Appeal for missing Hunter teen

Police are asking for public assistance to help locate a missing teenage girl from the Hunter region.

Sharday Safavizad, aged 15, was last seen at a bus stop on Aberglasslyn Road near Rutherford about 12.30pm on Saturday 14 November 2020.

She was reported missing to Port Stephens-Hunter Police District on Monday 16 November and police commenced inquiries into her whereabouts.

Sharday is described as being of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean appearance, with long brown hair and brown eyes.

She’s understood to frequent the Hunter and South-Western Sydney areas, including Liverpool.

Police are urging anyone with information, or who may know of her whereabouts, to contact police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

Key PBS listing to save Australians with severe back and neck pain more than $20,000

Thousands of Australians with debilitating back and joint pain will have access to a life changing treatment option through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) which would otherwise cost tens of thousands of dollars.

From December 1, access to Taltz® (ixekizumab) on the PBS will be expanded for patients with active ankylosing spondylitis.

Without the PBS subsidy, up to 8,000 patients would pay more than $22,000 per year for this treatment.

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory condition, which can cause some small bones in the spine to fuse.

Ankylosing spondylitis leads to reduced flexibility and can lead to severe back and neck pain.

There’s also good news for almost 50,000 Australians suffering from heart and cardiovascular conditions.

Access to Xarelto® (rivaroxaban) will be expanded to include the treatment of patients at high risk of recurrent cardiovascular events with coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease.

Without PBS subsidy, these patients would pay more than $790 per year for treatment. Up to 46,900 patients every year could benefit from this listing.

Coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease are types of atherosclerosis, which occurs when arteries that supply blood to the heart or limbs become hardened and narrowed, due to a build-up of cholesterol and/or plaque fatty deposits.

Coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease increase risk of blood clots and reduce blood flow to key areas of the body such as the heart, brain or limbs.

Australians who are living with these conditions have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke which can lead to disability, amputation or death.

The Morrison Government is continuing to make important medicines available to Australians at affordable prices.

These PBS listings have been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, the Government has approved more than 2,500 new or amended listings on the PBS at an overall investment by the Government of $11.8 billion.

The Government’s commitment to ensuring that Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.

New $1.2m inclusive playground at Stevenson Park delivered in partnership with community

Mayfield West is home to the city’s newest all-abilities playground with the opening of a $1.2 million active space at Stevenson Park.

The project was delivered by City of Newcastle as part of a major renewal of the 13-hectare community and sporting precinct, which is used year-round by sporting groups and is a highly valued open space for local residents.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said considerable time was spent engaging with the community to develop an agreed vision for the park and playground.

“It’s fantastic to see this new public space open and being used by families and children of all ages and abilities following what has been a stellar example of community consultation,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Working with the local community has given Mayfield West locals real ownership of this project and future upgrades that will flow from the Stevenson Park Masterplan.

“The project has greatly benefited from strong advocacy from the community, particularly through the Friends of Stevenson Park.

“This playground and the masterplan as a whole will deliver on our shared vision of Stevenson Park as a welcoming and inclusive community meeting place that offers quality sports facilities within a parkland setting.”

Vicki McCarter from Friends of Stevenson Park welcomed the opening of the new playground and said that the Stevenson Park Masterplan has given the community a new focus.

“It’s been a pleasure to be involved in this project which has provided our community a way forward through the green heart of our community – Stevenson Park.

“I, along with my fellow Friends of Stevenson Park members, am extremely pleased with the engagement process which has resulted in an amazing all abilities playground, safe pathway and new BBQ and shelter area which is perfect for neighbourhood get togethers.

“Stevenson Park is no longer just home to sporting fields, but is now a vibrant hub for our community to enjoy.”

The Stevenson Park Masterplan was developed to activate the park and create a vibrant and inclusive space for residents and visitors. Over time this will provide more car parking, fenced off-leash area for dogs, new footpath connections and upgrades to existing sporting infrastructure.

Stage one involved replacing an existing playground with a larger, upgraded all-abilities space, which was positioned in the most suitable section of the park with greater shade coverage.

The playground features a variety of equipment such as swings and birds nest basket, climbing apparatus, inground trampoline, slide, basketball hoop and handball court; while the upgrade also included the installation of shade shelters, seating, a drinking fountain and barbecue.

The Stevenson Park playground was completed under City of Newcastle’s annual asset renewal program, with support from the NSW Government’s Everyone Can Play Grant Program. City of Newcastle’s annual asset renewal program has delivered approximately $6.5 million in new and upgraded playgrounds across the city and suburbs during the past five years.

