Severe fire danger for NSW as Sunday’s heatwave turns windy this afternoon



The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) says there is a “very high to severe fire danger forecast” across the state today as hot, gusty winds exacerbate dry conditions.

Total fire bans are in place across nine regions: The Far North Coast, North Coast, Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney, North Western, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Central Ranges, New England and Northern Slopes.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has forecast a top of 39 degrees Celsius today in Sydney’s CBD, with winds from the north and north-west reaching 45 kilometres an hour before shifting south to south-easterly in the late afternoon.

The BOM’s Helen Kirkup said the cool southerly change expected from about 3:00pm today would bring its own set of complications.

“The southerly change will come through late Sunday — it could come through as a very strong change so anyone on the beaches and on boats would want to keep on top of the timing of that,” she said.

“The temperature could drop 10 degrees, and suddenly the wind can be 30 knots from the south and people will get caught out if they’re not aware that it’s happening.”

Ms Kirkup said hot weather records were expected to be broken this weekend.

“We are borderline [breaking] records for November across the Sydney Metropolitan area, places up in the Hunter,” she said.

Hundreds of people flocked to Manly Beach before 8:00am this morning, with Sydney’s temperature already soaring over 30C.

With a high overnight minimum, there was no reprieve from the heatwave on Saturday night.

RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers warned the rapid spread of grass fires could catch people unawares.

“If those fires do start, particularly in those grassland areas, they’ll move really, really quickly,” he said.

“People don’t want to get caught in front of a grassfire.

“They’re different to a bushfire. They burn really hot really quick.”

Beachgoers are encouraged to socially distance today by keeping one towel-length away from people who are not part of their household.

At Manly Beach, in Sydney’s North Shore, the sand was yesterday partitioned to allow people access to the water.



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Thailand’s ‘$1.4 billion ketamine bust’ turns out to be cleaning products


Thailand’s claims to have seized $1.4 billion worth of ketamine in the country’s “largest ever” such drug bust have turned out to be a “misunderstanding”.

The country’s Justice Minister, Somsak Thepsuthin, blamed the mistake on a “testing error”, saying the seized white powder was in fact trisodium phosphate – a compound commonly used in cleaning products.

Thailand made news headlines around the world when it announced 475 sacks containing 11.5 tonnes of the granular substance were seized by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board on November 12.

Initial field analysis turned the ONCB’s testing fluid purple, prompting them to declare the substance ketamine and triumphantly claim it was Thailand’s largest ever.

Thai police seized 475 bags of white powder from a Chachoengsao warehouse on November 12, in the belief that it was the party drug ketamine. (Police photo)

But subsequent testing of 66 of the 475 sacks revealed they in fact contained trisodium phosphate – a legal substance commonly used as a cleaning agent, lubricant, stain remover, degreaser and even a food additive.

Testing of the remaining sacks is continuing.

The ONCB was unaware that trisodium phosphate would also turn the testing fluid purple, not only a drug like ketamine, according to the justice minister.

“I accept the fact it might have been premature to hold a press conference to announce the seizure of a substance suspected to be a kind of drug,” Mr Thepsuthin said, according to the Bangkok Post.

“But in this case, the ONCB had been informed of the seizure of ketamine in Taiwan, investigated and found an undeniable link to it. It would have been a mistake if I did not make it public.”

Investigations into where the substance found in the Chachoengsao warehouse came from and what it was to be used for are continuing.

It is believed it may have been used to conceal illicit drugs.

The man who rented the warehouse is wanted over the seizure of ketamine in Taiwan.



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Scottish parents’ Australian dream turns into five months in a cold shed


“We weren’t coming to be a burden on Australia, we were going to buy a house, we had private health insurance and we were willing to do the quarantine requirements,” he said.

After sinking $20,000 dollars into the visa process, the couple either want a refund or for the definitions of immediate family to include parents so they can apply to enter the country.

Mr McNulty’s daughter Heather said parents were an integral part of the family dynamic.

“For Australia to prevent parents from entering under this category is putting immense strain emotionally on multiple families and a vulnerable community,” she said.

