Monday, October 12, 2020

Victoria ends remote learning marathon

About 600,000 Victorian students return to school today, with teachers to closely monitor the wellbeing of children who have been remote learning since June. All primary school and Year 7 students will attend classrooms for the first time in 10 weeks, to be joined by VCE, VCAL, and special needs learners. All secondary students are required to wear masks. One school, St John Vianney’s Primary School in Parkdale, will monitor the social behaviour, co-ordination, and conditioning of students, with concerns that kids haven’t been as active at home. Students in Years 8-10 return to class on October 26. The Conversation reports that children may have enjoyed benefits from the lockdown, including closer bonding with parents. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday warned parents not to let ill students attend classes. 

Victoria reported a dozen new Covid-19 cases and one death on Sunday, keeping Melbourne’s 14-day average higher than the city’s targets for the next step of eased restrictions. The targets include a rolling 14-day case average of five or lower, but currently sit at 9.3. Andrews flagged that this meant Melbourne social restrictions might be eased next weekend but not business restrictions.  Contacts of known Covid-19 cases in Victoria must now be tested before leaving quarantine or face another 10 days in isolation, and regional Victorian businesses who do not take "reasonable steps" to ensure their customers are legally allowed to be outside of Melbourne will face a fine of nearly $10,000. Meanwhile, The Age reports that Sorrento hotelier Julian Gerner this week will lodge a legal challenge in the High Court of Australia against the validity of the Melbourne lockdown.

A $27 billion federal budget measure offering tax breaks for business investment could be expanded further, after Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg asked Treasury and the Business Council of Australia to discuss ways to include larger companies, including local subsidiaries of multinationals. According to The Australian Financial Review, business leaders have lobbied the federal government to expand eligibility for the plan, which currently allows businesses with turnover of up to $5 billion to instantly deduct the full cost of eligible capital assets.

A new report from Foodbank finds that demand for food relief rose by 47 per cent during the pandemic, with international students and casual workers particularly in need of assistance. The report noted that people already experiencing food insecurity before the pandemic had sought help more often. In 2019, an estimated 15 per cent of Australians experiencing food insecurity were seeking food relief at least once a week, a number that more than doubled to 31 per cent in 2020. Foodbank surveyed roughly 500 charities and 1000 Australians who had experienced food insecurity in the past 12 months. The findings come despite the temporary boost to the JobSeeker payment, as advocates push for the federal government to commit to a permanent increase.

The school fighting to save its language
For decades, students in Footscray in Melbourne’s West, have been taught in Vietnamese alongside English. But now, the program is under threat. Today, André Dao on why we value some languages more than others, and what it says about where Australia sees its place in the world.

“In a budget crisis – when money is no object, but speed is crucial – it can be instructive to see where and when the dollars flow, and who misses out. The spending graphs in Budget 2020 are skyscraper numbers that can obscure what’s being knocked down and not being built ... But among the dizzying figures is spending that reveals the government’s priorities, and its possible election timetable.”

“Trump, who is 74 years old and clinically obese, has received an experimental drug cocktail, REGN-COV2, which includes copies of Covid-19 antibodies. The drug, produced by the American firm Regeneron, is still in trial but was provided by the firm for ‘compassionate use’.”

“Since John Howard was elected in 1996, the pursuit of a budget surplus has been the defining feature of Australian economic and political strategy, but those days are, as Tony Abbott might say, dead, buried and cremated. Now they have conceded there is nothing wrong with borrowing billions of dollars – to spend on top-end tax cuts or gas-fired power stations – how will the government persuade voters it’s irresponsible to spend borrowed money on free childcare or renewable energy instead?”

“Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched a petition calling for a Royal Commission into the Rupert Murdoch media empire, which he has called a ‘cancer on democracy.’ He described the Murdoch empire as ‘abusing the media monopoly in Australia’ and threatening ‘the future lifeblood of our democratic system.’”

“Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has admitted his petition calling for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch's media empire will likely be ignored by the government, despite amassing more than 40,000 signatures in just over 24 hours … Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on Sunday would not say whether he supports Mr Rudd's call for a royal commission. ‘Kevin is doing that as a private citizen, as a former prime minister. He's entitled to put his views,’ Mr Albanese told reporters.”

“This is a bit of a controversial suggestion because it’s very hard to police, but there is a certain type of domestic abuse that follows a predictable pattern: it’s called coercive control. It’s the kind of abuse people refer to as intimate terrorism … They’re the most dangerous relationships to be inside and the most dangerous relationships to leave.”

“An open letter urging governments to embrace herd immunity has been signed by the likes of at least seven Dr Harold Shipmans, Dr Person Fakename, Dr Very Dodgy Doctor, and a Mr Banana Rama – casting doubt on the legitimacy of the support it claims to have … among the signatures, which are publicly available on the website, are dozens of fake names. These include ‘Professor Ita Rôle Italy Pudding and dessert expert’, ‘Dr Brian Blessed Doctor in Winged Flight, Z-Cars and Booming Laughter’ ... and ‘Professor Notaf Uckingclue’.”

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