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What we know today, Friday February 12

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Today’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad. Victorian police are calling for witnesses to a fatal three-truck crash near the SA-Victorian border on Thursday.

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Port Adelaide records loss of $4 million

Port Adelaide has reported a statutory loss of more than $4 million for last season, blowing out the AFL club’s overall debt to $12m.

The Power says its operating revenue dropped 32 per cent in the 12-month period ending October 31 last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Port cut its cost base by 31 per cent, some $17.86m, across the year as COVID-19 became “the greatest financial threat in the club’s history”, chairman David Koch said.

“We were forced to make some extremely tough decisions through 2020, which sadly meant farewelling some fantastic Port Adelaide people,” Koch said in a statement on Friday.

“That was a horrible reality for us in 2020 and it is a challenge the whole industry has had to deal with but decisions needed to be made to ensure our club was positioned to come through this extremely challenging time.

Port finished the season with additional borrowings of $4.275m, increasing its overall debt position to $12 million, he said.

The club incurred a statutory loss of $4,040,579.

Koch said core revenues in all areas were impacted, including significant gate and hospitality revenue reductions with only seven home games played before restricted crowd numbers.

“Whilst we suffered financially like most businesses during 2020, we saw continued growth from our football program, falling just short of a grand final appearance,” he said.

“The club is in a great position to challenge in 2021.

“Off the field … we finished 2020 materially better than we could have ever expected – 95 per cent of our members pledged their 2020 membership funds to the club despite the reduction of crowds at Adelaide Oval.

“Other important business metrics are also showing 2021 is looking much better for the club.

“Membership, hospitality and commercial partnerships are all tracking strongly against budget.”

Call for witnesses at border checkpoint crash

Victorian police are looking for witnesses to a fatal truck crash at the main COVID-19 border checkpoint with South Australia.

A truck driver was killed when his rig slammed into the back of another waiting at the checkpoint, which then hit a third truck about 2am on Thursday.

All three vehicles were engulfed in flames.

The driver of the first truck, a 46-year-old Parafield Gardens man, died at the scene.

The driver of the second as well as his passenger were hospitalised but have since been released, while the driver of the third truck was uninjured.

The crash happened just two hours after South Australia closed its border to travellers from greater Melbourne because of a COVID-19 cluster at the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel, which today grew to 13 cases and has prompted Victorian authorities to implement a five-day lockdown.

South Australian authorities on Thursday launched an investigation into the management of the border, while victorian detectives are looking for dashcam footage from the area around the time of the crash.

Police say road diversions are expected to be in place this weekend.

Victoria to enter five-day lockdown amid fears virus has travelled interstate

Victoria will be plunged into a new five-day lockdown from midnight tonight, with Premier Daniel Andrews declaring the state’s latest COVID outbreak was spreading at a rate “that’s not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of the last 12 months”.

Andrews announced the “circuit-breaker” was necessary to contain the Holiday Inn coronavirus outbreak, which now totals 13 cases, confirming the state will enter “stage four” restrictions at 11.59pm tonight.

People will only be able to leave their homes to shop for food and essential items, to provide or receive care, exercise, and work and study if they can’t from home.

The 5km limit on travel will also be reimposed, as will the compulsory use of masks both indoors and outdoors.

The Australian Open tennis tournament will continue without crowds.

The AFLW announced this morning that it has suspended all ticket sales for round 3, with four games scheduled in Victoria this weekend.

Andrews said the UK strain of the virus is “so hyper-infectious and moves so fast that it is presenting a very real challenge” for authorities.

“It is the advice to me that we must assume that there are further cases in the community than we have positive results for, and that it is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months,” he said.

Victoria recorded five new COVID-19 cases on Friday, all of which are connected to the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.

Read the full story here 

Holiday Inn cluster grows as new cases emerge

Victoria’s Holiday Inn quarantine hotel outbreak has grown to 13 with two more positive cases overnight as authorities work to identify additional exposure sites.

The latest infections linked to the Melbourne Airport hotel cluster were announced late on Thursday and are both household contacts of previously confirmed cases.

A new location has also been added to the list of Tier 1 exposure sites – Terminal 4 at Melbourne Airport between 4,45am and 1.15pm on Tuesday, February 4. Anyone who was at the location during that time must get tested and isolate for 14 days.

Three other people linked to the cluster tested positive for COVID-19 in Victoria yesterday.

They include a female assistant manager at the hotel and two men, both partners of female food and beverage attendants.

An undeclared nebuliser, used inside the room of an infected family of three, is the suspected cause of the outbreak.

Victoria’s COVID-19 testing boss Jeroen Weimar said authorities were “right on top” of the outbreak, picking up cases among identified contacts who had tested negative just days earlier.

