Local News - Victoria

Selfish people who will always flout the rules

We have a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 in Australia. Throughout our lockdowns, it has been shown that people will flout the rules – eg, protests by anti-maskers, crowds at beaches and protests not socially distancing, people breaking quarantine, holding large parties and lying about where they have been.

People who feel the rules do not apply to them bring danger to the rest of us. All we need is one breach which turns into a ‘‘super spreading’’ event and we could be back in lockdown. Thank you to the government for protecting the health of Victorians and not trusting everyone to do the right thing.
Rhonda Ward, Mont Albert

Why we need dedicated quarantine facilities

Following the Northern Territory’s lead, at last a premier – Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk (The Age, 14/1) – has realised that a mining camp with resident staff is safer and less stressful for quarantine than an inner-city hotel with windows that cannot be opened and transient staff.

An alternative would be to construct facilities on the plentiful grass areas surrounding most international airports. This would save the bus journeys into town and residents could be fed from the kitchens which supply meals to aircraft. Second best would be to use army barracks near the city, as Auckland is doing. My reading of Victorian history tells me that back in 1852, the independent colony built an isolated quarantine station when the population was less than 200,000.
Loch Wilson, Northcote

Discussing ‘parameters’ with unpredictable COVID

Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien says it is time ‘‘all premiers put their egos aside, sit down around the table with the Prime Minister … to give us something that is consistent and predictable so we can get on with our lives’’ (The Age, 12/1). Might I politely request that he first sits down with COVID and discusses these parameters.
Bruce McQualter, Richmond

So we trust the players, but not our fellow Victorians

I am a huge tennis fan and generally look forward to the major tournaments, but I am worried we will be inviting another horrendous lockdown if the Australian Open goes ahead. We are assured all safety procedures will be in place and everyone concerned will do the right thing.

However, when it comes to Victorians stuck outside our state, we cannot trust them to do the right thing so we will not allow them to return home. The Andrews government has done an awesome job in protecting us from the spreading of coronavirus, despite mistakes being made. But this hypocrisy over who it is safe to allow into our state is sickening. Premier, I am afraid you have lost me.
Janice Merrett, Seaford

Leap of faith about the tennis is not worth the risk

We are taking a mighty leap of faith that tennis players and their entourages will arrive from COVID-19 hot spots and be somehow exempt from any infection. Hotel quarantine has proven to be largely unsuccessful and yet if these ‘‘world’s toughest quarantine restrictions’’ are thought necessary, why take the risk? If we do not have the infrastructure to deal with the vast number of Australians returning home, why are tennis players receiving priority? The lure of television rights and huge money must be weighed up against against the law of probability.
Robert Walford, Ivanhoe

The very long wait for a ‘quick response’

Last October the Premier said he was confident the government would create a QR check-in system. We do not seem to have one yet. Could I remind Daniel Andrews that QR stands for ‘‘quick response’’.
Patrick Hennessy, St Kilda


Controlling the spread

Please put all returning travellers into one central, controlled area. Only when each person gets a negative test can they be allowed to travel around our precious cities. Hotel quarantine is too risky with its airconditioning and inadequate ventilation. Fresh air and controlled isolation is best. Bring back Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital and the training we had there to prevent the spread of this dreadful virus.
Helen Stillwell, former nurse, North Balwyn

Support most vulnerable

As John Hewson (Opinion, 14/1) states, the pandemic has laid bare the Morrison government’s ducking of responsibility for aged care and quarantine. Both have became, by default, the responsibility of the states.

The federal government avoided responsibility by releasing asylum seekers into the community without adequate support and by incarcerating detainees in deplorable conditions, in breach of their human rights. Responsibility has again devolved on the states to provide for their physical and mental wellbeing. Will the government ever accept responsibility for the most vulnerable?
Virginia Schneiders, Mount Dandenong

The importance of super

Re the ‘‘opt-in super plan’’ (The Age, 13/1) As a single woman with a mortgage starting a new job, I was aghast when personnel told me how much money would be deducted for super contributions. When interest rates reached 17per cent, I took in students, cleaned houses and delivered local papers to try to make ends meet. It was a very scary time.

Given a choice, I would have ‘‘taken the money’’ in a heartbeat. If I had, 30years on, I would be totally reliant on the pension, still trying to make ends meet and worrying to the end of my days. My super is not a huge amount but it makes a huge difference. Single women are at high risk of living in poverty as they age, often because they have little or no super. Why would anyone want to increase the problem by reducing the amount of super available to other sections of the community, especially vulnerable, lower-paid workers?
Anne Heath Mennell, Tenby Point

The power of two MPs

There should be no surprise that senior Coalition members are loath to criticise Craig Kelly and George Christensen for their unfounded, ridiculous utterings. In the past, both have threatened to vote against the government if they were not given their way.

