With that, we’ll be closing the blog for today. Thanks for reading, as always.
We’ll be back with the latest news tomorrow, and Amy Remeikis, will be back on Monday. Thanks to Mostafa Rachwani and Matilda Boseley as well for their work today.
Here is what happened today:
- A former Dfat secretary said Australia’s old relationship with China was “dead and buried”. Dennis Richardson said: “This will take 12 or 18 months to get back into a steady-state but the relationship we have had in the past, I think, is dead and buried.”
- The jury in Jarryd Hayne’s rape trial was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and will return next week to deliberate again.
- Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton hinted mask rules are likely to ease soon in the state. “I think it’s to be determined this weekend. But we will move to a phase where there is even more limited use of masks in public,” he said.
- NSW recorded no new locally acquired Covid-19 cases, a day after a hotel quarantine worker was confirmed as testing positive. Genomic sequencing has confirmed the woman was infected from someone recently returned from overseas rather than someone out in the Australian community.
- SA said it would ease restrictions on hospitality venues, with cafes and restaurants now allowed to seat one person every two square meters rather than every four.
- The federal government released a 1,300 page unclassified version of a review into Australia’s national intelligence network. Attorney general Christian Porter says the government will adopt 186 of the 190 unclassified recommendations.
- The Fraser Island bushfire continued to burn, affecting World Heritage areas, with more than three million litres of water and fire-retardant gel poured on the blaze,.
- The Victorian supreme court ruled that some media companies would have to defend their coverage of Cardinal George Pell’s sexual abuse trial in court. The court threw out charges against the Courier Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald and 2GB, but allowed charges against other companjies.
- The European Union criticised China in the fifth day of fallout over a controversial tweet from a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman that used a photoshopped image of alleged Australian war crimes. The EU called the tweet “irresponsible” and “insensitive” and revealed it had raised the issue directly with a Chinese vice-foreign minister.
- Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said no NSW resident should be too concerned about getting into Queensland for Christmas, with the border currently unlikely to reclose.
An update on the ongoing Fraser Island bushfire. Firefighters have now dumped more than 3m litres of water and fire-retardant gel on the fire, from water bombing aircraft.
The fire has burned for weeks, and destroyed almost half of the world heritage-listed site.
AAP has reported the latest figures, and says that loose soil on the island is causing the liquid to drain away quickly in the inaccessible, bush-covered dunes where the fire continues to burn on multiple fronts.
NSW Health has a minor update on the Covid case announced yesterday, which was contracted by a cleaner at a quarantine hotel.
No new cases have been detected today, but the woman did travel on a series of Sydney trains between 27 and 30 November.
NSW Health has confirmed that people who travelled in the same carriage as the woman are considered close contacts, and must self-isolate for the full 14 days, even if they initially receive a negative result.
People who travelled on the same service, but not the same carriage, should get tested and self-isolate until they receive their results.
As previously reported today, the genomic sequencing confirmed that the strain of the virus was from overseas.
NSW Health says that it “may be of United States origin” and the source of infection “may be international aircrew who were self-isolating in the hotel at the time”.
The agency is looking to identify potential Covid infections among aircrew who stayed at the hotel, but said “they may have since departed Australia”.
NSW Health said there had been no further cases at the hotel so far.
Employers to get power to change workers' hours, duties and location under new bill
Employers would gain powers to change employees’ hours, duties and location of work and to offer part-time workers extra hours without overtime rates under the Coalition’s industrial relations omnibus bill.
Under changes to be announced next week, the attorney general, Christian Porter, will propose flexibility provisions that mirror powers gained by employers accessing jobkeeper, extending them to all businesses with employees covered by 12 modern awards in industries hit hardest by Covid-19.
In a bid to allay union concern that Covid-19 will be used as cover for permanent changes, the industrial relations omnibus bill proposes a two-year limit on the powers to change hours, duty and location of work.
Porter’s draft bill also proposes that industries hardest hit by Covid-19, including retail, should gain “part-time flexibility”, allowing part-time workers working at least 16 hours per week to be offered extra hours at ordinary time rates without penalties or loadings.
On Friday an ACTU spokesperson said if part-time flexibility and powers to cut hours are included in the bill “it means that the government has sided with some of the more extreme suggestions from the employer lobby and embraced changes which would leave working people – the heroes of the pandemic – worse off”.
Hi all, Naaman Zhou here. Thanks to Mostafa Rachwani and Matilda Boseley for their work earlier today.
Here is the full story on the lack of a verdict in the Jarryd Hayne rape trial.
The jury will return to deliberate next week.
And with that I will leave you today in the very capable hands of Naaman Zhou. Thanks for joining me and enjoy your weekend.
Sabina Husic, the former deputy chief of staff to Anthony Albanese and sister of Labor frontbencher Ed Husic, has a new role as director of media for the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews. Husic worked for Andrews as deputy head of media during his first term.
Husic quit Albanese’s office in mid-November citing mental health concerns after a complaint was posted online that aired a series of uncorroborated claims against personnel in the federal opposition leader’s office. In her resignation letter, Husic said she had been the subject of “a malicious, false, fake and defamatory attack on my character”.
In a post to her Facebook on Friday, Husic said:
[I am] beyond thrilled. [Daniel Andrews] is one of the most thoroughly decent people I know, the folks who serve in his government are so incredibly talented, and it’s a team full of women who rise by lifting others. I can’t wait to be back there.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Andrews’ chief of staff, Lissie Ratcliff, welcomed Husic back in an email to staff on Friday:
Many of you will have worked with Sabina when she was part of our team early in the first term and know that she is a talented and strategic thinker who brings a deep understanding of the media landscape – and how it’s changing.
As our Friday winds down, I have another reading recommendation.
If you haven’t yet read Brigid Delaney’s latest yarn on toilet seats and coming home, it is most certainly worth a look:
A new study has narrowed down the three stages in life when alcohol consumption is most harmful.
People are most at risk of the negative effects of drinking before they are born, between 15 and 29, and after 65, according to an editorial by academics from the University of New South Wales, University of Sydney and Kings College in London.
These three periods in life are when the brain is undergoing dynamic changes, and is particularly sensitive to harm, lead author Dr Louise Mewton explained.
“There is an undeniable cumulative effect of alcohol use on cognitive health across the lifespan.”
The editorial said that even low or moderate drinking during pregnancy could be linked to poorer psychological and behavioural outcomes in children.
Adolescent drinking can also lead to poorer white matter development, small to moderate deficits in cognitive function and can even cause the brain to shrink.
They are also at a higher risk thanks to the demographic’s penchant for binge drinking, Mewton says.
