Erdogan replaces Turkish trade minister, more cabinet moves expected


FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a meeting in Ankara
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, April 5, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS

April 21, 2021

By Orhan Coskun and Ezgi Erkoyun

ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan named a prominent member of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Mehmet Mus, as trade minister on Wednesday and split another ministry into two, in what officials said was the first move in an expected broader cabinet shuffle.

In a presidential decree Ruhsar Pekcan, the cabinet’s highest-profile woman, was replaced as trade minister by Mus, who is close to former finance minister and Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak, a divisive party figure.

The decree, published in the Official Gazette, gave no reason for the change, but it comes after opposition politicians accused Pekcan’s ministry of buying supplies from her family-owned company and called on her to resign.

The Trade Ministry confirmed a purchase of sanitisers had been made, but said in a statement on Tuesday the choice was based on price alone and not due to “the name of the company making the sale”.

It said the sale, worth some 500,000 lira ($62,000), had been carried out in line with relevant regulations.

Erdogan’s overnight changes come amid speculation over a wider cabinet reshuffle, after he changed the country’s top economic management in November, including the central bank governor.

A senior government official told Reuters that further changes to four or five ministries are expected after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ends mid-May.

“There was generally a cabinet reshuffle expectation and that is still valid. But Pekcan’s sanitisers incident was not acceptable,” the official said, adding Erdogan will make the final decision on any further changes.

ALBAYRAK ALLIES

Mus, an AK Party member since 2011 who was deputy chairman in charge of the economy, was among the first to defend Albayrak’s record and call for him to remain in office when Albayrak abruptly resigned as finance minister in November.

A rapid turnover in the last two months at powerful state and financial institutions have left other Albayrak allies in top spots, including Salim Arda Ermut, the new chief executive at Turkey Wealth Fund.

Foreign investors pulled back from Turkey due to unorthodox policies under Albayrak’s watch, including the sale of some $128 billion in foreign currency via state banks in 2019 and 2020 that badly depleted the central bank’s reserves.

“Mus was close to Albayrak,” said a person close to the AK Party who also requested anonymity.

“The cabinet reshuffle expectation did not end with this move. The president is sorting out the timing,” the person added.

According to the decree, Erdogan also established two new ministries by splitting the Family, Labour and Social Policies Ministry into two separate ministries.

He appointed Derya Yanik as Family and Social Policies Minister and Vedat Bilgin as Labour and Social Security Minister, replacing Zehra Zumrut Selcuk.

($1 = 8.1122 liras)

(Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Dominic Evans and Bernadette Baum)

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Delay in vaccine rollout ‘not expected to derail’ economic recovery, Australian treasurer says | Australian economy


The Morrison government looks set to revisit in the looming May budget a key underlying assumption from last year’s mid-year economic forecast that a population-wide Covid-19 vaccination program would be fully in place by late 2021.

But the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has declared the delay of the vaccination rollout “is not expected to derail momentum in our economic recovery”.

Scott Morrison late on Sunday admitted that all Australians may not be vaccinated by year’s end. The prime minister said in a statement uploaded to Facebook there would be no new timetable to replace the previous October target.

With the government taking heavy political fire for bungling the critical vaccine rollout, Morrison took to Facebook once again late on Monday to try and reassure the public.

In a Facebook live session, Morrison said frontline health workers and the elderly would be inoculated under current arrangements as winter closed in, and the vaccination program would ramp up for the “balance of the population” later in the year.

“I’ve been asked a bit about what our targets are,” Morrison said.

“One of the things about Covid is it writes its own rules. You don’t get to set the agenda – you have to be able to respond quickly when things change. Rather than set targets that can get knocked about by every to and fro – international supply chains and other disruptions that have occurred – we are just getting on with it.”

Labor said on Monday the government would need to revisit the Myefo assumption on 11 May. The shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, declared it would stretch credibility for the government “to now pretend their vaccine debacle won’t impact the budget or the economy”.

The mid-year economic forecast last December assumed that a Covid-19 vaccine would be available in Australia by March 2021, with a population-wide vaccination program fully in place by late 2021.

