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What we know today, Wednesday December 2


Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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Climate policy war “suicidal” as federal government votes down emergency bill

Australia’s decade long tug-of-war on climate is “suicidal”, according to one of the key minds behind the Paris Agreement.

Former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres’ comments come as the minister responsible for reducing Australia’s carbon emissions shook his head at calls to declare an environmental emergency.

Figueres agrees with industry sentiment that it’s difficult to make investment decisions with frequently changing federal policy.

“I have been pretty vocal about my frustration for so many years of a completely unstable, volatile, unpredictable stand and position on climate change in Australia,” she told a Carbon Market Institute event.

“The climate wars that have been going on in Australia for over a decade now are just, honestly, they are such a suicidal situation because Australia – of all countries in the world – Australia holds such promise with renewable energies.

“It is just a total lack of integrity, not something that does Australia proud.”

Meanwhile, the Morrison government used its majority in the lower house to swat off a Greens vote to declare a climate and environmental emergency.

Adelaide City Council, along with Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart and the ACT Government have already declared climate emergencies.

New Zealand is also set to declare a climate emergency in parliament this afternoon, with the Labour-Green coalition introducing a pledge to be a carbon-neutral government within five years.

Jurisdiction representing more than 800 million people across the world have declared climate change a national emergency.

UWU criticises private operator of Adelaide Remand Centre

The United Workers Union is concerned about working arrangements at the Adelaide Remand Centre, where a prisoner escaped yesterday.

Prisoner Jason Burdon escaped from the kitchen area of the Adelaide prison yesterday morning, going on to allegedly steal a bike and car as he made his way into Adelaide’s suburbs.

The remand centre, run by global services firm SERCO, was privatised last year. SERCO won the seven-year, $115 million contract to run the jail, taking over operation in August 2019.

Officers at the jail claim staffing levels have halved since SERCO took over the operations of the jail.

The UWU says the prison break is “no surprise” given the “widespread understaffing” at the remand centre.

“Our members have been raising issues of understaffing and concerns for their safety over the last 12 months, ever since the privatisation of the facility took place,” the spokesperson said.

“It was only a matter of time before Serco’s damaging choice to understaff and undervalue the safety of their workers resulted in a serious incident.”

The Public Service Association of SA also criticised the private operator, urging the state government to “tear up” their contract with SERCO.

US Justice Department investigating “bribery for pardon” scheme

The US Justice Department is investigating a potential crime related to funnelling money to the White House in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to court documents unsealed in federal court.

US District Judge Beryl Howell on Tuesday released a heavily redacted order that described what she called a “bribery-for-pardon” investigation.

About half of the 18-page document was blacked out, with the publicly-available version providing few details of the alleged scheme, and naming none of the people potentially involved.

According to the order unsealed by Howell, federal prosecutors in Washington said they had obtained evidence of a bribery scheme in which someone “would offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence”.

The Justice Department had to ask Howell’s permission to view certain electronic communications between a lawyer and clients, who were not identified.

Howell granted the request in August, saying attorney-client privilege did not apply in that instance.

Prosecutors had said they planned to “confront” three unnamed individuals with the communications and finish their investigation.

Presidents enjoy wide latitude under the US Constitution in pardoning people convicted of federal crimes.

President Donald Trump last week pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

That was the first of what is expected to be a string of pardons in Trump’s final weeks in the White House.

Australia out of recession, economy up by 3.3 per cent

The Australian economy has emerged from its first recession in nearly 30 years, growing by 3.3 per cent in the September quarter.

However, this still left the annual rate at minus 3.8 per cent after a large seven per cent contraction in the June quarter, the national accounts for the September quarter released today show.

Economists’ forecasts had centred on a 2.5 per cent rise for the quarter.

It comes after Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe said he hoped the figures would show growth of “at least two per cent”, and expressed confidence the Australian economy had turned a corner.

“We have now turned the corner and a recovery is under way,” Lowe told a House of Representatives economics committee this morning.

