Lawyer moves to have charges dropped after Payne Haas allegedly swore at police

MacCallum is also seeking footage from the body-worn cameras of officers involved in the incident.

“There was potentially a few f-bombs and f—wits, and those types of things, but nothing too drastic,” he said. “There was nothing personal towards the police.”

Payne Haas’ lawyer has outlined the series of events that led to the Origin star allegedly calling police officers “f—wits”.Credit:NRL Photos

MacCallum said the incident occurred while Haas was walking to the beachside of the Jack Evans Boat Harbour after dinner with his partner.

A brawl had occurred down the street and a large police presence was required. Officers approached Haas and asked if he had been involved.

The NRL star was in the middle of an emotional discussion with his partner when the officers approached, causing an intoxicated Haas to lash out.

“He lost his brother last year … and he’s the kind of person who bottles up his emotions and that was all sort of kind of spilling out,” MacCallum said.

“He was just in the middle of being consoled by his wife … and then suddenly, he was confronted by a number of police.

“He makes the comment, ‘what do you want, leave me alone, I just want to be with my wife’, and then it escalated from there, with police thinking he was involved.”

MacCallum said Haas was “hard done by” after receiving the intimidation charge, which he believed was a result of his size.

“There’s no allegation that he physically touched any police officer,” he said.

“He doesn’t remember saying too much which could be inferred or interpreted as intimidating. He says he remembers swearing but that was his emotional state at the time and he was quite calmly put into the police paddy wagon.”

‘He was just in the middle of being consoled by his wife … and then suddenly, he was confronted by a number of police.’

Lawyer Campbell MacCallum

Haas will likely face a hefty sanction from the Brisbane Broncos if he is found guilty. The club is waiting for the Origin star’s first day in court to make a decision on whether he will be allowed to play in round one.

Broncos chief executive Paul White on Monday said Haas had made a “really poor decision” in his response to police.

“Everyone jumps straight to what type of sanctions are going to be in order for this type of offence,” White said.

“He was alone and acted alone in this instance, and he made a really poor decision. He’ll have to suffer the consequences for that.

“We’re not just jumping straight to what a sanction might look like. We’re looking at what are the opportunities for learning right here and right now.”


White said Haas was “embarrassed, ashamed and remorseful” over the incident.

“Payne, first and foremost, needs to own it,” White said.

“We don’t accept that type of behaviour. The community that we live in don’t accept that type of behaviour. The people that support our club, our sponsors and our members don’t support that type of behaviour.

“Sanctions could be a necessary outcome from the court proceedings and the integrity investigation.”

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Australian Cherries Dubbed As “Inferior” By Chinese Media

australian cherries

The latest rift between China and Australia saw Australian cherries being panned as “inferior” by the Chinese state media in the latest trade row with the country’s biggest export partner.

Consequently, Australia’s share of cherries in the Chinese export market has dramatically dropped as buyers now prefer Chilean fruit, according to Global Times reports.

With the wine, seafood and timber industries being targeted amidst the havoc of trade issues, Australian cherries are Beijing’s latest subject.

Given that the trading relationship between the two countries takes up to 30 per cent of Australia’s market, this latest move has left Australian producers anxious.

Sales manager at Wandin Valley Farms in Victoria, Tim Jones, told media that Australian cherries are “the best in the world”. However, as China comprised 40 per cent of the business’s exports and it was worrying.

According to Mr Jones, “China is probably our main market as an industry for fresh cherries. We’re still able to trade gently, and we’re just trying to keep a lid on things, and try to keep our industry moving in the right direction.”

A fruit trader revealed in Global Times that, “The share of Australian cherries in Chinese market … has dropped due to the inferior quality of the product given the reserved seasonality. The taste and quality of Australian cherries is not as good as it once was.”

The trader then added that Chilean cherries have the largest share in the Chinese market, with better quality and lower price.

As of, 30 per cent of Australian cherries are exported to more than 30 countries in a highly competitive international market. Aside from China, most exports are sent to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

Are Australia’s dropped catches and fielding woes a lapse or a serious problem for Australian Test team?

“Have they got a fielding coach, India? I imagine they would have,” Waugh said on Fox Cricket.

Well, whatever they worked on did the job in Melbourne, and the spell this time was cast on Tim Paine’s side, which had its roughest Test in the field since, according to Stats Perform, grassing nine catches against India at the SCG in 2012. Little wonder Langer gave his side a “direct” talking to – but not one of his famous blow-ups – after an eight-wicket loss which has evened the battle for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at 1-1 apiece, ensuring a fascinating end to the four-Test campaign.

