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Christopher Chandler does not apply for bail

After days spent holed up in a share house, Christopher Chandler could hide no longer.

Police arrested the 22-year-old at a Central Coast property on Wednesday – six days after he allegedly led police on a fatal pursuit through a western Sydney suburb.

Chandler was allegedly behind the wheel of a stolen Audi sedan when he ploughed through a fence in Constitution Hill, near Parramatta, last Thursday night.

Toddler Tateolena Tauaifaga was playing on the other side of the fence and suffered fatal injuries.

The girl’s family told Fairfax Media through their lawyer, Ben Archbold, that they “are so relieved he has been found”.

Police will allege they had Chandler under surveillance as part of an armed robbery investigation and were trying to arrest him when he fled.

“The child was killed in their own family backyard when the accused drove through the fence attempting to evade police,” police allege in court documents.

The luxury vehicle was found in the inner Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst soon after the chase.

Chandler, who friends and neighbours said grew up in Constitution Hill not far from where 17-month-old Tateolena was hit, had been the subject of a widespread man-hunt until his arrest on Wednesday.

It is understood Chandler had been staying at a share house in Gorokan, which the family of his younger brother’s girlfriend was involved in, when he was arrested.

The brother’s girlfriend and Chandler’s ex-girlfriend were in Wyong Local Court on Thursday when Chandler’s case was mentioned.

But the accused didn’t appear in court or apply for bail and the case was adjourned to March.

The court heard Chandler was already on bail for unrelated offences.

Chandler has been charged with a string of offences over the police pursuit, including manslaughter and aggravated dangerous driving causing death.

Manslaughter carries a maximum punishment of 25 years in jail.

Chandler is also accused of causing bodily harm to another young child when his car allegedly ploughed through the Tauaifaga’s back fence.

A critical incident investigation is looking into the role police played in the fatal pursuit.

Chandler’s ex-girlfriend said he would be devastated by what had happened.

“I think it’s really sad because if that was my child I would be devastated, I would be beside myself,” she said outside court.

“I think he would be devastated as well.”

She described Chandler as one of the nicest guys she had ever been with.

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Abbott abandons plan to slash Medicare rebate for doctors’ visits

Tony Abbott’s hopes for a fresh start new year have been dashed, with the Prime Minister capitulating on his plan to slash the Medicare rebate for doctors’ visits just 24 hours after defending the “price signal” as an “economic reform” that would improve patient care.

Mr Abbott, a former health minister, spent Wednesday taking soundings, including from colleagues, and the decision to abandon the $20 cut for short appointments was made late that evening, during a phone call between the Prime Minister and his new Health Minister Sussan Ley.

The issue was set to overshadow the Queensland state election, with doctors threatening to plaster waiting room walls with posters saying “YOUANDYOUR GP HAVE BEEN TARGETED”.

A government source said on Monday, when the cuts were due to begin, “every waiting room would have turned into a ballot box”. Premier CampbellNewman revealed he had told the federal government he did not support the cuts. “We have expressed concerns about this driving people to emergency departments so we don’t support it,” Mr Newman said.

The leadership team signed off on the decision on Thursday morning but at the same time cabinet minister Bruce Billson was insisting the change remained “on the table” and would be implemented.

Hours later, Ms Ley cut short her holiday and fronted the media inMelbourneto place her “stamp” on the portfolio by scrapping the measure, which was introduced quietly by regulation two days before Christmas by her predecessor Peter Dutton.

“I’ve heard, I’ve listened and I’m deciding to take this action now. It’s off the table and I stand ready to engage, to consult, and to talk to the sector,” she said.

Ms Ley said she remained committed to introducing price signals into the Medicare system, including the $5 cut to the Medicare rebate as part of the revised GP co-payment due to begin July 1.

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler said the government’s backdown was a “welcome surprise” and promised to “work with the minister to come up with something that’s better for GPs and patients”.

“I’m really glad for Sussan Ley that’s she’s not lumped with this policy,” he said.

But he refused to outline any concessions the AMA would be willing to make, saying “it’s not our job to find savings”.

Professor Owler said the government should be boosting, not cutting, funding to GPs because primary care was more sustainable long-term in keeping patients out of hospitals.

“Primary care is the answer to sustainability, not the problem,” he said. “Sustaining the system is about investing in primary care, so instead of cutting maybe we should be boosting funding,” he said.

The AMA supports a co-payment for wealthier patients but is opposed to the revised co-payment because it will effectively mean a $5 cut to their rebates.

The campaign against the $20 cut to the rebates paid to GPs for appointments between six and 10 minutes long reached a head on Thursday, when the AMA released a scathing letter it had written to Mr Abbott the week before.

