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Category Archives: News and Politics

Perrottet’s $1,000 RAT fine makes no sense

By TBS Newsbot

Dominic Perrottet promising to fine anyone who fails to register their positive RAT is more than draconian; it’s delusional.

Faced with spiralling COVID cases, long lines at testing facilities and a health system on the brink, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet enshrined the era of “personal responsibility” whereupon it was up to the people of his state to do the right thing and get tested. This was predicated on citizens being able to find rapid antigen tests that haven’t been ordered and not catch COVID, despite everything remaining open. To help track these new cases, QR codes would be discontinued, and masks would no longer be mandatory.

Today, the goalposts have shifted further, as Perrottet has announced a $1,000 fine for those who haven’t registered their positive test since January 1. It’s beyond farcical for two reasons, as Perrottet is punishing people for a situation he created, and the state has openly admitted that they have no idea how they’re going to police it.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, NSW’s health department was in talks with the Crown Solicitor’s Office to figure out how to legally enforce logging rapid tests.

“There has been much discussion regarding the possibility of mandatory enforcement and the health lawyers are consulting with Crown Solicitor’s to look at what may be possible… at the end of the day, it’s an obligation on all of us to make sure that we log in to the Service NSW app, particularly as it will give a clear picture of how the virus is moving through the community,” Hazzard told SMH

This, mind you, is the same app that we were told that we no longer need to use. Those still doing the right thing (against the official advice) will know that their check-in history is littered with close contacts, making the new plan to stop the virus already obsolete.

What’s more, we’ve seen this behaviour before.

In May 2021, one man’s thirst for the right barbecue returned Sydney to the embrace of COVID restrictions. For those who missed the story, one Sydney man in his 50s travelled to numerous barbecue outlets over the weekend, a voyage of more than 100 kilometres and more than seven stops.

As Kevin Nguyen of the ABC noted at the time, “The man’s nine other close contacts have returned negative swabs, but NSW Health remains concerned about a swathe of venues around Sydney the cases have visited while infectious. It’s prompted Premier Gladys Berejiklian to tighten social distancing restrictions.”

A month earlier, Gladys Berejiklian announced that citizens would no longer have the right to assemble with more than one person outside, besides their immediate family.

The NSW Police Force were empowered to ensure compliance with the two-person rule, under threat of a $1,000 infringement notice. And that was just one of the string of other recently enforced regulations designed to save our lives, as well as criminalise them.

At the time, Berejiklian also handed over the full reins of the COVID-19 pandemic response to NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller.

“A sensible escalation”

“We know there are some new laws that will come in line tonight in relation to two people being out together – that’s sensible,” the NSW police commissioner told reporters at the time. “We don’t want to have to enforce these laws.” Indeed, the transfer of power came soon after Berejiklian closed down state parliament – one day following the PM’s closure of federal parliament.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, NSW’s health department was in talks with the Crown Solicitor’s Office to figure out how to legally enforce logging rapid tests.

Soon thereafter, Health Minister Brad Hazzard passed a number of public health orders with new “laws” involving social distancing and quarantining. Issued under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW), if these orders are breached a person is liable to up to 6 months prison time and/or a fine of $11,000.

According to the official lettering, “The object of this Order is to give certain Ministerial directions to deal with the public health risk of COVID-19 and its possible consequences. In particular, this Order directs that a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person’s place of residence. Examples of a reasonable excuse include leaving for reasons involving: obtaining food or other goods and services, or travelling for the purposes of work or education if the person cannot do it at home, or exercise, or medical or caring reasons.”

Last year, the NSW Police Force announced that it would have thousands of extra police on the streets enforcing COVID laws, in an attempt, as NSW police minister David Elliot put it, “to kill this virus before it kills us.”

Indeed.

 

This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

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Anachronistic Frivolity: Australia’s Recent Tank Purchase

The operating doctrine of many a defence ministry is premised on fatuity. There is the industry prerogative and need for employment. There are the hectoring think tanks writing in oracular tones of warning that the next “strategic” change is peeking around the corner. Purchases of weapons are then made to fight devils foreign and invisible, with the occasional lethal deployment against the local citizenry who misbehave. This often leads to purchases that should put the decision maker in therapy.

Australia’s war-wishing Defence Minister Peter Dutton may be in urgent need of such treatment, but he is unlikely to take up the suggestion, preferring to pursue an arms program of delusional proportions. His mental soundness was not helped by last year’s establishment of AUKUS and the signals of enthusiastic militarism from Washington. Having cut ties with the French defence establishment over what was a trouble-plagued submarine contract, Dutton has been an important figure in ensuring that Australia will continue its naval problems with a future nuclear-powered submarine.

Submarines are seaborne phallic reassurances for the naval arm of defence. Stubbornly expensive and always stressing celebrated potential over proven reality, they stimulate the defence establishment. The land-based forces, however, will also have their toys and stimulants, their own slice of make believe. And Dutton is promising them a few, including tanks.

This month, the minister announced that Australia will be spending A$3.5 billion on 120 tanks and an assortment of other armoured vehicles, including 29 assault breacher vehicles and 17 joint assault bridge vehicles. All will be purchased from the US military machine. This will also include 75 M1A2 main battle tanks, which will replace the 59 Abrams M1A1s, purchased in 2007 and kept in blissful quarantine, untouched by actual combat.

Reading from the script of presumed military relevance, Dutton declared that, “[t]eamed with the Infantry Fighting Vehicle, Combat Engineering Vehicles, and self-propelled howitzers, the new Abrams will give our soldiers the best possibility of success and protection from harm.”

Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr was also of the view that, “The main battle tank is at the core of the ADF’s Combined Arms Fighting System, which includes infantry, artillery, communications, engineers, attack helicopters and logistics.” Tanks were versatile creatures, able to be “used in a wide range of scenarios, environments and levels of conflict in the region.”

To dispel any notion that this purchase simply confirmed Australian deference and obedience to US military power, the defence minister also claimed that the new Abrams “will incorporate the latest development in Australian sovereign capabilities, including command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems, and benefit from the intended manufacture of tank ammunition in Australia.”

In other words, once Australia finishes with these cherished, dear imports, adjusted as they are bound to be for the ADF, they are more likely to be extortionately priced museum pieces rather than operable weapons of flexible deployment.

This latest tank infatuation is yet another example of how parts of the ADF and the Australian public service can never be accused of being historically informed, at least in any meaningfully accurate way. The same goes for the current defence minister, hardly a bookworm of the history muse Cleo.

The last time Australia deployed tanks in combat was during the Vietnam War, that other grand failure of military adventurism. They were never used in Australia’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite being lauded as being a necessary vehicle in beating down insurgency movements.

The 2016 Defence White Paper left room for a range of scenarios that make little mention of tanks. It labours over the US-China relationship, “the enduring threat of terrorism” emanating from “ungoverned parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia,” notes the threats posed by “state fragility” and the “emergence of new complex, non-geographic threats, including cyber threats to the security of information and communications systems.” At best, it throws away a line without elaboration: that the ADF will need “tank upgrades and new combat engineering equipment.”

Critics of the purchase have included otherwise hawkish pundits such as Greg Sheridan of The Australian, who spent some of last year shaking his head at the proposed acquisition after it was announced by the US Defence Cooperation Agency. The decision, he opined unleashing his talons, was one of “sheer idiocy,” an “anachronistic frivolity.” Tanks and other heavy, tracked vehicles would “never be of the slightest military use to us.”

Sheridan poses a range of questions. In any confrontation with China, could a tank defend shipping in the South China Sea? Or “take out enemy submarines?” Or “deliver attack missiles over hundreds of kilometres?” His solutions: buy more jets, manufacture more drones, and address naval capabilities.

Others also argue that Dutton, were he to be genuinely interested in Australia’s security and safety, would be spending more time on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and coping with the threats posed by climate change, or investing in pandemic responses. Now that would be a big ask.

The tank fraternity, a gathering of near cultic loyalty, are swooning in triumph. As Peter J. Dean, director of the Defence and Security Institute at the University of Western Australia remarked last year, their membership has never proven shy. Cults tend to show that utility is secondary to the importance of steadfast faith.

 

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Fun Times At The RATs Party – (Republished after Premature Publication)

I had a great time socially using a few Rapid Antigen Tests. A friend invited us over and we all took a swab, and after all finding ourselves Covid clear, we used the swabs as sticks for the fondue that he’d prepared earlier. It was a real hoot and…

Well, how else would one use a Covid test for “casual or social reasons”, to quote the Health Minster? Yes, I don’t know about anyone else but I certainly hadn’t actually.considered the potential for a get together involving RATs… I mean, given their limited supply, you’d only have to be an MP to have access to enough for a party. Personally, I wouldn’t go as far to share swabs, but apparently Canberra can be a wild old town, particularly if you’re a minister… Of course, I shouldn’t really be writing about RATs when we’re all meant to be focussed on Novak Djokovic…

Yes, just about every news bulletin has some reference to Alex Hawke’s “impending decision” and how there’s nothing to report. This marks an interesting departure from the media’s usual practice of only reporting something that’s actually happening… although they do frequently report an announcement from one of the Morrison ministry and that’s generally the last we hear of it. Perhaps, in future they’ll start reporting things like: “STILL NO UPDATE ON HOW THOSE FREE RATS WILL BE DISTRIBUTED WHEN PHARMACIES ARE SELLING OUT AS SOON AS THEY GET THEM” or “NO WORD ON WHEN THE SUBMARINE CONTRACT WILL ACTUALLY BE SIGNED” or “STILL NO TIMETABLE FOR THE INTEGRITY COMMISSION”.

I know that a lot of you are expecting me to say something about the tanks and how it’s amazing that we can’t afford RATs but we can spend $3.5 billion on tanks which has gone up from $2.4 billion just halfway through last year. Now, that sounds like a lot of money but it’s nowhere near the amount Scott and friends plan to hand you personally providing you live in one several lucky electorates that were the winners in the polling competition which says that they’re under threat from Labor or an independent.

But I can see what they’re planning with the tanks. We couldn’t afford water bombers but these tanks can be adapted and driven into rough terrain so that they can blast water at any bushfire. Not only that, but with the addition of a periscope they can be just as useful for under sea surveillance as the non-existent submarines.

