Australia news LIVE: Alan Tudge steps down amid investigation into abuse allegations; NSW Omicron COVID cases grow; Victoria pandemic bill passes

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Key posts

  • Don’t let the ‘bad things’ in Parliament overshadow progress, former Labor treasurer says
  • Authorities suspect child caught Omicron on flight to Sydney as NSW’s eighth case confirmed
  • Victorian Premier hints at end to rules locking out unvaccinated
  • PM sidelines Tudge amid abuse claim as Hunt quits
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Woolworths, Priceline among NSW’s latest Omicron exposure sites

As mentioned earlier this morning, there are now eight confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in NSW.

In case you missed it, the latest public exposure sites include:

  • The Vodafone store at Chatswood Westfield on Wednesday, November 24 from 12.25pm to 12.40pm AEDT;
  • The Chatswood Centrelink and Medicare branches on the same day but from 1pm to 2.30pm;
  • Priceline at Chatswood Interchange on the same day from 1pm to 1.10pm; and
  • The Chatswood Interchange Woolworths store (also for that Wednesday), between 1pm and 2.30pm.

Anyone who visited the above locations at the times listed is considered a casual contact.

That means you need to get tested for coronavirus and isolate until receiving a negative result.

Don’t let the ‘bad things’ in Parliament overshadow progress, former Labor treasurer says

Former federal Labor treasurer Wayne Swan was speaking on the Today show earlier this morning.

As David Crowe reports, it was a busy day in Canberra yesterday for the last parliamentary sitting day of the year.

Alan Tudge stood aside as education minister amid abuse claims (which he denies). And Health Minister Greg Hunt announced he would be leaving federal politics a day after former cabinet minister Christian Porter said he won’t contest the next election.

Some TV networks have described yesterday’s sitting day as “chaos”. But Mr Swan said it’s important to think of the bigger picture.

One of the big improvements that’s taken place in the Parliament that gets lost in all this has been over the last 25 years – for largely the period I was in Parliament – the number of women in Parliament were just a handful when I first went there.

On our side of politics, it’s now almost half our parliamentary caucus.

While we are seeing some of the bad things that have happened in Parliament, there have been some changes for the better. And making sure that women in the workforce as well as in the Parliament are treated with respect is a very big public policy issue.

I think this will figure quite prominently in [next year’s federal election] campaign. I think Labor is certainly well-placed in terms of the election.

The Today show is broadcast by Nine (the owner of this masthead).

Authorities suspect child caught Omicron on flight to Sydney as NSW’s eighth case confirmed

A child who has been living in Sydney’s north shore for the past week has been confirmed as a case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, casting doubts over the usefulness of NSW’s two-tiered quarantine system for international arrivals.

NSW Health says it is “concerned” transmission of the variant may have occurred on board flight QR908 from Doha on Tuesday, November 23, as the child – whose parents are also COVID-positive – had not spent time in southern Africa.

A child who visited a number of shops at Chatswood has tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Meanwhile, a passenger on Sunday’s Singapore Airlines flight SQ231, who had recently been in southern Africa, also tested positive to the new coronavirus variant yesterday, bringing the total number of Omicron cases in NSW to eight.

Anyone who was on either flight is considered a close contact of a COVID-19 case and must get a PCR test and self-isolate while waiting for further health advice.

The total number of Omicron cases detected in Australia to date stands at nine (a case was detected at the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory earlier this week). While it’s early days, authorities suspect the new variant is as or more infectious as Delta – although possibly less severe.

Read more about the situation in NSW here.

Victorian Premier hints at end to rules locking out unvaccinated

The Victorian government has given its clearest indication yet of the criteria it will use to scrap controversial vaccine mandates as criticism grows of rules forcing people to prove their vaccination status in shops and other settings.

Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said the rules could change in the next few weeks, but only after health authorities assess the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for children aged between five and 11 and Australia’s booster program.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews earlier this week. Credit:Chris Hopkins

It is the first time the Victorian government has laid out elements of what the abolition of mandates is contingent upon, and comes just days after a worker at a popular bookstore who was checking the vaccination status of customers was allegedly pushed down the escalators by a shopper who refused to check in using a QR code.

Public health experts previously urged authorities to end the lockout of unvaccinated people when inoculation rates topped 90 per cent, arguing that level of coverage would be enough to protect the state from any increased transmission.

Around 91 per cent of Victorian residents aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

More on Victoria’s road map here.

PM sidelines Tudge amid abuse claim as Hunt quits

A political storm over the treatment of women forced Prime Minister Scott Morrison to sideline Education Minister Alan Tudge on the final day of Parliament for the year, as the government struggled to gain ground on key bills ahead of the next election.

Mr Morrison yesterday ordered an inquiry into Mr Tudge and asked him to stand aside after the minister’s former press secretary, Rachelle Miller, went public with new claims that he was abusive when they had an affair that led her to leave his office.

Education Minister Alan Tudge has rejected his former staffer Rachelle Miller’s account of their affair.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

While Mr Tudge said he “completely and utterly” rejected the claims, the dispute heightened the political danger to the government over the treatment of women after Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins called on Tuesday for an overhaul of the culture in Parliament.

An election in March remains an option for the government after it ended Parliament for the year with Health Minister Greg Hunt announcing he would leave politics, one day after former cabinet minister Christian Porter said he would quit.

Mr Morrison has asked Employment Minister and close friend Stuart Robert to take on Mr Tudge’s duties while the inquiry proceeds, but there is no deadline for the review and the government may need to name new ministers before it seeks a fourth term in power.

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for reading our live coverage.

It’s Friday, December 3. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll bring you some of the morning’s biggest stories as they unfold.

Here’s what you need to know in the meantime.

  • NSW’s Omicron outbreak is expected to grow after two new cases were detected yesterday. This brings the total number of cases in NSW identified as the new coronavirus variant to eight. Nine Omicron cases have been identified in Australia to date (one case was detected at the Howard Spring quarantine facility in the Northern Territory earlier this week). NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has urged people not to worry about daily case numbers and instead focus on hospitalisation rates. NSW yesterday reported 271 new cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths (144 people were in hospital due to the virus and 24 of those were in intensive care). We’ll have today’s numbers around 9am AEDT.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.Credit:Edwina Pickles

  • Victoria’s new pandemic laws have passed the state’s upper house. Within a fortnight, the premier and health minister of the day will be given the power to declare a pandemic and issue health orders (not the chief health officer, as is currently the case). The NSW Premier and Health Minister already have those powers, but it makes Victoria the first jurisdiction in Australia to have pandemic-specific legislation. Some are concerned the laws give politicians too much power, while others say it’s better for pandemic powers to lie with politicians than unelected bureaucrats (as politicians can be held accountable at the ballot box). Victoria yesterday reported 1419 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Credit:Chris Hopkins

  • Alan Tudge has stepped down as federal education minister pending a review of his conduct at the request of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The decision comes after Mr Tudge’s former media adviser, Rachelle Miller, yesterday said the education minister was emotionally abuse and – on one occasion – physically abusive during a consensual affair in 2017. Mr Tudge denies the allegations. Meanwhile, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is retiring from politics to spend more time with his family.

Former Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller and Education Minister Alan Tudge.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

  • Elsewhere, Western Australia is closing its border with South Australia after the neighbouring state recorded 18 cases of COVID-19 yesterday. Most of those cases are linked to a school reunion that occurred over the weekend. And the ACT reported eight new cases of COVID-19 yesterday.
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