news

The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Friday May 28.

Victorians wake up to fourth lockdown and four new local cases.

It's day one of Victoria's fourth COVID-19 lockdown and authorities are urging people to get vaccinated to ensure this is their last.

Four new local cases have been detected, bringing the Whittlesea cluster to 30. 

Victoria's seven-day, statewide shutdown kicked in just before midnight on Thursday. People are now only able to leave home for five reasons - to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise, work or study if they are unable to from home, and to get vaccinated. 

To allow more Victorians to get the jab, those aged 40 to 49 are now eligible for the sought-after Pfizer vaccine.

"The vaccine is really our only ticket out of this," Health Minister Martin Foley said. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Some people waited on hold for hours on the state's coronavirus hotline to secure a booking on Thursday. The health department said it was flooded with over 77,000 calls in a 15-minute window but "technical issues" had since been resolved. 

Other all-too-familiar rules Victorians now find themselves living under include a five-kilometre travel limit for exercise and shopping, and compulsory use of masks both indoors and outdoors. 

The lockdown, seeded in South Australian hotel quarantine, has again raised questions about the capability of Victoria's contact tracing system, which was partially blamed for the state's second 112-day lockdown.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it was "absurd" to suggest contact tracing was failing.

Hundreds gathered outside Flinders Street Station on Thursday night to protest the latest shutdown before the stay-at-home rules came into effect.

READ: Everything you need to know about Victoria's snap 7-day lockdown.

"We would not be here." Lockdown blame game continues.

The Victorian government has laid blame for the latest coronavirus outbreak at the feet of the Commonwealth. 

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino was on Thursday clear the situation was the federal government's fault.

"If we had an alternative to hotel quarantine for this particular variant of concern, we would not be here today," Mr Merlino said.

He also took aim at the federal government's vaccine program.

"If we had the Commonwealth's vaccine program effectively rolled out, we may well not be here today."

ADVERTISEMENT

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese told reporters in Canberra, "The government had two jobs this year - to get quarantine right and to get the rollout of the vaccine right."

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been critical of Victoria's handling of the pandemic in the past, refused to bite back. He said Victoria had ample vaccine supplies, but another 130,000 doses would be sent to the state.

He also gave his strongest show of support for the Victorian government's plan to establish a 500-bed quarantine facility on Melbourne's fringe.

Increased security for Jack de Belin match after rape charges dropped.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo says abuse or vilification of Jack de Belin won't be tolerated as the St George Illawarra forward prepares to make his rugby league return.

Ex-Origin player de Belin will play his first professional match in more than two years on Saturday once rape charges are formally dropped by the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on Friday.

The NRL will then register his contract with the Dragons, allowing de Belin to make his return in reserve grade at Lidcombe Oval against Western Suburbs.

ADVERTISEMENT

The NSWRL will bolster security for the match to counter any possible backlash from spectators, while Abdo admitted he did not know how de Belin would be received in his return.

Earlier this month a second jury could not reach a verdict on rape charges against him and friend Callan Sinclair, related to an alleged sexual assault of a teenager in Wollongong in December 2018.

The DPP indicating on Thursday they would not push for a third trial.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Folau lawyers claim discrimination by QRL.

Controversial dual international Israel Folau has instructed lawyers to take action against the Queensland Rugby League, claiming he's being discriminated against.

The former Wallabies representative is hoping to play for Gold Coast third-tier club Southport Tigers, in a bid backed by the financial muscle of outspoken businessman Clive Palmer.

The QRL said on Wednesday it could not proceed with Folau's registration until they received a clearance from Catalans, the French-based Super League club the 32-year-old signed for after receiving a settlement from Rugby Australia.

ADVERTISEMENT

Folau had his contract with RA torn up in 2019 after a series of homophobic social media posts.

He joined Catalans in January last year and extended his deal until the end of the 2021 campaign last July.

While the QRL said Folau's controversial social media posts do not align with their beliefs, they were willing to grant Folau permission to play with the Tigers "at a community rugby league level and no higher" should Catalans provide a clearance.

In a statement, Sam Iskander from Alexander Law said the QRL's conditions for approving Folau's registration were different to any of his potential teammates at the Tigers.

"We do not understand why Israel is being treated differently to any other player seeking registration in the QRL by placing conditions on him which have not been placed on any other player seeking registration from the Southport Tigers," Iskander said.

"We can only conclude it is because of his religious beliefs."

Osaka's French Open media ban for charity.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka says she is not going to speak to the media during the French Open.

The world's highest-earning female athlete wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday that she hopes the "considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity".

The second grand slam of the year is scheduled to begin on Sunday in Paris.

The 23-year-old Osaka, who was born in Japan and now is based in the United States, has won four major titles.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one," world No.2 Osaka wrote.

"We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me."

Osaka said the decision was "nothing personal" against the tournament or journalists.

"I've watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well," she wrote.

"I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down and I don't understand the reasoning behind it."

Tennis players are required to attend post-match news conferences at major tournaments.

Egypt urges new Palestinian, Israeli talks.

Egypt has invited Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for separate talks that aim at consolidating the ceasefire that ended an 11-day war between Israel and the Gaza Strip's militant Hamas rulers, Israeli media and an Egyptian intelligence official say.

The talks would also focus on accelerating the reconstruction process in Gaza.

"We are seeking a long-term truce, that would enable further discussions and possibly direct talks," said the Egyptian official, who had close knowledge of the proceedings that had led to the ceasefire and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to brief reporters.

The 11-day war killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused heavy destruction in the impoverished coastal territory.

ADVERTISEMENT

Preliminary estimates have put the damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Egypt was key in mediating a deal between the two sides but much still hangs on turning the tenuous ceasefire into a more permanent truce.

He said the talks could start as early as next week and that Israel has given its initial approval but that a final agenda is still in the works.

Archibald packers pick Ceberano portrait.

German-born, Sydney-based artist Kathrin Longhurst has won the Archibald Packing Room Prize for her portrait of singer Kate Ceberano.

The packers chose the celebrated soul, jazz and pop artis's portrait from 52 finalists' works on display at the Art Gallery of NSW.

There were 938 entries submitted for the Archibald Prize, which is celebrating its centenary.

The finalists for the Archibald Prize include portraits of Grace Tame, Craig Foster and the biosecurity expert Professor Chandini Raina Macintyre. 

Around the world.

- In his first interview since his crash, Tiger Woods says "walking on my own" is his "number one goal" as he continues to recover from the multiple leg injuries.

- Plans are underway to build the second tallest skyscraper in the world in St. Petersburg, Russia, standing at 703 metres behind Dubai's Burj Khalifa at 828 metres. 

- The likelihood that the earth's average temperature at least temporarily breaching a crucial tipping point is rising, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

- With AAP

Feature image: Chris Putnam/Barcroft Media via Getty/Don Arnold/Getty.