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What we know today, Thursday December 10


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

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New $1.6 million SAPOL centre for COVID-19 operations

South Australian police have established a new “nerve centre” to co-ordinate the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until now the police operations centre has managed the response to the virus, working out of the existing communications headquarters in the centre of Adelaide.

But it has now moved into a new $1.6 million stand-alone facility at suburban Thebarton that will operate seven-days-a-week with a staff of 30.

The previous centre will remain in operation to deal with other emergencies such as bushfires.

“This is a huge boost for the safety and security of South Australia with high-tech communication infrastructure and facilities on standby every hour of the day and night,” Emergency Services Minister Vincent Tarzia said.

“Although we don’t currently have any active COVID-19 cases, we must be prepared for the possibility of future outbreaks and this new hub has been stood up to help forge a safe path into 2021 for all South Australians.”

Deputy Police Commissioner Linda Williams said the Thebarton facility was now the dedicated response hub to oversee compliance patrols, border duties and deployment of resources for the pandemic.

“The establishment of the second police operations centre will allow us to continue our response to COVID-19 and free up the Carrington Street centre if it is needed to coordinate a police response to bushfires, floods and other emergencies,” she said.

“It’s unclear how long the COVID management team will be operational, so the additional facility will give us the opportunity to respond to multiple emergencies now and into the future.”

AFL back to 20 minute quarters in 2021

The AFL commission announced games will revert back to normal quarter lengths next season.

The COVID-19 pandemic that forced a fixture squeeze resulted in the league reducing quarter lengths to 16 minutes plus time on in 2020.

But quarters will revert back to the normal 20 minutes plus time on in 2021.

Teams will receive six-minute breaks for quarter-time and three-quarter time, while halftime will be 20 minutes.

There will be a break of 50 seconds after each goal.

No new COVID-19 cases in SA

South Australia has recorded no new COVID-19 cases today from a total of 3237 tests.

It is the state’s 12th straight day without a new COVID-19 case.

The number of close contacts in quarantine has dropped to just five people, compared to 186 yesterday.

Almost every US state is suing Facebook

The US Federal Trade Commission and nearly every US state has sued Facebook Inc, saying it broke antitrust law and should potentially be broken up.

With the filing of the twin lawsuits, Facebook becomes the second big tech company to face a recent major legal challenge in the United States.

The FTC said in a statement on Wednesday that it would seek an injunction that “could, among other things: require divestitures of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp”.

In its complaint, the coalition of 46 states, Washington, DC and Guam also asked for Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp to be judged to be illegal.

The US Justice Department sued Alphabet Inc’s Google in October, accusing the $US1 ($A1.3) trillion company of using its market power to fend off rivals.

In congressional testimony earlier this year, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg defended much-criticised acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp, saying his social media platform helped them expand from small, insignificant companies into powerhouses.

He has also argued that Facebook has a range of competitors, including other tech giants.

The lawsuits are the biggest antitrust cases in a generation, comparable to the lawsuit against Microsoft Corp in 1998.

The federal government eventually settled that case but the years long court fight and extended antitrust scrutiny prevented the company thwarting competitors and is credited with clearing the way for the explosive growth of the internet.

Facebook shares fell as much as 3 per cent after the news before paring losses and were last down 2 per cent before close of trade.

President’s son under tax investigation

President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden says the US Attorney’s Office in Delaware is investigating his tax affairs.

“I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors,” Hunter Biden said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said he learned of the investigation for the first time on Tuesday when prosecutors informed his lawyer of the probe.

The Biden transition team on Wednesday released a statement saying, “President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger.”

CNN reported investigators have been examining multiple financial issues, including whether Hunter Biden and his associates violated tax and money laundering laws in business dealings in foreign countries, principally China, according to two people briefed on the probe.

The investigation began as early as 2018, predating the arrival of William Barr as attorney-general, sources told CNN.

China adds more Aussie exports to black list

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has warned that the world is watching as China picks off more Australian export markets one by one.

Cotton and wheat farmers have been warned they could be next after China extended sanctions on Australian timber and slapped new ones on lamb.

Honey and pharmaceutical producers could also be targeted as the trade dispute continues to spiral.

Birmingham said China had displayed an unacceptable pattern of behaviour this year that undermined its free trade deal with Australia and flouted global commitments to the World Trade Organisation.

“Australia is not the only country that has seen these types of punitive measures and I expect the rest of the world will be watching quite closely what is happening in Australia,” the South Australian senator told ABC radio this morning.

“This is damaging not just in terms of the business or trade relationship, but it is damaging in terms of heightening the level of risk and concern that businesses right around the world have in terms of dealing with China.

“It doesn’t just increase that risk profile for Australian businesses, it does so for everyone.”

Birmingham said Australian exporters needed to balance risk and reward in their approach to China.

Many sectors are still seeing record-breaking levels of trade despite the worsening Chinese dispute.

“But for others the risk has clearly grown, the barriers have been imposed, and our government has expressed deep dissatisfaction about it directly to China and publicly here in Australia,” Birmingham said.

China has imposed sanctions and restrictions against Australian barley, wine, meat, lobsters and coal in recent months as diplomatic relations sink to new lows.

