The Ruby Princess off the coast of Sydney (Image: AAP/Craig Golding)

THINGS AREN’T SHIP-SHAPE

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has issued an unreserved apology in handing down findings from Bret Walker SC’s inquiry into the Ruby Princess outbreak, which The Australian ($) and The New Daily note included a NSW Health expert panel designating the Ruby Princess as “low risk” as well as failures to adequately test passengers or enforce quarantine.

However, the Oz stresses that Berejiklian has refused to take action against any colleagues or health authorities, with the premier noting that Walker “is very clear on what the monumental mistakes were in his view, and certainly he expressed the view that they were isolated … [but] had he said they were systemic issues, I would have dealt with that immediately”.

Further, as last night’s Media Watch explores, Walker also found that Border Force does not bear any responsibility for the incident and rejected an ABC report “that advanced the notion that a basic misreading by an ABF officer of negative influenza results as meaning negative COVID-19 results, had somehow contributed to the decision to let the passengers go as they did on 19 March”.

Subsequently, both the ABC and reporter Andrew Probyn have issued statements defending their report, with the former pointing out that findings over the misread flu tests were based on Commonwealth submissions and FOI documents and concludes that, “the ABC’s reporting made clear NSW Heath had made a fundamental mistake by giving the Ruby Princess a ‘low risk’ rating [but] our reporting focuses on the issue of a practical, not necessarily formal, granting of pratique — that is, who said the passengers were allowed to get off?”

CLUSTER HEADACHE

According to The Age, Victoria’s hotel quarantine hearing has heard that genomic testing links 99% of new cases to overseas travellers, and, subsequently, both the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza outbreaks.

Infectious disease expert Professor Lindsay Grayson also labelled advice from the Department of Health and Human Services to guards — where they were told that masks and protective equipment were not necessary provided they maintain a 1.5 metre distance from travellers — as “inappropriate”.

Elsewhere, the Herald Sun ($) reports that families have launched a class action against Epping Gardens’ operator Heritage Care, while the ABC reports that the state government has announced a $20 million family violence package that includes plans to move perpetrators into alternative accommodation.

GOING POSTAL

According to CNN, Democrats are calling on the House of Representatives to resume in order to both “save” the US Postal Service and call on new Postmaster General — and long-time Republican donor — Louis DeJoy to testify on August 24 over allegations he is intentionally knee-capping the system.

The news comes after Donald Trump admitted he opposed $25 billion in new funding because it would enable mail-in voting — a service he just last weekend applied for — and after DeJoy announced a complete organisational restructure on August 7, which includes firing or reassigning 23 executives.

DeJoy — who, because there’s actually no limit to how cartoonish this gets, has a multimillion-dollar stake in USPS-competitor XPO — has defended his changes as a way to maximise the public service’s profits. But they might stop deliberately removing sorting machines and ripping up mailboxes, which is nice.

Finally, CNN also notes that Trump has apparently taken a leaf out of Georgina Downer’s giant, novelty chequebook and sent out absentee ballot request forms with his face on them.

CONVENTION WATCH: The Democrats’ four day, virtual national convention began overnight and will apparently be a bipartisan affair, with former Republican foes John Kasich and Christine Todd Whitman set to speak. On the progressive end of the aisle, a number of Bernie Sanders’ delegates have voted against the party’s official platform on the basis it excludes universal healthcare as well as amongst other progressive policies like decarceration for marijuana offences.

STATE COVID WATCH: NEW NSW SCHOOL RULES

  • As the ABC reports, the NSW government yesterday outlined a series of school rules to come into effect tomorrow, Wednesday August 19, including a ban on students with COVID-19 symptoms returning to school until they test negative, as well as bans on formal events, students mixing outside relevant classes or year groups, and schools travelling outside their local community or zone
  • The Western Australian government announced that $22 million from the WA Recovery Plan will go towards nine renewable hydrogen projects, while the Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Strategy 2040 targets will be brought forward by a decade
  • On Sunday, the Tasmanian government announced a further 3% increase in stakes money for greyhound, harness and thoroughbred racing, on top of the 3% increase announced in June
  • Finally, the ACT government yesterday announced a hardship fund offering pandemic leave payments of up to $1500 depending on a worker’s circumstances (such as available sick leave through their employer), as well as a new tourism package.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Hi internet, ASIO here. I spy a new Twitter account. We thought it would be fun if you followed us for a change.

