Independent senator John Madigan has suggested that HECS debts should be frozen for five years for primary caregivers. Photo: Alex EllinghausenA key crossbench senator has raised a five-year freeze on student debts for mothers who have graduated from university as a bargaining chip in negotiations over the government’s proposed higher education changes.
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Education Minister Christopher Pyne is continuing to negotiate with the Senate crossbenchers in the hope of striking a deal on his reform package, which includes allowing universities to charge as much as they want for a degree.

A Fairfax Media Ipsos poll, conducted between Thursday and Saturday last week, found 64 per cent of voters oppose deregulating university fees.

Independent Victorian Senator John Madigan, whose vote on the reforms could be crucial, said: “I’m concerned about the effects of higher HECS debts on women who graduate and have children.

“I’ve suggested that HECS debts should be frozen for five years for primary caregivers. Debts continuing to accrue interest while people are out of the workforce will have a nobbling effect on families with young children.”

Mr Madigan welcomed signals from Mr Pyne that he will abandon plans to peg student debts to the long-term government bond rate, rather than inflation, but said the government should go further.

Independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon praised Mr Madigan’s proposal as the type of “lateral thinking” that will be needed to strike a deal on university reform.

Senators Madigan and Xenophon told Fairfax Media they have serious concerns about fee deregulation but intense lobbying from the university sector has convinced them the current funding system is unsustainable. With Labor and the Greens opposed to fee deregulation, the government will need the support of six of the eight Senate crossbenchers to pass its reforms.

“Universities have been hit by funding cuts from both sides. They are starved of cash and need to be more viable,” Senator Xenophon said.

“I can see why they want fee deregulation but I am wary of unintended consequences.

“I don’t want to see the Americanisation of our universities where people are reluctant to take on lots of debt.”

Asked about negotiations with Mr Pyne, Senator Xenophon said: “He is as frustrating and enigmatic as he was when I lectured him at the University of South Australia 25 years ago.”

Senator Xenophon said the government had gone about reform in an “awful” way by announcing a complicated set of reforms in the May budget.

Senator Madigan said: “I’m very reticent on fee deregulation at this point of time. I don’t want to see families saddled with debts that will be higher than Ayers Rock to climb over.

“What the government is putting forward I wouldn’t accept – there would need to be a lot more safeguards put in place for me to consider supporting it.”

Mr Madigan, from Ballarat, said he was particularly concerned about the impact of the government’s policies on regional universities.

But he acknowledged that “no legislation is perfect” and he is open to a package that “ticks most of the boxes”.

“There is no doubt that something has to be done but it has to be done in a considered manner,” he said.

A spokesman for Mr Pyne said the package “represents essential reform that will expand opportunity for students and ensure our universities are sustainable and competitive internationally into the future.

As the Government has indicated on many occasions, this will inevitably involve negotiations with the cross benches as the Coalition does not have a majority in the Senate.”

Mr Pyne said on the weekend he was prepared to negotiate into the new year to strike a deal on higher education reform.

“Timelines can always be shifted and I’m not going to be hidebound by timing schedules,” Mr Pyne said. “What I want is an outcome for students and universities. That is a more important result than [meeting] timelines and schedules.”

Clive Palmer and Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie have said the party will oppose fee deregulation. But previous PUP backflips on climate policy, financial planning laws and the mining tax have fuelled government hopes that the party could do a deal on higher education.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Senator Xenophon lectured Mr Pyne at the University of Adelaide 25 years ago. The lectures were in fact at what is now known as the University of South Australia.

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Hello again: Prince Edward leaves the Prince Edward Yacht Club in Point Piper, Sydney, on Monday afternoon after a luncheon. Photo: DIMEX
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Hello again: Prince Edward leaves the Prince Edward Yacht Club in Point Piper, Sydney, on Monday afternoon after a luncheon. Photo: DIMEX

Hello again: Prince Edward leaves the Prince Edward Yacht Club in Point Piper, Sydney, on Monday afternoon after a luncheon. Photo: DIMEX

He might not have the star clout of his nephew the Duke of Cambridge and his glamorous wife, Catherine, but His Royal Highness Prince Edward’s arrival in Sydney marks the beginning of a five-day tour during which  he will meet more than 1000 young people and 1200 volunteers  throughout the country.

