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Victorian government to probe sexual harassment practices at courts, law firms


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An investigation in June by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald uncovered allegations from senior legal figures of predatory behaviour by Mr Heydon. The women claimed that his status as one of the most powerful men in the legal sector protected him from being held to account for his actions.

The review, initiated by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria Anne Ferguson, will consider measures to prevent sexual harassment, improve reporting and support for those who experience it, and ensure accountability in workplaces throughout the legal profession.

Firms that fall short of the standard the government determines to be appropriate for internal audits will be given an opportunity to bring their processes up to scratch or face the prospect of their contracts — sometimes running into the millions of dollars — being discontinued.

The state government is possibly the biggest consumer of legal services in the state. Contracts awarded to various firms are lucrative and run into millions of dollars.

Some firms that contract with the government have several thousand employees, and many count the state government among their biggest clients.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said a workplace that was not free of sexual harassment was not a safe workplace, and the review would aim to “improve workplace culture and enforce compliance”.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy says a workplace that is not free of sexual harassment is not a safe workplace.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy says a workplace that is not free of sexual harassment is not a safe workplace.Credit:Joe Armao

“I want to thank the women who have bravely stood up and shared their stories, as well as acknowledge the commitment from our heads of jurisdiction to ensuring their workplaces are safe, healthy and respectful.”

Justice Ferguson, who is also Chair of the Courts Council, said Victoria’s courts and tribunals were united in their commitment to building a culture of respect across their workplaces.

“Improper and unethical conduct will not be tolerated under any circumstances and we look forward to working with Dr Szoke’s review.”

Head of employment law at Maurice Blackburn, Josh Bornstein, who is also representing alleged victims of Mr Heydon, said sexual harassment was by no means confined to the High Court, and the government should consider establishing an independent body to deal with such complaints.

Justice Anne Ferguson says Victoria’s courts and tribunals are united in their commitment to building a culture of respect across their workplaces.

Justice Anne Ferguson says Victoria’s courts and tribunals are united in their commitment to building a culture of respect across their workplaces.Credit:The Age

At present, there are female heads of jurisdiction at VCAT, the supreme, magistrates and children’s courts, and 50 per cent female representation at the Magistrates Court.

The review will be undertaken in close consultation with the Judicial Commission of Victoria to ensure the state’s judiciary maintains the highest standards of integrity.

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The latest from the Queensland and Victorian borders


Those trying to cross the Queensland border today may have had their waiting time slashed in half with queues of up to 6km stretching along the coast compared to 20km on Saturday and Friday when the state first reopened its borders.

Live Traffic NSW said there was still heavy traffic moving northbound on the M1 Pacific Mwy near the NSW — Queensland border with delays expected, but wait time appeared to be significantly less than yesterday.

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While the latest image from Google Maps suggests traffic is at a standstill between Tweed Heads and Palm Beach.

Major delays have prompted the Gold Coast mayor to issue calls to move the NSW border 7km south in a bid to reduce lengthy traffic delays as thousands attempt to enter the sunshine state.

Mayor Tom Tate said it “makes logical sense” to move the border from Coolangatta to the Tweed River following the financial and emotional strain many businesses and residents experienced during closures.

The NSW border stretches through the middle of Gold Coast Airport’s terminal and into the centre of Coolangatta.

Mr Tate’s call has been supported by Coolangatta businesses owners who argue delays at the border are the last thing they needed following months of COVID-19 restrictions.

“To move the border away from a congested area (like Coolangatta) is good thinking because it’s going to alleviate the pressure on people who live and work there,” Cafe DBar owner Steve Archdeacon told The Gold Coast Bulletin.

A spokesman from Queensland Police told NCA NewsWire more than 314,000 border passes had been downloaded online and at least 32,000 vehicles crossing the border had contact with police.

And it’s not the only state grappling with border problems.

More than 350 military personnel and 650 police are closely monitoring the NSW-Victorian border, which closed indefinitely at midnight on Tuesday as Greater Melbourne works to contain a second wave of COVID-19.

Echuca resident Brayden May said it looked relatively quiet at the border about 10:30am Sunday compared to the chaos experienced during peak hour last Thursday.

“I was at the gym across the road from the bridge today. There was very little traffic there at the time,” he said.

“Towards the end of last week the most difficult time was between 4pm and 6pm. On Thursday afternoon, Victoria Police actually came out to direct traffic which stopped the roundabout from being blocked.”

Victorians attempting to enter NSW without an exemption will cop an on-the-spot fine of $1000 and face an additional fine of $11,000 and six months behind bars.



