Australia Covid updates live: Victoria’s highest ever daily cases; Morrison speaks in Washington; Melbourne expects fourth day of protests

Australia Covid updates live: Victoria’s highest ever daily cases; Morrison speaks in Washington; Melbourne expects fourth day of protests

4.48am EDT

What we learned today, Thursday 23 September

Another hectic day today, but we’ll leave it there for tonight. Here’s what we learned today:

Victoria recorded its highest daily Covid-19 case numbers yet, with 766 cases locally acquired cases recorded yesterday.
92 people were arrested by Victoria police, but protests were much quieter today. Two vaccination clinics had to close in the wake of the protests.
Victorian residents in Covid “extreme risk zones” will be able to return home from 30 September, as long as they are fully vaccinated.

NSW recorded 1,063 local Covid-19 cases and six deaths.
Orange and Glen Innes will join the raft of regional towns seeing lockdowns lifted due to low case numbers.
Queensland has recorded two new Covid-19 cases, including one local case. They were a close contact of the Sunnybank cluster and were in home isolation.

The ACT recorded 16 new local Covid-19 cases, with none in quarantine or isolation for their entire infectious period.

Three members of the Murugappan family have been granted 12-month bridging visas, but will remain in community detention because youngest daughter Tharnicaa was denied.

Former ultra-orthodox school principal Malka Leifer has been ordered to stand trial on 70 child sexual abuse charges.

West Australia premier Mark McGowan warned residents from his state in Victoria to get the vaccine and come home as soon as possible, as the state may soon be classified as an “extreme risk”.
New Zealand recorded 15 new local Covid-19 cases, as prime minister Jacinda Ardern urged the country to reach 90% vaccination rates.
Legislation to ban the use of spit hoods in South Australia passed the state’s upper house, five years after the death of a man during an altercation with prison guards.
StarTrack parcel delivery workers have gone on strike across Australia, in a dispute over pay and conditions.

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4.37am EDT

Federal minister for Veteran Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee has released a statement, slamming the protesters at the Shrine of Remembrance yesterday, and thanking those who have helped “restore the sanctity of Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance”.

He says community members had to remove rubbish and clean up the shrine, and that all memorials should be above any protest:

I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to all those who have come together to restore the sanctity of Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance following its appalling use as a protest site yesterday.

We have witnessed our veterans and community members volunteering their time to remove discarded glass, bottles and other debris abandoned during the protest.

I would like to recognise and congratulate their community spirit in undertaking this clean up.

They shouldn’t have had to do it.

Further, I extend a special thank you to all our veterans who have taken the time to visit the Shrine and assist with this important work. I know for many veterans this would have been heartbreaking and caused enormous distress.

Yesterday’s events were shameful and denigrated our service men and women, veterans and their families. I hope none of us will ever see this sort of disrespect again.

All of our memorials should be above any form of protest as they stand timelessly to remind all Australians of those who have served and sacrificed for our nation.

The Shrine of Remembrance is a solemn place of reflection and commemoration and is recognised as such around Australia and the world.

All those who have given their time to restore the Shrine have done Victoria and Australia proud.

Protesters at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP

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4.21am EDT

Richard Willingham
The health Department of Health confirms a person who attended the protests in Melbourne’s CBD yesterday is being treated in a Melbourne hospital for COVID-19.

“We are urging protestors to get tested should they experience COVID-like symptoms, no matter how mild.”@abcmelbourne

September 23, 2021

3.53am EDT

So the NRL-QLD government-TGA fracas has continued, with the TGA releasing a statement saying it supports providing incentives and said it considered the NRL to be fully compliant:

The TGA considers the NRL to be fully compliant and did not consider taking compliance action against the NRL at any stage.

However, the statement also says the NRL is offering tickets to people “who have had or will have their second vaccination at the vaccination centre.”

This is important because the protestations of Queensland health minister Yvette D’Ath centred around the cancelling of tickets for people receiving only their first dose.

TGA guidelines forbid providing incentives for people getting the first dose, the exact red tape that left D’Ath fuming.

It is unclear if the statement is meant to smooth things over, or to indicate they have resolved the issue, but I feel like this issue is not going away yet.

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3.32am EDT

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has released a statement saying that vaccine booster shots should be expected by the end of October.

The group said they were looking closely at international data on Covid infections in people who have been fully vaccinated, as well as looking at the safety and efficacy of additional doses for high-risk groups and the wider population.

The group expects a “relatively small cohort” will require a full third dose, including those who are immunocompromised.

Separately, Atagi also foresees that booster shoots may be needed for other groups, and will provide preliminary advice on the need and timing of these shots by the end of October.

