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Local News - Victoria

Melbourne lockdown sparks doctors’ call for COVID-19 testing at checkpoints


He said areas around Melbourne should be under “high levels of surveillance” and drive-through testing sites should be placed at the checkpoints bordering regional Victoria.

“You can never do too much testing,” he said. “In order to prevent it leaking from Melbourne, we’re going to have to think carefully about further strategies.”

Soldiers assist police at a checkpoint near Geelong.

Soldiers assist police at a checkpoint near Geelong. Credit:Jason South

Coronavirus infections remain low in regional Victoria, but cases are spreading to more communities. Testing at checkpoints would allow people in cars to be swabbed while waiting to pass through.

But Associate Professor Rait said it should not be mandatory.

“It’s better to have the co-operation of the community and get them to see the worth of what’s required.”

Asked if there were plans to set up testing at checkpoints around Melbourne, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there were already many testing spots in regional Victoria.

“I would encourage regional areas to have an awareness that they also need to test in exactly the same way if they’ve got compatible symptoms of coronavirus,” he said.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says authorities were expecting "some seeding of regional areas".

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says authorities were expecting “some seeding of regional areas”.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Professor Sutton said health authorities were identifying cases in regional Victoria and many had links back to Melbourne.

“That’s not unexpected and we knew that there would be some seeding of regional areas. We need to follow those cases.

“That will be more manageable by virtue of the numbers, but we are particularly focused on them so that we can make sure there isn’t community transmission that gets established in any regional area of Victoria.”

Last week Professor Sutton said the situation in Geelong was being reviewed daily and he urged its residents to take extra precautions, particularly if travelling to coronavirus hotspots in Melbourne’s western suburbs. Greater Geelong has the highest number of cases in regional Victoria, with five active infections, while Greater Bendigo has three.

Infections have been spreading, with South Gippsland recording a single positive case on Saturday. By Sunday Baw Baw had three active cases and Greater Shepparton increased from one to two cases.

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Bass Coast recorded two new cases on Sunday, while Warrnambool, Swan Hill, Campaspe, Macedon Ranges and Moorabool Shire each had a single new case.

On Saturday Coles revealed a worker at a supermarket in Woodend was self-isolating after testing positive.

The company said the store had been cleared to trade but several staff members who were close contacts of the positive case had been asked to self-isolate.

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Call for real climate action not ‘greenwashing’ from big polluters


As investors become increasingly attuned to the financial – and reputational – risks of inaction, business titans have been eager to put their carbon credentials up in lights. Quite literally, in the US, web giant Amazon this week began rebranding a Seattle sports stadium to be named “Climate Pledge Arena”, as part of its net-zero emissions push and to encourage other corporations to join it in its goals.

The surge in commitments, however, is drawing closer scrutiny and tougher questions from investors and customers: Are they all truly green? Or are some simply “greenwashing” their polluting activities to present themselves as environmentally responsible?

“It’s quite easy for big companies to come out and say they are committed to climate, to say we want net-zero by 2050,” warns Dan Gocher of shareholder activist group the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility.

“It’s a cliche, but the devil is in the detail. How much is actually going to happen in the next five to 10 years?”

More and more, big companies are showing their climate stance by setting goals to become a “net-zero” emitter – or “carbon neutral” – by at least 2050, a target that climate scientists say the world needs to meet in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming.

To achieve this, companies can switch out carbon-intensive power sources and industrial processes with clean-energy alternatives. New electric technology, powered by emission-free renewables, can replace carbon-emitting processes. Food manufacturers, for example, can buy electric heat pumps to replace gas fired boilers. Transport companies can replace combustion-engine petrol or diesel vehicles with electric ones. Property developers can convert their buildings into power generators by installing solar panels and energy efficient devices.

Emissions rise from a coal-fired power station in the US.

Emissions rise from a coal-fired power station in the US.Credit:Luke Sharrett

This often, however, will only achieve so much, especially for industries where clean replacements are not as readily available, like airlines which rely on aviation fuel or steel and aluminium makers that rely on industrial heat. To make up the difference, companies can also use carbon “offsets” to neutralise their overall carbon footprint by investing in programs such as tree-planting that suck carbon out of the atmosphere.

