Prime Minister Scott Morrison teams up with Singapore PM for next travel bubble


Australia is set for a travel bubble with Singapore after a meeting between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his foreign counterpart.

Mr Morrison was hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore overnight as part of the sixth Australia-Singapore Annual Leaders’ Meeting. He made the stopover on his way to the G-7 summit and is the first foreign leader to step on Singaporean shores since the beginning of Covid-19.

It was the pair’s first face-to-face meeting, with Mr Lee saying he was “very happy” Mr Morrison could make the stop, describing he was “very happy to meet in person after quite a long time”.

Both have admitted it may be “some time” before reaching the travel bubble milestone, but Mr Morrison has made it clear he wants the South-East Asian nation to be next on the list.

Both Prime Ministers “acknowledged the importance of open borders to the post-pandemic recovery”, a joint statement from the PM’s office read.

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Australia and Singapore are “committed” to resuming two-way cross-border travel and Mr Morrison said there was “nothing impeding us” to put systems in place for such a bubble similar to New Zealand.

Mr Morrison discussed “infrastructure” in order to enable Australia to “open up … when we’re both in a position to do so” and “when the public health situation in both countries permits”.

Mr Lee gave some clues as to what to expect; mutual recognition of health and vaccination certificates, most likely digital.

They welcomed the ongoing discussions between border, health, transport, and other officials to identify detailed operational requirements for COVID-19-safe travel, including discussions on health and vaccination certificates, the statement read.

They also discussed co-operating on welcoming the return of Singaporean students to Australia to continue with their studies.

Singapore has seen highs and lows of Covid rates since the outbreak of the pandemic and will begin slowly easing a month-long partial lockdown from next week after the curbs succeed in stemming an outbreak.

Mr Lee said Australia and Singapore have “similar approaches” to fighting the virus and the pair have “strongly supported each other” especially during the early days of the pandemic.

Mr Lee focused on the need for vaccinations and neither leader set a specific date.

Fresh restrictions were introduced in mid-May, including a cap on the size of social gatherings at two, the closure of schools and a ban on dining-in at restaurants.

With cases falling steadily, maximum sizes for gatherings will be lifted to five from Monday, and bigger groups will be allowed at events such as live performances.

If the situation remains under control, more restrictions will be lifted from June 21 — including a resumption of restaurant dine-ins, while people will be allowed to work out at gyms without masks.

International border closures are forecast to cost the nation at least $17bn due to the botched vaccine rollout – but the damage bill could climb frighteningly higher.

The cost to the economy incurred by Australia’s isolation from the rest of the world is a whopping $203m a day, according to new modelling by the McKell Institute.

In Apriul, after announcing Australia’s first travel bubble with New Zealand, Mr Morrison said Australia was “not in a position to move forward” when pressed over which country may be next.

In March, reports surfaced the Australian and Singapore governments were in talks to negotiate a travel bubble which could have been in affect by July at the earliest.

Mr Morrison said at the time the government had considered Singapore and Japan for a separate bubble — among other countries — but ruled out any such prospects.

“I can’t confirm what they are at this point, we are in no position to be outlining where the next ones will be,” the Prime Minister said.

— with AFP

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Samoa’s political crisis deepens as two rivals claim prime ministership



Samoa’s beleaguered Caretaker Prime Minister has refused to concede leadership of the Pacific nation, despite the woman who won last month’s election being sworn in at a makeshift ceremony on Monday.

Both sides have accused each other of staging a coup, with incumbent Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who has been in power for more than 22 years, saying he remains Caretaker Prime Minister despite numerous court cases disputing his interpretation of the law.

“This is what happened: They have broken the law, they have disgraced the chief justice, they have disgraced our country,” Tuilaepa said of his political rivals, in comments translated from Samoan by broadcaster RNZ.

His remarks came a day after Tuilaepa’s political opponent, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, and her FAST Party were barred from entering Parliament, and instead took their oaths of office under a large tent outside the building.