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3.12am EDT

Victoria police arrest 92 people today

Victoria police have arrested 92 people today as part of their response to “protest activity”.

Protests today were scattered and far smaller than the ones we’ve seen in the past couple of days, with a heavy police presence maintained in Melbourne’s CBD.

Police say the arrests came as a result of “breaches of the Chief Health Officer directions, as well as other matters including outstanding warrants and whereabouts”.

We again urge anyone thinking of coming into the city without a lawful purpose to stay home and comply with the Chief Health Officer directions.

Victoria Police will continue to provide a highly visible presence across the city over the coming days.

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2.59am EDT

Australian government wrote to France’s Naval Group just hours before announcing scrapping of submarine deal

Daniel Hurst

The Australian government has confirmed it wrote a letter to France’s Naval Group on Wednesday last week about progress under the submarine contract – just hours before Thursday morning’s announcement of the scrapping of the deal.

Labor’s Penny Wong mentioned this issue in the ABC interview a short time ago. French officials have raised concern in recent days over the timing of this letter, amid claims France was deliberately kept in the dark about the looming Aukus defence announcement.

When asked for comment, a Department of Defence spokesperson told Guardian Australia:

On 15 September 2021, Naval Group was advised that the formal exit of a system review had been achieved as required under the contractual arrangements in place at the time. This correspondence did not refer to or authorise commencement of the next phase of the program, which remained subject to the announcement of decisions by the Australian government.

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2.53am EDT

Richard Willingham
Health sources say a Covid positive man, who is in hospital but not in ICU, attended yesterday’s protests in Melbourne. @abcmelbourne

September 23, 2021

2.50am EDT

Shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong was on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, and as always there’s a lot to pick through. Fortunately I am here to provide the highlights.

Wong was initially asked about the fallout after the government decided to cancel a $90bn French submarine contract to take up nuclear powered submarines from the US, and she said the French reaction reflected the lack of “diplomatic legwork” done before the deal:

I think, what this demonstrates yet again is Mr Morrison is so focused on making a flashy announcement he simply doesn’t do the leg work that’s needed. I mean, he clearly didn’t engage with the French in a way that ensured we didn’t see the sort of diplomatic fallout we have seen.

We have seen the French say that on the same day he was standing up to make the announcement, they got a letter saying that all was well with their project. Now, that’s no way to handle a partner, an important Indo-Pacific partner, and a country which does share many of our interests and values when it comes to the multi-lateral system as well as the region in which we live.

Wong was also asked if the bipartisan support for the deal was waning after she warned the government against sacrificing the country’s sovereignty as part of this deal earlier today:

What we are actually seeing here is the leader of the nation, Scott Morrison, picking a political fight. Picking a political fight when we have been really clear about our support for the partnership, our recognition of the capability argument which is why we’re prepared to take the approach that the government is taking, but we have put reasonable questions that past governments, both Labor and Liberal, have addressed and instead of answering those reasonable questions, this bloke’s reflex is to pick a political fight. That’s not leadership.

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2.32am EDT

So, earlier today, before a lot happened, the Queensland government announced that the NRL was giving away finals tickets to people who get vaccinated at the Pinkenba or Brisbane Entertainment Centre vaccination hubs today.

There has been a hitch, though. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has advised the NRL to suspend the scheme, reportedly because the giveaway should only be given to people who are fully vaccinated under TGA guidelines.

The advice did not go down well with the Queensland government, with health minister Yvette D’Ath slamming the decision and calling on the TGA to “fix this.”

Can I say, this is bureaucracy gone mad.

Are we supposed to be vaccinating people in this country against Covid or not?

Greg Hunt needs to step in and fix this.

Fix this, fix it now. This is ridiculous.

Queensland health minister Yvette D’Ath (left) with health workers during a press conference at a pop-up vaccination hub in Brisbane on 23 September. Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP

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2.09am EDT

Mark McGowan advises Western Australians in Victoria to come home

West Australia premier Mark McGowan is warning residents from his state in Victoria to get the vaccine and come home as soon as possible, as the state may soon be classified as an “extreme risk”.

McGowan told ABC radio the government is considering changing the categorisation of Victoria to be more in line with NSW, but that the decision hasn’t been made yet.

“We’ll probably have an announcement in coming days about what we’ll do with Victoria but it’s obviously very difficult for them.

Just so everyone understands, high risk means you have to get an exemption, in very narrow categories … very few people can come in, if they do they have to be vaccinated and they have to have a test which is negative before they come, so it’s very few people.

