The powerful group said Victoria was facing “social and economic challenges of an unprecedented scale, and which will take many years to resolve”.
“All this raises serious questions about how we will attract future talent to Victoria,” the letter continued.
“We urgently need to kick start our economy, and as leaders of some of Victoria’s biggest businesses we want to do our bit.”
Mr Andrews has said retail and hospitality businesses can reopen from November 1 if they have a COVID-safe plan, but that could be brought forward if case numbers remained low.
But the business chiefs said now was the time for a staged reopening of workplaces, starting with offices and small businesses.
“Safely opening up more Victorian workplaces, based on medical advice and guidance, and enabling the collaboration and creativity that will result, is critical to our State’s economic future,” the bosses said, adding their own companies were spending millions of dollars on COVID-safe workplace plans.
“Our businesses have chosen Melbourne because of this great city’s ability to nurture and attract great people capable of doing great things, supported by the small businesses that make Melbourne one of the most liveable places on earth,” they said.
“With Victoria having made such progress against the virus, it is time now to provide more Victorians with the ability to return to their workplaces in a safe and staged manner.”
The letter was signed by Wesfarmers’ Rob Scott, Coca-Cola Amatil’s Alison Watkins, BHP’s Mike Henry, CBA’s Matt Comyn, Orica’s Alberto Calderon, Newcrest Mining’s Sandeep Biswas and Incitec Pivot’s Jeanne Johns.
About 800 Victorian businesses a day are signing up to the Federal Government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, the Herald Sun reports.
The government plan for the race meets include take-away food and beverage and time limits on how long owners and connections can watch the races.
“The change has been closely considered by health officials, who will monitor the implementation of the plan to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone involved,” said Minister Pakula.
“This will give connections the chance to see their horses compete under strict health protocols.”
Moonee Valley Racecourse CEO Michael Browell said his club was “delighted” by the arrangement.
“Under our COVID-safe plan, attendance times will be limited, permitted owners will remain outside and socially distanced at all times, and there will be no seated dining in line with government regulations,” he said.
He told ABC Radio Melbourne that owners and connections would be allowed into the venue 30 minutes before the race in which their horse is running, and would be escorted half an hour after the race ends.
“[Owners] have a role to play in managing their asset or their investment so it’s not as if the club is opening up and people will be drinking champagne in the grandstands,” he said.
Moonee Valley will also not be selling any tickets to the events for members, and food and drink would be prepacked Mr Browell said.
“We’re not here to make a dollar out of what’s been announced today,” he said.
The change brings metropolitan racetracks into line with regional Victoria, where owners were able to return to meetings earlier this month.
Tuesday marked Victoria’s first potential day of no new COVID-19 cases, but Premier Daniel Andrews said social restrictions would not be wound back before the AFL grand final on Saturday.
“We’ve been very clear that we want to look at numbers as they unfold this week,” he told reporters.
“I’ll stand here on Sunday and hopefully be able to confirm for Victorians that when it comes to retail, pubs, restaurants, cafes, bars – as well as a number of other settings – that we can have what’s been termed ‘a dark opening’ for, say, the first one or two days of next week and then we can be up and running from then.
“It’s not appropriate for us to try and bring that forward.”
Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.
When businesses open, the last thing they spend money on is new signage, he says. He’s struggling on, but has painted just three signs for new businesses since the pandemic struck. Instead he’s taken to painting messages of frustration on his own front window: a long-nosed Pinocchio caricature of Daniel Andrews saying “I’m a real poli” along with “Let us Lift!”; “Let us play!”; “Let us swim” #mentalhealth. JobKeeper is the only thing keeping Mr Gardner afloat, and he dreads the time when it’s removed.
Up and down this strip, shop owners have abandoned their premises. It’s hard to trace the people behind these empty and graffitied windows to work out just what combination of COVID or other misfortune has made them quit. But the shopfronts they leave behind stick out like broken teeth.
The story is replicated across the state. Retail job losses have already far eclipsed the height of the 1990s recession and are projected to hit almost 400,000 annually over the next five years, according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study in August.
Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra says that after being shut down for more than 70 days, up to half the small and medium retail businesses in Melbourne may not survive.
“The retail industry has its fate in the hands of a state government that seems to be focused on beating this virus at all costs,” he says.
From the city to Chapel Street in the south, and Sydney Road in the north, vacancies are up. Seventeen shops are vacant on Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, 16 in Acland Street Village, and 27 in Bay Street, Port Melbourne. There is little hard data yet about how many businesses have shut for good.
From his office 500 metres down the road from Attic Signs, Walshe and Whitelock real estate director David Sowersby has watched the comings and goings of this retail strip for more than 45 years. He can remember it being this bad only once before. “Maybe in the late 80s and early 90s when that recession hit there might have been about as many vacant then.”
He looks to the end of JobKeeper in March.
“The problem we’ve got is no one really knows, after the JobKeeper type things, when that dries up, how many people are going to throw in the keys then?”
He estimates 10 per cent of businesses along Sydney Road are now vacant but, with so much uncertainty about the path to reopening, no one can say how many others will never return.
Jessica Tolsma’s bakery Jessicakes is one of the dozens of businesses that make up Sydney Road’s famed bridal precinct. Her industry was essentially shut down more than seven months ago when national cabinet announced radical restrictions on the number of people who could attend weddings, and people cancelled in droves.
Ms Tolsma’s three-person operation has survived on a combination of JobKeeper, a grant from the Victorian government and a deal struck with her landlord to partly waive and partly defer rent.
“We’re lucky to run a business in a country where the government is at least trying to help,” she said. But the longer the lockdown keeps retail and hospitality in a deep freeze, the “less the math works”.
JobKeeper payments have already been slashed by half and are due to end in March, rent and bills are accruing and it’s not clear when or which parts of the retail and hospitality sector will be allowed to return to some kind of normal trading.
“It’s not looking good at all, short term or long term. It’s not going to go back to normal. It’s going to be this new ‘COVID normal’ and who knows what that’s going to look like.”
“Even if you’ve got deferred rent, it’s just backing up behind you. How well will your business have to do to get on top of it after all this time?”
The wedding industry has been simultaneously smashed by restrictions against in-store retailing and the likelihood of ongoing restrictions against indoor gatherings.
Right now Victorian weddings can only have 10 participants, including the couple. That will increase to 50 in the “last step” of the state’s coronavirus recovery road map, on a date yet to be fixed.
“Lots of my brides won’t reschedule their weddings until they are allowed 100 people,” Ms Tolsma said.”Some … have already had to postpone twice and they’re not going to replan until this stuff has stopped happening. And who knows when that’s going to be?”
She had limited optimism about the federal budget measures that encourage hiring and tax write-offs on capital expenditure.
“Who has the money for that? Who has the business to hire more staff,” Ms Tolsma said. “I don’t need more staff, I need more customers.”
Jeweller Ellinor Mazza says her decision a few years ago to push into online retailing, rather than just rely on her Sydney Road street frontage, has been keeping her afloat, just.
“My business went down 40 to 50 per cent. The custom work and the repairs we just can’t do right now, but our online sales have gone up,” she said. “It’s never going to be as much as you need but it’s helped balance it out. I know other businesses that closed on the same day as us (in August) and they haven’t been able to trade at all.”
But even with the online sales, JobKeeper and other government assistance is what has kept Arbor’s four employees and its owner on the books.
“More and more damage is being done the longer this drags on. You get the feeling that sometime next year the bottom is going to fall out. That maybe things won’t bounce back. And then it’s like, where do I go from here?”
And the federal budget measures? “It’s great if you’re operating and actually have some certainty. But being Victorian, I can’t even plan for the next week let alone for the next 12 months.”
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Beachgoers who appear to be flouting strict COVID -19 restrictions in Victoria by packing onto St Kilda beach have been warned they have “no right” to “risk everything”.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews asked Melburnians to hold on “just a few more weeks” as he expressed his frustration at the rule breakers putting the state’s hard work at risk, saying “no one has the right” to act unlawfully.
