covid-19 melbourne holiday inn victoria
(Crikey Worm: AAP/Luis Ascui)

AIRING ISSUES

A secret Victorian government report leaked to The Australian ($), Hotel Quarantine Outbreak Retrospective CQV Infection Prevention & Control March 2021, has revealed that the state’s third lockdown was sparked after the virus was released into a corridor during the lengthy swabbing of a woman in an open doorway — not, as originally claimed by health officials, from the room of a man using a nebuliser.

Additionally, a senior bureaucrat managing infection prevention across the quarantine program, Matiu Bush, has been ­reported to authorities twice since March after defying a Defence Force request for a mandatory test and breaching ­infection-control protocols ($). The report also reveals unvaccinated contractors have been allowed to perform hotel maintenance work in breach of a government policy since the program resumed in April.

The news comes after Scott Morrison announced he is assessing the Victorian government’s “detailed and comprehensive proposal” to build a cabin-style quarantine site in Melbourne’s north.

Crossbenchers Adam Bandt, Helen Haines, Rebekha Sharkie, Zali Steggall, Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter and upper house colleagues Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff yesterday issued a joint call for the Morrison government to ­establish a “dedicated surge ­capacity quarantine facility”, repatriate Australians in India, and withdraw Greg Hunt’s emergency determination — and consequent criminal penalties — under the Biosecurity Act against India ($).

And according to The New Daily, a man in Collie, south of Perth, has recorded a very weak positive result — which likely reflected a historical infection — after recently returning from Victoria after undergoing 14 days of quarantine.

JUST NOT CRICKET

The Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament has been suspended indefinitely due to the country’s COVID-19 surge, with Guardian Australia reporting the news leaves more than 30 Australian players, coaches, and staff in limbo until the government’s travel ban is lifted on May 15 at the earliest.

Scott Morrison yesterday rebuffed allegations by former Test cricketer-turned-commentator Michael Slater that the prime minister has “blood on his hands” after deciding to cancel flights, leave roughly 9000 Australians stranded, and criminalise travellers coming home.

Although Morrison suggested it was “highly unlikely” travellers would actually face maximum penalties of five years jail or the $66,000 fine, The Sydney Morning Herald notes the Australian Medical Association has joined calls for the government to overturn Saturday’s emergency determination.

Today, chairman of the India Australia Strategic Alliance and a long-term Liberal Party member Dr Jagvinder Singh Virk has called on the government to create a repatriation plan, pledging his willingness to assist. The AFR ($) also notes that Australia India Business Council chairman Jim Varghese has warned the measures will hurt both the Australian-Indian community and bilateral business and trade.

EARTH, FIRE, WIND, WATER

In a pre-budget tour of Queensland, Scott Morrison will today announce $600 million will go towards the previously-announced National Recovery and Resilience Agency to fund projects to bushfire and cyclone-proof houses and build levees in disaster-prone areas.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the government has also pledged to create an Australian Climate Service to collate data for emergency management policy, to be led by former Liberal Party president Shane Stone, the current head of the government’s national drought and North Queensland flood recovery efforts.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will use a speech to the Regional Australia Institute in Rockhampton today to announce a sixth round of grants under the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF). It’s worth noting that a 7.30 investigation in April found a ministerial panel chaired by McCormack intervened in the selection of more than a third of projects funded in a $200 million round of the BBRF, while analysis by The New Daily in January found that the fund overwhelmingly benefited Coalition electorates including “regional” seats such as the Gold Coast.

Elsewhere, The Courier-Mail notes that all four leaders of Australia’s largest parties are in the battleground state, with Anthony Albanese naming mine worker Shane Hamilton as Labor’s candidate for Dawson ($) — after George Christensen retires, possibly with $100,000 after being “disendorsed” ($) by the LNP — and Adam Bandt announcing Greens candidates for the LNP-held seats of Brisbane and Ryan ($).

PS: In the latest in climate change news, The Guardian reports that new climate targets announced by the US and other rich nations in recent weeks have seen climate forecasts by the Climate Action Tracker fall 0.2C to about 2.4C by the end of the century. Also, a new video by RenewEconomy explains how, at Australia’s current rates of emissions cuts, Australia won’t reach net zero for at least another 200 years.

OFFICER CHARGED OVER ALLEGED ASSAULT

New South Wales Police have confirmed an officer has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm as well as common assault, 11 months after footage emerged of the man allegedly tripping a 16-year-old Indigenous teenager, Guardian Australia reports.

The news comes amid a NSW inquest into the death of 20-year-old Indigenous man Bailey Mackander, who the ABC notes was told by a guard “there’s nothing wrong with you, other than your attitude” while reporting through the “knock-up” system that he was suffering anxiety and couldn’t breathe while being held in an isolated cell. Mackander died after escaping custody during a transfer at Gosford Hospital, climbing over a concrete barrier and falling 10 metres, in November 2019.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

CORRECTION

In yesterday’s Worm we incorrectly reported that the Northern Territory had leased the Port of Melbourne to the Chinese-owned company Landbridge. This should have read the Port of Darwin.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It’s a disgrace!! Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out [the] quarantine system. I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect.