His “working assumption” is the entire cluster has been infected with the more transmissible UK variant of COVID-19, complicating the containment job for officials.

“This is by no means over,” Weimar said.

“We are still in the opening quarter of the Holiday Inn outbreak, I’m afraid. We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

The emerging cluster has prompted several states to tighten their borders to travellers from greater Melbourne.

South Australia locked out travellers from the Victorian capital at midnight on Thursday, while Queensland will bar entry to visitors of the city’s exposure sites from 1am on Saturday.

Western Australia also announced its hard border to Victoria would be extended for at least another seven days.

In addition to strengthened interstate borders, the outbreak has forced the hotel’s closure, a pause on a planned increase to Victoria’s weekly international travellers cap and multiple health alerts for potential exposure sites.

Inquiry into fatal border crash set to continue

An inquiry launched by SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens into the death of a truck driver who slammed into other trucks queueing at a state border checkpoint early yesterday morning is set to continue today.

The Dukes Highway remains closed at the border of Victoria and South Australia and will be for most of today following the fatal crash just over the border.

Stevens told reporters yesterday afternoon that SA Police had deployed a traffic management expert, a planning expert and a senior police officer to the Bordertown checkpoint to conduct a safety assessment.

He said he had also launched a “commissioner’s inquiry” to “examine the circumstances in regards to how we’ve been managing our border checkpoints”.

It follows a serious crash involving three trucks five-kilometres east of the SA border about 2am, soon after SA authorities shut the border to greater Melbourne at midnight, prompting a surge of traffic trying to enter SA before the deadline.

Police said a truck drove into the rear of another truck that was stopped in a queue of vehicles, and that truck in turn smashed into a third truck ahead of it.

All three trucks burst into flames. The collision killed one truck driver, with two others in a stable condition in hospital.

Stevens described the incident as “incredibly sad”, but refused to say whether the conditions at the checkpoint contributed to the driver’s death.

“I think we should conduct our inquiries and provide factual information based on the information that we’re able to obtain and be clear in our assessment as to what the circumstances were,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be called on whether or not the arrangements in place were adequate or not, but I have ensured that we will do a proper inquiry alongside the work being done by Victoria Police to provide a factual assessment of exactly what’s transpired and what the causative factors were.”

It comes as South Australian authorities announced they would remove testing requirements for travellers from New South Wales and Western Australia from midnight Saturday.

But anyone who travels into South Australia who has COVID-19 symptoms should immediately self-isolate and get tested.

Marshall said South Australia’s festival season was on schedule to run as planned, despite the border restrictions with greater Melbourne.

Figures reveal record Australian retail booze binge

Australians ‘got on the beers’ like never before during the pandemic last year, drinking an unprecedented amount of alcohol and bumping retail alcohol sales to record levels.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows supermarkets, take-away shops, hardware stores and the like turned over a record $15.6 billion in alcohol sales in 2020.

That’s an increase of 26.7 per cent or $3.3 billion more than in 2019.

In comparison, alcohol sales grew by $195 million between 2018 and 2019 – about six per cent of the increase recorded between 2019 and 2020.

Predatory marketing targeting Australians during a time of heightened anxiety is to blame, chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education Caterina Giorgi says.

“During COVID-19 we’ve seen alcohol retailers and online delivery companies engage in prolific marketing that promotes using alcohol as a way to cope during the pandemic,” she said.

“The increase seen by alcohol retailers suggests it’s working for them.”

Alcohol sales spiked in all months impacted by the pandemic, but May saw the biggest increase with turnover almost one and half times 2019 levels.

In December alone alcohol retail stores, 65 per cent of which are owned by supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths, turned over almost $2 billion, making it the highest-earning month in Australian history.

The whopping increase is great for retailers, Giorgi says, but pretty terrible for Australian health outcomes.

“Companies should not be able to use a global health crisis as an opportunity to sell more alcoholic products at the detriment of the health of Australians,” she said.

Demetriou quits Crown board in wake of damning report

Former AFL chief Andrew Demetriou is the latest to step down from the Crown Resorts board, making him the fourth director to fall on his sword following a scathing review of the casino giant.

Chief executive Ken Barton looked set to become the third director to head for the exit on Thursday, with reports he agreed to step down after meeting with the company’s chair Helen Coonan.

Demetriou also tendered his resignation on Thursday, The Australian reported, saying in a statement he was stepping down “to give Crown the best possible chance of becoming suitable to the NSW regulator”.

“In taking this decision I believe the comments directed at me in the report are unfair and unjust and I will defend my reputation at every opportunity,” he said.

Barton and Demetriou would have to leave the company for it to have a chance of keeping the licence for its Sydney casino, the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority chair suggested on Thursday.

