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What we know today, Monday March 1


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

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New ambulance ramping issues across Adelaide

There are renewed concerns over ambulance ramping in Adelaide, with wait times for some patients reaching more than 80 hours today.

The SA Ambulance Employees Association says there were also 20 emergency cases overnight for which there was no ambulance to call out to, and is once again calling out the government for a lack of resources.

“Ramping worsens an already under resourced ambulance service,” The AEA said in a post on Twitter.

“Even without ramping the SA Ambulance does not have enough ambulances to meet the needs of the South Australian community.”

SA Ambulance overnight declared an “Opstat White” event, meaning “Operational capacity, capability and/or resources are insufficient to maintain effective service delivery for high acuity cases”. 

The scenes are similar to last Monday where all hospitals in the Adelaide metropolitan area went code white – the highest pressure rating on the hospital system.

It comes amidst a dispute between the ambulance union and Ambulance Service Chief Executive David Place about the manner in which paramedics speak out about the provision of health services.

Place last week said he “can’t necessarily protect” paramedics who breach the public service code of ethics and come under scrutiny from ICAC, prompting accusations from the union he was delivering an “implied threat”. 

The ICAC Ann Vanstone QC later said it would be “highly unlikely” for her to get involved in such a case.

The ongoing ramping issues also come as the government and union continue protracted industrial negotiations which have reached nearly four years without an outcome.

Housing prices skyrocketing at rates not seen since 2003

House prices jumped 2.1 per cent in February, their largest national monthly rise since August 2003, spurred on by record low mortgage rates, improving economic conditions and government incentives.

Housing analysts CoreLogic say housing values are rising across every capital city and state region, a synchronised growth phase that hasn’t been seen in Australia for more than a decade.

The last time this occurred for a sustained period was mid-2009 through to early 2010, as post-GFC stimulus fuelled buyer demand, CoreLogic’s research director Tim Lawless said.

The CoreLogic national home value index showed Sydney and Melbourne were among the strongest markets in the month, rising 2.5 per cent and and 2.1 per cent respectively, as Australia’s two largest cities caught up from weaker performances through 2020.

Lawless said both cities are still recording values below their earlier peaks and it is unclear whether this new found growth can be sustained.

“However, at this current rate of appreciation it won’t be long before Australia’s two most expensive capital city markets are moving through new record highs,” he said.

“With household incomes expected to remain subdued and stimulus winding down, it is likely affordability will once again become a challenge in these cities.”

Adelaide recorded a 0.8 per cent rise in housing prices, the lowest increase for any capital city except Darwin (0.7 per cent).

Regional markets were 2.1 per cent up over February, remaining ahead of their capital cities counterparts, up two per cent.

Regional areas generally recorded less of a decline in housing values through the worst of the COVID period last year, while also showing an earlier and stronger growth trend through the second half of last year.

This regional preference is reflected in the annual growth rate, where the combined regionals index was 9.4 per cent higher while the combined capital city index is up by a much smaller 2.6 per cent.

Trump hints at 2024 presidential run

Former US President Donald Trump has hinted at a possible run for president again in 2024, attacked President Joe Biden, and repeated his fraudulent claims that he won the 2020 election in his first major appearance since leaving the White House nearly six weeks ago.

“Our movement of proud, hard-working American patriots is just getting started, and in the end we will win. We will win,” Trump said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Refusing to admit he lost the November 3 presidential election to Joe Biden, Trump offered a withering critique of his Democratic successor’s first weeks in office and suggested he might run again.

“They just lost the White House,” the Republican former president said after criticising Biden’s handling of border security.

“But who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”

Read. the full story here

Second federal MP facing rape allegations

Both major federal parties are facing rape allegations against a man in their ranks after police were provided an email from a woman who claims she was raped by a serving Labor MP.

Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson last night revealed she had sent the email to the Australian Federal Police.

“I forwarded to the Australian Federal Police an email I received (Sunday) afternoon from a woman alleging she has been raped by a man who is now a Federal Labor Member of Parliament,” she said in a statement on Twitter.

