Tradies frustrated by banks as business email scam costs them $51,000

As Jane Fleming lit the candles on her son’s birthday cake, she was preoccupied with a substantial sum of missing money — $51,000 to be precise.

“It was a horrible day. I just felt sick all day, just wondering where the 50 grand was,” she said.

It was on her son’s ninth birthday that she realised she’d transferred that amount into a scammer’s bank account.

Jane helps run the family building business, and in May she was arranging to pay $51,000 to a subcontractor.

“I thought it’s a huge [invoice]. I’ll break it up into two payments until we’ve got more funds to pay for the whole invoice,” she said.

She’d worked with concreter Simon O’Donnell for almost a decade, making countless payments to him in that time.

But a couple of days after Jane transferred the funds, Simon called her husband, asking where his money was.

Simon O’Donnell is frustrated the scammers were able to set up an Australian bank account and send the money overseas.(ABC News: Amy Bainbridge)

“I had my bank account on my computer screen right in front of me and there was no money there,” Simon said.

“His wife said in the background something to the effect of, ‘I’ve paid Simon, he was the one that changed his bank details.’

“Then the penny dropped.”

Simon realised he’d been scammed.

He said such a substantial loss of money was a kick in the guts in an already difficult period.

“I’ve, from my angle, done nothing wrong. I finished a good job for someone, he was happy with the job, and I’m a lot of money out of pocket for six months, which during COVID hasn’t been ideal.”

But the money was gone — and so began Simon and Jane’s efforts to get it back.

Spot the difference

When Jane received the $51,000 invoice from Simon, she did notice his bank account had changed and updated his details before transferring the money.

“We hadn’t used Simon for six months so I thought he’s possibly changed it over that period of time,” Jane said.

The email itself didn’t seem unusual and it showed clear details of the job that’d been completed.

An email detailing the concrete job Simon O'Donnell completed.
The email Jane Fleming received from Simon showed a knowledge of the job and didn’t set off any alarm bells.(ABC News)

But after looking at the email Simon sent, and the one Jane received, it was clear something was off.

Simon’s outbox shows he sent the invoice to Jane at 4:56pm on a Friday — but it didn’t appear in her inbox until 7:30am on the Saturday.

According to associate dean for computing and security at Edith Cowan University, associate professor Paul Haskell-Dowland, someone had gained access to either Simon or Jane’s computer, and was waiting for an opportunity like this.

Dr Haskell-Dowland believes hackers gained remote access by hacking the builder’s website and surreptitiously redirecting visitors to another site which installed malicious software.

Associate Professor Paul Haskell-Dowland stands in front of screens showing cyber criminal activity around the world.
Cyber crime expert Paul Haskell-Dowland believes the scammers altered emails by accessing one of the computers using malware.(ABC News: Andrew Willesee)

“So potentially having direct access to the computers and monitoring them, perhaps keeping an eye on them for a while, getting a feel for the kind of invoices that are being sent that way,” he said.

“It’s that control that has allowed the attackers to manipulate and modify emails between the two parties in this particular case.”

He said the hackers may have had access to the computer for months, or even longer — and a late-afternoon invoice was a prime target.

“An end-of-day invoice coming through where they know that the receiving company isn’t going to look at their email … that opens up an opportunity and it gives them time to analyse the email, to examine the [attached invoice],” he said.

An invoice which details a concreting job.
The invoice Jane received looked exactly the same as the one Simon sent, except the bank account was different.(ABC News)

Dr Haskell-Dowland examined the fraudulent invoice and said the alterations could only have been made by a person.

“The email would have been intercepted potentially via automated means and would have then been modified by human means,” he said.

Scammers stealing millions from businesses

Jane and Simon fell victim to a sophisticated business email compromise (BEC) scam.

“I didn’t know that an invoice could be intercepted between a supplier and ourselves and altered,” Jane said.

Simon O'Donnell watches over a man holding a hose.
The timing of the scam could not have come at a worse time as work slowed down during COVID-19.(ABC News: Patrick Stone)

Last year, Scamwatch said BEC scams netted $5.3 million across Australia.

But when those losses were combined with data from other government agencies and the big four banks, a total of $132 million was recorded.

So far this year, Scamwatch has received 1,099 reports of business email compromise scams worth $3.7 million in losses.

Small Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the average amount businesses lost was $10,000 per transaction.

Small business ombudsman Kate Carnell sits at a computer in her office.
Small Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell says the COVID-19 pandemic has made cyber crime easier, with more people working from home.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

“Just recently, a survey was done of nearly 2,000 small businesses and 62 per cent of them had been hit by some level of cybersecurity breach, and this one, the invoice interception is now one of the most common,” Ms Carnell said.

“What we’re seeing is a significant increase and some of that increase we think is because people are working from home with less secure systems.”

Who’s behind the keyboard?

Tracking who was behind the scam that cost Simon and Jane is much more difficult than figuring out how it was done.

Jane and Simon both had their computers examined for signs of malware and came up with nothing.

“It is quite possible that the malware has been removed by the attackers because the attack has been successful,” Dr Haskell-Dowland said.

Despite Simon’s email address appearing as the sender of both the fraudulent $51,000 invoice and a lesser $804 invoice, metadata shows each invoice was actually sent by a different email address.

