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On top of the world

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 08 Desember 2012 | 19.55

UNIVERSITY of Tasmania scholars are feeling on top of the world after their research was rated world standard or better in 16 fields of study.

The Excellence in Research for Australia agency rated everything from earth science and geology to journalism and legal studies.

Scientist Jessica Melbourne-Thomas's areas of expertise fell across several of the top fields part of the reason she loves her job.

"My work is about ecosystem modelling and it's interdisciplinary, covering oceanography and tying in fisheries as well," Dr Melbourne-Thomas said.

"I look at the response of the Southern Ocean to climate change.

"That includes addressing the issue of sustainable fisheries in light of the changes already happening in terms of climate change.

"Hobart ... is an exciting place for lots of interaction in the areas we did well in, including oceanography and marine science."

UTAS Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen said the highest possible rating of five was given in nine areas, up from three in 2010.

"The results confirm UTAS as one of Australia's leading research-intensive universities performing at or above international standards," Professor Rathjen said.

They were clinical sciences, analytical chemistry, geology, oceanography, ecology, evolutionary biology, plant biology, forestry sciences, agriculture and land and farm management.

Of the next rung, rating four, journalism and professional writing and fisheries sciences received the top scores in the country.

Dr Melbourne-Thomas, who is from Tasmania and did her PhD at UTAS, is among scientists set to lose their jobs when the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre closes when federal funding ends in 2014.

She hoped she could continue to work in Hobart.

"We're holding our breath," she said.


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Ambo boost call to aid responses

AMBULANCE crews must be boosted to improve Tasmania's emergency response times, says an internal report released yesterday.

The report calls for an urgent increase to crews and stations to bring down the emergency waiting times in Hobart and Launceston.

Denison Independent MP Andrew Wilkie condemned the State Government for failing to implement the main recommendations of the report done for Ambulance Tasmania.

"Tasmania has one of the worst capital city response times in the country," Mr Wilkie said.

"Instead of acting, the State Government has sat on the report that recommends a solution to this health problem for two years and the Tasmanian community is paying the price," Mr Wilkie said.

The report says: "The first priority is to raise emergency response standards in Hobart and Launceston by 2011-12."

It said an extra full-time crew was required in Hobart and Launceston bases, and three new stations were needed in the Hobart area.

Bryan Wilson of EMSPA, the Australian Paramedics Association, said the 2012 National Report on Government Services showed ambulance response times were among the worst in the country.

Among data referred to in the report released yesterday, two-thirds of emergency cases - including heart attacks - were not seen within 10 minutes in southern Tasmania.

That was despite a target used overseas and in South Australia of eight minutes in 90 per cent of cases.

Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said 15 new paramedics would be employed this month and 15 in April next year.

She said statewide response times improved from 11.4 minutes to 11.2 minutes in the past financial year and response times had improved in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie.

Hobart's 2011-12 median wait time was 10.3 minutes.

"This report was commissioned as an internal planning tool and contained a raft of very useful information that we are already using," Ms O'Byrne said.

Among those, a first intervention vehicle was being trialled and was already improving response times.

Mr Wilkie said the government was only "tinkering around the edges".

Ambulance Tasmania said the eight-minute benchmark was not used in Tasmania nor many other jurisdictions.

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Great balls of fire

HOT ACT: Self-declared Australia's "King of Circus" Roy Maloy smashes the world fire-breathing record yesterday. Picture: LEIGH WINBURN

MORE than 500 fireballs were hurled into the air by Australian circus king Roy Maloy as he attempted his fifth world record yesterday.

In front of an awestruck audience at the Brighton Christmas Parade, he breathed 501 fireballs within 28 minutes, beating the previous record of 100 fireballs in an hour in a performance that he describes as "extreme circus".

"There's a lot of danger involved," he said.

"I've been burned a few times.

"I lost all the skin off the back of my hand once and I've lost my fringe as well."

Based in Melbourne, Maloy, whose shows also include knife-throwing and sword-swallowing, will attempt to walk a kilometre on stilts in under 9.35 minutes at the Stanley show today.


