Categories
Local News - Victoria

After ‘hell on wheels’, businesses can’t wait for city workers’ return


“I’ve been determined not to go under, especially for something that is not your fault,” she said.

Every week, Ms Bennett has watched more and more For Lease signs springing up across the city’s streets.

The majority of them, she said, were smaller businesses: one-off boutique shops; independent jewellery stores; quirky gems that made Melbourne’s back streets and lanes more Melbourne.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to all these indie, independent operators that have gone, and whether they’ll come back,” Ms Bennett said. “God, I hope so.”

With offices filled with fewer than 10 per cent of staff, Melbourne’s retail and hospitality sectors have been starved of the customers that make them tick.

Across the CBD and surrounding suburbs, 14 per cent of businesses are vacant and a further 14 per cent remain closed, despite restrictions easing.

They have taken a huge number of jobs with them: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 13.2 per cent of jobs have been lost in inner Melbourne since the early weeks of the pandemic.

Union Kiosk owner Rohan Hehir stayed open during the pandemic, while more than a quarter of the CBD’s businesses shut their doors.

Union Kiosk owner Rohan Hehir stayed open during the pandemic, while more than a quarter of the CBD’s businesses shut their doors.Credit:Bianca Hall

Across Little Collins Street, tucked down a largely deserted The Causeway, is Rohan Hehir’s pocket-sized Union Kiosk. Selling coffee, cold drinks and freshly-made jaffles, it’s perfectly tailored for the time-poor officeworker crowds. Except there are very few of them to be found.

The Causeway has nine empty shops and cafes, six of them displaying For Lease signs.

Mr Hehir says most closures here pre-date COVID, but rattles off the names of shops in surrounding streets that have closed their doors for good.

“It was like a ghost town here, I was the only one open.”

Gin Palace co-owner Ben Luzz said the staggered return of city workers from Monday was “fantastic” news for business.

“It’s been a tough year in lockdown, and our job is to look after customers and we were deprived of that for most of the year, he said.”

Also buoying his mood “I punched the roof of the car when I heard it!” was Friday’s announcement that after 28 days in a row of no new infections, Victoria had effectively eliminated the virus.

But Mr Luzz is in favour of a cautious approach to reopening.

“Both shutdowns were really hard,” he said.

“For us, the second one was harder. It was like being broken up with twice, so I don’t want to get broken up with again.”

Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter

Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments and the numbers you need to know. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.

Most Viewed in National

Loading



Source link

Categories
Local News - Victoria

Lockdowns stopped Finn working rurally. Next month, he’ll be deported


“In July I was offered two jobs in construction in regional Victoria. A week later, the second wave restrictions hit and the bosses said they couldn’t host anyone from Melbourne. I was pretty much trapped in the city.”

Months of nationwide border closures and 235 days of Victorian restrictions later, Finn hasn’t completed the 88 days of rural work needed to extend his visa.

Indeed, Victoria hasn’t had 88 consecutive days without lockdown since March. Just 57 days separated the post-first wave reopening and start of the second wave’s restrictions.

On December 23, Finn’s visa will expire and he will be forced back to the United Kingdom, giving up his only shot at a working holiday maker visa.

The federal government has offered working holiday makers who left Australia or could not enter due to the pandemic a chance to re-apply and start a new visa at minimal cost.

But for internationals like Finn, who has spent $17,000 of his $20,000 savings in Australia since Christmas, there is so far no second chance. Melbourne’s “four reasons to leave home” lifted on October 26, just 58 days before his visa expires.

“It seems kind of unfair,” says Finn, who started work in concrete production in Benalla last month.

“There’s so much uncertainty at the moment but I’m preparing to have to try and find flights to leave back to Scotland before Christmas.”

At the same time, Australia’s normally international-dependent rural workforce is, as National Farmers Federation Victoria president David Jochinke says, in flux.

Working holiday makers comprise up to 60 per cent of some farms' workforces in a regular year.

Working holiday makers comprise up to 60 per cent of some farms’ workforces in a regular year.Credit:Brian Cassey

An Ernst and Young report last month found 26,000 workers were urgently needed nationwide to support this summer’s harvest season for our everyday essentials: fruit, vegetables, grains, livestock production.

“Harvest season is now. It’s a now problem – like, now now. Not later,” says Jochinke.

