What happened Friday 22 October 2021
With that, we’ll end our live coverage for today.
Here’s a recap of the day’s main developments:
- Victoria will scrap quarantine for fully-vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November as Australia moves to reopen. The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, confirmed the move on Friday after Scott Morrison flagged that Australia would soon ease travel restrictions with Singapore and Qantas announced it would bring forward the resumption of international flights.
- Meanwhile, Melbourne – the world’s most locked-down city – was set free on Friday. Just hours after lockdown lifted, cafe workers were out in the cool morning air, dragging chairs and tables out the front of the stores, anticipating hordes of brunch-starved customers.
- Former New South Wales Labor power broker Eddie Obeid must attend Silverwater jail on Saturday morning to begin his seven-year term after a supreme court judge said she was not prepared to grant bail while the 77-year-old appealed his conviction.
- Gladys Berejiklian should have disclosed her relationship with former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest when deciding on giving a multi-million dollar grant to a shooting club project that he had lobbied for, the deputy leader of the New South Wales Liberal party, Stuart Ayres, has told a corruption inquiry.
- Tasmania has announced it will reopen its borders to the rest of Australia from 15 December. Fully vaccinated arrivals from the mainland will be required to return a negative Covid test within 72 hours of travelling to the state. Tasmania will also scrap quarantine for international arrivals once it reaches 90% vaccination coverage – which it expect to achieve by 15 December.
- The idea that Rupert Murdoch influences Australian elections is a “myth” and far removed from the behaviour of “the real Rupert”, the media mogul’s global chief executive, Robert Thomson, has told a parliamentary inquiry.
Have a great evening and a pleasant weekend.
Former New South Wales Labor power broker Eddie Obeid must attend Silverwater jail on Saturday morning to begin his seven-year term after a supreme court judge said she was not prepared to grant bail while the 77-year-old appealed his conviction.
Justice Elizabeth Fullerton had allowed Obeid to return to his Hunters Hill home on Thursday night immediately after sentencing the disgraced former politician.
Fullerton was concerned about the Covid risk involved in sending him to the police lockup at Surry Hills for up to 24 hours before he entered Silverwater to be processed.
A new memorial dedicated to the gay and transgender people who were targeted in homophobic and transphobic attacks from the 1970s to 1990s in Sydney has been built.
Rise: The Bondi Memorial at Marks Park in Sydney’s Tamarama was unveiled by Waverley mayor Paula Masselos and chief executive of the LGBTQ+ health organisation Acon, Nicolas Parkhill on Friday.
Masselos said the memorial serves as a “place of quiet reflection where the community can acknowledge its devastating history whilst recognising the progress society has made through acceptance and celebration of diversity”.
Parkhill said: “This memorial will help acknowledge and heal the pain, grief and trauma these events have caused that are felt by so many in our communities, and ensure that the memory of those we have lost will never fade from our collective consciousness.”
It’s not just Qantas that has scheduled flights into Melbourne in response to the Victorian government’s announcement it would end all quarantine for fully vaccinated international arrivals from November.
Singapore Airlines has announced it will run 14 weekly flights into and out of Melbourne from November, with tickets for these services to go on sale from 8pm tonight (eastern daylight time).
Cathay Pacific has also announced it will operate at full capacity in and out of Melbourne from November – nine services per week where every seat on each plan can now be filled.
Here are some numbers to give you an idea of just many extra people can fly home to Australia to see their loved ones when an airlines returns to full capacity:
On its services to Sydney, Cathay flies an Airbus A350-1000, a plane which it has configured to carry 335. When they announced they were returning Sydney flights to full capacity – which is ten weekly services – this results in the airline being able to fly in 3,340 people into Sydney alone each week.
It’s an eye-watering figure when you consider that for much of this year and last year, there has been a weekly arrival cap of about 4,000 people (and sometimes even lower) split up across the country, contributing to a backlog of about 45,000 who have become stranded overseas and registered for government assistance to return home.
Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on a movie set in an accident that killed a photography chief and injured a director, authorities in New Mexico have said.
A statement from the Santa Fe Sheriff’s office said Baldwin, who is acting in and producing the film Rust, had fired the prop gun in an incident on Thursday.
The statement said deputies were dispatched to the set around 2pm in Bonanza Creek Ranch when a 911 caller reported a shooting.
“The sheriff’s office confirms that two individuals were shot on the set of Rust. Halyna Hutchins, 42, director of photography and Joel Souza, 48, director, were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin, 68, producer and actor,” it said.
Also in the offsets inquiry, the anti-mining group Lock the Gate has been asked about the use of future mining rehabilitation as an offset for the loss of mature bushland.
Guardian Australia published this story today on this practice at a number of coalmines in NSW.
Georgina Woods, Lock the Gate’s NSW coordinator, has told the inquiry NSW used to set a limit stipulating a maximum of 10% of a company’s offset liability could be met through future mine rehabilitation.
Over time the cap was lifted and “then there was basically no cap at all”.
“Our view is this practice is occurring because for a lot of the endangered ecological communities and habitats there simply isn’t the intact bushland available to be purchased and set aside as an offset,” she said.
“They simply struggle to find areas of remnant bushland that they can meet their offset promises (with).”
Gary Dunnett of the National Parks Association of NSW told the hearing that environmental offsetting had led to a continued loss of biodiversity in NSW.
“The stark reality is that each such transaction diminishes the total extent of threatened ecological community or threatened species habitat in NSW, generally by half,” he said.
Barnaby Joyce appeared on ABC TV a short time ago, and was asked a series of questions about the Nationals’ wish list it will demand from Scott Morrison to support him taking a net zero emissions by 2050 policy to the Cop26 conference in Glasgow.
After a week of discussions, the Nationals party room will meet again on Sunday after the prime minister has considered their demands.
Host Patricia Karvelas asked the deputy prime minister what was on the Nationals’ wish list. He didn’t answer, saying he wouldn’t “litigate these things through the TV”.
Karvelas asked what the Nationals want in terms of the future of coal mines, and Joyce said:
If we don’t have coalmines continuing on, Patricia, we don’t have money for such things as the ABC and hospitals and roads. So people might not see coal mines but by gosh they see the royalties from them and the tax revenues from the companies that operate them.
Asked again by Karvelas what he was pushing for, Joyce said:
I tell you what I’m pushing for, Patricia – the facts. People always say, ‘well don’t you agree with the science’. Well, the science has a myriad of chapters to it.
