Music event Backyard Fest approved for Elphinstone despite local objections

A one-off weekend music festival that could attract up to 1,500 people has been granted approval, with conditions, by the Mount Alexander Shire Council despite 17 objections.

Backyard Fest is scheduled to go ahead in Elphinstone in November, with organisers wanting to run the event on land on Allendale Road which is zoned for farming.

Nikki Medwell, who runs an animal shelter on a neighbouring property, objected to the festival, saying the noise would be detrimental to wildlife.

“Wildlife generally have a 10-kilometre-radius home base and that sort of noise is going to send wildlife scattering,” she said.

“We work with a senior veterinary surgeon who has a business here and we rehabilitate injured and sick wildlife; the reason he is working with us is because of the greenbelt and the silence and the location that recovering wildlife receive.”

The festival will start on a Friday night showcasing bands and DJs, with more performances and yoga and art installations the following day.

Elphinstone resident and Red Box Wildlife and Veterinary Hospital senior veterinarian Mark Sayer said the land surrounding the proposed festival location was pristine and home to wildlife populations that had previously been in decline.

“Elphinstone is an area where the farming community are farming sustainably, and they are also in concert with the local wildlife to the point where phascogales, a carnivorous marsupial on the highly endangered list, can be found.

“It shows how well the local area is looking after its wildlife.”

Despite the objections and recommendation from council staff to deny approval of the event in its current form, councillors agreed to the application.

“Under COVID there hasn’t been much happening in the community,” Mayor Tony Cordy said.

“A lot of people enjoy live music, they wanted to give this event the opportunity to go ahead so there was something positive for people.”

He said there were still plenty of challenges ahead for the organisers.

“There were concerns about fire safety, the proximity of the venue to the freeway, and there was a lot of support on council for the event to go ahead,” he said.

“It was really around moving forward, seeing the community move forward, have an event to look forward to and something for young people to do.”

The Mayor said the council was not convinced one weekend of activities would adversely affect wildlife.

“The wildlife experts are entitled to their point of view. We had an applicant objector meeting in relation to this event, but at the end of the day, the majority of councillors voted for this event to go ahead.”

Event organisers will have to seek approval from the Country Fire Authority to mitigate fire risk and flagged road management issues to meet council guidelines.

Backyard Fest co-director Blake Van Leeuwen said he was thrilled with council’s vote and would work to make the event a success for young people and the community.

“Music really is our passion, and to create a festival in order to share that passion really brings us great joy.

“Albeit we haven’t seen the conditions as yet, we are very confident that we can fulfil the needs of the council to get our little festival of the ground.

“We are very excited to work with locals in the area and simply can’t wait for Backyard Fest to be in full swing.”

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Cathay regains permit to fly many routes vacated by its closed subsidiary, while Greater Bay’s bid for routes of its own meets with no objections

Cathay Pacific Airways has secured approval from mainland authorities to fly most of the routes previously covered by its now-defunct subsidiary, in a move seen as a confidence booster for Hong Kong’s struggling flag carrier.The Post has also learned that the carrier did not raise any objection to its nascent rival Greater Bay Airlines’ (GBA) bid to fly more than 100 routes from Hong Kong.The newcomer might be able to launch as soon as this summer given the lack of opposition, sources said…

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Electoral College objections in Congress: What to know

The House and Senate will convene at 1 p.m. Wednesday for a joint session of Congress to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win, and a group of GOP lawmakers intends to raise objections to the results. 

The traditional tally of the electoral results from each state is the final stage in the selection of an American president. It’s normally a lackluster procedure, but President Trump has changed that by calling on his GOP allies in Congress to fight for him until the bitter end.

A good number have stood with Trump, but other Republicans have blasted the last gasp of resistance as detrimental to democracy and counter to the U.S. Constitution. 

“To challenge a state’s certification, given how specific the Constitution is, would be a violation of my oath of office—that is not something I am willing to do and is not something Oklahomans would want me to do,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a statement Tuesday in announcing he will be accepting Biden’s win. 

On the other end of the divided Republican Party are lawmakers who are responding to the frustrations of voters who continue to believe that the election was stolen from Trump. More demonstrations are planned in Washington, D.C., and Trump is expected to address the crowds at 11 a.m.

Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., have said at least 100 House Republicans are supporting the objections. In the Senate, at least 13 Republicans have said they’ll object to the results in some fashion, with Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leading the way. 


“I don’t know the outcome, but I think it’s worth fighting for,” Greene told Fox News of the final effort to stop the certification.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to Trump supporters. (Twitter/@mtgreenee)

Greene hopes the objections will set off a debate in Congress over the allegations of voter fraud that courts thus far have not taken up. Greene spoke to Trump about election irregularities abroad Air Force One when she accompanied him to a rally in Georgia Monday night. 

“It’s our duty to object,” Greene said. “… The American people deserve to at least start to hear the evidence of fraud.”

To prepare for the debate, the House Judiciary Committee GOP staff prepared a 41-page memo outlining alleged electoral problems in six states, such as making mail-in ballots more readily available during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The last-minute push for all-mail in voting in many states, coupled with moves to erase long-standing safeguards for mail-in voting, created conditions ripe for election administration errors or election-related crimes,” the memo obtained by Fox News states.

House Republicans are preparing to object to the electoral votes in at least six states that Biden won — Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nevada. As of Tuesday afternoon, it was unclear how many states would get support from a senator, which is necessary for any debate to begin.

Cruz will object to Arizona, with a focus on creating an Electoral College commission to audit the results and not necessarily for setting aside the election results, according to a source familiar. And Hawley has narrowed in on Pennsylvania. 


Biden won the Electoral College vote 306-232, but Trump has refused to concede and has instead repeated unproven allegations of widespread vote fraud that have been rejected by the Supreme Court, his attorney general, state election officials and dozens of other courts. 

Some Democrats have objected to election results in the past when GOP presidents have won, but they’ve come out strong against this last-ditch effort.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, says Trump’s ongoing claims of voter fraud are “seditious” and blasted Republican leaders who have refused to acknowledge that Biden won the election fair and square. 


“They have cavalierly supported by their silence, or by their active participation the president’s false claim — his, in many ways, seditious claim — that the vote was not fair,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “…It’s a tragedy that they have done so.”

Here are some things to know before the Joint Session convenes:

Vice President Mike Pence waves as he walks off the stage after speaking at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Vice President Mike Pence waves as he walks off the stage after speaking at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

VP Mike Pence will play a ceremonial role

When the House and Senate meet together Wednesday at 1 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence is expected to preside over the Joint Session of Congress. 

Trump has placed pressure on Pence to help him out during this process, insisting that Pence has the power to object to ballots and telling a Georgia crowd Monday that he hopes Pence “comes through for us.”

But regardless of how much the president turns up the volume on his vice president, White House officials tell Fox News that Pence will “follow the law” on Wednesday.

The electoral votes are brought into the House chamber in mahogany boxes.

Pence will begin the tally of votes from each state in alphabetical order starting with Alabama and then Alaska. 

The first expected objection is to come from Arizona, where Biden won. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a campaign rally for Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, in Cumming, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a campaign rally for Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, in Cumming, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Objections only work if there’s support from both a senator and a representative.

Under the Electoral Count Act, a petitioner from both the House and Senate are required to challenge a state’s slate of electoral votes, and the objection must be in writing.

Cruz has indicated he’ll join the House in objecting to Arizona, according to a source familiar. Cruz has led a group of about a dozen senators who say they would object to the certification of the Electoral College results unless there was an emergency 10-day audit of the results by an electoral commission. Cruz is expected to raise the Electoral College commission issue — but not settling aside the election results altogether. 

The debate is slated for two hours with Democrats and Republicans taking turns talking.

Once there is a joint objection, the senators will go back to their chamber, and the House will stay in its chamber to debate the merits of that state’s electors. 

Members will have a five-minute speaking limit. 

In this March 3, 2020, file photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In this March 3, 2020, file photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Democrats have former impeachment managers leading their debate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Administration Committee, to lead to Democratic response. Both are former impeachment managers. 

Others prepared to lead the debate are Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law professor, and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., who sits on the Judiciary Committee. 

Democrats who represent the state that is being challenged will also speak in defense of the validity of the election results. 

A vote of both the majority of the House and Senate is needed to throw out a state’s slate of electors.

After the debate, the House and Senate will both vote on whether to accept that state’s electors.

It’s a roll call vote that will document how each lawmaker stands on each state’s electors.

