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What we know today, Wednesday October 7

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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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No new COVID-19 cases in SA

There are no new coronavirus cases in SA today, keeping the state’s total number of cases at 472.

SA reported two new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday – both returned travellers who are in hotel quarantine.

The man and a woman in their 20s were travelling together and both tested positive the day they arrived.

They take SA’s number of active infections to three and the total cases since the start of the pandemic to 472.

Meanwhile, the State Government is expecting to release a report soon on the bungled handling of COVID-19 exemptions for family members of Port Adelaide AFL players.

The report was due to go to the state’s health boss yesterday and will likely be released in the coming days.

It was sparked after 11 people related to Port players were wrongly given permission to travel from Victoria to South Australia last month.

Once the mistake became known, Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier cancelled the “inappropriate” exemptions but not before five of the people had already arrived in Adelaide and were in hotel quarantine.

The decision has been linked to a high-ranking health official, but that person has not been officially named.

There was no suggestion of wrongdoing by any of the Port players, their families or the club.

On Tuesday, Premier Steven Marshall said the review had been instigated and completed as quickly as possible.

“We’ve been very clear on this from day one. This decision was wrong, it was out of step with expectations,” the premier said.

“We need to look at the final report. It has got recommendations and I expect we will be implementing those recommendations as quickly as possible.”

New regulations for gel blasters

SA Police have announced that gel blasters are now regulated imitation firearms, meaning owners of the lookalike guns will have to obtain a firearms license in the next six months.

The gel blasters – which use compressed air to shoot water orbs that explode on impact – will be reclassified as imitation firearms as of Friday.

Police estimate around 62,000 blasters are currently in circulation around South Australia.

The new regulation comes after SA Labor MP Lee Odenwalder obtained letters from senior officers showing there have been 155 incidents related to gel blasters since November 2018.

Police Firearms Branch Superintendent Stephen Howard said the items pose a real concern for police.

“A gel blaster can easily be mistaken for a real firearm, with potential to cause concern in the community and trigger a police response that could involve the use of police firearms, or other tactical options,” Howard said.

Owners who do not obtain a licence can surrender their gel blasters to police under an amnesty running until April next year.

Cuts to government auditors emerge from budget

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has lost out in the 2020 Federal Budget, with the agency set to lose $4.1 million in funding specified for performance audits over the next three years.

The funding cut comes after the ANAO fell short of its goal of 48 performance audits in 2020, only carrying out 42 audits this year.

Some of these audits revealed significant government missteps, including the “sports rorts” pork barrelling scandal and the $27 million government overspend for land near Sydney Airport.

The Guardian Australia reports that the joint committee of public accounts and audits – which is chaired by Liberal MP Lucy Wicks and controlled by the Coalition – has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to restore funding to the ANAO.

Auditor-general Grant Hehir called for more funding prior to the budget, warning further cuts would reduce the number of investigations the office could undertake.

“The ANAO budget is in loss for the third year in a row,” Hehir wrote to Prime Minister last week.

“Without supplementary appropriations, the number of performance audits tabled in the parliament will continue to reduce.”

Only six new COVID-19 cases in Victoria

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services says only six new cases of coronavirus were recorded overnight, along with the loss of two lives.

It brings Melbourne’s 14 day rolling average to 9.9 cases, and regional Victoria’s to 0.3.

Twelve cases with an unknown source still remain, and contact tracers are continuing to trace an outbreak in the Mitchell Shire town of Kilmore, 60km north of Melbourne.

The Kilmore outbreak emerged from a person connected to the Chadstone shopping centre cluster, which is currently responsible for 28 cases.

Meanwhile, three new COVID-19 cases have been reported in New South Wales overnight.

Authorities learnt of the newly reported cases after the 8pm cut off, meaning today’s stats still show no locally acquired cases.

Two of the new cases are in South Western Sydney, while the other is in Western Sydney.

NSW Health said in a tweet the new cases are under “urgent investigation”.

Rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen dies, aged 65

Eddie Van Halen, whose innovative and explosive guitar playing kept the hard rock band that bore his family name cemented to the top of the album charts for two decades, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 65.

Born in the Netherlands and raised in Pasadena, he founded Van Halen with his older brother, drummer Alex; the siblings were joined by vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony in the first recording line-up of the group.

Van Halen found immediate success, and formulated a style that would be emulated by hordes of long-haired rockers.

