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Andy Murray in doubt, Madison Keys out as Tennys Sandgren boards flight to Melbourne for Australian Open despite recent positive COVID-19 test


Andy Murray’s return to the Australian Open is in doubt after the Scotsman tested positive for COVID-19 just days before he was due to fly to Australia via a charter flight.

The three-time grand slam champion and five-time Australian Open finalist is isolating at home near London, the tournament said in a statement.

“The AO fans love Andy, and we know how much he loves competing here in Melbourne and how hard he’d worked for this opportunity.”

Murray has reportedly not given up on making the trip and had earlier backed out of the Delray Beach Open in Florida to “minimise the risks” of contracting the virus through international travel.

However, that could prove difficult with players and officials required to arrive in Australia during a 36-hour window from Thursday and needing to serve a mandatory isolation of 14 days.

Murray has been given a wildcard entry into the first grand slam tournament of 2021.

Murray is not the only player to suffer a COVID blow with women’s world number 16 Madison Keys pulling out after testing positive for COVID-19.

“I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen,” Keys wrote on Twitter, while also announcing her positive test.

Sandgren allowed to come to Australia despite positive test

While Keys is out, Murray could potentially compete in Australia, after American player Tennys Sandgren was given special clearance to board a charter flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne despite testing positive for COVID-19 in November and again on Monday.

Sandgren received an exemption after Australian health officials assessed his case history.

Sandgren tweeted he tested “COVID positive” on Monday, after originally testing positive in late November, and was initially barred from the flight containing international players out of Los Angeles.

But the world number 50 said he was then allowed to join the delayed flight, calling Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley a “wizard”.

Sandgren, a two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist, tweeted he was not contagious and had “totally recovered”.

“My two tests were less than eight weeks apart. I was sick in November, totally healthy now,” his tweet read.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria released a statement this afternoon saying it had reviewed Sandgren’s positive test result “as per standard processes” and he was cleared to travel to Australia.

It said the evidence in Sandgren’s case “suggested he had recovered from a previous COVID-19 infection and is still shedding viral particles”.

“For people who have previously tested positive and have since recovered, it is common to shed viral fragments for some time — which can trigger another positive result,” the statement read.

“Any person who returns a positive test result has their medical and case history reviewed by a team of public health experts.

“Only those who are determined to be recovered and no longer infectious will be allowed to travel to Australia.”

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Victorian Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville supported the decision to allow Sandgren to board the flight to Australia.

“Tennys Sandgren’s positive result was reviewed by health experts and determined to be viral shedding from a previous infection, so was given the all clear to fly,” Ms Neville tweeted.

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Tennis Australia said it was following Victorian Government guidelines on players being allowed to fly to Melbourne.

“Any recovered case must go through this process in order to have an opportunity to travel here for the Australian Open,” Tennis Australia said in a statement.

“No one can travel without either proof of a negative test or this special clearance from authorities confirming they are not infectious.

“Upon arrival all players are immediately placed in a secure quarantine environment for 14 days under the authority of COVID Quarantine Victoria and will undergo a more rigorous testing schedule than most returning travellers.”

The Australian Open will start at Melbourne Park on February 8 and run until February 21.

The first charter flight carrying players contesting the Australian Open arrived in Melbourne this evening.

Earlier this week, three hotels were added to Victoria’s hotel quarantine program to accommodate the arrivals.

These are the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne, the View on St Kilda Road, and the Pullman hotel in Albert Park.

The entrance to the Grand Hyatt Melbourne.
There will be three quarantine hotels for Australian Open tennis players and staff in Melbourne.(ABC News: Chris Le Page)

Players and their support people will be allowed to leave their hotel rooms for up to five hours per day to complete training.

Each hotel will have its own dedicated training facility.

Dedicated training venues have also been set up at Melbourne Park, the National Tennis Centre and Albert Reserve.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are on a separate charter flight that will fly direct to Adelaide for a planned exhibition event in the South Australian capital.

