The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Monday October 25.

'Troubling practices' during Rust filming.

Alec Baldwin has been seen consoling the family of the cinematographer who was killed on the set of his movie as more reports emerged of troubling practices during the filming of Rust.

A distraught Baldwin was photographed outside a hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Saturday embracing and talking with Matt Hutchins, the husband of Halyna Hutchins, and their nine-year-old son.

Baldwin, 63, on Friday said he was shocked and heartbroken at the death of Hutchins.

The 42-year-old was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded when Baldwin discharged a prop gun containing a live round that he had been handed and told was unloaded, authorities in Santa Fe have said in court documents.

In a statement read to a candlelight vigil on Saturday, Hutchins called his wife's death "an enormous loss".

No one has been charged in the fatal incident during a rehearsal on Thursday at the Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe as the local sheriff's office continues its investigation.

But multiple media and social media reports have raised concerns about safety protocols on the set of the low-budget movie and have described a walk-out by several camera operators and their assistants just hours before the accident.

In one of the most troubling, celebrity website, citing unidentified sources connected to the production, said the gun handed to Baldwin had previously been used by crew members for target practice off-set, using real bullets.


Reuters could not verify the report and police in Santa Fe did not respond to inquiries on Sunday.

Among the concerns reported among crew members were other incidents involving prop guns.

According to the Los Angeles Times, more than a week ago Baldwin's stunt double accidentally fired two rounds from a prop firearm after being told it was "cold," an industry term meaning a weapon is not loaded with ammunition, including blanks.

Rust Movie Productions said last week that although they "were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down".

According to court documents, the prop gun was handed to Baldwin by the film's assistant director, Dave Halls, who has more than 20 years' experience in the business.

About 200 people took part in the vigil for Hutchins in Albuquerque on Saturday.

While organisers emphasised that the event was to honour Hutchins' memory, rather than focus on her death, some in the crowd held signs that read "Safety on Set".

All NSW school years now back in class.

Remaining pupils will return to NSW classrooms with the premier optimistic about face-to-face education despite some schools already closing for deep cleaning after COVID-19 cases.

Kindergarten, year 1 and year 12 students went back to school in NSW last week and remaining students return to classrooms on Monday.


Premier Dominic Perrottet says there will be challenges in school resuming but he is "very confident" it will go well.

"We've had a number of schools close but the alternative is to keep all schools closed," Mr Perrottet told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

"We're not doing that."

On Sunday night, NSW Education announced a further 16 schools were closed for cleaning and contact tracing after positive COVID-19 tests in their communities.

It follows the closure of two schools on Saturday and seven on Friday, some of which are reopening on Monday.

Asked about reports up to 160 schools throughout NSW had staffing issues as students returned, Mr Perrottet said he was aware there would be some shortages.

"There will always be teachers and people across our state who just decide not to get vaccinated," he said.

"That's their choice. We believe it's a bad choice but ultimately, that success rate of 95 per cent has helped us get our kids back in the classroom."

The state added 296 locally acquired infections to its COVID-19 caseload on Sunday along with four deaths: two men in their 60s, one in his 70s and one in his 80s.

Three of the men who were counted in Sunday's COVID-19 death toll were unvaccinated while one was fully vaccinated.

Vigil for missing Cleo as search continues.

A coastal community in Western Australia has gathered at a vigil for missing girl Cleo Smith hours after police sought more information about a car seen near the campsite where she disappeared.


The Carnarvon Church of Christ on Sunday held a vigil and encouraged people to write in a book of messages to be given to the missing four-year-old's parents.

Detectives believe Cleo was taken from the tent at the Blowholes site on the state's northwest coast in the early hours of last Saturday morning.

The WA government on Thursday issued a $1 million reward for information on her whereabouts.

WA Police Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde said a car was seen turning south off Blowholes Road between 3am and 3.30am that morning.

"We want the person or persons who were in that vehicle to come forward and contact police," Mr Wilde said on Sunday afternoon.

"We want to know who they were and what they were doing."

Mr Wilde stressed the driver was not a suspect.

Cleo was last seen by her parents about 1.30am last Saturday. Her mother Ellie Smith said she woke around 6am to discover the little girl was missing.

Premier Mark McGowan said every resource had been directed into finding Cleo and he urged anyone with information to come forward.

Net zero policy will protect regions: PM.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will add the finishing touches to a policy for achieving net zero emissions by 2050 after the Nationals threw their weight behind the target.


The Nationals party room on Sunday gave the green light for a cabinet submission to go forward, ahead of Mr Morrison attending UN climate talks in Glasgow.

"I welcome the Nationals in-principle support for the commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and look forward to this matter now being finally considered and determined by cabinet," Mr Morrison said.

He acknowledged it had been a challenging issue for the Nationals.

"Only the coalition can be trusted to deliver a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 that will protect and promote rural and regional Australia," Mr Morrison said.

The exact details of the cabinet submission are not known.

But Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said he expected there to be a "firm commitment" to regional Australia in the submission.

"The position regional people are in now is better than the terms and the process that was initially delivered to us," he said after a party room meeting in Canberra which lasted just over two hours.

"We are in support of a process going forward that would go towards a 2050 emissions target.

"Obviously that depends upon what we see in the cabinet submission reflecting the conversations and agreements between myself and the prime minister."

