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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Josh Taylor and Justine Landis-Hanley (earlier)

Qld says using ADF to evacuate aged care facilities ‘a last resort’ – as it happened

Empty Covid testing clinic
An empty COVID-19 testing clinic in Sydney. Australia reported at least 45 Covid-related deaths on Sunday. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian

The day that was – Sunday 6 February

That’s where we will leave the live blog for Sunday. Here’s what made the news today:

  • There were at least 45 Covid-related deaths reported on Sunday.
  • Hundreds of firefighters in WA battled two blazes in Denmark and Bridgetown. The two fires had burnt close to 5,000 hectares, and remain out of control.
  • SA will resume requiring close contacts to get PCR tests, and anyone with symptoms will also be able to get the tests amid excess testing capacity.
  • A 3.6 magnitude earthquake was registered east of Cairns.
  • The future of long-running Australian soap opera Neighbours is in doubt after the UK channel that provides most of its funding axed the show/

Parliament resumes on Tuesday, and we’ll be back with all the news tomorrow. Until then, stay safe.


NSW has sent four fire and rescue specialists to WA to help battle the two fires gripping the south of the state, as part of a NSW contingent including rural fire service, national parks and and forestry staff.

They left Sydney airport this afternoon.


Services on Sydney’s inner-west light rail network will soon resume after cracks in the trams forced their suspension, but the opposition warns the “transport saga” is not over, AAP reports.

The line was closed in November after cracks were discovered in the wheel arches of all 12 tram sets.

The NSW transport minister, David Elliott, says from 12 February, six trams from the eastern suburbs light rail sector will begin operating on the inner-west line at 15 minute intervals.

“Services will operate between Dulwich Hill and Central Station, which is the full line,” Elliott said on Sunday.

“This is better than the original plan to run these returning services between Lilyfield and Central while the inner-west trams are being fixed.”

Elliott said repair work on the network’s fleet was under way, with all 12 trams “on track” to be fixed by the end of 2022.

Transport for NSW chief operations officer Howard Collins says the station platforms, track and speed limits have all been changed on the inner-west line.

“Staff will be on hand to provide customer service on the ground as and when required,” Collins said.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen said passengers will welcome the return of some services on the line after going without them for more than 100 days.

“Make no mistake, the government has cobbled together a bandaid solution to a transport disaster completely of their making,” Haylen told reporters on Sunday.

“Twelve overseas-made trams cracked and out of service and the government is no clearer on what the engineering solution is.”

Haylen warns the “transport saga” is not over:

Those trams still have to be fixed and the government is yet to admit its fundamental mistakes here. It is yet to admit that the failure to integrate the inner-west light rail line with the eastern suburbs light rail line is a massive mistake but most importantly that buying off-the-shelf overseas models of trams, ferries and trains is a complete failure.

WA police say Strike Force Vulcan detectives have been deployed to Bridgetown to assist with the investigation into a serious bushfire in the South Western region of the state.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined.


Just a bit more on the earthquake in Queensland via AAP.

A 3.9 magnitude earthquake has rumbled a remote part of the Great Barrier Reef off far north Queensland.

The quake struck the tip of Maori Reef about 50km northeast of Russel Heads, south of Cairns, about 12.17am on Sunday

It was about 10km deep, says Geoscience Australia, with 78 people reporting they felt the tremor.

About 16 earthquakes have been reported off the state’s far north coast over the last two decades, the agency said.


Ahead of this week’s parliamentary debate on the religious discrimination bill (read the latest from Paul Karp here), the Hindu Council of Australia has released a statement warning about the bill’s potential impact on “newly arrived and minority” religions.

Surinder Jain from the Hindu Council is urging members to lobby MPs against supporting the legislation, raising concern about the ability of employers to discriminate on the basis of religion to maintain the faith based ethos of an institution:

Any business that claims to be inspired by religious ethos can fire people who don’t belong to their religion. This bill adversely affects minority religions. It especially affects Hindus and other newly arrived religions who have not had time and resources to establish their own schools, hospitals etc.

Jain said this could mean that Hindus who worked in schools, hospitals, aged care and other charities run by Christian faiths could be “actively discriminated against”:

Australia made commendable progress when it replaced its racist Whites only immigration policy. But like a reformed drinker hitting the bottle again, it is now introducing a Bill which will give undue advantage to majority and well established religions at the cost of newly arrived and minority religions.

