POTENTIAL FOR PAID PANDEMIC LEAVE
According to The Guardian, Scott Morrison has announced that he has asked Christian Porter to conduct consultations “in recent days” over paid pandemic leave, four months after the ACTU and other unions first demanded the reform as a means of supporting workers who are currently being forced to decide between isolation or work.
Elsewhere, Victoria’s Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy has confirmed to the Herald Sun ($) that, under the state’s new industrial manslaughter laws, employers that breach their duties of care and cause the infection and death of workers could face the maximum penalties of up to 20 years jail and $16.5 million fines.
On another reform front, The Advertiser ($) reports that the South Australian government will ratify rules set to ban carers from working across multiple aged care homes, place potentially contagious patients in compulsory isolation and then immediately within hospital if positive, and increase infection control training.
Other COVID-19 updates today include:
- The Greater Dandenong Leader ($) reports that two workers at Australian Meat Group in Melbourne’s Dandenong South have tested positive, putting at risk more than 550 registered close contacts
- According to The Australian ($), several victims at Epping Gardens nursing home were left in their beds for up to six hours after dying
- New visitations bans came into effect this morning for Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula shires, following Victoria’s case load of 732 yesterday and news of the state-wide mask requirement to apply from Sunday, August 2
- NSW Health has issued a public health alert for patrons and staff of Harpoon and Hotel Harry in Surry Hills, Tan Viet in Cabramatta, and Matinee Coffee in Marrickville, following news of 18 new cases (ABC).
THE BLAME GAME CONTINUES
Today, The Age has no less than three updates on Victoria’s many (and arguably entirely valid) blame games:
- Premier Daniel Andrews has defended the size of the state’s public health unit — last year described the nation’s worst-resourced — before the pandemic hit in March
- Leading Age Services Australia’s chief executive Sean Rooney has alleged the federal government failed to heed calls from the aged care sector for increased infection control and staffing funding — the highly-privatised sector, it should be noted, received a $205 million COVID-19 package back in May; and
- Chairman of St. Basil’s Homes for the Aged, Kon Kontis, says he warned state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton that plans to force staff and management to self-quarantine risked leaving patients without adequate care from replacement staff.
PS: In a reminder that decisions by News Corp, Nine, the ABC and other media outlets to publicly identify the two Brisbane women who broke quarantine rules will have consequences, The Guardian reports that members of the city’s African migrant communities have complained of racist abuse over the incident to the Queensland Human Rights Commission.
TRUMP. ELECTION. DELAY. CONSTITUTION. TWEET.
According to CNN, Donald Trump has floated the idea of delaying the November election — a decision he has no constitutional authority over — suggesting falsely and hypocritically via a tweet that mail-in voting leads to voter fraud.
Trump’s comments have further inflamed fears the Republican party will not accept results in the event that he loses, and, while nominally based in the idea of limiting COVID-19 spread, contrasts with:
- The Republican party spending tens of millions of dollars in legal fights to oppose voter rights, including against mail-in and early voting
- Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos threatening to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t fully reopen.
Finally, former Republican presidential candidate — and attendee of Trump’s controversial June Tulsa rally — Herman Cain has died after contracting the virus.
PS: For a harrowing morning read, check out The Boston Globe’s coverage of a bipartisan, military-style role-playing vision of what would happen if Trump and his Republican allies used every apparatus of government — the Postal Service, state lawmakers, the Justice Department, federal agents, and the military — to reject a Biden win.
A RENEW HOPE?
Finally, in perhaps the first moderately positive news in weeks, RenewEconomy reports that the Australian Energy Market Operator’s 2020 Integrated System Plan forecasts that even a “do-nothing”, business-as-usual scenario for Australia would deliver a 74% renewables share by 2040, while a “step-change” could deliver 94.2%.
Australia is currently sitting at over 24% renewables with multiple projects in the bank, and — while multiple experts believe we could hit 100% by the 2030s if we had, say, some kind of federal energy policy — AEMO boss Audrey Zibelman noted that Australia’s ageing coal fleet means low-cost renewables and storage will form inevitable and relatively-quick replacements.
