The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Tuesday October 20.

'Extraordinary' sitting for Vic hotels probe being held today.

Victoria's hotel quarantine inquiry is due to hold an extraordinary sitting, weeks after it already wrapped up hearings.

The inquiry board has not said why Tuesday afternoon's sitting is being held, nor whether any witnesses will be recalled. But the Herald reports Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kym Peake are set to be re-examined.

The inquiry had wrapped up public hearings on September 28 after 63 witnesses gave evidence, including Premier Daniel Andrews, senior government ministers and public servants.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles resigned after appearing before the inquiry.

The inquiry has also sought phone records from the premier, his staff and other public servants.

It is hoped the records could help answer a key question: who made the decision to use private security in the program?

The $6 million hotel quarantine inquiry is led by retired judge Jennifer Coate, with the final report due on November 6.

Separately, more than 240 people who stayed in Melbourne's hotel quarantine are undergoing tests for Hepatitis and HIV, after concerns were raised that blood testing equipment was being re-used.

The monitors were used to test the blood of a number of different people who were in hotel quarantine between March 29 and August 20.

To reassure those affected, confidential testing was being arranged. 

Safer Care Victoria has launched an investigation.


Trump says Americans "tired of hearing Fauci and all of these idiots discuss COVID."

US President Donald Trump has used a phone call with campaign staff to label his country's top public health expert Anthony Fauci a "disaster" claiming, "people are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots" discuss ways to combat the coronavirus.

On the call, which reporters were allowed to listen in on, Trump said: "Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him."

A day earlier Fauci had appeared on a 60 Minutes interview and stated that he wasn't surprised Trump had contracted the virus given his lack of social distancing and mask wearing, adding that the White House had been "controlling his media appearances."

More than eight million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the US, with nearly 220,000 people dying. 

"Fauci is a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years... Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths," said Trump, adding, "If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it. I couldn’t care less."

Fauci, 79, is one of the most respected scientists in the US and has served under Republican and Democratic presidents. He has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

Dally M announcement spoiled by online stuff up. 

The NRL are reportedly fuming after the winner of the 2020 Dally M medal was accidently published online before the ceremony had even started. 

At around 6:30pm The Daily Telegraph had the story on its website clearly showing Canberra star Jack Wighton as winner, alongside the final scoring ladder which had him 26 points ahead of anyone else. 

Wighton claims none of the contenders knew the result before it was announced even though it was spoiled for anyone with an internet connection hours before.

Jack Wighton of the Canberra Raiders poses after winning the Dally M Medal. Image: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

Fox Sports production staff were forced to confiscate contenders' phones during the ceremony to guard the secret.

The announcement itself was also a shock, with Wighton claiming the medal ahead of Penrith favourite Nathan Cleary and Parramatta star Clint Gutherson.

"Halfway through they took our phones so we weren't sure why," Wighton said. "We had no idea."

Wighton appeared genuinely shocked despite his stellar season for the Raiders in which he took on the bulk of the attack with star hooker Josh Hodgson sidelined with injury.

"I don't really know what to say. I've never been in this situation, I'm blown away."

Melbourne waits for regional Vic travel with premier considering tracking devices.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has reassured Melburnians they won't have to wait until 2021 for regional interstate travel.

The so-called "ring of steel" that separates metropolitan Melbourne from regional Victoria remains in place despite virus-curbing rules easing in the city from Sunday night.

Mr Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison want that border and others opened before Christmas, but the premier has yet to commit to a date.

Even as COVID-19 case numbers narrow, the premier said border feedback from regional Victorians was clear.


"They don't want a situation where that's put at risk by people making trips to into regional Victoria that aren't absolutely necessary," Mr Andrews told reporters on Monday.

The Andrews government is reportedly considering electronic monitoring to keep track of travellers from overseas when the state finally decides to allow international visitors in.

The technology would partially replace the hotel quarantine system, reports The Age.

Victoria recorded four new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the city's 14-day rolling average down to 7.2.

Woman faces NZ firefighter murder charge.

A second person has been charged with murder over the hit-and-run death of a New Zealand firefighter who was found dead in the NSW Hunter region two years ago.

Ian Pullen, 43, was found dead on the side of the road in the early hours of September 29, 2018, at Glenridding, near Singleton.

NSW Police arrested a 30-year-old woman on Monday morning at a home on Dominion Avenue in Singleton.


The woman is the second person charged with murder over the suspicious death after the arrest of a 29-year-old man at Newcastle Police Station last week.

