Councillors across NSW and Qld join forces to demand climate action from Morrison Government

Councils across NSW and Queensland are fed-up by the lack of climate action from the Morrison and state governments and have banded together to demand urgent change.

Seventeen mayors and councillors from Shellharbour, south of Wollongong, to Port Douglas, in the Sunshine State’s far north, have joined forces to send a message to Canberra, declaring “extreme weather is hurting Australia and our communities are paying the price”.

The local government areas stretch along the nation’s east coast and have been particularly exposed to devastating bushfires and destructive storm events in recent years.

“We are exhausted by the immediate costs and challenges, and we are worried about what’s to come,” the group’s statement declares.

“Extreme weather disasters used to occur every few years. Now, we are facing them every few months.”

RELATED: Qld cops $18bn bill due to extreme weather

The plea for help follows a recent report from the Climate Council in which the leading independent body declared the cost of extreme weather on the Australian economy over the past decade totalled $35 billion, with Queensland copping the majority share at $18 billion.

“We can’t do this alone,” the group of concerned councils said.

“We need more support from the federal government to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and invest in clean industries that create regional jobs, unlock business investment and spur technological innovation.”

Noosa Shire Councillor Brian Stockwell called on both the Morrison and Palaszczuk governments to listen to the urgent fears and present danger for local communities.

The tourist hot spot is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm damage while the warming climate has also increased the fire risk with the popular Sunshine Coast resort area the first of hundreds engulfed in flames during the previous summer.

“The one we’re experiencing already is our early summers and springs are much hotter and much drier,” he told the NCA NewsWire.

“We were the first to have a catastrophic fire event in the 2019/20 season, but it also carries across to us having an ageing population and it’s predicted deaths from extreme heat and climate change will exceed what we experienced last year from COVID by 2100.

“These are significant issues and local governments can address them through practical measures right now.”

Mr Stockwell said the federal government had failed to offer a meaningful response to the present threat with a “business as usual approach to dealing with the fossil fuel industry and ignoring the need to convert our economy to a green economy”.

“We saw the debacle of gas being a preferred option identified by the federal government whereas it‘s really clear that new solar power on large farms are far more cost effective at the moment compared to new coal fired electricity.”

Communities across Australia have clearly had enough of the growing cost of extreme weather disasters, Climate Council researcher Dr Simon Bradshaw said.

“All types of extreme weather events — storms, coastal erosion, flooding, bushfires, heatwaves and drought — are influenced by climate change,” he said.

“Australian communities are already paying the price, with the past twelve months seeing a devastating run of extreme weather disasters.”

“Extreme weather has cost our national economy at least $35 billion over the past decade. And it’s going to get worse — by 2038, the price tag of climate impacts could climb to $100 billion a year.”

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Former fugitive Owen Van Duren cleared over piglets stolen from Yarralumla Play Station | The Canberra Times

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Four little piggies went to a Deakin backyard, but a former international fugitive was not to blame. That was Magistrate Glenn Theakston’s verdict on Thursday afternoon as he cleared Canberra electrician Owen Van Duren of possessing stolen piglets. Mr Theakston also found the 40-year-old not guilty of a series of weapons possession and cannabis cultivation charges, saying it was unclear whether the man occupied the property where each of the items were discovered. At the culmination of a three-day hearing in the ACT Magistrates Court, Mr Theakston said much of the evidence was not in dispute. It was accepted that juvenile piglets located in the backyard of a home owned by Mr Van Duren’s brother Shane on September 2 last year had been nicked a few days earlier, along with other animals, from the Yarralumla Play Station. Police spotted the piglets in the yard after sending a drone into the air to scour the area, having received a tip from someone who had heard unusual squealing. When officers subsequently entered the backyard, they discovered a hydroponic cannabis growing set-up in a garden shed, as well as a number of guns and firearm suppressors in a shipping container. Some crossbows were also located, though it was unclear exactly where each was found, while a prohibited knife was stashed in the kitchen of the house. Prosecutor Christina Muturajah argued during the hearing Mr Van Duren had lived in the home at the relevant time, and the inference could therefore be drawn he was responsible for the items in question. She said the 40-year-old’s partner, Nantana Piewwong, had told police the couple lived there and Mr Van Duren had asked her to feed the piglets scraps. Ms Muturajah said Mr Van Duren’s fingerprints had also been found on some of the weapons and on a light above the cannabis plants. Things around the home also suggested the man lived there, she said, pointing to items such as two-day-old registration papers and a prescription in his name. Ms Muturajah said Mr Van Duren had been “at all times evasive about his address” when questioned by police. But defence lawyer Stephanie Beckedahl told the court there was “great uncertainty” about who lived at the Deakin home. She said everyone seemed to agree Mr Van Duren’s brother had resided there at some stage, though he told police he was now in Holt, and it was possible Mr Van Duren and his partner might have lived there at some stage. But she said Mr Theakston would not be able to find beyond reasonable doubt her client occupied the premises at the relevant time, saying Mr Van Duren’s brother may have had “care, control or management” of the piglets, weapons and cannabis plants. Ms Beckedahl also pointed to a number of unidentified fingerprints found in areas of significance to show “unknown persons” may have been responsible for the presence of those things. Mr Theakston ultimately said it was “very difficult to form a view” about who lived there at the time in question. He said it would be “dangerous” to place much weight on anything said by Ms Piewwong, who had made a number of inconsistent comments to police, perhaps because she was not particularly proficient in English. Mr Theakston also said it was possible Mr Van Duren’s fingerprints and DNA were present at the property because his brother owned the place and he had touched items there while visiting. “It’s just unclear who was utilising the house,” the magistrate said. Mr Van Duren, who made headlines in 2018 after sailing a yacht through pirate-infested waters to escape charges in Thailand, spent almost six months behind bars awaiting this week’s hearing. He was released from custody immediately when the case concluded on Thursday. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:



