Thursday, August 06, 2020

Melbourne closed for business

New restrictions came into force overnight in Melbourne, shutting down thousands of businesses and requiring eligible residents to carry a special permit to travel to work and access childcare. As Victoria recorded 725 new cases of Covid-19 and 15 deaths on Wednesday, from 11.59pm yesterday workers in a select number of jobs need a permit to commute to work. An extended version of the permit is needed for essential workers and parents of vulnerable children to access childcare. Business leaders secured an emergency meeting with state Treasurer Tim Pallas on Wednesday night to explain their fears for national supply chains due to requirements that warehouses and distribution centres reduce staff by 33 per cent. Penalties of up to $19,826 for individuals and $99,132 for businesses apply to wrongful use of permits, and on-the-spot fines of up to $1652 for individuals and up to $9913 for businesses apply for failure to carry a permit.

The Morrison government will today unveil a $1.67 billion cyber security strategy, which would grant the Australian Federal Police authority to break into the computer networks of Australians domestically for the first time. The strategy highlights bar­riers in the way of tracking pedophiles and terrorists who encrypt communications. The powers will be broad enough to include end-to-end encryption on Facebook. The Australian Federal Police will be given legislative authority to request technical assistance from the Australian Signals Directorate to track domestic servers, reports The Australian. The AFP’s cyber enforcement capacity will be increased with the recruitment of another 100 officers with an additional $124.9m in funding.­ Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will be handed powers to direct the Australian Signals Directorate to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. Operators of critical infrastructure such as power generation, communications networks and ports will be given $66 million to upgrade their cyber defences.

The University of Melbourne on Wednesday announced it would axe 450 permanent staff, as it expects to lose $1 billion in revenue over the next three years. “The decision to reduce the size of the university's workforce has been a last-resort measure to combat the financial crisis caused by COVID-19,” vice-chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell said. Unions protested the decision. “We are deeply sceptical when Australia's richest university cries poor and claims its only option is to cut 5 per cent of its workforce,” National Tertiary Education Union president Alison Barnes said. The ABC reported on the same day the university had accepted liability for "wage theft" claims, which the NTEU said could be as high as $6 million. 

Quaden Bayles, the nine-year-old Murri boy who appeared in a video after being bullied over his dwarfism, is suing News Corp and columnist Miranda Devine for defamation, reports Guardian Australia. Quaden was accused of faking his distress after a campaign on his behalf raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Devine retweeted comments from Twitter user @bubblebathgirl, who made unfounded claims that Quaden was an actor and that his mother collected $300,000 in donations after creating a fake video. Devine said at the time: “That’s really rotten if this was a scam. Hurts genuine bullying victims.”


“There is a famous thought experiment, known as ‘the trolley problem’, that asks us to imagine ourselves driving a trolley – or a tram, for Australians – and having to choose between staying on the current track and running over five innocent people or switching tracks to kill only one person … so it is that some economists in Australia are trying to force a debate about whether we ‘should’ let Covid-19 kill tens of thousands of people or ruin the economy and force millions of Australians into unemployment and poverty. What would you do?”


“The Sydney deputy lord mayor and purveyor of ideas for a fairer world wants to show me the Tramsheds, a restoration of a former tram depot, now a growers’ market buttressed by restaurants and free wi-fi alongside 1300 new apartments ... The development includes some affordable housing, discreetly tucked in and as desirable as the rest of the dwellings: her city, in concert with other authorities, trying to eke out a tiny piece of equality around the affluent urban escarpment. The superyachts moored on the opposite bank catch Scully’s eye and ire, however.”


“In The Most Beautiful Job in the World – Italian anthropologist Giulia Mensitieri’s scathing takedown of the luxury fashion industry – a supermodel undresses for a shoot. She peels off her robe to reveal flesh-coloured compression socks and a thong of the same colour, from which a tampon string dangles. Her frame is skeletal. Yet, when the lighting, make-up and hair are done – and the model begins to perform for the camera – she is transformed.”


“It was only after a massive explosion ripped through Beirut that most people in Lebanon learned about the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a hangar at the city's port. The detonation of the material - used in bombs and fertilisers - sent shockwaves through the Lebanese capital, killing scores of people, injuring thousands, and leaving much of the city a mangled mess … Analysis of public records and documents published online show senior Lebanese officials knew for more than six years that the ammonium nitrate was stored in Hangar 12 of Beirut's port.”


“The deadly Beirut blast that killed more than 100 people has driven fresh calls for a large ammonium nitrate stockpile and plant in Newcastle, storing up to four times the amount reportedly detonated in the blast, to be relocated away from residents ... Newcastle's stockpile of between 6,000 to 12,000 tonnes is stored at Orica's Kooragang Island plant in the Port of Newcastle, according to the company.”


“There are at least 2,000 species of spider in Australia, and 170 species of snake. Some of those happen to be deadly. While more than 90 percent are unlikely to pose any serious threat to humans, there are a few others— including two types of spider and 12 types of snake—that possess the requisite venom to kill people. And it can be handy to know which specimens those are.”

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