NSW Labor says Berejiklian must hold daily updates; Queensland to reinstate border bubble – as it happened

By Elias Visontay and Josh Taylor andBen Smee (earlier)

What happened Friday 10 September 2021

With that, we’ll wrap up the news blog for the day.

Here were the top headlines today:

  • The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, will abandon daily press conferences from next week, announcing the decision on the day the state recorded a record-high figure of 1,542 new cases, as well as nine deaths.
  • Meanwhile, year 12 students in NSW will sit the full HSC exams in person in eight weeks’ time with strict Covid protocols in place to lower the risk of outbreaks.
  • Victoria recorded 334 new cases of Covid-19 and one death associated with the virus.
  • The Australian Capital Territory recorded 24 new locally acquired coronavirus cases.
  • Australia’s drug regulator has banned medical practitioners from prescribing the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin for “off-label” uses, such as for treating Covid-19.
  • The Australian Tax Office has opted not to pursue $180m in jobkeeper paid to ineligible businesses due to “honest mistakes” by employers claiming the money.
  • NSW can “absolutely” stop using coal power by 2030, the state’s energy and environment minister has said, as he declared it will not appeal a landmark court judgment ruling that regulators must do more to protect it from the climate crisis.

The blog will be back tomorrow to bring you all of the day’s news.

Have a great evening and a pleasant weekend.

Updated

Prof Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute that has provided modelling for Australia’s reopening plan agreed to by national cabinet, has responded to NSW’s roadmap to freedom that was unveiled this week.

Of the plan to reopen at 70% double vaccination in NSW, Lewin told ABC’s The Drum: “I think the with situation in NSW, I’d be going slowly, slowly”.

Lewin was asked about state and territory leaders interpreting the Doherty modelling in different ways, and she said she would “love to see the interpretation of this, what you can do at different levels, far more streamlined across the states”.

She said:

We will see interpretations that will vary around the country and I think that is going to cause confusion.”

Lewin suggested NSW does not have an optimal test, trace, isolate and quarantine regime at the moment.

When you don’t have optimal TTIQ then you’ve got to bring in public health measures. That’s why this slow exit from the lockdown is probably going to be important.

I think the biggest challenge for NSW at the moment is keeping an eye on the burden on the healthcare system.

Your total number of cases has a direct impact on hospitalisations and deaths. As you get more and more people vaccinated, that link gets broken.”

When asked about NSW’s plan to open stadiums to up to 5000 people who are fully vaccinated, she said “big events, that is a risky situation because big events we don’t do any screening and there’s a greater chance of transmission.”

Updated

The Australian Tax Office has opted not to pursue $180m in jobkeeper paid to ineligible businesses due to “honest mistakes” by employers claiming the money.

At a Senate inquiry hearing on Friday, independent senator Rex Patrick said the decision contrasts with the government’s approach to social security recipients, with thousands of individuals asked to pay back money they received during the Covid pandemic.

The latest ATO figures will likely add to criticism about what some say is a double standard on overpayments when it comes to profitable businesses and individuals.

The Senate economics committee is considering a Greens bill to claw back jobkeeper from companies earning more than $50m a year that claimed wage subsidies despite later increasing their revenue.

Labor’s candidate for the Melbourne seat of Higgins, Michelle Ananda-Rajah, says the government’s lack of action on climate change will be a decisive issue for voters at the next election, as she eyes winning the seat off the Coalition for the first time in more than 70 years.

Ananda-Rajah, who will take on the sitting Liberal MP, Katie Allen, says climate change is the “number one” issue raised with her by voters, and will be a key part of Labor’s campaign as it targets progressive voters in the affluent inner-city seat.

Like Allen, Ananda-Rajah is also a doctor, and she says the government’s pandemic response – and the pandemic recovery – will be front and centre as voters go to the polls, with an election expected early in the new year.

While Higgins has been won by the Liberal party since it was created in 1949, and was held by the former treasurer Peter Costello for 19 years, it is now held by Allen on a slender 3.9% margin.

Describing the next election as a “watershed election” for the country, Ananda-Rajah said voters would cast judgment on the two key issues of climate change and the pandemic recovery when they went to the polls.

Read the full profile of Michelle Ananda-Rajah:

NSW opposition leader calls on premier to re-commit to daily updates

Chris Minns, the New South Wales Labor opposition leader, has called on premier Gladys Berejiklian to re-commit to daily Covid press conferences, after she announced earlier today that after Sunday the government would abandon the daily practice.

In a statement, Minns said “the job isn’t done yet” and accused Berejiklian of “letting down the eight million people still in lockdown”. He said:

Now more than ever we need to be hearing daily from the government. That’s an unusual thing for an opposition to say, but the next few weeks are crucial for how New South Wales gets through Delta and lockdown.”

And speaking to ABC TV just now, Minns suggested the government’s daily press conferences should continue even if it meant the deputy premier or health minister fronted them more often so Berejiklian could have a break.

This is a crucial source of communication and scrutiny on the government at a very trying time. I appreciate there is a lot is going on. I am not suggesting the premier has to front every single news conference. But at the end of the day it is a crisis and it requires communication and information from the NSW government, I have to say it, on a daily basis.”

Minns said he’s “hoping the premier does a reverse turn here” especially given that NSW parliament will not sit again until early October, after the predicted peak in Covid cases and when hospitals are projected to be reaching their busiest.

If we are sending 15 and 16-year-old kids to go to work to keep supermarkets going, parliamentarians have to go to work too, after all we’re still getting paid.”

Updated

For those in New South Wales seeking some non-Covid news, we can bring you some developments that have taken place in the Christian Democratic Party.

When Fred Nile, founder of the CDP and long-time NSW upper house member, announced earlier this year that he would retire in November, the 86-year-old revealed he had picked Lyle Shelton to replace him.

Shelton, former director of the Australian Christian Lobby and prominent “No” campaigner during the same-sex marriage postal survey, lived in Queensland at the time, but had moved to Sydney in anticipation of the political role.

It appears Nile has now dis-endorsed Shelton as his pick for successor, reports Eternity news. The news is the latest blow to the stability of the party – which holds just one seat in the NSW legislative assembly – after it entered receivership earlier this year.

While the CDP’s state council must still vote on the appointment, Shelton has released a statement in response to losing the support of the CDP chief.

Shelton said:

Since moving to Sydney at Rev Nile’s invitation I have sought to build on his legacy and help build a thriving movement committed to the preservation of Christian values in our parliament.

This new lease of life was the direct result of Rev Nile’s vision to secure a future for the party. As the Christian Democratic Party emerges from receivership and its present legal troubles, it has an opportunity to move forward. It is clear that over recent years, the party has been riven with factions and divisions that should have no place in a Christian organisation.

A truly Christian political movement ought to look very different and behave differently than the major parties. Yet sadly, the behaviour that has been on display in the party’s organisational wing in recent years has fallen well short of the standard expected of a Christian organisation.