The Chinese government is furious about Australia’s calls for an investigation into the origins of coronavirus, its vocal criticism of human rights abuses, and the imposition of foreign investment and interference laws.

Marshall to push for WA border opening as McGowan dodges meeting

Premier Steven Marshall says he will lobby Western Australia to have border restrictions on South Australia eased before Christmas ahead of tomorrow’s national cabinet meeting.

But Marshall’s plan has already hit a hurdle following reports that WA premier Mark McGowan will now not attend the Canberra meeting in person as the result of health advice saying he should not knowingly mix with South Australians.

Western Australia this week moved to lift travel rules for people coming from NSW and Victoria after declaring those states “very low risk”.

From Friday, SA travellers will no longer require exemptions to enter WA, although they will still need to enter self-quarantine.

Marshall said he would seek to speak with the WA Premier in Canberra tonight, ahead of the national cabinet meeting on Friday, and would point out how well SA had contained its recent cluster of coronavirus cases.

“I will see Mark McGowan in Canberra tomorrow night and I will certainly be asking the premier to consider the excellent results that we have here in South Australia,” he told reporters yesterday.

“There are many people in our state who have friends, they’ve got family, they’ve got loved ones in Western Australia and they would love to see them.

“It’s now time for Western Australia to again consider lifting those restrictions in time for Christmas.”

However, The West Australian reported last night that McGowan would now not attend the first in-person national cabinet meeting to avoid being in the same room as his South Australian counterpart.  He will instead take part via video conference.

All other state and territory leaders are expected to attend in person.

SA reported no new infections for the 11th day in a row yesterday, leaving the so-called Parafield cluster at 33.

The state currently has no active infections.

A number of states imposed travel restrictions on South Australia when the cluster first emerged last month, but those have largely been removed or soon will be.

From next week, SA will also ease a range of local restrictions it imposed last month, which will include allowing up to 50 people at household gatherings, including Christmas celebrations.

Patrons in pubs and restaurants will also be allowed to consume drinks while standing up while the size of funerals and weddings will rise to 200.

The capacity in entertainment venues, such as theatres of cinemas, will increase from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, provided people are wearing face masks.

Cashless debit card scheme extended

Thousands of cashless welfare card users will have a so-called trial period extended by another two years after a federal coalition bid to make the scheme permanent failed.

The controversial Morrison government program appeared on track to be scrapped when independent Rex Patrick signalled he would vote against legislation in the Senate.

But the coalition changed its own bill to give trials in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland a two-year extension, flipping a crucial vote.

Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff had promised to oppose the original bill and his lower house colleague Rebekha Sharkie voted against it.

But Senator Griff dodged voting, paving the way for an amended version to pass the upper house 34-33 in the early hours of Thursday.

As part of the deal, more than 20,000 people in the Northern Territory and Cape York won’t be automatically moved onto the card from another income management scheme.

The government passed a separate amendment to make the transition voluntary.

People on the cashless debit card have up to 80 per cent of their welfare benefits quarantined so the money cannot be spent on alcohol or gambling.

The trial sites are Ceduna in South Australia, the East Kimberley and Goldfields in Western Australia, and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland.

Canada prepares for vaccine roll out

Canada has become the third country after the UK and Bahrain to give the green light to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as British regulators investigate reports of allergic reactions in two people who received the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

Globally, more than 68.08 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus and 1,554,271​ have died.

Canada’s health regulator on Wednesday approved the coronavirus vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, giving the green light to an inoculation program set to get underway.

“Health Canada has determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meets the department’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements for use in Canada,” it said in a statement.

“Canadians can feel confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in place,” the government agency said.

The US regulator is due to hold a key hearing on the vaccine on Thursday, after a staff paper this week deemed the doses to be safe and effective.

Canada will receive an early shipment of up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine this year.

The province of Saskatchewan said it expected to receive enough doses for 1950 people by Tuesday to inoculate healthcare workers in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.

It comes as UK regulators are looking into reports of allergic reactions in two people who received the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, the first day of a vaccination program.

For now, they are telling people to skip the vaccine if they have a history of serious allergic reactions.

Crows pick Thilthorpe, Ugle-Hagan becomes top dog in AFL draft

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is the 2020 AFL No.1 draft pick after the Western Bulldogs last night matched Adelaide’s bid on their gun next generation academy prospect. The Crows selected 201cm West Adelaide ruck/forward Riley Thilthorpe with pick No.2.

Adelaide held the first pick overall in the AFL national draft and opted to bid on Ugle-Hagan, a key forward from the Oakleigh Chargers.

The Bulldogs immediately matched the bid, snaring Ugle-Hagan and sliding the Crows’ pick back to No.2.

Adelaide also selected Glenelg midfielder Luke Pedlar at No.11, Brayden Cook (25) and Woodville West Torrens forward James Rowe (38).

Port Adelaide drafted Woodville-West Torrens defender Lachlan Jones with pick 16 and Ollie Lord from the Sandringham Dragons at 49.

Despite delivering a low number of list spots, the 2020 edition still proved a marathon event – and one dominated by club academy prospects.