The Earl of Wessex is in NSW to commemorate more than 50 years of the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Australia. Flying the flag for his 93-year-old father, Prince Philip, the earl met Premier Mike Baird on Monday, after visiting the Prince Edward Yacht Club at Point Piper. An afternoon reception at Parliament House was also attended by  Minister for Sport and Recreation Stuart Ayres.

On Tuesday, he will visit the Art Gallery of NSW before meeting Duke of Edinburgh Award participants from eight inner west schools at Ashfield Boys High School. About 22,000 young Australians are enrolled on the scheme, the largest youth development program in the world.

A trivia event at the Powerhouse Museum rounds off the Sydney leg of the prince’s tour, which takes him on to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

The Queen’s youngest child is not accompanied on the trip, the second by the British royal household to Australia this year, by his wife Sophie the Countess of Wessex, or their children, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

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Wizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all RacingFull coverage: Melbourne Cup 2014Melbourne Cup sweep
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Bookmakers across the country have vowed to take on Admire Rakti as punters rallied behind the Japanese star, which could still relinquish Melbourne Cup favouritism to Lloyd Williams’ Fawkner.

Tomoyuki Umeda’s Caulfield Cup hero brought to life an otherwise pedestrian call of the card at the traditional Cup eve bash on Monday after $6.50 was bet about the top pick.

Most odds-makers are expecting him to be a similar quote by jump time, while support for Cox Plate runner-up Fawkner is gathering momentum.

This year’s Melbourne Cup appears to be one of the most open in recent memory.

“Admire Rakti is our worst result, but there has been a massive move for Fawkner in the last 24 hours and the money is coming from the right places,” Ladbrokes’ Paul Di Cioccio said. “Fawkner is still $8, but if the money keeps coming he could be favourite.”

The Fawkner following had one big-time supporter at the call of the card, Sean Bartholomew knocking back a wager to win $1 million on the Australian-bred grey.

Bartholomew eventually accepted a smaller investment to win $250,000 at odds of $9.

While there was money for Willing Foe, suggesting some believe Godolphin can break its Cup curse, punters patiently waited for Admire Rakti to be the last of the 24 runners shopped.

Mark Sampieri was knocked off his stand after offering luxurious odds before he passed the baton to Warren Woodcock, who also could not keep pace writing tickets.

Robbie Waterhouse was next to hold the call, accepting the largest single bet of the day when one punter had $50,000 on Admire Rakti at $6.

Quizzed on whether he thought Admire Rakti would be so well backed, Waterhouse said: “No, I didn’t actually. I’m happy to bet against him and I was surprised he was so well supported.

“The other surprising thing about the call is it was nearly all cash. I would think [Admire Rakti’s] price will still be around $6 on race day.”

It is a similar quote to what other online bookmakers are prepared to offer, BetEasy’s Matt Tripp suggesting they will band together to take on Admire Rakti.

BetEasy took a wager of $40,000 on the seven-year-old, which is attempting to set a modern day weight-carrying record in the Cup and also become the first horse to complete the Caulfield-Melbourne cups double since 2001.

“I think I will bet around the $6 or $6.50 mark [until jump time] and I reckon the bookmakers will all want to take him on,” Tripp said. “I think the money will come for Fawkner and Signoff and there’s been good money for Protectionist so far.”

Sportingbet’s Andrew Brown said despite continued interest in Admire Rakti he would not be surprised if one of several horses started favourite by jump time.

“It will just depend which one the money comes for,” he said. “At the moment our losers are Fawkner, Admire Rakti, Lucia Valentina and Signoff, but it’s that sort of race.”

