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What we know today, Tuesday April 20


Today’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad. Walter Mondale, a leading liberal Democratic voice of the late 20th century who was US vice-president under Jimmy Carter, has died aged 93.

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Two people admitted to RHA with COVID-19

SA Health has revealed a man in his 40s and woman in her 20s have been admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with the coronavirus.

It said both were in a stable condition.

They join another man in his 40s who had been in ICU with the disease but has been moved to the COVID-19 ward.

SA Health said all three cases had picked up the virus overseas and had been quarantining in medi-hotels since their arrivals.

The State recorded a further three cases of the disease in medi-hotels on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 691.

SA Health said it had administered 2614 tests on Monday from a total of 1.2 million tests since the it began the testing regime.

Ex-US vice-president Walter Mondale dies

Walter Mondale, a leading liberal Democratic voice of the late 20th century who was US vice-president under Jimmy Carter and lost in a historic landslide to Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election, has died at age 93.

Mondale, the first major US party presidential nominee to pick a woman running mate, died in Minneapolis on Monday, according to his family.

Widely known as “Fritz”, Mondale believed in an activist government and worked for civil rights, school integration, consumer protection and farm and labour interests as a US senator and vice-president during Carter’s troubled one-term presidency from 1977 to 1981. He also served as US ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996 under Bill Clinton.

Mondale was the Democratic nominee in 1984 against Reagan, a popular incumbent Republican who had beaten Carter four years earlier, and selected New York Democratic US congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, as his No.2 – the first female running mate on a major party ticket.

But Mondale suffered one of the worst defeats ever in a US presidential election, losing in 49 of the 50 states and carrying only his native Minnesota as well as Washington, DC.

It was the first of two times that Mondale was sent into political retirement by a crushing defeat.

Eighteen years later, grieving Minnesota Democrats beseeched Mondale, then 74, to run for the Senate after Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash 11 days before the 2002 election. Mondale lost narrowly to Republican Norm Coleman, who depicted him as the greying representative of a bygone era.

During his race against Reagan, Mondale promised Americans he would raise their taxes, a vow that did little to help his candidacy.

“I mean business. By the end of my first term, I will reduce the Reagan budget deficit by two-thirds,” Mondale said during his speech in San Francisco accepting the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination. “Let’s tell the truth. It must be done, it must be done. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”

The remark helped sink his campaign. Even years later, he expressed no regrets. “I’m really glad I did it,” he told PBS in 2004. “It’s something that I felt good about, and I thought I told the truth.”

Earlier that year, Mondale made a memorable political quip when, during a primary debate, he tried to depict Gary Hart, a rival for his party’s presidential nomination, as all style and no substance by asking: “Where’s the beef?”

The line, borrowed from a humorous hamburger commercial popular at the time, hurt Hart’s campaign.

Mondale was a protege of fellow Minnesota liberal Hubert Humphrey, also a senator and vice-president, who lost the 1968 presidential election to Republican Richard Nixon.

Mondale served in the Senate from 1964 until he was elected as vice-president in Carter’s 1976 victory over incumbent Republican Gerald Ford, who had become president after Nixon resigned in 1974 due to the Watergate corruption scandal.

Consumer confidence steady despite vaccine setback

Confidence among Australians barely changed in the past week as the potential benefits from a further drop in the unemployment rate were offset set by concern over the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index eased just 0.1 per cent after a lofty 5.9 per cent rise in the previous week, remaining above its long-run average.

Compared to a year ago when the economy was entering the depths of recession, confidence was 35.4 per cent higher.

ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank was surprised the drop in the unemployment rate to 5.6 per cent in March labour force data reported last week didn’t have more of a positive impact on confidence.

“Perhaps the good news on employment offset any fallout from the vaccine disappointment,” Plank said.