Among the elderly, the dangers of alcoholism included being a strong risk factor in all types of dementia, particularly early onset.
Labor grills officials about alleged cash-for-visa scheme run by Daryl Maguire
In Senate Estimates, Labor has asked home affairs officials about the alleged cash-for-visa scheme run by the former New South Wales Liberal MP Daryl Maguire.
The deputy secretary of immigration and settlement services, Andrew Kefford, reveals that of the 14 people Maguire helped, nine are still in Australia and three now have Australian citizenship.
Labor’s Kristina Keneally is not happy.
Wow! That’s extraordinary. How did this get to the point where three people became citizens when it appears, from Mr Maguire, that he fraudulently got them into Australia? A Liberal member of parliament selling visas – and three become citizens? What sort of border control is this?
The chair, Amanda Stoker, reminds everyone that the alleged fraud hasn’t been proven in court. Kefford adds that if fraud is proven, there is an administrative process to revoke visas.
The home affairs secretary, Michael Pezzullo, says there is an ongoing criminal investigation but if visas are granted due to false credentials or fraudulent information “as a general principle they will be cancelled”. The law also allows people to be stripped of their Australian citizenship, and Pezzullo promises to “come down in a tough-minded way after we’ve done our processes”.
Another official defends the fact three became citizens, noting they did so before the investigation was opened on 8 October.
Former Dfat secretary says relationship Australia previously had with China is 'dead and buried'
The relationship Australia previously had with China is “dead and buried,” according to the former Dfat secretary and former Asio chief Dennis Richardson.
In an interview with ABC TV this afternoon, Richardson said a Chinese foreign ministry official’s now-notorious tweet was “appalling” and it was “a bit of a joke” for the deputy head of mission of the Chinese embassy to imply that Scott Morrison had overreacted.
“I would not take that remark seriously. It is simply self-serving.”
Richardson said the relationship between China and Australia was “going to bounce along the bottom for quite a while yet”.
“This will take 12 or 18 months to get back into a steady-state but the relationship we have had in the past, I think, is dead and buried.”
While Richardson’s language was blunt, his comments do reflect a view in official circles in Canberra that when Australia and China steer their way out of the current turbulence and find a landing point, the relationship will not be the same as it was in years gone by, when it was mainly focused on the growing economic ties.
Richardson – who is also a former defence department secretary and a former Australian envoy to Washington – said steadying the relationship would take work from both sides and required consistency of messaging.
It would also require China to accept that Australia would have a different view on certain issues, and was not going to change course on the Huawei 5G ban or the South China Sea issue.
“It will take an acceptance by China that we do have differences and it is important in any relationship to respect those differences.”
The Pacific’s chief diplomat, Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Dame Meg Taylor, singled out Australia in her speech to the Australasian Emission Reduction Summit.
While commending Australia’s commitments to greener technologies, Taylor said Australia’s federal government needed to match its state counterparts in committing to a net zero emissions target by the middle of the century, and to end subsidies for fossil fuels.
“The commitment of Australian state governments to net zero carbon by 2050 is a win for humanity and we look forward to that same ambition at the federal level.
“I would also go as far as to reaffirm our collective call … for a just transition from fossil fuels, including the phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”
Taylor, whose term as secretary general ends in January, said the island nations of the Pacific faced an existential threat from rising seas and a worsening climate crisis.
“I come from and speak on behalf of a region that is 96% ocean … the Blue Pacific Continent. Despite our negligible contribution to global emission levels, we are at the forefront of the battle against climate change.
“We need urgent, ambitious climate change action, at scale. Without this, we will lose our homes, our way of life, our well-being and our livelihoods.”
Australia is the largest and most influential of the Pacific Islands Forum countries, seen as a leader in development assistance and, particularly, in its regional Covid-19 response efforts.
But a schism between Australia and island nations over climate change action – with island leaders consistently disappointed by Australia’s lack of ambition on emissions reduction – has undermined Australia’s influence, and established a faultline in Pacific relations.
Jury in Jarryd Hayne rape trial struggles to reach unanimous verdict
The jury in Jarryd Hayne’s rape trial has been unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
AAP has the story:
The jury in former NRL star Jarryd Hayne’s rape trial has been unable to reach unanimous verdicts on two charges of aggravated sexual assault.
The jury sent a note to the Newcastle district court judge Peter Whitford at 3.20pm on Friday saying it was unable to agree on a decision after considering all the evidence.
Whitford said he would give the jury more time to re-examine the matters where they were in disagreement.
He gave the jury the option to continue its deliberations on Friday afternoon or to return on Monday.
The jury, which had asked for the transcript of the entire two-week trial on Thursday afternoon, elected to return on Monday.
Hayne, 32, has pleaded not guilty to two charges of aggravated sexual assault recklessly inflicting actual bodily harm.
Some farm workers have been paid just $3 an hour to pick blueberries on the NSW north coast, according to an investigation by the McKell Institute.
Backpackers and other migrants told the institute stories of exploitation, including pay well below minimum wage, seven-day working weeks and other mistreatment.
The Australian Workers’ Union national secretary, Daniel Walton, told AAP the idea that exploitation on farms was limited to a few bad apples needed to be put to bed.
“This shocking new report can be added to the mountain of research indicating that Australian farms have become a hotbed of wage theft, exploitation and worker abuse,” he said.
“It’s not just Coffs Harbour either – pick a spot on the map and you will find outrageous exploitation.”
The report says lockdowns around the country and around the world led to thousands of backpackers flocking to the region earlier this year with an oversupply of labour contrasting with other parts of Australia.
Walton has called for a royal commission into the issue, with the agriculture minister, David Littleproud, saying he would “never say never” but favours fixing the problem through strengthened and harmonised state laws.
On the topic of shopping, if you’re looking for help on what to get your loved ones for Christmas this year, look no further than our official good gift guide.
Featuring three fantastic guest editors, and an enormous range of ideas and gifts, separated by categories, benefits and mood, it really is your one stop shop:
It’s that time of year again, and shoppers are continuing to drive the country’s economic recovery.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released figures that revealed retail sales had lifted sharply to $29.6bn in October, up 1.4% compared with the previous month.
The ABS’s figures also showed sales had grown over the past year by 7.1%.
The bureau also said that Victoria’s reopening largely drove the spike, as the state’s strict second lockdown only eased a couple of weeks ago. Sales in the state were far higher than the rest of the country, up 5.1%.
Victoria’s chief health officer hints mask rules are likely to ease soon
Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, has indicated mask rules in Victoria are likely to ease soon, as the state recorded its 35th day of no new cases.
