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What we know today, Wednesday April 27

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Australia will give Ukraine an additional $26.7m in heavy artillery weapons and ammunition as Russia steps up its offensive in the Donbas.

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Australia sends more weapons to Ukraine

Australia will give Ukraine heavy artillery weapons and ammunition as Russia steps up its offensive in the Donbas.

The $26.7 million worth of military assistance will see Ukraine provided with six M777 lightweight towed howitzers along with ammunition.

It takes Australia’s military assistance contribution to Ukraine to $225 million, with a further $65 million provided in humanitarian aid along with more than 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement the equipment offers further support to combat Russia’s “brutal, unrelenting and illegal invasion”.

“The Australian government will continue to identify opportunities for further military assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously,” Morrison said.

“The Australian government reiterates our strongest support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and for the people of Ukraine.

“Australia stands with the people of Ukraine, and again calls on Russia to cease its unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

The new support package comes as Australian representatives attended a meeting hosted by US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on the response to Ukraine.

Australia was one of 40 nations in attendance at the meeting at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where Austin pledged additional military support for Ukraine.

PM dismisses division over net-zero within Coalition

Scott Morrison has dismissed claims the coalition is at odds with each other over climate policy, with the prime minister claiming the issue had been resolved.

His comments came after Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said the government’s net-zero emissions by 2050 target was “dead”.

Speaking to reporters in Rockhampton on Wednesday, Morrison said the government supported the climate target.

“Everyone knows that Matt hasn’t been supportive of that position, there’s no news there,” he said.

“(Canavan) has held it for a long time, that debate has been done in the coalition and is resolved, our policy was set out very clearly, and it has the strong support of the government.”

Coalition colleagues on Wednesday were quick to dismiss the comments by Senator Canavan, with Nationals MPs saying the junior coalition partner were committed to net-zero.

Campaigning alongside the prime minister, Nationals member for Capricornia Michelle Landry told Senator Canavan to tow the party line.

“Pull your head in, Matt,” she said.

“I agree with the government’s position, I’m in one of the biggest coal mining electorates in the country.”

SA Govt backs £10 flights to entice UK backpackers

The State Government is subsidising £10 return airfares for British and Irish backpackers to travel to South Australia in a bid to rejuvenate the state’s visitor economy.

The South Australian Tourism Commission campaign will see 200 Qatar Airways return flights priced at just £10 – roughly $A17 – available to eligible British and Irish citizens from May.

Typical airfares between Australia and the UK cost around £800.

The eligibility criteria require interested travellers to hold a working holiday visa and be able to travel to Adelaide before September 30.

The registration process is through tour operator Trailfinders, with backpackers also required to buy a holiday starter pack from the agency.

Minister for Tourism Zoe Bettison said the campaign would help rejuvenate the state’s backpacker economy, worth upwards of $47 million in 2019.

“Whether it’s in our bars, restaurants, wineries and hotels, or on our outback stations and farms, there are so many ways that Brits and Irish citizens can work in Adelaide and across regional South Australia, helping to not only fill roles but provide an economic and cultural exchange benefit which advantages both sides of the globe,” she said in a statement.

Around 27,000 people on working holiday visas visited South Australia in 2019, according to the State Government.

Independents loom large in federal election: new poll

The Coalition has made marginal inroads into Labor’s lead, but only independent candidates have emerged as winners from a tight week of campaigning, a new Roy Morgan poll has found.

Labor maintains an election-winning lead on a two-party preferred basis, 54.5 to 45.5 – a gain of half a point to the government, its second consecutive rise, according to the online-phone poll of 1393 voters taken from April 18 to April 24.

The poll has a margin of error of 2.6 per cent.

Voters were as evenly split on the headline measure of support as they have been for six months, after a week dominated by national security and the late withdrawal of Labor leader Anthony Albanese due to COVID-19.

Solomon Islands security pact dominates election campaign

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But there was equally no sign of a revival in either of the major parties’ primary votes, which remained unchanged and with the government again with its nose in front on 35.5 per cent to the ALP’s 35 per cent.

Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine said the poll suggested it was increasingly likely that neither party would emerge from the May 21 election with the ability to form government in its own right.

“Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is set to emerge from COVID-19 isolation protocols tomorrow and rejoin the campaign, and with just over three weeks to go until election day the chances of Australia’s first hung parliament in over a decade are increasing,” Levine said.

The main moves were a reversal in gains recorded by the Greens, after a week with a heavy focus on national security.

The Greens dropped two points to return to 12 per cent.

Independent candidates won the only substantial increase in the nationwide poll; their support was up 1.5 points to reach 8 per cent.

Read the full story in The New Daily

Police hunt continues after CBD stabbing

One of the men allegedly involved in a fatal stabbing in the Adelaide CBD in the early hours of Anzac Day remains at large, police say, as Premier Peter Malinauskas says the State Government will change legislation or boost police resources if it’s required to tackle gang violence.

A Victorian teenager has been charged with murder after a man was allegedly stabbed to death in Adelaide in the early hours of Anzac Day.

Officers were called to North Terrace just after 2am to find the 25-year-old Victorian lying on the road with multiple stab wounds to his chest. He died shortly afterwards.

Detectives arrested the 17-year-old Meadows Heights boy at Adelaide Airport on Monday evening as he tried to return to Victoria.

