Election 2022 LIVE updates: Australia knew about Solomon Islands-China security pact, Albanese has COVID-19 as federal election campaign continues

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Today’s COVID-19 numbers as restrictions set to relax

By Angus Dalton

Australia has recorded 46 deaths and 48,928 new COVID-19 cases today as restrictions are set to relax in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

There are 3,236 people with the virus in hospital and 134 in ICU.

Here’s a state by state breakdown of today’s COVID-19 update.

  • NSW – 13 deaths and 15,283 new cases.
  • VIC – 16 deaths and 9,439 new cases.
  • QLD – five deaths and 8,080 new cases.
  • SA – four deaths and 4,500 new cases.
  • NT – no deaths and 543 new cases.
  • WA – five deaths and 8,777 new cases.
  • TAS – two deaths and 1,265 new cases.
  • ACT – one death and 1,041 new cases.

The five WA deaths are historical, dating to April 15. Today saw Victoria’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths since March 5, although hospitalisations and infections are down in the state today.

Ukraine: Parents of Russian conscripts speak out amid Kremlin unease

Families of missing crew members of the Moskva, a Russian missile cruiser that sank near the port of Odessa last week, are demanding answers about their fate.

Russian authorities said the entire crew of more than 500 had been rescued. But there has been no official update since.

A Russian sailor on the bow of missile cruiser Moskva in a 2014 photo.

A Russian sailor on the bow of missile cruiser Moskva in a 2014 photo.Credit:AP

“They don’t want to talk to us,” Maksim Savin, 32, said in an interview about the quest to find the whereabouts of his youngest brother, Leonid, 20, a conscript. “We are grieving; they drafted our little brother and most likely will never give him back.”

At least 10 families have publicly voiced their frustration about getting conflicting reports about whether their sons are alive, missing or dead. Their demands, made on social media or to news organisations, could hurt public support for the war effort ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The families speak out as a growing number of senior Kremlin insiders are quietly questioning Putin’s decision to go to war, eight weeks after Russia sent troops into Ukraine.

This afternoon’s headlines at a glance

By Angus Dalton

Good afternoon, Angus Dalton here taking over the blog from Ashleigh McMillan. Thanks for your company.

Here’s what you need to know this afternoon.

  • A range of shadow ministers will step up to front the Labor campaign rather than any single alternative to leader Anthony Albanese, who’s been derailed from the campaign trail by a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Frontbencher Jason Clare held a press conference this morning to explain changes to Labor’s campaign as Prime Minister Scott Morrison did a media blitz on morning television and radio. “Elections are usually pretty presidential, you see one candidate against the other,” Clare said. “Over the course of the next week, you’ll see something different. You’ll see our team.”
Labor’s campaign spokesman Jason Clare says the party will rely on key frontbenchers while Anthony Albanese is isolating.

Labor’s campaign spokesman Jason Clare says the party will rely on key frontbenchers while Anthony Albanese is isolating.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen


Morrison has spoken to Solomon Islands PM ‘several times’ this year

By Angus Thompson

Countering Labor suggestions the PM had failed basic diplomacy by not simply phoning Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Morrison told Friday’s press conference he had spoken to Sogavare “on several occasions this year”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.Credit:Nine

“And about this issue,” Morrison said, “and on many occasions last year as well.”

“Our conversations have dealt with the matters that are currently before us.”

Morrison said he had followed careful advice about the interactions between the two nations, but would not go into further detail.

Earlier, Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare suggested the immensity of the issue could’ve been addressed previously by “picking up the phone, talking to people.”

“It starts with engagement. It’s people-to-people, talking to people. It’s on the phone and also face-to-face. That’s where this government stuffed this up,” he said.

Queensland to change COVID-19 close-contact requirements

By Cloe Read

Queensland will end COVID-19 isolation requirements for household contacts, bringing the state in line with NSW and Victoria.

Close contacts will still be required to wear masks indoors and where they can not socially distance.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’AthCredit:Matt Dennien

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the rules would come into effect at 6pm next Thursday.

