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A quick update from Tasmania.
The Northern Territory government remains in the dark about potential moves by the federal government to scrap a Chinese company’s lease over the Port of Darwin amid national security concerns.
With the defence department edging closer to finishing a review ordered five months ago, Guardian Australia understands the federal government is considering options that go beyond the binary choice of keeping or scrapping the lease.
A third option is to keep the 99-year lease in force but impose additional requirements on the operator Landbridge Group.
Under critical infrastructure laws that passed the parliament in 2018, the federal government has the power to require a port operator to take specific actions based on security risks.
You can read the full report below:
Greg Hunt has been asked what the government is doing to increase vaccination rates in Indigenous communities, which have generally fallen behind the Australian average:
Indigenous rates at the moment are 57.5% first dose, 42.3% second dose. And, as Pat Turner, who’s the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, said, it’s not a question of access, it’s very much a question of either hesitancy or confidence.
And Pat was absolutely clear with health ministers in that statement. And so our task now is to work collectively, of federal government, state government, Indigenous leaders, Indigenous representatives and media, to help encourage and boost that take-up …
So it’s very much about three things, going forwards. One is the continued program of rolling out, around the country, and presenting and presenting and presenting. And so it’s not just one opportunity. We’re providing multiple opportunities.
Two, we’re taking a different approach, and there’s a lot more work which was done, for example, in Wilcannia, of having to literally go house to house. And so within communities, there’s a lot more direct outreach, house to house. Even though there’s the access, even though there’s the availability.
And the third is the confidence-building program around the country, and that’s very much a partnership with Indigenous communities, and we’re focusing on what is the message that best works in each community.
Just touching on that CSL news. There has been a bit of chatter around that the company, which is responsible for Australia’s domestic AstraZeneca production, may be suspending operations, but the company says this is not the case.
A CSL spokesperson released the following statement:
CSL is committed to the manufacture of approximately 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria. Already over 20 million doses have been produced to protect Australians and those in the Asia Pacific region, and it is expected that the remaining production will be completed early next year.
As CSL Chair Brian McNamee AO said at the Annual General Meeting this week: “We are pleased to say that the Australian Government and AstraZeneca trusted us as their partners to help the country respond to the emerging crisis through the most effective solution available: vaccination.”
CSL and Seqirus are proud of the role they have played in providing Australia with onshore vaccine manufacturing capability throughout the pandemic.
Now, let’s talk about how we are going to helping our Pacific neighbours.
In terms of AstraZeneca, I’ve spoken with the chair of CSL, Brian McNamee, today, and have been engaging with Liz Chapman, who’s the Australian CEO of AstraZeneca – both have confirmed that CSL and AstraZeneca are on track to complete the full 50m dose production run in Australia and the 3.8m supply from overseas.
So, 53.8m AstraZeneca doses. So, our expectation and our plan is that that program will be completed in full.
And all of those extra doses are being supplied to the region. So, Fiji has very much built its vaccination program with the support of Australian AstraZeneca. It’s made a huge difference there.
There’s a very significant offer – Dfat is coordinating it right across the region. PNG, as you mentioned, our Pacific Forum friends and neighbours, Indonesia, Vietnam we have been able to support, and others.
So, all of these items are coming together and we’ll continue to support them both directly with our AstraZeneca, which I’m really pleased to be able to say – the confirmation I’ve had today – on track, delivery in full.
The health minister is asked what he plans to do if the TGA approves the use of Pfizer for five- to 11-year-olds but the vaccination advisory body Atagi says no:
Look, no change in policy or position since the question earlier on in the week. And that is, we take a double green-light approach.
Atagi is our advisory body on vaccines and the TGA is our safety regulator. And so we take a double green-light approach to that. That’s been the situation. They were cautious in assessing the 12- to 15-year-olds. They assessed the data carefully, they made their decision.
We’re rolling that program out now with 690,000 first doses and 190,000 second doses. And so we’ll continue to follow that medical advice.
