Three people are dead and a child and a woman have been flown to hospital following two Christmas Eve crashes in the state’s west and east.
Emergency services were first called to a head-on collision between a Jeep Cherokee and a Holden Trax on the Portland-Nelson Road at Mount Richmond, west of Portland, about 10.25am.
A police spokeswoman said two women, the driver and front seat passenger, in the Holden died at the scene while a girl in the rear passenger seat sustained life-threatening injuries. She has been flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital for treatment.
The spokeswoman said the driver of the Jeep, a 50-year-old man, sustained non life-threatening injuries and was “currently assisting investigators with their inquiries”.
F1 driver Romain Grosjean has incredibly walked away from a fiery crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix with just minor burns to his hands and ankles.
Romain Grosjean’s car hit the barrier at full speed and exploded into a fireball
He was taken to hospital with minor injuries
Reigning F1 champion Lewis Hamilton tweeted Grosjean’s survival was a credit to improved safety standards
In the opening lap of the race, with Canadian driver Lance Stroll in front of him crashing out into gravel, Haas driver Grosjean veered right in the congestion, clipping Daniil Kvyat’s front wheel before veering sharply into the barrier in an explosion of flame and fuel.
The force and angle at which Grosjean hit the metal barrier cut his car in half, sending the back half of the car flying off while the front half, with Grosjean inside, got wedged in the barrier.
The 34-year-old driver was in the burning cockpit for several seconds before finally getting free.
Race footage showed safety officials reaching the car immediately but with Grosjean still trapped inside.
He managed to find a way out and jumped through the flames and gripped the extremely hot metal barrier as he jumped over back onto the track, shaking his hands in agony before being helped by the stewards.
Governing body FIA said Grosjean was taken by helicopter to a military hospital and was in a stable condition.
“[Grosjean] is doing OK,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner told Sky Sports.
“He seems to be OK and the rescue was very quick. The marshals and FIA did a great job. It was very scary.
“We were lucky by being unlucky. He got away with it, I think.
“It looked like he went across the track with the front wheel and went full speed in the barrier. But I’ve only seen what you guys have seen.”
‘I have never seen so much fire’
The crash at the floodlit Sakhir track prompted a long red-flag delay to the race as crews worked frantically to clear the mess of debris and repair the barrier.
An FIA spokesman said the impact of Grosjean’s crash was measured at 53G.
F1 medical driver Alan van der Merwe, one of the first on the scene, said it was amazing to see Grosjean trying to get out after an accident of that magnitude.
“It was a big surprise. I have never seen so much fire. We took a moment or so to process,” he said.
“Romain started getting out, which was amazing after an accident like that. There was some relief when we got back here and he was OK.
With drivers sitting in the garage contemplating Grosjean’s near-miss, reigning champion Lewis Hamilton said on Twitter it was a reminder that drivers put their lives on the line every time they go out on the F1 track.
“I’m so grateful Romain is safe. Wow … the risk we take is no joke, for those of you out there that forget that we put our life on the line for this sport and for what we love to do,” he said.
“Thankful to the FIA for the massive strides we’ve taken for Romain to walk away from that safely.”
Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen looked distressed when he saw the footage as drivers waited in the paddock for the race to restart, while officials returned to the site of the crash to pick up debris littered around the destroyed car.
Hamilton wins after restart
The race was halted for an hour and 20 minutes as track workers repaired the barriers.
Drama ensued immediately at the restart when Stroll’s Racing Point was flipped upside down after contact with Kvyat. The Canadian climbed out unscathed and the safety car was deployed so his car could be removed.
The race settled into a procession when it eventually resumed for good, with champion Lewis Hamilton unchallenged on his way to his fourth win in Bahrain.
The win, from pole position, was the 95th of seven-times world champion Hamilton’s career and came with the safety car leading the field to the chequered flag.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second with Thai teammate Alexander Albon completing the podium after inheriting third place from Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who suffered a blown engine three laps from the end.
Hamilton, who clinched the title in Turkey two weeks ago, has now won the last five races and 11 of the 15 so far this season.
A skipper and his little dog Chewy have been rescued after their yacht crashed into rocks on the far south coast of NSW yesterday.
He thanked the police for puling himself, his dog and his boat from the rocks in a video, saying he “thought it was a goner”.
“You’ve saved our home, both me and Chewy,” he said cuddling his dog.
Eden Water Police were called to Twofold Bay at Eden yesterday with reports a yacht had come into trouble at the rocks. The skipper, 54, and his dog were rescued by Marine Area Police and taken on-board a police vessel — the yacht was later towed away from the rocks.
