What we learned today, Saturday 23 October

This was actually my first time on the blog and I want to thank you for spending the time with me.

Let’s do a quick recap of the big stories we saw today:

  • The world’s lockdown capital, Melbourne, opened up after its very last citywide lockdown. It was wet and wild, the bars filled up and friends enjoyed long hugs.
  • The ease in restrictions came as Victoria recorded 1,750 new cases and nine deaths. The state’s Covid commander, Jeroen Weimar, warned increased movement and socialisation brings with it an increased risk of encountering the virus.
  • In NSW the trend of daily caseloads in the low hundreds continued with 332 new cases and two deaths. That’s slightly lower than the 345 cases recorded on Friday.
  • The former NSW Labor power broker Eddie Obeid began his three years and 10 months sentence on Saturday morning after being found guilty of conspiring over a coal licence for his family farm in the Bylong Valley.
  • Australia’s chief medical officer, Michael Kidd, congratulated Australians for their hard work in the pandemic and said booster shots are available now for those who are immunocompromised.

I had a great day going through the news with you – but must admit, I’m very excited to meet my girlfriend for a real drink in a real bar now.

Go well, team Guardian.


WA police scour outside of missing girl Cleo Smith’s house

Zena Chamas

Forensic officers are scouring the outside of missing four-year-old Cleo Smith’s mother’s house for fingerprints in attempts to find any new evidence in the ongoing investigation.

A Western Australia police spokesperson told the Guardian that officers are focusing their investigation on the exterior of the house to see if any suspects had been lurking at the vicinity in the days leading up to her disappearance.

Earlier, the WA premier, Mark McGowan, urged those with any information on the case to come forward as a special taskforce set up to find the girl continues its investigation.

“There’s over a hundred police personnel on this case, plus volunteers, plus army reserves who are out there searching in the efforts to find Cleo,” McGowan said.

“I just urge anyone who has any knowledge of the location of Cleo, please provide that information to police and assure that we can provide some certainty and information to Cleo’s loved ones and hopefully bring Cleo back safe and sound.”

Cleo Smith disappeared from her family’s tent during the early hours of last Saturday morning
Cleo Smith disappeared from her family’s tent during the early hours of last Saturday morning. Photograph: Facebook/Ellie Smith

Cleo was reported missing in the early hours of the morning last Saturday after her parents discovered her sleeping bag was unzipped and empty at the Blowholes campground site where they had been camping.

Police have spent the last seven days searching the rugged terrain near the remote campsite for the young girl.

Some time between 1.30am and 6am police believe a person unzipped the large family tent and plucked out a sleeping Cleo, still in her sleeping bag, and then fled.

The Blowholes campground site is an isolated one, 30 minutes off the North West Coastal Highway with only one sealed road in and out for tourists, fishers,and the handful of shack-dwellers who make their way there.


It was a really big week for the Wiggles but how well do you know them?

My colleague Andrew P Street put together this quiz to test your Wiggles knowledge. I got 4/10 which is actually just embarrassing. I do not the Wiggles, obviously.


We’ve got zero new cases in South Australia.

On Saturday 4,556 tests were conducted, and of the population aged 16+, 78.6% have had their first dose and 61.8% have had their second.


There’s been a development in the search for Cleo Smith.

Police are currently gathering evidence at the family’s property and told the ABC they are looking for signs of a break-in.


Annastacia Palaszczuk wants QLD to get moving on vaccaintions.

8 days.

That’s how long you have to get fully vaccinated in time for our borders to open.

The higher the vaccination rate, the safer we will be.

Make sure you’re fully protected before Delta arrives.

It’s urgent.#GetVaccinated pic.twitter.com/ce5THsus4N

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) October 23, 2021

Everyone (except Paul Daley) loves a picnic ... until they don’t.

I for one am so glad my knock-off this evening will happen in an actual bar and not on a bit of grass.

One week ago this park was packed with people on picnic blankets. #MelbourneUnlocked pic.twitter.com/joLi4NNy6F

— Joanna McCarthy (@joanna_mcc) October 23, 2021


We’ve got some more photos from Melbourne’s re-opening.

