U.S. House approves increased COVID-19 relief cheques, sending bill to Senate

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Monday to increase COVID-19 relief cheques to $2,000 US, meeting President Donald Trump’s demand for bigger payments and sending the bill to the Republican-controlled Senate, where the outcome is uncertain.

Democrats led passage of the bill by a vote of 275-134, their majority favouring additional assistance. They had settled for smaller $600 payments in a compromise with Republicans over the big year-end relief bill Trump reluctantly signed into law.

The vote deeply divided Republicans, who mostly resist more spending. But many House Republicans joined in support, preferring to link with Democrats rather than buck the outgoing president. Senators were set to return to session on Tuesday, forced to consider the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, “Republicans have a choice: Vote for this legislation or vote to deny the American people” the assistance she said they need during the pandemic.

The showdown could end up as more symbol than substance. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to say publicly how the Senate will handle the bill when Democrats there try to push it forward for a vote on Tuesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters after initial agreement on the COVID-19 aid package in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 20. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

Democrats vote to override Trump veto on defence

Hours later, the Democratic-controlled House also voted to override Trump’s veto of a defence policy bill.

House members voted 322-87 to override the veto, well above the two-thirds needed to override. If approved by two-thirds of the Senate, the override would be the first of Trump’s presidency.

Trump rejected the defence bill last week, saying it failed to limit social media companies he claims were biased against him during his failed re-election campaign. Trump also opposes language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honour Confederate leaders.

The defence bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, affirms three per cent pay raises for U.S. troops and authorizes more than $740 billion in military programs and construction.

COVID bill gives cash to individuals, businesses

The legislative action during the rare holiday week session may do little to change the more than $2 trillion COVID-19 relief and federal spending package that Trump signed into law on Sunday, one of the biggest bills of its kind providing relief for millions of Americans.

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, chair of the House ways and means committee, acknowledged the division and said Congress had already approved ample funds during the COVID-19 crisis. “Nothing in this bill helps anybody get back to work,” he said.

The new bill now goes to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday for a final vote. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

The package the president signed into law includes two parts — $900 billion in COVID aid and $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies. It will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown that otherwise would have started on Tuesday, in the midst of the public health crisis.

Aside from the direct cheques that will go to most Americans, the COVID portion of the bill revives a weekly pandemic jobless benefit boost — this time $300 through March 14 — as well as a popular Paycheck Protection Program of grants to businesses to keep workers on payrolls. It also extends eviction protections, adding a new rental assistance fund.

Last standoffs of Trump’s final days

The COVID package draws on and expands an earlier effort from Washington, the largest of its kind. It offers billions of dollars for vaccine purchases and distribution, for virus contact tracing, public health departments, schools, universities, farmers, food pantry programs and other institutions and groups facing hardship in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the government funding portion of the bill keeps federal agencies nationwide running without dramatic changes until Sept. 30.

The attempt to send much higher pandemic-era cheques to people is perhaps the last standoff of the president’s final days in office as he imposes fresh demands and disputes the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The new Congress is set to be sworn in Sunday.

U.S. President Donald Trump plays golf at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Resistance in the Senate

The COVID relief bill faces resistance Tuesday from the Republican-led Senate. McConnell, in a rare break with Trump, had urged passage of the defence bill despite Trump’s veto threat. McConnell said it was important for Congress to continue its nearly six-decade-long streak of passing the defence policy bill.

Trump’s sudden decision to sign the COVID bill came as he faced escalating criticism from lawmakers on all sides.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, a conservative who supported Trump’s extraordinary and futile challenge of the election results, counted himself on Monday among the opponents of a more generous relief package and Trump’s call for higher payments.

“It’s money we don’t have, we have to borrow to get and we can’t afford to pay back,” he said on Fox and Friends.

Democrats are promising more aid to come once Democrat president-elect Joe Biden takes office, but Republicans are signalling a wait-and-see approach.

Biden told reporters at an event in Wilmington, Del., that he supported the $2,000 cheques.

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Climate change: Can sending fewer emails really save the planet?

By David Molloy
Technology reporter

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  • Climate change

image copyrightGetty Images

Are you the type of person who always says thank-you? Well, if it’s by email, you should stop, according to UK officials looking at ways to save the environment.

The Financial Times reports that we may all soon be encouraged to send one fewer email a day, cutting out “useless” one-line messages – such as “thanks”.

Doing so “would save a lot of carbon”, one official involved in next year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow said.

