debt covid-19 fine
Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne (Image: AAP/James Ross)

OPEN AND CLOSED

Various news sources including The Australian ($) and the Herald Sun are reporting Victoria’s restrictions will be scaled right back today.

The 5km travel limit will reportedly be scrapped, schools will return to face-to-face learning, and hospitality, retailers and gyms will reopen, the paper says, quoting anonymous government sources. But it’ll likely be a conservative easing, ABC reports, also quoting senior sources, with masks remaining mandatory, visitors to the home still prohibited, and restrictions on patrons in bars, cafes, restaurants, and pubs looking set to remain. Final decisions on eased rules will be made this morning by authorities and cabinet, the broadcaster adds.

Eleven local cases were recorded on Monday, but, for the second day in a row, all were in quarantine for the full infectious period, which means chains of transmission are being traced. Regardless, Health Minister Martin Foley said Victoria faces a complicated situation, including the threat of further infection from NSW, more than 20,000 close contacts in the Victorian community, and more than 350 exposure sites. He also said the anti-lockdown protest will be taken into account when deciding on what life will look like post-11:59pm.

VACCINE IT ALL BEFORE

A total of 51 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine Novavax will not arrive until 2022, Guardian Australia reports. Novavax was one of three primary vaccine deals the federal government made to immunise the population (along with Moderna and Pfizer), but the major delay will see it relegated to the country’s booster strategy. Novavax, which is yet to apply to the TGA for approval, has not yet been approved in any other country.

On Monday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government had always considered Novavax as a “backup” anyway, should the local vaccine — AstraZeneca — encounter issues. But it seems a tide may be turning for the widely-discussed AZ jab — as many as 90 pharmacies in Sydney hotspots Fairfield, Liverpool, and Canterbury-Bankstown started giving out the vaccine this week and the AFR spoke to several pharmacists who described being “overwhelmed” with interest, mostly from people 40 years and under. One pharmacy booked two solid days of appointments in just two hours.

It comes as the NSW government introduced two hours of vaccine leave for public workers, Guardian Australia says. They join private sector companies including Domain, Prospa, Zip, and Athena Home Loans along with some of the big banks in offering the leave, as ABC reports. Qantas has even incentivised the jab among its staff, offering free frequent flyer points to recipients and the chance to win 10 prizes of free travel and accommodation for a year.

PARLIAMENT’S RE-REVIEW

Former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick will dive into the world of bullying, harassment, and sexual misconduct in NSW politics by heading a six-month review, The Australian ($) says. She’s more than equipped for the job, having led 15 similar cultural reviews in institutions like the NSW Police Force and the Australian Defence Force over the years.

The Broderick review follows Pru Goward’s review which found some staff’s political ambitions dampened their “readiness to complain”. But Goward’s review focused on government ministers and their staff, while the Broderick review will look at the entire NSW parliament — from MPs to staffers, cleaners, and security and hospitality workers, the SMH says.

Earlier in the year Broderick said she felt moved by the snap activism from young women that followed the coverage of several high profile cases of alleged assault in Canberra, like former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, and allegations against (and vehemently denied by) former attorney-general Christian Porter. “There’s such a deep sadness and anger and rage right now. Have we been to this place before? Maybe, but I do think we’re at a transformative moment,” Brockerick told ABC’s Hack. “What I know is that it’s women’s stories, the bringing of personal stories into the public domain, that’s what will shift [policies and create change].”

The NSW review comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham confirmed on Monday an independent complaints body for federal politicians and staffers would be set up by September, to be overseen by the parliamentary service commissioner, news.com.au says. It also comes as former Labor treasurer John Dawkins issued a strong rebuke to an accusation that he allegedly physically assaulted Liberal MP Kathy Sullivan, as discussed on Annabel Crabb’s ABC series Ms Represented, in a letter to The Australian ($).

TIME TO HEAL OUR BROKEN ARTS

By now most Aussies are probably well-aware — and perhaps a little disgruntled by — the oodles of celebrities who seem to be arriving in the country while at the very least, tens of thousands of Australians remain stranded overseas. The Herald Sun has the full list of Hollywood stars who have been onshore since March last year — and it’s startling to see the breadth of exemptions apparently issued.

Among them: Katie Hopkins, Meghan Markle’s estranged brother Thomas Markle Jr, Caitlyn Jenner, Matt Damon, Adrian Grenier, Charlie Hunnam, Jenna Dewan, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, director Benjamin Millepied, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Chris Pratt, Taika Waititi, Paul Mescal, Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, Awkwafina, Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, director Ron Howard, Melissa McCarthy, Luke Evans, Jamie Dornan, singer Rita Ora, Neil Patrick Harris, Sam Rockwell, Sacha Baron Cohen, Isla Fischer, plus more.

