HOLDING OUT FOR A ZERO
The Victorian government has released two “step-based” roadmaps to reopening metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, which, amongst other measures, includes:
- Step one for Melbourne beginning on September 13, that amounts to another fortnight of slightly-reduced stage four requirements (i.e. one nominated visitor if living alone/single parent)
- Social bubbles under step two (starting September 28 for Melbourne, 13 for regional Vic) that allow public gatherings of up to 5 people from a maximum of 2 households
- Caseload “trigger points” i.e. requiring a daily, state-wide average of less than 5 cases over a fortnight to enter step three from October 26
- A fortnight of no new cases in order to hit the final step from November 23, a move that amounts to a state-based elimination strategy.
Ahead of their announcement, the government released modelling underpinning the roadmap from Melbourne University and University of New England, which suggests that entering step three from October 26 with a daily average of 25 would more than likely lead to a “yo-yo” effect where cases “get out of hand [and] restrictions have to be reinstated to regain control”.
The Herald Sun ($) reports that other epidemiologists believe that Victoria, which yesterday saw 63 new cases — its lowest in two months — is on track to hits the government’s targets but that controlling outbreaks among healthcare workers and in aged care homes will be key; for more, see The Age’s data guide for a visual explainer of how the state is faring.
A DISPATCH FROM THE CUBBY HOUSE
In response to Victoria’s lockdown news, Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Greg Hunt yesterday released a shared statement emphasising that the decision “to extend lockdown arrangements will be hard and crushing news for the people of Victoria” and calls on the Andrews government to strengthen contact tracing “to the highest possible levels”.
The Morrison government also cites the author of the state’s government’s modelling Professor Tony Blakely, who, in The Sunday Age, noted that the step three threshold could be “beaten” if Victoria’s contact tracing was improved past the point it was at three months ago, or if similar variables are improved i.e. infectious disease protocols, identifying the source of those 25 daily cases.
PS: In choice timing, The Guardian reports that Morrison will today announce — for the second time — that Australia has secured a deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture and freely distribute their vaccine if trials prove successful. The government has also secured a similar deal for the University of Queensland vaccine by CSL.
THE RESPONSES FLOOD IN
The ABC reports that the plan, which also includes those four-speed traffic light restrictions for industries by both sector and region, was slammed as a “road to nowhere” for businesses by Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra, but welcomed by Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid as “in the best interest of the nation’s health and the nation’s economy”.
On the regional end of things, the owner of an East Gippsland hotel has complained to The Age ahead of what is looking to be a months-long delay to opening up indoor dining despite the region recording just one case in six months.
Finally, because it’s still Australian politics, Liberal leader Michael O’Brien accused the Andrews government of prolonging the state’s second wave by “botching contact tracing“, while shadow health minister Chris Bowen labelled the federal call to improve tracing “a particularly ironic development [when] the Morrison Government’s COVID-Safe app has been a dismal failure”.
HONG KONG KEEPS ON FIGHTING
According to the ABC, Hong Kong police have arrested at least 90 protesters and fired rounds of pepper balls at people protesting China’s new security laws — which can see anyone labelled “subversive” jailed for life — and state leader Carrie Lam’s decision in July to postpone local legislative elections — which should have taken place yesterday — by a full year, a decision she made allegedly over a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The protest, which saw police tackle a frightened 12-year-old girl, came days after the United Nations denounced the new security law as an infringement on international human rights obligations.
PS: In yet another one of the big, red warning signs from Victoria Police’s response to suppressing COVID-19, The Age reports that mobile surveillance units are being used across Melbourne parks and public spaces to remotely monitor citizens. The units are part of a joint initiative with the Morrison government.
In the Coalition’s latest attempt to repurpose public funds from renewable energy bodies to fossil fuel projects, a draft version of the federal government’s Technology Investment Roadmap leaked to The Sydney Morning Herald suggest that Energy Minister Angus Taylor plans to make the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency “technology neutral” and open to both gas and the costly, widely-discredited technological dud known as “carbon capture and storage” (CCS).
The news comes about a month after Taylor introduced legislation that would allow the CEFC to use the newly-created $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund for gas power and infrastructure projects. It also comes half a year after Glencore and Santos began sniffing around Canberra for federal money for CCS, and more than a decade since $1.9 billion was sunk into a CCS scheme in Chevron’s Gorgon oil and gas project off the Pilbara, which, despite a state requirement to bury 80% of its emissions, was not switched on for the first three years of its life.
