Scotland took its first step on the government’s “routemap” out of lockdown over the weekend, with people from two different households allowed to meet up outdoors in groups of no more than eight.
Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to thank “the vast majority” of people for sticking to the rules.
But she said it was clear that not everybody was heeding the advice, with police having to move on hundreds of people for not complying with regulations.
She said the 797 dispersals carried out by police on Saturday was five times the number seen a week previously, and that traffic volumes had risen sharply.
Traffic around beauty spots like Loch Lomond and Glen Coe was “about three times higher” than it was the previous weekend, with Ms Sturgeon saying it was “hard to see how that was caused by local residents”.
She said ministers had “deliberately allowed some flexibility” and “left some room for discretion” when setting out the new guidelines, because they trusted the majority to follow the rules.
But she said: “It’s worth being clear that if there is continued evidence of even a minority not abiding by these guidelines and travelling unnecessarily, or meeting up in larger groups, we will have to put these restrictions on group size and travel distance into law.
“We will not hesitate to do that if it is necessary for the collective wellbeing of society.”
Rugby Australia has axed more than 40 per cent of staff, citing financial woes, including the COVID-19 crisis, in a successful bid to stave off insolvency.
Rugby union’s governing body has struggled financially
It has also been accused of mismanagement by former Wallabies captains
Interim boss Rob Clarke says his job is to “secure the future of the game”
Interim Rugby Australia CEO Rob Clarke told 7.30 staff cuts at the national governing body for rugby union were expected to be concluded today by telephone.
“We will be reducing our full-time headcount by 47 people,” he said.
“We will be reducing our contractors and casuals by over 30 people and taking $5.5 million out of the annual salary bill of Rugby Australia.
“I take it very seriously because it’s impacting people’s lives and family’s lives. So, it’s something that we must do very responsibly, but I did think it was necessary, and the board supported that.”
Mr Clarke still thinks rugby union in Australia still has a bright future.
“It’s a challenging future right now, as most businesses, and certainly sports, are going through COVID,” he said.
“That said, I think that provides a nice opportunity.
“‘Why waste a crisis’ is a common phrase, and I think it actually relates to what we have in front of us now.”
The job losses come after KPMG signed off on Rugby Australia’s books for the last financial year, with the help of a $6.9 million loan from HSBC Bank.
“We are working with a coalition of major professional participation sports to secure some form of [government] relief, along with NRL, AFL, cricket, tennis, netball, but otherwise our books are clean and I feel that the future is bright,” Mr Clarke said.
Former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones was part of a group of ex-captains who wrote an open letter to Rugby Australia’s board seeking sweeping changes.
“Look, I think it’s going to escalate in the next few months,” he told 7.30 before the cuts were announced.
“I wish the interim chief executive Rob Clarke and the new incoming chairman all the very best for the sake of rugby.
“There’s absolutely no doubt I think we made a grave mistake knocking back the Foxtel broadcasting deal.”
Rugby Australia walked away from a $57 million broadcasting deal with Foxtel and is now looking for a new broadcast partner.
“I just cannot understand it. There’s going to have to be a significant reset.”
Rugby Australia spent more than $1.8 billion over the last two decades, only to see the national team’s world ranking slump from second to around seventh and a 42 per cent decline in Super Rugby viewership.
“It’s just that we’re behind the eight ball in Australia at the moment. I think there’s been a lot of mismanagement in the last few years.” Mr Farr-Jones said.
‘It’s not where we want to be’
Mr Clarke denied there had been any “mismanagement”.
“As to decisions made from past administrations, they are questions you can ask them, I’m sure they had reasons why they made the decision they did,” he said.
“My job is to secure the future of the game while I’m in this chair.”
Mr Clarke admitted the Wallabies’ on-field performance was lacking.
“I agree. We have been number one in the past and where we sit today is not where we want to be.
“So that is a focus of our high-performance team under Scott Johnson and new coach Dave Rennie.”
However, former Wallaby and president of the Eastwood Rugby Club, Brett Papworth, said there had been too much focus on elite forms of the game, citing reports that RA spent $19 million on corporate costs and only $4.3 million on community rugby.
