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Chief medical officer Paul Kelly responds to AstraZeneca vaccine concerns


Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly has defended the decision to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine in the wake of concerns about its effectiveness.

Infectious diseases experts have joined medics in calling for authorities to halt the rollout in favour of coronavirus vaccines with higher efficacy rates to ensure herd immunity.

This follows results from several trials that showed that the Oxford University-AstraZeneca jab had an efficacy rate of between 62-90 per cent depending on the doses.

Professor Kelly said AstraZeneca vaccine was well above the World Health Organisation’s 50 per cent efficacy threshold.

“All of the three vaccines that have so far published their data in peer-viewed journals – AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – show a very significant effect against severe illness,” he said on Wednesday.

“They’re all good at protecting against severe illness and death. That’s why I say that lives will be saved by the AstraZeneca vaccine, I have no doubt about it.”

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He conceded he was troubled by what he called “selective” reporting over AstraZeneca’s efficacy, warning it could undermine confidence in the jab.

“Confidence is absolutely the most important thing, and that’s what worries me about the coverage we had today in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said.

“People will be nervous, of course. We need to give more information and we’re doing that. So I am worried about the selective use of the data that we have.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine by the end of January, with a rollout pencilled for mid to late February for five million Australians in priority groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to have completed the approval process in February.

Professor Kelly said the jab would prevent death and severe illness 100 per cent of the time, like the Pfizer vaccine.

He said both vaccines would only be rolled out if they had the full tick for safety, efficacy and production quality.

“The EU has also pre-purchased 400 million doses of AstraZeneca, the US has pre-purchased 300 million doses of AstraZeneca, and the UK 100 million doses of AstraZeneca. So we‘re not an outlier there,” he said.

The UK has already begun immunising people with the jab under emergency approvals.

Most Australians are expected to get the AstraZeneca vaccine because it can be made in Melbourne, unlike the Pfizer vaccine that has to be imported from overseas due to its mRNA technology.

Infectious diseases physician Professor Peter Collignon told Sunrise that the AstraZeneca vaccine might not be as good as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

But he said those would be in short supply because they were not readily available and had to be stored in minus temperatures.

“I would be all for rolling out this (AstraZeneca) vaccine because it is much better than anything that is going to be available for quite a while,” Professor Collignon said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday refuted claims the government was conceding its vaccine strategy would not provide herd immunity.

“This is what the medical expert panel of Australia, the one that has helped keep us safe, has recommended,” Mr Hunt said.

In the wake of efficacy concerns, Labor leader Anthony Albanese told 2GB that the government should have invested in six vaccine candidates instead of three.

The opposition has long called for the rollout of the vaccine to be brought forward following the approval process.

But Mr Albanese said the party had never argued that authorities should circumvent the TGA process.

“We need to listen to the experts,” he said.

“Once it (the TGA) approves it, the vaccine should be rolled out.”



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Local News - Victoria

Testing chief Jeroen Wiemar apologises for delays at test sites


“We expect our northern and regional sites to be a little bit quieter today as we have seen a lot of the returning travellers now get back to their place of residence. I expect the metropolitan and suburban testing sites to be busier today than they were yesterday,” he said.

“If you can’t get through the queues, I will ask you to isolate. As many people did this morning, they got out there early and settled in for a couple of hours’ wait before the test centre was open. I appreciate that is not what we want to do on a Saturday morning but as a community we really need to get this one to ground.

“We saw some of the highest numbers we have ever seen through some of our sites yesterday, which is a credit to the people turning up and doing the right thing and to the hard-working teams that were pushing people through.”

People were turned away from the Northern Hospital just minutes after it opened at 8am. Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital was also at capacity at 9.30.

Lines for testing in Darebin had snaked back many blocks just before 10am, while signs at Greensborough warned there would be “huge delays” and to come back later.

Victorians took to social media to complain testing sites at Chadstone and in Albert Park were already at capacity early in the morning.

A new testing centre will be created in Lakes Entrance.



