The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday September 30.

Victoria opens door to Sydney returnees as health workers told to "psychologically prepare."

Victoria has opened the door for residents stranded in Sydney to come home after the state's construction union headquarters were officially listed as a top-level COVID-19 exposure site.

From Thursday, Victorian residents in extreme risk zones such as Greater Sydney can apply for a permit if they are fully vaccinated, test negative within 72 hours of departure and isolate at home for 14 days.

Those who have been to an exposure site, are close contacts of a COVID-19 case or with symptoms will be knocked back, while non-Victorians are not eligible.

Victoria recorded a daily record 950 new locally acquired cases on Wednesday, 87 more than NSW as its outbreak trends downwards.

One health official told The Age that the government’s health and safety watchdog, Safer Care Victoria, told them to "prepare psychologically because most of Victoria’s going to think 'this is great' [when lockdown is eased], meanwhile as a healthcare worker, it'll feel like a war zone."

It comes as the CFMEU's Melbourne headquarters were listed as a COVID-19 exposure site on Wednesday, a week after it was the scene of anti-vaccination protests.

The Elizabeth Street office was named by the Department of Health as a tier-one site for September 20, forcing union staff and officials into isolation for two weeks.

The outside of the building has also been classed as a tier-two venue, with protesters asked to get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.

Four positive cases have been linked to the office so far, and CFMEU state secretary John Setka blamed the "disgusting behaviour of selfish and reckless" protesters for the outbreak.


Contact tracers in the state are moving away from phone calls to deal with the rising number of infections.

A text message will ask a number of questions to help contact tracers prioritise higher-risk cases.

Lockdown support to end as jab targets hit.

Workers and businesses will have lockdown support payments wound back once key vaccination coverage milestones are reached.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Wednesday outlined a plan to phase out billions of dollars in federal cash assistance once 70 and 80 per cent of over-16s are immunised.

The COVID disaster payment provides $750 a week for people who have lost more than 20 hours of work and $450 for those under that threshold.

People on income support who lose eight hours can access $200 a week.

But once a state reaches 70 per cent two-dose vaccination coverage, workers will have to reapply each week for the payments to prove they are eligible.

At 80 per cent, there will be a two-week transition to support being cut off.

More than 1.5 million Australians living under lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT are receiving the payments.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said there was a gaping hole in income support payments for people hardest hit by the pandemic.

"It's unconscionable to be cutting off payments to people on low payments when the government is not ensuring safe vaccination rates," she told AAP.


Co-funded federal business support payments will also taper off under agreements to be worked out with states and territories.

In the first week after a state of territory hits 80 per cent vaccination coverage, people who have lost more than eight hours work will receive a $450 payment.

Those on income support will have their assistance halved to $100.

In week two, the payment will mirror JobSeeker at $320 and be ended for income support recipients.

The pandemic leave disaster payment for workers forced to isolate or care for someone with coronavirus will remain until the end of June next year.

Australia has fully vaccinated more than 52.5 per cent of its population aged 16 and above.

NSW students to go back to school earlier.

NSW students will return to schools one week ahead of schedule after the state exceeded expectations for vaccination take-up.

On Wednesday evening NSW's crisis cabinet agreed that school returns would start on October 18 for kindergarten, year 1 and year 12 students as part of a three-week re-entry.

Other grades will return to face-to-face learning on October 25 and November 1.


It comes after Premier Gladys Berejiklian earlier on Wednesday said the original plan for students to go back from October 25 was under review because of how quickly NSW was tracking towards 70 per cent double-vaccination coverage.

Some 863 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed across the state in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, and a record 15 deaths.

Visits to aged care homes will also be allowed from October 11 with two fully vaccinated people able to visit a resident per day.

While other restrictions are due to lift on October 11, NSW Police has indicated it won't be policing vaccination passports. 

But the premier denied that meant no one would be enforcing the restrictions, arguing there were incentives for individuals and businesses to do the right thing.

Opposition Leader Chris Minns said businesses were still confused about their obligations once lockdown is lifted.

Meanwhile, Oberon has been placed into lockdown for one week due to an increased risk of COVID-19 transmissions.


The stay-at-home order applies to anyone who has been in the Oberon LGA from September 20.

UK officer 'cited virus to detain' Sarah Everard.

A prosecutor has argued that a serving London police officer handcuffed a woman on the pretext of breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules before he kidnapped and killed her.

Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared at London's Central Criminal Court on Wednesday charged with the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home from visiting a friend in south London on March 3.

Couzens has pleaded guilty to the charges.

He sat in court with his head bowed as members of Everard's family listened to prosecutor Tom Little open his case.

Little said Couzens wore his police belt with handcuffs and used his police warrant card when he detained Everard "by fraud" in a "false arrest".

He also had booked a car rental, the prosecutor argued.

