Australia news LIVE: Victoria records 1254 new COVID-19 cases, five deaths as state hits 90 per cent double-dose vaccination target; nation’s 2022 Winter Olympics participation to be reconsidered

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Watch: NT’s COVID-19 update

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner is due to provide a coronavirus update around 12.30pm AEDT.

Watch live below.

The day’s headlines at a glance

By Michaela Whitbourn and Broede Carmody

Good afternoon and thank you for reading our live coverage of the day’s events. If you are just joining us now, here’s what you need to know.

  • Victoria has reached a new double-dose vaccination milestone: 90 per cent of people aged 12 and up are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Prime Minister Scott Morrison created some confusion earlier today by suggesting the vaccination rate was for people aged 16 and up. The Victorian government clarified that 90 per cent of people aged 12 and up have received both jabs.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday.Credit:Justin McManus

  • Victoria recorded 1254 new cases of COVID-19 today and five deaths. There are 310 coronavirus patients in Victorian hospitals. Of those, 48 active cases are in intensive care.
  • Daniella White reports that parts of NSW could be battered by up to 60 millimetres of rain today, prompting flash flooding warnings. A severe weather warning for heavy rain has been issued for parts of the state’s west and Riverina region with six-hourly totals between 40 and 60 millimetres possible. The Bureau of Meteorology says the heavy rainfall, caused by a complex low-pressure system set to move into western and central parts of the state in the afternoon and evening, could lead to flash flooding. Locations which may be affected include Coombah, Hay, Wilcannia, Broken Hill, Ivanhoe, Menindee and Balranald.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.Credit:Kate Geraghty

  • NSW has recorded 276 new COVID-19 cases and no deaths. There are 191 people with the virus in hospital, 31 of whom are in intensive care. Mary Ward reports that after weeks of Sydney’s south-west and western health districts being home to the bulk of the city’s COVID-19 infections, today the most cases were recorded in South Eastern Local Health District. The district – which stretches from the eastern suburbs down to the Sutherland Shire – reported 69 new cases, a quarter of the state’s 276 cases.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.Credit:Getty Images AsiaPac

  • Queensland recorded three new COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine among unvaccinated travellers from Victoria, Matt Dennien reports. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the cases provided a “clear example” of the risk posed from interstate arrivals. “They were unvaccinated and they have the virus detected in hotel quarantine. So it’s absolutely imperative that we continue to drive this vaccination program,” she said. The state is on track to open its road borders to vaccinated domestic travellers from hotspot areas, without quarantine, before December 17. Vaccinated travellers from such areas are currently able to undertake home quarantine if they have access to suitable accommodation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

  • Lisa Visentin reports that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has introduced the contentious Religious Discrimination Bill into the lower house, describing it as a “sensible and balanced bill”. “This bill is a protection from the few who seek to marginalise and coerce and silence people of faith because they do not share the same view of the world,” Mr Morrison said. Mr Morrison said the bill would not enable discrimination against school students because they are gay. LGBTI groups say the bill enables schools to sack teachers who do not conform to religious tenets, including beliefs around same-sex attraction and gender identity, and that students could be forced to learn in classrooms where same-sex attraction is denounced.

Broede Carmody is signing off on the blog today. Michaela Whitbourn will keep you informed of the latest news throughout the afternoon and evening.

Victorian Premier condemns abuse of retail workers

By Cassandra Morgan

Circling back to an issue that came up in Victoria yesterday, and Premier Daniel Andrews says it’s not appropriate that any retail staff be abused at work.

The Australian Retailers Association, in an open letter to the Premier, yesterday said customers have been increasingly aggressive towards retail staff who have had to enforce vaccine mandates as part of Victoria’s most recent relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at a press conference earlier this morning.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at a press conference earlier this morning. Credit:Justin McManus

Mr Andrews said during a press conference this morning: “[Employees are] working as hard as they can, playing their part to keep us safe, and no one should be treated that way.

“To those who are showing you to your table or checking you in at a retail facility – they don’t make the rules, they didn’t create the virus, they’re just doing their job, and they should be treated fairly and they should be treated properly.”

The Premier said he had not seen the letter from the association’s chief executive, Paul Zahra, who said retailers had been “blindsided” by the changing of restrictions.

Mr Zahra called on the government to better consult with businesses.

“I’m sure my office has [seen the letter],” the Premier said. “But look, we’ve worked very closely with the Australian Retailers Association over a long period of time and we thank them for the partnership.

“I believe there’s been a deep engagement with the retail sector … over a very long period.”


Sydney’s west no longer source of most cases in NSW

By Mary Ward

After weeks of Sydney’s south-west and western health districts being home to the bulk of the city’s COVID-19 infections, today the most cases were recorded in South Eastern Local Health District.

The district – which stretches from the eastern suburbs down to the Sutherland Shire – reported 69 new cases, a quarter of the state’s 276 cases.

Although individual local government area data for today’s cases has not yet been published, the bulk of cases reported in the south-eastern Sydney district yesterday were in Randwick, Sutherland and Bayside councils.

There were 47 new cases reported in South Western Sydney Local Health District, 34 in Western Sydney Local Health District, 20 in the central Sydney district and 16 from northern Sydney.

NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Marianne Gale today reiterated that authorities are seeing significant transmission in schools, and are asking parents to keep children home if they have any symptoms.