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Local News - Victoria

Defence chief says no state will receive troops for border patrols


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that new cases on Wednesday all had links to known sources and were largely confined to the northern beaches. She said the northern beaches would be split into two zones at Narrabeen Bridge from Thursday, with those to the north remaining in lockdown and, from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, those to the south allowed 10 guests into their home.

Victoria regards all of greater Sydney and the central coast as being in a “red zone”, with no residents from those areas allowed to cross the border.

After the northern beaches outbreak, the Victorian government requested the assistance of 200 to 300 ADF troops at the NSW-Victoria border, but was turned down.

General Frewen confirmed that the ADF had also on Wednesday rejected a Queensland government request for about 150 troops to bolster border checkpoints, a decision that Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan described as “disappointing”.

Lieutenant-General John Frewen, head of the ADF's COVID-19 Taskforce, defended the military's reluctance to patrol borders.

Lieutenant-General John Frewen, head of the ADF’s COVID-19 Taskforce, defended the military’s reluctance to patrol borders.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

State border closures have been a contentious policy nationally during the COVID-19 crisis, but in response to Sydney’s northern beaches outbreak this week, Victoria joined Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania in restricting visitors from greater Sydney.

Victoria’s coronavirus logistics chief, Jeroen Weimar, has said the Victorian border would remain closed to Sydneysiders until at least Christmas.

He revealed that 35 people had been detained in Victoria’s quarantine hotels over the past five days after flying into Melbourne Airport from NSW “red zones”, and Victoria Police said more than 100 motorists had been refused entry from NSW since Monday morning.

General Frewen, however, said ADF support was intended to be “for emergency support beyond the capacity of states or territories, on a short-term basis”.

A police checkpoint at Genoa on the Victorian border on Wednesday.

A police checkpoint at Genoa on the Victorian border on Wednesday.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

The ADF senior officer said while he wanted to keep some personnel fresh after a year that began with bushfires, this “isn’t an issue of the cupboard being bare of resources”.

“This is about managing priorities, watching contingencies and responding where the greatest need is domestically. Right now, that is not borders.”

General Frewen said the ADF would reconsider its position on border assistance if the NSW outbreak worsened but other operations were more important, such as a deployment leaving Brisbane for Fiji on Thursday after a tropical cyclone hit the province of Bua this week.

“I do want to make the point that Victoria has received more support through [the pandemic] than any other jurisdiction,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent at a police camp site in Cann River where some officers will spend Christmas.

Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent at a police camp site in Cann River where some officers will spend Christmas. Credit:Rachel Mounsey

“We have 250 people helping in hotel quarantine and other areas. We stand ready and willing to assist. I think our work at … three Defence bases in Victoria is a sign of that.”

A spokeswoman for the Victorian Premier said it was understandable the ADF wanted to scale back its coronavirus response in September when most states were on a pathway to reopening, but “things have changed since then, and that is why a request for assistance was made to the ADF”.

“There is no greater community safety issue in Victoria right now than dealing with coronavirus and the Prime Minister has always said any request would be considered. Victoria reserves its right to request the support of the ADF … to keep Victorians safe.”

Victoria's coronavirus logistics chief, Jeroen Weimar, said he would not speculate on when the border will reopen.

Victoria’s coronavirus logistics chief, Jeroen Weimar, said he would not speculate on when the border will reopen.Credit:Jason South

Victoria’s police union chief, Wayne Gatt, said some of the 700 officers redeployed to NSW border checkpoints had been asked to go without meals or bring their own sleeping bags due to a lack of supplies.

“It is very difficult to deploy meals at those [more remote] locations. I’m not happy about that and we’ve been working very, very hard behind the scenes to identify cases where this is occurring,” Mr Gatt said.

The operation to set up 31 checkpoints across the 1200 kilometre border was still ramping up on Wednesday, and Victoria Police “does not have the capability as an organisation to roll out temporary accommodation for all members,” Mr Gatt said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who for months pushed for a Christmas without state border closures, said in his last media appearance on Monday that patrolling borders was “not something the Defence Force is doing any longer”. About 23,000 ADF troops have worked domestically on bushfire and coronavirus responses this year.