Dropped catches in Melbourne

  • Marnus Labuschagne 2
  • Cameron Green 1
  • Matthew Wade 1
  • Mitchell Starc 1
  • Steve Smith 1
  • Tim Paine 1
  • Travis Head 1

Australia’s troubles began late on day one when Marnus Labuschagne spilled an opportunity at third slip when debutant opener Shubman Gill was on four, and escalated on Sunday when the home team desperately needed to make inroads.

Tim Paine was first up, diving to his left but unable to pouch an inside edge off Gill. Cameron Green, whom Pat Cummins joked had become his new “best friend” in Adelaide after holding on to a Virat Kohli thunderbolt at gully, then dropped Rishabh Pant at gully in a one-handed chance.

Steve Smith has typically been one of the more assured hands in world cricket but that wasn’t the case when he spilt Ajinkya Rahane at second slip on 73. Smith reacted by saying he had lost sight of the delivery, in which the stand-in Indian captain had thrown his bat at a wide delivery and the ball flew off a thick edge. That was a particularly painful blunder, as Rahane finished the day unbeaten on 104 – his second ton at the MCG.

To cap off a frustrating day, Travis Head appeared all but set to celebrate the dismissal of Rahane on the last ball of the day but the ball bobbed out of his hands as he dived forward on the ground from point. As the contest unfolded over the ensuing days, Labuschagne grassed Ravi Ashwin at leg slip, Matthew Wade spilled a difficult chance at short leg off Gill, and Mitchell Starc fumbled Rahane in the deep.

Travis Head drops a catch off India’s Ajinkya Rahane on day two.Credit:AP

Former Australian opener Chris Rogers put it down to the Australians simply having a bad few days and didn’t sheet the entire blame for defeat to their work in the field.

“These dropped catches they put down in the first innings were costly but, equally, it was about their [lack of] first-innings runs and they weren’t able to do that,” Rogers said.

Marnus Labuschagne spills a catch off Shubman Gill on day one.

Marnus Labuschagne spills a catch off Shubman Gill on day one.Credit:Getty Images

Whether the dropped catches are the start of a wider problem, or an aberration, will be shown in Sydney next week.

Under senior assistant coach Andrew McDonald, the Australians industriously work on their ground fielding and catching, but they haven’t had a specialist fielding coach since Brad Haddin stepped down during last year’s Ashes series because of family reasons.

There has been debate in recent years over how best to improve catching. One camp says it’s about technique and skill, and must be treated as its own training entity, as opposed to it being included as part of fitness drills, in effect killing two birds with one ball.

Pointing to a deeper issue, those with knowledge of the Australian cricket academy argue while there is much attention on throwing, there needs to be more time spent on the art of slips catching.

“We are obsessed with having bowlers bowl at 145km/h … and 90 per cent of their wickets are caught behind the wicket,” one former player said.

One theory this summer is that quarantine restrictions in terms of time allowed out have had an impact on fielding standards across first-class and even the Big Bash League season, with players keen to use their time more on batting and bowling. Paine is meticulous in his preparation – to the point he even lost too much weight in the off-season – and often likes to walk to the ground, even before his teammates arrive, and practice on match mornings. He said during the Adelaide Test that this had been constrained because of COVID-19 protocols demanding that he head to the ground in a team van.

Test catch rates 2020

  • South Africa 81.4%
  • England 79.4%
  • Zimbabwe 79.2%
  • Pakistan 79.1%
  • Sri Lanka 78.8%
  • Bangladesh 77.3%
  • New Zealand 76.4%
  • India 75.5%
  • Australia 71.4%
  • West Indies 63.0%

Source: Stats Perform

However, when asked by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald whether any potential time restrictions had impacted on the fielding, Labuschagne said that had not been the case.

“It’s maybe a concentration thing, maybe a focus thing, but it’s definitely not a work ethic thing,” he said.


“All of our fielders are working really hard on their exact position. If you are short leg, or leg slip or bat pad, or fielding in the slips, we are all working really hard. I certainly don’t think COVID has had an impact on the amount of training we are getting there.”

Labuschagne’s theory about concentration was backed up by sources close to the team, who pointed out both nations have played little Test cricket – requiring session after session in the heat of the day – over the past year. Head is seen as one player whose concentration can be an issue.

Labuschagne said players, by the time they reached Test standard, had their own “catching technique” but were given adequate feedback on how they positioned themselves “to help you in making it easier to catch”.

In reviewing the MCG meltdown, McDonald said there had been “nothing obvious” that had led to the spilt chances.