The ABC tracked down the person who owned one of the addresses to find out he too had been hacked.

The scammers had used his email to target others and managed to successfully scam a Canberra builder out of $20,000.

Police almost powerless

Victoria Police is investigating what occurred with Simon and Jane, but justice is far from assured.

The site associated with the hack of the builder’s website is based in Singapore, which puts it out of state police’s reach.

Police also believe the scammers have withdrawn money from an ATM in South Africa, further hampering the investigation.

Simon sits at his computer with one hand on the mouse.
Simon O’Donnell was looking at his online bank balance and could see the money had not been deposited.(ABC News: Amy Bainbridge)

Local police officer, Detective Leading Senior Constable David Morrison, is now trying to figure out who’s behind the web of Australian bank accounts used to funnel the money overseas.

“Unfortunately at this stage, I have not been able to identify the account holder of the offending account, and it is possible the account was opened online under a false name and address,” he told the ABC in a statement.

He said he had contacted multiple banks involved in a bid to trace the money.

“I have received some information as to the account holder’s details … however I am yet to receive information regarding the movement of the monies,” Leading Senior Constable Morrison said.

“Attempts are still being made to identify the account holder/s of the relevant accounts, however again, it is fairly probable that these accounts were opened under false names.”

In separate correspondence with Victoria Police, Jane was told: “Any further investigation is unlikely to result in a successful prosecution of the party responsible.”

“The reason is Victoria Police has no jurisdiction in South Africa and Interpol will only investigate fraud matter in excess of $1,000,000 loss,” it said in an email.

Leading Senior Constable Morrison said the matter would likely be passed on to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

But the priority of the AFP is to “investigate cybercrime threats against Commonwealth Government departments, critical infrastructure and information systems of national significance” — meaning Jane and Simon’s case may come to a dead end.

What are the banks doing?

As cyber specialist Dr Haskell-Dowland picked through the trail of foreign servers and hacked emails, he questioned what Australian banks were doing to stop this type of crime.

“In terms of how to improve the situation, certainly the banks would be the [place to start],” he said.

Banks have a legal obligation to verify the information used to set up bank accounts.

But according to Victoria Police, it appears the Commonwealth Bank account which Jane deposited the money into was likely set up online using a false name and address.

Dr Haskell-Dowland said that could be prevented by strict “in-person identity checks, removing the opportunity for people to do this electronically, without undertaking some form of formal verification”.

Jane said she’d been “going in circles” trying to get help from the banks and regulators.

Jane Fleming sits on steps inside her house.
Jane Fleming said no-one has been able to help her or Simon navigate the problem.(ABC News: Loretta Florance)

“CBA said they weren’t negligent and then AFCA (Australian Financial Complaints Authority) said we’re not in the jurisdiction because we’re not customers of CBA,” Jane said.

“Then they said to contact ASIC, who pointed us back towards AFCA.”

Jane has since received an email from the CBA declining her request for a refund, telling her she’d need “to approach your financial institution (Bendigo Bank) and lodge a claim for these funds”.

“I’d like this to be resolved by CBA acknowledging that they are negligent and allowing criminals from overseas to operate in Australia,” she said.

“It sounds like anyone can open a bank account with any name and then I can put money into that account in another business name and there are no alarm bells going off.”

The Commonwealth Bank said it acted quickly to block the account, which is now closed, as well as providing information to authorities.

“Despite the commitment and best efforts of regulators, law enforcement agencies and the banking industry, such frauds and scams sadly still occur,” the bank said in a statement.

“It is widely recognised that scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated which has prompted increased investment across the sector in resources, systems, data and intelligence to combat fraud and alert the Australian public to the risks the community faces.”

Jane lodged an AFCA complaint to the Bendigo Bank in the hope of a resolution.

In response, the bank said it tried to recover the money as soon as it was made aware of the situation.

“The correct procedures were followed to notify the other financial institution (Commonwealth Bank) and to request a recall of the funds,” the bank said.

“Because of the time delay between the funds being sent and notifying Bendigo Bank of the fraud, the likelihood of recovery for any other financial institution would be very low.”

The bank advised that those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

The ABC asked the Bendigo Bank about Jane’s case, but it declined to comment while the matter was still before AFCA.

Double-check your invoices

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority said it was working with industry and other stakeholders to try to minimise invoice hacking scams.

“To avoid falling victim to invoice hacking scams, consumers should call the supplier to confirm the correct account details before transferring large amounts of money, especially if they have received an email from the supplier saying their account details have changed,” AFCA lead ombudsman banking and finance, Evelyn Halls, said in a statement.

Jane stands at a drafter's table and looks at building plans.
Jane Fleming now calls contractors before paying invoices.(ABC News: Loretta Florance)

It’s advice both Jane and Simon can’t endorse strongly enough.

The concreter now sends a text with every invoice he sends, while Jane calls the sender to check details before paying.

“Just any invoice that you get, check if it’s a new [account] with a new BSB and account number, just call your supplier and confirm that that is their details,” Jane said.

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This Solomon Islands province is so frustrated with China’s presence that it is considering independence

But the government didn’t listen.

