NSW, WA and Qld to raise cap on international arrivals; Victoria reports 45 new cases and five deaths and NSW reports six cases; Queensland to reopen ACT border from 25 September. This blog is now closed
That’s it for our live coverage of the coronavirus and other big developments for today. Thanks for being with us.
Our live coverage of the global pandemic is available if you haven’t had enough. The UK could be facing a second national lockdown. Global cases have gone above 30 million.
The Morrison government will be down a number in the lower house when parliament returns in October, with the resignation of Queensland Liberal National party MP John McVeigh triggering a by-election.
McVeigh, the member for Groom in Queensland’s Toowoomba region, said today he would leave parliament for family health reasons.
Groom is a very safe LNP seat so the government is unlikely to have its numbers reduced once the by-election is held.
The number of people attending parliament in person has already been down because of Covid-19, so there has been greater reliance on pairing arrangements. That is when the government and opposition agree to “pair” certain politicians who won’t be in attendance so that the outcome of votes is unaffected.
It’s understood there won’t be a pair for a vacant seat because there’s no one to pair with – so the government will be down a number in the upcoming sittings, including the budget week. However this is unlikely to make any major difference on any substantive votes.
The speaker, Tony Smith, said he had received McVeigh’s resignation letter and was considering possible dates for the by-election.
In a statement earlier today, Scott Morrison said it was a difficult time for McVeigh and he wanted to “wish him, Anita and their family all the best, and for Anita to continue on her road to recovery with John by her side”.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she has offered her support to deputy premier John Barilaro, who told his colleagues this afternoon he was taking time off to look after his mental health.
This afternoon deputy premier John Barilaro advised me he would take four weeks of personal leave. I have offered him any support he may need. I wish John and his family all the best during this time.
The Bureau of Meteorology is warning that parts of northwestern regional Victoria could be hit by severe thunderstorms and potential flash flooding tomorrow.
Remembering people in regional Victoria are enjoying their first weekend of eased coronavirus restrictions, they might have to head indoors in some places.
The bureau has issued a severe weather warning for Saturday over the Grampians and central ranges, with wind gusts of up to 100km/h possible.
Locations which may be affected include Stawell, Ararat, Kyneton, Ballarat and Daylesford, Victoria’s state emergency services said.
Severe thunderstorms and heavy rain currently over SA and QLD are expected to impact northwestern #Victoria tomorrow. Video current at 3.30pm AEST Friday, 18 Sept 2020. For the latest warnings visit https://t.co/0TBmG3qS3r & follow advice from emergency services. #VicWeather pic.twitter.com/VuZXeqY9D1
The SES is asking people to be ready for the heavy rain and large hail that could hit tomorrow.
Damaging storms with a risk of heavy rainfall, winds & large hail are expected for parts of northwestern Vic tomorrow, Saturday 19 Sept. Before a storm hits, make sure you’re prepared. Stay up-to-date with the latest weather via the @BOM_Vic website: https://t.co/CvgmAt2eHd pic.twitter.com/VRHPkx0NqP
The NSW Nationals leader, John Barilaro, will take mental health leave from parliament immediately following the last fortnight’s tumultuous near-split with his Liberal Coalition partners over koala protections.
Barilaro told his party room colleagues by text message this afternoon that he will take up to four weeks leave to work on his mental health.
The text apologised for not being the leader they wanted him to be but added that he would not have acted differently on the issue.
He said some of the party room knew of “his struggles” and he intended to work on these issues during the break.
His leave is likely to act as a circuit breaker on the crisis within the Coalition.
Barilaro’s deputy, Paul Toole, will have carriage of the negotiations with the premier Gladys Berejiklian over the terms of the koala habitat protections state environmental planning policy. It is due to be discussed in cabinet on 6 October.
7News in Sydney is reporting that NSW deputy premier John Barilaro is taking a month’s break “on mental health grounds.” We’re chasing this up.
The NSW Nationals leader last week backed down from a threat to pull his party out of the state’s coalition over new laws to protect koalas.
BREAKING: 7NEWS’ @alexhart7 reports NSW Deputy Premier @JohnBarilaroMP is taking leave effective immediately. https://t.co/TWh1KQycs4 #nswpol #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/1C4CFYxknY
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young says they have retested sewage at a Hervey Bay wastewater treatment plant for covid-19, and the test has come back negative.
Queensland Health, the University of Queensland and CSIRO have a pilot research project to test sewage for traces of covid-19.
The project had previously detected covid-19 at the Hervey Bay plant. The new result didn’t mean the previous one was wrong, she said.
While the fragments indicate someone was shedding the virus, this can occur for several weeks after the person is no longer infectious and the fragments themselves are not infectious.
AAP reports traffic delays on the road to Geelong, where police and ADF are checking Melburnians don’t try to take advantage of an easing of coronavirus restrictions in regional Victoria.
Footage from a TV network helicopter at the Little River checkpoint shows a line 20 kilometres long.
On Thursday, assistant commissioner Rick Nugent said police would try to keep delays at checkpoints to 30 minutes.
Melburnians risk a fine of almost $5,000 if they try to travel to regional Victoria without a valid reason.
