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What we know today, Tuesday September 1


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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No new cases in SA today

South Australia continued its COVID-19-free run with no new cases reported today by SA Health.

One case remains active. More than 381,000 tests have been undertaken.

New Victorian cases drop to 70 as govt secures extension support

The Victorian government has secured the support of three crossbenchers to extend its current state of emergency by six months.

It comes as Victoria recorded 70 new COVID-19 cases this morning and five more deaths, taking the state’s toll from the virus to 570 and the national figure to 677.

Tuesday’s daily case tally of 70 is the lowest since July 3.

Metropolitan Melbourne remains under strict stage four restrictions, including an 8pm to 5am curfew and a ban on travelling beyond a 5km radius of one’s home.

But lockdown-weary Victorians will soon be given a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, as the state government prepares to release a “reopening road map” on Sunday.

Victorian Greens upper house MP Samantha Ratnam will return from maternity leave to vote in favour of an amended bill on Tuesday.

The Andrews government originally sought a 12-month extension to its state of emergency powers to allow for the enforcement of public health orders such as mandatory mask use, self-isolation for positive cases and business density limits.

At present, the declaration can only run for six months and is due to expire on September 13 along with Melbourne’s stage four lockdown and regional Victoria’s stage three rules.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos confirmed the amended bill sought a six-month extension, specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes additional transparency measures.

“There has never been a more important bill before the Victorian Parliament than this,” Mikakos said.

Ratnam said she wasn’t intending to attend parliament but wanted to vote on the “really important piece of legislation”.

The government now has the support it needs to pass the bill in the upper house, though it is expected debate will run for hours.

Earlier this morning, Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick backed the extension despite receiving a torrent of abuse.

Patten said her office had been inundated with “vile, vicious and aggressive” phone calls, social media messages and emails opposing the proposal.

“Some of them, we’ve referred to the police,” the Reason Party MP said.

“This isn’t how we do politics in Australia I have never experienced this type of aggression against me in such a personal, sometimes sexual way.”

Meddick said he and his family had also received “disgusting” abuse on social media.

He said it was vital to provide frontline workers and the community with certainty as the state moved out of lockdown.

“Now is not the time for party politics. Now is the time for co-operation,” Meddick said.

Adelaide house prices steady as national values slide

Adelaide house prices remained steady in August as the national market continued to decline.

According to today’s CoreLogic’s Home Value Index, Melbourne was the biggest loser for the month with values declining 1.2 per cent, contributing to a -3.5 per cent quarter. Sydney and Brisbane also lost value while Adelaide and Perth recorded a 0.0 per cent change in values.

Darwin, Hobart and Canberra were the only Australian cities to record growth.

Nationally, the 0.4 per cent decline was the fourth consecutive month of falling values.

Dwelling values in Adelaide have declined 0.1 per cent for the quarter but are growing at an annual rate of 2.7 per cent, resulting in a median value of $444,021.

According to CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless the Melbourne housing market is the main drag on the headline results.

“Through the COVID period to date, Melbourne home values have fallen by 4.6 per cent,” he said.

“The performance of housing markets are intrinsically linked with the extent of social distancing policies and border closures which also have a direct effect on labour market conditions and sentiment.

“Looking forward we are likely to see a diverse outcome for housing markets around Australia, depending on how well the virus is contained and the region’s exposure to other factors such as its reliance on overseas migration as a source of housing demand.”

Huge trade surplus unlikely to ward off recession

Shares were down by more than 1.6 per cent on the Australian market this morning after reporting season finished and the Aussie dollar climbed.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was lower by 103.3 points, or 1.7 per cent, to 5957.2 points at noon.

The All Ordinaries index was lower by 101.6 points, or 1.62 per cent, to 6144.3.

The Australian dollar continued its upward trend and was buying 74.00 US cents, higher from 73.48 US cents at Friday’s close.

The trend makes Aussie shares more expensive for overseas investors.

The Reserve Bank is due to announce its decision on the cash rate at 2pm.

