AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
(Image: AAP/James Ross)

EASY AZ…?

Adults in Australia aged under 40 will finally be allowed to request the AstraZeneca vaccine, the ABC reports, in a supply-dependent rule change unveiled after a two-hour emergency national cabinet meeting along with plans to indemnify doctors against the very rare risk of blood clots.

Scott Morrison also announced last night that aged care workers will be required to get at least one vaccine dose by mid-September; previously, only certain states had gone it alone with requiring the jab e.g. quarantine workers in Western Australia and Victoria, and health workers in Queensland. Following a bungled in-house vaccination scheme that saw nearly 90% of the workforce unvaccinated at the start of June, workers will now be supported through an $11 million program to enable them to attend off-site vaccination centres and GPs.

A revamped quarantine scheme will similarly mandate quarantine workers be both vaccinated and tested, while anyone leaving hotel quarantine will have to be tested two-to-three days after they leave, and low-risk domestic travellers will be separated from higher-risk international travellers.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Gladys Berejiklian has demanded a dramatic increase in the number of GPs signed up to administer the Pfizer shot, with demand for the jab set to increase for under-60-year-olds as AstraZeneca is phased out.

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PS: The latest Our World in Data stats on the share of OECD populations fully vaccinated against COVID-19 has Australia dead last (4.75%), trailing countries such as New Zealand (7.91% as of June 22), United States (45.76%), and Israel (top of the chart at 59.59%).

LOCKDOWNS AND RESTRICTIONS

Not long after the national cabinet meeting wrapped, Mark McGowan announced Perth and the Peel region would enter a four-day lockdown from midnight last night, after a man in his 30s who worked at the Indian Ocean Brewing Company became the third locally-acquired case linked to the current outbreak.

The restrictions mean Perth and Peel residents can now only leave home to shop for essentials, to attend medical appointments, to get vaccinated, or if they are essential workers. McGowan confirmed the man has the highly-infectious Delta variant following “only fleeting contact with the original case”, a 51-year-old woman who returned from Sydney who later tested positive. The Mindarie brewery has since been added as a high-risk exposure site along with venues such as a financial planning centre in Hillarys.

Elsewhere, New South Wales recorded 18 new cases yesterday morning, with others identified throughout the day including a student from Sydney’s Rose Bay Secondary College, and a case related to the holiday program at Bellevue Public School. The state’s list of exposure sites has grown to include Karl’s Charcoal Chicken in Marrickville and more than a dozen new public transport routes including six on the T4 train line.

Queensland recorded two new locally-acquired cases, including a returned miner from the Northern Territory with the Delta strain, and new exposure sites were identified in Broadbeach, Ban Ban Springs, and Yatala. New restrictions also mean household visits are limited to 30 people and masks are mandatory outside unless with family or eating and drinking, indoor spaces — such as shopping centres, public transport, hospitals, aged care facilities, churches — and workplaces in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Logan, Moreton Bay, Noosa, Redlands, Scenic Rim, and Somerset Sunshine Coast local government areas.

The lockdown in Greater Darwin was extended by 72 hours after the Northern Territory recorded one new case, while one new high risk exposure site — the Buff Club on the Stuart Highway — was identified along with four classified as close contacts and one as low-risk.

Victoria recorded no new cases as it seeks to ramp up border controls and South Australia re-introduced preventative restrictions this morning for at least a week in the face of growing outbreaks across the country, which will see private gatherings capped at 150 people and masks mandatory in high-risk settings e.g. aged care homes, hospitals, and indoor entertainment venues.

RORT AGAIN

Finally, in the latest rort from a government that simply cannot get enough of them, a new report by the auditor-general has found the Morrison government directed the $660 million Commuter Car Park Projects towards predominantly Coalition-held, otherwise marginal federal seats in a scheme that “was not demonstrably merit-based”.

As The New Daily explains, the ANAO found more than half of grants were chosen the day before the government hit caretaker mode in the 2019 election, and 10 of the 44 projects were not even attached to train stations. The Department of Infrastructure had collated spreadsheets of projects in 2018 at the request of the then-urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge, which “advised that it would then go through the spreadsheets with the prime minister’s office and the deputy prime minister’s office, ahead of a related meeting between the minister for urban infrastructure and the prime minister”.

Dubbing the scheme “car park rorts”, Labor MPs called on Scott Morrison to explain “what went on in that meeting and release the spreadsheets shared with his office”, and, if he cannot adequately explain his part in “this appallingly partisan abuse of due process,” Tudge to resign.

The news came a day after Bridget “Sports Rorts” McKenzie returned to cabinet and months after Scott Morrison slashed $14 million from the ANAO despite a bipartisan committee recommending an extra $6-7 million annual budget increase.

