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Single parents to protest payment cuts

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 12 Januari 2013 | 23.50

Single mum Wendy Tucker and daughter Jessie, 10, will be affected by the Government's cuts to her welfare payments. Source: News Limited

WELFARE advocates are planning to protest around Australia next month over the Federal Government's cuts to single parent benefits.

From January 1, single parents have not been eligible for the Parenting payment once their youngest child has turned eight years old and have been transferred to the lower Newstart allowance.

More than 60,000 single parents now receive between $60 to $100 a week less under entitlement changes.

The single parents action group (SPAG) are organising rallies in all major cities on February 5 to push for the government to reverse its decision, with the main protest at Parliament House in Canberra.

Protest organiser Samantha Seymour said the payment changes would have a detrimental impact on single parent families.

"Our purpose is to show the government that we will not tolerate their decision to further deprive and isolate Australians whose only crime is being single parents," Ms Seymour said in a statement.

Families spokeswoman for the Australian Greens, Rachel Siewert, said she was concerned about the long-term impact of the lower Newstart payments on parents and their children.

"We shouldn't be condemning people to poverty," Senator Siewert said in a statement.

She said the government should reverse these payment cuts and also boost the Newstart allowance by $50 a week.

The government introduced the changes, worth around $728 million in savings over four years, in its bid for a budget surplus in 2012/13.

Last December, Treasurer Wayne Swan said the government was unlikely to have a surplus this financial year due to lower than forecast tax revenue.

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Cyclone Narelle moves closer

Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle at 5:45pm on Friday January 11. Picture: BOM Source: PerthNow

CAPTURED ON FILM: Spectacular weather patterns are forming off WA's northern coast as Tropical Cyclone Narelle closes in. Picture: Sam Woodcock. Source: news.com.au

West Australians have witnessed a wild dust storm off the coast of Onslow as they brace themselves for tropical cyclone Narelle

FEARS about the potential impact of Cyclone Narelle on Western Australia's north are easing, although the category four storm is continuing to move closer.

The Bureau of Meteorology has now listed the storm as a category five.

According to the latest update from WA's Department of Fire and Emergency services, an all-clear was issued for Roebourne, Wickham, Point Samson, Karratha and Dampier in the state's far north.

A blue alert remains for people in or near the coastal and island communities from Mardie to Coral Bay including Onslow, Exmouth and Coral Bay.

At 5am, Cyclone Narelle was estimated to be 445 kilometres north-northwest of Exmouth and 730km north of Carnarvon, and moving southwest at 11km/h.

Gales with gusts to 100km/h could develop in coastal areas between Mardie and Exmouth later on Friday, then extend south to Coral Bay on Saturday, forecasters are warning.

Winds are likely to increase in the Exmouth area on Sunday, with damaging wind gusts to 125km/h possible if the cyclone tracks closer to the coast.

Although winds near the cyclone centre may reach 275 km/h, these winds are not expected on the coast.

Gales may extend south to Carnarvon and Shark Bay on Sunday and Monday.

Widespread heavy rainfall is not likely, however isolated heavy falls can be expected along the Pilbara coast.

Tides along the west Pilbara coast are also likely to rise above the normal high-tide mark tonight and on Saturday, with flooding of low-lying coastal areas possible.

Motorists travelling on the North West Coastal Highway are asked to avoid entering the Shark Bay area.

People travelling to Coral Bay this weekend should contact their accomodation provider before they leave to ensure their booking is still current.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle is the second cyclone of the season after Tropical Cyclone Mitchell in December but is likely to be the first to have an impact on the WA coast.

Resources industry takes precaution

Earlier, WA's multibillion-dollar resources industry already reacted, with iron ore ports at Cape Lambert and Dampier due to close, and Apache closing down the Stag and Van Gogh oil fields on Thursday.

Chevron is also getting ready to evacuate workers from Barrow Island.

