As it happened:Mandatory COVID isolation drops to 5 days;former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev dies

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Today’s headlines

ByNigel Gladstone

Good evening,and thanks for reading our live news coverage today,here’s a summary of the major headlines:

Thanks for reading our coverage today,we’ll be back tomorrow with more live news from 7am.

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‘Absolutely packed’:Chaos on the trains as commuters struggle to get home

ByBillie Eder

A collective sigh of relief could be heard every time a train approached the platform at Central station on Wednesday afternoon.

However,it was immediately taken back once train doors opened to reveal carriages overflowing with commuters desperately trying to make their way home.

Train guards were packing people in like a child stuffing their sleeping bag at the end of year five camp,with little success and great frustration.

Passengers struggle with disruptions to Sydney’s train system on Wednesday.

Passengers struggle with disruptions to Sydney’s train system on Wednesday.Rhett Wyman

Sydney’s public transport network was once again thrown into chaos on Wednesday afternoon as widespread industrial action across the rail network and key bus routes slashed services and left commuters stranded on platforms.

Jenny O’Keefe toldThe Heraldshe had endured nightmare travel times on her way into work on Wednesday morning,and was lining up to do the same again on her way home from Town Hall.

“I got on a train at 6.40am and didn’t get into the office in Darling Park until 8.40am,” said O’Keefe,who lives in Penrith.

“The trains were packed,absolutely packed ... the guards on the platform were pushing more people in,yelling,‘Move upstairs,move downstairs’.”

Red morehere.

Heavy fighting rages in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied south

ByPaul Byrne

Kyiv: Ukraine claimed to have destroyed bridges and ammunition depots and pounded command posts in a surge of fighting in the Russian-occupied south,fuelling speculation on Tuesday that its long-awaited counteroffensive to try to turn the tide of war was underway. Russia said it inflicted heavy casualties in return.

The clashes took place in Ukraine’s Kherson region,where Moscow’s forces rolled up major gains early in the war.

Ukrainian servicemen walk on the debris of a heavily damaged school after a Russian attack in Druzhkivka,in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemen walk on the debris of a heavily damaged school after a Russian attack in Druzhkivka,in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.AP

While independent verification of battlefield action has been difficult,Britain’s Defence Ministry said in an intelligence report that several Ukrainian brigades had stepped up their artillery fire in front-line sectors across southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities kept the world guessing about their intentions,sidestepping talk of a major counter-offensive over the past couple of days.

The port city of Kherson,with a prewar population of about 300,000,is an important economic hub close to the Black Sea and the first major city to fall to the Russians in the war that began more than six months ago.

The US government has assessed that Moscow is preparing to stage sham referenda in areas of Ukraine under its control to manipulate the results to claim that the Ukrainian people want to join Russia,the US State Department said on Tuesday,Washington time.

Read morehere.

Perrottet declares war on rail unions in high-stakes ultimatum

ByTom Rabe andMatt O'Sullivan

The NSW premier has declared war on the rail unions by threatening to drag them before the courts and tear up a multibillion-dollar safety commitment in a high stakes move that threatens to inflame wider negotiations with the state’s public sector workforce.

In a dramatic escalation in the long-running dispute,Dominic Perrottet on Wednesday issued rail unionswith an ultimatum after the city’s public transport system was crippled amid industrial action on the rail and bus networks.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet walks through a Metro tunnel beneath Martin Place on Wednesday.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet walks through a Metro tunnel beneath Martin Place on Wednesday.Kate Geraghty

“This ends today. I will not have our city grind to a halt,our people inconvenienced any more by the actions of a union movement that belongs back in the 1970s,” he said. “The union is using our people as political pawns. They are not going to get away with it any more.”

After months of industrial action and failed bargaining attempts,Perrottet instructed Transport Minister David Elliott to deliver a final pay offer to rail workers,refusing to budge on the government’s wages cap.

If the 13,000-strong workforce votes against the offer,Perrottet warned his government would seek to terminate the rail union’s existing enterprise agreement and tear up its $1 billion offer to modify the mothballed intercity fleet.