Oh and Greg Hunt also has some non-Covid-19 health news for us (I know! I forget that other diseases existed as well!):
There’s $30m that I’m delighted to announce is being released for grant application rounds, competitive grant application rounds, under the medical research future fund.
Two programs – a $20m program under the emerging priorities program, which is focusing on childhood and teen musculoskeletal, about diagnosis and treatment. Many young kids, many teens, will have spinal conditions.
It could be something such as juvenile arthritis, it can be painful and debilitating, which of and in itself is a real concern for parents.
But prolonged chronic pain can, at any age, have an impact on mental health. And so this research is, I think, really timely and very important.
The other part of it is $10m, under our health data program, to focus on emerging pathways for health data.
Hunt has confirmed the Australian vaccination rate (the 16 and over population) now sits at 83.6% first dose and 65.4% double dosed.
TGA to consider Pfizer doses for five- to 11-year-olds
Federal health minister Greg Hunt has confirmed that Pfizer will be allowed to make its case to the Therapeutic Goods Administration to allow five- to 11-year-olds to be vaccinated with its Covid-19 vaccine:
The Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA, Australia’s medical regulator, has provided provisional determination, which allows for Pfizer to submit their application for the Pfizer vaccine for five- to 11-year-olds.
That will be done on an expedited basis. And so there are then three stages from here. Pfizer will need to submit its data, which we are hoping will come in the coming weeks. They are working with the CEO of Australian Pfizer, Anne Harris, last week and this week to that effect.
Then the TGA, which has already begun its process of assessment, will assess the final data. And if they provide a green light, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will also do their consideration – and if they provide a green light, then we provide the vaccine.
We’re very confident that all of these processes will proceed but, as ever, we follow the medical advice.
What does it mean? It means that we have the supply, we have the distribution mechanisms. At the moment, we’re seeing roughly over 300,000 vaccines a day on weekdays, and a similar number over the course of the weekend, that are being distributed.
And we will just continue going on, as we’ve done with 12- to 15-year-olds, as we’ve done with the boosters for the severely immunocompromised. And so I think that’s a very important sign and it offers additional support and protection for parents and families.
It’s coming at an earlier time than we had previously expected, so I’m very, very pleased about that.
Video: NSW surpasses 70 per cent vaccination target (Sky News Australia)
But on the upside, the NSW seven-day rolling average is now in the 400s.
Big thanks to Josh Nicholas for the speedy graph work:
Heads up, looks like opposition leader Anthony Albanese will be speaking at 10am AEDT. That’s just after we are slated to hear from the federal health minister Greg Hunt at 9.30am.
You can see just how dramatic that Victorian case number case jump is on the outbreak graph:
NSW records 406 new local cases and six deaths
The NSW numbers have also just come through. The state recorded 406 new local cases and, sadly, six people infected with Covid-19 have died.
Victoria records most infectious day yet with 2,297 Covid-19 cases
The Victorian numbers are in and they’re not good. The numbers have jumped by more than 700 cases from yesterday, with 2,297 new infections recorded overnight.
The state also recorded 11 deaths.
Heads up, we should be hearing from federal health minister Greg Hunt in about half an hour:
The federal government is seeking to overturn a landmark high court decision that deemed Aboriginal Australians cannot be aliens and cannot be deported.
The Love and Thoms ruling in February 2020 ranks as the high court’s most significant constitutional decision in years, with the narrow four-to-three judgment prompting Coalition conservatives to lobby for black-letter judges to be appointed.
Just a year and a half later, the commonwealth has revealed it wants the precedent to be overturned after a New Zealand man tried to fight deportation using the Love and Thoms precedent.
Part of Shayne Paul Montgomery’s federal court case seeks to prove that the category of “non-citizen, non-alien” should be extended to people customarily adopted as Aboriginal even if they have no Aboriginal biological descent.
You can read the full report below:
Andrew Forrest urges end to climate ‘fear-mongering’
Emissions reduction targets of between 40% and 50% are absolutely necessary for Australia, according to mining magnate Andrew Forrest, reports AAP.
