Tag: Western Australia
Volunteers across Australia are pushing to preserve historic landmarks in their towns.
- Communities are preserving about 100 historic landmark buildings each year
- Everyday volunteers are keeping their heritage buildings standing through advocacy campaigns
- Not-for-profit organisations like the National Trust are helping to convince councils to apply protections over historic buildings
Community members in regional and urban areas are fundraising, petitioning and enlisting advocacy groups like the National Trusts of Australia to persuade councils to save historic buildings.
Felicity Watson, the executive manager of the Victorian branch of the National Trust, says communities in her state are preserving about 100 historic buildings every year.
“What we find is there are so many competing demands for ratepayers’ funds in council areas that it’s really up to the community to have a strong voice to put their heritage first,” she said.
“We petition to councils to amend local planning schemes to apply heritage overlays over significant buildings.”
Set up in each state, the trusts are strong voices that have successfully helped volunteers protect and preserve their treasured landmarks through advocacy efforts.
A face from the past
In Castlemaine, regional Victoria, the Castlemaine Market Hall, a 158-year-old building that sits in the heart of town, has almost been demolished twice.
It fell into disrepair in the last century, but through the efforts of residents and the National Trust of Victoria, the building was saved and restored in 1974.
The great granddaughters of William Downe, Marion Downe, from Castlemaine, and Margaret Benady, from England, donated their ancestor’s portrait and antique desk. (ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)
The historic hall, built in 1862 was originally home to 22 market stalls, selling fresh produce and poultry while also hosting live animal auctions.
It is now the town’s tourist information centre and exhibition space.
The great granddaughters of William Downe, the architect who designed the market hall, have donated their ancestor’s portrait and antique desk to the building’s exhibition space.
Marion Downe, from Castlemaine, and Margaret Benady, from England, returned the heirloom to commemorate Mr Downe’s contribution to the town’s streetscape.
“It’s lovely to have William recognised this way, but it’s really due to the efforts of the local people who did a lot of fundraising and worked in conjunction with the National Trust to save it,” Ms Downe said.
Castlemaine Historical Society’s Alleyne Hockley said linking personalities and real people to heritage buildings allow community members feel more attached to their history.
“It’s important to link communities with the personalities of their history,” she said.
“He was an important gentleman in Castlemaine.”
Ms Watson said many councils in regional Victoria were listening to the National Trust and prioritising their heritage buildings as they are “real draw cards for tourism and economic development.”
In the same year, there were 34.6 million visitors to cultural heritage places across Australia and visitors spent $32.2 billion on cultural heritage tourism.
Jane Alexander from Queensland’s National Trust said there were several factors that contributed to a historic building being saved.
“These include effective legislation, willing owners, community sentiment and advocacy from organisations like ourselves,” she said.Ms Alexander said their branch acquired a rare and remote 19th Century brick convent building in Cooktown in the late 1960s, which is now the James Cook Museum.
Brick by brick
The National Trusts of Australia are also acquiring buildings to save them from disrepair.
Ms Alexander said their branch acquired a rare and remote 19th Century brick convent building in Cooktown in the late 1960s, which is now the James Cook Museum.
Constructed in 1888, the convent housed the Sisters of Mercy who provided education to day students and boarders from the Cooktown region.
“During World War II, the sisters and their students moved inland to Herberton and did not return, leaving the convent to gradually fall into disrepair,” Ms Alexander said.
The National Trust in Queensland restored the convent and it reopened as the James Cook Historical Museum in 1969.
In Western Australia, Karl Haynes from the state’s National Trust said their branch operates over 50 heritage appeals a year to fundraise and help prevent the loss of heritage places.
“A successful heritage appeal has been the Holy Trinity Church in Roebourne, located 1,600 kilometres north of Perth,” Mr Haynes said.
“The 1890 church was damaged by Cyclone Christine in 2013, but with the support of community, and grants from the Heritage Council of Western Australia, the National Trust in Western Australia raised
over $400,000 and the church’s restoration is nearing completion.”
Coronavirus update: Anzac Day services cancelled, stock market cops record drop while Trump tells shoppers to ‘just relax’
The Australian stock market has suffered its biggest one-day drop since the 1987 share market crash, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls for calm and travel bans to combat the COVID-19 pandemic come into effect.
This story is no longer being updated. For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow this story.
Monday’s key moments
- Coronavirus state of emergency declared
- Scott Morrison considering further economic measures as coronavirus fears mount
- ASX loses $100 billion amid coronavirus fears
- US Federal Reserve cuts interest rate to near zero
- Man who recently visited Hamilton Island tests positive for coronavirus
- Bluesfest cancelled for 2020
- A-League and W-League games to continue behind closed doors
- ACT records second case of COVID-19
- Seventh coronavirus case in Tasmania as schools implement social distancing
The RSL branches across Victoria, NSW, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia have cancelled some Anzac Day events.
While some dawn services will still go ahead, members of the public have been asked not to attend.
The move, which comes more than a month out from the services, has been made to try and limit the spread of coronavirus and to protect older veterans.
“On April 25, when you can’t go to a local dawn service, the RSL is asking that instead you tune in via radio, social media or television and take a moment to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our veterans and those who are still serving today,” RSL Victoria state president Dr Robert Webster said.
The Australian War Memorial is yet to make a final decision, but said it would act on the health advice of the ACT and federal governments.
Supermarkets to bring in more staff, special shopping times to deal with panic-buyers
Things have, at times, become nasty in some supermarkets as shoppers rushed to hoard items over fears of shortages.
The coronavirus pandemic has lead to panic-buying and scuffles in the aisles so this week Coles and Woolworths are opening exclusively for the elderly and those with a disability for one hour each morning.
“We know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop,” Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said.
“This temporary measure will give them, and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open — helping them obtain the essential items they need most in a less crowded environment.”
Coles is also hiring an extra 5,000 casual workers.
Boarding schools could become ‘like cruise ships’
Some parents with children in boarding schools have been told to expect a call to bring them home to prevent a “cruise ship-like” scenario, Association of Independent Schools of NSW chief executive Geoff Newcombe says.
