Animal-loving couple in Launceston put wedding on hold for pet rat rescue project

Ella Wright and Caleb Godden of Launceston are due to be married in April, but their big day may be pushed back due to rats.

The couple share their living room with 38 rodents thanks to a rat rescue project they began.

“We saw that there were some [pet rats] needing homes and rescue and it just blew up,” Ms Wright said.

Hazel Godden with two of the rats rescued by her parents.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Starting a rat rescue

The decision to get two pet rats last year was one Ms Wright and Mr Godden took seriously.

“I did months of research before even looking at buying them, so I knew what to expect,” Ms Wright said.

But not long after acquiring Loki and Klaus, Ms Wright realised through her continued online research that relatively few other rat owners were as thorough as she had been.

“People get rats thinking they are small animals with small needs,” she said.

Close shot of a brown and white rat being patted by a female hand that has an engagement ring on it
Pet rats are more difficult and costly to care for than many people think, Ms Wright says.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


But rats, Ms Wright explains, have “complex needs” which, along with the cost of keeping them, result in many rat owners not caring for their animals adequately, and not wanting to keep them for long.

This situation, which Ms Wright said was exacerbated by pet owners returning to work and school after COVID restrictions ended, was one she felt she must address.

Rehoming rehabilitated rats

Most of the rats in the rescue project arrived after having been deemed “too old, ugly, unruly or disabled” to be kept by their previous owners, and rehabilitation was the primary purpose of the project.

Beyond addressing the rats’ physical needs, Ms Wright and Mr Godden also tend to their mental and emotional health.

Rats that go on to meet health and behavioural requirements set by Ms Wright then become candidates for rehoming.

Two baby rats, one without eyes open yet, being held by two hands
Baby rats for sale online are often bred at rodent mills, Ms Wright says.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Potential owners must complete a “lengthy questionnaire” and an interview with Ms Wright to establish their ability to provide a “healthy, happy” rat home.

“[Among other things], we try to ensure that people are not going to live-feed our rats [to reptiles],” she said.

“If that happened, I would be devastated.”

Ms Wright creates a detailed “surrender profile” for each adopted rat, which she gives to its new owners, along with the promise of around-the-clock availability for consultation.

“[Running the rescue project] is 24-7 … but I do plan on taking a little bit of time off … for my wedding,” Ms Wright said.

A white and pale tan rat with pink eyes sitting on a pink folder with plastic sleeves containing a typed document
Muffin the rescued rat investigates her surrender profile.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Rats are top priority

Even the wedding, Ms Wright admits, may take a backseat to the rats, just as many other things in her life with Mr Godden have.

Man wearing cap sitting on couch patting a pale grey pet rat on the head
Mr Godden says many people don’t give rats a chance.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Money that would otherwise be saved for the wedding was currently set aside for rat surgeries, including an operation to remove a tumour from a grey male rat named Pumbaa.

“We are saving up for that … so that he can live a longer life,” Ms Wright said.

Extra funds will also be required to double the size of the rat rescue project, which Ms Wright and Mr Godden plan to do down the track.

“Obviously, that will come when we can afford a bigger house to put them all in,” Ms Wright said.

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Judges react to Eric’s Carbonara Disaster (MasterChef)

Eric is flustered under the pressure of the MasterChef elimination challenge. Not thinking, he pours the carbonara mix into a hot pan, and slowly watches the eggs scramble. The judges watch on in horror. Literally, with hands over their eyes.

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Tasmanian government releases report into state’s political donation laws

The Tasmanian Government has moved towards toughening the state’s electoral laws, three years after an election that allowed the origins of millions of dollars in political donations to remain secret.

Tasmania has the weakest political donation laws in the country, with only donations above $14,300 required to be declared.

Analysis by Tasmania’s Institute for Social Change in 2019 found just 20 per cent of $25 million donated to Tasmanian political parties in the past decade had been publicly disclosed.

Shortly after the 2018 election, which was dominated by debate over poker machines and donations from hospitality groups to the Liberal Party, the Tasmanian Government announced a review of the state’s Electoral Act.

The final report from that review has now been released.

It includes 11 recommendations — all of which the government has said it supports in-principle.

