Australia news LIVE: Former foreign minister says Australia should demand Assange release; Omicron wave was twice the size of recorded cases

Key posts

  • Australia should demand US release of Assange, says Carr
  • First Omicron wave was really twice the size of recorded cases, study says
  • States to choose if coal and gas involved in reward scheme for energy generators
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Australia should demand US release of Assange, says Carr

Australia should demand the freedom of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by citing the precedent set when the United States pardoned others for revealing state secrets, former NSW premier and foreign minister Bob Carr has declared in a new call on his federal Labor colleagues.

The call sets out an argument for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to persuade United States President Joe Biden to release Assange in the same way former president Barack Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning, who released classified information to Wikileaks while she was a US Army intelligence analyst.

Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2017. On Friday the British government ordered his extradition to the US.Credit:AP

“Manning, the American who slipped the material to Assange, goes free while the Australian who published it faces extradition, trial in Virginia and the rest of his life in cruel confinement in a high-security prison, likely on the plains of Oklahoma,“ Carr writes in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age today.

“In the context of Australia’s role as an ally – the heft we deliver for the US empire – a decision to let Assange walk free rates about five minutes of President Biden’s Oval Office attention.”

Former foreign minister Bob Carr.

Speaking to RN Breakfast this morning, the former head of extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service Nick Vamos said it was “inevitable” that UK Home Secretary Priti Patel signed Assange’s extradition order, which she did last week.

In discussing Assange’s options going forward, Vamos said that if Assange exhausts all appeal avenues in the UK, he could go to the European Court of Human Rights, where cases “sometimes get stuck for up to two or three years”.

“We could be talking about this until to 2025,” he said on Monday morning.

“I don’t think the European Court will take this, but I’ve been wrong before. I think it will be another six months of UK court proceedings and at the end of that his [Assange’s] extradition will be ordered and he will be flown to the United States.”

Read the full article here.

First Omicron wave was really twice the size of recorded cases, study says

The number of COVID-19 infections in Australia was likely at least twice what was reported among adults during the first major Omicron wave, with Queensland recording the highest rate of any state.

Data from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and the Kirby Institute’s latest serology survey of blood donors found that by the end of February, at least 17 per cent – or almost 3.5 million – Australian adults had caught the virus.

The number of COVID-19 infections in Australia was likely at least twice what was reported among adults during the first major Omicron wave.Credit:Kate Geraghty

The survey examined 5185 de-identified samples from Australian blood donors aged 18 to 89 to find evidence of COVID-19–related antibodies. Two types of antibody to SARS-CoV-2 were tested: the nucleocapsid protein, which is only present in someone who has been infected with COVID-19, and spike antibodies, which are produced by both natural infection and vaccination.

The highest proportion of adults with antibodies was in Queensland, where 26 per cent were shown to have had a COVID-19 infection by the end of February, despite only 10 per cent of Queenslanders having registered a test.

Twenty-three per cent of Victorian samples and 21 per cent of NSW samples showed antibodies gained by a prior infection. Western Australia was the outlier, with only 0.5 per cent of samples suggesting a prior case, as the state kept its borders shut until early March.

“We found evidence of recent infection in roughly twice the proportion of the population that had recorded infections in first major Omicron wave. We expect the true number to be even higher because the serology doesn’t detect every case,” John Kaldor from UNSW’s Kirby Institute said.

Read the full article here.

States to choose if coal and gas involved in reward scheme for energy generators

States will gain the right to decide whether coal and gas will be part of a national scheme to reward power generators who can meet the urgent need for new electricity supplies, with the peak energy regulator saying Australia must build 50 times the capacity of the original Snowy Hydro scheme by 2050.

The dramatic call will clear the way for NSW to include gas in the new “capacity mechanism” in the hope of developing the Narrabri coal seam gas field in the north of the state, while Victoria could insist on keeping coal and gas out of the scheme in favour of renewable energy.

State and federal energy ministers will meet to discuss the design of a payment mechanism for dispatchable power generation, proposed by the Energy Security Board.Credit:AP/Martin Meissner

The Energy Security Board will unveil the draft plan on Monday with options for every jurisdiction to go its own way on the subsidies to be offered to generators who can guarantee capacity in the national electricity market after the shock to supply and prices this winter.

But the draft plan does not say how much the payments would be worth to generators, how much consumers would have to pay through their energy bills, when the scheme would start or how each jurisdiction would impose unique rules on each section of the east coast electricity grid.

In a finding that sets up hard decisions for state and federal political leaders, the Energy Security Board says it would be better to include existing power generation in the scheme – including gas and coal – and says “all capacity types” should be allowed to bid to guarantee supply.

Energy ministers are expected to meet this week to discuss the draft plan.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Monday, June 20. I’m Ashleigh McMillan and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s what you need to know before we get started.

  • States will gain the right to decide whether coal and gas will be part of a national scheme to reward power generators who can meet the urgent need for new electricity supplies. The dramatic call will clear the way for NSW to include gas in the new “capacity mechanism” in the hope of developing the Narrabri coal seam gas field in the north of the state, while Victoria could insist on keeping coal and gas out of the scheme in favour of renewable energy.
  • Soaring numbers of Australians seeking care for debilitating symptoms of long COVID are struggling to access crucial treatment and being put on public waiting lists for more than six months. Others are forced to pay hefty out-of-pocket costs for specialist care such as neuropsychology as long-COVID clinics across the country are crushed by demand.
  • In more COVID-19 news this morning, the number of infections in Australia was likely at least twice what was reported among adults during the first major Omicron wave, with Queensland recording the highest rate of any state.
  • The health minister has declared the country deserves better than being misled by cosmetic surgeons, some of whom have left patients disfigured, as the states and territories consider unwinding a ban on testimonials in the industry. It comes after The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed last week how some cosmetic surgeons had built huge followings on social media, spruiking their patients’ new breasts and buttocks.

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