The Buddhist Council has also raised similar concerns, with Gawaine Powell Davies from the NSW Buddhist Council telling a Senate inquiry last month that the proposed bill did not get the balance right between preventing religious discrimination while also ensuring individuals were protected:

Our concern of all that there is the potential to negatively impact minority religions are minority groups through reducing access to services, particularly where these are government funded, particularly where these are in the bush, where there are not many other opportunities for employment.


If you wonder why things are a bit purple this evening...

WA records 31 local Covid cases

Western Australia has reported 31 locally acquired cases of Covid-19, as well as 15 “other” cases comprising people in quarantine from overseas or interstate.

Twenty-five of these cases are linked, with six of them classified as mystery cases. The WA premier, Mark McGowan, said an unspecified number of the local cases were in the community while infectious.


That wraps up my time on the blog for today. I’m going to hand things over to my colleague, Josh Taylor, to bring you the news into the evening.

WA authorities say 210 career and volunteer firefighters worked through the night in a bid to keep major bushfires under control in Bridgetown and Denmark.

The fire in the coastal town of Denmark was first reported on Friday morning, and has burnt approximately 2,151 hectares.

The Bridgetown fire, which is not contained and nor controlled, has burnt approximately 2,359 hectares. Authorities are still working to determine the cause of the fire.


South Australia records 1,234 new cases, one death

There are now 218 people in hospital across the state. Of these, 13 are in the ICU and five require ventilators.

NSW is pushing to increase the rate of booster vaccinations as the health minister calls for a national definition on what it means to be “fully vaccinated”, AAP reports.

While 94% of eligible NSW adults are double vaccinated against Covid, only 43.5% have received a third dose.

Health minister Brad Hazzard says the booster rate should be higher.

The question in my mind is: if we have almost 95% of people in NSW double dosed and we’ve got a little less than 45% of people who have had the booster, what’s happened to the other 50%? Why aren’t they out there getting their boosters?”

He says the state has “a lot of people” working on finding an answer to that question.

More booster shots have been administered in NSW than anywhere else in the country, but the state’s rate should be higher because more people were eligible for boosters earlier.

Hazzard says Atagi should also provide advice nationally on whether a booster is required for people to be considered fully vaccinated.

Until then the state will be taking a more “encouraging” approach to promoting booster uptake and will hold off on mandating boosters for healthcare workers, Hazzard says.


Neighbours axed by Channel 5 in UK in possible death knell for show

Channel 5 in the UK has confirmed that Neighbours will be dropped from its summer scheduling, after airing for more than a decade on the network, according to a report from Digital Spy.

It likely spells the end of the iconic show because it relies on funding from Channel 5.

The show’s production company Fremantle and Australian broadcaster Channel 10 are yet to comment.


Tasmania records 471 new Covid cases, one death

Tasmania has recorded 471 new Covid cases and sadly one death. There are now 11 people with the virus in hospital.

Only five of these patients are being treated specifically for virus symptoms. The remaining six are being treated for unrelated medical conditions.


SA premier says PCR tests 'far more accurate' than RATs

South Australian premier Steven Marshall confirmed that as of today PCR testing will be available for all people with symptoms, especially close contacts. He said there is massive excess PCR testing capacity available in SA at the moment.

He acknowledged that PCR tests are “far more accurate than rapid antigen tests”.

“This is the Rolls Royce, it’s highly sensitive, it works very well and you can get an accurate picture very very quickly. It’s far more accurate than rapid antigen tests,” he said.

Elective surgery is resuming in the state from tomorrow.


3.6 magnitude earthquake confirmed south-east of Cairns


Independent senator Rex Patrick is calling out the government’s decision to prioritise its religious discrimination bill during the upcoming parliamentary sitting week.


Queensland’s deputy premier Steven Miles has dismissed calls for a government integrity probe, saying “you can’t have a royal commission into a vibe”, AAP reports.

Two independent watchdogs, the Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party and the Greens are calling for a probe amid multiple allegations of interference in regulators and processes.

Outgoing Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov claims a laptop was taken from her office and wiped, and that the government tried to have her sacked.

Former state archivist Mike Summerell says there was interference in his record-keeping, potentially leading to parliament being mislead.

Miles says those allegations are being investigated properly so there’s no need for a wider inquiry.

