Quarter of UK home-owners worried they will not be able to renew mortgages


A quarter of UK home-owners are worried about renewing their mortgage during the pandemic according to a poll.

A third said their income was less secure now than before the pandemic according to the poll.

While more than 1 in 10 mortgagees have had to take a payment holiday on their mortgage during COVID according to the poll of 2,000 British adults by Yonder (formerly Populus).

The proportion of those feeling less financially secure during COVID rises to 63 percent among the self-employed.

The government’s mortgage support scheme allowing people to take mortgage holidays comes to an end on October 31.

From next month lenders can start repossessing homes of those who have been unable to pay.

Those who have taken mortgage holidays will have their missed payments spread over the rest of the payment term meaning larger payments from next month.

Wesley Ranger, Managing Director of Willow Private Finance, who commissioned the poll, said: “This is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Millions of mortgage holders in Britain are up for renewal in the next 12 months with changed circumstances.

“On top of all the other fears at the moment they are having sleepless nights worrying if they will be able to renew or even pay they bill.

“We are calling on the industry to show leniency for people with changed circumstances and for the government to extend its mortgage support scheme with urgency.”





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Brad Thorn to renew Queensland Reds contract


Brad Thorn is on verge of signing a new coaching deal with the Queensland Reds.

Thorn returned to the Reds’ Ballymore headquarters on Tuesday, having served a two-week isolation period after travelling to Canberra last month for the Super Rugby AU final.

While Queensland lost the decider 28-23 to the Brumbies, Thorn’s work in turning around the Reds’ fortunes has secured him a new contract.

An announcement is expected later this month as the All Blacks great gets to work on planning Queensland’s 2021 campaign.

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In an open letter to Reds’ fans last month, Thorn wrote: “This year we’ve reconnected with the state and feel you believe and trust in us again.

“What you’ve seen this year is only the beginning and we can’t wait to make you proud in 2021. We are Queensland, and we are looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

A decision is yet to be made on next year’s make-up of Super Rugby following this year’s decision to have separate Australian and New Zealand competitions.

Dual international Thorn has previously indicated his preference for a combined competition to ensure the Reds are playing at the highest club standard possible.

Meanwhile, the Reds are searching for a new front-of-jersey sponsor after St George Bank’s decision to change their partnership agreement with the Queensland Rugby Union.

The partnership has been renewed for a fifth term and for three more years, but the St George Bank logo will move to the Reds’ jersey sleeve.

The bank’s sponsorship will also fund stronger grassroots initiatives with local clubs, diversity and inclusion across the code, and the Modified Rugby Program, which allows children with autism, Asperger’s and learning and perceptual difficulties to play competitive rugby.

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The Reds are understood to be in discussions with three major companies interested in becoming the Reds’ naming rights sponsor.

“(It’s) an opportunity for another corporate partner to become the Reds’ first new naming rights partner in more than a decade and join a strong family of sponsors that includes St.George, Santos, Rio Tinto and other corporate partners that continue to support rugby at all levels across the state,” QRU CEO David Hanham said.

“The successful corporate candidate will be only our fourth principal naming rights partner in over 30 years.”



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Central Victorian pork farmers renew century-old family butchery tradition


For Central Victorian pork producers Belinda Hagan and her husband, Jason, COVID-19 has pushed them to increase biosecurity on their farm.

Lockdowns in regional Victoria limited their movement and, with the added pressure of African swine fever on Australia’s doorstep, they wanted to gain more control of their product.

Luckily, before the global pandemic hit, plans were already in the mix to build an on-farm butchering facility at their property in Tooborac, 93 kilometres north of Melbourne.

“We wanted to have a bit more control of the whole process, improve quality, and be able to better utilise more of the animal,” Ms Hagan said.

“A lot of the shoulders were moving into the restaurants, and a lot of people were wanting roasts, but we thought what else could we do, so we started doing things like Y-bone chops.”

In the family

Jason and Belinda Hagan run McIvor Farm Foods in Tooborac, Victoria.(ABC Central Victoria: Eden Hynninen)

The on-farm butchery is a bit of a family tradition.

In 1920 — now a century ago — their ancestors did the very same thing.

“The Hagan family had the butcher shop here in Tooborac that ran from 1920 through to 1951,” Ms Hagan said.

The original butchery remains on their property, along with remnants left behind by their ancestors.

