- Elaine Stead wins defamation case
- No active cases of COVID-19 in SA
- Inflation remains below RBA target
- Last Holden produced in Australia up for auction
- Wheel fault sparks emergency landing at Parafield Airport
- Security chief apologises for Capitol failings
- Family says shark not believed responsible for snorkeller’s death
- School speeding figures spark road safety warning
- UK virus deaths pass 100,000
- Brighton Road reopens after car yard fire
- Ardern slams Australia’s snap border closure with NZ
- US Senate appoints new secretary of state
- Strikers sneak in to Big Bash finals
Elaine Stead wins defamation case against AFR columnist
A Federal Court judge says venture capitalist Elaine Stead is entitled to $280,000 damages after an Australian Financial Review columnist defamed her.
Joe Aston described former Blue Sky Alternative Investments director Elaine Stead as a “feminist cretin” who “set fire to other people’s money”.
In his judgment on Wednesday, Justice Michael Lee said the pleaded defence of “honest opinion” had not been made out by either Nine’s Fairfax Media nor Aston so Stead was entitled to relief.
“What occurred at Blue Sky was a legitimate (indeed, one might think important) matter of public interest – particularly for a newspaper like the AFR,” Justice Lee said.
“However, given the offensive way that Mr Aston expressed himself, it appears Dr Stead felt she had no choice but to resort to the blunt instrument of defamation litigation.”
The judge said this did not mean opinion or leader writers had to be “mealy-mouthed in denouncing hypocrisy, cant, farce or misfeasance”.
But unless the truth could be proved, opinions needed to be properly based on facts stated in what is written or be otherwise evident.
Stead’s lawyer Sue Chrysanthou SC had earlier told the court that before the AFR articles her client’s reputation was “remarkable,” especially in a heavily male-dominated profession with very few female venture capitalists.
Chrysanthou accused Aston of being misogynistic in his attacks on Dr Stead by using particularly sexist language.
“Mr Aston targeted my client because she is a woman.”
The articles alleged she “recklessly destroyed the capital of business ventures” and Dr Stead was a “stupid” woman “who made stupid investments into worthless companies”.
Stead’s career included a period managing the South Australia Government’s venture capital fund.
No new COVID-19 cases in SA, no active cases
SA Health reported no new cases of COVID-19 in the state today.
South Australia has no active cases of the virus.
Meanwhile, NSW recorded its tenth consecutive day with no new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19, prompting Premier Gladys Berejiklian to flag the imminent easing of restrictions.
The state recorded zero local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, as well as two cases in travellers in hotel quarantine.
NSW will ease a host of restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, plus scrap compulsory face masks in shops.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday afternoon announced that gathering and function restrictions would ease from Friday.
NSW residents could invite up to 30 people inside their homes, while picnics and other outdoor gatherings – including in yards – can number 50 people.
Attendee caps at weddings and funerals have been lifted to 300 people, while caps have been removed altogether on corporate events, religious gatherings and hospitality venues. However the “four square metre” rule still applies.
Berejiklian said restrictions limiting venues to one person per four square metres may be revised to two square metres in a fortnight.
“We have the most robust quarantine system in Australia but we know that there’s no such thing as a perfect system, and the risk of an outbreak is there,” Berejiklian told reporters.
“We need to make sure that if one does occur, that we don’t create a super-spreading event.”
Inflation remains below RBA target
The rate of inflation remained subdued in the December quarter as government stimulus measures helped to keep the lid on some price pressures, and despite a jump in tobacco prices.
The consumer price index for the December quarter rose 0.9 per cent, slightly higher than the 0.7 per cent increase economists had expected.
However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said the annual rate of inflation was also just 0.9 per cent.
This is well below the Reserve Bank’s two to three per cent inflation target.
“The December quarter CPI was primarily impacted by an increase in tobacco excise and the introduction, continuation and conclusion of a number of government schemes, including child care fee subsidies and home building grants,” ABS head of prices statistics Michelle Marquardt said.
The most significant price rises in the December quarter included a 10.9 per cent increase for tobacco following a 12.5 per cent increase in excise duty.
The unwinding of free child care led to a jump of 37.7 per cent, with out-of-pocket expenses now returning to pre-COVID levels.
Demand for new dwellings pushed prices up 0.7 per cent, but would have been higher if not for government stimulus measures like the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant.
The most significant price fall was in electricity, which was down 7.5 per cent as a result of the West Australian government’s household electricity credit payment.
Underlying measures of inflation – which smooth out wild price swings and are closely monitored by the Reserve Bank in terms of monetary policy – also remained subdued.
Last Holden produced in Australia up for auction
The last car to roll off Holden’s production line in Adelaide is up for auction with bids expected to reach $500,000.
The company closed its production facilities in 2017 and then retired the brand at the end of 2020 amid falling demand for traditional passenger sedans.
The last vehicle off the assembly line was a Commodore VF Series II SSV Redline, which has already attracted strong bidding in an online auction that wraps up this weekend.
Lloyds Auction chief operations officer Lee Hames says the car is in showroom condition and has covered just 102 kilometres.
