The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Wednesday September 8.

States row with PM over vaccine allocation.

Scott Morrison has defended sending extra Pfizer doses to NSW after state premiers savaged secrecy surrounding vaccine distribution.

The prime minister's home state received 45 per cent of the Pfizer doses distributed last month despite having 32 per cent of Australia's population.

But Mr Morrison said the increase in NSW's supplies was mainly drawn out of doses from Poland in a bid to deal with a spiralling outbreak.

He said the federal government rebuffed calls for the state to receive an increased allocation in June and July.

"I'll tell you who said no to that, it was me. It wasn't the states and territories," Mr Morrison told Sky News.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews demanded a reckoning to balance the ledger and blasted "secret arrangements" around vaccines.

"Some don't like to see this as a race, but a race it surely is. What I did not know was that (NSW) Premier Berejiklian is in a sprint while the rest of us are supposed to do some egg and spoon thing," he said.

"No, we want our fair share. These allocations which are totally unfair and were under the table and need to stop."


Health Minister Greg Hunt said Victoria and Queensland received extra doses during outbreaks and insisted the NSW boost was about saving lives.

"Others may be looking for conflict. Sometimes these things can be a little stage-managed," he said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan also called for states that gave up doses for NSW to be repaid.

"We can't have a situation where some states are punished for doing the right thing for NSW," he told reporters in Perth.

Gatherers at Vic synagogue set to be fined.

Worshippers who gathered near a synagogue in Melbourne's southeast in breach of COVID-19 lockdown rules will be fined by police.

People were spotted entering a building, believed to be a prayer room, near a Ripponlea synagogue early on Tuesday morning to mark the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

In the afternoon, officers surrounded both front and back entrances of the building, where an Orthodox Jewish group was believed to be congregating upstairs.


The stand-off ended just after 8pm, with several people filing outside and a group of traditionally dressed worshippers became aggressive.

"All adults who attended will be issued with a $5452 fine. A number of children who were present will not be fined," a Victoria Police spokesman said in a statement.

Victoria reported 246 cases for a second consecutive day, equalling the highest increase of the outbreak.

NSW hospo sector told to plan for October 14.

NSW residents could be knocking back schooners at the pub and dining at restaurants as soon as next month - but only if they're fully vaccinated.

"My strong message to the hospitality sector is dust off your COVID-safety plans, things will be reopening in October," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

"Let's hope that October reopening means it's the last time we ever have a state-wide lockdown." 

The state is projected to reach the long-awaited goal of 70 per cent vaccine coverage in October, triggering a gradual reopening.

Nearly three-quarters of NSW residents aged 16 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Some 41.79 per cent had received both doses, according to data published on Tuesday.


The door to the pub will only be open to those who can show they have had both doses of the vaccine, the premier warned on Tuesday.

"When we open up at 70 per cent double-dose, it will be only for those who are vaccinated," she said.

Ms Berejiklian urged people to book in their vaccines to avoid being left behind.

People will eventually be able to add their vaccine status to the Service NSW app that's being used to manage check-ins and scanning QR codes.

October is also projected to be the worst period for the state's hospital system. 

But Ms Berejiklian said that won't get in the way of the government's reopening plans. 

"Coincidentally, the worst time in hospitalisation is likely to be the time that we open up," she said.

"But that shouldn't stop us from proceeding with what is a safe thing to do."

NSW reported 1220 local infections and eight deaths on Tuesday as authorities wait for a further peak in numbers.

PM defends Father's Day trip to Sydney.

In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, the prime minister said he understood people's "frustration" he travelled to Sydney from Canberra for Father's Day given many Australians are unable to travel, but claimed he had been the victim of "misinformation".

He told Sky there was "no requirement to get an exemption to go to Sydney" and he had returned home after parliament finished on Thursday and attended national cabinet on Friday.

As a resident of Sydney, his travel to Canberra was covered by the same essential work exemption granted to all parliamentarians and "the exemption I require is to come back here to the ACT."


Asked about the Instagram post featuring an old photo, Morrison said it was "very cynical" to suggest he had not been upfront about being in Sydney and labelling the suggestion a "low blow". 

Bill Shorten told Channel Nine’s Today Morrison had shown "appalling judgment" because "you can't have one rule for Mr Morrison and another for everyone else". 

Three in five western NSW cases Indigenous.

Three out of every five people testing positive for COVID-19 in western NSW are Indigenous, health authorities have revealed, amid alarm over falling testing rates. 

While Aboriginal people make up 13 per cent of the population of the Western NSW Local Health District, they represent 60 per cent of the district's positive cases, LHD Chief Executive Scott McLachlan said on Tuesday.