A federal government Senate committee is currently investigating the working holiday program and stated in its interim report in September that between 20 and 60 per cent of Australian farms’ workforces are usually made up of working holiday makers. About 140,000 working holiday makers were in Australia in March. By June it had halved to 70,000.

Migration lawyer Sam Fitzsimons, who gave evidence to the committee in September, says she has heard of other cases like Finn’s – backpackers previously trapped in Victoria whose only chance to extend their working holiday visa has been stifled this year.

“I think it is a really good example of where it’s absolutely unfair, with the unprecedented nature of COVID,” says Ms Fitzsimons, co-chair of the Victorian Law Institute’s Migration Law Committee.

“Unfortunately the Immigration Department can’t just ‘extend’ a visa without introducing legislative change to allow exemptions for people like Finn. If we need regional workers, why aren’t we doing everything to keep the ones already here, including adapting the law to these COVID times?”

Recognising the shortfall in workers, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has set about luring unemployed and young Australians to farms – including telling gap-year students the love of their lives could be awaiting them among the pastures. About 22,000 Pacific Island workers are also waiting to enter Australia, pending states’ approval and quarantine arrangements.

'We must do everything to hold on to people we have here already': Nationals MP Damian Drum.

‘We must do everything to hold on to people we have here already’: Nationals MP Damian Drum.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Yet federal Nationals MP Damian Drum, who sits on the Senate committee into working holiday makers, says it hasn’t been enough so far.

“I think it’s totally ridiculous if we kick out workers who are happy to work in the country, even if just for the summer,” says Mr Drum, who represents Victoria’s Goulburn Valley where fruit harvesting is urgently under way.

“The need is so extreme, it is so intense, that we absolutely must do everything to hold on to people we have here already.”

A Home Affairs spokesman said Finn could be eligible for a “COVID-19 pandemic event visa”, which requires sponsorship from an employer in a key industry such as agriculture, healthcare and aged care.

Finn says as well as gladly committing to 88 days of rural work he still holds out hope of travelling Australia, with working holiday makers contributing $3.1 billion to the economy in a normal year according to Tourism Australia.

“Back home in Scotland they’re in lockdown at the minute, getting 20,000 cases a day. It would be going back to a pretty grim situation,” Finn says.

“If my visa got renewed and I could start from scratch, or even if it was extended for a few months, I would go and do my 88 days straight away. It hasn’t been through a lack of trying this year.”

Start your day informed

Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here, The Age’s here, Brisbane Timeshere, and WAtoday’s here.

Most Viewed in National

Loading



Source link

Categories
Local News - Victoria

Daniel Andrews says he’ll lead Labor to the next Victorian state election


Mr Andrews has faced criticism in recent weeks, particularly over the quarantine hotel saga that led to most of the state’s deadly second wave of coronavirus cases and prompted an inquiry.

The Premier has repeatedly refused to release information related to quarantine hotels, although he told reporters he would be accountable for mistakes made.

Hearings for the inquiry before Justice Jennifer Coate will continue on Monday, with evidence from a returned traveller and two security guards.

Get our Morning & Evening Edition newsletters

The most important news, analysis and insights delivered to your inbox at the start and end of each day. Sign up here.

Mr Andrews’ commitment comes after tensions within the Victorian Liberals as Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien struggled to make gains against the Premier, despite Victoria’s stage four lockdown.



Source link

Categories
Local News - Victoria

Daniel Andrews was having a week from hell. Then Russell Crowe showed up


The day after Coate’s comments, a ravenous media pack descended on the Premier’s daily press briefing determined that this time they were not to be fobbed off with any of the “let the inquiry do its work” lines that they had heard so often.

Some progress was made. Andrews fell back to a position where no politician is ever comfortable. He couldn’t answer many questions, mostly about what he and his minister knew about the hiring of private security guards for the quarantine hotels, because he simply did not have the answers and that was what the inquiry was for.

“The lines of authority and accountability and exactly what has gone on here, it is not clear,” Andrews said. “I’ll be accountable for mistakes that were made, but I don’t have the answers. That’s why I’ve set up a proper inquiry to get those answers. We’re all entitled to them.”

That position, from someone well known as a hands-on manager, was met with scepticism. But he’s probably entitled to the benefit of the doubt when he says he hasn’t read the 100,000 or so documents Coate expected to come before her inquiry.