The same dramatic move by government will be taken if any further industrial action occurs across the Sydney rail network and at construction sites for new metro rail lines. Rolling industrial action was slated for the metro construction sites until September 10.

Read morehere.

‘No room for victim-blaming’:Affirmative consent to become law

ByRachel Eddie

Affirmative consent will become law in Victoria after passing the state parliament,shifting the onus onto a person accused of sexual assault to show consent was given.

The amendments to the Crimes Act – which will become law in July 2023 and are similar to reforms that passed the NSW parliament last year – have received a mixed reception from legal experts and advocates.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes.Penny Stephens

Under the changes,consent might include,but would not be limited to,verbally asking and getting a “yes” in response;a physical gesture such as a nod;or reciprocating a move such as removing clothes.

Law Institute of Victoria president Tania Wolff has argued affirmative consent already existed in Victoria and the reforms would complicate the framework.

The Crimes Act currently defines consent as “free agreement” and sets out a range of scenarios that do not constitute consent. It also states a person’s belief in consent must be reasonable,which includes steps they took to find out whether their sexual partner consented.

Jurors deliberating on sexual offence cases are directed to look at the circumstances and establish if they believe the accused took reasonable steps to attain consent.

Under the reforms,the accused must demonstrate what steps they took,meaning attention will focus on their actions to confirm consent,rather than what the accuser did,or did not do,to deny consent.

Wolff said the government should have focused on community education.

Read morehere.

Justice Department sees evidence of obstruction in Trump search

BySarah N. Lynch andDan Whitcomb

Washington: The US Justice Department says it has found evidence to suggest that documents removed from the White House when Donald Trump left office were later concealed at his Florida home to obstruct a federal investigation into their whereabouts.

A Trump lawyer “explicitly prohibited” FBI agents from looking in boxes in a storage room at Trump’s property during a June search,the department said in a court filing.

Donald Trump and the receipt for property that was seized at Mar-a-Lago.

Donald Trump and the receipt for property that was seized at Mar-a-Lago.AP

“The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the storage room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the department argued in a filing in US District Court in the Southern District of Florida.

The department’s filings on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) come ahead of a Thursday court hearing before US District Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach. She is weighing Trump’s request to appoint a special master who would conduct a privilege review of thedocuments seized from Mar-a-Lago on August 8,many of which are labelled as classified.

A special master is an independent third party sometimes appointed by a court in sensitive cases to review materials potentially covered by attorney-client privilege to ensure investigators do not improperly view them.

Read morehere.

The Wrap:ASX finishes August in positive territory,boosted by solid results

ByAngus Thomson

Welcome to your five-minute update of the trading day,and how the experts saw it.

The numbers:The Australian sharemarket closed weaker on Wednesday,shedding 11.50 points,or 0.16 per cent,to 6986.80. The ASX 200 added 0.6 per cent through August,held up by mostly strong company earnings reports.

Energy and materials stocks provided a significant drag on the market on Wednesday,with heavyweights Woodside Energy,Santos,BHP and Fortescue all finishing lower.

Wall Street recorded another day of losses.

Wall Street recorded another day of losses.Bloomberg

The lifters: Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals jumped 16.1 per cent after reporting its sixth consecutive annual profit;Webjet gained 7.63 per cent after predicting its operational cash surplus will exceed $100 million by September;and Tyro payments finished 10.1 per cent higher after Monday’s strong earnings report.

The laggards: Pointsbet was down 11.85 per cent after reporting a full-year loss;Woodside Energy fell 4.4 per cent despite reporting five-fold increase in profit on Tuesday;and MinRes finished 5.62 per cent lower on another tough day for miners.

The lowdown:Despite finishing modestly lower,the Australian sharemarket bounced back enough from a dip in early morning trade to finish the August results season in positive territory.

Financial and communications stocks led the recovery from losses earlier in the morning and finished in the black,but energy and material stocks weighed heavily on the market.

Blue chips Rio Tinto,BHP and Fortescue all lost value after Chinese iron ore prices sunk below $100 per tonne over renewed worries about China’s faltering steel industry.

