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Fox Sports deal emails could harm Federal Government minister’s relationship with PM, FOI reveals



If emails between the offices of the Prime Minister and Communications Minister became public it could harm their working relationship “now and into the future”, a legal notice has stated.

Partially refusing a Freedom of Information (FOI) request about a controversial $10 million taxpayer-funded grant to Fox Sports, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher’s chief of staff Ryan Bloxsom said the disclosure “could reasonably be expected to have a detrimental effect on the working relationship between the minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s office, now and into the future”.

Additionally, the letter outlining that specific decision found the public interest was to “withhold the exempt material” rather than release it.

The ABC sought internal emails about a July 22 media release spruiking the $10 million Federal Government grant intended to boost broadcast coverage of under-represented sports.

The money, a boost to an earlier $30 million grant that caused a firestorm of criticism, pays the sports channel to broadcast sports under-represented on television.

Fox Sports is only available by subscription, meaning taxpayers must pay to watch the sports they are paying to broadcast.

Flurry of emails, most heavily redacted

Emails obtained using the Freedom of Information (FOI) process show a flurry of correspondence between the offices of the Communications Minister, Prime Minister and the department as the date of the announcement neared — and a quickly formulated plan to deal with angry callers contacting electorate offices after the grant was revealed.

As adjudicator of what would be released to the public, Mr Bloxsom denied access to any full document and sent just 13 items.

Of the 67 pages released, 19 pages are completely blanked out, most of them exempted for the reason they would reveal “trade secrets” or “information having a commercial value”. A further 16 pages are press releases or drafts.

Under the heading “deliberative processes” and “application of the public interest test”, Mr Bloxsom weighed the intention of the legislation behind FOI in the disclosure of emails between the offices of the Prime Minister and the Communications Minister.

The reasons for release included to “inform debate on a matter of public importance” and to “promote effective oversight of public expenditure”.

Reasons against disclosure included that it could reveal “opinion, advice or recommendations” from early deliberations, and “disclosure could reasonably be expected to have a detrimental effect on the working relationship between the minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s office, now and into the future”.

In weighing them, he found “on balance, I consider the public interest factors against disclosure to be more persuasive than the public interest factors favouring disclosure. I am satisfied that the public interest is to withhold the exempt material”.

Multiple brief emails from the Prime Minister’s office in the days before the release are blanked out.

“These lines are fine,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher emailed on the day of the release, after being asked how to respond to three separate inquiries (that appear to be from journalists) about the grant.

Foxtel boss expressed his gratitude

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany emailed the minister directly to thank him for his support.

“It is appreciated. We will continue to exceed expectations with this grant as we have done with the previous tranche,” he wrote.

The release contended that coverage of women’s sports including AFLW, WNBL and W-League had increased more than 100 per cent since 2016 and that in the coming year 14 different sport codes would benefit, including rugby union, rugby league, cricket, basketball, hockey, softball and baseball.

Two days later, as public fury about the grant lit up social media, talkback radio lines and reception desks at electorate offices, an unnamed member of the minister’s office asked the boss if they could distribute a Q&A document to colleagues.

“A lot of your colleagues are receiving calls/emails about the grant given to Fox Sports to broadcast underrepresented, niche and emerging sports,” it read, attaching a document of “talking points” to refute criticism of the decision.

The dot points list reasons the grant benefited taxpayers and why it was not put out to tender so that public broadcasters SBS and the ABC could bid for it.

“The Government is providing support to boost the visibility and participation of underrepresented and women’s sports,” the notes read.

The minister took less than 20 minutes to respond: “Good to go.”



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Australian News

Coronavirus mask fashion: Federal MPs debut new designs



Labor leader Anthony Albanese is flying the South Sydney Rabbitohs flag in Canberra.



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New federal laws would stop deals with foreign governments


Scott Morrison will unveil sweeping new powers that will disband deals foreign governments make with public universities, state and territory governments and local councils.

The Prime Minister will on Thursday announce the reforms, which include a new public register to shine a light on secret agreements.

Sister city relationships, tourism and trade co-operation, as well as science and education deals would all be subject to the review.

Construction contracts from Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road initiative with China could also be terminated along with other private contracts if they fail to pass the foreign interest test.

“These changes and new laws will ensure that every arrangement done by any Australian Government at any level now lines up with how we are working to protect and promote Australia’s national interest,” Mr Morrison said.

“While many agreements and partnerships are of a routine nature, it is important that the Federal Government is notified of all and any agreements, be they state and local governments, or our universities.”

