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Sydney news: Political staffer, public servants to appear at Barilaro’s fourth US trade job hearing

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Barilaro US trade job inquiry to meet again today

The New South Wales upper house inquiry into the appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro to the lucrative US trade role will convene again on Friday.

An additional fourth hearing comes after the resignation of Trade Minister Stuart Ayres on Wednesday, following raised questions over his involvement in the process.

Mr Ayres denies any wrongdoing but will be investigated for a possible breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

Mr Barilaro’s former chief of staff, Siobhan Hamblin, the managing director of Investment NSW, Kylie Bell, and the Public Sector Commissioner, Kathrina Lo, will give evidence from 10am.

Earlier in the week, in her second appearance before the committee, Investment NSW chief executive Amy Brown conceded the appointment was not done “at arm’s length” from the state government.

Mr Barilaro — who has withdrawn from the $500,000-a-year job — is due to appear at the inquiry on Monday, August 8.

Meanwhile, the NSW opposition leader Chris Minns said it does not make sense to have highly paid Trade Commissioners based overseas when the state’s finances are under extreme pressure.

He said Labor would abolish the six Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner positions, if it wins the state election in March.

“The modern Australian economy, particularly when you’re chasing export opportunities, is so diverse and so big that a single person driving that agenda around the world just doesn’t make sense,” Mr Minns said.

COVID-19 cases in state slowing

NSW Health says its latest surveillance data suggests that COVID-19 infections have peaked and hospital admissions have plateaued across the state.

The report — which analyzes the week ending July 30 — found the rate of COVID-19 notifications per 100,000 people had decreased, or remained stable, across all local health districts.

Infections have also decreased, or remained stable, across all age groups, except those aged between 10 and 19 years.

The seven-day, rolling average of daily hospital admissions also decreased by 14.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, the highly “sticky” BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants are still the dominant strains, rising to 97 per cent of specimens sampled at the end of last week, compared to 94 per cent at the end of the previous week.

NSW Health says there is still no evidence of a difference in disease severity between these and previous Omicron variants.

Monkeypox doses available soon

The vaccine will be eligible for some people from Monday.(Reuters: Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

Those most at risk from monkeypox in NSW can access the first doses of the smallpox vaccine from Monday 8 August, as part of a targeted rollout across the state.

NSW Health has secured the first 5500 doses for high-risk groups, such as people with suppressed immune systems, sex workers and homeless men who have sex with men.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said doctors will identify people who should be vaccinated against Monkeypox and more information will be released in coming days about how to register interest.

Australia has recorded about 60 cases of Monkeypox, which is a usually mild disease similar to smallpox, and until May was endemic to Central and West Africa.

Another 30,000 doses will be delivered to the state next month.

Man charged with stalking teacher

A man has been charged with intimidating and stalking a teacher at Auburn in Sydney’s West.

Police say the 26-year-old threatened the teacher at the basketball courts of the PCYC on Wednesday.

He has been granted bail and is due to face court next week.

Natural disaster organization under fire

a man looking and standing outdoors
The future is unclear for Shane Fitzsimmons, who leads Resilience NSW.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

New South Wales cabinet is expected to approve a recommendation to dismantle the organization created to lead the response to natural disasters.

A report into this year’s floods has recommended dismantling Resilience New South Wales.

Flood victims have criticized the organisation’s performance.

It’s thought the agency’s responsibilities will be reallocated to existing government departments.

Varroa mites spread

Varroa mite infestations have been identified at nine more properties in the Newscastle region.

The nine new detections bring the total number of infested premises to 73.

All of the new detections have been linked to other cases or to the movement of other hives and equipment, and were found within existing emergency zones.

Varroa mites spread viruses that cripple bees’ ability to fly, gather food and pollinate crops, leading hives to collapse and die off.

Australia was the last continent to be free of the parasite, with previous detections in Queensland and Victoria eradicated.

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