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Two Australian Open tennis players test positive but may not have active coronavirus infections, Police Minister says



Ten positive COVID-19 tests have now been recorded among people who have flown to Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis tournament, including two players whose results were confirmed today.

Victoria’s Police Minister, Lisa Neville, said one of those new cases was a player who is in hard lockdown, and authorities believe their infection is not active, but shedding.

Ms Neville said another player and one of their support team have also tested positive and are unable to train until authorities can determine the status of their infections.

“In the meantime, the player, the support person and their bubble — so the other support person and player they’re with — will not be training until we have a final confirmation that they are shedding or that they are positive,” she said.

If they are positive, the player and their support person will go into the health hotel and their training partner and their support person will enter a hard quarantine as close contacts of a confirmed case, Ms Neville said.

The three new cases whose test results were received by the Victorian Government today will be reported in the official coronavirus numbers tomorrow, Ms Neville said.

Earlier, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said the hotel quarantine system was working well.

“We’re in our sixth day and so far our numbers have been extremely low and if they are active cases they go straight to the medi-hotel,” he said.

Paramedics this morning responded to a medical emergency at the View Hotel, where many tennis players have been quarantined.

Ambulance Victoria said one person was taken to hospital in a stable condition, but did not reveal whether the person was connected to the tennis.

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Player complaints still occupying Tennis Australia’s time

Tennis Australia has devoted considerable time to dealing with a vocal minority of players who have continued to complain about conditions in hotel quarantine.

Spanish player Roberto Bautista Agut issued an apology after he likened conditions in quarantine to being in jail, in a video he said was released without his consent.

In the video, Bautista Agut was critical of the Victorian Government, saying the quarantine arrangements were “a complete disaster”.

He later issued a statement saying it was a private conversation taken out of context and released to the media without his knowledge.

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Russian player Yulia Putintseva drew criticism yesterday for an Instagram post in which she was seen holding a protest sign in her hotel room.

Putintseva later continued to complain about cleanliness standards, posting videos of mice in her hotel room.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said Ms Putintseva was moved to a different room in the hotel, and she understood the player had been feeding the mouse.

“We don’t send cleaners into those rooms … so every tennis player needs to clean their own room and change their own bed if they want to do that,” she said.

“I’d just encourage them to minimise interaction with the mice, we will keep doing pest control if we need to, but hopefully that pest control work that was done this week will have fixed the problem.”

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Mr Tiley said Tennis Australia had to remind players that their complaints may not be well received in Melbourne.

“We’re doing the best we can to ask the players to be respectful of the Victorian community, who’ve been through a really tough time over four months of a lockdown, and paid significant prices in loss of life and also in jobs,” he said.

“It’s just one of those environments that we have to every single day talk to the players and ask them to respect that position.

“I believe the majority of them are, it’s just a select few that are not there yet.”

British player Johanna Konta spoke up during a conference call with hundreds of players earlier this week, urging them to be mindful of local sentiment and keep their complaints private.

She told Channel Nine that emotions were running high during the first few days of quarantine, and players were simply anxious about how they would perform after two weeks in a hotel room.

“A big part of that frustration for these players will be how well will they be able to perform and I think that just comes along with being a professional athlete and sometimes rationale doesn’t come into it,” she said.

“The reason we are here is to put on a show for the people of Australia, the people of Melbourne, and also the world stage.”

Quarantine bill to be paid in full by Tennis Australia

Ms Neville estimated the cost of quarantining players ahead of the Australian Open would run into the tens of millions of dollars, and said the bill would not be paid by the Government.

Earlier today, Mr Tiley suggested to Melbourne radio station 3AW that the Victorian Government would help out with quarantine costs, but could not say how much they would contribute.

“Well that’s still to be determined — perhaps next week or the week after we’ll know that, whatever the quarantine costs end up being,” he said.

Mr Tiley said Tennis Australia had exhausted its $80 million dollar cash reserve and had taken out a loan to fund the costs associated with player flights and hotel quarantine, but Ms Neville said his claims about taxpayers funding part of the bill were not correct.

“Hotel quarantine for the Australian Open is fully funded by Tennis Australia. I’ve triple-confirmed that again today [after seeing that information], it is fully funded by the Australian Open,” she said.

She said while the Government supported the Australian Open “as an event”, as it does with all big events, the additional cost of the quarantine arrangements was being funded by Tennis Australia.

“The taxpayer is not contributing to the [Australian Open] hotel quarantine program,” she said.

Tennis Australia is yet to reveal whether allowances will be made in its schedule for the 72 players in hard quarantine, but Mr Tiley hinted that could be a possibility.

“I think how we can adjust is what happens in the lead-in events, how many lead-in events we have and when we start and what the schedule is for those players who need more time,” he said.



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Manly star to face two-day hearing over alleged pizza shop assault


NRL star Dylan Walker will defend himself over allegations he assaulted two men outside a pizza shop on Sydney’s northern beaches at a court hearing later this year.

Up to 20 witnesses are expected to be called in the Manly player’s case when it comes before the Downing Centre Local Court in May.

Mr Walker, 26, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of common assault after he was charged over the incident outside Little Italy Pizzeria on May Road, Narraweena on November 1.

Police were called to the scene following reports of a fight between the “aggressive” outside back and two restaurant staff.

NSW Police said in a statement the confrontation occurred when Mr Walker left the pizza shop and tried to enter the vehicle of a woman, who was unknown to him, parked outside.

“When confronted, the man allegedly became aggressive and was allegedly involved in a physical altercation, assaulting two men before fleeing,” the police statement said.

Mr Walker was arrested a short time later and was granted conditional bail after being charged.

The footballer did not appear in court on Wednesday as dates were set for his two-day hearing, set to proceed on May 14 and 17.

The court was told there would be up to 17 police witnesses called to give evidence, while Mr Walker’s defence could also call a small number of witnesses.

Under his bail conditions Mr Walker must abstain from drugs and alcohol and not go within 50m of the pizza shop.

His matter will return to court on April 23.



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India’s glorious summer in Australia reminiscent of the West Indies in 1960-61 — they deserve the same fanfare


In the history of cricket in Australia, the 1960–61 tour by the West Indies stands out like a beacon.

Australia won that five-match series 60 years ago 2-1, but the West Indies captured the hearts and minds of the country.

The tour was unique in so many ways, not least that it was the first West Indian team to be captained by a black man, Frank Worrell, but also for the enormous goodwill that emerged between the two sides.

At least 90,000 spectators turned up for the first day of the fifth Test.

After Australia won it by two wickets, Worrell presented Australian captain Richie Benaud with his cap, tie and blazer, along with the comments “I give Richie my scalp, my neck and my body”.

Thousands of spectators below the balcony of the MCG members broke into For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.

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Days later, tens of thousands of Melbournians lined the city streets 10-deep as the West Indies were given a motorcade send-off for a series that was said to have rescued cricket.

Worrell later said “the traffic was literally stopped…people were to be seen lining the streets, leaning out of windows three or four storeys up”.

“They Lost the Series — But They Won Australia” read the Daily Telegraph’s front-page headline on the report of the motorcade.

Sixty years later, in these strange COVID times, how different is it for an Indian team — that has risen above all barriers to win the Test series 2-1 — which will quietly slip out of the country today with little fanfare.

It seems wrong for a team that has pulled off what Sambit Bal writing for Cricinfo called “the greatest moment in India’s Test history” by retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Just imagine the send-off they would have received in a COVID-free world if they could have been driven in open-top cars through the streets of Sydney or Melbourne with their huge Indian populations of adoring fans.

India's Rishabh Pant raises his arm as he runs while celebrating the winning runs against Australia.
Rishabh Pant’s innings steered India to an unlikely win in Brisbane.(AP: Tertius Pickard)

At least they got a lap of honour in front of a scattered but raucous crowd of supporters at the Gabba to soak up the significance of their stunning three-wicket win and series comeback, after getting rolled for just 36 runs to lose the first Test in Adelaide.

It’s fitting that Brisbane was the venue for their extraordinary series win, the same venue that hosted the famous tied Test between the West Indies and Australia on that historic tour 60 years ago.

And how fitting that India’s stand-in captain, Ajinkya Rahane, presented Nathan Lyon with a jersey signed by the Indian team to mark his 100th Test, in a gesture that harked back to Worrell’s gift to Benaud.

It was a gracious act by a gracious team — one that differs in so many ways from those that have come before.

Indian teams loaded with superstars like Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh have come to this country and failed.

This side came back against all odds without the one player who sits in the same pantheon of those former Indian greats, captain Virat Kohli.