Fiame was declared Samoa’s first female Prime Minister during the unusual ceremony.

“There will be a time when we will meet again inside that House. Let us leave it to the law,” Fiame told supporters who had gathered outside Parliament.

Tuilaepa has called the swearing-in ceremony an act of “treason” and a “coup”, and accused the nation’s judiciary of being biased. 

“The courts have caused this problem, with no solution in sight,” Tuilaepa said.

“FAST have usurped and taken the duties of our government and the duties of the clerk of the Legislative Assembly, and as such they should be charged. This is treason.”

The Supreme Court had earlier ordered the Parliament to convene on Monday after the nation’s head of state, Tuimalealiifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, attempted to cancel the sitting without explanation.

Samoa’s constitution requires elected representatives to meet within 45 days of an election. May 24 is the final day by that count.

Samoa’s bitter political battle has left both Fiame and Tuilaepa each claiming they are the rightful prime minister of the country.

“Samoans inside Samoa and around the world wake up to the fact that there are two Prime Ministers,” George Carter from the Australian National University (ANU) said.

Many leaders around the world have declined to take sides in Samoa’s leadership scandal.

The United Nations secretary-general, through a spokesperson, said he “urges the leaders in Samoa to find solutions to the current political situation through dialogue in the best interest of the people and institutions of Samoa”.

The first nation to formally recognise Fiame as Prime Minister was the small Pacific archipelago of the Federated States of Micronesia.

President David Panuelo said his government had drawn from its experience of the United States and former president Donald Trump’s refusal to leave office in making the announcement.

“The FSM announced its support for the newly sworn-in Prime Minister Fiame for the same reasons that we denounce former US president Donald Trump for his embrace of fascism and rejection of democracy,” Mr Panuelo said.

He urged other democratic countries to show their support for Samoa’s elected leader.

“I didn’t mean to come in as the first country to recognise the newly sworn-in Prime Minister. I was just doing what I think is right.”

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14 Prime Whale Watching Spots To Hit In NSW This Winter


In Sydney, we’re lucky enough to live along the very path the beautiful humpback whale takes during their annual migration from Antarctica to the top of far north Queensland.

From May to November each year, the whales travel along Australia’s eastern coastline so they can have their calves in warmer waters. So, here’s where we come in. We have found the best spots along the New South Wales coastline to catch a glimpse of these incredible creatures as they set out on the swim of a lifetime.

Here are the best spots for whale watching in NSW.

Best Whale Watching NSW North Coast

Broken Head Nature Reserve

Byron Bay

Take a stroll through the rainforest down the Three Sisters walking track and you’ll find yourself at the top of the cliffs that line our beautiful north coast. This spot will give you the perfect vantage spot to watch the beauties frolic around in the water.

Pat Morton Lookout

Lennox Head

Situated at the southern end of Lennox Head, this lookout will not only give you a killer view over the town, but you’re also pretty much guaranteed to catch whales, dolphins, hang gliders or even have a spot of fishing. Our tip: head here on weekdays, as the small car park gets chock-a-block on weekends and holidays.

Best Whale Watching NSW Central Coast

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

Coffs Harbour

While this hotspot is named after the Muttonbird, it’s also a spectacular spot to check out the pods of whales as they migrate up the coast. The 360-degree views are incredible, and on the walk out over the jetty, you might even catch some other marine life swimming below you.

Tacking Point Lighthouse

Port Macquarie

This iconic lighthouse is the perf spot to watch a few humpbacks pass by before you soak up the Port Macquarie sunset. We suggest checking out a few beach coves afterwards as well because the swimming spots around here are unreal (even in the cooler months).

Tomaree Head Summit Walk

Port Stephens

Start your walk on the picturesque Shoal Bay and head up the nature trail to the top of the summit, where you will not only cop some amazing views, but also a few of our favourite ocean friends. Check out this spot during September and October for an almost guaranteed chance to see a few baby calves.

