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Schoolgirl beats the odds

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 02 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Veronika Davie, of Honeywood, prepares for her first day at St Cuthbert's Catholic School with proud mum Kylee Davie. Pictures: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

IT'S the day that was never meant to come. Against all the odds Veronika Davie, 4, will start school this week.

The Honeywood tot has cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and a heart condition -- a rare and challenging combination.

For parents Kylie and Marcus Davie, the milestone will be even sweeter as Veronika is expected to walk into the classroom on her first day at St Cuthbert's Catholic School in Lindisfarne.

It's been their aim for the past two years to help Veronika learn to walk, with the hope that she would able walk into the classroom on her first day without their support.

"At one stage she wasn't expected to survive, so to be heading off to school is just amazing," Mrs Davie said.

Veronika underwent intensive therapy last year to dramatically boost her leg strength and improve her walking skills, which resulted in major improvements.

But in December she suffered two serious seizures, revealing she also has epilepsy.

She was hospitalised for four days and suffered a suspected stroke.

Mrs Davie said it set Veronika's development back 14 months, which means she'll have to use her trusty frame to walk into the classroom.

"It's very exciting," she said.

"It's been four and a half years of hard work, determination and stubbornness to get her here."

Last week an excited Veronika took delight in sifting through the items in her new school bag and trying on her uniform.

Under the uniform she will wear about $4000 worth of body splints to keep her limbs and bones stabilised.

Veronika has already met her school teacher, two teacher aides and an occupational therapist to help with her transition to the classroom.

She's not speaking yet and has a special app on her iPad to help communicate.

"(The app) will be her voice at school," Mrs Davie said.

Veronika will fit her schooling around five weekly medical appointments.

You can follow Veronika's journey on the Veronika Will Walk Facebook page or click here.


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Abbott vows to unshackle state

Liberal Leader Tony Abbott tours the bushfire-ravaged town of Dunalley. Pictures: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has taken a swipe at Tasmania's floundering economic position, vowing to remove the "red tape and green tape" he says is stifling development and investment in the state.

Hitting the hustings in Tasmania just two days after Prime Minister Julia Gillard named the September 14 election date, Mr Abbott says Tasmania's economy has been "constricted and constrained" by Labor-Green governments federally and locally.

"I think the message from the Coalition to the people of Tasmania is, we want you to be a great state, not just for tourism, but for business more generally," he said.

Mr Abbott also pledged his support for the forestry industry and a $400 million upgrade of the Midland Highway.

He said he was confident a duplication of the highway from Hobart to Launceston could be delivered at this price.

But Tasmanian Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne slammed suggestions the project could be completed for less than $2 billion.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said it was a repeat of a 2010 promise by Mr Abbott.

Mr Abbott said Tasmania would not be worse off under plans to redistribute GST funding and reiterated support for the forestry industry.

"We have enough forests locked up in Tasmania already," he said.

"The forestry industry in Tasmania should have a growing future not a shrinking, dying future and that's the tragedy of the policies being pursued by the government."

During a tour of properties affected by the recent bushfire at Dunalley, Mr Abbott re-issued calls for the Federal Government to extend its emergency relief funding to businesses commercially affected by natural disaster.

"Communities can't really survive without businesses to support them," he said.

"There are many businesses in this town which haven't been physically damaged but have been commercially damaged.

"That's why the Coalition believes that there should be an emergency assistance package for disaster-hit businesses.

"We think the $100,000 emergency loans that are ordinarily available under category C assistance should be available not just for the physically-hit businesses but the commercially-hit businesses."

Mr Abbott also called for a one-month break from GST and PAYG taxes.

Dunalley Fish Market owner Bruce Chambers supported calls to extend emergency relief funding to all businesses in the area.

"Everybody has been impacted, some more than others," he said.

"If you haven't got small businesses functioning then you haven't got the back-up for [local services] and with no employment you've got no need to have the school."


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Two-year wait for Myer

SHOPPERS excited about Hobart's new $100m Myer complex are likely to be waiting well into next year before surging through the front door.

Work is expected to start on the development in Liverpool St this month.

The Hobart City Council will close the Liverpool Link walkway between Cat and Fiddle Arcade and Liverpool St after city shops shut tomorrow night.

Workers will spend several days removing council infrastructure, including the walkway and seating.

Project architect Andrew McCreary, from Hobart's Designhaus -- one of the country's oldest architectural practices -- said work at the site should begin this month.

Designhaus director Richard Crawford is the superintendent of the complex, which will be constructed by Hutchinson Builders, a century-old national firm with a Tasmanian office.

