Australia news live updates: two new Omicron cases in Victoria; six Covid cases on Gold Coast ahead of Qld border reopening; Alan Jones launches new web show

Australia news live updates: two new Omicron cases in Victoria; six Covid cases on Gold Coast ahead of Qld border reopening; Alan Jones launches new web show

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What we learned today, Friday 10 December

With that, we will wrap up the blog for the evening. Stay safe out there.

Here are today’s major developments:

National Cabinet met for the last time until February. High on the agenda were Omicron and international travel, as well as the expansion of the vaccination rollout to five to 11 year olds.
Gladys Berejiklian will not run on the Liberal ticket in the seat of Warringah. Was she ever going to? Probably not.
A 44-year-old woman died in Queensland flood waters north of Brisbane, after getting trapped in a car that became submerged. Wild weather is expected to ease on the east coast this evening.

In WA, firefighters are still battling to contain a blaze at the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park near Margaret River, with a bushfire emergency warning still in place.
Four local Covid cases have emerged on the Gold Coast just three days before NSW border restrictions ease. There were a further four cases acquired interstate including two detected in the community. The health minister says lockdown is “unlikely”.
New South Wales Covid cases have continued to rise, with 516 reported overnight. The ACT recorded six new cases, and Victoria recorded 1,206 new cases and two deaths, including two cases of the Omicron variant.
Speaking of Omicron, the first case of the variant has potentially been detected in South Australia, with testing underway related to “a couple of cases” overnight. The Northern Territory has reported four Covid cases but they have not been announced to be of the Omicron strain.
In Tasmania, the state has announced Covid testing rules for residents who travel interstate. They will be required to get a Covid test and isolate until receiving a negative result once arriving home. In nice news for Hobart, Tasmania is also likely to host the fifth Ashes Test.
124 Australian species, including the bogong moth have been added to the endangered species list. The bogong moth’s listing should be a “wake up call” about declines in Australia’s invertebrates, scientist Marissa Parrott said.

Alan Jones is launching a new web show and podcast which he believes will be a great success. Jones was dumped by Sky News Australia but says “the voices have got to be given a voice”.

OK, have a great night. Here’s a seagull screaming in terror to ease you into the weekend:

Helen Davidson
Today’s #sydneystorm, feat one seagull screaming in terror

December 10, 2021

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More on Tasmania hosting fifth Ashes Test here:

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Fifth Ashes Test to take place in Hobart

Some potentially good news for Tasmanian cricket fans.

The ABC is reporting the fifth Ashes Test – which was due to take place in Western Australia – will now go ahead in Hobart.

Cricket Australia is yet to confirm the news, but an official announcement is expected to be made over the weekend.

Bellerive Oval has a capacity of approximately 20,000.

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Daniel Hurst

We can bring you another late Friday announcement: the federal government says the entirety of Hezbollah and neo-Nazi group The Base were today formally added to the list of terrorist groups.

This is not a surprise, because the home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, announced her intention to do so about two weeks ago (she was writing to state and territory governments, as part of the formal process). Now it’s official.

Andrews said in a statement issued a short time ago:

“Terrorism is an abhorrent crime. The Morrison government will do everything in its power to prevent it and stamp out the hateful ideologies that fuel it. From today, both groups are rightly considered terrorist groups; enabling the application of terrorist organisation offences to these groups, and aligning Australia with international partners such as the United Kingdom and Canada.”

For more on this issue, see our previous story:

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Default end-to-end encryption across messaging platforms will not lead to a spike in child abuse material, Meta’s global head of safety says.

AAP reports:

Amid fears the extra privacy would allow potential abusers to thrive, Antigone Davis says she is confident the company can continue referring those sharing illegal material to authorities. Meta is the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

At a parliamentary hearing into how law enforcement can tackle child exploitation, committee chair Julian Simmonds referenced Australian Federal Police’s belief that encryption would restrict Meta’s ability to detect and refer incidents of child abuse material.

The committee heard Meta referred more than 21,000 incidents to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children between July 2020 and June 2021. It comes as child sex offence prosecutions increase in Australia, up to 35 a month from 20 a month three years ago.

Those statistics came from commonwealth prosecutor Mark de Crespigny, who said cases involving child sexual abuse material were becoming more complex, with more live streaming activity.

Davis, who noted already-encrypted WhatsApp made more than 400,000 reports of suspected child abuse material last year, said Meta was taking a three-pronged approach. She said that included focusing on initial harm prevention by measures such as defaulting minors’ accounts to private settings and making it more difficult for suspected accounts to view minors.