An ABF spokesperson told the Herald Sun that “film and production work is considered in the critical skills exemption category based on economic benefit brought to Australia”. It’s a tough pill to swallow, however, for our local arts industry, which has been nearly strangled during the pandemic. A new report from the Australia Institute spells out the depth of the devastation: the industry is bracing for “big casualties” and is urging for public investment so it can survive. The report says the domestic arts and culture sector employs more than 350,000 people — that’s more than three times the workforce of aviation and mining. But one survey found one in 10 performers are now unemployed. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates the Australian music industry alone had shrunk by 39%, a loss of about $700 million, during the pandemic.

This week, performers released a video, ABC reports, sharing the mental anguish of being among the first industries to shut down in the pandemic, and likely one of the last to open back up. Before the pandemic, the Australian arts industry was already dealing with major setbacks: Guardian Australia reports that, since 2007, federal spending has declined by 18.9%. If only we could channel some of that Hollywood goodwill into our homegrown stars.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

For some people, unending days in lockdown can bring sleepless nights staring at the ceiling. Maybe it’s down to a lack of stimulation during the day — though for others, it’s leading to more vivid and strange dreams in the land of nod, as The New Yorker explores. For those who can’t even get there, The Guardian’s Emma Beddington put 11 insomnia cures to the test with some pretty comical results.

Among them, a pillow spray (“the weakest insomnia Hail Mary out there”), breathing exercises (“can I trust my lungs, which are just eerie flesh crumpets, to send me to sleep?”), weighted blankets (“feels like being implacably crushed to death by boiling lava”), antihistamines (“leaves me a dry-mouthed walking corpse the next day, incapable of coherent thought and forced to sit down to shower”) and viral remedy lettuce water (“I drank an unpleasant lukewarm cup of lettuce juice last week then slept very poorly”).

Beddington ultimately says that the best sleep happens when she convinces herself that getting a good sleep doesn’t really matter. “The best medicine, I fear, may be acceptance,” she concludes. If you’re prone to sleepless nights, book publisher Penguin asked readers which titles got them through lockdown, and there are loads of good ones to keep you company well into the evening.

Hope you’re feeling rested for your Tuesday.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

I can’t help it. I bleed with my athletes. When they leave the pool deck with me — whether I’m having a chat with them for an hour if it has to be — but when they leave, they have to start the recovery process and go home. They switch off; I don’t. I go home and dream for them. I go home and try and find a way for them to get better.

Dean Boxall

The swim coach became an instant viral star with his gleeful celebration (complete with pelvic thrusts) following Ariarne Titmus‘ gold medal. In an interview, Boxall describes just how deep his passion runs for his squad of six swimmers at the Tokyo games. And something in his approach is clearly working: three of them have already won gold (Titmus, Meg Harris and Mollie O’Callaghan). Boxall might transcend into nirvana if backstroker Mitch Larkin wins today — and no doubt the camera will be on him to capture it.

CRIKEY RECAP

The man who would be GOAT is also the man most hated. Why do so many dislike Djokovic?

“At the Tokyo Olympics, where Federer and Nadal will both be absent, Djokovic has the potential to secure the second last piece of the first golden slam (all four grand slams and an Olympic gold in a calendar year). This is a big ask, but his recent dominance makes it well and truly within reach and would make his status as the greatest of all time even harder to negate.

“So why doesn’t he enjoy support like that of Federer and Nadal? Djokovic has done much to make himself unpopular: his opinions on vaccines; his controversial approach to wellness; his perceived arrogance; the disastrous Adria tour, a COVID super-spreader event — to name a few. However, there’s an argument that from the outset of his success, Djokovic was unfairly vilified.”


Scott Morrison steps down as ‘prime minister for NSW’

“Friday’s national cabinet meeting was a hammer-blow to any sense of national togetherness. It also signalled the end of any dregs of pro-NSW bias from the feds. Berejiklian’s request for extra doses of Pfizer to be reallocated from other states toward western Sydney was flatly rejected, even though the state government believes it could hasten the city’s return to some kind of normal. Instead, Morrison believes lockdowns, not vaccines, are Sydney’s way out.

“Just days earlier, Morrison had tried to talk up the need for more people to get vaccinated, blaming the Australian Technical Advisory Committee on Immunisation for causing uncertainty around the AstraZeneca vaccine. Now, he wants Sydney to strap-in for a long lockdown. Both boosting vaccine supply, and ensuring people are paid to stay at home would be critical in stopping an outbreak that has now become entrenched in essential workplaces, where the virus is resistant to any further shock-and-awe tightening of restrictions. Morrison has rejected both.”


Not all anti-lockdown protesters are conspiracy-theorists and extremists

“What made this weekend different was the sheer scale and diversity of people who came with that scale. As Josh Butler reported in the New Daily the protests were attended by ‘anti-vaxxer groups, COVID sceptics, conspiracy theorists, QAnon supporters, wellness and fitness groups, libertarian groups and multicultural backgrounds, as well as far-right extremists’. Certainly these protests had a core of those with extreme views but they were joined by large numbers of ordinary Australians who wanted to make their displeasure known.