It takes both the House and Senate to reject a state’s electoral votes. If that happens, the electoral slate just disappears. It would be as though Arizona never voted. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Win McNamee/Pool via AP)

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Win McNamee/Pool via AP)

This could take a very, very long time. 

After the votes on that particular state, the House and Senate resume jointly again and begin the tally for the rest of the states. 

If there is another joint objection, the House and Senate separate again for another two hours of debate and a vote on that contested state.

The time needed to separate, debate and vote on each state could be three to four hours.

The process repeats itself until all the states are counted.

The votes are not on Trump’s side

Since Democrats control the House and enough Republicans in both the House and Senate accept that Trump lost the election, these objections are a longshot effort.

At the end of the process, Biden and Kamala Harris are expected to be certified as the next president and vice president of the United States.

Their inauguration would be on Jan. 20. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Jason Donner and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report. 

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Congress set to certify Electoral College results despite GOP objections; here’s why

The House and Senate will meet for a joint session Wednesday to certify the Electoral College results, the last step in finalizing the presidential win for Joe Biden – but some GOP lawmakers are saying not so fast.

The Trump 2020 Campaign has led dozens of lawsuits in the attempt to overturn the election’s results, which saw Biden beat President Trump by 306-232 Electoral College votes.

The electoral vote was held Dec. 14, following the Nov. 3 popular vote.

Trump has continuously claimed that the election was fraudulent, despite former Attorney General William Barr announcing last month that the Justice Department had not “seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has also refused to review two cases, and more than 50 lawsuits challenging the results have been thrown out in the lower courts.

But some GOP lawmakers say a 10-day emergency audit needs to be completed by an electoral commission to restore voters’ faith in the U.S. election process – a demand that has frustrated not only Democrats but is splitting the Republican Party. 

 A dozen Republican senators, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have said they will object to the elections results if an audit is not completed.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks in Cumming, Ga., Jan. 2, 2021. (Associated Press)

Here’s what to expect Wednesday.

How the Electoral College vote is certified

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives meet every Jan. 6 following a presidential election to certify the states’ votes at 1 p.m. in the House Chamber.

As president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence will open the results of each state’s vote alphabetically, before handing them to two “tellers” from both the House and Senate to present the results.

Pence will ask if there are any objections to the results of every state, at which time a written objection can be presented as long as it has been signed by at least one representative and one senator.

The joint session is then suspended so both the Senate and the House can debate any objections separately for two hours, where each member may speak only once, and for no longer than five minutes.

Both chambers then vote on the objection, which requires a simple majority to be sustained. If the majority is not met then the objection is disposed and the state’s vote is counted.

Is anyone expected to object?

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., has lead the way for GOP lawmakers in the House to voice their objections, though until recently he did not have the backing of a senator.

Despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging GOP senators to accept the results of the election — which saw Biden win the popular tally by 7 million votes — Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., announced earlier this week that he would be objecting to results from some states, such as Pennsylvania, where he contests the legitimacy of the mail-in votes counted. He was then joined by another group of eleven senators, who on Saturday demanded a 10-day audit.  

But it’s not only Democrats that have voiced their frustrations over the calls for an electoral commission: Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has rejected the demand, saying Trump’s loss was “explained by the decline in suburban support.”

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 10, 2020. (Associated Press)

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 10, 2020. (Associated Press)

“A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders,” Toomey said in a Saturday statement. “The effort by Senators Hawley, Cruz, and others to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called the move an “egregious ploy” and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she would uphold the Electoral College vote because she “swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

Will Republicans be able to overturn a state’s vote?

Brooks told Fox News on Saturday night that more than 50 members of Congress have committed to objecting to results in states “who’s election systems were untrustworthy.”


And while the number of GOP objectors is likely to be substantial, they would have to have a simple majority in the House to successfully get through an objection – which would require the backing of every Republican and some Democrats who hold the House majority.

The same holds true in the Senate, and with only a dozen Republicans there looking to object state’s election results, being able to pass through an objection remains highly unlikely.




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Taiwanese Horror Game ‘Devotion’ Gets Pulled Again Over Chinese Objections – The Diplomat

Asia Life | Society | East Asia

Online game store GOG canceled a plan to re-release the game, which drew controversy last year over an Easter egg comparing Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh.

