That's it for today, thanks for reading

Here are the main stories on Friday, 20 August:

The Queensland government could be a step closer to introducing euthanasia laws in the state, AAP reports:

A parliamentary committee that delved deeply into the views of Queenslanders has recommended a landmark bill on assisted dying be passed. The proposed legislation will now go to parliament for debate.

The health and environment committee considered the opinions of 6,000 people and organisations who made submissions or appeared at five public hearings across the state.

Chair Aaron Harper said it was a privilege to have heard deeply personal stories from so many people who had watched their loved ones suffer terribly with terminal illnesses.

“After hearing from so many Queenslanders, who told us of their support for a voluntary assisted dying scheme ... we are recommending the bill be passed,” he wrote in the committee’s report, tabled on Friday.

He acknowledged not everyone would be pleased with the committee’s position.

“Such an emotive and sensitive subject will result in divergent views. As a democratic society, we must respect that some will be opposed to a voluntary assisted dying scheme for a variety of reasons that are important to them.”

The major parties have granted their MPs conscience votes when the bill goes before parliament later in the year.

• In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at


Well this is fairly bleak.

We are so sorry.

​The level of demand for our services was so overwhelming and traffic grew so large, reaching as far as the West Gate Bridge, we were advised by the Police that our drive-thru became an issue of public safety and we had to close up early. Stay safe everyone.

— Foodbank Victoria (@FoodbankVic) August 20, 2021

Among the raft of changes announced by the NSW government today was a change to how businesses will have to test essential workers in western Sydney LGAs of concern.

Due to pressure on testing capacity, the government has abandoned the 72-hour regular surveillance testing for workers from Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland and Fairfield travelling outside of their LGAs for work.

Instead, businesses will now have to implement rapid antigen testing on their worksites, or workers will have to have their first vaccine dose by 30 August.

David Borger, the executive director of Business Western Sydney, has criticised how this policy has shifted responsibility onto small businesses.

As of Friday evening, the NSW government had not yet released any information about how small businesses can acquire rapid antigen tests. The requirement takes effect from Monday.

Borger said:

The engine room of Sydney is western Sydney. Without the businesses and workers engaging in essential work, Sydney will cease functioning.

For the people of western Sydney who have been adhering to the ever-changing Covid rules during this outbreak, it is turning into a tale of two cities: those who can work from home versus those who cannot due to the nature of their work.

Rapid antigen testing is just one tool we can utilise in combating this virus. The onus of the cost and compliance should not be placed at the foot of the thousands of small businesses in western Sydney who are doing the right thing and are already near or at breaking point.”


The federal and state energy ministers have met to discuss proposed reforms to Australia’s electricity market rules.

In a statement late on Friday, the federal energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, said ministers had discussed the Energy Security Board’s final recommendations for a post-2025 electricity market design and would meet again in September to agree to the final package of reforms. Taylor said:

Ministers agreed there was a critical need to strengthen investment signals for dispatchability in the market and agreed on the need to move to detailed design work.

It was also recognised that the mechanism should encourage investment in new replacement capacity and prevent premature loss of capacity.

Tristan Edis of Green Energy Markets said if the government wanted to strengthen investment signals for the private sector then the best thing it could do would be to make clear it would not bail out ageing coal generators.

Edis has co-authored a report that warns households could see their power bills rise if they are forced to pay coal and gas plants to keep running. He said:

Stop and think for a second – why would you invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new power plants to fill the gap from retiring coal if in the end government stops those coal plants from retiring and ends up subsidising them to compete against you?

But it gets worse for investors because the government isn’t just going to subsidise coal power plants but also fund the construction of other power plants to compete against you like the Kurri Kurri and Tallawarra B gas power plants, as well as hydro. You’d be mad to invest in new dispatchable power plants in this environment.


A key anti-lockdown protest organiser has been sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison for helping plan an “unauthorised” demonstration in Sydney, as well as multiple breaches of public health orders.

Anthony Khallouf, 29, one of the organisers of last month’s anti-lockdown protests and a key figurehead in the broader movement surrounding it, was arrested by police in Sydney on Thursday after travelling from Queensland in breach of public health orders.

Read the full story here:


The Western Australian premier, Mark McGowan, has spoken about the quite extraordinary escalation in how his state will treat those from New South Wales.

The WA government will classify NSW as an extreme risk, meaning not even compassionate grounds will be enough for a travel permit. Those who do receive permits will have to spend 14 days in quarantine, return a negative test, and have had at least one dose of vaccine.

McGowan said:

That means West Australians who want to come home need to do so now. The timing of the reclassification means West Australians will have more than five days to do what they are required to do to get home.

We understand some people may be finding it difficult to have a test result returned in the 72-hour period, given the problems in NSW. That’s why WA Police and WA Health will accept a negative test result outside of that timeframe if the test was taken over recent days.

I understand this maybe an anxious time for some. The risk in NSW is too big and we need to take new steps to protect Western Australia to keep our state safe.


We’re not expecting the prime minister to speak again today, so the statement is it out of national cabinet.

Scott Morrison releases statement after meeting of national cabinet

There is seemingly not much in the way of news in this just-released statement from the prime minister, but here it is anyway:

National cabinet statement

The national cabinet met today for the 52nd time to discuss Australia’s Covid-19 response, recent outbreaks of Covid-19 and the Australian Covid-19 vaccine strategy.

National cabinet continues to work together to address issues and find solutions for the health and economic consequences of Covid-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 42,228 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 974 people have died. More than 28.9 million tests have been undertaken. Testing has increased nationally over recent days with 1,410,219 tests reported in the past 7 days.

Globally there have been over 209.9 million cases and sadly over 4.4 million deaths, with 665,241 new cases and 9,554 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to surge in many countries around the world.

Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues to expand. To date 16.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including 303,304 in the previous 24 hours.

In the previous 7 days, more than 1.7 million vaccines have been administered in Australia. More than 51% of the Australian population aged 16 years and over have now had a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including over 74.1% of over 50-year-olds and more than 84.5% of over 70-year-olds.

More than 28.8% of Australians aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated including more than 42.2% of over 50-year-olds and more than 55.8% of Australians over 70 years of age.

Chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly provided an update on current outbreaks of Covid-19. The chief medical officer has announced a number of hotspots across Australia including greater Sydney and rural NSW, greater Melbourne and the Australian Capital Territory.

Leaders noted the health system capacity in place is able to support the current outbreaks.

Lieutenant General John Frewen, coordinator-general of Operation Covid Shield, provided an update on the vaccine rollout.

All leaders reiterated the importance of Australians, especially those in vulnerable groups, to get a Covid-19 vaccination. Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines are registered for use in Australia and are proven to be effective in preventing serious illness and death, as well as limiting transmission.

National cabinet noted the work under way through the Covid-19 Risk Analysis and Response Taskforce report and the Doherty modelling for the national plan to transition Australia’s national Covid response.

National cabinet further noted work of the Data and Digital Ministers Meeting around incorporating the proof of vaccination status into existing state and territory check-in apps to assist with contact tracing, noting that it will be optional for individuals to include their vaccination status.

National cabinet agreed to meet next on Friday, 27 August 2021.

Afghanistan – Evacuees

National cabinet noted the efforts under way to evacuate Australian citizens and permanent residents and their families, and humanitarian visa holders, including Afghan locally engaged employees, from Afghanistan given the rapidly changing situation.

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan necessitates urgent action and that securing the safe and orderly departure of Australians and humanitarian visa holders was a high priority.

The prime minister noted that jurisdictions were working very closely together to support the evacuation efforts and thanked them for providing 935 quarantine places, above caps, to returned travellers from Afghanistan.

The commonwealth will provide resettlement services for humanitarian visa holders in each Australian jurisdiction, which will include specialist physical and mental health services for vulnerable travellers requiring extra support.

National Freight Movement Protocol and Code

National cabinet noted that transport ministers have agreed to an updated Freight Movement Protocol and Code that delivers a streamlined and more consistent approach to Covid-19 testing in line with recent advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.


This story has been up since this morning but I think it is worth another look, given NSW have since decided to harden restrictions:

We’re expecting exposure sites linked to the Shepparton outbreak to start trickling in. The only site listed so far is a tier one site: the Shepparton Tutoring Centre. Anybody who was at the centre between 4pm and 6pm on Tuesday (17 August) must get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days.

Exposure site list:

Researchers have been deemed ineligible for critical career grants by the Australian Research Council as the result of a rule change that has been described as punitive, “extraordinary” and out of keeping with modern scientific practices, Donna Lu reports:

This is an interesting point; it is unusual for state police forces to do this. Could it be motivated to dissuade those who may be thinking about attending anti-lockdown protests tomorrow?

@nswpolice taking the unusual step of publicising a person's imprisonment? They usually stop once it reaches the courts #NSWPF

— Angus Thompson (@AngusGthompson) August 20, 2021

Swooping magpies are back, as AAP reports. May your Covid-restricted exercise radius contain many walking routes free from these terrorists:

Spring has almost sprung and that can mean only one thing in the eyes of many Australians: magpie swooping season.

Despite more than 13 million Australians currently living under stay-home orders, authorities have sent out an early bird swooping warning with less than two weeks left of winter.

Magpies and masked lapwings are among the nation’s native birds known to swoop during breeding season to defend their nesting young six to eight weeks after hatching.

But Rebecca Dixon, a senior wildlife management officer at Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, said less than 10% of swooping birds follow through.

“Swooping by a territorial bird is actually normal bird behaviour, although it’s definitely not fun for their targets,” she said in a statement. “Birds may swoop people or animals, so be mindful of your pets too.”

A five-month-old girl was killed on 8 August when her mother tripped and fell as a magpie attacked them in a Brisbane park.

Despite most swooping birds rarely making contact, cyclists, runners and walkers are reminded that their reactions can make the situation worse.

Dixon said swooping targets should remain as calm as possible, even as the fear-inducing sounds of swooshing, screeching and beak-clapping draw nearer.

“Do try to protect your head and eyes and move quickly – but don’t run, as this actually upsets the birds,” she added. “It’s very important not to do anything to threaten the swooping birds ≠ or interfere with their nests – or to feed them, and to remember that they’re simply protecting their young.”

Can I also encourage you to vote in our bird of the year competition (of which the magpie is a previous champion):


The thought of a bunch of very large men hunched over their phones finding out via social media that a bunch of other very large men has snubbed them is somewhat of a balm in these troubled times.

Wow. @wallabies coach Dave Rennie hasn't missed this afternoon, speaking from Perth.

"I'm bloody angry. Our boys all found out through social media. I thought New Zealand Rugby didn't even have the respect to consult RA about their decision, and that's hugely disappointing."

