NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian ‘absolutely shocked’ by rape allegation against Nationals MP Michael Johnsen



NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she is “absolutely shocked” by a rape allegation against state Nationals MP Michael Johnsen.

Mr Johnsen has taken leave after Labor MP Trish Doyle told state parliament on Wednesday that a government politician, who she did not name, was accused of raping a sex worker in the Blue Mountains in 2019.

Mr Johnsen, the MP for the seat of the Upper Hunter, issued a statement later that night saying he was innocent but would fully cooperate with police.

NSW Police has confirmed they are investigating an allegation of sexual violence against a woman in the Blue Mountains in September 2019.

Ms Berejiklian on Thursday said she had no advance warning of the police investigation.

“I joined everybody else in being absolutely shocked at the serious allegations that were raised and somewhat relieved that it’s subject to a police investigation,” she said.

“The alleged victim needs to be able to have a process where nothing is prejudiced so I’m going to be really careful in what I say because all of us want to get to the bottom of this and want it to be done properly.”

Ms Doyle had told the lower house on Wednesday that an MP allegedly raped a sex worker after she did not consent to penetrative sex.

The Blue Mountains MP said she had been contacted 18 months ago by the alleged victim.

Ms Doyle said it was alleged the MP and woman met at a “secluded lookout” in the Blue Mountains.

“It is all the worse that this man who raped her is a government member of this chamber … his power and privileged position as a civic leader make that fear, anger and hurt all the worse,” she said.

Mr Johnsen in his statement said he was “devastated” by the allegation.

“I have voluntarily spoken with NSW Police and I have and will continue to fully cooperate with their enquiries,” he said.

“I am confident that any investigation will conclude that I am an innocent party.”

Deputy Premier and NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro on Thursday said he had sought and received Mr Johnsen’s resignation from this parliamentary secretary role after learning of the allegation.

“Mr Johnsen also agreed to no longer sit in Nationals party room nor joint party poom while the police investigation is underway,” Mr Barilaro said in a statement.

 

With reporting by AAP.

 

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. 

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Gladys Berejiklian was wrong to say the NSW floods were beyond anyone’s expectations


Premier Gladys Berejiklian has described the devastating flooding in NSW as a “one-in-100-year event” that was “beyond anyone’s expectations”. She’s wrong on both counts. Climate change is rapidly increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like the floods that are now overwhelming Warragamba Dam.

Little over a year ago the unprecedented Black Summer bushfires also threatened the dam and its catchment, a critical source of Sydney’s water supply. These back-back-to-back disasters are becoming the new normal.

For many Queenslanders, this is already the new normal. In just the last three years, 53 of that state’s 77 local governments have been buffeted by three or more major disasters.

It is no longer useful or accurate to describe disasters like the current floods as one-in-100-year events. These determinations are based on Australia’s historical experience of floods in a stable climate, not one in which the global average temperature has now risen by more than 1 degree nad is likely on its way to at least two degrees.

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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Queensland nursing home patients receive accidental overdoses of Pfizer vaccine; Gladys Berejiklian set to ease NSW restrictions



Two elderly people in a Queensland nursing home have accidentally received overdoses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. An 88-year-old man and a 94-year-old woman were given more than the recommended dose, but both are ‘doing well’, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says.

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Vaccine rollout inspires Gladys Berejiklian to push national borders


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has vowed to ramp up pressure on national cabinet to formulate a logical and uniform approach to domestic border closures now the COVID-10 vaccine rollout has begun.

With Prime Minister Scott Morrison among the first Australians to receive the Pfizer jab on Sunday, Ms Berejiklian said there were no more excuses for rogue state premiers to slam borders shut at the first sign of an outbreak.

National cabinet is due to meet again this month.

“I’m going to continue, at national cabinet, to press the issue of internal borders within Australia now that the vaccine rollout has started and (because) we‘ve seen no community transmissions in NSW for a serious (37 consecutive) number of days,” she told reporters at Batemans Bay on the NSW south coast.

“Even when do have (a case) we have managed it well. We should not shut down borders just because there are a few cases we might be worried about. That is no way to run our nation, internally.”

Domestic borders have reopened following various closures during the past few weeks. South Australia had banned travellers from Victoria during the Holiday Inn outbreak.

Western Australia only allowed travellers from NSW back in the state on February 16 for the first time since the outbreak on Sydney’s northern beaches in December.

Ms Berejiklian warned that if a national approach was not adopted, the economic effects would be crippling.

