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What we know today, Friday October 16


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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AFP probe Western Sydney Airport land sale

Federal police are investigating possible criminality in the sale to the Commonwealth of a parcel of land near the Western Sydney Airport.

An auditor-general’s report found the federal infrastructure department did not show appropriate due diligence in paying $30 million in 2018 for the 12 hectare Leppington Triangle, which was worth only $3 million.

It paid 22 times more per hectare than the NSW government spent on its portion of the land.

An Australian Federal Police spokeswoman told AAP on Friday the agency was conducting an investigation to identify potential criminal offences relating to issues identified in the auditor-general report.

“This investigation remains ongoing, and it is too early to speculate on potential outcomes, so no further comment will be provided,” she said.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack recently said the sale was a good decision despite it being “very much over the odds”.

Adelaide leg of global golf tour cancelled amid pandemic concerns

The state’s highest-profile golf tournament the Women’s Australian Golf Open has been cancelled, potentially bringing an end to a five-year run of hosting the event in Adelaide.

The four-day February tournament, part of the global LPGA tour, has been played in Adelaide since 2016 and was due to be held at Kooyonga Golf Club after successful events at The Grange and Royal Adelaide the past two years.

But the 2021 event was cancelled this morning along with the men’s Australian Open and the Australian PGA Championship.

PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman, ALPG chief executive Karen Lunn and Golf Australia chief executive James Sutherland confirmed all three events, which were to have been played in February, won’t proceed because of the global pandemic.

“It’s unprecedented and a real blow for Australian golf and its fans,” Kirkman said.

“We have collectively spent months in exhaustive consultation with all relevant authorities and our sanctioning partners to try to find a way to stage all three events safely and at that world-class level to which we’ve all become accustomed.

“But even with multiple contingency plans, it has reached a point where decisions have to be made and this, regrettably, is the one we’ve had to take.”

A raft of measures were considered – including players entering a hub and competing while serving a strict quarantine period, as well as restricting crowd numbers and movement – but all options were decided to be unviable.

The South Australian Government had initially had a contract to host the women’s event for three years from 2016, winning a further three-year extension following the 2018 event.

Lunn said the cancellation decision’s timing was expedited by the needs of players and international partners, including the European Tour and US-based LPGA Tour.

“It’s extremely disappointing when all tournament stakeholders have worked so hard to build a history and a place on busy global calendars for our flagship events here in Australia,” she said.

“The Women’s Australian Open has grown from strength to strength in recent years since moving to its new home in Adelaide and its continued success is very much dependent on the support of our leading Australian players, along with our overseas guests from the LPGA Tour who come from all corners of the globe.

“While this has been a heart-wrenching and incredibly difficult decision, logistically there are just too many variables which could put at risk the event’s fine reputation and standing.”

The Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship – the feature events on the PGA Tour of Australasia – were originally slated for a late November and early December window, to be played at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath and Brisbane’s Royal Queensland, respectively.

Trump and Biden indirectly square off in town hall format

US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden appeared in rival televised town halls today instead of their scheduled second presidential debate.

Both candidates fielded direct questions from voters in the separate events, with Biden’s town hall broadcast on ABC News (America) and Trump’s on NBC.

Some of the highlights from the night of questioning include the President admitting he owes more than $US400 million to creditors, confirming a New York Times report on the President’s taxes last month.

“When you look at vast properties like I have … the amount of money, $400 million, is a peanut,” Trump said.

Trump also refused to denounce the QAnon conspiracy theory propagated by his supporters which posits the President is fighting against a satanic pedophile ring in government.

“I know nothing about QAnon … I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard,” Trump said.

Biden was forced to defend his role in authoring the 1994 crime bill, which was one of the key contributors to an increase in mass incarceration during the 1990s and greatly expanded police powers.

ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos asked Biden whether he still believes “more cops mean less crime”.

“Yes, if in fact they’re involved in community policing and not jump squads,” Biden responded.

Biden also offered a clearer position on whether he would pack the Supreme Court if he wins in November, saying he will let voters know of his position after the Senate votes on whether to confirm Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

“I’m open to considering what happens from that point on,” he said.

“But if I say it, that’s the headline tomorrow, it won’t be about what’s going on now – the improper way they (Republicans) are proceedings.”

Biden also said he expects to be at the next scheduled debate on October 22, the third and final presidential debate before the November 3 election.

Trump is trailing Biden in the polls, and the gap is widening, as early voting is already underway.

Biden is also outraising and outspending the Republican president on campaign ads.