Asked if he believes that we’re facing catastrophic climate change, he said:
I think that anthropomorphic climate change is a factor. When you say catastrophic, I don’t believe it’s in the interests of everybody to make statements so grand that we terrify everybody.
Joyce was also asked how significant opposition to a net zero deal was within the Nationals. He said his party “wouldn’t need to deliberate for over a week” if there wasn’t disagreement, but was not specific about the scale of opposition.
The idea that Rupert Murdoch influences Australian elections is a “myth” and far removed from the behaviour of “the real Rupert”, the media mogul’s global chief executive, Robert Thomson, has told a parliamentary inquiry.
Thomson rejected a suggestion by the inquiry chair, Sarah Hanson-Young, that the chairman and CEO of News Corp had a hand in directing his newspaper editors on which party should win.
“Senator, the philosophy is around ideas,” Thomson told the media diversity inquiry via video conference from New York.
“I have to say there is Murdoch the myth ... and the real Rupert.
“And there’s quite a distinction between the two. All societies seem to need their myths – the Greeks, the Japanese. And the idea, the proposition you put is not accurate.”
Still in the NSW offsets inquiry, Bryan Jenkins of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand has suggested the government needs to make changes to the management of the biodiversity stewardship scheme, which trades in offset credits.
Jenkins said unlike in other markets that involved financial trade, the fit and proper person test for participation in the stewardship scheme “does not include how you manage insider trading” and the government needed to develop rules and guidelines “to clarify situations considered to be conflicts of interest”.
Jenkins said the institute was working on its own proposal for potential improvements and was considering how practices from other industries could be applied to the trading of offset credits.
“We would like to see real improvements around how you manage to avoid insider trading,” he said.
Jeffrey and Jack Bulfin, of the Deep River Group, a consultancy that assists residential developers with planning matters, including offsetting, said they were supportive of the offsets scheme remaining in place but that reforms to improve trust and accountability were necessary.
Jack Bulfin told the hearing that a public register that recorded trades of credits and prices did not provide a true insight into how the market was operating or what credit prices could be.
He said this, combined with the complexity involved in establishing a stewardship site, made the scheme difficult for average landholders to participate in.
“My experience would be that the complexity of registering a site is so complex that an average person could not participate without significant guidance from lawyers and ecologists,” Bulfin said.
He said the government also needed to develop a better system for disclosures that could be considered conflicts of interest.
“We need disclosures in place so the whole process is adequately transparent and it’s not at the moment,” he said.
“The transaction register is not transparent enough nor is the management of conflicts of interest.”
The NSW government needs to reform a scheme that allows for the financial trade of environmental offset credits on private land so that there are clear rules for managing conflicts of interest and the potential for insider trading, an inquiry has heard.
Professional organisations that represent ecological consultants, landowners and developers who participate in the state’s biodiversity stewardship scheme have told a hearing the scheme lacks transparency, is too complex for an average landowner to participate in, and requires reforms to improve both “trust and accountability”.
Under the NSW environmental offsetting system, private landholders are able to permanently conserve their land under an agreement with the NSW government through a program known as the biodiversity stewardship scheme.
Credits are assigned to properties and can then be purchased by developers as offsets for the environmental damage caused by projects.
Earlier this year, Guardian Australia revealed that consultants from a company that advised governments on major developments in NSW made windfall gains of tens of millions of dollars by selling offsets to the government for those same developments.
Appearing before an inquiry examining the integrity of the state’s offsetting scheme on Friday, the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, which represents environmental professionals, said changes needed to be made to the scheme to improve the management of conflicts of interest.
“We certainly believe that is a major concern, the Guardian article certainly highlighted the potential conflict,” the organisation’s president Bryan Jenkins told the hearing.
Billionaire property developer Lang Walker has thrown a lifeline to the controversial Powerhouse Parramatta project, with a hefty $20m donation.
The University of Western Sydney has also come on board with a $10m investment, to secure its place as the museum’s foundation co-partner, along with the Walker family foundation.
Property developer Walker joined the board of trustees for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, better known as Ultimo’s Powerhouse museum, in November 2020.
Qantas unveiled a fast tracked return for some international flights earlier today, at a press event with Scott Morrison and New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet in Sydney.
While most of Qantas’ announcements about international travel had so far related to Sydney, the airline has just announced some more route information for international travel in and out of Melbourne.
In a statement, the airline said it can bring forward Melbourne services to London and Singapore in light of the Victorian government’s announcement today to follow in NSW’s footsteps and remove quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers returning from overseas from November.
The updated international schedule out of Melbourne published today includes:
- Melbourne to London: Qantas flights will be brought forward to 6 November 2021, six weeks earlier than scheduled, operating two days per week with 787 aircraft and ramping up to daily from 18 December 2021.
- Melbourne to Singapore: Qantas flights will be brought forward to 22 November 2021, three weeks ahead of scheduled, operating three days per week with A330 aircraft and ramping up to daily from 18 December. Jetstar will also recommence flying four times a week between Melbourne and Singapore using 787 aircraft, a route it hasn’t flown since 2019.
- Melbourne to Los Angeles: Qantas flights will restart from 18 December 2021 with other destinations scheduled to recommence in the new year.
Qantas and Jetstar will look at bringing forward additional destinations if possible.
Taxation Commissioner Chris Jordan has successfully defended a defamation lawsuit brought by Sydney accountant Vanda Gould.
Gould, who a judge has previously found was behind a globe-spanning web of companies that allegedly dodged Australian tax (which he denies), sued Jordan over remarks during an address to the National Press Club in July 2017 which he claimed painted him as having engaged in the worst kind of money laundering, insider trading and tax fraud.
Jordan, who didn’t name Gould during the remarks, denied he identified the accountant and ran a number of other defences including truth.
Handing down his judgment this afternoon, federal court judge Richard White said Gould was identified during Jordan’s remarks, which did convey the defamatory imputations claimed by Gould.
However, Jordan had a complete defence because he “made the impugned statements on an occasion of qualified privilege”, White said.
White’s written judgment is yet to be published by the court.
All disability sector workers in Tasmania will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as the state reopens to the rest of Australia and the world.
Specifics of the mandate are not yet clear, but Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein said further details would be announced next week.