Henderson said she passed on the email in line with advice from the head of the AFP, who last week urged all MPs to swiftly report alleged criminal misconduct as to avoid “obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice or administration of the law”.

The AFP confirmed they received a complaint relating to an historical sexual assault but would not comment further.

It comes as Scott Morrison faces increasing pressure to respond to historical rape allegations against one of his cabinet ministers.

The prime minister, Labor senator Penny Wong and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young received a letter on Friday alleging the sexual assault took place in 1988 against a woman who took her own life last year.

Two more MPs, Labor’s Daniel Mulino and Liberal MP Celia Hammond, have revealed to the ABC they read the letter as well.

That letter is in the hands of the AFP.

Senator Hanson-Young believes the minister must stand aside pending an independent investigation by an eminent former judge.

“It is just not right to suggest that this type of allegation could linger, hang over the heads of the entire cabinet,” she told ABC radio on Monday.

“Sitting around that table erodes the trust the integrity and belief that this government takes sexual assault seriously.”

Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley, who represented the woman when she took the complaint to police, questioned whether the minister could do his job with his integrity under question.

“I think he will have to stand aside, at the moment at least, because he’s been accused of such a grave crime,” Bradley told Nine newspapers.

“It’s untenable for him not to, I would think. It’s not really a legal question, it’s a question of propriety.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it was up to the prime minister to consider what to do with the cabinet minister at the centre of the allegations.

Albanese said the allegations needed to be investigated appropriately and not politically managed.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull also weighed in, calling for a coronial inquiry into the woman’s death.

Speaking at Adelaide Writers’ Week yesterday, Turnbull revealed the woman had written to him and his wife Lucy in December 2019 seeking their advice.

“She described a pretty horrific rape that she said had occurred at the hands of this person, a person she said is now in the cabinet,” Turnbull said, describing the allegation as incredibly serious.

“One of the things she noted, I might say, is that she’d kept extensive diaries. She mentioned that she had a lawyer and was talking to the NSW police.”

This development comes after a parliamentary sitting fortnight that was dominated by an alleged sexual assault on a then Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins by a male colleague.

Three other women have also come forward accusing the same man of attacks on them.

Quizzed by journalists, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the AFP commissioner had made it clear these were matters for the police and strongly discouraged commentary.

Four inquiries are underway, including a multi-party investigation aimed at ensuring parliament is a safe working environment.

SA single-use plastics ban comes into force

South Australia’s ban on single-use plastics comes into force today, with cutlery, drinking straws and stirrers all prohibited from sale and distribution across the state.

Under the new rules, an individual selling, supplying or distributing the banned single-use plastics could face a fine of $315, while fines of $1000 or a maximum court penalty of $20,000 could apply for more serious breaches.

Implementation of the ban, which passed state parliament in September last year, was delayed to give businesses more time to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the first ban of its kind in Australia, and it will be closely monitored by other jurisdictions with Victoria looking to institute a similar ban in 2023 and the Queensland Government tabling legislation on the matter in December 2020.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the ban is the only the first phase, with the government looking at more plastics to prohibit in future.

“We will continue to consider more products such as takeaway coffee cups, plastic barrier bags and other takeaway food service items as market demand increases and other sustainable alternatives become available,” Speirs said.

“We are protecting our environment for future generations, reducing marine and other litter, and promoting the circular economy with a shift away from a single-use, throwaway mindset.”

Polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and clamshell containers will be banned from 2022, while more widely used plastic items like coffee cups and shopping bags will be subject to further community consultation.

Speirs added that the policy had been developed with extensive consultation, ensuring exemptions apply for people with a disability or health need.

“Our legislation has been developed with the help of our Single-Use Plastics Taskforce which has representation from 15 different organisations, including people living with a disability,” he said.

“This consultation has enabled us to develop an exemption so that single-use plastic drinking straws can be accessed by people who require them due to a disability or health need.”

Designated businesses, like dentists, pharmacies and charities, will be able to provide single-use straws to clients for this purpose.

Bruce McAvaney retires from football commentary

Commentary icon Bruce McAvaney has called his last AFL game, announcing his retirement from Channel Seven’s football coverage.

