$500 vouchers up for grabs, to be spent locally



TEN lucky winners will receive a $500 voucher each, in a new program announced by the Ballina Chamber of Commerce this year.

The idea is to encourage visitors and residents to shop locally.

The winners will be able to use their vouchers at one Ballina shire business of their choice.

The Lucky Shopper promotion is one of four programs run by the chamber this season.

Instead of running the shopping drive over one or two days as they did in previous years, the event will go over three weeks, from December 1 to 19.

Entry tickets will be received when a customer makes a purchase from any CBD store.

The ticket will be attached to the receipt and dropped into a barrel located at Wigmore Arcade.

On December 19, 10 tickets will be drawn and the winners contacted by the Chamber of Commerce, “and will be asked which shop in the Ballina Shire they would like a $500 voucher for,” a statement from the chamber explained.

Also part of this year’s festivities will be Christmas lights decorations organised by the Chamber of Commerce and Intrapac, to line the sides of River St, between Moon St and Cherry St, to be installed from December 1.

The shops will also be able to participate in a front display competition, with shops decorations to be up from December 1, with the winner to be announced on December 19.

The winning shop will receive a $500 cash prize, and a gift basket for the runner up.

Children will also be able to participate via a colouring competition.

From December 1 and until December 19, children will be able to access the colouring sheets from the Ballina Tourist Information Centre, in Cnr River St & Las Balsas Plaza, or from participating shops.

The sheet is also available to download and print from here.

Winners will be judged on December 18 and will receive vouchers to local attractions.





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UK spent £10bn extra on PPE due to ‘inadequate’ stockpile and surge in demand, report finds


T

he UK spent £10 billion extra in inflated prices for personal protective equipment due to an “inadequate” stockpile and a surge in global demand, a report has concluded.

That’s according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO), which said providers made a huge effort to boost PPE supplies after realising stockpiles were not sufficient.

However, with the impact of the pandemic already starting to be felt across the world by early spring, officials paid “very high prices given the very unusual market conditions”, its report said.

The findings come only a week after the Government spending watchdog found there was a “high-priority lane” established for PPE suppliers referred to the procurement team.

About one in 10 companies going through this route getting a contract, compared with one in 100 for those in the “ordinary lane”.

NAO head Gareth Davies said: “As PPE stockpiles were inadequate for the pandemic, Government needed to take urgent action to boost supplies.

“Once it recognised the gravity of the situation … the price of PPE increased dramatically, and that alone has cost the taxpayer around £10 billion.”

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, accused ministers of being “far too slow” to respond and were left paying “through the roof” for the frontline equipment.

“The pandemic caught the NHS on the wrong foot. The national stockpile was nowhere near big enough for a coronavirus outbreak – a consequence of the pandemic plans’ fixation on influenza,” the Labour MP said.

“The Government was far too slow to recognise how precarious the position was. When the penny finally dropped, DHSC had to scramble to buy what was left as prices went through the roof.”

The NAO report noted that, between February and July, DHSC spent £12.5 billion on 32 billion items of PPE, with huge increases in the price paid compared with 2019.

This was due to the global surge in demand and restrictions on exports in some countries, it said.

This ranged from a 166 per cent rise in the cost of respirator masks to a 1,310% increase in the price of body bags.

The auditor concluded that, had the Government been able to buy PPE at 2019 prices, expenditure to July 2020 would have been £2.5 billion – £10 billion less than it paid.

The last-ditch efforts also meant that, by the time the PPE was ordered, it did not arrive in time for the first wave.

Action has since been taken to stockpile Covid-style gear for future use by NHS and social care staff.

Of the 32 billion items of PPE procured between February and July, only 2.6 billion items were delivered to frontline organisations in that period, the NAO said.

Demand was so high in April and May that stock levels were “negligible” for most types of protection, it added.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “This report confirms that frontline workers didn’t have access to adequate PPE early on in the pandemic, putting them at unnecessary risk.

“There is no doubt that a significant reason for the shortage was the Government’s failure to prepare properly and take on board warnings about PPE stockpiles.”

The findings come as the Public Accounts Committee concluded that ministers “lost a crucial month” when dealing with the shortage of ventilators to deal with Covid-19.



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U.S. nurse says dying COVID-19 patients spent last minutes insisting virus isn’t real


TORONTO —
An emergency room nurse in South Dakota is speaking out in frustration after watching several COVID-19 patients die from a disease they insist isn’t real, describing her job like a “horror movie that never ends.”

