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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

Springboks withdraw from Rugby Championship due to South Africa’s coronavirus travel restrictions and player safety concerns


World champions South Africa will not defend their Rugby Championship title after governing body SANZAAR announced the Springboks were withdrawing from this year’s competition.

The announcement delivers a big blow to the tournament, 15 days before its scheduled start.

The Rugby Championship, which had included South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, will now go take the form of a Tri-Nations competition between the latter three national sides.

The annual Test tournament was already delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and is being staged in one country for the first time.

“Naturally, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks, due to the continued complexities of operating in and around this COVID environment, cannot fully compete in the previously planned six-round Rugby Championship,” SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said in a statement.

SANZAAR’s statement cited a number of factors leading to the decision, including South African Government travel restrictions, player welfare and safety concerns, and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on South African players.

“SANZAAR recognises the challenges and adversity that the national unions have had to face this year due to the pandemic.

“It is a tribute to the unions in how they have been able to adapt and, dependent on COVID restrictions, run domestic competitions with the exception of Argentina who has been impacted the hardest through their lockdown.

“These short domestic tournaments, and in Argentina’s case no domestic competition, are not the normal lead into an international playing window, and while it has been a far from ideal preparation we look forward to an exciting and vibrant Tri-Nations tournament.”

Last year the Springboks won the Rugby Championship for the fourth time, finishing with two wins and a draw in a shortened competition due to the Rugby World Cup.

The team went on to beat England 32-12 in the final, to claim a third Rugby World Cup title.

South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux acknowledged that the other rugby bodies including Rugby Australia had “bent over backwards” to help them and that it would have been unfair to delay a decision any longer.

“This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the ongoing impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges,” Roux said.

The new format will see six international matches played in Australia across six consecutive weekends. Each team will play each other twice, with matches to be played in Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane.

The first two matches involving Australia and New Zealand will double up as the final two Bledisloe Cup series matches.

Tri-Nations Match Schedule 2020

  • October 31: Australia v New Zealand (Olympic stadium, Sydney)
  • November 7: Australia v New Zealand (Lang Park, Brisbane)
  • November 14: New Zealand v Argentina (Western Sydney Stadium)
  • November 21: Argentina v Australia (Hunter Stadium, Newcastle)
  • November 28: Argentina v New Zealand (Hunter Stadium, Newcastle)
  • December 5: Australia v Argentina (Western Sydney Stadium)

Reuters/ABC



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Local News - Victoria

Tourism industry presses for a date to allow Melburnians to travel


“The level of desperation from operators is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Ms Mariani said many regional businesses could not survive long term without visitors from Melbourne. She wants the government to declare by November 1 a date for when Melburnians can leave the city.

“The industry absolutely needs to have some clarity about what is happening,” she said. “We need greater Melbourne travelling into regional Victoria if we’re going to have any hope of kick-starting some recovery.”

Victoria’s economy has taken a massive hit with the closure of the travel sector. A study commissioned by the Tourism and Transport Forum showed that Victoria had lost $1.44 billion a month in domestic tourism spending since the start of the pandemic.

The Gippsland region has lost $180 milion in visitor spending since the pandemic began.

The Gippsland region has lost $180 milion in visitor spending since the pandemic began. Credit:Eddie Jim

Destination Gippsland chief executive Terry Robinson said his region had lost $180 million a month since March. He warned some businesses would not survive another lost summer after last year’s bushfires tore through parts of the region.

“If they don’t get their peak season that will be their final blow,” he said.

Deakin University epidemiology chair Catherine Bennett said one option may be to allow Melburnians to travel to regional Victoria but observe the same rules that apply in the city.

She said that may mean Melburnians were limited to ordering takeaway in regional cafes or restaurants but at least it would allow them to leave the city and provide some economic boost to regional Victoria.

“If you’ve got a house in the countryside, you could go there,” Professor Bennett said. “If you’ve got a hotel that’s managing its COVID-safe plan you could go there but maybe you couldn’t eat indoors in a dining room.”

Destination Phillip Island Regional Tourism Board general manager Kim Storey said tourism operators needed time to prepare for substantial numbers of visitors.

