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What we know today, Friday September 24

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The federal government says half of Australians over the age of 16 are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as NSW reports 1043 cases and 11 deaths while Victoria records another 733 cases and one death.

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Missing kayaker found alive and well

A kayaker at Rapid Bay thought missing in waters south of Adelaide has contacted police telling them he’s safe and well.

Police resumed a search for the man on Friday who they feared had fallen from his kayak on Thursday evening.

They had been called to the area amid reports of the kayak drifting about 80 metres offshore between the caravan park and the jetty.

A man had been seen fishing from the boat an hour earlier.

But on Friday afternoon he contacted police telling them that after falling into the water he had been unable to tow his kayak to shore and had abandoned it.

He then swam to shore and drove home.

The kayak recovered at Rapid Bay. Photos: SA Police

Half of Australian over-16s fully vaccinated

Half of Australia’s population aged 16 and above has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed the milestone had been reached seven months and two days after the rollout began.

“Many thanks to the record 347,796 Australians who came forward to be vaccinated yesterday,” he tweeted on Friday.

While Australia’s immunisation program has been slower than almost everywhere in the developed world, jab rates have gained momentum.

The nation edges closer to 70 and 80 per cent over-16 double-dose vaccination coverage, which is crucial to easing restrictions.

Almost 75 per cent have received a first shot.

In South Australia, just under 46 per cent of the population over-16 is fully jabbed, while 64.5 per cent has had at least one dose.

Vic records 733 cases, one death

Victoria has recorded 733 new COVID-19 cases, including a man who attended an anti-lockdown protest, and one death.

Health Minister Martin Foley on Friday confirmed a woman in her 80s from the local government area of Moreland had died, taking the toll from the current outbreak to 21.

The new locally acquired infections bring the number of active cases in the state to 7160, with 297 people in hospital including 66 in intensive care.

Included in the new cases was a man who was at an anti-lockdown protest on Wednesday in Melbourne’s CBD and centred on the Shrine of Remembrance.

He is being treated in hospital and public health investigations are underway.

Some Victoria Police officers have been identified as close contacts of the man and will have to self-isolate.

“For operational reasons, numbers will not be provided on how many officers were placed into quarantine as a precautionary measure,” a spokesperson said.

“Victoria Police’s priority first and foremost is to ensure the safety of its people and the community.

“The community can be assured that service delivery to the public will remain unaffected during this time.”

The protests initially began in opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for the construction sector and the closure of building site tea rooms but morphed into a wider anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine movement.

NSW reports 1043 new cases, 11 deaths

NSW has reported 1043 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths, 10 of whom were unvaccinated.

Of the 11 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, one person was in their 40s, two were in their 50s, one was in their 60s, six were in their 80s and one was in their 90s.

It takes the death toll for the current outbreak in NSW to 277.

There are currently 1186 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 232 in intensive care beds and 110 on ventilators.

“Everything we start doing, we look forward to doing at 70 and 80 per cent, must be done with a degree of caution and responsibility because otherwise too many people will end up in hospital,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday.

ACT records 19 new cases

Canberra has recorded 19 new COVID-19 infections, a dozen of which are linked to other cases or ongoing clusters.

Just four of Friday’s cases spent their entire infectious period in quarantine, with at least 13 in the community for some of the time.

There are 12 people in hospital, including three in intensive care. Two patients require ventilation.

Nearly 57.5 per cent of the ACT’s eligible population is fully immunised.

More than 83 per cent have had one dose.

State parliament votes swiftly to gut ICAC powers

The state’s ICAC has been gutted by state parliament, with a Bill dramatically stripping its powers passing both houses of parliament in less than 24 hours.

A private members Bill moved by SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo was waved through the Lower House last night with minor amendments, before being rubber-stamped by the Legislative Council.

The changes will see the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption replaced by a Commission, separate from the current Office of Public Integrity, with powers to investigate matters of serious or systemic corruption, but not maladministration or misconduct.

The Bill passed with universal parliamentary support, despite ICAC Commissioner Ann Vanstone railing strongly against it, saying the legislation narrowed the definition of corruption, eroded her independence and placed politicians “out of reach” of integrity agencies.