Currently Victorians still need to wear masks indoors and on public transport at risk of $200 fines, but Sutton told a Victorian parliamentary inquiry on Friday afternoon that while the decision around mask rules was ultimately a matter of policy for the Victorian government, it was possible it would change when the next set of restrictions to be eased were announced on Sunday.
“I think it’s to be determined this weekend. But we will move to a phase where there is even more limited use of masks in public,” he said.
But he noted recommendations for mask wearing were in place in other states even where it hasn’t been mandated as a form of insurance, given “we don’t know where another incursion [of Covid-19] into the country might come from”.
The health minister, Martin Foley, said the state of emergency declaration, which was due to expire this Sunday, would be extended again in order to provide the powers required to run hotel quarantine for returned travellers, which would return in Victoria next week.
Only 148 workers have taken up harvest jobs as part of a federal program that offers $6,000 for people to take up farm work.
The ABC is reporting the federal department of employment’s Relocation Assistance program has not had much take-up, as the summer harvest faces a worker shortage.
The program sought to encourage Australians who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic to take up farm work, and covered things like transport, accommodation and uniform.
The industry is facing a shortfall of 26,000 workers this harvest season due to the closure of international borders, potentially resulting in many of the fruits left to die on the vine.
It can be scary to see the extent of the coronavirus’s grip on the US:
Media companies to face trial over George Pell coverage
Media companies will be forced to defend their coverage of Cardinal George Pell’s sexual abuse trial in Victoria’s supreme court.
During a supreme court hearing on Friday, Justice John Dixon declined to throw out the case, paving the way for a trial.
Lawyers for the media companies had earlier argued there was a “devastating, bazooka-size hole” in the case to prosecute the journalists and media organisations over their reports on Pell’s child sex abuse convictions. They were later overturned by the high court.
But prosecutors say the companies breached suppression orders and other reporting rules following the initial guilty verdict.
The trial is set down to begin on 28 January.
Tasmania’s voluntary assisted dying legislation has moved a step closer to a final vote.
Tasmania is set to become the third Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying.
The state’s lower house voted for the reform to move to the next stage, although a final vote won’t be held until next year.
If the bill passes, the island state will join Victoria and Western Australia in legalising euthanasia.
The premier, Peter Gutwein, and his deputy, Jeremy Rockliff, were among those who backed the reform, despite voting against similar legislation three years ago.
The health minister, Sarah Courtney, spoke in support of the bill, saying she accepted there was a “range of views” in the community.
“We should not shy away from legislating voluntary assisted dying because it’s tricky.”
The reform has been backed by the biggest e-petition to be tabled in Tasmania’s parliament containing more than 13,000 signatures.
A lovely gesture now from Western Australia’s parliament, which has honoured Speaker Peter Watson on the last sitting day of the year.
Watson announced earlier this year he will not recontest his seat at the 2021 state election, 20 years after he entered parliament in February 2001.
Andrew Bolt is “leaving” Melbourne, and among the furore of hot takes, I’d encourage you to read my colleague Amanda Meade’s look at Bolt’s bolt, among other stories in the media this week:
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has urged caravan and RV owners to check for “deadly faulty water heaters” before hitting the road for the summer.
Some 18,139 affected heaters, which bear Suburban Recreational Vehicle branding, have been sold across Australia. These water heaters may emit carbon monoxide – a lethal, colourless, odourless gas.
While a recall from Coast to Coast was issued in 2019, the ACCC deputy chair, Delia Rickard, is concerned because “a large number of deadly heaters remain in caravans and RVs because owners have not yet contacted Coast to Coast for an inspection. Coast to Coast Caravan and Leisure has recalled these heaters due to the serious hazards they present. Owners should not take this issue lightly and act quickly.
“Do not use the affected water heaters in gas mode under any circumstances,” she warns.
“It’s especially important to check your caravan’s water heater as soon as possible if you plan to go away during the summer holidays. It only takes a minute and it could save the lives of your loved ones.”
The ACCC states: “Consumers can check if their heater is affected by opening the exterior access door to the hot water service and checking the model and serial number located on the right hand side. They should then enter the serial number at the Coast to Coast website.
“Consumers will not have to cover any costs related to the supply and installation of the new water heater, or any required associated work, such as the modification of cavity and gas and/or water lines.”
Someone has stolen 40 tonnes of grain from a farm near Dubbo.
AAP has the story:
A man is accused of stealing 40 tonnes of grain under the cloak of darkness from a property in central western New South Wales.
Police say the grain was stolen in the early hours of 30 November at Tullamore, south-west of Dubbo.
Around 3am, a prime mover and lead trailer carrying the grain rolled over about 70km away, near Narromine.
The grain spilled along the road and was then reloaded into the trailer, which was towed from the scene.
Police found more than 25 tonnes of grain after searching a property on McGrane Way at Narromine on Wednesday.
They seized the grain for forensic examination.
A 33-year-old man was arrested and taken to Parkes police station on Thursday.
He has been charged with larceny, negligent driving and entering enclosed agricultural lands to interfere with a business.
The state rural crime co-ordinator, Detective Chief Inspector Cameron Whiteside, has warned others from targeting farmers’ livelihoods.
“If you are a rural crime offender or have any inclination to prey on our farmers, you need to think again,” he said on Friday.
Victorians are being urged to rethink their outdoor plans this weekend, as the state braces for thunderstorms and strong winds.
Melbourne and major regional centres across the state are preparing for wind and damaging north to north-westerly winds with peak gusts up to 110km/h.
The State Emergency Service deputy chief officer, Alistair Drayton, has said that although this was atypical weather for early December, he urged residents to be careful.
“Don’t pitch tents,” he said. “Tragically (this) year we saw three people killed due to falling trees and branches and that’s something we definitely wish to avoid again.”
The SES warned people to steer clear of powerlines, flood water, debris and fallen trees if outside.
Good afternoon everyone, happy Friday, and a massive thank you to Matilda for guiding us through the morning.
I’ll be taking you through the news this afternoon, so let’s dive straight in.
With that, I might leave you for today, but don’t worry, Mostafa Rachwani will be here to take you through the rest of the day’s news.
Queensland is in for some real scorchers in the coming days, so it makes sense that the government would be putting out warnings to stay hydrated ...
But, like, is this a meme that I’m behind on, or does the Queensland Health department just not really understand how social media works?
Did anyone order more delightful native animal news from Adelaide?
You can read about the koala an Adelaide family found in their Christmas tree here:
And here is Porter’s response to those comments:
All relationships are a two-way street. One of the most important points that the prime minister has made is that a consistent part of our relationship with China is we have never had any interest whatsoever in the idea of in any way curtailing the economic growth of China because we have been a partner in the economic growth.