In 2016 when Malcolm Turnbull held a one-seat majority, he was forced to intervene to save Kelly from a preselection battle. He wrote to the Liberal Party’s acting state director, describing Kelly as one of the government’s ‘‘most consistent performers’’ and that he had a ‘‘fine reputation’’. Now Scott Morrison and Michael McCormack hold the one-seat majority. History repeats itself and self-interest triumphs over public good.
Brian Glass, Montrose

Inconsistent ‘free speech’

Could Michael McCormack, Josh Frydenberg, George Christensen or Craig Kelly confirm that if Julian Assange had ‘‘published’’ certain documents on Twitter and YouTube, rather than on WikiLeaks, they would have supported his right to free speech. Alternatively, which free speech is more dangerous – publication of lies or publication of the truth?
Tim Freer, Torquay

Protecting our planet

Australia was notably absent in the list of more than 50 countries which have pledged to protect 30per cent of the planet to halt species extinction and address climate change issues (The Age, 13/1). According to the World Wildlife Fund, Australia has the highest mammalian extinction rate in the world. This is not a partisan issue, it is a moral one.

Pope Francis has said, ‘‘Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence … We have no such right.’’ Does the Hillsong doctrine accord with the Pope’s? Will our Prime Minister provide leadership on this issue?
Lynn Frankes, Kew

Battle to save the Basin

I support not-for-profit organisation Odonata’s survey of the iconic and vulnerable platypus population (The Age, 14/1), and I have put my hand up to participate. I hope the elephant in the room – the outrageous theft of water from the environment to service inefficient agricultural crops – is not ignored. The Murray-Darling Basin is dying, and we must save it.
Michael Puck, Maffra

Heat can kill our dogs

It was my curly-haired dog, Fred, who alerted me to the desperate barking and whining from a similarly moppet of a dog. From my apartment balcony, I could see it jumping furiously inside the Range Rover on a day of 37 degrees. I went to investigate and found other people also concerned about the dog. As I was taking a photo of the car’s number plate, the owner came out from an eatery and said she was a “very responsible owner (because) I have a couple of windows (partially) opened’’. This is not responsible ownership and the police were not impressed. Please do not lock dogs in cars on hot days.
Erica Cervini, Prahran

Resentment of the ‘elite’

Tim Soutphommasane is right that Donald Trump is ‘‘as much a symptom as a cause of American democratic failure’’ (Opinion, 11/1). Citing Plato, he suggests the public needs to restore its faith in the elite political class. That the masses are too easily led astray by demagogues. ‘‘Elites matter because democracy needs its guardians, and sometimes the people fail,’’ he says.

Soutphommasane forgets that Trump is in office because it was the elites, not the people, who failed. In 2016 the Democrats put forward Hillary Clinton, the most ‘‘elite elite’’ there ever was, a career politician of 30years. It was the public’s resentment of her – and the political class she represented – that netted Trump the presidency. Perhaps the ‘‘elites’’ have some explaining to do as to why the people find them so distasteful.
Alex Langsam, Preston

Our thanks to the US

Those of us born prior to and during World War II will recall how the US saved the world from fascist domination by providing personnel, expertise, money and armaments to those nations under threat. After the conflict, it stepped into the devastation and poured billions and billions of dollars and many thousands of its experts and personnel to reconstruct Europe and Japan in order to prevent the breakdown of of societies as happened after World War I. It also took huge responsibility in the creation of the United Nations and its agencies.

Why are we, in Australia, so interested in what happens in the US? It saved our country, that is why. And now we are watching the breakdown of its society. I have not enjoyed the Americanisation of our culture – but I truly pray that the American people will achieve peace and prosperity once more. We have not forgotten.
Jennifer Raper, Brighton East

English copped abuse too

Peter Wiegard comments on ‘‘the disgusting behaviour meted out to our (Australian) team at the Old Trafford Ashes test in 2019’’ (Letters, 14/1). It brought back memories of Test matches at the MCG during Dennis Lillee and Geoff Thompson’s era when Aussie crowds were truly feral against opposition teams. In those days the players had not cheated (like David Warner and Steve Smith) but were simply representing their country against a powerful Australian team. Any English supporter will tell you the abuse was given to not only their team but their supporters as well.
Allen Perry, McKinnon

Most unsportsmanlike era

Before Rod Mackenzie gets himself into too deep a funk about the alleged lost gentlemanliness of Test cricket (Letters, 14/1), he might pause a moment to recall that the Bodyline series – a byword for ungentlemanly conduct – was played in 1932-33.
Scott McIntyre, Elsternwick

What more can Paine do?

