Monday, June 22, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

A second wave?
Victoria’s jump in COVID-19 cases underscores the difficult recovery ahead

Image of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on June 20, 2020.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews on June 20, 2020. Image © Luis Ascui / AAP

Experts including chief medical officer Brendan Murphy have warned for weeks about the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, and now the threat is real with a surge in community transmissions in Victoria leading Premier Daniel Andrews to extend the existing state of emergency for another month. That didn’t stop him playing politics by announcing [$] a ministerial reshuffle just minutes before his health minister, Jenny Mikakos, was due to give a COVID-19 update. The reshuffle follows last week’s 60 Minutes revelations of an industrial-scale branch-stacking operation by right-wing powerbroker Adem Somyurek, now sacked, and dramatic intervention in the state branch. The spike in cases in Victoria has given other states cause to reflect on the likely speed of border re-openings, which will have economic knock-on effects. Even NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian – who has not closed the state’s borders – has advised against travelling to Melbourne. This underlines (if it needed underlining after last week’s dire jobs figures) that this crisis is not over, the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic is still spreading, and the federal government’s race to withdraw fiscal stimulus measures and reimpose austerity is premature. 

Speaking at an ANU event this morning, Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said [$] the economic shadow of the pandemic could last for years. “We can move out of that shadow slowly or quickly” depending on the pace of reforms to boost productivity, Lowe said, adding that he was “encouraged” by the Morrison government’s talk of reform to industrial relations, boosted infrastructure spending and a greater focus on deregulation. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was at the opening of Sydney’s $3 billion NorthConnex tollroad today, and told reporters that localised restrictions being imposed in Victoria are “part of living with COVID-19” and proof that the national cabinet’s slow easing of restrictions makes sense. Interestingly, as the AFR’s Chanticleer column observes [$], the tollroad owner Transurban was one of four substantial Australian-listed companies to release early figures showing the impacts of COVID-19 on business this morning (the others were Challenger, Stockland and Seek), and there are some bright spots amid the downgrades and writedowns. For Transurban, of course, having an almost perfect state-sanctioned monopoly on tollroad revenues in this country is a spot as blindingly bright as the sun. 

Professor Murphy said people living in the six Melbourne municipalities identified as hotspots should not travel regionally or interstate, but added that he was confident Victoria would get on top of it: “The message really is that this sort of complacency, which is understandable, after all these months of restrictions is dangerous.” Various Victorian Liberal opportunists who are not worth naming tried to lay the blame for the spike in cases at the feet of Premier Andrews, for allowing Black Lives Matter protests to go ahead two weeks ago, but there is no evidence that the event contributed to the latest upsurge in community transmission. Only three of the dozens of new cases were traced back to those rallies, The New Daily reports. The largest source of Victorian infections remains the Cedar Meats cluster and, as UNSW public health expert Bill Bowtell tweeted this morning, there is “increasing evidence in Germany, US and now Victoria that meat-packing facilities are sources of transmission of #coronavirus. Clearly measures to date are not sufficient. They must be reconfigured to further reduce risks to workers & communities.” And, as the Grattan Institute has warned in a new report, the gradual return to workplaces opens up the risk of a second wave. Clearly, the pandemic recovery is going to be slow and painful. 

“I am … conscious that history alone does not guarantee ongoing success.”

Governor-General David Hurley says the honours system should “evolve”, amid criticism that it has become dominated by politicians and professionals at the expense of those doing grassroots community work.

“It is not appropriate for lobbyists from controversial accommodate-Beijing lobbyists China Matters to comment on internal Labor differences on China. It reeks of someone trying to reinforce ideological conformity.”

Former Labor MP Michael Danby responds to news of the federal shadow cabinet being told that the Wolverines – a group of anti-China MPs – are destructive to Australia–China relations.

What George Pell knew...
As the final pages of the royal commission into child sexual abuse have been unredacted, it’s become clear what George Pell knew and when. But for all the commission’s findings, no priest has ever been convicted for failing to report child abuse.


The number of Coalition MPs now supporting a call to delay next year’s scheduled increase to the superannuation guarantee, from 9.5 per cent of wages to 12 per cent.

“The MCA’s Climate Action Plan is made up of two components: an enduring 10-point framework to support three core objectives and a comprehensive three-year rolling workplan with 30 activities. The plan’s three core objectives are: enabling the potential of technology to decarbonise the minerals sector; increasing transparency in reporting; [and] sharing of practical knowledge on climate responses.”

The Minerals Council of Australia releases a Climate Action Plan committing to the Paris Agreement and a long-term goal of net-zero emissions.

The list

“The party of the free market, free choice, user-pays and all the rest of the discredited slogans of the neoliberal era has reached right down into the universities to attach a bunch of fake prices to tertiary courses. And like so many other exercises in which the grubby paws of government are put to work to engineer social and economic outcomes, this one may well have the very opposite effect from its ostensible purpose.”

“Mullins is shrewd about the whole long history of Australian over-censorship, and why we, predominantly a group of white Britons down the bottom of Asia, were so obsessed with staying ‘clean’, and so frightened of losing social and sexual control … But Mullins also shows how we started to say, more and more: please, let literature free. Let us have it. Let literature be a way to properly recognise what is always in the human, any human.”

“According to those who opposed Somyurek’s activities – and they come from both the Right and Left factions – his influence on Victorian Labor had become a cancer. His alleged stacking had a flow-on effect: other MPs stacked back, also recruiting members to avoid having their branches taken over.”

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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