Local chef Sam cooks up breakfast for the police officers at Cann River on Wednesday.

Local chef Sam cooks up breakfast for the police officers at Cann River on Wednesday.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

Former finance minister Mathias Cormann said in September when ADF troops were withdrawn from borders that “in the end it’s the states that want to impose state borders”.

“If that’s what they want to do … then it’s a matter for the states to ensure they’ve got the means and tools in place to manage those borders.”

Speaking on Wednesday morning from a police base camp at Cann River where about 100 tents had been pitched, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent acknowledged the logistical operation was significant.

The border was closed for part of the year by NSW authorities and Mr Nugent said police were working to mirror the checkpoint locations they used.

A Victoria Police officer checks for permits at a roadblock at Genoa, on the Victorian border, on Wednesday.

A Victoria Police officer checks for permits at a roadblock at Genoa, on the Victorian border, on Wednesday.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

“This is quite different from our perspective because this is the first time Victoria Police has actually closed the borders,” he said.

Also yesterday, Mr Weimar confirmed that all close contacts of a 15-year-old Melbourne girl who tested positive to COVID-19 on Monday had returned negative results.

It comes after confirmation on Tuesday night that all secondary contacts of the girl (contacts of close contacts) were released from isolation after returning negative COVID-19 tests.

The girl, who lives in the Moonee Valley local government area in Melbourne, travelled home with her family from Sydney’s northern beaches by car last Friday. She was tested on Sunday and returned a positive result on Monday.

The Victorian Department of Health has confirmed that after checking the family’s phone data, there have been no exposure sites in Victoria linked to the girl, as the family did not stop in Victoria on their drive home, and the girl did not leave the house before getting tested.

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WarnerMedia chief has become a movie villain in Hollywood


Powerful talent agents and theatre executives publicly blasted it. Perhaps most important, some high-profile filmmakers who have worked with Warner Bros. — and whom the studio is counting on working with again — were sharply critical. Christopher Nolan, whose Tenet is just the latest of his movies released by Warner, told The Hollywood Reporter, “Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.”

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Denis Villeneuve, director of Dune, wrote in Variety that “Warner Bros. might just have killed the ‘Dune’ franchise.” (“Dune” covers only half of the novel by Frank Herbert. The plan was for Villeneuve to complete the sci-fi tale in a sequel.) Neither Nolan nor Villeneuve, nor most of Hollywood, had been told of Warner’s plans before they were announced.

Kilar, 49, called the pointed criticisms “painful,” adding, “We clearly have more work to do as we navigate this pandemic and the future alongside them.” But he has spent his career pushing against entrenched systems and was somewhat prepared for the outrage.

“There is no situation where everyone is going to stand up and applaud,” he said. “That’s not the way innovation plays out. This is not easy, nor is it intended to be easy. When you are trying something new, you have to expect and be ready for some people who are not comfortable with change. That’s OK.”

Kilar’s boss, John Stankey, chief executive of Warner’s parent company, AT&T, also defended the strategy, calling it a “win-win-win” at a recent investor conference.

Kilar has positioned WarnerMedia’s decision to release films in theatres and on streaming as a reaction to the struggles caused by the pandemic, which has shut down the majority of American theatres and prompted most studios to delay releases into next year. (One notable exception to the delay is Warner’s Wonder Woman 1984, which will be released in theatres and on HBO Max on Christmas Day.) He has also called the decision an accommodation for audiences, who have become more accustomed to watching films in their living rooms.

Director Christopher Nolan, who has made a number of films for Warner Bros. was one of those critical of the move.

Director Christopher Nolan, who has made a number of films for Warner Bros. was one of those critical of the move.Credit:Getty Images

But Kilar joined WarnerMedia just two months before the lacklustre debut of HBO Max, and it is his job to make the service successful.

Kilar had never run an organisation the size of WarnerMedia, nor did he deal directly with talent and other artists in his past work experience. For instance, when asked before Nolan’s public criticism how he thought the filmmaker, a fierce defender of the theatrical experience, might react to Warner’s move, Kilar was positive.

