Tragic spike in NSW coastal drownings

Beachgoers are being urged to take responsibility for their safety and swim between the flags, after NSW recorded an increase in the number of drownings this summer.

Since December 1, there have been 15 coastal deaths and drownings, including three rock fisherman, which is two more than the same time last year.

Premier Dominic Perrottet is reminding the public to swim between the flags, observe safety warnings and look after loved ones when close to the water.

“Australia Day is traditionally a high-risk holiday on our waterways. While our lifesavers and first responders are always vigilant, this is one of the days where more rescues and sadly drownings often occur,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Whether you’re at a beach, pool, river or lake, my message to swimmers is to know the risks, be aware of your surroundings and look out for each other.”

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke said beachgoers can take simple precautions in and around the water to keep themselves safe.

“A tragedy can unfold in seconds on our beaches. Please supervise children, swim between the flags, wear a life jacket when required and always listen to the warnings from emergency services,” Ms Cooke said.

“I want to thank the 75,000 Surf Life Saving NSW volunteers and 129 surf clubs who have worked tirelessly this summer to keep locals and visitors safe on our beaches.”

Member for Pittwater and Surf Lifesaver Rob Stokes thanked the Warriewood surf club for their tireless efforts, after a difficult summer holidays.

“Tragedy has struck here at Warriewood with the death of a rock fisherman on New Year’s Day. We ask all beachgoers be vigilant and make sure their trip to the beach is one to remember for all the right reasons,” Mr Stokes said.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce said despite the recent wet weather, Surf Life Saving NSW has had an extremely busy holiday period across the State.

“The NSW coastline boasts beautiful beaches and everyone can enjoy them safely by checking the conditions before swimming, wearing a life jacket when boating or rock fishing and remembering that alcohol and water activities don’t mix,” Mr Pearce said.

Over the Australia Day long weekend last year, surf lifesavers and lifeguards rescued 815 people, which accounted for 22 per cent of all rescues recorded in the entire year.

Since July 1, there have been more than 31 coastal drownings and deaths in NSW, including five rock fishermen.

Man wounded during armed robbery – Morpeth

Police are investigating an armed robbery where a man was wounded in the Hunter early this morning.

About 5.15am (Thursday 20 January 2022), three men entered a grocery store on Swan Street, Morpeth, and approached the tills.

The group began removing cash from the drawers before the employee, a 47-year-old man, approached the trio and challenged them.

One of the men struck the employee with an unknown object. All three fled the scene a short time later in a white sedan.

The injured man suffered a wound to his abdomen and was treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to John Hunter Hospital for treatment.

Officers from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District attended and established a crime scene.

As inquiries continue, detectives are urging anyone who may have dashcam footage from the Morpeth area between 4.50am and 5.30amto contact Raymond Terrace Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Man fined $10,000 for breaching self-isolation direction in Newcastle

A man has been fined $10,000 after allegedly breaching a self-isolation direction in the Newcastle area.

On Monday (14 December 2021), officers from Newcastle City Police District received information from NSW Health in relation to a 20-year-old man who had been directed to self-isolate at a Newcastle property from Wednesday 8 December 2021, as he was a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

It’s understood the man subsequently attended a licensed premises on Wharf Road later that evening, and also attended a private residence in Adamstown on Saturday (11 December 2021). He has since returned a positive test to COVID-19 and is currently self-isolating.

Following inquiries, the man was issued with two Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) totalling $10,000 for the offence of Fail to Comply with Notice Direction s 7/8/9 – COVID-19.

Inquiries are continuing.

Lock in the perfect lockdown gift on the NSW Government’s Buy Regional website

With stay-at-home orders currently in place across NSW, shoppers are encouraged to jump online and support regional businesses without leaving their home by checking out the myriad of gifts available on the NSW Government’s Buy Regional website.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said online gift shopping is a great way to support regional businesses during the lockdown, particularly with Father’s Day just around the corner.

