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

9.28pm EST


Gunner has also added that people arriving into the Northern Territory will need to get three tests to get into the territory.
Travellers will need one test before arrival, and two after you arrive.
Gunner explained the process for domestic arrivals, who will be able to enter the territory next week:

They will need to present proof of vaccination and proof of a PCR taken in the previous three days.
By the 23rd another COVID test.
On the 26th that would need to get their third and final test done.
I will make this clear, it does not matter if it is Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day.
If you need to take a test then you need to get your test. This freedom comes with responsibility and that is to get a COVID test.

9.15pm EST


NT records three new cases

The Northern Territory has recorded three new cases overnight, including a household contact to three previous cases from Katherine.
The other two cases include a woman in her 80s, a close contact of a case that arrived from London, and an arrival from Sydney.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunnar announced that the government is scrapping red and green zones from 20 December, indicating it would be more important to know whether someone coming into NT was vaccinated or not.

9.03pm EST


The Tasmanian government will introduce a vaccine mandate for most public servants.
Premier Peter Gutwein announced the mandate today, which will cover ministerial and electorate office staff, with exceptions made for staff in the Department of Treasury and Finance who could “limit their intermingling” with the public.
But “client-facing staff” will all need to get vaccinated. Public servants will need to provide evidence of vaccination by 15 December.
Gutwein said around 97% of public servants were already vaccinated, with the new policy aimed at “hundreds, not thousands” of people yet to get the jab.

I do want to be really clear about this. Non-compliance could lead to termination.

Tasmania crossed the 88% double dosed mark recently, with borders due to reopen next Wednesday.

8.45pm EST


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.

8.40pm EST


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

8.38pm EST


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

8.31pm EST


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.

at 8.34pm EST

8.30pm EST


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.

at 8.33pm EST

8.29pm EST


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.

at 8.33pm EST

8.22pm EST


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.

8.18pm EST


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.”

8.15pm EST


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.

8.09pm EST


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”.

at 8.19pm EST

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