Loading

The fiery Q&A session also offered a better look of Andrews’ broader strategy with this inquiry. It’s shaping up like this: if one of the ministers is exposed by inquiry, they can’t say they were denied due process.

Andrews also left open on Friday the possibility of finally making public the genomic data that may conclusively show the link between the large COVID-19 clusters that developed in Melbourne’s north and west in late June and early July and the hotels that housed returned travellers.

Andrews was battling on other fronts this week. There were complaints from the big supermarkets and the building sector over Monday’s drastic shutdown of the Victorian economy, forcing backdowns and compromises. The united front with Scott Morrison holds firm, but federal ministers have been openly frustrated with the Victorians.

Jenny Mikakos’ huffy performance in a parliamentary question time on Tuesday also attracted the wrong sort of attention.

Loading

There were mixed feelings about dragging more than 30 MPs, some of them from the regions, into the Spring Street building as stage four began. But nobody could defend Mikakos’ response, refusing to answer each question put to her in QT and issuing written responses the next day.

The Health Minister’s effort demonstrates why Andrews must shoulder much of the heavy lifting in press conferences and it must be frustrating when some of his better performers, such as Jill Hennessy or Jacinta Allan, are locked away in portfolios with no impact on the pandemic.

All that on top of being the first premier in the history of the state to put 250,000 people out of work at a stroke when he announced stage four business restrictions on Monday. By Wednesday, he would have to front up to the day’s horror figures of 15 dead and 725 new cases of the virus.

During this week from hell, the Premier has relied on his greatest strengths, but that doggedness, composure and confidence that gets him through 90-minute press conferences can also be a weakness when he is asked for transparency and accountability.

Whether those attributes will be enough for Andrews’ leadership to recover from these dark days is now the open question.

Get our Morning & Evening Edition newsletters

The most important news, analysis and insights delivered to your inbox at the start and end of each day. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in National

Loading



Source link

Categories
Local News - Victoria

South Australia: where the bloody hell are ya?



Something must be getting to Daniel Andrews: troubles in the Victorian branch, the niggling numbers of new coronavirus cases each day, the Belt and Road business.



Source link

Categories
News

Lea Michele apologises amid claims she made life ‘living hell’ for Sammie Ware


Glee star Lea Michele has received more backlash after publicly apologising for making a former co-star’s life a “living hell” on set.

The actor issued a lengthy three-page statement on Instagram, claiming that while she doesn’t “remember” the specific behaviour she’d been accused of, she had “clearly acted in ways which hurt other people”.

“Whether it was my privileged position and perspective that caused me to be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate at times, or whether it was just my immaturity and me being unnecessarily difficult, I apologise for my behaviour,” Michele wrote.

The star, who played Rachel Berry on all six seasons of Glee, is currently expecting her first baby with husband Zandy Reich, and added that she “wanted to be a real role model” for their child.

“We can all grow and change and I have definitely used these past several months to reflect on my own shortcomings.”

But far from placating those who have spoken against her recently, Michele’s apology sparked a whole new wave of accusations from others she had worked with in the past, including claims she called Glee extras “cockroaches” and had people “fired on a whim”.

Writer and editor Evan Ross Katz shared some of the furious responses in a thread on Twitter, including accusations from Michele’s former co-stars from Broadway musical Spring Awakening, another crew member from Glee – and even a former castmate of Real Housewives of New York.

These are just the latest in a string of accusations of bad workplace behaviour facing the actress.

Michele’s apology came after Samantha Ware, who played Jane Hayward on Glee for its sixth season in 2015, responded to a tweet written by Michele amid the riots in the US after George Floyd’s death at the hands of police.

Michele, who played the show’s leading lady Rachel Berry, wrote, “George Floyd did not deserve this. This was not an isolated incident and it must end. #BlackLivesMatter”.

In a shocking response to the tweet, Ware publicly confronted Michele, alleging she made her time on the show a “living hell”.

In her all-caps response to Michele’s tweet, Ware wrote that she would “never forget” the “traumatic microagressions” she claims to have received from Michele – including a shocking allegation that Michele had “told everyone that if you had the opportunity you would ‘s**t in my wig!’”