The NSW model, which is extreme risk, basically means we remove the compassionate exemption. We have a couple of people a day coming from NSW. That’s what we’ve had to do and that’s kept us Covid-free, but obviously Victoria is getting worse and it’s very worrying for them.”

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1.47am EDT

Malka Leifer to stand trial

AAP is reporting former ultra-orthodox school principal Malka Leifer has been ordered to stand trial on 70 child sexual abuse charges.

Leifer, 55, pleaded not guilty to the charges at the end of a committal hearing in Melbourne on Thursday.

Four charges were withdrawn by prosecutors after it became clear during the evidence that those alleged incidents occurred in Israel.

Magistrate Johanna Metcalf said she believed the evidence presented during the hearing was of sufficient weight to support a conviction.

Leifer’s case will now go to Victoria’s County Court for a first hearing on October 21.

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1.31am EDT

Victoria Police have released a statement on the incident in Flinders Station I referenced earlier, although they say very little.

I’ll just publish the statement in full:

Victoria Police are aware of a video circulating on social media depicting an arrest at Flinders Street Station.

The exact circumstances around the incident are yet to be determined and are under investigation by both Transit Safety Division and Professional Standards Command.

Anyone who witnessed the incident, including the person who took the footage and the person depicted in the vision, are urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

1.12am EDT

WA premier says anti-vaxxers should ‘grow up and grow a brain’

Speaking to ABC Radio earlier today, the WA premier Mark McGowan was asked about a planned protest in Perth today, with protesters reportedly wanting to march to McGowan’s office chanting “we are free”.

McGowan did not have time for them:

Grow up. Act like adults. We are free. We don’t have lockdowns, everyone’s going to work, having a great life. We’ve got the Royal Show starting on Saturday, we’ve got the grand final on the weekend, we have the WAFL grand final the following weekend, people about to go on school holidays all over WA, it’s remarkable.

Asked if he’d call the police or respond in some capacity, the premier just called on people to get vaccinated.

I just say to say to all those people as well, get vaccinated. Vaccination will save your life. So if they’re there complaining about vaccination, I just urge them to remember flu vaccines saves lives … the smallpox vaccine saved lives, the rubella vaccine, the polio vaccine.

This is modern medicine they’re objecting to. They want us to go back to some sort of dark ages opposed to modern medicine. I mean, seriously, they just need to grow up and grow a brain.

WA premier Mark McGowan has a kick at Optus Stadium on Thursday ahead of the AFL grand final. Photograph: Will Russell/Getty Images

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12.50am EDT

More than 2m Covid vaccines administered in past week in Australia

The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, earlier today announced that more than 2m Covid vaccine doses had been administered in the past week, a national record.

Hunt took the opportunity to encourage people to get vaccinated during the AFL grand final weekend.

Wherever you are in Australia, no matter what your team is, you can be part of one team, the Australian team, to be vaccinated this grand final weekend.

Hunt also said the Moderna vaccine was beginning to be used, after it was distributed to 1,800 pharmacies around the country, with another 1,800 due to join the rollout next week.

That means people have options for vaccines, it means that they have options for points of presence, and I think that is an incredibly important thing.

People check into a vaccination hub in central Sydney on Thursday. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/EPA

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12.32am EDT

Dan Andrews
The Town Hall hub has been helping some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people get vaccinated.

Today they’ve had to close their doors.

Abusing our healthcare workers is never acceptable. Ever.

September 23, 2021

12.09am EDT

Earlier at his press conference, the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said the federal government has been treating government spending on his state like “foreign aid”.

Andrews was responding to what he called “offensive” remarks made by the federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who said he had rejected a request for special financial assistance for Victoria’s building industry because the commonwealth had already provided “significant funding” to the state.

On Sky News on Wednesday, Frydenberg said he made it “clear” to his Victorian counterpart Tim Pallas that the commonwealth had already done its part:

I made it clear to him that we have already provided very significant funding to Victoria including the Covid disaster payment, where we pick up the bill, and around $2bn has already been made available to 570,000 people in Victoria, including those who may have been affected by the construction industry interruption.

But Andrews was not impressed:

I’m disappointed that the [federal] treasurer has indicated that Victoria won’t be getting what NSW got.

Victorians are getting sick and tired of every time the commonwealth government spends $1 in Victoria, it’s treated like it’s foreign aid, like we should bow our heads and be grateful.

We’re part of this country, we pay our taxes, we pay more than our fair share of taxes. We create more than our fair share of wealth and opportunity and prosperity in our nation and it is offensive.

The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media on Thursday. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

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