Australia news LIVE: Charges laid over missing campers; Scott Morrison rejects federal integrity commission bill; Victoria surpasses 90 per cent double vaccination rate

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The day’s headlines at a glance

By Michaela Whitbourn

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

  • The Melbourne man charged over the alleged murder of missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay has appeared in court today for a brief hearing. Erin Pearson reports that 55-year-old father of three Greg Lynn appeared at Sale Magistrates Court via video link from the nearby regional police station. Police allege Mr Lynn, an airline pilot from Caroline Springs, murdered Mr Hill, 74, and Ms Clay, 73, at Wonnangatta on March 20, 2020. The pair disappeared last year while camping in Victoria’s high country.
Greg Lynn sat unmoving in court on Friday.

Greg Lynn sat unmoving in court on Friday.Credit:Mollie McPherson / Nine News

  • The search continues for the remains of missing boy William Tyrrell, who vanished from a home in Kendall on the NSW Mid North Coast in 2014 when he was three years old. NSW Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett said this morning that investigators were “very happy” with the evidence they have seized so far in the “painstaking” search. But he said “atrocious” weather meant the search may take much longer than the investigators had initially planned. “The update is, the search continues… we have no great milestone to report today,” he said. It is expected that the search could take months.
NSW Police, AFP officers and specialists search a dig site in Kendall for the remains of missing boy William Tyrrell.

NSW Police, AFP officers and specialists search a dig site in Kendall for the remains of missing boy William Tyrrell.Credit:Louise Kennerley

  • Rachel Clun and Lucy Carroll report on concerns about an emerging strain of COVID-19 in South Africa. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia won’t hesitate to take further action including shutting its borders to South Africa as health authorities investigate data around the variant, which has been described as a “serious concern”. “I asked the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Professor [Paul] Kelly this morning in our conference call to review the status of the potentially emerging variant … and if more action is needed, more will be taken,” he said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia won’t hesitate to take further action in response to a new COVID-19 variant.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia won’t hesitate to take further action in response to a new COVID-19 variant.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

  • Pat Cummins is set to be named as Australia’s 47th male Test captain, Andrew Wu reports. Former captain Steve Smith will serve as his deputy as part of a new leadership team to be installed after Tim Paine’s resignation last week. As we reported earlier this morning, Paine is taking indefinite leave from the game on mental health grounds, all but ruling him out of the start of the Ashes and casting extreme doubt over his future in international cricket.

Pat Cummins.

Pat Cummins.Credit:AP

  • Parts of Sydney could be battered by up to 50 millimetres of rain on Friday with flooding possible in the city’s outer north-west from Friday afternoon, Daniella White reports. Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Agata Imielska said a deep low pressure system, along with a humid air mass over the state, is triggering potentially severe thunderstorms and “unsettled conditions” across Sydney and NSW. In NSW’s Upper Hunter region, major flooding is occurring in Scone after “moderate” rainfall across the Upper Hunter River catchment on Thursday night and Friday morning. Up to nine homes in the Upper Hunter town of Cassilis have been inundated with water on Friday morning.

Clouds and rain hang over Bondi Beach on Thursday afternoon.

Clouds and rain hang over Bondi Beach on Thursday afternoon.Credit:Jessica Hromas

  • NSW has recorded 261 new COVID-19 cases and no deaths. There are 185 people in hospital with the virus, 27 of whom are in intensive care. Of the state’s population aged 16 and older, 94.5 per cent have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 92.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.
  • Victoria recorded 1362 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths today, the highest number of daily cases since the start of November. There are 308 coronavirus patients in Victorian hospitals. Of those, 46 active cases are in intensive care. Twenty-six people are on a ventilator. On the vaccination front, 90 per cent of Victorian residents aged 12 and up are now fully vaccinated against the virus, a milestone that was reached yesterday.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. The state eased coronavirus restrictions with a higher number of daily cases than NSW.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. The state eased coronavirus restrictions with a higher number of daily cases than NSW. Credit:Justin McManus

  • An infectious diseases expert says the Victorian government needs to analyse where COVID-19 is spreading in the state, warning that vulnerable people should be taking more precautions against the virus. As Ashleigh McMillian reports, University of Sydney Professor Robert Booy said the state’s reopening was “certainly the source of infections”. “Victoria started opening up with a large number of cases,” he told radio station 3AW. “New South Wales never got more than 1500 a day. So for the Victorian population, you should only be maxing at 1100 to 1200 but you’ve been as high as 2000,” he said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.Credit:Getty

  • Queensland has recorded no new cases of COVID-19, Matt Dennien reports. And Felicity Caldwell has the latest on travel requirements in the state, including revelations that Queenslanders who contract COVID-19 in NSW and Victoria will be barred from returning home for weeks, casting doubt on the interstate holiday plans of thousands of people in the sunshine state.
Canberra continues to lead the nation when it comes to vaccination rates.

Canberra continues to lead the nation when it comes to vaccination rates. Credit:Louie Douvis

  • The ACT has recorded eight new cases of COVID-19. Seven people are in hospital in Canberra with the virus, four of whom are in intensive care and on an ventilator. The national capital continues to lead the country in vaccination rates: 97.6 per cent of people aged 12 and up are now fully vaccinated against the virus. Those who received their second dose more than six months ago are now eligible for a booster shot.

Kate Rose is logging off on the blog for today. I will keep you informed of the latest news throughout the afternoon and evening.

Andrews government courts crossbench on Victorian pandemic bill

By Paul Sakkal

Victoria’s upper house independents will spend Friday afternoon in an all-in meeting with senior Andrews government officials, as the government attempts to win support for its contentious pandemic legislation.

The government spent months drafting the laws with three crossbenchers, but disgraced former Labor MP Adem Somyurek last week tilted the votes against the government by announcing he would return to Parliament and vote against the bill.

Premier Daniel Andrews at a press conference in parliament on Thursday.

Premier Daniel Andrews at a press conference in parliament on Thursday.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

The government has since been courting one more vote to pass the legislation, which has attracted concerns from legal and human rights groups. On Thursday night the government met with Transport Matters Party MP Rod Barton and Sustainable Australia’s Clifford Hayes.

In a sign it is still searching for crossbench support, the government on Friday morning asked the whole crossbench to attend a meeting to discuss compromises.

The government hopes to pass the law next week before the state of emergency expires on December 15, at which point the government may not be able to enforce some pandemic health measures.

The proposed Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 would empower the premier and the health minister of the day to declare a pandemic and issue health orders rather than the chief health officer. This change was called for by the opposition and the Greens, who held concerns about the power vested in an unelected bureaucrat.

Legal and human rights groups have called for more thorough Parliamentary oversight and transparency measures in the new bill, though many have stated the bill is an improvement on the emergency law it is replacing.

ACT records eight new cases of COVID-19

By Michaela Whitbourn

The ACT has recorded eight new cases of COVID-19.

Seven people are in hospital in Canberra with the virus, four of whom are in intensive care and on a ventilator.

The national capital continues to lead the country in vaccination rates: 97.6 per cent of people aged 12 and up are now fully vaccinated against the virus.

Those who received their second dose more than six months ago are now eligible for a booster shot.

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BOM gives an update on NSW rain

There is a Bureau of Meteorology press conference on the rain across Sydney and parts of NSW, you can watch it live here.

Pat Cummins to be named Test captain

By Andrew Wu

Pat Cummins is set to be named as Australia’s 47th male Test captain, in a major break from tradition for the top job in Australian cricket.

Pat Cummins will replace Tim Paine as captain of the men’s test cricket team.

Pat Cummins will replace Tim Paine as captain of the men’s test cricket team.Credit:Getty Images

Former captain Steve Smith will serve as his deputy as part of a new leadership team to be installed after Tim Paine’s resignation last week.

Cummins had been the overwhelming favourite to take over from Paine, after being made the sole vice-captain 12 months ago.

Read more: Pat Cummins to be named Test captain

Retail spending jumps as consumers get back to the shops

By Jennifer Duke

Households rushed back out to shops and restaurants in October as lockdowns came to an end.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has recorded a 4.9 per cent jump in retail turnover in October, following a 1.3 per cent increase in September. Retail sales fell in July and August as large swathes of the country faced coronavirus-related restrictions to limit the spread of Delta.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales will provide a barometer of retail health ahead of the festive season.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales will provide a barometer of retail health ahead of the festive season. Credit:Griffin Simm

There was a 20 per cent jump in the ACT and a 13 per cent increase in NSW, followed by a 3 per cent rise in Victoria. The NSW lockdown ended on October 11.

ABS director of quarterly economy wide statistics Ben James said this was the strongest national figure since the bounce-back from Victoria’s 2020 lockdowns and brings turnover to its highest level since June.

“Retail performance continues to be tied to state lockdowns as this month’s recovery was driven by the end of lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory,” Mr James said.

He said the bounce back was strong, but total retail turnover was yet to reach its pre-Delta levels.

Clothing, footwear and accessories were up 28 per cent, with cafes, restaurants and takeaway up 12 per cent. Department store turnover jumped 22 per cent. Household goods increased 4.5 per cent.