“On Sunday we want to see the next step for regional Victoria to open up a bit more and be the testing ground for Melbourne opening up further,” she said.

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Paul Preston, owner of the Beachcomber Caravan Park in Mallacoota, is not taking new bookings from Melburnians yet although he is reserving sites for regular visitors.

He urged the government to take a cautious approach on Sunday to protect regional Victoria from the virus.

“The last thing we want is for it to get into regional Victoria and shut the whole show down,” he said.

Some business leaders want restrictions eased further in regional Victoria to allow the hospitality sector to serve more customers indoors.

In an open letter to the state government, the Victorian Regional Chambers Alliance said hospitality businesses had been plagued by last-minute booking cancellations.

“They are hemorrhaging money trying to stay afloat and keep their staff employed,” the letter said.

“Over the past few weeks the current restrictions have resulted in many unforeseen difficulties for business owners.

“Venues have reported that attempting to predict weather conditions for outdoor dining impacts on stock ordering and results in food wastage.”

Cafes, pubs and restaurants in regional Victoria can serve a maximum of 50 people outdoors and up to 20 patrons indoors spread across two spaces.

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NSW to New Zealand travel bubble could be operating within weeks


A travel bubble allowing flights between New Zealand and NSW could open within weeks as the state continues to deliver promising coronavirus numbers.

The federal government will initially only allow for New Zealand residents to come to Australia in the trans-Tasman bubble, according to a report from The Sunday Telegraph. Those travellers wouldn’t be required to quarantine once they arrived in Australia.

It’s expected NSW residents would later be able to also travel to New Zealand by Christmas time.

The federal government has approached the NSW government to discuss different options, according to the report.

The renewed discussions over the trans-Tasman bubble come as NSW continues to report low coronavirus cases.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage

RELATED: Coronavirus Victoria: Melbourne’s restrictions eased further

Simon Birmingham, the Federal Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister told the Today Show he was hopeful Aussies would be able to travel to New Zealand by the end of 2020.

“We’re working hard to make sure every safety precaution and measure is in place through our airports, our border protections, screening processes, to make sure people can travel safely between Australia and New Zealand without risk of encountering other air travellers that may be coming in from higher risk countries,” Mr Birmingham said on Sunday.

“Ultimately, whether New Zealand opens up to Australia will be a matter for New Zealand, but we are working to make sure we’re ready and hopefully we can see those steps taken this year.”

The travel bubble would at first only be open to residents of the South Island — as the country deals with a cluster of cases on the North Island.

NSW today reported zero new cases of coronavirus — the first time the state has reported no cases for more than three months.

“NSW Health thanks the community for all they have done towards reducing COVID-19 numbers, and continues to ask people to remain vigilant and come forward for testing immediately if symptoms like a runny nose, scratchy throat, cough or fever appear,” NSW Health said on Sunday.

“This is particularly important with the start of school holidays and increased movement of people around the state.”



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SA Health to investigate coronavirus travel exemption granted to AFL players’ parents


South Australia’s public health chief says an external review will investigate how and why 11 Victorian-based parents of Port Adelaide AFL players were granted exemptions to coronavirus travel restrictions while other families are being denied.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier yesterday revealed 11 relatives of Power players had been approved by SA Health to enter the state, ahead of the club’s qualifying final against Geelong at Adelaide Oval next week.

After finding out about the “absolute mistake”, Dr Spurrier revoked the exemption for six of them, while the other five — who have already arrived — will be able to continue their 14-day hotel quarantine.

The South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) this morning shed more light on the situation, saying the head of Events SA had played an initial role in the process but was not responsible for the decision.

Premier Steven Marshall apologised for the “error of judgement” by an SA Health employee.

“I’m very sorry this has occurred,” he said.

“It was an inappropriate approval — I acknowledge that, the chief public health officer acknowledges that.”

The bungle coincides with the lifting of travel restrictions from New South Wales into SA, with people in NSW now allowed to cross the border into SA without having to do 14 days’ quarantine.

It has also prompted a backlash from others still stranded in Victoria — where restrictions still apply — who have accused authorities of double standards.

