How to get cheap tickets


Travellers can snap up a return fare between Sydney and Melbourne for less than $60 after Jetstar relaunched its ‘Return for Free’ birthday sale.

It’s the latest deal offered during a growing price war bubbling within the nation’s aviation industry.

The low-budget arm of the Qantas group revealed its renowned sale would make a comeback as a renewed push to reignite domestic travel.

There are 340,000 seats available for as little as $55 for a return fare.

Club Jetstars members can get their hands on discounted fares from Tuesday but the general public will have to wait until 12.01am Wednesday.

Jetsetters can travel to holiday hot spots, including Hamilton Island, on discounted fares from early October.

Some of the sale fares include Sydney to Launceston from $89, Brisbane to Uluru from $179, Adelaide to Hobart from $102, Ballina to Sydney for $102 and Melbourne to the Whitsundays for $157.

“For added peace of mind, Jetstar has introduced greater flexibility if there are any changes to flights due to border changes,” the airline said in a statement.

“If customers are affected by changes to border restrictions, they will always be able to get a credit voucher to the full value of their booking.”

RELATED: Airline’s launch remarkably cheap fares between Sydney and Melbourne

The announcement comes a day after Jetstar unveiled $30 flights between Sydney and Melbourne in response to moves by rivals Regional Express and Virgin Australia, which also revealed $39 fares between the Victorian and NSW capitals.

The price war was initially sparked by Rex, which announced the sale first to boost travel numbers on the major route.

Jetstar’s fares are available until the end of August, while regional carrier Rex’s one-way $39 flights are available until August 28 and Virgin’s deal is valid till December 15.

Both carriers include luggage, and Rex’s service will offer in-flight refreshments.

On Monday deputy Rex chairman John Sharp said the sale would boost tourist numbers between the two major cities, which missed out on the federal government’s discounted tickets measure designed to stimulate the travel industry.

“Peak tourism bodies reported yesterday that flagship stimulus programs from state and federal governments have not benefited Melbourne and Sydney,” Mr Sharp said.

“I believe this initiative will single-handedly revive a moribund travel and hospitality industry in the two cities.”

A list of routes included in the birthday sale are on the Jetstar website.

– additional reporting by Gerard Cockburn



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Rex, Jetstar and Virgin reveal thousands took advantage of cheap tickets


Thousands of Australians have taken advantage of bargain-basement fares as the price war between three of Australia’s airlines heats up.

Regional Express (Rex), Virgin Australia and Jetstar all confirmed that bookings have surged on flights between Melbourne and Sydney after they announced massive drops in ticket prices on Monday.

The price war on one of the busiest travel corridors in the world was sparked after Rex unveiled “cheaper than a bus” fares beginning at $39.

Virgin was quick to match the sales price, offering fares at $39 until at least December, while Jetstar undercut both its rivals later in the afternoon with flights starting at $30.

All three airlines confirmed sale fares were still up for grabs.

Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said sales went “wild” with the country carrier recording its best sales day in its history.

“The anecdotal evidence is that it had gone wild,” Mr Sharp said.

“Part of the reason for doing this is to get people onto the plane to experience what we offer — which is better than everybody else.”

Virgin Australia said Monday’s blitz was its second largest sales day since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Australians are hungry to travel again, and that is evidenced by the number of bookings made with Virgin Australia yesterday, the second highest for a single day since COVID, with website traffic also up at levels not seen in weeks,” Virgin said in a statement.

Jetstar said it had received thousands of new bookings for $30 flights since launching the sale, with the budget arm of Qantas also unveiling a national sales campaign on Tuesday.

“We’ve had a great response to our $30 fares, selling many thousands in the first 24 hours,” Jetstar said in a statement.

“We’re well known for being the low fares leader, not just on Sydney-Melbourne but on all of the 58 routes we fly across Australia.”

Rex entered the Sydney-Melbourne flight market earlier this year after acquiring some of Virgin’s Boeing 737 planes.

