Car enthusiasts allegedly attack ACT police officers amid reports of dangerous driving and drinking

A group of car enthusiasts allegedly attacked ACT police last night as officers investigated heavy drinking and dangerous driving across Canberra.

Officers were also forced to close off a busy street in the inner-city suburb of Braddon in an attempt to disperse a growing, rowdy crowd.

ACT and New South Wales police are now investigating footage from two sites in Canberra and one on the Federal Highway in NSW, just across the border in Sutton.

Speaking to media today, ACT Policing Detective Inspector Adrian Craft warned motorists police would be “out in force tonight” to prevent similar incidents.

Officers were called to the industrial suburb of Fyshwick about 10:40pm, where a large crowd had gathered near a petrol station at the corner of Yallourn Street and Canberra Avenue.

Inspector Craft said officers had parked 100 metres from the crowd and angry spectators immediately surrounded them.

“They were banging on the vehicle,” he said.

“The police made a decision to withdraw themselves and reassess what was going on.

Earlier in the evening, officers closed off Lonsdale Street in Braddon, which had become clogged with spectators watching passing cars do burnouts.

Police said they had arrived at the area in response to complaints of “dangerous driving combined with large numbers of people consuming alcohol and engaging in anti-social behaviour”.

Officers shut it off to traffic to protect public safety, they said.

‘We’ve got numberplates, we’ve got dates and times’

Detective Inspector Adrian Craft says police will find those involved.(ABC News)

Social media was awash with videos last night displaying unlawful driving cheered on by large crowds.

Inspector Craft said no charges had yet been laid, nor had anyone been fined.

But he said police had already collected a large amount of evidence and would act shortly.

“We’ve got numberplates, we’ve got dates and times,” Inspector Craft said.

“So the drivers involved in those kind of things can expect to be visited by police … and if it satisfies the requisite levels within the legislation, they can expect to have their vehicles seized.”

Inspector Craft also warned motorists any repeat of the “selfish” behaviour seen last night would be punished swiftly.

“Everybody’s tough in a group,” he said.

“We’ll be out in force tonight to deal with this sort of behaviour.

“They want to carry on that sort of thing, they’ll be met appropriately and dealt with appropriately.”

‘Everybody wants to comment’: Reports that police hit bystanders

Several people have used social media to allege the crowd at Fyshwick only became unruly after a police vehicle collided with bystanders.

When asked about the reports, Inspector Craft said police would investigate any genuine complaint.

“Everybody wants to make a comment on social media and everybody wants to say things,” he said.

“But the level of actual veracity around a complaint turns up when people turn up at a police station.

Meanwhile, the NSW Police Force is investigating reports of similar behaviour on the Federal Highway.

A police spokeswoman said officers observed motorists gathering at the spot — known as Eaglehawk in Sutton — on Thursday and Friday nights.

“Police have been told members of the group were blocking road access to allegedly conduct burnouts and travel at high speed in the area,” she said.

“More than 60 cars were observed at the scene however the crowd dispersed upon police arrival.”

A policeman was injured at the same spot in Sutton last year, where motorists pelted officers with rocks and bottles as they arrived to stop the burnouts.

Car enthusiasts usually gather in Canberra at this time of year to attend the annual Summernats festival.

However, this year’s event was cancelled because the ACT Government is using the festival site, Exhibition Park, to conduct COVID-19 testing.

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Thousands of car enthusiasts petition Brisbane council to save Archerfield drift park

If it happened on a suburban street it would be considered hooning, but on a designated track, the controlled driving technique known in motorsports as “drifting” is legal.

More than 20,000 people have petitioned Brisbane City Council to save Queensland’s only dedicated drift park from a “ridiculous” council decision that would force it to close its doors next month.

The Archerfield Drift Park in Brisbane’s south, which is operated in the car park of the Archerfield Speedway, has been hosting drifting events on the purpose-built asphalt track for at least four years.

But in recent months the council has ordered the speedway to stop using the space for anything other than car parking by the end of January, citing noise complaints and zoning approvals at the venue.

Speedway owner John Kelly said council had found a “loophole” to stop him from hiring out the area at his discretion.

“They’ve been pursuing us for a number of years on any technicality to do with noise,” he said.

“They’ve now found a loophole — saying ‘your carpark can’t be used for anything else but a carpark because that’s what was put in place in 1978’.

