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What we know today, Monday September 28


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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Victorian quarantine failed ‘for multiple reasons’

Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry has heard the program failed due to a “multitude of decisions, actions and inactions”.

Delivering closing submissions to the inquiry on Monday, counsel assisting Tony Neal QC said there was no suggestion those who set up the program worked other than with “the best of intentions and to the best of their ability”.

“Bad faith or corruption is not what the evidence shows,” he said.

Neal said public servants were given just 36 hours to set up the program, following a national cabinet announcement on March 27.

Within two and a half months, the “hastily assembled program failed at two locations … and with disastrous consequences”, he said.

“It will not be suggested that a single decision or a single actor caused the hotel quarantine Program to fail in its objective of stopping the spread of COVID-19 into the broader community,” Neal said.

“A multitude of decisions, actions and inactions, many of which compounded the effect of the other, ultimately expressed itself in the outbreaks which subverted the very reason for the existence of a hotel quarantine program.”

Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus, which resulted in more than 18,000 new infections and 750 deaths, can be traced back to outbreaks among security guards at the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza hotels in mid-May and June.

The three lawyers for the inquiry will each make submissions on Monday, before the $3 million inquiry hands down its findings on November 6.

Victoria records lowest number of cases since June

Victoria has had another three coronavirus deaths as new case numbers dropped to their lowest since June 12.

The latest fatalities take the state toll to 787 and the national figure to 875.

But there were only five new cases, the first time since June that number has been below 10.

Melbourne’s all-important new case average is now down to 20.3 and is at 0.6 for regional areas.

There were just 31 cases with an unknown source for Melbourne from September 12-25 and none outside the city.

Budget money for airlines

The Federal Government is extending subsidies for airlines operating flights between capital cities and regional towns.

Support for key domestic routes will continue until the end of January, while regional routes will be propped up until March.

The government has already spent $150 million helping Qantas, Virgin and smaller airlines survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The upcoming federal budget is expected to contain hundreds of millions of dollars in additional support.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said airlines had been smashed by coronavirus shutdowns and border closures.

“Uncertainty affects the ability of airlines and airports to plan for recovery and undermines consumer confidence, which amounts to a significant cost to industry and ultimately the Australian economy,” he said.

“The Federal Government is doing our bit by underwriting these flights to maintain minimum connectivity.

“Now we need the states and territories to do their bit too as we again encourage the continued easing of border restrictions.”

One in four Australians travelled by air to visit friends and family every year before the coronavirus pandemic.

“By underwriting key routes, we are providing the opportunity for Australians to do just that,” McCormack said.

Trump paid just $US750 in tax: NYT investigation

President Donald Trump paid extremely little in recent income taxes as heavy losses from his enterprises offset hundreds of millions of dollars in income, according to the New York Times, citing tax-return data.

The Times reported Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, paid just $US750 ($A1070) in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and paid no income taxes in 10 of the last 15 years.

This was despite receiving $US427.4 million through 2018 from his reality television program and other endorsement and licensing deals.

Trump was able to minimize his tax bill by reporting heavy losses across his business empire.

The Times reported that Trump claimed $US47.4 million in losses in 2018, despite claiming income of at least $US434.9 million in a financial disclosure that year.

Trump denied the report on Sunday, calling it “total fake news” at a White House news conference.

In a statement to the Times, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said Trump had paid millions of dollars in personal taxes over the past decade, without weighing in on the specific income tax finding.

JobKeeper cuts kick in

The reduction in the JobKeeper wage subsidy has gone ahead today, just days after the JobSeeker supplement was reduced.

But Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised the government will continue to support Australians through the pandemic, saying his October 6 budget will focus on economic recovery and creating jobs.

Pointing to a new report by Deloitte Access Economics, the treasurer said it makes clear the government “acted fast and well” and that JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been the “standouts” cushioning the economy.

Even so, from today the JobKeeper will be reduced from $1500 a fortnight to $1200 for full-time workers and to $750 for part-time workers.

The JobSeeker supplement was reduced from $550 a fortnight to $250.

Unions and federal opposition parties are up in arms that the Morrison government is allowing the JobKeeper wage subsidy to be cut when many workers are still relying on it, with parts of the economy still shut down.

“In the face of unacceptably high unemployment, the Morrison government has today cut vital JobKeeper support for millions of Australians, without any jobs plan to replace it,” Labor’s finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher told AAP.

While the jobless rate fell to 6.8 per cent in August, both the Reserve Bank and Treasury expect it will rise again.

Greens Leader and Melbourne MP Adam Bandt said his party will move to stop the cuts in the Senate.

“We are not in a position in Australia at the moment to be pushed off that financial cliff, especially in Melbourne,” Mr Bandt told ABC television’s Insiders program.

“Around the country, 12 people looking for every one job that is available at the moment and the social distancing restrictions are continuing to stay in force and that stops a lot of businesses to get back on their feet.”

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said these cuts will hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

Services firm to create ‘2000 South Australian jobs’

Global consulting firm Accenture is promising to establish a “hub” in Adelaide which the State Government says could create up to 2000 jobs over five years.

