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What we know today, Sunday June 20


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

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Family united as Tharnicaa leaves hospital

Four year old Tharnicaa Murugappan, whose Tamil asylum-seeker family is anxious to be allowed to return to their adopted hometown of Biloela in Queensland, has been released from hospital.

The young girl has been discharged from Perth Children’s Hospital almost two weeks after being medically evacuated from Christmas Island with a blood infection caused by untreated pneumonia.

However health officials say she will require eight weeks of ongoing specialist care.

In the meantime, the Murugappan family will be held in a community detention residence in Perth.

Father Nades, mother Priya and Australian-born Tharnicaa and her sister, Kopika, have been locked up for more than three years while their fight against deportation has gone through the courts.

During this time, a national campaign for their release has grown ever louder.

Advocates for the family say Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to transfer them to Perth from Christmas Island, where they had been for about two years, makes no improvement to their situation, as they remain in community detention.

Protests were staged across Australia on Saturday calling for them to be allowed to return to Biloela.

It is understood the family is not able to stay elsewhere other than the Perth residence. Nor can visitors spend the night, and neither parent is permitted to work.

A statement released on behalf of the family on Sunday said they were relieved to be out of immigration detention.

However mum Priya is “anxious to now be forced into a new form of detention and very stressed to not know what is going to happen to her family” after Tharnicaa’s treatment is finished.

“Thank you to the doctors who take care of Tharnicaa in hospital,” she said.

“We hope soon she is much better.”

New local virus cases in NSW, Queensland

NSW has recorded three new locally acquired COVID-19 cases as some Sydneysiders were ordered to don masks indoors amid the city’s growing outbreak.

Two new local cases were reported in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, one of which had been revealed by health authorities on Saturday. The other case is a close contact of the previously recorded case.

But NSW Health said on Sunday that two additional cases in the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney were recorded after the 8pm deadline. They were both close contacts of previously reported cases.

It takes Sydney’s eastern suburbs outbreak to nine cases.

The growing Bondi cluster has prompted new mask-wearing rules, announced by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Sunday.

Anyone shopping, working in hospitality or indoors must wear a mask unless eating or drinking if they live in the local government areas of Randwick, Bayside, Botany Bay, Inner West, City of Sydney, Waverley or Woollahra.

Meanwhile, a flight attendant has tested positive for coronavirus in Brisbane despite undergoing the full 14 days of hotel quarantine.

The woman aged in her 30s arrived in Brisbane on June 5, on an Emirates flight that also transported a passenger with the more infectious Delta strain, although test results have not yet confirmed the attendant has the Delta strain.

South Australia recorded no new cases on Sunday.

SA shuts border to eastern Sydney suburbs

South Australian authorities closed the border overnight to people who have been in the Waverley Council area of Sydney anytime in the past fortnight, as NSW records three new COVID-19 cases.

The Waverley Council area includes the suburbs of Bondi, Bondi Beach, Bondi Junction, Bronte, Dover Heights, North Bondi, Queens Park, Rose Bay, Tamarama, Vaucluse and Waverley.

Previously the border was only closed to people who had been at specific exposure sites rather than entire suburbs.

Exceptions to the ban, which came into force at 7:48pm on Saturday, include people escaping domestic violence, essential workers, and SA residents, who have to self-quarantine and get multiple tests.

NSW recorded two new locally acquired cases on Saturday – a woman in her 40s and a man in his 50s who both visited the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre – bringing the outbreak to six cases.

A third new case will be included in local transmission numbers for NSW on Sunday.

Victoria meanwhile recorded one locally acquired virus infection on Saturday with the state continuing to emerge from its fourth lockdown.

SA recorded one new case of COVID-19 today in a traveller who has been in hotel quarantine since arrival.

National protests supporting Tamil family

Protests were held across Australia on Saturday calling for a Tamil asylum-seeker family to be allowed to return to their adopted hometown of Biloela in Queensland.

Supporters of the Murugappan family, who lived in Biloela before being taken into immigration detention in 2018, gathered in major cities to express their outrage at the federal government for a lack of compassion.

Protests were held in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Darwin and Perth.

Advocates for the family say Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to transfer them to Perth from Christmas Island, where they have been for about two years, makes no improvement to their situation, as they remain in community detention.

Author and media personality Jamila Rizvi told the Melbourne rally the federal government was lying to Australians about its inability to release the Murugappan family.

Mr Hawke could at any moment intervene and release the family, she said, but the government is displaying “gratuitous cruelty and wasting taxpayer money”.

The family was relocated to Perth from Christmas Island after four-year-old Tharnicaa was sent there for medical treatment.

They will be allowed to stay until their legal fight against deportation is resolved.

Incarceration ‘grotesque’: Assange partner

The partner of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has described his ongoing incarceration in one of England’s highest security prisons as “intolerable and grotesque”.

Stella Moris, 38, and the couple’s two young sons Gabriel, four, and Max, two, visited Assange in prison on Saturday morning for the first time in eight months.

Despite winning his long-running extradition battle against the US in January, Assange remains in HMP Belmarsh in south London pending the outcome of an appeal.

The 49-year-old Australian is still wanted in the US on an 18-count indictment, facing allegations of plotting to hack computers and conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.

The prosecution followed WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011 relating to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled Assange should not be extradited to the US on mental health grounds due to his suicide risk.

But she refused to release him while US prosecutors appeal the decision, citing fears he would abscond.