But would it really make a huge difference?

Why do emails produce carbon at all?

Most people tend to think of the internet as a cloud that exists outside their computing hardware. But the reality is when you send an email – or anything else – it goes along a chain of energy-burning electronics.

Your wi-fi router sends the signal along wires to the local exchange – the green box on the street corner – and from there to a telecoms company, and from there to huge data centres operated by the tech giants. Each of those runs on electricity, and it all adds up.

But a single email’s effect on such massive infrastructure is tiny.

  • Is game streaming bad for the environment?

  • Is your Netflix habit bad for the environment?

Are my emails a big environmental problem?

The Financial Times report says the officials promoting this idea referred to a press release from renewable electricity firm Ovo Energy from one year ago.

It claimed that if every British person sent one fewer thank-you email a day, it would save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year, equivalent to tens of thousands of flights to Europe.

The problem, however, is that even if the sums involved roughly worked out, it would still be a splash in the pond.

The UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions were 435.2 million tonnes in 2019 – so the amount in question here is about 0.0037% of the national picture. And that’s if every single British person reduced their email output.

UK annual greenhouse gas emissions. Projected millions of tonnes of CO2e.  2019 projections are provisional.

Mike Berners-Lee, a respected professor on the topic whose research was used in the Ovo Energy work, told the Financial Times it was based on “back-of-the-envelope” maths from 2010 – and while useful to start conversations, there were bigger questions.

On top of that, the estimate of how much carbon an email generates “takes into account absolutely everything involved”, according to Chris Preist, professor of sustainability and computer systems at the University of Bristol.

It tries to include the energy used by servers, your home wi-fi, your laptop – even a very small share of the carbon emitted to construct the data centre buildings.

“The reality is that a lot of the system will still have impact, whether or not the email is sent,” Prof Preist explains.

“Your laptop will still be on, your wi-fi will still be on, your home internet connection will still be on, the wider network will still use roughly the same amount of energy even with a reduction in volume.

“There will be a small saving in the data centre hosting the email, particularly if it allows them to use a few less servers. But the carbon saved will be far far less than 1g per email.”

What can make a difference?

Rather than worrying about relatively low-impact emails, some researchers suggest we should turn our attention to services such as game and video-streaming and cloud storage which have a much larger effect.

But the topic is immensely complicated, and there is a debate about how estimates should be calculated – and who should be responsible for it.

media captionDirty streaming: The internet’s big secret

Big tech firms such as Google, for example, are already proudly carbon-neutral: they pay subsidies for environmental projects to offset the carbon they burn providing your emails – and other services like YouTube.

“What really makes a difference is buying less kit, and keeping it for longer,” Prof Preist explains. “But even this is small fry compared with your travel, heating your home, and what you eat.”

He said consumers should focus their “eco-guilt” on things that make a difference – and not sweat the small stuff.

“That is the job of the companies providing the services, who should be designing their systems to deliver services in as energy and resource efficient way as possible.”

His advice on email etiquette and thank-you messages?

“Send an email if you feel that the other person will value it, and don’t if they won’t,” he said.

“The biggest ‘waste’ both from an environmental and personal point of view will be the use of time by both of you.”

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Michaelia Cash accused of sending ‘demeaning’ messages about former Alan Tudge staffer Rachelle Miller

A political scandal over parliamentary culture has spread to the office of Michaelia Cash, who has been accused of sending “attacking and demeaning” messages about a female staffer.

Rachelle Miller, who is at the centre of complaints against Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, also claims she was the victim of a “fake redundancy process” instigated to get rid of her from Senator Cash’s office.

Ms Miller makes the claims in a 14-page workplace bullying complaint lodged with the Department of Finance and Administration last Thursday, which details allegations against Mr Tudge and Senator Cash.

The former Liberal Party staffer joined Senator Cash’s office as senior media adviser in November 2017, the day after leaving Mr Tudge’s office. At the time, Senator Cash was Employment Minister as well as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science.

Ms Miller had been in a consensual relationship with Mr Tudge while working for him. In her complaint to the Finance Department, she alleges Mr Tudge bullied, belittled and intimidated her.

“Due to the persistent rumours across the building, during my first week in the office I confidentially let Minister Cash know that I had a relationship with Alan that was now over, and that my loyalty was with her,” Ms Miller writes in her complaint.

“She was supportive and kind. The first few months were fine and I was treated well by the Minister and the CoS (chief of staff).”

