A SPORTING CHANCE
Victoria’s health department has announced that one of Victoria’s nine new cases attended Sunday afternoon’s Collingwood-Port Adelaide match at the MCG. The ABC explains that the person was seated in zone four, level one, while anyone who was seated in the bay between M1 and M16 will be contacted directly and asked to isolate until returning a negative test.
Exposure sites range from Tuesday May 18 to last Sunday, with more than 20 sites now identified across Bundoora, Brunswick, Clifton Hill, Epping, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Preston, and Reservoir, as well two exposure sites in regional Victoria, one in Bendigo and one in Axedale.
The Victorian government has also announced extended hours have been introduced at 26 testing sites and flagged the possibility of expanding vaccine eligibility, although Guardian Australia notes that health officials appear to have clamped down on ineligible people under-50 turning up at vaccination hubs following reports of walk-ins receiving spare AstraZeneca doses.
Additionally, The Age reports that a decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to allow the Pfizer vaccine to be stored in regular refrigerators for up to a month opens up the possibility of Australians receiving the shots from GPs, in pharmacies, and Commonwealth-run respiratory clinics.
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The news comes as masks become mandatory indoors in Greater Melbourne and gatherings in households and public spaces are limited to five and 30 respectively. Genomic sequencing has confirmed all nine cases identified this week are ultimately linked to a Wollert man — who returned home earlier this month after acquiring the virus in South Australian hotel quarantine — although health officials are still looking for a “missing link” between the cases.
Nine reports that all states and territories have since announced border restrictions, the most significant of which have seen South Australia ban almost everyone who has been been in the City of Whittlesea in the past five days and announce significant restrictions for those from other parts of Melbourne.
19 ALLEGATIONS SINCE HIGGINS WENT PUBLIC
Note: This story discusses sexual assault.
According to The Australian ($), the Australian Federal Police has revealed at Senate estimates there have been 19 reported allegations of sex crimes and other misconduct involving federal MPs and staff since former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins went public with a rape allegation in February.
The AFP also revealed yesterday that Peter Dutton’s office was tipped off about the alleged rape at Parliament House in October, 2019 — which, news.com.au explains, is a date years earlier than previously disclosed — and that a brief of evidence will be sent to the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions over the matter within “weeks”.
Scott Morrison’s 100-day inquiry into who knew what and when in his office over the alleged rape may also be kept secret. Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet — and Morrison’s former chief of staff — Phil Gaetjens revealed he offered confidentiality to participating political staff, and that had “no powers of compulsion” to force staff to participate.
A COAL LOT OF TROUBLE
Queenslanders were temporarily urged to limit their electricity usage yesterday after an explosion and fire at the Callide coal-fired power station near Biloela caught fire, with the ABC reporting that now-contained blackouts hit hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across both the state and northern New South Wales.
While there were no reported injuries, a Police and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson said a turbine caught fire, forcing an evacuation, while CFMEU Mining and Energy Vice President Shane Brunker has told The Courier-Mail ($) that “reports on the ground” suggest a mechanical failure led to a hydrogen leak. Brunker also noted the repairs to the Callide C unit would take “months if not years” and millions of dollars to repair, although it will not render the entire system useless.
As RenewEconomy explains, Nationals Senator Matt Canavan has since argued the explosion at the relatively-new coal-fired power plant is evidence of a need to build more coal-fired power plants (no matter what basic economics, let alone global warming might suggest). On the other end of the political spectrum, Greens councillor Jonathan Sri announced his houseboat rode out the blackouts just fine with its off-the-grid solar and battery system (reported value: $1800).
PS: In other energy news, the latest in the long-running Lowy climate poll series puts support for climate action that could even cost significant money at 60%, with The Age noting that nearly two-thirds back a ban on new coal mines and even the re-introduction of a carbon price. And federal Labor is seeking to cancel Angus Taylor’s new regulations that would enable the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to provide funding to that great money pit, carbon capture and storage, as well as hydrogen produced using fossil fuels.
WAR AND ORDER
Finally, the Office of the Special Investigator has warned that the Morrison government’s decision to close Australia’s Kabul embassy by the end of this week could impede investigations into Special Forces soldiers’ alleged unlawful killing of 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians.
Speaking at Senate estimates, OSI director-general Chris Moraitis emphasised the importance of “having access to Afghanistan and witnesses in Afghanistan”, The Australian ($) explains, although he cited unspecified contingencies.
The news comes after a court heard that Ben Roberts-Smith wiped his laptop’s hard drive days after he was told to retain information and documents for his upcoming defamation trial against Nine newspapers.
PS: Estimates also revealed that almost half of ASIO’s counter-terrorism investigations are now dedicated to right-wing extremists, up from 40% last year (and, Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi notes, 10-15% five years ago).
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
[asked in question time whether his office had sought ‘to undermine Brittany Higgins’ loved ones’]: My chief of staff found in the negative and I table the report.
