Australia news LIVE: Peter Dutton denies sending ‘absolute psycho’ text about Scott Morrison; nation’s total COVID-19 cases continue to grow

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Watch: Qld’s COVID-19 update

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is due to provide today’s coronavirus update.

She is due to speak to the media around 11.30am AEDT.

‘Missing 50 per cent’ of NSW residents asked to get booster dose

By Sarah McPhee

NSW Health’s Jeremy McAnulty says nine men and five women were among the 14 COVID-19 deaths reported in the state today.

One person was aged in their 40s, one in their 50s, two in their 60s, five in their 70s, three in their 80s and two people in their 90s.

NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty.

NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty.Credit:Nick Moir

Dr McAnulty said the two men who died aged under 65 were not vaccinated and had “significant underlying conditions”.

Of the 14 people who died, two people had received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, seven people had received two doses, one person had received one dose and four people were not vaccinated.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard noted 12 of those who died had not had a booster dose.

“We all have an obligation here to remind our friends and our family of the importance of going and getting boostered,” he said.

“I would encourage each of us to be ambassadors for the goal of getting everybody boostered.”

Mr Hazzard asked the “missing 50 per cent” of people yet to get their booster – noting the percentage of people aged 16 and over double vaccinated is 94.1 per cent – to book in now.

Booster vaccinations are available for people aged 16 three months after receiving a second dose.

A total of 43.8 per cent of people aged 16 and over have received a third dose, according to NSW Health. Some immunocompromised people require a fourth dose but are encouraged to speak to their GP or pharmacist.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said he believes the state is “back on the front foot”.

“We’ve just got to keep that effort up as we move through this period of time,” Mr Perrottet said.

“We need to get that booster shot level to a much higher level than where it is today. We’re doing well, NSW is back on the front foot.”

Victoria to reach 50 per cent paediatric vaccine milestone

By Cassandra Morgan

Victoria is on track to reach 50 per cent of children aged between five and 11 vaccinated with one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine later today.

Deputy Premier James Merlino said that, as of this morning, the vaccination rate for the age group stood at 49.6 per cent.

Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino.

Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino. Credit:Eddie Jim

“So at some point today, we will reach 50 per cent,” he said. “And that’s a great milestone, but we’ve got a long way to go and we want to get there as quickly as possible.”

Mr Merlino said nearly 8000 Victorians aged 16 and 17 had received their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or about 5 per cent in that age group.

“Over the next seven days, there are 107,000 appointments available [for COVID-19 vaccines at state-run clinics],” he said.

“So please, if you haven’t had your third dose, if your child hasn’t had their first paediatric dose, please make an appointment either at our state-run clinics or via our GPs and our community pharmacies.”

Of Victorians aged 18 and over, 45.5 per cent have now received a booster.

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Aged care pay should stay up to Fair Work: Treasurer

By Cassandra Morgan

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says politicians have historically kept out of pay determinations, as the Labor party calls on the Commonwealth government to have direct input on aged care workers’ wages.

Speaking on ABC TV earlier today, Mr Frydenberg said that “both sides of politics, historically, have not been making such submissions” to the Fair Work Commission about workers’ pay.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“What we are focused on here is allowing the independent Fair Work Commission to make its own determination,” he said.

“The aged care workforce have been remarkable people through this pandemic, dealing with the most vulnerable cohort in our community. That’s why we continue to support them.

“That’s why in the Budget last year I announced $17.7 billion of additional spending, including spending for 33,000 new training places for carers, extra respite services for carers, an extra payment of $10 a day for residents so residential care providers can be on a more sustainable footing and obviously retention bonuses and payments for nurses as well.”

Labor has called for the government to lodge a submission to the Fair Work Commission supporting an increase to aged care workers’ pay.

However, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has repeatedly declined to put an exact figure on how much workers’ wages should be increased.

Watch: NSW, Victoria’s press conferences

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet addressed the media around 10.30am AEDT.

He was joined by NSW Treasurer Matt Kean, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell and Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor.

Meanwhile, Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino spoke around the same time in North Melbourne.

We’ll have the playback version for both pressers shortly.

Liberal MP threatens to cross floor over religious freedom bill

By Broede Carmody

Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer was on the ABC’s RN Breakfast earlier today.