“We are now expecting GDP growth to be solidly positive in both the September and December quarters.”

He said this was a much better outcome than the central bank expected when it last addressed the committee three months ago, and when he thought it would be lucky to see positive growth in the September quarter.

“Things have turned out to be much better,” he said.

“Employment growth has been stronger, retail has been stronger and the housing market has been more resilient.”

SA records no new COVID-19 cases

South Australia has recorded no new COVID-19 cases today, marking the state’s fourth straight zero case day.

It comes after 6737 tests were conducted yesterday, with around 1000 contacts and contacts of close contacts currently in quarantine.

There are still 10 active cases in the state.

Australia records hottest Spring on record

Australia has sweltered through its hottest spring on record.

The mean temperature was 24.53C, or 2.03C higher than average, well above the previous record increase of 1.81C in 2014, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Spring nights were also on average the hottest they have been in more than two decades, with the mean minimum temperature 17.1C or 1.91C above average, surpassing the 1998 record of 1.46C.

On an individual state level, the 2020 season was amongst the six warmest springs on record for all states and the Northern Territory.

Although not record breaking, mean maximum temperatures were also higher than average for virtually all of Australia.

November especially was a scorcher, breaking records as Australia’s hottest in terms of mean, minimum and maximum temperatures.

November’s maximums came in at 2.9C above the 1961-90 average, or 35.4, surpassing the 2.4C higher mark set in 2014.

Last weekend’s heatwave was a big contributor to the records.

A significant number of stations in NSW and South Australia observed record high maximums for the month last weekend, as did a few stations in Victoria.

Part of Queensland also broke records on Monday.

The hottest spring day was recorded at Andamooka in South Australia at 48C on Saturday.

A large number of stations in NSW also observed their warmest November night on record during the same period.

Wanaaring, near Bourke in the state’s northwest, suffered through a 33.8C night on Sunday.

Rainfall brought less relief than usual, at eight per cent below average for the season.

November was particularly dry for the eastern states after a softening of the La Nina, but was wet for the west.

Areas recovering from drought in western NSW welcomed above average rainfall, but longer-term rainfall deficits still persist in many parts of Australia.

Both metrics – the reduced rainfall and increased heat – fit with broader trends driven by climate change.

Australia’s climate has warmed 1.44C on average since 1910, and April-to-October rainfall has reduced over southern Australia for the past few decades.

Crows set to bid on Bulldogs academy star

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is set to be the No.1 pick in next week’s AFL national draft after Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks all but confirmed the Crows will bid on the Western Bulldogs academy prospect.

The exciting key forward is certain to land at Whitten Oval, with the Dogs able to match any bids from rival clubs.

It only remains to be seen how many points they will need to match a bid and secure Ugle-Hagan – an Indigenous talent who has been likened to Sydney superstar Lance Franklin.

“We’ll pick the best player we believe that’s in the draft,” Nicks told SEN this morning.

“If that’s Ugle-Hagan – because he is a super-talented footballer – then that’s where I guess a bid will come on him because we believe he should be No.1 in the draft.

“We’re not going to go out of our way to pick a young kid who’s not that and risk not getting the best player in the draft.”

Pressed further on the prospect of an Adelaide bid for Ugle-Hagan, Nicks said: “I don’t want to give too much away, but he’s extremely good.”

The Bulldogs on Tuesday executed a trade of draft picks with Greater Western Sydney, sending pick 26 to the Giants in exchange for picks 29 and 52.

It gave them more points with which to match an Adelaide bid at pick one.

The Crows’ top selection will slide to No.2 overall if, or when, the Bulldogs match their Ugle-Hagan bid.

Adelaide could then opt for athletic South Australian ruck-forward Riley Thilthorpe if they choose to draft locally.

Vic Country midfielder Elijah Hollands and West Australian tall forward Logan McDonald are also considered likely top-five picks.