But the IBAC investigation is just part of the fallout for Labor from the branch-stacking scandal. It’s also reshaping the party’s membership.
Figures updated by the party this week and obtained by The Age show crashing membership numbers in branches controlled by Mr Somyurek. In the south-eastern and northern suburbs, where the majority of members were part of his “Moderates” faction, the Springvale branch lost 90 of its 95 members, the Casey Central branch was cut from 111 to 41 and the Endeavour Hills branch dropped from 112 members to 56.
The Turkish-dominated Coolaroo branch lost 110 members, the Parkmore branch shed 74 members and the Thomastown West and Heidelberg branches both dropped more than 55 members. The branches span the federal seats of Hotham, Bruce and Jagajaga.
Steep declines were also recorded in Socialist Left branches with older ethnic demographics. The Italian-dominated Lalor South branch lost 115 members, the Batman North branch in the electorate of Cooper, dominated by Greek members aligned to former minister Jenny Mikakos, dropped from 84 members to 12 and the Deer Park branch dropped from 150 to about 60.
The percentage of party members who have paid for their memberships online by traceable means has increased from 67 per cent to 87 per cent. Prior to that, almost a third of the party’s members were paying by cash or other untraceable methods.
The figures also show that, across Victoria, 3500 members did not renew their memberships before the renewal cut-off last month.
After the branch-stacking revelations, Premier Daniel Andrews asked the federal party to run all Victoria’s state and federal preselections for the next three years and suspend the voting rights of every member. However, new members are continuing to join the Victorian Labor Party, which has increased its overall membership base by about 200 since the comparable time after last year’s renewal deadline.
The reason for this increase is not clear, because the post-scandal reforms mean it may be less attractive to join the ALP. Members have had their right to vote for candidates stripped until 2023 and the party’s national executive will determine preselections.
But the figures show an uptick of new members compared to the same time last year after membership renewals were due, bringing the total membership to 13,909.
Nick Economou, a senior lecturer on politics at Monash University, said the fact that membership had grown from a comparable point last year could be the sign of a “Dan bump” caused by supporters of Mr Andrews rallying around the under-pressure leader.
It was more likely, however, that the power vacuum created by Mr Somyurek had caused competing factions to recruit members in the hope of achieving supremacy. Even though voting rights are cancelled until 2023, he said elements in the party would be working to maintain their local membership bases.
Mr Economou said the drop-off in membership of branches associated with Mr Somyurek weakened the ex-minister’s Moderates faction “enormously”.
The Labor Party has assigned former premier Steve Bracks and former federal minister Jenny Macklin to investigate the conduct of Mr Somyurek and Ms Kairouz and other suspected branch stackers in the party.
Branch stacking has been described by former prime minister Kevin Rudd as a “cancer” on democracy because the power amassed by stacking local political branches by backroom operatives can help propel the corrupt or unmeritorious into state and federal parliaments.
Mr Bracks and Ms Macklin’s appointment was described by the ALP as a way of reinvigorating grassroots politics, but months after the pair’s appointment Labor insiders are debating the effectiveness of their investigation.
One Labor Right factional powerbroker and opponent of Ms Kairouz and Mr Somyurek told The Age that members of Ms Kairouz’s faction were “going around and saying its business as usual”. A source on Labor’s Left complained that the party’s way of detecting suspect recruitment, including asking members to fill out email questionnaires and banning cash payments, discriminated against genuine older Labor members from ethnic communities who may not be email savvy or possess a credit card.
“When the stackers wanted to abuse ethnic members to amass power, they could do so easily. But now when genuine ethnic people try to join or stay in the party, they get rid of them,” the Labor Left source says.
Prior to Mr Bracks and Ms Macklin delivering their final report, and IBAC concluding its investigation, one measure to test the success of efforts to clean up the party is the most recent branch membership.
Paul is a reporter for The Age.
Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He’s won nine Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.
Drivers are facing major delays after two separate crashes on major roads in Sydney’s southwest on Monday morning.
Emergency services were called to Heathcote Rd about 3.15am to reports of a single vehicle crash, after a truck carrying timber hit a power pole, veered into a nearby property and hit a tree, trapping the driver, a 67-year-old man.
Fire and Rescue NSW workers were able to free the man, who was breath-tested and returned a negative result.
He has been taken to Liverpool Hospital as a precaution, and Heathcote Rd has since reopened, though heavy traffic is still evident around the area.
Less than three hours later, emergency services were called to a multi-vehicle crash on the M5 near the turn-off to Heathcote Rd.
Police have been told three vehicles have collided, causing one to overturn, trapping the driver and closing two eastbound lanes.