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Butcher escapes jail after laundering man’s superannuation funds to pay business debts

A South Australian butcher who could not secure a bank loan to repay a large business debt has escaped jail for money laundering a man’s superannuation funds “in desperation”.

Thirty-year-old Michael Kevin Cheney pleaded guilty to knowingly engaging in money laundering after his Paralowie butchery fell into debt in December 2018.

The District Court of South Australia heard he could not repay the debt or secure a bridging loan so he placed an advertisement for a loan on popular buy and sell site, Gumtree.

“You were carrying about $60,000 worth of business debts and, as a result, you could not afford to buy stock,” Judge Paul Slattery said.

A man — who went by the name of Tom — contacted Cheney informing him of a scheme that would allow early access to his superannuation if he opened a self-managed superannuation fund.

Cheney took up the offer and withdrew his superannuation balances, along with that of his wife.

It was paid to him in cash in plastic Ikea bags.

‘Not entitled to receive those funds’

The court heard Cheney did not receive as much money as he was promised, and the people behind the scheme — who have since been arrested — took a 35 per cent cut.

Cheney was later contacted by the same people and asked if he was interested “in making some money” which involved having a sum of money deposited into his self-managed superannuation account, which he would withdraw and pay to the individual in cash.

“You were not entitled to receive those funds and you were involving yourself in the laundering of those funds,” Judge Slattery said.

“You then transferred the entire amount in your personal account and began to withdraw the money.

$50,000 spent on online gambling

The court heard Cheney had a gambling addiction and spent $50,000 of the $117,000 on online gambling in a “futile attempt” to make money.

He then moved interstate and disposed of his mobile phone before the men behind the scheme allegedly tracked him down.

In sentencing, Judge Slattery said only $38,000 of the $117,000 transferred into Cheney’s account could be recovered as the rest had been spent on gambling and paying bills.

“You were not someone who was living an extravagant lifestyle, and your offending occurred as a result of desperation and an ill thought out decision to obtain money.

“You still owe about $15,000 of business debts and you have recently obtained employment at a supermarket.”

Judge Slattery sentenced Cheney to one year and 10 months but suspended that sentence on a two-year good behaviour bond.

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Russia considers cutting government borrowing as oil prices rally — RT Business News

Russia could end up borrowing US$6.8 billion (500 billion Russian rubles) less than planned this year as rising oil prices help its key oil revenues to rise.

The rally in oil prices, which have risen by around 30 percent this year, also coincides with Russia’s economy emerging from the slump during the pandemic.

Last year, Russia’s economy was suffering the consequences of the oil price crash it helped create with the temporary rift with its OPEC+ partner Saudi Arabia in March 2020. The Russian ruble crashed, and Russia’s oil income shrank as a result of the plunge in oil prices during the pandemic.  