We certainly don’t want to end up in a situation where our most vulnerable young people, our most vulnerable adults, end up in hospital. That’s why we’re going to move to mandate vaccination for those who work in the disability sector, and more details on this will be released very soon.
At a minimum, we want workers in this area to have received their first vaccination by least mid-to-late November, so they can be fully vaccinated closer to the time we open. We’ll have more detail on that I hope, later next week.”
Gutwein is running through some of the modelling from the Kirby Institute about how Covid could spread through Tasmania.
He says the “let it rip” model, if Tasmania was to drop all Covid restrictions when it reopens, would lead to:
- 77,000 cases
- 214 deaths
- A peak pressure of 636 Covid patients in hospital each day, with ICU admissions peaking at 168.
Gutwein said that if current restrictions are maintained when the border reopens, the modelling predicts:
- Roughly 52,000 cases
- 87 deaths
- A peak pressure of 242 Covid patients in hospitals each day, with ICU admissions peaking less than 70.
Gutwein said settings for Tasmania reopening will be different to other states given they have not had a large outbreak.
We are different to NSW and Victoria. They have run models, they have had lived experience. But they have also been locked down with limited movement across their community.
We expect that we might see a different result, and certainly those that are unvaccinated are going to be at higher risk of being infected. And that will include our children.”
Tasmania to reopen border on 15 December
Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein has announced his state’s borders will reopen on 15 December.
Gutwein said he believes the sate will have achieved 90% vaccination coverage by this date, and vowed that “we won’t turn back from that date”.
So today I’m signalling to every eligible Tasmanian over the age of 12, if you’re not vaccinated, get it done, and get it done as soon as possible. Don’t wait until 14 December.”
From 15 December, anyone who is fully vaccinated from any state in Australia will be able to travel to Tasmania. However all travellers will have to return a negative test within the 72 hours of their travel.
Tasmania’s making short trips to the mainland of less than seven days will be able to return to the state without getting a test – provided they are fully vaccinated.
International arrivals will not have to quarantine when arriving in the state. Once the state achieves 90% vaccination coverage, they will be subject to the same rules as interstate travellers.
For the first time in a long time, there are plenty of people out on Melbourne’s streets as the sun rises over the city.
Just hours after lockdown lifted, cafe workers are out in the cool morning air, dragging chairs and tables out the front of the stores, anticipating hordes of brunch-starved customers.
One cafe goer, James Gearman, knows exactly how he wants to spend his first 24 hours of freedom. “The plan is to drink all day,” he says, laughing.
Read and see more from the streets of Melbourne today:
And with that, my stint on the blog comes to an end today, I’ll leave you with Elias Visontay for the rest of the day, thanks for reading.
New Zealand has reported an additional two cases of Covid-19 in Northland on Friday, after recording 129 cases earlier in the day, the ministry of health has confirmed.
The two cases had recently travelled from Auckland to the town of Kaikohe, 300km away, as is permitted in some situations under level three restrictions. They are contacts of a recently diagnosed case in Auckland.
The individuals are now isolating. A limited number of contacts have been identified and interviews are underway to determine any locations of interest in the region.
Northland, which has one of the largest Māori populations in the country, is the region with the second slowest vaccine uptake.
So there’s a follow up to a story that’s been bubbling away today, where Victorian Australian Medical Association president Roderick McRae said Covid-deniers and anti-vaxxers should opt out of public health system and “let nature run its course”.
Dr McRae said in a statement that it was not his intention to suggest people should be denied medical treatment:
Doctors will always provide care impartially and without discrimination.
I intended to make the point that Covid deniers and anti-vaxxers are at more risk of contracting Covid-19 than vaccinated members of the community. A portion are also therefore more likely to become seriously unwell.
Andrews has continued to discuss the reopening of the state, and has, with relative certainty, said there won’t be city-wide (or state-wide) lockdown anymore:
We are not having state-wide lockdowns, we are not having city wide lockdowns, because people have gone & done what we asked them to do. And now we’re delivering what we said we would do.
That’s the government I lead, we do what we say. We said we would open the place up if people got vaccinated and that’s what today’s all about.
Victorian CHO Brett Sutton has warned that cases will likely rise, as he encouraged people to remain Covid-safe out of lockdown:
As we start to reopen, there will be more Covid in the community really than at any other point in time.
Many of those people will have mild illness because they’re fully vaccinated. Many of those settings will have fully vaccinated people.
But recognising that children will also be in those places and some exempt individuals will be in those places and that getting vaccinated doesn’t mean that you’re absolutely guaranteed not to get the virus.
You can get mild illness and you can pass it on.
So we have to bear in mind those other really important protections. Checking in, wearing a mask will be really important, and on days like today, opening every door and window in sight to let that fresh air through.
International arrivals no longer need to quarantine in Vic
So Andrews has finally got to his announcement, saying that international arrivals will no longer have to quarantine when they fly into Victoria from 1 November.
Travellers that are double vaccinated, have had a test before they’ve left and a test within 24 hours of arrival.
This is very significant, so people will be able to, I think, as the federal government have indicated, you’ll be able to leave after 1 November, and then what I’m confirming is, when you come back, if you are double vaccinated and if you’ve been tested before and you agree to test within 24 hours, then you will be able to go home.
No hotel quarantine, no iso – you’ll be able to go about your business. And the reason for that is that, at 80%, 90% – which is where we’re going to get to – we are as protected as we can be.
There’ll still be some rules around masks and some other density issues and just common sense will have to drive us. This won’t be over.
Back in the NSW environmental offsets inquiry, Saul Deane, from the Total Environment Centre, has described what he calls an “incestuous relationship” between developers, ecological consulting firms, and the government planning system, with staff often moving between the three.
Deane said the state’s planning department “has become the ministry for residential development” and that other matters, including things such as koala habitat protection, were not given priority.
It seems to have moved aside other really important issues in that area and devalued them.
The only tool or prism that [the environment] gets seen through is – how does it fit with planning, how does it fit with residential?
Peter Maslen, a retired engineer and ecological scientist, told MPs that in the case of one residential development in the Clarence Valley region, a single day of ecological surveying of a wetland occurred and it was conducted at the wrong time of year for migratory birds. The development was approved, he said.
He also spoke of the difficulty communities living in that region had faced trying to find whether offsets required for a government development – the Pacific Highway upgrade – had even been delivered.
