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Australian News

Victoria signed off on New Zealand travel deal, minister says


Premier Daniel Andrews has called on the federal government to “work” with Victoria, saying the state never agreed to be part of the trans-Tasman travel bubble.

It comes after Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said the Victorian government “authorised” a group of 17 people who arrived from New Zealand to enter the state.

Under the deal between the two nations, New Zealanders are permitted to travel quarantine-free into both NSW and the Northern Territory, under the proviso they’ve not been in a COVID-19 hotspot in the 14 days leading up to their travel.

Mr Tudge savaged the Victoria government, saying: “The fact that people cannot recall being in meetings, people cannot recall emails being sent, people cannot recall making decisions, it is just deja vu in relation to the Victorian government. That just seems to be a pattern now of not being able to recall what is going on, not being able to recall being at meetings, not being able to recall sending emails to authorise such activities”.

However, Mr Andrews has hit back at suggestions Victoria agreed to be part of the travel bubble saying “we can’t just have people wandering into the place from another country”.

He said they had now been informed 55 travellers from New Zealand had arrived.

“We are having to find these people,” he said.

“We are ringing them, one of them was in Byron Bay. And yet we were told they had landed and travelled to Melbourne.”

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage

He said his “advice to Minister Tudge is, instead of stubbornly defending this, work with us and let’s make sure Victoria is not part of a bubble that we never agreed to be in.

“Now, if that isn’t possible, let’s talk about what else can happen. I don’t want to shut our border, but he should have a conversation with his boss.

“He should have a conversation with the Prime Minister, who, I have lost count of the number of times he has said to me, ‘thank you for not closing your border’.

“It is New Zealand today, but who knows what the other that what the next bubble is, who that is with? We have got authorised officers at the airport now, because this has happened. We didn’t think it would happen, but it has happened.

“We are going to follow up as much as we can. But I don’t control the borders and I don’t control what happens at Sydney Airport and I don’t think anyone can reasonably expect me to. I am not looking for a quarrel on this, I just wanted fixed.”

However, Mr Andrews said he couldn’t stop people from coming into the state.

“I have got no power to stop them coming here,” he said.

He said hopefully authorities would have “greater visibility” about the fact that they were coming so that they could they could chat to each of the travellers and make sure they knew what the coronavirus rules were.

‘OUTSIDE OF OUR CONTROL’: ANOTHER STATE STUNG

As Mr Andrews and Mr Tudge exchanged a war of words, Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan revealed 25 travellers from New Zealand had flown into Perth overnight, despite his state also not being a part of the arrangement.

All bar one of the arrivals – a child traveller now in a “quarantine arrangement” with a family member – have been put into hotel quarantine.

Mr McGowan told reporters this afternoon the situation is “fluid”, adding his Government was “doing our best to manage it”.

RELATED: ‘I’m done with this’: Andrews erupts

“We would prefer better management of these arrangements, but this is something that happened that was outside of our control,” he said.

“If New South Wales and the NT want to open up to other countries, there is now an issue as to how to manage those people coming from other countries border-hopping.

“Our system has worked, we’ve managed to pick these people up and put them into quarantine.

“It would just be great if (the Federal Government) were to better assist us in managing these things with appropriate information being provided to the State Government about people who might be catching flights across state borders.”

TUDGE SLAMS VICTORIA

Mr Tudge earlier hit back at the Victorian Government, saying it knew about arrangements that saw 17 New Zealanders try to enter Melbourne on Friday.

Chief health officer Brett Sutton “represented” the state at meeting to discuss what should happen if New Zealanders flew from Sydney or Darwin to another Australian state, Mr Tudge said.

“We further understand from The Age newspaper today that the Premier’s own department had in fact given authorisation to individuals who had arrived from New Zealand to Sydney to then travel on to Victoria,” Mr Tudge told reporters.

“So the Victorian Government was present when it was discussed, they were made aware that this was going to occur, they raised no objections in the meetings, and furthermore, expressly authorised individuals who were arriving into Sydney from New Zealand to be able to travel on into Victoria.”

Mr Tudge asked Mr Andrews to “reveal” the emails that “show, clearly and demonstrably, that they authorised the people to come into Victoria”, which would “completely clear this up”.

RELATED: What Victorians can and can’t do

Yesterday, Mr Andrews said he was “very disappointed” that the travellers had been able to enter his state.”

“We’re disappointed this has happened given that I had written to the Prime Minister on this very issue the previous day, saying at some point we will join that New Zealand/Australia travel bubble, but it is not appropriate now,” he said.

“We don’t want anything at all to undermine the amazing job that Victorians have done and are doing. Some things have gone wrong here. We are very much at the end of that, not necessarily part of it. We made it clear that we didn’t want to be part – could not be part of the bubble arrangements at this point.”

Mr Andrews said it was “not fair” when Victorians can’t freely move around their own state to have people arriving from another country, “without us knowing”.



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Australian News

Phil Gould joining Warriors NRL team as ‘consultant’, Nathan Brown signed as head coach


Prominent rugby league commentator Phil Gould will join the struggling Warriors as a “club-wide consultant”, while Nathan Brown will take over as head coach through the 2023 season.

Gould served as a coaching director at the Sydney Roosters during their successful period in the early 2000s and held a similar ‘general manager’ role with the Penrith Panthers until last year.