Tim Paine: Almost three years of outstanding captaincy in difficult circumstances versus one hour of meltdown (for which he has apologised), and the tall poppy mafia cannot wait to crucify him.
Richard Wilson, Croydon

Congratulations all around

Bouquets to the Australian and Indian cricket Test teams. Thanks for an absorbing series, heading for an exciting finish at the Gabba. Talk about performing under pressure. We appreciate their efforts in really difficult, dare I say, unprecedented, circumstances.
Raeleene Gregory, Ballarat East

No excuses for behaviour

Tim Paine’s behaviour on the final day of the Sydney Test went against the spirit of what was promised following the Cape Town debacle. Calling an opponent a ‘‘dickhead’’ was hardly innocent banter. His desperation to use his mouth in such an undignified fashion was a sign of a captain quickly losing confidence in his mind to lead and in his hands to catch. Not only did it not work, it backfired. And the Australian team wonder why they are so disliked around the globe.
Arun Subramaniam, Vermont South

Sorry, you’ve lost me

I gave away my national cricket team after the disgraceful sandpaper incident. Not until they have an administration that gets back to the integrity of the gentleman’s game being of paramount importance to the team will I have any respect for them.
Neville Wright, Kilcunda

Racism or just a name?

Changing the name from Coon cheese to Cheer cheese (The Age, 14/1) is an insult to the family of the person who created the product. We have become too precious. There are lots of Coon surnames and most people are probably proud of theirs. If author and anti-racism activist Stephen Hagen was formally introduced to someone whose surname was Coon, would he still be offended?
John Cummings, Anglesea


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding


The orange has been impeached.
David Francis, Ocean Grove

Kelly and Christensen. What were you thinking when you voted for these blokes?
Jim Billings, Avenel

Keep it up, Bernie. You’re one of ALP’s best assets.
Pamela Pilgrim, Highett

Judging by McCormack’s performance, it is no longer rational to vote National.
Glenn Stanmore, Cohuna

The extra money must go into super, not pockets, so people have enough to retire on.
Katriona Fahey, Alphington

How dare the working class build up their wealth and savings for their retirement?
Dan Drummond, Leongatha

Could Australians storm Parliament House? Unlikely, especially if the surf’s up, footy or cricket are on, or the sun’s out.
Greg Tuck, Warragul


If The Age chooses not to publish my letter, is it infringing my right to freedom of speech?
Damien Ryan, Frankston

In this time of misinformation, will Sky News be scrutinised?
Tom O’Bryan, Dromana

Shouldn’t social media that’s used to incite hatred be called anti-social media?
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East


If Paine focused more on his gloves and less on his mouth, things might have been different. Well done to the Indians.
Phil Hughes, Fitzroy

The ugly face of Australian cricket has returned, ironically instigated by the man charged with bringing about its cultural change.
David Seal, Balwyn North

Will the AFL be providing head protection for players this season?
Barry Revill, Moorabbin

If the grand prix were cancelled, Victorian taxpayers would save over $60million. It’s a no brainer.
Peter Heffernan, Balaclava

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Local News - Victoria

Indigenous people ‘should have been’ consulted on new Coon cheese name, says anti-racism activist Stephen Hagan

Dr Hagan is pursuing legal damages of $2.1 million for what he says has been 21 years of corporations undermining his claims that the cheese brand was not named after American cheesemaker Edward William Coon.

Dr Hagan argues that Coon cheese instead started in Australia with Kraft’s Red Coon cheese in 1931, which used a different method to Mr Coon’s. Mr Coon patented a fast ripening process using high temperature and humidity that didn’t kill all bacteria. Kraft’s pasteurisation process killed all bacteria and lasted much longer in storage.

New packets of Cheer cheese, formerly Coon.

New packets of Cheer cheese, formerly Coon.Credit:Saputo Dairy Australia

Dr Hagan believes Coon was instead named after the racial slur.

In announcing the new name on Wednesday, Lino A. Saputo, the Canadian chair and chief executive officer of Saputo Dairy Australia’s parent company Saputo Inc., said his company wanted to align with current attitudes and perspectives.

“Treating people with respect and without discrimination is one of our basic principles and it is imperative that we continue to uphold this in everything we do,” Mr Saputo said.

“Our decision to change the name of Australia’s much-loved cheese reinforces this commitment to build a culture of acceptance, inclusion and respect where everyone feels a sense of belonging.”

