Labor demands lifetime ban for Ann Marie Smith’s carer
The South Australian opposition has written to the state and federal governments calling for a lifetime ban on the carer charged with the manslaughter of disabled Adelaide woman Ann Marie Smith.
Rosa Maria Maione was last week banned from working with disabled people for five years and from providing disability support and services, directly or indirectly to National Disability Insurance Scheme participants.
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission said the ban would allow for adequate time for the criminal proceedings to be completed and would be reviewed at that time.
But Opposition human services spokeswoman Nat Cook said the governments should intervene now to ban Maione for life.
“Nothing short of a permanent ban is acceptable in the eyes of the community,” Cook said this morning.
“The quality and safeguards commission must review this decision and send a strong message that the treatment Ann Marie Smith received will not be tolerated.”
Smith, who had cerebral palsy, died in hospital in April from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment while under the care of the NDIS.
Police allege the 54-year-old died of serious criminal neglect and her death was preventable.
Maione will return to court in April next year when prosecutors will make a final charge determination, with the Director of Public Prosecutions given until February to prepare the initial brief of evidence.
She was granted home detention bail in September with a condition of her release that she not seek to work as a carer.
No new COVID-19 cases in SA
There have been no new cases of COVID-19 detected in South Australia today, SA Health’s latest update shows.
The number of cases in South Australia rose to 572 yesterday after one new case was detected – a man in his 30s who recently returned from overseas and has been in quarantine since his arrival.
Results confirmed the man’s case was an old infection, but because it was the first time he returned a positive test, the result was added to the state’s overall case numbers.
SA Health revealed on Sunday that one positive case in South Australia is linked to the concerning virus strain detected in the United Kingdom.
However, health authorities said there was no evidence that the variant of the virus causes more severe disease.
South Australia has recorded 572 cases since the start of the pandemic, with two people currently in hospital.
Port Pirie smelter set to breach lead pollution limit
Nyrstar’s Port Pirie Smelter will breach conditions of its new licence at the end of the year, based on current tracking of lead emissions, South Australia’s Environment Protection Authority says.
Nyrstar’s licence for operations at Port Pirie was renewed in July and included tougher lead in-air limits and targets.
EPA chief executive Tony Circelli said based on current readings Nyrstar would exceed its new annual average lead-in-air limit on December 31.
“Once this is confirmed, Nyrstar will be in breach of its new licence and this will trigger a formal EPA investigation,” Circelli said.
“Nyrstar will be required to provide a report to the EPA by January 8 detailing the cause of these targets being exceeded, and actions it proposes to take.
“Based on that information, and the EPA’s own investigation, we will then determine what further enforcement actions are appropriate.”
When it renewed the company’s licence, the EPA applied significantly tighter conditions effectively requiring a 20 per cent reduction in emissions.
Circelli said the EPA considered the new conditions to be reasonable and practically achievable and important to drive improved environmental performance and accountability.
“Breaching licence conditions is a serious matter and ultimately, Nyrstar is responsible for meeting the conditions of its EPA licence, including lead-in-air limits and targets imposed to protect the environment and human health,” he said.
Nyrstar said the reduction of lead emissions was a key focus for the company.
It recently outlined a number of projects designed to reduce emissions including installation of a new environmental hopper on the wharf to reduce emissions generated by loading and unloading activities and an upgraded wheel wash for all vehicles leaving the site to reduce the transmission of contaminated lead-bearing material.
“Management of air quality is a priority for Nyrstar as a key environmental aspect requiring ongoing operational monitoring and management to ensure Nyrstar continues to meet its legal obligations, expectations of the community and corporate quality standards,” the company said on its website.
More cases added to Sydney COVID cluster amid NYE crackdown
A person living in Wollongong on the NSW south coast has tested positive for COVID-19 but has no obvious link to a growing cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches.
“We don’t want people to think we’re out of the woods, far from it,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this morning, two days out from New Year’s Eve.
A number of other cases outside the northern beaches area that don’t have immediate links to the so-called Avalon cluster have also been found.
They come on top of three new infections confirmed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday.
All are people already in isolation and linked to the cluster, which now stands at 129 cases. The cases were identified from 16,329 tests.
Berejiklian pleaded with residents across the state to get tested in higher numbers and to be on “high alert”.
She wants Sydneysiders to demonstrate “personal responsibility” and stay COVID-safe on New Year’s Eve.
NSW Police and the federal government have warned they will punish breaches of public health orders.
Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the government was looking at deporting any of the people at a large party at Bronte Beach on Christmas Day.
“Under the Migration Act if someone is threatening public safety or health their visa can be cancelled or revoked,” he warned.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott has warned police can fine or jail people who breach the rules and pointed to a number of “disgraceful acts” of “blatant disregard” for health orders over the Christmas holiday period.
He described the actions of a group of northern beaches locals who blatantly breached lockdown rules to attend a wedding reception as a “bastard act”.
Twelve people aged between 19 and 63 were fined after going to the reception in inner-city Pyrmont on Sunday, despite the orders put in place after the cluster was found in their local area.
“You have been living in an area where there has been a cluster … and now everyone at that wedding has to worry if they have been exposed to COVID-19,” Elliott told Sydney radio 2GB.
Sydneysiders have been mostly banned from watching the famous New Year’s Eve fireworks after the city’s harbour foreshores shut down for the first time.
