Home in Melbourne’s north gutted by fire; girl suffers minor burns

A man and a toddler have been rescued from the balcony of their burning home in Melbourne’s north early this morning.

The duo became trapped on the balcony of their double-storey home after fire engulfed the top level just before 3am.

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Security fears for Australians travelling to centenary Anzac Day commemorations in Turkey

ANZAC-DAY-2015AUSTRALIANS travelling to Turkey next year for centenary Anzac Day commemorations are being urged to exercise a high degree of caution, with the country on the front line of the ongoing wars against the Islamic State.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the  Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s preliminary bulletin on the security risk for the Anzac Day commemorations, issued on the Smarttraveller website, will be updated a month out from the April 25 commemorations.

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Testing for a fading memory becomes easily accessible and affordable thanks to Melbourne researchers

Blood-tests-at-Christies-001A simple blood test that could diagnose early onset of Alzheimer’s disease has been developed by researchers at University of Melbourne.

The research team previously identified that changes in the brain occur two decades before patients show signs of dementia. These changes can be detected through expensive brain imaging procedures.

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Girl, 6, dies in hospital from head trauma in horror country Victoria crash

166436126_7a6bec3d19A girl, 6, has died from serious injuries sustained in a horror two-vehicle collision in northern Victoria late last week.

Police believe a white Mitsubishi Pajero 4WD was travelling south on the Hume Freeway in Locksley when its rear left tyre blew out causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle just before 3pm on October 23.

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New app to help ease the anxiety for train commuters

screen568x568A new app to alert vision or hearing impaired train commuters when they are approaching and arriving at their station has been launched.

‘Stop Here’ uses location technology to track where a person is on the network and alerts via see, hear of feel – a notification on screen, a noise alert or through vibration – when nearing the station.

Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the app would also be useful for people unfamiliar with Melbourne’s railway network.

“It will also be great for interstate or international visitors and infrequent travellers, as it will provide reassurance that they will get off at the right stop,” Mr Mulder said.

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Labor promises new police analogue radios, slammed as irresponsible spending by Vic Government

4044930-3x2-340x227VICTORIAN Labor has promised to upgrade in-car police radio systems from analogue to digital in order to stop the public from listening in to conversations between officers.

Daniel Andrews said criminals can listed in to police radio through smartphone applications or portable radio scanners as police movements and other sensitive information is exchanged.

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Heat wave blamed for excess deaths across Victoria in 2013-2014 summer

044833VICTORIA’S enduring summer heat wave in January this year saw more than 850 people die, an increase of 24 per cent from previous years.

According to an analysis of excess deaths during the significant heat wave conditions this year, which saw the hottest four-day period on record between January 14 and 17, there were 858 deaths during the week of the heat wave.

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The Century Club gather at Parliament House for afternoon tea.

SeniorsLAUGHTER and one hundred years of memories were shared at today’s Century Club afternoon tea, held at Victorian Parliament House.

More than 60 centenarians from across Victoria joined the premier, Denis Napthine, over scones, sandwiches and tea, to pay tribute to their enduring contribution to the Victorian community, as part of Seniors Festival this week.

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RBA leaves cash rate at record low 2.5 per cent

Full statement from the RBA:

Growth in the global economy is continuing at a moderate pace. China’s growth has generally been in line with policymakers’ objectives, though some data suggest a slowing in recent months. Weakening property markets there present a challenge in the near term. Commodity prices in historical terms remain high, but some of those important to Australia have declined further in recent months.

Volatility in some financial markets has picked up in recent weeks. Overall, however, financial conditions remain very accommodative. Long-term interest rates and risk spreads remain very low. Markets still appear to be attaching a low probability to any rise in global interest rates or other adverse event over the period ahead.

In Australia, most data are consistent with moderate growth in the economy. Resources sector investment spending is starting to decline significantly, while some other areas of private demand are seeing expansion, at varying rates. Public spending is scheduled to be subdued. Overall, the Bank still expects growth to be a little below trend for the next several quarters.

Labour market data have been unusually volatile of late. The Bank’s assessment remains that although some forward indicators of employment have been firming this year, the labour market has a degree of spare capacity and it will probably be some time yet before unemployment declines consistently. Growth in wages has declined noticeably and is expected to remain relatively modest over the period ahead, which should keep inflation consistent with the target even with lower levels of the exchange rate.