PS: Elsewhere, a survey by Guardian Australia has found the Coalition channelled hundreds of millions of dollars to private schools via JobKeeper and other support schemes throughout COVID-19, despite few recording significant revenue impact and the government explicitly rejecting universities as they bled students and staff.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

[asked whether abandoning COVID-19 elimination strategies in favour of ‘living with it’ could cause problems in Melbourne]: Of course. But in country areas we couldn’t really give a shit. We’ve got record exports of coal. Record exports of beef. But we look at Melbourne, and go, you can almost smell the burning flesh from here.

Barnaby Joyce

Honestly your guess is as good as ours with this one.

CRIKEY RECAP

Intergenerational Report: same old, same old for a document long ignored and usually very wrong

“While today’s Intergenerational Report (IGR) will be treated with due reverence by the media and considered as a thoughtful contribution to long-term fiscal and economic debate, does it have any point whatsoever?

“The reports, since the first one in 2002, have shared Treasury’s long tradition of spectacular misses in forecasts. The department that routinely struggles to get four-year forecasts right, it turns out, isn’t any better with 20- and 50-year forecasts.”


Quarantine facilities must be bolstered to address dwindling migration numbers

Australia will have 1.2 million fewer people by 2060-61 than previously estimated, with 23% of the population projected to be over 65.

A huge reason for this decrease, as stated in Treasury’s latest Intergenerational Report, is due to a slowing birthrate and limited immigration.

Migrants are key to Australia’s economic recovery and will continue to be the largest source of population growth. Yet with poorly managed hotel quarantine, strict border closures and arrival caps, limited exemptions for migrants wishing to leave to visit family and just 5% of Australia’s population fully vaccinated, our borders aren’t opening to new arrivals any time soon.


Rort? What rort? Bridget McKenzie is back, her $100m slush fund a dim memory

It took less than 18 months for Bridget McKenzie to return to the ministry. The Victorian Nationals senator took the fall for the sports rorts affair last year, and is the only member of the Morrison government to ever face a consequence for any sort of misconduct.

Her penance was brief. By aligning herself with Barnaby Joyce’s coup, McKenzie is back in cabinet, as minister for regionalisation, regional education, regional communications, drought and emergency management. It’s a tongue-twisting grab-bag of portfolios lumped together to reward a coup loyalist. And it means her role in administering a $100 million slush fund that screwed many in the regions she’s meant to be fighting for is all but forgotten.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Mixing Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines provides strong protection, according to a preliminary study.

Hazelwood coalmine fire has had lasting health effects on Latrobe valley residents, study finds

Powerful support for vote on Indigenous voice ($)

‘Fit and well’: Daniel Andrews marks his return by slamming ‘vile’ injury rumours

Greyhound trainers threaten boycott over prizemoney, ‘unfair’ treatment

Myanmar students in Australia accuse embassy of intimidation

Caleb Ewan out of Tour de France after heavy crash in final sprint on stage three

‘Spaghetti soup’: Top fundies back push to force ASX300 firms to disclose climate risks

Woman told to hire private plane from Sydney to Melbourne to see dying dad ($)

The last — and only — foreign scientist in the Wuhan lab speaks out

‘Very worrying’: Jakarta grapples with high infection rates in children

US raids slammed as ‘blatant violation’ of Iraq’s sovereignty

Palestinian children feel abandoned amid home demolitions: NGO

THE COMMENTARIAT

Intergenerational Report: Time to spend less and work smarter ($) — Tom Dusevic (The Australian): “If you want to really annoy gen Xers Scott Morrison and Josh ­Frydenberg, remind them they’re not in the same policy class as the fab four of the reform era: Hawke, Keating, Howard and Costello. Same goes for boomer ­Anthony Albanese & Co. as well as the godfathers of the 2015 Intergenerational Report, Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann, who cheekily put political fizz into Treasury’s long-range projections.”

Delta force: The federal government will do anything to eschew responsibility for its vaccine stuff-upRachel Withers (The Monthly): “The federal government has continued to suggest that a higher vaccination rate might not have made a difference, pushing its favoured line about cases still occurring in the highly vaccinated United Kingdom — a line parroted by the prime minister as the NSW outbreak worsened over the past week. Speaking on ABC radio and various breakfast shows this morning, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg argued that the new strain was more contagious, and pointed to the UK’s 18,000 new cases recorded yesterday, claiming that 80% of its population had received a single dose and 60% two doses (a wildly inaccurate figure, for the record, with Frydenberg failing to specify that these figures related only to the adult population).”

Mike Gravel was on the right side of historyBranko Marcetic (Jacobin): “Former Alaska senator Mike Gravel, who died yesterday at age 91, spent much of his political career and public platform trampling institutional niceties, customs, and tradition for the sake of the principles he held dear. Naturally, it earned him hostility, mockery, and dismissal, which persisted even as core parts of his politics have been welcomed into the mainstream.”

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  • Deputy Premier and Minister for Community Services and Development Jeremy Rockliff will launch the AssistanceTas.com.au website on behalf of the Tasmanian Emergency Relief Community of Practice (TERCOP) group of charities.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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