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`Take the pain away'

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 07 Desember 2012 | 19.55

Investigations continued at the home in Woniora Rd, Burnie, yesterday.

A WOMAN who helped drag two little boys and their father from a car after it exploded will never forget the horrific scene.

Janelle Walker said the boys, aged 5 and 8, were "burned so badly" in the apparent murder-suicide attempt she could not erase the terrible image.

"One of the little boys asked us to take the pain away," she said yesterday.

"It is not the kind of thing you expect to see or the kind of thing you would want anyone else to see."

Ms Walker and two friends broke a locked gate to rescue the man and boys at the Burnie home.

Police said fire accelerants had been placed under the car and open LPG bottles were in the back of the vehicle when it exploded on Wednesday about 5pm.

A 49-year-old man and his two sons were found at the Woniora Rd house suffering burns and in shock. The two boys were flown to Melbourne and are now in a serious condition in the Royal Children's Hospital.

The father, who police are waiting to interview, was taken to Royal Hobart Hospital, where doctors said he was in a critical condition.

Acting Inspector Stuart Wilkinson described the scene that confronted police as "distressing".

He said: "Both boys were conscious.

"It was a very distressing scene for everyone concerned neighbours, police and fire crews.

"Quite a few neighbours came to help out at what first appeared to be a house fire."

Ms Walker and her friends will receive counselling today.

She said the little boys were well known in the street where they had lived for many years.

She said the boys' mother had left the house on Monday.

"We had never heard any trouble from the house before now," Ms Walker said.

"They were very quiet. We feel so terribly sad for everyone involved."

The boys' mother is understood to be in Melbourne where her children are being treated.

Acting Insp Wilkinson said evidence gathered by police at the crime scene had shown the fire was a result of a deliberate act and an attempted murder investigation was now under way.

The car involved is being forensically tested at the Tasmania Police compound at Wivenhoe.

Police said they had not been able to speak to the father yet but expected to charge him soon.

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Police overhaul to cut costs

Lilydale police station is one of two stations that will close.

TWO police stations will close and other stations will be downgraded as part of a Tasmania Police bid to cut costs.

An overhaul of the statewide organisation will create a total of three units: roads and public order, community support and a crime and drug investigation unit.

Police Commissioner Darren Hine delivered the news yesterday, after a review that began in July.

"The outcome is a structure that provides optimal use of our resources, the flexibility to respond to community needs and minimises the impact on frontline policing," Mr Hine said.

Risdon Vale and Lilydale will lose their stations, as a result of the earlier decision to close Avoca.

The Risdon Vale position will be reallocated to Bellerive.

Sorell and Bellerive divisions will be merged to create the southeast division, abolishing the inspector's position at Sorell.

Oatlands will be downgraded to a country station, reduced by one constable and clustered with Bothwell, Kempton and Liawenee to give flexibility for officers to work their shifts according to demand.

Also in the south, the Eastern District Commander position will be cut.

A group of inspector positions will be reduced.

Police Minister David O'Byrne said extra police would be at Kingston, New Norfolk, Sorell and Dunalley.

"I'm advised this latest decision makes good strategic sense," Mr O'Byrne said.

In the north, George Town and St Helens divisions will be merged to create the northeast division, with the St Helens inspector position abolished.

Deloraine will include the West Tamar area.

In the west, a Central West division will be formed.

Strahan, Rosebery and Zeehan will be deemed country stations which police said would create greater flexibility in rostering.

The new structure will begin by July 1.


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Murderer gets 22 years

Stuart Barry Russell was sentenced to 22 years' jail, with a minimum period of 13 years.

A REMORSELESS killer will spend at least the next 13 years in jail for stabbing a man to death and attempting to burn his body at Eggs and Bacon Bay last year.

Stuart Barry Russell, 40, shook his head after the jail sentence was handed down in the Supreme Court in Hobart this morning.

He was found guilty by a jury of murder and attempted arson yesterday, and instructed his lawyers to make no submissions to mitigate his sentence.

