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What we know today, Wednesday May 18

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South Australia’s consumer watchdog has taken almost 800 complaints about petrol pricing over the past year, prompting an increase in spot inspections of fuel outlets.

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SA to crack down on petrol pricing

South Australia’s consumer watchdog has taken almost 800 complaints about petrol pricing over the past year prompting an increase in spot inspections of fuel outlets.

With petrol prices soaring in recent months, Consumer and Business Affairs Minister Andrea Michaels said too many petrol station operators are not complying with real-time pricing rules.

In South Australia, all fuel retailers are required to report their prices to a central database as close in time as possible to the price changing at the pump, but not more than 30 minutes after that time.

Drivers can then access fuel price information using free smartphone apps.

Since the start of the scheme in March last year, Consumer and Business Services has conducted 780 inspections of petrol stations and taken more than 790 complaints about potential breaches.

About 150 complaints and inspections resulted in warning letters, with CBS issuing seven fines.

Michaels said with high petrol prices continuing to hit the hip pocket hard, there had been a spike in calls from consumers expressing concern about compliance with real-time pricing.

She said an increase in spot inspections over the coming months would focus on times of high demand, such as the lead-up to public holidays.

“Given the costs of fuel continue to rise, it has never been more important to ensure that consumers have up-to-date access to information about petrol prices and that petrol station operators are not taking unfair advantage of consumers,” Michaels said.

The CBS will opt for an education-first approach, ensuring service station operators understand their responsibilities and obligations.

However, where repeat offenders are identified, a tougher approach will be taken, with operators facing on-the-spot fines of $550 or court fines of up to $10,000.

Six COVID deaths as SA cases increase

Six people with COVID-19 have died in South Australia as the state records another 4072 cases.

Today’s case numbers are an increase on the 3773 infections recorded yesterday. PCR testing numbers also grew 34 per cent over the last 24 hours.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has also increased from 246 to 247. There are 10 people in intensive care including one person on a ventilator.

Today’s six deaths consist of one man in his 50s, one man in his 70s, two men in their 80s and two men in their 90s.

There are just under 26,000 active COVID-19 cases across the state.

Govt strikes deal with crossbench to pass COVID management legislation

Proposed changes to South Australia’s COVID-19 management are set to pass the Upper House as early as this week after the Malinauskas Government won over the crossbench in exchange for a series of oversight measures.

Premier Peter Malinauskas announced on Tuesday afternoon the government had struck a deal with the Greens and SA Best to get its Public Health Act Amendment Bill through the Legislative Council this week ahead of the government’s stated deadline of revoking the Major Emergency Declaration on June 30.

The Bill will see amendments made to the Public Health Act to enable COVID-19 restrictions – including seven-day quarantine for COVID-positive patients, mask mandates in high-risk settings and vaccination mandates for healthcare workers – to remain in place after South Australia’s Major Emergency Declaration is revoked.

The amendments will also allow maximum penalties of up to $75,000 for businesses and $20,000 and two years jail for individuals to be enforced for COVID-19 breaches.

Amendments successfully put forward by the Greens and SA-Best will see a parliamentary oversight committee – comprised primarily of non-government MPs – convened to provide scrutiny of how the Public Health Act laws are applied.

The committee can recommend to parliament that laws, directions or new restrictions under the Act be disallowed.

The crossbench also succeeded in enshrining an appeals mechanism for fines and breaches issued under the Act.

Speaking alongside Greens MLC Robert Simms and SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros, Malinauskas thanked the crossbenchers for their “thoughtful contributions” to an “urgent” piece of legislation.

“Both the Greens and SA Best took the time to actually draft amendments that gave us the ability to negotiate our way through their thoughtful suggestions that are in the best interest of the South Australian public as we continue to transition in a meaningful way of living with COVID,” he told reporters.

The move has sidelined the Liberal Opposition, which was working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to draft amendments to remove imprisonment and reduce the maximum penalties outlined in the Bill.

“Our sensible amendments were in line with community expectations, but Labor did a quick backroom deal because Peter Malinauskas is desperate to have the power to lock up South Australians and dish out huge COVID-19 fines at the drop of a hat,” an opposition spokesperson said.

“Our important amendments were being actioned by the Parliamentary Counsel after a Party Room decision last night and Labor frantically bowed to crossbench demands to keep hold of overreaching COVID-19 powers.”

One Nation MLC Sarah Game also says she will not support the Bill, arguing it’s a legislative “overreach”.

“I’ve been working with legal experts on amendments to ensure this legislation doesn’t compromise the rights of individual South Australians, but Labor and the crossbench have ignored the warnings about the harm this legislation could cause,” she said in a statement, citing previous concerns about the legislation raised by the South Australian Law Society.

But Malinauskas labelled the concern about fines and enforcement a “red herring”.

“We haven’t seen any evidence whatsoever of either the court or South Australia acting in a way we would describe as heavy-handed,” he told reporters.

“Giving the court options to be able to punish people who break the law with impunity, when 99.9 per cent of the population are doing the right thing, I think is probably a reasonable course of action.”

Malinauskas said the government remained “open to other suggestions if they’re thoughtful ones” despite emphasising the legislation “will pass with or without the Liberal Party’s support”.

Morrison and Albanese target final key seats

With just three days left before polling day, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition leader Anthony Albanese will deliver last-ditch election pitches in key eastern state seats, after a day in which policy costings dominated debate.

Morrison will start his day in Torquay, in the marginal seat of Corangamite, where he is expected to continue to spruik the Coalition’s economic track record after the release of its policy costings on Tuesday.

The southern Victorian seat is within the Coalition’s reach, with Labor MP Libby Coker only holding on by a 1.1 per cent margin.