For Daniel Suidani, the premier of the country’s most populous province, Malaita, the nation’s leaders were putting their new relationship with Beijing before their own people. The Solomon Islands swapped allegiances with the democratic self-governed island of Taiwan for communist Beijing last year. Beijing considers Taiwan part of China, and refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that doesn’t recognize its “One China Policy.”

Two days before the Honiara flight was due to land, Suidani announced an independence referendum for Malaita.

“Our conviction is that the … administration has become so obliged and indebted to China that it can no longer provide essential services to protect its citizens’ public health,” he said in a statement emailed to CNN. “It is time for Malaita people to see whether they are still willing to be part of a country (whose) leadership is becoming dictatorial.”

CNN reached out to the Solomon Islands’ central government for comment on the allegation that they are no longer looking after their people, but received no response.

While longtime Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare welcomes China and the economic benefits it promises, some fear that Beijing is too powerful to be an equal partner for the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands has reportedly considered leasing an entire island to China and debated offering investment-for-citizenship deals to mainland Chinese.

China’s foreign ministry told CNN that the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Solomon Islands had been “open and fair.”

“Any rumors and slanders cannot affect the development of friendly relations between China and the Solomon Islands,” the spokesperson said.

The switch and the stadium

In the Solomon Islands’ verdant capital, Honiara, there’s a stretch of land with scars of the famous Battle of Guadalcanal, a World War II campaign that was the Allied forces’ first decisive victory in the Pacific theater.

Now, some of that land has been earmarked for a new stadium bankrolled by China — and it has become the symbol of a new type of battleground.

After the Solomon Islands won the right to host the 2023 Pacific Games — the region’s answer to the Olympics — the country was in need of a venue to host athletic events. In July 2019, the Solomon Islands’ diplomatic ally of more than three decades, Taiwan, agreed to help out with a loan.
Months later, in September 2019, the Solomon Islands ditched its diplomatic ties with Taiwan for Beijing, throwing the future of the stadium into jeopardy.

The Solomon Islands had recognized Taiwan since 1983. In the years since, Taipei poured millions of dollars into the Solomon Islands, including in development projects such as a hospital, according to a paper by Clive Moore, a professor at the University of Queensland who specializes in the Solomon Islands. Taiwan also poured money into a slush fund for Solomon Islands politicians, Moore said.

The Solomon Islands had stayed loyal even as China’s checkbook diplomacy in the strategically important region prompted Pacific neighbors to switch allegiances.

To Taiwan, every diplomatic partner counts, no matter how small. It now has only 15 official allies, and all four of its remaining Pacific allies have smaller populations than the province of Malaita. That meant keeping the Solomons as a partner was a big deal.

But by 2019, the lure of a more economically beneficial relationship with China became too great. Jian Zhang, an expert in Asian security affairs at the Australian Defence Force Academy, told CNN that economic considerations ​were the key factor in the Solomon Islands’ decision. That was clear in Sogavare’s statement following the switch: “Our nation of Solomon Islands is bound to reap huge benefits never seen before in the history of our young nation, in this new relationship with PRC,” he said.

For years, China had been the country’s largest trade partner, importing annually millions of dollars of rough wood — the country’s biggest export — according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). Some Chinese construction companies started projects in the Solomon Islands, including a 96-meter-long concrete bridge in 2018, according to state media Xinhua.

Now, China was reportedly promising that the relationship could be worth even more. The amount of financial support China promised to the Solomon Islands prior to the switch hasn’t been made public, however, in a Radio Taiwan International report, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Wu Zhaoxie was quoted as saying that in his understanding, China had promised around $500 million. It is not clear what form that that support would take.

CNN reached out to China’s foreign ministry and the Solomon Islands central government for comment. The Solomon Islands government did not respond.

Manasseh Sogavare speaks at a press conference inside the Parliament House in Honiara, Solomons Islands on April 24, 2019.
If that $500 million figure is correct, it would be more than Taiwan’s contribution in the last decade. According to Australia-based think tank, the Lowy Institute, Taiwan spent between $11 million and $22 million in official development assistance grants — the “gold standard” in foreign aid — in the Solomon Islands each year between 2011 and 2017. China spent $39,000 in grants in the Solomon Islands over the same period, according to Lowy data.
But it did offer trade. In 2018, 67% of the Solomon Islands’ $869 million in exports went to China — only 3% was bought by Taiwan, according to the OEC.
So the decision by one of the poorest countries in the Pacific to switch was perhaps unsurprising.
“To be honest, when it comes to economics and politics, Taiwan is completely useless to us,” Prime Minister Sogavare said, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ​ahead of the change in political allegiance.
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, on October 9, 2019.
After the move, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Palau said Taiwan’s “heart was broken,” Radio New Zealand reported. Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States, reportedly canceled plans to meet the ​Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister ​last September. The US has not had formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in more than 40 years, but it remains a key strategic ally.
The switch also left the future of the Solomon Islands’ 10,000-seat stadium in jeopardy — but not for long.
In October 2019, a month after the Solomon Islands agreed to switch allegiances, Beijing promised the Solomon Islands 74 million Australian dollars ($54 million) for the stadium.

It wasn’t a loan — it was a gift.