Justice Peter Evans imposed a maximum term of 22 years.

Russell stabbed pensioner Brett Williams, 46, in a drunken and unprovoked attack on December 16 last year before making an unsuccessful attempt to burn his body.

Mr Williams took Russell, his girlfriend and another man in after they were evicted from their nearby property.

Justice Evans noted Russell's prior convictions for offences in South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania and his previous stint in jail.

He said no reason for the killing had emerged during the trial and said victims' impact statements tendered and read to the court hd demonstrated the devastating effect the crime had had on Mr William's family.


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New cameras just fine: police

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 06 Desember 2012 | 19.55

One of the new speed camera trailers.

TASMANIA Police has denied new speed cameras do not work effectively because of design defects.

Reports today claimed the mobile laser speed camera's effectiveness was limited because it could not work properly through protective glass covers.

But Inspector Mark Beech-Jones said the cameras were working fine and would work even better when upgraded.

"They are capturing and detecting people speeding. When they were launched last week, they caught someone speeding. Yesterday the one in southern region photographed 2000 cars," he said.

He said the cameras had a range of 70m. But by replacing the perspex covers, their range would increase to 110m.

"The cost to change the perspex will be under $500 in total. It's only a piece of perspex we're changing to improve the range.

"There's nothing wrong with the equipment. There's nothing wrong with the trailer."

The cameras were mainly used in urban settings, where range was not a critical issue, he said.

Inspector Beech-Jones also rejected suggestions the camera mounts were on the wrong side of the trailers, saying there were four mounts in each and the operator could move the camera depending on the road and conditions.

Three mobile laser speed camera trailers were launched last week.

They were funded by the Motor Accidents Insurance Board to the tune of $42,000.

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Public meeting on Sikh plan

The Chapel St Reserve will be the site of a public meeting later today about the proposed Sikh temple. Picture: TINA STAGG

A PUBLIC meeting about a proposed Sikh temple in Glenorchy is being held today at the Chapel Street Reserve at 6.30pm.

The Glenorchy City Council supports a proposal to dispose of part of the reserve so Tasmania's small Indian Sikh community can build a temple on the site.

On Sunday, a meeting at the reserve drew a crowd of about 30 people opposed to the temple.

Local resident Matthew Pettit said there had not been enough consultation and people in the neighbourhood had concerns about the visual impact of the temple, increased traffic, noise and operating hours.

The Sikh community had been working on plans for a temple in South Hobart for three years but earlier this year the Hobart City Council rejected the plan after community opposition.

Sikh spokeswoman Surinder Mahindroo said Tasmania was the only state or territory without a temple and some Sikhs were leaving the state because they had nowhere to worship.

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Man guilty of murder, arson

THE daughter of a murdered man has looked his killer in the eye and told him his evil deed has devastated an entire family.

Her voice cracking with emotion, Brittany Birrell-Williams looked straight at Stuart Barry Russell in the dock of the Supreme Court in Hobart and told him he was a messed up and dangerous man who had left a family stricken with grief at the loss of a beloved father, son and brother.

She said the crime was made even harder to bear by Russell's botched attempt to burn her father's body.

After a nine-day trial, Russell, 40, of Eggs and Bacon Bay, was found guilty of murdering 46-year-old Brett Williams at the southern seaside town last December by a unanimous jury decision this afternoon.

He was also found guilty of attempted arson.

A single hand clap rang out from the public gallery packed with Mr Williams' family as the verdict was announced.

Russell blinked, briefly looked puzzled and grimaced. He repeatedly wiped tears from his eyes as his sentencing hearing unfolded.

In a drunken and unprovoked attack in Mr Williams' kitchen, Russell stabbed the older man four times.

He struck the fatal blow with a steak knife through Mr Williams' heart.

After conducting a bizzare memorial service over the body, Russell returned in an unsuccessful attempt to set a fire to conceal the crime.

He was arrested the following morning.

Ms Birrell-Williams concluded her victim's impact statement with a message for her father: "You can rest in peace now dad."