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Victorian A-League clubs land in Sydney for 14-day quarantine after receiving coronavirus exemptions from NSW Government


The A-League’s Victorian travel fiasco has come to an end, with players and staff from three clubs arriving in New South Wales from Melbourne on Saturday morning.

The approximately 120 players and staff from Melbourne Victory, Western United and Melbourne City will now head into a 14-day quarantine period before they are allowed to complete their remaining 2019-20 fixtures.

The three teams assembled at AAMI Park on Saturday before boarding a charter flight to Sydney as the border into NSW was shut down due to Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak.

The interstate trip comes after two aborted attempts to leave the state earlier this week, which drew heavy criticism from the players’ union and led to A-League boss Greg O’Rourke apologising and acknowledging his job may be under scrutiny.

After the botched attempts to depart coronavirus-hit Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday, the FFA received travel exemptions from the NSW Government late on Thursday.

The all-clear to fly out on Saturday was given after Western United’s most recent COVID-19 swabs were cleared on Friday, ensuring all those travelling had met the health protocols to head to NSW.

Victory chief executive Trent Jacobs said in a statement on Friday the failed attempts to exit the state on Monday and Tuesday had been tough for those involved.

Five Melbourne Victory A-League players gather outside AAMI Park before flying to Sydney.
Players and staff from all three teams had to return negative COVID-19 swabs before flying out of Melbourne.(AAP: David Crosling)

“The events of Monday and Tuesday night have been incredibly frustrating, and compromised our players and staff,” Jacobs said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our players, coaches, staff and all their families for the exceptional way in which they’ve handled the challenges and unknowns of this extremely stressful week.

“While our club was disappointed with what transpired, we have remained focused on working together with FFA and the Victorian clubs to find a solution.”

During their quarantine period, the players will be allowed to train but cannot play any matches.

Thursday’s match between Victory and Western United will have to be rearranged due to the quarantine period now being in effect.

That will mean Friday’s match between leaders Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix at Jubilee Stadium will be the first fixture played since the league was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At least two other early games face rescheduling — Western United’s clash with City on July 20 and Western Sydney’s game against Victory on July 22.

United sit sixth with six games remaining and face a jam-packed schedule, while 10th-placed Victory have five matches to go. Second-placed City have just three regular-season games left.

With a competition window that can be extended until August 30, O’Rourke said he was confident the remaining 27 regular-season fixtures and finals can still be accommodated despite the quarantine period.



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New South Wales Government grants travel exemption to Victorian A-League clubs



Football Federation Australia (FFA) has confirmed the three Victorian A-League clubs have been granted an exemption from the New South Wales Government to enter the state.

Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United will undertake 14 days of quarantine in an agreed facility and will depart for Sydney as soon as possible.

“Now that we have certainty that all our clubs will be ready for the restart, we will look to modify our match schedule accordingly to give all teams the opportunity to perform at their best,” FFA chief executive James Johnson said in a statement.

More to come.



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Victorian coronavirus measures leave A-League clubs stranded in Melbourne for another day


Victoria’s three A-League teams remain stranded in Melbourne after plans to fly players and staff to Canberra fell through for the second time in as many days on Tuesday night.

Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United players and staff met at AAMI Park on Tuesday evening and took buses to the airport for a charter flight to Canberra.

The three clubs then planned to travel on to NSW from Canberra when possible.

But while on buses waiting to enter the airport hangar — which Western United’s Alessandro Diamanti said took an hour and a half — they received advice they would have to quarantine for 14 days in Canberra and would not be able to train in that time.

The clubs made a collective decision not to travel on Tuesday night and will instead stay in Melbourne for the immediate future while they await the New South Wales Government’s call on exemptions for the border closure.

United are scheduled to play Victory on July 16, then City four days later.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) had sought an exemption from the NSW Government for players and staff to travel interstate after the clubs failed to leave Victoria before the midnight Monday deadline for Melbourne residents, due to fog at Canberra Airport.

They had originally planned to fly out on a charter plane on Tuesday morning — before the full Victoria-NSW border closure at midnight.

Composite of Alessandro Diamanti in selfie view with "round 2" super imposed in front of him and a group shot with text above.
Western United’s Alessandro Diamanti and Besart Berisha posted on Instagram about the difficulties.(Instagram: @alino_diamanti_ and @besartberisha08)

But the league appeared to have been caught on the hop by the decision to close the border to Melbourne residents a day earlier due to coronavirus hotspots in the city.

Victory, City and United scrambled on Monday night, getting players and staff to the airport in a bid to fly to Canberra.

