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Changes to South Australia’s COVID-19 management will become law after passing through parliament early this afternoon, paving the way for the state’s emergency declaration to end after more than two years.

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COVID management laws pass parliament

Changes to South Australia’s COVID-19 management will become law after passing through parliament early this afternoon, paving the way for the state’s emergency declaration to end after more than two years.

Around 12.30pm the lower house rubber stamped the contentious legislation, which the Liberals had sought to amend, citing “draconian” penalties for serious breaches.

It comes as South Australia today recorded five COVID-19 deaths and another 4395 cases, with daily infections increasing for a third day.

The legislation 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 new legislation 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 put forward by the Liberals to remove jail terms and reduce maximum fines for COVID-19 breaches were voted down on Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Ashton Hurn said today: “We support the move out of the emergency, but it is disappointing South Australians can still be slapped with two-year jail terms and enormous fines because of Peter Malinauskas’ Bill.”

The Bill’s passage in the Legislative Council was all but inevitable after Labor struck a deal with the Greens and SA Best on Tuesday.

The deal saw the minor parties give support to the Bill in exchange for amendments to include an oversight committee and an appeal mechanism for those forced to quarantine outside of their home.

Five COVID deaths in SA as cases rise

South Australia has recorded five COVID-19 deaths and another 4395 cases, with daily infections increasing for a third day.

SA Health reported a short time ago the deaths of two women in their 80s, two men in their 80s and one woman in her 90s.

The number of people in hospital has dropped from 247 to 246, with 11 people in ICU and none on a ventilator.

Today’s 4395 cases are on top of 4072 infections recorded on Wednesday, 3773 on Tuesday and 3392 on Monday. They are below this month’s peak of 4696 cases recorded on May 12

PCR testing also increased 1.5 per cent over the last 24 hours.

There are 25,629 active cases across the state.

The number of people to have died with COVID-19 in South Australia now stands at 415.

Labor ‘enthusiastic’ about gas industry

Gas is part of Australia’s energy future and will play a key role in the country’s transition to net-zero emissions, Labor’s resources spokesperson has assured a conference of oil and gas executives.

“Gas will be part of our future energy mix,” federal Labor MP Madeleine King told the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference on its final day.

“I want to be clear how enthusiastic I am, and Labor is, for this industry.”

King was appointed Labor’s shadow minister for resources in February last year. Her father worked for 30 years at BP Kwinana and her mother and grandmother ran the local drapery store in Rockingham.

While critics say gas is not part of the energy transition, King said one of the responsibilities Australia has as an energy producer is to extract gas and provide a pathway for other nations to get to net zero emissions by 2050.

“Australian gas will not only help Australia to get to that objective, but also our neighbours in North Asia.”

King commended APPEA for supporting net zero climate policies, “even before the government did”.

“No one can doubt, of course, the extraordinary enthusiasm of (Santos CEO) Kevin Gallagher … for what Santos is seeking to achieve in carbon capture, use and storage,” she said.

“And the same goes for every other company here at this conference that is working on CCS possibilities.”

Carbon capture and storage technology is backed by both major parties to help reduce emissions, but is not yet commercially viable.

Using the technology, coal and gas projects, power plants, manufacturing and heavy industries could potentially capture emissions and pump them into the ground.

King said it was a “privilege” to witness the development of the Scarborough fields following Woodside’s recent final investment decision.

Paying tribute to workers in the industry as well as executives in the room, King said she looked forward to working with all companies, whether in government or opposition.

Labor to release costings before final election sprint

Labor is set to release its election costings and how they will be funded as the campaign breaks into a final sprint ahead of Saturday’s poll.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will also today release the April unemployment figures, the final major economic report before voters go to the polls on Saturday.

Economists expect the report will show the jobless rate fell to 3.9 per cent, its lowest level since 1974, and down from four per cent in March.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says his party’s promises will be partly funded by winding back $750 million in government grants he says represent “waste and rorts” under Scott Morrison.

Cracking down on multinational companies not paying their fair share of tax, public sector efficiencies and fees for foreign investment screening are also expected to factor into the costings.

The promises have been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office.

But the Coalition has spent the past week attacking Labor over the delay in releasing the costings and not using the Treasury and Finance departments.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said Labor’s budget would differ to the Coalition in that all spending would be aimed at getting a “genuine economic dividend” for taxpayers’ money.

“The government has been sprung again and again and again, whether it’s $20 billion in JobKeeper for businesses that were already profitable and didn’t need it, whether it’s $5.5 billion for submarines that will never be built, or a billion dollars on political advertising funded by the taxpayer,” he said.

A Labor government would inherit $1 trillion in debt.

Morrison and Albanese fall short on women's vote

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused Labor of making $25 billion of commitments with $5 billion of savings.

“We’ve paid for our promises. The Labor party – who knows?” he told 2GB radio.

Albanese and five of his senior shadow ministers will hit 20 marginal Liberal-held seats in the final two days of the campaign, kicking off in Sydney and Brisbane on Thursday.

