The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday May 27.

Victoria records 12 new COVID cases, with lockdown looking inevitable. 

The Victorian government has confirmed an extra 12 cases of coronavirus have been detected, bringing the growing outbreak in Melbourne's northern suburbs to 26. 

Melbourne residents are expected to learn later this morning if a lockdown or fresh COVID-19 restrictions will be put in place.

Senior government sources have reportedly told the ABC a snap lockdown will be called, and will last for seven days.

Victoria's Acting Premier James Merlino raised fears of a possible shutdown on Wednesday morning when reporting the Whittlesea cluster had grown to 15 cases, noting that the "next 24 hours would be critical and would not rule out taking further action", ahead of a scheduled cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening.  


While confident authorities have "run down multiple generations of transmission", Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is concerned about the amount of time positive cases have been out in the community.

He said any lockdown would be broad rather than confined to the city's northern suburbs, with confirmed cases travelling to Bendigo and as far north as Cohuna on the NSW border.  

There are now more than 60 exposure sites across Melbourne and regional Victoria, including the MCG and Marvel Stadium.

For more detail: Everything we know about Melbourne's latest COVID-19 outbreak.

South Australia became the first state or territory to slam its border shut to Greater Melbourne, while NSW and Queensland are urging residents to reconsider travel to the city and parts of regional Victoria.

Australian writer to face trial in China.

Senior lawyers say the Chinese government should allow Australian citizen Dr Yang Hengjun access to independent legal representation as he faces a secret trial.

Dr Yang will be tried on charges of espionage in a closed Chinese court on Thursday after being held in Beijing for more than two years.

He was detained by Chinese authorities in January 2019 at Guangzhou Airport after arriving from New York.


Law Council president Jacoba Brasch said the right to independent legal assistance must be ensured from the moment of deprivation of liberty.

"And access to effective legal representation should be guaranteed to all persons at all stages of criminal proceedings," she said in a statement.

"This is a fundamental precondition to realising the right to a fair trial."

Dr Brasch said what Dr Yang had faced fell well short of international standards. The council has voiced concerns for Dr Yang's welfare and a lack of procedural fairness since he was detained.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says despite repeated requests by Australian officials, Chinese authorities have not provided any explanation or evidence for the charges.

With Reuters.

NSW Labor leadership tensions simmer.

NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay will need to keep looking over her shoulder, with Chris Minns quitting her front bench and paving the way for his third tilt at the top job.

Mr Minns resigned as Labor's transport spokesman on Wednesday, declaring his position "untenable" after a "dirt file" was allegedly circulated in a bid to ward off his threat to the leadership.

A disastrous by-election result in the Upper Hunter on Saturday has increased the pressure on Ms McKay's position, which she has been facing for some time.


Mr Minns had not declared a challenge to Ms McKay's leadership when the file was circulated, allegedly by a staff member in deputy leader Yasmin Catley's office.

On Wednesday he said he still had no immediate plans to do so.

"I need to speak to my colleagues over the coming days about the best way forward," Mr Minns told reporters.

The Kogarah MP left the front bench a day after shadow treasurer Walt Secord resigned on Tuesday, saying he could no longer serve under Ms McKay.

That may open the floodgates for other Labor MPs to follow suit but Ms McKay insists she has the support of the caucus and is not budging.

Gladys Berejiklian replaces two cabinet ministers facing investigations.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has filled the vacancies left by John Sidoti, and Gareth Ward. 

Sidoti is under investigation by the corruption watchdog for misusing his position while Mr Ward was under police investigation for allegations of sexual violence-related offences.


Upper House MP Natalie Ward is the new Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans. Her appointment means there are now three Liberal women at the Cabinet table.

Alister Henskens will take Mr Ward’s role as the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services.

QLD considering a domestic violence offender register to improve women's safety.

The Queensland government is considering a standalone coercive control offence as part of a suite of options designed to improve safety for women.

How best to legislate against coercive control is the most significant problem tackled in the first discussion paper released by the state's Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce.

The discussion paper outlines the risks and benefits of new legislation, and presents 13 options for legislating against coercive control.

It notes creating a new standalone coercive control offence would likely require "significant funding" for community awareness and police training if it is to be successful.


Among the other options put forward are a state register of offenders who have been convicted of three or more domestic violence offences, or one serious indictable offence.

Courts could also be given the power to declare perpetrators as serial family violence offenders and able to be subjected to electronic monitoring if they are arrested for in the future.

The report said coercive and controlling behaviour can already form the basis for protection orders, and more effective enforcement may lead to better outcomes.

The taskforce is due to hand down its final report in October.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Rare super blood moon seen.

Most of Australia has been treated to clear weather to view a rare super blood moon. 

Australians enjoyed front row seats to the spectacular phenomenon on Wednesday night.

A super blood moon is when a total lunar eclipse (or blood moon) happens at the same time as the 'super' moon - which appears brighter and bigger.

Australian National University astrophysicist Brad Tucker says the shadow creates an amazing orange-red glow that looks a bit like sunrise or sunset, with the phenomenon happening every five years or so.


"It doesn't happen that often to get this combination ... so it's definitely a special sight," Dr Tucker told AAP.

Ex-PM staffer attacks UK govt virus policy.

The former aide of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has savagely attacked how the government handled the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Dominic Cummings was chief adviser to Johnson from July 2019 to November 2020 and gave him advice on how to handle the coronavirus outbreak when it struck the UK in March last year.

He had been called to give evidence before parliament into how the government handled the outbreak and subsequent lockdowns.

During his questioning, Cummings made a series of serious claims against the government, including that Johnson initially described the outbreak as "the new swine flu" and dismissed it as a "scare story" while also saying Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been sacked for "lying to everybody in multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the cabinet room and publicly".

He also claimed Johnson told cabinet members he was going to get England's chief medical officer to "inject him on live TV with coronavirus" to show people it was nothing to be concerned about.

Cummings also said that prior to April 2020, no border policy was in place due to advice Johnson was receiving that stated closing the borders would make no sense in curbing the spread of the virus.


In a briefing with journalists, a spokesperson for Johnson rejected the claims about the coronavirus border policy and declined to comment on the claims over sacking Hancock in April last year and that Johnson wanted to get infected with coronavirus on live TV.

Gunman kills eight in US rail yard attack.

At least eight people have been killed when a transit employee opened fire at his co-workers at a light rail yard in San Jose, California, the county sheriff's office says.

The gunman, who like the victims was an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), was also dead, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Deputy Russell Davis said at a news conference on Wednesday.

He did not say how the gunman died or whether police officers fired their weapons at the scene.

The name and age of the suspect were also not disclosed.

Around the world.

- Judges in the trial of three Russians and a Ukrainian charged in the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane have visited the wreckage at a Dutch military base.

- More than 100 people are feared missing or feared dead after a boat with more than 165 passengers sank in Nigeria. 22 people have been rescued and five have been confirmed dead, including a one-year-old baby.

- with AAP

Feature image: Darrian Traynor/Getty/Phil Walter/Getty/Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty.