Turtles could solve the Murray-Darling’s carp problem, research shows


Freshwater turtles could be the solution to keeping the Murray-Darling clean and to helping eradicate carp from the river system, a study has found.

Western Sydney University research has revealed that turtle scavenging can remove fish carcasses from the water five times faster than natural decomposition.

It also has found that if turtles are reintroduced, they will dramatically improve the river’s water quality by eating the fish carcasses before they begin to rot.

Western Sydney University ecologist Ricky Spencer said turtles played a particularly important role in cleaning up waterways after fish-kill events.

Reintroducing freshwater turtles to the Murray-Darling Basin could be a cost-saving measure in the National Carp Control Plan.(Supplied: Western Sydney University)

Turtles could slash carp clean-up costs

The study was initially conducted to help conserve biodiversity in the river system.

But it has found that replenishing the number of turtles could be a significant cost-saving measure in the National Carp Control Plan — colloquially known as “carpegeddon” — which would see carp herpes used as a biological control agent.

“We are now seeing that scavenging is performing a role that potentially would cost a lot of money to do if we wanted to clear the carp mechanically or go out with boats and nets.”

Mr Spencer said adding more turtles to the river system would help to regulate the river’s nutrients instead of taking them out completely.

Comparison of two pools, one with clear water where turtles were introduced and a murky one without turtles.
The study found water where turtles were introduced (B) returned to normal faster than water without turtles (A).(Supplied: Western Sydney University)

“What would normally happen is that bacteria would break the carp down and release the nutrients into the water column, which can trigger things like blue-green algae and that’s potentially what causes our rivers to turn green,” Mr Spencer said.

Shrinking turtle numbers

Western Sydney University PhD student Claudia Santori, who pioneered the study, said freshwater turtles lived in the Murray-Darling in abundance, but numbers were dwindling.

“In the Murray-Darling Basin there are three species of freshwater turtles — the long-neck turtle, the broadshell turtle and the short-neck turtle — and all of them eat carrion or dead animals to an extent,” Ms Santori said.

Turtle populations in the basin have been declining because of predators such as foxes, cats and goannas preying on nests, and because of roadkill, marine disease and poor water quality due to water connectivity issues.

A woman in a broad hat stands in water checking a big net tube across  a river.
Researcher Claudia Santori inspects a net tube to see how the introduction of turtles affects carp carcass decomposition and water quality.(Supplied: Western Sydney University)

The carp, which make up almost 90 per cent of the river’s biomass, have had a devastating effect on the river’s ecosystem and water quality.

“After the fish kills there were obviously some major impacts on water quality such as decreases in dissolved oxygen, ammonia and other nutrients,” Ms Santori said.

‘Anything’s worth a try’

Menindee Tourism Association president Rob Gregory said if more turtles were introduced to the river system, there would need to be a plan to protect them.

“When the water’s down low and if you’re wandering around in that black soil country, you can find a lot of empty shells so there’s certainly a lot of predators that like them,” Mr Gregory said.

Mr Spencer said if more turtles were introduced to the river, community involvement would be imperative to the project’s success.

“Our ‘1 Million Turtles Program’ is where communities can be actively involved in protecting turtle nests and creating turtle islands,” he said.



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Pieters moves into U.S. Open lead as Winged Foot shows teeth



Sep 18, 2020; Mamaroneck, New York, USA; Thomas Pieters plays his shot from the sixth tee during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club – West. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

September 18, 2020

MAMARONECK, N.Y. (Reuters) – Belgium’s Thomas Pieters was making a morning charge at the U.S. Open on Friday, moving to the top of the second round leaderboard on a cold breezy day at Winged Foot Golf Club.

After ideal scoring conditions on Thursday, Winged Foot looked ready to show its teeth with only a handful of early starters playing under par.

Pieters, who missed the cut at two previous U.S. Opens, started his round with a birdie at the first, picked up another at the fifth and narrowly missed a third at nine to make the turn at six-under, one clear of overnight leader Justin Thomas.

World number one Dustin Johnson, after an opening round three-over 73 and playing the back nine first, was also looking to make his move as he got an overcast day off to a bright start with a birdie at the 10th and a second at 15.

