Police areseeking public help after a man allegedly pulled down his pants and began masturbating in front of a horrified woman on a Melbourne train.
It is understood the man boarded the train at Sunshine station on the Sunbury line towards the city about 8.15pm on November 19.
When the train was between Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations he then allegedly exposed himself and started to masturbate in front of a 28-year-old woman from Bentleigh.
Transit Crime Investigation Unit detectives on Thursday launched a public appeal for witnesses, with police alleging the man also stalked the victim after she left the train.
He appeared to follow her up the escalator and then loitered in the station’s concourse area while the victim continued walking, police said.
The man briefly left the station at the Federation Square exit and returned a short time later to board a train to Southern Cross Railway Station where he exited walking west along Collins Street about 8.55pm.
He is described as slim with a muscular build and short dark hair.
At the time of the incident he was wearing a black singlet top, beige cargo pants, beige boots and carrying a black bag.
Transit Investigation and Response Inspector Andrew Gustke said the man’s alleged behaviour was “completely unacceptable and opportunistic”.
“Everyone has the right to go about their day without being impacted by crime or violence on their commute, and we want to reassure the community that we take these reports very seriously,” he said.
“We will do everything we can to ensure we hold the right person to account.
“We’re asking anyone who might recognise this man to come forward to police. We will also be present at Sunshine Railway Station to talk to the community and ensure that people feel safe and are safe.
Anyone with information or who recognises the man should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Just months out from the Tokyo Games, Dika Toua is lifting weights in sweltering heat underneath her coach’s family’s house in Papua New Guinea.
She and fellow Olympic hopeful, Morea Baru, would normally be preparing at a specialist centre in New Caledonia with their Australian coach, but like most things this year, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted those plans.
“Because of the pandemic, we’ve all left our usual training regimes and we’ve come back home,” Toua explains.
The coronavirus has derailed Olympic preparations across the world, but it’s being especially hard felt in PNG.
Most of PNG’s athletes would normally be training overseas. But travel restrictions have forced many to stay at home without access to the basics they need to prepare.
With Port Moresby’s one facility for high-performance athletes turned into a coronavirus isolation centre and off limits, Toua and Baru were forced to use a makeshift shipping container to train in at first before their coach offered up a family member’s house.
Toua said they are incredibly grateful to his family for providing the site, because the converted shipping container doesn’t have a roof and Papua New Guinea is in its wet season, so when the sun isn’t shining, there’s regular heavy rain.
“The Olympics, it’s a major event and everybody prepares well to go and compete at that level,” said Toua, who will be the first female weightlifter in the world to compete at five Olympics if she qualifies for Tokyo.
“So crossing our fingers that we get back to normality soon.”
PNG asks Australia to allow athletes in to train
While Australia has been supporting the PNG team, providing $250,000 in funding to help athletes keep training, there are fears it won’t be enough to help all the athletes qualify.
Papua New Guinea’s Olympic Committee has now written to the Australian Government asking for its athletes to be allowed into the country to train for the six months before the Tokyo Games.
If they can’t get to Australia, it is feared some will miss out on competing against the world’s best.
“Of course, they’re not Australian citizens and we all understand the difficulties of Australians getting home themselves, so we understand it’s very difficult,” Chef de Mission Tamzin Wardley said.
“But unless we get to international competition, then the Tokyo dream is beginning to fade away.”
Toua said Australia had “helped us in so many ways” and Team PNG would “be honoured” to be allowed to train in the country.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said “Australia is a natural sporting partner to Papua New Guinea” and in addition to its grant to PNG’s Olympic Committee, it is “exploring innovative, COVID-safe ways for PNG athletes to access Australian expertise as part of their preparations”.
Shooter Danny Wanma is also hoping to qualify for the Olympic Games.
He normally trains in Brisbane, but after being forced back home due to the pandemic, he hasn’t been able to get access to ammunition.
Instead, for almost a year he’s been “dry firing” — practising the motions without actually shooting.
“Given COVID-19, I just work on what I can control, there’s nothing I can do about it, just accept it,” he said.
Without being able to actually shoot, he has been focusing on mental preparation and fitness as well as playing tennis, to practise focusing on a moving object, so he’s ready for the lead-up events required to qualify.
But he is worried he won’t be able to shoot the score he needs to make it in if he doesn’t get some proper training in.
