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Australia politics live news updates: Asic takes ‘multiple’ actions against Westpac; national cabinet to discuss spread of Omicron Covid variant


Welcome to the third last sitting day of the year (and possibly before the election), where the government is trying for its latest reset.

Scott Morrison is back on the “won’t be distracted” train, where he waxes lyrical about knowing what Australians actually care about.

So the government is pushing its social media “reforms”, which are dressed up as protecting young people and women from anonymous trolling and online bullying, but really, is aimed at those looking at defamation action.

That legislation should be released today, where we will learn more, including whether the government plans on allowing public funds to be used for defamation action – something Peter Dutton, who sued over a (then deleted) tweet, floated just a short time ago.

The government’s voter ID laws, which have been roundly criticised as a solution looking for a problem, are also due for an airing today – despite not having Labor’s support (not having Labor’s support is one of the reasons the government says it is not introducing its integrity commission legislation).

But of course, it is all about the new Covid variant, with national cabinet to meet this afternoon to get an update. There is still a lot health experts don’t know about the new Omicron variant – on first impressions, it seems more mild than Delta, but just as contagious. A more mild version of the virus is potentially the first step to it becoming endemic, rather than a pandemic, and there is nothing to suggest that vaccine effectiveness is affected

Still, the government that was selling itself as “getting out of people’s lives” has paused the border reopening for skilled visa holders and international holders for two weeks while it works out what Omicron means. So far, that is the only major change. It’s a blow for those on visas hoping to return to Australia. As yet, there is no change for vaccinated Australian passport holders being able to return. There is also no changes for people wanting to leave Australia.

We will keep you updated on what happens as it does – including any changes national cabinet decides on. The health expert panel, Atagi, are also meeting to consider whether or not there is any need to bring forward the booster shots from six months to four months (for example), so if there is any decision there, you’ll be among the first to know.

Mike Bowers is out and about, and in the Canberra bureau you have Sarah Martin, Paul Karp, Daniel Hurst and Katharine Murphy. It being a parliament sitting, you have Amy Remeikis on the blog for most of the day and the entire Guardian team will keep you in the know on what is happening around the country. I hope you have had your coffee (or three).

Ready?



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