“I just put it down to some sloppy moments. I don’t think you can ever put your finger on exactly what happens in that moment in the player’s mind, whether they were fully switched on or not. But nothing clear from our point of view,” he said.

“Our preparation was good around the amount of catching. It was the second-up Test match, therefore potentially any of concentration issues I don’t think are probably relevant. A lot of guys had a lot of Shield cricket leading in as well, plus some ‘A’ games.

“I don’t think there were any excuses there – we just weren’t able to execute in those moments.”

What appears clear is that Australia’s skips cordon lacks the surety and aura of the days of Mark Taylor, Shane Warne, Mark Waugh and, at gully, Steve Waugh, and there will be change come Sydney.

Joe Burns typically stands at first slip – Wade spent time there in Melbourne after rolling his ankle – but has been axed from the XI. Wade is the team’s primary ball shiner at mid-off, meaning Warner – if McDonald is right – will likely now stand alongside Paine should he play. Warner, however, is known to not be overly keen about life in the cordon.

Amid the debate about Australia’s performance in Melbourne, Mark Waugh’s comment highlighted how easy it was to forget how good the Australians had been in Adelaide when all went right in their demolition of the tourists. That, clearly, was their Jekyll, then came the Hyde of Melbourne. Just which character shows up in Sydney will shape where the Border-Gavaskar Trophy resides.

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Australia v India: Joe Burns dropped as hosts recall David Warner and Will Pucovski

Burns scored 63 runs across four innings in the first two Tests of the series
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground Date: 6 January
Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra & BBC Sport website, plus desktop, tablets, mobiles and app.

Australia have dropped opener Joe Burns and recalled David Warner and uncapped batsman Will Pucovski for the final two Tests against India next month.

Warner missed both matches with a groin injury while Pucovski, 22, was due to make his debut before suffering a concussion in a warm-up match.

The third Test begins on 6 January.

Having not scored a domestic fifty this season, Burns was not expected to play in the first Test until the injuries to Warner and Pucovski.

The 31-year-old hit an unbeaten 51 in the second innings of the first Test but made scores of eight, nought and four in his other innings – as well as four, nought, nought and one in four warm-up innings.

If Australia hand highly rated Pucovski, who averages 247.5 in the Sheffield Shield this season, a debut, Matthew Wade is likely to move back into the middle order from his role as a makeshift opener.

Selector Trevor Hohns confirmed Pucovski “has been symptom-free for some time” after suffering a ninth concussion of his career – not all of them cricket-related – on 8 December but he must pass a further test before being cleared to play.

Fast-bowling all-rounder Sean Abbott has recovered from a calf strain and has also been recalled to the squad.

Australia squad in full

Tim Paine (c), Sean Abbott, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner

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Travis Head dropped, Shane Warne reaction, selection, batting statistics cricket news 2020

Following Australia’s humiliating eight-wicket defeat at the MCG, most critics understandably targeted the batting line-up.

In two Test matches against India, only one batsman in the top six has managed to score a half century and, ironically, that man Joe Burns will almost certainly lose his spot in the side next week.

The loss in Melbourne was the first instance where no Australian batsman reached fifty in a home Test since 1988.

Specialist batsmen also dropped five regulation catches in the second Test, and the national selection panel may be forced to reinvigorate the starting XI ahead of the New Year’s fixture.

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David Warner and Will Pucovski are on the verge of returning from injury, while Moises Henriques and Marcus Harris have been patiently waiting in the wings.

It would therefore come as no surprise that cricket pundits have called for selectors to swing the axe, and Travis Head has found himself on the chopping block.

Head prospered in the Sheffield Shield earlier this season, scoring two gritty centuries for South Australia ahead of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

But the left-hander has struggled to replicate that form in the Australian whites, averaging 20.67 with the bat against India.

The most frustrating aspect of Head’s Test career to date has been his inability to convert starts into large totals.

Far too often he’ll plunder an elegant 30-odd before unnecessarily flashing at a wide delivery and throwing away his wicket.

It was a worrying trend last summer against New Zealand, and he seemingly hasn’t learned from those past failures.

During the first Test at Adelaide Oval, Head chipped a half volley straight back to Indian spinner Ravi Ashwin for seven.

In the first innings of the Boxing Day Test, he compiled 38 before firmly prodding at a Jasprit Bumrah delivery without any footwork, giving the gully fielder some catching practice.

Then on Monday, Head once again reached double figures before slashing at a length delivery from debutant Mohammed Siraj, edging the Kookaburra through to the slip cordon.