All things considered, this has been a good week for the government because every day there’s something new to take our minds off whatever it was that social media was so upset about yesterday. Just when it looked like Novak was failing to distract from the lack of RATs, then the lack of supplies in supermarkets took our mind off the fact that Scotty hasn’t actually got his personal photographer to take one of Jen and the girls tucking into his delicious curry… By the way, I understand that Scotty has a new photographer. What was wrong with the old one? Was it something to do with his exposures? Or was it that he clicked at the wrong time?

Whatever, I’m sure that he’ll get a glowing reference and will have no trouble picking something else up in the near future.

Like I always say, you’ve got to hand it to Scotty. Yes, you do. There’s no way he’ll get off his backside and do it for himself!

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Today everyone gets a serve. Including Scott. Line ball or not.

Election Diary No3. January 12 2022.

1 It may be over by the time I have written this (Diary entry January 7), but congratulations to all involved in the debacle that is Novak Djokovic. The outcome is in the hands of Border Force and the courts; however, it reminded me of Australia’s Unions v. Frank Sinatra in 1974. In a dispute about the Crooners comments about women journalists, the then President of the ACTU, Bob Hawke, told cranky Franky that he had better apologise or he could expect an extended stay in Australia. (Expletives deleted.)

The big winner so far has been the Prime Minister, who has, with his intervention, taken his mishandling of Covid-19 and Rapid Antigen tests from the front pages.

As reported in Time:

“While the Victorian Government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth Government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border,” Andrews said in part of a statement.

Neither Morrison nor Andrews can now breathe easily. And nor can the foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne.

There remain stark questions about the so-called border vigilance Morrison was so hairy-chested about.”

Morrison shows an enormous capacity to be so far away for someone so close to a crisis.

That doesn’t stop me, however, from opining about the situation.

Saturday’s Age reported the following:

“Court documents released Saturday night also claim Djokovic contracted COVID on December 16 for a second time, which his lawyers will use to form part of his case to stay in Australia.”

It seems to me at least that the Federal Government told Tennis Australia (TA) that Novak did not have the basis for an exemption for a visa. He arrived without one because TA did not inform him of the Federal Government’s position.

This probably misled him into believing that he was safe to come. Consequently, this is why he finds himself in somewhat unaccustomed lodgings in a 3-star hotel in Carlton.

As I see it, one cannot blame him for being pissed off but only with Tennis Australia, who, it would appear, to me, with my albeit limited understanding, have misled the world’s leading tennis player. (They fell into Morrison’s trap.)

On Tuesday, January 11, the issue was resolved by the court. As best as l can make out, the Morrison Govt tried to put one over on Tennis Australia, and it backfired. Then they tried to blame the Victorian Govt. After all, the Federal Govt is responsible for visas and entry into the country. Therefore, in all probability, it seems that the Morrison Government tried to pull a swiftly on the Andrews Govt.

But on the subject of sport for which I have a deep-seated love, let me say this: I think respect for the sport you play and that provides you with a living is the first criteria to being a success at it. The best are usually hardworking, humble, appreciate their opponent, and are gracious when they lose.

Unfortunately, some seem to think the sport they play owes them something.

 

 

2 If you are interested in an insightful read into the inner psychological workings of Scott Morrison, then I can recommend The Game: A portrait of Scott Morrison by Sean Kelly. An absolutely enthralling read.

There is nothing more formidable than a well-read mind.

3 Jack Boswell sent me a reminder, as you well know, it’s governments that lose elections, not oppositions, that win them. We would all do well to remember this.

4 Not that I ever pay much attention to Peter van Onselen, but I agree with him here.

 

 

5 More about our Prime Minister:

The verbal diarrhoea that usually flows from the mouth of our prime minister seems to have temporarily waned for the time being and probably won’t reappear until the Australia Day awards on January 26.

The Conservative side of politics is probably hoping that he takes a long cold shower during the intervening period and questions his own plausibility. That may take some effort for a politically ego-driven personality such as his. He might also question a dying reverence for the Murdoch brand that is rapidly becoming the leading failure in media influence.

In totality, his media strategy centres on himself, self-confidence, and belief that God is on his side. However, one would have to question these assessments in the current environment.

The proposition that Scott Morrison is all the government has is probably true, but it has soured since he became prime minister. His constant lying has brought public scrutiny upon him, and they have found him wanting. So much so that they now question everything he says.

Current evidence would suggest that he is no different from other political extremists with the same qualifications and intentions.

Indeed, the legacy of a “miracle” win in 2019 still lingers with some, but all his appearances are stage-managed with props to suit each occasion. Revealing the hard hat, chef’s apron, or a high-vis vest while sitting in the cabin of a big truck promotes an image of the man for all seasons. Certainly, the accompanying media throng delight in reporting these events but are rarely invited to ask questions. Let’s not spoil the motive.

The opposite of excellent news appearances is terrible news, where awful news is usually handballed to a cabinet minister. Blame for any bad news is shifted away from the Prime Minister at all costs.

The three media outlets for the distribution of news that guarantee’s the most exposure is Sevens Sunrise in the morning. Radio jocks like Ray Hadley on Sydney’s 2GB are the friendly daily Murdoch’s News Corp outlets. All Sydney centric to the nth degree.

Then, of course, is giving as little exposure to those in the media who are critical of the Coalition. Or who report or opine on the truth of things. These include the Nine newspapers – The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial ReviewGuardian Australia and the ABC.

The aim is always to minimise his exposure to media that is historically critical of the right side of politics. It’s all about making Morrison believable that as many people as is possible will view Morrison as trustworthy and capable.

Morrison has had his character pulled apart this year with questions about his considerable capacity for lying.

None other than French President Emmanuel Macron has called him out about the cancelled submarine contract.

An avalanche of further allegations that he was a liar followed, with his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, saying he had a reputation for dishonesty.

All the rorts, corruption, bad do-nothing governance have come together at the wrong time for the Government. The electorate is beginning to judge which party and its leader is best qualified to take us past Covid, past climate change and into the future.

I shall continue this section in my next diary.

My thought for the day

Scott Morrison’s words and actions bring into question the very essence of the word truth. Or they have at least devalued it to the point of obsolescence.

 

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ScoMo plays Djoko but Dutton buys tanks

“Nine years long” reads a handmade sign in a sealed window of the Park Hotel, Swanston Street, Carlton, a grim, grey, makeshift, Melbourne gaol for forty-six refugees and asylum-seekers. Most were originally locked up on Papua New Guinea and Manus Island. Now the men are held against their will indefinitely, in contempt of international convention, compassion and human decency. Their food is mouldy and has weevils in it. A couple of floors catch fire in December, but no-one is allowed to leave the building.

Novak Djokovic also lobs here, Wednesday to Monday, a world champion reduced to persona non grata, after Border Force cancels his visa, but – in a sensational comeback – after Monday’s federal court hearing, he’s released into the care of his lawyer$.

The Park Hotel is a far cry from the Serb’s mountainside mansion in Monte Carlo, where he lives tax free. True, he has an incredible portfolio of luxury properties all over the world. New York. Miami. Soho. Even a penthouse in New Belgrade. But Border Force give him no option. Cancel his visa. Lock him up with the other poor sods.

But not for ever, Federal Court Judge, Anthony Kelly quashes the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa on procedural fairness. Border Force breaks a promise.

It’s a technical victory for the tennis star. Border Force fails to keep its word that Djokovic has until 8.30am to seek advice about his pending cancellation, instead cancelling his visa at 7.42am to finish the business before one officer’s shift ends.

Now the international tennis champion, antivaxxer, kinesiologist and property tycoon awaits a call from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, a mate of the PM, a fellow evangelical and Morrison’s numbers man in the NSW party machine.

Mike Seccombe sees Hawke as a man made in the image of his mentor “hard-charging and abrasive”, an MP reviled by both wings of the party.

Seccombe, writes in The Saturday Paper detailing how Hawke’s leadership of Morrison’s faction in NSW, the centre-right, and his work as ScoMo’s delegate on the party’s state executive has been a catastrophe for the PM. An insider claims Hawke,

“has used his time as Morrison’s representative on the state executive in an endeavour to advance their factional position to the detriment of both conservatives and the moderates – to the point now where the conservatives and the moderates are in an alliance against Hawke. And that means against Morrison.”

In brief, Morrison’s Mini-Me is just the man to forge consensus and garner party support on the Djokovic fiasco, a blunder that splits a parliamentary party already frantic at the PM’s catastrophic failure on the pandemic, the economy, trade – everything he touches. Will the Serbian serve the coup de grâce to Morrison’s corrupted, clapped-out career?

It’s a mystery drama with a dilemma. Morrison’s Pentecostal pal, Hawke has the power to cancel Djokovic’s visa. Or Morrison, a notoriously sore loser, a man with a glass jaw, who hates us to see he’s a fool, looks a right royal prat. Which way it will go?

Hawke decides not to cancel Djokovic’s visa Monday night. He has four hours to use his personal power, under section 133 A or 133C(3) of the Migration Act 1958 if the Morrison government wants to try to keep the tennis champion in detention. Instead, he’ll let us know, Tuesday. In the meantime he discovers his party is divided.

Meanwhile it’s leaked that Border Force, our PM’s personal paramilitary is concerned the Serb or his agent may have lied on his travel declaration.

An alley cat toys with a six foot two mouse. It’s a PMO tactic to stretch out the saga; string us along. Distract. Helps distance Morrison from his minister’s act.

Meanwhile, Omicron ravages the nation while rapid antigen tests (RATS) and booster shots just can’t be found. Federal government policy in the face of a catastrophic rise in cases is a DIY testing regime. PCR test centres are overwhelmed, revealing yet again the wisdom of neoliberal outsourcing and privatisation of public health.

In an echo of its former inglorious failures, our Health Department didn’t order enough RATS. Or boosters. This helps shrink ballooning case numbers. As does the shrewd requirement that you phone in your result. Or making us pay. Other nations provide the tests free. But unless you’re a concession card holder, you pay. Or if you’re one of the millions in low paid casual work, the third of the workforce with no paid sick leave entitlement of leave, you simply do without. Such are your freedoms.

Reports of profiteering or “price gouging” as our “medium” prefers, proliferate. In an inspiring act of charity, the PM shares how his Jen is shopping for RATs, scouring Sydney’s more select suburbs, on a search and supply mission. Making herself useful. Having a go. Just one of us, really. It’s an uplifting fantasy of a Mum on struggle-street where Dad earns half a mill a year plus free board, lodging, transport and healthcare.