They include setting a threshold for disclosing political donations that is more in line with other states, setting better timeframes for disclosing donations quickly, and requiring third parties that participate in electioneering to abide by the same rules.

In releasing the report, Premier Peter Gutwein detailed the Tasmanian Government’s position on making amendments to the laws, but further work on the specifics still needs to be done.

Proposed changes include:

  • Reducing the disclosure threshold to between $1,000 and $5,000
  • Donations will need to be disclosed at least six-monthly, and more often during an election campaign
  • Foreign and anonymous donations over a certain threshold will be banned

The introduction of expenditure caps for campaigns would be considered at a later stage, due to “insufficient evidence” they were needed.

Premier Peter Gutwein says the government supports the 11 recommendations “in-principle”.(

ABC News: Luke Bowden


Mr Gutwein said the changes would come at a cost for candidates, due to the expectation people who face having their political leanings made public may choose to stop making voluntary donations.

He said that meant some public funding of election campaigns would be needed, estimated to be the equivalent of between $2 and $8 per vote, but accepted that would be a “challenging concept” for some Tasmanians.

Mr Gutwein said it was important to note the changes were not being driven by recommendations from a corruption watchdog.

“There is no evidence of corruption, systemic or otherwise, in terms of the electoral system in Tasmania,” Mr Gutwein said.

The proposed changes would be limited to Tasmania’s House of Assembly.

The government plans to release legislation for consultation after Easter and will table it prior to Parliament’s winter break.

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Labor leader Rebecca White officially concedes defeat

White says it is clear that Australian voters favours the incumbent governments for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Online gambling lobby says ‘no problem’ with punting on credit as MP calls for crackdown

The representative for the biggest players in Australian online gambling says punters should be not be stopped from going into debt to bet.

Responsible Wagering Australia chief executive Brent Jackson’s remarks follow a call for a crackdown on the use of credit cards in online gambling from Queensland MP Andrew Wallace.

The LNP Member for Fisher is pushing the country’s banks to create a voluntary code of conduct that would mean punters could only place online bets using their own money.

Mr Wallace said it was a “no-brainer”.

“We know that people pay 22 per cent or thereabouts in interest on their credit card balances — that’s a very dangerous mix,” he said.

“You can’t use a credit card to go into a TAB and gamble on the horses or the dogs, you can’t use a credit card at a casino, and you can’t use a credit card to gamble on the pokies.”

For almost 20 years, gamblers have been unable to use credit cards to access cash advances in casinos and poker machine lounges.

Suncorp and Macquarie have already voluntarily stopped allowing credit cards to be used on wagering apps, but the big four — Westpac, NAB, ANZ and Commonwealth Bank — have not followed suit.

Sunshine Coast MP Andrew Wallace says he will try to force the banks to change if they don’t decide to do so voluntarily.(

Supplied: Andrew Wallace


‘The right to choose’

But Mr Jackson, whose lobby group represents the likes of Sportsbet, Bet365, Ladbrokes, Neds and others, said there was no reason to stop Australians from going into debt to gamble.

He said online gambling was “safer” than betting in a casino or at a poker machine because it was governed by strict legislation and companies could monitor gambling behaviour in real time.

A grey-haired man in a suit.
Brent Jackson says online gambling companies have the ability to promptly step in when they see worrying behaviour.(

Supplied: Responsible Wagering Australia


“They do keep an eye out specifically for unusual behaviour and strange behavioural patterns and activity that is not considered normal and might be risky,” Mr Jackson said.

“We can take a number of interventions aside from banning them completely — we often contact customers directly as this is happening.”

Mr Jackson said it should be left up to punters to decide whether they used credit cards when gambling online.

“We think that consumers should have the right to choose and directly manage their betting preferences,” he said.

“What we’re not seeing is any evidence of a problem out there at all.

A live sports betting site on a mobile phone, April 24, 2020.
Online sports betting companies have recorded strong financial results in Australia during the pandemic.(

ABC News


Strong support for restrictions

In late 2019, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) canvassed members and others as to whether banks should disallow the use of credit cards on gambling apps.

Its report found 81 per cent of Australians felt the practice should be restricted or banned.

Only 7 per cent supported no restrictions.