It’s flight sale was launched in part to boost passenger numbers on board.

Mr Sharp said the sales would help convert customers to using Rex in the long term, with the former politician claiming the airline was “miles better” than its competitors.

“We are a full-service airline,” Mr Sharp said

“We are much better than Virgin, we are miles better than Jetstar because they charge you for everything.”



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When to get the coronavirus vaccine: Phase 2a pushed forward


Australians above the age of 50 will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has revealed.

Phase 2a of the vaccine rollout will be brought forward to next week for people aged 50 and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 18-49, and any critical or high risk workers who have not already been vaccinated.

“Already over 400 (GP practices) will be opening next week, so we will have 136 general practice respiratory clinics, commonwealth clinics opening next week,” Mr Hunt told reporters on Friday afternoon.

“They are bringing forward the phase 2a … it’s more opportunity for Australians to be vaccinated earlier.”

It follows a national cabinet meeting where the state premiers discussed the coronavirus vaccine as well as border concerns with India.

The subcontinent is plagued with coronavirus infections, posting a daily rise in cases of 386,452 on Friday, while deaths from the virus jumped by 3498 in the past 24 hours.

“The briefing I have had is very clear that the focus of that (national cabinet) is to make sure that we are keeping Australians safe at a time of an expanded global pandemic,” Mr Hunt said.

“The figures we know are reaching extraordinary levels, and so we have put the pause on the flights from India, but in particular, the Prime Minister and national cabinet were focused on making sure we have a pathway for repatriation flights from India to begin as soon as possible, after May 15, once we have seen a reduction in the number of cases.”



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100 nations and KitKat have net zero emissions targets; Australia doesn’t.


It’s an odd day when a chocolate bar embarrasses an entire nation, but the humble KitKat did just that last Wednesday.

It’s the four fingered chocolate enrobed wafer snack that is leaving Australia as red faced as its scarlet packaging.

How can this be, you might ask? How can KitKats have more credibility than Australia? It comes down to what the owners of KitKat are doing – and what the government of Australia is not.

Last week, global food giant Nestle announced that its KitKat brand would be carbon neutral by 2025.

“KitKat aims to reduce the emissions generated through the sourcing of its ingredients, the manufacturing of the product and its distribution by more than 50 per cent as part of the plan,” the Swiss firm said.

Most of the emissions created in chocolate bar production come from sourcing milk and the growing and processing of cocoa.

Climate scientists have said that reducing emissions to net zero is crucial if the world is to meet the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warning to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels. Already the world is 1C warmer and if we keeping going the way we are we could actually get to 3C before the end of the century.

RELATED: What is net zero emissions, and how do we get there?

Date the Australian Government won’t commit to

Aside from its KitKat pledge, Nestle also has a wider aim of net zero emissions by 2050.

That date has not been plucked from thin air. More than one hundred nations – from the UK to US, Japan to Germany – have targets of being greenhouse gas neutral by 2050.

But Australia is not one of them. Our country remains one of the dwindling number of first world economies yet to put any sort of date on net zero.

And make no mistake, the world has noticed.

Last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was pointedly not invited to a UN climate summit that 70 other world leaders attended. Globally we’ve been seen as doing too little, too late.

Last week, US President Joe Biden held another climate summit which, to Canberra’s relief, the PM was allowed to dial into.

At the summit, Mr Biden set a new target for the US to slash emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

In a moment songstress Alanis Morissette might deem “ironic,” when it came to the PM’s time to speak someone left the zoom call on mute. The unkind might say that was because Australia had very little to say.

Mr Morrison would beg to differ.

“We are well on the way to meeting and beating our Paris commitments,” he told the summit.

“Already we have reduced our emissions by 19 per cent on 2005 levels, more than most other similar economies, and by 36 per cent when you exclude exports.”

RELATED: One thing Australia won’t do to cut emissions

Australia being left behind

What the PM didn’t say was that while Australia has reduced emissions, those reductions have essentially plateaued. It’s unclear how Australia is going to meet emissions targets – not that we have many to meet.