“We know that businesses in the bush are doing it tougher than ever with the ongoing COVID-19 situation across the state, so now is the perfect time to support our country communities by buying direct from the producers online,” Mr Barilaro said.

“During this lockdown I’ve taken the opportunity to try out new recipes and I encourage others to do the same. What better way to indulge your taste buds than with a condiment gift pack from The Other Chef, or a carefully curated beer and snack package from the Riverina Hamper Co.

“It’s no secret that Buy Regional has an impressive array of farm-fresh meat, hand-distilled spirits and unique fashion and homeware design pieces, with more than 500,000 online shoppers visiting the website since its launch in 2019.”

Mr Barilaro said Buy Regional is a win-win for Sydney siders who can score a special present for their dad or a father figure this Father’s Day while supporting regional businesses at the same time.

“Buy Regional continues to go from strength to strength and provides critical economic stimulus to hundreds of businesses who have battled through drought, bushfires, floods and the continuing impacts of COVID-19,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Many rural towns are seeing good harvests after much needed rains across the state over the last year, but in the face of the pandemic they still need your support, and there’s no better way to help regional businesses than by giving them your business.”

To register your regional business or to lock in the perfect lockdown gift, head to www.nsw.gov.au/buyregional.

More Free TAFE courses announced

The NSW Government has announced additional fee-free TAFE NSW lockdown learning courses after more than 10,000 NSW residents enrolled to study in less than a month.

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the strong interest in the TAFE NSW courses showed that the people of NSW are looking to the future.

“It’s great to see many NSW residents take up the opportunity to boost their employability and gain new skills through TAFE during the lockdown,” Mr Lee said.

“TAFE NSW is offering these courses via online learning or virtual classrooms, which means that students can learn at home and stay safe while upskilling and getting ready for when the economy opens back up.

“Recently added courses include using drones in agriculture, starting a career in hairdressing, barbering or beauty, designing spreadsheets, and food safety supervision.

“All courses link to further training pathways so that students can get a head-start now to a full qualification later.

“There are a variety of courses available to study from different industries. I encourage all NSW residents to take advantage of the high-quality and COVID-safe training available.”

Recently added fee-free short courses include:

  • Statement of Attainment in Start your Career in Hairdressing/Barbering
  • Statement of Attainment in Start your Career in Beauty
  • Statement of Attainment in Drones in Agriculture
  • Statement of Attainment in Create and Design Spreadsheets
  • Statement of Attainment in Food Safety Supervision

For the full list of courses and to view the eligibility criteria, visit www.tafensw.edu.au/fee-free-short-courses or call 131 601.

Keeping Australians Safe Online

The Morrison Government has welcomed the passage through the Senate last night of the new Online Safety Act.

The Act provides stronger powers for the eSafety Commissioner to crack down on cyberbullying of children, toxic online abuse, harmful content and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. It bolsters Australia’s world-leading online safety framework by introducing new and strengthened schemes to assist Australians when things go wrong online.

The Act also provides the eSafety Commissioner with stronger information gathering and investigative powers to unmask anonymous accounts.

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said online safety was a priority for the Morrison Government and passing this new Act was a key commitment at the 2019 election..

“When we established the office of the eSafety Commissioner in 2015, it was the first agency in the world dedicated to protecting citizens from online dangers such as image-based abuse and cyberbullying,” Minister Fletcher said.

“In addition to managing those threats, eSafety has played a key role, along with its international partners, in fighting the scourge of online child sexual abuse material.

“The new Act represents a step-change for eSafety, tightening its powers in existing areas, and creating a new reporting scheme that will allow our eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, to take action to remove toxic cyber-abuse, when online platforms fail to do so.”

In concert with this Act, the Government has delivered its election commitment to strengthen penalties for online abuse and harassment by increasing the maximum penalties in the Criminal Code, including from 3 to 5 years imprisonment for those using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.

