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What we know today, Thursday September 23

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Victoria has recorded 766 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths, while NSW has reported another 1063 cases and six deaths.

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NSW reports 1063 cases, six deaths

NSW has reported 1063 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and six deaths as the state’s outbreak surpasses 50,000 cases.

Of the six deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, four were women and two were men. One death was a woman in her 90s at St Mary’s Villa Aged Care Facility in Dubbo.

It takes the toll for the current outbreak to 266, while the number of cases for the outbreak now sits at 50,123.

There are 1244 COVID-19 patients in NSW in hospital, with 233 in intensive care and 112 on ventilators.

SA Upper House passes spit hood ban

Legislation to ban the use of spit hoods in South Australia has passed the state’s upper house, five years after the death of a man during an altercation with prison guards.

Wayne “Fella” Morrison died in 2016 after being restrained with handcuffs, ankle cuffs and a spit hood and put facedown in a prison van at Yatala Prison in Adelaide’s north.

An inquest into his death heard he was in custody on assault charges and was being taken for a court appearance by video link when he became involved in a scuffle with officers.

The 29-year-old was lifted into the prison van but was blue and unresponsive when he was pulled out a few minutes later.

Despite resuscitation attempts, he did not regain consciousness and died in hospital several days later.

Morrison’s family has called for a royal commission into his death but have also campaigned for a permanent ban on the use of spit hoods.

Legislation to impose such a ban was introduced into state parliament by SA-BEST MP Connie Bonaros and was passed unanimously by the upper house on Wednesday night.

It must now go before the lower house to become law, but that is expected to be a formality with both the Liberal government and the Labor opposition in support.

Following the vote, Morrison’s mother Caroline Anderson said the family’s hard work had finally come to fruition.

“At least I know no one else is going to suffer from wearing this inhumane torture device like Wayne did,” she said.

“I hope from here that other states and territories will pick this up with us and collectively implement our calls for a national ban.

“The last time I heard Wayne’s voice was a week before his image became synonymous with these barbaric devices.

“I welcome this step toward accountability.”

Bonaros said the ban was long overdue.

“There is absolutely no place in our society for the use of spit hoods regardless of the environment, whether it be in prison, a police cell, mental health facility or a hospital ward,” she said.

“Their use is barbaric and draconian and has led to the deaths of people around the world including in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.”

Vic records 766 new cases, four deaths

Victoria has recorded 766 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths in another record number of infections and deaths for the state in 2021.

The new cases bring the latest outbreak’s death toll to 20 with 6666 active infections in the state.

There were 62,408 coronavirus tests processed and 40,957 vaccine doses administered at state hubs on Wednesday, according to the health department.

New COVID exposure sites listed for infected truckie

SA Health has identified seven new exposure locations in South Australia linked to a positive case in a truck driver from New South Wales who travelled through South Australia, including a service station on Adelaide’s northern fringe.

The sites, added just before 7pm last night, include an Ampol Foodary service station at Direk in the northern suburbs and are on top of two sites in Penong on the Eyre Peninsula that were announced as Tier One exposure sites yesterday afternoon.

The Penong sites are the men’s shower block Caltex service station on the Eyre Highway, which the driver attended on Wednesday, September  15 between 9.30pm and 11.20pm and again on Saturday, September 18 between 3.30am and 5.30am. The driver also entered the Caltex service station in Penong on the 18th between 3.30am and 5.30am.

Anyone who visited the locations at the specified date and times should immediately quarantine, along with their household contacts, for 14 days since visiting the location, get tested immediately, and get tested again on day 5 and day 13.

The new Tier Two locations also require visitors to immediately quarantine, get tested immediately, and get tested again on day 5 and day 13.

They are:

Border Village – Shell Border Village, Eyre Highway

Direk – Ampol Foodary, 2-6 Pilatus Dr (cnr Heaslip Road)

Penong – Caltex, Eyre Highway, Penong

Port Augusta – BP Port Augusta Truckstop, 7 Ritma Road, Augusta Highway,

Port Augusta – Port Augusta OTR (including Hungry Jacks), Augusta Highway and Northern Power Station Rd

Wudinna – Golden Wattle Roadhouse, 64 Eyre Highway, Wudinna

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier told media late yesterday afternoon the truckie, who tested negative before beginning his journey, delivered freight to Western Australia before returning to NSW, driving via SA both times.

Anyone who visited the below locations at the specified date and time should immediately quarantine, along with their household contacts, for 14 days since visiting the location, get tested immediately, and get tested again on day 5 and day 13.

Spurrier said the man, in his 20s, wore a mask during his journey “but I’m not sure if he was wearing it all the time”.