The group’s first LP Van Halen, though it climbed no higher than No. 19 in the US, would ultimately be certified for sales of 10 million copies. Its next five multi- platinum albums all reached the top 10; 1984, released in its titular year, contained the band’s first and only No.1 single, the synthesiser-driven Jump, and sifted another 10 million units.

Ongoing conflict between the guitarist and the antic front man Roth – who reportedly took exception to Van Halen’s extracurricular work, which included jaw-dropping lead guitar chores on Michael Jackson’s ubiquitous 1983 single Beat It – led the singer to split with the act after its elaborate and wildly successful 1984 tour.

Eddie Van Halen was dogged by personal and health issues that would intermittently interfere with his work in music over the course of the next decade. A chronic joint problem, exacerbated by his reckless onstage style, forced him to undergo hip replacement surgery in 1999. The onset of cancer – likely the result of heavy smoking – led to the surgical removal of part of his tongue in 2000.

Eddie Van Halen’s escalating drug abuse and alcoholism hastened his 2007 divorce from TV actress Valerie Bertinelli, his wife of 16 years, after a protracted separation. He entered rehab in 2007, and was reportedly sober from 2008.

He is survived by his second wife, the band’s former publicist Janie Liszewski, whom he married in 2009, and his son.

State Budget headed for more red ink

SA Treasurer Rob Lucas has welcomed the job protection and creation measures in last night’s Federal Budget but says a huge fall in the state’s expected GST take will push his upcoming budget further into the red.

The Federal Budget confirmed a GST write-down for SA of more than $1.3 billion in 2021, compared to the amount forecast last year and even that foreshadowed in Lucas’s June 2020 budget and economic update.

“While not unexpected, this massive GST write-down obviously presents further challenges as we prepare to deliver our own budget next month,” he said.

“Compared with GST estimates in our first budget, the 2018-19 Budget, GST revenue has declined by almost $5.2 billion over the four years to 2021- 22.”

In June, Lucas expected a net operating balance deficit of $1.9 billion for 2019-20 and predicted the budget position would worsen in 2020-21.

He told InDaily overnight that he would not respond to the GST decline by cutting public infrastructure spending or increasing taxation, so debt and deficit would both increase.

“We are committed to spending whatever we need to save as many jobs as we can in the state budget and state economy,” he said.

Lucas did welcome the Budget’s job creation programs, including tax cuts, tax breaks for business and new programs to stimulate employment.

“We welcome job-creating incentives for businesses, supplementary payments for pensioners and the Federal Government’s commitment to fast-track personal income tax cuts, which will stimulate the local economy by putting more money back into the pockets of hardworking South Australians.”

He said the state stood ready to take advantage of $2 billion in new funding for small scale road safety projects.

“In South Australia, we have a series of projects ready to go, which we will be putting forward for consideration as part of this initiative.”

The state budget will be handed down on November 10.

READ MORE BUDGET NEWS:

Federal Budget: At a glance

Federal Budget: Tax cuts headline Coalition cash splash

Labor questions SA’s infrastructure share

The state Opposition says South Australia has missed out on its share of infrastructure funding in the Federal Budget.

Labor’s Treasury spokesman Stephen Mullighan says the budget papers show that by 2022-23, SA’s proportion of infrastructure funds will fall to about half of the state’s population share.

“With the worst unemployment rate in the nation, SA desperately needed a serious boost in infrastructure funding from last night’s budget – but we didn’t get it,” Mullighan said.

“Last night’s budget didn’t even provide our population share … of national infrastructure spending, leaving us short-changed by over $580 million over the next four years.”

However, independent senator Rex Patrick has welcomed a range of budget spending for South Australia, including $5 million to stimulate electric vehicle manufacturing.

“I have been lobbying the Federal Government for several months to support establishing an Advanced Manufacturing Facility (AMF) in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, and thankfully the Government has listened,” Patrick said.

Acclaimed Adelaide restaurant closed for good

Chef Jock Zonfrillo’s much-celebrated Adelaide restaurant Orana will not reopen after going into a pandemic-induced shutdown early in the year.

Zonfrillo, who has closed all of his Adelaide hospitality interests and sold his South Australian home, told his Facebook followers late yesterday that plans to relaunch the restaurant would not go ahead.

“In our seven years, Restaurant Orana has moved through moments of despair, perseverance, and celebration. We got a lot wrong but we also got a lot right. We achieved more than ever thought possible and feel privileged to have scored a few accolades along the way,” he said.