There was "no credible alternative explanation for his need to hire a car other than to use that car to kidnap and rape a lone woman," Little said.

"His movements were consistent with the defendant looking for, or hunting, for a lone young female to kidnap and rape, which is precisely what he did," the prosecutor argued.

Couzens joined the Metropolitan Police in 2018 and had worked as part of a team protecting diplomatic premises in central London. He had worked an overnight shift at the US embassy on the day he kidnapped Everard.


Ahead of the court hearing, the Metropolitan Police department said it was "sickened, angered and devastated by this man's crimes, which betray everything we stand for".

A judge is expected to sentence Couzens on Thursday.

YouTube to block all anti-vaccine content.

YouTube says it will block all anti-vaccine content, moving beyond its ban on what it calls misinformation about COVID-19 jabs to also include content about other approved vaccines.

Examples of content that won't be allowed on YouTube include claims that the flu vaccine causes infertility and that the MMR shot - which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella - can cause autism, according to YouTube's policies.

The online video company owned by Alphabet Inc it was also banning channels associated with several prominent anti-vaccine activists including Robert F Kennedy Jr and Joseph Mercola, a YouTube spokesperson said.

A press email for Mercola's website said in a statement: "We are united across the world, we will not live in fear, we will stand together and restore our freedoms."

Kennedy said in a statement: "There is no instance in history when censorship and secrecy has advanced either democracy or public health."

YouTube's new rules will prohibit misinformation about any vaccine that has been approved by health authorities such as the World Health Organisation and are currently being administered.

Qld sweats on test results after new cases.

Queensland authorities are resisting sending parts of the state's southeast into lockdown after the emergence of a number of COVID-19 cases in recent days.


The state recorded two cases on the Gold Coast on Wednesday, with authorities on high alert as the men were out in the community for several days.  

The first is a close contact of an aviation training centre worker who tested positive on Monday night, and the second case wasn't counted in Queensland's tally because it was detected in NSW.

It involved a truck driver who lives on the Gold Coast and regularly travels between Queensland and NSW.

He was active on the Gold Coast for three days, from September 25 to 27, including in Mermaid Waters, Merrimac, Nerang, Surfers Paradise, Miami Beach and Currumbin.

Brisbane has listed 24 new COVID exposure sites including hotels, restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, shops in the CBD, Spring Hill, Carindale Westfield, Camp Hill, Cannon Hill and Eatons Hill. Eight sites are considered close contact venues.

However, Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said a lockdown wasn't necessary as authorities knew where all the infections had come from, but the coming days were critical. 

"I'm watching this very, very carefully. At the moment, I am prepared to wait and see if we've got any local transmission," she said on Wednesday. 

Tasmania doubles down on tough borders.

Tasmania's premier has doubled-down on his tough border stance, revealing modelling showing likely coronavirus deaths if the island reopened at an 80 per cent vaccination rate.

Peter Gutwein on Wednesday outlined what would happen, according to Doherty Institute predictions, if the state allowed travellers from NSW and Victoria with that percentage of its population fully vaccinated.


Over the first six months it would result in 14,900 cases, up to 590 hospital admissions, 97 intensive care admissions and almost 100 deaths, he said.

Mr Gutwein has targeted a 90 per cent full vaccination rate for people over 16 by December 1. He said Tasmania was "on track" to reach the number and aiming to reopen by Christmas.

He reiterated he wouldn't reopen until all eligible Tasmanians had the chance to be vaccinated and any border decision would be made on public health advice.

The national plan out of COVID-19 aims for easing of restrictions at 80 per cent, although state borders aren't specifically mentioned.

"The reopening of our borders is what we're considering. Other states are considering the reopening of their communities. That's the difference we have in Tasmania," Mr Gutwein said.

Almost 58 of Tasmania's eligible population has been fully vaccinated, behind only the ACT and NSW.

Knox old boy 'deeply remorseful, sorry'.

A former Knox Grammar student has offered an unconditional public apology after a court's decision to wipe his assault convictions sparked intense public scrutiny.

Nicholas Drummond, 20, said the NSW District Court judge's comments about his case were regrettable but "I was at fault and I must own it".

"I would like to offer an unconditional apology to the people I have hurt by my actions. They fill me with shame and regret. I am deeply remorseful," he said in a statement to Mamamia on Wednesday.

"I do not seek public forgiveness, but know I will have to work hard towards earning a second chance in life. Whatever I need to do, I will strive to do it."


Drummond's assault convictions were erased earlier this month after he admitted drunkenly punching two people in December, including a woman he'd earlier called a "slut" and told to "put your tits away".

Judge Robert Sutherland found Drummond's behaviour on the night was an aberration and that it would be appropriate in the circumstances to keep in place a 14-month good behaviour bond but erase the conviction.

