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Local News - Victoria

Victorian private schools record lowest fee rises in Australia


The analysis of 400 non-government schools across the country, including more than 100 in Victoria, was conducted by Edstart, which finances school fees for families.

Of the Victorian schools, 35 charged more than $30,000 a year for year 12 local students while 67 charged below that.

Edstart chief executive Jack Stevens said: “Across Australia many schools kept their fees steady to assist families economically impacted by the pandemic.

“We found that nearly 40 per cent of schools did not increase their 2021 fees, which is a massive jump from 7 per cent of schools in 2020.”

Schools that charge at least $30,000 a year for year 12 local students were more likely to freeze their fees, with more than half holding fees steady this year.

“This is a stark contrast to previous years where these schools had maintained a relatively consistent trend of fee increases of between 3 per cent to 4 per cent,” Mr Stevens said.

The Knox School principal Allan Shaw.

The Knox School principal Allan Shaw.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Thirty-six per cent of Victorian students attend a non-government school, the highest rate of any state in Australia and well above the OECD average.

Victorian schools were forced to teach online for much of 2020 and many cut fees for families whose finances came under pressure. Some schools also experienced industrial conflict for standing down staff during the state’s lockdowns.

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While the school fee freezes are welcome news for parents, the Independent Education Union has complained they have been subsidised by freezes in teacher pay.

Schools to freeze fees for 2021 include The Geelong College, St Leonard’s College and The Knox School.

The Knox School principal Allan Shaw said: “Because we didn’t charge any of the co-curricular fee levies for most of last year, some families decided to give us that money and transfer it to other families in need.

“I was impressed, that was real community support.”

The Geelong College principal Peter Miller said while COVID-19 had not affected this year’s scholarship intake, it was reasonable to expect the downturn would lead to more demand in the future.

St Leonard’s College principal Stuart Davis said the inability of parents to attend school open days during most of 2020 would have “greater implications” in years to come.

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Australian News

Powerball rises to $8 million prize


A life changing amount of money is up for grabs as the Powerball offers a division one prize of $8 million for Thursday’s draw.

If someone takes out tonight’s prize, they will be the first Powerball winner to scoop up the prize this year.

In 2020, the Powerball jackpot sat at $8 million 14 times.

It was most recently won on New Year’s Eve by a Wagga Wagga woman who discovered the news shortly after midnight.

“I was with some friends after midnight, and I was just trying to find something in my bag. I saw my ticket and thought maybe the results were out,” she said.

RELATED: The 16-year-old making more than $100k

“I checked the ticket on the app but initially didn’t (know) how much I’d won. I had to get my friend to check. It’s just unbelievable.”

Bronwyn Spencer, The Lott spokeswoman, said the winner from regional NSW wouldn’t be the only one kicking off 2021 with a bang if someone took out tonight’s division one prize.

“It’s not too late for your 2021 plans to change if you score $8 million in tonight’s Powerball draw,” she said

“While it has been an interesting year already for many, there is no doubt that an extra few zeros in your bank account would make it bigger and brighter than ever.”



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Local News - Victoria

Victoria’s crime rate rises on the back of 32,000 lockdown breaches


Police also recorded 34 offences against those who failed to comply with self-isolation and quarantine orders.

The new data shows a total of 551,710 offences were recorded during the 12-month period, with the number of crimes recorded increasing by 23,229 (or 4.4 per cent).

Lockdown breaches were the fifth most common crime recorded statewide, making up 6 per cent of all offences over the past 12 months.

Other common crimes included stealing from a motor vehicle (56,849 offences), breaching a family violence order (50,462), other theft (46,209) and criminal damage (35,966).

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Family violence-related crimes increased by 7.5 per cent with more than 90,000 offences recorded.

The highest number of crimes recorded were in the local government areas of Melbourne, Latrobe, Yarra, Greater Shepparton and Horsham. And while three of the top five actually recorded small declines in the number of offences committed in their neighbourhoods, Yarra’s crime rate per 100,000 residents rose 5.1 per cent and Horsham’s surged 23.2 per cent.

The Crime Statistics Agency said the data also showed “significant upward trends” in crimes including drug offences and the breaching of court orders, which includes intervention order breaches.

It comes just weeks after Mernda woman Celeste Manno, 23, was allegedly murdered in her home by a man who was subject to an interim intervention order.

The agency said the largest decreases were in areas including arson and disorderly or offensive conduct, with the state in lockdown during half the 12-month period due to COVID-19.



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Australian News

Evacuation order issued in norther NSW as Tweed River flood water rises


An official Evacuation Order has been issued for Tweed River at Condong, Tumbulgum and surrounding areas in northern NSW, with residents told to flee the “high danger area” via Tweed Valley Way.

The order to “evacuate now” was issued late Tuesday morning as flood waters began to close low-lying roads, and the Tweed Valley Way to the north of Tumbulgum.

