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What we know today, Friday May 27

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has ordered an inquiry into Border Force’s election day announcement of an asylum-seeker boat interception, which the Liberal Party then used to text marginal seat voters urging their support.

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‘Disgraceful act’: PM orders inquiry into election-day asylum seeker announcement

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has ordered an inquiry into Border Force’s election-day announcement of an asylum seeker boat turnback operation, which the Liberal Party then used to text marginal seat voters urging their support.

On Saturday May 21, Border Force released a statement that an asylum seeker boat had been intercepted earlier that week. The ABC has reported that the announcement during the election caretaker period followed a request from former prime minister Scott Morrison’s office.

The Liberal Party then sent election day text messages to marginal seat voters about the boat turnback, urging them to support the Morrison Government.

Albanese today said that the move was an “entire abuse of proper processes” and normal protocols for the publication of boat interceptions were not followed.

“This statement was made so it could facilitate the sending of … potentially many millions of text messages to voters in a last-minute scare campaign,” he told ABC radio.

“A disgraceful act from a government which was prepared to politicise everything but solve nothing.”

The prime minister has asked the Home Affairs Department to investigate the decisions that led to the statement being released on election day.

But former education minister Stuart Robert said it was “hilarious” Albanese was criticising the former government given Labor’s own history of politicising boat arrivals.

The statement was appropriate to let Australians about the historical weakness of the Labor Party on border security, Robert said.

But he claimed to not have known the text messages to voters about the boat’s interception would be sent.

“The fact a boat turned up is a statement of fact. How the information was disseminated, you’ll need others to comment on having not been the home affairs minister at the time,” Robert said.

On Wednesday, former home affairs minister Karen Andrews confirmed the text messages were sent without her approval or knowledge.

SA COVID cases still above 3000

South Australia has recorded 3169 new COVID-19 cases, as the state’s chief public health officer warns of “quite a high number” of COVID deaths compared to the flu.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has dropped slightly to 226 – down from 238 yesterday – with 10 in intensive care and none on a ventilator.

The state also recorded one COVID-related death.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told reporters this morning that 443 South Australians had “lost their lives from COVID” since the start of the pandemic.

“When we think about flu deaths this is really quite a high number compared to even when we have a bad flu season,” she said.

So far, 1195 South Australians have contracted the flu this year, compared to 12 at the same time last year.

There have been 126 people hospitalised after contracting the flu this year.

Spurrier said the state had recorded one flu outbreak in a boarding school.

It comes as the state government today opens 10 pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics at schools in a bid to lift the jab rate among children.

The walk-in clinics are open to children and their families today, but the broader public will be able to access them from tomorrow.

Joyce faces challenge as Nationals debate election fallout

Former veterans affairs minister Darren Chester will challenge Barnaby Joyce for the Nationals leadership, saying the views of some party colleagues had hurt Liberal coalition colleagues in city seats.

Chester, from Gippsland in Victoria, said he was pitching a fresh start for how the party dealt with regional Australia.

“It’s important we listen to the message we received over the weekend from the Australian public. I think they want us to be perhaps more moderate and more respectful in public debates,” he said.

“They want a calmer democracy, and I think I can offer that to the room.”

While Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce had pointed out during the week the junior coalition party had retained all the seats it contested, Mr Chester said there were many lessons from the defeat on Saturday.

Chester said the views of other Nationals MPs such as George Christensen and Matt Canavan had damaged the coalition, particularly in major cities.

“There’s no question in my my mind that some of the comments by a few colleagues … which were quite extreme in their views, had an impact on the Liberal Party candidates in those more moderate parts of urban areas,” he said.

“Let’s be honest with each other in the National Party room and figure out how to develop our policy, how we conduct ourselves in the public debate and not be sabotaging the campaigns of Liberals in the city.”

The Nationals automatically spill the party leadership after an election.

Labor on cusp of majority government

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is one seat away from forming majority government, with a handful of seats still in doubt.

Vote counting will continue today across tightly-contested NSW, Queensland and Victorian electorates.   

The Liberal Party has maintained a tight lead ahead of Labor in a key NSW seat. 