It comes as the state recorded eight new cases and three deaths in the 24 hours to Saturday morning.
Mr Andrews said he understood people were growing increasingly frustrated over lockdown restrictions, but said Victorians risked what could be a better 2021 if they didn’t “hold on” for a few more weeks.
“It’s important no one does anything between now and October 19 to jeapordise everything Victorians have done and sacrificed over the last few months,” Mr Andrews said.
“If we don’t properly defeat this second wave, if we don’t see this through for a few more weeks, then 2021 will not be different and not be better than 2020.
“I don’t want that. Everyone wants to see this done properly. We can’t let frustration get the better of us.”
St Kilda beach was visibly packed on Friday afternoon, as the city reached its warmest temperature in months.
A 7 News reporter found himself in the middle of a rowdy crowd at St Kilda late on Friday. Very few people in the crowd were wearing a mask, which is still a legal requirement when out-and-about.
Footage shows a woman kissing the camera lens, and a man grabbing reporter Paul Dosley and kissing him on the cheek.
The footage was immediately condemned by chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton.
“Don’t risk everything. What we can hold back now means a truly normal summer. Please – Hold. The. Line,” Dr Sutton tweeted while sharing the footage.
At his daily press conference on Saturday, Mr Andrews said if 2021 was to be different to 2020, people needed to “stay the course”.
“The scenes at the beaches overnight are unacceptable. No one has the right to break the rules and put at risk everything decent, law-abiding Victorians have done,” Mr Andrews said.
“The sacrifice has to be worth something. It’s not fair, it’s not lawful.
“It’s understandable that people are angry … We’re so, so close.
“Let’s do everything we can to follow the rules, to defeat this second wave, to see this off and find a COVID-normal for Christmas and summer.”
Dr Sutton said he was “angry” at the scenes at St Kilda, which he said was insulting to people who had worked so hard to stop the spread.
“It’s an insult to everyone who’s done it tough for months and months, for some people to be putting all our gains at risk,” he said.
“It makes me angry to see people breaking the rules.”
Dr Sutton drew attention to the second wave gripping Europe at present, sending countries back into lockdown.
“Europe will be wearing masks for … three years. We can move to a point here where we don’t have to wear masks all the time,” he said.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re close. We’re heading in a very different – albeit fragile – direction to Europe.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Macnamara MP Josh Burns slammed the people on the beach as “selfish”.
“For every business that’s doing it tough in St Kilda, for every family who hasn’t seen a loved one in months – go home,” he tweeted.
“Ignoring health advice doesn’t make you tough, it makes you selfish.”
With the temperature set to reach 28 degrees on Saturday, extra police will be out-and-about ensuring COVID-19 rules are enforced.
It comes less than a week into Melbourne’s second step of the COVID-normal plan, which allowed people to spend two hours outside per day.
Groups of up to five from a maximum of two households are now allowed to meet outside, but only with a five kilometre radius of their homes.
Face masks remain mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne, however many at the beach did not seem to be wearing a face covering.
Victoria University vice-chancellor and research co-author Professor Peter Dawkins said without swift action Australia faced an explosion of young people who are not in employment, education or training.
“It’s alarming. The next wave will come at the start of 2021 when an additional 120,000 young people graduate from education with gloomy job prospects,” he said.
Hannah Easdale, 22, lost all three of her part-time jobs in hospitality, entertainment and events at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
Studying a bachelor of business at RMIT, she is concerned about both her short and long-term job prospects.
“I’m really stressed,” she said.
“I was lucky I was able to get government support but when that runs out what’s my next option?
“There’ll be thousands of people my age with the same skills applying for the same jobs, and there’ll be fewer jobs.”
She said she is putting her energy into study and building her own small business to create work.
The Mitchell Institute researchers have proposed a national job cadet program as a way to tackle the looming crisis.
The program would offer wage subsidies and incentives to employers to hire young people while offering practical training.
