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Local News - Victoria

Heritage Victoria, police launch investigation into Brighton house fires


“Spurling House was the architectural innovation that introduced the iconic North American shingle style home to Melbourne back in 1888.’’

Spurling House before it was damaged in a fire in October 2015.

Spurling House before it was damaged in a fire in October 2015.

The heritage listed home was built for Phillis Spurling by the Canadian architect John Horbury Hunt, one of the first important North American architects to practise in Australia. Spurling House is his only known work in Victoria.

Spurling House was then included in the Victorian Heritage Register in 1974 for its architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria.

The design is notable for being the first Victorian house to be built in the Shingle style, a North American technique that used organic materials in a way that elevated their natural qualities.

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In January, the owner of the historic 131-year-old house lost their battle with the Heritage Council to demolish the property after arguing the 2015 fire had left the property uninhabitable because it is infested with mould.

At the time, Heritage Victoria said the demolition would result in the complete loss of the cultural heritage significance of the place.

Heritage Victoria subsequently issued two repair orders to the house’s owner, which required works to be carried out to prevent the further deterioration of the building.

This prompted the owner to launch an appeal against the repair orders in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Spurling House has since been demolished in compliance with an emergency order issued by the City of Bayside, following the most recent fire.

Heritage Victoria said there were about 2300 places included on the Victorian Heritage Register including Flinders Street Railway Station, Parliament House, the Murtoa Stick Shed and the Brighton Bathing Boxes.

Spurling House in Brighton in January 2020 before the second blaze.

Spurling House in Brighton in January 2020 before the second blaze.Credit:Eddie Jim

It is an offence under the Heritage Act 2017 to demolish, damage or despoil a place on the Victorian Heritage Register. Anyone convicted faces fines of up to $793,056 and, or five years’ jail.

Moorabbin Crime Investigation Unit detectives are investigating whether both attacks are linked.

A police spokeswoman said a person previously contacted Crime Stoppers regarding this matter with investigators believing there are others who may also have information.

Police are urging these people, or anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online at crimestoppersvic.com.au.

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Australian News

First round of grants announced for communities affected by fires


It was an unprecedented summer of devastation that hit us with a rush and a roar.

Our recent bushfire crisis devastated communities, destroyed wildlife populations and left many feeling overwhelmed.

In continuing to serve Australians, News Corp has today announced the first round of funding from the dedicated $1 million fund to aid the recovery of communities affected by the fires.

The first round from the News Corp Bushfire Fund, set up in partnership with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, will fund 21 grants across NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, totalling $368,386.

NSW will receive eight first-round grants, Victoria will be awarded eleven and South Australia and Queensland will receive one grant each.

The fund was established in March to help local not-for-profit organisations and

community groups in bushfire-ravaged areas to deliver locally led projects to assist people in their recovery.

From a budget of $1 million, the fund will provide grants of up to $25,000 to support

communities in rural areas of Australia

Announcing the grants, News Corp Australia’s Community Ambassador Penny Fowler said the funding would help those hardest hit by the bushfire disaster and breathe new life into devastated communities.

“Communities in regional and rural Australia have been hit by so much devastation this year,” she said.

“We are delighted to provide some hope and bring the spirit back into communities with these bushfire grants.

“These projects will go a long way towards helping locals rebuild, recover, and move on as a

stronger community.”

In Victoria, Mallacoota and Lakes Entrance are among the towns that will receive first round grants of $25,000 for projects aimed at strengthening social connections and boosting tourism.

The town of Mallacoota, which made headlines across the world when it became the epicentre of Victoria’s bushfire crisis, will receive a grant to fund five music workshops aimed at bringing residents together to help them get through trauma of rebuilding.

Other projects awarded grants include a film festival workshop in Queensland’s Gladstone and sailing events aimed at frontline workers for those affected by the Kangaroo Island bushfires in South Australia.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, said for many communities, social and economic recovery was really only just starting to get under way, especially given the limitations imposed by COVID-19.

“From our experience supporting disaster-affected communities, we know that for those

affected by this summer’s bushfires, their recovery will be a long and ongoing process,” she said.

Ms Egleton said the partnership with News Corp offered a great opportunity “to get funds on the ground”.

