Monday, October 26, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

From zero to hero
Daniel Andrews reopens hospitality and retail at last

Premier Daniel Andrews

Premier Daniel Andrews. Via ABC News

After Victoria recorded no new coronavirus cases and zero deaths overnight, Premier Daniel Andrews has taken the opportunity to reopen all hospitality and retail from midnight on Tuesday, including restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars. The four reasons to leave home will be removed, along with a raft of other restrictions. “Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course,” said a croaky-voiced Andrews. “Now is the time to thank every single Victorian family for being guided by the data, the science and the doctors. Not letting our frustration get the better of us but, instead, proving equal to this wicked enemy.” A more complete reopening is foreshadowed at midnight on November 8, when the 25-kilometre travel limit will go, along with the border between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, although Andrews issued the obligatory warning to be vigilant over the coming months: “Until a vaccine comes, there is no normal, there is only COVID-19 normal.” It is a stunning achievement for Victorians. As The Conversation recorded, some 120 countries have experienced clear second waves of COVID-19, and of those only Vietnam and Hong Kong have enjoyed success comparable with that of Victoria. Asked if today’s announcements meant Victorians could “get back on the beers”, Andrews joked: “I don’t know that I’ll be drinking a beer tonight – I might go a little bit higher up the shelf.” 

It is a sharp turnaround since yesterday, when Andrews pressed pause on a long-awaited reopening in order to see the latest test results, after an outbreak in Melbourne’s north. The PM, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt issued a strongly worded statement yesterday expressing “profound disappointment” over Victoria’s extended lockdown, and the Coalition kept the pressure on Daniel Andrews in Question Time this afternoon. Most pointedly, Frydenberg rattled off some sobering statistics on the disproportionate economic impact in the state. Victoria represents 52 per cent of the decline in employment nationally since March, Frydenberg said, and three quarters of the fall in employment over the past year for those aged 15 to 24. Between July and September, the number of effectively unemployed people in Victoria increased by 127,000 (or more than 2000 a day). “That tells a very painful picture about what has occurred,” said Frydenberg. “And that’s why it was with real surprise that there wasn’t an announcement yesterday about the reopening in Victoria.” Frydenberg then listed the business groups that have been critical of yesterday’s “pause” on reopening – including the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia and the Victorian Chamber of Commerce – before concluding: “It’s really important today that the premier of Victoria seizes this opportunity with the reduction in the number of cases to open businesses in a COVID-safe way, and to allow Victorians to get back to work.” On top of the threat from legal challenges already underway, including one targeting Melbourne’s curfew, the pressure from Canberra must have made some difference to the premier’s decision to reopen. 

Reopening the country by Christmas, as the national cabinet (bar WA) agreed to do on Friday, is a laudable objective, but the prime minister appears to believe that the public’s desire for a return to a semblance of normality over the holidays will be enough to keep his government’s corruption out of the spotlight. He is surely mistaken.

Labor went on the attack this afternoon, repeatedly raising the profusion of scandals afflicting the Morrison government, from the “sports rorts” affair to the Leppington Triangle land sale, and from last week’s expenses blow-up at ASIC to the splurge on Cartier watches and political appointments at Australia Post.

Morrison attempted to brush it off, saying that the government was focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and “protecting Australians at a time of their greatest crisis. And the Labor Party comes in here to throw mud around.” That won’t fly. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese moved a damaging motion, running through the scandals in the Morrison government and slamming the PM for treating taxpayers’ money as though it is his own. “The watch is ticking on the need for a national integrity commission,” said Albanese, “and the rot starts at the top.” The government used its numbers to shut that one down, but Scott Morrison will not be able to use COVID as cover for this level of corruption indefinitely, and soon will not be able to use Victoria or Queensland as a political whipping boy. 

“The Australia Post scandal, made iconic by Cartier watches, is a symptom of a long ideological campaign to corporatise the culture and operations of public services. We should be winding back the corporatisation of our public services.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt calls for a major inquiry into corporatising the public service.

“Renewables are the dole bludgers of the energy mix. They are a great hoax perpetrated by the industry on the gullible.”

Sam McMahon, a Country Liberal senator for the Northern Territory, attacks Sun Cable’s planned solar and storage project – the Australia–ASEAN Power Link.

Australia’s diplomatic blind spot
Australia’s relationship with Indonesia has a significant impact on our culture, economy and national security. But despite our proximity, it’s often been a relationship defined by tension as well as indifference. Today, Karen Middleton on Australia’s regional blind spot.

The amount of rental payments claimed over about two years by ASIC deputy chairman Daniel Crennan under a relocation package that has been queried by the auditor-general. Crennan resigned today.

“The Australian Federal Integrity Commission will have appropriate powers of assessment, investigation and referral to enable clear, proportionate and practical responses to allegations of serious and/or systemic corruption issues at the federal level in the public interest, with comprehensive procedural fairness and whistleblower safeguards.”

From the explanatory memorandum to the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill, introduced today by independent member for Indi Helen Haines.

The list

“Despite the genre, Dessaix’s subject is always himself, and The Time of Our Lives: Growing Older Well is a commentary on what it is for him to be nearing eighty … His style is dandyism and digression, a pleasure when the reader is in the mood and the writer is as erudite as Dessaix. He is a unique camera onto a circumscribed world. There is nothing he refuses to look at. Yet for all the pleasures Dessaix’s readers will discover here, The Time of Our Lives reveals something striking, unsettling.”

“The news that more than 350,000 Australians have signed a petition calling for a royal commission into media ownership is encouraging – not because their requests are ever likely to be delivered, but simply because their concerns have been expressed publicly and with passion … even if 10 times as many signatories could be found, no prime minister in office would consider seriously investigating the corporate media giants, far less reforming them.”

“Before Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate was this week sensationally asked to step aside pending an investigation into the $19,950 purchase of four Cartier watches as a reward for executives, her reign in the top job was already under serious pressure.”

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

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time yesterday. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

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Image of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton speaking during Question Time today

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Take the fall

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Image of federal member for Hughes Craig Kelly, who has quit the Liberal Party

Kelly a crass bencher

Craig Kelly has quit the Liberal Party to sit on the crossbench. For now.

From the front page

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time yesterday. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

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We may never know when Morrison knew, but there’s no doubt he has lied

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Topping February’s streaming highlights is a four-part series examining trauma and addiction, propelled by Stephen Graham’s affecting performance

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‘Fragile Monsters’ by Catherine Menon

Memories of the Malayan Emergency resurface when a mathematician returns to her home country, in the British author’s debut novel

In light of recent events

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