Former champions Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be among the marquee names going out in the afternoon wave.

Woods, like Johnson, will have work to do after an opening round 73, while Northern Irishman McIlroy will look to build on his first round 67.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)





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Unemployment data shows 100,000 new jobs created between July and August 2020 despite coronavirus


When the pandemic struck back in March, Christina Vetta was working as a social media manager for an agency.

The company started to cut back so she decided to use the pandemic as a launch pad to start her own business.

“I basically decided to back myself and I resigned from my role and started my own social media agency,” Ms Vetta said.

The 37-year-old now runs her business “Social Hills” from her home in inner-city Surry Hills.

“Fast forward five months down the line and I’ve got a really good portfolio. I am very close to earning what I was earning at the agency,” she said.

Ms Vetta is among New South Wales workers who have managed to pivot and remain employed, despite more than 1 million Australians losing their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Official figures released on Thursday revealed a surprising bounce-back in employment, with more than 100,000 new jobs created around the country in the past month.

The official unemployment rate fell to 6.8 per cent in August, down from 7.5 per cent in July.

In NSW unemployment fell from 7.2 per cent to 6.7 per cent.

Only Victoria — where a second wave has caused widespread lockdowns — and Tasmania recorded higher unemployment between July and August.

But with 3.5 million people on JobKeeper, Sue-Lin Ong, Chief Economist at RBC Capital Markets, said it may be March — when the payment is scheduled to end — before the true number of people out of work becomes clear.

“There’s no doubt the JobKeeper program is flattering the official unemployment rate,” she said.

But she said the latest figures did give some cause for optimism.

“Outside of Victoria, there’s clearly some recovery going on in the broader labour market.”

For some, the pandemic has forced a career change.

Jen Rodgers, 34, has been working in hospitality since leaving school.

She loves the industry and at the start of the pandemic was working as the assistant manager of a cafe in North Richmond in the Hawkesbury.

Jen Rodgers with her daughter Emma, 4, is retraining as a primary school teacher.(Supplied)

But when her hours were reduced, it forced a rethink.

“I had a huge moment of having to reassess everything and just realised I had to find a different career path that was going to support me and my family better in the long run,” she said.

She’s now studying part-time to become a primary school teacher.

“I can honestly say if COVID hadn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have made the move,” she said.

Finding another job was ‘really quick’

Danielle Martin, 45, from Wollongong, has also made a career change, moving from a job in disability employment services to become a careers coach with a rehab company.

“Once the pandemic hit, all of a sudden you had pilots looking for jobs, you had restaurant managers, very skilled, experienced people, so my job became very difficult,” she said.

When her company announced it was restructuring due to COVID, Ms Martin would have had to take on a new position, with a pay cut of $11,400.

The day after, she sent off two job applications and one company got back to her straight away.

“I had a phone interview that Friday, a face to face Zoom interview the next Tuesday and I was offered the job on the Thursday so it was really quick,” she said.

She hasn’t look back since.

“I feel my strengths are coming out and I’m being challenged and I’m rising to it. It’s made me feel valued, I guess,” she said.

Ms Vetta’s new venture has been so successful she’s even taken on a part-time worker.

She said in her case the pandemic has been a catalyst for change.

“2020 has been the biggest opportunity and the most exciting time for me.”



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Disability providers fail to correctly report deaths to the NDIS, data shows


Why are disability providers failing to report deaths — and why is the NDIS letting them off scot free?

Georgi Hadden’s complaint was closed when she left her providers. (Image: supplied)

Disability service providers have delayed reporting the deaths of hundreds of people with disabilities to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, the sector’s troubled watchdog, new data shows.

The NDIS watchdog receives reports of 11 deaths a week on average — but nearly 20% aren’t reported for more than five days.  

Despite this, no providers were fined for not reporting the death in a timely manner as required by the commission.  





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Navalny poisoning shows why Putin’s pipeline must be stopped – POLITICO


Konrad Szymański is Poland’s minister for European affairs.

