Long winter of lockdowns

Roughly 16 million Australians are under stay-at-home orders today, as Victoria enters its sixth lockdown and NSW Covid-19 case numbers hit a new high.

Victoria:

  • Victorians will re-enter lockdown just nine days after exiting their last one, after recording eight new local cases (SBS); 
  • Stay-at-home orders will apply for seven days, with a 5km radius for shopping and exercise;
  • Hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police in Melbourne’s CBD overnight, with 15 arrests (ABC); 

NSW:

  • NSW identified 262 new cases on Thursday, its highest number on record (The New Daily); 
  • Five deaths were also recorded, all aged over 60, with four unvaccinated and a fifth partially immunised by a single dose (7News); 
  • Newcastle and the Hunter region entered a weeklong lockdown from 5pm on Thursday, after recording five new cases (Newcastle Herald). 

Across the country:

  • Queensland recorded 16 new locally acquired cases, with authorities considering an extension of the mask mandate to under-12s, with 52 of the cluster’s 79 cases children or teenagers (Nine); 
  • Tasmania recorded its first case in seven months, after a NSW man breached travel orders and was put into hotel quarantine (The Examiner). 
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National cabinet doors blown open

Details of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s national cabinet meetings with state premiers and chief ministers will be made public, after a successful challenge to secrecy provisions.

What we know:

  • The Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled that the national cabinet was not a subcommittee of the federal cabinet and therefore not protected from freedom of information requests (The Conversation); 
  • “The mere use of the name ‘national cabinet’ does not, of itself, have the effect of making a group of persons using the name a ‘committee of the cabinet’,” said federal court Justice Richard White;
  • The challenge was brought by crossbench senator Rex Patrick, who said the decision was “a decisive win for transparency and accountability”;
  • The parliamentary committee scrutinising the Morrison government’s pandemic response will subsequently demand access to a “long list” of secret documents (The Guardian); 
  • Due to the ruling Australians will be able to know what is discussed at today’s virtual meeting between Morrison and the premiers;
  • The agenda includes considering vaccine incentives, and freeing vaccinated residents from some Covid-19 restrictions (The Guardian). 
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Australians ordered to stay put

The federal government has banned Australians who live overseas from leaving the country, unless they apply for a special exemption.

Overseas-based Australians were until now allowed to leave, but faced questioning at the border and were required to prove that they live abroad (SMH). 

The new rules, which require proof of a “compelling reason for needing to leave Australian territory”, will be effective from August 11.

Exemptions can be granted for business travel.

Australia is the only country to ban its citizens, temporary visa holders, permanent residents and dual citizens from leaving the country.

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Hillsong founder faces sins of the father

Hillsong founder Brian Houston has been charged by NSW Police with allegedly concealing information about child sex offences.

The charges relate to alleged child sex offences committed by Houston’s late father, Frank (The New Daily). 

“Police will allege in court the man knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police,”  NSW Police said in a statement.

Houston, who is understood to be in North America, is required to appear in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on October 5.

He and his wife were given permission to travel overseas earlier in the year, and together preached at a Hillsong service in Mexico.

Houston is a longtime mentor of Scott Morrison (The Monthly). 

During an official visit to the US in 2019, Morrison sought an invitation for Houston to attend a state dinner at the White House.

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WA and Queensland last to redress wrongs

A coalition of Indigenous organisations have called for WA and Queensland to launch reparation schemes for stolen generations survivors.

“I’m quite happy to say to the WA government and the Queensland government: time’s up for redress of the stolen generations,” said Coalition of Peaks head Pat Turner (SBS).

The call comes after the NT’s Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation welcomed a $378.6m Commonwealth package for stolen generations survivors in the NT, ACT and Jervis Bay (ABC). 

The new funding leaves WA and Queensland as the last states without a redress scheme.

Queensland’s Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford pointed to $250m in funding for stolen wages reparations, and said further action was under consideration.

WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Stephen Dawson said “conversations were continuing with key Aboriginal organisations who work in this policy area".

Action has already been taken in Tasmania, NSW, SA and most recently Victoria to establish separate compensation programs.

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The Australian Government will ... enable the imposition of targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against the perpetrators of egregious acts of international concern.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne is drafting up powers to sanction individuals linked to corruption and violations of human rights, in a radical departure from Australia’s usual approach of electing such people to power (Canberra Times).

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Postscript: Chief casino officer Michael Connolly went on fishing trips in a boat called ‘The Good Ship Compliance’ with Crown executives

Western Australia's chief casino officer took Crown Perth executives on regular fishing trips on a boat he called “The Good Ship Compliance”, the Perth Casino royal commission has been told. The commission was told of a March 2014 email in which Michael Connolly called Crown Perth's general manager of legal and compliance, Claude Marais, “Gilligan” and Mr Marais called him “Skipper” (ABC).

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