Australia’s chief aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 26–28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Mr Morrison has said a goal is to achieve net zero emissions “preferably by 2050”.

But it’s all looking a bit weak faced with a growing number of countries firming up and tightening those targets.

By world standards, Australia is a relative minnow when it comes to emissions. We belch about 1 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases, far below China or the US.

But when it comes to per capita emissions we’re one of the dirtiest, with the world’s third highest emissions by that metric.

We get it, it’s difficult for Australia. More than half our electricity derives from coal – a huge carbon emitter. Transport and agriculture also leech greenhouse gases. Communities whose economies depend on fossil fuels are right to worry about how they will survive.

But our lack of a zero date means China – the world’s biggest polluter – can get away with a net zero target of 2060, not 2050. At least Beijing has a date.

RELATED: Cadbury’s stark warning: Radical action needed to keep chocolate flowing

KitKats raise another climate problem

Clearly, a chocolate sack is not a nation. Cutting emissions on sugary snacks is easier than cutting emissions from a whole country. And if Nestle fails in its goal, it’ll get less flack than a government.

But KitKat’s move raises another issue. The Australian government is being left behind not just by our peer nations, but by big business too.

Companies have smelled the wind and have decided they need to get on board. Nestle sells KitKats not just in Townsville, but Tokyo, Turin and Taunton too. They have to show lots of governments that they’re making an effort.

It’s not just foreign firms. In the past year, Australia’s three biggest retailers – Woolworths, Coles and Wesfarmers – have all committed to reducing emissions to net zero by 2050. Heck, even huge miner BHP has a 2050 goal.

The incentive would be greater for other firms if the government set a date too.

Economic problem if Australia flubs climate goal

Anna Malos, from non-profit organisation ClimateWorks told news.com.au the dilly-dallying on the issue could eventually harm our economy. Australia has the ability to be a major world force in cleaner hydrogen and other minerals that could power a green economy, she said.

Some climate watchers have said net zero countries may even tax imports from nations that fail to reach that benchmark.

“Other countries are already stepping up and if Australia doesn’t as well, we will lose some of our competitive advantage and those things that make our economy strong,” said Ms Malos.

“Everyone knows we’re in transition. The question is what are we going to do now to get on the front foot?”

The government has a critical seven months ahead of it. In November, the UK will hold the COP26 Glasgow climate, the biggest such event since the 2015 Paris meeting.

The pressure on the PM is huge – both from those urging Australia to set a deadline by Glasgow; and those in the Coalition who don’t want a bar of it.

But it’s time to take stock, to have a break – maybe with a KitKat – and ponder how a chocolate bar now has more credibility on the world stage when it comes to climate than Australia.



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Alex Hawke says overseas travel for weddings remains OK, but not to India


Australians will still be able to travel overseas for weddings and take a quarantine place on return, the immigration minister says.

The government has barred Australians travel to India for weddings and funerals, as the country grapples the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak.

But Immigration Minister Alex Hawke confirmed on Wednesday that measure would not be extended to other countries.

Mr Hawke said exemptions were still necessary to move Australians for “urgent reasons”, which could include attending a wedding.

“So next week someone could still go overseas, go to a wedding and come back through quarantine?” asked host Tom Connell

“Yes. There can be situations, but maybe not to India at this moment,” Mr Hawke replied.

RELATED: Australia announces total ban on flights from India

Exemptions allowing overseas travel for weddings are contentious, particularly after it was revealed the source of a COVID-19 outbreak in WA had been allowed to travel to India for a ceremony.

WA Premier Mark McGowan last week said it was “just nuts” to allow guests to potentially bring the virus home.

Every returning traveller also takes up a limited space in hotel quarantine, adding to the tens of thousands of Australians registered with DFAT as wanting to return home.

“Why (can) that person go off to a wedding when someone else is wanting to get home, because they need to get home, because they can’t earn money anymore?” Connell asked.