Also consoling to a nation wracked by coronavirus psychosis, a heady blend of fear, anxiety, depression and sheer despair is Spud’s uplifting shopping news.

Defence minister Dutton orders 120 yank tanks and other armoured vehicles, because you just don’t know when you’ll have to quell an ugly uprising by the poor. Suddenly submarines and long range anti-panda missiles are out Tanks and Humvees are in.

Spud finds a lazy $3.5 billion down the back of Abbott’s padded Defence Budget. The budgie smuggler pledged two percent of GDP to waste on war toys and other defence over-expenditure. Just for the optics. Make Labor look weak on national security.

Billions are wasted on new toys: replacing the ’59 Abrams M1A1s we bought in 2007, still in mint condition and unused in battle bar the odd ‘Roo shoot and bush bash.

As US imperialist running dogs of the century, we love buying America’s castoffs. Even obsolete military hardware can be a boon in a pandemic. A tank, or two, can help clear any congested supermarket carpark. Counter insurgency thrives in tight corners. Be just in time to quell bread riots as shelves empty across the nation. Besides hunger games, there’s the prospect of ugly insurrection over our fossil fuel mania, our ecocide.

Equally comforting in Morrison’s PsyOps is an image of the PM with a platter of two barramundi. Let’s just get Humpty Doo Barra home delivered like the Morrisons. It’s heady, aspirational stuff that helps us pull ourselves together in time of need. Almost as helpful as knowing we’ve got government ministers who can do what they like.

Hawke’s “personal power” as Immigration Minister allows him also to let the men banged up in the Park Hotel be released into the community. Or hospital. At least twenty are now sick with Covid. Not that you’d find space for ten now. Still, a triage in a taxi or a tent can save your life. If you can afford the fare. Or you can still walk.

But Hawke goes MIA. At The Park, medical care means you get one Panadol, dry, although a guard does say hospitalisation will be provided to the one or two who may need it, based on Omicron’s mild effect on the rest of the population. But that’s it.

A chap who asks for ginger to gargle to ease his Covid-affected sore throat is ignored.

Formerly, The Rydges on Swanston, The Park was May’s COVID-19 top super spreader, triggering Victoria’s second, deadly wave of coronavirus. Hundreds die. Almost all seven thousand infections, which devastate the state, are traced back to overseas arrivals at the hotel. Now it’s shaping up for an Omicron encore.

It’s a timely reminder of the Morrison government’s wisdom in not providing dedicated quarantine – and it also highlights our ongoing war on The Other which helps keep us safe, feeling relaxed and comfortable and gets Tory MPs re-elected.

Political prisoners, hidden in our midst, in shabby hotels, across Australia are suddenly thrust into the spotlight when Djokovic, Tennis World Champion, has his Visa cancelled by Border Force on arrival at Melbourne to play in The Australian Open. Is the refugee publicity an unforced error? Or are non-citizens now completely invisible?

We lead the world in secret prison camps. Calling them “detention centres” stops any hint that they are gulags. And how good is the word “processing” instead of indefinite, detention? But where we really shine is in throwing away the key.

On average, an asylum-seeker sentence in Australia is currently 689 days. Even in the US, it’s 55 days, unless they put you in Gitmo. In Canada it’s a fortnight. All you need do is arrive here by sea. It’s not a crime to seek asylum but the government still call you illegals. Neglect, maltreat and abuse you. Call you by a number, never your name.

Then PM, Abbott tells the UN to butt out in 2015, when Professor Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on Torture finds Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Bugger rules-based order. Abbott is quick to declareAustralians are “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations.” Professor Mendez says Australia has failed to provide adequate detention conditions and that it should end the detention of children. Biloela? None of his business. Now the Park Hotel is a stark reminder on nightly TV.

Team Morrison banks on most of us not caring. Scoring points with the “tough on borders” voter. PMO advisers hope to capitalise on public outrage that a travel exemption has been made for a multi-millionaire sporting star, while families are unable to get together at Christmas. Time for a quick pivot on the politics of Djokovic’s entry.

“People are welcome in Australia. But if you’re not double vaccinated and you’re not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can’t come,” the PM says 6 January.

Could this be the PM’s Tampa Crisis? A show of manly decisiveness. Upstage his pandemic catastrophe. Curiously, they said the same of Morrison in 2019, normalising Howard’s chicanery and cynical dog-whistling to racists, xenophobes and One Nation supporters. Yet now, opinion polls suggest that wedging your opponents with the politics of race to is unlikely to be the silver bullet Morrison so desperately needs. People just can’t avoid seeing him as a monstrous failure, a fraud and a career liar.

Guardian Australia’s Essential Poll finds that only 37 percent of us believe immigration levels are too high, down from 56 percent in 2019. Yet it remains a divisive issue.

But how good is a distracting scapegoat – especially one which lets Mo remind us all how he invented Border Force, border protection, boat turnbacks to politicise xenophobia, racism and total indifference to the plight of those forced to flee their countries of origin by boat? Two-year-wonder- PM Tony Abbott did much the same toward the end of his miserable prime ministership, largely run by his office.

“I stopped the boats,” Abbott reminds us, a lie that overlooks the Rudd government’s 2013 Pacific Solution announcement that “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia”. Push factors such as the end of the Afghanistan war helped. Neither Tony Abbott nor Scott Morrison, stopped the boats.

Morrison is on to Djokovic’s extradition like a rat up a drainpipe. But it’s a rapid backflip even for a shit-house rat or a cunning, opportunistic politician. The PM hasn’t bothered to tell Home Affairs’ head, Karen Andrews. Someone has to go under a bus when there’s a country to run. Yet Andrews is on record as expressing a dissenting view.

Djokovic’s unvaccinated status disqualifies him for a visa but, somehow, in cahoots with one of our overweening, “peak bodies” in our pantheon of sport, the temple of Tennis Australia, (TA) Home Affairs Minister Andrews has written to the grand slam champion telling him that he has “a medical exemption”. Did TA dictate, ever mindful of its gate?

So powerful are our sporting organisations that they can tell federal governments what to do. Or at least they can try. And some are down on their luck in a pandemic.

Or was there federal government collusion to waive the big star through the visa process until it discovered that such an exemption did not sit at all well with fans?

Tennis Australia is said to be on its last $2.4 million after what The Australian reports as a $100 million Covid hit. Now TA’s borrowed $80 mill from the State of Victoria. It’s not only keen to get back in the game, clearly, it also has a formidable fan base. Our sports empires, or “governing bodies” as they are known are no strangers to wheeling and dealing. The game of mates. Or a bit of power play.

Tennis Australia puts the lob into lobbying.

Now things get messy. Health Minister, Greg Hunt, writes to Tennis Australia, CEO Craig Tiley, 29 November 2021, stating clearly that people who had tested positive to Covid-19 within six months do not meet exemption requirements to enter the country. But does he show the letter to Kaz? Does he ever intend to? It’s a line-ball decision.

Has Ms Andrews been set up? Morrison’s office is a Bermuda Triangle of careers that just disappear without trace -especially women’s careers -despite PMO lip-service to internal inquiry and promises, one day, to implement every one of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ recommendations in her Set The Standard review.

Or could Home Affairs’ letter of acceptance be a figment of Djokovic’s imagination? His quack doctor has him on a weird diet. What he fails to provide is evidence in the form of a positive PCR test of his having had COVID-19 in the last six months. Or twice, depending on which account you read. Is he on some macrobiotic hallucinogen?

Or is it just testosterone? What is clear is the outrage from Belgrade. Is Serbia’s hero lured to Australia to be humiliated? Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vučić says he’d do the same to Morrison should our PM ever visit. He’d have no trouble selling tickets.

Vučić vows to “fight” for Djokovic to be able to enter Australia. Another diplomatic shit storm brews. Morrison’s government alienated France after the PM lies about welching on our submarine deal in favour of AUKUS and nuclear subs we can’t even crew.

As for our biggest trading partner, China, President Xi won’t even speak to Canberra; responding instead with a trade war after Australia calls for an inquiry into the origins of the “Wuhan Flu”, pandering to conspiracy theorists and others who would like to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic. Sabre-rattling Defence Minister Dutton talks up war, Canberra must be prepared for whatever lurks “on or below the horizon”.

Across the ditch, Jacinda Ardern is miffed that we repatriate Kiwi-born Australian residents who break the law. Many were children when they left the land of the long white cloud. “Taking the trash out,” Peter Dutton calls his deporting of New Zealand offenders. If that sticks in your craw, kiwi crayfish are selling for a hundred dollars a pop in China as our federal government’s trade war sinks our own export businesses.

A $3 million marketing campaign by federal government to entice New Zealanders, is not going so well. Bookings are down 76 per cent year-on-year for the four weeks from April 19. Our pacific island workforce is also inexplicably smaller this year.

Migrant workers are critical to Australia’s farming sector and food security. What is shameful are the conditions leading so many to abscond, notes Deakin University’s Victoria Stead.

Is Morrison aiming for his own grand slam in alienating the world? Pay them back for treating him as a sick joke on curbing carbon emissions, flouting refugee conventions, and lying. Or does he just not care? As he tells Annabel Crabb on Kitchen Cabinet.

Lying? Djokovic does have a document bearing the Serbian Institute of Sport’s letterhead, which says he caught Covid 16 December. Yet there’s no medical test evidence, sniffs Home Affairs Supremo Andrews who is refused an extension to postpone the federal circuit court hearing of his case until Wednesday.

Clearly, she’s been left right out of the loop, standard operating procedure for Federal Liberals with their record of misogyny, sexism, secrecy and captain’s calls.

“The tail won’t be wagging the dog here”, Judge Anthony Kelly says

Kelly’s quip may be a sly dig at PistoI and Boo, Johnny Depp and then partner Amber Heard’s Yorkshire Terriers who, accidentally, helped us to show our borders are tough.

The stars forgot to quarantine their pets. In 2015, a righteously “tough on illegal immigrants” Barnaby Joyce threatened to euthanise the “illegally imported” pair of mutts (the pets not the actors) if they weren’t out of the country on the next plane. A document was alleged to be forged.

Heard has recently named one of her new dogs Barnaby Joyce in honour of the fiasco.