Apart from a "socio-economic safety valve" which would include regular reviews of the impacts of the emissions target on jobs and industries, a key factor in getting the Nationals over the line was the prospect of an election loss without a net zero target.


"Standing up for them (regional Australians) is making sure that you are in the (cabinet) room where the decisions are being made," the deputy prime minister said.

He declined to say whether the prime minister had agreed during the negotiations to give the Nationals an extra cabinet position.

No deal with the Nationals could have been a major embarrassment for the prime minister heading to Glasgow and to the polls by May, with climate shaping up as a major issue for voters.

'Massive' change coming to Vic COVID rules.

Victorians have been given a glimpse of life when nine out of 10 people aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as city and regional residents prepare to reunite.

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced major changes to Victoria's roadmap when the state reaches its next two major vaccination milestones.

With Victoria set to hit its 80 per cent full vaccination target ahead of schedule sometime next weekend, restrictions will ease further and align across the state from 6pm on Friday.

The ban on travel between Melbourne and regional Victoria will be scrapped, reconnecting the state for the first time since the city's 77-day lockdown lifted.

Masks will no longer need to be worn outdoors, entertainment venues, gyms and retail stores can reopen indoors for fully vaccinated patrons, and capacity limits will increase for restaurants, pubs and cafes.


Students from every year level across the state also return to full-time, face-to-face learning on November 1 before Tuesday's Melbourne Cup public holiday.

Longer term, Mr Andrews laid out a plan for the state once 90 per cent of the 12-plus population are fully vaccinated, forecast on or around November 24.

All venue caps and density quotients will be scrapped at that point, along with mandatory indoor mask rules except in high-risk or low-vaccinated settings such as hospitals and schools.

Limits on home and outdoor gatherings will be shelved, paving the way for families to come together en masse at Christmas, while vaccine passport requirements expand to staff and patrons of non-essential retail stores.

Mr Andrews warned Victoria's "vaccinated economy" would remain into 2022, with those who refuse to get the jab excluded from workplaces, venues and major events.

Victoria reported 1935 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Sunday, taking the toll from its current outbreak to 223.

IVF genetic services added to Medicare.

Australians using IVF testing to help prevent them passing serious genetic disorders to their child can soon claim a rebate on Medicare.

Until now, people who know they are carriers of serious genetic disorders could only access these testing services if they were able to pay privately.

From November 1, Australians will be able to claim a Medicare rebate for five items covering new pre-implantation genetic testing services provided within the existing IVF process.

Types of genetic disorders able to be tested include, but are not limited to, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, fragile X, neurofibromatosis and Huntington's disease.

The government is providing $95.9 million so these services can be reimbursed through Medicare.


"This change will give real, practical support to individuals and couples on their fertility journey," Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Sunday.

"It will help ease the financial strain on people using IVF to conceive."

Also from November 1, patients with chronic bowel inflammation will be able to claim a Medicare rebate for non-invasive laboratory tests, reducing the need for diagnostic endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures.

Berejiklian and Maguire face ICAC grilling.

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and ex-MP Daryl Maguire will give evidence this week at anti-corruption hearings into whether the pair breached public trust.

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating allegations Mr Maguire breached public trust by using his public office and parliamentary resources to improperly gain a benefit for himself or those close to him.

The commission is also investigating whether Ms Berejiklian breached the public trust when she supported projects proposed by Mr Maguire, with whom she was in a secret relationship.


Former deputy premier John Barilaro will give evidence on Monday. 

Mr Maguire will follow on Wednesday while Ms Berejiklian is slated to appear on Thursday and Friday.

Ms Berejiklian stepped down as premier on October 1 when ICAC announced it would be holding the public hearings examining her conduct. She denies wrongdoing.

A raft of current and former politicians and public servants gave evidence in public hearings last week.

COVID-19 positive Sheeran to perform from home.

British pop star Ed Sheeran says he has tested positive for COVID-19 and will do interviews and performances from his home while he self-isolates.

Sheeran, 30, broke the news on social media days before his new studio album is due out.

"Quick note to tell you that I've sadly tested positive for Covid, so I'm now self-isolating and following government guidelines," Sheeran wrote on Instagram.

"It means that I'm now unable to plough ahead with any in person commitments for now, so I'll be doing as many of my planned interviews/performances I can from my house. Apologies to anyone I've let down."


Representatives did not immediately say which performances he is canceling and which he will carry out from home.

Sheeran's official website lists no performances before April, but he is scheduled as the musical guest on November 6's Saturday Night Live.

The four-time Grammy winner's new studio album is called "=" which is pronounced "Equals".

Around the world.

- Queen Elizabeth is back at work after spending a night in hospital for the first time in years last week, for what Buckingham Palace termed "preliminary investigations". 

- Olympic runner Agnes Tirop, a rising star in Kenya's highly competitive athletics scene, was buried on Saturday at a funeral attended by over 1,000 mourners after she was found stabbed in her home on October 13. Police have arrested her husband.

- Sweden and Pakistan have warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse and an "economic freefall" thanks to the abrupt end of billions of dollars in assistance in August. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Mostafa Bassim Adly/Anadolu Agency/Getty/AAP Image/Mick Tsikas/Instagram @teddysphotos.

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