Australia

Morning Briefing: Free rapid tests to end, Pacific leaders prepare for meeting and United Nations aid to Syria

Good morning. It’s Wednesday 13 July, and here’s a round-up of the latest news.

Concerns over end to free rapid antigen test scheme

Health care professionals are urging the federal government not to end a scheme providing free rapid antigen tests to vulnerable groups as Australians face rising COVID-19 cases through winter.

This follows the government’s announcement that the COVID-19 rapid test Concessional Access Program, which offers 10 free tests each month to concession card members, will not be extended past July 2022.

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The NSW and ACT representative of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Charlotte Hespe says the decision should be reversed to ensure everyone, especially low-income earners, can access the tests.

Anthony Albanese prepares for Pacific leaders’ meeting

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is Fiji-bound for the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting.
Leaders from 15 nations are gathering to discuss ways to gather more international support and funding to fight the impacts of climate change and security threats in the region.

Climate change is a major focus of the Forum despite the shock withdrawal of Kiribati from the group.

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Almost a quarter of the Forum is missing the summit including Nauru due to a COVID-19 outbreak, Cook Islands with local upcoming elections, and Marshall Islands due to legal issues.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong says the gathering aims to bring unity to the region,

Poverty hampering access to disability services, advocates say

The disability royal commission has been told poverty in remote Indigenous communities is hampering access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Women’s Council says many families live in overcrowded housing and rely on social security for their income.

Advocates also say people with disability living in a remote area that straddles the Western Australian, South Australian and Northern Territory borders often do not understand their NDIS plan.

Syria aid extended to January 2023

The United Nations Security Council has approved an extension of humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria.

The aid will continue for another six months until January 2023.

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Russia had vetoed a new Security Council resolution to enable a further six-month extension.

Ireland’s UN representative Geraldine Byrne Nason says the draft resolution will make it easier to continue early recovery efforts and promote routine follow-up sessions on implementation.

Committee highlights Donald Trump Capitol riot ‘siren call’

The United States House committee probing the January 6 attack on the Capitol has highlighted the way violent far-right extremists answered Donald Trump’s so-called “siren call” to travel to Washington, as some now face rare sedition charges.

The panel investigating the Capitol siege is meeting to examine the final phase of Mr Trump’s effort to halt Joe Biden’s election victory.

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The committee says Mr Trump tweeted the rally invitation, describing that tweet as a pivotal moment.

Florida Representative Stephanie Murphy says Mr Trump aimed to remain in power and used the crowd as a tool to do so.

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