HOSPITAL IN LOCKDOWN
Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital has been placed in lockdown amid “escalating” concerns over two COVID-19 clusters across south-east Queensland, the ABC reports, after eight new locally-transmitted cases were announced yesterday.
Dozens more locations have been added to Queensland’s list of hotspots, which now span a timeframe from Saturday, March 20 to Monday, March 29 and includes 11 new sites in the Gold Coast, perhaps most worryingly a Tugun surf life saving competition attended by around 1500 people. Other new sites have been identified in Carina, Cleveland, Coorparoo, Greenslopes, Middle Ridge, Morningside, New Farm, Strathpine, South Brisbane and Upper Mount Gravatt.
New South Wales’ list of hotspots has also been updated, with sites identified in both Byron Bay and Suffolk Park for the weekend of Friday, March 26 to Sunday, March 28, and Byron Bay residents are on alert to see if there has been community transmission after local partygoers tested positive. The Northern Territory has since added the Byron Shire to its list of travel hotspots.
The Greater Brisbane region is all but certain to spend the Easter long weekend in isolation, with The Courier-Mail ($) reporting that infectious disease experts expect a decision today on whether to extend the lockdown beyond 5pm Thursday.
PS: Both The Courier-Mail ($) and The Australian ($) report concerns of the Queensland government stockpiling vaccines — data leaked shows the state is sitting on around 40% of its Pfizer and AstraZeneca doses — while Guardian Australia reports the Queensland doctors’ union is calling for a full investigation into how two likely-unvaccinated workers at the Princess Alexandra contracted the virus.
In response to criticisms, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the government has to wait for consistency of supply and had held back Pfizer vaccine for second doses, although federal officials claim this is not necessary as more doses are scheduled to arrive.
IT’S QUESTION TIME
According to Guardian Australia, Queensland Police have confirmed that a formal complaint has been lodged against federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming over an allegedly inappropriate photograph.
The news comes after Queensland woman Crystal White and her manager at the time Sean Blinco spoke to police on Monday, and after Laming defended the photograph as a “completely dignified” picture of White “kneeling in an awkward position, and filling a fridge with an impossible amount of stock, which clearly wasn’t going to fit in the fridge”.
Elsewhere, a senior Liberal adviser has taken stress leave from the office of Karen Andrews, with The Australian ($) reporting the unnamed woman claims the new Home Affairs minister bullied, humiliated and victimised her over a six-month period from August to March 14. Andrews “strenuously rejects these claims”, a spokesman said, but declined to respond to specific allegations, which also include being asked to “organise a fundraising event for the Liberal Party of Australia”.
Last, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NSW Nationals MP Michael Johnsen is expected to resign from state Parliament following revelations by the ABC he exchanged lewd messages with a sex worker during question time and after he already moved to the crossbench over rape allegations aired last week, which he strenuously denies.
In what looks to be now daily policy drops, Scott Morrison will today pledge $1 billion for the always-lucrative military manufacturing industry, this time for an Australian sovereign guided missile facility, while Anthony Albanese will today pledge modest discounts to cut the cost of electric cars and install community batteries.
RORT TO KNOW BETTER
Finally, in just the latest government rorts scandal, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a NSW upper house inquiry has found the Berejiklian government’s $252 million Stronger Communities Fund was deliberately devised to accommodate pork-barrelling, punish councils who objected to forced amalgamations, and win seats ahead of the 2019 state election.
The final report finds 95% of funds went to councils in Coalition-held or marginal seats, including a $90 million payment to Hornsby Shire Council.
While Coalition MPs again delivered a dissenting report that rejects accusations — see also: Matt Canavan and Eric Abetz’s response to the sports rorts inquiry — Crikey has previously detailed how both Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro have, throughout the inquiry, justified pork-barrelling as a political practice.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I would kill to be sexually harassed at the moment.
The Liberal Party federal vice-president has apologised for attempting this joke, and, against the word of three senior Liberal women, alleges it was worded slightly differently. But still: not a great look while meeting to discuss the NSW branch’s new code of conduct.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Australia’s Me Too movement isn’t moving forward. It lacks direction, inclusivity and government support.
“You’d be forgiven for thinking the alternative, that change is afoot. We’ve had women coming forward en masse to disclose their allegations of sexual assault. Students have called out harassment and abuse in high schools. Universities have introduced consent courses. Laws gagging sexual assault victims have been overturned. We’ve had an inquiry into Parliament’s workplace announced. The Australian of the Year is a sexual assault survivor.”
“The best thing one can say about Scott Morrison’s Titanic deckchair reshuffle — sorry, cabinet reshuffle — is that at least we didn’t get Stuart Robert as home affairs minister.
“For days ‘well-placed sources’ in the Canberra gallery had spread that move widely, apparently softening us up for such a controversial promotion. Robert’s only apparent qualification for such a powerful role was that he’s one of Morrison’s besties, having shared a house with him in Canberra and being the key numbers man who delivered the prime ministership for his mate.”
“At a time when the Canberra bubble has sprung a leak — laying bare the misogyny, harassment and regressive attitudes too many women in politics have to deal with — some of Amanda Stoker’s commentary seems out of touch.
“In 2018, the last time we got a big crisis about the Liberal Party’s very well-documented gender problem, Stoker said claims by retiring MPs Julia Banks and Ann Sudmalis about sexist bullying were ‘pathetic’ and ‘bizarre’. Banks, who at the time had been driven out of politics by the gendered bullying and harassment in the Coalition party room, responded to Stoker’s promotion yesterday with a facepalm emoji.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
‘Tough on crime’ measures have failed in the past. The Northern Territory should not resort to them — Sophie Trevitt (Guardian Australia): “On Tuesday last week — less than a fortnight after A Current Affair aired a 15 minute expose on ‘youth crime’ in Alice Springs — the Northern Territory government announced some of the harshest youth justice measures in the country. Chief minister Michael Gunner announced plans that would drag the Northern Territory back to the ineffective, ‘tough on crime’ measures that predated the NT royal commission.”
My story gives me a voice for tragically vulnerable ($) — Matthew Bach (The Australian): “From personal experience I know what a powerful force for good a strong child protection and out-of-home care system can be. But, sadly, few kids’ experiences today are anything like mine. This point was rammed home over the weekend with the force of a pile driver. Because of a government whistleblower, we now learn that 65 vulnerable children, known to child protection, died in Victoria last year. The reported circumstances of their deaths, which have not been denied by the government, are cause for the gravest concern.”
AGL applies green lipstick to attract investors — Elizabeth Knight (The Sydney Morning Herald): “What do you get when you mix a palate of brown and green? Sorry AGL the answer is still brown. The energy producer dedicated 50 pages to the marketing fanfare around structurally separating the company into two entities, which for ease and descriptive convenience I’ll call CleanCo and DirtyCo.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Professor Ross Garnaut will speak in conversation with former chief scientist Alan Finkel on the latter’s new Quarterly Essay, “Getting to Zero”, in a Readings event at Cinema Nova.
Chief economist for the Australia Institute Richard Denniss will discuss “The long COVID economic crisis” in a series webinar.