"The first stage is likely to take closer to two years," Mr McCreary said.

"After construction, Myer will need to do their fitout and then the transferring of stock."

There had been hopes the first stage of the five-storey redevelopment would be open by Christmas this year.

But Mr McCreary said it was likely to be closer to Christmas next year.

He said the design would "bring the focus back on the CBD".

Fire destroyed a large section of the Myer store on September 22, 2006, and much of the Liverpool St building had to be demolished.

Mr McCreary said builders would initially erect fencing and set up an office on site.

He said substantial excavation and underpinning of the existing rivulet wall and surrounding properties would take place.

"And a large crane will be set up," Mr McCreary said.

Designhaus has created a Facebook page with information about the project.

The second stage of the redevelopment will take place on Murray St.

It will include new high-end fashion stores.

The Hobart City Council has plans to turn the CBD into a magnet for visitors and residents and will soon start work rejuvenating sections of Liverpool St.


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Click to prepare for school

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 01 Februari 2013 | 19.55

THE back-to-school period can be a hectic time for many Tasmanian parents.

But a growing number of time-poor mums and dads are ditching traditional shopping trips and instead turning to the internet to make life easier, placing online orders for everything from textbooks to lunchboxes.

Among those who have embraced technology this year are Richard and Adelaide Reisz, from South Hobart, who recently ordered text books and stationery from the Birchalls website for their son Oscar, 9.

With a few clicks of the mouse they were able to view an official list of items Oscar needed for his grade four class and select the products they wanted.

Within a week the items arrived on their doorstep, saving a trip to the shops.

"We order everything else online these days, so why shouldn't we also buy school books?" said Mr Reisz, who was thrilled to buy online while also supporting a locally owned business.

"It was brilliantly easy," Mrs Reisz added.

Many Tasmanian parents have been raving on social networking sites about the time and money they saved by buying stationery, art supplies, shoes and other back-to-school staples from various websites.

Birchalls Hobart manager Donna Walker said this was the second year Birchalls had offered an online back-to-school service and demand was steadily growing.

"A substantial amount of parents are ordering online," she said.

Miss Walker said it provided greater convenience for parents, especially those who worked full time and didn't have time to visit traditional.

She said online shopping had been popular with families of four or five children, who considered the $10 postage charge a worthwhile investment for the time and effort they saved.

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Celebrating the Snake

ANNUAL Greek and Italian festivals have long been attracting strong crowds in Hobart.

And now Tasmanians can immerse themselves in all things Chinese, with a new festival being held in North Hobart on Sunday.

The Chinese New Year Festival will feature traditional food, music and dancing as well as numerous stalls, children's activities, tai chi and cooking demonstrations by Me Wah chefs.

The free event -- which previews the official start of the Chinese New Year on February 10 -- has been organised by members of the Chinese Community Association of Tasmania who hope Tasmanians of all walks of life will embrace the Chinese culture and help celebrate the Year of the Snake.

Festival chairwoman Ruby Lee said Tasmania's Chinese community had continued to grow since the association began in 1968.

She said the Chinese New Year was a hugely important date on the Chinese calendar and was usually celebrated by families gathering together at home for a special meal.

She said events were also sometimes held in Hobart restaurants, but this was the first time an official public festival had been organised.

The event will be held in the former Chickenfeed carpark, behind the North Hobart restaurant strip, from 10.30am-3.30pm.

Year of the Snake

• The Snake is the sixth of the 12 signs in the Chinese zodiac and symbolises wisdom, caution and romance.

• The Chinese New Year does not fall on a specific date each year -- the Year of the Snake begins on February 10, 2013.

• According to Chinese astrology, those born in the Year of the Snake are likely to be intelligent, graceful, independent, analytical and charming.

• People born in the Year of the Snake make excellent scientists, potters, analysts, jewellers, spiritual leaders, sociologists, dieticians, astrologers, magicians, investigators and painters.

• Famous people born in the Year of the Snake include Muhammad Ali, Tony Blair, Bob Dylan, Henry Fonda, Mahatma Gandhi, Greta Garbo, Dizzy Gillespie, JFK, Carole King, Mao Zedong, Sir Sidney Nolan, Bob Hawke, Pablo Picasso, Oprah Winfrey and Virginia Woolf.

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Chopper sent to Midland crash

FIVE people were injured in a two-vehicle accident on the Midland Highway tonight at Antill Ponds, just north of St Peters Pass.