Moments after Ms Birrell-Williams' powerful speech, Russell's lawyer Kim Baumeler said he had instructed her to say nothing in mitigation on his behalf.

Justice Peter Evans will sentence Russell tomorrow.

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Our veteran volunteers

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 05 Desember 2012 | 19.55

TASMANIA will have more volunteers as the state's population grows but they will be much older.

A new report by Volunteering Tasmania, issued to coincide with International Volunteer Day, shows the number of people giving up their time without financial reward is expected to climb to 233,000 people by 2050.

But these volunteers will be older, with one in three expected to be aged over 65.

Just one in five of the state's existing volunteer pool of 160,000 people is over 65 years old.

Volunteering Tasmania engaged local demographer Professor Natalie Jackson to project the profile of the state's volunteers.

Her projections are based on 2010 volunteering rates.

In 2010, Baby Boomers made up 40 per cent of all volunteers while previous generations made up 18 per cent.

Generation X made up 19 per cent and Generation Y contributed 23 per cent of the volunteer population.

VT CEO Adrienne Picone said Tasmanian volunteers were projected to age considerably as Baby Boomer numbers continued to grow but Generation Y started to overtake as a generation.

Demographer Bernard Salt said volunteering was the single most important factor in driving successful communities in the modern age.

"I would argue that the role and importance of volunteering is increasing as the 21st century advances," Mr Salt said in the report.

"Before this century there was no extensive middle-class with the time and the means to make a social contribution.

"During wars and depression, communities were bound together by external threats.

"In the absence of a common enemy … and most importantly with an economy where there are clear winners and losers, there is now more than ever a need for volunteering."

Volunteering Tasmania said it would now work towards recruiting more volunteers with meaningful roles through better planning and human resource management.

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Dodgy tender ends in jail

A FORMER Southern Water engineer has been jailed for corruption.

Anton Cristofer Colev, 35, of Kalgoorlie, was found guilty of corruption in business by a jury in the Supreme Court in Hobart last month.

The charge related to a pipeline duplication project at Margate for which Colev was a project manager.

Four companies submitted tenders for the Southern Water project in March last year, ranging from $800,000 to $1.7 million.

Colev met a representative from the lowest bidder, Spectran, after the tenders had closed, told them they were the preferred tenderer and encouraged them to lift their price from $800,000 to $1.3 million.

He told the company to include work which was being done by Southern Water and to include a fixed price on other work to save him the trouble of assessing its scope.

Spectran submitted a revised bid after the final deadline had closed.

Colev then allegedly removed the next lowest tender from a tender box along with Spectran's original tender, replacing it with their revised bid.

Two other tenders -- priced at $1.4 million and $1.7 million -- were left.

Colev was a member of the panel which subsequently selected Spectran as the winning bidder, the court heard.

Soon after they were informed of their success, Colev sent Spectran an email seeking a cash payment of $10,000 as a first payment for what he called "consulting work".

Justice Helen Wood sentenced Colev to 12 months in jail, but suspended the final eight months of the term on the condition he be of good behaviour for two years.

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Preparing for a fire crisis

MOST Tasmanians are well informed about bushfire safety but that doesn't translate into being well prepared, says local expert Damien Killalea.

The Tasmania Fire Service's director of community fire safety believes a relatively small proportion of the state's population will be sufficiently prepared if a major bushfire strikes.

The state has experienced its first taste of bushfire season 2012-13 in the past week, with blazes raging at Musselroe Bay, Poatina and the Central Plateau. Firefighters were also mobilised at Glenlusk, Forcett, Glen Huon and Geeveston, all in the state's south.

Mr Killalea said the permit season had started four weeks ahead of schedule.

"The bush is drying out much sooner than expected and the grasslands are also starting to dry out," Mr Killalea said.

"When that happens fires will be able to travel out of the bush and into the grasslands, where they travel so much quicker.

"That can be very dangerous."

To find out how best to fire-proof your property, join Mr Killalea tomorrow (Thursday) for a live blog at 11am.

