news

The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Tuesday September 28.

R Kelly convicted in sex trafficking trial.

R Kelly has been convicted by a US federal jury in his sex trafficking trial, where prosecutors accused the R&B singer of exploiting his stardom over 25 years to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex.

Jurors in Brooklyn federal court deliberated for a little more than one day before voting to convict the 54-year-old Kelly on all nine counts he faced, after a five-and-a-half week trial.

Kelly kept his head down as the verdict was read, with his face shielded by a white mask.

One woman watching from an overflow courtroom cried as the verdict was read.

Deveraux Cannick, a lawyer for Kelly, told reporters outside the courtroom that the defence was "disappointed".

Kelly's sentencing was scheduled for May 4, 2022.

The singer, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is one of the most prominent people tried on sex charges during the #MeToo movement, which amplified accusations that had dogged him since the early 2000s.

Many accusations against Kelly were included in the January 2019 Lifetime documentary Surviving R Kelly.

Several witnesses testified that Kelly instilled fear if his victims did not fulfill his every need, sexual and otherwise.

Jurors heard how Kelly would compel victims to follow "Rob's rules," including that they call him "Daddy" and get permission to eat or go to the bathroom.

ADVERTISEMENT

One witness hoping to interview him for a radio station said he locked her up for at least two days without food or water before assaulting her.

On top of the conviction, Kelly still faces federal charges in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction, and state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

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. 

Man charged with murder of UK teacher.

UK police say they have charged a man with the murder of a female teacher found dead a short walk from her home, a killing that again raised public anger about violence towards women.

Sabina Nessa, 28, left her home in Kidbrooke, south London, on the evening of September 17 to make the five-minute walk through a local park to a bar where she was due to meet a friend.

She never arrived and her body was found in the park the next afternoon.

ADVERTISEMENT

Police said they had charged Koci Selamaj, 36, from Eastbourne on England's south coast, with murder.

He is due to appear at Willesden Magistrates' Court in London on Tuesday.

Nessa's killing came six months after there was a huge public outcry and demands for action after another woman, Sarah Everard, was abducted, raped and murdered in south London in March by a police officer.

Vigils were held in the local area and across the UK to remember Nessa and to highlight violence against women.

NSW readies to open up after four months.

NSW is set to emerge from a lockdown in a fortnight after almost four months of stay-at-home orders for much of the state.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the beginning of the "COVID-normal" era on Monday, almost certainly ending statewide or region-wide lockdowns. 

Socially distanced introductions back to hospitality venues and hairdressers will likely begin from October 11 as earlier promised when 70 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated. 

About two weeks later, the state is expected to reach 80 per cent coverage and travel between Greater Sydney and regional NSW will resume. 

ADVERTISEMENT

From October 25, gathering caps should increase to 10 fully vaccinated visitors in homes, 20 people outdoors, a maximum of 200 people for COVID-safe events and up to 500 people at ticketed and seated events.

Entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres can operate at 75 per cent capacity, libraries and museums can reopen and community sport will resume. Nightclubs will remain closed.

Life from December 1 will return to near normalcy for all including those who are not fully vaccinated. 

NSW reported 787 new local cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday.

The premier urged residents to remain vigilant until the 70 per cent milestone had been reached to keep virus transmissions and hospitalisations low. 

There are currently 1155 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 214 in intensive care units and 115 on ventilators.

ACT announces path out of COVID lockdown.

The ACT has outlined its path out of COVID restrictions, with Canberra's lockdown set to end on October 15.

However, Chief Minister Andrew Barr says vaccinated ACT residents will not be afforded any additional freedoms compared to those yet to get a vaccine.

Some restrictions will be eased from Friday ahead of the end of the lockdown, including residents being able to have two visitors in their home.

Restrictions will ease further on October 15, such as the reopening of pubs and restaurants with density limits, hairdressers reopening with up to five customers and gyms opening with strict measures in place.

ADVERTISEMENT

Further relaxation of restrictions will take place on October 29, which will allow for increased density limits, the reopening of retail and the restart of ticketed events for up to 500 people.

Students will also be able to return to in-person learning at schools for most year groups from October 18, with all students to return by November 1.

