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Flying firies saved the day

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 23 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Flying firefighters saved many Tasmanian communities during recent outbreaks across the state.

HELICOPTERS may have saved the day at Molesworth, Franklin and Gretna but the international pilots who man the aircraft say it's all in a day's work.

"Without the aerial support we've had, the Molesworth fire had the potential to be far worse than it was. It could've reached Hobart, and homes would have been lost," Tasmania Fire Service air attack supervisor Bill St Leger said.

"This has been our busiest summer by far. We've contracted aircraft for nearly 10 years and this is definitely the most demanding year we've had."

New Zealand pilots Piers Harvey and "Kiwi Dave" Latham have been flying the workhorses of the sky, two Bell 214 aircraft specially flown in to Tasmania armed with 3000-litre capacity water tanks to fight the potentially deadly fires at Molesworth and Dunalley.

The machines, which boast more horsepower than a locomotive engine, burn through a whopping 12,000 litres of fuel a day.

These pilots saved countless homes and farms at Molesworth and Gretna and Mr Latham personally saved scores of sheep "no New Zealand jokes please" trapped by a wall of flames bearing down on them at Gretna on Monday.

"We managed to save the sheep in the stockyard and the house, but some sheep got trapped up on the hill when the fire came thorough so I went and put some water on them," Mr Harvey said.

"The fire was burning across so fast we were going from one house to the next.

"You never feel like you've got enough time, as much of a chance as you'd like. When it's lingering you get plenty of time, but when it's mid-action you barely get enough time to put some water there and then move on."

Canadian pilot Craig Pedersen and engineer Chris Benoit flew in from North America to assemble, maintain and man a Bell 212 contracted by the Federal Government to the TFS.

Mr Pedersen's helicopter was the first response aircraft at Molesworth and Franklin.

At the peak of the fires the TFS was utilising close to a dozen helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

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Sailors' sights on record run

SEAN Langman's $2.2 million trimaran Team Australia is rocketing towards Tasmania today, hoping to be the fastest boat ever to sail from Sydney to Hobart.

With spray stinging their faces as the 60-foot trimaran battled heavy seas, Team Australia was airborne at times sailing down Australia's east coast yesterday.

The super-light speed machine set off at 11am in conditions which were nearly perfect for breaking the speed record for the 628-nautical mile passage.

The crew of seven, including Sydney yachtsman Langman and his 19-year-old son, Peter, reported winds of up to 44 knots in the first five hours.

Team Australia must cross the traditional Sydney-Hobart yacht race finish line on the Derwent by 11am today to make the passage in Langman's ultimate goal 24 hours.

Otherwise, they are aiming to beat the race record of six-time Sydney-Hobart line honours champion Wild Oats XI of one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.

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Jobs to go in power jolt

THE State Government is under fire over job losses resulting from a planned merger of electricity companies.

Unions Tasmania criticised the job cuts while the Opposition slammed the Government for creating a "bureaucratic tangle" that will see three boards run the two companies until July next year.

Deputy Premier Bryan Green yesterday announced a new state-owned company would be set up to run the transmission and distribution of electricity in Tasmania.

He claimed the move would safeguard consumers from future electricity price rises.

Mr Green said a new board would be appointed to oversee the merger of Aurora and Transend, with the new company expected to be operating by July next year.

Mr Green said the Government would immediately appoint an independent person to facilitate the merger.

The new board would also include two directors from each existing board.

The merger was expected to save $8 million a year.

Mr Green said it would pave the way to full retail competition, due to be implemented at the start of next year.

But it would result in an unknown number of job losses from Aurora's retail division, including call centres.

"We're looking at every opportunity for those people but inevitably, as a result of the transition, there will be some job losses," Mr Green said.

Unions Tasmania secretary Kevin Harkins said it was concerning that the full extent of job losses was unknown.

"There is no doubt these changes will result in job losses, how many is anyone's guess," Mr Harkins said.

"Minister Green will go down in Tasmanian political history as the minister for lost jobs. Under his stewardship, I estimate around 800 jobs have been lost in our state-owned power companies."

Opposition energy spokesman Matthew Groom said the Liberals supported the merger, but slammed the suggested reform process.

"Instead of bringing Aurora and Transend together as the Liberals have been calling for, Energy Minister Green is creating a new layer of bureaucracy, which will only add to the current confusion and costs," Mr Groom said.