China opened an embassy on a tiny, remote Pacific island during the pandemic. Here's why
In the months since, reports from local media suggest that limited progress has been made on the stadium. The Solomon Islands closed its borders to foreigners in March, and since then only around 800 citizens and a few dozen foreign essential workers have entered the country, according to a government statement.
So when the government approved the flight in August, full of Chinese workers on the stadium project, some believed the government was prioritizing the stadium over the people. Li Ming, the first Chinese ambassador to the Solomon Islands, was also on board for his inaugural trip in the position.
Although the ​government of the Solomon Islands said passengers all tested negative before boarding the flight, many in the Solomon Islands were shocked by the decision to let a high volume of Chinese nationals into the country when borders were meant to be closed.
“We are risking the entire nation,” said non-governmental organization Transparency Solomon Islands. “It seems the executive government is not listening anymore to the calls made by the citizens of this country.”

“The expectation is that entry of the pandemic would be a disaster,” Joseph Foukona, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii who hails from Malaita, said on September 3, as he explained why the flight was so unpopular.

Fears in Malaita

In the days ahead of the flight landing, some in Malaita feared that the province’s Chinese community — who make up less than 1% of the population of Malaita’s 160,000-strong population, according the 2009 Census, the most recent available data — would travel to the capital to welcome the new ambassador off the plane, and then return to the province bringing Covid-19 with them, Foukona said.
That prompted the Malaita for Democracy (M4D) activist group to issue a letter telling all Chinese people to leave the provincial capital, Auki, within 24 hours, according to local media reports.
And this wasn’t the first time that the Solomon Islands’ long-standing Chinese community of a few thousand people had faced local hostility. In 2006, there were riots in Honiara’s Chinatown over the growing presence of Chinese business people, whose families mostly came to the Solomon Islands to work before the country gained independence from Britain in 1978.
Australian soldiers patrol through Honiara's Chinatown in the Solomon Islands on April 22, 2006. All of Chinatown has been locked down as a crime scene.
In that instance, Beijing had to charter a flight to evacuate hundreds of Chinese nationals.
These days, there are multiple private and state-owned Chinese companies in the Solomon Islands, according to Chinese Communist Party-controlled media Global Times. That has led to a sense among some Solomon Islanders that Chinese people had already taken over. “A current joke is that people lament the decline of Honiara’s quaint Chinatown, which is no longer central, but then others say it does not matter as the whole of Honiara is a Chinatown now,” said Moore.
A mother and child board their flight as they are flown out of the  Solomon Islands on chartered aircraft provided by Beijing after losing all their possessions in the recent riots in Honiara, 23 April 2006.
Ahead of the flight, police patrolled the streets of Auki to maintain calm, according to local media.

On September 1, before the flight landed, Suidani sent a statement to media in a Word document without any official letterhead, announcing that his province, a collection of islands with a population the size of Salt Lake City, would hold an independence referendum this month. CNN confirmed the authenticity of the letter. He pointed to the continued pressure from the “intimidating” central government to allow the Chinese Communist Party into the province. “No one should think that they have any monopoly powers to exert their bad decisions on us,” he said.

Locals search through the remains of smouldering buildings in Chinatown on April 21, 2006 following several days of rioting and looting in the Soloman Islands' capital, Honiara.

In an interview with CNN, Suidani said the central government’s sole responsibility was to take care of its people. “But what I’ve seen of the Solomon Islands government, this government doesn’t look after us.”

“We are just wondering whether the government is caring about people’s lives or thinking of the stadium, because we have seen that the government hasn’t heard the cries of the people,” Suidani said.

Already, there has been a suspected quarantine breach. Last Tuesday, Solomon Island police said they were investigating an incident where a Chinese national in quarantine in Honiara passed a package to someone outside the facility.

When CNN asked if China was concerned for its Solomon Islands-based citizens, the country’s foreign affairs ministry said it believed the Solomon government has the capability to deal with its own affairs.

Calls for independence

When Suidani made a call for an independence referendum, it wasn’t entirely out of the blue.

Although the Solomon Islands is small — only around 36 times the land area of New York City — it’s home to more than 63 different local languages and a vast array of cultures, forced into one country by the British colonizers who first established a protectorate in the Solomon Islands in 1893.
The Queen And Prince Philip arriving in Honiara on the Royal Barge on October 18, 1982.

Those divisions have often ​been the fault lines of conflicts.

In 1998, rebels on ​Guadalcanal island tried to overthrow the country’s then Malaitan ruler. That sparked years of ethnic tensions costing 200 lives, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and prompting concern in the region that the Solomon Islands could become a failed state. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand sent in troops to stabilize the situation, and an Australia-led peace-keeping mission lasted until 2017.

In Malaita, an independence movement has simmered for decades, due to long-standing feelings of marginalization from the central government, said Graeme Smith, an expert in China’s investment in the Pacific at Australian National University.

In the months before the charter flight, there had been signs of disagreement between the central government and Malaita, according to Foukona. CNN made multiple requests for comment from Sogavare’s government, but received no reply.

Last year, Suidani was one of the outspoken critics of rescinding official recognition of Taiwan, furthering tensions with the central government.

Queen Elizabeth II visiting the Solomon Isles in 1982.