Two of the injured were trapped in their vehicles and had to be cut out.

The Westpac police rescue helicopter flew to the scene and airlifted a patient to the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Another three people were taken to the Royal Hobart Hospital by road and a fifth person was taken to the Launceston General Hospital by road.

An Ambulance Tasmania spokesman said initial assessments indicated the injuries were not life-threatening.

Tasmania Police said the crash was first reported about 6.50pm.

It involved a Holden Commodore and a Toyota Camry, both towing trailers.

The incident caused long delays for traffic on the highway, with lanes closed for more than an hour and with the helicopter having to land on the road.

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Humans behind tiger's demise

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 31 Januari 2013 | 19.55

HUMANS alone were responsible for the demise of Australia's extinct native predator, the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, a new study has found.

Led by the University of Adelaide, the study has used new modelling to contradict a widespread belief that disease must have been a factor in the thylacine's demise.

The thylacine was a unique marsupial found throughout most of Tasmania before European settlement in 1803.

Between 1886 and 1909, the Tasmanian government encouraged people to hunt the carnivores and paid bounties on more than 2000 thylacine carcasses.

Only a handful of animals were located after the bounty was lifted and the last known thylacine was captured in 1933.

"Many people believe that bounty hunting alone could not have driven the thylacine extinct and therefore claim that an unknown disease epidemic must have been responsible," study leader Thomas Prowse said in a statement today.

Dr Prowse said the study tested that claim by developing a network of linked species and evaluated whether the impact of Europeans could have exterminated the thylacine, without any disease.

The new model simulated the effects of bounty hunting and habitat loss and also considered the impact of the reduction in the thylacine's prey, kangaroos and wallabies, because of human harvesting.

"We found we could simulate the thylacine extinction, including the observed rapid population crash after 1905, without the need to invoke a mystery disease," Dr Prowse said.

"We showed that the negative impacts of European settlement were powerful enough that, even without any disease epidemic, the species couldn't escape extinction."

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A lesson in rapid recovery

CLASSES will begin at the new-look Dunalley Primary on February 13 – just weeks after the original structure was razed by fire.

Education Minister Nick McKim today described the project to build a temporary school after the January 4 blaze as brilliant.

Teachers will return on Monday, February 4, to do three days of professional development in the school gym or in the Tasmania Fire Service building in Dunalley.

Student-free days have been declared on Tuesday and Wednesday, with supervised excursions and activities planned for Thursday and Friday.

Monday, February 11, is the Regatta Day public holiday.

On Tuesday, February 12, teachers will organise classrooms and furniture on a third student-free day.

Prep to grade 6 children will return to classes on Wednesday, with kindergarten starting on Thursday.

Almost 130 children are set to return to the school -- only about three fewer than were expected before the devastating blaze.

"This is an outstanding achievement and our thanks go to those dedicated people who have been working around the clock to ensure students would be able to return as soon as possible," Mr McKim said.

"To have a temporary school established on a site that was razed by fire just weeks earlier is a tribute to the dedication and commitment of those many workers who have helped ensure the site is up and running."

All other government schools return on Tuesday, February 5.

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MPs back election betting ban

Senator Nick Xenophon, left, and Tasmanian MHR Andrew Wilkie are calling for both major parties to back a Bill to end a pre-poll flutter.

GAMBLING on elections is an invitation for corruption, say independent MPs Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon.

The anti-gambling pair wants it banned ahead of the September 14 poll.

South Australian Senator Xenophon will introduce legislation to ban gambling on the outcome of state or federal elections, after one betting agency took out a full-page advertisement to promote its markets for this year's vote.

Sportsbet used images of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott in its ad today, featuring a speech bubble from the Opposition Leader reading: "I'm going to win big on election day".

Senator Xenophon and Tasmanian independent MHR Andrew Wilkie are calling for both major parties to back the bill that would end a pre-poll flutter.

They say gambling on elections creates a corruption risk because party officials or candidates could use insider polling to bet on an outcome.

"When people can bet on an election outcome then surely there is a risk of corruption in the process, particularly if you are a candidate, if you are a party insider, a party official or a pollster, where you can get an unfair advantage in terms of what the outcome can be," Senator Xenophon said.

Mr Wilkie said over the past year the major parties had conducted half a dozen polls in his southern Tasmanian electorate of Denison.

"It would be entirely improper that they be allowed to go out there and place a bet when they're privy to that information," he said.

Should Ms Gillard refuse to ban election gambling, the pair said Labor and the Coalition should stop candidates and officials placing bets on the result of the September 14 poll.