Seven Sydney state schools are closed due to COVID-19 cases today: Auburn Girls High, Bass Hill Public, Belmore South Public, Carlingford Public, Fairfield West Public, Maroubra Bay Public and Sylvania High.

Parliament won’t debate national integrity bill after all

By Nick Bonyhady

Our Parliamentary procedure guru, political reporter Katina Curtis, explains where we’re up to.

The vote that was being counted was for two hours of Parliamentary debate on independent MP Helen Haines’ national integrity commission bill. If that vote had been won by Dr Haines and her allies, that’s what the House of Representatives would have done for the next two hours. Then at 1pm there would have been a vote on whether to actually pass the bill.

Member for Indi, Helen Haines, left, with Liberal MP Birdget Archer, following the vote.

Member for Indi, Helen Haines, left, with Liberal MP Birdget Archer, following the vote. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

There were 66 votes supporting Dr Haines and 64 votes against, but that is not an absolute majority of MPs, so the vote was lost.

Parliament once again voting on whether to debate a federal ICAC

By Nick Bonyhady

Some more details are coming through on the situation in federal Parliament.

The Speaker, Andrew Wallace, has tried to instruct the house on what happens, saying the original vote stands but there needs to be an absolute majority so there will be a second vote.

Independent MP Helen Haines.

Independent MP Helen Haines. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

He’s taking a lot of advice from the clerks of the house, who are servants of Parliament that know its arcane rules and procedures.

However, Mr Wallace then appears to retreat on his ruling.

“Clearly a lot of us are very confused,” crossbench MP Bob Katter says. “A lot of us are at a loss.”

Helen Haines, who introduced the anti-corruption bill and has been campaigning for its passage, says she’s not confused.

“Clearly we need to get on with the debate. We’re spending so much time on the procedures,” she says.

She is told to resume her seat.

The position, as best as we can understand, is that Parliamentary business has been interrupted and there will be a vote on whether to have two hours of formal debate on Dr Haines’ bill.

That vote is in progress right now.


Confusion in the House of Representatives

By Nick Bonyhady

There’s a bit of chaos in the House of Representatives.

It appeared that the House had voted to suspend standing orders, 66 votes to 63, which would have then interrupted other Parliamentary business to allow another vote on debate on the national integrity commission proposed by independent MP Helen Haines.

However, there now seems to be some confusion on exactly what the House has voted on and what kind of majority is required.

Speaker Andrew Wallace, who is presiding, only started in the role this week.

Kevin Andrews, a Liberal backbencher who had wanted to be the speaker but lost to Mr Wallace, said that the motion actually required an absolute majority rather than a bare majority.

Labor’s tactics manager Tony Burke said that Mr Andrews’ point had to have been raised before Mr Wallace declared the outcome of the vote but now that the vote is in, it’s final unless the vote is formally re-done.

Watch: Qld Deputy Premier’s press conference

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles is holding a press conference.

Watch live below.

Morrison government won’t support debate on Haines’ federal ICAC bill

By Nick Bonyhady

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie has called on government MPs to “sit on the right side of history” and back formal debate on a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption, saying many have quietly told crossbenchers that they support the idea but have not gone public.

“We are failing the Australian people and we are failing ourselves if we do not even allow debate on the very good bill that sits before this parliament,” Ms Sharkie said. “What are they afraid of?”

Another crossbench MP, Bob Katter, joins her. He points back to the corruption in pre-Fitzgerald Inquiry Queensland, where, Mr Katter says, there were 42 murders that had not been exposed.

“If we’d had an ICAC in Queensland it would never have got to that stage,” Mr Katter says.

He warns that there are downsides to corruption inquiries that get out of hand, but argues the spectre of corruption is much worse.

“That’s why I’m backing [Dr Haines’] rather courageous and wonderful addition today,” Mr Katter says.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says the government will not be supporting the motion, saying the government has consulted extensively on its plans to strengthen federal anti-corruption laws and disputes claims its own legislation will not have teeth.

Chief political correspondent David Crowe discussed the issue on our Please Explain podcast earlier in the month.

Mr Fletcher is repeatedly interrupted by crossbench MPs, including Bob Katter and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, who suggest he is not addressing the key topic: whether Parliament should even debate whether to have a federal ICAC.

The motion to debate Helen Haines’ bill is about to be voted on.


Federal Qld MP clarifies state premier comments

By Nick Bonyhady

Controversial Queensland backbencher George Christensen has clarified that he did not compare state premiers who have imposed vaccine mandates and other vaccine rules to some of history’s most reviled dictators.

Here’s Mr Christensen speaking to the House of Representatives earlier this morning.

I refer to reports and claims that I directly compared state premiers to Stalin, Mao, Hitler and [former Cambodian prime minister] Pol Pot.

I wish to inform the house I did not. I said the path they were on was troubling.

If there is concern over any misrepresentation that I did say that, then that’s regrettable.

Further, there’s been false claims in the Senate, on social media and elsewhere that I called for and or incited violence. I did no such thing. Never did, never would. I abhor violence.

You can watch Mr Christensen’s remarks below, which Labor leader Anthony Albanese said during question time did compare the premiers to the dictators.

Mr Christensen has vowed to vote his conscience on bills until the government takes action against state vaccine mandates and passports. He made good on his threat yesterday by voting against the government’s changes to litigation funding laws in the House of Representatives.

The legislation survived with the support of South Australian Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie and independent Zali Steggall, who holds Tony Abbott’s former Sydney seat of Warringah.

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