ARIA nominated five-piece group, Ball Park Music, are no strangers to the indie rock scene. With 6 studio albums under their belt and regular features on the triple j music rotation, Ball Park Music are well and truly cemented into, if not veterans of, Australia’s music industry. Take their recent placing at #4 in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2020, and #17 in the Hottest 100 of the Decade as proof of the country’s love for them. Expect high energy, sing-along anthems and all the feel-good vibes from their live show.
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With year-round sunshine and facilities like St Mary’s seaside chapel, Port Douglas has been a popular wedding destination for decades.
Now the company behind New York’s Plaza Hotel is looking to cash in on the matrimonial industry in the 3,500-resident town by proposing a 253-room luxury hotel with a rooftop wedding venue.
If the project is granted a development application by the Douglas Shire Council, the hotel will be the first in Australia to be operated by hotel chain Fairmont, which is owned by Accor.
The proposed five-star Fairmont Port Douglas would feature several on-site restaurants, a day spa, and treetop walk.
But its developer has been told to address 33 aspects of its original proposal by the town’s planning department.
Property developer Paul Chiodo said it would be the first resort to be built in the town for nearly two decades and would have an environmental focus.
“Instead of just a standard corrugated iron roof structure that creates a lot of heat … we’ve got an activated roof up there,” he said.
“It actually provides a cooling system for the hotel as well, so it doesn’t generate excess energy and power and is far better for the environment.”
A wedding platform is planned to feature on the rooftop pool area, which Mr Chiodo said the company was hoping would boost the local wedding industry.
“There are 500 weddings a year in Port Douglas and we’re hoping to quadruple that with our hotel,” he said.
The company said it would reuse some of the 5,000 tonnes of concrete from the demolished building on the site for the road base at the resort.
The council was concerned the five-storey building was too tall.
“The proposed building height is approximately 20 metres, with council’s planning scheme limiting building height to 13.5 metres,” the council’s manager for environment and planning, Paul Hoye, said.
But Mr Chiodo said that depended on where you measured from.
“How the planning scheme works, it takes its height from a natural ground level of the site,” he said.
The planning department also questioned why the company had not provided adequate parking for guests, falling 185 spaces short of what was required.
Mr Chiodo said the company’s research showed that much parking was unnecessary.
“We’ve provided a study that actually shows that people actually won’t be driving themselves to the hotel,” he said.
He also said the design had been amended so that three iconic palm trees would be relocated rather than removed.
Mr Chiodo said if the development application was approved the resort could be completed within two and a half years.
He said a recent report revealed that during construction the development would create 694 jobs and eventually add $203 million in annual gross value to the local economy.
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The decision to attach an advisory for under 50s to the AstraZenca vaccine is a precautionary measure, Secretary of the Department of Health Professor Brendan Murphy said.
“…this is a very, very rare event, and it is a highly precautionary position that Australia can take because we’re in a fortunate position with COVID,” he said.
“All vaccines have adverse effects. Some serious. Flu vaccines do. The Pfizer vaccine has a risk of anaphylaxis, which we’ve seen.
“But this syndrome, after all of the work we’ve done with the UK and Europe, does seem to be a real syndrome, and we now feel that, at an abundance of caution, given that this syndrome seems to occur mainly in younger people for whom the risk of severe COVID is not so great, that there is a basis to have a preferred recommendation for those under 50,” Professor Murphy said.
There is now work in place to exchange Pfizer vaccines already sent to aged care facilities with AstraZeneca shots.
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There was a sense of calm about Smith all week, as he scrambled his way to a record not even Woods, Nicklaus or Player could achieve. Yet it still wasn’t enough to win as Johnson broke plenty of scoring records himself.
“We were doing our own thing and the game felt good leading up to that week as well, which is a massive positive when you’re going to somewhere you love and you know you can play well at,” Smith said. “It was just very calm.
