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What we know today, Friday December 18


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

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SA to keep NSW border open despite cluster

South Australia will keep its border open to New South Wales, with Premier Steven Marshall declaring the state won’t make “knee-jerk” decisions in response to a growing coronavirus cluster at Sydney’s northern beaches, which today grew to 28 cases.

However, the State Government has declared Sydney’s northern beaches local government area a “high community transmission zone”.

People are being asked to notify authorities if they visited the area since December 11 and, if so, immediately get tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for 14 days at home.

South Australia has also reinstated the cross-border travel application process – the online approval form – for anyone who is travelling from NSW into SA.

Marshall this morning said that SA would not follow WA and Queensland by tightening its border restrictions with NSW.

Border restrictions could break budget

State border closures sparked by Sydney’s northern beaches coronavirus outbreak could blow a hole in the federal budget.

The mid-year economic update has been predicated on state borders remaining open into next year.

But Queensland and Western Australia have toughened interstate travel restrictions in response to the latest coronavirus cluster in NSW, which reached 28 this morning.

Tasmania, Victoria and the Northern Territory have also tightened the screws while South Australia is expected to formalise its position this afternoon.

Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham acknowledged the coronavirus outbreak could derail the national economic recovery.

“It depends on how it unfolds,” the SA Senator said this morning.

“The budget assumptions do still assume there will occasionally be instances like this. We haven’t assumed that COVID has gone from the face of Australia forever.

“We do recognise these threats, these uncertainties remain, and that’s built into those assumptions there.”

The Federal Government yesterday released its mid-year budget review, which showed the deficit for the 2020/21 financial is now forecast to be $197.7 billion rather than the $213.7 billion announced in October.

Annual economic growth for 2021 is now predicted to be 4.5 per cent compared with 4.25 per cent at budget time, while the jobless rate is expected to peak at 7.5 per cent in the March quarter, down from eight per cent forecast in the budget.

The budget forecasts are predicated on any coronavirus outbreaks being locally contained, and state borders remaining open throughout 2021.

But the states’ swift response to the latest outbreak has cast a shadow over those assumptions.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said border closures would have a direct impact on jobs, as well as the daily lives of Australians.

Frydenberg urged premiers and chief ministers to be proportionate in their response to the latest outbreak.

“The medical advice must determine the course of action that is taken here,” he said.

Sydney cluster grows to 28 as states move to close borders

Sydney’s northern beaches coronavirus cluster has jumped to 28 people, with authorities saying they’ve sourced the infection back to an international case.

Another 10 people were confirmed virus-positive this morning after NSW recorded 15 new local cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, while another case was uncovered in a person who had since travelled to Queensland.

NSW’s 12 consecutive days without a locally transmitted virus case ended on Wednesday after a Sydney airport driver tested positive and two cases popped up on the northern beaches – a woman in her 60s and a man in his 70s – sparking the cluster.

The peninsula has entered a quasi-lockdown, with NSW Health asking residents to stay home and not leave the area for the next three days. Aged care facilities in the area have been shut to visitors.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian implored northern beaches residents to only leave home for essential reasons.

Health authorities on Thursday night used genomic sequencing to track the outbreak of the cluster to an international case.

“The harder all of us work together, the better Christmas we’ll have,” Berejiklian told reporters this morning.

Authorities believe an Avalon RSL band night might have acted as a super-spreader event.

One of yesterday’s new cases is an aged care worker at the Pittwater Palms facility.

Health alerts have now been issued for a number of venues across Sydney’s northern beaches.

The development comes after interstate travel restrictions had been lifted.

WA Premier Mark McGowan last night ordered anyone who entered his state from NSW to self-isolate for 14 days and get tested on day 11.

Anyone already in WA who has been in NSW since December 11 must self-quarantine in a suitable premise and get tested as soon as possible.

Tasmania, Queensland and the NT have imposed travel restrictions but only for people who have been in the northern beaches region of Sydney.

South Australia recorded no new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and has no active cases.

Driver distraction death trap emerges ahead of Christmas road blitz

Distraction has emerged as the major factor in fatal road crashes in South Australia as the state’s police force launches its annual safety campaign ahead of the busy Christmas-New Year period.

Operation Safe Holidays will kick off on Saturday and run until January 3.

Over the same period last year, 10 people were killed on the state’s road and 31 were seriously injured.

Distraction was a factor in almost 30 per cent of those incidents and has been found to the most common cause of deaths and injuries during the holiday period over the past five years.

“The message is very simple, when you’re driving, just drive,” Superintendent Bob Gray said.

