Daily News Roundup

August 24, 2021


TUESDAY , AUGUST 24

Police have concluded their investigation into an illegal engagement party in Melbourne with more than $300,000 worth of fines handed out.

Acting Senior Sergeant Julie-Anne Newman confirmed on Tuesday morning the police investigation into the engagement party at Caulfield North almost two weeks ago had finished with 56 attendees fined $5452 each.

She said the remainder of the 69 guests at the party were children and would not be fined.

“Victoria Police is satisfied all guests have been accounted for and the investigation has now concluded,” she said.

The revelation came as Victoria announced it had recorded 50 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases with  40  linked to current outbreaks with 10 under investigation. 

Eleven cases have been in quarantine throughout their infectious period.

Despite today’s drop, there has been a fourfold rise in mystery cases in the past week and hundreds of infected children – meaning the planned end of “short and sharp” lockdown on September 2 now looks very unlikely.

A government source told The Age newspaper it was highly probable the lockdown would be extended because the number of mystery cases and of cases not in isolation were both rising.

The engagement party was held in breach of the rules of Melbourne’s sixth lockdown where people are not allowed to gather in private homes.

The groom-to-be and guests at the party caused a public uproar after a video of the event was posted online and showed them mocking the lockdown restrictions.

“Clearly this is legal, this is a group-therapy session, that’s why my father is here,” he joked as the room full of maskless revellers soaked up the speech.

One guest quipped, “he’s a mental health clinician”, while another said “the doctor’s here” as laughter erupted in the room.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is investigating claims two doctors allegedly attended the engagement party.

Several people at the party also later tested positive to Covid-19, meaning all guests had to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

The vision triggered an angry response from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who tightened restrictions and reimposed a curfew as a result.

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*NSW recorded 753 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00pm last night.

There have now been more than 6 million COVID-19 vaccinations administered in the state.

*Queensland has recorded six new cases of COVID-19, with two locally acquired cases under investigation.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the cases were truck drivers and not considered a “major risk” at this stage.

“Both were detected by a New South Wales lab, but they have, essentially, not been to many places at all, they’ve mainly been with their family,” she said.

Three other cases were detected on a ship offshore, while the sixth was an overseas traveller in hotel quarantine.

Exposure sites linked to the truck drivers will be released later today.

“I think they stopped for one moment for fuel in St George, so, we’ll go through and put those exposure sites up for people to have a look at, but we are not overly concerned about these two.”

The truck drivers were tested as part of a national surveillance program, which requires drivers to be tested every seven days.

The drivers were retested and returned negative results. 

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said she believed “the risk is very low”.

“They maintained social distancing at all times. They stayed at home when they weren’t driving the truck,” she said.

There are 758 people in home quarantine across the state, many linked to the recent Indooroopilly State High School cluster.

There are now 41 active cases in the state.

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The urgent evacuation of Australians from Kabul continues, as the Taliban warns countries have one week left to operate.(Department of Defence)

Another 650 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan overnight as part of Australia’s rescue operation, as the Taliban threatens the window to get people out is closing, reports the ABC..

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said four RAAF flights and one New Zealand Air Force flight managed to land at Kabul Airport and rescue hundreds more people in recent hours.

Mr Morrison said it was the biggest night of Australia’s operation so far.

“The people who are doing this job on the ground … they are real heroes, compassionate heroes,” Mr Morrison told Channel 9.

“They are going through what is an extraordinarily tense time and they are getting people out.”

Mr Morrison said the situation at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport remained highly unpredictable.

He said knowing “the form” of the Taliban, the country was operating under the assumption every flight it could get into and out of Kabul airport may be the last.

“We’ve been going like we won’t be able to get another flight in the next day, so we’ve been trying to make every flight as successful as possible,” Mr Morrison said.

“We’ll keep doing that for as long as we can. If that deadline is able to be pushed out, we’ve made it clear to the United States we support that.”

The Taliban have warned the United States that holding Kabul airport beyond the end of August would be a “violation” of the withdrawal agreement first struck under former president Donald Trump.

A spokesperson for the Taliban told international media August 31 was a “red line” for withdrawal that should not be crossed.

The White House has responded that US President Joe Biden would decide what date American forces withdrew.

More than 1,600 people, including Australians, Afghan nationals and other foreign citizens, have been evacuated by Australia and New Zealand in the past week.

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A woman wrongly convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death in 1693 is on the verge of being exonerated, thanks to a class of year eight students.

US senator Diana DiZoglio has introduced legislation to clear the name of Elizabeth Johnson, who was condemned at the height of the Salem Witch Trials but never executed.

Ms DiZoglio said she was inspired by an investigation done by a group of 13 and 14-year-olds at North Andover Middle School in Massachusetts. 

Civics teacher Carrie LaPierre’s students painstakingly researched Ms Johnson and the steps that would need to be taken to make sure she was formally pardoned.

“It is important that we work to correct history,” Ms DiZoglio said

“We will never be able to change what happened to these victims [of the witch trials], but at the very least we can set the record straight.”

If US politicians approve the measure, Ms Johnson will be the last accused witch to be cleared, according to Witches of Massachusetts Bay, a group devoted to the history and lore of the 17th-century witch hunts.

Ms Johnson was 22 years old when she was caught up in the hysteria of the witch trials and sentenced to hang.

Twenty people from Salem and neighbouring towns were killed, and hundreds of others were accused during a frenzy of Puritan injustice that began in 1692.

The accusations were stoked by superstition, fear of disease and strangers, scapegoating and petty jealousies.

Nineteen people were hanged, and one man was crushed to death by rocks.

But Ms Johnson was never hung. The then-governor, William Phips, threw out her punishment as the magnitude of Salem’s gross miscarriages of justice sank in.

In the 328 years since the trials, dozens of suspects officially have been cleared of crimes, including Ms Johnson’s mother, a daughter of a minister whose conviction was eventually reversed.

But for some reason, Ms Johnson’s name was not included in various legislative attempts to set the record straight, and her convictions technically still stand. 

Ms DiZoglio’s bill would tweak 1957 legislation, amended in 2001, to include Johnson among others who were pardoned after being wrongly accused and convicted of witchcraft.

“Why Elizabeth was not exonerated is unclear but no action was ever taken on her behalf by the General Assembly or the courts,” Ms DiZoglio said.

“Possibly because she was neither a wife nor a mother, she was not considered worthy of having her name cleared. And because she never had children, there is no group of descendants acting on her behalf.”