Australian News

Residents told to prepare to leave

Queensland fire services have issued a “prepare to leave” warning for the Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village region on Fraser Island.

A bushfire is burning near Dundonga Creek, east of the resort and village, through to Cornwells Road in the south of Fraser Island.

Firefighters are continuing to battle the blaze, assisted by water bombing aircraft.

People in the area are being directed by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services to prepare to leave.

“Multiple fire crews are working to contain the fire but firefighters may not be able to protect every property,” QFES said.

Locals are being urged to listen to local radio or check the Rural Fire Service website for further updates.

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Local News - Victoria

Angst as homeless told to exit hotels


“For a moment I relaxed,” said Painter, who was homeless for almost three years before the pandemic.

But on November 19 Painter received a text message from her housing support worker saying that funding was ending for her accommodation, and the worker wanted to chat to her about her options.

The support worker asked if Painter would accept a property in the city. “It was horrendous,” Painter said.

“You could smell the ice in the room. I worked long and hard to give that shit up, I don’t want to go backwards.”

Painter said she knows she can’t live at Birches forever, much as she would love to. “All I want is safe housing. I don’t need a flat with fancy shit. I want to be safe and to be able to heal and do something with what’s left of my life”.

Painter is one of a number of homeless people being told to exit their hotels and move to alternative accommodation, including rooming houses, crisis accommodation, public and community housing and affordable private rentals.

“There may be a perception that emergency accommodation is available for all people in emergency accommodation until April 2021,” said a document distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services seen by The Age.

“However, this funding is part of a package designed to support people to exit hotel accommodation, not to sustain all tenancies until this date.”

The document said funding for emergency accommodation in hotels would not continue if a homeless person refused an offer of “suitable alternate accommodation”.

However, some housing support workers say the alternative housing on offer is not always suitable.

A protest was staged on Monday outside Kingsgate Hotel in King Street, Melbourne, after around 40 homeless people were told they would have to leave the temporary accommodation.

A protest was staged on Monday outside Kingsgate Hotel in King Street, Melbourne, after around 40 homeless people were told they would have to leave the temporary accommodation.Credit:Penny Stephens

“I’ve got lots of clients put in a situation where they had to go back to (family violence) perpetrators or sleep rough or go to unsuitable accommodation that takes up their entire payments,” said housing support worker Adriana Mackay.

On Monday, Ms Mackay attended a snap protest held by the Renters and Housing Union outside the Ibis Styles Kingsgate Hotel, where the union said about 40 homeless people had been told they had to exit.

The union called on the government to continue funding hotel emergency accommodation for those waiting for housing, especially in circumstances where rooming houses were unsuitable or not available when their “exit date” arrived.


A Victorian government spokesperson said Homes Victoria was working closely with a number of homelessness organisations to identify suitable housing options to transition people out of temporary hotel accommodation.

The spokesperson said this included the roll out of the government’s $150 million From Homelessness to a Home program that included head leasing (a model that assists disadvantaged households access private rental housing) for 1100 properties.

“Options for people leaving temporary hotel accommodation can include rooming houses, private rental and emergency accommodation. If appropriate alternative accommodation options are rejected, then homelessness organisations may not be able to continue to provide hotel accommodation,” the spokesperson said.

Bevan Warner, the CEO of Launch Housing, which is funded by the government to provide housing and homelessness support services, said his organisation has had to adjust as restrictions eased and the health crisis subsided.

“We have needed to pivot back to business as usual funding limits in place before the pandemic,” Mr Warner said.

“We haven’t enjoyed the rationing exercise, but we have to get to April without more people in hotels than we can pay the bills for.”

Mr Warner said in the past few weeks that Launch Housing had got 150 people out of hotel accommodation. “The vast majority have been really good outcomes where people have voluntarily moved into private rental or back into rooming houses,” Mr Warner said.

But he said for some it was confronting. “It’s difficult for staff to have these conversations, which have been suspended for five to six months.”


Mr Warner said the government had taken too long to move on the From Homelessness to a Home package, with Launch Housing yet to hear whether it had won a tender to support clients to access accommodation and other support services.

“The housing and support packages can’t come fast enough,” Mr Warner said.

Monica Harte, a worker from the St Kilda Crisis Centre, said vulnerable people were being exited from hotels. “We have now become the eviction centre,” she said. “We offer people a meal because we can’t offer anything else. We don’t have other crisis accommodation to put people in.”

Ms Kerr, the owner of Birches serviced apartments, said she had tried to keep Painter for as long as possible but was told the funding expired in two weeks.