A revamped vaccination rollout plan is expected to be released on Thursday when the national cabinet meets for a second time this week after the previous strategy was thrown into disarray by restrictions being put on the AstraZeneca treatment.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is now only recommended for people over 50 after cases of blood-clotting, both overseas and in Australia, in younger people, who have to wait for their Pfizer jabs later in the year.

Consumer confidence is a key pointer to future household spending.

Preliminary retail trade figures for March are due on Wednesday, which are expected to show spending grew by a solid 1.0 per cent in the month, rebounding from the 0.8 per cent decline in February.

This expected bounce in spending comes after the snap COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria and Western Australia weighed on the February result.

Meanwhile, the minutes of the Reserve Bank’s April 6 monthly board meeting due later on Tuesday are unlikely to throw up anything new, but it won’t stop economists scouring them for any shifting risks to the outlook.

That meeting left the cash rate, and the rates on the central bank’s toolkit of policies, unchanged at a record low 0.1 per cent.

RBA governor Philip Lowe reiterated at the time the cash rate would not be hiked until inflation was comfortably within the two to three per cent target band, an event unlikely to occur until 2024 at the earliest.

“Despite Australia’s stunning economic recovery, we are still a long way off meeting the conditions necessary for the RBA to increase the cash rate,” St George economist Matthew Bunny said.

While the unemployment rate did drop to 5.6 per cent from 5.8 per cent, it is still a long way off from the low fours the central bank is aiming for, and a level not seen since 2008.

Commissioner defends Australian data-sharing bill

The interim national data commissioner has defended data-sharing laws before parliament that will make it easier for third parties to access personal information.

The proposed data availability and transparency bill will let federal government agencies share information with third parties and researchers, including the private data of individuals.

Interim commissioner Deborah Anton conceded the nation’s data trove was of interest to others, including foreign governments, but said the bill was about making effective public policy and raising standards across the public service.

“There are both increased benefits and increased risks,” Anton told a parliamentary committee hearing in Canberra on Tuesday.

“To do more with data requires that we break out of our existing silos and engage sensibly with risk.”

The bill will create a scheme to allow data sharing “for the right reasons, with the right people”, overseen by an independent data commissioner.

The “purpose test” in the bill dictates the data can only be shared for informing policy and programs and research and development.

All data use must be set out in data-sharing agreements, which will be made available on a website.

Committee deputy chair and Labor senator Tim Ayres said the laws had been drafted by “true believers” in data sharing for better policy outcomes.

“That works fine until there’s a breach,” he said.

Commission assistant secretary Paul Menzies-McVey said there was a “higher bar” built into the bill with strict security controls and rules for using data for a defined purpose.

There are penalties for breaching those rules, including criminal penalties for “reckless breaches”.

While sharing data may be important for building effective public policy, critics warn access to personal data must be restricted and privacy upheld and respected.

Information from large data holders such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the national agency for information and statistics on health and welfare would be “largely de-identified”, the committee heard.

Anton said the data custodian can say no. “There is no duty to share.”

And that decision cannot be challenged by the commissioner.

She said there was a very strong awareness among government agencies and researchers of maintaining public trust and security controls.

Patterns and details of movement captured by the COVIDSafe app cannot be shared, the committee heard.

Electoral roll data is also outside the scope of the proposed bill.

Major quake tipped for NZ

A new study suggests New Zealand’s massive alpine fault is due for a monster earthquake within the next 50 years.

Victoria University of Wellington modelling suggests a 75 per cent chance of an earthquake of the South Island fault line in the next 50 years – most likely of magnitude 8 or higher.

The Alpine Fault runs along the South Island at the intersect of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, producing the mighty Southern Alps.

VUW senior lecturer Jamie Howarth has studied the past 20 Alpine Fault earthquakes by researching sediments in lakes and swamps, and says the chance of a major earthquake is much higher than previously thought.

“From the record of past earthquakes, we can determine that the probability of a magnitude 7 or higher event is about 75 percent in the next 50 years,” he said.

