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What we know today, Wednesday May 26


A decision on upgrading the Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarines will be made next month, a parliamentary hearing has been told, although it is still unclear whether the full-cycle docking program will remain in South Australia.

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Jobs secure despite submarine delays: ASC

A decision on upgrading the Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarines will be made next month, a parliamentary hearing has been told, although it is still unclear whether the full-cycle docking program will remain in South Australia.

The decision on the life-of-type-extension will be made in June, chief executive of government shipbuilder ASC Stuart Whiley said on Wednesday.

But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham did not commit to a date for a decision on full-cycle docking for the submarines.

“We’ll let you know what the decision is when we make the announcement,” Senator Birmingham said.

The opposition and crossbench are urging the government to make the two decisions together, but Whiley said the ruling on an upgrade would not impact on whether to shift docking to Western Australia from its current site in South Australia.

SA senator Penny Wong accused the minister of holding off for a federal election.

“What are you waiting for? There is no capability reason, there is no sensible reason for delaying for two years,” she said.

Governments and industry will need to make capital investment decisions and facility upgrades if docking moves west, along with workers.

Former defence minister Linda Reynolds had promised to make a decision on full-cycle docking last December, as WA lobbies to be host and SA pushes back.

A federal ruling on the docking had already been delayed from 2019, while the upgrade for the Collins is inevitable.

The new Attack Class submarines aren’t expected to be delivered until 2035, which means the current Collins Class submarines must be kept in service for much longer than planned.

“There’s significant work in the local industry, no one needs to be worried about their jobs,” Adelaide-based Whiley said.

“They continue to deliver everything that is asked of them.”

Already on the radar of the national auditor, the troubled $80 billion future submarines project is the largest Defence procurement in Australia’s history.

Qld govt not expecting further blackouts

Queenslanders shouldn’t expect any further power outages after a fire at a major plant cut power to almost half a million customers, the Qld Government says.

The blaze broke out the coal-fired Callide C power station in central Queensland on Tuesday afternoon, knocking out about 1540 megawatts – or 10 per cent – of the state’s power capacity.

About 477,000 customers were affected, but the restoration was quick and almost everyone who lost power was back online within two hours.

Energy Minister Mick de Brenni says the fire is unprecedented and luckily none of the plant’s 226 workers were injured.

He is confident Queenslanders won’t experience any more outages linked to the accident.

“Actions taken last night will ensure electricity supply continues to exceed demand and the Australian Energy Market Operator has forecast sufficient supply going forward,” de Brenni told parliament.

“We will have continue to monitor the situation closely and update Queenslanders of any changes.

“This incident shows that unforeseen events can happen anywhere, and can have a cascading effect across the electricity system.”

The Australian Energy Market Operator issued a “lack of reserve” notice to the national market to import power to Queensland on Tuesday night.

Later, it was telling households to avoid using heavy appliances to “minimise stress on the system” until at least 9.30pm to mitigate the risk of further blackouts or brownouts.

AEMO has forecast another “lack of reserve” situation between 5pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday.

The agency said it was encouraging generators to offer more supply, or large industrial or commercial consumers to cut demand at that time.

The minister said the situation had partly improved thanks to Queensland’s diverse mix of electricity assets including wind, solar, pumped hydro and biomass generators.

However, Queensland was still buying electricity from NSW on Wednesday morning for dispatch prices as high as $14,000 per megawatt hour.

De Brenni said prices would fall and the state would return to exporting electricity to southern states as renewable solar and wind generation came online during the day.

“In fact, it was the very diversity of our fleet, and especially our important pumped hydro that kept the system in balance last night, and will ensure supply remains stable,” he said.

The minister said the cause of the blaze and subsequent explosion of one of four turbines was under investigation.

Doedee signs on with Crows

Adelaide’s captain-in-waiting Tom Doedee has signed a contract extension with the Crows.

