Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Locking back down
Victoria’s woes are a warning for the whole country

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today (via ABC)

A six-week lockdown in metropolitan Melbourne and border closures to form a “ring of containment” around Victoria have been confirmed by Premier Daniel Andrews, after a record 191 new cases overnight. The frightening surge in community transmission in Victoria will undermine the country’s pandemic recovery, underlining that the prime minister’s hopes for a “snap back” to normality were wildly optimistic. At a press conference still underway as we hit deadline, Andrews said the number of new cases was “unsustainably high”, and the state was on the cusp of a second wave, if not already under it. “We have to be realistic about the circumstances that we confront,” said Andrews. “We have to be clear with each other that this is not over. And pretending that it is because we all want it to be over is not the answer. It is indeed part of the problem.” Andrews has ordered people in Melbourne, plus residents of Mitchell Shire, north of the city – where there is a spike, unlike in the rest of regional Victoria – to stay at home except for the same four reasons as before. “You will be able to go out to go to work if you have to, to go shopping for the things you need when you need them, to study, to provide care or to get care, [but] daily exercise will be treated differently. You can’t leave metropolitan Melbourne to get your daily exercise.”

On schools, Andrews said that Year 11 and 12 students would return to face-to-face learning on Monday, along with VCE students and those Year 10 students with a VCE component of their learning. “That is principally a function that as older students they are able to be much more careful in getting to and from school and keeping physical distance,” the premier said. “They can continue to get to school on their own and won’t need parents taking them and picking them up. That’s seen as a much lower risk, and every day at school is important for those Year 11 and Year 12 students. We want to make sure their VCE is not any more disrupted than it already has been. We want the certificate of education to be meaningful across both regional Victoria and metro, and having two very different settings would potentially cause us issues there.” Specialist schools will also come back from holidays, but for all other students, the school holidays will be extended for a further week, with five pupil-free days next week.

Andrews’ announcement followed an earlier outline from NSW Police Minister David Elliott and NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller of the joint-agency operation to restrict travel between the two states indefinitely from midnight tonight – the first closure of the border in a century. South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens followed suit today, with the closure effective from midnight tomorrow. 

The unfortunate lockdown in Victoria comes as restrictions are easing around the rest of the country, which will make the politics more difficult for the Andrews government. As reported in The Australian, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has advised that vulnerable Australians who were previously warned to stay away from workplaces and public gatherings can now “return to work” and other public places. This afternoon, the Reserve Bank decided to keep rates on hold as expected, but the statement from governor Philip Lowe said it appeared conditions had stabilised, with the downturn less severe than initially feared. “While total hours worked in Australia continued to decline in May, the decline was considerably smaller than in April and less than previously thought likely,” said Lowe. “There has also been a pick-up in retail spending in response to the decline in infections and the easing of restrictions in most of the country.”

The PM has kept a low profile in the wake of Labor’s narrow win in Eden-Monaro, although he told 2GB last night that the Liberal Party was “the only one who got a swing to it on the primary and on the two-party preferred”. Morrison continued: “That’s only happened 15 times out of the last 100 byelections. So … for those who believed that there would be strong protest against the government, well, there wasn’t a protest vote against the government on the weekend. We were the only party that actually had a swing to us, and we’ve gone very close. We’ll be a few hundred votes in it. And to have a swing to the government in a byelection in a seat that we don’t hold, I mean, the government hasn’t won one like that for 100 years.” The defeat is reverberating within the Nationals, however, with Barnaby Joyce loyalist Matt Canavan today urging his party to “change direction” to stop the bleed of votes to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.  “We need to become more forthright within the Coalition,” Canavan told The Australian, “because some of our voters don’t think we’ve got their back.”

Partisan politics will remain something of a sideshow, however, as governments manage a pandemic that continues to roil the country – and will seemingly do so for a long time to come. At the end of his prepared comments, Premier Andrews said he had spoken with the PM about the measures announced today and had asked for an additional 260 defence personnel to help enforce lockdown measures on the ground, adding, “I want to thank the prime minister for his consistent support”.

“Ziggy Switkowski’s triumphalism over having ‘completed’ the National Broadband Network is bizarre, and not just because this expensive-to-maintain copper network is already hurtling towards obsolescence. The fact is the NBN only exists at all because my government promised universal access to broadband at the 2007 election.”

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd responds to a story in The Weekend Australian on the completion of the NBN.

“I mean [putting] transparency at the very core of everything we do. Transparency for the customer in how the process works, how long it takes, and clarity on where they are at a given point in time.”

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert, responsible for the illegal robodebt scheme (for which he has refused to apologise), talks up transparency at the National Press Club.

The other side of the glass
Seven years after the NDIS was established, thousands of young people are still being forced to live in aged-care homes.


The number of demands made by residents of the housing-commissions towers under hard lockdown in Melbourne.

“Members can at least have some immediate certainty that: their jobs are protected; pay parity will finally occur in delivery; incentive payments owing to retail members will be paid; they will not be forced to bargain for a new EBA at a time when the uncertainty of the pandemic clouds the outcome; and they will finally be rewarded financially, and unconditionally without any strings attached, for their dedication to our communities on the frontlines of the pandemic response.”

The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union announces a deal with Australia Post that will save up to 2000 jobs until at least August 2021.

The list

“Not all public spending creates the same number of jobs. Every million dollars spent on labour-intensive activities such as aged care and childcare creates, literally, 10 times as many jobs as a million dollars spent on construction or mining projects. And when it comes to creating jobs for women, government spending on education and health is much more effective than spending on construction or mining.”

“In every school there are teachers who are the most caring of people, but it is the collective culture of a school that is the first thing an outsider notices. It has a lot to do with how much natural laughter is allowed before students are deemed to be behaving in a manner ill becoming young ladies and gentlemen.”

“Seven years after the National Disability Insurance Scheme began, government estimates suggest the number of young people with disabilities who have moved out of nursing homes into the community with its support could be as low as 180. One of the original hopes for the $22 billion NDIS was that it would unlock new accommodation options for the thousands of young people with disabilities stranded in residential aged-care homes. Instead, the agency in charge of the scheme’s rollout only recently began counting how many people aged under 65 have been freed from inappropriate nursing-home arrangements – a situation the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety labelled a ‘human rights issue’.”

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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