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What we know today, Wednesday August 25

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NSW has reported two deaths and a record 919 new COVID-19 cases, as nearly one-third of the state’s population becomes fully vaccinated.

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NSW records 919 cases, two deaths

NSW has reported two deaths and a record 919 new COVID-19 cases, with nearly one-third of the state’s population fully vaccinated.

The deaths include a 30-year-old mother of three, who has become one of the youngest people to die of COVID-19 in the state.

A man in his 80s from Sydney’s north died at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital, having acquired his infection at the Greenwood Aged Care in Normanhurst.

It brings the number of COVID-related deaths to 76 since the outbreak began on June 16.

NSW Health remains particularly concerned about infection rates in Guildford, Auburn, Merrylands, Greystanes, Granville, Punchbowl, Yagoona and Blacktown.

About 60 per cent of NSW residents aged 16 or older have had at least one shot, with 32 per cent fully vaccinated.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian is particularly urging under-40s in the local government areas of concern to get vaccinated.

“Nearly one third of our population is fully vaccinated,” Berejiklian said on Wednesday.

“If we keep these rates up we will hit further milestones.”

SA welcome Kabul repatriation flight

South Australia has welcomed people fleeing Afghanistan after the arrival of a repatriation flight from Kabul, Premier Steven Marshall says.

The flight touched down early on Wednesday morning with 89 people on board.

They were taken to a city quarantine hotel to begin two weeks in supervised isolation in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions.

Marshall said the State Government reached out to the Commonwealth when it heard about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

“A very distressing situation for all the people involved,” he said.

“We want to play our part and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Afghan community here in South Australia.”

The arrivals from Kabul are not included in SA’s current weekly cap of 265 for the return of Australians from overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marshall said every effort had been made to make the people feel welcome and to ensure they had appropriate clothing and food and work would now begin on their long-term repatriation.

He said it was expected some would remain in South Australia permanently.

It was understood some on board were Australian citizens and some were on humanitarian visas.

“We’ve always been a diverse, respectful and welcoming community here in South Australia and that’s what we wanted to show,” he said.

“So we do say a massive welcome to those people who have come in from Afghanistan.

“I bet they’re very, very relieved to get out, but still probably frightened and anxious.”

ACT records nine new COVID-19 cases

The ACT has recorded another nine COVID-19 infections, bringing its outbreak to 176 cases including seven people in hospital.

This includes an unvaccinated woman in her 40s requiring ventilation.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has ruled out ending the ACT’s lockdown before September 2.

“Now is not the time to be significantly easing restrictions,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Whether lockdown lifts in eight days’ time depends on the number of people infectious in the community and whether all cases can be linked.

“We will come out of this gently, week-by-week as we continue to get our vaccination rate up,” Barr said.

The chief minister doesn’t expect Australia to reach a key 80 per cent vaccination threshold until the end of November.

“The challenge for Canberra is how many more of us can we protect through vaccination between now and then,” he said.

“The race is on. Please get vaccinated as soon as you can.”

NZ records 62 new cases

New Zealand has recorded 62 new COVID-19 cases as leaders insist the new infections won’t blunt their aim to eliminate the virus.

The new cases – 61 in Auckland and one in Wellington – means New Zealand’s first Delta outbreak has now infected 210 people.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the case numbers, after 41 on Tuesday and 35 on Monday, were yet to get out of hand.

“While this is steady growth, it is not exponential,” he said.

The outbreak remains centred on Auckland, which has 198 of the cases, with 12 in Wellington.

Of those infected, 12 have been hospitalised.

Kerry Stokes retiring from Seven Group

Kerry Stokes is retiring from the board of his media and investment company, Seven Group Holdings.

Seven on Wednesday said Stokes will step down as executive chairman after 11 years, following an annual general meeting in November.

The ASX-listed company has large stakes in the Seven media group, industrial businesses WestTrac and Coates, as well as Beach Energy.

Stokes recently steered Seven’s off-market takeover of building materials supplier Boral.

The media mogul will remain chairman of Seven West Media, which owns the Seven television network and The West Australian newspaper.

Stokes said he will remain involved with Seven Group in an advisory role.

