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What we know today, Wednesday January 12

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The Australian Republic Movement has unveiled its preferred method for the nation to appoint a new head of state.

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Australian republic plan unveiled

The Australian Republic Movement has unveiled its preferred method for the nation to appoint a new head of state.

The group, chaired by author and presenter Peter FitzSimons, says federal, state and territory parliaments should nominate a shortlist of candidates for head of state, which would then be put to a national ballot of voters.

The federal parliament would be able to nominate up to three people while states and territories would nominate one person each.

The ballot winner would get a five-year term and would be responsible for appointing a prime minister with majority support in the House of Representatives, or calling an election if that support does not exist.

But the head of state would have no authority in day-to-day governance or passing laws.

The model was developed across a two-year period, with more than 10,000 Australians consulted through surveys, polls and meetings.

FitzSimons said the ‘Australian Choice’ model brought responsibility to citizens to elect their own leaders.

“This will give all Australian voters a merit-based choice about who speaks for them as head of state,” he said.

“The decision will be in their hands, unlike now, where it is luck of the draw who we get from the British Royal Family.”

Movement research found 73 per cent of Australians would vote for a republic if the model was put to a referendum.

It also found 92 per cent of Australians are open to the idea of a republic, with just eight per cent opposed to any change.

FitzSimons said having a specific model to allow for the change overcame the movement’s main barrier.

“We’ve consulted, we’ve listened closely and Australians have told us this approach will give our nation the best chance of success at a referendum, with an overwhelming majority of Australians likely to back the change,” he said.

NSW and Vic commit to school reopening on time

Australia’s two biggest states have committed to reopening schools on time for the new year, amid calls to delay bringing children back as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said children needed to be back “on day one” while Victorian acting health minister James Merlino said the state would “absolutely” deliver face-to-face learning as planned.

“(My priorities are) hospitalisations number one and number two is getting kids back into the classroom,” Perrottet said on Wednesday.

“We need kids back on day one and that is what we are going to do.”

Merlino said he was working with NSW and other jurisdictions for a nationally consistent framework schools returning.

“No one is talking about lockdown, no one is talking about remote learning,” he said.

“I want every child back at school day one term one and we will be making sure that that is the case.

“We made a commitment to the people of Victoria – get vaccinated, and then we can move beyond remote learning, move beyond lockdowns.”

The states and territories are working with the head of the prime minister’s department Phil Gaetjens on a plan to co-ordinate schools reopening, with advice likely to go to a national cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The South Australian Government is set to make an announcement about schools on Friday, while the Queensland Government has pushed back the start of term one for two weeks.

Australia’s former deputy chief medical officer has put his name on a letter to national cabinet urging leaders not to delay the school year’s start.

Dr Nick Coatsworth, along with other medical experts, says children going back to school will not have an impact on the trajectory of COVID-19 Omicron cases.

Mandatory rapid test reporting for NSW

NSW residents who fail to report positive rapid antigen test results will face a $1000 fine as the state makes a “messy” transition to its COVID-19 testing regime.

It comes as the state reported a record 21 deaths on Wednesday, including seven historical fatalities.

Residents aged 16 and older can now log any positive at-home tests they have taken this year via the ServiceNSW app or website, in a process Premier Dominic Perrottet said is “seamless”.

From Wednesday, uploading the result within 24 hours is mandatory.

Police enforcement will commence next week, though Mr Perrottet concedes it will be difficult.

The premier on Wednesday said the shift was not just about counting cases but understanding who has underlying conditions and may need more care.

Those who test positive will be asked for details about their medical background and sorted into high and low risk cases, with the former to receive extra contact from NSW Health.

People who test positive on RATs will have to isolate for seven days, unless they have no symptoms and no known exposure – in which case they must do another test within 24 hours.

NSW Health has repeatedly warned the official case numbers were likely inaccurate, as so far it has counted those who have returned a positive PCR test.

The daily case numbers – which reached 34,759 on Wednesday – will include PCR and RAT statistics from later in the week.

Chief health officer Kerry Chant apologised for the “messy” transition to the testing approach, which she said had happened far quicker than authorities wanted.

She urged anyone who did not have access to RATs – which remain scarce – to take a PCR, especially if they have underlying conditions.

New plan to manage SA COVID hospitalisations

The Marshall Government has been forced to “pivot” its plan for hospital capacity as the state continues to record a higher than anticipated number of COVID-19 hospitalisations, with some public hospital patients set to be transferred to private wards in a bid to free up bed space.

The changes announced this morning will also see the Royal Adelaide Hospital increase its capacity from 200 COVID inpatient beds to 300, while the Lyell McEwin and Flinders Medical Centre will now prepare to host 100 dedicated inpatient beds for COVID cases.

The State Government says local health networks are now also undertaking “detailed planning” to determine which services and beds can be moved to other sites to free up capacity.

It says cardiothoracic surgery at the FMC has already been moved to Flinders Private and other surgical activity will soon move from the RAH to Calvary Hospital.

The changes will culminate in a total of 500 extra dedicated bed spaces for COVID patients and 60 intensive care spots, according to Premier Steven Marshall.

“This will mean a pivot from the original plan where the vast majority of COVID positive patients were to be cared for at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, over a significantly longer period,” Marshall said this morning.

“The Lyell McEwin Hospital and the Flinders Medical Centre will now also provide acute hospital care for COVID positive patients as we head towards the peak.

“This updated hospital plan meets the projected hospital requirements at the peak.”

The State Government says its modelling for the Delta variant anticipated a peak hospitalisation of around 200 patients at any given time.

But the number of people hospitalised with the virus in South Australia increased from 188 to 211 on Tuesday, with the current Omicron outbreak yet to reach its predicted mid-to-late January peak.