In March 2020, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov warned that revenues from oil and gas would be US$40 billion (3 trillion rubles) lower than planned due to the tumbling oil prices. Russia’s economy is not going as well as one would have hoped, the finance minister admitted back then, saying that the oil price factor alone was set to reduce the country’s budget income by nearly US$40 billion compared to earlier estimates.

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Russia expects oil between $45 and $80 by 2035

The oil price crash, along with the coronavirus-driven global recession, will result in Russia’s economy shrinking in 2020 by six percent, or by the most in 11 years, the World Bank said in its economic report on Russia in August 2020.

Russia was also said to be considering whether to adopt a kind of state oil hedging program, similar to Mexico’s oil hedge, to protect government revenues from oil price crashes in the future.  

This year, the higher oil prices are pushing up Russia’s oil revenues, its key export income, and the government is discussing lower debt issues year, according to Bloomberg’s sources.

READ MORE: Russian economy may recover to pre-pandemic levels by year end, says Central Bank

Officials are considering cutting the borrowing to US$43 billion (3.2 trillion rubles) from US$50 billion (3.7 trillion rubles), according to the sources, one of whom even said that the cut to borrowing in 2021 could double to US$13.5 billion (1 trillion rubles).   

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Covid-19 vaccination: Health Ministry answers frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The Centre has come out with detailed frequently asked questions (FAQs) on Covid-19 vaccination, in an attempt to answer many questions that are being asked by the general public.

Here are the answers to the questions on Covid-19 vaccination:

Should you avoid alcohol after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine?

The Health Ministry says that as per experts “there is no evidence of alcohol impairing the effectiveness of the vaccine”.

A healthcare worker prepares to administer a vaccine at a private hospital in New Delhi. (AP Photo: Altaf Qadri)

Claims on social media suggested the Covid-19 vaccine could affect female fertility. Is it true?

The Health Ministry says rumours or social media posts suggesting Covid-19 vaccines could cause infertility “are not true and totally baseless”.

“None of the available vaccines affects fertility. All vaccines and their constituents are tested first on animals and later in humans to assess if they have any such side effects. Vaccines are authorised for use only after their safety and efficacy are assured,” the ministry says.

What are the precautions one needs to take after receiving the vaccine?

The Health Ministry has assured that both the vaccines are safe but in “case of any discomfort or complaint”, the beneficiaries are advised to visit the nearest health facility or call the health worker whose phone number is given in the CoWIN SMS received after vaccination.

What medications should be avoided before taking the Covid-19 vaccine and for how long?

The Health Ministry says there are no such instructions: One can take one’s regular medication uninterruptedly. Just inform the vaccinator about the medicines you consume.

Senior citizens after receiving the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

The Health Ministry has advised caution in vaccinating persons with a history of bleeding or coagulation disorder. How does a person know if he/she has a coagulation disorder? What tests can be conducted?

The Ministry has said that in a few bleeding disorders, like haemophilia, persons should take the vaccine “under the supervision of their treating physician”.

Also, patients who are admitted to hospital or ICU and have bleeding problems “should delay the vaccination till they are discharged”.

However, several people with heart and brain disorders are on blood thinners like aspirin and anti-platelet drugs “can continue with their medicines and have the vaccines”, and that vaccines are absolutely safe for this category.

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If I suffer from hypertension, Diabetic Mellitus, Chronic Kidney Disease, heart disease or lipid disorders, can I safely take this vaccine?

Overall, the vaccine is safe and efficacious in adults with comorbidity, the Health Ministry has said, adding that the maximum benefit of getting the Covid vaccine ‘is for those who have such comorbidities”.

“However, if you are concerned for any specific reason, please consult your doctor,” it has recommended.

The health advisory also states that those with immunity issues should be cautious about taking the vaccine. What are the markers of ‘immunity issues’?

The Health Ministry says immune issues are of two types: one, immunosuppression due to any disease such as AIDS, and people on immunosuppressant drugs such as anti-cancer drugs, steroids; second, immunodeficiency in people who suffers from some defect in the body’s protective system such as congenital immunodeficiency.

“Currently, available Covid vaccines do not have any live virus and therefore individuals with immune issues can have the vaccine safely. But the vaccine may not be as effective in them,” the Health Ministry has said.

It also emphasised that this category of patients “should inform the vaccinator about the medicines they consume and if they are suffering from any known immune issues”. “The vaccinator should have a record of one’s medical condition,” the Health Ministry has said.

Registration for the Covid-19 vaccine drive, in Ahmedabad. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Is the vaccine contraindicated in a person with chronic diseases?