Up to four of Newcastle’s 117 playgrounds are replaced each year under the program. Work scheduled for 2020/21 also includes playgrounds at Novocastrian Park in New Lambton, Gross Street Reserve at Tighes Hill, King Edward Park in The Hill and Dangar Park in Mayfield, while a new active hub is also being planned in Wallsend.

Child attacked by family dog – Lake Macquarie

A boy is expected to undergo surgery after being attacked by the family dog at a home in Lake Macquarie yesterday.

Officers from Lake Macquarie Police District have been told the five-year-old boy was bitten on the left side of his neck by the family dog at their home on Sunshine Parade at Sunshine shortly before 4.30pm (Sunday 29 November 2020).

The child was treated at the scene before being airlifted to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Police have been told the two-year-old dog – described as a Rottweiler-type breed – is to be euthanised.

Inquiries are continuing.

Fatal crash – Lake Macquarie

Police are at the scene of a fatal crash at Lake Macquarie.

Emergency services were called to Wakefield Road, Ryhope, just before 7.30am today (Sunday 29 November 2020), after reports a Toyota and a Hyundai had collided head-on, trapping both drivers.

The male driver and sole occupant of the Hyundai, died at the scene

The male driver and sole occupant of the Toyota was freed and taken to John Hunter Hospital suffering leg injuries. He will also undergo mandatory testing.

Officers from Lake Macquarie Police District have established a crime scene with officers from the Crash Investigation Unit attending to assist.

Wakefield Road will remain closed between Archery Road and Cessnock Road for some time and motorists are advised to avoid the area.

PBS support for Australians living with leukaemia

Patients living with one of Australia’s most common forms of leukaemia are set to benefit from expanded access to a breakthrough medicine through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

From 1 December, access to Venclexta® (venetoclax) will be extended in combination with obinutuzumab for the first-line treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia who have co-existing conditions and are unsuitable for fludarabine-based chemo-immunotherapy.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is a relatively uncommon type of cancer however it is the most common type of leukaemia diagnosed in Australia with around 1,000 people diagnosed each year.

Based on a landmark research discovery by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Venclexta was also co-developed and trialled in Australia, showcasing the great work of our nation’s medical researchers.

Up to 500 patients every year are expected to benefit from this listing.

Without PBS subsidy, these patients would pay more than $69,250 per course of treatment. Thanks to PBS subsidy, they will pay $41 per script or $6.60 with a concession card.

The Morrison Government is continuing to make important medicines available to Australians at affordable prices.

These PBS listings have been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, the Government has approved more than 2,500 new or amended listings on the PBS at an overall investment by the Government of over $11.8 billion.

The Government’s commitment to ensuring that Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.

Woman charged over alleged bushfire and COVID-19 assistance fraud – Hunter Valley

A woman will face court today after being charged with alleged fraud regarding bushfire and COVID-19 support recovery grants.

Strike Force Roche was established by several police districts within the Northern Region to investigate alleged fraudulent claims for bushfire disaster relief and small business grants through government agencies.

Police will allege in court that, between Thursday 12 March and Sunday 13 September 2020, a woman, aged 31, fraudulently applied for 34 combined Bushfire and COVID-19 Government Grants. A total of 11 were granted and the woman received $104,000.

Police will also allege the woman attempted to obtain a further $258,000 in grants which she was not entitled to.

Following extensive inquiries, police attended a home in Aberdare about 1.20pm yesterday (Friday 27 November 2020), where they arrested the woman.

She was taken to Cessnock Police Station and charged with dishonestly obtain financial benefit by deception (x16).

She was refused bail and will appear in Newcastle Local Court today (Saturday 28 November 2020).

Investigations under the strike force are ongoing across multiple police districts in the Northern Region.

Big banks failing homeowners who deserve mortgage holiday too

The decision by the big four banks to do nothing for homeowners risks putting families out on the streets, Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt MP, and Housing spokesperson, Mehreen Faruqi, said today, calling for the government to get big banks to give vulnerable homeowners a residential ‘mortgage holiday’ to make sure families don’t lose their homes.

At a time of unprecedented financial stress and rapidly rising unemployment, the decision by the big four banks to limit their deferred loan repayments to small business customers is insufficient and risks furthering workers’ budgeting woes.

The Greens today called for the national cabinet to impose a ban on mortgage foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a freezing of homeowners’ credit ratings. The Greens also called on the government to get the big 4 banks – who have just been the beneficiaries of significant support from the Reserve Bank – to give vulnerable homeowners a mortgage holiday, just as they have with business.