Frustrations over the classifications resulted in 11,000 people signing a petition tabled in parliament earlier this month. WA Liberal MP Celia Hammond said her office had been inundated with requests for help.

“The stories are tragic, new mothers who are going through a period of postnatal depression or are really struggling would like to have their parents there, or their mother, and they can’t come in because they’re not immediate family members,” she said.

“Call me old fashioned but including parents within the definition of an immediate family is a sensible and completely understandable and justifiable change for the third of the Australian population who were born overseas.

“I’m looking at this from the mental health impact point of view and I do think it’s one of those things, even if it takes another three months or six months … there is that element of hope and don’t underestimate hope in defeating some mental health consequences.”

The issue has also prompted a Facebook group that has attracted more than 2000 members sharing similar stories of frustration.

Melbourne resident Mandy Pindal created the Facebook group after her father was denied entry to the country.

“The main problem is he just lives in constant fear that he won’t be able to see his kids,” she said.

An Australian Border Force spokesman said the government was not considering changing the definition of immediate family to include parents at this time.

“Decisions to grant exemptions to permit travel must be balanced against the government’s intent for imposing travel restrictions and the health risks posed to the Australian community,” he said.

“Categories of persons exempt from Australia’s travel restrictions are deliberately limited to manage the public health risk presented by international travel as a result of COVID-19.”

Immigration Minister Alan Tudge and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton were contacted for comment.

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Charlie King’s daughter Emma turns mic on veteran broadcaster


Much has been written about Charlie King, but it took his 15-year-old daughter Emma to turn the tables on veteran Grandstand presenter.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised the following article contains images of people who have died.

Speaking on ABC Radio Darwin she asked her father why camping was not a family activity.

“I did so much camping when I was young, I don’t want to rough it any more,” he said.

“But we camped? We had fun?”

Emma shot back: “We camped once. We had a generator. We had aircon”.

One such uncomfortable unplanned camping trip of Charlie’s was from hometown Alice Springs to Darwin in the 1960s, because he missed his family.

A robbery forced him to hitchhike for three days with two friends and only Charlie’s remaining 18 shillings to their name.

“We were frightfully hungry and thirsty,” he said.

But 500 kilometres north they bumped into his brother Reg, who was about to drive to Darwin.

Reg shot a turkey from the wheel.

Proof that the King family indeed went camping — once. With a generator. Emma King camping with nieces Olivia and Mia at Kalkarindji 2016.(Supplied: Charlie King)

Cheap crack

King’s first experience of racism was walking the pavement with friends as a young boy living in Quorn, South Australia.

“I thought it was just a nursery rhyme: ‘If you step on the crack, you marry a black’,” he said.

“Mum told me what it meant.

“I was absolutely horrified I was singing it. It might have been aimed at me.”

As a prefect, King was captain of the school football and cricket teams.

“But there were students’ houses in Quorn where I wasn’t welcome,” he said.

“We’d get to the gate and they’d say: ‘You’ve got to wait out here’.

Tight posed shot with man with baby girl wearing an All Blacks woollen hat. Indoors
Charlie King and daughter Emma in New Zealand.(Supplied: Charlie King)

Fake it until you make it

King’s passion as a 16-year-old was pretending to play the drums. And his big break was bizarre.

King was watching a car crossing Alice Springs’ flooded Todd River, coaxed by the reluctant driver’s friends opposite.

“He got three-quarters across and he was washed off the causeway. Drums flew out of the car,” he said.

“He was so angry and said to his friends: ‘I’ll never play drums with you again. I’ve lost my drums and my car’.”

This band was The Statics and King had been to all their gigs and emulated the drummer from the crowd.

They recognised him, and invited him to play a real kit for the first time — that night at a gig in the YMCA.

“I played the start of The Shadows’ Apache and the crowd was screaming and yelling,” he said.

old posed family photo of man and woman. Man has arm around woman. Colourized.
Charlie’s parents Jack and Ruby King.(Supplied: Charlie King)

A career in twisted timber

The Statics became The Scene, most famous for Cold Chisel’s Ian Moss.

