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What we know today, Tuesday October 20

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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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SA welcomes Kiwi travellers after backflip

People travelling from New Zealand will be allowed to travel freely to South Australia, the state’s police commissioner Grant Stevens says.

The decision was taken after the federal government negotiated a one-way travel bubble with NZ so Kiwis could travel to NSW, the ACT and Northern Territory unrestricted.

But some of those travellers, who’ve been arriving in Australia since Friday, found their way to states not part of the bubble, including 12 who landed in SA after passing through Sydney airport.

All were told to quarantine for 14 days.

Now Police Commissioner Grant Stevens says this restriction has changed following a meeting of state’s Transition Committee this morning.

“I’m pleased to be able to announce with New Zealand people arriving in South Australia, they will no longer be required to quarantine,” he told reporters.

“We’re also happy to receive direct flights from New Zealand.”

The New Zealanders in quarantine will now be allowed out into the community.

Eastern states gain upper hand in virus battle

Just six new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Victoria and NSW combined today as the eastern states continue to get on top of the virus.

NSW reported two new cases of locally transmitted COVID-19 and three cases diagnosed in returned travellers who remain in hotel quarantine.

NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Jeremy McAnulty said just 7401 people were tested in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday night, slightly more than the 6592 who were tested on Sunday.

“NSW is at a critical point, and the only way to find undiagnosed cases and prevent further transmission is to increase testing,” Dr McAnulty said on Tuesday.

He urged anyone with cold symptoms to assume it is COVID-19 until proven otherwise.

McAnulty said the two new locally acquired cases were both linked to known cases and clusters.

Victorian authorities are investigating the state’s single new case of coronavirus.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday confirmed the Department of Health and Human Services is investigating whether the case is in fact active.

“That one new case previously tested positive and there’s a further investigation underway to determine whether that is, in fact, an active case or whether that person is shedding the virus,” he told reporters.

One other COVID-19 case reported by the DHHS involves Victorian who is quarantining interstate, having recently returned from overseas.

“I would just say when you look at these numbers, this could potentially be a day of zero and it’s been a long time since we had a day of zero,” Andrews said.

“It’s a testament to the hard work of every single Victorian in the city, in the suburbs, in regional communities, large and small.”

He said the state was “well placed” to bring forward by a week the further easing of more restrictions in Melbourne slated for November 2, after several restrictions were either reduced or ended on Monday.

“It’s important we see this thing off properly. Sunday can be a day where we’ll have more to say,” Andrews said, ruling out the possibility of hospitality reopening in time for the AFL grand final on Saturday.

There are 122 active cases in Victoria, a drop of 14 from Monday.

Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average of new cases also dropped below seven to 6.4 and the number of mystery cases in the city from October 4-17 also fell by two to 13.

No deaths were recorded on Tuesday, with the state’s death toll remaining at 817, while the national figure is 905.

NCA bombing was a ‘personal’ attack

The bombing of the National Crime Authority office in Adelaide in 1994 was a “personal” attack on Geoffrey Bowen, the police officer killed in the blast, a court has been told.

In the Crown’s summary of the case against Domenic Perre, lead prosecutor Sandi McDonald has detailed the “multi-layered body of circumstantial evidence” against the 63-year-old.

She said Perre’s hostility towards Detective Sergeant Bowen had grown because of their interactions following the seizure of a multi-million-dollar cannabis crop in the Northern Territory in August 1993.

While a number of people had been arrested, Perre was also suspected of being involved and was targeted by police and Sgt Bowen, who had been seconded to the NCA.

McDonald said at the time of his death, almost all of the officer’s work had involved the drug crop with the accused being a principal target.

“It is the prosecution case that it was no accident that Geoffrey Bowen died as a result of this bomb detonating. He was the intended target,” the prosecutor said in her 60-page opening to the Supreme Court.

“The bomber intended that the parcel bomb travel through Australia Post and end up in the hands of Bowen and that when he opened it his body would suffer the full force of the explosion.

“If there was not such clear evidence that this in fact happened, it would be hard to believe that such a plan could be so well executed.

“Geoffrey Bowen was the target and he ended up dead. It is the prosecution case that this was personal.”

Perre has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sgt Bowen and the attempted murder of Peter Wallis, a lawyer who was injured in the blast.

Justice Kevin Nicholson is presiding over the case with no jury after Perre opted to be tried by judge alone, allowing details of the pre-trial argument on the admissibility of evidence to be published on Tuesday.

McDonald’s opening also included details of the horrific injuries suffered by Sgt Bowen, with the blast severing one of his arms and severely injuring his left thigh, resulting in a fatal loss of blood.

It also included details of how the bomb was constructed using a small quantity of high explosive, coupled with red phosphorus as an incendiary component.

The prosecution alleged there was evidence to establish Perre had the knowledge, or at least the information available to him, about how to make the bomb.