— Brett McKay (@BMcSport) August 20, 2021

Matt Sharp, the chief executive of Goulburn Valley Health, confirmed in a Facebook post regarding the Shepparton outbreak that all 12 cases were linked to the same family:

Earlier today there was a new case of Covid-19 in Shepparton reported, being a male in his 30s. His immediate family members have been tested for Covid-19. This man’s extended family from a separate household have been tested for Covid-19 today as well.

There are now an additional 11 people that have tested positive for Covid-19 today bringing the total of the outbreak in Shepparton to 12 at this time. All people that have tested positive are family members from two separate households and are now isolating.

Contact tracing is under way and will continue as a primary focus. Anyone identified as a close contact will be contacted directly by the tracing team.


We are now up to 12 confirmed cases in the regional Victorian city of Shepparton.

BREAKING: More positive cases in Shepparton. Total is now at 12 @abcnews

— Courtney Howe (@courthowe) August 20, 2021

Man who planned an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney is jailed for eight months

A Victorian man who had planned an anti-lockdown protest in Sydney for this weekend has just been sentenced to eight months in prison (with a minimum of three months).

New South Wales police said in a statement that:

A 29-year-old man has been sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison over his involvement in organising an unauthorised protest, as well as multiple breaches of the Public Health Order.

He was arrested following an investigation by detectives from North Shore Police Area Command into breaches of Public Health Orders, including travelling from Queensland to Sydney and his involvement in planning an unauthorised protest for this weekend.

The Victorian man appeared at Hornsby Local Court today [Friday 20 August 2021] and pleaded guilty to four counts of not comply with noticed direction re s 7/8/9 – Covid-19, encourage the commission of crimes, and false representation resulting in police investigation.

He was subsequently sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison, with non-parole period of three months.


A considerable escalation in the West Australian government’s approach to people in New South Wales. No travel exemptions to be issued for compassionate reasons. Get back in five days or else...

#BREAKING: The WA Premier has announced that NSW will be classified an ‘extreme risk’ state from Thursday next week, meaning no travel exemptions for compassionate reasons will be issued. Premier says West Australians still there have 5 days to come home @SBSNews

— Aaron Fernandes (@az_journalist) August 20, 2021

The Covid outbreak in Shepparton has spread to seven cases. Matt Sharp, the chief executive of Goulburn Valley Health, said they were notified of the first positive case, a man in his 30s who lives in Kialla, just before 8am.

They began testing his close contacts and secondary contacts. By mid-afternoon, six of those close contacts had returned positive results. Sharp told reporters at a press conference in Shepparton that local contact tracers were “working really quickly ... to get down to acquisition sources”. The acquisition source for the outbreak is not yet known.

Sharp said:

I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage any people from the community who have symptoms to come forward and get tested today. We really do not want anybody to be delaying the time from when they have a cough or sniffle to get tested.

Extra testing sites have been stood up, and another testing centre will open at the harness racing club tomorrow.

Shepparton was locked down in an outbreak last October. Sharp urged the community to deploy the same vigilance in defeating the outbreak this time.

I’ve got no reason to doubt as a health service and a community, if we all continue to pull together to do our individual bit to support the collective, we will do the same this time.

Some of the positive cases have been in children who attend St Mel’s primary school in Shepparton and two campuses of the Greater Shepparton Secondary College. Those schools have been shut down.


Former prime minister Kevin Rudd is keeping up his campaign against the Murdoch press:

Folks, remember how last year I lodged a formal complaint with the industry regulator about this racist Murdoch cartoon? Well guess what—the Press Council just ruled AGAINST Murdoch! There's no real penalty but, true to form, Murdoch is thundering against the ruling. Hypocrites.

— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) August 20, 2021

The press council verdict was also covered in Weekly Beast:


Four new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Wilcannia overnight, bringing the total number of cases in the remote community to six.
The virus is believed to have spread in the small community, which in the far south west of NSW, at a funeral which was attended by people who had been in Dubbo.
It then spread into Broken Hill. Another case was reported in Broken Hill overnight.
In a statement, the Far West Local Health District said all of the six cases in Wilcannia were in isolation and being contacted regularly by public health staff for health and welfare checks.

Follow up investigations and contact tracing is continuing.

We are calling on anyone who has been in Wilcannia in recent days to get tested regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.

All Far West residents are also urged to limit their movements in the community at this time.

A testing clinic has been set up at Wilcannia Oval and at Alma Oval, Memorial Oval and the Creedon Street community hub in Broken Hill.

Here’s an update on the developing situation in the regional city of Shepparton in Victoria, via AAP:

A further six cases of Covid-19 have been detected in the regional Victorian town of Shepparton, taking the total for the outbreak to seven.

Thousands of people in the town and surrounding areas have been forced into isolation, and several school campuses have closed, after a man in his 30s tested positive on Friday morning.

The new cases have been detected after the premier Daniel Andrews refused to rule out a wider lockdown for regional Victoria.

The first case detected in the town is in isolation at home and his family has also been tested, with the results expected later on Friday.

AAP understands the latest cases are also family members, but they do not live in the same house as the first case.

The state’s Covid response chief Jeroen Weimar said the man has two children at St Mel’s Primary in Shepparton, which has been closed for deep cleaning.

More than 2000 students from all four campuses of Greater Shepparton Secondary College have also been identified as Tier 1 close contacts.

Students and their families have been told to remain at home until they receive further orders from the health department, and not to leave even to get tested.

The Shepparton Tutoring Centre on Wyndham St has also been listed as a tier one exposure site.

Goulburn Valley Health says contact tracing is underway in the town and people will be notified of any exposure sites, while two new drive-through testing sites are being set up.


An interesting development: government backbencher calls for a huge increase in the intake of Afghan refugees.

#BREAKING Government backbencher John Alexander calls for special Afghan refugee intake of more than 12,000 spaces. Currently the Prime Minister has promised at least 3,000 this financial year @SBSNews

— Anna Henderson (@annajhenderson) August 20, 2021

South Australia has eased a range of Covid-19 border restrictions, making it easier for people to travel from Queensland and the Northern Territory, AAP reports.

The state’s transition committee met on Friday, opening the border to the Northern Territory, except for people coming from Katherine.

It also decided to allow people to travel from regional Queensland while those from the state’s southeast, including Brisbane, will still need to get tested for the virus and isolate until they receive a negative result.

The cap on home gatherings in SA will also rise from 10 to 20 from Saturday and consumption of food and drink while standing will be allowed at private gatherings away from homes where the capacity has been set at 50 people.

Up to 150 people will be allowed to attend private functions held in licensed venues where a 50% capacity rule will also apply.

The committee has not made any changes to the closed border arrangements with NSW, Victoria and the ACT and has left mask-wearing rules in place.

Masks remain a requirement in most indoor public venues, including shopping centres.

Police commissioner Grant Stevens said the changes allow SA to respond quickly to any new Covid-19 outbreak.

“We’re trying to find that balancing point where we have allowed as much activity as possible to occur, but we are maintaining a level of suppression that gives us the ability to respond quickly and effectively if we do have seeding,” Stevens told reporters.

“We’re confident that we can make these changes now, but we just remind people that every day is a different day in Covid-19.”

South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens speaks to the media last month.
South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens speaks to the media last month. Photograph: Naomi Jellicoe/EPA


Human Rights Watch is calling for improved access to vaccines for Indigenous Australians, AAP reports:

Australia has been urged to dramatically boost Indigenous vaccination coverage with a leading human rights group warning of an impending disaster.

Coronavirus has seeped from Sydney to regional NSW including towns with high Aboriginal populations where Indigenous people are being infected.

Australia-wide, almost 31% of Indigenous people over 16 have received one vaccine dose, while 16% are fully vaccinated.

That lags behind population-wide figures of 50% for a first dose and 28.2% with two jabs.

Human Rights Watch Australia researcher Sophie McNeill is concerned lessons about vulnerable populations are not being heeded.

“The federal government and New South Wales authorities left First Nations people dangerously exposed to Covid-19 with limited access to vaccines,” she said on Friday.

“Australia’s federal, state, and territory governments should not repeat the failings in NSW and should urgently improve vaccine access and health care for Indigenous communities.”

Labor’s Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney said prime minister Scott Morrison had failed to supply communities with vaccines.

“Aboriginal communities right across this country are sitting ducks and we’re seeing that unfold in slow motion in the western division of New South Wales,” she told reporters in Sydney.

Burney said in some large communities people were waiting at least 13 days for a jab because of availability.

“We can’t play whack-a-mole with this thing, sending in the army when there’s an emergency – we have to get ahead of that emergency,” she said.


I guess this is somewhat positive re those new cases in regional Victoria (which is currently not in lockdown):

Goulburn Valley Health have confirmed six new COVID cases in #Shepparton in addition to the original, which is a man in his 30s. They've all been linked and are family members

— Kristie Sullivan (@kristiesulliv) August 20, 2021

Local federal MP Damien Drum is urging those in Shepparton to be alert not alarmed (I guess):

Exposure sites will start being published late this afternoon. I urge anyone who has any symptoms to get tested immediately.

— Damian Drum MP (@damiandrummp) August 20, 2021

Australian forces will not leave Kabul airport to help Australians blocked at Taliban checkpoints in the captured Afghan capital, after some were injured in the chaos on the road to the airport overnight, Ben Doherty, Daniel Hurst and Kate Banville report:

There’s some added covid-19 precautions being introduced at Parliament House, including a quite novel (pun intended) requirement that you must check the ACT exposure site list prior to entering the building.

Statement by the Presiding Officers regarding Australian Parliament House access and operations #COVID19Aus #auspol

— Political Alert (@political_alert) August 20, 2021

New South Wales has been in lockdown for months and this week had cases jump from the 400s to the 600s – but it is not all bad news, writes Catherine Bennett:

AAP reports that New South Wales’ chief economist is hesitant to declare a recession is imminent.

While economic growth in NSW is reliant on Covid-19 case numbers dropping, the state’s chief economist says he’s hesitant to declare a recession is imminent.

Recent data showed that at least 36,000 jobs were lost in NSW since Covid-19 lockdowns began in mid-June, with a 7% drop in hours worked in July.

But the contraction for NSW and Victoria last year as coronavirus lockdown restrictions were first implemented was greater, chief economist Stephen Walters said.

Walters and NSW Treasury secretary Michael Pratt AM were quizzed in a parliamentary inquiry on Friday on the economic effect of the outbreak, and lockdowns nearing eight weeks.

Walters said he was reticent to say the economy would enter a recession for technical reasons – consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

“We don’t get gross state product on a quarterly basis, so we would never actually know in NSW,” he said.