She claims the workplace was less supportive under a new chief of staff, Gisele Kapterian — who has since departed — some months later.

“Gisele said that she thought my ‘personal issues were impacting on my work performance’. I disagreed and said that it was the volume of working and clearance procedures, as well as the issues coming from having two separate departments,” Ms Miller says in her complaint.

“I felt like Gisele was gaslighting me and constantly sowing seeds of doubt in my head about my ability without citing specific examples.”

“I had not told Gisele anything about my personal life so I was confused about why she was using this against me and then suspected that Minister Cash had informed her about my relationship with Minister Tudge, however this was not raised.”

Rachelle Miller worked for Alan Tudge and Michaelia Cash during her time as a Liberal staffer.(Four Corners)

After the May 2018 Budget, when many ministers travel the country to sell the political message, Ms Miller was told she would not be travelling with the minister because Senator Cash didn’t think her attendance necessary.

“I felt like I had been set up to fail, there was no way that I could manage it from the Canberra office,” Ms Miller’s complaint reads.

“During this time the Minister was also posting text messages on the office Whatsapp group that I felt were attacking and demeaning towards myself.”

In June 2018, Ms Miller was told the office was to be restructured and that her role would be made redundant. She was told she could apply for a more junior role and that she would not meet the selection criteria for a job that was at the same level as her existing role.

“It was very clear that this was a fake redundancy process put in place to get rid of me from the office,” her complaint reads.

“There were no grounds for this, there had been no performance management process put in place nor had I received formal warnings.”

Ms Miller’s complaint says she did not make a complaint at the time “as I was afraid that it would be leaked and damage my chances of finding another job”.

She also claims that when she applied for a job in Scott Morrison’s Government after the 2019 election, her appointment, though approved by a minister, was blocked by the “Star Chamber” overseen by Liberal powerbroker Tony Nutt.

Senator Cash has disputed Ms Miller’s claims.

“The Minister strenuously rejects claims of any adverse treatment of Ms Miller by her, or her office, and strongly disputes Ms Miller’s version of events,” the minister’s spokesman said.

“At the time of her employment, between late 2017 and mid-2018, the Minister and the office understood Ms Miller’s personal circumstances which is why support, leave and flexible work arrangements were offered to her. 

“Given the matter is now subject to a formal process in the Department of Finance, the Minister will not be commenting further.”

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Turkey’s is Sending a Message with its New Unmanned, Heavily Armed Gunboat

A pair of Turkish defense companies, METEKSAN and Ares, revealed a jointly built unmanned boat, named ULAQ. The small vessel is the first of what is planned to be a line of at least several unmanned surface ships of varying sizes and capabilities.

According to METEKSAN, their ULAQ has a some pretty impressive abilities for an initial prototype: “[The ] ULAQ…has been built from advanced composites, has 400 km range, 65 km/h speed, day/night vision capabilities, encrypted communication infrastructure, which can be operated from mobile vehicles and headquarters or from sea platforms such as aircraft carriers or frigates, will be used for missions like intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, surface warfare, asymmetric warfare, escort missions, strategic infrastructure protection.”

Artistic renderings of the ULAQ shows it with a centrally located weapons station with two types of missiles, the 70mm Cirit missile arranged in a four-missile pod, as well as two L-UMTAS missiles.

Though both missiles were originally designed as anti-personnel and anti-tank air-to-surface missiles respectively, it is presumed that they have been modified for maritime use. Both the missile systems and the boat itself were designed with “maximum indigenousness.” And here’s why that matters.

Tactics and Strategy

The timing of the small, armed but unmanned boat comes at a trying time for Turkey. The country’s eastern Mediterranean coast has been the scene of tensions recently. Relations between Greece and Turkey—both members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance—have been strained due to conflicting maritime claims in the Aegean Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea that separates the two countries.

In particular, Turkey has sent fossil fuel exploration ships to parts of the Sea that are claimed by Greece, to which Athens replied by sending several Hellenic Naval ships to the area. This in turn prompted France and the United States to send warships to the area as well in a bid to keep the peace between the two treaty allies that nonetheless have experienced very strained relations in recent years.


Ares and METEKSAN’s press releases announcing the new drone boat left no room for doubt about what their ULAQ gunboat is intended for. The report even quoted METEKSAN’s CEO, who stated that “We have once again understood the importance of the ‘Blue Homeland’ defence, Economic Exclusive Zone protection, protection of maritime borders of the Turkish Peninsula especially with recently emerging disputes…May ULAQ bring the best of luck and success to Turkish Armed Forces and to Blue Homeland.”

