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What we know today, Monday November 2


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 councils’ GM-free bid rejected

The State Government has rejected bids by eleven councils to continue to ban genetically-modified crops in their regions, giving farmers across mainland South Australia the choice to grow GM food crops in time for the 2021 grain season.

The councils had sought to be designated GM-free, after a moratorium was lifted for mainland SA in May this year, but this afternoon Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham issued a press release saying that outside of Kangaroo Island “there was no substantial evidence to justify any council area remaining GM-free”.

The 11 councils who unsuccessfully applied to have local GM moratoriums were Adelaide Hills Council, Alexandrina Council, Barossa Council, Berri Barmera Council, City of Onkaparinga, City of Playford, District Council of Yankalilla, Mount Barker District Council, City of Tea Tree Gully, Town of Gawler and City of Victor Harbor.

The push had been driven by leading Australian wine regions including McLaren Vale, Barossa and Adelaide Hills, which argued millions of dollars of exports were at risk if their areas allowed GM crops to be grown.

The Minister’s decision to reject the applications followed advice by the GM Crop Advisory Committee, which assessed the applications “on the merits of demonstrating an economic benefit from remaining GM-free” and provided advice to the State Government.

Basham said the outcome “importantly gives farmers on mainland South Australia the same choice as those across the rest of mainland Australia”.

“By lifting the GM moratorium everywhere except Kangaroo Island, we are backing our farmers and researchers to grow the state’s agriculture sector and create jobs,” he said.

Aust Post CEO resigns over gift scandal

Christine Holgate has resigned as chief executive of Australia Post after an investigation was launched into the organisation’s gift and expenses culture.

Holgate has been under immense scrutiny for several weeks after it was revealed Cartier watches worth almost $20,000 were given to senior staff.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelled the gifts disgraceful and appalling in a fiery speech to parliament, and declared if the embattled chief executive did not wish to stand aside “she can go”.

Holgate later accused the prime minister of humiliating her and said there were no legal grounds for her standing aside.

However, Holgate formally resigned her post this afternoon.

“I have offered today the chairman and board of Australia Post, with great sadness, my resignation as chief executive with immediate effect,” she said in a statement.

“I am not seeking any financial compensation.”

Holgate said she would cooperate with a four-week investigation into Australia Post being conducted by the federal finance and communications departments.

She is standing by the purchase of luxury watches, saying the executives had sealed a banking deal worth $220 million.

“However, I deeply regret that a decision made two years ago, which was supported by the chair, to recognise the outstanding work of four employees has caused so much debate and distraction,” Holgate said.

“I appreciate the optics of the gifts involved did not pass the ‘pub test’ for many.”

Holgate said she had no animosity towards the government and enjoyed working with Mr Morrison and shareholder ministers during her time at the organisation.

Victoria records triple zero of new virus cases

Victoria has recorded zero new cases of coronavirus and no deaths for a third day in a row, bolstering predictions the state is on the verge of quashing active coronavirus cases to low double digits.

Active cases ballooned above 7000 in mid-August as the state desperately tried to reign in its rampant second wave.

That figure has been whittled down to just 61 following consecutive days without recording a single new infection or death on Saturday and Sunday.

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton expects active cases to tumble further, suggesting it could fall to “a couple of dozen” by next week.

“You’ll see 10 or more come off each day and we’ll get down to very few active cases,” he told reporters on Sunday.

More restrictions are due to ease in Melbourne next Sunday, including the scrapping of the so-called “ring of steel” dividing the city from the regions and the 25km travel limit.

“What allowances come on November 8 will absolutely be informed by what this week looks like,” Sutton said.

“Some of the details might change. And some of the specific industries that might come on board in terms of being able to operate.”

South Australia did not record any new cases today or yesterday. However, four new cases in hotel quarantine on Saturday took the number of new infections for October to 34, the highest monthly total since the pandemic’s local peak in April.

In NSW, there were four new cases reported yesterday in overseas travellers in hotel quarantine, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 4236.

Not a single locally-acquired case was detected from 14,751 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday. One case was recorded after the deadline and will be counted in Monday’s tally.

It comes as Queensland prepares to open its border to everyone but those in Victoria and Greater Sydney from Tuesday.

The announcement by newly re-elected Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has drawn the ire of her NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian, who says Sydney is no longer a hotspot.

Western Australia recorded one new case – a returned overseas traveller in hotel quarantine – as it prepares to unwind its hard borders.

It will reopen its borders to all states and territories from November 14, but some restrictions will remain for people from NSW and Victoria.