ILGA chair Philip Crawford said on Thursday it was “obvious” from reading a damning inquiry report that Barton and Demetriou needed to make a swift exit.

“More people have got to go,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

Victoria’s gaming regulator said on Thursday it would write to both men and demand they explain why they remain suitable to be close associates of Crown Melbourne.

The report from Commissioner Patricia Bergin found Crown is not currently fit to run the new casino at Sydney’s Barangaroo. It singled out Barton and Demetriou for particular criticism.

Coonan on Thursday promised “root and branch” changes to satisfy the ILGA it could be trusted to run the casino.

The ILGA board will meet to discuss the report today.

China bans BBC World News

British television channel BBC World News has been barred from airing in China, the National Radio and Television Administration has said, a week after the UK media regulator revoked Chinese state television’s broadcast licence.

In a statement issued on the stroke of the Lunar New Year, the administration said an investigation concluded that BBC World News’ China-related reports had “seriously violated” regulations including that news should be “truthful and fair,” had harmed China’s interests and undermined national unity.

The channel, therefore, does not meet requirements for foreign channels broadcasting in China and its application to air for another year will not be accepted, it added.

English-language BBC World News is not included in most TV channel packages in China but is available in some hotels and residences.

China’s move was condemned by British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and the US State Department, while the BBC said it was “disappointed”.

“China’s decision to ban BBC World News in mainland China is an unacceptable curtailing of media freedom,” Raab said.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the decision, adding: “It’s troubling that as (China) restricts outlets and platforms from operating freely in China, Beijing’s leaders use free and open media environments overseas to promote misinformation.”

Earlier this month, the State Department said it was “deeply disturbed” by reports carried by the BBC of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

China denies accusations of abuses in Xinjiang and said the BBC report was “wholly without factual basis”.

The BBC said it was disappointed by China’s decision, adding the BBC “is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour”.

On February 4, British media regulator Ofcom revoked China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in the United Kingdom after an investigation concluded the licence was wrongfully held by Star China Media Ltd.

Democrats turn up heat ahead of Trump’s impeachment defence

House Democrats prosecuting Donald Trump’s impeachment say the US Capitol invaders believed they were are acting on “the president’s orders” to storm the building.

The prosecutors are wrapping up their opening presentation on Thursday, describing in stark terms the horror they faced that day and drilling down on the public instructions Trump gave his supporters – both in the weeks before the January 6 attack and at his midday rally before a mob assaulted the Capitol.

They presented videos of rioters, some posted to social medial by the rioters themselves, talking about how they were doing it all for Trump.

“They truly believed that the whole intrusion was at the president’s orders,” Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado said.

“The president told them to be there.”

Trump’s lawyers will launch their defence on Friday.

At the White House, President Joe Biden said he believed “some minds may be changed” after senators saw chilling security video on Wednesday of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, including of rioters searching menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.

Biden said he didn’t watch any of the previous day’s proceedings live but later saw news coverage.

Democrats are using their remaining hours of arguments to lay out the physical and mental harm caused by the attack, discuss Trump’s lack of action as it unfolded and do a final presentation on the legal issues involved.

Walker warning as festival season looms

More than 1500 pedestrians were caught breaking road rules last year, sparking an RAA warning for walkers and drivers to pay extra attention during the looming festival season.

Latest police figures show pedestrian offences jumped from 1385 in 2018 to 1578 in 2020 – a 14 per cent increase – that resulted in 924 cautions and 654 fines worth $75,740.

According to the figures obtained by RAA, the most common pedestrian offences last year were running a red light (804), staying on the road longer than necessary (154) and obstructing the path of a driver or other pedestrian (144)

RAA road safety spokesman Matt Vertudaches said pedestrians were particularly vulnerable in a collision with a vehicle.

He said the latest figures showed 69 pedestrians were killed, 294 suffered serious injury and another 1440 required some medical treatment after being hit by a vehicle between 2015 and 2019.

“Police figures also show almost one in five of these pedestrian casualties occurred in the Adelaide CBD during this period,” Vertudaches said.

“Among the worst locations were the Hindley and Hutt street entertainment strips, the northern end of King William Street, outside the Adelaide Railway station and the public transport bus corridor of Currie and Grenfell streets.’’

Vertudaches said many of the offences were detected between 10pm Saturday night and 1am Sunday morning.’’

He also warned road users of the dangers of distraction caused by electronic devices, including mobiles phones, and the prevalence of e-scooter riders.

“This is particularly important to remember during the upcoming festivities, as many more people are out and about and attending events, which often involve alcohol,” he said.

“E-scooter riders need to remember they must wear helmets and give way to pedestrians, and are restricted to footpaths while also being restricted to the same alcohol limits as motorists.”

with AAP and Reuters

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