He did acknowledge Australia experienced negative consecutive quarters last year and said it was widely accepted as a recession.

But he remained hopeful that the state could bounce back, dependent upon Covid-19 numbers dropping.

“When restrictions were eased [last year] we saw that the economy recovered very very quickly,” Walters said.

There were no figures to specify how many of the current job losses have occurred in the 12 local government areas of concern in south-west and western Sydney.

The NSW government has copped criticism regarding significant delays in handing out welfare to businesses in need of emergency funding.

Shadow treasurer Daniel Mookhey called the grants and JobSaver initiatives a debacle and said he had been inundated by small businesses complaining about their inability to access them.

Pratt said real progress had been made after customer service minister Victor Dominello apologised earlier this week for the quality of service that was “not up to standard”.

For emergency grants programs including JobSaver, about $1.6bn has been paid to businesses so far, Pratt said. This is funded 50-50 by the state and commonwealth.

“There is a huge commitment within customer service to get on top of this and manage the backlog,” Pratt said.

Pratt said he asked the federal government for jobkeeper to be reinstated as the Covid-19 outbreak escalated in greater Sydney, but that was refused.

The JobSaver program costs $500m per week and has currently paid out just over $700m.

As payments began on 18 July, Mookhey pointed out there was also a significant gap in those payments being transferred into bank accounts.


Advocacy groups in New South Wales are still reacting to the lockdown extension and stricter rules announced today.

Urban thinktank the Committee for Sydney has said while it is pleased with measures including requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated, it is concerned about “over-policing” and restrictions not based on evidence.

Gabriel Metcalf,
chief executive of the committee, said:

We’re encouraged to see the premier begin today’s press conference with the strong growth in vaccination numbers – this is a cause for real hope and a long awaited shift in emphasis.

There’s no question vaccination is our path out of these gruelling lockdowns and that’s where the focus should be. I’m also encouraged to see Qantas and NSW Health starting to require vaccines for their employees – that’s a good start.

On the other hand, we continue to have grave concerns about the over-policing of people in public space outdoors. To date, we are not aware of any evidence of significant transmission of Covid in outdoor spaces.

Unless that has changed, these measures are a step in the wrong direction. We need outlets for life to get through a gruelling lockdown. We should be encouraging people out of doors, not locking them inside.


All is well in the west, with only one new case recorded in hotel quarantine.

According to Western Australia’s daily update, 86,000 people aged 16-29 have booked for a vaccination appointment since the state expanded its program earlier this week.

The Greens say not including children in vaccination targets is “a political decision that made the community less safe”.

Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said the announcement from the prime minister, Scott Morrison, earlier today that children would not be included meant that his target of 80% vaccination was really only 65% of the whole population, as it excludes under 16s.

An additional four million people would need to be vaccinated to reach the 80% target if children and teenagers were included, Bandt said.

Scott Morrison is fudging the numbers so he can wave the ‘Mission Accomplished’ flag in December, even though millions of people will remain unvaccinated.

Excluding children from the vaccination targets is a political decision. Scott Morrison is setting targets that are easier for him to achieve but that leave millions unvaccinated.

Israel has opened up with only 65% of the population vaccinated and is experiencing a growing wave of deaths.

Our kids don’t just need to be vaccinated, they must be included in the vaccination targets, otherwise we risk a wave of deaths and more lockdowns.

Pfizer has been approved for use in children aged 12 and older in Australia.


I can recommend this piece from earlier by Donna Lu on closing playgrounds:

Here is our full story on prime minister Scott Morrison’s warning to states ahead of national cabinet:


A legal challenge to the sports grants program has suffered a setback, after the federal court refused access to documents relating to former sports minister Bridget McKenzie’s input into $100m of grants.

On Friday justice David O’Callaghan ruled that Beechworth Lawn Tennis Club can only access documents relating to McKenzie’s input into the decision to refuse it a grant, and the $36,000 grant to Wangaratta Clay Target Club.

In a mixed result for Beechworth, justice O’Callaghan did agree to order the production of physical versions of documents “specifically about the role which the minister was to have in decisions”.

Full story:

We are reportedly up to six new cases in Shepparton, north of Melbourne. Could regional Victoria be about to get a knock on the door from their old friend Lachlan D (aka Locky D AKA lockdown)?

Six new cases of coronavirus in Shepparton @sheppartonnews

— max stainkamph (@maxstainkamph) August 20, 2021

And here’s another “footy in Covid” story from the ABC which I quite enjoyed: Fremantle Dockers assistant coach Josh Carr has been fined for breaching WA’s strict quarantine laws after having a cleaner and speech therapist at his home.


Only before a crowd eh? Know by the end of next week you say? Have you considered New Zealand?

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has declared the grand final will only be held before a crowd and says a decision on which state will host the event will be made by the end of next week #AFL

— Real Footy (AFL) (@agerealfooty) August 20, 2021

New Zealand will remain in lockdown until Tuesday next week, following the growth of the coronavirus cluster to 31 people, with positive cases in Auckland and Wellington.

The first case in the cluster emerged on Tuesday, prompting the government to put the entire country into a level four lockdown – the highest level of restrictions.

Up until today, cases had only been reported in Auckland. The Wellington cases reported today, returned to the city before the lockdown began.

Auckland and the Coromandel, where the first case visited, were placed into lockdown for a week, with the rest of the country locked down for three days. The whole country is now in lockdown for the same period as Auckland and the Coromandel.

On Friday afternoon the prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the infectious period of the positive cases still reached back into the period before lockdown.

Soon, that should stop being the case, and that will definitely help us get that outbreak under control. Until then, though, we just don’t quite know the full scale of this Delta outbreak.

This tells us, we need to continue to be cautious, and that we need more time before we have the complete picture.

Ardern said the good news is that the cases, at this time, are linked.

That’s important because it means we’re starting to build a picture of the edges of this cluster. At this stage, we don’t have random cases popping up outside of those places where we already expect them.

The director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said, as expected, the contacts of those who have tested positive, have dispersed through the country.

Testing rates across the country have significantly increased. Thursday was the busiest day for testing on record. Roughly 24,000 people were swabbed, double the number of the previous busiest day.

Cabinet will meet again on Monday to determine the next steps.


Bunnings is closing from Monday in greater Sydney, the company have confirmed in a statement.

Trade customers will be able to still access stores, but retail customers will have to purchase items online using click and deliver or contactless pick-up services.

You may recall that Bunnings and the Reject Shop still being open for business led to some interesting exchanges between NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and some of my press brethren earlier this month.

Vax facts are here. We have 51% with a first jab, 28.9% fully vaccinated. Interestingly, Victoria using a lot more AZ than other states.

303,304 vaccine doses in the past 24 hours, bringing the rollout total to 16.5m doses. First jab rate for adults 16+ is 51.02 per cent, fully vaxxed rate is 28.90 per cent. 1.7m doses done in seven days.

— Tom McIlroy (@TomMcIlroy) August 20, 2021

The western NSW region, where the “vast majority” of cases are Aboriginal people, recorded 27 new cases to 9pm last night: 21 in Dubbo, 2 in Bourke, 2 in Gilgandra and 2 in Goodooga, bringing the total number of active cases to 194.

90% of all the cases are under 50, half of them younger than 20, and 65% are Aboriginal young people and children.

Four people are in hospital and one is in intensive care requiring a ventilator.

To add to the pressure on local health services, 131 staff are currently in isolation after having been potentially exposed to Covid.

ADF forces have arrived to ramp up the vaccination rollout in Dubbo and smaller communities like Walgett, Goodooga, Bourke and Brewarrina.

Dubbo’s mass vaccinations will begin tomorrow, and other communities will have theirs from Monday.

Officials are forecasting 10,000 Pfizer doses will be administered over the next eight to 10 weeks.

“Nobody is going to miss out,” NSW police western region commander Geoff McKechnie said.

ADF personnel were clinicians, there to help with vaccination, not to enforce compliance, Colonel Warwick Young told the media, though ADF would lend support to police conducting welfare checks around Dubbo.

Cases are spreading in the region – sewage detection has been positive in Coonamble, which has a high Aboriginal population, as well as Bathurst, Parkes, Narromine and Cobar.


Mayor in Sydney's west launches stinging attack on NSW government

The mayor of Cumberland City Council, in Sydney’s west, is absolutely livid at the NSW government.

Councillor Steve Christou told the ABC he had a phone call a minute before today’s press conference from the government informing him of the changes.

He said the government had “lost complete control” and were acting like a dictatorial regime.

We understand that Cumberland is a hotspot at the moment. But these are now extended lockdowns. We are into week eight, there has been a lockdown extended until the end of September now, and now we are facing curfews.

This is the poorest community in New South Wales. They cannot afford to pay their mortgage, their rent, their bills, or put food on the table to feed their children. Council staff are often, I’m not going to name them, dipping into their pockets because they are receiving phone calls from people who cannot afford to feed themselves anymore.

It is heartbreaking and it is frustrating because I received a phone call from the premier’s advisor at 10:59am, the minute, just as she was walking onto the press conference, to tell me of these measures. And it is not on. This community gets burned at 11am every day when the premier does have press releases, and we are not being consulted, and I invite the premier or one of her senior ministers to come out to Cumberland City Council and pay a visit and put her feet ground and come out with me so she can see how this community is being affected.


In case you need a reminder that the lockdown screws are being tightened in New South Wales, here is the premier’s tweet on the changes:

In response to the evolving Delta outbreak, NSW will extend the lockdown in Greater Sydney until the end of September, and introduce some stricter rules. Details below

— Gladys Berejiklian (@GladysB) August 20, 2021

The always great Weekly Beast is up from Amanda Meade.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved an antibody drug for people who are particularly at risk of hospitalisation from Covid-19.

The TGA has approved sotrovimab to be used for Australians with COVID-19 who are at risk of hospitalisation.

— Eden Gillespie (@edengillespie) August 20, 2021



Bledisloe 3️⃣ in Perth is off! ❌#9WWOS #Rugby #BledisloeCup #TRC2021

— Rugby on Nine (@RugbyOnNine) August 20, 2021

The Victorian press conference is still going. Acting chief health officer, Ben Cowie, says that 26% of all positive cases in this outbreak are children under the age of 10.

As of this morning, 89 positive cases are kids aged nine and under, 72 are aged 10 to 19, 120 are 20 to 39, 56 are 40-59, and just 12 are 60 and over.

Cowie said:

This is a completely different epidemiological pattern than what we have seen previously.

Jeroen Weimar said that the outbreak in Victoria was “on a knife edge”.

The thing I am really disappointed about today is that we are back in a world where we are on a knife edge as to which way this could go. This is not heading in the right direction at the moment.