“But it’s going to be nice having some people out there making some noise this week. That place is so cool when there’s people there, the roars that go through the whole course [are amazing]. It will be good to have that atmosphere back, which was definitely lacking last year.”
Smith will join 2013 Masters hero Adam Scott, Jason Day, Marc Leishman and Matt Jones in the Masters field. For the first time, he’s the bookmakers’ pick to be the top Australian at a course where he’s never missed the cut in four attempts and has two top-five finishes.
For someone who prefers to sidestep the limelight, he will be firmly in it this week after being paired with the rejuvenated Jordan Spieth and major winner Collin Morikawa for the first two rounds.
Smith, 27, hasn’t seen his coach Grant Field in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began, resorting to weekly FaceTime catch-ups to iron out any deficiencies in his game.
He’s the first to admit the chances of anyone matching his record this week are remote, the drier conditions in the Masters’ traditional April timeslot set to make scoring tough again.
Maybe the only difference since Smith’s last trip to Augusta is that he’s fishing a lot more now than last year. And there’s also the wild mullet he’s refused to cut since growing it during lockdown, which he doesn’t dare touch now.
“A lot of the rugby league guys had it and then after a while I thought, ‘stuff it, I’m just going to keep it’,” Smith said.
“My girlfriend [Jordan Ontiveros] hates it. My mum is coming around and my nan thinks it’s the best thing ever. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up one night and [Jordan’s] going to be chopping it off.”
As for dad, he doesn’t care what hairstyle his son’s rocking as he’s a chance of righting Norman’s wrongs from all those years ago. And he won’t need to turn up for work if he does.
AUSTRALIANS AT THE MASTERS
World ranking: 30
Best Masters finish: T2 (2020)
First round pairing: Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa (4am Friday morning AEST)
World ranking: 32
Best Masters finish: Won (2013)
First round pairing: Bryson DeChambeau, Max Homa (3.36am Friday morning AEST)
World ranking: 39
Best Masters finish: T4 (2013)
First round pairing: Victor Perez, Jason Kokrak (2.12am Friday morning AEST)
World ranking: 52
Best Masters finish: T2 (2011)
First round pairing: Matthew Wolff, Cameron Champ (11.36pm Thursday night AEST)
World ranking: 55
Best Masters finish: Cut (2014)
First round pairing: Sandy Lyle, Dylan Frittelli (10.12pm Thursday night AEST)
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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“I’ve had some dark moments. It’s taken a huge toll on my mental health. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep and my health spiralled into what I describe as a devastating situation,” he said in June 2019.
He said they were told to start issuing “standard garnishee” notices to meet ATO revenue targets.
A garnishee is a tool that allows the ATO to seize funds from the bank accounts of taxpayers who had been assessed to owe the ATO money, sometimes without their knowledge.
The allegations sparked several investigations into the ATO that resulted in both sides of politics announcing policies to improve the lot of small businesses when they are dealing with the tax office.
Days before he went public his home was raided by the AFP and the ATO, which alleged in a warrant he had illegally taken copies of taxpayer information, photos of ATO computer screens or emails and voice recordings.
Well before he went public he had made a public interest disclosure to the ATO about his concerns about the inappropriate use of ATO powers. Those concerns were dismissed by the ATO, which prompted him to go public at great risk to himself.
Senator Rex Patrick, who has spent the past few years fighting for justice for Boyle said if the ATO had only done its job properly none of the alleged activities would have occurred.
Senator Patrick said he welcomed the CDPP’s decision to reconsider the prosecution of Mr Boyle, saying a huge injustice would occur if the prosecution were allowed to continue.
“It is not in the public interest to prosecute whistleblowers. Mr Boyle is not out of the woods yet, but the CDDP’s reconsideration of the prosecution is a very good start.”
He said an in-camera investigation by the Senate Economics Committee which he initiated and participated in found that the ATO’s investigation into Mr Boyle’s public interest disclosure was “superficial”.
“But for the superficial nature of the ATO’s investigation, the events that followed that led to the charges would never have occurred,” he said.