King’s parents moved to Darwin but did not want to interrupt his music career or mechanics apprenticeship.

“As soon as they left, I stopped going to work and concentrated on playing drums,” he said.

But they were missed and young Charlie embarked on the horrific hitchhike to start the next stage of his life.

The young builder wisely left his caravan to stay in his sister’s house during Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

After helping rebuild, he was compelled to study for a career in social work and community development after loading timber for a shonky delivery driver heading to remote Maningrida.

“He said, ‘It doesn’t matter, just throw the twisted ones in there. It’s only for the mob out bush. If they’re no good they’ll burn them and come back and buy more’,” King said.

Hand-sketched headshot of man
Emma is a talented artist. She drew this picture of her dad Charlie King.(Supplied: Emma King)

The great pretender

But social work in a small town was troubling.

“I just didn’t want to keep seeing people whose lives I was investigating,” he said.

A release was pretending to call the weekly NT Football League games with his friends from the stalls, much to the entertainment of those in earshot.

“One day I got phoned by people making a tuberculosis ad and they said: ‘We like the sound of your voice’,” he said.

ABC sports commentator Charlie King early in his career
Charlie King became an ABC Grandstand presenter in the 1990s after he was discovered while pretending to call games at NTFL matches.(Supplied)



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Daly Cherry-Evans turns sights to lifting trophy in different shade of Maroon


“There are still things I want to tick off as a player,” Cherry-Evans told The Sun-Herald. “It’s not until you become a captain you dream about moments like Wednesday, lifting the shield. I’ve been captain at Manly now for three years and that goal is to be a premiership-winning captain at Manly.

“I’d also love to be involved with the Australian side moving forward, and if the opportunity ever popped up to captain the Kangaroos, that would be special.

Maroons half and skipper Daly Cherry-Evans celebrates the series win.Credit:Getty

“Captaining Australia and captaining Manly to a premiership are two things high up on my list.”

Cherry-Evans and Foran reuniting for the first time since 2015, with the duo forming arguably the most-experienced halves pairing in the competition.

Should Tom Trbojevic – and Foran – remain fit and his brother Jake maintains his own lofty standards, the Sea Eagles will win a lot more than they lose.

“I saw ‘Foz’ in Manly colours the other day and it definitely got me excited to see him back in the maroon,” Cherry-Evans said.

“I won’t be back until after Christmas but I’ll be popping my head in to see all the boys and re-connecting with Kieran. He will help us become a bit more of a balanced side.

“I believe we’re in that premiership window. There isn’t a year where we’ve started and I’ve thought, ‘we’re not a chance this year’.

“I like our roster, I like our coach, a lot of things go into a premiership season, but we’ve got all the right ingredients at the club.”

Cherry-Evans led the fight for the players in their pay dispute with the NRL when COVID shut down the competition. Like every other player he sacrificed precious family time.

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On Friday night, Cherry-Evans enjoyed watching his eldest daughter play touch football, a simple pleasure made off-limits to him all season.

The hardest moment for Cherry-Evans, he said, was after Origin II at Suncorp Stadium when he was unable to cuddle his wife Vessa and three young daughters at ANZ Stadium because he had to rush back on a plane to the Gold Coast.

“I love footy so much, but now I’m out of the bubble, it’s time for me to let my guard down and spend time as a father the next six weeks,” Cherry-Evans said.

“Everyone in the NRL sacrificed so much this year. As a father of three kids, I’ve missed out on a lot as a dad. I just can’t wait to be there for them now.

“The hardest part was seeing the girls after games one and two and not being able to touch them. It nearly broke me after we lost in Sydney. To be down and out and then see your daughters tear-eyed and not understanding why they can’t comfort dad, that was the hardest part of it all.”

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Cameron Munster turns on a Maroons masterclass to beat NSW Blues at Suncorp Stadium


Well before kick-off, this felt every bit an old-school Origin. A near-capacity crowd (49,155) was choking bars and cafes around Suncorp Stadium and Caxton St was closed to traffic before the punters made their way down the hill. And even better for the home side, the only blue shirts to be seen were on the local constabulary.