The news came on the same day the ACT recorded its first death from COVID-19 during the current outbreak - a man in his 90s who was in palliative care at an aged care facility in Canberra's north before catching the virus.

Time to return to being a nation: Barnaby Joyce.

Businesses will go broke and mental health will decline if premiers continued to act like leaders of "hermit kingdoms" rather than part of a nation, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says.

NSW and the ACT have become the latest jurisdictions to outline detailed roadmaps out of restrictions imposed to reduce COVID-19 cases.

Their confidence in moving beyond hard lockdowns and social limits comes as vaccination rates head towards the nationally agreed target of 80 per cent.

But Queensland and Western Australia are maintaining hard borders to keep their case numbers down, while their vaccination rates are well below the rest of the country.

Mr Joyce said people were frustrated and businesses were seeking a path out of the pandemic.

"The alternative is they stay locked up like a hermit kingdom," he told the ABC.

"You think you can live in an economy by yourself? After October, are you going to get your own navy, own air force, have your own little army?

"It's untenable. The nation must go on as a nation."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is in quarantine after returning from the United States, said international travel could resume before the end of the year if vaccination rates continue at pace.

ADVERTISEMENT

The latest health department data show 51.8 per cent of Australians aged over 16 have been fully vaccinated, with the first dose figure sitting on 76.1 per cent.

Aviation worker tests positive in Qld.

An aviation industry worker has tested positive for COVID-19 in Queensland, sparking a public health alert for sites in Brisbane.

"The man in his 30s works in the aviation industry, with no recent history of overseas or interstate travel," Queensland Health said in a statement late on Monday.

The source of his case is being investigated and it will be reported in Tuesday's COVID-19 data.

A public health alert has been issued for exposure sites including a McDonald's in Albany Creek, a childcare centre in Eatons Hill and stores in Rocklea and Aspley.

The case comes after Queensland earlier reported zero new cases of COVID-19 for Monday and the chief health officer said people should "prepare and hope" for the state's borders to reopen in time for Christmas.

But Jeannette Young could not say whether reaching coverage of 80 per cent of eligible Queenslanders fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will trigger an automatic reopening of the state's borders before December 25.

The state borders have been closed to most of NSW since July 21, to Greater Sydney since June 22, regional Victoria since July 17 and Melbourne since May 28.

ADVERTISEMENT

Hundreds of Queensland residents and people trying to move to the region have been stuck in limbo interstate for months.

Queensland had given 63.8 per cent of eligible residents at least one dose of a vaccine by Saturday, with 44.9 per cent fully vaccinated.

Qantas announces Darwin to London flights.

Qantas has announced it will temporarily cease flights to London from Perth, with plans to replace it with a service from Darwin. 

The Darwin-London service will run until at least April 2022, if the carrier can come to a deal with the Northern Territory government, the airline said on Monday.

"At this stage, WA doesn't intend to open to international travel until sometime next year, so we'll unfortunately have to temporarily move our Perth-London service until at least April 2022," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said in a statement.

The national carrier has successfully used Darwin as a hub for its repatriation flights to various destinations across Europe, Asia and the Middle East over the past 12 months.

If able to come to a deal, Qantas plans to run daily Melbourne-Darwin-London flights.

If not, it will instead fly Melbourne-Singapore-London.

A decision is expected in the next two weeks.

Vaccine push in high-risk Vic suburbs as cops prepare for more protests.

General practitioners and pharmacies in Melbourne suburbs hardest hit by COVID-19 are the state government's newest tool to speed up the vaccination rollout.

ADVERTISEMENT

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced grants of up to $10,000 for clinics and pharmacies in 11 local government areas with high COVID-19 infections and low vaccination rates.

Those areas are Brimbank, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Greater Dandenong, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Melton, Moreland, Whittlesea and Wyndham.

Mr Andrews said the grants would allow GPs and pharmacies to operate additional hours, hire more staff or rent out space to run vaccination hubs.

Victoria recorded 705 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Monday and one death, a man in his 70s from Darebin. It brings the toll from the current outbreak to 25.