Best Whale Watching Sydney

Cape Solander

Kurnell

Arguably the best whale-watching spot in all of Sydney, Cape Solander is your go-to for checking out their migration. Get yourself down here during June and July and you might see a few whales as close as two hundred meters from the coast. We’re not kidding around here.

Barrenjoey Headland

Palm Beach

With nearby Whale Beach, this spot pretty much speaks for itself. A short bushwalk will lead you to the top of the Headland, where the breathtaking views over Pittwater and Palm Beach are enough to leave you speechless. This spot is notorious for checking out the migration, so bring along your binoculars and set yourself up for some serious whale watching.

Wedding Cake Rock

Royal National Park

Instagram at the ready, this spot is about to turn up the beauty of whale watching to a whole new level. These sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean are exactly how whale watching should be done.

South Head

Port Jackson

If you find yourself at South Head between June and September, whales will probably be the reason you are there. This local hot spot is perfect for soaking up the views and watching a tail slap or two.

Best Whale Watching NSW South Coast

Seven Mile Beach

Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay is a whale-watching haven, with numerous spots to check out these beauties, and Seven Mile Beach is one of the very best. If you’ve decided to head to Jervis Bay to see the humpbacks, you cannot beat getting up close and personal with them on a boat tour, trust us.

Snapper Point

Batemans Bay

This vantage point will give you unreal views of not only some impressive whales, but also dolphins, eagles, and albatross. It’s a real nature mecca. The lookout is also a great spot to check out the rather impressive Aboriginal landmark, Gulaga mountain, which is marked as a place of healing.

Wajurda Point Walking Track

Narooma

A short walk up through the eucalypt forest will shoot you out by the lookout where you can spend hours (and hours) watching whales pass by. Drop by during winter and spring and remember it’s BYO binoculars because we guarantee no one will want to go sharesies with you.

Best Whale Watching NSW Far South Coast

Boyds Tower

Ben Boyd National Park

If you’ve never trekked it to Ben Boyd National Park, you’re in luck. For newbies, you can scope this full guide but forever whale watching enthusiasts will already know that Boyds Tower has been dubbed one of the best spots in NSW to watch the great winter whale migration. If you want to make the most of your time here, you can also start on the Light to Light trail for a number of vantage points and lookouts worth stopping at to catch glimpses of these beautiful ocean creatures.

Tathra Clifftops

Tathra

Whale watching capital of Australia? We’d back that. Tathra is famous for being the home ground for witnessing huge pods of whales coming in hot with all the breaching and tail-waving flukes you could ever hope for. This area is particularly special because it’s the unofficial rest stop for whales to rest and nurse their bubs as they make their way back to Antarctica for the summer.

You can also now camp overnight at this South Coast wildlife park!

Image credit: Destination NSW, Florent Rols, Olga Kashubin, YuSong Oh, Johannes Wittig, Karin de Mamiel, Markrhiggins



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Readout of President Biden Call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel 16 May


The White House

The President spoke today with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The President reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. He condemned these indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel. The President updated the Prime Minister on high-level U.S. engagement with regional partners on this issue and discussed ongoing diplomatic efforts. The President noted that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children. He raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection.

The President shared his grave concern about the intercommunal violence across Israel. He welcomed the statements by the Prime Minister and other leaders opposing such hateful acts and encouraged continued steps to hold violent extremists accountable and to establish calm. They discussed the current tensions in Jerusalem and expressed their shared desire for Jerusalem to be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds. The President voiced his concern about violent confrontations in the West Bank. He expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve and affirmed his support for a two-state solution. The leaders agreed to continue the close consultation between their teams and to remain in touch in the days ahead.

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Prime Minister rejects calls to repatriate COVID positive Aussies in India


Prime Minister Scott Morrison is adamant he won’t let COVID positive Aussies back in the country.

The Prime Minister says calls to allow Australians with the virus on flights back from India don’t make any sense.