Morrison will start today in Launceston as he continues his campaign in Tasmania where he yesterday accidentally ran into under-8s soccer player Luca Fauvette while playing a game during in Devonport.

Fauvette was unharmed, the Devonport Strikers said on Wednesday.

“The latest star of the election is ok and looking forward to being the star of the show at school tomorrow!” the club posted on Facebook.

More SA public servants hit by payroll software attack

An attack on the State Government’s payroll software provider last year involved around 13,000 more public sector employees than originally thought, Treasurer Stephen Mullighan has revealed.

The former Marshall Government revealed in December that the names, addresses, tax file numbers and banking details of up to 80,000 public servants were stolen in a massive ransomware cyber-attack on the State Government’s external payroll software provider Frontier Software.

Mullighan told parliament on Wednesday that the State Government engaged professional services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to undertake a “forensic review” of the incident.

The investigation uncovered that a further 13,088 public servants had personal information stolen in the attack but didn’t receive any notification from the State Government.

Mullighan said the additional public sector employees affected were primarily from SA Police, the Metropolitan Fire Service and the Department for Infrastructure and Transport. They also included State Government executives and board members.

The State Government began notifying the additional employees involved in the attack this week.

Mullighan said some of the data was sold by the perpetrators – described as an “overseas criminal organisation” – to the dark web, but the files were only accessible for less than 24 hours.

The Treasurer said a formal breach notice had been issued to Frontier Software for their “failure to adequately protect the information it holds for the South Australian Government employees”.

“Frontier advised the Government that it inappropriately stored Government payroll data on its own servers, contrary to its contract with the State Government,” Mullighan told parliament on Wednesday.

“I am informed Frontier Software has developed additional security measures within its systems.

“State Government Employees have been concerned about their personal information being accessed and have suffered direct impacts from this cyber security incident.

“In excess of 3,000 individual employees have accessed a cyber security support service put in place to assist victims of the data breach with many being locked out from accessing important services such as the online Australian Taxation Office or superannuation record systems because of this incident.”

The PwC review of the ransomware attack cost the State Government $420,000, Mullighan said, with the overall cost of managing the incident possibly rising to $750,000 by June 2022.

COVID law changes pass Upper House

Changes to South Australia’s COVID-19 management have passed the Upper House after a lengthy debate on oversight measures and COVID-19 fines.

The Bill, which had already sailed through the Lower House, 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 new legislation 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 put forward by the Liberals to remove jail terms and reduce maximum fines for COVID-19 breaches were voted down on Wednesday.

The Bill’s passage in the Legislative Council was all but inevitable after Labor struck a deal with the Greens and SA Best on Tuesday.

The deal saw the minor parties give support to the Bill in exchange for amendments to include an oversight committee and an appeal mechanism for those forced to quarantine outside of their home.

All public health advice used to justify restrictions will also have to be tabled in parliament.

The amendments agreed to in the Upper House will now be sent back to the Lower House before the law is passed on to the Governor for assent.

Former judge to review SafeWork SA’s Woodford investigation

A former Federal Court judge will review the “adequacy” of SafeWork SA’s investigation into the murder of outback nurse Gayle Woodford, after the agency decided not to prosecute the country health organisation that employed her.

John Mansfield AM QC, a federal court justice from 1996 to 2016, will also examine the agency’s engagement with the Woodford family during its investigation.

Earlier this month SafeWork SA revealed its decision not to prosecute the country health organisation that employed Woodford.

It said a dedicated team had conducted a comprehensive 12-month investigation to determine if the Nganampa Health Council had breached the Work Health and Safety Act.

Following that investigation, and after taking legal advice, it determined there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

But in announcing the review on Wednesday, Attorney General Kyam Maher said concerns had since been raised about the investigation.

Maher said the government was determined to ensure such concerns were investigated thoroughly, with the review to examine the “adequacy” of SafeWork SA’s investigation.

“No review or inquiry can make up for the loss of Ms Woodford, but I want to ensure her loved ones’ views are heard,” Maher said.

“I have spoken with those supporting the Woodford family and I thank them for their time and for representing the family’s concerns.”

Woodford had lived in Fregon, 1275km north of Adelaide, and worked at the NHC’s local clinic in the period before she was abducted, raped and murdered by Dudley Davey in 2016.

The 56-year-old’s body was found buried in a crude grave three days after she went missing from her home.

It was believed Davey, who had a significant history of violent and sexual offending and is now serving a minimum 32-year jail term, tricked her into opening a security cage around the building and overpowered her as she walked to her ambulance.

After announcing its decision not to prosecute, SafeWork SA said the complexity of the investigation included seizing and critically examining more than 1200 documents, obtaining statements from all witnesses and interviewing both health council staff and Davey.

“Having thoroughly investigated the matter and assessed all the evidence with the Crown Solicitor’s Office and after receiving advice from senior counsel, SafeWork SA determined that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction,” it said.

Woodford’s family was disappointed and believed the decision went against findings from a coronial inquiry.