“She’s come leaps and bounds since she has been here, she’s really fought hard to overcome her demons,” Ms Kerr said

Ms Kerr said she would like to see Painter get a home of her own. “She doesn’t want to go where there are drugs, she said she would just end up back where she started.”

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Flinders University students told to quarantine

Health authorities have issued an urgent plea for those who visited an Adelaide university to immediately quarantine and get tested as soon as possible.

Flinders University Sturt Campus in the city’s southern suburbs is the latest site to be declared a coronavirus risk zone by contract tracers from South Australia Health.

Anyone who visited the campus in Bedford Park between November 13 and November 28 may have come in contact with the deadly virus.

RELATED: How Adelaide’s outbreak started

On Saturday, the state recorded two new infections with chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier confirming one of those was a student at the Flinders Intensive English Language Institute.

All students were told to quarantine after the school was linked to Adelaide’s Parafield cluster and the 30-year-old infected man was transferred to a medi-hotel.

Professor Spurrier said the Parafield cluster remained a concern and she was “a little disappointed” in the number of tests conducted on Friday, which was 3840.

“I’m sure some of the contribution to this was that it was very hot weather yesterday (so it) was difficult for people to get out,” she said.

“The testing rate was a bit low and I want to see it higher. I’d feel more reassured if we were testing more South Australians with respiratory symptoms.

“It is important that people — particularly those in the western suburbs — who have even the mildest symptoms get tested. It really is the key to our defence at this point in time for this Parafield cluster.”

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Local News - Victoria

Unit monitoring Shire Ali not told of ASIO homegrown attack fears, inquest told

The officer said they’d also never been made aware of text messages other counter-terrorism agencies had that revealed that Shire Ali had been watching ISIS videos with his younger brother Ali Khalif Shire Ali in 2016.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard that. [You] said potentially be involved in politically motivated violence onshore? [That’s] a concern,” SIU Officer E said.

Police stand guard outside the house of Shire Ali's family home in Werribee in November 2018.

Police stand guard outside the house of Shire Ali’s family home in Werribee in November 2018.Credit:Luis Ascui

The officer said that information, alongside intelligence that Shire Ali was becoming increasingly paranoid and was experiencing significant life stressors in the months leading up to his deadly attack, would have meant his unit would likely have given the file higher priority.

Shire Ali was classified as a national security risk after attempting to leave the country in mid-2015 and was being monitored by a string of different agencies including both national and Victorian security, intelligence and counter-terrorism units.

The inquest had earlier heard evidence that SIU officers had given lower priority to the management of Shire Ali’s file, believing the intelligence they had, which included that the 30-year-old was using cannabis, lessened the likelihood he would progress into extremism.

The attack scene on Bourke Street.

The attack scene on Bourke Street.Credit:Stuart Gaut

But the witness, known as SIU Officer E, said had they been made aware of the “concerning” information aired in the Coroners Court of Victoria on Thursday, they might have acted differently.

The officer said that during the management of Shire Ali’s file in mid-2018, the SIU was responsible for managing in excess of 300 national security “person’s of interest”, with cases prioritised on a risk basis. Of those, his team alone oversaw 32.

Now, the officer said, the SIU had more than 200.


SIU Officer E said it wasn’t until October 2018 that his unit increased their focus on Shire Ali, which included finding his address, which they’d been unaware of for some months.

On October 20 they were then made aware of his paranoid behaviour and, on October 29, that he’d excluded himself from his family and changed his name.

The inquest was told it was then that the SIU made significant attempts to track the wanted man down.

On November 9, 2018, Shire Ali drove down Bourke Street and set his car alight, before fatally stabbing Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar co-owner Sisto Malaspina and seriously injuring two others. Shire Ali was shot by police and later died in hospital.

Numerous witnesses said Shire Ali was armed with knives and yelling “Allah” and “Allahu Akbar” as he lunged at police and pedestrians.

Following failed negotiations he was shot by police and later died in hospital.

The inquest continues.

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Football Queensland’s members’ fees only went up a few dollars, but they weren’t told where the money was going

The first thing Murray Bird saw in the budget meeting was the new boss’s salary and he was “horrified”.

Former politician Robert Cavallucci was hired on nearly double the pay of the last chief executive at Football Queensland (FQ) — almost $320,000 a year.

“No-one else that I know of involved in Queensland community sport is receiving that sort of money,” Mr Bird says.

