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What we know today, Monday June 7


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

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SA-NSW interconnector gets final tick

Transmission company ElectraNet has given final approval for the construction of an electricity interconnector between South Australia and NSW.

The 900-kilometre line will cost about $2.3 billion with ElectraNet to provide $457 million for work in SA.

TransGrid previously committed $1.8 billion for work in NSW.

The interconnector is forecast to cut power bills in SA by about $100 a year for the average household.

Before Monday’s final commitment, the Australian Energy Regulator had approved the expenditure required for the project.

Work is now expected to start later this year.

Premier Steven Marshall says the interconnector will drive down power prices and unlock thousands of jobs in the energy sector.

“Project EnergyConnect will drive competition in the wholesale electricity market by connecting more, low-cost generation to the national electricity grid and support the ongoing transition to a lower carbon emissions future,” ElectraNet Chief Executive Steve Masters said.

“ElectraNet has left no stone unturned to ensure that this project is a good investment for electricity customers in South Australia and New South Wales.

“We undertook a rigorous cost-benefit analysis that has been repeatedly updated to demonstrate this remains the best option for customers as well as supporting the rapid pace of change across the National Energy Market.”

The new line will run from Robertstown, in SA’s mid-north, through Buronga to Wagga Wagga with the Robertstown sub-station to upgraded and a new one built at Bundey.

Another transmission line will be built between Buronga and Red Cliffs in Victoria.

SA Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekan said the interconnector would unlock the development of new renewable energy projects along the route.

“EnergyConnect will be a freeway for green energy produced in South Australia and exported to New South Wales,” he said.

“South Australia is a good global citizen and will become a net exporter of renewable energy as part of our aspiration of net-100 per cent renewables in the 2030s.”

NT opens up vaccinations to all

The Northern Territory is set to be the first jurisdiction in Australia to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all residents aged 16 years and over.

From tomorrow, Darwin residents who are old enough will be able to get the jab after an agreement was reached at last week’s national cabinet meeting.

“This means all the (vaccine rollout phases) are now collapsed for the Territory,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters today.

“This is a sensible decision based on our indigeneity, mobility, and vulnerability when you consider not just the make-up of the Darwin population but how people move in and out of Darwin.”

Darwin will join the rest of the NT, where the vaccine has been available to Territorians 16 and over since mid-May due to the high percentage of vulnerable Indigenous people in the population.

The decision to discard the phases for Alice Springs and other remote communities comes before an expected influx of interstate tourists.

The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines will be available.

“The choice we face is not to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. The choice we face is to vaccinate or get COVID,” Gunner said.

Delta cases among 11 new infections in Victoria

Four of Victoria’s new COVID-19 cases are the more infectious Delta variant.

Health Minister Martin Foley on Monday confirmed four of the state’s 11 new cases were linked to the state’s outbreak of the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, which began in the suburb of West Melbourne.

The cases are three children and an adult. It brings the total number of cases in the Delta outbreak to 14.

Four of the new cases are linked to the city’s outbreak of the Kappa or B.1.617.1 variant, which began in the City of Whittlesea and spread to several locations across Melbourne, including Port Melbourne.

The outbreak now totals 33 active cases in Whittlesea and 31 in Port Melbourne.

The remaining three cases are linked to an outbreak of the Kappa variant at the Arcare Maidstone aged care facility in Melbourne’s northwest, two of which were announced on Sunday.

The additional case is an aged care worker.

State testing commander Jeroen Weimar said more than 5800 people were quarantining after coming into contact with a positive case, while there were 350 exposure sites across Victoria.

About 1000 people had ended quarantine following a negative day 13 test, he said.

Authorities still don’t know how the Delta variant has spread in Melbourne.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said authorities were combing through genomic sequencing data from across the country for answers.

The virus is suspected to have leaked from hotel quarantine or from a returned traveller who was provided with an exemption to isolate at home.

NAB referred to AUSTRAC enforcement team

Australia’s financial crimes watchdog has identified compliance concerns at one of the nation’s big four banks, the National Australia Bank.

NAB has been informed it has been referred to AUSTRAC’s enforcement team on concerns surrounding its compliance with the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

NAB CEO Ross McEwan said the bank would continue to cooperate with AUSTRAC in its investigations.

“NAB takes its financial crime obligations seriously,” he said in a statement.

“We are very aware that we need to further improve our performance in relation to these matters. We have been working to improve and clearly have more to do.”

NAB received a letter dated June 4 from AUSTRAC saying that there is “potential serious and ongoing non-compliance” with customer identification procedures and ongoing customer due diligence and compliance.

