As it happened: NSW records 935 new local COVID-19 cases; four deaths as outdoor restrictions eased in south-west Sydney; Victoria records 567 new cases and one death, state’s road map sparks concerns

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As it happened: NSW records 935 new local COVID-19 cases; four deaths as outdoor restrictions eased in south-west Sydney; Victoria records 567 new cases and one death, state’s road map sparks concerns

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The day in review

By Michaela Whitbourn

Good evening and thank you for reading our live coverage of the day’s events. If you are just joining us now, here’s what you need to know:

  • The Victorian construction industry will be shut for two weeks from 11.59pm tonight following a violent anti-vaccination protest targeting the Melbourne headquarters of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union. Only select critical infrastructure works such as hospitals and some ongoing level crossing removal works, which require swift progress to reopen train lines, will continue during the shutdown. The Andrews government formally announced the two-week shutdown late on Monday night.
  • Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas said the decision had been driven by multiple coronavirus outbreaks linked to the industry, as well as “widespread non-compliance” with COVID-19 safety rules.
Police keep protesters away from the office of the CFMEU in Melbourne on Monday.

Police keep protesters away from the office of the CFMEU in Melbourne on Monday.Credit:Justin McManus

  • Riot police used rubber bullets to disperse the protest, which included the CFMEU offices being pelted with crates and bottles. The violent clash follows the Andrews government’s decision last week to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all workers in the construction industry. Workers will need to show evidence to their employer that they have had a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 11.59pm on Thursday. Limited exceptions apply. The mandate was opposed by the CFMEU, which is pro-vaccinations but believes workers should have a choice.
  • John Setka, the Victorian boss of the CFMEU, said only “a small percentage” of the protesters were union members and described the scenes as “absolutely disgusting”. He reiterated that the union was pro-vaccine but had never supported mandatory vaccinations. “I don’t know whether we’ve got to start giving them [the protesters] homework or whether they just don’t know how to read,” Mr Setka said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Moday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Moday.Credit:Edwina Pickles

  • NSW recorded 935 new local coronavirus cases, its lowest daily case figure since late August. Four people, aged between their 60s and their 80s, died overnight. Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned “we need to continue to brace ourselves for October being the worst month for the number of people who pass away and the number of people who need intensive care”. There are 1207 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, 236 of whom are in intensive care. Of those, 123 people require ventilation.
  • The town of Cowra, in NSW’s central west, re-entered lockdown at 5pm on Monday after a nine-year-old boy tested positive to COVID-19.
Redfern, home to a number of public housing towers, is among the new suburbs of concern to NSW health authorities.

Redfern, home to a number of public housing towers, is among the new suburbs of concern to NSW health authorities.Credit:Nick Moir

  • Health authorities are concerned about the transmission of the virus in some Sydney suburbs, including Waterloo and Redfern in the inner city. Residents of Greenacre, Guildford, Bankstown, Merrylands, Casula, Fairfield, the Wollongong and Central Coast regions are also urged to be vigilant for symptoms and come forward for testing.
  • From Monday, Sydney’s outdoor gathering rules became uniform across the city, with 12 local government areas of concern brought into line with the rest of Greater Sydney. Fully-vaccinated people can gather for outdoor recreation, including picnics, in groups of up to five if everyone aged 16 and over has received both jabs. Children aged 12 and under are not included in the total. Young teens between 13 and 15 are counted in the five-person maximum but don’t have to be vaccinated. NSW Health says everyone aged 16 and over “must have proof of vaccination or medical contra-indication form with them at all times”.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.Credit:Darrian Traynor

    • Victoria recorded 567 new, locally acquired cases of coronavirus, the highest daily total this year, and one death. A woman aged in her 70s from Moreland, in Melbourne’s north, died after acquiring the virus. There are 209 people in the state’s hospitals with COVID-19, 59 of whom are in intensive care. Of those in ICU, 40 are on a ventilator.
    • Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr both made comments earlier today suggesting that national cabinet had been informed of problems with the anticipated timing of supplies of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. But federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said at a press conference after those remarks that the supply issue had been resolved over the weekend. One million doses of the Moderna mRNA vaccine, which is similar to the Pfizer jab, have also arrived in Australia in recent days. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approved for people aged 12 and up. They are the preferred vaccines for people aged 16 to 59 years.
    The ACT will remain in lockdown until at least October 15.