Whistleblower expert, AJ Brown, a professor of public policy and law at Griffith University, and a board member of Transparency International, said the decision of the DPP is one of the most important it can make, possibly in the history of public integrity at the Commonwealth level, since the Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Act was passed in 2013.
“Whatever the CDPP decides, this will be – or perhaps already is – a hugely important test case for when, how and why it is important for justified whistleblowing by federal public servants to be protected. As was intended by the 2013 legislation, and remains strongly supported across the political spectrum, and by the wider public, as the Government considers reform to further strengthen the Act. For all the right reasons,” he said.
“Why it has taken the CDPP and ATO so long to recognise the weakness of the ATO case, should perhaps be the next big question.”
Before becoming a senator in 2017, Senator Patrick was Nick Xenophon’s senior adviser and played an integral role in a deal struck to improve whistleblower protections. However, there is still a long way to go in this country to improve protections. How Boyle is treated could be the start.
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Adele Ferguson is a Gold Walkley Award winning investigative journalist. She reports and comments on companies, markets and the economy.
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A few minutes drive from the U.S.-Mexico border, a bus station in Brownsville, Texas, has become an unlikely way station for Central American migrants fleeing their countries and risking all for a new life in the United States. Volunteers give out pizza, clothing and arrange transport while city officials conduct COVID-19 tests.
Irela Mejia, 24, and her five-year-old son from Honduras were among those picked up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers while crossing the Rio Grande river onto U.S. land on a raft with dozens of other migrants.
“I came for a better future for my child,” said Mejia, who is hoping to reunite with her brother in Houston and apply for asylum. She says she had already lost her job due to the COVID -19 pandemic, before two hurricanes in November devastated Honduras.
Her son turned five on the month-long trek from Honduras. They came alone, vulnerable and reliant on smugglers.
“I was very afraid,” she said, her eyes filling with tears.
But her eyes light up when asked about whether Joe Biden becoming U.S. president influenced her decision to come to the border: “Yes, after he put out that immigrants could come over, I felt it would be a better future, that they might give us documents to be legal in this country.”
Mejia is one of tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived at the U.S. border along Mexico in recent weeks in hopes of an easier passage into the country under Biden’s administration. They have been undeterred by the government’s public plea to asylum seekers: “Don’t come now.”
In February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials detained just over 100,000 people crossing the border — a 28 per cent increase over January, though below the record high of 144,000 hit in February 2019. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said the number of people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021 is on track to hit the highest level in the last 20 years.
WATCH | Migrants flock to U.S border in hope of easier entry:
Hundreds of migrants from Central America are streaming into Texas from Mexico everyday, posing problems not only for the U.S. border patrol but for President Biden. 5:15
The surge of migrants is fast becoming an early and critical test for Biden to show he can be both firm and humane in dealing with immigration and set his administration apart from that of his predecessor, Donald Trump, whose policies restricted migrants from entering the U.S.
But the challenges are mounting. The Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged it is struggling to find space for more than 15,000 children under 18 travelling alone and picked up by U.S. border officials in the last several weeks.
Photos released Monday by Texas Rep. Henry Cueller, a Democrat, showed youth at a new, temporary processing centre in Donna, Texas, crowded together on sleeping mats and covered with emergency foil blankets. Reporters have not been allowed inside the facility.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said on Sunday the Biden administration is expelling “family units and single adults” but would not “expel into the Mexican desert” young and vulnerable children. He said the government is working all hours to build up capacity to house them while they are processed.
Critics attack Biden over immigration
Across the border from Brownsville, in Matamoras, the largest migrant camp on the southwest U.S. border was closed March 6 after Biden reversed Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, or “Remain in Mexico,” policy, in place since 2019.
That policy prevented asylum seekers from staying in the U.S. to pursue their claim and ordered them back to Mexico, where thousands subsequently camped along the border. Biden’s swift reversal of that policy allowed migrants with active asylum claims back into the U.S. to pursue their case.
