As it happened:Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrives at Buckingham Palace;PM extends pandemic leave beyond September

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Today’s headlines

ByNigel Gladstone

Good evening,and thanks for following our live news coverage on Wednesday. Here are the major headlines:

That’s all from us.Broede Carmody will be back with you on Thursday from 7am to take you through the news of the day.

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Japanese encephalitis outbreak six times larger than reported

ByMary Ward

This year’s Japanese encephalitis outbreak was at least six times larger than health authorities originally thought,prompting warnings NSW must be prepared for more tropical infections with another wet summer ahead.

A serology survey conducted by NSW Health using blood samples from 917 people in the Griffith,Temora,Corowa,Balranald and Dubbo regions found one in 11 – or 80 people – showed evidence of previous infection.

Japanese encephalitis cases were detected in NSW’s south and west earlier this year.

Japanese encephalitis cases were detected in NSW’s south and west earlier this year.Dave Hunt

The survey excluded people who had been vaccinated against the disease,or had been born in or spent more than one month in a country where the virus is commonly found.

Just 13 cases of the mosquito-borne illness were confirmed in the state during an outbreak across January and February this year,linked to piggeries in the state’s south and west.

Two men died from the disease:a man in his 60s from the Corowa area and a man in his 70s from Griffith. Deaths from the virus were also recorded in regional areas of Victoria,Queensland and South Australia,in what was the country’s first detection of the virus in humans since an outbreak in the Torres Strait in 1995.

While Japanese encephalitis infection can be a serious disease,only 1 per cent of people infected will experience symptoms.

“The results of this serosurvey provide us with valuable insight into the prevalence of past Japanese encephalitis infections in these communities after it was first detected earlier this year,” NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.

Read morehere.

Today’s headlines

ByNigel Gladstone

Good evening,and thanks for following our live news coverage on Wednesday. Here are the major headlines:

That’s all from us.Broede Carmody will be back with you on Thursday from 7am to take you through the news of the day.

Rail unions’ shutdown of Opal gates unlawful,NSW government says

ByTom Rabe andMatt O'Sullivan

The state government believes rail unions are acting unlawfully with plans to completely shut down Opal ticket readers at Sydney train stations as part of escalating industrial action.

Rail,Tram and Bus Union state secretary Alex Claassens warned on Wednesday that the latest industrial action would not end until the long-running dispute between the two sides was resolved.

A crowd at Central Station in Sydney in July,when trains ran on a reduced timetable.

A crowd at Central Station in Sydney in July,when trains ran on a reduced timetable.Janie Barrett

“We are making the decision to turn up the heat on this government and the senior bureaucrats,they are the ones responsible for this mess,they can now live with it,” Claassens said.

Sydney Trains said it was seeking urgent legal advice regardingthe union’s plans to shut down Opal readers because it does not consider the ban to be protected or lawful action. The rail operator is also writing to the RTBU demanding that it withdraw the action.

However,Claassens believed the move was legally sound,and would be considered protected industrial action.

“As far as we’re concerned,we’re within our rights to do that – it’s protected industrial action,” he said. “If they’ve got a problem with that they can take us wherever they need to take us to have that conversation.”

Earlier,Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was happy that the latest action would not cause delays to the travelling public.

While the rail union last month left open Opal gates at most stations,the card readers on the machines were left on,which allowed people to pay their fares. The government last week said 90 per cent of commuters were continuing to tap on and off the network.

Read morehere.

Pandemic leave payments crackdown on repeated claims

ByAngus Thompson andDana Daniel

Casual workers will only be able to claim a maximum of three pandemic payments every six months under new restrictions introduced to cut down on rorting,but will not have to prove a COVID infection unless symptoms persist beyond the compulsory five-day isolation period.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed following a national cabinet meeting that the scheme’s payments would be extended beyond their slated end-date of September 30.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says limitations would apply to the number of times people can access paid pandemic leave.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says limitations would apply to the number of times people can access paid pandemic leave.Dominic Lorrimer

“The principle essentially agreed to by all first ministers is that,while the government requires mandated isolation,the government has a responsibility to provide support during that period for the appropriate period,” Albanese said in Sydney.

“We remain obviously of the view that if people are sick,whether from COVID or from other health issues,they should not be at work and that is important.”

The scheme,which has cost more than $2.2 billion since it was introduced in August 2020,is open to workers who must isolate but do not have access to sick pay entitlements,such as casuals. The payments were recently reduced from $750 to $540 after mandatory isolation was shortened from seven to five days.

The government tried to cut off the payments in July but relentedafter state and territory leaders demanded it be retained.

