Calls waiting – The internet is patchy on Pakistan’s north-west frontier | Asia




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Poor fresh food quality in north-west Queensland put under the spotlight by health professionals


Mould-ridden vegetables, 200 per cent mark-ups on food, and food trucks getting bogged are the norm in the Gulf of Carpentaria, a hearing has been told.

The hearing, which was launched in June this year, investigates food prices and food security in remote and Indigenous communities compared with those in the city.

Inquiry chairman Julian Leeser said consumer protection laws and regulators such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would also be assessed for their effectiveness in regulating remote pricing.

“We want to know how much of this is just a supply to remoteness issue, and how much of this is regulatory failure,” Mr Leeser said.

Representatives from Indigenous health service Gidgee Healing met with the panel in Brisbane via a video link last week and gave examples from Doomadgee, Burketown and Mornington Island.

Comparison of pricing between Mount Isa and the lower Queensland Gulf to Brisbane.(Supplied: Gidgee Healing)

The submission, now open to public, found spoilt food was displayed and common items such as vegetables, rice, and milk were either double the price of city produce or sometimes not available at all.

Transportation was also presented to the committee as an issue, with the example of bogged trucks that prevented resupply to north-west Queensland during the summer of 2019.

truck rolled over in mud
A food truck in Burketown becomes bogged in late 2019 as the wet season cuts-off communities.(Supplied: Gidgee Healing)

Patients ‘in tears’ for fresh food

Clinical dietician Kiri Woodington said it was disheartening to recommend nutritional goals to patients when they were impossible due to their location.

“I have more than enough accounts of clients completely in tears because they know the problem with their diet is a lack of fruit and vegetables,” Ms Woodington said.

woman and man standing in hallway
Chief medical officer Marjed Paige and clinical dietitian Kiri Woodington.(ABC North West Queensland: Kemii Maguire)

Kalkadoon-Waanyi descendant and chief medical officer for Gidgee Healing Marjed Paige said patients often declined referrals to see a dietitian due to the poor access to fresh produce in their community.

“There’s some shame going with it,” he said.

“Because I refer them to a dietitian [but] they already know they can’t afford [fruit and vegetables] and sometimes it’s better not to go.

The hearing will continue this week as 110 submissions from across Australia are investigated before the committee submits its findings to the Federal Government on October 30.



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North-west Tasmanian real estate performs better than the rest of the state despite lockdown


Lauren Timmins started saving for a house when she was 17 years old and 10 years later she watched with joy as the “sold” sticker went on the sign outside what was now her home.

It was a moment she had long hoped for, but never did she think it would happen amid a global pandemic.

“When [coronavirus] hit it was a bit uncertain, because I’d just started a new job so to go straight in to putting an offer on a house was a bit scary,” Ms Timmins said.

“But I’m good with my money and I always have a backup plan.”

Ms Timmins said even as the world around her changed, the goal of buying her own place did not.

‘Running into a brick wall’

Ms Timmins put the offer in just months after north-west Tasmania was plunged into a severe three-week lockdown, and as COVID-19 cases spread throughout the area’s three major hospitals in April.

All of the hospitals shut almost completely, with Australian Defence Force personnel staffing the emergency department at the North-West Regional Hospital as the facility’s usual employees underwent enforced quarantine.

Against this backdrop, local real estate agent David Russell feared the worst, but was pleasantly surprised.

“When we went into lockdown no-one knew what was coming — it was totally new ground for us and our office was on-track for a record month in March,” he said.

“But COVID hit and it was like running into a brick wall.

“April was fairly quiet, but in May it just took off again, like someone just flicked a switch.

The median house price in Burnie in Tasmania’s north-west has increased.(ABC News: Henry Zwartz)

Median price up, rental vacancy down

Real Estate Institute of Tasmania president Mandy Welling said the statistics backed up the relative strength of the north-west coast’s property market.

“The only place in Tasmania where the median house price has increased is the north-west coast,” she said.

“In the last quarter, the median house price was down 7 per cent in Hobart, Launceston was down by a very moderate 0.3 per cent, but in the north-west they increased by a massive 8.5 per cent.

A black and white portrait shot of a woman of perhaps early middle age, wearing a blouse and pearls.
Mandy Welling says the north-west coast property market is doing better than anyone expected.(Supplied: Real Estate Institute of Tasmania)

Ms Welling said that was because of a simple lack of supply.

“We have a huge shortage of stock available on the market,” she said.

Rental vacancy rates increased slightly in Hobart but decreased in Launceston and in the north-west, and the volume of properties sold was down across the state.