That forecast assumed there would be no state border restrictions in place throughout 2021, and that temporary and permanent migration would return gradually from late 2021.

Morrison said on Monday evening the international border would remain closed because “around the world Covid-19 is still rife”.

“We will keep moving quickly to vaccinate our most vulnerable population and we’ll keep those borders closed for as long as we have to, but only as long as we have to,” the prime minister said.

The government will update its economic forecasts on 11 May, when it hands down the budget. As well as attempting to reassure the public on Monday night, Morrison flagged more stimulatory measures in the budget “that build on the work that was done by jobkeeper and jobseeker to ensure the Australian economy keeps leading the world out of the recession that was caused by Covid-19”.

Morrison reconfigured the vaccination timetable due to blood clot warnings applied to the AstraZeneca vaccination. With concerns rising about vaccine hesitancy in the wake of the revised timetable, the prime minister said on Monday night the vaccine was safe for people over 50 according to the “very strong” medical advice.

In terms of the impact of the delay on the economy and the budget, it is possible the current strength of the economic recovery will ultimately net out the impact of a delayed vaccination rollout, assuming that Australia can get through another winter without sustained lockdowns.

Frydenberg said in a statement to Guardian Australia on Monday the Australian economy outperformed every major advanced economy in 2020 and “with the successful suppression of the virus and substantial reopening of the economy, both household and business confidence are now higher than before the pandemic”.

“While the continued vaccine rollout is an important step in protecting Australians against the threat of the virus, the timing of the rollout is not expected to derail momentum in our economic recovery,” the treasurer said.

The latest Deloitte Access Economics business outlook, released on Monday, found that living standards in Australia increased during 2020 at a faster rate than the average over the past decade despite the country enduring the first recession in three decades because of the shock caused by the pandemic.

The fillip was attributable to surging commodity prices and rock-bottom interest rates.

But the Deloitte assessment assumed virus numbers would stay suppressed in Australia, with herd immunity achieved by late 2021 or early 2022 – a timetable now in doubt due to the revamp of the vaccine rollout.

Labor says the botched vaccination rollout is a public policy debacle that imperils Australia’s continuing economic recovery.

“We can’t have a first-rate economic recovery with Scott Morrison’s third-rate vaccine rollout,” Chalmers said on Monday.

“It stretches credibility for the government to now pretend their vaccine debacle won’t impact the budget or the economy. The government’s failures on jabs will have consequences for jobs because delay after delay risks more lockdowns.”

Figures released on Sunday show 1.16m vaccinations have now been dispensed, with about half delivered by the commonwealth through the GP network and in aged and disability care, and the other half delivered through state vaccination hubs.

The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the Morrison government needed to maintain a sense of urgency with the program and the public should not be lulled by any false sense of security.

“I know that some people don’t think there is a sense of urgency because we’re doing so well, but things can change very quickly and I don’t want to see our citizens left behind because the rest of the world starts trading with each other, starts travelling,” the premier said.

“I do have a sense of urgency about it”.

Epidemiologist Prof Mary-Louise McLaws, who advises the World Health Organization, said on Monday it would take “a couple of years” to fully vaccinate the Australian population if the rollout continued at the current rate. She told the ABC ramping up the number of vaccinations to between 100,000 and 120,000 per day would require “a lot of logistics” and for state governments to create mass vaccination sites.

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Easter drenching begins as Queensland coastal areas expected to be battered with wild weather


Parts of Queensland are bracing for extreme weather overnight and into Easter Monday, with central and coastal regions already copping a drenching amid several wild weather warnings. 

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued a severe weather warning for parts of the Wide Bay, Burnett and south-east coast regions, stretching from Seventeen Seventy down to Bribie Island.

Heavy rainfall, damaging winds, big surf and large hail has been forecast to hit parts of the central and coastal areas, with a reprieve in the weather not expected until late on Tuesday.

It comes as the bureau has warned intense rainfall could lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding in areas between Miriam Vale to the Sunshine Coast tonight and through to Monday.

Meanwhile in Queensland’s central west, a severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for areas including Longreach, Isisford, Barcaldine, Stonehenge, Evesham Station and Ilfracombe. The bureau says damaging winds, large hailstones and heavy rainfalls are about the region.