“It’s going to open up a can of worms for a lot of businesses throughout Brisbane who utilise their carpark for more than just parking.”

The manager of the drift park, Luke Fink, who leased the area from Mr Kelly, said he was “devastated”, and the decision would ultimately force them to close.

Manager Luke Fink, with local driver Loki Kuroi, said he feared closing the drift park would lead to more dangerous driving on suburban roads.(ABC News: Talissa Siganto)

Closure keeping hoons off streets

Mr Fink said he feared closing the drift park would lead to more dangerous driving on suburban roads.

“We’re fighting such a big fight against hooning and we’re huge advocates for taking it off the street,” Mr Fink said.

“But I can’t sugar coat it … some of them will do that [hoon] because you’re not just taking away a hobby, it’s taking away a lifestyle.”

In less than a week, an online petition to try to keep the drift park in its current location has garnered more than 25,000 signatures.

Track at Archerfield Drift Park on Brisbane's southside.
Speedway owner John Kelly said council had found a “loophole” to stop him from hiring out the area at his discretion.(ABC News: Talissa Siganto)

In a statement, a spokesman said council understood “the important role of this sporting venue for many people”.

“We will continue to work with the owner,” the statement said.

The council spokesman said meetings were being held between council officers, Mr Kelly and Mr Fink, to “resolve this issue”.

On social media, council staff told supporters who voiced their concerns: “Drifting can continue to take place on the existing speedway track.”

Mr Fink said the suggestion to move the events to the neighbouring off-road track was “mind-blowing” and “very out of touch”.

“We drift on bitumen and on concrete — we don’t drift on dirt … it’s a totally different sport,” he said.

Three cars at a drifting event at Archerfield Drift Park on Brisbane's southside.
A council spokesman said meetings were being held between council officers, Mr Kelly and Mr Fink.(Supplied: tongy1970photography)

Drifting ‘huge outlet’ for mental health

Local driver, Loki Kuroi, who attended the drift park weekly, said she believed a “bad stigma” still surrounded drifting and it was not taken seriously.

“Why would you shut down a legal place that is supporting drifting for such ridiculous reasons? It gets people off the streets and gives people somewhere positive to go.

“A lot of the drivers are really angry, confused, frustrated, or stressed out. We have no voice.”

Mr Fink said drifting was a “huge outlet” for many people and the closure would have a damaging impact on their mental health.

“When we reopened after COVID I literally had people crying, hugging me, and thanking me that we’re open again because they needed it so badly — they needed that release,” he said.

“What are they going to do now?”

Two cars race at a drifting event at Archerfield Drift Park on Brisbane's southside.
Mr Fink said drifting was a “huge outlet” for many people and would have a damaging impact on their mental health.(Supplied: tongy1970photography)

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Historic preferences were overturned because lockdown enthusiasts weren’t going to feel the pain

Australia has been stress tested by the pandemic and the results are mixed. There is good news. With the diabolical exception of Victoria, our systems of government and public health have proved to be mostly competent and well-organised. In international terms, this turns out to be rare. But there are some harsh lessons.

Before the next crisis, we need to have a frank conversation about managing risk. A disease can be controlled by shutting everything down and placing your citizens under house arrest but it’s hardly ideal. It might be necessary if everyone faced a similar threat but, in this case, they did not. No society can guarantee everyone’s safety so the goal must be the old-fashioned notion of seeking the common good: the greatest good for the greatest number. That should be weighted to the future because, through history, most societies have preferenced their young as a simple matter of survival. In this pandemic, we reversed that. It was a bad decision.

Queensland’s borders remain closed to most visitors from NSW.Credit:Getty

Alas, we have lost the ability to have frank conversations. There are many reasons for this but let’s poke one highly sensitive bear: the most ardent lockdown enthusiasts come from privileged classes who don’t live and work in the front-line suburbs where their daft decrees fall hardest. They work in white-collar jobs and many are in the public sector where their wealth has grown as they worked from home. That is not something cleaners, security guards, cooks or factory workers can do. As ever, the poor suffered most.

The Morrison government has had a, mostly good, pandemic but its real test lies ahead in the transition from financial life support to economic reboot. It succeeded in building a safety net under most of the economy, but the budget is the dividing line between triage and recovery.

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Motorbike enthusiasts gather in South Dakota despite COVID-19 spike

An annual biker event takes place over 10 days in Sturgis, South Dakota. Even as health officials warned of a major coronavirus spike, around 250,000 bikers gathered at the event.