“If there is new evidence then it should be forwarded to the CCC (Crime and Corruption Commission), but you can’t have a royal commission into the vibe,” the deputy premier told reporters on Sunday.

The CCC is itself under a cloud after the government ordered a formal commission of inquiry into the watchdog’s functions and structure after its botched probe into Logan Council.

Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles.
Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles. Photograph: Jason O’brien/AAP

Miles said while “questions have been raised about the CCC” it was still the “appropriate forum” for any allegations of government misconduct.

“If anyone has any new evidence they should forward it to the CCC,” the deputy premier said.

Meanwhile, the premier’s director-general Rachel Hunter has launched a third probe into Mr Summerell’s allegations of interference in his record-keeping role.

The terms of reference for Hunter’s review were released on Friday, with the findings due by 4 March.


Scott Morrison has declared politics is a “brutal business” as he seeks to downplay the leaking of a text message from the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, branding him a “hypocrite and a liar”.

Speaking at the i4Give Day memorial service in Sydney, which commemorates the young victims killed in the Oatlands crash in 2020, the prime minister also spoke of his Christian faith, saying he had “easily” forgiven Joyce for the damaging text message leaked on Friday.

“Politics is a brutal business,” Morrison said on Sunday.

Read Sarah Martin’s full write up here:

A bit of an insight into the damage the floods in South Australia caused.

I will now leave you in the expert hands of Justine Landis-Hanley for the next couple of hours.

Perrottet says hospital presentations and ICU admissions continue to trend down in NSW.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant says 47.7% of the eligible population aged 18 an over have received a booster dose. This goes down to 43.5% when it includes 16 and 17 year olds who are eligible.

Chant says the spread of Covid-19 is slowing in the community, in part due to the booster, as well as people having been infected with Covid before, mask-wearing, getting tested and isolating, she said.

There are currently 2,321 people in hospital, including 147 in ICU, of whom 66 are on ventilators.

Of the 28 deaths today, they included 17 men and 11 women; two were in their 40s, three were in their 60s, six were in their 70s, 10 people were in their 80s, and seven people were in their 90s.

Of the three under 65 who died, Chant said one person had received three doses of the Covid vaccine, one person had received two doses, and one person was not vaccinated. She said all three had serious underlying health conditions.


The NSW premier Dominic Perrottet is launching the $250 accomodation and tourism vouchers to be available from tomorrow in the Service NSW app for parents.

He said:

Accommodation, we know, hotels, have had a very difficult time over two years, international borders closed, tourism down across our state and across our nation. So please go out and support those businesses and enjoy the best that New South Wales has to offer, as well as our tourism providers right across the state – $250 for parents, and those vouchers will be in your Service NSW app from tomorrow.

Perrottet urged people to continue to wear face masks indoors, and to socially distance.

He also thanked teachers for the seamless transition for children getting back into school.

I am incredibly pleased with how seamless going back to school has been. I know that is not the case for everyone, we have had positive cases, with either children and teachers, but not one school has closed. There were people right across the state, commentators who said we should not do this, we should not go down this path.

I was in contact with the Victorian premier this morning to check in with relation to how the Victorian experience has been. That is very much in line with what we have seen here in New South Wales. That is that schools have remained open, disruption has been minimal, it has been incredibly important, because getting kids back at school was a strong focus of this government.

Perrottet says he expects there will be “bumps along the way” in terms of schools being open but teachers are doing an outstanding job.

NSW premier Dominic Perrottet speaks to the media in Sydney on Sunday.
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet speaks to the media in Sydney on Sunday. Photograph: Flavio Brancaleone/AAP


Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles has dismissed calls for a government integrity probe, saying “you can’t have a royal commission into a vibe”, AAP reports.

Two independent watchdogs, the Liberal National party, Katter’s Australian party and the Greens are calling for a probe amid multiple allegations of interference in regulators and processes.

Outgoing integrity commissioner Nikola Stepanov claims a laptop was taken from her office and wiped, and that the government tried to have her sacked.

Former state archivist Mike Summerell says there was interference in his record-keeping, potentially leading to parliament being mislead.

Miles says those allegations are being investigated properly so there’s no need for a wider inquiry.

If there is new evidence then it should be forwarded to the CCC (Crime and Corruption Commission), but you can’t have a royal commission into the vibe.