“As trees grow and soil develops, they draw down carbon out of the atmosphere to build their bark and branches and leaves,” explains Glenn Walker, campaigner at the Wilderness Society. “Every tree we look at is made up of a lot of carbon. Every tree grown has soaked up a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. So when you take that at a forest level, it’s a lot.”

Forestry-related offsets mainly include projects for protecting or planting trees. Elsewhere in the offsets market, other programs are focused on the avoidance of emissions through undertaking activities aiming to reduce the amount of carbon that would have been emitted otherwise, such as installing cleaner-burning stove tops in developing nations or investing in renewable energy generation.

While offset programs are undoubtedly a force for good, are they really a substitute for the absolute emissions cuts that would come from minimising the use of fossil fuels? It’s a question that doesn’t necessarily have a straightforward answer. And among some environmentalists, there are concerns that some emitters are leaning far too heavily on offsets and could even be using them as a free pass to continue “business as usual”.

“Many companies could be using these commitments as an act of greenwashing and delay the necessary, fast action we need to combat climate change,” says Walker. “What if, 20 years down the track, that forest they’ve invested in burns down? We’ll end up with both the emissions from that forest being lost and the carbon that they’ve burned.”

Offsetting also forms part of the federal government’s $2.5 billion Climate Solutions Fund, which credits offsets that can be purchased by large emitters in order to reach emissions-reduction requirements. To date, it has issued 450 contracts to abate a cumulative 190 million tonnes of carbon, most of which so far have gone to waste-management and tree and vegetation projects. However, using offsets as a main mechanism of emissions policy has faced criticism by those who say direct taxation is a more efficient driver of carbon abatement. “Very unsuitable,” says Paul Burke of The Crawford School of Public Policy, “compared to a carbon tax or trading scheme.”

Australian companies are announcing new climate policies with such regularity the Monash University’s ClimateWorks policy advisory body has launched a website that breaks down the commitments and tracks companies’ progress.

ClimateWorks chief Anna Skarbek says carbon offsets are a temporary fix for businesses looking for emissions reductions and could delay them investing in long-term, low-emissions technologies. However, she says they can lead to surprisingly strong results.

Anna Skarbek, executive director of ClimateWorks, says carbon offsets could end up having a similar effect to a carbon price.

Anna Skarbek, executive director of ClimateWorks, says carbon offsets could end up having a similar effect to a carbon price.Credit:Simon Schluter

“It can delay the inevitable action that a company would end up needing to take anyway,” she says. “But what we find is companies often begin this journey through a carbon offset route which can be immediately enacted and it’s still better than being not carbon neutral.”

Rather than waiting years to roll out zero-emissions technology – or for the technology to be developed – offsets allow emitters to begin addressing the problem immediately. And ultimately, says Skarbek, carbon offsets could end up having a similar effect to a carbon price.

After a business has bought offsets, “the following year they look at the offset investment, because it must be continued every year” she says, “and it starts to function like a price on their emissions”. “Then we find they look more closely at the technology solutions available and it acts as an internal price signal for the company – literally placing a price on the company’s carbon emissions offsets,” she says.

Earlier this week, Australia’s second-largest superannuation fund, First State Super, outlined a plan designed to safeguard its members’ retirement savings from the threat of climate change.

To slash emissions across its investments by 30 per cent by 2023, and 45 per cent by 2030, the fund said it would be engaging with company boards about their strategies to decarbonise and divesting emitters that fail to demonstrate a commitment to act.

First State chief executive, Deanne Stewart, says she expects companies’ sustainability pledges to come with clear short and long-term goals. “Not just out to 2050 – what are they doing over the next decade out to 2030, and with what sort of disclosure?” she says.

First State Super chief Deanne Stewart: ''You actually want to see action. It’s time to take bold steps forward.”

First State Super chief Deanne Stewart: ”You actually want to see action. It’s time to take bold steps forward.”

“It isn’t just about saying you’ll do something out to 2050 on a wing and a prayer. You actually want to see action. It’s time to take bold steps forward.”

In the race to reduce the world’s emissions, the next few years could prove critical, shareholder activists warn, pointing out that “tipping points” – from melting ice sheets to record 38-degree temperatures in Siberia – could be playing out before us.

