What happened on Friday 18 September
That’s it for our live coverage of the coronavirus and other big developments for today. Thanks for being with us.
Our live coverage of the global pandemic is available if you haven’t had enough. The UK could be facing a second national lockdown. Global cases have gone above 30 million.
Here’s what happened in Australia today:
- Victoria reported another five Covid-19 deaths, all linked to aged care. There were 45 new cases reported, with the 14-day rolling average at 42.7 new cases in Melbourne.
- NSW reported six new cases, but five were returning travellers. The one locally acquired case was linked to a cluster at Liverpool Hospital.
- Queensland’s border will reopen to people from the ACT from 25 September. Queensland had no new cases today.
- NSW deputy premier John Barilaro is taking four weeks leave to look after his mental health after a tumultuous 10 days.
- NSW, Queensland and WA will let more people into hotel quarantine to boost the national cap on arrivals from 4,000 to 6,000 a week. Labor Senator Penny Wong said the move didn’t go far enough. There are 24,000 Australians stuck overseas.
- Prime minister Scott Morrison said Australia was looking again at a trans-Tasman travel bubble, where New Zealanders could come into Australia without quarantine.
- Also out of today’s national cabinet, Morrison said the federal government wanted to connect all state and territory contact tracing, creating one system.
Stay safe all. Graham Readfearn signing off. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face.
The Morrison government will be down a number in the lower house when parliament returns in October, with the resignation of Queensland Liberal National party MP John McVeigh triggering a by-election.
McVeigh, the member for Groom in Queensland’s Toowoomba region, said today he would leave parliament for family health reasons.
Groom is a very safe LNP seat so the government is unlikely to have its numbers reduced once the by-election is held.
The number of people attending parliament in person has already been down because of Covid-19, so there has been greater reliance on pairing arrangements. That is when the government and opposition agree to “pair” certain politicians who won’t be in attendance so that the outcome of votes is unaffected.
It’s understood there won’t be a pair for a vacant seat because there’s no one to pair with - so the government will be down a number in the upcoming sittings, including the budget week. However this is unlikely to make any major difference on any substantive votes.
The speaker, Tony Smith, said he had received McVeigh’s resignation letter and was considering possible dates for the by-election.
In a statement earlier today, Scott Morrison said it was a difficult time for McVeigh and he wanted to “wish him, Anita and their family all the best, and for Anita to continue on her road to recovery with John by her side”.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she has offered her support to deputy premier John Barilaro, who told his colleagues this afternoon he was taking time off to look after his mental health.
Berejiklian has said in a statement:
This afternoon deputy premier John Barilaro advised me he would take four weeks of personal leave. I have offered him any support he may need. I wish John and his family all the best during this time.
The Bureau of Meteorology is warning that parts of northwestern regional Victoria could be hit by severe thunderstorms and potential flash flooding tomorrow.
Remembering people in regional Victoria are enjoying their first weekend of eased coronavirus restrictions, they might have to head indoors in some places.
The bureau has issued a severe weather warning for Saturday over the Grampians and central ranges, with wind gusts of up to 100km/h possible.
Locations which may be affected include Stawell, Ararat, Kyneton, Ballarat and Daylesford, Victoria’s state emergency services said.
The SES is asking people to be ready for the heavy rain and large hail that could hit tomorrow.
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro taking mental health leave
The NSW Nationals leader, John Barilaro, will take mental health leave from parliament immediately following the last fortnight’s tumultuous near-split with his Liberal Coalition partners over koala protections.
Barilaro told his party room colleagues by text message this afternoon that he will take up to four weeks leave to work on his mental health.
The text apologised for not being the leader they wanted him to be but added that he would not have acted differently on the issue.
He said some of the party room knew of “his struggles” and he intended to work on these issues during the break.
His leave is likely to act as a circuit breaker on the crisis within the Coalition.
Barilaro’s deputy, Paul Toole, will have carriage of the negotiations with the premier Gladys Berejiklian over the terms of the koala habitat protections state environmental planning policy. It is due to be discussed in cabinet on 6 October.
7News in Sydney is reporting that NSW deputy premier John Barilaro is taking a month’s break “on mental health grounds.” We’re chasing this up.
The NSW Nationals leader last week backed down from a threat to pull his party out of the state’s coalition over new laws to protect koalas.
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young says they have retested sewage at a Hervey Bay wastewater treatment plant for covid-19, and the test has come back negative.
Queensland Health, the University of Queensland and CSIRO have a pilot research project to test sewage for traces of covid-19.
The project had previously detected covid-19 at the Hervey Bay plant. The new result didn’t mean the previous one was wrong, she said.
While the fragments indicate someone was shedding the virus, this can occur for several weeks after the person is no longer infectious and the fragments themselves are not infectious.
Melbourne’s “ring of steel” is causing long lines of cars.
AAP reports traffic delays on the road to Geelong, where police and ADF are checking Melburnians don’t try to take advantage of an easing of coronavirus restrictions in regional Victoria.
Footage from a TV network helicopter at the Little River checkpoint shows a line 20 kilometres long.
On Thursday, assistant commissioner Rick Nugent said police would try to keep delays at checkpoints to 30 minutes.
Melburnians risk a fine of almost $5,000 if they try to travel to regional Victoria without a valid reason.
