THIS WILL GET WORSE BUT, EVENTUALLY, BETTER
According to The Australian ($), the Victorian government’s internal modelling suggests that the state’s average daily cases could peak at 1100 by the end of next week, remain above 1000 for the next eight days, decline in the last week of August and remain above 300 as stage four restrictions reach their scheduled end in mid-September.
Suggestions that Victoria, despite weeks of preventative measures, will continue to see days of triple-figure case were echoed by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd yesterday, after the state reported a record 725 new daily cases and 15 deaths, which included one man in his 30s.
Of particular concern right now are the number of active cases with no known source — 2280, of the state’s total 7227 active cases, Also, as 7.30 has explored this week, there are concerns that contact tracing has become overwhelmed and that Victoria’s hospital system could hit capacity within weeks if cases do not begin to slow down.
Finally, in relatively positive news, The Age explains that while cases are still increasing throughout Victoria, analysis from the Burnet Institute shows the state’s reproduction ratio, or R, fell from 1.75 to 1.16 throughout July; if R had stayed at 1.75 for the full month, the modelling predicts between 9000 and 37,000 more cases would have been recorded.
The goal, now, is to get R below 1 and keep it there.
ANOTHER SLEW OF JOB CUTS
According to the ABC, the University of Melbourne has announced plans to axe 450 permanent staff — a move the National Tertiary Education Union slammed as “appalling” — ahead of an expected $1b loss in revenue over the next three years from lost international students.
Since the Morrison government decision to exclude universities from JobKeeper through targeted, largely impossible time-frame requirements, universities including UNSW, Monash and La Trobe have let hundreds of other permanent and casual staff go.
In other jobs news, The Australian ($) reports that Virgin Australia will cut at least a third of its workforce and — in gut-wrenching news for cheapskates with no real need to be anywhere on time (yo!) — kill off Tigerair in an effort to resurrect the airline from its April collapse. Similarly, the Courier-Mail ($) reports that Brisbane Airport is set to slash more than 100 roles, or a quarter of total staff.
PS: As both The Guardian and Sydney Morning Herald report, Australian universities are facing a separate challenge in the form of coordinated political pressure from pro-CCP Chinese nationalists, who recently pressured the UNSW vice-chancellor into deleting a tweet that criticised China’s human rights abuses.
PPS: Amidst the national collapse in employment figures, it’s heartening to see the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union protest the return of mutual obligations for all those pandemic-era jobs out there.
COVID-19 CONTROVERSIES COMPOUND
In another packed morning for COVID-19 political controversies:
- With new childcare restrictions coming in today, The Age reports that the Victorian government saw their Worker Permit Scheme website crash yesterday morning and did not publish the “Access to Childcare Permit” form for permitted workers — including nurses, emergency services, some retail staff, meat workers, media and construction workers — until late afternoon
- Further, the government took until 5.30pm to clarify rules for babysitting, which, whether paid or unpaid, is allowed for permitted workers so long as it is a continuation of an existing arrangement; for more on the new childcare rules, check out the ABC’s explainer
- The Australian ($) and The Age report that industry leaders in construction and food distribution, respectively, have hit out at new workforce restrictions in Victoria that could seriously impair their capacity to operate — and in the latter’s case, feed Australia — throughout the next six weeks
- According to the Herald Sun, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has cited the hotel quarantine inquiry as a reason for not providing answers to questions, despite the fact the head of the probe — former judge Jennifer Coate — gave politicians the all-clear to speak
- Finally, The Age reports that aged care residents — including some still infected with COVID-19 — are set to be returned to St. Basil’s Homes for the Aged as early as this weekend under a repatriation plan with the Morrison government overseen by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
MORE POWERS FOR DUTTON, GOOD-O
According to both The Conversation and The Australian ($), Scott Morrison will today unveil a $1.67 billion cyber security package set to provide Peter Dutton with unprecedented powers to direct the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to break into networks and block cyber attacks against critical infrastructure.
The Australian Federal Police will also be given the power to request technical assistance from the ASD to track servers being used by suspected paedophile rings, terrorists and drug-traffickers.