"I am of the view ... that the relevant principles regarding deterrence are more than adequately contemplated both by the terms and the duration of the conditional release order which, in my view, is appropriate and I do not see the necessity for the recording of a conviction," the judge said.

The decision sparked outrage and condemnation from various quarters including consent education advocate Chanel Contos and anti-violence campaigners.

Second-tier NSW football club Northern Tigers also cut ties with its first-grade player.

The Director of Public Prosecutions is currently considering an appeal.

Federal climate pressure as NSW cuts emissions.

The NSW government's decision to forge ahead with an expedited timeline to slash emissions by 2050 has placed pressure on the federal government which is split on the issue.

The NSW cabinet has agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, on its way to the state's own 2050 net-zero target, it was announced on Wednesday.

The cut is deeper than its previous emissions target of a 35 per cent reduction by 2030.


The federal government is considering adopting a national net-zero target ahead of a major climate summit in Glasgow this year but is facing internal opposition from Nationals concerned about regional impacts.

NSW Liberal Energy Minister Matt Kean is confident his state will "smash" its new 2030 target, which is supported by NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro.

The move has been widely applauded by business and environmental groups, but NSW Labor said it had hoped the government would be more ambitious.

"It seems, at the moment, we will reach the 2030 target of 50 per cent reduction in emissions if everything stays exactly the same," Opposition energy and climate change spokesman Jihad Dib told reporters.

"It doesn't take that much courage to get up and make an announcement of something that's already got to take place."

Turnbull blows up over Morrison's sub deal.

Malcolm Turnbull has gone nuclear on Scott Morrison in a weapons-grade attack over the scrapped French submarine deal.

The former prime minister launched a series of bombs in an explosive National Press Club speech aimed squarely at his predecessor.

Deceitful, devious, untrustworthy, double-crossing and bad faith were among Mr Turnbull's descriptions of the prime minister's conduct.

Australia scrapped a $90 billion contract with French company Naval Group in favour of exploring nuclear-powered submarines in a deal with the United Kingdom and United States.


The decision sunk diplomatic relations between Canberra and Paris to rock bottom, but Mr Turnbull warned of even more serious flow-on effects.

"This is an appalling episode in Australia's international affairs and the consequences of it will endure to our disadvantage for a very long time," he said on Wednesday.

He said the Australian government treated the French with contempt by not telling President Emmanuel Macron a nuclear option was being explored.

"This betrayal of trust will dog our relations with Europe for years," Mr Turnbull said.

"It won't be forgotten. Every time we seek to persuade another nation to trust us, somebody will be saying remember what they did to Macron."

Mr Turnbull revealed he had spoken to Mr Marcon - who is refusing Mr Morrison's calls - after the decision.

Britney Spears will find out today if her conservatorship will be terminated.

Britney Spears’s conservatorship is heading back to a Los Angeles court today, with a judge to consider requests to remove her father as the authority over her estate and to terminate the conservatorship under which she has lived for 13 years.

The hearing comes days after a new documentary Controlling Britney Spears alleged her father Jamie Spears monitored the singer's private communications and secretly recorded her interactions in her bedroom with her boyfriend and children.


The pop star's personal life and finances, including things like birth control and forcing her to work, are strictly controlled under the conservatorship. Her legal team issued a filing this week accusing her father of crossing “unfathomable lines” and engaging in “horrifying and unconscionable invasions of his adult daughter’s privacy”. 

Conservatorship is a type of court-appointed guardianship intended for people who can no longer make decisions for themselves, typically people who are older and infirm.

UK soldiers prepare to drive fuel tankers.

The United Kingdom has ordered soldiers to start driving fuel tankers to replenish empty pumps as motorists remain mired in queues after nearly a week of shortages despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the situation is improving.

The UK has been gripped by a rush of panic buying that has left pumps dry across major cities after oil companies warned they did not have enough tanker drivers to move petrol and diesel from refineries to filling stations.

Opponents blame the crisis on government incompetence and its unyielding approach to Brexit, which has blocked hauliers from hiring drivers from the EU since the UK abandoned the common market this year.


UK officials say the disruption is partly an unforeseen result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said 150 soldiers would be driving tankers within a few days and civilians would start shipments later on Wednesday using a government reserve fleet of about 80 vehicles.

Around the world.

- Fans from abroad will not be allowed to travel to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing while unvaccinated athletes will have to quarantine for three weeks.

- CNN is preventing Australians from accessing its Facebook pages after a court ruled that publishers can be liable for defamation in public comment sections and the social media firm refused to help it disable comments in the country.

The move makes CNN, which is owned by AT&T Inc, the first major news organisation to pull its Facebook presence in Australia since the country's highest court ruled this month that publishers were legally responsible for comments posted below articles - even if the articles themselves were not defamatory.

- With AAP

Feature image: Luis Ascui/Getty/Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty/Sam Mooy.

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