“[Rugby Australia has] chopped all the trees down and been a fantastic logging business and they’ve built massive timber mills, but they’ve forgotten to plant any new trees,” he told 7.30.
“They’ve invested nothing in the future of the kids playing the game.”
PALAEONTOLOGISTS have explained why megafauna including giant wombats and marsupial lions found at a dig site southwest of Mackay went extinct.
Queensland Museum palaeontologist Dr Scott Hocknull and a team of scientists have spent more than a decade uncovering 16 megafauna species dating back 40,000 years at South Walker Creek, 40km west of Nebo.
The unearthed species now extinct included the half-tonne Diprotodon related to wombats, giant reptiles like a 7m long freshwater crocodile and the Thylacoleo or Marsupial Lion – a relative of koalas and possums, Dr Hocknull said.
“(The Thylacoleo) is the size of a lion with meat-cleaving teeth and bone-crunching molars,” he said.
“It could essentially give you a bear hug and was potentially tree-dwelling as well – the first Australian instance of the drop bear.
“At 170kg in weight, it’s a huge animal and a nasty piece of work.”
Dr Hocknull said the “weird” species evolving over millions of years of isolation were discovered by chance during the Barada Barna people’s cultural heritage clearance at a BHP-operated site in 2008.
“It was a mind blow,” he said.
“I had just assumed, based on what we knew about the tropics, that there would be a handful of bones … (but) we saw literally hundreds of bones in the ground sticking out, some really well preserved.”
Teaming with other scientists, they were able to date the fossils and work out what type of environment the megafauna lived in.
Dr Hocknull said the site, now a dried-up creek, was once teeming with lush grasses and rivers.
And a reason so many fossils were found, usually “scarce as hen’s teeth” in the tropics, was because the “massive” crocodiles dragged their prey into the river and billabongs, he said.
But they had not found human remains, Dr Hocknull said, suggesting over-hunting could not explain the megafaunas’ extinction.
“If we had people arriving 65,000 years ago and our megafauna on the eastern coast of Australia are still quite happy 40,000 years ago … then clearly, they didn’t just disappear rapidly.
“Instead, we (found) their extinction (was) coincident with major climatic and environmental deterioration both locally and regionally, including increased fire, reduction in grasslands and loss of freshwater.
“Together, these sustained changes were simply too much for the largest of Australia’s animals to cope with.”
Biology researcher Richard Poire-Lassus from the ANU’s Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) said the last month had been “very difficult” for the department.
Like many other researchers, Dr Poire-Lassus was forced to throw away experiments he had been carefully growing since being hit by the January hailstorm.
“The APPF has worked with ANU and CSIRO to relocate critical plants and experiments from the 100-plus destroyed glasshouses to our indoor infrastructure,” he said.
“ANU scientists were still licking their wounds, only to be asked to discard all the plants they managed to save from the hailstorm and many more.
“This was truly heartbreaking for me as a scientist.”
Dr Poire-Lassus said that some of the research underway in early March will take up to a year to re-grow, while some will never be completed.
Nevertheless, he is supportive of the measures taken to protect the Canberra community.
“We can only praise the prompt and effective measures taken by ANU to flatten the curve, and the APPF has done everything possible to mitigate the effects of the shutdown on the plant science community,” he said.
Closure impacts Ghana, Nigeria
For Dr Tory Clarke, another biologist, the impact does not simply stall her work as an early-career researcher — it will have flow-on effects that hamper the financial development of people in countries such as Ghana and Nigeria.
Focusing on a variety of crops, Dr Clarke’s work aims to improve yields in a bid to accelerate financial growth for those working the land in developing nations.
“I’m part of this international project that’s basically trying to engineer plants to be better at growing the food that we eat,” Dr Clarke explained.
“[Our] funding stipulates that any technology that we produce will then become available to small holder farmers in countries in Africa.
“But it will also mean that they will have an excess, that they can then sell, and use that to fund other parts of their life, like their children’s education for example,” she said.
Funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Clarke’s project was also impacted by the January hailstorm.
Much of what had been destroyed then had just started to re-grow, when the coronavirus shutdown was announced.
“We just [had to] dispose of them all … so that you’re not spreading GMO technologies or anything,” she said, noting that her projects would be delayed by at least six months.