Djokovic is known for his dogged tenacity. Certainly, for a man with Covid, the star has wasted no time lying doggo in iso. A photo emerges on social media of the Serbian hero unmasked in public 17 December at a state ceremony to honour him by presenting him with a set of Serbian National postage stamps bearing his photogenic image.

For someone with a potentially deadly viral infection, Djokovic is quite the social butterfly, appearing not only to be in rude good health, but actively engaging with young people. Hugs and back pats. On December 17, he participates an open PR event. Images appear of the star embracing children at an awards ceremony at an event organised by the Tennis Association of Belgrade. Talk about infectious goodwill.

But that’s not all that’s caught in the spotlight; illuminated is an inept, cruel and increasingly desperate Morrison government which will do anything to divert us from its failures. Our PM threatens to shirt-front the Serb; put him on the next plane home. By Monday, this is toned down and Morrison’s office puts out word of amicable discussion between our PM and his Serbian counterpart – in which Morrison explains our rules.

But Djokovic is used to winning from behind. It’s his trademark. Along with abusing injury time out. With help from friends in high places in Belgrade “the Serbinator” successfully lodges an appeal against his extradition.

This is not the outcome that Morrison’s office had in mind. Or is it?

Djokovic’s lock-up is a political intercept; a stunt to distract from the Morrison regime’s disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic which by Monday, reaches 972,000 cases, after restrictions are abruptly eased in a backflip which Morrison calls Living with the Virus aka Playing with Fire as the Omicron variant rages through the population, bringing an already over-stressed hospital system to the point of collapse.

Welcome to Shitshow 2.0, an homage to Bill Shorten’s zinger: “it’s not a race” the Morrison government’s first, vaccine stroll-out fiasco, a display of extraordinary ineptitude, disinformation, outright lies and rapid back-flips.

In Shitshow 2.0 business meets the PM in secret to force sick workers in supply chains back to work. No workers’ representatives are present, nor is the ACTU invited, its secretary, Sally McManus warns. Not only does his “small” government mandate work for sick workers, it helps spread infection. Talk about sharing and caring.

But look over there! Border protection opportunity knocks. Dead cat on table time. Cancel Novak, Djokovic’s visa. What a stroke of genius.

Once again, despite a battalion of advisers and all of Scotty’s military escort, JJ Frewen’s much-vaunted, spit’n polish, military efficiency plus weapons-grade logistical expertise, it is painfully obvious that the Morrison government has stuffed up everything.

True there’s a bit of help from a friend, NSW Premier, Dom Perrottet who “lets her rip.” Now he must mend the tears to the fabric of NSW society and its tanking economy.

There are no Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) but the public must use them and phone in their results because PCR testing, heavily outsourced to private firms collapses. Boosters are dwindling. Hospitals are not coping. Doctors are angry and exhausted.

315785 active cases, underestimates the true number just in NSW. Self-administered tests are yet to be recorded, while others don’t bother to get tested. Some experts say the real number could be as much as 5-10 times higher.

  • 2,186 are admitted to hospital
  • 170 are in intensive care
  • 51 require ventilation

Hospitals are stretched. “Elective” surgery cancelled. Not only are too many cases being admitted, thousands of workers must be spelled because they have been exposed. Some simply resign in exhaustion and frustration; cross the border to work in Queensland where wages and conditions are higher and a government which is not infected with crazy libertarianism.

Everywhere there are long queues to get tested while RATs just can’t be found. Supermarket shelves are stripped bare. Customers stay at home while shops close their doors. Making it even harder on business and consumer, there’s no JobKeeper.

Yet to hear Scott Morrison, he’s a paragon of quiet, modest diligence as he quietly reassures those attending a Sydney Institute Dinner last week.

“What is most important to me as Prime Minister is that I seek to humbly do everyday things that make Australia even stronger than we are today, both now and in the future.”

Morrison’s hypocrisy is boundless. The humble housekeeper pose is laughable coming from the man who warned Julia Banks “I. am. The. Prime. Minister.”

The Bronte bogan loves a motivational slogan,

“There’s no guidebook to COVID. We all know that. And so what I think is important is the country just focuses on the task ahead. Keep looking through that windscreen. That’s where I’m looking. We’re looking forward.

Inspirational or terrifying? Government is not a self-driving Tesla. Shoulders right back, no hands on the wheel and eyes on the road ahead Morrison, is a black-belt in bumper-sticker wit and witless boosterism. And lashings of public self-adoration.

But no-one’s fooled. The task ahead is our Prime Narcissist’s own squalid political survival, not the public good or the welfare of the commonwealth. He’s a ruthless pragmatist, a truculent bully whose sole goal is to stay on top of the dung-heap; maintain his own undeserving, increasingly threatened ascendancy.

Today, Morrison wrests control of his party by appeasing its libertarians whose influence has grown since the charismatic John Howard inspired them to “big themselves up”. Despite presiding over our biggest government since Curtin, the PM declares stumps and pivots; announcing that it’s time for government to butt out of peoples’ lives.

No-one believes a word Morrison says but we all know he will say or do anything. And say and do something else tomorrow. Then deny both. Witness his witless excrescence at a cricket match, Saturday, “Australians taking wickets in the virus” while grandstanding in the Ashes commentary box on day three of the fourth Test at the SCG.

While shoppers fight over toilet tissue in panic buying and Australians are intubated in ICUs and hospitals are stretched beyond capacity and then some, only Scott Morrison would seek to buoy the spirits of a nation with a bizarre cricketing analogy.

Morrison excels in buck passing. Our fearless, leader’s fortune-cookie windscreen wisdom inspires a claque of fellow travellers; no ideas persons, moral pygmies, clowns, contrarian libertarians and fellow former apparatchiks in the confederation of dunces which passes itself off as Australia’s federal government.

Yet his latest move is to exhume the pernicious myth of personal responsibility, a version of Margaret Thatcher’s nonsense. No such thing as society, she declared.

2022, the Great Evader declares will be The Year of Taking Responsibility. AKA I’m all right Jack – and bugger the rest of you. There’s no guidebook for Covid, he lies. He’s an expert at not reading the map. Ignoring or contradicting expert advice. His ministers share a vision, an adolescent Hayekian fantasy that sanctions doing nothing .

Once we take personal responsibility for our own health, a free market will cure all. Cue the sound of one invisible hand clapping. A wag in the Canberra press gallery tackles health minister, Hunt, over his government’s lack of any clear plan to procure rapid antigen tests, last October. The Minister snaps “let that market develop”.

Living with Covid is Mo’s latest backflip, undoing two years of containment. No more nanny state. Buy your own bloody test kits. Under pressure, he backs down. Some of us may access ten free tests every three months. 6.6 million concession card holders across the nation are overjoyed. Such fun trying to find a test supplier.

Sensing a dip in credibility according to recent NewsPolls and still smarting at being an international laughing-stock because of his behaviour at last year’s G20 COP26 with its green hydrogen and “technology not taxes” claptrap, a green-washing of mining business as usual, Morrison opts for yet another cop-out. And a dead cat.

In a heaven-sent opportunity for distraction and tough-talking, his private militia, Border Force cancels anti-vax, health crank Djokovic’s visa and puts him up in the Park.

Acing the champion tennis player certainly gets everyone’s attention. An astute Djokovic clan member declares our PM “not a human being”. But Morrison loves a fuss, especially a heady brew of sport and the institutionalised racism of “tough on borders” rhetoric, despite some of the most porous borders in the world. If you fly in.

We’ll decide who gets into our Australian Open and the manner in which they do so.

Taking Personal Responsibility, a staple of Reagan and Thatcher political misrule, is a ruse to cover the Morrison government’s utter ineptitude. As it abandons all pretence at keeping Australia safe, it shifts the blame to the victim of the latest wave of the pandemic, a wave that appears fit to swamp us all.

Let ‘er rip. Politics trumps science, with the help of Neoliberal econobabble, the perversion of economics fetishised by such exalted local Tory politicians as NSW’s Dominic Perrottet or Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer of our nation’s federal Coalition of mining, business and finance Muppets. Omicron, the latest mutant variant of SARS-COVID-19 surges, bringing our infection rate to match the United States.

It’s a shameful, culpable dereliction of duty and abdication of responsibility that we also see in in fellow clown, Boris Johnson, muppet of the UKs Policy Exchange boffins, a front for corporate greed, fair wages and anthropogenic climate change denial.

Locally, our own mineral and Business Council flogs wag the dog of Morrison government. Rupert, Gina, Andrew and Kerry and their merry band of ruling oligarchs now urge sick workers to man the supply chains lest profits or fall or business founder.

To them, also Morrison must seem a liability. Morrison and his government may have been useful fools for a while but their future looks increasingly uncertain cloudy now they threaten to cost our oligarchs their profits.

Whilst voices with the sound of money in them call for an end to the Djokovic sideshow, there is a chance the debacle of the un-cancelling of a tennis player’s visa may alert the nation to other ways its federal government falls short in humanity and democracy. The Australian Open’s biggest drawcard may prove a Djoker in the pack.

The saga of a tennis star’s visa cancellation certainly serves to highlight the incalculable damage the federal government is suffering as it utterly fails to deal with a pandemic catastrophe which its own Libertarian easing of restrictions helped create. It also exposes a mind-boggling degree of incompetence and miscommunication, of posturing and dissembling that would be comic were it not so toxic to the health of the commonwealth.

 

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Djokovic versus the Australian Commonwealth

January 10, 2022 will be remembered as one of the odder days in the annals of sport. For one, it had little to do with physical exertion. Tennis proved secondary to the claims of one Novak Djokovic, currently the world’s number one ranked player. Instead of finding himself training on court in preparation for the Australian Open, he found himself with a legal team in the recently created Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. His purpose: to challenge the decision to cancel his Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408 in bureaucratic lingo), after his arrival in Australia just prior to midnight on January 5.

The visa was granted on November 18 last year and, according to his court submission, “was subject to no condition having the effect that his right to enter and remain in Australia was qualified in any way in regard his vaccination status.” On December 30, 2021 the player received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia noting that he had been granted a “Medical exemption from COVID vaccination” on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID-19.

