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What we know today, Friday June 18

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

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Tea Tree Plaza O-Bahn ‘Park ‘n’ Ride’ tapped for upgrade

The Tea Tree Plaza Interchange “Park ‘n’ Ride” will receive $48.5 million in the next state budget to add an extra 400 car parks in a bid to reduce on-street parking in Modbury.

The current facility – located next to the Tea Tree Plaza O-Bahn stop – has 700 car parks, with the State Government hoping to expand its capacity to 1100.

It follows other “Park ‘n’ Ride” facility expansions at Paradise and an ongoing upgrade at Golden Grove.

“People parking in the streets here are a problem, and building this new Park ‘n’ Ride will alleviate that problem and get more people on public transport,” Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Corey Wingard told reporters on Friday.

“We’re really pleased to be delivering these extra car parks here to make sure people can get on the O’Bahn far smoother and get where they’re going far quicker.”

But the Labor Opposition, who put aside $15 million for the project in the 2017/18 State Budget, criticised the move – claiming the project has blown out by more than $30 million.

“Three years after scrapping this project, Steven Marshall expects the North East community to trust him when he makes this promise in the lead up to another election,” Member for Wright Blair Boyer said.

“For years cars have been parking in side streets, but for three years Steven Marshall and Richard Harvey ignored calls from the local community to expand the Park ‘n’ Ride.

“If he was serious about this important local project, he would have followed through with the original plan and locals would already be using the expanded Tea Tree Plaza Park ‘n’ Ride.”

Premier Steven Marshall said his government prioritised parking upgrades at Paradise and Golden Grove before moving to a “massive expansion” at Modbury.

“The former Labor government announced a lot of things always just on the eve of an election – they didn’t deliver that much,” Marshall told reporters today.

“Putting $15 million into this facility would change a little bit of kerbing.”

The premier said construction work would start next year and create 215 jobs.

Woolworths taken to court for alleged underpayment

Woolworths is facing legal action for allegedly underpaying managers, with the workplace watchdog hunting more than $710,000 in outstanding back pay.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched Federal Court action against the supermarket giant over allegations it underpaid 70 salaried managers upwards of $1.1 million.

The regulator claims $713,395 has not been returned to the employees.

Woolworths disclosed underpaying thousands of employees in 2019 with the back-pay bill later calculated to cost the company around $390 million.

The admission sparked an investigation which assessed the records of 70 managers’ work between March 2018 and 2019.

The alleged underpayments range from $289 to $85,905 for the 70 managers over the one-year time frame.

The ombudsman alleges the most significant underpayments were Woolworths’ failure to pay the correct overtime entitlements to the salaried managers.

It will also try to prove annual salaries did not cover weekend and public holiday rates, meal allowances and annual leave loading, given the hours employees worked.

National cabinet to discuss revised vaccine rollout

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will chair a meeting of state and territory leaders on Monday to thrash out vaccine rollout changes with the AstraZeneca jab no longer recommended for under-60s.

National cabinet will meet to discuss what the increased reliance on Pfizer imports means for the sluggish immunisation program.

AstraZeneca is not recommended for people under 60 after experts determined the risk of extremely rare but serious blood clots outweighed the jab’s benefits.

The recommended age has been revised up from 50, meaning all eligible people under 60 will be offered Pfizer.

Morrison, who is in quarantine at The Lodge after an overseas work trip, met virtually with health officials, ministers and a high-ranking army officer overseeing the rollout on Friday.

Lieutenant General John Frewen is helping co-ordinate logistical issues arising from the new advice.

Labor has seized on the rollout’s latest setback to reignite its argument the government relied too heavily on AstraZeneca.

Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said the latest Victorian lockdown and an emerging Sydney outbreak showed the importance of ramping up jab rates.

“We are going to be living in the land of the lockdown until we get vaccinated,” he told the Nine Network.

“That is on the federal government to make sure that happens.”

Pfizer supplies from overseas have become even more crucial with 2.1 million unvaccinated people aged 50 to 59 now needing the vaccine.

The health minister has spoken to the pharmaceutical giant’s Australian head to ensure deliveries remain on track.

During July, 2.8 million doses are due to arrive taking the average weekly delivery to 600,000.

“It still means that people in these age groups from 40 to 59, we’d gently ask for their patience,” Hunt told Nine.

One new case in Sydney

A man in his 50s has been diagnosed with COVID-19 after he shopped last weekend at Bondi Junction at the same time as the driver who sparked the latest outbreak in Sydney.

The list of hotspots has now expanded considerably and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says masks will once again be mandatory on public transport in Sydney from 4pm for five days.

“We are strongly recommending that if you are a casual contact that you not travel in the next little while,” she told reporters on Friday.

“In relation to mask wearing, we are recommending that if you go to an indoor (Sydney) venue you wear a mask, whether it is a cinema, hospitality or front-line hospitality workers,” she said.

The new case comes after the driver and his wife were diagnosed on Wednesday and a woman in her 70s was subsequently infected when she visited the same Vaucluse cafe as the couple.

