Canberra Anzac Day dawn service plans yet to be finalised | The Canberra Times


coronavirus,

Anxious Canberra veterans have called on ACT Health to tell them if they will be able to attend the dawn service or march on Anzac Day this year as a COVID-19 cloud hovers over the national commemoration. The Australian War Memorial has submitted a proposal to health officials in the hope a crowd will be able to attend the iconic dawn service on April 25, but a decision on logistics is yet to be finalised. Veterans are hopeful they will be able to attend after the coronavirus lockdown forced the memorial to downscale its events last year. The Dawn Service regularly attracts more than 20,000 people to the memorial lawns, but attendees will likely need a ticket if it goes ahead this year. Anzac Day marches in Hobart and Melbourne have already been cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions while other states are pushing ahead. Sydney’s Anzac Day march was given approval earlier this month, limited to 500 people and services will go ahead as normal in Queensland. ACT Health has increased attendance numbers to full capacity at Canberra Stadium for ticketed sporting events in the latest relaxation of restrictions. Most large events must be ticketed and the CBR Check-In app must be used with the majority of indoor performance venues returning to 75 per cent capacity. RSL ACT branch president John King said veterans feared they would be locked out for the second year in a row, adding it was particularly important for veterans and families to commemorate the day after a turbulent 12 months. “It’s been a very difficult time and a lot of my members are not getting any younger … every year that goes by is another year they potentially can’t march anymore,” he said. “It becomes very concerning for them, they get anxious about it of course. “I am now fielding phone calls with people saying, ‘What’s happening, John? What can we do? Remember this is the last year I’ve got’.” “The longer we leave the decision, and that’s a little bit out of our hands, the harder it becomes logistically.” Mr King said RSL sub-branches across the city would run smaller events within COVID-19 restrictions and suggested those who couldn’t attend once again take to their driveways to commemorate the day. “I’ve got one veteran who is 100 years old, he served in World War II, and this could be his last opportunity to take part in something that he sort of has in his blood,” Mr King said. “He knows there are none of his mates left and he feels it is very important to do something for the last time perhaps. “We’ve got families who have lost people in recent operations and as far as back as World War I, people are still commemorating those losses.” An ACT Health spokeswoman said it was working with the War Memorial to ensure any event operated within COVID safe event protocol. 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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Man and woman arrested after allegedly stealing from hotel




The matter is still under investigation.

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Defence Minister Linda Reynolds admitted to hospital amid Brittany Higgins rape allegation scandal


Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has taken medical leave and been admitted to hospital as a “precautionary measure”.

Senator Reynolds was due to address the National Press Club today, where she was expected to face questions about her handling of sexual allegations made by her former staffer, Brittany Higgins.

In a statement, Senator Reynolds said she was taking medical leave on the advice of her cardiologist, and that it related to a pre-existing medical condition.

The statement said Prime Minister Scott Morrison has phoned Senator Reynolds to “express his concern and sympathy”.

Ms Higgins plans to make a formal complaint to police today, alleging a male colleague raped her inside Senator Reynolds’s ministerial office in 2019.

Senator Reynolds has faced sustained pressure over her handling of the alleged rape complaint.

Ms Higgins said she hoped Senator Reynolds was “okay” and wished her “all the best for her recovery”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne will act as Defence Minister until Senator Reynolds returns to work.

Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters at Parliament House that Ms Reynolds had taken the leave reluctantly.

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“Linda was desperate to appear before the National Press Club today, desperate to appear,” he said.

“It was only on the strongest medical advice that she took the reluctant decision not to do it.”

Linda Reynolds wiped tears from her eye during Question Time in the Senate chamber after facing questions about her handling of Brittany Higgins’s allegations.(AAP: Mike Tsikas)

Senator Reynolds was the defence industry minister when the alleged rape occurred in March 2019.

Mr Morrison promoted her to Cabinet and the senior defence portfolio after the 2019 election.

She has faced internal pressure within the Coalition in the last week, with some MPs and senators telling the ABC they thought she should resign or be sacked.

Mr Hunt said Senator Reynolds needed support as she received medical assistance.

“I think our compassion, our focus on the needs of others in this, the most intense environment in the country, is something that all of us need to bring to the forth,” he said.

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Charter freight flights from South America help get stranded Australians home during coronavirus pandemic


Victoria Keating has barely slept in days and her small team of Queenstown travel agents is in desperate need of a break.

For weeks, they have been working from across the Tasman to help Australians stuck in various parts of South America.

Today, they are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a charter flight from Chile’s capital, Santiago, to Sydney.

