Home » Australia Live News Updates: NSW Covid Cases Surge To New Record Amid Omicron Outbreak; Victoria Records Seven Deaths; Tasmania Bans Jumping Castles From Schools After Tragedy

Australia Live News Updates: NSW Covid Cases Surge To New Record Amid Omicron Outbreak; Victoria Records Seven Deaths; Tasmania Bans Jumping Castles From Schools After Tragedy

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23:19

This is a really interesting graph, illustrating daily case numbers in New South Wales against the number of people in hospital.

CovidBaseAU 🦠📊🇦🇺 (@covidbaseau)

Here is a chart comparing daily cases to people in hospital in NSW.

There is no time shift depicted here, however through Jun-Oct wave the two seemed to follow each other quite reliably. pic.twitter.com/kd389Gj6JL

December 17, 2021

23:12

The National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) spending on private law firms to battle participants appealing its decisions rose 30% last financial year, new figures show.

Data released under freedom of information laws shows the agency paid about $17.3m in 2020-21 to firms representing the agency in “external matters” such as legal challenges at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The figure is an increase from $13.4m the previous financial year, the data shows.

It underlines how the rapidly increasing number of national disability insurance scheme (NDIS) participants challenging decisions to cut or deny them support can create a windfall for law firms paid by the taxpayer.

While spending on fees to law firms has increased, community law centres funded to represent people with disability have told Guardian Australia they are at capacity and struggling to take on new clients.

Read the full story here:

22:58

Here’s a picture of the big ship from back in October, when it first arrived in Hobart.

Australia’s new icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, en route to Hobart, on 13 October. Photograph: Australian Antarctic Division

Updated

22:47

In 2010, an Indian mining company bought some tenements over a giant and untapped coal basin in the west of Queensland.

That purchase, by the conglomerate Adani Group, kickstarted one of the most controversial and politically divisive resource projects in Australia’s history – the Carmichael coalmine and rail project.

Before the year is out, and about eight years behind schedule, Adani says it will finally export its first coal, destined to be burned in a power station.

The moment will be celebrated as a victory by its supporters, including many regional Queensland MPs and senators and conservative commentators.

But for its opponents, including climate change activists and some traditional owners, the Carmichael project always meant danger and it became the focus of a campaign with an uncompromising two-word slogan: Stop Adani.

So as the first coal waits to wind its way through the Great Barrier Reef’s shipping channels, what now for that campaign?

Read more from Graham Readfearn and Ben Smee:

22:36

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, is at the launch of Antarctic research ship the RSV Nuyina. The ship is heading off to Antarctica on Monday. Ley made some comments on ABC TV just now, saying the ship – which cost $1.9bn – is:

… the most advanced polar research platform in the world, giving scientists the ability to study the ocean depths, the sea ice, and the upper atmosphere for climate science.

Updated

22:31

NSW Covid numbers the worst of any Australian state since pandemic began

Today’s Covid figure in New South Wales is the highest daily total of any state in Australia since the pandemic began.

Victoria recorded 2,297 cases on 14 October, which was at the time the grim national record. Today’s 2,482 cases in NSW also exceeds the state’s own previous peak – the 2,213 cases recorded only yesterday.

Updated

22:20

The chainsaws outside my window have now been replaced by leaf blowers. Who authorised this?!

22:18

Ahead of the prime minister’s appearance in Tasmania today, I highly recommend reading Katharine Murphy’s latest analysis of Morrison’s strategy so far in the lead-up to next year’s election:

When he’s not trialling new made-for-TV grabs (a new “shake and bake” analogy, which I think was invoked first in relation to emissions reduction, and now has morphed into something broadly economy adjacent, or “jabs and jobs” which was Friday’s innovation), the prime minister has taken to listing things.

Morrison’s current list includes saving lives during the pandemic. Shoring up the health system “with more than $33bn from the federal government in additional investment”. Saving livelihoods with “the single largest economic rescue package in our history”. Presiding over economic recovery after the waves of the pandemic – “more than 350,000 jobs created in a five-week period after the lockdowns were lifted, and through the crisis, we have maintained that AAA credit rating”.