“I think he would say that this is a company so thoroughly dedicated to the storyteller and the fan that they will stop at nothing to make sure they are going as far as possible to help both the storyteller and fan,” Kilar said.

Whoops.

Kilar does admit that the company should have been more sensitive to how its announcement would be received by actors and filmmakers. “A very important point to make — something I should have made a central part of our original communication — is we are thoughtfully approaching the economics of this situation with a guiding principle of generosity,” he said.

That blind spot when dealing with creative talent may point to Kilar’s emphasis on serving the audience above all else. When making the announcement about Wonder Woman 1984, he wrote a memo that used the word “fan” or “fans” 13 times. His most recent one, announcing the 17-picture deal, was titled “Some Big 2021 News for Fans.”

Kilar says that this commitment to the customer took hold during a childhood trip to Disney World. As his story goes, Kilar, the fourth of six children, was wowed by the company’s attention to detail, from the pristine landscaping to the lack of chewing gum on the sidewalk.

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He sees a direct line from that childhood obsession to his decision as the chief of WarnerMedia to elevate streaming to the level of a theatrical release.

The broader movie industry is not as romantic about it. Kilar’s primary mistake, as the town sees it, is not the deal itself — after all, filmmakers have been making deals with Netflix for years — but rather the nerve to ignore the other stakeholders when making the company’s decision. He is still viewed as an outsider, one who is discussing revolution but, perhaps, really just trying to prop up a faltering streaming product that needs to gain subscribers quickly to earn Wall Street’s approval.

“There are some things that you can talk and talk and talk about, but it doesn’t necessarily change the outcome,” Kilar said. “I don’t think this would have been possible if we had taken months and months with conversations with every constituent. At a certain point you do need to lead. And lead with the customer top of mind and make decisions on their behalf.”

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Business

Lendi chief says autonomy crucial to its success after signing CBA deal


Mr Hyman said he expects to see record growth in the mortgage market over the next 12 months, as responsible lending laws are stripped back and interest rates remain at record lows. “We’ve got rates to customers at 1.89 per cent, which is crazy. Genuinely speaking, if you have a job and you can save a deposit you should buy a house.

“The cheap money and stimulus are big drivers that feed into property transaction flows. We think there are a lot of tailwind volumes for next year.”

Mr Hyman said the deal with CBA would be an opportunity to invest in the company’s technology to speed up the approval process, adding plans to list Lendi on the ASX had not been abandoned.

He said Lendi had strong governance policies that would prevent CBA from exerting pressure over the company to sell in-house products. “We don’t put any bank or lender above the customer’s interest,” he said.

The banking royal commission highlighted inherent conflicts of interest in the vertically integrated model – that enables advisers to sell in-house products – and the practice has been forced out of the finance industry.



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Australian News

Former NAB chief of staff’s ‘breathtaking’ fraud


A former high-ranking NAB employee swindled the bank out of millions of dollars with “breathtaking ease” and used the cash to fund her lavish lifestyle, a court has been told.

Rosemary Rogers faces jail time after she signed off on inflated invoices “without scrutiny” from contractor the Human Group between 2013 and 2017 and personally gained about $5.5m in kickbacks.

The ill-gotten cash was used among other things to secure a dream $3.8 million home in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown, renovate a holiday property in Bellbrae and pay for holidays for her family.

Rogers, former chief of staff to ex-NAB chief Andrew Thorburn, pleaded guilty to charges including corruptly receiving a benefit and obtaining a financial gain by deception in early 2020.

The District Court was told at her sentence hearing on Monday that she had the personal authority to approve invoices of up to $20 million and showed “complete and utter recklessness” in her corrupt activities.

The court heard the 45-year-old never knew the woman she was allegedly in cahoots with, events guru Helen Rosamond, was allegedly “loading up” by skimming millions of dollars for herself.

Ms Rosamond, 44, has pleaded not guilty to more than 70 offences and will fight her charges at an estimated four-month trial in 2021.