Angela Mead, who resides in the Victorian town of Echuca, said she has not been able to hug her 10-year-old daughter, who lives in Adelaide with her father, since May.

“There’s a lot of people like me people in worse situations,” she said.

A woman wearing a face mask sits on the side of a highway with a girl behind her
Angela Mead (right) visiting her daughter Alannah across the South Australian-Victorian border at the start of the month.(Supplied)

She said it was unfair she could not enter South Australia but Power relatives, along with cross-border sports players, could enter the state.

Ms Mead has put in another application to visit Adelaide, where her father is terminally ill, but it is yet to go before the SA Health panel that decides on exemptions.

Dr Spurrier said someone from outside SA Health would review departmental processes around border exemptions to prevent the Port Adelaide situation being repeated.

“We’re very keen to review this,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning.

Events SA boss spoke to families

The SATC this morning released a statement confirming Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed, who previously worked at the Port Adelaide Football Club, helped the players’ families contact SA Health.

“She helped to initially connect a representative of the families to SA Health and then left the decision-making process to the relevant health officials to work through,” a spokesperson said.

“SATC doesn’t have any say in how SA Health view applications or approvals.”

Dr Spurrier said it was her understanding that the person from SA Health who gave the exemption “had no connection whatsoever” with the Port Adelaide Football Club, including as a member or a fan.

SA Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier addresses the media.
Nicola Spurrier reveals the Port exemptions yesterday.(ABC News)

“This was a mistake — it was a poor judgement,” she said.

She said disciplinary action was a matter for the department’s chief executive, Chris McGowan, not her.

She will meet with him today, and will rejoin the committee that decides on exemptions.

The Premier said the findings of the investigation would be released publicly.

“There is no suggestion whatsoever there has been any interference or personal gain from this,” Mr Marshall said.

Premier has questions to answer: Labor

Earlier this morning, Labor health spokesman Chris Picton said Mr Marshall needed to answer questions about any involvement from the Government in the matter.

“There are so many people that haven’t been able to see dying loved ones, who haven’t been able to go to funerals — how was it that people within the Marshall Government viewed football games and watching a football game as more important than those situations?” he said.

Port Adelaide general manager of football Chris Davies said neither the club nor Ms Rasheed had done anything wrong.

“Let’s be really clear: SA Health were the ones who received the exemption request and SA Health were the ones who made the decision on the exemption,” Mr Davies said.

“So, at the end of the day, I think it’s a decision and a discussion that will continue to be had but it needs to be had with the right authority.”

Two new cases of COVID-19 were reported in South Australia yesterday.

A woman and a man tested positive after arriving in Adelaide from overseas on Sunday — but a child who was travelling with them has so far not tested positive.

They bring the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases since the virus was first detected in SA to 468.



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Local News - Victoria

Melbourne tram, bus and off-peak train travel costs could be slashed under proposed overhaul


“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.

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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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Victoria-SA border clubs welcome relaxing of travel restrictions for organised sport


While regional Victoria finds relief over the easing of restrictions, the smaller towns along the state’s western border have something extra to celebrate — they can now return to organised sport with their South Australian team mates.

South Australia Police confirmed on Facebook Tuesday night that Cross-Border Community Permit holders can now cross for the purpose of organised sport, which previously was not considered a reason for travelling.

They said that those heading across must have had a COVID-19 test within the past seven days, and those entering from Victoria cannot travel further than 40 kilometres over the border into South Australia.

Breaking down barriers

Member for McKillop Nick McBride says that the news was welcomed by sportspeople on both sides of the border.

Cricket batsman hitting ball
Victorian teams that play in SA, like the Apsley Cricket Club, would now be able to compete.(ABC News)

“[This] is a good move in the right direction. I’m sure it will help and will ease some of the tension that this cross border community has had to wear,” Mr McBride said.

“I’m hoping that these borders get easier and easier for all the right reasons, rather than get the hard closures that the cross-border communities had to engage so far.”

He said that it is a hopeful sign of things to come.

“We know that the mental health and strain on the cross-border communities has been immense,” he said.

“I think that there’s a pain that’s been so huge, and [the way] the closure of the border went and how it came to be.

