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Making news this week: big stuff, finger-pointing and Megan chaos

Making news this week: big stuff, finger-pointing and Megan chaos
See Rita Winiger’s Untitled II 2020, oil on canvas, at NERAM. Image: Rita Winiger
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Anna Rogan
Anna Rogan Tallarook, Victoria
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Making news this week: big stuff, finger-pointing and Megan chaos, plus the devil in the detail. Welcome to Galah Weekly, our newsy newsletter keeping you up to date with regional headlines that matter, plus other delightful things from life beyond the city.

Regional news round-up

Finger-pointing at the supermarket

The Senate’s Select Committee on Supermarket Prices, one of six separate inquiries on rapidly rising grocery costs in Australia (full story), hosted public hearings in Orange, NSW, this week. 

Farmers, producers and suppliers criticised a range of big supermarket pricing practices, including overly strict quality controls, non-binding supply agreements, low prices paid to farmers, and high mark-ups passed onto consumers (full story). Advocates say these practices have not only contributed to increased grocery costs but also family farm closures and food waste (full story). 

Fingers were pointing in all directions at the hearings—and not just at supermarkets. One dairy farmer claimed dairy processors were “too scared” to make a submission to the Senate (full story). Nursery growers called for big retailer Bunnings to be included in inquiries (full story). And Senator Bob Katter told colleague Ross Caddell to “shut up” in a heated exchange on the sidelines of the inquiry (full story).

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Megan by any other name

Hundreds of residents in the remote Borroloola community were evacuated this week following warnings of a “one-in-100-year flood”. The warnings came just days after Tropical Cyclone Megan dumped more than a month’s worth of rain on the Northern Territory town in just 24 hours. Borroloola residents were due to be evacuated before the cyclone hit, but RAAF aircraft were unable to land in severe conditions. Full story.

Homes for locals

Airbnb and Expedia have supported the introduction of a tourism levy on short-term holiday rentals to help fund affordable and social housing in NSW, in formal submissions made to the State Government under its review examining the sector’s effect on housing supply and affordability. Meanwhile, housing advocacy organisation Shelter NSW has called for a limit on the number of holiday rentals per local government area, saying the number of homes used as Airbnbs in regions including the Hunter Valley and Snowy River have grown more than 50% in five years. Full story.

No reception, no one to call

Patchy phone reception in regional areas is nothing new, but it could get a whole lot worse as Telstra and Optus progress plans to shut down 3G networks and switch to 4G by the end of the year. An estimated 740,000 Australians may be unaware that their devices will be unable to call 000 after the shutdowns. Residents in remote and rural areas are particularly concerned, saying that while network upgrades might provide better coverage in some areas they can result in worse reception in others. Full story.

Outtie to innie regional

The Commonwealth Grants Commission has changed the regional status of Coffs Harbour and surrounding areas from “outer regional” to “inner regional”. While it won’t mean much for residents of the north coast tourist town, the decision isn’t completely without consequence. The NSW government is set to pay an extra $200 million in GST as a result of the change. Full story. But inner or outer, it's all still regional to Galah.

Big green hydrogen

The Federal Government has committed $1.6 million for a feasibility study on one of Australia’s biggest green hydrogen projects. If it goes ahead, the East Kimberley Clean Energy Project, which is the first of its kind to have a majority traditional owner stake, will construct a giant 900-megawatt solar farm at Lake Argyle near Kununurra. Full story.

Big batteries

Twenty-five big batteries will be installed in regional areas of Victoria in a move that will shore up electricity supply to tourist hot spots, prevent power outages during peak seasons and make the most of boosted solar power. Full story.

Big produce

Not to be outdone in the big stakes, NSW farmers broke records this week with the biggest pumpkin in the southern hemisphere (full story) and the world's heaviest blueberry (full story).

Dale grew a pumpkin. Photograph: Summerland pumpkin competition

This week's newsletter is sponsored by Westfund

Tell us about it

Sarah, an on-the-ground Galah in Dubbo, responded to the youth crime item in last week’s newsletter: “I’ve always lived in a high-crime town. The current prevailing message in Dubs is to leave your keys near the front door so they can get them and leave without incident. I love my regular police chase/helicopter 3am wakeups. Not that stressed by it really, just goes up and down with the economy. Totally normal part of life.”

Galah goss

Ten minutes away

There’s not much traffic in Tallarook but that didn’t stop me running late for our weekly editorial meeting, after getting stuck behind a tractor on the way home from school drop-off. More disruption followed when the postie interrupted proceedings to hand-deliver Galah Issue 09 to editor Helen. We didn’t get to see Helen open the mag, however, as she apparently only looks at published works exactly three days after receiving them. When I asked if I could share her surprisingly superstitious ways with Galah readers, Helen said, “Absolutely not.”