Mr Russell said the only thing that would slow momentum in the market was a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Ms Welling said even if that were to happen Tasmanians have a lot of confidence in the state’s borders.

“We have this really unique ability to shut ourselves down,” he said.



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Tool workshop helping to up-skill rural women in Tasmania’s north-west


Hazel Langridge is using a tape measure to carefully get the dimensions of her planter box project.

The 86-year-old, who has come dressed in pink glittery gumboots, hasn’t used many tools in her life time — but today she does not miss a beat as she hammers nails and sands down the pine.

She is one of nine women in the far north-west town of Smithton who are learning how to use basic tools like hammers and sanders.

The workshop has been organised by the Wedge Street Community House and the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation.

Hazel Langridge is making a planter box to grow vegetables in.(ABC News: Erin Cooper)

Though Hazel insists she’s not very good, her planter box — which will soon be home to a vegetable patch just outside her front door — indicates otherwise.

“I just like messing around with wood,” she says.

Hazel has become particularly well-versed in the drop saw.

“It’s really useful.”

Woman using an electric sander on a woodworking project in a workshop
Carmel learned to use an electric sander.(ABC News: Erin Cooper)

Sarah Schwarzkopf is using her newly-honed skills to build a cubbyhouse for her three-year-old son, who has autism.

“I came up with the idea of building a cubby and putting a sensory wall on the inside … it might have bubble wrap, it might have different types of material, it could even have some locks on it for him to play with,” she says.

Making friends after lockdown

Smithton is relatively remote, with a population of less than 4,000 people, and the closest city, Burnie, about an hour’s drive away.

Woman wearing safety goggles standing behind a woodwork project
Sarah Schwarzkopf is making a sensory cubby house for her three-year-old son who has autism.(ABC News: Erin Cooper)

The town was hit particularly hard when the entire north-west region was put into lockdown in April because of a coronavirus outbreak in the area’s major hospitals.

Residents were only allowed to leave their homes for essential shopping for three weeks, an experience that was isolating for many people.

“That’s what it’s all about, breaking self-isolation down because there’s a lot of mental health issues in the area through depression and COVID’s only made that worse,” says Glenda Maher, general manager at the Wedge Street Community House.

Taking back the power (tools)

Glenda and Kelly Burke, from the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation, have wanted to run the workshop for years.

“I really wanted to learn and teach the women to do some things themselves instead of having to wait on men,” Glenda says.

Kelly says a lot of women never get the chance to learn how to use tools.

“We’ve had a go at sanding, basic drills … stuff you’d use around home,” she says.

But these women are proving the critics wrong, one wooden project at a time.

Portrait of a woman, standing in a shed
Hazel Langridge says she likes “messing around with wood”.(ABC News: Erin Cooper)



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North-west Tasmanian woman fined after breaching coronavirus isolation orders



A north-west Tasmanian woman has been fined for failing to isolate at home, after recently returning from interstate.

The 28-year-old from Burnie returned from Western Australia on Sunday and was directed to isolate at home for 14 days.

During a routine check on Tuesday, police discovered the woman had breached that order — visiting two retail outlets in Burnie that morning.

She was fined $744.

It comes as two north-west Tasmanian healthcare workers who came into contact with the state’s latest coronavirus case were furloughed “out of an abundance of caution”.

Premier Peter Gutwein said the workers at Burnie’s North West Regional Hospital (NWRH) were wearing full personal protective equipment at the time.

The case, a man in his 60s, tested positive for COVID-19 after he travelled to Melbourne for medical care.

Director of Public Health Mark Veitch said the man had had two negative tests while he was in hospital in Melbourne in the lead-up to his return to Tasmania.

“He does have significant medical conditions, including those that required him to have the procedure in Melbourne,” he said.

Dr Veitch said the man had returned to the state on Friday.

“When his test result came back positive and was notified to Public Health yesterday, we worked with the Tasmanian Health Service to do contact tracing around this man.

“The [NWRH] identified 25 staff who were involved in his care. 23 of those people had no concerns at all about their encounters with this gentlemen and there was no question of any breaches of their infection control.”

He said two people reported that “they may have touched their mask at some point while they were involved in his care”.

“That doesn’t constitute a particularly high risk,” he said.

He also said no family or community contacts were exposed to the man when he was potentially infectious.

Tourism industry to focus on intrastate travellers

Meanwhile, the State Government and tourism industry have released a plan for the state’s visitor economy for the next two years.

“It’s the most comprehensive action plan that’s been rolled out anywhere in the country in terms of the rebuild of the tourism and hospitality sector,” Mr Gutwein said.