Arrangements that are legally binding in Australian law, foreign law, and non-legally binding agreements such as memorandums of understanding that go against Australia’s foreign policy will be subject to the proposed laws.

A new team will also be established within Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to put new and existing arrangements under the microscope.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne will then be advised of any implications and consider if the arrangement adversely affects Australia’s foreign relations, and if the arrangement is inconsistent with Australian foreign policy.

If it fails to meet the test, state entities can be stopped from negotiating, entering, remaining in or giving effect to it.

The minister would also be given the power to seek an injunction in the Federal Court or High Court.

States, territories, local councils and public universities will be required to go through their existing agreements and self report deals to the Commonwealth within six months of the laws being enacted.

Senator Payne said there was currently no legislative requirement, nor clear understanding, that states and territories consult properly with the Commonwealth on arrangements with foreign governments.

A senior Chinese diplomat on Wednesday told the National Press Club that Beijing hopes the Australian Government and relevant authorities will facilitate investment and operations from Chinese companies, and won’t “be swayed by some ill-founded alerts”.

The Chinese Embassy’s deputy head of missions, Wang Xining, said he was concerned about co-operation in the field of science and technology because it was an “integral part of our relationship”.

Premiers and chief ministers received a security briefing about the issue at National Cabinet this month.

Commercial corporations, state-owned enterprises and foreign universities will be excluded from the proposed laws.

The legislation will be introduced in the parliament next week.



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Federal government contradicts Andrews on key hotel quarantine question


The argument came on a day when 19 more deaths were confirmed, including a woman in her 50s, and 331 new cases of coronavirus emerged. Victoria has been warned to brace for more deaths, despite hope the number of new infections may be flattening.

The parliamentary hearing revealed that the hotel quarantine system, including the use of private security guards, was signed off by Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp, under advice from a “governance group” made up of bureaucrats from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Jobs, Regions and Precincts, Victoria Police, Department of Transport, and Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The ADF was consistently advised that its assistance was not required for any ‘public facing roles’ in Victoria.

Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds

No single department or minister was responsible for overseeing the program, or deciding to use private security guards instead of police and ADF, the inquiry heard.

The botched program has triggered a catastrophic new wave of coronavirus cases, forcing Melbourne into a strict stage four lockdown, while genomic sequencing by the Doherty Institute shows a “significant” proportion of the state’s cases in the second wave could be traced to quarantine breaches at hotels.

Under questioning from opposition MPs about the system, Mr Andrews said, “I don’t believe ADF support was on offer and ADF support has been provided in very limited circumstances in NSW, not to provide security, as such, but to provide transport from the airport to hotels.”

“I think it is fundamentally incorrect to assert that there were hundreds of ADF staff on offer and somehow, somebody said no. That’s just not, in my judgment, accurate,” the Premier said.

However, in a statement on March 27, the day hotel quarantine was announced, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government “will be supporting [the states] also by providing members of the Australian Defence Force to assist in the compliance with these arrangements”.

Hours after Mr Andrews gave his evidence, Senator Reynolds said the ADF had “discussed requirements with relevant state and territory authorities” on March 27 and the following day, “Victorian authorities advised that Victoria was not seeking ADF assistance with mandatory quarantine arrangements”.

“The ADF was consistently advised that its assistance was not required for any ‘public facing roles’ in Victoria,” Senator Reynolds’ statement said.

“ADF officials asked whether Victorian authorities required assistance with its mandatory quarantine system on multiple occasions [in late March and early April]. No request for quarantine support was subsequently received from Victoria at that time.

'Not responsible for every single department': Health Minister Jenny Mikakos gives evidence at the parliamentary committee hearing.

‘Not responsible for every single department’: Health Minister Jenny Mikakos gives evidence at the parliamentary committee hearing.

“On 12 April 2020, Victorian authorities reaffirmed to ADF officials that all quarantine compliance monitoring operations were within Victorian authorities’ capacity. Defence agreed to requests for support to quarantine compliance from Queensland and NSW on 28 March.”

After Senator Reynolds’ statement, Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the Premier had “lied to Parliament and lied to Victorians”.

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“This dishonest attempt to cover up Labor’s hotel quarantine scandal shows that Daniel Andrews is only interested in protecting his miserable government, not in telling the truth,” Mr O’Brien said.

Victorian authorities, including Mr Andrews, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, DHHS secretary Kym Peake and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton faced a grilling on Tuesday at the public accounts and estimates committee’s inquiry into Victoria’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Peake told the inquiry her team had three roles in managing the hotel quarantine program: develop a plan, provide health support, and issue legal directions. She said the DHHS, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, Victoria Police, Department of Transport and Department of Premier and Cabinet were all responsible for the scheme’s governance.

