Former Neighbours actor Meyne Wyatt addresses crowds at protest


Former Neighbours star Meyne Wyatt has addressed large crowds at a protest demanding justice for Aboriginal people who have died in custody.

The national day of action comes days before April 15 – which marks 30 years since a Royal Commission handed down more than 330 recommendations into Aboriginal deaths in custody.

“Recommendation after recommendation being ignored completely,” Mr Wyatt chanted at large crowds outside Sydney’s Town Hall on Saturday afternoon.

“You sick of hearing about racism? I’m sick of f**king talking about it,” he yelled.

It comes as actors in the long-running soap Neighbours came forward with allegations of racism on the set of the iconic Australian show.

Aboriginal actor Shareena Clanton was the first actor to make detailed allegations of racism on the series earlier this week.

Production company Fremantle issued a statement in response to the claims.

“Neighbours strives to be a platform for diversity and inclusion on-screen and off-screen. Our quest is always to continue to grow and develop in this area and we acknowledge that this is an evolving process,” a spokesperson said.

Thousands gathered at meeting points in Alice Springs, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.

About 1000 people listened to speeches at Parliament House on Spring Street in Melbourne, where federal Indigenous Greens Party senator Lydia Thorpe addressed the crowd.

“You say justice, we say murder,” she chanted to crowds before they then marched through the streets towards Flinders Street Station.

An Aboriginal flag flown at half mast in memory of Prince Phillip at Parliament House in Melbourne was condemned by some people in the large crowd and on social media.

One Twitter user quipped: “The Aboriginal flag being flown at half mast for Prince Philip while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and allies rally to end Black deaths in custody is all you need to know about this country.”

The nationwide protests on Saturday followed the deaths of five Aboriginal people in custody since March this year.

Australians also took the streets then where Wurundjeri leaders led protests and mourned for Aboriginal lives lost in police custody.

The traditional custodians of the land also expressed solidarity with the US Black Lives Matter movement and the family of George Floyd, who suffocated on a Minneapolis street under the knee of a police officer.



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Kate Jenkins says Australia ‘fell behind’ on sexual harassment


Sexual harassment reforms should be embraced but come after Australia “fell behind over time” on the issue, the woman who drove them says.

The government confirmed on Thursday that it had accepted all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report, led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, in part or in full.

It came over a year since the report was tabled, forcing Prime Minister Scott Morrison to deny it was made for political reasons following months of sexual assault scandals rocking the government.

Ms Jenkins embraced the “really positive news” on Friday but conceded the announcement had “taken a long time” to arrive.

RELATED: Scott Morrison unveils government’s response to Respect@Work report

“I think with the current momentum across our community, there’s real appetite for change,” she told Today.

“So I’m really optimistic that this might be the turning point that we need for our workplaces.”

As part of a suite of measures, sexual harassment will be considered “serious misconduct” in workplaces and listed as a legitimate grounds for dismissal.

The government will also work to subject politicians and judges to the same sexual harassment laws as the broader population, having previously been exempt.

Assistant Minister Women Amanda Stoker said the changes focused on prevention and clarifying a complaints system that was overly complex.

“I think it will deliver a much more positive workplace culture when it comes to sexual harassment,” she told the ABC.

Ms Jenkins warned Australia had “fallen behind over time” on sexual harassment since being a world leader on the issue throughout the mid-1980s.

She argued the current laws left a “huge burden” on victims of harassment by only coming into effect once a complaint had been submitted.

Ms Jenkins said she was “not going to stop talking” about shifting the onus from individuals to employers to stamp out sexual harassment.

“I think that needs to change. The government said they will continue to assess that … I will continue to raise that with them,” she said.

Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally accused the government of ignoring the report for a year until action was a political necessity.

“I have to laugh at this and it’s a rueful laugh, it’s not one of joy,” she told the ABC.

“They did not respond to (the report) until they faced multiple scandals and crises and the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins in Parliament House.

“They haven’t consulted with business. They haven‘t consulted with women’s groups.”