Webjet shares finished 8 per cent higher in early trade afterpredicting its operational cash surplus will exceed $100 million by September.

How Mikhail Gorbachev came to spruik Pizza Hut,Louis Vuitton

In 1997,a year after his failed run for Russian president was viewed as a national joke,Mikhail Gorbachev resorted to making a TV ad for Pizza Hut to earn money for his charitable foundation.

For a man described in the hoursafter his death on Wednesday as the most significant person in the second half of the 20th century, his TV commercial appearance was more than just a grab for money.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev appeared in this Pizza Hut commercial in 1997.

The ad featured the last leader of the Soviet Union sitting down at a Moscow outlet of a major US chain Pizza Hut with his granddaughter to enjoy one of the largest icons of capitalism – American fast food.

At a nearby table,another group debated the former leader’s legacy. The older man blames him for Russia’s “economic confusion”,“political instability” and “complete chaos” while the younger man rebukes,saying Gorbachev gave them “opportunity”,“hope” and “freedom”.

Their argument is interrupted by a woman who says it is because of him that Russia has Pizza Hut,prompting diners to stand and salute him with a slice saying “Hail to Gorbachev”.

Gorbachev,who never actually takes a bite of the pizza in the minute-long commercial,was reportedly paid $US1 million for his appearance. The ad was broadcast internationally but never shown in Russia,where he was deeply unpopular at the time having polled just 1 per cent of the vote in the 1996 Russian presidential elections.

Read morehere.

Australians to train on UK nuclear submarines under landmark pact

ByMatthew Knott

Australian naval officers will be allowed to train inside Britain’s nuclear-powered submarines for the first time to ensure they are prepared for the eventual arrival of the prized technology under the AUKUS pact.

Defence Minister Richard Marles is set to announce the landmark agreement at a press conference with UK Secretary of State Ben Wallace in the English port town of Barrow-in-Furness on Thursday.

A British Astute class nuclear-powered submarine.

A British Astute class nuclear-powered submarine.Royal Navy

“The idea of Australian crew working with either British or American crews to get experience on British or American vessels in the shorter term is what we are seeking to do,” Marles said in an interview with the LondonTimes.

“Having the opportunity for Australian submariners to gain experience on the submarines of either the United States or the United Kingdom is going to be absolutely fundamental.”

Marles ison his first visit to the UK since Labor’s May election victory.

Defence contractor BAE Systems is currently constructing a fleet of nuclear-powered Astute-class submarines for the UK Navy at its shipbuilding yards at Barrow-in-Furness,as well as a fleet of Dreadnought class ballistic missile submarines.

The United States Congress is also considering a bill that would allow Australian submariners to join their American counterparts for training and operations on the US Navy’s nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines.

Under the legislation,at least two Australian submarine officers would be selected each year to train with the US Navy and study at its Nuclear Propulsion School.

Read morehere.

HSU boss calls for scrapping of all COVID isolation periods

ByNigel Gladstone

Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes,who represents nurses,paramedics and allied health professionals,is calling for an end to mandatory COVID isolation periods.

“I’m trying to put forward a sensible position to move forward because COVID is not going away,” Hayes told ABC radio 774 on Wednesday.

Health Services Union boss Gerard Hayes.

Health Services Union boss Gerard Hayes.Edwina Pickles

“It’s how we walk and chew gum at the same time. If we do that,in a logical sense,with personal responsibility being paramount,well,then we can start to move forward,very quickly and very safely.”

Hayes said he wanted people stay home when they were sick,but workforce shortages due to mandatory isolation were affecting his union’s members,who have been working with staff shortages and long hours since the pandemic began.

National Cabinet has agreed to reduce the isolation periods for COVID-19 positive cases from seven to five days following a positive test,but the reduction does not apply to workers in high-risk settings including aged care,disability care,and home care.

Broede Carmody is the national news blogger for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Previously,he was a culture reporter and worked on the breaking news desk.

Nigel Gladstone is an investigative journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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