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What we know today, Tuesday April 26

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Labor is demanding Prime Minister Scott Morrison clarify his government’s position on net-zero emissions after a Coalition candidate described the pledge as not binding.

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Labor calls on Coalition to clarify net-zero pledge

Labor is demanding Prime Minister Scott Morrison clarify his government’s position on net-zero emissions after a Coalition candidate described the pledge as not binding.

Colin Boyce, the LNP candidate for the Queensland seat of Flynn, labelled the commitment “flexible” and noted “wiggle room” within it, a view Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce described as “completely understandable”.

Labor’s energy spokesman Chris Bowen has accused the government of attempting to “be on both sides of the stream”.

“Scott Morrison has a job to do today – is net zero a firm commitment of the government, or is it simply a flexible guideline as the candidate for Flynn has said?” he said to reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

“They want to be on both sides of the stream – well they can’t be.”

Boyce said the net-zero pledge would not be legislated, although moderate Liberal MP Dave Sharma has previously described it as binding.

“It leaves us wiggle room as we proceed into the future. Morrison’s statement that he has made is not binding,” Boyce told the ABC on Tuesday.

The Liberals and Nationals agreed to an unlegislated target of net-zero emissions by 2050, following tense negotiations ahead of the COP26 UN climate change conference in late 2021.

Joyce acknowledged the government was on a pathway to net zero, but insisted major export sectors such as coal could not be exited immediately.

“We have acknowledged that along that pathway, it is not a lineal form,” he told reporters in Shepparton while campaigning in central Victoria.

“We understand that for this nation’s economy to prevail, we cannot just step aside from our second biggest export or our third biggest export, that would be completely and utterly economically irresponsible.”

Asked whether Labor’s own climate targets were designed to appeal to voters in a number of marginal seats, Bowen said the party’s targets would be sold nationwide.

Labor is aiming for a 43 per cent emissions cut by 2030, exceeding the government’s forecast figure of 35 per cent, but falling well short of a 75 per cent pledge by the Greens.

Meanwhile, Morrison has described a Labor plan to lift engagement in the Pacific as “farcical” and showed the opposition did not understand the extent of the challenges in the Pacific.

Under Labor’s plan, Australia would train defence personnel from the Pacific, increase foreign aid spending and expand the ABC’s overseas coverage.

But the prime minister dismissed the plan saying it was no different from his government’s Pacific engagement policy, with the exception of the ABC funding.

“(Labor) think the way to solve the problem in the Solomon Islands is to send in the ABC,” he told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

“Their answer to solving the Solomon Islands problem is to have Q&A in Honiara.”

The Labor plan comes as two new opinion polls show the opposition in a winning position ahead of the May 21 election.

Aged care workers call for higher wages

Aged care workers have taken their fight for higher wages to the Fair Work Commission as inflation continues to bite nationwide.

The Health Services Union, representing staff from personal care workers to catering and cleaning, is calling for a 25 per cent wage increase for staff in the sector.

“It is certainly a political issue now and the pandemic has exemplified these concerns,” HSU National President Gerard Hayes told AAP.

Entry-level personal care workers can be paid as little as $21.96 per hour, the union said.

The case before the commission, in its first day on Tuesday, seeks to lift wages by between $5.40 and $7.20 per hour, increasing average pay to about $29 per hour.

Mark Castieau, a chef with 20 years of experience at an aged-care facility, said many staff had left the industry because it was hard to make ends meet as well as the heavy workload during the pandemic.

“It’s a highly skilled job looking after vulnerable old people but we’re treated as menial workers,” he told AAP.

“We’re not recognised or valued for our work, we’re expendable”.

The Reserve Bank of Australia expects underlying inflation in the March quarter to be more than three per cent, with price hikes for essentials including fuel, food and housing hitting families hard.

Hayes said a 25 per cent wage increase would cover rising living costs.

The legal fight comes off the back of thousands of health workers across the state walking off the job earlier this month to support demands for a 5.5 per cent wage increase.

SA authorities meet to discuss school mask mandate

Health Minister Chris Picton says he is hopeful that the state’s Emergency Management Council will reach a decision this morning on whether to scrap the mask mandate in schools ahead of the start of Term 2 on Monday.

Picton told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that the council would discuss advice from SA Health and the Education Department before deciding whether to remove the mandate.

He said an increase in the number of vaccinated school-aged children gave the government confidence that it could remove the mask requirement, but there was a “tricky balance” that had to be considered.

“Hopefully we’ll be in a position to be able to make a decision on that,” he said.

“We’re still obviously a little bit less than a week away from when school returns, so we do have a bit of time.”

South Australia yesterday recorded 3175 new COVID-19 cases – a jump from the 2816 infections recorded the day before, despite hospitalisations dropping slightly by nine.

The state’s COVID-19 death toll has risen to 325, following six new deaths reported on Monday, including a man in his 70s, two men in their 80s, two women in their 80s and a woman in her 90s.

But Premier Peter Malinauskas told reporters on Monday that the state was still on track to lift quarantine rules for close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases from 12:01am on Saturday.

“So far they’re (case numbers) doing what we expected, in fact, in many instances better than what we expected and that’s a good thing,” he said.

From Saturday, April 30, close contacts of COVID-19 cases will no longer be required to isolate and will instead have to undertake five government-supplied rapid antigen tests over seven days.

They will also be required to wear a mask when leaving the home and banned from high-risk settings such as hospitals, correctional services and aged and disability care.

Gang link to Adelaide stabbing death

A man is dead and 17 people have been charged following a brawl in Adelaide’s CBD in the early hours of Anzac Day.