Rogers’ barrister Mark Tedeschi QC said the Melbourne woman believed Ms Rosamond’s only benefit from the scheme was an agreement for the renewal of lucrative contracts she held with the bank.

He alleged his client was just “pushing a button” to approve the former Human Group director’s invoices, which he said contained such little detail there was cause for “disbelief” an organisation like NAB would pay them out.

“She assumed that the only bogus part of it was (inflating costs) to cover for her own benefit,” he said. “She didn’t know Ms Rosamond was loading up for her own benefit.

“She wasn’t making any checks, she was just pushing the button to whatever was coming through.”

Mr Tedeschi claimed there was a “degree of grooming” in Ms Rosamond’s relationship with Rogers, although she was a “willing participant” in the deception of her employer.

Rogers’ involvement was “subtle” at the start but evolved to the point she knew she could ask for “whatever she wanted”, he said, and might have been driven by stress, greed and a sense of entitlement.

Crown prosecutor Sally Traynor said the simplicity of the invoices allegedly submitted by Ms Rosamond made it “near impossible” to detect the inflated figures in the payments Rogers was approving.

Chief among the money spinners was a $2.2 million invoice submitted in 2017 for “Project Eagle”, which purported to be costs for the on-boarding of ex-NSW Premier Mike Baird.

Ms Traynor said Human Group had little involvement in NAB’s courtship of Mr Baird and labelled the invoice part of a “sophisticated deception” designed to funnel money to Rogers to buy her new home.

“She did it with breathtaking ease to obtain that money, and it was done with the sole purpose of buying her dream house,” she said.

That showed the “complete and utter recklessness as to what she was approving”, Ms Traynor said.

Rogers’ years of brazen deceptions showed complete disregard to NAB and amounted to a significant abuse of the trust she held as a high-level employee, she said.

Mr Tedeschi told the court the mother of two still could not explain exactly why she went down that path, but despite the millions she stole, her actions were not in the worst category.

“It’s not as if she was aware she was destroying anybody’s lives,” he said.

She has since paid back more than $4 million to the NSW Crime Commission and intends to give evidence at Ms Rosamond’s trial.

Rogers is on bail and will spend Christmas with her family in Victoria before she is sentenced on January 24, 2021.



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Business

How Biden’s new trade chief will keep the pressure on China


She has been credited with creating the coalition of countries that challenged China’s restrictions on exports of rare earths in 2012.

Rare earths are a commodity that China dominates and one vital to production of smartphones, electric vehicles, aircraft, military equipment and other 21st century technologies.

Tai was able to convince 18 other countries to join the suit against China – including Australia – which eventually ended with China removing the export quotas in 2015.

Tai, like Biden and unlike Trump and his trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, is a multilateralist who will seek to enlist allies, and revive multilateral institutions, to prosecute America’s trade policies.

The Trump administration’s preferred bilateral and heavy-handed approach to trade and its indiscriminate use of tariffs as its weapon of choice has been less-than-successful – America’s trade deficit has swollen, not shrunk – and has alienated its traditional allies, which have been on the receiving end of Trumps trade wars.

While Trump’s tariffs have reduced the deficit with China, imports from other parts of Asia and from Mexico and Canada have more than replaced them and in the meantime US companies and households have effectively paid the tariffs, rather than Chinese exporters.

Biden and Tai are likely to be more sophisticated, but no less hawkish towards China, sharing the Trump administration’s hostility to China’s trade practices and its concerns about China’s overt efforts to challenge America’s economic and geopolitical leadership.

While her methods might be different, the Democrats share the same underlying suspicion and hostility towards China as the Republicans.

Biden has said the Trump tariffs on China’s exports will remain, at least initially, but Tai is expected to try to create a partnership of western economies and to use the WTO to try to change the way China does business with the rest of the world.

For China, a coalition of the larger part of the global economy would be far more threatening to its ambitions that Trump’s unilateralist approach and would make it more difficult for it to isolate and target individual economies – as it has done with its trade sanctions on Australian exports – than is now the case.