Thunderstorm activity will increase about the Pilbara coast today with isolated heavy rainfall and squalls possible. This activity will extend into the western and southern Gascoyne over the weekend.
Tides along the west Pilbara coast are likely to rise above the normal high tide mark tonight, and during Saturday with flooding of low lying coastal areas. A very dangerous storm tide is possible Saturday night if the centre of the cyclone passes close to the coast, however it is now unlikely to occur.
SES and VES volunteers from Roebourne, Wickham, Karratha, Exmouth, Coral Bay and Carnarvon are on standby.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch on Thursday warned companies on land and sea that it was crucial to be prepared.

"The worst thing people can do is underestimate the power of a cyclone. Seven people died as a result of Cyclone Bobby in February 1995, and three more lives were lost during Cyclone George in March 2007,'' Mr McCulloch said on Thursday.

Airlines, including Cobham and Qantas, are scheduling flights to evacuate workers from North West drilling platforms and mining sites.

Severe Tropical Cyclone (TC) Narelle has the potential to affect main arterial roads. Motorists need to revise travel plans and be prepared for significant diversions.
If travelling to and from the Pilbara, or the northern parts of the Midwest Gascoyne region, motorists are recommended to begin your journey as soon as possible.
Motorists travelling south on the North West Coastal Highway are asked to avoid entering the Shark Bay area.
MEANWHILE, in an unrelated weather occurrence, a huge wall of reddish cloud, topped off with billowing white rose up from the ocean.

Tug boat worker Brett Martin, who captured the fearsome pictures 25 nautical miles from the town of Onslow, reported conditions were glassy and flat before the storm hit late Wednesday.

But when the wild weather arrived, the swell lifted to two metres, winds increased to 40 knots and visibility was reduced to 100 metres.

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Austen Watkins told media the stunning view was created as wind and rain caused the storm to dump the sand and dust it had ingested while passing Onslow.

The Pilbara region is an important resources hub, with major iron ore and gas facilities. Cyclones are common in northern and western Australia during the warmer months of summer.

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Men transferred to PNG and Nauru

Asylum-seekers at the Topside camp Nauru waving posters protesting their detention. Picture: Clint Deidenang Source: Supplied

ANOTHER 40 men have been transferred to an offshore processing centre, this time to Manus Island.

It follows 30 men being moved to the offshore processing centre on Nauru earlier today.

The single men, mostly Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans, arrived at the Papua New Guinean island about 1230 (AEDT) today, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said in a statement.

The group went through relevant immigration, customs and quarantine processes before being moved to the centre on the island.

DIAC said transfers would continue as part of the government's policy of regional processing and that there would be no advantage for those people arriving in Australia by boat.

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Smooth switch for Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia logo is making the switch to a new check-in and reservations system this weekend. Source: Supplied

VIRGIN Australia's transition to a new check-in and booking system is creating longer queues than normal but no flight delays.

The airline is making the switch to a new check-in and reservations system this weekend.

Passengers have been asked to arrive extra early and warned to expect delays at the check-in desk because online check-ins are unavailable.

Virgin Australia spokeswoman Emma Copeman says there have been some longer queues, including at one international flight in Melbourne, but nothing major.

''At most airports, including Brisbane and Sydney, it is running really smoothly,'' Ms Copeman told AAP today.

''On-time performance is sitting between 80 and 90 per cent, which is really good for an airline.''

She said extra staff have been rostered on to cope with the increased workload.

Domestic travellers are advised to arrive 60 minutes before departure time, while international travellers are urged to arrive three hours before departure.

The advice will be especially important for those flying tomorrow as internet, mobile and kiosk check-in will be unavailable and passengers will have no option but to head to an airport counter to pick up their boarding pass.

Passengers are also advised to bring a copy of their e-ticket or itinerary.

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Bushfires still threaten five states

A total fire ban is in place across NSW as temperatures are predicted to soar into the 40s.

Firefighters face the Dean's Gap fire on a property near Wandandian, south of Nowra in NSW. Picture: Dan Himbrechts Source: The Australian

THOUSANDS of firefighters continue to battle bushfires across five states and territories, with blazes threatening homes and scorching hundreds of thousands of hectares of bushland.

