THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6
Australian migration agents are reporting a rush of Chinese tourists wanting to extend their visas in the country, fearing they could become infected with coronavirus if they return home.
The development came as China’s health officials confirmed the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province has reached 549, with 19,665 cases of infection.
The virus, which was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, and is believed to have originated at a seafood market in the city has resulted in border restrictions around the world and the suspension of flights in and out of China by more than two dozen airlines, including Qantas.
Jennifer Zhang, a migration agent in Sydney, said her team had been working overtime to deal with the backlog of inquiries.
“A lot of them are very urgent due to the remaining days on their visas,” she said.
“Some of them might only have a few more days before they must leave and they need professional advice instantly.”
In the 12 months to September 2019, more than 1.3 million Chinese nationals visited Australia — about 950,000 of which came for holidays or to visit family.
Among those wanting to extend their stay in Australia are Chinese nationals Jinfeng Wang and Xikun Zhang who were on holiday visiting their daughter in Melbourne, when the coronavirus outbreak hit the headlines.
They 51-year-old and her husband have got two months left on their tourist visas, but must leave Australia after that.
“I’m really worried. If we return to China there is a high risk of getting infected.”
The couple have hired a migration agent in a bid to extend their stay, and they’re not the only ones.
Professor Rodger Fernandez from Victoria University’s College of Law and Justice said Chinese tourists could make a good case to extend their stay.
“There are compelling circumstances affecting their ability to travel which is clearly beyond their control,” Professor Fernandez said.
Newly elected Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud will give up his water portfolio to return to agriculture, as part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new-look frontbench which also sees Nationals Darren Chester and Keith Pitt promoted to Cabinet.
Mr Chester will retain his veterans affairs portfolio, while Mr Pitt takes over resources
Mr Morrison and Nationals leader Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister, were forced to reshuffle the ministry after a tumultuous week brought about the political demise of two senior Nationals.
Darren Chester will return to Cabinet with his veterans affairs portfolio, which had previously been in the outer ministry.
Queensland backbencher Keith Pitt will move into Cabinet with the resources and northern Australia portfolios.
Mr Pitt is also expected to take on the water portfolio which some Nationals have described as a “poisoned chalice” after years of tension throughout the Murray-Darling Basin amid an unprecedented drought.
Former deputy leader and agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie quit over her handling of a $100 million pre-election sports grants scandal, while senator Matt Canavan resigned as resources and northern Australia minister to back Barnaby Joyce’s unsuccessful bid to topple Mr McCormack.
Hollywood veteran Kirk Douglas, best known for his role as Spartacus in Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 movie, has died at the age of 103.
Born in New York to Russian migrants in 1916, Douglas became an icon of Hollywood cinema during its golden age.
Douglas is survived by his wife Anne and four sons.
He received his first Academy Award nomination in 1949, playing a ruthless boxer in Champion.
In a statement to People magazine, his son, actor Michael Douglas, said it was with tremendous sadness that he announced his father’s death.
“To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in setting a standard for all of us to aspire to,” he said.
“Kirk’s life was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet,” he added.
Douglas made more than 90 movies in a career that stretched across seven decades, and films such as Spartacus and The Vikings made him one of the biggest box office stars of the 1950s and ’60s.
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