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What we know today, Sunday December 13

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

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NSW eases SA Parafield cluster travel restrictions

South Australia has recorded no new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as NSW eases border restrictions further with the state.

The clean bill of health came after SA authorities carried out  1,635 tests on Saturday.

NSW from Sunday meanwhile lifted requirements that anyone who had been in SA 14 days before travel needed to complete an entry declaration form ahead of time.

The state also lifted rules barring entry to anyone connected to SA’s Parafield cluster.

NSW has recorded a ninth straight day without a local COVID-19 case, along with three cases found in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Victoria meanwhile has recorded one new case of COVID-19 in its revamped hotel quarantine system but no new cases in the community.

The hotel quarantine case is the sixth recorded COVID-19 case since the Victorian government resumed its hotel quarantine program earlier this week.

Five of those COVID-19 cases were reported on Saturday, from a total of 6233 tests.

Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group with ties to white supremacy, gather for a rally to support US President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud in the US presidential election, in Washington, DC on December 12. Image: EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Pro-Trump protests decry election loss

Conservative groups claiming without evidence that the November 3 election was stolen from President Donald Trump have staged protests across the United States.

Organisers of Stop The Steal, linked to pro-Trump operative Roger Stone, and church groups urged supporters to participate in “Jericho Marches” and prayer rallies.

But groups of pro-Trump “Proud Boys” protesters and “Antifa” counter-protesters brawled in downtown Washington on Saturday night. Police moved in quickly to separate them, using pepper spray on members of both sides, Reuters witnesses said.

Around 200 members of the Proud Boys, a violent far-right group, had joined the marches earlier on Saturday near the Trump hotel. Many wore combat fatigues, black and yellow shirts and ballistic vests, carried helmets and flashed hand signals used by white nationalists.

Earlier, police in riot gear and on bicycles kept the opposing demonstrators apart by blocking streets.

Protests were also held in other communities around the country, including Atlanta, Georgia, and Mobile, Alabama.

Local media in the Washington state capital of Olympia reported that one person was shot and three arrested after clashes between pro- and anti-Trump protest groups.

The US Supreme Court on Friday rejected a long-shot lawsuit filed by Texas and backed by Trump seeking to throw out voting results in four states.

On his way to Andrews Air Force Base and then the Army-Navy football game in New York, Trump made three passes in the Marine One helicopter over the cheering protesters.

Some protesters referenced the Biblical miracle of the battle of Jericho, in which the walls of the city crumbled after soldiers and priests blowing horns marched around it.

Retired Army General Mike Flynn told the protesters they were all standing inside Jericho after breaching its walls.

Ron Hazard of Morristown, New Jersey, was one of five people who stopped at the Justice Department to blow shofars – a ram’s horn used in Jewish religious ceremonies – to bring down “the spiritual” walls “of corruption”.

“We believe what is going on in this county is an important thing. It’s a balance between biblical values and anti-biblical values,” Hazard said.

Farm activists could lose tax-free status

Animal activist groups that target Australian farmers could be stripped of their charity and tax-free status, potentially hobbling their ability to fundraise.

The new regulations aim to stop “extremist” organisations from behavior including trespassing, unlawful entry, and vandalism done in the name of raising awareness of mistreatment of animals in industrialised agriculture and the climate impact of meat consumption.

“Groups who target law-abiding Australian farmers will no longer be able to claim tax-free status for their fundraising efforts,” Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said in a statement on Sunday.

The changes could see groups stripped of their charitable status if they encourage or foster behaviour prohibited by the new regulation.

Individual states have introduced and proposed increased penalties, including jail terms and hefty fines, for farm activism.

Senior WA Rebels bikie shot dead in public

Senior Western Australia Rebels bikie Nick Martin has been shot dead in front of multiple witnesses at a motorsport event in Perth.

WA Police on Sunday said there was a firearm incident at Perth Motorplex in Kwinana Beach just after 8.30pm local time on Saturday, with the 51-year-old Martin and a 31-year-old man shot.