Chronic diseases and morbidities like cardiac, neurological, pulmonary, pulmonary, metabolic, renal and malignancies, etc. are not contraindicated, the Health Ministry has reiterated.

“In fact, the benefit of Covid vaccines to reduce the risk of severe Covid disease and death is for those who have these co-morbidities,” it said.

If I had Covid-19 and was treated, should I take the vaccine?

The Health Ministry has said that “development of immunity or duration of protection” after Covid-19 exposure is not established; therefore it is recommended to receive the vaccine even after Covid-19 infection. “Wait for 4-8 weeks after recovery from Covid symptoms before getting the vaccine,” it has recommended.

I have an allergy to a specific drug. Can I get vaccinated?

The Health Ministry has listed the category of persons with a history of immediate or delayed onset anaphylaxis or allergic reaction to pharmaceutical products, food items, injectable therapies – as a contraindication. Therefore, this category is not advised to take the vaccine.

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Meghan Markle Oprah interview: Duchess of Sussex accuses Royal Family of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ about her and Harry


he Duchess of Sussex has accused the Royal Family of playing a part in “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Prince Harry, in a teaser from the couple’s eagerly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey asks Meghan how she felt about the Palace hearing her “speak your truth today?”

Referring to “The Firm”, she replies: “I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.

“And, if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I … there is a lot that’s been lost already.”

The first clip saw Harry say he feared “history repeating itself” in a reference to the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. He also told the chat show host his and Meghan’s life had been “unbelievably tough” but “at least we had each other” as he spoke of their decision to quit royal life and move to California.

The Standard has approached Buckingham Palace for comment on the claim made by Meghan in the latest interview teaser.

Past and present employees are to be invited to speak in confidence about their experiences of working for Meghan, after it was alleged she drove out two personal assistants and staff were “humiliated” on several occasions.

There has long been speculation about the atmosphere in the Sussex household, after a number of staff left, and the newspaper chronicles what it describes as “turmoil” within palace walls.

The monarchy’s “men in grey suits” have been accused of being aware of the alleged actions of the duchess and of doing “absolutely nothing to protect people”.

Buckingham Palace to investigate allegations of bullying made against Meghan

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.

“The royal household has had a dignity at work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.”


It is believed to be the first time the actions of a member of the royal family have been investigation by the royal household’s human resources (HR) department.

Meghan and Harry will not be part of the process as they are not staff, and it is understood the palace hopes to start the investigation soon.

Any changes in policies or procedures will be shared in the Sovereign Grant report which is published annually and documents royal accounts for the year.

Buckingham Palace to investigate allegations of bullying made against Meghan

Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ then communications secretary, made a bullying complaint in October 2018 in an apparent attempt to force Buckingham Palace to protect staff.

Mr Knauf reportedly sent an email outlining the duchess’s alleged actions to Simon Case, the Duke of Cambridge’s then private secretary and now the cabinet secretary, after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of human resources.

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Melissa Touabti, the second of Meghan’s personal assistants to leave, departed six months after the royal wedding.

Lawyers for the duke and duchess said the Sussexes believed staff to be comfortable and happy.

Meghan’s spokesman said: “The duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.

“She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.”

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New ad campaign to rock Uluru’s image

Fettered by border shutdowns and the lack of direct flights to the red centre, Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, which operates five hotels and resorts plus a 440-site camping ground in the shadow of Uluru, has launched its first major advertising promotion in a decade.

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Hong Kong ombudsman accuses authorities of inadequate monitoring of high-demand vaccines

Hong Kong’s ombudsman has accused authorities of inadequate monitoring of high-demand vaccines following an investigation into their quality, after fake human papillomavirus (HPV) shots were found at two clinics in 2019.The findings prompted the watchdog to urge the government to ensure transparency of information once Covid-19 vaccines became available in the private market and also prevent any counterfeit or parallel imported vaccines from entering the local market.“Investigation by the…

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Finland’s state of emergency was unnecessary, says Constitutional Law Committee

THE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW Committee of the Parliament on Wednesday approved a proposal to amend the legislation on restaurant and accommodation services in a way that enables the government to shutter restaurants to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus in Finland.

The committee also reproached the government for declaring a state of emergency to amend the law, pointing out that it was unnecessary to apply section 23 of the constitution per the proposal.