Former Australian bowler Merv Hughes said on ABC Grandstand: “I’m dumbfounded by that shot when you think about the situation Australia are in.”

ESPNcricinfo reporter Daniel Brettig tweeted: “Head is a long-term investment. The disappointment is that he doesn’t seem to be learning his lessons.”

Speaking to Fox Cricket on Tuesday morning, Australian great Shane Warne thought the 27-year-old had the makings of a successful Test cricketer, but conceded he was “frustrated” by the modes of dismissal.

“The selectors might be getting a little bit frustrated with Travis Head,” Warne said. “I’m getting frustrated as well.

“He’s continually getting out the same way.

“I’m a huge fan of Travis Head — I was hoping he’d be a future Test captain for Australia.

“But I think it’s time to say, ‘You know what, go back to Shield cricket and sort those technique problems out, and then come back in’, and hopefully he’ll get another chance.

“Burns and Head will be on the discussion for the selectors, I would have thought.”

READ MORE: Ricky Ponting’s most stinging call yet

Head’s numbers in Test cricket are by no means horrific — to average 39.75 with the bat after 19 matches is commendable, and ranks him among several modern greats at the same point in their career.

Regardless, former Australian captain Ian Chappell is not convinced that Head is good enough to succeed in the Test arena.

“As a top order batsman, you can’t be vulnerable in so many ways,” Chappell told Wide World of Sports.

“If I’m looking at him as an opponent, I’m thinking there are quite a few ways we can get this guy out.

“He was almost out first ball against the short delivery, he’s got a problem with that, he’s got a problem with nicking into the slips, he has trouble with the spinners, I can see ways there that an off-spinner like Ashwin would be confident in getting him out.

“As a top order batsman, you can’t be vulnerable in that many areas.”


Travis Head — 39.75

David Warner — 39.46

Matthew Hayden — 38.74

Michael Clarke — 38.10

Steve Smith — 37.60

Mark Waugh — 34.60

Justin Langer — 32.25

Steve Waugh — 27.56

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Cricket Australia vs India, Boxing Day Test 2020, day two: Dropped catches as Ajinkya Rahane scores century, video, highlights

Watch the Boxing Day Test between Australia and India LIVE on Fox Cricket, coverage starts Monday at 9:30am AEDT!

Australia is losing grip of the second Test after a day’s play against India where very little went right for the hosts.

India holds an 82-run lead at the MCG, courtesy of a century from stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane and solid contributions throughout the middle-order.

Australia’s bowlers have been left scratching their heads having performed well for most of the day with little rewards.

Could they have done much more? And where is it going wrong for Australia?

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Ajinkya Rahane’s century for India on day two at MCG heaps pain on Australia after dropped catches

The old cliché says that the Test captaincy is the second-most important job in Australia. In India, the stakes are higher again — especially for a man walking in the shadow of global mega-brand Virat Kohli.

With his canny tactical manoeuvring of the first day and again with the bat on day two, Ajinkya Rahane is channelling inconceivable pressures with rare composure.

On an overcast day at the MCG, Rahane batted for all but the first 11 overs, absorbing almost 200 deliveries to make his 12th Test century.

Upon bringing up his milestone, he calmly removed his helmet and acknowledged his teammates with an unpretentious wave of the bat. Rahane’s pulse hardly seemed to quicken all day in the face of often-brilliant bowling, which hints at why he is now the series’ only centurion.

It is also why India finished on 5-277, leading by 82 runs with five first-innings wickets and three days remaining.

Is Rahane a better captain than Kohli? Only those in India’s inner sanctum could definitively say, and they’re also the least likely to do so.

Although he rose from humble beginnings, he is certainly less representative of his nation’s increasing affluence and cultural power, lacking Kohli’s marketability and flair.

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane have different styles, but it doesn’t matter when the runs are flowing.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Whereas Kohli is an unmistakable product of the Twenty20 age, Rahane is of a more classical school — manicured but not preening, measured in all he does and says but never unduly deferential, as easily imagined in Ranji’s flannels as an IPL kit.

For those reasons and others more practical, he was able to gradually dominate Australia in conditions that again favoured the bowlers. And yet, for much of the day the skipper took a back seat to those around him, the two notables being debutant opener Shubman Gill and the returning Rishabh Pant.

Rahane the constant on another day of excellent bowling

Gill had cracked 28 attractive runs late on day one and advanced his maiden Test innings to 45, including eight charming boundaries, when he tried to flay Pat Cummins through cover and edged behind to Tim Paine. Allan Border, never one for lavish praise, was moved enough to say: “There’s something special about him”.