RELATED: Why we never see Lea Michele anymore

Shortly after Ware posted her tweet, food delivery brand HelloFresh announced it was ending its partnership with Michele, who had been working as one of its ambassadors.

“HelloFresh does not condone racism nor discrimination of any kind. We are disheartened and disappointed to learn of the recent claims concerning Lea Michele,” the company tweeted from its official account.

“We take this very seriously, and have ended our partnership with Lea Michele, effective immediately.”

Ware has been fiercely supported by other Glee cast members with at least four coming forward backing her claims, including central cast members Alex Newell (Unique Adams) and Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones), who weighed in with not-so-cryptic responses.

Responding to fans who questioned the version of events, Newell wrote: “Child we ain’t got not a damn thing to lie about 6 years later!”

Riley tweeted several GIFs of herself throwing knowing glances as the original tweet gained traction on social media.

Popular drag queen and actor Willam Belli also weighed in, saying he left the set of Glee after Michele treated him “subhuman”. Belli is understood to have been booked for an episode in 2012 but never ended up appearing on the series.

An extra actor named Dabier also detailed his experience after appearing in an episode of the show in 2014, responding to the tweet revealing Michele told him he “couldn’t sit at her table” because he “didn’t belong there”.





Source link

Categories
News

Hundreds of Australians and Kiwis are rescued after fortnight of hell in coronavirus cruise ship


Up to 80 people flying into Melbourne TOMORROW could be infected with deadly COVID-19 after they were rescued from a coronavirus-plagued cruise ship in Uruguay

  • Uruguay has evacuated 112 residents back to Australia and New Zealand
  • The passengers had been trapped on the Greg Mortimer cruise ship for 2 weeks
  • Nearly 60 per cent of the 217 passengers have tested positive for COVID-19
  • Passengers will be sent home on a charter flight and be placed into quarantine 
  • Five Australians remain in hospital in Uruguay’s capital – Montevideo 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Dozens of people flying into Melbourne airport tomorrow could be infected with deadly coronavirus.  

Uruguay has evacuated 112 Australians and New Zealanders from a coronavirus-plagued cruise ship anchored off its coast for more than a fortnight.

Aurora Expeditions, the operator of the Greg Mortimer ship, has chartered an evacuation flight from the Uruguayan capital Montevideo.

It is scheduled to leave on Saturday morning local time and arrive in Melbourne on Sunday, with passengers to go into 14 days of isolation in a hotel.

Of the returning passengers around 70 per cent of people on board the flight could have coronavirus.

The ship’s operator confirmed this week 128 of 217 people on board, nearly 60 per cent, had tested positive for the coronavirus but all were asymptomatic.

‘Our priority remains getting everyone on board disembarked as soon and as safely as possible,’ an Aurora Expeditions spokesman said in a statement. 

Passengers from the Greg Mortimer Cruise Ship carry their luggage across the tarmac after being allowed off the ship for the first time in two weeks

Passengers from the Greg Mortimer Cruise Ship carry their luggage across the tarmac after being allowed off the ship for the first time in two weeks 

An ambulance waits by the Greg Mortimer cruise ship to take away sick passengers, including five Australians who have been hospitalised in Uruguay's capital - Montevideo

An ambulance waits by the Greg Mortimer cruise ship to take away sick passengers, including five Australians who have been hospitalised in Uruguay’s capital – Montevideo  

‘It has been a very harrowing time for all involved.’

However, the Foreign Affairs Department told AAP on Friday five Australians had been evacuated from the Greg Mortimer and hospitalised in Montevideo.

Uruguay had originally refused to let passengers off the cruise ship but later sent medical teams on board and monitored the situation via WhatsApp.

Most of the ill crew and passengers have mild symptoms and are stable, Uruguay public health ministry director-general Karina Rando said.

‘We have intensive care beds, doctors are available and we are not putting the care of our population at risk,’ Ms Rando told the Associated Press. 

