Home » Australia News Live Update: Nine Deaths, 1,750 Covid Cases In Vic As Melbourne Emerges From Lockdown; 332 Cases, Two Deaths In NSW

Australia News Live Update: Nine Deaths, 1,750 Covid Cases In Vic As Melbourne Emerges From Lockdown; 332 Cases, Two Deaths In NSW

02:20

And the search for Cleo Smith, a child missing from a campsite in Macleod, north of Carnarvon, continues.

Cleo has now been missing for a week and investigators believe she has been abducted.

The campsite search has finished and investigators say it’s now moved into an “awareness campaign”.

On Instagram this morning her mum Ellie has made a heartbreaking plea to the public to help “find my little girl’.

Anyone who might have any information at all is asked to call Cime Stoppers – 1800 333 000.

02:06

Thank you Ben!

I want to just draw everyone’s attention to this great piece from my colleague Natasha May on the bank branch closures in the past year across regional Australia:

Updated

01:59

Captain Cait Kelly is standing on the balcony, waving me in. My innings is done. Thanks all for your company, correspondence and comments. Be well and look after each other.

01:56

Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid is back behind bars after a Covid-inspired bid for bail ahead of a likely appeal against his conviction was rejected.

The 77-year-old was sentenced on Thursday to at least three years and 10 months in prison over a rigged tender for a massive coal exploration licence.

But instead of heading to the Surry Hills police station to be processed, Obeid was allowed to go home over concerns he could catch Covid-19.

A hasty bail application was heard on Friday but Justice Elizabeth Fullerton wasn’t satisfied that there were special or exceptional circumstances that would justify Obeid’s continued release.

It was ordered he travel directly to Silverwater jail at 10am on Saturday.

Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid arrives at Silverwater Prison in Sydney on Saturday morning Photograph: Brendon Thorne/AAP

This ensured Obeid – who turns 78 on Monday – didn’t pass through Surry Hills police station, with Justice Fullerton expressing concern about systems there for avoiding coronavirus transmission.

The judge earlier advised Obeid’s lawyer that if he was unsuccessful in securing bail the consequences “will present an obvious obstacle filing a further application”.

Obeid’s former ministerial colleague Ian Macdonald, 72, was also jailed on Thursday for at least five years and three months in jail, while his son Moses Obeid was jailed for at least three years.

Obeid’s 52-year-old son and Macdonald were taken into custody, the court was told they also intended to appeal and would be seeking bail.

Some 83% of current NSW prison inmates had received their first Covid-19 vaccination, while 65.6% were fully vaccinated, according to Corrective Services NSW.

Justice Fullerton remarked these numbers were impressive given they had almost doubled since mid-September.

In July the judge found all three guilty of conspiring for Macdonald to engage in misconduct as a minister between 2007 and 2009.

The then-resources minister was found to have breached his duties by providing confidential information to the Obeids over a coal exploration licence which delivered a $30m windfall to their family.

In jailing the trio, Justice Fullerton found the objective seriousness of the conspiracy “was one of the highest order”.

Obeid arriving at prison Photograph: Brendon Thorne/AAP

She said Obeid and his son were aware of Macdonald’s actions in establishing and granting the licence over the family’s property at Mount Penny, in the Bylong Valley near Mudgee, for the family’s financial benefit.

“Edward Obeid and Moses Obeid were patently motivated by a desire to maximise the financial benefit to them and their family in exploiting the value of the coal underlying Cherrydale Park,” she said

No financial or other benefit has been shown to have accrued to Macdonald for his agreement to wilfully breach his ministerial duties and obligations.

“The fact that no evidence of motive is discernible does not mitigate the extreme gravity of his criminal culpability as a co-conspirator,” she said.

(Cheeky send-off to the pavilion from the estimable Kate McClymont, the journalist who literally wrote the book on Obeid, and pursued this story admirably and relentlessly from the very beginning.)

Kate McClymont (@Kate_McClymont)

As Eddie Obeid heads to jail today, I am reminded of the last time we spoke.
“Kate, you are a lowlife, the ultimate of lowlifes, you are a gutter journalist. You write one thing out of place, I tell you what I will go for you, for the jugular.” Farewell Eddie, it’s been a blast.