Wednesday night’s action didn’t kick off until almost 7.30pm and the first round alone dragged out to 26 selections and almost two hours amid matched academy bids and draft-night trades.

In total, there were 59 players drafted in a window close to four hours long.

Of the academy kids, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan kicked off proceedings when the Western Bulldogs matched Adelaide’s bid for the gun forward at pick No.1.

Hawthorn forced Sydney to match a bid of pick No.5 for academy midfielder Braeden Campbell, while Lachie Jones (Port Adelaide, pick 16), Reef McInnes (Collingwood, pick 23) and Blake Coleman (Brisbane, pick 24) also landed in the first round.

Another six academy players were drafted from the second round onwards, while there was a touch of romance when Richmond matched Essendon’s bid for father-son prospect Maurice Rioli Jnr at pick 51.

The early picks of the draft were largely dominated by tall prospects, with Ugle-Hagan joined by fellow big men Riley Thilthorpe (Adelaide, pick two), Logan McDonald (Sydney, pick four), Denver Grainger-Barras (Hawthorn, pick six), Nik Cox (Essendon, pick eight) and Zach Reid (Essendon, pick 10) in the top 10.

The draft action continues on Thursday when Adelaide kick off the pre-season and rookie drafts – the same day first-round picks will be properly unveiled by their new clubs.

The Crows are set to take former GWS midfielder Jackson Hately with the first pick of the pre-season draft, which starts at 12pm AEDT.

Trolley sanitising system to be manufactured in SA

South Australian industrial automation company SAGE Automation has announced it will begin manufacturing and distributing a US-developed sanitising machine for shopping trolleys, known as Sanitizit, across Australia and New Zealand.

In a statement, Tonsley-based SAGE said it had partnered with the Sanitizit developer to manufacture, supply and distribute the new systems across the nation and abroad, with manufacturing to commence “soon”.

It follows a local market trial of the machines with Drakes Supermarkets.

The machines were developed in the US to sanitise shopping trolleys in retail shops, medical facilities and airports by providing a measured dose of sanitising solution over an entire trolley as it is passed through the unit.

They are intended to replace manual cleaning through a touchless system and reduce waste by eliminating cleaning wipes, which are sent to landfill.

Contamination area expanded in West Lakes groundwater probe

Almost 700 homes in West Lakes and Royal Park have been included in an expanded bore water quarantine area as the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) investigates the spread of toxic PFAS chemicals in groundwater.

Residents are being urged not to use bore water in the contaminated area, which is believed to have been impacted by toxic waste spread from the former Port Adelaide wastewater treatment plant during the development of West Lakes during the 1970s and ‘80s.

The aim of the groundwater testing program is to determine the extent of impact to shallow groundwater and deeper aquifers in West Lakes and parts of Royal Park.

The EPA has sampled lake water, stormwater, fish and crustaceans, and groundwater in the West Lakes area after elevated concentrations of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were found in soil, groundwater and sewage sludge samples near the former wastewater treatment plant.

EPA Director, Regulation, Peter Dolan said groundwater salinity and groundwater quality is highly variable across the study area and on that basis further investigations are needed.

“Based on the latest test results, we think it likely that elevated concentrations of PFAS are present in areas where sewage sludge was spread during the West Lakes development,” he said.

“These areas were previously identified as having elevated metal concentrations (particularly cadmium) in soils and management measures were implemented on affected private properties in the early 2000s.

“We’re now planning to contact residents and landholders in the area about an extension of our groundwater assessment program in early 2021.

“Because groundwater in portions of West Lakes is contaminated with PFAS and dissolved metals above drinking water guidelines, residents are advised not to use their bore water for any purpose.”

Rainwater and mains water are not affected.

The proposed new monitoring area extends to cover 815 land titles, including 697 residential properties in parts of West Lakes and Royal Park.

UN says temperatures on track to rise 3C by 2100

The United Nations is increasing pressure on governments around the world to boost emissions reductions goals following a report found temperatures are on track to rise by more than three degrees Celsius this century.

A new report from the UN’s environment arm says temperatures are on track to rise by at least 50 per cent more than the Paris agreement’s goal of keeping warming to well below 2C.

The report says green recoveries are the way to go to help drive emissions down.

Australia is mentioned as one of five G20 members whose climate ambitions are expected to fall short, along with Brazil, Canada, Korea and the US.

Australia is also used as a case study in the report to show environmental regulations rolled back for the energy industry, in terms of fees frozen for coal and gas exploration in Queensland.

The Morrison government’s gas-led recovery is also highlighted.

The report comes ahead of an online climate summit organised in lieu of a global conference postponed until late next year.

One of the main goals for that meeting was for nations to increase their climate ambitions and to cement the rules on how to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

One rule under contention has been the use of perceived credit from former emissions goals to be used for the Paris targets.

Australia was the only country wanting to use the accounting method, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged his intention to drop the plan.

He reportedly hasn’t got a speaking spot yet for the December 12 summit, led by British leader Boris Johnson and the UN.

The UN has previously told countries their ticket to speak is commitment to stronger climate action.

Morrison hasn’t yet announced a target for net zero emissions by 2050 but is facing pressure to do so.

– with AAP and Reuters
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