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Tennys Sandgren boards flight to Melbourne for Australian Open despite recent positive COVID-19 test


American tennis player Tennys Sandgren says he has been allowed to board a chartered flight to Melbourne for the Australian Open, despite recently testing positive for coronavirus.

Sandgren tweeted he tested “COVID positive” on Monday, after originally testing positive in late November, and was initially barred from the flight containing international players out of Los Angeles.

But the world number 50 said he was then allowed to join the delayed flight, calling Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley a “wizard”.

Sandgren, a two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist, tweeted he was not contagious and had “totally recovered”.

“My two tests were less than eight weeks apart. I was sick in November, totally healthy now,” his tweet read.

Tennis Australia (TA) would not comment specifically on Sandgren’s situation but said it was following Victorian Government guidelines on players being allowed to fly to Melbourne.

“Some people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who are non-infectious can continue to shed the virus for several months,” TA said in a statement.

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“Victorian Government public health experts assess each case based on additional detailed medical records to ensure they are not infectious before checking in to the charter flights.

The Australian Open will start at Melbourne Park on February 8 and run until February 21.

The first players contesting the Australian Open are scheduled to arrive in Melbourne this evening.

Earlier this week, three hotels were added to Victoria’s hotel quarantine program to accommodate the arrivals.

These are the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne, the View on St Kilda Road, and the Pullman hotel in Albert Park.

The entrance to the Grand Hyatt Melbourne.
There will be three quarantine hotels for Australian Open tennis players and staff in Melbourne.(ABC News: Chris Le Page)

Players and their support people will be allowed to leave their hotel rooms for up to five hours per day to complete training.

Each hotel will have its own dedicated training facility.

Dedicated training venues have also been set up at Melbourne Park, the National Tennis Centre and Albert Reserve.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are on a separate charter flight that will fly direct to Adelaide for a planned exhibition event in the South Australian capital.

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Rio’s appointment reveals board’s tin ear


The need to rebuild Rio’s battered reputation was far too subtle.

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Stausholm, to his credit, told investors he was “acutely aware” of the need to restore trust with traditional owners and other stakeholders. He didn’t elaborate on what that actually meant.

Given the CEO’s job was up for grabs solely due to the Juukan Gorge disaster, it is disappointing that Rio chairman Simon Thompson didn’t make more of it.

Perhaps he was hoping that the soaring iron ore price, the decision by three executives including CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques to fall on their swords and previous apologies was enough and now it was time for the company to move on.

But times are changing and a report released by a parliamentary inquiry earlier this month was a reminder that Rio still has a long way to go to atone.

The parliamentary report said: “Rio knew the value of what they were destroying but blew it up anyway”.

It said the destruction of the sites wasn’t a series of “unfortunate mistakes” but a decision to put profit above all else. “This corporate culture belied Rio Tinto’s public rhetoric of working in partnership with First Nations people, as reflected in the company’s (now dis-endorsed) Reconciliation Action Plan.”

It said Rio should pay compensation to the Indigenous owners of the land, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

In light of the report it is surprising that Rio didn’t listen to its shareholders who had made it clear they wanted an external appointment as the new chief executive.

Macquarie in a note on Friday said, “the move to appoint the new chief executive officer from internal ranks was a surprise as we had expected Rio’s board to appoint an external candidate from the process”.

Morgan Stanley said, “given some level of concern in the market related to Rio’s past operational issues, we think the market may have been expecting an external appointment”.

“Some may perceive Mr Stausholm’s appointment as potentially indicating little change in overall strategy.”

Indeed, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg must be flabbergasted at the move given his discussion with The Australian Financial Review’s Jennifer Hewett in September where he revealed he had called Rio chairman Simon Thompson to tell him the company’s next chief executive should be Australian along with the majority of its directors.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg wanted an Australian-based CEO at Rio Tinto.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg wanted an Australian-based CEO at Rio Tinto.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“With the vast majority of its revenue coming from Australia, it is fitting to once again see an Australian as CEO along with the majority of the board. It was a constructive conversation,” Frydenberg told the AFR.