Unless, that is, the National COVID-19 Commission gets its way on gas.
PS: In other fun/at least not entirely depressing science news, The New Daily reports that NASA’s next-generation Mars rover, Perseverance, successfully lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral yesterday.
STATE WRAP: WA’S KIMBERLEY RECOVERY PLAN
- Under Western Australia’s new $5.5 billion recovery plan — outlined earlier this week at The Mandarin — the McGowan government has released a $110.9 million Kimberley Recovery Plan, to focus on construction, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, renewable energy, education and training, and agriculture. It follows updates throughout the week on renewable energy, green jobs and TAFE capital works packages
- From today, Tasmania has introduced mandatory testing on arrival of all essential travellers from Victoria or determined hot-spots, such as those outlined by the NSW government
- The Northern Territory government has announced a further $3.5 million in the Alice Springs Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage Maintenance Facility through its Local Jobs Fund — doubling the capacity of the facility as international airlines reportedly look to Alice Springs to store and maintain grounded aircraft throughout the global pandemic.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
Any misinterpretation by ABF officers of test results did not make a difference as to whether passengers were cleared to disembark the Ruby Princess. Human health is not the responsibility of the ABF.
Australian Border Force
In rejecting 7.30’s report that Ruby Princess passengers disembarked after an ABF officer mistook negative flu tests for COVID-19 results, the customs and border agency announces what asylum seekers and migrants have told us for years.
“‘Before we start, minister, I should disclose that Kerry Stokes, the billionaire who controls the Seven Network, is the second-largest shareholder in Estia Health, one of Australia’s largest for-profit nursing home operators which is currently battling two major COVID-19 outbreaks at its Ardeer and Heidelberg West facilities.’
“Unfortunately, Sunrise co-host Natalie Barr failed to make this disclosure before tearing strips off federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, during a live interview on Stokes’ Seven Network yesterday morning.”
“Clive Palmer is a busy little cockroach these days. He’s currently interfering in not one but two upcoming state elections and mounting a High Court challenge to force open state borders, all while having just been charged with fraud by the corporate regulator. Oh and he gave an interview last weekend dismissing the whole coronavirus thing as just a ‘media beat-up’.”
“Right now, anyone writing from Melbourne has to repeatedly remind themselves that not everyone is living like this.
“The winter skies are grey and low, a chill is in the air, the cafes on the streets remain takeaway depots and the mask has become utterly normal. It’s weird.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
We have 16 new Closing the Gap targets. Will governments now do what’s needed to meet them? — Francis Markham and Bhiamie Williamson (The Conversation): “The new agreement represents extensive community consultations and negotiations between Indigenous organisations and all levels of government. In a fundamental change from the original Closing the Gap framework in 2008, the new agreement has been driven by Indigenous organisations, represented by the Coalition of Peaks.”
Labor preparing to scale heights of indifference ($) — Graham Richardson (The Australian): “The more days that pass lessens the time to the next election. Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen went out of their way to scare the electorate with big new taxes for the elderly last time. They frightened the horses and almost overnight lost momentum. Once lost, momentum in politics is hard to regain.”
If you choose to stay, we may not be able to save you — Sophie Cunningham (Meanjin): “In a country that only apologised to the Stolen Generations in 2008, where treaties have never been signed and massacres never acknowledged, where the Uluru Statement from the Heart was rejected as recently as 2017, it isn’t surprising that we are in denial about this also: planet Earth is on track for between 2°C and 4°C of warming. Two degrees will mean that bushfires are up to eight times more likely than they were in 1900. Four degrees will mean that Australia, as we know it, will no longer exist.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The Senate inquiry into robodebt will hear from Services Australia and the Department of Social Services.
Fringe religious group Church of United Kingdom of Australia plan to hold a mask-less demonstration at the Shrine of Remembrance.