The letter also noted a range of salient points. Djokovic, for instance, recorded the first positive COVID PCR test on December 16, 2021. Fourteen days had expired; the player had shown no relevant symptoms of a fever or respiratory symptoms in the last 72 hours. The exemption certificate had been provided by an Independent Medical Review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia and duly reviewed and approved by an independent Medical Exemptions Review Panel of the Victorian State Government. These exemption conditions were also deemed consistent with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

On January 1, 2021, the Department of Home Affairs informed Djokovic that his Australia Travel Declaration had been assessed and approved. His “responses [i]ndicated that [he met] the requirements for a quarantine-free travel into Australia where permitted by the jurisdiction of your travel.”

It then came as quite a shock that his visa was cancelled after arriving in Melbourne International airport by a delegate of the Australian Border Force. He had been held, incommunicado, for eight hours (till approximately 8 am, January 6). After being notified of the decision, Djokovic was hurried off to the infamous Park Hotel in Melbourne where he, in his defence team’s words, was detained “notwithstanding his requests to be moved to a more suitable place of detention that would enable him to train and condition for the Australian Tennis Open should this present challenge to the Purported Decision be successful.”

Judge Anthony Kelly had to confront a veritable blizzard of legal grounds, eight in all. Among other things, these focused on the purported invalidity of the notice given to Djokovic in cancelling the visa. The immigration minister could only exercise a discretion to cancel the visa after considering that notice. There were also time constraints in making that decision, and considerations of natural justice.

The cardinal point remained the differing readings by Djokovic and the Commonwealth government on the nature of the medical exemption. For the tennis player, testing positive on December 16 exempted him from the vaccination requirement for six months, a reading based on ATAGI’s statement to that effect.

The Commonwealth rejected this interpretation, claiming that having a previous infection did not dispense with the need to be vaccinated before entering Australia. A deferral of vaccination should not have been read as an excuse not to get vaccinated. Placing such heavy reliance on the Tennis Australia exemption letter did not constitute sufficient information for the purpose of entering the country unvaccinated. The government also disputed whether Djokovic had an “acute major medical illness” last month. “All he said is that he tested positive for COVID-19. This is not the same.” (Djokovic did himself few favours in that regard, having been photographed at public events following the positive test.)

 

 

In terms of the constitutional pecking order, the government lawyers were eager to pull rank. It did not ultimately matter what Tennis Australia had concluded, or, for that matter, what the Victorian government had done. In submissions to the court, the government asserted that there was “no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia.” The Commonwealth had the final say.

Remarkably, and disturbingly, it is also clear that the same thing applies to Australian citizens, who have no formal constitutional guarantee of a right to return or re-enter their country despite such a position being protected at international law.

At points, the denseness of the legal argument struck a nerve. The number of acronyms used stirred the judicial bench. “You’re going to have to drag yourself back to the last century,” stated the judge pointedly to Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood. “I hate acronyms.”

But the government lawyers fared worse, being told witheringly that, “Here, a professor and a physician have produced and provided to (Djokovic) a medical exemption. Further to that, that medical exemption and the basis on which it was given was separately given by a further independent expert specialist panel established by the Victorian state government […] The point I am agitated about is, what more could this man have done?”

Both sides eventually agreed that the notice requirement for Djokovic had not been adequately satisfied. In the words of the court order, the “decision to proceed with the interview and make a decision to cancel the applicant’s visa pursuant to s.116 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) was unreasonable.” This was because Djokovic had been told at 5.20am on January 6 that he would have until 8.30am to “provide comments in response to a notice of intention to consider cancellation” under that same provision. Impatiently, the authorities had sought comments at 6.14am, with the decision to cancel the visa being made at 7.42am.

Despite quashing the cancellation decision and mandating that Djokovic be released from immigration detention “without limitation thereto […] by no later than 30 minutes after them making of this Order,” counsel representing the Commonwealth made an ominous promise. The Minister for Immigration “may consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation” under the Migration Act.

In response, Judge Kelly insisted that he be “fully informed in advance” of such developments, warning that “the stakes had risen rather than receded.” Any cancellation will promise further litigation and the prospect that Djokovic be barred from entering the country for three years, though this requirement can be waived.

In this episode of pandemic bureaucracy has seen a number of inglorious achievements. The Commonwealth has done its bit to conjure up a monster of its own making. It failed to follow its own notice requirements of visa cancellation in shabby fashion. It created an exemption system lacking in clarity and liable to be interpreted, at points freely, by state and sporting bodies. It aided the tarnishing of tennis and an international tournament whilst almost causing a diplomatic incident with Serbia.

Even as the threat of cancellation for Djokovic hovers, the one thing that will not be cancelled will be the indefinite detention regime for refugees of which the tennis star sampled, if only briefly. That the prominent Serbian was ever asked to be an impromptu spokesman for those detained for years in Australia’s very own minted concentration camp system suggested, in Behrouz Boochani’s words, “that politics is broken there.” His advice: that true power lay within the borders of a country with its citizens, rather than that of a celebrity.

 

 

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2022 has well and truly begun

2022 has now begun and here we are with the LNP in government for the past 8 years, and a worldwide pandemic with Covid-19, which has mutated several times and we are currently dealing with strains called Delta and Omicron.

Most people are getting on with getting vaccinated with a Covid-19 vaccine and we all need to have 2 doses, plus a booster shot 4-6 months later.

But now it’s become necessary for everyone to hurry up and get their boosters, as it’s running rampant in the eastern states, with more than 300,000 people with covid.

It goes without saying that mistakes have been made in the handling of the pandemic in Australia. This government were too slow with the procurement of vaccines, too slow with an efficient and coordinated rolling out of vaccines, too slow on going into lockdown, especially NSW and there’s always been an air of, we’ve got to keep things open, a rush to get back to the way things were pre-covid, fooling the people and themselves that we can live with the virus.

Well, we can’t live with the virus, because it makes everyone sick, even when vaccinated and when everyone is sick, well then there’s no workforce at all. In any case, I don’t think anything is ever going to be like pre-covid after this pandemic is over.

NSW, changed leaders recently, to Dominic Perrottet who was their treasurer. Well, he wanted us to ‘live with it’ and now the number of people infected has skyrocketed.

The below screenshot is the daily numbers for Sunday, 9 January 2022 as shown on the ABC daily blog.

The rollout of the vaccines has been a bungled mess, the messaging has been confusing and the coordinating of vaccine distribution has delayed a steady stream of vaccinations so that people are waiting for their vaccines and everywhere is booked out weeks in advance.

To date, according to the Australian Government Department of Health website ‘92% of people, 16 years and over are now double vaccinated’ but there is only about 17% of people who have had more than 2 vaccines, which I surmise means their booster shot.

We are nowhere near where we should be before all borders should open, but wait, it’s too late for that. The number of people diagnosed with Covid this past week has been eye-boggling.

Health experts knew that the vaccines would wane after some time, hence the need to get booster shots, so when so little of the population are yet to have their 3rd vaccine, and all children under 12 yet to have their first, why on earth would they be harping on about opening borders and easing restrictions, and going back to normal, whatever that is.

We can’t get back to completely normal like pre-covid. Not until the whole population is vaccinated a 3rd time or even a 4th time, and ideally getting infections down to a minimum in our communities.

It was known that opening up would lead to high infections. This article at the University of Sydney speaks about modelling done by the Centre for Complex Systems researchers saying that there could be as many as 40,000 infections per day if restrictions were fully lifted.

“If restrictions are fully lifted when 80 percent of adults are vaccinated, infections across Australia may rapidly grow to 40,000 per day and exceed half a million cases in the month following the lift according to this latest modelling.”

Well, it seems these predictions were accurate. Look at what’s happening in the Eastern States.

The first known cases of Omicron was in two returned travellers in late November who were asymptomatic.

By the 12th of December, a person infected with Omicron is admitted into hospital, with another 10 cases detected. This is where some of these people were linked to a boat party and attended the Argyle House nightclub.

From this date forward the number of infections started to climb, which you can see here, which shows the daily number of infections. It’s now at this point they should’ve gone into a hard lockdown for 5 to 7 days and got a hold of the number of infected people in the community identified.

I can tell you now the number of infections would have slowed, the infected would have been out of the community, and then tentative easing of restrictions would have allowed much to get back to usual.

I believe the whole east coast should be going into lockdown right now because it’s evident that even triple vaccinated can catch Covid and then be required to isolate, so the rhetoric about getting out there and getting vaccinated is all good and well…yes it will help fight infection but it won’t stop one from catching it and having to isolate until better.

It’s already disrupted the distribution centres for Woolworths and Coles, shelves are empty, delivery drivers are sick or having to isolate. The more they just let it go in the community the more the infection will spread. Even non-infected people going to work are at risk of catching Covid. Sooner or later no one will be able to go to their place of work.

Scott Morrison and Dominic Perrottet have a lot to answer for as they have neglected to protect Australians. This is all their fault. They let it loose instead of stomping on it in the beginning and relying too much on everyone getting their vaccines and now thousands of people are infected.

This article was originally published on A Written Word.

 

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The real cost of AUKUS

We will never know the full extent of what our government has signed up to with their AUKUS deal but it is increasingly looking like we are to become the dumping ground for obsolete armaments.

On Monday, Peter Dutton issued a press release announcing that Australia has locked in the purchase of more than 120 tanks and other armoured vehicles from the United States, at a cost of $3.5 billion.

“Army will receive up to 75 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks, 29 M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles, 17 M1074 Joint Assault Bridge Vehicles and an additional six M88A2 Armoured Recovery Vehicles.”

One wonders why Dutton waited till now to make that announcement since the US government let the cat out of the bag last year, as reported on June 1 in The Australian.

“The only reason any of this is known is because major US arms exports have to be notified to Congress – and on April 29 the world learnt of a possible sale to Australia of 160 M1A1 hulls and a great deal of related hardware.”

To give some context, Australia’s last deployment of tanks was in the Vietnam War. In 2007, we bought 59 Abrams M1A1s which have never seen combat. As one commentator quipped, “It is almost as if army buys these things and then doesn’t want to scratch the paint.”

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Abrams tanks are too heavy for our amphibious landing boats and for many of the underdeveloped or degraded roads and bridges in our near region, as well as in large parts of northern Australia. Which begs the question, how would these tanks be used? Should there be a major conflict in the Asia–Pacific region, it would likely be fought mainly by air and naval assets.

