Prisoner dies overnight in Melbourne prisoner remand centre

June 8, 2016 – 12:26PM

Cameron Houston

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The Melbourne Assessment Prison on Spencer Street.

The Melbourne Assessment Prison on Spencer Street.

The Melbourne Assessment Prison was in lockdown after the death of a 42-year-old prisoner on Wednesday.

The dead inmate was discovered with fatal upper body wounds when the cells were first opened.

It is understood the dead man was sharing a cell with another inmate, who is assisting police with their investigation.

It is not known what offences the man had been convicted of, but the prison houses a range of prisoners awaiting transfer to an appropriate facility after receiving custodial sentences at trial.

“As with all deaths in custody, the matter has been referred to the coroner, who will formally determine the cause of death,” Corrections Victoria said in a statement.

A prison source said the Spencer Street facility was usually overcrowded and often volatile, with serious offenders mixing with other inmates suffering mental illnesses.

Source : The Age

Alcohol delivered to your door via app: logical step or too much licence with liquor?

June 5, 2016 – 2:34PM

Miki Perkins

SOCIAL AFFAIRS REPORTER FOR THE AGE

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Kali Sandbrook has alcohol delivered by Tipple delivery man Mark Boyle.

Kali Sandbrook has alcohol delivered by Tipple delivery man Mark Boyle. Photo: Justin McManus

“Artisan” gelato. Top-notch restaurant food. Eco-friendly, charity-supporting loo roll. And now, craft beer.

The liquor industry has woken up to the fact Melburnians have a growing appetite for ordering goods online and direct to their lounge room.

A small but growing number of rapid-delivery online liquor services – including one that boasts the first mobile app in Australia – raise interesting questions about how to measure the social impact of virtual businesses.

Booze has been available to order online from major outlets for ages, but what sets these new operators apart is speed – for a fee, you can have a drink in your hand in under an hour.

Brothers Ryan and Shane Barrington opened their business – tipple.com.au – to St Kilda residents last November, and now employ 40 delivery drivers, with drop offs all over the CBD and 120 inner suburbs.

Ryan Barrington has been working in the liquor industry for 15 years, and says he has a good understanding of alcohol regulation and policing. All the Tipple drivers have a Responsible Serving of Alcohol certificate, even though this is not a legal requirement.

Drivers have to deliver to a street address and are required to check ID on delivery. If customers are underage their delivery will be cancelled, and they cop a penalty fee (in thousands of deliveries, this is yet to happen).

Their main clients are corporate customers and people over 25 years old who live in the city, don’t have a car, and don’t fancy carrying heavy boxes up the stairs, says Barrington.

“We don’t discount, we don’t do bulk deals to encourage the younger market and we don’t target parties. It’s aimed at people who are entertaining, and who are busy.”

But there have been examples of online delivery businesses that failed to check ID, or left alcohol on the doorstep, says Michael Thorn, chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

More broadly, he is concerned about the increased accessibility and visibility of alcohol, and the difficulty with assessing the harm associated with liquor outlets that don’t have a street presence.

The impact of family violence should be considered in planning applications for bottle shops, hotels and other alcohol outlets, the state’s Royal Commission into Family Violence found in its recommendations.

In a recent test case for the state government, Victoria’s chief of police Graham Ashton joined forces with the City of Casey and local police to object to a large liquor shop in Cranbourne East, dubbed a family violence “hotspot”.

“Alcohol isn’t an ordinary commodity – there are risks attached to it and we should treat it with respect,” says Thorn.

Kali Sandbrook, from St Kilda East, has been using the Tipple service for a few months, mainly when she’s holding a dinner party and doesn’t want to abandon her cooking to venture to the shops.

She simply finds home-delivered alcohol convenient. “I don’t think home delivery makes it any more or less problematic. They should still do responsible service of alcohol, and not service people if they are intoxicated,” she said.

Source : The Age

Not the end of the line: How people power saved the Upfield rail line

June 5, 2016 – 1:29PM

Adam Carey

Transport Reporter for The Age

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Nik Dow was one of the key campaigners to stop the Upfield line being closed in the 1980s and '90s.

Nik Dow was one of the key campaigners to stop the Upfield line being closed in the 1980s and ’90s. Photo: Jason South

Nik Dow stands at the 130 year-old Park Street boom gates, at the point where the Upfield railway line rises from a deep cutting through Royal Park to meet the gentrifying, but still gritty, back streets of Brunswick.

The hand-operated gates have been preserved because they are part of the most intact example in Melbourne of what a 19th century railway looked like.