The school names have not been announced as final preparations for remote schooling are still underway and parents are yet to be informed.
However, the ABC understands several private schools across Australia — so far, as many as 10 — will contact parents on Monday night or Tuesday morning to tell them they are sending students home to start remote learning, which will commence later this week.
“The Department of Health has made it clear to us that they understand that boarding schools have to be considered in a slightly different context to day schools,” Dr Newcombe told the ABC.
“If one boarder became ill then of course health has told us that boarding schools would be put in lockdown similar to the cruise ships.”
The ABC understands NSW Health is formalising advice for boarding schools, which the association will pass on to schools later on Monday or on Tuesday morning.
US President Donald Trump has told Americans to stop panic-buying supplies as the fallout from the spread of coronavirus causes chaos at airports across the country.
Increased screening measures have caused huge delays at major US airports, like Chicago’s O’Hare International where about 3,000 travellers returning from Europe were stuck inside customs for hours over the weekend.
Mr Trump has moved to reassure people that grocers would stay open and stocked.
“You don’t have to buy so much,” Mr Trump said.
“Take it easy. Just relax.”
ASX down after record fall as US Federal Reserve cuts interest rate
The Australian stock market has shed $165 billion, starting the week with its largest ever daily drop as coronavirus fears continue to hammer markets.
The ASX opened 7.12 per cent down but bounced back slightly to 5 per cent down by 11:25am (AEDT).
However, by the end of the day’s trading it had closed down 9.7 per cent at 5,120 points, in the largest daily percentage fall on record.
The broader All Ordinaries also had its largest one-day fall since the 1987 stock market crash, ending 9.5 per cent down and losing $165 billion in value.
The big four bank stocks all lost more than 10 per cent and energy stocks were also hit hard.
Travel-related companies were sharply lower following the announcement of forced self-isolation for all people entering Australia from overseas.
The market fall came after the US Federal Reserve slashed interest rates by a full percentage point in a bid to help the economy withstand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The RBA is expected to announce further policy measures on Thursday to support the economy.
States and territories issue emergency declarations
South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have all issued emergency declarations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The declarations give the states and territories powers to detain and penalise people for breaking quarantine rules as well as restrict public movement and ban mass gatherings.
Yesterday SA Premier Steven Marshall said coronavirus would be treated as a public health emergency.
This morning ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr followed suit and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr Andrews said the state of emergency would come into effect from midday today and run for at least four weeks.
Western Australia has also declared a state of emergency and emergency powers have been invoked in New South Wales to force the immediate cancellation of public events of more than 500 people.
Those who defy the cancellation order face fines of up to $11,000.
Queensland Health authorities are attempting to trace people who may have come into contact with a man diagnosed with coronavirus who recently travelled to Hamilton Island, off the coast of tropical north Queensland.
The 36-year-old is now being treated in Mackay Base Hospital.
ABC understands the patient recently travelled from New South Wales where they were first tested.
The case was not included in Queensland’s daily tally as it is being handled by New South Wales.
A statement posted by the Mackay Hospital and Health Service said authorities were retracing the patient’s steps.
“Contact tracing is well underway,” the statement said.
“This means that we are directly contacting people who are known to have been in close contact with the person while they might have been infectious.
“If there are further public health alerts, we’ll let you know.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australians need to “help each other out” as the nation contends with the spread of coronavirus.
“A state of emergency is not a state of panic,” Mr Morrison said.
“A state of emergency puts in place special powers for state governments to help manage the spread of a health epidemic.”
He also urged shoppers to stop panic buying, as supermarket chains announced restricted opening hours solely for elderly people and those with a disability.
“Let’s all look after each other and be respectful to each other and help each other out,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison also announced that he would meet with the Treasurer and Finance Minister this afternoon to discuss further economic measures, following last week’s $17 billion stimulus package.
The Prime Minister will also relocate to Canberra to be closer to bureaucrats and make it easier to conduct meetings of the National Security Committee of Cabinet.
Health authorities are considering whether to restrict visitation to aged care facilities to protect elderly people from the spread of the coronavirus.
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said chief medical officers from around the nation would meet in person this afternoon to consider what more should be done to protect high-risk groups.
“There are a range of measures that we put in place in flu seasons when there’s a large number of influenza cases in the community or indeed if there is an outbreak within an aged care facility,” he said.
Addressing media at a press briefing in Canberra, Professor Kelly also said the Government needed to be “careful and prudent” about its use of testing.
After one testing clinic was opened, 1,600 people were tested but just one was found to be positive.
“You need to look at where you get your best bang for your buck,” he said.
He declined a request to elaborate, saying only that “we’re continuing to test”.
Sydney school closed, but most remain open
While large gatherings are banned, most schools and universities will remain open.
Despite that, a primary school in Sydney’s south-west was closed this morning, after a visitor tested positive for coronavirus.
St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School, in Panania, is closed for cleaning today.
Last Thursday afternoon, about 40 staff from different schools attended a professional development event at the school and at the weekend one of those people tested positive for coronavirus.
According to modelling from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence that Hong Kong — which closed schools — was more successful in containing the virus than Singapore, which did not.
Thousands of Australians travelling overseas are weighing up their options for returning home, amid news they must self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive back in the country.
When Adelaide nurse Marcelle left home for Thailand just over a week ago, she closely monitored travel advice before she left.
“We kept an eye on Smart Traveller and it was a moderate risk for Thailand — there was no warning about not going, it was just to exercise a normal degree of caution,” she said.
“We did um and ah, but thought, ‘OK, we’re guided by the government website.’ So this has sort of come as a bit of a shock.”
Marcelle is in Railay in southern Thailand and now faces the prospect or returning home to self-isolation at a time when her workplace needs staff to help deal with the outbreak.
“I’m not sure what it means in terms of work, is it paid leave, is it sick leave? Luckily I’ve got sick leave available,” she said.
