(Image: AP/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

SCHOOL OF HARD LOCKS

According to the Herald Sun ($), senior Victorian government ministers met last night to finalise a plan to snap back from lockdown from midnight tonight, which, barring any mystery cases or mass outbreaks, is set to be signed off 8am this morning.

Victoria would from tomorrow return to a form of pre-lockdown rules, with masks to still be mandatory indoors and likely some stricter limits on indoor gatherings. As the ABC explains, the state’s only two locally-acquired cases yesterday were household contacts, and the only new exposure site was a “Tier 2” location: Elite Swimming, Pascoe Vale, from 4.30-5pm and 5.30-6pm on Monday, February 8.

In the latest on the state’s quarantine system, The Age reports Healthcare Australia staff working across nine of the quarantine hotels have issued complaints to WorkSafe Victoria about being forced to move between offices and hotels, which include the Holiday Inn, as part of a management decision that amounts to a clear breach of recommendations from the state’s quarantine inquiry.

The news comes as Dan Andrews flags that vacant land near Avalon and Melbourne airports may be acquired to build a new, standalone quarantine camp, while a key witness at last year’s inquiry, leading infectious diseases expert Lindsay Grayson, has today called for the state’s scheme to be shut down entirely in the wake of the Holiday Inn breach.

PS: On the national level, Guardian Australia explains that the Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine, one that offers less efficacy than Pfizer’s drug but is much easier to store, transport, and distribute, with Australia set to rollout up to 1 million doses a week from late March.

TRUMP FITTED FOR A NEW LAWSUIT

According to Politico, Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll have filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and white supremacist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers over their roles in the January 6 insurrection.

The lawsuit alleges the former president and Giuliani, in collaboration with the two hate groups, conspired to incite the riots to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results. It claims this violates the Ku Klux Klan Act, a Reconstruction-era law designed to protect both formerly enslaved African-Americans and Congress from white supremacist violence.

PS: As Crikey explored after Senate Republicans acquitted Trump over the weekend, the lawsuit follows a rich history of the Apprentice star getting away with things that seem like they should be open and shut crimes i.e. “profiting off the presidency” and “employing relatives at the White House”.

MYANMAR MILITARY COUP CONTINUES

According to Al Jazeera, Myanmar’s military regime has hit detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi with a second charge, a supposed violation of the country’s natural disaster management law, to go with her very legitimate charge for having a walkie-talkie in her home.

Amid daily protests, the military again claimed it would hold another election, although it did not say when and has previously pledged one year, and denied its coup counted as a coup because of entirely unsubstantiated electoral fraud allegations.

Following the arrest of hundreds of government MPs, election commissioners, students, journalists, and academics, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that colleagues of Australian academic and Suu Kyi’s economic adviser Sean Turnell will deliver a petition to the Myanmar embassy today calling for his release from detention.

ARC NEMESIS

In other foreign affairs news, The Australian ($) reports that former education minister Dan Tehan used new national security laws to knock back five applicants with links to Chinese Communist Party talent programs for Australian Research Council grants.

One of the rejected projects, reportedly, would have been focused on advanced wireless communications research with applications in “internet of things” devices, radar and satellite systems, and wireless power transmission.

BARNABY TAKES COAL POSITION

Finally, Guardian Australia reports that Barnaby Joyce will attempt to amend the government’s existing legislation to allow one of the last federal mechanisms for climate action, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, to invest in the Minerals Council’s ultimate furphy, “high efficiency, low emissions” coal-fired power.

For some context, Joyce once received $50,000 for his 2013 election campaign from mining boss Gina Rinehart.

PS: In other news from the Coalition’s climate denier wing, Gizmodo reports that Craig Kelly has copped a week-long Facebook ban for spreading COVID-19 misinformation — or, if you go by The Australian’s ($) frankly embarrassing attempt to rationalise his conspiracy theories, “unorthodox COVID-19 treatments and theories”. Note that he only started spreading them, in Kelly’s words, because someone shot him a random YouTube video of “doctor” with a “a long Jewish beard”.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

I have never known a single woman who has been able to have a premarital casual sexual encounter or that sort of relationship, who hasn’t actually — whether they acknowl­edged or knew it at the time — not been searching for something more.

What they’re being sold is a pup.