As commuters headed to work, city-bound traffic at the crash site stretched back for kilometres, spilling on to the Hume Highway.
The driver has since been freed, and the road has been reopened but extensive traffic delays are expected.
Police inquiries into both crashes are continuing.
Anyone with information about the crashes is urged to contact Tuggerah Lakes Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi has urged riders who make their way up to the premier class to exercise caution when fighting for track positions to avoid a repeat of the horror collision that halted the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco collided, with their cartwheeling bikes narrowly missing Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales
The Moto2 race was also halted due to a sickening crash between Enea Bastianini and Hafizh Syahrin
Australian Jack Miller finished in third place, behind Andrea Doviziozo
The red flag came out early in the race when Franco Morbidelli’s Yamaha collided with the Avintia Ducati of Johann Zarco, with their cartwheeling bikes nearly taking out Rossi at turn three of the Red Bull Ring.
The two bikes missed the 41-year-old and teammate Maverick Vinales by inches as they slowed down to negotiate the turn and Rossi looked visibly shaken when he returned to the garage before the race’s restart.
“It was so scary, it was terrifying,” Rossi, a seven-times premier class champion, said.
“I think it is good to be aggressive because everybody tries to do the maximum, but for me we don’t have to exaggerate, because we need to remember that this sport is very dangerous.
“You need to respect the other riders that are on track with you. We can’t forget this sport is very dangerous, especially in a track where you have long straights and you’re always going 300kph.”
Rossi said he “will pray tonight” after the incident.
“But then Franco’s bike passed me at an incredible speed and also the bike of Zarco jumped over Maverick. We were very lucky, but we hope this type of incident is a lesson for riders to improve their behaviour in the future.”
Jack Miller takes third
Andrea Dovizioso took the chequered flag, after race leader Alex Rins of Suzuki crashed with 10 laps to go, to keep the team’s perfect record at the Red Bull Ring intact.
Ducati have won every race since the circuit was introduced on the calendar in 2016 and it was the Italian rider’s third victory on the track, having won in 2017 and 2019, while it was Ducati’s 50th premier class win.
However, the manufacturer lost out on a one-two finish when Joan Mir capitalised on Australian Jack Miller’s mistake on the penultimate corner of the final lap.
Miller started well off the line on both occasions but struggled for grip on his soft front tyre towards the end of the race.
KTM’s Brad Binder finished fourth while Rossi, who had started 12th on the grid, moved up the field and put the near-death experience of the crash behind him to finish fifth.
Moto2 race halted for crash
Earlier in the day, the second-tier Moto2 race was also halted after another sickening crash.
The chaos started when Enea Bastianini, the championship leader, dropped his bike coming out of the first corner before scrambling away from the circuit.
That left his machine in the racing line with the entire field battling for position behind him.
Most riders dived out the way of the stricken bike, except for Hafizh Syahrin, who ploughed straight into it, destroying both bikes and leaving the Malaysian rider sprawled on the track, some distance down the straight.
Two other riders, Edgar Pons and Andi Farid Izdihar collided after attempting to avoid the debris scattered across the circuit but escaped serious injury.
Syahrin was taken to the medical centre, but only suffered bruising, according to his team.
He was taken to the same hospital where Ms Meiselbach was treated after her injury. It was a wake-up call about the importance of road safety that she wished she didn’t have.
“Not paying attention for a few seconds on the road can kill people,” Ms Meiselbach said.
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
In the past decade in Victoria, 7000 pedestrians have been struck by drivers, research by Monash University Research Centre and commissioned by Victoria Walks has revealed.
In 15 per cent of crashes involving pedestrians, drivers fled the scene, the Victoria Police and hospital data shows.
Victoria Walks is calling on drivers to be more vigilant around pedestrians. Drivers break road rules more often than not in pedestrian crashes, the study found. More than 2000 pedestrians are admitted to hospital or present to emergency departments each year.
“Leaving someone injured on the side of the road is pretty despicable,” Victoria Walks executive officer Ben Rossiter said. “We need strong enforcement for those cases and things like distracted driving.
“With the higher levels of local walking during the COVID-19 pandemic likely to continue, we need to invest in pedestrian road safety now and into the recovery phase.”
Lack of understanding about the consequences of speeding, driver distraction and poor attitudes to pedestrian safety are major risk factors, the Understanding Pedestrian Crashes in Victoria report, released on Thursday, warns.
Improvements to road design and lowering speed limits are key areas needing reform, the report says.
But pedestrian intoxication – especially involving younger males – is also a problem, with up to 45 per cent of pedestrian deaths in Australia estimated to have involved a drunk pedestrian.
