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What we know today, Monday February 22


Today’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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Victoria to launch Royal Commission into Crown Resorts

The Victorian government has called a Royal Commission into Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino operations.

It follows the release of the Bergin report in NSW earlier this month, which found Crown facilitated money laundering through subsidiaries’ bank accounts and failed to act when it was drawn to their attention.

Victorian Gaming Minister Melissa Horne said the state government had gone through the 800-page report line by line and decided a royal commission was needed.

“The findings in there were so severe that the most appropriate action to protect Victorian interests was the establishment of a royal commission,” she told reporters on Monday.

Former Federal Court judge Raymond Finkelstein will take on the role of royal commissioner overseeing the inquiry.

He is expected to report back as early as August and no later than the end of the year.

It is estimated to cost Victorian taxpayers $5 to $7 million.

Urgent recall for fruit fly produce in SA

The discovery of fruit fly larvae in produce transported into South Australia from Victoria has prompted an urgent recall.

The detection also comes as SA continues to battle a number of serious fruit fly outbreaks across Adelaide and at Renmark in the state’s Riverland.

Department of Primary Industries and Regions executive director of biosecurity Nathan Rhodes said larvae had been reported in stone fruit purchased from a variety of retail outlets including Aldi, Coles, Woolworths and a local farmer’s market.

“The department is investigating this incident in liaison with Agriculture Victoria including the treatment of this fruit prior to its shipment into the state,” he said.

“With the state responding to a series of fruit fly outbreaks across metropolitan Adelaide and the Riverland, the situation is being closely monitored.”

However, Rhodes said the latest detections did not constitute an outbreak of fruit fly under the National Fruit Fly Code of Practice.

“In this instance, quick action from the public have alerted us to this issue however we are regarding this incident with a great deal of seriousness and as a result there has been a withdrawal of affected produce from shelves,” he said.

“We are working with affected distributors to make sure this happens as quickly as possible.

“The department is following up as to why the pre-delivery treatment of this fruit under the interstate certification assurance process seems to have failed in this instance.”

Until the investigation is complete, controls have been put in place on future consignments from the affected suppliers.

Fourth woman accuses ex-staffer of assault

A fourth woman has come forward to allege she was sexually assaulted by the same political staffer accused of raping a colleague inside Parliament House.

The woman alleges the former Liberal Party staffer reached under the table to stroke her thigh at a Canberra bar in 2017.

She has filed a report at a police station in Canberra and will make a formal statement later this week.

The woman came forward to the ABC after Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by the man in 2019.

Two other women – a Liberal staffer, and a former party volunteer – have also alleged they were sexually assaulted by him.

Operator of fatal Royal Adelaide Show ride testifies

An amusement attraction operator left his control booth to get a bottle of water minutes before the start of a showground ride in Adelaide that claimed the life of an eight-year-old girl.

C J And Sons Amusement operator Brandon Miller testified via video link on Monday as part of the inquest into the death of Adelene Leong, who was flung out of the AirMaxx 360 ride at the 2014 Royal Adelaide Show at 100km/h after slipping out of her safety harness.

Miller told the inquest that one of his responsibilities was to do a final check of the size of people boarding the AirMaxx 360.

He told the court that two-to-three minutes before the fatal ride he left the booth to get some water from the office while passengers disembarked and new passengers boarded, but was back before the ride began.

Miller said that the only people trusted to run the AirMaxx 360 when he took breaks were the co-owners, who were both away on that day.

A pair of attendants were tasked with checking that passengers’ safety harnesses and seatbelts were fastened.

The court last week heard that Adelene’s mother, who watched the incident from ground level, had to alert attendants that her daughter was not properly strapped in before the ride began.

Miller also said he could not recall that the measuring post for the ride recommended a 120cm minimum to ride, despite the machine’s user manual specifying a 140cm limit.

Adelene was 137cm tall.

The court heard that Miller was advised by Worksafe Victoria to increase the minimum height to 130cm following a neck injury to a child at the Royal Melbourne Show prior to the Adelaide accident.

The company reset the limit to 120cm for following shows.

In a police statement, Miller previously claimed that he advised patrons not to ride the AirMaxx360 if they only cleared the minimum height limit by less than 5cm, as he was concerned about their safety.

He told the Adelaide Coroners Court that aside from height limits he exercised “common sense” on who to admit onto the ride, which he says is typical practice across the industry.

“Obviously if someone had approached the ride and they were of a small body structure, thin physique, it’s concerning for them to ride,” he said.

“It’s about more than just height.”

SA on track to lift Melbourne border restrictions

South Australia remains on track to ease COVID-19 travel restrictions for people from Melbourne on Thursday, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens says.

The travel ban will be the key topic at a meeting of the state’s transition committee on Tuesday.

“All the indications are that we will be able to relax those restrictions, Stevens told reporters this morning.

“Exactly what that stepdown will look like will be decided at the transition committee.

“It may be a requirement for testing or it may be a complete release.”

