Tens of thousands of new daily Covid cases in Australia

The Victoria figures mark another record-breaking jump in infections, surpassing Tuesday's tally of 14,020.

The new cases were detected from 59,682 test results, taking the test positivity rate to nearly 30 percent.

But the true figure is likely much higher, as the PCR testing network is overwhelmed by the rapid rise in cases.

There are now 51,317 active cases of the virus, and 731 people have died in the current outbreak.

Protesters set Old Parliament House in Canberra on fire

No-one was injured in the fire, which engulfed the Old Parliament House's front doors before it was put out.

It follows a fortnight of protest activity at the site, police said.

Protest violence on this scale is rare in Australia, but flare-ups have become more common during the pandemic.

Some of the protesters had identified themselves as part of anti-government and "sovereign citizen" groups, observers said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the violence, saying: "This is not how Australia works."

Australia settles lawsuit over welfare scheme criticised as racist

The "work for the dole" scheme required people in remote outback communities to work up to 25 hours a week to receive income benefits.

But its strict requirements meant that many vulnerable people were pushed further into poverty, critics said.

The government settled a lawsuit but did not admit it was at fault.

Several people had struggled to survive after having their payments cut off, advocates said.

Australia controversially requires welfare recipients to record job searches and other tasks in order to receive payments.

Australia to shorten booster intervals as Omicron pushes cases to records

Booster shots will be offered from 4 January to everyone over 18 who had their second shot four months earlier and the interval will be again reduced to three months by the end of January.

"These dates have been set out of an abundance of caution to give Australians early continued protection," Hunt said during a media conference in Canberra.

Most states had been pressing the federal government to make more people eligible for boosters to stem the growing tide of Omicron cases. Authorities two weeks ago reduced the wait time to five months from six.

Five children killed and four others injured in Australia bouncy castle fall

The accident - caused by a wind gust - happened on Thursday at a primary school fun day in Devonport, Tasmania.

Police said the children had fallen from 10m (32ft), with two boys and two girls among the victims.

The children were in grade six, meaning they were probably 10 or 11 years old. A fifth child died later in hospital.

"A wind gust had reportedly caused the jumping castle and inflatable balls to lift into the air," Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine said.

Australian produced Moderna Covid-19 vaccines could benefit Pacific

One epidemiologist says the "possibilities are seemingly endless".

An in-principle agreement has been struck between Moderna, the Australian government and the Victorian government, with the aim of having the facility running by 2024.

Moderna's Australian head, Michael Azrak, said he was proud the company would have an Australian manufacturing presence.

"We're ready to pitch tent in Australia," Mr Azrak said.

"The facility we're envisaging will have the capability of at least 100 million doses if needs be."

2022 Beijing Winter Olympics: Australia joins US diplomatic boycott

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was in response to "human rights abuses" in China's Xinjiang province and "many other issues that Australia has consistently raised".

Athletes would still attend, he added.

China has condemned the US announcement and threatened to retaliate, without giving further details.

On Monday, the US said it would not send diplomats to the Games in Beijing over concerns about China's human rights record.

Vanuatu Government National Emergency Radio Network operational in time for high risk weather season

The emergency network connects police posts across Vanuatu’s six provinces, enabling inter-island communication during emergencies with police headquarters and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).

Commander Deployable Joint Force Headquarters Major General Scott Winter said the ADF is proud to partner with the VPF to support Vanuatu’s priorities.

“The devastation from Tropical Cyclone Harold in 2020 reinforced the priority of radio communications for Vanuatu,” Major General Winter said.

Vanuatu kava farmers can not export to Australia

The Daily Post Newspaper said under the special programme allows for Vanuatu kava to be exported to Australia for the next two years.     

Better connecting Tongoa in Vanuatu

The upgrades were carried out by a small contingent of Australian Army signallers and Vanuatu Police Force members as part of the Vanuatu Government National Emergency Radio Network project, who installed and trained Tongoa police officers on both High Frequency (HF) radios and Very High Frequency portable radios.

Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) Senior Sergeant Willie Daniel outlined what the upgrades meant for his small team of police officers living and working on Tongoa.