“Even things like how do we get from the airport to home, do we have to wear a mask in the taxi?
“I don’t think the enormity of it will hit until we’re actually home.”
The A-League and W-League will continue to be played despite the coronavirus outbreak, with games taking place in empty stadiums, Football Federation Australia (FFA) has said.
FFA chief executive officer James Johnson said the game was facing an “unprecedented challenge” and warned further measures may be enacted as the situation developed.
“This is an unprecedented time and extremely complex for the sport and also the society at large,” he said.
“We anticipate further decisions as the days and weeks go on because we really don’t know how this virus will evolve.”
With the uncertainty around what will happen, NRL boss Todd Greenberg has warned of significant financial and commercial impacts, including reducing players’ pay.
Cutting salaries would be an extreme measure but if matches are cancelled, it could be one of the consequences.
“We have a number of games we have to fulfil to provide content to our broadcasters, and the broadcasters pay us a fee for that,” he said.
“Clearly, if we don’t provide the content as scheduled, there are commercial impacts to that.”
Festival featuring Crowded House and Alanis Morissette cancelled
For the first time in 30 years, the Bluesfest music festival will not take place this year.
The event has been cancelled due to the public health act order the NSW Government enacted on Monday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The festival, which drew more than 105,000 people to Byron Bay across five days in 2019, was set to feature a bill that included US megastars Dave Matthews Band, local icons Crowded House and punk legend Patti Smith.
In a statement, festival director Peter Noble said it was “obvious” the festival, set to run April 9-13, could not go on.
“We are heartbroken as we believe we were presenting one of the best ever bills of talent for you,” he said.
“We are now working through how to move forward and to give you details. I thank you for allowing us enough time to get everything in place for the best possible outcome for everyone.”
Italian authorities say they are worried about how much longer the country’s strained health systems can cope with the coronavirus outbreak.
Sunday’s 368 new deaths brought the country’s death toll to 1,441, with 24,747 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
While the virus has begun spreading rapidly across Europe, Italy remains the second most heavily affected country after China, where the illness first emerged, and the outbreak has shown no signs of slowing.
Lombardy, the heavily populated area around the financial capital Milan, has been the worst-affected region with 1,218 deaths.
Despite Italy’s lockdown, Pope Francis has visited two churches in Rome to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain is planning to isolate older people “within weeks”, and will move to put anyone diagnosed with coronavirus into quarantine.
British Heath Secretary Matt Hancock said people aged over 70 would be shielded from the virus by being forced to self-isolate for up to four months, with an announcement “in the coming weeks”.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
- What does self-isolation mean and how does it work?
- Can I get a refund on my holiday?
- Why are schools still open in Australia?
The number of deaths of Britons with coronavirus jumped by 14 to 35, while the total number of people diagnosed rose by 20 per cent to 1,372, health authorities said on Sunday.
European nations are closing bars and restaurants, and tightening borders.
Europe is now the epicentre of the outbreak, and the death toll from the disease has gone up dramatically in the last 24 hours.
- Health authorities in Spain say deaths from COVID-19 have doubled in 24 hours — a day after the Government declared a state of emergency and took extraordinary measures to limit movement
- Germany has announced it will restrict border entries from neighbouring countries
- Austria is banning gatherings of more than five people
- Despite widespread restrictions in France, voters have gone to the polls for local elections
- In the Netherlands and Belgium, gyms and cinemas are closed as well as most shops — excluding those selling food and medicine
- Slovenia’s public transport system has been closed and Scandinavian Airlines, SAS, has announced it is suspending most of its activities
Iran sees largest single-day jump
Iran has reported its biggest single day jump in fatalities, with another 113 deaths, bringing its death toll to more than 700 and there are fears the pandemic could overwhelm health facilities in the country.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, two of the most sacred sites in Islam, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, have been closed until further notice.
Six new native gecko species have been discovered during the course of a two-decade long research program by the Queensland Museum and Griffith University.
- Genetic testing has revealed six new species of native gecko, which also have subtle differences to the Asian house gecko
- The “new” geckos, which are found mostly in northern Australia, have smooth tails and fewer claws than their famous cousins
- New species are identified in Australia quite frequently, according to one reptile expert
The university’s Dr Paul Oliver, who is also a senior curator at Queensland Museum, said identifying the new species required painstaking detective work.
“Part of the reason these common species have been undiscovered for so long is that they’re very hard to tell apart,” he said.
Tail tips from the creatures were analysed to identify the genetic differences.
“Although we can’t tell them apart, [other geckos] certainly can,” he said.
The story in a tail
Despite being as common as the Asian house gecko, which can be found in many homes across Australia, native geckos have three distinct differences:
- Asian house geckos make the famous gecko “clicking” sound, but their Australian cousins are much quieter
- Asian house geckos have spikes on their tails, while the six native geckos share smooth tails
- Native geckos do not have a claw on their first toe, whereas Asian house geckos have claws on all their toes
Where to find the new species
The newly discovered Australian geckos, according to Dr Oliver, are fairly widespread.
“They’re basically dotted across northern Australia, from Broome to as far south as Brisbane,” he said.
The Northern Territory is home to the Geyhra arnhemica and the Gehyra chimera, found in rocky ranges towards the Top End.
Gehyra gemina occurs widely through the northern deserts of Western Australia and Northern Territory, with the Geyhra chimera and Geyhra calcitectus found mainly in the Kimberley region.
North-west Queensland has the Gehyra lauta, better known as the “ghost gecko” for its pale appearance, and it can also be seen in bushland in the north-eastern Northern Territory.
If you find a gecko a long way away from people in the bush, Dr Paul Oliver said the probability is that it’s a native gecko.
New discoveries nothing new
Steve Wilson, the author of the Guide to Australian Reptiles, said new species were constantly being identified by researchers and wildlife enthusiasts each year.
“We had about 1,100 Australian reptile species, and over the past three years we’ve had another 80 added to that,” Mr Wilson said.
Mr Wilson said there were two common ways to identify new species of animals.