Around 1000 properties are believed to be affected, including those on the Tweed Valley Way north of Murwillumbah, Condong and Tumbulgum and the low-lying areas of Tygalgah and surrounding areas.

RELATED: ‘Stay away’: Queensland island torn in two

“Once flood water begins inundating the area, road access, water, sewerage, power, phones, and internet may be lost,” the order reads.

“If you remain in the area you will be trapped, and it may be too dangerous for SES to rescue you.”

The order comes after BOM predicted severe flooding at the Tweed River at South Murwillumbah, the Tweed River at Tumbulgum and surrounding areas following heavy rainfall and storms in the area over the last few days.

Advice for those in the affected areas includes, seeking out higher ground or visiting the Evacuation Centre at Wollumbin High School and staying up to date with latest information through the Northern Rivers NSW SES Facebook page and your local Bureau of Meteorology.



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Local News - Victoria

Victoria records 113 new coronavirus cases as state’s death toll rises by 12


He said he expects cases to be around 70 a day by next Friday, with an average of around 600 cases in total for the coming week. “That number is a bit of a guess,” Professor McCarthy told radio station 3AW.

Numbers in Melbourne appear to have plateaued.

Numbers in Melbourne appear to have plateaued.Credit:Getty

He said he hopes that Victoria will be “well and truly” recording fewer than 50 cases a day by the end of stage four lockdown on September 13.

However, Professor McCarthy said it will be hard to get into single digits, because the exponential decline of the virus is much slower than exponential growth.

“It’s very unfair isn’t it … things get bad quickly, but things don’t get good as fast,” Professor McCarthy said.



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Victoria records 179 COVID-19 cases, Australia death toll rises


Victoria has recorded another 179 new cases coronavirus on Friday, the first time the total has fallen below 200 since July 13, when 177 cases were recorded.

There were nine more deaths, bringing the state toll to 385.

The lower number comes a day after active cases in the state dropped by 32 per cent overnight, from 7155 to 4864 cases.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said the extraordinary drop was due to a large number of people who had contracted COVID-19 being processed and released from isolation.



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Victoria records 295 COVID-19 cases as Australian death toll rises


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Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said community transmission case numbers had remained “relative stable, but not at super high levels”.

Instead, the growth in numbers had come from spread associated with outbreaks including at aged care, he said.

“The number of cases that are so-called community transmission, where the acquisition isn’t known, where the source isn’t known, has remained relatively stable… but not going down as much as I would like,” Professor Sutton said.

The daily number of community transmission cases was sitting at about 50, he said.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but we were at a point a month or so ago where we had single figures for community transmission,” he said.

Despite the drop in new daily case numbers, down from a record 532 on Monday, Professor Sutton said he was not prepared to say the state had passed the peak.

Outbreaks could spring up quickly that could produce “substantial” swings in the case numbers, he said.

Mr Andrews said public health workers and Australian Defence Force personnel would now knock on the door of every positive coronavirus case in Victoria.

The move builds on a program in which ADF and health department officials were visiting people who could not be contacted by phone or refused to co-operate.

“These efforts will be ramped up from tomorrow, with the teams now checking in on every Victorian who has tested positive for coronavirus,” he said.

Mr Andrews said the 58-strong team that had been conducting doorknocks would be increased to about 90 staff.

Of the 500 doorknocks conducted so far, there had been about 29 occasions in which people were not at home and those cases had been referred to Victoria Police.

“If you are supposed to be at home isolating, you are supposed to be at home doing just that,” he said.

“It isn’t just about checking where people are, it’s an opportunity where we can say, what can we do for you, what do you need and there will be many and varied requests and we will do our level best to meet each of them.”

Mr Andrews said employers would now be required to notify WorkSafe immediately if they become aware that a worker has had a positive diagnosis.

Asked why the government had not required businesses to notify WorkSafe of confirmed cases until now, he said the change was a matter of continually looking for improvement.

He also defended the speed of the state’s decision to restrict Category 2 elective surgery on Tuesday, aimed at creating more capacity in the hospital system for aged care residents.

“Short of taking people off operating tables, it could be done no faster,” he said.

Aged care residents had been or were being moved to hospitals from St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner (80 people), Epping Gardens Aged Care in Epping (34 people) and Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth (30 people), and Outlook Gardens Aged Care Facility in Dandenong North (21 people), he said.

Mr Andrews praised the work of Ambulance Victoria in transferring patients and the efforts of health workers who have stepped in to help in the state’s beleaguered aged care sector.

Workers from the ADF, federal health departments and the private sector had already filled some 400 shifts, he said.

There have been signs in the last day or so of a fraying of the relationship between the Victorian and federal governments.

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Mr Andrews on Wednesday insisted the relationship with the prime minister was “productive, rational and respectful”.