Aussie lobsters may be latest victims of China trade spat

Lobsters may be the latest victims of escalating trade tensions between Australia and China.

Tonnes of live Australian rock lobsters have been left on the tarmac at a Chinese airport, including some shipments from SA.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is working with exporters to understand what is going on.

“We are aware of reports of customs clearance issues related to premium shellfish imports into China and are working closely with the industry to secure clarity on this matter,” he said in a statement this morning.

“So far as any industry concerns imply a breach of World Trade Organisation or China-Australia Free Trade Agreement commitments, Chinese authorities should rule out the use of any such discriminatory actions.”

Chinese customs officials are believed to be testing the lobsters for trace elements of minerals and metals.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the shellfish were screened before shipping, so there was no need for the inspections.

Littleproud warned the issue could take some time to resolve.

“We have serious concerns about this and we’ll ask serious questions of Chinese officials,” he told the ABC.

“We’ve become aware of this in the last couple of days in my department and our officials in Beijing have been working to get clarification.”

China has launched trade strikes against Australian beef, barley and wine in recent months.

Australian cotton and coal also appear to have been dragged into the trade dispute.

Tour Down Under organisers look to 2022

Organisers of the Tour Down Under have vowed to return Australia’s biggest cycling race to South Australia in 2022 after last night announcing January’s event had been scrapped due to the pandemic.

The announcement was made within minutes of the news that Victoria’s one-day Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race would also be cancelled.

Soaring coronavirus numbers in the northern hemisphere and the late end to the 2020 cycling season, again because of coronavirus, ultimately made it impossible for the events to go ahead at the start of next year.

The cancellations include the women’s races and support events.

It will be the first time the Tour has not gone ahead since it started in 1999, while the Cadel Evans race started in 2015.

Events South Australia and Visit Victoria are planning domestic cycling events in a bid to help fill the void.

It also comes just days after the state government announced it was permanently scrapping the Adelaide 500 car race, another major spectator event and tourism drawcard for SA.

The Tour Down Under, Australia’s first WorldTour race, was due to be staged from January 19-24, while the Cadel Evans elite one-day races were scheduled to be held in and around Geelong on the weekend of January 30-31.

Speculation had been rife for several weeks that the two events probably would not go ahead next year.

“We have done all we can to consider how we can deliver it,” Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed said.

“But unfortunately in the end it was the international component, with over 400 people that make up the international teams, that proved to be the most difficult to overcome.

“The complexities and risks involved with quarantining and international border closures have ultimately proved too much to ask of some of the teams.

“(They) have endured a stressful, challenging and compressed 2020 season that will run later than normal.

“We assure everyone it will return to South Australia and the start of the UCI’s world cycling calendars in January 2022, with the full support of the UCI.”

Former cycling star Stuart O’Grady took over from Mike Turtur as Tour race director this year and January was to be his first time in charge.

“Of course I am disappointed but, given the challenges, our priority needs to be the health and safety of South Australians, our communities and the international cycling fraternity,” O’Grady said.

The two events plan to return in 2022.

Electricity supply contract boost for solar farm, battery

The SA Government has signed a decade-long energy supply contract with ZEN Energy, which it says has secured the construction of a 280MW solar farm near Whyalla and the state’s 5th grid scale battery.

The contract to supply electricity to the state government comes into effect from November 1 and runs until 2030. The government says it will deliver $12.8 million in savings for taxpayers compared to the previous power arrangements.

Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the deal would secure the construction of the Cultana Solar Farm near Whyalla and 100 MW battery near Port Augusta.

Both will be delivered in partnership with SIMEC Energy Australia, which is owned by British billionaire and Whyalla steelworks owner Sanjeev Gupta.

Van Holst Pellekaan said the two projects would 810 new jobs.

“It’s a big solar farm and a big battery, with big savings for taxpayers, creating a big jobs number,” he said.

Climate action key to keeping SA economy afloat

South Australia’s economy is at risk of losing 5 per cent of its gross state product and 38,000 jobs in the next 50 years if it doesn’t take action on climate change, a new report has found.

In the report released today, A new choice: Australia’s climate for growth, Deloitte Access Economics has flipped the debate by modelling the impacts on Australians of not addressing this existential threat. And doing nothing comes with huge costs.

If climate change goes unchecked, then Australia’s economy will be 6 per cent smaller and have 880,000 fewer jobs by 2070. That’s a $3.4 trillion lost opportunity over the next half a century. But there’s a $680 billion dividend that’s ours for the taking if we do rise to this challenge, along with 250,000 more jobs, the Deloitte report says.

