The European Union has denied claims made by the Morrison government that it blocked the export of 3.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Australia. While defending missed vaccine targets on Tuesday, Morrison claimed that the major AstraZeneca shipment had been blocked, while Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said “we were three million short by the EU. They cut us short.” European Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer responded that the only request that had been denied was the highly publicised 250,000 doses from Italy last month. Locally produced vaccines have also been delayed, as news.com.au reports only 832,200 doses have been distributed with a further 2.5 million doses stuck in cold storage as AstraZeneca undertakes batch testing in Europe. It comes as Guardian Australia reports that residential disability care providers who were supposed to have received doses by now are circumventing the federal government’s system and approaching general practitioners directly to secure supplies for vulnerable residents.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Tuesday that a trans-Tasman travel bubble will open up from 11.59pm on April 18 Wellington time (9.59pm AEST). Air New Zealand and Qantas both plan to ramp up flights on April 19, with Virgin Australia to hold off until September due to uncertainty over “evolving border requirements”. Travellers have been warned to factor in the possibility of travel disruptions before buying tickets to New Zealand. Immigration and health authorities are next exploring plans to open up to Singapore within months, followed by other nations with low Covid numbers such as Fiji, Vietnam and Thailand. Australia’s slow rate of vaccinations may be an issue as Singapore has indicated it will require vaccination certificates to resume quarantine-free travel.
Labor charities spokesperson Andrew Leigh has called for a parliamentary investigation into Scientology, expressing concerns about its “unprecedented” wealth and shifting of assets into Australia. He threw his support behind the Greens push for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to investigate Scientology, and also flagged the potential for a federal parliamentary committee to conduct its own inquiry. It comes after The Age reported that the Church of Scientology had shifted tens of millions of dollars into Australia from offshore and had made $65.4 million in tax-free net profits since 2013. The Church of Scientology Australia described the story as fake news and said all its funds are derived “from the substantial contributions of parishioners. All funds are used to further the churches’ religious and humanitarian mission.”
Aboriginal actors Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt have detailed allegations of racism while working on the set of Neighbours. Clanton said in an Instagram post it had been “lonely, triggering and traumatising to work in such a culturally unsafe place”. She highlighted instances of a white actor calling another actor of colour a “lil' monkey” and two instances where the “n-word” was openly used. Wyatt, who was a cast member between 2014 and 2016, echoed Clanton’s concerns, saying he had walked in on a conversation in which a racial slur was used.