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What we know today, Monday September 20

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NSW has reported 935 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths, with the state dipping back under 1000 daily infections for the first time since August.

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NSW reports 935 cases, four deaths

NSW has reported 935 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths, with the state dipping back under 1000 daily infections for the first time since August.

Of the four deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, two were men in their 60s and two people were in their 80s.

It takes the toll for the current NSW outbreak to 245, and the toll for the entirety of the pandemic to 301.

There are 1207 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 236 in intensive care units and 123 on ventilators.

“Even if case numbers go down, we should expect unfortunately that the number of people in intensive care and the number of people who lose their lives to go up,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

“As we’ve said consistently, because we have had a number of cases in the last few weeks, people ordinarily get very sick in the second week of the illness.”

New COVID case in Qld

A traveller has tested positive for COVID-19 after potentially being infectious at Brisbane Airport for four hours.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the man transited through Brisbane while travelling from Newcastle to the Northern Territory on Friday.

The man, who was fully vaccinated, was on a “red” flight from NSW, so anyone ending their journey in Brisbane would have gone into hotel quarantine.

“We’re just wanting to make sure that that person, in the four hours that they were at the domestic airport, did not move around very far, and whether they went to any food courts or any other areas,” D’Ath said.

“So, please, if you were at the Brisbane domestic airport on the 17th of September, just keep an eye on our website today to see if there is any exposure sites was listed.”

Queensland has also recorded another virus case in a traveller, who had arrived on the flight from NSW, in hotel quarantine.

A third case recorded in hotel quarantine on Monday was overseas-acquired case, while there were no new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19 recorded.

Deputy PM tips Porter return to Cabinet

Barnaby Joyce expects former federal minister Christian Porter to one day return to the frontbench after quitting for failing to explain who helped fund his defamation case.

Porter resigned after revealing he accepted mystery money through a “blind trust” for part of his legal action against the ABC over allegations of rape more than 30 years ago.

While the former industry minister does not think he has breached ministerial standards, he does not want to be “a very unhelpful distraction” for the coalition government.

Joyce, who is the deputy prime minister, believes his colleague’s resignation is right.

“He has, like so many of us, gone to the corridor of the nearly dead,” he told the Seven Network on Monday.

“I bet you his electorate won’t resign from him though. He’s an incredibly astute politician, he’s incredibly capable.

“I’ll put money that we’ll see him back again.”

Employment Minister Stuart Robert defended Porter as “an incredibly decent and smart operator”.

“He put a statement out yesterday, it’s heartbreaking reading when you look at what he’s been through,” Mr Robert told the Nine Network.

Porter maintained the trustee had reassured him no money had come from lobbyists or prohibited foreign entities.

He did not want to “pressure” the trust for more information because that would make them “targets of the social media mob”.

“Ultimately, I decided that if I have to make a choice between seeking to pressure the trust to break individuals’ confidentiality in order to remain in cabinet, or alternatively forego my cabinet position, there is only one choice I could, in all conscience, make,” Porter said in a lengthy statement.

He launched defamation action against the ABC after it published a story about a now-deceased woman’s historical sexual assault allegation against Porter.

The MP strenuously denied the claim and the case settled before trial.

Ann Marie Smith carer stays on bail

The woman who cared for Ann Marie Smith has faced the Supreme Court for the first time after pleading guilty to her manslaughter.

Rosa Maria Maione had her bail continued on Monday in a brief appearance with sentencing submissions set to start in December.

Prosecutors had previously flagged a bid to have her bail revoked but the matter was not raised.

Maione first entered her guilty plea to the unlawful killing in Adelaide Magistrates Court in July.

Police previously alleged Smith, who lived with cerebral palsy, died of serious criminal neglect and her death was preventable.

The 54-year-old passed away in hospital in April last year from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment.

She had been found to be living in squalid conditions in her own home, largely confined to a cane chair, while under the care of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In the period leading up to the death, Maione had worked as her carer.

As well as the SA police investigation, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner Graeme Head launched an independent inquiry by former Federal Court judge Alan Robertson, with his report last year essentially clearing the commission in how it exercised its regulatory functions.

