HOTEL QUARANTINE: WHAT WENT WRONG?
The Age reports that lawyers assisting Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry have blamed a multitude of failures with the government program for the deaths of 768 people and the infection of 18,000 others. They pointed to poor oversight and decision-making, problems with the handling of returned travellers, and issues with how private security guards were trained — “all stemming from failure to adopt a health response rather than a ‘logistics’ response.
Counsel assisting the inquiry questioned why department secretaries failed to pass on subsequent safety complaints and ADF offers to their relevant ministers, and argued that Rydges on Swanston had no specific measures in place to protect guards, hotel workers, guests or the broader community. Notably, however, lawyers emphasised that they were not alleging bad faith or corruption, and that the decision not to bring in ADF personnel was reasonable at the time.
Elsewhere, the Herald Sun ($) reports that cafe owner and aspiring Liberal MP Michelle Loielo yesterday pushed on with her Supreme Court challenge to Melbourne’s now-defunct curfew, while The Age notes that, with one recent case where health officials took more than 48 hours to notify close contacts, the state’s contact tracing system is “inching closer to reaching standards in other states”.
PS: On the same day Melbourne had just five new cases, the ABC reports that another eight crew members from a bulk carrier anchored off Western Australia’s north coast, the Patricia Oldendorff, have tested positive and brought the total number of cases from the ship to 17.
TRUMP WARS: RETURN OF THE TAX
Revelations by The New York Times that Donald Trump has accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, paid his daughter Ivanka legally dubious consulting fees, and paid no federal income tax in 10 of the past 15 years — with just US$750 in personal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, all of which is being refunded — have gone down about as well as you’d expect.
Joe Biden’s campaign has released an ad highlighting the average tax paid by teachers (US$7239), firefighters (US$5283) and nurses (US$10,216), while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has labelled unanswered questions over who exactly Trump owes money to “a national security problem“. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has said the president “should do 360 years” in prison for tax evasion; and analysis has ranged from the damning (“Trump just lost control of the game”, The Atlantic) to the resigned (“Donald Trump Barely Pays Any Taxes: Will Anyone Care?”, The New Yorker).
Trump has responded in self-pitying form, with the BBC reporting that he complained of “fake news” and that “Actually I paid tax. And you’ll see that as soon as my tax returns — it’s under audit, they’ve been under audit for a long time. The IRS [Internal Revenue Service] does not treat me well … they treat me very badly”. Trump is legally allowed to release his tax returns under audit.
Elsewhere, an upcoming book by former Trump deputy campaign chair Rick Gates alleges Trump wanted Ivanka as his vice president pick (Washington Post via CNN), while Trump and Biden are headed for their first debate Tuesday night.
THEY RORT TO DO BETTER
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, government insurer icare paid labour hire firm Robert Walters tens of thousands of dollars in administrative fees and visa application costs to employ former Republican political staffer Ed Yap in NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s office.
The paper had previously reported that Yap moved to Australia in 2015 to join Perrottet’s office and was “seconded” to the same office by icare in 2017, but never worked a day for the organisation “until he was sent there in August 2020 after the Herald revealed his employment arrangements. He resigned 10 days later.” Despite effectively never working for the organisation, contracts show that icare paid more than $700,000 including GST while Yap was working for the NSW treasurer.
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Finally, in another fine moment on the international stage, The Guardian reports that Scott Morrison has sided with the US, China and Russian governments in refusing to sign a 64-country-strong UN biodiversity agreement that, on top of pledging to reverse biodiversity loss, includes the widely-shared 2050 goal of net zero emissions.
As RenewEconomy unpacks, the news comes after China committed to carbon neutrality by 2060, which is just one more emissions target the country of 1.39 billion has on Australia after we cheat our way to 2030 with made-up “Kyoto credits“.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I appreciate that yes, [the Department of Infrastructure paying 10 times its estimated price for ‘Leppington Triangle’ land] was very much over the odds, I appreciate there’s a review going on into how that actually happened.
But eventually when there is a need [for] more runways and more infrastructure to be built at Western Sydney Airport, they’ll look back and say, probably: ‘What a bargain that was’.