Mr Morrison was quizzed on international border closures and the India repatriation situation in Queensland today.

Passengers hoping to receive a seat home on repatriation flights must undergo testing before takeoff. On Friday, more than 40 people on a flight from India to Darwin who tested positive, along with about 30 of their close contacts, were barred from returning.

Mr Morrison said the government would not allow the virus to be imported on flights into Australia.

“I’ve seen the suggestions from others that, who seem to think we can put people who’ve tested COVID positive on planes and bring them to Australia,” Mr Morrison said.

“I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense.

“I, we all want to support people as much as we can, but by importing COVID into the country, I don’t think that’s a very sensible or sound thing to do.”

RELATED: Suspended lab ‘used for Qantas India flight’

Labor leader Anthony Albanese earlier today said Australians who had caught COVID while stranded in India had the government to blame because it had not acted sooner to bring them home.

At least three Aussies who were barred from returning from India after they tested positive for the virus later tested negative, raising concerns over the repatriation testing regime.

Only about 80 people made it back of the 150 passengers planned to return. They are now in quarantine in the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory after they landed on Saturday.

Mr Morrison said the government would work closely with Qantas which is conducting the testing regime.

“They’ll get every support from us. But it is a very difficult environment to operate in at the moment,” he said.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to get 80 people home already. I hope we, and intend for us, to get even more home in the other repatriation commercially facilitated flights in the weeks ahead, more going into Howard Springs, where we’re expanding capacity.

RELATED: No special treatment for cricketers

Mr Morrison said the government was looking at quarantine proposals from the Victorian Government.

“Making sure we have a rigorous testing regime is very important,” he said.

“This sort of testing is required from all places where people are coming from into Australia, whether it’s the UK or elsewhere. And of course, it’s important in India, and we’ve seen those high testing rates, and that’s frankly why we took the action we did because the risk was very, very high.”

Mr Morrison said Australia was “still many months away” from being able to allow travel to safe countries without a strict quarantine system.

“We are always working on the next step and the next step is how we can safely have international students come back,” he said.

“I welcome the fact that universities are stumping up to work with state governments to put those facilities in place to support those customers coming back, the students coming back.”

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Anthony Albanese slams the prime minister’s ‘breach of commitment’ to Aussies overseas



Prime Minister Scott Morrison has “broken his very clear commitment” to bringing stranded Australians overseas back home by last Christmas, says Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

“Scott Morrison has broken his very clear commitment to bring those Australians home by last Christmas,” Mr Albanese said.

“That was a breach of a commitment.

“There have never been more aviation assets sitting idle in the desert than ever before and yet Scott Morrison hasn’t managed to fulfil that commitment.

“Why is it that these Australians have been stranded as they have been in so many places around the world and in this case was threatened not only with them being locked out – but they’d be locked up if they returned.

“A threat that the prime minister himself then away from having made just days earlier.”

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says timeline on vaccines and international travel is not certain


Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not saying when all Australians will be vaccinated or when international borders will open again, 24 hours after his Treasurer handed down the government’s pandemic budget.

Speaking to Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30, Mr Morrison said Tuesday’s federal budget was not dependent on the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout. 

“There is a general assumption [in the budget] of a vaccination program [which is] likely to be in place by the end of this year,” Mr Morrison said.

“That will not have a material impact on what’s in this budget, and it would be a mistake to think it did.”

The government had initially set a target of delivering a first dose to anyone in Australia that wanted it by the end of October. 

But Australia’s vaccine rollout has been hampered by supply issues and by concerns over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the under-50s.

The budget includes $1.9 billion for Australia’s vaccination strategy over five years but does not set any firm targets. 

Under questioning from Labor in Parliament earlier on Wednesday, Mr Morrison did not say when all Australians would be immunised by either.

“That [the budget assumption] is not a policy statement nor is it a policy commitment,” he said.