He had also had one COVID vaccination, with Spurrier saying “he was on his way to being fully vaccinated”.

Spurrier said after returning a negative test on Tuesday, September 14, he travelled through SA stopping at “a number of locations during the 15th and 16th” before arriving in WA.

He then returned to SA on the 18th, en route to NSW, and began to feel unwell that same day.

Spurrier said he initially “put those symptoms down to the fact he’d been driving a long time and was fatigued”, but after his symptoms worsened “he went on and got himself tested” after returning to NSW.

“We are certainly very concerned about this in SA,” Spurrier said.

She also revealed the truckie was travelling with another driver, who was tested on September 20 and returned a negative result.

“That’s very good news because that person was in close proximity in the cab,” Spurrier said.

The new case follows a recent spate of positive cases detected in truck drivers travelling through SA, with six cases detected in the first week of September.

Upper House passes ICAC changes

State parliament is on a collision course with SA’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption after laws Ann Vanstone denounced as designed to protect politicians from scrutiny passed the Upper House unanimously last night.

Changes to the ICAC’s governing legislation were moved by SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo and passed the Legislative Council with support from all parties, after he tabled several amendments to win over the Government.

That’s despite Vanstone yesterday telling a parliamentary committee it was “astonishing” that the Government might support the Bill.

The changes will see ICAC’s wings clipped, with the office only given jurisdiction to investigate matters of serious and systemic corruption.

Misconduct and maladministration will be restricted to the State Ombudsman, with the Office of Public Integrity moved out of the ICAC’s jurisdiction.

The laws will also establish an independent Office of the Inspector to replace the current ICAC Reviewer – with “enhanced powers of review and oversight of ICAC”.

Pangallo said in a statement that “after eight years of substantial expenditure, secret investigations, underwhelming results, controversy and criticism, changes to the way ICAC functions were needed”.

“The new changes are designed to make ICAC a more streamlined, more effective corruption-busting tool – and critically, a more accountable integrity body than it has been,” he said.

The laws still need to be ratified by the House of Assembly, but that now appears a formality.

That’s despite an angry Vanstone yesterday declaring the changes would “dismantle” her office and rob the public of an efficient integrity agency.

She was particularly critical of changes she said would shield politicians from investigation at a time when two state MPs were before the courts on charges related to ICAC inquiries.

“The first thing about this Bill, which hits one in the eye, is that the shelter for politicians that is parliamentary privilege is to be built into a 20-foot wall,” she said.

“An immediate aim seems to be to protect themselves from scrutiny.”

She was also scathing of proposed restrictions on her ability to speak publicly about investigations and said some of the changes would add considerably to the costs associated with keeping checks on corruption and maladministration.

“Let me be clear as to my position: if this or a similar Bill is passed by the parliament, it will be plain that politicians do not want an ICAC in South Australia,” she told the committee on Wednesday.

“It’s as simple as that. This bill dismantles ICAC and the whole scheme designed to govern public integrity.

“It is based on misinformation about past events, a misunderstanding of the criminal justice system and it entirely ignores the exemplary way in which ICAC has been operating in the last year.”

– Tom Richardson with AAP

Three strikes and out for failed Eyre Peninsula rocket launch

TiSPACE’s Hapith 1 rocket at Whaler’s Way Orbital Launch Complex. Photo: Supplied

A test rocket launch from an Eyre Peninsula conservation zone has been abandoned for good after three failed attempts this month.

The third failed attempt a week ago ended when the 10-metre, two-stage sub-orbital Hapith I caught fire on the launchpad.

Taiwanese company TiSPACE and Whalers Way operator Southern Launch have since inspected the launch vehicle, declaring yesterday afternoon that it would not be used for any further attempts.

The first attempt on September 10 was called off due to strong winds while the second was aborted on September 15 with the countdown at T-34 minutes after one of the rocket’s systems failed to come online.

After inspection of the Hapith I vehicle, post the September 16 launch attempt, Southern Launch and TiSPACE have concluded that we won’t continue with any further launch attempts of this particular vehicle.

“This test launch vehicle may not have taken Australia to space, however, it has provided our teams with valuable data and insights, which will lead TiSPACE in refining their launch vehicle capabilities further,” Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said.

The TiSPACE rocket was set to be the first to blast off from Southern Launch’s proposed new launchpad facility as part of a government-approved test.

The Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex is in a conservation zone about 25-kilometres southwest of Port Lincoln.

Southern Launch plans to use the test launch to gather noise and vibration data to determine the impact of rocket launches on native wildlife while it waits on approval to build two permanent launchpads at the Whalers Way site.

The proposal has received significant backlash from conservationists and local residents, who argue a rocket launchpad complex should not be built in a conservation zone that is home to several state and federal-listed threatened bird species.

