Monday, May 18, 2020

Virus inquiry wins global support

An Australian and European Union proposal for an independent inquiry into Covid-19 has secured the support of 62 countries, ahead of this week’s World Health Assembly meeting. Russia, Turkey, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea are among the countries to back the move. The motion proposes that the World Health Organisation should collaborate with the World Organisation for Animal Health to “identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts”. EU and Australian diplomats were working on Sunday to win the support of the United States, which wants the outbreak source of Wuhan named in the motion, and China, which argues the inquiry is politically charged. Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the virtual meeting. It comes as The Australian Financial Review reports China has praised the ($) “concrete benefits” of its free-trade deal with Australia, with the two countries experiencing trade tensions analysts have linked to the proposed inquiry.   

Guardian Australia reports that hundreds of thousands of Australians impacted by the government’s robodebt scheme will receive notices from Centrelink about an upcoming class action by May 25, under orders from the federal court. Law firm Gordon Legal will seek interest and compensation as well as the repayment of debts unlawfully claimed by the government, with more than 12,000 people already having registered.

The Greens will today unveil a $300 billion economic recovery plan featuring a jobs guarantee, free tertiary education for under 30s, $24 billion for public education, $12 billion for manufacturing, 500,000 new public and community homes, $25 billion for public transport, $6 billion each for the electricity grid and a nature fund, and $2.3 billion for the arts. Guardian Australia reports that the plan sets up the Greens’ argument leading into the next election against what it frames as Coalition austerity and Labor’s fear of sensible borrowing. 

The Victorian government is today releasing a $2.7 billion stimulus package, including $500 million for social housing to build 168 new units and upgrade 23,000 more, according to The Age. The package will also feature $328.4 million for transport infrastructure, half of which is destined for regional Victoria, reports The Herald Sun ($). The package comes as the state continues to manage Covid-19 clusters, recording seven new cases on Sunday. McDonald’s closed 12 restaurants in the state after an external delivery truck driver tested positive to the virus. A McDonald's Australia spokesperson said no other employees had tested positive, but chose to close stores “out of an abundance of caution”.

Private disability provider Integrity Care SA has sacked the carer ($) responsible for looking after a woman with cerebral palsy, Ann Marie Smith, 54, who died last month after suffering from septic shock, severe pressure sores, multiple organ failure and malnutrition. The Advertiser reports the company is investigating the incident, which police in Adelaide have categorised as a major crime. Smith was left for 24 hours a day in a cane chair in the lounge room of her Kensington home for more than a year, with no access to a toilet or refrigerated food.


“In many ways, at least for a select group, the coronavirus pandemic has been incredibly convenient. Here was a deadly, disruptive virus that originated in China and swept through the world, reanimating old conspiracy theories about vaccination agendas and 5G towers and opening the fissures of far-right extremism in Western countries. Covid-19 offered a grand, unifying narrative, a theory of everything. To a conspiracy theorist, it was perfect.”


“Senator WALSH: Can the minister explain why … temporary migrant workers who can’t go home … have been excluded from the JobKeeper program? Senator CASH: I thank the senator for her question … In relation to the senator’s question: because the government had to draw a line somewhere.”


“While HIV turned out to be far less infectious than coronavirus, for more than a decade there were no effective treatments. And 40 years on, the long-promised cures and vaccines have never arrived. Then, as now, we had to persuade people to change risky behaviours and to sustain those changes for decades. We face the same prospect in dealing with coronavirus. Unless and until treatments and vaccines arrive, sustained behaviour change is the only option to reduce the toll of infections and deaths.”


“The Battle of Brookvale has come in at No.1 on the top five rugby league biffs of all-time list as revealed by Nine's The Greatest. They played in two grand finals between 2007 and 2008, but one of the most famous moments between the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and Melbourne Storm is undoubtedly the Battle of Brookvale.”


“In the absence of live sport, and in an effort to maintain engagement, media outlets have had to be proactive … curated lists of ‘best matches’ or ‘top 10 sporting moments’ make for attractive, fun and useful content. But while these lists are filling the void caused by the pandemic, there is a downside: women’s sports are being sidelined.”


“Two months into lockdown, and many of us have taken up new hobbies in order to stay sane. David Lynch is no different … the Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive director peers out the window of his office – which is cluttered with reading glasses, paint tubes and lightbulbs – observing that ‘in Los Angeles it’s kind of cloudy, some fog this morning. 64 degrees fahrenheit, around 17 celsius’. He adds, ‘this all should burn off pretty soon and we’ll have sunshine and 70 degrees. Have a great day!’”

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