“So we now know the chances of seeing a large Alpine Fault earthquake in our lifetime are better than a coin toss.

“We are therefore expecting the next earthquake to be similar to the last one in 1717, an estimated magnitude 8.1, which ruptured about 380 kilometres of the fault.”

The modelling shows the chance of the next earthquake being a magnitude 8 or higher is 82 per cent.

An Alpine Fault earthquake has preoccupied many in New Zealand, leading to a major collaborative planning group known as “Project AF8”, which aims to ready Kiwis for the aftermath of the next monster quake.

“We can say the next earthquake will likely happen in most of our lifetimes,” Howarth said.

“We need to move beyond planning the immediate response to the next event, which has been done well through the AF8 programme, to thinking about how we make decisions about future investment to improve our infrastructure and community preparedness.”

The study has been funded by New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission and the Rutherford Foundation and has been published in Nature Geoscience.

Vaccine rollout shakeup as SA usage figures under fire

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program looks set to be simplified to two phases with details to be announced later this week, as the state opposition says new figures show South Australia still has the lowest vaccine utilisation rate in the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders on Monday reached an in-principle deal to bring forward the vaccination of over-50s and prepare mass vaccination sites for the rest of the population.

However, the plan – to be outlined in detail on Thursday – will rely on greater supply and distribution of vaccines.

Concerns have been raised that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are not being rolled out quick enough, with state governments keen to get cracking on a faster program.

So far, 1.59 million doses have been administered nationally – well short of the federal government’s initial target.

Of those, 119,102 have been given in South Australia, of which SA Health has administered 46,591.

However, the Opposition health spokesperson Chris Picton says the figures show the state is still lagging behind the rest of the country with a vaccine utilisation rate of 59 per cent – below the next lowest, Queensland, at 70 per cent.

“Yet again it is disappointing the federal government report shows SA has the slowest usage of vaccines in the country,” Picton said.

“When other states have used their entire supply, the SA Government has a stockpile of over 40,000 doses.

“This federal report shows there is miles between us and the next-slowest state.”

The new utilisation rate is a slight improvement from figures last week which showed SA Health was utilising vaccines at a rate of 57 per cent.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said at the time the number of doses administered corresponded with the state’s share of the national population.

The federal government’s vaccination program was initially rocked by a shortfall in supplies from Europe and took a second confidence hit with concerns over links between the AstraZeneca shot and blood clots in under-50s.

AstraZeneca supplies are expected to be redirected to over-50s under the revised plan developed by national cabinet, following advice given by medical experts of its safety.

The leaders backed the strategy of using GPs to deliver vaccinations for over-50s, with states and territories to consider options to supplement the rollout through expanded state vaccination centres.

The State Government has so far flagged three vaccination hubs to be located at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, the old Masters Hardware store in Noarlunga and the Playford Civic Centre in Elizabeth.

SA Health reported six new COVID-19 cases on Monday, all reported from a medi-hotel. There are 19 active cases in the state.

Freeway chaos after truck breakdown

A truck breakdown on the South Eastern Freeway before peak hour yesterday caused gridlock on some of Adelaide’s busiest commuter roads, with some motorists stuck for hours.

The semi-trailer broke down on the up-track near the Mt Osmond exit, below the tunnels. With one lane out of action for roadworks, the breakdown reduced the freeway to one lane.

The flow-on effects were widespread and continued for hours, with Glen Osmond Road becoming clogged back to the city, and commuters reporting being stuck on Portrush Road beyond Greenhill Road.

SA Police reported at 9:44pm on Monday the truck had been towed away and the freeway was now clear.

SA legal profession harassment report handed down

South Australian judicial officers and senior barristers have been accused of “rampant” sexual harassment and assault in a damning report, which cited one magistrate allegedly messaging a lawyer during a court hearing to say he imagined them “kneeling between his legs at the bench”.

