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What we know today, Monday April 19

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

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Six new COVID-19 cases reported in SA

SA Health reported six new cases of COVID-19 in the state today, all reported from medi-hotels.

The department said today’s cases included a man in his 60s, a man in his 50s, a woman in her 50s, a woman in her 20s, and two children.

“All six cases acquired their infections overseas and have been in medi-hotels since their arrival,” SA Health said.

Dutton reverses stripping of medals from Afghan vets

Peter Dutton has blocked a decision by Chief of Defence Angus Campbell to strip unit citations from special forces troops who served in Afghanistan.

More than 3000 soldiers will no longer have their awards taken away.

Instead, only those convicted of war crimes will lose their meritorious unit citations.

Dutton said while it was important to ensure people who’d done the wrong thing were held to account, he did not want the many punished for the actions of a few.

“We shouldn’t be punishing the 99 per cent for the sins of one per cent,” the defence minister told 2GB radio.

General Campbell moved to strip special forces troops of their citations last year in response to the damning Brereton inquiry, which found evidence of war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

The report found up to 25 soldiers were involved in the alleged murders of at least 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners, and recommended charges be pursued against 19 of them.

The federal government paused the decision in response to widespread backlash and Mr Dutton has overturned it ahead of Anzac Day on April 25.

“This says to people very clearly before Anzac Day that we want to reset, that we want to provide support to those people who have served our country, and who have died in that service,” he said.

On Anzac Day, Dutton said he shared the frustration of veterans told to register for services, while tens of thousands of people could freely attend football matches.

“I don’t understand why you can have 30,000 people at a footy game but you can’t have that same number at an Anzac Day service,” he said.

Dutton acknowledged it was an annoyance to register, but argued it was a necessary public health measure.

“I do want to see good numbers and I do want to see people register.”

New SA Health screening to help reduce premature births

Pregnant women in South Australia will be screened for omega-3 levels in a bid to reduce the number of premature births.

SA Pathology Clinical Service Director Tom Dodd says the service will be offered to women as part of existing antenatal testing used to detect a range of foetal anomalies such as neural tube defects and Down Syndrome.

“Pregnant women who have a low concentration of omega-3 in their blood are more likely to have an early birth, so it is important we identify this risk early and take action,” Dodd said.

“We hope this will lead to more women supplementing their diets with omega-3 where required, resulting in a reduction in the number of babies born prematurely.”

The test will be offered to women expecting a single baby within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The introduction of the screening comes after a study by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) found omega- 3 fatty acids helped reduce the risk of premature delivery.

SAHMRI’s Cochrane review, which examined almost 20,000 pregnancies, found taking omega-3 supplements reduced the overall risk of pre-term birth by 11 per cent.

It also significantly reduced the risk of a baby arriving before 34 weeks of pregnancy by 42 per cent.

SAHMRI Deputy Director Maria Makrides said the screening would be evaluated to examine the effectiveness of omega-3 supplementation and the long-term sustainability of the program.

“Babies who are born too soon, particularly those born before 34 weeks, can suffer numerous complications requiring long stays in hospital and, in some cases, long-term health and developmental problems,” Makrides said.

“By monitoring the number of tests done, the percentage of women with low omega-3 levels and how many babies are born early, we will be able to show whether this intervention is working.”

PM confirms royal commission into veteran suicides

Scott Morrison has announced a royal commission into veteran suicides after a long-running campaign by former soldiers and pressure from all sides of parliament.

The prime minister released draft terms of reference for consultation on Monday, with a tentative starting time of July.

“We want this to be comprehensive,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“Every single day the service of our veterans is something that is pressed on my mind.”

Morrison remains committed to establishing a permanent commission of inquiry into veteran suicides.

But the independent office will operate alongside a standalone inquiry, which will take between 18 months and two years to deliver a final report.

The prime minister said governments made difficult decisions to deploy soldiers into war zones, but also needed to consider what happened to soldiers when they returned home.

“There is a far greater cost that is borne beyond those deployments, and that is the mental toll taken on the veterans after they return,” he said.

“That cost is most significant when we see it in the death by suicide of our veterans.”

The prime minister has previously rejected calls for a royal commission to be established, preferring his permanent model.

But he was dragged into action after members of his own backbench threatened to cross the floor in support of a royal commission.

Julie-Ann Finney, who led the royal commission campaign after losing her veteran son to suicide, welcomed the announcement.

“Today is a long time coming for veterans and their families,” she said.

“Finally, the voices of veterans will be heard. Finally, families can stand up and share their stories.”

New home sales stay buoyant in early 2021

New home sales were nearly 40 per cent higher in the first three months of the year than during the same period last year.