In the coming weeks and months, we have an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and put an end to disgraceful practices. To that end I pledge my ongoing service to party members and supporters as we build a political movement that truly reflects Christ’s character.

Updated

I am now going to write up that news, so I will leave you in the very capable hands of my colleague, Elias Visontay.

TGA bans off-label prescriptions of ivermectin

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has announced it will ban off-label prescriptions of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin, following our reporting in the past few weeks that medical practitioners in Australia were prescribing it as a treatment for Covid-19.

The TGA said it was acting on the advice of the Advisory Committee for Medicines Scheduling, and people will now only be able to get a prescription of ivermectin for TGA-approved conditions (indications) – scabies and certain parasitic infections.

Some specialists will be able to prescribe for unapproved indications if they believe it appropriate for a particular patient.

We have reported over the past week that there had been a tenfold increase in importations of the drug, pharmacists were also reporting a rise in people seeking prescriptions and refusing to say what it was for, there was also a reported overdose of ivermectin in western Sydney, and a clinic in Melbourne was offering off-label prescriptions as late as this week.

The TGA said the changes were made because of this growing concern, noting there had been an increase in prescriptions of the drug up to four times regular prescriptions:

These changes have been introduced because of concerns with the prescribing of oral ivermectin for the claimed prevention or treatment of Covid-19. Ivermectin is not approved for use to treat Covid-19 in Australia or in other developed countries, and its use by the general public for Covid-19 is currently strongly discouraged by the National Covid Clinical Evidence Taskforce, the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration.

Firstly, there are a number of significant public health risks associated with taking ivermectin in an attempt to prevent Covid-19 infection rather than getting vaccinated. Individuals who believe that they are protected from infection by taking ivermectin may choose not to get tested or to seek medical care if they experience symptoms. Doing so has the potential to spread the risk of Covid-19 infection throughout the community.

Secondly, the doses of ivermectin that are being advocated for use in unreliable social media posts and other sources for Covid-19 are significantly higher than those approved and found safe for scabies or parasite treatment. These higher doses can be associated with serious adverse effects, including severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness, neurological effects such as dizziness, seizures and coma.

Finally, there has been a 3-4-fold increased dispensing of ivermectin prescriptions in recent months, leading to national and local shortages for those who need the medicine for scabies and parasite infections. It is believed that this is due to recent prescribing and dispensing for unapproved uses, such as Covid-19. Such shortages can disproportionately impact vulnerable people, including those in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Updated

In some good news, and potentially a challenge to the rest of the nation, the tiny Aboriginal township of Weilmoringle, in the far north-west of New South Wales can possibly lay claim to being the first place in the state where every eligible resident is now 100% fully vaccinated.

Weilmoringle is on the banks of the Culgoa River about 180kms north of Bourke, close to the Queensland border and has a population of about 70 people.

As of today, every eligible person in town has received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Community members gathered at the Weilmoringle Local Aboriginal Land Council office for their vaccination, delivered by a health team from Brewarrina, who said it was a “privilege at this difficult time in our community’s life” to be able to fully vaccinate the whole community.

Weilmoringle LALC chair Anthony Knight and CEO Robyn Brown say wearing masks, sanitising and adhering to public health orders will also help protect their community into the future.

“We’d like to thank the people on the frontline supporting us to try and keep our little community safe,” Anthony Knight said in a video posted to Facebook.

“Stay safe, our people, and get that jab!”

Updated

Police charge man over assault on cameraman outside Ripponlea synagogue

We reported earlier this week about the assault on a cameraman outside a Ripponlea synagogue following an illegal gathering to mark the Jewish new year.

Victoria police now say a 72-year-old man has been charged over the assault:

A man has been charged following an investigation into an assault in Ripponlea on 7 September.

Police will allege the man assaulted a 45-year-old man outside a property on Glen Eira Road about 7.00pm.

The victim sustained non life-threatening injuries in the incident.

A 72-year-old St Kilda man was arrested and charged with recklessly cause injury and unlawful assault and will appear at Melbourne magistrates’ court on 21 February.

He was also issued with a $5,452 fine for breaching the chief health officer directions.

There have now been 11 $5,452 fines issued to people who were attending the gathering, with police saying all adults who attended will be issued with fines for breaching the health orders.

Updated

The Australian Tax Office is up before a parliamentary inquiry considering a Greens bill to claw back jobkeeper from big businesses who increased their turnover during the pandemic.

In a tabled opening statement, the ATO commissioner Chris Jordan has revealed new details about the scheme.

Who got jobkeeper:

  • $89bn in jobkeeper payments were made to more than 1m eligible businesses, which flowed onto more than 3.8 million individuals.
  • More than 97% of entities who received jobkeeper payments were small to medium businesses with a turnover of less than $250m. By value, these small to medium businesses received approximately $70bn (78%) of all jobkeeper payments.
  • About 0.2% of claimants were large businesses. These businesses received approximately $9bn (10%) in payments.
  • The remaining 2% of entities were charities and not for profits who received the remaining nearly $10bn (11%).

ATO compliance work:

  • From our review of more than 1,600 entities across all markets, including 480 large businesses, we found more than 95% were eligible.
  • We stopped more than $767m going forward through our pre and post payment reviews.
  • We have identified $470m in overpayments of which we: have recovered $194m and; are pursuing $89m, with $6m in dispute; and have determined not to pursue $180m, mostly from small businesses, where there have been honest mistakes.

Jordan and assistant commissioner, Jeremy Hirschhorn, have guaranteed that “no dead people” were paid jobkeeper, although jobkeeper had been paid to people who then died. Presumably Hirschhorn means the wage subsidies then stopped.

The ATO has directed questions about a clawback mechanism for companies that increased their revenue to treasury. Jordan said the ATO implemented the rules as written by the government, and profitability wasn’t a criterion.

Updated

Finally, Scott Morrison was asked about vaccine passports, and he repeated that he expected people would be able to verify their vaccination status through the state-based QR code check-in apps in the future.

He was asked an interesting question about whether the passports can be protected from being faked, and said:

Well, that’s why we built the technology on the record about vaccination that these numbers, ping, as they say they authenticate back with the master database. And so to ensure that if someone is saying in their registered app in New South Wales, if that says that they have an authenticated vaccination that is proved against the international vaccination database.

This is slightly incorrect, though. As we reported last week, in the Medicare Express app it is easy to exploit a flaw in the app to make it look like you have been vaccinated when you have not.

It doesn’t change anything on the server side of things, but if you were presenting this app to someone as proof of vaccination, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

How that will work once it’s integrated into the state apps, we will need to wait and see.