Many of us have tried to find out what particular offsets were given.
They [the government] say it’s within 50km of where the original clearing was but we really don’t have any information.
The general mistrust the community has in these issues really highlights a problem.
So Andrews has given a preamble, about the state’s vaccination campaign, but he did say that what restrictions will look like at 80% will be announced next week:
I know everyone wants to know what’s happening next weekend, and they’d like to know today. Today’s not the day to make those announcements. But quite soon, just as we did last weekend – we clarified what would happen for people this week. We will be out quite soon to clarify what we hope can happen at the end of next week.
Good afternoon, quick thanks to Josh Taylor for another stellar shift on the blog, Mostafa Rachwani with you this arvo, and we begin immediately with Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announcing the state had crossed the 90% mark in first dose vaccinations:
90.5% of Victorians have now had a first dose, and 71.1% of Victorians aged over 16 are fully protected by one of the Covid-19 vaccines. That’s why, today, we can end the lockdown. That’s why, today, we can begin really meaningful steps to open up our city and state, to have our freedoms back.
Today is a day to say thank you to more than 5.1 million Victorians who’ve had at least one dose and that now more than 70% of Victorians who’ve had both.
I’m going to hand over the blog to my colleague Mostafa Rachwani now who will be picking up the Victorian press conference.
A Melbourne anti-lockdown protester charged with two separate attacks on policewomen will face a mandatory jail term if convicted, according to a magistrate.
AAP reports it’s alleged Dennis Basic hit a policewoman’s horse with a flagpole at a rally in October 2020, and flung a traffic bollard at another mounted officer at a protest in July 2021.
At a committal mention for Basic on Friday, magistrate Simon Zebrowski said unless exceptional circumstances applied in Basic’s case he would face a jail term if guilty.
Prosecutors have asked to have his case heard in the County Court, which his lawyer, Ruth Parker, has not opposed.
She sought medical statements from the police so she could assess the nature of the officers’ alleged injuries.
Basic, 36, did not apply for bail and appeared in court from the metropolitan remand centre via videolink.
The case will return to court on 13 January.
Live music will grace Victoria’s regions again as part of an expanded concert series to test the state’s Covid-19 vaccination system for large crowds, AAP reports.
Eight more Play On Victoria gigs will be held across the state on the weekend of 30 to 31 October, featuring more than 20 local artists including Gareth Liddiard, Dan Kelly, Kutcha Edwards & Friends and Alice Skye.
The concerts will be staged outdoors at venues in Avenel, Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Geelong, Gippsland, and Warrnambool.
To gain entry, gig-goers will have to show proof they are fully vaccinated through the Service Victoria or Medicare apps or equivalent smartphone wallet.
They can also present a printed version of their vaccination certificate or immunisation history statement, or provide evidence of a valid exemption.
The regional events will coincide with the main Play On Victoria gig at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on 30 October, with almost 4,000 music fans to soak up performances by Baker Boy, Amyl and the Sniffers, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Creative industries minister Danny Pearson said the newly added regional concerts were a vital step to bringing live music back and getting the lockdown-stricken industry back on its feet.
We’re making sure we have the best technology in place to get our great local events up and going again and make them run as smoothly as possible.
Nature is healing, etc etc.
Still in the NSW hearing examining the integrity of the state’s offsetting scheme, the Ecological Consultants Association of NSW has been asked about revelations by Guardian Australia that consultants from a company that advised governments on major developments in NSW made windfall gains of tens of millions of dollars by selling offsets to the government for those same developments.
“The association is aware of this and we were not surprised by the article in the Guardian,” the association’s president Belinda Pellow said.
There are some processes that could be potentially altered for someone who is a BAM [biodiversity assessment method] certified assessor and also able to access inside information available to the department and so on…it is an issue and we are aware of it.
The association’s treasurer Andrew Lothian said the idea behind NSW’s biodiversity stewardship scheme was to put a dollar value on native vegetation through the trade of offset credits on private land holdings.
In doing that, and this has been raised by our insurers, a lot of public liability insurers see that we need to be seen as operating as a financial industry.
I think you’ll find a great deal of ecological consultants out there have no experience in the financial industry.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says it is too early for Queensland to be allowing people from overseas into the state without quarantining, following the announcement from NSW, and the expected announcement from Victoria, they will allow vaccinated Australians to return without needing to quarantine from 1 November.
She says Queensland is not yet at the vaccination rate required, noting Queensland has not yet reached 70% double dose for the over 16 population.
Offset schemes are failing to halt the decline of wildlife and certain habitats should now be off limits to development, a NSW parliamentary inquiry has heard.
The inquiry into the integrity of the state’s environmental scheme is the result of a Guardian Australia investigation and has got under way this morning.
First up, the Ecological Consultants Association of NSW has told MPs that offsetting should not be permissible for certain habitats in NSW that are now so endangered they are on the brink of extinction.
The association’s treasurer Andrew Lothian told the hearing:
At some point there will be no available offset and I think that is one of the major problems of the scheme that there is no threshold where you say ok, with this critically endangered community we’re no longer using offsets, we’re going to avoid [damaging habitat].
Lothian gave the example of the NSW government’s proposed Warragamba dam wall raising which will remove critical breeding habitat for the regent honeyeater and said “any project that removes one of the last four known breeding areas for that species surely is not applying the no net loss principle”.
The association’s president, Belinda Pellow, told the hearing that habitats such as the critically endangered Cumberland Plain woodland, which is subject to some of the most intensive development in western Sydney, “should be a no go area now”.
Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young says there is a truck driver in Victoria who tested positive overnight who had been in Queensland on 18 and 19 October.
She says the driver had had one dose of the vaccine.
On the Gold Coast case, she says the man in his 30s, who is unvaccinated, is “extremely sick” and will likely need to go into intensive care.
She says because he was so sick, there aren’t many exposure sites outside of his home.
Victorians will be able to go to the ACT and vice versa from 1 November, meaning ACT, NSW and Victoria will all be aligned as the southern-eastern vaccinated states.
No local Covid cases in Queensland
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk reports there are no new local cases of Covid-19 in the state, with 6,330 tests.
There were five cases in hotel quarantine.
On the Gold Coast case reported yesterday, Palaszczuk says the man is still very unwell in hospital.
There are a couple of new exposure sites associated with him: a barber shop in Richlands, and he also went to see a movie at Stafford. She didn’t provide more detail than that.