The deputy prime minister for a nominally-conservative government takes the Auditor-General’s latest, damning report into government spending in stride.
“What exquisite timing for The New York Times‘ explosive revelations about Donald Trump’s taxes, landing just two days before the crucial first presidential debate with Joe Biden.
“The gift of this early October Surprise will make for even more riveting viewing on Wednesday (Tuesday night US time).
“But before everyone gets too excited, just recall what happened only two days before another crucial debate in the 2016, between Trump and Hillary Clinton.”
“The New York Times has this morning released the long-awaited details of Donald Trump’s tax returns.
“The bombshell report contradicts Trump’s successful billionaire-businessman persona, instead painting a picture either of a sly, stingy man who has craftily avoided paying taxes or of an inept business owner failing to make ends meet.
“Trump had refused to release his tax return, saying an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit, launched in 2011, prevents him from doing so. The IRS has disputed this.”
“It’s become a media truism: the pandemic response shows that Morrison really learnt from his bushfire stumbles. But just what did he learn? It seems that Morrison learnt to control the news cycle — it’s not whether you do nothing, it’s how you do that nothing that counts.
“Moving on from the Hawaii-holidaying ‘I don’t hold a hose, mate’ dismissal of the media, he has learnt that he needs to feed the media chooks a steady flow of announceables. He needs to look all prime ministerial for the television cameras, after the details have been shaped into the government’s preferred narrative in advance through special day-before briefings for the gallery heavyweights.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Hotel inquiry ‘whodunit’ obscures endemic problems with outsourcing — Kristen Rundle (The Age): “[If] closing submissions before the inquiry into Victoria’s failed hotel quarantine program that has now concluded are any indication, we have not heard the last of the accountability puzzles attaching to the ‘who made the decision to contract private security’ question that has been a central preoccupation throughout. True, a clear answer to that question would make discussions to come in November when Justice Jennifer Coate publishes her report much easier to frame and to understand. But if as a matter of fact the evidence indicates that there wasn’t really a ‘who’ and there wasn’t really a ‘decision’ – but rather, as counsel assisting the inquiry Rachel Ellyard put it, a ‘creeping assumption that became a reality’ – the task now is to ensure that this bewildering scene does not confuse or conceal other key issues.”
Truth losing out to new ‘yes minister’ mob ($) — Gary Banks (The Australian): “Unlike the permanent heads, or ‘mandarins’, of Westminster tradition, public service leaders today are essentially there at the pleasure of the minister (and ultimately the prime minister or first minister). And many can really only keep their jobs as long as the minister keeps his or hers, and the government remains in power. The incentives this creates for our top public servants are obvious, and the results have been on display at Victoria’s quarantine inquiry (see for example, ‘Don’t know, don’t ask, don’t care‘, The Australian, September 23). It has not been an uplifting sight.”
Murdoch divides, democracy suffers — Denis Muller (Meanjin): “Extreme polarisation of voters is one cause of the crisis in democracy gripping many Western nations, especially the United States and Britain and to a lesser extent the countries of western Europe. So far, Australia seems not to have succumbed to the same extent. Leaders of the two main parties appear to be working constructively together on the pandemic. There is no evidence that they see each other as illegitimate, as has happened between Republicans and Democrats in the US.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The Melbourne Press Club will host webinar event “Moving the Goal Posts”, a panel discussion of the VicHealth-commissioned report Buried Treasures and Missed Opportunities in Victorian Sports Reporting, with Managing Director at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and VicHealth Leading Thinker Dr Jeni Klugman; Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions’ Dr Bridie O’Donnell; Deputy Chair, Women Sport Australia’s Gen Simmons; and moderator and ABC sports specialist Mary Gearin.
Advocacy group Stand Together Against Racism will host webinar event “Black Lives Matter: Fighting to end Black Deaths in Custody” with Apryl Day, the daughter of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day, who sustained a fatal injury in police custody the Victorian coroner found to be preventable; Paul Silva, a nephew of David Dungay Junior, who was killed by prison guards in Sydney’s Longbay jail; Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves, Walpiri Elder and community spokesperson for Kumanjayi Walker who was shot and killed by police in his home in Yuendumu, Northern Territory; and First Nations Workers Alliance’ Lara Watson.