The CEO was recruited via a two-month consultancy that earned the president of the board Ben Richardson $44,000.

When Mr Bird, the general manager of operations, found out weeks later about the discreet consultancy payment, he says he felt sick that Mr Richardson’s own board had approved his handsome fee.

“I felt duped because … here was a person who was purporting to be doing a voluntary role,” Mr Bird says.

A man in an indoor stadium with a Football Queensland t-shirt on.
Football Queensland chair Ben Richardson (left) and president Robert Cavallucci.(Supplied: Facebook / Twitter)

Speaking out for the first time, Mr Bird has given 7.30 an inside account of a salary scandal that has outraged high-profile national players, has led to the hiking of fees for all soccer players in Queensland young and old, and to an internationally known whistleblower being sued.

Former World Cup bid official turned activist Bonita Mersiades is currently defending an $800,000 defamation claim over a blog that revealed the payments in January.

She is “being sued for telling the truth”, Mr Bird says.

The regional sports officials have ignored calls by some of Australian soccer’s biggest names to drop the “spurious” lawsuit, which has sparked international attention and donations for Ms Mersiades’s defence.

Former Socceroo and national team coach Frank Farina says he thinks the lawsuit is “a joke, to be honest”.

A local soccer club with a 99-year history has also been threatened with deregistration over social media posts by its president in support of Ms Mersiades.

A young sports team stands frowning in front of a soccer goal.
The Football Queensland chief executive has threatened to deregister 99-year-old community soccer club, the Wynnum Wolves, over its president’s support of whistleblower Bonita Mersiades.(ABC News: Christopher Gillette)

‘The sort of money that’s paid to chief executives of pro clubs’

It had been a tough few months at Football Queensland.

The previous chief executive had been sacked.

The president, Mr Richardson, had come in a few days a week to help out.

A recruitment consultant by profession, he led the search for a new CEO.

The last time Mr Richardson volunteered his expertise to recruit the previous CEO, he sorted through more than 100 applicants.

This time it was an extensive process again but the successful candidate was found close to home.

Mr Cavallucci was a director on Football Queensland’s own board.

It was in Mr Cavallucci’s office at PwC Brisbane, where he was a managing partner, that Mr Richardson handed a termination letter to the previous CEO, who says he was given no reason for his sacking.

The previous CEO was on $168,950 a year with a Hyundai company car.

New CEO Mr Cavallucci drove his own Mercedes to work and earned more than he did as an assistant minister in the Newman state government.

His $317,002.50 a year salary was the first item on a spreadsheet in that budget planning meeting on October 28 last year, according to Mr Bird.

“Just flabbergasting … it was the sort of money that’s paid to chief executives of professional clubs, not at community level,” he says.

“But it wasn’t discussed. It was just there. No-one said anything. We moved on to other parts of the budget process.”

A Football Queensland board member at the time, Tony Davis, this week told the ABC the salary was justified for an executive of Mr Cavallucci’s calibre.

“Robert’s worth it,” he said.

Balancing the budget

12-year-old in uniform with the soccer ball.
Football Queensland is the governing body for community soccer clubs like the Wynnum Wolves.(ABC News: Christopher Gillette)

A 20-year veteran of grassroots sports administration, Mr Bird was one of four executives in the room with Mr Richardson, while they worked on balancing the 2020 budget.

With the CEO costing almost $150,000 more, and a new chief financial officer role costing another $150,000, Football Queensland ended up with a $300,000 dilemma.

“It was a rushed process, and a day-long process where increased executive salaries were put up, some cost savings were discussed, some new initiatives were added to the budget,” Mr Bird says.

“That was the last thing we discussed and the only way to balance the budget would have been to cut staff, cut programs, or increase the [player registration] fees — and it was decided to increase the fees.”

The cost of playing increases weren’t huge: an extra $2.50 a year for children and $5.50 a year for adults.

But spread across more than 70,000 registered players in Queensland, most of them kids, they added up to “about $300,000”, Mr Bird says.

“There was some debate about it, whether it was good timing to do it, is it the right thing to do? But [Mr Richardson’s] bottom line was we need to present a balanced budget to the board.”

Bird faces the members

Days later, Mr Bird thanked Mr Richardson for his voluntary work for Football Queensland in front of a room of 50 people at a zone presidents meeting at Brisbane’s Pullman Hotel.

The president departed, leaving Mr Bird to break the news of the fee increases.

“Some were angry. Some were mystified as to why Football Queensland would be increasing their fees at that point,” Mr Bird says.