The motorplex was hosting a drag racing event on Saturday evening.

Both men were taken to hospital in Perth but Martin – who was facing charges over financial misconduct and had lost his role as Rebels president – died.

An eight-year-old boy – who was sitting on the lap of an adult seated next to Martin – also suffered superficial wounds as part of the incident.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said authorities would do everything possible to clamp down on retaliatory bikie attacks after Martin’s death.

Police dog nabs suspended driver on Adelaide roof

A man nabbed by a police dog on an Adelaide rooftop will face court accused of doing a runner when officers suspected him of giving a false name at a traffic stop.

The 31-year-old from Henley Beach was pulled over behind the wheel of a station wagon at Grange, in the city’s west, around 4.30am on Saturday.

However patrol officers became suspicious about his identity and called for a fingerprint scanner to be brought to the scene.

Overhearing the request, they say he abandoned his car and took off on foot.

Patrols cordoned off the area and called in police dog Rusty to assist with the search.

The 18-month-old German Shepherd and his handler tracked the suspect through multiple yards before finding him on the roof of a two-storey building in nearby Terminus Street.

The man was arrested and charged with driving while disqualified and stating false details to police.

He was bailed to appear in Port Adelaide Magistrates Court in February and his wagon has been impounded for 28 days.

Hazlewood backs Starc to be ready for Adelaide Test

Fellow fast bowler Josh Hazlewood is confident Mitchell Starc will be right to rip in to India’s batting lineup in this week’s first Test in Adelaide.

The left-armer is set to rejoin Australia’s squad on Monday after a period of compassionate leave due to a family illness.

Starc left the team after the first T20 against the Indians in Canberra last week but it was announced on Sunday the pace spearhead was ready to return.

“Everyone knows his numbers with the pink ball are pretty special so we welcome him with open arms,” Hazlewood said.

“If we’ve learned anything from this year it’s nothing goes to plan and we’re always struggling with the schedules and travel and different things.

It means Australia will head in to the opening Test with a full-strength attack including Starc, Hazlewood, vice-captain Pat Cummins and spinner Nathan Lyon.

That settled line-up is in contrast to the batting line-up, in particular the top order.

Opener David Warner (groin) and young gun Will Pucovksi (concussion) are both out while allrounder Cameron Green remains under an injury cloud after suffering concussion during Australia A’s tour match against the Indians in Sydney last week.

Australia added opener Marcus Harris to their squad on Saturday following Warner and Pucovski’s withdrawals.

Declare states of ‘climate emergency’: UN

World leaders should declare states of “climate emergency” in their countries to spur action to avoid catastrophic global warming, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told a climate summit.

More than 70 world leaders are due to address Saturday’s one-day virtual gathering aimed at building momentum for much steeper cuts in emissions on the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Guterres said that economic recovery packages launched in the wake of the pandemic represented an opportunity to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future, but that members of the G20 are spending 50 per cent more in their stimulus and rescue packages on sectors linked to fossil fuel production and consumption than on low-carbon energy.

“This is unacceptable. The trillions of dollars needed for COVID recovery is money that we are borrowing from future generations,” he said.

“We cannot use these resources to lock in policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.”

China’s President Xi Jinping announced at the conference a steeper cut in rates of carbon emissions relative to economic activity by 2030 and set new goals for growth in renewable energy and forest stock.

China will cut its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product, or carbon intensity, by more than 65 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, said Xi.

That compares to targets China announced in 2015 of lowering carbon intensity by 60-65 per cent by 2030.

Xi also said on Saturday China will boost its installed capacity of wind and solar power to more than 1200 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25 per cent during the same period, up from a previous commitment of 20 per cent.

On Friday, summit co-host Britain announced it would pledge to end direct government support for overseas fossil fuel projects at the summit, aiming to spur similar moves by other countries to accelerate a shift to cleaner energy.