“It’s been quite the rollercoaster,” Ms Keating said.

“Getting the plane was difficult, getting the seats into Australia was difficult.

“We just really wanted to try and get as many people home as possible.”

More than 120 Australians are expected to arrive on the charter flight, which cost passengers just under $4,000 a ticket.

After they disembark in Sydney, the plane is scheduled to fly to Auckland where it will pick up South Americans wanting to return home from New Zealand.

“Which was particularly scary … it’s a big risk to take but we knew that the demand was there.”

Limited options for Australians in South America

Samuel McDowell and his family made it home to Sydney from Paraguay.(Supplied)

Ms Keating moved to New Zealand from Australia nearly 17 years ago.

As COVID-19 shut the international travel industry down last year, she noticed a large number of South Americans living in Queenstown with no way of getting home.

Her agency, X Travel, started trying to find people seats on cargo flights but were soon inundated with requests from Aussies and Kiwis in South America wanting to travel in the other direction.

“For many countries, including the likes of Peru and Colombia, the borders actually didn’t open until October,” Ms Keating said.

Samuel McDowell and his family got seats on another one of X Travel’s flights earlier this year after struggling to find a way home from Paraguay, where he and his wife were working as doctors for a rural health clinic.

“They were just brilliant, they made it all happen,” he said.

Three smiling women facing the camera
Fanny Lindblad-Hillary, Niki Davies and Victoria Keating from X Travel(Supplied)

“The [other] options were very convoluted, you had to go up through America or even worse through Europe and the risks of getting stranded were very high.

“And then of course there’s the cost. And for a family of five like ours, $50,000 was not reasonable or attainable for us at that time.”

Race against time for pregnant Australian

Another Australian with personal experience of the challenges many are facing is Annalisa Powell, who recently made it home from Brazil.

She first wanted to return after she and her Brazilian partner lost their work as musicians due to COVID-19.

However, the situation became more urgent when they realised she was pregnant.

“[Our] flights got repeatedly cancelled and then bumped and then cancelled … and it was getting later and later in the pregnancy,” she said.

Ms Powell completed her two weeks’ quarantine in New South Wales before arriving in her home state of Western Australia.

“When we touched down on Perth soil, I was just exhausted I guess from the whole experience,” she said.

“We were sitting in the airport waiting for my parents to come and when I saw them I just broke down, it was crazy.

“I think at this point in my life I need some family support and I just didn’t have anything in Brazil.”

Australian Government defends support

Hundreds of people packed together at an airport in Peru.
Peru is one of the South American nations where more than 1,000 Australians remain stranded.(Supplied: Merinda Kyle)

Ms Powell speaks highly of the support she received from the embassy in Brazil but other Australians in South America have told the ABC they feel let down by the federal government.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said the government had provided support for the charter flight landing in Sydney today.

It also said its highest priority was helping vulnerable Australians overseas.

“Since March, DFAT has helped over 40,700 Australians return on over 500 flights including over 15,000 people on 108 government facilitated flights,” it said.

“Twenty of these facilitated flights assisted Australians to return from South America.”

Of the 40,000 Australians around the world still registered with DFAT as wanting to return, around 1,000 are believed to be in South America.

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Interest rates are rising and tech stocks are likely to head in the other direction


We live in strange and ridiculous times. Nowhere is this more evident than on financial markets.

After blithely trading on to record highs while the seeds of a pandemic germinated in China in January and February last year, supposedly forward-looking share markets cratered when the obvious became apparent in late February and March last year.

Then, with almost as much panic as the sell-off, shares came roaring back in a speculative frenzy, leaving many markets (notably the US) hitting fresh records, even as the nations they were based in suffered their sharpest recessions since at least the Great Depression.

As is often the case, once the buying started, it seemed the less connected a stock or other asset was to an identifiable income stream the faster and higher it rose. Bitcoin anyone.

Why?

In part, it was the forward-looking nature of markets, with early bets on the vaccines, which are only now just being rolled out, ending the pandemic.

But the biggest driving force was the unprecedented flood of money and record-low interest rates from central banks that has left the world awash with ultra-cheap cash with few financially rational places left to invest it.

When the real rate of return on ‘safe’ assets, like AAA-rated government bonds, is deeply negative — you are losing money holding them — the cost of parking money in assets that offer no income but the potential for speculative gains falls and the temptation rises dramatically.

Along with growing disquiet and distrust around the central bank actions that have pushed interest rates so low, these negative rates are a major reason why professional investors have been right in there with amateurs throwing money at bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as well as tech companies that either make no profits or generate earnings that are a fraction of their soaring share market valuations.