Monetary policy remains accommodative. Interest rates are very low and have continued to edge lower over recent months as competition to lend has increased. Investors continue to look for higher returns in response to low rates on safe instruments. Credit growth is moderate overall, but with a further pick-up in recent months in lending to investors in housing assets. Dwelling prices have continued to rise over recent months.

The exchange rate has declined recently, in large part reflecting the strengthening US dollar, but remains high by historical standards, particularly given the further declines in key commodity prices in recent months. It is offering less assistance than would normally be expected in achieving balanced growth in the economy.

Looking ahead, continued accommodative monetary policy should provide support to demand and help growth to strengthen over time. Inflation is expected to be consistent with the 2–3 per cent target over the next two years.

In the Board’s judgement, monetary policy is appropriately configured to foster sustainable growth in demand and inflation outcomes consistent with the target. On present indications, the most prudent course is likely to be a period of stability in interest rates.

State Government gives approval for Transurban to deliver CityLink Tulla widening

Picture5THE Victorian Government has today signed an agreement with Transurban to deliver the $850 million CityLink Tulla widening project.

Premier Denis Napthine said the widening will boost capacity on the primary road route to the airport by 30 per cent and deliver travel time savings of up to 16 minutes on trips between Melbourne Airport and the West Gate Freeway during peak periods.

Currently carrying 201,000 vehicle every day, traffic numbers are expected to increase to 235,000 vehicles per day by 2031 on the CityLink Tullamarine corridor.

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Turf it up!

WORK has begun to rip up the MCG playing surface, ahead of the bumper cricket season.

The entire arena surface, almost 20,000 square metres, will be replaced at a cost of $1.7 million, and is the most extensive conducted by the Melbourne Cricket Club since reconstruction of the field ahead of the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

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Feasibility study announced to connect MCG and Melbourne Park with a decking over rail yards

railyards_6889A feasibility study into building a deck over Bunton Avenue and rail yards adjacent to the MCG and Melbourne Park has been announced.

The Victorian Government said it would investigate requests from the MCG Trust and the MCC to connect the ‘G to Melbourne Park.

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said such a development could improve our world-famous sporting precinct by adding features such bars, restaurants, or a live site area including screens for fans to watch the action as it happens inside the ‘G’.

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Vic Premier announces Free Tram Zone in Melbourne

Picture2Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, has announced more details of his government’s commitment of free tram travel for commuters in central Melbourne from the start of next year. 

Dr Napthine unveiled the Free Tram Zone on Sunday, with 70 tram stops to have bright green signage to let passengers know when they no longer need to touch on and off.

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Counter-terror raids lead to 15 arrests across Sydney and Brisbane

FIFTEEN people have been detained following counter-terrorism raids, the largest raids in Australian history, in Sydney and Brisbane earlier today.

More than 800 officers from the AFP and NSW Police Force conducted 25 search warrants, 15 at Sydney premises and a further 10 in relation to vehicles, across Sydney this morning in the suburbs of Beecroft, Bellavista, Guildford, Merrylands, Northmead, Wentworthville, Marsfield, Westmead, Castle Hill, Revesby, Bass Hill and Regents Park.

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Victoria well prepared for a case of potentially fatal Ebola Virus

ebola-has-killed-69-guinea-januaryVictoria is prepared if a case of Ebola Virus Disease should be suspected and detected, Minister for Health David Davis said today.

Mr Davis said while the risk of importation of Ebola into the state is low, Victoria may eventually need to evaluate a suspected case of Ebola in the same way Queensland did last week.

He said a Victorian Ebola Virus Disease Response Plan has now been issued by the Department of Health to metropolitan, regional and other health services and stakeholders including general practitioners.

“The plan outlines the exact actions that will be taken by the Department of Health, Commonwealth border agencies, Ambulance Victoria, any health service and in particular the two hospitals that will receive a suspected case,” Mr Davis said.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital is the designated facility for assessment and management of patients suspected to have a Viral Haemorrhagic Fever such as Ebola virus disease and is fully prepared, Mr Davis said.