But their heritage status, along with the line’s many gatekeepers’ cabins and old signal posts, are a legacy of the line’s historical neglect as much as a piece of 19th century railway history.

They were still in use until the late 1990s, decades after all other Melbourne level crossings had been automated, while governments pondered whether to close the line forever.

Mr Dow doesn’t take the Upfield train often these days. But he knows how close it came to being ripped up.

He was one of many in the community who fought three successive state governments that tried to close the line in the 1980s and 1990s. But when he tells people this now, he gets a lot of blank looks.

“People don’t believe it,” he says. “What government in their right mind would shut a rail line?”

Don't let the Upfield line become history! a

One of tens of thousands of flyers distributed during the campaign. Image: Supplied  

It’s a fair question. Nowadays state governments that can’t deliver a reliable rail service risk getting kicked out of office.

But in the cash-strapped ’80s and early ’90s, two Liberal governments and one Labor government tried to close the Upfield line rather than spend the millions of dollars needed to modernise it.

A report for the Cain Labor government concluded that the line had too few passengers. That it duplicated tram route 19 so wasn’t really needed, and that its antiquated signals and staffed boom gates were too old and too expensive to operate.

So the government announced a plan to convert it to light rail and get rid of the tram tracks on Sydney Road.

Traders were in uproar, but with no bulldozer to lie in front of, the campaign to save the line had to get creative.

“We held the tram up for maybe two minutes trying to get wheelchairs and surfboards and bicycles on it,” Mr Dow says. “We gave out leaflets and let them go on their way and then we’d do the next tram. We might be there for half an hour, just getting the word out.”

In the end the plan to kill a rail line that ran through its own safe seats became too politically damaging for Labor and they dropped it, only for the Kennett government to sweep in and announce the line would be shut, along with several other rail lines across Victoria.

The southern section of the Upfield line was in the path of CityLink, the Liberals’ signature road project.

Mr Dow believes the line “came very close to being closed” in the early ’90s.

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Upgrade Upfield Co-ordinating Committee Newsletter from June 1993. Image supplied.

Alan Brown was transport minister in the Kennett government. He deferred the date of execution while a panel of planning experts assessed the best alignment for CityLink.

“When we became the government, Victoria’s finances were in a very parlous state, there’s no question about that, and we did look to where we could make change that was sensible and that would make substantial savings, but also we were conscious of the future of Melbourne’s growth,” Mr Brown says.

Ultimately he chose to keep the Upfield line and build CityLink over the top of it, becoming an unlikely saviour of the chronically neglected public transport link through Labor’s heartland.

“There was really nothing in it for us politically,” he says. “It was a line that serviced electorates that the Labor Party held and would clearly continue to hold, but it was the right decision for Melbourne.”

It’s his proudest achievement in the transport portfolio, along with the city circle tram, he says.

It is just 21 years since the line was spared from closure and Mr Brown says he shudders to think what congestion would be like without it.

Commuters got a rude taste last week of what life would be like with just one rail line servicing the city’s north-west.

A major power failure shut the Craigieburn line for hours on Tuesday, and Metro bussed hundreds of passengers over to Upfield in the morning peak.

Among those caught up in the meltdown was Louis Ziras, a regular Upfield line commuter to the city from Batman station in Coburg North.

He uses a motorised wheelchair and was unable to board a train, even though he was just five stops from the start of the line.

“You really can’t make people make way for a wheelchair when there is no space,” Mr Ziras said.

“The train was full by Batman, because it was being filled up by Craigieburn passengers.”

The next city-bound train was cancelled, and with a 20-minute wait between trains, he was stranded on the platform for more than an hour.

The Age, News, 31/05/2016. photo by Justin McManus. Train cancellations and delays cause commuter chaos at Nth Melbourne train station.

Commuter chaos at North Melbourne station after the Craigieburn line was suspended last week. Picture: Justin McManus

Alan Brown admitted when he announced the Upfield line would be kept open in April 1995 that it was “the poor relation” of Melbourne’s rail network.

But these days it is the third-fastest growing line in Melbourne, its patronage forecast to more than double in the next 20 years due to rapid urban development.

In Moreland, where 23 per cent of residents catch public transport to work, new buildings are springing up near the line that have no car parking, residents given a yearly myki pass instead.

And there are new plans for the line’s extension in coming years, although the Andrews government has been fairly quiet about them.

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The Upfield line is the most intact example in Melbourne of a 19th century railway. Image supplied.