The PM was then asked whether he could withhold funding for infrastructure, or GST for those states refusing to open up and he seems to indicate he had little power to do anything:

Well no, we’re not going to do that no one’s suggesting that, I mean, that wouldn’t be fair to them, to the citizens of Western Australia and they’re Australians as well, I mean they need those services like anybody else does.

The constitution means that states, whether it’s New South Wales or Western Australia. They have always had for over 100 years control over public health ... and there seems to be this misinformation, there seems to be this fantasy that somehow there’s a lever I can pull here, which makes the states, you know conform to a federal policy that doesn’t exist.

And I can guarantee you, if we went to a referendum, and we asked people to take those powers away from the states I bet the public would actually would vote to keep the powers with the states. So Jim, I just have to deal with the reality of what our constitution says, and we’ve put a national plan together, the premiers agreed to that, including the 70 and 80% mark.

Updated

The prime minister was just on 2GB, and was commenting on the border situation.

He said lockdowns will increasingly become “lock outs” where people in those states can’t go anywhere:

I mean, these lockdowns, and increasingly what will be lock outs, those states that are locking the rest of the country out, they’ll be locked out, it won’t be about keeping others out we’ll be keeping them in, and that’s also something that I think will cause issues ... it’ll be up to those states to join the rest of the country.

He said, however, he thinks the attitude in WA and Queensland in particular will change once they see everywhere else opening up:

Well, let’s see what happens. That’s still several months away, and I think the vaccination rates and who will live, particularly when they see people in, you know, Sydney and Melbourne and other parts of the country is being able to travel and move around and is living with the virus and that’s the future and the certainty that comes with that.

I mean Western Australians they’re outward looking people they want to be connected to the rest of the country as well they want to be travelling overseas, they want to be doing all of those things. I understand. People want things to be safe but this is a safe plan and I think what we’ll demonstrate here in New South Wales and other parts of the country is that can be safely done. We can’t stay locked away forever.

Updated

PM returns to Sydney

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, returned to Sydney again today, following the controversy earlier this week over him getting an exemption to return to Canberra after going home for Father’s Day.

A spokesperson for the PM’s office said he would likely seek another exemption to return next week:

The prime minister has completed his commitments in Canberra for the time being and today returned home to Sydney where he will work under NSW’s stay-at-home conditions.

It is expected the prime minister will need to travel to Canberra mid-next week for security related briefings that are required to be undertaken in person.

If that is required, the prime minister will seek the same conditions of entry to the ACT as have been granted to other parliamentarians to minimise health risks while also ensuring Australia’s government can continue its work.

Updated

Tasmania to require masks at events for 1,000 or more people

Tasmanians attending events for 1,000 or more people will have to wear masks, despite no recorded active cases in the state, AAP reports.

Masks will be mandatory at indoor and outdoor events where more than a 1,000 are due to attend from 18 September.

“I think it’s a very sensible decision to make face masks compulsory,” premier Peter Gutwein said on Friday.

“It reduces the risk of Covid-19 under the current circumstances of those settings.”

Public health director Mark Veitch says mask wearing will give confidence to Tasmanian health authorities.

So by requiring masks in events of 1,000 people and it gives me and others who are approving these events some comfort ... we know that it does help prevent transmission.

There are no recorded cases of Covid-19 in Tasmania.

Veitch said health authorities had not recommended any changes for Tasmanians seeking to travel to “high risk” states like NSW.

Clearly people would be imprudent to travel to NSW or the ACT or Victoria, and would need to ... quarantine if they do make a decision to go to these places.

Public health hasn’t recommended the current change to the settings.

Updated

The daily 11am press conference at the NSW Health headquarters is not fun, especially for the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and her chief health officer, Kerry Chant.

They regularly face a barrage of questions, with reporters sometimes shouting over each other. Chant often visibly recoils.

But the premier’s decision to terminate the daily briefing, just as the state approaches a peak in cases, is a serious abrogation of her responsibilities as the state’s communicator-in-chief.

You can read the rest of the analysis on today’s announcement below.

In case you missed it, this week’s Beast goes into how the Australian newspaper used dodgy media monitoring data provided by the IPA to attack the ABC and it all fell apart when an ABC journalist bothered to check the data.

Updated

People in NSW hoping to visit WA for Christmas might have to make other arrangements.

Queensland Police lockdown 15 suburban blocks in hunt for gunman

A suspected gunman is reportedly on the loose north of Brisbane with police locking down about 15 suburban blocks, AAP reports.

Queensland police say the man was seen sitting in a stolen car parked on the D’Aguilar Hwy before he fired shots and ran into nearby bushland about 11am on Friday.

Officers have locked down the suburban blocks between Elof Rd and Male Rd, the D’Aguilar Hwy, the Bruce Hwy and Pettigrew St, as they hunt the man.

“Members of the public are advised to use alternate routes and avoid this area,” police said in a statement on Friday.

Some new exposure sites just listed in Queensland.

Worldwide vaccination is critical in fighting Covid-19, but Australia is at risk of losing sight of that big picture, one of the world’s leading virologists says.

AAP reports Prof Edward Holmes from the University of Sydney told an inaugural Covid-19 conference, held via video link on Friday, that Australia should give more doses to other countries as part of a global vaccination effort.

He warned while Australia could “navel gaze” about its own health system, there was a risk of missing the bigger global picture:

I think we’ve made a huge moral error and a scientific error too ... we’re not going to move on until we’ve got the whole world vaccinated. That’s the critical thing to do.

In January 2020, Holmes was the first to publicise the genome sequence of Sars-CoV-2, which led to the rapid development of diagnostic testing.

He said he expected the virus would occasionally evolve to escape immunity, but serious disease and death from Covid-19 would decline over time.

This virus will be with us forever. We’ll have good years and bad, bad years.

He also called for greater scrutiny of the way humans interact with wildlife to monitor for emerging diseases, and more stringent regulation of animal markets and trade in wildlife.

Live animal markets are an accident waiting to happen ... it has happened, it’s going to happen again.

Holmes said he was worried that inquiries into the origins of the virus had become politicised, and warned the world would be a less safe place if scientists could not freely and quickly share their data.

We have to learn the lesson, otherwise we are doomed to repeat a very grisly history.

He told the conference that conjecture the virus had been engineered inside a virology lab in Wuhan, China was “simply not true”, and said the lab-leak theory “collapses quite quickly” when faced with evidence.

He said the overwhelming evidence was that the virus had jumped from an animal and infected a human.

While the exact origin is still unknown, likely candidates for animal hosts include Malayan pangolins that had been illegally smuggled into China, as well as horseshoe bats.

Updated

Sharon Lewin, the director of the Doherty Institute, which provided modelling for the national reopening plan, has urged leaders not to be too aggressive, AAP reports.

“The major risk here is the health system in NSW and that is what’s going to be absolutely critical in dialling up or down any measures,” she told ABC radio.

“The health system is really struggling there with a lot of people in hospital. That’s going to be the determining factor.”

