A Nine investigation has found that Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s team had just 14 contact tracers by the time COVID-19 took hold in Australia in March, despite the state government being given warnings by top bureaucrats dating back as far as May 2019 that the “public health unit was the worst resourced in the country”.
Meanwhile, 7.30 reports that a contract between the Victorian government and a security company hired for hotel quarantine has been slammed for making it the company’s responsibility to ensure guards undertook specialised infection control training and wore personal protective equipment.
Elsewhere, the Herald Sun ($) reports that Heritage Care, the operator of Epping Gardens — where two residents have died and 86 are infected — refused days of requests from health officials seeking to take control in order to keep healthy residents apart from the sick, with Austin health staff eventually forced to request federal intervention.
Finally, The Australian ($) reports that testing levels at Australia’s new ground zero — Brimbank, near Melbourne Airport, where active cases for the first time have surged through 600 — have fallen well behind rates at other local government areas i.e. 20,000 fewer tests than Casey, which has less than a third the total cases.
PS: In one of the most actively upsetting policy decisions yet, the US Republican party has proposed a $7 billion-plus weapons program form part of the latest $1 trillion recovery package. America’s death toll is currently approaching 150,000, and unemployment has hit roughly 20% across New York and Los Angeles.
SCHOOL’S OUT FOR (SOME OF) SYDNEY
According to the ABC, several government and Catholic schools, as well as a preschool, will be closed in Sydney due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases; these include Fort Street High School in Sydney’s inner west, Mary Immaculate Primary School in Bossley Park, Freeman Catholic College in Bonnyrig Heights, and EverLearn preschool at Prestons in Sydney’s south-west.
The news comes as Queensland prepares to shut its border to all of Greater Sydney from 1am on Saturday — an announcement that hasn’t gone down great with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian — after which arrivals into Queensland will be forced into hotel quarantine at their own expense.
That decision came after Queensland recorded a third case after two 19-year-old women who had travelled from Victoria (via NSW) tested positive yesterday. Queensland Health have also called on anyone who interacted with the pair’s itinerary across Logan and Brisbane on July 21-28 to immediately self-quarantine and contact 13 HEALTH.
A SAD OFF AIR
The dual advertising downturn and general recession has once again hit rural journalism, with the ABC reporting that just over a dozen regional Nine journalists are expected to lose their jobs.
From August 10 the network will cut in half an hour-long regional news bulletin airing in Queensland, southern New South Wales and Victoria, while the ABC understands Nine’s Shepparton and Dubbo bureaus will close.
PS: In a much more immediate impact of COVID-19 on the media, ABC Breakfast’s presenting team will self-isolate this morning as their Melbourne floor manager, whose wife tested positive, awaits results.
BILOELA FAMILY DETENTION CONTINUES
According to 9News, Priya Murugappan, former Biloela resident and two-year government detainee, has been forcibly removed from a Western Australian hospital by at least 10 Border Force guards. Her husband Nades claims he lost contact with her mid-phone call before she was able to contact her lawyer, while advocates have since reported her arrival on Christmas Island.
The news comes as Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, with some help from The Courier-Mail ($), slams protesters in Brisbane for “costing taxpayers millions of dollars” in security guards at the Kangaroo Point refugee detention facility. His point, considering that overall money would be saved were the government to free the people they have detained for months following evacuations from Manus Island, may not be the silver bullet Tudge thinks it is.
FUEL FOR THOUGHT
Finally, a coalition of former emergency leaders, climate scientists, doctors and community members named Emergency Leaders for Climate Action has launched a landmark Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan report.
As the ABC notes, the report includes more than 165 recommendations including that the federal government impose a levy on the fossil fuel industry for a climate disaster fund to help pay for the impact of natural disasters.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I also think that as a Jewish person, like I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life. You know, they never tell you, that oh by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was — just sitting there, ‘oh the fucking door’s open’.
A day after the Democratic National Committee overwhelmingly voted to support further annexations of Palestine, the Superbad and Knocked Up star officially demonstrates more compassion for the country than either American political party.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
The verdict from bushfire experts: there’s no sidestepping climate — Greg Mullins (Sydney Morning Herald): “A week before Christmas last year, five of my fellow veteran fire and emergency chiefs and I held a press conference as fires ravaged Australia’s east coast. Appalled by the utter lack of leadership from Canberra in supporting bushfire response efforts, we took matters into our own hands.”
We don’t want a Morrison-Andrews tango — we need lives saved ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian): “Here is a not so bold prediction: there is not a single person alive today who will be around when the last cent of the national debt, expected to grow to more than $1 trillion, is paid off. There is not a politician today, or an established political party, with the desire, the will or the intent to tackle the Everest of debt that the Morrison government has amassed in the blink of an eye. Voters don’t care and the politicians won’t dare.”
Bill Barr’s unconstitutional campaign to reelect the President — Donald Ayer, former Deputy Attorney General under George H. W. Bush (The Atlantic): “Throughout his first year in office, Bill Barr worked overtime to advance the personal and political interests of President Donald Trump, and to alter the structure of American government to confer virtually autocratic powers on the president, in accordance with views that Barr has held for several decades.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Scott Morrison is expected to announce the revamped Closing the Gap targets for Indigenous well-being.
The parliamentary COVID-19 inquiry will hear from Treasury, ATO, DSS, and Services Australia.
Author and historian Thomas Frank will discuss The war on populism and the fight for democracy, and his new book People without Power with ALP National President Wayne Swan and Executive Director of the Australia Institute Ben Oquist as part of the Economics of a Pandemic webinar series.