“There was a lot of shaking of heads but there wasn’t a great outcry. They had no idea about the executive salaries.”

Weeks later Mr Bird discovered the president wasn’t helping Football Queensland’s recruitment process for free.

He saw Mr Richardson’s invoice for $44,000 for “HR/recruitment services provided September/October 2019”.

He also saw Mr Richardson’s email telling the finance manager the invoice wasn’t to be “discussed with anyone outside of myself… or the FQ board”.

“I felt sick because on three occasions, I’d actually privately and publicly congratulated him on his voluntary commitment to the code,” Mr Bird says.

“To find out that he was paid $40,000 to employ someone from his own board … made me feel sick.

“After feeling sick, I felt angry about it because I had gone to him with requests from staff — who were working 60 and 70 hours a week — for $5,000 pay rises and he’d denied those.”

Another Football Queensland insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, has backed Mr Bird’s account of executive wages contributing to the fee hike, and the belief among the sporting association’s executives that the president’s work was voluntary.

‘Might explain … why the price hike is needed’

A woman stands at the corner of a soccer field.
Bonita Mersiades is the subject of an $800,000 defamation lawsuit taken out by Football Queensland’s president and chief executive.(ABC News: Dave Maguire)

Ms Mersiades has taken on some of the most powerful figures in world soccer.

She blew the whistle a decade ago on World Cup bidding practices that led to a bribery scandal and the sport’s biggest corruption crisis.

“That put me into conflict with a lot of people, people in Australia who ran football at the time, people from the president of FIFA down and even nation-states such as Qatar, such as Russia,” she says.

Ms Mersiades lost her job as a national soccer official and found it “very difficult to get work again”.

“I think I’ve had a similar experience to what any whistleblower has. You get enormous blowback,” she says.

Now an influential football writer and activist, Ms Mersiades says she heard rumblings about an unexplained rise in fees paid by soccer mums and dads in Queensland last December.

She thought little of it until she found out about the payments and executive changes at Football Queensland.

In January, her website Football Today revealed the payments which, she wrote, “might explain … why the price hike is needed”.

She asked whether Football Queensland’s stated values of “transparency, accountability and no sweeping under the carpet” would help its officials justify the revelations.

Ms Mersiades says the officials, who hadn’t responded to her original questions, contacted her “saying I needed to take [the article] down immediately, because it was absolutely incorrect”.

“So I went back to them and said: ‘Well, please let me know which bits are incorrect and I’ll correct them’. But that’s not the course of action they took.”

Bird quits after Football Queensland’s denials

After Ms Mersiades’s blog was published, Mr Bird says regional officials peppered him with calls asking: “What the hell’s going on? How can we have a $320,000 CEO? How can the chairman pay himself $40,000?”

Sky News host Peter Gleeson wrote about the revelations in his Courier-Mail column under the headline: “Let’s tackle junior sport’s absurd fees.”

After Gleeson’s column, News Corp’s Queensland managing director Jason Scott got a call from Mr Cavallucci, telling him the piece was wrong. The publisher stood by the story.

Football Queensland geared up for a public relations crisis, hiring an expensive PR firm and writing to its members about “inaccurate media reports” that were “causing reputational damage to our sport”.

“In an attempt to intensify our community’s concerns, these articles sought to link these matters to the cost of participating in our sport,” Mr Richardson said in an email to members in February.

He wrote that “keeping registration fees fair and reasonable … is of the highest priority to Football Queensland” and Mr Cavallucci’s salary was justified and “benchmarked against comparable roles within the Australian market”.

“The board decided that given the big agenda we have for football in our state we needed to elevate the [chief executive officer] position from an administrative to an executive role,” he wrote.

“Rob’s suitability for the role and the appropriateness of his remuneration is further demonstrated by the fact he was shortlisted for the national role of Football Federation of Australia CEO (a much higher paying role).”

Mr Richardson said the board had “unanimously agreed for me to support the organisation on a short-term basis … given the potential risks posed to [Football Queensland] without senior leadership in place”.

For several days a week during September and October, he assisted the general managers at FQ’s Oogan headquarters while overseeing the recruitment of the CEO and CFO.

He said the role “involved considerable time, cost and workload” and his payment was “in accordance with our constitution”, and approved by the board after legal advice.

Watching Football Queensland’s PR response unfold after all that had happened in the months prior, Mr Bird says he was “overwhelmed by the lack of transparency” and left.

“That was enough for me. It was time for me to get out.”

