social distancing COVID-19
(Image: AAP/James Gourley)

NOT QUITE LAST CALL

As the ABC, The Australian ($) and The Sydney Morning Herald report, the NSW government will today announce new rules for pubs bringing group bookings down from 20 to 10 people, putting in place a 300 patron upper limit for large venue, and implementing more stringent record-keeping requirements

As the Crossroads Hotel cluster grows to 21 confirmed cases, the SMH notes that 13 separate hotels, restaurants, gyms and shops have been flagged as hotspots or places of concern across the state. Those numbers, as The NT News ($) reports, have gotten to the point that the Australian Medical Association NT has advised the Gunner government to bar NSW ahead of the territory’s border reopening on Friday.

Reportedly, NSW’s new pub rules will not impact clubs, restaurants, or casinos like the Star Casino, which was hit with a whopping $5000 fine for overcrowding after a patron who visited tested positive.

FOR COMPARISON: A group of six Victorians was fined more than $24,000 and kicked out of Queensland after police seized their phones and found the group lied on a border declaration form about visiting a Melbourne hotspot.

WE ARE NOT AMUSED, VICTORIA

According to emails leaked to The Age, a senior bureaucrat at Victoria’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions warned the Department of Health and Human Services that private security guards were ill-equipped to handle hotel quarantine — and even called for their replacement with police — within the first 24 hours of the March 28 program launch.

In a fresher controversy for the state government, the paper also reports that Victorian Labor backbencher Mark Gepp has demanded answers from caucus colleagues over the Flemington and North Melbourne hard lockdowns, specifically over the decision-making process that saw people detained with armed law enforcement, a mother and her newborn separated, and the seemingly default elsewhere 48 hours notice ignored.

PS: Following questions from Nine papers, four of Victoria’s five living ex-premiers have hit out at the growth of anti-Victorian rhetoric amongst other state and territory leaders, with Liberal premier Denis Napthine a hold out arguing the sentiment is “self-inflicted” following the hotel quarantine failures.

DETENTION AND DEPORTATION

SBS reports that Australian Border Force staff at Sydney’s Villawood immigration detention centre are self-isolating after visiting the Crossroads Hotel, with advocates at the Refugee Action Coalition alleging the numbers could be as high as 30 guards. The report comes after ABF confirmed a guard working at Melbourne’s Mantra facility tested positive, news that has, unsurprisingly, terrified detained refugees and people seeking asylum.

PS: According to the ABC, up to 30 New Zealand citizens will be deported as early as today following months of lockdown in Villawood, Melbourne, and Brisbane detention centres, with the Coalition’s continued insistence on deporting people who have otherwise lived here for decades once again drawing ire from the Ardern government.

A FLEETING ISSUE

According to The Guardian, the Morrison government is attempting to stop the auditor general providing evidence about a report that was critical of their $1.3 billion deal to purchase a new combat vehicle fleet from arms manufacturer Thales, more than two years after using extraordinary powers to redact aspects following complains from an “aggrieved” Thales.

YOU THINK TWO YEARS IS LONG? At around 11am this morning, the National Archives of Australia will release more than 1000 pages of documents dubbed “the Palace Letters”, which were sent between former governor-general Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace ahead of the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government. As the SMH’s report notes, the release stands to reignite calls for a republic.

CHINA RETALIATES WITH A TRAVEL WARNING OF ITS OWN

Finally, in the latest tit-for-tat following Australia’s push for a COVID-19 inquiry and China’s de facto takeover of Hong Kong, the ABC reports that Chinese authorities have issued travel warnings alleging Australian law enforcement agencies are “arbitrarily” searching Chinese citizens and seizing their possessions.

As the broadcaster notes, the language used by Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a direct echo of DFAT’s recent warning that Australian citizens in China may “be at risk of arbitrary detention”.

The move comes amidst new calls from the Greens for the Morrison government to axe the free trade deal with Hong Kong following China’s expansion.

SANCTIONS ALL AROUND: In a busy night for the ministry, The Guardian reports that China has announced unspecified and effectively symbolic sanctions against a number of US officials, including Republican senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in response to new sanctions over Beijing’s treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang province.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

The Queensland government in consultation with Brisbane City Council (BCC), can make Brisbane a safer cleaner city, reducing by:

  • Ceasing the non-essential leaf and dust blowing in parks and streets. Blowers resuspend small particles which remain airborne exposing those nearby to the polluted air. In addition the excessive noise impacts on mental health, with increased concerns due to COVID-19.