He was worried about Chinese businesspeople coming into the country and taking ownership of businesses and land away from local people — already, he tells CNN, he has seen Chinese people in the logging industry coming to Malaita and not respecting the local rules. “I believe in getting this illegal development out of Malaita,” Suidani said. CNN reached out to China’s foreign affairs for comment on the practices of Chinese in the logging industry and was told that the Chinese government “requires Chinese companies to abide by local laws and international rules.”

Suidani is also concerned that close relations with China’s Communist Party could impact democracy and freedom of religion in the Solomon Islands, a strongly Christian country. In Fiji, a Pacific Island country which is aligned with China, there are already concerns about the way its diplomatic partner is limiting freedom of speech there.
As coronavirus spread in other countries, Suidani went his own way, and reached out to Taiwan for humanitarian aid in a bid to help the province prepare for a potential outbreak.. Taipei delivered a 50-ton shipment of rice in June, according to Radio New Zealand. But when Suidani thanked Taipei, he was reprimanded by the central government for calling Taiwan a country.
A pile of clothes on the ground at a small Chinese makeshift refugee camp in Honiara on April 21, 2006,   after almost 90 percent of Chinatown was burnt down during rioting.
“Such divisive statement from a provincial premier threatens the unity of the country at a time when we need to work together in keeping Covid-19 from entering our borders and not politicize the virus,” Solomon Islands’ Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said.
Taiwan sent Malaita a shipment of medical supplies in June, but it was intercepted in the country’s capital Honiara and investigated by police. In August, it was still being held, according to Taiwanese authorities, although it has since been released, Suidani said. That, too, exacerbated tensions between the province and the government.

What all this means

In the aftermath of Suidani’s calls for a referendum, tensions have only ramped up in the small country.

Although a spokesperson for Sogavare told CNN “you will be copied-in if/when the PM makes a formal response to this story,” the government has since put out statements calling Suidani’s announced referendum “illegal,” and saying that no provincial government has any business making a stand on foreign relations.
Why China is challenging Australia for influence over the Pacific Islands
Back in Malaita, protests have broken out in the capital Auki after the provincial secretary was recalled to Honiara. “This call was made because of the effectiveness of (the provincial secretary) in stopping illegal logging operations exporting logs to China,” the Malaita Provincial Government said in a statement.

“When government ignores the law, we are moving into the area of dictatorship. Solomon Islands is slipping into the direction of the one-party system of China as we have been warning all along.”

For now, it’s unclear whether the vote can even go ahead. Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Provincial Government Institutional and Strengthening says that Suidani doesn’t have the legal authority to hold a referendum, and the Minister of Provincial Government Institutional and Strengthening can suspend any expenditure if he doesn’t believe it’s in the public interest.

Even if Malaita’s independence vote doesn’t go ahead, it’s clear that the diplomatic rivalry between China and Taiwan has inflamed political instability in the country, Jian Zhang, an expert in Asian security affairs at the Australian Defence Force Academy, told CNN.

Both Taiwan and China have a history of engaging with subnational players, although there has been no suggestion from political players that Taipei has influenced the call for an independence referendum. Zhang says it’s possible that Taiwan’s relationship with Malaita could eventually see the Solomon Islands switch allegiances again — or, in the unlikely event that Malaita becomes an independent country, it could become Taiwan’s new diplomatic partner.

Reinforcements of Australian Army personnel arrive at Honiara Airport during police operation 'Helpem Fren' to restore peace to the Solomon Islands, 23 December 2004.

But if Malaita becomes a separate country, it will come at a cost. In an island where most people live on subsistence farming, University of Queenstown’s Clive Moore says it will most likely require a foreign power, like Taiwan, to help prop it up, at least to begin with.

It would also be tricky to extract the province from the rest of the country. The province is in a central position, and its population makes up around a third of the country. According to Moore, the province is so central to the Solomon Islands that a split would basically mean the “destruction of a nation.”

“If (Taiwan) really think a new nation in the Pacific could be their diplomatic friend, perhaps it’s worth a punt,” Moore said. “But encouraging it, it would destroy the Solomon Islands.”

Just as Taiwan will need to decide whether its search for allies is worth the instability, the Solomon Islands will need to weigh up whether its intensified ties with Beijing are worth the risk.

For now, the 104 people — including more than 80 Chinese nationals — who were on board the flight from China are serving out their state quarantine in the capital, Honiara. Only time will tell whether the instability that flight caused was worth it.

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Buckley left frustrated after Lions defeat

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is itching for another shot at Brisbane after the one that got away on Friday night.

The Magpies allowed the hosts to score just one goal in three quarters at the Gabba, but let in five in a second-quarter lapse that cost them in an eight-point loss.

The result leaves the Magpies sixth ahead of a bye, with only wins against both Gold Coast and Port Adelaide assuring them of a finals berth.

It was the Lions’ first win against Collingwood since 2014 and came in gritty fashion after injuries to All-Australian defender Harris Andrews and tall forward Tom Fullarton.

The Magpies kicked the game’s last three goals but were left to rue a night of missed opportunities.

“We had quite a few guilty of opportunities we didn’t take … the overwhelming feeling in the rooms was frustration,” Buckley said.

“But we’re confident if we meet this opposition again we’d be confident we can perform better.”