ASIO

Because who doesn’t like their power-hungry, effectively unaccountable national security bodies to at least smile while spying on you?

CRIKEY RECAP

ABC News channel — an indulgence Australia can no longer afford?

“Overlooked the announcement of hundreds more jobs losses at the ABC in June was the release of the efficiency review of the ABC and SBS commenced in the last days of the Turnbull government. It’s a document that had far more coverage before it was written than afterward.

“It’s clear why the government left it sitting on a shelf for 18 months: the authors, former Foxtel CEO Peter Tonagh, who recently came to the rescue of AAP, and media lawyer and regulator Richard Bean, concluded that while both broadcasters should be much more strategic in their planning and transparent in their processes, they needed the financial certainty of a 10-year funding timeframe”


Taskforce launched after Inq’s investigation into alleged neglect in the disability sector

Georgi Hadden is finally having her claims of abuse and neglect taken seriously, with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) watchdog, the Quality and Safeguards Commission, set to reinvestigate how she become malnourished, underweight, suicidal and covered in bruises while in the care of a disability service provider.

“A three person taskforce was established following an Inq investigation into Hadden’s claims, she said.”


We need to talk about Richard Colbeck

“Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck is going to be increasingly in the gun over the coming weeks and months as the COVID-19 situation in the Victorian aged care sector continues to deteriorate.

“Indeed, News Corp’s Samantha Maiden predicted on Insiders yesterday that Colbeck would be targeted by Labor as a ‘weak link’ when parliament resumes.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Barnaby’s Boondoggle: documents reveal $80m price for ‘Watergate’ licences was nearly twice valuation

Firm advised by Christopher Pyne wins federal government grants worth almost $7m

Australians have misused early superannuation access, research claims

‘There is a trade-off’ between wage growth and higher super guarantee: Hume

Rivals sense seats to be had as Labor flounders on power ($)

Google’s open letter to Australians about news code contains ‘misinformation’, ACCC says

Commonwealth racks up AU$34 million robo-debt legal bill

Massive 1200MW Forest Wind project gets “vital” boost from state legislation

University underpayment so rampant tutors ‘instructed to do a poor job’ to avoid unpaid hours, former staff say

Belarus leader says there won’t be new elections ‘until you kill me’ as protesters rally against strongman

THE COMMENTARIAT

Five questions hotel quarantine inquiry needs to answer ($) — Susie O’Brien (The Herald Sun): “Who was responsible for the set-up hotel quarantine program and did they take any steps to make sure the arrangements were appropriate? At this point the answers seem to be: Lots of people and bugger all. We know the program, relying on private security guards, was set up in 48 hours and involved no fewer than seven departments, two agencies and several private firms.”

Elsewhere they get it but the Australian media is still living in White AustraliaTim Soutphommasane (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Few would argue that Australian media does well at representing cultural diversity. Certainly not in a way you’d expect when we are a multicultural society, often trumpeted as the most successful of its kind in the world. Now, for the first time, we have the numbers that show us just how representative — or rather, unrepresentative — the state of play is.”

Dems begin signaling a post-election surrender on health careAndrew Perez and David Sirota (Too Much Information): “On the eve of a Democratic National Convention taking place as millions lose health care coverage, the health care industry is launching a new ad campaign pressing Democrats to back off the party’s already compromised health care promises. That pressure seems to be having its intended effect on Capitol Hill as congressional aides say the party will not push the initiative if Biden wins. The signs of retreat come as health care industry profits are skyrocketing and the industry’s campaign cash has flooded into Democratic coffers.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The Senate COVID-19 inquiry will hear from the Australian Defence Force, Border Force, Agriculture and Social Services.

Sydney

  • The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability’s will begin a four day session examining the impact of COVID-19.

Brisbane

  • The Refugee Action Collective and Greens councillor Jonathan Sri will protest the Morrison government’s plan to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre, with RAC Victoria to host a virtual event in Melbourne.

Peter Fray

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