You might recall that she was the Coalition MP who last year sided with independent Helen Haines in trying to bring forward a parliamentary debate on the crossbench MP’s proposed federal integrity commission. There were also some headlines around that time about a meeting Ms Archer had with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer.

Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer. Credit:SMH

Ms Archer holds one of the most marginal Liberal seats in the country.

This morning, she told ABC presenter Patricia Karvelas that she would be prepared to cross the floor over her own government’s proposed religious freedom laws if there weren’t, in her view, sufficient protections for LGBTQ students.

I think [this bill] goes further than protecting discrimination and I think it preferences or priveliges those religious attributes over perhaps over attributes.

I think the movement towards protecting students is a good one. But I think we should do that anyway.

I find it extraordinary that in 2022 in Australia that we would even be having to have a conversation about protecting children and young people from discrimination.

I’ve had ongoing discussions, as have many of my colleagues, who have varying concerns of one kind or another.

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Bob Carr doubles down on Dutton comments

By Broede Carmody

Former NSW premier Bob Carr has doubled down on his claim that Defence Minister Peter Dutton is the cabinet minister who called the Prime Minister a “complete psycho” in a text message.

Mr Dutton has denied the allegation and last night labelled Mr Carr’s social media post “baseless” and “untrue”.

This morning, the former Labor premier and ex-foreign minister fired off another tweet.

“Only one way Peter Dutton can win his case: get another colleague to admit that they were the source for comments about the Prime Minister,” he wrote.

“If not you, Mr Dutton, which of your colleagues? Until then, who has the most to gain from undermining further a flailing PM?”

Earlier today, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described Mr Carr as “suffering from a bad bout of relevance deprivation syndrome”. Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has questioned what a former Labor politician would know about a sitting Liberal MP’s text messages.

Mr Carr was NSW premier between 1995 and 2005. He also served as Australia’s foreign minister during Julia Gillard’s prime ministership.

NSW records 7437 new COVID-19 cases, 14 deaths

By Sarah McPhee

NSW’s daily coronavirus numbers are also in.

NSW has recorded 7437 new COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths.

The new cases include 3917 positive rapid antigen test results and 3520 positive PCR swabs. Today’s tally is down on yesterday’s 7893 cases.

There are 2099 patients in NSW hospitals, including 137 in intensive care. Of those in ICU, 60 require ventilation. This is compared to 2321 people in hospital yesterday, and 147 people in ICU.

Speaking of the downward trend in case numbers last week, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said: “The question is how low it gets and what our, sort of, baseline level of transmission in the community will be.”

Victoria reports 8275 new cases of COVID-19, seven deaths

By Broede Carmody

Victoria’s daily coronavirus numbers have landed.

The state has recorded 8275 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths.

Today’s tally is up on yesterday’s 7169 cases.

The state government says, of today’s cases, 5967 are from self-reported rapid antigen tests and 2308 are positive PCR swabs.

There are 638 people in hospital. Of those, 72 are in intensive care.

Today’s hospitalisations are down on yesterday’s 652 patients (when there were 73 in ICU).

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Treasurer says Dutton tweet shows Carr ‘suffering from relevance deprivation syndrome’

By Cassandra Morgan

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has slammed former Labor premier Bob Carr, arguing he was a “waste of space” in his time as foreign minister.

His comments, made on ABC News Breakfast this morning, were in the wake of Mr Carr’s claim that Defence Minister Peter Dutton referred to Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a “complete psycho” in a text message purportedly sent to former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

As we reported earlier, Mr Dutton denies that claim and Ms Berejiklian says she has no recollection of the exchange (which was first reported by Network Ten).

“Well, Bob Carr was a waste of space as foreign minister,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“He was described by his own colleagues as a narcissist and self-indulgent. He’s now suffering from a bad bout of relevance deprivation syndrome.

“I’m not about to second guess his sources other than to say he wouldn’t know very much, I think, about the internal operations of the Liberal Party. You know, I think we’re wasting time talking about it because he hasn’t put up any evidence to back up his accusation.”

Speaking on ABC radio earlier, deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud echoed those latter sentiments.

“Is [Bob Carr] really a credible source on Peter Dutton?” he asked.

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