October 22, 2021

Updated

01:35

We are chasing an update on the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak at Melbourne’s Park hotel, where 45 refugees and asylum seekers are detained.

Our earlier report:

Nearly one-third of refugees and asylum seekers detained by the government at Melbourne’s Park hotel have tested positive for Covid-19, amid claims in court an ambulance was turned away from the hotel without being allowed to see a patient.

Updated

01:31

Jeroen Weimar gives Victoria Covid update

Jeroen Weimar, Victoria’s Covid-19 commander, opening up on Melbourne … well… opening up.

He has warned increased movement and socialisation brings with it increased risk of encountering the virus.

As we start to open up and socialise more and do all those wonderful things that are now possible again, remember if you have any symptoms, whether you are vaccinated or not, make sure you’re tested and that’s the best way you can keep protecting yourself and those around you.

We are delighted and glad that so many are getting tested and isolating effectively when they find out they have the virus but it’s so important that we all act with some restraint and respect and that we are likely to see people around us who may have Covid. Get yourself vaccinated and keep all these good practices over the days and weeks ahead.

Victorian Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/AAP

Victoria’s vaccination rates continue to surge.

The vaccine progress continues to be strong and we have well over 90%, 90% of Victorians with their first dose of vaccine and 72.5% of Victorians over 16 now fully vaccinated. I’m delighted to say over 4 million Victorians are now fully vaccinated, which puts us in a strong position to continue easing of restrictions and 39,126 vaccines were allocated and we provided at state hubs yesterday, but I’m afraid to say that we are not out of the woods yet.

Nine people died in Victoria yesterday because of Covid-19. 770 people are in hospital, including 144 in intensive care, and 90 on ventilators.

We continue seeing it’s the unvaccinated ending up in hospital. Yesterday of the 770 people in hospital, 86% were not fully vaccinated. Of the 144 in intensive care yesterday, 93% were not fully vaccinated. It highlights time and time again that vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the ongoing pandemic we see all around us.

Updated

01:19

Luke Costin from AAP is off the mark early with this troubling report:

An independent inquiry has been ordered into allegations that Covid-negative prisoners were forced to bunk with positive cellmates in a privately run Sydney prison.

The allegations were raised in two separate courts in recent weeks concerning inmates at Parklea Correctional Centre in the city’s north-west.

The Parklea Correctional Centre in Sydney Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

In one case, the NSW supreme court released a man on “extremely disturbing” weapons charges after lacking confidence he would be properly treated in custody.

In the other case, a district court judge reduced the sentence of a man who held up multiple people with a gel blaster pistol after hearing “extremely concerning” evidence the offender was kept in a cell with a Covid-positive cellmate for about four weeks.

That man, who attested to having pneumonia in 2019, said a prison officer told him words to the effect of “You will be sent back [to the general population] when you catch Covid-19 and then get better.”

He said he was vaccinated on 1 October after asking about eight times for the jab.

“Clearly, the circumstances in which you have been detained for the last two months have been extremely confronting and will be taken into account, as in the nature of extra curial punishment,” Judge Andrew Colefax said in sentencing the offender.

The crown in both cases did not dispute the allegations.

The prison, whose 1,000-odd inmates are mainly on remand, was home to a Covid-19 cluster during Sydney’s latest outbreak, with more than 170 cases recorded by mid-September.

Parklea Correctional Centre Photograph: Corrective Services Nsw/PR IMAGE

Following questions about the two inmates’ allegations, corrections minister Anthony Roberts announced he’d instructed his department to “initiate an independent inquiry and report back to me as soon as practical”.

“The acting secretary of the department of communities and justice will advise on who will be conducting the independent investigation as soon as the decision has been made,” Roberts told AAP in a statement.

Prison operator MTC-Broadspectrum declined to answer specific questions about the two cases before the court, citing the impending inquiry.

Questions included whether the operator disputed the gunman’s account and whether keeping close contacts in the same living quarters as Covid-19-positive inmates was supported by health advice.

A spokeswoman said the company welcomed the independent inquiry, with which it would cooperate fully.

“The safety of all our staff and inmates has always been our number one priority,” the spokeswoman said.