Those sides from the early 2000s played with a feistiness. They were the new India, no longer bound by their colonial past.

This side stands on their shoulders without the need to prove anything beyond their ability and grittiness on the cricket field.

India players and support staff embrace as they celebrate beating Australia in the fourth Test in Brisbane.
India’s series win has been labelled one of the greatest of all time.(AP: Tertius Pickard)

And they do so with confidence and youth — a reflection of modern India and modern times.

Mohammed Siraj called out racist comments in just his second Test match, an act hard to imagine in years gone by.

“A new India emerged Down Under — resilient and ambitious” Ashutosh Sharma wrote in India’s Outlook magazine.

“This was arguably India’s greatest Test win overseas and definitely their finest series victory ever,” wrote Partha Bhaduri in the Times of India.

“They believed, obstinately and vehemently.”

“Young India is showing is showing they are not afraid,” said former captain and Indian Test legend Sunil Gavaskar.

This side won the trophy named in Gavaskar’s honour along with Australia’s Allan Border with an astonishing mix of skill, tenacity, courage and yes, belief.

Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara screams in pain as teammate Ajinkya Rahane watches on.
Cheteshwar Pujara was at his resilient best in Brisbane, and lead from the front all series.(AP: Tertius Pickard)

It’s at times like these that superlatives flow and yet they don’t seem to do justice to explain what we all witnessed — a so-called second-string side coming back from an embarrassing defeat and suffering a shocking series of injuries to beat one of the strongest sides in world cricket on their home soil during a global pandemic.

Just three players from that losing first Test side played in the Brisbane Test and only two, Rahane and the mighty warrior Cheteshwar Pujara, played in all four.

They won without six of their first-choice bowlers — the attack went into the fourth Test with just four matches and 11 wickets between them.

It’s been asked before, but worth repeating: how would an Australian side fare in India without Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood and Lyon?

Those players and the rest of the Australian team will now have to lick their wounds as they prepare for a tour of South Africa and find a means to regain their mojo.

But this isn’t their time.

This time belongs to India, a team that has created one of the great Test series that will live in the memory like the West Indies in 1960-61.

They deserve a motorcade.



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Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson facing coronavirus restrictions and Tokyo Olympics uncertainty as he steps into job


New Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson is preparing to face a series of unique challenges as he takes charge of Australia’s women’s national team in the midst of a global pandemic and with the future of the Tokyo Olympics still uncertain.

Gustavsson formally began his role earlier this month and has spoken with his players and staff online, but is yet to find out when his squad will be able to gather for the first time.

At the moment, the Swede is still preparing as if the Olympics Games will go ahead in July and August this year. If they do, it will be the Matildas’ first major tournament under their new coach.

Time is of the essence then for Gustavsson, who says he plans to make the most of every single minute he gets with his players.

“Obviously as a new coach and a coach in general, I would love to meet the team and meet the players. As a national team coach you always think you don’t have enough time, you want to have more days and more games,” Gustavsson said.

“It’s always challenging even in normal circumstances. Then with a pandemic going on, it’s difficult to get together and you get less time.

“I’ve tried to look at it this way, and this is how I’m wired as a person — I’m always trying to look at the possibilities.

“So instead of looking at it like we lose time, we need to make use of time. Meaning, we need to think differently now, maybe think outside of the box a little bit. So if we can’t get together physically, is there anything else we can do to gel and connect?

“This is a team that the majority of players have played together for a long time, so there’s already a camaraderie and togetherness and understanding with each other.”

A footballer with her back to camera celebrates a goal with teammates in Olympic football qualifier.
The Matildas have not played a game since March 2020.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

Gustavsson has signed a four-year contract, which will take him beyond the 2023 Women’s World Cup, to be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

This then is the start of the Matildas’ journey to that tournament and Gustavsson says he is no doubt that he wants to start that journey in style.

“And it’s easy to just look at the rankings and see who we want to play. We want as tough of a schedule as possible, even if it means it is challenging and there are difficulties for me coming in as a new coach.”

An assistant coach leans over the sideline to shout instructions to womens' football players.
Tony Gustavsson during his time on the coaching staff of the USWNT.(Reuters: Michael Chow)

Gustavsson is still in Sweden but, depending on the pandemic, he is hoping to live in Australia “from mid-next year”.

He says he has been following the new W-League season from afar — though not to the extent he would like.

