay.

External Link:

Liv Casben tweet

As the news of the evacuation started to filter through, my boss asked if I was available. I had my two young children with me and hadn’t slept. No one else from the newsroom could get there for hours.

My sister-in-law was already on her way out of town, but she turned back from driving north to pick them up and I went to work.

Snapping photos of the town I grew up in that was now under siege. The sound of sirens screamed through the streets. The fire ripped across the back of Nelligen through Runnyford and the top of Batemans Bay. I was working with a local stringer. He was a friend of my brother.

At every step this was personal. Nothing about the day was usual. Everything would take longer, comms were down.


In Batemans Bay, the beach was the only option for many fleeing the fire. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

On the beach

In Batemans Bay, we head to the water with hundreds more. For many this has become their only option.

I interview a man on holiday from Sydney with his young family. His wife is in the back seat with their baby. I offer them smoke masks. We hear gas cylinders exploding in the distance.

Sirens roar along Beach Road, near where my grandparents used to live, towards Surf Beach and beyond.


Liv Casben reporting in the bushfire devastation. (ABC News)

Down the road, the carnival — an annual event that symbolises holidays in this area — sits idle.

The fire pushes its way through the back of Catalina — spot fires are starting all around.

Mum rings, a family friend has lost his home at Runnyford. He speaks of “horizontal embers” and escaping by river to my mum’s.

They’re safe but his and the neighbour’s house have gone. My mum prepares her holiday cottage for them to sleep in. Thankfully the guests had rebooked a few days before for another time, heeding the RFS advice to avoid the south coast.

A woman tells me she has lost her factory in the industrial area and that she saw five houses destroyed in her street. She is overwhelmed. So am I. How was my family property? Should I be there instead?

Video: ABC Reporter Liv Casben had to seek shelter at Batemans Bay on Tuesday.

(ABC News)

Overwhelmed but safe

The southerlies start up and I know Nelligen will come under threat again. I call my husband — they’re helping to put out flames on a neighbour’s property.

Communications start going down. Power has gone. The volunteers at Marine Rescue Batemans Bay lend us their power and phone so we can get the story out.


The Clyde Mountain fire has torn through forest and reached Batemans Bay. (Supplied: NSW RFS)

My kids got back up north safely. They were OK but slightly spooked. Their mum and dad were both left behind.

I’m yet to return to the family property — I know it and everyone is safe but with phone and power still out.

But I need to see them and hear their reassurances.

I’m not alone.

More bushfire coverage:

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

Lloyd Banks – End Of An Era (Freestyle)

Check it
Ringing on your line like whats your favorite scary movie
Terrorizing here to Sydney tap your kidney with the toolie
Ima need my fucking money like sours told by Mookie
Had you jumping out the window hopping fences like the stookies
Box cutter tucker back when I be acting snoopy
Nigga miss me with the deuces taking shotys blast and move me
Known to make it gloomy won’t be honored when they choose me
I survived the gunfire fuck a comet going do to me
We dont go for threats so watch the way you talk around me
Better pumps your fucking breaks I had to park you like Jabari
Yea yea I came in like gorilas til they stomp you out the party
Trying to show off to these bitches can’t sponsor out here probably
Shit I never had the time for hating tools for domination
Threesomes for minuscule purposes bring the chronic cases
Made it from the underground wrote all my names around the basement
VVS target practice raise aim out the bracelet
Been the nicest niggas pretending they won’t acknowledge it
The one your local mc secretly got a problem with
Magnum fully loaded still left overs from my rookie clip
Professional curve a bmw had me pussy whip
Patience standard in your passport you never took the trip
My mirror took it in memories flashbacks when I look at it
You freezing out here trying to find a loophole too cold
Told my jeweler like my timepieces two tone blue gold
Keep em changing every day I miss the news though new code
Ain’t the cheddar got the cover of the crew blown you told
Outages from me shocking the world thats black energy
Balling want to lock niggas up like Pat Beverly
Last cd was 45 cases I’m back desert E
Gun pass to all my receivers mental telepathy
Raise the complexity it takes longer to get things by
Bullet wound in your size envious shit brings wild
In the machines it becomes easier to gas off pile
Shooting for the stars you trying to block the shot foul
Sometimes I resurrect my old style
Never changed when they changed up then, I won’t now
At your request

Drake Almost Put Hands On A Creep At The Crowd At His Tour Afterparty

Drake was very close to putting hands on a male creep in the audience on his tour’s afterparty in Australia.