She yesterday suggested she may quit her role if the legislation was passed.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, who appointed Vanstone, introduced Pangallo’s Bill to the Lower House last night, saying: “As the Attorney-General I indicate on behalf of the Government our support of the Bill.”

It’s a major policy U-turn for the Government, which had previously campaigned on a pledge to introduce open public ICAC hearings for misconduct matters.

Pangallo dedicated the legislation to the memory of former senior police officer Doug Barr, who took his own life in 2019 while waiting for the outcome of a lengthy ICAC investigation.

His widow Debbie Barr told media this week when the ICAC report was released, it “made clear Doug was not accused of corruption”, and was dated eight days before he died.

“I am not a judge, but I can see when and where there has been a denial of natural justice, an abuse of process where innocent people are driven to despair, lives ruined, lives lost by an organisation that has not been fully scrutinised since it started,” Pangallo said.

“Doug’s life was worth far more than the cost of bad legislation and mismanagement.”

Pangallo’s Bill was based on recommendations made by parliament’s Crime and Public Integrity Policy Review Committee, which included Liberal MPs Dan Cregan and Steve Murray.

Cregan said last night both MPs had been asked by “the Premier, Treasurer and Attorney-General” as government representatives on the committee to “assist in working with other members of parliament on revised ICAC legislation”.

“I note that many eminent lawyers and jurists believe that reform of the ICAC was well overdue,” he said after the Bill was passed.

Former ICAC Bruce Lander is due to front parliament on Monday, but has already declared the new laws “will set back the anti-corruption cause in South Australia”.

-Tom Richardson

Interstate truckie jab deadline extended

A state-ordered deadline for interstate truck drivers and essential workers crossing into South Australia to have had at least one COVID-19 vaccination before the end of this month has been extended into October.

SA Police issued an updated Emergency Management (Cross Border Travel) direction yesterday afternoon, with the changes effective immediately.

Where the previous order mandated that commercial transport and freight workers entering South Australia must have had at least one TGA-approved COVID-19 vaccination by Monday, September 27, the date has now been pushed back to 12.01am on Thursday, October 7.

Further, a deadline for essential travellers and workers entering South Australia to have at least one COVID-19 vaccination by today, Friday, September 24 has been extended to 12.01am on Monday, October 11.

The changes came after SA Health revealed that 130 South Australians had been ordered into quarantine after visiting exposure sites visited by a NSW truck driver who tested positive after two trips through the state to Western Australia and back.

SA Health yesterday listed 10 exposures sites associated with the man in his 20s, who tested negative before beginning his cross-country journey and has had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said SA Health had been able to identify and direct into quarantine 126 people who QR coded in at an exposure site, while another four people had come forward after filling out an SA Health survey.

“We’ll of course now be going through bank records, obtaining additional details from the petrol stations in particular with petrol cards [and] fuel cards,” Kirkpatrick said.

“And we’ll be making sure to tie up any loose ends with CCTV, and of course assistance from SAPOL.

“We know that this individual was symptomatic here on the 18th of September, so we absolutely need to be following up these sites ensuring that the South Australian community knows this is a real risk for us.

“We need to remain very vigilant that this is a real risk coming over from the eastern states.”

The Penong Caltex, in the state’s far west, has been listed as a Tier One exposure site. Picture: Google

National Trust to close Ayers House museum after eviction

The National Trust will close its museum at Ayers House after a final public viewing on Sunday, blaming the decision on the State Government evicting it from its home of 50 years.

Environment Minister David Speirs issued the Trust a 30-day eviction notice in June, saying Ayers House would become the new home of the state government’s SA History Trust and the 1846 building would undergo a $6.6m upgrade.

The sudden move sparked a war of words, with Speirs extending the deadline but remaining firm on the eviction as the Trust launched a petition aimed at keeping the History Trust at the North Terrace site.

