Australian PM brushes off reported text exchange between Berejiklian and minister

An alleged conversation between a "senior Liberal cabinet minister" and former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian was relayed live on air by Channel Ten's political editor Peter Van Onselen yesterday.

Berejiklian reportedly described the Prime Minister as a "horrible, horrible person", with the minister responding he was a "complete psycho".

The ABC has not seen or verified the text exchange.

Berejiklian has not denied the conversation, but said yesterday she had no recollection of it.

Victoria reports rise in hospitalisations, teen among deaths in Queensland

Of the patients in hospital, there are 122 in intensive care, 40 of whom are receiving ventilation.

The state has officially recorded 21,966 new Covid-19 infections, but the true number of new cases in the community could be much higher.

About half of the state's cases have been diagnosed using RATs, with yesterday's tally reported from 11,693 PCR results and 10,273 rapid testing kits.

Considering these figures, Premier Daniel Andrews said it was clear Covid-19 was prevalent in Victoria.

Man arrested after Australian child found dead in barrel

The victim is believed to be a nine-year-old girl who went missing from the Blue Mountains near Sydney last Thursday, local media report.

The child's body was found by officers on Tuesday during a search of bushland in a neighbouring area.

Police said a 31-year-old man had been arrested in a flat in inner Sydney and charged with murder.

He was remanded in custody to face a court on Wednesday.

Media reports said the girl - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - was on holiday with her mother when she disappeared last Thursday.

Australia equals hottest day on record at 50.7C

The temperature in Onslow, Western Australia, on Thursday matched a record set in 1962 in South Australia.

Onslow and the surrounding areas could see records broken again with temperatures set to rise slightly on Friday.

It comes after Western Australia reported large bushfires last month.

One fire near Margaret River scorched through more than 6,000 hectares of land, forcing evacuations.

The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed on Thursday that Onslow equalled the record at 14:26 local time (22:26 GMT).

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."