Mr Hawke rejected suggestions it was a “zero sum game”, despite a cap on hotel quarantine places.

“It’s never about exactly one place versus another. It’s flight availability. Affordability has changed several times during the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Hawke said the government had ramped up charter flights, but many Australians overseas had “changed their minds” about returning home.

The government on Tuesday suspended all flights from India until mid-May at the earliest, after the country recorded over 350,000 COVID-19 cases on Sunday.

The moved left roughly 9000 Australians stranded in India, including between 600 and 650 listed as vulnerable.

A group of Australian cricketers, including superstar Steve Smith, are also stuck having travelled to compete in the lucrative Indian Premier League.

But Mr Hawke said the government would not expedite their return.

“That’s a difficult situation, everyone’s in difficult situation,” he said.

“(But) the government’s put a priority on vulnerable Australians … I think Australians would expect us to have that priority.”



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Flights from India could be banned after national security committee talks


A ban on flights from India could come into force after crunch national security talks on Tuesday over the world’s worst coronavirus wave.

Cabinet’s powerful national security committee will meet on Tuesday morning, aiming to curb the COVID-19 cases arriving from the subcontinent.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Monday confirmed the government would consider humanitarian support for India, including shipping medical supplies.

The country recorded 352,991 cases on Sunday – the worst single-day increase in any country since the pandemic began – as mass cremations sites were established in response to a mounting death toll.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese described the situation as “desperate” and called for Australia to assist India in “whatever way we can”.

RELATED: Australia limits arrivals from India over escalating COVID-19 outbreak

“A breakout of this virus in one part of the world is a breakout everywhere. It does have an impact,” he told ABC radio.

But Mr Albanese said the outbreak reinforced its view the commonwealth needed to “get quarantine right” and suggested facilities be moved outside of high-density CBDs.

“The government continues to resist because their priority is not accepting political responsibility when breakouts occur,” he said.

The government last week slashed arrivals from India by a third, while passengers travelling from the continent were required to undergo a COVID-19 test 72 hours before leaving their last port of call.

Mr Hunt said the meeting would discuss the best ways to “assist India at this moment of humanitarian and health crisis on an unimaginable scale”.

“If … additional measures are recommended, we will take them with the heaviest of hearts but without any hesitation,” he said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan on Sunday confirmed arrivals to the state would be halved for at least a month, having plunged Perth into a three-day lockdown over the weekend.

Mr McGowan also called for the federal government to prevent Australians leaving the country, even for weddings or funerals.

But Nationals senator Matt Canavan lashed Mr McGowan as “panic merchant” and said flights should continue as the quarantine system had “worked very well”.

“We’ve actually got to grow up here and learn to live with what is going to be a spread of coronavirus around the world for years to come,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“Eventually, we will open up to the world, (and) there will be more cases of coronavirus here. Hopefully, at that point, most people are vaccinated and the risks aren’t as great.

“But we’ve got to learn to live with this.”

Mr Hunt said Australia was in a position to send non-invasive ventilators to the subcontinent as India’s death toll spirals.

Mr Hunt said New Delhi had also requested oxygen supplies with India “literally gasping for air”.

Senator Canavan said there was only a “very remote possibility” sending ventilators overseas would leave Australia short.

He described India as the “medicine factory of the world” and said New Delhi had exported supplies throughout the pandemic.

“There’s no imminent risk here,” Senator Canavan said.

“There is an obligation on us here to return that favour. We’re in a comfortable position, we should be helping countries that are worse impacted.”



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Flights from India could be banned after national security committee talks


A ban on flights from India could come into force after crunch national security talks on Tuesday over the world’s worst coronavirus wave.

Cabinet’s powerful national security committee will meet on Tuesday morning, aiming to curb the COVID-19 cases arriving from the subcontinent.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Monday confirmed the government would consider humanitarian support for India, including shipping medical supplies.

The country recorded 352,991 cases on Sunday – the worst single-day increase in any country since the pandemic began – as mass cremations sites were established in response to a mounting death toll.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese described the situation as “desperate” and called for Australia to assist India in “whatever way we can”.