“I understand the international borders (being shut), but I don‘t understand the internal borders,” she said.

“We need to start thinking about the future because we run the risk of being left behind.

“We (Australians) have done incredibly well on the health side, but we also need to do well on keeping the economy going, keeping jobs going because the rest of the world is opening up.

“We do need to think about how we treat each other as states. ”

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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian praises state rollout but wants ‘very strong incentives’ for people to get COVID-19 vaccine


Premier Gladys Berejiklian has hailed Monday’s coronavirus vaccine rollout in New South Wales “a very exciting development in our fight against COVID”.

“It’s an opportunity for us to look forward to how life can change for the better into the future and I’m really going to encourage everybody to consider getting the vaccine,” Ms Berejiklian told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.

Gladys Berejiklian said NSW should get its 'fair share' of the vaccines as it is taking the most returned travellers.
Gladys Berejiklian said the vaccination rollout on Monday was a positive step forward in the state’s fight against COVID-19. (Peter Braig)

The first cohort of people to be vaccinated will receive the jab at one of the state’s three vaccine hubs at Westmead Hospital, Liverpool Hospital and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

The premier and Prime Minister Scott Morrison are due to visit the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital today, ahead of the program’s rollout.

For the first three weeks, anyone who receives the vaccine will get the Pfizer jab and will need a second injection three weeks after their initial shot.

Australia's vaccine rollout is broken down into phases.
Australia’s vaccine rollout is broken down into phases. (Graphic: Tara Blancato)

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said quarantine workers and frontline healthcare workers will be the first to receive the vaccine in NSW.

After previously flagging that some people in certain industries could be stopped from working if they refused to get the jab, such as those in hotel quarantine, Ms Berejiklian said “very strong incentives” should be on the cards.

“I’d like to see incentives offered for people who do get vaccinated, it might very well be that the airlines decide they don’t want to have anyone fly on an international holiday unless they are vaccinated.

“We don’t like to make things mandatory in NSW, but I think there should be very, very strong incentives for people to get the vaccine. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the best thing to do for everyone else, not just yourself but for your loved ones and the broader community.

A health worker prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered at a vaccination center set up in Fiumicino, near Rome’s international airport, Thursday, February 11, 2021. AstraZeneca is of the three vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency for use in the 27-nation bloc, the other two are Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna. (AP)

“At the end of the day, workplaces will have rights in relation to their employees depending on what type of workplace they are.”

NSW has recorded 32 consecutive days without community transmission of COVID-19.

Ms Berejiklian said she “can’t wait” to get the vaccine.

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“I’m really looking forward to it, it will just make me feel more confident, it still means you have to be COVID-safe…because until the vast majority of the population has been vaccinated, the threat of community spread is still there, it’s massive.”

The vaccine meant people were less likely to get seriously ill from the coronavirus if they happen to contract it, she said.

“You won’t end up in the ICU, hopefully, and it also means you might have less likely chance of passing it on to others and that’s really important.”

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Annastacia Palaszczuk on success, conflict and the truth behind Gladys Berejiklian feud


After months of being pitted against one another, Annastacia Palaszczuk and Gladys Berejiklian decided they would walk into the pre-Christmas national cabinet meeting shoulder to shoulder in a show of unity.

But security protocols at Parliament House would not allow it.

The two premiers have had different ways of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic despite both leaders assuring their communities that decisions are underpinned by health advice.

Palaszczuk has been cautious when lifting restrictions, while Berejiklian has imposed less tough restrictions in the hope of keeping business ticking along.

Annastacia Palaszczuk and Gladys Berejiklian walked out of the December national cabinet meeting together in a show of unity. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

They have disagreed, traded barbs and rolled eyes. But away from the cameras, they get along quite well, Palaszczuk insists.

“She’ll always stand up for her state, I’ll stand up for my state, but everyone tries to portray it as some sort of fight and it’s simply not. It is simply not,” she says.

“I think it is over-reporting, we get on incredibly well behind the scenes.”

Palaszczuk believes the fact both leaders are women might have something to do with the headlines.

Their plan to tear down that rivalry narrative was cooked up at a leaders’ dinner, the night before national cabinet met in person before Christmas.

“We had a really good chat,” Palaszczuk says.