For more conservative investors, the perceived safety of bricks and mortar has been the investment of choice.

Rate trigger for a ‘long overdue correction’

So, now that these benchmark bond rates have begun rising, sharply, it’s no wonder many investors are starting to sweat.

For some, the heat is getting too much and they’re fleeing the kitchen, causing sell-offs in the most vulnerable markets, such as tech stocks and cryptocurrencies.

AMP Capital’s head of investment strategy Shane Oliver says we could see further sell-downs but not, he thinks, a crash.

“Bond yields [interest rates] could still go a lot higher in the short term before they settle down again and this could cause the long overdue correction in equities,” he says.

As we’ve seen in the sell-offs so far, companies that don’t make profits and speculative assets with no income streams are the most vulnerable, but others are also at risk.

“Because these stocks rely on more earnings in the future, they are seen as ‘long duration’ stocks and so they are more vulnerable to an increase in the bond yield used to discount those earnings.

“Also at risk, but less so, are yield plays [higher dividend stocks] that benefited from the ‘search for yield’ flowing from falling interest rates and bond yields — e.g. telcos and utility stocks.

“Cyclical stocks like materials [miners/energy producers], retailers, industrials and even financials are less at risk as their earnings will rise more with economic recovery and so are more likely to see earnings upgrades.”

And this is exactly what we’ve seen on share markets over the past 24 hours, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq down but Australia’s commodity and banking dominated ASX 200 index rising solidly.

Will central banks again soothe investor nerves?

This may prove to be a short-term hiccup, with central banks once again moving in to soothe the jitters.

The Reserve Bank tried to do this on Monday after the three-year bond yield rose above its 0.1 per cent target, but the market practically laughed off its billion-dollar intervention.

Most RBA watchers expect it to follow singer Janis Joplin’s advice to “try just a little bit harder”.

“The most likely response from the RBA is a show of resolve, with significantly increased YCC [yield curve control] buying in coming days and weeks,” say CBA’s rate watchers.

The US Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, now has his turn, with the opportunity to offer soothing words talking down the risk of rising interest rates during two days of public congressional testimony.

That’s exactly what Rabobank’s head of financial markets research in the Asia-Pacific, Michael Every, expects will happen.

“Indeed, if those magicians have to face a choice between rising real rates and levitating markets, which one do you think they will make disappear? Obviously rising yields, through outright yield curve control.

“At which point, almost all price discovery will follow through the hidden trap door.”

In other words, if money is free for big investors and they think central banks will keep the party going indefinitely the sky is no limit for asset prices.

When good news again becomes bad news

The irony is that the rising bond yields are a sign that economies are recovering from COVID-19, that firms will be able to increase both sales and prices, and that profits should rise.

They should be welcome good news after the worst year for most economies since the 1930s.

But investors are simply petrified that any recovery in economic growth and profits won’t keep up with the rise of interest rates from rock bottom levels.

Remember, at current levels with US 10-year bond yields still below 1.5 per cent, a return to something even approaching a more normal rate of 3 per cent would see interest rates more than double.

That’s one of the traps of ultra-low rates — a small percentage point increase is a massive percentage rise in interest costs.

‘Bringing down the house’

But, while central banks may move to keep a lid on rising rates in the short term to buy markets a bit more time, it’s unlikely they can keep doing that indefinitely.

“It is again magical thinking to believe this trick can be pulled off without literally bringing down the house,” argues Michael Every.

Bond interest rates often jump at the beginning of an economic recovery
Bond interest rates often jump at the beginning of an economic recovery.(Supplied: AMP Capital, Bloomberg)

Shane Oliver is less dramatic in his forecast, but still sees a return to the gravity of higher interest rates as inevitable.

“There is a strong case to be made that the disinflation seen since the 1970s is coming to an end and that the long-term trend in inflation is at or close to bottoming,” he observes.

“Central banks are now throwing the kitchen sink at beating deflation and disinflation just as they threw it at high inflation in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“There is a good chance — that helped along by massive government spending, governments becoming more interventionist in economies, a reversal in globalisation and a decline in workers relative to consumers — they will win this time, ultimately resulting in a sustained rise in inflation, but that’s probably still a few years away.”

Hopefully, enough time for policymakers, investors and consumers to figure out how they are going to survive financially in a world of higher interest rates.

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Prince William says Prince Philip is ‘OK’ as the Duke of Edinburgh spends a sixth night in hospital


Prince William says his grandfather Prince Philip is “OK”, despite the 99-year-old spending a sixth night in hospital.

