LINE OF DEFENCE
A timeline of Australian Defence Force communications provided to The Age, The Australian ($) and the Herald Sun ($) suggests that 100 officials were sent to support Victoria a week before the mandatory hotel program was announced by national cabinet. Reportedly, standing offers for support were not included in a Victoria Police quarantine plan, and at a crucial, rushed Emergency Management Victoria planning meeting on March 27 it was instead decided to use private security guards for hotel quarantine.
With the revelations set to increase political pressure on Dan Andrews, who yesterday repeated claims ADF never offered assistance to guard hotels, state government sources have told The Age “that the premier was likely to argue that the ADF offers were made to agencies of the government, not at cabinet level”.
Finally, while the interplay between these departmental decisions might seem like a headache — there’s about to be an inquiry into it, after all — The Age reports that Victorian Jobs Minister Martin Pakula yesterday offered the state government’s first detailed description of roles, telling a parliamentary committee his department was responsible for “things like logistics” while the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was in charge of infection control.
PS: The Australian ($) also reports that a COVID-positive woman — who had suffered a recent assault, was mentally disturbed, agitated and hostile towards staff — left voluntary isolation at the Brady Hotel seven hours after checking in, then jumped on a tram without being stopped by police or DHHS officials.
AGED CARE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
On the federal end of the pandemic, the Herald Sun reports that a detailed review of Sydney’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge outbreak in March warned the federal government that the outbreak’s biggest challenge was a sudden loss of staff.
The April 14 report by the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission was submitted to the aged care royal commission this week, where the ABC reports that officials have taken issue with geriatrician Joseph Ibrahim’s claim that “hundreds of residents are and will die prematurely because people have failed to act”.
Elsewhere, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that aged care operators have been left waiting for core elements of an $812.8 million federal COVID-19 plan, with a wage bonus for workers not paid until last month and that other measures will potentially be left unfinished until June 2021.
PS: Criticism of the Morrison government is clearly starting to show, with The Conversation reporting that Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy was asked to be slotted into this week’s public hearing and then had to, effectively, be put in his place after breaking procedures to dispute claims the government had not planned for outbreaks.
RUSSIA BITES BACK
According to the BBC, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko has hit back at global criticism of the government granting regulatory approval for a vaccine — “Gam-COVID-Vac” or “Sputnik-V” for fun — after less than two months of human testing, claiming that “foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that … are absolutely groundless”.
With public information limited largely to descriptions of two small trials conducted on just 76 people, global scientists and health officials have denounced the approval as premature (“We do not know the methodology or the results of their clinical trials,” said researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research Isabelle Imbert) and potentially dangerous (“It could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn).
PS: For a much more interesting defence against “scepticism among international media and politicians”, check out chief executive officer of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev’s column at the brand new Sputnik-V website, Forbidden op-ed: The Sputnik vaccine as a lifesaving global partnership.
Apparently, the piece — which details the apparent science behind the vaccine; alleges results from those two trials will be released this month ahead a stage three, 2000-odd trial across Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Brazil; and recounts Soviet-era technical marvels — was “rejected by all leading Western media”. Which, um, where was Crikey’s pitch?
AN UNEASY CLIMATE
Finally, in case we needed a reminder of how Australia is handling our next, much larger crisis, The Guardian reports that industry and environment groups have questioned the point of the Coalition government’s “safeguard mechanism” after companies including BHP, Anglo American and Tomago Aluminium were all given the green light to increase emissions by a combined 1.6m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year in late July.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
He had a cold so pulled out late. Plus this WA issue is very important.
Spokesperson for Clive Palmer
Apparently the mining billionaire was sick enough yesterday to skip a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s trading relationship with China, but not too sick to hold a press conference and call on WA Premier Mark McGowan “to take a Bex and to calm down” over his $30 billion lawsuit.
“The deeply unwanted message out of Auckland this week is that nowhere is safe from COVID-19. Not even the poster child of the pandemic, New Zealand — which racked up nearly three months without a new case — has been able to keep it at bay.
“No one at this stage knows how a South Auckland man and his family contracted the virus and how many work and school colleagues have been infected. There’s no obvious connection with travel or recent entry to the country which, as in Australia, is limited to citizens and a tiny number of exceptions, and via quarantine.”
“The war of words that has erupted between Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds over Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel marks one of the biggest rifts to emerge between federal and state governments since the pandemic began.
“It also reveals just how opaque government decision-making has become during the crisis.”
“When Georgi Hadden was accepted into assisted living accommodation for people with disabilities, she thought she would finally be getting the care she needed.
“A mother, former police officer and former State Emergency Services volunteer, Hadden had spent most of her life trying to help others until her condition deteriorated.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
The disgrace of aged care is a national flaw – the failure to plan — John Hewson (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Since 2002 Australia has had four intergenerational reports claiming to take a 40-year view of our challenges — our rapidly ageing population included. They have come to precious little. There’s been minimal impact on annual budgets. They have spurred little long-term planning to address climate change or the aged care crisis or to anticipate major hurdles. Such as a pandemic.”
We all make mistakes and the PM has made a few during COVID-19 ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian): “The challenge for oppositions in the time of COVID-19 is to offer constructive ideas to tackle the crisis, hold governments to account when they get it wrong, and do it in ways which do not undermine confidence in the integrity of regulations, laws and institutions set up to deal with it, nor incite people to defy the measures designed to protect them.”
Joe Biden has found his neoliberal match in Kamala Harris — Branko Marcetic (Jacobin): “Even in a party that embraced Biden– and Clinton-style tough-on-crime policies, Harris stands out for her cruelty: she fought to keep innocent people in jail, blocked payouts to the wrongfully convicted, argued for keeping non-violent offenders in jail as a source of cheap labor, withheld evidence that could have freed numerous prisoners, tried to dismiss a suit to end solitary confinement in California, and denied gender reassignment surgery to trans inmates. A recent report detailed how Harris risked being held in contempt of court for resisting a court order to release non-violent prisoners, which one law professor compared to Southern resistance to 1950s desegregation orders.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The state inquiry into the Victorian government’s COVID-19 response will today hear from Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan, Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Arts Industry Council’s Joe Toohey.
Tabling of report from inquiry into the CCCs oversight of WA police misconduct investigations, particularly allegations of excessive use of force.
Join ACTU President Michele O’Neil and Australian Education Union President Correna Haythorpe who will discuss Why TAFE is Critical to Economic Recovery with senior economist at the Centre for Future Work Alison Pennington in the latest Economics of a Pandemic webinar.