Biden raised $US383 million ($A540 million) in September after hauling in $US364.5 million the previous month.

The former vice president tweeted on Thursday that he was “incredibly humbled” by the “astounding” amount.

By comparison, Trump raised $US210 million in August.

His campaign has not disclosed his September haul.

Andrews hails virus response as restrictions D-Day looms

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has praised Victorians for their efforts in containing the coronavirus, after the state reported only two new cases – its lowest daily case number since early June.

There were also no COVID-19 deaths reported in the state in the past 24 hours, leaving the state toll on 816 and the national figure at 904.

Department of Health and Human Services figures also show the number of mystery cases in Melbourne rose by two to 17 for the period September 30 to October 13. There are no mystery cases in regional Victoria.

At his daily press conference this morning, Andrews pointed to the COVID-19 situation in Europe and the US as an example of Victoria’s success.

“Look at France. Look at England. Look at the entirety of the United States. They are not coming out of restrictions. They are heading into lockdowns and into what will be a long and deadly winter,” Andrews said.

“We are very well placed. And I’m proud to lead a state where people know the task and they know that as challenging and as painful as it’s been, our strategy is working.”

In another promising sign ahead of Sunday’s announcement about an easing of restrictions in Melbourne, the city’s rolling 14-day new case average dropped to 8.7 on Friday.

The same measure remains steady at 0.6 for regional areas.

Department of Health and Human Services figures also show the number of mystery cases in Melbourne rose by two to 17 for the period September 30 to October 13. There are no mystery cases in regional Victoria.

Andrews said mystery cases will be a “significant” factor in determining the path out of lockdown.

“It is a fair assumption that mystery cases are going to be a really significant part of that, because there’s no getting around the fact we don’t know where the person has got it from, downstream or upstream, to determine how and from whom that infection happened,” he said.

“Therefore, we’ve got to assume that there are more infections out there than we think.”

There are still only three active cases in the regional town of Shepparton, where 400 people are currently isolating after the town went on a testing blitz when it was revealed a Melbourne truck driver failed to disclose he had visited the town on September 30.

When asked whether he was surprised by the low case numbers in Shepparton, Andrews said he pleased but is still awaiting the result of 3000 tests completed in and around the town.

“I am very pleased, that’s the way I describe it rather than surprised,” he said.

“I think you could easily have built an argument that there would be some positive but look to be honest … I can’t tell you what the other 3000 tests will tell us.

“But what is really apparent is people have done as we’ve asked, and that should be a point of pride for them, and it’s certainly something that makes me very proud.”

Just one new locally acquired COVID-19 case in NSW

NSW Health has reported one locally acquired case of COVID-19 in the 24 hours leading up to 8pm last night, although the Chief Health Officer says some cases have come in overnight.

The other four cases were acquired overseas and are currently in hotel quarantine.

The latest locally acquired case is linked to the Lakemba GP cluster, where three cases were recorded yesterday.

Questions at the morning press conference in Sydney immediately turned to the ongoing ICAC inquiry, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian facing mounting pressure after revelations she dined with former MP Daryl Maguire’s business associate who he partnered with to run a cash-for-visa scheme which involved lying to immigration officials.

The Premier largely referred journalist’s questions to comments she made at the inquiry on Monday, while continuing to assert that she has “done nothing wrong”.

Researchers slam government plan to release virus into Murray

British researchers say a plan by the Australian Government to control common carp populations in the Murray Darling Basin is “madness” and has “significant risks to human and ecosystem health”.

The government plan – which involves releasing Koi Herpesvirus (KHV) into the basin to kill non-native carp – is currently awaiting approval, but a new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology finds the plan would be ineffective in controlling carp populations even in best case scenarios.

Lead researcher Dr Jackie Lighten from the University of Exeter said the government needs to look at alternative solutions to the problem.

“Viral biocontrol is highly questionable and, as our study shows, it is unlikely to reduce carp numbers in the long term,” Dr Lighten said.

“Our modelling shows that even under the most optimal conditions for biocontrol, populations quickly recover.

“Releasing KHV carries significant risks to human and ecosystem health, which likely outweigh the benefits, and we have previously urged further detailed research to avoid an unnecessary ecological catastrophe.”

The researchers built a computer simulation to model the success of the virus – similar to those used by scientists to model the spread of COVID-19.

The model found that carps still evolve resistance to the virus even when 95 per cent of their population is wiped out.

Lighten also said the virus could affect native species, and criticised the government for not focusing on reducing water extraction from the Murray Darling Basin.

