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What we know today, Sunday May 9


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

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Australian border shut until at least 2022

Australia’s border will stay shut until 2022 as the federal government targets COVID suppression, while the opposition says a sluggish vaccination rollout will affect future freedom.

The “tragic” events in India are a reminder of the threat still posed by the virus and there will be an assumption in this week’s budget of borders opening next year, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the ABC on Sunday.

“We don’t move ahead of the health advice, we’ve got to ensure that our communities stay safe, and when we suppress the virus as we’ve successfully done, our economy recovers,” he said.

But with the vaccination rollout running at “about 350,000 doses per week”, Australia’s adult population won’t be fully vaccinated until 2023, opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said.

“Three weeks ago Scott Morrison said there could be international travel and home quarantine by as early as July. This morning … he’s saying Australia will be locked down forever,” Mr Butler told reporters on Sunday.

New Zealand’s suspension of quarantine-free travel with NSW will lift on midnight on Sunday.

Initially triggered by two local cases in Sydney, NZ COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said he was satisfied travel could resume following no evidence of “widespread undetected community transmission”.

NSW recorded zero new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday.

Travel beyond Australia’s border is expected to happen in stages as more travel bubbles open with safe countries, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

“Our goal is very simple, to progressively open as quickly as we can, subject to safety,” he said on Sunday.

“Green lanes, vaccinations, and then the potential for those that have been vaccinated to be able to travel and return in different circumstances.”

China rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean

Remnants of China’s biggest rocket have landed in the Indian Ocean, with most ending days of speculation over where the debris would hit Earth.

The coordinates given by Chinese state media put the point of impact in the ocean, west of the Maldives archipelago.

The China Manned Space Engineering Office says most of the debris was burnt up in the atmosphere.

State media reported parts of the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 12.24 AEST and landed at a location with the coordinates of longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north.

Debris from the Long March 5B has had some people looking warily skyward since the rocket blasted off from China’s Hainan island on April 29.

It was the second deployment of the 5B variant since its maiden flight in May 2020.

Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told Reuters that the potential debris zone could have been as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.

Ever since large chunks of the NASA space station Skylab fell from orbit in July 1979 and landed in Australia, most countries have sought to avoid such uncontrolled re-entries through their spacecraft design, McDowell said.

“It makes the Chinese rocket designers look lazy that they didn’t address this,” said McDowell, a member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid published by the official People’s Daily, dismissed as “Western hype” concerns that the rocket was “out of control” and could cause damage.

The rocket, which put into orbit an unmanned Tianhe module containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent Chinese space station, is set to be followed by 10 more missions to complete the station by 2022.

De Pasquale a Supercars winner at The Bend

Ford’s Anton De Pasquale has claimed his first Supercars win as a Dick Johnson Racing driver with success in Sunday’s first race at Tailem Bend.

The 25-year-old started the race from pole position and avoided a first-lap multi-car crash to hold off teammate Will Davison and Red Bull Ampol Racing’s Shane Van Gisbergen for just the second win of his Supercars career.

“We’ve got a one-two, it’s pretty cool. It’s a cool day,” said De Pasquale, who will look to make it two-from-two when he starts Sunday’s second race from pole position.

The real drama of the 24-lap race at The Bend Motorsport Park occurred on the sixth turn of the opening lap in a collision that ended the races of championship contenders Cameron Waters and Chaz Mostert as well as Macauley Jones.

Waters was sent spinning off the track after Saturday’s race winner Andre Heimgartner’s aggressive move into the turn created a domino effect with the cars around him.

Heimgartner forced Tim Slade to run wide and when Slade rejoined the circuit he clipped Mostert who then speared into the side of Waters’ Tickford Racing Mustang.

Jones was caught up in another incident at the same time involving David Reynolds which left his Commodore stricken.

The first lap chaos meant Waters, Mostert and Jones all finished with zero points for failing to complete the required 75 per cent of the race distance.

Mostert did make a brief return after some furious work by his pit crew, setting a fastest lap but then returned to the pits and was clearly unhappy to have his race cruelled so early.

“Thought we were racing Supercars, not dodgem cars,” a furious Mostert said.

SA hospital ramping crisis blamed on pandemic

A record 2281 hours were lost to ambulance ramping in April — the third successive month records were broken.

Data from the SA Ambulance Service detailed the concerning trend, which has forced people suffering medical emergencies to catch taxis to hospital due to a shortage of ambulances.