While she welcomed the government’s adoption of the recommendations, Ms Keneally said the announcement lacked clear legislation, reporting mechanisms or extra funding.

Mr Morrison said on Thursday he aimed to outline the government’s legislative package by the May budget.



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Question PM can’t answer after ‘rare but serious risk’ for AstraZeneca vaccine


Prime Minister Scott Morrison concedes he can no longer guarantee that every Australian adult will be vaccinated by the end of the year – a setback that could have huge implications for international border closures and the economy.

The fallout will take some time for the Morrison Government to work through after it was hit with new health advice on Thursday night to advise anyone under 50 to consider the alternative Pfizer vaccine – if it’s available.

One of the first impacts is likely to be a “recalibration” of not just the rollout timetable but Qantas’ hopes of reopened international borders from October 31.

RELATED: ‘Rare but serious risk’ leads vaccine to be avoided

RELATED: Australia reacts to drastic change to COVID-19 vaccine rollout

More than 5,000 words were uttered by the Prime Minister, his health minister and a top bureaucrat during a late night press conference on Thursday to announce the new advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

But in those thousands of words, the Prime Minister was at pains not to answer some big questions.

“In terms of what the overall implications are at this stage, it’s too early to give you that answer,’’ the Prime Minister said.

“I mean, this now has to be considered. The impacts assessed. And the program evaluated and recalibrated and, once we’ve done that, we’ll be in a better position to understand those implications.”

What will it mean for international border closures?

Again, the PM said it was too early to give a definitive answer.

“Well, I’ve already answered the first question on several occasions. I don’t propose to do that again,’’ the Prime Minister snapped towards the end of the press conference.

Asked if there was a rough time table for everyone to be vaccinated, he cut off the question.

“No, we don’t. No, we don’t. We’ve learnt this evening, and I think we have to take the time to assess the implications for the program.

“When we’ve done that, we may be able to form a view. But I don’t think anyone should expect that any time soon. This will take some time to work through the implications.”

The good news is that compared to many other parts of the world we remain in one of the safest countries for COVID-19 transmission in the world.

Australians may be living in a ‘golden cage’ but unlike London or the US life is largely returning to normal.

“The fundamental protections we have in place in Australia at the moment with how we’ve been suppressing COVID have been very important, and Australians are living life here very different to how people are in other countries,’’ the PM said.

But there’s no doubt the government’s ultra cautious approach to the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine could have huge implications for the economy.

As the PM himself argued earlier in the day there’s plenty of other medicines – including the contraceptive pill – that carry much higher blood clot risks.

So why argue against delivering a vaccine that experts say is safe and effective to under 50s? The simple explanation is that it comes down to a balancing of risks.

If the risk of death from COVID-19 is very low is it worth delivering a vaccine that carries the (rare) risk of a deadly blood clot?

Not everyone agrees with where the government has landed and experts stress the advice not to use the AZ vaccine on under 50s is not an order it’s simply the official advice.

You can still choose to have the vaccine if you wish to take an informed risk.

“The key principle of our management of the COVID-19 pandemic has always been to base our decisions on the expert medical advice,’’ the PM said.

“It has not been our practice to jump at shadows. It has not been our practice to take unnecessary precautions.”

The official advice now recommends the following: at the current time, the use of the Pfizer vaccine is preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine in adults aged less than 50 years who have not already received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.

The chief medical officer Paul Kelly said this is based both on the increased risk of complications from COVID-19 with increasing age, and thus increased benefit of the vaccination, and the potentially lower, but not zero risk, of this rare event with increasing age.

The second recommendation is that immunisation providers should only give a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to adults under 50 years of age where benefit clearly outweighs the risk for that individual’s circumstances.

The third recommendation is that people that have had their first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca without any serious adverse events can safely be given their second dose.

This includes adults under the age of 50, and people who have had blood clots associated with low platelet levels after their first dose of COVID-19 AstraZeneca should not be given the second dose.

“What does this mean for the program? For Phase 1, which is vulnerable people, we will pretty much continue as we are,’’ Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said.

