What we learned today, Tuesday 17 August
That is where we will leave the live blog for Tuesday.
Here’s what made the news today:
NSW recorded 452 cases of Covid-19, and the death of a woman in her 70s. The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has warned the state should brace for a substantial rise in cases in coming weeks.
Fourteen ADF teams will be sent to Dubbo in western NSW amid rising concern about coronavirus infections in Indigenous communities.
Victoria reported 24 local cases, with 14 of those in quarantine during their infectious period. Four of the cases were linked to an illegal Caulfield North engagement party, with the total number of infections linked to the event at six.
The ACT reported 17 new local cases.
The Northern Territory reported no new cases on the second day of a three-day lockdown.
Queensland recorded one new case, who was in isolation while infectious.
New Zealand will lock down for three days after one case of community transmission was reported in Auckland. The Auckland lockdown will last seven days.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said it was a day of deep sadness for veterans of the Afghanistan war, as Australia seeks to secure the evacuation of Australians and allies on the ground. Afghan nationals in Australia will also not be forced back to Afghanistan while the security situation is dire.
Morrison has yet to decide whether the next sitting fortnight of parliament from Monday will go ahead.
15.6m doses of the vaccine have now been administered in Australia, including a record 279,485 on Monday.
Until tomorrow, stay safe.
at 5.08am EDT
Australia’s former deputy chief medical officer making some pointed comments directed at Victoria, I believe.
Dr. Nick Coatsworth
Amazing how certain among us can unpick the effects of mandatory outdoor mask wearing from a bundle of interventions and then be incapable of unpicking the effect of a curfew from the same bundle. Now that is science at work #auspol #covid19 #GetVaccinatedNow #eightypercent
August 17, 2021
at 4.50am EDT
Here’s a bit more on the cancellation of public transport night services on Friday and Saturday in Melbourne during curfew, via AAP.
Melburnians are currently banned from leaving their homes between 9pm and 5am under the extended sixth lockdown.
From this weekend, public transport will not run in the city between 1am and 5am on Saturday, and between 1am and 6am on Sunday, for the next two weeks to stop the spread of coronavirus and support Melbourne’s tightened lockdown.
However, it is unclear what this will mean for the city’s essential workers, with some relying on late night transport to get to work.
A state government spokeswoman said the normal timetable would continue to run “at all other times to ensure essential workers and those who must travel for a permitted reason can get where they need to go”.
“We’ve made sure the community is aware of these changes as early as possible – and we thank all Victorians for the part they’re playing to keep our community safe,” she said.
at 4.22am EDT
Sydney man jailed for breaching public health order
A “naive” south-western Sydney man who travelled more than 800km in breach of Covid-19 restrictions has been jailed, AAP reports.
Trong Duc Nguyen, 31, was arrested at Armidale railway station on Sunday after getting off a bus from Tenterfield.
The Cabramatta man had travelled from his home in the Fairfield local government area to the northern tablelands earlier that week by train via Newcastle.
His trip – which brought him within 20km of the Queensland border – was uncovered by police conducting daily checks on public transport passengers at Armidale.
The former personal trainer faced an Armidale court on Monday and pleaded guilty to breaching the public health order concerning travelling outside metropolitan Sydney.
The magistrate Roger Prowse immediately sentenced the Sydney man to two months in prison.
“He has been sentenced purely on breaching that public health act,” the NSW police acting Superintendent David Cooper said on Tuesday.
“That, to me, indicates the level of seriousness of the matter.”
Solicitor Peter Kemp denied his client acted out of malice but noted people in regional areas were “petrified” of catching Covid.
“(The behaviour) was not arrogant, it was not done maliciously,” he told AAP on Tuesday. “My client was quite naive and is sorry for what he did.”
The Fairfield local government area is a focal point of Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak and the suburb of Cabramatta had 117 active cases on Tuesday, making it one of the most highly concentrated coronavirus postcodes in Sydney.
Armidale was placed into lockdown on 7 August after two cases were recorded in the community.
Two further cases have since been reported.
at 4.23am EDT
Just a minor correction on the New Zealand case – he was tested yesterday, not Saturday. The rest of the information regarding infectious period is correct.
at 4.24am EDT
The independent senator Jacqui Lambie says she will seek to set up a Senate inquiry into Australia’s role in Afghanistan when parliament returns:
We might be withdrawing our troops now, but who knows what’s going to happen down the track? We need to know what went wrong so we don’t keep repeating the same mistakes as the past.
Australia has been at war for 20 years, and in a matter of days we’re back to square one. We need to figure out how the choices we made got us to this point. We have to stop anything like this from happening again in the future.
She said Afghanistan vets were hurting today:
They’ve been through a lot of pain, a lot of work, to see the country they tried to save crumble to pieces. To those of you who are struggling with a lot of grief and disappointment right now: what’s happening is not your fault.