There are currently 22 people in intensive care and four on a ventilator. There have been 15 COVID-positive deaths during the current Omicron outbreak.

The state’s daily COVID caseload dropped to 2921 on Tuesday after three straight days of more than 4000 cases, although testing numbers also dropped.

The latest move to free up bed space comes after the State Government suspended “non-urgent” elective surgery last month.

InDaily reported yesterday that some private operating wards are now “sitting idle” due to the snap decision.

Hills truck crash marks first SA road death of 2022

A truck driver has died after losing control of his vehicle and rolling down an embankment in Crafers West on Tuesday.

Police say emergency services were called to Hawk Hill Road shortly after 7.30am yesterday following reports the Isuzu truck travelling north had crashed off the road.

The driver, a 56-year-old Payneham South man, was found dead at the scene, police say. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle.

Police announced late on Tuesday that Major Crash investigators would be examining the circumstances surrounding the crash.

It is the first death recorded on South Australian roads this year, compared to five at the same point last year.

There were 94 fatal crashes in South Australia in 2021, resulting in 99 fatalities, according to SAPOL data.

There have already been 18 crashes resulting in serious injury within the first two weeks of 2022.

Immigration Minister still mulling Djokovic decision

Djokovic at a practice session in Melbourne Park on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. The Australian Open is due to start on January 17 (AAP Image/POOL, Kelly Defina)

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is still weighing up whether to use his discretionary powers to cancel the visa of world No.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic.

Hawke is still yet to make a decision on whether Djokovic should be deported after Monday’s decision by a federal court to overturn the tennis star’s visa cancellation.

In a statement, a spokesman for the minister said the situation surrounding the tennis star was being closely examined.

“In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter,” the spokesman said.

“As the issue is ongoing, for legal reasons it is inappropriate to comment further.”

Should such a discretionary decision be made, Djokovic could be banned from entering the country for three years.

Court documents have also raised fresh questions about the tennis star’s status to enter the country.

Djokovic told authorities on a border declaration form he had not travelled in the two-week period before his flight to Australia.

However, Djokovic was filmed playing tennis in the streets of Belgrade in Serbia on Christmas Day and training in Spain on December 31, both within the 14-day window.

The declaration notes that giving false or misleading information is a serious offence, while civil penalties are also available.

Djokovic was detained in immigration detention last week for arriving into the country unvaccinated with an invalid exemption, in breach of Australia’s border laws, and his visa was cancelled as a result.

However, the federal court quashed the decision, after government lawyers conceded the decision made during an early morning immigration interview was unreasonable in the circumstances.

Downing Street silent amid new ‘bring your own booze’ party scandal

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces new leadership questions after it emerged his private secretary invited more than 100 people to a “bring your own booze” party at the leader’s official residence during a national COVID-19 lockdown.

Johnson has faced intense scrutiny over the past month after a video emerged showing his staff laughing and joking about a different party also held in Downing Street during a 2020 Christmas lockdown.

Revelations about a series of gatherings that took place in the heart of government have been widely criticised and prompted opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer to accuse Johnson of lacking the moral authority to lead the country.

The latest, if substantiated by an internal inquiry, would be the most damaging yet for Johnson’s future.

His own MPs show signs of losing patience after a series of scandals, and polls show Johnson’s Conservative Party slipping behind Labour.

Johnson and his partner Carrie were among those who gathered with about 40 staff in the garden of Downing Street on May 20, 2020 after the PM’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds sent an invite by email using the pronoun “we,” ITV reported.

Johnson’s spokesman on Tuesday declined to comment on the report.

The spokesman said Johnson has full confidence in Reynolds, who was reported by ITV to have sent an email invitation to the event, signing it off “bring your own booze!”.

At the time of the party, schools were shut to most pupils, and pubs and restaurants were closed with strict controls on social mixing.

Police prosecuted revellers and people were prevented from bidding farewell in person to dying relatives.

Ellis apologised unreservedly for the upset that the allegations had caused.

Only a smattering of Conservative MPs attended the debate and few spoke in support of Johnson.

Reds captain confirms Japanese transfer talks

Australian footballer and Adelaide United captain Stefan Mauk looks set to depart the club (AAP Image/Matt Turner)

Adelaide United captain Stefan Mauk has confirmed he’s closing in on a move to Japan as the Reds prepare to lose another key player following winger Ben Halloran’s exit.

InDaily first reported last week that Mauk was eyeing an exit and had been offered a more lucrative contract in Japan.

The Reds have agreed to let him leave to the club so they can secure a mid-season transfer rather than lose him for free at the end of the season.

“This weekend I’m preparing for the Melbourne City game but there are obviously some talks that are going on for a couple of months with a Japanese team,” Mauk told the Official A-Leagues Podcast.

“Hopefully that gets over the line with a few last-minute issues. Whatever happens, will happen.

“As a footballer, you always have things going on in the background.

“This has been the happiest I’ve been in my career, so it’s a really tough decision and it’s something that wasn’t made in a matter of days, it’s been a long-time coming.”

Mauk joined the Reds in 2020 from Brisbane Roar and has made 56 appearances for the club.

The move would be Mauk’s second time overseas in his career after an ill-fated stint at Dutch club NEC Nijmegen in 2016-17 where he made just three appearances before returning to Australia.

“Japan is probably the best country in Asia to go to football wise,” he said.

“When the opportunity came up, they’re all technically good players and I think the way I play can suit and compliment the style over there.”

Website TransferMarkt currently lists Mauk’s value at just under $1.2 million, but it’s very unlikely United will get anywhere near that value.

Reds winger Ben Halloran’s move to South Korean top-flight club FC Seoul was confirmed on Monday.

-With AAP and Reuters

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