Good morning Ballarat and happy Wednesday, today's top stories:
Millions in revenue missed
Ballarat City Council faces a $259 million revenue loss over the next decade if rate capping remains at two per cent. Read more.
Car driven through carport, into brick wall
The driver of a car that ploughed through the wall of a Mount Helen home appears to have escaped without any major injuries. Read more.
Ghost ship mystery intrigues
A blue boat that recently appeared along a remote stretch of road had heads turning just south of Ballarat this month. Read more.
Ballarat chef Volke’s death was unavoidable court hears
The death of a Ballarat man who took his own life in Brisbane after killing and cooking his Indonesian partner was unavoidable, an inquest has heard. Read more.
Driver pain on highway to end in June
The end is in sight for commuters currently battling roadworks through Bacchus Marsh, with upgrades on the Lerdederg Bridge set to be completed in June. Read more.
It looks like it's going to become a bit wet over the next few days.
State of the nation
Need a national news snapshot first thing – well, we have you covered.
► HUNTER, NSW: Kathleen Folbigg is the Hunter woman guilty of the worst crimes imaginable – killing her four babies. But as Folbigg starts her 15th year in jail, and nears her 50th birthday in June, NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman is considering a brief of evidence arguing an alternative scenario – that she is at the centre of an extraordinary miscarriage of justice requiring a judicial review.
► BENDIGO, VIC: Parks Victoria is spending about $70,000 a year cleaning up rubbish dumped in Bendigo, money it believes would be better spent on visitor facilities, environmental protection or working with neighbours and community.
► GAWLER, SA: Crowned as the state’s best commuter serviced line, Gawler railway will not receive any federal funding to progress it to stage two of its multi-million dollar electrification upgrade. The oversight was made clear during the hand down of the federal budget last week. The state government was seeking 50 per cent in back up support after being promised funds as far back as 2008.
► ILLAWARRA, NSW: An Illawarra man who bashed his girlfriend in front of their one-year-old son four days before Christmas last year has been sentenced to 18 months’ jail. Police arrived at the Berkeley house following reports of an ongoing domestic incident involving the man and his partner. They heard yelling and a muffled scream from inside the premises, a small child crying and a male voice say "stay here, I'm gonna go bash mummy again".
► INDI, VIC: Indi pharmacists joined action in Wangaratta on Tuesday against the proposed cuts to penalty rates. A report commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions showed that under the changes pharmacists in Indi stood to lose $3256 a year while hospitality and retail workers would lose $2500 a year.
► TASMANIA: A woman who was shot in the hand two years ago is now a changed person, the Hobart Supreme Court has heard. Josephine Ramos Cooper was a passenger in Olga Neubert’s car on May 14, 2015, when the latter’s husband Klaus Dieter Neubert, 74, blocked his wife’s car at a Hobart intersection, firing shots from a sawn-off rifle. Mrs Neubert was killed, while Mrs Ramos Cooper sustained a gunshot wound to her right hand, severing two fingers. Mrs Ramos Cooper is suing Neubert for roughly $2 million in damages.
► MANDURAH, WA: While many tuned in to see the transformation of Andrew and Jono King’s Mandurah home, few may realise just how long the twins actually waited to have their 1970s house renovated. While the brothers have proved to be a hit in this series of the Channel 7 show, they had originally auditioned in 2013. And we’ve got the original audition tape.
► BALLARAT, VIC: Ballarat police have moved to warn motorists about the dangers of mobile phone usage after a shocking study revealed most Victorians use phones behind the wheel. The Australian Road and Safety Foundation found 62 per cent of Victorian motorists admitted to using a phone while driving, greatly increasing the likelihood of serious accidents and endangering lives.
► An autopsy of 19-year-old Patrick Cronin revealed the teenage footballer was struck in the softest part of the skull, a court has been told. Forensic pathologist Yeliena Baber told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday that the alleged punch to Mr Cronin's head by Andrew William Lee connected with the "weakest point of the skull, where it is only one to four millimetres thick". "It's the 'Achilles tendon' of the skull," the expert witness said.
► Victoria Police has received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about its investigation into Cardinal George Pell, days after fresh details of historic sex abuse allegations were aired. Detectives from the Sano taskforce, the squad set up to investigate historic child abuse allegations, will now consider the DPP's advice, police spokeswoman Creina O'Grady said on Tuesday night.
► As the end of the week rolls around, Albert Santos and his fiancee Jenny Armas have little left in the bank to get by. After paying for groceries and bills, they then fork out almost half of their income on rent for an old two-bedroom apartment in Parramatta. Rental affordability in Sydney has fallen to a record low, with the average tenant spending 29 per cent of their household income on accommodation, pushing them towards the rental stress threshold of 30 per cent.
► ANU researchers have grown a revolutionary "brain-on-a-chip" that could ultimately help patients recover from degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Brain cells were grown on a specially-designed semiconductor wafer, which was patterned with tiny wires to provide a scaffold for cell growth. Observing the way the cells grew and connected with each other could eventually help researchers repair damaged parts of the brain, lead researcher Dr Vini Gautam said.
National weather radar
► Malcolm Turnbull sounded unfazed on Tuesday after explosive reports Donald Trump bragged about highly classified secrets of an ally during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The US alliance remains the "bedrock" of Australia's security, Turnbull declared – just as have a dozen serving prime ministers before him. As to questions about intelligence matters, Turnbull would only say he'd adopt "my normal circumspection and discretion". But Trump's presidency is anything but normal.
► The Brazilian government has appointed an army general as the new president of FUNAI, the 50-year-old indigenous affairs agency responsible for mapping indigenous land and avoiding a repeat of the killings that brought the plight of Amazonian indians to the rest of the world in the 1960s. It is the first time in 25 years that a non-civilian has become head of the agency, which is already under pressure from a pro-agribusiness group known as the "ruralist faction" in the country's Congress.
► Australia will endure more heatwaves, droughts and coral bleaching at 1.5 degrees of warming but the extremes will be considerably less than if global temperatures increase by 2 degrees, new research shows. In some of the first research on the impacts for Australia of the 1.5 degree to 2 degree range agreed at the Paris climate summit in 2015, Melbourne University scientists have found the chances of a repeat of events such as the "angry summer" of 2012-13 are significantly reduced at the lower end of the warming scale.
On this day
1536: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn's marriage is annulled
1940: Germany occupies Brussels, Belgium, during the Second World War
1990: The General Assembly of the World Health Organisation eliminates homosexuality from the list of psychiatric diseases
2004: The first legal same-sex marriages in the United States are performed in the state of Massachusetts
Faces of Australia: Noel Bye
WHEN deadly bushfires broke out in Tasmania in January 2016, Noel Bye did what he’s done all his life: help people.
The 81-year-old spent more than 180 hours driving support vehicles as part of the State Emergency Services’ (SES) bushfire effort.
“You get exhausted but you go on. You need to help; people need your help,” Mr Bye said.
Mr Bye received the National Medal for his 45 years of dedicated community service across the SES, fire service and army.
He was one of a number of SES volunteers recognised at an awards ceremony in Burnie on Saturday. Read more.