Monday, June 22, 2020

Hotspots targeted to control outbreak

Australia's chief health officers have urged against travel to six local government areas in Melbourne, as authorities switch to more targeted measures to ward off a second wave of Covid-19. On Sunday night the Australian health protection principal committee strongly discouraged travel to and from six hotspots for new cases: Hume, Casey, Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin. Over the past week, Victoria recorded 116 new cases of Covid-19, representing more than 83 per cent of new cases in Australia. Two family clusters account for 25 cases and include residents in the Hume, Brimbank, Moreland and Cardinia areas. Victoria Police will ramp up patrols in the “hotspots” and impose tougher enforcement of restrictions. There are concerns of racial profiling in Covid-19 enforcement. Overnight, Victoria tightened restrictions limiting the number of visitors in homes to five, and limiting outdoor gatherings to 10.

Concern over the situation in Victoria comes as a new report from public policy thinktank the Grattan Institute urges people to work from home as long as they can, warning workplaces pose a high risk of triggering a second wave of Covid-19 cases in Australia. The report says schools should enforce social distancing policies and close their doors if a Covid-19 case is detected, that mandatory quarantining of international arrivals must remain in place, and that a second wave of mass infections should be met with reimposed lockdowns.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute will today detail how foreign actors targeted Facebook users during Australian 2019 election, as the thinktank gives evidence to the Senate’s select committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media. A submission from ASPI points to operations relating to West Papuan independence activism and the People’s Republic of China targeting political dissidents, reports Guardian Australia. “In the case of the Hong Kong protests, social media actions have ranged from vitriolic attacks on Twitter, to targeted harassment of key protest organisers including posting their personal details online to intimidate and deter,” the submission says. “These activities have the potential to skew Australia’s political discourse, influence voting behaviour and affect electoral outcomes.” The committee will also hear from witnesses from the Stanford Internet Observatory. Labor senator Jenny McAllister, chair of the probe, said the first hearing would focus on what has happened during the coronavirus crisis.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at a Brisbane park on Sunday demanding the release of 120 asylum seekers detained in a nearby hotel. The demonstration was limited to two hours, after police successfully applied to a Brisbane court to place a time constraint on the rally to limit disruption to traffic and local residents. Detainees include 23-year-old Rohingya refugee Abdul Sattar, who has spent nearly one-third of his life in immigration detention facilities. “My heart became such a rock that I can't feel that I'm human anymore,” he told the ABC. Supporters have been camping outside the hotel and sometimes in the rain for more than a week to stop the men being relocated elsewhere. Some protesters then blocked traffic on the nearby thoroughfare of Main Street. One protester was arrested on Sunday night ($) and taken to the city watch house. 


“Amid these underpayment allegations, however, the businessman has been drafted by two Coalition governments to provide economic and workplace advice in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Hemmes, in his mid-40s, is a close friend of federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and received a call shortly after a now-historic March 26 dinner where the JobKeeper scheme was first realised as a $130 billion program … Hemmes was one of four businessmen consulted about the final design of the policy, even as his company was preparing its defence in the Federal Court of Australia.”


“According to those who opposed Somyurek’s activities – and they come from both the Right and Left factions – his influence on Victorian Labor had become a cancer. His alleged stacking had a flow-on effect: other MPs stacked back, also recruiting members to avoid having their branches taken over. ‘Now I don’t have to worry about the branch stacking that’s in my seat,’ one federal MP said of Somyurek’s demise. ‘I’m sure all of us feel this weight [lifted].’”


“It is curious ... As if COVID-19, by being a genuine emergency and catalyst for remote learning, somehow redresses the stealth and all-in lobbying from the tech giants in the past decade. Because be it a black swan, a trojan horse or just a crappy time all round, it is possible that under the cover of this virus, almost every school student in Australia has been signed up to one or another private and opaque platform without much in the way of informed consent. It would be an understatement to say that the private vision for public education just got a few extra runs on the board.”


“While his dish was ‘full of umami’, according to the judges, he was outshone by Tessa Boersma’s scarlet prawns, Emelia’s unusual vegemite-infused dessert and Reynold’s perfectly-balanced (but slightly underwhelming) duck with pickled beetroot and date puree.”


Masterchef was filmed before it went to air, which means there are plenty of people in the know who could be betting on the eventual winner … the growing, grey area of novelty betting has anti-gambling campaigners concerned. ‘If there is insider knowledge, then this is no different to insider trading or loaded dice,’ Alliance for Gambling Reform executive director Tony Mohr told Crikey. It isn’t just Masterchef either. Betting companies offer odds on other reality TV shows like Love Island, Married at First Sight and The Bachelor.”


“Like a scene straight out of Mad Max, flying cars are set to grace the South Australian outback in Coober Pedy, where the original film was shot … an international startup says it will host a full-scale flying car race in remote South Australia before the end of the year. Airspeeder has been developing the cars, which use drone technology to hover and manoeuvre above ground.”

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