‘$800,000 is a lot of money’

Composite image of Murray with a whistle and Bonita with a red card.
Murray Bird (left) and Bonita Mersiades have both raised serious allegations about the lack of transparency at Football Queensland.(ABC News: Daniel Fermer / Dave Maguire)

On a Saturday morning almost six months after her blog, while she was doing chores at home, Ms Mersiades received a legal letter.

Mr Cavallucci and Mr Richardson were suing her for defamation in the Queensland District Court, claiming $800,000 in damages.

She has never faced legal action before.

“I think everyone would agree that $800,000 is a lot of money. It would have an enormous impact on me, my family and my family’s future,” Ms Mersiades says.

Ms Mersiades is defending the case by arguing what she wrote was true, in the public interest and contained honest opinion.

“What they’re trying to do now is to ensure that someone who dares to raise uncomfortable issues, and uncomfortable questions is silenced,” she says.

In court filings, the two officials say they were falsely accused of corruptly removing the former CEO so Mr Cavallucci could take over “at an exorbitantly higher salary package” and Mr Richardson could score a “lucrative consulting gig”.

Ms Mersiades’s blog caused them “substantial hurt, distress and embarrassment” and “enormous damage” to their personal and professional reputations, according to their statements of claim.

They did not sue the Courier-Mail.

The legal action against a prominent football whistleblower drew the attention of sportswriters overseas, and public condemnation from a group of former Socceroos known as The Golden Generation, including John Aloisi, Lucas Neill, Craig Moore and Mark Viduka.

“We urge the board of Football Queensland to drop this spurious defamation action against Bonita or be forever condemned for failing to put football first,” the group said in a statement.

The officials updated their claims in a bid to hold Ms Mersiades liable for aggravated damages from follow-up stories by journalists in Germany and Ireland.

Those overseas journalists have claimed they were mysteriously hacked from an unknown computer in Brisbane while investigating the story about Football Queensland.

There is no suggestion that FQ or its officials are involved in the alleged hacking.

A key supporter of Ms Mersiades at a community club also came under pressure.

An older man stands in the canteen.
Wynnum Wolves president Rabieh Krayem set up a fundraiser for Ms Mersiades’s legal fees.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

Mr Cavallucci threatened to deregister the Wynnum Wolves, a club which has represented Brisbane’s outer-eastern suburbs, including its coastal edge overlooking Moreton Bay, for 99 years.

He claimed club president Rabieh Krayem, who posted support for Ms Mersiades on social media, breached Football Queensland’s requirement that officials don’t make “any adverse critical or disparaging statements or comments about FQ”.

Mr Krayem had set up a crowdfunding page which raised over $15,000 for Ms Mersiades’s legal defence against the Football Queensland officials.

“It’s surprising how many people — high-profile people within our game — who donated money, but remained anonymous,” he says.

“I think what we’ve created in football in Queensland is a culture of people who are scared to speak up.”

Those who put their name to donations include Frank Farina.

“I find it pretty crazy,” he says.

“We should be able to ask questions about governance, anything about the game.

“In my personal opinion, I find it a joke, to be honest.”

Man in a white shirt in front of community soccer players.
Frank Farina is one of the high-profile supporters of Bonita Mersiades’ reporting on Football Queensland’s governance.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

Mr Cavallucci, Mr Richardson and Football Queensland all declined interviews with the ABC.

In a statement, their lawyer Ashley Tiplady said the organisation followed an “independent process … including third-party involvement”.

He said that “in due course, we expect that we will receive instructions to investigate the catalyst for your investigations and the story to be run, including through the compulsory provision of documents to our clients”.

Mr Bird, now living in Melbourne running a sports tech outfit supplying AFL clubs, says he is speaking out “because it’s the right thing to do”.

“I’m across the facts — and she’s being sued for telling the truth,” he says.

“People shouldn’t be getting $40,000 on voluntary boards and CEOs shouldn’t be getting $320,000 a year to run what is basically … a community organisation.

Ms Mersiades says the insider’s account is “consistent with the questions I raised”.

“Generally, whistleblowers have been in the room,” she says.

“They know what’s happened because they have been part of that and so, therefore, they are people who should be listened to.”

Watch the story tonight on 7.30.

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Australian News

Western Bulldogs signing Adam Treloar says Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley told him Magpie players wanted him out

Adam Treloar has confirmed claims that Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley told him senior Magpies players no longer wanted him at the club before the midfielder’s bombshell AFL trade.

The 27-year-old became a Western Bulldogs player right on the deadline of the AFL trade period.

