At long, long last, Victoria will step out of hard lockdown tonight from 11:59pm, after the state recorded its first day without a COVID-19 case since June and the Andrews government announced plans to exit second step restrictions.
As the ABC explains, retail, cafes, bars, restaurants and beauty services can reopen across Melbourne, limits on weddings and funerals will be loosened, and the 10 person limit on public gatherings will remain without the two household limit. The 25km radius travel limit and “ring of steel” between Melbourne and regional Victoria will remain until Monday, November 9.
Dan Andrews is expected today to outline updated measures for home visits; for context, Melbourne’s original third step allowed up to five visitors from one other household.
Finally, NSW ministers speaking with The Australian ($) suggest their Victorian border could stay closed for weeks over concerns Andrews’ slow re-opening plan indicates a lack of confidence in his state’s contact tracing. In related news ($), Annastacia Palaszczuk flagged she would make a decision on Friday, election eve, over whether the border with NSW would be reopened next week.
PS: According to The Age, an Ipsos poll conducted last week suggests 52% of Victorians support Andrews’ handling of the pandemic, while just 15% approve of Liberal leader Michael O’Brien’s performance. In another Ipsos poll further north, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that three in five NSW residents fear the state could see a second wave.
PPS: For an international comparison, The Mandarin reports that only South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore have done as well as Victoria in controlling a second wave.
DJAB WURRUNG ‘DIRECTIONS TREE’ CUT DOWN
Around the same time as Andrews’ announcement, Greens senator Lidia Thorpe revealed that the Victorian government destroyed a Djab Wurrung “directions tree” as part of the controversial Buangor-Ararat highway duplication project.
According to The Age, Major Road Projects Victoria has alleged that a separate tree on the site was in fact a directions tree, that the “fiddleback tree” cut down had not been identified as significant by the Registered Aboriginal Party Eastern Maar, and that assessment indicated it was unlikely to pre-date colonialism. The assessment has been strongly rejected by Traditional Owners and other land owners.
Additionally, Thorpe argued last year in Crikey Inq that neither Eastern Maar nor former RAP Martang fully represent Djab Wurrung people.
PS: Further north, the ABC reports an Alice Springs court has committed the police officer charged over last year’s shooting death of Indigenous teenager Kumanjayi Walker to stand trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court.
According to The Guardian, Treasury officials have confirmed to senate estimates that a second taxpayer-funded research project over COVID-19 attitudes conducted by Jim Reed, a long-term researcher for Liberal market research group Crosby Textor, has been handed to both Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg’s political offices.
In a big jobs-for-the-boys news day, 10News reports that Labor grilled the Coalition yesterday in question time over the four Liberal-linked officials and/or candidates appointed to the eight non-executive members of the Australia Post board.
Under questioning over similar appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Christian Porter alleged that the list of appointed Coalition MPs is “equally as long from the other side of politics”. However, Crikey Inq unpacked last year that 65 of the 333 current AAT decision-making members are former Liberal Party staffers, former Coalition politicians, party donors, members, unsuccessful candidates, or government employees, while just 15 had connections to Labor in 2013.
Finally, The Australian ($) reports that Australia Post paid more than $34,000 for chief executive Christine Holgate’s nine-month stay in a Grand Hyatt suite in Melbourne.
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MOMENT OF TRUTH: BARRETT SET TO TAKE SUPREME COURT SEAT
According to The New York Times’ live blog, Amy Coney Barrett is due to be sworn in as the Republicans’ sixth member of the nine-member Supreme Court at around 7.30pm DC time, following an all-nighter in the Senate where Democrats complained of her anti-abortion history and called on Vice President Mike Pence not to preside over the final confirmation vote after several close aides tested positive for COVID-19.
As America’s third wave grows — Time explains that the current weekly-average has hit a record 23 infections per 100,000 residents — White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has admitted to CNN that the US cannot control the pandemic and claimed that “proper mitigation factors” such as therapies and vaccines (rather than, say, lockdowns or masks) should instead be prioritised.
PS: In homegrown election news, news.com.au reports that Clive Palmer’s company Mineralogy is spamming hundreds of Queenslanders with texts pushing his persistent lie that Labor plans to introduce a 20% death tax.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
Turn on television, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it. COVID, COVID, COVID. COVID. By the way, on November 4th you won’t hear about it anymore.
It’s a week out from the US election, a Utah hospital has introduced death panels, the number of COVID-19 fatalities in America has eclipsed 225,000 ahead of a “third wave”, and, to be clear, there was no plane crash killing 500 people.
“‘But wait, there’s more!’ That’s about all you need for a daily headline at the moment.
“It’s hard to remember a time when we’ve had such an avalanche of shocking scandals damaging the top echelons of government and the corporate elite in such a short space of time. Even the media is finding it difficult to keep up with the daily — no, hourly — litany of atrocities.”
“Top federal bureaucrats’ salaries are set by the Remuneration Tribunal, made up of a fossil fuel executive and a wealthy investment advisor. Before their wages were frozen during the pandemic, the tribunal awarded senior public servants pay rises at almost twice the rate of their subordinates. Their overall salaries are high by global standards and even insiders admit “some of these guys are overpaid”.”
“Is Western Australia’s environmental watchdog afraid of Kerry Stokes? It’s a question being asked by environmental groups after a company backed by the billionaire got a step closer to a gas development with a tick of approval from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
As the government drags its heels, a better model for a federal integrity commission has emerged — Yee-Fui Ng (The Conversation): “Independent MP Helen Haines has just introduced a bill into parliament that seeks to establish a robust new federal integrity commission. This is a consensus bill that involved consultation with legal academics, panels of retired judges, civil society stakeholders, ethicists and MPs. Without the government’s support, it is unlikely to pass. But it is a move designed to force the government’s hand.”
Southeast Asia: One king acts the part, other stirs pot ($) — Amanda Hodge (The Australian): “Southeast Asia’s constitutional monarchies Thailand and Malaysia are being tested as never before by political crises but only one is proving its mettle. On Sunday night, Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah received the sort of lavish bipartisan praise his Thai counterpart can only dream of these days. The largely ceremonial head of state ended a tense weekend standoff by refusing a request from the country’s shaky coalition government for a state of emergency, breaking a historic convention in which the Malaysian ruler has never before refused a cabinet request.”
Don’t conscript your ABC to the culture wars — Alan Sunderland (The Age): “The ABC, I hear, has surrendered to government pressure, given up its independence and impartiality, and committed itself to delivering anti-climate change, anti-intellectual, right-wing populist propaganda instead of news. Or so it would appear to some people, based on four words allegedly uttered by ABC news director Gaven Morris during an hour-long staff briefing last week. (“ABC News boss warns staff against focus on ‘inner city left-wing elites’”, SMH, October 25).”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Senate estimates will examine the Australian Taxation Office and other financial bodies; Health; Defence; and workplace agencies.
Former governor-general and ADF chief Peter Cosgrove’s memoir You Shouldn’t Have Joined will be launched at an event due to be attended by John Howard and Qantas chief Alan Joyce.
Wiradjuri woman and author of Miles Franklin-winning novel The Yield Tara June Winch will speak in conversation on translation and language with First Nations American environmental biologist and Citizen Potawatomi Nation member Robin Wall Kimmerer for the Wheeler Centre’s “Broadly Speaking” webinar event.
Writer Andrew Pippos will launch his debut novel Lucky’s at an Avid Reader Zoom event.
Debate will continue today on an upper house members bill aiming to legalise voluntary assisted dying.