Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Victoria extends state of emergency

Victoria’s upper house has passed a six-month extension of state of emergency powers, following a marathon debate overnight that pushed the final vote to 2am this morning. The compromise deal grants a one-off extension of powers for the chief health officer to issue legally binding health directives, not the permanent legislative change sought by the Andrews government. Health minister Jenny Mikakos agreed to provide Parliament with the chief health officer’s advice each time the government renews its state of emergency. “This is the most important bill . . . in the 21 years I have been in the Victorian Parliament,” she said. The Liberal opposition and some crossbenchers opposed the bill, wanting month-to-month extensions. Former prime minister Tony Abbott condemned the Melbourne shutdown as a “health dictatorship” and called for the world to end lockdowns. Victoria recorded 70 new Covid-19 cases and five deaths on Tuesday.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is today expected to announce the biggest drop in Australian GDP since the Great Depression, with an estimated 6 per cent plunge for the June quarter officially confirming the country is in recession. It comes after legislation was passed by the federal parliament yesterday, splitting JobKeeper wage subsidies into a two-tiered system and extending the program for another six months. The $1500 flat fortnightly rate will end later this month, with people who worked less than 20 hours a week before the crisis to be paid $750 a fortnight from the end of September, while all others will receive $1200. The maximum payment will come down to $1000 from December to March.

China has suspended barley imports from Australia’s largest grain exporter CBH Grain, as trade tensions between the two nations continue to escalate. China’s General Administration of Customs said barley shipments would be halted after pests were found on multiple occasions, the administration said on its official WeChat account. CBH, which is owned and operated by about 3900 Western Australian grain growers, rejected the claims and said it was disappointed by the decision. “We will work with the Australian Government to challenge the suspension,” it said in a statement. It comes as concerns mount over the detention of Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist working in China, for unknown reasons. University of Technology Sydney academic and China studies professor Feng Chongyi warned the ABC that Cheng may be subjected to torture by sleep deprivation.

The AFL is today expected to announce that Queensland will host this year’s grand final, the first time the marquee game will be held outside Victoria, due to the Covid-19 crisis. South Australia was reportedly the runner-up in the bid to host the game. AFL senior executives flew to Queensland on a charter flight on Tuesday ahead of the announcement. The Gabba is set to be the venue selected, with a capped crowd of about 30,000 slated to attend a twilight or evening match on October 24.


“A key aim of the group was to impose its version of ‘Christian’ morality. They were – or are – anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, anti-Safe Schools. They are by any definition extreme social conservatives. Back in 2016 one of their number, Stephanie Ross, now Bastiaan’s wife, gave an interview in which she voiced her opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. At the time she was seeking preselection in the Victorian state seat of Narracan.”


“Leong says that people’s ability to freely participate in our democracy is more important than sport, or people being able to go to a Westfield shopping centre. ‘You want to see more democracy, not less, in the middle of this crisis,’ she adds. ‘There are so many people in positions of power in our parliaments that would prefer to not have the doors open, and would prefer not to have the scrutiny, and that’s dangerous to our democracy.’”


“With Summer, the conclusion to the seasonal quartet of novels that began with Autumn in 2017, the Scottish author Ali Smith has completed her extraordinary goal of writing four novels in four years. Smith wrote each of the novels in the four months leading up to its publication date, with those publication dates aligning with the titular seasons. As an exercise in constrained writing, it’s an impressive feat. However, for Smith the challenge was always about more than discipline or technique.”


“Facebook has announced it will ban publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram if a proposal to force tech giants to pay for news becomes law ... If Facebook follows through with this threat, it will potentially lead to very uncompelling content on both Facebook and Instagram. Can you imagine Instagram or Facebook without the ABC or Australian news sources?”


“In this case, it was leaving up the ‘Kenosha Guard’ vigilante page which 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was part of, despite over 450 user reports. Rittenhouse is charged with two counts of homicide and one of attempted homicide after opening fire with an illegally-owned gun into a crowd of protesters. Leaving the page up was an ‘operational mistake’ according to Mark Zuckerberg …  the moderation team in charge of the Kenosha Guard hadn’t acted on user reports because moderators didn’t fully understand the workings of ‘certain militias.’”


“Since early this year, Tampa’s famed cats Cole and Marmalade had been absent from social media where they’d amassed a million-plus followers, leading to appearances on Ellen and the cover of Modern Cat magazine. A lawsuit between Cole and Marmalade’s owners and their now-former partners in Digital Pet Media, which managed the Cole and Marmalade business, prevented Chris Poole and his wife, Jessica Josephs, from posting photos of their own cats. It ended with a confidential settlement in August.”

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