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What we know today, Monday October 25

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The Nationals are not saying what they’ve agreed to in return for supporting a net zero emissions policy, as the Morrison Government refuses to reveal the modelling underpinning it citing cabinet confidentiality.

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Nats quiet on net zero policy deal details

Senior Nationals remain tight-lipped on what the party has agreed to in return for supporting the Morrison Government’s plans for net-zero emissions by 2050, which one outspoken member has described as a “fantasy”.

Despite reports Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce told colleagues during a two-hour partyroom meeting on Sunday he did not back the commitment, he is now adamant he supports it.

“One hundred per cent I’m on board with the goal of 2050 net-zero emissions, what more do you want?” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“Each one of us agreed to the process, we never would have had to go into the negotiation process if the Nationals were 100 per cent happy with where the proposition was.”

The deputy prime minister said it was logical to negotiate an outcome for regional Australia.

The Nationals party room on Sunday agreed for a cabinet submission to go forward, ahead of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s attendance at the Glasgow climate summit starting on October 31.

The Nationals gave “in-principle support” to the government’s policy, despite not publicly indicating what the party has backed.

Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud said further details of the agreement would be made public in the next 24 hours.

“Now we will work through that in a mature and sensible way to get to the resolution, and tonight that will be ratified,” he told ABC.

“We worked through this calmly and rationally as a party.”

Littleproud did not comment on how much the plan would cost taxpayers but cited cabinet confidentiality as the reason details were being withheld.

While there is speculation the Nationals could gain an extra seat in cabinet, Joyce said that was a decision for the prime minister.

No deal with the Nationals could have been a major embarrassment for Morrison, with climate shaping up as a major issue at the next election.

Despite the Nationals reaching agreement, some MPs and senators continue to publicly criticise the proposal.

Queensland senator Matt Canavan said the deal was bad for the country.

“Net zero is going to end in tears,” he told the Nine Network.

“I don’t think this is the right approach for this country. It’s a fantasy to think we can remove all carbon emissions.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt hit out at the Nationals’ deal, calling it devastating for the climate.

“The deal between Barnaby Joyce and Scott Morrison is a death sentence for many regional communities,” Bandt told ABC radio.

“Delay is the new denial.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Morrison was more interested in political survival than a climate policy.

He noted the prime minister had previously described renewable energy targets as “nuts” and lampooned battery-storage technology.

Coalition won’t reveal emissions modelling

The Morrison government is refusing to divulge modelling underpinning its strategy to cut carbon emissions on the grounds it is confidential cabinet information.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has made a public interest immunity claim on the modelling because it informed or was the subject of cabinet deliberations.

Senator Zed Seselja, on the minister’s behalf, informed a Senate estimates hearing on Monday the modelling would not be tabled.

“What you’re asking for is for this committee to be able to effectively interrogate the internal deliberations of cabinet and that has not been the approach in the past,” he said.

Industry department boss David Fredericks would not say if the department provided advice about concessions demanded by the Nationals in exchange for a net zero target.

“If you’re asking about a document which is a political document passing between the National Party and the prime minister, then I can’t comment in on it,” he said.

The majority of Nationals on Sunday ceded in-principle to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 to which 125 countries have already committed.

The coalition has ruled out formally raising its 2030 emissions reduction target.

Senator Seselja said the plan was based on policies Australia already had in place and would be detailed ahead of the COP26 summit starting in six days.

Labor senator Jenny McAllister asked what industry groups had been consulted about the net zero plan.

A departmental official said industry groups had been consulted about the government’s technology roadmap released late last year on which Australia’s COP26 plan was based.

“This is confirming everything we fear about a government entirely addicted to secrecy. You are going to COP with a plan that no one has seen,” McAllister said.

The department could not detail the emissions projections for 72 coal and 44 gas projects either announced, committed to or underway in October 2020.

Booster shot approval imminent: vaccine boss

Australians could start getting a COVID-19 booster shot as soon as six months after their second vaccine dose.

The head of Australia’s vaccine rollout John Frewen said the country’s vaccine advisory group will soon release its advice on boosters.

“We’re just waiting on the finalised medical advice now,” Lieutenant General Frewen told the Nine Network on Monday.

“We expect it will recommend probably between six to 12 months when people should consider having a booster shot.”

