Lockdown escapees cause chaos

Authorities in NSW, Queensland and New Zealand are on high alert after two groups escaped lockdown, including a positive Covid-19 case.

The interstate trip:

  • A woman who left Melbourne with her husband during lockdown and went on a road trip through three states has tested positive for coronavirus in Queensland (Nine); 
  • The couple travelled through Victoria, stopped in Forbes, Dubbo, Moree and Gillenbah in NSW, and then entered Queensland on June 5, visiting the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba;
  • Queensland authorities warn it is possible the woman, who was symptomatic for part of the trip, was infectious from the day she left Melbourne;
  • Queensland and NSW are compiling exposure sites in the wake of the trip.

The international trip:

  • A group of three people from Melbourne have been put into managed isolation at their own expense in New Zealand after misleading officials (NZ Herald); 
  • They drove from Melbourne to Sydney before boarding a flight to New Zealand, where they were intending to go to a funeral;
  • The trio could face a NZ$4000 fine or up to six months in jail.
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Call to vaccine all aged care staff

Aged & Community Services Australia has called for mandatory vaccination for its entire aged care workforce, although unions say the issue is a “smokescreen” for government failures.

What we know:

  • “We support the introduction of mandatory Covid-19 vaccines for both residential and home care workers, with appropriate exemptions on medical and other significant grounds,” said ACSA chair Sara Blunt (The Mandarin); 
  • Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary Annie Butler, however, described the debate as a “smokescreen” to cover the federal government’s failure to secure sufficient vaccine supplies (SMH); 
  • The WA government this week made vaccines for aged care workers mandatory, but the rest of the country has not (AFR); 
  • The branch responsible for the federal government’s aged care Covid-19 response had just three staff at times in the pandemic’s early stages (The Guardian); 
  • Under-resourcing of aged care during the pandemic provides a taste of the challenges the sector faces in the decades to come as Australia’s population gets older (Crikey).
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Lawyer ‘relationship’ questioned

Legal action launched by Ben Roberts-Smith against his ex-wife has been complicated by  “purported or alleged” reports of a relationship with his lawyer.

Roberts-Smith, who launched defamation proceedings against media over reporting on alleged war crimes, is also taking legal action against his former partner over allegations she was accessing an email account he used for confidential legal correspondence (The New Daily). 

His legal team told the court it had questioned whether the information had then been passed on to other parties including media outlets being sued by Roberts-Smith.

Last year, News Corp published photographs of Roberts-Smith riding scooters and holding hands with solicitor Monica Allen, who has been working on the defamation case.

Justice Robert Bromwich asked Roberts-Smith’s barrister Arthur Moses SC to seek instructions about any “purported or alleged” relationship.

Moses said “female lawyers have enough to deal with in this profession without these aspersions being put against them”.

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Pushback against secret trials

Independent National Security Legislation Monitor boss Grant Donaldson says there is no reason why a summary of a secret prosecution of Witness J could not have been published three years ago.

Donaldson made the claim at a Wednesday hearing into the case of the former military intelligence officer who was convicted of mishandling classified information in a secret trial (SMH). 

ASIO chief Mike Burgess told the hearing he does not believe trials should be held in secret as a “matter of principle” but that offenders should be prosecuted for serious crimes without revealing sensitive information to the public that endangers national security (The Guardian). 

The Law Council of Australia, however, said that the secrecy of the trial did not appear to be a proportionate response in protecting national security (The Mandarin). 

The body also said it remains unknown what offences Witness J pleaded guilty to, and why he was jailed.

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Billionaires pay paltry tax

The US government has launched an investigation of a leak that revealed how little the country’s billionaires pay in tax.

Between 2014 and 2018 the 25 wealthiest US citizens increased their wealth by US$401bn but only paid US$13.6bn in income tax – a “true tax rate” of just 3.4% (ProPublica). 

The lowest contribution was by investor Warren Buffett, who paid just 0.10% over the period despite growing his wealth by US$24.3bn, as much of that was through capital gains rather than income.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who recently announced he would be travelling to space with his brother (NPR), paid no federal income tax at all in 2007 and 2011.

“The unauthorised disclosure of confidential government information is illegal,” said Treasury spokeswoman Lily Adams, announcing that the leak would be investigated (CNN). 

Wealthy individuals find similar loopholes in Australia, with the ATO weighing up whether to publish an anonymised data set on income tax paid by billionaires to highlight the issue (The New Daily).

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The can is not even opened!

In the latest episode of politicians masquerading relatability by watching sport, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stands in the middle of a darkened room with an unopened can of coke, gazing at a small screen hours before the start of State of Origin (4BC).

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Postscript: Asparagus, Cucumbers and Cabbage Leaves Take a Fresh Twist on the Iconic Hermès Birkin Bag

The artist and designer Ben Denzer whipped up these vegetable versions of the iconic, high-end accessory by arranging asparagus stalks, cucumber slices and cabbage leaves into a trio you’d be more likely to find in the produce aisle than a luxury shop (Colossal).

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