Marcus Hellyer, a senior analyst with ASPI, said the Australian government had decided that it wants to maintain the ability to engage in “close combat” in urban environments as part of counter-insurgency operations. If they didn’t use them in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria, how likely are we to be doing that in the future?

But the real kicker is that, rather than being new builds, these tanks will be made up of various refurbished and overhauled items in the US inventory.

This is because the production line for the Abrams series ended in 2013, but with 3000 of them in storage since the end of the Cold War, there is plenty of hardware around that can be rebirthed by American companies for customers such as Australia.

Meanwhile, other countries are developing unmanned tanks with drone launching capability and autoloaders, or opting for lighter alternatives, such as the US Army’s light tank ‘mobile protected firepower’ program.

Instead of just upgrading our current fleet, as South Korea is doing, whilst new technology is further developed, we have chosen to buy fully imported refurbished and upgraded platforms that are nearing the end of life-of-type, with billions of dollars heading to the US.

How good is AUKUS.

PS: Just a thought for Peter Dutton. Is there any good reason why we are not using the army to help distribute supplies at the moment? That would be a more welcome announcement.

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The Mauling of Novak Djokovic

Rarely can the treatment of a grand sporting figure by officialdom have caused such consternation. Novak Djokovic, the tennis World Number One, has always had a tendency to get under skin and constitution, creating a large following of admirers and detractors. But his current treatment by Australian authorities, and his subsequent detention as an unlawful arrival despite being granted a visa to participate in the Australian Open, had the hallmarks of oppression and incompetent vulgarity. In time, it may well also prove to have been another example of provincial opportunism and crass stupidity.

It all began with the thick cloud of doubt over whether the Serbian tennis star needed to show proof of vaccination or otherwise in entering Australia. The Australian Open had become the first grand slam tennis tournament to require mandatory vaccination for all athletes subject to exemptions. This was a position also taken by the Victorian government. What remained unclear was whether dispensations could be granted, and under what conditions.

Djokovic was always unwilling to reveal his vaccination status. His response to the pandemic has also been patchy, even cavalier. The Adria Tour in June 2020, created as a response to the cancellation of various sporting events, proved disastrous. Organised by the Novak Djokovic Foundation as a “charity tour to help the coronavirus victims,” it saw players, spectators and officials contract COVID-19, including Djokovic himself, resulting in the abandonment of the tournament.

Along with other tennis players, his application to participate in the Australian tournament, assessed anonymously, was accepted, leading him to confirm his departure for Melbourne earlier this month. Two bodies were involved in conducting the review: Tennis Australia and an independent medical exemption review panel. The Victorian Department of Health confirmed that the exemptions had been granted to those with a “genuine medical condition.”

 

 

The next part of the story is revealing about Australian officialdom. On arriving in Melbourne, Djokovic encountered the nastiness that has made the Australian Border Force famous in celluloid, social media and print. It was all good to have received an exemption from two bodies; but the ABF retained the discretion to ask for further particulars and revoke any visa at their discretion. The Commonwealth, after all, is the final arbiter as to who crosses the border.

A statement by the ABF, never paragons of thoroughness or justice, claimed that “Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.” In the cobwebbed mind of bureaucratic reasoning, this could mean, and be, anything.

In the right royal mess that ensued, the Victorian government, on being asked by the federal government to supply evidence of Djokovic’s exemption, declined to sponsor him. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, showing that exemptions are viewed differently depending on which authority in Australia provides them, was satisfied that the right decision had been made. In his particular reasoning, “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.”

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews also stated that all arrivals in Australia had to “provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.” Absent that, Djokovic “won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home.” Such words are rich coming from a government addicted to subverting the rule of law, convention and due process.

The view also went some way in making a mockery of the assessments by both Tennis Australia and the medical review board. As Australia Open director Paul McNamee explained to the ABC, “every player and support member fills in a form, visa 408, and everyone does that, you are guided through it by Tennis Australia, every step of the way, and then you get approval, that is the process.”

McNamee stressed that Djokovic “was following the rules. You might be angry that he was given an exemption, but players need to have confidence that the rules they abide by going are to be enforced, so if this is something to [do] with the vaccination in the exemption, for me that’s not fair.”

The legal challenge by Djokovic makes various assertions. The player received, the defence argues, a temporary activity class visa on November 18. Djokovic had tested positive to a PCR test on December 16 and was subsequently granted the exemption. It was then claimed that the Home Affairs Department had sent a note on January 1 informing him that he had met “the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia.”

The submission is in stark contrast to correspondence from the Health Department and the Commonwealth. The former’s First Assistant Secretary Lisa Schofield had informed Tennis Australia Chief Executive Craig Tilley that, “People who have previously had COVID-19 and not received a vaccine dose are not considered fully vaccinated.” Health Minister Greg Hunt, on following up Schofield’s observations, also confirmed that those who had contracted COVID-19 “within six months and seek to enter Australia from overseas, and have not received two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)-approved or TGA-recognised vaccine … are not considered fully vaccinated.”

Most tellingly, the Morrison government, and a good number of Fortress Australia types, have made it clear that the very concept of any right of entry, notably during times of emergency such as a pandemic, is irrelevant and has no bearing in a court of law or before any tribunal of justice.

While it will be of little comfort to Novak, he should not be surprised that Australian government officials are equally contemptuous of any right of return for Australian citizens, who remain at the mercy of a spray of weak High Court judgments and a total absence of constitutional protection. Tens of thousands have been stranded in other countries since 2020, left at the mercy of menacing poverty, lack of safety, reviled and mocked as disease ridden and undeserving of sanctuary. The Commonwealth and State governments have all done their bit to prevent such returns, imposing onerous requirements and even, in some cases, threatening punitive fines. The Australian passport has become a form of debased coinage.

The cancellation of Djovokic’s visa also led to another brush with institutional savagery. The tennis player is being detained at Carlton’s Park Hotel, a facility that has been used for refugees more than acquainted with the concentration camp system reserved for “unlawful” naval arrivals. He can at least count himself fortunate not to be rendered to the tropical torture centres of Nauru or Manus Island, two favourite destinations for Canberra’s undesirables.

When it comes to Australia’s refugee concentration camp system, celebrity or standing provides little by way of salvation. As former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull explained to his counterpart President Donald Trump in discussing a refugee transfer between the countries, Australia would be more than happy to jail Nobel Prize laureates if they did not have the requisite paperwork. “So, we would rather take a not-very-attractive guy that helps you out than to take a Nobel Peace Prize winner that comes by boat.”

Irate detainees, some having been in captivity for almost a decade, have also noted the sudden spike of interest, if only because of the celebrity calibre attention being paid to Djokovic. Protests in Serbia, Montenegro and Australia have taken place. Carlton’s Park Hotel has been the site of a hearty gathering of supporters. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has urged that the tennis player not be held “in that infamous hotel”.

This could but induce sadness on the part of Mehdi Ali, an Iranian immigrant who was fifteen when he sought sanctuary in Australia and is also being held at the Park Hotel. “I’ve been in a cage for 9 years, I turn 24 today, and all you want to talk to me about is [Djokovic],” he tweeted on January 7. “Pretending to care by asking me how I am and then straight away asking questions about Djokovic.”

 

 

To the hosts of an Australian television program The Project, Mehdi did take some heart that attention was finally being showered upon the grim conditions in the detention hotel. Those who “came here for Djokovic … found out about our circumstances and they were shocked.”

The appeal hearing against the decision by the ABF is taking place today (January 10) where some sense of the brutish nonsense that has transpired may be made. But for the likes of Mehdi, the Djokovic storm, whether it results in him playing or not in Melbourne, will pass. A country filled with the descendants of convicts and their gaolers will continue working to form.

 

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Teachers are not babysitters

As the beginning of the new school year approaches, politicians, doctors and journalists are racing to tell us all that school must go back on time and stay open regardless.

They rightly talk about the effect that school closures have had on kids – none of us would disagree. It’s been a devastating time for all of us.

But the idea that, as we approach what will be a calamitous peak in infections, schools can carry on as normal is ludicrous.

SMH education editor, Jordan Baker, penned a piece today on “How to keep schools open in the age of Omicron.”

According to Jordan, who has patently never been employed as an educator, “schools will have to work out ways to operate with significantly fewer staff until the wave of disease peaks, and case numbers begin to fall.”

“Teachers, even those who are double vaccinated and boostered, are likely to fall ill (although the vaccination will protect most from severe illness) and this poses serious workforce issues for their bosses.”

This is not just some sort of esoteric issue for school principals to solve. You cannot open schools unless there are sufficient well teachers to staff them.

“In the United Kingdom, there have been predictions that around a quarter of teachers at any given school could be off sick or furloughed at once. NSW’s school system is already suffering a chronic shortage of casual teachers, so this could make operating schools difficult,” Jordan concedes.

Paediatrician and epidemiologist Fiona Russell says the education sector would, like all sectors, need a workforce plan.

“The UK has asked retired teachers to return. The Australian health sector is using medical students. If teachers have COVID but are asymptomatic, they could still deliver lessons remotely.”

That’s fab. Except retired teachers would presumably be older making them in the more vulnerable cohort for infection, and would be unlikely to have current ‘working with children’ accreditation. Trainee teachers, one or two years out of school themselves, cannot be expected to leave their studies to fill in for absent staff, and who is going to supervise students when infected teachers are delivering lessons remotely? Does she think the class will sit there nicely on their own listening to a talking head on a tv screen?

Russell’s colleague at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Professor Sharon Goldfeld, said children have “carried the can for adults. We’ve kept them away from school and childcare. Now that COVID is in the community, they can no longer carry the can for adults. Schools are the epicentre for children’s health, wellbeing and learning.”

Yup. But where is the concern for the teachers who look after your children every day? Where is the regard for their expertise? You can’t just drag people off the street to replace them if they get sick.

These non-education experts talk about “keeping cohorts together” to minimise the spread. Have they forgotten that a high school teacher’s cohort is everybody who does that subject? 150 different kids a day? They talk about combining classes like it’s no problemo. Do they understand how hard it is to teach maths to 30 adolescents? Make it 60, make it 100….and carry on?

We all want our kids to be back at school, learning and playing and doing all the normal kid stuff. But these are not normal times and teachers are not easily replaceable babysitters.