[The relationship] requires improvement obviously but there is nothing particularly, I think in recent times, that Australia would do any differently. The foundations for that improvement are there but there is a degree of patience that needs to be exercised in the process ...
When you look at the list of 14 grievances that the Chinese government has officially provided to describe what they perceive to be problems of the relationship, they are things that were done that they wish were not done in effect rather than suggestions for positive changes.
This is going to be a matter of ongoing dialogue and patience. Obviously a lot of work that will be required.
Christian Porter has just been asked what he thought of China’s recent comments to the ABC about Morrison’s response to an offensive tweet about the Australia Defence Force.
Before I bring you Porter’s response Daniel Hurst has this recap of what exactly was said:
A senior Chinese diplomat in Australia has questioned why Scott Morrison responded so strongly to the now-notorious tweet by a Chinese foreign ministry official earlier this week.
Wang Xining, China’s deputy head of mission in Australia, spoke to the ABC briefly after attending the speech by Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The ABC reporter Stephen Dziedzic tweeted this line from the exchange, in which Wang implied Morrison’s response had elevated the issue of alleged war crimes:
Now there is much larger visibility of the Brereton report in China. More people are attentive to what happened in Afghanistan. People wonder why a national leader would have such a strong response to an artwork by a normal young artist in China.”
Wang also argued the list provided by the Chinese embassy to the media last month - which had been characterised as a list of 14 grievances - was not a definitive list of demands, but “just some examples of what we disagree with”.
Here is the rest of Porter’s list of recommendations the government will not enact from the Richardson Review, continued:
Thirdly, an issue with respect to enabling the Parliamentary joint committee into intelligence and security to request the legality into the operation of a particular activity.
Dennis also wonders whether that joint bipartisan committee should have the ability and he determined it shouldn’t, reflecting the fact that oversight has always been by independent agencies, independent of both the agency and Parliament.
He did recommend that the [committee] may request the intelligence of director and security to investigate a particular matter and we disagreed with that recommendation. Our rationale is that there should be complete purity to maintaining the independence of oversight by agencies which are inside by independent of the executive.
The final issue was with the respect that at 187, it remained that ACIC should remain subject to the Freedom of information act and that was disagreed to that basically after ASIC was essentially the result of a merger... and material it is dealing with ACIC and should be independent.
Another numbered list! Here are all the recommendations that the government has not agreed to”
The first was with respect to a section called 13 B of the intelligence services act. Dennis Richardson recommended that not be extended. That section allows for ASIS to undertake activities to support ASIO...
Dennis recommended it not be extended but the government does not agree with that... one of his concerns here was not the fact of ASIS assistance but did not want there to be conflict or competition between two intelligence agencies working in Australia. We think that the better solution there is that the ASIS assistance under 13 B should occur at ASIO request so you don’t have the problem of competition onshore in Australia.
The second was with respect to whether or not the criminal code should be amended to give Australian Defence Force members immunity from telecommunications offences. The other agencies have immunity.
Dennis recommended it not be amended but my understanding that it was at the time of writing it was not clear why they needed those immunities. We agreed that we think it is likely there will be narrow circumstances where the defence possible need the same immunity is provided to other intelligence community that we believe more work needs to be done there.
Some more from Porter:
There are a total of 57 of the report’s recommendations that go to this issue of creating an electronic surveillance act and Mr Richardson considered that the existing recommendation is too complex and it has now been outpaced by technological developments.
The new act that he envisioned would replace and streamline acts such as the Telecommunications Access Act, the Surveillance Devices Act and also parts of the Australian Community Intelligence Organisation Act.
That in itself would be perhaps the biggest national security legislative project in recent history and it would require the repeal and rewriting of nearly 1,000 pages of the existing law on warrants, interception and telecommunications.
Even the author of the comprehensive review of the legal framework of the national intelligence community, Dennis Richardson, admits it is fairly hefty.
He writes in the first dozen or so pages of the tome:
This is a long report — over 1,300 pages across four volumes.
The terms of reference were extensive. The government allocated a budget of over $18 million and a full time secretariat of over 20 people worked on the review for about 18 months.
Very few readers of this report will have a need (or inclination!) to read the whole four volumes. But in addition to exploring and analysing the precise nature of proposed reforms in one of the most complex areas of legislation, the report provides a template for the reform process.
If you do have the inclination, the report is here.
Porter says there are three main findings from the Richardson Review:
The first was that the report found that the key principles that underpin intelligence legislation are sound and that they are enduring, just to say that we can still rely on those basic principles ...
The second basic finding, if I can put it that way, of the Richardson review, is that the legislative framework, while it is very complicated, when it is viewed as a whole, it is been well maintained and is largely fit for purpose ...
The third matter of principle is the report notes ... that our intelligence community is of the highest professional character and standards, that they operate with the highest degrees of professionalism, and that they have a very strong commitment and track record from exercising all of their powers and their operations and their functions inside the proper limits of the relevant governing law.
So I think with that in mind, what the Richardson report demonstrates is that there is not a need for sweeping or revolutionary change to the system, [but] that there are some areas where there needs to be change.
You have been hearing me mention the “unclassified” report all day, and that’s because there is a, significantly longer, version of the report, which civilians like you and I aren’t allowed to see.
Porter has spelled out the differences between those two.
There is a 1,600 page classified report which contains 203 recommendations. That report was delivered to the commonwealth late in December of 2019.
It then went over many months the process of creating a carefully declassified report and that is the report that the government is releasing today. The unclassified report is itself 1,300 pages and it sets out 190 recommendations ...
Only four of the recommendations - the 190 public recommendations - are not agreed to by government. Only four. The 13 classified recommendations, none of those we disagree to but, obviously, they are recommendations I can’t speak to in detail here.
Attorney general Christian Porter is speaking now about the release of the Richardson Review.
As noted in the House yesterday, there is no greater priority for our government and keeping Australians safe, and our national intelligence community is obviously central to that mission and needs to be properly resourced.
They also need to be furnished with the appropriate legislative tools and that’s been a core focus for our government ... the threat environment has changed remarkably since 2001 and is changing very rapidly at the moment.
If you look back to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, since that point in time, parliaments, under various governments, have passed collectively more than 124 acts amending the national intelligence community’s legislative framework, so I think that across both sides of politics there has not been complacency in ensuring that the legislative tools are there.
Here is an update on all the news that has unfolded so far today.
- NSW has recorded no new locally acquired Covid-19 cases, as the state waits to see if the infection of a hotel quarantine worker could grow into a cluster. Genomic sequencing has confirmed the woman was infected from someone recently returned from overseas rather than someone out in the Australian community.
- SA will ease restrictions on hospitality venues, with cafes and restaurants now allowed to seat one person every two square meters rather than every four. The state also recorded no new cases.