One of the issues that led to those sanctions (along with Scott Morrison’s call for an international investigation of the origins of the coronavirus) was Australia’s criticism of China’s treatment of the Uighur ethnic minorities in its Xinjiang province.

Tai worked on China-related issues during her period advising the Ways and Means committee, including legislation that barred imports made with forced labour by the Uighurs.

Trump’s crude approach to trade has been less than successful – even the great trade agreement he struck with China at the start of this year has failed, badly, to live up to expectations.

Trump’s crude approach to trade has been less than successful – even the great trade agreement he struck with China at the start of this year has failed, badly, to live up to expectations.Credit:AP

China might expect a Mandarin-speaking Asian-American with experience of working in China to be more understanding of China’s complexities and less aggressive than the China hawks in the Trump administration but, while her methods might be different, the Democrats share the same underlying suspicion and hostility towards China as the Republicans.

Tai has said that the current trade strategy is too defensive – she believes that while America needs to confront China’s unfair trade practices like forced technology and state subsidies, with its allies, it also to focus on improving America’s domestic productivity and competitiveness.

Trump’s crude approach to trade has been less than successful – even the great trade agreement he struck with China at the start of this year has failed, badly, to live up to expectations. China isn’t buying anything like the amounts of US goods, energy and agricultural products it pledged to buy.

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China is having a similar experience with its bans on Australian products ranging from barley, lobsters, wine and coal.

China has imported Australian metallurgical coal for its steel and power generation industries because it is high-quality and relatively low-cost, allowing for greater efficiency and less carbon-intensive emissions.

The ban on Australian coal is forcing the Chinese mills and power companies to use much higher-cost and lower quality domestic coal and import more expensive coal from elsewhere – even as their competitors in Japan and South Korea enjoy lower prices.

In the meantime, the escalation in the trade aggression towards Australia – and the extent of the infrastructure-led, steel-intensive resurgence in China’s economy – has seen the price of iron ore rocket from around $US80 a tonne during the height of the pandemic to nearly $US160 a tonne.

The steel mills are panicking, calling in Australia iron ore suppliers to question them about the prices, suspecting manipulation even though the Pilbara producers haven’t reduced their production. Potential disruption to future volumes generated by the fallout from Rio Tinto’s destruction of the Junken Gorge caves might also be playing a role in the price spike.

In any event, the combination of the soaring prices of both iron ore and coal are threatening to throttle the profitability of China’s steel and energy industries. Efforts being attempted to get the power companies to cap the price of the coal they buy, or trying to revisit the way in which iron ore is priced, are fruitless.

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China is experiencing a similar blowback from its trade policies as America experienced from Trump’s. The tariff and non-tariff sanctions China has imposed on Australian exports are not without significant costs to its own economy.

The likelihood is that a Biden administration will re-examine the $US360 billion ($478 billion) of tariffs Trump imposed on China’s exports and eventually be somewhat more selective and strategic about the imports from China that it targets to ensure that they impose a greater weight on China than on US companies and consumers.

It would be reasonable to assume that when it calls on its allies, including Australia, for help in dealing with China’s trade practices and human rights violations, it will also recognise the need to ensure the alliance protects its own from the kinds of bilateral Chinese retaliation Australia is experiencing.

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Australia lashed as ‘suicidal’ by former UN climate chief


Australia’s climate change policy has put it on a “suicidal” path and is evidence of a “lack of integrity”, according to a former top United Nations climate official.

Christiana Figueres, who ran negotiations for the historic Paris Agreement in 2015 at the UN, said Australia had ignored its boundless potential as a renewable energy producer over internal political division.

“The climate wars have been going on in Australia for over a decade. They are in such a suicidal situation because Australia … holds such promise with renewable energy,” she said during prerecorded remarks to the Australasian Emissions Reductions Summit.

Ms Figueres has been a consistent critic of Australia’s approach to climate policy. In 2018, she called on Australia to phase out coal.

She said no country had “as much sun potential as Australia” but it had been hampered by a “completely unstable, volatile, unpredictable stand on climate change”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted calls to commit to a net zero emissions target by 2050, but has consistently claimed Australia was “meeting and beating” its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

The government had argued it was entitled to use so-called carry-over credits from overachieving on the Kyoto Protocol to meet its Paris targets.