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Djokovic And Our Strong Borders Or Nobody’s Going To Tampa With Morrison…

Now I know some of you will be familiar with the idea of confirmation bias where we notice the evidence that suits our world view while filtering out things that don’t fit. It means that most people can make a case for anything.

And it’s not a case of intelligence either. Intelligent people can often make far more convincing cases for their world view. “No recorded evidence to support what I’m saying just means that they’re obviously covering it up. Surely if it was incorrect, you’d find something that I could use to further my case!”

So the recent case of Novak Djokovic has had people scrambling because there are so many contradictions that it’s hard for a person to work out how people will actually respond to the politics of it all.

Let me try and unwind the narrative while keeping my personal opinions to one side and to simply look at the politics of the situation. Here’s a brief rundown of events so far:

  • Novak (or No-vax, as some have taken to calling him) is a well-known anti-vaxxer.
  • Victorian Premier is on record as saying that non-vaccinated players would not be allowed to compete at The Australian Open.
  • An independent medical body was set up to look at possible exemptions which would allow non-vaccinated players to play.
  • Apparently the medical body accepted Djokovic’s evidence and granted him a medical exemption
  • There is some cynicism about the “independence” of the body.
  • Scott Morrison tells us on Wednesday that it’s “a matter for the Victorian government. They have provided him with an exemption to come to Australia, and so we then act in accordance with that decision.”
  • Border Force detain Djokovic and then cancel his visa.
  • I tweet that Scotty is looking for his Tampa moment. (Ok, probably not that significant but I do like to point out when I get things right, like Turnbull becoming PM and Scotty doing a Bradbury skating past both Dutton and Bishop. Given how often Nick Coatsworth is invited to give his opinion on Covid, it’s entirely reasonable to never mention any predictions I got wrong!)
  • Ten minutes later, Scott Morrison tells us that rules are rules and this is all about strong borders and just stops short of completely paraphrasing Howard and saying something like: We will decide who plays tennis and the circumstances under which they play.
  • No, this is not just because Djokovic is a high profile player, we are told that everyone is treated the same.
  • There is the suggestion that there were other tennis players who had the same medical exemption as Djokovic.
  • Border Force show that they treat everyone the same by suddenly noticing and detaining a female player they let through before they realised that this wasn’t an acceptable reason.

This is about where we’re at.

Now let’s look at the politics of the situation. On Wednesday, Morrison seemed very sure that it was the Victorian government’s decision and there was no suggestion that there may be some problem. While it’s possible to argue that Morrison wasn’t aware of the individual circumstances and that this was an example of the separation of powers, it certainly sounded like he was trying to distance his government from any backlash regarding Djokovic’s appearance in Australia.

However, once the visa was cancelled, then it was all the government’s STRONG borders.

Of course, this may play out well with all those who thought that Novak shouldn’t be allowed in, but the interesting thing is that it’s almost a complete turnaround from Scotty’s attempt to dog-whistle to the anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown protesters that he would be right behind them if only he wasn’t busy not holding a hose. Suddenly, it’s Scotty the Protector of the Empire, not Scotty Making HIs William Wallace speech for freedom. Hard to know whether he’ll lose more potential votes than he’ll win with this change.

Various letters are leaked to the press in an attempt to show that the federal government had been quite consistent in their position on unvaccinated players. Nobody asks who leaked the letters.

However, a week’s a long time in politics so it’s no wonder that our PM needs so many breaks. Before the day was out, it’s been suggested that Mr Djokovic wasn’t the only one with the same medical exemption. By Saturday morning the public were told that another player, Renata Voracova, had been detained…

Which begs the question, how did she slip through our strong borders? I mean, how did she get by our thorough Border Force officers who treat everyone the same and didn’t just single out Novak? This doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that the rules are rules and applying to everyone equally…

As for keeping us safe, this woman has already competed in a practice tournament…

Now, both the freedom narrative and the keeping the borders strong narrative are both looking a little shaky…

Looks like they’ll have to find a way to blame Labor.

Why on earth did Dan Andrews grant him a visa? Whoops, state governments don’t grant visas.

We granted him a visa based on Dan Andrews say so. The medical review was an independent process.

Oh look, a high profile resignation, let’s talk about that instead!!

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Now let’s get this straight: We don’t have the best…

Election Diary. 2022. No2. Saturday, January 8 2022. “Now let’s get this straight: We don’t have the best…”

1 Who is paying for our Covid programme? Socialism is. The Government is borrowing money that the people will have to pay back. It is the public debt. At the same time, the rich and privileged are getting a tax cut. Work that out.

What do we want from this election?

2 Have we listened to the stories in the Child Abuse report? Of those in aged care. Those who have died or are dying from Covid. Or the treatment of women – we cannot escape their anger.

The horror that is our national shame. The dead are many. When will we govern with some form of proactive planning instead of reactive negativity? Did we imagine another variant would never rear its ugly head.? Has the cost spooked them? Rapid antigen tests (RATs) should be free to everyone who requires one. There are many questions.

3 I find it impossible to imagine that the Australian people could be so gullible as to elect for a fourth term a government that has performed so miserably in the previous three, and is becoming worse. And it has amongst its members some of the most devious, suspicious and possibly corrupt men and women in its ranks.

It seems to me that for some time now the electorate has been giving Morrison more than just a cursory going over. Instead, they have become more analytical of the man and his policies. Forensically so.

4 A fascination of mine has always been the “we have the best whatever” statement. We have the best army, the best political system, firefighters, police force. It goes on and on. It’s impossible to have the best everything all the time.

Before the upcoming election, we must do our very best to counter the Government’s claims about these matters.

Now let’s get this straight: We don’t have the best…

5 We are the best managers of the economy, the Coalition would have us believe. Well, the simple fact is that they are not. This link to a post I wrote on the subject affirms it.

The myth created by the Coalition as long back as I care to remember and memorialised for many years since is nothing more or nothing less, a myth.

Of course, those of a conservative bent won’t have a word of it. They simply insist that the tale has God’s word of truth attached to it.

6 John Menadue, always a good read, in The myth that the Liberals are better economic managers? writes that:

“The Coalition is handicapped and hidebound by an out-dated ideology about markets and private enterprise. The tide has turned in the world that now sees the failures of the market system. The Coalition has failed to catch up. That is why we are seeing the failure of the Liberal Party in economic and business management. Its ideology has passed its use-by date.”

7 The consummate liar and How do you trust a liar? are but two articles I have written on the subject of the Government’ s propensity toward telling lies, which you may wish to revisit.

8 Scotty, in his great wisdom, has decided that Rapid Antigen Tests should remain limited to people in close contact with symptoms, pensioners etc., despite growing pressure to provide free tests.

9 On Tuesday on 7.30 Albo faced a load of questions, looking and speaking Prime Ministerial. Like every inch the man you want to lead the country.

I had read earlier in The Guardian that:

“The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, criticised the government for failing to secure enough RATs, accusing Morrison of again offering “too little too late”.

“This has been an example of something that has characterised Scott Morrison’s prime ministership. He identifies a problem only after it becomes a crisis, and then he doesn’t act. He just seems to blame someone else,” Albanese said at a press conference in Newcastle on Monday.”

No wonder the PM, and many of his associates refused an invite to appear on 7.30.

10 I have been trying to summarise or get my head around what Scomo is talking about on any subject. You see, now he is saying that what I thought he said is only a figment of my imagination. That what I think I thought he meant is not what he meant at all. When he says something, and I take it to mean one thing, he has the option of saying that what I thought I heard was not what I heard.

Or was it only my interpretation of what he meant? I mean, did he say what he meant, or did he mean to say what he meant or was what he meant really what he meant?

Well, that’s politics. And that’s Morrison.

11 And I thought that vaccinating the public was supposed to fix everything. It’s not as if answers aren’t available. The man is totality out of touch with what the problem requires. A man without any qualities of leadership. He should resign. Given his present form, he may take the option of a half-Senate election in May with a general election in August if that’s possible.

12 Here is something you may have missed. We had our coolest year since 2012, but it was still half a degree hotter than the average.

13 Did the panel (whoever they may be) consider that the Tennis Professional Novak Djokovic is a Covid denier and anti-vaccination freak. In my view, the Australian Tennis Open will have its reputation greatly diminished by his presence in the draw. Or booing a champion on the centre court will not do our international reputation much good.

By 6 am, Thursday, the world No.1 was still dealing with Border Force officials at Melbourne Airport.

Note: I will address this update in the comments section.

14 Would you be surprised if I told you that 21 schools received $90 million in JobKeeper payments while making profits of $97 million. Of course, you wouldn’t. Most of them serve highly advantaged families.

My thought for the day

We live in dark times where horrible things are being perpetrated on us. The shame is that we have normalised them and adjusted accordingly.

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Australia did well when we followed the health advice, and then the politicians took over

Just over three weeks ago, on December 14, NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, held a press conference to confirm that the next day pretty much all restrictions would be lifted regardless of the emergence of the Omicron strain and rising case numbers.

“At the moment, our government here … is very keen to get us all back to normality, to our previous life,” he said. “We’re not going to start backflipping on issues we promised the community we’ll do.”

That day, there were 804 new cases in NSW, 168 people being treated in hospital and 21 in ICU.

On December 15, QR codes and vaccine certificates were dropped. The unvaccinated were free to join the rest of us with masks only required on public transport and in airports, or for indoors front-of-house hospitality staff who aren’t fully vaccinated. Close contacts no longer had to isolate for 7 days. Density limits no longer applied with no limit to the number of people allowed in your home, at outdoor public gatherings and at hospitality venues. Borders reopened to vaccinated skilled migrants and foreign students.

Hazzard cited research from the Public Health Unit at the University of New South Wales which suggested a possible surge of up to 25,000 COVID cases a day by the end of January but suggested that was unlikely if we all continued to take personal responsibility.

On that same day, modelling from the Doherty Institute showing a possible scenario of 200,000 cases a day was leaked to the media, and summarily dismissed by the Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

Prof Kelly said the 200,000 figure “presents one of the worst case of all potential scenarios including assumptions that the Omicron variant is as severe as the Delta variant, an absence of hospital surge capacity, a highly limited booster program, no change to baseline public health and social measures and an absence of spontaneous behaviour change in the face of rising case numbers. None of these five assumptions represent the likely state of events, let alone all of them together, therefore presenting that scenario as the likely scenario that will occur is highly misleading.”

