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What we know today, Tuesday June 8


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

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Slain SA children ‘could have been saved’

The deaths of two South Australian children at the hands of their mother’s partner could have been prevented had they been taken from her care when an older sibling was removed over fears for his safety, an inquest has been told.

Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel has opened an inquiry into the deaths Korey Lee Mitchell, five, and his six-year-old sister Amber Rose Rigney.

They were strangled by their mother’s partner at a property north of Adelaide in May 2016.

Steven Graham Peet is serving a 36-year non-parole period after pleading guilty to killing both the children and their mother, Adeline Yvette Wilson-Rigney, in May 2016.

In his opening address on Tuesday, counsel assisting Ahura Kalali told Mr Schapel that before the murders another child of Ms Wilson-Rigney had been removed from her care because he was deemed to be in a situation of serious danger.

“(His) death had no doubt been prevented not because of the unforeseeable risks posed by Peet, but due to the foreseeable risks of harm if he continued to reside with his mother,” Mr Kalali said.

“So why then were not Amber and Korey removed too?

“Had Amber and Korey been removed from the care of their mother, their deaths would also have been prevented.”

Kalali also told the inquest that two Families SA staff had called at the home where the children were killed, north of Adelaide, just three hours before police were called and the three bodies were found.

They knocked on the door, got no answer and could not see anyone inside, so had left.

He also outlined the long history of abuse, care and neglect notifications to authorities over the care of the three children, particularly the oldest boy.

Kalali said the inquest would focus on the response by child welfare authorities to information related to the risk and potential risks to all three children.

The hearing continues.

Whale crushes man in freak fishing accident

An 18-year-old man from NSW is fighting for his life in a coma after he was crushed by a whale in a freak accident on the state’s south coast.

Friends Nick and Matt were fishing in waters off Narooma on Sunday when the whale surfaced and landed on their boat.

Both men were injured and the boat was taking on water, but 39-year-old Matt managed to navigate back to a boat ramp.

Nick, 18, was rushed to hospital with a broken neck and severe head injuries. He remains in a coma at Canberra Hospital.

Matt escaped with a concussion and cuts to his head.

Family friend Carmen Bartley said the pair had no warning and no idea the whale was nearby.

“At this stage, we don’t know when he will wake up, or how this has affected his brain,” Bartley said in an GoFundMe appeal for donations to help cover Nick’s medical expenses.

Police on Tuesday issued an appeal for boaties to be alert, with whale migration season bringing scores of the animals to NSW waters.

“While inquiries are in their infancy, the incident demonstrates the dangers these mammals can pose to those on the water,” Marine Area Commander Superintendent Joe McNulty said.

“Given the close proximity to the shoreline, there is potential for some spectacular whale watching, but we encourage anyone hoping to get a closer look to maintain a safe distance”

Goodes knocks back AFL Hall of Fame offer

Adam Goodes, the AFL’s most decorated Indigenous player, has rejected an offer to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

The Sydney legend cut ties with everything to do with football since he retired in 2015, after prolonged booing during games.

Goodes’ on-field feats made him a walk-up start to be inducted into the hall of fame this year, now he is eligible.

AFL commission chair Richard Goyder confirmed on Tuesday that the dual Brownlow medallist had knocked back the nomination and Goodes did not want to detail the reasons why.

“Adam was clear he did not want his decision to detract from the moment for the 2021 inductees,” Goyder said.

“Adam remains a great champion and leader of our game who has given more to our sport than he received in return.”

Goodes’ final three seasons, particularly his last, were marred by ugly booing by crowds, and he also became a target for controversial figures in the media.

The AFL eventually apologised for how the Goodes saga was handled by the league.

“The treatment of Adam in his final years at AFL level drove him from football. The AFL and our game did not do enough to stand with him at the time, and call it out,” Goyder said.

COVID vaccines for NDIS over-16s

Coronavirus vaccines are being made available to all National Disability Insurance Scheme participants aged over 16.

National cabinet has approved the rapid expansion to speed up the sluggish vaccine rollout across the vulnerable disability sector.