“The interest in this car has been phenomenal, we have had enquiries from collectors, investors and Holden enthusiasts from all over the country, phones are ringing off the hook night and day,” he said.
“There are some very passionate Holden enthusiasts and collectors looking to own this special piece of Australian History.”
Bidding on the car had reached $118,500 by Wednesday morning but was expected to go much higher before the auction ends on Saturday.
However, bids are not expected to top the money being offered for another prized Holden, the W1 Maloo Ute, one of only four ever made.
The top bid for the car on Wednesday was a staggering $1,050,000.
“This is arguably one of Australia’s most collectable muscle cars,” Hames said.
Wheel fault sparks emergency landing at Parafield Airport
A pilot was forced to make an emergency landing at Parafield Airport overnight after reporting a problem with the nose wheel.
Just after midnight, emergency services responded to a notification of a twin engine aircraft requiring an emergency landing at Parafield Airport.
The pilot reported a fault with the nose wheel and could not confirm it was locked down in preparation for landing.
Several lower altitude fly-bys confirmed the nose wheel could not be seen in the down position.
Police and other emergency services, including MFS, SAAS and airport safety officers prepared for an emergency landing.
Just before 1.30am, the pilot initiated a final approach and landed on two wheels. As the plane decelerated, the nose of the aircraft came down and collided with the tarmac.
There was no fire, no fuel spill and no reported injuries to the pilot or passenger, who were both able to disembark safely from the plane.
The aircraft will be examined for mechanical problems and a report will be prepared for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
Security chief apologises for Capitol failings
The acting head of US Capitol security has apologised for “failings” during the deadly attack on the building by followers of then-president Donald Trump in a bid to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.
She specifically acknowledged a number of missteps: conflicting intelligence, inadequate preparation and insufficient mobilisation of partner agencies, and called for improving accountability systems and communications structures.
“I am here to offer my sincerest apologies on behalf of the department,” said Yolanda Pittman, the acting chief of Capitol Police, according to a prepared statement for the US House of Representatives’ appropriations committee.
“The department failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours.”
Pro-Trump supporters stormed the building following Trump’s urgings at a rally near the White House to go to the Capitol. Trump was impeached by the House on a charge of incitement and the trial in the Senate is scheduled for February.
The then-chiefs of the Capitol Police and House sergeant at arms stepped down.
In the weeks since the attack, security has been heightened around the Capitol and in Washington in general, with high fencing surrounding the perimeter and National Guard troops brought in for Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
About 5000 National Guard troops will remain in Washington until mid-March.
Family says shark not believed responsible for snorkeller’s death
The family of a man initially thought to have been killed by a shark while snorkelling near Port Macdonnell now believe a medical episode caused his death after human remains were found nearby yesterday.
The remains were discovered near where 32-year-old Duncan Craw is believed to have died last Thursday.
Police are investigating whether they belong to the Victorian man.
A great white shark was spotted in the area by a police helicopter that day and a damaged wetsuit belonging to Craw was found the following morning.
Police said a member of the public had found human remains at a beach area off Finger Point Rd in Port Macdonnell.
Forensic examination of the remains has not yet been completed, but Craw’s family has been notified of the discovery.
His stepsister Andrea Hamblin said in a statement posted on Twitter that the family would be bringing him home to Warrnambool.
“It brings us comfort to know that he would have passed away peacefully in the water,” she said.
“While we may never know for sure, based on the evidence we do have, we now believe it is most likely Duncan suffered a medical episode long before the arrival of the shark.
“We want everyone to know that the ocean is still a place of peace and beauty for us. We will keep enjoying the outdoors, remembering Duncan as we do so.”
An operations manager at an agriculture contracting company, Craw had travelled to SA from Victoria for a camping trip with his wife and young son.
He had been snorkelling during a day out when his wife lost sight of him in the water, according to an earlier family statement.
“He was also the best father to Levi and a beautiful husband and best friend to Tay, his high school sweetheart,” Hamblin said.
“He was a cheerful, loving, helpful son. He was a kind and cheeky brother to his sisters.
“He was a fun-loving, mischievous and supportive mate who had a heart of gold.”
A report will be prepared for the coroner.
School speeding figures spark road safety warning
Drivers are being warned to slow down around schools as the new term begins with figures showing more than 17,000 drivers were caught breaking road rules around schools in 2020.
The figures obtained by RAA show the 17,467 offences generated $6.5 million in fines.
The majority of fines were for motorists caught on fixed cameras speeding (15,089) and running red lights (2061) at school pedestrian crossings.
Hundreds of drivers were also detected speeding in 25km/h school zones (304) and failing to give way at school crossings (13), latest police figures show.
With the new school year beginning today for most South Australian students, the RAA has issued a road safety warning, urging drivers to be vigilant around schools and be aware of the relevant road rules.
“Speeding, running red lights and failing to give way can have potentially catastrophic consequences,’’ RAA senior manager safety and infrastructure Charles Mountain said.
“Pedestrians – especially young children – are among the most vulnerable road users and RAA urges motorists to exercise vigilance and caution around schools.’’