A welcome return to business for Waxflower Bar, Brunswick.
A welcome return to business for Waxflower Bar, Brunswick. Photographed by Alana Holmberg for Guardian on 22 October, 2021. Photograph: Alana Holmberg/Oculi for The Guardian
Loyal customer Rosie Jeffrey browses the outdoor racks set up by Alpha 60 on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Loyal customer Rosie Jeffrey browses the outdoor racks set up by Alpha 60 on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. With indoor retail still restricted, some stores took their wares to the street to make the most of the first day out of lockdown for Melbourne. Photograph: Alana Holmberg/Oculi for The Guardian
Diners enjoy an outdoor lunch at Hochi Mama, a restaurant on Little Bourke Street, Melbourne.
Diners enjoy an outdoor lunch at Hochi Mama, a restaurant on Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. Photographed by Alana Holmberg for Guardian on 22 October, 2021. Photograph: Alana Holmberg/Oculi for The Guardian
Lunch time crowds at Alimentary Deli, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.
Lunch time crowds at Alimentary Deli, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Photographed by Alana Holmberg for Guardian on 22 October, 2021. Photograph: Alana Holmberg/Oculi for The Guardian

With Glasgow around the corner and an election in sight, the prime minister could’ve done without this week’s privileges committee fracas.

Funnily enough, the most explosive drama of the week was not Liberals and Nationals facing off about the net zero target. That bullfight had been long scheduled.

The lesser-known fracas inside the government unfolded shortly after it used its numbers in the House of Representatives to quash Labor’s bid to refer Christian Porter’s use of a blind trust to pay legal fees to the privileges committee.

As Melbourne opened up last night some people got wild, while others struggled to find an open bar.

Everyone, I think, worried about their conversational skills. Read about it here:


Kidd says Australians should take the extra shot when they can get it:

“If boosters become available, present for a booster dose when it’s your time.”

Kidd says there is a risk of breakthrough infections if the levels of antibodies fall in the community.

He also flags that in the future Australians may be able to take different vaccines.


Australia’s booster program can now start for those over 12 who are immunocompromised.

It will then target high-risk groups such as healthcare workers.


Kidd says the government has no idea when Novavax will become available as “we are still waiting for it to get assessed.”

He says people should not wait, and we know there will be more community transmission as lockdowns are lifted.

“Pease do not wait for other vaccines, please get vaccinated now.”

Covid update from deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd

Leaving WA now to jump over to the Australian deputy chief medical officer Professor Michael Kidd who is giving a Covid update.

He says there are 10,000 vaccination sites across Australia and that Australia is now one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.

He says if booster shots are approved we will be one of the first countries to commence the rollout.


Cook said the WA community have managed the pandemic well but he cannot say what will happen in the future.

“I cannot provide you certainty about the future,” he said.

Cook has refused to be drawn into when the border may be open, or what restrictions will be eased and when.

“I understand the temptation to bring good news forward and keep people looking into the future but the premier and I have always had one aim, and that is to keep WA safe,” he said.

“Once we get those vaccination levels up then we’ll be in a position to make more announcements about the future.”

Premier Mark McGowan has previously stood firm on not lifting hard border measures until next year

Cook says more than 60 per cent of West Australians have been fully vaccinated.

WA health minister Roger Cook is speaking about vaccine hesitancy across the state.

He has some strong words of warning to anti-vaxxers about the mandates.

“Stop the hysteria, stop this ridiculous behaviour and accept the science,” he said.

“We know there are some cowards who hide on social media ... but our resolve is absolute. We will continue to provide strong leadership for Western Australia as we get everyone vaccinated.

“Our mission is to make sure we can get everyone vaccinated.”


New Zealand records 104 new community cases of Covid

Let’s go across the ditch, where they have recorded 140 cases of Covid.

The ministry of health said there were two new border cases and more than 44,000 vaccines administered on Friday.

There are now 55 people in hospital and of those, the average age is 43.

There are 2,403 close contacts.


We are expecting deputy chief medical officer Professor Michael Kidd to provide a Covid update at 2:00pm AEDT.

For those in other timezones of our vast country, that will 1:30pm CST and 11:00am WST for you.


And we have an update on the Alec Baldwin situation ...

Alec Baldwin was handed a loaded weapon by an assistant director who indicated it was safe to use in the moments before the actor fatally shot a cinematographer, court records released on Friday show, the AP reports.

The assistant director did not know the prop gun was loaded with live rounds, according to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court.

The cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, was shot in the chest. The director, Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, was wounded, the records show.


A group of South Australian cricket players are in trouble after allegedly having a boogie in a nightclub.

