Key posts

  • Infrastructure destroyed, civilians killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza Strip
  • Taiwan’s cautionary tale for Australia
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Byelection delays NSW Liberals’ move on Gareth Ward

You might recall that former NSW Disability Services Minister Gareth Ward joined the cross bench on Thursday after police confirmed they were investigating sexual violence allegations against him dating back to 2013.

He denies wrongdoing and has not been charged.

Former NSW Disability Services minister Gareth Ward has moved to the cross bench.Credit:Kate Geraghty

It is the second police investigation launched into a NSW MP this year,with former Nationals MP Michael Johnsen forced to quit in March after being accused of raping a sex worker in the Blue Mountains in 2019.

Mr Johnsen has not been charged and denies the accusation but said that media harassment had left him unable to continue serving the electorate of the Upper Hunter and sparking a byelection. Voters in that electorate go to the polls on Saturday.

State political editor Alexandra Smith and reporter Tom Rabe report today that Liberal MPs will wait until the outcome of Saturday’s Upper Hunter byelection before counselling Mr Ward to consider his political future.

Read the full story here.

Infrastructure destroyed, civilians killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza Strip

Israel has said it intends to press on for now with its attacks against Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, and the United States signalled it would not pressure the two sides for a ceasefire, the Associated Press reports.

The Israeli military has unleashed a wave of heavy air strikes on the Gaza Strip, saying it destroyed 15 kilometres of militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders as international diplomats worked to end the week-long war that has killed hundreds of people.

Two Israeli soldiers walk around an artillery unit, at the Israeli Gaza border, on Sunday.Credit:AP

At least 200 Palestinians have been killed in the week of air strikes, including 59 children and 35 women, with some 1300 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.

The latest attacks on Monday, local time, destroyed the five-storey building housing the Hamas-run Religious Affairs Ministry and killed a top Gaza leader of Islamic Jihad, another militant group whom the Israeli military blamed for some of the thousands of rocket attacks launched at Israel in recent days.

Read the full story here.

Taiwan’s cautionary tale for Australia

For more than 12 months, Taiwan and its world-class tracing and quarantine measures had shut out COVID-19, limited its impact to 1000 cases in total, fewer than a dozen deaths and no lockdown, North Asia correspondent Eryk Bagshaw and south-east Asia correspondent Chris Barrett write in a compelling report.

Now it is in lockdown, after an Indonesian cargo pilot with COVID-19 helped seed the virus in the country in April.

Taipei has urged people not to panic shop as an outbreak shatters Taiwan’s record on fighting the coronavirus.Credit:Bloomberg

So far, only 1 per cent of Taiwan’s population of 23.5 million has been vaccinated. With COVID-19 almost non-existent until April, large swaths of the public had little incentive to sign up. They wanted to wait and see if there were any side-effects.

Australian health officials and political leaders are hoping that a larger share of the local population will hasten to be vaccinated.

Read the full story here.

Welcome to our live coverage of the day’s events

Hello and welcome to our rolling coverage of news and analysis on Tuesday, May 18.

I’m Michaela Whitbourn and I’ll be keeping you informed of the morning’s key stories. Here’s what you need to know now:

People attend the mass vaccination hub at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne on opening day.Credit:Luis Ascui

  • NSW and Victoria are moving to pick up the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations amid international warnings about the cost of complacency. The Melbourne Showgrounds mass vaccination hub opened its doors on Monday, one week after the Sydney Olympic Park site. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian wants this winter to be the last spent in isolation, report Kate Aubusson and Mary Ward. She says more than 5 million NSW residents need to be fully vaccinated before the state government will consider reopening international borders. “We have around 6 million adults and you would think at least 5 million should be vaccinated before we can have those conversations,” Ms Berejiklian said. That’s 10 million injections, and the state has administered about 920,000 shots.
  • The James Packer-backed casino operator Crown Resorts has formally rejected a $8.4 billion takeover offer from US private equity outfit Blackstone, Patrick Hatch reports, but is still weighing up a merger offer from The Star and had requested more information from its rival about the proposed $12 billion tie-up. Meanwhile, a Victorian Royal Commission into Crown’s fitness to hold a casino licence enters its second day today. A compliance officer at Victoria’s gambling regulator gave damning evidence yesterday that the casino group lying to him about the arrest of staff in China.
  • Virgin’s chief executive, Jayne Hrdlicka, has called for Australia’s borders to reopen before the budget’s stated goal of mid-2022, Stuart Layt reports. She says accepting international tourists makes sense as long as Australia has a decent level of vaccination, but has admitted “some people may die” under such a plan.
  • Officials from the US, Egypt, Qatar and United Nations are working around the clock to broker a truce in Gaza after more than a week of deadly fighting left more than 200 people dead but Israel’s Prime Minister signalled he’s not yet ready to let up.
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