Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Answer time
Failures over hotel quarantine and the ‘Ruby Princess’ pale next to the crisis in aged care

Grilled over Victoria’s failed hotel quarantine regime in a state parliamentary hearing this morning, Premier Daniel Andrews was forced to acknowledge that a significant number of the second-wave cases of COVID-19 were traceable back to the private security guards used. He maintained, however, that there could not be a full accounting until the inquiry – headed by Jennifer Coate – was complete. “I don’t have answers to my satisfaction,” Andrews said, “and I expect to yours either.” The bizarre internal video leaked to The Herald Sun, in which state bureaucrats brag of treating quarantine like a “massive inbound super trade mission”, is more suggestive of a grand cock-up than a conspiracy. The Hun’s story follows The Age’s weekend revelations that officials in the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and its international trade agency, Global Victoria, were responsible for engaging private security firms for hotel quarantine, in what the newspaper described as “a well-meaning attempt to provide jobs under ‘social inclusion’ policies”. At least Andrews fronted up to take questions at today’s inquiry, unlike the two federal officials summoned by the NSW inquiry into the disembarkation of the Ruby Princess. As the SMH has reported, Scott Morrison had promised federal cooperation with the inquiry, but is refusing to allow the two officials to appear, and the PM won’t explain why. It’s starting to look quite sinister. 

But Victoria’s hotel quarantine debacle and the Ruby Princess in NSW are both overshadowed by the disaster in aged care, which has taken at least 180 lives – a figure that is expected to continue rising even as the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to be stabilising. In today’s hearing of the COVID-19 select committee, the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, denied that his department had any role in correcting evidence, after an admission overnight by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission that it was notified about the outbreak at St Basil’s aged care home in Melbourne four days earlier than it had previously said. At a doorstop interview this afternoon, Labor’s chair of the committee, Katy Gallagher, said that with outbreaks at more than 100 nursing homes, and with more than 1000 residents infected with COVID-19, “there is a crisis in aged care happening on Scott Morrison’s watch. And today we had evidence from his right-hand man that they don’t see any need to respond in any way differently than they already are.”

In a feeble performance on RN Breakfast, Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck was asked about the federal government’s plan to protect the aged-care sector from COVID-19. He told host Fran Kelly: “We do have a plan, Fran, and that plan has continued to evolve and develop, including incorporating learnings from not only here in Australia – things like Newmarch [House] and Dorothy Henderson Lodge – but it’s also incorporated learnings from international circumstances, and it continues to evolve and develop as necessary as the pandemic progresses.” Such blandishments will give precisely zero comfort to the family and loved ones of those who have already died, or are at risk, and offer no recognition of the longstanding, structural failings in the aged-care system.  

“The world is in the middle of two global health emergencies: the viral pandemic and climate change. As we continue efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we must ensure that we also have a whole-of-government approach towards addressing climate change, which also has potentially catastrophic health impacts.”

Ten peak medical groups, representing around 75 per cent of the nation’s doctors, have written an open letter to Scott Morrison, urging the prime minister to act on climate change as part of the pandemic response.

“The man that used six gas bottles to bomb a secluded Christian organisation in Canberra had worked as an advocate in the USA, yet within 24 hours of the attack the ACT Police influenced by the homosexual Chief Minister and the strong lesbian influence in the ACT Police (yes, I could provide some names) dismissed the attack on religious thought by describing the cause as a mental health issue.”

Some of the extreme comments made in a 2018 submission to Philip Ruddock’s religious freedom review by Peter McKay, who has now resigned as the Liberal candidate for the ACT seat of Kurrajong.

The young Australians suing for climate action
Two Australians have launched court cases in an attempt to radically overhaul the way our government and big corporations are responding to climate change. Today, lawyer Kieran Pender on the story of climate litigation in Australia and what’s at stake.

NBN Co’s revenue for 2019–20, up by approximately $1 billion on the previous year.

“Our reforms will make it cheaper for students to study qualifications in areas like teaching, health, IT, science, engineering, and agriculture. It will also better align the cost to taxpayers and students of a degree with the cost to the university of teaching.”

Education Minister Dan Tehan releases draft legislation for the “Job-ready Graduates” package of reforms to university funding, which could double the cost of humanities degrees.

The list

“Judging football gladiators by their IQ seems akin to choosing a heart surgeon by their skin folds, or an accountant via a beep test. Yet few other countries critique the education levels of athletes quite like Australia. Megan Davis says that this sensitivity to schooling is a hangover from the British class system, which attempted to preserve rugby union as a playground for eloquent Anglo-Saxon aristocrats … ‘Class is the last taboo,’ she says. ‘Nobody wants to talk about how it’s become socially acceptable to denigrate an entire sport because their supporters are poor.’”

“Swift has played many roles. Beginning her career as a country music sweetheart, she’s also come to embody, at different times, the Grammy darling, the pop princess and the singer-songwriter genius. Her sheer veneer of perfect femineity, of lyrical transparency, of invisible whiteness and what this means for her as an occupier of some of the whitest spaces in music, all collide on her newest release, folklore … There is something undeniably untethered, tender-hearted and creatively new for Swift on this record.”

“Orgies with Bill Clinton. An unnamed hotel-chain owner. A foreign president. Prince Andrew, blackmailed with under-age sex. These were among the stunning revelations in a tranche of documents ordered released by a federal court in New York City, as part of the ongoing legal tribulations of Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell, 58, was the one-time girlfriend of sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein, whose suicide gripped the United States and the world last year. Maxwell’s lawyers have been trying to keep these legal documents sealed since 2015, when they made up part of a civil defamation case brought by one of Epstein’s victims. Now that Maxwell herself has been charged, with sex trafficking and perjury, these astonishing documents are in the public domain.”

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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