“Any talk about fights and arguments is wrong,” he said.

“The only fight I am engaged in is a fight against this deadly virus and that will not change,” he said.

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Business

Severe lay-offs on the radar as new-look Virgin rises from the ashes


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While Qantas’ decision to cull 6000 jobs, 20 per cent of its workforce, appeared to shock people, it could have been worse. If JobKeeper is not extended it probably will be.

Virgin is looking at letting go closer to 30 per cent of its 9500-strong workforce across all areas, including pilots, cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and head office workers.

Unlike Qantas, which needed to retain – or put on ice – a number of staff in its international operations, Virgin 2.0 won’t start with an international service.

It may recommence some international short-haul flights to destinations such as Bali, Fiji and New Zealand down the track, but longer haul flying may not come back for a long time.

Thus retaining employees from these areas is not necessary.

The fleet will be greatly simplified, which will pose a threat to the retention of some engineers.

‘Virgin is looking at letting go closer to 30 per cent of its 9500-strong workforce across all areas.’

The new-look Virgin will also have no budget brand – thus Tigerair staff won’t be required.

These divisions aside, the main Virgin Australia operation will also be a slimmer version of its pre-COVID self.

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Bain said on Friday it was committed to retaining as many jobs as possible and that all entitlements would be honored.

Like Qantas it will seek to keep some personnel stood down until domestic operations ramp up.

But the reality is that it will need to shed a higher proportion of its workforce than Qantas.

The resurrected airline will pitch to more of a mid-market segment, with less emphasis on corporate customers than it had before COVID, however, it is understood Virgin 2.0 will still offer a business class product on major routes.

During its period of administration Virgin has managed to renegotiate numerous onerous (and even not-so-onerous) contracts with suppliers, from airports to catering and even its Wi-Fi provider. It has already begun to look at negotiating new enterprise bargaining agreements.

We can also expect to see economy passengers now having to pay for food onboard.

Virgin 2.0 will also start its new life with a healthy balance sheet and enough firepower to ride out the pandemic, which might only be another 12 months given it will only be operating domestically.

So, it is no coincidence that Qantas chose to announce a three-year $15 billion cost-cutting program on the eve of Virgin’s escape from administration.

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Qantas will have a stronger new competitor, albeit one that will bow out of the super premium end of the business market. Virgin’s version of the Qantas chairman’s lounge, “The Club”, is likely to disappear.

It is also no coincidence that Qantas has chosen to bolster its balance sheet with a $1.9 billion equity raising having said previously that this was not needed.

Qantas could have hobbled through COVID without an equity raise but with the share price doubling over the past three months, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

To have raised almost $2 billion when the share price was not much more than $2 would have been extremely dilutionary for shareholders.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce can thank retail shareholders for much of the share price lift. A report from Nabtrade last week detailing small shareholder buying patterns revealed in the months of March, April and May, Qantas was among the top seven most popular stocks to buy.

Just what Virgin’s balance sheet will look like won’t be known until the details of its bid becomes known, i.e. how much will be pumped into the business and how many cents in the dollar will be repaid to the bondholders and other creditors.

But neither Qantas nor Virgin will be announcing their gratitude to the Australian government for the sector-wide help it has been talking about since March. Other than JobKeeper, the two airlines have been given no additional useful funding.

It wasn’t until the Qantas job cuts and capital raise announcement on Thursday that the government announced that the issue had risen a few notches on its to-do list.

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Since the government first flagged it might provide some help for airlines, one of the two has gone into administration and the other has sacked 6000 people (which admittedly it would have done even with help from the government) and raised almost $2 billion.

Clearly aviation as a sector has been left to fend for itself.

Meanwhile, a pretty disgruntled runner-up in Cyrus added to the flavour of the administrator Deloitte’s announcement of Bain’s win.

Cyrus stole some thunder by releasing a statement early on Friday announcing it was pulling out of the race because Deloitte had stopped returning its calls.

Cyrus preferred to be the dumper rather than the dumpee.

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Doorknocking ‘army’ to hit streets after day seven of double-digit rises as new family cluster detected in Maribyrnong


“What we can be certain of is that there will be some significant community transmission within those numbers,” Mr Andrews said.

The advice to residents in Moreland, Darebin, Hume, Cardinia, Casey and Brimbank remains to stay vigilant, although the Premier said only those who are unwell should avoid travelling within Victoria over the school holidays that begin this weekend.

Mr Andrews also flagged an increased, targeted testing regime in those local government areas, which would include asymptomatic residents.

He said it was not yet time for a more severe lockdown of those suburbs.

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“If and when we need to make announcements about how we’re going to deal with these hotspots further, then of course we will. But that’s not today,” the Premier said.

As police more stridently enforce coronavirus restrictions across Melbourne, officers have again been given permission to issue on-the-spot fines without approval from their supervisor for breaches of outdoor and indoor gatherings.

