- Seven more deaths as SA COVID cases rise
- Election tussle over minimum wage heats up
- Leaders face off in final election debate
- SA ambulance ramping deteriorating, new report finds
- Fiji Airways to relaunch Adelaide flights
- PM would welcome Alan Tudge back into ministry
- VIDEO: Man attacked with acid in Andrews Farm
- EU ditches mask requirements for air travel
Seven more deaths as SA COVID cases rise
South Australia has recorded another seven COVID-19 deaths and 4696 cases, but the number of people hospitalised with the virus has dropped.
Today’s 4696 cases are a significant rise from the 4299 infections SA Health reported on Wednesday.
The increase coincides with a 10.5 per cent rise in PCR testing over the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the number of people in hospital with the virus has decreased from 232 to 210.
SA Health said two women in their 80s, one woman in her 90s, two men in their 80s and two men in their 90s have died after contracting COVID-19.
Today’s deaths come on top of eight recorded on Wednesday. It brings South Australia’s overall COVID-19 death toll to 393 people.
There are currently more than 23,000 active cases across the state.
Election tussle over minimum wage heats up
The Morrison government, Labor, business groups and trade unions continue to clash over how much minimum-wage workers should be paid from July.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions wants the Fair Work Commission to increase the minimum hourly rate by 5.5 per cent to $21.35 while business proposes a three per cent lift.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus warned of more industrial action if employers refuse to increase wages amid rising profits and the highest start-up and survival rates in a decade.
“Businesses are not just recovering, they are recovering very well,” she told ABC radio on Thursday.
“The bigger risk is that a whole heap of people … one in four people on the minimum wage … their real wages go backwards.
“If employers continue to insist on real wage cuts for workers, and through negotiations they don’t move off that, that’s what brings about strikes. People go on strike when they have no other option.”
But the head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the cost of doing business has also increased, citing Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
“We’ve seen in the last three months … that three out of five businesses have been facing a surge in costs,” Andrew McKellar told the ABC.
“So businesses are facing a very tough time at the moment.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is backing a 5.1 per cent increase but stopped short of saying he would push for that in a submission to the commission.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also backed a wage rise – although he will not put a figure on it – but warned small businesses would struggle with an increase.
“People won’t be worrying about what their wages are, they will be worrying about whether they have a job,” Morrison said.
Labor’s campaign spokesman Jason Clare accused the prime minister of being out of touch with the reality of living costs.
“I say to Scott Morrison, you’ve got a screw loose if you don’t think people are struggling to pay the bills at the moment,” he said.
“This is not the difference of whether the kids go on an excursion, it’s whether they’ve got a roof over their head, whether you pay the bills or not.”
Leaders face off in final election debate
Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have gone head-to-head for the third and final time in a leaders’ debate before polling day, trading barbs on wage growth and cost of living pressures.
The debate, hosted by Channel 7 on Wednesday night, was held with just nine days left until the May 21 election and was notable for being more civil than their previous encounter on Sunday.
Albanese said low wage workers, including cleaners and aged care employees, were “heroes of the pandemic” and deserved “more than our thanks”.
“I want a better future where we deal with the cost of living crisis where everything is going up except for people’s wages,” he said.
The opposition leader said a five per cent minimum wage increase amounted to “two cups of coffee a day”.
Morrison said he also backed a wage rise for all workers, but small businesses across the country would struggle with that increase in their wages bills “on top of all the other things they’re facing”.
“People won’t be worrying about what their wages are, they will be worrying about whether they have a job,” the prime minister said.
Albanese highlighted Labor’s childcare policy costed at $5.4 billion, noting that was less than the government had wasted on the torn-up French submarine contract.
“This is the most wasteful government in Australia’s history. Waste and rorts is something that has characterised this government because it treats taxpayers’ money like its Liberal Party money,” he said.
Both leaders were asked about the shift towards independents and micro parties among voters, and what they thought was driving it.
Albanese said there was a great deal of disillusionment with major parties, with people fed up with revolving doors of leadership and corrupt practices seen in recent times, highlighting the need for a national anti-corruption commission.
Morrison said the last three years had been “incredibly tough” and that had affected people’s views of politics.
The results of a vote by people watching the debate across Australia was a win for Albanese with 50 per cent supporting him while Morrison claimed 34 per cent.
SA ambulance ramping deteriorating, new report finds
Ambulance ramping in South Australia is among the worst in the nation but the situation across all states and territories has deteriorated over the last two years, a new study has found.
The Australian Medical Association’s Ambulance Ramping Report Card was released today examining how quickly the states and territories are transferring patients into an emergency department bed after arriving in an ambulance.