It’s also upset the government’s plan to host frontline COVID-19 workers, including health workers and teachers, on the eastern foreshore on Thursday night.
The state government is telling people to stay at home and watch the shortened seven-minute show at midnight to usher in 2021 on television.
The northern beaches will kick off 2021 at home after NSW authorities extended stay-at-home orders.
However, small indoor gatherings on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will be allowed.
Overnight on Tuesday, NSW Health issued alerts for a number of venues in the Sydney CBD and Edgecliff and Bondi Beach in the eastern suburbs and a number of related bus and train routes.
The Government says stay-at-home orders applying to northern beaches residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge will continue until at least January 9.
A lockdown for the peninsula’s southern zone will remain in place until January 2.
Restrictions for Greater Sydney and regional NSW remain largely unchanged for New Year’s Eve – barring the restrictions around the harbour – but outdoor gatherings in Greater Sydney have been tightened to a maximum of 50 people, down from 100.
Slipper apologises over ‘jet lag’ text
Former federal speaker Peter Slipper has been forced to apologise to two international students over the content of a text message he blames on jet lag.
The ex-Liberal National MP who left politics in 2013 apologised to the students after suggesting he might have them deported over a fees dispute.
The Legal Profession Board of Tasmania upheld their complaint against Mr Slipper over the “indirect threat” and ordered a formal apology.
The students hired Mr Slipper for legal work relating to a restraining order but after a dispute about a $650 fee, they parted ways with now the Hobart-based lawyer.
“He is very unprofessional, he messages at odd timings and threatens us that he will take action,” the students complained to the legal authority.
Slipper sent a text to the uncle of one of the men about the $650 fee after 10pm on July 15 last year.
“I’m inclined to write to the Minister for Home Affairs as I’m not convinced we need people like these guys in the country. I have to check whether it is ethnically [sic] appropriate for me to do so. If it is I will and if it’s not I won’t,” Mr Slipper wrote.
He followed up at 3.36am the following day.
“I thought I would let you know that I have decided not to write to the Minister for Home Affairs even if it is ethically appropriate for me to do so,” he said.
Slipper told the board he was suffering jet lag at the time of the first text message, adding he’d later retracted what he said.
The board questioned when he thought it might be ethically appropriate for him to send that message.
“I was completely uncertain of the ethics of it,” he said.
He also received a formal reprimand from the legal board.
Slipper’s texting habits have got him into trouble before, ahead of his resignation from parliament seven years ago.
While an MP he allegedly sent crude and expletive-laden text messages about others and once described then Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella as an “ignorant botch” (sic).
US House agrees to Trump’s $2K relief cheque scheme
The Democratic-led US House of Representatives has voted 275-134 to meet President Donald Trump’s demand for $2,000 ($A2600) COVID-19 relief cheques, sending the measure to an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Trump last week threatened to block a massive pandemic aid and spending package if Congress did not boost stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 and cut other spending.
He backed down from his demands on Sunday as a possible government shutdown loomed, brought on by the fight with lawmakers.
But Democratic lawmakers have long wanted $2,000 relief cheques and used the rare point of agreement with Trump to advance the proposal – or at least to put Republicans on record against it – in the vote on Monday.
As the floor debate was underway, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “Republicans have a choice, vote for this legislation, or vote to deny the American people the bigger pay cheques that they need.”
It is not clear how the measure to increase aid cheques will fare in the Senate, where individual Republican lawmakers have complained the higher amount would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the latest relief bill.
Increasing the cheques would cost $464 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, which prepares cost estimates for legislation before Congress.
The Senate is due to convene later today.
Trump, who lost November’s election to Democratic challenger Joe Biden but has refused to concede defeat, finally signed the $2.3 trillion package into law after holding it up with a veiled veto threat. But he continued demanding $2,000 cheques.
Wall Street’s main indexes hit record highs on Monday as Trump’s signing of the aid bill bolstered bets on an economic recovery and drove gains in financial and energy stocks.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed nearly 330,000 people in the United States and led to widespread economic hardship, with millions of families relying on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 relief funds.
Asked at the end of an event in Wilmington, Delaware, whether he supported expanding the payments to $2,000, Joe Biden replied: “Yes.”
The US Treasury Department is anticipating sending the first wave of $600 stimulus cheques to US individuals and households as early as this week, as previously planned, a senior Treasury official said on Monday.
Spain to put vaccine refusers on record
Spain wants to use a register to keep tabs on citizens who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Every citizen is to be invited to get the vaccine, which is voluntary.
However, those who decline to accept will be noted in a register, Health Minister Salvador Illa told television broadcaster La Sexta on Monday.
The register will not be public and will be subject to rigorous data protection rules, although the data will be made available to “European partners,” the minister said.
As in other EU countries, Spain launched its vaccination drive on Sunday. Araceli Hidalgo, a 96-year-old woman from Guadalajara, was the first person in the country to get the jab.
Over the coming 12 weeks, Spain is expecting to have access to around 4.6 million vaccine doses, with which up to 2.3 million people can get vaccinated.
Spain has a population of 47 million. It is hoped that the majority of the population can be vaccinated by the middle of next year.
The Spanish Health Ministry announced late Monday that an additional 298 people had died after catching the coronavirus, bringing the nation’s death toll recorded so far in the pandemic to over 50,000.
– with AAP and Reuters
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