Robertson said on the question of whether it should have acted earlier to ban Maione, the commission had no information to take such action before Smith’s death.

Vic records 567 new cases, one death

Victoria has recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases in the current outbreak and one death.

The health department on Monday confirmed 567 new local cases were reported in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of active cases to 5675.

The death brings the toll from the current outbreak to 12.

In the 24 hours to Monday, 50,915 tests were processed and a record 39,939 Victorians received a vaccine dose at state-run hubs.

Brownlow winner Wines grateful for Port’s show of faith

Port Adelaide star Ollie Wines says the realisation that he’s not a “silky smooth mid” helped propel him to the 2021 Brownlow medal, and he’s glad the Power didn’t let him leave two years ago.

Wines became the first Port player to win the AFL’s most coveted individual award last night when he polled 36 votes in Sunday’s thrilling count to edge out Western Bulldogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli (33) and Melbourne star Clayton Oliver (31).

The win was some consolation for Wines following the team’s disastrous 71-point preliminary final loss to the Bulldogs.

Wines, who hails from the Murray River town of Echuca, considered leaving the Power at the end of 2019 in order to return to Victoria.

But with Wines still under contract, Port Adelaide didn’t entertain the prospect of letting him go.

“They never wanted to me to leave. It was probably myself thinking perhaps I’ve got to go somewhere else to get more out of my career,” Wines said.

“To the club’s credit they didn’t let me… and I’m thankful to this day, despite not winning a premiership or not playing in a grand final at this stage.

“I’m incredibly proud to still be at the club and glad I didn’t go anywhere.”

Port’s Ollie Wines of talks to friends after being announced as the 2021 Brownlow Medallist. Photo: AAP/Graham Conaty

Wines has since re-signed with Port Adelaide until the end of 2026, and said it was his strong connection with his teammates that convinced him to stay long term.

“I saw in a few of those retirement speeches (about) what they’ll miss most, and it’s being in the locker room with the boys, and I can’t see myself anywhere else,” he said.

“We’ve formed a bond that’s closer than most, and that’s been a key to our success over the last couple of years, and I just want to be a part of that.”

Wines elevated his form to a new level this year, averaging 32.4 possessions and 5.9 clearances per game.

The 26-year-old said simplifying his game had paid massive dividends.

“I probably accepted my role a little bit and understood I wasn’t going to be the silky smooth mid that carved outside the contest,” Wines said.

“All Ken (Hinkley) needed from me week in, week out was to put my head over the ball inside and dish it to the guys on the outside, who were the creative, more talented players.

“I don’t think I’ve got a lot of talent, but probably as my Mum said … I’m a bit of a stayer and will stick it tough to the end and grind it out.

“So once I simplified my game a little bit more, everything just clicked from there.

Wines’ midfield partner at Port, former captain Travis Boak, was last night awarded the AFL’s 2021 Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award.

He was recognised for his work with the Childhood Cancer Association – a more than decade long association motivated by Boak’s experience of losing his father to cancer.

Alarms raised over reopening plans

The Australian Medical Association, Doherty Institute and Burnet Institute have all pleaded for Australia to reopen from the COVID pandemic slowly, warning again of major strain on hospitals and rising death tolls even after 80 per cent of over-16s have been vaccinated.

The latest warnings came as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews outlined his state’s roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday, with hopes for outdoor dining and drinking next month and large family gatherings by Christmas.

But modelling underpinning the reopening forecasts that Victoria could see case numbers of nearly 3000 a day within a month.

“The health system needs to be much better prepared to deal with the growing burden of COVID-19, as well as be able to deliver non-COVID-19 related care,” AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid warned.

Andrews’ much-anticipated roadmap laid out plans for a gradual reopening of Victorian public spaces once the state hit 70 per cent adult double-vaccination rates, and more significant changes at 80 per cent.

The state’s lockdown will effectively end at 70 per cent, expected on current trends to be October 26, with stay-at-home orders lifted for fully vaccinated people at that point.

Small groups will be permitted at outdoor hospitality venues, hairdressers and community sport.

