RAISE THE AGE DECISION POSTPONED
Australia’s Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) have postponed making a decision about raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14, meaning that for now children as young as 10 can still be arrested, charged and imprisoned.
As The Canberra Times reports, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman called for evidence of alternatives to prison — which Australia has had access to for years now, from Indigenous-led “justice reinvestment” to European welfare programs — and announced the Berejiklian government is not convinced the age should be raised at all, citing community concerns over allegations that 13-year-olds raped a 5-year-old in June.
Speakman did not, however, address the issue of the hundreds of other children imprisoned for crimes related to property, fraud, drugs, traffic, public order, and other non-violent offences, all of whom are now much more likely to re-enter prison later in life.
PS: In related news, NT News ($) reports that a lawyer for two former Don Dale detainees yesterday told a court they “started saying their goodbyes” to each other because they “thought they were going to die” while being tear-gassed in their cells.
PPS: As The Guardian reports, CAG was able to agree on overhauling Australia’s defamation laws, with Speakman announcing the reset would curb “crippling damages payouts, chilling public interest journalism and clogging courts with minor claims”.
ROYAL COMMISSION? AMA
According to Herald Sun, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for a royal commission into Victoria’s handling of the current COVID-19 outbreak, intended to go beyond the previously-announced hotel quarantine inquiry and incorporate everything from aged care to contact tracing.
The call comes amidst the ongoing aged care crisis, with St. Basil’s Home for the Aged subject to both the highest caseload — 84 of the states’ total 800 aged care-linked cases — and multiple ongoing controversies:
- Both Herald Sun and The Australian ($) report on how last week’s federal government takeover of the home resulted in inexperienced staff being brought into the facility, caused general confusion, and allegedly led to incidents of patients not being fed and being left lying in soiled sheets
- According to The Age, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has issued St. Basil’s with a Notice to Agree, which forces the home to appoint an independent adviser until the facility is free of all positive cases and to not admit any new residents until it can demonstrate that the “serious risk” to care recipients has been effectively addressed.
As the ABC details, the sector has also seen fresh evacuations, staffing rules, and a new Victorian Aged Care Response Centre set up by the state and federal governments.
Finally, in a small victory that could help mitigate the insecure work crisis currently exacerbating the sector’s outbreaks, The New Daily reports that the Fair Work Commission has awarded two weeks’ of paid pandemic leave to aged-care workers required to self-isolate.
A QUICK COVID-19 OVERVIEW
Buckle up, because it’s another heavy morning for COVID-19 news:
- The ABC notes that the four active cases at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital includes a newborn baby in the neonatal intensive care unit
- According to The Age, two Victorian government agencies — Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning — withdrew their staff from overseeing hotel quarantine amid fears for their safety and inadequate direction from the Department of Health and Human Services
- The Nine paper also reports that the union for state school principals has urged the Andrews government to abandon face-to-face classes for students in years 11 and 12 and in specialist schools and return to remote learning in the state’s lockdown zones
- Analysis by The Australian ($) suggests that Victorians aged 20-29 currently represent the dominant cohort of infections, although the publication notes the nearly 2000 cases amongst young people are believed to be linked to insecure work — and not, to adopt the go-to political rhetoric, people “breaking the rules”
- The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NSW Health has called for visitors at two now-shut Sydney venues — Potts Point restaurant The Apollo and Mounties flagship club in Mount Pritchard — to self isolate for 14 days if their attendance corresponds to infection periods between Thursday July 23 to Saturday July 25
- Finally, InQueensland notes that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has again flagged new border restrictions depending on the rate of community transmission in NSW.
PS: In non-COVID health news, the ABC reports that the Morrison government plans to remove Medicare rebates for GPs interpreting routine heart procedures, a move Labor, the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of GPs and Rural Doctors Association have all slammed in warnings to Health Minister Greg Hunt.
BLM PROTEST TO GO AHEAD
Finally, after losing an appeal against the NSW Supreme Court, masked Black Lives Matter protesters will today meet in groups of 20 — the state’s limit for outdoor groups — at the Domain in Sydney.
While the ABC notes that Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has still threatened to fine protesters, BLM organiser Paddy Gibson has cited national inaction on Indigenous deaths in custody and the campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility — as well as the fact community sporting events are, weirdly enough, only limited to 500 participants — as reasons to proceed on The Project.
POLITICAL PRISONERS ABROAD: To shift to an entirely separate activist’s legal troubles, The Guardian reports that Julian Assange’s legal team has argued that US Attorney-General William Barr may be using the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition case — and a new superseding indictment publicised last month but yet to be served to the UK courts — for political ends.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
As the Founding Fathers said, [slavery] was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.
US Senator Tom Cotton
In arguing why federal funds should not go towards the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project — an education initiative that reframes US history around the first arrivals of slave ships — the Republican senator offers yet another glimpse as to where the party is headed post-Trump.
“The Mask Wars are one of the stranger offshoots of COVID-19, but I guess existential crises will produce the unexpected. And, judging by the delight with which its soldiers post their self-recorded victories over the authoratariat on Facebook, they’re not going to end any time soon.”
“When Josh Frydenberg invokes Thatcher and Reagan as some sort of template for post-pandemic Australia, he’s either profoundly ignorant or has in mind something quite different from the government’s professed agenda of jobs growth.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Australia is not pulling its weight in seeking a vaccine for COVID-19 ($) — Chris Bowen (The Australian): “While there’s no doubt Australia’s world-class researchers are playing a crucial role in vaccine development, it’s important to ask if the federal government is doing enough to support them and ensure we can access a vaccine here when the time comes. So far the government has invested in only one potential vaccine, at the University of Queensland. Its $5m commitment to the UQ project is half that of the Queensland government and a fraction of what other countries are investing in their own candidates.”
Why the GFC didn’t discredit supply-side economics ($) — The AFR View (AFR): “Neoliberal economics was not discredited by the global financial crisis of 2008-09, notwithstanding then prime minister Kevin Rudd’s attempt to define it as the end of a ’30-year domination of economic policy that has been variously called neoliberalism, economic liberalism, economic fundamentalism, Thatcherism or the Washington Consensus’.”
If wars of the future are about influence, Australia needs to be better armed — Malcolm Long (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Australia’s disappearing media presence in the Asia-Pacific makes us increasingly vulnerable. As we wrestle with our deteriorating relations with China and seek to strengthen our engagement with other countries, effective international communications by Australia have gone missing in action.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Premier Steven Marshall will reveal a new ministry following the resignation of three ministers on Sunday.
The parliamentary COVID-19 inquiry will hear from representatives from the education sector, including ACOSS, tertiary education unions, Universities Australia, TAFE and the federal education department.
Crikey news editor Emily Watkins will speak with Inq reporter Georgia Wilkins, contributor Gina Rushton and Sydney Morning Herald senior journalist Jacqueline Maley for Me Too, the media and the making of Geoffrey Rush: Trial By Media. 6pm AEST, register here.
National Secretary of the AMWU Paul Bastian will speak in conversation with Director of the Centre for Future Work, the Australia Institute Dr Jim Stanford for Winning a Fair Share: How to Rebuild Australia’s Manufacturing Base After COVID-19.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds will meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper for AUSMIN consultations.