The former Fortescue chief executive also said it would be a “high-profile” declaration of where Australia sits on climate change if Scott Morrison did not attend an upcoming Glasgow summit to address the issue.
Yesterday Forrest outlined billion-dollar plans for green hydrogen production facilities across Australia, including in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania.
Before a final decision on Australia’s net zero emissions policy by the government, Forrest has hit out at MPs who have criticised such proposals as being detrimental to the economy.
He told ABC Radio National this morning:
We need to stop the fear-mongering … It might crack a few more votes at the next election, but after that it is seen as fear-mongering, when coal starts to subside.
Much of the criticism of net zero plans have come from senior Nationals MPs, who have said attempts to reduce emissions would impact on regional areas and jobs.
The Nationals will hold a party room meeting on Sunday to discuss the net zero plans.
Nationals Senate leader and cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie said yesterday there would be “no deal unless it is right for the regions”.
Forrest said he had spoken yesterday to deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and McKenzie about the plans for green hydrogen facilities:
I’m sure they are quite capable of hearing the facts … Economies are going green and they are going to grow the fastest and have the most jobs. If Australia doesn’t do it, that capital will go to countries that will.
Forrest will address the National Press Club at lunchtime.
Wilcannia locals are celebrating the news there have been no new Covid cases for two weeks but say they are now on the long path to recovery after the virus hit “like a cyclone” in August.
Yesterday was the 15th consecutive day of no new cases, an “incredible” outcome according to Brendon Adams, who runs Wilcannia River radio and who worked on the frontline during the crisis.
“It was like a cyclone, we were just overwhelmed by the impact,” Adams said. “There was a lot of depression, there was isolation but our community came together, and to see an outcome such as this is unbelievable.”
As NSW lifts restrictions, one Aboriginal health expert warned that “we are still in the thick of it”, with new cases appearing in other Aboriginal communities every day.
You can read the full report below:
New Zealand’s defeat by the Delta strain of Covid-19 could see a relaxation of international border rules by Christmas, reports Ben McKay from AAP.
And Jacinda Ardern’s government is preparing to allow New Zealanders with Covid-19 to stay at home or isolate at community facilities if they do not need hospital-level care.
A predicted surge of coronavirus cases has prompted the changes.
The hard border has been maintained as New Zealand pursued an elimination strategy against the virus, but the reluctant acceptance of ongoing community cases has turned the government’s mind to a border rethink.
Ardern appears set to loosen the compulsory 14-day stay in a quarantine hotel – known locally as MIQ – on arrival.
Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins said:
We are actively considering our MIQ settings in light of the fact that we are unlikely to get back to zero cases … You can expect to see us talking more about that fairly soon.
International travel has been on hold since July, when New Zealand suspended the trans-Tasman bubble due to growing cases in NSW and Victoria.
Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew Forrest has been speaking to ABC radio this morning about his investments in green hydrogen initiatives:
It’s a market we’ll compete with, instead of importing everything from overseas. My dream, my passion is to get those jobs all making manufacturing green …
A company that produces no pollution goes green? Great, slow clap. We need the heavy emitters, people like me, we have to go green as soon as possible to stop global warming.
When asked about National frontbencher Bridget McKenzie’s comments yesterday, when she suggested that committing to net zero emissions by 2050 could hurt regional communities, he said:
We need to stop scaring Australians. We need to stop fear-mongering …
You might crack a few more votes but after this coming election you’ll be seen for what you are – just fear-mongering to try and save your political job, not the jobs of regional Australians.
State government commitments for 2030 have put Australia within reach of meeting global expectations on tackling the climate crisis, but it will fall short unless the Morrison government steps up, a new analysis has found.
Guardian Australia understands Scott Morrison has told colleagues he wants to increase Australia’s existing 2030 emissions reduction target as part of his negotiations with the Nationals about climate policies to be unveiled before the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.
Emissions projections to be released shortly are expected to forecast Australia will beat the current target of a 26% to 28% cut by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, and the prime minister wants to reflect that in a new target to be outlined ahead of Glasgow.
You can read the full report by Katharine Murphy and Adam Morton below:
There is alfresco dining change that was brought in last year. They were temporary and now permanent.