Earlier this week, NSW and Victoria announced they would end isolation requirements for household contacts of COVID-positive people by this weekend as both states passed the peak of the latest Omicron wave.

“Today is another exciting day in our journey towards living with COVID,” D’Ath said.

“We know that quarantine and isolation have really protected the community for the last two years … But now is the time to take the next step.”

PM refuses to deny Australia’s involvement in leaking Pacific security deal

By Angus Thompson

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to deny reports that Australia played a role in leaking details of the Solomon Islands’ security deal with China.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.Credit:James Brickwood

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported today Australia knew about the pact between China and Solomon Islands weeks before it mysteriously surfaced on the internet, with government sources claiming the nation’s intelligence agencies played a role in orchestrating the leak.

When asked about it during a press conference in Queensland, the PM said he would never comment on intelligence matters of that nature, “and I think you would be surprised if I were to speak one way or the other about those issues”.

“And no one should take from that any meaning whatsoever. I mean, these are highly sensitive matters,” Morrison said.

He later said it wasn’t in the national interest for prime ministers to give a “running commentary” about sensitive security issues.


Watch: Scott Morrison speaks to the media

Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference in Queensland from 12pm on Friday.

You can watch the full press conference below. Apologies if the feed is a bit glitchy – unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about that on our end.

Victoria’s COVID rules to change from midnight

By Ashleigh McMillan

COVID measures in Victoria like check-ins, mask-wearing and household isolation rules will be overhauled from 11.59pm tonight.

Melburnians wearing face masks in the CBD earlier this year.

Melburnians wearing face masks in the CBD earlier this year.Credit:Luis Ascui

Some of the major changes include:

  • Patrons no longer having to show their vaccination status or check in at venues.
  • Masks no longer being required in schools, hospitality, retail or at any events.
  • Masks will continue to be required on public transport, in taxis and ride-share vehicles, in airports and hospitals.
  • Close contacts will no longer have to quarantine. However, they will have to wear a mask indoors, avoid sensitive settings and record at least five negative rapid tests in the seven days after they were first in close contact with a confirmed case.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday he hoped to allow the pandemic declaration to expire when current powers ended on July 12.

“I don’t know what expert advice I’m going to get in the days leading up to the 12th of July. It’s my hope that we don’t need that, or we see something less than that, or we need some other arrangement. That’d be terrific,” he said.

WA Premier McGowan tests positive to COVID-19

By Ashleigh McMillan and Hamish Hastie

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced on Friday that he has tested positive to coronavirus.

The positive result came after McGowan undertook a PCR test on Thursday.

WA Premier Mark McGowan

WA Premier Mark McGowanCredit:Hamish Hastie

In a statement, he said the COVID-19 diagnosis was “not surprising” as he had been isolating after a family member tested positive to the virus on Wednesday.

McGowan’s quarantine period will now be extended until April 28.

“In accordance with the protocols, this will extend my quarantine period until I am hopefully cleared to leave home next Thursday afternoon, at the earliest,” McGowan said in a statement.

“I will continue to quarantine and work from home over this period.

“I would also like to acknowledge the vital contribution of our committed health workers who have not only cared for my family, but also many Western Australians who have been affected by this virus.”

McGowan’s diagnosis comes after Labor leader Anthony Albanese tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday evening.


‘Not a one-man band’: Clare says Labor leadership team will step up in Albanese’s absence

By Angus Thompson

Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare has said deputy leader Richard Marles will not be stepping up to lead the campaign, with the responsibility to be spread among the opposition’s leadership team.

Labor’s Jason Clare pictured with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Labor’s Jason Clare pictured with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Clare assured Albanese would be back on the stumps “at the halfway mark” of the six-week election campaign, saying it was “almost inevitable” the Labor leader would contract COVID.

“It’s going to happen, you’ve got to prepare for it, and that’s what we’ve done,” he said, adding his spin that Labor had an “unfair advantage” in the campaign as it had a strong, united team.

He said while election campaigns in Australia were usually “presidential”, things would be changed up, with multiple figures set to front the media in the next few days.

“We’re not a one-man band, we’re a strong, united team, and we’ll show that over the course of the next few days,” he said.

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