Professor Mike Richards, infectious diseases specialist at the RMH, said the hospital has a Viral Haemorrhagic Fever plan and is equipped to handle such cases.

“The plan requires the patient to be isolated in a single occupancy negative pressure room. Treatment and care would be provided by staff trained to use infection control precautions including specific personal protective equipment,” Professor Richards said.

“The RMH has held joint briefing sessions with the Department for staff and undertaken successful exercises in the careful handling of a potential suspected case.”

The Royal Children’s Hospital will provide care for children aged under 16 years.

Victoria’s chief health officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, has today updated an existing Alert which provides a link to the Victorian Ebola Virus Disease Response Plan.

“The plan provides information to safeguard the health of a suspected case and of staff caring for a case,” Dr Lester said.

“The plan contains a simple set of steps frontline clinicians can take should a suspected case present at their service after returning from an affected country.

“Extensive border control measures are in place including questionnaires for people returning from affected countries, and Melbourne Airport is prepared to respond to a suspected case.

“All people returning from affected countries are given a card telling them to look out for symptoms for 21 days and to attend an emergency department or GP if they do become unwell.

“In response to the identification of the West African outbreak of Ebola virus disease, the Department has updated its protocols and plans in line with current evidence regarding the outbreak and actions required to prevent transmission of infection.

“Australia has one of the best border protection systems in the world checking people who are unwell in flight and at the airport.

“Ebola virus disease is a notifiable and quarantinable disease in Australia,” Dr Lester said.
Transportation of suspected cases by ambulance will require paramedics to use personal protective equipment which is standard issue on Victorian ambulances.

Management of suspected or confirmed cases is through supportive treatment and isolation.

The Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory has secure containment facilities and is equipped and prepared to test for Ebola virus disease.

Mr Davis said so far the Ebola virus disease outbreak has been confined to a few West African countries.

“But there is always the possibility that a traveller returning from West Africa could be infectious and bring the disease into Australia,” Mr Davis said.

Melbourne legend Jim Stynes immortalised in bronze outside the MCG

5750410-3x4-340x453CHAMPION AFL player Jim Stynes joined an illustrious group of sporting legends today with a bronze statue unveiled in his honour outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Stynes, who died from metastatic melanoma in March 2012 aged 45, played 264 games for Melbourne between 1987- 1998, claiming the best and fairest on four occasions and the Brownlow Medal in 1991.

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Some attitudes around violence against women remain in the dark ages

AN alarming number of Australians believe that rape and physical violence are justifiable, while many apportion blame to the victim, a new report reveals.

One in five Australians agree that a woman is partly responsible for rape if she is intoxicated. And one in six support the deplorable notion that women say ‘no’ when they mean ‘yes’.

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Victoria to expunge gay sex convictions

4315692-4x3-940x705VICTORIAN men convicted of consensual homosexual acts will have their offences expunged when legislation is introduced into Victorian Parliament this week.

Premier Denis Napthine said despite the decriminalization of homosexual acts in Victoria in 1981 by the Hamer Government, some in the community still suffer from the consequences of historical convictions “that are rightly not regarded as a crime today”.

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Increase in thefts from vehicles and vehicle thefts across Victoria prompts police to call for vigilance

Picture8RESIDENTS in Melbourne’s south-west are being urged to be more vigilant following a spate in car thefts and thefts from cars in the past 12 months.

During the 2013/2014 financial year, there were more than 48,000 reports reports of theft from cars and over 16,000 reports of cars stolen across the state.

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Two men arrested after more than 100kg of drugs found in frozen fish fillets

Picture3TWO dual Canadian-Vietnamese nationals have been charged with drug offences after attempting to import 88 kilograms of heroin and 21 kilograms of methamphetamine in frozen fish fillets.

A joint investigation, comprising the NSW Police Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, NSW Crime Commission and the Australian Crime Commission, began earlier this month when a 57-year-old Vietnamese/Canadian national arrived in Australia and was identified as a result of intelligence activity.

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New suburb in Melbourne’s growing west to house 20,000 people

A new suburb in Melbourne’s booming western growth corridor has been launched by the planning minister.