Although their use is not explicitly banned under the terms of the Paris Agreement, Ms Figueres has lashed it as “cheating”.

“It is just a total lack of integrity and not something that does Australia proud,” she said.

In a speech to the Business Council of Australia last week, Mr Morrison flagged a potential reversal in the policy, saying the government aimed not to use the credits.

“We will only use that carry-over … to the extent that it is required,” he said.

“Let me be very clear: my ambition (and) my government’s ambition, is that we will not need them.”

Independent MP Zali Steggall, who has called for Australia to adopt a net zero 2050 target, has urged the government to heed Ms Figueres’ warning.

“Australia is going to be at the forefront of suffering from the impacts of climate change and we saw that last summer,” she said.

“Australia has so many natural resources and opportunity to be a superpower in a low-emissions world, but instead we have a handbrake on at the moment.

“Countries are getting on with the job to transition to low emissions. State ministers are putting in place ambitious plans in the energy sector, but the federal government is sitting on its hands and we’re not at the table.”

Ms Steggall’s bill was introduced to parliament last month, and includes a net zero emissions target by 2050. It has gained support from the Greens, a number of senate crossbenchers and more than 100 Australian businesses.

She also called for the establishment of an independent climate change commission, and the rollout of risk-assessment plans.

US President-elect Joe Biden has committed to rejoining the Paris Accord as part of a push to hit net zero emissions by 2050. Federal Labor has argued his election is a chance to reset the nation’s climate policy, urging the government to commit to adopt the same target.



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Victoria names first woman chief justice


Yesterday, 27 years after that stinging rejection, Marilyn Warren made history by becoming Victoria’s first woman Chief Justice.

“I am privileged to be appointed,” she said. “It is doubtless of significance that I am the first woman appointed to the office. I wish there had been others.

“I will serve the office to the best of my ability.”

Long a trailblazer on the hard road to gender equality, Justice Warren will be Victoria’s 11th Chief Justice and the first woman to hold an equivalent position anywhere in the country.

Marilyn Louise Warren came from a law school where men outnumbered women nine to one. She did her articles in an office of 10 solicitors, all of them male.

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In 1976, she was told that even the typists in the criminal law branch of the Crown Solicitor’s office had to be male, as the Crown Solicitor thought women should not read the depositions in nasty cases such as rape.

Persevering in the face of an intimidating sea of men in dark suits, she went on to become a senior legal adviser to Labor and Liberal governments, successful barrister and judge.

Universally acclaimed, the 53-year-old trailblazer’s appointment to the state’s top judicial office follows a long and controversial process.

For the first time, the position was advertised and thrown open to interstate contenders, provoking protests from barristers.

Attorney-General Rob Hulls said Justice Warren was, in the end, the only choice and her intellect, vision and passion promised to herald a new era for the court.

It just so happened, he said, that the best person for the job was a Victorian, a Supreme Court judge and a woman.

He thanked Justice John Winneke for filing the post since chief justice John Harber Phillips retired last month.

Law Institute president Bill O’Shea said the appointment of such a capable and proven judge was a relief. It was a happy coincidence that she was a woman, he said. “With Marilyn Warren we could have a really modern, dynamic court,” Mr O’Shea said.

Victorian bar chairman Robin Brett, QC, said Justice Warren was an outstanding Victorian judge who would make an excellent Chief Justice.

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Women Barristers Association convenor Fiona McLeod said: “It is a thrilling announcement and a richly deserved appointment which provides real opportunity for cultural change. “The Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, has seized this opportunity to transform the legal profession this year with the appointment of a number of women judges, the Solicitor-General, Pamela Tate, and Chief Justice Warren.”

Australian Women Lawyers president Jennifer Batrouney, SC, said that she was confident that Justice Warren would lead the Victorian Supreme Court with strength, style and grace.

In an address to Victorian Women Lawyers earlier this year, Justice Warren said that women brought a difference to the law. She said they identified an issue quickly, focused on it and persuaded rather than dictated. They brought energy, patience, perspective, humour and insight.

