What we learned, Thursday 14 October
Now that the chance of tornadoes is (hopefully) behind us, we’ll wrap up the blog for the evening. Here’s what we learned today:
- Severe thunderstorms have swept Sydney and parts of NSW, causing lightning strikes and power outages. The Bureau of Meteorology initially warned tornadoes may hit western Sydney, but the alert was later downgraded.
- Andrew Forrest delivered a National Press Club address lashing out at “rare, fear-mongering” politicians who were resisting net zero targets by 2050. He said Scott Morrison should split from the Nationals if he faced continued opposition.
- Australia’s unemployment rate ticked up to 4.6% in September as a further 138,000 jobs were lost due to lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
- Victoria reported a national record of 2,297 Covid-19 new cases overnight, and 11 deaths, but is still on track to reopen at 70% double dose targets. It downgraded the ACT from a ‘red’ zone to an ‘orange’ zone from midnight.
- NSW recorded 406 new cases and six further deaths.
- The ACT recorded 46 new local cases and one death as Territorians emerge from lockdown from midnight.
- The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, has confirmed Pfizer will be allowed to make its case to the TGA for five-to 11-year-olds to be vaccinated with its Covid-19 vaccine. It came as the TGA approved rapid antigen tests for home use.
- Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal case for the alleged rape of former Morrison government staffer Brittany Higgins has been adjourned until 5 November.
- And the Labor member for Holt, Anthony Byrne, has resigned his position as deputy chair of the federal parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.
Thunderstorms, hail lash across NSW
Thunderstorms lashing NSW have seen hailstones larger than five centimetres fall and even a tornado warning issued, AAP reports.
The storms were most intense over Sydney and the Lower Hunter, but hail was reported all the way between Sydney and Cowra in the state’s central west.
Those stones mostly measured between three and five centimetres, but some were even larger.
The conditions over western Sydney were particularly serious, with meteorologists seeing all the ingredients for a “very, very dangerous supercell”, said the Bureau of Meteorology’s Gabrielle Woodhouse.
About 4.30pm, the bureau issued a warning for a possible tornado over western Sydney.
It’s not yet known whether an apparent funnel cloud touched the ground or not.
Woodhouse said the storm was really dangerous.
Some 33mm of rain fell at Woodville golf course at Canterbury in about a quarter of an hour.
By Saturday evening, the most dangerous storm had passed out to sea, but the bureau is still warning of threatening storms in the Sydney area and advises residents to monitor the radar on its website.
Early-morning thunderstorms deposited up to 30mm of rain on parts of Canberra, with more likely on Thursday evening.
More on the power outages following the NSW storms.
And the Guardian’s Ben Doherty has found his pot of gold.
In April, Guardian Australia first reported that Bunnings Warehouse was willing to host mass vaccination hubs at its stores.
At the time, epidemiologists told Guardian Australia the idea could nudge people who did not consider vaccination as a matter of urgency into getting the jab – noting researchers had separately found that Bunnings is considered Australia’s most trusted brand.
They also said the spread of stores across suburbs, and carpark facilities, meant the hubs would complement state health offerings.
Bunnings’ offer has now been taken up by the Queensland government, as that state’s health authorities seek out ways to ramp up local vaccination rates that are trailing other jurisdictions.
You can read our initial report from April here.
Richard Marles visits Tier 1 exposure site
Federal deputy Labor leader Richard Marles won’t be attending parliament next week.
This evening, he released a statement confirming he had been at a Tier 1 exposure site last Thursday 7 October:
As a result, I have followed the health advice, have been tested and am now isolating until further notice.
Unfortunately this means I will not be able to attend parliament next week.
We are so close to getting to the other side of this and it is still as important as ever we are listening to and continue to follow the health advice and play our part in keeping our community safe.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the contact tracers and health care workers at Barwon Health. Their work makes our community safer.
Panel beaters are going to have a huge Friday, by any estimates.
Nationals MP David Gillespie has spoken to ABC TV about the emissions reduction negotiations in the Coalition, arguing that the Nationals aren’t putting a “pricetag” on net zero but ensuring the policy “won’t disadvantage the whole nation”.
Some people have said they are just worried about regional Australia, I have some concerns about unintended consequences of this target which could destroy the livelihoods of many industries, including our energy system, reduce agriculture, mining.
Gillespie then labelled net zero by 2050 a “catchphrase”. Host Patricia Karvelas noted, no, it describes what will hopefully become a physical reality that we are not adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
Gillespie explained that he meant that there would need to be a “replacement source of energy” for fossil fuels, such as high efficiency coal power stations with carbon capture and storage.
Oh, but those are still fossil fuels, and that isn’t net zero. The clue is in the catchphrase, I would’ve thought.
Asked if the Coalition could split over the issue, Gillespie replied that “I don’t think that is being countenanced”.
We will sort it out. We have to see what is on offer first. If you remember, we went to an election last election, 2019. Yes, a lot of changes in a week in politics let alone three years. The analysis then was that it would cost several hundred thousand jobs and $350 billion in taxes.
Good point - at least someone remembers when emissions reduction was job destroying and terrible (when Labor proposed it). Gillespie then spoke about the need for technology like carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen, but they were out of time so the segment ended.
Check out this time lapse of the NSW storms from Guardian Australia’s Blake Sharp-Wiggins.
Severe thunderstorm warnings have just been listed for parts of Queensland. Meanwhile, the tornado warning has been downgraded in NSW.
What a whirlwind!
A Senate committee chaired by Liberal Claire Chandler has rejected One Nation’s bill proposing introduction of voter identification laws.
In December 2018, the government backed voter ID laws in a review of the 2016 election.
One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts tried to take that proposal of the joint standing committee on electoral matters and turn it into a private senator’s bill.
In a report released on Thursday the Senate finance and public administration committee recommended the bill not be passed. It said:
While the committee acknowledges that the bill is seeking to strengthen the integrity of elections, and notes the Jscem’s support for voter identification laws in principle, there remain a number of administrative issues which are raised by the bill but not properly addressed by its provisions or explanatory material.
So, no backdown from the Coalition on voter ID laws, just: this isn’t the way to do it.
In additional comments both Labor and the Greens set out their opposition to voter ID laws on the basis they would disenfranchise vulnerable voters.
Labor senators said:
As the majority of submitters to this inquiry have pointed out, there is no culture of voter fraud in Australia and without further evidence, there is no justification for voter identification laws.
Hundreds of lightning strikes hit NSW
The NSW rural fire service is reporting hundreds of lightning strikes as a result of the storms sweeping the state.
Power outages in northern NSW
Power outages have been reported in Bensville, Blackwall, Booker Bay and surrounding suburbs following the storms.
#SydneyStorm is now trending on Twitter, though the chance of a tornado has been downgraded.
For more details head to the Bureau of Meteorology’s website.
It is not yet clear whether this is storm related.
On Tuesday, Guardian Australia published a story on the increased likelihood of a wet and windy summer as a result of La Niña event.
A serious amount of hail falling in Sydney right now.
Risk of tornadoes in western Sydney
The Bureau of Meteorology is now reporting there are risks of “tornado activity” added to the current storm in western Sydney.
There is currently a “detailed severe thunderstorm” warning of possible tornadoes, destructive winds, giant hailstones and heavy rainfall listed for parts of Blue Mountains/Hawkesbury, Greater Newcastle, Gosford/Wyong, Sydney and Greater Wollongong areas:
Multiple #thunderstorms are currently, or about to, impact major population centres, including #Sydney. A Very Dangerous storm currently tracking towards Fairfield. People should immediately check their local radars.
The Royal Commission into the casino operator licence will hand its final report to the governor of Victoria tomorrow after months of public hearings examining whether Crown Melbourne is suitable to hold a casino licence.
The Victorian government says the final report and the government’s response will be released prior to the end of this month, an approach “similar to that taken by the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority to the final report of the Bergin inquiry earlier this year”.
Minister for consumer affairs, gaming and liquor regulation Melissa Horne:
An incredible amount of work has gone into the Royal Commission into the casino operator licence and we thank Raymond Finkelstein for his report.
We’ll consider the findings and recommendations from the Royal Commission in detail and take whatever action is necessary to strengthen casino oversight in Victoria and ensure this never happens again.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has released a statement on Anthony Byrne resigning from the PJCIS, noting his service on the committee since 2005.
I thank Mr Byrne for his important contributions to this committee in Australia’s national interest.
On Tuesday Byrne, the federal MP for the south-east Melbourne seat of Holt, gave evidence to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, revealing he authorised taxpayer-funded office staff to complete political work, and used a “kitty” to pay for memberships in breach of party rules.
