Some lovely photos from AAP’s Mick Tsikas coming out of Sydney Airport this morning as families from Australia and New Zealand reunite.
Here are a few of my favourites:
In case you missed it yesterday Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has delayed his return to work until June, confirming his fractured spine will force him to miss next month’s state budget.
Andrews broke several ribs and fractured his T7 vertebra after slipping on wet stairs at a holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula in early March.
At the time he said he would require at least six weeks off to recover, which suggested a return late in April, but in social media posts on Sunday, the premier said his return date was now expected for early June.
I’m making slow and steady progress …
A couple of weeks ago when I started daily walks, I could only manage about 15 minutes. Now I’m out for almost an hour.
The premier, who has maintained considerable support despite the state’s deadly second wave of Covid-19, said that while it was frustrating to remain out of work, he had no choice.
You only get one chance to properly recover from serious injuries.
We just have to wait until the ribs and spinal fracture have properly healed.
Tackling growing vaccine hesitancy, supply and speeding up the rollout will be the main focus of the renewed biweekly national cabinet meetings, as Scott Morrison continues to raise the possibility of home quarantine – an option that will need the states’ approval to move forward.
On Sunday, both the prime minister and health minister Greg Hunt hinted that vaccinated Australians may be allowed to travel overseas and quarantine at home, rather than in hotels, in the second half of the year.
That would need the agreement of the states and territories, who at this stage remain hesitant to cede any control over what has been a successful public health response.
Hunt said home quarantine was already used in some cases but the model could be refined.
The Australian states and territories, in conjunction with the commonwealth, have largely mastered the security side of home quarantine.
You can read the full report ahead of today’s national cabinet meeting below:
The first flight from New Zealand has arrived in Sydney since the opening of the two-way trans-Tasman bubble.
Now technically people from NZ have been able to come to Australia without quarantining for months, but the need to quarantine in a hotel upon their return has quashed any chances of casual tourism.
Today marks the first day that Australia could be a viable holiday destination for the everyday New Zealander.
Most SAS soilders to keep their meritorious unit citations
The defence minister, Peter Dutton, has popped up on radio to confirm the decision not to strip special forces personnel who served in Afghanistan of their meritorious unit citations.
Dutton told radio 2GB:
My judgment was that we shouldn’t be punishing the 99% for the sins of the 1%.
He said people who were proven to have done the wrong thing – “that means by a jury or by a process within defence” – would still lose the citation. He said the 99% “deserve our recognition, our praise, our honour”.
On overruling General Angus Campbell, Dutton said the decision the defence force chief had made last year had been “perfectly reasonable”.
He’s pragmatic, he understands that I’ve been able to look at all of the facts afresh.
Dutton said the newly established office of the special investigator would examine the war crimes allegations in detail:
There’s not a finer soldier in the country than Angus Campbell … He was shocked like everyone else at the serious allegations that were being made in relation to some people.
McCormack has also been grilled over Australia’s extremely slow vaccine rollout:
Well, we’re getting there. We’re getting there.
It’s a very large country. A lot of remote communities* and one thing that I am very proud about is the fact that we haven’t actually had Covid in those remote Aboriginal communities. That’s something as a nation we can all be very proud of.
And we’ll get the vaccine out. There’s no question*. We’ve acquired another 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. We’ll get it out.
DHL and Linfox and others*** will do a great job and with the public health authorities and get it transported and get it in the arms and I urge and encourage Australians to do just that.
*It’s worth remembering the non-remote communities (like, you know, cities) haven’t been vaccinated either
**I mean I have a few questions.
***I don’t think anyone reckons the transport trucks are the central problem in our vaccine roll out.
Looks like “on best medical advice” is the phrase of the hour. I would add to the phrases we have to sip on for the morning coffee game, but I think we would all end up having a caffeine-induced breakdown by 9 am.
Last week the prime minister suggested that the next stage of international borders opening would be that vaccinated people could travel abroad and upon their return isolate for 14 days in their home when they return, rather than in a hotel.
The deputy prime minister has been asked how this would work in practice:
It will work on the best possible medical advice. I’m going to sound like a cracked record but, again, it’s so important that if the health authorities, who are paid to do that job – they’re experts at their job and we’re very lucky in Australia that we have the best possible medical advice and we have the experts – if they put a set of standards around what could possibly happen under a home quarantine situation, we’ll follow that advisement but we’ll do it through the national cabinet process.
I know that early preliminary discussions are being held now, and I know that [WA premier] Mark McGowan, as I understand it, has also flagged the possibility of home quarantining, as has the health minister in Victoria, Mark Foley.
So we’ll take on all of that advice. We’ll do it through the national cabinet process, and when it’s right to put that process in place, then the home quarantining may well become a possibility.
McCormack said he “hopes” these other travel bubbles could open by the end of the year:
Let’s hope so, but again, based on the best possible advice.
If the chief medical officers and the chief health officers say that it is safe to do so, then we will. We’ll roll out the vaccine. Vaccines will be rolled out elsewhere.