Conditions are expected to worsen overnight and further intensify into Easter Monday. 

Senior Meteorologist Lauren Boekel stressed “how serious this weather event could be for some people”.

“For the end of the long weekend, south-east Queensland can expect to see some dangerous weather,” Ms Boekel said.

“We’re expecting to see [rainfall] totals between 120 and 160 millimetres.”

Ms Boekel said within the regions expected to be hit, areas between Miriam Vale in Gladstone and Gympie would see the heaviest deluge.

Meanwhile, Queensland’s peak motoring body, RACQ, warned traffic was backed up on the Bruce Highway heading southbound as motorists braved the wet conditions to return from Easter holidays.

Dangerous surf conditions have already swept across the Sunshine Coast and are expected to move further south on Monday.

A hazardous surf warning was issued on Sunday for the Capricornia Coast and Fraser Island Coast, extending to Sunshine Coast waters on Monday and Gold Coast waters on Tuesday.

Surfers, swimmers, boaters and fishers have been warned to keep out of the water as large, dangerous swells pummel parts of the state’s coastline.

“So that’s damaging surf as well as costal erosion that we see when the waters are rough,” Ms Boekel said.

She said flooding was also a risk in catchments around south-east Queensland that have already been inundated after major flood warnings were in place late last month.

A flood watch has been issued for St Laurence in the Isaac Region down to the New South Wales border, extending inland to the Darling Downs, with the bureau warning of potentially “life-threatening flash flooding” in parts.

“We might be seeing minor to moderate flooding and we might see some … isolated areas of major flooding,” Ms Boekel said.

Authorities have urged people against camping or travelling on the roads over the next 24 hours.

The Quinn family, from Logan, have decided to stay camping at Mudjimba on the Sunshine Coast, despite several weather warnings.

Leanne Quinn said they were happy to be away from home after the lockdown threatened to end their holiday before it began.

“We’re going to stay put. We’re here till Tuesday and I think we’re just going home very wet if we decided to go home,” Ms Quinn said.

“The rain is fairly steady at the moment. It’s not inundating, so if it stays like this, hopefully we won’t be too bad.

“We just kind of thought that if it got really, really bad, we’ll just get in the car and sleep in the car.”

Bundaberg Canegrowers director and farmer Dean Cayley said this bout of wet weather promised to be the best rain the region had seen in years. 

“Until now, we were looking at our fourth summer season where we haven’t had decent rain,” he said.

“My wife said, ‘I haven’t seen you have an Easter off in five years.’

“If we get a good winter in conjunction with this rainfall, it will add tonnes to the cane crop, which is a win-win for everybody.”

SES rescue workers are on standby and sandbags are ready to be collected if needed.

It comes as the weather bureau warned the state was nearing the end of the severe weather season, with conditions expected to return to normal late on Tuesday.

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Severe weather expected to hit southern and central Queensland coast from Easter Sunday, BOM says


Queenslanders might be forced to keep Easter celebrations indoors this year, with severe weather predicted to reach the coast from Sunday.

So far, the weather remains fine across the state, but the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said a change was not far off.

Cloudy conditions with isolated showers are expected for the first half of the Easter weekend.

From Sunday through to Tuesday, the BOM is warning there is a risk of heavy rain, damaging winds and hazardous surf for the Capricornia, Wide Bay and South East Coast.

Wind warnings are already in place for waters north of the Sunshine Coast.

Meteorologist Shane Kennedy said Sunday’s weather would first break on the Capricornia and Wide Bay coasts.

He said there could be falls of up to 150 millimetres between Agnes Water to the New South Wales border.

“You could see daily rainfall totals between 50 to 150mm,” Mr Kennedy said.

“There will be that risk of heavy rainfall [and] potentially, we could see some damaging wind gusts and damaging surf.

“We’re fairly likely to be issuing a severe weather warning for much of south-eastern coastal region.”

A flood watch is current for catchments between St Lawrence and Byron Bay, in northern New South Wales, after what the bureau called a “wet March”.

The BOM said a deepening low-pressure trough and a developing low was behind it all.

