STEP TO IT
Both The Age and The Australian ($) report that business leaders and health officials have criticised Dan Andrews’ cautious approach to reopening Victoria, while Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett has argued at The Conversation that she sees, “no reason why we can’t remove blanket rules such as the 25km radius and Melbourne’s ‘ring of steel’ immediately”.
As the ABC explains, changes from today mean that Melbourne’s travel radius expands to 25km, outdoor gatherings jump to 10 people from two households; people can leave their homes for as long as they like, and tennis courts, golf courses, skate parks and other outdoor settings can reopen. Andrews has also flagged that more significant changes from November 2, including lifting stay-at-home orders and allowing hospitality venues to seat patrons, could be brought forward at next Sunday’s conference if numbers remain low.
The news comes as dozens of travellers from New Zealand turn up in Victoria and Western Australia — neither of which has signed up to the trans-Tasman deal — and after Victoria recorded two new locally-transmitted cases, while NSW recorded just one.
PS: According to The Guardian, modelling published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today suggests Victoria could have achieved elimination of COVID-19 within six weeks had the state gone into stage four lockdown with mandatory wearing of masks — but without curfews or 5km travel restrictions — immediately from July 9 rather than stage three.
An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, 60 Minutes and The New York Times has revealed that Westpac Banking Corporation, the Perth Mint and hundreds of Australian citizens have been caught up in a global tax evasion probe, “Operation Atlantis”, by the “J5” — a taskforce made up of the tax chiefs of Australia, the US, UK, the Netherlands and Canada set up following the Panama Papers leak.
International enforcement sources have confirmed that Puerto Rican bank Euro Pacific, which is fronted by US financier and celebrity business commentator Peter Schiff, “has been proscribed as a ‘top tier’ organised crime threat to Australia because of its suspected use by Australian and international organised crime syndicates”. Australia’s deputy tax commissioner Will Day has confirmed that around 100 Australians are being investigated and could be jailed for tax evasion following simultaneous raids across the world on January 24.
PS: Elsewhere, The Guardian reports that Labor MP Andrew Leigh has written to more than 200 corporate giants, including Apple, McDonald’s and Microsoft, asking whether they have received JobKeeper and then used the money to pay shareholder dividends or executive bonuses.
PPS: In yet another investigation, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Berejiklian government handed out more than $250 million in council grants, almost all in Coalition-held seats, in the months leading up to the 2019 election without any signed paperwork.
A PREMIER EVENT
Queensland’s Labor and LNP leaders yesterday formally launched their election campaigns, with the ABC reporting that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pledged to introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation and “the biggest investment in teachers in Queensland’s history” while opposition leader Deb Frecklington promised to release a full budget within 100 days of office if elected.
As The Australian ($) notes, the launch follows a Newspoll on Saturday which suggested Labor leads 52-48 on two-party preferred — a result that upends a July 31 poll — as well as nation-leading post-COVID unemployment levels (note, however, that JobKeeper kind of obscures official figures).
The news comes as ACT Labor prepares to negotiate with the Greens to form government — the latter of which had a banner night Saturday, jumping from two Legislative Assembly spots to either five or six as counting continues– while The Guardian reports that, despite Labour’s landslide victory in New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern is considering continuing her coalition government with the Greens.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I loved him … but I’ll never speak to him again.
Following a nightmare week at ICAC, the NSW premier gets a consolation prize in the form of a cosy puff piece at The Daily Telegraph ($) that, one can only assume, would likewise be offered to Dan or Annastacia were they to face equally murky revelations.
“With Australia a banana republic in which self-interest, non-accountability and corruption — in soft or hard forms — pervades business and politics, we have only a limited number of institutions that we can trust to protect the public interest from politicians and the vested interests that control them. But many of them are under attack from the politicians that they threaten.”
“‘Can Gladys Berejiklian survive as premier?’ has been the question of the week. Should she survive is a whole other question. The revelations have come at dizzying speed since Berejiklian first appeared at ICAC at the beginning of the week. The straight-as-a-die premier’s secret affair with an MP bent on a path of corruption has made for a seductive narrative of a trusting woman wronged by a cad.”
“Lost amid the coverage of the budget last week was a significant announcement by Greens leader Adam Bandt, who declared the party was walking away from the ground-breaking consensus reached by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“Bandt said the order of the reforms in the Uluru Statement should be changed from Voice, Treaty, Truth and retrofitted to the Greens’ preference of Truth, Treaty, Voice.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Australia’s security and the ‘grey zone’ of influence and coercion ($) — Linda Reynolds (The Australian): “As Defence Minister, it is my job to see and respond to the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. I see an increasing imperative for Australia to advocate assertively for stability, security and sovereignty in our region. One of my highest priorities has been engaging with our regional neighbours and global partners. Defence diplomacy has never been more vital than now, as our region faces the most consequential strategic realignment since World War II.”
Murdoch’s sway on politics warrants royal commission — Kevin Rudd (The Age): “Living in Australia, many now habitually think our national media landscape is normal. It isn’t. No other Western democracy has the level of print media monopoly that Rupert Murdoch has secured for himself in Australia. A single American billionaire has now seized control of almost 70% of daily newspaper circulation. In my state of Queensland, which determines most federal elections, this monopoly is almost 100% with every newspaper from Cairns to Coolangatta and Australia’s only commercial 24-hour ‘news’ channel.”
Labor scores its sixth ACT election victory in a row. But the big winners are the Greens — John Warhurst (The Conversation): “Labor’s vote remained steady, despite being the nation’s longest-serving government, albeit under different leaders. The big winner on the night was Barr’s coalition partner, the Greens, led by Minister for Climate Change, Sustainability and Corrections, Shane Rattenbury. The Greens earned a swing of 3.4%. It looks like the party will go from two to at least three seats, with the possibility of up to six in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly as counting is confirmed.”