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Sceptic versus Greens

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 22 Februari 2013 | 19.55

UNFAZED: Climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton.

CLIMATE change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton took on the green movement when he brought his controversial tour to Hobart last night.

His appearance at the at the University of Tasmania's Sir Stanley Burbury Lecture Theatre drew anger from the Greens.

Greens' federal candidate for Denison Anna Reynolds said Lord Monckton should never have been given a forum at the university.

"It's an insult that UTAS, with its hard-earned reputation for excellence in climate science, provides the venue for a medieval circus act like Monckton's," she said.

Before his $25-a-ticket talk, a group from the Flat Earth Society dressed in medieval costumes greeted members of the public outside the lecture theatre.

"The Greens are dressed as the Flat Earth Society because that is what the Greens are -- the Flat Earth Society," Lord Monckton said.

He likened the Greens to a new "totalitarian society" and said he was very happy to be speaking at UTAS which he called "the lions' den, or the Greens' viper nest".

"The Greens would take us straight back to the Dark Ages by telling lies and untruths and the news media decides that only one point of view matters," he said.

Lord Monckton said it was a tradition at universities that all were allowed to speak and to subject their views to scrutiny.

"If the Greens were confident of their position, they should have no hesitation in welcoming debate," he said.

"What makes me angry is that universities are closing their minds whenever an alarmist political faction tells them to.

"It happened in Russia in 1917 and in Germany in 1933."

He proceeded to present a humorous slide show to the mostly appreciative audience of about 100.

Earlier, he arrived in Hobart wearing an Akubra hat presented by a South Australian admirer.

Lord Monckton, who is on a two-month tour of Australia, was in Hobart for one night only to deliver the public address at the invitation of the Democratic Labor Party, which was founded by social conservatives who broke from the Labor Party in 1955.

DLP state secretary and candidate for Denison Wayne Williams, who hired the venue and organised the public lecture, said all sides of any significant debate should be given a hearing.

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Jail term for 'hitman' attempt

A LAUNCESTON man who tried to hire a hitman to kill his estranged wife -- but got an undercover policeman instead -- has been jailed for four years.

Darryl Scott Donohue, 41, of Invermay, was the first Tasmanian convicted of incitement to murder.

He also pleaded guilty to stalking over a six-month period.

Chief Justice Ewan Crawford said the circumstances of the incitement to murder were chilling.

"Aggravating factors of both crimes are that he was acting in breach of a court's family violence order," he said.

"An aggravating factor of the incitement to murder is that despite police having spoken to him about what he was planning he maintained it.

"The incitement was not a spur of the moment decision but a pre-meditated plan that extended at least for a month."

The court heard that Donohue was angry that he could not get access to his children after a family violence order was put in place.

He approached a man he did not know at a barbecue to kill his wife for $10,000.

The man told police who then set up a sting giving Donohue the phone number of an undercover policeman.

After a meeting with the proposed "hitman" Donohue was arrested.

Justice Crawford set a non-parole period of two years and he dismissed defence counsel's submission for a partly suspended sentence.

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Merger to save $8 million

THE State Government hopes the merger of Aurora and Transend will stop further electricity price hikes.

Deputy Premier Bryan Green today announced that a new board would be appointed to oversee the merger of the two companies, with the new company expected to be operating by July next year.

Mr Green said it was the next major step in the overhaul of Tasmania's electricity industry, and hoped it would stop further price hikes.

It is expected to save $8 million a year.

Mr Green said the Government would immediately appoint a new chair to oversee the merger and the new board would include two directors from each of the current boards.

The move would see three boards in operation until at least July next year.

Mr Green said he wanted a "seamless transmission".

The merger will result in job losses, but Mr Green could not say how many.

He said the Government was on track to introduce full retail competition in the electricity market from January next year.

The sale of Aurora's customer base would start in the middle of this year.

Read more in the Mercury tomorrow.

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Smelter makes freight deal

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 21 Februari 2013 | 19.55

A NEW international shipping service will boost the viability of one of Tasmania's largest private employers -- Bell Bay Aluminium.

The service, however, offers little relief for other Tasmanian exporters who have been forced to ship goods to market via Melbourne since the withdrawal of the state's last international shipping service in 2011.

A contract signed between Pacific Aluminium, which operates Bell Bay, and Swire Shipping will freight service to northern Tasmania once a month, travelling to Australia via New Zealand and Asia.

