mental health Martin Foley COVID-19
(Image: AAP/Erik Anderson)

MONEY FOR MENTAL HEALTH

According to the ABC, the Victorian government has announced a $59.7 million mental health package to fast-track two recommendations from the royal commission into the state’s mental health system — for more new public acute mental health beds and the state-wide rollout of the HOPE post-suicide prevention program — and boost community mental health services and targeted counselling for nurses, midwives, personal care workers, police and paramedics.

The announcement accompanied a surge in Victorians presenting with depression and anxiety amidst the second wave, including a 33% increase in young people presenting to emergency departments for intentional self-harm over the past six weeks, relative to the same time in 2019.

Lifeline Australia (13 11 14); Beyond Blue (1800 512 348).

PS: For government actions that, at best, cannot be helping Melburnians’ mental health, check out the Police Accountability Project’s top 10 concerns over the policing of stage four restrictions, which touch on everything from racial profiling to the increased risk of transmission during police encounters to a lack of evidence that policing or fines actually reduce transmission.

GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT?

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, major finance and industry bodies have co-signed a letter organised by the United Nations affiliate Global Compact Network Australia calling on Scott Morrison to invest in health, education, clean energy and urban infrastructure as part of the economic recovery.

The letter, which calls for post-COVID spending to be consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, is backed by 48 signatories including the Australian Sustainable Finance Initiative, which includes NAB and Westpac representatives on its steering committee and is further funded by superannuation funds, insurance companies and financial sector peak bodies.

As The Australian ($) reports, the news comes as shadow energy minister Mark Butler signals he will oppose a gas-led recovery — devised, shockingly, by the gas-friendly National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board — and urges a renewable energy-focused recovery.

PS: For why new gas plants and transmission make little economic sense compared to new batteries, let alone new renewables, check out RenewEconomy’s analysis of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s 20-year-roadmap, the 2020 Integrated System Plan.

MORE INSIGHTS INTO HOTEL QUARANTINE

According to an ABC investigation, a nurse working at Victoria’s quarantine hotels has alleged that staff at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) were more concerned with appeasing guests than infection control, and, allegedly, were unnerved by a suspected suicide in South Wharf amidst the first two weeks of hotel quarantine in April.

The ABC investigation notes that “some guests were given extra so-called ‘fresh air’ breaks and took advantage of the increasingly relaxed system, threatening to self-harm if they were not given allowances to leave their rooms”, while a DHHS manager was, separately, apparently warned in April that security guards were falling asleep on the job.

Elsewhere, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Greens leader Adam Bandt will today call for a $3 billion federal investment into aged care to both increase medical care and scale back the increase in for-profit, privatised facilities.

PS: For some interesting context on the hotel quarantine controversy, check out The Australian’s Peter van Onselen on ABC’s Insiders program yesterday, who touches on clear failures on the state level — i.e. contact tracing and security — but also the fact that:

  • Private security guards were also used in other states not hit with a second wave
  • Victorian Premier Dan Andrews allegedly proposed hotel quarantine in national cabinet, at a point when the Morrison government apparently preferred self-quarantine, and
  • The federal government has final responsibility over quarantine ($) under the Biosecurity Act (2015) — remember when we quarantined Wuhan evacuees on Christmas Island? — even if it has subsequently decided to share this power with states and territories.

NOT MASKING FOR MUCH

Elsewhere, The Age reports that a new survey from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has found that one in five doctors and nurses have limited, and in some cases no, access to face masks.

The report drops as the Herald Sun reports that infections among healthcare staff have more than doubled in the past fortnight — with active cases currently sitting at 994, compared with 400 on July 27 — as nurses from Western Australian prepare to arrive in the state this week.

PS: According to the ABC, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth has again called on Australians to download and activate the COVIDSafe app, which, following criticism as recently as July 26 that it was yet to trace useful number of unique cases, recently helped NSW health authorities trace 544 new contacts, two of whom tested positive to COVID-19.

QUEENSLAND’S CANCEL CULTURE

According to the ABC, the Queensland government on Saturday secured a Supreme Court action to “cancel” a refugee protest originally planned for that day at Brisbane’s Story Bridge. Under COVID-19 concerns, the action banned organisers from attending or encouraging others to attend, and ordered them to publish a notice on Facebook that the protest has been cancelled.

Hours earlier, Queensland Police woke up Jonathan Sri, Greens councillor for the Gabba, at 1am Saturday morning with a notice for his own 8am Supreme Court application, where police unsuccessfully sought a similar order against Sri despite the fact he was not personally organising.

Curiously, the actual organisers had announced on Friday that the protest — to be held against the ongoing detention of about 120 ex-Manus detainees at the Kangaroo Point Motel — would be postponed until this Saturday, following complaints from Queensland Police an offer to organise a meeting with Border Force.

Whether or not the Friday announcement counts as the court-ordered announcement is currently unclear.

PS: It is also worth noting that while the likely-masked rally could have seen up to 3300 attendees, the Gabba would go on to host roughly 11,000 socially-distanced spectators ($) Saturday night. As of yesterday, Queensland has gone six days without reporting a new case.