Critics, including Trump, accuse Biden of throwing open the border to migrants.
“We proudly handed the Biden Administration the most secure border in history,” the former Republican U.S. president said in a statement. They’ve “turned a national triumph into a national disaster.”
Charlene D’Cruz, an immigration lawyer who works in Brownsville and Matamoras, says the topic is a source of “pressure on every single president.”
“It is in no way the crisis or the situation some Republicans are making it out to be,” she said in Brownsville. “The way the previous president decided to take care of it is just to seal it [the border] until it’s reached a fever pitch; it’s like a tourniquet and when you let it go, of course there’s going to be [a big flow].”
Cruz, who has been working with migrants for 30 years, says there were surges in 2014, 2016 and 2019 and that the latest one started in spring last year with the pandemic and natural disasters adding to the existing threats of local violence in Central American countries.
Treated with respect and dignity
Aura Cruz, a 67-year-old from Guatemala, is still stranded in Mexico. She fled with her great granddaughter, then an infant, and four other families in 2019 after the baby’s mother was murdered in Guatemala. Dulce is now 2 years old, unaware of her uncertain future.
“I’m worried about the girl,” said Cruz, sitting outside the empty Matamoras camp. “I [could] suddenly die, so I’m eager to keep fighting for asylum.”
Global Response Management, a U.S. non-governmental organization that provides medical care and humanitarian relief, says migrants need to be given help to ensure they can seek asylum safely.
“We know more migrants are on their way, more are crossing every day,” said Mark McDonald, a paramedic and assistant project director with GRM. “They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
WATCH | U.S. border officials detain migrants crossing border:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents unload migrants picked up in the fields between the border wall near Abram, Texas, and the Rio Grande River, which separates the U.S. and Mexico. After criminal and document checks, some will be released and allowed to pursue their asylum cases; others will be sent back across the border. 0:51
Getting to the root of the problem
For those who’ve cared for migrants for decades along the border, the surge has been predictable.
Sister Norma Pimentel manages a group of shelters in the Rio Grande Valley, including one in McAllen, Texas.
An advocate for migrants, she says restrictive policies only exacerbate the misery of migrants without stopping them from trying to cross the border.
“The reason why people come has never been addressed. The focus has been in militarizing the border, but the problem is not the border,” said Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. “The problem is back home, the root causes of why these families migrate in the first place.”
Dalila Moran de Asencio, 33-year-old teacher, and Edgardo Antonio Asencio, a 33-year-old public servant, and their two children fled gangs and violence in El Salvador 15 months ago. They crossed into the U.S. but were sent back under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. They’ve been living with 30 other migrants for over a year in a house managed by a Catholic charity in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
“It wasn’t easy, but our lives were in danger,” said Edgardo. “I never could imagine that a crime situation would force us to take such drastic decisions.”
Doctors without Borders provides mental health counselling for people stuck in limbo.
“They show symptoms relating to acute stress that’s associated with anxiety and depression,” said psychologist Catalina Urrego Echeverri, the group’s medical team co-ordinator in the area.
Dalila, whose dad died when she was 12, says her journey has been a difficult one.
“Sometimes I feel stressed and sad because I don’t come from a family with a great economic situation but with a lot of sacrifices, I finished university,” she said. “And I feel sad because I fought so hard and had graduated soon before I had to leave. From one day to the next we had to leave the country.”
She says the change in the U.S. presidency is the first hopeful sign in over a year.
“We’ve seen on the news that a lot of families have already been granted access to the U.S., to seek asylum inside,” she said. “We hope and trust that’s our case as well.”
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Simona Camosci wrote the song in the first Covid wave, and now she and her colleagues have released it.
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The finishing touches are being put on the first abattoir built in Queensland in two decades and the owners hope it will encourage a new generation of beef producers.
Located just outside of Moranbah in central Queensland, the 200-head-a-day boutique plant is the first of its kind in the region.
