Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Labor calls for robodebt royal commission

Labor will today join the Greens’ call for a royal commission into the Coalition’s robodebt program, which saw 470,000 unlawful demands for money made to welfare recipients. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will pledge to initiate a public inquiry into the scheme if it wins the next election, arguing “the Prime Minister himself was the architect of this cruel scheme designed to extract $1.5 billion in unlawful debts from the Australian people”. Labor is calling for an inquiry into the origins of the program, when the government first learned the scheme was unlawful, and into allegations people took their own lives after being pursued over debts. Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month apologised for any “hurt or harm” caused. The Coalition has agreed to pay back 373,000 people $720 million, and a class action is being prepared involving hundreds of thousands of claimants. Lifeline: 13 11 14 

A New South Wales police officer tasered an Indigenous man who did not appear to be resisting arrest in Sydney on Monday. Footage showed the man on his knees asking the officers to stop, saying “I’m not even fighting you”. Police said officers were on patrol in Oxford Street when they encountered a man and a woman. “As officers approached, the pair split up and the 32-year-old man – who was carrying a bag – fled on foot,” the statement read. Police later located a bag, containing allegedly stolen items, on Oxford Street. It comes as Guardian Australia reports an internal Western Australian police investigation into the violent arrest of a handcuffed Indigenous boy in 2018 found the level of force used was “necessary and not excessive”.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on Monday decided a review of hotel quarantine arrangements around the country was needed, following multiple breaches linked to the rise in cases in Victoria. Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered military assistance to enforce hotel quarantine after infection-control breaches at two state-run quarantine hotels. Morrison backed Victoria’s approach of targeting “hotspots” rather than the entire state, with Victoria Police to enforce strict stay-at-home directions in specific areas if the spread of COVID-19 cannot be suppressed before July 19. It comes as Western Australia unveiled plans to remove all restrictions in the state from July 18, but keep hard border closures in place due to the situation in Victoria. NSW residents have been advised to avoid travel to Victoria unless essential.

Coronavirus cases reaching record numbers globally are not just the result of more testing, according to the World Health Organisation. The number of new cases reported to WHO on Sunday increased by more than 183,000, “easily” the most in a single day so far. President Trump on Monday refused to confirm whether he told staff to slow down COVID-19 testing to make it look like the US had fewer cases, as he claimed in a weekend rally in comments later dismissed as a joke. “If we did slow it down, we wouldn't show nearly as many cases,” Trump said on Monday.


“The National Disability Insurance Agency has been working for months on a secret report that will lock in the evidence base for different autism interventions and support packages, but advocates fear it could be used to cut costs if it is not made public ... Children with autism have consistently been one of the key groups identified by the managers of the NDIS as contributing to ‘cost pressures’.”


“In politics, some things are accidental. Some only start that way. Perhaps when they began designing JobKeeper, the government couldn’t remember what casual work entailed. Perhaps they simply forgot there were migrants here on temporary visas. It is only a million or so people between the two groups. Certainly, they could not have intended for the program to cover priests.”


“Despite the ideological thrust of Dan Tehan’s funding proposals, universities might now have an incentive to boost humanities enrolments ... The party of the free market, free choice, user-pays and all the rest of the discredited slogans of the neoliberal era has reached right down into the universities to attach a bunch of fake prices to tertiary courses.”


“A fortnight later, the incubation period for coronavirus, experts do not believe there are any confirmed cases of someone catching COVID-19 at the rallies ... Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton, who had urged Victorians not to attend the rallies, conceded today that the health experts did not believe that the Black Live Matters protesters had contributed to the spike.”


“Victorian police have issued more than $10 million worth of coronavirus-related fines … ‘Melbourne’s high migrant areas are being disproportionately fined without a clear reason,’ Mr Nguyen said. ‘When you look at Dandenong, for example, which sits pretty much at the bottom end of all socio-economic indicators, is disadvantaged in parts and has a large multicultural community, you have 333 fines, but only 18 COVID-19 cases … Stonnington, which has high median incomes and high levels of education, you have 94 coronavirus cases but only 82 fines.”


“Motorists in Sydney's new $3 billion tunnel will be kept alert with backlit silhouettes of native birds and trees, and sections of starry skies ... Local and overseas research studied driver behaviour in tunnels and found ‘subtle stimulants’ should be provided to focus drivers ... The northbound tunnel includes sections of blue and white forest silhouettes, an attempt to reflect the journey to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, while the southbound starscape and speedlines represent transition from the north's rural environment to the CBD.”

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