“… It’s extremely difficult. So that option to travel to Australia would be a godsend.”
Village and family pressures on athletes
On top of lacking facilities, the athletes all face unique problems training back home.
Hanuabada, which sits on Port Moresby’s waterfront, is well known — not only for its distinctive stilt houses that perch over the ocean, but for the sporting prowess of many of its residents, including its weightlifters.
It’s sometimes referred to as Gold Village because of the number of champion athletes it has produced for Papua New Guinea.
But it’s not built to train top competitors preparing for the Olympic Games.
“Being in a village setting, we’ve got so many things that are happening around us,” Toua said.
“When there is a death, we have to stop training, when there is a bride price [ceremony] or family commitment [we have to stop].”
Toua said they “just have to focus and keep training”, while waiting to hear if they can go to Australia.
The financial strain on athletes and their families to train for an additional year has also been hard felt.
Some athletes have already dropped out, but PNG is still hoping between 10 and 20 people will still be able to qualify for the Games.
“It’s the fundamental basis of the Olympic Games, that all countries are there, and everyone gets a chance to compete,” Ms Wardley said.
“We really need to be down there [in Australia] first thing after the new year, to be serious about competing in the lead-up to the Olympics.”
Sailors put their life on hold for the Games
So far only two Papua New Guineans have qualified for Tokyo: Te’Ariki and Rose Numa.
The siblings, who will be competing individually, will be the first sailors to represent Papua New Guinea at the Olympics in almost 30 years. The last person was their dad.
“He’s pretty excited to have two kids qualify,” Rose says, before her brother chips in “two birds with one stone” and they both laugh.
After qualifying at the start of 2020, Te’Ariki quit his job and Rose postponed her final year of university so that they could focus on preparing for the Games.
They had only been training in Brisbane for a week when closing borders forced them back home.
“It was a really big setback for us, not being able to go down in the last 10 months and train and get that experience,” Te’Ariki said.
In Port Moresby they don’t have coaches or competitions so they drag their boats to a local beach to launch into the harbour.
Local children gather around to watch as they rig up and push out into the water.
“Basically no-one else sails, it’s just us,” Rose said.
“So, it’s really hard to get competitions going, to keep us in competition shape.”
She said being able to go to Australia would be “really, really helpful” for their training.
“Coming from an emerging country — emerging as in we’re still learning — getting to the Olympics has been quite an achievement for us, as a country.
“So, it’s quite a challenge, but we’re up for it.”
‘We’re all determined that we’re going to get there’
Ms Wardley says she’s in awe of the young sailors.
“They’re out there egging each other on, but it’s nothing [compared] to being down at a proper race start and proper race event,” she said.
“I take my hat off to them that they’re out there and still going.
“They literally drag their lasers down from where they keep them under the house across a rocky beach to take them out sailing because they’re not even based at a proper yacht club with a ramp.”
Other athletes are facing similar problems of having no-one to train against. A boxing hopeful doesn’t have a quality partner to spar against. And there’s no-one in the league of the country’s premier tennis player, Abigail Tere-Apisah.
“That’s one of the hard things about being a champion in a South Pacific country, is that you do tend to be that level above everyone else, so it’s very hard finding training partners,” Ms Wardley said.
But while their preparations may not be ideal, the athletes who have committed to their Olympic dream are making up for any lack of facilities with pure grit.
“It’s been a big challenge, but we’re all determined that we’re going to get there,” Ms Wardley said.
“Everyone is committed to being there, everyone is committed to doing whatever they have to do to get there.
Drivers managed to not get hit by a freight train after boom gates at a busy South Australian intersection failed to lower.
All maintenance work on Adelaide level crossings has been suspended as a national safety body investigates how the boomgates remained upright, failing to stop oncoming traffic from passing as the train approached.
The freight train, which was heading to Perth, was travelling towards the level crossing at Ovingham at about 12pm on Monday and blasted its horn to alert commuters not to enter the crossing.
Footage captured by Fixland — a nearby phone and laptop repair business on Torrens Rd — shows cars driving over the train lines as the train begins to enter the crossing.
Fixland owner Rooslan Gareyev recounted the event and said he was fixing an iPhone at the back of his store when he heard the “very loud” train horn.
“It (the sound) was just coming closer so I thought some pedestrians were not quick to leave the railway crossing,” he said.