Doedee, who has been acting skipper when regular captain Rory Sloane has been absent due to the injury in the past two seasons, has committed his future to the Crows until the end of the 2023 season.

“I am really excited about what we are building here at the Crows,” Doedee said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This current group is connected and driven to continually improve and we have seen that in some of our performances so far this season.

“And the brand of football we are playing is exciting and something I want to be part of.”

Last year’s wooden spooners sit in 13th spot on the ladder with four wins, one more than they managed in 2020.

Belarus opposition says journalist beaten

Airlines have re-routed flights to avoid Belarus’s airspace and Belarusian planes face a possible ban from Europe, as international outrage mounts over Minsk forcing down a jetliner and arresting a dissident journalist on board.

Western nations accused Belarus of hijacking and piracy over the interception of the Ryanair plane as it crossed the country on a flight from Greece to Lithuania, and diplomats said France, Ireland and Estonia would raise the incident at a private meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday.

“The behaviour of the Belarus regime is outrageous, illegal, and completely unacceptable … we also condemn this kind of dangerous interference in civil aviation,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

A video released overnight showed 26-year-old Roman Protasevich – who was pulled from the passenger plane after Belarus scrambled a warplane to escort it to Minsk on Sunday – confessing to having organised anti-government demonstrations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the video was “concerning”. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko must pay a “bitter price” for detaining Protasevich.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said the footage showed Protasevich had been tortured.

“He said that he was treated lawfully, but he’s clearly beaten and under pressure. There is no doubt that he was tortured. He was taken hostage,” she told a news conference in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Belarus did not immediately comment on the torture allegation but has consistently denied abusing detainees.

Rights groups have documented hundreds of cases of what they describe as abuse and forced confessions during a crackdown on pro-democracy opponents of Lukashenko since last year.

Lukashenko, whose opponents accuse him of rigging an August 2020 election, has so far shrugged off Western sanctions, which mostly consist of barring various officials from travelling or doing business in the United States and EU.

The Belarusian leader enjoys financial and security support from Russia.

The White House said President Joe Biden would discuss the incident with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their summit next month, but added the United States did not believe Moscow had played any role in it.

Belarusian state media have reported that Lukashenko personally ordered the flight to be intercepted. Belarus says it was responding to a bomb scare that later proved to be a false alarm.

COVID case attended Collingwood-Port Adelaide match at MCG

A confirmed case of COVID-19 attended the Collingwood vs Port Adelaide AFL match at the MCG on Sunday, with a contact tracing effort underway to alert footy fans who may have been exposed to the virus.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs grew to nine cases on Tuesday, with health authorities confirming late last night that one positive case went to the footy match on Sunday which was attended by 23,415 people.

Victoria’s Department of Health says the positive case was seated in the Great Southern Stand of the ground at the Punt Road End in Zone 4, Level 1.

The Department says anyone who was seated in that zone and in between Bay M1 and M16 of the ground will be contacted directly by authorities and told to get tested for the virus and isolate until a negative result is received.

“Further reviews of CCTV footage will be undertaken to determine if the advice to test and isolate will be broadened beyond these areas,” Victoria Health tweeted late on Tuesday.

The Department also said those with the closest contact to the positive case will be directly provided with “more specific advice” while others who attended the MCG but not in the affected areas are asked to monitor for symptoms.

Anyone seated between Bay M1 and M16 at the Port-Collingwood match on Sunday will be contacted by Victoria Health (Photo: MCG)

Authorities also sought to reassure people who attended the game, saying the AFL and MCC had “prepared for this situation in multiple simulations”.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said any South Australians who have attended the game should listen to any instructions they receive from the Victorian Health Department.

“If you have been to the football and you haven’t heard from anybody yet, what I would suggest you do is that you watch very closely for symptoms,” Spurrier told ABC Radio this morning.

“Even if you haven’t got symptoms, it would not do any harm to go and get a test this morning.”