Dr Hagan, a Kullilli man now based in Darwin, said he was offended each time he saw a block of Coon.


In the early 1990s, he wrote to dairy farmers outlining his concerns, “and they wouldn’t even respond”. In 1999, he complained to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, who dismissed it.

Dr Hagan led the successful campaign to have the name, ES “N—-r” Brown, taken off a rugby grandstand in Toowoomba, and to have golliwogs removed from a chemist chain’s shelves.

He is now lobbying to have three racist terms deleted from Scrabble’s vocabulary: abo, coon and boong.

“If you normalise those words, you’re really normalising bigotry,” he said.

‘If you normalise those words, you’re really normalising bigotry.’

Dr Stephen Hagan

He said corporations had a responsibility to respect the whole community. “They’re not living in a white Australia. There’s a lot of different nationalities around now.”


RMIT University associate professor of marketing Con Stavros said Saputo had carefully separated the announcement of the decision to discard the Coon name last July from the new name’s unveiling this week to draw consumers to the new brand and to move forward.

Dr Stavros said the company might have reached a “tipping point” in listening to consumer concerns.

However, Cheer being a short word and starting with a C, like Coon, and having a similar font and packaging, could help retain customer loyalty. “You want to make the change as subtle as you possibly can,” Dr Stavros said.

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Jackie French urges young people to ‘inspire each other’

Award-winning author Jackie French knows first-hand the power of poetry when it comes to dealing with trauma.

And she wants children affected by last summer’s devastating bushfires to experience that too, through the Kids News Bushfire Poetry Competition.

French, who penned her latest children’s book, The Fire Wombat, in the aftermath of the Black Summer bushfires that threatened her home, said writing was not only cathartic, but would give children the chance to see some of the positives that came out of the disaster.

“The things I remember most clearly about those fires are people helping — their kindness and compassion and offers to help,” she said.

“That’s what I want kids to have a chance to remember most, so that gets embedded. They don’t remember the flames, I want them to remember the help and the fact that people wanted to help and did help.”

French’s The Fire Wombat is written in poetry and is about a real life wombat that staggered out of the smoke to take shelter on her property in the Araluen Valley in NSW as fires bore down on the region a year ago.

“She was emaciated, desperately dehydrated, and she got to the water station and collapsed,” French recalled.

“All the other animals just stood back to let this small wombat stagger to water and then the food.”

French was so moved she started writing a poem about the wombat on social media. She was overwhelmed by the response and went on to write the book.

She said writing helped her get through the disaster, in which 33 people died and 35.8 million hectares were scorched.

“If you write or paint or create something about what happened, that will become more vivid than the trauma for you,” French said.

She said it would also help others better understand what happened.

“It’s part of the act of inspiring each other, being kind to each other and helping each other,” she said.

“That’s how we get through things and Australians are actually incredibly good at doing that.”

The Kids News Bushfire Poetry Competition is part of a joint project between HarperCollins and News Corp Australia to support our bushfire affected communities.

Two poems — one from a primary school student and one from a secondary school student — will be selected to be included in a special book that will be published to commemorate the Black Summer bushfires.

See for more information about the Bushfire Poetry Competition or enter below.

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Australian News

Byron Bay party with ‘200+ people’ who trashed beach angers locals

Byron Bay locals are furious this morning after waking up to find their prized beach trashed by backpackers in a crazy party with more than 200 attendees.

Angry residents shared photos of the rubbish scattered across the sand in Belongil Beach, the main strip of beach in Byron Bay along the northern NSW coast.

Tweed/Byron police were kept very busy last night from shutting down multiple illegal parties, with no more than 100 people allowed at outdoor gatherings because of COVID-19 restrictions.

It comes after Sydney siders were caught throwing a massive party in the eastern suburbs’ Bronte Beach on Christmas Day.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard called the Sydney event “appalling” and a 25-year-old man was arrested and charged for ignoring police officers.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage here

RELATED: ‘Appalling’: Beach party covidiots slammed

Although Australia’s backpacker community largely went home after news of the coronavirus pandemic broke, locals believe backpackers are to blame for the wild party that happened on Saturday night, December 26.

“This was the remains of a back packer beach party at Belongil Beach yesterday,” a local posted to a community Facebook page.

“I know it was a backpackers party bc (because) I was tasked to find a lost phone.

“There were smouldering logs from the fire & broken glass throughout the sand.

“The sand had so much buried trash that I was stepping on buried bottles, cans & trash of every description. This is bloody disgusting.”

Another local said “Apparently there was 200+ people.

“Everyone should be able to grab a rubbish bag and do their part, bunch of lazy ass pigs. So disrespectful. No wonder locals are mad.”

