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News in 5: Little girl drowns after slipping through gate; Private health insurance changes announced; & more.

1. Toddler slipped through open pool fence before drowning.

A Sydney toddler who drowned on Wednesday had slipped through an open pool gate, police say.

Octavia Rothnie was found unconscious in the backyard pool of a home in Werrington Downs about 8.30pm. Just moments before had she quietly walked away from her family and made it through a gate that had accidentally been left open, Nine News reports.

Emergency services were called, but paramedics could not save her and she was pronounced dead at Nepean Hospital.

A neighbour told Nine News that the little girl’s parents were “amazing people” who don’t deserve this tragedy.

Her death brings the total number of people who drowned across Australia this summer to 54, Seven News reports.

That’s 15 more lives lost than this time last year.

Two small children on NSW’s Central Coast almost joined the tragic tally after a four-year-old boy and five-year-old girl began drowning at Avoca Lagoon on Wednesday, Seven News reports.

CPR was administered on the cousins, who were rushed to hospital where they later were recovering.

2. Legal fund set up for Julian Assange amid fears he’ll be booted from embassy.

Image: Getty

A legal defence fund is being launched for Julian Assange amid fears the WikiLeaks founder is under threat of being expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The Courage Foundation, which offers legal support for whistleblowers and journalists, says Assange has become "isolated" inside the embassy, with "severe restrictions" on his communications and visitors.

The organisation said his expulsion from the embassy may be imminent, putting him at risk of extradition to the US.

"The US government has pursued a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks since 2010, with major politicians and public figures calling for Assange's arrest or execution," the Courage Foundation said in a statement on Thursday.

"It has recently been confirmed that the US government has already charged Assange in a sealed indictment and seeks his arrest and extradition."

The organisation said these developments had prompted it to launch the defence fund for Assange.

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"Prosecuting Assange for publishing constitutes a major attack on press freedoms at large, and his transatlantic legal defence will require contributions from supporters around the world," it said.

The Courage Foundation said the US government would use all its resources to force Assange's extradition from the UK and take him into custody.

Assange has been living inside the embassy for more than six years.

 3. Man-hunt ends and rapist extradited to Victoria.

A convicted rapist, who evaded capture for six weeks before being arrested in a remote camping spot in the NSW Snowy Mountains, is due to be extradited to Victoria.

A NSW magistrate approved the extradition of Christopher Empey, 46, to Victoria on Thursday, after he was arrested at the Tin Mine Huts in Kosciuszko National Park a day earlier.

Empey is due to reach Victoria on Friday, where he is expected to be charged with breaching his reporting conditions and likely face court.

Empey allegedly shed his tracking bracelet and fled Victoria in November to avoid strict supervision conditions that come with being a registered sex offender and was spotted at Nowra on the NSW south coast in December.

He was convicted of a violent rape in 2002, released on parole in 2015 and was set to be placed on the Victorian sex offender register for 15 years when he disappeared.

4. Less coverage under private health insurance.

dying person's advice to the living
Image: Getty.

Benefits under private health insurance are being slashed, with some policyholders paying higher premiums for less coverage, News Corp reports.

It follows the government's move to simplify health cover with its Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic reforms. Among the insurers making changes are Medibank, NIB and Bupa.

"One third to one half of health fund members will be receiving letters indicating some change. There will be inclusions as well as exclusions," Private Healthcare Australia chief Dr Rachel David said.

Many of the benefits being cut relate to natural therapies, the result of the government withdrawing the 25 per cent tax rebate. Medibank has also withdrawn some weight loss and fertility treatments.

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"Anything which makes private health insurance more expensive or less value for money will continue the exodus from insurance and build up the stress on the public system to the detriment of patients on long waiting lists," Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone told News Corp.

5. Powerball reaches record-matching $100 million.

Powerball's Division One prize has ballooned to $100 million, the equal largest jackpot in Australian history.

The $100 million, matched only twice before, will be drawn next Thursday. No one has come up with winning numbers in eight consecutive weeks.

In 2018, a Powerball $100 million prize pool was split between two winners, and then again in 2012 when an OZ Lotto jackpot of almost $112 million was split between four winners. A Hervey Bay couple who won $70 million in 2016 remain the nation's largest individual prize winners.

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