Passengers celebrate the end to their cruise holiday which resulted in them being trapped for two weeks off the coast of Uruguay in South America

A passenger is handed a Uruguayan flag after disembarking the Greg Mortimer Cruise Ship in Uruguay ahead of their return to Australia and New Zealand

Passengers are checked by healthcare workers as they disembark the Greg Mortimer Cruise Ship in Uruguay 

An ambulance drives away after picking up sick passengers off the Greg Mortimer cruise ship

An ambulance drives away after picking up sick passengers off the Greg Mortimer cruise ship

The Greg Mortimer departed on March 15 on a voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia but has been docked off the coast of Montevideo since March 27

The Greg Mortimer departed on March 15 on a voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia but has been docked off the coast of Montevideo since March 27

‘We have the logistical and professional capacity to serve these people.’

A sign hanging from a balcony on the ship said ‘Thank you, Uruguay’.

The Greg Mortimer departed on March 15 on a voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia but has been docked off the coast of Montevideo since March 27.

The evacuated passengers, comprising 96 Australians and 16 New Zealanders, will be repatriated using a ‘humanitarian corridor’ with strict biosecurity measures. 

The Uruguay government has evacuated 112 passengers from New Zealand and Australia who were stuck on the Greg Mortimer cruise ship for more than a fortnight

The Uruguay government has evacuated 112 passengers from New Zealand and Australia who were stuck on the Greg Mortimer cruise ship for more than a fortnight

Passengers display a sign saying 'Thank you Uruguay' using a bedsheet from the cruise ship

Passengers display a sign saying ‘Thank you Uruguay’ using a bedsheet from the cruise ship

They will be driven in four buses to Montevideo’s Carrasco airport escorted by police and have their luggage disinfected prior to boarding.

A refitted plane operated by charter airline Hi Fly will take them to Melbourne. 

Medical personnel would also accompany them on the repatriation flight, with the company footing the bill for the journey under insurance.

‘The plane will be set up into risk zones, with passengers seated by test results and level of care required by the passenger,’ Aurora Expeditions said.

The NZ government plans to reach out to its citizens directly to organise a transfer upon arrival in Australia, Aurora Expeditions said.

More than 280,000 Australians have returned home in recent weeks, with about 6200 of them disembarking from 45 cruise ships around the world.

An Airbus A340 waits on the tarmac to conduct a repatriation flight. The flight will land in Melbourne on Sunday

An Airbus A340 waits on the tarmac to conduct a repatriation flight. The flight will land in Melbourne on Sunday

Passengers are seen boarding the plane after being evacuated from the cruise ship in the darkness

Passengers are seen boarding the plane after being evacuated from the cruise ship in the darkness

A healthy passengers boards the plane back to Australia after two weeks trapped on the Greg Mortimer cruise ship

A healthy passengers boards the plane back to Australia after two weeks trapped on the Greg Mortimer cruise ship

 

Advertisement



Source link

Categories
Australian News

New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia bushfires crisis: Day of hell arrives


Five emergency warnings and a further six evacuation warnings are now in place across Victoria, as uncontrolled bushfires threaten to gain momentum with conditions expected to worsen today.

More than 50 blazes remain out-of-control across the state as it braces for temperatures forecast to reach as high as 44C.

Strong winds are also expected, which could merge out-of-control bushfires, and threaten more lives and properties.

Two people have been confirmed dead in the Victoria bushfires and 28 people remain unaccounted for, as fears for their safety grows.

Premier Daniel Andrews this week declared a State of Disaster, allowing the government to order evacuations in an area with as many as 140,000 permanent residents and tens of thousands more vacationers.

“We have grave fears for the safety and wellbeing for those 28 who cannot be located,” Mr Andrews said.

“Some of those who were part of the original 17 were located (Thursday). If you can leave, you must leave.”

Emergency warnings have been issued for Berringama, Burrowye, Koelong, Lucyvale, Nariel Valley, Shelley and the surrounding communities in Victoria.

They are also current for Brumby, Cobberas and Deddick Valley, as well as Suggan Buggan, Wulgulmerang and Wulgulmerang East. Further warnings are active for Bendoc, Bonang, Cabanandra, Deddick Valley, Delegate River, Dellicknora, Goongerah, Haydens Bog, Nurran, Roaring Camp and Tubbut, along with Biggara, Tintaldra, Towong, Towong Upper, Walwa and surrounding communities.

The Murray Valley Highway is closed in both directions due to increased potential for impact from the fire, and weather conditions are predicted to be extreme. They will create conditions which “may not be survivable”, according to the CFA.

“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave,” a CFA spokesperson said.





Source link