The Housing Industry Association’s new home sales report found sales in the March quarter increased across all of the nation’s five largest states.

Overall, sales were 39.4 per cent higher in the March quarter compared to the same quarter last year.

“In December 2020, there was a near record volume of new home sales as households rushed to finalise contracts to build a new home before the end of the (HomeBuilder) $25,000 grant,” HIA economist Angela Lillicrap said.

“This same effect can be seen in March as households rushed to get access to the $15,000 grant.”

She said the federal government’s HomeBuilder program has brought forward demand for new homes and, as a consequence, sales over the coming months are expected to cool from recent highs.

The HomeBuilder program ended last month, but at the weekend the government extended the deadline to begin construction by an additional 12 months.

Those who were eligible for the grant before its March 31 conclusion – some 121,000 building applications, according to the government – will now have 18 months after signing contracts to commence construction.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the scheme would cost the government $2.5 billion but had helped tip some $30 billion into Australia’s construction sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HomeBuilder scheme was introduced during the depths of the pandemic and late last year was extended to March, although the size of grants was trimmed from $25,000 to $15,000.

Legal threats as European clubs form breakaway league

A group of 12 European clubs have split soccer by announcing plans to walk away from the Champions League to create a breakaway competition, drawing an angry response and the threat of legal action from UEFA.

The clubs have agreed to quit the existing structures and establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, in an apparent grab for more money and power.

The 12 foundation clubs are Premier League giants Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham; La Liga heavyweights Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid; and Serie A trio AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.

No German or French clubs have signed up.

The league plans to launch “as soon as practicable” and the founding clubs will be given 3.5 billion euros ($A5.4b) “to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic” a statement from the Super League said.

The Super League organisers anticipate three more teams to join as founding members with five more to qualify annually for a 20-team competition.

The format of the competition would be two groups of 10 playing home and away fixtures with the top three in each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.

A play-off involving fourth and fifth-placed teams will complete the final eight, before home-and-away knockout rounds until a single fixture final at a neutral venue.

A women’s Super League competition is also planned to be launched after the men’s league is up and running, the statement said.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is the founding chairman of the Super League, with Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli the vice-chairmen.

“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Perez said.

“Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”

The Super League statement said clubs do not feel UEFA’s proposed changes to the Champions League – which are due to be confirmed on Monday with an expansion to 36 teams from 32 – go far enough.

It added the 12 clubs would now seek to work with UEFA and world governing body FIFA to “deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole”.

FIFA and UEFA condemned the plans, with Europe’s governing body saying it would ban any club involved from playing in its domestic league.

The Super League has also been heavily criticised by other soccer authorities, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Suspect on run in Texas shooting

A 41-year-old man is wanted in the fatal shooting of three people in Austin, Texas, with police searching the surrounding area warning residents the suspect might take a hostage.

Interim police chief Joseph Chacon says Stephen Broderick is considered armed and dangerous.

He asked local residents on Sunday to continue to shelter in place and call neighbours to check on them.

“We are concerned he might possibly take a hostage and be himself sheltered somewhere waiting for us to leave,” Chacon said.

He said police do not know if Broderick was in a vehicle or on foot.

Chacon said he was suspected in the killing of two Hispanic women and a black man.

He said Broderick knew the victims but didn’t elaborate on how or provide a motive for the shootings. Chacon also said a child was involved but that the child has been located and is safe.

Brenda Torres said she was driving by when she saw a little boy flag down a car and a black man lying facedown on the ground.

“I saw the little boy point down the street,” Torres said.

“There was someone lying on the ground. I thought someone had just fallen down or something. As my light turns green and I’m driving, I see cop car after cop car after cop car rushing toward where I just was.”

The Austin-Travis County EMS said it had received no reports of victims other than the three adults shot dead. EMS spokeswoman Captain Christa Stedman said the first 911 call came in at 11.44 am.

Chacon said the three were not shot in a building but did not give any further details.

The shooting comes as gun violence continues across the US.

Three people were killed in a shooting at a bar in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday, and nine people were killed at a FedEx factory in Indianapolis, Indiana on Thursday.

Fed govt deal with SA keeps gas in energy mix

Despite South Australia’s success with renewable energy, gas will continue to play a key role in the state’s energy mix under a $1 billion deal with the federal government announced on Sunday.

The plan includes a $660 million commitment from the Commonwealth and $440 million from SA.

It will pursue initiatives the governments say will create additional dispatchable generation to help deliver affordable and reliable power, unlock gas supplies and kickstart works on a new electricity interconnector between SA and NSW.

It comes after the financing of the interconnector came under scrutiny in February when the Australian Energy Market Commission all-but dismissed a bid from the project’s backers, TransGrid and ElectraNet, to finance the interconnector by charging consumers before it is built.