Dr Clarke’s work has now shifted to focusing on data analysis, which she can do from home.
But as a mother to three young children, working from home had both positive and negative impacts.
“We’re just trying to balance time,” Dr Clarke said.
“It’s really different and I really miss my office in terms of that uninterrupted deep-thinking time, because I don’t really get that at home.”
Canberra’s ‘wellbeing’ also under the microscope
It is not just laboratory work that has had to adapt quickly under coronavirus restrictions.
The pandemic has also forced innovation in areas such as education and health.
The University of Canberra’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation, Leigh Sullivan, said they were re-evaluating a wellbeing study developed in the wake of the bushfires.
He said the study, which was examining the wellbeing of those living in Canberra and the NSW South Coast following the fires, was being adapted to also take in the effects of coronavirus.
Research into the best ways to educate children at home has also taken a sudden turn, as schools scramble to reassess the capacity of their students to continue their studies away from the classroom.
“Because we’ve sort of been moving slowly in that line and all of a sudden, we’ve had to do it — there’s a whole range of new questions that need answering,” Professor Sullivan said.
ANU joins the fight against COVID-19
Perhaps the greatest change to research has occurred in departments where academics have been recruited in the fight against coronavirus.
At the ANU, a project to use Canberra’s sewage to trace coronavirus will help health authorities get a better picture of the rate of infection in the capital.
Epidemiologist Dr Aparna Lal said the study might assist in confirming whether or not community transmission was occurring.
“Scientists reported finding coronavirus in Holland’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were officially reported there,” Dr Lal said.
For ANU Research School of Chemistry Associate Professor Megan O’Mara, it meant shifting away from her usual diabetes research in the space of a few days.
Now, she and her team are one of a handful seeking to find a treatment for coronavirus.
For the last decade, Dr O’Mara’s research had focused on finding a way to suppress a single amino acid transporter known as B0AT-1, a component of diabetes, which happens to be “part of the receptor complex for COVID-19”.
“Companies have been trying to work out how to develop something that inhibits B0AT-1,” Dr O’Mara said.
With permission to use the ANU’s supercomputer, which is necessary to conduct simulations as part of their potentially life-saving work, the team was able to start work on coronavirus immediately.
Dr O’Mara said they were using simulations to examine how the proteins within the cells of coronavirus were operating, all the while looking for a way to inhibit their growth.
“What we’re doing with our computer simulations is seeing how they move and seeing how different drugs and inhibitors stop them from moving,” she said.
“So if we can find something that then inhibits this receptor complex and stops the virus from fusing with the host cell we should be able to hopefully find something that will stop it from infecting us,” she said.
She said it was a “really exciting” time for their team, who were each working from home but relying on video conferencing for daily meetings.
“I feel incredibly fortunate that we’ve been able to continue our work on this and that we haven’t been as impacted as some of the experimental groups who unfortunately aren’t able to continue in their labs,” she said.
Sir – Territory Alliance will bring back the Alice Springs Masters Games in 2021.
The Gunner Government has scrapped them for this year [and set them down for 2022]. This will mean four years from the last Alice Springs Masters Games in 2018.
We believe that this is a hasty and poorly thought out decision which should have been to hold a scaled down version this year, and if the borders happen to be open, then invite interstate participants.
Scrapping it is the easy solution, but not the best. We know that more than 50% of Masters Games participants are Territorians.
They could have showcased local entertainers and local celebrities, rather than using people from interstate. By October Alice Springs will need a celebration like this.
This is a wasted opportunity to kickstart our regional tourism industry, stimulate business and lift our spirits.
We have several full-time NT Government staff employed to organise the Masters Games in Alice Springs. Bring it on.
Territory Alliance Member for Araluen
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Actor Ben Platt, the star of Netflix’s The Politician and the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, is urging white people to keep donating money to bail funds in order to keep rioters who have been arrested out of jail.
“White ppl at home pls keep donating to the bail funds below,” Ben Platt tweeted on Sunday. The Tony Award-winning actor also voiced his support for Black Lives Matter and told white people to avoid creating chaos when protesting in the streets because it will reflect badly on the black community.
