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What we know today, Sunday May 2


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

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Flinders Ranges up for World Heritage List

The Flinders Ranges could join Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the Great Barrier Reef on the World Heritage List, after the government nominated the South Australian site to UNESCO.

The area has been nominated for a tentative listing as a World Heritage site, on behalf of the South Australian government and the area’s traditional owners, the Adnyamathanha people, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement.

“The Flinders Ranges is known for its outstanding aesthetic beauty, diverse landscapes and rich biodiversity, and exceptional scientific values,” Ms Ley said.

“It is also considered to be a window into a major stage in Earth’s history known as the ‘dawn of animal life’, a geological record of wildly fluctuating climate conditions and environments over a period of 350 million years.”

The Flinders Ranges will now spend at least 12 months on the tentative list, and will then be considered by two independent advisory bodies.

South Australia’s Environment Minister David Speirs said he was proud the region was being recognised on a world scale.

“Achieving World Heritage status requires a place to be aligned with very specific criteria, and strong evidence that the values being nominated are absolutely unique and not replicated anywhere else in the world,” he said.

SA animal abuser faces extradition

A breeder convicted of a string of animal abuse offences, including operating squalid puppy farms in South Australia, could be extradited from New Zealand.

The RSPCA is investigating the possible extradition of the woman, after a magistrate found her guilty of 33 offences involving 27 dogs held in filthy conditions, and five horses that were starved.

She is at the centre of one of the longest-running animal welfare cases in South Australia but the RSPCA says she can’t be sentenced, or held liable for the cost of caring for her seized animals, unless she returns to Australia.

There is a warrant out for her arrest should she set foot in the country again but the RSPCA is also investigating options for her forced return.

The woman has failed to show up for the last four of the 37 court appearances relating to the case, including a sentencing hearing last month and another hearing last week over RSPCA’s animal care costs.

“It’s deeply concerning that … (she) chose not to attend court to finalise the judicial process in this very serious matter, and appears instead now to be living in New Zealand,” RSPCA South Australia Chief Inspector Andrea Lewis said on Sunday.

“Nonetheless, the magistrate’s verdict in this milestone case exemplifies what are – and aren’t – acceptable living conditions for animals.

“We hope this case serves as a disincentive for anyone who might be thinking of generating income by breeding puppies without regard for their welfare and current legislative requirements.”

The offences happened on the woman’s property at Baroota, near Port Pirie north of Adelaide.

WA avoids lockdown for now, bans AFL crowd

Perth and the Peel region have avoided another lockdown for now after no further locally acquired coronavirus cases were detected.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan confirmed the news on Sunday, 24 hours after a hotel quarantine security guard and two of his housemates tested positive.

Contact tracers are continuing to work through the movements of the three men but all 16 close contacts identified by WA Health as “high risk” have returned negative tests.

Results are pending for a further four close contacts, while a another 136 contacts are deemed casual or yet to be classified.

All the new cases and their close contacts must quarantine for 14 days.

Sunday’s AFL western derby between West Coast and Fremantle at Optus Stadium will be played behind closed doors, with the risk of 45,000 spectators travelling to the stadium deemed too high.

Nightclubs will close for the next week and all Perth and Peel residents must wear masks indoors and outdoors, regardless of proximity to others.

South Australia reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, both returned travellers in a hotel quarantine.

Budget to provide $1.7b for child care

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says a planned $1.7 billion injection into the childcare system will give families choice and make the economy stronger.

The package, which will be included in the May 11 budget, is particularly aimed at low and middle income families earning $130,000 or less.

It will also increase the subsidies given to families with more than one child in child care.

The childcare subsidy for families with two or more children aged five and under will increase to a maximum of 95 per cent, up from 85 per cent.

Mr Frydenberg said Treasury estimates the measures will help to boost economic growth by about $1.5 billion a year and provide the opportunity for up to 300,000 extra hours a week to be worked.

The announcement came after a week of calls for a more generous and less complex childcare system from business, welfare and early education groups.

However the package is less generous than Labor’s promised of universal child care.

“There is nothing there to regulate the costs that are at record highs under this government. This does nothing to move towards a universal, affordable childcare system,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Government under pressure to justify India ban

The federal government is under pressure to justify its move to criminalise desperate Australians attempting to return home from COVID-ravaged India.

The Australian Human Rights Commission wants the government to prove that its decision to fine or jail Australians is “not discriminatory”.

It says it holds deep concerns about the “extraordinary” new restrictions.

Human Rights Watch has described Canberra’s actions as outrageous.

Travellers from India have been blocked from entering Australia until at least May 15, when the decision will be re-assessed.

Indirect routes via Doha, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore have also been closed off as the daily tally of COVID-19 cases in India tops 400,000.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says anyone attempting to defy the rules will be hit with fines of up to $66,600, five years in prison or both.

More than 9000 Australians in India are registered as wanting to return, including 650 considered vulnerable.

“The need for such restrictions must be publicly justified,” the Human Rights Commission said on Saturday.