Swire's newly built ships will carry large aluminium slabs as bulk cargo in the hold, as well as smaller ingots in containers on deck.

Pacific Aluminium general manager Ray Mostogl said the new service, due to start later next month, would reverse most of cost increases incurred when the previous shipping service was withdrawn.

It would have a positive impact on the viability of the smelter, which last year negotiated an energy package with the State Government in an effort to keep its operation in Tasmania.

"Global aluminium business is still a tough business to be in, compounded by the Australian dollar. There is a relentless drive to reduce costs," Mr Mostogl said.

Swire will also offer limited space to other Tasmanian exporters interested in exporting bulk cargo or containers to NZ and Asia.

A campaign, backed by the Tasmanian Opposition, to attract an international container service to cater for a broader range of Tasmanian exporters is continuing.

The State Government has also set up a Freight Logistics Co-ordination Team to help develop an industry-led solution to the island's freight woes.

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Wage query led to assault

A WOMAN had her nose broken in Salamanca Square after asking a man how much he earned, the Supreme Court has heard.

Security camera footage of the attack played to the Hobart court showed 26-year-old Matthew Wayne Tennant running from the scene, leaving the woman prone on the ground.

Tennant, from Strahan, today pleaded guilty to assaulting the 42-year-old at 4.15am on February 18 last year.

Prosecutor Heather Mannering said Tennant became enraged after the woman asked him how much he earned as a commercial diver as they chatted outside a bakery.

After some pushing and shoving, Tennant pushed the woman and she fell, hitting her head. After a second scuffle, she again hit the ground but did not get up.

The woman suffered grazing, a broken nose and spinal injuries.

Ms Mannering said both Tennant and the victim were heavily intoxicated.

Defence lawyer Kim Baumeler said her client had been enjoying an evening out and had not intended to hurt anyone.

"He didn't set out to be violent," she said.

"But he did, in spades," said Justice Shan Tennent.

"My perception of looking at that video is that he threw her, he picked her up and threw her, and she landed on her face."

Ms Baumeler said Tennant had been shunned and ostracised in his community because of the attack.

"He is shocked and appalled by the way he acted," she said.

"He accepts that he went overboard."

Tennant had turned himself in to police just hours after the attack, she said.

Justice Tennent will sentence him on March 12.

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BBQ row sparks Molotov attack

AN arsonist who tried but failed to burn down his neighbour's Kingston home with a Molotov cocktail succeeded on his second attempt by setting fire to her curtains, a court has heard.

Father-of-two Darrel John Smith, 35, was caught talking about the crime on a police listening device planted in his Housing Tasmania flat, the Supreme Court in Hobart was told today.

The brickie's labourer pleaded guilty to arson, attempted arson and breaching a restraining order.

Crown Prosecutor Heather Mannering said Smith had several disputes with his neighbour before she took out a restraining order against him in September 2011.

On November 25 that year, the woman was subjected to a barrage of abuse from people attending a barbecue at Smith's home unit.

A window of her home was smashed and one of the partygoers assaulted her. Police were called and the party was moved to outside Smith's unit.

About 11.30pm that night, Smith threw a Molotov cocktail through the woman's bedroom window but it failed to ignite.

The woman and her adult daughter, who were inside at the time, were evacuated by police.

At 3am, Smith returned and set fire to curtains in the unit with a cigarette lighter.

It was razed by fire, with damage estimated at $137,000, and the woman lost all of her belongings.

The court heard $64,800 damage was caused to an adjoining unit.

Defence lawyer Amber Mignot said her client was a drug user and sometimes found it difficult to make good decisions.

"He doesn't seek to excuse his conduct and accepts it was entirely inappropriate," she said.

"It's something he very much regrets. He said the main reason was to scare her not to return to the address, to get her out of the neighbourhood, not to cause her any injury."

Justice Shan Tennent will sentence Smith next Thursday.

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Angels to visit Dunalley

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 20 Februari 2013 | 19.55

OZ rock band The Angels will be one of the headline acts at the Dunalley Hotel Phoenix Festival on March 17.

Set in the grounds of the Dunalley Hotel, the family festival day will raise money for south-east Tasmanian communities affected by January's devastating bushfires.

Other acts include The James Reyne Trio and several local bands.

