Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

The Marshall plan
The SA government hopes to prevent a second wave in record time

Image of SA premier Steven Marshall

SA premier Steven Marshall. Image via Facebook

From midnight tonight, South Australia will go into a six-day hard lockdown described as a “circuit breaker”, after two new cases of COVID-19 were reported overnight and the Parafield cluster in Adelaide’s northern suburbs grew to 22 cases. The short “pause” is designed to prevent a repeat of Victoria’s months-long lockdown, and the SA premier, Steven Marshall, explained that the state was going hard and early. “We have caught this cluster very early,” said Marshall. “We know where the links to this cluster are. We have an opportunity to stop the spread of this disease and to stamp out this cluster.” He later added, “There is no second chance to stop a second wave.” The lockdown measures are tough. As InDaily reports, all schools and universities will be closed, along with most shops apart from supermarkets, banks, petrol stations and medical facilities. There will be no weddings or funerals. All South Australians are required to stay home (going out for exercise is prohibited), except for one person per household per day permitted to leave to buy food or essentials. Outside home, mask-wearing will be compulsory. The Australian reports that there is concern about the outbreak stemming from a pizza bar in the western suburb of Woodville, where an infected security guard from the Peppers Waymouth “medi-hotel” also worked part time. As author and commentator Peter van Onselen tweeted: “Security guards running hotel quarantine, a hard lockdown hitting the economy and schools are even closed. Boy the federal Liberals are going to lay into the South Australian government… I assume.”

Maybe not. Health Minister Greg Hunt said yesterday that the federal government has helped set up 10 GP respiratory clinics across the state, as well as testing facilities around the Parafield outbreak, and it has established the National Incident Centre to extend contact-tracing, and the South Australian Aged Care Response Centre, a joint activity between the state and the Commonwealth. Around a hundred Australian Defence Force personnel are on the ground, with more assistance planned. “I have to say South Australia’s response is a model of early intervention,” Hunt said, “and both the prime minister and myself have acknowledged that to our respective counterparts.”

In Victoria, which has racked up its 19th “double-doughnut” day (with no new cases and no lives lost), the state government warned South Australians to reconsider travelling to the state, but it stopped short of closing the border as Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have done. The NSW and ACT borders remain open to SA for now.

Speaking on ABC Radio Adelaide this morning, the minister for finance, trade and tourism, Simon Birmingham, criticised the “quite desperate” approaches by those states closing their borders, leaving some interstate travellers stranded. “We just went through a national audit of contact-tracing capabilities that the chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, led, to make sure that jurisdictions and the systems were ready to stand up for these types of clusters to emerge,” said Birmingham. “We’ve always known it was a likelihood that there would be further incidents across the country. That’s why we kept putting the pressure on, you’ve got to have the testing capability, the tracing capability, the isolating capability. And then urging all of the states to back that as the means of response. Borders have a place – we backed the hard border in relation to Victoria and quarantining Victoria from the rest of the country [and] if it got away from us in SA, then the same would have to apply. There’s no getting away from the fact that there is a role for that, but it hasn’t [been required] yet.”

The SA lockdown comes as a jolt after Victoria’s stunning success and amid increasing confidence about the prospects for another COVID-19 vaccine, with US biotech Modena reporting successful clinical trials with 90 per cent efficacy. At the national coronavirus briefing today, Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly commended SA for going “fast and hard” with its response, and announced that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has mandated weekly tests for anyone working in hotel quarantine. He did not back claims that the SA outbreak was evidence that a new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 had emerged, but clearly, the pandemic has a long way to run yet. 

“The AFP do not appear to have a similar level of urgency when investigating alleged malfeasance or corruption of Coalition ministers, as we have seen in the Angus Taylor and Michaelia Cash scandals.”

Dave Noonan, national secretary of the construction division of the CFMEU, responds to federal police raids on the union’s Sydney headquarters and the homes of officials over alleged breaches of the Fair Work Act and the NSW criminal code.

“Unfortunately, what started as a principles-based responsible-lending framework has led to an overly prescriptive set of obligations that have given rise to almost a hundred pages of ASIC regulatory guidance.”


Treasurer Josh Frydenberg describes as overzealous the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s efforts to implement the banking royal commission’s recommendations on responsible lending.

Here come the vaccines
A huge, global effort to find a vaccine for coronavirus is showing growing signs of success. A number of possible candidates are moving into the final stages of testing, and some are even hitting production lines. Today, Rick Morton on when Australians might see a coronavirus vaccine.

The number of Australian addresses at “high risk” of extreme weather events linked to climate change, according to a new report that estimates this number will almost double by 2100.

“Areas covered by the Japan–Australia [Reciprocal Access Agreement] will include streamlining procedures to facilitate deployment and joint activities, including for entry and departure of the visiting force, customs duties and taxes, and criminal jurisdiction.”

After yesterday’s Tokyo meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshihide Suga (who replaced Shinzo Abe in September), make a joint statement.

The list

“Readers of the Booker Prize winner’s writing in the past have noticed a quality of earnestness that sometimes subsided into ponderousness. Not here. This takes measured reading, but every word has the ragged catch of sincerity, the allegory is bright and the instruction clear. Grief? No, this is not about that overworked word, it is about a stonier word: loss. The permanence of loss.”

“The point at which the welfare state tipped into a Kafkaesque nightmare was, it turns out, the point at which the state began literally stealing from some of its most disadvantaged citizens … It’s difficult to think of a more disastrous and inept domestic policy in Australia’s entire political history. How had very senior public servants created robodebt – with its very obvious and fatal design flaws – in the first place? How had ministers prosecuted it? And why did the government use up enormous public resources defending it?”

“This government will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid engaging with the reality of our country’s past. It is not just about voting down a motion or pressuring a sporting code: it’s about resisting any culpability for colonisation – in our history or as it continues today. What they don’t see is how much it holds back the country, how much it forces us to live within a lie.” 

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 Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


The Monthly Today

Surveillance grates

The government’s response to the Richardson review needs close scrutiny

Image of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Game over

Premier Berejiklian’s position is untenable

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cold comfort

The Morrison government gave us a recession we didn’t have to have

Image of Government Services Minister Stuart Robert

Government dis-services

Stuart Robert is doing the PM’s dirty work

From the front page

Surveillance grates

The government’s response to the Richardson review needs close scrutiny

Image of Stephen Bram’s work, Untitled, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 210 x 390 cm.

Currents of joy: Stephen Bram and John Nixon

Overlapping exhibitions by the two abstract artists convey their shared radical modernism

In light of recent events

Shamelessly derivative summer puzzle!
Image of Earth from the Moon

Pale blue dot

The myth of the ‘overview effect’, and how it serves space industry entrepreneurs