Immunocompromised Australians are already eligible to receive a booster shot.

Nationally, 73 per cent of eligible people aged 16 years and over are fully vaccinated, while nearly 87 per cent have received their first dose.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is reviewing booster shot data from overseas before making its final decision.

“This timing, or sweet spot, of around six or a few more months (between doses) is looking good,” National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance director Professor Kristine Macartney said.

“It’s what the majority of countries have gone with now,” she told ABC radio.

“This is a brand new virus in the world, we essentially need to train and then train a bit more our immune systems to respond to it.”

Lieutenant General Frewen said mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, would be predominantly used for booster shots.

Australians in aged care, disability care and front line health workers are expected to be among the first to receive top-up jabs, once approval is granted.

NSW posts 294 cases, four deaths

More than 500 people have died from COVID-19 in the latest NSW outbreak, with the state today recording another 294 new locally acquired cases and four deaths.

There have been 502 COVID-related deaths in NSW since the latest wave began on June 16.

Now 93 per cent of people 16 and over have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 84.8 per cent of adults are fully jabbed.

There are 474 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, 116 of them in intensive care.

In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm on Sunday there were 59,612 tests.

Kindergarten, year one and year 12 students went back to school in NSW last week and the remaining students have returned to classrooms on Monday.

Non-urgent elective surgery will also resume at public and private hospitals within Greater Sydney on Monday after being cancelled in August to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases soared.

Vic records 1461 new cases, seven deaths

Victoria has recorded 1461 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths.

The health department confirmed on Monday the state is managing just less than 25,000 active cases.

There are 802 people in hospital, keeping the seven-day average at 793. Of those, 152 are in intensive care and 92 on a ventilator.

The latest deaths take the toll from the current outbreak to 230.

There were 56,905 tests processed and 27,859 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs on Sunday.

About 74 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over are now fully vaccinated.

Fed govt to shortlist local mRNA vaccine manufacturers ‘this week’

Health Minister Greg Hunt says the federal government is in the advanced stages of determining a shortlist of companies to take on the role of manufacturing mRNA vaccines in Australia.

Australia currently imports all such mRNA vaccines, like Pfizer, and only manufactures AstraZeneca doses domestically.

The federal government opened an approach to market offering grant monies for onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing on May 21

The approach to market was open until July 16. Hopeful bidders initially expected a decision by the end of August although this never materialised.

“I am expecting an announcement on the shortlist this week,” Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

A consortium led by biologics contract development and manufacturing firm BioCina, who own a 4600m2 manufacturing facility in Thebarton, was the only company in South Australia to respond to the approach to market.

BioCina, a subsidiary of US private investment firm Bridgewest Holdings, claims the plant is “the most advanced facility of its kind in Australia”.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it was a year ago the government said mRNA vaccine manufacturing would be advanced in Australia in nine to 12 months.

“The 12 months is up and what we have, once again, from the government is too little, too late. They’re too slow. They’re always behind. Never leading, always following,” he told reporters.

However, he did welcome the government’s two new vaccination campaigns – one aimed at getting the final 10-15 per cent of Australians jabbed and the other focused on Indigenous people.

“This was one of the points that we were making many months ago,” Albanese said.

“We were told … the reason why ads weren’t being played was because there weren’t enough vaccines.”

The campaigns come as Australia passed 34.2 million vaccinations, reaching nearly 87 per cent first dose coverage for those aged 16 and above and more than 73 per cent fully vaccinated with two doses.

Govt unveils ramp design for Torrens to Darlington project

An artist’s impression of the elevated ramp over the Anzac Highway-South Road (Photo: Supplied)

The State Government has revealed an elevated ramp over the interchange at South Road will form the northern entry and exit points of the 4km Torrens to Darlington southern tunnels.

The 400m ramp will take north-bound motorists from the tunnels and directly onto Anzac Highway towards the city over the top of the Anzac Highway-South Road intersection.

The State Government says no compulsory acquisitions will be required for this part of the project, although noted some unspecified “vegetation impacts”.

Transport Minister Corey Wingard this morning said the State Government was faced with a choice between acquiring homes and removing trees.

“There are a couple of options and it was either acquire homes along Anzac Highway or impact the trees,” he told ABC Radio this morning.

