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What we know today, Monday March 29


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

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Porter dumped as AG in cabinet reshuffle

Christian Porter has been made industry minister while Peter Dutton will replace Linda Reynolds in the defence portfolio in a new cabinet announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today.

Michaelia Cash has been promoted to attorney-general and industrial relations minister to replace Porter, who lost his job as the nation’s first law officer after launching defamation action against the ABC.

Karen Andrews will replace Dutton – who is also taking Porter’s role as leader of the house – as home affairs minister.

Porter took mental health leave after revealing he was the person accused in media reports of a historic rape in 1988, which he strongly denies.

His new role also includes science and technology.

Senator Reynolds, who is also on medical leave, will become government services minister after coming under heavy fire for her handling of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations in 2019.

The former defence minister was forced to apologise after it emerged she called Ms Higgins a “lying cow”.

Senator Reynolds replaces scandal-prone minister Stuart Robert, who will take over the workforce skills, employment and small business portfolios.

“These changes will shake up what needs to be shaken up while maintaining the momentum and the continuity and the stability that Australia needs,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has been returned to cabinet.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston will add women’s safety to her responsibilities.

The prime minister also announced a new cabinet task force to focus on women’s equality, safety, economic security and health.

The new group will be led by Minister for Women Marise Payne and comprise all female ministers, along with the deputy prime minister, treasurer and finance minister.

In the outer ministry, Jane Hume will add women’s economic security minister to her other roles.

Queensland senator Amanda Stoker will become assistant minister for industrial relations and women.

Economists monitor Jobkeeper fallout

Economists will be watching developments in the labour market in the coming weeks and months following the end of JobKeeper – a suspension that could leave up to 150,000 people without a job according to Treasury estimates.

The JobKeeper wage subsidy officially ended on Sunday after steering the economy through the pandemic-recession.

There is great uncertainty as to whether the economic rebound from recession so far has enough momentum to absorb these potential job losses, or whether it will bring the steady decline in the jobless rate to an abrupt halt.

“Labour market indicators will be potentially hot property for the local market in coming weeks and months as the economy traverses the end of JobKeeper,” National Australia Bank economists said in their morning note to clients.

About one million people were still on JobKeeper as of January, after 2.7 million people and 680,000 businesses had transited off the subsidy since it was introduced a year ago at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers is concerned the government has pulled the plug on JobKeeper too soon.

“For too many Australians the end of JobKeeper means the end of their job,” Dr Chalmers told ABC radio.

“Today is a very difficult day for a lot of employers and a lot of workers trying to make decisions about what the future might hold.”

But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg insists the government will announce more support measures where necessary.

“That has been our track record to date and that is what we will do into the future,” he told Sky News.

“We will continue to monitor what is occurring across the economy very closely and then we’ll respond.”

The end of JobKeeper comes just days ahead of the end of the coronavirus supplement for people on the JobSeeker dole payment.

While the base for this benefit has seen a tiny increase to $44 a day from $40, it means someone coming off JobKeeper without work will see their support shrink from $500 a week to just over $300 a week on JobSeeker.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston does not agree that it would leave people below the poverty line.

She said there are many other things that are in place that could help people, whether it be assisting them with their rent and making sure they they get the full amount of tax benefit.

“We don’t want people to be on unemployment benefits,” Senator Ruston told ABC radio.

“This will be a business-led recovery and the most important thing we can do as a government is to make sure those businesses are strong, so they are able to create the jobs, so that people don’t stay on payment.”

Four jailed over SA drug-crop killing

Four men found guilty of the bashing murder of an Albanian refugee who was killed during the robbery of a cannabis crop in Adelaide have all been jailed for at least 20 years.

After deliberating for four days in October last year, a jury found Benjamin John Mitchell, Alfred Claude Rigney, Matt Bernard Tenhoopen and Aaron Donald Carver all guilty of the murder of Urim Gjabri who was found dead in his rental property in October 2018.

The 46-year-old was discovered by a friend in a pool of dried blood.

During the trial, prosecutor Rob Walker told the jury that Gjabri died from severe blunt force trauma to the head.