Cloudy conditions down the east coast are forecast for later on Friday, with the chance of thunderstorms developing in north Queensland.

Meteorologist James Thompson said the east coast had seen “quite a few” showers already on Friday, and Saturday would be similar.

He said the rainfall could stretch further than the Wide Bay region.

“The Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast [and] Brisbane regions are all in for a chance to see some heavy rainfall,” he said.

“[It] could extend over the ranges into the Darling Downs…and we’re likely to see some showers and storms through central districts.”

The BOM is also predicting hazardous beach conditions.

“For the coastal waters between Fraser Island and over the [NSW] border, we could see some hazardous surf conditions on Monday or Tuesday; maybe even some strong wind warnings,” Mr Thompson said.

The bureau has mapped the weekend’s system to move south, away from Queensland over Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mr Thompson said despite the rain moving away next week, floodwaters could remain, given the “wet March we’ve had, as well as incoming rain”.

He said already a number of Queensland rivers still had “a bit of water moving through them”.

“We saw quite a few flood warnings since March and we could see more flood warnings if we do get this heavy rainfall [on] Monday or Tuesday,” Mr Thompson said.

“Any further rainfall that we do get will just mean those rivers respond really quickly.”

The BOM currently has a flood watch in place for coastal catchments between St Lawrence and the Queensland-New South Wales border, extending inland to the Darling Downs.

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Current contact tracing sites in Queensland, list expected to lengthen again today


More venues are expected to be added to Queensland’s growing list of possible exposure sites but as of Good Friday, this is the current list.

Anyone who visited the sites listed must quarantine at home immediately for 14 days from the time of contact, and complete an online contact tracing self-assessment or phone 13HEALTH.

Saturday, March 20

Sunday, March 21

Monday, March 22

Tuesday, March 23

Friday, March 26

Saturday, March 27

Monday 29 March 

Dozens of locations are on the list of casual contact sites, that carry a lower risk of exposure.

Anyone who visited these locations is advised to get tested immediately and isolate until they receive a negative result.

Tuesday, March 16

Wednesday, March 17

Thursday, March 18

Friday, March 19

Saturday, March 20

Sunday, March 21

Monday, March 22

Tuesday, March 23

Wednesday, March 24

Thursday, March 25

Friday, March 26

Saturday, March 27

Sunday, March 28

Monday, March 29

Queensland Health has just one low-risk site on their list. 

Anyone who was outside the Westpac at Peninsula Fair shopping centre in Kippa-Ring between 3:00 and 3:30pm on Tuesday, March 23 is asked to monitor for symptoms.

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Floods a blow to some NSW farmers, with shortages and higher prices to consumers expected in short-term


As Prime Minister Scott Morrison flew over flooded communities in Northern NSW this week, locals could be forgiven for hoping he had brought some bread and milk with him.

In flooded areas along the Hawkesbury on the edge of Sydney, many people are cut off and relying on boats and helicopters for their supplies.

Local supermarkets have been stripped bare as freight companies struggle with the closure of major routes like the Bells Line of Road and the Pacific Highway on the north coast.

Shelves bare in some supermarkets

About 30,000 people are affected by the floods around Sydney, and John Robertson, CEO Foodbank NSW ACT, said the shelves were bare in the local supermarkets.

But for most of us, life continues as normal and the flooding rains will not cause much more than a blip on our financial radars.

Supermarket shelves have been stripped bare in many flooded areas as road closures have made restocking difficult.(

Supplied: Tiffany Sullivan

)

Some key food sources affected

The rain has damaged vegetable crops in NSW.

Sean McInerney, a wholesaler at the Sydney Markets who buys fruit and vegetables from across the east coast, said individual growers had been hit hard.

He said some things such as bunched vegetables, herbs, zucchinis and locally grown tomatoes would be in short supply for a little while.

Wholesaler Shaun McInerney holds an apple in the Sydney Markets.
Wholesaler Shaun McInerney said some growers will be hit by the floods and some fresh herbs will be short supply in Sydney.(

Supplied: Shaun McInerney

)

“But we could pull those out of Victoria and we might have to pay a bit more for a couple of weeks,” he said.

