Daily News Roundup

October 27, 2020


Amy Coney Barrett is about to take her place on the bench of the US Supreme Court, making her one of the nine most powerful people in America.

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 46 days before the election gave Republicans an opportunity to solidify the conservative majority of the court.

After an evening vote in the Senate which saw her confirmed 52 to 48, Justice Barrett was sworn in at the White House, making her the sixth conservative-leaning justice on the nine-member bench.

Once she puts on the robe, Justice Barrett will immediately preside over a list of contentious petitions to the court.

Some even relate to the potential political fortunes and financial dealings of President Donald Trump, who put her on the bench.

The presidential election is now one week away, and because of the coronavirus pandemic, more Americans than ever are voting by mail.

Republicans in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania have asked the Supreme Court to block efforts to allow an additional three days to count the mail-in ballots. Advocates wanted the extension to allow for the processing of ballots which arrive late, or do not have a legible postmark.

According to the brief, the Supreme Court was divided 4-4 on the emergency stay request, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberals to allow the extension.

Five justices are needed to grant the Republicans’ request, making Justice Barrett’s vote critical in the new request.

Pennsylvania Republicans have already filed a second petition for the Supreme Court to hear the case again.

“If it goes back to the US Supreme Court … Amy Coney Barrett … could be a 5-4 majority striking those rules down,” senior lecturer in American politics and foreign policy at the United States Studies Centre, David Smith, said.

“It’s broadly agreed Trump can’t win without Pennsylvania. If Biden doesn’t win Pennsylvania, then he will probably lose as well. So it is absolutely key.”

More cases could still follow, with deadlines for ballots unclear in a few other states.

Justice Barrett will also weigh in on any post-election disputes that emerge as ballots are counted.

When asked about election cases during her confirmation process, Judge Barrett said she was “100 per cent committed to judicial independence from political pressure”.


Labor has flatly rejected suggestions from Clive Palmer that it intends to introduce a “death tax” with Cabinet Minister Kate Jones labelling it “bullshit”.

Mr Palmer’s United Australia Party has been advertising extensively on TV, social media and in newspapers.

Mineralogy has also sent unsolicited texts.

Outgoing Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the claims were simply untrue.

“This is just Clive Palmer using his millions of dollars to scare the elderly and quite frankly what Clive Palmer is doing right now is bullshit,” she said.

“I have a 91-year-old grandmother who reads the paper every day, watches the TV every day and what she’s seen are these lies from Clive Palmer.

“No Labor Government will introduce a death tax — we never have, we never will.

“I’m fed up with it, Clive Palmer should be called out for the liar that he is and the fact that he’s willing to use his millions of dollars to scare the most vulnerable and elderly in our community is a disgrace.”


A Hobart coroner has recommended people who own wheat packs without instructions immediately stop using them after an elderly woman died in an accidental house fire.

Phyllis Mabel Pears died in her West Moonah home in May last year after wheat bags that she had heated in the microwave caught fire.

Mrs Pears, who was married at the time of her death, lived alone with the assistance from Glenview support and was visited by multiple family members most days.

Her husband was in a nursing home.

She was last seen by her granddaughter-in-law on the May 29, 2019, at 1:45pm.

At 2:20pm her neighbour heard the sound of breaking glass and went outside to see the kitchen window of Mrs Pears’ home had shattered.

He saw black smoke coming from the window and flames in the kitchen and immediately contacted triple-0.

After the fire was extinguished, Mrs Pears was found dead inside her kitchen.

A fire investigation suggested the 90-year-old had heated a number wheat bags in her microwave and then placed them in a pile on a chair.

“Due to being piled, the wheat bag has been unable to give off heat and has self-heated to the point of igniting the combustible material bag and a small amount of wheat,” wrote Fire Investigation Officer Mark McCarthy.

“This has caused a small, isolated fire.”

He wrote that it was his belief that during the process of placing the bags on the chair, a wheat bag ignited and Mrs Pears either attempted to extinguish it or was “leaning over the pile of wheat bags at ignition”.

“The close proximity of [Mrs] Pears to the fire and her limited mobility has resulted in igniting [Mrs] Pears’ clothing,” he wrote.

A forensic investigation determined her cause of death was incineration.

Coroner Andrew McKee noted that the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) website said wheat packs had been responsible for causing a number of house fires and the TFS had created a fact sheet in response.

In his findings, he recommended that individuals who own wheat packs without instructions as to how to use them immediately cease using them and members of the public familiarise themselves with the TFS’s fact sheet prior to using them.

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