“We were actually going to walk into national cabinet together the following morning. But unfortunately, our cars were taken underneath [the building].”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pictured near her electorate office in Brisbane.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pictured near her electorate office in Brisbane.Credit:Paul Harris

Berejiklian is the daughter of Armenian immigrant parents who came to Australia from Jerusalem and Syria in the 1960s, her father was a boilermaker.

Palaszczuk is the granddaughter of a Polish migrant who fled Europe after World War II and emigrated to Australia where he also worked as a boilermaker.

Despite coming from similar backgrounds, Palaszczuk says: “I don’t think we are similar.”

“[Except the fact] we both have long surnames, and we both have a strong multicultural background,” Palaszczuk says.

Both are incredibly close to their family and were instilled with a strong work ethic from their parents.

“Ever since I was three or four I’ve been going along to different Labor Party events,” Palaszczuk says.

“I used to sell the raffle tickets when I was like five or six.”

Born into a political dynasty, Palaszczuk’s father Henry believes it has always been his daughter’s destiny to lead the state.

Nicknamed Henry the Eighth for his eight consecutive election wins in Inala, Mr Palaszczuk held the western Brisbane seat for 22 years before his daughter took the reins.

She was elected to Parliament in 2006 at aged 37, replacing her father in one of the safest Labor seats in Queensland.

Her accession to the Premier’s office followed decades of political grooming.

After studying arts and law at the University of Queensland, at age 23 Palaszczuk went to the United States to follow Bill Clinton’s election campaign.

Then she went to the United Kingdom where she gained a masters in arts at the University of London, then spent a year studying at the London School of Economics.

The now-Premier also helped out on former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s 1997 campaign.

Known as Stacia to family and friends rather than Anna, she spent years working as a political staffer, honing the craft before taking over her father’s seat in 2006.

“I am still Henry’s daughter. Everywhere I go around the state, particularly in regional Queensland, It is always ‘how is Henry going?’ not how am I going?” she says.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with her father, Henry Palaszczuk, voting at Inala State School in October.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with her father, Henry Palaszczuk, voting at Inala State School in October. Credit:Dan Peled/NCA NewsWire Pool

At an event on the Gold Coast on Thursday night where Palaszczuk was the keynote speaker, “there was someone in the audience, and she had come hoping she would see my father”.

While her father remains popular, she has surpassed her father’s successes.

At the October state election, she became the first Queensland premier to increase a government’s seat count across three successive elections, cementing herself as the most successful female politician in Australian history.

Palaszczuk first led Labor to victory in 2015, just three years after the party endured one of the greatest electoral defeats in modern Australian political history. Labor was relegated to opposition, with only seven MPs in the 89-seat Parliament.

Those seven MPs survived the 2015 election and added 35 more Labor members to their ranks, securing crossbench support to form a minority government. It was a victory that shocked many within the party, some of whom were already lining up her successor.

But Palaszczuk had a feeling the tide was turning.

“You don’t sign up to be opposition leader unless you want to be the premier and run the state,” she says.

Sunday marks six years since she was sworn in as the 39th Premier of Queensland at Government House.

“It was pretty special,” Palaszczuk remembers. “One of the most significant moments of my life.”

Annastacia Palaszczuk, being sworn in by Governor Paul de Jersey at Government House on February 14, 2015.

Annastacia Palaszczuk, being sworn in by Governor Paul de Jersey at Government House on February 14, 2015.Credit:Michelle Smith

Her first term as premier was about avoiding risk. Labelled a do-nothing Premier by critics, her leadership style was a swing away from the divisive approach by her LNP predecessor Campbell Newman.

Then came the 2017 election, which again, few thought she would win. She did, picking up another four seats.

The second-term Palaszczuk government was dogged by retreats from controversial policies. Days after the ALP lost the 2019 federal election, Palaszczuk caved to pressure on the Adani coal mine and fast tracked its approvals.

There were also U-turns on planned laws which would have gagged journalists from reporting corruption complaints in the lead up to elections as well as her decision to back down from a captain’s call to name a Suncorp Stadium stand after a former-Labor treasurer.

A string of bad headlines could be enough to reverse a policy decision.

But as coronavirus spread across the country last year, a defiant premier emerged.

With her back to the wall, Palaszczuk gave short shrift to critics of the state’s border closures, from the Prime Minister to members of her own inner circle.

Palaszczuk “completely rejects” the notion she used border restrictions to boost her electoral chances at the October Queensland election.

“We were absolutely focused on keeping Queenslanders safe and accepting the advice of [the chief health officer].”