The crown opening further revealed that Perre had been under NCA surveillance on the day of the explosion and was observed driving into the city soon after news of the blast broke.

At one stage he drove to a rooftop carpark with a direct line of sight to the blown-out window of the NCA building.

McDonald said Perre was then followed on foot by a surveillance operative and eventually approached an area that had been cordoned off by police.

“The accused then stopped there and watched the activities in the area of the NCA building for about two minutes,” she said.

Perre was first charged over the NCA bombing in the weeks after the explosion but the charges were dropped about six months later.

He was charged again in 2018 after a renewed investigation involving multiple law enforcement agencies.

BHP scraps expansion as SA launches mining strategy

BHP has scrapped its proposed $3.7 billion Brownfields Expansion at Olympic Dam in favour of a number of smaller projects to improve reliability and increase capacity.

The South Australian  Government declared the Brownfield Expansion a major project in February 2019 after BHP announced it was investigating the ramp up in 2017.

The project planned to increase copper output at Olympic Dam from 200,000 tonnes a year to up to 300,000 tonnes, supporting 1800 jobs in construction and 600 ongoing. It was also set to boost the level of gold, silver and uranium production.

However, the results of a study into the expansion, released to shareholders this morning, found that the copper resources in the Southern Mine Area were more structurally complex, and the higher-grade zones less continuous, than previously thought.

The announcement comes on the same day as the State Government released its mining strategy, which it expects will deliver up to 30,000 new jobs and help drive the state’s recovery out of the COVID-19 economic downturn.

Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the strategy is expected to deliver 25,000 – 30,000 additional jobs by 2030.

“Ensuring our natural resources are developed and managed responsibly is an important element in ensuring South Australia eventually emerges stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn it has triggered,” he said.

“Building upon the feedback from the consultation, a new $5.6 million investment will help new and expanding resource projects in South Australia by addressing issues around infrastructure and water.

“By establishing infrastructure corridors for priority regions, projects will find it easier to secure power, transport and water whilst reducing the environmental, cultural and financial impacts of duplicating infrastructure.”

Mute button to feature in next Trump-Biden debate

Thursday’s debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will feature a mute button to allow each candidate to speak uninterrupted.

Organisers say the innovation will help avoid the disruptions that marred the first match-up.

The Presidential Commission on Debates said on Monday each candidate’s microphone would be silenced to allow the other to make two minutes of opening remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment of the debate.

Both microphones will be turned on to allow a back and forth after that time.

Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden during a chaotic and ill-tempered debate on September 29 and Biden responded with insults.

Trump backed out of a second scheduled debate, set for last Thursday, over a disagreement about the virtual format.

Trump’s campaign said on Monday it was unhappy with the proposed set of topics for Thursday’s debate.

Embattled Berejiklian returns to NSW parliament

A week after narrowly surviving a dual no-confidence motion in both houses of parliament, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is returning to the Bear Pit for what’s sure to be a bruising encounter.

A week ago she revealed at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that until recently she’d been in a secret “close personal relationship” with disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire since 2015.

She took a battering over the shocking association after Maguire made numerous damning admissions about using his public office to seek personal financial gain and being involved in a lucrative cash-for-visas scam.

Berejiklian endured a torrent of damaging headlines about her judgment in entering into and staying in the relationship, with the scrutiny leading to widespread speculation her leadership was terminal.

On the weekend, three top ministers – Stuart Ayers, Mark Speakman and Victor Dominello – buoyed her position by rallying behind her and yesterday she emerged to staunchly defend herself.

While admitting to private tears and feeling shocked, devastated and embarrassed, she made it clear she would not be throwing in the towel.

“There is absolutely no accusation of wrongdoing against me,” she told reporters.

“Am I embarrassed and do I accept that people will cast judgment? Of course. But my job is my job and I will keep doing it,” she said.

However, Opposition Leader Jodi McKay has been emboldened by the chink exposed in the popular premier’s armour and isn’t accepting any such explanations.

“The Premier had a right to be in a relationship, she did not have a right to cover it up in breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct,” she tweeted on Monday.

“This Premier is playing with words.”

“When you’re in that role, you should disclose ANY relationship that presents a conflict. She sat around the cabinet table discussing the very issues she knew he was involved in and she said nothing,” she said.

Ship virus outbreaks expose WA’s ‘weakest link’

The arrival of ships carrying crew infected with COVID-19 is proving one of Western Australia’s “weakest links” in its fight against the virus with four outbreaks on ships arriving at WA ports in the past month.

Twenty-five crew from the Al Messilah livestock carrier at Fremantle Port have tested positive and there are fears others among the remaining 27 crew may also be infected.

One crew member is in hotel quarantine and the rest remain aboard.

One person has also tested positive aboard the Key Integrity bulk carrier which has arrived in Fremantle from Geraldton.