Justice Warren said there was nothing special about what she had done and, to illustrate the point, she recounted a story from her early days at the bar.

She was rushing to get to court when her two-year-old son became ill and vomited on her on the doorstep of the creche. It would, she said, “be no more than another typical story in the hard life of a working woman”.

True as that is, Justice Marilyn Warren’s achievements have been exceptional.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

1974 First woman to gain articles of clerkship in Victorian public service.

1977-83 Senior Law Department legislative and legal adviser to Attorneys-General Haddon Storey, John Cain and Jim Kennan.

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1984-85 Assistant Chief Parliamentary Counsel.

1985-98 Barrister specialising in commercial and administrative law.

1997 Became a QC.

1998 Appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

2003 First female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

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Local News - Victoria

Zero active coronavirus cases in state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton celebrates end of second wave


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“Hopefully we will be doing exactly the same thing for Victoria and we’ll see their case numbers today and tomorrow and be able to make that announcement,” she said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed there were also no new cases to report on Tuesday, for the 25th day in a row.

Mr Andrews warned despite the pleasing milestone, outbreaks could re-emerge before a vaccine is rolled out nationwide.

“Every single Victorian can be proud of the part they’ve played in defeating the second wave but even a big run of days, 25 days of zero, is not the same as having a vaccine,” he said.

“Not everybody gets tested, and because not everybody gets tested perhaps quite as quickly as they should, we have to assume that there is more virus out there.”

Click play to see how Victoria’s second wave unfolded:

There were more than 9900 tests processed on Monday. On most weekdays last week, testing numbers were above 17,000.

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Mr Andrews reminded Victorians with any symptoms at all to get tested quickly.

“We all still need to keep playing our part, be vigilant. We know that it’s probably still out there bubbling, perhaps at a very low level.”

Monash infectious diseases physician Rhonda Stuart said the recovery of the final coronavirus patient was wonderful, “not just for the team looking after them at Monash, but for the whole state,” she told radio station 3AW.

The man and his wife – hospitalised since November 1 – were the last two remaining active cases in the state until the woman in her 80s was discharged from hospital on Thursday.

The couple both fell ill with the disease in early October and have pulled through after a serious battle with the virus, Dr Stuart said.

“They both had a stormy course really.. [but] they made it through and did really well,” she said.

Monash Health was able to secure an exemption from state authorities to allow the couple’s daughter to visit them in hospital during the darker stages of their battle with the virus.

“I think that emotional support makes a difference [to recovery],” Dr Stuart said.

“The wife was discharged last week and the gentleman was discharged last night so they could go home and be together and start living a normal life.”

The treating team from Monash Health had also treated the state’s first confirmed case of the virus.

Data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that March 1 was the last time there were no active cases in Victoria.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng noted the absence of any active cases in the state was “certainly a milestone” given there were 7880 in Victoria on August 11.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Tuesday’s triple-zero day of no new cases, no deaths and no active cases was “a testament to Victorians who endured and succeeded in a monumental task”.

“How sweet it is,” he wrote on Twitter. “Something to be so, so proud of.”

Today also marks the first time there have been no COVID patients in Victorian hospitals since March 14 (the day the health department started publishing this figure). At the peak of the second wave there were 675 people in hospital because of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has released results from phase three coronavirus vaccine trials showing its vaccine candidate was 70 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.

However, the researchers also found the efficacy hit 90 per cent based on a regime where a person is given an initial half-dose followed by a second full dose.

The breakthrough is so significant that the company will start rolling out hundreds of millions of doses of its new coronavirus vaccine by Christmas.

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It comes as Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce said international travellers hoping to come to Australia would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say, for international travellers, that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” he told A Current Affair on Monday evening.

Whether you need that domestically, we will have to see what happens with COVID-19 in the market, but certainly, for international visitors coming out [to Australia] and people leaving the country, we think that is a necessity.”

With Lydia Lynch, Bevan Shields, Mary Ward, Laura Chung

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