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What we know today, Friday May 14


Two large windows at Adelaide’s State Administration Centre have been smashed with a hammer, with police searching for the man responsible.

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Windows smashed at State Admin Centre

Two large windows at Adelaide’s State Administration Centre have been smashed with a hammer, with police searching for the man responsible.

Riding a pushbike, the man stopped in front of the Victoria Square building early on Friday morning before attacking the glass panels and then riding off.

He is described as having a beard and wearing black Adidas track pants, a black vest with grey top underneath, a grey beanie and black and white shoes.

He was also carrying a large backpack.

The State Administration Centre includes a number of ministerial offices, including those of Premier Steven Marshall and Treasurer Rob Lucas.

Police have asked anyone with information about the incident to come forward.

Vaccinated in US can largely ditch masks

US health officials have eased mask-wearing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated, allowing them to stop using face coverings outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

“Today is a great day for America,” President Joe Biden said during a Rose Garden address on Thursday heralding the new guidance from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask,” he said, summarising the new guidance and encouraging more Americans to roll up their sleeves. “Get vaccinated – or wear a mask until you do.”

The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues – even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

“We have all longed for this moment – when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, at an earlier White House briefing.

The CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people – those who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 dose – in part to highlight the benefits of getting the jab.

The country’s aggressive vaccination campaign has paid off – US virus cases are at their lowest rate since September, deaths are at their lowest point since last April and the test positivity rate is at the lowest point since the pandemic began.

To date about 154 million Americans, more than 46 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 117 million are fully vaccinated.

The rate of new vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks, but with the authorisation on Wednesday of the Pfizer shot for children ages 12 to 15, a new burst of doses is expected in the coming days.

“All of us, let’s be patient, be patient with one another,” Biden said, acknowledging some Americans might be hesitant about removing their masks after more than a year of living in a pandemic that has killed more than 580,000 in the US and more than 3.3 million people worldwide.

Ladhams gets nod for Port

Port Adelaide has summoned Peter Ladhams to replace suspended ruckman Scott Lycett for Saturday night’s high-stakes AFL encounter with the Western Bulldogs.

Lycett’s four-game ban for a sling tackle opened the selection door for Ladhams, who hasn’t been sighted in AFL ranks since being dropped after round four.

Power coach Ken Hinkley says he considered a debut for 21-year-old ruckman Sam Hayes before opting for the more experienced Ladhams.

“It was a real tough call, both boys are in really good form,” Hinkley told reporters on Friday.

“Pete has played some AFL football but we’re really keen to give Sam an opportunity at the right time.

“But today was the right time to give Pete a go.”

Hinkley refused to be drawn on the severity of Lycett’s suspension for a dangerous tackle which concussed Adelaide’s Ned McHenry.

“For me to decide what is fair and what is not fair, I don’t want to buy into that conversation,” he said.

“We’re protecting the head and I think we should protect the head.

“Scott knew that he had done the wrong thing, he didn’t challenge the charge … the number of games is determined by the tribunal and we respect that.”

The third-placed Power will be without infuential midfielder Dan Houston (shoulder) with Riley Bonner replacing him for the Adelaide Oval match against the second-placed Dogs.

Port, with six wins and two losses, sit one victory behind the Bulldogs whose only loss has been against reigning premiers Richmond.

While both are flag fancies, Hinkley cautioned against reading too much into the result.

“It (the result) will say something but I’m not exactly sure how much,” he said.

“It’s round nine. And we make all these predictions and all these bold statements after every round – someone tomorrow is going to win and hopefully it’s us.

“It’s just too early to make too many big predictions about anyone in the competition.”

The fixture pits two of the AFL’s renowned midfields against each other, with both clubs boasting star-studded on-ball bridgades.

“We are really comfortable and confident that our best is as good as they have got, we have got some great quality,” Hinkley said.

“The Bulldogs will be looking at our midfield and having as many concerns as we have about theirs.”

Women’s and Children’s Hospital to be all-electric

Adelaide’s new Women’s and Children’s Hospital will be the first in Australia to be powered only by electricity.

The new facility will not be connected to natural gas infrastructure with electricity being used for heating, hot water and other kitchen and building services.

While no firm timeline has been finalised for construction, the state government says the move will save 2178 tonnes of greenhouse emissions each year, the equivalent of taking 700 vehicles off the road.

