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What we know today, Wednesday March 24

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Capacity at South Australia’s pubs, clubs and restaurants will be lifted to 75 per cent from midnight Tuesday, while theatres and places of worship can operate at 100 per cent, following a meeting of the state’s Transition Committee this morning.

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Capacity at South Australia’s pubs, clubs and restaurants will be lifted to 75 per cent from midnight Tuesday – up from 50 per cent –  while theatres and places of worship can operate at 100 per cent, following a meeting of the state’s Transition Committee this morning.

Premier Steven Marshall and Police Commissioner Grant Stevens announced the changes a short time ago, allowing venues to boost crowd numbers in time for Easter after the SA, and the nation, had not recorded any recent COVID-19 cases outside quarantine hotels.

“The key factor of our discussion today was about public gatherings, which has a direct impact on the hospitality sector,” Stevens said before midday.

“We’re as keen for a road map moving forward as is everybody affected by these directions, but it’s important to recognise that a pandemic is not a tidy scenario to deal with and the best laid plans often don’t come to fruition because of the dynamic nature of what we’re dealing with.

“We are looking for ways to progress through these restrictions and remove all of them as soon as possible, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate a lot of that depends on the status of the vaccine rollout across the entire community and the level of take up.”

Business SA and the hospitality sector have campaigned over the past two weeks for density caps imposed on retail and hospitality to be lifted.

Currently, retail and hospitality venues are capped at 50 per cent capacity, although some restrictions on dancing were eased late last month.

Business SA has pointed to the 75 per cent capacity allowed to attend the football at Adelaide Oval on the weekend as a reason why businesses should also enjoy relaxed density restrictions.

More to come

AGL to construct battery at Torrens Island

Energy firm AGL has committed to building a 250MW, one-hour duration grid scale battery at Torrens Island.

The State Government said it would be the state’s fifth grid-scale battery and would have 66 per cent more power, and 25 per cent more storage than the big battery at Hornsdale near Jamestown.

AGL is targeting full operation of the system by early 2023. The battery has been planned to be capable of an expansion of up to four-hours in duration, enabling the company to adapt to changing market conditions.

AGL opened Barkers Inlet Power Station in 2019 and expects it, along with the new battery and existing renewable generation assets, to allow the Torrens A power station to be retired at a date to be set.

“Generating more power from wind than any other state, we know this battery will be instrumental in maintaining reliable and affordable supply for households and businesses in South Australia,” AGL CEO Brett Redman said.

AGL said it had signed agreements with global energy storage technology companies, Wartsila and Fluence, and is currently finalising the provider arrangements for the Torrens Island project in order to begin construction.

“This investment shows the confidence the private sector has in South Australia’s energy sector, as a result of the world-leading well managed renewables focus of the Marshall Government,” Mining and Energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said.

“It’s great to see AGL investing in new storage assets at the same time that the average household cost of electricity has come down by an average of $269 per year.”

Another fatal Barossa Valley crash

A woman has died in Tanunda overnight after hitting a roundabout and rolling her ute several times.

Police say they found the 62-year-old woman dead when they arrived at the scene after being called out to the crash site just before 11pm on Tuesday night.

The Barossa Valley woman was the only person in the car.

The crash occurred at the roundabout between the Barossa Valley Highway, Seppeltsfield Road and Siegersdorf Road.

The intersection was closed for several hours while major crash investigators examined the site, but is now reopen to all traffic.

It comes after three people died in two separate incidents in the Barossa Valley region over the weekend.

On Saturday morning, two young men were killed and another was seriously injured after their ute crashed into a tree on Angaston Road.

Later that day, a motorcyclist crashed into a fence on Barossa Valley Way in Sandy Creek. He died from injuries sustained in the crash the next day.

South Australia’s road toll now sits at 30 people, compared to 29 at the same point last year.

Council shelves east-west bikeway plans

Adelaide City Council has voted against going ahead with its long-touted plan to build an east-west bikeway through the city.

The bikeway, proposed to run from West Terrace to Hutt Street, was knocked back 8-3 by councillors in a meeting last night.

The $5.8 million project which has been debated since 2016 was set to be jointly funded by the State Government and the council, but a $3 million grant for the project given by the Department for Infrastructure and Transport in 2016 will now have to be returned.

The grant money was due to expire in June 2021.

The proposal to build the bikeway along Flinders and Franklin Street has attracted significant opposition and legal threats from stakeholders along the east-west route concerned about a loss of parking space.

Council compromised in November last year to move the bikeway route down Gawler Place and then onto Wakefield Street, despite the council’s transport planners preferring the Flinders-Franklin option.

Speaking on behalf of businesses and landowners along the route, Lawyer Greg Griffin said the proposal would cost the council between $580,000 – $780,000 a year in revenue.