“We need to be focused so heavily on 2030, as the next few years are critical,” the ACCR’s Gocher says. “Buying time – that’s often a big part of greenwashing, too.”

Beyond timeframes, he adds, another thing to consider when assessing resources companies’ net-zero commitments include whether their targets account for only their operational emissions (known as scopes 1 and 2 emissions) or also cover the emissions generated by the end-use of their products around the world, such as the power stations that burn their coal and natural gas, or the steelmakers that buy their iron ore. Known as “scope 3” emissions , these are vastly greater than companies’ own emissions, and investors have begun stepping up demands that they be included in climate goals.

The Investor Group on Climate Change, which represents big investors with more than $2 trillion under management, says it was critical that companies, governments and investors set net-zero emissions goals for 2050 or sooner as it created a market direction that in turn guides a whole range of investment and policy decisions.

“But it is the start of the journey, not the end,” says the group’s chief executive, Emma Herd.

“While net-zero by 2050 is ultimately where we need to get to, it has to be matched with credible short and medium-term action.”

Investors are well aware that “not all net-zero goals are created equal”, says Herd, but nor do they expect companies to know exactly how they are going to achieve them right now, especially in the more difficult-to-abate industries such as aviation and heavy manufacturing. What they want to see is good-faith action on targets, strategy, climate-risk disclosure and clear executive accountability.

“I haven’t seen an investor yet say ‘company X has set a net-zero 2050 goal, job done’,” says Herd. “It becomes a marker for future engagement on business strategy, reporting and corporate governance on climate change.”

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Call for Health Minister Jenny Mikakos to be sacked


State Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien has called for Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos to be sacked over the State Government’s “botched” quarantine hotels program.

Mr O’Brien said heads “must roll, not in politics but in responsibility” after a security guard at Melbourne’s quarantine hotels was identified as the source of the city’s second coronavirus outbreak.

The saga is set to extend to a judicial inquiry with a report due on September 25.

At least 300,000 residents across 10 Melbourne suburbs have also been placed back into stage three lockdown restrictions.

“These are 300,000 people who should be able to go to work, to go out and enjoy the school holidays but can’t,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The Government decided to put in place poorly trained, unqualified private security guards to look after hotel quarantine and it was the wrong call – this hasn’t been a problem in any other state.”

A security guard, identified only as George, broke a gag order to appear on the Today show this morning where he revealed he received only five minutes of training before being tasked to one of Melbourne’s 15 quarantine hotels.

“And that was the PPE and everything, the box and dice and then we were sent up to your level,” he said.

His training was conducted by the head of the company’s carpark management, but George said the real problem was security companies hiring subcontractors to work at a much cheaper rate than regular guards.

“Every hotel quarantine has subcontracting happening, and that’s the way the companies are making money out of this,” he said.

When questioned if this was happening at Melbourne’s Stamford Plaza and Rydges hotels, George replied: “Definitely.”

He also said security guards were only given one face mask and one glove to use for an entire shift.

“These families (locked down) have done nothing wrong, they’ve obeyed the rules, but because of mistakes the Government has made they’re now paying the price,” Mr O’Brien went on to say on Thursday afternoon.

Ms Mikakos has been approached for comment.



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Former Victorian premiers call for fast, direct route


They are expected to back a new above-ground link between the airport and Sunshine, with trains to run along existing tracks between the western hub and the city via the new Metro Tunnel.

This will kill a proposal from superannuation fund giant IFM Investors to build a $7 billion tunnel between the city and Sunshine, allowing fast express airport services on dedicated tracks.

Former Liberal premier Mr Kennett – who reserved land for a rail line through Broadmeadows while in power but prioritised the construction of CityLink – called for an express rail link from the city to the airport to ensure the service was competitive with road-based alternatives.

“I think if people are going to use it in large volumes, you’ve got to get to and from the airport quickly,” he said.

“There’s no point in stopping at one or several stations along the way; its self-defeating.”

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Mr Baillieu – who promised to build rail links to Avalon and Tullamarine when he was premier – said, when asked why the project has been put off so long, that the “more direct” airport rail routes had always proven more costly.