“One is to turn over a rock and say, ‘That’s a new lizard that no-one has ever seen before,'” he said.
“The other way is to look at a species that has a wide distribution and genetically test them [and they] turn out to be different, which is what’s happened with this new discovery.”
Mr Wilson says anyone who finds an unusual animal should take a photo of it and the location and send them to the Queensland Museum.
Port Hedland 6721
The Federal Government has swiftly rejected recommendations from the Productivity Commission to axe the special tax concession for people living in remote parts of Australia.
- The Productivity Commission has recommended abolishing the Zone Tax Offset — a payment of approximately $300 a year to compensate for the higher cost of living in remote areas
- The commission argued it was “poorly targeted” and that it should be limited to only “very remote areas”
- The Federal Government immediately dismissed the recommendation
A report from the Productivity Commission released this week said the concessions were outdated, inequitable and poorly-designed.
But Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar quickly ruled out any changes and moved to calm fears.
“Were they to be implemented, the Productivity Commission’s recommendations would result in significant disruption to existing arrangements,” Minister Sukkar said in a statement.
“Given the challenges faced by regional Australia, including as a result of the impacts of the recent drought, bushfires and now Coronavirus, the Government will not be acting on the Productivity Commission’s recommendations.
“The most important thing we can do at this time is continue to provide certainty and confidence to those living in regional areas that the Government remains fully committed to supporting the growth of our regions and their continued success into the future.”
The report looked at the effects of the zone tax offset, remote area allowance and remote area concessions for fringe benefits tax on people and businesses in remote areas.
It recommended abolishing the Zone Tax Offset (ZTO), a benefit of around $300 a year to help compensate for the higher cost of living in remote areas.
The move would save the Federal Government about $150 million a year.
The commission argued that the concession was “poorly targeted” with almost half the claimants living in large cities such as Townsville, Cairns, Darwin and Mackay.
If it were to be kept, it recommended limiting it to only “very remote areas”.
It also wanted the government to review the Regional Area Allowance, a supplementary payment for income support recipients.
But it was the proposed changes to Fringe Benefits Tax remote area concessions which generated the most angst in remote areas like the Pilbara in Western Australia.
The Commission said the government was forgoing up to $390 million in tax revenue a year because employer-provided housing was exempt from Fringe Benefits Tax, and this should be reduced to only a 50 per cent concession.
‘Living up here is not easy’
Queensland LNP Senator Susan McDonald said the concessions were hugely important to regional Australia and the report showed a lack of understanding of life in the bush.
“The Fringe Benefits Tax concessions are crucial for businesses in remote and rural Australia who provide accommodation to employees as part of their salary packages,” she said in a statement.
“Without these concessions, small outback businesses will not be able to attract workers.”
State Labor Member for the Pilbara Kevin Michel described the report as “a kick in the guts for regional residents”.
“I’m totally disappointed with the Productivity Commission report. People don’t seem to understand the cost of living up here in the Pilbara.
“It recognises the current zone allowances aren’t working properly and the inequalities that we face living in the region need to be fixed.
“But at the same time it recommends abolishing the tax rebate, rather than trying to fix these inequalities.
“The Commission should actually be asking for more tax concessions for people living in the Pilbara.
“Living up here is not easy.”
WA Regional Affairs Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the fringe benefits tax housing exemption was vital in attracting workers the region.
“The Pilbara is a major generator of wealth for the entire country and the fringe benefits tax exemption is indeed one of those things that is at least helping to create some balance, and going part way to addressing the problem of fly-in fly-out [workers],” she said.
Under the now-shelved proposals from the Productivity Commission, towns like Karratha, 1,500km north of Perth, would not be eligible for concessions available to “very remote” areas only. (ABC Pilbara: Susan Standen)
Tax breaks are needed: Shire of East Pilbara
Shire of East Pilbara chief executive officer, Jeremy Edwards, said the council was very disappointed in the recommendations.
“If the recommendations were implemented, it would have a huge financial impact on a shire like the Shire of East Pilbara,” he said
“The introduction of a 50 per cent rate for FBT on housing would cost the Shire $300,000 to $400,000 a year.
“For a shire like ours we have to provide employee housing to attract people to come to this region and to put FTB on top of that would be a huge cost,” he said.
“To attract people to the regions, you do need to incentivise.
“Having a blanket statement that people want to move to the regions for lifestyle choices is true, but for somewhere like the Shire of East Pilbara and Newman we don’t have a waterfront view, and it is really difficult.
“So the remote area tax concessions and some of the incentives for people to live in the area is really warranted and it’s needed to keep people in the regions.”
Mr Edwards said he is hopeful the proposal is gone for good.
“It scared us a little bit, we are still going to advocate through our local members, and also Senator Dean Smith, we’ve spoken to him in relation to it,” he said.
“So we are just going to keep the pressure on and make sure the government doesn’t implement something like this.
“The news was welcome, but we just hope it doesn’t come back and haunt us in the future.”
The West Australian Government says there is no reason for Australian tourists to avoid travelling to Bali, despite reports of the first case of coronavirus being linked to the popular holiday island.
- The tourist from China reportedly tested positive on his return home
- It is unclear whether they were exposed in Indonesia or China
- WA authorities say people should not cancel travel to Bali at this stage
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said Indonesian authorities were aware of a Chinese national who travelled through Bali who may have tested positive for coronavirus.
He said health officials were closely monitoring the situation.
“Now obviously we need to monitor carefully the spread of this disease outside China,” Mr Cook said.
“This is a new situation because obviously Bali represents the playground for a lot of West Australians.”
It was unclear whether the person potentially contracted the virus in China and then travelled to Indonesia, or whether they may have been exposed to the virus in Indonesia.
The Chinese national is understood to have returned to Shanghai, where the positive diagnosis was made.
Don’t cancel Bali plans: Health Minister
Mr Cook said people should not cancel travel to Bali as a result of the development.
“We are not saying that people have to curtail their trips to Bali,” he said.
“At the moment DFAT [the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] has the same travel advisory for Bali, so people shouldn’t be alarmed.