RELATED: Australia limits arrivals from India over escalating COVID-19 outbreak

“A breakout of this virus in one part of the world is a breakout everywhere. It does have an impact,” he told ABC radio.

But Mr Albanese said the outbreak reinforced its view the commonwealth needed to “get quarantine right” and suggested facilities be moved outside of high-density CBDs.

“The government continues to resist because their priority is not accepting political responsibility when breakouts occur,” he said.

The government last week slashed arrivals from India by a third, while passengers travelling from the continent were required to undergo a COVID-19 test 72 hours before leaving their last port of call.

Mr Hunt said the meeting would discuss the best ways to “assist India at this moment of humanitarian and health crisis on an unimaginable scale”.

“If … additional measures are recommended, we will take them with the heaviest of hearts but without any hesitation,” he said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan on Sunday confirmed arrivals to the state would be halved for at least a month, having plunged Perth into a three-day lockdown over the weekend.

Mr McGowan also called for the federal government to prevent Australians leaving the country, even for weddings or funerals.

But Nationals senator Matt Canavan lashed Mr McGowan as “panic merchant” and said flights should continue as the quarantine system had “worked very well”.

“We’ve actually got to grow up here and learn to live with what is going to be a spread of coronavirus around the world for years to come,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“Eventually, we will open up to the world, (and) there will be more cases of coronavirus here. Hopefully, at that point, most people are vaccinated and the risks aren’t as great.

“But we’ve got to learn to live with this.”

Mr Hunt said Australia was in a position to send non-invasive ventilators to the subcontinent as India’s death toll spirals.

Mr Hunt said New Delhi had also requested oxygen supplies with India “literally gasping for air”.

Senator Canavan said there was only a “very remote possibility” sending ventilators overseas would leave Australia short.

He described India as the “medicine factory of the world” and said New Delhi had exported supplies throughout the pandemic.

“There’s no imminent risk here,” Senator Canavan said.

“There is an obligation on us here to return that favour. We’re in a comfortable position, we should be helping countries that are worse impacted.”



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Airline slashes prices for Melbourne routes


Virgin Australia has drastically slashed prices on one-way fares to Melbourne, as the airline tries to boost sales while coronavirus restrictions continue to be eased.

Holidaymakers looking for a getaway to Melbourne or Victoria between July this year and March next year can travel for just $75 from Launceston.

A trip from Melbourne to Adelaide can be snapped up for as little as $79, while Hobart to Melbourne will set travellers back $99.

Prices have also been dropped to $135 on the Brisbane to Melbourne route.

Virgin said the Ready. Set. Melbourne sale would run from midnight AEST on Monday until 11.59pm on May 3, 2021.

The sale fares are available for select dates between July 14, 2021 and March 16, 2022.

The fares include baggage, seat selection and Velocity frequent flyer points.

Virgin Australia believes the sale will help get Australians back in the air as the domestic travel industry recovers from COVID-19 and harsh interstate border closures.

“We’re continuing to support the recovery of Australia’s tourism industry by offering our guests a premium experience at irresistible prices, and our massive sale blitz on flights to Melbourne start from only $75,” a Virgin spokeswoman said.

“There’s never been a better time to visit Victoria or explore its incredible capital city Melbourne offering high-end restaurants, cool laneways and first-class cultural and sporting events.

“Our Ready. Set. Melbourne sale gives Australians another great reason to get out and explore our incredible country.”

Airlines operating across Australia have become involved in a sale war as they try to get people back in the air post-pandemic restrictions.

But snap lockdowns and border closures, like the current three-day shutdown in Perth continue to cause havoc across the airline industry.



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Scott Morrison wants overseas vaccination travel plan


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urgently asking medical experts to formulate a plan on how vaccinated Aussies can travel overseas and skip hotel quarantine upon return.

The PM said the country’s “main goal” was vaccinating the most vulnerable parts of the population, but said an international travel plan was “what I’d like to see happen next”.

