(Image: AAP/James Ross)

TAKEN TO MASK

In a late-night tweet, the Victorian Government said masks are now mandatory in all public indoor places for people over the age of 12. That excludes the home but it does include workplaces and secondary schools. Victorians must wear a mask outside if they can’t stay 1.5m away from others, The Age says. Confused about what specifically changed overnight? Prior to today, you could avoid wearing a mask at work if your job wasn’t public-facing (like a factory or office space). Now it’s every workplace. Prior to today, high school students didn’t have to wear masks, but now they have to.

Victoria is in crisis mode: eight of the government’s most senior cabinet ministers, including Premier Daniel Andrews, met last night and will again this morning to discuss the response to the outbreak. Victorians will find out today if current restrictions will be tightened, ABC reports. There were 20 new exposure sites added late last night, including dental and medical centres, sporting clubs, shops, a McDonald’s, and public transport.

Quick run-through: Yesterday Victoria recorded 11 new cases: four are residents of the locked-down apartment block. Crucially, two of the residents have also infected two family members each, showing how easily the highly contagious Delta strain can spread. One of the residents, a man in his 60s, visited the MCG — it’s an exposure site now.

All four members of the Victorian family who holidayed in NSW have tested positive now. A fifth case is linked to them — that man visited a Coles at the same time as one member of the family. They were supposed to be in isolation at the time — but weren’t. Both parties were wearing masks at the time, The Age says.

States reacted fast — Western Australia has closed its border to Victoria, and South Australia announced arrivals from Victoria needed to be tested within 24 hours, The Australian reports.

Remember folks: COVID-19 testing is completely free, usually pretty quick and absolutely crucial to helping authorities map and control an outbreak. Here are all the places that Victorians can be tested.

A SORRY STATE

NSW recorded 97 new cases yesterday with 31 in the community while infectious, while Greater Sydney’s lockdown was extended by two weeks, until July 30. The new end date, which brings the length to five weeks total, has been labelled “optimistic”, ABC reports. But a prolonged lockdown in Sydney will cause the national economy to contract in the current quarter and cost thousands of jobs, AFR says.

Late on Wednesday NSW added several new exposure sites: a bakery at Barangaroo, the Strawberry Hills Post Office, and a medical clinic in Cabramatta. More than 7000 people in NSW are undertaking 14 days of isolation after being identified as close contacts in the city’s growing outbreak, SMH says.

The figure comes as Liverpool Hospital postponed all non-urgent surgery after a patient, who is believed to have been pregnant and undergoing a C-section, tested positive to COVID-19. Of 71 COVID patients in Sydney hospitals, 20 are in intensive care. One is in their 20s, two are in their 30s and two are in their 40s, the ABC says.

NSW Health says almost 90% of the first 284 cases in the outbreak had not been vaccinated. For some international context, Delta variant cases are rising in New York City too, but with some 64% of adults fully vaccinated, experts are not expecting the outbreak to be anywhere near as bad as the first two waves, The New York Times says. There were 20,622 vaccinations given in NSW on Tuesday, according to the government’s most recent figures.

SPEAKER OUT OF TERM

Speaker of the House of Reps, Tony Smith, has announced he plans to quit parliament at the next election, Guardian Australia reports. It ends a 20-year tenure in Canberra for Smith, who was first elected to the seat of Casey in 2001. Smith has been the speaker since 2015 when Bronwyn Bishop stepped down after expensing a $5000 helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong (that’s 70km) to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser.

In Smith’s statement, he said he intended to give the Liberal party and the people of Casey the chance of “renewal” in his departure. Smith vacating the post means both parliamentary presiding officers will be replaced after the next election with Scott Ryan, Smith’s Senate equivalent, also leaving politics, as The Canberra Times reported.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described Smith as “a commanding presence” and “a good friend” in bidding him a public farewell in a tweet. Morrison described his “dry wit” and penchant for “staying above the fray”. But Smith was not without controversy: in 2019, he tabled legal advice against the wishes of then attorney-general Christian Porter which set the wheels in motion for the medivac law. The law (which was later overturned) marked the first time since 1929 that the government lost a substantive vote in the House of Reps, Guardian Australia reported at the time.