NSW is under the worst threat with more than 90 fires that have burned more than 350,000ha.

Seven of those fires continue to burn out of control.

A 9800ha blaze near Cooma threatened 15 homes on Saturday as more than 100 firefighters worked to contain the inferno.

Crews are battling two other major fires near Yass and Sussex Inlet that have threatened homes but eased thanks to cooler weather conditions.

Firefighting crews in Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT also fought blazes on Saturday.

More NSW updates from The Daily Telegraph here.


Authorities in Tasmania issued a watch and act alert as a bushfire between Forcett and the Tasman Peninsula strengthened.

The Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) issued the alert on Saturday for communities near the blaze, noting increasing activity on the fire's boundary in the Kellevie, Bream Creek and Marion Bay areas.

TFS senior station officer Phil Douglas said the fire had expanded to cover 23,600 hectares, and fire crews were back-burning to contain the blaze.

Tasmanian emergency services have been fighting fires since January 4.

Several fires were burning across Victoria but they were under control, including a blaze at Kentbruck in the state's southwest, where 66 fire crews remained stationed.

A State Control Centre spokeswoman said the Kentbruck blaze had increased to 11,890 hectares, due to backburning as part of containment efforts.

A 13-hectare blaze at Kangaroo Ground on Melbourne's outskirts had been declared safe despite going close to a number of properties.

In Queensland, there were 34 bushfires across the state but none threatened homes.

Volunteer crews were using earth moving equipment to contain a fire in bush near Undullah south of Brisbane.

Firefighters continue to monitor three fires sparked by lightning strikes on Thursday, west of Gympie.

Two small grassfires were the only blazes in the ACT on an extreme fire danger day.

Both, one at Hall and the other at Kambah, were extinguished, the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) said.

A milder weather forecast allowed ACT authorities to end the total fire ban across the territory on Saturday night.

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Spies want powers to hack into PCs

New powers allowing Australian spies to hack into personal computers would target suspected terrorists, says a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Department.

SPY agency ASIO wants to hack into Australians' personal computers and commandeer their smartphones to transmit viruses to terrorists.

The Attorney-General's Department is pushing for new powers for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to hijack the computers of suspected terrorists.

But privacy groups are attacking the ''police state'' plan as ''extraordinarily broad and intrusive''.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's Department said it was proposing that ASIO be authorised to ''use a third party computer for the specific purpose of gaining access to a target computer''.

''The purpose of this power is to allow ASIO to access the computer of suspected terrorists and other security interests,'' he told News Limited.

''(It would be used) in extremely limited circumstances and only when explicitly approved by the Attorney-General through a warrant.

''Importantly, the warrant would not authorise ASIO to obtain intelligence material from the third party computer.''

The Attorney-General's Department refused to explain yesterday how third-party computers would be used, ''as this may divulge operationally sensitive information and methods used by ASIO in sensitive national security investigations.''

But cyber specialist Andrew Pam, a board member of the Electronic Frontiers lobby group, predicted ASIO could copy the tactics of criminal hackers to seize control of target computers.

Australians' personal computers might be used to send a malicious email with a virus attached, or to load ''malware'' onto a website frequently visited by the target.

''This stuff goes on already in the commercial and criminal world, and security agencies could be using the same techniques to commandeer people's computers and use them to monitor a target,'' Mr Pam said.

''Once you get control of a computer and connect to their network you can do whatever you want.''

The ASIO Act now bans spies from doing anything that ''adds, deletes or alters data or interferes with, interrupts or obstructs the lawful use of the target computer by other persons''.

But ASIO wants the ban lifted, so Attorney-General Nicola Roxon can issue a warrant for spies to secretly intercept third-party computers to disrupt their target.

The departmental spokesman said the federal government had made ''no decisions'' about whether to grant ASIO the new power.

The government would first consider advice from the federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which is reviewing national security legislation.