Southern Launch is now preparing for the next two proposed test launch campaigns from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex set to take-off before the end of the year.

Speeding fine surge on country roads prompts safety plea

The number of motorists caught speeding by police on regional roads has jumped 37 per cent in the past three financial years, according to SAPOL figures obtained by the RAA.

In 2018/19 police issued 15,560 roadside speeding fines in regional SA. That number spiked to 18,352 in 2019/20 and 21,383 last financial year.

The number of motorists who instantly lost their licence for speeding 45km/h or more above the limit on regional roads also surged 20 per cent in the same period.

The RAA is using the figures as a reminder to motorists to slow down ahead of the busy school holiday period, which begins tomorrow, and next month’s October long weekend.

The total cost to drivers caught on regional roads also soared, from $7.9m in 2018/19, to $10.1m in 2019/20 and $12.6m last financial year.

The biggest increases occurred in the Barossa Valley (up 133%) and Mid North and Yorke Peninsula (up 45%), which are among the state’s most popular tourist destinations.

RAA Senior Manager Safety and Infrastructure Charles Mountain said motorists ran a greater risk than a fine for exceeding the speed limit.

“Speeding – especially on roads with limits of 90km/h to 110km/h – can have potentially catastrophic consequences for you, your loved ones and other roads users,’’ he said.

“Motorists must also adjust their speed accordingly when speed limits change as they approach towns or roadworks.

“Drivers should make use of overtaking lanes, and RAA is calling for more of these lanes to be built to in an effort to reduce road trauma.”

Melbourne set for fourth day of unrest

Protesters along Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge on Tuesday. Picture: James Ross/AAP.

Melbourne is bracing for its fourth day of protests, as police report fewer demonstrators are tradies angered by mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or the construction industry shutdown.

About 300 to 400 protesters again swarmed the Victorian capital on Wednesday, despite stay-at-home orders and repeated warnings from authorities.

Chanting “every day” from the Shrine of Remembrance, hundreds without masks – some still wearing high-visibility clothing – marched through the city to the war memorial.

Heavily armed police surrounded the shrine, leading to a tense stand-off with protesters that lasted about three hours.

Riot squad members appeared to fire tear gas, rubber bullets and other non-lethal rounds when some of the mob became increasingly hostile and refused to leave.

Two officers suffered head injuries after bottles were thrown at them.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther said 215 arrests were made over the course of the day and condemned the occupation of the shine for political purposes.

“It was completely disrespectful that the crowd ended up at the shrine, which is such hallowed ground in this great city,” he said.

RSL Victoria said the mob had disrespected the sanctity of the sacred site, while Shrine of Remembrance chair Stephen Bowater called it “disgraceful”.

The protests initially began in opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for the construction sector and the closure of building site tea rooms, but have since turned into wider unrest.

Victoria recorded 628 new coronavirus cases and three more deaths on Wednesday, the highest daily tally of the state’s current outbreak.

Johnson tells Macron to get over AUKUS

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told French President Emmanuel Macron to “donnez moi un break” and get over his anger about the new military pact forged between the UK, US and Australia.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, the Prime Minister said: “I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez moi un break.

“Because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It’s three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology.

“It’s not exclusive. It’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It’s not adversarial towards China, for instance.”

Under the AUKUS pact the US and the UK will help Australia develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

But the deal has angered the French by ditching a $A90 billion diesel-powered submarine deal between Australia and France.

Bulldogs cautious following WA virus scare

The Western Bulldogs will be careful about where they spend their time ahead of the AFL grand final after a new COVID-19 case in Perth, Marcus Bontempelli says.

Western Australian health authorities remain on alert after a visiting truck driver tested positive to coronavirus on Wednesday upon returning to NSW.

A second driver who travelled in the same truck has tested negative and WA officials are confident the risk to the wider community is low.

More than 60,000 people are expected to attend Saturday night’s grand final between Melbourne and the Bulldogs at Optus Stadium.

Demons players and officials have been free to roam around Perth for almost two weeks while the Bulldogs emerged from quarantine over the weekend.

Bontempelli said the Bulldogs’ preparation would not drastically change by the unfolding health situation in Perth.

“We already probably discussed about using the early part of the week to find your balance and freshen up and use your time away from the hotel,” the Bulldogs captain told Fox Footy.

“Still get out from the hotel if you need to but start to focus on what’s to come and make good decisions on where you spend your time.”

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has maintained the marquee fixture will be played in front of a crowd even if it means having to shift the game from Perth.

A more likely scenario, should West Australian authorities impose a crowd ban, is for the game to be postponed by a week.

– with AAP and Reuters

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