    The ACT will remain in lockdown until at least October 15.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

    • The ACT recorded seven new COVID-19 cases overnight, only two of whom were confirmed as being in isolation for their entire infectious period. At least four spent part of their infectious period in the community and one remains under investigation, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said. The territory will remain in lockdown until at least October 15.
    Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

    Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk Credit:Matt Dennien

    • Sixty per cent of Queenslanders aged 16 and over have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says. On Monday, the state recorded zero community cases of COVID-19 and two cases detected in hotel quarantine. Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland had reached 59.77 per cent of people who had had a first dose of a vaccination “but we get the federal vaccination numbers in there about two days behind, so we’re confident we’ve clicked over that 60 per cent, which is wonderful”.

    Christian Porter during question time in June.

    Christian Porter during question time in June.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

    • Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says he expects Christian Porter will return one day to the frontbench, after the former minister resigned from cabinet yesterday over his failure to reveal the identity of anonymous donors who helped fund his since-settled defamation battle against the ABC. Mr Joyce, who quit the deputy prime ministership in 2018 and returned in June this year, said today that Mr Porter was “gone now, like so many of us in a period of our career, to the corridor of the nearly-dead” but “I’ll put money that we’ll see him back again”. Mr Joyce is acting as PM while Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits Washington for the first time since Joe Biden was elected US President.
    • The Labor Opposition has stepped up its attack on Mr Porter over the mystery donations. Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said: “Who provided this money? Is there any conflict of interest? Does anyone who provided money have contracts with the government? There are real reasons why members of Parliament have obligations to declare publicly any private interests that they receive.”

    This is Michaela Whitbourn signing off for tonight. Broede Carmody will be back early tomorrow morning.

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    ‘Heavy-handed’: Victoria’s building unions attack vaccination mandate

    By Ben Schneiders

    Victoria’s building unions have attacked as “heavy-handed” last week’s announcement by the Andrews government of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for construction workers, claiming it has driven people towards the anti-vaccination movement.

    The Victorian Building Industry Group of Unions, representing four major construction unions, said it opposed last week’s changes.

    “At that time, and following the announcement, we have strongly conveyed to the highest levels of government that these restrictions will be unworkable and too heavy-handed,” the combined union statement said.

    “We have pointed out that these hastily written restrictions will lead to discontent, anger, and division within the industry, and we will continue to campaign against them.

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    “We call on the Andrews Government, Chief Health Officer, and the Department of Health to come to a sensible return to work scenario that accommodates the reality of our industry and respects the workers who have built this city.”

    The group of unions said it maintains the construction industry “would have voluntarily reached high levels of vaccination without a heavy-handed approach.

    “This heavy-handed mandate by the Chief Health Officer, which was implemented with no notice, has only served to drive many people towards the anti-vax movement.”

    Under rules announced by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday, construction workers will need to be vaccinated if they want to keep working.

    Workers in the industry will need to show evidence to their employer that they have had a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 11.59pm on Thursday, September 23. Limited exceptions apply.

    The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, whose Melbourne offices were targeted by anti-vaccination protesters today, had previously said it supported vaccinations but did not endorse a mandatory approach.

    John Setka, Victorian boss of the CFMEU, condemned the protest today and said only a “small minority” of participants were union members.

    Melbourne home appliances store, Ballarat construction site among new COVID-19 exposure sites

    By Ashleigh McMillan

    A home appliances store in Melbourne’s western suburbs is Victoria’s latest tier-1 coronavirus exposure site, with new potential exposures listed across the state’s regional areas.

    Stan Cash Sunshine West has been listed as a tier-1 exposure site on September 13, 14 and 15 between 8.15am and 4.45pm on all days.

    New tier-1 sites include Creative Security Doors in Campbellfield which has been listed on September 10 between 7am and 1pm, DVS Kitchens in Craigieburn on September 10 between 6.30am and 1pm and LaBella Nails Stockland Wendouree Shopping Centre on September 11 between 12.45pm and 2.20pm.

