Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Detention guards linked to outbreaks

Security guards working in immigration detention in both Sydney and Melbourne have been linked to Covid-19 outbreaks, as calls mount to move asylum seekers into the community. Serco guards at Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre have been forced to self-quarantine after visiting the Crossroads Hotel in Casula, which has now been linked to at least 21 positive Covid-19 cases. In a Mantra accommodation complex in Melbourne, which houses detained asylum seekers, an MSS Security worker subcontracted by Serco tested positive for Covid-19. Labor MP Ged Kearney, whose electorate covers the location of the Mantra property, told SBS News the ongoing detention of asylum seekers was a health risk. “They could have moved the men into the community to minimise the risk,” she said. “They did not.”

Leaked emails between senior officials responsible for Victoria’s hotel quarantine scheme show that bureaucrats were calling for police to take control of security from the first day of the program. The Age reports that a senior public servant at Victoria’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions repeatedly contacted the Department of Health and Human Services Emergency Management Victoria in late March suggesting private security was “not adequate” to guard the hotels. It comes as Victoria’s chief health officer, Professor Brett Sutton, said on Monday it was “conceivable” that all active Covid-19 cases in the state stemmed from breaches in the quarantine hotel program. The state recorded 177 new cases on Monday.

The National Archives of Australia  will this morning release the “palace letters”, a series of more than 200 exchanges from the mid-1970s between Queen Elizabeth, her private secretary Martin Charteris, and Sir John Kerr, Australia’s then-governor general. The correspondence came in the period leading up to Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in November 1975, but has been kept secret on the basis they were “personal” records. Historian Jenny Hocking secured their release after a four-year legal battle that went to the high court.

The Australian army’s Special Air Service Regiment killed as many as 10 unarmed civilians during a single 2012 raid in Afghanistan. Afghan witnesses and Australian sources have told the ABC that a mass shooting that targeted Taliban members also left civilians dead, including a group of unarmed villagers near a tractor. The raid is believed to be the worst one-day death toll uncovered to date of alleged unlawful killings by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. The news comes ahead of the release in the coming weeks of an investigation by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force into potential war crimes committed by Australian soldiers. 


“There is significant concern in all jurisdictions that, without drastic action, the Covid-19 outbreak could burst beyond the Victoria–NSW border, now closed for the first time since the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago. This would have dire consequences not only for health but also for an economy that had shown early signs of improvement.”


“Mildura, while technically in Victoria, spans both sides of the Murray; Albury-Wodonga is an equally homogenous conurbation. To pretend that they are somehow distinct populations is an affront to common sense. And I know, because I live less than an hour’s drive from the Tweed, where Annastacia Palaszczuk has been trying to run an equally pointless exercise ... motorists experienced delays of more than five hours as they waited for their passes to be confirmed. Some ran out of petrol, almost all ran out of patience, and in the end almost everyone who wanted to get through did.”


“While taking my young son on yet another visit to Canberra’s Questacon last year, I decided to walk him past a pair of statues of John Curtin and Ben Chifley. I wanted to explain how one of the men in those statues inspired the naming of the federal seat that I’m proud to represent, when my son patted Chifley’s forearm: ‘Joseph Benedict Chifley.’ I asked how he knew so quickly that it was Chifley. ‘The pipe,’ he answered, matter-of-factly, confirming a job well done by the ABC’s Behind the News.”


“The NSW government announced on Monday evening that the casino has been fined $5000 for breaching public health orders. ‘The Star was aware of its obligations to establish and enforce their COVID-19 safety plan,’ ... said Dimitri Argeres, the acting director of compliance for Liquor and Gaming NSW.”


“A group of birthday party-goers has been fined $26,000 for flouting Victoria’s COVID restrictions after being nabbed with bucketloads of fast food. The group was snapped by police after paramedics spotted two people ordering 20 meals at a KFC in suburban Melbourne at 1.30am on Friday.”


“The smartest woman's mask yet seen had for its outer covering a pink floral voile [sheer fabric], tied with pink ribbons ... at the corners on the cheeks there were tiny pink rosettes; another pink rosette hovered on the tip of the wearer's nose.”

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