Labor, the Greens, Palmer United and senators Ricky Muir, Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie had already declared they would move to disallow the change when Parliament resumes next month.

The measure would have raised $1.3 billion over four years and was part of the revamped GP co-payment the government was forced to revise because it faced defeat in the Senate. A spokesman for Treasurer Joe Hockey said Labor had a duty to contribute to the job of repairing the budget.

“Labor created the budget mess and now must help us to fix the budget,” the spokesman said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government’s health policy was in “shambles”.

“Only yesterday Tony Abbott was insisting the new GP tax by stealth would not be abandoned,” Mr Shorten.

“The Abbott government is only acting because it has been forced to by Labor’s refusal to bend in our defence of Medicare,” he said.

Palmer United’s leader in the Senate Glenn Lazarus also claimed credit for the government’s backdown.

“Palmer United has forced the Abbott government to back down on its changes to Medicare. PUP has fixed it up,” Senator Lazarus said.

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ACCC launches new initiative to keep eye over fuel prices

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has unveiled its new plan to scrutinise petrol prices across the country, as the price discrepancy stretched to more than 40 cents more per litre between cities and some regional areas.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said the new monitoring process would “go a long way” to determining why the gap between petrol prices in regional areas and metropolitan areas had tripled, while prices in Sydney and Melbourne had dropped by 45 cents a litre since July.

Under the new arrangement, fuel prices in all capital cities and 180 regional centres will be monitored, and the ACCC’s power to compel information will be used to examine petrol companies’ price-structuring systems.

Determining the cost of transferring fuels to regional centres, as well as storage and distribution costs would be crucial to working out why some places had large gaps between the wholesale price and pump price, Mr Sims said.

“I think we will be able to put the producer on the spot in the way they have never been before,” he said.

But with the global oil price hitting a six-year low this week, these reasons alone did not justify the current price discrepancy, he said.

“There’s no reason at all that the 35 cent reduction we’ve seen in international prices shouldn’t get passed on in rural areas. And it looks as though it’s been way too slow up until now.”

But some regional MPs have indicated that the ACCC’s approach will not do enough to curb rampant price gouging.

Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said high prices were a “serious concern” in his electorate, adding the “government has a role to play” in areas not open to market forces.

Victorian MP Sharman Stone said towns in her electorate were being “held captive” by petrol retailers and increased ACCC powers were the best way to stop the price gouging.

Hefty fines beyond “a few thousand dollars” should be imposed on companies found to be ripping off motorists, she said.

Currently, the ACCC can only pursue court-ordered fines and penalties where it can be proved companies have colluded in setting the bowser price.

“If a company can’t demonstrate how the additional cost has been incurred then that company should not be allowed to charge a higher margin in a country area compared with a metropolitan area,” Ms Stone said.

She said her calls were likely to go unheeded by her colleagues in city seats, whose “let the market rip” attitudes were letting her constituents down.

“Unfortunately, some of them actually believe there is such a thing as a level playing field and a free market.

“We’ve let the market rip and now we’ve got country people being ripped off.”

But Mr Sims said that although price gouging was not against the law, there was no need for the ACCC’s powers to be increased.

“I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of transparency and exposure, and also consumer pressure.

“If we were to look at a town and find there were very high profits being made, then that exposure will lead to such a backlash the prices will come down,” he said.

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Ballarat teenager to face court after police pursuit, crash

A BALLARAT teenager has been charged following a crash and police pursuit on Saturday where one other teenager was taken to hospital with critical injuries.

The 17-year-old boy was charged by MajorCollision Investigation Unit detectives on Thursday evening after he was allegedly involved in an incident which resulted in acrash on Scott Parade where one other boy was left critically injured.

Ballarat police were on routine patrol in Grant Street when they spotted an allegedly stolen white Subaru Forrester station wagon shortly before 2.30am on Saturday.

Major Collision Investigation Unit Acting Inspector Bruce McArthur saidon Sunday that thecar was initially involved in a police pursuit in Grant Street about 2.30am after police attempted to intercept the vehicle for a routine check.

But police terminated the pursuit after the car reached high speeds in Humffray Street North.

Acting InspectorMcArthur said that another police car then observed the allegedly stolen car crashed into a poleat the corner of Scott Parade and Ebden Street.

Another teenager was found unconscious in the wreckage and underwent life-saving brain surgery at the Alfred Hospital on Saturday.

The 17-year-old has been charged with eleven offences including negligently cause serious injury, dangerous driving while pursued by police and theft of motor vehicle.

The boy cannot be named for legal reasons.

He has been remanded in custody to appear at a children’s court on Friday.

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