Under the existing arrangements, people coming from the greater Melbourne area are not permitted to enter SA.

Exemptions are provided to returning local residents, people relocating permanently and essential travellers.

People from regional Victoria can come to SA and can transit through Melbourne Airport, provided they are in the terminal for less than two hours and wear a mask.

Stevens said SA’s transition committee would also look at possible changes to local coronavirus restrictions, including those impacting large gatherings and events.

Deputy PM blasts ‘disgusting’ tennis boos

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has savaged Australian Open fans for booing the president of Tennis Australia after she mentioned coronavirus vaccines.

Jayne Hrdlicka was making a speech following Novak Djokovic’s win in the men’s singles finals when the crowd because restless.

When Hrdklicka spoke about vaccines, the crowd unleashed a chorus of boos.

“I think it was rather disgusting behaviour,” McCormack told reporters on Monday.

“I don’t like booing at any event, and certainly any sporting event.”

Hrdlicka was booed again after thanking the Victorian government.

She had to pause repeatedly to let the crowd settle down.

“Well that’s not Australian. I’m sorry, that is just un-Australian,” McCormack said.

“This vaccine is going to get our country back to some sort of pre-COVID normality.”

The deputy prime minister said Hrdlicka had done great things for Australia during the pandemic, both in her role at the tennis governing body and as managing director of Virgin Australia.

McCormack’s views are directly at odds with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had his own brush with booing crowds at the Australian Open.

Morrison described booing the prime minister at sporting events as a “great tradition” after tennis crowds jeered him in 2019.

The prime minister joked the crowd was probably protesting a line call when an image of him on the big screen at Rod Laver Arena drew verbal volleys.

“It’s a great tradition. I would be disappointed if they didn’t,” he said at the time.

First COVID-19 vaccines in South Australia

South Australia’s first vaccinations for COVID-19 have been administered with the premier and senior officials among the first to be jabbed.

The long-awaited rollout began this morning with SA targeting frontline workers in the initial phase, after 4000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived on Sunday.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier, Premier Steven Marshall and Police Commissioner Grant Stevens were among the first to receive vaccinations.

Spurrier said she was “so excited” that the vaccination program was underway.

“It’s been a gruelling 12 months for so many of us,” she said.

“People have lost their jobs, we’ve had business impacted and the border closures have had such a profound effect on so many South Australians.

“With this vaccine, it’s the next step in being able to prevent this pandemic and the effects that it has had on our society.”

Spurrier said she had full confidence in the safety of the jab and urged as many people as possible to take part.

“I feel very privileged to be among the first people in Australia to receive this vaccine,” she said.

Of SA’s initial supply, 3000 doses will be distributed from the Royal Adelaide Hospital and 1000 from the Flinders Medical Centre.

Among the first frontline workers to take part was nurse Annabel Thomas who has worked in Adelaide’s quarantine hotels and who also spent time in Victoria during Melbourne’s second-wave of infections last year.

“I can’t stress enough to all South Australians that vaccination is a vital part of getting back to life pre-COVID,” she said.

“I’d strongly suggest everyone be a part of this program.”

Marshall said the vaccine program was vital to ensure South Australia could continue to enjoy a low level of restrictions.

“What we’ve also seen so far from other jurisdictions is that as they roll out the vaccine they are massively reducing those people who are needing critical care,” he said.

“We’ve seen some devastating scenes around the world. We don’t want those scenes here in South Australia.”

PM kicks off huge Australian vaccination campaign

Australia’s largest-ever vaccine rollout will officially start today after Scott Morrison led a small band of people to get the nation’s first COVID-19 jabs.

Sixteen hubs have been set up across the country so that health and border control workers, and aged care residents and their carers can get the Pfizer vaccine, starting Monday.

The prime minister was one of 20 people to get the jab at a Sydney medical centre on Sunday, in what Morrison described as the “curtain raiser” to the full rollout.

He joined Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan getting vaccinated, along with two aged-care residents, aged carers, health workers and defence personnel.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians claimed a landmark day for a successful Australian COVID-19 rollout strategy.

“Today marks an incredible achievement in our battle against the global COVID-19 pandemic,” college president John Wilson said.

“The vaccines being rolled out have gone through rigorous approval processes by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is one of the best regulators of its kind in the world.”

Pfizer’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Anne Harris, hailed Sunday as “momentous … for Australians, for science, and a proud day for Pfizer”.

She said Pfizer had already delivered more than 80 million doses of vaccine in 60 countries and had a 99.9 per cent success rate in getting them to their destination within the required temperate of -70 degrees.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed he and the head of the Health Department and former chief medical officer Brendan Murphy will get the alternative AstraZeneca jab when it becomes available at a later date.

The rollout commences with around 60,000 Pfizer vaccine doses to be administered to priority groups.

The government is committed to offer COVID-19 vaccines to all Australians by the end of October.

Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines require two separate doses for a person to be fully immunised – Pfizer 21 days apart and AstraZeneca 12 weeks apart.