Ramping has been a key talking point in recent industrial disputes between the ambulance union and the SA government, with the latter eventually committing to provide an extra 74 paramedics to address the issue.

The SA Ambulance Employees Association noted the Marshall government committed to ending ramping in April last year.

“There are solutions — Marshall is not listening to his clinicians,” the organisation tweeted.

Labor accused the Liberals of cutting $11m from the ambulance service over the past 2 years.

Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade on Saturday suggested the issue may have arisen out of pent up demand on hospitals after patients delayed care during the pandemic.

“That’s a phenomenon that we’re seeing right across Australia as we’re coming out of COVID, there is significant increase in pressure on our EDs [emergency departments],” he told the ABC.

Australian dies in India of COVID-19

An Australian permanent resident has died in India after contracting COVID-19, as the virus continues to rage throughout the subcontinent.

Grieving Sydney woman Sonali Ralhan is angered that her father was “abandoned” to die and has accused the federal government of ignoring her pleas to bring him home.

The 59-year-old died on Wednesday, days after Australia banned flights from India and announced fines of up to $66,600, five years prison or both for anyone who attempted to return home before May 15.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Facebook, Ms Ralhan, an Australian citizen, said she contacted embassy officials in India a few weeks ago with “great hopes” they would help her parents, long-term residents of Australia, get home safely.

She said her pleas for help were ignored and instead of real assistance, consular officials called her mother periodically to “note down her distressed condition”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne confirmed the death and said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was providing consular assistance to the family.

She also extended her sympathies to the family, whom she did not identify, telling Sydney’s 2GB radio it was one of many the government knows is “dealing with what is an extraordinary challenge, with infection rates surging”.

India on Saturday reported 401,078 confirmed cases, including 4187 deaths. Overall, it has more than 21.8 million confirmed infections and nearly 240,000 deaths.

A handful of Australian rescue flights from India are being organised as officials bolster infections controls at the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs quarantine facility to prepare.

The first into Darwin will arrive on May 15, 23 and 31. Three more are being looked at to land in other states.

Queensland, Victoria and NSW have agreed to accept flights, while South Australia is weighing up the option. Up to 200 people could be on each flight.

Ollie Wines of the Power in a marking contest with Tom Doedee, Reilly O’Brien and Jake Kelly of the Crows during the Showdown, Saturday, May 8, 2021. Image: AAP/Matt Turner

Port dons prison bars after Showdown win

Port Adelaide’s leaders deny sending a provocative signal to the AFL by wearing their banned prison bars jumper while singing the club song to celebrate their 49 point win over the Adelaide Crows.

The AFL banned Port from wearing the club’s historic black and white jumper in Saturday night’s Showdown against Adelaide, citing signed agreements with the league and also Collingwood, who argue Port’s prison bars jumper infringes on their trademark black and white kit.

Power coach Ken Hinkley denied the move for players to change into the jumper before singing the song was sending a signal to the AFL.

“No, it’s a show of respect for our heritage for our past,” he said.

Port’s former captain Travis Boak, who won the best-afield medal against the Crows said donning the prison bars jumper was a “full club” decision.

Boak gathered 28 disposals and six clearances in the 12.15 (87) to 5.8 (38) Showdown win, while forward Todd Marshall booted three goals.

Port’s prolific ball-winner Dan Houston was subbed out with a shoulder injury in the third term, while ruckman Scott Lycett faces suspension for a sling tackle.

The Crows lost McHenry and fellow small forward Lachlan Murphy (ankle) inside 22 minutes of the game.

Adelaide’s Paul Seedsman (29 disposals, nine inside 50s) and Rory Laird (36 touches) battled against the tide after Adelaide’s two early injuries.

AGL sues Greenpeace for logo parody

Energy giant AGL has taken Greenpeace to court in a bid to stop the environment group using its corporate logo in climate change campaigns.

Greenpeace has used the AGL logo in an online advertising campaign featuring the slogan “AGL – Australia’s Greatest Liability”.

The campaign describes the company as “Australia’s biggest corporate climate polluter”.

AGL owns three coal-fired power plants, Loy Yang A in Victoria and Liddell and Bayswater in New South Wales.

The Greenpeace ads were run online in the business sections of the Australian Financial Review and The Guardian.

At an initial hearing in the federal court in Sydney on Friday, AGL asked for a temporary injunction to stop Greenpeace using its logo, claiming it has breached copyright laws and infringed on its trademark.

The injunction has not been granted.

