Australia news live update: eight new Omicron infections in NSW as Covid cases rise; Qld and NT pass 80% vaccine milestone

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Australia news live update: eight new Omicron infections in NSW as Covid cases rise; Qld and NT pass 80% vaccine milestone
© Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP Australian deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has returned a positive Covid test in Washington, DC.

LIVE – Updated at 01:45

A trivia night at a Sydney pub is the source of a new Covid cluster after 44 people were diagnosed with the virus. Follow live.

 

01:45 Ben Doherty

Australian families separated by international border closures during the pandemic were frustrated by inconsistencies from government decision makers on travel exemptions, a national audit office report has found.

The department of home affairs also failed to give applicants specific reasons about why applications for travel exemptions were refused. Nor did the department have an adequate review process in place.

An audit of Australia’s international travel restrictions between March 2020 and June 2021 found the department’s management of those restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic had “been largely effective”.

But it found decisions on exemptions made by home affairs officers were not consistent with the department’s own policies.

A sample of 71 inward travel exemption cases finalised between August 2020 and March this year showed 12 decisions (17%) were not consistent with policy requirements.

“Decisions about inward travel exemptions have not consistently been managed in accordance with policies and procedures,” the auditors found.

Home Affairs spent $2.85m on an online travel exemption portal for prospective arrivals to provide relevant documentation to support their case.

Yet, the audit office found the decision-making framework still allowed officers “considerable discretion” when assessing applications.

Home Affairs accepted travel exemptions in “a small number of cases” were inconsistent with its own policies, but said findings must be considered against the more than 900,000 rapid exemptions that were made.

The department will ensure applicants receive more detailed feedback if refused and will put mechanisms in place for applicants to seek a review.

 

01:40

Good afternoon, Mostafa Rachwani with you this afternoon, and as always, a quick thanks to Justine Landis-Hanley for her expert blogging this morning.

 

01:38

I’m going to hand the blog over to my amazing colleague, Mostafa Rachwani.

 

01:34 Daniel Hurst

The Australian government says it has been advised Barnaby Joyce’s positive Covid test has no implications for his government colleagues or staff at Parliament House.

A spokesperson for Joyce has just now issued a brief statement with further details:

“The deputy prime minister received a negative test when he arrived in London on Saturday and tested negative again in an additional test on Sunday. He received a positive test after arriving in Washington. The advice from the chief medical officer is that there are no implications for his colleagues or staff at Parliament House.”

It is understood Joyce receive a negative PCR test in London on Saturday 4 December; a negative rapid antigen test in London on Sunday 5 December; and a positive PCR test in Washington on Wednesday 8 December.

 

01:33 Daniel Hurst

Albanese also questioned whether the Greens would want to continue with “destructive actions” like in 2009 when the party voted against the Rudd government’s carbon pollution reduction scheme.

We will put that [new policy] before the parliament, but it won’t change our resolve and it won’t change what we do in government.

Albanese said the prime minister was incapable of coming up with a serious critique of Labor’s policy, so he had “made up another one” by claiming Labor would change the policy post-election.

Albanese said this “just shows how bankrupt he is” when it comes to serious policy critique. Albanese said he could not recall a policy put forward by Labor on a contestable area such as climate policy that had been so warmly embraced by the business community and the peak farmers federation. He added:

The only way to end the climate wars is to elect a Labor government.

 

01:33 Daniel Hurst

The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, has declared that any attempt by the parliament to thwart an incoming Labor government’s attempt to legislate stronger climate policy “won’t change our resolve”.

Labor has pledged to legislate an emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030 – attracting criticism from the Greens, which have said it is inadequate.

Scott Morrison has attempted to paint this as merely an “opening bid” for post-election talks with the Greens and crossbenchers.

Albanese backed his climate spokesperson, Chris Bowen, who said yesterday a Labor government would update Australia’s formal target – known as a nationally determined contribution (NDC) – even if it couldn’t get legislation through the parliament.

(The current government has not legislated its existing target of a 26% to 28% cut on 2005 levels – in short, legislation is not necessary, but would help to provide certainty.)

Albanese told reporters today:

We’ve got a target of 43% by 2030 … we’ve set out exactly how it will occur, it’s been modelled … If after the election if we’re successful I would expect it would received the support of parliament, we’d have a mandate for it.

Albanese said the truth was that parliamentary approval was not necessary to increase the NDC taken to the Conference of the Parties (Cop). He questioned whether the Liberal party would want to continue to “stand in the way of the business community’s” wish for certainty.

 

01:22 Daniel Hurst

Labor Leader Anthony Albanese appeared on Sky News this morning.