Tweed/Byron Police estimate that number to be higher, after shutting down the Belongil Beach party where they said 300 people had gathered.

It wasn’t the only illegal party happening last night.

Police said they broke up a gathering at the National Park area at Tyagarah around midnight and they also crashed a gathering at Main Beach where another 300 people were partying.

Early this morning, police attended Apex Park after a large number of people gathered.

“Police moved on the group and ensured the alcohol they were consuming was tipped out,” officers said in a statement.

During the many parties, police seized music equipment and issued 73 parking infringements.

Police are now urging visitors and locals alike “to celebrate responsibly” and reminded everyone that public places are “alcohol-free zone(s)”.

Tweed/Byron Police District Commander, Superintendent David Roptell, is appealing for those involved to respect the environment and be mindful of the amount of rubbish left behind.

“It’s not fair for council workers and locals to have to clean the significant mess that is being left after each of these gatherings. I urge those who are intent on meeting in parks and beaches to not only do so safely but be respectful to the environment and those around you by cleaning up after yourself,” Supt Roptell said.

Locals said a bonfire on the beach was so large that it “would have been visible from most beaches in the bay”.

Now residents are calling for their beach to be patrolled by police to stop it from happening again.

“The beach needs patrolling to stop this crap, maybe locals that live nearby can report to the police,” said one person on social media.

Others called for the perpetrators to be kicked out of the country.

“Disgusting. Strip the visa of the poeple (sic) responsible for those trash or at least make an example out of a few so the others won’t do it again …”

Byron Bay is a popular vacation spot and is home to many Aussie celebrities including Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky, and earlier this year Zac Efron was spotted staying there

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Up to 1000 people could be infected on NYE

An infectious diseases expert has warned there could be 3000 new coronavirus cases in NSW by early January, and Christmas could be cancelled unless a short lockdown is introduced in Greater Sydney.

Infectious diseases expert Professor Raina MacIntyre of the University of NSW has warned that Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are superspreading events that could see current coronavirus cases quickly blow out, leading to more than 1000 people being infected at end-of-year celebrations.

NSW today recorded 30 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, with 28 of them linked to the Avalon coronavirus cluster. There have now been a total of 68 cases associated with the cluster.

Prof MacIntyre said the exponential nature of the coronavirus could see cases grow to 120 by Christmas Day and these people could infect another 300 to 400 people at family gatherings.

This has even more serious implications for NYE celebrations, which are only six days after Christmas.

She said about 90 per cent of people became infectious by day five of getting the coronavirus and anyone infected at Christmas lunch would likely be at the peak of their infectiousness when they attended 2021 parties. This could see a further 1000 people infected.

“This is why this outbreak is different because we’ve got two superspreading events ahead of us and people will be maximally infectious on NYE — that’s why it’s such a dangerous situation,” Prof MacIntyre told

“We could be looking at potentially 3000 cases by the second week of January.”

Prof MacIntyre said the situation means authorities need to act now.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus updates

RELATED: All the new restrictions in NSW

“I think the problem is there is very little time left, these two events (Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve) are going to happen, they are fixed dates,” she said.

If cases numbers on Monday are higher than today’s, Prof MacIntyre believes a short, sharp lockdown of Greater Sydney is the best option to “salvage Christmas”.

“If we see 100 cases on Thursday we are going to have to cancel Christmas,” she said.

“We may also be forced to abandon all plans for New Year’s Eve if we take a softly, softly approach.

“Last year on New Year’s Eve we were watching the bushfires unfold and we really don’t want another disaster.”

While it’s possible the current restrictions would be enough to drive down case numbers, Prof MacIntyre believes authorities cannot afford to wait and see.

“It’s possible that everything could be controlled with the measures they’ve used but it’s not like at any other time of the year, there are unique and different risks at this time of the year,” she said.

“The difference with the Crossroads outbreak is that we had no way of predicting whether there would be any superspreading events where the virus would get out of control, in this case we have 100 per cent certainty that there will be two superspreading events: December 25 and December 31.”

She said the longer authorities waited to act, the harder it would be to control the spread.

Most of the cases so far have been located in the northern beaches and authorities have already told residents in the area not to leave their homes but Prof MacIntyre believes the stay-at-home orders should be extended to Greater Sydney.

RELATED: States close borders to Greater Sydney residents

“If the virus has spread to other parts of Sydney we may not be aware of it for another week or so and by that time it will be too late,” she said.

“We have to assume a worst case scenario and stamp it out to ensure a safer Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.”

Prof MacIntyre is one of a number of experts who believe NSW authorities should be bringing in stricter restrictions.

