Melbourne, ACT wakes to more freedoms as NSW braces for case spike

Melbourne might have been the most locked-down city in the world during the pandemic but today it wakes to new freedoms.

Eat-in dining, hairdressers and household visits are back, people can leave their home for any reason and travel within metropolitan Melbourne, although there are still restrictions in place.

The re-opening comes as Victoria reached its 70 per cent double-dose vaccination target on Wednesday, while almost 90 per cent of those aged over 16 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

It's not the only place rejoicing in new freedoms today. Retail stores are reopening in the ACT.

Health authorities are expecting cases to begin rising in earnest from next week - two weeks after initial freedoms came in, and a week after the second stage of the roadmap out of lockdown allowed significantly more social interactions.

Meanwhile in Queensland, authorities are trying to trace the contacts of a Gold Coast COVID-19 positive man, who is so sick that communication with health workers has been almost impossible.

The man, in his 30s, has been infectious in the community for 10 days.

Down south and Tasmania's premier is expected to outline his plan for reopening the island's borders with the mainland today.

Fury over Porter's mystery donations

Scott Morrison has rejected claims his former attorney-general Christian Porter's secret donations were not being looked into after his government quashed efforts to have the matter scrutinised.

House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith said there appeared to be a case for referring the issue of Mr Porter's donations to the powerful privileges committee.

But the coalition used its numbers to block Labor's bid to send the matter to an inquiry.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the idea Mr Porter did not know where the money came from defied belief.

$1 million reward for info on missing Cleo

The Government of Western Australia is offering a reward of up to $1 million for information which leads to the location of four-year-old Cleo Grace Smith.

Premier Mark McGowan and Police Minister Paul Papalia joined police to announce the reward on Thursday afternoon and reassure police they have the full resources of Government at their disposal.

Obeids, Macdonald jailed over conspiracy

Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid will have another night of freedom despite being jailed for at least three years and 10 months over a rigged tender for a coal exploration licence.

His former ministerial colleague Ian Macdonald was jailed for at least five years and three months, while his son Moses Obeid was jailed for at least three years.

But late on Thursday, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton allowed Obeid to be released to his Sydney home overnight before the 77-year-old applies for bail on Friday pending a conviction appeal.

Cocaine, ketamine use on the rise

Fewer Australians took ecstasy in 2021 but cocaine and ketamine use is on the rise, a new study indicates.

Out of the 774 interviewed for The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW survey who regularly take ecstasy and other illegal stimulants, the use of cocaine increased significantly in the past six months from 68 per cent in 2020 to 80 per cent in 2021. It is the highest percentage of reported usage since monitoring began.

- with Australian Associated Press

This story Melbourne, ACT wakes to more freedoms as NSW braces for case spike first appeared on The Canberra Times.