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Key posts

  • State leaders have been working ‘sensibly’ amid Omicron variant: Home Affairs Minister
  • Border opening paused over Omicron variant concerns
  • Canberra flags funds for libel claims against trolls
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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State leaders have been working ‘sensibly’ amid Omicron variant: Home Affairs Minister

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews was on Seven’s breakfast show Sunrise earlier this morning.

She was talking about the pause to international arrivals. Skilled migrants, international students and other designated visa holders were due to start arriving in Australia from tomorrow. However, those plans have been put on ice for a fortnight.

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Here’s what Ms Andrews had to say about the changes being made due to the Omicron coronavirus variant:

I would like to thank the state premiers for the way that they have approached the new variant. They have worked sensibly … with the issues we are facing.

National cabinet will meet this afternoon and they will go through the latest health advice and, let’s be realistic, this is changing on an almost hour-by-hour basis as a health professionals get more information.

Out of that will be a range of decisions that states may well take in relation to internal domestic borders. What we would say is that the Omicron variant is an unknown to all of us at the moment here in Australia.

We do need time to make sure that we understand what the impacts of this particular variant will be here in Australia. This is very different to the Delta variant.

National cabinet is expected to meet around 4pm AEDT today.

Border opening paused over Omicron variant concerns

Concerns about the Omicron strain have prompted the federal government to defer the planned reopening of the international border to December 15.

About 200,000 workers and students were expected to start arriving from Wednesday, but top federal ministers reviewed the plan ahead of a national cabinet meeting today and decided to delay the reopening.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the country is prepared for new variants, as the Prime Minister holds a national security committee meeting ahead of a national cabinet gathering today to discuss the Omicron variant.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The federal government released a statement last night confirming the decision and said travellers from Japan and South Korea would also not be allowed in until December 15.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed the pause at a national security committee of federal cabinet because of the threat from the new coronavirus strain, as health experts say it is too soon to know if Omicron is more severe than Delta.

Read the full story here.

Canberra flags funds for libel claims against trolls

A taxpayer-funded community legal centre model could be used by the federal government to back defamation actions launched by private citizens under proposed anti-trolling laws to be released this week.

The draft legislation is aimed at forcing social media companies to unmask anonymous trolls who defame people online, with the federal government indicating it was prepared to financially back test cases in the courts.

Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker indicated yesterday that government intervention in private defamation actions to unmask trolls could be handled through publicly funded legal services.

“There’s a range of different areas in which the Commonwealth provides legal services to Australians, whether that’s in the family law space or whether that’s in the criminal law space, providing Community Legal Centre-style assistance,” she said.

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Tuesday, November 30. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll bring you some of today’s biggest stories as they unfold.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started.

  • Australia has delayed the next stage of its international reopening off the back of the Omicron coronavirus variant. The arrival of international students and skilled workers has been pushed back from this week to December 15. Travel bubbles with Japan and South Korea have also been suspended for a fortnight. Australia has recorded a total of five Omicron cases after two new cases were reported yesterday. We have reports that Omicron may be as or more infectious as Delta. But, so far, the symptoms appear to be milder. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says he may bring forward booster shots (depending on what vaccine experts say). And national cabinet will meet this afternoon to discuss interstate borders.

Australia has delayed the next stage of its international reopening. Credit:Bloomberg

  • In federal politics, Lisa Visentin and Nick Bonyhady report that a taxpayer-funded community legal centre model could be used to assist defamation actions launched by private citizens under proposed anti-trolling laws to be released this week. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce have vowed to unmask anonymous trolls and make social media giants such as Facebook take the issue more seriously. Meanwhile, we’ve learnt that the federal budget will be handed down on March 29 next year. This makes a May election more likely.

Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison are set to face off at a federal election next year. Credit:Fairfax Media

  • In NSW, Lucy Cormack reports that the state’s debt-collection agency unlawfully took fines from vulnerable people’s bank accounts (in some cases leaving them unable to buy food or pay rent). NSW reported 150 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and zero deaths. There were 170 people in hospital with the virus. And in terms of vaccines, 92.4 per cent of residents aged 16 and up are fully vaccinated.

The NSW Ombudsman has called for greater transparency.Credit:Sarah Keayes

  • The Victorian government could still be days away from successfully negotiating amendments to its new pandemic laws. However, if there are any developments today we’ll be sure to let you know. Victoria reported 1007 new cases of coronavirus yesterday and three deaths. Three hundred people were in hospital with the virus. And the state government says 90 per cent of people aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.Credit:Justin McManus

  • Elsewhere, the ACT recorded seven cases of COVID-19 yesterday. The territory continues to lead the nation in terms of vaccination rates: 97.7 per cent of people aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated. And the NT reported two cases of COVID-19 yesterday.
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