Melbourne car fire in Mullum Mullum Tunnel closes both Eastlink tunnels


A car fire in Melbourne’s east has closed a major tunnel and traffic is being u-turned away from the scene.

The fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon outbound in the Mullum Mullum tunnel in Donvale.

Eastlink has been closed in both directions between Springvale Road and the Maroondah Highway.

“Emergency services are u-turning the traffic that was stopped prior to the tunnels when the boom gates were lowered,” a statement from the Department of Transport said.

Drivers have been urged to use the Maroondah Highway and Springvale Road to avoid the closure.

The closure is under the control of Victoria Police and traffic lights will be adjusted as needed to minimise congestion.

Fire Rescue Victoria extinguished the fire just before 12.30pm, but firefighters remain onsite.

“Please have patience, safety is the top priority,” ConnectEast Eastlink tweeted.

“Evacuated motorists need to be returned to their vehicles and the damaged vehicle needs to be removed.”

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Free parking in Melbourne CBD for long weekend for Moomba festival 2021


To celebrate the long weekend, car parking in Melbourne’s city will be free to make it easier for residents to enjoy the Moomba festival.

The City of Melbourne is pulling out all the stops to support local businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the free parking is expected to encourage more people to travel in for the event.

The parking will be free in areas with green signage from 12pm on Friday until 11.59pm on Monday March 8.

Drivers will still need to obey the time limit on the signs, but will not have to pay.

Disabled parking restrictions, clearways, no standing zones and residential permit restrictions still apply.

On-street parking in the CBD is usually $7 an hour and there are 11,408 fee parking bays in the City of Melbourne municipality.

“My message to all Victorians is don’t miss out – the city will be filled with floral displays, buskers filling the streets with sound and star performances at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said in a statement.

“There will be a carnival atmosphere in the city and offering free parking is another way to reduce the cost of coming into the city to enjoy all the COVID-safe activities we have on offer as part of Moomba”.

All of the 40,000 free tickets to the Moomba Carnival at Alexandra Gardens have been booked out, but there are still some available for other areas.

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Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels says his team’s challenge of playing on the road is a motivator in Super Rugby AU


Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels knows that if his side can make the Super Rugby AU final this season — or even better, win it — the way his team has dealt with the deja vu feeling of playing a domestic competition on the road will have been a major factor.

“Yeah, definitely, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” he told ABC Sport this week, from his team’s home-away-from-home base in Canberra.

“We were disappointed not to get our first win against the Reds (last weekend in Brisbane), we feel like we let a chance slip there.

“And that’s what we’re chasing right now, we just want to win one game, and then once we’ve won that one, we’ll try to win two games, and then three games.

“Right now, the focus is on trying to beat a very good Brumbies team who are playing very good at home.”

After spending the entire 2020 Super Rugby AU season on the road, it’s been another rough start to this season’s campaign for the Rebels.

It was one thing to face both finalists from last year — still the overwhelming favourites in 2021 — in their first two games, but then they were confronted with the immediate need to get out of Victoria as the state entered its snap lockdown on Friday, February 12.

The day ended very differently to the overnight team camping trip Wessels had planned. Where he thought the team would “play the guitar around the fire and have a few beers”, they instead had to make for the Victoria-New South Wales border on just two hours’ notice.

“They had to get home, and some of them were probably an hour away from home, had to get home and pack and then immediately get in their cars and drive and try to hit the border before it closed at midnight.

“And to be honest, we weren’t sure where we were going to stay.

Melbourne Rebels haven’t played a home game at AAMI Park in over a year.(

AAP: Dan Peled

)

The Rebels had seen this movie before, having faced exactly the same scenario last year, a move which allowed the hastily arranged Super Rugby AU competition to get off the ground.

It was so similar this time around that Wessels copped a bit of grief when he delivered the news.

“Yeah, it’s funny, because they told us we were going to be gone for five days last year, and of course, we were away for three months.

“This time when we left, they told us it was going to be five days again, so when I announced this to the team, there was a bit of mirth and laughter from the team.”

Rushed planning and logistics on the run have become something of a Rebels specialty, and Wessels explains that moving 65 players, staff, and some partners at a moment’s notice is “nothing like booking a hotel online for a weekend with your wife”.

