Thursday, August 6, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Called to account
Victoria’s second wave has landed a heavy blow

Image of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Via ABC News

The gloves are off in Victoria, with Liberal MP and conservative media favourite Tim Smith accusing the Andrews government of “the greatest failure in public administration in the nation’s history”. The second wave of COVID-19 had not been caused by a failure to adhere to social-distancing restrictions, said Smith, but by “the inability of the Andrews Labor government to manage hotel quarantine and then to appropriately contact-trace the thousands of new cases. They’ve lost control of it … this is a complete outrage.” Smith went on to say he had no confidence in Premier Daniel Andrews or Health Minister Jenny Mikakos to deal with the crisis, which is a fairly incendiary comment in the middle of a pandemic. This morning, The Australian [$] cited modelling that estimates the state’s daily case numbers will peak at 1100 by the end of next week. And, with the prime minister warning that Treasury expects Victoria’s hard lockdown will cost the national economy $10–12 billion and send unemployment over 10 per cent, the political pressure on Andrews is rising. 

At today’s daily briefing, Premier Andrews announced 471 new cases overnight and eight deaths, of which four were in aged care. He and Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng both denied any knowledge of the modelling reported by The Australian, with Cheng saying, “We can’t find anything that looks like that”, having checked with Victorian and Commonwealth health officers. Andrews was then challenged about comments made yesterday by the chair of the postponed inquiry into the failure of hotel quarantine, Jennifer Coate, who said there was nothing prohibiting the premier or ministers from answering journalists’ questions about the program – as Jenny Mikakos refused to do in state parliament this week. Andrews responded that it was “not a question of being legally prohibited – no one’s ever asserted that”, and insisted he would be ultimately accountable. “I have not read through the 100,000 pages of documents that have been provided to Justice Coate,” said Andrews. “I have not gone and conducted a judicial inquiry myself into myself. I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to go. There should be a distance. It should be at arm’s length. There are answers needed. Mistakes have been made. I’m determined to get those answers, and I think the best way to do that is to have an arm’s-length process.”

Announcing his cybersecurity strategy alongside Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the additional restrictions announced for Victoria this week were “a heavy blow”. Having requested further advice from Treasury, the PM said that while there was a high degree of uncertainty in relation to any of the estimates that would be updated in the October budget, the additional restrictions in Victoria would reduce real GDP in the September quarter by between $7 billion and $9 billion, with 80 per cent of the economic cost expected to be in Victoria. Unemployment would rise by between 250,000 and 400,000 people, Morrison said, qualifying that those figures include people whose employment has been reduced to zero hours. “The effective unemployment rate is the one we’re watching,” he said. “It is estimated that we would see that effective rate of unemployment, which had fallen in the most recent numbers down to just over 11 per cent, head north again back to where it had come down from, which is in the high 13s. So, that is very concerning.”

Surely soon the federal government will have to do much more than point the finger or express concern about the second wave that has taken hold in Victoria, and drastically rethink its looming wind-back of income support under JobKeeper and JobSeeker. 

“The WA government asked us to withdraw from the case, with no other requests. We did that on Monday, and we did that fulsomely and comprehensively. The WA premier – he has a quarrel not with me on this at all. His quarrel is elsewhere.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will respond favourably to Premier Mark McGowan’s request for a fresh trial, without Commonwealth evidence, of the case against WA’s hard border closure brought by mining billionaire Clive Palmer.

“It demonstrates how out of touch [Keating] now is with the industry he supposedly created. [It’s] extraordinary that a man in a Zegna suit on a generous parliamentary pension can sneer at the decisions made by ordinary Australians who are facing some of the most challenging economic circumstances we’ve ever seen.”

Jane Hume, the assistant minister for superannuation, attacks former prime minister Paul Keating, and says the government has “no intention” to allow a third tranche of early super withdrawals.

What happens if you survive coronavirus
There are new signs that COVID-19 can cause a range of serious, long-term health problems. Today, we look at the evidence that the virus can cause neurological damage, and the scientific race to understand how it operates.


The proportion of tenants who asked for and received a satisfactory rent reduction due to income loss during the pandemic, according to a survey of almost 1000 people by advocacy group Better Renting.

“The 2020 Cyber Security Strategy [will] build new cybersecurity and law enforcement capabilities, protect the essential services upon which we all depend, assist businesses to protect themselves and raise the community’s understanding of how to be secure online … The government will introduce legislation to bolster the powers of the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to identify individuals and their networks engaging in serious criminal activity on the dark web. Powers that allow offensive disruption capabilities will allow law enforcement to take the fight to the digital front door of those using anonymising technology for evil purposes.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announce a new $1.67 billion cybersecurity strategy, including yet more powers to spy on Australians.

The list

“I went in sceptical, buoyed by my prejudices, and was happy as well as surprised to be proved wrong. Both as theatre and as television, Hamilton mostly works. Director Thomas Kail’s staging is consistently inventive, musical director Alex Lacamoire’s arrangements nicely sparse (no Les Mis bombast here, mercifully), and Miranda’s writing is confident, complex and frequently witty.”

“Strangers mention their aches, pains and troubles obliquely, or in tiny flickers, all the time. They’d quite like to tell a sympathetic ear, and I can’t help myself, I love it … A medical degree doesn’t confer authority so much as dissolve the line between a polite story and what my daughters would call ‘TMI’. Get a medical degree and nothing is ever again Too Much Information.”

“The entire sports industry is bleeding financially. Netball, so much smaller and poorer than the major football codes, is in the penultimate year of its broadcast deal with Nine, with former Australian Test captain Liz Ellis heading a national ‘State of the Game’ review. The sport is at what Go describes as a ‘crossroad’, with modest free-to-air broadcast ratings rising only marginally last year – in contrast to a 53 per cent jump in streaming numbers – and an urgent need not just to salvage 2020 but to build what lies ahead.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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