Premier Steven Marshall said the firm’s investment in SA would be technology-focused, claiming that the move could inject $1 billion into the local economy.

“This is a jobs bonanza for South Australia at a time when we need it most,” he said.

“Accenture’s Adelaide Hub will serve as a magnet for talented young people who will help drive our state’s economic growth and bolster our defence, space and cyber sectors.”

The Adelaide hub will collaborate with Accenture hubs in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Canberra, as well as overseas operations, on advanced technologies, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

The chairman of Accenture Australia and New Zealand, Bob Easton, said Accenture would “serve as a key member of the local community, investing and working together with other businesses and educational institutions to assist the South Australian Government in meeting its economic growth targets”.

Melbourne sleeps through last virus curfew

Melburnians have slept through their final night of curfew after the Victorian government lifted the controversial COVID-19 lockdown measure.

City dwellers have lived with the nightly 9pm to 5am curfew for eight weeks in a move to bring the state’s devastating second wave under control.

But it was repealed from 5am on today under widespread rule relaxations unveiled on Sunday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said lifting the curfew did not mean people could hold private indoor or outdoor gatherings, with those caught doing so liable for a beefed-up $5000 fine.

“No one has the right to put everything that Victorians have done at risk by going and potentially spreading the virus, one family to another,” Andrews said.

A trial contesting the curfew’s legality under the state’s human rights charter was scheduled for the Supreme Court on Monday.

The premier denied the move to repeal it was motivated by the legal action.

From 11.59pm on Sunday, 127,000 people can return to work – close to 30,000 more than originally expected.

Other rule changes include childcare reopening, allowances for outdoor gatherings of up to five from two households and the lifting of a shopping limit of one person per household a day.

Victoria’s VCE and VCAL students will also return to school for assessments from October 5, with primary school students back on October 12.

Hospital patients will be allowed one visitor per day for a maximum of two hours, while patients under 18 will be allowed unlimited visits from two parents or carers.

Melbourne’s two-hour exercise limit and 5km travel restriction remain, although Andrews foreshadowed full freedom of movement could come on October 19 ahead of AFL grand final weekend.

He urged Victorians not to let their guard down, saying the virus would run wild if people pretend the second wave is over.

Good news from NSW as SA continues to welcome travellers

Both South Australia and NSW recorded no new cases of COVID-19 in the latest count as the newly opened border continued to attract travellers, including the Prime Minister on the weekend.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined the NSW influx on the weekend, appearing at the Liberal Party AGM and, in contrast to his statements about some Labor Premiers, avoided any criticism of Premier Steven Marshall’s tough approach to borders.

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.

The SA Liberal Party’s annual meeting featured chairs placed 1.5 metres apart although social distancing was less evident among the long line of party members waiting to get in.

While the opening of the border has triggered some concerns of transmission from NSW, there was good news from Sydney.

For the first time since June 10, NSW didn’t record an inflection over a 24-hour span on Sunday.

And today, NSW recorded not a single case of COVID-19, either locally acquired or in hotel quarantine.

There were just 6353 tests done in the 24-hour reporting period until 8pm on Sunday – half the number of 12,333 in the previous 24 hours.

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

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

Asked if the state would further relax rules based on recent low case numbers, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW was continually reviewing restrictions in line with expert health advice.

“While the health and safety of the people of NSW remains our priority, we are also focused on firing up the economy and getting people back in jobs,” she said in a statement on Sunday.

“We don’t want any restrictions in place longer than they need to be.”

SA records no new cases as Stevens asks for help

South Australia spent another weekend free of new reported cases of COVID-19, but the toll of regulating compliance with pandemic rules is straining police resources.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told News Corp that he has called for help from other government agencies involved in compliance activities as well as community volunteers from groups like the SES and CFS

He reportedly said the reception to his idea had been “excellent”.

“I am expecting we will have some positive outcomes from that sooner rather than later and then we look at how we utilize those resources that are made available,” he told The Advertiser.

SA Health reported no new cases of the virus on Monday.

Federal budget “bent not broken”

Deloitte Access Economics expects Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down a deficit of $198.5 billion in his October 6 budget for 2020/21 financial year.

Its partner and economist Chris Richardson expects smaller deficits of $45 billion in 2021/22 and $25.6 billion in 2022/23.

“The budget has therefore taken enormous damage, but it probably isn’t permanent damage, ” Richardson said releasing his budget monitor on Monday.

“The budget is badly bent, but it’s not broken.”

Richardson’s figuring does not take into account any new policies the government may announce on budget night.

But he says if the economy gets better, then the budget will too.

Responding to Deloitte’s budget monitor, Frydenberg said: “That is why our renewed fiscal strategy focuses on bringing hundreds of thousands of more Australians back to work which will underpin a stronger medium-term fiscal position.”

“The Morrison government will continue to support Australians through COVID-19 and next week’s budget will focus on our economic recovery and creating jobs to secure Australia’s economic future.”

Opposition finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said the report also highlights the merits of pro-jobs policies, including investments in social housing and aged care, a permanently higher unemployment benefit and a business investment allowance, “as suggested by Labor”.

– with AAP and Reuters

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