Others have compared the 21-year-old to VVS Laxman, although here the initials could have stood for “very very streaky”.

It cannot be classed as unlucky when your sixth nick in 11 overs goes to hand, but with patience and a tightening of his defences, Gill looks capable of providing a decade of viewing pleasure and thousands of runs. He also made the selection of Prithvi Shaw in Adelaide look like dart-board strategy.

Ajinkya Rahane holds his bat parallel to the ground and yells
Indian wickets were falling with familiar regularity on the second morning, but Rahane stood tall.(AP: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

The real heart-starter was the cameo of Pant, whose 29 from 40 deliveries spanned barely 15 overs but ignited the contest, such is his force of personality.

Pant’s arrival at the crease in Tests is often like that point in a teen movie when someone forces a keg through the front door of a pristine mansion.

There had been a lot of talk leading into this series that Pant was a confused player — omitted from the limited overs squads, out of favour as a gloveman, unsure of his role. If that clouded his thinking, as some claimed, there was initially no sign of it here.

When Cummins returned to the attack well-rested from a brilliant performance in the morning, Pant stood well out of his crease and went straight after him, driving, pulling and slashing boundaries in an over that cost the same as Cummins’ entire first spell.

His departure — chopping impetuously at a half-tracker to give Mitchell Starc his 250th Test wicket — would have given his critics a sense of vindication, but Australian memories are still fresh of Pant’s undefeated 159 at Sydney two years ago, and his higher aggregate than Kohli in India’s historic series win.

He might be a thorn in their side again.

Sloppy Aussies drop catches and miss chances

India was 5-173 when Pant fell. The balance of the contest was precarious. Yet the Australians have seen enough of Ravindra Jadeja to know they hadn’t opened up the other end. Sure enough, a century stand with Rahane ensued, the Indian pair riding their luck.

On 57, Rahane was drawn into a false stroke by the hardworking Starc, but the bowler watched in horror as it flew at catching height through the vacant first slip region and slammed into the fence.

Australia fielder Steve Smith pulls an awkward face as a cricket ball pops out of his hands during a Test against India.
Steve Smith gifted Rahane a life when he dropped an easy chance with the Indian captain on 73.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

At the other end, Jadeja was initially like Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun, blithely avoiding one calamity after another. Then he settled, and Australia sagged. Have more catching chances completely eluded contact with Australian hands in a single day than here?

Jadeja finished undefeated on 40 from 104 deliveries, one of his more composed efforts.

It all rather overshadowed Australia’s impeccable bowling performance of the early stages. Cummins’s 2-12 from eight overs in the morning was both his longest spell in a home Test and close to his most brilliant.

His removal of Gill was followed quickly by the crucial wicket of Pujara. But those were false dawns.

Paine will have better days than this one. Effectively shuffling between five prodigious bowling talents remains the Australian skipper’s trickiest task and one ripe for armchair criticism. But it was a little puzzling to see him opt for second-gamer Cameron Green after 11 overs on day two, then keep him on when

Rahane was new at the crease and his previous frailties against Nathan Lyon suggested the introduction of spin.

Pat Cummins runs with his fist clenched as two men wearing cricket whites run towards him
Another superb Pat Cummins spell had the Test teetering, before Rahane took control.(AP: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

It also meant Starc waited almost 80 minutes for his first blast of the day, and it wasn’t until the 24th over that Lyon finally appeared — nine minutes before lunch, Rahane having faced 34 deliveries to acclimatise.

Immediately he extracted awkward turn and bounce, but Rahane was off and away, and thus India too.

It is possibly the magnifying effect of a grand performance like Rahane’s knock, but Australia faltered in myriad subtle ways.

There was its wastage of the second new ball, its dropped catches and some ragged outfielding. Head caught the eye for the wrong reasons with short leg fielding that replicated the early scenes of Awakenings and a shambolic drop of Rahane off what proved the final delivery of the day.

They’re small things, but Australia will need to do them far better to claw this game back.

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Prithvi posts cryptic Instagram message, Ricky Ponting, prediction, dropped

Indian opening batsman Prithvi Shaw has posted a defiant message on Instagram after failing in both innings of the first Test, leading to speculation he will be dropped for the next match in Melbourne.

Shaw was bowled by Mitchell Starc for a duck in the first innings, then had his stumps rattled by Pat Cummins for just four in the second dig as India was rolled for 36 — it’s lowest ever Test total.