Dutton, for his part, can add his new powers over the ASD — currently located in Defence — to sweeping discretionary powers over migrants and his multiple Home Affairs portfolios, i.e. ASIO, AFP, Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and transport security.
PS: In case you were worried about Border Force’s plan to send detainees to Christmas Island in an expensive, cruel COVID-19 contingency plan, don’t worry; The Mandarin reports ABF is only sending migrants detained over former convictions to the island centre. Much better.
According to Al Jazeera’s live blog, the death toll from the Beirut explosion has risen to 135, with about 5000 people reported wounded, while the government has placed port officials under house arrest and declared a two week state of emergency after roughly half the city was damaged in the blast.
With Beirut’s city governor Marwan Abboud declaring that up to 300,000 people have lost their homes and that damages range between US$3-5 billion, aid has poured in from countries including the US, Great Britain, France, Turkey, Brazil and — at $2 million — Australia.
PS: As the ABC explains, the tragedy comes as Lebanon grapples with both COVID-19 and recent political and financial scandals including hyper-inflation, increased poverty, high debt and protests over alleged corruption.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
On background (not for attribution): Please refer to comments by the Prime Minister on Sunrise and the Today Show.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade media unit
DFAT’s hours-late response to a media inquiry from Nine correspondent Bevan Shields over the horrific situation in Beirut is just really, super useful, thanks.
“Given how cowed ABC news and current affairs has become in recent years, the treatment meted out to [Emma] Alberici, beyond the breach of staff confidentiality, seems designed to send a signal to ABC journalists: upset the Coalition, and defend your journalism, and you’ll be the subject of a public campaign designed to portray you in an unflattering light — including to any future employers in what is left of Australia’s media.”
“Brendan Murphy won’t name aged-care facilities
“Former chief medical officer and now secretary of the Health Department Professor Brendan Murphy refused to release a list of Victorian aged-care facilities with outbreaks of coronavirus. He told Senate estimates could cause ‘reputational damage’ for those involved — an extraordinary claim, especially when The Age continues to reveal details of the moguls behind Epping Gardens, the facility at the heart of one of the biggest outbreaks.”
“The reason we’re not spending more to speed up results is we have low expectations. People are used to waiting for lab results. That’s what psychologists call ‘anchoring’ — waiting a week for lab results seems normal. But that’s not longer a relevant anchor. We’re in a health emergency. A better anchor might be the waiting times that doctors expect when they order a test for a hospital inpatient — generally results are back within an hour or two. Looked at that way, 24 hours is generous.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Australia Post should become the publicly owned bank we so desperately need — Emma Dawson (The New Daily): “In its final report, published in February last year, the banking royal commission found that many Australians did not have adequate access to basic financial services, and that even those who did are often ill-served by our existing financial institutions. Yet, like health care, clean water, and education, banking is an essential service, necessary to allow people to fully participate in a modern society.”
Victorian Labor a stranger at the top end of town ($) — Patrick Durkin (AFR): “When Victoria’s Industry and Trade Minister Martin Pakula was asked about Melbourne billionaire retailer Solomon Lew’s criticisms of the business shutdown, which will hit his Just Jeans and Portmans brands, he admitted he had never met or spoken to one of the state’s largest employers. ‘I don’t think I’ve spoken to Solly Lew in my life, to be honest,’ Mr Pakula told Melbourne’s 3AW radio.”
Murdoch columnists are coronavirus superspreaders and should be closed under Melbourne’s Stage 4 restrictions — David Milner (The Shot): “The most dangerous workplace for the coronavirus’s continuing spread is the Murdoch opinion factory. It’s a significant health risk that should be closed under Stage 4 restrictions, or, at the very least, treated like Melbourne’s other meat works and forced to reduce its output of tripe and offal by two-thirds. (Murdoch op-eds are also far from essential services: there are plenty of other places we can get our race-baiting from.)”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The Senate inquiry into the federal COVID-19 response will take evidence from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment. The working holiday maker program inquiry will also conduct a hearing.