“It might sound like I haven’t watched anything — I’ve watched a lot — but as a coach you want to watch everything. I’m always going to feel like I haven’t watched enough,” he said.

“We have to show respect for what the league has done for the Matildas. In that sense, the W-League is very, very, very important for us.

“It’s a fantastic platform for young players to get exposed to games.”

A projected image in the sydney opera house of blue and green confetti falling behind Sam Kerr mid-backflip
The 2023 Women’s World Cup will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.(Twitter: The Matildas)

For Gustavsson, who has previously been an assistant coach for the all-conquering US Women’s National Team, distance could prove to be a blessing because he can assess his squad without any preconceived ideas or judgements.

But already, Gustavsson says, he can see similarities between his Matildas players and the two-time World-Cup-winning Americans.

“I’ve had very little time now to get up to speed, so what I’ve told the players is that I want everyone to feel like it’s a blank paper, and the coach will look with fresh eyes and will give everyone a chance to showcase themselves.

“If I say, ‘We are short here,’ or, ‘We need to look here,’ I might be blinded to what I am watching. So I want to really open up and see from my end what I think about the roster.

“When I look at the Matildas and when I spoke to the players, I sensed some similarities between the teams [Matildas and USWNT] in terms of that passion and drive and attitude and fearlessness to step on the field.

“With that attitude that we can beat anyone.

“What stands out for me is the passion they have for their country and how proud they are to play for the Matildas.”



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Tennis Australia to fund hotel quarantine, vic govt says


The Victorian government has rejected Tennis Australia’s claim that taxpayers will be footing part of the bill for Australian Open hotel quarantine.

Police Minister Lisa Neville, who is overseeing hotel quarantine, said the bill would instead be “sent straight back to Tennis Australia” after CEO Craig Tiley’s earlier remarks on Wednesday that the government would “absolutely” pay for part of the Aussie Open quarantine program.

I did see Craig Tyler‘s comments, but I want to be very clear that hotel quarantine for the Australian Open is fully funded by Tennis Australia,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

“I’ve triple confirmed that again today.”

Ms Neville said plans for the state government to pay for the quarantine scheme had never been a part of pre-tournament negotiations.

“We are asking, for example, Australians who returned to contribute to the hotel quarantine costs, so it seemed appropriate to us that also tennis players, or the association, should contribute to their hotel costs,” she said.

About 1200 players and staff who are in Australia for the tournament are completing 14-day stays at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne, the View on St Kilda Road, and the Pullman hotel in Albert Park.

Mr Tiley earlier on Wednesday said quarantining players and staff would cost more than $40 million, with the state government “absolutely” chipping in.

But he did not know how much the government contribution would be.

“That’s still to be determined because we’re still in the middle of that. Probably the end of next week or the week after we’ll know exactly,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“These quarantining costs are new costs. The state government is supporting us in that.”

Three more people associated with the Australian Open returned positive coronavirus results on Wednesday morning.

Among them was a player believed to not be infectious but shedding the virus. They will still be required to lockdown.

It brings the total number of positive COVID-19 cases associated with the Australian Open to 10.

The tournament is scheduled to start on February 8.



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Australian Open boss Craig Tiley says no player has an active COVID-19 infection



There are no active coronavirus cases among tennis players in hotel quarantine ahead of the Australian Open, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services said two people who had tested positive had been reclassified as cases of viral shedding.

Mr Tiley said 3,200 tests were conducted on people who flew into Melbourne to be involved in the Australian Open in some capacity, and six of those people were considered active cases.

“We’re in our sixth day and so far our numbers have been extremely low and if they are active cases they go straight to the medi-hotel,” he said.

Paramedics this morning responded to a medical emergency at the View Hotel, where many tennis players have been quarantined.

Ambulance Victoria said one person was taken to hospital in a stable condition, but did not reveal whether the person was connected to the tennis.

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Tennis Australia has devoted considerable time to dealing with a vocal minority of players who have continued to complain about conditions in hotel quarantine.

Spanish player Roberto Bautista Agut issued an apology after he likened conditions in quarantine to being in jail, in a video he said was released without his consent.

In the video, Bautista Agut was critical of the Victorian Government, saying the quarantine arrangements were “a complete disaster”.

He later issued a statement saying it was a private conversation taken out of context and released to the media without his knowledge.