“We are simply providing this information in the interests of transparency to make sure that we continue to provide people with the most up-to-date information as possible.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today confirmed a travel ban from China to Australia would be extended for another week.
Mr Cook said Border Force officers would continue to meet all flights arriving into Perth Airport and nurses would continue to be stationed at the Airport around the clock to manage people who may require testing.
WA health officials had tested about 10 people per day for the virus over the past week.
In total, 81 people have so far been tested in WA and all had returned a negative result.
“Our situation at the moment remains a very low risk,” Mr Cook said. “We are on top of this situation.”
Communicable Disease Control director Paul Armstrong said there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bali.
“Officially, Indonesia doesn’t have any cases at all,” Dr Armstrong said.
“Neighbouring countries of Indonesia of course have got several cases each but nothing alarming, nothing that would really elevate the risk of people travelling there.”
Dr Armstrong said Australia had offered support to Indonesia for increased testing if required.
More on the coronavirus outbreak:
- What the updated coronavirus travel alert level and additional border measures will mean for you
- The WHO has declared a global emergency for just the sixth time. Here’s what that means
- China says coronavirus is ‘under control’ as 6.5 per cent of world population is in lockdown
- A diary from Christmas Island: A Melbourne mother shares her experience as a coronavirus evacuee
- How the coronavirus emergency is exploited on eBay and Amazon
- Australian lab recreates coronavirus, helping vaccine push
- What exactly is coronavirus, and should you be concerned?
Google chief’s ship carrying Neverending Story-themed tech sets sail to explore mysterious deep sea canyon
Bremer Bay 6338
Details of what lives in the depths of a unique deep-sea canyon are set to be uncovered in an expedition underway on the south coast of Western Australia.
- A state-of-the-art research vessel is set to probe uncharted territory off the WA coast
- Australian scientists are excited at the chance to use technology they normally cannot access
- The Bremer Bay Canyon is a hotspot for marine life, but no one knows what lives in its depths
The Research Vessel Falkor, which is owned by the Schmidt Ocean Institute — founded by former Google chief executive Eric Shmidt and his wife, Wendy — set sail for the Bremer Bay canyon on Sunday.
Among those on board is seasoned Italian researcher and co-chief scientist, Paolo Montagna, who said the depths of the canyon remain a mystery.
“We know the shallow part of the Bremer canyon,” Dr Montagna said.
“We know this is a biodiversity hotspot and a unique place for killer whales and other whales.
“But we don’t know much about the intermediate and deep water, so it would be really an adventure, a true discovery actually.
“We have discovered new species also using the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and other research vessels, but we don’t know anything about this part of the ocean.”
SuBastian on board
The RV Falkor comes equipped with a Remotely Operated Vehicle capable of diving to 4,500 metres.
The ROV SuBastian was named after the character, Bastian, from the German fantasy novel The Neverending Story. Falkor is also a character from the book.
Co-lead researcher Julie Trotter, who works at the University of WA, said using the ROV technology is particularly special for the Australian scientists on the mission.
“We have a very rare opportunity as Australian researchers to be able to utilize Remotely Operated Vehicle technology, because this deep-sea submersible is not available for scientific research in this country,” she said.
“We will be capturing the first images of the deep-water canyon systems and inhabitants, and we will then be collecting some of those samples to do analyses back in the lab.
“Our main goal for collecting those samples is to try and reconstruct environmental conditions.
“We’re going to be targeting live organisms, and we’ll presumably come across dead samples and potentially fossil samples as well.”
The canyon is the first stop on the RV Falkor’s twelve-month tour of Australia, but its visit is not the only international attention Bremer Bay is receiving.
In the coming months, Japanese public broadcaster NHK will be creating a documentary on the area, spearheaded by filmmaker Dave Riggs.
“It’s a pretty amazing development to have the Falkor turn up and be pushing right down to the sea floor,” Mr Riggs said.
“They’re live streaming so anyone can watch it … I’ve been really fascinated by what could be down there.
“There’s a lot of killer whales, a lot of sharks, seabirds — a lot of life out there, and that’s a lot of mouths.
“There’s something feeding it and it’s a really special place.”
The Falkor’s expedition is set to last for 32 days and include two more canyons on the west coast.
As rallies encouraging Australians to #changethedate and #paytherent attract crowds across major cities, the situation in Western Australia’s far north will be markedly different.
While January 26 continues to maintain government and some community support as our national holiday, debate around a potential shift in the date continues to gain momentum.
But in the Kimberley, where the Indigenous population sits at close to 42 per cent and residents are at the front line of social issues confronting First Nations communities, the campaign is virtually absent from public debate.
Traditional owners will feature heavily in today’s community events and citizenship ceremonies, but there are no rallies, marches, or concerts planned for the region’s major towns.
Locals said it came down to people being focused on more immediate issues.
‘It hasn’t really been one of my priorities’
Bart Pigram, a Yawuru man born and raised in Broome, has a long line of family history in the area.
He believes changing the date will be good for everybody, but said people in the Kimberley were more inclined to worry about more pressing issues.
“Changing the date for the Kimberley people won’t change the suicide rates, it won’t affect our drug and alcohol problem up here, we have other priorities at hand,” he said.
“We won’t even be able to change the date if our living rates keep going the way they are.
“These other life and death issues in our community are more important to me.”
The Kimberley region has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, with young Indigenous men making up 71 per cent of suicide victims over the last decade.
In 2017 an inquest was held regarding 13 suicides between 2012 and 2016, five of those children between 10 and 13 years of age.
In coroner Ros Fogliani’s opening address, she said they had all been exposed to alcohol abuse and domestic violence in their homes, had poor school attendance, and most had not received any sort of mental health assessment or support.
While he was supportive of the rallies, Mr Pigram believes more effective ways of generating discussion around Australia’s past are needed.
“It’s great that protesters do it [but] there are also other strategic ways to do this — one of those is through the education system,” he said.