At the risk of stating the obvious, prime ministers don’t have to list their achievements if they are confident voters have already logged them.

Updated

22:05

Victoria records 1,504 new Covid-19 cases

Updated

22:03

New South Wales records its highest daily total with 2,482 new cases of Covid-19

One person has died and 26 people are in intensive care.

NSW Health (@NSWHealth)

NSW COVID-19 update – Saturday 18 December 2021

In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm last night:

– 94.9% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
– 93.3% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/HIr5CV8wJw

December 17, 2021

Updated

21:57

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is in Tasmania today. He’ll be attending the launch of the RSV Nuyina in Hobart this morning. The RSV Nuyina is a great big ship – an Antarctic icebreaker, to be precise.

Morrison is also understood to be heading to Devonport later today.

Updated

21:48

Updated

21:30

My colleague Nino Bucci has been covering this fascinating case in the NSW supreme court over the last few weeks:

Sydney man Raymond McClure was as wealthy as he was lonely. But in the final months of his life he became closer with his GP, Dr Peter Alexakis, the court heard.

Alexakis spoke fluent greek like McClure and was the only person who regularly visited the 83-year-old in hospital. And because McClure was suspicious about other medical professionals and lawyers, he became increasingly reliant on Alexakis for more than just social interaction, Alexakis said.

The extent of this reliance, and whether it unduly influenced McClure’s decision to leave 90% of his $30m estate to Alexakis, is central to the court case over the will.

Updated

21:18

It’s going to be a hot and windy day in Victoria today. Stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, water your plants early, make sure your bird baths are full.

Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic)

A warm night across western/central #Victoria; down to 19.7C in #Melbourne with most of the night sitting >22C.
Top of 33C in the city today ahead of an early arvo cool change.
Otherwise a hot and windy day across #Victoria! 🥵🌡️💨#VicWeather
Details: t.co/bPtDwRu8YV pic.twitter.com/GuE86OtVS4

December 17, 2021

Shout out to the two gardeners doing some hedge maintenance outside my window this morning, love a good double-chainsaw grind at 8.15am on a Saturday.

21:11

New South Wales health officials are considering breaking with commonwealth advice by shortening the Covid vaccine booster interval to four months, amid concern about spread of the Omicron variant.

Guardian Australia understands that NSW health department officials were meeting with vaccine providers in the state on Friday and canvassing the prospect of how they would cope with an influx of people eager to be vaccinated ahead of schedule.

A source familiar with the vaccine rollout in NSW told Guardian Australia health authorities in the state were concerned about record transmission levels this week as well as a potential waning of protection, given that a large number of people in the state received AstraZeneca.

Read the exclusive story here:

21:00

Good morning, I’m Stephanie Convery with you on this, the last Saturday before Christmas (DON’T PANIC).

It has been a helluva week, and yesterday we capped it off with a huge rise in Covid-19 cases in New South Wales and Victoria, jumps in Queensland and South Australia too, plus a fair bit of general anxiety about what the surge might mean and how much case numbers might grow.

The rises came as Covid-19 testing sites came under strain ahead of the busy Christmas period.

Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory went into lockdown after four Covid cases were found there.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced yesterday that mask mandates would be returned to retail settings over Christmas and the New Year while Western Australia announced it would tighten travel rules for arrivals from Queensland and Tasmania arrivals.

NSW and Victoria scrapped their three-day isolation requirements for international arrivals. (They will now need to get a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and isolate until they get a negative result.) Australia also passed a vaccination milestone: 90% of over-16s are now double-dosed.

Australia’s chief medical officer moved to reassure people that the vaccine is still effective against severe disease, urging those who are eligible to get their booster shot.

Still, it remains to be seen how much havoc Omicron will wreak on our Christmas holidays. We’ll bring you all the Covid news of the day as it comes our way.

We also learnt the names of the five children who died in the awful jumping castle incident in Tasmania.

The Tasmanian education department announced a ban on the use of jumping castles at all state schools late on Friday. Schools were told the ban on “all jumping castles and inflatable amusement equipment” would be imposed indefinitely.

All right, someone bring me a coffee, please! Let’s get stuck in.