The ASX statement didn’t mention where Stausholm will be based but the company’s expectation is it will continue to be at Rio’s London headquarters, positioned at 6 James Square, St James.

St James is one of the more wealthy suburbs in London, minutes from Buckingham Palace and The Ritz. One British website describes St James as “an aristocratic neighbourhood in central London”.

It is far from the dirty blue-collar business of mining and the 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site that it blew up with no regard. The company’s growing disconnect from Australia is seen as a key reason why it landed itself in such a deep mess.

This is despite the fact that Australia generates as much as 80 per cent of the group’s profits, largely from its iron ore mines in the Pilbara.

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Rio’s initial reaction to the backlash over its destruction of irreplaceable Aboriginal heritage was arrogant and insensitive. It initiated a flimsy investigation, allowed those directly responsible to step down at their convenience instead of immediately with their pockets full.

It is why investors reacted so badly.

HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey didn’t directly comment on the latest appointment but said in a statement that as an investor, the industry fund was closely watching how the Rio Tinto board and its senior leadership take action to improve governance and oversight and respond to the very substantial recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry.

She said investors had an expectation of significant and lasting change. “A vital first step is opening up all agreements with traditional owners to an independent review,” she said.

“Like other global investors, HESTA will continue to evaluate the action Rio has taken to address serious concerns about the systemic risk these agreements and how they are negotiated pose to both Rio and other companies in the sector. We will continue to engage on these issues, which will inform our share voting at Rio’s AGM in May.”

Australian Super declined to comment, as did the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t watching.

The boards of Australia have managed to get away with flawed governance for too long. Rio’s number is up. Any more screw-ups and more heads will roll.

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Investors say Rio board’s response to cave blast disaster falls well short


“But the question, I think, for the board is, ‘Who are the best people to lead the changes we have identified and feel are essential to ensure we don’t have a repeat of Juukan?’ And the conclusion we’ve reached is the JS, Chris and Simone are the right people.”

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Some investors, however, raised immediate concerns that the board’s report failed to deliver on meaningful accountability for the destruction of some of the most significant cultural sites in Australia.

The $52 billion superannuation fund HESTA, which invests in Rio, noted the report’s findings that the blasting of the gorge, although legally sanctioned, had fallen “well short” of the miner’s own standards but had failed to specify who was ultimately responsible for adhering to those standards and for ongoing oversight of heritage management.

“The report fails to assuage investor concerns about the gap in Rio Tinto’s public commitment to lead on heritage protection, and its actions,” HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said.

Australian Council of Superannuation Investors chief executive Louise Davidson called on Rio’s board to explain why greater accountability was not being applied in light of the disaster.

“Remuneration appears to be the only sanction applied to executives,” Ms Davidson said. “This raises the question – does the company feel that £4 million is the right price for the destruction of cultural heritage?”

Mr Thompson said the board had decided the three executives would forfeit about £4 million ($7 million) in their 2020 bonuses.

Mr Jacques would be stripped of payments worth nearly $3 million, while Ms Niven and Mr Salisbury would lose about $1 million each. Mr Jacques would also lose $1.8 million of long-term incentives.

In, 2019, Mr Jacques received a salary of £5.79 million ($10.5 million).

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“Of course, you cannot put a monetary value on Juukan,” Mr Thompson said on Monday. “But these are significant penalties and I think they reflect both the seriousness of the incident and the damage that has been done to Rio Tinto’s reputation.”

James Fitzgerald of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a shareholder activist group working with First Nations land councils, said the penalties were “completely off the mark” and “pocket change for these highly paid executives”.

“These minimal proposed financial penalties misunderstand the nature of the damage, which is permanent and irreparable,” he said. “The CEO needs to go and head of cultural heritage, Simone Niven, needs to accompany him.”