More than 78 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 47.7 per cent have had two doses.

Melbourne's lockdown will remain in place until 70 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 are double-vaccinated, which is forecast for October 26.

A more significant easing of restrictions will occur when the 80 per cent double-dose target is met, forecast for November 5.

Unlike NSW, Victorians will experience a very different path out of lockdown, with the Premier refusing to guarantee freedoms for the unvaccinated. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Melbourne could be in for another day of chaos, with a truck convoy expected to converge this morning to block a major road.

Nationwide port strikes threaten Christmas.

Strikes planned at ports across Australia threaten to cripple imports ahead of Christmas.

The Maritime Union of Australia has launched industrial action at Patrick Terminals sites in Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney, in what the shipping container terminal operator has described as "bewildering".

Patrick Terminals CEO Michael Jovic says the company has been negotiating with the union since February 2020 and has held almost 70 meetings to finalise a new enterprise agreement.

ADVERTISEMENT

They have offered the union a 2.5 per cent annual pay increase for members over four years.

"We have bargained with the MUA for over 19 months and provided a very generous pay increase, guaranteed no redundancies and provided a commitment to preserving jobs," he said in a statement on Monday.

"They clearly have no intention of reaching a deal. They just want to cause maximum damage to the company and the economy."

Wharfies plan to strike in Sydney's Port Botany next weekend and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Melbourne for the month of October. 

Mr Jovic says the strikes will have ramifications for all Australians in the lead up to Christmas, given more than 40 per cent of all container freight comes through Patrick terminals. 

Tom Trbojevic crowned 2021 Dally M winner.

Tom Trbojevic believes the off-season foot race with a fan that injured his hamstring provided the career wake-up call which led to his stellar 2021 NRL form.

Trbojevic's magnificent season for Manly was rewarded on Monday when the Sea Eagles superstar won his maiden Dally M medal.

Because of that infamous footrace with "Harry" down the Manly corso, 24-year-old Trbojevic only played 15 of a possible 24 games this year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Yet he still polled 35 points to win ahead of ahead of Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary (30) and South Sydney's Cody Walker (29).

Trbojevic said the fallout from that off-season lair made him realise he had to alter his lifestyle and get serious about his football.

"It's a bigger part than people realise," Trbojevic said when asked about that moment in February.

"Obviously it wasn't an ideal way for it to start for me and it wasn't a great look for myself and for Manly.

"I had to cop that and change a few things in my life to make me a better footy player. I think I was able to do that which was pleasing."

In other awards, Melbourne's Craig Bellamy won coach of the year with Sydney Roosters captain James Tedesco named captain of the year

UK Labour party members reject AUKUS.

Members of the Labour party in the United Kingdom have opposed the AUKUS military pact just hours after the party leadership insisted the country should "no longer be half-hearted" about essential alliances.

An emergency motion at Labour Party conference criticised the agreement between the UK, United States and Australia - dubbed AUKUS - amid fears it is a "dangerous move which will undermine world peace".

It added the deal will not promote stability in the Indo-Pacific region and urged the party to recommit its support for enforcing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

ADVERTISEMENT

But the vote was condemned by the GMB union, which warned opposition to the pact "undermines industries where jobs are under threat".

The motion to reject AUKUS was approved by 70.35 per cent to 29.65 per cent by delegates at the conference in Brighton.

Around the world.

- Ash Barty has pulled out of next week's Indian Wells Masters event, casting further doubt over whether the world No.1 will play any more tennis this season.

- US President Joe Biden has rolled up his shirt sleeve for a COVID-19 vaccine booster inoculation, hoping to provide a powerful example on the need to get the extra shot even as millions go without their first.

In getting the booster, Biden dismissed criticism that the United States should distribute more vaccines worldwide before allowing boosters at home.

- French President Emmanuel Macron almost got egg on his face during a visit to a food fair in the town of Bron near Lyon. Video footage from the event clearly shows a well-boiled egg bouncing off Macron's shoulder without breaking. A 19-year-old was arrested immediately. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Scott Olson/Getty/Facebook/Joel Carrett/Getty.

Want to win $50? Take our 3 minute survey now:
MMSurvey