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And if you like mung beans in your curries, salads and soups, spare a thought for growers like Sam Heagney in the north-west of NSW.

He has been flat out trying to get the water off his crop after 160mm fell on his farm this week.

Milk supply tricky

Dairy farmers have been badly affected on the NSW Mid North Coast.

At the Clarence Valley Dairy operations manager, Barry Pass said his herd of 200 cows was safe but had been struggling to get milk off the farm.

“We’re a bit of an island at our farm at present.”

That is the same for 150 dairy farmers who have been affected across the region.

Many have lost cows in the flood, fences are down, dairies flooded and milk transport cancelled.

Sorghum harvest impacted

The rain comes at a bad time for farmers harvesting sorghum in the state’s north-west.

Sorghum is used in pet food, pharmaceuticals and by farmers as stock feed.

Rebecca Riordan from east of Moree expects her crop to be affected.

“We have about 100 hectares of sorghum that hasn’t been harvested and we haven’t been able to get onto it because of rain delaying the harvest.”

And she is worried about her sheep, which she moved to higher ground but can’t see at the moment.

“We hope they’re reasonably safe and were able to get through it all, but it’ll be a while till we can get out there and see how they fared.”

Meat prices going sky high

Sheep and cattle prices are at record levels right now.

They started going up in the drought and this rain has pushed cattle prices to record levels yet again.

Now they are worth twice as much in the saleyard as they were two years ago, based on the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator.

Globally, food prices are trending up as well.

The price of agricultural commodities traded on the global stage has shot up by 50 per cent since the middle of 2020, according to economists at Rabobank.

Wheat, corn, soy and sugar have all gone up due to rising demand and supply problems, so expect to pay more for staples like cereals, vegetable oils and dairy products for quite a while.

So what is the good news?

The widespread rain has come at the perfect time for farmers who are about to sow their winter crops.

If all goes well, NSW will enjoy another bumper season, and there will be plenty of wheat, rice, canola and chickpeas to supply Australia and export markets.

That is good news for bakers and brewers who rely on them for wheat and barley.

The tricky part for growers right now is just getting their tractors onto their paddocks to sow the seeds, according to the Department of Primary Industry’s technical grains specialist Peter Matthews.

Rice and corn are safe

Sunrice, the Australian company that holds a monopoly licence to export rice, is also celebrating.

It had to import product from Thailand during the drought to supply Australian supermarkets but that will not happen this year as growers look like harvesting a crop a big crop despite the rain late in the growing season.

It is a crucial time, though, and wet conditions can damage the crop and the wet ground can make it difficult to harvest, according to Deniliquin agronomist Adam Dellwo.

“We were a little bit concerned about heavy rainfall causing grains to drop out of the head and shed.”

Mr Dellwo said the maize crop was about to come off as well, but damage should be minimal.

Maize is grown as feed for livestock as well as for human consumption.

“Maize for silage has mostly been chopped and is off, [while] the grain harvest for maize hasn’t started yet either,” he said.

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No charges expected over cyclist collision


Police don’t expect to lay charges over a confronting Sydney crash that sent a 15-year-old cyclist flying into the air.

Footage uploaded to the Dash Cam Owners Australia Facebook page shows the cyclist riding across Stanmore Road, Petersham, in Sydney’s inner west.

After crossing two lanes without incident, he passes across a third lane, where traffic has backed up, and out into the fourth lane, where he immediately collides with an oncoming car.

Dashcam footage shows a teenage cyclist colliding with an oncoming car in the Sydney suburb of Petersham. (Dash Cam Owners Australia)

The impact sends the cyclist’s bike, bag and helmet flying as he is pushed up onto the car’s windshield before landing flat on his back on the footpath.

A NSW Police spokeswoman told 9News.com.au Inner West police area command officers were called to the scene on Friday afternoon.

An investigation was underway but charges were unlikely as it appeared the cyclist had ridden into the path of the car, she said.

The spokeswoman said the 15-year-old was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries to his lower legs.

Some Facebook users said the section of road was dangerous to cross thanks to a small traffic island but a local worker told 9News.com.au said she didn’t often see crashes in the area and didn’t think the crossing was particularly dangerous.