“It is madness that the release of a high pathogenic virus is being considered as one of the first steps to restore a damaged and fragile ecosystem,” he said.

“If the current global COVID-19 pandemic has reminded of anything, it’s that viruses are hard to predict and manage.

“This is even more so, considering that very little progress has been made in reducing the volume of water extracted from the Murray Darling Basin, which should be primary in restoring river health over releasing a pathogen that could have significant ecological repercussions.”

Unions demand support for West End workers

More than two thirds of the staff at the West End Brewery are set to lose their jobs. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Unions are calling on the state government to bolster a re-skilling fund for workers when Adelaide’s historic West End brewery closes next year.

The 160-year-old Thebarton-based business will close in June with the loss of about 90 production jobs.

However, parent company Lion will continue to produce West End beer interstate for sale in SA.

Lion has announced a $1 million West End Re-skilling Fund to re-train workers but unions are now calling on the state government to match the funding dollar for dollar.

United Workers Union South Australian Food and Beverage Coordinator Mark Whenan said the union would continue to engage in constructive talks on how the company can provide further support for their workforce.

The Union has also demanded the company join calls for state government support for workers.

“The South Australian Government must step up and match the funding provided by the company to ensure these brewery workers are able to transition into secure, long term employment,” Whenan said.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has urged the state government to match that fund.

“We stand with the workers who found out yesterday that they’re losing their jobs in the worst economic circumstances we’ve seen in three decades,” AMWU assistant state secretary Stuart Gordon said.

“This is a very difficult time for them, their families, and their communities.”

Premier Steven Marshall has described the closure as a sad time for the state and federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who was in Adelaide yesterday, has attributed Lion’s move to the rise of craft beers sales in Australia.

Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni said the State Government would work with Lion to ensure workers looking to gain new skills could access opportunities to retrain.

He said the government was investing an additional $88 million through the JobTrainer program to deliver skills in key industries of demand, such as the care sector, defence and cyber security.

“We’re delivering extra support for mature age workers to undertake apprenticeships and traineeships, which has seen an 83.3 per cent increase in paid training commencements for people aged 45 years and over,” Pisoni said.

Top End plan to bring more stranded Aussies home

The federal government is hoping to finalise a deal to quarantine a swag of returning Aussie travellers near Darwin as Canberra lifts inbound passenger number limits.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner is due to confirm the Howard Springs quarantine facility will be used for up to 1000 returning travellers each month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce special flights to repatriate more than 29,000 Australians, stranded overseas by the pandemic, and keen to get home.

More details were expected at Friday’s national cabinet meeting of state and territory leaders, but the virtual gathering has been postponed until next week.

“We’ve been working now for some months as we’ve been getting more and more Australians home, particularly those in vulnerable situations,” Morrison told reporters in Cairns yesterday.

Flights from London and India are expected to be among the first to bring people to quarantine in the NT.

A federal government spokesperson said capacity for repatriation was growing as the need for domestic COVID-19 quarantine eased.

“The Morrison government has been working with the NT government to finalise arrangements to use Howard Springs for quarantine to enable more Australians to return from overseas.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the federal government of taking too long to act on people stranded.

“This is a disgrace and that should be the priority, not another photo op for the prime minister to pretend that something’s happening where nothing actually eventuates,” he told reporters in Newcastle.

When national cabinet does meet, the definition of a coronavirus hotspot is expected to be on the agenda.

The Commonwealth wants states and territories to adopt its benchmark of a three-day average of 10 COVID-19 cases in major cities.

Victoria recorded six new cases on Thursday, pushing Melbourne’s two-week rolling average down to 8.6.

Premier Daniel Andrews will on Sunday outline which restrictions will be eased as exasperated Melburnians eye the end of a prolonged harsh lockdown.

NSW health authorities are hopeful increased testing will allow them to get on top of the disease being spread across Sydney.

The state recorded 11 new cases, including six which were locally acquired, on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Western Australia’s chief health officer Andy Robertson has advised the state’s border closures should be reviewed on October 28.

Robertson said he was open to considering travel bubbles with other jurisdictions that had also gone at least 28 days without community spread, which currently excludes NSW and Victoria.

Power set for epic dust up in preliminary final

Port fans during the August match against Richmond at Adelaide Oval. Photo: AAP/David Mariuz

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley reckons it will take his entire team to put the clamps on Richmond megastar Dustin Martin in Friday night’s AFL preliminary final.

The Brownlow medallist looms as the game-breaker in the Adelaide Oval encounter to decide which club secures a grand final spot.

