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What we know today, Tuesday May 18

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

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Eight new recycling projects for SA

South Australia’s waste management industry is set to receive $111 million in funding to support eight new recycling projects across the state.

The projects, funded jointly by the state and federal government, include a $24 material resource facility in the southern suburbs, a $19 million glass processing plant near Gawler, and a $12 million recycling plant for waste paper and cardboard in the northern suburbs.

The State Government says the investments will boost South Australia’s capability to process waste as the nation prepares for a ban on waste exports which will come into force in 2024.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the investment would support South Australian waste management authorities to process waste onshore and transform it into new products.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is proud to be working closely with the Morrison Government to deliver the most significant investment in South Australia’s recycling industry ever seen to build key infrastructure projects creating up to 500 jobs across the state,” Speirs said.

“The eight projects which are worth $111 million will transform waste management in South Australia and improve our ability to process plastic, glass, paper, cardboard and tyres within the state.

“They will reinforce South Australia’s position as a national leader when it comes to waste management.”

Other projects include a nearly $8 million investment for a paper and cardboard beneficiation plant in Edinburgh, around $9 million for Recycling Plastics Australia’s site at Kilburn and $8 million for Orora Group’s Kingston facility to build a glass recycling facility.

Federal Environment Minister Susan Ley said the new investments are expected to divert up to 250,000 tonnes of waste into new products.

“These kinds of high-tech projects build the infrastructure that will power the circular economy in Australia, improving our ability to process our own waste and creating local jobs,” Ley said.

Hinkley rejects ‘flat-track bullies’ label

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has dismissed the suggestion the Power are “flat-track bullies” while throwing his support behind key forward Charlie Dixon.

The Power are fifth on the ladder after a 6-3 start to the season, losing to West Coast away, Brisbane away and most recently, the Western Bulldogs at home.

“You look at the season in whole, I think if you call us a flat-track bully you’re being really disrespectful to the Bulldogs and to Brisbane particularly who sit second and third on the ladder,” Hinkley told Fox Sports’ AFL 360.

“We’ve been beaten by two very good sides.

“With four minutes to go the other night, against a side who’s lost one game for the year, we were eight points down after coming from somewhere close to six goals down.

“So I thought we were pretty strong in our ability to stay in the game, and we lost by a couple of goals at the end.”

Dixon has booted just 14 goals in nine games and Hinkley said that was partly a by-product of the Power attempting to avoid being too reliant on the key forward.

“He’s competing really fiercely every week, he takes two or three opponents every week and that’s really important for the other people around him to get some success as well,” Hinkley said.

“He’s not in his absolute best form – we get that and he gets that – but he’s building towards that, we hope.

“We think as a collective, if he can build towards that and another parts can come together at the same time … we believe we’ve got genuine improvement in lots of parts of our game.”

Second Australian dies from COVID in India

Businessman Govind Kant has become the second Australian to die from COVID-19 in India.

Trina Solar said in a statement on Tuesday the company’s manager for Australia had died on May 16 at a hospital in Delhi after contracting the virus at the end of April.

He had returned to India for family reasons earlier in the month.

“Our deepest condolences go to his wife, two daughters and other family members,” the company said.

“This is a significant loss to Trina Solar and mere words cannot express the heartfelt sorrow we all feel upon Govind’s passing and we will provide necessary assistance to his family in this mourn period and we pray his soul may rest in peace.”

It followed the death in India of an Australian permanent resident earlier in the month.

Disability sector vaccine rollout must ‘step up’: PM

Scott Morrison has conceded the coronavirus vaccine rollout in disability residential care needs to be stepped up.

The prime minister said the aged sector had been prioritised ahead of the disability sector despite the two being deemed as the most high risk.

The rollout in aged care is nearly complete, more than three months after it started, but only 1000 disability care residents and 1500 staff have received their coronavirus vaccine.

Vaccination figures provided to the disability royal commission also showed that in South Australia, just six disabled people in residential care and four support workers had received a COVID-19 vaccine as of May 6.

“We’ve got to step up the performance there, there’s no doubt about that,” Morrison told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’m working with our health officials to achieve that.”

Morrison said complacency could not set in despite the virus not spreading widely through Australia’s disability care facilities.

“That’s why we do need to do more and do better when it comes to ensuring that we’re getting the vaccination levels up in our disabled community.”

The government hopes to have priority groups vaccinated by the end of June.

