As it happened: National cabinet meets to debate end of mandatory COVID-19 isolation – Sydney Morning Herald

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That’s all from us tonight, if you’ve just joined us, here are the biggest news events of the day:
Thanks for following along, I hope you enjoy the long weekend, if you have Monday off! We will be with you bright and early on Monday morning to take you through the news of the day.
Speculation is mounting within Labor circles about who will be appointed to the pivotal position of United States ambassador after the Albanese government announced it would dispatch former foreign minister Stephen Smith to London to serve as United Kingdom high commissioner.
While the government will continue a recent tradition of appointing political figures to London and Washington, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she would end the Morrison government’s emphasis on appointing ex-politicians to other postings in a bid to depoliticise the diplomatic corps.
Former federal Labor minister Stephen Smith has been appointed UK high commissioner.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Smith, who also served as defence minister during the Rudd-Gillard years, will head to London early next year after completing a major strategic review of the nation’s defence forces for the government.
The high commissioner role has been vacant since April, when former Liberal cabinet member George Brandis’s term expired.
Arthur Sinodinos’s three-year term as ambassador to Washington will end in February, opening up a highly sought after position for a Labor luminary.
There has been talk former prime minister Kevin Rudd, currently based in New York as president of the Asia Society, could be a contender for the role.
Former Labor cabinet ministers Stephen Conroy and Greg Combet have been discussed as contenders, while Bill Shorten wanted to send former NSW premier Kristina Keneally to fill the role if he had won the 2019 election.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham congratulated Smith on his appointment, saying he was well-qualified for the role.
Read more here.
The name of an infamous slave trader has been officially erased from maps after a tract of coastal cliffs and beaches on NSW’s South Coast was renamed Beowa National Park amid a plan to transfer land titles of all national parks to Aboriginal owners under consideration by the state government.
Ben Boyd National Park was given the new name, which means “orca” or “killer whale” in Thaua language, on Friday at a ceremony attended by NSW Environment Minister James Griffin.
Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council Chairman BJ Cruse said the Ben Boyd National Park’s new name of Beowa reflected the area’s cultural heritage.Credit:Angi High
Griffin said the renaming of the park was a significant moment for NSW, and another step towards reconciliation.
“The Aboriginal community in this area called for us to rename Ben Boyd National Park because of Boyd’s shocking legacy of blackbirding,” he said.
Griffin said the new name of the park was chosen after consultations with more than 60 representatives from Aboriginal and South Sea Islander communities, including Faye Campbell, who said the name Beowa represented a connection to whaling and ancestors.
“We are saltwater people and our ancestors were the best whalers going,” Campbell said. “My ancestor Budgenbro used to communicate with the killer whales and there are a lot of stories to share, now we can.”
Griffin said the park’s new name celebrated the connection between the coastline and the spiritual lives of its first inhabitants.
Read more here.
Independent MP Dr Monique Ryan MP has called on national cabinet to release the minutes of its meeting to justify its decision to scrap mandatory isolation of COVID-19 cases.
“It is deeply concerning that National Cabinet has essentially abandoned all the measures in place to minimise COVID-19 infection and reinfection,” Ryan said.
Dr Monique Ryan is asking for more details about how the decision to end mandatory COVID isolation was made.Credit:Olive + Maeve
“The public have a right to know how and why this decision was made.”
The Kooyong MP, a paediatric neurologist who was the Director of Neurology at the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital, said parents did not want “their very young children cared for by early childhood educators forced to work with this illness, or their older kids to sit in classrooms next to COVID positive kids, taught by COVID positive teachers”.
“The reality is that without mandatory isolation, many people will return to work while they are sick and infectious … either because employers force their staff to attend work or because workers are unable to take sick leave,” she said.
“Removing COVID-19 isolation will have significant impacts on our local and national economies and on workforces that are already struggling with absenteeism, both from COVID infection and reinfection and from the emerging public health crisis of Long COVID.”
Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine: At least 23 people were killed and 28 wounded in a Russian missile strike that hit a convoy of vehicles carrying civilians near the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, the regional governor said.
A Reuters witness saw about 12 bodies, four of them in cars, and said a missile had left a crater in the ground near two lines of vehicles at a car market.
A Russian missile struck a civilian convoy leaving the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.Credit:@maria_avdv
“So far, 23 dead and 28 wounded. All civilians,” Oleksandr Starukh, the Zaporizhzhia regional governor, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
The impact had thrown chunks of dirt ino the air and sprayed the vehicles with shrapnel. The windows of the vehicles – mostly cars and three vans, were blown out.
Read more here.
With millions of identity documents exposed in Optus’ data breach, many Australians now need to replace their cards and passports to make sure they can’t be used by criminals for fraud and theft.
And with the Prime Minister confirming on Friday that Optus, and not taxpayers, would foot the bill for at least the new passports, just how big a bill could Optus end up with to clean up the mess?
Replacement passports are taking months to arrive as it is, which will unlikely to improve after the Optus breach.Credit:iStock
Estimating these numbers requires a healthy dose of assumptions and guesswork, given the lack of solid details on what data was stolen. It’s believed up to 9.8 million Australians had their personal data compromised in the breach, but only 3 million or so had identity documents like passports or drivers licences exposed, and 37,000 Medicare numbers.