- The federal government has released a 1,300 page unclassified version of a review into Australia’s national intelligence network. Attorney general Christian Porter says the government will adopt 186 of the 190 unclassified recommendations.
- The Fraser Island bushfire continues to burn, with more than one million litres of water and fire-retardant gel on the blaze, and while firefighters bolster defence around a nearby holiday resort.
- The European Union has blasted China over an “irresponsible, insensitive” tweet about Australian military personnel as the regional bloc revealed it has raised the issue directly with a Chinese vice-foreign minister.
- Finally, Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says no NSW resident should be too concerned about getting into Queensland for Christmas, with the border currently unlikely to re-close.
I mentioned previously that restrictions on hospitality venues in SA have been relaxed. It seems local cafes are excited by the news.
Japan’s embassy in Australia has reiterated that trade should never be used as a political tool, in response to questions about the tensions between China and Australia.
Guardian Australia has been contacting a range of countries to seek their views on the current dispute, after Scott Morrison said earlier this week that the rest of the world was watching how the tensions were playing out.
Japan’s embassy did not comment on the Chinese foreign ministry official’s tweet, but did make some broader remarks about the trade tensions and the prospect of an Australian challenge to barley tariffs via the World Trade Organization.
The embassy reinforced a point made by Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese prime minister, and Morrison after their recent talks in Tokyo. In a statement issued this morning, the embassy said: “Trade should never be used as a tool to apply political pressure as PM Suga and PM Morrison have said.
“Japan understands there are processes Australia and China as member nations can follow to state their case to the WTO. Australia has not brought their case to the WTO yet. Japan will duly consider how to exercise our third party rights if Australia proceeds with their case to the WTO.”
Trade experts have told the Guardian the WTO procedure would allow Australian allies partners to express their support, both rhetorically and also through the provision of technical analysis.
Earlier today, the European Union did not speculate on whether it would consider reserving its third party rights and offering its support to Australia in a WTO case. But the EU’s spokesperson criticised China over what it called an “irresponsible, insensitive” tweet about Australian military personnel as the regional bloc revealed it had raised the issue directly with a Chinese vice-foreign minister.
AAP has published this update on the Fraser Island bushfires:
Firefighters are bolstering defences on Fraser Island against a long-running bushfire that has destroyed almost half of the world heritage-listed national park.
Water bombers have dumped more than one million litres of water and fire-retardant gel on the blaze, which has razed 81,500 hectares of vegetation since being sparked by an illegal campfire seven weeks ago.
But the loose soil on the world’s largest sand island is causing the liquid to drain away quickly in the inaccessible bush-covered dunes where the fire continues to burn on multiple fronts.
One front is burning about two kilometres east-north-east of the popular holiday spot Kingfisher Bay Resort.
Guests were evacuated on Monday and most staff followed late on Wednesday.
Seven workers remain at the site to look after the firefighters, who have since moved in. On the eastern side of the island, the fire is about 4km west of the Happy Valley community.
Water-bombing from aircraft will continue throughout Thursday night, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said.
QFES warned those on Fraser Island that conditions could rapidly deteriorate, and they should prepare to leave at a moment’s notice.
A “watch and act” alert is currently in place.
“Ground crews are being assisted by water bombers and heavy plant equipment to strengthen a fire break along Cornwells Road as a southern containment line,” a QFES spokesman said on Thursday.
“People in the vicinity of Eli Creek, Yidney Rocks, The Oakes and Poyungan Valley should stay informed as the fire continues to burn in inaccessible terrain.”
Authorities warn a persistent heatwave could see weather conditions deteriorate. QFES took over management of the fire from the national park’s ranger service on Friday.
It immediately ordered tourists to stay away from the island, closing access to all people except residents and essential workers.
Visitors already on the island have been told to stay close to campsites and avoid travelling on inland tracks and roads.
The Australian competition watchdog’s latest review of broadband speeds on the national broadband network (NBN) reveals that in busy hours of the evenings in October, people were able to achieve between 84.8% and 98.5% of the download speeds they were paying for.
This is the highest result the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has seen since it started reviewing broadband speeds, chair Rod Sims said on Friday.
For those not connected to the NBN via satellite or wireless, Sims said the network largely held up with people working from home, in large part due to NBN Co offering up to 40% extra broadband capacity to retailers to ensure they wouldn’t suffer from congestion.
“NBN Co’s decision to temporarily waive charges for up to 40 per cent extra capacity for [retailers] in the form of increased connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) has played a key role in supporting broadband speeds during the pandemic,” Sims said.
That discount came to an end this month, but NBN Co is attempting to prevent issues by giving retailers transition credits this month and next.
The report found that people connecting via fibre-to-the-node still were not getting the speeds promised for those on 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and 100Mbps download plans.
Speeds were between 10 and 20% lower than what was being paid for, Sims said.
“Although most consumers have already benefited from increased download speeds, those on FTTN connections are continuing to experience lower than expected speeds,” Mr Sims said.
“Good progress has already been made on addressing this issue with the proportion of underperforming services in our sample falling from 13.9% in May 2018 to 8.1% in October 2020.”
Wow, have a look at this absolutely insane air traffic flight path map, showing all the water bombing flights over K’gari/Fraser Island.
One million litres of water have already been dropped and the fire is still burning.
If you want to get up to date on everything going on on the island, check out Graham Readfearn’s update here.
Porter’s statement has laid out a range of other recommendations from the Richardson Review which the government plans to take onboard.
- Creating a new framework for Asio’s offshore activities “in order to strengthen ministerial accountability”.
- Streamlining the emergency warrant framework.
- Improving oversight over the sector by embedding it into new legislation
- Establishing an independent panel to “provide technical expertise and assistance to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.”
Landmark intelligence report released
The government has released an unclassified version of the Comprehensive Review of the Legal Framework of the National Intelligence Community, also known as the Richardson Review, a landmark 1,300 page report on the Australian intelligence system.
Attorney general Christian Porter’s office has released a statement on the report:
Mr Richardson found that the key principles underpinning Australia’s intelligence and security legislation are sound and enduring.
The Government has continuously strengthened the laws that govern the National Intelligence Community to deal with emerging threats, changes in technology and agencies’ operating environments.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the Australian Parliament has passed more than 124 Acts amending the National Intelligence Community’s legislative framework.
Porter says the report affirms that the framework has been “well-maintained and is largely fit for purposes”, but will still make reforms.
The Government will take forward a number of targeted reforms based on the Richardson Review and has agreed in full, part or principle to 186 of the 190 unclassified recommendations.
Porter has promised to modernise the framework an ensure it’s able to effectively govern electronic surveillance activities.