Added Glenn Munsie of Tab南京夜网.au: “For us overall Admire Rakti is a million-dollar loser, especially after the Caulfield Cup. The doubles are just killing us. There have been a couple of good pushes in the last couple of days, particularly Who Shot Thebarman and Fawkner.”

There were few other fireworks inside the Crown Palladium for the call of the card.

Tom Waterhouse snapped up the $31 about Willing Foe, asking bookmaker Anthony Doughty to risk a $500,000 payout. Doughty eventually stood to part with $250,000 to Waterhouse.

The best-supported outsider was Seismos, one wager a $2000 by $1500 each-way bet on Marco Botti’s import at $101. A couple of $1000 each-way bets were also taken before his price was wound into $81.

There were nibbles for some of Chris Waller’s long shots, including a single bet to win $151,000 on Opinion ($71) and another to win $100,000 on Who Shot Thebarman.

Darren Weir’s Lexus Stakes winner Signoff was friendless at $7.

The ultimate racing guide with the latest information on fields, form, tips, market fluctuations and odds, available on mobile, tablet and desktop.

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Wizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all RacingFull coverage: Melbourne Cup 2014Melbourne Cup sweep
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Andreas Wohler, the man considered the best hope of wresting the Melbourne Cup out of the iron-clad grip of the Japanese, remains bullish about Protectionist’s chances despite expressing his dismay at early markets for the race.

Much of Wohler’s enthusiasm stems from globetrotting jockey Ryan Moore, who will return to Australia to shoot for Australia’s most cherished sporting trophy 10 days after stealing away with the Cox Plate.

“I know from last year when he rode our horse Novellist, he’s a very committed and very experienced jockey,” Wohler said.

“He has ridden everywhere and had great success, which is why I was very lucky to have him booked quite early. He was quite keen in the end to ride him, which was a good sign.”

Moore rode at Santa Anita’s Breeders Cup meeting on the weekend before jetting back into Melbourne on Monday.

Wohler has also been doing a fair amount of flying himself, landing in Australia to watch Protectionist’s eye-catching fourth in the Herbert Power at Caulfield three weeks ago.

Bookmakers immediately juggled Melbourne Cup markets installing the five-year-old as favourite for the race.

That baton has long been passed to Admire Rakti after his storming Caulfield Cup win, but the one-time favouritism tag certainly bemused Wohler.

“When I went back to the airport after the race on the way to the airport I got the message to say he was second favourite or favourite and I couldn’t believe it,” Wohler said. “He finished fourth in a group 2 and he’s favourite for the Melbourne Cup? I couldn’t believe that.

“But I was quite happy with the way he ran. He hit a flat spot and it’s a different type of racing here.

“They start quite quickly and then they slow down and then they start to quicken again from the five furlong and he was off the bridle, then he quickened up again and finished off the race really well. That’s what impressed me most.”

The Melbourne Cup has been a regular jaunt for the English, Irish and French over the years, but no German-trained horse has ever won the race.

Wohler has previously brought horses to Australia for the Cox Plate with Silvano running fourth to Northerly in 2001, while Paolini ran 10th in the weight-for-age championship three years later.

And he admitted a lead-up run in Australia was critical to his planning and that of Australian Bloodstock, which purchased the horse to fulfil a Melbourne Cup ambition.

“Every time [travelling to Australia] you learn and even now we’re learning,” he said. “You know what is needed in preparation for going into quarantine and that’s why we always said we wanted to come earlier and have a prep race for him.

“[The Melbourne Cup] always has big attention because it is a very big race on the world stage. Now it gets even more attention because a German horse is right in the race.”

Protectionist is the least experienced horse in the Melbourne Cup field, boasting just nine starts, including a win in the Prix Kergorlay over 3000 metres in August, a typical lead-up race for the international raiders.

The ultimate racing guide with the latest information on fields, form, tips, market fluctuations and odds, available on mobile, tablet and desktop.