“We’ve got the invoice book that goes back, and in that we’ve got some amazing family names in the districts with Jason’s grandmother’s beautiful handwriting,” she said.

“Back then Tooborac had a bakery, a butcher, a blacksmith, and a couple of pubs,” she said.

An old photograph of three men and a horse standing outside an old blacksmith's shed in Tooborac.
Tooborac had a busy blacksmith shop.(Supplied: Tooborac: A History of the Township and District)

Horse and cart

Andrew Thompson’s family moved to Tooborac in 1907, where his family helped set up a local timber and firewood company.

Mr Thompson’s great-grandfather also gave the Hagans a horse to cart their meat around.

“It was the last horse used to carry around and deliver their meat — his name was Smokey,” Mr Thompson said.

Ms Hagan said in the 1930s and 40s, her family ran a lot of beef and sheep, but also turned to pork, and it became well known in the area for the specialty.

Two pandemics

100 year old butchery equipment hangs in a room at McIvor Farm, Tooborac
Butchery equipment from 100 years ago hangs in a room at McIvor Farm, Tooborac.(ABC Central Victoria: Eden Hynninen)

A century ago, the world was also recovering from a global pandemic — the Spanish Flu — that spread throughout the world from 1918 to 1920.

Ms Hagan said many parallels could be drawn between then and now with society and farming.

“I think people are really wanting to see local food and are finding their producers, whether they access them online, from deliveries or at farmers markets.”

She said people were also starting to revert back to old-fashioned cuts of meat again.

“We’re doing pickled pork using the scotch, which is the fillet cut coming out of the shoulder — it was very much a tradition in the Hagan family,” she said.

“Jason’s mum is very much enjoying it again, which is lovely to see.”



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Police renew search in South Coast bushland, four years after Ray Speechley disappeared from nursing home


New South Wales Police say they plan to conduct a fresh search of bushland on the state’s South Coast where a man is believed to have gone missing four years ago.

Ray Speechley was last seen leaving an aged care facility at Dalmeny, near Narooma, on July 7, 2016.

His wife Jan believes the then 77-year-old — who had dementia — had attempted to walk 10 minutes through bushland to his family home but became disoriented.

“He was trying to get to me,” Mrs Speechley said.

“Ray and I were extremely close, we met at 18 and were married nearly 58 years.”

South Coast Police Superintendent Greg Moore and Jan Speechley are hoping Ray’s remains will be found when a fresh search of bushland is conducted later this month.(ABC Illawarra: Ainslie Drewitt Smith)

Never forgotten

A coronial inquest into his disappearance held in December 2019 determined it was likely the then 77-year-old had died of hypothermia.

Mrs Speechley said she has struggled daily to find closure since he went missing.

“I was at the shop the other day and I saw this sweater on a man and that sweater was the same sweater Ray used to wear,” she said.

“He’s the last thing I see when I go to sleep and usually the first thing I see when I wake up … he’ll just never be forgotten.”

The Coroner recommended that police coordinate and carry out recovery searches for the missing man’s remains, utilising a cadaver dog.

Red car could hold answers

Police are now renewing their appeal for help from the public for information to help determine his whereabouts.

“One item of interest is a report of a cherry red coloured four-door sedan that was seen pulled up on the highway at about 4:30pm that afternoon, not far from where Mr Speechley was last seen on the Princes Highway,” South Coast Police Superintendent Greg Moore said.

Dash cam footage of a red car
Police believe the owner or driver of this red car may be keen to helping determine the whereabouts of Ray Speechley.(Supplied: Jan Speechley)

“An aspect of this latest investigation is a fresh bush search in an area that we’ve identified may hold some leads for us,” he said.

Superintendent Moore said the force was determined to provide some answers for Mr Speechley’s mourning family.

Mr Speechley was described as being of Caucasian appearance, approximately 175cm tall, of medium build with grey hair and blue eyes.

According to police, he was last seen wearing jeans and a dark jacket with a pyjama top underneath.

The new investigation into his disappearance coincides with National Missing Person’s Week.



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Conscripted Vietnam War veterans renew plea for military medal to recognise their service


Updated

April 23, 2020 18:55:46

Conscripted Vietnam veterans have told the ABC they feel abandoned by the Government and ashamed among fellow veterans owing to a decision to not award them a Vietnam War military medal.