The ABA described gamblers as “vulnerable customers” on its website, but has decided against any kind of blanket policy citing fears it could fall foul of anti-competition laws.

But the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it had supported other voluntary codes of conduct with banks.

A spokeswoman said the ACCC could also grant an exemption to the law if there was a significant public benefit.

Late last year an Australian Gambling Research Centre survey of 2,000 people found one in three signed up for new online betting accounts.

The biggest growth market was comprised of people aged 18–34, who the centre found were gambling more and spending more.

Sportsbet’s profit jumped by 108 per cent between April and June last year during COVID-19 shutdowns, increasing from $96 million to $191m.

A middle-aged man in a plaid shirt walking through a park.
Relationships Australia Queensland counsellor David McAnalen now helps others after putting his gambling problems behind him.(

Supplied: Relationships Australia Queensland


‘I would always find a way’

David McAnalen said he used to put money down on just about anything he could — “casino games, electronic gaming machines, pokies, scratch-its, lottos, raffles, horses, dogs”.

“I was betting on everything,” he said.

Mr McAnalen said whatever the barrier, he would overcome it to gamble.

“I would always find a way — I always did find a way,” he said.

Mr McAnalen said he was compelled to change after his parents and sisters told him they loved him, but that they could not have him in their lives if he continued to gamble.

Now a Relationships Australia counsellor, Mr McAnalen said he was no longer “triggered” by gambling — but neither was he entirely cured.

“It’s the first drink that does all the damage — it’s the first bet that would do all the damage and everything would come back,” Mr McAnalen said.

“I wake up in the morning and say: ‘There are a lot of things I can do today and one thing I’m choosing not to do today is gambling’.”

A smiling man in thick-rimmed spectacles leaning up against a tiled wall.
Charles Livingstone says there’s no evidence online gambling companies take the measures that could make their operations safer for punters.(

Supplied: Monash University


Focus on ‘social responsibility’ of banks

Associate professor Charles Livingstone from Monash University has been studying gambling habits for decades.

He agreed that online gambling had the potential to be safer, but did not think that was necessarily the case at the moment.

“They certainly could step in and stop people gambling,” Dr Livingstone said.

In case studies used in a Financial Counselling Australia study from 2015, members worked with people who had lost large sums of money betting online, including one gambler who amassed a $300,000 debt over a three-year period.

In 2019 an ABC investigation reported accusations that Bet365 was skewing its system to encourage losing gamblers while banning or restricting the winners.

This month, Oxford University research found that gambling increased the risk of death, in addition to being linked with addictive behaviour and financial problems.

The Oxford findings inspired Mr Wallace’s call for change here in Australia.

“They don’t want Mum or Dad to go out and blow the weekly wages at the track, or in this case online,” he said.

“Banks have a social responsibility to step in and say: ‘We’re not going to allow this to happen any further’.

“If they won’t introduce a voluntary code, I’ll be recommending to my Parliamentary colleagues that we force them to do it.

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Court may decide it’s ‘no longer appropriate to proceed’ with legal challenge to India travel ban

Constitutional expert Anne Twomey says the legal challenge to the India travel ban may not go ahead if the court decides the issue “is moot” given the ban ends May 15.

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Victorian woman charged and sent home after alleged Tasmanian quarantine breach

A Victorian woman has been sent home from Tasmania after an alleged hotel quarantine breach in Launceston.

Footage circulated on social media showed a woman climbing down from an awning outside the Peppers Seaport Hotel.

She was carrying a bag which she dropped to the ground before climbing down.

Police later said a 38-year-old woman was charged with failing to obey a direction of an emergency management worker after the alleged incident on Sunday.

She was directed to return to Victoria and left Tasmania on Tuesday following an appearance at the Launceston Magistrates Court.

The woman is due back before the court next month.

Travellers from Victoria were restricted from entering Tasmania last Friday, after Tasmanian health authorities classified Victoria as a high-risk location due to a cluster of coronavirus cases.

On Tuesday afternoon, Tasmania’s public heath director Dr Mark Veitch said the state would declare Victoria low-risk from 12:01am Saturday, “provided there is no evidence of community risk in Victoria in the next 48 hours”.