The group of players were evicted from an Adelaide nightclub and have been referred to Cricket Australia for alleged Covid-19 rule breaches, AAP has reported.

Under SA’s Covid-19 regulations, dancing is banned in licensed venues.

The players allegedly refused orders from the nightclub’s security staff to stop dancing and reportedly were verbally abusive to staff.

Police evicted the 10 Redbacks from the Cry Baby nightspot in Adelaide’s central business district about 12.30am on Tuesday.

The South Australian Cricket Association said on Saturday it would not take any action, but handed over the matter under CA’s Covid-19 management framework.

SACA has also spoken to the whole team about player behaviour.

“SACA has not received a complaint from any party and the investigation into the matter has not found evidence for most of the allegations,” the association said in its statement.

“However, in relation to Covid-19 dancing regulations it has made the decision to refer that matter to CA under the management framework, which makes all breaches reportable.”

The group of Redbacks players went to the nightclub after their drawn Sheffield Shield game against Queensland on Monday.


I know we are all sick of hearing about it, but we want upwards trends in testing.

NSW testing downward tracking. I wish this was different - this is the way you know the situation in a community - test, test and test. https://t.co/vRT7Q0nG3e pic.twitter.com/p3EJSNDUvk

— Prof Marc Tennant (@MarcTennant) October 22, 2021


Let’s look at Tasmania (the best Australian state in my humble opinion) where Premier Peter Gutwein announced his “Reconnecting Tasmania” roadmap on Friday.

On 15 December, the state will re-open its borders to the mainland.

But the health union is concerned about how the hospital system will cope when the southern state re-opens.

Speaking to the ABC this morning, Health and Community Services Union assistant secretary Robbie Moore said he was “very concerned” about how the system will manage.

The state government has gone to the Kirby Institute to have their modelling done and it shows Tasmania will see an average of 258 cases a day over the six months from 1 December.

The modelling shows 87 people would die in that period, with 242 hospital beds occupied at the peak of the outbreak.


Not everything about lockdown ending is always great ...

Man, this traffic! I want to go back into lockdown.

— WhatTimeIsTheVicPresser (@WhatTimeDan) October 23, 2021

While we are on the climate, my colleague Kate Lyons has a great yarn about two former PMs (no points for guessing who) apologising to Pacific leaders for Australia’s apathy on the climate crisis ...

Former Australian prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull, and former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr, have accused the Morrison government of “cynical indifference” and “empty rhetoric” when it comes to climate action, saying the commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 was the “bare minimum” that needed to be done.

The broadside came in a letter to Pacific leaders, in which the Australian politicians said they shared the “alarm and disappointment” of Pacific heads of government at the suggestion Australia will not table a new and increased target for the reduction of emissions ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow next month.


Simson told the ABC farmers are on the frontline of the climate issue.

“Farmers are right at the front end of it. We work with the climate every day, and when it’s erratic and [it’s] increasingly more erratic, then it does come at a cost for farmers,” she said.


With Glasgow just days away Fiona Simson, the president of the National Farmers’ Federation, is on the ABC talking about the need for a federal commitment to net zero by 2050.

“We know from the IPCC that, if we’re going to keep the temperature, the warming, below 1.5 degrees, then we do need the world to agree to carbon neutral by 2050,’ she says.

“We also know that there are a number of industries and commodities within my own sector, such as the pork sector with a 2025 target and the red meat sector with a 2030 target, who are much more ambitious.

“I think the first step for us, as in Australia, is to set that high-level target to ... support what’s going on in agriculture already.”


And I have some pictures coming from photographers who are out and about in Melbourne today - snapping the scenes as the city opens up.

Who knew looking at pictures of people getting haircuts would bring so much joy.

Greg Smith receives a haircut at St Kilda’s Peaky Blinders Barber Shop on the second day of eased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) regulations, following a lockdown to curb an outbreak, in Melbourne
Greg Smith receives a haircut at St Kilda’s Peaky Blinders Barber Shop. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders Photograph: Sandra Sanders/Reuters
Diners eat outside St Kilda’s Rococo restaurant on the second day of eased coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Diners eat outside St Kilda’s Rococo restaurant. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders Photograph: Sandra Sanders/Reuters
Adam Taylor and his staff prepare coffees at The St Kilda Dispensary cafe on the second day of eased coronavirus restrictions.
Adam Taylor and his staff prepare coffees at The St Kilda Dispensary cafe on the second day of eased restrictions. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders Photograph: Sandra Sanders/Reuters
Melbourne has emerged from the world’s longest lockdown, and as vaccination rates continue to rise, even more freedoms are less than two weeks away. (AAP Image/Daniel Pockett) NO ARCHIVING
Customers are seen at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. AAP Image/Daniel Pockett Photograph: Daniel Pockett/AAP

The search for Cleo Smith, a child missing from a campsite in Macleod, north of Carnarvon in Western Australia, continues.