Key points:

  • Terry Carmody said having his number drawn for conscription felt like “the only thing that I’ve ever won”
  • He spent 170 days in Vietnam. The eligibility cut-off to receive an RVCM is 181 days
  • Despite a campaign on behalf of 3,020 Vietnam vets who missed out on the medal, the Government said it had no plans to review the rule

When, at age 20, Terry Carmody’s number was drawn, sealing his fate as an Australian soldier for the next 24 months, he said it was “the only thing that I’ve ever won”.

After a tour in Vietnam as a signalman in 1971, he returned home to resume his job as a federal public servant.

But upon returning, Mr Carmody noticed Vietnam War veterans were wearing a medal he didn’t have — the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal (RVCM).

He soon learned that his 170 days of service in Vietnam made him ineligible for the medal, which required a soldier to either complete at least 181 days (six months) in the country or be killed, wounded or captured by enemy forces to be eligible.

Of the more than 15,000 national servicemen who completed active duty in the Vietnam War, 3,020 did not complete 181 days of duty and therefore were not awarded the RVCM.

National servicemen often didn’t reach 181 days of service if they joined a battalion that had just returned from Vietnam, forcing them to wait in Australia before they could be deployed.

By the time they reached Vietnam, their 24 months of mandatory service could have dwindled to below 181 days, automatically ruling them out from receiving the medal.

Mr Carmody said being ineligible to receive the RVCM left him feeling abandoned by the government and separated from veterans who had the medal.

“I’m not a real veteran, because I’m missing that piece, and that piece is the RVCM.”

Mr Carmody was diagnosed with depression in 1997, requiring ongoing therapy and medication, including a recent stay in a psychiatric facility in November 2019.

“Not having the full set of medals representing your time in Vietnam, you’re a second-class veteran,” he said.

Mr Carmody said being awarded the RVCM by the Government “would be everything to me, it really would”.

‘Vietnam has never left them’

Michael Rogers spent 127 days on Vietnamese soil as a lance-corporal with the 6th battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the late 1990s.

Mr Rogers’ wife Robyn said not being eligible for the RVCM had contributed to him feeling forgotten by the Government, causing a ripple effect on their marriage and three children.

“When there’s an inner war still going on inside someone, you’re obviously going to be collateral damage,” she said.

“They all grew up with possibly him being somewhat of an absent father, because he was absent emotionally from them and from me also.”

Mrs Rogers said the RVCM represented recognition from the Australian Government, and would provide closure to her husband if awarded.

“The Government, which represents Australia and the Australian people, are just not recognising what they did, or not valuing it in any way,” she said.

“It would bring about a sense of closure that I don’t think he’s ever had, and just that sense of recognition finally for a job well done, and a service which he was proud to do at the time, serving his country.”

Why the medal hasn’t been awarded

Veteran Richard Barry has been lobbying the Department of Defence on awarding the 3,020 national servicemen the RVCM for 25 years.

His advocacy was recognised in early 2020, when he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal.

Serving 115 days in Vietnam as a national serviceman, he said the RVCM’s 181-day criteria was an arbitrary limit and didn’t reflect the sacrifice of soldiers.

“The Viet Cong weren’t interested in about whether you were there for 60 days, 90 days, 181 days. You could still be killed,” he said.

The Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (DHAAT) conducted reports in 2014 and 2015 to address the eligibility criteria of the RVCM.

The second report concluded Australia did not have the legal authority to lower the 181 day limit of the RVCM, citing the defunct South Vietnamese Government as the only authority with the power to do so.

Mr Barry said there were precedents for changing the criteria of the RVCM.

On December 23, 1968, a military document announced that Queen Elizabeth had granted “unrestricted permission” to award the RVCM to philanthropic organisations aiding Australian forces in Vietnam, including the Salvation Army and Campaigners for Christ.

He said this decision contradicted article 3 of the directive, which established the RVCM and stated that the medal was available for personnel who “fight against armed enemies”.

In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Defence said “the inclusion of members of accredited philanthropic organisations as persons eligible for the RVCM does not alter the eligibility criteria of the award, and does not establish a precedent for Australia to alter that criteria”.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Darren Chester told the ABC in a statement that “the Australian Government remains grateful for the service of our Vietnam veterans”.

“This matter has been duly considered by Government and there is no intention for further review,” he said.

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First posted

April 23, 2020 18:10:22



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