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Joseph Suaalii exemption expected after meeting with Peter V’landys


Fears mounting over Friend

There are concerns Jake Friend may have played his last game in the NRL after suffering another concussion in Saturday’s round one victory over Manly.

The 31-year-old cut a dejected figure after the game on Saturday night, nursing more than just the physical side-effects of his third serious head knock in the past six months.

Roosters veteran Jake Friend is no stranger to concussion.Credit:Getty

Friend, who has seen first-hand the impact repeated concussions have had on good friend Boyd Cordner, last week became a father for the first time and is getting married at the end of the season.

It has provided him with a new perspective that will no doubt come into calculations when he sits down and maps out a potential return to the sport.

The Roosters have led the way when it comes to handling players with repeated head knocks, sitting out Luke Keary and Cordner over the years as precaution. Even Cordner’s indefinite hiatus is precautionary.

There are concerns at how susceptible Friend has become to concussion after repeated collisions, with the off-contract hooker now thinking about life after football and whether he has anything left to prove by continuing on this season.

Rule change requires exemptions for all concussions

Speaking of concussion, the NRL has changed its protocols over the off-season in a move that could have significant ramifications on players’ ability to play the week after knocks.

A player will now be asked to seek an exemption from an independent neurologist if he is to play within 11 days of the concussion.

The previous rule stated that players only required permission if the next game fell within seven days of the knock, however the new protocols has recommended every player will have to go through the process to play the following round.

The rules were rushed in about a week before the competition started, with the club’s chief medical officers all notified of the change.

Clubs will have to find their own independent specialists, not ones with current links to head office.

The NRL has decided against following the AFL’s mandated approach, which states players must sit out for a minimum of 12 days under the league’s revised protocol, regardless of independent analysis.

Not Brad for openers

You wouldn’t know there was any pressure on Eels coach Brad Arthur to hold on to his job based on his half-time pep-talk on Friday night.

Trailing 16-0 at the break, Parramatta players braced themselves for a trademark Arthur spray in light of their horror opening to the season.

Brad Arthur showed a different side to his coaching on Friday night.

Brad Arthur showed a different side to his coaching on Friday night.Credit:NRL Photos

It couldn’t have been further from reality, with a calm and relaxed Arthur taking an approach few had seen from him before.

The criticism of Arthur at the end of last year, after yet another week two finals exit, was a perceived inability to change his ways.

He took the first step in putting that theory to bed, with his new demeanour having the desired impact.

Victor Radley will return from an ACL injury in round three.

Victor Radley will return from an ACL injury in round three.Credit:NRL Photos

Roosters fine with Radley sanction

There are very few at the Sydney Roosters up in arms about the NRL’s punishment of Victor Radley over an incident in Byron Bay over the summer.

On the surface a two-game ban (one of which he bizarrely served while injured in round one) and $20,000 punishment seems over the top for crash-tackling a man who had been physical towards a woman at a party. But the fact Radley accepted the NRL’s breach notice speaks volumes.

Radley misled the Sydney Roosters and the NRL, telling the club that it was his brother who had tackled the man who had not been let into the party.

The NRL Integrity Unit then learned that wasn’t the case, calculating the attempted deception into its sanction. The NRL didn’t disclose that information in a bid to protect Radley’s image, regardless of potential damage to its own for a perceived over-the-top reaction.

Blue over Burton continues

With the Bulldogs and Penrith doing battle this weekend, the talk around Matt Burton’s future is no doubt going to resurface.

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As far as Penrith are concerned, he won’t be leaving this year. The Panthers know they will struggle to win a premiership if Jarome Luai or Nathan Cleary get injured and Burton is in blue and white.

It’s why Canterbury even offered to release Burton back to Penrith if they got an injury to their halves, but Penrith were having none of it. You can’t blame Canterbury for trying.

New case means no change to crowds

The NRL was holding out hope of crowds returning to 100 per cent capacity in round two, however Sunday’s positive COVID-19 case after 55 days of no community transmission in NSW is likely to end that.