“After that, I heard the train was stopping and went out to see what happened and saw the boom gates were open and the lights were flashing green, not red.”
He told NCA NewsWire the boom gate had broken multiple times in the past but were stuck down in all prior incidents.
“This time is was not closing so it was much more scary.”
The train partially blocked traffic for about three hours as crews worked to restore the system and police directed traffic.
A track fault was the reason the lights and boomgates stopped working, according to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.
The department’s chief executive Tony Braxton-Smith said the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau were investigating as well as the department.
“We are thankful that both the train driver and the drivers of the cars approaching the crossing took prompt action to avoid a collision,” he said.
“While a failure of this nature is a rare event, it is a serious incident and is being treated as such.”
After seeing the footage, Transport Minister Corey Wingard said it was a miracle nobody was injured.
“I’ve spoken with the freight train driver to check how he’s doing. A near miss like that would have been extremely frightening for all involved,” he said.
“By blaring the horn he’s helped avoid disaster.
“There are multiple investigations underway and I’ve asked the regulator to keep me updated.”
Homicide squad officers are still working to identify two other men and a woman they believe may be able to assist them.
Mr Smith’s grieving father, Mike, called radio station 3AW on Thursday morning to pay tribute to his son, who he said was a carpenter and gifted athlete.
Mike said that his son had just had dinner with his girlfriend on Wednesday night and they were getting into their car when a group of three or four men and a woman approached them.
He said the woman abused his son’s girlfriend using “all sorts of expletives”.
“He went to defend her and a bottle was broken, and in that fight he was stabbed in the heart and died fairly quickly,” he said through tears.
“I wanted to ring and talk about my boy. He was 26 … he had everything to live for. He was a go-getter, hard worker. He had a heart of gold, he would help anyone, anytime. He was a fantastic kid.
“He was just a great young man. He was a carpenter. I had to ring his boss last night and he was devastated. He was devastated because he looked upon him as his little brother.”
The man’s father said he wanted the people involved in Mr Smith’s death to be caught and charged, but no matter how long they serve in jail, it would “never be enough for me, no matter how long I live.”
“We’ve got a long, hard road ahead of us,” he told Nine News. “There won’t be a day where we don’t think about him, won’t be a day I don’t cry.”
While wiping away tears, Michelle Smith said her son was a “beautiful boy who was loving and would do anything for you”.
“When I needed him, he was here in a shot. I just love him and I miss him,” she told Nine News.
“Whoever did this, I hope you have regrets. How can you do that? You’re not human and you’ll get what you deserve.”
The emotional father said the family and Mr Smith’s girlfriend were “absolutely distraught.”
“I look at this year and think it couldn’t get any worse, but to find that out last night it really hit home. You hear stories … of people losing their loved ones to crimes and lives taken and you feel sorry for them and your life goes on and you don’t really know what the family are going through and I do.”
He said his son was a gifted runner. He wanted to work for himself and become a registered builder, and also wanted a family in the future.
“Those things are snuffed out in a matter of minutes,” he said.
Friends have paid tribute to Mr Smith online. “Rest in peace brother,” one wrote. “I’m lost for words.”
Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton called on those responsible to come forward.
“We will identify those offenders, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “It won’t take long for us to scoop them up.”
A man who witnessed the tragedy returned to the scene on Thursday morning.
“I saw a group of people coming back from the beach. Someone was in the middle of it. There was some screeching beforehand, and then there was some screaming at the group and someone went down in the middle of the group,” the man told Nine News.
He said the people involved stuck around for a short time before they scattered.
“When all the police were here there seemed to be no real witnesses,” he said.
The man left flowers at the scene.
“He’s got a family and that family needs to know that strangers give a stuff about their child and it’s a day at the beach ends up with someone stabbed. It’s just ridiculous.”
Homicide detectives are still establishing the circumstances around the incident.
Anyone who witnessed the incident or with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Victorian government has committed $2.2 billion to build the first section of its $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop – a 90-kilometre rail line running through Melbourne’s middle suburbs.
Premier Daniel Andrews shared a video on his social media pages on Monday morning promoting the cash splash, which will be spent on delivering six new stations in the south-east – Cheltenham, Clayton, Monash, Glen Waverley and Burwood.
The project, announced before the 2018 election, will connect every major rail line from the Frankston line to the Werribee line and is set to create 800 new jobs.