Earlier, David Littleproud defended the failed vaccine rollout in disability care and falsely claimed there had been no coronavirus cases in the sector.

The federal agriculture minister insisted it was acceptable that fewer than 1000 people with disability in residential care had been vaccinated.

“Yes, because it’s part of the scheduled rollout,” Mr Littleproud told ABC radio.

Littleproud said the bungled rollout had been “sensationalised” by his political opponents.

“There have been no cases of disability workers or people with disability,” he said.

But in fact, there have been many cases, including the deaths of at least eight participants on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and one support worker.

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John, who lives with a disability, said somebody must be held accountable for the shockingly low vaccination rates.

“As the royal commission said, this program has been an abject failure when it comes to vaccinating disabled people,” he told the ABC.

“There must now be accountability among the health department, and there must be an urgent review of every single document the health department has produced in relation to the pandemic to ensure disabled people are accurately accounted for there.”

Queensland to consider euthanasia bill

Queensland could become the fourth state to legalise euthanasia with the government introducing a voluntary assisted dying bill to parliament next week.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the proposed laws are aimed exclusively at people who are suffering or dying.

She says Labor MPs will be allowed to have a conscience vote on the bill and indicated she will support it after witnessing the slow and painful deaths of her grandmother and uncle last year.

“I’m a Catholic, I’ve thought about this long and hard,” Palaszczuk told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’ve had a lot of personal experiences in the last 12 months, and I have made up my mind based on what I have seen and those experiences.

“And like I said, this is a choice, and it’s not going to be the right choice for a lot of people, but it’s got to be an option for people, and far be it for me to make that individual choice on how a person wishes to end their life.”

It comes after South Australia’s assisted dying laws passed the Upper House two weeks ago.

The Queensland legislation is similar to the SA bill in that people choosing euthanasia must have an eligible condition – either a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death.

Their condition must be expected to cause their death within 12 months and it must cause suffering that is “intolerable”.

Legally, patients will have to be assessed to be acting voluntarily and without coercion, aged at least 18 and be a Queensland resident.

Patients seeking voluntary assisted dying will need to make three applications over a period of at least nine days.

Health practitioners must tell applicants that they can change their mind at any point during the process.

A doctor will assess each application, which will then be sent to a second doctor, with the successful applications sent to back to the first doctor to proceed.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said medical practitioners would not be will be able to recommend euthanasia and would be allowed to be conscientious objectors under the proposed laws.

“So that, importantly, the individual themselves still gets to access that option, but respecting individual medical practitioners and entities may be conscientious objectors,” she said.

D’Ath said a new navigator system would also be set up to help guide applicants and their families through the process.

She said that would help patients who were turned down by practitioners who were conscientious objectors.

“So they don’t have to go shopping around themselves and trying to find someone at what is a really difficult time for them and their family,” the health minister said.

The process, prescription and supply of a substance can then be chosen with patients able to self-administer euthanasia or have a health practitioner do so.

A special oversight board of existing authorities will be tasked with compliance.

The bill will be debated in September and, if it passes, a euthanasia system will be in place by May 2022.

Victoria is the only Australian state in which voluntary assisted dying is active, while Western Australia and Tasmania have passed their own laws.

Local vaccination rollout finally gains pace

South Australia’s rollout of available COVID-19 vaccines has gone past the national average for the first time after weeks languishing behind almost all of the other states.

New weekly federal health department figures released late yesterday show that state-run clinics in SA had administered 80,017 vaccine doses to May 16 with an estimated dose utilisation – the total doses administered as a percentage of the total doses available – of 79 per cent.

This figure compared to a national average of 77 per cent and is a sharp improvement on April when SA’s dose utilisation sat below 60 per cent and was the worst in the nation in every weekly report of the month.

In total, 229,134 vaccine doses have been administered in South Australia, including about 149,000 shots administered as part of the Commonwealth primary care and aged and disability care rollouts.

However, just six people in residential disability care and four disability support workers in South Australia had received a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the federal government’s rollout as of May 6, an inquiry was told yesterday.

Only two of the six have received a second dose, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability revealed.

Overall, the Northern Territory had the worst lag of all the jurisdictions, with 47,652 doses available and 22,953 administered, giving it a utilisation rate of just 58 per cent.

Queensland was the worst-performing state, with 317,810 doses available and 170,330 delivered – or a usage rate of 64 per cent.

