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What we know today, Monday August 24

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Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad. Follow this post for live updates through the day.

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Beefed up state control centre to double in size

The state government will double the size of its control centre and the number of staff who work there to help the South Australia to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

There are about 40 people who work at the control centre, but up to another 40 people will be added to the payroll as part of the expansion.

An expression of interest will be open to staff from SA Health and across Government who are interested in joining the centre.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the announcement was a “clear demonstration” that South Australia would be forced to deal with the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus for the “long term”.

“It’s also very clear that this is not a short-term task,” he said.

“We know that this is going to take years to recover from.

“For the next two years we will be continuing to operate the pandemic response, particularly coordinated by SA Health, but we’re very keen to see a strong, continued economic recovery in South Australia.”

There were no new virus cases reported in SA on Monday, with the total since the start of the pandemic remaining at 463.

Of those only three are still considered active, including a nurse who tested positive after returning from working in Victoria.

Officials said she was well and still not displaying any symptoms.

Meanwhile, the Victorian government wants to extend the state’s state of emergency by another 12 months to combat the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

But parliament must approve the change, because under current legislation the state of emergency cannot extend beyond six months.

The original state of emergency was declared in March as Victoria’s first outbreak struck and has been extended six times. It is due to end on September 13.

Melbourne is scheduled to come out of its stage-four lockdown on September 13, while the stage-three provisions for regional Victoria are also due to end on that date.

All 4200 chickens killed after freeway truck fire

More than 4000 chickens have been killed after a truck caught on the South-Eastern Freeway in the Adelaide Hills this morning.

Almost 30 firefighters were called to the blaze near Hahndorf shortly after 4am, arriving to find the semi-trailer well alight.

The fire was quickly brought under control but not before 900 of the 4200 chickens on board perished.

The RSPCA assessed the remaining chickens all of which were determined to have suffered respiratory issues as a consequence of smoke inhalation. They were transferred to a different vehicle and taken to the Cavan facility to be euthanased.

The incident caused major traffic delays for city-bound vehicles with traffic initially diverted at Mt Barker through to Hahndorf.

However, SA Police said freeway traffic returned to normal flows around 9am.

Fire investigators are yet to confirm the cause of the fire, but it is believed to have started as a result of overheated bearings in one of the truck’s wheels.

 

New Vic cases hit seven-week low

Victoria has announced 15 more COVID-19 deaths despite recording its lowest day of new cases in more than seven weeks.

The number of new cases plummeted to 116 from yesterday’s figure of 208.

It was the lowest number of new cases reported since July 5.

The 15 deaths take Victoria’s toll to 430 and the national figure to 517.

But the number of new cases plummeted to 116 from Sunday’s figure of 208.

It comes as halfway through lockdown, Victoria’s chief health officer has defiantly declared he won’t let the state’s hard-fought COVID-19 gains slip.

Brett Sutton had predicted on Sunday that numbers could dip below 150 this week.

He added although the daily case numbers had been “jumping around”, he expected they are on a downward trajectory.

He was still upbeat after the new cases went back above 200 on Sunday.

“We’re not going to see 300 and 400 (cases) again in Victoria under my watch, at least,” he told reporters.

“We’re applying a strategy that is driving cases down.”

With 3920 so-called mystery cases, Sutton warned restrictions would not be lifted in full until community transmission is eradicated.

Double murder accused to face court today

A man accused of murdering his son and his son’s partner in the state’s South East on the weekend is due to face Mount Gambier Magistrates Court today.

A man and woman, both 19, were found dead of apparent gunshot wounds after South Australia Police were called to the Mount McIntyre property on Saturday night.

Police said the young couple, both from Adelaide, appeared to be visiting the property for a family event.

A 46-year-old man who lives at the home, northeast of Millicent, was arrested without incident and has been charged with two counts of murder.

He was later revealed to be the father of the deceased 19-year-old man.

“We are treating this as an incident where unfortunately the father is alleged to have killed his son, and understand the female involved is the partner of the son,” Detective Inspector Campbell Hill told reporters at the scene.