The Australian Electoral Commission should monitor all large bets to ensure the integrity of the electoral system, they said.

Sportingbet Australia chief Michael Sullivan was surprised to hear concerns that election betting was an integrity issue.

"Sportingbet Australia has never had any integrity issues on election betting in the past and does not expect to have any in the future," Mr Sullivan said in a statement.

"After all, it's a government election overseen by the Australian Electoral Commission."

He said they did not offer bets on the elections to South Australians because it was against that state's law.

"Each year we have disappointed punters asking us why, and frankly we don't know why," he said.

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Whale wars on in earnest

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 30 Januari 2013 | 19.55

ANTI-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd says it has intercepted the Japanese fleet in its annual Southern Ocean hunt "before a single harpoon has been fired".

Sea Shepherd claims to have saved the lives of 4000 whales over the past eight whaling seasons with ever-greater campaigns of harassment against the Japanese harpoon fleet.

The militant environmentalist group said the Brigitte Bardot, a former ocean racer, had intercepted the harpoon ship Yushin Maru No. 3 in the Southern Ocean at a relatively northern latitude.

"Given that the large concentrations of whales are found further south, closer to the Antarctic continent where there are high concentrations of krill, this would indicate that they have not yet begun whaling," said Brigitte Bardot captain Jean Yves Terlain.

Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, who assumed leadership of the anti-whaling campaign from fugitive Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson due to legal issues earlier this month, said it was welcome news.

"It is likely that we have intercepted these whale poachers before a single harpoon has been fired," he said.

Mr Watson is wanted by Interpol after skipping bail last July in Germany, where he was arrested on Costa Rican charges relating to a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

He is on board Sea Shepherd's main ship, Steve Irwin, but has stepped down as skipper and has vowed to abide by a US court ruling in December banning the group from physically confronting any vessel in the Japanese fleet.

The ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit requires Sea Shepherd to stay at least 500 metres from whaling vessels and prohibits "navigating in a manner that is likely to endanger the safe navigation of any such vessel".

The whaling fleet left Japan for the Southern Ocean in late December, planning to catch up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales.

Tokyo claims it catches whales for scientific research -- a loophole in the international ban on whaling -- but makes no secret of the fact that they ultimately end up on dinner plates.

Sea Shepherd's campaign this year is its biggest yet, involving four ships, a helicopter, three drones and more than 100 crew members.

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Woman sought over card theft

POLICE want help to identify a woman in relation to the alleged theft of several gift cards.

Hobart detectives say the gift cards were stolen from a Sandy Bay home last year.

The cards have since been used at the Cove Hill Coles supermarket in Bridgewater.

Police believe the woman seen in this CCTV image (right) can help with their inquiries.

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

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All about trust, says Abbott

TONY Abbott has kick-started the election race, welcoming Labor's announcement of a poll date and declaring the campaign about trust.

Repeatedly hailing his "positive plans" in front of a Liberal Party campaign backdrop, the Federal Opposition Leader this afternoon said the Coalition was ready for an election after recently launching its Real Solution policy platform.

"This election is about trust," Mr Abbott said, pointing to trust as important to keep the cost of living down, boosting job security and protecting the nation's borders.

"The choice before the Australian people could not be clearer. It's more tax or less. It's more regulation or less. It's less competence or more. It's less freedom or more."

He recommitted to abolishing the carbon and mining taxes, cutting wasteful government spending, boosting productivity and improving schools and hospitals.

While Mr Abbott focused on positivity, he did attack Ms Gillard's speech before she announced the election date.

"The only real statement in the Prime Minister's Press Club speech was that the Australian people need to pay more tax," he said.

But Mr Abbott did not take questions at his press conference at Parliament House, saying he would do so tomorrow at his National Press Club speech and that frontbenchers Joe Hockey and Christopher Pyne would take questions this afternoon.

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State 'awash in red ink'

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 29 Januari 2013 | 19.55

TASMANIA'S economic indicators are "awash in a sea of red ink", the latest Deloitte Access Economics report says.

While Deloitte says the state's economy isn't in crisis, it isn't OK either. Unemployment, at 7.3 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms, is well above other states.

"Short-term prospects are fairly weak and the state is hostage to the fortunes of the Australian dollar," it says.

Premier Lara Giddings said the report confirmed the challenges Tasmania faced and highlighted the importance of the Tasmanian Jobs Package.

"The jobs package will help to create more than 3300 jobs and provide a boost to key industries like construction," she said in a statement.