On Friday, Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely told that Sydney’s northern beaches should have been in lockdown rather than being subject to soft stay-at-home orders. Authorities did subsequently introduce stronger restrictions giving residents just four reasons they were allowed to leave home. Those in the Greater Sydney region have also been restricted to a maximum of 10 visitors in their homes.

Prof Blakely also suggested that masks should be made mandatory for all residents in Greater Sydney and Prof MacIntyre said any measures like this would make a difference.

“Making masks mandatory will definitely help as there are people hitting the shops in record numbers,” she said.

“If you don’t mandate masks you only get about 30 per cent of people doing it, which is not as good as 100 per cent.

“I think they need to look at the seriousness of the timing and what we know about peak infectiousness.” | @charischang2

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Cops charge 143 people in Operation Saber IV arrests across Sydney

Police have charged more than 140 people and seized dozens of knives, bags of drugs and bundles of cash during a two-day blitz targeting armed and violent offenders across Sydney .

Shocking photos released by NSW Police revealed some of the deadly blades confiscated during Operation Saber IV – the fourth iteration of the high-visibility crackdown that deployed officers throughout the city.

The armory of weapons included flick and spring-loaded knives, a machete and a 25cm serrated blade.

Police seized a total of 41 knives during the 48-hour operation on Thursday and Friday, made 78 drug detections, issued more than 600 traffic and transport notices, and charged 143 people.

The offences included possession of knives and drugs, and domestic violence.

Among those charged was a 35-year-old man officers allegedly found smoking on the stairs at Granville train station about 4pm on Thursday.

Police checks discovered he was wanted for domestic violence assaults, and a search of his possessions allegedly uncovered a glass pipe, methylamphetamine and Valium.

He was charged with offences including assault occasioning actual bodily harm and intentionally choking a person without consent, and has been refused bail in court.

Police charged a 57-year-old man with supplying drugs after officers allegedly found five bags of cocaine in his vehicle.

An hour later police pulled over a 35-year-old man for a random breath test who was wanted for alleged child sexual abuse offences.

He attempted to flee on foot but was arrested and charged with offences including having unlawful sexual intercourse with a child.

He appeared in court on Friday where he was refused bail.

Operation Saber IV Commander Detective Inspector Andrew Evans said the effort had been an “outstanding example of proactive and collaborative police work”.

“We will continue to utilise available intelligence to target and disrupt those who think they can cause harm to others in the community, put simply NSW Police won’t tolerate it,” he said.

“Operation Saber deployments this year have taken 97 knives off our streets, made 218 drug seizures and 168 bail compliance checks and seen 330 people put before the courts for a range of offences.

“The safety of the public is always our top priority and we want operations like Saber to reassure the community that they can go about their lives feeling secure, while also sending a message to would-be offenders – if you commit crimes, you will be caught.”

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Flight costs soar as people rush to beat border closures

Anyone hoping to make a last minute escape from NSW and head to Queensland ahead of Christmas can expect to pay a premium price with the current outbreak causing flight costs to surge.

Recently Virgin Australia was offering $89 flights from Sydney to Brisbane but since the northern beaches COVID-19 cluster was uncovered prices have increased dramatically.

Prices for one-way flights have now jumped to almost $800 in some cases, which is an increase of about 800%. The cheapest options start at about at $195 and increase from there.

Qantas prices have also surged for flights from Sydney to Brisbane, with the cheapest options for Saturday starting at about $300.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus updates

RELATED: Change that would stop COVID outbreaks

It comes as hundreds of people have rushed to Sydney Airport in a bid to leave the state following fears more border restrictions will be announced.

Multiple states and territories have already reimposed border restrictions for the northern beaches, with some even requiring all NSW residents to go into mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

In response to the recent border changes, Virgin Australia is offering fee-free changes to all bookings until January 31. Change fees can also be waived up until March 31, 2021 for COVID-19 reasons.

“Due to the evolving situation in New South Wales, some States and Territories are implementing revised border restrictions. Customers should ensure they check the latest information on the respective Government websites prior to travel,” a Virgin Australia spokesperson said in a statement.

“While New South Wales services are currently operating as normal, changes to customer demand and booking trends may require us to adjust our forward schedule.

“Any impacted customers will be provided with options to re-book on alternative services or be able obtain a travel credit for use at a later stage.”

NSW confirmed 10 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the northern beaches cluster to 28 infections.

People living in the northern beaches have been asked to stay at home for the next three days and only go out for necessary reasons.