Apart from a five-year absence between 2002 and 2006 when Seven lost the TV rights, McAvaney has been at the front of the AFL’s free-to-air coverage.

He has been behind the microphone for more than a thousand games, including 20 AFL grand finals, and formed a special partnership with Dennis Cometti.

“I felt like I got to a stage in my career where I had to reduce my workload,” the 67-year-old told Seven News.

McAvaney, who still lives in Adelaide after starting his career here in 1978, bows out of football coverage on the eve of the 2021 season, but will continue on TV in other roles.

The versatile McAvaney will lead the network’s horse racing productions and be involved in this year’s Tokyo Olympics in July, where he shines in track and field coverage.

Despite battling leukaemia since 2017, McAvaney stressed his decision to step away from the AFL commentary was not health-related.

“I’m certainly not anything close to retirement, it’s just a new phase, where I cut back slightly,” he said.

“Anything I’m asked to do now I’m going to do with the same enthusiasm and same commitment.”

The last game he called was the 2020 AFL Grand Final between Richmond and Geelong.

“I’m going to miss it enormously, I just visualise when Richmond and Carlton run out there in round one and the ball is bounced, I’m going to climb a wall somewhere,” he said.

“I’m going to have to move on and just be a fan like everyone else.”

Tributes for McAvaney’s football commentary career poured in on Twitter as fans recalled their favourite moments with him behind the microphone.

At least 18 killed in Myanmar protests: UN

Myanmar has suffered its bloodiest day of protests against a military coup in the country, with at least 18 people killed, the UN Human Rights Office says.

Police opened fire in different parts of the biggest city of Yangon on Sunday after stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up crowds. Soldiers also reinforced police.

Wounded people were hauled away by fellow protesters, leaving blood on the pavements. One man died after being brought to a hospital with a bullet in the chest, a doctor said.

“Throughout the day, in several locations throughout the country, police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force,” the UN Human Rights Office said in a statement.

The office said at least 18 people were dead and more than 30 were wounded on Sunday, based on credible information it had received.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the army seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on February 1, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.

The coup, which brought a halt to tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, has drawn hundreds of thousands onto the streets.

Western countries have condemned the coup and some have imposed limited sanctions.

“We are heartbroken to see the loss of so many lives in Myanmar. People should not face violence for expressing dissent against the military coup. Targeting of civilians is abhorrent,” the US embassy said on Sunday.

Britain said the escalating violence against protesters was abhorrent and it called on the country’s military leaders to restore democracy.

“Working with the US and Canada, the UK has taken action by imposing human rights sanctions against nine Myanmar military officers, including the commander-in-chief, for their role in the coup,” a spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office said.

“We are clear that this violence must stop and democracy must be restored.”

More than 20 million vaccinated in the UK

More than 20 million people in the UK have now been given their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, representing nearly 30 per cent of the country.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock says it’s a “magnificent achievement for the country”.

“I want to thank every single person who’s come forward to get the jab,” he said in a video posted to Twitter.

“Every jab in the arm is another life soon to be protected from this awful disease and means we are a step closer to returning to our normal lives.”

It comes as nearly two million people aged 60 to 63 in England are being invited to book a coronavirus jab.

More than three in four people aged 65 to 70 took up the offer of a vaccination, the National Health Service said.

The UK administered its first vaccine on December 8 last year, with 800,000 in the country having received a second dose of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, British health authorities have identified the UK’s first cases of the Manaus variant of coronavirus, a new strain that may spread more rapidly and may respond less well to existing vaccines.

Up to six cases of the concerning variant first detected in the Brazilian city have been identified in Britain, three in England and three in Scotland, it emerged on Sunday.

There are concerns that the existing vaccines may be less effective against the Manaus strain, although more research is needed.

In Australia, the first 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived on Sunday and will be administered next week subject to batch approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Rex launch new Adelaide route amid Qantas competition

Country airline Regional Express will soon fly to Adelaide and the Gold Coast in a bid to challenge Qantas and Virgin Australia on more big-city routes.