The players and staff boarded the plane, only for the flight to be cancelled due to poor visibility at Canberra Airport, leaving them stranded on the tarmac.

Getting out of Victoria on Tuesday ‘just not possible’: A-League

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The 10 AFL teams, the NRL and Super Rugby had made earlier moves to get their teams out of Victoria amid the state’s coronavirus spike.

“We did absolutely everything we could to get the players and staff out of Victoria by midnight tonight [Tuesday], but in such a rapidly evolving situation, unfortunately it was just not possible,” A-League boss Greg O’Rourke said.

“We are in discussions the NSW Government, and we will continue to seek the exemptions necessary for the teams to travel.

“I’d like to sincerely thank the players, their families and staff from the three clubs for their understanding and commitment this past 24 hours.

“The disappointment of getting prepared to travel out of Victoria to prepare for the restart not once but twice has been most frustrating for them and we can assure them, the clubs’ members and fans that we are all committed to overcoming this evolving challenge and to play football again.”

On Tuesday, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro indicated the Government would work with the FFA to help the Victorian clubs cross the border into their NSW hub.

“You’ve heard me on the NRL and the importance of sport and I think we’ve got to work with the FFA, so I’ll be reaching out to the FFA today and then see what they need,” Barilaro said.

“Of course, if we’ve got an opportunity to do so, let’s bring them across the border, let’s park them in the regions or here in the city and make sure they’re part of the A-League that kicks off shortly.

“We’ll work through it. I think there is a real opportunity to do it. The exemptions exist and we’ll work with health officials as we’ve done previously with all the other codes.”

Western United chief executive Chris Pehlivanis was optimistic of securing an exemption.

“The discussions have already started,” Pehlivanis said on Tuesday afternoon.

“Now in terms of timing, we’re not sure — it could be quick, it could be a couple of days — but we’re planning to be there [in NSW], subject to government.”

AAP/ABC



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Local News - Victoria

Politics lies at the heart of the Victorian Health Department’s problems


Victoria does not have this structure. Instead we have a full-time CHO responsible for public health and a part-time CMO who is solely responsible for hospital care – both are in separate sections of the Health Department and are answerable to separate non-medical administrators who then decide whether to accept the advice they are given and how it will be delivered.

Why Victoria persists with this crazy structure is partly historical, but mostly about control – but the end result can often be a disjointed health response. Victoria’s CHO job is now one of the least attractive in the nation – partly because the inherent structure to implement effective health programs is so shallow, and also because successive CHOs have become fair game for personal political attacks, such as the sacking of Dr Rob Hall in 2007, the hounding of Dr Rosemary Lester by the then Labor opposition, or the recent nitwit jibes by the Liberal member for Kew against Brett Sutton.

It is all seriously poor – attacking a public servant who has little right of reply. Furthermore, the Health Department has been squeezed over and over by Treasury, who seem to see it as nothing but a burden, not a centre of potential excellence. Like a choke hold that only gets released when there is barely a breath left – just enough funding is provided to survive but never thrive.

Yet despite this, some unique innovation has occurred – such as the birth of the national healthcare worker hand hygiene program, the excellence of the state’s reference laboratories, the integration of genomics into healthcare (currently important in tracking COVID-19 cases) and the nation-leading efforts to control superbugs. But the system is run so lean that when a major problem arises such as swine flu, thunderstorm asthma or now COVID-19, the cracks soon appear and Band-Aid measures are again quickly created and rolled out.

The Health Department “is what it is” for this pandemic but it’s time the Victorian Parliament made a bipartisan commitment to adequate funding, a sensible structural revamp and less political
interference, to allow the team to do the job they are trained to do in the future.



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Victorian schools could be headed for remote learning after student-to-student coronavirus transmission


Questions surround whether students in coronavirus hot spots in Victoria will return to school after several student-to-student transmissions were recorded.

Victoria had 77 new cases on Wednesday as the state battles a significant spike of COVID-19, with Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, revealing they had discovered instances where students had passed on the virus to each other.

Two cases were linked to an outbreak at Al-Taqwa College, five were linked to Albanvale Primary School, including three students, a teacher and a close contact, and one case was a student linked to Springside Primary School.

“There has been some student-to-student transmission and also teacher-to-teacher transmission at some schools,” Professor Sutton said.

“Again, when there’s a heavy load of community transmission, more students getting infected, these schools have closed.”

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Professor Sutton warned that the possibility of returning to an online learning situation could be reintroduced next term.

“It will certainly be reviewed on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

“I will give as much notice as I possibly can around the resumption of school specific to the restricted postcodes.