Watch Australia v India Test Series Live & Ad-Break Free During Play with the Fox Cricket commentary team. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >

Shaw’s technical flaw against the ball coming back in to him between bat and pad was picked apart in Adelaide and sparked calls for him to be axed.

However, the 20-year-old appeared to hit back at the haters on social media, writing: “If sometimes people demotivate you for something you try to do, that means you can do that but they can’t.”

Former Australian captain Ian Chappell has said he can’t see how India can continue to open with the young gun given the nature of his two dismissals in Adelaide, while fellow great Ricky Ponting — who has coached Shaw in the Indian Premier League — identified his gap between bat and pad as a major issue before he was out in the first innings.

Ponting predicted in commentary for Channel 7 Starc would look to swing the ball back in and rattle the pegs — and that’s exactly what happened seconds later.

Ponting also told The Unplayable Podcast Australia’s right-arm fast bowlers would look to seam the ball back into Shaw, which is how Cummins dismissed him in the second dig.

“The problem, the worry is that his front foot is not planted. His front foot is still in the air,” Ponting told Seven after Cummins bowled Shaw.

“He’s late on the ball, he’s late moving his weight into it.

“You see his foot is off the ground and you have another look at that because he makes about three movements with his front foot. His front foot doesn’t actually go anywhere.”

RELATED: Ponting reveals real ‘disgrace’ in Indian humiliation

RELATED: Kohli’s wife dragged into cricket mess

Indian media reports claim the tourists are going to make a swath of changes after the humiliating eight-wicket loss in Adelaide. There will be at least two forced swaps because fast bowler Mohammed Shami is out with a broken arm and captain Virat Kohli is flying home for the birth of his first child, while Shaw and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha are also on the chopping block.

Reports suggest KL Rahul and Shubman Gill are in line to replace Kohli and Shaw, while Rishabh Pant is tipped to take Saha’s place behind the stumps.

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Did this coronavirus flyer get dropped in your letterbox? Here’s why you shouldn’t trust it

CoronaCheck is RMIT ABC Fact Check’s weekly email newsletter dedicated to fighting the misinformation infodemic surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

You can read the latest edition below, and subscribe to have the next newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

CoronaCheck #51

While most of the coronavirus misinformation covered in this newsletter has been shared online, COVID conspiracies can also proliferate offline. This week, we’ve taken a look at a flyer distributed to letterboxes in federal Labor MP Chris Bowen’s community.

We’ve also covered a new report that looks into the most prolific COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, and bring you a dispatch from India.

Letterbox drops spread virus misinformation offline

In the latest example of coronavirus misinformation moving offline, a flyer distributed to letterboxes in the electorate of federal Labor MP and opposition spokesman for health Chris Bowen, which contains a slew of false claims about the pandemic, and encourages people to watch a widely discredited documentary.

“Concerning to see dangerous conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine disinformation being spread through letter boxes in our local community,” Mr Bowen posted on Facebook above the image.

“This sort of propaganda is dangerous. If friends or family raise this with you, please advise them to get their COVID information from official and reliable sources,” he wrote.

Declaring that “the media is lying to you about COVID-19”, the flyer claims that the pandemic is a “front” for the enforcement of mandatory vaccines containing microchips, that doctors and hospitals are “paid thousands of dollars” to record COVID-19 cases and deaths, and that testing kits made in China are “faulty”.

“COVID-19 is no more harmful or contagious than the common flu,” the flyer reads. “It has a 99.98 per cent recovery rate. IT IS NOT A PANDEMIC.”

Each of these claims is incorrect.

There is no evidence to support conspiracy theories suggesting that vaccines would be used to “microchip” the population, but this hasn’t stopped such claims from gaining traction throughout the pandemic.

Back in May, fact checkers at the BBC’s Reality Check found that rumours that billionaire Bill Gates was behind a push to implant trackable microchips in people through a COVID-19 vaccine had no basis. Nevertheless, a YouGOV poll suggested 28 per cent of Americans believed in the conspiracy.

Reality Check said that while a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had examined whether it was possible to store a person’s vaccine records in special ink applied to a person’s skin at the same time as a jab, the technology involved an “invisible tattoo” rather than a microchip.

“[The technology] has not been rolled out yet, would not allow people to be tracked and personal information would not be entered into a database,” Reality Check quoted Ana Jaklenec, a scientist involved in the study, as saying.

Also bogus is the flyer’s claim that doctors and hospitals are paid to record COVID-19 cases and deaths.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health told Fact Check in an email that all claims contained in the flyer, including those relating to payments, were “false”.

