Monday, September 28, 2020

Andrews lifts Melbourne curfew

Melburnians are waking up to new freedoms after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the lifting of the evening curfew from 5am today. Residents are now permitted to meet outside in groups of up to five people from two households, more than 127,000 people will be able to return to workplaces, outdoor pools will reopen, supermarkets will return to full capacity, and outbreak-stricken abattoirs will increase capacity “in line with levels we know are safe”, it was announced on Sunday. Childcare will reopen to all children, and face-to-face learning will resume for primary school students from October 12. The penalty for illegal gatherings, however, has been ramped up to nearly $5000. The curfew has been lifted ahead of a Liberal-backed legal challenge in the state's Supreme Court this morning. The easing of restrictions was widely backed by epidemiologists, although business groups and the federal government indicated it should go further. The state is accelerating its reopening as cases numbers drop faster than anticipated, with Victoria on Sunday recording 16 new cases and two deaths.

The federal government will today announce the extension of support to airlines. More than $150 million has been funnelled to airlines through the Domestic Aviation Network Support program and the Regional Airline Network Support program, which will be extended to January 31, 2021, and March 28, 2021, respectively. It comes as The Sunday Telegraph reports that New Zealanders could be permitted to fly into New South Wales within weeks under a federal government plan to boost tourism. There would be no quarantine period required. NSW residents would then be allowed to travel across the Tasman by Christmas.

United States President Donald Trump has said his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett could help overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling which made abortion legal in the US. “She is certainly conservative in her views, in her rulings, and we’ll have to see how that all works out but I think it will work out,” he told Fox & Friends Weekend. Progressives are concerned her strict Catholicism will feed into rulings on abortion rights made by the court, which would have a 6-3 conservative majority if Barrett is appointed by the Republican-majority senate.

Conflict has broken out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, with members of the public and military reported killed. Armenia declared martial law and claimed it had downed enemy helicopters and destroyed tanks, after accusing Azerbaijan of air and artillery attacks. Azerbaijan said it had begun a counter-offensive in response to shelling. The region is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians. A 1990s war in the region after the breakup of the Soviet Union claimed 30,000 lives.

The new virus hotels
Victoria’s second wave has been attributed to an outbreak of Covid-19 amongst private contractors working in hotel quarantine, and now government documents reveal more contractors at quarantine hotels have tested positive for the virus.

“Under the new scheme, the accepted practice of universities taking 40 per cent of teaching time and dedicating it to research activity will no longer be viable ... because the government calculation of the cost of course delivery does not account for the allocation of research time in staff costs. But after years of skirmishes and thwarted attempts to overhaul higher education, the Coalition has the academy right where it wants it: ready to bargain for its very existence.”

“Washing was hung on lines and boxes of photo albums unloaded from cars where they’d been packed for previous evacuations. People headed into the nearby larger towns for coffee and work, leaving wedding rings on dressers and family pets at home. Closer to the coast, continuing just down the narrow, tree-lined road from the highway, the caravan park at the twin hamlet of Lake Conjola heaved with thousands of holiday-makers ... It was the first blue-sky, smoke-free morning in weeks: a beautiful day, until it wasn’t.”

“Tony Abbott has a lot to answer for. The former prime minister’s judgement on the national broadband network, climate and energy have led to costly and embarrassing failures. Now Scott Morrison is left to pick up the pieces – trying to reposition his government to be more in tune with the situation contemporary Australia is facing.”

“Queensland’s police service is set to be bolstered by an additional 2025 personnel, of which more than half will be frontline officers, Queensland's Premier announced on Sunday. Annastacia Palaszczuk said the $624 million five-year investment would include 1450 new frontline officers, of which about 150 will be posted in each of the state's regions.”

“On the eve of the Queensland election campaign, a ‘flying squad’ of specialist police officers from Brisbane has been sent to round up known repeat offenders in the northern city of Townsville, where the government holds three marginal seats … The local narrative that irredeemable (mainly Indigenous) offenders are terrorising law-abiding (mainly white) citizens in Townsville has been amplified by some politicians, police, residents and media outlets for the past decade.”

“But economic experts aside, the golden rule of politics still applies: there is always a price to pay for taking something off people. In rolling back JobKeeper, Morrison can’t hide behind the premiers or get far by blaming Victoria. The national economy and social security are squarely in his court.”

“As Fashion Month has continued in the wake of the ongoing pandemic ... Scott opted for a — literal — scaled-down show with all models and attendees as puppets, with lookalikes of famous faces including Anna Wintour and British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful in the crowd. ‘Not only did all the clothes have to be scaled down, and all the accessories scaled down (to) the size of the marionettes, but the whole audience had to be not only created and dressed,’ Scott said in a video interview with CNN Style.”

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