The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Friday October 1.

UK policeman gets life for Sarah Everard's murder.

A police officer has been jailed for life for abducting marketing executive Sarah Everard on a London street as she walked home from a friend's house then raping and murdering her in a case that shocked the United Kingdom and stirred protests over violence against women.

Wayne Couzens, 48, a serving London officer who had guarded diplomatic premises, had used his position to stop Everard, the Old Bailey court heard.

Couzens forced Everard, 33, into a hire car as she walked home after visiting a friend in south London on March 3.

Her body was found in woodland about 80km away in southeast England.

A post-mortem concluded she had died as a result of compression of the neck.

His whole life sentence means he has no chance of parole.

"Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief," Everard's family said in a statement.

"Wayne Couzens held a position of trust as a police officer and we are outraged and sickened that he abused this trust in order to lure Sarah to her death."


The murder prompted public rallies and outpourings of anger from women who have recounted their own experiences and fears of being out alone at night.

One witness saw Everard being handcuffed before her abduction and police investigating the case said he may have used COVID-19 protocols as an excuse to falsely arrest her before killing her.

Judge Adrian Fulford said Couzens had long planned a violent sexual assault on a yet-to-be-selected victim who he intended to coerce into his custody.

"I have not the slightest doubt that the defendant used his position as a police officer to coerce her on a wholly false pretext into the car he had hired for this purpose," Fulford said in sentencing remarks.

The Metropolitan Police Force, which investigated the murder and for whom Couzens worked, said it was "sickened, angered and devastated" by his crimes.

Australians to get choice of virus vaccine from today.

Australians aged over 60 have been given access to mRNA vaccines in a bid to get about 300,000 hesitant people over the line.

Pfizer and Moderna will be available to all Australians aged over 12 from Friday with the federal government now confident there are enough doses to offer vaccination choice.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced changes to the national rollout on Wednesday, mirroring measures in states including NSW, Victoria and Queensland.


"This is the opportunity for every person over 60 to come forward, no matter what previous hesitation they may have had," he told reporters on Thursday.

Mr Hunt said the AstraZeneca vaccine was an outstanding world-class vaccine which had fuelled first-dose vaccine coverage past 94 per cent over people over 70.

"These vaccines - whether it's AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna - any one of them can save your life and it can save and protect the lives of those around you," he said.

"Please don't wait, please don't hesitate, please come forward."

It is estimated around 300,000 people aged 60 and above were waiting for access to a vaccine other than AstraZeneca.

The latest Therapeutic Goods Administration figures linked nine blood clotting deaths to AstraZeneca from almost 25 million doses in Australia.

Australia's double vaccination rate for over-16s is now 54.2 per cent, while 77.8 per cent have received at least one dose.

Postponement an option for NRL grand final.

The NRL could consider postponing Sunday's grand final in Brisbane if fans aren't allowed as a range of contingency plans are hashed out to deal with Queensland's COVID-19 outbreak.

The next 24 hours will be critical for the NRL decider to go ahead at Suncorp Stadium with league bosses wary of leaving it too late to make a call to either relocate the game or play on in Brisbane as planned.


It presents a logistical nightmare three days out from the grand final with capacity for Sunday's decider already reduced to 75 per cent after six new cases of coronavirus were reported in Queensland on Thursday.

"We're in the hands of the Queensland government, naturally, and we're confident in their ability," Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys told AAP. 

"But we've got contingency plans for every scenario and we've just got to take each day as it comes and look at what's going on and make the appropriate decisions

"At this stage it's all systems go for Suncorp on Sunday with the capped crowd of 75 per cent and we're being advised that that's not going to change. 

"We're hoping the outbreak doesn't get worse and we stay on course."

With the threat of lockdown bearing down on southeast Queensland, the NRL could be forced to act fast on Friday.

Big clean-up ahead after NSW tornado.

Residents have a big clean-up ahead after a tornado ripped through central west NSW, injuring three people, destroying homes and sheds and tearing down trees and power lines.

The violent storm travelled up to 30 kilometres on Thursday afternoon and demolished a house at Meadow Flat in the Bathurst region, while at least one other home along with sheds and other structures were also destroyed in the area.

