Australia news LIVE: Third vaccine dose needed to be ‘up to date’; Government to push for Religious Discrimination Bill Senate inquiry; COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the nation

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Mr Foley also revealed restrictions on elective surgery across the state would ease from Monday, with private hospitals able to perform up to 50 per cent of all elective surgery in metropolitan Melbourne and up to 75 per cent of all elective surgery in the regions.

“We think it’s safe and appropriate to lift the pandemic program and we don’t have any plans to bring it back,” he said.

Public hospitals in regional Victoria will also be able to resume all category two elective surgery.

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital will also resume all category two elective surgeries from Monday.

Other hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne are still restricted to emergency and urgent elective surgery.

However, Mr Foley said if COVID-19 hospital admissions continued to plateau a further easing of restrictions would be considered next week.

“As soon as we can make further announcements we will,” he said. “We hope to be in that position next week, but that will be dependent on the data.”

‘Total confidence’: Albanese says no security concerns over his candidates

By Angus Thompson

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has said Australia’s counter-espionage agency has never raised concerns about any of his federal candidates following revelations a Chinese spy ring tried to bankroll NSW Labor hopefuls in the upcoming election.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Albanese said he had met with ASIO boss Mike Burgess as recently as this morning, during which the director-general of security “reaffirmed” that assurance.

“I have total confidence in all of my candidates, and the director-general of ASIO has never raised concern about any of my candidates,” Mr Albanese has said in Melbourne.

Mr Albanese instead criticised the government’s “desperate” attacks on the floor of Parliament yesterday, after Defence Minister Peter Dutton said China was banking on a Labor win in the federal election.

He also spruiked his meeting this morning with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in which he said he conveyed Labor’s concerns over China’s posturing and the need for Australia to “hold firm” in the region.

National security correspondent Anthony Galloway reported this morning a plot was foiled by ASIO preventing the spies from installing sympathetic candidates into Labor’s preselection process.

Roberts-Smith boasted that killing young Afghan was ‘beautiful’, court told

By Michaela Whitburn

War veteran Ben Roberts-Smith boasted to a fellow Special Air Service soldier that he had shot a young Afghan man in the head and it was “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”, the Federal Court has heard.

Person 16, a former SAS soldier who served alongside Mr Roberts-Smith in Afghanistan in 2012, gave evidence about the alleged conversation on Friday in the defamation case brought by his former comrade against The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times.

He said he did not tell anybody about what Mr Roberts-Smith told him because he was concerned it would be a “career-ending move” and his safety would have been at risk.

Ben Roberts-Smith leaving the courthouse.

Ben Roberts-Smith leaving the courthouse.Credit:Photo: Flavio Brancaleone

Person 16, whose identity cannot be revealed for national security reasons, told the court he was involved in a mission in Darwan, Afghanistan, on September 11, 2012, during which his patrol, which did not include Mr Roberts-Smith, encountered a group of Afghan men in a Toyota Hilux.

“Four male occupants, from memory, hopped out of that car. We hand gestured at them to lift up their robes to make sure they didn’t have any … suicide vests, for lack of a better term,” Person 16 said.

He said he directed two men to a wall outside a compound and handcuffed them. One of them was middle-aged while the other was “a younger Afghan male” he believed was in his “late teens”.

He was a “bit taller than me … a little bit chubby and [was], um, shaking with, in terror,” Person 16 said. “He appeared extremely nervous and trembling uncontrollably.”

Person 16 said another soldier searched the Hilux and a call went out on the radio that it contained components for making improvised explosive devices.

He said Mr Roberts-Smith’s patrol came over “a short time later … and took the two males I had placed under constraint”. Person 16 assumed they were being taken away for questioning, he said.

Within about 15 to 20 minutes there was a call over the radio of “EKIA”, Person 16 said, meaning “enemy killed in action”.

Read more: Roberts-Smith boasted that killing young Afghan was ‘beautiful’, court told

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NSW hospital, ICU admissions peaked below ‘best case’ scenario: Premier

By Sarah McPhee

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says the state’s hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions peaked last month below the “best case” scenario on government health modelling.

“The information we’re releasing today is once again incredibly pleasing and should be very reassuring to people across our state,” he said.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet speaks at the Sydney CBD Summit.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet speaks at the Sydney CBD Summit. Credit:Renee Nowytarger

Mr Perrottet said under the best case, ICU admissions were to peak at 270 while hospitalisations were to peak at 3158 patients. He said ICU admissions had hit 217, “well below where that best case was” and that during the Delta COVID-19 wave, there had been a peak of 240 people in ICU.

He said hospitalisations during the Omicron peak reached 2758 patients.

NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce said the ICU peak was on January 18 and hospitalisations on January 24.

“It’s very pleasing that we never reached the peak of even the most optimistic scenario that we modelled,” she said.