It would work alongside existing apprenticeship initiatives and expand to new industries as well as offering shorter programs for young people with a higher existing skill level.
The federal government has so far invested in a $2.5 billion JobTrainer package for tackling youth unemployment, which hit a rate of 16.4 per cent in June.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence Transition to Work program, which helps young people aged 15-24 in parts of greater Melbourne, has experienced an influx in applicants since the start of the pandemic.
“Every young person who has found themselves out of work or out of study during this period should be offered help,” said program manager Rebecca Willmott.
“They are 100 per cent committed to finding work; even in the middle of all this.”
University of Melbourne economics professor Jeff Borland said the effects of entering the job market during a downturn could have an effect called “scarring”.
“It means on average they’re less likely to be in work, there’s evidence the effect on your earnings could persist for up to a decade, there’s long-term effects on their mental health and their confidence,” he said.
Professor Borland supported the proposed cadet program saying it would not only have short-term benefits for coronavirus recovery but could give young people the skills to help gain future employment.
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Eight peak Australian sporting bodies have unveiled guidelines for the inclusion for transgender people in their sports.
Eight peak sporting bodies have unveiled guidelines for the inclusion of transgender athletes
Most of the policies focus on athletes competing in community sport
They are designed to give everyone the opportunity to participate in sport, regardless of sex or gender identity
Today, AFL, Hockey Australia, Netball Australia, Rugby Australia, Tennis Australia, Touch Football Australia, UniSport Australia and Water Polo Australia have committed to landmark transgender inclusion measures.
This follows on from Cricket Australia, which launched its transgender inclusion guidelines last year.
Another 13 peak sporting bodies also confirmed a commitment to developing trans and gender diverse inclusive frameworks.
“Sport is a fundamental right for all Australians,” said Beau Newell, national program manager of LGBTQ inclusion organisation Pride in Sport.
The policies mainly focus on community sport and are based on guidance from Sport Australia and the Australian Human Rights commission designed to stamp out discrimination.
They say they that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in sport, regardless of their sex or gender identity.
At a base level the policies ensure freedom to wear uniforms which match the gender a person identifies with and greater access to changerooms and bathroom facilities.
At a more technical level some sports have outlined the levels of testosterone which can be allowed in women’s competitions, while other sports have indicated players will be able to choose which gender competition they compete in.
“Each sport has gone through their respective consultation process, and all of them are coming out the other end with a very unique guideline or policy that’s reflective of their specific sport,” Mr Newell said.
‘We have to begin with inclusion’
In the early 90s, middle-distance runner Ricki Coughlan made headlines, but it wasn’t for winning races.
She was one of the first out transgender women in Australian sport.
“I got very much outed. Someone with a long lens had been filming me,” she told 7.30.
“What’s going to happen? I really didn’t know.”
Ms Coughlan says the new guidelines will create a more respectful environment throughout sport.
“It’s about creating a welcoming atmosphere,” she said.
“But it also means that we know what to do technically, as well.
“The world still has a way to go on this. But I think wherever we are, we have to begin with inclusion.”
But not all sports people agree that transgender female athletes should compete in the women’s competition.
Jane Flemming is a former Olympian and Commonwealth Games Gold medallist.
“The difficulty is that for the human species that has been born biologically male, if they go through puberty, in particular, they absolutely have some physiological advantages, whether it’s bone strength, or extra capillarisation, or larger muscle bulk,” she told 7.30.
“But then there are other aspects of that as well.
Hockey Australia CEO Matt Favier thinks inclusion is the way forward.
“There will be pockets of people who don’t fully agree with this decision. But by and large, our community has been really, really welcoming,” he told 7.30.
According to the Sport Australia guidelines, if it is believed that a transgender athlete over the age of 12 has an unfair advantage in a sport where strength, stamina or physique is relevant, sports clubs can seek inclusion exemptions through a rigorous case-by-case process.
“So we see hockey is a sport for all,” Mr Favier said.
“We worked with our member associations, our state and territory hockey associations, some current players including transgender players who are playing the game already, our national squad athletes, as well as our masters committee in the development of the guidelines.”