Asked about Barnaby Joyce’s Covid diagnosis, Albanese said “I wish him a swift recovery.”

Anthony Albanese also voiced support for the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics that the government announced yesterday.

(We should point out Labor gave bipartisan support to this move in a press release yesterday, but Albanese was asked at his press conference about it.)

The Labor leader said he supported the government’s call not to send officials to the Games. Albanese cited concerns about China’s human rights record, particularly the treatment of Uyghur minority and the undermining of Hong Kong’s freedoms. Albanese said the US had led the diplomatic boycott and Australia had followed. He noted Canada had announced a similar move.

Asked about Scott Morrison’s attempt to paint Albanese as weak on national security, the Labor leader said the prime minister would “come up with a range of scare campaigns”, adding: “Scott Morrison isn’t up to the job of running his own government at the moment.”

Albanese said the Australian government needed to address climate change as a national security issue.

 

01:19

Barnaby Joyce was also asked about George Christensen’s recent appearance on far-right US talk show InfoWars.

Joyce said that he has spoken to Christensen “numerous times”.

I absolutely 100% rebuke any association anybody makes to the Holocaust, which was such an atrocious time in the history of mankind – to anything, domestic policy, in regards to I don’t know, border security. That’s just wrong. And I have also said that, you know, I think that these platforms are really just utilising the fact that George likes to make comments and I don’t know who that’s helping. I have got a sense from the Labor party to be frank.

Asked whether Christensen will refrain from making further comments, Joyce said “that’s a question you have got to bring up with George”, before quickly adding “or probably don’t bring up with George because then he will say something to you”.

 

01:18 Anne Davies

The Australia Institute has joined calls for the NSW government to limit flood plain harvesting.

TAI Research Director Rod Campbell said: “This is a big deal for the whole Murray Darling Basin and all of its rivers and people. It must not get lost in the end of year scramble.

“Floodplain harvesting reform needs oversight from the highest levels of government as there are big implications for the state budget, employment, human health and more.

“Without attention from the public, the Premier, Treasurer and other MPs, this huge reform could be derailed by the powerful agribusinesses that benefit from the status quo.”

Nature Conservation Council Acting Chief Executive Jacqui Mumford said: “Floodplain harvesting works against the best principles of water sharing and the common good.

“It is so harmful to the ecosystems we all depend on that it should be considered not just illegal but anti-social.”

The environmental groups have also been backed by the Southern Riverina Irrigators.

“This is important not just for us, but for all the rice mills, wine makers and other processors that we supply,”Chairman, Chris Brooks said.

“The cotton grown with unregulated floodwater in the north, by contrast, is exported with almost no processing done in Australia.”

 

01:15 Anne Davies

Southern irrigators and a coalition of environmental groups are calling on the NSW government to limit flood plain harvesting – a practice which has been blamed for the reducing flows in the Murray Darling river system by as much as 20%.

A NSW Upper House report on flood plain harvesting is due out next week and will explore in detail the impact of irrigators in the northern basin diverting flood waters into large storages using channels and levee banks, which is then manly used for cotton growing.

Irrigators are currently able to do this for free and without a licence, but there is a proposal from the NSW government to issue licences based on historical take by irrigators.

This has prompted a fierce debate on exactly how much should be permitted to be taken, its lawfulness and its impact on the environment and downstream flows.

The practice has been blamed for contributing to the 2019-20 fish kills at Menindee which saw hundreds of thousands of fish die, and for reduced water availability for downstream irrigators.

The groups want licensing of floodplain harvesting at “lawful, sustainable volumes” which they say would be a major environmental, social and economic reform for the NSW Murray Darling Basin.

In particular they do not want the licensing to result in an increase in the sustainable diversion limit – water taken for agriculture – that was agreed under the Murray Darling Basin plan.

 

01:09

During his press conference in Geelong this morning, Scott Morrison was asked what he thought about the idea of a “giant ute on a pole” to be built as a tourist attraction in the area.

Morrison seemed keen:

I love utes. How good are utes? And how good would a big ute be? That’s what I would say. Look, I think that’s … the iconic nature of Australian tourist attractions anywhere in the country.

But he managed to pivot the conversation back to government policy.

But what’s more important than big utes is real utes, is work at sites like this. And that’s what we are here to talk about today. I mean, you can have a big ute on a stick, what I want to see is tradies in utes on work sites building homes for first home buyers. And that’s what we are celebrating today.

Now the Australian Electoral Commission has weighed in on where this big ute on a pole could be built.