Test results for the remaining 19 crew are expected to be confirmed today.

There have now been six COVID-19 outbreaks on ships arriving into WA, including four in the last month.

“It is becoming clear that ships arriving with COVID-19 on board is one of the weakest links and the biggest risk to our way of life in Western Australia,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

“We have about 30 vessels arriving at WA ports each and every day which goes to show just how significant the risk is to our state.

“We need a coordinated international approach to this and we need our federal government to take international action.”

WA’s Department of Health has previously managed outbreaks aboard the Artania, Al-Kuwait, Patricia Oldendorff and Vega Dream vessels.

Authorities plan to take as many crew as possible off the Al Messilah and into hotel quarantine so the vessel can be deep-cleaned.

Tuesday’s official case tally will include the latest 24 cases confirmed aboard the Al Messilah.

The premier has also pleaded with the federal government to slow down on allowing international travellers, after 23 people entered Perth from New Zealand via Sydney.

They are all in quarantine.

New Zealanders entering via Sydney or Darwin will be sent to hotel quarantine at their own expense and will be included in WA’s cap on international arrivals.

Anyone who does not meet the exemption criteria will be refused entry.

Confidence result reflects tax cut joy levels

Australians have welcomed last week’s federal budget with confidence rising further, improving the prospects for household spending as the economy emerges from recession.

The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index – a pointer to future retail spending – jumped 2.1 per cent, its sixth consecutive increase and now stands at its highest level since late May.

“That is a budget bounce,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters in Terrigal, NSW on Tuesday

“A budget bounce as a result of the measures we have put in place, as a result of the virus being suppressed and those restrictions being eased.”

ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said this was the second-best response to a budget in the past six years.

“Consumers have given a thumbs up to the budget,” Plank said.

There were also healthy increases in the survey sub-indices for “current” and “future” economic conditions and for “future finances”.

“If Aussie consumers believe their finances are going to improve, then they are more likely to spend,” Commonwealth Securities economists said in a note to clients.

Consumers went into the budget with a growing positive mood on the prospect Frydenberg would deliver personal income tax cuts in his second budget.

The budget brought forward tax cuts planned for 2022, backdated to July, which were passed by federal parliament last week.

The extra money is timely with over one in five households reporting their finances had worsened in September, according to the Australian Bureau Statistics’ latest household impacts of COVID-19 survey.

A similar number reported they had taken one or more financial actions to support basic living, the most common by drawing on savings or term deposits or reducing their home loan payments.

Addressing Commonwealth Bank’s annual general meeting, CEO Matt Comyn said measures in the budget to grow employment should help to provide certainty and confidence for employers and employees.

“We also recognise that some Australians and businesses will continue to require support,” he said.

“For those customers who are facing financial hardship or need more support, we are offering solutions tailored to their individual needs.”

Australia to join ‘quad’ naval exercise with India, Japan and US

Australia will join three-way naval exercises involving the United States, Japan and India in a move that could raise concerns in China, which has criticised similar joint drills as destabilising.

India, which holds the annual drills called Malabar with the US and Japanese navies each year, agreed to invite Australia for next month’s exercise in the Bay of Bengal, it said, in a sign of cooperation between the “Quad” countries.

“As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian navy,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Australia will be returning to the joint manoeuvres after its participation in 2007, which drew criticism from China at the time.

Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the Malabar drills were a milestone opportunity for the Australian Defence Force and that they showcased “the deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests”.

There was no immediate word from China on the Malabar exercises.

The United States has been pushing for a deeper collaboration with Japan, India and Australia as a bulwark against China’s growing regional influence.

These four have formed the Quad, a loose strategic coalition of the four leading democracies in the region.

The joint drills will be the first concrete action of the grouping, analysts say.

China has denounced the Quad as an attempt to contain its development.

India’s decision on expanding the exercises comes at a time when it is locked in a military stand-off on the disputed land border with China.

Thousands of troops are in close proximity in the western Himalayas, where India says Chinese troops have intruded deep across its side of the de facto border.

Officials in Beijing deny any intrusion and say India has been building roads and other infrastructure in the disputed area causing the crisis.

Nokia to build mobile network on the moon

Nokia says it has been selected by NASA to build the first cellular network on the moon.

The lunar network will be part of the US space agency’s efforts to return humans to the moon by 2024 and build long-term settlements there under its Artemis program.

Nokia said the first wireless broadband communications system in space would be built on the lunar surface in late 2022, before humans make it back there.

The Finnish company will partner with Texas-based private spacecraft design firm Intuitive Machines to deliver the network equipment to the moon on their lunar lander.

After delivery, the network will configure itself and establish the first LTE (Long-Term Evolution) communications system on the moon, Nokia said.

“The network will provide critical communication capabilities for many different data-transmission applications, including vital command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high definition video,” Nokia said.

 – with AAP and Reuters

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