The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Monday October 18.

Rush for hair, restaurant bookings in Vic as the state opens five days early.

Phones will be running hot for hairdressers, pubs and restaurants as fully vaccinated Victorians race for a taste of freedom.

They're back on the menu as of Friday after the state government announced it would end lockdown five days earlier than previously planned thanks to hitting its 70 per cent double-dosed vaccination target more quickly than expected.

News of the fast-tracked relaxation came after Victoria recorded 1838 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths on Sunday.

From 11.59pm on Thursday, all restrictions for leaving home will be abolished, alongside the state's controversial curfew.

Changes will also be made to isolation orders, with fully vaccinated people who are identified as a primary close contact of a confirmed case they don't live with having to quarantine for seven days rather than 14.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said the "safe and sensible" changes to isolation were "because of Victoria's outstanding work in getting vaccinated".

Up to 10 visitors will be allowed in a home per day, but retail and gyms in metropolitan Melbourne will remain closed.

Restrictions will ease further when 80 per cent of the eligible population has received both vaccine doses, originally projected to be November 5.

NSW no longer a Commonwealth hotspot as 80 per cent freedoms kick in and school restarts. 

NSW's coronavirus Commonwealth hotspot status has been dropped after the state reached an 80 per cent double-dose vaccination rate, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has confirmed.

Under the national plan agreed by all premiers and chief ministers, the hotspot declaration automatically ceases within a particular state or territory once the 80 per cent fully vaccinated rate has been reached.


Hotspot-related support ceases two weeks later.

Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie said the temporary COVID-19 disaster payment would wind down in NSW over two weeks, with people needing to apply each week to remain eligible.

In the first week after the 80 per cent milestone people can apply for $450 if they have lost 8 hours or a full day's work or more, while in the second week the rate decreases to $320 before ceasing.

NSW has hit the 80 per cent vaccination target a week earlier than expected, and 91.9 per cent of people aged 16 and over have now received at least one dose. 

A week after stay-at-home orders lifted and fully vaccinated people were allowed back at NSW pubs and beauty salons, people in NSW who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are from Monday able to play community sport and have a dance at the pub, and are allowed to do it with larger groups of people.

Students in grade 12 and grade one, as well as preschoolers, will also return to classrooms, ahead of other grades that are due to return next week.


Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 fully vaccinated people are now permitted, and up to 20 visitors are allowed in a home, provided everyone over the age of 16 is vaccinated. 

You can once again stand up while drinking and even have a dance in most hospitality venues, but not yet nightclubs, which are allowed to reopen so long as people sit down while they drink and don't dance.

A 100-person cap on weddings and funerals has been lifted. A five-person cap at hairdressers and beauticians is now gone too.

Office workers are no longer required to wear masks at work, but they're still required in other indoor areas such as on public transport or in a retail shop. 

On Sunday, NSW recorded another 301 cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths.

Nationals not convinced of climate plan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison won't be getting a quick response to a revised plan to cut carbon emissions, after the Nationals concluded an epic four-hour meeting seeking more information.

Mr Morrison is hoping to go to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow later this month with a credible net zero by 2050 plan.

Nationals members met on Sunday to hear from Energy Minister Angus Taylor on the details of the plan - which will go to a Liberals partyroom meeting on Monday, all coalition members on Tuesday and back to federal cabinet on Wednesday.

The key concern in the meeting was the impact of the plan on jobs and industry in regional areas.

Mr Taylor said it had been a "constructive and collegiate discussion about the future of our regions, traditional industries and the jobs and communities that rely on them".


"There was a strong joint commitment to policies that strengthen our regions, not weaken them," Mr Taylor said.

"It was also clear that there was absolutely no appetite for policies that impact jobs or add to the cost of living through an explicit carbon tax or a sneaky carbon tax."

Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud said after the meeting there had been "divergent views" expressed.

"There were still some more questions that need to be answered," he told Sky News.

"There will be no agreement until such time we get comfort ... I don't think it would be responsible (to agree immediately), I think it would be reckless."

He said supporting a more ambitious emissions target would be one of the biggest decisions his party had ever made and he and colleagues would not be rushed into it.

The Nationals are adamant the coal industry must be allowed to continue well into the 2050s.

International vaccination proofs all set.

Australians will be able to apply for an international proof of COVID-19 vaccination from Tuesday, bringing them a step closer to safe overseas travel, the federal government says.

The proof will be available to Australian passport holders and Australian visa holders who have their COVID-19 vaccinations recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register, government ministers said in a joint statement on Sunday night.

"The international proof of vaccination features a secure QR code to prove COVID-19 vaccination status to border authorities around the world and increases a person's ability to travel safely and with confidence," they said.


The proof will enable fully vaccinated Australians to depart Australia and travel internationally consistent with the National Plan to transition Australia's COVID-19 Response.

It can be downloaded digitally or in printed form and is compatible with COVID-19 travel apps such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass.

The federal government has announced that international travel restrictions will start to ease from the beginning of November for fully vaccinated Australians. 

Applicants can get the free international certificate by using their Medicare account through myGov, or the Medicare Express app.

Tasmania hopeful of 72-hour lockdown end. 

Premier Peter Gutwein has told southern Tasmanians ordered into lockdown following a COVID-19 quarantine breach he is "hopeful we'll be out of this" at some stage on Monday. 