“Their support means these grants will enable local community groups to lead local recovery efforts in a way that best meets the priorities of that community, because it’s different for each impacted community,” she said.

“For some communities, the priority is rebuilding facilities lost in the fire, such as the Eurobodalla Wood Makers Guild building in Batemans Bay. For others it’s reviving the community’s arts and culture, like celebrating the local music scene in Mallacoota, and for others it’s about supporting mental health and wellbeing, through gardening projects that will also restore the local bee population in the Bega Valley.”

In NSW, Buxton Public School has been awarded $25,000 for a new playground to replace the previous equipment, which was destroyed in the bushfires. Vandals trashed the fire-damaged school days later in the aftermath of the catastrophic bushfires.

The News Corp Bushfire Fund is one initiative forming part of News Corp Australia’s

ongoing bushfire recovery relief, which has so far donated $1.9 million to bushfire-affected

regions across the nation.



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Local News - Victoria

AMA fires up over wood heater buy-back scheme


AMA Victoria president Julian Rait, who talked his own mother into switching to a split-system, said a buy-back or subsidy program was “the way to go”.

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“Smoke from wood-burning heaters is a substantial contribution to air pollution and it can affect people’s health,” Professor Rait said.

“Long-term exposure can, we believe, contribute to heart and chronic lung disease. There’s evidence small particles – PM 2.5 – can also contribute to coronary artery disease.”

He added the fine PM 2.5 particles could travel further past the usual body’s defences and be absorbed into the bloodstream.

However some maintain the heaters are a winter lifeline to those on tight budgets who scavenge free wood from factories and recycling centres, while bush properties can benefit from wood heaters as a means of reducing fuel-load.

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Figures provided by the Australian Home Heating Association estimate the nationwide industry – including sales of wood – is worth well over $400 million and is a significant provider of jobs.

It says “wood heating in Australia provides a clean, efficient and environmentally friendly way to heat your home” and urges users to install their heaters correctly.

But Arabella Daniel, who has been living amid smoke heaters for 12 years with her young family in the south-eastern suburb of McKinnon, said this was nonsense.

Her family was driven indoors every autumn and winter day from about 4pm, she said. The smoke would find its way inside and spread through the house, including to the rooms of her children.

“If I was to do any sort of activity that would contaminate my neighbour’s water supply or their soil, there’d be legal ramifications,” Ms Daniel said.

“But somehow you can dump a toxic cocktail of chemicals and particulate matter into the air.”

She understood people loved their wood fires and said the topic could be confrontational and taboo, even amongst friends.

“But it’s reached a point in my life where I have to speak out now,” she said.

“What we’re asking for is clean air and that shouldn’t be up for debate, surely.”

The EPA would prefer people did not use wood heating, but urged users to minimise risks through regular cleaning and maintenance; burning dry wood with a bright flame; not allowing the fire to smoulder overnight; and never burning rubbish or painted wood.

The health dangers of atmospheric wood smoke became front-and-centre after the summer bushfires, which experts believe claimed the lives of nearly 450 people, including 120 Victorians.

The EPA previously explored the merits of bans on new heater sales, but concluded it would not reduce pollution because households would simply retain older and higher-emitting models.

Canberra residents are able to claim subsidies of between $250 and $1250 to remove wood heaters or replace them with a ducted electric reverse-cycle system.

Since the 2004 introduction of the scheme, 1179 ACT households have taken advantage of the rebates.

The AHHA estimates Victoria to have 191,000 wood heaters. If all were replaced or removed for even half the amount of the maximum ACT subsidy, it would cost Victorian taxpayers close to $120 million.

The Andrews government did not address the AMA’s stance, but has previously said it was giving the EPA more powers to prevent air pollution.

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Local News - Victoria

‘Forgotten’ Gippslanders still finding their way after the fires


‘Forgotten’ Gippslanders still finding their way after the fires

19 Images

Six months on from bushfires which killed 33 people and destroyed more than 2000 homes, some East Gippsland locals are still living in tents or caravans.