“We have a responsibility to reduce the carbon footprint of the healthcare sector,” Health Minister Stephen Wade said.

“The new Women’s and Children’s Hospital will operate for decades to come and will have a higher energy demand, in line with modern, technically advanced facilities.

“It would be negligent if we didn’t consider the impact of that increased demand on the environment and future generations.”

Wade said the hospital would be the first all-new facility in the country to be 100 per cent electric.

An expansion of the current Canberra Hospital will also be all-electric, but the old part of the facility will retain gas in its energy mix.

All the new hospital’s equipment will be connected to an electricity source that is either supplied from the grid or through on-site electricity generation and storage.

Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said once operational, the new hospital would be the most sustainable in Australia.

It will also capture and store rainwater and be connected to a recycled water supply for landscaping, toilet flushing and other building services.

Its design will incorporate low-emission building materials and make best use of natural light for the benefit of staff and patients.

The government has committed $685 million for initial works on the project but the final cost is yet to be determined.

India repat flight departs Australia

An aircraft due to bring home the first group of the 9000 Australians stranded in coronavirus-ridden India will leave from the Northern Territory this afternoon.

The Qantas plane will depart Darwin International Airport with just 12 hours to go before a federal government travel ban expires on Saturday.

The plane will return on Saturday morning to Darwin, where those on board will be transported to the Howard Springs quarantine facility just outside the city.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner confirmed on Friday the facility will be able to accommodate 2000 quarantining people a fortnight by the end of June.

“We’re expected 450 from India over the rest of May as well as 600 from London and Istanbul,” he told Seven Network.

Gunner said there was a lot of compassion in Darwin for the Australians and residents trying to get home.

The NT took in the first returning Australians in February last year from Wuhan, China, which was then the global epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak.

There have never been any breaches at the facility.

“No complacency,” Gunner said, “but we’ve set ourselves a challenge to always get better”.

On Thursday, the NT government warned the COVID-19 infection rate among those returning from India could be in the double digits.

About 200 repatriated Australians are expected to start their two weeks of quarantine at Howard Springs in the coming week.

They will be some of the most vulnerable cases among the 9000 stranded in the COVID-ravaged sub-continent, which is racking up an average of 300,000 new infections a day.

NT health officials are preparing for 10 per cent of the passengers on Saturday’s flight to be infected – five times more than repatriation flights from other countries.

Three flights are expected to land in Darwin from India during May and early June.

That will push Howard Springs’ population to about 1200 people and on track to 2000 by the end of June.

The facility can handle about 100 positive cases, but AUSMAT and NT Health teams hope to keep that number at 50.

NT Deputy Chief Health Officer Charles Payne said if the number of positive cases got too high, flights from India could be paused again, but that is unlikely.

Man charged over Cherry Gardens bushfire

Police have charged a Hallett Cove man for allegedly starting the Cherry Gardens bushfire that ravaged the Adelaide Hills in January.

The 61-year-old was on Thursday charged with twelve counts of intentionally causing a bushfire and ten counts of property damage, following a police investigation into the blaze.

The bushfire destroyed two homes, 19 outbuildings, two vehicles and burned more than 2700 hectares of scrub and grassland and forced many residents to evacuate their homes.

It was first detected at around 4pm on January 24 on Hicks Hill Road at Cherry Gardens, Matthews and Mount Bold Road at Bradbury and Dorset Vale, as well as Cut Hill in Kangarilla.

The man has been refused bail and will appear before the Adelaide Magistrates Court today.

The 61-year-old, who is reportedly a former CFS volunteer, is already on remand after being charged with causing a bushfire nearby in Clarendon after police allegedly spotted his vehicle “speeding away” from a fire on Piggott Range Road on the evening of January 24.

Police stopped the car and arrested the man, who then allegedly returned a blood-alcohol reading of 0.145.

At the time, SAPOL said they were investigating possible links to other bushfires in the region.

The investigation into the blaze is ongoing with police urging anyone who saw a “small white car” in Cherry Gardens, Dorset Vale, Bradbury, Clarendon and Kangarilla between 3pm and 6pm on January 24 to contact crime stoppers.

Race to secure SA vaccine production heats up

The race to secure COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in South Australia is heating up as the federal government prepares to make an approach to market for a local mRNA manufacturing plant in the next two weeks.