Liberal Treasury spokesman Peter Gutwein said the report was yet another damning indictment of the  Labor-Green minority experiment.

"Ms Giddings can make as many excuses as she likes, but the fact is every other state is facing the same economic factors as Tasmania,'' he said.

"The difference is in Tasmania we've  got a minority government captive to the Greens, which is actively making this worse, such as by shutting down our forest industry."

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury.

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Police seek fire witnesses

POLICE are searching for two potential witnesses to a Hobart fire that caused about $10 million damage to Bridge Brothers in Bathurst St.

The two females shown in this video were walking through the Elizabeth St Mall towards Liverpool St and then up Elizabeth St to Bathurst St about 2.50am on Saturday, January 19.

Police investigating the blaze early that morning hope the women will recognise themselves from the footage.

The fire gutted the historic building that housed Bridges Brothers and several other businesses. Only the facade remains.

Anyone who recognises the women is urged to contact Hobart CIB on 6230 2611 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Hotel heist hunt continues

POLICE have released photographs of the knife-wielding bandit who held up Moonah's Valern Hotel early yesterday.

The armed robber, who entered the hotel's gaming area about 1.50am and demanded money, is described as 170-175cm tall, of medium to solid build with a husky, deep voice.

He was wearing yellow work boots, dark, possibly denim trousers and a dark blue spray jacket with a hood.

The man was holding a large carving knife in his right hand and fled the hotel carrying the stolen money in a white fabric ANZ banking bag.

The thief entered and left the building via a side entrance and ran across the car park towards Station St in New Town.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Glenorchy Crime and Drug Investigation Services on 6230 2881.

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Newsagency robbery charges

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 28 Januari 2013 | 19.55

TWO youths have been charged with the armed robbery of a Sandy Bay newsagency on Friday.

Police say two male offenders disguising their appearance with masks and hoods entered the Sandy Bay Road business at 4.30pm brandishing two knives and escaping with a quantity of cash.

No one was injured.

Investigations are continuing and police say two underage males were yesterday detained to appear in an out-of-hours court.

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Armed robber strikes hotel

POLICE are hunting an armed robber who held up a Moonah hotel early this morning.

The offender entered the Valern Hotel's gaming area armed with a knife at 1.50am and demanded cash before escaping with an undisclosed amount of money via the hotel's carpark.

He was last seen running towards Station St.

Police describe him as being of solid build and wearing a grey hoody with dark-coloured trousers and work boots.

His face was covered.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Glenorchy police on 6230 2881.

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Worse to come from floods

TWO police officers and bystanders had a narrow escape as a car drove out of a sea of foam in the Queensland floods.

Watch the video above.

Thousands of Brisbane and Ipswich residents face days of uncertainty as swollen waterways deliver huge floods for the second time in two years.

Premier Campbell Newman this morning warned thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon could add to the looming flood crisis.

"There is some indication from the Bureau of Meteorology of a thunderstorm," Mr Newman said.

"If that develops, we could see flash flooding, given the potential for intense rain events, and people need to be mindful of that along suburban creeks. People could see a rapid rise in water.

"I do stress though -- on everything I have to hand -- this will not be as significant as the 2011 flood."

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Ken Kato said the chances of a thunderstorm hitting Brisbane were about "30 per cent, maybe a little more".

"With thunderstorms, it's impossible to predict with certainty. There are some unstable conditions around today," Mr Kato said.

Bundaberg is facing its worst flood on record as the southeast also braces for flooding in the next 48 hours.

In his first briefing of the day, Mr Newman said "very significant" rain in the Laidley, Lockyer Creek and Bremer River catchments were recorded last night.

He said the falls appeared to make it more likely flooding would occur.

"Queensland is facing a very serious challenge right now. It's a serious challenge, but I stress we're up to it and people are not alone," he said.

"What I need people to do right now, is firstly to remain calm.

"There are expectations today of a major flood, probably the largest the city has ever seen."

Follow all the latest Queensland flood news at The Courier-Mail.

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Cry for date with deference

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 27 Januari 2013 | 19.55

PROTEST POINT: Supporters of a new Australia Day date rally in Hobart. Picture: LEIGH WINBURN

TASMANIAN Aborigines have renewed their call for a new date for national celebrations to be held in Australia.

Hundreds took to the streets of Hobart yesterday, and many more nationwide, to raise awareness for a new, genuinely inclusive day of celebration that offended no one.

Tasmanian Aboriginal leader Michael Mansell said the campaign to change to a more appropriate date, rather than the one marking where one race invaded the nation of another, continued to grow.