    A Brunswick SUPA IGA has been listed as a tier-2 site on September 15, 16 and 17 at different times, but some individuals will be Tier 1 contacts required to quarantine for 14 days and the Department will contact them directly with this advice.

    Coles Pakenham Place Shopping Centre has been listed as a tier-2 site between September 14 and 18, with some contacts also considered primary close contacts who will have to quarantine for two weeks.

    Anyone who visits a tier-1 exposure site must get tested immediately for COVID-19 and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.

    As Victoria prepares to shut the construction industry for two weeks, not including key projects, Ballarat’s major development GovHub has also been listed as a tier-2 exposure site. Tier-2 contacts must get tested urgently for COVID-19 and isolate until they receive a negative result.

    A positive COVID-19 case also visited a number of venues in Ballarat’s suburbs.

    A positive COVID-19 case also visited a number of venues in Ballarat’s suburbs.Credit:Penny Stephens

    A positive case visited the construction site within the regional city’s centre on September 14 between 7.55am and 5.10pm.

    A positive case also visited a number of venues in Ballarat’s suburbs, with Woolworths in Lucas Shopping Centre, Delacombe Bunnings and ALDI in Alfredton all listed as potential sites of exposure by the Department of Health.

    Other tier-2 sites across regional Victoria include Woolworths in Koo Wee Rup, 63 kilometres south-east of Melbourne’s CBD, which was visited by a positive case on September 11 between 3.30pm and 4.05pm.

    The Grantville Waste Transfer & Recycling Centre in Glen Forbes, within the Bass Coast Shire, was listed as a tier-2 exposure site on September 11 between 10.20am and 11am.

    Bunnings stores in Wonthaggi and Traralgon were visited by a positive case on September 10 and September 15 respectively.

    More tier-2 sites were added late on Monday night though with some who attended at the times listed will be classified as tier-1 and be contacted by the Health Department.

    The sites are Al Siraat College in Epping on September 17 8.30am to 6pm, DS Autocare in Ravenhall on September 13-15 from 8am to 6pm, The Chocolate Box in Port Melbourne on September 14 and 15 from 9am to 4.30pm and Centreway Fish & Chips in Keilor East on September 15 from 4.30pm to 9.30pm and other sites at Mill Park, Craigieburn, Epping, Tullamarine and Campbellfield. Some individuals at these sites will be Tier 1 contacts required to quarantine for 14 days and the Department will contact them directly with this advice.

    The full list of exposure sites and times can be accessed on the Department of Health’s website.

    ‘Members of our union were attacked today’: CFMEU national boss hits back at Cash

    By Nick Bonyhady

    Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Dave Noonan has hit back at Attorney-General Michaelia Cash over her comments on a violent protest outside the union’s Melbourne headquarters, accusing her of using the attack to play petty politics.

    “Members of our union were attacked today, mostly by neo-Nazis and non-union members,” Mr Noonan said.

    CFMEU boss Dave Noonan.

    CFMEU boss Dave Noonan.Credit:Graham Tidy

    “If she could be bothered to pick up the phone or even check with the proper authorities in Victoria she would realise that her statements are factually completely incorrect,” Mr Noonan said.

    Union leaders, including Mr Noonan, concede there were some union members in the crowd but argue the vast majority were outsiders.

    “It would be better if she didn’t try and weaponise the behaviour of neo-fascists for cheap political points. It only encourages these lowlifes.”

    Earlier today, Senator Cash used the clashes to demand the Labor Party stop taking donations from the construction union.

    “Violence and thuggery have no place in the construction sector, whether it is on a building site or outside a union office,” said Senator Cash, who is also industrial relations minister.

    The protest follows the Andrews government’s decision last week to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for construction workers, who must show proof of a first dose to their employers by 11.59pm this Thursday.

    Senator Cash said the protests were “completely unacceptable” and “today’s violence from a number of their [CFMEU] members shows that Anthony Albanese needs to cut off the CFMEU once and for all.

    “Given their millions of dollars in donations to the ALP, it is imperative that Mr Albanese stops accepting their donations today.”