He said the concern today was “the sheer number of cases that were not in isolation, and also mystery cases yesterday and today”.

Asked how he felt about two Victorian regional towns having a “race” to get to 80% vaccination, Weimar said that any sense of urgency around vaccination is good.

This is a race, let’s be very clear about it … this is a race to deal with this firestorm that is coming right up behind it, so we have to deal with it.

Some more details: the case at Pakenham is a police officer who has worked at the Knox and Lilydale stations. Investigations are still under way as to where they caught it.

Weimar also says the Broadmeadows youth centre is a childcare centre — that’s why it was open.


Good breakdown of the 94 active covid-19 cases in the ACT:

Of 94 active cases:
0-17yos 43%
18-44yos 46%
45+yos 11%

7 transmission sites (no change)
Linked cases (noting some associated w more than 1):
Lyneham HS 25
Fiction 13
Lennock 8
Gold Creek School 5
Belco Bball Stadium 3
Downer Cmty Centre 3 (but many close/secondary)
Assembly 3

— Anna Vidot (@AnnaVidot) August 20, 2021

The Victorian Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar has been going through the 55 locally acquired cases reported today. Six of those cases are unlinked, and only 25 were in isolation throughout.

The new cases include 13 new cases in a cluster that popped up yesterday at the My Centre Multicultural Youth Centre in Broadmeadows. They were not isolating — and Weimar said initial investigations date that cluster back to 11 August.

There are “some possible linkages” to existing clusters.

“In doing the testing and contact tracing the past 24 hours, the earliest case for the earliest onset of symptoms goes all the way back to 11 August.

“It highlights again, if you’re symptomatic, come forward immediately for testing. Don’t wait a couple of days to see whether those symptoms go away. There is not much seasonal flu or cold around, we need [you] to get tested if you have got symptoms. I am glad we found but we now have 13 cases in one hit, in one centre and, again, right in the middle of our young people, right in the middle of a place looking after our youngest and most vulnerable Victorians.”

The other cases are:

- 14 from day 13 tests at Al Taqwa

- 3 from Glenroy West Primary School

- 2 from Newport football Club

- 2 from Newport Elite Gym

- 4 from Pizza Central in Malvern

- 6 cases in the two St Kilda clusters, around Fitzroy St and St Kilda East

- 1 from 510 Lygon St public housing tower

- 2 household contacts of the Altona North case

- 1 linked to the Doncaster East case

- 1 domestic cabin crew member who lives at Tullamarine and had flown to Newcastle and South Australia in recent days.

- 1 case in Pakenham

- 1 in Point Cook linked back to the Werribee outbreak

- 1 in Port Melbourne

- 1 in Brunswick

Weimar said it was “getting to the point where it’s easier to read out the suburbs where we don’t have lines of inquiry open”.

He also said there were some cases of people not properly observing their 14-day isolation as a close contact.

“If you have been asked to isolate because you are a primary close contact, please maintain that isolation the whole way through.”


Victoria’s covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar says a person who had symptoms since 11 August finally got tested yesterday and has sparked a cluster of 13.

It’s a huge disappointment to that individual that is positive, it’s a huge disappointment to us that we find the cases so late. It means a longer period of time in the community.

The flipside is we’re in lockdown, that does reduce the number of possible contacts. It’s the one thing we can all do, keep a close eye and get tested immediately. 50,000 did that yesterday. That’s what the testing capacity is out there more. It’s the one thing we need to do.

There are now 89 children aged nine or younger with Covid-19, Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Ben Cowie says – 26% of the entire outbreak.


Andrews has said he would not rule out introducing restrictions in regional Victoria again, after a positive case was reported in Shepparton, a community about 2.5 hours north of Melbourne.

The Shepparton case was reported this morning and will be in tomorrow’s cases. It’s a man in his 30s. Additional testing capacity has been stood up in Shepparton, and anyone with symptoms in Shepparton has been told to get tested “urgently”.

Andrews said:

I am being as frank as I can - nothing is off the table. We will follow the advice and the evidence. The best thing for people to do in Shepparton is to get tested and I am confident they will because they have shown us how to do that. I am sure that there are probably queues at the additional testing sites.

He again urged Melbournians to stay at home this weekend.

Sunday, I think will be a nice day. At. Home. Otherwise, it will be a lot of Sundays spent in hospital. That is the fact. That is the choice we have.

Either stay at home or lots and lots of people are going to stay in hospital and some of them will not come out.

Pressed on the possibility of providing a military escort to help people get to Kabul airport, Morrison said that was “not a matter that is considered viable”.

That is the direct advice that I have from our defence forces,” Morrison said, adding that the inability to provide such escorts was “obviously concerning and distressing” for people on the ground.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a press conference on 20 August 2021 in Canberra.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a press conference on 20 August 2021 in Canberra. Photograph: Rohan Thomson/Getty Images

We’re dealing with the Taliban, so I’m not making any assumptions and I’m moving as quickly and as safely as we possibly can to get as many people out as fast as we can.

Asked about John Howard’s criticism of the swift US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Morrison said he would not weigh in on the US military strategy, saying he was “just focused on what we need to do now”.

We are very appreciative of the fact that both the US and the UK forces are there securing the airport to enable us to undertake the operations we’re engaged in. There will be plenty of opportunity for others to make comments about whether this should have been done or that should have been done … I don’t intend to join that [commentary] because we’re working with a partner and an ally at a very sensitive time to do a very difficult job to bring people to safety. That’s my sole focus.


Andrews leaves the press conference for national cabinet (but the support cast are still there).

Daniel Andrews has urged young people not to cancel their AstraZeneca appointment in the hope of getting Pfizer, saying he “would not bank” on the promised Pfizer supplies arriving by September.

He said:

I would say, if you have a vaccination appointment, turn up and get it.

I would not bank on anything being here in two weeks. I have not seen that stock. Is it even here? I hope by the end of the month, 16 to 39-year-olds can get Pfizer.

Asked if he got a heads up that the announcement was coming, Andrews said “no”.

He then asked journalists at the press conference who are in the age group that will be newly eligible for Pfizer if they had checked whether they can make a booking.

Can you make a booking? The bookings are not open. Why aren’t the bookings open? I do not know. You have to talk to the prime minister.

I am entitled to point out the facts. You can’t make a booking for the stuff. I have not seen it. Is it sitting in a warehouse? Is it arriving on a big, military plane? I do not know.

For heaven’s sake, do not cancel an appointment you have made now because of a promise that something will be available in two weeks time. We need all of us to have a sense of urgency to do everything we can to limit the spread and getting vaccinated does that. That is the only point I am making. I am certainly not barracking for the stuff not to be here. I would like it to be here and I would like it to be here in record supply. Then we can get people vaccinated.

Andrews was then asked to comment on NSW Gladys Berejiklian reportedly saying that once that state gets to 70% first dose coverage, there will be some exemptions for people who are double vaccinated.

He said:

That is not the national plan. I do not know if that is an interpretation of what has been said. There are some rules that change at 70%, but I would not be using that kind of language. 80% is where we’re at. If 70% was the number, then that would have been the case from the start. Some things can be eased at 70% but 80% is the game changer.

He added that Berejiklian has been “consistently supportive of the national plan” and he did not hear her press conference, so he wasn’t prepared to comment without knowing the full context of what was said.


Thank you to the stellar Matilda Boseley! Did you know she bakes cookies for contact tracers in her spare time? Not really.

With that, I shall leave you in the safe hands of Nino Bucci.

Stay well, everyone.

The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has told Victorians to stay home this weekend, saying that if people in Melbourne bend the rules to the extent they did last weekend, “next week it will be like Sydney”.

Victoria recorded 55 local cases on Friday, 30 of which were not isolating through their entire infectious period. It’s the worst day for cases in the community since last September, and Andrews has come out strongly warning that the outbreak is “on the edge” of getting away in Victoria.

Twenty-five were in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period and that makes today a bad day. I cannot rule out that ministers and public health officials will be sitting down determining whether there is any more we can do in terms of pulling this up.

Andrews says his government “locked down early, locked down hard” but that “rules are only as good as the behaviour and choices we make”.

I cannot be any clearer with the people of Melbourne and more broadly people of Victoria – if we have a weekend this weekend like last weekend, next week it will be like Sydney. Simple as that. This will get away from us. We have too many mystery cases out there.

We need people to come forward getting tested as soon as you get symptoms. Not a day later. We need people to follow the rules and, genuinely, stay at home means stay at home. It is not looking for loopholes, blind corners where people cannot see you to do the wrong thing.

Andrews urged parents to think of the risk to their children from the Delta variant, pointing out there are more than 700 children positive with Covid-19 in NSW and more than 100 with Covid-19 in Victoria.

No children in our country are vaccinated. As a parent, to any other parent, that should be enough. We cannot be certain what the impact of this virus is on kids. We have a substantial number of kids infected in this outbreak.



Do you have advice that the situation is actually much worse than it appears in the numbers today?


Oh, look... I don’t have advice to that end, but the point I would make is... there’s always more cases than you know about because not everyone gets tested as soon as they register symptoms.


Premier, the freedom rally organised for tomorrow – lots of people may be attending that. Do you have a message for people...


The chief commissioner sent a powerful message. I’ll remind you of what he said yesterday. There are penalties. That’s against the law and Victoria police will take action.



Is the regional lockdown on the cards?


Nothing is ruled out. Nothing.

Shepparton, we have a case there and waste water detection in regional Victoria. Jeroen can speak to that but we’re asking people in Shepparton to come forward and get tested.

I’ll remind you Shepparton community did such an amazing job last year, came out in force, got tested and we were able to run that outbreak to ground. We’ve got every chance of doing that again.

There are, I think, now, three testing sites. Extras are being stood up throughout the course of today and I know the people of the Goulburn Valley will step up and get tested like they did last year.



You talk about other options to go, I guess, harder with lockdown. What options do you have left?


They’re are always further options. I don’t want to get into further options today. I know why you asked the question and it’s perfectly legitimate. Those decisions have not been made.

But we can’t have an accumulation of mystery cases every day. We can’t have people out and about who have been infectious.

I’m not blaming them. It’s just the way it’s unfolded. We can’t have that.

An unspecified number of people seeking to get on Australia’s evacuation flights from Afghanistan have suffered injuries while trying to get into Kabul’s airport, the foreign minister, Marise Payne, says.

Payne says the second ADF flight carrying 60 passengers arrived in the United Arab Emirates and includes Australians and Afghan visa holders and families. She notes it’s the third flight, if you include the UK flight which carried a group on Australia’s behalf on Wednesday night.