Half a million dollars of taxpayer money was spent polling Queenslanders opinions on coronavirus and millions more on advertising the Labor government’s economic recovery plan in the lead up to the state election.

In terms of social policy, she sees her legacy as decriminalising abortion and once proposed laws pass, legalising euthanasia and criminalising coercive control – a form of domestic abuse.

Future Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with former federal Labor leader Bill Shorten and tourism lobbyist Chris Brown in the late 1980s.

Future Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with former federal Labor leader Bill Shorten and tourism lobbyist Chris Brown in the late 1980s.

“I think we’ve done a lot in social policy, there’s a lot more to do,” she said.

“This year, the parliament will take a vote on voluntary assisted dying.”

Legislation to allow doctors to help terminally ill Queenslanders die will be introduced to Parliament in May and MPs will be given a conscious vote.

Friday is the Vietnamese New Year. Palaszczuk had sent one of her staff to the bakery to pick up a cream bun for me to take home to mark the occasion.

No bun for Palaszczuk though, who is off to celebrate New Year with the Vietnamese community after our meeting. About a third of people in Inala, the Premier’s electorate, speak Vietnamese at home.

Her diary is packed with these types of commitments most nights, but she usually tries to keep Saturday’s free to spend time with her family.

She spends a lot of her spare time with her nephew and nieces, one of whom has been campaigning the Premier to extend school holidays by a few weeks.

A front-page photo from her very first election win more than 14 years ago hangs on the wall of her electorate office next to her university degrees. The walls are painted Labor-red.

“This is where the magic happens,” she says during a short stroll out the front of her electorate office which sits in the heart of multicultural Brisbane.

The Premier spruiks her government’s track record on getting people into work. The state’s unemployment rate sits stubbornly at 7.5 per cent.

“We do not know what the future holds, but all we can do is plan and invest,” she says.

“I think at the end of the day, people want their health, they want a good solid job, to know that their kids have a bright and secure future and they want to make sure that they’re safe.”

By the middle of this year, Palaszczuk will become the longest-serving Australian female head of government, eclipsing the Northern Territory’s Clare Martin.

Before the next election in 2024, she will have passed Peter Beattie to become the longest-serving Queensland Labor Premier since World War II.

Asked what she would say to the critics who thought she did not have it in her to become the Premier of Queensland in 2015.

“Well, I don’t think they say that now,” she quips.

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Annastacia Palaszczuk’s shot at Gladys Berejiklian

Annastacia Palaszczuk has fired a warning shot to Gladys Berejiklian, telling Australia’s leaders if you criticise Queensland, don’t come to the state.

The rivalry between the premiers heated up again on Friday ahead of a national cabinet meeting about vaccines and the quarantine system.

Speaking on Today, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was asked when she would visit the Sunshine State.

But Ms Berejiklian said she hoped all premiers would come to NSW because it was the “only state where everybody is welcome, all of the time”.

“You don’t have to worry about being locked in or locked out, come to NSW,” she said in a gibe.

But the Queensland Premier wasn’t having a bar of it when asked about the remarks later in the program.

“Everyone from NSW is welcome to come here, Gladys used to go to Palm Cove,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But maybe if she will criticise Queensland, don’t come to Queensland.”

A showdown is also brewing between the pair over Australia’s vaccine rollout, scheduled to begin later this month.

Scott Morrison on Thursday revealed Australia had secured another 10 million Pfizer doses, doubling Australia’s order for a jab considered the world’s most effective protection from COVID-19.

Ms Berejiklian said she was keen to ensure quarantine workers across the nation were at the front of the queue for the vaccine.

“NSW has more of those workers as we are carrying the larger burden,” she said. “I hope that’s made available as soon as possible.

“Returned travellers are bringing it with them, so if we can make sure everybody in and around that system is vaccinated, that reduces the risk to the whole community.”

But Ms Palaszczuk said Australia’s most vulnerable needed to get the vaccine first.

“I think everyone needs to get their share, it’s not just for NSW people,” she said.

Elderly Australians, hotel quarantine and healthcare workers are in the government’s first priority group for the vaccine.

Ms Berejiklian denied the national cabinet meeting on Friday would be fiery, instead saying it would be “constructive”.

Australia’s international arrival cap will also be discussed after hotel quarantine capacity was halved last month in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia in response to the highly infectious UK strain.

There is also expected to be a war of words over Australia’s quarantine system, with Victoria and Perth both recording a case among hotel quarantine workers this week.