Seven Group director Terry Davis will takeover the vacated position.

Stokes’ son Ryan is managing director and chief executive.

The elder Stokes will also continue as chairman of Australian Capital Equity Group, which invests in media, energy and industrial businesses.

His rise to power came from humble beginnings. He left school as a 14-year-old and lived on the streets of Melbourne.

He later moved to Perth and made a living installing TV antennas.

In 1978 he made his first media purchase, the Bunbury-based Golden West TV network.

A year later he bought Seven Canberra. Seven Adelaide followed, before Mr Stokes gained the third commercial licence for a television station in Perth.

In 1996, he bought a fifth of the Seven network. This stake included Pacific Magazines and the Yahoo7 online venture.

In 2006, Stokes created the joint venture Seven Media Group and partnered with a US investment firm.

In 2011 the company merged with West Australian Newspapers.

Seven Group on Wednesday revealed a full-year underlying net profit of $504.6 million, up seven per cent.

Seven shares were down 5.18 per cent to $21.69 at 1151 AEST.

Vic records 45 new cases

Victoria has recorded 45 new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases, as the state government’s vaccination website crashed when thousands of young people tried to secure a booking.

The health department on Wednesday confirmed 36 cases were linked to known outbreaks, while the source of the remaining nine infections are under investigation.

Twenty-eight cases were infectious in the community and not isolating.

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 538.

It comes as Pfizer eligibility was expanded to people aged 16 to 39 across Victoria’s 55 vaccination hubs on Wednesday morning, as supply ramps up courtesy of 175,000 doses imported from Poland.

Premier Daniel Andrews said more than 830,000 vaccination bookings over the next four weeks will be made available from 7am on Wednesday, including 450,000 first-dose Pfizer appointments.

But within minutes of bookings opening, the website appeared to buckle.

Many young people reported receiving a “500 internal server error” after waiting in the queue to book their appointment, while others were told they were ineligible for the vaccine.

SA students improve but still behind national NAPLAN scores

South Australian students are still behind the national average on numeracy and literacy skills but are improving compared to other states, according to the latest NAPLAN results.

More than 1.2 million Australian students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 took the NAPLAN test in May after last year’s assessment program was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Preliminary results released this morning show there was not a substantial difference from 2019 at the national or state/territory level.

Of the 20 categories, Year 9 writing was the only one where South Australian students recorded a higher mean score than the national average.

However, the state recorded increases in eleven of the 20 categories measured, with the State Government touting record high mean scores for the state in year 3 and 5 spelling and reading.

Education Minister John Gardner said the results were a “strong endorsement” of the State Government’s focus on literacy.

“It wasn’t so long ago that South Australia was scoring fifth or sixth out of six states in almost every domain – this year we are third or fourth in a majority of testing areas,” Gardner said.

The education minister also said it was “important to remember that NAPLAN results aren’t everything and many important things happen in our schools that aren’t tested by NAPLAN”.

Opposition education spokesman Blair Boyer highlighted that in all 20 categories, the percentage of South Australian students reaching the minimum national standard is below the nationwide average.

“Steven Marshall promised SA would have the ‘best schools in Australia’ but NAPLAN results reveal we are behind the national average in every single subject across every single age group,” Boyer said.

“Concerningly, we are going backwards across key subjects in various age groups.”

Pfizer for kids on KI

The State Government is opening up eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to children aged 12 to 15 on Kangaroo Island.

An additional Pfizer clinic will open on the island from September 13 to 18, with bookings over the phone compulsory for children in the 12 to 15 age bracket.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the decision followed advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to prioritise vaccines for children in the age group with a medical condition or if they identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or in remote communities.

“Today we are now opening up COVID-19 vaccinations to children aged 12 to 15 years residing on Kangaroo Island in a state-first move that I am confident will be welcomed by the local community,” Wade said.

“Kangaroo Islanders have rolled up to the vaccination clinics to protect themselves and their loved ones with more 3,700 doses administered so far and I am proud we are able to extend the eligibility for the vaccine to around an additional 900 residents.”

According to the lastet Federal Government vaccination data, 1,151,801 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in South Australia, with 30.1 per cent of the eligible population in the state fully vaccinated.