Payne says countries operating at Kabul airport are working together on the issues. Here’s what she says about the chaotic and dangerous scenes outside the airport:

There are people in their thousands, as you’ve seen, crowding around the entrances to the airport, and there have been unfortunately injuries as well and we have had to address some of those amongst our passenger cohorts, too. It is dangerous – in the last day there have been incidents, there have been warnings of potential incidents, it is very complex and it is very uncertain. We have increased our numbers in our teams on the ground, in terms of both the ADF, Dfat and home affairs and we will continue to do that as required.

Payne says she is working with the US and the UK and others on the staging area to facilitate movement into the airport.

Morrison says in a phone call last night, he thanked the UK’s Boris Johnson for the Royal Air Force’s support on Wednesday night “in uplifting those Australians and Afghan visa-holders who are coming to Australia on their flight and obviously we’ll return that favour if it’s asked.”

Morrison also spoke with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi last night and thanked him for the “tremendous support and cooperation” Australia was getting from the UAE over the Afghanistan evacuation missions.


PM says under 15's will not be included in Australia's vaccine target

Scott Morrison has confirmed that adding children aged 15 and under to the vaccination program will not move the targets of achieving 70-80% vaccination rates among the eligible adult population.

Morrison noted the Doherty Institute modelling did not include 12 to 15-year-olds and “didn’t consider it necessary to include them before we move to the next phase”.

Morrison said although the vaccination program will “move into those other age groups” the government will “continue to report vaccination figures for those aged 16 and above”. He added that the best way for parents to protect their children is for them to get (themselves) vaccinated.

Asked if states and territories will unlock at 70-80% regardless of the number of case numbers, Morrison said that was the “national deal” they made at national cabinet (Labor state and territory leaders dispute this characterisation).


Victoria 'right on the edge' of the virus 'getting away from [them]' says premier

Andrews has issued a serious warning to Victorians:

This is not just delicate. It’s not a tipping point. We are right on the edge of this getting away from us and it’s not because contact tracing aren’t doing everything they can. They are. It’s not because we didn’t lock down fast enough. We did.

It’s this Delta variant is so wildly infectious that it will find every breach of every rule and it will potentially spread because of that.

So I am imploring Melburnians and Victorians. I am asking you in your own interests and the interests of all Victorians, we cannot have a weekend this weekend like last weekend. We must all follow these rules and find it within ourselves to push through this.



We have only 15 people in hospital. That’s very challenging for them but that number is manageable.

Six of those are in ICU and only one person is on a ventilator.

Those numbers will not remain as low as that if this gets away are from us.



There are 700 kids who have got Covid in New South Wales. There are kids that are in hospital in New South Wales that have got Covid.

No children in our country are vaccinated. As a parent to every other parent, that should be motivation enough.

We can’t be certain what the impacts of this virus are on kids. We have got a substantial number of kids infected ourselves in this outbreak. It’s spreading amongst young people and it will continue to do that unless we all play our part.

I don’t like having to speak to Victorians like this. I wish we were not in as serious a situation as we are, but these cases, there are too many of them and there are too many that have been out in the community for too long during their infectious period, and there are too many cases the source of which the chain of transmission is not clear to us. They are genuine mysteries.


Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is sounding very grave this morning:

There are 57 new cases of coronavirus across Victoria, two in hotel quarantine and 55 new locally acquired cases. 49 are linked to known outbreaks. Six of those are currently mystery cases and are being investigated by our public health team. Just 25 of those were in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period. So that is a very significant challenge.

That makes today a bad day.

Now, I’ve not got restriction announcements to make, no changes today, but I can’t rule that out. Ministers and public health officials will sit down this afternoon, this evening and into tomorrow, determining whether there’s any more that we can do in terms of rules and settings to try and pull this up.

Earlier in the week we talked about being at a tipping point.


Here’s Daniel Andrews giving the Victorian press conference:

Andrews: "If we have a weekend this weekend like last weekend well then next week it will be like Sydney. Simple as that. It'll get away from us. We have too many mystery cases out there.... we need people to follow the rules. Genuinely. Stay at home means stay at home."

— Calla Wahlquist (@callapilla) August 20, 2021

Andrews says there are 700 kids with Covid in NSW, and more than 100 with Covid here in Victoria.

"No children in our country are vaccinated. As a parent, to any other parent, that should be enough. We cannot be certain what the impact of this virus is on kids."

— Calla Wahlquist (@callapilla) August 20, 2021


Scott Morrison has issued an implicit warning to state and territory leaders that they must ease restrictions when vaccination rates reach 70% and 80%.

Morrison told reporters in Canberra that 386,000 of the Polish Pfizer doses “are going into arms right now” and boasted Australia has now had 300,000 vaccinations per day for two days running.

He said:

That is really hitting the marks we need to hit to reach the objective of the national plan. The national plan is a deal with Australians – we’ve said you’re persevering lockdowns, taking instructions, getting tested, you’re isolating, you’re getting vaccinated. It’s a deal that says when we achieve 70% and 80% there will be changes. Premiers and chief ministers have signed up to that plan. They’ve signed up with the Australian people.

The Doherty Institute modelling that underpinned the 70-80% targets assumed a low level of community transmission – not hundreds of cases as is currently occurring in Sydney.

So Labor premiers and chief ministers in Queensland, the ACT, Victoria and Western Australia have questioned the ability to ease restrictions at 70% and 80% if the NSW outbreak is still raging.

ACT chief minister, Andrew Barr, has also noted the three-week delay for vaccines to be effective.

But Morrison is clearly warning these leaders not to backtrack.


The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has spoken about the difficulties people have faced getting to the airport, with Taliban-run checkpoints. He makes clear the ADF will not go outside Kabul airport, saying such operations outside “are not possible”.

They are not able to be undertaken in any way by the Australian defence forces – to do so would put them at great risk with no commensurate benefit. These are options we obviously consider and we have considered those matters about how that can be done.

We are working closely with the US and UK forces who are providing that overarching security around the airport and we are working to make that process of entering in to the airport as orderly as you possibly can in a chaotic situation like this, but it is very very difficult. The biggest challenge is for people to be able to get to that airport.

There are larger numbers now we are advised who are starting to come into Kabul, there are multiple checkpoints that are in place, the Taliban leadership is now moving into the city.


Here is a bit more from Scott Morrison’s press conference, where he is discussing the rescue mission from Kabul.

Further flights are, of course, planned in the days ahead. They will be, of course, subject to weather and slots.

It’s a quick operation. It takes about 30 minutes. You’ve got to move very fast and the situation on the ground is difficult. We will continue to work with other nations... in ensuring that the airlift of Australians, Afghan nationals who we’re seeking to support and other foreign officials who are seeking to be evacuated out of Kabul.

The situation in Kabul remains chaotic.

Continued good news on vaccinations, with yesterday a new record - 309,010 doses! Here's how the trajectory for rollout speed looks by state, with the new/fixed chart accounting for the AIR data switchover

— Nick Evershed (@NickEvershed) August 20, 2021

Australia evacuates 60 more from Kabul airport

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is giving an update on Australia’s evacuation missions in Afghanistan, amid what he calls a “serious situation”.

He confirms the first 94 evacuees have landed in Perth, and begun quarantine, having been transferred from the defence base in the United Arab Emirates.

He says 60 evacuees were transferred from Kabul to the base in the UAE last night, a combination of Australians and Afghan visa holders.

He said 162 people in total have now been evacuated through various flights, either by Australia or the UK.

Morrison says further flights are planned in days ahead, subject to weather and airport slots, and Australia would continue to work with other nations.

The situation in Kabul does remain chaotic.

Dfat yesterday advised Australian citizens and permanent residents – along with other countries’ nationals who have already been granted Australian visas – to travel to the airport if safe to do so “to wait for a planned evacuation flight”.

But as my colleagues reported overnight, the road to Kabul airport has been crowded, chaotic and punctuated by regular gunfire, with Australian citizens and visa holders reporting difficulties trying to reach military evacuation flights.

Australia’s first evacuation flight left Kabul on Wednesday morning with just 26 passengers on board. A British flight picked up a further 76 people including Australian citizens and Afghan nationals.


Premier, Daniel Andrews, the Minister for Health, Martin Foley, the Acting CHO Ben Cowie and COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar will provide a coronavirus update at 12:00pm #springst #COVID19Aus

— Political Alert (@political_alert) August 20, 2021

The Premier has repeatedly told us there is no evidence that curfews work. The Police Commissioner last week said he didn’t see any reason to think a curfew would work. Today, they announce a curfew #nswpol

— Alexandra Smith (@AlexSmithSMH) August 20, 2021

Now you might be wondering, if NSW plans to relax restrictions for vaccinated people, how will you actually prove you are vaccinated?

Here is what Berejiklian has to say:

At the moment you can go through Medicare and verify you have been vaccinated, he has real-time information.

New South Wales is also working on an easy-to-use feature that will be led into the QR code...

I do recommend that people would to prove their vaccination, you go to the Medicare app, there is real-time information about how many doses you have had.

People can use that, but I will say service New South Wales is working on good technology when people will be able to do everything together the one go.

Prime minister’s press conference -

Scott Morrison said it is “very important the lockdown works” in response to the NSW government’s further restrictions. He noted the extra vaccine doses sent to greater Sydney, but said this did not remove the need to make the lockdown work.

So, without addressing the specific measures, it’s an endorsement from the prime minister for Gladys Berejiklian’s new restrictions (curfew in LGAs of concern and outdoor mask mandate).

Morrison said Australia is achieving vaccination rates of 300,000 per day, or “three times the MCG in one day”.

He urged Australia to maintain social connection by phoning eachother, and noted mental health supports available.

Morrison said:

Delta may have changed the game but it hasn’t changed the character of Australians.

Chant is steadfastly avoiding answering if she had recommended any of these new measures to the premier before yesterday.


Can I ask, these measures, the premier said she was handed this advice last night, other any measures at all that you recommended before last night?


I think what it is important to focus on is the fact that the Premier, at all points, has asked us to provide the best advice, and I am totally committed to these additional measures. I think it is so important that we focus together either the mammoth task ahead of us, to drive these numbers are down. I totally add behind this.


[Are you saying] thatyou have given some of these before last night?


The task that we had was to come up, looking at all of the existing measures, what additional measures would occur, I said to you, clearly a lot of ideas are floated, but the evidence for curfews is not strong.

But as I said, because of the intelligence the police Commissioner and I considered that the intelligence we were getting, it may be effective, and may assist.

As I said, I personally do not want to leave any stone turned or any integrated terms of the things that we are doing to bring this under control.

Chant was asked why Shellharbour is now considered regional after weeks of the government insisting it was still high risk.

That is an administrative issue, because ultimately, we may still decide that the risk is in Shellharbour, and the advice that they remain in lockdown.