Senator Penny Wong, Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, is talking to the ABC and she’s not interested in giving the prime minister, Scott Morrison, any credit for raising the caps on international arrivals.
She’s saying Morrison was “dragged” to the agreement with the states because of bad publicity driven by people stranded overseas.
Morrison and the government had been “pretty focused on having a go at state governments” and the extra 1,500 arrivals to be staged over the coming weeks was not enough.
Wong said it wasn’t right that the caps should be shared responsibility, and that it was the government, and not states, who were responsible for borders and quarantine. She said:
He was always very keen to tell us how he’d stop the boats.
Wong also wanted to see all aircraft options “on the table”, including government jets and charter flights, to get stranded Australians back in the country.
Queensland’s deputy premier, Steven Miles, didn’t miss the chance to sell the state as a tourism destination to Canberrans after lifting the border closure to the ACT.
Time to head to Queensland for a holiday and maybe visit the reef, he said.
Qatar Airways has welcomed the National Cabinet’s agreement to ease the strict international passenger arrival caps.
In a statement released shortly after Scott Morrison announced New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland had agreed to each take 500 more weekly arrivals by the middle of October, the airline has said it “remains committed” to the Australian market.
In recent weeks, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has said the caps, which have been set at about 4000 nationally per week, threatened the viability of Australian routes, and acknowledged the airline was prioritising business class and more expensive passengers to cover their costs under the caps.
Al Baker said:
“We are pleased to see the announcement by the Australian Government that it will increase the cap on international arrivals to Australia allowing more Australians to be reunited with their families and loved ones.
Qatar Airways has always maintained a long-term commitment to Australia and our support to Australian passengers has not waivered despite the challenges of Covid-19.
Due to the cap on international passengers, travelling to Australian destinations, based on limitations of quarantine facilities, currently Qatar Airways can carry a limited number of passengers per day to all of its Australia destinations, resulting in thousands of Australian citizens and residents being unable to be accommodated on flights. Despite the challenges, Qatar Airways is operating a robust Australian network.”
Friday so far
It’s been a national cabinet day which means it’s been a busy day of announcements on Covid-19. Here’s what’s happened so far:
- Victoria reported another five Covid-19 deaths, all linked to aged care. There were 45 new cases reported, with the 14-day rolling average at 42.7 new cases in Melbourne.
- NSW reported six new cases but five were returning travellers. The one locally-acquired case was linked to a cluster at Liverpool hospital.
- Queensland’s border will re-open to people from the ACT from 25 September. Queensland had no new cases today.
- Prime minister Scott Morrison announced that caps on overseas arrivals would be raised, but the increases of 1,500 per week would be staged over the coming weeks across the NSW, Queensland and WA. There were 24,000 Australians stuck overseas.
- Morrison said Australia was looking again at a trans-Tasman travel bubble, where New Zealanders could come into Australia without quarantine.
- Also out of national cabinet, Morrison said the federal government wanted to connect all state and territory contact tracing, creating one system.
Afternoon all and thanks to Naaman Zhou. We’ll recap the day shortly as there’s been plenty going on.
But before that, a little more from WA premier Mark McGowan’s press conference from a few minutes ago.
McGowan said a third of the jobs created across the country in August had been in his state and he wanted to “continue on this trajectory” and keep the state’s economy moving.
But he said he had asked Neville Power, the chairman of the national Covid-19 commission board, to talk to some national companies that he said were still asking their WA staff to work from home.
This is where institutions have national policies for conditions in Sydney and Melbourne that are not applicable here.
I’ll be handing the blog over to Graham Readfearn now, who will take you through the rest of the day.
McGowan is now addressing the lifting of arrivals caps, announced earlier today.
He says that the federal government initially wanted the state to double its intake of returned Australians by 28 September, which he refused.
He said that lifting the cap “overnight” would have been “reckless”.
WA has now agreed to a staggered system where they will gradually increase the number of arrivals, starting with 200 on 28 September, rising to 500 on 12 October.
“We have been asking for federal government support, given quarantine is a federal government responsibility under the constitution. However, the federal government is of the view that states need to continue to manage quarantine.”
McGowan says that WA may also need to delay some elective surgery across the state, as more medical staff are deployed to hotel quarantine.
“I’m glad the federal government agreed to provide more Australian Defence Force support and adjust the earlier decision.”
He adds that WA has received 4031 international passengers so far, which he says is the second highest number of overseas arrivals of any state.
Music festivals could be held in WA
The WA premier, Mark McGowan, is speaking now.
He says that under eased restrictions, outdoor events and music festivals could go ahead, if they have approved safety plans.
“Events like the Wave Rock festival, Spring in the Valley, and suburban and regional shows can now go ahead with Covid safety plans”.
Also in sport, Melbourne Storm player Christian Welch has said he is “incredibly remorseful” for a Covid-19 rule breach.
Welch is in isolation and is awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test after he invited an unregistered guest to his room overnight on the Sunshine Coast, AAP reports. The prop will now miss the Storm’s Saturday night match against the Wests Tigers.
From midnight, Melbourne players and staff were free of strict quarantine “bubble” conditions, given it had been two weeks since they’d played a team from NSW.
However it’s believed the woman, who was stopped by police as she departed, had arrived before that deadline while she wasn’t on registered guest list.
“I’m incredibly remorseful and sorry for my actions,” Welch said in a statement. “I love this game and everything it has given me and I’m shattered that I have let everyone down.
