News Digest: ‘Victory for rapists’, toll bill hell and a regional property boost

Sexual assault survivors could be fined for speaking out under a new law in Victoria. Source: Getty.

With no game-changing Covid-19 news out this morning – Victoria revealed 149 new cases and 24 deaths in the past 24 hours – major media outlets turned to conversational topics, with plenty of interesting pieces.

The ABC focused on the boost regional property markets are receiving from city residents who’re dumping urban living for more space, as Covid-19 permits remote working and less populated areas far from virus hotspots look more attractive. The broadcaster cites data from CoreLogic that found house prices in regional centres had been more stable than in capital cities during the pandemic.

‘Thumping victory for rapists’ is the heading on a news.com.au opinion piece on changes to the Victorian Judicial Proceedings Reports Act that make it a crime for people who experienced rape or sexual assault to speak publicly under their real identity after their attacker is found guilty. Speaking or writing about the attack could see victims jailed for up to four months or fined thousands of dollars, the piece by Nina Funnell, the creator of the #LetUsSpeak campaign, says. She calls it a “victory for all convicted sex offenders in Victoria”.

9now.com.au has a story from Channel 9’s A Current Affair program of Wollongong resident Heidl Jackel, who is fighting tollway operator Westlink M7, owned by Transurban, over a gobsmacking $22,000 toll bill. Jackal’s etag stopped working in February 2014 but she claims she was unaware of any problem because the device continued to beep when she used the toll road – until she received a bill from Westlink in 2017 for $7,500 in unpaid tolls and $14,500 in administration fees.

She admits she didn’t carefully check her statements to ensure her toll bills were being paid and paid the $7,500 in toll costs but argues that the admin costs are excessive. Westlink has taken her to court to recover these admin costs, which Transurban says are regulated by the NSW government and do not provide the toll operator any profit.

7 News, meanwhile, says motorists in Queensland are divided over a road rule posted on social media by the Department of Transport and Main Roads. The post shows two cars about the merge and asks which one must give way.  Even the department admits on its post that the hundreds of answers posted by Queensland drivers were a “mixed bag”.

https://www.facebook.com/TMRQld/photos/a.295748123801411/3296115007098026/?type=3&theater

The Australian’s got an exclusive interview with Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, who warns that money from Covid-19 support programs such as early access to superannuation is creating chaos in vulnerable communities, as the money is splurged on alcohol and gambling. Pearson says state and territory governments’ decisions to allow bottle shops to continue operating in the communities – while also using a banned-drinkers list to prevent some people accessing alcohol – was a case of pandering to the hotels industry. “These state and territory governments are harlots to the Australian Hotels Association,” Pearson told The Australian’s Paige Taylor. Pearson and other Indigenous leaders want alcohol providers removed from the areas entirely.

And The Australian has a look at a survey done by the Australia Council that found almost three in 10 Aussies thought the arts were “not really for people like me”, due to high ticket prices and the perceived elitism of the arts. This is despite long attempts by arts companies to engage the broader community, the council says. The way some artists talked about themselves puts some Australians off, council boss Adrian Collette admitted.

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