His skull was caved in, with several fractures, Walker said.

On the crown case, each of the accused was party to a plan to commit a home invasion or robbery because they went to Gjabri’s home and emerged with his cannabis.

However, the jury heard the prosecution could not say who actually killed the victim or how many blows he suffered.

In sentencing on Monday, Justice David Lovell said the killing was at the lower end of the scale for such offences and he could not be sure who struck the fatal blow or blows.

“This was a drug rip that went terribly wrong,” he said.

For the murder offence, the judge imposed a non-parole period of 20 years for each on the offenders, backdated to when they were taken into custody soon after the incident.

Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown

Greater Brisbane has been ordered into a snap three-day lockdown after four more coronavirus cases emerged in the community.

Three of the new cases are close contacts of existing or historical cases, but the infected persons have been out in the community raising the risk more transmission may have occurred.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and Redlands will go into a three-day lockdown from 5pm on Monday.

“There is now more community transmission, and these people have been out and about in the community, and that is of concern to Queensland Health,” she said.

Palaszczuk said the lockdown will last for three days at least, ahead of the Easter holiday break this weekend.

People will only be allowed to leave home to do essential work, shop, care for people or exercise.

“This will also enable our health authorities to get on top of the contact tracing,” she said.

Read the full story here

JobKeeper cliff puts SA businesses on edge

Almost 50,000 South Australians are waking up to their first day without the JobKeeper subsidy, placing more pressure on the state’s nation-worst unemployment rate and sparking opposition calls for more action from the Marshall Government on the jobs front.

The State Opposition says the government has failed to outline a plan to support the 18,000 businesses and 48,000 workers in South Australia who are still on JobKeeper.

The Commonwealth Treasury estimates up to 150,000 workers will lose their jobs this week as JobKeeper ends – which Labor estimates is more than 10,000 jobs in SA on a per-capita basis.

The wage subsidy was introduced on March 30 last year in a bid to stem job losses at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and ended yesterday.

Its removal will take an estimated $31 to $48 million out of the SA economy per fortnight.

South Australia already has the worst unemployment rate in Australia at 6.8 per cent.

SA Labor Leader Peter Malinauskas said the end of JobKeeper would hit the city particularly hard, where the latest numbers show more than 1200 businesses were still receiving the payment until yesterday.

Malinauskas said Steven Marshall had failed to put plans in place to soften the blow of the wage subsidy’s removal and save jobs.

“He has done nothing to help the thousands of workers and businesses which will lose JobKeeper from today,” Malinauskas said yesterday.

“This doesn’t just affect 18,000 businesses and 48,000 workers; this will take tens of millions of dollars out of the economy every single fortnight.

“As we move into the post-COVID world, we must ensure businesses and workers get the help and support they need.”

Marshall said Malinauskas comments were another example of Labor “talking down the state”.

He said the state government had invested $4 billion in a stimulus package, “which is the second highest in the country and being rolled out over the next year and a half”.

“The reality is that we’ve got more people employed and higher wages now than we had pre-COVID in South Australia,” he told reporters yesterday.

“There is definitely going to be some pain for a small number of employers here in South Australia and that’s why our focus in government is to work extra specially hard to grow other employment opportunities.”

Extradited man to face SA court on murder charge today

A man charged with murder over the death of another man in an Adelaide house fire will face court today after being extradited from NSW.

The 32-year-old was arrested interstate on March 17 after three people were hurt in a house fire at Woodville West, that police believe was deliberately lit.

A 31-year-old man and two women, aged 27 and 28, inside the home were taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with serious burns.

The man died in hospital on March 20.

The Woodville West man was taken to a Sydney hospital under police guard after crashing his car in regional NSW before his arrest.

South Australian detectives travelled to NSW on Friday to escort him back to Adelaide where he is scheduled to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court today.

Police say all parties are known to each other, with the incident not considered a random attack.

Meanwhile, six people were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and a woman was airlifted to the Flinders Medical Centre in a critical condition following a serious crash at McLaren Vale late yesterday.