“And so under the emergency management arrangements, the plans are signed off by the Emergency Management Commissioner on recommendation of the governance group,” Ms Peake said.

Ms Mikakos also gave evidence, saying the scheme was a “multi-agency” effort.

“I’m responsible for my own department, but I am not responsible for every single department across the government,” she said.

Professor Sutton said prior to the outbreak in hotel quarantine, the main issues raised were not about private security guards or infection control.

“It was around the coordination of data, the coordination of welfare support from medical and nursing staffing, and some of the issues around subcontracting health staff,” Professor Sutton said. “They were referred, as appropriate, to the quarantine command structure, which I was not a part of.”

He added he was not asked for advice about the use of private security for the hotel quarantine scheme.

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Retired judge Jennifer Coate is leading the inquiry into the handling of the Melbourne quarantine program, and will report back in November.

Emergency Management Victoria was contacted for comment.

The Victorian opposition is demanding Parliament sits next week to ensure the government, handed unprecedented powers during the state of disaster, is being held accountable.

Parliament’s upper house sat last week, in defiance of advice from the Chief Health Officer.

Liberal MP and upper house leader David Davis said the government should be embracing alternatives to sitting in person, such as remote video-conferencing technology or sitting in small groups for small periods, to make sure the opposition could still perform its oversight function.

With David Estcourt

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Federal Government announces $233m in national park upgrades


Australia’s iconic national parks are set for a makeover with $233 million in federal funding being invested to lure families forced to holiday at home during the pandemic.

The move is a shot in the arm for the tourism industry and is expected to create more than 1000 jobs in regional and remote communities.

In the Northern Territory, Uluru-Kata Tjuta will receive $51 million for major upgrades to its cultural centre, viewing platforms and walking tracks.

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Millions will also be splashed at Kakadu National Park’s Aboriginal cultural centre and campgrounds, including better fresh water storage.

Roads will also be repaired, staff housing refreshed, fuel storage and supply facilities improved.

“New and improved infrastructure means more tourism, more jobs and better outcomes for Australians living in regional and remote areas, which is vital as we move through the economic challenges of COVID,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said.

Holiday-makers heading to the white sand at Jervis Bay, NSW, will benefit from a new visitor centre, campground amenities, and upgrades to Murrays Beach Boardwalk and boat ramp planned at Booderee National Park.

The funding will enable a new viewing platform for bird watching at Christmas Island’s Margaret Knoll Lookout, and projects at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said over half of all domestic overnight holidays made by Australians involved outdoor or nature-based activities.

“We also shouldn’t underestimate the huge positive flow-on effects increased visitation to the Parks could have on the surrounding regions,” he said.

“Every extra visitor has the potential to inject more tourism dollars into these regions by visiting other attractions, sleeping in local hotels and dining in local restaurants.”

The nation’s peak tourism operators have today welcomed the $233 million announcement.

Tourism & Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond said it came at a critical moment for Australia’s regional tourism recovery.

Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia chief executive Grant Hunt said the upgrading of visitor facilities within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and essential infrastructure in the Muṯitjulu community was great news for visitors and for the Anangu artists and businesses who base themselves there.



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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt warns Victoria could face further restrictions


Health Minister Greg Hunt is not ruling out further restrictions being imposed in Victoria as the army prepares to lock down the border with NSW at midnight.

Speaking on the Today show, Mr Hunt said rings to curb the spread of coronavirus were being extended to the borders because of the worrying levels of community transmission in Melbourne’s north and western suburbs.

Asked if a total lockdown of Victoria was possible, Mr Hunt replied: “I don’t think that anybody can rule out that if the disease continues to spread, there could be further restrictions.

“I think it is very important to be open and honest about that.”

RELATED: How quickly the pandemic can change

He said the outbreak in Victoria was “very serious”.

“To have the unprecedented closure of the border, not done in a hundred years, that is a sign that we have seven states and territories with effectively zero community transmission, one state, in particular, the north and the west of Melbourne, with a very serious outbreak,” Mr Hunt said.

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Huge surge in new COVID-19 cases across Melbourne

On Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews issued a fresh warning to Victorians being complacent about coronavirus, threatening to lock down the entire state.

“You don’t have to live in a hot spot postcode to follow the rules, and if people don’t follow the rules then you will be living in a hotspot postcode because I will have no choice but to shut down more and more parts of our city and potentially our state,” Premier Andrews said.

Underlying cases of community transmission in Victoria, coupled with people ignoring social distancing as restrictions began to ease and hotel quarantine breaches, are behind the outbreak.