“Those over 70 and 80 will continue to get AstraZeneca at their GPs and be confident in its efficacy and its safety. For those healthcare workers under 50, they will now be prioritised to Pfizer, and that might delay that particular phase of 1b. But that’s the only phase that might be delayed. The important thing is that all of the vulnerable people – those vulnerable to severe COVID – will be covered, as we planned, by the middle of the year.”

“Clearly, when we move into the broader, younger population later on, we will have to recalibrate by reprioritising some Pfizer for younger people, and we are now reviewing all of the vaccine purchases we’ve made.”

Australia is still expecting 51 million Novavax later in the year and is looking at if it can bring other vaccines forward.

Pfizer has committed to 20 million doses this year which is enough to vaccinate 10 million people in two hits. But so far we’ve only got around 1 million doses.

To vaccinate everyone under 50 however the Morrison Government needs an estimated 12 million doses.

Health Minister Greg Hunt will not say when or where those Pfizer doses are coming from.

“We don’t identify, for security reasons, the specific source,’’ he said.

And with that, the PM, his health minister and the nation’s most senior health advisers exited the late night press conference to the sound of cameras flashing.

On Thursday night AstraZeneca said: “We respect the decision taken by the Australian Government based on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to recommend AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine be used in those over the age of 50.

“AstraZeneca has been actively collaborating with regulators and expert advisory groups around the world, including the TGA and ATAGI in Australia to understand the individual cases, epidemiology and possible mechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events.

“We note that the current situation in Australia with very low to no community transmission of COVID-19 was a factor in this updated recommendation from ATAGI and their view that the risk-versus-benefit assessment for the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may be different for Australia compared to other countries, such as those with widespread transmission.”



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Australia reacts to drastic change to COVID-19 vaccine rollout


After a week of dizzying news surrounding Australia’s lagging vaccine rollout, we’ve been hit another blow overnight.

The Prime Minister announced during a snap, late night press conference on Thursday night that Australians under the age of 50 should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine and instead be offered an alternative where possible.

READ MORE: AstraZeneca vaccine only to be given to over 50s in Australia

The PM said regulators made the decision to offer an alternative following confirmation of a “rare but serious risk” of fatal blood clots.

Chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said the fatal blood clotting was a “very rare event”.

The change came after a rush review by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that advises on the vaccine strategy and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The PM said the Pfizer jab is now “the preferred vaccine” for those under 50.

Australia’s COVID-19 rollout is largely dependant on local manufacture of the AstraZeneca vaccine — and this announcement could be a spanner in the works.

On ABC’s 7.30 program, host Leigh Sales described it as a “huge development given how reliant Australia is on the vaccine.”

In a fiery interview with Sales on Tuesday night, Professor Brendan Murphy said he “rejected” the idea Australia was failing in its COVID-19 vaccination program.

Dr Murphy “completely rejected” Sales’ accusation that the Australian public sees the rollout as “anything other than amateur hour”.

And it seems the response to Thursday nights news is no different. Commentators including Patricia Karvelas described the vaccine strategy as a “bungle”, meanwhile the PM had “failed”, according to some.

Here’s the talk online.





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Why NSW Police never interviewed Christian Porter


NSW Police have revealed why they never interviewed former Attorney-General Christian Porter over a 1988 rape allegation and confirmed the alleged victim tried to deliver a statement via Skype during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Outlining new information about how the case was handled, police have confirmed the woman who accused Mr Porter of rape asked to deliver her witness statement via Skype during the COVID-19 pandemic – a request the NSW Police resisted and her friends and family were never interviewed after her death.

The woman ultimately decided to withdraw her complaint after COVID delayed the meeting with detectives and died by suicide at home just 24 hours later.

Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations that relate to a 1988 debating conference in Sydney. He has launched defamation action against the ABC over the reporting of an anonymous letter sent to the Prime Minister setting out allegations against a member of Cabinet.

He subsequently self-identified himself as the target of the allegations.