Depending on placement, the Big Ute On A Stick would be located in either Corio or Corangamite. https://t.co/1Dxx85bXsB pic.twitter.com/9yngB28LEJ

— AEC ✏️ (@AusElectoralCom) December 9, 2021

 

01:08

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce spoke to ABC News Mornings from Washington DC, where he has tested positive for Covid-19. He said that he probably won’t be home for Christmas.

Labor asks Trevor Ross to run for Lindsay

01:01

Albanese said that he has asked firefighter Trevor Ross to run against Liberal MP Melissa McIntosh for the seat of Lindsay at the federal election.

Trevor Ross will stand up for the people of western Sydney and particularly the people of Saint Marys and Penrith, the people of this electorate of Lindsay. He is someone who has great experience. He has been a firefighter for 36 years.

Trevor Ross is someone who holds a hose and the people of Lindsay need someone like Trevor who has experience, who has worked as a firefighter, who has stood up for the local community here in western Sydney, who is passionate about jobs and apprenticeships and skills, and making more opportunity for the generations of young people coming through here. Trevor is a proud member of his union. He is someone who has been active in the Labor party for a considerable period of time.

 

00:59

Albanese is speaking about Labor’s “A Future Made in Australia” plan.

Albanese says that the plan will “deliver 465,000 free Tafe places … to make sure we train and skill up Australians for the jobs of today and as well as of tomorrow”.

 

00:54

The father of deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce’s partner will stand at the next election for Clive Palmer’s United Australia party, contesting MP Bob Katter’s seat of Kennedy.

Our friends at AAP have the story.

Peter Campion, the father of Vikki Campion, will contest the north Queensland seat of Kennedy at the 2022 election.

Kennedy is currently held by maverick independent MP Bob Katter, who has represented the electorate since 1993.

Mr Campion said he would campaign for reducing large levels of government debt and stopping net-zero emissions targets.

‘Net-zero means no jobs and no future for our community, and we have got to stop the Liberal-Labor alliance,’ he said in a statement.

‘I think all members of the community appreciate Mr Katter’s service to the people of Queensland and recognise that he is entitled to spend more time with his family.’

 

00:51

Morrison has been asked whether three Covid-19 vaccine doses will be required to be considered fully vaccinated against the virus.

Morrison says “we will continue to listen to the medical advice on that”.

We have already talked to Atagi about what the period should be between the interval between a second dose and a booster shot. They are the right people to be advising on these things, and for them, myself and the chief medical officer and the health minister to make determinations.

 

00:48

Oppositio leader Anthony Albanese is speaking to reporters in Sydney,

Eight new Omicron cases in NSW

00:43

This brings the total number of Omicron cases in the state to 42.

NSW recorded 420 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night. There is now a total of 42 cases of COVID-19 with the Omicron variant in NSW.

To date, no Omicron cases have been admitted to hospital in NSW for treatment of COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/8MvCaUNdEF

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) December 9, 2021

 

00:42

Morrison has been asked why Australia hasn’t accelerated its Covid-19 booster program, given new evidence that three Pfizer doses are required to protect against the new Omicron varient.

Well, first of all Australia is one of the first countries to introduce a whole of population booster program. And we did that before Omicron. And I think the events only show the wisdom of that decision, we have ample booster shots that are available …

I was in touch with the health minister, the secretary of health and chief medical officer and they will continue to keep that under close watch as to whether [the booster] can be brought forward with new information, and we would strongly support that and we are ready to go if that is what they would like to do.

 

00:34

Morrison has been asked about Barnaby Joyce testing positive for Covid-19 in the United States.

He said that Joyce was in the US and UK to talk about the Australian government’s proposal to hold social media companies liable as publishers for defamatory comments by anonymous users.

I know Barnaby was really looking forward to what he was going to do over there. He has, together with myself and so many members of my team, so focused on this issue of keeping particularly young people and women safe online and he’s been a real champion of this cause … I know he’s naturally disappointed he won’t be able to do that because of contracting Covid. But he tells me he’s feeling alright.

Morrison government announces 4,600 more places in the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme

00:33

Housing minister Michael Sukkar has announced that just over 4,600 additional places will be rolled over and made available this financial year under the government’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme.

So an additional 4,600 individuals or couples will be able to purchase their first home, either an established home or building a first home, with a deposit as little as 5%.

That program, since we announced it at the election and put it in place at the beginning of last year, has seen some 60,000 Australians bid or building their first home with as little as 5%.

 

00:22

Morrison continues to promote his government’s home owners policies, including the home builder program. He says that “we have tens of thousands of Australians taking this up.”