The ideals that you fought for were the right ideals. You fought to send girls to school. You fought to stamp out terrorism. You fought to give Afghanistan a democratic government. As Australian soldiers, you did what you were supposed to do. This failure does not rest on your shoulders.
Politicians are the ones who made the wrong calls in this war, time and time again.
at 3.43am EDT
Tasmania to reopen to Queensland
Tasmania is lifting border restrictions with Queensland but much of Australia’s mainland could remain shut out for some time, AAP reports.
The high-risk declarations for south-east Queensland and Cairns will no longer be in place from midnight on Tuesday, the Tasmanian premier, Peter Gutwein, says.
People who have visited select high-risk venues in Queensland will still not be allowed entry.
Gutwein says a border closure with NSW will stay in place for the foreseeable future, while the travel ban on Victoria could be in place for up to a month.
The ACT and people who have been in Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory are also on Tasmania’s banned list amid coronavirus outbreaks.
“While we have no cases in Tasmania, we remain under constant threat,” Gutwein said.
Under the state’s high-risk border declarations, only essential workers and returning residents are allowed to enter, if they are granted a G2G pass.
Gutwein says those specific arrivals would now have to produce a negative Covid test before departing for Tasmania.
Tasmania has recorded just one case this year, a NSW traveller who tested positive earlier this month while in quarantine.
The state has handed out a handful of fines in recent times for people arriving in defiance of travel bans – a woman in her 70s was slugged $1,557 after coming from NSW.
“If you don’t follow the rules, we will catch you. You will be fined. If you come from a high-risk jurisdiction, you will be turned around,” Gutwein said.
The state’s public health director, Mark Veitch, says anyone driving through NSW to reach Tasmania will be considered high-risk and not allowed entry.
at 3.30am EDT
For those in northern Sydney in lockdown but seeing some smoke outside.
Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales
Smoke over northern Sydney this afternoon is from a hazard reduction burn near Maroota on the Hawkesbury. This smoke isn’t expected to affect the Sydney Metro but may affect the Central Coast and northern parts of Greater Sydney near the Hawkesbury: https://t.co/C5AFEP5iFm pic.twitter.com/Yr9GKlIdep
August 17, 2021
BHP confirms plans to merge oil and gas assets with Woodside
BHP has announced a 42% increase in profit off the back of high iron ore prices and confirmed it plans to merge its oil and gas assets with Woodside Petroleum.
The company says profit after tax rose to US$11.3bn and it will pay a record final dividend of US$2 a share.
It also plans to ditch its current structure, where separate UK and Australian companies operating together make up the group, in favour of a single, Australian company. However, it plans to retain its listing on the London stock exchange.
And it’s taken a US$1.2bn hit over the 2015 Samarco dam disaster, which continues to plague the miner.
Simplifying the company structure is to be done first, with the Woodside deal to follow, BHP says.
On the oil and gas spin out, BHP says it and Woodside “have entered into a merger commitment deed to combine their respective oil and gas portfolios by an all-stock merger”.
This will tip BHP’s $15-$20bn worth of oil and gas assets into the Woodside structure.
Once the deal is done “it is expected Woodside would be owned approximately 52% and 48% by existing Woodside and BHP shareholders respectively, and will remain listed on the Australian Securities Exchange”, BHP said.
“It will give our shareholders greater choice about how to weight their exposure to the different investment propositions of BHP and Petroleum via Woodside.”
(This is code for meaning that long-term investors who have any kind of green investment principles will be able to dump the stock.)
at 3.13am EDT
Victoria is stopping late-night public transport on Fridays and Saturdays during the lockdown period with curfew.
To help stop the spread of coronavirus, late night public transport will not run on Fri & Sat nights while the curfew is in place.
If you can stay at home, you should stay at home.
If you are leaving home for 1 of the 5 permitted reasons, a mask must be worn.
August 17, 2021
Raises questions about how shift workers will get home if they don’t have a car …
at 2.55am EDT
‘We only get one chance,’ Ardern says as NZ goes into lockdown
New Zealand will go into a national lockdown after detecting one case of the Delta variant in the community today.
The entire country will be at alert level four – the country’s highest level of lockdown – for three days from midnight tonight, and the regions of Auckland and Coromandel for four to seven days.
This is likely the country’s first case of Delta in-community transmission.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said:
Delta has been called a game changer, and it is. It means we need to again go hard and early to stop the spread. We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance.
The case is a 58-year-old male from Devonport, Auckland. He was tested on Monday the 16th, and had symptoms from Saturday the 14th, so the infectious period was considered to have started Thursday 12th. The couple traveled to the Coromandel region on Friday, then returned to Auckland on the 15th. Locations of interest are available on the Ministry of Health’s website.
Ardern said that New Zealand would not know if the case was Delta until its genome was sequenced – but that the government would be working under that assumption that it was Delta until informed otherwise.
“That has shaped all of the decisions we have made,” she said.
“We’ve seen the dire consequences of taking too long to act in other countries, not least our neighbours,” she said.
at 3.51am EDT