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What we know today, Friday January 28

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Australia’s medical regulator has granted provisional approval for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds.

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Pfizer booster for 16-to-17-year-olds given provisional approval

Australia’s medical regulator has granted provisional approval for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration says that age group will be able to get the COVID-19 booster in the same dosage as adults.

A final green light is still needed from Australia’s leading vaccine advisory group ATAGI before the boosters are rolled out further.

Currently, only those 18 and older have been able to get the booster.

The medical regulator is still monitoring trials of vaccine boosters for younger children.

The booster decision comes as federal, state and territory leaders debate whether to change the definition of fully vaccinated to require a third dose.

No decision was made on the issue at Thursday’s national cabinet meeting, with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation continuing to consider the issue.

However, it would be up to individual jurisdictions to update their respective public health orders, should the definition change.

74 more deaths in Vic, NSW

Victoria has recorded 12,755 new COVID-19 infections and 39 people have died with the virus – the most deaths since 2020.

Friday’s death toll is the highest the state has seen since Victoria’s second wave when 59 fatalities were recorded on September 4, 2020.

It also comes two days after 35 deaths were reported.

Hospitalisations with COVID-19 have fallen by 69 to 988 patients, down from 1057 on Thursday.

There are 114 people in intensive care, a decrease of three, with 40 of those on a ventilator.

NSW has reported 35 more COVID-19 deaths as the number of patients requiring intensive care has risen eight per cent in two days.

NSW Health on Friday reported 189 people were in intensive care, up from 181 the previous day and 175 on Wednesday. However, the figures remain lower than last week’s peak of 217.

Hospitals are treating 2737 COVID patients – slightly below the seven-day average – while 35 more people have died.

Teachers’ union reconsiders strike after “constructive” COVID safety talks

Teachers will be re-balloted today to find out if they support postponing strike action next Wednesday, with the Australian Education Union’s SA chief saying he’s satisfied with action the government has taken to address COVID safety concerns.

Teachers have until 5pm tonight to vote on whether to postpone the strike “until further notice”, with the outcome to determine whether the school year will begin as scheduled on February 2.

Almost two-thirds of teachers who responded to a ballot on Monday voted to strike, but AEU officials yesterday afternoon agreed the government had made sufficient progress meeting their demands.

Union president Andrew Gohl told InDaily there had been several “constructive” discussions between union officials and the government over the past week.

He said the union’s executive was pleased by a government decision to purchase an additional 3000 air purifiers for classrooms, as well as masks for teachers.

The Education Department is also revising its leave policy for teachers who are forced to isolate, while negotiations are underway for workers who are deemed “vulnerable”.

Despite rejecting a union demand for regular rapid antigen testing of students and teachers, Gohl said the Department had agreed to supply schools with some tests in the event a symptomatic student attends school.

He said discussions were also underway to provide rapid antigen tests to special schools, or those in local government areas with low vaccination rates.

“We really had to have that threat of industrial action in order to bring the government and the department to the table,” Gohl said.

“Since we’ve been there, we’ve had some good progress.

“It’s a shame we had to resort to that position, but sometimes workers have to consider these sorts of things when the balance of power is unbalanced.”

If the majority of teachers vote against postponing the strike, it will go ahead as planned on Wednesday.

It comes after Education Department chief executive Rick Persse urged the union to call off the strike, saying it would be “divisive in staffrooms” and had already caused “community criticism of educators”.

In an emailed letter to Gohl yesterday morning, Persse wrote his staff had worked in “good faith” with the union during its negotiations.

“The threat of this action is adding to anxiety amongst staff and school/preschool communities,” he wrote.

“I believe we have made genuine progress and that we have shared goals for our staff and your members.”

InDaily contacted Education Minister John Gardner for comment.

-Stephanie Richards

SANFL says second oval needed for Crows’ Thebarton move

The SANFL says it welcomes the Crows focusing on Thebarton Oval as a new base after its bid for the Brompton Gasworks site was rejected, but that a second oval will need to be found.

The State Government yesterday announced it had selected a Melbourne-based developer to remediate the Brompton site for housing, a hotel, shops, offices and open space, dashing the Adelaide Football Club’s hopes of moving from West Lakes to a new base just outside the CBD.

After Treasurer Rob Lucas revealed the Crows had lost out on its bid, club chairman and former Premier John Olsen said the focus would now shift to its other relocation option of Thebarton Oval.

Building its base at Thebarton would put the Crows in a share arrangement of a community football precinct with the SANFL and Adelaide Football League. The club would be in a lease arrangement with the City of West Torrens for 42 years, by a 21-year agreement with an extension for another 21 years.