Victoria's acting Privacy Commissioner, Dr Anthony Bendall, has told the committee that ASIO's proposed new powers are ''characteristic of a police state.''

''To access a third party's computer, which has no connection with the target, is extraordinarily broad and intrusive,'' his submission states.

But the Attorney-General's Department insists that ASIO will not examine the content of third-party computers.

''The use of the third party computer is essentially like using a third party premises to gain access to the premises to be searched, where direct access is not possible,'' it states in response to questions from the committee.

''It involves no power to search or conduct surveillance on the third party.''

The department said technological advances had made it ''increasingly difficult'' for ASIO to execute search warrants directly on target computers, ''particularly where a person of interest is security conscious.''

Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman yesterday said ASIO should have to seek a warrant from an independent judge, rather than a politician.

He warned that ASIO might be able to spy on individuals - including journalists protecting a whistleblower - by tapping into their computers.

''I'm concerned they will access all sorts of information on a computer that has nothing to do with terrorism,'' he said.

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Aussie survivors drowning in memories

THE semi-submerged remains of the biggest cruise ship ever capsized is still at sea. The besieged captain awaits trial and the biggest salvage mission ever undertaken has begun.

AS the one-year anniversary dawns for the 23 Australians on board the doomed Costa Concordia cruise liner, the horror of what happened that night still remains far too raw.

Today on the Tuscany island of Giglio survivors and the families of some of the 32 people who died when the ship hit a reef and sank are coming together for a memorial service.

There is not expected to be any Australians there, the painful memories and scars holding them back from travelling to see the 114,000 tonne ship still lying on its side at the entrance to the Giglio port.

While there were no Australians killed for some of the survivors the past 12 months have been a living nightmare.

Perth couple Rob Elcombe and Tracey Gunn took the cruise in a bid to save their marriage but in the end saved each other from scenes that they described as just like the movie Titanic.

Perth couple Tracey Gunn and Rob Elcombe. Picture: Daniel Wilkins

They survived the sinking but now are drowning in the mental trauma of it all.

Mr Elcombe had a successful career as a miner but has had to give his job up and now works as a driver earning $60,000, less than half what he was on in the mining industry.

''We are both suffering post traumatic stress, depression and it's been a pretty bad years for us,'' Mr Elcombe said yesterday.

''I was having nightmares and all sorts of things and a psychiatrist whacked me on these pills to mellow me out. I was angry for a long time. I just wanted to hurt myself or somebody else. I was on suicide watch. That's how bad it got.''

Michelle Barraclough with husband John Sultana and their daughter Katherine were pushed aside by screaming people as they tried to board a lifeboat on the sinking Costa Concordia.

''It's top of the list, I think about it everyday. On the side (of the ship) that was underwater we were the last ones off … it was supposedly the life boat the captain (Francesco Schettino) was on but I didn't see him there on our boat. I saw him standing on the rocks there talking on the phone when we came in.''

Ms Gunn added: ''We had to basically change our lives but we don't hold any malice against him, he made a mistake. In the light of day Costa is responsible for it, putting an (Indonesian) helmsman who didn't speak Italian or English and the captain the way he acted.''

The couple has this week launched court action in Genoa against the Costa owners for unspecific damages including the mental trauma as well as the physical injuries Mr Elcombe suffered, including a torn and crushed leg.

To date they have not received an apology from the cruise liner nor any offer for compensation other than a general $14,000 for loss of their luggage, clothes, passports, and jewellery.

If there was one positive from the cruise, Mr Elcombe said it was that he was still together with his wife; the disaster having brought them closer together.

''We have been pretty close since then, it's been pretty good," he said.

''Since then we have been working things out together and everything, so it's all good, looking positive."

He said in their submerged cabin was still his wife's grandmother's wedding ring and when the boat refloats he doesn't know whether it's recoverable.

''I wouldn't mind getting that ring back from in our room if they come across it but I don't know what the chance of that is," he said.

Melbourne man John Sultana was with his wife Michelle Barraclough and now 13-year-old daughter Katherine when the ship sank.