The teen was charged with murder, aggravated affray and travelling under a false name.

Another three Victorians, an 18-year-old man, a 21-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy, were also arrested at the airport and charged with offences including aggravated affray.

The stabbing is alleged to have followed a confrontation between up to 20 members of two gangs, one called 051 and the other KBS.

Detective Superintendent Des Bray said after the confrontation in a laneway, the victim was chased down by three men before being fatally stabbed and stomped on.

One of those men remains at large.

Bray described the clash between the two groups as a knife fight and said it came after six gang members flew into Adelaide from both Sydney and Melbourne on Friday.

Detectives have seized a number of weapons including knives and are checking a large amount of CCTV footage.

“It’s important that everybody remembers that these are violent young criminals, who on this occasion, happen to be African,” Bray told reporters on Tuesday.

“These young criminals are not truly representative of the wider African community.”

As well as those detained at the airport, another 13 people were arrested on Monday for a range of offences, including weapons and assault charges.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said the events over the weekend “have shocked us all because it was so graphic”.

“If there are actions that are required then naturally the government will be willing to take them,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“The former Labor government when we saw the prospect of outlaw motorcycle gangs causing concern in the community, we responded with a strong legislative response that was specifically orientated towards that threat.

“If there is other legislative reforms or resources that need to be put in place that respond to this threat, then we’ll take those actions.”

Final SA Upper House vote to be revealed

The make-up of South Australia’s Legislative Council will become clear today with the Electoral Commission set to reveal the results of Upper House preference votes at last month’s state election.

Electoral Commissioner Mick Sherry will at 10am announce the flow of preferences from Legislative Council ballots filed at March’s state election.

Of the 11 seats up for re-election in the Upper House in 2022, nine have already been decided.

Labor and the Liberals have won four seats each while the Greens have won one.

Labor is likely to win a fifth seat with the party currently sitting on a quota of 4.42, while One Nation is the most likely candidate to secure the last remaining seat in the Upper House.

The right-wing party picked up 4.2 per cent of first preference votes and has a seat quote of 0.51.

One Nation SA director Jennifer Game has previously pledged that her daughter Sarah Game – the party’s lead candidate for the Upper House who has so far shunned public attention –will appear before the media if she is confirmed as a member of the Legislative Council.

Regional jobs, cost of living back on election agenda

The Morrison Government is pledging to create 450,000 more jobs in regional Australia over the next five years, as the two major parties prepare to clash again over rising cost of living pressures with the latest inflation figures due to be released today.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce details of the regional jobs plan on Wednesday. He said in a statement the jobs commitment was part of a pledge to create 1.3 million more jobs over the next five years, with more than one in three of those jobs to be in the regions.

“Only the Coalition has a plan for 450,000 new jobs in the regions and runs on the board to deliver them,” he said.

“Since we were elected, we have created over 1.9 million new jobs, and our unemployment rate is down to four per cent, the equal lowest level in 48 years, and forecast to fall further.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will on Wednesday reveal inflation data for the March quarter.

It comes as one-off $250 payments for six million Australians, including pensioners, carers, veterans, and job seekers will be made, with all eligible recipients expected to receive the payment by the end of the week.

The $1.5 billion payments are part of the cost-of-living package announced in the federal budget.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government’s response to global issues placing pressure on households, including the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was targeted and responsible.

“Labor has no plans to help families with cost of living pressures,” he said.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told AAP under the Morrison government everything was going up except Australians’ wages, with interest rates about to be part of the pain.

“A better future relies on a stronger, broader, more inclusive, and more sustainable economy – powered by cleaner and cheaper energy, a bigger and better-trained workforce, and key investments in the care economy, digital economy, and a future made in Australia,” Chalmers said.

Morrison and Joyce are expected to campaign in Rockhampton on Wednesday, in the seat of Capricornia, while Labor’s campaigning day is expected to begin in Sydney with Albanese still in COVID-19 isolation.

US estimates 75 per cent of kids had COVID

Following the record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron-driven wave, 58 per cent of the US population overall and more than 75 per cent of younger children have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to a new US blood survey.

The study issued by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention marks the first time in which more than half of the US population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least once, and offers a detailed view of the impact of the Omicron surge in the United States.

Before Omicron arrived in December of 2021, a third of the US population had evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Omicron drove up infections in every age group, according to the new data, but children and adolescents – many of whom remain unvaccinated – had the highest rates of infection while people 65 and older – a heavily vaccinated population – had the lowest.

During the December to February period – when Omicron cases were raging in the United States – 75.2 per cent of children aged 11 and younger had infection-related antibodies in their blood, up from 44.2 per cent in the prior three-month period.

Among those aged 12-17, 74.2 per cent carried antibodies, up from 45.6 per cent from September to December.

Scientists looked for specific antibodies produced in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are only present after an infection and are not generated by COVID-19 vaccines.

Trace amounts of these antibodies can remain in the blood for as long as two years.

US COVID-19 infections are still on the upswing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a media briefing, rising 22.7 per cent in the past week to 44,000 per day.

Hospitalisations rose for the second week in a row, up 6.6 per cent, largely driven by subvariants of Omicron.

While deaths fell 13.2 per cent, week-over-week, the US is fast approaching the grim milestone of one million total COVID-related deaths.

– With AAP and Reuters

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