In a Twitter thread that has since gone viral, Jodi Doering said she has been screamed at by patients who accuse her of using “magic medicine,” who repeatedly tell her there must be another reason why they are sick “all while gasping for air.”

“They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that ‘stuff’ because they don’t have COVID because it’s not real,” she said in the thread, published Friday.

“These people really think this isn’t going to happen to them. And then they stop yelling at you when they get intubated.”

On Sunday, South Dakota health officials reported 23 deaths related to the novel coronavirus, increasing the total number of fatalities to 219 in the last 15 days.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, there were nearly 2,062 new cases per 100,000 people in South Dakota over the past two weeks, which ranks second in the country behind North Dakota for new cases per capita.

Despite these figures, Doering says her experiences show a disturbing level of COVID-19 denial.

“The hardest thing to watch is that people are still looking for something else and they want a magic answer. They don’t want to believe that COVID is real,” she said in an interview with CNN.

“Their last dying words are ‘this can’t be happening, it’s not real,’ when they should be spending time FaceTiming their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred. It just made me real sad the other night. I just can’t believe those are going to be their last thoughts and words.”

She says some patients are convinced they have been misdiagnosed, sometimes suggesting they have cancer instead.

“We’ve even had people say I think it might be lung cancer. Something so far-fetched,” she said. “The reality is, since day one you’ve kind of been able to say if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it’s a duck. I hate to tell you that you have COVID, but that’s what you’ve had.”

Doering added her ER has been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and while many are grateful for their care and thankful towards doctors and nurses, she notes those are not the cases she remembers.

“It’s a horror movie where the credits never roll,” she told CNN. “You just do it all over again and it’s hard and sad, because every hospital, nurse and doctor in this state are seeing the same thing.”​ 





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AFL spent more than $60m in Qld in 2020


The AFL spent more than $60 million in Queensland across the 2020 season.

All 16 non-Queensland clubs were temporarily based in Queensland at some point – a move that allowed the AFL to complete its season – which required the relocation and housing of more than 550 players, 750 staff and their families.

The total spend included 101,000 bed nights, 400,000 meals, 10,000 rental cars, 950 bus trips, 120 charter flights and rental of local sporting facilities.

The AFL announced on Friday $136.4 million of economic contribution in Queensland was generated as a result of its activity in the state.

“We were able to complete our season by hosting teams and holding the majority of our matches here,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said in a statement.

“This has not only provided an ongoing livelihood for many in our industry but also provided employment opportunities across many businesses in Queensland.

“I want to personally pass on my thanks for all the support we have had from so many businesses – whether hotels, bus carriers, car rental firms, food suppliers, security firms, local football clubs, gymnasiums, maintenance people and a host of other local suppliers who have helped to support our clubs.”

A record 80 games were played in Queensland, including the grand final at the Gabba, with Brisbane (35 games), Gold Coast (41) and Cairns (four) all playing host.





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New police station opens in Capel amid debate about whether it’s money well spent


A new police station has opened in Western Australia’s South West region, but despite being located near a notorious stretch of highway there is debate about whether it is needed at all.

Situated 25 kilometres south of Bunbury, the $8 million station is the product of a 2017 State Government election commitment.

Its opening comes after years of lobbying by the local member, Mick Murray.

But South West Liberal MP Steve Thomas said he did not think a police station was needed in Capel, which was recorded in the 2016 census as having a population of about 2,000.

“This is the Labor party trying to get votes in a region,” Mr Thomas said.

“There is a need for an increased police presence in all areas, but getting them out of the station and into the regions is more important than building more stations.”

Sharing the load

WA Police statistics show just 137 offences in Capel in 2019-20, mostly involving theft and family violence.

In comparison, the Shire of Capel suburb of Dalyellup, where locals also fought for a new police station, had more than 500 offences in the same year.

Mr Murray admitted regional towns like Capel only had a “small amount of crime”, but said the station would help take the pressure off staff at existing South West stations and service areas that didn’t have one.

“It’s going to give coverage to towns such as Dardanup and Boyanup and the outer areas as well,” he said.

“Not only on the roads but the small amount of crime that needs to be knocked out of the small villages such as Capel.”