“It has been difficult to demonstrate the benefits in terms of speed and time for passengers and, secondly, it seems to be getting more expensive by the day,” he said.

But he believes in the need for “dedicated track” all the way to the airport and easy access points to other transport options at either end of the line, to motivate people to use it.

“Commuters will judge this very quickly and very harshly,” he said. “It will be judged on frequency, speed and cost to them – not to the taxpayer– and what happens at each end. That’ll be it.”

Mr Bracks won the 1999 election promising Melbourne an airport rail link, and he envisioned it would be built under a private-public partnership model.

He said vested interests – the taxi lobby and Melbourne Airport – sought to stop the project.

“Now the airport is a supporter,” he said. “They’ve got so big they can have car parking and fast rail.”

At the time, Labor wanted to investigate opening the line to “suburban commuters as well as airport commuters, so it’s not just businesspeople who use it. If we could capture some of the customers on the way in some suburbs, [we thought] that will help the economic viability of the line.”

The 2001 collapse of Australian airline Ansett – reducing the number of commuters expected to use the line – was the “key” reason for putting the project on hold, Mr Bracks said.

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The former Labor premier, who is also West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance chairman, said plans to turn Sunshine station into a major hub would be a “great boon for Melbourne’s west”.

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the government would provide a “quick, frequent and affordable service for all passengers”.

“We’re in the midst of the biggest ever public transport investment in Victoria’s history – as Melbourne continues to grow, the projects we’re delivering will ensure our entire network is a reliable, viable and cost-effective alternative to road travel.”

A federal government spokesman said airport rail was a “huge and complex project” and Canberra and Spring Street were working constructively to build it.

“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” he said. “We want to see it built as soon as possible.”

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Call to open borders to au pairs


Ms Aylward said au pairs were typically on a gap year so July was the key month when new ones arrived after the end of the school year to replace those returning home to start university. This year a lot of au pairs left Australia early when the pandemic hit in March and many of those who stayed would also be leaving soon, she said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs said there were about 141,000 working holiday makers in Australia at the end of 2019 and by the end of May 2020 this had fallen to almost 92,000.

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The spokeswoman said immigration would remain low for some time to come but higher unemployment meant many roles that would have been filled by migrants could now be filled by Australians.

However, the Backpacker Youth Tourism Advisory Panel (BYTAP) is calling for a quarantine scheme for working holiday makers to address looming shortages in childcare and also agriculture, particularly fruit picking. CAPAA has started a petition.

BYTAP argues the scheme could be similar to the one proposed for international students. Next month the Australian National University and University of Canberra, backed by the ACT and federal governments, will run a pilot program to fly 350 international students back to Australia and host them in quarantine.

Ms Aylward, who is a member of BYTAP, said her Sydney au pair agency AIFS was unable to meet demand.

“We get feedback from families every day – we’ve heard stories of nurses having to cancel shifts or doctors who are cancelling surgeries,” Ms Aylward said.

“Many essential workers use au pairs … and a lot of regional families who simply don’t have another childcare option available to them.”

Amy and James Lawrence from North Balgowlah near Manly juggle care of their two young children with demanding and unpredictable hours as doctors.

Dr Amy Lawrence, who works as an anaesthetist in a hospital, said Ava, 4, and Emily, 2, were in daycare but they needed an au pair to ensure drop-offs and pick-ups happened smoothly.

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She was worried about how the family would manage when their au pair Charlotte, 19, returned to Germany later this year.

“If there are still travel restrictions and it’s difficult to get au pairs into the country, we will have to radically rethink our childcare arrangements or our work schedules,” Dr Lawrence said.

Dr Lawrence said an Australian nanny typically wanted a job with regular hours, while the au pair could help out from 7am to 8.30am and again in the afternoon.

She also valued the cultural exchange, the intimacy of having someone live with the family, and the opportunity to get to know a young person.

CAPAA has previously lobbied for an Au Pair Visa in part to make sure the industry is properly regulated and au pairs are not exploited.

Lea Enderler, an au pair for another family down the road in Manly, is going back to Germany to start university in a few months. She said being an au pair meant she could travel with the safety of a family base and most au pairs she knows are paid well and well-treated.