The island state's south was plunged into a 72-hour stint of stay-at-home restrictions on Friday evening after an infected NSW man absconded from the Hobart Travelodge and spent about 18 hours at large.

Testers and tracers have since been working around the clock to eliminate primary contacts of the 31-year-old after he refused to co-operate.


Mr Gutwein said on Sunday a pool of 168 people had been identified, with 95 having returned a negative result to virus tests.  

He described the fact that health officials had no new infections to report as "very welcome news" but declared it was too early to say whether restrictions would be lifted according to schedule on Monday evening.

"I'm hopeful that we'll be out of this tomorrow night, as we had planned to be," he told reporters.

"We couldn't be in a better position as it stands today in terms of the information that we're receiving both in terms of the number of tests that are occurring, but also very pleasingly that we're not seeing any positive cases at this time." 

Berejiklian corruption hearings begin.

The corruption inquiry that prompted former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian's shock resignation is set to begin testing the allegations against her, with another former premier and a current government minister among the first to give evidence.

Ms Berejiklian announced her resignation after the state's corruption watchdog disclosed the 51-year-old - premier from early 2017 - was under investigation for potential breaches of public trust.

Ms Berejiklian denied wrongdoing but said she had no choice but to resign. She is also leaving state parliament.


ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian "exercised public functions" in a position of conflict given her secret five-year relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire, which she admitted during hearings into his conduct in October last year.

It will probe whether she broke the law by failing to disclose her relationship with the former member for Wagga Wagga and whether she "was liable to allow or encourage" his conduct.

Ms Berejiklian's role in grant funding awarded to two projects in his electorate in 2018 will also be investigated.

Multi-million dollar grants were given to the the Australian Clay Target Association in 2016/17 and to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga in 2018.

Neither Ms Berejiklian nor her ex-partner Mr Maguire will appear before the ICAC in the first week of hearings centred on their secret relationship.

"Everything was normal." Melissa Caddick's husband gives first interview since wife's death.

Anthony Koletti, husband of alleged fraudster Melissa Caddick, believes the Sydneysider was murdered. 

Caddick was last seen on November 12, 2020, when she went out for an early morning run, leaving behind her phone and wallet. 

Days earlier she'd been subjected to a 14-hour interrogation by police, who accused her of allegedly making her millions through misappropriated funds invested with her by family and friends.


Her foot was found on February 21st, 400km south of her Dover Heights home.  

Koletti has told 7 News Spotlight, "it would make sense to him that Ms Caddick was murdered." 

"My suspect list is long," he said.

"If it came out, if the police came to me and said 'Melissa was murdered', I'd be like 'it makes sense'.

"I don't believe that she committed suicide."

Koletti thinks the most likely attacker is an angry investor, and says his wife couldn't be guilty of the fraud she has been accused of, because "she already had everything she wanted".

Perrottet announces seventh child on way.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has announced that he and his wife Helen are expecting their seventh child.

In a post on Facebook on Friday night the premier said he had "exciting family news".

"Our family photo wall is going to need another frame! Helen and I are thrilled to announce we have a little girl due next year.


"With five sisters already, William is looking on the bright side - more bench depth on the family basketball team."

Mr Perrottet was appointed premier on October 5 after Gladys Berejiklian stood down to face a corruption inquiry.

Australia, South Island NZ travel reopens.

Quarantine-free travel between Australia and the South Island of New Zealand is ready to resume, Chief Medical Official Paul Kelly says.

He said NSW and Victoria have agreed to allow trips to restart from midnight on Tuesday given there has not been a COVID-19 case in the South Island since last year.

"There is very good work being done to stop people from the North Island going to the South Island, so that is not a risk," Professor Kelly told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

"We hope to allow anyone who has been in the South Island of New Zealand whether Australian, New Zealanders or other nationalities, as long as they have been there for 14 days, to come in quarantine free."

The so-called green lane travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand was halted earlier this year after the Delta variant of COVID-19 hit the southeast of Australia.

UK MP stab suspect 'son of ex-Somali aide'.

Ali Harbi Ali, the son of an ex-media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia, has been arrested by UK police under anti-terrorism laws following the killing of MP David Amess, a source close to the investigation and British media say.

Amess, 69, from Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, was knifed repeatedly as he met constituency voters in a church on Friday in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London.


The killing took place five years after the murder of Jo Cox, an MP from the opposition Labour Party, and has prompted a review of politicians' security.

Police said they had arrested a 25-year-old UK man at the scene on suspicion of murder and have said it is believed he acted alone.

They have not named the suspect but used additional powers under anti-terrorism laws to detain him until October 22.

A British source close to the investigation named Ali Harbi Ali, a British citizen, as the detained suspect.

Harbi Ali Kullane, the father of Ali Harbi Ali, told The Sunday Times that his son had been arrested in connection with the murder.

"At this particular moment we are going through (an)unprecedented and horrific situation," Harbi Ali Kullane, a former adviser to Hassan Ali Khaire, a former Somali prime minister, told Reuters in an email when asked about this.

Around the world.

- Russia has reported its highest daily number of new coronavirus cases, with 34,303 new infections and 999 deaths. Only 29 per cent of the country is fully vaccinated.

- Former US president Bill Clinton has been discharged from hospital after being admitted last week for a urological infection. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Quinn Rooney/Getty/Sam Mooy/Getty/Instagram @dom.perrottet.

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