Preparing for summer

With winter seasons cancelled, eyes are now turning to summer sports.

Up until now there were doubts about whether Victorian teams that play in South Australia, like the Apsley Cricket Club which plays in the Naracoorte and District Association, would be able to compete.

Secretary and treasurer of the club Kaddie Cother said that while they were hopeful the change would allow them to compete, there were issues about where their home ground might be.

“At the moment we’re still trying to work out how we’re going to make that work for us because all the other teams are based in South Australia,” Ms Cother said.

“It would mean that, for a start, I guess until the borders open properly it would just mean that we would have to play all of our games over in South Australia and have no home games ourselves.”

Cricket ball on a bat
Regional cricket clubs can now return to organised sport with their South Australian team mates.(ABC News)

Ms Cother said they were not sure if all of their players would be able to cross.

“At this stage we may have players that don’t have essential traveller numbers to get over the border as it is. And we do have some that are based closer to Goroke and that are out of that 40 kilometre zone as well,” she said.

But she hopes that the news gives the town a boost.

“It’s a step in the right direction, letting people over to play sport,” Ms Cother said.



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Dakar 2021 hopeful Andrew Houlihan gets green light to travel to Saudi Arabia


Off-road motorcycle rider Andrew Houlihan has received a travel exemption from the Australian Government to compete in the January 2021 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia — and expects it to be the most gruelling race to date.

The Albury-based rider was unsure if he would get to the event due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s now official and Houlihan will leave Australia in December to take part in the gruelling 14-day event that starts on January 3.

Houlihan will ride with the Swiss-based Nomadas Adventure team.

He will leave Australia early December and quarantine in Saudi Arabia on arrival.

“At the moment there is a 14-day quarantine period in Saudi, we are waiting to hear from the Dakar organisers on how they are going to manage that and where we will quarantine,” he said.

Houlihan, who bought a new bike for Dakar, said he would air freight the KTM 450 RFR rally bike to his team in Switzerland in the coming weeks.

“At the moment I am looking at flying directly into Saudi Arabi [and not Switzerland] and meeting the team there to avoid multiple quarantines,” he said.

“They will prepare the bike for me and I’ll get it shipped to Saudi Arabia.”

Houlihan said he would have loved to have spent more hours on the new bike ahead of Dakar, but it was not possible with COVID-19 restrictions.

He also had to undergo ankle and thumb surgery related to injuries received following a life-threatening crash during the Hellas Rally Raid in Greece in May 2018.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to prepare on this bike. It will be in Switzerland mid-October, so I’m hoping I will get a couple of days on the bike in Saudi Arabia before Dakar and I’ll probably get a week or so on it here before we fly it over to Switzerland,” he said.

“The bike is similar to what I raced in the Africa Eco Race (a rally raid event Houlihan completed in January), it’s just a later model, so I’m really confident with the bike.”

The most gruelling Dakar yet

Rider Andrew Houlihan riding through sand dunes in an African dessert
Andrew Houlihan riding through sand dunes in Mauritania during the Africa Eco Race in January this year.(Supplied: Andrew Houlihan)

Houlihan said he had heard Dakar 2021 would be one of the most gruelling to date.

He said riders were expecting to face sand dunes daily up to 250 to 300 metres high, and airbag vests would be mandatory.

“I had two weeks of sand dunes in the Africa Eco Race, lots of big sand dunes every day, so I think I know what I’m in for,” he said.

Houlihan, who said competing at his first Dakar would be a dream come true, hoped to return multiple times and said plans to compete in the buggy category with his wife Katie remained on track.

“This being my first Dakar I want to get there and finish on my bike and go back the following year and try and be competitive,” he said.

“Katie is really keen to get in a buggy and do one of the European races next year to get some experience … I’d eventually love to do Dakar in a buggy with Katie,” he said.

Houlihan said he hoped to ride competitively for a few years yet.

“I’m starting to push the mid-50s now so I have to be careful and smart about how to approach things, but I’ll keep going as long as I can afford to do it and as long as my body holds up,” he said.