Cleo has now been missing for a week and investigators believe she has been abducted.

The campsite search has finished and investigators say it’s now moved into an “awareness campaign”.

On Instagram this morning her mum Ellie has made a heartbreaking plea to the public to help “find my little girl”.

Anyone who might have any information at all is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Read more here:


Thank you Ben!

I want to just draw everyone’s attention to this great piece from my colleague Natasha May on the bank branch closures in the past year across regional Australia:


Captain Cait Kelly is standing on the balcony, waving me in. My innings is done. Thanks all for your company, correspondence and comments. Be well and look after each other.

Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid is back behind bars after a Covid-inspired bid for bail ahead of a likely appeal against his conviction was rejected.

The 77-year-old was sentenced on Thursday to at least three years and 10 months in prison over a rigged tender for a massive coal exploration licence.

But instead of heading to the Surry Hills police station to be processed, Obeid was allowed to go home over concerns he could catch Covid-19.

A hasty bail application was heard on Friday but Justice Elizabeth Fullerton wasn’t satisfied that there were special or exceptional circumstances that would justify Obeid’s continued release.

It was ordered he travel directly to Silverwater jail at 10am on Saturday.

Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid arrives at Silverwater Prison in Sydney on Saturday morning
Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid arrives at Silverwater Prison in Sydney on Saturday morning Photograph: Brendon Thorne/AAP

This ensured Obeid - who turns 78 on Monday - didn’t pass through Surry Hills police station, with Justice Fullerton expressing concern about systems there for avoiding coronavirus transmission.

The judge earlier advised Obeid’s lawyer that if he was unsuccessful in securing bail the consequences “will present an obvious obstacle filing a further application”.

Obeid’s former ministerial colleague Ian Macdonald, 72, was also jailed on Thursday for at least five years and three months in jail, while his son Moses Obeid was jailed for at least three years.

Obeid’s 52-year-old son and Macdonald were taken into custody, the court was told they also intended to appeal and would be seeking bail.

Some 83% of current NSW prison inmates had received their first Covid-19 vaccination, while 65.6% were fully vaccinated, according to Corrective Services NSW.

Justice Fullerton remarked these numbers were impressive given they had almost doubled since mid-September.

In July the judge found all three guilty of conspiring for Macdonald to engage in misconduct as a minister between 2007 and 2009.

The then-resources minister was found to have breached his duties by providing confidential information to the Obeids over a coal exploration licence which delivered a $30m windfall to their family.

In jailing the trio, Justice Fullerton found the objective seriousness of the conspiracy “was one of the highest order”.

Obeid arriving at prison
Obeid arriving at prison Photograph: Brendon Thorne/AAP

She said Obeid and his son were aware of Macdonald’s actions in establishing and granting the licence over the family’s property at Mount Penny, in the Bylong Valley near Mudgee, for the family’s financial benefit.

“Edward Obeid and Moses Obeid were patently motivated by a desire to maximise the financial benefit to them and their family in exploiting the value of the coal underlying Cherrydale Park,” she said

No financial or other benefit has been shown to have accrued to Macdonald for his agreement to wilfully breach his ministerial duties and obligations.

“The fact that no evidence of motive is discernible does not mitigate the extreme gravity of his criminal culpability as a co-conspirator,” she said.

(Cheeky send-off to the pavilion from the estimable Kate McClymont, the journalist who literally wrote the book on Obeid, and pursued this story admirably and relentlessly from the very beginning.)

As Eddie Obeid heads to jail today, I am reminded of the last time we spoke.
“Kate, you are a lowlife, the ultimate of lowlifes, you are a gutter journalist. You write one thing out of place, I tell you what I will go for you, for the jugular.” Farewell Eddie, it’s been a blast.

— Kate McClymont (@Kate_McClymont) October 22, 2021


We are chasing an update on the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak at Melbourne’s Park hotel, where 45 refugees and asylum seekers are detained.