The Government provided an additional $24.7 million to the eSafety Commissioner over four years in the May 2021 Budget. This brings the Government’s total commitment to keeping Australians safe online over the next four years to more than $125 million.

The Act is expected to pass through the House shortly and will commence six months after receiving Royal Assent.

PBS listings to support patients with mesothelioma

From July 1, thousands of Australians and their families suffering from rare cancers and genetic disorders are set to benefit from expanded listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

We are expanding the listing for Opdivo® and Yervoy® (nivolumab and ipilimumab), for the treatment of patients with unresectable malignant mesothelioma.

Unresectable malignant mesothelioma is an insidious cancer that cannot be treated surgically and can take decades to emerge after initial exposure to asbestos. Symptoms are often mistaken for less serious illnesses, which can complicate early diagnosis.

When used in combination, Opdivo® and Yervoy® helps the immune system to attack and destroy the cancer cells.

More than 700 patients a year will benefit from this listing. Without PBS subsidy, patients might pay more than $130,000 per course of treatment for this medicine.

Our Government is also expanding the listing of Kuvan® (sapropterin) on the PBS to include treatment of maternal phenylketonuria (MPKU).

MPKU is a condition when a woman who has phenylketonuria is pregnant. During pregnancy, the levels of phenylalanine affect both the mother and the developing foetus.

MPKU is a genetic disorder requiring lifelong management that prevents the normal breakdown of a protein found in some foods.

This medicine works in combination with dietary restrictions, to help lower the amount of amino acid phenylalanine in the blood.

Kuvan® reduces phenylalanine in the blood of people with phenylketonuria. Elevated levels can cause abnormal mental and physical development.

Around 30 patients each year will benefit from access to this treatment option. Without PBS subsidy, patients might pay over $215,000 per course of treatment.

Without proper treatment this condition can lead to problems with brain development and cause intellectual disability, difficulties with attention, and psychiatric disorders like anxiety or depression.

These treatments will now be available for as little as $41.30 per script, or just $6.60 for patients with a concession card.

Each of these listings has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, our Government has approved more than 2,600 new or amended listings on the PBS.

This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month – or one each day – at an overall investment by the Government of $13.2 billion.

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

Budget 2021-22 swifter justice with eight extra local court magistrates

Victims of crime will benefit from accelerated access to justice in the Local Court, with the 2021-22 State Budget investing $56.1million over the next four years to appoint eight extra magistrates and boost resources for prosecutors and Legal Aid. The number of magistrates will reach a record total of 149.

Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said the NSW Government’s investment in additional Local Court magistrates will deliver more efficient justice in both regional and metropolitan NSW.

“The extra magistrates will help to reduce the trauma of waiting for hearing dates and attending court on victims, witnesses and families. We’re committed to easing that burden felt particularly by those involved in domestic violence cases,” Mr Speakman said.

Mr Speakman said the increase in magistrates would also enable the Coronial Case Management Unit (CCMU) pilot to become permanent.

“The CCMU helps ensure grieving families can lay their loved ones to rest sooner and receive better and more timely information.  Led by coroners, the unit is a successful collaboration between police, forensic pathologists, medical specialists and counsellors,” Mr Speakman said.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the investment recognises the critical role of the Local Court in the NSW justice system.

“As NSW continues to grow, we need to ensure the local court system is equipped to meet the challenges of the future and deliver justice to victims as quickly and efficiently as possible,”  Mr Perrottet said.

NSW Chief Magistrate Judge Graeme Henson AM said the additional magistrates will further improve Australia’s most efficient court.

“These additions to the Local Court bench will be invaluable for boosting the capacity of NSW’s busiest jurisdiction, particularly in larger regional areas. Increased access to timely justice will benefit all court users and indeed the whole community,” Judge Henson said.

Today’s announcement complements more than $150 million committed in the 2020-21 Budget of November 2020 to digitally transform NSW courts and upgrade regional and metropolitan courthouses.