Australian Medical Association Queensland’s submission to the state’s COVID-19 response inquiry

You heard the doctors, everyone has to destroy their leaf blowers immediately. For the pandemic.

CRIKEY RECAP

What solidarity? Business leaders urge letting the virus rip

“For some business leaders and lobby groups, the return to lockdown in Melbourne is intolerable. The most prominent is the Australian Industry Group (AIG).

“Last week it condemned the Melbourne lockdown, saying ‘widespread shutdowns is a strategy that can be used just once.’ The following day it called for the reopening of the NSW-Victorian border on the basis that the Melbourne lockdown — which it had opposed the previous day — had removed any threat of community transmission of COVID-19 outside Victoria.”


Maternal death, teenage pregnancy and unsafe abortion: the ‘shadow pandemic’ following the outbreak

“A heavily pregnant 19-year-old with high blood pressure lost her baby and went partially blind after she was turned away from a Port Moresby hospital in April, as the hospital had no temperature-testing facilities to confirm she was not carrying COVID-19.

“One of the country’s obstetrics experts then advised women in Papua New Guinea not to fall pregnant in the next two years. But according to the latest projections from The United Nations Population Fund, a lockdown of just six months will result in 7 million unintended pregnancies.”


It’s time to talk about the worst-case scenario

“Though little else appears to be getting done, the global coronavirus pandemic is at least reminding us of the nature of risk and risk assessment, and how little the latter has to do with the former in absolute terms.

“Here, Victoria is getting yelled at by the rest of Australia for a new flare-up involving a few hundred cases, and the country has locked down against us. Meanwhile in the UK, with the thing still raging — 500 new cases a day, 44,800 deaths so far — lockdowns are easing, people are being given vouchers to dine out, and the gyms are reopening next month.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Second Indigenous death in custody in a month as Aboriginal teenager takes own life at Acacia prison ($)

Documents reveal AFP’s use of controversial facial recognition technology Clearview AI

Fake coronavirus signs at playgrounds: Kingston Council slams ‘outrageous’ act ($)

National Farmers Federation’s blueprint for agriculture-led recovery ($)

Google detecting 18m malware and phishing messages per day related to Covid-19

University of Queensland student vows to challenge appeals committee ruling upholding his suspension over anti-China activism

Former NSW water minister defends exclusion of driest years from sustainable water calculations

HomeBuilder package ‘most effective stimulus in a decade’ ($)

‘Compelling’ evidence air pollution worsens coronavirus – study

Israeli police tear down anti-Netanyahu protest camp

Washington NFL team drops Redskins name and logo

THE COMMENTARIAT

Lockdown is an opportunity to bring temporary visa holders into the foldDani Valent (The Age): “On the first day of lockdown redux last week I was giving soup to temporary visa holders who have lost their jobs in hospitality. I’ve been doing it each Thursday since April. The mood was heavy. Workers who had started to pick up a few shifts had now lost them. People who had been holding on for an easing of restrictions had seen their hopes dashed.”

Coronavirus: Gladys Berejiklian response ‘wise and weighted’ ($) — Simon Benson (The Australian):Gladys Berejiklian is keeping her nerve and putting the state’s economic recovery ahead of what appears to be an isolated outbreak of COVID-19 at a pub. This is the blend of political courage and resolve that premiers and chief ministers have been asked to show as the pandemic enters a new, uncertain phase.”

How misinformation about 5G is spreading within our government institutions – and who’s responsibleMichael Jensen (The Conversation): “‘Fake news’ is not just a problem of misleading or false claims on fringe websites, it is increasingly filtering into the mainstream and has the potential to be deeply destructive. My recent analysis of more than 500 public submissions to a parliamentary committee on the launch of 5G in Australia shows just how pervasive misinformation campaigns have become at the highest levels of government.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson will deliver Get Australia Growing: Recovery starts in the bush, an overview of the NFF’s recovery plan, at the National Press Club.

  • Public hearings will be held for parliamentary inquiries into trade diversification and the Australian War Memorial development project.

Peter Fray

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