Our earlier report:

Nearly one-third of refugees and asylum seekers detained by the government at Melbourne’s Park hotel have tested positive for Covid-19, amid claims in court an ambulance was turned away from the hotel without being allowed to see a patient.


Jeroen Weimar gives Victoria Covid update

Jeroen Weimar, Victoria’s Covid-19 commander, opening up on Melbourne ... well... opening up.

He has warned increased movement and socialisation brings with it increased risk of encountering the virus.

As we start to open up and socialise more and do all those wonderful things that are now possible again, remember if you have any symptoms, whether you are vaccinated or not, make sure you’re tested and that’s the best way you can keep protecting yourself and those around you.

We are delighted and glad that so many are getting tested and isolating effectively when they find out they have the virus but it’s so important that we all act with some restraint and respect and that we are likely to see people around us who may have Covid. Get yourself vaccinated and keep all these good practices over the days and weeks ahead.

Victorian Covid-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar
Victorian Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/AAP

Victoria’s vaccination rates continue to surge.

The vaccine progress continues to be strong and we have well over 90%, 90% of Victorians with their first dose of vaccine and 72.5% of Victorians over 16 now fully vaccinated. I’m delighted to say over 4 million Victorians are now fully vaccinated, which puts us in a strong position to continue easing of restrictions and 39,126 vaccines were allocated and we provided at state hubs yesterday, but I’m afraid to say that we are not out of the woods yet.

Nine people died in Victoria yesterday because of Covid-19. 770 people are in hospital, including 144 in intensive care, and 90 on ventilators.

We continue seeing it’s the unvaccinated ending up in hospital. Yesterday of the 770 people in hospital, 86% were not fully vaccinated. Of the 144 in intensive care yesterday, 93% were not fully vaccinated. It highlights time and time again that vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the ongoing pandemic we see all around us.


Luke Costin from AAP is off the mark early with this troubling report:

An independent inquiry has been ordered into allegations that Covid-negative prisoners were forced to bunk with positive cellmates in a privately run Sydney prison.

The allegations were raised in two separate courts in recent weeks concerning inmates at Parklea Correctional Centre in the city’s north-west.

The Parklea Correctional Centre in Sydney
The Parklea Correctional Centre in Sydney Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

In one case, the NSW supreme court released a man on “extremely disturbing” weapons charges after lacking confidence he would be properly treated in custody.

In the other case, a district court judge reduced the sentence of a man who held up multiple people with a gel blaster pistol after hearing “extremely concerning” evidence the offender was kept in a cell with a Covid-positive cellmate for about four weeks.

That man, who attested to having pneumonia in 2019, said a prison officer told him words to the effect of “You will be sent back [to the general population] when you catch Covid-19 and then get better.”

He said he was vaccinated on 1 October after asking about eight times for the jab.

“Clearly, the circumstances in which you have been detained for the last two months have been extremely confronting and will be taken into account, as in the nature of extra curial punishment,” Judge Andrew Colefax said in sentencing the offender.

The crown in both cases did not dispute the allegations.

The prison, whose 1,000-odd inmates are mainly on remand, was home to a Covid-19 cluster during Sydney’s latest outbreak, with more than 170 cases recorded by mid-September.

Parklea Correctional Centre
Parklea Correctional Centre Photograph: Corrective Services Nsw/PR IMAGE

Following questions about the two inmates’ allegations, corrections minister Anthony Roberts announced he’d instructed his department to “initiate an independent inquiry and report back to me as soon as practical”.

“The acting secretary of the department of communities and justice will advise on who will be conducting the independent investigation as soon as the decision has been made,” Roberts told AAP in a statement.

Prison operator MTC-Broadspectrum declined to answer specific questions about the two cases before the court, citing the impending inquiry.

Questions included whether the operator disputed the gunman’s account and whether keeping close contacts in the same living quarters as Covid-19-positive inmates was supported by health advice.

A spokeswoman said the company welcomed the independent inquiry, with which it would cooperate fully.

“The safety of all our staff and inmates has always been our number one priority,” the spokeswoman said.

“There are now zero active Covid-19 cases at the prison.

“MTC-Broadspectrum has followed the expert advice from our partners Corrective Services NSW, our healthcare provider St Vincent’s and NSW Health to manage the outbreak, care for infected inmates and contain the spread.