Technically, chief of staff John Kunkel only found he is “not in a position to make a finding that the alleged activity took place” — not that backgrounding conclusively did not happen.
In unrelated news, Crikey has identified 27 significant lies and falsehoods by Morrison in our new series, A Dossier of Lies and Falsehoods.
“Today Crikey publishes A Dossier of Lies and Falsehoods — an uncomfortable but, we believe, important news investigation that forensically exposes the Australian prime minister as a systemic, consistent and unremitting public liar.
“The dossier catalogues 27 significant lies and falsehoods delivered by Scott Morrison over the two years since his election in 2019, all covering important national issues. The dossier reveals:
- 16 documented lies about COVID-19 vaccines, sexual harassment, a government inquiry, a former PM, industrial action, energy transition, carbon emissions and climate change, policies towards China and Palestine, government advertising, bushfires, Sam Dastyari, Bill Shorten, refugee health and the Paris climate accord.
- 11 documented falsehoods about emissions, Australia’s vaccination status, the sports grants scandal, bushfire preparedness, Julia Gillard, the Hillsong church, and electric vehicles.
“Every lie and falsehood in the dossier is sourced with links to the facts.”
“Scott Morrison lies. A lot.
“‘All politicians lie,” voters might say. But in fact most politicians, at least until recently, generally didn’t lie, but instead tried to avoid saying the truth — refusing to answer inconvenient questions, engaging in casuistry and hair-splitting over things they’d previously said, or simply sticking rigidly to the talking points their media training had taught them to mouth regardless of what was happening around them.
“Scott Morrison does this, too, like all politicians and his predecessors as prime minister. But he also goes beyond this and lies openly and frequently, about matters large and small — Australia’s carbon emissions, or an inquiry in relation to a sexual assault within the ministerial wing in Parliament House, or simply whether he spoke to someone who refused to shake his hand.”
“Julia Gillard’s term as prime minister was dogged by accusations of lying, particularly about her statement during the 2010 election campaign, ‘there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead’. There never was a carbon tax under Gillard — but there was a carbon pricing scheme (a distinction Gillard did make later during the campaign). While knowing full well the distinction between a tax and a pricing scheme, Tony Abbott and his media supporters insisted Gillard had lied, and she later expressed her deep regret she hadn’t better articulated what at the time appeared a semantic difference.
“The Howard government’s lack of truthfulness played an important role in its ouster in 2007. John Howard himself developed a reputation for extraordinary casuistry: his ‘never ever’ promise on a GST; his ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ election promises; his attempt to wriggle out of his 2004 election ad claim that ‘interest rates will always be lower under the Coalition’; the exposure of the ‘children overboard’ lie in the 2001 campaign. But far worse than any election spin was the lie that took Australia into the disastrous Iraq war — that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Collective complacency is putting us at risk from coronavirus — Aisha Dow (The Age): “It has long been argued that hotel quarantine is a risky solution for housing travellers who could have the disease, but the federal government has been dragging its feet on planning alternatives, and its recent budget was conspicuously missing funds for the cause. Public complacency has also become a growing and glaring feature of Australia’s coronavirus response. It’s obvious many believe the worst is over, when the reality is that recent months have been our golden opportunity not to relax but to arm ourselves for what is to come — a winter marked by the real possibility of big outbreaks and fresh lockdowns without widespread vaccination.”
Scott Morrison’s poll plan: to pick off Labor’s working voters ($) — Paul Kelly (The Australian): “As Morrison signalled to this newspaper on Monday, he believes the values of working-class voters are now better aligned with the Coalition than Labor. This is a pandemic-driven update on his 2019 strategy. The pandemic has brought a sense of heightened risk to public attitudes. Morrison and Josh Frydenberg define themselves as agents of security, as protectors against risk, as managers of jobs, health and tax security. Pivotal to Morrison’s approach are values. Many progressives are still clueless that Morrison won in 2019 not just on the economy but on values. Indeed, the Morrison-Shorten election was one of the most intense ideological battles Australia has seen between conservative and progressive values. Morrison wants to stage a repeat.”
Carceral feminism and coercive control: when Indigenous women aren’t seen as ideal victims, witnesses or women — Chelsea Watego, Alissa Macoun, David Singh and Elizabeth Strakosch (The Conversation): “This plan for criminalising coercive control has been met with sustained critique from a range of Indigenous women academics, activists and frontline workers. They argue such a solution would result in more Indigenous women being imprisoned than protected. These concerns are evidenced statistically, by the staggering increases in Indigenous female incarceration. They are also shown clearly in the story of Tamica herself, who was ‘misidentified’ as an offender by the police (which included a female officer).”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Musician Clare Bowditch will present “Music, Meaning and Money” at the National Press Club.
Australia Institute TV will host panel event “The Treaty On The Prohibition Of Nuclear Weapons” with general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation Sharan Burrow, director for international law and policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross Dr Helen Durham, and board member for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Australia Dr Marianne Hanson.