1/19

Lyn and Allan Wallwork are living in their shed while waiting for the removal of their destroyed Sarsfield home and the construction of a new house. Credit:Joe Armao

2/19

Lyn and Allan Wallwork are living in their shed while waiting for the removal of their destroyed Sarsfield home and the construction of a new house.Credit:Joe Armao

3/19

Forest regrowth at Wairewa.Credit:Joe Armao

4/19

Lyn and Allan Wallwork are still living in their shed while waiting for the removal of their destroyed Sarsfield home.Credit:Joe Armao

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Lyn and Allan Wallwork are living in their shed.Credit:Joe Armao

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Allan Wallwork with his burnt motorbike at their destroyed Sarsfield home.Credit:Joe Armao

7/19

Forest regrowth at Wairewa.Credit:Joe Armao

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Lyn with item salvaged from the fire and Allan Wallwork are living in their shed.Credit:Joe Armao

9/19

Geoff Belmore at his temporary caravan accomodation.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

10/19

Geoff Belmore and parrot George at his temporary caravan accomodation.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

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Six months after the fires Jann Gilbert sits in the ruins of her Mallacoota home.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

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East Gippsland fires 6 months on – forest regrowth at Wairewa.Credit:Joe Armao

13/19

Elizabeth and Brian Blakeman at their Wairewa home. Credit:Joe Armao

14/19

Clifton Creek primary school has re-opened.Credit:Joe Armao

15/19

Clifton Creek rebuilding. Credit:Joe Armao

16/19

Kangaroos have returned to Clifton Creek. Credit:Joe Armao

17/19

East Gippsland fires 6 months on – Clifton Creek.Credit:Joe Armao

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Forest regrowth at Wairewa.Credit:Joe Armao

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East Gippsland fires 6 months on – forest regrowth at Wairewa.Credit:Joe Armao



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Business

Nine CEO Hugh Marks fires back at Google over $10m news claims


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Google Australia boss Melanie Silva argued this week that the company generates just $10 million in revenue a year from news-related queries in Australia and that publishers benefit more from search traffic than Google does from news.

Media companies, including Nine and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, have been campaigning for the digital giants to pay publishers up to $1 billion to compensate them for the benefits they derive from having news on their platforms.

Under a payment model proposed by Nine, which was submitted to the competition regulator on Friday, money would be collected from the digital giants and put in a pool which would be distributed between large and small publishers by a collecting society, such as the Australian Press Council or The Australian Communications and Media Authority.

But most of the money from Google and Facebook and subsidiaries like WhatsApp and Instagram, would be given to the larger organisations like Nine and News Corp Australia, which owns The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun.

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“Basically what you are doing is recognising dollar investment in journalism … we’ve defined relatively narrowly to make sure it is focused on news … rather than entertainment,” Mr Marks said.

“The alternative would be split it based on traffic or clicks, but you can play games with how you grow the number of clicks which we think is a bad incentive. The majority should go to the larger organisations that are spending significant amounts in journalism.”

Mr Marks said bilateral negotiations should occur if a digital platform wants to use news content is a more “sophisticated” way.

The ACCC is currently working with publishers and the tech platforms on a compulsory code to manage the relationship between the two groups. Submissions were due on Friday.

ACCC chair Rod Sims has made no decisions on how the payments will work or how much the digital platforms will be expected to pay, but said last month that payments to media companies would be focused predominantly on the “indirect” value Google and Facebook gain from news content rather than direct revenue from news stories.

In an options paper published last month, the ACCC outlined three main ways to pay publishers: allowing companies to negotiate individually with Google and Facebook and use the code as the basis for arbitration; through the establishment of a collective bargaining agreement, which would allow all media companies to work together on a set price for content in an attempt to receive better commercial terms; or through a collective licensing agreement or fee arrangement, which would include a fixed fee for the use of news content which could be distributed by a “collecting society”.

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Local News - Victoria

After losing $750 million to fires and virus, Gippsland awaits end to bans


Modelling conducted by Destination Gippsland showed tourism expenditure has collapsed across the region since the middle of March, costing the sector $184 million a month.

The economic fallout comes on top of the damage done by the summer’s devastating fires, which are estimated to have cost the Gippsland tourism sector between $170 million and $180 million between January and February.

Holiday destinations such as Lakes Entrance have been hit hard by travel restrictions, which have impacted their tourism dependent economies.

Holiday destinations such as Lakes Entrance have been hit hard by travel restrictions, which have impacted their tourism dependent economies.