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Russian player Yulia Putintseva drew criticism yesterday for an Instagram post in which she was seen holding a protest sign in her hotel room.

Putintseva later continued to complain about cleanliness standards, posting videos of mice in her hotel room.

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Mr Tiley said Tennis Australia had to remind players that their complaints may not be well received in Melbourne.

“We’re doing the best we can to ask the players to be respectful of the Victorian community, who’ve been through a really tough time over four months of a lockdown, and paid significant prices in loss of life and also in jobs,” he said.

“It’s just one of those environments that we have to every single day talk to the players and ask them to respect that position.

“I believe the majority of them are, it’s just a select few that are not there yet.”

British player Johanna Konta spoke up during a conference call with hundreds of players earlier this week, urging them to be mindful of local sentiment and keep their complaints private.

She told Channel Nine that emotions were running high during the first few days of quarantine, and players were simply anxious about how they would perform after two weeks in a hotel room.

“A big part of that frustration for these players will be how well will they be able to perform and I think that just comes along with being a professional athlete and sometimes rationale doesn’t come into it,” she said.

“The reason we are here is to put on a show for the people of Australia, the people of Melbourne, and also the world stage.”

Tennis Australia is yet to reveal whether allowances will be made in its schedule for the 72 players in hard quarantine, but Mr Tiley hinted that could be a possibility.

“I think how we can adjust is what happens in the lead-in events, how many lead-in events we have and when we start and what the schedule is for those players who need more time,” he said.



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China ‘silenced’ medics at beginning of COVID-19 outbreak


Nationals backbencher Matt Canavan has accused Beijing of having “something to hide” after Chinese medics admitted they knew how dangerous COVID-19 was but were silenced by the government.

British network ITV has secretly filmed senior medics who witnessed some of the first cases in Wuhan and claimed they knew the virus could be transmitted from human to human but were told not to speak out.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) claimed on January 14 there was evidence of “limited” transmission between humans.

But the medics – speaking on ITV’s Outbreak: The Virus That Shook The World – claimed there was no doubt the deadly virus could be passed between people in December.

Coalition Senator Matt Canavan said the revelations vindicated the government’s demand for transparency from Beijing.

“That’s why the federal government’s always been consistent in calling for a proper, transparent inquiry (on the origins of COVID-19),” he told Today.

“The question has to be asked: If China has nothing to hide here, why they are going to these sort of lengths to hide things?”

A WHO investigation team is in Wuhan but was initially barred from entering, with Beijing citing visa issues.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack last week insisted the probe would “get the answers it needs” despite fears China would attempt to railroad the probe.

But Mr Canavan has accused Beijing of dragging its feet more than a year after the first cases were detected.

“We have really no more information about where this came from, what happened in Wuhan, and the international investigators themselves have been denied access to Wuhan,” he said.

“You do have to wonder, the more people try to hide something, the more it probably is they have something to hide.”



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Crow gets longest AFLW suspension for clash that left Giant with neck injury


Adelaide Crows footballer Ebony Marinoff has been handed the longest suspension in AFLW history, after a collision left Greater Western Sydney recruit Brid Stack with a fractured vertebra.

The AFL tribunal suspended Marinoff for three matches on Tuesday night — a ban that will see the two-time premiership player miss a third of the season.

Marinoff pleaded not guilty but the tribunal upheld the charge of engaging in forceful front-on contact.

“Every time I go onto the footy field I want to play hard but fair football and I believe that’s what I did on Sunday. 

“I reached out to Brid to send her my best and I wish her a fast recovery.”

The incident occurred during a trial match at Norwood Oval on Sunday, and play was stopped in the fourth quarter of the match.

Stack, 34, was left with a stable fracture of her C7 vertebra but no injury to surrounding nerves.

The Irish recruit has been released from hospital and should make a full recovery.

Brid Stack playing for the Giants in their AFLW practice match against Adelaide at Norwood Oval in Adelaide on January 17, 2021.
Greater Western Sydney’s Irish import Bríd Stack joined the Giants last year.(Twitter: GWS Giants)

The Giants said Stack does not require surgery but will wear a neck brace in the short term.

It was Stack’s first AFLW game after moving to Australia with her husband and one-year-old son.

The former Gaelic footballer is an 11-time All-Ireland winner for Cork and was named the 2016 Ladies Footballer of the Year.

Crows head of women’s football Phil Harper said the club will assess its options.

