Australia news live: China row simmers; NSW awaits Covid case numbers | Australia news
A search is underway for two men missing in waters off Kangaroo Island.
The men are believed to have left Cape Jervis, south of Adelaide, on Thursday afternoon heading to Cape Willoughby, on the island’s east coast, to go fishing.
They were mean to be back around four hours later but they never returned.
Search efforts include the use of a South Australia Police helicopter while a plane is also expected to join from Victoria.
Along with going 35 days without an infection, Victoria is set to reach another milestone on Monday, with five international flights landing at Melbourne airport as the state’s hotel quarantine program restarts for overseas travellers.
The flights from Singapore, Hong Kong, Colombo and Doha will touch down at Tullamarine throughout the day and carry a total of about 125 passengers, AAP reports.
The new arrivals will then be transported to quarantine for 14 days as part of the new-look program, which has been overhauled after outbreaks from two hotels sparked Victoria’s deadly second coronavirus wave.
It is being overseen by newly established agency COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) under Corrections Commissioner Emma Cassar, who will report to Police Minister Lisa Neville.
There will be no private security guards involved, with all staff employed or directly contracted by CQV, with the exception of cleaning staff, who are on fixed-term contracts with Alfred Health.
About 300 Victoria Police officers and 220 Australian Defence Force personnel will also be embedded in the hotels each day.
Arrivals to Victoria are initially capped at 160 travellers a day, with the lucky few required to pay about $3500 per adult for their mandatory two-week stay.
They won’t be able to leave their rooms for fresh air or exercise breaks, while food and care packages will no longer be permitted.
I mentioned before that the UK was preparing for a wide-scale rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine. Are you slightly confused as to how they have managed to do this so fast, or why they seem to be ahead of everyone else? Honestly same.
But never fear, the amazing Melissa Davey crafted a comprehensive explainer to get us all up to speed. Give it a read below:
Pell contempt decision to be handed down this afternoon
Prosecutors will learn today if they’ve properly established a case against journalists for reporting on Cardinal George Pell’s abuse convictions, reports the AAP.
Media lawyers have argued there is a “devastating, bazooka-size hole” in the theory behind the prosecution of journalists and media organisations for reports after Cardinal Pell’s 2018 convictions.
The five child sexual abuse convictions were overturned by the high court earlier this year and Cardinal Pell has since returned to Rome.
More than two dozen media organisations, reporters and editors were charged with contempt over breaches of suppression orders and other reporting rules in the days after the guilty verdict.
But media lawyers say the prosecution must fail because it relies on publications and broadcasts having a tendency to encourage people to view international news stories naming Cardinal Pell.
Every charge would fail unless it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that all or some of the overseas articles could be found with simple online searches by people who read, saw or heard the stories at the centre of the case. Prosecutors waited four days before doing a Google search that turned up four overseas news articles – all which post-date most of the Australian articles.
Matt Collins QC said other searches in late December were examples of confirmation bias, using the Americanism “gag order” which was used in international news stories but not in the Australian ones.
“This is a devastating, bazooka-size hole in the case theory behind all of these charges,” he said.
Crown prosecutor Lisa De Ferrari disputed the case, and pointed to clear allegations that the articles in question had breached suppression orders. A Herald Sun article had published information “derived from the trials”, which was expressly forbidden, she said.
Justice John Dixon will hand down his decision on Friday afternoon. If he rejects the no case submissions, media lawyers will move on to presenting their defence.
As the country waits to see if NSW’s new Covid-19 infection has spread West Australian premier Mark McGowan says he will take the weekend to assess his options when it comes to opening the border to NSW and Victoria.
WA is scheduled to open up to the states from next Tuesday, dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement for travel from those states.
But the timeline is in doubt after a Sydney hotel quarantine worker contracted the virus, ending the state’s 26-day streak without a single new community case.
Urgent genomic testing is underway to determine how the woman contracted the virus, with an update likely coming today.
Depending on the scale of the NSW outbreak and risk of further transmission, WA could also delay reopening its border to neighbouring Victoria.
“The NSW government is confident they have it under control but we want to see and make sure that the evidence supports that before we make a final decision,” McGowan said.
“Obviously if the chief health officer recommends that we delay opening to NSW, then that is the decision we will make.”
Global Covid-19 death toll surpasses 1.5 million
More than 1.5 million people have lost their lives due to Covid-19 with one death reported every nine seconds on a weekly average, as vaccinations are set to begin in December in a handful of developed nations.
Reuters reports that 500,000 deaths occurred in just the last two months, indicating that the severity of the pandemic is far from over. Nearly 65 million people globally have been infected by the disease and the worst affected country, the US, is currently battling a third wave of coronavirus infections.
In the last week alone, more than 10,000 people in the world died on average every single day, which has been steadily rising each passing week. Many countries across the world are now fighting second and third waves even greater than the first, forcing new restrictions on everyday life.
If you a keen for more global Covid-19 updates, check out the Guardian’s global live blog.
As Melbourne goes more than a month without a Covid-19 infection, New South Wales eases restrictions further and South Australia’s Parafield cluster slowly fades into memory, it seems the country is finally settling into the much-anticipated “Covid normal”.
But as the perception of threat eases, experts say health authorities must find a balance between mitigating risk and keeping the public on side.
Prof Nancy Baxter, head of the school of population and global health at the University of Melbourne, says there is a real risk of governments overstepping and risking widespread refusal to comply with remaining restrictions.
“You saw this during the height of the second wave when the [Victorian] government were digging in their heels about continuing the curfew long after it seemed to have done its job,” Baxter says. “By not easing that, people kind of started saying ‘Well, why do we have to do this?’. It started bringing more of the restrictions into question.”
You can read my full story on how the government should handle this next stage in the Covid-19 pandemic below:
Good morning, Matilda Boseley here. It’s nearly the end of the week and what better way to reach the finish line than to stick around on the Guardian live blog and get all your much-needed news updates, Covid-19 or otherwise.
First up, Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has criticised the Brereton report, which he says was filled with “unproven rumours” of Australian soldiers murdering Afghan children, saying the report has given China an opening to malign Australian troops.
Hastie also took aim at Twitter for refusing to take down an inflammatory tweet by a Chinese foreign ministry official, suggesting Australia was experiencing “a toxic mix of economic coercion and political disinformation enabled by Silicon Valley social media oligarchs in the United States”.
In other news:
- NSW is waiting with bated breath to see if an infection breach in their hotel quarantine system will result in a cluster. A cleaner at one of the hotels has developed Covid-19, and while her family have all so far tested negative she was working across multiple worksites and used public transport on days when she may have been infectious. A number of people have been ordered to self-isolate.
- Today we have learnt Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg billed taxpayers almost $5,000 to take the prime minister’s private jet on a whirlwind trip to Sydney on the night of Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas party last year, leaving Canberra after 6pm, attending the Bellevue Hill soiree and then returning to the capital before 9am the next morning.
- The UK will be the first country to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine beyond stage-three clinical trials with 800,000 doses to be given to high-priority people, including healthcare workers and the vulnerable, from next week. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the same one Australia will roll out from March. The two-shot vaccine is also being assessed by the US drug regulator, and a similar authorisation is expected to be made shortly for a rollout in mid-December.
- We are also waiting on the environment and emission reductions minister, Angus Taylor, to make the keynote address at an emissions conference, so we will bring you all the updates on that as it happens.
If you see any news that you think should be on here, don’t hesitate to shoot me a message on Twitter, @MatildaBoseley, or by email on [email protected]