Tom Phillips (hamstring) will join the casualty ward, while Brayden Maynard played on after suffering a heavy cork in the opening exchanges.

“You’ve got to find a way and Brisbane were able to find a way tonight and I thought we helped them,” he said.

“That (help) happened in a batch (when they kicked four consecutive goals) … and was a fairly significant contribution to the game.”

The result followed a runaway win over Carlton built on solid defence Buckley rated their best performance of the season.

“We’ve got some great belief in how we go about it, but we didn’t do the basics right,” he said.

“We think we’ve got a bit more to say about it and can do a lot better.”

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Frustrated Hogan to move forward again

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir has decided to shelve the Jesse Hogan backline experiment but says the AFL key forward needs to curb his frustration.

Longmuir revealed earlier this month the Dockers were training Hogan to play in defence after their backline was ravaged by injuries.

The experiment during scratch matches produced mixed results.

With Fremantle’s makeshift defence now thriving, Longmuir feels it’s better to employ Hogan as a forward.

But the former Demons ace will have to wait at least another week to earn a recall after Longmuir confirmed Hogan would not be selected for Saturday’s clash with Greater Western Sydney at Optus Stadium.

“I feel like probably his form is not quite where it needs to be, so he’s got a few areas he needs to improve on,” Longmuir said.

“We’ve probably shelved that (backline experiment) a little bit.

“We probably feel like … he’s going to add more to us as a forward in the short term and the long term.

“We feel like with the condensed fixture coming up, talls in our forward half might be a bit more of an opportunity for him.”

Hogan has been noticeably frustrated at times during the practice matches and Longmuir says he has talked to the 25-year-old about the importance of keeping his cool.

“He wants to go out there and dominate the game,” Longmuir said.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been overly competitive in these games. We’ve been playing a really young side against more mature teams.

“So he’s getting a little bit frustrated with the lack of supply and the lack of ball movement to him.

“We’ve just given him a couple of focus points to work on this week in terms of timing his leads, improving his one-on-one contests and just working with the younger players rather than getting frustrated.”

Meanwhile, forward Rory Lobb’s stutter-step set shots have become a big talking point at the Dockers.

The twinkle-toes approach has resulted in Lobb spraying numerous shots on goal.

“It is a little bit of a concern and it’s a concern because his teammates notice it as well,” Longmuir said.

“He’s becoming a bit conscious of it.

“The one thing I will say is Rory is working really hard on it during the week and at training the stutter is not there.

“There’s something in games – probably the pressure – that’s forcing him to stutter again.”

Longmuir said he was “on edge” against a Giants outfit fighting to stay in the finals hunt after two straight losses.

The Giants recalled former Docker Matt de Boer and Lachie Ash to replace Callan Ward (finger) and Jye Caldwell (rested).

Fremantle recalled Brett Bewley in place of the rested Michael Frederick.

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AFL players frustrated by holding-the-ball decisions as league admits to umpiring errors

Adelaide forward Taylor Walker says tough new holding-the-ball interpretations have changed the way AFL players approach contests in recent weeks.

A mid-season league directive led umpires to tighten the adjudication of the rule and subsequent inconsistencies have frustrated players, coaches and fans alike.

It followed scathing criticism from Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson last month about the congested state of the game and the perceived failure of umpires to reward tacklers.

The debate has raged in recent weeks and was reignited on Monday night after a series of contentious holding-the-ball decisions during St Kilda’s 23-point win over Adelaide.

This afternoon, the AFL conceded there were multiple cases of “missed or unwarranted free kicks” during last night’s match at Adelaide.

“I actually do feel a little bit for the umpires at the moment with the holding-the-ball issue,” former Crows captain Walker said.

“It’s been raised in the industry and now I feel it’s making it tougher and tougher for our umpires to adjudicate the game.”

Walker said players were now accepting being second to the ball rather than trying to win it, because of the way holding the ball is being adjudicated.

“You can clearly see that blokes are now thinking twice about, ‘Do I get the ball and then get tackled or do I let someone else get it and I’ll tackle them?'” he said.

Earlier this season, the AFL sent a memo to clubs emphasising the specifics of the holding-the-ball rule.

The memo read: “Where a player is in possession of the football and has not had prior opportunity, a field umpire shall award a free kick if the player is able to, but does not, make a genuine attempt to correctly dispose of the football when legally tackled.”

AFL football operations general manager Steve Hocking said errors had been made during the Crows-Saints clash.

“We acknowledge there were decisions in [Monday] night’s game that were either missed or unwarranted free kicks and we will continue to work towards ensuring stronger consistency in decision making, particularly with regards to holding-the-ball decisions,” he said.


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Daniel Ricciardo frustrated by qualifying yellows as Mercedes dominate Austrian Grand Prix F1 qualifying

Daniel Ricciardo has been still left let down right after qualifying in 10th for the delayed year-opening Austrian Grand Prix, stating he thinks the car or truck is “improved than 10th”.

Ricciardo designed it to the closing phase of qualifying and was just getting his final traveling lap underway when pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas slid off the monitor, bringing out the yellow flags, which meant he experienced to raise and slow all through his lap.

The Australian was plainly frustrated at having to ease off his lap.