Byrne also admitted to employing two “Turkish” men as electorate office staff as part of a deal with factional powerbroker – and then-ally – Adem Somyurek, despite one of the men never showing up for work while drawing a taxpayer-funded salary.
Despite that evidence, Albanese had said earlier in the week it was “not appropriate” to pre-empt Ibac findings, effectively backing Byrne to stay.Albanese also revealed he will recommend that Jenny McAllister now become the committee’s deputy chair and that Peter Khalil join the PJCIS, suggesting both would make “outstanding contributions” to its work.
Anthony Byrne resigns as deputy chair of PJCIS
Member for Holt Anthony Byrne, under pressure for alleged branch stacking being investigated by Ibac has just resigned his position as deputy chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.
His full statement:
I have today offered my resignation as deputy chair and committee member of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security (PJCIS) to Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Australian Labor Party. Mr Albanese has accepted my resignation from the committee.
I will be resigning from the PJCIS today.
The work of the PJCIS is crucial to Australia’s national security and its integrity should never be questioned.
I have always put the work of this bipartisan committee first and have always served in its best interests.
I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee for the work we have done to protect Australia’s national security.
I will continue to fully cooperate with the Ibac inquiry and will not be making further comment while proceedings are underway.
Sydneysiders won’t be able to travel to regional NSW when 80% double dose targets are met, Nine News is reporting.
TGA approves rapid antigen self tests
The Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) has approved three Covid-19 rapid antigen self tests for home use in Australia from 1 November.
It includes two oral fluid tests and one nasal swab test. Results of the rapid tests are expected within 15 minutes.
Rapid antigen testing is expected to become a key additional layer in community protection from Covid-19 once states open up.
The tests are already being used in some quarantine facilities and aged care homes.
Mining company Kepco has sought special leave in the high court to appeal a decision by the NSW independent planning commission (IPC) to reject its proposed coalmine in the Bylong valley.
The special leave application was lodged this week and comes after the company lost earlier appeals in the NSW land and environment court and the court of appeal.
The NSW IPC rejected the mine in 2019 citing the unacceptable impact the mine would have on farming land and the environment – including through greenhouse gas emissions – as well as the costs to future generations.
The Bylong Valley Protection Alliancee, which joined the previous to defend the IPC’s ruling, says it “will once again join the legal fight to stop the mine, more than two years after it was first rejected”.
Environmental Defenders Office managing lawyer Rana Koroglu is representing the alliance:
We’re disappointed that Kepco has chosen to force the Bylong community back to court to defend their beautiful valley once again.
This marks Kepco’s fourth attempt at getting approval for their coal mine, after failing before the NSW independent planning commission, the land and environment court and the court of appeal.
Koroglu said it was astounding South Korean mining company Kepco was still pursuing the proposal on the eve of the Glasgow climate summit and when South Korea had recently made strong commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emission.
EDO will once again stand with our clients the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance to defend the refusal of this climate-wrecking coal mine.
Phillip Kennedy, the president of the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance said:
It’s bloody devastating that a multinational coal company can continue putting a small farming community like ours through the wringer after its mine has been rejected three times.
We can’t believe Kepco is still trying to build this polluting coalmine after the IPC clearly explained it posed too great a threat to the soils and water we rely on.
Comment was sought from Kepco.
The NSW IPC declined to comment while legal proceedings continue.
If you missed this story this morning, it makes for alarming reading.
Australia has 200 fewer intensive care beds than at the start of the pandemic.
In regional areas, where vaccination rates are lagging, the number of available intensive care beds has dropped by 18% over the same period to just 262.
We’ve been reporting in recent weeks on a push by the federal government to exempt the Future Fund from freedom of information laws. The government is proposing to shield the Future Fund from any FOI that asks for material relating to its investment activities.
Given the Future Fund’s core purpose is investing as Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, that’s quite a broad exemption. The stated purpose of the changes is to give external investment managers, who the Future Fund works with regularly, confidence that sensitive commercial information won’t be made public.
Critics say the changes were triggered by an FOI that revealed the Future Fund was investing in an Adani company linked to the Myanmar military.
A parliamentary inquiry has just finished considering the bill and has recommended that it be passed, saying it was “persuaded that the Future Fund would remain subject to a sufficient level of scrutiny and oversight through a number of other robust transparency and accountability arrangements”.
In a separate report, Labor said the FOI exemptions were too broad, hypocritical, and at odds with disclosure requirements on other institutional investors, like superannuation funds. Greens senator Nick McKim said the rationale for the FOI exemption was “bunkum” and accused the government of engaging in a cover up of the Future Fund’s controversial investments.
It’s one of the hallmarks of this government: whenever they’re caught out, whenever they come under public scrutiny, their first reaction is to cover up.
Centre for Independent Studies executive director Tom Switzer has become a member of the Liberal Democrats.
The party has espoused controversial views on Covid-19 restrictions, calling for the removal of QR codes and mask wearing by Christmas, as well as the end of lockdowns.
They are currently seeking to launch a high court challenge against new laws which could force the party to change its name less than 12 months out from the next federal election.
In NSW, opposition leader Chris Minns has questioned premier Dominic Perrottet on the resignation of MP Melanie Gibbons yesterday.
Premier, more than 6,000 people in Holsworthy lost their job during the Delta outbreak. Is mid-term and mid-pandemic the right time for the member for Holsworthy to cause a by-election?
Obviously it’s disappointing that the member for Holsworthy is seeking to seek pre selection...but our loss maybe is their gain...she’s been a fighter for Southwest Sydney and I’m sure she’s successful.
That’s why it’s hard when you lead a team...there’s always going to be demand for our talents...but it’s a good sign. It’s a good sign that federal politics knows that our members here and the Liberals and Nationals in New South Wales are such strong fighters for their communities that they want to pick that talent up and take it to Canberra.
Australia and more than 100 other countries have pledged to work toward a post 2020 global deal for nature that aims to reverse losses of biodiversity.
The environment minister, Sussan Ley, signed the Kunming Declaration overnight, which is something of a statement of intent by countries as they work towards a major new agreement for nature.
The talks are happening as part of a United Nations conference - known as Cop15 or “the other Cop” - as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
It doesn’t get nearly the same level of attention as global climate talks but these are the most significant nature talks in a decade.
Countries are negotiating a new framework to try to halt the decline of ecosystems worldwide and put nature on the path to recovery by 2030.
After this week’s virtual meeting, there will be further meetings in the new year before countries meet in Kunming in China in April 2022 to hopefully reach a new agreement.
The Kunming Declaration signed overnight is basically a signal that countries hope to reach a significant deal. It calls for “urgent and significant action” across all sectors of the economy and society to preserve nature and use it sustainably.
It pledges countries to increase the area of protected land and sea and ensure that nature is factored into policy and economic decision making.
Countries have not yet signed on to any targets but it is hoped the final deal will see countries agree to protecting 30% of land and of sea areas globally.
Australia supports the global target but has not said if it will make such a commitment domestically.
As one of only seventeen ‘megadiverse’ countries in the world, and the only megadiverse developed country that is a party to the CBD, Australia understands the value of biodiversity with our unique native plants, animals and landscapes central to our national identity.
Australia is well placed to make a substantial contribution to a global target and will work with other nations to see it adopted as part of a Global Biodiversity Framework in 2022.
The greens environment spokeswoman Sarah-Hanson Young has called on the government to commit to a domestic target.
Australia’s environment minister needs to commit to protecting 30% of land and 30% of sea by 2030 - in this country. The minister is spinning the government’s commitment to a global target trying to cover up her failure to make a specific commitment for Australia.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a warning severe thunderstorms were detected on the weather radar near the area west of Picton, the Lithgow district and the southern reaches of Lake Burragorang this afternoon:
These thunderstorms are moving towards the southeast. They are forecast to affect Blackheath, Bargo and the Nattai Tablelands by 2:45 pm and Wollongong, Katoomba and Penrith by 3:15 pm. Damaging winds and large hailstones are likely.
The Northern Territory government has provided some more detail on the co-investment of $5 million in Equatorial Launch Australia, which is constructing an Arnhem Space Centre near Nhulunbuy.
Equatorial Launch Australia are working with 27 personnel from NASA to prepare the site for the historic launch of three sounding rockets mid next year. It’ll be the first time NASA lifts-off outside of a USA commercial launch facility.
The sounding rockets will carry scientific instruments into space to conduct research and provide scientists with the opportunity to observe objects that can’t be seen from rocket ranges in the Northern Hemisphere. Though a part of me wishes they would launch me into space at this point in the pandemic.