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Kelly captivates with warm, uplifting stories | photos Cathy Kelly Literary lunch.Photo by Chris McCormack
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Harriet Manasa, of Indooroopilly, and Jeni Wellington, of Bardon.

Renee Thake, of Capalaba, and Cathy Nguyen, of Tarragindi, at the Grand View literary lunch.

Karen Moore, of Thorneside, and Claire Grace, of Hawthorne.

Donna Schneiders, of Redland Bay, and Marian Davey, of Victoria Point.

Christina and Kate Mason, of Palmwoods.

Bev Ruskey, of Killarney, Meredith Tracey and Jodie Daley, of Wellington Point. Photos by Chris McCormack

TweetFacebookIt Started with Paris, when she was guest author at the Grand View Hotel on Friday.

At the top of the Eiffel Tower, a young man proposes to his girlfriend, cheered on by delighted tourists.

Kelly weaves a delightful tale spinning out from this once-in-a-lifetime moment, drawing together a terrific cast of characters with stories of their own.

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Teacher Tim Kilchester with Reel Award winners (back from left) Adam Shaw, Olivia Buckham, Toby Duffy, James Peterson and Elysha Kennedy and (front from left) Latchmi Pillai, Robert Hughes-Gage, Kate Morris and Manali Datar.Sheldon College’s film students made their debut on the silver screen at the school’s annual Reel Awards recently.
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Thrillers, mock advertisements, music videos, crime dramas and abstract films created over the past 12 months were shown to the audience at Victoria Point Cineplex last Monday.

The event also served as a farewell for the year 12 students before their graduation.

In the major categories, Olivia Buckham won Editor of the Year, Kate Morris was named Scriptwriter of the Year, James Peterson was recognised as Cinematographer of the Year and Toby Duffy was praised with the Epic Shot of the Year award.

Manali Datar was recognised for Breakthrough Achievement in Film, Jack Vernon was named the Most Valuable Crew Member and Latchmi Pillai was judged to have shown the Most Improved Technical Skill.

Adam Shaw won the award for Achievement in Technical Direction and Elysha Kennedy won Achievement in Artistic Direction.

Robert Hughes-Gage was recognised for showing the Most Improved Artistic Skill.

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BayView State School held an Adidas School Fun Run recently and raised $6890 to buy extra school resources and sporting equipment.
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Students pounded the pavement in the lead-up to the run, seeking sponsorship from the local community.

School fun run organiser Dave Beasley is proud of the way the students rallied behind the health-based fundraiser.

“It was great to see so many students supporting their school by collecting sponsorship and participating on the day,” Dave said.

The annual Adidas School Fun-Run provided a platform for schools, sporting clubs and community groups to raise extra funding while encouraging participation in healthy and active lifestyles.

In the past three years the fun run program has helped schools to raise more than $9.1 million to buy computers, books, sporting equipment and other resources.

With the additional option to use online fundraising, students can now reach family and friends interstate or overseas which resulted in schools increasing their overall profit by 16.4 per cent in 2013.

The fun run program was launched in 2011 as an alternative to junk food fundraising.

All schools are invited to participate by visiting the School Fun Run website.

A further $230,000 has been donated in school grants by program partner, CUA, through its Community Care initiative – an extension to the Adidas School Fun-Run.CUA’s chief executive officer, Chris Whitehead, said his company was passionate about supporting local communities and the fun run program delivered positive outcomes for everyone involved.

“We are delighted to be involved again in 2014 and look forward to another successful year,” he said.

Last year Wembley Downs Primary School raised $29,305 and students won a special day where Adidas athletes visited the school.

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Close-up of a Chow Chow and a Cat
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TheGreencross Vets pet care team at Capalaba is excited to announce a great health care program, called Healthy Pets Plus, that gives you peace of mind and great savings when it comes to your furry companions.