“We come out here, and we express our freedom, our American right to be free, not wear a mask, not being told what to do,’ one biker said.

“This is pretty free out here. Just with all the COVID thing and everything in lockdown, it’s good to see it’s open and we are getting our country back to normal,” said another.

“I’m not scared of the virus, no. I’m counting myself as the 99% that won’t get it,” a further bike enthusiast added.

It’s the 80th anniversary of this large-scale rally in Sturgis, and a majority of attendees say they support President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

“I never see signs for Joe Biden here. Is that a coincidence? – (laughs) That’s kind of a Midwest thing probably,” one participant said.

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Railway enthusiasts want handover of historic Ida Bay Railway to fund its resurrection

James Shugg was a 12-year-old Hobart schoolboy when he first visited the Ida Bay Railway in Tasmania’s far south in 1976.

The narrow-gauge line, which had been used to haul limestone from nearby quarries to the coast, became a tourist railway soon after.

“For the next few years, once it was running as a tourist operation, I would come down on school holidays and weekends and do anything I could to support the operation,” Mr Shugg said.

“By the time I was 16 I was driving trains all the way down to end of the line, doing the tourist talks, selling tickets, doing track work.”

Now, Mr Shugg and 24 other heritage rail enthusiasts, who make up the Ida Bay Railway Preservation Society, are hoping to restore the century-old line and its rolling stock.

James Shugg says the operation could be running this summer in a limited circuit.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

The society has asked the Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS), the site’s caretaker, if it can take responsibility for the bush tramway.

He said he expected the entire 7 kilometres of track could be back in use and comply with safety standards within a few years.

Man next to railway track.
Dave Collins says the beach at the end of the trip is popular.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

The tourist railway at Ida Bay has always been run as a business.

The most recent lease holder, Meg Thornton, said she spent $800,000 on the railway.

For years she called on the State Government to help fund capital works at the site.

Ms Thornton was unable to meet the costs herself, and after a derailment in 2018, the rail safety regulator stopped trains from running on the line.

Late last year, that lease ended.

Mr Shugg said it was thanks to Ms Thornton and previous leaseholders that the railway was still there.

But he said a not-for-profit model would be more sustainable.

He said it would mean any money earned could go back into the railway, it could rely on volunteers, and it would qualify for heritage grants.

“If you look at every tourist railway in Australia, they all run as non-profits,” Mr Shugg said.

“It’s a model that demonstrably works.”

Locomotive at Ida Bay Railway
One of the WWII locomotives that was used to haul limestone and, since 1976, to haul passenger carriages, at Ida Bay Railway.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

The society is confident the railway will draw visitors to the region.

Mr Shugg said about 15,000 people visited the railway in its last year of operation.

The society put its proposal to PWS in December and is waiting for an answer.

In a statement, a PWS spokeswoman said the service recognised the historical importance of the Ida Bay Railway site and the community interest in the site’s future.

“The PWS is continuing to prioritise site maintenance, security and safety whilst the future of the site is considered,” the spokeswoman said.

A sign at the Ida Bay Railway.
A sign advising of the closure of the Ida Bay Railway, after a derailment in 2018.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

Although he left his volunteer role when he was at university, and moved to London, Mr Shugg’s interest in the railway has remained.

He said he was devastated to see the line and rolling stock falling into disrepair.

Mr Collins, a former volunteer driver on the railway, said the line was like a journey through history.

“It sucks you in and suddenly you’re enmeshed, and you’d lay down as a sleeper,” he said with a chuckle.

He said the two-hour round trip passed through areas that highlighted Aboriginal history, the arrival of French explorers, and early industry.

Rail motor at the Ida Bay Railway.
This rail motor at the Ida Bay Railway is ready to take passengers again.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

“We pop out down near Southport on a beautiful white sandy beach and usually we stop there and people walk along the beach and enjoy themselves, [we] turn the train around and trundle our way back through the history, back to the present,” Mr Collins said.

Mr Shugg said: “You can tell the history of Tasmania by the railway.”

They and the other society members are keen to get started on the restoration work.

“We’re not asking for a penny from the Government, but we just need the permission to start now,” Mr Shugg said.

The Ida Bay Railway station sign.
The Ida Bay Railway station is currently under PWS management.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

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