Victoria on Monday recorded its worse day with 127 new confirmed cases in 24 hours.

Victorians will be physically blocked from entering NSW as the state’s second wave of COVID-19 mounts.

A balloon in cases from community transmission while other states and territories remained at zero has prompted the closure of the Victorian-NSW border from midnight.

Border communities will be eligible for special travel exemptions.



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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt warns Victoria could face further restrictions


Health Minister Greg Hunt is not ruling out further restrictions being imposed in Victoria as the army prepares to lock down the border with NSW.

Speaking on breakfast television, Mr Hunt said rings to curb the spread of coronavirus were being extended to the borders because of the worrying levels of community transmission in Melbourne’s north and western suburbs.

RELATED: How quickly the pandemic can change

“I don’t think that anybody can rule out that if the disease continues to spread, there could be further restrictions,” he told the Today show.

“I think it is very important to be open and honest about that.”

Underlying cases of community transmission in Victoria, coupled with people ignoring social distancing as restrictions began to ease and hotel quarantine breaches is behind the outbreak.

Victoria on Monday recorded its worse day with 127 new confirmed cases in 24 hours.

A balloon in cases from community transmission while other states and territories remained at zero has prompted the closure of the Victorian-NSW border from midnight.

Border communities will be eligible for special travel exemptions.



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Local News - Victoria

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese face union backlash over Labor takeover


But the CFMMEU, which unsuccesfully took on the party’s national leadership in court last year after it moved to expel the union’s controversial Victorian boss John Setka, confirmed on Thursday that it was seeking legal advice on the takeover, with other unions also canvassing their legal options.

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The Premier has made it clear that unions, who pay Victorian Labor hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in affiliation fees, had no place in the immediate plans to clean up the party that include a three-year freeze voting rights, an audit of memberships and federal control of preselections.

But plumbers’ union state secretary Earl Setches told The Age on Thursday that he and his colleagues, while wholly supportive of clean-up of Victorian Labor, would not accept party figures from NSW and other states choosing the candidates to contest elections for the Victorian ALP.

Mr Setches said he had the backing of other unions in his position that the labour movement was not implicated in the branch-stacking scandal and that unions did not deserve to have their voting rights suspended.

“Victorian Labor has to clean up because Victorian Labor has been embarrassed,” Mr Setches said.

“But Daniel Andrews should control what happens.

“The national executive are not going to be telling Victorians who to preselect.”

The CFMMEU said it had made no decisions on how it would react to the move by the national executive but it was looking at its legal options.

“The union is seeking legal advice before making any decision,” a spokesman said on Thursday.

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Mr Andrews said he wanted the administrators appointed by the party, former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and former federal minister Jenny Macklin, to begin their work before he began speculating on when the party’s democratic processes might be restored.

“I have a number of requirements … particularly in relation to genuine members who are consenting and are self-funded, that’s not my priority at the moment,” the Premier said.

“Let’s get ourselves into a position where we can be confident in the integrity of those processes before we start speculating on when votes might start happening again.”

Mr Andrews announced on Thursday that Essendon MP Danny Pearson, former minister Natalie Hutchins and Shaun Leane, who resigned as President of State Parliament’s upper house on Thursday, as his new ministers.

As the fallout from the scandal continued to unfold on Thursday, Mr Somyurek continued his attack on federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne, with the fallen powerbroker saying he was “really worried about the mental health” of Mr Byrne, his former mentor.

Mr Somyurek was caught on covert video surveillance, captured in the electorate office of Mr Byrne, describing his industrial-scale branch stacking operation and encouraging a businessman to forge signatures on party membership forms.

Politically damaging text messages between the two men were leaked on Wednesday night, hours after Mr Byrne pledged to co-operate with anti-corruption investigators probing the scandal.

“Anthony Byrne is a long and dear friend of mine, I’m not sure what went wrong,” Mr Somyurek told Nine News on Thursday afternoon.

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“I’m really worried about his mental health. Anthony Byrne is someone I really respect. Everything about branch work I know is everything Anthony Byrne taught me.

“I have a lot of respect for the man but I do think something is seriously wrong.”

In a statement on Wednesday night about the release of the text messages, Mr Byrne said Mr Somyurek had selectively released a handpicked selection of text messages to him sent over two years. “That speaks for itself,” the federal MP said.

When asked if he wanted to respond to Mr Somyurek’s comments on Thursday, Mr Byrne said: “No response.”