Bonaros comments after Duluk verdict

SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros has spoken out for the first time since fellow MP Sam Duluk was found not guilty of assaulting her at a Parliament House Christmas party, saying the events of that night “still sicken me” and “the shame is all his”.

The Adelaide Magistrates Court on Tuesday found Duluk not guilty of one count of basic assault for an alleged incident at an alcohol-fuelled Christmas party in December 2019.

Bonaros had told the court in June that Duluk had assaulted her at the private corridor function by “whacking” her on the bottom.

However, another prosecution witness, Greens staffer Emily Bird, gave a different version of events, telling the court “she saw the accused touch the alleged victim on the bottom in a brief patting motion, when they were both walking side-by-side”.

Magistrate John Wells in his ruling yesterday found both witnesses “separately credible [and] believable … but jointly unreliable”, saying “they cannot both be accurate beyond reasonable doubt”.

Wells also criticised Duluk, saying “there is no doubt the accused treated Ms Bonaros poorly” and he “behaved like a drunken pest”.

Late on Tuesday, Bonaros released a lengthy statement saying she was on sick leave and did not attend court but had been briefed by friends and colleagues who were present.

“I understand Magistrate John Wells – while acquitting Mr Duluk – labelled his conduct towards me as ‘entitled, uncouth and disrespectful’ – it was,” she said.

“The events of that evening – and Mr Duluk’s conduct towards me – still sicken me when I think about what he did.

“He, as the magistrate said in court today, treated me poorly and was insensitive to my discomfort that evening.

“He also made inappropriate comments to me which I found humiliating and rude,” she said.

She thanked Wells for his “careful consideration” of the matter, saying that as a lawyer “I know he was faced with a difficult decision when the prosecution called an eyewitness whose evidence of the slap was different to mine”.

“I want to stress I am glad I made a police complaint about Mr Duluk for what he did to me that night and that police believed there was sufficient evidence to charge him.

Duluk did not comment outside the courthouse but later released a statement saying he was “grateful for the opportunity to clear my name”.

“In reflecting on the Magistrate’s remarks, I reiterate the personal apology I conveyed to Ms Bonaros after the event,” Duluk said.

“Whilst the last 20 months have been challenging, and a period of deep personal reflection, I am dedicated to continuing to serve the people of Waite.”

Class action lawsuit against pastoralist family

A class action lawsuit has been filed against an SA pastoralist family on behalf of victims of the January Lucindale bushfire in the state’s southeast last summer.

Victorian firm Maddens Lawyers has lodged the case against the Brinkworth family estate in the South Australian Supreme Court, with the regional firm alleging the fire started on land owned by the family and spread to neighbouring properties.

The Lucindale fire, which started on January 11, burnt through more than 14,000 hectares of grass and scrub and impacted more than 70 properties in the state’s southeast before being brought under control next day.

Maddens class action principal Kathryn Emeny said the damage caused by the bushfire is “far-reaching and still being felt to this day”.

“Claims for compensation in the class action will incorporate all aspects of loss suffered after a major fire such as time spent cleaning and restoring one’s property as well as fencing, tree and pasture losses,” Emeny said.

“Claims will also be advanced for any psychological injuries which we understand are commonly experienced by bushfire victims.”

The patriarch of the Brinkworth family, Tom Brinkworth, died in August last year aged 83.

The lawsuit has been filed against his surviving wife Patricia Brinkworth and the executors of his estate.

It comes after Maddens Lawyers earlier this year launched a $150 million class action against SA Power Networks on behalf of victims of the 2019 Cudlee Creek bushfire, as well as a separate lawsuit against the energy company for the November 2019 Yorketown blaze in the Lower Yorke Peninsula.

Kieran Modra honoured at Tokyo Paralympics

Five-time Paralympic gold medallist and South Australian sports hall of famer Kieran Modra has been remembered by the Australian cycling team at their own opening ceremony outside Tokyo.

Modra, who competed at eight Paralympics in athletics, swimming and cycling, was killed north of Adelaide in November 2019 when a car collided with him on a training ride.

The visually impaired star was 47. Modra and his wife Kerry, who once piloted him in Paralympic tandem events, had three daughters.