The whole state is in lockdown. We will provide our advice separately about the risk of all of the areas outside of greater metropolitan in Sydney in terms of what we provide advice to the government for.


Oooh, and the spicy questions are starting to come out now.


Over the course of this past outbreak, have you had at any point offered to resign?


I can confirm that I have not threatened to resign at any point.

I am so committed to seeing this outbreak behind us. I am so committed to doing all I can as part of a broader team, a broader team, across health and across government.


Chant has been asked if she still supports the premier’s plan that people who are fully vaccinated will be able to get some freedoms, to be announced 28 August.


I do not think anything about the premier’s comments is anything that doesn’t recognise the escalating case number and the situation we are in.

I think it is important that we do show the community that light at the end of the tunnel.


NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant is back up and has been asked if it was health advice or police advice that caused these restriction changes.


Health has supported the curfew and that is because we want to do everything we can. The evidence is mixed, as the premier says, but also on the ground, we are knowing that we are getting feedback throughout public health unit, that a small number of people are also still mixing across households and so we suspect that the curfew could assist in that...


Dr Chant, you’ve spoken before about the majority of spreading in workplaces and houses, will these measures help?


The permit system will put controls on people because people have to say that they have to go to that workplace or that they are an authorised worker and we are also looking at requiring them to be checked by the employers.

In making a false declaration will be subject to fines so it is a similar system to the Victorian system. This is about using all the levers we have to make sure people do the right thing.


We will get an update on Victoria at 12pm, where we should learn more about this positive case in the regional city of Shepparton.

New Zealand records 11 new local Covid-19 cases

New Zealand records 11 new local Covid-19 cases.

I will bring you more updates soon, but at least three of them are confirmed to be from Wellington.

Previously the outbreak has been focused in Auckland.


The website still does not have the application process. What is going to happen to people who cannot apply today?


The permit system will come up at least by midnight tonight. If they are not available, and you have a lawful purpose, you can still travel, we will not take action against you for the payment but it is an offence today to leave greater Sydney, to go to regional NSW unless you have a reasonable excuse. Permits give people greater certainty and it really helps to try to enforce something with eight million people and it helps us put resources in the right place.



The new police powers to lock down apartment blocks to make health assessments. Police have been locking down apartment blocks for a number of weeks throughout this outbreak. For the public, exactly what has changed?


Section 62 order takes time and they have to wait for a positive test which means while that is happening, people are still mobile.

So it is about looking at any gaps we can close because what it means from an intelligence perspective, we do not have to wait for the section 62 order. We can make an order, allow ourselves to commit a proper assessment before some people, unfortunately, they escape.

They want to get out before health come in. With the residents it is the same situation. Once there is a positive cohort, they could escape from the house which means we not capturing the spread of the virus.


NSW police commissioner says he wishes he suggested curfews 'on day one'.

This is interesting. Fuller seems to be the first NSW leader to concede they wished that they had done things differently early in the outbreak.


It has been a progressive lockdown based on the numbers, based on whether we think compliance in areas and the spread of the virus.

In hindsight, do I wish that I raised curfew day one probably, but you probably would have laughed me out if I said we would put the curfews, on day one.


Reporter (brandishing today’s new restrictions press release):

This is the list of things we could have done earlier. So “why?” is the question.


This is a very important point and I will ask the police commissioner and Dr Chant to verify that this is the list we received last night and I want to verify that with both, if they don’t mind, just to demonstrate how closely aligned the team NSW is.

We work together hours and hours every single day. I will not have anybody say otherwise. I will ask the commissioner and Dr Chant to verify exactly when we received this advice on how long it took for us to accept it.


Berejiklian says the lesson other states must learn from the NSW lockdown is that they will “eventually need to open up”.


I think you’re being slick when you say you’re always acting on health advice, because Dr Chant could tell you one thing and you as a policymaker can take a different decision. Why haven’t you? Why haven’t you acted more closely with health advice?


I don’t think you can use the comparisons you have been given they do not make sense.

Delta is uncharted territory for Australia, and I like it if you speak to a few other state leaders at first ministers today, they will tell you how difficult it is to keep the lid on it...

Please know that at every stage the New South Wales government has responded quickly to the advice we have, but we have also learned a lot, but I think the learnings on New South Wales can be applied to other states what they go through what all states will have to go through, is to come to terms with the fact that eventually, you need to provide freedoms to your citizens, eventually we need to open up to the rest of the world because the rest of the world started to open up. We are not in the space of doing that yet, but we will be under some point.


Here are the official numbers from NSW Health:

NSW recorded 644 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm.

Of these locally acquired cases, 134 are linked to a known case or cluster – 107 are household contacts and 27 are close contacts – and the source of infection for 508 cases is under investigation.

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) August 20, 2021



There is no simple [solution] to the Delta. Short and sharp lockdowns do not always work.

As we have seen, this Delta variant is very different to anything Australia has experienced, but we also have a wonderful opportunity here.

Unlike the rest of the world, we have not been through the very difficult circumstances others have faced. We have an opportunity, through higher vaccination, to show how it can be done moving forward, to protect the lives, to protect against hospitalisation, we have the opportunity here New South Wales and Australia added other states, to show how it can be done as possible.

NSW premier says new restrictions are 'a final list' to get case numbers down

Here is Berejiklian on why she is bringing in these new restrictions now.

Clearly, two fundamental things shifted this weekend in New South Wales.

The first was the sudden escalation of cases, and secondly the feedback from police about a handful of people flagrantly disregarding the rule.

For that reason, I asked health and police to work together, to give me a final list of what we can throw at this, to leave no shadow of a doubt as to how serious we are about getting the rate of growth down, the case numbers down. I do not want to leave a shadow of a doubt.

I want to extend my heartfelt empathy and gratitude to those populations are living in the four local government areas of concern, I know we all know, most of you are doing the right things, but it is to protect you and your loved ones that we are doing this.


Deputy premier John Barilaro is up with the update for regional NSW:

Overnight we are aware of three new cases in Wilcannia and two more in Broken Hill.

To anyone who visited Wilcannia the last few days we are asking you to get tested regardless of your symptoms or not, that continues to be a real issue for the far-west communities and we need to get in front of it.

The Central Coast had three cases, the Hunter New England local health district three cases.



We have currently got 470 cases in hospital, and 80 people in ICU. The vast majority of those are not vaccinated. The others have only received one dose of vaccine. All of us have a responsibility to do our part to protect each other, and our loved ones, our vaccines are effective, even one dose, two is much better.


Here is NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant with details of those four deaths.

Tragically there were a number of deaths.

A woman in her 80s from Sydney’s inner west died at Royal North Shore hospital, she was a resident of the Wyoming age care facility and is the fourth death in this cluster.

A woman in her 80s from south-western Sydney and she died in Campbelltown hospital.

A man in his 80s from western Sydney died at Nepean hospital where he acquired his infection and had received one dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.

And also death linked to the outbreak at Nepean, a previously reported Covid death a man in his 70s from western Sydney who had died on 17 August at Nepean hospital is now linked to this outbreak.

The last is a man in his 70s died at St George hospital from south Sydney and he had received one dose of vaccine.

Can I just extend my sincere condolences and sympathies to the loved ones.


By the way, we are expecting to hear from prime minister Scott Morrison at 11.30 am.

This will likely be to discuss the situation in Afghanistan rather than major Covid-19 updates as it is prior to national cabinet.

I’ll try my best to bring you updates from both press conferences.



Permit systems will come in later next week for any authorised work leaving the LGA’s of concern, you must have a permit and additionally, anyone entering the LGA’s of concern for a reason of work must carry a permit.

We know tomorrow there is a new permit system to protect regional NSW...

I say and be clear, it is an offence now to leave greater Sydney to go to regional NSW without a reasonable excuse so please do not think, if there is a failure of the permit system, if there is a delay to the permit system, that it is a case for you to leave those LGA’s of consent or enter them. There are current health offences for that.

The permit system is to help individuals to better understand their rights and what they can do lawfully. These additional powers, including the curfews, were from a police perspective, about stopping the spread of the virus.


Berejiklian has also granted the police commissioner greater powers.

Commissioner Fuller has been given additional powers in relation to police powers in maintaining compliance and he will also discuss the permit system.

Here is police commissioner Mick Fuller with those details:

Police now have the power if they find anyone outside an LGA of concern without a reasonable excuse, they will be given an infringement but an order to return home as well. Which is extremely important. If someone enters an LGA of concern without excuse, not only will they be fined, they will be sent home and they will have to self isolate for 14 days.

This is all about stopping the transmission of the virus from the areas of concern, those 12 LGA’s to the rest of greater Sydney and certainly regional NSW. The police commission now has powers to declare residential premises as a Covid risk.

These are premises where we have received information from health that there is a positive Covid case, there are close contacts. We now have greater powers to control. These welfare visits are not just about making sure people comply with the health orders, police and defence have come across people who are gravely ill and possibly would have died.

We also have power to declare a residential apartment a risk and we can lock that apartment down until New South Wales Health has conducted the appropriate tests.



Also those areas of concern, outside of school, if there is any professional development or educational learning, all of that has to be done online.

We do not want people turning up professional development or learning outside of school so make sure any activity, any learning activity outside of school, is conducted online.

We are expecting click and collect in relation to places like Garden centres, plan, nurseries, office supplies, anything that is not essential, we are asking everybody to use click and collect services and also we are asking for vaccines to be mandated for childcare workers and disability care workers.

Curfews and exercise time limits introduced in 12 Sydney LGAs

Curfews and exercise time limits have also been introduced in the 12 Sydney LGAs of highest concern.


We have the advice about health and police who’ve worked together and presented these to us yesterday, that we will be implementing curfews, in those local government areas of concern from Monday from 9pm to 5am, you cannot leave your home. Unless of course it’s for authorised work or for emergencies.

So police will be stopping everybody who’s leaving their home from 9pm to 5am, and again this is based on police feedback received in the last few days about the type of activity that’s unfortunately being carried out by a small number of people but as we said Delta doesn’t leave any room for error.

And I apologise deeply, to the vast majority of people in those communities for so doing the right thing, but for our own health and safety moving forward we need to make these difficult decisions.

If you are in a local government area of concern we ask that you limit your exercise, to an hour a day, unfortunately too many people are using that for the wrong reasons.


NSW introduces outdoor mask mandate


I also want to stress that from Monday midnight, unless you’re exercising masks should be worn outdoors everywhere across New South Wales.

Our concern is that when people are walking past a group of people or accidentally bumping into people that, that can cause that fleeting contact that can cause transmission, and even when you’re exercising, you need to have the mask unless you’re doing some strenuous exercise.