The budget assumes borders will remain closed until the middle of 2022, aside from certain exemptions. 

A “gradual return of temporary and permanent migrants” is expected from mid-2022, with the potential for international students to travel sooner.

The budget also left the door open for more bubble arrangements like the one Australia shares with New Zealand, but said quarantine caps would operate “with the exception of passengers from safe travel zones”.

Mr Morrison said he could not guarantee Australians would be able to return home without quarantine after 2022.

“It’s impossible for me to make those sorts of predictions in the middle of a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years,” he said.

“I can fully understand why people want greater certainty, but I can only provide the certainty that’s available.”

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Australia will only open borders ‘when it is safe to do so’


The Prime Minister is warning Australia’s international borders will remain closed for the foreseeable future, as his Treasurer notes this week’s federal budget assumes Australia will remain locked off to the rest of the world until at least 2022.

Australia’s borders were slammed shut in March last year as the coronavirus spread across the world, with the federal government trying to take advantage of the nation’s island geography to safeguard it from the worst of the deadly virus.

In an interview with News Corp, Mr Morrison said he did not believe Australians had an “appetite” for opening borders if it meant having to deal with more coronavirus outbreaks, lockdowns and social restrictions.

“We have to be careful not to exchange that way of life for what everyone else has,” he said.

In a later post on Facebook, he warned borders would only be opened “when it is safe to do so”.

“Australians are living like in few countries around the world today.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg echoed those sentiments, confirming Treasury’s budget forecasts were based on borders opening “next year”. 

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Scott Morrison says he will proceed cautiously on opening international borders.

The admission has prompted criticism from the opposition, which argued it is the consequence of ongoing mismanagement of the coronavirus vaccination program and hotel quarantine arrangements.

“Three weeks ago, Scott Morrison said there could be international travel and home quarantine by as early as July,” Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler said.

“This morning, three weeks later, he’s saying Australia will be locked down forever — which is it?

“Australia needs a clear plan on vaccines and quarantine but all we’re getting from this Prime Minister is excuses and failure.”

The Prime Minister has previously said he would not put hard dates on vaccination milestones.

Qantas had been planning to restart international flights from October, with chief executive Alan Joyce saying his airline was in discussions with the federal government about when border restrictions would be lifted. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia would pursue more travel bubbles with countries, beyond the current arrangements with New Zealand, rather than totally open its borders.

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Prime Minister criticised on Q+A over abandoning Australians of Indian heritage during COVID-19 crisis


Australia may be set to resume flights from India next week to get stranded citizens home, but the Morrison government received a lashing on Q+A from guest Mannie Kaur Varma, who said Australians of Indian heritage are not being seen as equals by the Prime Minister.

Ms Varma said those in the Indian community felt abandoned by Mr Morrison, as she took aim in a show opening that mocked the PM’s love of curries, suggesting he thinks they are India’s major contribution to Australian society.

“First you grant us exemption to go to India to look after our loved ones who are fighting for their lives, then you abandon us and leave us in a country that is gasping for air,” Ms Varma said.

“In 2019 the Prime Minister said Australia is like a fragrant garam masala…for the Prime Minister, is the value of Indians reduced to just our food or does he see us as equals?”

Asked by host Hamish Macdonald how the flight ban and the threat of jail time for those returning from India made her feel, Ms Varma said the government ruling, under the Biosecurity Act, made it feel like Indian-Australians were not equal.

“What is going on in India is horrible and to know we are not treated the same as everyone else is just appalling,” she said.

Coalition Member for Reid in NSW, Fiona Martin, said the ruling was simply a case of following the health advice available to the government due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in returned travellers from India.

“Last month we saw over 40 per cent of people travelling home from India testing positive to COVID-19,” Ms Martin said, before adding other countries such as the United States (6 per cent) had a much lower rate.

Asked if those of Indian descent in her electorate had expressed similar feelings to Ms Varma, Ms Martin said that was not the case, but they did feel the threat of jail was overly aggressive.