SA Parliament removes gay panic defence

South Australia has abolished “gay panic” as a defence in crimes of violence with state parliament passing legislation to end the “downright offensive” provisions.

It’s the last state in Australia to do so.

The provocation defence meant it was possible to have convictions downgraded if the accused could prove they were provoked to violence by an unwanted homosexual advance.

Most notably, the defence could be used by a criminal court to downgrade a charge of murder to one of manslaughter in certain circumstances, though it was only used four times over the past 10 years.

“The law as it stands in regards to the gay panic defence is downright offensive,” Attorney General Vickie Chapman said.

“The amendments in the Provocation Bill brings the law into line with modern community expectations.”

The change also follows an investigation by the Human Rights Law Centre which recommended in 2018 that the defence be abolished.

“This is a law that is clearly rooted in discrimination, completely out of step with community standards and has absolutely no justification today,” Lee Carnie, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said.

“It is well past time that this defence be removed from our laws once and for all.”

Chapman said she believed the new bill struck the right balance between removing the outdated defence and ensuring important protections remained in place.

Among those protections was a provision to allow provocation to still be used in the context of family domestic violence.

The legislation passed the parliament with the support of the Labor opposition and crossbench MPs.

Thousands embrace QR check-in system

More than 250,000 people have already used South Australia’s new QR check-in system, a key part of the state’s push to ease coronavirus restrictions in the lead-up to Christmas.

The new system came into force yesterday with Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier describing it as a “game-changer” for her staff trying to trace people who may have come in contact with the virus.

Police said 126,000 people had registered through the system by early afternoon yesterday, and then Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told ABC Radio this morning that number had risen to 250,000.

It operates through the state government’s mySA GOV smartphone application with all information encrypted and only available to health officials.

The system comes into force as SA continues to work to contain the so-called Parafield cluster of COVID-19 cases.

It currently stands at 33 with no new infections reported on Tuesday.

Only 11 of those are still considered active infections with the number of close contacts in quarantine falling from a high of almost 6000 to just 1100.

South Australia has also opened its borders to Victorian travellers for the first time since July, removing the need for them to isolate for 14 days.

That means SA is open to people from all states and territories as well as to those coming from New Zealand.

Knoll considers life after politics following shock announcement

Stephan Knoll and Premier Steven Marshall. Photo: AAP/Kelly Barnes

Former state transport minister Stephan Knoll will begin planning for life after politics today after the shock announcement late yesterday that he will not contest the next state election.

Knoll last night confirmed his decision in a text message to colleagues, which read: “I have just informed the Premier that I won’t be standing again at the next election.”

“I want to thank each and every one of you for everything over the past 6.5 years… to serve in this place has been the highest honour – all then more because of the people I have been able to serve with,” he said.

“There is still much to do in the next 16 months, including winning the next election and I look forward to helping in whatever way I can to achieve that.”

In a separate statement later posted to social media, Knoll – who did not return calls from InDaily – said that “after much reflection and discussion with my family I have decided not to nominate at the next state election”.

“I have a choice to become either a better politician, or a better person to those closest to me,” he said.

“I am choosing the latter.

“The past six months have undoubtedly been some of the most difficult I have experienced and it is important to acknowledge that at the time this put a significant strain on my mental health.”

In a statement, Premier Steven Marshall said: “The pressures of service are great, and they are increasing.”

“I am disappointed that Stephan is not continuing,” he said.

“He has been a great colleague and friend [but] I understand and respect his decision.

“I thank him for his service in cabinet and to his electorate.”

Marshall’s closest adviser, Government media unit manager Ashton Hurn, is considered a frontrunner to replace Knoll in Schubert if she seeks preselection. The sister of former West Coast Eagles AFL captain Shannon Hurn has strong family ties to the Barossa region.

 – Tom Richardson

WOMADelaide 2021 ‘reimagined’ as a sunset concert series

WOMADelaide won’t be held in Botanic Park in 2021, with COVID-19 constraints forcing organisers to “reimagine” the music festival as a series of sunset concerts in a new Adelaide Park Lands venue.

