According to The Age, the Andrews government has engaged Silicon Valley tech group Salesforce to rollout a new data managing system across the health department that will automate text messages to health officials, infected people, and potentially their close contacts about positive tests.
News of the digital contact tracing boost, which has been rolled out across Western Australia, South Australia and New Zealand but was reportedly earlier knocked back by the Victorian and federal governments, comes after Scott Morrison slammed the state’s lockdown plan as a “starting point” and “worst-case scenario”.
However, while the ABC reports that state chief health officer Brett Sutton said restrictions could ease if benchmarks were hit sooner, epidemiologists speaking with both The Age and the Herald Sun ($) fear the final November/December steps requiring zero new cases might be unobtainable.
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Finally, The Australian ($) — which yesterday went with the extremely measured front page splash “Slow, steady strangulation” — today reports that a senior World Health Organisation adviser has questioned the five-case threshold and repeated the now-redundant call to improve contact tracing.
PS: Because some myths never really die, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack falsely asserted on last night’s Q+A that Victoria’s second wave was in part caused by June’s Black Lives Matter protest.
A DEBTOR OPTION?
According to the AFR ($), Australian banks will be directed by financial regulators to buy up to $240 billion of federal and state government debt in order to “normalise emergency bank liquidity”, a regulatory move the paper notes will lower government borrowing costs and therefore encourage stimulus spending.
Not coincidentally, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is considering a $220 billion infrastructure plan as part of his October 6 recession budget, during a period the Global Infrastructure Hub has labelled “a short-term window” to avoid a 2040 infrastructure shortfall of $217 billion, specifically across railways and ports.
Finally, as The New Daily reports, Frydenberg yesterday extended emergency measures to prevent businesses falling into insolvency until December 31, a move CreditorWatch chief executive Patrick Coghlan said fuels fears over so-called “zombie firms” that can rack up unsustainable levels of debt and “heap a huge amount of pressure” on creditors.
PS: According to The Guardian, new analysis from ANU suggests that the Morrison government’s planned cut to JobSeeker will create the third lowest pandemic-era “replacement rate” — i.e. average fall from wages to social security payments — for workers in the OECD, behind just Greece and New Zealand.
OLD APPROACH RUNS OUT OF GAS
In a bit of fresh air after literally months of gas-led calls for a gas-led economic recovery, RenewEconomy reports that the Queensland government has announced a $500 million Renewable Energy Fund to fast-track three new renewable energy zones as part of the state’s economic recovery. The other half of the $1 billion recovery stimulus package will go towards small-to-medium-sized businesses.
The news follows The Sydney Morning Herald’s report that NSW will pursue large scale hydrogen production as part of its recovery, while the Morrison government’s draft Technology Investment Roadmap could — on top of pushing to fund gas and carbon capture and storage — call for expressions of interest in the creation of a “regional hydrogen export hub” powered by fossil fuels aka “blue hydrogen”.
PS: In other territory news, the ABC reports that NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has assumed the role of Treasurer in his new cabinet.
ASSANGE ON THE DOCK
According to The Guardian, lawyers for journalist and WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange have failed to adjourn a resumed extradition case against him after objecting to America’s newly-introduced evidence accusing him of recruiting hackers in order to steal military secrets.
As Assange appears at London’s Old Bailey for the opening day of a four week hearing, The Australian ($) reports that his defence has argued that the US extradition request should be denied because “of his mental conditions and the high risk of suicide’’ and that Donald Trump has decided to make an example of him.
Today, former NSW premier Bob Carr and a number of other Australian speakers will release an Amnesty International petition calling on the US to drop charges against Assange.
PS: In a busy, mostly horrific morning for political enemies:
- Unidentified masked men have snatched leading Belarusian opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova from the street in the city’s capital Minsk (The Guardian)
- Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has emerged from a coma after being poisoned with Novichok (AP)
- A Saudi Arabian court has jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years over the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. While none of the defendants were named, we can be pretty sure none of them were Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Reuters).
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
We have seen and continue to see illegal rent-strikes with no consequences. Until balance and commonsense is restored we will embark on a moratorium-strike. Let’s see how the system copes without our cooperation.
The CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria threatens a COVID-19 strike from that most essential service of all, landlords.
“Something close to normal life won’t return in Victoria until at least October 26, with curfews lifted, home visitors allowed, and restaurants and cafes open — though this is contingent on case numbers dropping to less than five a day on average.
“New infections continue to fall: this morning, Victoria recorded a 10-week low of 41 new cases. But experts are divided over whether such harsh restrictions are the right way forward, whether elimination is feasible, and if lockdowns are the way to do it.”
The following story contains descriptions of domestic violence.
“Anjali* had to make a terrifyingly quick decision in 2016 when her husband held a broken glass and threatened to kill her. She knew inviting law enforcement into their Sydney home might threaten his visa status — which her own visa was tied to — and in turn the stability of her two daughters’ lives. But after almost two decades of violence she wanted safety for her and her children.”
“British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken a great deal of flak for appointing Tony Abbott as an adviser to the UK Board of Trade — an appointment confirmed over the weekend.
“So why is Johnson prepared to lose political capital for the sake of giving an (unpaid) role to Abbott? Brexit is at the heart of it — along with a host of libertarian and unaccountable think tanks.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Morrison’s foreign relations bill should not pass parliament. Here’s why — Melissa Conley Tyler (The Conversation): “The government argues the bill is needed to ‘ensure a consistent and strategic approach to Australia’s international engagement’. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australia must ‘speak with one voice’. But the bill should not pass parliament. Not only has the government failed to identify any specific problem with the status quo, the bill rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of modern diplomacy.”
How do you run for election under stage four lockdown? — Ben Raue (The Tally Room): “Victorians will soon be voting in local council elections amidst an extended lockdown. While the number of new COVID-19 cases has been dropping, Melburnians will still face a stage four lockdown for six more weeks. Victorian council elections are conducted entirely by post, which will make it easier for people to cast their votes, but the lockdown will make it much harder for candidates to campaign, and give an advantage to those candidates with more money.”
Adding People of Colour to a racist workplace isn’t the answer — Jinghua Qian (Overland): “Over the last few months, we’ve seen the beginnings of an anti-racist reckoning in Australia’s media, arts and entertainment sector, nourished by the Bla(c)k Lives Matter movement. As former and current employees critique racism and marginalisation at workplaces ranging from newsrooms and television sets to art galleries and festivals, organisations have responded with promises to do better.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Journalists Judith Brett and Marian Wilkinson, authors of the recent Quarterly Essay, The Coal Curse and new book The Carbon Club respectively, will speak in-conversation at The Wheeler Centre’s Fifth Estate podcast, “Live-stream: Breaking the Climate Stalemate”.
Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge will speak at a Committee for Sydney event examining the future of cities post-COVID.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley is due to make a decision on whether to block the Brandy Hill Quarry expansion in Port Macquarie because of the impact it could have on the local koala population.