The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Wednesday September 29.

Australia tracking towards major jab milestone.

Australia is forecast to reach 80 per cent double-dose coronavirus vaccination coverage in mid-November when home tests are expected to be in use.

Vaccine rollout co-ordinator John Frewen has revealed the latest government projections for people aged 16 and over.

By the end of October, 70 per cent of that group should have received both doses with the 80 per cent target likely in mid-November.

Lieutenant General Frewen said reaching high levels of coverage would now depend on people coming forward but 90 per cent would be possible in late November or early December.

Almost 77 per cent of over-16s have now received at least a single shot, while 52.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Rapid antigen tests are expected to be used in homes from November 1.

While no company has a kit ready for the Australian market, Therapeutic Goods Administration boss John Skerritt is confident hurdles will be cleared over the next month.

All tests granted approval for home use need to be effective for the Delta variant.

Instructions must be suitable for about a year-seven level of reading or people for whom English is a second language.

Home rapid antigen tests, which can return results in 20 minutes, have been used overseas for months. But Australian authorities have been cautious in expanding use beyond selected workplaces because of concerns around accuracy compared to nose and throat swabs.


Melbourne men could face jail for allegedly breaking WA border rules for AFL Grand Final.

Four men have been accused of breaching WA's strict border, entering the state and attending the AFL Grand Final over the weekend after being in Melbourne.

Two of the men, Melbourne bar owner Hayden Burbank and financial planner Mark Babbage, are accused of falsifying documents after flying from Darwin to Perth on September 22.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said it was alleged the men claimed to have been in the Northern Territory alone during the preceding 14 days and, as a result, they were granted a G2G pass to enter the state. 

They had in fact been in Melbourne 11 days prior.

Both have been refused bail and are due to appear in the Perth Magistrates Court today.

Commissioner Dawson said two other AFL attendees had also entered the state via South Australia and had lied to hide the fact they had been in Melbourne some time during the preceding 14 days.

One is in custody, the other has returned to Victoria and remains 'at large.'

Gabby Petito's family beg fiancé, "turn yourself in."

Gabby Petito's family has called on Brian Laundrie to hand himself in at a press conference where they showed off their new tattoos for the 22-year-old.

The new ink, on the arms of both Gabby's parents and step-parents reads, "Let it Be" and "Believe". They were tattoos that their daughter designed herself.


Speaking at a press conference, their first since she was confirmed dead, they thanked the world for their support and help in finding Gabby's body.

Gabby's father rolled his eyes when asked about the Laundrie family's silence. 

"The Laundries did not help us find Gabby. They are sure not going to help us find Brian," their lawyer Richard Stafford answered. "We are asking you to turn yourself in."

During the press conference, the family announced they would be starting a non-profit titled the Gabby Petito Foundation in honour of their daughter.

Laundrie hasn't been seen since September 14. He returned from a cross-country road trip on September 1 alone with the couple's van, but without Gabby. Her body was found in a Wyoming National Park on Sunday September 19th. 


Vic region locked down as govt support falls.

Victoria's Latrobe Valley region has been plunged into a seven-day lockdown to curb a growing COVID-19 outbreak believed to be linked to a household gathering.

Residents in the City of Latrobe, which encompasses the Gippsland towns of Moe, Morwell and Traralgon, entered lockdown just before midnight on Tuesday.

They are now living under the same restrictions as those in Melbourne, aside from curfew.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the illegal social gathering, held over the AFL grand final weekend, was "regrettable".

Active cases in the region have now jumped to 18, with a further four infections confirmed on Tuesday afternoon. They will be reported in Wednesday's tally.

It comes as approval of the Victorian government's handling of the pandemic has fallen, despite the release of its COVID-19 roadmap and Melburnians enjoying more minor freedoms.

The latest Essential poll, which surveyed 1094 people last week, shows support for the Andrews government's response to the state's COVID-19 outbreak fell to 44 per cent over the past fortnight.


The approval rating had rebounded to 50 per cent in mid-September after falling to 44 per cent in late August.

Of the 277 Victorians surveyed, 36 per cent said they had confidence in their plan compared to 48 per cent of 348 NSW respondents.