The orbital line – which will be largely underground – will include up to 12 new stations, including Cheltenham in the south-east to Doncaster in the north-east, Fawkner in the north and Sunshine in the west, via Melbourne Airport.
An aspiring train driver who illegally snuck into South Australia as a stowaway on a freight train has failed in his bid to dodge a conviction.
Jonathan Justin Shorley, 41, boarded the train at Dimboola, Victoria, and was arrested by police on its arrival in Adelaide on October 21.
Shorley, of Horsham in regional Victoria, spent the following two weeks behind bars and pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a direction during a hearing in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
The court heard he had applied for essential traveller status under South Australia’s COVID directions, but he had not been approved by the time he crossed the border.
At the time of Shorley’s arrival, Victorians were not allowed to enter South Australia unless they had been granted an exemption.
Defence counsel Patrick Deegan said his client was currently a train driver’s assistant but is training to be a driver and the purpose of his trip was to visit the South Australian depot.
“It means that he would be somewhat more employable and further his career,” he said.
A letter handed to the court from Shorley’s employer, Pacific National, said he was required to travel throughout Victoria and occasionally interstate for work.
Mr Deegan asked Magistrate Jayne Basheer not to record a conviction for reasons including potential impacts on his client’s future career.
He said Shorley’s phone had been taken from him when he was arrested, and for a period his family was not aware of his whereabouts.
Ms Basheer released Shorley without further penalty, given the time he had already served in custody, but recorded a conviction.
“It’s imperative in the COVID pandemic that the community is protected, and I think to decline to record a conviction sends the wrong message,” she said.
Mr Andrews said he had not sought national security advice on the firm from the federal government and was confident the project was not benefiting from the work of China’s Muslim minority, more than a million of whom have been sent to “re-education” camps that have been likened to concentration camps by human rights groups.
“We don’t agree with everything that is done in every country around the world but ultimately we are about getting things done,” Mr Andrews said.
“We have sought assurances that it is not an accurate statement in relation to the work we have contracted them to do and have received those assurances.
“We have made our views and preferences and what we want to see happen well-known and have received assurances to that end.”
Mr Andrews said he was aware the government had asked for assurances from the company but was not aware of the details of what was asked for. Earlier on Monday, Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said she had asked her department to question the company about the allegations several months ago, which the company denied.
In June, the US Defence Department placed CRRC on a list of Chinese companies, including Huawei, with close ties to the Chinese government or military that can be subject to emergency economic powers and sanctions by the US President.
Mr Andrews said it was not the job of the state government to determine whether CRRC posed a national security threat and questioned the basis of the US targeting CRRC.
“If those judgments are to be made, they should be made by security agencies, not by the US government … They have made some choice, I don’t know what the basis of that decision is,” he said.
“I don’t do national security reviews. They are done by national security agencies. No one’s raised any questions about this company with us. If that were to change then we would take the appropriate action but [that is a hypothetical situation].”
Mr Andrews and Ms Allan emphasised the local jobs, particularly in regional areas, created by the consortium delivering the trains which includes CRRC, Downer EDI and Plenary Group. The consortium is required to use 60 per cent local content but unions are sceptical this target will be met after work originally slated to be completed in Melbourne was offshored to CRRC’s factory in China.
Mr Andrews also pointed to the NSW government’s relationship with CRRC as evidence of the firm’s Australian bona fides.
In 2006, NSW awarded a $3.6 billion contract to a consortium including a company that merged into CRRC. The Waratah trains were delivered years late and $550 million over budget. In 2016, the Baird government exercised an option in the initial contract to purchase 24 additional Waratah double-deckers at a cost of $1.7 billion.
Mr Andrews said the delay on the Victorian project was not similar to those faced in NSW.
“I wouldn’t accept the conclusion that any issues with this project are the same as the issues that were experienced in New South Wales. I wouldn’t accept that at all,” he said.
“What I can say to you is we are making sure this is done properly and making sure it is not just to the highest standards but exceeds the highest standards given the sheer volume of people that will be moved getting from home to where they need to be and back again.”
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“Buses, trains and trams sit idle in holding yards waiting for the peak periods,” the Better Public Transport Fares for Melbourne report says.
“On weekends, public transport use is only 41 per cent of its weekday use while roads are congested. At these times, moving any road trips to public transport would have significant benefits.”