The member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, held a press conference to say the United Australia party now has 70,000 members, something the party has already claimed in party advertisements.
Kelly responded to suggestions the figure couldn’t be relied on because some people had received emails claiming they had applied to join the party when they never did – even Liberal senator Eric Abetz. Kelly said there had been a “couple of hundred” false applications that had been weeded out by the process of contacting the prospective party members.
Kelly said although UAP had spent $80m on its last campaign, the two major parties receive “close to a hundred million dollars” of public funding for their election campaigns (which they receive in proportion to their vote, because they received more votes than the UAP). Kelly said UAP will spend “that $80m plus whatever it takes” going into the next election.
Kelly said that he still plans on suing Facebook for removing him from the platform, in a case he says will argue this was a breach of contract, misleading or deceptive conduct and defamation – because of the company’s claims he had spread “misinformation” about Covid-19.
Facebook are not the arbiters of truth in this world that they promote themselves as ... What I put on my Facebook page were the opinions of highly qualified medical professionals from around the world and details of peer-reviewed science. They weren’t the opinions of Craig Kelly. They were opinions of highly respected doctors ... who had a difference of opinion from the World Health Organisation and some of our bureaucrats. It is not misinformation if it is an alternate opinion.
Kelly said social media companies should not be able to remove people for material that is lawful, arguing that the tech giant had engaged in “foreign interference” in Australian politics.
NZ reports record 129 new cases
New Zealand has reported 129 cases of Covid-19 in the community, the highest daily count since the pandemic began, beating out Thursday’s record of 102.
Of Friday’s cases, 120 are in Auckland and nine are in the neighbouring region of Waikato. The ministry of health said 65 cases, all in Auckland, are yet to be linked to a cluster, pushing the number of unlinked cases up to 195 in the past fortnight. There are now 2,389 cases in the Delta outbreak.
Hospital admissions have also hit a new high, with 51 people in hospitals across Auckland and Waikato, and five in intensive care.
83% of the eligible population – 12 years and older – has had at least one dose of the vaccine, and just over 66% are fully inoculated.
Meanwhile, the ministry of health announced that a third primary dose of the Pfizer vaccine has become available for people 12 years and older who are severely immunocompromised.
The head of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, has responded to the comments made by the AMA’s Victorian branch that those who do not believe Covid-19 is real or a threat should update their advanced care directives and inform their relatives that they do not wish to receive care in the public health system if diagnosed with the virus.
Khorshid said doctors will always provide care to patients, even those who choose not to get vaccinated.
ACT records 13 new cases
The ACT has reported 13 new cases of Covid-19 overnight.
Victoria’s health department has faced court after it was charged over hotel quarantine failures that led to the state’s deadly second wave of Covid-19, AAP reports.
WorkSafe in September charged the Department of Health, formerly the Department of Health and Human Services, with 58 breaches of the Occupational Health Safety Act, after a 15-month investigation.
Counsel representing the department on Friday faced a filing hearing in Melbourne magistrates court.
Seventeen of the charges relate to failing to provide and maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a working environment that was safe and without risks to health for its employees.
A further 41 charges are allegations of failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from conduct of its undertaking.
Between March and July 2020 the department was responsible for Operation Soteria, Victoria’s first hotel quarantine program.
A judicial inquiry into the program found 99% of the state’s second wave could be traced back to security guards who became infected at the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza hotels in May and June.
The second wave resulted in more than 18,000 new infections, 800 deaths and a lockdown that lasted 112 days.
WorkSafe alleges that the department breached occupational health and safety laws by failing to appoint people with infection prevention and control expertise at the hotels it was using.
It also alleges the department failed to provide security guards with face-to-face, expert infection prevention control training and written instructions on how to use personal protective equipment.
In all charges, WorkSafe alleges that Department of Health employees, Victorian government staff on secondment and security guards were put at risk of serious illness or death through contracting Covid-19 from an infected traveller, colleague or from a contaminated surface.
The maximum penalty for a body corporate for each of the charges is $1.64m, or $95.12m in total.
WorkSafe said the investigation reviewed tens of thousands of documents and multiple witness interviews.
It also reviewed material from last year’s judicial inquiry into the scheme, which laid bare the disharmony within the ranks of the Department of Health and Human Services, leading to the resignations of the department’s secretary Kym Peake and health minister Jenny Mikakos.
The inquiry found the department failed to accept its role as the primary department responsible, while senior members of the public health team, including chief health officer Brett Sutton, were excluded from its planning.
The responsibility of training guards, including in the use of PPE, was placed on security companies, while the department cleaned hotel rooms only if a returned traveller tested positive.
A complete overhaul of hotel quarantine was announced in December, with a dedicated agency, Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria, established to run the program.
It was again revamped in April, after hotel quarantine workers contracted the UK Covid-19 strain from returned travellers in February, triggering a statewide five-day lockdown.
The department is expected to face a committal mention on 10 March.
NSW Health has provided a bit more detail on today’s numbers, in lieu of a press conference.
Of the five deaths reported today there were three women and two men. One person was in their 30s, one person was in their 50s, one person was in their 70s, one person was in their 80s, and one person was in their 90s.
Three people were from south-western Sydney, one person was from Sydney’s inner city, and one person was from south-eastern Sydney. One person was not vaccinated, two had received one dose, and two had received two doses.
A man in his 70s who had acquired Covid-19 at the Greek Orthodox Community Home for the Aged in Earlwood died, the first linked to an outbreak there.
A woman in her 90s from south-eastern Sydney died at Prince of Wales hospital, where she acquired her infection.
There are now 482 cases admitted to hospital, with 125 people in intensive care, 67 of whom require ventilation.
New Zealand has committed to doubling its support for Auckland businesses suffering as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and will increase assistance for low-income households.
Finance minister Grant Robertson said so far, roughly NZ$4.8bn in support payments has been paid out since the Delta outbreak began in August:
That amount exceeds the new operating spending we would have for a whole year for the whole country in most budgets. But we are not through this outbreak yet and, as we have done constantly over the past 20 months, we are adjusting in response to the circumstances.
Robertson said while New Zealand has one of the lowest Covid-19 mortality rates in the world, strong economic growth and low unemployment, the lockdowns are tough for Aucklanders.