Police Minister Michelle Roberts, Police Commissioner Chris Dawson and Premier Mark McGowan all attended the opening.(ABC South West: Jacqueline Lynch)

Focus on traffic patrols

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson highlighted the importance of road safety at the opening today.

“We know that the Bussell highway and the surrounding roads are very heavily used by the community,” he said.

The 17km stretch of single-lane highway between Busselton and Capel is well known for crashes, including fatalities.

WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts said improving road safety in the area was a key concern.

“We need people to drive safely, we want families to be safe, we want people to come home to their families at night,” she said.

Five of the nine officers stationed at Capel will be used for traffic enforcement.



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NRL spent $4m to keep Melbourne Storm playing through pandemic


Bubble trouble

With a couple of exceptions, the players have done a fantastic job abiding by the bubble restrictions in 2020. But the expectations after the grand final were bordering on lunacy.

Penrith players, staff and families went back to Panthers Leagues Club for a private function after the game, but the NRL wanted the club’s Origin-bound players to be separated from the majority of the 100-odd people in the room.

This column understands the Blues were hoping to delay the announcement of its updated squad until Monday to ensure Nathan Cleary, Stephen Crichton, Isaah Yeo and Jarome Luai were afforded the opportunity to be with family and friends, but changed their minds.

The fact players have to take a COVID-19 test before entering Blues camp on Wednesday should have been enough. The over-the-top restrictions are in place to please the Queensland government, but none of the NSW players will be in contact with anyone from north of the border until game one at the Adelaide Oval on November 4.

Only 34 family members were allowed inside the sheds after the game, with another 12 of the club’s executive team and board members also entering. They had to have a COVID-19 test on Friday before being granted permission to enter the dressing room.

Pennies of Silver

Who would’ve guessed that Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns is actually a Panthers fan. Johns finally debunked an old myth that he was a Newcastle Knights supporter, an assumption that stems from the 1997 grand final when Andrew Johns famously broke into Daniel’s Newcastle home and dragged the then teenager out of bed at 5am to join the team’s celebrations.

Daniel Johns’ representatives reached out to Panthers officials during the week to see if he and his mates would be able to attend the game, given his secret passion for the mountain men. Other high-profile guests at the grand final included Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former PM John Howard.

Broncos to ramp up Storm raid

Now that the grand final is out of the way, expect the noise to ramp up in regards to Brisbane’s pursuit of Melboure’s best operators. Out of respect for the Storm’s premiership campaign, the Broncos have stayed silent over the past few weeks, but the whispers around Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy linking with Brisbane next year won’t go away.

Back on top … Craig Bellamy and Cameron Smith at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night.Credit:Getty Images

Donaghy is tipped to get the job set to be vacated by Paul White, with conversations set to be held in the coming days to work out the specifics. Coach Craig Bellamy has been reportedly offered a coaching director’s role at the club from 2022 but he has done his best to distance himself from the talk during Melbourne’s finals push. Expect the noise to get louder now.

Brothers’ bond

It was heart-warming to see Ivan Cleary’s brother Ash in the stands at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night. Ivan had a kidney transplant three years ago to save his brother’s life, however his other brother Stuart wasn’t at the game. Stuart watched on from Hong Kong, unable to return home given the international travel limitations.

Ivan and Ash Cleary after the Penrith coach donated his kidney to save his brother's life in 2017.

Ivan and Ash Cleary after the Penrith coach donated his kidney to save his brother’s life in 2017.

Stranded Sattler’s big gesture

Such was his belief in his old club, Penrith’s 2003 grand final hero Scott Sattler purchased tickets for he and his son to this year’s decider well before the Panthers qualified. Sattler lives in Queensland and COVID-19 restrictions denied him the opportunity to attend, so he contacted Penrith officials and offered to give his tickets to a fan who couldn’t afford the price of admission. Sattler contacted the fan, who at first thought he was the victim of a prank, to pass on the tickets on Saturday morning.

Joyce stays in the stands

For the first time in many years, Joyce Churchill, the wife of the legendary Clive Churchill, was unable to present the medal named after her husband for the best player in the grand final. Churchill was at the game but, due to COVID protocols, the NRL prohibited her from handing over the medal after the match.

Faced with disaster

Dr Malcolm Lyttle, the surgeon who repaired Josh Mansour’s face after the horrific 2018 injury, spoke to the Herald about the severity of the incident.