“The penalty is what has been of concern by constituents, not the ban itself,” she said.

“As I mentioned, earlier in the week, I thought the penalty was a little heavy-handed and that part of it was problematic.”

Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney, who herself has a sizeable Indian population in her Barton electorate in NSW, said she had heard similar gripes to Ms Varma’s.

She said constituents felt “abandoned” and pointed out that to become Australian citizens, those who hail from India had to renounce their India citizenship, making the government’s flight ban an even more egregious move.

“We’re not talking about people who are not Australian citizens,” Ms Burney said of the Australians stranded in India.

“They are Australian citizens and Australian governments are responsible for keeping their citizens safe and providing them with as much support as possible in difficult circumstances.

Ms Martin was quick to refute the notion of it being a political response.

“This is not a political response. This is a health response. This decision has been based on health advice,” she said.

While India and coronavirus opened the show, a large part was devoted to the discussion of coercive control and how Australia can tackle the issue moving forward, including making it illegal.

In a powerful opening to the topic, audience member Suzette Sutton said she endured abuse for 25 years during which she tried to take her own life twice. She asked how the issue could be solved in relationships that involve domestic violence.

SBS journalist Jess Hill said that criminalising coercive control would make the entire gamut of domestic violence visible — not just physical or sexual assaults — and that it would ultimately help victims.

“What we’re proposing with criminalising coercive control is to make the entire arc of what you were subjected to visible,” Hill said.

“Not just the physical incidents, not just the things that our criminal justice system recognises now, but everything from the start to the finish so that we understand what the risks are, what the damage has been and how dangerous the offender is.”

Ms Burney, herself a survivor of domestic violence, said she wanted Australians to understand just how crippling coercive control could be, adding that it should be criminalised.

“Something that I want people to understand is this often the basis to destroying a person,” Ms Burney said.

“It takes away who you are.

“I agree that coercive control should be criminalised. 

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AFL 2021: No longer prime time


In the opening six rounds of this season, Collingwood played in five prime broadcasting slots: two Friday nights, two Thursday nights and the annual jewel in the fixturing crown of Anzac Day.

In a non-COVID time, the Magpies would likely have been locked into at least four or five further prime-time games for the remainder of the season, irrespective of their on-field results and the attractiveness of their game style.

On the run: Collingwood players training this week.Credit:Getty Images

But the floating fixture, a necessity of the pandemic, is literally a game-changer in terms of who plays when and the capacity of the AFL to reward teams that are winning and punish those who lose relevance.

It follows that Collingwood should expect to be relegated into Saturday and Sunday slots on Foxtel for the vast majority of their remaining games, in what will be a final indignity from the trouble that has engulfed the club since the firesale of November’s trade period and then the leaked release of the Do Better report on racism.

For the AFL, the number of prime-time slots that are afforded to the Magpies will be a measure – a test case of sorts – of how the floating fixture treats big clubs compared to the small.

If the AFL’s recent decisions and noises are a guide, Collingwood’s prime-time status will be a casualty of the new fixturing policy, under which, as the saying goes, it is performance, rather than size, that counts.

The Pies shape as the sternest test of what the AFL values in broadcasting/fixturing, because the competition has been releasing the time slots in two-week blocks and there’s an ability to change tack quickly and suddenly promote a team that looks sexy and downgrade the dowdy.

The AFL assesses the fixture on the basis of a) the competitive nature of a game, b) the relevance of the game (ladder, finals ramifications) and c) the storyline. A version of the floating fixture seems likely to continue next year, but with longer blocks of games than a fortnight, for certainty’s sake.

Where Collingwood differ even from other leviathan clubs is in the polarising Pies’ unmatched ability to draw media attention. Digital technology – the media’s capacity to measure online ratings – has ramped up coverage of the Pies this year (note how Adam Treloar is covered almost entirely in terms of Collingwood’s loss rather than the Dogs’ gain).

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