“While Parklea Correctional Centre is privately operated, it is subject to the same rules and regulations that govern state prisons.”

As of two weeks ago, 1,661 vaccine doses had been administered at the prison.

The inquiry comes after mothers and partners of Parklea inmates aired frustration in September about a lack of communication and challenges navigating the health system.

Some of the families have joined a lawsuit by Justice Action’s Brett Collins, who wants the NSW supreme court to order all NSW prisons to raise vaccination rates, abide by a one-per-four-square-metre rule at all times and permit all prisoners outside each day for at least one hour.

While Parklea has no Covid-19 cases now, it was only a matter of time until the virus returned to the prison, Collins said.

Poorer conditions in custody - including harsh lockdowns and limited access to programs or exercise - was a human rights issue and will stymie rehabilitation.

“This will increase crime in the community,” Collins said.


ACT Covid update

1/2 ACT COVID-19 update (23 October 2021):
◾ New cases today: 24
◾ Active cases: 400
◾ Total cases: 1,577
◾ Negative test results (past 24 hours): 1,445
◾ In hospital: 19
◾ In ICU: 12
◾ Ventilated: 4
◾ Total lives lost: 8 pic.twitter.com/KXcmVJo4E5

— ACT Health (@ACTHealth) October 22, 2021


The indefatigable Zena Chamas has more from NSW:

The NSW government has announced a $25m dollar support package for the sports sector as part of the state’s economic recovery plan.

The grant will support as many as 10,000 grassroots sporting clubs and associations across NSW.

Over 100 peak sporting bodies, like Basketball NSW, will be able to access funding to keep their staff employed and their organisations running.

Mad hops! Shooting hoops at a basketball court in Parramatta
Mad hops! Shooting hoops at a basketball court in Parramatta Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

There will also be a special fund of $600,000 to invest in future sporting stars and assist them in preparing for the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.

“We’re back. Sport is back, and I’m back to be able to support the sector doing what it does best,” minister for sport, Natalie Ward, said.

“We know that when it comes to community sport, with the closures that have been in place to keep the community safe, that many sporting organisations have gone through a very challenging time,” NSW premier Dominic Perrottet said.


NSW Covid update details

Morning all, Ben Doherty here for the next little while. I hope these words find you well, wherever you may be. My thanks to magnificent Cait Kelly for her expert stewardship thus far.

My colleague Zena Chamas has been following the NSW presser, and has some more details.

Here’s more about the Covid situation in NSW:

There are 469 hospitalisations from Covid-19 and 123 people in ICU.

There were 64,118 tests conducted in the reporting period.

In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm last night:

- 92.8% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine

- 83.7% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine

- 64,118 tests were conducted


I am going to hand you over to my colleague Ben Doherty now, whose steady news sense and fast fingers will guide you through the next little bit of the morning.

Perrottet on housing affordability:

“We should look at everything. Put everything on the table. Because this is not just a challenge for today, it’s a challenge for generations to come.

“We always want to be where we provide greater opportunity and prosperity for generations, that are coming after us.

“If we don’t tackle the big issues of the day and look at the reform issues it will be a bigger challenge.”

... right.

Perrottet has just been asked about housing affordability.

He says “ideas should be embraced” and that we should “put everything on the table” and look at “reform options”.

What that all means exactly for house prices, or first home buyers is anyone’s guess.

Perrottet says he has heard from businesses that they do not have enough staff.

“The feedback I’ve received over the last week – industries up 200% and staff down 50%,” he said.

“That is a real challenge facing the hospitality sector in New South Wales. And we’ll continue the discussions with the federal government.”

He says he is talking to the federal government about changing how many hours someone can legally work.

“We’ve raised that with the federal government. They made changes when it was an issue towards the end of last year.

“We’ll look towards potentially making some changes there again. But there’s no doubt, this is going to be a challenge for New South Wales and our businesses going forward.”


In NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is talking about labour shortages this morning.

“We’ve lost around 250,000 jobs, it would have been 100,000 more but for the support through the jobsaver program.

“And look, through last year, we lost around 300,000 jobs and recovered every single one of them.”


SA Health is also having a vaccine blitz this weekend - the Super Walk-In Weekend.

There’s another reason why you should be pumped for the weekend. It’s Super Walk-In Weekend! 💁🎉

Walk in at participating sites today and tomorrow to get your COVID-19 vaccine.

Please be patient as those without an appointment may need to wait.