“This is just not a good project,” Griffin told the council on Tuesday.

“I’m not against bike lanes, I am just – on behalf of my clients and fellow property owners and business owners – totally opposed to the impact that this particular project would have on Flinders Street.”

Griffin said the construction work to build the bikeway would be an “absolute horror” for businesses, and the loss of 179 car parks on Flinders Street would be “catastrophic”.

Read the full story here

‘I was wrong’: PM apologises for airing disputed harassment claim

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised for responding to a journalist’s question by airing an internal sexual harassment complaint he claimed happened within News Corp, conceding his account of events was incorrect and he “had no right” to raise the issue.

The prime minister took to Facebook last night to say he “deeply regret(s)” his “insensitive” comments, after he was widely accused on Tuesday of weaponising a confidential harassment complaint to shield himself from scrutiny.

“I deeply regret my insensitive response to a question from a News Ltd journalist by making an anonymous reference to an incident at News Ltd that has been rejected by the company,” Morrison posted on Facebook.

“I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse.

“I especially wish to apologise to the individual at the centre of the incident and others directly impacted. I had no right to raise this issue and especially without their permission.”

Morrison made the comments speaking at a press conference on Tuesday to address further claims of sexual harassment and indecent behaviour at Parliament House, taking aim at Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clennell who had asked the prime minister whether he had lost control of his ministerial staff.

“Right now, you would be aware in your own organisation, there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet,” Morrison said.

“And that matter is being pursued by your own HR department.

“So let’s not, all of us who sit in glass houses here, start getting into that.”

News Corp chairman Michael Miller later issued a stinging response, saying the prime minister’s claims were “simply untrue”.

“No complaint has been received and News Corp and Sky News are not dealing with a complaint,” Miller said.

Miller said the company’s human resources team had learned of a verbal exchange between two News Corp employees at Parliament House last year that was “not of a sexual nature”, “did not take place in a toilet” and “neither person made a complaint”.

The HR team wrote to one of the employees involved and the matter was resolved according to Miller.

“The prime minister appears to have joined these two matters and conflated them into an episode of harassment in a toilet,” he said.

“This is simply untrue and it undermines the principle that people must be able to raise issues safely and in confidence.”

The prime minister said at his press conference he was made aware of the issue on Monday night, and he raised it because he was “simply making the point that the problems that we are experiencing in this country are not confined simply to the offices of member and senators and ministers in this place”.

NSW flood risks remain as rain eases

NSW residents have been warned flood risks are unlikely to abate for several days despite rainfall easing across the state’s coast and as 15,000 people remain on alert for evacuation orders.

Major flooding was occurring early on Wednesday morning northwest of Sydney along the Hawkesbury River at North Richmond, Windsor and on the Colo River.

There was also major flooding on the Nepean River which peaked at 12.85 metres at Menangle, southwest of Sydney, about 10pm on Tuesday.

The State Emergency Service said the Nepean River at Penrith was likely to peak near 7.70 metres about 7am on Wednesday, with minor flooding.

It said flooding of pumping stations in the area had resulted in raw sewage being discharged into floodwaters.

About 18,000 NSW residents have been told to move from their homes since last week, with warnings the flood clean-up could stretch beyond Easter.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday said there were several weather fronts, “catastrophic” in their dimensions, impacting large swathes of the state.

“This is a weather incident beyond anything we could have comprehended,” Berejiklian said in parliament.

The premier has asked her deputy, John Barilaro, to lead the state’s recovery, as he did after the Black Summer bushfires.

People northwest of Sydney have been ordered to evacuate homes amid the downpour as a surge of water flows into catchments, causing rivers to rise.

Major flooding is occurring along the Colo River.

The SES ordered about 500 people in 200 homes to get out on Tuesday.

Boats and helicopters were deployed by the SES to help them leave.

A family fleeing flooding on the river needed to be rescued twice after the boat evacuating them capsized on Tuesday afternoon.

Three SES crews were also on board when the boat overturned as it approached the Sackville Ferry Wharf.

People in caravans along a stretch of the Hawkesbury River from Windsor to Wiseman’s Ferry have been told to prepare to leave, as have those in the Picton CBD due to rising levels at Stonequarry Creek.

More than 10,000 requests for help have been made around NSW since Thursday, with emergency services performing about 900 flood rescues.

A million people still on JobKeeper in January

There were one million employees and 370,000 businesses in Australia that were still reliant on the JobKeeper subsidy at the end of January this year, as employers brace for the scheme to end on March 31.

Since JobKeeper was first introduced in April last year, more than 2.7 million employees and about 680,000 business have left the scheme, representing a 72 per cent reduction.

In South Australia, 51,600 employees were on the scheme in January – a 78 per cent reduction from the 233,500 employees receiving JobKeeper payments from April to September last year.