In his inquest, Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel detailed a number of previous instances of violence or threats against NHC staff and called for a permanent police presence in Fregon.

He also found that measures adopted by NHC for the protection of nursing staff working alone at night and on-call were not adequate.

Maher said the review of the SafeWork SA investigation would be completed by July this year and made public.

Shipbuilding plan ‘seriously adrift’: Senate report

A Senate committee into Australia’s sovereign shipbuilding capability says the nation’s largest naval projects are “seriously adrift” and need urgent action to keep afloat.

In a report released yesterday, the Economics References Committee made six recommendations that include a public statement on the overall status of the Hunter-class Frigate project; the re-issuing of a revised Naval Shipbuilding Plan “at the earliest possible opportunity”, and; the establishment of a Joint Select Committee on AUKUS to examine in detail the progress of the nuclear submarines’ acquisition.

The committee includes Independent Senator for South Australia Rex Patrick and was originally chaired by SA Labor Senator Alex Gallacher until his death last year.

Its report, published this month and titled All at Sea, reviewed the progress of the three projects that comprise Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan: the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels, nine Hunter-class frigates and the Future submarines.

The committee said the Naval Shipbuilding Plan “is now seriously adrift—possibly even sunk”.

“The Attack-class submarines have been cancelled with their replacements yet to be decided. The Hunter-class frigates are in serious trouble, and it remains unclear if that project will proceed or, like the Attack-class, also be cancelled,” the report said.

“And while the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) is the best performing of the three classes that make up the Plan they, too, are now suffering delays—albeit manageable ones.”

The first two OPVs were built in SA at the Osborne Naval Shipyard with the remaining 10 being constructed in Western Australia.

Nine Hunter-class frigates are scheduled to be built at Osborne from this year but concerns have been raised that the surface ships will be slower and have a shorter range than initially planned.

“The Hunter-class acquisition is showing very similar problems to the Attack-class submarines,” the committee concluded in its report.

“Questions over the design chosen, the level of risk, optimistic program schedules and slipping timeframes have led to time and cost blow-outs.

“Like the Attack-class, there is a growing chorus of observers who, in some cases, are calling for a complete review of the program or, in other cases, are calling for the programme’s outright cancellation.

“The next Federal Government, regardless of political colour, should conduct a fundamental review of the Hunter-class frigate project and make a public statement on its status and what needs to be done to address its failings.”

Read the full story here

Govt moves to repeal electric vehicle levy

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Malinauskas Government has moved in parliament to repeal the introduction of a looming tax on electric vehicle usage.

The former Marshall Government first flagged in 2020 their intention to introduce a 2.5-cent per kilometre road-user charge on electric vehicle owners when they pay their registration fees.

Former Treasurer Rob Lucas’ rationale for introducing the levy was to replace funds lost through fuel excise when electric vehicles make up a larger part of Australia’s car market.

A revised form of the tax with increased incentives and subsidies for electric vehicle purchases passed both houses of state parliament in late 2021 despite opposition from Labor and the Greens. SA-Best and former Advance SA MLC John Darley supported the proposal.

The road user charge was due to take effect for the 2028 financial year, but new Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Tom Koutsantonis introduced legislation in the Lower House on Wednesday to repeal the tax.

Removing the tax was one of Labor’s election promises.

“We want more South Australians making more environmentally friendly choices, not putting in barriers that dissuade them,” Koutsantonis said.

“The feedback we received from the community was overwhelming, the Liberals’ decision to introduce this tax would have reduced community uptake.”

Debate on the Bill has been adjourned on its second reading.

Reds confident after semi-final draw with Melbourne City

Adelaide United and Melbourne City shake hands after a goalless draw at Hindmarsh Stadium last night. Photo: James Ross/AAP

Adelaide United coach Carl Veart says the Reds are full of belief after a goalless draw with Melbourne City at Coopers Stadium in the first leg of their A-League Men’s semi-final.

United must quickly turn their attention to the return fixture at AAMI Park on Sunday in a bid to reach their first grand final since 2016 when they defeated Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 to record their maiden championship.

The Reds coach said his side had consistently punched well above their weight this campaign and is calling for them to produce the same fight they’ve demonstrated all season.

“We’re one of the smaller clubs, there’s a few of us around the league that have a very different budget to a lot of the big teams,” Veart said.

“But on our day, we’ll fight and I think you saw that tonight and all season – we fight and we don’t give up.

“We try to play an attractive brand of football and if we manage to get the result on Sunday, that would be great.

“The boys should be proud of what we’ve done this season but we still believe we’ve got a lot more to do.”

With the tie hanging in the balance and playing the second leg on their home deck, City appear to have the advantage.

But the minor premiers lost 2-1 to Adelaide at AAMI Park earlier in the season and haven’t beaten a top-four side this campaign – a fact not lost on Veart.

“It’s finals football, there’s pressure on both sides,” he said.

“I suppose the pressure is on them that they still haven’t beaten a top-four side so we’ll go there full of confidence.

“We know we won there earlier in the season so we’ve got good belief in what we’re doing.”

– With AAP and Reuters

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