There are now 50 people in hospital with the virus. Four patients in the ICU, of which two require ventilation.
Some advice from the Liberal partyâ€™s James Paterson ahead of Valentineâ€™s Day tomorrow:
New Zealand blasts Barry Manilow to dislodge anti-vax protesters outside parliament
A moment of lightness (actually I canâ€™t tell if this is a funny story, or a sad sign of the times) for your morning:
The BBC has reported that authorities in New Zealand have been playing Barry Manilowâ€™s greatest hits, along with the Macarena, in an attempt to dislodge anti-vaccine mandate protesters camped outside the parliament building.
Apparently the demonstrators responded with the song Weâ€™re Not Gonna Take It by the Twisted Sisters.
Federal minister plays down NSW byelection results
Federal minister Keith Pitt has played down the impact of Saturdayâ€™s results on the federal election in a few months time, AAP reports.
â€œGenerally these things donâ€™t reflect into a federal result. Voters know the difference between each level of government,â€ Pitt told Sky Newsâ€™ Sunday Agenda program
He also brushed off comments by NSW treasurer Matt Kean who said the recent dramas around the federal government didnâ€™t help the Coalition brand heading into the four byelections.
â€œIf Mr Kean is looking for someone to blame he might want to have a look in the mirror.â€
The byelections came after a week in the federal parliament where five Liberal MPs crossed the floor on a Labor0amended sex discrimination bill, as part of the Religious Discrimination Act, and alleged leaks from the cabinet.
But Pitt insists the ministry is a very strong unit, while adding that Coalition MPs are entitled to cross the floor, whereas they would be expelled if they were in the Labor party.
But he was disappointed by those who crossed the floor because they did not tell their colleagues or the prime minister of their intentions.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said this government is driven by â€œdisunity, dysfunction and dishonestyâ€ and needs some time in opposition.
I want to talk about one more comment that Scott Morrison made during the presser in Adelaide this morning.
The PM was asked about how inflation rates were affecting people overseas and whether that was of concern to him and Australia. And somehow the conversation very quickly turned to the election and â€œissues facing liberal democracies like Australiaâ€ more broadly.
Morrison then said:
Yesterday we had a protest by the union movement against the Aukus agreement. There are only two principle opponents against the Aukus agreement, and they both have a one-way bet each way on Albo.
The comments came after defence ministerPeter Dutton suggested during question time this week that China had picked Anthony Albanese as its election candidate. The comments were criticised by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who said they had â€œno basis in factâ€.
As Guardian Australiaâ€™s Daniel Hurst wrote: â€œFor weeks Scott Morrison and his defence minister have been suggesting voters must not be lulled into a false sense of national security bipartisanship. Only the Coalition, their argument goes, can be trusted not to â€˜appeaseâ€™ China.â€
Morrison was also asked to reflect on the byelection results yesterday, which saw the Liberal party lose the safe seat of Bega to Labor for the first time in history.
Instead of commenting on Bega, though, Morrison focuses on Liberal candidate Bridget Sakrâ€™s performance in Strathfield.
To be clear, Labor looks to retain the seat with a 0.6% swing against them.
But in a night of losses and significantly larger swings against the Liberal party, you can see why Morrison would default to talking about this as a win.
Morrison: no suggestion Australia would be involved in transnational response to Russia
One reporter flags that US president Joe Biden has said that if Russia invades Ukraine, they will be met with a transnational response.
Asked whether Australia would be part of that response, Morrison said â€œthere is no suggestion that Australia would be involved in that wayâ€.
Morrison is back to announce a $40m program to support Australia reopening its borders to international tourists. He says the campaign with Tourism Australia will launch today.
Morrison says the government is also lifting the biosecurity provisions that relate to cruise ships.
States and territories will now be able to make their own decisions about how to open up their cruise ship operations. Morrison says that wonâ€™t happen immediately, but they are putting Australia in the best place to open up that business again.
Morrison is in Adelaide by the way, with premier Steven Marshall, talking about the North-South Corridor, a route for north and south bound traffic, including freight vehicles.
The project has been made possible through collaboration between the state and federal governments, hence why the prime minister is there.
Morrison: ‘The autocratic, unilateral actions of Russia … is completely and utterly unacceptable’
Morrison said that the â€œautocratic, unilateral actions of Russia to be threatening and bullying Ukraine is something that is completely and utterly unacceptableâ€.
He also noted the Chinese government criticised Australia overnight for working with our allies â€œto provide greater humanitarian reliefâ€, and â€œyet remain chillingly silent on Russian troops amassing on the Ukrainian borderâ€.
â€œThe coalition of autocracies that weâ€™re seeing seeking to bully other countries is not something that Australia ever takes a light position on and not something that my government ever has. My government has always stood up to anyone who seeks to bully or coerce Australia, and the bullying that we are seeing on the borders of Ukraine is unacceptable,â€ Morrison said.
Prime minister Scott Morrison is speaking live about the evolving situation in Ukraine.
Back to Keneallyâ€™s comments on Insiders.
Speers asked the shadow home affairs minister about defence minister Peter Duttonâ€™s comment that China wants Labor to win the election.
Has that comment, has that suggestion damaged Australiaâ€™s national security, do you think?
This is a desperate government, so desperate to distract from its own incompetence that it is now weaponising national security … This weaponisation of national security â€“ it is divisive and dangerous. It flies in the face of the advice of the Asio director general Mike Burgess when he said using fear of foreign interference to stoke division in the community is as corrosive as foreign interference itself.
So this is a divisive and dangerous tactic by Peter Dutton, and we really do need to understand that it undermines our national security agencies and it undermines our national security framework.
This discussion was followed by a LOT of back and forth between Speers and Keneally, as Speers tried to work out where Labor stood on the controversial statement-of-belief clause in the governmentâ€™s religious discrimination bill.
For context, the clause would protect religious statements even if they offend, insult or humiliate others on the basis of protected attributes. The Guardianâ€™s Paul Karp has written more about it here.
Keneally kept pointing to the fact that they sought to amend this part of the bill.
What, our concerns about statement of belief came down to the fact that it would in fact quite likely make it harder for people of faith and other people to achieve protection from discrimination because of the way it interacts with state and territory law.
But, as Speers pointed out, it was unclear what Laborâ€™s statement of belief would do, to which Keneally replied that she wasnâ€™t sure Labor would necessarily have one. When pressed again she said:
David, we are not going to govern from opposition. The Prime Minister put forward this legislation.
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