RELATED: NSW Police never got letter outlining allegations

It was the woman’s decision to withdraw the complaint that resulted in police not interviewing Mr Porter after her death, according to NSW Police.

“It is current standard practice that once a signed victim statement has been obtained from a victim and further corroborative enquiries are made, the formal allegation can and should be put to the person of interest as per procedural fairness principles for investigators,” NSW Police said.

“On June 23, 2020 the (alleged) victim clearly communicated to investigators that she no longer felt able to proceed with the report. The NSWPF did not have a signed statement from the (alleged) victim, hence no formal allegation to put to the person of interest. In keeping with the (alleged) victim’s wishes no further investigation took place and the person of interest was not interviewed.”

NSW Police established Strike Force Wyndarra in February 2020 after receiving information from Mr Porter’s accuser.

Detectives from Strike Force Wyndarra were due to travel to Adelaide to take the woman’s formal statement in March 2020 but their trip was postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak.

RELATED: Accuser’s family begs media not to identify daughter

On Wednesday June 24, 2020, the woman’s body was located at a home at Adelaide by South Australia Police. She had committed suicide just hours after telling police she did not want to proceed with a formal complaint.

In answers to questions on notice, NSW Police confirmed the complainant did ask to provide a formal statement over the telephone or via video.

“Yes. On April 1, 2020, the (alleged) victim requested that she commence her statement by way of Skype,” the response states.

“Investigators consulted with the (alleged) victim on April 2, 2020 by way of teleconference. Options were presented to the (alleged) victim in relation to obtaining her statement. A joint decision by all parties was made not to conduct the interview remotely. There were a number of reasons which led to this decision. The (alleged) victim was understanding and supportive of this decision.”

NSW Police also confirmed they made six telephone calls to the woman which were not answered.

RELATED: Porter, Reynolds moved in Cabinet reshuffle

The alleged victim also made two telephone calls to investigators which were not answered. On both occasions the woman’s missed calls were returned within seven minutes and five hours and 26 minutes respectively.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the responses from NSW Police demanded further explanation.

“These answers raise yet more questions about the response of the NSW Police,” he said.

“When you speak to experienced investigators who have dealt with historical allegations they will tell you it’s not perfect but sometimes it’s the only option to take a statement by phone or video link.

“What is very distressing here is that this was an option that was requested by the complainant and open to police but for whatever reason was taken off the table.”

The answers provided also detail the Australian Federal Police decision to brief the NSW Police on the letter outlining the allegations rather than send it to investigators in full.

The letter requested urgent action be taken by the Prime Minister to investigate the 1988 alleged rape.

RELATED: Details of Porter’s ABC defamation suit

It urged the Prime Minister to set up an independent parliamentary investigation into the matter, similar to that commissioned by the High Court into allegations against former Justice, Dyson Heydon.

“When news of [the complainant’s alleged] rape becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will), legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew and what they did,” the letter states.

“This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins. The loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated.

“There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice … and the parliament when this story becomes public if it is simultaneously revealed that senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.

“Failing to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would seem like wilful blindness.”

The South Australia Coroner is yet to determine whether to conduct a public inquest into the woman’s death.



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Scott Morrison hints blood clot issue could stall covid vaccine rollout


Scott Morrison has dropped a big clue as to where the next threat to Australia’s COVID-19 rollout could come from and it’s not just down to Europe hoarding supplies.

The Prime Minister has moved to reassure Australians that the best weapon the nation has to deliver vaccines to the masses is the decision to develop local production at CSL, conceding if he had not insisted on that there wouldn’t be a vaccine program.

RELATED: Speed of Australia’s vaccine rollout ranked 90th in the world

RELATED: PM needs to accept vaccine rollout is an ‘unmitigated disaster’

But he’s warned there are still risks to that supply and one potential factor is any updated medical advice on vaccines. The only locally produced vaccine at this stage is the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The other point that I’d make is this – there are still risks to that supply,’’ he said.

“Those risks occur in one of two ways. Obviously, what we’ve seen in terms of import restrictions and those that we’re bringing in.