By December 24, with 5,715 new cases reported that day and 1500 healthcare workers furloughed either because of Covid-induced illness or as a result of isolation orders, Perrottet was forced to backflip on his “personal responsibility” approach to mask-wearing by reintroducing a mandate requiring them to be worn indoors while also reinstating social distancing measures in hospitality venues and a return to mandatory QR code check-ins at some retail venues.

But by then, the horse had bolted.

NSW has reported over 70,000 new cases in the last two days but the real number is undoubtedly significantly higher as the testing regime has been overwhelmed. Yesterday, there were 1609 people in hospital and 131 in ICU with these numbers growing significantly each day.

We keep being told that the hospitals have adequate surge capacity but the truth is, whilst they might have enough beds and ventilators, that means nothing if you don’t have sufficient staff. More than 3800 health staff were furloughed in NSW due to COVID-19 exposure on Wednesday

For some totally obscure reason, Scott Morrison has tasked the Secretary of PM&C, Phil Gaetjens, with coming up with the plan for how to get kids back to school and keep them there. I am fairly certain this man has zero experience of staffing a school so it will be interesting to see what he comes up with to cover the teachers who are going to inevitably get sick.

No wonder Morrison keeps telling us to look out the windscreen and focus on moving forward because the rear-view mirror is full of wreckage with a runaway train barrelling towards us.

Australia did well when we followed the advice of the health experts. Then the politicians took over and here we are.

BREAKING: The SMH is reporting that the NSW government is preparing to announce a major reversal of COVID-19 restrictions by shutting nightclubs, banning singing and dancing in pubs, discouraging “vertical consumption”, and pausing major events and some elective surgery in response to the state’s surging Omicron caseload. Major events would be risk-assessed by NSW Health and postponed where necessary. Restrictions will be branded as “safety measures” rather than a lockdown

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While university jobs disappeared, Jobkeeper provided a windfall to wealthy private schools

Jobkeeper has proved to be a gravy train for wealthy private schools serving the most advantaged families in Victoria.

New financial statements posted on the Charities Commission website before Christmas reveal the shameless greed of some of the wealthiest most exclusive private schools in Victoria. Twenty-one schools received $90 million in Jobkeeper payments while making profits of $97 million. Most of them serve highly advantaged families.

One of Victoria’s most exclusive girls’ school, Methodist Ladies College (MLC), got $10.4 million from Jobkeeper and made a profit of $15 million in 2020. It increased its profit over the previous year by $7.8 million with the help of Jobkeeper.

MLC charges $34,000 fees for Years 11 and 12. Eighty per cent of its students are from the highest socio-educationally advantaged (SEA) quartile and 96 per cent come from the top two quartiles. It received nearly $10 million in recurrent government funding and has assets totalling $163 million.

A total of 60 Victorian private schools received $222 million from Jobkeeper and made $193 million in profits in 2020. Apart from five schools, all made a profit out of Jobkeeper and 52 increased their profits from 2019. The total increase in profits was $99 million. These schools also received $483 million in recurrent government funding in 2020.

Most of these schools serve privileged families. Between 60 and 80 per cent of their students are from the top SEA quartile and around 90 per cent or more are from the top two SEA quartiles. Several schools such as MLC, Lauriston and Strathcona provided fee remissions, rebates and discounts to their families.

As the Herald-Sun’s Susie O’Brien reported, several schools have repeatedly refused the divulge their payments (Herald-Sun. 30 December 2021). They have obscured their payments by including them with other government grants or other income. For example, Christ Church Grammar in Toorak received an increase in Commonwealth Government grants of nearly 200 per cent in 2020 but did not reveal its Jobkeeper payment.

The greed of these highly privileged schools is obscene. They grasp any opportunity to get their snouts in the taxpayer trough. Yet, they see themselves as having superior moral values that are central to their elitist culture. If they had any common decency, they would give the money back as some firms have done.

Jobkeeper was just another opportunity for the Morrison Government to provide even more special funding for private schools. It is icing on the cake of a huge funding boost for private schools through a highly flawed method of determining their financial need and by special funding deals not based on need such as the $1.2 billion Choice and Accountability Fund.

Government (Commonwealth and state) funding for private schools increased by four times that of public schools between 2009 and 2019. Government funding for Catholic and Independent schools increased by $2,050 and $2,006 per student respectively adjusted for inflation compared to only $514 per student for public schools.

The total resources of Victorian private schools far exceed those of public schools. The total income of Independent schools was $25,944 per student in 2019 and that of Catholic schools was $17,123 compared to $14,416 in public schools. Wealthy private schools seized on Jobkeeper with the connivance of the Commonwealth Government to extend their massive resource advantage.

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has conceded that Catholic schools have “never had it so good” in terms of funding. The same can be said of Independent private schools.

The resource advantage of private schools is set to continue for the rest of the decade under the terms of the Commonwealth-State bilateral funding agreements. Private schools will be funded at over 100 per cent of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) while public schools will be funded at less than 91 per cent of their SRS in all states except the ACT. As a result, public schools will remain massively under-funded. It points to the need for a comprehensive overhaul of school funding.

The above is an excerpt from an SOS article by Trevor Cobbold 3/1/2022

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Ode to a Rodent

John Howard – how this clusterfuck started

God save the queen

And bless all her palaces

Johnny was stuck in a time-warped paralysis

Back to the future is where we should be

Chaplains in schools and WorkChoices macht frei

 

Summers of cricket

And white picket fences

Bugging East Timor with no consequences

Men at the coal face and women in kitchens

God’s in his heaven; to hell with Chris Hitchens

 

The blacks should be grateful

There’ll be no notion of ‘sorry’

There’s just bin nights and bingo in his grand oratory

Mabo got land back but not on his watch

He’d rather die in a ditch, take a kick to the crotch

 

Then came the Tampa

Laden with distraught refugees

Said Little Johnny “they’re all killers and thieves”

FUD and dogwhistling and throw in a wedge

For the coming election brown folks were his best hedge

 

Planes into buildings

He couldn’t believe his good luck

At the bombing of children he would give not one fuck

He got out the atlas to locate Iraq

This was the keys to The Lodge to be handed him back

 

But the electorate awoke

And kicked his arse to the kerb

It was our national conscience he’d no longer perturb

Now his future’s uncertain, a little bit vague

But if karma’s a bitch he’s got a date at The Hague

* * * * *

Every election, without fail, the Tories turn on the heating in John Winston Howard’s crypt and trolly his defrosted, cadaverous presence around to jape and jolly for the cameras with their candidate du jour. To many this is not unlike exhuming a long-forgotten egg sandwich at the bottom of a pre-teen’s schoolbag. Or finding your weirdo old neighbour indulging in hand-to-gland combat on your nature strip. But for the posh north shore ladies and the Mercedied Toorak bankers and the Kings School born-to-rule old boys he’s Tory royalty.

John Winston’s a shrivelled little man with a petty little mind. In Paul Keating’s assessment he was “a shiver looking for a spine to run up” and he’s still Mungo MacCallum’s more earthy but equally on point “unflushable turd“. Or in the words of the Tories’ own – a “lying rodent” who’s “mean and tricky“. These apparently are the characteristics of Liberal Party iconography.

Our own diminutive Maggie Thatcher in drag Little Johnny didn’t want to keep things as they were. He wanted to send us back to the ’50s and beyond – a land of curtain twitchers and the cultural cringe, of portraits of Betty Battenberg hung in every classroom, church on Sundays (preferably Anglican), the missionary position, doffing of caps to our betters, busted unions, closeted gays and doclie, out-of-sight indigenous folks. It’s to the country’s credit that he failed at each.

Howard, like any die-hard conservative, sees the world through his own cozy lived experience and lacks the intellect to imagine anything outside of it. ‘Relaxed and comfortable’ was his grand ambition for the country; bland and beige as in his oxymoronic manifesto of 1950’s nostalgia – Future Directions.

“I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about their history; I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the present and I’d also like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the future.”

This explains his appeal to the fogies, young and old, in the leafy surrounds of the Tory heartlands. When your biggest problem is your over-chlorinated pool then a new cabana boy is all the change you want. Howard’s achievement was to convince tradies and suburban travel agents and Jim’s Mowing franchisees that with him in office then they too could one day employ their own pool guy.

Howard’s legacy is two-fold.

Australia’s Big Lie. The highest taxing, highest spending government in our history was carried along by the Hawke/Keating reforms to spawn the enduring myth of the Tories as better economic managers. They dine out on it to this day.

And his awfulness laid the groundwork for two horrendous successors – a badly shaved yowie in red sluggos and a failed marketing spiv who gets career advice from an eagle painting. Abbott’s style was to burn everything down, Morrison’s is to watch it burn.

To be fair to Little Johnny there were other accomplishments:

  • The lie-detecor destruction test of core and non-core promises
  • Entrenched middle class welfare
  • Punitive industrial relations
  • The move further right – flushing any talent down the drain should they give any hint of less than enthusiastic endorsement of RWFWittery
  • His AWB wheat for oil crimes
  • His East Timor bugging crimes
  • He killed the republic referendum
  • He finessed dog whistle politics
  • He’s was a dedicated practitioner of propaganda not persuasion – “stir emotion, scapegoat the innocent, enforce group identity and arouse suspicion without evidence*”
  • He provided a character reference for George Pell.

When you see him wheeled out round the Tory fundraisers and media it will confirm an election date is imminent.

*How Trump, Elon Musk and Gwyneth Paltrow short circuit your ability to think rationally. Business Week.

 

Image from independentaustralia.net (Photo via Twitter: David Marler / ‏@Qldaah)

Related readings wherein he hasn’t been called a c***:

if we judge Howard by his own standards as a reformer, there isn’t a great deal to show for his lengthy period in office“. John Winston Howard: The Biography. Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen

John Howard. A study in policy consistency. M.L.Murry. A long read of 355 pages. But interesting.

Where ‘mutual obligation’ began: John Howard’s paradigm shift on welfare. The Guardian

In truth, Labor is the superior economic manager. Craig Emerson Economics

John Howard. A study in policy consistency. M.L.Murry. A long read of 355 pages. But interesting.

Where ‘mutual obligation’ began: John Howard’s paradigm shift on welfare. The Guardian

 

This article was originally published on Grumpy Geezer.

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