“As a starting point, we will focus on ensuring that we work on the intrastate market, but that we are nimble enough to pivot into … both the interstate and international markets when the timing is right and it’s safe to do so.”

The plan includes commitments to:

  • Promote Tasmania as a road trip destination
  • Grow visitation to the Bass Strait islands
  • Support Tasmanian events adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions
  • Maintain connections with international markets
  • Research the changed market

“What we want is Tasmanians not just to go away for a weekend, not just to holiday around the state in the school holidays, but to actually visit those parts of the state that they can during the week as well,” Mr Gutwein said.

“What’s important is that we do what we can right now … while our borders are closed.”

He said last financial year, Tasmanians spent more than $1.6 billion out of the state.

“What we’d like them to do is to spend more of that here when they have the opportunity to do so,” Mr Gutwein said.

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the industry had been preparing a long-term strategy when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and borders closed.

Mr Martin said elements from that long-term strategy — positioning Tasmania as a carbon-neutral destination, embracing the state’s Indigenous heritage and a focus on inclusive tourism for people with disability — remained.

“That’s still at the heart of this plan but the medium term is about saving businesses and securing our workforce and making sure that as many of our businesses and our operators can survive the uncertainty we’re in,” he said.

“[We want to make sure] there is a clear pathway forward so that when restrictions are eased around our borders, when we start to reintroduce our interstate visitation, we’ve got the core of our industry to start building for the future.

“We are incredibly excited and optimistic and ambitious about our recovery.”



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US allows killing of sea lions because they’re eating struggling Northwest salmon | UK News



Wildlife managers in some parts of the US have been given permission to start killing hundreds of sea lions in a bid to protect salmon and steelhead trout.

The marine mammals have been feasting on the migrating fish in the Columbia River basin where they bottleneck at dams or where they head up tributaries to spawn.

Shaun Clements, senior policy analyst for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said: “These are places where the fish are really vulnerable.

“We have to manage this so the fish can get through to spawn.”

The new permit allows the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho and several Native American tribes to kill 540 California sea lions and 176 Steller sea lions, from Portland to the McNary Dam upriver, as well as in several tributaries.

It is the first time they have been allowed to kill the much larger Steller sea lions.

Wildlife officials have faced a long-running conundrum over pitting the mammals, whose populations are healthy, against protected fish runs.

Columbia River salmon are also a key food source for the Pacific Northwest’s endangered population of orcas, which scientists say are at risk of extinction if they can’t access more food.

Authorities have tried a number of other methods to deter the sea lions over the years, including traps, rubber bullets and explosives, with no success. The sea lions would return days after being relocated hundreds of miles away.

The Port of Astoria in Oregon even tried a fake, motorised orca made of fiberglass in a futile effort to keep them off its docks.

And around 13 years ago, authorities began killing some sea lions at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River under restrictions that required them to first document each targeted animal in the area five times, observe it eating salmon and wait for it to enter a trap. Some 238 have been killed there.

Now, wildlife officials will be able to tranquilise, capture or trap any sea lions in the area, before bringing them to another location to give them a lethal injection. The permit forbids them from shooting the mammals.

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Sharon Young, senior strategist for marine wildlife at the Humane Society, called the sea lions the least of the salmon’s problems.

She said that fishing, competition from hatchery fish and habitat loss, including dams and culverts that block their passage or raise water temperatures, are much more of a threat.

“Killing the sea lions isn’t going to address any of that,” she said.

“It is only going to distract from what they aren’t doing to address the real problems salmon are facing. You’re killing sea lions for nothing.”



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New coronavirus case detected in north-west Tasmania


Tasmania has detected a new coronavirus case, Premier Peter Gutwein has announced.

The case is a man in his 60s in the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie.

Authorities said the man had been in Melbourne for medical treatment before being transported back to Tasmania.

He had previously tested negative before recording a positive test upon returning to Tasmania.

“I’m advised that the man was admitted [to the North West Regional Hospital] under all appropriate infection control protocols,” Mr Gutwein said.

“We will see cases from time to time, but it’s how we respond that matters.”

He said the man “bears no risk to any other patient or any other Tasmanian”.

Public Health director Dr Mark Veitch said contact tracing was underway.

It is the state’s first case in 20 days.

The hospital was at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak in April which was found to have started after people from the Ruby Princess cruise ship were admitted in late March.

A report into the outbreak found that three quarters of hospital’s healthcare staff, who later tested positive, worked during the period when they were infectious.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian branch secretary Emily Shepherd said she was confident the hospital had the appropriate protocols and support in place to deal with the new case.