Penrith winger Josh Mansour in hospital with wife Daniella after suffering a major facial injury in 2018.

Penrith winger Josh Mansour in hospital with wife Daniella after suffering a major facial injury in 2018.

Lyttle said the worst facial injury he’d seen throughout his career was of a woman whose facial bones had moved back 2.5cm into her head after her car hit a cow at 100 km/h. For context, Mansour’s cheekbone had sunk 1.5cm into his face.

Flanagan set to run with Dogs

The Roosters are expecting Kyle Flanagan to depart the club in the coming days to join the Canterbury Bulldogs. Flanagan’s father, Shane, pushed hard for him to go to Cronulla, but the Sharks’ reluctance for the former coach to return was a factor in the halfback deciding to link with Trent Barrett and the Bulldogs.

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Finns spent more time talking on the phone during the first half of the year than in years


The 4G mobile network’s 100 Mbps service coverage extended to 18% of Finland’s land area by the end of June 2020. As such, coverage had increased by two percentage points in the last six months. In ideal conditions, download speeds of 100 Mbps were available to slightly over 93% of all households. In contrast, no significant changes occurred in 30 Mbps and 300 Mbps service coverage during the first six months of the year.* 

100 Mbps mobile service coverage extended to 57% of Finnish main roads and highways, with the total coverage of all road classes being 41%. Rail network coverage was 58%. 

The speed-category-specific coverages of the mobile network represent availability in ideal conditions. They do not account for network congestion or structural and geographical obstacles.



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National Archives spent $1m in legal fees to keep ‘Palace letters’ secret, but true cost will be higher


The head of the National Archives of Australia has revealed more than $1 million was spent in legal fees as the Government fought to keep correspondence between former governor-general Sir John Kerr and the Queen a secret.

The ‘Palace letters’ were released earlier this year after the High Court ordered the Archives to reconsider a request from historian Jenny Hocking that they be made public.

The correspondence spans several years of John Kerr’s tenure as governor-general, including his 1975 dismissal of prime minister Gough Whitlam.

Professor Hocking had spent years wrangling with the Archives, arguing for their release.

Fronting Senate Estimates today, the Archives’ director-general David Fricker said more than $1 million in taxpayer money had been spent defending the original decision to block access to the letters.

“As at the 30th of June 2020, the total, we’ve totalled up all of the legal fees and costs that we have incurred for the Hocking case, and it totals a bit over $1 million,” he said.

“The majority was incurred by the National Archives, some costs were incurred by the Attorney-General’s Department.”

The cost of keeping letters between Sir John Kerr and the Queen secret has been revealed.(National Archives)

The High Court also made cost orders against the Commonwealth, requiring it to pay Professor Hocking’s legal fees.

But Mr Fricker said it was not yet clear how much more that would cost taxpayers.

“We haven’t received advice about what the costs will be,” he said.

He agreed with senator Rex Patrick’s suggestion that “the number’s going to go up”, referring to the total cost to the taxpayer.

Professor Hocking said she expected the total cost to the Commonwealth to increase by hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

“The High Court also made three cost orders against the National Archives and those cost orders were that the archives pay our costs all the way back to the Federal Court,” she said.

“There are obviously extremely significant additional costs … which need to be added to that figure.

She said that was a “staggering” cost for access to important documents.

“What it does, I think, is raise real questions about the priorities of the Archives,” Professor Hocking said.

“This is a staggering amount of public money to access really critical documents in our history.”

A letter from the Queen's secretary to Sir John Kerr starts 'my dear governor general'.
The Palace letters were released in July after a High Court decision ruled they were Commonwealth records.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Access to the letters, written between 1974 and 1977, had been blocked as they had been deemed personal papers, but the High Court found in May that they were in fact Commonwealth records.

Mr Fricker told Senate Estimates his decisions had at all times been supported by legal advice.

Before the release of the letters, speculation had swirled for years over the Queen’s role in Sir John’s decision to remove Gough Whitlam as prime minister and install Malcolm Fraser in his place.

A woman wearing glasses.
Professor Jenny Hocking won a High Court fight for access to the letters.(AAP: Peter Rae)

The letters confirmed Sir John did not provide the Queen with advance knowledge of the dismissal, but wrote to Buckingham Palace on the day of the dismissal to explain himself.