NASA sounding rockets program office operations manager Scott Bissett:
As of today we officially have our Medium Mobile Launcher (MML) installed on the Equatorial Launch Australia launch pad! In mid-2022 NASA will return to Nhulunbuy for the launching of three suborbital sounding rockets. During this site setup trip, the NASA team has been preparing the rocket launcher, tracking systems and other support systems that will be needed when we return next year.
Severe thunderstorm warning issued for parts of NSW
The BOM is expecting severe thunderstorms across eastern NSW as the day progresses, with a dynamic cold front tracking east across the state:
Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging winds and large hailstones over the next several hours. Locations which may be affected include Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, Gosford, Sydney, Wollongong, Nowra, Armidale, Orange, Goulburn and Tamworth.
Frydenberg says he’d like to see Victoria, which just reported more than 2,000 cases in a single day, following the New South Wales roadmap - which goes significantly further than Victoria - when it emerges from restrictions.
It was very pleasing to see those restrictions being eased in NSW. I would hope Victoria follow suit. Because Victoria and its restrictions being eased at 70% and 80% don’t replicate NSW. NSW has gone further than Victoria. I would like Victoria to follow NSW. I would like Victoria and the Victorian government to provide their citizens with the same freedoms that the people in NSW have received.
Frydenberg is asked about the emergency disaster payments, which are due to end when state’s reach 80% double dose targets. He says emergency payments, like lockdowns, can’t last forever:
What we have said is that at 70% double dose vaccination, people will need to reapply on a weekly basis for the Covid disaster payment. And we’re already seeing a boost to activity across New South Wales as they have reached the target and are starting to open in a CovidSafe way.
We have also said, once you get to 80% double dose vaccination rates, but there will be a tapering down and we have already made announcements in that particular regard. But the cheapest form of stimulus for the economy is vaccination.
Treasurer responds to rising unemployment figures
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is up in Melbourne now commenting on the latest unemployment figures:
The unemployment rate is at 4.6%, slightly better than what the market was expecting. Although the headline unemployment rate doesn’t tell the full story of the impact on the labour market of the lockdowns in our two largest states of New South Wales and Victoria. The participation rate was down and there are still many Australians who are doing it tough and who indeed have been stood down on zero hours.
90% of the jobs that were lost in the month of September were in Victoria...this is a telling reminder of why we must stick to our plan agreed at National Cabinet, to reopen our economy safely.
A specialist robotic camera will be used to search for the body of an eight year old boy who is believed to have drowned while kayaking in Western Australia’s south, AAP’s Michael Ramsey reports.
The boy had been camping with family at Fernhook Falls near Walpole, about 400km southeast of Perth. He was reported missing from the campsite on Sunday morning, with police later saying he had been involved in a boating incident on the river.
A land search that spanned several days and involved more than 60 State Emergency Service volunteers has been suspended, and police are now focusing on recovering his body from the river.
Superintendent Kim Travers said the boy had ventured off alone near the top of the falls on Sunday morning. He had earlier told his older brother he wanted to paddle through foam on the surface of the water but was told it was too dangerous:
The brother has heard him call out for help and immediately rushed down the little track ... but he couldn’t see his brother. What he did see was the little blue plastic kayak lodged in the tree that his brother had [carried] across.
A short time later, his father located the boy’s jumper jammed underneath a rock.
The family had been staying in a cabin at the Mount Frankland national park and had been kayaking over the weekend without any issues.
A Swiss National daily news journalist asks Forrest about Australia’s image overseas. She says it is poor, in Europe particularly.
I probably needed you to point out that Australia is really unpopular overseas because people need to understand that that is the truth, you know? We are all cosy here in Australia – the sun is shining the wind is blowing but we are not taking advantage of those huge, permanent, everlasting natural resources to help both global warming and and our own economy to rise.
But don’t judge us for yesterday. Judge us for tomorrow. If we go hard and commit to global warming neutrality by 2050, Cop26, I do not think you will see a country who will perform as quickly, who will turn the J curve faster than Australia, and I really do – I am immensely proud of my fellow Australians and my country once we finally decide, ‘oh, my god. Crack on’, you will see a nation which is the most responsible, the most powerful and the most committed to ending global warming through economic hard rationalism.
The Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein is providing a Covid-19 update following the escape of a quarantined traveller who later tested positive to the virus.
Gutwein says the man has not been particularly forthcoming with authorities.
Forrest is asked about Australia’s trade and diplomatic relationship with China, particularly in the wake of the new Aukus pact:
I think both countries need to realise they need each other. They have been good mates for a long time. What I have always found with China is that you sort things out behind closed doors. You go and see them, they come and see you.
You can slam your fist on the board room table but you don’t do it while the camera is filming, and I think – the Chinese do the same thing. They get really historic – I would say take it behind closed doors, with all sorted out as adults and let’s remove the seemingly unproductive issues between us, and I think that is going to happen.
I think there is a will in Australia and China. We just have to determine that will and I do think that in the end we will sort this out because the alternative is unthinkable.
A reminder CovidBaseAU is run by teens who got vaccinated at their first opportunity.
Forrest is asked what medium term 2030 targets need to be set by the federal government to give industry “confidence and clarity”.
Forrest can’t really hear him, though:
Look, you were breaking up a little bit, mate – we should have a beer over this, like I did with Barnaby, so we can really look each other in the eye so I get it.
But all I can see is I do think that we’ve gotta crack on here, we’ve gotta make the decisions. We need to. We’ve gotta bring in the regulations and policies that we must do to ensure that we go carbon-free by 2050. 2030 is that all-critical milestone. Are you all talk or are you action? That’s what 2030 means.
Forrest is asked whether it’s appropriate for Australia to continue to sell thermal while there’s an international market for it.
He says it doesn’t matter much what the government thinks, or what he thinks, but what customers think, particularly big financiers:
They want to see us move to renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen, they want solutions for coal, they want us to provide them with green hydrogen so they have the choice ... but also why I think we don’t matter that much, as governments, entrepreneurs, is because the big financiers are also saying, ‘Hey, we’re pulling out.’
We’re getting out because Australia’s not gonna be a great investment, because they’re not doing something about getting real with their own carbon emissions.
For the responsibility of every kid in Australia who’s gonna inherit a global warming world, if we do nothing, then I think we need to take into account carbon emissions in everything we do. If you think, ‘oh, no, we shouldn’t do that. You know, oh, that’s terrible. That’s uneconomic’, mate, pick up the phone or walk into your kids’ room and say, ‘What do you think, darling?’ And they’ll say, ‘This is what I think! Fix it, Mum. Fix it, Dad. Take it into account.’
If, in fact, the Nationals refuse to adopt a net zero target over the coming days – and that is a possibility – what would your advice to Scott Morrison be? Should he proceed with that agreement, even if it means splitting the Coalition?
Look, my advice to our prime minister is to proceed. I do believe that, if there’s holdouts in the National party, that the truth of my investment, other people’s investment, and what the world is doing and how the world is moving, will become increasingly clear.
And there’s nothing like a politician to react to what their voters think. They might not be leading them now, they might be just politicking now, but people and Aussies will see through it. And when the cop-out politicians, when they see that their votes are declining, hmm, you’ll see them change pretty quick too.
Independent member for Indi Helen Haines has weighed in on debates on the transition to net zero.
The electorate has been held by an independent since Cathy McGowan beat Liberal incumbent Sophie Mirabella in 2013.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has recommended the government consider listing Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.
The PJCIS today tabled a report reviewing the relisting of five terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code: al-Shabaab, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
While the committee supported the relisting of all these organisations under the Criminal Code it has gone a step further, recommending the government expand the listing of Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades to include the whole organisation of Hamas.
The committee made a similar recommendation in June 2021 in its report on the review of the relisting of Hizballah’s External Security Organisation as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code that the listing of Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation be expanded to the whole organisation of Hezbollah.
Committee chair senator James Paterson said it was clear from evidence received during the review that the whole organisation of Hamas met the definition of a terrorist organisation:
Currently, the US, Canada and the EU list the whole organisation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation under their respective proscription regimes. The expert evidence provided to the committee overwhelmingly rejected the idea that Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operates independently from the rest of the organisation.
There was agreement that Hamas operates as a singular entity with overlapping personnel, finances and structure. In addition, leaders of Hamas have repeatedly made statements which meet the advocacy test for terrorist listing, including direct incitement of acts of violence against Jewish people.