Lewin backs the principle of giving greater freedoms to fully vaccinated people.

“Each state is going to work through what is and isn’t acceptable,” she said.

“My personal view is that it would be fabulous if we had consistency across the states when opening up.”

Updated

On Thursday, the Tasmanian premier, Peter Gutwein, announced the planned closure of the Ashley youth detention centre within three years, to be replaced by two smaller facilities with a new model of operation to be announced soon.

The move had long been called for, and was welcomed by Change the Record on Friday.

Cheryl Axleby, Change the Record’s co-chair, said:

It is a relief that finally the Ashley youth prison is destined to close – but it is too little too late. We have known about the serious allegations of physical and sexual abuse for years, yet successive governments kept sending our kids into danger to score political points. Enough is enough. We have an opportunity now to do things differently and we urgently, and sincerely, call on the Gutwein government to use this moment to show leadership and commit to raising the age and treating our kids better.

Shutting the Ashley youth prison is a crucial first step, but it is just that – one step. If the Gutwein government just replaces it with two more prisons to warehouse our kids, we will change nothing for future generations. We are calling on Premier Gutwein to seize this moment to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old, and invest in community-driven programs that are run for and by Aboriginal people.

This is an opportunity for Premier Gutwein to take real strides to closing the gap on youth justice and ending the travesty that sees First Nations children locked away at such horrendous rates. He could change the lives of hundreds of our children by committing to raise the age.

The community has been clear: they support raising the age to at least 14 years old. Will Premier Gutwein listen to our mob, doctors, legal experts and the broader community and raise the age?

Updated

Remember that story last month about videos circulating on social media claiming the Australian federal police commissioner was going to overthrow the federal government?

The AFP say they’ve now charged a 49-year-old South Australian woman with impersonating a commonwealth public official and importing fake AFP badges into Australia.

A Perth man has already been charged as part of this investigation, and it will be alleged the woman helped source 470 AFP badges from an overseas manufacturer that were sent to Cairns. The majority have since been recovered by police.

Police say there is no impending threat to community safety, and no evidence to suggest the group had the ability to carry out what they were discussing.

AFP assistant commissioner counter-terrorism Scott Lee:

There is no evidence this group had the ability to carry out specific violent acts, but the Queensland JCTT, with other JCTTs around the country, will continue to investigate people with links to this group and will lay further charges if more criminal offences are identified.

Impersonating commonwealth officials and the potential misuse of AFP badges is something we take very seriously, which is reflected in the ongoing investigation and the action taken today.

Updated

Carnival has lost a bid to stop British and American victims of the Ruby Princess debacle from suing in Australia.

It’s the second time a US cruise line has failed to stop legal action against it in Australia this year - in June, Royal Caribbean failed in a bid to stop survivors of the White Island disaster suing in the federal court.

In the Ruby Princess case, passengers and families of people who died from Covid on the ship are participating in a class action in the federal court alleging that Carnival was negligent in allowing the cruise to go ahead and failed to warn of the risks of Covid-19.

There were 2651 passengers, but Carnival said 696 passengers who entered into contracts on US terms and conditions and 159 who entered on UK contracts should be excluded from the class action.

However, on Friday federal court judge Angus Stewart said the US and UK passengers should remain part of the proceedings.

Stewart said the US terms and conditions didn’t apply because they were sent a month after bookings were made. In addition, the email didn’t specify that the US conditions applied to the booking - it just provided a list of links to possible terms and conditions, depending on jurisdiction.

Carnival said both US and UK passengers should be ejected from the class action because the federal court was a clearly inappropriate forum for the stoush. Stewart also rejected this argument.

Victorian motorists are still driving too fast despite a jump in the road toll, authorities say.

AAP reports that in 2021 so far, 156 people have died on the state’s roads, compared with 148 people at the same time last year. Speeding has contributed to 30% of those fatalities.

Transport Accident Commission research shows about two-thirds of drivers believe it’s safe to break the speed limit by up to 10 km/h.

But the TAC research shows the risk of crashing increases by a quarter at 3km over the limit, and by half at 5km over.

The risk of a crash doubles at 10km over the limit.

Authorities have pinpointed Punt Road and High Street in Prahran as a particular issue, with a 172% increase in speeding from July to September 2020, despite traffic dropping by almost half during that time.

At Terminal Drive and Centre Road near Melbourne Airport, speeding fines increased by 160% during the last three months of 2020.

“Less traffic on our roads is no excuse for dangerous driving,” police minister Lisa Neville said in a statement, warning police would throw the book at speeding motorists.

Mobile speed camera hours have increased by 75% and 35 extra cameras will be installed at high-risk intersections, the state government says.

Updated

Here’s an interesting one for those of you who have been following the Epic Games v Apple saga over Fortnite being banned when Epic tried to bypass its in-app payment system. Epic is going to try to get the app allowed back in the App Store – but just in South Korea.

Apple recently announced it would allow developers to email people who installed the app and offer alternative payment methods, but the reason this is happening isn’t because Apple relented, it’s because a new law in South Korea prevents app store owners like Apple from forcing developers to use their in-app payment system.

The legal action is still ongoing in the US, Australia and Europe, but this is an interesting new development.

Updated

Earlier today, delivery company DoorDash confirmed in a NSW parliament committee hearing the death of one of its delivery riders in September last year, taking the total to seven deaths in 2020, with two working for DoorDash.

DoorDash told the inquiry the 27-year-old man was killed, and no more contact was made with the worker’s family outside of initial contact. No more details have been provided so far, including whether the rider was covered by the company’s insurance policy at the time of death.

Nine Newspapers reported the death happened in Point Cook.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said it showed the need for consistent reporting requirements for delivery companies:

We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of this worker. It’s outrageous it’s taken almost a year for the company to publicly disclose this information, and the rider’s family deserves far better.

These companies don’t know whether their workers are alive or dead, and you have to question whether they even care. Failing to acknowledge or report that a worker has been killed while working for you shows just how little respect gig companies have for the safety of their riders.

If any other industry had as many covered up deaths and injuries as food delivery, there would be a public outcry and those companies would be run out of town. These giants get away with it because the federal government is missing in action and reporting obligations are not uniform across the country.

Thanks for your time this morning. That has truly felt like going up a mountain. Again.

Speaking of which, when I was in Germany a few years ago our mate Martina took us up an actual mountain.

She promised us there was a hut at the top. A few hours into the hike we started to question whether she was just spinning a bizarre metaphor, that the hut was inside us, and that the gratification of reaching the summit would fill us with more satisfaction than a few of those litre-mugs of beer ever could.

The moral of the story is this. There was a hut. We drank beer and ate sausages. Please keep climbing.

And with that, I’m handing you over to my colleague Josh Taylor, who will continue to unpick the day’s events.