The vast majority (96 per cent) of all criminal cases in NSW are finalised in the Local Court, with 139 locations across NSW.

Australia’s Olympic athletes granted access to COVID-19 vaccines

National Cabinet has today agreed to vaccinate athletes and support staff headed to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games under priority group 1b.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services and Minister for Sport, Richard Colbeck said it offers an assurance to athletes preparing to represent Australia on the world stage.

Supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to approximately 2050 Australians identified by the AOC and Paralympics Australia.

“We want to see our athletes head to Tokyo to compete and then return to Australia safely,” Minister Hunt said.

The vaccinations will comprise both Pfizer and AstraZeneca (for team members aged over 50 years).

Minister Colbeck said it marked an important step as Olympians readied for their campaigns.

“While vulnerable Australians remain an absolute priority as the vaccine rollout continues, National Cabinet understands the pressure our high-performance athletes have been facing as the Tokyo Games draw closer,” Minister Colbeck said.

“This will be a very different Olympics and Paralympics, but our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.”

MORRISON’S HYDROGEN SPIN IS JUST MORE CASH FOR COAL & GAS

As the Prime Minister pins all his hopes on technology to save his government’s complete lack of any climate policy, his financial commitment doesn’t match up to his marketing.

In the wake of President Biden’s announcement of a $2 trillion climate infrastructure package, Scott Morrison has proposed a $539 million hydrogen and CCS hub spend to spruik his low emissions technology strategy, 3700x less in total and 290x less per capita than the Biden administration.

Most of this funding will go to coal, oil and gas, the leading causes of climate change. Further, Morrison’s proposed spending still sees Australia fall well behind the rest of the world.

The Greens are also concerned that Morrison still doesn’t understand the key difference between dirty ‘blue’ and ‘brown’ hydrogen which has very limited demand from export destinations with net-zero targets and zero-emissions green hydrogen with enormous potential.

Green Hydrogen will deliver a massive jobs and export boom to Australia if we invest now, but on current spending commitments, Australia is set to lose out on what is tipped to be a $15 trillion dollar ($12tUSD) industry as rivals investments in green hydrogen development dwarf paltry efforts by the Morrison government.

International comparison of government-led investments in Hydrogen:

Rank Country Commitment AUD conversion ($m)
1 South Korea $114 trillion won $141,000
2 Germany 9 billion Euro $14,310
3 Spain 8.9 billion Euro $14,150
4 France 7 billion Euro $11,130
5 Japan $830 billion yen $10,400
6 Saudi Arabia $5 billion (USD) $6,500
7 Australia $346 million* $346

*$346m includes $70.2m from 2020-21 Budget and today’s pre-announced $275.5m for hydrogen (including fossil-fuel based hydrogen) for the 2021-22 Budget

“Under Scott Morrison, Australia is set to lose the green hydrogen race and miss out on jobs and billions of dollars in exports,” said Mr Bandt.

”Scott Morrison is using public money to turn coal and gas into hydrogen. That’s not supporting green hydrogen, it’s a fossil fuel handout.

“As Joe Biden demands countries including Australia lift their 2030 targets and phase out coal, this kind of spin won’t cut it and Australia will face international pressure.

“This government’s obsession with coal and gas is about to cost Australia as other countries invest heavily in green hydrogen, giving them the edge as future markets open up.

“With all our wind and sunshine, this is Australia’s competitive advantage to seize, but it is being lost.”

“As our competitors and customers invest billions into the future, Australia is putting all its chips on yesterday’s technology while simultaneously saying technology will save us.’

The Greens have also called on the government to support green metal production in Australia.

“South Korea and Japan are in the top 3 of Australia’s export gas customers. Their green hydrogen development, together with their net-zero targets pose a direct challenge to ongoing gas sales. We’re backing the wrong horse.”

“Our big export destinations will want green steel and aluminium, and Scott Morrison is locking us into coal and gas manufacturing. It’s economic vandalism that will kill thousands of jobs,” Bandt said.