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Out-of-work travel agents drafted into COVID-19 contact tracing effort


Another 900 team members were working in epidemiology, as public health clinicians, in logistics roles, on other telephone duties and in data entry.

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Travel sales company Helloworld has won a contract worth $7.6 million to provide contact tracing workers to the state government, while call centre specialist Stellar CM has been hired for $9 million to provide more operators, with both contracts running from July to January.

The Premier said Commonwealth public servants and other private sector workers were also involved in the contact and trace effort, and he singled out Medibank Private staff for the work they were doing on the pandemic.

“Helloworld are stood down because there’s no travel, but they’re doing a great job for us, contacting lots of different people,” Mr Andrews said. “Medibank Private’s Health Direct service, that’s nurses basically … are doing some of that work for us, a lot of that work for us, in fact.”

Mr Andrews said about 16,000 tests had been processed in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, when authorities were expecting the number to be closer to 20,000.

The Premier said the lower testing rate might be related to the lower numbers of Victorians moving around the community, or fewer people developing symptoms, but he reiterated the message that mass testing was a key weapon in the fight against the virus.

“I just urge people if you’ve got symptoms to come forward and get tested,” Mr Andrews said. “We’ve got to keep those numbers as high as we possibly can so that we’ve got the most complete picture of what’s going on out there.”

He said 19,500 Victorians had claimed the state government’s $450 test isolation payment, with $6.5 million paid out from the scheme set up to help workers with no access to sick leave but who must stay away from their jobs while awaiting test results.



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New Zealand travel bubble pushed back to end of year because of Victorian outbreak says Sydney Airport CEO


Mr Culbert said Sydney Airport was also working with airports in Japan, Canada, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore to establish protocols for safe flying when the government decides to open the border.

“If we have the process on the shelf, we can activate it as soon as we get the green light so we don’t miss a day of flying,” he said.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert says there needs to be clearer rules around state border closures.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert says there needs to be clearer rules around state border closures. Credit:Renee Nowytarger

Around 172,000 passengers passed through Sydney Airport’s gates in June, down 95 per cent compared to the same month last year. On Tuesday, the $12 billion ASX-listed airport revealed it had swung to a $53 million half-year loss compared to a $17.3 million profit in the same period last year.

Mr Culbert said the Victorian outbreak, which prompted several state borders to close again, showed how uncertain the recovery for aviation would be and called for better co-ordination between states, clearer rules on border closures and a plan to restore air travel.

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“We need to know what the triggers are for border closures and border openings; we need consistency across states and we need to map out a pathway for the recovery which includes various scenarios – with a vaccine, without a vaccine,” he said.

The International Air Transport Association, an airline industry trade body, expects that global passenger numbers will not return to 2019 levels until 2024.

However, Sydney Airport highlighted in a presentation to investors that domestic air travel had bounced back sharply in several countries when travel restrictions lifted, showing there was “pent up demand”.

Sydney Airport said the $2 billion of capital raised from shareholders will reduce its net debt from $9.1 billion to $7.1 billion, with its leverage falling from 6.8 times and 5.3 times; support its investment grade credit rating and increase liquidity.

The airport’s revenue for the six months to June 30 fell 36 per cent to $511 million, while it wrote off $41 million in bad debts owed by bankrupt carrier Virgin Australia, $59 million in rental abatements and deferrals from retail and property tenants and $22 million against delayed capital projects.

RBC Markets analyst James Nevin said the question of whether the airport needed to raise equity had been the key uncertainty over the stock. On his estimates, $2 billion provided enough liquidity for it to last until the end of 2022, even in the unlikely scenario of zero revenue.

“We think this provides ample liquidity to remove doubts on liquidity, even in an uncertain recovery,” Mr Nevin said.

Sydney Airport said it would preserve its cash by aiming to cut operating costs by 35 per cent for the 12 months from April 1, 2020, including cutting jobs from its 500-strong workforce.

Institutional and retail shareholders will be entitled to buy one new share for every 5.15 shares they own as of August 14 for $4.56, which is a 13.2 per cent discount to the theoretical ex-entitlement price of $5.26. Mr Culbert said the structure of the raising was the fairest available for all investors and that shareholders who participate will not be diluted.

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