There were no locally acquired COVID-19 cases reported across the country on Sunday, but there were three infections in NSW quarantine, two in South Australia and one in Western Australia.

Third woman alleges rape by former Liberal staffer

A third woman has come forward to allege she was sexually assaulted by the same political staffer accused of raping a colleague inside Parliament House.

The woman says she was assaulted while working as a coalition volunteer during the 2016 election campaign.

She was barely out of school at the time of the attack, which allegedly occurred after a night out drinking with the then-political staffer.

A second woman came forward over the weekend.

The allegations come as Brittany Higgins, who says she was raped inside a parliamentary office in 2019, prepares to make a statement to Australian Federal Police.

Higgins was employed by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds at the time of the alleged assault.

Senator Reynolds and Prime Minister Scott Morrison are expected to face more questions about when they found out about the complaint and what they did to assist Ms Higgins when parliament resumes on Monday.

The alleged rape has sparked several inquiries into workplace cultures in Parliament House and the coalition.

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon said the cultural problem was one for men — not women — to fix.

“Men have to understand that if they do these things the full force of the law will come down upon them,” he told Network Seven.

Novak hits back at critics with crushing Australian Open win

World No.1 Novak Djokovic has taken aim at his detractors after capturing his ninth Australian Open title last night following a tumultuous month in Melbourne.

Djokovic thumped Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-2 6-2 in Sunday night’s final before taking aim at his critics.

The Serb, who served his 14-day quarantine in Adelaide,  was savaged pre-tournament for detailing a list of so-called quarantine demands for the 72 players holed up in hard lockdown in Melbourne, then accused of exaggerating an abdominal injury during his five-set third-round win over Taylor Fritz.

“Emotionally (this) was one of hardest tournaments I had, to be honest, with quarantine and a lot of things happening in the media,” the world No.1 told Nine after the win.

“The letter that I wrote, ideas and recommendations that I got from players was misinterpreted as my request and list of demands.

“Then the next thing you know within a couple of days I’m persona non grata in this country.

“I got injured in the third round. It was a rollercoaster ride if I can define it in one word. I think it makes it even sweeter for me.”

Djokovic maintained he tore a stomach muscle against Fritz, and that the injury still hadn’t fully healed.

“I wanted to keep things quiet and clear for me in terms of talking about the injury or any other stuff. Just keeping it to tennis,” the Serb said.

“Once the tournament is done, I mean, (I can say) it’s a muscle tear. It was a muscle tear at that point.

The 33-year-old said he spent countless hours in between matches having treatment so he could keep going.

Djokovic said he simply must have greater powers of recovery than most.

“I guess we’re all different. I have maybe a great ability to heal,” he said.

The one-sided victory edged Djokovic to within two majors of the men’s all-time record of 20 shared by tennis titans Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic will surpass Federer’s record 310 weeks as world No.1 next month and it seems inevitable he’ll also move past the superstar Swiss on the majors leaderboard as he, Federer and Nadal continue to jostle for all-time greatest status.

Medvedev had been undefeated since last October and beat Djokovic in three of the pair’s previous four meetings.

But the Russian was no match for Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena, where the relentless Serb remains unconquered in nine finals and 42 outings as world No.1.

Tributes flow for Christchurch quake victims 10 years on

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will lead tributes today for the 185 who lost their lives 10 years ago in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

First responders and community members will read each of their names at a memorial service held in the heart of the city at the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.

A minute’s silence will be observed at 12.51pm which marks a decade precisely since the devastating quake.

The memorial is designed to remember the lost, hailing from 20 countries.

The 10-year commemoration will coincide with the first match in a five-game T20 cricket series between Australia and new Zealand.

Today’s game, which starts at 4.30pm Adelaide time, is the first night match held at Hagley Oval, Christchurch’s Test venue since the Canterbury earthquake damaged Lancaster Park.

Opposing captains Kane Williamson and Aaron Finch will spend part of their day laying a wreath at a memorial service.

The new venue’s lights are another mark of progress, and of the city’s pride.

As a result, the picturesque 18,000-capacity ground – which is surrounded by lush green hills – has been sold out for weeks.

Trans-Tasman clashes are especially significant for Kiwi fans because they don’t tend to win them.

New Zealand has just one Test win over Australia since 1993, and none on home soil during that time.

They’ve been slightly more successful in one-day internationals, winning the last two home series 2-1, but still trail Australia miserably, 92 to 39, in the all-time head-to-head.

Man killed in Forreston farm crash

A Forreston man has died after a four-wheeled utility vehicle crashed into a fence on a private property in the Adelaide Hills last night.

Police and Paramedics were called to the farm on Martin Hill Road, Forrseton, at 9.30pm after reports of a crash involving an all-terrain utility vehicle.

The vehicle containing three people had collided with a fence and a post, critically injuring a 56-year-old man who died at the scene.

The two other people in the vehicle at the time of the crash were not injured.

Major Crash Investigators have attended to assist the investigation.

with AAP and Reuters

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