Festival committee president Tasha Brook said the phoenix was a symbol of looking towards the future.

"The phoenix comes out of the ashes every time and that's what we believe will happen with these communities," she said.

A ticketing system for the event is still being set up.

Tickets will be $50 for adults, $20 for children under 18, with children under 10 admitted free.

There are also a limited number of $20 concession tickets available for Tasman Peninsula residents.

To visit the festival's Facebook page, click here.

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Lara calls for level playing field

PREMIER Lara Giddings has lashed out at critics of Tasmania's economic performance and said the campaign by large Liberal states for a greater share of the GST would create an unequal Australia.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra today, she said tampering with Australia's long-established principles of tax distribution, would be disastrous for Tasmanians.

"With a fixed pool of GST funds available, any change will be at the expense of Tasmania," she said.

"We stand to lose up to $700 million each and every year, some 15 per cent of the State Budget.

"Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett cries poor despite rolling in the massive royalties of the mining boom."

Read Lara Giddings' full speech here

Taking questions after her speech, Ms Giddings spoke with passion about the implications.

"It would be wrong for the state which can least afford it to give money to the richest state," she said.

"It is wrong that someone in Launceston should have a different level of health and education services to someone in Subiaco.

"It is wrong to think there should be two streams of Australians."

Ms Giddings said a level playing field was "what the federation is about".

She accused federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of saying one thing when he was in Western Australia and another when he visited Tasmania, calling for a "fairer" system in the West while promising Tasmania would be no worse off.

She also invited all Liberal leaders to visit Tasmania and explain to locals why they should be denied equal access to the same quality of services as other Australians.

Ms Giddings was defiant in the face of another round of bad opinion polls this week, which showed support for the Labor Party slipping to 23 per cent.

She acknowledged that the state economy was going through tough times, with industries such as forestry and manufacturing under pressure from market changes and the high value of the Australian dollar but she said Tasmania was on track to build a more resilient economy.

"As a result of the tough budget decisions we made earlier than other states, Tasmania is forecast to be the only state in the country that is both net debt free and in surplus by 2014-15," she said.

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Activists clash with whalers

Environmentalists have accused Japanese whalers of attempting to crash into their ship as they tried to prevent harpoonists from hauling a slaughtered whale on board. Picture: SEA SHEPHERD, AFP

ANTI-WHALING group Sea Shepherd says a Japanese whaling ship has rammed its two protest ships, and one has taken on water.

Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson, in a posting on his Facebook page this afternoon, claimed the Nisshin Maru had rammed both the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, "but both vessels continue to hold their positions. The Bob Barker is taking on water in their engine room."

They are in the Southern Ocean, north of the Australian Casey Research Station.

Speaking from aboard the Steve Irwin, Watson told 3 News the Bob Barker, with 38 crew aboard, was hit a number of times as they tried to stop the Nisshin Maru from refuelling, which he says is illegal in the Southern Ocean.

"(It) has lost power, toppled the main mast, smashed up the deck."

A mayday has been issued but the crew had managed to stop water from coming in, he said.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is responsible for responding to maydays in that part of the ocean. The authority is in the process of responding.

Capt Watson said the Japanese ship had also struck the Korean-owned fuel tanker, the Sun Laurel.

The Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research could not be reached for immediate comment, but last week it said the Bob Barker had tried to sabotage Japanese research vessel Nisshin Maru and Yushin Maru No.2 as they tried to transfer a whale between the two ships.

Bob Brown, a Sea Shepherd director, said the Federal Government must send the navy to Antarctic waters to "restore international law".

"This is a gross breach of international law by the Japanese," Dr Brown told reporters in Melbourne today.

"I'm calling the Australian government to dispatch naval vessels now -- not just to film the slaughter of the whales by the Antarctic fleet but to restore international law.

"Tokyo is not in control of ... Australian waters."

Federal Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the incident should force the Government to "finally open its eyes" and "put a cop on the beat".

"We wrote three times in December to the Prime Minister warning of a risk of conflict and collision between whalers and protesters," Mr Hunt told reporters in Sydney.

"There should be a Customs vessel dispatched for search and rescue, for monitoring surveillance purposes in the Southern Ocean."

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has previously dismissed the Coalition's proposal of having a boat in the Southern Ocean and has taken Japan to the International Court of Justice.

The confrontation comes the same month as the US Supreme Court upheld an injunction ordering Sea Shepherd to keep away from Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean.