“He was happy to see the kids, but he’s suffering,” Ms Moris told the Press Association.

“You know it’s a grim, horrible place – the situation is utterly intolerable and grotesque, and it can’t go on.”

Ms Moris said she and Assange’s lawyers were hopeful there is less of an appetite to prosecute him in the US following Joe Biden’s election victory.

“The Biden administration is showing signs of wanting to project a commitment to the first amendment,” she said.

Federal housing support expanded

An extra 30,000 places are to be released to eligible applicants under the federal government’s housing support programs.

Housing Minister Michael Sukkar says the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, New Home Guarantee program and Family Home Guarantee will be expanded from July 1.

While home ownership is beyond the reach of an increasing number of Australians, Mr Sukkar says 30,000 buyers have already been helped into the market via government initiatives.

The current budget will also support market access for 10,000 single parents with dependants, subject to the passage of Family Home Guarantee legislation, he says.

“We know how difficult it can be to buy a new home or re-enter the housing market and that saving a deposit is the hardest part of getting into home ownership,” Mr Sukkar said in a statement on Saturday.

With 30,000 new places being made available in total for applicants to the schemes from 1 July, now was the time to contact a participating bank or mortgage provider and get the process underway, Mr Sukkar said.

The New Home Guarantee was launched last October as a temporary expansion of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme.

It will provide an additional 10,000 places for first home buyers seeking to build or buy a new home with a five per cent deposit and a construction commencement timeframe of 12 months.

NSW accepts Black Summer recommendations

Firefighting infrastructure and equipment will receive an almost $270 million boost as part of the NSW government response to the state’s independent bushfire inquiry.

The NSW Bushfire Inquiry was commissioned to examine the causes, preparation and response to the devastating 2019-20 Summer Bushfires.

The NSW government has accepted its 76 recommendations.

The money will pay for firefighting drones, increased aerial response capacity, improved fire trails and local firefighting needs over the next four years.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet says the funds take the total amount committed by the state and federal government in response to the inquiry to more than $460 million.

“Highlights of the package include further funding for new and refurbished fire trucks, operationalising two black hawk helicopters to replace existing NSW RFS helicopters and implementing the new National Fire Danger Ratings System,” Mr Perrottet said on Saturday.

The $268.2 million funding package includes more than $50 million to support firefighting tanker replacement and safety retrofits for the RFS, fire and rescue and National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Hardline judge wins Iran presidential vote

Iran’s hardline judiciary chief has won the country’s presidential election in a landslide victory after a vote that appeared to see the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history.

Initial results showed Ebrahim Raisi won 17.8 million votes in the contest, dwarfing the returns for the race’s sole moderate candidate.

However, Raisi dominated the election only after a panel under the watch of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei disqualified his strongest competition.

Raisi’s candidacy, and the sense the election served more as a coronation for him, was met with widespread apathy among voters in the Islamic Republic, which has held up turnout as a sign of support for the theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Some, including former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called for a boycott.

In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes, while moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters.

If his election is ratified, Raisi will become the first Iranian president sanctioned by the US government even before entering office, for alleged human rights offences including the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988.

Myanmar rejects UN resolution

Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry has rejected a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an arms embargo against the southeast Asian nation and condemning the military’s February seizure of power.

Myanmar described the resolution, which passed Friday and is not legally binding, as being “based on one-sided sweeping allegations and false assumptions.”

The statement issued in the capital Naypyitaw on Saturday said the Foreign Ministry had sent letters of objection to the UN secretary-general and the General Assembly’s president.

The resolution called on the military junta to restore the country’s democratic transition, condemned its “excessive and lethal violence” since the takeover and called on all countries “to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.”

The measure was approved with 119 countries voting “yes,” Belarus – a major arms supplier to Myanmar – voting “no” and 36 countries abstaining, including Myanmar’s neighbors China and India.

Myanmar’s UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who in February denounced the military takeover, voted “yes” and urged the international community “to take the strongest possible action to immediately end the military coup.”

Karl Amon of the Power runs with the ball during the AFL Round 14 match between Gold Coast Suns and Port Adelaide Power at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast. Image: AAP/Jason O’Brien

Gray hurt as Port slam Suns in AFL

Robbie Gray’s 250th AFL game lasted less than two quarters but by then Port Adelaide had already done enough as Gold Coast narrowly eclipsed their lowest total in club history.

The Suns dodged that humiliation but their struggles were still laid bare in a 12.9 (81) to 4.7 (31) thumping that was a formality thanks to seven straight Port goals in the first half.

Ollie Wines (44 disposals) was one short of Peter Burgoyne’s club record for disposals while Charlie Dixon, Aliir Aliir and Connor Rozee toyed with a Suns side that conceded 10 goals on intercepts.

Gray exited midway through the second quarter of his milestone game with a suspected medial ligament strain in his left knee that will require scans.

Port’s Lachie Jones (hamstring), Suns captain David Swallow (head knock) and Lachie Weller (hamstring) were also casualties as Gold Coast failed to respond after last weekend’s limp loss to Fremantle.

Port’s bounce-back victory after a loss to Geelong last week leaves them in fifth (9-4) and three wins clear of ninth, with coach Ken Hinkley confident a big scalp isn’t far away.

“It hasn’t been perfect for us but I reckon we are starting to look and feel like a really good team without getting the results that we want,” he said.

“Good teams are able to do what we’ve been able to do at the moment, which is not play perfect but win.”

– with AAP and Reuters

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