Personal stories are littered throughout the squad and the sacrifices made have become motivators.

Not all partners could make the trip, with plenty of families — including Wessels’s own — still juggling school commitments. Some members of the squad didn’t get to see their kids before fleeing the state, while one of the club’s physiotherapists was due to be married the weekend the squad had to shift to Canberra.

Thankfully, the travelling squad and the families left at home have been getting great support from the Melbourne Rebels organisation, and from Rugby Australia.

Rebels coach questions interstate rules

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“We’ve managed the expectation of our kids and families, and just told them we’ll be home when we can be home, and that sort of thing. It feels like things are looking a lot better in Melbourne, because there’s been no cases for a while,” Wessels said.

But interstate politics is never far away when it comes to border closures, and the Rebels coach raises some reasonable questions when it comes to those interstate decisions impacting rugby.

“If we’re not allowed into Queensland for whatever reason, why is that the problem of the Melbourne Rebels?” he asked.

“Why is that not the problem of the Queensland Reds? And if we can’t get into Western Australia, why is that not the problem of the Western Force?

“Why are we the team that has to be on the road, when our borders are open to other states? We can travel freely to many parts of Australia, and yet we’re the team that’s forced to go on the road again.

“Probably the Reds, and certainly the Brumbies and Waratahs have not really had to worry about much discomfort at all over the last few months, whereas we’ve only had one training session this year at our home base of AAMI Park.

“The rest of the time, we’re having to use other facilities, make a plan, extra travel, all this other stuff.

Rugby union team sitting in the stands getting ready for a team photo
Melbourne Rebels remain in good spirits despite being on the road for another year.(

Facebook: Melbourne Rebels

)

As it stands, it’s still only the Rebels and Force to have been impacted by state borders closing.

After both teams spent all of the 2020 season based in Canberra or along the New South Wales north coast, and the Rebels were forced back on the road at the start of this season, the Force also had to delay a pre-season match against the Brumbies by a few days, to allow them to get back into Western Australia safely.

The Brumbies and Rebels also swapped their rounds three and nine matches, to allow the Rebels to safely travel to Perth in round four after being in Canberra, rather than Melbourne.

Some forward planning and many crossed fingers saw 17 players and staff — not needed for the Perth trip — head back to Melbourne this week, partially solving the problem of getting upwards of 30 cars from the national capital back to the Victorian capital.

They all hope to reunite in Melbourne in less than a fortnight.

Playing for the big ‘V’

“There’s little personal stories around it. But I’m also mindful of the fact that we’ve got a great job. I mean we stay in a great hotel, we’ve got some really good people on our team and we enjoy spending some time together, and that sort of stuff,” Wessels said.

“We’re certainly not sitting around feeling too sorry for ourselves, it is what it is, we’ve got to get over it, and certainly the teams that we’re playing don’t really care. We’ve just got to deal with them and perform well.”

He said the team was not just confident about getting the job done against the high-flying, try-scoring Brumbies this weekend, but of going further than losing the qualifying final to Queensland last season.

“Everyone really just wants that first win for each other. The boys are all making these sacrifices and we want to play for each other.

“And everybody’s watching us from Melbourne. We haven’t played at home for more than a year now, and we just want people to watch us on TV or wherever and know that we’re representing them, and just be proud of the way we play.

“It means a lot to these guys.”

Super Rugby AU — Round 3

Friday: New South Wales Waratahs v Western Force, Sydney 7:45pm AEDT

Saturday: Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels, Canberra 7:45pm AEDT

Queensland Reds have the bye.

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Majak Daw to play for Melbourne Demons in VFL game


Meanwhile, the Demons are increasingly excited about the form of James Jordon, who is a strong chance of being included in the round one line-up against Fremantle if his pre-season form continues in the Community Series match against the Western Bulldogs.

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Jordon is a tough midfielder with good endurance who has been on the list for two seasons, having joined the list as a 17-year-old when the Demons picked him with selection 33 in the 2018 national draft.

He was considered a draft bolter at the time as he had played just seven under-18 games with the Oakleigh Chargers in his draft year, having moved down from Yarrawonga to attend Caulfield Grammar. But he looks set to prove an astute selection.