For more information on putting together a plan, click here to access the TFS's website.

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Tassie sets donation record

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 04 Desember 2012 | 19.55

A RECORD number of organ and tissue donations have been made this year in Tasmania.

Donations from 15 deceased Tasmanian donors, with support from their families, have led to 55 organs transforming the lives of 51 transplant recipients.

DonateLife Tasmania state medical director Dr Andrew Turner said the state's donation rate this year was twice the national average.

"Historically Tasmania's donation rate has been 8 per million -- around 4 per year -- but this year, with 15 donations, it's 30 per million, which is twice the national average," he said.

"The Tasmanian population has been very generous and has changed and saved the lives of 55 people."

Read the life-changing story of one Tasmanian family in tomorrow's Mercury.

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Souped-up forensic services

Tasmania Police issued a warning last month that opportunistic thieves have been breaking into homes while the owners are still inside or briefly absent in their quest for valuable jewellery.

BUSTING burglars may become easier thanks to an equipment upgrade at Forensic Science Service Tasmania.

FSST – which services clients including Tasmania Police, the DPP's office, defence lawyers and coroners – unveiled about $320,000 worth of new and upgraded equipment at its New Town headquarters today.

Funded by the State Government, it includes a near-new Scanning Electron Microscope which allows scientists to analyse small glass and paint particles to see if they match material found at a crime scene.

This could be used, for example, to match paint from an offender's crowbar to paint on a window or door at a burglary scene.

Assistant Police Commissioner Phil Wilkinson said the SEM was bought at less than half its original price from a UK laboratory that was closing down.

"Police rely on timely and accurate results from FSST scientists in identifying offenders and solving crime," he said in a statement.

"The new equipment will increase the throughput and accuracy of results."

Police issued a public warning early last month about opportunist thieves breaking into homes while the owners were still inside or briefly absent in a quest for valuable jewellery.

Bellerive CIB later announced it had arrested and charged 15 alleged offenders since September 1 over burglaries in the Warrane, Lindisfarne, Howrah and Tranmere areas. 

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Job losses cut deep, says union

CPSU national deputy secretary Rupert Evans told the rally federal budget cuts were being felt disproportionately in Tasmania. Picture: KIM EISZELE

ABOUT 70 federal public servants rallied in Hobart today to demand an end to job losses in Tasmania.

They stood in a circle of mutual support, holding paper cut-outs of figures representing 500 colleagues who had lost their jobs since 2008.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) regional secretary Paul Blake said 126 federal public service jobs disappeared in Tasmania last financial year. Nationally, the public service grew slightly in the same period.

Budget cuts and centralisation had affected a range of federal services, from Centrelink to the Australian Taxation Office. Latest example was the ABC television production unit.

"Department heads and bureau chiefs can't handle having jobs they can't see in front of them," Mr Blake said.

"This is about sending a strong message to ABC and public sector management that Tasmanians need these quality jobs."

CPSU national deputy secretary Rupert Evans said federal budget cuts were being felt disproportionately in Tasmania and they had a devastating effect on the local economy.

"For every public service job lost, another two to three indirect jobs are lost," he said.

"The technology exists to do any job in the public service anywhere in Australia so why not here? The Australian public service is not the mainland Australian public service."

Senator Lin Thorp also spoke at the rally in St David's Park.

She said Tasmanian Labor senators were doing all they could to save the local ABC TV production unit.

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Fire threat eases

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 03 Desember 2012 | 19.55

THE bushfire threat at Musselroe Bay in Tasmania's north-east has eased but 12 fire units are still tackling the uncontrolled blaze.

The threat to property in the area has been downgraded from "high" to "watch and act".

About 40 residents were evacuated last night.

At 10am, the Tasmania Fire Service warned that the fire could still affect the township.

The TFS said the bushfire was not controlled and embers, smoke and ash could fall in Musselroe Bay and surrounding areas.

Musselroe Bay Rd could be closed later today due to increased fire activity and backburning operations are under way.

People who left their homes last night have been advised to not return until the fire threat eases further.