We have seen $30billion worth of residential construction activity flow from these commitments.

He adds that the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, now known as the home guarantee scheme, is saving people an average of four years they would have spent saving that money.

That’s four years of price increases they would have had to pay for that would have gone on top of their mortgage. And this is an extraordinary outcome.

 

00:18

Morrison is speaking in Geelong about first home ownership.

Morrison says that since “the last election we have put over 300,000 Australians into a home. 300,000. It’s an extraordinary achievement.”

What we have done is we have taken first home owners each year, I made that commitment before the last election, from just under 100,000 a year, to this year [where] we are now at 177,00 a year.

 

00:15

Prime minister Scott Morrison is speaking from Geelong, Victoria.

 

00:14

The PM on the campaign trail in Geelong today, talking with first home buyers @7NewsMelbourne pic.twitter.com/vdaFSyEM7H

— Ashlea Kunowski (@AKunowski) December 8, 2021

 

00:03

Prime minister Scott Morrison is expected to speak to reporters from Victoria within the next half an hour.

We will bring you updates as we get them.

ACT records four new local Covid-19 cases

08 Dec 2021 23:51

ACT COVID-19 update (9 December 2021):

◾ New cases today: 4

◾ Active cases: 76

◾ Total cases: 2,055

◾ Negative test results (past 24 hours): 1,645

◾ In hospital: 5

◾ In ICU: 2

◾ Ventilated: 0

◾ Lives lost: 12

💉 ACT COVID-19 vaccinations: 98.1% of 12+ fully vaccinated pic.twitter.com/TXGFFrJfnr

— ACT Health (@ACTHealth) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 23:39

Miles also had a few words to say about Scott Morrison’s tweet this morning celebrating Qld hitting the 80% vaccination mark.

Morrison wrote: “Well done to Queensland and the NT! Confirming you’ve officially hit 80% double dose vaccination, the target in our National Plan.”

Deputy Premier Steven Miles when asked about the PM tweeting Queensland’s 80% milestone before telling the state government.

“I guess in some ways that tweet giving us the data sooner than we would otherwise get it, it’s kind of the first thing Scott Morrison’s done to help.”

— @MartySilk (@MartySilkHack) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 23:33

Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles addressed reporters this morning. While he celebrated no new cases of Covid-19 in the state, he warned that “it might be one of our last” double-doughnut days.

Mr Miles says it’s 620 days since the first covid case arrived in Queensland, and it’s a relief to hit 80% fully vaccinated.

“Achieving … that 80% target means we can open our borders finally on Monday at 1am and we can reward the 80% of us who are double vaccinated.”

— @MartySilk (@MartySilkHack) December 8, 2021

Miles said that more people on the Gold Coast need to come forward and get vaccinated against the virus.

The deputy premier says vaccination rates are patchy across the state and there’s concerns about the Gold Coast, which is only 76.5% fully vaccinated.

“We really need to see more Gold Coasters come forward and get both of their vaccinations.”

— @MartySilk (@MartySilkHack) December 8, 2021

Qld records no new local Covid-19 cases

08 Dec 2021 23:22

Speaking of the sunshine state, Queensland has recorded no new locally-acquired Covid-19 cases.

Queensland did confirm two cases of Omicron in people from overseas on Wednesday.

Thursday 9 December – coronavirus cases in Queensland:

• 0 new cases detected in Queensland overnight#covid19 pic.twitter.com/jRfCGh0oh1

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 23:18

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has congratulated the state on hitting the 80% double-dose target for those aged 16 and older, noting it’s one of the few places in the world to do so before experiencing a major Covid-19 outbreak.

80% double dosed.

This is a great day for Queensland.

Very few places in the world have got to this level of protection before a COVID-19 wave arrives.

The credit for this belongs to each and every Queenslander.

But we can’t stop here.

Let’s get to 90% and beyond.

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 23:09

Prof Paul Kelly says the Omicron Variant is being grown in labs in Melb and Sydney – and we should know next week, how effective current vaccines are against it.

Says good news overnight – the drug Sotrovimab is effective against it.

— Sabra Lane (@SabraLane) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 22:59

Michael Azrak, the Australian general manager with Moderna, also told ABC News Mornings that Moderna has been “in discussions with the commonwealth [government] for quite some time” about setting up a local manufacturing facility.

They are progressing in a positive direction. I can’t say much more than that, more than to say that Moderna is very keen to be part of the ecosystem here. I think it is very important for Australia to have onshore manufacturing capabilities of an advanced platform like Moderna’s and the discussions are heading in a positive direction and hopefully we can have some readout on that in the not-too-distant future.