“Do not look at mobile phones, even for GPS purposes, do not be distracted by children in the car, and do not take your eyes off the road for any reason.”

Gray said Operation Safe Holidays would try to ensure this Christmas was memorable for everyone for all the right reasons.

As well as distraction, it will target speeding, drink and drug driving, seatbelt use and dangerous driving.

Police Minister Vincent Tarzia also urged motorists to be mindful of fatigue.

“We’re asking motorists to really think about their holiday this year and plan ahead so they know when and where they will take breaks,” he said.

“Stop every two hours for at least 15 minutes and share the drive with others.

“Our regional towns are some of the best in Australia and have so much to offer. Make a stop, enjoy the sights, revive and survive.”

Bradman’s first baggy green fetches bid of almost $400k

Sir Donald Bradman’s first Australian Test cap has received a highest bid of $391,500 just 15 minutes ahead of the online auction’s closure last night.

If the sale is confirmed today, it will rank as the third-highest price ever paid for a piece of cricket memorabilia.

An unnamed person in Queensland logged the highest bid when the auction ended on Thursday night for Bradman’s baggy green from his 1928 Test debut against England in Brisbane.

The world record is $1,007,500 paid at auction for Shane Warne’s Test cap earlier this year, followed by $425,000 for Bradman’s 1948 baggy green cap at a 2003 auction.

A spokeswoman for auction organisers says the high bid has been referred and negotiations to complete the sale will commence today.

The Australian cricket legend gifted the cap a family friend, Peter Dunham, in 1959.

Dunham, who was a neighbour of Bradman in Kensington Gardens in Adelaide’s inner east, was earlier this year jailed for fraud.

An accountant, Dunham in May was jailed for more than eight years for scamming $1.3 million from investors.

His South Australian District Court trial heard Dunham used some of the stolen money to buy properties in North Adelaide, planning to repay the funds when the investments turned a profit.

But the court heard the 2008 global financial crisis ruined those plans.

Dunham was initially charged with 37 counts of theft and deception spanning 2008 to 2015 but, just before his trial, pleaded guilty to some charges on condition others were dropped.

The accountant, now aged 76, was sentenced to eight years and two months jail with a non-parole period of four-and-a-half years.

The court was told he had repaid about $800,000 but some of Dunham’s victims sought access to Bradman’s cap to help pay off the accountant’s debts.

Dunham’s estate was bankrupted, with Bradman’s cap being sold at under instructions from the trustee, Oracle Insolvency Services.

Starc sizzles with pink ball as India fights for survival in Adelaide

Returning fast bowler Mitchell Starc set the tone for Australia on the opening day of its four-Test series against India at Adelaide Oval last night, living up to his reputation as a pink-ball wizard as the tourists finished day one at 6-233.

Starc bowled Prithvi Shaw for a duck with the second delivery of Australia’s first Test against India then removed Ajinkya Rahane with Thursday’s second new ball.

It helped the hosts reduce India’s potentially fast scoring rate on a topsy-turvy opening day that included a determined 74 from captain Virat Kohli before he was disastrously run out.

Starc arrived in Adelaide on Monday then bowled in the nets on Tuesday, which was his only training session with the squad before the first Test started.

But there was no sign of rust.

“He’s world class. He’s an X-factor,” Nathan Lyon said said of his teammate.

“We all know how good a bowler he is, then you throw a pink ball into his hands and he grows an extra pair of legs.

“He’s exceptional and the way he came back and started, after having some personal leave, was absolutely incredible.”

Starc struggled to produce his best in the ODI series between the rivals, suffered a minor rib injury then left the Twenty20 squad’s biosecurity bubble because of a family illness.

He now has world-best 44 wickets in day-night Tests, having been a key part of Australia’s pink-ball dominance at Adelaide Oval.

McLachlan to resume defamation proceedings today

Actor Craig McLachlan will resume a defamation claim against a former co-star and newspapers today after he was acquitted of all criminal charges earlier this week.

The claim, halted two years ago after McLachlan was charged by Victoria Police, is listed for a directions hearing in the NSW Supreme Court this morning.

The 55-year-old was on Tuesday found not guilty of seven counts of indecent assault and six of common law assault related to four women who’d worked with McLachlan on the The Rocky Horror Show in 2014.

McLachlan launched the defamation claim against Fairfax Media, now Nine Entertainment, and a female actor in 2018 before getting a temporary stay weeks out from the proposed February 2019 trial.

Victoria Police charged McLachlan in January 2019.

His lawyer at the time argued the looming defamation trial would be “a full dress rehearsal on a lower onus of proof” for the Victorian matter.