“Calling my parents to let them know about this was the worst phone call I’ve ever made. I know it’s a privilege to play in the NRL and I want to apologise to all for any damage I have caused.”
The Storm briefed the NRL Integrity Unit and Queensland government early on Friday once notified of the breach, which is their first since relocating from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast in July.
Chief executive Dave Donaghy said he spoke to Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young on Friday who assured him there was very low risk of Covid-19 transmission among the community.
The club expects the results of Welch’s test in 24 hours.
“We’re confident the test won’t come back anything other than negative but it has to go through a process,” Donaghy said.
Storm and Welch will now await the findings of the NRL Integrity Unit, with the 26-year-old facing a potential fine.
NSW's Bathurst 1000 to go ahead with fewer spectators
The Bathurst 1000 car race will go ahead at the Mount Panorama Circuit next month but the crowd will be limited to 4,000 fans per day, AAP reports.
The race usually attracts some 200,000 car enthusiasts, but the organisers say they will go ahead with a reduced crowd.
“Whilst we are disappointed that we can’t have a full crowd at Bathurst, we’re delighted to offer even limited attendance,” Supercars chief executive Sean Seamer said in a statement.
“We understand a number of fans will be disappointed that camping [is] not available this year, however the safety of everyone attending the event is our main concern at all times.”
Back to Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk has said that Cairns and Gladstone could be options for hotel quarantine locations to help the local hotel industry.
She says the state will ask for expressions of interest from Queensland hotels – in addition to Brisbane.
“We’re looking at some hotels in Cairns, I know that Cairns has been doing it quite tough,” she said.
Gutwein says that Tasmania will not receive any international flights, even as other states raise their caps. But he says he has offered to pay a small amount to support other states.
“We’re not in a position where we will receive [international] flights into Tasmania as a result of any increase in the caps,” he says. “But ... I’ve made it clear that as we can’t take flights, that if we were able to or if it were required, we could make a financial contribution on the basis of around 2% of the people that are coming back are Tasmanian”.
He also said that if there was need for an emergency flight or similar, the state could help out with that.
Tasmania to increase sports crowd limits to 1,000
Tasmania’s premier Peter Gutwein is speaking now.
He says that from 25 September, the state will be relaxing restrictions on outdoor sporting events.
“The crowd capacity, venue capacity, will increase from 500 to 1,000 people from next Friday, 25 September, as long as Covid-safety plans are in place.”
Technical issues have just interrupted the ABC’s feed of Palaszczuk’s press conference, but in the meantime, here’s what was announced in Scott Morrison’s press conference today.
- NSW, Queensland and WA will all eventually take an extra 500 international arrivals a week, as Australians return home. That process will be staggered in Queensland and WA to give the states time to set up hotel quarantine capacity.
- There are 24,000 Australians currently overseas who want to return home, and Morrison said that the eventual aim was to have all arrival caps lifted.
- The PM said no states asked for the federal government to help pay for quarantine, and said the government was providing additional ADF personnel.
- He also said that the federal government would connect all state and territory contact tracing across one system.
- Morrison also said the national cabinet was working on a travel bubble with New Zealand, with no quarantine requirement for travel with some places like the South Island. That would allow Australians in New Zealand to return home, but also for tourists from both countries to travel between them.
Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, is speaking now.
She reiterates that Queensland will be increasing its intake of returning Australians.
“This is heartbreaking to hear the stories of people trapped overseas, Queenslanders trapped overseas,” she says.
“And we know that the virus is spreading in some of these countries, especially Europe where we’re seeing large numbers of Covid cases, and I understand the desperation of mums and dads wanting their kids to come home, or uncles or aunts, or parents, and I want to do everything we possibly can.”
She says the federal government agreed to provide more ADF personnel to help.
Morrison is asked whether the federal government will be financially contributing to the states to help them set up the hotel quarantine system faster.
He says that no states asked for the federal government to pay.
He adds that the provision of Australian Defence Force personnel is the federal government’s contribution and that the returning travellers are paying for the quarantine themselves.
“The commonwealth can be accused of many things but in this Covid-19 pandemic, not stumping up when it comes to costs - I mean, jobkeeper alone is over $100 billion. If you add up every single thing that the states are doing, in their Covid response, you won’t even get to the cost of jobkeeper.”
He says no state asked for the government to help pay for quarantine.
“We were providing that in-kind support from the ADF. That’s all that’s been suggested from us from the states and territories.
“They haven’t asked for [funding]. That didn’t come from the Queensland government or the WA government. They didn’t ask for that. They weren’t asking for money. They were asking for ADF support and the answer is yes.”
Morrison says there are 24,000 Australians who are stranded overseas, who wish to come home.
He says there are 4,000 people who have been identified as more vulnerable by the department of foreign affairs.
He also says that not every Australian overseas actually wants to come home.
There are quite a lot of Australians living in Bali at the moment. When you ask how many of them want to come home, it’s actually only a few hundred. But there is, I think, around 7,000 Australians who are in Bali currently. So that doesn’t mean they’re all looking to come home.
Morrison is asked whether he will relax restrictions on allowing Australians out of the country – so airlines don’t have to fly empty planes to collect returning Australians.
He says thousands of exemptions are made every week to allow Australians out of the country.
Whether it is to attend a sickly family member or an important event or business purposes, things of that nature. We’re continuing to provide those exemptions and I look forward to when we can have even less restrictions on those things.