During his time in Penrith, he was criticised for hiring Ivan Cleary as coach shortly after his arrival in 2011, replacing him with ex-Broncos mentor Anthony Griffin in 2016, only to rehire Cleary to coach his son, Nathan, in 2019.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George said Gould would advise the team as it tries to “build [its] trans-Tasman commercial and general profile”.

“This appointment is exceptionally significant and critical to the future of our business as a whole and equally to the game in general both in New Zealand and in Australia,” George said.

“He has an extensive and successful coaching history and is highly sought after in the media through his roles with Channel 9 and other organisations. He also achieved so much in rebuilding the Penrith Panthers to where they are right now.

“He’ll play a huge role in helping to take us to a new level as a club.”

Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown speaking at a press conference.
Brown last coached at the Newcastle Knights.(ABC News: Col Kerr)

Gould described the role and getting the Warriors back into the top half of the league as “an exciting challenge”.

“A strong Warriors club is a great asset to the NRL, not to mention its importance to the continued development of international rugby league, which I know is a priority for Peter V’landys and the ARL Commission,” Gould said.

The Warriors sacked coach Stephen Kearney shortly after the Warriors flew across the Tasman and set up camp on the NSW Central Coast to play out the NRL season after the coronavirus shutdown.

Former Tigers star Todd Payten took over as interim head coach but did not want the job full-time, prompting a wider search.

The Warriors landed on former Dragons and Knights coach Brown, who left Newcastle in the middle of last season.

“I’m a career coach. I just love coaching and this job with the Warriors is a fantastic opportunity,” he said.

“I spent time in Auckland during the preseason and was really impressed with the whole set-up, the players and the staff throughout the organisation.

“The Warriors are hugely important to the competition. We’ve seen that this year with the sacrifices they’ve made to keep the NRL going. I can’t wait to get stuck in.”



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Local News - Victoria

Transurban warned on PFAS before West Gate Tunnel contracts signed


EPA director Tim Eaton called for a conservative approach in planning for PFAS discovery and disposal.

“Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have recently been the focus of health and environmental investigations and consequently there are emerging concerns about PFAS and the chemical characteristics of PFAS,” Mr Eaton wrote.

“There is now an increased environmental regulatory focus; EPA applies the precautionary approach to the management and disposal of PFAS.

“There are currently limited options available in Victoria for managing or disposing of PFAS-impacted waste.”

However, the West Gate Tunnel’s builders claim they are faced with a “force majeure” event due to the discovery of PFAS, meaning they believe they can walk away because the extent of the problems they now confront was unforseeable when the contracts were signed.

Taxpayers are paying $2.7 billion to build Transurban’s toll road, which will connect the West Gate Freeway in Spotswood and CityLink in the Docklands. CityLink motorists will pay Transurban tolls for an extra 10 years, until 2045, to fund the road. It is supposed to be completed in 2022.

The force majeure claim is the flashpoint in a major dispute between the builders, Transurban and the state government over who is responsible for resolving the PFAS issues, with the builders claiming changes in EPA’s standards have partly led to the project’s delays.

The builders also claim a more serious challenge for the project is that initial soil testing underestimated the amount of contamination, according to a source familiar with the project’s negotiations.

A separate, overarching government report on the project’s environmental impacts found 85 per cent of the rock and soil would be classified as clean fill, meaning it could be reused. The rest was contaminated, with 5 per cent considered severely toxic.

But insiders say vastly more of the waste is contaminated, despite the original assessment being the agreed amount when the contract was signed.

“It is significantly more contaminated,” they said. “The figures in the [report] are not accurate by an order of magnitude.”

This problem risks blowing out the project’s price tag, and is likely to become a key point of contention in any future court battle between the builders, Transurban and the state government.

Dumping contaminated soil in landfill attracts higher rates and a hefty government levy. Burying toxic soil can cost about $500-$800 per tonne, according to estimates by engineering consultancy firm AECOM.

Technical consultants hired by Transurban warned of PFAS contamination but advised it could be managed by the tolling company.

Consultancy firm Golder Associates listed potential sources of PFAS contamination including a former petrol storage facility at Spotswood, a former textile factory in Brooklyn and areas where PFAS was used to fight a fire at the Coode Island chemical storage facility in 1991.

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Their report also warned there was a high risk of PFAS contamination in groundwater along the West Gate Freeway and the M80 Ring Road.

Transurban had not finalised its plan for dealing with project’s soil when the report was published, but the firm’s principal consultant Andrew Kalitsis said he believed the company could manage any contamination risks.

He said there was “sufficient capacity to treat” contaminated soil, while a more detailed design phase for the project would work out how to manage PFAS, he said.

But he noted there was “little regulatory guidance” to assist with PFAS in water underground.

A government spokeswoman said negotiations over a dumping site were well progressed.

A West Gate Tunnel construction site in New Street, South Kingsville.

A West Gate Tunnel construction site in New Street, South Kingsville.Credit:Joe Armao

“The government has been working for months in good faith to help Transurban and its builders resolve the PFAS issue, even though it’s their responsibility under the contract.”

Transurban did not respond to specific questions about their own soil testing before contracts were signed or the findings of the environmental reports.

“We’re continuing to work with project parties and EPA Victoria to finalise plans for tunnelling and have made good progress towards securing appropriate sites for the safe management of tunnel spoil,” a spokeswoman said.

The project’s builders and Golder Associates would not provide comment.

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