He said that it would be “certainly achievable” to open a facility by the end of 2022.

 

08 Dec 2021 22:56 Amanda Meade

The media diversity inquiry, which has examined Rupert Murdoch’s dominance of Australian media, will table its report in the senate today.

The inquiry heard from global News Corp chief Robert Thomson, Sky News boss Paul Whittaker and former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Whittaker vigorously defended Sky’s right to present a range of views on treatments such as ivermectin at an appearance before the committee, which earlier heard from the company’s Australasian chief, Michael Miller.

The Senate committee chair, Sarah Hanson-Young, called the inquiry to hear extensive evidence about how News Corp’s media dominance in Australia made it a powerful political player.

It was sparked by the success of Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into Murdoch’s dominance which had more than half a million signatures.

 

08 Dec 2021 22:54

Michael Azrak, the Australian general manager with Moderna, spoke on ABC News Mornings today.

He said that data was still emerging around the effectiveness of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine and booster shot against the new Omicron variant.

I’m hopeful [that the vaccines will be effective against Omicron] but I need to be guided by the data and we will just have to wait and see how the data plays out

Yesterday, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the Moderna booster shot for those over the age of 18.

Pending Atagi’s recommendation, Azrak said that anyone who has the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine will be able to get the Moderna booster.

He said that, while there isn’t a “considerable amount of data, given that the booster rollout has just begun, they haven’t seen any increase in adverse reactions for people who have a Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine and a Moderna booster.

Victoria records 1,232 new Covid-19 cases, nine deaths

08 Dec 2021 22:48

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/f5ZSOoEciX

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) December 8, 2021

ACCC approves $23.6bn takeover of Sydney Airport

08 Dec 2021 22:45 Ben Butler

The competition watchdog has approved the $23.6bn takeover of Sydney Airport by a consortium of super funds despite industry concerns over concentration of ownership in the sector.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said some stakeholders raised concerns the takeover might increase the flow of information between airports that have common ownership, which will be many of the larger ones, giving airports more bargaining power against airlines.

Sims said:

We understand the stakeholder concerns, however, fundamentally the lack of competition between airports means that any such sharing of information between airports would not amount to a substantial lessening of competition, which is what the law requires before we can oppose a merger.

He said the ACCC would continue to monitor airport use prices, which the regulator has consistently said are too high.

The absence of constraint ultimately leads to consumers paying higher airport passenger charges than they otherwise would.

We will continue to advocate for a regulatory regime that is effective, particularly as the aviation industry and the Australian economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The buyer of the Sydney Airport, Sydney Aviation Alliance, is made up of Industry Funds Management, AustralianSUper, QSuper and Global Infrastructure Partners.

 

08 Dec 2021 22:42

Up to 160 alleged criminals are in police sights as officers prepare to launch a nationally coordinated strike against organised crime on Thursday, AAP reports.

The second phase of Operation Ironside will target motorcycle gangs, Italian organised crime and drug distributors and the offensive is likely to continue for a number of months.

Ironside was a three-year covert operation by the Australian Federal Police in partnership with the FBI which led to a law-enforcement controlled encrypted messaging service providing enough information to take down more than 300 alleged criminals.

Investigators were able to use the app to discover that drugs would be attached to the hull of large ships or thrown overboard before they docked in Australia to then be recovered by criminal dive teams.

Syndicates would also use garbage collection services to pick up drugs hidden in bins at ports around Australia.

More than 700 search warrants have been executed under the operation with over 6.3 tonnes of illegal drugs, $52 million in suspected proceeds of crime and 139 weapons seized in Australia.

Almost 1000 suspected criminals have been arrested around the world under the operation.

 

08 Dec 2021 22:33 Daniel Hurst

Barnaby Joyce was asked on Sky News this morning whether having coronavirus had changed his ideas on returning to Covid normal. He replied:

I’m still of the same view – you know we can’t just shut the whole place down. The world’s got to move on. It’s not economically possible for any nation to go into permanent shutdown – you’ll go broke.

Joyce added:

We’ve got to work out how we keep people out of hospitals, that’s terribly important.

He also said it was important that people get vaccinated – and then work out the best way to “get our lives back to as normal as we can”.

I hope that in the future rather than being isolated this is like the flu if you get it you go home and you manage it yourself. With the diligence of people, like you get a flu shot every year, get a Covid vaccine every year. I mean that’s my dream – where the reality is I don’t know, but that is my dream.