The man is due to face Mount Gambier Magistrates Court on Monday.

Inspector Hill could not confirm if a gun had been found at the scene but officers said other people were on the property when the incident occurred.

“It’s a tragic event and the impacts of this will not only be felt for the particular families involved and the associates and the relatives but also for the southeastern community,” Hill said.

“It’s really quite a shocking event to occur in the South East.”

No other offenders are wanted in connection to the incident.

Detectives and forensic experts were still processing the crime scene late on Sunday afternoon.

JobKeeper changes a priority as parliament returns

Legislation to change JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments will be at the top of the agenda when Federal Parliament resumes for the first time in 10 weeks today.

The two-week sitting that was due to start on August 4 was cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

Finance Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate Mathias Cormann said the parliament will operate in a COVID-safe way, allowing members and senators to participate via a video link-up for the first time in history.

Cormann said the priority for this sitting fortnight would be to pass legislation to extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy and the enhanced JobSeeker dole payment.

“That’s obviously important to give businesses and working Australians who rely on these payments certainty that the arrangements remain in place,” he said.

The JobKeeper scheme will step down from a fortnightly payment of $1500 to $1200 at the end of September, and then down to $1000 from December to March.

“At some point we need to get back into a situation where viable, profitable businesses pay for the wages of their employees out of their income rather than on the basis of taxpayers’ support,” Cormann said.

The JobSeeker unemployment benefit has temporarily been doubled to a maximum $1100 per fortnight through to September, but then will be reduced $800 until the end of the year.

Sentencing begins over NZ massacre

Victims and family members of the 51 people murdered by Australian man Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand last year have travelled from across the world to take part in his sentencing, which begins today.

The four-day hearing will be held in Christchurch, the city where Tarrant murdered dozens of worshippers and injured 40 more at two mosques in March 2019.

Christchurch’s justice precinct has been transformed ahead of the week, with Tarrant reportedly staying in the building which houses both the courtroom and police headquarters in the city’s CBD.

The 29-year-old returned to Canterbury yesterday for the first time since the atrocity, flown from Auckland on an Air Force Hercules plane and taken by local police and corrections staff.

More than 60 survivors and family members of the victims will be offered the chance to speak and share their loss in a Christchurch court.

Justice Cameron Mander will bear their suffering in mind when giving his sentence at the end of the lengthy hearing, which is expected to be life imprisonment, and possibly with no chance of parole.

Economic uncertainty at all-time high among CFOs

Uncertainty about economic conditions has reached a record-high 92 per cent, up from 72 per cent six months earlier, according to a twice-yearly Deloitte survey found.

The twice-yearly survey of chief financial officers also found just more than half remain optimistic about the future.

More than three-quarters of respondents saw some sort of revenue decrease in the second half of 2020 and nearly three in five expect revenues to be lower than their pre-pandemic expectations in 2021.

“A COVID-induced global economic downturn, the largest since the Great Depression, has hit hard, net optimism has fallen drastically, and uncertainty is at an all-time high,” Deloitte partner Stephen Gustafson said.

Still, 53 per cent remain optimistic about the future.

“While many see business conditions as worse than six months ago, they’re also not pulling down the shutters.

“Encouragingly for Australia, CFOs appear to be up for the recovery fight. The challenges are clearly numerous and far-reaching but more than half are optimistic, or even highly optimistic, about the future.”

CFOs see navigating uncertainty, accelerated transformation and cutting costs out of operating margins as the main issues they need to deal with to make it through the crisis.

Australian cricketers touch down in England

The Australian cricket team will arrive in England today, becoming the first national sporting outfit to embark on an international tour since the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

The 21-man squad, which includes South Australian players Alex Carey and Kane Richardson, flew out of Perth late yesterday.

Australia has not played an international cricket game since March 13 when its ODI series against New Zealand was abandoned.

The team will play three T20s against England in Southampton from September 4 and three ODIs in Manchester from September 10 after playing up to five internal matches during an initial quarantine period.

with AAP and Reuters

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