Pope Francis committed Vatican City – the world’s smallest state – to reaching the target by 2050.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was blocked from speaking at the summit due to the country’s insufficient climate targets.

New contact tracing funds as restrictions ease

The South Australian Government will today unveil $3.6m in additional funding for the state’s contact tracing efforts.

The funding will go towards hiring 30 staff at the Communicable Disease Control Branch COVID Operations Team.

The staff will be put towards efforts including data collection, reporting, tracking and record keeping.

On Saturday SA Health announced the state had recorded a 14th day without new cases, with more than 767,000 tests conducted and four people still in quarantine.

It comes as a host of restrictions are set to ease on Monday.

As of December 14, South Australians will be permitted to welcome up to fifty people into their homes.

The limit on private functions, weddings and funerals will lift from 150 people to 200.

At bars, patrons will be allowed to stand up and drink.

Cinemas and theatres can increase capacity from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, provided patrons wear masks.

Gyms will be able to allow 1 person per 2sqm, and play gyms will be able to reopen.

QR codes for contact tracing will expand to be mandatory for retail.

Teenage motorcyclist dies in crash near Bordertown

A local teenager has died in a motorcycle crash at Wolseley about 20kms east of Bordertown in the State’s South East region.

Emergency services were called to Custon Road at 8am on Saturday the 12th of December, following reports of a motorcycle crash.

The rider of the motorcycle, a 17-year-old girl from the South East, died at the scene.

Custon Road was closed for several hours while investigators examined the circumstances surrounding the crash.

The teenager is the 18th motorcycle rider killed and 92nd life lost on South Australian roads so far this year, compared to 102 lives lost at the same time last year.

National Motor Museum secures Holden collection

A collection of 18 heritage Holden vehicles have been secured by the National Motor Museum at Birdwood, providing a home for a significant piece of Australian motoring and manufacturing history.

The exhibit was officially unveiled on Saturday, showing off vehicles including the 1948 Holden 48-215 Sedan and the 2017 Holden VF Commodore Series II SS Redline — the first and last Holden vehicles to come off the production line in Australia.

Education Minister John Gardner officially opened the collection.

“While many feared the loss of these crucial pieces of Australian and South Australian history, it is fantastic news that we are able to showcase these iconic vehicles for future generations and preserve their cultural importance,” he said.

“South Australians now have a unique opportunity to come and see this amazing collection all in the same place at the same time, and I encourage everyone to come and see them on display.”

Greg Mackie OAM, CE of the History Trust of South Australia, welcomed the unveiling.

“The retirement of Holden sent ripples of sadness through many parts of Australian life, as we feared the loss of a cultural icon,” he said.

“Some of these fears are now laid to rest, as we see General Motors is committed to ensuring that these significant vehicles stay in Australia are on display to the public as a collection for the first time.”

Authorities issue quarantine warning

Australia’s hotel quarantine programs have to be impenetrable as the COVID-19 pandemic rages beyond our shores, the nation’s top doctor has said.

With record deaths and global coronavirus infection rates skyrocketing, Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said Australia was in an enviable but delicate position.

Saturday marked eight consecutive days of no community transmission – a statistic the country has not seen since February.

Active cases are being managed across the country in hotel quarantine, with six in NSW, five in Victoria and one each in Queensland and WA recorded in the past 24 hours.

Professor Kelly said he had “all confidence” in the Victorian contact tracing system now it had been revamped and international flights had resumed coming into Melbourne since Monday.

Prof Kelly said that despite the US, UK and Canada giving emergency authorisation for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Australia would not be doing this.

“We don’t need any vaccine this year,” Prof Kelly said.

“Other countries are in far different state than us and they should be prioritised.”

Australia will wait for national regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration to run through its own approvals of the Pfizer vaccine with the expectation it will be distributed in early 2021.