Some 885 people have acquired the virus in that district the last few months, more than 600 of whom live in Dubbo. 

More than 13 per cent of the majority-Indigenous town of Wilcannia, population 745, has now been infected.

A devastating outbreak in Enngonia has infected at least 18 people in a town of just 148, one hour from the nearest hospital. Some 44.9 per cent of residents are Indigenous. 


State MP Roy Butler says the NSW government was too slow to clamp down on people leaving Sydney after the city's outbreak began in mid-June.  

Spike in drownings blamed on COVID factors.

A spike in drowning deaths has been blamed on COVID-related factors as Australians holiday at home and more swim in remote, unpatrolled areas.

There were 294 drowning deaths across the nation's coastline, inland waterways and pools in 2020/21, according to annual reports from Royal Life Saving Society Australia and Surf Life Saving Australia.

That is up 20 per cent from 245 over the previous 12-month period, while there was also a further 674 non-fatal drowning incidents.

The reports, released on Wednesday, identified spikes in drowning deaths immediately after large-scale lockdowns, as Australians increasingly holidayed domestically and swam in unfamiliar locations.

More people were travelling to remote areas to escape crowds, it said, swimming outside of patrolled hours and taking more day trips to isolated beaches, rivers or lakes.

The risks of drownings at home were also higher, with adults prone to becoming complacent when exhausted from working from home and homeschooling.

In addition, the coronavirus has interrupted swimming lessons for children and reduced pool access for adults and teenagers who are no longer fit to swim or lack confidence.

Queensland reports zero new COVID-19 cases.

The Queensland government is trying to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations before Delta reappears in the state, after bringing another outbreak under control.

The state recorded no new cases in the 24 hours to 6.30am on Tuesday as 900 families were released from home quarantine by authorities.

The families had been potentially exposed to a four-year-old girl at a school and a daycare centre in the Beenleigh area, but all the children have since tested negative.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the immediate threat from the outbreak, which peaked at three cases, has passed.

However, she says the threat of Delta spreading from NSW remains high and the state is ramping up vaccinations with a new mass hub opening at Boondall, on Brisbane's north side on Tuesday.


The centre will initially administer 1500 vaccinations per day before ramping up to 3000 next week.

Ms Palaszczuk said once the government has a clear indication of Commonwealth vaccine supplies over the next six to eight weeks it will release forecasts of when Queensland will hit 80 per cent vaccination coverage.

She said she hopes Queenslanders will be able to travel around Australia by Christmas.

Canberra reports 19 new coronavirus cases.

Canberra recorded 19 new cases on Tuesday, with 13 linked to current exposure sites or contacts and six under investigation.

Eleven of the people were in quarantine for the duration of their infectious period, six spent some time in the community and two remain under review.

Mr Barr took aim at senior Morrison government figures who lashed some states for lagging behind on vaccination rates.

"What has been very disappointing and frustrating is some of the national commentary criticising Queensland, WA, Victoria and South Australia for not having vaccination rates as high as New South Wales," he said.

The ACT continues to lead Australia in vaccination rates for people aged 16 and above with 47.6 per cent fully immunised and 71.4 per cent having received a first dose.

But Mr Barr warned that meant 185,000 people had no protection and 267,000 only a single shot.

SA in talks on truck drivers and vaccines.

South Australia is talking to the freight industry about making COVID-19 vaccinations a requirement for interstate truck drivers.

SA Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier flagged the issue on Tuesday while advising a truck driver from NSW tested positive travelling through the state on September 2-3.


The government will later on Tuesday update its list of exposure sites to likely include a BP service station at Wingfield visited by the driver late last week.

"This is a risk for us in South Australia," Professor Spurrier said of truck drivers entering the state by road.

On the vaccination of drivers, Prof Spurrier said the government was working hand in hand with the freight industry on this issue.

"We need to make sure there are vaccines available to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated," she said.

One option was setting up vaccination clinics on regional roads for drivers to access.

National push for assault law consistency.

Australian of the Year Grace Tame will ask state and territory attorneys-general to make definitions contained in various sexual assault laws consistent across the country.

The child sexual abuse survivor was one of dozens of speakers at a two-day national summit on women's safety, which ended on Tuesday with a statement calling for a concerted effort to "stop violence before it starts".

The summit participants called for a long-term and bipartisan commitment to achieve cultural and behavioural change, and for services involved in prevention, intervention and recovery to be properly funded.


They held a minute's silence in the final session "to stand united for those who were not with us today, and who inspire us in our work and are at the centre of our work". 

Ms Tame said nationally inconsistent laws were a hurdle to properly dealing with abuse and violence.