The Duke of Edinburgh was admitted to hospital early last week as a precautionary measure after feeling ill.

His condition was not related to COVID-19.

“Yes, he’s OK, they’re keeping an eye on him,” Prince William said on a visit to a vaccination centre in eastern England.

Royal reporters said he delivered his message with a wink.

The duke was admitted to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in central London after feeling unwell, Buckingham Palace said, and was kept in over the weekend for further observation.

Britain’s Prince William spent time with staff and volunteers during his visit to the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange Vaccination Centre.(AP: Arthur Edwards)

A royal source said doctors had been acting out of an “abundance of caution” and that Prince Philip was in good spirits.

Heir to the throne Prince Charles paid a brief visit to his father on Saturday, although there has been no official update on his condition since last week.

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Prince Charles has visited his father, Prince Philip, in hospital.

Prince Philip, who retired from official engagements in 2017, spent four nights at the same hospital at the end of 2019 while being treated for a pre-existing condition.

The duke and the Queen have been staying at Windsor Castle, west of London, during England’s current coronavirus lockdown.

The couple received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccination in early January.

The royal household is planning celebrations to mark the duke’s 100th birthday on June 10, coronavirus restrictions permitting.

The Queen performed her first face-to-face event of the year last Thursday, when she knighted a royal aide during a private and socially distanced ceremony at Windsor.

She and Prince Philip marked their 73rd wedding anniversary last November by sharing a photograph of themselves opening a card from three of their great-grandchildren.

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Dhanya Mani reached out to the Prime Minister’s office for help over an alleged indecent assault. She says she did not get any


A former New South Wales Liberal Party staffer who publicly aired allegations of indecent assault against a colleague in 2019 says she reached out to the Prime Minister’s office for help and did not receive any.

Dhanya Mani was working as a staffer in the Baird government in NSW when she alleges inappropriate conduct occurred.

“In the months at the end of 2014, at the beginning of 2015, I was subjected to a case of abusive conduct by a senior staffer in NSW Parliament,” Ms Mani told 7.30.

Ms Mani alleges this culminated in an incident where she was indecently assaulted in her own home, where she thought she would be safe.

She is critical of the response she received when she reported her allegations.

“I was told that it was my fault,” she told 7.30.

“I was also told simply that it just wasn’t true and I was making it up. And the best case response that I got was to say, ‘Well I guess we believe you but if you say anything, your political career will be over and this will be it for you.'”

After going public with her story in 2019 she was inundated with complaints from other women. Frustrated by a lack of response in her own case, she approached the office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison for help.

On August 23, 2019, Mr Morrison’s principal secretary, Yaron Finkelstein, called her on her mobile.

Ms Mani said in her conversation with Mr Finkelstein:

“… We’ve received a number of complaints that relate to Coalition ministers, and part of a complaint relates to handling of a complaint by the Prime Minister’s office, and as such we would want to try to seek a meeting, and I had wanted to let somebody in the office know of those matters as a courtesy, and also to see if that could be arranged, because obviously we’re both party members and care about the party.”

Ms Mani said the allegations she mentioned to Mr Finkelstein did not include the ones involving Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal staffer who alleges she was raped in Parliament House two years ago by another Liberal staffer.

The Prime Minister has announced four separate reviews in the week since Brittany Higgins went public with allegations she was raped inside Parliament House.(Supplied)

“I asked for Mr Finkelstein’s intervention because of the fact that I’d received an overwhelming number of complaints in the days after my story came out from women in federal politics and in state politics that related to ministers, members of cabinet, both levels, and also on a federal level to the way that the Prime Minister’s office itself had been handling complaints.”

‘Desperately attempting to seek help’

From Ms Mani’s perspective, the conversation was frustrating and disheartening.

“I felt that we were having two conversations,” she said.

“There was a conversation that I was having with Mr Finkelstein where I was vulnerable and desperately attempting to seek help for myself and other women.

“And there was the conversation Mr Finkelstein was having with the political risk.

“And so when I was speaking to him about the issue, it was just galling. In spite of everything that I said, Mr Finkelstein just said, ‘You should have gone to the police and I don’t understand why you didn’t. And I don’t understand why you haven’t told every other woman to do that as well.'”

Ms Mani says her point was that many assault victims did not want to go to the police and she was appealing for some internal party process to deal with complaints.

“I didn’t want to go through a police process. I told him that. I told him that it would be traumatising. I told him that this is harmful to survivors. I told him that it doesn’t offer justice, that it doesn’t empower us. It doesn’t afford us agency.