The section lays down basic rights and liberties in situations of emergency, the existence of which is determined not by the government but by the Parliament. The Parliament, similarly, is the institution exercising ultimate legislative power and thus makes the decision on whether to shut down restaurants in situations of emergency, according to the Constitutional Law Committee.

“When it is not a question of delegating regulatory power to the government under, for example, the emergency powers act, there is no judicial need or justification for declaring a separate state of emergency with the support of the president of the republic from the viewpoint of presenting this proposal,” the committee said.

It additionally noted that sections 106 and 107 of the emergency powers act cannot be adopted without government decrees approved by the Parliament.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Tuesday assured to YLE that the seemingly disorganised actions by the government in recent days were not an attempt to horde power but to protect the health and lives of people in Finland.

“We’re taking action to keep the coronavirus situation under control,” she stated on YLE’s A-studio.

“We also want to take action lawfully, and that’s why these things will be examined thoroughly before any sections of the [emergency powers] act are adopted – even to a [limited] applicable extent.”

Marin added that it is the intent of the government to institute a three-week shutdown in order to alleviate the coronavirus epidemic and reverse the steep upward trend in new infections.

“The situation is serious. We have an authority, meaning the Regional State Administrative Agency [for Southern Finland], that has interpreted the law differently when it comes to closing facilities. Now the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is evaluating if the law should be specified. My personal view is that we should submit a specifying proposal to the Parliament.”

She pleaded with the public to contribute to the effort to prevent the epidemic from accelerating by showing restraint for the next three weeks.

“I’m pleading with people for the next three weeks: even if some facilities are open, let’s not go to to places where we run into other people. We should avoid all contacts,” she said to the public broadcaster.

The government shelved its plan to implement sections 106 and 107 of the emergency powers act on Sunday. Marin on Tuesday confirmed that the government is working on the necessary decrees but also reiterated that the judicial analyses presented to the government indicate that the sections contain clauses that could be implemented also with the framework of regular legislation.

“For example, it has been viewed in issues linked to coordinating communications that [the clauses] could be adopted before invoking the powers that require a government decree,” she said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Army ‘surprised’ at fierce opposition by protesters

“Myanmar’s security forces now seem intent on breaking the back of the anti-coup movement through wanton violence and sheer brutality,” said Richard Weir, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.


Undeterred by the crackdown, activists said they refused to accept the military rule and were determined to press for the release of Suu Kyi and for recognition of her victory in the November election.

“We know that we can always get shot and killed with live bullets, but there is no meaning to staying alive under the junta,” activist Maung Saungkha said.

On Thursday police again opened fire and used tear gas to break up protests in Yangon and the central town of Monywa, witnesses said. Police also fired in the town of Pathein, to the west of Yangon, media reported.

Five fighter jets also made several low passes in formation over Mandalay, residents said, in what appeared to be a show of military might.

The coup reversed years of slow progress towards democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating in Suu Kyi’s rise to power after 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and pouring investment into the country.

Burgener noted that opposition to the coup was being spearheaded by young people who lived in freedom for 10 years, noting they “are well organised and very determined they don’t want to go back into dictatorship and isolation.” She was speaking by video link from Bern, Switzerland, on what she called “the bloodiest day since the coup.”

Burgener urged a united international community “to take the right measures,” stressing that Security Council sanctions that must be implemented by every country would be “more powerful” than sanctions by individual countries.

The council has scheduled closed consultations for Friday on calls to reverse the coup — including from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Schraner Burgener said in her view the military’s “tactic” was to investigate members and leaders of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, prove they committed crimes like election fraud, treason or working with foreigners, and put them in prison.

“And then the NLD will be banned and then they will have new elections where they want to win, and then they can continue to stay in power,” she said.

“The army had told me the plan — to threaten the people, to make arrests and then the majority of the people would go home because they have fear,” Schraner Burgener said. Then the military “have the control back again,” and people will get used to the situation “and go back to business as usual.”

She said the army is surprised by the opposition.


“I think that the army is very surprised that it doesn’t work because in the past, in 1988 and 2007 and 2008, it worked.”

She has an office in the capital, Naypyitaw, and has been asking to return since the coup on condition she can talk to the military leaders and see representatives of the ousted parliamentarians and Suu Kyi and ousted President Win Myint, who are among some 1,200 people she says are detained.

“I really hope to visit Myanmar as quickly as possible,” she said. “I don’t have the solution on the silver plate, but I have some ideas which I would like to discuss.”

She didn’t disclose the ideas.

AP, Reuters

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