Meta will also make it easier for users to report suspected child exploitation and add additional layers of control, including the ability to blur photos.

But Simmonds said law enforcement estimated 60% of its referrals would no longer be possible once encryption is the default across Meta’s platforms.

A submission from the Communications Alliance said all cooperation processes would remain and “meaningful data” would continue to be handed to law enforcement.

But Simmonds challenged this, stating: “I don’t know how you can tell me there will be a meaningful number of referrals when you just told me you can’t quantify what that number is.”

Labor MP Anne Aly asked when Meta’s messaging platforms were encrypted, how it could penetrate closed groups of potential criminals.

(These) services … allow people to set up a closed group where they can share these images, like going into a room and closing the door and locking it behind you, then sharing those images with each other. Nobody in there is going to report it because they are part of that group.

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Not so in Queensland:

Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland
⚠️ Severe storm warning update: Very dangerous storm over Moreton Bay moving towards Moreton Island brings a risk of giant hail (>5cm), destructive wind gusts (>125km/h) and heavy rainfall. Warning details and updates:

December 10, 2021

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And here is a statement from Greg Hunt, confirming the human biosecurity emergency period will be extended for a further two months until 17 February.

The arrangements have been in place since 18 March last year:

The extension of these arrangements made by the governor general was informed by specialist medical and epidemiological advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the commonwealth chief medical officer.

Continuation of these arrangement will allow the important measures currently in place to continue as the government continues to reopen Australia and act decisively to respond to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Four existing emergency requirement determinations will remain in place:

Mandatory pre-departure testing and mask wearing for international flights
Restrictions on international travel from high risk countries
Restrictions on outbound international travel for unvaccinated Australians
Restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory


As has been the case throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, these arrangements will be reviewed regularly to take into account the latest medical advice.

The government continues to work constructively with the cruise ship industry, with whom we remain actively engaged alongside state and territory governments to enable a phased resumption of cruising in Australia on the basis of medical advice. As part of this work, the government will continually review, on a monthly basis, whether the current restrictions on cruise ships can be safely lifted or amended.

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We have a statement from the national cabinet, which met for the final time today, predominantly to discuss the new Omicron strain of the virus. It will meet again in February next year.

On Omicron, the cabinet received an update from chief medical officer Paul Kelly, who advised Australia was still in “early stages” of understanding the variant. Health minister Greg Hunt has extended the human biosecurity emergency period for a further two months to 17 February.

On borders, national cabinet “noted” the steps taken by the commonwealth to adjust settings consistent with the suppression strategy and proportionate to Omicron:

As more evidence relating to disease severity, transmissibility and vaccine effectiveness becomes available, the commonwealth will continue to consider Australia’s international border settings in a manner consistent with a suppression strategy.

National cabinet welcomed Queensland’s announcement that it would reopen to fully vaccinated Australian citizens or permanent residents who have a negative Covid test taken within the 72 hours prior to departure from 13 December 2021.

The coordinator-general of the vaccine rollout, Lieutenant General John Frewen, provided an update on the booster program and plans to close the gap in vaccination rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the general population. He also provided an update on preparations to vaccinated 5 to 11 year olds from next year.

National cabinet confirmed test, trace, isolate and quarantine measures alongside public health and social measures like mask wearing were “key” to ensuring Covid cases remained at clinical capacity. It noted settings could be adjusted for different local circumstances.

On outbreak management plans for Indigenous communities, national cabinet agreed existing measures needed to be updated in light of Omicron and current outbreaks in the NT:

The commonwealth will continue to monitor the situation and provide the relevant state and territories assistance against the virus during the pandemic, including variants of concern.

National cabinet noted the significant progress in reopening Australia under the National Plan to Transition Australia’s Covid-19 Response. All jurisdictions are expected to reach 80% vaccination coverage for their populations, 16 and over, and enter Phase C of the national plan by the end of 2021.

National cabinet welcomed plans by Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory to reopen borders next week. National Cabinet agreed the chief medical officer will work with the Doherty Institute to develop advice on thresholds to inform transition to Phase D of the national plan for the next meeting of national cabinet.

It also received an update on enhancing health system capacity under the reopening plan and the need to support primary care providers, and provided provided in‑principle endorsement of the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement (National Agreement), which will be finalised in early 2022.

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