Australia news LIVE: COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the nation as states and territories look for lockdown exit strategies

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Victoria’s construction industry shut down for two weeks after clashes at CFMEU headquarters

Victoria’s building industry will be shut for two weeks after a day of unprecedented protests at the construction union’s head office, with windows smashed, projectiles thrown at senior officials and riot police closing down a major city street.

Some critical infrastructure works, such as hospitals and some ongoing level crossing removal projects, will continue during the shutdown that starts from midnight.

Police and protesters face off out the front of the CFMEU office on Elizabeth Street on Monday. Credit:Justin McManus

The Andrews government formally announced the two-week shutdown late on Monday night, less than three hours before the closure was to begin at 11.59pm.

All projects in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire will be shuttered, with limited exempts for workers to attend closed sites to respond emergencies or perform urgent and essential work to protect health and safety.

Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas said the decision had been driven by multiple outbreaks linked to the industry, as well as “widespread non-compliance” with COVID safety rules.

Read the full story here.

Cash set to flow to heavily locked down Sydney regions

The NSW government will invest the bulk of its pandemic recovery spending in western Sydney, diverting $5 billion from the sale of the WestConnex motorway to help suburbs that faced the harshest lockdown measures of the Delta outbreak.

With western Sydney to be the battleground in the 2023 state election, the government has established the WestInvest fund from the sale of the second stage of WestConnex. The fund is set to form the cornerstone of the COVID-19 recovery plan.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian with other ministers and Coalition MPs in western Sydney on Monday.Credit:Edwina Pickles

Of 15 local government areas in western Sydney set to receive the funding package, 10 have been listed as LGAs of concern during the pandemic and subjected to tighter restrictions such as curfews and exercise limits, including Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland and Fairfield.

The government has spent close to six months working to develop the fund, and will look to prioritise small projects that can be undertaken within months to spur job creation and economic recovery.

Read more about the plan here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for reading our live coverage.

It’s Tuesday, September 21. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll take you through some of the morning’s top stories.

Here’s everything you need to know before you start the day.

  • Victoria’s building industry will be shut down for two weeks after a violent protest outside the construction union’s head office. The CFMEU says the majority of protesters were not unionists and were instead aligned with far-right and anti-lockdown groups. Authorities are bracing for another protest planned for this morning. The construction shutdown is estimated to cost the Victorian economy $1 billion each week. The state recorded 567 new cases of coronavirus yesterday and one death.
  • The NSW government plans to invest the bulk of its pandemic recovery spending in western Sydney. Under the current outbreak, suburbs in west and south-west Sydney had some of the state’s harshest lockdown measures. NSW recorded 935 new cases of COVID-19 and four deaths yesterday. It’s the fourth consecutive day of lower cases in the state, but Premier Gladys Berejiklian says it’s too early to say cases have definitely peaked.
  • Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine works in children aged 5 to 11. The company will soon seek US approval for this age group. In Australia, the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children aged 12 and over.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison is in the United States today ahead of his first face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden. Australia’s cancellation of a $90 billion submarine deal with France in favour of a nuclear-powered submarine agreement has generated a lot of headlines over the past few days.
  • Closer to home, and the Northern Territory says a domestic traveller has tested positive to COVID-19 after returning to the Top End from NSW via Queensland. However, because the 53-year-old tested positive at the Howard Springs quarantine facility, there is “very minimal risk” to the community.
  • The ACT recorded seven cases of coronavirus yesterday. It’s the first single digit day in the nation’s capital since August.
  • And in international news, Princess Beatrice, Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter, has given birth to a baby girl. And Auckland’s alert level is being downgraded from level four to level three tonight, however in practical terms that doesn’t mean there are many changes to restrictions (travel is still restricted and you aren’t allowed to socialise with anyone outside your bubble). However, single bubbles are being implemented for people who live alone.
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