It followed weeks of rumours leaked out to the media detailing discontent between Collingwood and Treloar, who was contracted at the Magpies until 2025.

Treloar said that, in a meeting with Buckley, the Magpies mentor expressed the concerns some players reportedly had with the 27-year-old and that they believed it was in his best interests to leave.

“That was told to me in no uncertain way,” Treloar told reporters at Whitten Oval on Friday.

“To be told there’s some players who don’t want you there when I know that the majority of players love and care for me.

“They were adamant on moving me on so no matter how they were going to go about it, it was going to happen.

“It was a fight up until the end because that’s where I wanted to be, at Collingwood.

“I guess anything was going to be said to move me on.

A football player and a coach have a chat.
Ex-Collingwood midfielder Adam Treloar (left) says he holds no grudges towards coach Nathan Buckley after his exit from the club.(Supplied, file photo)

Treloar was one of four Magpies to be traded out on Thursday night as the club attempts to rectify challenges with its salary cap.


Collingwood list manager Ned Guy on Thursday night claimed the Magpies would have been unlikely to explore a trade if Treloar’s partner Kim Ravaillion had not signed a Super Netball contract to play with the Queensland Firebirds next year.

But the couple have committed to a long-distance relationship next year and Treloar says he never thought about moving to the Brisbane Lions or the Gold Coast.

Ravaillion attended Treloar’s first press conference as a Bulldogs player with their daughter Georgie.

“That’s really disappointing (Guy’s comments),” Treloar said.

Despite his acrimonious exit, Treloar says he holds no grudges towards Buckley or anyone at the club where he played 94 games after arriving in 2016 from Greater Western Sydney.

Treloar “instantly fell in love” when he began talks with the Bulldogs and coach Luke Beveridge immediately made him welcome.

“There’s so many things going on in my head at the moment and I’m just super proud and super glad to be at this footy club now,” he said.


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Local News - Victoria

Prosecutor failed to disclose unsuccessful online Pell searches, trial told

Victoria’s Office of Public Prosecutions had a solicitor conduct online searches for news articles that named George Pell in the days after Australian media reports referred to an unnamed high-profile person being convicted of a serious crime, a contempt trial has heard.

But the OPP solicitor failed to disclose the results of her unsuccessful searches for almost two years, the Supreme Court heard on Tuesday, although she disclosed the results of her successful searches to lawyers for media outlets much earlier.

Cardinal George Pell in Rome last month.

Cardinal George Pell in Rome last month.Credit:AP

The OPP is pursuing media companies and individual journalists for contempt of court over the way Cardinal Pell’s conviction on child sex abuse charges was reported in 2018, and allege the media breached a court-imposed suppression order by reporting about the case at the time.

Cardinal Pell was found guilty by a County Court jury on December 11, 2018, and the OPP alleges the media breached a suppression order by reporting over following days that a high-profile person had been found guilty of serious charges, when the cardinal was still due to face another trial. The cardinal was not named in any of the news reports, nor were the nature of his charges disclosed.

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Local News - Victoria

Metro manager asked Transclean for a ‘little bit of honey’, IBAC told

“I just want a little bit of honey, not much,” Mr Bollas told Mr Haritos.

Mr Haritos: “Not honey, sprinkles.”

When pressed about what Mr Bollas was referring to when he asked for “honey”, Mr Haritos told IBAC he was probably “joking” and he wasn’t sure what Mr Bollas meant. “It could’ve meant a hundred things,” Mr Haritos said, suggesting it could refer to “honey”, a “handout” or “the first man to Mars”.

Mr Haritos said he has not paid Mr Bollas any cash. “Categorically, I can say I never made a cash payment to Mr Bollas. Mr Bollas never asked me for a payment,” he told IBAC.

The anti-corruption watchdog is investigating serious alleged corruption within Victoria’s railways that involve one of the most senior transport bureaucrats — V/Line’s chief executive — allegedly pocketing cash bribes from a cleaning contractor.

V/Line’s sacked boss James Pinder allegedly received an additional $320,000 in funds from Transclean and associated entities which he put towards his $2.5 million Williamstown house, months after granting the company a contract with V/Line worth up to $40 million.

Mr Pinder said the cash was winnings from a legal gambling syndicate and the $320,000 was a loan.

Metro sacked Mr Bollas last week, after Mr Bollas admitted he pocketed cash payments from Transclean in exchange for favourable treatment.