The Equal Opportunity Commission review into harassment within South Australia’s legal fraternity, released today, shines a light on “endemic” behaviour perpetrated by some of the state’s highest judicial officers and lawyers towards younger and less experienced associates.

The review, conducted by Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Steph Halliday following a request from state parliament, found that 42 per cent of the 600 legal practitioners who responded to a survey reported experiencing sexual or discriminatory harassment at work.

Just under 13 per cent of those said the behaviour was perpetrated by “very powerful” members of the state’s judiciary.

A “worrying” 10 per cent of respondents also experienced sexual harassment during court proceedings.

According to Halliday’s report, “more often than not” the alleged perpetrators targeted women who were “very junior members of the profession or administrative staff”.

Read the full story here

Waste company guilty over fatal 2014 crash

A waste company is facing big fines after being found guilty of breaching workplace health and safety laws over a horror crash in Adelaide that claimed two lives in August 2014.

Jacqueline Byrne, 41, and Thomas Spiess, 56, were killed when a runaway sewage truck smashed into their stationary cars at the base of the South-Eastern Freeway.

In longstanding action brought by Commonwealth workplace safety regulator Comcare, Cleanaway Operations Ltd was found guilty in Adelaide Magistrates Court on Monday on eight counts of failing to comply with its health and safety duty.

It faces a maximum fine on each count of $1.5 million, although the company is expected to appeal the verdicts.

During the trial, truck driver Darren Hicks, who previously had charges over the crash against him dropped, told the court how he battled in vain to slow down before hitting a line of cars stopped at traffic lights.

He said he had been driving for Cleanaway for less than a week before the crash and it was his first time behind the wheel of the truck involved and also his first time driving any truck down the freeway.

The court was told that as the truck gathered speed he tried to slow it enough with the brakes so that he could change into a lower gear.

But he said there was “no air in the brakes” and it was going too fast.

Hicks, who lost a leg in the crash, also gave evidence that while the truck was a manual, all his training by the company was in an automatic.

In his published reasons for the guilty verdicts, magistrate Simon Smart found Cleanaway had failed to properly assess Hicks’ capacity to perform the tasks he had been assigned or to give him adequate training.

He said the company knew or ought to have known that Hicks, although the holder of an unrestricted heavy vehicle licence, had only recently obtained that licence.

Smart said Hicks lacked practical experience in driving a manual vehicle in particular and the driving of a heavy vehicle on the South-Eastern Freeway.

“The defendant ought reasonably to have known of the risk to heavy vehicles of brake failure on long downhill routes and the importance of gear selection in a manual vehicle to control the speed of the vehicle, and also the importance of ensuring the competence of drivers to undertaken such descents,” he said.

“It is clearly a long and steep descent; it includes arrester beds obviously intended to stop vehicles the brakes of which have failed.”

The case will return to court for mention in May before sentencing submissions in July.

Closing arguments in George Floyd murder trial

A prosecutor has told the jury that former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge and murdered George Floyd in last year’s deadly arrest as closing arguments began in Chauvin’s trial.

Over and over again, Steve Schleicher, a prosecutor with the Minnesota attorney general’s office, repeated a phrase: “Nine minutes and 29 seconds,” – the length of time Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on the dying Floyd’s neck.

Schleicher emphasised that the jury was weighing the guilt of only one man, although their verdict will nonetheless be widely seen as a reckoning in the way the United States polices black people.

“This is not a prosecution of the police,” Schleicher told jurors.

He cited the motto of the Minneapolis Police Department, which fired Chauvin and three other officers involved the day after Floyd’s arrest: “To protect with courage and to serve with compassion.”

“George Floyd was not a threat to anyone,” Schleicher said.

“Facing George Floyd that day that did not require one ounce of courage, and none was shown on that day, no courage was required. All that was required was a little compassion and none was shown on that day.”

Chauvin, who is white, pushed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed black man, for more than nine minutes outside the grocery store that had accused Floyd of using a counterfeit $uS20 banknote to buy cigarettes.