The four seated concerts – featuring an all-Australian line-up to be announced in coming weeks – will be presented from March 5 to 8 on the oval in King Rodney Park / Ityamai-itpina, which is bordered by Wakefield Road, East Terrace, Bartels Road and Dequetteville Terrace.

“While the sunset concerts will be a departure from the format that our audiences have come to know and love, we are working hard towards creating a joyful celebration of WOMADelaide’s 29-year history and place in Adelaide’s renowned summer festival season,” director Ian Scobie says of this morning’s announcement.

“After regular consultation with SA Health over many months, it has become clear, in light of the global pandemic, that it would not be possible to present the full festival across seven stages in Botanic Park.”

Scobie told InDaily the capacity for the sunset concerts in King Rodney Park would be 6000 reserved seats, with an empty seat between concert-goers. There will be one stage, with two or three acts performing each evening.

Read the full story here

Lockout continues for SA as state borders open up

South Australians will be the only Aussies locked out of unlimited interstate travel from next week as the federal government continues to push to have all state and territory borders open by Christmas.

Western Australia confirmed yesterday – the same day that thousands streamed into Queensland as the Sunshine State reopened to NSW and Victoria – that it would reopen its borders to the east from December 8.

From that point, only South Australians will remain locked out of other states. WA remains closed off to all South Australians, while Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania are restricting travel from the COVID-19 hotspot areas associated with Adelaide’s 33-strong Parafield cluster.

Eleven cases connected to the Parafield cluster remain active.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared Australia “was not built for borders” and reiterated his desire to see a fully open Australia by December 25.

“On the record of the achievements so far, we are well and truly on that path and so I thank the premiers and the chief ministers for the way we have worked together patiently,” he told parliament on Tuesday.

“There’s been a few disagreements but the outcome is what matters.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan on Tuesday said the WA-SA border controls will be reviewed next week and won’t change until at least December 11.

He also warned he’d reintroduce border controls if deemed necessary.

Travellers entering WA from NSW and Victoria will still be required to undergo health screening and a temperature check at the airport, complete a G2G pass outlining recent travel and take a COVID-19 test if necessary.

Victoria last week reached the 28-day benchmark for the community elimination of COVID-19, while NSW is four days away.

Queensland, meanwhile, is hoping the resumption of interstate travel will drive a domestic tourism boom over the summer months.

About 6000 people are believed to have travelled north on Tuesday.

“Queensland’s health-led economic recovery is set to really take off … and with that will come more jobs,” Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

Australia recorded nine new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday – eight in returned travellers in hotel quarantine and one old case in South Australia.

Ministers move to lodge WTO appeal on China wine tariffs

Australia’s agriculture and trade ministers will meet with the nation’s peak wine body today to work on an appeal to the World Trade Organisation against China’s trade intervention.

China says Australia is unfairly dumping wine into the market, slapping tariffs of between 107.1 per cent and 212.1 per cent on wine in containers of two litres or less.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government would “vigorously defend” the industry, pointing out Australian wine is the second-highest priced wine in China.

Along with Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, he will meet with head of Australian Grape and Wine Tony Battaglene on Wednesday to lodge an appeal with the World Trade Organisation.

The clock is ticking, with Littleproud saying they have 10 days to do so.

The minister said he would continue working with industry to help find new markets for Australian wine.

China is Australia’s largest wine export market with $1.2 billion worth shipped last financial year. South Australia is responsible for 50 per cent of Australian wine production.

Littleproud said Australia followed the rules of international trade.

“We will stay within that,” he told parliament on Tuesday.

“We will continue to work with them (industry) and explore new markets as quickly as we can and making investments in accelerating the brand Australia wine right around the world.”

South Australian based MP Rebekha Sharkie – whose federal electorate covers key wine regions including McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and Langhorne Creek – is worried about the hit on local companies, urging the government to immediately support growers.