ℹ️ https://t.co/rKcC5V2YEm pic.twitter.com/MkoKvNxiSu

— SA Health (@SAHealth) October 22, 2021

Grace is also spruiking the state’s pop-up vaccination clinics, which are open in schools today.

“Today is super Saturday,” Grace said.

“We need you to come out and get vaccinated today. Schools are open right across the state, 116 of those. We also had four of these schools open for two hours yesterday afternoon.

“In a couple of hours, we had 112 come through to get vaccinated. It’s wonderful to see. I believe we are up to about 18,660 come out to get vaccinated yesterday.”

Education minister Grace Grace declares it is a “double doughnut day” for the state.

“We have zero new cases in the community, and zero cases detected in hotel quarantine,” she said.

“Currently, that leaves us with 26 active cases and 2,082 total cases here in Queensland. We’re up to 74.1% single-dose vaccination.

“And we’re nearly at the 60% double dose, with 59.36% of the population,16 and over, double vaxxed.”


In good news, Queensland has recorded no new cases in the community.

And we are expecting to hear from Queensland authorities within moments about the Covid situation in the state.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to go to space? Well, my colleague Sam Lock spoke to astronaut Chris Boshuizen this week to find out everything about it.

Boshuizen became the third Australian citizen to go to space when he hopped on board the recent Blue Origin flight.

It’s a great read for your Saturday morning.

Eddie Obeid about to begin his prison sentence

Obeid has left his family home in Hunters Hill to start his sentence of three years and ten months.

Obeid was found guilty of conspiring over a coal licence for his family farm in the Bylong Valley.


Early in his evidence to the New South Wales anti-corruption watchdog this week, Mike Baird was asked by the commissioner, Ruth McColl SC, to speak a little louder.

Called to the cramped confines of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s witness box to give evidence against his friend and successor, Gladys Berejiklian, the former premier’s discomfort was obvious.

His answers were clipped, often monosyllabic. A transcript of the evidence picked up 37 separate uses of the affirmative “ah hmm”.

And in Victoria, the numbers are high but not as high as we’ve seen recently.

We’ve got 1,750 local cases and there have been nine deaths.

There are 770 people in hospital and of those 144 are in ICU, and 90 people are on a ventilator.

The state continues to come out for vaccines - and we love to see it.

On Friday 39,126 people were vaccinated at state hubs, that’s on top of people who went to GPs, and more than 72,000 test results were returned.

Victoria now has 23,164 active cases.

More than 72 per cent of the population have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.


Let’s take a closer look at the numbers out of NSW and Victoria.

In NSW the trend in the low hundreds continues. The state has 332 new cases and two people have died.

That’s slightly lower than the 345 cases recorded on Friday.

469 people are in hospital and of those 123 are in intensive care.

64,118 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours before Saturday morning.

And in really good news, 92.8% of the eligible population have had one dose of the vaccine and 83.7% of people aged 16+ are fully vaccinated.


In Melbourne yesterday Neel Morely was cutting hair - for the first time in months.

The owner of Neel Loves Curls said some of his customers had been booked since March.

“We’re booked out for the next five weeks,” he said. “I won’t let them book further,” he said.

He had been getting 20 calls a day - and was expecting to see some pretty funky home cuts.

Hairdresser Neel Morley at his salon, Neel Loves Curls in Fitzroy. Photographed by Alana Holmberg for Guardian on 22 October, 2021.
Hairdresser Neel Morley at his salon, Neel Loves Curls in Fitzroy. Photographed by Alana Holmberg for Guardian on 22 October, 2021. Photograph: Alana Holmberg/Oculi for The Guardian


Victoria records 1,750 new cases and nine deaths

We thank everyone who got vaccinated and tested yesterday.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives.

More data soon: https://t.co/OCCFTAtS1P#COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/Vsg0GUJGPP

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) October 22, 2021


NSW records 332 new local Covid cases and two deaths

NSW COVID-19 update – Saturday 23 October 2021
In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm last night:
- 92.8% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
- 83.7% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine
- 64,118 tests pic.twitter.com/qe7ZkYfLmx

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) October 22, 2021

Melbourne was hyped yesterday.

As the city celebrated re-opening I went around to pubs and restaurants to talk to patrons. Some were worried their social skills were a little rusty, others that they had forgotten how to eat properly.

Let me say, the city has not forgotten how to have a good time.