We know that they’ve been incredibly successful here in the CBD and down in The Rocks. We want to bring life and laughter into the city during summer. We’re also offering up to $500,000 grants to councils right across the state to improve their high streets, to improve amenities.
We want to make sure that every single neighbourhood flourishes and has activity and action right through the summer months and beyond. So these grants will help them with that as well. And importantly, we’re providing $5,000 grants to 5,000 businesses on a first-in, first-served basis, who want to embrace alfresco dining.
We want to move the inside to the outside. There’s no reason why that should be something that’s just limited to Europe.
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet has just been speaking in Sydney, announcing the second part of his government’s business supports in the lead-up to Christmas.
And this time the customers have something to look forward to as well:
We know that Dine and Discover vouchers have been incredibly successful, incredibly positive, used by close to 5 million people right across our state.
So today, we are doubling down on Dine and Discover. We’re offering two additional $25 vouchers. We know that these vouchers have injected close to $500m into the New South Wales economy. They have been incredibly successful and popular, from Ballina to Balmain, from Byron to Broken Hill.
People right across the state have gone out and used the voucher, and importantly, spent more. It’s driven economic activity in New South Wales. It’s got people back into work. We know that they’re popular.
We said as we were going through the economic recovery period that we’d look at those programs that worked and we would expand them if we could. That’s exactly what we’ve done in relation to this.
Australians hoping to fly overseas in the coming months are facing exorbitant costs due to high demand and a scarce supply of seats on services flying into the country, as experts warn high prices will last another year.
The complicated logistical planning required for airlines to ramp up from skeleton operations has meant those seeking to take advantage of the reopened border will face financial hurdles, while aircraft are recalled from desert parking lots and furloughed staff and ground handling contracts are brought back online.
A backlog of more than 45,000 Australians are still stranded overseas, adding another layer of complexity, demand and frustration to the picture.
An analysis of flight costs provided to Guardian Australia by the booking site Kayak shows the average cost of a one-way economy ticket from Sydney to New Delhi – the most sought-after route on the site over the past month – is $1,051, while the return leg on average adds $2,668 to the ticket cost for travel between November and December.
You can read the full report below:
Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Thursday. We are nearly done with the week – don’t worry, we can do it!
Well, vaccinations rates are rising fast in Australia’s two most populous states and, as positive is as that is, it’s causing a little bit of a headache for the new NSW premier.
Dominic Perrottet is looking down the barrel of reaching 80% of the 16 and over population being fully vaccinated less than a week after opening the state up after reaching 70%.
The government has promised that the next stage of the post-lockdown reopening will start the Monday after the state reaches 80% full vaccination among its eligible population. But whoops! Many are predicting 80% to be reached on Sunday, potentially leaving only a week between the two phases.
The government’s Covid-19 and economic recovery committee – formerly known as crisis cabinet – will on Thursday discuss postponing regional travel, given the lower vaccination coverage in rural communities.
Perrottet alluded to this yesterday:
There has been concerns raised about regional NSW when you look at those double dose vaccination rates …
[But] we don’t make decisions on a knee-jerk reaction. We make decisions in consultation with our health and economic teams.
Down south in Victoria it looks as though reopening could be coming early as well, with the chief health officer suggesting he is open to lifting Melbourne’s lockdown before next weekend.
The state is on track to reach its 70% double vaccination target before the indicative date of 26 October, and Brett Sutton confirmed that a decision on reopening could be announced as early as this weekend.
While speaking to ABC radio yesterday, he also hinted that the home visitation ban could be lifted, which under the state’s original Covid-19 roadmap, was slated to change at 80%:
We’ve always said, if we can do more, we will do more … We’re acutely aware of home gatherings leading to spikes and that was definitely a feature of [the AFL] grand final. They were people that didn’t normally come together …
It’s different for families. If we can limit numbers, if we think the epidemiology looks OK, absolutely open to that as well.
OK, with all that out of the way, why don’t we jump right into the day!
Source: Thanks msn.com