AUSTRAC has not made any decision about whether or not enforcement action would be taken, saying at this stage it is not considering civil penalty proceedings.

This decision is “reflective of the work undertaken” by NAB to date, it says.

Since June 2017, NAB has invested about $800 million as part of a multi-year program to uplift its financial crime and fraud controls and has more than 1200 people dedicated to managing financial crime risks.

“NAB has an important role in monitoring and reporting suspicious activity and keeping Australia’s financial system, our bank and our customers safe,” Mr McEwan said.

“It is a key priority for everyone at NAB to uplift our financial crime capabilities, minimise risk to customers and the bank, and improve operational performance.”

Rain, wind, hail and snow expected to lash state

Damaging winds are expected to raise dust ahead of a cold front this afternoon that is forecast to bring widespread rain across the state and even snow in some areas.

Adelaide is forecast to reach 21C ahead of the cold snap, which could result in local falls of up to 15mm. Tomorrow is expected to bring up to another 20mm of rain and a maximum temperature of just 13C.

A severe weather warning for damaging winds has been issued for the Mount Lofty Ranges, Lower Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, Lower South East and parts of Eastern Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula, Murraylands and Upper South East districts.

Gale warnings have been issued for the South Central Coast and Lower South East Coast while a strong wind warning applies for the Adelaide Metropolitan Waters, Far West Coast, Upper West Coast, Lower West Coast, Central Coast, Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent, Investigator Strait and Upper South East Coast.

BOM meteorologist Sarah Scully said strong north-westerly winds ahead of the cold front would likely whip up areas of raised dust.

“Behind that cold front we’re expecting widespread showers, isolated thunderstorms and small hail,” she said.

“Moving into Tuesday, we’re even forecasting snow about the highest peaks of the Flinders Ranges and those showery and cold conditions are expected to continue into the middle of the week with accumulated rainfall totals reaching 30-60mm about southern coastal areas and the Mount Lofty Ranges.”

Adelaide received just 68mm of rainfall in autumn, a little over half the 115.3mm average for the three-month period.

The cold front is also expected to bring rain and significant snowfall of up to 70cm in high altitude regions in Victoria, Tasmania and NSW.

Royal baby honours Queen, Diana

Messages of congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have begun pouring in from around the world after Meghan gave birth to baby girl Lilibet Diana overnight.

Lilibet is the couple’s second child and follows the birth of Archie in May 2019.

“The Queen, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been informed and are delighted with the news of the birth of a daughter for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” a statement from Buckingham Palace said.

Harry’s brother William and sister-in-law Kate were also quick to chime in.

“We are all delighted by the happy news of the arrival of baby Lili. Congratulations to Harry, Meghan and Archie,” the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tweeted.

The name honours Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth and his mother Princess Diana.

Lilibet – the Queen’s family nickname – was first used when Princess Elizabeth was just a toddler and unable to pronounce her own name properly.

Harry and Meghan’s new baby daughter – the Queen’s 11th great-grandchild – will be known as Lili.

A variation on Lily, the flower is often seen to symbolise purity, commitment, rebirth and fertility.

Lili’s middle name Diana honours Harry’s late mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

It is no surprise the couple chose to pay tribute to Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997 when Harry was just 12.

Lili has been born almost a month before the princess would have celebrated her 60th birthday on July 1.

Lili’s cousin Princess Charlotte also has Diana as one of her middle names, as well as Elizabeth. She is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

The Sussexes’ tribute to the Queen is likely to be seen as an olive branch to the monarch and the rest of the family.

Man dies in Riverland crash

A Berri man was killed when his ute crashed in the Gurra Gurra in the Riverland yesterday.

Police and emergency services were called to the intersection of Gordon Road and Stanitzki Road just after 10 am on Sunday following reports of a single car rollover.

The driver, a 51-year-old Berri man, died at the scene.  He was the only occupant of the Toyota ute.

Stanitzki Road was closed for several hours while Major Crash investigators attended and examined the scene.

Meanwhile, the State Government has announced plans to crush the impounded cars of hoon drivers if they do not pay a release fee to redeem their vehicle From July 1.

Under the new law, drivers must pay a minimum fee of $1,135.50 to release their vehicle from SAPOL after the 28-day confiscation period ends.

At the conclusion of 28 days, offenders will have 10 additional days to pay the fee – which could jump as high as $1,395.50 – before SAPOL can dispose of the vehicle by crushing it or selling it for scrap metal.

Money collected from the sale and scrapping of vehicles must be used to cover related fees. A court order may be issued to pay a credit provider before the remaining money is returned to general revenue.