“We figured that impacting the trees was less impactful and there was the opportunity to relocate some of the trees.

“We think we’ve got a great opportunity to have some really nice uplift in that area, and the trees were preferable over the homes.”

Wingard said there would be 20 per cent extra tree canopy once replantation around the site is completed.

It comes after the State Government announced in September that 110 homes would have to be acquired in Glandore, where the tunnels surface  just ahead of the Glenelg tram overpass.

A further 64 properties will be compulsory acquired further south around Clovelly Park for the “southern laydown area” where the launch site for the tunnels will be located.

Wingard said the next part of the design the Department of Infrastructure and Transport is working on is the second tunnel link between the South-Road Anzac Highway section and Sir Donald Bradman Drive further north.

The second tunnels will surface around Thebarton Oval, according to Wingard, with any associated property acquisitions to be detailed along with the full release of the project’s reference design – expected before the end of the year.

Other details revealed over the weekend include a pedestrian overpass for people accessing Black Forest Primary School and Black Forest Shopping Centre around where the tunnels surface.

The entire 10.5km, $9.9 billion project is slated for completion by 2030.

Construction on the southern tunnels will begin in late 2023.

‘Massive’ change coming to Vic COVID rules

Victorians have been given a glimpse of life when nine out of 10 people aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as city and regional residents prepare to reunite.

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced major changes to Victoria’s roadmap when the state reaches its next two major vaccination milestones.

With Victoria set to hit its 80 per cent full vaccination target ahead of schedule sometime next weekend, restrictions will ease further and align across the state from 6pm on Friday.

The ban on travel between Melbourne and regional Victoria will be scrapped, reconnecting the state for the first time since the city’s 77-day lockdown lifted.

Masks will no longer need to be worn outdoors, entertainment venues, gyms and retail stores can reopen indoors for fully vaccinated patrons, and capacity limits will increase for restaurants, pubs and cafes.

Students from every year level across the state also return to full-time, face-to-face learning on November 1 before Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup public holiday.

Longer term, Andrews laid out a plan for the state once 90 per cent of the 12-plus population are fully vaccinated, forecast on or around November 24.

“There will be a fundamental change, a massive change, in many respects, to the rules that we have all been living under,” he told reporters.

All venue caps and density quotients will be scrapped at that point, along with mandatory indoor mask rules except in high-risk or low-vaccinated settings such as hospitals and schools.

Limits on home and outdoor gatherings will be shelved, paving the way for families to come together en masse at Christmas, while vaccine passport requirements expand to staff and patrons of non-essential retail stores.

Andrews warned Victoria’s “vaccinated economy” would remain into 2022, with those who refuse to get the jab excluded from workplaces, venues and major events.

Victoria reported 1935 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Sunday, taking the toll from its current outbreak to 223.

Berejiklian to front ICAC

Former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and ex-MP Daryl Maguire will give evidence this week at anti-corruption hearings into whether the pair breached public trust, while former Deputy Premier John Barilaro will give evidence today.

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating allegations Maguire breached public trust by using his public office and parliamentary resources to improperly gain a benefit for himself or those close to him.

The commission is also investigating whether Berejiklian breached the public trust when she supported projects proposed by Maguire, with whom she was in a secret relationship.

Former Deputy Premier John Barilaro will give evidence on Monday, with Maguire to follow on Wednesday while Berejiklian is slated to appear on Thursday and Friday.

Berejiklian stepped down as premier on October 1 when ICAC announced it would be holding the public hearings examining her conduct. She denies wrongdoing.

A raft of current and former politicians and public servants gave evidence in public hearings last week.

The new deputy leader of the NSW Liberals, Stuart Ayres, testified on Friday he did not know of the secret relationship, echoing evidence given on Wednesday by former premier Mike Baird who said he was “incredulous” to learn of the relationship and that it “should have been disclosed”.

The hearings centred around a multi-million-dollar upgrade to the Wagga Wagga Clay Target Club championed by Maguire.

As treasurer in 2016, Berejiklian controlled the agenda for the expenditure review committee, and the commission heard she was perceived as instrumental to the decision to revisit a business case that found the shooting facility proposal didn’t pass muster.

-With AAP and Reuters

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