All public spaces in the area have been shut down and will remain closed until at least Sunday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she is hopeful increased restrictions won’t have to be placed on the northern beaches, but said she wouldn’t hesitate to do so if it becomes necessary.

“We don’t want to go down the mandatory path but we will if we have to but at this stage, let’s see how the next 24 to 48 hours goes,” Ms Berejiklian said on Friday.

“I will not hesitate to take on health advice if Dr Chant and her team give us advice to the alternative but at this stage we believe what we have in place is commensurate or matches what the risk is.

“But I also do want to stress we don’t want to be in a position just before Christmas to have to restrict the easing of restrictions we have put in place a couple of weeks ago. We don’t want to do that unless we absolutely have to do but I cannot rule that out until we know what the next 24 to 48 hours looks like.”

The premier said for the moment people in hotspot areas appeared to be following health advice but said the need for restrictions could change if cases continue to rise.

Ms Berejiklian said it might not just be the northern beaches community being impacted, with restrictions possible encompassing greater Sydney if the outbreak spreads.

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Australian News

Five people fined for illegal alcohol sales

Five people have been fined after they illegally sold alcohol through the online platform Airtasker to undercover inspectors in Sydney.

Two women and three men who sold and delivered $120 bottles of vodka and tequila, among other products to buyers through the app, were caught by Liquor & Gaming during lockdown in Haymarket and Parramatta.

The five were fined a total of $3740, with Airtasker also warned about the need to reinforce the seriousness of the breach.

Liquor & Gaming director of compliance Dimitri Argeres said unlicensed alcohol trading through apps and internet platforms was of ongoing concern, and significant penalties would be enforced.

“The sale of alcohol without a licence is one of the most serious offences under the NSW Liquor Act. This includes sales through online platforms or ‘tasking’ apps,” Mr Argeres said.

“Unlicensed alcohol delivery carries significant risks of alcohol-related harm such as supply to minors or intoxicated people.

“It is the responsibility of both the online platform and the individual tasker or seller involved to ensure all necessary licences and approvals are in place.

“The penalty notices issued through this operation should send a strong message to other marketplaces and individual sellers that this conduct will not be permitted.”

Mr Argeres warned the maximum penalty was 12 months in prison.

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The government needs to stop illegal detention of older people

But I am concerned about the position that head office took and steadfastly held for months to overly restrict the lives of the residents – far beyond state government directive requirements.

From what I can see, illegal detention, false imprisonment and even the tort of battery have been “business as usual” across Australia under the reign of COVID-19. Even when nobody in a facility had the virus, or there was no real risk of transmission.

Aged care residents have been denied social contact.

Aged care residents have been denied social contact.Credit:Jessica Shapiro

Even in the case of outbreaks, the spread of COVID in aged care was usually due to transmission from staff or poor infection control, not from residents, and not due to visitors.

Governments and regulators need to take simple steps to stop these unlawful restrictions across the aged care sector immediately.

Somehow the COVID reign ushered in a new world where we pretended the law didn’t exist, at least for older people. But fear of an infectious disease does not suddenly give property managers the right to detain people, ban them from seeing their families or prohibit them from getting exercise or fresh air.

Those who think that COVID changed our fundamental legal system are delusional. I am a barrister. I’ve done aged care legal work and I also train public servants in what is called ‘administrative law’. I teach people about legislation and where to find statutory power. I know from many years of training government that there is a widespread tendency to favour policies, codes and guidelines over the law. It’s wrong, but it’s common.

Aged care providers need to uphold rights such as freedom of movement.

Aged care providers need to uphold rights such as freedom of movement.Credit: Getty

During my parents’ lives, we took for granted basic human rights that are an integral part of the Australian way of life, such as freedom of movement and the right to socialise. But our aged care providers, governments and regulators don’t seem to really care about these rights. They took them away, stood by watching, or encouraged their removal.

Providers can’t just sweep away these rights. They don’t have authority. They are just property managers who provide care to people. They are not lawmakers. Nor prison wardens. In Australia, if somebody detains you or imprisons you without lawful authority, they will be committing a tort or even a crime. They can be sued, and ordered to pay significant sums to the falsely imprisoned person.

Jeremy King, a solicitor who has sued the police for false imprisonment, has seen a court award $30,000 for 30 minutes of false imprisonment. He says: “In addressing the health concerns of COVID-19, it was imperative that a balance be struck between combating the virus and ensuring an individual’s basic civil liberties were protected. If those in aged care were simply locked away without lawful justification and/or without reference to the statutory health restrictions at the time, this is prima facie a case of false imprisonment.”


What would a provider have to pay in damages if they were sued for false imprisonment? What if they locked you up for two weeks? Or 66 days?