“This is what I’ve tasked the medical experts with, is ensuring that we can know when an Australian is vaccinated here with their two doses, is able to travel overseas and return without having to go through hotel quarantine,” he told 6PR Perth Radio.

“I think we’re still some time away from that. The states, at this stage, I’m sure wouldn’t be agreeing to relaxing those hotel quarantine arrangements for those circumstances at this point in time.

“But what we need to know from the health advisers is what does make that safe and what does make that possible.”

Mr Morrison warned reopening the international borders now could result in more than 1000 cases of coronavirus a week.

“Vaccinations are not a silver bullet. We’ve never said they are,” he said.

“Australians have become very used to the fact … of having zero case numbers and zero community transmission.

“I don’t think Australians … would welcome restrictions and closures and borders shutting and all of those things, again, out of states concerned about the rising numbers of case numbers.

“So everyone needs to get on the same page with that. And so they’re the important threshold issues we’ve got to work together through as a national cabinet.

“And that’s why I’m calling them back together again to work on that same operational tempo that we were during the pandemic, because these are the challenges we need to solve together now.”

Australia slammed its borders shut in March last year when the global coronavirus pandemic first began to unravel.

Just two weeks ago, Australia entered into an agreement with New Zealand allowing travel between the two countries.

Mr Morrison hinted at a travel bubble agreement with more countries ahead of the trans-Tasman travel arrangement’s official start on April 19.

“I think I can see a future where we could be in a similar arrangement with Singapore and we’re working on that now,” he said.

“Other Pacific countries, that’s possible. But when you’re talking about countries, you know, for example, like Indonesia or India or Papua New Guinea or countries where we know that the virus is in a very strong form, including in Europe and even still the United Kingdom, the United States. Australians, I don’t think would welcome the incursion of the virus into the country. So we have to weigh all of that up.”



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Train commuters’ horror after elevator breaks down


A woman feared for her life when she and seven others became stuck in an elevator for about an hour at a Melbourne train station.

Pamela Hine and her husband Ian were on their way back home from the Brisbane and Collingwood AFL match last Thursday when the lift at Southern Cross station broke down halfway between ground floor and level one on platform 14 with the couple and five others inside.

“The lift got about halfway and we were all thinking it’s terribly slow … then after five minutes we realised we weren‘t moving at all,” the 79-year-old told NCA NewsWire.

“We started banging on the doors and yelling ‘can someone hear us’ and then we really started to panic when my nephew tried dialling triple-0 but couldn’t get it to work.”

The group of seven adults and a seven-year-old child continued to bang on the doors until Ms Hine recommended they conserve air and energy as it had started to get “stifling hot” inside the lift.

“It was a 29-degree day, one lady’s hair was dripping wet because she was sweating so much,” she said.

After about 20 minutes of being trapped, Ms Hine said her 86-year-old husband collapsed.

“His legs just gave way … he was on the floor, he looked terrible. I poured some water over his head to cool him down,” she said.

“We pushed the emergency phone in the lift ten times and it just kept ringing out, no one was answering.

“The fan wouldn’t start, there were ten lights on the top of our heads – we couldn’t breathe and we were getting anxiety … we thought we would perish halfway between ground floor and level one.”

Finally another woman in the lift managed to dial through to emergency services, and when they arrived, crews jemmied the doors open and passed water bottles through the opening.

“This rush of air immediately came in and we were trying to wave the air over to my husband on the ground,” Ms Hines said.

“We were traumatised, it was a horrendous ordeal.”

Fire Rescue Victoria confirmed the incident and said crews had arrived to find the lift had stopped two metres above the ground.

“The people inside the lift reported that the lift was very hot inside,” a FRV spokesperson said.

“FRV crews wedged open the doors of the lift at 11.30pm, providing the people inside with water. Shortly before 11.40pm firefighters freed all people from the lift.”

Southern Cross Station has been contacted for comment.

anthony.piovesan@news.com.au



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