The report found South Australia was in 2020/21 well below its target of transferring 90 per cent of patients within 30 minutes. Just 54.1 per cent of ED presentations were transferred within the half an hour timeframe.
The figure represents a 9.7 per cent deterioration from 2019/20 and a 14.8 per cent deterioration from 2018/19, the report found.
All states and territories experienced a deterioration over the last three years, the report found, with no jurisdiction meeting its benchmark target.
Queensland hospitals were only able to transfer 65.2 per cent of patients within 30 minutes. Western Australia was worse at just 62.3 per cent, albeit the figures were from the December 2020 monthly reporting period.
Australian Medical Association President Dr Omar Khorshid said the report outlined the need for a new 50-50 hospital funding agreement between the states and territories.
“The Report Card does not deliver good news – with no jurisdiction able to meet its own targets of getting patients out of ambulances and into the care of ED staff in time,” Khorshid said.
“I want to be clear, we’re not saying ambulance ramping is the fault of our incredible paramedics and ambulance staff or our overstretched Emergency Department workers.
“This is a hospital logjam issue pure and simple, caused by a lack of public hospital capacity.”
Khorshid called on the two major parties to make health a central focus in the last week of the federal election campaign.
Fiji Airways to relaunch Adelaide flights
Fiji Airways has announced it will restart direct flights between Adelaide and Fiji after a three-year absence from the South Australian market.
The national airline says from July 4 it will run twice-weekly direct flights between Adelaide and Nadi on Mondays and Thursdays.
The flights will depart from Adelaide at 12.35pm. Fiji Airways will use its 186-seat Boeing 737-MAX8 to service the route, with economy class airfares starting at $A649 a person.
Fiji’s borders opened to the world in December last year and the national carrier already operates routes to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
Fiji Airways managing director and CEO Andre Vilijoen said an increase in the airline’s fleet has allowed it to re-open the Adelaide route.
“We’re delighted to re-launch our fourth Australian route, which will allow us once again to bring our unique Fijian hospitality to South Australia, as well as offer local residents the opportunity to use Fiji as a gateway to other international destinations,” he said in a statement.
Adelaide Airport CEO Brenton Cox has previously stated that luring direct flights from Adelaide to Fiji was a “medium-term” aspiration for the airport along with direct routes to Japan and the United States.
He said the Fiji option would offer travellers connections to US destinations.
“Flights will arrive in Adelaide late morning and depart around midday, so it will be a considerably more family-friendly timeslot and avoids the dreaded overnight flight between the two cities,” he said in a statement.
“The flights also offer good connections via Nadi with the airline’s North American schedule, providing another option for South Australians heading to the US, and indeed US travellers heading to SA.
“Fiji has always been a hugely popular destination with South Australian travellers and it’s great to see the reintroduction of routes as the COVID recovery continues.”
PM would welcome Alan Tudge back into ministry
Sidelined minister Alan Tudge would be welcomed back to the inner sanctum of a re-elected coalition government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed.
Morrison was pressed on the issue during a third and final formal election debate with Anthony Albanese.
Tudge stepped aside as education minister in December after being accused of emotional and physical abuse by staffer Rachelle Miller, with whom he was having a consensual affair.
Tudge strenuously denied the allegations, with an investigation finding there was insufficient evidence he had breached ministerial standards.
Morrison said during Wednesday night’s Seven Network debate that Tudge still had a “warrant as a minister”.
“He has not resigned as a minister, nor has he been dismissed,” he said.
“He will be happy to come back and serve in the ministry and I welcome that.”
Morrison also addressed reports of a taxpayer-funded $500,000 compensation payout to Miller.
“This matter, I’m advised, has not even been settled,” he said.
“That’s because these are matters to go to very private interactions between people and they are handled sensitively.”
The prime minister said he had taken appropriate action by calling an independent inquiry into the issue.
VIDEO: Man attacked with acid in Andrews Farm
A man has been left with serious burns after being doused in acid outside his home in Andrews Farm in what police say was a targeted attack.
EU ditches mask requirements for air travel
The European Union will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the bloc, authorities say.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark “a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel” for passengers and crews.
The new guideline “takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries”, the two agencies said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
“Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said.
“And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”
While the new recommendations take effect on May 16, rules for masks may still vary by airline beyond that date if they fly to or from destinations where the rules are different.
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control director Andrea Ammon said washing hands and social distancing should still be practised, but airport operators are advised not to impose distancing requirements if these are likely to lead to a bottleneck.
The agencies also recommended that airlines keep systems for collecting passenger locator information on standby in case they are needed in future, for example if a new dangerous variant emerges.
– With AAP and Reuters
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