The Commonwealth is backing a second COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant in Australia to shore up supplies, with pressure mounting on the State Government to ensure an Adelaide plant wins the contract.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said an approach to market would be launched within the next 10 days for companies to locally produce mRNA vaccines, such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

Hunt expects at least one of the vaccines to be made in Australia by next year.

“I won’t make a guarantee on that, but I am confident that over the future period we will have mRNA production in Australia,” he told reporters on Thursday.

It comes after revelations on Wednesday that biotech firm BioCina believes it can start manufacturing advanced mRNA COVID-19 vaccines at an Adelaide facility “within 12 months”.

The biologics contract development and manufacturing firm owns a 4600 square metre facility in Thebarton which it says is “the most advanced facility of its kind in Australia”.

Premier Steven Marshall has already floated the proposal to Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, and the biotech firm has been in discussions with the federal health department according to the SA Senator.

But the Thebarton facility is set to face stiff competition from Melbourne’s CSL, whose manufacturing plant received a $50 million investment from the Victorian Government last month to prepare it for mRNA vaccine production.

CSL is already making the AstraZeneca vaccine in Melbourne.

The SA Labor Party is calling for an “aggressive” push for South Australia to secure the rights for local mRNA vaccine production.

“Having vaccine manufactured locally in South Australia would provide vaccine security, avoid global supply chain issues and create a more robust defence against future pandemics,” Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said.

“We have a state-of-the-art facility that, with reasonable financial support from government to add key capabilities and expand capacity, can within months be producing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to address the current local and global shortage.”

A clear flow of supply will be needed as GPs begin the rollout to all Australians aged over 50 from Monday.

Just under 2.9 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including more than 214,000 in SA.

Albanese unveils $10 billion social housing plan

Anthony Albanese has promised to build 30,000 social and affordable houses over five years if Labor wins the next election, unveiling a range of policies in training, skills and industrial relations in his budget reply speech.

The opposition leader on Thursday night revealed plans to borrow $10 billion for a housing future fund.

Investment returns would pay for 20,000 social houses, including 4000 for women fleeing violence and older women at risk of becoming homeless.

A further 10,000 affordable dwellings would be built for health, emergency services and other frontline workers.

“The security of a roof over one’s head should be available to all Australians,” he told parliament on Thursday night.

Labor expects 21,500 full-time jobs in construction and the broader economy will be created in the first five years, with a guarantee one in 10 on-site workers will be apprentices.

The Future Fund Board of Guardians would manage the program, with investment returns annually transferred to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation.

The returns are also slated to provide $200 million for repairs and improvements on housing in remote Indigenous communities.

Some $100 million would be spent on crisis housing for women fleeing violence and older women at risk of homelessness.

Veterans who are homeless or at-risk of falling into that category would be provided with $30 million in new houses and specialist services.

Federal Housing Minister Michael Sukkar has challenged state and territory governments to do more on social housing after criticism the budget did little to address a growing crisis.

Albanese also pledged $100 million to support 10,000 apprentices who chose to train for jobs in solar, major renewable projects, green hydrogen, energy efficiency home upgrades and renewable manufacturing.

There would be 2500 places annually over four years, with $2000 for starting a qualification, and the same amount each year as well as on completion, capped at $10,000.

He also announced that Labor will introduce laws criminalising wage theft, to be developed after consultation with unions, employer groups and state and territory governments.

Labor would also introduce legislation to create a positive duty for employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sexual discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

Sexual assault allegations rock NSW parliament again

The NSW government has been forced further into minority after it lost its second MP in as many months to sexual assault allegations.

Kiama MP Gareth Ward on Thursday night stepped aside as a minister after naming himself as the politician under investigation for “sexual violence-related offences” dating back eight years.

Police are investigating the allegations, which reportedly took place in 2013, they confirmed on Thursday.

In a statement on Thursday night Ward denied any wrongdoing, and said he had not been contacted by police.

“Today I have been made aware by a journalist of an investigation into me by NSW Police,” he said in a statement.

“I have not been contacted by police in relation to any allegations.

“I deny any wrongdoing.”

However, Ward said he would step down as the minister for families, communities and disability services and remove himself from the Liberal Party room while the investigation is ongoing.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian supported the MP’s decision, saying she too was made aware of the allegations by the media.

“I have subsequently received advice from Minister Gareth Ward of his decision to step aside as minister and sit on the cross bench while there is speculation about his future,” she said in a statement.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said it was “Groundhog Day” for the coalition, after another government MP quit parliament amid sexual assault allegations earlier this year.