“The government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health.”

Human Rights Watch’s Australia director Elaine Pearson says “Australians have a right of return to their own country”.

The government’s decision was based on the number of positive cases from India detected in the country’s quarantine facilities, Mr Hunt said. More than 150 overseas-acquired infections have been reported Australia-wide in the past week, many from India.

“The government does not make these decisions lightly,” he said in a statement.

Labor has backed the flight ban as the “right call” but questioned the decision to criminalise citizens for trying to return home.

“It’d be a big call to make it a crime for Australians trying to get home,” senior MP Jason Clare said.

“We charted a flight to Wuhan (in China) to get Aussies out and took them to Christmas Island. Why aren’t we doing that now?”

It comes as South Australia reported two new cases, both returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

India gears up to give all adults vaccine

India has opened vaccinations to all adults in hopes of taming a monstrous spike in COVID-19 infections.

The world’s largest maker of vaccines was still short of critical supplies – the result of lagging manufacturing and raw material shortages that delayed the roll-out in several states.

And even in places where the shots were in stock, the country’s wide economic disparities made access to the vaccine inconsistent.

The country’s ambitious effort was also partly overshadowed on Saturday by a fire in a COVID-19 ward in western India that killed 18 patients and the reported deaths of eight patients at a New Delhi hospital after it ran short of oxygen supplies.

That report, from the Press Trust of India news agency, could not be immediately confirmed with hospital authorities.

Also on Saturday, the country received its first batch of Sputnik V vaccines imported from Russia.

Only a fraction of India’s population will be able to afford the prices charged by private hospitals for vaccines, experts said, meaning that states will be saddled with immunising the 600 million Indian adults younger than 45 while the federal government gives shots to 300 million health care and front-line workers and people older than 45.

So far, government vaccines have been free and private hospitals have been permitted to sell shots at a price capped at 250 rupees ($A4).

That will now change: prices for state governments and private hospitals will be determined by vaccine companies.

Less than 2 per cent of the population has been fully immunised against COVID-19 and about 10 per cent has received a single dose.

Tassie Liberals triumph in state election

Australians continue to re-elect incumbent governments during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Liberal Party claiming victory in Tasmania.

Counting will resume on Sunday with the government confident of claiming a 13th seat to deliver it a majority in the state’s 25-member lower house.

Incumbent governments have been returned at all four state and territory elections since coronavirus changed the world early last year.

The WA Labor government won in a stunning landslide, joining the ALP in Queensland and ACT in being re-elected during the coronavirus era.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said he was confident of winning outright, saving him from his own pledge to quit if his government failed to win a majority.

“Whilst we have won this election convincingly, it appears increasingly likely that we will also govern in majority,” he told the tally room in Hobart on Saturday night.

The premier called the election a year ahead of schedule in a bid to capitalise on high approval ratings stemming from coronavirus management.

The government also campaigned on economic success while Labor ran heavily on health and housing.

Mr Gutwein thanked Tasmanians for working with the government to safeguard the island state.

“We turned Tasmania into one of the safest places in this country and without doubt, one of the safest places on this planet,” he said.

Opposition Leader Rebecca White conceded defeat but didn’t comment on her future after leading Labor to a second defeat.

Four seats remain in doubt with Labor clinching at least seven and the Greens are sitting on two.

The Hobart electorate of Clark shapes as the crucial race with independents Kristie Johnston and Sue Hickey both polling strongly.

Victory in one of the two in-doubt Clark seats could deliver the Liberals a majority, while independent success could give rise to a kingmaker.

Perth awaits verdict on second lockdown

West Australian contact tracers are working to ring fence any COVID-19 infection spread from a hotel quarantine security guard and two of his housemates.

The Perth and Peel region is on standby for another lockdown, depending on health authorities’ risk assessment of infection spread through the community.

Premier Mark McGowan says the guard in his 20s worked at the Pan Pacific Hotel between April 24 and 26 and tested positive on Saturday.

On his days off work from April 27 to 30, he moved through the community going shopping, seeing friends and visiting Mirrabooka Mosque.

After a weekly routine PCR test on Friday, a positive COVID-19 test result was received on Saturday morning, prompting the guard and his seven housemates to be moved immediately to hotel quarantine.

The guard had received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine just days earlier.

Two of his housemates – a roommate and a guest from Canberra – also returned positive tests on Saturday.

Mr McGowan did not impose a lockdown on Saturday, but warned that could change by Sunday or Monday.

“We are effectively in a holding pattern and I hope we can avoid going back into lockdown,” he said.

Federal crackdown on proxy advisors, super

The federal government is cracking down on shareholder proxy advice firms, and – by proxy – the country’s biggest superannuation funds.

Proxy firms issue voting recommendations on resolutions put at company meetings, including on environmental, social and governance issues, and board pay.

Changes proposed by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg would mean the firms have to give companies their research and advice at least five days before they give it to their clients.