He said yesterday that he had drawn a line under the entire terrifying event.

It was over as far as he was concerned.

''But it's going to make the next cruise hard,'' he said.

''We are going, not with Costa, on a cruise in October to Japan and Asia. It's going to be interesting getting on that boat but we'll see how we go.''

The family recalled the horror of the scramble to get off the ship, grown men mostly shoving them out of the way to get out first.

It was every man, literally, for themselves at the expenses of women and families.

He said Katherine doesn't talk about the shocking experience much but they may have to raise the issue after booking another cruise.

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Blame miners for Aus hotel price surge

The Great Barrier Reef has become a popular destination for mining workers taking a break from work. Picture: Australia Tourism Source: Supplied

HOLIDAY accommodation prices across Australia have risen by more than 25 per cent in the past five years, thanks largely to the mining boom.

The cost of an overnight stay has risen by nearly $30 per night to around $140 on average at hotels, motels, resorts and serviced apartments, new research shows.

Queensland's Great Barrier Reef recorded the biggest jump, rising 74 per cent to $271 per night, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

Prices in Outback NSW also soared by 65 per cent to $134 per night, while Queensland's Fitzroy region rose nearly 64 per cent to $153.

Travel experts said the biggest rises were in mining areas benefiting from business travellers.

Average prices in the Great Barrier Reef had also been pushed up by the development of new luxury resorts, such as the $500 million luxury retreat qualia on Hamilton Island, and the loss of several resorts after Cyclone Yasi.

''Taking them out of the inventory and other guys reinvesting into the higher end has probably shifted the price more than normal,'' Accommodation Association of Australia CEO Richard Munro said.

Mr Munro said the Great Barrier Reef had become a popular destination for workers from nearby mines looking for R&R.

''Operators are trying to keep ahead of expenses - employees expenses have been up three to four per cent a year,'' he said.

''But just because you put your prices up to try to cover your expenses doesn't mean consumers are going to pay it... with the strong Australian dollar more Australians are heading overseas to places like Thailand, Fiji and Bali.

''Wages in Indonesia are $2 an hour but they're $20 an hour in Australia.''

Mantra Hotels and Resorts marketing director Ken Minnikin said it was difficult to balance the need to keep prices competitive internationally with keeping up with expenses.

''Domestic tourism is tough but there are definitely signs of improvement,'' he said.

Outback Western Australia and North West Tasmania were the only two regions to suffer falls.

Mr Minnikin said people travelling to Western Australia's Outback had to travel via a very busy Perth airport where hotel rooms were expensive and often hard to find.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive officer Daniel Gschwind said the research shows how resilient the travel and tourism industry is.

''The industry is in an upward trend notwithstanding that we have had some of the toughest couple of years in our history in the middle of that,'' he said.

''The industry needs increases in yields and revenue.''

Biggest price rises over past five years
Destination, percentage increase, average hotel price (per night)
Great Barrier Reef +74% $271
Outback NSW +65% $135
Fitzroy, Queensland +64% $153
Perth, Western Australia +58% $205
East Coast Tasmania +54% $165
Coral Coast Western Australia +52% $159
Whitsundays, Queensland +46% $201
Darling Downs, Queensland +45% $122
Victoria's High Country +45% $149
Northern Queensland +41% $134

Falls/smallest rises
Outback Western Australia -7% $121
North West Tasmania -2% $110
Northern Rivers region, NSW +2% $126
Tropical North Queensland +2% $123
Blue Mountains NSW +4% $165
Kakadu/Arnhem Land, Northern Territory +7% $170
East Melbourne, Victoria +8% $154
Peninsula, Victoria -11% $143
South West Western Australia +12% $142
Victoria Lakes region +13% $110
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics tourist accommodation figures June quarter 2012

Overseas destinations average prices (per night)
Bali $153
Thailand $107
Fiji $177
Singapore $222
Vietnam $88
Source: Hotels.com Hotel Price Index for first half of 2012

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