“But even domestic production – there can be impacts on domestic production. There is always the conditioning factor right across the vaccination rollout of the medical advice and the development of medical evidence that can in any way affect any of the vaccines.

“And so, there are no absolute guarantees when it comes to this. We will follow the medical advice. We will continue to ramp up production here in Australia. And we will continue to move through the distribution channels that can deliver the supply of vaccines that we have.”

Overnight, a senior official at the European Medicines Agency confirmed a link between the jab and rare blood clots, and said a more definitive statement would be made this week.

Dozens of cases of clotting have been reported worldwide since the vaccine was rolled out. Seven people have died from blood clot complications in the UK, as well as two in Norway and one in Denmark.

Oxford University has now halted its trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine on children and teenagers while the regulator in the UK urgently investigates the blood clot risk.

The AstraZeneca shot is Australia’s main vaccine, comprising almost all of the doses purchased by the Federal Government – 50 million of which will be produced locally by CSL.

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said that while the blood clot cases were extremely rare, Australian officials were working closely with overseas counterparts to assess the risks.

“I just want to mention the issue in relation to vaccine safety,” Professor Murphy said.

“There has been some attention related to this issue with clots potentially associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, and clearly there’s been the reports of a possible case in Australia.

“One case is not a strong signal, but we are working very closely with our counterparts in UK who have now done well over 18 million doses of this vaccine, and in Europe that have done many millions, to look at the data that they’re getting from their signals and their regulatory bodies and their vaccine advisory committees, and that’s what’s going to give us the true picture of whether this is a real problem and whether it has any significance.

“So our expert advisory panels, the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration), ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation), are meeting regularly this week. We’re having joint meetings with the Europeans and with the UK regulators and we are taking this matter very seriously at the moment. Our regulator and our ATAGI are advising we continue with our program, that the benefit of vaccination outweighs any potential risk. But we are continually reviewing the situation.”

It comes after a war of words erupted overnight between Australia and Europe over COVID-19 vaccines, with the PM saying millions of vaccine doses ordered by Australia simply “did not turn up”.

“Three-point-one million of the contracted vaccines that we had been relying upon in early January when we’d set out a series of targets did not turn up in Australia,” Mr Morrison said.

“That is just a simple fact. It’s straightforward maths – 3.1 million out of 3.8 million doses did not come to Australia.

“That obviously had a very significant impact on the early rollout of the vaccination program until we got into a position when the domestically produced AstraZeneca vaccine would be in place.”

The Morrison Government has sought to blame the European Commission for a shortfall in Australia of millions of vaccines as criticism mounts over the speed of the rollout at home but the PM diplomatically insisted at his press conference he had not directly criticised Europe.

This was despite a government spokesman accusing Europe of “playing semantics” over claims it had not blocked vaccines.

Back in January, the PM predicted that four million Australians would be vaccinated by the end of March, but two months later only about 855,000 people have received the jab as of April 5.



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Six nations we may soon be able to fly to


Australians may be able to travel to some Asian and Pacific destinations without quarantining by August, as the government looks to open the border to more countries.

Singapore could be the first destination outside of New Zealand to be included in the bubble, within months, as immigration and health authorities look to lift restrictions to the southeast Asian nation within months.

After Singapore, Australia is looking to establish quarantine-free travel with other Asian and Pacific countries with low rates of transmission from around August.

This could include nations such as Fiji, Vietnam and Thailand, and eventually Japan and South Korea. Mainland China is also an option, despite diplomatic tensions with Australia.

However, South Korea is averaging around 500 cases a day and Japan is now averaging around 2400 cases a day, so whether they will meet the requirements to re-open to Australia remains to be seen.

It comes after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave the trans-Tasman bubble the green light after more than a year of closed international borders with Australia.

Ms Ardern said the two-way quarantine-free travel corridor across the ditch will start at 11.59pm April 18, with major airlines – including Air NZ and Qantas – able to take bookings from April 19.

When pressed over which countries might be next to join a travel bubble, Mr Morrison said Australia was “not in a position to move forward”.