"As the fire approaches it may become unsafe to be either on foot or in a vehicle as the smoke and heat from the fire will create very dangerous conditions on the roads," the TFS warned.

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Town may be cut off

RESIDENTS of Musselroe Bay have been warned that if they want to leave town, they should leave now.

A 270ha blaze continues to bear down on homes and shacks at Musselroe Bay in Tasmania's far North-East.

The Tasmania Fire Service's Michael Watkins said smoke and fire were expected to cut off the town's access road at some stage this afternoon.

Mr Watkins said the fire had almost reached backburned containment lines to the west of the township, and firefighters were this morning drawing up contingency plans in case the fire jumped the lines.

It is understood that as many 40 residents left their homes last night, and many had set up camp in a safe zone near the local boat ramp.

Mr Watkins said residents were allowed back to their homes this morning.

He said there had been light rain in the area this morning but firefighters were less than confident that the rain had been enough to stop the fire jumping the containment lines and continue bearing down on the town.

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Forum on smoke-free future

A FORUM in Hobart today is investigating new approaches to tackle Tasmania's continued high smoking rates.

Opening the "A Smoke-Free Community -- Is It Possible?" forum at the University of Tasmania this morning, Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said the state's smoking rates remained too high.

Speakers at today's forum include Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper, Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Professor Mike Daube, ASH Australia chief executive Anne Jones, and local experts from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

"This forum will help shape change and policy formation around tobacco control and prevention for many years to come," Ms O'Byrne said in a statement.

"It's being held as part of the Australian Government's program to promote public interest in and action on tobacco control -- something Tasmania strongly supports.

"The recent Australian Health Survey results were yet another wake-up call for Tasmanians, showing only a slight decrease in the state's smoking rate.

"We are making some in-roads, but the number of Tasmanians still smoking remains unacceptably high."

Ms O'Byrne said the State Government had moved to reduce smoking in many public areas.

She cited the new ban on smoking between the flags on patrolled beaches, adding to earlier bans in locations like bus malls, playgrounds and sport grounds.

"For the first time this year, Carols by Candlelight services will be smoke-free, sending a clear message to our children that they can enjoy themselves without being exposed to second-hand smoke."

Read Elizabeth Lord's story in tomorrow's Mercury.

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Port Arthur call for funds

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 02 Desember 2012 | 19.55

An engineering report has revealed the penitentiary, regarded as the centrepiece of the Port Arthur Historic Site, is showing signs of serious decay.

A LANDMARK building at the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur site is in such poor condition that it needs an estimated $6 million of emergency restoration work.

An engineering report has revealed that The Penitentiary, regarded as the centrepiece of the historic site that attracts more than 250,000 tourists a year, is showing signs of serious decay.

Rumney MLC Tony Mulder raised concerns about the building after the report revealed the extent of structural repairs needed. Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority chairman Barry Jones said much of the building failed to meet modern load standards.

"If we had ferocious wind activity or a serious storm surge, it could do an awful lot of damage," he said.

"It is not looking too flash."

Mr Jones said the safety of tourists and staff was paramount.

Mr Mulder said the building was the iconic picture for Tasmanian tourism.

"Before MONA, it was the most visited site in Tasmania," he said. "It would be a travesty for it to fall into total ruin because of a lack of funding."

Mr Jones said the historic significance of the convict site, placed on the World Heritage List in 2010, could not be overestimated.

"It is an iconic building that is essential to our understanding of how Tasmania evolved," he said. A sophisticated metal structure was placed inside the penitentiary in the early 1980s to help hold up the building.

Mr Jones said deliberate shoddy workmanship by convicts was also contributing to the building's degeneration.

"Convicts sabotaged the building by mixing the mortar with saltwater," Mr Jones said.

Restoration work would include an underground concrete slab and series of steel columns to help support the structure.

Mr Jones said the Port Arthur authority which already receives funding of $2 million a year from the Tasmanian Government would ask for more financial assistance from the state's taxpayers.

He said the Federal Government had already been approached but was under no obligation to provide funds even though the site was on the World Heritage List.