“We do need to back our industry internationally and appeal to the independent umpire at the WTO, but this is a long process,” she said.

“In the meantime, the government needs to come up with a comprehensive plan that assists our growers immediately and supports them into the future.”

China is furious with Australia for demanding an investigation into the origins of coronavirus, speaking out about human rights abuses, and clamping down on foreign investment and interference.

It’s prompted hits on a wide range of Australian exports including coal, timber, grain and seafood with bans and tariffs.

Diplomatic tensions are at new lows in the aftermath of a Chinese official posting a doctored image purporting to show an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child, after a damning report alleged war crimes.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an apology over the image and has warned coalition colleagues against further amplifying the social media attack.

“Our work is focusing on establishing dialogue that allows us to steadily work through issues as governments,” he told colleagues.

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is back

Ben Mingay in the West Australian Opera production of Sweeney Todd. Photo: James Rogers

State Opera SA is inviting audiences to a “fright night” with news that it has rescheduled Sweeney Todd for a six-show season at Her Majesty’s Theatre in May next year.

Featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, Sweeney Todd was originally to be presented in 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19.

It is described by SOSA artistic director Stuart Maunder as an urban myth and cautionary tale that is “deliciously scary; dark, sinister… and thrilling”.

Sydney-based actor and singer Ben Mingay (recently announced as the lead in the company’s 2021 show Carousel: The Musical) will play the murderous barber, while soprano Antoinette Halloran will take on the role of his partner-in-crime, pie shop owner Mrs Lovett.

Trump files Wisconsin court challenge

US President Donald Trump’s campaign has filed a petition challenging Wisconsin’s presidential vote results with the state’s supreme court.

The petition alleges that election officials were directed to fill in missing information on ballot envelopes, issued absentee ballots without receiving applications and allowed people to improperly claim a “confined” absentee voting status.

The petition, filed on behalf of Trump, his campaign and US Vice President Mike Pence, also takes issue with voting events in city locations outside of polling stations, according to court filings.

The petition alleges 221,323 absentee ballots were improperly filed.

Democratic Joe Biden edged out Trump in Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes.

The Trump campaign and its supporters have filed lawsuits challenging Biden victories in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada – so far without success.

On Monday, Wisconsin certified Biden as winner of the state, further dimming the Trump campaign’s long-shot bid to overturn the results.

The campaign is seeking withdrawal of that certification.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Supreme Court confirmed it had received the filings and said there was no timeline for the court to decide whether to take up the case, which was filed directly to the state’s high court.

The petition is at least the third one filed by Trump or his supporters in the state’s supreme court since November 23 challenging the election results.

The court has not moved to take any of the cases.

Last month, the Trump campaign demanded recounts in two of the state’s most populous and most heavily Democratic counties.

A recount in one, Milwaukee County, ended with Biden receiving a net gain of 132 votes.

Chinese spacecraft lands on moon

China has successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon’s surface in a historic mission to retrieve lunar surface samples, Chinese state media report.

China launched its Chang’e-5 probe on November 24.

The uncrewed mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, aims to collect lunar material to help scientists learn more about the moon’s origins.

The mission will attempt to collect 2kg of samples in a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum or “Ocean of Storms”.

If the mission is completed as planned, it would make China the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union.

The lander vehicle that touched down on the moon’s surface was one of several spacecraft deployed by the Chang’e-5 probe.

Upon landing, the lander vehicle is supposed to drill into the ground with a robotic arm, then transfer its soil and rock samples to an ascender vehicle that would lift off and dock with an orbiting module.

State broadcaster CCTV said it would start collecting samples on the lunar surface in the next two days.

The samples would be transferred to a return capsule for the trip back to earth, landing in China’s Inner Mongolia region

China made its first lunar landing in 2013.

In January last year, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first space probe from any country to do so.

– with AAP and Reuters
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