He has committed to boosting the Covid-19 resurgence support payment from $1,500 for each eligible business and $400 for each full-time employee (50 FTEs maximum), to $3,000 for each eligible business and $800 for each FTE. This will apply from 12 November.
The boost will also include a $60m fund for business advice and mental health support in Auckland.
Income limits for hardship support will be temporarily lifted for four months from November.
Minister for social development and employment Carmel Sepuloni said this would allow more households to qualify for support towards food, clothing and electricity:
We know the extended Covid-19 restrictions are having an impact on low-income households who tend to have less certainty of work. Currently a single person working 30 hours per week on the minimum wage is not eligible for hardship assistance from Work and Income. We’re lifting the income limits for assistance to 40 hours at the minimum wage, or $800 per week and $1,600 per week for a couple with or without children.
Sepuloni said she expected up to 25,000 more grants would go to people not yet receiving help, at a cost of $9.6m.
The government has also established a $120m fund to accelerate Māori vaccination rates and support communities to prepare for the implementation of the new Covid-19 protection framework announced today.
Associate minister for health (Māori health) Peeni Henare said:
We know the recent lift in vaccination rates is the direct result of funding Māori providers and of Māori leadership efforts at a regional and national level. We need this to continue.
$60m will go towards accelerating Māori vaccination rates and $60m will support Māori and iwi-led initiatives to protect their communities against the virus.
Some more end-of-Melbourne-lockdown joy from our staff on the ground:
Scott Morrison was on 2GB with Ray Hadley.
There’s not a huge amount to report out of the interview but he did reiterate his call to speed up home quarantine in Queensland:
I mean, some months ago, people go, “Oh they said they weren’t going to do it.” I was very confident that as we got to where we’ve got with the vaccination rates, get to where we get to that, you know, the natural order of things would get these outcomes. So it’s good it’s opening up but [about 8,000 Queenslanders can’t get home]. We’ve got to get them home. We’ve got into quarantine working for them so they can get home.
News Corp global head Robert Thomson details what he discussed with prime minister Scott Morrison in New York over drinks last month:
We discussed the upcoming Glasgow conference – but not our Mission Zero coverage – Afghanistan, France, China.
The meeting’s purpose was to discuss international issues and Morrison did not meet Rupert Murdoch, Thomson confirmes
The global News Corp chief denies there is any editorial direction from above, saying newspaper editors in Australia have “local autonomy” but he concedes News Corp has a company “philosophy”.
NZ hit by 5.2 magnitude earthquake
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been shaken mid-press conference by a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, AAP reports.
Tens of thousands of Kiwis reported the 5.9 magnitude earthquake to the monitoring website GeoNet this morning.
Ardern was temporarily thrown as she tried to answer questions about the country’s new Covid-19 strategy from Wellington’s Beehive.
“Sorry. A slight distraction,” she said, looking upwards as a rumble was felt in the executive building. “Would you mind repeating that question?” she asked, before carrying on.
The tremor was centred 30km south-west of Tamaranui, near Mount Ruapehu in the middle of North Island.
Originally estimated at 5.9 magnitude, it was downgraded by GeoNet minutes after the quake.
“Was stationary in the car and it rocked and rolled!” Twitter user Tenille Nicol said from Wellington.
The number of refugee and humanitarian visas granted by Australia was the smallest in 45 years last year, with only 5,947 visas issued, less than half of an already reduced annual program of 13,750 places.
A total of 4,558 visas were granted to refugees offshore, and 1,389 through the onshore protection process, the Department of Home Affairs’ 2020-21 annual report discloses:
The emergence of Covid-19 and the volatile global health landscape has significantly impacted the delivery of immigration and humanitarian programs. Covid-19 border measures continue to prevent travel to Australia for offshore humanitarian visa holders unless they hold a travel exemption. Granting in the offshore humanitarian program remained de-prioritised until 10 November 2020 when restricted granting for some cohorts commenced.
But the Australian government fractionally overfilled its migration program quota – 160,052 – in the same year.
Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power said over the past four years, the number of refugee and humanitarian visas issued had fallen from a 35-year high of 21,698 in 2016-17 to just over a quarter of that in 2020-21:
The government’s failure to fill a reduced refugee program stands in stark contrast with its ability to meet the full migration program quota of 160,000 places. This is a very clear illustration of the government’s priorities at a time when the global need for refugee resettlement is greater than it has ever been.
Power said refugees who had visas to travel to Australia also struggled to get exemptions to get into the country during Covid restrictions. Just over 700 of the 565,000 exemptions granted during 2020-21 went to refugee and humanitarian visa holders:
By the end of the 2020-21 financial year, more than 8,000 refugee and humanitarian visa holders remained outside of Australia, with more than 3,000 of them having applied for travel exemptions and had their applications rejected.
The Qantas timetable for restarting its international flights
Here’s a handy summary of the Qantas announcement today via AAP:
- Australia is preparing to reopen its international border to and from Sydney, NSW, for fully-vaccinated travellers from 1 November.
- Qantas and its low-cost carrier Jetstar will bring forward the restart of more international flights by up to three months.
- All initial flights are limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents, including Australians returning home.
- Some 11,000 Qantas and Jetstar domestic and international flight workers stood down during the pandemic will be back at work by early December.
The restarted Qantas routes:
- Sydney to Singapore, from 23 November
- Sydney to Fiji (Nadi), from 7 December
- Sydney to Johannesburg, from 5 January
- Sydney to Phuket, from 12 January
- Sydney to Bangkok, from 14 January
- A new route from Sydney to Delhi begins 6 December
- Flights from Sydney to Bali, Indonesia, are still in the negotiation stage
- Flights to Honolulu, Vancouver, Tokyo and New Zealand still expected to start from mid-December
- Flights from Sydney to London and Los Angeles are already on sale, amid high demand from Australians wanting to return home in time for Christmas
Labor has chosen its candidate to run in the NSW seat of Reid, Sally Sitou, currently held by Liberal MP Fiona Martin.
From the Victorian opposition leader on the day Melbourne emerges from what was originally supposed to be a seven-day lockdown, but ended up being 77 days:
Tell me a tweet format is dead without telling me a tweet format is dead.
News corp chief Robert Thomson has told the media diversity inquiry that the power of the digital platforms, in particular Facebook, is of concern as they are acting like publishers but they are not accountable as traditional publishers are. He said from New York via video conference:
There are so many routes by which we can be held accountable. We clearly make mistakes and we should be held accountable for mistakes.