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Milne 'clears air' in Canberra

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 19 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Senator Christine Milne at the National Press Club in Canberra today. Picture: KYM SMITH

AUSTRALIAN Greens leader Christine Milne says she's "cleared the air" by attacking the Federal Government for walking away from its agreement with the minor party.

The Tasmanian senator has accused Labor of choosing to support big miners and no longer honouring the agreement to work together to promote transparent and accountable government in the national interest.

Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra today, Senator Milne said it had been very obvious for a while that Labor had walked away from the deal.

Among the examples she cited were the Government's refusal to fix the mining tax, its decision to allow mining in the Tarkine in Tasmania, to expand coal seam gas mining and to cut single parent welfare payments.

"All of these actions undermine that fundamental agreement," Senator Milne told Sky News.

"I thought it was time we just cleared the air, said they've walked away and frankly the response from some of them shows they have walked away."

Asked if the agreement was still in place, Senator Milne said it was "on paper".

"But you can see from the Labor party's point of view it is not, and in a parliamentary scenario it is important to be very clear about the relationships," she said.

Senator Milne the Greens would still support supply bills and oppose no-confidence motions.

But it was dishonest of the government to pretend it was working in the public interest with the Greens, she said.

"The policies they are coming out with are the antithesis of that," she said.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury.

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Flinders push takes flight

A NEW $32,000 marketing campaign has been launched to lure visitors from Victoria into Bass Strait for an autumn getaway on Flinders Island.

It is the first time Flinders has been the sole focus of a TV ad campaign, which is designed boost visitor numbers during the traditional autumn-winter lull.

The three-week campaign is a joint venture between Tourism Tasmania, Sharp Airlines, the Flinders Island Tourism Association and the local council.

The "Experience the Good Life" ad is short but shows off some of the amazing scenery, recreational activities and food options the biggest island of the Furneaux Group has to offer.

The campaign will air on WIN and Southern Cross networks in regional Victoria .

The last survey on tourism numbers on Flinders Island -- conducted for the year ending in June 2009 -- shows the island had just under 5000 visitors in that year.

Sharp Airlines took over regular passenger routes to Flinders from Tasmania and Victoria two years ago and a new survey is being conducted to see if visitor numbers have increased since then.

The airline will be offering special promotional airfares of about $145 one-way to back up the campaign, with local tourist operators also spruiking special deals. It normally costs about $234 to fly from Melbourne to Whitemark, on Flinders Island, and about $174 one-way from Launceston.

Tourism Minister Scott Bacon said the promotional push would be supplemented with electronic direct mail and other social media activities.

Mr Bacon said the success of tourism on any island, including Flinders, hinged on the success of its carriers.

"That is why Tourism Tasmania works alongside our various carrriers, including Sharp Airlines, on joint marketing activities to stimulate bookings and sales."

Flinders Island Tourism Association president Michael Buck said he expected the campaign to deliver more tourists and spark more co-operative marketing ventures in the future.

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Arrests over takeaway robbery

TWO teenagers and a 41-year-old man have been arrested over an alleged armed robbery at Hobart's Foodstop takeaway early this morning.

Police allege one of the youths entered the Elizabeth St shop at 1.26am armed with a knife and demanded money from a shop assistant.

The worker complied and the youth then ran to a red Ford Laser waiting outside.

Police allege the 41-year-old was standing at the shop door during the incident while the second youth waited in the car.

The vehicle was later stopped by police using road spikes on the Tasman Highway near Dunalley.

The stolen money was recovered from the car and the three suspects were arrested.

The two youths, aged 15 and 16, and the man are being held in custody to appear in court later today on charges of motor vehicle stealing, aggravated armed robbery and evading police.

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Mum admits to drunken heist

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 18 Februari 2013 | 19.55

A SINGLE mother drank two dozen beers before robbing her local bottleshop at gunpoint, the Supreme Court in Hobart has been told.

Verriece Aileen McLean, 39, of Lutana, has pleaded guilty to armed robbery and a string of firearms offences.

Crown Prosecutor Yolanda Prenc today told the court McLean held up a 9-11 Bottleshop on the Brooker Highway on November 25 last year.

McLean walked into the store about 7.30pm, produced a shortened .22-calibre rifle from her bag and said to the 23-year-old attendant: "This is a robbery".