Ayers House on North Terrace. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Trust said that in 1971, Premier Don Dunstan asked it to establish the Ayers House Museum and since then it had “contributed more than $25m to its operation, including millions of volunteer and staff hours to maintain and present the house to visitors from around the world”.

The Trust said it was the state’s biggest community-created and run museum and held one of Australia’s largest collections of Victorian-era artefacts, but Speirs said much of the public was unaware of its existence.

“We are very sorry to have to close the museum to the public on Sunday,” National Trust president Deborah Morgan said.

“So many people have worked so hard over 50 years to provide this service for the community and to showcase the stories and heritage of our state to people from around the world. Adelaide is losing one of its most unique attractions. Children are losing the opportunity for an unforgettable experience in a heritage place.

“Although it will be a sad day, this Sunday we will celebrate what has been achieved with a day of fun activities for children and families and a rolling program of musical performances throughout the house.”

The Ayers House Museum will be open from 10am to 4pm Sunday. Admission is free.

SA Water workers walk off job

More than 100 SA Water workers have walked off the job for 24 hours over an ongoing pay dispute.

The United Workers Union said staff at SA Water sites including water treatement plants, depots, reservoirs, locks and pipeline across the state launched protected industrial action from midnight Thursday.

The union says emergency water issues may have to be met by contractor call-outs.

John Elliott dies

Businessman John Elliott, who was also a Liberal Party elder and the Carlton Football Club’s longest-serving president, has died in hospital aged 79.

His son Tom told listeners of 3AW radio his father “had taken his last breath” on Thursday.

“He had been ill for a few weeks,” Tom said. “It is very sad news for us and my brothers and sisters and all the members of my family.”

Elliott was to turn 80 in 10 days.

Melbourne-born Elliott is understood to have been hospitalised after a recent fall.

In a statement, Carlton noted Elliott’s passing with sadness.

“He led the Blues through a record 20-year presidency, with the larger-than-life figure overseeing a significant period of on-and-off field success throughout his tenure,” the club said.

Former Liberal Party and Carlton Football Club president and Fosters brewing boss John Elliott has died aged 79. Photo: AAP/Julian Smith

Tom acknowledged his father’s commitment to the Blues.

“Apart from his family, Carlton was the great love of his life.”

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was among the first public figures to pay tribute to Elliott.

“He was a proud Victorian and a larger-than-life figure,” he tweeted.

Elliott stayed on the party rather than parliamentary side of politics, serving as federal Liberal treasurer and president from the 1980s.

Once touted as a potential prime minister, Elliott chose business over parliament.

His business life included the acquisition of multi-million dollar companies including in the brewing industry.

After a turn in fortune, Elliott declared himself bankrupt in 2005. After the bankruptcy was lifted, he maintained a public profile, including with speaking engagements.

Elliott was a father to four and grandfather to six.

Melbourne protester tests positive after city rally

Demonstrators who attended the third day of recurring Melbourne protests have been encouraged to get tested as a fellow mob member battles COVID-19 in hospital.

Victoria’s health department has confirmed a person is being treated in hospital after attending Wednesday’s at-times violent rally.

“Public health investigations are under way,” a spokesman said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

“We are urging protesters to get tested should they experience COVID-like symptoms, no matter how mild.”

The infection will be included in Friday’s official case tally.

The COVID-positive protester was among a mob of 400 to 600 who 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.

Riot squad members fired tear gas and other non-lethal rounds when rioters became increasingly hostile and refused to leave, with two officers injured and 215 arrests.

The demonstrations 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.

A fourth day of the planned protests was a non-event, with demonstrators largely a no-show on Thursday despite flagging potential meeting sites.

Police pounced on protesters before they were able to gather in significant numbers, making 92 arrests.

Meanwhile, stranded Victorians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon be allowed to return home from Greater Sydney.

From September 30, double-dosed Victorians stuck anywhere in NSW can come home if they return a negative test 72 hours before departure, isolate at home for 14 days and get tested at the start and end of quarantine.

Victoria recorded 766 new infections on Thursday – its highest ever daily COVID-19 case tally – and four deaths, bringing the latest outbreak’s toll to 20.

-with AAP and Reuters

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