Emergency services were called to the intersection of Main Road and Johnston Road about 5.40pm after three cars crashed.

The intersection was closed in all directions for most of the night while emergency services and Major Crash were at the scene.

Soil testing confirms low contamination levels at future WCH site

Some soil contamination has been confirmed at the former railyards site where the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital (nWCH) will be built in the city but the state government says it is not enough to seriously hamper the project.

The nWCH project team undertook a series of geotechnical and environmental testing between September and December last year at the old rail yard precinct, next to the Royal Adelaide Hospital off Port Road, with the results announced this morning.

During the soil testing, about 80 samples were extracted using a large drill rig to bore 100mm holes up to 50 metres down into the earth at the main nWCH site adjacent to the RAH, the Rail Triangle to the north of the main site and the Gaol Road Reserve to the west of the main site.

A portion of the site was known to be contaminated following investigations for the construction of the adjacent Royal Adelaide Hospital.

SA Health’s Executive Director of Infrastructure, Brendan Hewitt, said the latest testing found some residual soil contamination of heavy metals and hydrocarbons were found to be present at the sites.

“This contamination is owing to the former rail yards and naturally occurring substances. It is nothing outside of what we were already aware of and is consistent with the findings during the RAH planning process,” Hewitt said.

“Given the low concentrations, historical restrictions on groundwater extraction, and the low likelihood of encountering groundwater during construction activity, the risks to human and ecological health are considered low.

“As the project prepares for on-site site enabling work, construction environmental management plans and groundwater management plans will be developed to ensure that any potential human health and environmental risks are safely managed or mitigated.

“Some further minor works will need to be carried out to provide a full picture but at this stage we are confident the low levels of contamination can be adequately managed.”

Cyber threat stalls parliament house IT systems

The Australian government has pulled the plug on its parliamentary email network as experts monitor whether an IT issue is part of a potential cyber attack.

The department of parliamentary services (DPS) email network was shut down over the weekend due to an IT system issue.

Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said the fault was linked to an external provider, with the connection to government systems severed immediately as a precaution.

“The government acted quickly, and we have the best minds in the world working to ensure Australia remains the most secure place to operate online,” he said in a statement on Sunday night.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre is in contact with DPS, providing support and continuing to monitor the situation.

The parliament house concerns follow the Nine Network confirming it was the target of a cyber-attack over the weekend, disrupting its live programming out of Sydney.

The Australian broadcaster was unable to air its Weekend Today and Sunday Sports programs on Sunday morning and later attributed the outage to an attack on its systems.

In a note to staff, Nine’s director of people and culture Vanessa Morley directed all employees across the country to work from home until further notice.

“Our IT teams are working around the clock to fully restore our systems which have primarily affected our broadcast and corporate business units,” she wrote.

“Publishing and radio systems continue to be operational.”

Adelaide grabs AFLW top spot to earn a week off

Adelaide has earned a week off and a home preliminary final after storming to the AFLW minor premiership with a 14-point win over Collingwood at Norwood Oval yesterday afternoon.

The Magpies lead the competition going into Sunday’s clash but the fierce-tackling Crows prevailed 4.7 (31) to 2.5 (17) to claim top spot.

The win gives Adelaide a week off before a home preliminary final against either Melbourne of Fremantle and also gives them the right to a home grand final should they progress that far.

On the flip side, Collingwood dropped to third and now face a sudden-death final against North Melbourne.

Skipper Chelsea Randall was superb for the Crows with Anne Hatchard, Erin Phillips and Ebony Marinoff all prominent in the impressive team performance.

The AFLW finals will start with a pair of knockout games in Melbourne on Saturday.

Melbourne’s clash with Fremantle at Casey Fields will start at 12.35pm, while Collingwood’s match against North Melbourne will begin at Victoria Park at 2.40pm.

Minor premiers Adelaide and second-placed Brisbane will host preliminary finals in week two of the post-season action.

The league is yet to reveal details for the preliminary finals as it continues to closely follow developments in Brisbane’s COVID-19 outbreak.

– with AAP and Reuters

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