End Covid For All’s Tim Costello has addressed Australia’s decision to end local manufacturing of AstraZeneca once the current contract is met.
Forrest says the fact the federal government still hasn’t set an official net zero by 2050 target is an “enormous concern”:
I’m delighted that all states and territories in Australia have a net zero target, every one of us, every state and every territory, by 2050. But Australia as a nation still does not. And that, for me, is an enormous concern.
Today, if I have one message, it’s that a national target of carbon neutrality is regional Australia’s jobs and economic opportunity, but only if Australians trust the good politicians not holding them back and move.
Back in the ACT, Andrew Barr addresses the vaccination mandates that were introduced yesterday for the education sector.
He says mandates have always been used as the “absolute last measure”.
Forrest turns to “increasingly rare, fear-mongering politicians” who have been pushing back against net zero by 2050 targets:
I see affordability increasing. I see affordability to light up your homes and highways, power our factories and farms, our schools, tech schools and universities, all over Australia. And I see it all being done while growing our economy, and while leaving your environment green and kind for your kids and grandkids. This is hard-edged economic choice, but it’s also social and environmental rationalism.
To the increasingly rare, thankfully, historical politicians fear-mongering against choice, pretending to represent us, I just want to remind you – it’s taken 50 years for fossil fuel to get the power bills down, and, mate, they’re still going up. In five years, not 50, you’ve seen the cost of green hydrogen halve ... there are none so blind, as those who will not see.
Let’s clear that up – green hydrogen. We hear a lot about so-called “clean hydrogen”. It’s a sound bite covering the fact it’s made from carbon-emitting fossil fuel. It has carbon all through its supply chain. Sure, it’s clean once it’s hydrogen, but to get it there, it’s dirty. Very dirty, with heaps of carbon dioxide emitted in the process. But there is that other dirty little secret – the gas, which is invisible to the naked eye, but at least 80 times more dangerous as a global warming agent than even carbon dioxide. Methane. The basis of natural gas, which is not adequately, nor independently, measured as fugitive emissions in fossil fuel.
This sector is better off simply burning the coal, burning the oil, burning the gas, than they are in hiding the emissions through turning it into blue-grey hydrogen, and having an otherwise astute energy minister, Angus Taylor, misled into selling it as “clean”.
Think “clean coal”. Think “clean hydrogen”. Think “cancer-free tobacco”. It all adds up to the same thing – misleading sound bites put out by industries wishing to continue a duplicitous social licence to operate. And Australia has thousands of times, thousands of times more renewable energy than fossil fuel has reserves. So, let’s keep fossil fuel going but only as long as we need to, and let’s do everything we need to switch to a green future.
Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest touts the raft of announcements made in Queensland and NSW this week:
On Saturday, I announced the one billion build of the world’s largest green electrolyser facility here. It will double the supply, not in India, not in China, not in Europe, but in Gladstone, Queensland, Australia. The starter gun has been fired on the journey, bringing manufacturing at home roaring back, particularly to regional Australia. Up to this point, practically all our green energy – think wind turbines, think solar panels – have, like our diesel and like our oil, been imported.
But I want countries, including most of all ours, to take control of their own economic and energy sovereignty. On top of that the great state of Queensland, where Fortescue Future Industries, or FFI, is making our first major manufacturing investment, New South Wales is also to receive the world’s first green hydrogen energy import and export terminal, as well as a dual fuel power station, which will transition from a blend of green hydrogen and LNG to 100% green hydrogen as soon as GH2 supply increases.
Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest is about to virtually address the National Press Club. I’ll bring you the highlights – the title of his address is “Green Hydrogen, the Power of Now”, which is timely.
Victoria today downgraded the ACT from a red zone to an orange zone.
Many thanks to Matilda Boseley – hopefully my embrace will be suitably warm. I’ll be with you for the rest of the day.
With that, I shall pass you over to the warm embrace of Caitlin Cassidy, who will guide you through the afternoon.
Stay safe everyone!
The numbers tell us that the epidemic continues to impact the workforce extensively and this impact will continue while lockdowns are enforced. The numbers tell us the impact is very strong where lockdowns are imposed and, of course, the impact is substantially lessened when lockdowns are ended...
This isn’t unexpected, it’s a tale of lockdowns. When lockdowns are in place, we see substantial job losses.
Just on those job numbers, federal employment minister Stuart Robert has sledged Queensland’s border restrictions urging the premier to provide certainty to businesses.
It is fundamental that all states and territories provide that certainty to their citizens. But now New South Wales, the citizens of those states know exactly what occurred at 70% and they will know exactly what happens at 80%. As in Victoria.
In Queensland, where we are standing, we are surviving press conference by press conference. I have no idea what is going to happen. No idea whether citizens of New South Wales can pop in. No idea whether we can plan for Christmas. Whether we can see relatives. No idea at all. There is absolutely no certainty.
How do the businesses of the Gold Coast, how do they plan? How do they recruit? How do they employ staff right now? How do they train staff? How do they take bookings? None of these questions can be answered unless there is a degree of certainty.
A simple question for the premier. At 70%, what happens? At 80%, what happens? The two other states can answer those questions. Why can’t Queensland?
Employment falls by further 138,000 jobs
Australia’s unemployment rate ticked up to 4.6% in September as a further 138,000 jobs were lost due to lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
The jobless rate had unexpectedly eased to a near 13-year low of 4.5% in August as a result of people giving up searching for work, reports AAP’s Colin Brinsden.
The participation rate of those in work or seeking employment fell further in September to 64.5%, from 65.2%. The number of hours worked rose by 15m or 0.9%.
Australian Bureau of Statistics head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said:
Extended lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have seen employment and hours worked both drop back below their pre-pandemic levels.
In September, there were 111,000 fewer employed people and two per cent fewer hours worked than in March 2020.
The low national unemployment rate continues to reflect reduced participation during the recent lockdowns, rather than strong labour market conditions.
Hmm, this is interesting. Just ducking back to the NSW premier’s press conference this morning, where Dominic Perrottet was asked about the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils plans to host an online forum that included two members of the Taliban.
Have a read of what he says and then I’ll point out the issue.
Well obviously I read that report this morning and I’m incredibly concerned by it. I immediately contacted our multicultural minister Geoff Lee and asked him to reach out to the Islamic Council in relation to that event and I think there’d be a lot of people today who have served in Afghanistan – or have had loved ones who were lost, fighting in Afghanistan – would be deeply shocked and saddened to see that report today.
So I’ve reached out to the multicultural minister Geoff Lee and I’ll be raising it with him again later today. Thanks.
Here is the problem. Geoff Lee isn’t the multicultural minister anymore, it’s Natalie Ward, one of only two Liberal women in the NSW cabinet.
I mean the event got cancelled so clearly he called someone, but did Lee just humour him the whole phone call and pass the message along?
Now, from tomorrow, more businesses will start to reopen. Some people will start to go back to their workplace and we can begin to return to the life in Canberra that we are used to, the life that makes this the most liveable city in Australia.
But with this increased activity, and interaction between people, the risk of contracting the virus increases. And this is especially the case for the 90,000 eligible Canberrans who have only had one dose of the vaccine. And it is also important for the 70,000 children under 12 who are not yell to be vaccinated.
So please be careful. Keep wearing your mask. Keep washing your hands. And please avoid unnecessary risks. As we step out of lockdown into the next path, the next step, in our recovery.
The ACT chief minister, Andrew Barr, is speaking now. Despite relatively high case numbers and the death of a man who was in palliative care and subsequently infected with Covid-19, Barr is determined to move ahead with reopening now that the territory’s vaccination rates are so high.
Good morning. I have sad news to start this morning’s press conference. A man in his 80s, who was Covid-positive, passed away yesterday. He was a resident at the Calvary Hayden aged care facility. On behalf of the ACT government, we send our condolences and love to his family and friends at this very difficult time.
In a little over 12 hours, the ACT lockdown will end. This does not mean the end of Covid risk, though. And that’s why the first step out of lockdown will be a gentle and measured step forward.
Lockdown has not been easy. But it has kept our case numbers significantly lower than they would otherwise have been. Lockdown has allowed hundreds of thousands of Canberrans to get vaccinated and it has saved tens of thousands of Canberrans from getting very sick.
Here is what the Victorian acting chief health officer, Prof Ben Cowie has to say about why the state’s cases have jumped so dramatically overnight.
It will hit hard for many, many people in Melbourne and in Victoria.
It does really show how easy it is for this virus to pass from person to person. There’s no single event that we can really pin this very substantial increase in numbers relative to the last couple of days to explain it but there are some trends which we’re exploring and we’ll have more information on and which start to build the picture.