If Jordon is selected for round one he will continue a Demons trend that has lasted for the past 13 seasons, with at least one player chosen to make their debut for Melbourne in round one since 2007.

In that time the Demons have made the finals just once – in 2018 – but will be looking to bounce back after just missing the top eight in 2020.

The Demons revealed on Wednesday that vice-captain Jack Viney was touch and go for round one and that Angus Brayshaw would build his fitness for the clash against the Dockers – where his younger brother Andrew plays – with two practice matches in the VFL, meaning Jordon will have a chance to impress against the Bulldogs.

They are also hopeful youngster Kysaiah Pickett will be available for selection as he has maintained fitness while away from the club due to a family bereavement.

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Victorian coronavirus rulebreakers warned as Melbourne woman charged with attacking police officer over mask


A growing group of anti-maskers have been “baiting” and antagonising Victorian police, and in one instance smashed the head of a female officer into concrete until she was concussed, authorities say.

Police said two female police officers approached a 38-year-old woman, who was not wearing a face covering, in the Frankston area on Monday night.

After questioning the woman about why she was not wearing one, police allege she pushed one officer and struck the other in the head.

“After a confrontation and being assaulted by that woman, those police officers went to ground and there was a scuffle,” Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said.

“During that scuffle, this 38-year-old woman smashed the head of the [26-year-old] policewoman several times into a concrete area on the ground.”

Police said the constable was taken to Frankston Hospital with “significant head injuries”.

The woman’s alleged assault left the young police officer with a concussion and a missing clump of hair, Police Association of Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said.

“The offender had a clump of our member’s hair in her hands and said to our member ‘what’s it like to have your hair in my hands’ or words to that effect,” he said.

“That’s just horrible conduct — it’s not human-like to be quite honest.”

Police have charged the alleged attacker with nine offences, including two counts of assaulting an emergency worker and one count of recklessly causing injury.

She had no previous criminal history and was granted bail to appear before the Frankston Magistrates’ Court on March 31, 2021.

Details of the alleged attack were revealed as Victoria announced there would be more police and Army resources and new fines targeting people who did not self-isolate when directed.

A new $4,659 on-the-spot fine will apply for people who breach self-isolation orders, but “particularly selfish behaviour” and repeated breaches can now attract a $20,000 penalty, Premier Daniel Andrews said.

An additional 250 police officers will also join the roughly 1,500 personnel who are already working on enforcing restrictions around Victoria.

Mr Gatt said he did not know why the 38-year-old’s alleged response to being questioned was so strong.

But he said it was just one example of people refusing to comply with restrictions and antagonising police.

“This was a particularly violent occurrence but our members have been stood up by smartarses around the state for five minutes of fame in front of a camera,” he said.

“Frontline police and emergency service workers shouldn’t have to go through this.

“We should be holding them in the highest of regards and supporting them as they keep us safe — not dragging them to the ground and smashing their head into the concrete.”

Chief Commissioner Patton said in the past week police had seen a trend of people calling themselves “sovereign citizens” who “don’t think the law applies to them”.

“We’ve seen them at checkpoints baiting police, not providing a name and address,” he said.

“On at least four occasions in the last week, we’ve had to smash the windows of cars and pull people out to provide details because they weren’t adhering to the Chief Health Officer’s guidelines, they weren’t providing their name and address.”

Commissioner Patton said the groups were small “but nonetheless concerning”.

“People have to absolutely understand there are consequences for your actions and if you’re not doing the right thing, we will not hesitate to issue infringements, to arrest you, to detain you where it’s appropriate,” he said.

“It’s not something we want to be doing, but it is what we will do and it has been occurring in the past week.”

The Premier said the attack on the officer in Frankston was “fundamentally disgusting”

“Police are out there, putting themselves in harm’s way, they run towards the danger when the rest of us wouldn’t.”

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Three men arrested after hoon meet in Melbourne



Three men including a drug-driver are facing charges after a hoon event in Melbourne overnight which saw about 100 cars gather.

Officers swarmed on the crowd allegedly performing and observing burnouts at Carrum Downs just before 11pm last night.

Police had been monitoring the group for some time, Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett said today.