Morrison says that he would want to see arrival caps increased again in future – and eventually lifted.
“I believe it will [be lifted again], and we spoke about that today,” he says.
“So, let’s get to this next level, and then ultimately we’d like to see those caps lifted, as they were back in early July. That would be my goal.”
The PM says there is no update on the debate over what constitutes a hotspot, as the AHPPC did not provide a paper on it today.
Morrison also says that Australia is looking again at a trans-Tasman travel bubble, where people from New Zealand could come into Australia without quarantine.
He did not provide a set date, but said the government was working on it.
We’re working to ensure that New Zealanders can come to Australia, and Australians can return to Australia from New Zealand without the need to go through quarantine if they’re not coming from an area where there is an outbreak of Covid-19. For example, the whole of the South Island. That’s an area where there is no Covid.
And so if we can get to the situation soon where those coming home from New Zealand are able to enter Australia without going into a 14-day quarantine in a hotel, or in the worst-case scenario only having to do that in their home, then what that does is that frees up places in our hotel quarantine system.
Government to increase arrival caps by 500 a week
Scott Morrison has announced that caps will be lifted in NSW, Queensland and WA, meaning 1,500 Australians a week will be able to come back.
From 27 September, NSW will be able to take an additional 500 returned travellers a week.
Queensland and Western Australia will be taking an additional 200 per week.
That will then rise. From 4 October, Queensland will move to that full 500 extra a week, and by 11 October, WA will also move to the extra 500 a week.
Now, New South Wales has been carrying the majority share and will continue to do that. They will go to 3,000 a week from Monday week.
Morrison says he has received reports from the chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, and navy Commodore Mark Hill about comparing Victoria’s contact tracing system with New South Wales.
He says that there have been “lots of lessons learned”, and that they will spread that work “across all the other states and territories”.
Under the Commonwealth lead we’ll be taking the lessons out of that New South Wales-Victorian exchange and applying that to each of the states and territories.
He also says that the federal government will “connect all the digital systems that the states and territories are using”.
That doesn’t mean they need to be all on the same system, reproducing that effort would take considerable time, and unnecessary cost. But we can design and develop a digital overlay across all those systems.
Scott Morrison is speaking now from Sydney.
He says it has been a “very practical” day of discussions, as the states are discussing Australia’s arrivals caps and hotel quarantine.
Morrison also says that the virus cases in Victoria, and the improving job numbers nationally are heartening.
We have seen now more than half of the jobs lost come back. And as Victoria continues to improve, as we saw job losses in Victoria, we will see that situation only go forward further.
He says that Australia saw a 7% decline in the economy in the June quarter, but that New Zealand experienced 12%.
Australia is managing both the economic and the health impacts of this Covid pandemic better than almost any other part of the world in developed economies.
Some more on that funding for AAP.
The chair of AAP, Jonty Low, and its chief executive, Emma Cowdroy, have welcomed the announcement.
Earlier this week, three crossbench senators had written to the prime minister urging him to fund the newswire, according to a report from AAP itself.
Senators Jacqui Lambie, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff told the government an urgent intervention was needed. “If the work of AAP is as valued as it ought to be, the Morrison government must invest in it,” the trio wrote.
The Greens have previously made a similar request.
The senators have argued that the funding should be provided annually for three years.
AAP is also running a crowdfunding campaign which has so far raised $120,000 out of a $500,000 goal.
Scott Morrison will give his press conference at 1.30pm today.
AAP to receive $5m in government funding
The Australian Associated Press newswire will get $5m in funding from the federal government, the SMH report.
The communications minister, Paul Fletcher, said that AAP was vital for regional news and Australia’s media diversity.
The AAP Newswire provides services to more than 250 regional news mastheads across Australia, covering public interest content on national, state and regional news.
Importantly, AAP also provides regional stories for national distribution so that regional issues and voices are heard across the country.
The funding will come from the government’s public interest news gathering program.
No fines for Victorians who admit to breaking restrictions after testing positive
Andrews says that Victorians will not be fined if they tell contact tracers the truth about their travel, even if that means admitting they broke restrictions.
Giving contact tracers the correct information in a timely manner is worth more than $1,200 to every Victorian. The last thing we want is people not to come together, and tell the timely story of who they have been in contact with.
No fine frankly, would ever equate to how valuable the information that that person gives to us is.
That would apply to people who have already tested positive, and are being interviewed by contact tracers.
Andrews says that the Casey/Dandenong cluster is proof of the dangers of household transmission, and says that lesson applies to all socioeconomic groups.
It’s not a new feature, we have seen it all the way through, whether it be dinner parties from people who have been on skiing holidays in Aspen...you know, if I can bold enough [to say that] families that live in the outer southeast, I don’t think they have been to Aspen recently.
It does not discriminate. How big your house, no matter how big your bank balance. If you go visiting and you have this, you will take it with you. That is the key.
Andrews says he is disappointed in the behaviour of some of the people in the cluster.
[Travelling more than] 5km is one thing, but visiting others is the real issue here, frankly. The rules are in place for a reason and anyone who undermines this, undermines the entire strategy and it means the rules will be there for longer.
This virus does not discriminate. Whether you are a personal faith or no faith, whether you’re born here all your parents were not born here or whatever part of the world you came from, what language you speak, much money you are in, what postcode you are in, your age, gender, none of this matters. This thing is wickedly infectious. It spreads quickly and silently.
