Australia news live: Scott Morrison to update on AstraZeneca Covid vaccine after health regulator meeting
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Morrison is noting that “we can still go about our lives here in Australia”, in contrast to many other countries.
Morrison confirms the advice from Atagi has been received. That’s the purpose of the press conference.
He says the government has “always based our decisions on the expert medical advice. It has not been our practice to jump at shadows.
Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt have stepped up.
As a pre-press conference primer, here is my colleague Daniel Hurst’s news story from earlier today.
Good evening everyone. This is Luke Henriques-Gomes.
We’re re-opening the blog to bring you prime minister Scott Morrison’s press conference, which is scheduled to begin at 7.15pm.
We’ll soon know more, but it is expected Morrison will be providing an update on the vaccine roll out.
As you would have read, Australian authorities met today to discuss fresh concerns raised by European regulators about the AstraZeneca vaccine causing blood clots.
Morrison said earlier today the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation would look at the evidence and weigh that “against the very positive benefits of the vaccine program”.
We’ll leave it there for today. Thanks for tuning in.
Here are today’s main developments.
Australian health regulatory authorities are examining findings of the British and European regulators over concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine causing blood clots. Overnight, a key UK government health committee recommended offering people under 30, considered at a higher risk of the rare blood clotting, the option to receive an alternative vaccine.
Members of parliament have been put on notice that there will be “consequences” for sexual harassment, as the government announces it will overhaul federal laws to try to stamp out sexual misconduct in Australian workplaces.
South Australian police have arrested a man for allegedly possessing an improvised explosive device while a second has been charged with the possession of extremist material during a series of raids across Adelaide targeting members of the far-right.
New Zealand has recorded a new Covid-19 case in a hotel quarantine worker and temporarily suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, for about two weeks. The recently announced travel bubble with Australia has not yet been affected.
New South Wales police have now taken a formal statement from a longtime friend of the woman who alleged she was raped by Christian Porter, but insist the investigation remains closed.
Scientists and environment groups are urging the government not to remove the humpback whale from Australia’s list of threatened species because of growing threats, including from the climate crisis.
The Liberal National MP Andrew Laming awarded a $550,000 grant to a rugby club with links to one of his staff members as part of the government’s controversial female sports facilities grants program.
Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart will kiss goodbye to the sunshine this weekend when a “polar blast” of icy air sends temperatures plummeting on Sunday, bringing rain, snow and even hail in some regions.
Thanks so much, and have a great evening. We’ll be back tomorrow.
A rabies-like virus that can kill humans has been discovered in South Australian bats.
SA Health has issued a warning to people heading outdoors to avoid any contact with bats, after it was confirmed that two recent exposures in the state last month involved bats carrying Australian Bat Lyssavirus.
The SA’s Department for Health and wellbeing’s communicable disease control branch director, Dr Louise Flood, said the latest exposures were the third time in SA that ABL had been confirmed in bats, with the first detected in 2012.
According to SA Health, if you are bitten or scratched by a bat, or come into contact with bat saliva, you should take immediate action by:• Cleaning the area with soap and water for at least five minutes• Applying antiseptic such as povidone-iodine• Contacting a doctor or hospital emergency department and commencing a course of post-exposure prophylaxis if necessary
Marise Payne was asked about the ongoing standoff with the European Union over the vaccine supply issues.
The foreign minister told Sky News the government was working with its European counterparts on the matter, particularly on the request for 1 million AstraZeneca doses to be made available for the purpose of assisting Papua New Guinea.
“Papua New Guinea is clearly at a point of crisis,” Payne said.
The minister said she was also aware that a number of non-government organisations were also trying to persuade the EU to clear the way for those vaccines to go to PNG.
Payne acknowledged that “it is a very difficult time internationally”, with many countries battling high numbers of Covid-19 infections and deaths – but she said PNG needed international support.
“We encourage the European Union to assist with the release of those vaccines.”
A spokesperson for the EU told Guardian Australia yesterday: “We confirm that the president of the European Commission has received a letter from the Australian prime minister on this topic and we will reply in due time.”
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid has backed up the safety of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine amid blood clotting concerns.
Asked about calls for alternatives, after moves in the United Kingdom to offer anyone under 30 an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Khorshid noted most younger Australians are not scheduled to start receiving their vaccine for some months.
Khorshid noted Australia’s order for 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, and said that while it could gain approval “hopefully in the second half of the year”, that vaccine was also encountering supply issues.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan believes Australians who are in the populations deemed vulnerable to blood clotting from the AstraZeneca vaccine should be offered an alternative vaccine.
