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What we know today, Thursday October 21


All Woolworths workers in South Australia will need to be fully vaccinated by March 31, after the supermarket chain today announced it would be mandating COVID jabs for its 170,000 employees.

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Woolworths, Coles eye vaccine mandate for workers

Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles plan to order their combined workforces – about 300,000 people – to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Woolworths want all of its 170,000 workers to get their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by early next year to reduce the risk of infection.

The directive will apply to employees at about 1200 stores as well as distribution and online fulfilment centres and support offices.

“With each store welcoming an average 20,000 customers a week, a single team member can come into contact with quite literally thousands of people in the course of a normal working week,” CEO Brad Banducci said on Thursday.

“After careful review of the best medical advice, we’ve made the decision to require all of our team members in Australia to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Workers must be fully vaccinated in the ACT, NSW, NT, Victoria and WA by January 31, and by March 31 in South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland.

But Woolworths also recognises some workers might have legitimate medical or religious reasons to be exempt.

It’s planning a series of workplace meetings before making a final decision on its double vaccination plan in November.

About a third of its Australian workforce is already subject to state-issued health orders requiring full or part vaccination in order to work.

In the coming months, Coles will require workers to be vaccinated as a condition of working at stores, distribution centres and other sites in NSW, the ACT and Victoria, unless they have a valid exemption.

Government health orders also require Coles staff in the NT and Coles supermarket workers in WA to be vaccinated in order to work.

Coles says it will work with team members in those jurisdictions so that they can comply with the regulations.

“We have worked hand-in-hand with health authorities and adopted their recommended safety measures, allowing us to keep our 120,000-plus team members and millions of customers safe,” Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said in a statement.

As part of the new requirements, Coles workers in NSW and the ACT must have had at least one vaccination by November 5 and their second dose by December 17.

In Victoria, NT and WA, team members are required to be vaccinated in line with the dates set out in public health orders.

In each state where employees are required to vaccinate as a condition of work, either as a result of government health orders or as part of Coles’ policies, Coles intends to maintain this as an ongoing requirement.

Both chains will not require customers to be fully vaccinated to buy food and other goods – which is in line with current state-based health orders.

Qantas eyes early 2022 return to full domestic travel

Qantas boss Alan Joyce expects the group will regain pre-pandemic domestic capacity by January as more states and territories allow visitors.

Joyce on Thursday gave more details of plans to increase flight numbers as Australia betters controls the coronavirus with a vaccinated population.

“It looks like by Christmas we will have every state open except for Western Australia, and Western Australia will open up domestically hopefully early in the new year, we assume around February,” he told a Flight Centre Travel Group conference.

Qantas has one daily flight from Sydney to Melbourne as the latter city endures its last day of lockdown. There were 55 daily Qantas flights from Sydney to Melbourne before the pandemic.

Joyce said the figure would climb to almost 15 in the first week of November.

The same daily flights would increase to about 30 to 40 by Christmas.

The airline boss expected this route would be close to its pre-COVID schedule by February, helped by business travel.

NSW records 372 cases, one death

There has been a jump of new local cases of COVID-19 in NSW with 372 new cases reported and one death.

After three consecutive days of fewer than 300 cases, the figure recorded in the 24-hours to 8pm on Wednesday jumped by 89.

There are 523 patients in hospital, 124 of whom are in intensive care.

About 92.5 per cent of people aged 16 and over have had one vaccine dose and 82.3 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated.

Vic records 2232 new cases, 12 deaths

Victoria has recorded 2232 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths on the last day of Melbourne’s long-running sixth lockdown.

The health department confirmed the state’s daily local case figure had risen back above 2000 for the first time in five days.

Three overseas-acquired cases were also detected in hotel quarantine.

It takes the number of active cases in Victoria to 22,889, while the latest deaths from the current outbreak take the toll to 187.

There were 79,544 tests processed and 37,824 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs on Wednesday.

Chapman lashes ‘witchhunt’ KI conflict inquiry

Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman has lashed out at the chair of a parliamentary inquiry investigating her decision to block a major port on Kangaroo Island, accusing the Labor MP of a conflict of interest while reigniting a cross-generational factional Liberal feud.

A pair of prominent QCs will go head-to-head in the investigation into the Attorney-General, which will probe whether she had conflicts of interest stemming from her family’s property holdings on the island when she killed off Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers’ $40 million port proposal to transport timber from the island, where her family owns property and her late father served as the former MP.

Chapman has engaged prominent QC and parole board chair Frances Nelson as her independent counsel at her own expense, while the inquiry has retained top silk Rachael Gray QC – the first time an SA parliamentary committee has had a counsel assisting.