Rex will today begin offering Melbourne-Adelaide, Sydney-Gold Coast and Melbourne-Gold Coast routes from April 1.

The Melbourne-Adelaide route will be twice daily and start at $69 for economy class, according to Executive Traveller.

It comes a week after Rex cut its Adelaide to Kangaroo Island route, blaming the decision on “aggressive predatory moves” by rival Qantas in the regional market.

Rex’s first Melbourne-Sydney flights are also planned for Monday morning. Rex added the route, Australia’s most popular, late last year to muscle in on the capital city market that is dominated by Qantas and Virgin.

The regional airline had previously planned to launch Sydney-Brisbane flights next to add a second route that was highly popular with business travellers.

But it says it will instead launch the more leisure-oriented Adelaide and Gold Coast routes in time for the Easter long weekend in early April.

Rex, which until now operated only ageing 30- to 36-seat turboprops on routes like Sydney-Wagga Wagga, is using six leased Boeing 737-800s that used to fly with Virgin to take on the incumbent players.

Rex took advantage of the pandemic downturn to sign cut-rate leases and cheaper staff contracts than its rivals.

It raised up to $150 million from PAG Asia Capital to launch the operations, which Rex says if successful could expand to other routes and as many as 40 planes by 2022.

Before the pandemic, Qantas’ Sydney-Melbourne route was the second-biggest revenue generator for any airline globally, contributing $861 million in 2018.

But off-and-on state border closures due to the pandemic have dented traffic demand and passenger confidence.

Rex has already cancelled some of its initial flight frequencies despite having offered one-way economy class tickets from just $49, in a deal that Qantas then undercut with $29 fares on budget airline Jetstar.

Rex said on Friday its big-city operations were not expected to be profitable in the financial year ending June 30, although they could be in the following year if the domestic recovery is strong.

Redbacks fall one-wicket short of first Shield win

South Australia fell agonisingly short of their first Sheffield Shield win of the season last night, taking all but one of Western Australia’s ten wickets on a drama-filled final day of play at the WACA ground.

WA finished at 9-148, leaving them 184 runs short of victory but thrilled to come away with the draw. Tail-enders Cameron Gannon and Liam O’Connor played heroic roles with the bat after the home side collapsed to 5-55 and 7-122 chasing 332 for victory.

Hilton Cartwright (25 off 122 balls) shook off a painful back injury to keep the Redbacks at bay, but his dismissal with 5.5 overs left in the day had WA on the verge of defeat.

The Warriors slumped to 9-143 when Liam Guthrie departed for a six-ball duck, leaving Gannon and O’Connor with 23 balls to see off in order to secure a draw.

Gannon (13 not out off 65 balls) did his job to a tee, but O’Connor (0 not out off 11 balls) was left the face the entire final over against paceman Chad Sayers.

O’Connor saw off the first five balls of the over with ease, but it was heart-in-mouth stuff as the final ball of the match struck his bat and popped up towards point.

The ball fell just short of the fielder, with Redbacks players left to rue the near miss.

The Redbacks had young paceman David Grant (4-38) to thank for giving them a chance to secure victory.

Grant, aged 23 and playing his first Shield game since 2017, shifted momentum in a single over during the post-lunch session.

The right-armer removed Cameron Bancroft and Cameron Green, who both reached three figures in WA’s first innings, in the space of three deliveries.

Test allrounder Green was trapped lbw for a second-ball duck, while Bancroft (30) cut a wide delivery to Henry Hunt at point.

Daniel Worrall (4-30) ripped through the middle and lower order to give WA a late fright.

Earlier, half-centuries from Alex Carey and Harry Nielsen helped SA declare at 9-230 during the morning session.

SA resumed at 4-142 on day four, holding a 243-run lead.

Carey (82 not out) and Nielsen (67) kept the game ticking along during the opening hour, prompting Redbacks skipper Travis Head to declare for the second time in the match.

Carey, whose previous first-class game was a tour match against India in early December, scored freely on the flat pitch.

Head scored a career-best 223 in the first innings to put the game on SA’s terms and win man-of-the-match honours.

-With AAP and Reuters

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