Canavan, who noted he was “derided” when he called for Australia to pause its AstraZeneca vaccines several weeks ago when European countries halted their rollouts, told ABC News his government should seek to get vaccines from other sources.
His comments follow moves in the United Kingdom to offer anyone under 30 access to an alternative vaccine.
Earlier in the TV spot, he also called for former Australia Post chief Christine Holgate to be reinstated to her role, and said he supported Liberal MP Andrew Laming remaining in the LNP party room despite an Australian Electoral Commission investigation into running a network of Facebook pages, as well as allegations of abusing constituents.
The Australian government says it will not resile from raising human rights concerns as the foreign minister, Marise Payne, renewed her “deeply held concerns” over the situation in Xinjiang.
The comments follow yesterday’s two-hour-long press event at the residence of the Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, who said Beijing would respond “in kind” if Canberra followed other countries in imposing sanctions against its officials.
The Chinese embassy-arranged press event included a video conference with officials in Xinjiang who said the estimate that at least 1 million Uyghurs and members of other minority groups were in concentration camps was “fabrication” – but declined several requests to reveal a current figure.
In an interview with Sky News Australia this afternoon, Payne began by expressing support for democratic values of free speech and a free media, and noted that diplomats in Australia were able to avail themselves of that freedom.
“But we have been vey clear about our deeply held concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, particularly as it relates to forced labour, to re-education, to restrictions on freedom of religion, potential restrictions on reproductive rights, including forced sterilisations and also very credible reports of the systematic abuse and torture of women. These are matters we have raised at the highest levels … and we work closely with our international counterparts who share our concerns.”
Payne said the Australian government continued “to hold those concerns” and would continue to advocate for appropriate access to be granted to the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, to visit Xinjiang.
Xu Guixiang, an official in Xinjiang, said yesterday that officials would “warmly welcome” Bachelet “to come to Xinjiang for a real-time investigation”. But he did not respond directly to Guardian Australia’s question about whether any restrictions or conditions would be placed on Bachelet’s level of access, amid ongoing negotiations about the terms of the proposed trip.
Asked if Australia would follow the EU, UK, US and Canada in imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Payne noted that Australia did not have the same sorts of sanctions systems as those countries (such as Magnitsky-style laws), and did not currently have an autonomous sanctions regime in place for China.
“But we have been very consistent and very clear in raising our concerns.”
Asked about the Cheng’s comment about China not swallowing “the bitter pill” of interference in its internal affairs, Payne said she had not had the opportunity to watch yesterday’s entire conference, but Australia would not resile from raising concerns.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions is concerned the Morrison government’s announcement on sex discrimination law reforms don’t go far enough to protect women in the workplace.
ACTU president Michele O’Neil was asked by ABC News about the changes, announced today as a response to the Respect@Work report’s recommendations made by sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins in March 2020, and said:
O’Neil also accused the government of failing to agree to a recommendation that would give the commissioner the right to instigate her own inquiries and investigations.
Stoker was also asked about Grace Tame’s criticism of her appointment as assistant minister for women last week.
Stoker said she sent Tame “a note that very day asking to meet her for tea. Anywhere she likes. We’ll find a mutually agreeable time.”
“Sadly I haven’t heard back. I’m not really concerned about this as far as sledging me goes,” Stoker said.
You can read more about what Tame said about Stoker last week here:
Liberal National senator for Queensland Amanda Stoker has just been speaking to ABC News about the amendments to the sex discrimination law the Morrison government announced today.
She dodged a question about whether she believes gender-based violence is driven by gender inequality, instead linking the issue to equality of opportunity.
Stoker, who was criticised by Australian of the Year Grace Tame last week after she was appointed as the new assistant minister for women, was defending the government’s response to the Respect@Work report and recommendations made by Kate Jenkins in March 2020. The government responded to the recommendations earlier today.
Asked by host Matt Wordsworth if she agreed with recommendation 6, that governments recognise sexual harassment is driven by gender inequality and is a form of gender-based violence, this exchange occurred:
Stoker: “I think it’s very clear on the face of the report that we agree that sexual harassment is absolutely wrong.”
Wordsworth: “But is it driven by gender inequality?”
Stoker: “We say equality of opportunity is absolutely important as between men and women so I don’t think there’s any divergence there.”
Wordsworth: “There is a difference there though, isn’t there?”
Stoker: “Not wildly, no. When we say that there is inequality on one hand, to say we believe in equality of opportunity is the flipside of the same coin.”