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Tony Abbott cleared of breaching Covid health order after northern beaches bike ride | Tony Abbott


#Police have cleared #Australia’s former prime minister #Tony #Abbott of breaching public health orders designed to limit the spread of #Covid-19 after he faced criticism from locals for cycling outside his zone of residence in #Sydney’s northern beaches.

A resident told #Guardian #Australia she had seen #Abbott chatting with a fellow cyclist at a coffee cart at #Church #Point – in the northern zone – on the morning of 29 #December.

#Abbott’s most recent declaration to parliament showed he lived in #Forestville, which is classed as being in the southern zone of the northern beaches.

#Sydney’s northern beaches are currently locked down, with a #Covid-19 cluster now numbering 144. The majority of the cases are concentrated at the northern end of the northern beaches. The area was separated into two zones – southern and northern – before #Christmas and residents were asked not to leave their zone except for essential reasons.

#New #South #Wales police said on #Thursday they had investigated the matter of the former prime minister’s travel, and “formed the view he was not in breach of the health order as it applied at that time”.

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The NSW police assistant commissioner, #Mick #Willing, said #Abbott “was out for a lawful excuse – exercising with another individual – that was checked and proven to be right”.

#But #Willing added a broader appeal for people to comply with the spirit of public health measures.

“You need to apply some common sense here. #Stay at home where you can, stay within your areas, like if you’re in the southern part of the northern beaches, stay within the southern part of the northern beaches. #And the same applies to the northern part.”

#One #Scotland #Island resident said she saw #Abbott about 8.30am on 29 #December at #Church #Point, where he was chatting with a fellow cyclist near a coffee cart out the front of a local venue called #Pasadena.

“He definitely wasn’t on his bike,” the resident, who did not want to be named, told #Guardian #Australia. “He was chatting at the #Point.”

The woman said #Abbott had been talking to a number of other locals, including the conservative columnist #Piers #Akerman.

#She said she saw #Abbott chatting for about 15 minutes before he rode away with his friend. “I don’t know how long they were there,” she said.

“A lot of people here have friends just on the other side of the #Narrabeen bridge,” the woman added. “They couldn’t see them for #Christmas. #It throws it in everyone’s faces. I think that’s why people are angry.”

#Guardian #Australia asked NSW police whether it was aware of reports of #Abbott stopping at the cafe and talking with locals.

The NSW police media unit said there was no update to its earlier statement, which said officers had conducted “extensive inquiries, which included consultation with NSW #Health”.

A spokesperson said police said had been called to a cafe at #Church #Point about 11am on #Tuesday “following a report that a number of cyclists, who were believed to be from the southern area of the northern beaches, had gathered”, but when they arrived officers found “there were no cyclists, nor a large group”.

“After receiving further information, police attended a home at #Forestville, where they spoke with a 63-year-old man.” #Abbott is 63 years old. The spokesperson said the inquiries determined that the man “did not breach the public health orders”.

The #Labor senator #Kristina #Keneally also raised the issue on #Twitter on #Thursday.

#Despite urgings from public officials against travelling between the southern and northern zones, a review of the health orders appears to back up the police interpretation, so long as he was exercising.

#On 19 #December the NSW health minister, #Brad #Hazzard, issued the #Public #Health (#Covid-19 #Northern #Beaches) #Order 2020, which said residents of the #Northern #Beaches local government area must not, without reasonable excuse, be away from the person’s place of residence.

#Reasonable excuses included exercising. #In the order on 19 #December, #Hazzard also specified that a person must not participate in an outdoor public gathering “of more than two persons” except in certain circumstances.

#On 28 #December, #Hazzard made some changes that were to apply from 29 #December, which added that gatherings of no more than five northern zone residents were allowed so long as all persons participating were northern zone residents. #In the southern zone, gatherings of no more than 10 southern zone residents were allowed.

#But this applied to “gatherings”, and still seemed to apply to when there were more than two people. #Abbott is said to have exercised with one other person.

Then a public health order issued by #Hazzard on 29 #December, taking effect on 30 #December, made changes restricting the area in which a northern beaches resident may be away from their home to buy food or undertake exercise.

#That change ensured that people could not leave their area of residence, whether it be the northern zone or the southern zone, for such purposes.

#But #Abbott is reported to have been in the northern zone on 29 #December, the day before this took effect.

#Comment has been sought from #Abbott.

#Abbott’s overseas travel has previously attracted controversy given that tens of thousands of #Australians have been waiting to return home from abroad.

#In #October, the #Australian #Border #Force commissioner, #Michael #Outram, told a #Senate estimates hearing #Abbott was allowed to leave the country twice, on an “auto exemption” granted for people on government business.

#Local news agencies in #Rome reported in #October that #Abbott was one of 45 in attendance at a mass conducted by #Cardinal #George #Pell at the chapel of #Domus #Australia to mark the 10th anniversary of the canonisation of #Mary #MacKillop, #Australia’s first saint.

#He also travelled to the #United #Kingdom in #August to accept a position as an adviser to the UK #Board of #Trade. #In #August he tweeted that all travel, including the mandatory two weeks of hotel quarantine upon his return, would be paid for privately.





[ source link ]
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/31/tony-abbott-cleared-of-breaching-covid-health-order-after-northern-beaches-bike-ride

##Tony ##Abbott #cleared #breaching ##Covid #health #order #northern #beaches #bike #ride ##Tony ##Abbott

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