IT’S A LOCK
More than five million Melburnians are set for at least another week of lockdown, with the ABC explaining some new measures will come into effect in the city from midnight tonight — i.e. mandatory check-ins into shops with the Service Victoria app, an extension of the 5km radius to 10km, a return to face-to-face learning for years 11 and 12 — while regional Victoria could see a massive reduction in restrictions if it goes another 24 hours without a new COVID-19 case.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton announced the main reason for the extension is limiting the movements of new and emerging cases; the state is currently grappling with 61 active cases, 5200 primary close contacts, and more than 370 exposure sites. Peak pandemic advisory group the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, however, has disputed Sutton’s claims the current “Kappa” variant is more contagious than previous outbreaks.
The state also has several mystery cases, including how the virus spread from a Wollert man to Melbourne residents last month; the first nurse at the Arcare Maidstone aged care home; and a family of four who became infected on a camping trip to New South Wales. The Sydney Morning Herald notes the South Coast is again on alert following several new exposure sites in Gundagai and Huskisson.
A second, 89-year-old Arcare resident has been taken to hospital after testing positive while asymptomatic. The man is fully vaccinated but only received his second dose on Monday; clinical trials suggests protection is optimal two weeks after the final jab.
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That news came as the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation called on the Morrison government to reveal the full scope of contracts for the aged care vaccination scheme, and for the resignation of Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, after The Age revealed that the company leading Victoria’s rollout, Aspen Medical, was never contracted to immunise workers and only provided leftovers.
The Australian ($) also reveals that the planned vaccination of workers and residents at Liscombe House in Melbourne’s north was cancelled at the 11th hour by Commonwealth contractor Health Care Australia last Friday because they were no longer considered a “tier one” site. This despite the federal government pledging in February to vaccinate all residents and staff by Easter.
PS: According to analysis by epidemiologists at The Conversation, Australia’s hotel quarantine causes one outbreak for every 204 infected travellers.
Hundreds of casual workers and foreign students are lining up for food relief in Melbourne, The Age reports, as the Victorian government, federal Labor, charities and unions pressure the Morrison government to support people facing a second week with reduced or no income.
The federal government is currently negotiating an assistance package with Victoria but has ruled out a JobKeeper-style scheme; according to The Australian ($), Josh Frydenberg has suggested assistance would likely be conditional on being matched by the state government.
As news.com.au revealed, this comes after the government briefed journalists that Scott Morrison did not want to set a precedent and offer income support when the states choose to lockdown communities.
That comes after the government celebrated Australia’s economy officially growing above pre-pandemic levels, with data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealing GDP rose 1.8% in the March quarter reportedly due to surging levels of construction and business investment.
PS: For some global context, The New York Times reports that new survey analysis suggests the US government’s two rounds of US$2000 stimulus cheques over the past six months not only significantly improved Americans’ ability to buy food and pay household bills, but reduced anxiety and depression.
WE’RE GOING TO NEED A BIGGER BUDGET
Finally, in the latest from The Sydney Morning Herald’s investigation into the NSW government’s shell company “Transport Asset Holding Entity”, a confidential Treasury document from February suggests the state government’s coming budget deficit would be $2.7 billion worse — or 50% bigger — than forecast without the scheme.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
Just making the observation that New South Wales has taken over half of those quarantine travellers, yet has experienced less lockdowns than any other state. Any other state! So let’s bundle them all in together.
But we know Victoria is winning one race, and that would be the lockdown race.
After first inaccurately linking Victoria’s current outbreak to “the failure we are seeing at the moment with its hotel quarantine” — this COVID-19 variant is believed to have escaped in Adelaide — the federal NSW Liberal senator at least gets one cheeky crack in at a state about to enter another devastating week of lockdown. Bazinga.
Morrison’s COVID failures present Labor with a chance to mount an alternative argument. Why on earth can’t it?
“…Labor’s difficulty in making a case against the government is largely due to the fact that some time ago they got out of the case-making business altogether. Concluding that there was no forum in which to make complex arguments, and that the public’s attention was now too fractured for them to receive anything that was very joined-up in nature, they have relied on both a small target strategy and the old ‘never interrupt the enemy while they are making a mistake’ argument.
“Well, OK, but there are limits to the latter strategy. You’ve got to actually have an army in the field to sweep in as the enemy collapses, with a plan in place and an alternative on offer. Take the ‘don’t interrupt’ strategy too far, and people become accustomed to the idea there is no alternative to the shambles and disengage from politics altogether. That’s possibly what is currently happening.”
Oops! Craig Kelly shares a vaccine bill that includes comments showing his unusual approach to politics
“When Craig Kelly showed his online followers a draft of a bill that would outlaw restrictions on anyone who doesn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine, the former Coalition politician shared a little more than he intended.
“The document shows that Kelly wanted to pass a drastic law that would remove Australians’ rights, introducing significant international agreements into domestic law while also causing constitutional problems, as evidenced by private comments left by someone who was responsible for turning Kelly’s ideas into legislation.”
“What an absolute REDACTEDup: Another twist in the saga of Christian Porter’s defamation case against the ABC. Yesterday the Federal Court released a tranche of documents regarding Jo Dyer’s (ultimately successful) application to have Sue Chrysanthou SC restrained from representing Christian Porter owing to a conflict of interest. As has been a theme of the case, a great deal was redacted.
“Except… as a tipster pointed out to us this morning, at least one document wasn’t redacted properly. For a while, you could simply highlight the redacted text and copy it into another document, and the redacted content was right there, clear as day. The file now appears to have been taken down entirely, and presumably won’t be back up until the court is certain the redaction has a little more efficacy.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Tough but necessary measure to tame the beast — Catherine Bennett (The Age): “The latest six cases announced on Wednesday captured both good and bad news. One new case has been in quarantine for their entire infectious period with no new exposure sites to add — that’s the best news. Another case moved between an exposure site in Brighton and their home in Anglesea, raising some alarm bells. A Victorian family holidayed over the border in NSW before being tested, and both parents and their two children tested positive yesterday.”
Coalition stands in the way of true reconciliation ($) — Patrick Dodson (The Australian): “A co-design process involving First Nations and other Australians has worked to develop models for an Indigenous voice at local, regional and national levels. But any voice would be weakened by the government’s insistence that its permanence will not be guaranteed by enshrinement in the Constitution. And what of truth-telling and agreement-making? Both are fundamental to reconciliation, yet the government has done nothing to advance them. In March, it joined with One Nation in voting against my motion for a committee to consider the next steps towards treaty and truth-telling at the national level.”
The fight for Djab Wurrung — Sissy Austin (IndigenousX): “Following the felling of the directions tree, I found myself pacing up and down the court-yard of the mental health ward, reflecting on my position as ‘South West Elected Member’ to the First Peoples Assembly of Victoria, the most important thing to me in that moment was my commitment to my community, this commitment consisted of stepping off the First Peoples Assembly of Victoria if the Victorian Government destroyed Djab Wurrung Country (as stated in my maiden speech). That night, 24 hours after the felling of the direction tree, I went live on social media from my room at the mental health ward (unbeknownst to anyone at the time) and declared that I would be stepping off the assembly.”
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Education Minister Alan Tudge and Australia’s Ambassador to the US Arthur Sinodinos will address the Universities Australia Conference.
Author Bri Lee will launch her book Who Gets to Be Smart? in an online Readings webinar with academic Susan Carland.