So 46%, nearly half of the cases, reported yesterday were aged under 30 years. 63% were aged under 40 years.
Within these new cases, there were 1,245 newly impacted households, so we will see these cases continue to generate further cases amongst their contacts in the days to come.
New Zealand records 71 new Covid-19 cases
New Zealand has reported 71 new cases of Covid-19 in the community, all in Auckland.
The deputy prime minister Grant Robertson said the government had expected to see cases in Auckland rise, but that they are growing more quickly than anticipated.
He said health officials believe the outbreak can be contained under the current lockdown settings. Many of the cases are spreading at workplaces and through gatherings inside people’s homes, despite restrictions prohibiting gatherings indoors.
My message today is clear, we need people to stick to alert level 3 rules.
New Zealand’s level 3 is amongst the toughest set of restrictions applied by any country in the world ... level 3 has worked to contain outbreaks in Auckland before, but with Delta we know we are facing a more tricky and challenging opponent. I can’t urge people enough that now is not the time for complacency.
There are now 1,790 cases in the Delta outbreak and 33 of those are in hospital, with five of those in ICU. Of Thursday’s cases, 28 are yet to be linked to an existing cluster.
More than 80% of the population over 12 years old has had its first dose of the vaccine, and more than 58% is fully inoculated.
The director general of public health Dr Caroline McElnay said Thursday’s cases were “sobering but not unexpected because of where we are in the outbreak”.
Dr McElnay said:
As we see numbers increase, it is even more important that people get tested if they feel unwell and get vaccinated ... vaccinations remain our best tools for fighting the virus.
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (Afic) has cancelled its planned online forum that was due to include two senior Taliban representatives.
In a statement released this morning, Afic say they decided to cancel the event “in response to community concerns” with Afic president Dr Rateb Jneid saying the event was not intended to “legitimise any group”:
This event was not convened to legitimise any group or to offend any group ... in view of developments, I have taken the executive decision to cancel the event.
The event’s announcement sparked outrage in the Afghan and Muslim communities in Sydney, with the Afghanistan-Australian Advocacy Network (AAAN), along with prominent community leaders, condemning the panel earlier today.
The AAAN’s Arif Hussein had called on the event to be cancelled, and for Afic to offer an apology to the Afghan-Australian community:
There is no justification for giving a public platform to members of the Taliban at a time when they continue to repress the rights of women and minorities such as the Hazaras in Afghanistan. This event clearly demonstrates a clear lack of judgment and empathy on Afic’s part.
The cancellation also comes after NSW premier Dominic Perrottet released a statement, saying the NSW government had asked Afic to cancel the event.
The New South Wales community is currently opening its arms to refugees and Australian repatriates from Afghanistan.
We join Muslim community leaders in NSW, and especially Afghan community leaders, in condemning events of this kind.
Afic has yet to offer an apology for the event.
Merlino has confirmed that, TGA approvals permitting, rapid antigen testing will be rolled out in school campuses across Victoria.
In addition to the trial of rapid home testing for school communities that I announced a couple of weeks ago, we’re now also working with the department of health on an additional wider trial of the use of rapid antigen testing in school settings as part of the suite of Covid-safe measures for school and we’ll have more to say about that over the coming weeks as we approach 1 November, which is the indicative date for self-administered rapid testing, providing, of course, that individual tests are approved by the TGA.
So that’s the announcement in regards to VCE students. All students other than those who are confirmed cases, all students will be able to sit every single one of their exams and I think that’s a terrific announcement that we’re making today.
Victorian, teenaged close contacts can still sit final year exam on campus
VCE students who are close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases will still be allowed to sit their exams on campus, Victorian education minister James Merlino has confirmed.
Students who are primary close contacts will be able to sit their exams, I’ll start again. Students who are primary close contact can sit their exams in a dedicated room with a separate entrance either by themselves or safely distanced from other students who are also primary close contacts depending on the school’s capacity.
There will be supervised by staff wearing face shields and healthcare worker level PPE. The rooms will be safely ventilated and cleaned between each use.
Help us keep the community safe, each student who is a primary close contact needs to be tested every 48 hours through the first week and after their exposure on day 13. If the students are fully vaccinated, they are in isolation for seven days, and for students without a vaccination, they are in isolation for 14 days but have an exemption to go and sit their exam.
That’s the critical announcement that we are making today. The regular testing that I’ve just mentioned is the key to ensuring that students and the broader community are kept safe and making sure we pick up any further spread nice and early.
The process for students who test positive for coronavirus will not be changing, so they won’t be able to attend school or sit their VCE exam and they’ll receive a derived examination score for any exam that they miss and obviously there’s the consideration of educational disadvantage process to make sure that every single student, their marks and the impact of Covid is reflected in their final results.
Ummm, I sat my VCE exams six years ago, back in precedented times, and I’m still traumatised. I can’t imagine doing that while in Covid-19 isolation!
Victoria downgrades ACT to an 'orange zone'
Form 11.59pm tonight, the CHO has declared that the ACT will move from a red to orange designation.
As I said earlier, these numbers are not what everyone wants and I know that people will be feeling anxious about them. But they are in line with the modelling and our goals are still our goals.
The Victorian deputy premier James Merlino is giving the state’s Covid update now and has given details of the 11 people who died overnight.
Sadly, 11 people have lost their lives with Covid-19.
A man in his 50s from Moonee Valley.
A man in his 60s from Mooreland.
A man in his 70s and a man in his 60s both from Melton.
And the man in his 70s and a man in his 60s and a man in his 50s all from Hume.
A man in his 70s from Greater Shepparton.
A woman in her 80s, a woman in her 70s both from Knox.
And a man in his 80s from Brimbank.
These people are not just a statistic. Every one of them lived a full life with family and friends who love them and we pass on our deepest sympathies to their families and friends.
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has cited community concerns as their reason for cancelling the panel in a statement released this morning.
A spokesperson for Afic said that “discussion has taken place with officials in Australia during the fermentation of the idea, with a view to possibly having officials involved in posting out questions.”
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils will cancel their online forum event which included two members of the Taliban after the NSW government contacted them to ask for it to be called off, according to a release from the premier’s office.
The NSW government has contacted the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (Afic) over its plans to host two members of the Taliban for an online forum intended for the Australian Muslim community.
We asked Afic to cancel this event and they have agreed to do so.
The New South Wales community is currently opening its arms to refugees and Australian repatriates from Afghanistan.
We join Muslim community leaders in NSW, and especially Afghan community leaders, in condemning events of this kind.
We are relieved for all members of our community that this event has been cancelled and look forward to a continued constructive relationship with Afic.
Andrews has been asked if rapid antigen testing may ever be used to allow unvaccinated people into large events such as remembrance day ceremonies.
Those who aren’t vaccinated because they can’t for medical reasons is a different category and the system recognises them as a green tick if you have an exemption that is lawful....
In terms of those who object to being first and second dose, those who don’t want to be vaccinated, and choose not to be, there will be limits on their freedoms for a considerable time.
The exact nature of that will have to be said later but I can’t definitively tell you what January, March and April looks like next year. Anybody thinking that they’ll wait this out if they wait a few weeks they could go to the pub because the double vaccinated green tick to get it won’t be a thing. Yes, it will.
Because it’s not about only getting open but staying safe in ensuring we have a health system that can look after not just Covid patients but everyone who needs the care that our hospitals provide.
I’m confident all my staff have appropriate behaviour. At all times yes. I have no reason to think otherwise. My expectations are clear. I’m not here to be running a commentary again on matters that may or may not be relevant.
I don’t know who has been called. I don’t know other than the broader subject matter, these matters are live, active, there have been hearings all week and I won’t run parallel process normally get into debates with Mr Somyurek or anyone else about these issues.
Ibac should be allowed to do its work and I’m confident they will. If they come forward with a whole range of recommendations and advice on things they like us to do, things we should do, we stand ready to do that.
Okay, now questions are turning to the ongoing Ibac hearings into branch stacking into the Labor party.
Andrews has whipped out the expected line about not commenting on matters in front of the commission, but he did go into a bit more detail when he was asked if there were “zero cultural problems with Labor”.
In terms of cultural issues in the Labor party, my approach to the national executive is to ask them to take over the branch, and a clear acknowledgement that, yes, that’s the party, you are talking about the government.
This government is focused on delivering its commitments and getting people vaccinated, getting the state open. In terms of the party, there has been substantial reform very significantly, audits, rule changes, illustrators are still there.