“This is the whole problem: we’re an uneducated nation, we are, because our schools aren’t teaching the true history of Australia.
“I learnt about pyramids when I was at school. What do I have to do with ancient Egypt? I should’ve been learning about ancient Australia.”
‘We are still oppressed’
Alicia Mclean is a Miriuwung and Gajerrong woman who goes by her traditional name of Lulkbudia.
Living in Perth but raised in Kununurra, 3,200km to the north, Ms Lulkbudia is able to see both worlds.
“I would say that we are still oppressed in our country,” she said.
“The incarceration rates, mental illness and how that affects our community, especially in the Kimberley region … There are a lot of problems and they’re very complex.”
Ms Lulkbudia would prefer to abolish Australia Day all together.
“It’s just about acknowledging the history of Australia, and that this day is causing a lot of pain,” she said.
“No day is appropriate to celebrate genocide, stolen generations, and all the horrific things that happened to Aboriginal people.”
Celebrating ‘in a different way’
Warumungu man Ethan Taylor believes the same values celebrated on Australia Day could be celebrated on another day.
“I wish I could celebrate with these people the beauty of this country, the magic that lies on this land, not just on a different day, but in a different way,” Mr Taylor said.
“For me no matter what day you celebrate, it won’t do justice for as long as it’s celebrated the way it is.”
Originally from Geraldton in WA’s mid-west, Mr Taylor said the things that make Australia great could easily be celebrated on a different date.
‘The values that I see celebrated on Australia Day are not bad values — mateship, coming together, sharing a drink — that’s not what’s bad,’ Mr Taylor said.
“When it’s done under [the guise of] celebrating a nation that has committed atrocious acts to certain people, that’s when it becomes bad.”
With many people voicing different Australia Day suggestions, or a new day to celebrate entirely, Mr Pigram said the past could not be ignored.
“The date that Australia became Australia and [was] federated as one whole country was the first of January 1901; that is the true Australia Day,” he said.
“We can’t deny the past; that happened, that’s history.”
The only sealed road linking Western Australia and South Australia reopened this morning after being closed for 12 days because of bushfires.
The closure of the Eyre Highway left hundreds of Nullarbor travellers and truck drivers trapped on both sides of the border.
Authorities reopened the 1,600-kilometre highway at 7:00am local time after fire conditions eased.
Frustrated and tired travellers were trapped on either side of the Nullarbor Plain while a bushfire burning near Norseman in Western Australia kept the highway closed to all traffic.
WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Superintendent Andy Duckworth said motorists should be patient as they travel through.
“We appreciate everyone is frustrated and tired so we’ve taken these extraordinary measures over the last few days to keep people safe,” he said.
“The last thing we want now is for people to perhaps be involved in a road traffic crash.”
He said people should drive with care, adhere to the speed limits, be patient if they needed to overtake and be sensible on their journey.
Authorities were staggering the release of traffic to avoid congestion and had flown in extra police officers to patrol the highway.
But Goldfields-Esperance Sergeant Dave Christ said he encouraged people to postpone their travel.
“The advice is to wait at least a day or a couple of days to just give the traffic a chance to clear itself and make your trip a lot smoother,” he said.
The decision to reopen both the Eyre Highway and Coolgardie-Esperance Highway was made after fire conditions eased in the area.
Supt Duckworth said the fires were at advice level but still uncontained.
“There’s still work to be done and obviously as the weather changes so can the situation,” he said.
“We’ll be monitoring and working hard over the next few days, potentially weeks, to get these fires controlled and extinguished.”
Travellers stranded for days
The ABC spoke to visitors from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia who were caught up in the extended closures.
While some were frustrated, most praised emergency services and volunteers in the towns in which they were stranded.
Glenda Allen from Warrnambool was in stuck in Esperance for six days and said she was “absolutely ecstatic” to be heading home.
Adelaide truck driver Glenn Freestone said the closures had “crippled” the transport industry.
“Out of the past month, I’ve been stuck for 22 days,” he said.
“I can’t wait to get back on the road, and hopefully if everyone plays nice we will get there safely.”
An ‘unprecedented’ situation
Coles and Woolworths said the closure had impacted the supply of some fresh produce in stores this week.
The companies used other transport options like rail to bring in products and minimise the impact.
WA’s peak road transport body said while fresh fruit and vegetables would return to shelves in the next few days, it would take much longer for farmers to recover.
Western Roads Federation chief executive Cam Dumesny said closing the vital route for nearly two weeks was unprecedented and would have significant consequences for the state’s economy.
“We have a lot of our produce growers here in WA who were sending their seasonal produce across to the east,” he said.
“Because of this closure, they’ve probably missed a fair chunk of their profits for the season.
“It’ll take some time to stabilise.”
Mr Dumesny applauded DFES, police, volunteers and the communities who supported the stranded motorists.
But he said the state would “need to take a deep breath once this is over and have a hard look at how we’ve managed it”.
“I think there’s some hard lessons we need to learn … how we look after people out there, sustain them and keep them updated with what’s going on.”
Every day, in the soft morning light, hardy souls venture out into the Indian Ocean from Cottesloe Beach.
- Cottesloe Beach installed a shark barrier in November last year to improve safety
- Mayor Philip Angers says there are more swimmers and beachgoers as a result
- Shark prevention measures are in focus following a fatal attack off Esperance
They stroke across the bay, regardless of wind or weather.
Many have wispy white hair and the kind of skin you get after a lifetime in the sun.
They remember vividly when Ken Crew was killed by a shark while swimming in knee-deep water at North Cottesloe in 2000 and the suspected fatal shark attack on Bryn Martin in 2011.
But this year, something is different. Their ranks have grown.
The Town of Cottesloe has put up a shark net and it has attracting ocean swimmers in their droves.
As he emerged from the surf, Chris Chalwell confirmed it was the net that had drawn him here — he was not game enough to swim at Cottesloe before it.
“I think it’s a wonderful addition to Cottesloe Beach, I can come down here and I feel quite safe,” he said.