Buried in the detail of the 2016-17 state budget is $5 million towards reopening the line north of Upfield through industrial Somerton, to connect it to the Craigieburn line.

That stretch of the line was shut in 1956 but will be reopened within five to 10 years so V/Line’s Seymour trains, which currently run on the congested Craigieburn line, can use the Upfield line instead.

Reopening the line will pave the way for Seymour line commuters to get a train every 20 minutes in the peak. Public Transport Victoria’s rail plans are that eventually the Upfield line will be electrified all the way to Wallan, just beyond the city limits.

It’s a long-term plan that gives Mr Dow immense satisfaction to see.

The community campaign to save the Upfield line put four key proposals to government, one of which was to extend electric trains to Craigieburn via Upfield.

“Sometimes in a democracy you win,” Mr Dow says.

Source : The Age

Pobblebonk? Melbourne’s search for a new ‘species emblem’

June 5, 2016 – 2:16PM

Aisha Dow

City Reporter for The Age

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Museum Victoria's manager of live exhibits Patrick Honan with a pobblebonk or banjo frog.

Museum Victoria’s manager of live exhibits Patrick Honan with a pobblebonk or banjo frog. Photo: Eddie Jim

A giant rat, dishevelled pigeon or pesky possum may be the creatures that spring to mind when you think of animals in the city.

But it turns out that Melbourne’s concrete jungle harbours a very diverse, and much more dignified, population of native plants and animals.

Dive under the West Gate Bridge and you could find a pipefish, octopus or heart urchin among the seagrass.  And be careful of the moths you swat – you could be butchering a species only recently discovered in Victoria.

“It’s impressive that in a place of really tall buildings, of roads, footpaths and 4.3-million people that we still have these amazing animal and plant species on our doorstep,” Melbourne councillor Arron Wood said.

“It’s almost in spite of the buzz of the city, and the pace of the city and the development that is going on.”

To increase the numbers of creatures and critters in the CBD and surrounds, the City of Melbourne has recently launched an Urban Ecology and Biodiversity Strategy.

The council will attempt to lure in more animals, birds and insects by planting more bushes, flowers and grasses. The goal is to increase the “understorey habit” by 20 per cent by 2026.

It also wants to raise awareness about the richness of the city’s natural environment, by letting the public vote on an “emblematic species” to represent Melbourne.

Nominees could include:

A native water rat (or rakali)

A rakali.

A rakali. Photo: Gary Schafer

About the size of a cat, it lives at Westgate Park in Fishermans Bend. The furry animal collects fish and yabbies from the ponds in the park, bringing them back to a patch of concrete or flat mud called a “feeding table” to feast at their leisure.

The pobblebonk or banjo frog

A pobblebonk frog.

A pobblebonk frog. Photo: Eddie Jim

TLives unseen in many of Melbourne’s suburban gardens, but is recognisable by its croak which sounds like “pobblebonk”.

A nocturnal microbat

Nyctophylus gouldi, Gould's Long-eared Bat.

Nyctophylus gouldi, Gould’s Long-eared Bat. Photo: David Paul

Weighs no more than 150 grams and has a call that is so highly pitched it is inaudible to humans. In making the case for the flying mammal as a potential Melbourne emblem, Cr Wood said: “There’s too much focus on the cute and cuddly. Let’s get the slimy and slightly creepy and give them their day in the spotlight”.

The White’s Skink

A juvenile White's Skink.

A juvenile White’s Skink. Photo: David Paul

Found in Royal Park and described as gregarious (meaning it lives in small groups).

The green grocer cicada

A green grocer cicada.

A green grocer cicada. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

The insect responsible for that high-pitched buzzing sound on summer nights in Melbourne. Museum Victoria’s manager of live exhibits, Patrick Honan, said the juvenile cicada lived underground for seven years, only to emerge for just two weeks. “In the seven year cycle, when they get a really big population, they have been known around Melbourne to close down schools because of the noise”.

One of the aims of the council’s new biodiversity strategy is to create more friendly habitats for native species, such as dead trees, rooftop gardens and median strips.

Mr Honan said while urbanisation had threatened many species, if patches or corridors of habitat were left behind, some animals would continue to survive.

For more information on the strategy visit the City of Melbourne’s website.

Source : The Age

Brazen Boronia robbery by man clad in Collingwood scarf and cap

June 4, 2016 – 9:41AM

Benjamin Millar

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A man who hid his face behind a Collingwood football club scarf has pulled off a brazen daylight robbery on a money lending store in Melbourne’s east.

