The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Friday September 3.

Govt steps up to reward Para medallists.

Top Australian Paralympian Dylan Alcott has hailed the federal government's major funding boost as a win for people power.

Australia's 2021 Paralympic medallists will receive the same financial reward as their Olympic counterparts, thanks to the federal government's support.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in parliament on Thursday that the government would guarantee $20,000 for every Australian gold medal at the Tokyo Games, plus $15,000 per silver and $10,000 for each bronze.

The Australian Olympic Committee provided the same incentives for Tokyo Olympics medallists.

But Paralympics Australia said it lacked the financial resources to match the Olympic reward program.

"How cool is this news. It's because of all of you backing the Paralympic Games and making some noise to make this change happen," Alcott tweeted.

"We appreciate the support of the Australian public so much, and hope the last week has put some smiles on some faces back home!"


The government added it will work with Paralympics Australia and other sporting bodies to increase corporate backing for para-sports.

Paralympics Australia hailed the funding announcement as a landmark move towards equity in sport.

"We have fought so hard for equity in funding for our para-athletes and the Government, along with Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport, have been great supporters of this along the way," said Paralympics Australia chief executive Lynne Anderson.

The Paralympics end on Sunday and Australia is eighth on the medal table with 17 gold, 23 silver and 26 bronze.

Family causes scare in QLD as premier scolded for "scaremongering."

A family at the centre of a coronavirus scare on the Gold Coast has tested negative to the virus, a school principal has told parents in a letter.

The family was ordered into hotel quarantine, with some of them unwell after reportedly returning from Melbourne without quarantining.

The only reason they were discovered was because the children told their classmates of their travels. They entered the state undetected via an inland route. 


Separately the Queensland government reported a new locally acquired case of COVID-19, a truck driver who is now in NSW.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the driver, who lives at Windaroo, returned a positive result amongst 10,433 virus tests in the 24 hours to 6.30am on Thursday.

The 46-year-old man was infectious in the community in Logan and the northern Gold Coast between August 28 and September 1.

He is the second truck driver to test positive in as many days.

Palaszczuk, meanwhile, has been called out for "scaremongering" over her claims that reopening her state would make "every child under 12 vulnerable." 

A stream of senior federal cabinet ministers tore into the Queensland leader with LNP Senator Amanda Stoker telling the ABC Radio, "No where in the world is there a vaccine that's approved for under 12s, nowhere. She's set a goalpost that can be met by no one. 


"If the premier had a good look at the Doherty modelling she would have seen that the potential for risks to children was considered and found to be extremely low."

Delta cases rise in Victoria as state abandons COVID-zero.

Victoria has turned its back on COVID zero in favour of vaccinations, with tough restrictions to stay until at least 70 per cent of eligible Victorians are fully inoculated.

There is some reprieve from Friday, including the reopening of playgrounds for children aged 12 and under, with certain rules such as QR code check-ins and masks for their one permitted supervisor.

Of the 176 new cases on Thursday, 67 were located in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, 61 in the west, 22 in the east and south, and 13 in the regional town of Shepparton.

"This virus is here, right now, and it is spreading fast," Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie told reporters.

"The increasing case numbers are a herald of what our health system is going to be faced with in the coming weeks and months."

More than 3000 people were swabbed as part of day 13 testing in Shepparton on Thursday, which could further lift case numbers on Friday.

Health Minister Martin Foley said Burnet Institute research had suggested the state's lockdown had avoided a further 6000 cases in the past month, but now was the time to pivot.

"You've got to follow the advice of the science. Delta has changed the script," he said.

To aid Victoria's quest to ramp up vaccinations, the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been halved to six weeks.


The move, effective immediately, makes the wait time between AstraZeneca doses the same as for Pfizer and will help the state reach its 80 per cent double dose target faster.

While clinical trials have shown AstraZeneca is most effective with a 12-week second dose interval, Prof Cowie said the state needed to strike a balance between long-term efficacy and increasing protection against the Delta variant.

Western Sydney COVID restrictions eased.

Residents of Sydney's coronavirus hotspots are now allowed to exercise as much as they like outside of a curfew, after a one-hour limit was lifted.

People living in the NSW local government areas of concern must still be at home by 9pm and cannot start going for jogs or walks before 5am.


Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the easing of the exercise restriction on Thursday, the same day the state reached 70 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage of people aged 16 and over.

More than seven million jabs have been administered in NSW. 

The milestone all but guarantees NSW will soon reach double-dose vaccination for 70 per cent of the population, triggering a wider easing of restrictions. 

Some 38.68 per cent of NSW residents are already fully vaccinated. 

The state reported 1288 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday - a new daily record. 

Seven more people died, including two who acquired their infections while in hospital. 

Ms Berejiklian said on Thursday opening up would mean more people could die, but Australia had to "sensibly transition to what living with COVID is like".  

"We have to get really real about what we are facing, and I know sometimes it is difficult to hear, and I remember specifically the day I said we would never get to COVID zero, but that is the reality," she said.


"What we need to do is live with COVID normal, and getting to 80 per cent double-dose adult population gets us on our way."

Also from Friday, NSW residents will be able to hold and attend small weddings of up to five guests.

Meanwhile, seven men have been fined more than $30,000 for breaching public health orders by leaving Sydney and canvassing for work in the Lake Macquarie area.

WA enforces virus jabs for health workers.

Western Australia has introduced strict new coronavirus vaccination requirements for all healthcare workers and support staff while tightening its border to Victoria.