The Healthy Pets Plus program is available to all cat and dog owners and exclusive to Greencross Vets. It is an industry leading proactive program offering vaccinations and unlimited consultations for a yearly membership fee to ensure they are protected against preventable disease.

The program has been developed to give pet owners reassurance about the well-being of their pets as well as making it affordable at less than $1.30 a day.

Unlike us, pets can’t tell us how they feel, so scheduled and timely check-ups are a great way to make sure your pet is always in the best possible shape.

The pet program from Greencross Vets is a simple and cost effective way for you to ensure the proper care of your pet while minimising yearly veterinary costs.

Contact your local pet care team at Greencross Vets Capalaba on 3390 3555 if you would like to know more.

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NOT NUTS, NO EGGS: Mum Kristin-Lee Campbell makes sure her fridge is free of foods that could kill her children. Picture: Michael FrogleyONE splash of egg, a crumb of hazelnut, or the sting of a bee could kill two members of the Campbell family’s clan of five.
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“It rules our lives,” mum Kristin-lee Campbell said, of the life-threatening anaphylactic reaction her two youngest children have to common foods.

Weston, 2, may only just be grasping speech, but one word is always on the tip of his tongue – eggs.

Mrs Campbell tonight stars in SBS’s Insight program Fixing Allergies: Are we any closer to finding a cure?

She joins a panel of experts and parents who discuss one of the biggest health issues in Australia.

She hopes the show will make more people aware of the life or death limbo the family face and understand how important it is to take anaphylactic food reactions seriously.

Ruby, 4, reacts so badly to hazelnuts that her whole body swells up.

The first time she ever reacted was on the night of the Wagga floods in 2012.

“I gave her a piece of Cadbury hazelnut chocolate and minutes later she swelled up,” Mrs Campbell said.

The Campbells are so terrified of exposing their children to nuts they rarely eat out and have not taken their children on a plane, since their allergies were exposed.

“There is a lot of difference between and intolerance, an allergy, and anaphylaxis,” Mrs Campbell said.

“Even trace amounts can kill.”

The Campbell’s fridge is covered with charts showing people how to administer the adrenaline filled EpiPen that must be given when a child suffers a reaction.

All of their family and friends know how to use an EpiPen in case of an emergency.

Weston’s latest reaction was a few weeks ago.

He had Heinz spaghetti out of a can that contains no eggs – however rather than having it in a large tin he had it from a small tin.

“Same food, different packaging – one is packed in Australian one is packed in New Zealand and the smaller one contained traces of eggs,” Mrs Campbell said.

“It’s terrifying.”

As the Campbell children grow up and develop into teens and adults their concerned mother is not sure what to expect.

“Sometimes I think, what if Weston kisses a girl and she’s had wine with traces of eggs?

“Will he not be able to do that?”

“It rules our lives and we’ve lost friends, but we know who our real friends are.”

Senior community dietician from Wagga Community Health Services, Jackie Priestly, said qualified dieticians could help families come up with an action plan and assist to manage severe food allergies.

“We need to take all food sensitivities seriously,” she said.

“The bottom line is if you’re in doubt, don’t eat it.”

Ms Priestly said people need to be be informed and understand what’s safe.

Insight airs tonights on SBS at 8.30pm

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Word nerd: Cummins Theatre manager Desiree Munro, budding Melbourne playwright Sasha Bowen who has written a rough draft of a script for a play about Merredin, and councillor Caroline Blakers presenting a $1500 cheque on behalf of the shire.MERREDIN is to host its second world premiere of a home-grown play at Cummins Theatre next year.
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Following on from the successful collaboration between Spare Parts Puppet Theatre and the local farming community, which resulted in the premiere of the evocative play Farm in September, Merredin shire has funded a budding playwright to produce a script for a second play.

This time the subject matter is Destination Merredin, taken from the title of the successful community day and activities leading up to it earlier this year.

A self-confessed “big word nerd” and budding playwright, Sasha Bowen from Melbourne spent a 10-day residency at Cummins Theatre last month getting a feel for Merredin and its community, which she confided was something of a culture shock.

