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What we know today, Tuesday November 10


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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One new COVID-19 case in SA

South Australia has recorded one new case of COVID-19: a man in his 40s who recently returned from overseas and is in hotel quarantine.

SA Health said there is no risk to public health.

The new case brings the state’s total COVID-19 tally to 518

Lucas hands down budget

Treasurer Rob Lucas has officially handed down the state budget for 2020.

Billed by Premier Steven Marshall as “the most important in the state’s history”, the budget includes a raft of infrastructure spending and a headline tunnels project to solve Adelaide’s north-south corridor conundrum.

Read the full breakdown of the budget’s key measures here.

PM faces questions over ministers’ conduct

Scott Morrison says two ministers who were the subject of a Four Corners program about a misogynistic culture in Canberra did not breach his code of conduct.

Alan Tudge, who is now acting immigration minister, has publicly apologised for the hurt his 2017 affair caused his family and former staffer Rachelle Miller.

Attorney-General Christian Porter has denied accusations of any wrongdoing, having been told by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull reports of him drinking and being seen “in the company of young women” at a Canberra bar in late 2017 exposed him to the risk of compromise.

Turnbull instituted a so-called “bonk ban” – extending the ministerial code of conduct – when media reports exposed former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce as having an affair with a staffer who was pregnant.

Morrison, who as prime minister kept the ban in place, did not believe the ministers had breached any aspect of the code under his watch.

He said all ministers were in no doubt about his expectations in terms of behaviour.

“I think Australians understand human frailty, and I think they understand the people who work in this place are just as human as anyone else and subject to the same vulnerabilities and frailties as anyone,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“(But Australians) want standards. That is why the standards are there, that is why the standards were introduced.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese asked the prime minister in parliament whether his ministerial standards “have been and will be enforced”.

“It is always the case,” Morrison said.

“I would hope that the same standards that are set out in this document would be adopted by the leader of the opposition in relation to his own front bench.”

Turnbull met with Porter just before making him attorney-general, telling him the reported behaviour was “unacceptable conduct for a cabinet minister”.

Porter told 6PR radio today that the incident raised with him by Mr Turnbull involved nothing more than having a drink with a woman in a bar.

“I have never breached that ministerial code of conduct and there’s never been any suggestion I have,” he said.

ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday night also aired background on Porter related to his attitude towards women when he was at university.

In a statement, Porter apologised for some material he wrote in a law school magazine 24 years ago, but denied other reflections on his character and said he was considering legal action.

Turnbull told ABC’s Q&A program after Four Corners aired: “If I’d known at the time what was broadcast … I would have made further inquiries before I made him attorney-general.”

Porter questioned Turnbull’s motivation in talking to the ABC, saying the former prime minister was never a “great fan of mine”.

Miller told Four Corners that her consensual affair with Tudge cost her “a lot of self-confidence” and she felt powerless in the situation.

Albanese told the Labor caucus they were deeply disturbing allegations and all staff deserved to feel safe and supported.

Joyce argued a politician’s private life should only become public when there were issues around age, agency or consent.

“If it’s a consensual relationship between two adults, then if you’ve got a problem with that, that’s a role for the police or a priest, but not another politician to be the arbiter of how two people feel about each other,” he said.

Stocks rally after Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine ‘more than 90 per cent’ effective

Global stocks and oil have jumped as progress in the development of a coronavirus vaccine lifts investor confidence in a world economic recovery.

Pfizer says its experimental COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective, a major victory in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, battered the world’s economy and upended daily life.

The announcement overnight was soon followed by an announcement from Russia saying its Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 was also more than 90 per cent effective.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.95 per cent, the S&P 500 gained 1.17 per cent while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.53 per cent. E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.47 per cent.

Australia’s share market also jumped about two per cent higher early.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was up 96.4 points, or 1.53 per cent, to 6395.2 at 1200 AEDT on Tuesday.

The All Ordinaries gained 83.7 points, or 1.28 per cent, to 6599.4.

There was a whopping gain of 7.94 per cent for the energy sector, as traders hoped a coronavirus vaccine would later help people to travel more.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE are the first drug makers to release successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

The companies said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek US authorisation this month for emergency use of the vaccine.

Health experts said Pfizer’s results were positive for all COVID-19 vaccines currently in development since they show the shots are going after the right target and are a proof of concept that the disease can be halted with vaccination.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive, said.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.”

If Pfizer’s vaccine is authorised, the number of doses will initially be limited and many questions remain, including how long the vaccine will provide protection.

Meanwhile, production of a coronavirus vaccine has begun in Australia.

Thirty million doses of coronavirus vaccinations have entered production in Victoria ahead of a planned rollout in the first half of next year.

Biotech giant CSL has begun manufacturing the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine in Victoria.

CSL will also produce 51 million units of a vaccine being developed at the University of Queensland.

The vaccines will not be released until clinical trials are finalised and regulatory approval is granted.

Trump sues over Pennsylvania loss as Justice Department okays investigations into unproven voter fraud allegations

US President Donald Trump’s campaign has filed a lawsuit in a Pennsylvania federal court, seeking an emergency injunction to stop state officials certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

The lawsuit alleges Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting system “lacked all of the hallmarks of transparency and verifiability that were present for in-person voters”.

“Voters in Pennsylvania were held to different standards simply based on how they chose to cast their ballot, and we believe this two-tiered election system resulted in potentially fraudulent votes being counted without proper verification or oversight,” Matt Morgan, Trump 2020 general counsel, said.