Tasmania Police have issued a number of infringements for hotel quarantine breaches since the pandemic began.

On Tuesday a Victorian woman was fined $774 for breaching hotel quarantine in Hobart.

Last Wednesday a Victorian man was fined $774 for failing to wear a mask at the Burnie Airport, while two travellers were fined a total of $2,300 for not wearing masks at Hobart Airport.

In mid-January Tasmania’s public health director declared masks would need to be worn in all Tasmanian airport terminals, including in car parks.

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Frank Costa’s state funeral details

The Geelong legend’s service will be held at Kardinia Park next week.

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Emergency services respond to Risdon Prison incident

Emergency services respond to Risdon Prison incident.

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Tasmania’s Latrobe Council in costly blunder over Wesley Vale accommodation development

Ratepayers in Tasmania’s north-west will have to pay potentially “tens of thousands of dollars” in legal fees after the local council failed to properly reject a development application and lost an appeal before the state’s planning tribunal.

A decision handed down by the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal (RMPAT) said Latrobe Council intended to reject a 2019 seasonal worker accommodation development, but did not pass a motion doing so, meaning their decision was not legally valid.

Under the Tasmanian Land Use and Approvals Act, projects requiring council approval are automatically given the green light 42 days after the council receives them if they are not formally addressed earlier.

“The result of the vote on the motion to approve the application, in the negative, did not constitute a determination to refuse the application. As the Council failed to determine the application within the time required … it was deemed to have granted a permit on conditions to be determined by the Tribunal,” the decision said.

Latrobe Mayor Peter Freshney.(

ABC News: Tim Morgan


The tribunal ultimately came to the same conclusion as the council, deciding the permit to build the 106-person accommodation facility on Beer Street in Wesley Vale should not be granted, but that the council must pay the costs for all parties involved.

That includes the proponents, Devonport-based Starbox Architects, and Beer Street resident PJ Hodgkinson, who was part of the proceedings as a joined party.

Latrobe Mayor Peter Freshney said the council’s appeal against the awarding of costs failed.

“It’s difficult to stomach, to some degree, particularly when we’re having to pay ratepayers’ money out, but at the end of the day we do have to justify our decisions and, quite rightly, get the process right,” he said.

Mr Freshney said it could be months before the council knew exactly how much it owed.

“It’s a lesson learned, but obviously at quite some cost.”

Development opposed by residents

The 2019 development was recommended for approval with conditions by council officers, but councillors decided against it, something Mr Freshney said was “rare”.

According to the minutes from the meeting, it was knocked back because of a lack of access to enough quality water for the amount of people likely to be living there, and because the wastewater could adversely affect surrounding properties.

A birds eye view of a mocked up cabin development on a property surrounded by trees.
Objections to the project cited concerns about traffic impacts, water and stormwater infrastructure.(

Supplied: Starbox Architecture


Seven members of the public made representations against the plan, expressing concerns about traffic impacts, water and stormwater infrastructure and potential damage to livestock.

Beer Street resident David Miller was one of those to object, and has called the council’s handling of the matter “disgusting”.

“The council should know how to put things through meetings,” he said.

“I could never see how it got through planning, it should have stopped there, and yet it’s dragged on for two years.”

The site of the development application made headlines last year as one of two in the municipality under investigation for being inappropriate accommodation for berry pickers, with the other site, a five-bedroom house in Shearwater, found to have up to 70 workers living there in what unions called “slum-like conditions”.

Planning a ‘difficult field in which to work’

The challenges of having local governments act as planning authorities have been much discussed in the past few years, with councillors across the state citing the difficulty of taking public opinion into account when acting under specific laws.

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It has prompted the state government to introduce controversial Major Projects Legislation, which would allow the government to declare large and complex developments as requiring special attention and have them assessed by a specially convened panel rather than a local council.

Mr Freshney said the council had rejected a different proposal in the same way in 2018, but in between the two decisions, a new legal precedent had been set by a Supreme Court ruling against the Launceston City Council — a legal move the council didn’t know about when considering the Beer Street application.

“Planning is a difficult field in which to work, always has been and always will be,” he said.

“We are everyday people after all, we aren’t perfect and without fault, and occasionally there will unfortunately be the odd error around protocols.”

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