Thomson listed a standards editor, readers editor, corrections editor, a media regulator and libel laws as mechanisms for accountability.
Thomson said News Corp was an extremely diverse company with different views within publications housed in the same building.
Labor senator Kim Carr challenged this claim, saying the News Corp tabloids in Australia often had the same angle on their front pages.
Good to see Victoria is now at 71% of the over-16 population fully vaccinated. Won’t be too long till the state reaches 80%.
Victoria records 2,189 new cases and 16 deaths
On the first day out of lockdown, Victoria has recorded 2,189 new Covid cases and 16 deaths.
There’s a new format for the tweet, it seems:
The media diversity inquiry will hear from the global head of Rupert Murdoch’s empire, Robert Thomson, this morning.
Chair of the inquiry Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young is keen to grill Thomson about the company’s Mission Zero campaign, which runs counter to its record playing “a large role in the lack of climate action we have seen in Australia”.
Thomson is also expected to answer questions about the dominance of News Corp in Australia’s media landscape.
The invitation to front the Senate was accepted by the New York-based Thomson after the co-chairman of News Corp, Lachlan Murdoch, turned down a request to appear last month.
NSW reports 345 new cases and five deaths
The latest case numbers from NSW are in – 345 cases and five deaths:
The end of lockdown has come just as the first hints of summer start creeping into the Melbourne air, and cafe goers up and down Chapel Street are basking in the sun.
“Very it just feels right,” says Sophie McCann, who is enjoying an ice coffee at the Journeyman Cafe:
It’s a nice day and it just feels like Christmas, you know? Everyone is really festive.
McCann and her partner Ed Von Moger are headed back to their home offices after this but say they have big plans for the night ahead. She says:
I’m just going to my friend’s house and we’re just having some drinks and some takeaway. It’s funny, you know, a couple years ago, it would be like, “Oh, I’m just gonna get some drinks,” but now it’s really really exciting.
James Gearman knows exactly how he wants to spend his first 24 hours of freedom in Melbourne.
“The plan is the drink all day,” he say, laughing.
But first he has something else important to attend to, which has brought him to sitting out front at the Journeyman cafe on Chapel Street:
I can’t cook eggs, so this is the first egg I’ve had in lockdown. It is a relief, I just think it good for everyone.
George, sitting across from Gearman says he has taken the whole day off work to visit friends and start celebrating:
We were saying as soon as he woke up how nice it felt seeing people running, going past all the cafes where people were going in. Just everyone’s happy. Everyone’s positive, everyone got a smile on their face.
Today I’m just going to visit people, catch up. Drink, eat, be merry, have fun.
Green flights between New Zealand’s South Island and Australia will be delayed because Air New Zealand cabin crew cannot meet the quarantine-free travel requirements.
Last week Australia announced quarantine-free travel would resume from 20 October for people in the Covid-19 free South Island if they had not been in the North Island for the preceding two weeks.
But Air New Zealand says most of its crew are based out of Auckland and cannot meet the requirements, meaning only red zone flights leaving Auckland and requiring 14 days quarantine can operate, Newsroom reports.
Air New Zealand’s Leanne Geraghty said:
While we would love to be able to operate quarantine-free flights out of Christchurch, there are a number of operational issues for our airline. The Australian government has stated that our crew need to have been in the South Island for the preceding 14 days before quarantine-free flying. As our main crew group is based out of Auckland, this is unfortunately not viable.
The airline said it is seeking clarity from Australia about when it can continue operating.
Geraghty said customers in the South Island are able to transit in Auckland and connect to red-zone flights heading to Sydney. There will be two flights operating a week between the cities from 5 November to 1 December, with services increasing to six flights a week after then.
New Zealand halted quarantine-free travel with Australia in September for a further eight weeks in the wake of the Delta outbreaks and will review this decision mid-to-late November.
Queensland authorities race to trace contacts of Gold Coast case
And here is the latest from AAP on the Gold Coast case:
Queensland authorities are trying to trace the contacts of a Gold Coast Covid-19 positive man who was infectious in the community for over 10 days.
The man in his 30s, who is unvaccinated, is Queensland’s first locally acquired Covid case in over two weeks.
He tested positive after presenting to the Robina Hospital emergency department on Wednesday night.
He remains on oxygen and is so sick that communication with health workers has been almost impossible, making contact tracing difficult for authorities.
The man also hadn’t checked in at venues via QR code since 18 September.
Authorities confirmed he travelled to Queensland from Victoria and an investigation is underway by Queensland Police to ascertain how he entered the state from a hotspot.
Initial concerns over the man’s occupation as an Uber driver were lowered as he hadn’t driven for the ride-sharing app since September 19, Uber confirmed on Thursday.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also ruled out a potential lockdown due to the Gold Coast’s high vaccination rates.
But the locally-acquired case has reinvigorated the push for the 150,000 Gold Coast people who are still unvaccinated, to roll up their sleeves.
“We need people to be vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated you are more than likely, ending up very, very sick from Covid or in hospital, or an ICU,” Palaszczuk said on Thursday.
New Zealand announces path out of lockdown
New Zealand has announced its new vision for a post-lockdown future, setting some of the most ambitious vaccination targets in the developed world before restrictions will be fully loosened.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern today announced that 90% of eligible New Zealanders needed to be fully vaccinated across each district health board region before the rest of the country moves into the new system:
We cannot ask vaccinated people to stay home forever. So now we need a new playbook to reflect a population protected from Covid.
When the 90% targets are reached, the country will switch to a traffic light system. Even at a “red” setting – the highest levels of restriction – businesses will be able to remain open and vaccinated people will be able to move freely. Those without vaccination certificates will be limited to takeaway food, smaller gatherings and distance learning at universities, and will not be able to use “close contact” businesses such as gyms.
Auckland, which has been in lockdown for several months, would be able to shift to the traffic light system as soon as its DHBs hit 90%, Ardern said, in recognition of the hard work done so far. The city is 16,000 doses away from hitting 90% first doses:
Fully vaccinated people will be able to reconnect with family and friends, go to bars and restaurants and do the things they love with greater certainty and confidence. The framework also provides businesses greater certainty to plan and grow.
If you are still unvaccinated, not only will you be more at risk of catching Covid-19, but many of the freedoms others enjoy will be out of reach. No one wants that to happen but we need to minimise the threat of the virus, which is now mainly spreading amongst unvaccinated people.