The 6 God has been touring Australia and New Zealand since the start of this month and after performing at his sold-out show in Sydney on Wednesday night, he was performing at an afterparty at a club in Sydney when he called out a male fan for inappropriately touching the female fans in the audience. Some folks may argue that this happens in every club, but that is not the argument here, the argument is that it should not be happening.

Drake got word of the creep and told the DJ to cut the music so he can properly address the issue. “If you don’t stop touching girls, I’m gonna come out there and fuck you up,” Drizzy said. “If you don’t stop putting your hands on girls, I’m gonna come out there and fuck you up.” There was a security in the audience with a flashlight but it seems, in the end, no one had to take any more serious actions.

Drizzy has been getting applause from his fans on social media for taking action, especially with the widespread allegations going around of powerful men inappropriately making sexual advances to women. Drake marked the 6th anniversary of the release of his classic album Take Care, which was released on November 15, 2011.

Drake just called out a fan for groping women at his show and it was glorious. pic.twitter.com/il0IUElAoJ

— ATTN: (@attn) November 15, 2017

Horrorshow – If You Know What I Mean (Bardo State Album)

[Verse 1: Solo]
Now once upon a time not long ago (Not long ago)
There was an ocker kicking rhymes up in the land of rock and roll
He’s not a rocker, just a stoner on a roll (On a roll)
Goin’ all out on the road and tryna make the honour roll
See I been all up in the dojo practicin’ my braggadocio
Learned to toot my own horn, blow my saxophone and my oboe
Soprano, alto, baritone, mastered my high and low notes
A quick jazz cigarette then I’m takin’ my solo
If you ain’t heard about it ask around
On any given Sunday bet we turn the party out
Get love on every corner walkin’ through our part of town
Yeah, you that lucky winner, Price Is Right and so you better come on down
To the inner west, come and visit the turf
You’ll see my crew be runnin’ Sydney like the City2Surf
From the pretty beach sides to the sticks in the ‘burbs
They say "that dude Smooth Nicholas, he slick with them words"

[Hook: Solo]
I was rollin’ with my brosef and he turned and said to me
"Homie, you been goin’ in since we was only seventeen"
I said "I ain’t one to blow my own, but I tend to agree
If ah, you know what I—you know what I mean, what I mean"
Now the punters say they love the way I spit it on the beat
It put the roof over my head and put the kicks up on my feet
Nothin’ changed, still a couple snakes, we cut them blades of green
If ah, you know what I—you know what I mean

[Verse 2: Solo]
The sorta shit that they let fly, I could do with my eyes closed
But I’m taking the high road, tryna scale heights, never fall off cause I climb slow
See my sign’s goat, as in G.O.A.T
Make my way from A to B while spelling out what’s plain to see
My man was shotgun in the ‘Yota, looked over and said to me
"Homie, you been goin’ in since we was only seventeen"
When we’d rock up to your house party, rollin’ twenty deep
Turnin’ off your Black Eyed Peas and throwin’ on some BDP
R.B.G, R.O.C, Eminem or D.R.E
R.S.E, BnE or Suffa, Pressure, and Debris
For the moment probably be that O.V.O or T.D.E
But homie this that O.N.E, that D.A.Y, that E.N.T
Nowadays we got our names up on the list and drinks are free
It’s like something I think I saw in a vision or a dream
I’m tryna paint the kind of picture that make you picture the scene
If ah, you know what I—you know what I mean

[Hook: Solo]
I was rollin’ with my brosef and he turned and said to me
"Homie, you been goin’ in since we was only seventeen"
I said "I ain’t one to blow my own, but I tend to agree
If ah, you know what I—you know what I mean, what I mean
Now the punters say they love the way I spit it on the beat
It put the roof over my head and put the kicks up on my feet
Nothin’ changed, still a couple snakes, we cut them blades of green
If ah, you know what I—you know what I mean

[Outro: Solo]
Don’t wanna blow my own trumpet, don’t wanna toot my own horn
Don’t wanna beat my own drum kit, don’t wanna write my own score
But they like it, they love it, they buy it, they bump it, recite it
Turn it up and then they bump it up some more
Don’t wanna blow my own trumpet, don’t wanna toot my own horn
Don’t wanna beat my own drum kit, don’t wanna write my own score
But they like it, they love it, they buy it, they bump it, recite it
Turn it up and then they bump it up some more

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?