Another case – a man in his 40s from Sydney’s northwest also tested positive for COVID-19 but NSW Health has not yet concluded if it was false positive, but his household contacts have tested negative.

One new case in Victoria

Victoria has recorded one new locally acquired coronavirus case as restrictions ease for Melbourne and regional residents.

The Department of Health on Friday confirmed just one new local infection from a primary close contact of an existing case.

Another case involves a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.

The total number of active cases in the state remains at 54.

Some 35,252 Victorians were tested in the 24 hours to midnight on Thursday while 16,710 received a COVID-19 vaccine dose at state-run hubs.

Parafield international student hub gets Commonwealth approval

South Australia is set to welcome back international students following the federal government’s approval of an international student quarantine hub in Parafield.

SA Health last month ticked off on a plan to welcome back international students at the Flight Training Adelaide site at Parafield Airport, which has a capacity of 160 students.

It is now the first international student hub to be approved by the Commonwealth, with the federal government also mulling approvals for similar sites in New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

Among the preconditions for international arrivals will be that state borders are open for domestic travel.

The State Government says arriving students will have to undergo daily COVID testing during their 14 days quarantine and pay their own way to stay at the site.

Premier Steven Marshall said there is “still more work to be done” with the Commonwealth and the state’s education providers, but pointed to the economic benefits of bringing international students back into the state.

“International education is a significant part of South Australia’s economy, contributing over $2 billion in 2019, partly spent with our education providers such as schools and Universities, and also providing a boost to our retail, hospitality and tourism sectors,” Marshall said.

“It’s important to note that Professor Spurrier and her team at SA Health, along with South Australia Police, have been central to the formation of the plan, which meets all the necessary protocols required by the federal government.

“It’s also important to note that no returning Australian will be impacted by the plan, as it will be done outside the current caps, and the institutions and students will bear the costs of flights and quarantine.”

Minister for Trade and Investment Stephen Patterson said the plan was “in line with the same principles that has seen hundreds of seasonal workers arrive safely in South Australia”.

Students are expected to arrive at the Parafield site within months.

Authorities urge calm after latest vaccine setback

The federal government is calling for Australians under 60 who’ve had their first AstraZeneca jab to get their second dose, after the age limit for the vaccination was lifted in another setback for the nation’s rollout.

People under 60 will now be offered the Pfizer vaccine after the government’s expert panel on immunisation changed its advice about blood clots linked to AstraZeneca.

Health authorities say the 815,000 Australians who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca should book for their second jab of that vaccine because of dramatically lower risk than the initial shot.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the medical advice for the 50 to 59 year-old age group, who were previously included in the AstraZeneca cohort, was clear.

“If you have had your first dose of AstraZeneca, all the medical advice is to please come forward and have your second dose. It’s exactly what I did,” he told Nine Network on Friday.

“Second doses are absolutely critical and they are fundamentally safe.

“The second doses around the world have an incredibly low rate of incidents associated with them.”

Two people have died from the rare clotting condition with more than 3.8 million AstraZeneca doses administered nationally.

SA Health said on Thursday those between 16 and 59 years old would now be prioritised for the Pfizer vaccine in state-run clinics, but the new advice “doesn’t change who is currently eligible for a COVID vaccine”.

“If you’re 50-59 and booked an appointment at an SA Health COVID-19 vaccination clinic, you can attend your appointment – you will be given the vaccine recommended for you,” SA Health said.

“If you’re booked in at a GP, you will need to reschedule your appointment at a Pfizer vaccination site.

SA Health also noted there is a “high demand” for the Pfizer jab and urged those coming forward for vaccinations to be patient as more will become available next month.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said the government should introduce a longer GP consultation as a Medicare item so people have more time to talk about any concerns.

Mackay cleared by AFL tribunal

Adelaide midfielder David Mackay is free to play after he was found not guilty of rough conduct by the AFL tribunal over his collision with St Kilda’s Hunter Clark, marking the end of a landmark case for the league.

A jury of former players David Neitz, Paul Williams and Richard Loveridge on Thursday night found Mackay was within his rights to contest the ball with Clark – who was left with a broken jaw in two places – during last Saturday night’s match in Cairns.

In doing so, the jury rejected AFL legal counsel Jeff Gleeson’s argument that Mackay could have foreseen injuring Clark as he charged in at high speed and should have held back to tackle his opponent.

“It was not unreasonable for Mackay to go for the ball,” the jury said in a statement of its findings, concluding a three-hour hearing.

“Both players got to the contest at virtually the same time and both were seeking to collect the ball.”

Many high-profile football figures are relieved with the decision after widespread fears during the lead-up to the hearing that a suspension for Mackay would have changed the way players attack loose balls.

Adelaide’s legal counsel Andrew Culshaw called three witnesses – Mackay, Crows data analyst Chris Sheedy and biomechanics expert Dr Robert Crowther – in an attempt to prove the player’s actions were not unreasonable.

“You have two incredibly brave players going full tilt at a loose ball,” Culshaw said.

“This was a 50-50 ball. There is nothing unreasonable about a player going hell-for-leather for a 50-50 ball.”