Michael Slater

The former Test cricketer-turned-commentator offers a stronger condemnation of the Morrison government’s measures against India than Australia’s technical opposition leader (who supports a travel ban but wants repatriation flights).

CRIKEY RECAP

Selling the faith: the thoughts of Scott Morrison, aged 21, on building influence and growing the flock

“Most of us would hate to be confronted with the words we wrote as a 21-year-old. But in the case of Scott Morrison one imagines he might be pleased with the young religious marketer he would see in his university thesis. As it turns out, Morrison PM has not much changed.

“Inq has tracked down Morrison’s thesis, which he wrote for his Bachelor of Science honours degree at the University of NSW in 1989. It is housed at the University of Manchester in a specialist library dedicated to writings on the Christian Brethren Assemblies, also known as the Plymouth Brethren.”


Panicked PM tries to reverse a dog-whistle amid quarantine incompetence

“Political irony doesn’t get much better than this: Scott Morrison having to interrupt his promotion of a new third-of-a-billion dollar package to invest in systems to protect Australia’s cattle from external biosecurity threats, to put out a firestorm over his criminalisation of Australians returning from India. All of which is the product of his failure to invest in systems to protect Australians themselves from external biosecurity threats.

“When even hard-right commentators and the Institute of Public Affairs are attacking you, you know you’ve crossed some hitherto-unknown line of offensiveness — and that’s why Scott Morrison, who hoped to devote yesterday afternoon and this morning to a cattle-slaughtering conference in Rockhampton, suddenly felt the urge to do both major breakfast TV shows today to defend his criminalisation as non-racist.”


Farewell, COVID commission, what did you leave us? A bunch of secrets, a heap of costs and that gas-led recovery

“From the outset, the commission was stacked almost entirely with business leaders, with a few bureaucrats tossed in for good measure (though they quickly disappeared).

“It was supposed to be a ‘problem-solving’ group that would allow ‘CEOs to talk to CEOs’ and involve the private sector in the pandemic response.

“So, what exactly did we get out of the commission, chaired by former Fortescue Metals boss Nev Power and stacked with executives from the fossil fuel industry?”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Desperate New Delhi hospitals turn to the courts with minutes of oxygen left

Setback for Australian bubble hopes with Singapore on new virus alert

NT Budget boosted by national GST improvements, but financial books still stained in red

Qld council debt crisis: Warning of cuts to vital services ($)

Gymnasts seek compensation ‘for harm’ ($)

Traditional owners to close Kakadu site over ‘lack of respect’ for sacred areas by Parks Australia

$295k price tag for High Court battle over casual backpay ($)

Quicker tax cuts off for wealthy as budget targets middle ($)

‘Solar garden’ schemes to make renewables available to apartments

Philippine Foreign Minister takes profanity-laced crack at Beijing over its lingering presence in the South China Sea

Myanmar nationals in Australia to have visas extended following deadly military coup, federal government announces

Video shows Israeli settler trying to take over Palestinian house

THE COMMENTARIAT

Separated from their families, Indian Australians are feeling the painRana Hussein (The Sydney Morning Herald): “I learnt about the government’s plans to fine or jail returning travellers from COVID-riddled India through my family’s WhatsApp chat group. The message from my sister, accompanying the related news article, said ‘What do we think of this?’ To understand how my family and I are processing the government’s announcement, you have to understand who we are and where we’ve been.”

System flawed on every level — we need a fix, fast ($) — Ewin Hannan (The Australian): “Dozens of confidential documents obtained by The Australian provide unparalleled insights into the daily operation of the troubled system, reveal the deeper story ­behind this year’s outbreaks, and indicate a lack of transparency from health officials. The alleged conduct of the ­senior infection, prevention and control officers, quite frankly, beggars belief. It represents not just appalling optics but poor leadership, and will deeply irritate Victorians who have followed the rules and taken collective pride in their response to the pandemic.”

View from The Hill: Port of Darwin review opens a Pandora’s boxMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “How hard is Scott Morrison willing to poke the panda? That’s a question posed by the government’s review of the Chinese company Landbridge’s 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin. The defence department is to advise on the security implications of the lease, granted by the Northern Territory government in a $500 million highly controversial deal in 2015.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • ABC Chair Ita Buttrose will present “‘Vision for a healthy ageing Australia’ in support of Macular Disease Foundation Australia” at the National Press Club.

New South Wales

  • A parliamentary inquiry will examine management of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Australia

  • Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will deliver a pre-budget speech to the Regional Australia Institute, to be broadcast via webinar.

Peter Fray

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