Detectives are searching for the man, who was also wearing a Collingwood cap, after he demanded cash from the store in Boronia about 10.45am on Friday morning.

The thief masked by a Collingwood scarf.

The thief masked by a Collingwood scarf. Photo: Victoria Police

The bandit jumped the counter of the Boronia Road store and stole an amount of cash from the safe in a rear office.

He fled the scene on foot and was last seen heading west down Boronia Road.

Detectives have released CCTV footage and images of the man, who is described as Caucasian in appearance, with a solid build, about 180cm tall with an Australian accent.

He was wearing dark-coloured pants, a dark short-sleeved polo shirt and sandy coloured boots with black soles, a Collingwood cap and scarf  and dark glasses.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

Source : The Age

Malka Leifer: Former Australian principal accused of 74 child sex charges walks free in Israel

June 3, 2016 – 4:27PM

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Malka Leifer remains in Israel, where she will be assessed by psychiatrists.

Malka Leifer remains in Israel, where she will be assessed by psychiatrists.

The former principal fled to Israel with her family in the middle of the night, allegedly with the help of senior members of Melbourne’s secretive Adass community, after accusations of sexual abuse were first raised against her in 2008.

In 2014, she was arrested by Israeli police at the request of Australian authorities. Since then, she has been living under house arrest in the ultra-orthodox enclave of Bnei Brak in central Israel.

However, she has managed to evade 10 extradition proceedings, with her lawyers consistently arguing she is unwell and unfit to face court. Her lawyers have said she experiences panic attacks and bouts of depression as each court hearing approaches.

Adass Israel Girls School in Elsternwick, where Malka Leifer was principal from 2003 to 2008.

Adass Israel Girls School in Elsternwick, where Malka Leifer was principal from 2003 to 2008. Photo: Pat Scala PDS

Earlier this year, the Jerusalem court suspended all legal proceedings against the former principal until Ms Leifer received psychiatric treatment.

On Thursday, a long-awaited report from the district psychiatrist found Ms Leifer was mentally unwell.

Judge Cohen subsequently ruled Ms Leifer was mentally unfit to face extradition, lifted her home detention and ordered she receive outpatient treatment in a Jerusalem clinic.

The court heard Ms Leifer’s treatment was due to begin next week and was expected to last initially for six months.

She would receive up to five treatments during that time, the court heard, until a committee reassessed whether she was fit to stand trial.

The court ruled that process could go on for up to 10 years.

If the committee continually finds she is unfit to stand, she may evade her extradition trial indefinitely.

Since the request for extradition first reached court on August 2014, Ms Leifer has had five different psychiatric assessments.

Solicitor Nick Mazzeo, who has acted for abuse victims at the Adass Israel School, said they were “devastated” about the news.

“The decision has further exacerbated the trauma these victims have gone through and are still going through,” said Mr Mazzeo, of Lennon Mazzeo law firm.

“I’m hopeful that there will be an appeal of the decision, if the prosecutor believes that that is possible.”

Michelle Meyer, the chief executive of Jewish victims support group Tzedek, said Ms Leifer had “manipulated the system” and was doing everything to avoid extradition.

“She has been well enough all this time to continue living, raising her family and possibly working, that doesn’t suggest to me that she is unable to be extradited.”

She said the alleged victims were angry and despondent.

“They were pinning their hopes on getting some closures, but there is still no closure,” Ms Meyer said.

“For a lot of them, the healing process will be put on hold. They have been left in the lurch.”

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s Department said Australian authorities were working with Israeli authorities regarding the next steps in the extradition process.

“Australia retains a strong extradition interest in Ms Leifer who is wanted to face prosecution in Victoria for serious criminal conduct relating to 74 sexual assault offences,” she said.

They said it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Manny Waks, who heads an organisation aiming to prevent sexual abuse in Jewish communities, said Ms Leifer’s alleged victims “feel outraged, devastated and completely let down by Israel’s legal system”.

Several of Ms Leifer’s victims are living in Israel.

“They are also fearful of bumping into her on the street,” Mr Waks said.

Another victim of abuse in the Jewish community, who did not want to be named, said the judge’s decision was “disgraceful”.

“That the judge gave more weight to the psychological status of the perpetrator than the turmoil and disruption to the lives of those affected only deepens sense of injustice.

“At the end of the Second World War, people like Eichmann were extradited to Israel to face trials for their crimes, yet Israel is standing in the way of the extradition of a person who is wanted under the most serious of charges. I find this hypocritical at the highest level.”