The larger changes at 80 per cent, expected around November 5, include allowing home visitors again, larger hospitality and entertainment capacities, opening all retail, and boosting numbers at religious ceremonies or weddings.

Masks will still be required inside.

Victoria’s plan is more conservative than the roadmap outlined in New South Wales by Gladys Berejiklian, who will allow a wider reopening of hospitality and retail at 70 per cent vaccination.

But modelling from the Burnet Institute, which helped inform the Victorian roadmap, laid out a sobering warning that the state could see nearly 3000 cases a day, just as the 70 per cent double-vaccination target is hit.

“Even without any easing of restrictions, there is a moderate risk of exceeding health system capacity,” Burnet’s modelling for Victoria found.

On current projections, Burnet warned of a daily case peak of between 1400 and 2900 in late October.

The plans for significant restriction easing at 80 per cent could create a second peak in mid-December, the Burnet modelling found.

Biden to call Macron over controversial submarine deal

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to hold a call with US President Joe Biden in the next few days amid a diplomatic crisis triggered by Australia’s cancellation of a submarine contract.

France recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra over a trilateral security deal also involving Britain which sank the multibillion-dollar Australian order for French submarines.

“President Biden asked to speak to the president of the Republic and there will be a telephone discussion in the next few days between President Macron and President Biden,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told news channel BFM TV.

France would be seeking “clarification” over the cancellation of a submarine order, Attal said.

The scrapping of the contract, struck in 2016, has caused fury in Paris, which claims not to have been consulted by its allies. The Australian government, however, says it had made clear its concerns for months.

After the initial “shock” of the cancellation, discussions would need to take place over contract clauses, notably compensation for the French side, Attal added.

Christian Porter under pressure despite resignation

Christian Porter. Photo: AAP/Trevor Collens

Christian Porter has resigned from the federal cabinet over his “blind trust” donation scandal, but has given no indication he will return the money or ever disclose who gave it to him.

The former minister defended his decision not to ask where the cash came from, claiming that doing so would expose his donors to “the social media mob” and that he was “not entitled” to know the source of the money.

But Labor is still demanding to know where the money came from and how much Porter received, claiming the situation was “absurd”.

“They contributed to a trust on the basis of confidentiality and a belief that their contribution would remain confidential within the rules of disclosure,” said Porter yesterday, in his first comments on the scandal that has claimed his position as Industry Minister.

“I am not prepared to seek to break the confidentiality of those people who contributed to my legal fees.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Porter’s resignation was “appropriate”.

“I expect my ministers, all of them, and myself, to uphold the ministerial standards and to act in accordance with those ministerial standards.”

Porter will now return to the backbench to serve as the member for the Western Australian seat of Pearce.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Porter still had many questions to answer as a member of parliament and was in breach of his obligations.

“He needs to answer where this money came from,” Albanese told reporters in Sydney.

“Members of parliament, as well as ministers, just can’t accept money from anonymous donors for a private legal matter. He is not fit to be a member of parliament.

NZ unearths new cases outside Auckland

The spread of New Zealand’s Delta COVID-19 outbreak outside Auckland for the first time in a month could spell disaster for containment efforts.

As Jacinda Ardern’s government meets on Monday to consider the future of Auckland’s lockdown, health officials have identified three new cases in the Firth of Thames region in the Waikato, bordering Auckland.

The cases are linked to the Auckland outbreak through a man who was a remand prisoner from Auckland’s Mt Eden prison, who was bailed to the household on September 8.

The man tested positive on his return to Auckland at the end of his bail on September 16.

His household of nine have been tested. Three have tested positive so far and five negative.

While Auckland remains in strict lockdown, the Waikato is not, meaning members of the household have been allowed to travel into the community, and potentially across New Zealand.

Two of the new cases are children who attended the nearby Mangatangi School, likely while infectious.

Contact tracing efforts will be crucial in containing the spread.

Radio NZ reports all residents of Whakatiwai, a small town in the region, have been asked to isolate and get tested as health authorities bring in a pop-up testing facility.

-With AAP, Reuters and The New Daily

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