The three-claim maximum was introduced after Services Australia identified that some Australians had claimed the payments every six weeks over a six-month period.

Overall,the federal government has detected 57,000 suspicious pandemic leave claims worth $12 million as part of a fraud crackdown.

Read morehere.

Big WA gas buyers seek federal action as shortage fear spreads west

ByPeter Milne

Big gas users including Alcoa and Wesfarmers have called for the federal government to intervene in the West Australian gas market ahead of concerns about a looming shortage.

The DomGas Alliance wants the federal government to apply to WA its Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism designed for the east coast market,where gas prices have surged due to demand from export plants in Queensland.

Woodside’s Pluto LNG project has to date sold little of its gas reserved for the WA market.

Woodside’s Pluto LNG project has to date sold little of its gas reserved for the WA market.Woodside

The WA market has escaped disruption from LNG exports due to a much-lauded policy for liquefied natural gas projects to reserve 15 per cent of their gas for domestic use.

Industry consultancy EnergyQuest recently labelled gas in WA as the cheapest in major industrialised countries,however a shortage between 2025 and 2027 predicted by the Australian Energy Market Operator in 2021 could cause prices to jump.

On Wednesday,the DomGas Alliance – which includes South West alumina producer Alcoa,Pilbara fertiliser and explosives manufacturer Yara,Wesfarmers’ chemical and fertiliser operations and Coogee Chemicals – called for the reserved gas to be offered to market instead of staying in the ground.

It is understood that gas supply from Woodside’s Pluto LNG project is a particular concern of the gas buyers. While former WA Labor Premier Alan Carpenter’s 2006 deal with Woodside has been held up as what should have been done on the east coast,it has delivered little gas.

Woodside had no obligation for the first five years of gas exports and there is doubt the deal was legally enforceable.

Read morehere.

Joyce rejects Albanese’s pork-barrelling accusation

ByMike Foley,Shane Wright andKatina Curtis

The Nationals fear Labor will slash regional funding after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused their party of being obsessed with pork-barrelling and looking after their mates.

Nationals leader David Littleproud accused the government of hiding behind a cheap political line instead of being constructive as it targeted funding for roads,rail and dams in the hunt for budget savings.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has accused the Nationals of being “obsessed” with pork-barrelling.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has accused the Nationals of being “obsessed” with pork-barrelling.Dominic Lorrimer

The Sydney Morning Heraldrevealed this week that tens of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure promised by the former government could be under threat in the next two budgets.

Also on the chopping block are regional-focused programs from the deal to secure the Nationals’ support for the net-zero by 2050 target.

The government’s expenditure review committee met in Canberra on Wednesday as senior cabinet ministers seek cuts ahead of the October 25 budget.

Albanese said the National Party were “committed to pork-barrelling”.

“We will fund projects,including in regional Australia,that stack up,that represent good investment for taxpayers,” he said at a press conference in Sydney on Wednesday morning.

“The Nats were obsessed with looking after their mates,sometimes looking after private interests,and it’s not a model for any government to follow.”

Littleproud said whenever Labor formed government,the “pendulum” on funding allocation swung away from regional communities.

Read morehere.

Australia could revive its car industry with EV,says Tesla chair

ByDavid Crowe

Tesla chair Robyn Denholm says Australia should revive its auto industry by making batteries and electric vehicles to meet soaring global demand and help speed up the transition from petrol and diesel cars.

Denholm said Tesla and others needed more batteries as soon as possible to support the shift to electric vehicles and renewable power projects. The demand gives Australia a chance to build a new industry on its supply of raw materials,she added.

Tesla chair Robyn Denholm says electric vehicles and batteries could revive Australia’s auto industry.

Tesla chair Robyn Denholm says electric vehicles and batteries could revive Australia’s auto industry.Alex Ellinghausen

The Australian tech executive,whosenet worth is estimated to be $688 million from her position on the board of the world’s biggest electric vehicle company,said the shift to the new industry could be achieved without government incentives to subsidise manufacturing.

“Australia is in a unique position because we have the minerals here that other countries don’t have,” she told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“The supply chains for the electric vehicle and the lithium-ion storage batteries that are key for renewable energy are being formed now. That’s why I think it’s a unique opportunity.

“I do think the private sector and government need to work together. I don’t think that incentives are required because most business people will see the exponential growth that’s going to happen over the next period of time in those minerals.

“And moving up the value chain is important for job creation,but it’s also important in terms of the economics that can be yielded with that. And that’s why,from my perspective,the time to act on that is now.”