“The club is really disappointed with this outcome and we’ll be considering our options going forward,” he said.

Adelaide is set to play Melbourne in round one on Saturday, January 30.



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Zali Steggall slammed for minute’s silence suggestion


A Sydney MP has been accused of treating Indigenous Australians as “helpless victims” for suggesting there should be a minute’s silence at Australia Day ceremonies.

Independent Warringah MP Zali Steggall has called on councils across the country and in her electorate to include the minute’s silence as part of their Acknowledgement of Country on January 26, to recognise the Indigenous lives lost since the First Fleet arrived in Port Jackson in 1788.

Ms Steggall, who ousted former Primer Minister Tony Abbott from his seat in 2019, wrote to the Australian Local Government Association and the mayors of North Sydney, Mosman and Northern Beaches councils asking them to consider her suggestion, the Manly Daily reported on Tuesday.

“There should be a formal recognition of the loss, hurt and sorrow felt by our Indigenous community on January 26,” Ms Steggall said.

“Councils provide an important leadership role in commemorating this day by hosting numerous formal and informal ceremonies and activities for their communities. However, January 26 provokes a range of emotions for many within our community.”

RELATED: Invasion Day gatherings to be held on January 26, Australia Day march cancelled

The former Olympic skier said while the date marked the start of European colonisation, it also represented “the commencement of violence, disempowerment and displacement of our Indigenous communities that has created sorrow, discrimination and hardship that has lasted for generations”.

“It is only right that we acknowledge all that this day represents and build remembrance into our ceremonies to recognise the price that has been paid by First Australians,” she said.

“A ceremonial minute’s silence could be a powerful step in the healing journey.”

RELATED: Invasion Day graffiti says ‘only w**kers celebrate genocide’

Alice Springs councillor Jacinta Price has hit back, telling radio station 2GB that Ms Steggall “needs to stop painting Indigenous Australians as helpless victims who don’t have any agency, who don’t have the ability to move forward within our nation”.

Ms Price, who is also Director of Indigenous Research at the conservative Centre for Independent Studies think tank, said National Sorry Day on May 26 was already used to commemorate “what occurred in our country’s history”, while Australia Day “is about being inclusive and involving absolutely everybody that makes Australia a great nation”.

“The truth is, the very first round of protests back in 1938 on January 26 by the Aborigines Progressive Association was about the want to have full citizenship status and equality within the community, that’s what they were fighting for,” she said.

“When the Citizenship Act was passed in 1949 on January 26, that’s when all Australians became Australian citizens and no longer British subjects, so it’s a significant day in that regard where we all, including Indigenous Australians, became Australian citizens.”

She noted January 26 remains the most popular day of the year that people choose to become Australian citizens.

“So I think Zali needs to learn a bit more about our country’s history instead of using shallow, PC, woke-ish ways of dealing with these particular issues,” Ms Price said.

“Australia Day is about celebrating what we‘ve accomplished as a nation together, everybody’s contribution to this nation. Sometimes I think we forget there are also people who have come from other parts of the world to make Australia their home, not just black and white. If we continue to feed into the activist narrative we’re enabling narcissistic behaviour.”

Ms Price suggested that if “people are serious about this idea of healing, then why don’t we use the morning of Australia Day to complete the act of healing and use forgiveness to move forward”.

“Because as far as I’m concerned that’s what hasn’t been achieved,” she said.

“Australians are bending over backwards to acknowledge and support Indigenous Australia and there’s a hell of a lot of goodwill out there that has been taken advantage of, and it’s nonsense. It needs to stop and we need to stop feeding into the divide.”

It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison‘s government warned local councils not to use COVID-19 as an excuse to cancel Australia Day celebrations and citizenship ceremonies.

While most local councils are still holding ceremonies as required, some have announced they are calling them off in solidarity with Invasion Day activists or due to the pandemic.

The federal government has previously stripped inner-city Melbourne councils Yarra and Darebin of their power to hold citizenship ceremonies after they voted in 2017 to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day.

“For any council seeking to play politics with Australia Day citizenship ceremonies, our message is simple — don’t,” Mr Hawke told The Australian last week.

“Australians need this sort of negative bickering less than ever at this challenging time.”

While Invasion Day rallies have attracted growing numbers of attendees over the past five years, polling has found that the overwhelming majority of Australians support keeping Australia Day on January 26.