Ms Enderler believes most au pairs would be willing to go into quarantine in order to enter Australia though they probably would not want to pay the hotel bill themselves.

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Students call for shorter classes, less work in post-COVID classrooms


“So we’ve maintained it; the school system is so fast and your day goes from bell to bell, it’s really about slowing down, giving them that little extra time between classes.

“Our girls have really appreciated it.”

Ms Heffernan said a reduced assessment load allowed students to dig further into their subjects.

“It gives kids a sense of confidence to feel they’ve really grasped something in more depth,” she said.

Year 11 student Kirra Johnston said she was happy students had the opportunity to give feedback.

“I was absolutely thrilled by the support we were given with a new timetable to allow for rest and stretch breaks in-between classes,” she said.

The school’s changes echo the recommendations of a recent student survey conducted by the Victorian Student Representative Council.

About 500 primary and secondary government and independent school students in a range of socio-economic areas were asked for their thoughts on remote learning and how their education could be improved once they returned to the classroom.

Student involvement in decision-making was a top priority, as was making timetables more flexible with longer breaks between classes and shorter school days.

Technology recommendations included ensuring all students had access to devices and the internet, and maintaining the daily use of online platforms to allow better communication between home and school.

A focus on mental health and wellbeing and making all students feel comfortable at school also made the list.

Bendigo Senior Secondary College VCE student Emily Gundry, from the VicSRC student executive advisory committee, said the survey gave students a much-needed voice.

“At the start of COVID it was a disappointing situation where we were the ones being directly affected by the decisions but not being involved in the conversation,” she said.

“This survey really reflects the needs of students.”

Ms Gundry said the recommendations would be easy for schools to put into practice.

“These recommendations can be managed and can be achieved,” she said.

“They had to be achieved during home learning so why not continue them in normal school environments?”

Ms Heffernan said the chance to re-evaluate their approach had been a silver lining of the pandemic disruption.

“This renewed focus on student-centred learning has been a much needed circuit-breaker,” she said.

“The students feel they’ve been heard and it’s been really valuable for them to have had some kind of control over their school environment.”

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Police identify gangs involved with Solomone’s death, call on witnesses to ‘do the right thing’


“He told [me] …’Run Aki. Run Aki’. I ran across the street to the church and then they got him and that’s when he got beat up,” 14-year-old Aki told Nine’s Today program on Thursday.

Witnesses who saw the attack say Solomone was stabbed multiple times in the stomach and chest by boys who were armed with knives and baseball bats. Emergency services worked for a period on the boy, but he died at the scene.

Six teenage boys aged between 13 and 16 were arrested a short time later and all six have subsequently been charged with violent disorder and affray, but a number of other members of the group fled the scene.

Another 15-year-old boy presented himself to police on Wednesday night and has also been charged with affray.

No one has yet been charged directly with Solomone’s death.

Police revealed on Sunday that the youth gangs at the centre of the incident had been involved in a number of violent scuffles leading up to Solomone’s death, including a “significant altercation” in Warringa Crescent in Hoppers Crossing on May 23. The altercation happened after another at the site of Solomone’s death at Brimbank Shopping Centre the day before the fatal attack.

Family released white balloons in memory of Solomone Taufeulungaki  during a ceremony at the site of his death on Friday night.

Family released white balloons in memory of Solomone Taufeulungaki during a ceremony at the site of his death on Friday night.Credit:Joe Armao

Detective Inspector Tim Day, officer in charge of the Homicide Squad, called on members of the groups involved to speak up for Solomone.

“This is an act of senseless, cowardly and extreme violence in public and in daylight hours,” he said.

“It’s resulted in the death of a teenage boy who had his whole life ahead of him – his family will never see him grow up, finish school, have a career, create a family of his own.

“We know there are members of the groups involved in Solomone’s death who are uncomfortable with what has happened and that the actions of a few have gone too far, and this is their time to speak up for him.

“Police need your assistance. Investigators have spoken to a large number of people, however we are certain that there are other people who witnessed the assault who have not yet come forward,” he said.