“I think the expectation is schools will return, but I do want to see that we are turning transmission around but also that we don’t have such levels of community transmission with students becoming infected that our resourcing is all focused on response to cases in schools.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has always been staunchly opposed to schools closing, citing health advice that children were at low risk of the virus.

But Mr Sutton said there may need to be a shift in thinking.

“We probably didn’t have such a level of community transmission (before) that we were going to see so many cases in schools,” he said.

“I also think that we weren’t sufficiently pushing for testing of students and maybe because we hadn’t had a lot of cases in kids, there wasn’t a real push.

“But we’re now obviously engaging with a lot of families, getting testing of kids at a household level, and so probably picking up cases that would otherwise have gone unnoticed previously.”

Authorities have time to assess the school situation given Victorians are currently on school holidays for two weeks.

Students returned to face-to-face learning in late May following several weeks of remote learning, as Australia successfully managed to flatten the curve.



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Victorian virus hotspot residents face fines, jail time for entering NSW


Victorians from virus hot spot suburbs will face fines of up to $11,000 or jail time if they enter NSW from midnight tonight.

The draconian new public health orders were flagged by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard today and will include a legal requirement for NSW residents returning from hotspot suburbs in Victoria to enter into 14 days of quarantine.

NSW residents will also be banned from visiting the hotspot suburbs across the border in Victoria, with the same penalties applying to those that are caught defying the orders.

“Look, normally we love having Victorians and Queenslands and everyone else coming to visit us,’’ Mr Hazzard said.

“It’s people from hotspots. They are not welcome here. It’s not something we want to do but we must do for our own safety. Do not leave the hotspot. But if you come to NSW…you will be exposed to the possibility of six months jail and an $11,000 fine.

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“If you are found here in NSW you face very heavy penalties. So, don’t come.”

Some exemptions will apply but only for “very special circumstances” such as for medical care or compassionate reasons.

Anyone who then returns to NSW after visiting the hotspot areas would need to go into 14 days isolation if they return to NSW.

“If you choose to go there, when you really shouldn’t be, you will be required to go into isolation,’’ Mr Hazzard said.

“Victorians living in virus hotspots have to take the Victorian and NSW health orders seriously and should be very aware that NSW will impose additional penalties if they seek to leave their suburbs to enter NSW.

“If you go to any of these hotspots that have been identified by the Victorian Government, you’ll be liable to the same penalties as any Victorian.”

Queensland has also implemented heavy fines for Victorians and anyone who has visited the state — not just the hotspots — within 14 days.

Anyone travelling to Queensland from Friday will have to sign a declaration form saying they haven’t come from or visited Victoria, and those found to be falsifying information will be hit with a $4000 fine.

Earlier, the Prime Minister flagged that state and federal leaders had discussed tougher fines for Victorian residents who refuse virus tests.

“It is disappointing. But, you know, we’re doing this in an Australian way. We’re looking to do it through incentive, through the use of carrot, not stick,’’ he said.

“But occasionally the stick will have to be put about, whether it’s fines or other sanctions that are in place to ensure that we keep everybody safe.”

The Morrison Government has come under fire for criticising Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for closing borders given the situation now evolving in Victoria.

Mr Morrison denied “singling out’’ Queensland.

“Well, I haven’t. There’s an election in Queensland, so I’m not surprised that the political rhetoric is amping up,’’ he said.

“Look, we’re keeping all of the country together to focus on this. I made similar comments about the changes in borders in South Australia yesterday. So, look, I think you can file that under a Queensland election.”

“Well, on borders there’s never been a National Cabinet decision to have internal borders. That was never the medical expert advice that was given to National Cabinet. States have gone their own way and the reason a lot of the other states haven’t had the same impact is because they haven’t had the same number of returning travellers that have come into Sydney and Melbourne.

“I mean, if Sydney and Melbourne said, you know what? If people if Queenslanders or South Australians or Tasmanians or Western Australians want to go straight through Sydney or Melbourne and go back to your home states without quarantining, well, I think they would been presented with a lot more risks.”



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Local News - Victoria

Former Victorian premiers call for fast, direct route


They are expected to back a new above-ground link between the airport and Sunshine, with trains to run along existing tracks between the western hub and the city via the new Metro Tunnel.

This will kill a proposal from superannuation fund giant IFM Investors to build a $7 billion tunnel between the city and Sunshine, allowing fast express airport services on dedicated tracks.