None of the new cases from today were from the Casey/Dandenong cluster, but there were five new cases yesterday, and seven on Wednesday, the deputy chief health officer Prof Allen Cheng says.
He adds that some of the people were essential workers.
I understand there were essential workers among them but they have not been in those workplaces. We have been following those people up. I think there is a range of people otherwise, both young and old, involved.
He is asked whether this outbreak is linked to anti-lockdown protests in Dandenong.
I’m not aware of any links with the protest.
Victoria warns of Casey and Dandenong clusters
Jeroen Weimar, from Victoria’s health department, is speaking now about a cluster among households in Casey and Dandenong, and the risk of household transmission.
“What we’re also now seeing in Casey and Dandenong is a cluster of 34 cases across five households,” he says.
Weimar warns Victorians to be vigilant about household transmission, saying that the people had “limited contact” and “infrequent” contact with each other, but still managed to pass the virus to each other.
These five houses in this particular cluster have had, unfortunately, some members of those households visiting other households and it is that limited amount of contact, relatively infrequent contact between these five households that has now meant that we have 34 people in five houses experiencing or living with a very real threat of the coronavirus.
This is not about where you’re from. It is not about how old you are. It is not about what you do for a living. It is not about what gender you are. It fundamentally highlights the fact that this virus knows no boundaries. This virus respects no differences between people. It ultimately thrives on close, human contact.
The first of those cases was identified on 4 September, Weimar says.
Daniel Andrews is speaking now.
He calls on Victorians to come forward and get tested, as testing rates have dropped over the past few weeks.
No matter how mild your symptoms, as soon as the symptoms are noticeable to you, then please go and get tested. Don’t wait a day. Don’t wait two days. Don’t wait till Monday, if it’s on a weekend when you begin to feel unwell. Please come forward and get tested.”
He says 90% of testing sites can give you a result within 24 hours.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is also due to give a press conference on the latest out of national cabinet today. That might overlap a bit with Andrews’s press conference, due to start now.
We might have to do some juggling, but will bring you the best of both.
While we wait for Daniel Andrews’s 12pm press conference, you can read this morning’s Weekly Beast media column, which covers a delay of a different type.
Public university staff are baffled at the news that the Sydney campus of New York University is receiving jobkeeper at a time when Australian universities have not received any payments, AAP report.
The president of the National Tertiary Education Union, Dr Alison Barnes, said Australian public universities had already slashed more than 11,000 jobs and more cuts were on the way.
“The Morrison government changed the rules three times to prevent these universities from accessing JobKeeper,” Dr Barnes said on Friday.
“Yet four private universities in Australia and even the Sydney campus of New York University, have been able to access JobKeeper.
“How can the government allow this to happen? The higher education sector is being decimated daily. Most of these job losses could have been prevented if universities were able to access JobKeeper.”
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi accused the federal government of double standards
“The government should have exactly the same rules for universities and not try to exclude public universities,” she said
But the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said Australian universities were being funded by taxpayers in other ways.
“That is not support that is available to foreign universities that may have a domestic campus so it’s a different situation,” he told reporters. “You are talking about an apple and an orange.”
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, will be speaking at 12pm. We’ll be bringing you that as it happens.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is speaking now.
He is calling on the federal government to increase the cap on international arrivals, and let more stranded Australians return home.
“The circumstances whereby a young mum with a 1-year-old in London was told to go and stay at a homeless shelter with her young baby is quite frankly absurd, in 2020,” he says.
“These are a federal government responsibility. Quarantine and our national borders are the responsibility of the federal government. And the prime minister needs to accept that responsibility.
He adds that the federal government “should at the very least make a substantial financial contribution to the costs” of hotel quarantine.
“When you board a flight, in Europe, or in the United States, or in India, and you arrive at the airport, you don’t have a state passport. You have a passport that has the Australian crest and the Australian coat of arms on it.
“I, as the alternative leader of Australia, not of a state, would not conduct myself in such a way.”
A Qantas flight that does nothing more than loop around the country has sold out in under 10 minutes, the ABC report.
More than 130 people have paid at least $800 – and more for business class – for the scenic flight.
The flight to nowhere will fly at a low altitude over the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and other attractions, taking off from Sydney on October 10 and returning to Sydney.
NSW records six new cases, only one locally acquired
New South Wales has recorded only one new case overnight that was locally acquired.
Five returned travellers and one person who is linked to a known cluster have tested positive in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
The locally acquired case is a person who is a household contact of a previous case who attended Liverpool Hospital, and they were in isolation. There are now 21 cases linked to Liverpool Hospital dialysis cluster.
Victoria police have fined 76 people over the past 24 hours, including eight for not wearing a face mask.
Examples include three men “located in a carpark with no legitimate reasons for being there” and one man and one woman who drove from Tarneit to St Kilda East “to buy fried chicken”.
Queensland to open border to ACT
Queensland will re-open its border to people from the ACT from 25 September, the health minister Steven Miles has just announced.
Queensland has announced no new cases today.
The conditions are that ACT residents must not have been in NSW for two weeks prior to entering Queensland, and will have to fly into the state, rather than drive.
Federal MP John McVeigh has announced he will resign from parliament, triggering a byelection for the Queensland seat of Groom.