In a statement late yesterday, Chapman said the Labor-led inquiry – which was sensationally backed by most of the crossbench in a display of political authority – was “an unprecedented witchhunt that will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars”.

“Labor’s appointed QC could easily be charging north of $5000 a day to ‘lead’ this Kangaroo Court – all money that will come directly from the pockets of taxpayers,” she said, before turning on the committee’s chair, Labor MP Andrea Michaels.

“The real scandal here is how Andrea Michaels can be chairing this inquiry [when she] is a close personal friend of KIPT’s lobbyist, Iain Evans, who also sits on her law firm’s advisory board – that is the real conflict of interest,” she said.

“This is not an issue for Mr Evans, he simply has a job to do – this is about the conduct of Ms Michaels.”

According to the government’s lobbyist register, Evans is no longer KIPT’s lobbyist while Michaels says her firm has no advisory board.

Chapman said Michaels had “no problem with me [earlier] approving the rebuild of the Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island”, calling the current inquiry “the Labor Party at its grubby worst”.

“Not only should Andrea Michaels recuse herself, Labor should vacate the quasi-trial – this issue has already been dealt with by the Speaker and dismissed, as he found there was no case to answer,” she said.

Chapman and Evans, the former Liberal leader to whom she served as deputy before helping overthrow him for Martin Hamilton-Smith, have a longstanding factional rivalry dating back to their fathers, Ted and Stan, backing Dean Brown and John Olsen respectively in the internecine party battles of the 1980s and ‘90s.

Evans did not respond to inquiries yesterday.

Michaels told InDaily her law firm did not currently have an advisory board, but had one in 2015 when she first established it, comprised of Evans along with Labor veteran Nick Bolkus and business identity Donny Walford.

The SA Lobbyist Portal says Evans ceased as the lobbyist for KIPT in August.

“This inquiry is not to investigate KIPT – it’s to investigate the Attorney’s conduct,” Michaels said.

“The parliament appointed me and the other committee members to undertake this inquiry.

“I’m sure other members of the committee also know Iain Evans as well – probably longer than I’ve ever known him.

“I don’t see there’s a conflict – or even a perceived conflict – in investigating the Attorney’s conduct.”

 – Tom Richardson

Labor pledge allows principals to hire and fire teachers

State Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas. Picture: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The State Opposition will hand principals the power to hire teachers and fire poor performing ones at their school if it wins government at next year’s election as part of a plan to improve the quality of teaching in South Australian classrooms.

Labor says it will also increase permanency rates so more young teachers can establish careers without the pressure of living contract to contract.

The country allowance that is in place to lure teachers to regional schools will be extended to become available on an ongoing basis.

SA Labor Leader Peter Malinauskas said while the majority of  school teachers were outstanding and deserved support, poor performing teachers had a disproportionately negative effect on students.

He said the current process for dealing with underperforming teachers was too slow, which was unfair on students and the teachers themselves.

“When an under-performing teacher is left in a classroom for an entire year, that’s an entire year of children’s education we never get back,” Malinauskas said.

“Principals have too little say on who is teaching at their school. Too often, the department is making decisions from their CBD office rather than the principal on the ground.

“We also have a plan to reward quality teachers. That’s why we’ll increase the number of permanent teachers by 10 per cent.”

City Cross in line for $25m revamp

The new owner of Rundle Mall’s City Cross says a $25 million overhaul of the arcade will create more than 500 construction jobs and attract new flagship tenants including SHEIKE, Archer & Holland and Vans.

A series of soaring brick arches will replace the façade of the arcade, which links Adelaide Rundle Mall and Grenfell Street.

Sydney-based property group Revelop bought City Cross from Makris Group for a reported $60 million at the start of this year.

“We purchased this centre knowing that it needed a lot of love both aesthetically, and by bringing the right retail mix to the centre,” said Revelop Managing Director Charbel Hazzouri.

“We are thrilled to announce an exciting mix of new partners.”

Other new tenants are set to include Dumpling House, nail bar House of Polish and beauty and entertainment retailers.

Commercial partner AIE will remain in a rejuvenated new space, expanding to five floors.

The project is expected to be submitted for development approval this month with construction slated to start in 2022.

Revelop says it will engage a builder through a local tender in the coming weeks.

Melbourne hospo workers in race to beat jab deadline

Melbourne’s lockdown will end on October 21. Picture: Daniel Pockett/AAP.

Tonight’s lockdown lifting in Melbourne has hospitality workers scrambling to get vaccinated against COVID-19 so they can get back to work.