Crows players at Thebarton Oval at an AFL pre-season hit out match in 2020. Photo: AAP/David Mariuz

In an emailed message to members late yesterday, Crows chairman and former Premier John Olsen said the club learned yesterday its Brompton bid had failed.

“While disappointing, the prospect of a large commercial property developer coming over the top of our community-focussed plan had always been a distinct possibility,” Olsen wrote.

Crows chairman John Olsen. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

“We have an obligation to loyal and passionate Members like you, as well as our players, coaches, staff, corporate partners and supporters, to explore every opportunity that has merit. However, we must always think of the Club’s long-term sustainability when entering into any investment of this magnitude.

“We are determined to build a world class facility encompassing high performance, administration and community elements, and now look to the future with optimism and shift the focus to developing Thebarton as our new home. It will underscore our football-first focus and commitment to delivering the type of on-field success every Crows fan so desperately wants.

“Our due diligence and multi-criteria assessment has shown our desired football-based outcomes could be achieved equally at either site. Importantly, Thebarton allows us to create a true football club environment where you can gather and mix with other Crows supporters. It will be a destination for players and fans alike. It will be the home ground of our AFLW team and a place where we can proudly celebrate our heritage, and enhance our culture.

“Speaking to the City of West Torrens Mayor Michael Coxon, his council is supportive and excited at the prospect of us moving to the area. We will continue to work through the options, as well as have ongoing conversations with SANFL and the Adelaide Footy League which already have a footprint at the site.”

Olsen told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that the Crows’ also could refurbish their West Lakes base where the club had tenure for another 26 years, but that it would need major refurbishment as it was built for one team and the club now had three: the men’s team, AFLW and  SANFL and it had “outgrown” the site.

He said the club had made what it considered the best deal for the community in its Brompton offer which he said was worth $3 billion to the state economy, but it had lost out to a big developer with plans for high-density housing and a hotel.

“We knew what the competition was. We are a not-for-profit organisation, we could not write a large cheque so to speak for the site but we tried to compensate for that by open green space, art, culture, health, sport, open access to the local community,” Olsen said.

“We’ve been in tandem discussions with Thebarton right through this process, and Thebarton offers a viable alternative for us.”

But in a statement, SANFL CEO Darren Chandler said a Crows’ move to the inner-west wasn’t sealed.

“As we’ve always said, we are very open to finding a solution for the Crows to relocate to Thebarton Oval and certainly look forward to recommencing talks with the Club in the coming weeks,” he said.

“However, there are a number of commercial and operational elements to work through, with a key consideration being the development of a second oval given that the adjacent Kings Reserve is currently not an option due to the South Rd redevelopment.

“SANFL’s priority, therefore, will be to work with the Adelaide Football Club, the City of West Torrens and the State Government to identify and redevelop a second oval that will accommodate training and match requirements for both the SANFL and Crows.”

Chandler said the SANFL remained focused on moving forward with its major redevelopment of Thebarton Oval to create a “talent hub” as well as an AFLW-compliant venue, with works set to begin this year.

Grace Tame joins 2022 Adelaide Writers’ Week line-up

High-profile advocate for survivors of sexual assault Grace Tame is among more than 90 new guests added to the line-up for this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week in its full six-day program announced today.

With the theme A Better Picture, the March 5-10 literary festival will be the fourth and final event presented by outgoing director Jo Dyer, who is also standing as an independent candidate in the SA seat of Boothby in the 2022 federal election.

A total of 165 guests will take part in free sessions in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden, with Australian writers appearing in person and international authors speaking via real-time digital livestream.

Tame – the 2021 Australian of the Year, who sparked heated debate when she was photographed unsmiling alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Canberra ­this week – will speak alongside Jess Hill, author of The Reckoning: How #MeToo is Changing Australia in the Quarterly Essay.

The session, to be chaired by Dyer, will discuss “the dramatic events of the last 15 months, their impact on contemporary politics, and how the fight for women’s justice has reshaped the nation”.

Adelaide Writers’ Week returns to the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden from March 5-10. Photo: Shane Reid

Other Writers’ Week guests announced today include actor Bryan Brown (who recently published his debut novel), American author Anthony Doerr, and Australian writers Richard Flanagan, Bruce Pascoe and Trent Dalton.

Read the full story on InReview.

-Suzie Keen

State Govt cashes out of global business firm

The State Government has agreed to sell all its shares in its international development business to minimise taxpayer risk.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said yesterday that a Scope Global share sale agreement had been signed with private firm Palladium.