Ms Palaszczuk said more needed to be done to control the spread of coronavirus in hotels, which were not built for the UK variant.

“This virus is actually circulating in the corridors,” she said.

“We have got to do more – our quarantine is our last line of defence when it comes to protecting Australians.”

A report into Brisbane’s hotel quarantine infection in January will be handed down on Friday, prompting Ms Palaszczuk to ramp up calls for quarantine to be moved out of the cities to regional worker camps.

“You can only put options on the table,” she said. “It is up to the PM to come to the party and help.”

Ms Berejiklian has publicly opposed the move to establish regional quarantine facilities and raised concerns about the potential spread of the virus during the long travel from the airport to quarantine.

“We should really look at making sure the systems we have are foolproof as much as possible,” she said.

But the sentiment was rejected by Ms Palaszczuk who said: “If Gladys had an outbreak like we have had in other states, she might change her mind.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the advice to the government was that hotel quarantine remained the most effective way forward.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said: “If you have to quarantine people, it’s better to quarantine people away from large populations”.

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‘Don’t come to Qld’: Annastacia Palaszczuk’s shot at Gladys Berejiklian


Annastacia Palaszczuk has taken a furious swipe at her NSW counrerpart as her war of words with Gladys Berejiklian gets uglier.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has fired a warning shot to Gladys Berejiklian, telling Australia’s leaders if you criticise Queensland, don’t come to the state.

The rivalry between the premiers heated up again on Friday ahead of a national cabinet meeting about vaccines and the quarantine system.

Speaking on Today, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was asked when she would visit the Sunshine State.

But Ms Berejiklian said she hoped all premiers would come to NSW because it was the “only state where everybody is welcome, all of the time”.

“You don’t have to worry about being locked in or locked out, come to NSW,” she said in a gibe.

But the Queensland Premier wasn’t having a bar of it when asked about the remarks later in the program.

“Everyone from NSW is welcome to come here, Gladys used to go to Palm Cove,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But maybe if she will criticise Queensland, don’t come to Queensland.”

A showdown is also brewing between the pair over Australia’s vaccine rollout, scheduled to begin later this month.

Scott Morrison on Thursday revealed Australia had secured another 10 million Pfizer doses, doubling Australia’s order for a jab considered the world’s most effective protection from COVID-19.

Ms Berejiklian said she was keen to ensure quarantine workers across the nation were at the front of the queue for the vaccine.

“NSW has more of those workers as we are carrying the larger burden,” she said. “I hope that’s made available as soon as possible.

“Returned travellers are bringing it with them, so if we can make sure everybody in and around that system is vaccinated, that reduces the risk to the whole community.”

But Ms Palaszczuk said Australia’s most vulnerable needed to get the vaccine first.

“I think everyone needs to get their share, it’s not just for NSW people,” she said.

Elderly Australians, hotel quarantine and healthcare workers are in the government’s first priority group for the vaccine.

Ms Berejiklian denied the national cabinet meeting on Friday would be fiery, instead saying it would be “constructive”.

Australia’s international arrival cap will also be discussed after hotel quarantine capacity was halved last month in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia in response to the highly infectious UK strain.

There is also expected to be a war of words over Australia’s quarantine system, with Victoria and Perth both recording a case among hotel quarantine workers this week.

Ms Palaszczuk said more needed to be done to control the spread of coronavirus in hotels, which were not built for the UK variant.

“This virus is actually circulating in the corridors,” she said.

“We have got to do more – our quarantine is our last line of defence when it comes to protecting Australians.”

A report into Brisbane’s hotel quarantine infection in January will be handed down on Friday, prompting Ms Palaszczuk to ramp up calls for quarantine to be moved out of the cities to regional worker camps.

“You can only put options on the table,” she said. “It is up to the PM to come to the party and help.”

Ms Berejiklian has publicly opposed the move to establish regional quarantine facilities and raised concerns about the potential spread of the virus during the long travel from the airport to quarantine.

“We should really look at making sure the systems we have are foolproof as much as possible,” she said.

But the sentiment was rejected by Ms Palaszczuk who said: “If Gladys had an outbreak like we have had in other states, she might change her mind.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the advice to the government was that hotel quarantine remained the most effective way forward.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said: “If you have to quarantine people, it’s better to quarantine people away from large populations”.

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Report says NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s office breached rules when documents were shredded


A report from the state’s record keeping authority has found the NSW Premier’s office broke the law when documents were shredded amid accusations of pork barrelling.