Police will allege in court the man was driving a white Toyota Hilux utility when Mr Pullen was hit and that when the car returned a short time later and the man and woman struck Mr Pullen in the head with an object.

The woman was refused bail to appear at Muswellbrook Local Court on Tuesday.

Embattled Berejiklian returns to parliament.

A week after narrowly surviving a dual no-confidence motion in both houses of parliament, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is returning today for what's sure to be a bruising encounter.

A week ago she revealed at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that until recently she'd been in a secret "close personal relationship" with disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire since 2015.

She took a battering over the shocking association after Mr Maguire made numerous damning admissions about using his public office to seek personal financial gain and being involved in a lucrative cash-for-visas scam.

Gladys Berejiklian will return to NSW parliament today, no doubt to a grilling. Image: Getty.

Ms Berejiklian endured a torrent of damaging headlines about her judgment in entering into and staying in the relationship, with the scrutiny leading to widespread speculation her leadership was terminal.

On the weekend, three top ministers - Stuart Ayers, Mark Speakman and Victor Dominello - buoyed her position by rallying behind her and on Monday she emerged to staunchly defend herself.

While admitting to private tears and feeling shocked, devastated and embarrassed, she made it clear she would not be throwing in the towel.


"There is absolutely no accusation of wrongdoing against me," she told reporters.

"Am I embarrassed and do I accept that people will cast judgment? Of course. But my job is my job and I will keep doing it," she said.

Class of 2020 starting COVID-safe Year 12 exams.

Final exams are starting for Year 12s with COVID-safe protocols in place.

Safeguards including temperature tests and spaced seating have been introduced to protect NSW and ACT students sitting their first English test on Tuesday morning.

The 2020 cohort has had to endure a tougher year than usual with COVID-19 forcing many interruptions, such as bouts of home schooling and the cancellation of sports, drama, musicals and most co-curricular activities.

Messages to the class of 2020.

Video via Mamamia

Treasured rites of passage such as graduation and formals have been either done online, cancelled, delayed or pared back.

Schools have been advised to have a maximum of 75 students per exam room, and principals have been asked to limit interaction with the rest of the school.

South Australia, WA, Northern Territory, Victoria, are kicking off their exam periods with languages today, with the most popular subjects not starting until November. 

Queensland starts their exam period next week.

NSW restrictions eased in lead up to Xmas.

Christmas parties, functions and lunches in NSW will be a little more festive after all, with the state government easing restrictions on outdoor gatherings and hospitality group bookings.

From Friday up to 30 people will be permitted to gather outdoors, up from 20, while group bookings of up to 30 people, up from ten, can now be made at restaurants and pubs.

The number of guests allowed at weddings from December will be lifted to 300, provided they are seated, and dancing remains strictly confined to the bridal party.


Premier Gladys Berejiklian suggested it may be safer to hold Christmas parties or gatherings at COVID-safe venues such as restaurants, rather than in the confines of homes where the 20-person limit remains.

Ships 'weakest link' for WA virus control.

The continued arrival of ships carrying crew infected with COVID-19 is one of Western Australia's "weakest links" and greatest risks, Premier Mark McGowan says.

Twenty-five crew from the Al Messilah livestock carrier at Fremantle Port have tested positive and there are fears others among the remaining 27 crew may also be infected.

One crew member is in hotel quarantine and the rest remain aboard.

One person has also tested positive aboard the Key Integrity bulk carrier which has arrived in Fremantle from Geraldton.


Test results for the remaining 19 crew are expected to be confirmed today.

There have now been six COVID-19 outbreaks on ships arriving into WA, including four in the last month.

Ardern selfie goes viral. 

Jacinda Ardern's post victory Instagram selfie has been praised by fans around the world, as the re-elected New Zealand prime minister get's "back in the beehive."

"A chance to catch up with our new MPs, thank the team who were working behind the scenes during the last six weeks, and to feel grateful just for being here again," her caption reads.

Ardern and her Labour Party won a historic outright majority in Saturday’s poll — the first since New Zealand adopted proportional voting in 1996. This will allow her the power to implement policies without support from minor parties.

Around the world.

- Global coronavirus cases have exceeded 40 million.

- Six Russian military officers have been charged with cyber attacks on the Olympics, French elections, Ukraine, and the country of Georgia. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Mark Metcalfe/Getty/Instagram/Kevin Dietsch-Pool.