The cycling team is staying next to Izu Velodrome near Tokyo and Paralympics Australia chief executive Lynne Anderson joined them on Tuesday afternoon for their ceremony.

Each cycling team member will have an iron-on patch honouring Modra that will be worn inside their jackets and another small patch for the brim of their Akubra hats.

The patches read Kieran Modra 1972-2019 “Go for it”.

Veteran Paralympic and Olympic mechanic Michael Winter, a long-time friend of Modra’s, was presented with one of the patches at the ceremony on behalf of the team.

“It’s a really nice thought (Australian chef de mission) Kate McLoughlin approached me,” cycling head coach Warren McDonald told AAP.

“It (the patch) is a little memorial, when he was born and when he passed away.

“He had a bit of a mantra – ‘go for it’. He’s a legend.

“Quite a few people in this team knew him and a lot of the staff were affected by his passing.

“It’s such a great honour.”

Modra competed at the 1992 Paralympics in athletics and swimming, winning two bronze medals in the pool.

He then switched to cycling, where he won five gold and three bronze over seven Games.

Modra also won two silver medals in cycling at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The only Paralympics where Modra did not win a medal was Sydney.

He was one of five athletes officially inducted into the South Australian Sports Hall of Fame in February this year.

Meanwhile, Australia started the Paralympics with social isolation, sending only three people to the official opening ceremony.

While many other countries had athletes marching behind their flag bearers on Tuesday night, chef de mission Kate McLoughlin was the only Australian team member to join flag bearers and team co-captains Danni di Toro and Ryley Batt in the ceremony.

Australian Paralympians Lisa Daniela Di Toro (Table Tennis) and Ryley Batt (Wheelchair Rugby) carry the Australian flag into the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Tuesday, August 24, 2021 (AAP Image/Paralympics Australia/Sport the Library/Jeff Crow).

Tokyo’s National Stadium was empty for the start of the Paralympics, continuing the pandemic measures that marked the Olympics.

Earlier on Tuesday, chef de mission McLoughlin said the decision for Australian athletes not to march at the opening ceremony was made several weeks ago.

“While it’s a decision I didn’t want to have to make, it’s one we made to keep the athletes safe and to make sure they did get to the start line,” she said.

The opening ceremony featured the national flags of the 162 delegations represented, which included the refugee team.

The flag of Afghanistan was carried by a volunteer despite the delegation not being on hand in Tokyo.

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, right, performs behind singer Mick Jagger during their concert at the Rose Bowl, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File).

The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died at the age of 80, his publicist has said.

The musician, who marked his 80th birthday in June, had been a member of the rock group since 1963.

A statement from his London publicist Bernard Doherty said: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.

“Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of The Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation.

“We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time.”

Earlier this month, it was announced that Watts was to miss the band’s forthcoming US tour.

A spokesman for him said at the time he was “unlikely to be available for the resumption of the Rolling Stones USA No Filter Tour this fall” as he recovered from an unspecified medical procedure.

The band are due to resume the tour Stateside in September, following its postponement last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After the news broke on Tuesday, Sir Elton posted a picture of the pair and said in a Twitter post: “A very sad day. Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer.

“The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. My deepest condolences to Shirley, Seraphina and Charlotte. And of course, The Rolling Stones.”

His Beatles counterpart Sir Ringo also tweeted a picture, writing: “God bless Charlie Watts, we’re going to miss you man, peace and love to the family, Ringo.”

Queen drummer Roger Taylor said on Instagram: “How sad, we’ve lost a true gentleman. The immaculate beating heart of the Rolling Stones.”

Musician Sir Paul McCartney paid tribute to Watts with a video on Twitter, in which he said: “So sad to hear about Charlie Watts, Stones drummer, dying. He was a lovely guy.

“I knew he was ill, but I didn’t know he was this ill, so lots of love to his family, his wife and kids and his extended family, and condolences to the Stones, it’ll be a huge blow to them because Charlie was a rock, and a fantastic drummer, steady as a rock.

“Love you Charlie, I’ve always loved you, beautiful man, and great condolences and sympathies to his family.”

-With AAP and Reuters

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