Melburnians will emerge from lockdown at 11.59pm on Thursday, five days earlier than planned, as the state is expected to reach its 70 per cent fully-vaccinated target.

Federal government figures show 89.2 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 69.3 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Under the new rules, people will be able to leave their homes for any reason and travel anywhere within metropolitan Melbourne.

The curfew will be scrapped, home gatherings of up to 10 will be allowed, and hairdressers and hospitality businesses will reopen for the fully vaccinated.

However, in a last-minute change to reopening plans, all hospitality staff must be fully vaccinated to work.

This is despite online health directions stating authorised workers, including those in hospitality, must have had one vaccine dose by October 22 and a second by November 26.

Australian Hotels Association Victoria chief executive Paddy O’Sullivan said the government had “moved the goalposts” on the sector and has asked for a grace period to allow staff time to get vaccinated.

But Victoria’s COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said “there is no wriggle room” on the mandate.

With some pubs in the city to reopen at midnight, staff at hospitality venues will be allowed to go into work after the curfew kicks in at 9pm to get their venues ready, but patrons will need to wait until 11:59pm to leave home.

Melbourne is considered the most locked-down city in the world, having endured a total of 262 days under stay-at-home orders since March 2020.

Victoria recorded 1841 local COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday, taking the toll from the latest outbreak to 175.

The ACT is also due to ease COVID-19 restrictions from midnight Thursday after the territory eclipsed the 80 per cent fully vaccinated threshold this week.

All retail will be allowed to open with density limits of one person per four square metres.

In NSW, the number of new cases diagnosed across NSW remains relatively low, despite the easing of restrictions.

A total of 283 new locally acquired cases and seven deaths were announced on Wednesday.

Report ranks Australia last on climate in developed world

Australia is the worst climate performer in the developed world and will remain last even if it promises to get to net zero emissions by 2050, a new Climate Council report says.

The advocacy group has compared what 31 wealthy developed nations are doing to limit global warming ahead of the pivotal Glasgow climate conference in 10 days’ time.

Two new rankings put Australia right at the back of the pack, and well off the pace being set by its allies and trading partners.

Australia was placed last based on progress so far to cut emissions, and future pledges.

But Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has called the Climate Council report misleading and “complete rubbish”.

Among other things, the report cited Australia’s failure to commit to deeper emissions cuts by 2030, and its accounting of gains through land use changes to mask rising emissions from the dirtiest sectors.

The second ranking put Australia in equal last position – alongside Canada – for its dependence on fossil fuels when both domestic use and exports were taken into account.

Despite having renewable energy sources that would allow it to meet its domestic needs many times over, Australia continued to extract, burn and export enormous quantities of coal and gas, the report said.

Meanwhile, Nationals MPs will deliver Scott Morrison a list of demands required to secure the junior coalition partner’s support for a 2050 net zero emissions target.

The prime minister insists federal cabinet will decide what position Australia takes to COP26 climate talks in Glasgow starting on October 31.

A four-member Nationals subcommittee was on Wednesday finalising the conditions required to secure support for the deal.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce insisted the process was at arms length from him and he expected the document to go to Morrison on Thursday.

Aussies thrashed in final T20 cup warm-up

Australia has suffered a thumping eight-wicket defeat to India in their final Twenty20 World Cup warm-up match.

Aaron Finch’s team never recovered from a bad start in which they were reduced to 3-11. Steve Smith, with a 48-ball 57, enabled them to reach 5-152 India cruised to the target with more than two overs to spare, Australia dismissing only one batsman.

Underlining the status of the match India used seven bowlers, including Virat Kohli, and Australia eight. India’s Rohit Sharma also retired when he reached 60 to provide batting practice for teammates.

The one-sided nature of the match will have been a concern for Australia only three days before the start of its campaign.

The form of David Warner is a particular worry as he followed a golden duck against New Zealand in the first warm-up with a seven-ball one. He has now played four innings since April scoring 0, 2, 0, 1, the other two being IPL matches.

Smith and Glenn Maxwell rebuilt the innings adding 61 in 53 balls before the latter was bowled for 37 off 28 balls. Marcus Stoinis, who hit the innings’ only six in an unbeaten 41, then helped Smith double the score with Australia scoring 58 off the last five overs.

In the field, it took Australia 12 overs to make a breakthrough, Ashton Agar having KL Rahul caught at long-off by Warner in the 12th over.

That, however, was the only wicket taken.

Australia open their campaign against South Africa in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

– with AAP and Reuters

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