Make no mistake—Ankara is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to Turkish interests in the Mediterranean.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Image: Ares Shipyard.

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Dear Therapist: My Boyfriend Is Sending Me Mixed Signals

I was surprised and upset that after five months of living together during exceptionally stressful circumstances, including both of us working from home, the idea of making it permanent had not occurred to him. Eventually, after another few days, he realized that he did want to live together, and we do now, but the way the conversation went was not what I was expecting, and it has really tarnished my excitement about living together formally.

I now am incredibly worried that he’s not on the same page as me about moving our relationship forward. I would like to speak with him about his timelines for marriage and children—I’m nearly 31, and feel that if he isn’t on the same page as I am regarding these big issues, I will need to reassess my feelings about the relationship. But given how he reacted to the idea of living together, I just have no idea how to bring these issues up. I don’t want to be pushy, but my biological clock is a real issue, and he knows that I desperately want children (and I know that he is fairly sure he does). I don’t want to feel like I am waiting for him to come to these decisions and for everything to happen on his timeline. I want for us to make important decisions about our lives and relationship together.

Is that too much to ask? How can I bring up these important topics without putting him on the defensive? I just feel so stuck, and I have no idea what to do.


Dear Alice,

It sounds like you’re doing a lot of guessing about what your boyfriend might be feeling, and at the same time, you’re afraid to share your true feelings with him.

The pandemic and your roommate situation prompted a conversation that was stressful for both of you, but it has showed you a door that will lead you to a deeper intimacy and better communication skills. Now, instead of making assumptions about the state of your relationship, you can have the kinds of conversations that would have been helpful all along. You just need to open that door.

So let’s go back to how things were pre-pandemic. You say that this is the best relationship you’ve ever had, and because you’re so happy, you’ve made three assumptions: first, that you and your boyfriend are compatible for the long term; second, that your boyfriend is as happy as you are; and third, that being happy in this relationship means the same thing to him that it does to you.

The thing about assumptions, of course, is that they might not be accurate. In terms of compatibility, you may seem well suited in the day-to-day, but I don’t know if you have enough information to make an assessment about your long-term compatibility. For instance, you say that you “desperately” want children, and that your boyfriend is “fairly sure” that he does. “Fairly sure” is very different from desperately wanting, and at almost two years into a relationship in your early 30s, this seems like a big life issue not to have discussed more fully. It’s of course possible that you have the same ideas about future children, but it’s also possible that you’re not as compatible as you think you are. You won’t know until you talk about this openly.

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The US economy is sending confusing signals

The first is the equivalent to the level of the water in a bathtub; the second is whether it is filling up or being drained; the third is whether the spigot is being opened wider or closed. For the US economy, the three measures are sending different signals:


The level of the bath water is very low. But it is being filled rapidly. However, the spigot is being tightened so the pace at which the water is rising has slowed.

The level of economic activity is miserable. Seven months into the pandemic, most sectors of the economy are producing below — and in some cases far below — normal levels. The number of jobs on employers’ payrolls was 7 per cent below February levels in September, a worse shortfall than at any point in the Great Recession. The share of the population working is only 56.6 per cent, down from 61 per cent a year ago and lower than it ever got during that downturn and its aftermath.

So if voters were to evaluate the Trump economy solely on how things are going currently, it would be a harsh judgment.

If, by contrast, they were to look at the direction and speed with which the economy is changing, things look quite good. Again, that 661,000 net jobs added — the job growth was particularly strong in health care and the retail sector — represents stronger job growth than in all but a handful of months in the historical record. Outside of the rebound, to find months of comparable improvement in the labour market, you have to go back to either a quirky month in 1983 or to the 1940s and 1950s.

So when the Trump administration points to a resurgent economy, it’s not untrue. But it is incomplete. And that’s because of what is happening to the rate of change.

Disney announced it was laying off 28,000 workers last week.

After adding a remarkable 4.8 million jobs in June, as many companies reopened following the most intense phase of the coronavirus crisis, US employers have been slower to bring remaining workers back to their payrolls, with the number falling every month since.

The past few weeks have brought a wave of additional layoff announcements, including Disney’s plan to cut 28,000 theme park workers. Major airlines are poised to cut tens of thousands of jobs after the expiration of a provision requiring them to keep workers on their payrolls as a condition of bailout money.

