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What we know today, Thursday April 29

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

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Teenager dies in hospital after eastern suburbs crash

A 15-year-old boy has died in hospital after being hit by a car in Glynde earlier this month.

The teenage pedestrian was hit by a Holden sedan on Payneham road on the evening of Tuesday, April 13, and rushed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Police say the boy from Felixstow died in hospital last night.

The driver of the sedan, a 25-year-old woman from Hectorville, was also taken to hospital at the time with minor injuries.

South Australia’s road toll is now 38, compared to 37 at the same point last year.

US ‘on the move again’, Biden tells Congress

President Joe Biden has declared the United States is “on the move again” 100 days after he took office, in a speech to a joint session of Congress.

Biden appeared in the chamber of the US House of Representatives on Wednesday at an event scaled back this year because of the pandemic, removing his mask to speak to a small group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, other officials and guests arrayed before him.

Seizing on the need to rebuild after the coronavirus pandemic to advance Democratic priorities at a time of political polarisation, Biden told the joint session and millions of people watching on television that “America is ready for a take-off”.

“Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again, turning peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity, setback into strength,” Biden said.

He argued that a new spending and tax-credit package, which together with an earlier infrastructure and jobs plan, totals around $US4 trillion ($A5.1 trillion), rivalling the annual federal budget – is a once-in-a-generation investment vital to America’s future.

“Tonight, I come to talk about crisis — and opportunity,” he said. “About rebuilding our nation — and revitalising our democracy. And winning the future for America.”

Biden argued that the spending plans were needed to keep up with China, which his administration sees as a major strategic challenger.

“China and other countries are closing in fast,” he said.

He said he had spent a lot of time talking to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others, autocrats, think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies. It takes too long to get consensus,” he said.

Biden is trying to thread the needle between Republicans opposed to more spending and the tax increases needed to pay for it, and liberal Democrats who believe Biden needs more aggressive plans.

The Democratic president spoke of a willingness to speak with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to come to an agreement. He is to meet the top Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the White House on May 12 to try to find common ground.

His plan includes $US1 trillion ($A1.3 trillion) in spending on education and childcare over 10 years and $US800 billion ($A1.0 trillion) in tax credits aimed at middle- and low-income families, according to a White House fact sheet. It also includes $US200 billion ($A257 billion) for free, universal preschool and $US109 billion ($A140 billion) for free community college regardless of income for two years, the White House said.

The American Families Plan and the infrastructure and jobs plan the White House introduced this month could represent the most significant government transformation of the economy in decades.

AFL rejects Port bid to wear ‘prison bars’ in Showdown

The AFL has rejected Port Adelaide’s bid to wear its traditional prison bars guernsey in the Round 8 Showdown against Adelaide next week.

The league issued a statement about noon confirming it had reviewed and not approved Port Adelaide’s request to wear the black and white striped jumper in the May 8 Adelaide Oval match.

“After reviewing the request from the Port Adelaide Football Club, the AFL determined the existing signed agreements between the Port Adelaide Football Club, Collingwood and the AFL on the use of the “prison bar” guernsey would remain in place,” the statement said.

“That agreement, signed by all parties, stipulated the guernsey was specifically approved for Port Adelaide’s use only for that single match in 2020 and Collingwood’s approval did not bind it with respect to any other future proposals by the Port Adelaide Football Club in respect of the Guernsey.

“Collingwood Football Club has made it clear that, at this time, it does not agree to further use of the guernsey by PAFC including in ‘Showdown’ matches against Adelaide Crows.

“On that basis, and consistent with the arrangements that have applied to all previous instances of use of the “prison bar” guernsey by Port Adelaide since the Club joined the AFL (i.e. with the approval of the AFL and Collingwood) the AFL does not grant permission for the guernsey to be worn in Round 8.”

Crows lock up young defender

Young Adelaide defender Fischer McAsey has resisted overtures from Victorian rivals to sign a fresh AFL deal with the Crows.

Victorian-based clubs were understood to be circling the second-year Crow, who was the No.6 pick at the 2019 draft.

But McAsey, who played 10 games in his first season last year, has signed a two-year contract extension to remain in Adelaide until the end of the 2023 season.

“I’m excited by what we’re building at Adelaide,” McAsey said.

“My faith in the club has never wavered and I have enjoyed settling into Adelaide over the first two years.