The only category to experience a fall in turnover was food retailing, down 0.5 per cent, reflecting a shift back to eating out after lockdown rather than buying products for home cooking.

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Australian health authorities investigate new South African strain of COVID-19

By Rachel Clun

Australia won’t hesitate to shut its borders to South Africa over concerns about an emerging strain of COVID-19 as the country’s health authorities investigate data around the variant that has been described as a “serious concern”.

The UK added South Africa and five other African countries to its travel “red list”, banning all direct commercial and private flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The new strain, currently called B.1.1529, has been detected in several countries with fewer than 100 cases confirmed so far.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said no cases of the strain have been discovered in Australia, but the country would not hesitate to move swiftly if health experts are concerned about the variant.

“I asked the Chief Medical Officer of Australia, Professor [Paul] Kelly this morning in our conference call to review the status of the potentially emerging variant … and if more action is needed, more will be taken,” he said.

“If the medical advice is that we need to change, we won’t hesitate. That’s what we’ve done as a country, whether it’s been closing borders, whether it’s been ensuring that there’s quarantine,” he said on Friday morning.

Higher Victorian numbers are preventing the daily fall seen in NSW, says infectious diseases expert

By Ashleigh McMillan

An infectious diseases expert says the Victorian government needs to analyse where COVID-19 is spreading in the state, with a warning that vulnerable people should be taking more precautions against the virus.

With Victoria recording 1362 new cases on Friday morning – the highest number since the start of November – infectious diseases paediatrician Professor Robert Booy said the state’s reopening was “certainly the source of infections”.

“Victoria started opening up with a large number of cases,” the University of Sydney professor told 3AW Mornings.

“New South Wales never got more than 1500 a day. So for the Victorian population, you should only be maxing at 1100 to 1200 but you’ve been as high as 2000,” he said.

“So I think complacency, lethargy, and having more cases when you started that NSW did are affecting what you are experiencing.” Professor Booy said the state’s health authorities needed to look carefully at transmission to identify the most concerning areas of growing infection. “Focused, intentional improvements could make a real difference,” he said.

“I think Victoria also suffered from complacency, and even more than complacency – lethargy. The lockdowns got so long and so many people lost the energy to be quite as careful as they had been.”

He said Victorians could put “sensible” restrictions on themselves to reduce the spread, such as mask-wearing indoors and continuing to social distance.

“I think people who are at risk should be taking their own personal precautions for a start,” he said.

“Vaccinated people can catch a mild breakthrough infection. But if you’ve got a chronic major medical problem you could get – despite vaccination – a moderate or severe illness.

“I think the government should reassess what’s happening over the last week and actually look carefully at who is getting infected… Look at where the transmission is happening: ‘Is it in particular workplaces? Is it in particular households in particular areas?’ and focusing on where it’s an issue.”

Watch: Queensland reports no new COVID-19 cases

By Matt Dennien

Queensland has no new COVID-19 cases to report, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath says.

The state conducted more than 9000 tests in the 24 hours to Friday morning and authorities expect to reach a 75 per cent full vaccination rate today.

Providing an update this morning, Ms D’Ath urged people to take advantage of pop-up vaccine clinics this weekend in tourist venues and shopping centres, particularly on the border-hugging Gold Coast.

“We want people to help us drive towards that 90 per cent vaccination rate and beyond,” Ms D’Ath said.

The state has also thrown the holiday plans of thousands of Queenslanders hoping to reunite with family and friends in NSW and Victoria into doubt amid revelations if they become infected with COVID they will be barred from returning home for weeks.

The rules will also bar entry to any southerners hoping to get into Queensland if they have had COVID-19 and are still returning a positive result, despite no longer being infectious.

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Coalition not a party of drones: Morrison

By Angus Livingston

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his MPs aren’t drones or “warm bodies” he moves around the Parliament, after a number of Liberals and Nationals crossed the floor to vote against the government this week.

Liberal MP Bridget Archer crossed the floor to call for federal ICAC debate.

Liberal MP Bridget Archer crossed the floor to call for federal ICAC debate.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Bass Liberal MP Bridget Archer voted with the Labor opposition and independents to bring on debate on a bill to create a federal corruption watchdog, while a number of Coalition senators supported a One Nation bill opposing vaccine mandates.

Mr Morrison said he is pleased his team members speak their minds and stand up for what they believe in.

“I don’t lead a team of drones and warm bodies that I just move around in the Parliament,” he told reporters in Adelaide on Friday.

“I want people in my team to speak their mind. I am not afraid of that. I’m not afraid of members raising issues with me and being strong advocates on behalf of their community, I think that makes our government stronger.

“I am big enough to deal with that. My party is big enough to deal with that. Australia’s big enough to deal with that.”

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