Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

Damages to the tourism industry from the bushfire disaster have approached A$1 billion so far and may go above A$4.5 billion by the end of the year, according to estimates. (AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

  • Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks
  • The Australian government said it will channel A$76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry

MELBOURNE: The Australian government said on Sunday it will financially aid the country’s tourism sector that’s been badly hit by long-lasting bushfires, as Melbourne braced for downpours at the start of one of its greatest allures, the Australian Open.
Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks, easing a disaster that has scorched an area roughly one-third the size of Germany.
The Australian government said on Sunday it will channel A$76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry.
Twenty-nine people have been killed in the fires while thousands of animals have also perished.
Fears of smoke from the fires disrupting the Australian Open receded in Melbourne where the year’s first Grand Slam starts on Monday, but the city and parts of the bushfire-ravaged Victoria were bracing for heavy rains.
“Victoria is about to see its wettest two-day period in many, many months,” Dean Narramore from the state’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
More than 780,000 fans attended the two-week Australian Open last year, according to figures from the office of the state’s premier, providing a major influx of cash for Victoria’s economy.
Damages to the tourism industry from the bushfire disaster have approached A$1 billion so far and may go above A$4.5 billion by the end of the year, according to estimates from Australian tourism bodies.
The government said the aid announced on Sunday was “an initial push” to help the country’s A$152 billion tourism industry, an increasingly vital part of Australia’s economy, that accounts for more than 3 percent of annual economic output.
In a joint statement released with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the bushfires have dealt the biggest reputational blow to the Australian tourism industry that it has ever faced internationally.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of so many communities around Australia and it’s absolutely critical that we help to get people back visiting those communities,” Birmingham said.


Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

Updated 20 February 2020

Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was ‘shocked, saddened and devastated’ by the tragedy
  • A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns

SYDNEY: An ex-rugby league player is suspected of murdering his three children and estranged wife in Australia by burning them alive inside their car, in what police described as one of the most horrific incidents they have encountered.

Officers said 31-year-old Hannah Clarke died in a Brisbane hospital on Wednesday just hours after her three children aged three, four and six were found dead in the car on a suburban street.

Her husband, Rowan Baxter, who also died, allegedly approached the vehicle and doused it with petrol before setting it alight, The Australian newspaper reported.

The paper said Clarke jumped from the burning car and rolled on the ground, saying “he’s poured petrol on me.”

Officials said she was rushed to hospital with severe burns following the “horrific” incident but later succumbed to her injuries.

Baxter, a 42-year-old former rugby league player for the New Zealand Warriors, was believed to be in the burning vehicle but got out and died on a footpath.

Queensland Police detective inspector Mark Thompson said Thursday that Baxter died as a result of burns and a self-inflicted wound.

“Information that’s to hand has led us to believe that the Baxter children and Hannah Clarke were killed and I don’t believe there’s any suspicious circumstances around the death of Rowan Baxter,” he said.

Clarke’s sister-in-law, Stacey Roberts, set up a fundraiser to pay for funeral costs and support Hannah’s parents, who she said had “exhausted themselves to try and help Hannah escape this monster.”

“All those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once would know how much of a beautiful soul she was. Her children (were) her life,” Roberts posted on Facebook.

The page has so far raised almost Aus$100,000 ($67,000).

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was “shocked, saddened and devastated” by the tragedy, which has led to an outpouring of grief on social media.

“Hannah and her three children were so senselessly and maddeningly murdered in what has occurred in a terrible act of violence and it just grieves our hearts terribly today,” he said.

Natasha Stott Despoja, a former senator and chair of anti-violence group Our Watch, called for stronger action to address violence against women in Australia, which she described as a “national emergency.”

“I know people want change, people are angry & sad today,” she tweeted. “How long before we stop this slaughter in our suburbs?“

A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns, a Queensland Ambulance Service spokesperson said.

The emergency responders who attended the scene have been stood down from their duties and will receive support, he added.