It has been a long-held dream of Josie and Blair Angus from Signature Beef to get the $37-million project off the ground.
“[The] roof is currently going on,” Mrs Angus said.
“It’s finally starting to look like an abattoir.”
The couple has set its sights squarely on the future leaders in the field.
“We’ll bring some experienced people from the industry, but our goal then is to fill that team, particularly with young people from the bush,” Mrs Angus said.
After a lengthy pre-production and smooth construction phase, the abattoir is set to be finished by July.
It had largely relied on funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to boost job opportunities in the region.
The Australian Meat Industry Council previously said it would be difficult to find enough staff to run the operation, but the Angus family always remained confident.
“As we start, we’ll obviously go through some training and ramp-up phases,” Mrs Angus said.
Signature Beef already has a mix of experienced staff and next-generation producers, including three graduates from the University of New England.
Mrs Angus said this showed interest in production work was starting to grow, particularly in the regions.
She hoped their abattoir would get the ball rolling for others to follow suit.
“We’d like to see processing move strongly back into the region and keep processing as small and local as we can.
“We believe that will deliver strength to our industry.”
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It is a modern city of almost 640,000 people that sells itself as a leisure capital, but for the past two years there has not been a gay bar on the Gold Coast.
For some within the local LGBTQIA+ community, there are serious concerns that the city is moving in the wrong direction.
“It pushes us back into the closet,” drag queen Dixie Wrecked said.
Without a dedicated bar, a team of self-described “Queens of Paradise” have created their own event to show the city what it’s missing out on.
On a Sunday night at the Pink Flamingo club, anyone could be pulled onstage from the crowd, leashed and presented with a dog bowl of champagne to lap at.
This is followed by a twerking competition, an elaborate display of aerial acrobatics, and some ABBA-obsessed flight attendants crashing a plane.
It’s all part of a show called Flamboyance — the creation of drag queens Natasha St James, Dixie Wrecked and Justine Kace.
“The purpose of Flamboyance was basically to essentially set up a gay night, finally, for the Gold Coast,” St James said.
They’ve performed Flamboyance almost a dozen times so far and the positive response to the weekly event has seen it booked out a month ahead of schedule.
According to St James, Flamboyance was born out of necessity — the Gold Coast, she said, was “still not safe, completely”.
“It’s a nightlife mecca,” she said.
St James said her experience living on the Gold Coast had been mixed, with the local culture feeling “very masculine-driven”.
“In Sydney no-one bats an eyelid when you’re walking hand in hand with your boyfriend down the street,” she said.
“However, on the Gold Coast 30 different people look at you.
There used to be several gay bars on the Gold Coast, but the last one was closed and put up for sale in early 2019.
St James said the lack of an “actual tangible venue” had real consequences.
“We’ve all had to go through this journey of self-acceptance and coming out,” she said.
“So not being able to have somewhere where you can just go talk about that openly and just be yourself, explore and do new things — it sucks.”
Pink Flamingo director Anthony Rigas said he was surprised that no other venues had stepped in to fill an obvious “gap in the market”.
“Whether you’re gay, straight, bi, whatever — there seems to be a special atmosphere,” he said.
Mr Rigas said the success of other LGBT-events, including St James and Wrecked’s “drag queen bingo”, at Miami Marketta, convinced him that Flamboyance could be a hit.
“There’s nothing like this with [the] production, theatricals, LED lights and chorography,” he said.
But because it’s only a one-night-a-week event and Mr Rigas said he didn’t consider Flamboyance to be a an alternative to a gay bar.
“Being involved in show business and also dancing and this sort industry, there’s a large gay community,” he said.
For its Mardi Gras special this week, Flamboyance showman Christian Nimri told the audience that it’s about “pride, baby”.
“Two years ago I don’t think I ever thought I would be standing on this stage, proudly homo,” he said.
While he hoped a gay bar would open on the Gold Coast soon, Nimri said there was “a big surge of these LGBT events” coming.