“The size of protests since the start of the pandemic have correlated with the introduction of stricter public health measures. The first major rallies happened during the start of Victoria’s second wave last year, then died down. Anti-lockdown groups from Victoria grew on the back of longer lockdowns last year. Then COVID-19 vaccines produced a new burst of energy. But largely interest dwindled as Australians’ lives went back to normal through much of 2020. Until now.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Renowned Scottish climber dies in avalanche on K2 (The SMH)

PM mulls support boost, but no return to JobKeeper (AFR)

What we know so far about Tunisia’s political crisis (Al Jazeera)

Sydney Hillsong pastors granted travel exemptions to leave Australia amid COVID-19 pandemic (news.com.au)

Jailing of nearly 500 children under 13 a ‘failure’ by Australia’s top legal officers, advocates say (Guardian Australia)

Remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has few doctors but has vaccinated most of its people against COVID in a week (ABC)

Get ready for biggest criminal trial in Vatican’s modern history (Al Jazeera)

In Iraq, going viral can bring fame, and the threat of violence (The New York Times)

China reports highest case numbers since January (ABC)

COVID Treatment Options Remain Elusive, Despite Months of Effort and Rising Delta Cases (The Wall Street Journal)

Sha’Carri Richardson, Alen Hadzic and our unending forgiveness for white male athletes (Guardian Australia)

Bitcoin jumps to a six-week high (The Wall Street Journal)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Yes, there’s confusion about ATAGI’s AstraZeneca advice. But it’s in an extremely difficult positionHassan Vally (The Conversation): “Another assumption implicit in ATAGI’s advice that it prefers under-60s get Pfizer, is that Pfizer is available and you have the option to get it now. However, given the limited supply of Pfizer vaccine, the decision to hold off on the AstraZeneca vaccine is not one to get Pfizer, it is one to hold off on getting vaccinated at all. This leaves you exposed and vulnerable to COVID. This is an important distinction to make, which of course will change as we get more Pfizer vaccine.

“Another major limitation in the ATAGI advice is the panel, in dealing with population-level data, takes a very narrow view of the benefits of vaccination: the prevention of severe disease. It doesn’t take into account other benefits that may be relevant to many people. It doesn’t take into account the prevention of long COVID; the benefits of being vaccinated allowing travel and other freedoms; and, most glaringly, the importance many people place on getting vaccinated to protect their loved ones and the community.”

Politicians flout Tinbergen rule, to the nation’s perilJudith Sloan (The Australian) ($): “It was a case of killing two birds with the one stone because AstraZeneca could be manufactured here. So not only could we roll out a large-scale vaccination program, there also was the advantage of local industry develop­ment. In turn, this created a photo opportunity for Scott Morrison to visit the CSL factory in Melbourne — appropriately kitted out — and to talk up the additional jobs that would be created and the pride we should feel in being able to manufacture the primary vaccine locally.

“As events panned out, the failure to apply the Tinbergen rule has been a disaster. We have ended up with an excess supply of a vaccine that many people are (understandably) hesitant to have administered and a marked shortage of Pfizer vaccines. The government insists there will be other vaccines coming into the country later in the year, but this will be too late to avert the economic and social damage that the lockdowns are inflicting.”

A swim for the ages and a swim for the momentGreg Baum (The SMH): “Australia has won more than 500 summer Olympic medals, nearly 150 of them gold. All glister, but a precious few go straight into the hall of fame. Ariarne Titmus’ 400 metres triumph in Tokyo is one. What puts Titmus’ swim on its own pedestal? There are the expectations, so weighty on one so young. Coming into the Games, even non-aficionados could sense that they’d better get to a TV for this.

“There’s the formidable opposition. This is central. By a wide consensus Katie Ledecky is the best female swimmer of all time. She’s won nearly 30 gold medals across Olympics, world championships and Pan Pacs. Titmus has been creeping up on her handspan by handspan, but the thing about champion qualities is that they assert themselves when apparently all expired. This was Ledecky’s second-fastest time ever over this distance. And Titmus beat her.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Hobart

  • Hobart City Council will vote on a proposal to build a cable cable car to the summit of kunanyi, also known as Mt Wellington.

Canberra

  • Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw will address the National Press Club.

Melbourne

  • Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien will address the Melbourne Press Club to offer a glimpse of the Liberals’ 2022 state election campaign.

  • Poet, author, and editor Ellen van Neerven will be in conversation with Flock contributors Cassie Lynch, Melanie Saward, and Adam Thompson to discuss the anthology’s First Nations writing and the power of the short story.

Canberra

  • Author Beejay Silcox is in conversation with 2021 Calibre Essay Prize winner Theodore Ell about his essay essay Façades of Lebanon, written about the 2020 Beirut bombing.