Scott Morrison says he will be speaking to Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo next weekend at the G20 about resuming travel between Indonesia and Australia.
He says 320,000 Australians have added their vaccination certificates to their passports in the last few days.
That’s the end of that press conference.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, says home quarantine in Queensland needs to be expanded “very quickly” to let the estimated 8,000 Queenslanders outside the state return home.
But he also mentions the states that are behind on the vaccination rollout, like Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, will need to ensure they meet their 70% and 80% 16+ double dose vaccination targets.
Morrison also says Australia’s reopening is much more cautious than what was done in the UK:
Our first cautious step at 70%, and then a strong and bold step at 80%, but with still low-level controls being in place, even at that point, to ensure that we live with the virus safely. So that’s the approach we’re taking. That is very different to the approach we saw in the United Kingdom when I was there, when they were going through their process of freedom day – they opened up fully – fully – when there were tens of thousands of cases a day, and a 67% double vaccination rate. Now that’s not what we’ve done.
ABC cut away from the PM press conference but I am tuning into the live stream.
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet says he will have something to say about people from Victoria being able to go to NSW “very shortly”. He says this was complicated by people in Sydney not being able to visit regional NSW until 1 November.
It seems that 1 November will be the date Victorians will be able to get back to NSW. People from NSW can already travel to Victoria without needing to get tested or isolate.
Here are some photos from Melbourne’s reopening overnight:
Singapore travel arrangements to be finalised
Scott Morrison confirms he expects an agreement with Singapore on travel between the two countries in a week or so:
We are in the final stages of concluding an arrangement with the Singapore government. I was in a position, as you know, some months ago when I met with the prime minister of Singapore, prime minister Li in Singapore, to set up a new arrangement which will see our borders open more quickly to Singapore.
We anticipate that being able to be achieved within the next week or so, as we would open up to more visa class holders coming out of the Singapore. We will see that occur. To those ports here in Australia that will be open in the same way as they are here in Sydney and we would expect to see that align pretty much with the timetable that Qantas has announced today regarding when they will have flights going to Singapore.
Scott Morrison says: “Australia is ready for takeoff.”
Sticking with the metaphor, he says the “ground crew” are the Australian people, for going out to get vaccinated:
Australia is en route to be one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, and here in New South Wales, as well as in the ACT and Victoria charging in behind as well, we are seeing those vaccination rates continue to rise. The national plan was all about opening up Australia safely so we can remain safely open, and that’s what we are seeing here today.
And that means planes get back in the sky, it means people go out and get their hair cut again – as I’m sure they’re doing in large numbers today down in Melbourne and across Victoria. It means that families are coming together again. It means kids are going back to school. It means the reunification of our country which I know we have all been so key to see. That begins with this.
He says both the Victorian and Tasmanian premiers will be making further announcements today.
Qantas to return to 100% of staff levels in January
Alan Joyce says there are discussions with the Indonesian government to open up Bali to vaccinated Australian travellers, with the hope that it could be open before Christmas.
Qantas will also be launching commercial flights to Delhi for the first time in 10 years. This is off the back of Qantas operating repatriation flights during the pandemic on behalf of the Australian government.
Qantas is also trying to bring forward some of its 787 fleet and, once domestic borders are open, the company will be able to bring back its staff to 100% of pre-Covid levels by January, and 120% by April.
All 5,000 staff who have been stood down during the pandemic will be able to return to work by early December, Joyce says.
PM press conference begins
Prime minister Scott Morrison is speaking from Hangar 96 in Sydney with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and NSW premier Dominic Perrottet.
Joyce says the last 20 months has been “the darkest period” in Qantas’ history, “but there is light at the end of the tunnel”, thanks to Australians getting vaccinated.
In 10 days’ time, he says, a 787 will fly from Sydney to Darwin to London – the first time Qantas has run a regular long-haul flight since March 2020.
A few days after that, Sydney-to-LA flights will resume.
He says there has been a “phenomenal reaction” to the NSW news that quarantine will not be required for returning Australians from 1 November. He says Qantas has put on 20 flights to London and many of those have sold out.
There’s also massive demand for domestic travel, he says.
In response, the A380 will arrive in Australia on the 25 December:
A great Christmas present for our people.
A second one will arrive so the airline can restart the Sydney-to-LA route from April.
Flights to Singapore will come online at the end of November, Fiji from early December, South Africa in early January, and Bangkok in the middle of January.
My colleague Caitlin Cassidy has had a look at how Melburnians are feeling about the end of lockdown.
We are expecting a press conference with Scott Morrison any moment. He’s visiting a Qantas hangar with airline CEO Alan Joyce so we expect the press conference to be about the return of international travel.
The regional Victorian town of Mildura is also exiting its lockdown today, a day earlier than planned.
People in Melbourne still cannot travel into regional Victoria, or vice versa, until the state reaches 80% double dose, estimated to be 30 October.
About 500,000 Victorians need to get their second dose before we reach that target.
At that point, masks will no longer be required outdoors, retail and gyms reopen and up to 150 fully vaccinated patrons can be inside venues.
AAP reports that it’s expected Victoria will scrap quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated Australians arriving from overseas, bringing the state into line with NSW.
According to several media reports, cabinet ministers met on Thursday night to sign off the plan, which could come into effect as early as 1 November.
It’s all a bit emotional.
Good morning, and welcome to today’s live blog. I’m Josh Taylor and I will be taking you through the news coverage this morning.
I’m coming to you from Melbourne, where we have exited our sixth lockdown after 77 days – 262 lockdown days in total this pandemic. Melbourne has endured the longest lockdown in the world.
The six reasons to leave home are no longer in place and the curfew is finally gone. And as we witnessed in scenes across the city at the clock struck 12 last night, people can now return to bars and restaurants and get haircuts in limited capacities.
You can now have up to 10 visitors a day in your home.
But it is worth remembering it will still be a little while before many more restrictions are eased, with indoor retail, indoor entertainment venues and gyms among those remaining closed until we reach 80% of the 16+ population double dose vaccinated, expected towards the end of next week.
We will bring you all the latest coming out of Melbourne in the next few hours, plus we are also keeping an eye on that Covid-19 case on the Gold Coast announced yesterday, among other things.
Let’s get into it.