Mountain said traffic volumes would also be impacted by the commencement of term one.
“With the return to school comes an increase in traffic, so commuters should allow more travelling time if they’ve been leaving a little later over the past couple of months,’’ he said.
Motorists are being urged to avoid Brighton Road at Somerton Park this morning following a fire at a car yard early this morning.
UK virus deaths pass 100,000
More than 100,000 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, official data indicates, a grim new milestone as the government battles to speed up vaccination delivery and keep variants of the virus at bay.
The UK has the fifth highest toll globally and reported a further 1631 deaths and 20,089 cases on Tuesday, according to government figures.
The 100,162 deaths are more than the country’s civilian toll in World War II and twice the number killed in the 1940-41 Blitz bombing campaign, although the total population was lower then.
“My thoughts are with each and every person who has lost a loved one – behind these heart-breaking figures are friends, families and neighbours,” health minister Matt Hancock said.
“I know how hard the last year has been but I also know how strong the British public’s determination is and how much we have all pulled together to get through this.”
England re-entered a lockdown on January 5, which includes the closure of pubs, restaurants, non-essential shops and schools to most pupils.
Further travel restrictions have been introduced.
In December, the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and has set itself the task of offering jabs to everyone 70 and older, those who are clinically vulnerable, frontline health and social care workers and older adults in care homes by mid-February.
A total of 6,853,327 people have now received a first dose and 472,446 a second dose.
Brighton Road reopens after car yard fire
Brighton Road at Somerton Park has been reopened to vehicles in both directions following a fire at a car-yard this morning.
Police and fire crews were called to the car yard near Brighton High School about 5.45am after a member of the public reported two cars on fire.
Fire crews quickly bought the blaze under control and the fire is being treated as suspicious.
Traffic on Brighton Road was initially restricted, with north bound vehicles diverted up Bowker Street and south bound down to one lane.
Ardern slams Australia’s snap border closure with NZ
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit out at the Australian government’s decision to suspend quarantine-free travel over a single locally-acquired COVID-19 case.
Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand has been suspended until at least Thursday, prompting a rebuke from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Ardern has told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that she is disappointed by the decision.
“I certainly shared my view that this was a situation that was well under control,” she told reporters yesterday.
“If we are to enter into a trans-Tasman bubble we will need to give people confidence that we won’t see closures at the border that happen with very short notice over incidents we believe can be well managed domestically.”
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the government’s minimum 72-hour closure on Monday.
The suspension came after a woman in New Zealand tested positive for a highly contagious virus strain found in South Africa.
It is the first local case in New Zealand in more than two months.
Australia again recorded zero locally acquired coronavirus cases yesterday, with just four cases detected in hotel quarantine.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told ABC radio that coronavirus vaccines would not trigger wholesale changes to restrictions when the rollout ramps up in coming months.
US Senate appoints new secretary of state
The US Senate has voted to confirm Antony Blinken as secretary of state, with lawmakers voting 78-22 in favour of the long-time foreign policy adviser.
Blinken has worked with US President Joe Biden for well over a decade, including when Biden was a senator leading the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Blinken also served as Biden’s national security adviser from 2009 to 2013 when he was vice president.
The 58-year-old began his career in the State Department during Bill Clinton’s administration.
He also served as deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state in the administration of Barack Obama.
Blinken is an outspoken advocate for the trans-Atlantic relationship and is expected to strengthen the United States’ ties with Europe from within the Biden administration.
Strikers sneak in to Big Bash finals
The Adelaide Strikers have snuck into the Big Bash League finals in fifth place to set up a knockout clash with Brisbane at the Gabba on Friday night following a final day of matches that gave seven of the eight teams a chance of qualifying for the major round.
Brisbane enter off the back of a crucial win over the Perth Scorchers at Adelaide Oval yesterday to reach their first finals in four years, while results allowed Adelaide to sneak into the fourth-and-fifth-place playoff.
The Strikers have beaten the Heat twice this season, including a two-run thriller at the Gabba but come off a big loss to the Sydney Thunder at Adelaide Oval on Monday night.
Chris Lynn and Alex Carey shape as keys for their teams at the top of the order while Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head have both been influential since returning from Test duties.
The winner will play third-placed Sydney Thunder in the Eliminator at Manuka Oval in Canberra on Sunday.
Top-ranked Sydney Sixers will play Perth Scorchers at Manuka on Saturday with the winner to qualify for the February 6 final. The loser will play the winner of the Eliminator, with that winner qualifying for the final.
The Sixers confirmed first place and home ground advantage for the finals with a five-wicket bonus point win over Melbourne Stars at the MCG last night.
The Stars needed to win the match and the bonus point to knock the Strikers out of fifth position but fell short.
Glenn Maxwell top scored for Melbourne with 66 from 41 balls as the home side reached 6-177 from its 20 overs. But steady knocks from James Vince (46), Moises Henriques (38), Jordan Silk (35 not out) and Dan Christian’s 49 not out from just 23 balls helped Sydney reel in the score with one ball to spare.
– with AAP and Reuters
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