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Markets cool ahead of US Federal Reserve meeting outcomes – The Australian


  1. Markets cool ahead of US Federal Reserve meeting outcomes  The Australian
  2. Gold prices will continue to do well in lower interest rate environment  Kitco NEWS
  3. Gold futures finish higher on expectations for continued central bank stimulus  MarketWatch
  4. Will QE To Infinity Lead To A Stock Market On Steroids?  Forbes
  5. Gold rises over 1% as caution sets in ahead of Fed meet  CNBC
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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Australian Federal Police bust huge child sex abuse ring


An Australian Federal Police-led investigation has smashed open a domestic online network of alleged child sex offenders, who are accused of abusing and exploiting Australian children and recording the horrific crimes to share with others.

Nine men across three states – New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia – have been charged, with the two most recent arrests made in the NSW mid-north coast town of Kendall, where toddler William Tyrrell disappeared in September 2014.

The two men lived in the town at the time the three-year-old disappeared from his foster-grandmother’s home, according to reports by The Australian, though neither have ever been interviewed about the case.

AFP Assistant Commissioner for the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), Lesa Gale, refused to comment on the Tyrrell investigation at a press conference today, referring questions to NSW Police.

An inquest to examine how Tyrrell vanished will resume in October.

Ms Gale said at least 14 children have been saved from further harm, as a result of the national police investigation into individuals allegedly producing and sharing child abuse material.

“We suspect this is the biggest domestic child exploitation network uncovered in recent times,” she told reporters.

“Operation Arkstone has shaken some of our most seasoned officers.”

“My message today to those offenders watching this presser: We are coming. We are coming for you.”

Ms Gale said the children were aged between four and seven.

The two men from Kendall and Old Bar, aged 21 and 26, are the latest arrests in Operation Arkstone, launched earlier this year after a tip-off from the United States’ National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children to the AFP’s ACCCE.

Yesterday, investigators from the AFP Eastern Command Child Protection Operations, the NSW Police Force Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad and Mid North Coast Police Area Command executed search warrants at premises in the two towns.

The 26-year-old man was charged with two counts of sexual intercourse with child under the age of 10 years, two counts of produce child abuse material and two counts of possess/control child abuse material using carriage service.

The 21-year-old was charged with six counts of sexual intercourse with child under the age of 10 years and possess child abuse material.

Both men were refused bail and faced Kempsey Local Court today, where they were remanded in custody to appear at Port Macquarie Local Court on Thursday, September 10.

Another seven men from NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have previously been charged as part of this investigation – which began with the arrest of a man on the NSW Central Coast. Further analysis of material seized during that, and subsequent investigations, led to yesterday’s activity on the Mid North Coast.

Police allege that analysis of evidence seized during each arrest helped identify other suspected offenders.

Ms Gale said police would allege in court that some of the accused men had sexually abused children known to them and recorded videos and photographs of the abuse to share with others online.

“The efforts of all officers involved in the investigation has resulted in at least 14 children removed from harmful situations, and saved from abuse in the future,” she said.

“We are continuing to try to identify other children who we suspect were preyed on by individuals in the alleged network.

“It is heartbreaking to think of any child being sexually abused, but it strengthens our resolve to hunt down perpetrators and bring them to justice.

“Sexual abuse has a devastating impact on children and their families, and that abuse continues each and every time an image or video showing that crime is shared.”

The ACCCE, headquartered in Brisbane, uses a range of investigative techniques to help police across Australia track down anyone who preys on children – in person or online.

“Use of encrypted applications or systems will not enable you to stay anonymous – we have the capabilities and the will to track you down and arrest you,” Assistant Comm Gale said.

NSW Police State Crime Command’s Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, said investigating heinous crimes such as these is a priority for all law enforcement agencies.

“The despicable acts that we will allege in court that these men have committed are punishable with life imprisonment, such is this seriousness of the offences,” Det Supt Kerlatec said.

“Along with our partnering agencies, NSW Police will continue to be relentless in our efforts to put people who sexually abuse children before the courts.”

Assistant Comm Gale pleaded with parents who couldn’t “bear to hear this type of offending” not to turn away.

“Please do not walk away from the television, please do not turn the volume down. Please turn the volume up. We need you to listen, we need you to be vigilant,” she said.

“Child exploitation in Australia is becoming more prolific. The victims are getting younger and younger. This type of offending is becoming more violent and brazen. The AFP do not want to turn up at your door to tell you that your child is the victim of sexual abuse or exploitation.”

She advised parents to be vigilant, establish trust with their children so that they feel confident to come to them if they are concerned, and to gather any evidence that they may have that something could be happening with their child.

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.



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