BULLY FOR THEM

Training for MPs about sexual harassment, assault, and bullying will be optional and run for one hour, the ABC reports. The details have come to light in a government tender which is seeking an organisation to deliver the training program for politicians — if they want it.

Trainers were told to prepare for learners with little awareness of occupational health and safety, sexual harassment, and/or reporting incidents. The workplace training is part of an investigation into Parliament House, that came in the wake of Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’ allegations.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

As the lockdown was extended in NSW on Wednesday, SMH’s Michael Koziol realised one thing: he needed a boyfriend. Intimate partner visits in lockdown are allowed, a characteristically clipped Kerry Chant said yesterday. But, like “essential worker”, it’s unclear who exactly falls in the category.

“Just how serious or regular that intimacy must be to qualify for a legal visit has not, as far as I can tell, been defined by any authority — which is probably for the best,” Koziol writes. He ventures that it might even push someone “out of the friend zone”, seeing as friends are not allowed over. Unless you’re outside, like on a balcony or in a garden, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said yesterday. Koziol concludes: “So there you have it. If you live by yourself in this city, you better hope you have a f—buddy or a courtyard”. My stars.

If you’re looking for a dose of romance this morning, check out the gorgeous, poignant and often funny essays that The New York Times publishes for their section, “Modern Love”.

Thinking of you all in these tricky times.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

She needs more than [a good shag]! Stupid sour bitch! Straight to her phone to have BBF.

Jim Bellos

The Queensland LNP candidate made the comments in a 2017 post which linked to “Jacketgate” — the off-air stoush between journalists Amber Sherlock and Julie Snook. Guardian Australia says BBF is an acronym for a “big bitching fit” (we’re going to have to trust them on that one). His apology, issued yesterday, read that he should “carefully consider what I post on social media”. Perhaps don’t think it, either.

CRIKEY RECAP

Not all experts are created equal — and that’s a problem in the fight against COVID

“Since the pandemic struck in early 2020, a small class of experts have become modern-day rock stars. The medical-industrial complex has quickly become the perfect foil to the under-resourced mainstream media, adding easy credibility to the constant stream of COVID-19 clickbait. The only problem with these ready-to-cook experts is that, as with all professions, not all experts are created equal. (The same, of course, can be said for pretty much any field, be it accountants, investors, editors, house painters or footballers.)

“That is not to say we should think less of the experts. If anything, years of study should (and often does) add credibility. The difference with COVID reporting is that the experts have largely become the story, many actively courting the media. This creates a perverse incentive — the small cadre of experts are motivated to be more controversial and hyperbolic, which gets even more media exposure, exacerbating the cycle of doom.”


‘The world was waiting for Bruce’s book.’ Yes, but can the literary establishment cope with the fallout?

“If Dark Emu is as flawed as scholars Professor Peter Sutton and Dr Keryn Walshe suggest in their book Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate, where does this leave Australia’s literary and cultural institutions which have embraced Dark Emu and its author, Bruce Pascoe?

“The fallout is particularly troublesome for Magabala Books, the publisher of Dark Emu, which has profited mightily from its enormous popularity. So far Magabala refuses to acknowledge any problems, instead pointing out Dark Emu’s success in stimulating “an important discussion and debate in Australia”.”


The essential state: confused about the latest NSW lockdown rules? We asked a lawyer to pick through the law…

“Every day, the media asks Berejiklian why she persists in leaving gaps in the lockdown rules wide enough to drive an army of COVID-infected tradies and retail workers to the furthest corners of the city every day without anyone breaking a law.