Laura Jayes asked whether it had changed his perspective at all. Joyce replied:

Not yet – I’m not dying here, Laura. I’m feeling like I have a slight to mild flu, so no it hasn’t really changed my perspective. Maybe if you call me in a few days and hear me gasping for air I’ll have a different interview for you.

 

08 Dec 2021 22:29 Christopher Knaus

Next week, the government is planning to ease border restrictions for a range of temporary visa holders.

But for many, the changes will mean little, including those on bridging visas, who are not included in the eased restrictions.

Another cohort is also facing seven more months stuck abroad.

Many recent graduates on temporary 485 visas travelled overseas temporarily, only to find themselves locked out of returning due to the border restrictions. Their visas, which are short-term only, have now expired.

The government is offering them the ability to apply for replacement visas, but not until July 2022. That means they cannot return for at least another seven months.

Samantha Raut, who is trapped in Nepal after travelling for her brother’s wedding, is locked out of Australia but is still having to pay her rent, bills, and other expenses while earning a relatively low income in Nepal. The replacement visa costs another $1,680 on top of the $1,680 already spent on the original visa.

She said:

That’s actually not fair.We are financially broken, we are mentally broken, so many people are going through depression, anxiety attacks due to this issue.

 

08 Dec 2021 22:24 Daniel Hurst

Barnaby Joyce is speaking to Sky News about his positive Covid-19 diagnosis. He is in isolation in Washington DC. He says he feels like he has flu. And he doesn’t know what variant he has.

You’ve got the protocol to follow and I’m following it.

Question: Has anyone else in the delegation tested positive?

No, which is really good, I’d hate to think there are other people who are inconvenienced.

Question: Any idea where you picked up Covid?

Joyce says he doesn’t know. He says in the UK – where he was earlier in the week – it is crowded in places as people prepare for Christmas shopping.

You wouldn’t think there’s a pandemic on in areas of the UK.

Question: What is he going to do in isolation?

The gist of his response is watch cricket, do some paperwork and read a book.

Question: Has he changed his ideas on Covid-normal?

I’m still of the view we can’t shut the whole place down.

 

08 Dec 2021 22:23

A bushfire near the popular tourist destination of Margaret River in Western Australia has become more intense and people in the area have been told to evacuate, AAP reports.

Emergency WA issued the threat warning late on Wednesday to residents in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park region in the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.

“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. There is a threat to lives and homes,” the agency said in a message reissued on Thursday morning.

“If the way is clear, leave now for a safer place.”

Emergency WA said the fire was escalating due to a heavy fuel load on the park floor.

The fire started near the intersection of Caves Road and Calgarup Road in Boranup, almost 300km south of Perth.

The WA west coast is set for high temperatures and windy conditions on Thursday, with a forecast peak of 36 degrees Celsius for the Perth metropolitan area.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions is overseeing the firefighting operation, which is supported by local brigades and water-bombing aircraft.

 

08 Dec 2021 22:06

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce spoke to ABC New England North West this morning. He called from Washington DC, where he is isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 during a work trip.

Joyce said:

Very frustrated that I will be locked up in a room for 10 days, but that’s part of the process. We arrived here from England, I chose to get a test and tested positive and all my colleagues tested negative, the luck of the draw I suppose.

He went on to say that he was not sure what strain of the virus he had, adding that he would have to ask the virus.

Australia news live update: eight new Omicron infections in NSW as Covid cases rise; Qld and NT pass 80% vaccine milestone
© Provided by The Guardian Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has tested positive for Covid-19 while in the US on a work trip. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

NSW records 420 new Covid-19 cases; one death

08 Dec 2021 22:02

NSW COVID-19 update – Thursday 9 December 2021

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

– 94.7% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

– 93% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/CD4WLt2MJ2

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 21:58 Ben Butler

The corporate regulator is wrapping up its investigations that came out of the 2018 banking royal commission with a lawsuit against ANZ over a $200m ripoff of more than 580,000 customers.

In a new federal court case, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission alleges that between the mid 90s and September this year it failed to give benefits including interest rate discounts and fee waivers to customers who were entitled to them as part of a package deal.

The bank has admitted to making false or misleading representations to customers that its systems were good enough to provide the benefits and has already paid $200m in remediation.

ANZ’s conduct was the subject of a case study at the royal commission.

‘This matter marks the final investigation by ASIC arising from matters considered by the Financial Services Royal Commission,” Asic deputy chair Sarah Court said.

A constant theme of those investigations has been the failure of large financial services entities to honour agreements with customers and to ensure proper processes and systems are in place to prevent widespread compliance failures. Asic will continue to take enforcement action in relation to misconduct of this nature.