AGL’s case is being run by one of Australia’s leading intellectual property silks, John Hennessy SC.

He said the environmental campaigners could make their point without resorting to the use of the company’s logo, according to a transcript of the hearing.

The environment group’s defence so far argues the AGL trademark is not being used in the course of trade, and was instead used as “part of a parody or satire”.

Deposit boost for single first home buyers

The government’s latest promise ahead of Tuesday’s federal budget offers single parents the chance to buy their first home with a deposit of just two per cent.

The federal scheme will allow first home buyers to obtain a loan for a new or newly-built home with a deposit of as little as two per cent with the government guaranteeing up to 18 per cent of the loan.

Up to 10,000 first-time buyers with dependants would be able to access the scheme over four years.

Minister for Women’s Economic Security Jane Hume said the aim is to make the “great Australian dream” accessible to single mothers.

“We know that so many single parents use so much of their income towards rent and building that deposit is so much harder for them with the demands of children,” she said.

“So this is all about removing those barriers to building that deposit and it’s also about giving those a hand up who need it the most.”

Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie called it a “cheap as chips” measure that will have no impact on struggling single parents.

The government has also extended its similar First Home Loan Deposit Scheme to an additional 10,000 buyers.

That scheme allows first-time buyers to build or purchase new homes with a deposit as small as five per cent.

Abetz dumped from top Tasmania senate spot

Influential Tasmanian Liberal powerbroker Eric Abetz has been demoted to third place on the party’s senate ticket in a shock preselection vote.

It could signal the end of Senator Abetz’s almost three-decade senate career, given that third place on the ticket is difficult to win.

Mr Abetz lost votes to outer ministry senate colleague Jonno Duniam in first place, and Senator Wendy Askew in second.

It was widely speculated that Senators Abetz and Duniam would take the top two positions at the next federal election, with Senator Askew in third.

Tasmanian electoral analyst Kevin Bonham said Senator Abetz’s senate seat was not unwinnable at the next poll, but he was in a risky position.

“Ever since he got into the senate he’s been top of the ticket,” Mr Bonham told AAP.

“There’s never been any direct test of his popularity and now he has to actually fight for votes for the party as well as himself.”

Considerations that could have swayed the 67 rank-and-file members who cast votes in the preselection, Mr Bonham said, were that Senator Abetz has long been a politically controversial figure, that he is close to retirement age and that it would not have looked good to demote a woman to third place.

Cyber attack shuts down US fuel pipeline

Top US fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline has shut its entire network, the source of nearly half of the US East Coast’s fuel supply, after a cyber attack that industry sources said was caused by ransomware.

The company transports 2.5 million barrels per day of petrol, diesel, jet fuel and other refined products through 8,850 km of pipelines linking refiners on the Gulf Coast to the eastern and southern United States.

Colonial shut down systems to contain the threat after learning of the attack on Friday, it said in a statement. That action has temporarily halted operations and affected some of its IT systems, the company said.

While the US government investigation is in its early stages, one former US government official and two industry sources said the hackers are most likely a highly professional cybercriminal group.

Investigators are looking into whether a group dubbed “DarkSide” by the cybersecurity research community is responsible, the former government official said.

DarkSide is known for deploying ransomware and extorting victims, while selectively avoiding targets in post-Soviet states.

The malicious software used in the attack was ransomware, two cybersecurity industry sources familiar with the matter said.

Colonial has engaged a third-party cybersecurity firm to launch an investigation and contacted law enforcement and other federal agencies, it said.

If the system is shut for four or five days, the market could see sporadic outages at fuel terminals that depend on the pipeline for deliveries.

Nationalists Scots vow independence vote

Pro-independence parties won a majority in Scotland’s parliament on Saturday, paving the way to a high-stakes political, legal and constitutional battle with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the future of the United Kingdom.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the result meant she would push ahead with plans for a second independence referendum once the COVID-19 pandemic was over, adding that it would be absurd and outrageous if Johnson were to try to ignore the democratic will of the people.

“There is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson, or indeed for anyone else, seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future,” Sturgeon said.

“It is the will of the country,” she added after her Scottish National Party (SNP) was returned for a fourth consecutive term in office.

The British government argues Johnson must give approval for any referendum and he has repeatedly made clear he would refuse. He has said it would be irresponsible to hold one now, pointing out that Scots had backed staying in the United Kingdom in a “once in a generation” poll in 2014.

– with AAP and Reuters

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