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Polls close in Western Australia, Mark McGowan expected to be returned with big majority



Polls have closed in the Western Australia state election with the Labor Premier Mark McGowan expected to be returned with a resounding and increased majority.

The Premier told reporters on Saturday he wasn’t “getting ahead of himself” and would await the outcome after the polls closed at 6pm in the evening local time.

“I don’t take anything for granted, obviously we have to see how people vote. Our polls are notoriously inaccurate so we will see what happens tonight,” he said.

Mark McGowan’s seat of Rockingham has 87 per cent of votes in his favour with 901 votes counted as of 10pm AEDT. 

More than 750,000 people voted prior to polling day.

With Labor expected to comfortably win a second term, the focus will be on how many seats the already-depleted Liberals manage to save.

Mr McGowan said Western Australians should continue to back his government as it had made the “tough decisions” during the coronavirus pandemic which had saved lives and protected the economy.

“We want to make sure Western Australia continues to be the strong exciting welcoming prosperous state that it is and we want to continue on that pathway,” Mr McGowan said.  

A Newspoll published in The Weekend Australian newspaper has Labor leading the Liberals 66 to 34 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

It would reduce the Liberals to as few as three seats if that result was replicated at the ballot box.

Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup is at risk of becoming the first WA Liberal leader to lose his seat since the 1930s.

The 34-year-old holds the seat of Dawesville by a margin of just 0.8 per cent and has vowed to quit politics if he is voted out.

Such a result would likely spell disaster for other Liberal MPs vying to save their seats.

It would also suggest Mr Kirkup’s decision to concede defeat a fortnight before polling day, and to warn against giving Labor “total control” was a tactical failure.

Mr Kirkup defended the strategy, saying he was simply levelling with voters.

“This is the most important election of our lifetime,” he said as he cast his vote at at Falcon Primary School.

“The risk of a Labor party landslide is a real one. We know that Labor – if they get too much power, if they get too much control – will go too far and make mistakes.”

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Metung Hot Springs redevelopment expected to open to tourists next summer


The normally busy streets of Gippsland’s coastal towns in eastern Victoria turned eerily quiet when the state’s COVID-19 lockdowns were enforced last year.

Almost a year after the prolonged lockdowns, many tourism operators are still feeling the economic side effects.

But with the first construction stage of a new $100 million hot springs resort at Metung set to kick off, locals are excited for the region’s future.

The team behind the Peninsula Hot Springs has joined forces with Bairnsdale accommodation owners Rachel and Adrian Bromage to develop the site, which will open to the public ahead of next summer.

Although the Metung Hot Springs (MHS) are expected to become a major drawcard for Gippsland, it is not the first time the town has welcomed a popular natural springs attraction.

In the 1970s, Metung became the home of Victoria’s first hot springs bathing experience, which locals then called the Hot Pools.

The pools were fed by a bore that was originally drilled for oil in 1929/30 but the springs were later channelled and transformed into cemented public pools.

Ms Bromage said she had fond memories of splashing around in the pools as a child.

“So when we were approached by Peninsula Hot Springs we thought now is the time to make this happen.”

In 1996 the hot pools were closed due to treatment issues, vandalism, and security concerns.

“They were never actually designed for public bathing,” Ms Bromage said.

“Over time, they were developed from corrugated iron drums to concrete pools but never really had the space because there wasn’t enough water flowing at the right rates and some of it even started to flow into Chinaman’s Creek.”

After lying dormant for almost 25 years, the MHS will be redesigned and built in two stages along a picturesque stretch of the Gippsland Lakes.

It will operate all year round with a glamping village, a spa relaxation centre and the final product will see the Kings Cove Golf Club integrated with the springs.

Nearby cafe owner Ben West said he welcomed the project, which he expected would benefit most of the town’s businesses amid a post-lockdown domestic tourism boom.

“We’ve actually been in talks with MHS to sort out plans to get their customers to come and see us,” he said.

The project received a $1.5m grant, as part of the State and Federal Government’s Local Economic Recovery Program earlier this year, to assist with the first stage of development.

The East Gippsland Shire Council has also endorsed the new attraction and the 60 local jobs set to come with it.

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