In the closest race, Liberal candidate Andrew Constance is 286 votes ahead of sitting Labor MP Fiona Phillips in the electorate of Gilmore. 

But in a loss for the party, Julian Simmonds became the latest Liberal MP to concede defeat following the federal election on Saturday with Greens candidate Elizabeth Watson-Brown now expected to win his Brisbane seat of Ryan. 

In the electorate of Brisbane, Labor’s Madonna Jarrett is holding on to her primary-vote lead over the Greens, placing her in a strong position to take the seat from Liberal MP Trevor Evans.

She is 672 votes ahead of Greens candidate Stephen Bates. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the Australian Electoral Commission has Labor with 75 seats to the coalition’s 60, the Greens with three seats, 12 on the crossbench, and the seat of Macnamara without a preference count.

The Greens are hoping to secure three seats in the lower house by winning electorates previously held by the two major parties. 

The results in all 10 South Australian federal electorates are now certain, with just one seat, Boothby, changing hands from Liberal to Labor.

The SA lower house seats were finalised on Wednesday night when Labor candidate Sonja Baram conceded her challenge for the blue-ribbon seat of Sturt in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs after incumbent Liberal MP James Stevens endured a swing of 5.89 per cent against him.

Labor now holds six federal electorates in SA compared to the Liberals’ three, while independent Rebekha Sharkie was comfortably re-elected in Mayo.

The Liberal Party will examine where its campaign went wrong following the heavy election loss. 

The review, announced on Thursday, will be overseen by Senator Jane Hume and the party’s former federal director Brian Loughnane.

It comes as Liberal MPs meet on Monday to elect a new leader, with Peter Dutton tipped for the job.

The campaign review will focus on the “long-term challenge” for the party presented by independents, after many seats were lost to so-called “teal” candidates.

Meanwhile, former veterans affairs minister Darren Chester has confirmed he will challenge Barnaby Joyce for the Nationals leadership when the party meets in Canberra.

Vaccine rollout hits schools today

COVID-19 vaccines will be available at some South Australian schools from today under a push to improve vaccination rates in children aged five to 11.

The State Government program is operating across 10 schools per week on Fridays and Saturdays over four weeks.

Burton Primary, Littlehampton Primary, Grange Primary and St John the Apostle School are among the first schools to host the program.

The clinics will be offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, including the Paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11.

Vaccines will be available to the school community on Fridays, while the wider community can receive their dose on Saturdays.

Students must have a parent or carer present or provide consent to receive a vaccine.

Vaccinations will be available nine weeks later at each school so people can receive both doses.

Almost 96 per cent of eligible people in South Australia aged 12 and over have received their first vaccine dose. About 94 per cent have received their second dose.

SA reported 3837 new COVID-19 cases yesterday.

Call for developer tax in State Budget

The South Australian Greens say they will push the Malinauskas Government to introduce a developer tax in next week’s State Budget in a bid to raise funds for the construction of 4000 public homes.

With spiralling cost-of-living issues set to play a major role in Treasurer Stephen Mullighan’s first budget next Thursday, the Greens say an increased supply of public housing should be on the top of Labor’s agenda.

The minor party estimates that a 75 per cent developer tax on land value increases after rezoning would generate up to $1.7 billion over four years, enough to fund the construction and maintenance of 4000 public homes.

Labor took to the election a $182 million pledge to build 400 new public homes across the state and upgrade a further 350 to tackle the state’s public housing waitlist.

But Greens MLC Robert Simms said the government’s pre-election pledge is “woefully inadequate” given South Australia is “in the midst of a full-blown housing crisis”.

“The new Government has an opportunity to significantly increase its investment in public housing by finally ensuring developers pay their fair share of tax,” Simms said in a statement.

“A tax like this has worked for years in the ACT – it could be introduced here in South Australia.

“Of course, we welcome the fact that the new government are going to build new housing but what they are proposing is really just a drop in the ocean, a major investment is needed.”

The developer tax would more than cover the estimated $1.64 billion cost for the construction and maintenance of 4000 public homes over four years, Simms estimates.

Adelaide remains the least accessible rental market of any Australian capital city with a rental vacancy rate of just 0.2 per cent in March.