Emergency services attended Meadow Flat before 2pm where a man in his 40s was treated for a laceration to his right arm.


A woman at Clear Creek northeast of Bathurst suffered injuries to her back and neck and was taken to Bathurst hospital in a stable condition.

A man in the area was also assessed but didn't require further medical attention.

Bureau of Meteorologist senior climatologist Agata Imielska said there was damage over a 25 to 30km line, running roughly northwest.


This included destroyed and damaged houses, cars, many fallen trees and powerlines across roads.

Around 120 homes were without power overnight. 

The tornado is part of a larger weather system that has been causing severe thunderstorms around parts of the NSW and the ACT for days.

"We know everyone is fatigued." Victoria's AFL setback puts road out of lockdown at risk.

Victorians who attended illegal gatherings over the long weekend are being urged to come forward for testing after being blamed for a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The state saw cases surge by almost 500 on Thursday, with 1438 new locally acquired infections and five more deaths reported.

Health authorities believe at least 500 of the cases are linked to AFL gatherings last weekend across Melbourne.

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said if the jump in numbers becomes a trend, Victoria will go from being just below the Burnet Institute's roadmap-linked case projections to the worst scenario of up to 2900 daily infections by late October.

"We know that everyone is fatigued, tired of this. But today is a significant setback in how we manage this outbreak," Mr Weimar told reporters.

He urged anyone who went to any gathering at the weekend to get tested, whether they or their companions are displaying symptoms or not.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the state would continue with its plan to get out of lockdown. But he added there may need to be a pause if numbers reach an unsustainable level before October 26, when 70 per cent of the eligible population is expected to be fully vaccinated.


To help bring that target and the 80 per cent fully vaccinated benchmark forward, the time between Pfizer vaccine doses will be halved to three weeks in Victoria.

The interval change kicks in from Monday, allowing anyone who has received their first Pfizer dose to bring forward their second. The state's vaccine booking system will be updated overnight on Sunday.

QLD on the brink of virus outbreak.

Queenslander's have turned out in swathes for COVID-19 tests as the state government resists a lockdown with cases spreading from the southeast to the far north.

Since Monday the state has recorded 10 new cases that have been active and infectious in the community across six local government areas. 

Stage two restrictions are now in place across Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Gold Coast, Townsville and Palm Island, with residents required to mask up when leaving home and caps on weddings, funerals and hospitality.

There are now 80 exposure sites in Brisbane, including 20 close contacts sites, in the CBD, Albany Creek, Aspley, Camp Hill, Cannon Hill, Carindale, Eatons Hill, Hamilton, Rocklea, Spring Hill and South Brisbane.

Nine new COVID-19 exposure sites have been added in North Lakes, Kippa Ring and Hyland Park. Only two are considered close: a fruit shop and a bottle-o in North Lakes.


A further eight exposure venues, including one close contact site, have been listed in the Gold Coast suburbs of Miami, Mermaid Waters, Merrimac, Nerang and Surfers Paradise.

The fifth case is the daughter of a known case in the aviation cluster and the sixth is a Camp Hill woman who visited the NSW town of Kyogle, where four cases have emerged this week.

Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) has also been rocked by the outbreak after a participant at Southport Surf Life Saving Club's Bronze Medallion course tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young says it's imperative Queenslanders wear a mask and keep up to date with the growing list of exposure sites. 

Push for mandatory jabs for health workers.

Federal health advisers want mandatory vaccination for all healthcare workers across the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders will receive the advice at a virtual meeting of the national cabinet on Friday afternoon.

While most jurisdictions have set dates for bringing in the measure -  or put in place a range of policies covering different sections of health and aged care - others have been waiting for a national approach.

It is understood the peak advisory body - the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee - will recommend the move for all states and territories across all healthcare sectors.


Earlier this month the Australian Medical Association called for a national approach, including legal protections for healthcare employers who mandate vaccinations for all their staff.

The AMA said it should cover GPs and practice staff, pharmacists, all hospital staff including cleaners and cooks, and ambulance personnel, leaving no exemptions except for legitimate medical reasons. 