It’s impossible to tell at this point how many individual documents Optus would have to pay to replace, especially given some people would have only had a passport or a licence exposed and not both, and some of the data will likely be out of date. But let’s assume an extreme outcome where the telco had to pay to replace 3 million passports, 3 million drivers licences and 15,000 Medicare cards (22,000 of the exposed numbers were expired).
Licences are easy to calculate, as they cost an average of around $27 to replace depending on your state, assuming it wouldn’t cost extra to change the numbers and assuming Optus couldn’t arrange some kind of bulk discount, the final price tag lands at $81 million.
Passports are a bit trickier. They usually cost $193 to replace, but can be free in certain situations, so it’s unclear what the actual cost of replacement would be in this scenario. So at maximum that’s $580 million, but in all likelihood it would be much lower after Optus works the issue out with the relevant department, and you subtract the customers whose passport information was not included or was out of date.
Read more here.
The manufacturing industry and union are teaming up to slam the Albanese government’s new supply deal with gas exporters, claiming it won’t reduce prices or stop business closures and job losses, raising pressure on the Albanese government to intervene in the gas market.
Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King is resisting the calls for intervention. She announced on Thursday a ‘heads of agreement’ deal with east coast Australia’s three LNG exporters, including a promise to offer all available gas supply to local buyers before selling to the global market and to limit the price to export parity.
SPC is one of the manufacturers hit by rising energy costs.Credit:Justin McManus
An international ban on Russian energy exports is fuelling a global energy crunch that is expected to last for years and Australia’s allies and major gas customers Japan and Korea are pressuring the government not to intervene in the market.
They want to ensure Australia’s exporters can honour long-term contracts and send all available gas onto the spot market ahead of the Northern Hemisphere winter.
The competition watchdog last month forecast a shortage of 56 petajoules in 2023 and under the new deal LNG companies will offer the 157 petajoules that won’t be tied up in export contracts to the domestic market.
But critics say the extra supply wouldn’t stop businesses from folding because it allows exporters to charge local gas buyers soaring international prices.
Since 2019 several major manufacturers including Qenos and Dow Chemical in Melbourne and Incitec Pivot in Brisbane have blamed energy costs for their closure.
Read more here.
Welcome to your five-minute recap of the trading day and how the experts saw it.
The numbers: The Australian sharemarket suffered a hefty fall on Friday as investors fretted over the consistently hawkish tone of US Federal Reserve officials and the market turmoil in Europe.
The ASX200 deepened its losses over the day, finishing down 1.23 per cent, or 80.8 points, to 6474.20, after US stocks hit their lowest point since November 2020 overnight.
Investors are grappling with threats posed by discordant moves from central banks over the past few days.Credit:AP
The lifters: With nine of the 11 sectors slipping into negative territory, the materials and energy sectors managed to keep their head above water – closing up 0.67 per cent and 0.07 per cent respectively. Market heavyweight BHP jumped 0.92 per cent; Rio Tinto gained 2.73 per cent; and Fortescue Metals lifted 0.24 per cent.
Other lifters included Meridian Energy 5.19 per cent; Northern Star Resources added 4.54 per cent; and engineering company Worley gained 1.03 per cent.
The laggers: Tech and bank stocks dragged down the index. WiseTech dropped 5.59 per cent while accounting software Xero slipped 4.53 per cent. The banks also took a pasting, with CBA down 2.6 per cent, NAB slipping 1.5 per cent, Westpac slumping 2.3 per cent and ANZ down 2.4 per cent.

Elsewhere, health imaging IT provider Pro Medicus’ stocks slipped 5.59 per cent; hearing aid manufacturer Cochlear fell 6.7 per cent; while dropped 7.79 per cent.
Read more here.
Soldiers have kicked local miners out of their homes to make way for the expansion of a Chinese mine at the centre of a $395 million dispute with Australian mining firm Cassius.
In Talensi, northern Ghana, some miners have sold their plots to the Chinese state-linked mining company Shaanxi. Others have refused to give up their land. The stand-off has triggered intervention by the military to seize the land after the Ghanaian government approved the Chinese mine’s plans to expand to 50 times its original size.
An aerial view of settlements in the Talensi.Credit:Francis Kokoroko
The dispute comes at a delicate time for Shaanxi, now known as Earl International, as it attempts to expand its operations despite allegations of trespass, theft and murder.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed in August that the Chinese state-backed mining firm had been embroiled in a dispute with Cassius after the Australian miner alleged it had dug underneath its concession to steal millions of dollars worth of gold.
Earl International is also facing claims that it has killed dozens of local miners to stop them from entering its mining area since 2013. Earl International has denied the allegations.
The Ghanaian government has launched an inquiry into the claims as Australian miner Cassius prepares to begin action in the London International Court of Arbitration to recover $395 million in losses from the Gban project. The case has put growing scrutiny on China’s global investment strategies, its ties to government officials and the impact on local communities as it ramps up its push to expand its influence abroad.
Read more here.
Former Labor foreign minister Stephen Smith has been appointed to the prestigious posting of United Kingdom high commissioner as the Albanese government moves to put its stamp on the nation’s diplomatic corps.
Smith, who also served as defence minister during the Rudd-Gillard years, will head to London early next year after completing a major strategic review of the nation’s defence forces for the government.
Former federal Labor minister Stephen Smith has been appointed UK high commissioner.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
You can read more about the appointment here.
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