When the season was halted amid the COVID-19 outbreak, this night seemed inconceivable. It deserved a momentous contest and that’s exactly what transpired in the first half. The hits were immense, as was the drama, with NSW losing Tedesco after he slid into the sizeable knee of Josh Papalii.

Wally Lewis Medal winner Cameron Munster had a night to remember for Queensland.Credit:Getty

It was 6-6 at that point and the Maroons were already squarely in the contest. They looked like a completely different side from the limp, flat group in Sydney and were asking questions in attack and pouring on the pain with some thunderous defence.

But losing a player of Tedesco’s stature, quality and creativity was an immense blow for NSW; he’d already scored their first try. But he stumbled almost as soon as he was hauled to his feet and this time, there would be no question about a possible return to play.

Jai Arrow’s actions after the contact didn’t help and NSW were fuming when they saw the replay on the big screen. He lifted up Tedesco, who was already heavily concussed, before dropping him back to the turf. He seemed to realise the gravity of what he did soon after as he called for help for the stricken Blues star but the vision was damning.

That prompted NSW to send Clint Gutherson to fullback and Isaah Yeo to the centres, while the Maroons were starting to assert their control through the middle and the play of Munster, whose genius was growing with each and every touch, of which there were many.

Queensland celebrate a famous Origin series win.

Queensland celebrate a famous Origin series win.Credit:Getty

With nothing on in the 37th minute, he kicked for himself, regathered, then kicked again. He went to first receiver for the following play then kicked wide for Edrick Lee to eventually regather and dive over for a try on debut.

That was good enough for a 12-6 lead at half-time and the Blues would have been reasonably happy with that given the growing dominance from their opposition. Nathan Cleary had tried his best to keep them in it with his long kicking game but, unlike game two, he was being pressured and chopped down after every heave.

The Blues needed the narrative to change after the break but Queensland only seemed to grow an extra leg. Grant was wonderful after being introduced in the 25-minute mark by Bennett, carving up NSW through the middle on multiple occasions to put his side on the front foot.

NSW lacked nothing in courage and their goal-line defence somehow managed to hold after set after set of Maroon attacks. They repelled them enough times to see Valentine Holmes resort to a penalty and a 14-6 lead with just over 20 minutes left on the clock.

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In Grant, a star was born. He showed such quality in his first NRL season for the Tigers that his performance on the grand stage was barely a surprise. He managed to burrow his way over for a try after 62 minutes to give Queensland a 20-6 lead and from there, it looked a bridge too far for the battered Blues.

Yet Origin loves to live up to its own cliches and it truly is never a done deal until the final siren. The first time NSW had a decent look at the Queensland line for the entire half saw them stroll over through Daniel Tupou and suddenly, there was a spring in their step.

Holmes bombed what looked like a certain try down the left edge that would have been curtains for NSW and NSW replied with a penalty right in front from Cleary, bringing the Blues within six at the eight-minute mark. Now Fittler, who had spent much of the night shaking his head on the bench, was up and about.

Walker was out cold after the tackle on Daly Cherry-Evans and Queensland had the chance to regroup and close it out. Instead, NSW found themselves attacking a 12-man line after Corey Allan was sin-binned for impeding the kick chase of Josh Addo-Carr. It wasn’t to be.

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Qantas turns 100 with harbour flight


Australia’s flagship airline Qantas will celebrate its centenary with a low-level flyover of Sydney Harbour.

Qantas was established exactly 100 years ago on Monday in Queensland’s outback by two veterans of the Australian Flying Corps, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, together with local grazier Fergus McMaster.

Dubbed “The Flying Kangaroo”, Qantas is the oldest continuously-operating airline in the world and has an impeccable safety record.

In pre-COVID times it was the only airline flying to every inhabited continent.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the carrier’s centenary celebrations had been scaled back due to his year coronavirus pandemic.

The health crisis thrust the airline into the worst year in its history with 15,000 employees stood down without pay, 6000 workers sacked and 100 of its aircraft grounded for up to 12 months as borders closed around the world.