Independent senator Rex Patrick says he has commenced proceedings in the federal court to force the Morrison government to deal with significant delays in freedom of information reviews.

He says:

It is with regret I have had to take the Australian information commissioner to court to force the government to fix the deliberate train smash that has occurred in the FOI review regime.

The obstructive tactics of federal ministerial offices and government departments and the chronic under-resourcing of the information commissioner’s office has led to an absolute mountain of FOI reviews building up, resulting in extended delays that effectively block timely access to information.

The present government is absolutely allergic to transparency and accountability, and they have wrecked the national FOI system. It’s vital for our democracy that action is taken to fix that.

Patrick says he has 22 applications under the FOI Act which are the subject of refusals or partial-access decisions by government departments.

He has sought reviews of those decisions by the Information Commissioner but is yet to receive decisions.

Two review applications are outstanding after more than two years; 12 have been waiting for more than a year; and a further five have been with the commissioner for more than six months.

Updated

Some detail here on how the Queensland–New South Wales border bubble will work:

Updated

If you’re struggling to make sense of why journalists are peeved at the idea that Gladys Berejiklian is no longer going to front up to daily press conferences, this might give some insight.

OK, are well all breathing? The entire provincial political leadership of eastern Australia – Queensland, NSW, Victoria and the ACT – once again tried to talk over one another.

At the end of that we have:

  • 1,542 new cases and nine deaths in NSW
  • 334 cases and one death in Victoria
  • 24 cases in the ACT
  • One case in Queensland

Of course, the big talking point is the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s decision to abandon her daily press conferences from Monday, right as case numbers peak.

We’ll keep picking that apart, bear with us ...

Updated

It doesn’t look like Victoria will be announcing an easing of restrictions at 70% double doses, as New South Wales has done.

Roads minister Ben Carroll says he hasn’t read the NSW roadmap.

Covid commander Jeroen Weimar is asked the same question:

We’re focused on Victoria ... Our focus at the moment here is: what else can we contain, the widespread community transmission in the north and west, the work the public health team are doing right now. What projection are we on right now? Are we on a projection like New South Wales? Is that the case numbers we can expect going forward? Or can we still, as Victorians, get this contained at a far lower trajectory, which gives us far more options over the weeks ahead? There’s a huge amount of monitoring going forward to try and understand which of those projections we can be on and what difference those different measures will make.

I think in terms of timing, we’re all frustrated. We would all like to know when we can do things again, when we can return to normal practices, when we can go out of Melbourne again and when all those other things become possible. Our focus as a team over the last few weeks has been around how can we contain the pandemic as much as possible? That’s what’s allowed us to release regional Victoria as of midnight last night, to see how we’ll watch the developments over the coming days very carefully. If we’re seeing the virus continue to be contained and we don’t see huge spot fires in regional Victoria, that will give us confidence and open up more options going forward. That’s all the work we need to do over the days ahead.

Updated

The Australian Capital Territory has released 30,000 additional vaccination appointments, to coincide with a boost in Pfizer supply.

Chief minister Andrew Barr said people with existing bookings could bring them forward.

“The next eight weeks is a race to get as many Canberrans vaccinated as possible,” Barr said.

“The additional supply of Pfizer in both ACT government clinics and across the primary health network will help us achieve our goal of getting more than 85% of the ACT population over the age of 12 vaccinated.”

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr speaks to the media during a COVID-19 update in Canberra
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr speaks to the media during a COVID-19 update in Canberra Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Updated

Jumping back to John Barilaro in New South Wales, who now appears to say that the state’s roadmap out of lockdown is not what health bureaucrats would want.

Health, if they could, they would love to see more vaccination and keep the place [in] lockdown but we have to find a balance and with the Doherty Institute work, with the work of premiers and chief ministers, we have released [a] roadmap.

From my colleague, Paul Karp, in the ACT: 24 new cases, 18 linked and six under investigation.

Updated

Back in New South Wales, deputy premier John Barilaro says he prepared the state’s roadmap out of lockdown and “had the endorsement of health, including [chief health officer] Dr Chant”.

In Victoria, premier Daniel Andrews is not fronting media today.

The state’s roads minister, Ben Carroll, was asked why Andrews wasn’t present on a day when Victoria recorded more than 300 cases.

I was always planned to be here and, ah, just to really reinforce the importance for the public transport system, in particular, Victorians have been doing the right thing.

We’ve been leading, as a jurisdiction, in the country on mask-wearing on public transport. One of the first jurisdictions in the world. We’ve kept it strong. And we’ve now rolled out the QR codes. But we also wanted to give a timely reminder to Victorians to do the right thing, particularly with the road toll being above, at this stage, what it was last year.

Carroll is also asked about the state’s plan to get out of lockdown.

The premier has made very clear that he’s working with the chief health officer on the plan, and we’re focused on getting vaccination rates up. We know more vaccinations is the best thing we can do when it comes to combating the Delta variant.

I mean, the premier – I saw myself – said yesterday, following what New South Wales has done, that he’s working very hard trying to get all the right data, all the right information, and will make very important, considered decisions at the right time. But it’s very important to get these decisions right. It can cost lives. And we want to make sure that Victorians do get vaccinated and that we, you know, come out safely. And that’s what the Premier and lead ministers are focused on.

Updated

Apologies for jumping back and forth between New South Wales and Victoria, hope it hasn’t been too confusing.

Props to Australia’s three most-populous states for holding simultaneous press conferences today.

Some good news as well from Victoria. Jeroen Weimar says there have been no further positive cases out of two aged care facilities in Moonee Ponds and at Gladstone Park that recorded positive cases. Both have high vaccination rates.

Jeroen Weimar is breaking down today’s 334 new local cases. Transmission is continuing to occur in Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs, with concern growing over seeding into Melbourne’s south-east.

There have been four new cases in the regions, including the V/Line staff member we found out about earlier who lives in Gippsland.

Weimar:

A very familiar, now, pattern of spread of where those cases are falling. 190 of those cases are in our northern suburbs, including suburbs like Craigieburn and Roxburgh Park.

We’ve seen 109 cases in our western suburbs like Truganina and Altona North. We have nine cases in the eastern suburbs, 16 cases in our south-east suburbs, including Noble Park and Frankston. And I am a little bit concerned about the number of cases we’re starting to see creeping into the south-east.

So we have a dedicated focus with our south-east public health team. I’d please encourage anybody – particularly in the Dandenong area in the south-east – please check those exposure site maps on a regular basis and please be very aware of your symptoms. We’re obviously dealing with significant community transmission in the north and west of our city. Huge number of people dedicated around the clock to doing everything we can to run that transition to ground and stop it in its tracks. But we are seeing a little bit of seeding out into the south and east, and very keen to sure the community down there is also aware of the risk of Covid in our community.

Updated

Back to Victoria ...

Covid commander Jeroen Weimar confirms a man in his 70s from Coburg has died, and extends condolences and thoughts to his family.