The government has pre-purchased 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, while an extra 20 million of the AstraZeneca vaccine and a further 11 million of Novavax have been ordered to boost supplies after the University of Queensland-CSL’s vaccine effort was abandoned.

Labor’s Mark Butler said on Saturday that world’s best practice was to invest in five or six vaccines and encouraged the Morrison government to “do more”.

Labor demands action on corruption

Labor has slammed the federal government for failing to establish a new national anti-corruption watchdog within two years of promising to do so.

The government in December 2018 pledged to set up a Commonwealth Integrity Commission and in November this year released draft laws for its establishment, with public consultation still taking place.

The government hopes to bring a bill before parliament in 2021.

Covering members of parliament and their staff, as well as bureaucrats and federal police, the CIC would have the power to compel people to give sworn evidence at hearings and imprison those who do not comply.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Sunday lambasted the government’s lack of urgency on establishing the CIC and its intransigence on the body’s structure, saying it needed to be more powerful.

“All we’ve seen is a draft bill for a weak, secretive and compromised commission that would cover up corruption, not expose it,” he said.

The government has committed $147 million to the CIC, including shifting the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity under its remit.

Senate powerbroker Jacqui Lambie has threatened to vote against all government legislation if it persists with the “toothless” commission, while the Greens labelled the CIC “a protection racket for corrupt politicians”.

Vials and a medical syringe seen in front of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States and Pfizer
Pharmaceutical company logos.
Image: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA/Sipa USA

US vaccine rollout begins as cases surge

The US is poised to hit a record 16 million COVID-19 cases in the coming days, with deaths closing in on the 300,000 mark, even as millions of doses of a new vaccine are expected to start rolling out.

The first vaccine was approved late on Friday by the US Food and Drug Administration and is expected to touch off a mass inoculation campaign of unparalleled dimension.

“FDA APPROVES PFIZER VACCINE FOR EMERGENCY USE!!!” President Donald Trump announced on Friday night on Twitter.

He promised Americans the vaccinations would begin in less than 24 hours.

But US Army General Gustave Perna said on Saturday the first shipments will begin on Sunday and will be delivered to 145 locations around the country on Monday.

The remainder of the 636 delivery locations selected by states and US territories will receive doses on Tuesday and Wednesday, he said, adding that Pfizer will have more doses ready every week for distribution and administration.

The first batch of shots is expected to be aimed largely at healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

The approval of the Pfizer drug by the Food and Drug Administration marks a turning point in the US, where the pandemic has killed more than 295,000 people – more than in any other nation in the world – as the recent surge of infections has again overwhelmed healthcare systems.

The country reported its highest daily cases, more than 232,700, on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

British navy called in for no-deal Brexit

Four Royal Navy patrol ships are on stand-by to protect Britain’s fishing waters in the event the Brexit transition period ends on December 31 without a deal on future ties with the European Union.

The move drew criticism from MPs in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own Conservative Party, but was shrugged off by the French government.

“Keep calm and carry on,” an Elysee official said, using a British wartime slogan.

There are concerns about possible skirmishes between British and foreign fishing vessels if no trade deal is reached, with existing transitional rules that give EU boats access to British waters set to expire at the end of the year.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said the 80-metre-long navy vessels will have the power to stop and inspect EU fishing boats operating within Britain’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which can extend 320 km from shore.

“The MOD has conducted extensive planning and preparation to ensure that Defence is ready for a range of scenarios at the end of the transition period,” an MOD spokesman said.

Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the British parliament’s defence select committee, called the move “irresponsible”.

“We’re just facing the prospect of… our overstretched Royal Navy squaring up to a close NATO ally over fishing vessel rights,” he told BBC radio.

A French minister said on Thursday that France would compensate its fishermen and take other measures to help them if talks on a trade deal collapsed, in an effort to avoid clashes at sea.

Britain quit the EU in January, but under the terms of its exit deal remains part of the bloc’s single market and customs union until a transition period expires on December 31.

– with AAP and Reuters

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