McVeigh, an LNP MP who was first elected in 2016, told reporters this morning that he was resigning effective immediately, due to his wife’s ill health.
In the 2019 election, McVeigh won the seat with a margin of 20.5 percentage points.
Victoria records 45 new coronavirus cases
Victoria has recorded 45 new coronavirus cases and five new deaths.
The 14-day rolling average is now down to 42.7 new cases in Melbourne, and 2.3 in regional Victoria.
Yesterday was the lowest daily total since June, with just 28 new cases. But, sadly, eight deaths.
Hi all, it’s Naaman Zhou here with the blog. Thanks to my colleague Calla Wahlquist for starting and running it today.
We’re still waiting on the official case numbers from Victoria. Despite a few outlets reporting leaked numbers, the health department is yet to confirm them, and have told us to wait for the official announcement. We’ll bring that to you the moment it happens.
A few more details on the increase of mutual obligation requirements for jobseeker recipients.
From 28 September, people on income support payments outside of Victoria will face having their payments suspended or penalised if they don’t meet expanded mutual obligation requirements.
Now, I can tell you, because it was reported earlier today, that that will involve applying for at least eight jobs per month. But you won’t find that figure anywhere on the release from Michaelia Cash and Anne Ruston.
The expanded mutual obligation requirements will apply to all job seekers in jobactive, Online Employment Services, Disability Employment Services and participants in the ParentsNext program.
As part of the new arrangements, from 28 September job seekers may be subject to income support payment suspensions or penalties if mutual obligation requirements are not met and there is no valid reason. At present, job seekers are only subject to penalties or suspensions if they refuse an offer of employment without a valid reason...
For some job seekers, who have been on income support for 12 months, Work for the Dole activities will also recommence where it is safe to do so and all health and safety requirements are met.
Given the changing nature of the labour market, with many roles changing significantly because of COVID-19, the Government is also increasing opportunities for job seekers to train and upskill to become more employable in areas of high skill demand. Additional flexibility is being introduced so that a job seeker who is studying an eligible course that is less than 12 months in duration, in either the vocational education and training or higher education systems, can have that study counted towards their mutual obligation requirements.
The Government recognises this continues to be a challenging time for those looking for work and encourages jobseekers to access the full range of assistance available to them – including access to skills training, assistance for other work preparation activities and referral to relevant support services – including mental health services, if required.
People who are receiving both JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments may also have mutual obligation requirements, depending on their circumstances, consistent with the arrangements for part time workers who are also in receipt of Job Seeker. Individuals who only receive JobKeeper are not subject to mutual obligation requirements.
Job seekers will be notified of their requirements ahead of the 28 September resumption.
So, no real details. They then referred to this website, which also doesn’t specifically outline the requirements.
We are still waiting to see those daily coronavirus figures for Victoria, which are late today. There’s often a bit of a delay on national cabinet days.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg concedes Australia’s labour market is still challenging despite a surprise fall in unemployment.
The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 6.8 per cent in August, bucking widespread predictions of a slight rise.
“The labour market is still very challenging,” Frydenberg told Sky News on Friday.
“There is a lot of uncertainty out there in the economy – not just here in Australia but globally – and that’s a reflection of the nature of the virus.”
Roughly 111,000 people gained employment in August, the third month of exceptionally strong results.
Over half the massive jobs losses in April and May have been recovered.
However such strength masked a 42,400 drop in employment numbers in Victoria, where restrictions remain.
Frydenberg, a Victorian MP, said businesses in the state were still hard hit by lockdowns.
“I’m hoping and the prime minister is hoping those restrictions can be eased as quickly as it is Covid-safe to do so,” he said. “Once that happens more business will reopen, more people will get back to work and that will be good news for the overall economy.”
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said while the latest job figures were promising, he expected the next six months to be tough as people wean their businesses off JobKeeper wage subsidies.
“So we might be in for a rough ride here,” Willox said. “People do have to start trying to find their way back into the workforce, employers need to start to be able to find ways to employ again.”
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham admits the economic recovery won’t be plain sailing.
“That’s why our plan for the budget handed down next month is all about jobs,” Birmingham told Nine. “Jobs driven by infrastructure, by skills, by taxes, by making sure that all systems of the economy we make as efficient and as effective as possible to create even more of those jobs.”
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says it is “thankful” that medicare subsidies for telehealth appointments have been extended until 31 March. They were due to expire on 30 September.
RACGP president, associate professor Ayman Shenouda, said that 99% of GP clinics were now offering telehealth services, and that telehealth had reduced the potential spread of Covid-19 in the community.
In a statement, he said GPs should be part of the design for long-term telehealth arrangements beyond the new expiry date in March.
Medicare-subsidised telehealth has greatly improved flexibility for patients in accessing care. Telehealth consultations are particularly important in rural and remote areas where accessing healthcare services, including a GP clinic, can prove challenging.
Not everything can be done by telehealth and we will still need to always offer face to face consultations.
However, telehealth has become an important part of the service mix, particularly for patients known to the practice and people who have may difficulty leaving the home due to a disability, those with mental health issues or people who live a long way from health services.
The parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the Aboriginal heritage sites at Juukan Gorge will hold remote hearings with Western Australian witnesses on Monday.