He said wouldn’t speculate on the likelihood of opening international borders as it wouldn’t be “fair”, despite Australia’s vaccine rollout.

“We are seeing populations around the world increasingly being vaccinated, but the important piece of information is that while we know, absolutely, that the vaccines that we’re using and that other countries are using are very effective in ensuring against serious disease, and protecting, obviously they can’t in all cases,” he said.

However, multiple senior government sources told the Sydney Morning Herald that Singapore would be the next priority for the government.

A potential spanner in the works though is Australia’s rate of vaccinations, as Singapore has indicated it will require “vaccination certificates” to resume quarantine-free travel.

Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung was asked in Singapore parliament this week about plans for travel bubbles and mentioned Australia, New Zealand and Brunei as leading candidates.

“We are exploring with several countries and regions, including Australia, on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates. The certificates can be physical or digital, and we will need them to be secure, tamper-proof and verifiable,” he said.

“However, vaccinations are only one aspect of pandemic control. Social distancing, contact tracing, quarantine and testing are also very important aspects which countries and regions have used to control the spread of COVID-19 virus even as vaccines become available.”

Mr Morrison said the bubble “is the first of many more steps to come”.

RELATED: Hundreds of flights to NZ scheduled with trans-Tasman bubble

RELATED: Why epidemiologist thinks international travel won’t be possible

“This is an important first step,” he said. “But as more of the world, and particularly more of our own country, is vaccinated, then obviously we can start moving to managing this virus a lot more like other viruses that we deal with in a more standard way.

“That’s our objective, but we’ll let the evidence lead us on that.

“And at this point, the evidence is not strong enough to give us a good pointer about when we will arrive at that point.

“Australia and New Zealand have led the way when it comes to managing COVID. We have ensured that both our countries have been, despite dealing with the virus, have not suffered the same types of virus impacts that we have seen in so many other countries around the world.”



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Australians won’t be flying anywhere except New Zealand


If you’re wondering when Australia could expand its border to other countries outside New Zealand, the prediction is grim.

The update comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed NZ’s announcement it will open its borders to Australians, quarantine free. It is the first time Australians will be allowed to travel overseas for tourism purposes in over a year.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the two-way quarantine-free travel corridor will start at 11.59pm April 18, with major airlines – including Air New Zealand and Qantas – able to take bookings from April 19.

Ms Ardern’s announcement comes almost six months after Australia opened up to New Zealand.

But when pressed over which countries might be next to join a travel bubble, Mr Morrison said Australia was “not in a position to move forward”.

Even Ms Ardern warned Aussies: “Flyer beware”.

RELATED: Hundreds of flights to NZ scheduled with trans-Tasman bubble

RELATED: Why epidemiologist thinks international travel won’t be possible

In February, Qantas and Jetstar announced they were planning to resume international flights to “most destinations” from October 31, 2021.

Most of Qantas’ international routes would resume on that date, including flights to London, Singapore and Los Angeles, the company said.

In January, Australia’s then-top health chief Brendan Murphy dashed hopes that the rollout of the vaccine will allow people to travel overseas this year, predicting borders will remain closed until 2022.

But there was talk Australia could open up to countries including Singapore or Hong Kong sooner rather than later.

In March, reports surfaced the Australian and Singapore governments were in talks to negotiate a travel bubble which could have been in affect by July at the earliest.

But Mr Morrison said on Tuesday the government had considered Singapore and Japan for a separate bubble — among other countries — and ruled out any such prospects.

“I can’t confirm what they are at this point, we are not in no position to be outlining where the next ones will be,” the Prime Minister said.

“These things are regularly assessed by the Chief Medical Officer and we have looked at places like Singapore and Japan and South Korea and countries like this, but at this stage we are not in a position to move forward on any of those at this point.”

He said he wouldn’t speculate on the likelihood of opening international borders as it wouldn’t be “fair”, despite Australia’s vaccine rollout.