A popular horror game from Taiwanese developer Red Candle Games has been denied a platform once again for initially including a hidden reference comparing Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh.

The game, Devotion, had been set for a re-release by the digital storefront GOG, only for the platform to announce hours later that it would not be listed after all.

“After receiving many messages from gamers, we have decided not to list the game in our store,” GOG tweeted on Wednesday.

Devotion was pulled from the platform Steam in February of last year after Chinese gamers discovered an Easter egg showing an ancient Taoist wall scribble reading “Xi Jinping, Little Bear Winnie.” Xi is notoriously sensitive to memes highlighting his likeness to the cartoon bear.

At the time, Red Candle Games quickly apologized and said the text was a placeholder that should never have been released. The developer later issued an additional apology, saying it “failed our players’ anticipation and offended many others due to the said mistake.”

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But Devotion was never relisted on Steam and became an example of how the Chinese government’s objections to Taiwanese expression often hurt those with the most to lose.

The game went without a home until Red Candle Games announced it would be hosted on GOG on Wednesday. But that glimmer of hope for Devotion fans lasted for all of a few hours.

“We are willing to understand and respect GOG’s decision,” the developer wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “This is a difficult predicament to overcome, but we won’t stop striving.”

The news has infuriated gamers, who have become used to controversies involving Chinese censorship.

Last year, the U.S. gaming company Blizzard Entertainment banned a professional Hearthstone player for Hong Kong for shouting the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times!” during a postgame interview. Gamers also discovered last year the popular game League of Legends prevented users from including the word “Uyghur” in their status messages.

The megahit Animal Crossing disappeared from online and physical stores in China in April for unknown reasons, although some users speculated it happened after Hong Kong pro-democracy figures such as Joshua Wong publicized their fondness for the game.

In October, players of Genshin Impact found that mentions of “Hong Kong” and “Taiwan” were being censored in the game.

And earlier this week, the highly anticipated game Cyberpunk 2077 – available on GOG – found itself embroiled in controversy after its online encyclopedia described Taiwan as “not really a country and it’s not actually a part of China.”

The Cyberpunk controversy in particular could have spelled doom for Devotion. GOG, like all game developers, relies heavily on the lucrative Chinese market.

But selling games in China requires tiptoeing through the minefield of Chinese censorship. In the past, Chinese gamers have been quick to flag potential offending issues with popular game releases, in part because they fear their favorite platforms and developers being banned by the Chinese government.

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It is unclear what comes next for Devotion, which is once again without a home – even if it long ago removed its offending reference to Xi Jinping’s likeness to Winnie the Pooh.

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Pandemic has disproven the old objections to working from home

Sure there are some who swing the lead, but they did the same in shared workplaces, too. That is an issue that can be solved by appropriate recruitment, management, incentives and the rest. It is not primarily a job design problem.

The issue of social isolation was always another potent objection and for some, the loss of the daily grind into work, and getting away from home, feels like a loss. However, these people seem to be in the minority and alternative methods of social communication seem to be increasingly embraced.

Old objections to working from home have melted away. Credit:E+

I read with interest The Sydney Morning Herald’s piece this week “Amid shuttered shops, hat seller Hamish says eerily quiet mall is ‘upsetting” recording the concerns about the “eerie” emptiness of city centre shops. It made me wonder whether we are observing “peak city”. Have cities reached their peak population?

People and their employers are electing to move more permanently to a work-from-home approach, at least in part if not entirely. Employees are beginning to appreciate that the National Broadband Network does not discriminate by distance. You can interact just as quickly over 300 kilometres as you can over 10km. So why not make that move to the country or up and down the coast?

How many people live in cities because that is truly where they want to be and how many live there because they have until now been obliged to for financial reasons? Cities have apparently been around for about 8000 years. I suspect they are not going to go away any time soon.

But their original purpose of providing a place to exchange goods and services, or to protect the populous from invading hordes, is being largely addressed with technological solutions and environmental concerns, such as the push to eat locally produced food.


Perhaps the long-held dream of planners to encourage the population to spread more evenly is finally coming to fruition. If true, we can expect enraged letters from the locals in sleepy hamlets to their councils complaining about these interlopers taking all the parking!

As the late Bill Hunter said in Muriel’s Wedding, “You can’t stop progress”!

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