The Telecommunications Act was developed in 1979. It has lasted remarkably well, but is no longer fit for purpose in the digital world of the internet, smartphones and end-to-end encryption.
This will be one of the biggest national security legislative projects in recent history – requiring the repeal and rewriting of nearly 1,000 pages of laws.
Some photos of this morning’s rescue of two men who went missing on a boat near Kangaroo Island. Both have been located and taken to hospital.
Hazzard said that it’s likely that those who travelled on the same public transport services as the infected hotel quarantine worker, may be released from isolation later today.
As the premier has said in the past, when we are having returning travellers coming in from some of the most virus-infested countries in the world, you have to expect that on occasions we might have some challenges. But as long as we can trace, we can track, we can isolate, that is what our gold standard health teams do. It removes our worries.
The health team is currently reviewing whether or not we need to have any advisories for people on the trains but it is very likely that we will be able to lift that advisory later today.
NSW infection: virus came from overseas.
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard is speaking now:
So, important message. The virus is not part of our locally transmitted viruses, it appears it has come from overseas, we have more work to do to work out where it has come from, but highly likely it came from possibly the hotel or possibly aircrew that of course can stay overnight, stay for a few days, before they turn around and go back overseas.
We will do some more work and report back to the community but is extremely good news for all of us in Health and the New South Wales community. I was literally just a minute or two ago about this outcome, and it is a massive relief, massive relief my point of view as Health Minister.
But we still have work to do, we still have work to determine which aircrew or person from overseas, possibly in the hotel, managed to transmit it and how to stop that. So I will work on that, but definitely not a locally transmitted virus.
No new locally acquired Covid-19 cases in NSW
NSW has recorded only one new locally acquired Covid-19 case on Friday, but due to how the numbers in the state are counted this is actually the infected hotel quarantine cleaning worker that was heavily reported on Thursday.
(This is because NSW’s daily count include all cases from the 24 hours preceding 8pm the night before.)
This is a positive sign as it shows this infection has not yet progressed into a cluster, although it’s important to remember that those infected with the virus may take several days to return a positive result.
The state also reported five cases from returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
No local Covid-19 cases again in Queensland.
In an extra Senate Estimates session today, Labor has been asking the Australian Federal Police about rightwing extremism.
Earlier, home affairs minister Peter Dutton argued at a doorstop that it doesn’t matter what the ideological source of violence is.
I’m very worried about, as I’ve pointed out before, the extreme right-wing extremism, Islamic extremism. I know that the Labor Party seem to make some differential between the two. They’re not. I mean if there’s a lunatic who’s preaching some Neo-Nazi propaganda or some perverted, you know, interpretation of the Quran, and they’re with the same desire to hurt Australians; they get treated exactly the same by me and by ASIO and by our agencies.
... We are here to keep Australians safe. There are people seeking to do us harm and I’m not getting into silly, stupid, petty arguments or discussions about that sort of interpretation.
At Estimates, the AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw confirmed the agency takes rightwing extremism seriously, citing the conviction and 12-year imprisonment of Phillip Galea and a string of arrests in NSW as evidence.
Kershaw provided cover for Dutton by arguing that although the AFP is concerned by “people’s intent to cause harm and violence in our community” it “doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, [it’s the fact of] planning harm through violence we do take that seriously”.
Labor noted that there are differences between rightwing extremism and other forms such as Islamic-inspired violence.
Kershaw agreed that rightwing groups are less structured, but more likely to have firearms, but questioned the “value” of making comparisons about the threat from Islamic extremists with a pipe bomb or a rightwing extremist with a firearm.
Those in region Victoria watch out, a severe weather and damaging winds warning has just been issued for much of the state.
Terrorism and espionage laws are set for further overhaul following the release of a landmark report, reports the AAP.
The Morrison government is releasing a 1,300-page report by former intelligence chief Dennis Richardson and its response to his recommendations.
The government has rolled out 19 tranches of national security laws over the past seven years. But changes to telecommunications and the internet are presenting challenges to intelligence agencies and police.
“We have to continually be testing whether the legislation, the principles and the structure that underpins the intelligence community are all fit for purpose,” attorney general Christian Porter said.
Porter said while the review found laws were sound, there was room for improvement.
There is going to be a need for an ongoing evolution in Australia’s security agencies.
Richardson also produced a classified version of the report.
Home affairs minister Peter Dutton, who is responsible for domestic security agencies, said their legislated powers must keep up with new technologies in order to keep people safe.
The threat of violent extremists is still with us. These people are still plotting and planning to kill Australians and we need to make sure that legislation we have in place is fit for purpose.
Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, says the country will be true to its values at it seeks to shape the Indo-Pacific region.
“Australia will compete constructively,” she said.
Payne said sometimes commentary in the media suggested strategic competition between China and the US was the whole story, but it was not.
“None of us is a bystander and Australia certainly won’t be.”
Payne said Australia had agency and influence in shaping the region. Australia’s vision for the Indo-Pacific included an open and inclusive region.
In an address to the foreign diplomatic corps in Canberra, Payne said the world had changed dramatically over the past two decades. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Indo Pacific, she said.
Payne said the coronavirus had no interest in international politics, so cooperation was vital. She said the world could be buoyed by positive vaccine developments.
The attendees at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade include Wang Xining, China’s deputy head of mission.
“Taking the easy road today won’t make life any better for those Australians who will see the next century.”
Payne said Australia was working through a range of forums and groupings.
She said Scott Morrison and his ministers had been “in virtual overdrive” to deepen ties with a range of countries including India, Japan, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Vietnam. Australia was also pushing for EU and UK trade agreements.
South Australia has now gone six days since the last case related to the Parafield cluster has been recorded, with no new cases today.
You may remember that one of the main controversies of the cluster was a hotel security guard allegedly lying about working at a local pizza shop, causing the whole state to go into lockdown (imagine reading that sentence in 2019!).
Well, police commissioner Grant Stevens has been asked at a press conference if contact tracing enforcement systems need to be reviewed as there is currently no penalty for lying to health officials (besides the state premier public shaming you on national TV I guess).
My advice to the community is to support the contact tracing effort because it is in your best interests, it is in the interests of the people you care about and the wider community.
We understand people struggle about recalling specific information about their activities and we have mechanisms to support them in remembering who they have been in contact with and where they have been.
It is in their best interest to tell the truth to support the process and that is what we require of the community. We have done a fantastic job in the community so far and we want people to keep doing that.
Stevens has been asked why the decision to allow more customers in hospitality venues wasn’t made earlier in the week in order to give small business time to prepare for the weekend.