Double digits

Even as Issue 09 wings its way across the country, the team is working hard on the next magazine. Submissions for Galah Issue 10 have closed but you can still nab one of the few advertising spots available. And if you’re thinking you’re too small fry for magazine advertising, our classified spots are affordably priced and quite beautiful, if we do say so ourselves. If you’d like to take out a classified spot, or you’re considering a more substantial ad, Lyndsie is standing by at lyndsie@galahpress.com

Catch up on the back catalogue

If you’re new to the world of Galah or you missed the earlier mags, our new book will catch you up with the best stories from our first seven issues, most of which are sold out. Order a copy of the Galah book bundled with Galah Issue 09. Or, if you’re already a subscriber, order the book on its own right here.

What's on

Dancing with Bees, Zanny Begg, 2024. Masked Bee. Image: Zanny Begg

Dancing with Bees

A collaboration of art, science, photography and dance comes together in a groundbreaking public artwork by Zanny Begg opening at Orange Regional Gallery, NSW, on Wednesday 27 March. The piece is shown over two large screens: showing one of 12 bees common to Wiradjuri Country, and the other featuring a dancer whose movements and costume echo the bee. Read more.

Oracles of the Bush

Four days of Australian bush poetry performances, live music and art is set against the brilliant backdrop of Tenterfield’s autumn colours on 4-7 April. This year’s theme is Thanks for the Memories. Book tickets now. Read more.

New Surroundings: Rita Winiger

The majestic East MacDonnell Ranges are featured in a range of expressive, experimental paintings and drawings by artist Rita Winiger in the New Surroundings exhibition showing at NERAM Gallery in Armidale, NSW, until 7 April. Read more.

An evening with Annabelle Hickson and Sophie Hansen

Talk books, creativity and community at Heads & Tales Bookstore in Barwon Heads, Vic, with Galah’s Annabelle and author-cook Sophie in conversation with Jaclyn Crupi. On Tuesday 28 May at 6 pm. Tickets available online. Read more.

In the flock

You can always rely on rural people to show up for what they believe in – and to show up strong.” —John Warlters

John Warlters, rural advocate

Interview by Emma Hearnes.

He’s accustomed to fighting the good fight for farmers and rural Australians. Warlter brings an impressive career working on rural, regional and agriculture beats for major Australian publishers, deep connections in agribusiness and an affinity for the bush to his most fulfilling role yet as CEO of Rural Aid, a not-for-profit that provides critical support to farmers affected by natural disasters.

You must have met a lot of regional Australians over your career, John. Can you think of any that you particularly admire?

This one’s a no-brainer. Gail Courte, Rural Aid’s community representative, gives so much of herself in support of others every day. She is humble, authentic and empathetic. I admire her enormously and cannot thank her enough for everything she does.

What was the last thing to take you by surprise?

I went to cast my vote at Queensland’s local government elections this week, and the number of volunteers absolutely stunned me. Never doubt the passion of volunteers at polling stations. You can always rely on rural people to show up for what they believe in – and to show up strong. Ticking the box was the easy part – making it to the front door was another matter entirely.

What are you working on now?

Rural Aid’s annual Long Lunch fundraiser. Our special guest is Golden Guitar-winning artist Josh Arnold, who works with kids in bush communities to create and perform a song for their town or school. The kids have the best time, and I trust our Long Lunch guests will have just as much fun. Editors’ note: we’d link to the tickets, but they’re sold out. 

One last thing

Devil in the detail

The world is full of animals so strange or beautiful they really should exist only in mythical stories. Among them narwhals, mandarin ducks, giant squids and the shoebill stork, whose terrifying chatter sounds like rounds fired from an AK47. And also, apparently, the Tasmanian devil, at least according to Warner Bros. 

Executives of the entertainment company reportedly didn’t know that Taz, their trademarked Looney Tunes character, was based on a real animal until negotiations with Australia’s newest AFL club over the use of the Tasmanian Devils name brought the fact to light.

The AFL club “got great cooperation from Warner Bros”, said chairman Grant O'Brien. “It's a name we wanted to fight for, because it's ours… It was worth fighting for.” Read more.

What’s new(s)?

We’d love to hear about the news, events and people that should be making the headlines in the Galah Weekly newsletter. Share what’s new(s) in your neck of the woods with us at newsie@galahpress.com.