"We have nine different definitions of grooming and, in fact, in some jurisdictions grooming isn't even defined at all," Ms Tame said on Tuesday.

"We also have nine different definitions of the age of a child. We have nine different definitions of the age of consent to sex and we have nine different definitions of sexual intercourse itself.

"And we wonder why we don't have a consistent solid understanding of each of these concepts."

Ms Tame flagged a public campaign and upcoming meeting with the nation's attorneys-general to push for consistent definitions.

'Positive' Guy returns as Vic Libs leader.

Three years after leading the Victorian Liberals to an election thrashing, Matthew Guy has returned to the top job, pledging to provide a "positive" vision for the state post-pandemic. 

Incumbent Michael O'Brien decided not to contest the ballot after a leadership spill motion was moved on Tuesday morning by Tim Smith, a supporter of Mr Guy, and carried 20 votes to 11.

Member for Caulfield David Southwick was elected deputy, replacing Cindy McLeish and defeating treasury spokeswoman Louise Staley and Warrandyte MP Ryan Smith. 


Mr Guy then spent the day telling media he would provide Victorians with a "positive agenda" and "hope" for the future.

"Victoria's best days are ahead of it not behind it and we should be focused on that," he told reporters immediately after the leadership spill.

He said if elected in 2022 there would be no statewide lockdowns once 70 per cent of eligible Victorians were fully vaccinated. 

Tas premier apologises after slur inquiry.

Tasmania's premier has pledged an independent review into how the findings of a sexual harassment claim by a female public servant were aired in a parliamentary hearing before she was told.

The woman, named only as Alysha to protect her privacy, alleged she was referred to as a "Japanese f*** doll" by a senior manager in 2019 while working at Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

She learned her accused harasser had been cleared when it was revealed during parliamentary budget estimates hearings on Monday.

"In terms of what occurred ... with Alysha here in the chamber, I want to apologise for what was a misstep," Premier Peter Gutwein said on Tuesday.


"There will be an independent review conducted at arm's length from government of the process that occurred. I'd expect that to be completed within a period of 30 days."

Alysha says she was told a few months ago that a determination in her complaint had been reached but she did not have the right to know as it was a "matter between the employer and the accused". 

She was physically ill after listening to the estimates hearing online having being tipped off by a friend they were talking about her.

"The way in which this outcome was revealed to me was nothing short of negligent," she said.

"(Monday) was one of the most shocking days of my adult life."

Taliban announces interim Afghan govt.

The Taliban has announced a new caretaker government for Afghanistan, naming Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund as the acting prime minister.

"The Islamic Emirate decided to appoint and announce a caretaker cabinet to carry out the necessary government works," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference in Kabul.

Mujahid named 33 members of "the new Islamic government" and said the remaining posts will be announced gradually, after careful deliberation.

All members appointed were from within the Taliban ranks and had a religious background.

The Taliban's new head of ministers, Hassan Akhund, was one of the co-founders of the militant group and served in key positions during the Taliban regime in the 1990s.

Afghan university lecturer Haroun Rahimi wrote on Twitter that, by a rough count, 99 per cent of the newly appointed officials are from one ethnic group, including four ministers from a single family.


Rahimi said that all other identities - such as the youth, the educated or the political opposition - have been excluded to avoid the Taliban's internal fracturing.

"For 20 years the Taliban promised not to 'monopolise' power and for 2 years they promised 'inclusive' government," Crisis Group consultant Ibraheem Bahiss wrote on Twitter.

"As far as I can tell, all 33 are Taliban members with only 2 Tajiks and 1 Uzbek. The rest are Pashtuns."

Europe has its warmest summer on record.

Europe has just had its warmest summer on record, though only by a small margin over two previous highest temperatures for June-August, European Union scientists say.

The EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service said the average surface air temperature in June-August was close to 1.0C above the 1991-2020 average, making it the hottest in its dataset.


The previous warmest summers, 2010 and 2018, were 0.1C cooler.

The 2021 summer temperature marks the latest milestone in a long-term global warming trend as emissions of greenhouse gases change the planet's climate.

Around the world.

- Texas has signed into law an overhaul on voting rights that introduces sweeping changes to ways Texans can cast ballots, including a ban on drive-through and 24-hour polling places. Republicans argue the measures are essential for election security. 

- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been hit by gravel thrown by protesters during a campaign stop. Just over a week ago he had to cancel an election rally after a crowd of angry protesters crashed the event. The demonstrations are against vaccine mandates and other COVID restrictions. 

- Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has been named patron of Nigeria's first sexual assault referral center in Lagos, the country's largest city. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Rohan Thomson/Getty/Twitter/Sam Mooy.

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