The South Australian Council of Social Service said prior to the state election that the housing policies of both major parties do “nowhere near enough” to address rental affordability and public housing investment.  

Mullighan will hand down the Malianuskas Government’s first budget on June 2. The new treasurer unveiled a $100 million business recovery fund yesterday in a pre-budget announcement.

Parents pleaded with police to enter Texas school

Crosses bearing names of victims outside the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Photo: AP/Tannen Maury

Desperate parents shouted at police to enter the Texas primary school where a massacre was unfolding, with some trying to approach the building themselves before being restrained by officers, according to videos recorded during the attack.

The videos emerging yesterday, along with preliminary accounts of the shooting timeline from authorities, suggest up to an hour passed between the time the attack began and the moment specially trained officers breached the fourth-grade classroom where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos had killed 19 children and two teachers – and shot him dead.

In one video posted on Facebook by a man named Angel Ledezma, parents can be seen breaking through yellow police tape and yelling at officers to go into the building.

“It’s already been an hour, and they still can’t get all the kids out,” Ledezma said during the video.

Ledezma did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another video posted on YouTube showed officers restraining at least one adult.

One woman can be heard saying, “Why let the children die? There’s shooting in there.”

“We got guys going in to get kids,” one officer is heard telling the crowd. 

“They’re working.”

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, Chris Olivarez, said that investigators were still trying to confirm a precise timeline including how long Ramos remained barricaded inside the classroom.

The shooting has reignited debate across the US over the country’s gun laws. 

President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats have vowed to push for new restrictions, despite resistance from Republicans.

VIDEO: Teacher shortages force school closure

A severe South Australian teacher shortage has forced one school in Adelaide’s north-west to educate its students remotely as the Education Department offers thousands of dollars for teachers to relocate to country areas to fill gaps.

Teacher shortages force school closure

10 News First Adelaide – Disclaimer

Channel Ten

US not seeking ‘new Cold War’ with China: Blinken

The United States does not seek to sever China from the global economy but wants the country to adhere to international rules, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said in a long-awaited speech on US strategy to address China’s rise as a great power.

The US will not block China from growing its economy or try to change its political system, Blinken said, but it will defend international law and institutions that maintain peace and security and make it possible for countries, including the United States and China, to coexist.

“We are not looking for conflict or a new Cold War. To the contrary, we’re determined to avoid both,” Blinken said in the 45-minute speech at George Washington University.

US-China relations sank to their lowest level in decades under the Trump administration and have soured further under President Joe Biden, who has so far kept up his predecessor’s sweeping tariffs on Chinese goods, but also has pursued closer ties with allies in the Pacific and beyond to push back on China’s growing influence.

Seventeen months into his administration, Biden has faced criticism from Republicans and some foreign policy watchers for not announcing a formal strategy on China, the world’s second-largest economy after the United States.

Foreign crises, including the messy US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year and Russia’s war in Ukraine, have created distractions for Biden, who has vowed not to let China surpass the United States as global leader on his watch.

Goodfellas actor Ray Liotta dead at 67

Ray Liotta in California in 2018. Photo: AP/Sthanlee B. Mirador

American actor Ray Liotta, best known for his role in Goodfellas, has died at the age of 67, US media reports say.

His representative confirmed the news to several outlets, saying the actor had died in his sleep in the Dominican Republic, where he was filming his latest film Dangerous Waters.

Liotta found fame playing ex-con Ray Sinclair in 1986 film Something Wild, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination.

He went on to star as Shoeless Joe Jackson in the 1989 film Field Of Dreams and is best known for his portrayal of Henry Hill in Goodfellas, directed by Martin Scorsese.

Liotta was the adopted son of a town clerk and car-parts shop owner, who insisted he never contemplated acting while growing up in Newark, New Jersey.

After graduating he moved to New York City and worked as a barman until he was cast in soap opera Another World in 1980.

In recent years Liotta appeared in The Many Saints Of Newark and starred alongside Taron Egerton in the Apple TV series Black Bird.

Liotta leaves behind his daughter Karsen and his fiancee Jacy Nittolo.

– With AAP and Reuters

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