Experts do not expect any change to the record-low rate of 0.25 per cent.

Earlier, Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealed the nation’s current account trade surplus ballooned to $17.7 billion in the June quarter compared with $9 billion in the previous three months.

The June quarter national accounts are due for release on Wednesday, which are expected to confirm the nation has suffered its first recession since the early 1990s.

Economists’ forecasts still centre on an economic contraction of about six per cent during the June quarter.

It will mark the biggest decline since the ABS started plotting the national accounts in the late 1950s.

This sharp fall follows a more modest 0.3 per cent decline in the March quarter but will constitute a technical recession – two consecutive quarters of contraction.

Australian TV presenter detained in China

An Australian woman working as a TV presenter in Beijing has been detained by Chinese authorities.

Cheng Lei has been in custody for more than two weeks, the Australian government revealed overnight.

“Australian officials had an initial consular visit with Ms Cheng at a detention facility via video link on (Thursday) and will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

No reason has been provided for her detainment.

China-based Australian journalist Stephen McDonnell, who works for the BBC, tweeted that Cheng was being held in a secret location without charge.

In an online video for the Australia Global Alumni posted two years ago, Cheng described herself as an “anchor for the global business show on CGTN, the China Global Television Network”.

Born in China, she studied commerce at the University of Queensland before working for Cadbury Schweppes and ExxonMobil in Australia.

“The beauty of an Australian education is not about what is taught but more about what it doesn’t teach. It doesn’t teach you to just follow orders, it allows you the freedom to think for yourself, to question … to judge for yourself,” she said.

After moving to China, Cheng – who speaks with a distinct Australian accent – worked for the Chinese state broadcaster, the country’s biggest TV network.

“China is one of those subjects that can be talked up or down any of a number of notches depending on the person’s knowledge and experience.”

The ABC reported that Cheng’s two young children are in Melbourne.

Her family issued a brief statement.

“In China, due process will be observed and we look forward to a satisfactory and timely conclusion to the matter,” they told the ABC.

Former president dies as Indian virus infections boom

Former Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, who had tested positive for COVID-19 last month, has died after weeks in hospital.

He was 84.

New Delhi’s Army Hospital said earlier on Monday that Mukherjee had gone into septic shock after coming down with a lung infection.

Mukherjee was president from 2012 to 2017, at the end of a long period when the Congress party held power.

India yesterday reported 78,512 new coronavirus infections, more than any other country but fewer than the previous day when it posted the world’s biggest, single-day tally, as authorities looked to open more sectors of the economy.

On Sunday, India’s total of 78,761 new cases exceeded the previous global record of 77,299 in the United States on July 16, a Reuters tally of official data showed.

The world’s second-most populous country has been posting the highest single-day caseload in the world since August 7.

At 3.62 million cases, India is fast catching up to the United States and Brazil in terms of total cases but it has a lower death rate.

India’s coronavirus deaths went up by 971 in the past 24 hours, taking the tally to 64,469, the health ministry said.

WHO warns against fast re-opening

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Picture: EPA/Salvatore Di Nolfi.

The head of the World Health Organisation is warning that opening up societies too quickly amid the coronavirus pandemic is a “recipe for disaster”.

The comments came as 105 countries responded to a survey aimed at assessing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on strained health systems

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “the more control countries have over the virus, the more they can open up,” and insists that countries that are serious about opening up must also be serious about suppressing transmission.

“This may seem like an impossible balance but it’s not,” he told reporters in Geneva.

Tedros cited four key points that countries, communities and individuals should focus on: preventing “amplifying events” – as the virus thrives on clusters; protecting vulnerable groups; people taking steps individually to protect themselves; and finding, isolating, testing and caring for cases, while tracing and quarantining their contacts.

The WHO also noted on Monday that 90 per cent of countries that responded in a survey reported fallout from COVID-19 on the provision of other health care services.

The survey, covering five regions between March and June, exposed “cracks in our health systems” and the need for better preparation for health emergencies like the pandemic that has produced more than 25 million confirmed cases and killed more than 843,000 people by the WHO’s count, Tedros said.