“Around the world, Qantas is probably best known for its safety record, endurance flying and long list of aviation firsts,” Mr Joyce said in a statement.

“But for Australians, there’s nothing quite like seeing the flying kangaroo at the airport, waiting to take you home.

“We hope to be doing a lot more of that in the months and years ahead.”

The 100-minute flight at sunset on Monday will carry 100 Qantas employees as well as selected Frequent Flyer passengers.

The plane will perform a wing wave over the HARS aviation museum at Albion Park on the NSW South Coast and Rose Bay in Sydney’s east, which became the first international airport in the city when Qantas launched Flying Boat services from Sydney to London in 1936.



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As the bedrock of our lives turns to shifting sand, hope remains


When COVID-19 put an end to our planned weekend away, we replaced it with Wednesday-evening Zoom sessions. The four of us constitute a cross-section of Victoria’s population: two are regional healthcare providers, two live in metro Melbourne. Of the city dwellers, one works from home and lives with three twentysomething children, the other is retired and living alone.

As the months wore on, what started as a very inferior Plan B took on a disproportionate significance. Our weekly get-togethers – wine optional – were our only regular social contact, a lifeline for those of us living alone or just feeling alone.

In difficult times, we should find faith in the strength of the bond between friends.Credit:Age archive

Self-isolation keeps us safe from infection but it doesn’t stop the outside world from intruding. Over the winter months we all shared in the grief of the loss of a mother, a slow recuperation from eye surgery, the pain of a relationship breakup and the sale of a family home. Interspersed through all that sadness were gales of laughter and memories of good times past, and the hope of more in the future.

With the recent easing of restrictions has come the reinstatement of our long-anticipated weekend away. As we look forward to breathing the same fresh sea air, our anticipation is tinged with trepidation. We are having trouble believing that the solid foundation on which we built our pre-pandemic lives will return. But we can at least have faith in the strength of the bond between us.

For now it will be enough to be able to spread my newly-toned arms wide and encircle these special women, even if it has to be from a safe distance.

Elizabeth Quinn is a Melbourne writer.



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Australian Defence Force turns a page on its paper archives with mammoth digitisation project


One page at a time, Michael Buxton is meticulously preserving the memories of Australia’s war heroes.

He is one of the many workers undertaking an administrative task of epic proportions — digitising Australian Defence Force (ADF) medical and personnel documents, photos, training files and campaign logs from World War II through to the 1970s.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of files will need to be archived.

The ADF says the collection stretches the equivalent of 130 kilometres, and expects its multi-million-dollar digitisation project to take five years.

The files are stored in four locations with boxes from the Victoria Barracks in Melbourne being sent to Mr Buxton’s workplace Ability Works, which employs people with a disability.

Mr Buxton, who has Down syndrome, has been employed at Ability Works for nearly two decades and is also heavily involved in several theatre companies.

His role includes removing staples from the records, straightening out creases and fixing up any tears before they are sent off to be scanned.

Mr Buxton’s family has historic links to the ADF.(ABC Melbourne: Kristian Silva)

After the files have been scanned, quality control checks are then undertaken by Ability Works and the ADF.

It’s a job Mr Buxton does with a sense of pride, and he feels he is adding to his family’s legacy. Mr Buxton’s great-grandfather and grandfather both served overseas, and his brother is a current ADF member.

Mr Buxton’s father is also a former army reservist.

Old documents could be eventually destroyed

A close-up of a folder of records from an Australian war veteran
Some of the folders take hours to sort and scan.(ABC Melbourne: Kristian Silva)

Mardi Jarvis, the assistant secretary of regional services at the Department of Defence, said the digital files would be made available to veterans, family members, historians and ex-service affiliated organisations like the RSL.

“At the moment we are retaining the hard copy files. We hope into the future we will get to the stage where we’re confident to destroy those.”

The ADF currently receives about 43,000 requests a year for information contained in the records, and manually locating and extracting information can take up to a month.

The files are often called upon by veterans making compensation claims.

Sharon Harnett, the director of Defence Archives and Service Centres, said the department was looking for further opportunities to include more people marginalised from the workforce in the digitisation project.



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