Providers have been locking up thousands of people and banning them from social contact – even when no rational threat of COVID existed in those homes. Residents have lost health and mobility. They haven’t been allowed to walk around the corridors or step out into the garden. They have become depressed. They have wanted to die. In fact, how many of them have actually died because of this inhumane and illegal treatment?

Let’s be clear. I am not raising issues about state government health directions made under legislation. I am only raising issues about providers locking people in their rooms and banning visitors with no statutory government directions. Fear of COVID-19 does not create the power to detain.


It’s simple. We don’t need to overcomplicate things. Let’s just read the law. Commonwealth legislation says that aged care residents have rights to “move freely both within and outside the … service without undue restriction”, to “select and maintain social and personal relationships with anyone else without fear, criticism or restriction”. Providers have to protect these rights.

But the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner’s letter to “approved providers” on December 7 does not highlight these legislative rights. Nor does the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19, an “agreed industry approach” with input from government. Sorry, but you can’t “agree” amongst yourselves to imprison people. You can’t use terms like “balancing risk”, “best practice” or “escalation tiers” to avoid the clear imperatives of the law.

I don’t want to live in a country where we treat elderly people differently, trample on their rights, and ignore the law when we feel like it. I realise nobody wants to die from COVID-19. Nor does anyone want their aged care facility to be slack about hygiene.

But that doesn’t justify unlawful detention or banning visitors at a provider’s whim. If a provider claims: “I’m caring for you”, “I have the best intentions”, “I’m balancing risk” or “I don’t have enough staff to handle visitors”, it doesn’t mean they have the power to lock you up.

Providers need to follow the law. Regulators and governments need to enforce it. Clearly, succinctly, and swiftly. There’s one clear message for providers that regulators need to say now: “You cannot detain people or prevent visitors to them unless you have statutory authority. If you do this without authority, you could be sued for false imprisonment, and you will certainly be sanctioned.”

Fiona McKenzie is a Melbourne barrister and a trainer in administrative law.

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Australian News

Nine people with bikie links charged over bushfire assistance fraud

As NSW residents were piecing together their lives after their homes and businesses were ravaged by last summer’s bushfires, a group of bikies were allegedly plotting how to scam the government out of funds meant for victims.

Police have accused nine people with links to outlaw motorcycle gangs of lodging fraudulent claims for bushfire assistance totalling $700,000.

The alleged scammers collected $113,000 in grant money before police put a stop to the scheme this week with a series of early-morning raids against properties in Greater Sydney and the Southern Highlands.

Police will allege in court the suspects created fake companies to apply for small business bushfire funds, even though the people accused had not been affected by the catastrophic Black Summer fires.

“Sadly, the aftermath of this tragedy was many small businesses were severely affected and the federal government funding was established to provide them some relief,” Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said.

“Unfortunately, there are segments of society who will choose to use situations such as these to gain personal financial advantage, and not surprisingly on this occasion the alleged offenders have ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs.”

Among the arrested was a 29-year-old man from Wilberforce, northwest of Sydney.

Seven police officers, including agents from the anti-bikie Strike Force Raptor, stepped up on his front porch at 6am on Wednesday, banged the door hard and shouted “Police search warrant, open the door!”

When no one answered, the masked officers forced their way through using a battering ram and charged inside, trailed by a videographer from the police media unit.

The man was charged with three counts of dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, two counts of publish false misleading material to obtain advantage and knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal.

Four other men aged in their early 30s were also arrested during simultaneous raids in Lalor Park, Sackville, Hill Top, and Box Hill.

The Hill Top man, aged 31, was said to be a member of the Rebels bikie gang and was also charged with acquiring ammunition.

Later that afternoon, a 26-year-old South Windsor woman was arrested at the local police station and charged with publish false misleading material to obtain advantage and knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal.

Police continued making arrests on Thursday, bringing two women aged 25 and 37 from Westmead and Colebee to face charges related to the alleged scam.

A 25-year-old man from North Richmond was also ordered to attend court over his alleged involvement in the scheme.

Officers from a special strike force named Fireant, which has been investigating the claims since August, also executed search warrants in Mittagong and Marrickville.

Throughout the two days of raids police seized documents, phones, and laptops, and also came across cash and drugs such as ecstasy and ice which were confiscated.

“We will allege that the proceeds from these crimes were used to buy clothing, to fix up cars, to place online gambling bets on internet sites, and most disturbingly to subscribe to online pornography websites,” Superintendent Critchlow said.

Police were still searching for another person who has an outstanding warrant against them.

“We suggest that person comes and sees us,” Superintendent Critchlow said.

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