“They can issue those [fines] on the spot … [this is] really sending a really strong message that police need to strongly enforce those directives,” Police Minister Lisa Neville said.

Earlier on Tuesday, authorities confirmed a primary school in Keilor Downs and another in Brunswick – in the hotspot council areas of Brimbank and Moreland – had each closed for at least three days after students tested positive for COVID-19.

The Keilor Downs student is linked to the suburb’s family outbreak. The other new case in the cluster was a worker at a Coles distribution centre in Laverton, in Melbourne’s south-west.

The worker would not have handled any groceries or products sold at supermarkets directly, Coles said. Other workers who had contact with the infected staff member have been asked to self-isolate and get tested.

Saturday’s decision to reimpose some restrictions, such as limiting household gatherings to five, was attributed to the spread of coronavirus within families, who are responsible for about half of Victoria’s active cases.

Mr Andrews said public health doorknockers would help overcome any language and cultural barriers.

“There has been very deep engagement with localised communities, multicultural communities, multi-faith communities,” he said.

The Premier said the most likely reason for Victoria recording more coronavirus cases than other states was that there had been “low-level chains of community transmission that we were not necessarily aware of”, despite a two-week blitz of 175,000 tests.

Professor Allen Cheng, an infectious diseases expert and head of The Alfred hospital’s COVID-19 response, said chance had probably played a role in Victoria as well.

“About 80 per cent of people transmit to one or fewer people, but 20 per cent can become ‘super spreaders’, because they’re asymptomatic, work in a vulnerable setting or a number of other reasons,” he told The Age.

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“When you get down to small numbers like in Victoria, chance plays a huge role. I don’t think Victoria is doing a huge amount different to other states.”

Mr Andrews also defended the government’s handling of hotels housing returned travellers, which are responsible for two of the state’s biggest clusters.

“Many, many thousands of people have been quarantined in hotels,” he said.

“There have been issues in lots of different settings across the country when it comes to hotel quarantine. It’s a challenging thing to do from a very practical point of view.

“I don’t think you could ever rule out … people who are running the service contracting the virus.”

Mr Andrews rejected suggestions from public health experts that Victoria could consider returning to hard lockdown to try to eliminate COVID-19, saying Australia would stick to a suppression strategy, rather than eradication.

“This is not a zero cases every day strategy,” he said.

“There is an acceptable level of new cases. We’re not at that point now. The amount of community transmission that we’ve got is too high.”

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Youth crime up as overall crime rate rises in Victoria


The release of the statistics came in the wake of the stabbing death of 15-year-old Solomone Taufeulungaki, who was killed as he walked home from school outside Brimbank Shopping Centre in Deer Park on Tuesday.

Six boys, aged 13 to 16, have been charged with violent disorder and affray in connection with the incident.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said the teenager’s death was tragic and sent her condolences to the family. But she said it was important to remember youth crime was a very small proportion of overall crime in Victoria.

“It gets a lot of headlines but it is a very small proportion. In fact, it continues to decline as a proportion of other offenders and offences,” she said.

An Age analysis of Crime Statistics Agency data found 10-19 year-olds committed 17 per cent of crimes in the 12 months to March 2020, compared with 28.1 per cent of crimes over the same period nine years ago.

Ms Neville said young people are over-represented in categories such as robberies, which are mainly related to street robberies where shoes, gadgets, phones and clothing are stolen.

Solomone's father 'Atunaisa is overcome with grief at the scene, next to Solomone's mother Salome and aunt.

Solomone’s father ‘Atunaisa is overcome with grief at the scene, next to Solomone’s mother Salome and aunt.Credit:Eddie Jim

“We have young people who get together, gang or otherwise, whether it’s based on family ties, community ties, committing crimes together and cause harm to each other,” said Ms Neville.

“Some of them are causing harm to other Victorians. At the moment what we are seeing is they are causing harm to each other.

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“I don’t want to see 15-year-olds or younger dying on the streets by the hands of other 13, 14, 15 years olds.

“That’s why we need police intervention to try and stop those and hold those to account but we also need families, communities the rest of the system to step up and support. “

There has also been a rise in the number of young female offenders, with girls aged between 10 to 17 committing an extra 500 offences than the year before.

Ms Neville said families and communities needed to be involved with police in trying to tackle youth crime.

“This cannot just be a law and order issue, particularly for 10 to 15 year olds.

“We have to make sure they are not able to kill each other, that they are at home and at school.

Opposition police spokesman David Southwick said Premier Daniel Andrews was “missing in action” on youth crime.

“Andrews has no solutions here, he is not talking about how to fix this problem, when we are seeing these kinds of incidents on our streets when young people coming home from school are stabbed to death,” he said.

“It’s very telling to say some things have to change in Victoria. Our Premier needs to start focusing on the safety of all Victorians.”

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