The inquiry was intending to travel to WA to hold on-country hearings with the traditional owners of Juukan Gorge, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, and other traditional owners. But the coronavirus border restrictions have nixed that idea, to the concern of the PKKP.
Yesterday, BHP told the hearings that it intended to save 10 of the 40 Aboriginal heritage sites it received permission to destroy in May, after Guardian Australia revealed that the Banjima traditional owners objected to their heritage being damaged but were bound by a gag clause in their agreement with the mining company from speaking publicly.
Warren Entsch, the chair of the Northern Australia committee, said the committee remained committed to travelling to WA when it is able.
Giving evidence remotely on Monday will be Woodside energy, which operates alongside the Murujuga world heritage nominated rock art site; the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation, which has Rio tinto mining leases on its land; Western Australian Greens MP Robin Chapple, a long-time heritage campaigner; and geologist Cedric Davies.
As always, you can follow our rolling global coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with the inexhaustible Helen Sullivan, here.
The federal government will double the mutual obligation requirements for all states other than Victoria, trade minister Simon Birmingham said.
The changes will apply from Monday 28 September. Currently people who are receiving the jobseeker unemployment benefit have to apply for at least four jobs per month. That will double to eight jobs. Pre-pandemic, it was up to 20 jobs per month.
Speaking on the Today show this morning, Birmingham said:
Around the rest of the country we are moving slowly, steadily back to where it was. Not jumping right back there, but just increasing that expectation for people to be out there, looking for work.
You don’t need me to tell you that this narrative that people on unemployment benefits need incentives like mutual obligation requirements, and a payment that’s due to drop back below the poverty line, in order to be motivated to find a job, is false. But just in case: it’s a false narrative.
As Labor’s Richard Marles pointed out, there are currently 13 unemployed people for every available job. And that’s only the national average – in areas that have been particularly hard hit, the odds are even longer.
A 100-year-old man has been discharged from hospital in Melbourne after spending six weeks battling Covid-19. He has moved back home to the aged care facility where he caught the virus.
His granddaughter, Lauren Elizabeth, wrote a pointed message on Facebook to those who have suggested Melbourne should reopen now because the risk of serious illness has been concentrated in aged care homes. She wrote:
He may be old, but he still matters to us. That was a very long 42 days but he finally had two negative test results. All lives matter young and old.
Read more here:
Meanwhile, national treasure Magda Szubanski has also been on ABC24 this morning, and made some comments about the absolutely appalling comments directed her way after she starred in a Victorian government public health campaign on Covid-19.
First of all, how dare you attack Magda.
Secondly, she is unbothered.
When people criticise me for being a fat lesbian, I say, ‘Yeah! Yeah, I am! And the problem is?’
So I just refuse to actually be drawn into it. I genuinely don’t care. But if I can bring a lightning rod to bring out into the light the Covid-deniers then that’s great.
I think there are two types of Covid-deniers. I think there are people actually who have really defaulted to a denier position because this is a scary time and I have sympathy and empathy with those people. But the concerted, orchestrated - I’ve spoken to the e-Safety Commissioner about this, the Commonwealth e-Safety Commissioner. There are particularly white supremacist groups but they are concerted, they’re orchestrated and what they’re trying to do – there’s also the bot farms – they’re trying to rip apart discourse which is the underpinning of democracy, sensible, civil discourse.
You look at the wayVictoria has actually dealt with this really hard second wave of Covid and despite the sort of understandable anger about the botch-up of hotel quarantine, people have actually just gone on and done it and that’s because we have, you know, a sensible underpinning in society. And so, bring out your crazy arguments, and let’s see what they’ve got.
Hunt: Halton report shows capacity to increase hotel quarantine program
Hunt said that national cabinet would consider the report of former senior public servant Jane Halton, who reviewed the hotel quarantine system. The review was commissioned in response to the Victorian outbreak, but looked at the strength of the national system.
He said Halton has been “very positive, overwhelmingly, about the performance of the states”, with the view on Victoria “still to come”. Halton’s report is not intended to compete with the judicial inquiry into hotel quarantine in Victoria.
The indication from Jane Halton is there’s capacity, massive hotel capacity around the country to bring Australians home, to bring our sons and daughters home, to bring our parents, to bring people who want to return to their own country, home.
So the caps have been a function of the hotel quarantine levels. But we’ve been very clear that the advice from one of the toughest public servants ever to work in Australia, one of the finest public servants ever to work in Australia, is there’s a clear capacity that can be increased and that means more Australians coming home before Christmas.
Around the country, the hotel quarantine system has worked well. Almost 2,500 cases have been detected in hotel quarantine. That’s prevented those cases escaping to the community. We would’ve been a massively different country now but for this system.
Now, we know the consequences when there was a breach in Victoria and we lived – as have you – the challenges of those outcomes. So we can see how fundamentally important it is both to bring Australians home on the one hand but to protect Australians on the other.
The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said the escalation of telehealth in response to the pandemic has been a “revolution” in the way Australia delivers healthcare.
The medicare rebate for telehealth has been extended, as have medicare rebates for the home medication delivery service, and free pathology for Covid-19 tests. The federal government has also extended agreements with private hospitals to provide surge capacity, particularly for the aged care response in Victoria.
Hunt told ABC24:
We’ve had over 30 million telehealth consultations and it’s a system which effectively was brought forward by 10 years in 10 days...