“He was trapped with the unyielding pavement beneath him, as unyielding as the men who held him down,” Schleicher said before playing some of the extensive video of Floyd’s death.

“What the defendant did not was not policing. What the defendant did was assault.”

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree “depraved mind” murder and second-degree manslaughter.

He waived his right to testify before the jurors and his lead lawyer, Eric Nelson, was due to present his own closing argument later on Monday.

A bystander’s video of Floyd begging for his life before falling limp scandalised people around the world.

An image of Floyd’s face has since been elevated to an icon for the largest protest movement in the United States in decades.

The Hennepin County chief medical examiner ruled Floyd’s death a homicide at the hands of the police.

Prosecutors say Chauvin used unreasonable, and therefore illegal, force in compressing Floyd’s neck and torso against the road in a way that starved him of oxygen.

Chauvin’s lawyers argued that he correctly followed the training he received over 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department and sought to raise doubts about the cause of Floyd’s death.

Bans loom for Super League clubs as UK Govt vows action

Breakaway Super League clubs Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid are likely be banned from this season’s Champions League semi-finals, UEFA executive committee member Jesper Moller has said, while the UK Government is vowing to “put everything on the table” – including restructuring club ownership and withdrawing government support – to stop the breakaway group from succeeding.

Twelve of Europe’s top clubs announced on Sunday they were setting up the European Super League as a rival to UEFA’s Champions League, prompting widespread anger among players and fans who labelled the proposal greedy and feared it would diminish the game’s competitive merit.

Unlike the current Champions League format, the founding members of the Super League are guaranteed entry into their competition every year, ensuring the top clubs take home a consistent stream of revenue.

English clubs Manchester United and City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are part of the breakaway group, along with Spain’s Barcelona, Real and Atlético Madrid, and Italy’s Juventus, AC and Inter Milan.

Real Madrid are due to face Chelsea in the Champions League next week, and Manchester City are drawn against Paris St Germain, who have not signed up to the breakaway league.

“The clubs must go, and I expect that to happen on Friday,” Moller, who is the head of the Danish FA, told Danish broadcaster DR on Monday.

“Then we have to find out how to finish (this season’s) Champions League tournament.

“There is an extraordinary executive committee meeting on Friday.”

Moller’s comments came shortly after UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said he wanted bans on the rebel clubs to be imposed.

“We’re still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon we can,” he said.

“My opinion is that as soon as possible they have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions.”

Meanwhile, UK Sports Minister Oliver Dowden has said the British Government will do everything possible to block the Super League and would review policing support for clubs and even the introduction of windfall taxes.

Dowden said he had met with the Premier League, the Football Association (FA) and the president of UEFA to discuss the plans that involve six English clubs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quick to object to the plans on Sunday evening and Dowden said the government would act to block the project even if football authorities could not.

“Be in no doubt, if they can’t act, we will,” Dowden told parliament on Monday.

“We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening.

“We are examining every option from governance reform to competition law and mechanisms that allow football to take place.

“Put simply, we will be reviewing everything the government does to support these clubs to play … we will do what ever it takes to protect our national game.”

Asked whether the government measures under consideration included a windfall tax on breakaway clubs, Dowden said he was looking at all options.

Other measures could include reviewing policing support for games and visas for players.

Dowden said Britain has looked closely at the German model of majority fan-ownership of soccer clubs, and will examine the idea more closely in an upcoming fan-led review of governance of the sport.

“We’ve examined the German model very closely,” he told parliament.

“It’s very interesting to note that German teams are not participating in this.”

Italy’s sports undersecretary said she was very worried about the consequences that could arise from the creation of the breakaway Super League, which includes Italian clubs AC Milan, Inter and Juventus.

“I am very worried about the consequences that an institutional clash could bring to the sports world,” undersecretary Valentina Vezzali said in a statement.

“I hope that the sports authorities involved can quickly find a solution,” she added.

-With AAP and Reuters

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