The lawsuit was filed against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.

The president, who has spent months trying to undermine the election results with unproven allegations of fraud, has pledged to go forward with a legal strategy he hopes will overturn state results that gave Biden the win in Tuesday’s vote.

Judges have already tossed the campaign’s lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan.

Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr has authorised prosecutors across the US to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election is certified, despite little evidence of fraud.

Barr’s action raises the prospect Trump will use the Justice Department to try to challenge the outcome.

It gives prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election is formally certified.

States have until December 8 to resolve disputes, including recounts and court contests.

Members of the Electoral College meet on December 14 to finalise the outcome.

Joel Fitzgibbon resigns from Labor’s front bench amidst energy policy brawl

Senior Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has quit the shadow cabinet and will move to the back bench after an internal brawl on energy policy.

The outspoken right faction heavyweight has urged his party to support gas and coal jobs over ambitious climate change action.

Fitzgibbon said he would need to be drafted to contest a leadership spill against Anthony Albanese, but later clarified he was being flippant because he didn’t believe any wanted him to take charge.

He urged Labor to support resources sector jobs, back the government’s final stage of tax cuts and keep its powder dry on medium-term emission reduction targets.

Axe falls on hundreds as city council cuts pandemic losses

Adelaide City Council has axed more than 100 full-time jobs since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while cutting hundreds more casual, trainee and temporary roles.

The council says less than 40 full-time staff were made redundant yesterday in its latest round of cuts, adding to the 17 full-time workers who were sacked earlier in the year as it grapples with a multi-million dollar hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, more than 40 full-time roles will not be replaced following voluntary resignations.

In total, 117 full-time positions have gone since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

An additional 32 trainees, 55 temporary workers and about 200 casual staff lost their jobs earlier in the year, in a move the Australian Services Union has described as “cruel”.

The restructure was prompted by a council decision in April to permanently cut operating costs by $20 million after Town Hall estimated it would lose $39 million as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been in local government for 30 years and this is the toughest environment I’ve ever worked in as a CEO and the most challenging that I can recall,” Adelaide City Council CEO Mark Goldstone said.

Trump fires defence boss, Biden stalks virus

US President Donald Trump says Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been dismissed and Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will be acting Secretary of Defense starting immediately.

“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately,” Trump said on Twitter.

“Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service,” Trump said.

President-elect Joe Biden was due to overnight meet with an advisory board to examine how best to tame a pandemic that has killed more than 237,000 Americans.

“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said in a statement on Monday.

The group of scientists and experts will liaise with local and state officials on the pandemic response, including how to safely reopen schools and firms and tackle racial disparities.

Biden cleared the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House on Saturday, four days after the November 3 election. He beat Trump by more than 4 million votes nationwide, making Trump the first president since 1992 to lose re-election.

But Trump has not acknowledged defeat and has launched an array of lawsuits to press claims of election fraud for which he has produced no evidence. State officials say they are not aware of any significant irregularities.

Trump plans to hold rallies to build support for his challenge to the election results, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

Biden’s advisers are moving ahead and considering candidates for top Cabinet posts.

But the transition cannot shift into high gear until the US General Services Administration, which oversees federal property, certifies the winner.

Storm, fire warnings issued as extreme heat returns

Severe heat, wind and lightning forecast across the state today has prompted the Bureau of Meteorology to release extreme fire danger warnings for many parts of the state.

It is the first severe or extreme fire ratings issued for the season with widespread gusty thunderstorms expected to be severe in some areas.

Localised damaging wind gusts are the main concern as well as increased fire risk from lightning strikes.

Extreme fire danger has been issued for Yorke Peninsula while Severe Fire Danger has been forecast for the North West Pastoral, West Coast and Eyre Peninsula districts.

Rainfall is expected to be patchy and mostly with thunderstorms.

Adelaide is headed for a top of 36C with showers developing and a possible storm after a warm night where the minimum temperature was 22.5C at 11.47pm. Rainfall of up to 2mm is expected in the city.

SA housing construction boom kicks in

A big boost in the number of housing approvals in South Australia is expected to continue build through until at least the end of the year, the Master Builders Association says.

September’s house building approvals in South Australia reached the highest level in almost five years, according to ABS figures released yesterday.

The seasonally adjusted number of houses approved in the state during September reached 803 in September, the highest level since 814 were approved in April 2016.

The figure is up from 651 in August and reflects the impact the Federal Government’s $25,000 HomeBuilder scheme, which was announced in June and gives recipients until the end of the year to lock in their build. It is also up almost 30 per cent on the number of approvals in SA in September 2019.

Master Builders Association SA chief executive Will Frogley said the success of HomeBuilder was reflected in yesterday’s figures, which he expected to continue to rise in the coming months.

He said South Australia’s good record during the coronavirus pandemic and relative affordability had given the people confidence to build.

“HomeBuilder is capped at $750,000 for new builds and renovations and that opens up a lot more options for your average home buyer in Adelaide than say Sydney or Melbourne,” Frogley said.

“Combine this with record low interest rates and there really has never been a better time to build.”

Nationally, the number of dwellings approved in Australia rose 15.4 per cent in September, in seasonally adjusted terms.

The rise was driven by private sector dwellings excluding houses, which increased by 23.4 per cent in September but remains 12.1 per cent lower than at the same time last year.

– with AAP and Reuters
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