It comes after dedicated vaccination hubs for people with disabilities, support workers and primary carers were given the green light.

“We are working quickly to provide more locations for people to receive their vaccination in safe, accessible settings,” Disability Minister Linda Reynolds said on Tuesday.

“It is a particularly important step forward that both paid and unpaid carers of NDIS participants are now able to get the vaccination as soon as possible.”

The number of vaccinated NDIS participants is slowly growing.

Almost 40,500 NDIS participants (16 per cent) have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

More than 7800 NDIS participants living in group homes and aged care settings – 28 per cent of the population – have been given at least one jab.

However, people in disability care were considered the highest priority group and the vaccine rollout is still months behind schedule.

Mass Aust arrests after crime bust

An international law enforcement operation against organised criminal activity has resulted in mass arrests and struck what the Australian prime minister describes as a “heavy blow” against crime gangs.

More than 100 organised crime members have been arrested in Australia as part of the operation, initiated after the United States’ FBI decrypted “Anom”, an online communications platform used by gang figures.

The communications found on the platform included 21 murder plots, gun distribution and mass drug trafficking, federal police say.

The operation is three years in the making.

Australian Federal Police said on Tuesday it had seized 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons and almost $45 million in cash as part of the operation.

Offenders are linked to the Australian-based Italian mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs, Asian crime syndicates and Albanian organised crime figures.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the AFP operation, known as Operation Ironside, had struck a “heavy blow” against criminals.

“The operation puts Australia at the forefront of the fight against criminals who peddle in human misery and ultimately, it will keep our communities and Australians safe,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“Illicit drug use ruins lives and fuels organised crime.”

New Zealand authorities have also arrested 35 people for alleged drug dealing and money laundering, seizing some $NZ3.7 million ($A3.4 million) in assets.

Two new COVID cases in Victoria

Victoria has reported two new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 as a decision on ending Melbourne’s lockdown draws nearer.

The two infections were detected in the 24 hours to midnight on Monday, taking the total number of local cases to 85.

The Department of Health confirmed both are linked to the current outbreaks, which involve the Delta and Kappa variants.

An overseas acquired case was also found in hotel quarantine.

Some 22,814 Victorians were tested on Monday and 21,192 received a vaccine dose at state-run sites.

A string of new exposure sites have been added to the list of over 300, including multiple McDonalds, Chemist Warehouses and 7Elevens.

The 18 new “tier two” sites are spread across locations in Yarraville, Maribyrnong, Southbank, Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Flemington, Strathmore, Coburg North, Mickleham, Campbellfield and Melbourne’s CBD.

Anyone who visited the venues at specific times must get a test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

Jabs start for Adelaide’s over 40s

Adelaide residents aged 40-49 can access the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from today as SA Health continues to expand the rollout at its clinics.

The state is also extending access to the Pfizer vaccine to all disability workers and is making the vaccine available for anyone aged 16 years or older on Kangaroo Island.

It comes as the State Government announces it will invest more than $86 million in the upcoming State Budget to fast track the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Premier Steven Marshall said giving every South Australian access to the vaccine was a key priority for the Government, and the State Budget investment would ensure the South Australian rollout would continue to pivot where needed to maximise the rollout

The vaccination commencement date for South Australians in the metropolitan area aged 16-40 is still to be confirmed.

There were three cases of COVID-19 in SA yesterday, all reported from a medi-hotel.

The cases include three men aged between 30 and 50, who all acquired their infections overseas and have been in medi-hotels since their arrival.

All three are considered to have old infections, however they have been added to the state’s case numbers as they have not been diagnosed or counted overseas.

A man in his 60s remains in the Royal Adelaide Hospital in a stable condition.

SES callouts soar as wild weather hits

SES crews were called out to more than 100 incidents in the past 24 hours as a cold band of wild weather crossed the state.

Strong winds and rains lashed the state with more than 25mm of rain recorded at Mount Lofty while 12.6mm fell in the city.