“The respondent is not entitled to go first to run a full dress rehearsal – or, to preserve the metaphor, a sneak preview – where it raises real issues of injustice,” McLachlan’s barrister Stuart Littlemore QC said in 2019.

Despite opposition from the defendants, Justice Lucy McCallum allowed the stay, reasoning any cross-examination of McLachlan during the defamation hearing could become a feature of any cross-examination in Victoria.

McLachlan, who was seeking $6.5 million in special damages, became a household name for his roles on Australian soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away, won a Gold Logie in 1990 and more recently led the Ballarat-filmed TV series Doctor Blake Mysteries.

He told reporters this week he’d maintained “a dignified and respectful silence for the past almost three years” and put his trust in the law.

Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington on Tuesday accepted the evidence of the four complainants, describing them as “brave and honest witnesses”.

But she did not find McLachlan’s touching amounted to assault or indecent assault.

Countdown begins to 2021 Adelaide Fringe

Adelaide Fringe launches its 2021 program today, with tickets going on sale for almost 800 events across 285 venues – including open-air shows, lighting displays, laneway activations and drive-in performances.

Fringe director and CEO Heather Croall says while the COVID-19 pandemic means the festival will look different to past years, “the magic vibe of Fringe will still be well and truly alive over the 31 days and nights”.

“Artists are eager to perform again after an especially difficult year and we have seen huge numbers registering again for 2021.”

Comedian Ross Noble, Adelaide-born actor Tilda Cobham-Hervey, SA musicians Electric Fields and entertainment presenter Brooke Boney will be the 2021 Adelaide Fringe ambassadors.

Read the full story here on InDaily for a taste of some of the shows and experiences on offer at the 2021 Adelaide Fringe.

Europe in final countdown to vaccine rollout

European Union countries say they expect to start vaccinations against COVID-19 on December 27, almost three weeks after the world’s first fully-tested COVID-19 vaccination was administered in England.

The start date was confirmed by EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and the governments of Austria, Germany and Italy late yesterday.

“In Germany, we will start, if the approval comes as planned, on December 27. The other countries in the EU want to be able to start and want to start from December 27,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said before an online meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and executives from vaccine maker BioNTech.

As a member of the EU, Germany is obliged, by and large, to wait for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve the vaccine.

The EMA is expected to make an announcement on December 21.

A senior EU official said on Wednesday the bloc could give its final approval for the vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, on December 23.

Meanwhile, South Korea added more than 1000 infections to its coronavirus caseload for the second straight day on Thursday amid growing fears that the virus is spreading out of control in the greater capital area.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the COVID-19 death toll was now at 634 after 22 patients died in the past 24 hours, the deadliest day since the emergence of the pandemic.

Among 12,209 active patients, 242 are in serious or critical condition.

The Japanese capital Tokyo, faced with acute strains on its medical system from the pandemic, raised its alert level to the highest of four stages on Thursday as the number of new cases spiked to a record daily high of 822.

A health official said it had become difficult to balance the care of COVID-19 patients with regular ones as hospital beds filled up, and a “red” alert for medical preparedness had been assigned for the first time.

“We fear a serious dysfunction of the medical system in two weeks, on December 31, if the number of new daily infections keeps growing at the current pace,” Masataka Inokuchi, vice chair of the Tokyo Medical Association, told a news conference attended by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

The metropolitan government in the city of 14 million people said the number of new coronavirus cases hit 822 on Thursday, surpassing the previous record of 678 reached a day earlier.

More than 74.63 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 1,656,403​ have died, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Russian Olympic ban halved but upheld

Russia will not be able to use its name, flag and anthem at the next two Olympics nor at any world championships for the next two years after a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Swiss court halved the four-year ban proposed last year by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in a landmark case that accused Russia of state-ordered tampering of a testing laboratory database in Moscow.

Thursday’s ruling also blocked Russia from bidding to host major sporting events for two years.

Russian athletes and teams will still be allowed to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, as well as world championships including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, if they are not implicated in doping or covering up positive tests.

One win for Russia is the proposed team name at major events. The name “Russia” can be retained on uniforms if the words “Neutral Athlete” or equivalents like “Neutral Team” have equal prominence, the court said.

The burden of proof was also shifted away from Russian athletes and more towards WADA when it comes to their doping history being vetted for selection to the Olympics or other sporting events.

Russian athletes and teams can also retain the national flag colours of red, white and blue in their uniforms at major events. That was not possible for Russians at the past two track world championships.

Even with those concessions, the court’s three judges imposed the most severe penalties on Russia since allegations of state-backed doping and cover-ups emerged after the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

– with AAP and Reuters
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