Australian Taxation Office data also shows that all industries have seen a significant decrease in the number of employees covered by JobKeeper, including a 83 per cent fall in retail and a 69 per cent drop in accommodation and food services.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the final JobKeeper numbers for the month of January confirm that Australia’s economic recovery is broad based across all states, regions and industries.

“We know that some families and businesses are still doing it tough and our message is that the Morrison government continues to have your back,” Frydenberg said.

He said the government’s economic recovery plan will continue to support the economy through targeted support measures as well as tax cuts, business incentives and a record investment in skills and training and infrastructure.

Western Australia and the Northern Territory recorded 81 and 82 per cent drop offs in employees receiving JobKeeper payments since the start of the program – the largest reductions in the country.

Conversely, Victoria had the greatest number of employees (389,000) still on the scheme, representing only a 65 per cent drop off from April last year.

Man charged over Colorado mass shooting

A 21-year-old man faces 10 counts of murder in connection with a mass shooting at a Colorado grocery store but his motive remains unclear, US authorities say.

The suspect, identified by police as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Arvada, Colorado, was in a stable condition after suffering a leg wound in an exchange of gunfire with responding police officers at the King Soopers outlet in Boulder, about 45km northwest of Denver, on Monday afternoon.

The 10 victims, whose names were released at a Tuesday morning news conference, range in age from 20 to 65 and include Eric Talley, an 11-year veteran of the Boulder police force.

Talley, 51, was the father of seven children and had recently been looking for a less dangerous job, according to a statement released by his father.

Police identified the nine other victims as Denny Strong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikky Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.

The bloodshed marked the country’s second mass shooting in a week.

A gunman went on a killing spree on March 16 in the Atlanta area, fatally shooting eight people at three day spas before he was arrested.

Investigators said they were confident Alissa had acted alone although they did not offer any details on what might have motivated the massacre.

“It would be premature for us to draw any conclusions at this time,” Michael Schneider, the agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Denver, said at a news briefing.

Alissa is expected to be released from the hospital later on Tuesday and transported to jail to await an initial court appearance, officials said.

Monday’s attack, which began about 2.40pm, drew hundreds of police officers to the scene and sent terrified shoppers and employees fleeing for safety amid the sound of gunfire.

The shooting added to the Rocky Mountain state’s tragic list of mass killings that include some of the most shocking episodes of gun violence in US history including the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theatre in Aurora and the 1999 rampage at Columbine High School near Littleton.

Dangerfield suspended for three games

Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield has been suspended for three AFL games and is ineligible for the Brownlow Medal after his bump against Adelaide defender Jake Kelly last weekend.

Dangerfield will miss the Cats’ blockbuster clash with the Brisbane Lions after failing in his attempt to downgrade the grading impact from severe impact to high after his case was referred directly to the tribunal.

The eight-time All-Australian pleaded guilty to his rough conduct charge for a bump which left Adelaide’s Jake Kelly concussed and with a broken nose during the Crows’ opening-round upset of the Cats.

AFL match review officer Michael Christian classified Saturday’s incident at the Adelaide Oval as careless conduct, severe impact and high contact.

Dangerfield said he accepted the tribunal’s verdict and ruled out appealing the decision.

“Disappointed, but I certainly understand it,” he told Seven News after the verdict.

“I appreciate in the current climate how we need to make sure we protect the health and safety of players and respect concussion.”

Geelong’s lawyer Ben Ihle cited numerous “worse” examples of severe impact and argued Dangerfield employed a “good bumping technique”.

Ihle even asked Apple’s virtual assistant Siri for a definition of severe, as well as bringing up two dictionary definitions, before relaying that to the tribunal jury.

“(Dangerfield) accepts that the conduct constituted a reportable offence but does not accept the grading of severe,” Ihle told the tribunal.

“If there had not been a head clash, he would not have been reported.”

The AFL’s legal counsel Jeff Gleeson argued Kelly had no reason to expect the bump would be so forceful and believed the Crows player could have suffered even greater injuries.

“It could have resulted in neck damage and cheekbone damage,” Gleeson told the tribunal, which agreed with his recommendation of a three-game ban.

Dangerfield’s absence will be significant as the Cats aim to rebound on Friday night at GMHBA Stadium against the Lions, who are also reeling from a shock round-one loss.

The suspension also means the 2016 Brownlow Medal winner is ineligible for the game’s most prestigious individual award this year.

Geelong coach Chris Scott said Dangerfield was suffering from a “sore head” after Saturday’s collision with Kelly.

“It’s going to be a long season and we’re really confident that he’ll bounce back from this,” Scott said earlier on Tuesday.

Dangerfield will also miss games against Hawthorn and Melbourne and be eligible to return for the Cats’ clash with North Melbourne on April 18.

-With AAP and Reuters

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