Fact Check debunked a similar claim earlier this year when a caller to a Sydney radio station suggested that nursing homes in Melbourne were recording deaths not related to coronavirus as being caused by COVID-19 in order to receive payments.

Both the Victorian and Commonwealth health authorities, as well as the peak body representing aged care homes, denied making any such payments.

Similarly, Fact Check could find no evidence that testing kits used in Australia were “faulty”.

A hand putting a piece of paper into a residential letterbox.(ABC News: Jacqui Street)

While the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, had issued a warning over “faulty” home COVID-19 test kits in April, the alert referred to kits unapproved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

“The TGA has confirmed that the test kits are not registered for use in Australia and the importers did not have approval to import them,” Mr Dutton said in a media release.

“The only approved tests for COVID-19 in Australia currently are laboratory-based tests or tests that can be used by health professionals at the point of care such as in hospitals or clinics.”

Finally, the flyer’s claim that COVID-19 has a “recovery rate” of 99.98 per cent and is no more harmful than the flu also doesn’t stack up.

A regularly updated document produced by US-based global authority Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that while the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, the mortality rate of the disease is “thought to be substantially higher (possibly 10 times or more) than that of most strains of the flu”.

Is the Federal Government responsible for quarantine?

Victorian contact tracers were sent scrambling this week when two international travellers skipped quarantine in Sydney and flew to Melbourne, forcing 176 passengers and crew into two weeks’ isolation.

As it happens, it’s not the first time a passenger has been mistakenly waived through to Melbourne without first quarantining themselves.

NSW Police owned up to the latest bungle, but not before a lively debate on social media saw the Australian Border Force (ABF) go into damage control.

The ABF argued that its quarantining responsibilities end once passengers clear customs and immigration, at which point responsibility “passes to state and territory authorities for hotel quarantine and onwards domestic travel if relevant”.

Unidentified Australian Border Force worker seen from behind, at airport security.
Is the ABF responsible for quarantine?(Australian Border Force)

However, a former head of Australia’s federal quarantine program, Paul Barratt, said that was “simply not true”.

“The Commonwealth has constitutional responsibility for quarantine,” Mr Barratt tweeted.

Indeed, experts told Fact Check the constitution (under Section 51(ix)) grants the Commonwealth the power to create laws relating to quarantine. (In the case of the pandemic, the most relevant law is the Biosecurity Act 2015, which gives the health minister sweeping powers to quarantine people.)

But there is nothing to prevent states from enacting their own quarantine laws using their residual powers; for example, the NSW Government has relied on its Public Health Act 2010 to order disembarking passengers into quarantine and medical facilities.

As the Federal Government’s national review of hotel quarantine explains, travellers can be quarantined under either state law or federal law, and the Commonwealth’s quarantine powers “may be exercised concurrently with the states and territories”.

Sydney University professor Anne Twomey said that, importantly, the constitution does not force the Commonwealth to use its quarantine power.

“The Commonwealth can leave such matters to be dealt with under state laws if it chooses.”

Separately, Sydney Airport is considered to be a place over which the constitution grants the Commonwealth exclusive power (s52[i]).

However, Professor Twomey noted that the Commonwealth had long ago adopted legislation for such places to pick up and apply the laws of the state which, unless expressly ruled out, cover public health. (This was to avoid a situation where, for example, someone could avoid being arrested for murder, which is a state crime.)

Cheryl Saunders, a laureate professor emeritus at Melbourne University, told Fact Check that the Commonwealth had not delegated its quarantining power during the pandemic but simply not exercised it.

“And so it becomes a state responsibility,” she said.

Still, both experts said it was surprising the National Cabinet, which comprises state, territory and federal governments, had agreed to place the burden of the hotel quarantine system on the states, given, for example, the Federal Government’s greater financial capacity.

The types of vaccine misinformation to look out for

As the world prepares for the widespread rollout of coronavirus vaccines, misinformation researchers at First Draft have identified the key narratives taking hold within vaccine-related conversations online.

By examining 1,200 of the most influential vaccine-related social media posts in English, Spanish and French from June to September, First Draft found that two themes dominated the vaccine conversation: posts referring to the political and economic motives behind vaccines, and posts referring to the safety and necessity of vaccines.

Photos and videos accounted for 51 per cent of the content scrutinised, the researchers said, while Facebook and Instagram carried the bulk of the content (71 per cent).

The report found COVID-19 and vaccine conspiracies played an “outsized role” on social media, and that content referring to Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates made up 6 per cent of the database.

“Organisations’ links to Gates are used to poison their legitimacy and undermine trust in the vaccines they are working to develop,” First Draft noted.