Assistant Commissioner John Venditto said a 25-year-old Victorian man was found lying on the road about 2am on Monday with multiple stab wounds to his chest.

He died shortly afterwards.

Police swarmed the area and made 13 arrests, including some people wanted over other matters.

After receiving further information later that morning, officers arrested four more men at Adelaide Airport who were attempting to travel to Victoria, bringing the total number of people charged to 17

A 17-year-old boy from Meadow Heights in Victoria has been charged with murder, aggravated affray and travelling under a false name.

An 18-year-old man from Victoria was charged with aggravated affray and travelling under a false name, while a 21-year-old man from Werribee, Victoria and a 16-year-old boy from St Albans, Victoria were both charged with aggravated affray.

All men were refused bail or did not apply for bail and will appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court today.

Venditto said police believed the fatal altercation was linked to Operation Meld, a crackdown targeting youth gangs.

“The theory at the moment is that this is an incident between two groups that know each other,” he told reporters.

“The threat to the public is there because they’ve got bladed weapons and other weapons and react with spontaneous acts of violence … 13 violent people are now in custody.”

He said police resources had already been increased in the city centre and community leaders were working with investigators to bring the gang problem to an end.

Police are also investigating a serious assault at Smithfield on Monday evening.

At about 5.45pm emergency services were called to a licenced premises on Main North Road after reports of a serious assault, where police found a man with severe facial injuries. .

The man was rushed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital in a serious but stable condition.

Business confidence up in SA

South Australian businesses saw an uplift in conditions and confidence over the March quarter, following the scrapping of COVID-19 restrictions, a new survey shows.

Results from the Business SA William Buck survey of business expectations show the confidence index is up 18 points from December 2021, while general business conditions also saw an increase of 6.8 points.

It follows a decline in business confidence over previous quarters, prompted by the repercussions of the November border reopening and coronavirus restrictions.

Business SA chief executive Martin Haese said the March quarter results were a “testament to the resilience of the South Australian business community”, but warned employers were concerned about wage rises.

“Having borne the financial brunt of the pandemic over the past two years, businesses have done it tough,” he said.

“While there are calls to increase wages, it makes sense that business owners and employers are concerned about the associated cost impacts.

“Increasing the minimum wage beyond reason is not the best way to deliver higher living standards for low-paid workers. There are taxation mechanisms that will give them a better result and avoid putting more pressure on business owners.”

William Buck Managing Director Jamie McKeough said businesses were still facing “significant challenges”, despite the easing of restrictions.

“Business is looking for more from new our state leaders in labour-related areas such as reducing payroll tax, incentivising employment, and increasing training,” he said.

“They are also calling for reduced red tape and increased local procurement by the state government.”

Russia announces ceasefire in Mariupol

The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works became a last refuge for Ukranians still trapped in Mariupol. Photo: Peter Kovalev/TASS/Sipa USA

Russia has announced a ceasefire and a humanitarian corridor for civilians trapped in a steel plant in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

According to the Defence Ministry in Moscow, the Russian army was set to cease hostilities at 2pm local time on Monday to allow civilians to leave the industrial zone via a humanitarian corridor.

The Azovstal steel plant became a last refuge for the people still trapped in Mariupol.

According to Russian sources, about 2500 Ukrainian fighters and foreign mercenaries are still there. Kyiv said there were also about 1000 civilians in the steel plant.

Early on Monday, a series of Russian offensives were blocked in eastern Ukraine, according to reports out of Kyiv.

The news comes after a night of secretive meetings between Ukrainian officials and visiting US envoys.

Ukrainian sources also said that five railway stations in central and western Ukraine were hit by missile strikes.

“Russian forces are systematically destroying the infrastructure of our railways,” the head of the country’s railways, Olexandr Kamishin wrote on his Telegram channel.

The civilian death toll amid the Russian invasion stands at 3818, according to Ukrainian district attorney Iryna Venediktova, in comments reported by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

She noted, however, that the statistics are incomplete, as authorities are unable to investigate in many parts of the country due to the ongoing invasion.

Elon Musk to make Twitter private

Elon Musk has clinched a deal to buy Twitter Inc for $61 billion in a transaction that will shift control of the social media platform populated by millions of users and global leaders to the world’s richest person.

It is a seminal moment for the 16-year-old company that emerged as one of the world’s most influential public forums and now faces a string of challenges.

Discussions over the deal, which last week appeared uncertain, accelerated over the weekend after Musk wooed Twitter shareholders with financing details of his offer.

Under pressure, Twitter started negotiating with Musk to buy the company at the proposed $54.20 per share price.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement.

Shares were up about six per cent following news of the deal on Monday. It represents a near 40 per cent premium to the closing price the day before Musk disclosed he had bought a more than nine per cent stake.

The transaction was approved by the board and is now subject to a shareholder vote.

It was not immediately clear what the breakup fee would be or who would run the new company.

Twitter’s outsized importance as a mouthpiece for politicians, political dissidents and activists belies its relatively small size.

Although it is only about a tenth of the size of far larger social media platforms like Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook, it has been credited with helping spawn the Arab Spring uprising and accused of playing a role in the 2021 storming of the US Capitol.

After Twitter banned former president Donald Trump over concerns around incitement of violence following last year’s US Capitol attack by his supporters, Musk tweeted: “A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”

Republicans on Monday cheered the news of a possible Musk buyout of Twitter, betting on Trump’s reinstatement on the service.

Trump, whose company is building a rival to Twitter called Truth Social, said he will not return to Twitter, according to a Fox News interview.

– With AAP and Reuters

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