Across the other states and territories, rates were: Tasmania (90 per cent), ACT (82 per cent), WA (80 per cent), NSW (78 per cent), Victoria (77 per cent).

The federal health department found all doses available for the aged and disability care program were being used, while the commonwealth primary care program was at 75 per cent utilisation.

So far, 3.1 million doses have been administered nationally.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said some adjustments may be needed in the states and territories.

“We are encouraging all the states and territories – who we believe are doing an excellent job – to continue to use their vaccines,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“And where they feel that they have more capacity to open up channels, or where they feel they are using their capacity, to adjust their ordering.”

Despite criticism of the slow rollout, particularly in April, the state government has consistently chosen to measure its success on per capita vaccination, a figure not recognised in the weekly federal figures.

SA Health Minister Stephen Wade told reporters yesterday that South Australia “continued to be the mainland state with the highest vaccination rate”.

He said the government would open a new vaccination hub at Noarlunga next Tuesday and another hub at Elizabeth on May 31.

“We will continue that slow, steady and reliable increase in the vaccine rate,” he said.

South Australia currently has a stockpile of 36,243 available vaccine shots.

SA Health confirms ‘savings’ document amid job cut fears

SA Health has confirmed the existence of an “internal working document” outlining “various opportunities” for savings identified by consultant firm KordaMentha but says “no decisions have been made”.

The “secret” savings document contains plans to axe staff including doctors and nurses from Adelaide hospitals, according to clinicians who say the system cannot cope with any further cuts.

SA Salaried Medical Officers Association chief industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland has sent a warning memo to staff within the Central Adelaide Local Health Network, which includes the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

“SASMOA has received advice from clinicians that a CALHN document has been prepared regarding KordaMentha ‘Tranche 2 Savings’,” the memo says.

“SASMOA is advised that the document contains more cuts to clinical staff including doctors, nurses, allied health and administrative positions.

“The advice from the clinicians is that in their clinical opinion the cuts will have a significant impact on the safety of patients.

“SASMOA has requested a copy of the Tranche 2 Savings document and the CALHN CEO has confirmed it exists, but has described it as an ‘internal draft document’.”

KordaMentha was appointed in 2018 as administrators of CALHN as it faced a $300 million budget blowout, with plans to save $276 million in three years.

The contract was suspended in April last year because of the COVID pandemic, but the firm was brought in again later in the year to help rein in CALHN’s budget deficit.

In a statement issued late yesterday afternoon, a spokesperson for CALHN said “we continually review our services to ensure we provide the best care for our patients while delivering value for South Australians”.

“While no decisions have been made, an internal working document has been prepared that outlines various opportunities for CALHN to consider,” the spokesperson said.

“Opportunities were identified by KordaMentha as part of their contract which concluded earlier this year.

“These and other opportunities would be subject to all required consultation processes.”

Hydrogen hope for Port Bonython

A large parcel of land near Whyalla earmarked for a potential hydrogen hub has been put out for national and international expressions of interest by the state government.

The site at Port Bonython in the Upper Spencer Gulf features more than 2,000 hectares of available land and access to an existing deepwater port comprising a 2.4km long jetty, which has been approved for a $37 million state government-funded upgrade

The state government has described the site as one of South Australia’s most prospective hydrogen export hubs.

It says the significant renewable energy resources of the region may also support a range of other industrial, mining and related projects and development.

In this month’s budget, the federal government set aside $276 million for four regional hydrogen hubs across the country, with another $264 million allocated for carbon capture projects.

Whyalla Council has launched a campaign to host one of the four hubs to help grow the steel city’s economy.

State Treasurer Rob Lucas said expressions of interest will be rated on their ability to develop projects that have the potential to create economic growth and regional development on the Eyre Peninsula and contribute to Port Bonython as a multi-user, export-focused precinct to leverage the state’s advantages in renewable energy, fuels and minerals.

“This is a significant piece of land that, when properly developed, has the potential to create significant economic and jobs growth not only for the Upper Spencer Gulf, but for the whole of South Australia,” he said.

“Having a hydrogen hub exporting to Australian and international markets will leverage the $20 billion pipeline of large-scale renewable energy projects under development in South Australia.”

Port Bonython was identified as an export hub for both green and blue hydrogen during the development of South Australia’s Hydrogen Export Modelling Tool, which was released in October last year.