But Hinkley says he won’t deploy a hard tag on Martin, instead asking all his players to be mindful of not only the Tigers great, but his teammates.

“Collectively the job on any of their players will be done by the team, that is what will happen,” Hinkley said.

“Dusty is a great player.

“But it’s a prelim final. There’s great players out there everywhere and that is why it’s exciting.”

Martin has played starring roles in Richmond’s preliminary finals in their premiership years of 2017 and 2019.

In a 2017 win against Greater Western Sydney he collected 20 disposals and booted three goals; in a 2019 triumph over Geelong he gathered 22 possessions and kicked two majors.

But in 2018, when the Tigers lost a preliminary final, Martin was relatively subdued by his lofty standards – 19 touches and scoreless.

Port Adelaide and Richmond have kept the faith in winning line-ups, naming unchanged sides for Friday night’s AFL preliminary final.

The Power cleared winger Xavier Duursma (concussion) and Todd Marshall (shoulder) from injuries suffered in their qualifying win against Geelong a fortnight ago.

And the Tigers opted for the same team which crushed St Kilda in a semi-final last weekend after debating whether to recall back-up ruck Mabior Chol.

The Power creamed the Tigers at centre bounces in their round 11 meeting, winning centre clearances 20 to five in a 21-point victory.

But Tigers coach Damien Hardwick will again deploy a makeshift second ruck to support Toby Nankervis against Port’s tap tandem of Scott Lycett and Peter Ladhams.

Chol is among Richmond’s emergencies with Oleg Markov, Josh Caddy and Jake Aarts.

The Power named stalwart Justin Westhoff, Riley Bonner, Boyd Woodcock and Jarrod Lienert as their emergencies.

The game starts at 7.20pm.

2020 Tarnanthi exhibition opens today

Installation view: Karrh (Spider) and Ngalbenbe (sun story), by Lena Yarinkura, feature in the Tarnanthi exhibition, which opens today. Photo: Saul Steed

The sharing of knowledge across generations is celebrated in a diverse collection of work by 87 artists on show from today in the Art Gallery of SA’s 2020 Tarnanthi exhibition of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

AGSA director Rhana Devenport describes Tarnanthi, which this year has the title Open Hands and was officially opened with a virtual launch last night, as a flagship project for the gallery.

She says it offers “an open platform to challenge perceptions, to celebrate the astounding artistic vision surging forth across this country, to witness the radical ingenuity and, most importantly, to let the artist voice shine”.

“This year, Open Hands celebrates knowledge sharing and healing across generations, primarily by women. It is a joyous exploration of the act of making.”

The exhibition features work across a wide range of media – including painting, works on paper, weaving, ceramics, photography and multi-media ­– from artists all over Australia.

Tarnanthi curator Nici Cumpston says Open Hands celebrates the “ongoing and often unseen” work women in communities do to maintain culture.

For the first time, Tarnanthi also has an international offering in 2020, with Kulata Tjuta ­– a major exhibition of new works by artists from the APY Lands – opening today at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes, France.

Read more about the artists involved in Open Hands and see a gallery of their work in InDaily’s lunchtime edition today.

Restrictions tighten in London to curb virus

Londoners will face stricter restrictions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus from the weekend.

The city’s mayor Sadiq Khan told the 25-strong London Assembly that is elected to hold him accountable the virus was “spreading rapidly in every corner of our city”.

The new restrictions ban millions of people in the capital from meeting people from other households indoors.

The move applies for homes as well as venues like pubs and restaurants.

“Nobody wants to see more restrictions but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners’ lives by myself, London council leaders and by ministers,” Khan said.

London residents are also advised to avoid public transport and, if possible, reduce the number of journeys they make.

“I must warn Londoners that we’ve got a difficult winter ahead,” Khan said.

Outdoor meetings with up to six people are still allowed.

Several London boroughs have in recent days exceeded the threshold of 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

With the new measures, the capital has moved to the second-highest level in England’s three-tier warning system alongside other regions such as York and Essex.

The top level of restrictions have been enforced in England’s northwest around the cities of Liverpool and Manchester.

Meanwhile, Europe’s coronavirus situation also continues to worsen with France and Italy hitting new daily case records.

French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered a nightly curfew in Paris and eight other big cities where the coronavirus is rampant.

There were a total of 30,621 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours in France, up on Wednesday’s 22,591, while hospitalisations and deaths linked to the disease also rose.

Italy’s daily statistics on coronavirus infections broke records for the second day in a row on Thursday when 8804 new cases were reported.

 – with AAP and Reuters

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