Woman lucky to be alive after shark takes 'big chunck' of her leg off Queensland coast

A Tasmanian mother on holiday in north Queensland's Whitsunday Islands region is lucky to be alive after a shark mauled her leg.

Justine Barwick, 46, was snorkelling at Cid Harbour on Wednesday when the attack happened leaving her with a severe wound to her left thigh and minor wounds to her calf.

Ms Barwick, a mother of two, would likely have bled to death without the quick- thinking actions of people in nearby boats.

In a second stroke of luck a rescue helicopter scrambled to the region was just 15 minutes away from the scene due to an earlier operation they'd been undertaking.

The hovering chopper drew the attention of John Hadok, an emergency department doctor from Mackay Base Hospital, who was sailing nearby and soon joined the effort to save Ms Barwick's life.

Dr Hadok's direction ensured correct first aid was given to Ms Barwick, allowing her to be safely winched into the helicopter.

RACQ CQ Rescue Helicopter crewman Ben McCauley said the doctor and others who gave first aid to Ms Barwick before she was winched aboard had likely saved her life.

"The original first aid was actually really well done," Mr McCauley told reporters today.

"We actually didn't have to do anything with the leg, it was pretty much tourniqueted up, bandaged up and bleeding had stopped. They'd done a really good job."

Although he didn't see the wound, Mr McCauley was told Ms Bariwck had "quite a big chunk of leg taken" and had suffered arterial bleeding.

She also suffered puncture wounds to her calf muscle.

The helicopter then stopped at Proserpine to refuel, allowing blood from a local hospital to be transfused and other medical treatment given.

Just after 8pm Ms Barwick arrived at Mackay Base Hospital where she remains in a critical condition on Thursday morning after overnight surgery.

Her husband Craig is at her bedside.

Ms Barwick works for non-profit Family Based Care in Burnie and had travelled to the Whitsundays on a holiday with her husband and friends.

Family Based Care chief executive Doug Doherty said Ms Barwick and Craig were regular visitors to the popular tourist destination in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

"It didn't surprise me, because she is such a fighter, when she was being taken off the rescue helicopter and taken into hospital she was telling them what she was allergic too and still able to give directions," Mr Doherty told AAP.

"That sounds like Justine to me."

Sharks (file picture). Source: istock.com

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'Government coming apart at the seams' says Simon Bridges as second minister gone

National Party Leader Simon bridges says today's dumping of Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri shows more weak leadership by the Prime Minister, leading to a weak Government which is "coming apart at the seams".

Less than a year in Government, two ministers are now gone after Jacinda Ardern today axed Ms Whaitiri following a Ministerial Services report on an incident last month in which she was alleged to have assaulted a staff member during an event in Gisborne.

It comes after the MP was accused of assaulting a staff member in Gisborne. Source: 1 NEWS

Clare Curran quit her remaining ministerial roles about two weeks ago after being rattled in Parliament over questions about her use of personal email for Government business, and having already been stripped of two portfolios over undeclared meetings.

Mr Bridges says today's sacking of Ms Whaitiri is more weak leadership leading to a weak government. 

"I mean we've not had a ongoing series of chaos and sagas, whether it's been Curran, now Whaitiri, and of course managing or not managing as the case may be Winston Peters," the National Party leader said. 

"The Prime Minister has to take responsibility for that weak leadership. If we look at Meka Whaitiri, what's happened here is very clear. Nothing has changed. She's known the facts about an alleged incident now for week, but just like with Curran she has dithered and mucked around and she should have dealt with this much more early," he said.

Ms Whaitiri will stay on as the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and Mr Bridges says that's a question for the Prime Minister.

"I think the reality is she still has leadership roles here. She's still chairing a caucus committee, and that's not good enough," he said.

"Still there's basic questions that I'm sure the Prime Minister knows but she won't answer, like whether there's been other incidents, what has happened here. She should have got to the bottom of this and dealt with this a long time ago."

Mr Bridges said Ms Ardern has not been strong enough on the matter.

"This has been weak leadership and weak government. It's why we're seeing the Government coming apart at the seams, you know around two ministers in a couple of weeks, around a coalition where they can't get agreement on basic things, this is yet more evidence of something that could have been dealt with decisively and strongly but has been weak," Mr Bridges said.

The National Party leader says the axing of Meka Whaitiri is more slow, weak leadership leading to weak government. Source: 1 NEWS

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US federal agency admits losing track of 1,488 'vulnerable' migrant children

Twice in less than a year, the US federal government has lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children after placing them in the homes of sponsors across the country, federal officials have acknowledged.

The Health and Human Services Department recently told Senate staffers that case managers could not find 1,488 children after they made follow-up calls to check on their safety from April through June.

That number represents about 13 per cent of all unaccompanied children the administration moved out of shelters and foster homes during that time.