John and his four sons had started early. There were glasses of champagne next to plates of pasta for breakfast, at Mario’s in Fitzroy.

The family had spent their last pre-lockdown dinner at the iconic restaurant on Brunswick St. On Friday morning they were back to welcome in the “new normal”.

“We were here on lockdown day, when it was announced. This table,” said John. “We’ve made the return journey”.

Liam, John, Blaire, Sean, and Kyle Mantesso share a meal together at Mario’s, a restaurant on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Photographed by Alana Holmberg for Guardian on 22 October, 2021.
Liam, John, Blaire, Sean, and Kyle Mantesso share a meal together at Mario’s, a restaurant on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Photographed by Alana Holmberg for Guardian on 22 October, 2021. Photograph: Alana Holmberg/Oculi for The Guardian

NSW schools closed for cleaning after Covid outbreaks

More outbreaks in NSW schools, AAP reports:

The NSW education department announced late on Friday evening seven schools have been closed with immediate effect ahead of deep-cleaning and contact tracing.

Staff and students from public schools at Albion Park, Auburn North, Curl Curl – including the Curly Kids out of school hours facility – Garden Suburbs, Green Hill, Hinchinbrook and Manning Gardens have been advised to self-isolate and follow NSW Health protocols.


QLD premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is spruiking the state’s pop-up clinics as they race towards 80% vaccination.

On Friday the state recorded no new Covid cases after a man was earlier contagious on the Gold Coast.

Palaszczuk said Queensland’s vaccination rates were not high enough to allow international travellers.

“Queensland does not have the protection yet that it needs to be able to have quarantine-free vaccinated people staying in Queensland,” she said.

It’s Queensland’s Super Saturday vaccination blitz!

Pop-up clinics will operate at more than 100 high schools across Queensland today.

Queenslanders, this is your chance to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.

You don’t need a booking - walk-ins are welcome 👍 pic.twitter.com/BKtJfxcYoW

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) October 22, 2021


It’s a little over a week until some Australians can start flying overseas, and airlines are preparing for huge demand once international travel resumes, AAP reports.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline had seen a “phenomenal reaction” and “massive” demand in light of its decision to move forward flights.

A large number of flights sold out in a few hours, and international sales have been exceeding domestic ones, he said on Friday.

The carrier will resume regular long-haul international services for the first time since March 2020 when a 787 leaves Sydney bound for London on November 1.

Qantas flights out of Sydney to Singapore, Fiji, South Africa, Phuket and Bangkok were brought forward and will each resume by January.

The decision was made possible by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s call to walk away from quarantine for international arrivals from November 1, Mr Joyce said.

Vaccine requirements for children could hamper Australians returning from UK

UK-based Australian families planning trips home for Christmas will be made to quarantine because of a federal government decision on vaccines for children.

The Australian and UK governments currently have different requirements on the vaccination of children aged 12 to 15. While Australia requires two doses, the UK allows for only one in the vast majority of cases.

That has significant implications for the newly announced vaccine-contingent travel restrictions, which allow returning Australians, including children aged 12 and above, to skip hotel quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.

Good morning, and welcome to Saturday’s live blog. I’m Cait Kelly, and I will be taking you through the news coverage this morning.

I am coming to you from Melbourne, where I think a fair few people will be waking up dusty this morning. The city spent its first full night out of lockdown on Friday after reaching 70% full vaccination of the population aged 16+.

Premier Daniel Andrews has flagged more easing of restrictions could happen as soon as next weekend.

Andrews confirmed the state was on track to reach 80 per cent by next weekend - two weeks ahead of schedule - which would mean an extra easing of restrictions.

He said he would hold a press conference “quite soon to clarify what we hope can happen at the end of next week”.

In Sydney, the city is about to enjoy its second weekend out of lockdown, after recording 345 new Covid-19 cases, five deaths.

In news that will make a lot of separated families happy (like mine) Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein announced all vaccinated interstate and international arrivals can enter the state without a need for quarantine from 15 December.

And according to one report, Australia’s booster program could begin as early as next week.

Over the weekend Pfizer is expected to submit the necessary data to the Therapeutic Goods Administration to enable speedy approval of booster doses.

Over the next few hours, I’ll bring you the latest, and we’ll an eye on Covid numbers and any other developing stories.

Let’s get into it.



Cait Kelly and Ben Doherty (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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