Destination Gippsland chairman Nick Murray said some tourism businesses in the region were ready to open immediately while others would need more time.

“We look forward to restrictions being lifted,” he said. “However, we also recognise that this is still a public health issue.”

A spokesman for the state government said it would have “more to say about the further cautious easing of restrictions in due course.”

“We are testing for coronavirus in large numbers because the more tests we do the more options we have when it comes to safely moving beyond the restrictions currently in place,” he said.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen said there were “ongoing conversations” between the state and federal governments about easing travel restrictions.

But Dr van Diemen said the national cabinet had agreed states could make their own decisions about lifting restrictions.

“We are doing our absolute best to get consistency between states,” she said. “But there are some very clear differences in epidemiology between the states.”

On Wednesday Ms Berejiklian said the reluctance of other state and territory governments to reopen borders is “an opportunity for NSW, no matter which way you look at it”.

“I don’t really care what other premiers do, that’s a matter for them, and NSW will welcome visitors from all across the country,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Some states, including Queensland, have closed their borders. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it was up to each state and territory government to make decisions about their own borders.

“From a medical point of view I can’t see why the borders are still closed,” he said.

Victoria’s travel ban presents challenges in places such as Albury and Wodonga where neighbouring communities on the Victorian and NSW border are subject to different restrictions.

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh called on the state government to immediately lift the ban on overnight stays.

“I’m sure there are a lot of people desperate to get away for a weekend or week after being locked down,” he said.

Victorian man Michael Tabor and his partner booked a three-night holiday in Sydney within hours of Ms Berejiklian announcing her state would re-open for tourists on June 1.

Mr Tabor, from Pascoe Vale in Melbourne’s north, has been itching for a holiday since lockdown began.

Michael Tabor from Pascoe Vale  booked a three-night holiday to Sydney within hours of Gladys Berejiklian allowing travel in NSW.

Michael Tabor from Pascoe Vale booked a three-night holiday to Sydney within hours of Gladys Berejiklian allowing travel in NSW.Credit:Eddie Jim

Ms Berejiklian’s announcement gives Victorians a chance to explore the country again, while travel restrictions remain in place south of the Murray River.

“Absolutely we have been eager to go away somewhere,” Mr Tabor said.

Mr Tabor says three nights’ accommodation at a very good hotel near Hyde Park cost him $350.

It’s been hard to find restaurant bookings but he is keen to explore the harbour and the rest of Sydney on the trip, which coincides with his birthday.

Galleries, libraries and museums will also be open in NSW from June 1 for tourists to visit.

Fellow Melburnians Louisa Bonfigli and her husband, both in their early 60s, said they were meant to be in Spain but were looking to a holiday in NSW instead.

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Before booking they’d like to know if they’d need to quarantine upon return although they’re happy to do so if need be.

“I don’t know exactly where in NSW yet, but we would be happy to drive,” Ms Bonfigli says.

“We’ll go anywhere we are welcomed. Just across the river, near Cobram, we have friends who spend time on the river there.

“The coast is lovely, everywhere is lovely in NSW … I have been to Byron Bay before and loved it.

“I have never climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge before so we could do that.”

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Business

Orica lifts profit and revenue despite fires and weather challenges


Total sales for the group, which has operations around the world, rose 2 per cent to $2.88 billion, while EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) climbed 10 per cent to $479.7 million.

Chief executive Alberto Calderon said Orica had delivered earnings growth and results in line with the targets it had set itself.

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“This is a particularly positive set of operational and financial results, given they come from a period that had severe bushfire and weather issues in Australia, and the first impact of the coronavirus,” he said.

“During the half we also announced the major strategic acquisition of Peru’s leading manufacturer and distributor of industrial explosives, Exsa. We are firmly focused on integrating the terrific team and assets into our business, and realising the significant synergies open to us,” he said.

Mr Calderon said mining would play a crucial role in the global economic recovery from the shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“While it is almost impossible to forecast what will happen in the next six months, we currently expect our volumes in the second half to be somewhere between 10 to 15 per cent below the pre-COVID-19 expected volumes,” he said.



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Business

Google fires back as ACCC code of conduct talks ramp up


Other publishers want the code to govern how much a publisher should be paid, but sources said all discussions are in the early stages.