The State Archives and Records Authority is the second agency to assess the shredding of documents by the Premier’s office in the lead up to the 2019 election.

Staffers in Gladys Berejiklian’s office destroyed documents relating to the allocation of funding to mostly Coalition-held seats in NSW.

The Government was accused by Labor of using the money from the Stronger Communities Fund as a sweetener during the campaign.

The watchdog, which is charged with monitoring compliance with the State Records Act, found the document shredding was in breach of record-keeping laws.

But despite the breach potentially incurring a fine, no legal action will be pursued.

It found that while it was a technical breach of the act, clearer policies should be implemented.

The watchdog also concluded the record management handbook for ministerial staff was not adequate.

It comes after the Information and Privacy Commission cleared the Premier’s staff in its assessment.

In a statement, the Premier’s office said “the error” occurred because of unclear rules for document retention.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

The Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) report, which was partly released on Thursday, found no explicit wrongdoing which it could pursue within its remit.

But the SARA found the “unauthorised disposal” of the notes was in breach of the State Records Act and that the monitoring of records management in the Premier’s office was insufficient.

It also found the “records management information in the Ministers’ Office Handbook does not adequately support ministerial staff in their creation, capture, management and disposal of State records”.

Greens MP David Shoebridge has been chairing an inquiry looking into the handling of public records in the Premier’s office, including the shredding of the documents.

“These are damning findings from the state’s record office,” Mr Shoebridge said.

A spokesperson from the Premier’s office said the government supported all the recommendations made by SARA, which included developing a clearer records management program.

“The authority noted that the error occurred because the rules were ambiguous, and the advice provided on document classification and disposal was inadequate,” the spokesperson said.

“As such, there will also be enhanced training for ministerial staff to ensure they meet their responsibilities under the Act,” they said.

The matter had also been sent to the Independent Commission Against Corruption by the IPC.

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Gladys Berejiklian wants incentives such as venue bans for those refusing coronavirus vaccine


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian believes hospitality venues and businesses should be allowed to refuse entry to people who are not vaccinated against coronavirus.

The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are due to be rolled out in Australia in mid-to-late February, and Ms Berejiklian said there should be incentives in place to encourage people to get the jab.

“I don’t ever like to force anybody to do anything,” she told Nine Radio this morning.

“But we’d like there to be an incentive system where people are encouraged to have it because it means they can do all these things which they may otherwise not have been able to do.”

The NSW Premier again called for more people to get tested.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

There were no new locally acquired COVID-19 infections in NSW in the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday.

Eight cases were recorded in overseas travellers.

Whole genome sequencing suggests the seven cases reported over the weekend are linked to the Berala cluster, NSW Health said.

“Investigations and contact tracing are underway to establish the route of acquisition,” Deputy Chief Health Officer Jeremy McAnulty said.

“While an epidemiological link has not yet been made, there is the possibility that others in the community may have the virus.”

Workplaces will have a say

Ms Berejiklian said discussions would be taking place within her own Government and between the state and federal governments to determine how people could be “incentivised” to have the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Premier said she expected those discussions to take place over the next few weeks.

“But already airlines have indicated that if you’re not vaccinated, you can’t travel overseas,” she said.

“We will also consider whether we allow venues to [do that] — and venues do that already, people make up their own rules if they run a business or have a workplace about what they feel is COVID-safe.

“Whilst it’s the Federal Government’s responsibility in terms of the vaccine and the rollout, all workplaces and state governments will have a say in encouraging people to take it.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is currently assessing several vaccine candidates, including the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for approval.

Ms Berejiklian said Australia had some of the strictest regulations in the world to approve new vaccines, and said any vaccine approved by the TGA would be safe.

“Please know that nothing would get approved unless it was safe,” she said.

“I want people to start thinking about the vaccine, how they would feel about it if they were offered it and I would encourage everyone to take up that offer.

“The more people that are vaccinated, the greater likelihood that we can have a return to normality as we know it.”

A total of 8,773 tests were completed in the reporting period, down from 12,764 on the previous day.

Ms Berejiklian again urged more people to get tested.

“Given where we are in the pandemic we really need to get those testing numbers up so that we can feel confident in moving forward and easing some of those restrictions.”

Dr McAnulty said the drop in daily testing numbers was “an increasing concern”.

“NSW Health renews its calls for people to get tested if they are experiencing even the mildest of symptoms,” he said.

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