Friday, October 16, 2020

New evidence in quarantine inquiry

Newly revealed correspondence indicates Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, was aware of the decision to hire private security for hotel quarantine in Melbourne as early as March, contradicting his testimony provided to the inquiry into the system. Sutton told the inquiry he was unaware of the decision to hire private security companies until May. Victoria’s Department of Health has been asked to supply fresh documents to the hotel quarantine inquiry, after key correspondence was not provided despite a request for all relevant documents, reports The Age. The inquiry has also obtained records ($) from former chief police commissioner Graham Ashton’s phone, according to The Herald Sun, while phone logs of outbound calls from Premier Daniel Andrews and his staff were to be handed to the inquiry overnight. It comes as the High Court will this afternoon hear a challenge against Victoria’s lockdown laws in a fast-tracked directions hearing, days after a challenge was filed on behalf of Mornington Peninsula hotelier Julian Gerner. Andrews is expected to ease some restrictions on Sunday, including expansion of the distance people are allowed to travel.

Former New South Wales state MP Daryl Maguire took Premier Gladys Berejiklian ($) to dinner on two occasions with the man who ran his shadow business, G8Way International, the Independent Commission Against Corruption has heard. Maguire, who was in a secret relationship with Berejiklian, also admitted encouraging property developers to “pop-in” to see her in state parliament — bypassing strict diary disclosure rules — and instructed them on how to lobby for their projects, promising to “cc” the Premier in. The inquiry then went into a closed hearing to examine the former MP on private matters connected to his relationship with Berejiklian. A transcript of the private examination was then mistakenly uploaded to the ICAC website on Thursday afternoon, where it remained for more than 30 minutes before being removed. It is not known how many people accessed the evidence before it was retracted. Maguire is expected to continue giving evidence on Friday.

Broadcaster Alan Jones is suing public broadcaster SBS for defamation over a television segment which he claims “greatly injured” his reputation by portraying him as a racist, misogynist and liar. SBS program The Feed broadcast a “tribute” in which presenter Alex Lee said Jones “secretly took money from companies to spruik their products on air, was arrested once, and sued for defamation more times than I can count. Oh, and he was on the radio for a bit.” In other legal news, former AFL player Heritier Lumumba will sue his former club Collingwood for failing in its “duty of care” in not taking sufficient action to address racial abuse.

Russia has announced its withdrawal from talks with Australia and the Netherlands over the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet in 2014. Flight MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels during fighting in Ukraine, according to international investigators. All 298 people on board were killed, including 193 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, and 27 Australians. Russian officials said its decision to withdraw came in response to a suit filed against Moscow at the European Court of Human Rights. “Australia and the Netherlands did not seek to understand what really happened in the summer of 2014, but instead were aiming to get Russia to admit guilt and receive compensation for the victims' relatives,” the country’s foreign ministry said. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said negotiations would continue with Australia to accommodate the victims.

Mr. Morrison goes to Queensland
With the Queensland state election looming, the Prime Minister has hit the campaign trail. But just as he arrived it was revealed that the LNP Opposition leader had been referred to the election watchdog for alleged impropriety. Paul Bongiorno on the growing political scandals around the country.

“Injection ampoules of adrenaline, used in cases of acute allergic reactions and cardiac arrest, had been in short supply, on and off, for two years. The shortage was critical, and a special access arrangement was in place that would allow the import of substitutes not normally approved in Australia. A single word was given as the reason for the shortage: ‘manufacturing’.”

“In a year when reasons for laughter have been in pretty short supply, Clarke and Dawe’s mix of biting satire, impeccable timing and onscreen chemistry have been sorely missed. One can only imagine what they might have said about the prime minister’s trip to Hawaii while the country burned, and about politicians of all stripes posturing over the Ruby Princess, hotel quarantine and the aged-care system. Dawe feels the absence, too.”

“Actors Shari Sebbens and Gemma Bird Matheson take on the quiz this week. Gemma can tell you how many minutes there are in half a day, and Shari knows the name of Tara June Winch’s 2020 Miles Franklin award-winning novel. But neither of them have any idea where the inventor of the Rubik's Cube was born.”

“Thousands more Australians stranded overseas will be able to get home sooner under an expansion of quarantine processing in Darwin. The ABC understands the Howard Springs Facility, 25 kilometres south of Darwin, will process about 1,000 international returnees a month on a fortnightly rotation of 500, beginning within weeks.”

“A national cabinet meeting due to discuss a plan to bring back thousands of additional Australians stranded overseas has been postponed, after the prime minister himself became stranded in Queensland with ‘technical problems’ grounding his RAAF plane … The issue prevented Morrison from leaving Queensland where he has been campaigning this week.”

“Oakes, Clark and News Corp’s Annika Smethurst – the other journalist raided in June – appear safe for as long as Porter, or whoever eventually succeeds him as attorney-general, refuses to authorise their prosecution. But experts say the effects of these raids, and of the extraordinary stream of legislation being ushered through parliament, are much broader.”

“While protesting racial injustice and police brutality, the Farm Spirit cook has — like countless other Portlanders — inhaled his fair share of CS gas, a ‘riot control agent’ that severely burns the eyes and causes retching and coughing … Winningham’s hot sauce uses peppers like serranos, jalapenos, and tomatillos from farms like Junction City’s Groundworks Organics, which he lacto-ferments and bottles. The bottles come adorned with an image of Wheeler in goggles and a mask.”

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