A new survey released on Monday by the Institute of Public Affairs found 69 per cent of Australians support January 26, while just 11 per cent think the date should be changed.

The percentage who want the date changed has flatlined over the four years the conservative think tank has run the same survey.

“Despite the tired narrative being pushed by a minority of activists to change the date, support for their cause has not moved,” Dr Bella d’Abrera, Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the IPA, said in a statement.

“Australians have had enough of being told that they need to be ashamed of their country, and that it is wrong to celebrate its success.”

frank.chung@news.com.au



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Calls for Victorian duck hunting ban take off after survey finds most hunters fail bird identification test


A study of Victorian duck shooters has found that only one in five were able to correctly answer questions about identifying protected bird species, raising pressure on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to ban duck hunting ahead of the 2021 season.

The Victorian Game Management Authority (GMA), the independent hunting regulator, will soon give its recommendations to the State Government about how the 2021 season should operate.

Last year, the season was shortened from May to June after dry conditions and bushfires reduced bird populations.

The season was then cut even shorter due to the coronavirus pandemic, as residents were told to stay at home.

In total, around 60,400 ducks were killed, roughly a quarter of the number shot in 2019.

Hunters were allowed to kill seven of the eight game duck species, including the Pacific Black Duck, the Mountain Duck, Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Wood Duck and Hardhead.

A ban was placed on killing the Blue-winged Shoveler due to low numbers.

Campaigners say the practice should be outlawed, especially in light of the survey in December that showed 80 per cent of respondents failed a bird identification test.

“It tells both the Government and the Victorian public that duck shooters cannot even do the single basic thing that they claim they are out there to do,” said Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick.

The GMA said that all shooters must score 85 per cent or higher to pass the Waterfowl Identification Test before they are allowed to hunt.

The high failure rate for the December survey would inform future education materials, it said.

In recent years, the GMA has been repeatedly accused of failing to investigate and enforce duck shooting breaches.

In 2018, an internal report found it was “widely perceived” by both shooters and its own staff “to be unable to police [hunting laws] properly or to punish those who break them”.

At the time, the GMA said it took the findings very seriously.

Two hunters standing in wetlands near a lake.
The duck hunting season in Victoria has begun with the regulator being caught in the crossfire, with complaints from hunters and activists.(Supplied: Natalie Kopas)

Internal political push

There are a number of Labor MPs, including senior Cabinet Ministers, who privately want duck shooting for sport banned.

There are also some MPs agitating for a change of Government policy, a position at odds with the party’s leadership.

At Labor’s 2019 state conference, MPs Lizzie Blandthorn and Steve McGhie co-sponsored a successful motion calling for a review of the sport.

“Unfortunately, that review has not been conducted, maybe due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Mr McGhie.

“We are fast approaching another duck hunting season and I think that review should be conducted ASAP.”

Senior Labor sources say one of the biggest obstacles to change is Mr Andrews, who continues to back duck shooting.

The Coalition also backs the status quo, but there are also Liberal MPs against the practice.

Brighton MP James Newbury used his maiden speech in 2018 to call for an end to duck hunting.

He said if the Government allowed the season to go ahead this year it would be the same as “handing out free cartridges”.

“My community thinks duck hunting is barbaric and I’d say modern Victoria thinks the same,” Mr Newbury said.

Victorian Minister rules out ban

The GMA has also been accused of using outdated data to justify its decision to hold a truncated 2020 duck shooting season.

The recommendation for a season uses data from the Aerial Survey of Wetland Birds in Eastern Australia (EAWS), jointly conducted by the University of NSW and the NSW Government’s Centre for Ecosystem Science.

“The GMA uses the best available information at the time to make recommendations to government,” GMA chief executive Graeme Ford said.

“As many game duck species are highly mobile and can move across state borders, data on game duck abundance and distribution is considered for eastern Australia, not just Victoria.”

But the Animal Justice Party says the advice looked at the national increase in bird population rather than the decrease in Victoria.

“The GMA authority either deliberately misled or lied by omission to the previous agriculture minister in making recommendations about last year’s duck hunting season,” Mr Meddick said.

New Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the Government has no plans to ban duck hunting.

“It’s both mine and the GMA’s expectation that hunters abide by the conditions attached to their license, and to act safely and responsibly at all times when hunting,” she said.

Duck hunting is banned in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia.



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