WARSAW — For anyone in the West who believed in the possibility of “normal” relations with Moscow, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny last month should have been a rude awakening.

The attack — using the nerve agent Novichok, a modus operandi for Russian secret services in recent years — is just the latest in a long string of hostile activity from the Kremlin, including wars, election meddling and targeted killings.

And yet, even now, some European countries are defending their choice to continue participation in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project — a long-term geopolitical and economic endeavor with Moscow that will make the European Union economically dependent on Russia and undermine our ability to take decisive steps against this type of malign behavior.

This do-nothing strategy is becoming increasingly risky.

If Europe doesn’t want to see its hands tied even more strongly in the future, it has to abandon this pipeline project now.

Over the past years, we’ve seen that Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to be an unpredictable partner. He has consolidated power in his inner circle, changed the constitution to prolong his time in office and showed himself to be openly hostile toward the EU. Betting on “normal” relations with the Kremlin, or normal economic cooperation with Moscow and major Russian companies, is extremely naive.

The Nord Stream 2 project has drawn criticism from the European Commission and the European Parliament for failing to meet the goals of EU energy policy and security. And rightly so. It is a prime example of the bad gamble some European countries are making.

The project will serve Moscow’s political and economic elites and increase Russia’s leverage over Central and Eastern European countries, including Ukraine, that are traditionally dependent on flows of natural gas from Russia.

Beyond the geopolitical risks, the project would also have negative economic consequences, distorting the liquidity of the EU energy market by concentrating almost all Russia supplies — which amount to more than a third of EU imports — in one landing place.

Support for Nord Stream 2 is also questionable given the ambitious new climate goals pushed by the European Commission and the German presidency of the Council of the EU. Increasing the imports of hydrocarbons, from a country with environment rules that are far laxer than ours, would seem to go against EU climate policy objectives.

Of course, the Polish government is the last one to argue that natural gas does not have a role to play in the transition to clean energy, as it is a path we want to pursue in the coming years. Still, we should not allow the success of the EU’s energy transition to be dependent on the will of Putin’s corrupt regime.

Going ahead with the pipeline project would also put relations with our closest ally at risk. In their zeal to protect Nord Stream 2, some countries appear to be ready to harm the transatlantic relationship and possibly fall into a fully-fledged trade war with the United States, where both the Democratic and the Republican parties support halting construction on the pipeline.

Ultimately, all that Nord Stream 2 will accomplish is to create another source of income for Moscow’s political elite and undermine European security by emboldening Putin to take on a more belligerent stance in the neighborhood.

Navalny’s poisoning shows us what kind of partner Putin really is. We should take this opportunity to rethink our engagement, including economic, with Moscow.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

As Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote in a recent op-ed for Germany’s FAZ, the EU has already paid an excessive price for supporting Nord Stream 2: divisions between member countries, sunk economic costs and Moscow’s growing assertiveness toward the West.

If Europe doesn’t want to see its hands tied even more strongly in the future, it has to abandon this pipeline project now.





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Victoria was offered ADF support for hotel quarantine, email shows


“Thanks Phil,” Mr Eccles responded.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also wrote to Mr Andrews three times in July offering the support of the ADF, according to the submission.

But Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp decided ADF personnel were not needed in Victoria’s quarantine hotels.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp addressing the media about coronavirus on March 11.Credit:Getty Images

Furthermore, a text message recovered by Mr Crisp shows he was told by then-chief of police, Graham Ashton, that private security should be used for quarantine hotels, not police.

Mr Crisp is giving evidence to hotel quarantine inquiry, where recordings of crucial meetings held at the State Control Centre have been heard for the first time.

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The Commissioner told a meeting on March 27 the Department of Health and Human Services was in charge of the hotel quarantine operation.

He also said: “I suggest, at this stage, we can manage this …

“At this stage, we don’t see a need for boots on the ground, so to speak.”

He reiterated the decision at a subsequent meeting, following reports soldiers were patrolling quarantine hotels in NSW.

“Based on the planning we had done on each of those phases … we didn’t see a need at the time,” Mr Crisp told the inquiry.

The ADF was involved in the planning and logistics of the Victorian program, but personnel were not deployed to hotels.