With the state forecast to pass 80 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage, a modest easing of rules comes into effect on Wednesday including extending the travel limit to 15km and resumption of contactless sports.

Brisbane bracing for more COVID-19 cases.

Queenslanders are bracing for more COVID-19 cases after four new cases emerged in Brisbane.

The state recorded its first mystery case in 50 days on Tuesday, when an Eatons Hill man in his 30s who works in the aviation industry tested positive. 

He was infectious in the community for three days and his wife has also returned a positive test, but the man had only been inoculated a week prior, meaning he was not fully protected.

The third case is that of a woman who returned three negative tests during two weeks in hotel quarantine before testing positive five days after her release.

Queensland health's primary concern is that of a truck driver who was infectious in the community for eight days and stayed at two hotels and an inner-city boarding house.

Exposure sites were listed on Tuesday for Eatons Hill, Rocklea, Albany Creek, Aspley and South Brisbane, with venues across these suburbs listed as close contacts or casual contacts. 


The state government has also moved to mandate at least one jab for truck drivers entering Queensland after seven truck drivers have entered the state who have been infectious in the community since August 24.

In light of the new clusters, Queensland Health has changed the directives for mask wearing in the Moreton Bay and Brisbane local government areas. Masks are now mandatory indoors and in all public settings where social distancing isn't possible.

The four cases reported on Tuesday have brought a cloud over the NRL grand final plans, just days before 50,000 people are expected to descend on Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on Sunday. 

Easier for jabbed in 'COVID-normal' NSW.

As NSW looks forward to ushering in the "COVID-normal" era in December, unvaccinated people have been warned they will likely remain barred from many venues. 

NSW will emerge from lockdown in a fortnight after almost four months of stay-at-home orders for large parts of the state.

In December, public health orders will no longer prevent unvaccinated patrons from intermingling, but Health Minister Brad Hazzard said business owners could still deny them entry.

And those who refused the jab were likely to remain barred from most hospitality and entertainment venues as well as air travel, he said. 

NSW on Tuesday reported 863 new local coronavirus cases - dipping below Victoria's 867 daily infections - and seven deaths.


Of the seven people who died, one person was in their 40s, one in their 50s, two in their 70s, two in their 80s and one in their 90s.

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says officers won't routinely stop people and ask to see their vaccination passports, but will be available to help business owners who refuse service to anyone.

Port Macquarie and Muswellbrook in NSW have been placed into lockdown for one week while the areas of Tweed, Byron Shire and Kempsey opened up overnight. 

However, two new infections in Byron and Kyogle have placed that bubble under threat hours after it was reopened. 


There are currently 1155 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, with 213 in intensive care units and 113 on ventilators.

Mr Hazzard said intensive care unit admissions may not reach the dire peaks modelling had previously predicted for October.

SA modelling to set ongoing virus rules.

South Australia will conduct its own modelling and use national analysis to help set the level of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and border closures once vaccine targets are hit, Premier Steven Marshall says.

The premier says some level of social health measures and border rules will remain in place even after 80 per cent of eligible people are double vaccinated.

But he says SA wants to move away from statewide lockdowns and full state lockouts.

"There will still need to be some caps, some density arrangements in place with these public health social measures and they are likely to be in place for some time," Mr Marshall told reporters on Tuesday.

"We will still need to have a high testing regime in place. People infected and their close contacts will still need to be isolated.

"But the over-arching outcome we want is an end to statewide lockdowns and an end to whole-of-state blockouts. That doesn't mean we'll just be removing all restrictions when we get to that 80 per cent."


In terms of opening up to NSW and Victoria, Mr Marshall said it was likely people coming across the border would all need to be double vaccinated and there would still need to be some form of testing arrangements.

SA has hard border closures in place with both states, with even returning South Australians requiring a special exemption to travel.

ACT confident of travel with NSW, Victoria.

Travel is expected to resume between Canberra, NSW and Victoria before Christmas, but the ACT government isn't banking on other jurisdictions opening their borders.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr expects there to be a lot more movement between the ACT, NSW and hopefully Victoria after December 1.