“We are really active in monitoring the behaviours in young people, particularly these drivers,” Asst Comm Barrett said.
“A number of males have already been processed by police and at least three vehicles have been seized.”
He said he expected more arrests to be made and more car seized over the coming days.
Police broke up the meet at Frankston Gardens Industrial Estate and believe the group had originally gathered in Heatherton before travelling south to Carrum Downs.
From the industrial estate, which is known for attracting hoon gatherings, police, including the AirWing pursued and arrested the three men.

The first man returned a positive drug test and was arrested.

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Tributes flow for music entrepreneur Michael Gudinski after he dies in Melbourne aged 68


Musicians Jimmy Barnes, Ed Sheeran and Kylie Minogue have led the tributes for music legend Michael Gudinski after he died peacefully at his Melbourne home.

Gudinski came to fame after forming the hugely successful Australian record company Mushroom Records in 1972 when he was just 20.

His roster of artists has included Kylie Minogue, Jimmy Barnes, Danni Minogue, Eskimo Joe and 1970s legends Skyhooks, among many others.

He died on Monday night aged 68.

Barnes released an emotional statement via Twitter, saying Gudinski stood by him on both his darkest and happiest days.

“Today the heart of Australian music was ripped out. I felt it, my family felt it, the music business felt it , the world felt it,” he said.

“Michael was the rock I reached for when life tried to wash me away. He never closed his door or his heart to me and my family.

“We will stand by his family just like he stood by ours. I loved Michael, always will.”

Singer and songwriter Ed Sheeran posted a photo of the pair arm in arm on his Instagram page with the simple yet powerful caption: “I’ll miss you mate”.

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Melbourne retailer penalised for deliberate breaches


The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $256,000 in penalties in court, including for five ‘serious contraventions’ under the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws, against a Melbourne toy retailer company and its director for deliberately underpaying migrant employees.

The Federal Court has imposed a $215,000 penalty against IE Enterprises, which operated ‘Uncle Toys’ pop-up stores in Melbourne shopping centres, and an additional $41,000 penalty against Melbourne man Eyal Israel, the owner and manager of the company.

Mr Israel and his company paid eight casual workers low rates (from as little as $6.70 an hour), and did not pay some employees at all for some hours worked. Record-keeping and pay slip laws were also breached.

The affected employees were visa holders from countries including Malta, the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea, and most were aged in their 20s.

The employees were underpaid for between one and nine weeks of work performed between October 2017 and January 2018. They worked at Uncle Toys pop-up stores in Ringwood, Hoppers Crossing, Preston, Frankston, Narre Warren, Cheltenham and Wantirna South shopping centres.

In addition to the penalties, the court has ordered IE Enterprises to back-pay the employees a total of $21,748. Individual underpayments range from $395 to $5,041.

The FWO has received requests for assistance from former employees of IE Enterprises dating back several years, and previously issued the company with a letter of caution, education materials and pay guides.

Judge Stewart Anderson found that Mr Israel and his company had shown “no contrition, no cooperation and taken no corrective action” for conduct that was “deliberate and systematic and had a significant impact on the relevant employees”, who were vulnerable, young foreign nationals.

One worker gave evidence that she borrowed money from a friend in Korea to afford basic living expenses. Another gave evidence that she was “very worried” about how she would afford to pay for food and accommodation, while another employee said he was afraid that, if he resigned, he would not receive his previous week’s wages, and that he “felt exploited and helpless”.

Judge Anderson said there was a strong need in this case to impose penalties which were high enough to deter other employers from similar conduct, particularly in the retail industry, which attracts young, often unskilled overseas workers.

“Underpayment of employees and the exploitation of vulnerable employees undermines core principles of the Australian workplace relations system. Those core principles include an enforceable and fair safety net of employment terms and conditions. It is, in my view, fundamental to the effectiveness of workplace regulation in Australia that this safety net is extended to all employees, regardless of their youth or visa status,” Judge Anderson said.

It is the second time the Fair Work Ombudsman has secured penalties in court under the ‘serious contraventions’ provisions introduced by the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws, after obtaining penalties against a Perth café franchisee last year for repeat offending.

Under the laws, which came into effect in September 2017, the maximum penalties for serious contraventions are $630,000 per breach for a company and $126,000 for an individual, 10-times the penalties which would ordinarily apply.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Jeremy O’Sullivan said the new judgment highlighted the importance of the higher penalties which could be imposed for serious contraventions to deter employers from deliberately doing the wrong thing.