And you happen to come into contact with anybody else the mask needs to be put on your face.

And this also for police, it makes it easy for them to make sure that everybody is sticking to the rules so this mask-wearing outdoors unless you’re exercising.

This applies to every single citizen across New South Wales, whether you live in Sydney, whether you live in the bush, everybody has to respect that rule.


Sydney lockdown will be extended until end of September


So from Monday at midnight, the greater Sydney lockdown will extend until the end of September ... but I also want to state that the Central Coast and Shell Harbour will be defined as regional.

So greater Sydney includes all those areas that are currently in lockdown in greater Sydney but for the Central Coast and Shellharbour which will be defined as rural and regional as we announced yesterday.

Rural and regional communities the lockdown is going until at least 28 August.


Berejiklian says the vast majority of cases are still coming from south-west Sydney.


NSW has recorded 644 local Covid-19 cases and four deaths

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is speaking now:

Yesterday we had 642* cases of community transmission in NSW. At least 41 of those, and that this number will go up when we finalise the cases, at least 41 were infectious in the community. Sadly four people have lost thier lives and we extend our deepest condolences to families.

*The NSW health tweet says 644 local cases and two overseas.


We will be hearing from the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian in about 15 minutes when she steps up for her daily press conference.

We will find out the state’s daily numbers then.


The road to Kabul airport – crowded, chaotic and punctuated by regular gunfire – has proved impassable to dozens of Australian citizens and visa-holders trying to reach military evacuation flights out of Afghanistan.

On Thursday afternoon, the Australian government issued a public message to Australian citizens and visa-holders in the Afghan capital to travel to Kabul airport to board an evacuation flight out of the country that has fallen to the Taliban.

That group includes a number of former interpreters who served alongside Australian forces, and whose service – in Australian uniform – has made them particular targets for Taliban retribution.

But despite Taliban assurances that those seeking to leave the country would be granted “safe passage”, militant fighters blocked the gates to the airport, letting few through, and beating and shooting at some who tried to pass.

You can read the full report from Kate Banville and Ben Doherty below:

Splendour in the Grass musical festival cancelled

Another major music festival has been forced to cancel for the second year in a row due to Covid-19.

Splendour in the Grass, which when last held in the North Byron Parklands in 2019 attracted more than 40,000 festival goers each day and generated more than $60m in gross regional product, has been pushed back from late November to July 2022.

Splendour in the Grass’s co-founders, Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco, said in a statement issued on Friday that the decision to postpone had been made due to the slower than anticipated vaccination rollout.

The news comes just days after Bluesfest made a similar announcement, and Opera Australia confirming its digital production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, scheduled to take place in Brisbane in October, was also being postponed due to border closures.

Looking further ahead, The Outback Music Festival Group has announced that both its Broken Hill Mundi Mundi Bash and Birdsville Big Red Bash in 2022 will operate under a “no jab, no jive” policy.

The founder and managing director of The Outback Music Festival Group, Greg Donovan, said on Friday the decision to mandate that all attendees 16 years and over must be vaccinated against Covid-19 was made to protect local Indigenous communities.

Whilst we respect the choice of individuals as to whether or not they decide to get vaccinated, due to the nature and location of our festivals we have decided to make vaccination a condition of attendance for everyone aged 16 and over – including patrons, staff, contractors, vendors and volunteers.

This will offer all in attendance the best available protection against Covid-19. It will also ensure that remote communities are protected as much as possible from our patrons travelling through and visiting these towns and communities.


Covid-19 case detected in regional Victorian city of Shepparton

A Goulburn Valley health official has just confirmed via Facebook that the regional city of Shepparton has recorded a positive Covid-19 case following positive sewage detections earlier in the week.

Shepparton is not currently in lockdown as regional Victoria relaxed restrictions last week.

This is the first case in the regions for many days, and the city of Shepparton’s population has a large percentage of people who may be vulnerable to the virus.

BREAKING: Goulburn Valley Health has confirmed a positive COVID-19 case in Shepparton.

— Courtney Howe (@courthowe) August 20, 2021


Some borders to ease and restrictions relax in South Australia

But would you look at that! Queensland isn’t the only one lifting restrictions.

Here is a breakdown of what’s changing in South Australia from midnight tonight.

- SA to lift border with NT excl. Katherine (for now).
- All border restrictions lift with regional QLD.
- SE QLD including Brisbane moves to level 3 restrictions; isolation until negative result. @9NewsAdel

— Ollie Haig (@ollie_haig) August 20, 2021

From MIDNIGHT tonight:
- Home gathering now capped at 20 people.
- Private gatherings (functions not at home or licensed venue) remain at 50 but vertical consumption allowed.
- Private functions (licensed premises) capped 150 people and vertical consumption allowed. @9NewsAdel

— Ollie Haig (@ollie_haig) August 20, 2021

Restrictions to lift in south-east Queensland but indoor mask wearing remains

Here is the Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young:

This one new case is a young child. This is a student from the [TBD] state school and they were the first one and then parents became infected.

Although this child was tested four times we did serology which confirms that they had the disease while they were in quarantine and fully recovered. We do know that happens with younger people but that is of no risk because they were in quarantine the entire time.

They have now fully recovered so they can leave quarantine, leave isolation. Other than that, no new cases, which is excellent news and it means that we can remove some restrictions at four o’clock today.

But because of what is happening on the other side of the border, and very close to us – and I am getting positive storage tests from New South Wales each morning showing that the cases are gradually moving north – it’s really important that for another week we maintain some of those restrictions particularly wearing masks.

Please can everyone wear a mask when you need to when you cannot socially distance and particularly of course indoors, where the highest risk is.


One historical Covid case detected in Queensland

Queensland has recorded one case, but it seems it is a young child who is a historical case and was detected in home quarantine.

Friday 20 August – coronavirus cases in Queensland:

No new community transmission in Queensland overnight.

1 new locally acquired case - a historical case detected in home quarantine, and linked to the Indooroopilly Delta cluster.

0 new overseas acquired cases.#covid19

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) August 20, 2021


The Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles is about to give a press conference. I’ll bring you any big updates from that but fingers crossed the lack of premier Annastacia Palaszczuk indicates that it will be good news.

This week has been a really stressful and dark time for so many reasons, especially for those going through lockdowns around Australia.

Just a reminder that if you are struggling you absolutely don’t have to struggle alone and there are amazing resources out there.

If you are having a really hard time you can always call the Australian 24 hours crisis hotline – Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Stay well, everyone!


Okay! Looks like the 9.45am Tasmanian presser wasn’t because of bad news after all.

Tasmania recorded no Covid-19 cases overnight.

No cases of COVID-19 in Tasmania up until 6pm last night from 1,490 tests #covid19tas

— Monte Bovill (@MonteBovill) August 19, 2021

I will be learning this dance ASAP.

If at any point you think things are normal, I need you to remember that someone has made this remix of the 11am pandemic press conference and choreographed a dance to it on TikTok.

— Avani Dias (@AvaniDias) August 17, 2021

And finally, here we have the official Victorian graphic, with testing and vaccination numbers included – both pretty decent!

Reported yesterday: 55 new local cases and 2 new cases acquired overseas (currently in HQ).
- 28,601 vaccine doses were administered
- 48,273 test results were received
More later: #COVID19VicData

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) August 19, 2021


Border bust! A man has tried to cross the border into Queensland overnight with approx 150kgs of cannabis in his vehicle. Turns out he wasn’t providing an essential service.. and he has been arrested. Details @sunriseon7

— Bianca Stone (@Bianca_Stone) August 19, 2021

Here is a bit more information about NSW travel permits, required for Sydneysiders to enter the regions, that I mentioned yesterday.

NSW introducing permits for travel to the regions. Interestingly, you can still travel to look at real estate if you have "a genuine intention to relocate as soon as practicable (no investment properties)"

— Calla Wahlquist (@callapilla) August 19, 2021


Yesterday, Lifeline saw its biggest day ever, with 3500 calls.

"I know that number of calls reflects enormous distress and anxiety in the community but the good news is people are calling because that means people aren't suffering in silence."

John Brogden, @LifelineAust chair

— RN Breakfast (@RNBreakfast) August 19, 2021

I’m sharing this as a Gen-Z-AZ warrior!

OK they may be opening up Pfizer to the youngies soon but a friend said "I feel like AZ is the badass punk one now that gives you more street cred" today and I think they're right

— Hannah Ryan (@HannahD15) August 19, 2021


Residents of Katherine in the Northern Territory are expected to learn if a Covid-19 lockdown triggered by an infected US defence contractor will end in time for the weekend, reports Aaron Bunch from AAP.

The town was locked down for three days after the man in his 30s travelled from Sydney via Canberra to Darwin.

It was extended for 24 hours on Thursday after authorities learned the man was most infectious while in the town, which he drove to on Sunday.

They’re waiting for test results from people who could have had contact with the infected man at a local resort and Woolworths.

About 140,000 people in Greater Darwin were also locked down on Monday over fears the man could have spread the virus.

However, extensive testing has so far found no additional Covid-19 cases.

The Greater Darwin lockdown ended as planned at midday on Thursday after all the man’s close contacts returned negative test results. Authorities still don’t know how and where the man contracted the virus.

Former interpreter to Australian troops Fahim, with his wife Sona and baby boy Idrees on board their flight from Dubai to Perth, which landed about 5am today. 🙌🏼
He told me he had to leave his bags behind in Kabul because of security issues trying to get to the airport.

— kate.banville (@katebanville) August 19, 2021

A gas company that won $21m in grants to frack in the Beetaloo Basin paid for a charter flight for the head of a Liberal party fundraising body to inspect its operations alongside the energy minister, Angus Taylor, documents handed to a Senate inquiry show.

A Senate inquiry into fracking in the Beetaloo Basin has been examining a grants scheme designed to incentivise exploratory drilling in the region as part of the Morrison government’s gas-led recovery.

Empire Energy has been one of the main beneficiaries of the scheme, last month winning three grants to explore the Beetaloo Basin.

The inquiry has heard that Empire donated to both major political parties and that its chair is Paul Espie, a frequent Liberal donor who has previously been described in parliament as a doyen of the Liberal party.

You can read the full exclusive report below:


Tasmania’s Premier Peter Gutwein will provide a coronavirus update at 9:45am #covid19tas

— Monte Bovill (@MonteBovill) August 19, 2021

And it’s not unbelievably fantastic news for Victoria on the vaccination front either. State frontbencher Martin Pakula says they are still eight to 10 weeks away from being “where [they] need to be”.

"We've probably got a period now of eight to 10 weeks between our current vaccination levels and where we need to be," Minister Martin Pakula tells ABC Radio Melbourne. He says the aim is to drive community transmission down to zero and open up in the meantime.