The site is home to Santos’ processing plant, which receives natural gas liquids and crude oil piped 659km from the Moomba plant for export, and a diesel fuel import and storage terminal.

Port Bonython has a rich and unique environment that includes aquaculture and a marine sanctuary to protect Giant Australian Cuttlefish and future projects will be required to comply with environmental legislation.

Expressions of Interest will be open for a period of six weeks and include requirements for developments to commence within five years.

UN to vote on Myanmar action

The United Nations General Assembly will vote on a draft resolution that calls on the Myanmar junta to end a state of emergency, stop all violence against peaceful protesters and respect the will of the people.

The draft resolution also calls “for an immediate suspension of the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of all weapons, munitions” and other equipment.

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but carry political weight.

Unlike the 15-member Security Council, no country has veto power in the 193-member General Assembly.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the army ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government on February 1 and detained her and officials of her National League for Democracy party.

The UN draft calls for their release.

The military, which has set up a ruling junta of generals, complained of fraud in the November election that returned Suu Kyi to power.

The election commission said the November vote was fair.

The draft General Assembly resolution “calls upon the Myanmar armed forces to immediately stop all violence against peaceful demonstrators, members of civil society, women, youth, as well as children and others”.

At least 788 people have been killed by the junta’s security forces in crackdowns on protests against its rule, according to an advocacy group.

The military, which disputes that number, imposes tight restrictions on media, information and the internet.

Call to protect Gaza civilians

Israel has killed a senior Palestinian militant commander in heavy airstrikes on Gaza as Islamist groups have renewed rocket attacks on Israeli cities despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire.

As the fiercest hostilities in the region in years entered a second week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged all sides to protect civilians.

United States, Egypt and United Nations mediators stepped up efforts to end the fighting.

Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll since the hostilities flared last week at 201, including 58 children and 34 women.

Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children.

Police said an Israeli man also died in hospital on Monday after being attacked last week by Arab rioters as clashes broke out in mixed Jewish-Arab communities in Israel, a new front of violence that has been ignited by the Gaza fighting.

The killing of Hussam Abu Harbeed, Islamic Jihad’s armed commander for north Gaza, was likely to draw a fierce response from the militant group that is fighting alongside Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs the coastal enclave.

The Israeli military said in a statement that Harbeed had been “behind several anti-tank missile terror attacks against Israeli civilians” and an Israeli general said his country could carry on the fight “forever”.

Militant groups in Gaza also gave no sign that an end to fighting was imminent.

Soon after Harbeed’s death, Islamic Jihad fired rockets at the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod and medics said seven people had been injured.

At least seven Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza on Monday by early evening, including two that died in a missile attack on a seven-storey office building in Gaza City, medics said.

The intensity of Israeli strikes has tended to increase after dark

Restrictions ease across UK

People in England, Scotland and Wales can sit indoors in pubs and restaurants and can hug each other again in the biggest single lifting of coronavirus restrictions since the start of the UK’s successful vaccination campaign.

While bars and restaurants in England and Wales reopened their indoor seating areas for the first time in months on Monday, Scottish venues where this was already possible can now serve alcohol indoors again.

Across Britain, larger groups of people can also meet socially: for indoors the limit in England is now up to six people or two households; for outdoors the maximum is 30.

After consistent guidance since spring last year to avoid direct contact with people not in their own family or so-called “support bubble,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised citizens that they can now make their own “informed decisions” and be “cautious” when it comes to hugging loved ones.

Other recreational venues such as cinemas, museums, theatres and concert halls were also allowed to reopen in England, Scotland and Wales, although there are capacity limits on large events.

The UK has recorded 4.47 million COVID-19 cases and 127,946 deaths since the pandemic started and it is still reporting about 2000 new cases each day.

But the country with a population of 67 million has also now administered more than 57 million vaccine doses, the highest per capita vaccination rate of any country.

A highly anticipated lifting of the international travel ban has gone into effect in England and Wales, allowing people to travel based on a traffic light grading system.

For “green” countries, British travellers do not have to quarantine when they return home if they test negatively for coronavirus; “amber” or “red” countries mean people do have to quarantine, in the latter case in specific government-approved hotels.

Green list countries include Australia, Brunei and New Zealand but also countries closer to home like Portugal and Iceland.

The UK’s health department said that people who are fully vaccinated would still have to take the COVID-19 tests and quarantine when returning from a green, amber or red list country.

– with AAP and Reuters

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