Meanwhile, Albanese will give a National Press Club address in Canberra before travelling to the Sydney seat of Fowler, where Labor MP Kristina Keneally’s primary vote is on the brink of collapse.

Despite recent polling predicting Morrison’s imminent demise, the PM appeared confident in front of the touring press as he campaigned in the Labor-held marginal Northern Territory seats of Lingiari and Solomon on Tuesday.

He used the visit to the Top End to talk about the Coalition’s costings, claiming a re-elected Morrison government could achieve an improvement to the federal budget bottom line of about $1 billion compared to the March budget.

Morrison said the savings could be achieved by cutting $2.7 billion from a departmental expenditure budget of $327.3 billion over four years.

Asked by The New Daily which departments or agencies would be targeted under the cuts, Morrison said the measures wouldn’t affect programs or services, but instead would target accommodation and administration bills.

“If our senior public servants – and they’re paid well – if they can’t find $2.7 billion out of a budget of $327.3 billion, well, I’ve got a lot more confidence that they can achieve that,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Darwin.

Albanese says he will release Labor’s costings on Thursday “at the same time that the last time there was a change of government occurred”.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission, more than 2.59 million Australians have already cast their vote. Labor still holds a 53-47 two-party preferred lead over the Coalition, according to the latest polling.

– Stephanie Richards/The New Daily

ICAC report finds bribery issues in driver licensing sector

A damning ICAC report has found a “pattern of wrongdoing” among some individuals within the driver licensing industry and says the systems in place to prevent corruption are “less than adequate”.

In a report tabled in parliament on Tuesday, Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ann Vanstone said she had “no doubt” that bribery was a problem within the driver licensing sector.

The report, titled Failing the Corruption Road Test, stemmed from more than 40 complaints referred by the Office of Public Integrity to the ICAC about the conduct of members within the industry.

Among the forms of inappropriate behaviour found by the ICAC were people in the industry accepting bribes, omitting mandatory components of driving tests and inappropriately issuing certificates of competency.

“I have formed the view that there has been a pattern of wrongdoing over time among some individuals serving as authorised examiners appointed by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles for the purpose of conducting practical driving tests,” Vanstone said in her foreword.

“It is this broader picture of patterns in behaviour that suggests the controls in place to prevent corruption in the driver licensing industry are less than adequate.”

The report also drew on the findings of a 2017 review that found 85 per cent of survey participants from the driving licensing industry said they were aware of corruption.

The ICAC makes nine recommendations to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to improve its auditing and oversight processes.

Vanstone also used the report to criticise laws that sailed through parliament last year circumscribing her office’s powers and limiting OPI complaint referrals to the ICAC unless they are deemed a potential instance of corruption.

“While the OPI continues to receive complaints and reports about public administration, including authorised examiners, I do not have access to that information unless the complaint is referred to me as potential corruption,” she said.

“There was enormous value in having access to the information contained in complaints and reports received by the OPI.

“Together with intelligence gained through corruption investigations, it is this information that presents a holistic picture of corruption risks across the public sector and the environments that allow corrupt activity to thrive.”

Pedestrian dies in Alberton train incident

Woman hit by train at Alberton
Wednesday, May 18

10 News First Adelaide – Disclaimer

Channel Ten

A 62-year-old woman has died after she was hit by a train in Alberton yesterday.

Police say the woman was walking across the tracks at a pedestrian crossing when she was hit by a passenger train arriving at Alberton Railway Station.

The woman, from Pennington, died at the scene, police said.

Trains on the Outer Harbor line have resumed after being delayed for several hours on Tuesday.

Police are preparing a report for the coroner.

Cavallo’s pride as English footballer comes out

Jake Daniels of Blackpool (right) is the first English football player to come out as gay in 32 years. Photo: Mark Cosgrove/News Images/Sipa USA

Josh Cavallo has spoken of his pride in seeing Blackpool midfielder Jake Daniels come out as gay and cite the Adelaide United player as an inspiration.

Daniels, 17, came out on Monday – the first English professional footballer to do so for more than three decades.

“I want to stop and take a moment to acknowledge Jake’s announcement and say how very proud I am for his bravery,” Cavallo, who came out in October last year, told The Guardian.

“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that my story has helped guide Jake to be his true self.

“It’s touching to see the millions of people that my story has impacted and inspired around the world, and to see it help evolve the world game at all levels, is fantastic. This world and the game of football has a place for everyone. Love will always win.”

Daniels had said of his decision: “It’s a step into the unknown but I’ve been inspired by Josh Cavallo, [England non-league player] Matt Morton and athletes from other sports, like [diver] Tom Daley, to have the courage and determination to drive change.”

British royal Prince William said he hoped more players will have the confidence to be open about their sexuality after Daniels’ announcement.

“What Jake has done takes courage and will hopefully help break down barriers that have no place in our society,” William, who is president of the Football Association, wrote on the Kensington Palace Twitter account.

He added: “I hope his decision to speak openly gives others the confidence to do the same.”

UK MP arrested on suspicion of rape

A parliamentarian from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has been arrested on suspicion of rape and other sexual offences committed over a seven-year period.

London’s Metropolitan Police said a man, aged in his 50s, had been arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust, and misconduct in public office.

He remains in custody.

A spokesperson for the Conservative whips office, which is in charge of party discipline in parliament, confirmed the man arrested was a member of parliament for the Conservatives and said the MP had been told to stay away from the parliamentary estate while the police investigation took place.

“Until the conclusion of the investigation we will not be commenting further,” the spokesperson said.

Neither the police nor the whip’s office named the suspect.

In a statement, police said they had received a report in January 2020 relating to alleged offences committed between 2002 and 2009 in London.

“An investigation is ongoing, led by officers from Central Specialist Crime,” the police statement said.

 – With AAP and Reuters

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