We’re going to provide the vaccine that we’ve paid for, free of charge, to all of the South Pacific Island nations, as good neighbours would. But we’ll act on the best possible medical advice.
Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack has heralded the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble as the start of “we’re getting back to the pre-Covid normality”.
He spoke on ABC News Breakfast this morning:
It’s taking a long time, but bit by bit, flight by flight, little provision by little provision, we’re getting there and Australians are welcoming it …
McCormack was asked if the government would be able to set timelines for when other travel bubbles – such as with Singapore or some Pacific Nations – would open.
We can and we will. And we must. But we will do it based on the best possible medical advice. So whether that’s Singapore next, or as you identify – one of the Pacific Island nations – we’re in those discussions, the early preliminary discussions and as vaccine rollouts happen, both here and elsewhere, that’s what’s going to happen.
We want to make sure that we get international travel back to some sort of normality. Even in the next few months, because it’s so important that we get Australians to able to travel and people to be able to come here and spend their dollars and have a good time.
So one of the other big things to look out for today is defence minister Peter Dutton overturning chief of defence Angus Campbell’s move to remove the meritorious unit citations (a type of war honour) from 3,000 SAS veterans of the Afghanistan conflict following a damning war crimes report.
All SAS soldiers will now keep their citation unless convicted of war crimes or sacked for bad conduct after they were threatened with losing the honour.
Dutton spoke to News Corp newspapers ahead of Anzac Day next week:
We honour these young men and women and they will be wearing their unit citation medal with pride …
Almost 40,000 honoured our country with their service in Afghanistan and Iraq and I couldn’t be more proud of their sacrifice.
Dutton is expected to formally make the announcement later on Monday when he visits the Special Air Service Regiment HQ at Campbell Barracks in Perth.
For those who haven’t kept up with the story, an inquiry led by Justice Paul Brereton last year found some SAS forces who served with the Special Operation Task Group in Afghanistan unlawfully killed 39 civilians and prisoners and treated two people with cruelty between 2007 and 2013.
In response, General Campbell warned in November more than 3,000 SAS soldiers would be stripped of their citations in response to the allegations. But soon after, he clarified that response saying no decision had been made on how to respond to the recommendations of the report.
Later, tens of thousands of people signed an online petition demanding only veterans convicted of war crimes have their citations revoked.
Hello from gate 31 at Sydney *international* airport.
By the time you read this I’ll be on my way to Auckland, New Zealand, onboard Jetstar flight JQ201 – the first plane to depart Australia as part of the two-way travel bubble established between the two countries.
If, like me and basically every other person on the planet, you haven’t been through an airport check-in process for a while, I’m here to tell you that … it still sucks. I’m not sure what I expected when I turned up here, maybe that nature would have reclaimed the terminal like in an apocalypse movie. But everything is mostly as a I remember it, right down to the substandard coffee I paid $8.60 for.
But there’s obviously a great deal of anticipation among the people waiting to board. So far I’ve encountered a mix of those heading back to New Zealand after more than a year separated from family as well as the ultra-keen holidaymakers that desperate tourism providers are hoping will provide a crucial financial lifeline.
But there’s also a first day back at school vibe, too. Everyone seems a bit giddy to again be doing this thing that we all took for granted for so long.
Welcome to Monday
Good morning! Matilda Boseley here,
I’m coming to you today from Melbourne, but you know what, if I really wanted I could have been coming to you today from New Zealand.
That’s right! The travel bubble is officially open and Australians are once again able to cross the Tasman quarantine-free after more than a year of tight border restrictions, and dedicated Guardian reporter Michael McGowan has taken one for the team and hopped on the first plane out of Australia! (What a sacrifice he has made for us).
This first flight due to take off around 6am, but it looks like some things in international travel never change, because it has been delayed. I believe he is taking off as we speak and will bringing you updates from him throughout the day.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has hailed the opening up of the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble as a great milestone:
Today’s milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe and just in time for Anzac Day …
Both countries have done a remarkable job in protecting our communities from Covid and two-way flights are an important step in our road out.
And it looks that sentiment is shared across the ditch with New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern also celebrating this morning.
It is truly exciting to start quarantine-free travel with Australia …
Be it returning family, friends or holidaymakers, New Zealand says welcome and enjoy yourself. The bubble marks a significant step in both countries’ reconnection with the world and it’s one we should all take a moment to be very proud of.
The easing of the border restriction reciprocates the arrangement already in place for Kiwi arrivals, who have been able to visit Australia without undertaking quarantine for about the last six months.
With international travel now back on the agenda both leaders have started hinting at the nations that might be included in the bubble next. Both have been hinting that Pacific nations could be next in line, with the possibility of Singapore to follow. Vaccinated Australia’s being able to travel and quarantine at home rather than in hotels has also been floated as a possible next step towards the end of the year.
With that, why don’t we jump into the day! If there is something you reckon I’ve missed or think should be in the blog but isn’t, shoot me a message on Twitter @MatildaBoseley or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.