Celia Hammond

The Liberal MP appointed by Scott Morrison to review processes for workplace sexual assault allegations is a classic pick who, back in 2013, railed against sex before marriage, contraception, feminism, and sexual freedoms.

CRIKEY RECAP

Kerry Stokes, billionaire, rakes in the JobKeeper cash

“The corporate reporting season is turning up more disclosures about JobKeeper claims, with public companies such as Nick Scali, Coca-Cola Amatil and Iluka responding to pressure and announcing they will pay back public money they did not need to claim in the first place.

“However, there’s another category of company which deserves further scrutiny: the profitable firm that pocketed big dollops of JobKeeper in the December half year and refused to hand any back.”


Five things the government got wrong when handling Brittany Higgins’ sexual assault complaint 

Note: this article discusses sexual assault.

“Just four weeks into her role as a junior federal government staffer, Brittany Higgins was allegedly raped in her new boss’ private office.

“Parliament House should be well versed in dealing with cases of sexual harassment and assault following increased scrutiny after the Me Too movement.

“But instead the government gave a textbook example of how not to respond, reaching a pinnacle this morning when Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that his wife, Jenny, had told him to think about the incident ‘as a father first. What would you want to happen if this were our girls?’”


Twilight world of staffers makes for toxic, taxpayer-funded workplaces

“This limbo of non-accountability extends to all aspects of the behaviour of staffers and their de facto employers, politicians. And it is reinforced by the peculiar characteristics of being a political staffer: you are expected to be loyal not to the people funding your salary — the taxpayers — but the person to whom you directly answer, a politician.

“And you are expected to be loyal to the party, which includes not subjecting it to unnecessary attention or embarrassment. For those truly committed, this loyalty may be rewarded in time with the chance of securing preselection. Only those who have been loyal need apply.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Dispute erupts over timing of PM’s office’s knowledge of Parliament rape claim

Crown Perth inquiry to be set up after WA regulator calls for casino licence to be assessed

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticises Australia for stripping dual national terror suspect’s citizenship

Crossbenchers Rex Patrick and Malcolm Roberts push for more changes to Fair Work Act ($)

Two-tiered ‘JobMatcher’ benefit should replace JobSeeker: Think tank

Abortion decriminalisation bill debated in SA Parliament after weeks of community discussion

Jaguar to become all-electric brand from 2025

Democrats urge Biden to fire USPS chief Trump ally who decimated mail service

Iraqi armed group vows more attacks on ‘American occupation’

THE COMMENTARIAT

It’s time to give visas to the Biloela Tamil family and other asylum seekers stuck in the systemAlex Reilly (The Conversation): “The whole saga raises difficult questions of law and policy. There is a paradox at play. On the one hand, Australia’s highly evolved review rights for asylum seekers has allowed the Murugappan family to hold government decision-making to the highest standards. On the other hand, it has left them languishing in a state of limbo for years.”

We must never be afraid to speak up on China ($) — Bob Brown (The Australian): “In 1990, the year after the Tiananmen Square massacre, Gough Whitlam wanted an environmentalist to join his delegation to the Australia-China Friendship Society’s meeting in Xiamen on the coast north of Hong Kong. I chaired an early session and prefaced my contribution by saying that the people of Australia were appalled by the bloodshed in Beijing and that they had given a warm welcome to the Dalai Lama on his recent visit.”

In a world awash with toxic chemicals, Sydney is the perfect place to start the clean-up Ravi Naidu (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Sydney residents were shocked last week by a report revealing unsafe levels of industrial pollutants — including arsenic, lead and mercury — in the sludge on the harbour floor. Cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were also present at up to 20 times the safe level for aquatic life, and tributyltin — a banned ‘gender-bending’ chemical that can cause female snails to grow male sex organs — was found at up to nearly 600 times the safe level. The report also warned that ‘the water could become unsafe for swimmers, sailors and divers’.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Co-chair & co-founder of the Minderoo Foundation Nicola Forrest and CEO of Thrive by Five and former SA premier Jay Weatherill will present “It’s Time for a High-Quality Early Learning System” at the National Press Club.

Australia

  • Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist Amy McQuire will discuss her upcoming book The Water Behind Us, an investigation into the wrongful conviction of Indigenous man Kevin Henry, in Australia Institute webinar “Black Witness”.

Peter Fray

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