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What we know today, Sunday September 27


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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Hopes for NZ travel bubble by year-end

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham hopes a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand can be put in place by the end of the year.

But he says “first and foremost” Australian states must open up to one another as great progress is being made.

Senator Birmingham said opening up an international border with New Zealand would be a “great step” and work is being done to make sure this can be done in a safe way.

“We’re making sure we have all the work done, all the preparations there so that we can safely achieve that bubble with New Zealand,” the minster told ABC News Weekend Breakfast.

“It’s up to them as to whether they choose to open up to Australia, but we’re certainly making sure that we’re prepared and I’m hopeful that could be this year.”

The Australian government also announced $250 million to boost tourism and infrastructure in Australia’s regions which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

This includes $50 million for a regional tourism recovery initiative to assist businesses in regions heavily reliant on international tourism.

A further $200 million will be injected into the ‘building better regions fund’ to boost infrastructure in regional communities, $100 million of which will be dedicated to tourism-related infrastructure.

“We want to make sure that our tourism regions are in the best possible shape on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Birmingham said.

The Australian Tourism Export Council, while welcoming the announcement, said it remains concerned by a lack of specific funding to support businesses which deliver international visitors to Australia.

“The package announced today will bring some desperately needed support to major, mostly internationally focused, tourism businesses across regional Australia,” its managing director Peter Shelley said.

“But support is still needed to ensure the inbound tour operators who supply international visitors to these areas survive.”

McLaughlin claims third Supercars title

Ford superstar Scott McLaughlin has clinched his third-straight Supercars championship.

The Shell V-Power ace couldn’t complete a round three-peat at Tailem Bend, finishing second behind Tickford’s Cameron Waters, but it was enough to wrap up another title.

McLaughlin becomes just the fourth driver in the 60-year history of Australian touring car racing to have won at least three consecutive titles.

The only driver who could have upset McLaughlin’s run to the title – seven-time champion Whincup – finished the race in third.

The result saw McLaughlin’s championship lead over Whincup swell to an unassailable advantage.

The New Zealander finishes the second-straight round at the South Australian circuit at least 300 points in front, meaning it will be impossible for Whincup to snatch the title from him at the Bathurst 1000 season finale.

The final race of the penultimate round of the season is a reward for a consistent campaign for Waters, who claimed his second career win and first for three years.

Melbourne lockdown eased as virus fades

A night curfew will be lifted in Victoria and about 127,000 thousand people will return to work as the state winds back COVID-19 lockdown rules.

The changes were announced after the two-week rolling case average for new coronavirus cases in Melbourne fell to 22.1, well under the aim of 30-50, on Sunday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the 9pm to 5am curfew will be lifted from 5am on Monday, but urged people not to hold private indoor or outdoor gatherings, with those caught doing so liable for an increased $5000 fine.

“I know people want that fundamental connection with friends and family, I get that, I understand that, but I also understand, what I am completely clear about, the evidence is irrefutable: the home environment is one of the most risky environments,” he said.

From 11:59pm on Sunday about 127,000 workers will be allowed to return to work, which is 30,000 more than originally expected.

Year 12 students will be able return to school for assessments on October 3 with primary school students to return from October 12.

A household or up to five people from two households will be able to gather outside, while the limit on one person per household going shopping once a day will also be lifted.

In hospitals, each patient will be allowed one visitor per day for a maximum of two hours, while for patients that are under the age of 18, two parents or carers can visit without any time limit.

However, exercise limits of two hours per day within 5km will remain in place.

Weddings with a limit of five people, including the marrying couple and two witnesses will also be allowed in outdoor spaces.

Premier Andrews foreshadowed that full freedom of movement, Victorians leaving home without needing any reason, could come on October 19.

Earlier on Sunday, Victoria reported 16 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths.

The easing of lockdown coincides with the resignation of Jenny Mikakos as health minister on Saturday after the premier told the hotel quarantine inquiry that her department was ultimately responsible for running the quarantine system.

Mikakos will also be resigning from parliament, with Martin Foley sworn in as her replacement in the health portfolio.

It comes as South Australia recorded no new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.

Labor luminary and feminist Susan Ryan dies

Labor luminary and pioneering feminist Susan Ryan has died age 77.

Ryan served in the Hawke government and was responsible for landmark sex discrimination and affirmative action laws.

Ryan was the first female minister of a federal Labor government, elevated to the frontbench after Labor’s 1977 election loss and in 1979 assuming the women’s affairs portfolio.

She introduced a private member’s bill to ban discriminatory acts based on gender or marital status in 1981 then became education minister and minister assisting the PM on the status of women when Bob Hawke came to power in 1983.

Her sex discrimination bill passed later that year.

She stayed in parliament for 12 years before quitting after being demoted in 1987.

Ryan remained in public life, with appointments as Australia’s inaugural age discrimination commissioner and later disability discrimination commissioner.

Morrison says border calls up to SA government

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he couldn’t wait to get back to Adelaide after this week’s decision to lift South Australia’s border restrictions with NSW.

After touching down in Adelaide for the first time since February, he said thousands of Sydneysiders would be right behind him, providing an $800 million boost to the SA economy.

In contrast to his treatment of states led by Labor premiers, he also resisted any criticism of the state government after a number of delays in dropping the requirement for travellers to quarantine for two weeks.