“I should be [happy] but I’m not,” Ricciardo told

“We bought a bit unlucky in the very last operate. Bottas went off in front of me and there was a yellow, so I experienced to raise off.

“I did not essentially imagine he went off — I am advised he did go off, but I assumed he just dropped a wheel, so I was really indignant mainly because I considered they just put a yellow out for no explanation.”

Daniel Ricciardo will get started the very first Grand Prix of the 12 months in 10th spot.(Pool via AP: Mark Thompson)

Rather offended was ideal.

“I don’t know why there was a yellow,” Ricciardo reported on the workforce radio right after his traveling lap.

“There was a yellow for two corners for very little.”


Just after currently being explained to the cause for the yellows, a plainly frustrated Ricciardo replied on the group radio: “Yeah but he stayed on the keep track of. That was [inaudible expletive].”

Ricciardo spelled out the swearing to Sky Sports activities, expressing he did not realise Bottas experienced left the observe.

“I never know. I could have received carried away,” he discussed when requested about his use of expletives.

“I just imagined he dropped a wheel … and retained likely and I noticed yellow flags and flashing yellows.

“So I thought they overreacted to him just dropping a wheel, but seemingly he went right off. I failed to see that.

Ricciardo’s teammate Esteban Ocon skilled in 14th location.

The extended crack among races — the past time the motorists raced was in December very last year — does not appear to have impacted Ricciardo unduly, with the Australian driving a sequence of robust observe sessions ahead of qualifying.

Ricciardo told Sky Sports he experienced peaceful on the break, but experienced not permit up his target or instruction and he was ready to race once more.

“I feel like I’m just hungry to get likely. I have acquired tomorrow to clearly show a little bit far more.”

Mercedes lock-out, Ferrari effectively off the pace

Bottas’ sojourn more than the Austrian grass did not maintain him back, with the Finn narrowly beating his teammate Lewis Hamilton to pole situation by a minuscule .012 seconds.

Valtteri Bottas stands with a clenched fist wearing a black facemask and white cap
Valtteri Bottas recorded his 12th vocation pole placement.(Pool via AP: Mark Thompson)

Hamilton, the 5-time entire world winner, was investigated for not lifting through the yellow flag period soon after Bottas’ slip.

He was found to have been offered conflicting alerts but was not punished by the stewards.

It was the 65th entrance-row lockout for Mercedes in Components 1 record, bringing them level with Ferrari in the all-time stakes.


Ferrari although had been nowhere in the vicinity of their rivals in Austria, qualifying well off the tempo in seventh and 11th positions.

Charles Leclerc recorded a lap time pretty much a 2nd slower than his time a 12 months previously, with the Monegasque driver saying the auto was “not even shut” to staying at the correct rate.

“Sadly this is in which we are at the minute, so we need to do the job and get started setting up a improved vehicle for the foreseeable future,” Leclerc claimed.

“We are unable to get demoralised by modern outcome but present day outcome is not what we were being expecting, we’re not even close to the place we anticipated to be.”

Ricciardo said guiding the Ferraris and the Crimson Bull of Max Verstappen — who competent third, additional than half a next behind the pole-sitter — the discipline was unbelievably bunched.

“Evidently they are not lightning at the minute,” Ricciardo stated of Ferrari.

“Any place from P4 onwards it truly is very tight. You can find about 8 or 10 of us in just a tenth or two [of a second] on race tempo, so with any luck , it is going to be very enjoyable tomorrow.”

Lando Norris, who will be Ricciardo’s teammate at McLaren up coming year, capable in fourth, a career-significant.

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Ravensthorpe residents frustrated with new WA regional checkpoints, say it splits town in two

Residents of a town on the West Australian South Coast say the state’s new regional borders have split their town in two, with some people forced to travel through police checkpoints multiple times a day as they head to and from home.

As of Monday the Ravensthorpe Shire, 500 kilometres south-east of Perth, became part of the broader Goldfields-Esperance region as the State Government reduced the amount of regional borders from 13 to four as it entered Phase 2 of the roadmap to recovery following strict COVID-19 lockdowns.

Ravensthorpe is one of the most western towns in the new Goldfields-Esperance region.

But, as checkpoints have been set-up just 2km to the west of the town centre, residents outside of town have said it has caused stress and inconvenience as they have been stopped for simple trips to the local supermarket.

One local, Sharon, who did not give her surname, said the border checkpoint took her by surprise.

“No celebrations for us, just stress,” she said.

Erica, who works at the Ravensthorpe IGA, says she is hearing many frustrated customers talking about the checkpoints.

“If any locals go past, for instance going to work … they have to show their pass. And they have to do that going back and forwards.”

It has also prompted confusion about whether or not people who lived west of the checkpoint needed to apply for a permit.

No permits required

WA now has four regional borders, reduced from 13.(ABC News: Jon Daly)

Police Superintendent for the Great Southern, Ian Clarke, said residents who lived within the Shire would not have to apply for a G2G Pass.

He said residents of Ravensthorpe would be waved through checkpoints as police became familiar with their vehicles.

“Certainly, as time goes on, the [police officers] will know who is a local travelling through and they’ll be waved through pretty quickly,” Superintendent Clarke said.