In a statement, Lucas said it was “appropriate for the State to divest its wholly-owned interest in Scope Global to both minimise the Government’s exposure to operational risks, while allowing the company – which employs about 60 people in Adelaide and a further 110 internationally – to expand under private ownership”.

Lucas said Scope Global would retain its Adelaide office.

He said the international development business sector was extremely competitive,  with “potentially significant risks for shareholders of companies competing for business and contracts”.

“Scope Global has had a successful record in the past two years, through a combination of new contract wins and supporting the Commonwealth’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) during the COVID pandemic,” Lucas said.

“However, it is appropriate to now capitalise on the timing of these factors and act in the taxpayers’ long-term interests.”

The sale price has not been disclosed.

$1b for Reef protection after Govt pushes for “in danger” listing delay

The Morrison government is spending another $1 billion to protect the Great Barrier Reef after successfully lobbying UNESCO to delay a decision about listing the World Heritage site as “in danger”.

Of the funding over nine years, $579.9 million will go towards working with land managers to remediate erosion, improve land condition and reduce nutrient and pesticide runoff.

A further $252.9 million will support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s efforts to reduce threats from the crown of thorns starfish and prevent illegal fishing.

As well, $92.7 million is slated for research to make the reef more resilient and to boost adaptation strategies.

“We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, hospitality providers and Queensland communities that are at the heart of the reef economy,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Traditional owners and community groups will get $74.4 million for a range of projects dealing with species protection, habitat restoration, citizen science and marine debris.

Morrison’s government last year lobbied UNESCO to delay a decision about listing the reef as “in danger” until 2023.

Australia took diplomats on a diving trip as part of its bid to convince countries to vote against an earlier draft recommendation supporting an “in danger” listing.

The funding comes on top of $2 billion previously given to agencies including the marine park authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

“Our farmers, tourism operators, and fishers are our reef champions and we are supporting them through practical water and land based strategies that will contribute significantly to the health of the reef,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said.

Collins takes on Barty in Australian Open final

American Danielle Collins hopes she’ll become the latest surprise grand slam champion when she takes on home favourite Ash Barty in the Australian Open final on Saturday.

Collins powered her way into the decider with a 6-4 6-1 demolition of world No.9 Iga Swiatek at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

Barty had earlier become the first Australian woman to reach the singles final in 42 years with a clinical 6-1 6-3 win over Madison Keys.

Keys declared beating Barty was tennis’s version of Mission Impossible after being swatted aside 6-1 6-3 in last night’s semi-final mismatch.

Ash Barty after defeating Madison Keys in their semifinal match at the Australian Open. Photo: AP/Hamish Blair

A one-time US Open runner-up, Keys was merely Barty’s latest victim in a summer rampage the like of which fans have never seen before from Australia’s queen of the court.

Barty has conceded just 21 games in six matches en route to the final in the most rampant run through an Open draw since Steffi Graf dropped only 19 on her way to the title match back in 1989.

Looking untouchable, the hot Open favourite has also won 81 of her past 82 service games.

Little wonder Keys just shrugged and said “it sucks” when asked what it felt like playing Barty right now.

“It’s tough. I mean, she’s just playing incredibly well,” the American said.

“You have a game plan in your head, but she’s just executing everything so well. She’s serving incredibly well, so you don’t get any free points on that.”

Few people imagined world No.30 Collins would make the Australian Open final after her recent health struggles.

But the 28-year-old, who has endometriosis and last April underwent emergency surgery to have a cyst the size of a tennis ball removed, is now one way away from achieving her childhood dream of becoming a grand slam champion.

Although Barty is the hot favourite to triumph, Collins is taking heart from the recent trend of shock grand slam winners.

Danielle Collins of the United States in action against Poland’s Iga Swiatek during the Australian Open semi-final. Photo: Rob Prange/DPPI/LiveMedia

Swiatek bucked the odds to win the 2020 French Open, while Barbora Krejcikova was also unseeded when she won Roland Garros the following year.

The biggest shock came at the 2021 US Open, when In only her second major and ranked 150th, teenager Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier ever to win a grand slam.

“One of the special things on the women’s side of the game is the depth across the board,” Collins said.

“There’s been so many women in the last couple of years who won slams that were not expected to win slams, and that gives hope to all the players.

“Whether you’re outside the top 50 or the top 100, or if you’re in the top 10, everyone has a chance of making deep runs.

“I’ve used that mentality and just tried to do the best I can, and tried to believe in how I’m playing.”

-With AAP and Reuters

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