Misinformation as to the way in which the coronavirus vaccines utilise ribonucleic acid (RNA) and DNA was also popular.

“The types of claims and narratives within these topics, as well as the complete absence of neutral, fact-based, informative posts, underlined the significance of this data deficit,” the report concluded.

“Certain posts claimed Moderna’s new potential COVID-19 vaccine will change people’s DNA, and some posts presented the mRNA vaccine as the definitive future COVID-19 vaccine or discredited any future COVID-19 vaccine altogether.”

Other posts, the researchers said, falsely linked the Moderna vaccine to “targeted depopulation efforts”.

Meanwhile, a lack of “clear, reliable information detailing the steps involved in the vaccine development process, the scientific norms associated with it and what ultimately constitutes a ‘safe’ vaccine” had paved the way for the proliferation of unscrutinised vaccine information.

A vaccine jab
Vaccine makers have been constantly targeted by misinformation during the pandemic.(Reuters)

“For example, numerous unverified accounts presenting themselves as news sources or health specialists reported the unveiling of the Russian vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ in an uncritically positive and largely decontextualized manner,” First Draft found.

“These reports failed to highlight the fact that the vaccine was approved before it had gone through large-scale Phase 3 trials, which provoked widespread concern and objections from the scientific community.”

Conversely, in some cases, an oversupply of information was to blame for a lack of clarity among the social media posts examined, such as in the case of the frantic reporting on vaccine trials and the “race” to secure the first effective jab.

According to the researchers, much of this reporting did not contextualise the “race” or seek to make sense of it, with much of it based solely on press releases from pharmaceutical companies and thus subject to so-called “pharma-spin”.

“This deluge of reporting — much of which may be biased toward the interests of pharmaceutical companies — leaves many more questions than answers, creating more spaces vulnerable to speculation and misinformation.”

From India

With coronavirus cases nearing 10 million and deaths topping 139,000, India, like the rest of the world, faces a battle not just with COVID-19, but with the infodemic of misinformation related to the virus.

In one recent example, fact checkers at Misbar found that a viral video appearing to show overcrowding at a Calcutta train station in the midst of the pandemic was filmed in late 2018, more than a year before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported.

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Australia vs India 3rd ODI, Aaron Finch, Shikhar Dhawan dropped catch

India will be rueing a pair of missed opportunities to remove opposition captain Aaron Finch during Australia’s run chase at Manuka Oval on Wednesday.

The touring side posted a formidable first innings total of 5/302, and Australia’s subsequent chase started poorly, with temporary opening batsman Marnus Labuschagne chopping on for seven.

But their situation could have been even worse if not for two blunders by India’s fielders during the Powerplay.

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Finch was on 22 when India first granted him a life, with a regulation chance put down in the slips.

Pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah fired the ball on a length, which caught the outside edge of Finch’s bat after seaming away off the deck.

Diving low to his right, the ball slapped into Shikhar Dhawan’s hands, before dropping onto the turf.

LIVE BLOG: Australia vs India, 3rd ODI

“That’s pretty regulation,” Fox Cricket commentator Mark Waugh sighed. “For a good slips fieldsman, you can’t drop that.”

Cricket great Adam Gilchrist replied: “He should have swallowed that.”

But Finch’s good fortunes continued the very next over when India missed a dream run out opportunity.

Aussie teammate Steve Smith pushed a Thangarasu Natarajan delivery into mid wicket, and called his captain through for a single.

But Indian fielder Hardik Pandya scurried across to collect the ball, quickly offloading it towards the striker’s end.

Although Finch was several metres short of making his ground, Pandya’s throw narrowly missed the stumps, and the single was safely completed.

“They just can’t keep missing these opportunities,” Waugh exclaimed. “Not with these class players.

“Regulation dropped catch, and now a run out where he a good look at the three stumps.”

Fielding had been a worrying concern for India throughout the three-match ODI series, and it once again blemished an otherwise stellar performance in Canberra.

Finch continued to ride his luck through the opening passages of Australia’s run chase, offering up a handful of tough chances and surviving a close LBW shout in 13th over.

But the Australian skipper eventually made his way to 50, bringing up the milestone with a powerful six over square leg in the 18th over.

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It was by no means the most elegant innings of Finch’s career, but he survived a challenging period with the new ball and prevented an early collapse.

Dhawan managed to somewhat redeem himself in the 26th over, holding onto a catch in the outfield to finally send Finch back to the sheds for 75.

But he’ll know better than anyone how costly his earlier mistakes were, Finch having already resurrected Australia’s innings.

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