I would say that letting Ibac do its work means at the end of the process, if they recommend we go further, if they recommend that there should be more rule changes and measures, we won’t hesitate to do that.
Is your determination to deliver on the roadmap regardless of case numbers, and regardless therefore of a huge increase in the impact of the health system, a recognition of the fact that there is no appetite for Victorians to remain lockdown any longer?
No, no. I would not put it that way. I would not put it that way. We have, fundamentally, a really important agreement with the Victorian community.
You get vaccinated and we will open up, and I do what I say.
So, that is why we are going to be opening up because people have got vaccinated in record numbers in record time and they should be proud of that and I am proud of them and deeply grateful to them.
The Victorian premier says once the state opens up case numbers will become less and less relevant, but health teams will still be tracking and tracing as much as they can.
We have never had a situation where there was rampant community transmission with every day and increasingly vaccinated communities. That is unique in any of our lifetimes.
So, on that basis, case numbers do become less relevant, except for the number of people getting it who are unvaccinated will contribute and will be directly linked to the number of people who finish up in hospital.
It may not be linear. It might not be 10% – it might be less than that, but we will always have a close eye on the unvaccinated and there will still be contact tracing and protocols.
It will be different because you are talking about volume but we will be tracking and tracing as much as we can.
Andrews has been asked if people in Victoria have “given up on the lockdown” with cases now soaring above 2,000 cases.
The strategy is about protecting our health system from being thoroughly and comprehensively overwhelmed for Covid and non-Covid patients. So, it is one of those difficult ones where I am not here today, and I would not want anyone to interpret anything I say as, ‘We’re barracking for cases and we are happy if cases go up.’ Because we aren’t.
But at the same time, 1,000 cases, 500 cases, 1,500 cases, 2,000 cases even with a lockdown on, just imagine what that number would be with a lockdown off. If you had only 40%, 50% vaccinated? What we know is that those that are in hospital, really unwell, nine out of 10 of those people, if not more, have not been vaccinated. That is every reason to go and do this.
But the Victorian premier is not quite ready to say if the state will come out of lockdown early just yet:
We are going to get to 70% next week double dose at the same time that we will be at 90% single dose; that is a stronger performance than so many around the world, and that is something that we should be very pleased about and it does give us some options.
I am not here today to talk about those options and I am not here to talk about how we operationalise the 70% – how we flick the switch – that work is still ongoing and it will be a busy few days but as soon as we can give people clarity about next week, we will.
We are racing to 70% double dose. It looks like we will finish up getting to 90% are single-dose on or about the same time, and that is a fantastic achievement.
That means more people are protected than we thought would be, and that that we can confidently deliver on the roadmap and confidently deliver the national plan.
The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is speaking now on his way into parliament house.
He says it’s likely that vaccination rates in the under 16 population will soon catch up with the adult cohort.
I don’t have a 12, 13, 14, 15-year-old number for you but we are seeing really significant take-up amongst the group so I think the 80% to 16 plus and the 80% 12 plus will essentially be about the same time, maybe a day later, but that is fantastic, and particularly important giving the schools roadmap and kids going back for part of the week over the next few weeks time.
ACT records 46 new local Covid-19 cases and one death
The Australia Capital Territory has recorded 46 new local cases of Covid-19 today.
30 are linked to known clusters, but only 18 were in quarantine for their entire infectious period.
The territory also recorded one death, according to a release from ACT Health:
Sadly, ACT Health has been notified of a man in his 80s who has passed away with Covid-19.
The man was receiving end of life care at the Calvary Haydon Aged Care Facility before being diagnosed with Covid-19.
This brings the number of lives lost in this current outbreak to seven and the total number in the ACT to 10 since the start of the pandemic.
Three Royal Australian Navy have escaped with only minor injuries after they were forced to ditch their helicopter in the Philippine Sea. This has lead the navy to temporarily pause the flying operations of the MH-60R Seahawk fleet while the cause of the crash is investigated.
According to a statement from the Department of Defence, the crew of the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter were doing a routine flight over the sea last night when “the crew conducted an emergency landing in the water”.
HMAS Brisbane, the boat that the helicopter was operating from, deployed sea boats and rescued the crew around 20 minutes later.
The three members received first aid for minor injuries once they were safely returned to the ship.
Here is what commander of the Australian fleet, rear admiral Mark Hammond, had to say:
The successful rescue is credit to the devotion to duty and skill of the officers and sailors of HMAS Brisbane.
Their immediate actions ensured the survival of the aircrew, validating the significant training undertaken in the event an emergency of this nature occurs ...
With the aircrew safe, investigating the circumstances that led to the helicopter ditching is the priority at the moment.
As a precaution, we have temporarily paused flying operations of the MH-60R Seahawk fleet.
Two Victorian MPs will put forward an amendment on Thursday in a bid to allow them to attend state parliament without providing proof of vaccination.
The Liberal Democrats Tim Quilty and David Limbrick want PCR and rapid antigen tests used instead of proof of vaccination when admitting members to parliament.
They say the amendment will “safeguard” health and safety while averting the “undemocratic” move of preventing MPs who do not wish to provide their health information from voting on legislation.
The pair say the amendment echoes schemes announced by the state government for level crossings and the Royal Melbourne hospital.
The amendment is expected to be discussed in parliament later on Thursday.
Massive gap in Indigenous vaccine rollout
Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout boss insists the gap is closing between immunisation rates of Indigenous people and the broader population, reports AAP.
Just 42.3% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have received both doses compared with 64.4% of the general population aged 16 and over.
The gap between first doses is even greater.
More than 83% of over-16s have received one shot among the broader population, while the figure is just 57.5% among Indigenous people.
Vaccine rollout co-ordinator, John Frewen, told a Senate hearing on Thursday the rollout was now catching up.
A positive of the last three days is the first-dose vaccination rates for Indigenous peoples have exceeded the national averages ...
That’s the first time we’ve experienced that so we are starting to see a closing of the gap now.
Frewen said the discrepancy was the government’s primary concern.
Of particular worry were Indigenous vaccination rates in Western Australia, where the state has some of the lowest levels of overall coverage.
We are very concerned about rates in WA and we are working closely with the vaccination program leaders in WA to not only understand the areas of highest priority but the specific requirements ...
We have got efforts going on in a number of communities.
Similar vaccine strategies rolled out to Indigenous communities in western NSW and northern Queensland are also set to be enacted in remote WA areas, such as door-to-door activities or pop-up hubs.
Labor has blamed the Morrison government for a supply shortage which significantly hampered the Indigenous vaccine rollout.
Frewen said that vaccine hesitancy, misinformation and complacency were also significant factors in lower immunisation rates.
The committee was told there had been stories of some members of the Aboriginal population believing the vaccine would reduce someone’s Indigeneity.
There is very pernicious and hard-to-counter misinformation.
Commonwealth Bank and Westpac to mandate vaccines for staff
Australia’s four big banks appear to be split over their decision to mandate vaccines for staff.
Sydney-based Westpac and Commonwealth Bank have both released statements this morning confirming they will require all employees to be fully vaccinated.
Westpac CEO Peter King said:
We recently asked our employees for their views on vaccination and received more than 10,000 responses. Pleasingly, 91 % said they are, or intend to be, vaccinated, with a further 4% undecided ...
Since the NSW outbreak started in June, more than 3,800 of our employees have been required to isolate and more than 280 branches have closed and re-opened, both significantly disrupting operations. It is clear that the best way to keep our people safe and stay open for our customers is for people to be vaccinated.
In a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesperson from the Commonwealth Bank confirmed it would be doing the same.
In line with our ongoing efforts to protect our people and customers from the health risks associated with Covid-19, CBA will require all employees around Australia to be fully vaccinated ...
This follows regular feedback from our employees and customers who want certainty, consistency and confidence as the economy re-opens and life in our communities returns to normal.
However, Melbourne-based NAB and ANZ have stated previously that they are satisfied with vaccine uptake among their staff and do not feel the need to make them mandatory, at least for the time being.
Bruce Lehrmann case adjourned to 5 November
Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal case for the alleged rape of former Morrison government staffer Brittany Higgins has been adjourned until 5 November.
Lehrmann remotely appeared before the ACT magistrates court on Thursday via telephone, but the matter was delayed before it is expected to be committed by consent to the ACT supreme court.
Lehrmann intends to plead not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent and denies that any form of sexual activity took place. His appearance on Thursday was limited to brief greetings confirming his appearance, greeting the magistrate and confirming he could hear via audio link.
Lehrmann’s lawyer, John Korn, sought an adjournment, revealing that the brief he had received from police contained “material in it that I shouldn’t have had”.