“I want to be part of it … we have a great group of young players who are coming through together and we are driving each other to get better.”

The 197cm tall McAsey has yet to play an AFL game this season but was a vital part of future planning, Adelaide’s list manager Justin Reid said.

“We have a lot of belief in Fischer and value him incredibly highly both as a footballer and a person,” Reid said.

Hopes dashed for SA mental health reform

A former SA mental health chief who quit in protest at a lack of reform action has lashed out after a day-long forum on the issue yesterday, criticising the “dead head’ of bureaucracy and warning : “Lives will be lost. Careers ended through unrelenting stress.”

The forum was organised by Health Minister Stephen Wade in response to escalating concerns about the mental health system but excluded the paramedics’ union, which is locked in a dispute with the state government over ramping and staffing levels.

Concerns about the mental health system came to a head three weeks ago after InDaily revealed the executive director of mental health and prison health services at the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN), Adjunct Professor John Mendoza, had quit his post a year into his three-year contract, unleashing on SA Health and the State Government over a lack of action.

At the time, he said he wasn’t going to waste his time pretending to be part of a reform effort that wasn’t there, and lamented a “Praetorian Guard” limiting access to the Health Minister.

Mendoza has since had a key hearing with Wade ahead of yesterday’s forum, which left him hopeful that important action would occur, after initially fearing the workshop would be no more than a talkfest.

He spoke with the Minister for an hour on Monday evening.

“Without breaching confidences, I would simply say that the conversation was encouraging and I think on the basis of that I’m optimistic about some positive and tangible outcomes,” he told InDaily earlier this week.

However, those newfound hopes were dashed at the end of yesterday’s day-long session.

“I can confidently say that the situation for frontline clinicians come 1 July, nothing will be different – what a missed opportunity,” Mendoza tweeted late yesterday.

“Having listened to over 90 minutes of ‘workshop feedback’ there was almost nothing about the COVID mental health surge in demand.

“Lives will be lost. Careers ended through unrelenting stress.”

Asked by InDaily if that meant his previous hopes had evaporated, he replied: “Gone. Totally.”

“It was a classic play from bureaucrats handbook on applying the dead hand of government,” he said.

“Nothing will be different come 1 July. Patients will still be stranded in EDs for more than 24hrs every day, some will be there 2-5 days; there will still be people air transferred from around the state waiting for psychiatric intensive care beds being subject to violence and trauma; there will still be staff dreading going to work every day.”

His comments came after the paramedics’ union was not invited to the mental health workshop, which had a guest list of about 60 including other key unions such as the doctors’ and nurses’ peak lobby groups.

The closed forum ran from 10am to 6pm, although the Minister was only scheduled to attend for the last two hours, while SA Health chief executive Chris McGowan attended for the start.

A spokesman for the Health Minister said their presence was intentionally limited so it could be a “frank and fearless” discussion.

Reports from inside the forum indicated it was certainly that.

Read the full story here.

Rental squeeze as affordable housing crisis deepens

South Australia’s housing crisis has continued to “deepen and broaden” with an Anglicare report finding job seekers were unable to afford any rental properties across the state in March.

AnglicareSA’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot found that of 1788 properties private rentals advertised on realestate.com.au in South Australia on March 26, none were affordable and appropriate for single people reliant on the federal government’s JobSeeker payment as their main source of income.

Across single South Australians on the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment only 17 properties were affordable and appropriate.

The stark outlook for low-income renters was a further decline from the one per cent or 31 SA properties available for people on the JobSeeker payment in March 2020.

The rental market was only marginally better for families with two adults on the JobSeeker payment, with four per cent of properties considered affordable and appropriate.

The organisation defined an “affordable property” as one where rent did not exceed 30 per cent of a household budget, a benchmark that is commonly used as an indicator of housing stress. Suitable properties were defined as appropriate for the number of people at the dwelling.

It follows what AnglicareSA labelled a “brief reprieve” for people on low-income payments during the coronavirus pandemic, when the $550 fortnightly COVID-19 supplement boosted the number of properties affordable to South Australians on welfare.

AnglicareSA Executive General Manager of Housing Michelle Gegenhuber said 25 per cent of properties were affordable on the increased rate of JobSeeker payment.

“With the supplement now gone, and only a minor permanent increase to the JobSeeker payment, the crisis we’ve seen for years in Adelaide has returned and it is even more dire than before COVID,” she said.