The federal government has now committed $50 million to the electricity interconnector while $110 million will be allocated to concessional finance for energy storage projects including the use of solar thermal technology.

The deal also includes a $400 million commitment from the Commonwealth to invest in practical technologies to reduce emissions, including hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.

But the deal also sets a gas target of an additional 50 petajoules per annum by the end of 2023 and a stretch target of 80 petajoules per annum by 2030.

“The focus on gas will help South Australia meet its own gas needs and assist efforts to prevent forecast shortfalls in the broader east coast gas market from 2023, as part of our gas-fired recovery,” federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said.

Premier Steven Marshall said the deal would coordinate efforts to deliver a hydrogen export industry in South Australia, deliver carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions, deliver the infrastructure needed for electric cars and generate new revenue for farmers from carbon reductions.

“Put simply, this agreement is going to lower power bills for South Australians and create jobs in the fast-growing renewables industry,” he said.

The federal government said the inclusion of gas supply targets and regulatory reform actions in the agreement built on the measures outlined as part of Australia’s gas-fired recovery from COVID-19.

Achieving improved and lower-cost gas production in SA’s Cooper Basin and a step-change in gas production in the Otway Basin would be a key focus, it said.

The State Government in December outlined plans to move SA to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, focusing on a significant cut in transport pollution – the sector which was the biggest contributor to SA’s emissions in 2018.

Kiwis welcome Aussies as trans-Tasman bubble opens

New Zealand’s airports will be the scene of celebration and reunification as the trans-Tasman bubble opens, with 25 flights from Australia set to cross the ditch today.

For the first time in more than a year, Australian travellers will today be able to enter New Zealand without the need to quarantine for a fortnight.

That handbrake on travel will mean thousands of Kiwis and Australians take the opportunity to travel, welcomed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“It is truly exciting to start quarantine-free travel with Australia,” Ardern said.

“Be it returning family, friends or holiday makers, New Zealand says welcome and enjoy yourself.

“The bubble marks a significant step in both countries’ reconnection with the world and it’s one we should all take a moment to be very proud of.”

New Zealand’s relaxation of border rules comes six months after Australia began to open up to Kiwi travellers; a move started by NSW and the Northern Territory and which now extends to all states and mainland territories.

In a joint statement, Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Pacific was next.

“Australia and New Zealand are also exploring opportunities to extend quarantine-free travel to other countries in the Pacific, when it is safe to do so, reflecting our close ties to the Pacific and our commitment to supporting their recovery,” the statement read.

Kiwis have been wary of the resumption of quarantine-free travel, with many fearful of opening borders to other countries after adopting a ‘Fortress New Zealand’ mentality through the pandemic.

Business and the tourism industry are desperate for international travel to recommence, given its importance to the economy.

The New Zealand government is yet to launch a marketing campaign to try and coax Aussies to Aotearoa, but will do so within weeks.

Australia has not wasted any time beginning its own promotional work, spending $A3.1 million on a campaign encouraging Kiwis to ‘Be The First’ visitors.

On Sunday, Auckland’s Sky Tower – New Zealand’s tallest building – was illuminated in green and gold in a welcoming gesture for Australia.

Today, 25 flights – from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast – will land at New Zealand’s four international airports, with most heading to Auckland.

The first to land was a non-advertised Qantas flight, which news outlet Stuff reported arrived at Auckland minutes after midnight, carrying crew for later flights.

The first commercial flights into Auckland and Wellington will be met by celebrations organised by airport management.

Auckland airport has been segregated into a green zone for quarantine-free travel, and a red zone for flights from higher risk countries.

Woman dies after Pasadena crash

An elderly woman has died in hospital after a crash in Pasadena in Adelaide’s south last weekend.

The 84-year-old was taken to Flinders Medical Centre on Saturday, April 10 following a two-car crash on Goodwood Road and Jamestown Avenue.

Police say they were called to the crash scene around 11am after a white Hyundai station wagon attempting to turn right onto Jamestown Avenue crashed with a black Ford Territory.

All three occupants of the Hyundai and the driver of the Ford were taken to the Flinders Medical Centre for treatment.

The 84-year-old woman from Pasadena, who was the front passenger in the Hyundai, died in hospital on Sunday, April 18.

South Australia’s road toll this year is now 37, compared to 34 at the same point last year.

National cabinet searches for vaccine reset

National cabinet will meet today as it aims to get the nation’s vaccine program back on track and discuss ways to ease international border restrictions, perhaps later in the year.

The meeting is the first of what will be twice-weekly gatherings following the vaccine rollout being thrown into disarray nearly two weeks ago.