‘Was I even allowed to play?’
Roxy Tickle played hockey for a decade as a young person.
“I got to the point in my mid 20s, where I just felt really uncomfortable playing in a men’s team,” she told 7.30.
Ms Tickle took up hockey again this year at the age of 50.
“I only started transitioning about four years ago,” she said.
She now plays for East Lismore Hockey club.
“It took me about a month to work up the courage to contact a local club,” Ms Tickle said.
“I needed to come down to see them one night at training to have a talk through how it might work, whether I was even allowed to play, I didn’t know whether that was the case or not.
While these trans inclusion guidelines will continue to evolve, players like Roxy are just happy to be part of the team.
“You wonder who’s going to accept you, who’s going to like you, who’s going to bring you into their fold,” she said.
“And that’s really stressful. And it’s really debilitating.
“To be a member of a team of my peers and friends is just fantastic.
“We’ve become such good friends after only eight weeks. And we love playing together. And it’s such fun.”
Mi Mi had spent the week promoting the round’s importance in the media, when it comes to representing her people and encouraging their participation at grassroots.
She also spoke about the pressure she felt as the only First Nations role model at the top level.
The pledge put forward by Netball Australia incorporates 20 national, state and territory-based organisations and club bodies, that have signed a commitment to learning how to better understand Indigenous people and give them greater support.
The pledge also extends that promise to Indigenous coaches, umpires, administrators and commentators.
Marne Fechner, CEO of Netball Australia, said it was time for the sport to take responsibility in this space.
“We will no longer tolerate systems and processes that alienate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples.
“And we will no longer tolerate a fragmented approach, that allows us to say that it is someone else’s responsibility.”
Netball Queensland in particular has faced a lot of criticism, as the organisation linked to Mi Mi’s Super Netball team, the Firebirds.
A number of former players from Queensland that have spoken out about mistreatment and challenges they faced playing netball in their elite pathways — issues that ultimately led to them dropping out of the sport.
Eugenie Buckley, Chair of Netball Queensland, said that while there was plenty of work to be done, the sporting organisation hoped the announcement would demonstrate its willingness to commit to action.
“Talk is cheap if there is no action,” she said.
“We are happy to sit down and be held accountable. This is a great first step.”
Following a week where they spoke about their anger with netball’s failures in this space, the only two Indigenous players ever to represent the Diamonds were also present and vocal during the announcement.
Marcia Ella-Duncan, the first Aboriginal player to don the green and gold, said she felt incredibly optimistic.
“It’s not often in a complex federated structure that we can actually galvanise behind a single issue and so it’s quite overwhelming that Super Netball, players, member organisations and netball in Australia have really combined to make a commitment.
“The other thing that I’m really impressed by, is that this is a very public statement and commitment to take action, and I know from a community perspective, that’s what we are really looking for.”
Former Diamonds player Sharon Finnan-White said she hoped to see a lot more involvement from Indigenous people — in both voluntary and paid positions — moving forward.
She said she hoped they would have a voice and seat at the table when it comes to decision-making in the sport.
“I hope that in five years’ time there won’t be a need for parallel programs and pathways, because the sport will have already addressed the barriers within the system for our people and communities to feel culturally safe, respected and valued,” she said.
“Hopefully our focus down the track will be on celebrating how far the sport has come in this space, while continuing the important job of maintaining those important relationships with our community.”
Next month, Netball Australia will release the findings of a State of the Game review.
In December, a forum is planned to discuss the progression of pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, while Netball Australia is expected to launch a national strategy framework with targets in April next year.
Community rallies behind Mi Mi
Jemma Mi Mi made it onto the court for the Firebirds’ final game of the season on Sunday, a two-point victory over the Collingwood Magpies.
He does not have a lawyer and has previously said his assets were frozen, which has prevented him hiring his preferred South Australian lawyers.
