Friday, July 17, 2020

Victoria suspends elective surgery

Victoria’s healthcare system is scrambling to respond to the state’s Covid-19 crisis, suspending elective surgeries as rising numbers of frontline medical staff test positive for the virus. The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Thursday 150 healthcare workers were infected, an increase of 36 cases in two days, including outbreaks at the Northern Hospital Epping and Brunswick Private Hospital. The department said most had been infected outside work. As the state reported a record overall daily increase of 317 new infections on Thursday, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced all category three elective surgeries would be paused across Melbourne’s public hospitals. The death toll in Victoria rose by two on Thursday, with 109 patients in hospital, 29 of them in intensive care. More than 14,000 Victorians with health qualifications have registered to replace those off sick or quarantined.

Australian state and territory ministers, along with their New Zealand counterparts, will meet today to decide whether to adopt more prominent alcohol warning labels for pregnant women. Former Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Stanley, has backed the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand labelling proposal, which includes an image of a pregnant woman set on a white background, with black and red lettering warning of the dangers. The alcohol sector has pushed back, arguing making the white, red and black colour scheme mandatory will add hundreds of millions of dollars in printing costs.

A man has been shot dead by police on Thursday afternoon, after stabbing a woman at the John Coutts Reserve in Melbourne's north-west. The man continued to “seriously assault” the woman after police arrived, Victoria Police claim, prompting officers to fire gunshots at the attacker. The man died at the scene and the woman was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

The federal government is to provide an additional $400 million to its location incentive program, which seeks to attract more big studio film productions to Australia. According to The Australian the program, which effectively takes the tax offset rate from 16.5 per cent to 30 per cent for eligible international film productions, will be extended for four more years to 2026-27. Some of the projects that have already received support include Marvel Studio’s Thor: Love and Thunder, and Paramount’s television series based on the Australian book Shantaram.

The Miles Franklin literary prize has been awarded to Wiradjuri writer Tara June Winch for The Yield. The novel, described by the judging panel as “haunting and accomplished”, deals with themes of Indigenous history, dispossession and storytelling. Winch, whose $60,000 win was announced in a YouTube broadcast on Thursday, said that she hoped it would “[encourage] the next generation of Indigenous voices, to know there is a space here for you in the industry, and in the minds and hearts of a new era of readers”. 


“On January 19, 2019, Yang flew into Guangzhou from New York on his Australian passport. As he was making his way with his wife and stepdaughter to their connecting flight to Shanghai, agents of his old employer, the MSS, took him away. Today, Yang Hengjun, 55, sits in a Chinese prison, awaiting trial, charged with espionage and endangering national security. If some within the overseas democracy movement had wondered if he was spying for the People’s Republic of China, Beijing seems to believe he served another master.”


“Imagine going through cancer treatment and discovering it might have been unnecessary. According to research released in early 2020, this happens to about 30,000 Australians each year ... The dilemma lies in determining which cancers will be aggressive versus those that scientists call ‘indolent’, or in layman’s terms those that wouldn’t become symptomatic in a patient’s lifetime or contribute to death.”


“A coiled hose, a howling dog, terebinth trees, soap suds, the smell of petrol on human skin. These details are so subtly embedded in part one of Minor Detail (Text) that when they recur in part two they gain a holographic glow. Palestinian Adania Shibli’s cinematic novel stages a return of the repressed on a national scale by reprising an atrocity committed by Israeli soldiers in the Negev region in 1949.”


“The federal government will pump $500 million into Australia’s vocational training sector to tackle unemployment and boost the economic recovery. But the sector’s history of rorts has many researchers worried about how the money will be spent ... Professor Quiggin … said government should rebuild the TAFE sector while trying ‘to keep for-profit firms out of this space as much as possible’.”


“Some of Australia's most prestigious and cashed-up universities are being accused of hypocrisy, as data reveals almost 70 per cent of staff are employed insecurely while ‘thousands’ are laid off as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic … The ABC understands as many as 5,000 staff at just two Melbourne institutions have no more work — suggesting sector job losses are being significantly under-reported.”


“‘You’ve been through a lot this year and it looks like you need the perfect place to let your frustrations out. Somewhere big, vast, and untouched. It looks like you need Iceland.’ These are the words of a new advertising campaign from Promote Iceland that invites people around the world to scream out their lockdown frustrations. The screams are recorded via the campaign’s website and ‘released’ into Iceland’s landscapes via speakers set up across the country.”

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