TAX CUTS: WORSE THAN USELESS
Finally, according to The New Daily, new analysis from The Australia Institute has found that a whopping 91% of the benefit from the Coalition’s 2022 tax cuts would go to the richest 20% of Australians, i.e. the least likely people to re-inject the money back into the economy.
The news comes as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg mulls over bringing the cuts forward, and after the Bureau of Statistics revealed last week that — with most of the country stuck inside — household expenditure fell 12.1% in the June quarter but household savings rocketed from 6 to 19.8%.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
One form of this approach is the Ostrich Effect, where individuals ‘bury their head in the sand’ or ignore negative or unpleasant information due to a Fear Of Finding Out (FOFO).
Government senators note that information avoidance may have influenced decisions by significant numbers of individuals who had discrepancies identified as part of the program and their subsequent non or part engagement with the compliance process.
Wendy Askew and Hollie Hughes
In dissenting comments from the robodebt inquiry, two Coalition senators argue that some people ignored demands for seven years’ worth of payslips because they just couldn’t face up to a program, one the government took almost four years to admit had unlawfully racked up $721 million.
“It’s been clear for some time that sections of the business community, and members of the Liberal Party, have decided it’s better to attack the entire superannuation sector than to allow the industry super sector to continue to grow.
“That sentiment has now crystalised in the campaign, led by the minister responsible for superannuation, Jane Hume, and championed by backbench MPs like Andrew Bragg and Tim Wilson, to cancel the forthcoming increase in the superannuation guarantee level.”
“The main game is to turn the averted crisis of COVID-19 into an opportunity for a bit of disaster capitalism. The Morrison government knew that it wouldn’t be able to avoid what we’re calling ‘a recession’, so it’s going to try and get the usual right-wing advantage out of it — disciplining labour, launching further attacks on its institutional power.”
“On Saturday the crazies may well be out in force. A loose coalition of lockdown opponents and COVID-19 truthers are set to rally around the country to mark ‘freedom day,’ despite a police crackdown and a number of pre-emptive arrests.
“Some will claim COVID-19 is a hoax, no worse than the flu. Others will be worried about 5G towers. There’ll be plenty of garden-variety anti-vaxxers and crunchy Byron Bay New Age types. And some will believe that US President Donald Trump is a messiah fighting to liberate the world from a Satanic cabal of paedophiles and child sex traffickers.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Crown’s board and regulators allowed it to act with impunity for too long — Nick McKenzie (The Sydney Morning Herald): “The public inquiry in NSW into the operations of Crown Resorts is testing the reputation of one of Australia’s top 100 listed companies and its licence to operate in Sydney’s Barangaroo as a high-roller casino. But while Crown’s management has come under the most intense scrutiny so far at the NSW gaming commission’s probe, some of the actions of the company’s star-studded board are now under question. The scrutiny relate to the board’s decision on July 31, 2019 to place a full-page advertisement in News Corp newspapers that sought to deny a series of stories in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes.”
Victoria’s response a litany of government failure ($) — Phillip Coorey (AFR): “Victoria’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been a litany of government failure. It failed quarantine and then it failed to have the adequate contact tracing protocols in place, which enabled the virus to spread. When forced to shut down the state, it failed to properly consult business and announced a series of closures riddled with unintended consequences. And now it seems to have done it again in announcing a four-step strategy for opening up, an announcement from which the Treasurer Tim Pallas was noticeably absent.”
Harold Thomas and the legacy of Albert Namatjira — Claire G. Coleman (Meanjin): “When thinking about the Aboriginal flag and copyright and the desire of the government to intervene to overturn the copyright protections owned by the flag’s creator, Luritja elder Harold Thomas, let us consider the case of Albert Namatjira. Albert Namatjira, a Western-Arrernte man, was perhaps the first Aboriginal visual arts superstar. Painting in the European watercolour style he quickly became a celebrity and was able, at the peak of his fame and artistic power, to financially support huge numbers of close and distant family; a number estimated at around 600 during his life. He was not wealthy but his support was better than the nothing they had.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The Sydney Morning Herald will host a Sustainability Summit, featuring speakers including billionaire and clean energy campaigner Mike Cannon-Brookes and NSW Environment and Energy Minister Matt Kean.
Queensland Catholic bishops will launch their 2020 State Election Statement.