Read morehere.

The Queen’s favourite ‘classy cocktail’ sells out

ByJessica Yun

Dan Murphy’s and BWS are scrambling to restock a key ingredient used to make Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite cocktail as people raise a glass in memory of the British monarch.

Sales of Dubonnet Rouge,a French apéritif,jumped 465 per cent at Australia’s largest drinks retailer in the three days between Friday and Sunday compared with a typical seven-day trading week. The late Queen’s favourite cocktail is said to be two parts Dubonnet,one part gin,poured over ice with a lemon twist.

Dubonnet,a French liqueur and crucial ingredient in the Queen’s favourite cocktail.

Dubonnet,a French liqueur and crucial ingredient in the Queen’s favourite cocktail.Flavio Branceleone/SMH

“It’s certainly an acquired taste. It’s predominantly a fortified liqueur with spices,so it’s quite niche,quite popular in Europe – obviously very popular with the Queen,” Endeavour Group director of buying and merchandise Tim Carroll said.

The $13 billion beverages group is stocking up on the liqueur after several Dan Murphy’s and BWS stores ran out over the weekend.

Read morehere.

‘A plaza for our people’:Sydney to get a new public square honouring Queen Elizabeth II

A new public square near Macquarie Street will be named after Queen Elizabeth II and feature a monument in her honour,as the NSW government pushes ahead with plans to reinvent the precinct.

The modern block adjoining the historic Registrar General’s Building in the centre of Sydney will be bulldozed later this year to make space for the outdoor plaza beside Hyde Park Barracks.

The NSW government wants to transform the Macquarie Street precinct east of Sydney's CBD into a thriving arts and cultural hub.

The NSW government wants to transform the Macquarie Street precinct east of Sydney’s CBD into a thriving arts and cultural hub.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the royal tribute on Wednesday,and said the commemorative square would be named Queen Elizabeth II Place.

Perrottet said the square and monument would “remember the service and dedication of Queen Elizabeth to the great people of NSW”.

The outdoor plaza will connect The Domain’s sprawling park lands to the heritage-listed Macquarie Street east precinct,which the government intends to transform into an arts and cultural district.

Perrottet said the space would not just be a place for reflection,but a space for recreation.

“It will be a plaza for our people,and it’ll be open space[with] cafés,and the like. This is a place to gather and also connect with each other,both through the urban side and the garden side,” Perrottet said.

Read morehere.

ASX posts worst decline in 3 months as inflation shock hits home

ByColin Kruger andCarla Jaeger

Welcome to your five-minute recap of the trading day and how the experts saw it.

The numbers:Almost $63 billion was wiped off the value of the Australian sharemarket this morning,with the S&P/ASX 200 plunging as much as 2.9 per cent at the open,after shock inflation figures in the US tanked sentiment on Wall Street.

The benchmark index recovered slightly to close 2.58 per cent lower at 6828.60 points -its worst decline in almost three months.

The ASX has tumbled by 2.8 per cent in early trade.

The ASX has tumbled by 2.8 per cent in early trade.Louie Douvis

The lifters:There were very few stocks to come out of today’s bloodbath unscathed:Stock transfer company Computershare added 1.02 per cent;Whitehaven Coal gained 0.71 per cent;and investment company Infratil gained a modest 0.36 per cent.

The laggards:Lynas Rare Earth lost around 5 per cent;Bathroom supplies company Reece dropped 4.98 per cent;accounting software Xero slipped 4.88 per cent;and PC software company Altium shed 4.71 per cent.

Elsewhere,Lithium company Lake Resources’ shares sunk 16.54 per cent amid news of a dispute with its collaborator for its Kachi Pilot plant.

The lowdown: Sharemarkets tumbled across the globe on Wednesday amid a realisation that inflation in the world’s largest economy isn’t slowing as much as hoped. US inflation data for August came in higher than the market expected overnight,which triggered investor fears of more drastic interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve,triggering the biggest drop on Wall Street since June 2020.

All 11 sectors on the local bourse closed in the red on Wednesday,with real estate providing the main drag,down around 4.16 per cent. Financial stocks also fell 2.86 per cent,with all four big banks declining for the first time in five days.

“Everyone’s a bit worried,” said Elio D’Amato,founder of investor advice service Spotee Connect.

“It’s just the shoot first,ask questions later ... The biggest fall in three months is always going to be unnerving on market open.”

Read morehere.

Broede Carmody is the national news blogger for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Previously,he was a culture reporter and worked on the breaking news desk.

Nigel Gladstone is an investigative journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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