The CCC is itself under a cloud after the government ordered a formal commission of inquiry into the watchdog’s functions and structure after its botched probe into Logan Council.

Miles said while “questions have been raised about the CCC” it was still the “appropriate forum” for any allegations of government misconduct.

“If anyone has any new evidence they should forward it to the CCC,” the deputy premier said.

Meanwhile, the premier’s director general Rachel Hunter has launched a third probe into Summerell’s allegations of interference in his record-keeping role.

The terms of reference for Hunter’s review were released on Friday, with the findings due by 4 March.


Good afternoon, everyone.

It’s pride march day here in Melbourne. And protesters have delivered a petition to Victoria police, minister for equality Martin Foley, Midsumma, and the LGBTIQ+ communities commissioner, calling for the police not to march in their uniforms in the march through St Kilda.

In the petition they state:

Pride should be safe and welcoming for all of us. However, police participation is a barrier for those who have had negative experiences with Victoria police.

Many people in our communities experience policing and police violence, including Aboriginal people, Torres Strait Islander people, African Australians, people of colour, migrants, trans and gender diverse people, people living with HIV, sex workers, poor people, people with disabilities, people who use drugs, and people without a home.

The organisers say people can march as individuals.

The petition gained 1,180 signatures in six days, including 940 from LGBT Victorians.

Midsumma and the communities commissioner have agreed to meet with the petition organisers but the minister and Victoria police have not responded.


I’m handing over the blog to the brilliant Josh Taylor – see you on the other side of lunch.


As I mentioned earlier, Queensland has recorded 5,746 new Covid-19 cases and tragically, nine more deaths.


SA Health requires PCR tests for close contacts

South Australia Health appears to have announced that close contacts of Covid-19 will now need to get a PCR test to confirm whether they have the virus.

Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles said this morning that bringing in the defence force to evacuate aged care facilities across the state is a last resort.

There have been concerns around Covid-19 outbreaks at aged care facilities, given the spread of Omicron.

There is a Covid-19 outbreak at Jeta Gardens nursing home in Logan, south of Brisbane, and the aged care watchdog has said that residents there are at an “immediate and severe risk”.

Miles said that evacuating aged care is a “difficult task” and knows how “disruptive it can be for those residents”.

... if you think about moving people who have mobility issues – many of whom have dementia and confusion issues, moving them from their home can be very dangerous for them. And so, that’s why it’s a last resort to do so. I understand that there was that one facility yesterday that the commonwealth was working with. Of course, in an emergency situation, the state and our ambos and our health services know what to do and can do it, but it should not come to that.

Miles said he was concerned that the residents in aged care facilities have not had their third Covid-19 shot.

These facilities, the staff and the residents should all be double vaccinated and boosted. Now, they’re not. We know they’re not because it’s coming through in the death figures. We can’t get data, though, to tell us how many residents have been boosted. Which aged care facilities are all boosted? Which are below targets? ... We’ve requested that data. It hasn’t been provided to us. And as you’ve seen over recent days in particular, if more people were boosted, then less people would be dying. Right now, that’s the epicentre of what’s going on. Right now, that’s where it’s happening and that’s rightly should be the focus.


Back to Scott Morrison’s press conference, the prime minister rejected the idea that the latest texting scandals showed disunity within the government, saying that “my record with my party members and my party in the parliament has been the most united Liberal party and Coalition that we have seen.”

We’re facing a global pandemic which we’ve fought for the last two years. We’ve fought through fires, through floods, through pestilence, cyclones and we’ve been leading this country through one of the most difficult times we have known since the second world war and the Great Depression. What people send around in texts, I, frankly, could not care less about. And frankly, Australians are far more interested in their jobs and their lives than what people are sending in text messages to each other.


ACT records 323 new Covid-19 cases, zero deaths

This brings the number of active cases to 2,623.

There are 60 people in hospital with the virus, including two in intensive care with one ventilated.


Morrison said that he and Joyce have “both surprised each other” since being in leadership together.

We hadn’t had a close relationship in the past. But as we came together, him, as the leader of the Nationals and I as leader of the Liberals and as prime minister and deputy prime minister, we’ve continued to combat this pandemic...

A prime minister and a deputy prime minister work very closely together. And his observations of me and that relationship has completely transformed his view that he had as a backbencher at a time when his head was in a very different place.