“Every day she insists that she can’t make a rule for everything and we just all need to do the “right thing”. This is something everyone probably agrees with, and would support, if not for the question Berejiklian never answers: why are you creating so much obvious confusion with rules that contradict each other? The lack of sense is obvious.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

The fast and the curious: matching Maseratis and a Liberal nomination (The SMH)

EU unveils sweeping climate change plan (BBC)

You will be deported: Queensland government issues warning to bubble-busting stars (Brisbane Times)

Former Nationals president says ‘recycling’ Barnaby Joyce may lead to more women leaving party (Guardian Australia)

How to win the Miles Franklin: analysing 64 years of data (The SMH)

Covid: Spain’s top court rules lockdown unconstitutional (BBC)

Brazil’s Bolsonaro, stabbed in 2018, is hospitalised with chronic hiccups (The SMH)

The success of Iceland’s ‘four-day week’ trial has been greatly overstated (The Conversation via ABC)

Are your favourite fashion brands using forced labour? (Al Jazeera)

Pooseum: Tasmania museum dedicated to poo wins three-year battle over sign (Guardian Australia)

State of Origin referee Gerard Sutton criticised for ‘overzealous’ officiating in Game III (ABC)

Amazon rainforest now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs (The Guardian)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Scott Morrison had two jobs – and bungled them bothAnthony Albanese (The New Daily): “Mr Morrison’s complacency and incompetence mean the government is squandering all of the good work Australians and their state governments put in to get us through the COVID crisis during 2020. And it all comes down to vaccine supply. Mr Morrison has been too slow to secure vaccines early enough or in sufficient quantities to meet Australia’s needs.

“Last year, as Mr Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt were patting themselves on the back, other countries were pre-ordering vaccines that were being developed by pharmaceutical companies. Nations like the US and Canada were also hedging their bets by sealing deals with as many as six different drug companies so they would have a fallback in the event that one or more vaccines provided ineffective. Mr Morrison sat on his hands. We have now squandered our advantage.”

Right-wing shock jock stoush reveals the awful truth about COVID, politics and media ratingsDenis Muller (The Conversation): “A COVID-induced rancour that has broken out between Sydney’s commercial radio shock jocks and the Sky News night-time ravers over Sydney’s lockdown would be funny if it were not so serious. It is mildly entertaining to see 2GB’s Ray Hadley excoriating his former colleague Alan Jones, now at Sky, for his “ridiculous stance” against the lockdown, with Jones calling New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian “gutless” for extending it.

“Hadley went on to brand Sky’s Andrew Bolt a ‘lapdog’ for agreeing with Jones, and Bolt retaliated by calling Hadley a ‘weak and ignorant man who panders to an ugly pack’. It takes one to know one, of course, but behind all this spittle-flecked slanging there is a serious issue: the disproportionate political power of a small group of radio and television broadcasters in Sydney.”

Lockdowns work and we have no alternativeGreg Sheridan (The Australian) ($): “We have been dealing with this virus now for 18 months. Lockdowns et al have cost us tens of billions of dollars and massive disruption socially, educationally, economically and psychologically. Yet if we had started, even 12 months ago, to urgently build Mickleham-style facilities in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, we would have them all done by now. They would have cost $1b all up. For a bigger capacity, the cost might have been $1.5b.

“But for God alone knows what reason, the federal government, perhaps guided by the relentless do-nothing caution of the bureaucracy, decided not to do anything like this. As recently as a few weeks ago it was saying that it would entertain proposals from state governments, but any new facility had to be in addition to the existing hotel quarantine arrangements. That was a foolish provision seemingly designed to prevent anything happening.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Telstra CEO Andy Penn is addressing the National Press Club about cyber threats to Australia.

  • The Global Institute for Women’s Leadership and the Australian Political Studies Association hosts a workshop about parliament’s gendered workplace conduct.

  • Queensland Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick hosts a post-budget lunch with Minister for the Environment Meaghan Scanlon.

Australia

  • The winner of the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award is announced via a YouTube stream hosted by ABC’s Cassie McCullagh.

  • Sweden’s former foreign minister Margot Wallström discusses feminist foreign policy in the latest webinar for the Australia Institute.  Wallström’s new book, The Nordic Edge, details her introduction of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy as minister, including its adoption by the UN Security Council. This is the event’s new date.