South Australia overnight extended its border closure with Victoria to anyone who has been in the City of Whittlesea in the last 14 days, in addition to those who have been at a “tier one” or “tier two” exposure sites in Melbourne.

All arrivals from Greater Melbourne into South Australia also now must submit to tests on day one, five and 13 of their stay, and isolate until they receive their first negative test.

The number of “tier one” sites listed on the Victorian Government’s website has grown to 21, while the number of “tier two” sites has increased to 22.

Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned there may be further cases in the next 24 hours, with 84 of 168 primary close contacts testing negative so far.

“We have to chase down every single close contact … but it’s certainly not out of control,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne this morning.

In response to the unfolding outbreak, home gatherings in Greater Melbourne are now limited to five visitors per day and public gatherings restricted to 30 people until at least June 4.

Masks are mandatory indoors for people aged 12 and over, but can be taken off for eating, drinking and exercise.

Adelaide is due to play Richmond at the MCG on Sunday afternoon, with ticket sales for the game currently suspended as Victorian authorities mull how to manage upcoming major events.

Food delivery focus for COVID leak report

SA Health is reportedly examining new safety measures for food delivery at medi-hotels, as part of a report into how a COVID-19 leak occurred at one.

Victoria’s current COVID-19 outbreak, which has grown to nine cases, is linked to a man who contracted the virus in Adelaide’s Playford medi-hotel before returning home to Melbourne on May 4.

Two weeks ago, SA Health launched an investigation to examine how the virus was transmitted inside the hotel, and said at a press confererence yesterday it expected to publicly release it within two days.

As reported by The Advertiser today, the final report contains new recommendations for managing food delivery inside the state’s medi-hotels, but no major security breach was found to have caused the transmission.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said she hoped to release the final report today following a scheduled meeting of SA Health’s leadership team.

“[The report] is basically looking at a whole lot of things that might line up, where the room is, when the door opens and such like,” she told ABC Radio this morning.

Premier Steven Marshall on Tuesday said he was “disappointed” to find out the Victorian outbreak was linked to South Australia.

He refused to speculate on what findings are in the report, but said the State Government would move quickly to implement any recommendations.

“We believe we’ve taken every precaution possible, but if there are findings, if there are recommendations for even tighter levels of protection within our quarantine arrangements, then we will put them in place straight away,” Marshall said.

“This is going to be a very important report, we want to get it right, not rushed.”

One dead after Clare Valley crash

A man has died after his ute crashed with a school bus in the Clare Valley on Tuesday afternoon.

Police say emergency services were called to Blyth Road in Armagh around 3:40pm on Tuesday following reports of a crash.

The driver of the ute, a 51-year-old Blyth man, died at the scene, while the driver of the bus sustained minor injuries.

No school students on the bus were injured in the crash according to police.

Major Crash Investigators are looking into the circumstances of the crash, with Blyth Road closed to traffic between Kurrang Avenue and St Georges Terrace on Tuesday as emergency services attended the scene.

South Australia’s road toll this year is now 44, compared to 43 at the same point last year.

Controversial electric vehicle tax passes Vic parliament

Victoria will become the first state in Australia to tax electric vehicle drivers after controversial legislation passed both houses of parliament.

The Andrews government’s electric vehicle tax passed without amendment in the Victorian Upper House on Tuesday night.

It will mean electric vehicle drivers pay 2.5 cents for every kilometre travelled from July 1.

The Victorian Greens vehemently opposed the bill but it passed 19-14 with the support of crossbenchers including Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick.

A similar EV tax in South Australia will not go to a vote until after the next state election in 2022, after Treasurer Rob Lucas conceded in March his government does not have the numbers to pass the legislation.

Victorian Greens MP Sam Hibbins said the tax would make Victoria a “global laughing stock” and ensure the state continues to lag in the uptake of electric vehicles.

“This is climate vandalism in the midst of a climate crisis,” the party’s transport spokesman said.