"It'll be a lot less complicated then. But between now and then, there's going to be this weird set of rules," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"In time, I am optimistic that the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria will have common travel arrangements."

Mr Barr is working with the two states to nut out future travel arrangements.

He expects the situation to be much clearer and more free once NSW grants the same freedoms to vaccinated and unvaccinated people from December.

The ACT recorded 13 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday. 


The ACT has 243 active cases, eight of which are in hospital. Three of these people are in intensive care requiring ventilation.

McLachlan backs AFL vaccinations.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has thrown his weight behind vaccinations again, saying it is the league's way out from COVID-19 disruptions.

A decision is expected soon from the AFL on mandatory vaccinations for players and club staff.

McLachlan said earlier this month it's a complicated issue, with some resistance from the players' association.

But he made his own thoughts clear again on Tuesday before returning to Melbourne.

"If we want to get our lives back and get back to doing things the simple way, and opening up, we need to be vaccinated," he told journalists at Perth airport.

"We see it as our path out and our policy will reflect that."

'Serious policy' taken to climate talks.

Australia will take "serious policy decisions" to climate talks in Glasgow, a senior Morrison government minister says.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his cabinet are working on a plan to achieve net zero emissions, preferably by 2050, through a combination of technologies including hydrogen, solar, hydro, soil carbon, electric cars and methane-reducing livestock feed.

Mr Morrison and other national leaders are under pressure to lift their emission cut ambitions at the COP26 summit in November, in a bid to keep the global temperature rise under long-term damaging levels.


A decision has not yet been made on whether the prime minister will attend in person.

But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said whichever ministers attended would take the talks seriously.

"What matters most is the fact that we'll be taking serious policy decisions to those discussions," Senator Birmingham told Tasmania Talks radio.

"We want to make sure that we keep those emissions going down on the trajectory towards net zero."

Many Nationals and Liberal members have been pushing back on climate policy, arguing it needs to ensure rural and regional communities are not adversely impacted.

Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud said any plan needed to show "who is going to pay" or his party would not support it.

Clouds may help save Great Barrier Reef.

To slow the speed at which high temperatures and warm waters bleach the corals of the Great Barrier Reef, Australian scientists are spraying droplets of ocean water into the sky to form clouds to protect the environmental treasure.

Researchers working on the so-called Cloud Brightening project say they use a turbine to spray microscopic sea particles to thicken existing clouds and reduce sunlight on the world's largest coral reef ecosystem.

The droplets evaporate leaving only tiny salt crystals that float into the atmosphere allowing water vapour to condense around them, forming clouds, says Daniel Harrison, a senior lecturer at Southern Cross University, who runs the project.


"If we do it over an extended period of time for a few weeks to a couple of months when the corals are experiencing a marine heatwave we can actually start to lower the water temperature over the Reef," Harrison said.

A combination of light and warm water causes coral bleaching. By cutting light over the reef by six per cent in summer, "bleaching stress" would be cut by 50 per cent to 60 per cent on the undersea ecosystem, Harrison said.

But the benefits of cloud brightening would lessen over time unless other measures slowed the march of climate change.

NT crocodile attack during river cruise.

A Darwin tour guide has injuries to his arm and hand after being bitten by a crocodile during a cruise on the Adelaide River.

St John Ambulance officials took a triple zero call after the incident on Monday, but they said by the time the crew arrived the 60-year-old had been taken to the Palmerston Hospital in a private car.


Speaking to 9News, Sean Dealy dismissed his two-metre long attacker as a "little croc" and says his customers got a "bit of a shock" seeing the animal hanging off him.

One of the tourists was a nurse who was able to bandage him up. 

Around the world.

- France and Greece have announced a defence deal worth $4.8 billion, Paris' first such agreement since Australia spiked a $90 billion plan to buy diesel-electric submarines.

- Japan's government has announced the nation's COVID-19 state of emergency will end this week so the economy can be reactivated as infections slow. 

- With AAP

Feature image: AFL Instagram/Getty/ Octavio Jones/Jono Searle/Getty.

Want to win $100? Tell us what you think