“I really loved being here, I got a real feel for the place,” Ms Bowen, a corporate and advertising copy writer, said of her visit.

“I got off the plane and drove and drove just to get here.

“The distance really made an impression on me, it was like ‘wow, the Wheatbelt is really, really big and it’s beautiful’.

“The subject of Destination Merredin is also very broad so there’s plenty to work with.

“I’ve had a few ideas and I’ve stamped out the bulk of it [and] I’ll go back to Melbourne now and work on it – give it a polish.”

Ms Bowen said she was due to send the finished script to Cummins Theatre manager Desiree Munro in December.

Last week Ms Munro and councillor Caroline Blakers presented Ms Bowen with a $1500 cheque from the shire for her residency.

Ms Munro said this time the collaboration was between Cummins Theatre and Stages WA, with Lotterywest providing funding.

She said they had advertised the residency and shortlisted applicants, eventually selecting Ms Bowen to write the play.

It would be directed by a professional director from Perth and performed by local actors, with a world premiere at Cummins Theatre next year at a date still to be finalised, Ms Munro said.

This year’s harvest is progressing with 125,000 tonnes of grain going into the CBH Group’s system from the Merredin region.DESPITE setbacks of hailstorms and rain, this year’s harvest is progressing with 125,000 tonnes of grain going into the CBH Group’s system from the Merredin region.
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Last week CBH’s region five area manager Craig Gault said recent hail, rain and moisture in the air had caused some delays to the harvest but it was “now going strong” in the Merredin area.

“We’re doing 5000 tonnes a day,” Mr Gault said.

Hail storms three weekends ago damaged crops at Kellerberrin, Narembeen and north of Merredin towards Bencubbin, however Mr Gault said the storms appeared to have been isolated and there were no reports of anyone losing their whole program to hail.

Although there was some wind damage, there was so far no quality issues.

“Yield is probably back a little on what we forecast in general, but there are no quality issues like sprouting,” Mr Gault said. But if we get another rain event that could happen.

“What we need now is a nice warm dry spell to get the harvest finished.

“So far we’ve put 125,000 tonnes into the system.”

Mr Gault said all the region’s receival depots should be open by the end of this week.

Stay away: Michelle Marks with Lara, her 11-year-old pet Stimson’s python, a native to Western Australia, but she warns people to stay away from snakes in the wild.WITH a Laverton man dead and another five people hospitalised due to snakebites, a Merredin reptile expert has warned residents to take care.
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Michelle Marks is chief executive officer of Western Reptile Rescue, a non-profit organisation dedicated to care and protection of Australia’s native reptiles.

She has 10 years experience working with all reptile species, including snakes and crocodiles.

“As the activity levels of reptiles rise with the warmer weather, it also means that there is a growing chance of encounters with snakes,” Ms Marks said.

“This does not mean we have to switch our brains to high alert and live in fear of them, but to simply be aware of their existence, appreciate their place in our environment and to utilise tips on avoiding negative encounters with potentially dangerous snakes.”

Ms Marks’ tips for avoiding snakes are:

At home:

Keep your grass short and gardens weeded. Snakes do not like to be in the open and will seek the cover of long grass. Keeping grass short and gardens weeded lessens the appeal for a snake.Get rid of rubbish. Rubbish may provide a snake with shelter so removing it reduces the chance of a resident snake.Keep potential food sources away. Rodents, birds and frogs can attract snakes as they provide prey opportunities.Keep your home and garden rodent free and bird aviaries and chicken coops as far from the house as possible.Wear gloves. It is important to wear protective gloves when gardening or removing rubbish and firewood. They will reduce the chance of skin being penetrated if a snake does strike.In the outdoors:

Wear protective clothing. When hiking, camping and bushwalking wear ankle-high boots, thick socks and long pants. Australian snakes have relatively short fangs less likely to penetrate skin through thick clothing.Keep bedding stored away. When not in use, fold up your camp bedding and keep it off the ground. Shake it before use.Awareness:

