POLICE GO HOG WILD
Day one of new authoritarian measures saw some examples of police overreach, with The Australian ($) reporting that NSW police officers threatened to fine people in parks who were otherwise obeying social distancing laws and ordered them to return home.
While threatening people obeying those rules, is, on the face of it, pointless, there is hope the social distancing measures themselves have begun ‘flattening the curve’, with the ABC reporting that, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt, new national cases have fallen from 25–30% over a week ago to just 9% this week.
VICTORIANS MUST NOT BONK: According to Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville, people in the state cannot visit their partners for social reasons. For a state-by-state guide, see the ABC’s report, alternatively, for a frankly wild read, try Victoria’s FAQ.
PRIVATE HOSPITALS NO MORE?
According to The Conversation, the federal government has announced a $1.3 billion partnership with the private health sector to secure 30,000 hospital beds, 105,000 nursing staff, and essential equipment and supplies, including ventilators and personal protective equipment.
State and territory governments will create their own agreements to integrate Australia’s 657 private and not-for-profit hospitals into public systems, while the federal government will pay half the costs.
JUST SHORT OF NATIONALISATION: While agreements will act as a lifeline for private health following the ban on non-elective surgeries, they are also conditional on lost revenue from that measure and, presumably, will end when the ban does.
OUT OF STOCK
In state news, 10Daily reports Victoria has banned the sale of firearms and ammunition after applications doubled amid the pandemic — OK, terrifying — while Queensland and WA are introducing similar measures.
And in NSW, AAP reports the government has allowed pharmacies to dispense medicines without prescriptions and operate 24/7, but will seek to prevent bulk purchases to ensure supply — for example, Ventolin brand inhalers for asthma.
WHAT ABOUT GUN NATION? According to The Guardian, gun and ammunition sales have soared in the US, and while some kind of ‘gun control’ might be useful in this situation, The New York Times reports they have been listed as essential services in some states.
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INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY DEMANDS
According to our friends over at Croakey, more than two dozen doctors and medical professionals have written an open letter to Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt calling for the following measures to protect Indigenous people and communities.
- The cessation of all non-essential fly-in-fly-out workforce contact.
- The urgent release of all minor offenders from custody and those not deemed a threat to others, particularly young people, women, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
- A government guarantee of essential supplies to remote communities amid reports of shortages including food, toilet paper and hand sanitiser, cleaning supplies and ammunition for hunting.
- The provision of clear, accurate and timely information, in local languages, that also recognises the intersection of culture with public health imperatives.
- Specialist training, appropriate PPE and testing capability for health workers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and remote communities, as well as a guarantee of other essential health services (dialysis, mental health and telehealth, for example) and medicines.
The call came as the government released its Management Plan For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations, which, for just one example within operational plans, does consider diversionary programs as a means of reducing overcrowding in prisons.
ANGRY AMAZON WORKERS WALK OUT
Finally, because pandemics bring out both the worst and best in people, Amazon workers in America have walked off the job over safety concerns, the company then fired a lead organiser, Chris Smalls, and now Newsweek reports that New York’s Attorney-General Letitia James has threatened the company with legal action.
Swings and roundabouts!
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
In 50 and 100 years’ time, I suspect people will look back on this national cabinet as being one of the most amazing achievements of the federation in Australia’s first 200 years. That’s my honest view.
Our ever humble health minister reflects on the slight inconsistencies between federal, state and territory measures.
“You can almost hear the sound of pitchforks being sharpened.
“Last week, the NSW and Victorian governments released damning data which showed the biggest clusters of COVID-19 infections were located in some of the states’ most affluent areas: the beachside areas of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and Toorak and the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.”
“Fascism only has one allegedly positive attribute, and that is competent efficiency. Given that the Coalition’s one trumpeted achievement — its ability to stop boats — turns out to be a mirage (285 of NSW’s 1900 COVID-19 cases came off cruise ships), its sudden lurch to authoritarian rule is a bit of an unfunny laugh.”
“Well, this is all happening very fast. And pretty much simultaneously. As the Morrison government announced an unprecedented degree of direct state support for the private sector, largely targeted at wage support, the Victorian and NSW state governments brought down a series of legal restrictions on everyday social life that can only be described as totalitarian.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Lockdowns will kill people too ($) — Parnell Palme McGuinness (Australian Financial Review): “Six months in which children who have been separated from their friend networks will supposedly be ‘remote schooled’ by parents who may or may not have the time, ability, or inclination to support their learning – or who may be struggling with the effects of the lockdown themselves. In which dysfunctional families are trapped together with their anxieties, violent abusers with their victims, lonely people with their aloneness.”
It’s not too early to start thinking about Australia after the crisis — Jim Chalmers (The Guardian): “We are all in this together” is more than a matter of saying we are all at risk from coronavirus, or that we all have a responsibility to follow the rules – we are, and we do. We are all in this together is also about what happens next. It’s about the Australia we want to live in when life is normal again.”
Cities In The Time Of Coronavirus — Claire Collie (Meanjin): “People think me foolish when I tell them I caught public transport to Melbourne to get a flushot at my central city workplace. The partial, confusing lockdown had just been instated, whereby everyone was encouraged to stay at home, leaving only for the essentials.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
University of Sydney academics will hold a webinar discussion about the ethical issues raised by Australia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, clinical care and public health.