Australia news LIVE: Sydney residents return to pubs, hairdressers as restrictions ease; Victorian IBAC inquiry continues amid state’s COVID-19 case surge

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Key posts

  • NSW’s next ‘freedom day’ set for October 25
  • Andrews government loses fourth minister to branch stacking scandal
  • Barnaby Joyce preparing to back net zero, with conditions
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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NSW’s next ‘freedom day’ set for October 25

NSW appears most likely to next ease restrictions on October 25 as the state’s double-dose vaccination rate continues to climb.

Seventy-four per cent of people in the state aged 16 and over had received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the weekend just gone, federal government data released on Monday afternoon showed.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet receives a haircut in front of media at Barberhood in Sydney on Monday.Credit:Gaye Gerard

The state’s first-dose rate also crept up slightly, to 90.4 per cent.

The current average time between first and second doses in NSW – about 38 days – suggests NSW will hit 80 per cent full vaccination late next week, resulting in a change in restrictions on the following Monday, October 25.

At the 80 per cent stage of NSW’s road map, Sydneysiders can travel to regional areas, capacity limits for hospitality will increase, nightclubs can operate without dancing and places of worship will reopen for the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Read more about NSW’s road map here.

Andrews government loses fourth minister to branch stacking scandal

The Andrews government lost its fourth minister to a branch stacking scandal yesterday, on the first day of a corruption inquiry that heard the practice was “out of control” in Victorian Labor.

The public hearings began on Monday and are investigating allegations of what counsel assisting the commission described as “premeditated systemic rorting of taxpayer resources”.

Victoria’s former aged care minister Luke Donnellan.Credit:Justin McManus

Aged Care Minister Luke Donnellan quit the ministry after federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne accused him in the hearings of paying party membership fees on behalf of others as part of a branch-stacking operation led by fallen powerbroker Adem Somyurek.

Branch stacking refers to the practice of politicians, candidates, and factional operatives shoring up their internal party influence by paying for the membership fees of members, who then vote along factional lines to support preferred candidates in preselection.

Branch stacking itself is not illegal, but it is against Labor Party rules. The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission is investigating the potential rort of taxpayer funds for branch-stacking purposes.

Mr Donnellan says he accepts he “previously breached party rules while a minister” but insists he “never misused public funds or resources in any way”.

More on the situation in Victoria here.

Barnaby Joyce preparing to back net zero, with conditions

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has cleared the way for a deal on climate change after a party room meeting backed his stance in talks with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on whether to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

Mr Joyce called for a better deal for regional Australia in the negotiations ahead of a federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday that is likely to endorse the higher target in time for the start of the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow on November 1.

Barnaby Joyce has cleared the way for a climate deal with the Liberals.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

While several Nationals oppose the target, the Deputy Prime Minister and his senior party colleagues are preparing to back the policy on the condition they gain safeguards for farmers, the resource sector and regional communities.

Mr Joyce warned that regional Australia had been “done over” on climate change in the past, while Nationals deputy and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud called for more rewards for farmers for their cuts to emissions and gains on biodiversity.

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for reading our live coverage.

It’s Tuesday, October 12. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll bring you some of today’s biggest stories as they unfold.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started:

  • Fully vaccinated Sydneysiders have returned to cafes, gyms, retail stores and hairdressers after 15 weeks of lockdown. The next easing of restrictions is likely to occur on Monday, October 25 – which is the first Monday after the state is due to hit its 80 per cent double-dose vaccination target. From that date, Sydneysiders expect to be able to travel to the regions and indoor capacity limits will increase. Yesterday, NSW recorded 496 new local cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths.
  • Victoria has lost its disability and aged care minister. MP Luke Donnellan quit the Labor ministry yesterday after the state’s anti-corruption agency heard he paid ALP membership fees on behalf of others as part of a branch stacking operation on behalf of former minister and powerbroker Adem Somyurek (branch stacking is not illegal but is against ALP rules). Mr Donnellan has acknowledged he broke Labor rules but says he never misused public funds. The hearings will continue today, and are expected to focus on Mr Somyurek’s alleged activities (he has previously denied wrongdoing). Yesterday, Victoria recorded 1612 new, locally acquired cases of coronavirus and eight deaths.
  • The Morrison government’s coalition partner is preparing to back a plan to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. However, the Nationals have indicated their support will come with conditions for rural and regional Australia. Deputy Prime Minister (and Nationals leader) Barnaby Joyce has said farmers have been “done over” on climate change in the past. The discussions come ahead of major climate talks in Glasgow next month.
  • Queensland has hit its 70 per cent first-dose vaccination target for people aged 16 and over. Yesterday, the Sunshine State recorded zero community cases for the sixth day in a row. Authorities also say only a fraction of people have responded to invitations for home quarantine trials starting this week.
  • Western Australia recorded no new cases of COVID-19 yesterday after a truck driver spent serval days in the state while infectious. Meanwhile, South Australian authorities are on alert after reporting three coronavirus cases yesterday. One was a fly-in-fly-out miner from Victoria who tested positive at Adelaide Airport, another was an overseas arrival and the third was a co-driver of a truck driver who previously tested positive.
  • The ACT recorded 32 new cases of coronavirus yesterday. The territory has become Australia’s first jurisdiction to reach the milestone of 70 per cent of people aged 12 and over (not 16 and over) fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Canberra’s lockdown is due to end this Friday.
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