Its results indicated that routine immunisation and outreach services were among the most affected, with 70 per cent of countries reporting disruptions followed closely by the diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Pair arrested over Riverland border breach

Two men who allegedly attempted to sneak into South Australia on a Riverland back road have been arrested.

About 10.45 am on Monday 31 August, two men in a white Renault Van with SA registration plates, attended the border checkpoint at Yamba in the Riverland and were denied entry.

The vehicle and occupants were later identified as having crossed the border into South Australia via a back road.

Police traced the vehicle and men to a house at Mawson Lakes.

A 36-year-old man from Mawson Lakes and a 24-year-old man from Broadview were charged with breach of COVID-19 direction.  They were refused police bail and will appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court today.

State shadow cabinet achieves gender balance

Two new faces have been added to Labor’s frontbench in South Australia, bringing gender balance to the shadow cabinet for the first time.

At a meeting of the Labor caucus on yesterday, Andrea Michaels and Blair Boyer were elected to the 14-strong frontbench.

Boyer was elected to parliament at the last state poll in 2018 and Michaels at a by-election last year.

They replace Tony Piccolo and Eddie Hughes who resigned recently to focus on their own electorates.

“This is a significant moment, as we now have Labor’s first frontbench with an equal share of men and women,” Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said.

“As Labor Leader, I am proud to lead a team which better reflects our society.”

Malinauskas will assign portfolios to the two newcomers in the near future.

Crows look to snap losing streak against Hawks

Adelaide will have its best chance of breaking its record 16-game losing streak in recent weeks when it takes on Hawthorn at Adelaide Oval this afternoon.

The Hawks have lost eight of their past nine matches, including back-to-back Adelaide Oval losses to crash to 15th on the AFL ladder.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has also said he will use the season’s remaining matches to experiment with his squad and playing style as a priority over winning.

“Where our philosophy lies is more on preparation for 2021 and beyond rather than 2020,” Clarkson said.

“Our focus really isn’t on the urgency of a win or loss here.

“So we’ll continue to use the last four games of the season as an opportunity to find out more about our players in different positions and different opportunities they may get.”

The Crows (0-13) are anchored to the bottom of the AFL ladder with three of their consecutive 16 losses coming at the end of last season.

The AFL is also expected to announce this week what role Adelaide Oval will play in the AFL finals series. However, Queensland is tipped to be given the right to host the AFL Grand Final in October.

Aussie Caleb Ewan wins Tour de France stage

Australian cyclist Caleb Ewan has claimed victory in stage three of the Tour de France, helping his team recover from a nightmare start to the race.

The pocket-size sprinter hit 69kph as he slalomed through his rivals, riding dangerously close to the barrier before whizzing around Sam Bennett for a career fourth stage win.

“It’s always nice for the whole team, we have a win and we can relax a bit and it’s when there’s a more relaxed atmosphere that you perform the best,” Ewan told a news conference after the win on Monday.

But his Belgian-based team Lotto Soudal came close to not even starting the Tour as four staff members were sent home after a mechanic and a caretaker tested positive for coronavirus.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) had just relaxed the rules on potential exclusions from the event, ruling that two riders or more testing positive within a seven-day period would lead to the whole outfit being sent packing.

French health authorities early on Saturday toughened the stance, reverting the rule to its original form – should two members of the team, staffers included, test positive for coronavirus, the outfit would be excluded from the race.

The rule was not retroactive, however, and Lotto was allowed to start in Nice on Saturday but it was not the end of their misfortunes.

Former Paris-Roubaix champion John Degenkolb was eliminated after finishing the rain-hit, crash-marred opening stage outside the time limit and former world champion Philippe Gilbert abandoned with a broken kneecap.

Ewan should have a chance to add to his four stage wins, and further boost the team’s morale, at the end of Friday’s seventh stage which is expected to be decided in a bunch sprint.

– with AAP and Reuters

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