64% of Victorians have had their first vaccine dose, pushing the state ahead of its target to reach 1 million doses in five weeks and 70% first doses by 23 September.

Weimar:

With close to 43,000 test results yesterday, we’ve now delivered over 10 million Covid tests in Victoria since the very start of this pandemic, well over 1.5 million of those in the last few weeks as we deal with this current Delta outbreak ... Over 99% of all those test results are coming back the next day, giving anybody who’s got symptoms the confidence that they’ll get a quick answer as to whether they have Covid or not and whether they present any risk to the people they live with and the people that they may work with

With regard to vaccination – another record day of vaccinations in our state clinics. Over 39,000 people came forward yesterday to get their vaccination done. Again, my thanks to everybody who is now making it their priority to get vaccinated. 64% of Victorians have now had their first-dose vaccination. That’s a really encouraging step. We are ahead of our projection of our first million of our 1 million-dose surge that we announced a few weeks ago. But also, we’re starting to really get ahead of that date to get to 70% of Victorians having had their first dose. A bit more work to go, but we think we’ll be well ahead of that original date of 23 September. We think we’ll smash that by quite a few days.

Updated

The decision to can daily press conferences (right as NSW approaches peak Covid case numbers) is not going down well.

Gladys Berejiklian:

“I have some complain that every day [press conferences] is too much.”

I think there are some journalists who would like to see those receipts.

Updated

First question to Gladys Berejiklian accuses her of “going into hiding”.

She responds:

I will turn up when I need to but to expect the leader of the government indefinitely to do this every day means that I am not doing my job properly.

I can assure the people of this state, and they can judge me on my record, whenever I need to speak directly to the public, I absolutely will.

But we also have to make sure that, as a government, we normalise the way we do things every day ... we also have to accept all of us have to start thinking about what living with Covid means.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian arrives to speak to the media during a press conference in Sydney
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian arrives to speak to the media during a press conference in Sydney. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Updated

Back to New South Wales for a moment.

Gladys Berekijlian said she wasn’t sure how people would react to her announcement that, from next week, she won’t be fronting up daily to announce Covid numbers.

Some of the early reactions are not positive.

Victoria’s roads minister, Ben Carroll, and Covid commander Jeroen Weimar are addressing the media now.

Carroll will also be touching on the current disruptions to the V/Line service, after a train driver tested positive.

85% of active cases are under the age of 50:

  • 347 are aged zero to 9
  • 386 are between 10 and 19
  • 606 cases are in their 20s
  • 413 cases are in their 30s

There are now 127 people in hospital, an increase of 16 from yesterday, including 33 people in intensive care and 21 on a ventilator.

Carroll says 20 services are being disrupted, with that number expected to grow:

Sadly, a gentleman has tested positive – that was a V/Line train driver. He had been confirmed to have been in the staff room at Southern Cross Station and had travelled, as part of his duties, wearing a mask, being compliant, doing all the right things – did travel to Gippsland. That gentleman has tested positive and now everyone that had been in that staff room - which was also a room that staff go and check their rosters – have now all been contacted and been told to do the right thing and isolate and to get tested if you have had symptoms.

This has had an impact on our V/Line driver network, as you can imagine. As I speak, some 20 services are now being disrupted, and we have five coaches out on the network supporting passengers where they need to go. While we only have 20 services at the moment, all the staff rostered on at V/Line are safe and have come to work as per their roster and had no contact with this gentleman, or been at Southern Cross Station. We are expecting the disruptions to go from 20 to around 100 services today.

I have met with and spoken over the phone with the staff at V/Line management, the CEO, and we’re working very hard throughout today to do everything we can to minimise disruptions, particularly as many Victorians get back to their working week, particularly in regional Victoria on Monday. So we are doing everything we can to minimise those disruptions.

Updated

Victoria has recorded 334 new cases.

149 are linked to current outbreaks. One death was reported overnight.

New South Wales deputy premier John Barilaro is speaking about the new border bubble zone with Queensland and the icy relationship with his northern counterpart, Steven Miles, appears to have thawed.

Both have thanked one another this morning.

The new arrangements will allow people in Covid-free New South Wales local government areas to cross the border. They’ll still require a border pass and need to meet certain criteria.

Berejiklian says that case numbers will peak in the next week, and that “hospitalisation and intensive care needs [should] peak in October”.

I just want to give this stronger message if I can, and that is we can’t afford to have people let down their guard. All the work we have done in planning, all the work we have done as to what we will be able to do at 70%, and obviously once we present the 80% double-dose [vaccinations] is based on the fact that these restrictions remain in place until otherwise advised.

Because if anything happens contrary to the modelling or what we expect, we don’t want to have to revisit anything.

NSW Health workers wear face masks at the COVID-19 pop-up vaccination clinic in Zetland, Sydney
NSW Health workers wear face masks at the COVID-19 pop-up vaccination clinic in Zetland, Sydney Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Updated

Berejiklian and Hazzard to stop daily Covid briefings

Gladys Berejiklian says she and her health minister, Brad Hazzard, will stop their daily Covid briefings from this weekend.

Sunday will be the last day we officially do a press conference in this way but, from Monday at 11am, Health will provide a daily health update and myself and Minister Hazzard or any other relevant minister will present to the community on a needs basis.

Updated

NSW Health has released some detail about the nine people who died and had Covid-19:

  • A man in his 60s from western Sydney died at home.
  • A man in his 70s from south-eastern Sydney died at Prince of Wales hospital.
  • A woman in her 40s from south-western Sydney died at Liverpool hospital.
  • A man in his 70s from Sydney’s southern suburbs died at home.
  • A woman in her 50s from the Central Coast died at Gosford hospital.
  • A man in his 60s from western Sydney died at Royal North Shore hospital.
  • A woman in her 80s from western Sydney died at Ryde hospital.
  • A man in his 30s from Nepean Blue Mountains died at Nepean hospital.
  • A man in his 50s from south-western Sydney died in Liverpool hospital.

Updated

NSW reports 1,542 Covid cases and nine deaths

New South Wales has recorded 1,542 new Covid cases and nine deaths.

The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, says the state is expecting case numbers to peak “in the next week or so”.

Updated

The deputy premier, Steven Miles, is talking about the new border zone. It will come into effect at 1am on Monday to allow for some changes to the border pass arrangements.

Miles says the situation “is a revert to the last border settings” and that people will be allowed into Queensland for a broader number of reasons.

He thanks NSW authorities – including his counterpart John Barilaro – for their work towards the bubble announcement.

Updated

Jeanette Young says Queensland will reinstate a border bubble zone for NSW local government areas where there are no cases, and where lockdowns have been lifted.

We will be going back to the position before where we had that border zone for those specific LGAs where the stay at home order has been removed.

The Queensland chief health officer, Jeanette Young, says she has some concern about another case, a truck driver from New South Wales.