Adam Bandt, Leader of the Australian Greens said:

“Thanks to COVID-19, millions of workers are wondering if they’ll have a job tomorrow, and this cowardly inaction from the big banks will now have them wondering if they’ll be able to pay their mortgage too.

“People expect the banks not to be bastards through this crisis, but they’re leaving homeowners out in the cold.

“By deferring payments for small business, banks have shown they recognise the scale of the financial crisis ahead of us. Deciding to leave homeowners out in the cold is either greed or laziness.

“No one should be forced out onto the streets during a global pandemic.

“The national cabinet must look at making the big banks give vulnerable homeowners a mortgage holiday. If banks won’t show compassion, the government must step in.”

Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens Housing Spokesperson said:

“Banks have reaped huge profits for years. If they want to keep what little is left of their social license after the Royal Commission they have to do the right thing by families at risk during this crisis.

“Housing is a human right, no matter the circumstances. Not one person should be made homeless during this crisis, and the banks have a big role to play in that.

“This crisis highlights how messed up housing in Australia is. Urgent action now needs to be followed by massive investment in rebuilding social housing, an expansion of crisis housing and reforming the tax loopholes that advantage wealthy investors over the community.”

Greens warn water ministers not to put up white flag on saving the Murray-Darling tomorrow

The Greens are warning water ministers not to put up the white flag on saving the Murray-Darling Basin and the environmental flows needed to secure its future at tomorrow’s Ministerial Council meeting.

Australian Greens Spokesperson for Environment and Water Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“Water Ministers must not go to tomorrow’s meeting waving a white flag on saving the Murray-Darling Basin and the environmental flows needed to secure its future.

“Last year’s meeting of water ministers was a dramatic farce and a communique couldn’t even be agreed upon at the time and was later released by the MDBA who should be independent of this process.

“This bad behaviour when it comes to the management of our biggest river system cannot continue.

“The Murray Darling Basin Plan is due to recover a total of 2,075 GL/year of water plus 450 GL/year of efficiency measures by 2024. If the MDB is going to survive then the Plan must be delivered in full and on time.

“For seven years, the Liberal-National Government has let corporate irrigators run amok with water at the expense of from river communities, small family farms and the environment. It’s time to rein them in, for everyone’s sake.

“The Greens will keep pushing for a Royal Commission in the MDB to get to the bottom of the trillions of litres of missing water, theft, corruption, greed and lack of action on climate change that is plaguing the river. We also back a High Court challenge to fight for South Australia’s water and the Murray-Darling Basin if the Federal Government won’t deliver it on time.”

Greens welcome the release of the Media Reform Green Paper

Greens Media and Communications Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“We have seen two positive steps forward on media reform from the Government today; the announcement that there will be further investment in public interest journalism through the establishment of the PING Trust and
the announcement that the Government is intending to introduce Australian content obligations for online video streaming services.

“While these are positive steps forward, we will consult with stakeholders and the community and consider the details of the proposals before coming to a final position on the reforms.”

PING Trust
“The PING Fund has played an important role in supporting public interest journalism and rural and regional news. I’m delighted to see that the Government is proposing an extension of this fund that will be able to support the future of public interest journalism in Australia.

“Funding through the original PING Fund was used to save the AAP from closure earlier this year after the Greens made the protection of AAP a key priority before opening any negotiations with the Government on the News Media Code.

“AAP plays an essential role in the Australian media landscape and I hope to see the long term future of AAP secured through this trust.

Local content obligations for online video streaming services
“There is good news for the Australian screen industry at the end of an extremely tough year. We welcome the introduction of local content quotas for online video streaming services. Not only is the telling of Australian stories on our screens essential in shaping our national identity and reflecting the diversity of our community but local productions create Australian jobs.

“Reform to regulate online streaming services in Australia is well overdue. The Greens have long been calling for the Government to regulate streaming giants like Netflix that are making billions of dollars from Australian subscribers without any obligation to host any Australian content on their screens.

“The Greens already have a motion before the Senate next week calling on the Government to take action and regulate online video streaming services. I call on other Senators to show their support for the Australian screen industry and support this motion.

“The question of the rate of investment obligation on streaming services will be crucial to the success of this policy reform and I urge the Government to look around the world for effective examples to follow. France has recently brought in a quota for 20% of local revenue to be spent on local productions and I hope to see Australia go down a similar path. Sub quotas to ensure that streaming services are commissioning drama, documentary and children’s content will also be an important part of policy discussions.

“There is a lot of detail to be considered in this proposal and we will be working with stakeholders in the industry over the coming months to ensure that we are able to get the best outcomes to tell Australian stories and secure Australian jobs.”