In other parts of the state, Port Lincoln received 13.4mm, Clare 12.8mm, Renmark 2.6mm and Mount Gambier 22.6mm.

Rainfall of up to 8mm is forecast for Adelaide for the rest of today with possible small hail and a maximum temperature of just 13C as winds turn southerly around the middle of the day.

The SES were kept busy yesterday afternoon as strong winds raised dust across the state ahead of the cold front as volunteer crews attended 90 incidents mainly across the greater Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills area for severe weather and fallen trees to 8pm.

During severe weather, the SES says householders should secure loose items such as outdoor furniture and children’s play equipment, park vehicles under cover and well away from trees and stay indoors away from windows when weather conditions are severe.

Virus tracers focus on Melbourne building site

A Melbourne CBD construction site is a key remaining focus for contact tracers as they hunt down virus cases linked to the current Victorian outbreak.

Authorities have confirmed the virus spread from a cleaner who had tested positive to another worker at the ProBuild site at 100 Queen Street around the start of June.

There are 492 close contacts linked to the site, with more than 400 returning negative tests as of Monday night.

Victoria recorded 11 locally acquired cases on Monday, bringing the total number of active local cases to 81.

The new cases are all close contacts of existing cases, or people who are in quarantine.

At a press conference on Monday, health authorities said they were on track to lift restrictions on Friday, but have warned Victorians not to expect an immediate return to the relaxed restrictions they enjoyed before the current outbreak.

Four of the new cases reported on Monday are infected with the more infectious Delta strain, which originated in India.

The Delta variant outbreak now totals 14, though authorities are no closer to finding out how a family from West Melbourne first contracted the strain.

Final nod given to interconnector project

Work is expected to start later this year on the $2.3 billion electricity interconnector between South Australia and NSW after transmission company ElectraNet gave the final approval for the project yesterday.

The 900-kilometre 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.

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.

Permission granted to offer awards to the vaccinated

Australian businesses have been given the green light to offer rewards to people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved arrangements that will be in place until the end of 2022.

Health professionals, businesses and media outlets will be able to develop their own materials about TGA-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

“They also permit the offer of a range of rewards to people who have been fully vaccinated under the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program,” the regulator said.

“Businesses can now supplement government public health campaigns through offers of practical support (including rewards) that encourage Australians to be vaccinated.”

The messaging must not refer to specific brands of vaccine, promote non-approved vaccines or make statements that are false or misleading.

The rewards could include store vouchers, discounts or frequent flyer points, but cannot include alcohol, tobacco or medicines other than listed medicines.

But any offer of a reward cannot be restricted to only those who have a vaccination after the reward has been announced.

They must be made available to those who have already received their first or second doses.

While the national vaccine rollout has ticked over the five million mark, the TGA is assessing material from Pfizer about extending the jabs to 12- to 16-year-olds.

Search continues for Pakistan train wreck survivors

The death toll after an express train barrelled into another that had derailed in Pakistan has passed past 50 as the desperate search of the crumpled cars for survivors and the dead continues.

More than 100 other people were injured in the crash. About 1100 passengers were aboard the two trains.

Cries for help pierced the night as passengers climbed out of overturned or crushed rail cars.

The pleas continued to echo throughout the day at the scene in the district of Ghotki, in the southern province of Sindh.

Heavy machinery arrived to cut open some cars, and more than 15 hours after the crash, rescuers carefully removed wreckage as they looked for anyone who might remain trapped – although hopes were fading for survivors.

The Millat Express train derailed about 3.30am and the Sir Syed Express train hit it minutes later, said Usman Abdullah, a deputy commissioner of Ghotki.

It was not immediately clear what caused the derailment and the driver of the second train said he braked when he saw the disabled train but did not have time to avoid the collision.

Meanwhile, at least 18 workers and employees have died after a fire erupted at a chemicals factory in India’s western state of Maharashtra, police say.

The fire broke out at the sanitiser-manufacturing unit of the factory in the Pune district on Monday afternoon.

Attempts continued until late on Monday night to locate others trapped inside the building.

– with AAP and Reuters

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