Mackay, 32, repeatedly stated he believed he would beat Clark to the ball “right up until point of collision”.

“At no stage did I take my eye off ball,” Mackay said in his evidence.

The 239-game veteran rejected Gleeson’s argument that he knew Clark would get to the ball first and said he did not choose to bump the St Kilda player.

Gleeson did not suggest Mackay was attempting to break Clark’s jaw, but argued contesting the ball is not a licence to cause injury to another player.

“This wasn’t an accident in the sense that it was unforeseen,” Gleeson said.

On behalf of the AFL, Gleeson argued Mackay’s bump should be classified as careless conduct, high contact and severe impact.

Those classifications would ordinarily bring about a minimum three-match suspension under the AFL tribunal guidelines.

Gleeson also dismissed the notion put forward by many key voices in the industry that a suspension for Mackay would change the game dramatically.

Victoria COVID rules ease

Victorians can now travel freely across their state as restrictions ease for Melbourne and regional residents, but South Australia’s hard border with Victoria’s capital remains amid fears the restrictions lift could see more cases emerge.

From today, Melburnians are no longer subject the 25km travel limit and can enter regional Victoria for the first time in three weeks after the state’s fourth COVID-19 lockdown.

Melbourne residents can also host two adult visitors plus their dependents per day and gather outdoors in groups of 20.

Masks remain mandatory indoors, but are only required outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

Businesses such as gyms and indoor entertainment venues can reopen, while density limits at offices, cafes, restaurants and pubs have increased.

Restrictions are likely to ease again in a week’s time if cases remain low, with no new local infections reported on Thursday.

South Australia is currently open to residents from regional Victoria who can enter provided they have a COVID test on day one, five and 13 of their stay and isolate until they receive their first negative result.

However, the border remains closed to those from Greater Melbourne.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said firm stance on Greater Melbourne was due to “unlinked” cases recorded by Victoria Health.

“There are still very significant concerns that as the restrictions lift in Victoria that we may see more cases,” Spurrier told reporters on Thursday.

“We are very unrestricted here in South Australia … it’s weighing up on a scale of what’s reasonable.”

Spurrier added that SA Health were reviewing the restrictions with SAPOL “every day”.

US mulls talks with China amid ongoing tensions

The White House will consider arranging talks between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as the two countries spar over issues including human rights, a US official says.

Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the two leaders are due to “take stock of where we are in the relationship”.

Officials in Beijing fumed over a communique issued at Biden’s urging by the G7 leaders on Sunday.

The statement scolded the country over human rights in its Xinjiang region and Hong Kong while also demanding a full and thorough investigation of the origins of the coronavirus in China.

Similar statements issuing firm warnings to China have been delivered by French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in their bilateral meetings with their Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said, “soon enough we will sit down to work out the right modality for the two presidents to engage”.

“It could be a phone call, it could be a meeting on the margins of another international summit, it could be something else.”

Biden and Xi are both expected to attend the G20 meeting in October hosted by Italy, one possible venue for such talks.

Sullivan said no final decisions have been made.

Asked if he would call on Xi to push for an investigation in COVID-19 origins, Biden on Wednesday told reporters: “We know each other well; we’re not old friends. It’s just pure business.”

Aussie swim team finalised for Tokyo

World record holder Kaylee McKeown is among 21 debutants selected in a 35-strong Australian swim team tipped to impress in Tokyo next month, as the 2021 Olympic swim trials wrapped up in Adelaide last night.

In nine swimming events, an Australian is currently ranked top in the world this year.

McKeown holds top billing in three of them: she broke the 100m backstroke world record on Sunday night and is also the world leader in the 200m backstroke and 400m individual medley.

Emma McKeon, who could contest eight events at the Games, is the world’s pacesetter in the 100m and 200m freestyles, with Ariarne Titmus holding that status in the 400m and 800m freestyles.

Elijiah Winnington (400m freestyle) and Zac Stubblety-Cook (200m breaststroke) also hold the year’s best times in their events.

The Dolphins team features two swimmers who will compete at their fourth Olympics, freestyler Cate Campbell and backstroker Emily Seebohm.

Three swimmers – Mitch Larkin, Bronte Campbell and Cam McEvoy – will race at their third Olympics.

Bronte Campbell and McEvoy made the team as relay squad members while Larkin is a medal contender in the 200m individual medley while also securing a 100m backstroke swim.

The 19-year-old McKeown is among 21 Olympic debutants on a team featuring 18 men and 17 women.

Only one Australian swimmer, 100m freestyler Kyle Chalmers, will defend an Olympic title.

Mack Horton, the reigning Olympic 400m freestyle champion, missed selection for individual swims in that event and the 200m freestyle, but made the team as a relay squad member.

And selectors also threw an Olympic lifeline to breaststroker Matt Wilson.

Wilson was picked as a relay squad member. He finished second behind Stubblety-Cook in the 200m breaststroke, some 0.24 seconds outside the qualifying time specified by Swimming Australia.

-With AAP and Reuters

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