He said the location had been chosen as it captured both northern and western travellers who were travelling into the region via the South Coast Highway or Newdegate-Ravensthorpe Road, and it was also a safer part of the road to set-up a block.

“It’s really been put in the best location we could find to provide a wide-open space, safety for our officers but also safety for the community travelling through there,” Superintendent Clarke said.

“It largely captures all the travellers that will be travelling through there so that we can comply with the job that we need to do to look after those regional boundaries.”

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Black Saturday survivor frustrated by coronavirus JobKeeper scheme

A Black Saturday survivor says falling between the gaps in the JobKeeper scheme has left him frustrated, more so even than he lost his home and business in Victoria’s catastrophic 2009 bushfires.

While the Federal Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper payment has so far received broad support, now that the public health threat from the coronavirus appears to be easing in Australia more is being heard from those missing out on the scheme.

The program has been credited with limiting the rise in the unemployment rate — only 1 percentage point in April, to 6.2 per cent — less than economists expected but still the steepest monthly rise on record.

However, Marysville’s Ashraf Doos has found his situation frustrating.

Mr Doos, who lost his home and business during the Black Saturday bushfires, told Melbourne Radio the coronavirus pandemic lockdown had been worse.

A portrait photo of a man in a blue shirt sitting on a balcony in front of a body of water.
Ashraf Doos, the owner of Marysville’s Duck Inn, is critical of the JobKeeper program.(Supplied: Facebook)

“I said earlier to my wife, ‘We had it easy on Black Saturday with the bushfire’,” Mr Doos said.

“We had it easier than this time, because the whole world was working — the world was operating.

“We went to Melbourne and life was normal there, and we started to get normality. Here, everywhere it is shut and everywhere is locked.”

Without any tourists to the small Victorian town, Mr Doos — who now runs the Duck Inn pub and bed and breakfast — hasn’t had an income for two months.

Despite spending hours on the phone, he was still waiting to hear if his JobKeeper application had been successful.

One of his five staff had gone back to Malaysia and the others had headed to Melbourne.

“This money, we needed it last week or the week before, you don’t need it next month,” he said.

“Next month I might be open and making money and I won’t need the Government support.”

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Black Saturday survivor Ashraf Doos tells Melbourne Radio’s Rafael Epstein the pandemic lockdown’s economic impact has been worse
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‘The future’s so uncertain now’

Over three days this week, ABC Melbourne’s Drive program took calls from those who had been left out of the JobKeeper scheme.

Melbourne’s Maria Scafi told Rafael Epstein she and her partner were among the 5,500 employees of airline services company Dnata who missed out because the company was based overseas in Dubai.

“It’s very unfair,” she said.

“We’re all Australians, paying tax in Australia. I have been for the past 30 years and this is how I get paid for it? The future’s so uncertain now. I don’t know what we’re going to do.

Jenni Madden, who runs a non-profit Melbourne childcare centre, said she had been forced to let five employees go because they were on migrant visas.

“They’re now relying on partners with part-time work,” she said.

“There’s no work out there for them. Childcare centres aren’t employing people because we have no income, and it’s just getting worse.”

Melbourne law student Darcy Moran said he had been a casual bar worker at the Brunswick Bowls Club for four months and so missed out on the JobKeeper payment, which is only available to casual workers who have been with the same employer for at least 12 months.

“The difference [for me] is I’ve been dropped down from employment to Austudy, so essentially looking at $700 to $800 per week, after tax, down to $225, although it has been given a bump as of last week,” he said.

“I’m really angry with the Federal Government. I’m very fortunate, because I have family who have been able to rally around me and support me, but thousands of casual hospitality workers don’t and are in not just financial stress, but some of them are in danger of losing housing or losing income that they needed to survive on.”

A portrait photo showing a smiling Helen Haines.
Independent MP for Indi Helen Haines wants more support provided to JobKeeper applicants and the criteria widened.

Helen Haines, the Independent MP for Indi, which covers Marysville, said the “anomalies” needed to be fixed and more financial counselling and support in navigating the JobKeeper process should be provided, particularly in areas hit by the recent bushfires.

She also expressed concern about the “discrepancy” that meant university workers were missing out on JobKeeper.

No ‘wholesale changes’ likely during review

Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Michael Sukkar holds a press conference in the Blue Room. He's wearing a white and blue tie
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar says the ATO has been “flexed up” to deal with the JobKeeper program.(ABC News: Andrew Kennedy)

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar told ABC Melbourne that “wholesale changes” were unlikely when the scheme was reviewed in June.

He said the Government had extended the scheme much more broadly than other countries by including long-term casual employees

“Now, for those people who fall on the wrong side of that line, I can understand someone who’s been a casual employee for 11 months and 15 days [being upset] but those people are entitled to the JobSeeker payment,” he said.

Mr Sukkar added that the ATO had been “flexed up to an unbelievable level” in order to process JobKeeper applications.

“We’ve pulled people from the Australian public service from everywhere,” he said.

“The ATO is communicating very directly. Payments are taking about two to three days from application.”

Responding to concerns that university workers were effectively ineligible for the program, Mr Sukkar said universities were already receiving funding for pre-coronavirus student numbers and defended the way their decline in revenue due to the pandemic was being assessed.

“Having a different measurement point between industries is, I think, completely understandable,” he said.

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