Former police chief Graham Ashton.

Former police chief Graham Ashton.Credit:Justin McManus

Mr Crisp also recovered text messages on Tuesday in which he said he was told by then-police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton that private security guards should be the first option for quarantine hotels, not police.

During the March 27 meeting, Mr Crisp said he took a call from Mr Ashton and stepped out of the room.

He sent a text soon after to Assistant Commissioner Mick Grainger, who was in the room representing Victoria Police.

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The text message, shown to the inquiry, reads: “I stepped out to speak to Graham and I let him know you’re in this meeting as he’s only just come out of VSB [Victorian Secretaries Board]. He made it clear in VSB that private security is the first security option at hotels/motels and not police.”

The Victorian Secretaries Board, which inludes the secretaries of each state department and the police chief, is chaired by the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

In another recording of the meeting, Mr Crisp said he understood it was Mr Ashton’s preference that “private security be the first line of security”.

“It’s Mick Grainger here. Absolutely that’s our preference,” Assistant Commissioner Grainger added.

Mr Crisp said he was not opposed to the use of private security, telling the inquiry: “I thought they would have been a suitable and appropriate workforce to use in the hotels.”

The Emergency Management Commissioner signed off the decision to use private security guards in the quarantine hotels and a request for 850 ADF troops in June that was mysteriously withdrawn just hours later.

The federal government’s submission, which includes Mr Gaetjen’s email, strongly contradicts claims from Mr Andrews, who told a previous Victorian parliamentary hearing that it was “fundamentally incorrect to assert that there were hundreds of ADF staff on offer and somehow, someone said no”.

Victoria’s hotel quarantine program, in which security guards at the Rydges on Swanston in Carlton and the Stamford Plaza in the CBD contracted COVID-19 from returned travellers, seeded 99 per cent of the state’s catastrophic second coronavirus wave.

The lack of ADF and police involvement has become a politically contentious and critical issue to the hotel quarantine inquiry.

Mr Andrews rebuffed questions about the offer of ADF support at his press conference on Tuesday.

“I’m not interested in having a debate with the Prime Minister or anyone else frankly from his party,” he said.

“What I would say to you is my comments are consistent, my comments are accurate, my comments are supported by statements issued by Andrew Crisp as the Emergency Management Commissioner.”

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Rival Victorian club shows interest in signing free agent Daniher


Geelong is the latest club to show interest in signing restricted free agent Joe Daniher, according to The Age’s Jake Niall.

The Cats have joined Brisbane in flagging their interest in signing the Essendon forward, who has recently made his return to AFL action after a long-term groin injury.

The report states that Daniher, 26, remains undecided about where he future lies beyond this season, with Geelong reportedly possessing the ability to free up enough salary cap room to pull off the sensational swoop.

Daniher isn’t the only free agent Chris Scott’s side has expressed interest in, as Geelong also weigh up moves for Adelaide on-baller Brad Crouch and Melbourne midfielder Jack Viney.

If successful in their pursuit, Daniher would link up with current Coleman Medal leader Tom Hawkins in what would be one of the competition’s most potent forward duos.

Daniher made a triumphant return to footy late last month, booting three goals in Essendon’s win over Hawthorn.






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Timelapse Shows North Complex Fire’s ‘Historic Run’ Toward Oroville in California’s Butte County


The North Complex fires made a “historic run” into Oroville, California, scorching more than 258,000 acres by Sunday, September 13, according to fire officials. The North Complex, a series of fires sparked by lightning nearly a month ago, have been impacting Plumas and Butte counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). Officials said the fires have burned 258,802 acres and were 26 percent contained as of Sunday morning. ALERTWildfire said this timelapse footage, filmed from Lexington Hill in Plumas County, shows the wildfire moving into Oroville in Butte County. ALERTWildfire is a consortium run by three universities that aims to alert firefighters and the public to wildfires. ALERTWildfire said the “terrifying” video shows “the new extreme” of fire activity. Various wildfires have burned more than three million acres throughout California this season, Cal Fire said. Credit: ALERTWildfire via Storyful



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