Gladys Berejiklian covid-19
(Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

CLUSTER MOVE

NSW Health’s list of COVID-19 case locations has grown to more than 100 venues, with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that, although all locally-acquired cases are linked to the Northern Beaches cluster, several of yesterday’s 15 new cases were infected outside the region i.e. Turramurra Salon for Hair on the north shore and The Rose in Erskineville.

With Gladys Berejiklian due to make a decision tomorrow on current restriction levels, the ABC reports the state government is cautiously optimistic and UNSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws is confident the city will, at least, not experience a Melbourne-style outbreak. Conversely, The Guardian reports that another UNSW expert, Raina MacIntyre,is calling for a three day hard lockdown across Sydney.

Elsewhere, the Queensland government has banned anyone driving to the state who has been in Greater Sydney since December 11, and will require any returning residents to arrive by air and enter government-arranged quarantine.

HIRE POWERS TO BLAME

According to The Age, security companies have claimed vindication after the final report for Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry pointed the finger squarely at structural problems, namely a confusing governance structure with poor lines of communication, the failure of ministers including Dan Andrews to consider health risks, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ refusal to accept responsibility despite being the lead agency among five.

The report, which found the “overwhelming majority” of guards worked on the scheme “honestly and with goodwill”, only found the decision to use private security as frontline guards was reached by “acquiescence” at a meeting at the State Control Centre. Additionally, then-police chief commissioner Graham Ashton “was consulted and expressed a preference that private security perform that role and Victoria Police provide the ‘back up’ for that model”.

Andrews yesterday apologised for the scheme, rebuffed calls for his resignation by the Victorian Liberals, and announced a “preference” to adopt all 81 recommendations, while Ashton has reiterated to The Australian ($) he “was not the decision maker for the use of security guards”.

P.S. An equally-damning review of outbreaks at two aged care homes — finished November 30 but, curiously, only released yesterday by the Morrison government — found Australia still lacks a large enough surge workforce to contain future outbreaks, The Guardian reports.

A COAL NEW WORLD

Finally, centre-right think tank the Blueprint Institute has proposed a five-point “Coal-Generation Phasedown Mechanism” to halve electricity emissions by 2030 by, as The New Daily explains, paying owners of coal-fired plants to shut down ahead of schedule.

The proposal comes after the International Energy Agency published a grim analysis of coal emissions blowing out climate targets through to 2025, a short-term trend RenewEconomy explains is supported by coal mining in three countries: Russia, South Africa, and, far and away, Australia.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Stand and deliver/You let them put the fear on you

Stand and deliver/But not a word you heard was true

Do you wanna be a free man/Or do you wanna be a slave?

Do you wanna wear these chains/Until you’re lying in the grave?

Dick Turpin wore a mask too.

Eric Clapton (words by Van Morrison)

In a fitting end to a cruel, stupid year, two former music greats release an anti-lockdown/mask/science song that compares COVID-19 measures to slavery, reference a highwayman for no reason, and whines about wanting to “play the blues for friends”. A thing this new blues track suggests they cannot do.

CRIKEY RECAP

The Liberal Party is now little more than the political wing of News Corp

“News Corp has stopped pretending. It’s now out and proud as political party media. But there’s still one big question: who’s in charge? The party or the media?

“It’s a tale of two cities. This past weekend, the front page of The Sunday Telegraph read ‘FOR YOUR OWN GOOD’ on the Sydney lockdown. Contrast that with the Herald Sun’s front page on Melbourne’s July lockdown: ‘SIX-WEEK SENTENCE’ (complete with its ‘Disaster for Dan’ subhead).”


The rort that got away: it started with a Downer

“It started with a Downer. Georgina, the faildaughter of the storied Adelaide dynasty, was floundering again in her second crack at winning Mayo — the family heirloom of an electorate that straddles the plusher parts of the Adelaide Hills.

“In 2018, the Liberal Party gave Georgina the keys to Mayo and she sank so hard that a week out from the byelection the Libs had given up. The Downer dynasty was simply no match for Rebekha Sharkie, the popular Centre Alliance MP who “bleeds Mayo’.”


Trump’s odyssey is destined to continue, but history tells us it won’t end well

“On February 20, 1939, 20,000 Americans crammed into New York’s fabled Madison Square Garden.

“They weren’t there to cheer the New York Rangers in their hunt for the Stanley Cup, or for Joe Louis to defend his heavyweight boxing crown. They had come to be part of a ‘Mass Demonstration for True Americanism’, a self-proclaimed pro-American rally hosted by the German American Bund.

“The Bund was an American Nazi organisation founded in 1936. Its forerunner was started three years earlier by Heinz Spanknöbel, a German Nazi, on the orders of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. In the vein of the infamous Nuremberg rallies, the spectacle was choreographed with American flags and swastika banners, uniformed storm troopers, martial music and Nazi salutes.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Australian health officials cast doubt on claim new UK COVID strain more infectious

Protesters rally outside Park Hotel Carlton where 60 refugees and asylum seekers are being detained

Private health insurance: families hit with $127 a year premium lift ($)

Cash for koalas: NSW government considers paying farmers to preserve habitat

WA court challenge launched against huge Burrup Hub gas project

Bigger Picture, fewer sales: Malcolm Turnbull trails rival PMs ($)

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny dupes spy into revealing how he was poisoned

European Union authorises Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

Rupert Murdoch gets vaccine as Fox News pushes misinformation

THE COMMENTARIAT

Hotel Quarantine Inquiry final report has far-reaching implications — Kristen Rundle (The Age): “Justice Jennifer Coate’s final report is significant because it carries implications well beyond the specific example of hotel quarantine. Coate’s findings ultimately provide a basis for asking questions about when contracting out should be used, and when it should not, that have arguably never been adequately entertained by any Australian government.”

A new year bookfest for lovers of politics ($) — Troy Bramston (The Australian): “When Scott Morrison ascended to the prime ministership in 2018 he was one of the least-well known of the 29 men and women who had held the nation’s top job. While now entrenched and popular, he remains somewhat of an enigma. Australians knew much more about Morrison’s two Liberal predecessors than they do about him. That may be about to change with the first biography of Morrison by Annika Smethurst, The Accidental PM (Hachette, July), which answers: ‘So who the bloody hell is Scott Morrison?’”

News Corp has caused massive climate delay, but its grip on power is slippingKetan Joshi (RenewEconomy): “It’s no secret that News Corp, the massive global media force headed by the recently-vaccinated Rupert Murdoch isn’t particularly fond of climate action. Its record over the past decade on obfuscating the science of climate change through a blend of straight mis-reporting and columnist noise is simply too big to even begin to summarise. From Lomborg to Shellenberger, from Plimer to Abbott, it’s a gargantuan portfolio of simple, effective and unmistakably unique climate and energy focused misinformation.”

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