PM says he accepts the ‘frailties’ of others amid Barnaby Joyce text scandal

Morrison opens it up to questions and, of course, discussion immediately turns to that text that Barnaby Joyce sent about the prime minister (the one that described Morrison was “a hypocrite and a liar”).

Asked how he can continue to work with Joyce, Morrison puts the whole situation down to human frailty.

“... politics is a brutal business. And anyone who pretends it’s not, and anybody who pretends that from time to time, people don’t get angry or bitter or don’t act like other human beings, then if you can’t accept and understand each other’s frailties and be forgiving in those circumstances, then, frankly, that says a lot more about you than it does about others.

And so, that is what my faith has always informed me to do – the same as it has so many others. And I’m thankful for that. But you know, politicians are no different to anyone else. And people say things and people feel things. People get angry. People get bitter. Of course they do. That’s all of us. And so, who am I to be judging someone else?


Parliament to address opening international borders to visitors

Morrison also raises the fact that parliament will be addressing the issue of opening up international borders to international visitors again during this week’s sitting week.

“... we are considering the further opening of the borders to international visitors. As many of our states now move through and past their peaks, the key issue that we have been examining and I have asked for advice from our health officials now over recent weeks, is how that decision could impact on our hospitals, which has been our primary consideration. But the previous opening up of the borders has gone very well. And we are looking forward to be able to make that decision to open up our borders and welcome visitors back to Australia again as soon as we safely and possibly can. But I really do not believe that that is far away.


Morrison starts by acknowledging the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s ascension to the throne.

I have had the great privilege to meet Her Majesty on several occasions and I have never met anyone more impressive, more remarkable. Her wisdom, her kindness, her sense of duty, is something that I think all of us here in Australia can be very grateful for. And so, to you, Her Majesty, from Australia – thank you for all your many years of service and may God Save The Queen.


Prime minister Scott Morrison is speaking live from Sydney.


Home affairs minister Karen Andrews wants to open international borders as soon as possible, but says Australia is not at that point at the moment, AAP reports.

News Corp newspapers reported the Morrison government’s nation security committee will meet on Monday where it’s expected to agree to reopening Australia to tourists within two or three weeks.

“We don’t have all of the information that we need to be able to take the decision to open, but we are very close,” Andrews told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

We are going through the process of preparing to open, and we will continue to talk to the health professionals. So as soon as they say yes, we will work with the states and territories and we will reopen our international borders to tourists.

Just 5% of Australians have not had a Covid-19 vaccine, making Australia one of the world’s most vaccinated countries.

A total 95% of Australians aged 12 and over have had at least one dose of a vaccine, health minister Greg Hunt said on Saturday.

The country’s level of protection is now “right at the front of the highest global vaccination rate”, Hunt said.

This rate of vaccination for children is also one of the highest in the world, he said.


Scott Morrison has issued a statement acknowledging the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession.

The Queen has carried out her duties with diligence and dignity, always upholding her deep faith as well as her respect for the constitutional tradition she was born into.

On this anniversary, I extend the gratitude of the Australian people.

Tonight, iconic buildings and monuments in many parts of Australia will be lit up in royal purple for The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. This anniversary is a truly remarkable milestone in a remarkable life.

Meanwhile, the Queen has thanked the public for their support and asked them to recognise the Duchess of Cornwell as Queen Camilla when Charles takes the throne.

And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.

Queensland chief health officer Dr John Gerrard said that there has been a “substantial reduction in the number of in-patients in public hospitals” with Covid-19.

He said that the number in public hospitals has gone down from 727 to 663. The number of people in intensive care there has gone down from 46 to 45.

The number of patients with the virus in private hospitals has stayed the same, at 63.


Queensland records 5,746 new cases, nine deaths

Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles is providing today’s Covid-19 case update.

There are 5,746 new cases and nine deaths. This brings the total number of deaths reported in the state to 277.

Environment minister Susan Ley told Sky News Sunday Agenda this morning that, while it’s been a tough week this morning, said that it’s been a tough week for the prime minister, but insisted that their cabinet is united.

Our friends at AAP have the story:

“The most important issue is the unity in the Morrison government,” Ley said.

As a minister that has sat in three cabinets with three prime ministers ... this is the most united cabinet table I have sat at.

We are absolutely determined to recover from the pandemic in a way that supports every single Australian with their jobs, their lifestyle and their aspirations.”

