Melbourne free at last

Melbourne residents erupted in cheers at 11:59pm on Thursday, with people flocking to pubs, restaurants and hairdressers to celebrate the reopening of the world’s most locked-down city.

What we know:

  • Docklands residents cheered and clapped on their balconies, in scenes likened to New Year’s Eve celebrations (The Age); 
  • People flocked to bars, restaurants and cafes, which can now serve 20 fully vaccinated patrons indoors and 50 outdoors;
  • Joey Scandizzo Salon in South Yarra offered a handful of customers a “golden ticket” for a free midnight makeover, with hairdressers and beauty salons now allowed up to five fully vaccinated customers;
  • Melburnians can also now have up to 10 people visit their homes each day, with the 15km travel limit and overnight curfew scrapped;
  • After more than 260 days under restrictions across the pandemic, Melbourne’s sixth lockdown was lifted after hitting the 70% double-vaccine target for people aged over 16;
  • Victoria is today expected to follow NSW’s move to scrap quarantine requirements for double-vaccinated travellers arriving from overseas as early as November 1 (ABC); 
  • A host of social distancing and capacity restrictions remain in place, with Victoria recording 2232 cases and 12 deaths on Thursday (Nine); 
  • The reopening could prove particularly stressful for the immunocompromised, with one Balinese restaurant in North Melbourne offering free deliveries to those most vulnerable to Covid-19 in a bid to keep its customers safe (SBS); 
  • AMA Victoria president Dr Roderick McRae controversially called for “Covid-deniers” and “anti-vaxxers” to opt out of care in the public health system if they catch the virus, to “let nature run its course” (The Guardian); 
  • The ACT has also eased restrictions significantly overnight, allowing shops to reopen after the Territory reached the 80% double dose vaccine milestone for over 12s (ABC). 
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Nats name net-zero price

Roughly half the Nationals party room has backed a list of demands in exchange for its support of a net zero by 2050 plan.

What we know:

  • In a Thursday night meeting, a divided Nationals party narrowly backed a proposal for a regional economic package in return for their support, which will now be considered by Prime Minister Scott Morrison;
  • Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce’s plan includes a socio-economic safety valve involving regular reviews of the impacts of net-zero emissions on regional communities (The Australian); 
  • Transition packages for regional mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors will be requested;
  • The proposal also calls for changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to enable farmers to engage in more land clearing (AFR); 
  • Joyce is reportedly hoping to secure support for a $3bn extension of the Gladstone inland rail project, which environmentalists warn would unlock a “carbon bomb” of nine new coalmines and 150m tonnes of annual emissions (The Guardian); 
  • It comes as leaked documents reveal Australia sought to remove references to coal lobbyists and recommendations to close coal plants from the latest IPCC climate report (BBC). 
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NSW corruption takes centre stage

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian was allegedly instrumental in securing a grant for a project being pushed by her secret boyfriend, while former state Labor minister Eddie Obeid was released minutes after being jailed over his own corruption scandal. 

What we know:

  • Public servants told a ICAC hearing that Berejiklian pushed for the revision of an unfavourable business case assessment for a $5.5m Wagga Wagga shooting club upgrade supported by MP Daryl Maguire, her boyfriend at the time (SBS); 
  • Berejiklian successfully pushed for the proposal’s benefit-to-cost ratio score of 0.88 to be revised above 1 – the minimum required to qualify;
  • It comes as former Labor NSW government minister Eddie Obeid was jailed over a corrupt coalmine deal, then released on bail minutes later over concerns the 77-year-old could get Covid-19 while behind bars (SMH); 
  • The Obeid family will keep $30m in proceeds of crime despite the jail sentence.
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AFL, supermarkets mandate Covid jabs

A range of employers have unveiled vaccine mandate policies, including the AFL and the major supermarkets.

The AFL will require “in general terms” all players and football program staff to be vaccinated before the start of the 2022 season (Fox Sports). 

AFL executive Andrew Dillon said a “small handful of players” who do not comply with the policy will be unable to attend their club or any AFL premises to either train or play.

It comes as supermarket chains Woolworths, Coles and ALDI also announced vaccine mandates for employees (Human Resources Director). 

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WA offers $1m to find four-year-old girl

Police have been swamped with hundreds of phone calls about sightings of “suspicious” people, after the WA government offered a $1m reward for information on the whereabouts of four-year-old girl Cleo Smith.

It is the equal biggest reward ever put forward in WA, with large rewards historically offered decades rather than days after an incident (Nine). 

More than 100 police, plus army reservists and volunteers have been deployed to find Smith, who was last seen on Saturday in a tent she was sleeping in with her parents at the Blowholes campsite north of Carnarvon. 

Investigators hold grave concerns for Cleo’s safety as they believe she would not have been able to reach the zip to leave the tent herself.

More than 38,000 missing person reports are received by Australian police each year, with about 2600 missing for more than three months.

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The government has been in office for nearly a decade, the Prime Minister is leaving for Glasgow a week from now, but he still doesn’t have any policy.

As the Nationals approve their list of demands to support a net zero target, Labor leader Anthony Albanese gently suggests that Prime Minister Scott Morrison might want to consider showing up to COP26 with some kind of climate plan (SMH).

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Postscript: A small town in Indiana is offering people a ‘Grandparents on Demand’ service to move there

The town, which is home to a population of about 12,000, plans to help remote workers with childcare through the “Grandparents on Demand” program. The service will pair new citizens with local senior citizens who will baby sit and act as a stand-in at students’ Grandparent’s Day free of charge (Business Insider). 

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.