Identifying areas for change, the review said Rio would strengthen its community relations and heritage functions across its operations, including improving processes for escalating heritage issues to senior decision-making levels and a greater focus among senior operational leaders on relationships with traditional owners and First Nations people. The company would also introduce more effective internal audits to ensure compliance with heritage standards and guidelines.

It comes as the miner is facing a federal parliamentary inquiry into the lead-up to the Juukan Gorge blast and the adequacy of the nation’s heritage-protection laws. Rio has acknowledged to the inquiry it could have made better decisions and been better partners with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama Pinikura (PKKP) people in the years leading up to the blast.

The company said it had missed multiple opportunities to better communicate with the traditional landowners or pause to rethink its mine expansion plan after archaeological digs in 2014 found the site to be much more significant than previously thought.

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CEOs take pay cut, but boards urged to show more ‘restraint’ in pandemic


The number of ASX200 CEOs getting no bonus, meanwhile, jumped from 7 to 25, which ACSI said pointed to boards using “sensible discretion”. As the economy is devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, the influential group expects more moderation this year.

IDP Education chief executive Andrew Barkla, who topped ACSI's list of highest-paid ASX200 CEOs on a realised pay basis.

IDP Education chief executive Andrew Barkla, who topped ACSI’s list of highest-paid ASX200 CEOs on a realised pay basis.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“We expect a greater level of restraint from boards on CEO pay in 2020 given the impact of the COVID pandemic on investors, companies and the broader community,” ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson said.

Ms Davidson, who has previously suggested bonus hurdles were too low, said it was encouraging some companies had already announced they would not be paying bonuses this year. “Investors will be concerned if bonuses are paid in companies that have undertaken emergency capital raisings or have relied heavily on government support,” she said.

The highest paid CEO for the year was Mr Barkla, CEO of IDP Education, which helps international students study in English-speaking countries. His ranking was a result of share options granted to Mr Barkla before the company floated in 2015, and its share price rising sharply over that period.

The report said Mr Barkla’s pay eclipsed that of the previous record-holder, Domino’s Pizza chief executive Don Meij, and it was the first time a CEO from outside the ASX100 had topped the list.

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An IDP spokeswoman said Mr Barkla’s current pay was consistent with market benchmarking, and the realised pay figure for 2019 reflected 4.1 million options granted to him when he was appointed CEO in 2015.

“The value created through the exercise of those options in FY19 reflects the performance of the business during that period. IDP Education’s market capitalisation rose from $660 million at IPO to $4.4 billion at June 30, 2019, in turn resulting in significant value creation for shareholders of the company,” the spokeswoman said.

Chief executive of biotechnology giant CSL, Paul Perreault, was second on the list with realised pay of $30.53 million. ACSI said much of Mr Perreault’s realised pay also came from share options.

Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals chief Philippe Wolgen was third, with realised pay of $20.62 million, which ACSI said was the result of performance rights granted when the company’s share price was much lower.

Treasury Wine chief executive Michael Clarke was next with realised pay of $19.85 million, after also ranking in the top 10 last year.

Macquarie Group CEO Shemara Wikramanayake's realised pay for 2019 was $19.3 million.

Macquarie Group CEO Shemara Wikramanayake’s realised pay for 2019 was $19.3 million.Credit:

Ms Davidson said that with some new CEOs joining the top 10 in 2019, it was a reminder of how valuable equity incentives could be, and boards needed to carefully consider this potential value before grants were made.

No bank chief executives made the top 10, after bank CEO pay was cut in part due to the damning findings of the Hayne royal commission. However, the report did not include Macquarie Group chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake because she did not serve the full year as CEO. Ms Wikramanayake’s realised pay for the year was $19.3 million, ACSI said, which would have put her in fifth place.

ACSI provides advice on environmental, social and governance issues to 39 large asset owners that collectively own 10 per cent of ASX200 companies, on average.

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