The truck driver has had a single dose of vaccine. He was infectious on 5 and 6 September.

As a result, Queensland Health has added a number of contact tracing sites on Brisbane’s south side. There is particular concern around the Westfield Garden City shopping centre.

The new case, a 13-year-old girl, was at school in the last few days.

Her classmates and their households have been ordered into a 14-day quarantine.

The new case, a 13-year-old student, has only recently come to light and is under investigation.

Updated

Queensland records one new Covid case

Queensland has recorded one new locally acquired Covid case.

The infected person is a student at the Sir Thomas More School at Sunnybank. The school is being closed today as a precaution.

Updated

In her statement, Kristina Keneally says she had “been approached by ALP branch members urging me to consider nomination for the seat of Fowler”.

I am humbled by this encouragement.

In recent days I have had many conversations with branch members in Fowler and others in the local community, and I have been touched by their enthusiasm and support.

In making this decision, I reflected on my inaugural speech in the NSW parliament in 2003 where I outlined the three values that motivate my political activity: a passion for social justice, the importance of community and a life lived with energy and enthusiasm. In that speech, I said that a community is at its best when all its members are supported and included.

Serving this community, living in this community, and fighting for them is what I want to do.

I have always made the choice to step up and fight. That’s why I’m making the choice now to seek preselection in Fowler – I want to step up and fight for Fowler in the House of Representatives, for every suburb, every faith community, every small business, every family.

Updated

Kristina Keneally’s statement about her decision to run in Fowler.

We’re about 10 minutes away from hearing from the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

We are expecting to hear about new cases in Queensland. There are new contract tracing sites on Brisbane’s south side and the Queensland Ambulance Service has opened a new testing clinic nearby.

Updated

Kristina Keneally’s likely switch to the House of Reps protects her from a Senate preselection battle with Deb O’Neill, also from the Labor right, who is backed by the Shoppies union.

But it will ruffle some feathers in Fowler, which has a large Vietnamese population and where some locals – including retiring MP Chris Hayes – had backed Tu Le, arguing the party’s candidate should reflect the diversity of the electorate.

You can read more on that here:

Updated

Kristina Keneally to run for preselection in Fowler

Kristina Keneally, the former New South Wales premier and current Labor senator, has confirmed she’s nominating to run for preselection for the Sydney lower house seat of Fowler.

Updated

Take a deep breath, we’re moving towards that part of the day where we get all the information thrown at us in the space of a few hours.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, is up first at 10.30am.

The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, was on Nine this morning speaking about the state’s fraught roadmap out of lockdown.

From AAP:

The NSW premier has denied going against health advice by unveiling plans to reopen for the fully vaccinated at 70% double-dose coverage, but acknowledged her need to “weigh up health advice with public policy”.

The unvaccinated in NSW have a little over a month to get double-jabbed if they want to visit friends, dine out, travel to the regions or go to the barber or gym.

Under a roadmap out of Covid-19 lockdown announced by Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday, a suite of restrictions will be eased when 70% of the state’s eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

These freedoms will only be restored for the fully vaccinated.

Berejiklian denied reports that chief health officer Kerry Chant wanted to wait until NSW reached 85% coverage before reopening.

The premier insisted Dr Chant signed off on the plan.

But she also admitted the government’s job was to consider a number of factors including mental health, freedom of movement and relationships.

“What we need to do is always weigh up that health advice with public policy and I would never do anything where the health experts completely objected to anything or did not think it was safe,” the NSW premier said.

“It is going to be challenging, but it’s a road all states will have to take.”

Berejiklian reiterated, however, that current lockdown settings would remain in place until the 70% milestone is reached, likely in mid-October.

NSW residents would have to refrain from “letting loose” before then, she said.

As a sole exception, up to five fully vaccinated NSW residents outside the 12 western Sydney council areas of concern can from Monday convene for picnics.

The freedoms to be restored in mid-October will be policed via a vaccination status feature added to the Service NSW app’s QR code check-in tool.

But the government has emphasised some restrictions on movement may still be required in areas where case numbers are too high.

While the plan was enthusiastically welcomed by business and tourism industry bodies, the Australian Medical Association criticised it as lacking sufficient detail.

While NSW recorded 1405 new local cases and another five deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, some virus-free regional areas – including the north coast, Riverina and Murrumbidgee – will be released from lockdown.

The toll for the current NSW outbreak is 153.

The government on Friday is also set to unveil the HSC timetable for 2021, which was pushed back due to the outbreak and a return in Sydney to remote learning.

Updated

24 hours is a long time in politics. 25 years feels, well, much longer.

We are expecting the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to speak at 10.30am.

Her NSW counterpart, Gladys Berejiklian, is due to front reporters 30 minutes later.

Palaszczuk is going to be speaking from a new state vaccination centre at Logan.

Of course, reading the tea leaves is a fool’s game. But it would be extremely unlike Palaszczuk to use an off-campus announcement to bring the state bad news.

Updated

Here’s an update on the New Zealand outbreak, from our friends at AAP:

The difficulties of preventing the spread of Covid-19’s Delta variant are being laid bare in New Zealand as it continues a tightrope walk to elimination.

Daily case numbers in New Zealand continue to fall: 13 cases were reported on Thursday, down from a peak of 83 on August 29.

Experts and Jacinda Ardern’s government attribute the fall to the tough-as-nails lockdown ordered back on August 17 after the identification of just one case.

On Friday, Auckland hits day 24 of lockdown which will be reassessed next Monday. The consensus is it will be extended.

The goal is to eliminate Covid-19 in the community, bringing daily case numbers to zero.

“I hate the idea of even one preventable death,” Ardern said.

However, new evidence suggests this lockdown could have been avoided.

Investigative reporting from NZ outlet Newsroom has shown Ardern’s government removed the requirement for pre-departure testing for the flight that provided the outbreak’s index case.

In July and August, New Zealand green-lit a string of flights to bring home stranded Kiwis from NSW during its Delta outbreak.

On the August 7 flight was a man who tested positive to Covid-19 the next day.

Genomic sequencing has shown him to be the index case for New Zealand’s outbreak – which has infected 868 people and killed one person to date.

It’s not clear the man would have tested positive in a pre-departure test, however the hurdle’s removal means authorities will never know.

Since Newsroom’s reporting, the government has re-established the requirement for pre-departure testing.

This week in Auckland, the centre of the outbreak, two incidents at Middlemore Hospital show how hard getting to Covid zero again could be.

Last Sunday, a patient was admitted to the hospital and shared a room with other patients before testing positive to Covid-19.

The hospital tallied up 149 contacts who needed to isolate as a result, including patients who still required care, and staff in an already stretched health system.

Thankfully, all contacts returned a day three negative test, with Counties Manukau chief medical officer Peter Watson telling Radio NZ “there’s no suspicion of any (further Covid-19) cases as a consequence”.