The tough new rules will be rolled out in stages and will trickle down to staff including cleaners, maintenance workers and security guards.

From October 1, all staff must have had a first dose to access "tier one" facilities including intensive care units, respiratory wards, emergency departments and vaccination clinics.

They must be fully vaccinated by November 1.

At tier two facilities including public and private hospitals, all healthcare workers must receive one dose by November and be fully vaccinated by December. Hospital support workers will follow the same process a month later.

By January, all healthcare workers and support staff will need to be fully vaccinated to access any designated public health service facilities, including the Department of Health headquarters.


WA Health is monitoring 13 active cases after recording no new infections overnight.

Canberra won't ditch goal of COVID-zero.

The ACT won't follow the footsteps of some states in abandoning COVID-zero after recording 12 new infections.

While Canberra remains at "extreme risk" from NSW, Chief Minister Andrew Barr doesn't think COVID-zero is out of reach for the nation's capital.

"If we continue on this trajectory, then we would be able to contain this outbreak and get to the point where we have no infectious cases in the community," he told reporters on Thursday.

The territory has become Australia's first jurisdiction to cross the 80 per cent full vaccination mark for one age group - people aged between 75 and 79.

Overall, about 44 per cent of territory residents aged 16 and older are double-dosed, with 68 having received a single shot.

Canberra's lockdown, extended until midnight on September 17, was aimed at buying as many people as possible time to get the jab.

An unvaccinated man in his 20s is one of two people on a ventilator. A total of 13 people are in hospital, four of them in intensive care.

Paralympian Cooke hospitalised after crash.

Australian Paralympics cycling great Carol Cooke is in hospital with a punctured lung a nasty crash in the Tokyo Games women's T1-2 road race.

Cooke, who turned 60 earlier this month, was hoping to repeat the gold medal she earned in Rio 2016.


But she was caught in a collision with two other riders early in the race, which was marred by poor, slippery conditions. 

Canada's Marie-Eve Croteau crashed and the rider behind her, Germany's Jana Majunke, braked - with Cooke then going into the back of Majunke, and crashing badly herself.

Majunke pedalled away but neither Cooke nor Croteau completed the race.

Cooke, who claimed silver in the women's time trial on Tuesday, got back on her tricycle but was unable to finish. She has a collapsed left lung and doctors have inserted a chest drain.

"I'm made of concrete. I spoke to my sister and she told me it's alright, I still have three years to come back and redeem myself (in Paris)," Cooke said.

Alcott loss caps gold-free day at Paras.

A lean day for Australia at the Paralympics has extended all the way to the tennis as Dylan Alcott's bid for a Tokyo tennis quad doubles gold medal fell short.

Alcott and Heath Davidson won gold at Rio 2016, but they suffered a straight-sets loss to Dutch duo Sam Schroder and Niels Vink in a rain-affected match on Wednesday.

The 6-4 6-3 defeat ensured Australia failed to win a gold medal for the entire day.


Instead, Australia had to be content with two silvers and four bronzes.

Alcott and Davidson were gracious in defeat, hugging their jubilant opponents at the net.

"We got pumped tonight," Alcott said.

"No excuses - no rain, no roof closure, no me being tired - they were better than us and they deserved it."

Although Australia didn't win a gold medal on Wednesday, the foundation has been set for success in the coming days.

Ma Lin and Joel Coughlan came up trumps in the semi-finals of the men's table tennis teams event to set up a gold medal match against China on Friday.

The Australian women's team featuring Lina Lei and Qian Yang also made the final, where they will take on Poland.

Biden to "protect" women from abortion ban.

Joe Biden has condemned a Supreme Court decision not to block a new Texas law banning most abortions in the state, and directed federal agencies to do what they can to "insulate women and providers" from the impact.

The deeply divided court allowed the law to remain in force in the nation's biggest abortion curb since the court legalised the operation nationwide half a century ago.

The court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others but suggested the order was not likely to be the last word and other challenges could be brought.


The president said his administration will launch a "whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision" and look at "what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions".

He said women should be protected from "the impact of Texas's bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties".

Taliban to reveal new Afghan government.

Afghanistan's Taliban rulers are preparing to unveil their new government "in a matter of days" as the economy teeters on the edge of collapse more than two weeks after the Islamist militia captured Kabul and brought a chaotic end to 20 years of war.

The legitimacy of the new government in the eyes of international donors and investors will be crucial for the economy as the country battles drought and the ravages of a conflict that took the lives of an estimated 240,000 Afghans.


The Taliban have promised to allow safe passage out of the country for any foreigners or Afghans left behind by the massive airlift which ended with the withdrawal of the last US troops on Monday.

But with Kabul airport still closed, many were seeking to flee overland to neighbouring countries.

Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the Gulf state was talking with the Taliban and working with Turkey about technical support to restart operations at Kabul airport, which would facilitate humanitarian assistance and possibly more evacuations.

Around the world.

- Afghanistan's Zakia Khudadadi has competed in the Paralympic Games, becoming the first woman from her country to do so since Athens 2004, after a secret international effort to help the taekwondo athlete get out of Taliban-controlled Kabul.

The 22-year-old did not speak to reporters after her two matches, both of which she lost. Rasouli competed in the men's long jump on Tuesday. Both athletes had said they did not wish to speak to the media.

- Swedish supergroup ABBA have announced their first new album in four decades and said they would stage a series of virtual concerts using digital avatars of themselves in London next year.

- With AAP

Feature image: Buda Mendes/Jono Searle/Getty.

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