Detective Day said witnesses and some of the boys involved in the attack had likely spoken to others about what happened when Solomone was killed, and pleaded for those who had heard accounts “to do the right thing and come forward as well”.

“If you want to speak to police then we can arrange this and there is also the opportunity to provide information confidentially via Crime Stoppers,” he said.

“Again, this is your time to speak up and I cannot be clearer that this investigation is far from over.”

Gang brawls are often filmed and shared on social media, and detectives have called for anyone with footage of Tuesday’s attack to contact police, as well as anyone driving in the area between 3.30pm and 4.30pm who may have captured dashcam footage.

Solomone's parents Salome and 'Atunaisa visit the scene where their son was killed.

Solomone’s parents Salome and ‘Atunaisa visit the scene where their son was killed.Credit:Eddie Jim

Members of the Melbourne’s Pacific Island community spoke out against gang violence at a candlelit vigil on Friday night.

Laumape Taufeulungaki, Solomone’s elder brother, appealed to his brother’s attackers, offering forgiveness.

“Yes we’re hurting, there are a lot of people hurting. But for all that hurt we still have love,” he said.

“For anyone that was involved, we know and believe that if we love one another the world will be a better place.”

There has been a significant police presence in the Deer Park area over the past week, including mounted officer and the Public Order Response Team, to quell community fears of reprisal attacks.

“Victoria Police is here to support the community and we encourage residents to engage with police officers and share any concerns they might have,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

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Gippsland council rejects call to tear down monuments to notorious pastoralist


Cr Crossley said it was time to take the cairns as part of the Black Lives Matter protests.

“It’s a global movement and we should be there as a voice to make change,” she said.

This monument to Angus McMillan was defaced recently.

This monument to Angus McMillan was defaced recently.

The motion – defeated five votes to four – suggests the council also seek approval from the Victorian government and other land managers to remove seven other McMillan cairns on land not managed by the council.

Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation chair Troy McDonald said the McMillan cairns represent a celebration of a man arriving on Gunaikurnai land and committing forms of genocide.

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“The Gunaikurnai people were dispossessed of their country, forcibly removed and often killed,” he said.

But Mr McDonald said the corporation understood that in the eyes of many people McMillan “also did some good things”.

“The symbolism of these cairns is significant to us. It is an issue that has been clearly on the community and our agenda for quite a while.”

Mr McDonald said his organisation had been working with all arms of government to ensure more appropriate recognition of Gippsland’s history, including its non-Aboriginal past.

“As a starting point, the removal of the two cairns on Wellington Shire land will be a great symbolic step towards reconciliation.

“We believe it is time to take another step forward in a cohesive Gippsland community and we look forward to taking action to achieve this. We support a process that will bring healing and greater unification to our region.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gabrielle Williams said: “These questions are best posed and answered by Aboriginal Victorians – our job is to listen.

“While symbols are important, action is what matters – that’s why we’re leading the way with [a] treaty and a path to true reconciliation with our First Peoples.”

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NRL news | Bulldogs star Aiden Tolman’s panicked phone call over COVID-19 scare


Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill has recounted the panicked phone call he received from Aiden Tolman that sparked an NRL match postponement.

Canterbury prop Tolman has a child who attend Laguna Street Public School in Caringbah South, where a teacher tested positive for coronavirus.

Tolman informed his club of a possible exposure risk on Saturday night after the news broke, with the Bulldogs then informing the NRL.

On Sunday, the decision was made to postpone Bulldogs vs Roosters – scheduled for 4.05pm – to Monday night. Tolman took a COVID-19 test, which came back negative.

“Late last night, Aiden Tolman called me in a bit of a panic at about 8pm and said that he’d just received advice from the school that one of the teachers had tested positive, and [asked] what was the next step,” Hill told The Sunday Footy Show.

“[We] immediately worked with the league and at that stage, we weren’t sure of what the outcome was. We thought perhaps it was just that Aiden may have missed the game.

“But clearly overnight and early this morning, we’ve been advised that the risk is too great and we’ve all agreed to postpone the game.”

Hill said that is was unclear what would have happened in the case of a positive test.

“Good question. I’ll only deal with what I know at the moment and Aiden has been tested,” he said.