In South Australia, mitigating climate change will drive 5.3 per cent growth by 2070.

The report said the services, manufacturing and trade and tourism sectors are among the hardest hit by climate change damages.

South Australia has a lot to lose from unchecked climate change but stands to gain from further mitigation action,” it said.

“The challenge for South Australia is to harness climate for growth and fuel the progress of its emerging industries such as defence and space through innovation.

“South Australia’s proactive investment in renewable energy expansion today provides the state with the capacity to meet its renewable target earlier than the rest of Australia, unlocking gains in the transition period.

“South Australia becomes a net exporter of renewable energy. This is a win.”

The report found that under a new growth recovery, the South Australian economy would grow at a faster rate than all other states and territories.

However, this growth would only add about 150 jobs by 2070 because the impacts of 1.5C of warming is predicted to hit SA’s largest employing industries more than the growth from its transition to net zero.

“While transition by itself could create around 2,500 jobs in South Australia, the losses from any degree of warming erodes these gains,” the report said.

“This means South Australia’s transition to new growth requires more targeted, place-based and industry-based planning.”

Economic figures unlikely to prevent interest rate cut

A flurry of new economic reports kicks off a new month today but they are unlikely to deter the Reserve Bank of Australia from a widely expected cut in its key interest rates at this week’s board meeting.

Economists are predicting the central bank tomorrow will cut the cash rate to 0.1 per cent from the already record low of 0.25 per cent, while making the similar changes to its other interest rate and funding levers.

Among Monday’s list of data, the Australian Industry Group’s manufacturing index for October is released, which was undermined by Victoria’s prolonged COVID-19 lockdown in September.

Likewise, CoreLogic’s home value index for October will show how prices faired after Melbourne dragged down the national value of homes for a fifth straight month in September.

The ANZ job advertisements series for October will also be published, a key pointer to future employment. Ads were still down 21 per cent from February in the September report.

Finally, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will release its lending and building approvals figures for September.

Halloween stabbing rampage kills two in Quebec

Police have arrested a man on suspicion of killing two people and injuring five others in a stabbing rampage on Halloween near the provincial legislature in Quebec City.

They say a man in his mid-20s has been arrested in connection with the attacks on Saturday evening and taken to a hospital.

Quebec police said in a tweet their initial information indicated the motive was personal.

Police had earlier warned residents to remain indoors as they hunted for a man dressed in medieval clothing and armed with a bladed weapon who had left “multiple victims.”

Spokesman Etienne Doyon said police were first notified of the stabbings near the National Assembly shortly before 10.30 p.m.

The five injured victims were taken to a hospital, and a spokeswoman said their lives did not appear to be in danger. Police have asked any potential witnesses to contact them.

Carlos Godoy, who lives in the area, said police K-9 units had searched his backyard as they hunted for the suspect.

“It’s a full moon, it’s October 31st. It’s Halloween, and it’s a lockdown weekend. No-one should be out on the streets,” Godoy said.

“And I’m in an extremely quiet neighbourhood because there are no tourists nowadays.”

Ricciardo celebrates in style as Hamilton extends record

Australian Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo has done a ‘shoey’ to celebrate his second podium finish of the season as Lewis Hamilton celebrated a record-extending 93rd career win at Imola to stand on the brink of a seventh drivers’ crown.

Hamilton came back from third place at the end of the opening lap to lead Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes one-two at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Italian circuit.

Ricciardo finished third for Renault, his second podium in three races for a French team who are also now third overall, with Russian Daniil Kvyat fourth for AlphaTauri.

The Briton, who took the chequered flag 5.783 seconds ahead of pole man Bottas, also banked a bonus point for the fastest lap to extend his lead to a hefty 85 points with four races remaining.

Hamilton can now equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles in two weeks’ time at the Turkish Grand Prix.

Bottas is the only rival remaining in mathematical contention, meaning Mercedes have also taken seven successive championship doubles, after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crashed out with a sudden tyre blowout while in second place.

Ricciardo was left to celebrate a good day. “Two podiums in three races … I’m very happy and I didn’t forget to do the ‘shoey’ this time around!” he said of his famous podium tradition of drinking champagne from a sweaty shoe.

“The result here means we get into third in the Championship, which is what the team is aiming for. I’m super happy to come away from Imola with a great podium. Big thanks for everyone at the team.”

– with AAP and Reuters
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