Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Defence patrols Murray border

Albury-Wodonga has recorded its first Covid-19 cases in weeks, as the Australian Defence Force mobilises to enforce the closure of the border between New South Wales and Victoria from midnight tonight. One confirmed case of the virus was recorded in Wodonga on the Victorian side of the border on Monday, and two suspected cases are being investigated across the border in Albury, one of which is linked to Melbourne. Nevertheless, residents are concerned about the economic impact of dividing the two cities. Up to 500 Defence personnel will be deployed to patrol the state boundary, reports The Daily Telegraph, after Victoria registered a record 127 new cases as well as two deaths over 24 hours. Victorians in NSW will be free to return to their home state. The infections include 16 cases detected in the public housing towers under a hard lockdown, with experts urging infected residents be allowed to leave ($) so they can be put in isolation. Meanwhile Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has declared all arrivals from Greater Melbourne will have to undergo two weeks of mandatory supervised quarantine when NT borders reopen on July 17. Those who fail to do so could face three years in prison.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert will today promise faster welfare payments through a new “entitlement calculation engine” for Services Australia, which could be also used for health care and aged care. In an address to the National Press Club, Robert will also detail efforts to make MyGov the “Netflix” of government services, and “reimagined” telephone helplines with more than 1.5 million people signed up for voice biometric services. He will also detail plans to keep information on the public in a sovereign data set only hosted in Australia, rather than overseas. It comes as Guardian Australia reports that the public sector union calls on Robert to apologise to its members forced to administer the unlawful robodebt scheme. The Community and Public Sector Union said staff had expressed concerns about the program four years ago, with some feeling sick or losing sleep over interactions with victims of the scheme, including those who “talked about suicide on the call”. Lifeline: 13 11 14

In a submission to the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee, the Department of Home Affairs says a push to enhance the power of guards to confiscate mobile phones from immigration centre detainees won’t amount to a “blanket ban”. Confiscations will only happen in “certain circumstances” where wrongdoing is suspected, the Department claims. Human Rights Law Centre legal director David Burke told SBS News he was not convinced. “That doesn’t change anything when the law is specifically written to allow blanket bans to be applied,” he said. “This is a really harmful expansion of powers – they are essentially proposing to give private contractor detention centre staff more powers than even police have.” The Senate committee has received submissions from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Australian Medical Association and Amnesty International warning against the proposal.

The Morrison government is considering a plan to grant ($) international students graduate work rights even if they are forced to remain overseas and study online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to The Australian, the plan would also see the reduction or waiving of visa renewal fees for students whose visas are expiring but who have stayed on in Australia because of the difficulty of returning home. It comes as all schemes to return international students to Australia are put on hold due to the outbreak in Victoria.


“When the Australian government launched COVIDSafe in late April, Jim Mussared’s curiosity got the better of him. Until then, he hadn’t paid much attention to the contact tracing app’s rollout. Like everyone, he’d heard the prime minister compare it to “sunscreen” and say the more people who took it up, the sooner restrictions on movement would be lifted … But Mussared had a unique perspective ... his past job with Google’s site reliability team meant that if something were wrong, he’d know where to look for it.”


“Almost all of the other candidates swung their preferences to Labor’s Kristy McBain, so ... the final outcome hardly budged. A very small byelection, not many interested. This confounded the pundits, who had over-hyped the event something fierce. The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan declared on the very day of polling that the contest would reverberate all the way to the next election, that it would show once and for all whether the noble and fearless leadership of Scott Morrison would finally vanquish the pusillanimous Anthony Albanese. But, of course, it did nothing of the kind.”


The hope for soccer fans is that this World Cup will create lasting connections between the FFA and the political class … Senator Green, a lifelong soccer fan and former player, wants the images of the prime minister wearing a Matildas scarf to be supplemented by funding that is commensurate with the massive numbers of women and girls taking up the game across the country.”


“One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson has been dropped from her regular contributor role on Nine’s The Today Show after comments she made this morning about the Melbourne residents currently in lockdown following a COVID-19 outbreak. Nine’s director of news and current affairs, Darren Wick, said ... ‘this morning’s accusations from Pauline Hanson were ill-informed and divisive.’”


“In her maiden speech to Parliament back in 1996 she warned that Australia was being ‘swamped by Asians’. Her second maiden speech in 2016 called for a stop to Muslim immigration. She’s also claimed that Aboriginal parents are lazy, and in 2018 had the audacity to put forward a motion against ‘anti-white racism’ which declared ‘it’s OK to be white’. So when you invite Pauline Hanson on your national news program, you know exactly what you’re going to get.”


“With its big curves and minimal design, the place looks more like a modern art gallery than a pre-school, which leaves us wondering: where have they hidden all the toys?”

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