“This was a big test for the upper house, and they failed. Rather than stand on the side of climate action and the Victorian people, they decided to roll over and stand for nothing.”

Just 6900 EVs were sold in Australia last year, up only 2.7 per cent from 2019.

The Victorian tax is expected to raise $30 million over four years and is forecast to cost the average electric vehicle owner between $260 and $300 annually.

Treasurer Tim Pallas has previously described the tax as “modest”, about half the rate of what other vehicle owners pay through the fuel excise.

He said it will ensure electric vehicle drivers make a fair contribution to the cost of building and maintaining the state’s road network.

“Everybody who uses a road should pay their fair share to maintain them,” Pallas told reporters in March.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has also foreshadowed a “holistic” tax plan for electric vehicles in next month’s state budget.

IPL set for September return

The Indian Premier League is reportedly set to resume in the United Arab Emirates in the third week of September.

The Times of India reports that the lucrative competition will cram 10 double-header matches into a three-week window culminating in early October.

It means there will be no clash with India’s tour of England, with the final Test match scheduled to finish on September 14, around four days before the reported restart.

Earlier this week there had been reports that India’s governing body, the BCCI, had informally approached the England and Wales Cricket Board with a view to moving the Test series.

If the new dates are confirmed, the schedule would not affect the Test series, with players expected to fly directly from the UK to a new biosphere bubble in the UAE.

The IPL was postponed in early May after a number of players tested positive for the virus, and there remain 31 matches in the season still to play.

The cancellation prompted a scramble back home for Australia’s cricketers, many of whom have had to return home via the Maldives due to the federal government’s controversial travel ban on those returning home from India.

Australia’s summer of cricket is due to start on November 27 in Hobart with the first-ever test match between Australia and Afghanistan.

Sixers suffer fifth consecutive loss

The Adelaide 36ers have slumped to a fifth consecutive NBL loss after going down 94-76 to the New Zealand Breakers in Christchurch last night.

Tuesday night’s match between the second-last Breakers and seventh-placed 36ers was the first of the season that didn’t have an impact on the top four.

But somebody forgot to tell the hosts, who came out firing in a rare home game.

Webster was the spearhead, dropping 16 points in the second term to finish with 22 along with eight assists off the bench as the Breakers (11-21 record) extended their dominance over the Adelaide outfit (13-21).

New Zealand notched their third straight victory over the 36ers whose late-season freefall continued with a fifth consecutive loss.

Three of the Breakers’ four biggest wins of the season have now been against Adelaide in their last three meetings.

Besides Tuesday’s 18-point thumping, New Zealand have also savoured 44-point and 16-point triumphs against the battling South Australian outfit.

The Breakers notched their second win in three games since finally returning to New Zealand to play their final seven matches of the season at home after more than five months on the road due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

They will finish off the testing season in their home country with their next stop at Pukekohe against top-four aspirants the Illawarra Hawks on Friday.

The Breakers showed no sign of slowing down on Tuesday despite big man Rob Loe (knee) joining captain Tom Abercrombie (hamstring) on the injury list before tip-off.

Webster led a three-point barrage as the Breakers shot 7-10 from beyond the arc in the second term to outscore the visitors 29-18 and blow the game open with a 47-33 half-time lead.

Webster shot 4-7 from three-point range overall while import Levi Randolph finished with 17 points (5-8 from beyond the arc) and six rebounds.

Big man Colton Iverson gave the Breakers a scare when he hobbled off with a suspected quad complaint in the third term but returned to step up in Loe’s absence with 14 points and seven rebounds while Finn Delany had 14 points and six boards.

The 36ers cut an 18-point third quarter deficit to just eight with eight minutes left on the clock.

But they couldn’t get it done despite the efforts of Daniel Dillon (22 points, six assists), sharp shooting big man Daniel Johnson (18 points, six boards) and bench weapon Jack McVeigh (13 points).

-With AAP and Reuters

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