"As long as they have Australia Day, we will be here," he said.

"If something is right, it is just a matter of persevering and persevere we will."

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Cassy O'Connor said now was the time for thoughtful and reasoned debate about the appropriateness of celebrating Australia's national identity on January 26.

"There can be no chance of true reconciliation until we change the date of our national day," she said.

"The date of our national day should unite, not divide us as a country of many peoples, and it should respect the first people."

Social justice lawyer and Mercury columnist Greg Barns said it was impossible to have a day which purported to celebrate the achievements of a nation when the original owners of that nation were excluded.

He said Australia could only move on when the day became just another day in January.

"You can only have a true Australia Day when you have a day that is acceptable to the Aboriginal community and which recognises that community in this country," he said.

Rocker and music festival curator Brian Ritchie who became an Australian citizen last year said Australia Day should allow everyone to celebrate without shame, ambivalence or reservations.

"Nothing can reverse the damage done in the past but it is not an unreasonable request to ask the majority to accept a date change as a conciliatory gesture," he said.

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Asta hits the Triple J-ackpot

SHOOTING STAR: Rosny College student Asta, is the first Tasmanian to hit the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown, at No.50. Picture: KAL YOUNG

HOBART rising star Asta yesterday became the first Tasmanian musician to be voted into Triple J's annual Hottest 100 countdown.

The 19-year-old Rosny College student's electro-pop song My Heart is On Fire came in at number 50, beating out some of the biggest names in music like Mumford & Sons, Jack White and Kanye West.

The honour was a big surprise, especially for the singer herself, who yesterday admitted to the Sunday Tasmanian that she had already given up on hearing it by the time it hit the airwaves.

Last week, a website had predicted she would enter the chart at number 79 and when that place came and went Asta thought her chances might be over.

In Brisbane for a gig today, Asta listened to the countdown in a pub with friends.

When her song was announced they all jumped up and down screaming with excitement.

"I'm amazed, I can't believe it," she said.

"Apparently you need millions of votes so if someone told me yesterday I'd be number 50, I would not have believed them.

"I'm very grateful to my fans and everyone who voted. Thanks Tasmania!"

Asta has a new single, I Need Answers, coming out in a few weeks on iTunes and the radio.

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Hostel rip-offs probe

TASMANIA'S consumer watchdog is set to investigate the conduct of several backpackers' hostels after complaints of alleged rip-offs.

Backpackers have warned Tasmania that scams being run by a few operators could harm the state's reputation as a destination for budget travellers.

Overseas visitors have told the Sunday Tasmanian of ripoffs by operators who are targeting backpackers seeking seasonal work picking fruit including being forced to pay accommodation bonds and being charged up to $170 a week for a patch of dirt to pitch a tent on.

British tourist Chris Smith, 22, said he and a friend had each been charged a $200 bond for a week's accommodation in a small room near Hobart.

They were then slugged a $60 fee for being found a $45-a-day job at a local strawberry farm that lasted for two days.

"We were charged $170 a week for a crappy room with no heating or $110 a week to sleep in a campervan. They gave us one blanket each to sleep in this caravan. It felt like it was about zero degrees.

"It was a complete scam, a pretty bad experience, the worst we've had by a long run," he said.

He said things became worse when the pair tried to leave.

"When we said we want to leave the hostel, they said that if you leave we'll take your $200 off you.

"They're just ripping loads of people off. As my first experience in Tasmania it really gives the place a bad name."

Dutch tourist Lou Benders is taking legal action to recover a bond she was charged.

"[They] conned us and kept our bond only because we wanted to leave early," she said.

Director of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Chris Batt said compliance officers from his office would look into the complaints.

Steve Old from the Tasmanian Hospitality Association said he had not heard of complaints from backpackers.

"If it is something that's not right then obviously we have to step on it. We only need one bad message to get out there and it can really hurt the industry," he said.

Tourism Australia figures reveal the nation hosted more than 1.5 million youth travellers last year, who spent an average of more than $7000 each during their stay.

Backpacker Operator Network founder Rod Parish, who runs the highly-regarded The Pickled Frog in Hobart, said the backpacker market was incredibly important to Tasmania and more needed to be done to promote the state.

"We've got an industry that brings in $60 million a year and Tourism Tasmania spends $6000 a year on us," Mr Parish said.

"All we hear from Tourism Tasmania is about how bad everything is."

"We've got everything that the market wants, you can do everything you ever wanted to do when you were young and yet we don't get 10 per cent of the market."

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