Asked whether there was any prospect of Morrison or Joyce being rolled as leader of their respective parties, Ley said: “Not at all, absolutely none.”

But shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said there is no salvaging this government.

A change in the Liberal leader or Nationals leader won’t do it.

This government is a smoking ruin of division and disunity and dysfunction and ordinary Australians are paying the price of that. The government seems to spend all of its time dishing out free character assessments of each other.


Finally, Speers asked about the $60m in extra funding to combat violent extremism, announced last week. He wanted to know whether any of this funding was in response to the anti-vax, anti-mandate protests gathering in Canberra and other places.

Andrews said “not specifically”, but added that “our intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies certainly keeps a very close eye on who is attending those rallies, what the activity is...”

She said that the funding announced will go towards “countering violent extremism particularly in rural and regional Australia to stop it before it starts”.

Speers pointed out that Andrews’ colleague, George Christensen, was among the protesters this week. He asked Andrews whether Christensen’s actions were “helpful”?


Look, I don’t agree with many of the views that George has been espousing of late. I don’t think that it’s appropriate for him to be attending those sorts of rallies, but he is a member of parliament, he can make his own decisions in relation to that. But I’m talking about quite a different cohort, if you want to call it that, and that is violent extremists, and I don’t think anyone would put George Christensen into that category.


Speers asked why “those who have been found to be refugees, don’t pose as a security risk, are still stuck in that hotel?”


Well, we are working with a process with the United States in particular to resettle some of those people in the United States. So we have an agreement for about 1,250 people to be resettled in the United States. We are in the final stages of coming up with the last people who will be part of that 1,250 cohort. We have always been very clear that if you arrive illegally by boat into this country, you will never be able to settle here...


Speers moved on to ask the home affairs minister when the international border is going to open.

Andrews said that is a priority for the government, and that “the prime minister and I know that I have been working over the last few weeks in particular to make sure that we are ready to open to international tourists as soon as it is safe to do so.”

But she stopped short of setting a date, saying that “we don’t have all the information that we need to be able to make the decision to open, but we are very close.”

Speers asked whether tourists could be turned away after arriving in Australia, like Novak Djokovic.

Andrews said that it is possible that tourists could be turned back.

Now, at this point in time, to be able to enter Australia if you are a non-Australian, you need to have a valid visa and you need to be able to demonstrate that you are fully vaccinated or you have acceptable medical evidence to say that you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and if you speak specifically about Mr Djokovic, the issue was he couldn’t prove that he had a medical reason for not being vaccinated.


Andrews said that the government is “doing absolutely everything we can to bring the workforce that is needed” to aged care homes, but said she doesn’t believe it’s possible to guarantee that some aged care homes won’t have to shut down due to workforce shortages.


So some will have to shut down?


I don’t believe that is the reality. That is the last thing we would want to be happening ... I know that there have been discussions in relation to the defence forces. They have been brought in to help us all deal with the pandemic at various times as well. I know that they stand ready to assist, but at this point in time, we do have the surge workforce that is going into aged care facilities and they are supporting staff who have been there, working around the clock, who are very tired, very fatigued and affected by Covid themselves.


Speers turned the conversation to discuss the aged care Covid-19, noting that the Jeta Gardens home, where 15 residents have died from the virus, is not far from Andrews’ electorate. He asks what the government is doing?


It is an appalling set of circumstances at that facility. I was horrified when I was reading about what was happening at that aged care facility. Let’s be clear, these people are very vulnerable members of our community and no one wants to see them in dire situations which seems to be what’s happening at that facility now. Look, the government has stepped up, the commission has, as you’ve indicated, it issued notices last year, it has now given directions. There are a lot of questions for management there. We need to understand what the workforce issues are, the extent of what the training issues are because that’s what the commission has been talking about.

But if I go more broadly ... we know that there are serious concerns about workforce availability in the aged care sector. That’s why we work very closely with the private health sector, and to date, over 78,000 additional shifts have been worked by private health sector workers, to actually step up and support the aged care sector.


Speers starts listing the leaders who have accused Scott Morrison of being a liar: Barnaby Joyce, the former prime minister, French president Emmanuel Macron. He asks whether this, plus problems in managing the pandemic, will make it harder to campaign with Scott Morrison at this year’s federal election?