“I should say that I decided to take the step I took without informing the Palace in advance because, under the Constitution, the responsibility is mine and I was of the opinion that it was better for Her Majesty not to know in advance,” he wrote on November 11, 1975.

But Professor Hocking said it raised further concerns about the close communication between the governor-general and the Queen.

“They’ve really shown people that there’s been an engagement by the Palace, by the Queen’s private secretary, with the governor-general on matters that are intensely political,” she said.



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Archives spent $1 million fighting Palace Papers case


Archives boss David Fricker revealed to Senate estimates his institution had spent a “total” of $1.03 million opposing Professor Jenny Hocking’s case to see letters between Governor General John Kerr and Buckingham Palace in the years surrounding the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

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That number will rise because the High Court ordered the archives to pay the costs of Professor Hocking’s lawyers, which she said could near $1 million, after she won the years-long battle.

Mr Fricker defended the legal action, saying he was bound to pursue the litigation to defend the archives’ interpretation of its founding act, which in his view required Sir John’s letters stay private.

The delays at DFAT were a product of greater demand from a relatively small number of researchers, he said, and the organisation was working to be more efficient in assessing and releasing material.

“People work very hard to make records publicly accessible but we do it lawfully. We’re not going to go off on a frolic and just hand out stuff unless we’ve properly assessed it,” Mr Fricker said.

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The archives is under funding pressure, with its council warning last year that its $90 million annual budget needed to be doubled for the institution to be sustainable and meet its legislative requirements.

Professor Hocking said aside from her attempts to get the Palace Letters she had also waited up to nine years to get other records released, and not just from DFAT.

“[The delay] fundamentally undermines your capacity to do meaningful research,” she said. “To think they’ve spent $2 million contesting public access requests when they have this level of blockage is really troubling.”

Australian National University Professor Frank Bongiorno said the delays showed the public record process, by which government records are supposed to be released decades after their creation unless there is an exemption, had “broken down”.

However, more vice-regal records could be released after the High Court’s decision in the Palace Papers case set what Mr Fricker said could be a precedent for other letters between governors-general and the Queen to be made public.

A review of the archives by former finance department secretary David Tune was completed in January but has not been made public by the government.

Mr Fricker was also taken to task by committee chair Senator Amanda Stoker, who suggested his evidence that there had been no concerns raised by the Attorney-General’s office about the archives plan to release the Palace Letters to the media almost simultaneously with Professor Hocking was not correct.

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Archives spent $1 million fighting Palace Papers case


Archives boss David Fricker revealed to Senate estimates his institution had spent a “total” of $1.03 million opposing Professor Jenny Hocking’s case to see letters between Governor General John Kerr and Buckingham Palace in the years surrounding the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

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That number will rise because the High Court ordered the archives to pay the costs of Professor Hocking’s lawyers, which she said could near $1 million, after she won the years-long battle.

Mr Fricker defended the legal action, saying he was bound to pursue the litigation to defend the archives’ interpretation of its founding act, which in his view required Sir John’s letters stay private.

The delays at DFAT were a product of greater demand from a relatively small number of researchers, he said, and the organisation was working to be more efficient in assessing and releasing material.

“People work very hard to make records publicly accessible but we do it lawfully. We’re not going to go off on a frolic and just hand out stuff unless we’ve properly assessed it,” Mr Fricker said.

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The archives is under funding pressure, with its council warning last year that its $90 million annual budget needed to be doubled for the institution to be sustainable and meet its legislative requirements.

Professor Hocking said aside from her attempts to get the Palace Letters she had also waited up to nine years to get other records released, and not just from DFAT.

“[The delay] fundamentally undermines your capacity to do meaningful research,” she said. “To think they’ve spent $2 million contesting public access requests when they have this level of blockage is really troubling.”

Australian National University Professor Frank Bongiorno said the delays showed the public record process, by which government records are supposed to be released decades after their creation unless there is an exemption, had “broken down”.

However, more vice-regal records could be released after the High Court’s decision in the Palace Papers case set what Mr Fricker said could be a precedent for other letters between governors-general and the Queen to be made public.

A review of the archives by former finance department secretary David Tune was completed in January but has not been made public by the government.

Mr Fricker was also taken to task by committee chair Senator Amanda Stoker, who suggested his evidence that there had been no concerns raised by the Attorney-General’s office about the archives plan to release the Palace Letters to the media almost simultaneously with Professor Hocking was not correct.

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