Senator Penny Wong, Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, is talking to the ABC and she’s not interested in giving the prime minister, Scott Morrison, any credit for raising the caps on international arrivals.
She’s saying Morrison was “dragged” to the agreement with the states because of bad publicity driven by people stranded overseas.
Morrison and the government had been “pretty focused on having a go at state governments” and the extra 1,500 arrivals to be staged over the coming weeks was not enough.
Wong said it wasn’t right that the caps should be shared responsibility, and that it was the government, and not states, who were responsible for borders and quarantine. She said:
Wong also wanted to see all aircraft options “on the table”, including government jets and charter flights, to get stranded Australians back in the country.
Queensland’s deputy premier, Steven Miles, didn’t miss the chance to sell the state as a tourism destination to Canberrans after lifting the border closure to the ACT.
Queensland borders will open to the ACT from 1am on Friday, September 25.Victoria and New South Wales are still declared hotspots, and anyone who has visited those states in the past 14 days will not be allowed into [email protected] @qldhealthnews #covid19au pic.twitter.com/kiYVM40hRJ
Qatar Airways has welcomed the National Cabinet’s agreement to ease the strict international passenger arrival caps.
In a statement released shortly after Scott Morrison announced New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland had agreed to each take 500 more weekly arrivals by the middle of October, the airline has said it “remains committed” to the Australian market.
In recent weeks, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has said the caps, which have been set at about 4000 nationally per week, threatened the viability of Australian routes, and acknowledged the airline was prioritising business class and more expensive passengers to cover their costs under the caps.Al Baker said:
“We are pleased to see the announcement by the Australian Government that it will increase the cap on international arrivals to Australia allowing more Australians to be reunited with their families and loved ones.
Qatar Airways has always maintained a long-term commitment to Australia and our support to Australian passengers has not waivered despite the challenges of Covid-19.
Due to the cap on international passengers, travelling to Australian destinations, based on limitations of quarantine facilities, currently Qatar Airways can carry a limited number of passengers per day to all of its Australia destinations, resulting in thousands of Australian citizens and residents being unable to be accommodated on flights. Despite the challenges, Qatar Airways is operating a robust Australian network.”
It’s been a national cabinet day which means it’s been a busy day of announcements on Covid-19. Here’s what’s happened so far:
Afternoon all and thanks to Naaman Zhou. We’ll recap the day shortly as there’s been plenty going on.
But before that, a little more from WA premier Mark McGowan’s press conference from a few minutes ago.
McGowan said a third of the jobs created across the country in August had been in his state and he wanted to “continue on this trajectory” and keep the state’s economy moving.
But he said he had asked Neville Power, the chairman of the national Covid-19 commission board, to talk to some national companies that he said were still asking their WA staff to work from home.
This is where institutions have national policies for conditions in Sydney and Melbourne that are not applicable here.
I’ll be handing the blog over to Graham Readfearn now, who will take you through the rest of the day.
He says that the federal government initially wanted the state to double its intake of returned Australians by 28 September, which he refused.
WA has now agreed to a staggered system where they will gradually increase the number of arrivals, starting with 200 on 28 September, rising to 500 on 12 October.
“We have been asking for federal government support, given quarantine is a federal government responsibility under the constitution. However, the federal government is of the view that states need to continue to manage quarantine.”
McGowan says that WA may also need to delay some elective surgery across the state, as more medical staff are deployed to hotel quarantine.
“I’m glad the federal government agreed to provide more Australian Defence Force support and adjust the earlier decision.”
He adds that WA has received 4031 international passengers so far, which he says is the second highest number of overseas arrivals of any state.
He says that under eased restrictions, outdoor events and music festivals could go ahead, if they have approved safety plans.
“Events like the Wave Rock festival, Spring in the Valley, and suburban and regional shows can now go ahead with Covid safety plans”.
Also in sport, Melbourne Storm player Christian Welch has said he is “incredibly remorseful” for a Covid-19 rule breach.
Welch is in isolation and is awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test after he invited an unregistered guest to his room overnight on the Sunshine Coast, AAP reports. The prop will now miss the Storm’s Saturday night match against the Wests Tigers.
From midnight, Melbourne players and staff were free of strict quarantine “bubble” conditions, given it had been two weeks since they’d played a team from NSW.
However it’s believed the woman, who was stopped by police as she departed, had arrived before that deadline while she wasn’t on registered guest list.
“I’m incredibly remorseful and sorry for my actions,” Welch said in a statement. “I love this game and everything it has given me and I’m shattered that I have let everyone down.
“Calling my parents to let them know about this was the worst phone call I’ve ever made. I know it’s a privilege to play in the NRL and I want to apologise to all for any damage I have caused.”
The Storm briefed the NRL Integrity Unit and Queensland government early on Friday once notified of the breach, which is their first since relocating from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast in July.
Chief executive Dave Donaghy said he spoke to Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young on Friday who assured him there was very low risk of Covid-19 transmission among the community.
“We’re confident the test won’t come back anything other than negative but it has to go through a process,” Donaghy said.
Storm and Welch will now await the findings of the NRL Integrity Unit, with the 26-year-old facing a potential fine.
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