It comes after Asic yesterday launched criminal action against another finance industry player Avanteos, for charging fees to 500 dead people between 2016 and 2018.

Avanteos, which at the time was a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank, has pleaded guilty.

The issue of charging dead people was explored at the royal commission but not in relation to Avanteos.

Qld and NT hit 80% fully vaccinated mark

08 Dec 2021 21:47

Well done to Queensland and the NT! Confirming you’ve officially hit 80% double dose vaccination, the target in our National Plan. Thank you to everyone who got their jab.

Please get your booster if you’re due and help Australia continue to safely reopen and stay safely open.

— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 21:46

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce announced this morning that he has tested positive for Covid-19 while in Washington.

In a statement, Joyce said he is experiencing mild symptoms and the “remaining members of the delegation have tested negative”.

here’s a few of the people Barnaby Joyce has met in the last few days – Dominic Raab, George Brandis, and other British politicians https://t.co/9sggBFyK2a pic.twitter.com/caDEpaZNjB

— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 21:39

Malcolm Turnbull has given full-throated endorsement of climate-focused independents running at the next federal election, characterising the looming political contests in Liberal party heartland as a “very, very healthy development”.

The former prime minister and federal Liberal party leader said on Wednesday night “clearly a lot of traditional Liberal party voters feel the party has moved way off to the right on a bunch of issues, in particular on climate, and they are frustrated by that”.

Read the full story here:

Related: ‘Very healthy’: Malcolm Turnbull backs climate-focused independents running in Liberal seats

 

08 Dec 2021 21:32

Australia’s fertility rate continues to plummet, with registered births dropping below 300,000 for the first time in 14 years.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday showed there were 294,369 registered births in 2020, a decrease of 3.7% from 2019. The previous year’s decline was 3%.

Importantly, the total fertility rate fell to a record low 1.58 babies per woman, extending a decline from 2.02 in 2008. The rate rose from about 2.1 – the population replacement rate – in the early 1930s to a peak of 3.55 babies per woman in 1962.

Read the full story from Guardian economics correspondent Peter Hannam here:

Related: Australia’s fertility rate falls to record low in 2020

 

08 Dec 2021 21:31

I’ve been in touch with Barnaby this morning, he let me know he tested positive for COVID-19.

He’s isolating in the US until it’s safe for him to come home and we wish him all the best for his recovery.

— David Littleproud MP (@D_LittleproudMP) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 21:21

Given concerns around growing Omicron case numbers in Australia, I want to point you to this article from Guardian science correspondent Hannah Devlin.

Three doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are likely to protect against infection with the Omicron variant but two doses may not, according to laboratory data that will increase pressure to speed up booster programs.

Tests using antibodies in blood samples have given some of the first insights into how far Omicron escapes immunity, showing a stark drop-off in the predicted protection against infection or any type of disease for people who have had two doses. The findings suggest that, for Omicron, Pfizer/BioNTech should now be viewed as a “three-dose vaccine”.

Read the full story here:

Related: Three Pfizer jabs likely to protect against Omicron infection, tests suggest

 

08 Dec 2021 21:13

⚠️🌧️Heavy #rainfall expected today for the South Coast of #NSW continuing into Saturday. #FlashFlooding, river rises & dangerous driving conditions are a key risk. Severe Weather Warning is in place for the south coast. Stay up to date: https://t.co/HaQrNPzBsh@NSWSES pic.twitter.com/kTatj7Zpnc

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 21:13 Calla Wahlquist

A high profile doctor has announced she will be standing against treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the Melbourne seat of Kooyong, saying she “can’t stand” the government’s inaction on climate change.

Prof Monique Ryan, the director of neurology at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, launched her independent campaign on Thursday.

She will step down from her role at the hospital to run for office – a big step to secure what has previously been considered an unshakeably safe Liberal seat.

In a statement, Ryan said:

As a woman, a mother, and a doctor whose job it is to protect our children, I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t stand by, on the sidelines, while our local member votes with Barnaby Joyce against action on climate change.

Every day I go to work and make difficult decisions to help Australian children. Is it too much to ask our government to do the same?

Ryan is not the first high profile independent to challenge Frydenberg on climate change grounds.

In 2019, Oliver Yates secured 8.98% of the vote while Greens candidate Julian Burnside secured 21.24% of the primary vote and 44% on preferences, ousting Labor in the two party preferred result.

Frydenberg experienced an 8.24% drop in his primary vote last election, the result of votes going to Yates and Burnside.

The Greens have preselected Melbourne lawyer and anti-nuclear activist Piers Mitchem for 2022.