Vehicles can be impounded or clamped if a person has been charged, arrested or reported for up to 23 prescribed offences including dangerous driving, drink and drug driving, driving an unregistered or uninsured vehicle or without a licence, speeding, leaving the scene of an accident, failing to obey police, or misuse of a motor vehicle.

Royal Commission to probe SA disability sector

The Disability Royal Commission will this week focus on service provision in South Australia, including the circumstances surrounding the death of NDIS participant Ann-Marie Smith after being grossly neglected in her home by her support worker.

The five-day investigation will examine what changes have been made by the South Australian and Commonwealth governments since the incident in April last year to safeguard people with disability from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will also focus on the living arrangements of people with disability, in particular the recent experiences of people with disability in segregated congregate living situations (also called group homes) operated by the South Australian Department of Human Services.

Smith is reported to have been left, for an extended period of time, in a woven cane chair before passing away from a combination of septic shock and organ failure caused by malnutrition.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) president Samantha Connor welcomed the probe into SA’s disability accommodation services.

“For many years, violence and abuse against disabled people has been perpetrated behind closed doors, in segregated environments,” she said.

“Often due to a lack of adequate services and supports.”

In its submission to the Disability Royal Commission on quality and safeguards, PWDA has also urged the Royal Commission to examine whether complaints bodies, such as the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, are treating cases of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in group homes as regulatory breaches, rather than criminal matters which should be referred to police.

No ‘magic number’ to avoid future Vic lockdowns

Victorians are being warned there is no “magic number” of people getting vaccinated before future coronavirus lockdowns can be avoided as Melbourne’s lockdown enters its final week.

Four new cases were reported on Sunday, including two linked to the Arcare Maidstone aged care facility in the city’s northwest.

One is a 79-year-old resident who has had both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. They live close to two other residents, aged 99 and 89, who have previously tested positive.

Despite being asymptomatic, the resident has been taken to hospital.

The other case is a registered nurse who worked at the nursing home on Saturday, is also asymptomatic and has received a first COVID-19 shot.

Only two to three per cent of Victorians have so far been fully vaccinated as Melbourne emerges from its second weekend of lockdown.

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said it was difficult to say what proportion would need to be vaccinated to avoid future lockdowns.

“There isn’t one single magic number,” Professor Cheng said.

“Once you get up to much higher coverage rates, then it makes a whole lot of things easier.

“We may not need the intensity of restrictions. We may be able to only do contact tracing without having to do other things quite to the same level, and that is the benefit of vaccination.”

Two cases reported earlier on Sunday were primary close contacts of previous cases.

One is a worker in their 50s at Stratton Finance in Port Melbourne and was isolating for their entire infectious period.

It takes the Kappa variant-related Port Melbourne outbreak to 30 cases, with four previous “mystery” infections now linked through genomic and epidemiological investigations.

The other is a primary school teacher linked to the West Melbourne outbreak, which has infected 10 people with the Delta variant.

Prof Cheng expects Melbourne will be able to ease restrictions on Friday.

“We don’t want to be in this any longer than we need to. So if we can, we will lift it early,” he said.

Thunderbirds notch first Super Netball win

The Adelaide Thunderbirds posted their first victory of the season after five straight losses, defeating the Melbourne Vixens 54-48 in Queensland last night to climb off the bottom of the Super Netball ladder.

The Vixens home game was shifted to neutral territory at the Sunshine Coast and the lack of parochial support perhaps contributed to a match that never reached the heights.

The Thunderbirds trailed by two at half-time but stormed home with a 17-goal final quarter when the game was on the line.

The one constant was the timely possession wins from Adelaide’s Shamera Sterling who finished with seven gains, including three intercepts.

Each time the Vixens threatened to go on a run, the Jamaican defender had a knack for getting her hands to a ball or forcing an error.

“She has an innate ability to get ball when we need it,” Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst said.

“At the end if the Vixens got another two-pointer they’d go on a roll but she was able to stem the flow for us. She was pivotal.”

What had been a close yet scrappy meeting between two of the competition’s battlers tipped marginally in the Thunderbirds favour when Georgie Horjus landed a super goal just seconds before three-quarter time.

Horjus (12 goals at 75 per cent accuracy) and Lenize Potgieter (29/32) held their nerve in the final quarter to steer the Thunderbirds home.

The premiers now find themselves on one win after six rounds and are facing another month away from home due to the COVID-19 restrictions in their home state.

The Thunderbirds will host the NSW Swifts at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Saturday.

– with AAP and Reuters

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