“We are seeing populations around the world increasingly being vaccinated, but the important piece of information is that while we know, absolutely, that the vaccines that we’re using and that other countries are using are very effective in ensuring against serious disease, and protecting, obviously they can’t in all cases.

But there is hope. Despite the fact there in no timeline on when we might look towards that next big trip, Mr Morrison said the bubble “is the first of many more steps to come”.

“This is an important first step,” he said.

“But as more of the world, and particularly more of our own country, is vaccinated, then obviously we can start moving to managing this virus a lot more like other viruses that we deal with in a more standard way.

“That’s our objective, but we’ll let the evidence lead us on that.

“And at this point, the evidence is not strong enough to give us a good pointer about when we will arrive at that point.

“Australia and New Zealand have led the way when it comes to managing COVID. We have ensured that both our countries have been, despite dealing with the virus, have not suffered the same types of virus impacts that we have seen in so many other countries around the world.”

Qantas and Jetstar will restart flying to all of its New Zealand destinations when the bubble opens on April 18.

The two airlines will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman.

Air New Zealand said it would ramp up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports when the bubble begins.

Chief executive officer Greg Foran said the airline had been preparing for a trans-Tasman bubble for months, bringing stood-down crew back on board and ensuring airports and lounges were ready.



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Australia vaccine rollout slammed as ‘behind’ by Labor


Australia is falling well behind in the race to vaccinate its people against COVID-19, opposition health spokesman Mark Butler warns.

Labor has ramped up its attack on the federal government’s vaccine rollout, saying protection against different variants is being put at risk if people have not even received a jab.

More than 840,000 vaccines have been administered so far, with authorities forced to abandon their initial goal to inoculate four million Australians by the end of March due to supply shortages.

“We are way behind schedule here and it’s becoming very serious,” Mr Butler said on Tuesday.

“Although the Prime Minister said that this is not a race, it is a race.

“There is a time imperative in getting vaccinations into people’s arms.”

Mr Butler told ABC RN that the jabs were not only needed to build confidence and reopen the economy.

“We need to get the current generation of vaccines into people before we have to consider the possibility of booster shots,” he said.

“This virus is mutating. We’re seeing that with a range of different variants, now the dominant strains around the world.

“If we don’t get out skates on, we’re not going to be ready for those booster shots.”

Mr Butler has called on the commonwealth to agree to a push for large vaccination centres operated by state governments – something that is already earmarked for phase 2a of the vaccine rollout.

He also wants pharmacists to be brought on before June to assist the rollout.

“There is just not enough hands at the wheel,” Mr Butler said.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd previously said the international approach of vaccinations at sporting stadiums and churches was not necessary.

However, Professor Kidd on Tuesday said that was not being ruled out.

“We’re working with the states and territories on the additional sites,” he told ABC Breakfast.

“We’re told the Americans are delivering a million doses a day.

“Population wise, we’re actually delivering the equivalent of more than that here in Australia, and it is continuing to rise.”

The number of GP clinics offering vaccine services is due to double to 3000 by the end of this week.

Professor Kidd said health experts were “very concerned” about international reports of blood clots following the AstraZeneca vaccine and had held talks with European and UK drug regulators.

Australia is expected to receive more advice on Wednesday. But Professor Kidd said the benefits of the vaccine and its rollout “far outweighed the risks of this possible side effect”.

State and territory leaders will on Friday meet for national cabinet, where the vaccine rollout will be discussed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is understood to be supportive of daily vaccine data to be made public following calls from Queensland and NSW.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles on Monday hit back at vaccine rollout criticism directed at the states, accusing the government of trying to distract from allegations of rape and sexual harassment at Parliament House.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten told Today that the Morrison government was “embarrassed” by the time it was taking to roll out the vaccine.

“I also think that they have spent a lost time putting the boot into the Queensland government, and now the Queensland government returned fire and they don’t like it,” Mr Shorten said.

“At the end of the day Steven Miles has got a truth in what he says.”

Mr Shorten has called on the government to pay people penalties to work after hours and on weekends so vaccines can be administered around the clock.

“It’s time to treat the vaccination as a national emergency,” he said.



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