“There are now zero active Covid-19 cases at the prison.

“MTC-Broadspectrum has followed the expert advice from our partners Corrective Services NSW, our healthcare provider St Vincent’s and NSW Health to manage the outbreak, care for infected inmates and contain the spread.

“While Parklea Correctional Centre is privately operated, it is subject to the same rules and regulations that govern state prisons.”

As of two weeks ago, 1,661 vaccine doses had been administered at the prison.

The inquiry comes after mothers and partners of Parklea inmates aired frustration in September about a lack of communication and challenges navigating the health system.

Some of the families have joined a lawsuit by Justice Action’s Brett Collins, who wants the NSW supreme court to order all NSW prisons to raise vaccination rates, abide by a one-per-four-square-metre rule at all times and permit all prisoners outside each day for at least one hour.

While Parklea has no Covid-19 cases now, it was only a matter of time until the virus returned to the prison, Collins said.

Poorer conditions in custody – including harsh lockdowns and limited access to programs or exercise – was a human rights issue and will stymie rehabilitation.

“This will increase crime in the community,” Collins said.

Updated

01:01

ACT Covid update

ACT Health (@ACTHealth)

1/2 ACT COVID-19 update (23 October 2021):
◾ New cases today: 24
◾ Active cases: 400
◾ Total cases: 1,577
◾ Negative test results (past 24 hours): 1,445
◾ In hospital: 19
◾ In ICU: 12
◾ Ventilated: 4
◾ Total lives lost: 8 pic.twitter.com/KXcmVJo4E5

October 22, 2021

Updated

00:58

The indefatigable Zena Chamas has more from NSW:

The NSW government has announced a $25m dollar support package for the sports sector as part of the state’s economic recovery plan.

The grant will support as many as 10,000 grassroots sporting clubs and associations across NSW.

Over 100 peak sporting bodies, like Basketball NSW, will be able to access funding to keep their staff employed and their organisations running.

Mad hops! Shooting hoops at a basketball court in Parramatta Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

There will also be a special fund of $600,000 to invest in future sporting stars and assist them in preparing for the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.

“We’re back. Sport is back, and I’m back to be able to support the sector doing what it does best,” minister for sport, Natalie Ward, said.

“We know that when it comes to community sport, with the closures that have been in place to keep the community safe, that many sporting organisations have gone through a very challenging time,” NSW premier Dominic Perrottet said.

Updated

00:42

NSW Covid update details

Morning all, Ben Doherty here for the next little while. I hope these words find you well, wherever you may be. My thanks to magnificent Cait Kelly for her expert stewardship thus far.

My colleague Zena Chamas has been following the NSW presser, and has some more details.

Here’s more about the Covid situation in NSW:

There are 469 hospitalisations from Covid-19 and 123 people in ICU.

There were 64,118 tests conducted in the reporting period.

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

– 92.8% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine

– 83.7% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine

– 64,118 tests were conducted

Updated

00:35

I am going to hand you over to my colleague Ben Doherty now, whose steady news sense and fast fingers will guide you through the next little bit of the morning.

00:30

Perrottet on housing affordability:

“We should look at everything. Put everything on the table. Because this is not just a challenge for today, it’s a challenge for generations to come.

“We always want to be where we provide greater opportunity and prosperity for generations, that are coming after us.

“If we don’t tackle the big issues of the day and look at the reform issues it will be a bigger challenge.”

… right.

00:27

Perrottet has just been asked about housing affordability.

He says “ideas should be embraced” and that we should “put everything on the table” and look at “reform options”.

What that all means exactly for house prices, or first home buyers is anyone’s guess.

00:25

Perrottet says he has heard from businesses that they do not have enough staff.

“The feedback I’ve received over the last week – industries up 200% and staff down 50%,” he said.

“That is a real challenge facing the hospitality sector in New South Wales. And we’ll continue the discussions with the federal government.”

He says he is talking to the federal government about changing how many hours someone can legally work.

“We’ve raised that with the federal government. They made changes when it was an issue towards the end of last year.

“We’ll look towards potentially making some changes there again. But there’s no doubt, this is going to be a challenge for New South Wales and our businesses going forward.”

Updated