There are four major proxy advisers in Australia: CGI Glass Lewis, ISS Australia, Ownership Matters and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ASCI).

The superannuation fund advisor ASCI in particular has pushed major corporations on climate change and gender diversity on boards.

ASCI recently pledged its support for an Indigenous voice to parliament.

“There is currently very limited regulation on how this proxy advice is formulated, provided, used and disclosed,” the Treasurer’s office said in a statement issued late on Friday.

Frydenberg’s move is also likely to upset major superannuation firms, which collectively own about 20 per cent of the Australian sharemarket, worth about $440 billion.

Under the proposed changes, super funds would have to show whether their shareholder votes are consistent with proxy advice, and “outline how they exercise independent judgment in the determination of their voting positions”.

Staff evacuate 23 babies from Darwin ICU

An electrical fault has forced the evacuation of more than 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit at Royal Darwin Hospital.

Hospital staff have been praised for their quick-thinking action after noticing smoke and an acrid smell in the area on Saturday morning.

“The NT Fire and Rescue Service was immediately called and all 23 babies were evacuated by staff and relocated to another nursery in the building,” the Territory’s Department of Health said in a statement.

The incident has been blamed on an equipment electrical fault and hospital engineering staff have reviewed the unit’s electrical equipment and deemed it to be safe.

May Day protesters demand job protections

Workers across the globe have used May Day to demand more labour protections amid a pandemic that has turned economies and workplaces upside down.

Workers and union leaders around the world have dusted off bullhorns and flags that had stayed furled during coronavirus lockdowns for slimmed down but still boisterous May Day marches.

They are demanding more labour protections amid a pandemic that has turned economies and workplaces upside down.

In countries that mark May 1 as International Labor Day, the annual celebration of workers’ rights produced a rare sight during the pandemic; large and closely packed crowds, with marchers striding shoulder-to-shoulder with clenched fists behind banners.

But in Turkey and the Philippines, police prevented the May Day protests, enforcing virus lockdowns.

In France, thousands took to the streets with trade union banners and flags.

Some marches, constricted by coronavirus restrictions, were less well-attended than was traditional before the pandemic. But they still served as outlets for workers’ concerns over jobs and protections.

In Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, thousands vented their anger at a new job creation law that critics fear will reduce severance pay, lessen restrictions for foreign workers, increase outsourcing and hurt workers in other ways as the nation seeks to attract more investment.

In the Philippine capital of Manila, where a month-long coronavirus lockdown has been extended by two weeks amid a surge in infections, police prevented hundreds of workers from demonstrating at a public plaza, protest leader Renato Reyes said.

But protesters did gather briefly at a busy Manila boulevard, demanding pandemic cash aid, wage subsidies and COVID-19 vaccines amid rising unemployment and hunger.

“Workers were largely left to fend for themselves while being locked down,” labour leader Josua Mata said.

In Turkey, a few labour leaders were allowed to lay wreaths in Istanbul’s Taksim Square but riot police stopped many others from reaching the plaza.

The Progressive Lawyers’ Association said more than 200 people were detained.

Ollie Wines of the Power reacts during his team’s defeat at the hands of the Brisbane Lions on Saturday, May 1. Image: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Power and Crows both thumped

Adelaide’s two AFL teams were both thrashed on Saturday ahead of next weekend’s Showdown.

Brisbane made light work of Port Adelaide, abruptly cooling the Power’s hot AFL form with a 49-point drubbing at the Gabba on Saturday evening.

Brisbane notched a third-straight win – 13.15 (93) to 5.14 (44) – in their first appearance without injured Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale.

His likely midfielder opponent Travis Boak was missing for the Power too and it was the Lions who adjusted best, combining terrific pressure with slick movement forward to notch a fourth-straight win against the premiership fancies.

“I really rated the win against Carlton (last week) but I didn’t come here tonight thinking if we won it’d be like that,” Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said after declaring it their best win of the year.

Joe Daniher had another eye-catching game for Brisbane, linking nicely with Eric Hipwood to set the tone early.

Port’s Ollie Wines (37 disposals) and Aliir Aliir (nine intercepts) were standouts in a side that led the inside-50 entries 58-55 but were constantly beaten to the ball.

“You don’t want that reminder but you get those reminders,” Port coach Ken Hinkley said while lamenting his side’s inferior contested work.

Power defender Ryan Burton was substituted for Sam Mayes at halftime with a rib issue.

Earlier on Saturday Jesse Hogan made a triumphant four-goal comeback as Greater Western Sydney hammered a lacklustre Adelaide by 67 points.

The Giants banked a third win in four games with their resounding 15.16 (106) to 4.15 (39) victory at Adelaide Oval.

“That is unacceptable at AFL level,” Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks said.

Adelaide’s Taylor Walker booted two goals but his side had no clear winner, though onballer Ben Keays (28 disposals), acting captain Tom Doedee (22 touches, nine marks) and Paul Seedsman (27 possessions) had patches of influence.

– with AAP and Reuters

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