Give snakes a wide berth. If you see one, do not catch it, attempt to kill it or scare it away. Simply give it plenty of space and it will move away.Teach children. Children are less likely to be bitten if they are educated in snake safety. You do not have to teach them to be afraid of snakes, just teach them to never touch or pick up a snake.First aid. Become familiar with snake bite first aid. Snakes rarely bite or attack unprovoked and it is critically important to never attempt to catch or kill a snake. Not only is it illegal to do so, but it severely increases the risk of snake bite. Around 80 per cent of snake bites in Australia are a result of the victim attempting to catch or kill the snake.If a snake is sighted in your home or business, call a licensed snake removalist who is trained and equipped to capture and relocate the snake safely.

Western Reptile Rescue provides snake relocation as a community service and is based in Merredin.

This service is free however the organisation relies on community donations to survive.

For snake removal phone 0423 322 584 or for information email [email protected]

Wish you were here: Racegoers are likely to want to post pictures online for all to see. Photo: Graham Tidy Oversharing: Racegoers will be hungrier for data than ever before, but will the networks cope? Photo: Vince Caliguri
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Wizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all RacingFull coverage: Melbourne Cup 2014Melbourne Cup sweep

Mobile phone carriers are promising plenty of capacity for racegoers at Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup despite an expected 100,000 punters being hungrier for data than ever.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have all beefed up their networks at the event, with Telstra expecting more than five per cent of its total traffic for the day to occur in the 15 minutes immediately after the race at 3pm.

Australia’s largest carrier, Telstra, has “more than doubled” its 4G capacity at the venue, a spokesperson said.

It was expecting about 250,000 voice calls and 80,000 text messages at the track on race day, with traffic about 2.5 times higher than at last year’s event.

“We’ve basically put up enough to run a small city out of Flemington,” the spokesperson said.

“For the technically minded, this includes 21 3G cells, with 90 carriers or channels, and 17 4G cells, including a mix of larger sites microcells and in-building distributed antenna systems.”

Optus has also expanded capacity on its 3G and 4G networks in and around Flemington.

The telco was also tweaking its services to prioritise voice and SMS services, a spokeswoman said.

Vodafone, meanwhile, has switched on in-building infrastructure for the first time, to cope with higher network demand.

This is in addition to rolling in a mobile base station on the back of a truck – dubbed “COW” (Cell On Wheels) – to provide “comparable” 3G and 4G coverage to that being offered by Telstra at the event, a spokesperson said.

It should be business as usual for customers on race day even with a surge of usage, as similar infrastructure at previous major events like the AFL grand final had “gone off without a hitch”, the Vodafone spokeswoman said.

But Victorian Racing Club spokesman Marcus Williams said part of the reason mobile carriers were better coping with customer demand was the free Wi-Fi service the venue introduced last year.

Before that, telcos “didn’t seem to be keeping up” with racegoers’ demands for data, “probably due to the steep rise in use of data for social media and the internet”, Mr Williams said.

“Certainly the Wi-Fi has taken a bit of a load off. Just making calls and texts became difficult, so having the Wi-Fi for internet has relieved some of the burden.

“Last year we found improvements and this year the phone networks are working better for calls and messages.”

The Wi-Fi service, delivered by IBM and Cisco, is available in all indoor areas at the venue, including the three grandstands and the Breezeway.

Two outdoor areas – the betting ring and the Flemington railway platform – will also have Wi-Fi access, but parts of the front lawns and carparks won’t be covered.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone said they hadn’t received any negative feedback from customers attending Derby Day at Flemington on Saturday, which attracted 90,244 racegoers.

The telcos continually monitor network demands during the racing carnival so they can increase capacity further if needed.

The ultimate racing guide with the latest information on fields, form, tips, market fluctuations and odds, available on mobile, tablet and desktop.

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