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    COVID-19 modelling about possibilities, not hard and fast predictions: epidemiologist

    By Rachel Clun

    There’s been a lot of talk about COVID-19 modelling recently.

    The Doherty Institute presented an update to their modelling to national cabinet on Friday, and NSW and Victoria have both been planning their paths out of current lockdowns.

    Professor James McCaw, a mathematical biologist from the Doherty Institute and the University of Melbourne said it was important to consider that any modelling, whether it be from the Doherty Institute or the Burnet Institute, was about possibilities rather than hard and fast predictions.

    Professor James McCaw.

    Professor James McCaw.

    “Over a period of beyond about a month, epidemiological modelling is really giving you a list of possibilities and scenarios, as opposed to predictive forecasts in the sense of like a weather forecast where we are making a quantitative prediction,” he said in a media briefing earlier today.

    Professor McCaw said the country and individual jurisdictions have been responsive to the pandemic, and any changes in responses will alter any forecast case numbers or hospitalisation and death rates.

    “I would hope that governments would respond to manage that epidemic in a way that kept hospitals within capacity and minimised the number of infections and cases and hospitalisations and deaths into the future,” he said.

    “It’s very important with any of the modelling that’s out there, including from us, that it’s always seen as a scenario. There’s only a few bits of work over a very short horizon period, to what should be considered as a quantitative forecast.”

    Attorney-General uses CFMEU clash to demand Labor reject donations from union

    By Nick Bonyhady

    Federal Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has lashed the violent protests outside the CFMEU’s Melbourne office today and used the clashes to demand the Labor Party stop taking donations from the construction union.

    “Violence and thuggery have no place in the construction sector, whether it is on a building site or outside a union office,” said Senator Cash, who is also industrial relations minister.

    Attorney-General Michaelia Cash.

    Attorney-General Michaelia Cash.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

    Victorian CFMEU boss John Setka and Australia’s chief unionist, Sally McManus, have both said the vast majority of protestors were not union members but far-right extremists and people whipped up by anti-vaccination activists.

    The protest follows the Andrews government’s decision last week to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for construction workers, who must show proof of a first dose to their employers by 11.59pm this Thursday.

    But Senator Cash said the protests were “completely unacceptable” and “today’s violence from a number of their [CFMEU] members shows that Anthony Albanese needs to cut off the CFMEU once and for all.

    “Given their millions of dollars in donations to the ALP, it is imperative that Mr Albanese stops accepting their donations today.

    “Vaccines are safe, free and effective. They remain our only pathway to more freedoms and re-opening Australia’s economy.”

    Senator Cash said the Morrison government’s position was clear and “we strongly recommend that everyone gets vaccinated as soon as they can”.

    Victorian government to announce two-week closure of construction industry

    By Paul Sakkal

    The construction industry in Victoria will be shut down for two weeks, The Age has confirmed.

    Three industry and union stakeholders have been told the Andrews government will announce the closure on Monday night after a day of violent protests outside the CFMEU’s head office in Melbourne.

    Only select critical infrastructure works such as hospitals and some ongoing level crossing removal works, which require swift progress to reopen train lines, will continue during the shutdown.

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    Only a ‘small percentage’ of protesters are CFMEU members, Victorian union boss says

    By Nick Bonyhady

    Here’s John Setka, the Victorian boss of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, giving his take on the identity of the protestors who pelted the union’s Melbourne headquarters with bottles and crates:

    There’s a small percentage of union members. The others aren’t unionists at all and unionists don’t act that way, to be quite honest.

    They’ve been hijacked. You know, why the CFMEU office? I don’t know, it’s beyond me why they picked on us. But absolutely disgusting. You’ve got a whole heap of these people, they’re just professional protesters.

    While I defend the right of people to protest about something and have your say on it, that’s what democracy is all about. Let me tell you, it is just targeted at us for whatever reason, I mean we have kept people safe. We have kept our members in work.

    We have tried to do everything we can to keep our members working and making them work safely, and then you get a bunch of morons like these who’ve got nowhere else to go, come to the CFMEU office. You know, desecrate the front of the office. Union members pay for this office. This is their office.