She said numbers were presently dropping steadily and a little slower than modelling predicted, remaining “above the optimistic line”.

Ms Pearce explained the system had been capturing people who tested positive up to 28 days prior to their hospital admission and they were getting a “skewing” of data with the conservative approach.

“For example, if you were 22, you had COVID three weeks ago, you recovered from that, fell off your bicycle, broke your arm, and came to hospital, we would count you as a COVID admission,” she said.

After an expert panel review, the back-capture in NSW has since been reduced to 14 days to provide a more “realistic picture”.

“On any scenario, whether it’s 28 days, 14 days, the trend is the same and in all cases those numbers are following the same path down,” Ms Pearce said.

Watch: Anthony Albanese press conference

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is holding a press conference that should start soon, you can watch it live here:

Costello remembers Peacock at memorial service

By Josh Gordon

Former Treasurer Peter Costello has just arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne for a state memorial service to remember former Liberal Leader and foreign minister Andrew Peacock.

The Liberal Party stalwart died in the United States last April, aged 82.

Former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock died at his home in Austin, Texas.

Former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock died at his home in Austin, Texas.Credit:Robert Rough

He described Mr Peacock as colourful man who was “a lot of fun”.

“Andrew was a very colourful man and as a colleague he was wonderful to work with,” Mr Costello told the media as he entered the cathedral.

“I was a junior shadow minister to Andrew, my first job in Parliament. And I’ve got to tell you is a lot of fun. His probably greatest political achievement was as foreign minister.”

Mr Costello said one of Mr Peacock’s proudest achievements was the independence of Papua New Guinea.

He also praised him for fighting two hard elections as in his role as opposition leader during the Labor years in the 1980s and 1990s.

“And of course, leading two elections, tough … elections, and he fought valiantly did really well in the 1990 election.”

Mr Peacock was born in Melbourne in 1939 and served as opposition leader twice, from 1983-85 and from 1989-90.

In 1966, the wealthy then-27-year-old inherited the prized seat of Kooyong from the founder of the Liberal Party, Sir Robert Menzies.

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Victoria’s code brown to be lifted on Monday

By Daniella Miletic

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley has just announced the statewide code brown that was called for the state’s hospitals back in January – after a record number of COVID-19 admissions and widespread furloughing of staff – will be lifted on Monday, February 14th, at midday.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley.Credit:Jason South

Speaking just then from a vaccination centre in Springvale, Victoria, Mr Foley said 1000 new staff had been hired to help administer COVID-19 vaccines to replace health workers from their vaccination duties to return to their normal jobs in the state’s health system.

“Having the hundreds of extra nurses able to return back into our health system and other health professionals is a good thing,” Mr Foley said. “And that is therefore allowing us… to lift the code brown pandemic alert as of this coming Monday.

“We indicated at the time when this was put in place in January that it would be in place for four to six weeks,” he said.

“Next week is the fourth week and we’re confident that while still going to be very, very busy that we are in a position to safely lift the code brown alert.”

Mr Foley said non-urgent elective surgery would also resume on Monday, with private hospitals able to operate at up to 50 per cent capacity in Melbourne and up to 75 per cent capacity in the regions.

Public hospitals in regional Victoria will also be able to resume all category two elective surgery.

Further details on 19 NSW COVID deaths

By Sarah McPhee

NSW Health has provided further details on the COVID-19 deaths of 14 men and five women reported today.

Two people were aged in their 50s, one person was in their 60s, seven in their 70s, five in their 80s and four in their 90s.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant.Credit:Cole Bennetts

“Two people who died were aged under 65. Both were vaccinated and had underlying health conditions,” NSW Health said.

“One person had received three doses of vaccine, and one person had received two doses of vaccine.

“Three of those people aged over 65 had received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, five people had received two doses and nine people were not vaccinated.”

Of the state’s residents aged 16 and over, 46.5 per cent have received a third dose.

“This represents 50.9 per cent of the eligible population that received their second dose more than three months ago,” the health department said.

There are 1716 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, including 108 in intensive care. Of those in ICU, 48 require ventilation.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said of the 141 COVID-19 deaths in the seven days to 4pm on February 10, 32 people were not vaccinated, two had received one dose, 75 had two doses and 32 had three doses.

She said 53 people had been aged care residents, while 10 people had been aged under 65.

Dr Chant said their comorbidities included diabetes, cardiac disease, chronic pulmonary or lung disease, asthma, significant immunocompromise, significant renal disease, cancer, obstructive sleep apnea, and one person had a chronic neurological condition.

One man was aged in his 40s and died at home. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 after his death was referred to the coroner.

Watch: Foley and Perrottet press conferences

It’s peak hour for press conferences with Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley speaking at 11am AEDT.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet will be starting about 11.15am AEDT with a COVID-19 update.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley from 11am AEDT:

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet from 11.15am AEDT:

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