“White ppl at protests, though we can’t control undue violence from police, pls dont perpetrate unrelated chaos that the media will blame black protesters & leaders for. Go to protect, support & listen. #BlackLivesMatter.”
white ppl at home pls keep donating to the bail funds below. white ppl at protests, though we can’t control undue violence from police, pls dont perpetrate unrelated chaos that the media will blame black protesters & leaders for. Go to protect, support & listen. #BlackLivesMatter
The actor tweeted out a link to a Google document containing links to bail funds in major cities, including the Minnesota Freedom Fund. But these funds have come under scrutiny over whether they are helping to bail out Antifa members and other violent rioters who have assaulted innocent bystanders and destroyed private property during the riots that have devastated major U.S. cities.
A view outside a Target store on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Businesses near the 3rd Police Precinct were looted and damaged today as the area has become the site of an ongoing protest after the police killing of George Floyd. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump announced Sunday that the U.S. will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization. Individuals providing money to bail out Antifa members could find themselves in legal trouble for financing terrorism.
Platt is the latest Hollywood star to support bail funds for rioters. Chrissy Teigen said she and her husband John Legend will be donating $200,000 to bail out rioters, while pop star Justin Timberlake encouraged his social media followers to donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
Please join me in supporting the Minneapolis protestors by donating to the @mnfreedomfund. The freedom fund is combatting the harms of incarceration by paying bail for low income individuals who cannot otherwise afford: https://t.co/tFr8Jh7TUX
HONG KONG: Hong Kong police on Monday (Jun 1) banned an upcoming vigil marking the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the first time the gathering has been halted in three decades.
The candlelight Jun 4 vigil usually attracts huge crowds and is the only place on Chinese soil where such a major commemoration of the anniversary is still allowed.
Last year’s gathering was especially large and came just a week before seven months of protests and clashes exploded onto the city’s streets, sparked initially by a plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland.
But police rejected permission for this year’s rally saying it would “constitute a major threat to the life and health of the general public”, according to a letter of objection to organisers obtained by AFP.
Hong Kong has managed to keep the virus mostly in check, with just over 1,000 infections and four deaths. Bars, restaurants, gyms and cinemas have largely reopened in recent weeks.
Organisers accused police of using the virus as an excuse to ban the rally.
“I don’t see why the government finds political rallies unacceptable while it gave green lights to resumption of schools and other services ranging from catering, karaoke to swimming pools,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance which has organised every vigil since 1990.
The alliance called on residents to instead light a candle at 8pm on Thursday and observe one minute of silence wherever they can.
“If we are not allowed to light a candle at a rally, we will let the candles be lit across the city,” Lee said.
Lee also vowed that the alliance would continue to chant the slogan “end one-party rule” during the commemoration despite Beijing’s recently announced plans to impose a law criminalising acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.
POLICE will be cracking down on Public Health Order compliance and alcohol-related crime at licensed venues in regional NSW, as restrictions on public gatherings ease from today.
General duties and specialist licensing police will be conducting random checks and patrols of licensed venues until at least June 30 as part of a month-long extension to Operation Pariac.
Police will also target alcohol related crime including assaults, anti-social behaviour and public order incidents.
The operation will have an altered focus this month, with an aim to ensure education and compliance around the new Public Health Order conditions.
Operation Pariac Commander, Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell APM, said as restrictions continue to ease, venues and patrons need to be aware of their responsibilities to maintain a Covid-safe environment.
“From today, the movement of people across the state will start to increase dramatically, as thousands of people head to regional communities to inject much needed tourism dollars.
“Police will be conducting random checks and patrols of licensed venues throughout our regions, with the ability for resources to be shared amongst police districts where the demand is needed – particularly across the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
“Operation Pariac, as part of a Vikings operation, will see officers working closely with industry and business owners to ensure they are able to operate safe environments for their customers, while making the public feel confident about returning to a Covid-safe venue.
“Whether you’re heading to a winery in the Hunter Valley, a bar at Byron Bay, a pub on the bushfire-hit South Coast, or an RSL in drought-impacted areas out west – licensees and patrons alike need to be aware of their surroundings and the strict rules which now apply.”