Those close contacts will also produce a day five and day 12 test.

Updated

Updated

Victorian authorities are also reporting one death from Covid in their latest numbers released this morning.

The state conducted 43,000 tests and administered 39,000 doses of vaccine.

There are 2,426 active cases in Victoria.

Victoria has recorded 334 new Covid cases

149 are linked to known outbreaks.

Updated

We’re still waiting to hear when Queensland authorities will speak this morning.

The state remains (relatively) Covid free. But last night the health department sent some new alerts about potential Covid contact sites.

Many of them are around the Westfield Garden City shopping centre on Brisbane’s south side.

We’ll bring you more details on that when we know.

The Australian Council of Social Services is calling for specific vaccination targets among higher risk groups – including people on lower incomes – and additional investment to vaccines reach them.

“Infection rates are mounting amongst higher risk communities,” Acoss chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

National cabinet must agree to responsible vaccination rates across all sections of the community, before restrictions are eased. We need far greater investment to deliver vaccinations to those being left behind.

We know high-risk groups are at serious risk of being left behind in the vaccination roll out. People from diverse backgrounds, First Nations communities and people with disability are some of those most at risk of the virus and being left behind in the vaccination rollout.

This is also true for people with chronic illness, those living in regional and remote areas and people on low incomes and people who are homeless. We are concerned also for people who are not citizens, without a Medicare card, refugees and asylum seekers, and people in detention.

Updated

Nationals MP David Gillespie is being asked about the ongoing Pfizer fracas – and revelations yesterday that the company had attempted to meet with health minister Greg Hunt.

Michael Rowland asks: Why didn’t the federal government, of which you’re part, act more quickly, in signing that deal with Pfizer, in the middle of last year?”

Gillespie says:

Well, just to put it on the record, we were meeting with Pfizer, and you have seen the emails about departmental conversations. I was even approached as a backbencher by Pfizer. And it wasn’t when you sign the deal, you’ve got to understand, Michael, the vaccines turn up once they’re available. We could have had 10 deals with Pfizer in North America but we wouldn’t have got one dose sooner because all their production in America was kept as a moral imperative in North America.

We’re engaging with lots of vaccine suppliers around the world, not just Pfizer. We had AstraZeneca, we had Novavax, and we had a whole committee of experts looking at other potential vaccine purchases.

We were victims of our own success in a way, Michael. Because we had such a stellar flattening of the curve that people overseas making vaccines looked at us and they looked at themselves and they said “hang on, you can’t send stuff down there, they hardly had a blip on the horizon”.

Updated

The NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, has been on Radio National breakfast this morning.

On recent reports that climate ambitions were scrubbed from the recent UK trade deal, Kean (reminder: a Liberal minister) said:

Pressure is mounting on Australia from our trusted friends and allies... for too long politicians have complained about the cost... but now we’re facing costs of not taking action

The foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, also took a swipe at China last night, saying Australia and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region have to be clear about red lines that must not be crossed.

During a discussion hosted by the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia, Payne was asked a question about geopolitical rivalries in the region.

The questioner suggested Indonesia placed a greater emphasis on cooperation. Payne was asked whether the Quad grouping – of Australia, the US, Japan and India – had a vision of cooperation that extended to China and Russia.

Payne agreed with the importance of cooperation among countries in the Indo-Pacific region, then added:

But we have to be clear that there are certain lines that it’s actually not acceptable to cross. Let’s start with cyber interference and disinformation, both of which are dangerous and deadly in a pandemic. Let’s just start there. Let’s start with territorial claims that the countries of Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] are grappling with every single day, knowing that their rights and their obligations are underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – a rule body that Australia accepts, and that every member of Asean accepts, and that every responsible nation in the Indo-Pacific accepts.

That’s a reference to a tribunal’s finding, five years ago, that China’s claim to “historic rights” in the South China Sea were inconsistent with the convention. China refused to participate in the arbitration and has long argued the ruling was “null and void”.

Payne said the challenge of strategic competition was “not one that we underestimate”.

And in our view it is vital that we compete to preserve the international order that has underpinned those decades of stability and prosperity that I spoke about in the Indo-Pacific, but it’s not in our interests for competition to slip into confrontation or outright conflict. And that is something which Australia is very clear about.

Updated

The foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, says the international community “cannot allow Afghanistan to be a breeding ground or a training ground for terrorism ever again”.

Speaking in Jakarta last night, Payne criticised the Taliban for installing a government that excluded women and ethnic minorities. She said Australia would work with Indonesia and other international partners “to hold the Taliban to account for their commitments”.

“They’ve asked for respect. Well, in my book respect is something that you have to earn.”

Payne and Dutton were in Indonesia yesterday – flagging closer defence ties – on the first stop on a four-country trip that also includes India, South Korea and the United States.

During a question-and-answer session with the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) last night, Payne said it was “a deeply distressing time for the very many people in Afghanistan” who had “seen a different life” over the past two decades.

She said women and girls had had the opportunity to play sport, “something so many take for granted around the world”.

The comments come amid plans to cancel Australia’s one-off men’s Test match against Afghanistan in Hobart, after the Taliban foreshadowed a ban on women from playing sport, including cricket.

Payne warned of the “enormous potential for both the security and humanitarian situation to deteriorate even further” in Afghanistan and the wider region.

We cannot allow Afghanistan to be a breeding ground or a training ground for terrorism ever again, not as an international community, not as individual nations, and not as a region which has seen more than our fair share of the outcomes of that sort of terrorism activity in the past.

We have to make it very clear that an extremist narrative of success in Afghanistan is not one which we’re prepared to accept and make it very clear to the Taliban regime that has just installed a range of leaders that it must prevent that return to violent extremism, and that it has to be very aware that the world is watching.

Updated

Good Morning.

I’m Ben Smee and I’ll be guiding you through all things Covid this morning.

The New South Wales government has announced its road out of lockdown, but pubs, restaurants and retailers face significant legal and logistical questions about how they will manage their new anti-Covid obligations. There are many, many questions to be answered.

The new plan to reopen pubs, restaurants and retailers for fully vaccinated customers in the coming weeks has largely been welcomed by the affected industries, but there are significant legal and logistical questions confronting businesses about how they will manage their new obligations.

The NSW government has given little insight into how mandates on vaccinations for retail staff and customers would be enforced, other than NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant suggesting on Thursday that it would fall to businesses to police the changes.

Most of regional Victoria is waking to relative freedom this morning, as the lockdown is lifted everywhere except Shepparton. But cases continue to rise inside Melbourne’s ring of steel.

And we should hear more about whether Queensland and New South Wales can get their collective heads together, and talk like adults, about reinstating a bubble around border communities as they come out of lockdown.

It will be frantic, as always. Bear with us. Here we go.

Updated


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