Upper Hunter Nationals MP Michael Johnsen resigned in March over allegations he raped a sex worker in 2019, which he vigorously denies.

Ward’s move to the crossbench means the coalition government is three MPs short of a majority, with former sports minister John Sidoti also sidelined amid a corruption inquiry.

It also comes as sexual harassment and bullying policies for NSW government ministers’ offices face an overhaul after a “brutal” review two weeks ago found they were ineffective and unclear.

Ransomware gang leak US police files

The police department in the US capital has suffered a massive leak of internal information after refusing to meet the blackmail demands of a Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate.

Experts say it is the worst known ransomware attack ever to hit a US police department.

The gang, known as the Babuk group, released thousands of the Metropolitan Police Department’s sensitive documents on the dark web on Thursday.

A review by the Associated Press found hundreds of police officer disciplinary files and intelligence reports that include feeds from other agencies, including the FBI and Secret Service.

Ransomware attacks have reached epidemic levels as foreign criminal gangs paralyse computer networks at state and local governments, police departments, hospitals and private companies.

They demand large payments to decrypt stolen data or to prevent it from being leaked online.

Colonial Pipeline, who operate the largest fuel pipeline network in the US, reportedly paid nearly $US5 million ($A6.5 million) to eastern European hackers this week after the pipeline was shutdown by a crippling cyber attack.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst and ransomware expert at the security firm Emsisoft, said the police leak ranks as “possibly the most significant ransomware incident to date” because of the risks it presents for officers and civilians.

Some of the documents include security information from other law enforcement agencies related to US President Joe Biden’s inauguration, including a reference to a “source embedded” with a militia group.

One document details the steps the FBI has taken in its investigation of two pipe bombs left at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee before the riots at the US Capitol on January 6.

That includes “big data pulls” of mobile phone towers and plans to “analyse purchases” of Nike shoes worn by a person of interest, the document said.

The newly released files include details of disciplinary proceedings of hundreds of officers dating back to 2004.

The files often contain sensitive and embarrassing private details.

“This is going to send a shock through the law enforcement community throughout the country,” said Ted Williams, a former officer at the department who is now a lawyer.

The Babuk group indicated this week that it wanted $US4 million ($A5.2 million) not to release the files but was only offered $US100,000.

The department has not said whether it made the offer.

Reds lose again but coach upbeat

Adelaide United are winless in five A-League games after a 4-1 loss to Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Thursday night, but coach Carl Veart is confident the Reds aren’t far off their best.

Last night’s loss means Melbourne City have now opened up an 11-point lead at the top of the table, but the Reds had some promising moments throughout.

Veart said he’d “never really felt under any threat” when City had the ball but he was left to lament poor decision making and execution in attack, while City’s first two goals both came from short corners.

“The football we’re playing is good. It’s just small details,” Veart said.

“At times it’s the pass is under-hit, or it’s hit to the wrong side, or the cross is not quite in the right area.

“We had some really good opportunities to get close, and we didn’t take them and then they took their opportunities at the other end.”

City opened the scoring on Thursday night with goals from Scott Jamieson and Scott Galloway, until United hit back in the 51st minute when winger Ben Halloran buried the rebound off a save from City goalkeeper Tom Glover.

But the home side ran out on top after Jamie McLaren netted a quickfire brace and became City’s all-time leading goal scorer.

Thursday night’s game was the first of four in 11 days for United, with the Reds facing a short turnaround before hosting Brisbane on Sunday.

Adelaide then travel to Perth to face the Glory on Wednesday, then take on Melbourne Victory away next Sunday.

Veart said with the short turnarounds in mind, fringe Socceroos striker Tomi Juric had been deliberately managed when he was substituted at halftime.

“Tomi is still having a few issues with his calf,” Veart said.

“So the idea was that he wasn’t gonna play a full game tonight because we’ve got a lot of short turnaround coming up.

“So it’s important that we manage the playing group.”

But goalkeeper Joe Gauci is poised to miss at least a couple of weeks after injuring his quad in the warm-up.

“We think he’s torn a muscle in his leg in the warm up when he was kicking a ball,” Veart said.

“So it was unfortunate. It could be a couple of weeks, I’m not sure.

“We’ll have to wait until we get back and have a scan and see how bad it was.”

-With AAP and Reuters

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