While smartphones add to pedestrian distraction, no significant link with crashes has been identified, and smartphone use by drivers is probably a greater threat, the report finds.
Elderly pedestrians are the most vulnerable –those aged 70 and older were 1.6 times more at risk of injury than young adults – along with children.
The research suggests making improvements on arterial roads, such as provision for crossing main roads in the suburbs and around shopping areas, train stations and schools, with more pedestrians hit in 60km/h zones than any other.
Lowering speeds by 30km/h in busy pedestrian areas would help, along with traffic-calming infrastructure.
Professor Jennie Oxley, lead researcher at the Monash University Accident Research Centre, said vehicles with high frontal structures, such as SUVs, were especially dangerous, as they could obscure drivers’ vision of people walking, particularly children.
RACV senior manager of transport Peter Kartsidimas said the data was a “sobering reminder for all road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorists – to exercise caution on Victoria’s roads, particularly around busy and built-up areas”.
“RACV believes a design that provides dedicated space and protection for pedestrians or cyclists is essential for safer roads,” he said.
Victoria has the second-highest rate of pedestrian injuries among states and territories.
The highest concentration of crashes is in areas with many pedestrians, including the CBD, St Kilda, Prahran and Footscray.
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“It crashed our website,” he said. “It was obvious people were panic-buying.”
FloatPac can make about 5500 reusable cloth masks a week; the company received 1500 orders on Monday alone. That order volume was so high Mr Hodgins’ accounting software provider called him to say they would no longer be able to support his business.
“It’s not easy to get our hands on the basic materials,” said Mr Hodgins. “The biggest problem I have is elastic. Everyone is looking for it.”
The Victorian government has placed orders for 1.37 million reusable fabric masks to be delivered in July and August, with schools in the state’s lockdown areas to be among the first recipients.
The masks will be sourced from five Victorian manufacturers, including Thornbury-based Nobody Denim, plus StylePrint, NMBQ, The Ark and The Mask Project.
Nobody Denim owner John Condilis now has a workforce of 35 people cutting 15,000 masks a day, six days a week.
Mr Condilis had new equipment installed on Monday, after the state government gave his business approval for orders last week.
“They asked us, ‘how quickly can you ramp up?’” he said. “We’ve just turned the factory upside down to get this going.”
“Every day we’re going to be employing more people.”
Technical Fabric Services Australia, one of the country’s few elastic suppliers, confirmed elastic had been in high demand for the past few months and said there was now a national shortage.
But not all suppliers are having the same issue. Bunnings said it had plenty of stock. And the state government had also made it clear that homemade masks – including bandannas and scarfs – were acceptable.
But several companies told The Age they would have no stock for weeks.
Australian Safety Wholesalers sold 100,000 masks last week, and another 100,000 since the Premier’s Sunday announcement.
“We have ordered another few hundred thousand today. But it might be five or six weeks,” a company spokesman said. “You can air-freight them, but there are no planes coming over.”
AFI Branding, a fabric company that pivoted into reusable masks early in the pandemic, got about 1000 new orders for 20,000 masks over the weekend.
“The bottleneck is the sewing,” managing director Glenn Watson said. “I think the next two weeks will be a challenge for some. Everyone is going to be pretty maxed out.”
When the pandemic started, Med-Con was Australia’s only medical-grade mask manufacturer, and it was quickly overwhelmed with demand.
Funding from the federal government – and even military assistance – have allowed it to run 24/7 since then, making up to 3 million masks a week. But despite that, Mr Csiszar said they were still running behind on existing orders.
“We’re flat out at the moment. We’re operating 24/7, and we just physically cannot make any more masks.”
Med-Con is contracted to supply the federal government’s national medical stockpile with 59 million masks. That contract needs to be finished before supply can go to the general public.
“Certainly we cannot cope with everything the public will need,” Mr Csiszar said.
To meet demand, some companies are bringing in stock from China. But that comes with its own challenges.
The US, Britain and Canada have all reported serious problems with low-quality or counterfeit masks among those exported from China.
To deal with quality issues, the Chinese government is attempting to restrict the number of companies allowed to export face masks.
Lisa Goodhand, managing director of China import consultant China Blueprint, said Beijing’s restrictions combined with shipping issues made it difficult to source masks from China.
But any shortages that do eventuate are unlikely to last long. South Australia packaging company Detmold will install the last three machines it needs next week to allow it to start churning out almost 1 million masks a day.
Most of those were destined for the federal government’s stockpile, but company spokesman Tom Lunn said the company was also in talks to supply the Victorian government.
“We don’t think there will be a shortage of masks in Australia.”
Liam is The Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s science reporter
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.