Jennifer Huppert, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, said the community was overwhelmingly disappointed by the decision.

“The victims themselves have said in court proceedings and at the royal commission that they feel they need to have had this matter heard in a court in Australia, and we are concerned about the victims and we sympathise with their point of view.

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision, we think it’s important for the victims that they feel they can have their day in court, and they have the right to have their day in court.”

Jewish Community Watch representative Shana Aaronson was shocked by the judge’s ruling.

“Disappointed isn’t really a strong enough word. For the [alleged] victims in Australia this has dragged on and on for them and it’s horrible,” she said.

The Israeli prosecutor’s office has been given 72 hours to appeal the lifting of the house arrest, which it is understood it will do.

AAP, with staff reporters

 Source : The Age

Wheels in motion for ‘sky bike’ highways in Melbourne’s CBD

May 31, 2016 – 7:28PM

Josh Gordon

STATE POLITICAL EDITOR FOR THE AGE

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A radical plan for a $100 million ‘sky bike’ super highway for Melbourne CBD cyclists is being examined by the Andrews government’s chief infrastructure adviser.

Infrastructure Victoria has floated a major plan to extend a network dedicated to bike corridors, including “grade separated” raised sections allowing cyclists to quickly and safely travel through and across the city.

An artist's impressions of a proposed raised cycle highway for Melbourne's CBD.

An artist’s impressions of a proposed raised cycle highway for Melbourne’s CBD.

In a major report examining dozens of major project options, Infrastructure Victoria predicted the controversial idea would cut traffic congestion, freeing up space for public transport.

“The provision of bicycle highways, especially if they are physically or grade separated, is likely to encourage new cycling trips by cyclists of varying ability and reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities related to crashes.”

It follows concerns that Melbourne’s bicycle corridors end abruptly on the city’s edge, with cyclists facing a dangerous journey into the heart of the business district.

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Although cycling infrastructure is less expensive than other forms of transport, the report warned retrofitting an “elevated veloway” could be costly, with an added risk of conflict between growing numbers of commuter cyclists and motorists.

“There may be a more crashes involving cyclists with the growth of commuter cycling, particularly in the areas beyond the upgrade infrastructure,” the report said.

It remains unclear which streets through the city could be used for the bicycle highways.

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In 2014, a consortium including Federation Square co-designer Donald Bates and Pacific Strategies director Mike Potter released a plan for a 1.7 kilometre raised “veloway” that would run about 10 metres above the ground, spanning six major intersections from Princes Bridge to Southern Cross Station.

An assessment by economic consultants Deloitte and engineering advisers Aurecon, suggested a more extensive network of cycle paths through the city would cost about $100 million.

But the assessment, commissioned by Infrastructure Victoria, said the idea would not make a significant contribution to meeting the state’s overall transport needs in the future.

The idea is also being examined as part of the government’s “Plan Melbourne” strategy. It found bike transportation played a major role accessing CBD jobs. Under the idea, “strategic cycling corridors will provide separated priority routes into and around the central city that support high volumes of cyclists of all abilities”.

VicRoads has also completed a Strategic Cycling Corridors project, which is due for release later this year.

Although Melbourne boast it is the world’s most liveable city (at least according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s measure), when it comes to cycling infrastructure it is well behind other major cities.

Copenhagen, regarded as one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world, recently completed its Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake, an elevated orange bike lane that winds its way over the harbour.

Copenhagen cyclingis well known as a cycle-friendly city. Copenhagen, well known as a cycle-friendly city, has recently opened elevated bike lanes.

And last year London Mayor Boris Johnson announced a Cycle Superhighway plan to create a network of segregated bike lanes with dedicated traffic signals.

Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said the Infrastructure Victoria proposal was a sign that bikes were moving into the mainstream of planning for economic development.

“Infrastructure Victoria is thinking big, and realises that the benefits of bikes comes from major, cor-ordinated and sustained investment rather than the piecemeal approach that has prevailed to date,” he said.

Infrastructure Victoria was set up by the Andrews government to “ensure initiatives are planned with transparent, independent and expert infrastructure advice”.

But a spokeswoman for Roads Minister Luke Donnellan appeared to dismiss the cycling highway idea, saying “while IV (Infrastructure Victoria) looks at options, we’re focused on our priorities”.

“We’re establishing the $100 million Safer Cyclists and Pedestrians Fund to invest in new, dedicated cycling and walking facilities across Victoria to help keep bikes and pedestrians away from traffic,” she said.

Source : The Age

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