Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Border controls on hotspot suburbs

Victorian Police will establish border checkpoints on 36 Melbourne suburbs locked down over Covid-19, with more than 300,000 residents facing on-the-spot fines for leaving their homes from 11.59pm tonight. The unprecedented controls, in place for all of July, will see police screen people entering and leaving virus hotspots, with residents only permitted to leave their homes for work, study, medical treatment, exercise or shopping for essentials. Premier Daniel Andrews said the virus is “so wildly infectious that if we don’t take these steps now we will finish up in a situation where rather than locking down 10 postcodes we will be locking down every postcode.” Andrews also commissioned a judicial investigation into how security breaches at quarantine hotels led to the spike in cases. On Monday Australia recorded 71 new cases, with 64 in Victoria.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has criticised states for keeping borders shut, after Queensland and South Australia ruled out opening up to Victoria until outbreaks are under control. He urged states to accept moves to lockdown specific postcodes rather than close off travel between entire states. “if you are living in Wangaratta [north-east Victoria], then you are no more affected by what's going on in those suburbs of Melbourne than if you are in Whyalla [South Australia]," he said. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk complained about the “border wars” while moving to reopen to all states bar Victoria on July 10. “I think a national leader should have been able to bring all of the states and territories together,” she said. Palaszczuk also brought forward eased restrictions for gatherings and businesses to midday Friday. NSW is today also relaxing restrictions, with pubs, cafes and restaurants allowed an unlimited number of people provided they are seated and have four square metres of space each.

The United States has bought up practically the entire supply for the next three months of one of two drugs proven to work against Covid-19, leaving almost no access to remdesivir for the rest of the world. Experts and other world leaders are alarmed both by the unilateral action, reports The Guardian, with fears the US will take similar action if a vaccine is developed. US pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences has provoked controversy for charging patients $USD520 per vial of the drug, despite receiving taxpayer support for developing it. This news comes as the pandemic continues to spiral out of control in the country, with more than 2.5 million cases confirmed and states this week abandoning premature bids to reopen.

China passed a controversial national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday, bypassing Hong Kong's legislature and keeping the wording secret from the city. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam declined to comment on whether the law had been passed or what it contained. “I think at this moment, it is not appropriate for me to comment on any questions related to the national security law,” she told reporters. A summary of the law published by the official state agency Xinhua this month said the legislation would cover subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces. Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom, in which China promised Hong Kong’s system and “way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years”.


“It appears Alex Lavelle, who was until the afternoon of June 18 the editor of The Age, did not know his time was up. Just hours before the sudden announcement of his resignation, Lavelle’s executive assistant was emailing small groups of newsroom staff, inviting them to ...  discuss their concerns about the paper’s management, which were outlined in a letter signed by almost 70 staff members from the Melbourne newspaper and addressed to Lavelle, Nine newspapers executive editor James Chessell and chief digital and publishing officer Chris Janz. And then Lavelle was gone.”


“The government’s proposal to reset course fees to accord with a political agenda is a gross infringement on academic freedom ... The most obvious motive from the hardliners is simple vindictiveness. They regard universities – indeed, most forms of education – as something vaguely subversive, yet another conspiracy hatched by the progressives to enhance their dominance. But the stated rationale is, as always, jobs.”


“An associate is both a personal and professional assistant; they can be asked to research and proofread judgements, or to collect their judge’s dry-cleaning ... The pair often travel together too. The ‘hours’ of the job are set by the judge, and there is an implicit understanding that your nights and weekends are theirs should they ask. It can be difficult for friends and family to understand the sense of honour and duty an associate feels to their judge. This kind of working relationship presents privileges that the system simply hopes won’t be abused.”


“Australia’s largest domestic emitter of greenhouse gases, the energy provider AGL, is the first major company in the country to link managers’ bonuses to lowering emissions. AGL announced on Tuesday that metrics including the amount of power the company generated from renewable sources would be linked to the pay incentives of key managers from the next financial year, starting in July 2021.”


“Shell is writing down the value of its assets by as much as $22 billion as lower oil prices push the Anglo-Dutch company to accelerate a shift away from fossil fuels ... BP agreed to sell its petrochemicals business for $5 billion on Monday, saying the company's resources would be better deployed elsewhere as it tries to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.”


“What’s so special about Linda Ring’s breads? Well, she uses them as canvas. She personifies them by drawing mysterious faces or still life. Her line is spontaneous and lively like the drawings of Jean Cocteau or Picasso.”

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