The agency first disclosed that it had lost track of 1,475 children late last year, as it came under fire at a Senate hearing in April.

Lawmakers had asked HHS officials how they had strengthened child protection policies since it came to light that the agency previously had rolled back safeguards meant to keep Central American children from ending up in the hands of human traffickers.

"The fact that HHS, which placed these unaccompanied minors with sponsors, doesn't know the whereabouts of nearly 1,500 of them is very troubling," Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the panel's chair, said.

"Many of these kids are vulnerable to trafficking and abuse, and to not take responsibility for their safety is unacceptable."

HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley disputed the notion that the children were "lost".

"Their sponsors, who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them, simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made," she said in a statement.

Since October 2014, the federal government has placed more than 150,000 unaccompanied minors with parents or other adult sponsors who are expected to care for the children and help them attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court.

Yesterday, members of a Senate subcommittee introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at requiring the agency to take responsibility for the care of migrant children, even when they are no longer in their custody.

An Associated Press investigation found in 2016 that more than two dozen unaccompanied children had been sent to homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay.

At the time, many adult sponsors didn't undergo thorough background checks, government officials rarely visited homes and in some cases had no idea that sponsors had taken in several unrelated children, a possible sign of human trafficking.

Since then, HHS has boosted outreach to at-risk children deemed to need extra protection, and last year offered post-placement services to about one-third of unaccompanied minors, according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But advocates say it is hard to know how many minors may be in dangerous conditions, in part because some disappear before social workers can follow up with them and never show up in court.

The legislation comes as the Trump administration faces litigation over its family separation policy at the US-Mexican border, which while it was in effect sent hundreds more children into the HHS system of shelters and foster care.

Some of those children have since been reunited with their families, while others have been placed with sponsors.

Oakley did not respond to questions regarding whether any of the children who the agency lost track of had been separated from their families before they were sent to live with sponsors.

The legislation is aimed at ensuring HHS does more to prevent abuse, runs background checks before placing children with sponsors, and notifies state governments before sending children to those states, the bill's sponsors said.

"The already challenging reality migrant children face is being made even more difficult and, too often, more dangerous," said the panel's top Democrat, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware.

"This simply doesn't have to be the case and, as this legislation demonstrates, the solutions don't have to be partisan."

The White House has accused Democrats and the media of exploiting the photo. Source: US ABC / 1 NEWS


Watch: Phil Twyford slams Judith Collins' attitude to compo for Housing NZ tenants evicted under bogus meth testing

Housing Minister Phil Twyford has hit back at hardline questions from National MP Judith Collins about today's decision by Housing New Zealand to compensate hundreds of tenants it evicted from state homes on the basis of bogus methamphetamine testing.

A report to the Minister found about 800 tenants suffered as a result of Housing New Zealand's policy of evicting tenants for using P or allowing its use in their homes.

Affected tenants are expected to receive between $2500 and $3000 in compensation. 

In Parliament Ms Collins asked where meth testing showed residues exceeding standards, could this meth have gotten into the Housing New Zealand house any way other than smoking or baking the drug.

"No," Mr Twyford replied. "But there was no consistent baseline testing done in any Housing New Zealand houses over those years," he added. 

"There is no way of knowing whether the hundreds of people who were made homeless under this policy had any personal responsibility for the contamination of those houses. And frankly I'm shocked that the member, who used to be a lawyer, would think that that is ok. Is this the modern compassionate face of the National Party?"

Ms Collins then asked will people who smoked meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given two to three thousand dollars compensation.

"The point of the compensation is to compensate people who wrongly had their tenancies terminated and their possessions destroyed and in some cases made homeless. Those are the people who will receive payment under the assistance programme," Mr Twyford replied.

Ms Collins asked will people who sold meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given the compensation.

"No," Mr Twyford replied, to shouts from National MPs of "How would you know? How would you know?"

Earlier in the exchange, Ms Collins asked was the Minister saying it's wrong to end a tenancy when someone is using the house to break the law.

"We're saying that it's wrong to make innocent people homeless on the basis of bogus science and no decent evidence of responsibility or culpability," Mr Twyford responded. 

"Hundreds of people were made homeless under this policy, people that in some cases were vulnerable, people with addictions who were made homeless. The worse possible thing that you could do to someone who has an addiction is to make them homeless," he said.

Asked by Ms Collins is it acceptable for Housing New Zealand tenants to smoke methamphetamine in state houses, Mr Twyford said the Government does not condone the smoking of methamphetamine anywhere, but it is not acceptable for any government to throw tenants onto the street and make them homeless. 

"We recognise that making people homeless does not solve a tenant's problems or help someone overcome addiction. It just moves the problem to somewhere else and makes it worse for the person involved, for their family, their children, the community and the taxpayer," he said.

The Housing Minister defended the compensation decision against the National MP's hardline questions. Source: 1 NEWS