“It just felt that he was just wanting to say anything so that it wouldn’t be his problem to deal with and it wouldn’t be the Prime Minister’s problem.”

Ms Mani pressed Mr Finkelstein for what she could do to organise a meeting with the Prime Minister and whether he could help her do that.

A woman with glasses looks at the camera.
Dhanya Mani says she has not been contacted by either Mr Finkelstein or any member of the Prime Minister’s office since.(Supplied: Women’s Agenda)

“He told me that I was just welcome to write a letter to the Prime Minister like any other member of the public, which was extremely upsetting given that I was talking to the Prime Minister’s private secretary and I’d hoped that there would be compassion and empathy on some level, that it would be appreciated that I was personally reaching out and just sincerely asking for help.

“And so I ask him and I push him and say, ‘Well, are you prepared to do anything to help arrange a meeting with the Prime Minister?’ And almost grudgingly and bitterly he says, ‘Oh well, I guess I’ll send you my email address tomorrow and we’ll have a conversation about that in future.’

“He’s never contacted me again. Not once have I had any communication from either Mr Finkelstein or any member of the Prime Minister’s office.”

A spokesperson for the Morrison Government told 7.30 in a statement: “Mr Finkelstein encouraged Ms Mani to report to the relevant authorities any matters she deemed serious or that may have been a crime. In regards to her own claim, Mr Finkelstein undertook to contact the NSW Premier’s Chief of Staff to convey her views, which he did.”

Since Ms Higgins went public with her allegations last week, the Prime Minister has ordered four separate reviews into the response to the alleged crime.

Mr Morrison apologised for the way the matter was handled and said he had asked his staff what they knew about the incident.

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Bargain hunters: Your map to garage sales in NSW and the ACT




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Fourth woman makes complaint about former staffer who allegedly raped Brittany Higgins


A fourth woman has made an allegation about the man at the centre of what is currently Australia’s biggest political scandal — the alleged rape of former staffer Brittany Higgins inside Parliament House.

The woman, who made a formal report at a police station in Canberra on Sunday, has come forward after Ms Higgins alleged last week that she was raped in the office of the then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds after drinks with the man in March 2019.

Two other women — a Liberal staffer and a former Coalition volunteer — also made allegations to The Australian newspaper that they were sexually assaulted by the same former staffer.

The fourth woman, who for now wishes to remain anonymous, told the ABC that when she learned the identity of Ms Higgins’s alleged rapist through staffer networks, she winced — she remembered him as being “really sleazy”.

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Socialising after work in 2017 with colleagues at Canberra’s Public Bar, the favoured drinking hole of the political class, the woman said she was startled when the man who would later be identified as the staffer who allegedly raped Ms Higgins reached his hand under the table and stroked her thigh.

The woman said this was completely uninvited and the incident made her angry.

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Finance Minister Simon Birmingham says the allegations by three women ‘weigh heavily’.

She said it wasn’t the first time she received unwanted attention or advances from men she worked with at Parliament, and it wasn’t the last.

“By that time, I was just so used to sexual harassment I just brushed it off,” she said.

She made her statement late yesterday afternoon at a local police station, and says within the hour she had been telephoned by a detective from the Australian Federal Police’s Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team.

She says the officer asked her to come in and make a formal statement later in the week.

The woman said she was coming forward to support Brittany Higgins because, now that Ms Higgins has called in police, she knows what a hard road lies ahead in the criminal justice system.

Ms Higgins has said she felt pressure not to proceed with a formal complaint for fear of losing her job.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised for the way the matter was handled and said he had asked his staff what they knew about the incident.

These latest allegations follow a Four Corners report in November about the culture of Parliament House, including unrelated allegations against two government ministers.

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Goulburn house set on fire with people inside: police | The Canberra Times


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Two teenage boys poured accelerant around a house, set it on fire and threw a table through a window while two people were inside, police allege. A 64-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man were in the house during the fire but were not injured. The house received minor damage. NSW police said they had arrested two boys in Goulburn after an investigation into the fire. At 5.45am on Sunday officers from Hume Police District attended a house in Chisholm Street, Goulburn, following reports of a fire. The fire was extinguished by Fire and Rescue NSW shortly after police arrived and a crime scene was established. The two boys, aged 13 and 14, were interviewed by police and arrested at 9.30am on Sunday. The boys will be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act. Police alleged the boys poured an accelerant around the home before they started the fire. Police also alleged the boys threw a table through a window of the house.

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