“It’s just fantastic to swim out there with that knowledge, or that hope, actually, that that barrier will work.”
Mr Chalwell said swimming in the shark net was the safest he could feel.
“I’ve actually been lucky enough to see a seal on the other side of the net, looking back at me, saying ‘how do I get onto your side’?” he said.
“So it gives you an idea or a feeling of safety.”
Nets dotted up and down the coast
Shark attacks were again front of mind in WA this week after Gary Johnson was killed on Sunday while diving off the coast of Esperance.
The search for Mr Johnson’s body was called off by police this morning, pending any new information being received.
In an all-too-familiar drill, the attack has left concerned community members calling for more action to protect ocean users, the WA Government restating the measures it is taking, and a grieving family calling for calm, saying their loved one knew the risks.
Until now, Chantal Barrett has only ever done distance swimming at Cottesloe in organised events.
“It almost creates a nice sea lane swimming pool, but you’re always feeling safe as well,” she said.
“It definitely gets everyone outside, being fit, happy, active. I definitely see a lot more people swimming and training down here.”
Other shark nets are dotted along the WA coastline, including at Sorrento in Perth’s northern suburbs, Coogee near Fremantle and in the regional towns of Dunsborough and Albany.
Des Lord, who swims in the nets at Coogee and Dunsborough, was impressed with Cottesloe’s barrier.
“If you see the size of the mesh of the net, you’d probably get some small wobbegong-type sharks through, but nothing more than that,” he said.
The beach nets are part of a range of measures different levels of government have employed across WA to help mitigate as much as possible the risk of shark attacks.
Since February 2019 a smart drumline trial off Gracetown has caught and tagged two great white sharks.
In 2017, the State Government introduced a $200 rebate on shark deterrent devices to make them more accessible to divers and swimmers.
Enhanced monitoring has also been installed at beaches including Gracetown and a SharkSmart app has been launched to better track shark activity.
According to WA Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley, there are an estimated 1,600 endangered white pointer sharks between WA and Victoria.
Tourists think Australia is ‘full of sharks’
Cottesloe Mayor Philip Angers said he welcomed the positive response to the net.
“We’re now getting very strong crowds very early in the morning, like 5:30am, where people would never swim before, mainly because that’s the dusk and dawn period and people are a bit scared,” he said.
“That goes through until about 7:30am, quarter to eight, and then after that we tend to get a lot of tourists and just ordinary beachgoers, who probably don’t want to do laps for the Rottnest Swim but they just enjoy the beach.”
The perceived boost to tourism and local businesses, in particular, has pleased Mr Angers.
“I looked the other day when I was here and I went past so many hire cars,” he said.
“Tourists tend to think Australia is just full of sharks.
“In reality the risk of a shark attack is very low, but I think it’s in your mind and the net or barrier takes that away.”
It is one of Australia’s great outback adventure tracks, but the Tanami Road appears destined to change forever with renewed efforts to have it sealed.
- The unsealed Tanami Road goes for 1,000km between Halls Creek and Alice Springs
- The Aboriginal community believes a $235m upgrade to seal it will bring tourists, and opportunities
- Some tourists believe a bitumen road will take away the “outback” feel
The Federal Government has committed $235 million for upgrades which are set to improve the lives of remote community residents.
But not everyone is happy, with some tourists bemoaning the predicted loss of the rugged bush track.
The Tanami Road stretches for more than 1,000 kilometres between Halls Creek in Western Australia and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
It is a lifeline for the 400 residents of Balgo on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, who rely on it for essential supplies and as a thoroughfare to nearby regional centres.
Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation chairman Nathaniel Stretch believes the upgrades will bring unprecedented opportunities to his people.
“There will be tourists coming faster and more trucks will come in … it will be a good thing for Balgo,” he said.
Mr Stretch has been working to ensure the community makes the most of the change.
“I’m doing my best to develop these places when the bitumen comes up.
“We have to do road signs and make this into a town.”
In the last federal budget, the Commonwealth committed $235 million for upgrades to the Tanami and its feeder roads, which were considered roads of “strategic importance”.
“The Australian Government … wants to ensure more efficient freight networks, improved road safety and better connectivity for communities,” a spokesman said.
“Sealing the Tanami Road will contribute to these goals.”
The Government said planning was underway with the WA and NT governments and would include the development of “investment strategies” and consultations with key stakeholders.
Slow and expensive
Once a fortnight, Balgo receives a delivery of groceries, with fresh fruit and vegetables among the most coveted items.
The 300km journey from the Halls Creek turnoff takes truck driver Radar 10 hours.
“You’re going from 90 kilometres per hour down to 20kph, so it takes a long time,” he said.
“There’s a lot of rough patches, it’s stony, you’ve got to be careful of your equipment and tyres.”
It is an expensive route and not all goods survive the trip.
“When we order glass or a windscreen, we can’t bring it in the truck because the corrugations shake it too much,” Mr Stretch said.
“We buy a flat-screen TV and it only last one to two weeks from the corrugations.”
While residents are looking forward to better access, some tourists are dismayed about the change.
Peter Donald travelled from Horsham in Victoria to see the vast and rugged landscape.
“There’s enough sealed roads around so leave some things as they are and make the most of [the Tanami Road],” he said.
“I think it would be a mistake taking the outback feeling away from the outback.”
Mr Donald said he was convinced the environment would suffer.
“There would be too much rubbish, it would just be like the Hume Highway or any other main road,” he said.
“You get people who don’t respect it and just throw their rubbish out and ruin the whole feeling and whole atmosphere of the place.”
In Balgo, work is underway to preserve the outback atmosphere.
A new tourist road has been carved out, opening up sacred lands for visitors, and there are plans to train local tour guides.
“That bitumen is going to come strong and some tourists will miss the rough roads,” Mr Stretch said.
“But we will still have the outback, that’s why we are trying to maintain the outback from the bitumen.”
The former Prime Minister John Howard declared “how good is the gold price!” at last year’s biggest gathering of gold miners in Kalgoorlie in August.