I can tell you now that we were talking about this on Tuesday in the transition committee and the health advice was much stronger in relation to any relaxation at that point in time.
As I said, we review this constantly and the decision to allow one person per two square metres in hospitality is being made effective immediately because we appreciate that there are some businesses that can take advantage of that now.
We don’t hold onto these decisions until it suits us to announce them. It is constantly reviewed. We make these decisions and we announce them and in this particular case, we determined not to wait until we have updated the Covid-safe plans.
SA hospitality restrictions relaxed
South Australian officials are giving a Covid-19 update now.
Police commissioner Grant Stevens is speaking about restrictions:
It was made clear by Professor Nicola Spurrier that the preferred way forward moving into the next phase of this particular response is that we retain social distancing of one person per four square metres across the board and that we reconsider our position as we move into next week, aiming for a potentially earlier relaxation of those restrictions on Friday next week...
Also looking at the economic and social factors in relation to the restrictions that are currently in place and the advice from the transition committee as a whole was that the best course of action would be to move to a distancing requirement of one person per two square metres hospitality.
Other activities are still restricted to one person per four square metres but given the economic implications, the impact on employment, the current time of the year, our current performance with the Parafield cluster and the new measures we have in place to enhance contact tracing, my decision has been that we will endorse a one person per two square metre rule for hospitality, particularly.
As I mentioned before, travellers on a number of public transport services in Sydney are being urged to get tested immediately and self-isolate until further instruction.
This comes after a hotel quarantine worker was diagnosed with Covid-19 after several days of travelling to work via train and light rail while potentially infectious.
Here is a list of those locations.
Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, is about to address the foreign diplomatic corps in Canberra about the Indo-Pacific.
Essentially she’ll be speaking to the ambassadors and senior representatives of other countries who have diplomatic representation in Australia.
The attendees at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade include Wang Xining, China’s deputy head of mission, who addressed the National Press Club a few months back.
Payne’s office has billed this as an important keynote speech. We’ll have more details soon.
New South Wales police have paid out more than $100m in relation to legal settlements over the past four years but in most cases details of the suits were never made public due to confidentiality clauses that prevent victims speaking about alleged officer misconduct.
Figures obtained by the NSW upper house Greens MP David Shoebridge show the amount paid to settle claims against officers each year dwarfs the official sums reported by NSW police.
In the past four financial years police in the state have settled more than 1,000 civil cases. The settlements cover a sweeping range of misconduct claims, including unlawful searches, illegal arrests, false imprisonment, assault and harassment. The figure includes legal costs as well as damages paid to plaintiffs.
The cost of the payments to taxpayers has never dropped below $20m a year, peaking at $32.6m in 2016-17. In the past four years NSW police have handed out $113.5m to settle claims.
Read the full report below:
EU condemns China over 'irresponsible' tweet
The European Union has blasted China over an “irresponsible, insensitive” tweet about Australian military personnel as the regional bloc revealed it has raised the issue directly with a Chinese vice-foreign minister.
A senior EU official told the Guardian the EU regretted the recent deterioration in ties between China and Australia – which has seen Beijing take a series of trade actions against Australian exports – and called on the two sides to “re-engage in dialogue, avoid escalation and unilateral pressure”.
The statement from the EU comes after the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France and New Zealand criticised the actions of a Chinese foreign ministry official official in tweeting a digitally created image depicting an Australian soldier cutting the throat of a child in Afghanistan.
“We consider the deliberate dissemination of a fabricated image via social media accounts affiliated with China’s ministry of foreign affairs to be irresponsible, insensitive and not at all constructive, particularly given the subject in question,” Nabila Massrali, the EU’s spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, told the Guardian on Friday.
Read the full report below:
Does anyone else feel like after a very tough year we all have earnt some very silly news?
Amazing news! Those two men who were missing off Kangaroo Island have now been found.
A police helicopter has spotted the men on North Pages Island, waving up at the pilot.
I assume teams have now been dispatched to rescue the men and I’ll keep you updated on how that goes.
Queensland border unlikely to close to NSW
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says no NSW resident should be too concerned about getting into Queensland for Christmas the AAP reports.
The premier said she was “very happy” with the progress NSW is making to track down the source of a coronavirus case, abating fears Queensland could again shut the border after a Sydney hotel quarantine worker contracted the virus.
“Our chief health officers are speaking regularly and they’re very happy with the contact tracing that is happening at the moment,” Palaszczuk told Nine’s Today show on this morning.
We are watching it carefully to see if it turns into a cluster outbreak but at the moment there’s no need for any concern from anyone, so continue with your plans.
We’re monitoring it closely and if anything changes we will let people know.
Queensland only reopened its border to travellers from Greater Sydney on Tuesday.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday said breaches of hotel quarantine were bound to happen, noting the state was due to welcome back its 100,000th returned traveller within days.
This is a real test for NSW but I’m confident if we continue the path we’re on, that we will pass this test yet again.
The mother of a 19-year-old who died from a drug overdose at a music festival has urged the New South Wales premier to change the state’s laws by allowing police to let people off with warnings when caught with small amounts of drugs.
Jennie Ross-King’s daughter Alex died in January 2019 after she took an unusually high amount of MDMA before arriving at a festival because she was afraid of being caught with the drugs by police.
Her death was one of six examined in a landmark inquest before the NSW deputy coroner Harriet Grahame last year. It helped lead to Grahame’s finding that high-visibility policing tactics such as drug dogs and “large scale” strip-searching at music festivals “increases rather than decreases” the risks associated with drugs.
On Thursday, Ross-King told the Guardian that a proposal being considered by the NSW government to change drug laws in the state by introducing a warning system for people caught in possession of a small amount of drugs was “absolutely” a good idea.
Read the full story below:
A search is underway for two men missing in waters off Kangaroo Island.
The men are believed to have left Cape Jervis, south of Adelaide, on Thursday afternoon heading to Cape Willoughby, on the island’s east coast, to go fishing.
They were meant to be back around four hours later but they never returned.
Search efforts include the use of a South Australia police helicopter while a plane is also expected to join from Victoria.
Along with going 35 days without an infection, Victoria is set to reach another milestone on Monday, with five international flights landing at Melbourne airport as the state’s hotel quarantine program restarts for overseas travellers.
The flights from Singapore, Hong Kong, Colombo and Doha will touch down at Tullamarine throughout the day and carry a total of about 125 passengers, AAP reports.
The new arrivals will then be transported to quarantine for 14 days as part of the new-look program, which has been overhauled after outbreaks from two hotels sparked Victoria’s deadly second coronavirus wave.
It is being overseen by newly established agency Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) under Corrections Commissioner Emma Cassar, who will report to police minister Lisa Neville.