"I don't want to hurt you, don't touch the button and lock the door."

The attendant shoved $1300 into a plastic bag and McLean left the store.

Police found her hiding in bushes not far from the shop. She emerged with her hands up, yelling: "I did it, I did it".

Officers recovered the gun and 16 rounds of ammunition in her bag.

When interviewed, she was unable to recall what she'd done.

"I can't remember what I've done and I'm sorry if I have done something -- which I obviously have," she told police.

Defence lawyer Todd Kovacic said his client was a former drug user who suffered from mental health problems and had been drinking heavily on the day of the robbery.

Justice Helen Wood adjourned the case until April 11, ordering a report be prepared on McLean's mental state at the time of the offences.


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Charges over museum thefts

A MAN has been charged with stealing objects from the Markree Collection from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, police said today.

Detectives started an investigation over the theft of objects from the collection in September last year.

They confirmed that numerous items, including watches, jewellery, historic photographs and die-cast toys had been sold on the online auction site eBay throughout 2012, a spokeswoman said.

A 41-year-old man from Lindisfarne was today charged with stealing those items and will appear in court in March.

The collection was donated to the museum by the late Henry Baldwin in 2008 and consisted of the contents of three houses.

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Crews battle Gretna blaze

SEVERAL dozen fire crews are battling a small but intense bushfire north of the Lyell Highway near the Derwent Valley town of Gretna.

The Tasmania Fire Service said the blaze broke out shortly before 5pm near Marked Tree Rd.

An emergency warning has been issued for Gretna, Rosegarland, Black Hills and surrounding areas.

For the latest fire updates, click here to visit the TFS website.

Water-bombing helicopters are working in relays in an attempt to douse the flames, which are being fanned by strong winds.

The TFS warned that the blaze could cause spot fires up to 3km ahead of the main fire front.

Police have set up a roadblock on the Lyell Highway south of Gretna, where dozens of cars have banked up.

A fixed-wing aircraft and more ground resources were on their way to the area late today.

It is believed no houses have been lost to the fire, which is burning through paddocks and bush.

Motorists have been advised to avoid the area and be wary of downed powerlines, wandering stock, and emergency services vehicles.

The Lyell Highway is closed between Gordon River Rd and Hamilton. The highway between Kilderry Rd and Gordon River Rd is open to residents only.

The temperature remained in the mid 30s late today, with a cool southerly change expected tomorrow.

  • If you have pictures of the blaze, please send them to readerspix@dbl.newsltd.com.au.

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Aussies feel the squeeze

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 17 Februari 2013 | 19.55

ONE in three Australian families lives from one pay day to the next and 17 per cent of Tasmanians say they would struggle to scrape up $1000 if needed in an emergency.

BT Australian Financial Health Index found almost one in two employees wouldn't have enough savings to survive on with no income for up to six months.

One in three fear they cannot afford normal monthly living expenses and will not have a financially secure retirement, one in 11 people would have trouble borrowing $2000 and just two in five workers save regularly.

High-income earners admit to living from one pay to the next and 48 per cent of people rarely or never make contributions to their super.

The "alarming" results showed a large proportion of Australians employees were struggling to cope financially day to day.

TasCOSS chief executive Tony Reidy said the community sector was well aware of the levels of financial hardship being experienced in Tasmania.

"TasCOSS member organisations continue to report significant increases in individuals and families approaching emergency relief charities for assistance for the first time in their lives," he said.

"Key factors are high unemployment and under-employment and the spiralling cost of living, particularly in essential service areas such as electricity and water, they are getting beyond the reach of low-income families."

BT general manager Deanne Stewart said: "Very few people can confidently state how much they spend on food, utilities or even their mortgage.

"Surprisingly, 57 per cent have no regular savings plan and this figure peaks among 45- to 54-year-olds when they might expect to be at the height of their earning capacity."

Almost half the population squirrel away just $200 or less a month, while 28 per cent managed $100 or less.

Only a third of respondents had a financial plan to meet their financial goals, and 56 per cent said they were unable to save as much as they would like.

But 4 per cent save $2000 to $5000 a month -- mainly tradies and some professionals.

Ms Stewart said people put managing their finances in the "too-hard basket".

"There are simple steps everyone can take and over time these will make a huge difference to people's savings and peace of mind," she said. "The quite high number of people who shop without purpose for things they don't need is just one example."