We always knew that we would have our work cut out for us. This is a particularly difficult time in Australia and globally. We always knew that would be the case. Can we do without distractions? Absolutely. It is predictable that the opposition leader and Labor are going to go for a personal attack on the prime minister, of course it is...

Speers jumps in to point out that personal attacks are coming from within the prime minister’s own government, though, and ask whether Morrison will be as much of an asset on the campaign trial this year as he was in 2019?


Circumstances are very different now. He is a great campaigner. He was a great campaigner in 2019 and he connected very well with Australians.

Andrews adds that “we need to get him out”, before quickly clarifying that she means “out into the community”.

“... out in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, all of the states across Australia. We all need to be doing that. It has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone and we all have to make sure that we are properly connecting.


Speers doesn’t let up.

You can understand the interest legitimately though. Trust matters, integrity matters. You are asking the Australian voters to re-elect a prime minister who has been called a liar, not just once and not just by his now deputy prime minister who even offered to resign over this. It is a pretty big deal.


Look, integrity is absolutely important and I’m not going to dismiss or attempt to dismiss any of that. But I would also say, too, that we are coming up to a federal election in the next couple of months and what Australians will be asked to decide on is who is going to lead that country, and that includes not just the issues that we are discussing today potentially tomorrow...


But it is a big part, minister, as to whether we can trust him?


Look, I would say to the people of Australia that my experience of Scott Morrison is that he has always been respectful and willing to listen to my point of view, but he has also got a very strong record, and that is as immigration minister, as treasurer and as the prime minister. Let’s put this into some context as well, that Scott Morrison has been the prime minister during a particularly difficult time in Australia...


Speers asks Andrews whether she has spoken to Barnaby Joyce about why he felt Scott Morrison was a liar, referring to the deputy prime minister’s leaked text message.


No, I haven’t. My discussions recently with Barnaby Joyce have been exclusively in relation to some local airport issues that I have in my electorate. No ... I haven’t discussed that with him. To be quite honest, I probably won’t because I understand that there is interest from some people, particularly in the media, about the goings on, but for me it really is quite simple.

It won’t be Barnaby’s finest hour by a long stretch. He apologised, the prime minister accepted that apology. He offered to resign, the prime minister declined that offer, and they’ve indicated that they will work together.

... Scott Morrison absolutely will work in the national interests. He has demonstrated that when he was immigration minister, he has demonstrated that when he was treasurer and he is demonstrating it now as prime minister.


First question: have you ever known Scott Morrison to tell a lie?

Andrews says “that’s not been my experience of him at all”.

Look, I’ve had a couple of robust discussions with him, as you would expect, but I’ve always found him to be respectful to me, to listen to what I had to say. He doesn’t always agree with it, but we just work our way through it. Now, you would expect that to happen in any workplace, and parliament, cabinet, you would expect exactly the same thing. I haven’t found him to be any but decent and respectful to me.


Home affairs minister Karen Andrews is on ABC Insiders and you bet the questions have immediately turned to the prime minister’s character.


NSW records 7,893 new cases, 28 deaths

Victoria records 7,169 new Covid-19 cases, six deaths


As I mentioned in my first post, the ABC’s Sunday morning political commentary show Insiders has announced Joyce had pulled out of a scheduled interview with the program. The home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, would take his place.

The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, said on Saturday it is “untenable” for Joyce to continue as deputy prime minister following the texting scandal, saying Joyce had been in the same cabinet as Morrison for half a decade when he sent the text.

See here the full story of what happened and where we are up to in the Joyce texting scandal:

Good morning! It’s Justine Landis-Hanley here to bring you the news today, Sunday 6 February 2022.

Let’s dive straight in:

Barnaby Joyce has cancelled his appearance on ABC Insiders this morning, following reports that he called Scott Morrison “a hypocrite and a liar” in a private text message. The leaked text was forwarded to former Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins by a third party before Joyce returned to the leadership of the National party last year.

Nine newspapers are reporting that Nationals MPs will tell the deputy prime minister to “lift his game” at a party room meeting tomorrow.

Meanwhile, WA emergency services have issued an emergency warning for the 100 or so residents of Hester, urging them to seek shelter before the fire arrives.

An emergency warning is also already in place for southwest WA, including Hester Brooke and Bridgetown in the Shire of Bridgetown-Greenbushes.


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