- Gold is tipped to surpass its 2019 highs of $2,297 in 2020
- Digital technology has made buying gold much more accessible
- Gold production in Australia has slowed, but is expected to be boosted as new mines open
That exclamation went on to set the tone for the rest of 2019 — and most likely this year too.
As the industry met for the annual Diggers and Dealers mining forum, the price of gold had never been higher in Australia.
Gold peaked at $US1,550.30 an ounce in early August and while that’s not the highest price gold has ever been sold for — in 2011 it recorded its all-time high of $US1,917.90 — the exchange rate meant it was a record high price in Australian dollars.
Buying gold in Australian dollars at that time cost investors as much as $2,297.09 an ounce.
With record low interest rates, global trade wars and continued political uncertainty all set to remain in 2020, coupled with falling gold supply, the first year of the new decade is shaping up to be another big one for the precious yellow metal.
Gold mines shifting back into Australian hands
As 2019 was drawing to a close, one of the world’s biggest open cut gold mines, the Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KGCM), colloquially known as ‘the Super Pit’, changed hands, heralding a new era for the 30-year-old mine.
An investment you can hold in your hand
Investors are searching for safety in a Sydney basement, with a resurgence in keeping physical gold as bad geopolitical and economic news is good news for the gold price.
Australian gold miner Saracen Minerals bought Canadian miner Barrick Gold’s 50 per cent stake for $1.1 billion and exactly four weeks later, Newmont agreed to sell its 50 per cent share to Northern Star for $1.17 billion.
The two transactions mean the Super Pit is now wholly back in Australian hands.
It also means local companies now control 60 per cent of the Australian gold mining industry, after falling to as low as 30 per cent in 2002.
A leisurely 600-kilometre drive north-east of the Super Pit, Australia’s biggest new gold mine, Gruyere, a joint venture between Gold Road and Gold Fields, officially opened last month.
“I have been privileged to be associated with delivering many new mining projects around the world, but none has been as exciting or as impressive than this giant mining complex in this remote location,” Gold Road chairman Tim Netscher said at the opening ceremony.
“This is one of the largest gold mines built and commissioned worldwide over the past decade and you don’t get much more remote than this.”
The mine is expected to produce 300,000 ounces annually over its 12-year life.
A week earlier, a smaller operation still in its infancy, the Beacon Minerals-owned Jaurdi Gold Mine west of Kalgoorlie, was also opened by WA resources minister Bill Johnston.
“I think it’s fair to say there’s a modern-day gold boom going on in Western Australia,” Mr Johnston told ABC News.
“We’re seeing all these new gold mines opening up and there’s more exploration going into the ground as well.”
It comes at a time when Australia’s gold production slowed in the September quarter to 78 tonnes — a 5 per cent fall from the quarter before, according to data collated by gold mining consultants Surbiton Associates.
Australia’s gold production reached an all time high of 321 tonnes in the 2018/19 financial year.
“The local gold industry, with its costs predominantly in Australian dollars, is benefitting from the changes in the exchange rate as the Australian dollar continues to weaken against the US dollar,” said Surbiton Associates director Sandra Close.
Outlook for the yellow metal in 2020
Making money out of money isn’t easy these days — with the RBA cash rate at 0.75 per cent, term deposits aren’t delivering the returns investors once relied on.
Profits were sought in equity markets in 2019, with the ASX rising more than 20 per cent over the course of the year.
However, JP Morgan global market strategist Kerry Craig said that’s unlikely to continue.
“The outlook for earnings growth is quite muted, that does translate into quite weak equity returns, not negative, but much lower than we’ve experienced in 2019,” he told ABC News.
While gold is down about 5 per cent from its mid-year high, the political turmoil of the US-China trade negotiations, Brexit and Hong Kong saw prices rise about 18 per cent overall in 2019.
Always a winner in times of economic uncertainty, gold looks set to continue its forward march in 2020.
“Low/negative rates make a case for holding gold as a risk diversifier given slowing growth and trade risks,” UBS analysts wrote in a 2020 outlook note.
The Commonwealth Bank expects to see further upside, with gold prices going as high as US$1,600 an ounce — at current exchange rates that’s more than $2,300.
CBA’s director of mining and energy commodities research Vivek Dhar said the main driver for gold prices over the long term is US yields.
“We are currently forecasting the US Federal Reserve to cut US interest rates by 50 basis points next year,” he said.
“That should push long-term US real yields lower, therefore supporting higher gold prices.”
An ancient commodity goes digital
Buying gold became a whole lot easier last year when it became available digitally.
Gone are the days of lugging around heavy gold bars — although that is, of course, still an option.
Brisbane-based gold dealer Ainslie Bullion launched Australia’s first gold and silver-backed cryptocurrency in September, just as gold reached its record Australian dollar price.
Buyers can invest in gold tokens with a few taps on their smartphone, making gold much more accessible.
“Ainslie Bullion’s product Gold and Silver Standard saw 5,000 trades worth over $2.1 million in the first two months and nearly double that ‘over the counter’ through Ainslie,” said Ainslie Bullion director Paul Engeman.
He argues gold is a worthwhile asset class to invest in above many others.
“While some argue gold has no place in a portfolio because it doesn’t yield [return an income stream], they miss that when compared to Australian shares, property and term deposits — with each including dividends, rent and interest respectively — gold and silver have easily outperformed all three over the last 15 years in capital appreciation and preservation alone.”
The Perth Mint launched its own digital gold in 2019.
“Our aim is to make gold accessible to as many people in as many places as we possibly can,” The Perth Mint’s chief executive Richard Hayes told ABC News.
The Reserve Bank is widely tipped to cut interest rates again in early February, which is likely to see the gold price push higher again.
“Low interest rates reduce the appeal of interest-bearing securities,” explained Mr Dhar.
“These securities compete for capital with gold. Therefore, in times of falling interest rates, gold looks more attractive and is generally worth investing in.”
Buying gold could be a popular item on new year’s resolution lists, as global interest rates continue to fall and uncertainty continues.