“I know that a lot of work has been undertaken by the Tasmanian Health Service to implement many of those recommendations and ensure that there is compliance with the latest evidence in relation to infection control policies.

“Additional staff have been put in place to assist with infection control procedures and obviously a lot of work has gone in to ensure that there’s appropriate [personal protective equipment] … available to staff. So I think staff can feel confident and well-prepared to deal with this isolated case.”

Ms Shepherd said the case, however, may cause anxiety among staff and the wider north-west community.

“[That is] completely natural but at the same time I have every confidence that our members are now well prepared and supported to deal with this case,” she said.

Health and Community Services Union Tasmanian assistant secretary Robbie Moore said the Tasmanian health system regularly relied on interstate hospitals, especially in Melbourne.

“I guess now it’s about the commitment that the [Health] Minister has made that all procedures are now in place to ensure the safety of staff and other patients and we are obviously very hopeful that that is the case.”

The latest case takes the state’s tally to 228. The death toll stands at 13, 12 of which have been in the north-west.

Last month, a woman who had returned to Hobart from Victoria tested positive, ending a 65-day run without a case.

The North West Regional Hospital in Burnie was at the heart of an outbreak in April.(ABC News: Rick Eaves)



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Women dies in stabbing at unit in Oatlands in Sydney’s north-west, man arrested


A woman has died after suffering multiple stab injuries at a home in Sydney’s north-west.

Paramedics performed CPR on the woman, aged in her 30s, at the Oatlands unit on Ingleby Street.

She was taken to Westmead Hospital but has since died.

A 25-year-old man who was known to the woman was arrested at the scene and has been taken to Granville Police Station for questioning.

NSW Police Chief Inspector Adam Philipps described the woman’s injuries as “significant”.

He said another man who was also in the unit at the time “fled the scene” before contacting triple zero and alerting police to the stabbing and providing the address.

Chief Inspector Adam Phillips said the incident was being investigated.(ABC News)

“He’s not an offender and we have located him and [he] is currently helping us back at Granville Police Station with a statement,” he said.

He said the alleged offender had suffered a number of minor injuries to his hand and the man who ran from the scene also had a superficial injury.

Police believe the woman knew both men but officers are “still trying to establish the actual relationship of the parties involved”.

It is unclear why the three were at the unit at the time of the stabbing.

“The injuries the woman sustained were significant and the police escort was used to help rush the woman to hospital,” he said.

Police tape in front of a red brick unit block.
Police have established a crime scene at the Oatlands unit.(ABC News)

He said the man police arrested was waiting on the verandah for officers to arrive and he “wasn’t aggressive” towards them when they turned up.

“We are still in the infancy of the investigation,” he said.

“We are currently doing a canvassing of the units and we’re just hoping now to try and put some sort of picture around not only today’s incident, but the relationship of the female and the two parties involved today.”



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BOM set to build new $5 million Cullulleraine weather radar to service north-west Victoria


Farmers in far north-west Victoria and southern New South Wales will soon be able to access the data from a state-of-the-art weather facility set to be built at Cullulleraine, 45 kilometres west of Mildura.

The Bureau of Meteorology has signed a site lease for the new building and plan to have it up and running early next year.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley made the multi-million dollar Government announcement today, saying the new radar will provide the most up-to-date weather services to the region.

“The technology improvements include Doppler capability and dual-pol technology, which means we can measure not just where particles are in the sky but also how fast they are moving and what kind of particles they are likely to be,” Ms Ley said.

Improving the service

Senior Victorian meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, Andrew Tupper, said the new radar will be a big improvement on the old facility at Mildura airport.

The new state-of-the-art weather radar is expected to reach parts of SA, NSW and north-west Victoria.(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

“The current radar in Mildura has a couple of drawbacks. The radar at the airport is on a really short tower and was never designed to watch weather, it was designed to track weather balloons,” he said.

Millewa grain and pulse farmer Chris Hunt said a new radar is welcomed news.

“It’s fairly significant as the quality of the current radar is not up to scratch,” he said.

Old Mildura weather radar station coverage
Radar coverage of old Mildura weather radar at the Mildura airport.(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

“Hopefully it’ll fill in some of the gaps we’ve had.”

Sheep grazier Angus Whyte from Wyndham Station, between Wentworth and Broken Hill in NSW, said a reliable radar will help him make the best decisions for on-farm management.

“If we’re going to have strong wind, it might be important for us to go down and batten the hatches.”

Clem Blake from the Mallee Weather Watch Weather Station in Ouyen says it was not only important news, but fun as well.

“Not only will it be improved radar coverage for farmers, but also for those who are storm enthusiasts or storm spotters for the bureau, like myself,” he said.



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