“Like all of my hospo mates around the world, COVID closed our doors. For us, with our lease ending in a couple of months and the current restrictions meaning we can’t break even, our closure has become permanent. As we packed up our little restaurant back in March, with ex-staff coming in to help out the team, we had no idea how long this thing would last for, none of us thought it would mean the end.

“With the uncertainty of tourism and hospitality it’s not the right time for Orana 2.0 so the plans we had started discussing have been put on ice.

“My journey doesn’t stop here – I’ll continue trying to make a difference through food projects outside of the restaurant. And while these may be uncertain times they need to be a time of understanding, tolerance, and positivity for our industry and I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

Zonfrillo, a judge on Masterchef this year, launched a foundation – also named Orana – to deliver an Indigenous Food Database.

Last week, the foundation hailed the delivery of a “final Milestone Report” to the South Australian Government for the $1.25 million taxpayer-funded database – although it’s unclear when or even if the resource will become publicly available.

Twitter and Facebook flag Trump posts on COVID-19

Twitter has added a warning label to a tweet by US President Donald Trump that compared the COVID-19 pandemic to the flu, saying the post included potentially misleading information.

“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Trump had tweeted.

Earlier in the day, Facebook Inc removed a similar post by Trump, according to CNN.

The United States has the world’s highest death toll from the pandemic, with more than 209,000 deaths.

By comparison, influenza typically kills between 22,000 and 64,000 people a year in the United States, government statistics indicate.

The tweet came hours after Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

On Monday, Trump told people “to get out there” and not fear COVID-19 as he returned to the White House after a three-night hospital stay to be treated for the coronavirus and removed his white surgical mask to pose for pictures.

Meanwhile, Trump’s physician says the president is experiencing “no symptoms” of COVID-19 after returning home from the hospital.

His physician, Dr Sean Conley, said in a new memo released by the White House that the president’s medical team met with him in the residence on Tuesday morning.

He said that Trump had a “restful first night at home” and that his vital signs remain stable, including his blood oxygen level.

The doctor did not provide any details on what medications the president is currently taking, including whether he has been administered additional steroids.

But he says, “Overall he continued to do extremely well.”

Rich world ‘back to normal by late 2021’

Bill Gates says Australia and South Korea are among the countries that have done best at balancing competing health and economic needs amid the pandemic.

Rich countries could be back to close to normal by late 2021 if a COVID-19 vaccine works, is ready soon and distributed properly at scale, the Microsoft founder says.

“By late next year you can have things going back pretty close to normal – that’s the best case,” Gates, 64, told The Wall Street Journal CEO Council.

“We still don’t know whether these vaccines will succeed,” Gates said.

“Now the capacity will take time to ramp up. And so the allocation within the US, and between the US and other countries will be a very top point of contention.”

COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford University are two of the leading candidates in the race to be first to get regulatory approval in Europe and North America.

The head of the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that a vaccine against COVID-19 may be ready by the end of the year.

Gates, who made a fortune from Microsoft, has since given $US36 billion ($A50 billion) to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which aims to tackle extreme poverty and poor healthcare.

Last month the foundation signed an agreement with 16 pharmaceutical companies, which Gates said committed them to scaling up manufacturing at an unprecedented speed and making sure that approved vaccines reach broad distribution as early as possible.

Russia has pushed ahead with its COVID-19 vaccine with mass public vaccinations alongside the main human trial, raising concerns among some outside observers that it was prioritising national prestige over solid science and safety.

“We’re also talking with Russia and China,” Gates said.

“None of their vaccines are in a Phase III trial with a highly regarded regulator overseeing that trial.”

Gates said that from a scientific point of view the Russian and Chinese vaccines were perfectly valid projects but the absence of a well-respected Phase III study could limit their attractiveness outside their respective countries.

Gates added that in the United States people should be thinking about ways to reduce hesitancy about having a COVID-19 vaccine when one is ready.

“You know, here in the US, we should already be thinking about which voices will help reduce the hesitancy. And so we can get a level of vaccination that really has a chance of stopping (it).”

Asked who did best at balancing the competing health and economic needs, Gates said: “South Korea, Australia – because this is an exponential event, a little bit of intelligence early on makes a huge difference”.

– reporting by InDaily staff, AAP and Reuters

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