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Thanks for joining us on the blog today. Here’s a look back at the headlines of the day.
Timna Jacks will be back tomorrow morning to bring you the latest national news. Good night!
Budget repair will be prioritised by the federal government to reduce the chance of more large interest rate rises amid warnings economic growth will slow sharply next year and could force the Reserve Bank to reverse its tightening of monetary policy.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet in Richmond, which has been severely affected by flooding in the past week. Credit:James Brickwood
As three of the nation’s biggest lenders confirmed they would pass on in full this week’s half percentage point increase in interest rates, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said if the government failed to reduce public debt then households would face larger bills and higher interest rates.
Read the full report from senior economics correspondent Shane Wright here.
In a sign Russia may expand its stated war aims beyond the Donbas region of Ukraine, Moscow has ramped up its war rhetoric with Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin saying Ukraine has become a “terrorist state”.
The remarks by the chairman of the lower house of parliament suggest Russia may be bracing for a long war on multiple fronts, having earlier abandoned offensives on the capital Kyiv and second-largest city Kharkiv in the face of fierce resistance.
Russian soldiers set a national flag and a replica of the Victory banner after capturing the village of Bilohorivka in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine.Credit:AP
In another sign, the Duma has passed two bills in their first reading that would allow the government to oblige firms to supply the military and make staff work overtime to support the invasion.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian defenders are fighting desperately to withstand a major Russian offensive in Donetsk. A senior Ukrainian official said on Wednesday the enemy had laid down heavy artillery fire to pave the way for ground forces to advance.
After Russian forces took control of Lysychansk this week, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, Ukrainian forces braced for an assault on Donetsk, with the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk both in the Russian line of fire.
Read the full story here.
The auditor-general is planning to scrutinise the previous government’s management of the pandemic, including how it reopened the borders and protected Indigenous people, along with a host of controversial grants programs set up by the Coalition.
Auditor-General Grant Hehir has published his office’s planned work for the new financial year including 85 potential audits.
Federal Auditor-General Grant Hehir.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
These include examinations of the government’s crisis management framework to deal with COVID-19, Treasury’s debt management, how the Health Department dealt with the risk the virus posed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the reopening of the borders.
Read the full report here.
Boris Johnson’s prime ministership has descended further into turmoil following the resignation of another cabinet minister.
Will Quince, the minister for children and families, announced on Twitter on Wednesday morning (London time) that he had tended his resignation.
The exodus began when Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the prime minister he had lost confidence in him after Johnson’s handling of the latest sex scandal to rock Westminster.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak quit minutes later, telling Johnson that their approaches were fundamentally different.
Quince wrote he resigned because assurances he had received from Johnson the night before turned out to be inaccurate.
Theirs make three resignations from cabinet in a fortnight.
Read the full story here.
Stay tuned as London wakes up. We will bring you the latest on our sites.
A major shake-up to the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy will see anyone over the age of 30 able to receive a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine, although the shots will only be recommended for over-50s.
Two sources familiar with the discussions but not authorised to speak publicly confirmed advice was being prepared for the government after the national vaccine advisory group, ATAGI, met on Wednesday afternoon, as Australia faces a surge in cases of the newer BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants.
Fourth doses will be available for millions of extra Australians after ATAGI changed its recommendations.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
The shots are currently restricted to people aged 65 and over, or with conditions placing them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, such as cancer or diabetes.
ATAGI will formally recommend the change to federal Health Minister Mark Butler as soon as Thursday.
A third source with knowledge of the discussions said there had been clear signals from federal and state governments about the desire to lower the age brackets and eligibility criteria.
“What the government wants has been well telegraphed,” the source said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm for this.”
There have been more than 2.4 million fourth doses administered in Australia, including more than 2.1 million to people aged 65 and over. However, more than 40 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over are yet to receive a fourth shot and about 30 per cent of eligible adults are yet to receive their third dose of the vaccine.
Read the full article here.
America’s top infectious disease expert has joined a chorus of public health specialists warning that the pandemic is far from over.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told radio station 3AW earlier this afternoon that climbing COVID-19 numbers kept him up at night.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.Credit:Bloomberg
“We’re three years into this out break – two years and seven months – and we still have 100,000 cases a day in the United States and 300 deaths,” he said.
“I think a large segment of the population of the world wants so badly to have COVID behind them that they’re acting like we’re done with the virus, but the virus doesn’t appear to be completely done with us.”
Fauci, who became the face of the pandemic response worldwide, backed calls to extend the roll-out of fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to younger Australians.
“The more you get vaccinated – boost one, boost twice – the more the risk of hospitalisation and death dramatically diminishes,” he said.
“So the data is clearly in favour of getting a first boost followed by a second boost.”
He said Australia had used its geographical isolation as an advantage to manage outbreaks and was among the nations that had fared best in the pandemic, but warned that lockdowns “for the sake of lockdowns” were not a good strategy.
“If you lock down temporarily so that you can get people vaccinated, you can get drugs into the country so that when people get infected, you can treat them … a temporary lockdown could be helpful,” he said.
“But purely locking down without any other mitigation methodology being employed is really more of a hardship than anything else.”
Fauci will give an address at the Australian Medical Association’s national conference in Sydney later this month.
The Australian sharemarket has dropped by 0.5 per cent after falling commodity prices drove resource shares significantly lower, despite strong tech stocks briefly lifting the index into positive territory.
The ASX 200 closed at 6,594.5 points, with energy stocks falling by 5.8 per cent and mining stocks down 5 per cent. Iron ore, oil, copper and gold prices all declined over the day.
The major miners suffered, with Rio Tinto down 7.4 per cent and BHP dropping 5.6 per cent. In the energy sector, Woodside and Santos were more than 6 per cent lower, while Beach Energy declined 8 per cent.
Tech stocks countered resource losses, rising by 3.1 per cent, with Xero lifting 6.7 per cent.
The full sharemarket wrap from reporter Lachlan Abbott can be read here.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s approach to fashion diplomacy is as smart as it is casual. Wearing a prim Emilia Wickstead dress to meet British PM Boris Johnson, smiling alongside talk show host Steven Colbert in a hot pink Juliette Hogan suit or greeting US President Joe Biden in a demure print dress, the leader looks at ease.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the launch of The NZ Design Edit at David Jones, Sydney. With models wearing (l-r) Kate Sylvester, Barkers suit and Max.Credit:Brook Mitchell
Ardern usually lets her choice of NZ designers speak for themselves, but wearing a pink pussy-bow blouse she briefly talked fashion at the Sydney flagship of David Jones today.
In partnership with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the department store has created The NZ Design Edit, showcasing some of Ardern’s favourite brands, including Karen Walker, Kate Sylvester and Marle.
“The products that we are showcasing today from Aotearoa, NZ are rooted and grounded so firmly in our nation, who we are, our culture, our heritage, our values,” Ardern, 41, says. “NZ has a rich design culture, and we would like to think that it’s among the best in the world.”
Read the full article from Damien Woolnough here.
Australian drivers are being warned not to expect any immediate relief from sky-high petrol prices that have risen back beyond $2.10 a litre despite steep falls in the cost of crude oil this week.
Fears about a possible global recession and the impact of further pandemic lockdowns in China on fuel demand led to nearly a 10 per cent drop in the benchmark Brent oil price on Wednesday morning, its biggest daily percentage fall since March 9, before it edged slightly higher to $US104 a barrel.
However, economists and energy analysts expect oil markets to remain tight as Western countries continue shunning Russian supplies, meaning the price fall is unlikely to persist for long enough to flow through to Australian petrol stations.
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