“Hopefully in the next three or four hours, we’ll get that outcome and we’ll deal with the next step when and if we need to.

“The risk is extremely remote. At the beginning of this process, everyone in the game gave a really strong commitment to consider the community and follow the safety-first attitude. Obviously that’s what we’re all doing.”

Hill said that Tolman was understandably concerned about the school outbreak.

“I think that’s true, as well as the whole family,” Hill said.

“It’s not just about Aiden, he’s got a wife and kids as well. The entire school community, no doubt, would be a little bit anxious.

“We’ll work with Aiden and his family and we’ll provide every assistance we can to keep them all calm and focused and relaxed.”

Hill informed Bulldogs coach Dean Pay of the developments, including the snap postponement on Sunday. All Bulldogs players will be tested for COVID-19.

“Obviously game day is a stressful time and everyone’s really focused on the game,” Hill said.

“We’ve just got to deal with what we have to, everyone understands that it’s safety first. We’ll get the team in, test them all this afternoon and we’ll regroup and get ready to take on the Roosters tomorrow night.”

The Dragons vs Sharks game that was originally scheduled for 6.30pm on Sunday is now the 4.05pm match that will be broadcast free-to-air on Channel Nine.



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Concerned human rights groups call for COVID-19 fine data


“The commission has been concerned about the potential for vulnerable members of the community to incur significant fines for which many of whom would have no reasonable prospect of ever being able to pay,” he said.

Police confirmed they could access “broad demographic” data on the fines but would not confirm whether such details, or the outcomes of reviews, would be provided.

“The QPS is committed to working closely with the Queensland Human Rights Commission and will continue its engagement regarding the outcome … reviews in the future,” a spokesperson said.

Police have issued 2093 fines statewide, including just six to businesses. After review, 121 have been withdrawn.

The spokesperson said the withdrawal of fines could be attributed to a number of reasons, including “incorrect offence coding in which case infringements are reissued”.

The QPS directed questions about how many fines had been been paid to the Transport and Main Roads Department, which is managing payments. The department has been contacted for comment.

Queensland sits behind only Victoria in terms of the number of fines issued.

The last weekly update from police, provided on May 25, showed 761 fines had been issued in the Brisbane region, more than any other. That was followed by 400 in the southern region, 334 in central, 307 in the northern region and 260 in the south-east.

Caxton Legal Centre director of human rights and civil law practice Bridget Burton said the wide discretion for police to issue the fines was a worrying factor given the lack of data made available.

“That’s where all kinds of biases [around personal appearance] can come into play,” she said.

Ms Burton said the most vulnerable people were likely to “ignore” the $1334 fines and the 28-day review period, leading to them being chased by the State Penalties Enforcement Registry.

Incidents where police appeared to be “tacking” the fines on to other offences to boost penalties also worried her, she said.

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties has also called for de-identified fine data to be released to ensure police are “transparent” in how they are exercising discretion.

Gold Coast man Jesse Summers, 28, said he was “boxed in” by police after meeting his partner to run a largely unpopulated trail in Austinville National Park on Easter Sunday morning.

Mr Summers said the pair had driven to the site, 12 kilometres from his home, but having moved in little more than a week prior failed to remember his street name when asked.

The Indigenous man said he was handcuffed and driven home to confirm the address, wearing an Aboriginal flag hat but with no shoes or shirt thanks to the police interruption, before being taken to Mudgeeraba police station.

Police fined him for being more than 10 kilometres from his home. His partner, who lived further away and had previously been warned about being too far from home under the restrictions, was not fined.

“It felt like they singled me out over my girlfriend … maybe because of my appearance or nationality,” he said.

Responding to questions about the discretion shown by officers in fining Mr Summers but not his partner, a police spokesperson said the fine had been reviewed but not withdrawn. They said he had refused to co-operate and “inferred he had COVID-19 to officers”.

Mr Summers had reported the incident to COVID Policing, a collaborative project from legal and human rights organisations to track the national rollout of expanded police powers.

Other Queensland cases reported to the project described aggression from police while enforcing the restrictions, even when no infringements were issued.

One Brisbane woman said she was fined while walking to a service station to buy sanitary items with her partner, who was living at a different address to protect her vulnerable mother.

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