    ‘Absolutely disgusting’: Victorian CFMEU boss slams protesters

    By Nick Bonyhady and Paul Sakkal

    Victorian Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) boss John Setka has excoriated anti-vaccination activists who attacked the union’s Melbourne headquarters on Monday, saying staff and members had been hit with projectiles in their eyes and been injured.

    “For me, that was just absolutely disgusting,” Mr Setka said on Triple J.

    As of 5.47pm AEST, most protesters had left the scene after riot police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

    CFMEU boss John Setka talks to construction workers before clashes broke out on Monday.

    CFMEU boss John Setka talks to construction workers before clashes broke out on Monday.Credit:AAP

    Mr Setka made clear the union was pro-vaccine but respected the “legitimate concerns” of people opposed to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The union did not support mandatory jabs, he said.

    “I don’t know whether we’ve got to start giving them homework or whether they just don’t know how to read,” Mr Setka said of people who were attacking the union over its vaccine stance.

    He was speaking to Triple J from the union’s Melbourne office, which had its doors and windows smashed in and is now protected by a police cordon.

    Mr Setka said there were only a small percentage of union members in the crowd but others were “morons” and professional protesters.

    “Why the CFMEU office, it’s beyond me,” he said.

    Mr Setka said last week that while he and other industry leaders were “all for vaccination”, workers should have a choice.

    “I think we have to respect that and I’d rather have the conversation with people and talk them around and dispel the myths,” he said.

    The Andrews government subsequently mandated vaccinations for the sector.

    Porter should disclose identity of donors, South Australian senator says

    By Michaela Whitbourn

    Independent senator Rex Patrick has joined the Labor opposition in calling on former Morrison government minister Christian Porter to disclose the identity of anonymous donors who helped fund his since-settled defamation case against the ABC.

    Mr Porter, then industry minister, disclosed last week that he had used a structure he described as a blind trust to receive and administer donations from anonymous benefactors to help pay his legal bills.

    He said at the time he had “no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust”.

    Independent Senator Rex Patrick.

    Independent Senator Rex Patrick.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

    After he resigned from the ministry on Sunday, Mr Porter released a statement saying that “whilst I have no right of access to the funding or the conduct of the trust, on my request the trustee provided me an assurance that none of the contributors were lobbyists or prohibited foreign entities”.

    Mr Porter said donors had “contributed to a trust on the basis of confidentiality and a belief that their contribution would remain confidential”.

    “No doubt the desire of some, possibly many, of those contributors to remain anonymous was driven by a natural desire to avoid the inevitable fact that for supporting me, the trial by mob would inevitably turn on them if they were identified,” he said.

    Mr Porter withdrew his defamation action against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan earlier this year after the parties reached a settlement.

    Speaking to the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas this afternoon, Senator Patrick said:

    He has an obligation to the people of Australia [to reveal the donors]; it’s an awful precedent that an MP can receive a blind contribution, any MP could potentially receive that, and I don’t think that is something the Australian public would accept in any way, shape or form.

    Ultimately, if Christian Porter doesn’t want to disclose, the matter falls back to the Prime Minister who is the leader of the Liberal Party and ultimately he would have the ability to do something. Failing that, if the Prime Minister can’t lead or show leadership on this, it’ll be a matter for the people of [Mr Porter’s WA electorate of] Pearce.

    Asked whether a backbencher had different disclosure obligations to a minister, Senator Patrick said it was a “subtly different test”.

    Former Industry Minister Christian Porter.

    Former Industry Minister Christian Porter.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

    “As a minister you can’t accept gifts and [that’s] the fundamental problem with what he did as the industry minister,” he said.

    “But for an MP, there is still a requirement to disclose donations or anything that might give [rise] to a concern about conflict of interest. [Voters] have a right to know about any cause of conflict of interest ... the public have the right to know. And it’s incumbent upon Mr Porter now to disclose the benefit ... and assistance.”

    Mr Porter has maintained he did not believe he had breached ministerial standards and would not step down from his seat. He has nominated for preselection as the Liberal candidate for Pearce at the next federal election.

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