“I’m a patient man. Patience is important when it comes to dealing with crises,” he told reporters on Saturday.

Morrison said it was always appropriate for states to make their own decisions on when it’s right to “move to the next step” in relation to COVID-19 measures.

“All I’ve simply asked is when states make those decisions that they do it efficiently, that they explain the reasons and they seek to administer it in a way that is done fairly,” he said.

Morrison’s trip to Adelaide allowed him to speak at the SA Liberal Party’s annual meeting.

The gathering featured chairs placed 1.5 metres apart although social distancing was less evident among the long line of party members waiting to get in.

SA Labor criticised the party’s decision to go ahead with the gathering after it cancelled its own annual convention out of respect for the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

“When scores of South Australian businesses are still facing crippling COVID-19 restrictions, it’s just not a good look for the Liberals to be holding such a large event,” opposition treasury spokesman Stephen Mullighan said.

“Why is it that there seems to be one rule for the Liberals and another rule for everybody else?”

The opening of the border has triggered concerns of transmission from NSW.

NSW recorded no new cases on Sunday, after registering a lone positive case in a returned traveller in hotel quarantine on Saturday.

The last incident of community transmission in the state was on on Friday.

The state must record 28 days with no community transmissions before its border with Queensland is reopened.

Frigate program on track but no subs decision

Development of Australia’s next fleet of navy frigates is on target in Adelaide with BAE Systems Australia given approval to start cutting steel from December ahead of the first ship construction in 2022.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison toured the new shipyard on Saturday and said the federal government’s naval shipbuilding program was contributing to the “rebirthing of South Australia”.

“These incredible facilities will provide jobs and livelihoods for decades to come,” he said.

But Morrison had no good news to offer SA on the question of ongoing maintenance on the navy’s existing Collins class submarines, with a decision yet to be made on whether to conduct that work in Adelaide or move it substantially to Perth.

The prime minister said the decision would be made in the national interest but had not yet been made given the government’s focus on the COVID-19 crisis.

BAE Systems is in the final stages of taking control of its new shipyard facility which it says is among the most advanced in the world.

Its workforce has already grown to about 1000, including the first intake of apprentices, with more jobs to be added.

Chief executive Gabby Costigan said the $45 billion program to deliver nine Hunter class frigates was significant to both the defence of the nation and the contribution it would make to the economy.

Costigan rejected recent reports of “slippage” in the timeline and said there was no risk of another “valley of death” in terms of jobs on existing programs being lost before new positions become available.

“We now have the go-ahead to proceed towards cut steel on the prototyping phase of the Hunter allowing us to continue to hire more Australians and sign contracts with more Australian businesses,” she said.


Chelsea Pitman (right) of the Adelaide Thunderbirds celebrates after winning the Round 14 Super Netball match against the West Coast Fever in Brisbane on Saturday. Photo: AAP/Darren England

Thunderbirds are go as Pitman exits

West Coast Fever’s hot streak is over after the Adelaide Thunderbirds scored a 64-63 Super Netball boilover at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on Saturday.

The Thunderbirds’ thrilling comeback from eight goals down early in the final term ended the third-placed Fever’s chances of qualifying for next weekend’s major semi-final and brought bittersweet tears from outgoing Adelaide captain Chelsea Pitman.

Pitman has not been offered a contract with the club for next season but that did not stop her from coming off the bench to play a key role in the upset.

“I’m going to get emotional just thinking about it. It’s been a big week for me,” a teary Pitman said after her 17 assists and 32 feeds performance.

Trump nominates Barrett to Supreme Court

US President Donald Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, telling her “I looked and I studied and you are very eminently qualified for this job.”

The selection is likely to energise the president’s base weeks before election day, and the Supreme Court could play a practical role with the Trump campaign likely to challenge the high number of mail-in votes expected due to the pandemic.

Barrett, a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a devout Roman Catholic, has been hailed by religious conservatives and others on the right as an ideological heir to conservative icon Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court justice for whom she clerked.

In accepting the nomination Barrett pointed to the friendships Scalia formed with liberal judges including Ginsberg and pledged to build similar bridges.

She also praised Ginsberg for having “smashed glass ceilings”.

Liberals say her legal views are too heavily influenced by her religious beliefs and fear her ascent to the nation’s highest court could lead to a scaling back of hard-fought abortion rights.

Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden issued a statement saying the process should be delayed until after the election, and that Barrett has “a track record of disagreeing with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.”

Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy for trying to rush through the appointment when they have previously insisted that progressive judges should not be appointed in an election year.

At just 48, Barrett would be the youngest justice, and her tenure could last for decades.

South Korea suggests joint shooting probe

South Korea has urged North Korea to further investigate the fatal shooting of a South Korean fisheries official and suggested it could be a joint probe by the two sides.

After a National Security Council meeting on Friday evening, South Korea’s presidential office said it would call for a joint probe into the case with the North if needed, saying there were discrepancies in accounts of the accident from the two sides.

South Korea’s military said on Thursday the North’s soldiers killed the man, doused his body in fuel and set it on fire near the sea border.

But the North Korean government said in a message on Friday its soldiers shot the “illegal intruder” and denied burning his body.

In the message, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was quoted as offering an apology for disappointing his counterpart Moon Jae-in and the South Korean people.

– with AAP and Reuters

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