“[It’ll] make it a lot easier for us to walk into any space and feel comfortable enough to be who we are,” he said.
“You don’t let it get to you, but it can,” she said.
“There’s still a little bit more of growing and understanding to do but with these places — that will come.”
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“I was sexually abused by a person from outside our family,” she said.
After decades of failed attempts to bury the trauma with drugs and alcohol, Johnston leaned on faith and turned her life around.
The self-published central Queensland author has put pen to paper to help fellow survivors find their own way forward.
Her journey has not been easy.
“I was living in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales on a dairy farm, and the world was my oyster,” she said.
“But then, all of a sudden, something happened to me that caused my whole life to change.”
She was just three years old when the abuse started.
“Even though I told my family, it was something that was not talked about. It was shameful to even talk about sex, I guess, in those days,” Johnston said.
“So as much as I complained until I was probably the age of five, nothing was done about it, and actually quite the opposite happened.
“So from five years till 11 years old, I just put up with the abuse and said nothing.”
At 11, Johnston used her voice to end the abuse.
“I eventually said to the perpetrator, ‘I’ll call the police. No one else believes me, but if you don’t stop, I’ll call the police.’ So that ended right there,” she said.
While the physical abuse stopped, the emotional pain intensified.
“It had such a dramatic effect on my life because I couldn’t talk to anyone it was like a deep secret, so deep within me, that I began self-harming at the age of nine,” Johnston said.
“Even though to others, I would be seen as a happy, carefree child, I was hiding that like a deep secret. So it was very difficult.”
As the years passed, things went from bad to worse, and Johnston developed a series of obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Still, she held onto her secret.
When Johnston was 40, she chanced upon a workshop on self-healing and the inner child.
“… I was working in a women’s refuge, and I actually took one of the women in there who had been severely beaten,” she said.
“I had sort of not forgotten about what happened to me, but I just pushed it deep down inside. And at that workshop, I actually fell apart, and I realised that I had to talk to someone about it.”
Johnston attended a series of counselling sessions which helped her at the time — but ultimately, the trauma continued.
“Because I had no boundaries, I didn’t really realise it was wrong.
“I told my parents a little about it, and they more or less said, ‘You’re lucky to have a job. Just, sort of, suck it up and cop it.'”
Life didn’t get any easier.
More troubles — domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, abandonment and cancer — came, and, eventually, she turned to drugs and alcohol to cope.
“I led a life, till I was probably 56 years old, of just right off the rails with no direction, no boundaries,” Johnston said.
“There was many failed relationships and addictions and obsessions.”
Johnston grew up in the church but only returned to faith in her mid-50s.
“When I was 14 years old, I walked away because I thought no one could help me, but I never walked away from God,” she said.
“When I was 54, this lady came to me, and she started to talk to me about Jesus, and I couldn’t wait to get away from her.
“I ran from her until I was 56 years old, and I just gave up.”
Inspired by the woman’s desire to help others, Johnston became a Christian.
“I can’t wait to wake up in the morning, and my main [objective] is to get out there and help others,” she said.
In December, the author published her book, A Love Letter to My Children.
Johnston said she was afraid of what people would think of her story until Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year.
“[My children] went through a lot of it with me, so it’s very hard for them to read my story, their story too because it is their story,” she said.
“It is with love I wrote it so that they could see how I got through the pain and the heartache and the trauma, so they too could heal from this.”
Now on her path to healing, Johnston says she has forgiven her parents and abusers.
Although she found strength in religion, Johnston is passionate about helping survivors find their own way through trauma.
Johnston said she hoped that survivors could move forward.
“Wherever they are — whether they’ve suffered sexual abuse and they’ve stuffed it so deeply down inside them that it is like mine was, a deep dark secret — my goal is to speak to people like this so that they can find out that it’s not their fault,” she said.
“It never was their fault, no matter what age they were when it happened and the same with domestic violence. No one has to put up with that, and I just want to lift others up … just to give others hope.
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