Mr Jones said the complexities of the work could mean that the final bill exceeded the already costly estimate.

"Let's hope we can do it for $6 million."


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Caution on online credit

Police are investigating a number of online scams in Tasmania following reports of goods being purchased using stolen credit cards. Picture: THINKSTOCK

TASMANIAN shoppers need to be on guard when giving credit card details to online retailers this festive season.

Police are investigating a number of online scams in Tasmania following reports of goods being purchased using stolen credit cards.

"People need to be vigilant at all times in order to protect themselves against fraud," Tasmania Police fraud and e-crime division Detective Sergeant Natasha Leaman cautioned last week.

The warning follows recent Australian Federal Police arrests of international organised crime members who have been charged with stealing the credit-card data of up to 500,000 Australians.

Thousands of counterfeit transactions were carried out in numerous overseas locations including Europe, Hong Kong and the US.

Banks have agreed to shoulder the burden of the losses which totalled about $30 million but consumers have been put on high alert to protect their details.

Australians lost $4.8 billion an average of $212 per citizen through direct cash and lost productivity to online criminals last year, a Norton cybercrime report has found.

While some online hackers emptied bank accounts in one hit, the majority were silently fleecing bank accounts of small amounts, leaving the victims none the wiser.

A recent study showed one in four Australians has been a victim of credit-card fraud or had money taken from their bank account.

Despite this, the study by software company Kaspersky Lab found that three out of four Australians would still buy Christmas presents online this year.

Product specialist Wayne Kirby said scammers preyed on people during the Christmas season.

"It's a time when people are busy ... shopping online and generally sharing a lot of content via email or social media," he said.

"Before clicking on any links or opening any attachments, ask yourself, is that email from a legitimate company.

"Thinking before your click can save your computer, your credit-card details and also your privacy. Scammers will prey on unsuspecting victims who trust easily and fall for financial or personal hardship stories."

Fake emails and website pages are often used.

Additional reporting Ken McGregor

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Toy run touched by tragedy

SOUTHERN Tasmania was brought to a standstill yesterday as 8000 motorcycles snaked their way into Hobart on the 33rd Toy Run.

But the event, which grows larger each year, was marred by tragedy with the death of an Ulverstone motorcyclist at Conara.

Riders travelling from the north of the state experienced lengthy delays on the Midland Highway after the 45-year-old woman apparently crashed into a roadside railing about 10.40am.

The woman died at the scene.

Police investigating the crash said high winds were reported by other motorcyclists in the area at the time and could have been a factor in the accident.

Riders from around the state converged on the Derwent Entertainment Centre about noon and began riding along the Brooker Highway into Hobart.

Many were unaware of the tragedy that had taken place as they waved to onlookers and threw sweets to thousands of people who lined the route.

Arriving at Parliament House lawns on classic Harley-Davidsons, sidecars and motorised pushbikes, the bikers donated toys, food and money to the Salvation Army for the state's needy children and families.

Southern Motorbike Riders Association president Dean Horsey said there was a sombre mood at the gathering and a minute's silence was held for the rider before festivities began.

Numbers at this year's event increased by more than 500 participants on previous years as the Toy Run grows in popularity among the motorcycling community.

"It brings the motorcycle community together for a good cause," Mr Horsey said.

Damian Thompson, of Ulverstone, has been taking part since his first run in 1979.

"It's a really good opportunity to help the little tackers," he said.

"Every person here does it for the same reason, it's a chance to give back to the community."

A motorbike enthusiast of 54 years, John Wallander, of Gravelly Beach, has participated in the run seven times.

"It's beautiful if the bikers can raise a heap of money for charity for Christmas," he said.

Yesterday's crash was the second fatal crash on Tasmanian roads in less than 24 hours.

On Friday a woman was killed and five injured after a van rolled on the Arthur Highway at Copping.

The death brought the state's road toll to 28, compared with 22 at the same time last year.

Any witnesses to the bike crash are asked to contact Northern Crash Investigation on 6336 3936.


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