As well the AHPPC will provide advice to the national cabinet on only allowing vaccinated people to visit aged care facilities, as will be the case in NSW from October 11.

Canberra coronavirus restrictions ease.

Canberrans can again have visitors at their homes under eased coronavirus restrictions ahead of the end of the ACT's lockdown.

Up to two people can visit another household at one time while outdoor bootcamps and personal training can restart with up to two clients. 

National reserves and parks have also reopened but outdoor gatherings remain capped at one household or five people from different households. 

The ACT recorded 31 new infections on Thursday, 17 of them linked to known cases or ongoing clusters. 

At least 17 were in the community while infectious, while six people were in quarantine the whole time.

The number of people in hospital with the virus remains at 10, including three in intensive care requiring ventilation. 


Friday's eased restrictions come ahead of the ACT's lockdown ending at 11.59pm on October 14, after which gathering caps will increase.

Call for more transparency on gender pay.

Australian companies would be obligated to take steps to reduce the gender pay gap and report publicly on their progress under a proposal to make workplaces more equitable for women.

The Global Institute for Women's Leadership has also called on the federal government to enforce its current powers to refuse contracts with or financial assistance for companies that fall short of standards. 

Without an obligation for corrective action, Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Act has been criticised as toothless, hopeless and useless.

The country has been ranked equal last place with the United Kingdom in an assessment of how six nations - including France, Spain, Sweden and South Africa - report gender pay equity.

The Global Institute for Women's Leadership and Australian National University researchers want Australia's laws changed to allow annual publication of gender pay gaps at various organisations.

Currently, Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Agency is not able to publish individual organisational data.

Instead, it aggregates figures from non-public companies with 100 or more employees across industries and gives an overall picture about how Australia is faring.

Australia's average gender pay gap for full-time employees sits at 14.2 per cent.


Bushfire season starts for most of NSW.

Grassfire concerns are building in NSW with more wet weather forecast that could spur growth, as bushfire season begins for most of the state. 

All but nine local government areas in the state begin the Bush Fire Danger period on October 1. 

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Rob Rogers says this marks the time to assess risk on properties and prepare accordingly. 

It comes amid the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting wetter than average conditions through spring which would likely lead to a strong grass and crop growth.

Mr Rogers said this was most concerning in areas west of the divide.

"As we enter the warmer months this will begin dry out and may prove problematic for both landholders and firefighters," he said. 

"Grassfires typically move three times quicker than bushfires and can impact on lives and livelihoods with little to no warning."

MDMA could be promising for mental illness.

MDMA and magic mushrooms may help treat mental illness, Australia's medicines regulator says ahead of its final decision on whether to recognise the drugs.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration looked at studies on PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety in adults with autism, and anxiety or depression in the context of life-threatening disease.


"We conclude that MDMA and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) may show promise in highly selected populations but only where these medicines are administered in closely clinically supervised settings and with intensive professional support," the TGA said on Thursday.

It examined studies with MDMA that found statistically significant improvements in adults who had autism and social anxiety. 

Results for people who had anxiety in the context of life-threatening disease were not significant given low participant numbers.

The report will be considered by the Advisory Committee of Medicines Scheduling on November 3 ahead of a final decision due in early December.

Around the world.

- New Zealand's parliament has passed enhanced counter-terror laws in the wake of the Auckland supermarket terror episode earlier this month.

The law adds a new criminal offence of planning or preparing to commit a terrorist act, which includes the "intention to intimidate" Kiwis, which Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi said was in line with Australian definitions.

- The Taliban has ordered their fighters to leave private homes they had taken over during last month's blitz when the group seized control of Afghanistan, an apparent effort to impose order among Taliban ranks.

- A shortage of truck drivers in the UK is starting to disrupt deliveries to pharmacies, while farmers warn a lack of butchers could lead to a massive cull of pigs. 


- The Greek Prime Minister's dog Peanut has briefly interrupted a news conference being held by the leaders of Greece and Slovakia. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Met Police/Mark Kolbe/Getty/ABC TV.

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