Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Tehan offers $3.3bn to private schools

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has unveiled an offer of more than $3.3 billion in early funding for private schools on the condition students return to classrooms within a month. Tehan wrote to the independent schools’ peak body and the National Catholic Education Commission offering early access to a portion of the funding due to them in July. Schools can secure $1.7 billion on May 21 by developing a plan to fully reopen classrooms by the start of June, with the same amount again to be paid on June 9 if at least half their students are back in regular classroom-based learning from June 1. Tehan has given them until Friday to opt in. The national health committee says schools can operate with social distancing arrangements in place and regular cleaning of surfaces throughout each day. The Independent Education Union’s Queensland and Northern Territory branch released a short research paper on Tuesday that said reopening schools was a “high-risk strategy”, although this was based on the spreading of influenza.

A spokesperson for energy minister Angus Taylor has responded to New South Wales Police claims no evidence has been found to confirm his office had downloaded fake documents from the Sydney city council website. The representative told Guardian Australia the documents, used in 2019 to try to label Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore as a climate change hypocrite, were “accessed” rather than “downloaded”. The City of Sydney website refers to links of the annual report file as a “download”. News reports that he refused to be interviewed by police investigating the matter were also rejected. It is understood Taylor provided a statement and answered police questions in writing.

Germans have been again advised to stay at home when possible as official data appeared to indicate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic was accelerating after recent easing of restrictions around the country. The basic reproduction number, indicating how many new cases one infected person generates on average, had risen to 1, after dropping to 0.7 in mid-April. The country has had 158,758 confirmed infections from COVID-19 and recorded 6126 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, the ifo Institute, a German economic research organisation warned the country was experiencing an “unprecedented” drop in employment levels.

The National Rugby League has reached agreement with broadcasters Nine and Foxtel for a 20-round season resuming on May 28. The grand final is scheduled for October 25, with the State of Origin series to follow. The deal comes as the league hands out $120,000 in fines to four players caught “blatantly disregarding” social distancing guidelines while on a 12-person camping trip over the weekend.


“McGregor says Australia is right to raise transparency questions about China’s handling of Covid-19, but he queries how the messages are being sent. ‘Why is Peter Dutton talking about this at all?’ he asks. ‘It’s a foreign minister–prime minister issue. And, secondly, before going on about something as specific as an independent inquiry, it might have been good to have done it in concert with other countries, rather than drawing all the fire on us alone.’”


“For a group focused on what can be heard, COVID-19 silences raise an interesting spectre: what is it to memorialise and record erased sound? A number of contributors voiced their discomfort at the curating of an absence that represents so much loss.”


“If we are to be a hopeful country, we must find a way to express that hope. This is a job for writers, to say who we are and what we believe – to listen to the country’s better nature and set it in prose. This should be done on paper. We are a country without a bill of rights or a history of orators to define us. Our values are too often vague or imagined. Our politics is built on the likely and half-remembered.”


“Are work from home jobs, or jobs that can be performed remotely, the only truly safe industries to work in during the coronavirus pandemic? Today, it is reported there are more Australians currently looking for work than was the case of the last recession in 1990-91 … Those who were employed pre-pandemic and can perform their work from home are in the safest position, for now.”


“Any road and public transport projects will be based on forecasts of continuing increases in commuter numbers. If, instead, people work from home more often, this could call into question the need for those projects. Areas outside city centres would also require more attention, as working from home creates a need for more evenly distributed networks of services for the likes of energy and telecommunications. Interestingly, such a trend could support long-term decentralisation plans.”


“On the 15th of March, the Tribal Gathering Festival in Panama was placed under quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are still around 40 people trapped onsite, in a jungle by a beach. Not too long ago the festival looked like paradise on Earth. Right now, it's anything but.”

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