Korn told the court he undertook not to read the material, and has not done so. Korn received a hard copy of the correct version of the brief on Tuesday, necessitating a delay of three weeks.
Korn said he would need two weeks to get across the material and would schedule one conference with his client, who is currently in Queensland.
The ACT director of public prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, said it remains “ready to commit” the matter but did not oppose adjournment. Justice Campbell adjourned the matter to 5 November.
The summons, seen by Guardian Australia, alleges one breach of the Crimes Act by Lehrmann for “sexual intercourse with Brittany Higgins, without her consent, and [that he] was reckless as to whether she had consented”. The offence is punishable by up to 12 years in prison.
Higgins alleges that Lehrmann raped her in the Parliament House office of the former defence industry minister Linda Reynolds in the early hours of 23 March 2019.
In August Lehrmann’s lawyer John Korn said in a statement:
My client absolutely and unequivocally denies that any form of sexual activity took place at all. He will defend the charge.
Australian federal police began investigating the allegation Higgins had been raped by a colleague at Parliament House in 2019 after she made a formal complaint in February.
A brief of evidence was passed to the director of public prosecutions in June.
A quick update from Tasmania.
The Northern Territory government remains in the dark about potential moves by the federal government to scrap a Chinese company’s lease over the Port of Darwin amid national security concerns.
With the defence department edging closer to finishing a review ordered five months ago, Guardian Australia understands the federal government is considering options that go beyond the binary choice of keeping or scrapping the lease.
A third option is to keep the 99-year lease in force but impose additional requirements on the operator, Landbridge Group.
Under critical infrastructure laws that passed the parliament in 2018, the federal government has the power to require a port operator to take specific actions based on security risks.
You can read the full report below:
Just touching on that CSL news. There has been a bit of chatter around that the company, which is responsible for Australia’s domestic AstraZeneca production, may be suspending operations, but the company says this is not the case.
A CSL spokesperson released the following statement:
CSL is committed to the manufacture of approximately 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria. Already over 20 million doses have been produced to protect Australians and those in the Asia Pacific region, and it is expected that the remaining production will be completed early next year.
As CSL Chair Brian McNamee AO said at the Annual General Meeting this week: “We are pleased to say that the Australian Government and AstraZeneca trusted us as their partners to help the country respond to the emerging crisis through the most effective solution available: vaccination.”
CSL and Seqirus are proud of the role they have played in providing Australia with onshore vaccine manufacturing capability throughout the pandemic.
Now, let’s talk about how we are going to helping our Pacific neighbours.
In terms of AstraZeneca, I’ve spoken with the chair of CSL, Brian McNamee, today, and have been engaging with Liz Chapman, who’s the Australian CEO of AstraZeneca – both have confirmed that CSL and AstraZeneca are on track to complete the full 50m dose production run in Australia and the 3.8m supply from overseas.
So, 53.8m AstraZeneca doses. So, our expectation and our plan is that that program will be completed in full.
And all of those extra doses are being supplied to the region. So, Fiji has very much built its vaccination program with the support of Australian AstraZeneca. It’s made a huge difference there.
There’s a very significant offer – Dfat is coordinating it right across the region. PNG, as you mentioned, our Pacific Forum friends and neighbours, Indonesia, Vietnam we have been able to support, and others.
So, all of these items are coming together and we’ll continue to support them both directly with our AstraZeneca, which I’m really pleased to be able to say – the confirmation I’ve had today – on track, delivery in full.
The health minister is asked what he plans to do if the TGA approves the use of Pfizer for five- to 11-year-olds but the vaccination advisory body Atagi says no:
Look, no change in policy or position since the question earlier on in the week. And that is, we take a double green-light approach.
Atagi is our advisory body on vaccines and the TGA is our safety regulator. And so we take a double green-light approach to that. That’s been the situation. They were cautious in assessing the 12- to 15-year-olds. They assessed the data carefully, they made their decision.
We’re rolling that program out now with 690,000 first doses and 190,000 second doses. And so we’ll continue to follow that medical advice.
Greg Hunt has been asked what the government is doing to increase vaccination rates in Indigenous communities, which have generally fallen behind the Australian average:
Indigenous rates at the moment are 57.5% first dose, 42.3% second dose. And, as Pat Turner, who’s the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, said, it’s not a question of access, it’s very much a question of either hesitancy or confidence.
And Pat was absolutely clear with health ministers in that statement. And so our task now is to work collectively, of federal government, state government, Indigenous leaders, Indigenous representatives and media, to help encourage and boost that take-up ...
So it’s very much about three things, going forwards. One is the continued program of rolling out, around the country, and presenting and presenting and presenting. And so it’s not just one opportunity. We’re providing multiple opportunities.
Two, we’re taking a different approach, and there’s a lot more work which was done, for example, in Wilcannia, of having to literally go house to house. And so within communities, there’s a lot more direct outreach, house to house. Even though there’s the access, even though there’s the availability.
And the third is the confidence-building program around the country, and that’s very much a partnership with Indigenous communities, and we’re focusing on what is the message that best works in each community.
Oh and Greg Hunt also has some non-Covid-19 health news for us (I know! I forget that other diseases existed as well!):
There’s $30m that I’m delighted to announce is being released for grant application rounds, competitive grant application rounds, under the medical research future fund.
Two programs – a $20m program under the emerging priorities program, which is focusing on childhood and teen musculoskeletal, about diagnosis and treatment. Many young kids, many teens, will have spinal conditions.
It could be something such as juvenile arthritis, it can be painful and debilitating, which of and in itself is a real concern for parents.
But prolonged chronic pain can, at any age, have an impact on mental health. And so this research is, I think, really timely and very important.
The other part of it is $10m, under our health data program, to focus on emerging pathways for health data.
Hunt has confirmed the Australian vaccination rate (the 16 and over population) now sits at 83.6% first dose and 65.4% double dosed.
What does it mean? It means that we have the supply, we have the distribution mechanisms. At the moment, we’re seeing roughly over 300,000 vaccines a day on weekdays, and a similar number over the course of the weekend, that are being distributed.
And we will just continue going on, as we’ve done with 12- to 15-year-olds, as we’ve done with the boosters for the severely immunocompromised. And so I think that’s a very important sign and it offers additional support and protection for parents and families.
It’s coming at an earlier time than we had previously expected, so I’m very, very pleased about that.
TGA to consider Pfizer doses for five- to 11-year-olds
Federal health minister Greg Hunt has confirmed that Pfizer will be allowed to make its case to the Therapeutic Goods Administration to allow five- to 11-year-olds to be vaccinated with its Covid-19 vaccine:
The Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA, Australia’s medical regulator, has provided provisional determination, which allows for Pfizer to submit their application for the Pfizer vaccine for five- to 11-year-olds.
That will be done on an expedited basis. And so there are then three stages from here. Pfizer will need to submit its data, which we are hoping will come in the coming weeks. They are working with the CEO of Australian Pfizer, Anne Harris, last week and this week to that effect.
Then the TGA, which has already begun its process of assessment, will assess the final data. And if they provide a green light, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will also do their consideration – and if they provide a green light, then we provide the vaccine.
We’re very confident that all of these processes will proceed but, as ever, we follow the medical advice.
Heads up, looks like opposition leader Anthony Albanese will be speaking at 10am AEDT. That’s just after we are slated to hear from the federal health minister Greg Hunt at 9.30am.
But on the upside, the NSW seven-day rolling average is now in the 400s.
Big thanks to Josh Nicholas for the speedy graph work:
You can see just how dramatic that Victorian case number case jump is on the outbreak graph:
NSW records 406 new local cases and six deaths
The NSW numbers have also just come through. The state recorded 406 new local cases and, sadly, six people infected with Covid-19 have died.
Victoria records most infectious day yet with 2,297 Covid-19 cases
The Victorian numbers are in and they’re not good. The numbers have jumped by more than 700 cases from yesterday, with 2,297 new infections recorded overnight.
The state also recorded 11 deaths.
Heads up, we should be hearing from federal health minister Greg Hunt in about half an hour:
The federal government is seeking to overturn a landmark high court decision that deemed Aboriginal Australians cannot be aliens and cannot be deported.
The Love and Thoms ruling in February 2020 ranks as the high court’s most significant constitutional decision in years, with the narrow four-to-three judgment prompting Coalition conservatives to lobby for black-letter judges to be appointed.
Just a year and a half later, the commonwealth has revealed it wants the precedent to be overturned after a New Zealand man tried to fight deportation using the Love and Thoms precedent.