There will be no private security guards involved, with all staff employed or directly contracted by CQV, with the exception of cleaning staff, who are on fixed-term contracts with Alfred Health.
About 300 Victoria police officers and 220 Australian Defence Force personnel will also be embedded in the hotels each day.
Arrivals to Victoria are initially capped at 160 travellers a day, with the lucky few required to pay about $3,500 per adult for their mandatory two-week stay.
They won’t be able to leave their rooms for fresh air or exercise breaks, while food and care packages will no longer be permitted.
Victoria 35 days virus free
Victoria has been virus-free for so long it’s hardly even news when they record a day with no cases.
But never the less, I shall be celebrating the 35th doughnut day in a row!
I mentioned before that the UK was preparing for a wide-scale rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine. Are you slightly confused as to how they have managed to do this so fast, or why they seem to be ahead of everyone else? Honestly same.
But never fear, the amazing Melissa Davey crafted a comprehensive explainer to get us all up to speed. Give it a read below:
Pell contempt decision to be handed down this afternoon
Prosecutors will learn today if they’ve properly established a case against journalists for reporting on Cardinal George Pell’s abuse convictions, reports the AAP.
Media lawyers have argued there is a “devastating, bazooka-size hole” in the theory behind the prosecution of journalists and media organisations for reports after Cardinal Pell’s 2018 convictions.
The five child sexual abuse convictions were overturned by the high court earlier this year and Cardinal Pell has since returned to Rome.
More than two dozen media organisations, reporters and editors were charged with contempt over breaches of suppression orders and other reporting rules in the days after the guilty verdict.
But media lawyers say the prosecution must fail because it relies on publications and broadcasts having a tendency to encourage people to view international news stories naming Cardinal Pell.
Every charge would fail unless it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that all or some of the overseas articles could be found with simple online searches by people who read, saw or heard the stories at the centre of the case. Prosecutors waited four days before doing a Google search that turned up four overseas news articles – all which post-date most of the Australian articles.
Matt Collins QC said other searches in late December were examples of confirmation bias, using the Americanism “gag order” which was used in international news stories but not in the Australian ones.
“This is a devastating, bazooka-size hole in the case theory behind all of these charges,” he said.
Crown prosecutor Lisa De Ferrari disputed the case, and pointed to clear allegations that the articles in question had breached suppression orders. A Herald Sun article had published information “derived from the trials”, which was expressly forbidden, she said.
Justice John Dixon will hand down his decision on Friday afternoon. If he rejects the no case submissions, media lawyers will move on to presenting their defence.
As the country waits to see if NSW’s new Covid-19 infection has spread West Australian premier Mark McGowan says he will take the weekend to assess his options when it comes to opening the border to NSW and Victoria.
WA is scheduled to open up to the states from next Tuesday, dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement for travel from those states.
But the timeline is in doubt after a Sydney hotel quarantine worker contracted the virus, ending the state’s 26-day streak without a single new community case.
Urgent genomic testing is underway to determine how the woman contracted the virus, with an update likely coming today.
Depending on the scale of the NSW outbreak and risk of further transmission, WA could also delay reopening its border to neighbouring Victoria.
“The NSW government is confident they have it under control but we want to see and make sure that the evidence supports that before we make a final decision,” McGowan said.
“Obviously if the chief health officer recommends that we delay opening to NSW, then that is the decision we will make.”
Global Covid-19 death toll surpasses 1.5 million
More than 1.5 million people have lost their lives due to Covid-19 with one death reported every nine seconds on a weekly average, as vaccinations are set to begin in December in a handful of developed nations.
Reuters reports that 500,000 deaths occurred in just the last two months, indicating that the severity of the pandemic is far from over. Nearly 65 million people globally have been infected by the disease and the worst affected country, the US, is currently battling a third wave of coronavirus infections.
In the last week alone, more than 10,000 people in the world died on average every single day, which has been steadily rising each passing week. Many countries across the world are now fighting second and third waves even greater than the first, forcing new restrictions on everyday life.
If you a keen for more global Covid-19 updates, check out the Guardian’s global live blog.
As Melbourne goes more than a month without a Covid-19 infection, New South Wales eases restrictions further and South Australia’s Parafield cluster slowly fades into memory, it seems the country is finally settling into the much-anticipated “Covid normal”.
But as the perception of threat eases, experts say health authorities must find a balance between mitigating risk and keeping the public on side.
Prof Nancy Baxter, head of the school of population and global health at the University of Melbourne, says there is a real risk of governments overstepping and risking widespread refusal to comply with remaining restrictions.
“You saw this during the height of the second wave when the [Victorian] government were digging in their heels about continuing the curfew long after it seemed to have done its job,” Baxter says. “By not easing that, people kind of started saying ‘Well, why do we have to do this?’. It started bringing more of the restrictions into question.”
You can read my full story on how the government should handle this next stage in the Covid-19 pandemic below:
Good morning, Matilda Boseley here. It’s nearly the end of the week and what better way to reach the finish line than to stick around on the Guardian live blog and get all your much-needed news updates, Covid-19 or otherwise.
First up, Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has criticised the Brereton report, which he says was filled with “unproven rumours” of Australian soldiers murdering Afghan children, saying the report has given China an opening to malign Australian troops.
Hastie also took aim at Twitter for refusing to take down an inflammatory tweet by a Chinese foreign ministry official, suggesting Australia was experiencing “a toxic mix of economic coercion and political disinformation enabled by Silicon Valley social media oligarchs in the United States”.
In other news:
- NSW is waiting with bated breath to see if an infection breach in their hotel quarantine system will result in a cluster. A cleaner at one of the hotels has developed Covid-19, and while her family have all so far tested negative she was working across multiple worksites and used public transport on days when she may have been infectious. A number of people have been ordered to self-isolate.
- Today we have learnt Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg billed taxpayers almost $5,000 to take the prime minister’s private jet on a whirlwind trip to Sydney on the night of Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas party last year, leaving Canberra after 6pm, attending the Bellevue Hill soiree and then returning to the capital before 9am the next morning.
- The UK will be the first country to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine beyond stage-three clinical trials with 800,000 doses to be given to high-priority people, including healthcare workers and the vulnerable, from next week. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the same one Australia will roll out from March. The two-shot vaccine is also being assessed by the US drug regulator, and a similar authorisation is expected to be made shortly for a rollout in mid-December.
- We are also waiting on the environment and emission reductions minister, Angus Taylor, to make the keynote address at an emissions conference, so we will bring you all the updates on that as it happens.
If you see any news that you think should be on here, don’t hesitate to shoot me a message on Twitter, @MatildaBoseley, or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.