Exclusive: A leaked government database shows hospital transmission is key to Victoria’s recent Covid-19 cases, as new concerns are raised about access to protective equipment.Hospitals have become a key risk area in this phase of the pandemic. Staff at some of these hospitals have not been told about the transmissions happening in their workplaces and are not being offered extra protection.
Federal water minister Keith Pitt will today announce the end of water buybacks from irrigators, and release a report that finds the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will fail to meet a recovery deadline. Buybacks, which conservation groups have described as the “cheapest, quickest and most efficient” way to improve the river system’s health, will be replaced with “off-farm” projects such as upgrading irrigation infrastructure to improve water efficiency. About two-thirds of water recovered under the plan has been purchased from irrigators. Pitt will also strip the Murray-Darling Basin Authority of its enforcement role and hand it to the inspector-general of water resources. He will publicly release two independent reports, one on the social and economic impacts of the Basin Plan, which recommended recovery efforts should be slowed to match “the capacity of communities to cope”. The other, focused on the river system’s health, finds plans to recover 450 gigalitres by June 30, 2024 are falling short.
The national cabinet meeting hosted by Prime Minister Scott Morrison with premiers and chief ministers will today discuss definitions for Covid-19 hotspots in the states and territories, as the federal government pushes to relax cross-border travel. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described Queensland’s new benchmark of 28 days of no community transmission in NSW before removing its border controls as “a pretty tall order”. States will also be urged to back a national agricultural code to ensure Australia’s food production is not jeopardised by border closures. A panel of state and federal health officers rejected the code earlier in the week.
A federal inquiry will in the coming weeks look into copyright issues surrounding use of the Aboriginal flag. After a motion in the Senate passed on Thursday, a committee will seek to establish who is financially benefiting from the existing arrangements, and the options the federal government has to “enable the flag to be freely used by the Australian community”. The motion, passed in the Senate on Thursday, follows criticism of non-indigenous company WAM Clothing, which has sent cease and desist letters for usage of the flag on clothing without paying royalties. The company is one of three licensees for the flag chosen by flag designer and Luritja artist Harold Thomas.
Queensland veterinarian Lukas Orda has been named as one of two Australians missing after a livestock ship navigating through Typhoon Maysak went missing in the East China Sea. Rescuers are still searching for the ship, which had 43 crew members and 5867 cattle on board. Rescued seaman Sareno Edvardo, a Filipino chief officer, was found wearing a life vest and drifting in the waters. He said the ship sank in rough weather. The ship sent a distress call early on Wednesday. New Zealand, where the cattle were loaded on the ship for a journey to China, has suspended live exports in reaction to the tragedy.