Part of Shayne Paul Montgomery’s federal court case seeks to prove that the category of “non-citizen, non-alien” should be extended to people customarily adopted as Aboriginal even if they have no Aboriginal biological descent.
You can read the full report below:
Andrew Forrest urges end to climate 'fear-mongering'
Emissions reduction targets of between 40% and 50% are absolutely necessary for Australia, according to mining magnate Andrew Forrest, reports AAP.
The former Fortescue chief executive also said it would be a “high-profile” declaration of where Australia sits on climate change if Scott Morrison did not attend an upcoming Glasgow summit to address the issue.
Yesterday Forrest outlined billion-dollar plans for green hydrogen production facilities across Australia, including in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania.
Before a final decision on Australia’s net zero emissions policy by the government, Forrest has hit out at MPs who have criticised such proposals as being detrimental to the economy.
He told ABC Radio National this morning:
We need to stop the fear-mongering ... It might crack a few more votes at the next election, but after that it is seen as fear-mongering, when coal starts to subside.
Much of the criticism of net zero plans have come from senior Nationals MPs, who have said attempts to reduce emissions would impact on regional areas and jobs.
The Nationals will hold a party room meeting on Sunday to discuss the net zero plans.
Nationals Senate leader and cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie said yesterday there would be “no deal unless it is right for the regions”.
Forrest said he had spoken yesterday to deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and McKenzie about the plans for green hydrogen facilities:
I’m sure they are quite capable of hearing the facts ... Economies are going green and they are going to grow the fastest and have the most jobs. If Australia doesn’t do it, that capital will go to countries that will.
Forrest will address the National Press Club at lunchtime.
Just in case you were wondering why Queensland has issued a severe weather warning for today.
Wilcannia locals are celebrating the news there have been no new Covid cases for two weeks but say they are now on the long path to recovery after the virus hit “like a cyclone” in August.
Yesterday was the 15th consecutive day of no new cases, an “incredible” outcome according to Brendon Adams, who runs Wilcannia River radio and who worked on the frontline during the crisis.
“It was like a cyclone, we were just overwhelmed by the impact,” Adams said. “There was a lot of depression, there was isolation but our community came together, and to see an outcome such as this is unbelievable.”
As NSW lifts restrictions, one Aboriginal health expert warned that “we are still in the thick of it”, with new cases appearing in other Aboriginal communities every day.
You can read the full report below:
New Zealand’s defeat by the Delta strain of Covid-19 could see a relaxation of international border rules by Christmas, reports Ben McKay from AAP.
And Jacinda Ardern’s government is preparing to allow New Zealanders with Covid-19 to stay at home or isolate at community facilities if they do not need hospital-level care.
A predicted surge of coronavirus cases has prompted the changes.
The hard border has been maintained as New Zealand pursued an elimination strategy against the virus, but the reluctant acceptance of ongoing community cases has turned the government’s mind to a border rethink.
Ardern appears set to loosen the compulsory 14-day stay in a quarantine hotel – known locally as MIQ – on arrival.
Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins said:
We are actively considering our MIQ settings in light of the fact that we are unlikely to get back to zero cases ... You can expect to see us talking more about that fairly soon.
International travel has been on hold since July, when New Zealand suspended the trans-Tasman bubble due to growing cases in NSW and Victoria.
State government commitments for 2030 have put Australia within reach of meeting global expectations on tackling the climate crisis, but it will fall short unless the Morrison government steps up, a new analysis has found.
Guardian Australia understands Scott Morrison has told colleagues he wants to increase Australia’s existing 2030 emissions reduction target as part of his negotiations with the Nationals about climate policies to be unveiled before the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.
Emissions projections to be released shortly are expected to forecast Australia will beat the current target of a 26% to 28% cut by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, and the prime minister wants to reflect that in a new target to be outlined ahead of Glasgow.
You can read the full report by Katharine Murphy and Adam Morton below:
Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew Forrest has been speaking to ABC radio this morning about his investments in green hydrogen initiatives:
It’s a market we’ll compete with, instead of importing everything from overseas. My dream, my passion is to get those jobs all making manufacturing green ...
A company that produces no pollution goes green? Great, slow clap. We need the heavy emitters, people like me, we have to go green as soon as possible to stop global warming.
When asked about National frontbencher Bridget McKenzie’s comments yesterday, when she suggested that committing to net zero emissions by 2050 could hurt regional communities, he said:
We need to stop scaring Australians. We need to stop fear-mongering ...
You might crack a few more votes but after this coming election you’ll be seen for what you are – just fear-mongering to try and save your political job, not the jobs of regional Australians.
There is alfresco dining change that was brought in last year. They were temporary and now permanent.
We know that they’ve been incredibly successful here in the CBD and down in The Rocks. We want to bring life and laughter into the city during summer. We’re also offering up to $500,000 grants to councils right across the state to improve their high streets, to improve amenities.
We want to make sure that every single neighbourhood flourishes and has activity and action right through the summer months and beyond. So these grants will help them with that as well. And importantly, we’re providing $5,000 grants to 5,000 businesses on a first-in, first-served basis, who want to embrace alfresco dining.
We want to move the inside to the outside. There’s no reason why that should be something that’s just limited to Europe.
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet has just been speaking in Sydney, announcing the second part of his government’s business supports in the lead-up to Christmas.
And this time the customers have something to look forward to as well:
We know that Dine and Discover vouchers have been incredibly successful, incredibly positive, used by close to 5 million people right across our state.
So today, we are doubling down on Dine and Discover. We’re offering two additional $25 vouchers. We know that these vouchers have injected close to $500m into the New South Wales economy. They have been incredibly successful and popular, from Ballina to Balmain, from Byron to Broken Hill.
People right across the state have gone out and used the voucher, and importantly, spent more. It’s driven economic activity in New South Wales. It’s got people back into work. We know that they’re popular.
We said as we were going through the economic recovery period that we’d look at those programs that worked and we would expand them if we could. That’s exactly what we’ve done in relation to this.
Australians hoping to fly overseas in the coming months are facing exorbitant costs due to high demand and a scarce supply of seats on services flying into the country, as experts warn high prices will last another year.
The complicated logistical planning required for airlines to ramp up from skeleton operations has meant those seeking to take advantage of the reopened border will face financial hurdles, while aircraft are recalled from desert parking lots and furloughed staff and ground handling contracts are brought back online.
A backlog of more than 45,000 Australians are still stranded overseas, adding another layer of complexity, demand and frustration to the picture.
An analysis of flight costs provided to Guardian Australia by the booking site Kayak shows the average cost of a one-way economy ticket from Sydney to New Delhi – the most sought-after route on the site over the past month – is $1,051, while the return leg on average adds $2,668 to the ticket cost for travel between November and December.
You can read the full report below:
Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Thursday. We are nearly done with the week – don’t worry, we can do it!
Well, vaccinations rates are rising fast in Australia’s two most populous states and, as positive is as that is, it’s causing a little bit of a headache for the new NSW premier.
Dominic Perrottet is looking down the barrel of reaching 80% of the 16 and over population being fully vaccinated less than a week after opening the state up after reaching 70%.
The government has promised that the next stage of the post-lockdown reopening will start the Monday after the state reaches 80% full vaccination among its eligible population. But whoops! Many are predicting 80% to be reached on Sunday, potentially leaving only a week between the two phases.
The government’s Covid-19 and economic recovery committee – formerly known as crisis cabinet – will on Thursday discuss postponing regional travel, given the lower vaccination coverage in rural communities.
Perrottet alluded to this yesterday:
There has been concerns raised about regional NSW when you look at those double dose vaccination rates ...
[But] we don’t make decisions on a knee-jerk reaction. We make decisions in consultation with our health and economic teams.
Down south in Victoria it looks as though reopening could be coming early as well, with the chief health officer suggesting he is open to lifting Melbourne’s lockdown before next weekend.
The state is on track to reach its 70% double vaccination target before the indicative date of 26 October, and Brett Sutton confirmed that a decision on reopening could be announced as early as this weekend.
While speaking to ABC radio yesterday, he also hinted that the home visitation ban could be lifted, which under the state’s original Covid-19 roadmap, was slated to change at 80%:
We’ve always said, if we can do more, we will do more ... We’re acutely aware of home gatherings leading to spikes and that was definitely a feature of [the AFL] grand final. They were people that didn’t normally come together ...
It’s different for families. If we can limit numbers, if we think the epidemiology looks OK, absolutely open to that as well.
OK, with all that out of the way, why don’t we jump right into the day!