Another intercepted phone call played to the hearings on Friday captured Mr Haritos and Transclean employee and nephew, Mr Kyritsis, discussing how they had “dodged a bullet” during an audit on August 16.

Mr Kyritsis said the auditor was “thorough” but “I don’t think he picked up on anything, all the paperwork was spot-on … processes were good … we’re all in the clear.”


“We’ve dodged a bullet,” he said.

Counsel Assisting IBAC Paul Lawrie suggested this was a reference to the removal of problematic timesheets showing not enough staff were rostered on to clean the trains during COVID-19.

Mr Haritos denied this and said that Mr Kyritsis was merely “joking”.

IBAC has previously heard that Transclean failed to sanitise Melbourne’s train carriages properly at the height of the pandemic in April and did not spray the carriages.

Conversation between Transclean boss George Haritos and Metro trains operational fleet manager Peter Bollas on April 16, 2020:

PETER BOLLAS: The state is paying you more now, to do more work which you’re not doing. Yeah?


BOLLAS: They didn’t even f—ing spray the train.

HARITOS: I know because they were very satisfied.BOLLAS: Yeah but Georgie (unclear) this is gonna, this is an ongoing thing, it’s not like this has just happened yesterday. These f—ers can rip the tapes and have a look at what been happening for the past two weeks there and I can guarantee you it wasn’t the first time this has happened.

BOLLAS: You can come up with whatever f—ing excuse you want, the question, the question that the f—ing bailiff will ask you, “Did you perform your task?” And the answer was f—ing no.

HARITOS: I get the point Peter but you’ve got to cover off, you’ve got to cover up for us as well. Just say the f—ing trains – ok, they may not have been (unclear).

BOLLAS: Wh– are you taking, are you taking the f—ing, are you taking the f—ng piss out of me, I’ve  got to cover up, what do you think I f—ing do every day George?

But Mr Bollas said he had been covering up for Transclean on a daily basis for more than three years in intercepted phone calls played to IBAC.

He said on a series of intercepted phone calls he was “building” Transclean’s “brand” and planned to cover up a serious safety incident that involved a cleaner falling beneath a train.

Four days after Mr Bollas tipped off Transclean about the surprise audit in July, he pocketed a $20,000 cash payment from Mr Haritos — two envelopes with $10,000 in each, including a monthly payment and a bonus for extra COVID-19 cleaning.

The hearing continues.

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NAB staff told to return to office


“By returning to the office, we want to start again unlocking the benefits of in-person collaboration, such as better innovating for customers, learning from each other, problem solving together, mentoring and building our high-performance culture,” Ms Ferrier said.

“But importantly, we will not be returning to the way things were before the pandemic. COVID-19 has challenged us all to think, work and act differently and we want to ensure that we retain the best of what we’ve learnt – and get back to something even better.”

NAB has developed an online booking system in which specific desks are reserved ahead of time and information about the amount of time employees spend at the office is recorded to help with contact tracing efforts “as required”.

Hot desking will be ditched and limits placed on the number of people permitted to ride in lifts as the bank encourages staff to remain 1.5 metres apart as recommended by health authorities.


The offices in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide will undergo daily deep cleaning, including individual workspaces, and communal cutlery will also be forbidden.

The majority of NAB’s Melbourne employees will continue to work from home until the state government changes its health guidance around working in the CBD, as certain industries in the city began to reopen this week.

NAB’s “front-line staff” in Victoria, including those working in branches and teams that cannot perform work remotely, will continue to work in the office.

“I want to recognise the collective effort of all of you throughout the most challenging economic and social uncertainty most of us will have experienced in our lifetime,” Ms Ferrier said.


The return to office directive comes the week after NAB announced it had set aside $138 million to modify its Melbourne offices as more staff choose to work from home permanently.

NAB chief executive Ross McEwan, who has not physically met with his executive team in over six months, told staff last week there were plans to consolidate the Melbourne office spaces as more staff adopted a “flexible and hybrid” approach to work.

“I do want us to return to work in our commercial buildings when it is deemed safe to do so and in a way that gives colleagues more flexibility than pre-COVID working,” Mr McEwan said.

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Sacked V/Line boss asked Transclean head to approach friends for loan, IBAC told

Mr Haritos replied: “Done, yes.”

Mr Bollas also told Mr Haritos several times to charge extra for services that would involve cleaners wearing hazmat suits and materials being burned. Without discussing the specifics of the job, Mr Haritos agreed it would cost “twice as much”.

“Get your f—ing pumps and sprays ready, because these people say you’re gonna spray f—ing everything, Georgie, from now on,” Mr Bollas said.