Justice Paul Coghlan refused bail in a short hearing on Monday morning. In written reasons released soon after, the judge said exceptional circumstances were not made out and even if they were, there was a risk Mr Cohrs could contact prosecution witnesses if released.
Justice Coghlan wrote that Mr Cohrs was locked in a financial dispute with his brother and mother over a family business.
Police say Mr Cohrs arrived at the Rufus property at 9.55am and found his brother there with a real estate agent. Police allege Mr Cohrs shot his brother twice with a shotgun and while assuring the agent he wouldn’t harm him, said Raymond Cohrs “deserved it” and had been “killing” his family.
Police allege Paul Cohrs then asked his brother what it was like to feel pain and shot him in the chest and head. He then handcuffed the agent inside a shearing shed.
Mr Cohrs then drove to Red Cliffs, where his mother was caring for her great-grandson (Paul Cohrs’ grandson).
Police allege Mr Cohrs told his mother to take the boy to another room and then shot her in the chest.
Police allege that as he drove back to Rufus, Mr Cohrs reported the shootings to family members, local police and left a message with his solicitor, in which he said, “I don’t believe that I’ll live the rest of the day out.”
At the property, Mr Cohrs released the agent and told him he intended to take his own life.
About 3.30pm, police saw Mr Cohrs in scrub with the shotgun and say that he had shot himself in the chest. As officers applied first aid he said, “I can’t believe I’m not dead.”
He also told them, “I just shot my brother and my mum … they are the most evilest people in the world.”
A date for Mr Cohrs’ trial has not been set.
Justice Coghlan accepted Mr Cohrs had health problems and that it would be difficult preparing for his trial while in custody.
The judge last week urged the accused man to consider hiring a lawyer.
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“They have to wait there for hours. It takes police off the road, it slows the system down. What it means is that almost around the clock our members are responding to mental health crisis, it shows the system is broken.”
The state’s misconduct watchdog has launched a criminal investigation into the violent arrest of a man in Epping after footage surfaced of him being rammed by a police car before an officer stomped on his head.
The man, who has bipolar disorder, had been waiting for mental health treatment at the Northern Hospital for 19 hours.
Then on Tuesday, a 24-year-old man walking around a car park with a knife became the latest person with suspected mental health concerns to be injured during a hostile interaction with police, after being shot by two officers outside a medical centre in Lilydale.
Police on Tuesday revealed they had been unable to roll out new mental health training for frontline members due to an “extraordinary” year of bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked about what training police officers were being given around their interactions with the mentally ill, Mr Paterson said police had intended to roll out new specialist mental health training for all staff earlier this year before the bushfire season saw it put on hold.
Now, he said, the coronavirus pandemic meant police were unable to train in groups.
“This mental health training is a priority,” he said. “When it’s safe to go back into face-to-face scenario training we will absolutely be rolling out this training.”
The incidents have renewed calls for health professionals to be involved in responding to critical incidents involving mental illness, rather than just police.
Police Accountability Project principal solicitor Gregor Husper on Tuesday said it was “so frustrating to hear” police repeat their commitment to mental health training.
“If I had a scrapbook for every time police try to explain away bad behaviour with training, it’s a smokescreen and they know it.”
“There have been numerous coronial inquests into fatal shootings of people with mental illness. These lessons have been discussed and explored many times before,” he said.
“Police constantly turn to training or new modules they have brought out, but the facts are there have been no significant improvements. No amount of training will change this. It’s a systemic, cultural problem.”
Tim Marsh, chief counsel at Victorian Legal Aid, said on Tuesday that the prevalence of emergency service workers being first responders at health emergencies was of “great concern”.
He predicted the state’s mental health royal commission would make findings to address the matter, and said more mental health specialists were required to respond to acute incidents.
“When patients are admitted to psych wards, the two most common acronyms are BIBA (brought in by ambulance) and BIBP (brought in by police),” he said, adding he was not casting judgment on the actions of police in any specific incident.
“It’s a really difficult situation for everybody involved.”
The incidents at Epping and Lilydale are the latest in a rising number of violent interactions between police and the state’s mentally ill.