STATE WRAP: QUEENSLAND WELCOMES TOURISTS

  • In its second announcement following that Supreme Court court win, the Queensland government has welcomed news that regions including the Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast and Southern Queensland country are all reporting near full capacity as a result of the Ekka public holiday moving to this Friday, August 14, under the Good to Go campaign
  • As The Sydney Morning Herald reports, a Sydney school will close for two weeks after a second Tangara student tested positive
  • On Friday, the Tasmanian government announced that the criteria for its pre-existing pandemic assistance grants — available for low income individuals ($250) and families ($1000) who are required to self-isolate due to COVID-19 — will be extended to cover casuals and low income workers unable to work while awaiting COVID-19 test results. The government will also accept the federal government’s $1500, and, like Victoria, extend it to temporary visa holders
  • Finally, the Western Australian government has released new programs under the WA Recovery Plan targeting tourism, recreational fishing and the Gascoyne and Peel regions.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

The long-term interests of the island have been stuffed up so often, so many times by the Commonwealth … We would rather they all piss off, we don’t want the detention centre reopened. It’s very simple.

President of the Shire of Christmas Island, Gordon Thomson

Weirdly, news that the Morrison government plans to re-reopen Christmas Island to dump migrants who have previously been convicted of crimes in order to shuffle around refugees Australia has detained for seven years has not gone down great with the locals.

CRIKEY RECAP

Cyber strategy light on detail, but clear on more commercial espionage by agencies

“The key message from the government on cybersecurity is that we all need to be very afraid — so afraid that we don’t need to know too much about what extra powers are to be given to security agencies to ‘defend’ Australians.

“After months of delay, yesterday the government finally released its new cybersecurity strategy, developed by the Department of Home Affairs.”


Age editor’s demise highlights indifference towards mainstream media

“On June 18 the editor of The Age, Alex Lavelle, resigned. At any other time this would have rocked the foundations of Melbourne. But these are no ordinary times. Lavelle passed much as he rose — without a trace.

“By their own actions, the staff of The Age accidentally killed off their much-loved editor. Just days after 70 of them sent an email of complaint to Lavelle and two Sydney executives, he left the building. It was an own goal.

“It’s hard to understand this story if you haven’t experienced the unusual culture of newsrooms.”


Our weapons against the disease are kindness and quarantine

“I am old, 67, though I still manage 15-hour work days that help create and keep jobs and bring in export income for Australia.

“But by 67 you have seen many friends die, and the illnesses of age increase. I am not scared for myself in this pandemic, just cautious, concerned. I am desperately scared for our youth, and for our planet.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Severe weather warning for Sydney as rising floodwaters trigger South Coast evacuations

Crossbench SA senator Rex Patrick quits Centre Alliance party to run as an independent next election

Raising childcare subsidy would boost GDP by $11 billion: Grattan

Scott Morrison weathers storm as virus wreaks havoc ($)

Australia joins UK joint statement calling for Hong Kong elections

Daniel Andrews rules out special rules for sole traders as death toll rises

Victorian lockdown may lead to supermarket supply issues — but panic buying impact greater

Drug traffickers exploit innocent gig-work couriers

Liberals fight off calls to hit Premier Daniel Andrews ‘pile-on’ plan ($)

Legal experts raise concern about Ben Roberts-Smith’s personal relationship with lawyer

US passes 5m Covid cases as Pelosi calls Trump relief order unconstitutional

THE COMMENTARIAT

The helping hands of Labor tradition ($) — Anthony Albanese (The Australian): “It’s often said that the only good thing to come out of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain was the music. The rise of the so-called Iron Lady gave voice to powerful and inherently political artists such as The Clash, The Jam, Elvis Costello and Billy Bragg.”

We should stop taking our lead from the US and ChinaAmanda Vanstone (The Sydney Morning Herald): “China has become an economic powerhouse and in doing so dragged millions out of poverty. It shouldn’t be too cocky about that … it’s capitalism, not communism that’s been the goose that laid the golden egg. China’s buying power does give it great strength. The flip side is that it needs world markets to sell its goods into and to supply inputs. A big economy still burdened with inefficient and corrupt state-owned enterprises is a big headache.”

The lost opportunity of the Boyer Lectures Tim Dunlop (Meanjin): “In the midst of a pandemic that is laying bare the failures of nearly every system and institution we have taken for granted for the last 50 years; at precisely the moment when the country could benefit from new thinking, challenging thoughts, and the views of someone who could engage us and rouse from visions of the ordinary; instil in us some measure of newness, some frisson of possibility, some program that allows us to see past and through the things that divide us, that have made us vulnerable to this virus, and offer us some alternatives, the chair of the ABC has invited a mining billionaire, Andrew Forrest, to lecture us for four hours.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney

  • The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will examine the aged care sector response to COVID-19.

Northern Territory

  • Early voting opens today for the Saturday, August 22 Northern Territory election.

Peter Fray

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