Tasmanians were the worst savers, with 52 per cent setting aside $200 a month followed by Queensland.

The biggest savers were in WA, where 15 per cent of people put aside more than $1000 a month, ahead of Victoria (14 per cent) and NSW (13 per cent).

Machine operators, drivers, professionals, tradespeople and managers saved the most each month while labourers and storepeople the least, with women marginally better savers than men.

"In many instances people are living in the hope that they will achieve their goals rather than planning for a fulfilling and secure future," Ms Stewart said. "This has implications for their health and lifestyle, impacting on their levels of stress in the longer term influencing their enjoyment in the years after they finish work."

It is men, not women, who are the big credit card bingers.

Males aged 18 to 69 have larger monthly repayments on average than women.

BT commissioned the survey in November last year to understand how Australians rated their financial health in order to tailor its products and services better.

The BT Index also found Australians have become more conservative than ever since the global financial crisis in their attitude towards credit card debt.

Findings show only one in 20 workers regularly uses credit cards as a cash-out facility, while more than half always pay the total balance on time to avoid extra fees.

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Short 'n' sweet

CAN'T WAIT: Tropfest actor/director/writer Ella Watkins, left, and actor Sara Cooper ready for the Salamanca Square screening. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE

HOBART film-lovers are in for a treat this afternoon and evening with perfect weather and a free, open-air venue to enjoy the country's best short films.

Thousands are expected in Salamanca Square as Tropfest, the world's largest short film festival, is screened live from Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.

A consortium of local businesses and funding by Screen Tasmania ensured the popular event would go ahead again this year, with fans watching on a screen four times bigger than last year thanks to venue sponsor TasIVF.

There are 16 finalists in this year's Tropfest, all featuring the compulsory "Tropfest signature item", which this year is "balloon".

There are no Tasmanian films in this year's final lineup, but two local shorts were shortlisted -- Dingleberry and The Book of Memories.

Ella Watkins, 17, from West Hobart, who wrote, directed and starred in The Book of Memories, is thrilled to have been shortlisted for the prestigious film festival.

"It was just the most amazing thing," she said. "I started out as an actor, but three years ago after watching Tropfest I decided I really wanted to be in the festival, so I made a film of my own."

Sara Cooper, who had roles in both shortlisted Tasmanian films, said there was a huge amount of talent among local filmmakers.

"I can't believe a Tasmanian film has never made it to the finals, but I'm sure one will very soon," she said.

The screening begins at 2pm with the Trop Jr films by filmmakers under 15, and screening of the main Tropfest event 7pm.

Entry is free. Viewers have a chance to win a return trip for two to the Gold Coast.

Tropfest 2013 also screens tonight on SBS1 from 8.30pm.

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Tassie tradies spend up big

A NATIONAL financial health survey has confirmed some stereotypes in Tasmanian culture but it has shattered others.

Among the findings from the BT Financial Health Index is the fact that carpenters, brick-layers and other "tradies" are the biggest spenders in Australia, outlaying more than doctors and lawyers each month on food, medical expenses, childcare and schooling and other essentials.

Burnie "chippie" Justin Schmidt said he endorsed the findings based on his years in the trade but his brother Mark Schmidt said three of the tradies working at Island Workshop Pty Ltd broke the stereotype and were healthy eaters and got into serious exercise when they downed tools.

Justin Schmidt estimated some tradies spent up to $30 a day on tucker.

"You add up a bacon and egg roll and takeaway coffee for breakfast, a sausage roll and drink for smoko and more fast food for lunch and afternoon smoko and you are forking out a lot of money just to survive on the job," Justin said.

But some tradies are bucking the trend and looking after both their wallets and their health.

"The three carpenters I have on site today in Hobart are in great nick and involved in swimming, kung fu and other pursuits," Mark Schmidt said.

"Perhaps the days of the fat tradie are over."

A national survey into Australians' financial health has also revealed that cashed-up tradespeople, who are predominantly men and often self-employed, are the most guilty of "binge shopping".

The BT Australian Financial Health Index, based on a survey of almost 5000 Australians by Ernst & Young, found tradespeople spend on average $844 a month on food and $628 on family expenses such as medical bills, childcare and education.

Professionals dish out $831 a month on food and $594 on family expenses.

The survey also found tradies love to shop, with 17 per cent going on "buying binges".


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