Disability vaccine drive an ‘abject failure’

The Morrison government has vaccinated fewer than 5% of Australians in disability care against Covid-19, in what was described to the disability royal commission as an “abject failure”.

A litany of failures:

  • The inquiry on Monday heard that fewer than 1000 of 26,000 disability care residents had been vaccinated despite qualifying as part of the highest-priority group (The New Daily); 
  • The Department of Health admitted it had underestimated the number of people living in disability care by 20,000;
  • Health Minister Greg Hunt said aged care vaccination teams were now being “redeployed” into disability care.

The broader vaccine rollout is also faltering, with almost a quarter of available doses in Australia unused (7NEWS) amid logistics issues and public complacency (NewsGP). 

Despite concerns about outsourcing key distribution roles to Coalition corporate donors, private contractors secured an additional $155.9m in the recent budget to deliver vaccines (Crikey). 

Services Australia meanwhile awarded IBM a $19m contract to upgrade immunisation records for the rollout (InnovationAus). 

The rollout has now entered a new phase, with people aged 50 and over eligible to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine from selected GPs (The Conversation). 

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A secret trial of secret trials

A challenge to the secret prosecution of the Witness K lawyer will itself be held in secret.

The ACT Court of Appeal on Monday began a two-day hearing on an appeal by Bernard Collaery, the lawyer for the Witness K whistleblower (Guardian Australia).

He is appealing the decision to hold his trial in secret under the National Security Information Act.

Collaery is being prosecuted for disclosing information about the bugging of Timor-Leste government buildings.

The court ruled that the appeal against the secrecy itself would be closed to the public.

Before the hearing all four federal ACT Labor politicians condemned the “the absurd lengths” gone to in pursuit of Witness K and Collaery (Canberra Times). 

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Coalition reverses out of car park rort

The Morrison government will not go ahead with the $50m train station car parking projects promised in Melbourne marginal seats in the lead up to the 2019 election.

The Victorian government and local councils advised there were no feasible design options within the allocated budget for five commuter car parks in Melbourne’s south-east (The Age). 

The Australian National Audit Office will release within weeks its audit on the program launched over pork-barrelling concerns.

The Auditor-General is also considering a review of $40m in government grants provided to News Corp to support coverage of women’s sport (SMH). 

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A world worked to death

Long working hours are linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths a year, according to a new World Health Organization study.

The findings (WHO):

  • 745,000 people died from stroke and heart disease associated with long working hours in 2016, up 30% from the year 2000;
  • Working more than 55 hours a week is linked with a 35% higher risk of stroke and 17% higher risk of fatal heart disease, compared with a 35-40 hour working week;
  • People living in South-East Asia and the western Pacific region – which includes Australia – were the most affected;
  • More remote working due to the pandemic may have increased the risks;
  • Employers should put a cap on hours worked to improve employee health and productivity.
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Samoan court dismisses election challenge

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is poised to become Samoa’s first female prime minister, after the country’s Supreme Court overruled an attempt to void election results.

The decision creates space for Fiame’s FAST party to form a government after the tight election, ending the two-decade rule of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi (Reuters). 

The court also rejected the post-election creation of an additional parliamentary seat that would have given the incumbent government a majority.

Malielegaoi, who claims a divine mandate for his rule, has pledged to appeal the decision, with fears Samoa’s veneer of democracy will be stripped away in favour of full-blown autocracy (The Conversation). 

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It was really exciting for the sellers and for the buyers because we could see the potential here.

LJ Hooker Newtown real estate agent Nick Moraitis lauds the “potential” of a derelict five-metre wide Sydney house with a hole in the ceiling — which sold at auction for $1.62m. The utterly broken housing market truly is a renovator’s dream (ABC).

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Postscript: For Sale — A $1 Million Bottle of Bordeaux Aged in Space

What goes up must come down. The same applies for the dozen bottles of red wine blasted into space in November of 2019, which splash-landed in the Atlantic earlier this year ... After ageing for 14 months aboard the International Space Station, a bottle of space-aged Merlot can now be yours. Christie’s expects a selling price of an astronomical $1 million (Gastro Obscura).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.