Woman dies in floodwaters in Brisbane

08 Dec 2021 21:10

A woman has died after her car became submerged in floodwaters in west Brisbane, AAP reports.

Emergency services received a report of a sedan being swept off a street and into a nearby creek in Pullenvale as a result of moving floodwaters about 4.40pm on Wednesday.

The body of a 75-year-old Taringa woman, the sole occupant of the car, was recovered.

Thunderstorms look set to elevate concerns over major flooding in central Queensland, the Western Downs and border towns which may not show signs of receding until at least the weekend.

The town of Beaudesert south of Brisbane recorded more than 70mm of rain in the hour to 2pm on Wednesday, inundating roads and houses.

Along central Queensland’s Dawson River, flood levels are expected to peak at Baralaba at 11.8 metres on Thursday after falls of up to 60mm in 24 hours in the area. It is the town’s biggest flood in 10 years.

At nearby Theodore, floodwaters are at 11.54 metres but easing.

Along the Western Downs’ Condamine River, major flooding is continuing between Loudoun Bridge and Cotswold including Ranges Bridge, Chinchilla Weir and the Condamine township.

The river peaked at the Condamine township at 12.25 metres on Tuesday and remains at 12 metres, the biggest flood since 2013.

Downstream, major flood levels are rising along the Balonne River with predicted peaks at Warkon, Surat, St George and Dirranbandi this weekend.

Barnaby Joyce tests positive for Covid-19 in Washington, DC

08 Dec 2021 21:08

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has announced he has tested positive for Covid-19 in the United States.

pic.twitter.com/zYhYEsX9BR

— Barnaby Joyce (@Barnaby_Joyce) December 8, 2021

 

08 Dec 2021 21:07

Australia Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll has spoken to ABC News Breakfast about Australia’s decision to join the diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Prime minister Scott Morrison yesterday confirmed Australian officials will not attend the 2022 games, joining the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the event. Morrison said a deterioration in the diplomatic relationship between Australia and China led to the decision, but said athletes will still attend.

Carroll said he agreed with the prime minister’s decision. Asked how this will affect the athletes, Carroll said:

There are two parts to that, we leave the diplomacy to the government, and the Olympic Games are on, the team is attending, the athletes have been preparing for four years.

 

08 Dec 2021 21:06

Asked by ABC News Breakfast whether he is worried China will give a “frosty reception” to Australia’s athletes, given the diplomatic boycott, Matt Carroll said “there is no risk to our athletes whatsoever”.

… we had a meeting earlier this week, the organising committee are very focused on putting on the best games ever, as they always do but I’m sure they will, and we have been in conversation with the consul general here in Australia, and there is no risk to our athletes whatsoever, and most importantly they have a strong focus, we will look after them and bring them home safely.

Carroll added that Australia may get its first curling team to a game.

 

08 Dec 2021 21:04

Documents show the Australian Open organisers have included Novak Djokovic on the men’s singles draw for next year, despite uncertainty around whether Djokovic is fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley has spoken to ABC News Breakfast this morning and made it clear that “no one can play the Australian Open unless they are vaccinated … [or] if you receive a medically approved exemption from Australian authorities specifically against the very specific guidelines”.

What was published yesterday was general entry list in a matter of course everyone goes on entry list, it is not a commitment list about who exactly is in the tournament, that comes in several weeks’ time when the actual list and draw gets finalised for the Australian Open.

Tiley said an independent panel of medical specialists review applications for medical exemptions, and none have been granted as of this morning.

There are really clear guidelines that someone would have to adhere to to get to which are very difficult to get across.

 

08 Dec 2021 21:03

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley also told ABC News Breakfast this morning that 95% of the tennis community globally are now vaccinated, up from just 50% around six weeks ago.

 

08 Dec 2021 20:31

Good morning! It’s Justine Landis-Hanley here to bring you the news blog today.

Let’s dive straight in:

Health experts are warning that the Omicron variant could become the dominant Covid-19 strain after Queensland and Victoria recorded their first cases of the virus.

Both states recorded their first cases of Omicron in hotel quarantine. Urgent genomic testing is also under way on two suspected community cases on either side of Melbourne.

New South Wales Health confirmed that 44 people who attended a pub trivia night in Petersham, Sydney’s inner west have tested positive for Covid-19. Five people who were at a boat party on the weekend have also caught the virus, and urgent testing is under way to determine if any of them have the Omicron variant.

An emergency bushfire warning has been issued for a fire in Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, in WA’s Augusta Margaret River Shire. More than 100 firefighters are working to contain the fire, and residents are being told the act immediate to survive.

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