— Benita Kolovos (@benitakolovos) August 19, 2021

"It's better and it's more effective to try and knock this out now and potentially have two months open, then bubble along at 20, 30, 40, 50 cases a day for the next 10 weeks," Mr Pakula says.

— Benita Kolovos (@benitakolovos) August 19, 2021

A bit of a strange information rollout from Victoria this morning, with testing and vaccination numbers TBD.

Full case, testing and vaccination numbers are being verified and will be available shortly. [2/2]

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) August 19, 2021

Victoria records 55 new local Covid-19 cases overnight

Victoria has recorded 55 new local Covid-19 cases overnight, with six unlinked cases and only 25 were in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period.

That’s 30 wild cases, one of the worst days the state has seen.

There are 57 new cases reported today with 55 local cases and two cases acquired overseas. Of the locally-acquired cases, 49 are linked to known outbreaks and 25 have been in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period. [1/2]

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) August 19, 2021


Catholic church urges PM to drastically ramp up Afghan refugee intake

The Australian catholic church has urged the Morrison government to drastically increase the number of Afghan refugees accepted into the country.

Archbishop of Brisbane and president of the Australian catholic bishop conference, Mark Coleridge wrote a letter to prime minister Scott Morrison last night urging him to provide at least 20,000 humanitarian places for Afghans “in the wake of the Taliban takeover”.

According to a spokesperson, Coleridge said the 3,000 extra places currently being offered “is a substantial commitment, but more is needed”.

Australia has stepped up before in response to significant humanitarian crises, and I urge your government to be generous...

It would seem our moral duty to stand with those who supported Australian military forces as interpreters or in other capacities, who it seems likely will suffer reprisals and even death for their work...

We should also offer refuge to other Afghans who are likely to suffer persecution or risk being killed because of their opposition to the Taliban, or because of their beliefs, values and way of life, including members of the Christian community.

There is a particular risk to women, and Australia’s humanitarian response should recognise and support their dignity and human rights.


'There are going to be deaths, but we can’t live in lockdown forever,' federal treasurer says

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg says state premiers should have “no expectation” that commonwealth assistance will remain at current levels once the goal of having 70 or 80% of the eligible population fully vaccinated; even though the Doherty Institute modelling is very clear that those targets are not a silver bullet for ending Covid restrictions once and for all.

Frydenberg told the Today show this morning that Australia would eventually have to learn to accept the fact that more people will die from Covid-19.

If you get that vaccination rate up, we do know from the medical experts, who know a lot more than you or I ... they tell us that that is the ticket out of this crisis*...

The state premiers should have no expectation that our commonwealth assistance will continue in the scale that it has been to date because we are working to a plan and that is why the vaccination target of 70% and 80% is so important...

So people have to be straight with the public and tell them there are going to be more cases. There are going to be deaths. But we can’t live in lockdown forever. That’s our message.** And that’s why I’m saying to the premiers and to the chief ministers, the government’s emergency economic support does not continue indefinitely. It is there until we get the vaccination rate to the levels that they agreed with the prime minister at national cabinet.

*I mean, they also say case numbers need to go way, way down too, but whatever.



“There are going to be more cases, there are going to be deaths, but we can’t live in lockdown forever”
- @JoshFrydenberg on @TheTodayShow

— Charles Croucher (@ccroucher9) August 19, 2021

Large scale testing in the Victorian hotspot suburb of St Kilda is still underway this morning.

Another walk in site has opened next to the Palais Theatre. More than a dozen people out here in the rain (and a dachshund in a jacket) waiting to get tested. This one opens at 8AM. @TheTodayShow @9NewsMelb

— Izabella Staskowski (@IzaStaskowski) August 19, 2021

Speaking of unconfirmed sneak peeks, here is what the ABC is saying Victoria’s numbers will look like today.

Basically, not great, but not catastrophic, and bad news on the “percentage of new cases isolating for their entire infectious period” front.

Hearing Melb numbers not great today but not more than 60. As per what was said publicly yday.

Same reason for higher number - people doing Day 13 test in iso.

Not such good news.. among new outbreaks - lower ratio of people in iso than yday.

— Rafael Epstein (@Raf_Epstein) August 19, 2021


According to a report from the Australian newspaper (which has not been independently confirmed by Guardian Australia) bars, restaurants and gyms in NSW could reopen to the fully inoculated once vaccination coverage across the state reaches 70%.

Reportedly this potential easing of restrictions is included in a proposal drawn up by government ministers and awaiting sign off from Gladys Berejiklian.

The NSW premier has repeatedly stated that life will be “much freer” once vaccination levels reach 70% and later 80% of the eligible population (which doesn’t include minors aged 12-16 by the way).

No doubt someone will ask about this in today’s NSW press conference, and, if we are really really lucky, Berejiklian might even vaguely allude to an answer before reminding us once again that Australia will eventually need to learn to live with Delta!

Lots to look forward to!


New Zealand to learn if lockdown will be extended

New and worrying cases have emerged in New Zealand’s Delta outbreak as Jacinda Ardern’s government mulls a lockdown extension.

At 3pm NZST, Ardern will release her decision on whether to extend the lockdown beyond current plans, reports Ben McKay from AAP.

The lockdown, announced on Tuesday night off the back of just one case, is due to end on Tuesday for Auckland and Coromandel, and tonight for the rest of the country.

As of Thursday lunchtime, the outbreak stood at 21 cases.

Health authorities and Covid-19 modellers expect many more to exist in the community, awaiting detection through testing, and word of other cases are trickling out.

On Friday morning, associate health minister Ayesha Verrall, confirmed a new case visited two Auckland hospitals.

The young man is currently at Waitakere hospital but spent time at North Shore hospital, possibly while infectious.

Three Auckland schools have now had staff or students test positive to the virus, and on Friday morning NZ Post confirmed an employee at an operations centre in eastern Auckland tested positive.

Case data will be before Ardern’s cabinet today prior as they make their decision on restrictions.


Covid-19 has leaked into a NSW youth justice centre

A Covid-19 case has been detected in a NSW youth justice centre, leading to the cancellation of court hearings involving detainees.

A spokesperson for the NSW supreme court confirmed on Thursday that a planned hearing involving a detainee at the Cobham centre, in western Sydney, had been cancelled because a positive case had been detected late on Wednesday.

All scheduled court hearings involved detainees who were set to appear via video link had been cancelled until Monday, the spokesperson said.
Cobham is the main remand centre in the state for boys aged 15 and over, according to the NSW juvenile justice website, and has a capacity of 105 detainees.

Rumours Berejiklian may step down are 'fanciful', NSW police minister says

So there has been a rumour floating around in the past few days that preparations and contingency plans might be being made in case the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, gets the boot. (You know, with the record high case numbers and whatnot.)

But NSW police minister David Elliot has flatly denied that there is any truth to these stories while speaking with Sunrise this morning.

Host Natalie Barr:

There is talk of unhappiness in the government, there is talk of contingency planning on who will lead the state if she steps down. Are you in the running?


You know, if Gladys Berejiklian goes, I will chase her to bring her back.

She has led us with power and intellect, and that is what we need at the moment.

I think that any suggestion that there will be movement at the top is fanciful given that she has shown her metal in this response.


ABC host Michael Rowland doesn’t seem to be in the mood to pull punches this morning and has gone in for the kill by mentioning that whole pesky “imminently looming potential for a second recession in two years” thing.


You have said you expect the economy to contract by 2% this quarter. The prime minister believes in miracles. It will be a miracle, won’t it, if Australia avoids another recession by the end of the year?


In terms of September, everything that has been put to me is that the economy will contract by at least 2%. We are only halfway through the September quarter and we know that the economy is remarkably resilient.

That’s underlined in yesterday’s numbers but it is also underlined by the fact that both businesses and households have accumulated $290 billion on their house and business balance sheets compared to the start of the pandemic last year.

That is money that will be spent as restrictions are eased and we also know from the banks that the level of hardship and distress is not as acute as what they saw this time last year across the economy.

We are very hopeful and confident that with those Doherty Institute numbers, we can reach the targets and that will allow restrictions to be eased.


So you might remember we mentioned yesterday that unemployment has fallen to 4.6% in July down from 4.9% in June.

This seems like good news, but here is that catch, that drop was largely driven by a decrease in the participation rate.

The number of employed people actually fell by 39,900 and participation (the number of people actively looking for work) also fell from 62.2% to 62%.

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg is out and about this morning trying to get us to focus on the silver lining, not the storm clouds.

Here we was speaking about the stats to ABC News Breakfast:

That headline number of 4.6 %, it is the lowest in 12 years but it doesn’t tell the full story.

What it does tell is a story of what is happening in NSW, where hours worked fell by 7% in the month as the survey period took into account the second and third week of the lockdown in New South Wales.

With Victoria, Victoria was emerging out of the lockdown during that period and we saw a 9.7% increase in hours worked which does indicate that the economy can rebound very strongly once restrictions are eased and that is what we’re shooting for, with the 70 and 80% vaccination targets.

They will be critical that we reach and people are getting the vaccination in increased numbers every day.


If you want to read more about the tension between ACT and NSW leaders at the moment you can check out political editor Katharine Murphy’s story explaining it all below:

Good morning all, and would you look at that, we finally made it to Friday!

There is some (reasonably) good news to start today. The first plane full of evacuees from Afghanistan has arrived in Perth this morning.

This will be one of hopefully many repatriation rounds as Australia continues a complex rescue operation after the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

The flight included 90 evacuees who had flown from Kabul to Dubai and then on to Australia. (Not all of them would have been evacuated on ADF planes, as the Australian government is working with other governments to get people out as well.)

They have now been transferred to hotel quarantine, the WA government agreeing to accept them over and above the usual international arrival caps.

Yesterday 76 Australian citizens and Afghans with protection visas were airlifted out of Kabul by the Australian government. Those flights also brought in 40 ADF personnel and provisions to help with the rescue mission on the ground in Kabul.

Closer to home Australia’s federal, state and territory leaders are preparing to meet today for another round of national cabinet, and it looks like tensions will be running high.

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr has accused NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian of putting young people at risk by not toughening restrictions in greater Sydney, and has called her to stop presenting 70% or 80% vaccination targets as “freedom day”.

Barr says Berejiklian’s rhetoric that all of Australia will eventually have to “learn to live with Delta” is making a decision not just for her own jurisdiction, but for the entire east coast of Australia, and that was “pretty concerning”.

NSW and Victoria are both bracing for growing case numbers today while the ACT and NT both try to control their own outbreaks.

It’s a big day, so why don’t we dive right in.



Nino Bucci (now) and Matilda Boseley (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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