Ms Silva said that news content had “significant social value”, but that Google did not make money from organic search results or news that appears in the ‘News’ tab. She said publishers benefit by appearing in Google search results.

“In the offline print world, publishers have long paid retailers, news stands and kiosks to distribute their newspapers and magazines – acknowledging the value of acquiring audiences to a publisher’s content and the advertising publishers sell alongside it,” Ms Silva said.

“In contrast, Google Search sends readers from Australia and all over the world to the publishers’ sites for free – helping them to generate advertising revenues from those audiences and convert them into paying subscribers. Everyone benefits from this exchange. While news content has significant social value, it is often difficult to make money from.”

Ms Silva added Google Search did not make “any money” when a user clicks on a news search result and that there were no ads on its news results tab.

“From Google’s perspective, the news publishers aren’t their customers and the news referral that comes via their search results … that’s not a service that they perceive as being a separate service and they certainly don’t perceive it as a supply that occurs in any kind of economic market,” said Ms Marshall, a specialist in competition and defamation law.

“The bottom line is the power these guys have to switch off the news referrals. That’s why they’ve got what we now call an imbalance in bargaining power. The solution to that is to tell them they have to [provide news referral services] by law.”

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Local News - Victoria

Crews brace for worsening conditions as fires merge into four complexes


When Phil Sheppard returned to his home in the Hunter Valley after recent fires, he saw, to his amazement, that most structures were still intact.

He points to Aboriginal cultural burning as the reason, based on thousands of years of traditional knowledge.

Unlike hazard reduction burning, cultural burns are cooler and slower moving, usually no taller than knee height, leaving tree canopies untouched and allowing animals to take refuge from the flames. Small fires are lit with matches, instead of drip torches, and burn in a circular pattern.

“It’s important that people recognise that it is valid, it does work, and what we’re looking for is some support for this from higher levels of government,” said Dennis Barber, an Aboriginal cultural fire practitioner.

It’s food for thought: take a look at the full story from our Indigenous Affairs reporter Ella Archibald-Binge here



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Local News - Victoria

Smoke stench, haze blankets Melbourne as fires wear on


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“Actually in the Melbourne area at the moment, there’s quite a strong smell even in the office here,” Mr Efron said.

Smoke from the East Gippsland fires was being dragged down over the Bass Strait before a south-easterly wind pulls the smoke back up into Melbourne, Mr Efron said.

“The wind regime we’re seeing, we’re seeing north-easterly winds along the NSW south coast that’s transporting smoke across Gippsland and out over Bass Strait and then the winds are turning to more of an east, south-easterly and bringing them back almost in a loop towards Melbourne.”

Air quality is also very poor in Geelong and the Latrobe Valley, the Environment Protection Authority says.

Mr Efron said the encroaching smoke could blanket the city before a wind change hit on Tuesday afternoon.

The view from Point Ormond in Elwood.

The view from Point Ormond in Elwood.Credit:Penny Stephens

But EPA chief environmental scientist Dr Andrea Hinwood said the smoke might not lift until Wednesday.

“We might see some light relief [before Wednesday], but we might not,” Dr Hinwood said.

As well as from fires burning in Victoria’s east, she said the smoke was also coming from Tasmania.

Mr Efron said smoke could keep conditions stable for fire-affected communities by keeping temperatures down and by stopping winds from developing.

“It does show the conditions are relatively stable in the lower atmosphere, but it’s still obviously very unpleasant.”

Victoria’s chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton reiterated that generic surgical masks and bandanas were basically useless in filtering the harmful effects of smoke.

Vulnerable people, such as those with asthma, pregnant women and the elderly, are encouraged to purchase specifically-designed P2 or N95 masks.

“A P2 or N95 mask – the ones that you can get at hardware stores that often have a little valve for breathing, and look for the P2 or N95 descriptor – those masks can filtrate the particles that we’re talking about here,” Dr Sutton told reporters on Monday.

The EPA says people should stay indoors where possible and keep windows and doors shut, switch air-conditioners to ‘recirculate’, and keep pets indoors.

Anyone with asthma should have their medication on hand.

Symptoms can include eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing, sneezing and congestion.

An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said so far he was not aware of a spike in calls due to asthma or air pollution.

Call triple-zero if your life is in danger.

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