Universal telehealth has helped to protect doctors and patients. We’re extending it and we’re working with the medical groups on the long-term retention. That’s our clear goal. This has been a revolution in the way we deliver medicare and medicine and health services around Australia.
Community sector approaching 'crisis point'
The community service sector is approaching a “crisis point” because of the anticipated collision of cuts to income support, worsening financial pressure and a potential end to government funding for equal pay, Acoss has warned.
Dr Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, made the comments as a new report showed a fifth of community service organisations surveyed would need to cut jobs when the job keeper wage subsidy ends.
About a third of organisations surveyed reported that they had already frozen recruitment, while a fifth of respondents had reduced staff hours, according to the report (pdf) published by several groups including Acoss.
Community services are vital at all times but especially in crisis. Workers in the community service sector provide support to people when they need it most, when they’re facing homelessness, escaping domestic violence or dealing with mental health issues. These services are more important than ever in the current health and economic crisis.
Demand is particularly strong for migrant and multicultural services, given the lack of income support for temporary visa holders, international students or people seeking asylum. Nearly nine in 10 community service organisations working in that space had reported an increase in the number of people seeking help during the pandemic.
Access called on the government to commit to renew funding to help community sector organisations ensure its workforce (80% of whom are female) to receive fair pay. The Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) supplementation has been in place since 2012 but as it stands is due to expire in the middle of next year. It is worth $554m this financial year.
The community sector survey, conducted in July, heard from 264 senior managers in the sector, together with 201 frontline workers and 279 staff in other roles.
Aviation workers from Sydney airport have taken out a campaign office in the same building as Scott Morrison’s electorate office, the Transport Workers Union has said.
The TWU’s NSW branch secretary, Richard Olsen, said they were frustrated at the lack of federal support for the aviation industry. Olsen said the anger is directed the actions of airline management, who have received $800m in government support, including jobkeeper, but are still axing workers. The TWU began legal proceedings against Qantas on the outsourcing of work last week.
Hundreds of aviation families in Scott Morrison’s own seat of Cook have been let down by the prime minister as their local member and head of government. This office has been created by them because they are demanding more from their representative....
Thousands of Qantas workers across Australia face being axed and outsourced by a spiteful out of control management that has received $800m in public money, including jobkeeper which is supposed to keep workers connected with their employer.
Dnata workers continue to be shut out of jobkeeper while the future of Virgin is still uncertain. Aviation workers feel very let down by the federal government and want to let the prime minister know this.
Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry will continue today, hearing from psychologist Dr Robert Gordon, a consultant to the Victorian department of health and human services and trauma recovery specialist.
He wasn’t consulted on Victoria’s hotel quarantine plans, AAP reported.
Yesterday’s witness was the former chief commissioner of Victoria police, Graham Ashton. He denied recommending the use of private security guards to enforce the mandatory quarantine, saying that accounts of meetings that suggested the private security guards were his idea were “absolutely untrue”.
He said that the emergency management commissioner, Andrew Crisp, was responsible for the suggestion.
Victoria uses private contractors for much of its emergency management response. It is standard practice in bushfire management in this state. So using a private contractor is extremely regular – it just didn’t work well in this case.
The hearings have been running for several weeks now, and no one has yet claimed personal responsibility for the decision to use private security guards in hotel quarantine. The murkiness around this decision is has become almost more significant than the decision themselves. In inquiries like these, being unable to elicit a clear answer to such a key and really simple question is usually not a good indicator of the underlying governance protocols in place.
You can read more of Ashton’s evidence here:
The international arrivals cap will be the focus of the national cabinet meeting today. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has told the states to increase the capacity of their hotel quarantine programs, promising to lift the weekly cap on international arrivals from 4,000 per week to 6,000 per week from next Friday. That means the states – except Melbourne, which is still not taking international arrivals – will have to quarantine a further 50 people a week. Morrison said yesterday it was a “decision, not a proposal”.
But the federation being what it is, Western Australia will oppose the move. Treasurer Ben Wyatt told reporters on Thursday:
State governments aren’t historically in the quarantining space. That is a commonwealth responsibility.
I don’t think any state has said no to this but having a commonwealth simply try to use the bludgeon attempt to get an outcome is not a particularly sophisticated one.
The WA premier, Mark McGowan, is talking about reopening the quarantine program on Rottnest Island, which is where some cruise ship passengers were housed. But Rottnest is now open for local travellers again, and it’s school holidays – so people in quarantine would have to be managed around holidaying families.
In Melbourne, residents of the south-eastern suburbs of Narre Warren and Hallam in the City of Casey have been urged to get a Covid-19 test to stamp out a growing cluster of new cases. There are 34 cases linked to the cluster as of yesterday. Three pop-up testing sites have been established. The full list of testing sites is here.
On borders, the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has reached another stalemate with her Queensland counterpart, Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Berejiklian told reporters this week that all conversations on borders with Palaszczuk had ceased, again. Could make national cabinet awkward.
The door is completely shut as far as Queensland is concerned. [It’s] locked, bolted and no conversations are continuing, unfortunately.
At least the South Australian government is taking more of an evidence-based approach.
NSW has eased its restrictions with Victoria – people living in the border bubble can now cross the border to visit a restaurant, cafe or club. This has been interpreted by people living in Victorian bubble towns as meaning they no longer need a reason to travel into the bubble area of NSW. The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, told reporters:
Life has returned to normal for the people in that bubble zone.