“The unfortunate reality is that if you rely on income support, or you earn the minimum wage, and you want access to the private rental market, then there is very little hope.”

Gegenhuber said a “co-ordinated, systemic and holistic approach” to the state’s housing crisis was vital to tackling the issue, with the organisation urging the Marshall and Morrison governments to increase funding for the sector in the upcoming budgets.

“Alongside a greater permanent increase to income support payments, we desperately need to build more social and affordable housing to ensure families aren’t left without a roof over their heads,” she said.

“In a country like Australia, it is simply not good enough that we accept and do not address a systemic market failure that excludes so many in our community from safe and secure housing.”

Frydenberg unveils plan to drive down jobless rate

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will use a speech in Canberra today to outline the strategy for his May 11 budget and his plan to drive the national jobless rate below five per cent.

In what is likely to be his final major speech before handing down next month’s budget, the treasurer says despite the fall in the jobless rate to 5.6 per cent, it is still not what he considers to be “comfortably below six per cent”.

This was a target he had previously set before undertaking budget repair after the government’s big-spending support programs in the face of the pandemic.

He said the virus remains a threat to both the global and domestic economies, international borders remain largely closed, Australia’s population growth is the lowest in a century and interest rates are close to zero.

“For these reasons, we remain firmly in the first phase of economic and fiscal strategy,” he will say in a speech in Canberra today.

“We need to continue working hard to drive the unemployment rate lower. We will not move to the second phase of the fiscal strategy until we are confident that we have secured the economic recovery.”

Frydenberg wants to drive the unemployment rate down to where it was before the pandemic – 5.1 per cent – and then even lower.

He said the last time Australia had a sustained period of unemployment below five per cent was between 2006 and 2008 and just prior to the global financial crisis.

He says the government’s core values have not changed and it remains committed to lower taxes, containing the size of government, budget discipline and guaranteeing the delivery of essential services.

“But we won’t be undertaking any sharp pivots towards austerity,” he says.

China tells Australia to drop Cold War mentality

China has called certain Australian politicians troublemakers and urged them to “shake off the Cold War mentality” amid fierce tensions between the two nations.

It comes after Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo declared the world’s “drums of war” were beating and that Australia must prepare for conflict in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was asked about Pezzullo’s remarks in a press conference on Wednesday and gave a pointed response.

“Some individual politicians in Australia, out of their selfish interests, are keen to make statements that incite confrontation and hype up threat of war, which is extremely irresponsible,” he said.

“These people are the real troublemakers.”

Zhao said Australia had benefited from cooperation with China for a long time, and that China is a promoter of peace and global development.

“As a country that has long benefited from cooperation with China, Australia is being untruthful and immoral with its false allegation of a ‘China threat theory’. This will only end up hurting its own interests,” he said.

“We urge certain individuals in Australia to shake off the Cold War mentality, stop making irresponsible remarks, and act in ways that are conducive to regional peace and stability rather than the opposite.”

On Anzac Day Pezzullo delivered a hawkish speech in which he said Australia must strive for peace, but not at the cost of liberty. He did not specifically mention China.

“In a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat – sometimes faintly and distantly, and at other times more loudly and ever closer,” he said.

“Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, thought unlikely to be ­catalysts for war.”

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews confirmed she read the “very strong” speech in advance.

“The overarching message from government is that we need to be alert but not alarmed,” she said.

But Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said Pezzullo’s language was inflammatory.

“By all means, we need to stand up for our trade, stand up for human rights, but language like ‘drums of war’, I think that is pretty hyper-excited language,” he said.

The relationship between the two nations has crumbled in recent times, in part sparked by Australia’s early call for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

China bristled and later slapped damaging tariffs on Australian barley and wine, while trade disruptions to other produce followed. Tensions have heightened since.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has this week expressed concerns about Beijing’s stance on Taiwan.

And a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday was told Australia must call out China’s widespread use of forced Uighur labour.

Meanwhile, The Philippines is not backing down after China warned against the country’s maritime exercises in the South China Sea.

The Philippine coastguard and fisheries bureau started maritime exercises on Saturday inside the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), following an announcement of a boosting of its presence to counter the “threatening” presence of Chinese boats.

Responding to the exercises, China’s foreign ministry on Monday said the Philippines should “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes”.