Former Liberal premier Mr Kennett – who reserved land for a rail line through Broadmeadows while in power but prioritised the construction of CityLink – called for an express rail link from the city to the airport to ensure the service was competitive with road-based alternatives.

“I think if people are going to use it in large volumes, you’ve got to get to and from the airport quickly,” he said.

“There’s no point in stopping at one or several stations along the way; its self-defeating.”

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Mr Baillieu – who promised to build rail links to Avalon and Tullamarine when he was premier – said, when asked why the project has been put off so long, that the “more direct” airport rail routes had always proven more costly.

“It has been difficult to demonstrate the benefits in terms of speed and time for passengers and, secondly, it seems to be getting more expensive by the day,” he said.

But he believes in the need for “dedicated track” all the way to the airport and easy access points to other transport options at either end of the line, to motivate people to use it.

“Commuters will judge this very quickly and very harshly,” he said. “It will be judged on frequency, speed and cost to them – not to the taxpayer– and what happens at each end. That’ll be it.”

Mr Bracks won the 1999 election promising Melbourne an airport rail link, and he envisioned it would be built under a private-public partnership model.

He said vested interests – the taxi lobby and Melbourne Airport – sought to stop the project.

“Now the airport is a supporter,” he said. “They’ve got so big they can have car parking and fast rail.”

At the time, Labor wanted to investigate opening the line to “suburban commuters as well as airport commuters, so it’s not just businesspeople who use it. If we could capture some of the customers on the way in some suburbs, [we thought] that will help the economic viability of the line.”

The 2001 collapse of Australian airline Ansett – reducing the number of commuters expected to use the line – was the “key” reason for putting the project on hold, Mr Bracks said.

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The former Labor premier, who is also West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance chairman, said plans to turn Sunshine station into a major hub would be a “great boon for Melbourne’s west”.

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the government would provide a “quick, frequent and affordable service for all passengers”.

“We’re in the midst of the biggest ever public transport investment in Victoria’s history – as Melbourne continues to grow, the projects we’re delivering will ensure our entire network is a reliable, viable and cost-effective alternative to road travel.”

A federal government spokesman said airport rail was a “huge and complex project” and Canberra and Spring Street were working constructively to build it.

“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” he said. “We want to see it built as soon as possible.”

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Victorian AFL clubs set for extended road trips as Queensland shuts down borders to travelling clubs


Collingwood and Geelong are set to spend more than three weeks on the road from July, with more matches likely to be played in other states after they complete their stint in Western Australia.

AFL fixtures boss Travis Auld says all clubs face the prospect of spending four or five weeks away from home at some stage this season, similar to the time WA clubs West Coast and Fremantle will serve in Queensland.

It comes as the AFL grapples with reworking its fixture on the run due to the Queensland Government announcing fresh coronavirus protocols that have forced an immediate reshuffle of this week’s matches.

The Magpies and Cats had been set to play each other while in quarantine in Perth in round seven and rotate matches against West Coast and Fremantle before returning home.

But Auld indicated their road trips would likely be extended.

“If the quarantine conditions work for [clubs] then I think that four to five-week period seems like it works OK,” Auld told 3AW.

“It may not be, under these circumstances, four to five weeks in the same place.

An AFL coach gives his players instructions in a preliminary final at the MCG.
Geelong coach Chris Scott said his team would have to roll with the punches.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

“If you look at Geelong and Collingwood, for example, they’ll go to WA for three weeks and they may come back [to Victoria] via one of the other states now.

“They could come back via New South Wales or Queensland. We’ve got that option that we need to explore.”

Geelong coach Chris Scott said his club was prepared for a chaotic schedule.

“We’ve just got to roll with the punches,” Scott told AFL 360.

“If this is the price we need to pay to keep the competition alive, I think we’re all willing to pay it.”

Auld also indicated other Victorian clubs could be sent to Queensland in the near future under similar conditions to the two clubs being sent to WA.

A number of Eagles players look dejected as they walk off the field after losing to Brisbane.
West Coast have endured a torrid time in the Queensland hub, but other teams may have to share their pain.(AAP: Darren England)

Clubs could also be sent for multiple matches in South Australia if the state’s borders open as planned in July, while temporary hubs remain a possibility in NSW and other regions.

Victorian clubs could potentially cycle through those hubs to keep the season alive.

Auld said clubs and broadcasters wanted two weeks’ notice for fixtures, and crowds returning in some states also presented a challenge.

“As that starts to come into play, that’s a factor we need to take into account in terms of giving fans enough notice to get a ticket to get to games,” Auld said.

“The complexity continues but certainly the flexibility is really important for us at the moment.”

AAP



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