Rockbank North, located 29 kilometres from the CBD on the Western Freeway and close to Rockbank railway station, the 711 hectare site will eventually house more than 20,000 people in one of the city’s fastest growing areas.

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Australian Formula One Grand Prix continues to run at a loss

Australian-GP-03TAXPAYERS forked out close to $60 million to pay for this year’s Formula One Australian Grand Prix.

Announcing the event results on Wednesday, the Victorian Government said it subsidised the 2014 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix with $59.97 million and the 2013 Tissot Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix with $11.27 million.

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Study: Parents boozing up their teenage kids

fileIB1SYATEENAGERS whose parents supply alcohol in early adolescence are three times as likely to be drinking full serves of alcohol at age 16 as children in families that do not supply alcohol, a new study has found.

In the largest study of its kind from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW Australia, researchers followed nearly two thousand parent/child pairs over four years in a bid to provide guidance to parents on how best to moderate their child’s drinking.

Chief investigator of the study, Professor Richard Mattick, said there was a deal of confusion among parents as to how best to moderate their child’s drinking and thereby hopefully minimise risks such as injury, violence, poisoning, risky sexual practices and future alcohol problems.

At age 12 and 13 years, close to one in six children in the study reported being given alcohol by their parents. By 15 and 16 years of age more than a third of the sample was being supplied alcohol by their parents. Of these, 15 per cent were drinking full serves compared with only 1.5 per cent of the younger children.

“What we found was that early parental supply of alcohol through school years 7 to 9 was the single biggest predictor of drinking in year 10,” Professor Mattick said. “It was more influential than family circumstances and issues; more influential than individual psychological risk factors and more influential than peers.”

By age 15/16 years, half of all children in the study were drinking alcohol and obtaining it from a variety of sources including parents, peers, older teens and other adults. Children who were given alcohol by their parents were also more likely to be obtaining alcohol from these “non-sanctioned” sources as those whose parents did not supply alcohol.

Professor Mattick said the results showed that contrary to opinion among many parents, supplying children with alcohol did not moderate their drinking.

“Parents are the major supplier of alcohol to the under 18s,” said Professor Mattick. “Many of these do so with the best of intentions – to introduce alcohol in a safe, supervised environment with the aim of moderating a child’s drinking.”

There is also a great deal of interest in the so-called European model whereby parents allow children to sip alcohol from a relatively young age, he said.

“We know that adolescent drinking is associated with a wide range of later harms in early adulthood including injury, sexually-transmitted diseases, adult alcohol dependence, and changes in brain function have been reported by US researchers.

Dr Monika Wadolowski, who has recently completed her PhD on aspects of the study, said that by supplying alcohol, parents may inadvertently sanction drinking.

“Most parents will do whatever they can to minimise these risks. Our study suggests that supplying alcohol is not the best strategy to achieve this outcome,” Dr Wadolowski said.

“The results also indicate that those children who are given alcohol by their parents may be more likely to seek out alcohol from a variety of other sources.”

Further analyses will be conducted to determine the extent to which parental supply moderates excessive risky drinking at age 16 and beyond, she said.

The marketing of alcohol, industry advertising, changes in palatability to sweeter more acceptable drinks, plus the density of liquor outlets all also contribute to adolescent drinking.

Police appeal for clues in mystery cold case – 40 years on


POLICE are appealing for information regarding the disappearance of a Melbourne teenager, forty years ago this week.

Anna Banitskas was 15-years-old the last time her family saw her in 1974.

“It’s the not knowing that’s the worst,” Anna’s sister, Loretta Pantou, said.

“There are so many options for what could have happened. Did she meet with foul play? Did she choose to leave? Questions like that keep you up at night. Our family has no closure.”

At around 7am on August 27,1974, Anna left her home to catch a bus from nearby Kingsway Drive, Lalor to work. She never arrived.

“We know it’s been a long time, but we still believe there is someone out there with information relating to Anna’s case,” Detective Senior Constable Craig Hall said.

“Any piece of information, big or small, could help us bring closure to Anna’s family.

“Hopefully with the help of the public, we’ll be able to give some long overdue piece of mind to the Banitskas family.”

Anna was last seen wearing grey pants, a white jumper and brown shoes on the day of her disappearance.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.