“We will continue to make full use of the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws to ensure that any individuals or companies who commit serious contraventions are held to account and understand the consequences of their failures,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“Failing to correct underpayment issues after being put on notice is simply unacceptable. Employers should also be aware that we treat cases involving underpayment of young and migrant workers particularly seriously, because we are conscious that they can be vulnerable due to factors such as a lack of awareness of their entitlements and a reluctance to complain. Any workers with concerns should contact us,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

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Infrastructure Australia backs ‘cycling superhighways’ proposal for Melbourne suburbs


A proposal to create hundreds of kilometres of “cycling superhighways” from Melbourne’s booming suburbs to the CBD has been backed by Australia’s infrastructure advisory body.

Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) annual priority list said dedicated cycling infrastructure for key routes should be built within five years to alleviate congestion and encourage more people to ride their bikes.

The idea was first proposed by RACV last year and included 17 suggested routes to link commuters to “major activity centres” around the city.

The IA report said while most Victorians owned bikes, recent research showed they did not cycle for transport “because the bicycle network is not currently meeting community needs and expectations of a safer, lower-stress and better-connected network”.

“There are some great health advantages of cycling ways, there’s also some congestion-busting examples as well, because if we can get more people who can safely cycle in our CBDs, that’ll be taking cars off the road and there’ll be less crowding on our public transport,” IA chief executive Romilly Madew said.

“So it’s really about identifying what are the possible pathways around Melbourne’s CDB that could be identified for a cycling superhighway.”

The RACV research identified the highest-priority corridors as Chapel Street, St Kilda Road and Napier Street to St Georges Road.

In the RACV plan, cyclists would be separated from motorists on lanes or roads which would likely connect to a loop near the CBD.

A project’s presence on the list does not guarantee it will be built, but Mr Outhred it would give “more credibility and a lot more weight” to their proposal.

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the Government was already investing in cycling, and referenced 250 kilometres of bike paths that had been built across the state.

“We know bike paths are important, we work closely with the cycling groups on this investment but what we do see from Infrastructure Australia’s recommendation is they stand in stark contrast to what it wants to see in other states,” she said.

The annual priority list from the independent advisory body includes 37 new proposals for the country’s infrastructure, only two of which are from Victoria.

Also on IA’s list is a proposal to improve transport connectivity for the 140,000 people living in the outer south-eastern suburb of Frankston.

The eight new high-priority initiatives include five national projects — inlcuding coastal inundation, waste management and national road maintenance — upgrades to land transport in Queensland, water security in Perth and regional road projects in Western Australia.

In a shift from big ticket items like the NBN, IA said improving how Australia manages its water supply in the face of drought and climate change should be the number one infrastructure priority for the Federal Government.

The two new additions to the list join 10 other priority initiatives for the state, including ongoing level crossing removal works and a third runway at Melbourne Airport, which is currently under construction.

The list still includes the controversial East West Link, which the Andrews Government spent more than $1 billion on taxpayer funds ripping up when it came into power after the 2014 election.

But Ms Allan said the Government would not be changing its stance on a “project that doesn’t stack up”.

“It’s a project that’s been rejected at the last two state elections, and also we are focused on the projects that we committed to,” she said.

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Teens arrested over ‘crime spree’ that ended with alleged home invasion in Melbourne



Five teenagers have been arrested following a violent crime spree across south-east Melbourne.

They are accused of carrying out a home invasion in Frankston South, where a young mother was forced to hide in a cupboard as she attempted to protect her family.

One of the teens, aged 15, has been bailed while four others remain in custody – one as young as 14.


Three teens, allegedly armed with machetes and knives, broke into the home at midnight overnight.
They allegedly demanded car keys from the father, while the mother hid in a cupboard upstairs and dialed Triple Zero.
The teens allegedly drove the family’s Jeep and BMW to Richmond before realizing the latter’s GPS tracking system was active, and dumping it.

Police allege the home invasion was the last incident in a crime spree that began on Wednesday.
Other incidents in the spree included the robbery of a taxi driver in Frankston, the theft of a Holden Commodore, another home invasion in Langwarrin, and an aggravated burglary in Cranbourne.

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