Evidence presented to IBAC on Thursday showed Transclean failed to properly disinfect the trains, while Mr Bollas “covered up” their mistakes and tipped the company off about a surprise audit in July.

Transclean was paid $1.3 million a month for extra COVID cleaning by the taxpayer, on top of a $40 million contract with V/Line and a $5 million contract with Metro.

On the call, Mr Bollas also told Mr Haritos that a commuter suspected to have been infected rode the trains for two weeks, saying “I’m never going on a train again in my life”.

IBAC is investigating serious corruption allegations that public officials at V/Line and Metro Trains were paid off by Transclean while they oversaw taxpayer-funded cleaning contracts.

This is the third corruption probe into the regional rail operator, V/Line, in five years and the second probe into V/Line in three years.

Earlier on Friday, the inquiry heard that sacked V/Line boss James Pinder asked Mr Haritos if he could approach “friends” to help him arrange finance for a loan on a $2.5 million home in Williamstown.

Mr Haritos told IBAC that he was Mr Pinder’s closest friend when he returned to Australia from Britain to take up the job as chief executive of V/Line in late 2016.

He ultimately “indirectly” loaned Mr Pinder some of $320,000 to cover the deposit on his $2.5 million Williamstown home in 2018.

“He asked me about my circle of friends … he didn’t want to go through a stranger,” Mr Haritos told the inquiry.

On Friday, Transclean’s Mr Haritos was grilled about the source of a $320,000 loan that was paid to Mr Pinder that covered the deposit on his home in 2018.

Mr Pinder had asked Mr Haritos if he could approach his “friends” about helping him arrange finance for the loan, Mr Haritos told the inquiry.

Mr Pinder decided to accept the loan from Transclean’s head of cleaning contracts Marie Tsakopoulos and a loan agreement between the pair was witnessed and signed by Mr Haritos’ accountant.

Transclean boss George Haritos appears at the IBAC hearing. 

Transclean boss George Haritos appears at the IBAC hearing. Credit:IBAC

When asked if the cash provided by Ms Tsakopoulos to Mr Pinder came from Transclean, Mr Haritos delivered a long explanation to describe how people inside and connected to Transclean paid Ms Tsakopoulos the funds, part of which was repayment for an earlier loan she made to Mr Haritos and was kept in his mother’s safe.

The money was directed back to Ms Tsakopoulos for Mr Pinder via different accounts linked to Transclean, including the bank account of Ms Tsakopoulos’s sister, Andrea Bennett, who did not work for Transclean but was married to another Transclean employee.

Mr Haritos said this transaction likely occurred because Ms Tsakopoulos requested the money be paid in that way.

But this evidence conflicted with a document tendered at IBAC in which Ms Bennett claimed the $200,000 she lent to the sacked V/Line boss was Mr Pinder’s own money, which he kept in her account for “safe keeping”.

Mr Haritos admitted this conflicted with evidence he gave that the money to Ms Bennett was repayment for a loan to Ms Tsakopoulos.

Cash found at former Metro manager Peter Bollas’ premises on 19 August totalling approximately $55,000

Cash found at former Metro manager Peter Bollas’ premises on 19 August totalling approximately $55,000Credit:IBAC

Mr Haritos denied the money for Mr Pinder’s home came “directly” from Transclean, posing conflict of interest problems for Mr Pinder that should have been disclosed to V/Line.

Mr Haritos stands accused of paying off senior people at rail operators Metro Trains and V/Line and has told the inquiry he had a “strong friendship” with Mr Pinder, whom he paid cash that he claimed was the winnings of successful horseracing bets.

Mr Haritos said he socialised with Mr Pinder at the horse races, Formula One races and the casino while Mr Pinder worked at Metro.


When Mr Pinder was head of V/Line, Mr Haritos claimed he bet money from a shared kitty with Mr Pinder, winning about two quadrellas a month and handing the proceeds to Mr Pinder in cash, the inquiry heard.

Mr Haritos said he kept his cash winnings in a drawer at home and paid Mr Pinder’s $5000 to $6000 in dividends and only one time paid $10,000 – the day Mr Pinder was caught with the cash in an IBAC raid. The bets were made in cash and Mr Haritos claimed he had no TAB account.

Counsel assisting IBAC Paul Lawrie suggested to Mr Haritos on Friday the proposed gambling fund is a “cover story for cash payments you were making regularly to Mr Pinder”.

Mr Haritos denied this.

The hearing continues.

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