The Philippine defence ministry in a statement responded saying: “China has no business telling the Philippines what it can and cannot do.”

UK, Prince Charles offer extra virus support to India

The UK is offering more aid to virus-hit India as Prince Charles throws his support behind the nation’s fight against a COVID-19 crisis.

India yesterday crossed a grim milestone of 200,000 people lost to the coronavirus as a devastating surge of new infections tears through dense cities and rural areas alike, overwhelming healthcare systems on the brink of collapse.

The health ministry on Wednesday reported a single-day record 3293 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing India’s total fatalities to 201,187 as the world’s second-most populous country endures its darkest chapter of the pandemic yet.

The country also reported 362,757 new infections, a new global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million. The previous high of 350,000 on Monday had capped a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country throughout the pandemic.

Charles says he is “deeply saddened” by the devastating surge in coronavirus deaths in India and he’s urged the public to back an appeal to buy oxygen equipment for the nation.

“Indian aid and ingenuity has been a support to other countries through this immensely difficult time. As India has helped others, so now must we help India,” Charles said in a message to the people of India.

He added that he has a “great love for India” and that he wanted “those suffering the effects of this pandemic in India to know that they are in my thoughts and prayers”.

The British Asian Trust, a charity Charles founded in 2007, launched an emergency appeal called Oxygen for India to buy oxygen concentrators, which can extract oxygen from the air when hospital infrastructure struggles to cope.

As of Wednesday, the charity had raised more than 270,000 pounds, and the funds will be sent to the charity’s local partners in India to procure oxygen equipment for the seriously ill in both cities and harder to reach rural areas.

Britain is home to a large Indian community of about 1.4 million people, and many have sought ways to support their home country during this crisis.

A first British government shipment of 200 pieces of medical equipment, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, arrived in Delhi Tuesday, and the rest is due to arrive by Friday.

The equipment was sent in response to a request from India and will be transferred to Indian hospitals.

The Foreign Office said late Wednesday that the UK will also send three oxygen generation units to support India’s fight against the pandemic.

The units, the size of shipping containers, can each produce 500 litres of oxygen per minute, enough for 50 people to use at a time, officials said.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, is the fourth to cross 200,000 deaths behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico. And as in many nations, experts believe the coronavirus infections and fatalities in India are severe undercounts.

Deadly US arrest compared to George Floyd case

Police in California are under fire over the death of a Latino man who was pinned to the ground for more than five minutes in a video-recorded arrest.

The death in Alameda unfolded the same day a jury in Minneapolis began deliberating in the George Floyd case.

Autopsy findings on the cause of death have not been released, but the family of 26-year-old Mario Gonzalez blamed police, accusing them on Tuesday of using excessive force and escalating what should have been a minor encounter with the unarmed man.

“The police killed my brother in the same manner they killed George Floyd,” Gerardo Gonzalez said.

In a statement, the San Francisco Bay Area city said it is “committed to full transparency and accountability in the aftermath of Mr. Gonzalez’s death.”

The death is under investigation by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the district attorney’s office and a former San Francisco city attorney hired by Alameda to lead an independent probe.

The three officers involved in the arrest have been placed on paid leave.

Gonzalez stopped breathing following a scuffle with police on the morning of April 19 at a park, where officers had confronted him after receiving 911 calls that said he appeared disoriented or drunk.

A police statement said Gonzalez had a medical emergency after officers tried to handcuff him.

The arrest took place just hours before the case against former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin went to the jury.

The next day, Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter for pinning Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the black man’s neck.

In Alameda, the nearly hour-long video from two officers’ body cameras shows police talking to a seemingly dazed Gonzalez. The third officer arrives later.

When Gonzalez doesn’t produce any identification, the officers are seen on video trying to force his hands behind his back to handcuff him, but he resists and they take him to the ground.

Gonzalez is seen grunting and shouting as he lies face down on wood chips while the officers restrain him. One officer puts an elbow on his neck and a knee on his shoulder.

One officer also appears to put a knee on his back and leaves it there for about four minutes as Gonzalez gasps for air, saying, “I didn’t do nothing, OK?”

Gonzalez’s protests appear to weaken, and after about five minutes he seems to lose consciousness.

The video shows officers rolling Gonzalez over and performing CPR. They are also seen administering at least two doses of Narcan, which is given to counteract opiate overdoses.

Gonzalez was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

– with AAP and Reuters

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