That could of course turn around at any time, particularly if there is a vaccine or other sharp improvement in public health. But for now, much of the available evidence points to continued slowing in hiring, which would imply that it will take longer to get the bath water up to an acceptable level.

Normally, the last jobs numbers published before a presidential election are an occasion for partisans to offer their final spin on the state of the economy. The incumbent party points to whatever looks good in the data as proof that its policies are working, and the challenger identifies flaws that remain.


How does that cut when these different concepts for economic activity are pointing in different directions? Does the state of the economy matter politically in what is shaping up to be a chaotic month of non-economic news, most recently with the announcement that President Donald Trump has contracted the coronavirus?

We may not know the answers to those questions, but it matters a lot for understanding what kind of economy either a second-term Trump or President Joe Biden will inherit. For now it’s not looking good.

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Queensland nurse tests positive to coronavirus, sending 220 staff into quarantine

A nurse at the Ipswich hospital, west of Brisbane, is one of two new coronavirus cases in Queensland, with more than 220 staff going into quarantine.

Health Minister Steven Miles said the nurse had contact with a known case.

The facility hospital will be open for emergency cases, but other appointments would be relocated or delayed while the staff quarantine.

Contact tracing is underway on the nurse’s movements to see if any further alerts are needed.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said even though another nurse has contracted coronavirus, she was not concerned about levels of protective equipment or training.

“This is just such a difficult virus, it really is quite infectious,” she said.

“We know from all the cases that have happened in Melbourne, there’s been large numbers of healthcare workers.

“This is a difficult time for our healthcare workers and I’m extraordinarily grateful to every single one of them for the care they’re providing day-in, day-out at risk to themselves and their families.”

The other new case in the state overnight is a sister, in her 20s, of an infected student at Staines College at Redbank Plains, also in Ipswich.

There are now 25 active cases in Queensland, with about 6,000 people tested in the past 24 hours.

On Russell Island, off Brisbane, 152 of the 5,000 residents were tested after a woman returned a positive result yesterday.

Dr Jeanette Young said the woman had been wearing a mask in the community and hoped the virus will not spread.

“I’m sure that will stand that community in good stead.”

“It is really important for the next week at least that anyone on Russell Island who develops any symptoms at all come forward and get tested.”

Dr Young praised the efforts of health care workers, after a nurse tested positive.(AAP: Darren England)

Paramedics to help with testing

The Queensland Ambulance Service will train 50 paramedics who will be able to set up pop-up fever clinics and quickly test following a community outbreak.

Mr Miles said paramedics would assist with coronavirus testing to make it more convenient for the public.

“We’ve learned throughout this metropolitan outbreak that we need a greater and more flexible ability to stand up more fever clinics quickly and do more testing quickly,” Mr Miles said.

Dr Young said Queensland was doing all it could to help NSW and Victoria limit its community transmission and help Australia open by Christmas.

“I am confident that with all that work we should, I hope, be able to open our borders for Christmas,” she said.

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South Australian rocket range one step closer to sending satellites into orbit to protect defence force

South Australian companies are working to develop mini satellites that will be launched into space to protect Australia’s defence force.

The satellites, being developed by DEWC Systems, will be capable of detecting potentially dangerous radar signals from enemy forces.

Ian Spencer, CEO of DEWC Systems, said this sort of electronic warfare (EW) was becoming increasingly important.

“All weapons that are used, other than in man-to-man combat, have some sort of targeting or guidance system that rely on radars,” Mr Spencer said.

Mr Spencer said the cube satellites would help detect radar signals coming from enemy aircraft and ships some distance away.

“That gives you a technological advantage and a better picture so you can avoid unnecessary contact with the enemy,” he said.

“It means you don’t have to be in the line of sight of that radar.

“So, if I’m on an aeroplane for example — we’ve all seen Top Gun and movies like that where they’ll get a missile tone telling them they’ve been locked up by the missile — that’s what EW is, it’s identifying that someone’s using a radar and it’s turned to a particular mode of operation that is dangerous.”

Mr Spencer said it would be “better to know that without having to be the target”.

“So if you’ve got a constellation of cube satellites, that will give you the capability to see past, or look over an area that you might be operating in and try and identify what radars are in there, how they’re operating, and use them to maybe locate enemy aircraft and ships,” he said.

Data for satellite technology collected next month

Next month, a rocket will be launched from the world’s largest privately operated rocket test range near Koonibba, in the far west of South Australia, with a small, replica payload on board.