Included in discussions will be changes to Australia’s vaccination policy, including state vaccination implementation plans, in the wake of new advice around the AstraZeneca vaccine and additional supplies of Pfizer doses.

Just over a week ago health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to those over the age of 50 after blood-clotting was linked to younger people.

A woman who died from blood-clotting last week was the third case linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia. The first two cases are still in hospital.

The new health advice has prompted South Australian authorities to go ahead with the set up of three mass vaccinations hubs dedicated to administering the Pfizer vaccine – the first of which will come online on April 30 at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds.

The State Government says this will be followed by Pfizer hubs in Adelaide’s north and south, with the old Masters hardware site in Noarlunga and the Playford Civic Centre in Elizabeth tapped to administer vaccines in June.

SA Health has administered 46,154 vaccines as of Sunday.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is now approaching 1.5 million vaccinations after some 330,000 jabs were completed in the past week.

He said GPs continue to be the cornerstone of the program but going forward, with very strong support from governments around the country, national cabinet will consider ways the states can assist with larger vaccination clinics.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that three family members diagnosed with COVID-19 in NSW hotel quarantine picked up the virus from fellow returned travellers.

Health authorities believe the three picked up the virus from a family of four who stayed in the adjoining room of the Adina Apartment Hotel at Sydney’s Town Hall.

“This latest story again just reinforces the need for a speedy and effective rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines,” federal Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler told reporters in Adelaide.

“But still Australia is not even in the top 100 nations of the world per head of population in vaccinations. We need to do better.”

Archie Roach adds Adelaide to final concert tour

After presenting a moving and heartfelt performance at WOMADelaide last month, Archie Roach will be returning in July for a concert at Her Majesty’s Theatre as part of his final Australian tour.

The July 16 concert was announced by the Adelaide Festival Centre today as an additional date in Roach’s Tell Me Why Tour, which takes its name from his latest album and award-winning memoir and also celebrates (belatedly) the 30th anniversary of his acclaimed 1990 debut album Charcoal Lane.

A statement accompanying today’s announcement says that despite recent health challenges, Roach is excited to be taking to the stage at venues across Australia for the tour, which had to be postponed last year.

“Music has kept me going, kept me alive,” he says. “It’s something that I have come to love, especially the relationship I have with those who come to my shows. I am also most grateful to all the people that I have worked with through the years.”

Find the full story here in InReview.

Adelaide draw with Sydney in A-League clash

Adelaide United have narrowly missed out on a rare away win after drawing 2-2 with Sydney FC who let a two-goal advantage slip at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.

The Sky Blues seemed set for maximum points with Bobo scoring a double inside 51 minutes but went to bed early as the Reds worked their way back into the contest.

Jordan Elsey scored in the 75th minute and Tomi Juric nailed his free kick in the 79th, the visitors dominating the last 10 minutes of play to almost pinch the result.

Adelaide coach Carl Veart described defending champions Sydney as still the yardstick of the competition and felt a fourth away win had been deserving for his side.

“I think we deserved the draw – on another night we would have come away with three points,” Veart said.

Sydney dominated until midway through the second half, the attacking trinity of Alexander Baumjohann, Milos Ninkovic and Bobo combining to make it 1-0 after 19 minutes.

Baumjohann showed great vision from just over halfway, penetrating the Reds’ central defence with a sublime diagonal ball to find Ninkovic unmarked before Bobo drove home.

Six minutes into the second half, he made it 48 goals from 69 A-League games with another straight-forward finish.

Juric had a chance for Adelaide in the 39th minute but it was the last third of the match where, with increased possession, they shone brightest.

The initial goal came when Craig Goodwin found some space, cutting it back to Elsey who made it 2-1.

It didn’t take long for their second.

Juric’s free kick then went through the wall and beat Andrew Redmayne to square things up four minutes later.

It should have been 3-2 on 87 minutes when Ben Halloran’s cross was dropped by Redmayne but Ryan McGowan did some admirable clean-up work.

There was more drama at the death when Rhyan Grant was red-carded for stopping a clear chance goal-scoring opportunity for Goodwin in the 93rd minute, but time ran out and Sydney hung on for the draw.

Sky Blues coach Steve Corica thought his side was guilty of sloppiness as much as sleepiness, admitting they’d panicked after the first Adelaide goal.

“Very frustrating – two weeks in a row now, we should have an extra four points,” he said, with Sydney conceding a 98th minute goal in their last-up 1-1 draw with Melbourne City.

“We conceded two sloppy goals – and it was costly.”

Adelaide stay in third place on 30 points while Sydney are fourth on 27.

-With AAP and Reuters

 

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