Current “early bird” tickets allow free travel on metropolitan train before 7.15am, but the agency is calling for broader changes for rail travel, including $2.50 off-peak train tickets, $4 peak tickets and $5 to enter the city during peak periods.
Trams and express buses would cost $2.50 in the peak and $1.50 in the off-peak, while regular bus trips would be $1.25 at all times under the proposed fare structure.
Once crowding returns to pre-COVID levels, a premium price should be introduced to enter the city zone encompassing the City Loop and Metro Tunnel stations during peak hour, Infrastructure Victoria recommends.
Fares for trips in counter-peak directions would also be discounted, and commuters would pay a single fare if they used more than one mode of transport in a single trip.
The overall changes could save some people up to $6.50 a day, cutting fares by more than 70 per cent.
Infrastructure Victoria hopes the changes would remove 96,000 car trips from Melbourne’s roads on a typical weekday and lead to 30,000 fewer train boardings during peak times — the equivalent of 27 new high-capacity Metro Trains.
Commuter Tim Wilkinson predicted commuting “chaos” when restrictions ease and said lowering off-peak fares was a great incentive.
“People are worried about using public transport, we need an initiative to encourage people to use it again,” the legal services manager said.
Regardless of the incentives, Mr Wilkinson said the ability to commute in off-peak hours depends on employers.
“There are a lot of industries of course that can’t change, like nurses, but generally speaking, like where I work, in administration, they can change and be flexible,” he said.
An Infrastructure Victoria survey shows 60 per cent of people said they were more likely to shift their time of public transport travel if it were discounted in off-peak periods.
The contract for the state’s public transport ticketing system will go out to tender in 2023, and Infrastructure Victoria is calling for radical improvements, such as contactless systems that allow credit or debit cards to be used while touching on and off.
Third parties should be able to hold accounts for customers and book trips on their behalf, while Myki card purchase fees should be scrapped, the agency recommends.
Public Transport Users Association spokesman Tony Morton welcomed a review of fares but said people’s travel habits had probably changed because of COVID-19 and this should be factored into any reforms.
People are paying too much for short public transport trips, which was a problem as shorter trips would become more popular due to COVID-19, Mr Morton said.
“If you do the raw numbers and compare incremental costs of petrol to travel five kilometres from one suburb to another versus the fare to travel the same distance on public transport, there is a disincentive for short distance travel.”
Infrastructure Victoria suggested that trains and trams have higher rates of high-income users overall, while buses were used more by those on low incomes.
But Mr Morton rejected this idea being used as a basis for ticket price reform.
“There seems to be an idea of trying to pick out the kinds of public transport trips that rich people tend to make and charging more for that relative to what poor people make … we emphasise the need for public transport to work for everyone and provide equal treatment.”
Melbourne’s public transport network costs nearly $2 billion to operate each year and fares cover less than 30 per cent of these costs.
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Mr Marshall said the quarantine training arrangement set the stage for an exciting summer of cricket at Adelaide Oval, with a number of events still under negotiation with Cricket Australia.
“We know that Cricket Australia is wanting to get their Sheffield Shield underway, there’s been talk about a hub,” he said.
“We’re also in negotiations with Cricket Australia of course for the Test Series.
SA Cricket Association chief executive Keith Bradshaw said Adelaide Oval could host more cricket than it ever has before this coming summer, despite the pandemic.
“It’s a really challenging summer ahead and yet we potentially could have more content than we’ve ever had in our history,” he said.
“One, two Test matches potentially, some white ball cricket … we’re in negotiations with Cricket Australia for the first four rounds of Sheffield Shield cricket to be played here too.
Players supervised in Adelaide Oval ‘bio-secure zone’
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said the players’ movements would be “severely restricted” to ensure they pose no coronavirus transmission risk to the public.
Each player will each have to return a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to train at the oval.
“It will be a very secure environment,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
“Their movements are severely restricted but they will still be able to undertake their usual requirements that they would need to remain conditioned, undertaking bowling, batting practise and also in the gym.”
She said the cricketers would have “no contact with the community” and train in “cohorts” of three or four.
SA government weighs relaxing coronavirus restrictions
Meanwhile, South Australia’s COVID-19 Transition Committee has been considering relaxing border restrictions with New South Wales.