A device that will collect information for the project will be launched into space next month.(Supplied: Ian Spencer)

The payload, which is about the size of a whiteboard marker, will be released from the rocket with the aim of collecting information to develop the satellite technology.

The payload will reach the edge of space and will deploy a parachute before falling back down to Earth.

Once the information is gathered, the satellites will enter a development phase, and it is hoped they will be launched into orbit by the end of 2023.

The Koonibba Test Range has been developed by Southern Launch, which set up its headquarters in Adelaide in September 2018.

The site is particularly unique as it extends out for 145 kilometres over uninhabited national park, whereas many other rocket launch sites are situated near water which can make it difficult to recover equipment.

An image showing the planned trajectory of the rocket which will be launched in September
The planned trajectory of the rocket.(Supplied: DEWC)

The Koonibba Test Range is located on Aboriginal land around 40 kilometres north-west of Ceduna, and Southern Launch said it has worked closely with the local Indigenous community.

Southern Launch CEO Llyod Damp said about 14 local Indigenous people would be hired to help on September 15 when the first test launch was set to take place.

“We’re very, very proud and very excited to be employing members of the Koonibba community to help us set up the range as well as operate the range,” Mr Damp said.

“They will be cordoning off roads, interacting with emergency services and working with any members of the public who do go to watch the event.”

Project employs Indigenous locals

Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation chairwoman, Kevina Ware, welcomed the training and employment opportunities.

“Community members have done traffic control training, and that’s where the employment will come in,” Ms Ware said.

“[The employees] will be making sure there are roadblocks in place and the area is secure when they do the launch, so that’s good for community members who are on employment benefits.”

Ms Ware said the project could encourage young local children to work in the space sector.

“We could have an aerospace engineer at our school at the moment, just something as simple as this can inspire them,” Ms Ware said.

Mr Damp is hopeful a successful launch next month will bring global attention to the launch site.

“Once we’ve proven all of the capabilities, then this opens the door for other international customers to come to Australia and test and validate their rocket systems before potentially progressing,” he said.

The first test launch will take place on September 15, with a second launch scheduled for September 19.

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Melborune Storm lose Brandon Smith to broken jaw but rule out sending Harry Grant SOS

Harry Grant is on loan to the Wests Tigers, but there is zero chance of him answering a pre-finals dummy-half SOS given the arrangement between the Tigers and Storm was for the entire season.

The NRL would also block any late changes to the loan deal.

Storm officials were relieved but not totally surprised Cooper Johns and Albert Vete escaped charge for crusher tackles, but they were stunned when Niukore also avoided sanction for his 78th-minute shot on Smith.

Brandon Smith's jaw was broken from the initial contact in this tackle from Marata Niukore (not pictured).

Brandon Smith’s jaw was broken from the initial contact in this tackle from Marata Niukore (not pictured).Credit:NRL Photos

The nuggety hooker knew he had broken his jaw on the spot and was overheard asking referee Ben Cummins: “How is that not even a penalty?”

“Brandon wasn’t happy there was no penalty. He knew straight away he was in trouble with his jaw,” Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said. “The word I’d use wouldn’t be ‘disappointed’, it would be a little surprised.

“It’s a clean break and he’ll have surgery on Friday up here. He will be out four to six weeks. He needed to have a COVID test first thing this morning because you can’t have the surgery until his results come back negative.”

Nelson Asofa-Solomona faces a $750 fine with an early plea for his careless high shot on Marata Niukore.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona faces a $750 fine with an early plea for his careless high shot on Marata Niukore.Credit:Getty Images

Coach Craig Bellamy is expected to raise a number of issues with referees boss Bernie Sutton, including Niukore’s shot on Smith.

Niukore collected Smith with his left shoulder while defending the Eels line.


It was similar to Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s shot on Niukore himself earlier in the game, which attracted a grade-one dangerous high tackle and $750 fine for the 200cm prop should he take the early plea. Asofa-Solomona was also sin binned for the offence.

The Storm also lost stand-in skipper Kenny Bromwich to a calf injury, which will keep him out of the Sea Eagles game.

Jesse Bromwich returns from suspension, along with Cameron Smith who has battled a shoulder injury. Jahrome Hughes (groin) is also expected back, while Ryley Jacks, who failed to finish the Eels’ clash because of a hip complaint, will also be available.

Grant, who is expected to return in a couple of weeks from a knee injury, would have added dummy-half depth to Melbourne, but is committed to the Tigers, even though the joint venture’s own finals hopes could end as early as Saturday.

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