Thursday, November 19, 2020

SA begins six-day ‘circuit breaker’

South Australia today begins a strict six-day “circuit breaker” lockdown, as health authorities race to contain the state’s first Covid-19 outbreak in months. The statewide lockdown forbids residents from leaving their homes even to exercise, with one person per household allowed to purchase essential supplies or attend medical services, provided they wear a mask. Exemptions are allowed for essential workers. Schools and most shops will close, including restaurants and cafes, which will not be permitted to serve takeaway food. The state recorded two new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the so-called Parafield cluster up to 23 confirmed cases on Wednesday. There are a further seven suspected cases, and SA Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier expressed particular concern regarding potential spread from an infected worker at Adelaide’s Woodville Pizza Bar. The lockdown, imposed by South Australia’s Liberal government, has thus far received a more positive reception from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the News Corp media than the shutdown of Melbourne by Victorian Labor Premier Dan Andrews. The Australian today ran with the headline “Emergency lockdown to avert months of pain”.

The Afghan government has called for Australian authorities to formally apologise to the families of victims of alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, ahead of the released of a redacted version of a major inquiry into the issue. The report is set to detail 55 incidents or issues linked to by SAS soldiers operating in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. Rahmatullah Andar, a spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council, told SBS Pashto that Australia should be commended for launching the investigation. “Whoever admits a criminal act [shows] moral courage,” he said. “If the investigation finds that because of such crimes, particular [Afghan] families are affected, saying sorry to them is another [act of] moral courage, and it is also a good thing to do under human rights [laws].” 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office complied with legally imposed deadlines in 7.5 per cent of freedom of information requests made in 2019, according to data from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The office of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, met the deadline in just 17 per cent of cases, Guardian Australia reports. Complaints about the handling of FOI requests were up by 79 per cent in a single year, while the overall number of requests processed within the lawful time frame fell to 79 per cent last financial year.

Queensland has upset New South Wales 20-14 to clinch rugby league’s State of Origin shield in front of a home crowd of 49,155 at Suncorp Stadium, billed as the largest attendance at a sporting encounter since the pandemic began. First half tries to Valentine Holmes and Edrick Lee, either side of an opportunistic score from New South Wales skipper James Tedesco, who was later knocked out, gave the Maroons a half-time lead. The home side managed to hang on for victory despite losing players of their own, ending the match with just 12 men.   

Why is Australia deporting this man?
Mojtaba is 29 years old. He’s lived in Australia for nearly a decade, but last year he was placed into detention. Since then he hasn’t been able to see his wife and young son. Abdul Hekmat on how Mojtaba’s life has been shaped by Australia’s immigration policies.

“The race for a coronavirus vaccine is the single largest co-operative scientific endeavour in human history. The logistics alone of providing at least 10 billion doses of a drug in as short a time as possible – Hunt wants all Australians who choose to be vaccinated to have their shots by the end of next year – is impressive ... Late last week Britain floated plans to launch ‘mass vaccination centres’ in stadiums, conference centres and even a cathedral, with thousands of GPs and nurses ... redeployed with the help of the armed forces. And that’s just the beginning.”

“The decision to automate, with algorithms, the cross-checking of ATO and Centrelink data was probably inevitable. It wasn’t just the prospect of the savings promised by instant, computerised matching. It was also the lure of surveillance, which bureaucracies tell themselves is really about information integrity.”

“In this episode, writer, actor, activist, and recently one of Who magazine’s sexiest people of 2020, Nakkiah Lui and her tv editor husband, Gabe Dowrick, tell us how many teeth an adult human should have, figure out which European nation owns the Dodecanese islands, and discuss the number of presidents of the United States who have died in office.”

“Thousands of Georgians unhappy over the way a recent parliamentary election was held took to the streets of the capital Tbilisi on Wednesday, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with politicians and a church leader ... Pompeo said the United States wanted to continue supporting Georgia in building its institutions to ensure ‘free and fair elections and all of the things that come with robust debate and democracy’.”

“There is no worse time for Georgia Republicans to be engulfed in a civil war ... And yet the war has come, full of double-crossing, internecine accusations of lying and incompetence, and a bitter cleavage into factions over the question of how much fealty should be shown to President Trump — and the extent to which Republicans should amplify his false argument that the election in this fast-changing Southern state was stolen from him.”

“The Defence establishment is bracing for murder charges to be laid against former and possibly serving elite Australian soldiers over the activities of some members of the Special Air Service Regiment in Afghanistan ... In a sobering disclosure in his recent annual report, the IGADF revealed most of the 55 incidents being investigated involved the deaths of non-combatants and former combatants.”

“Police in the west German city of Hamm are using drawings by six-year-olds to trace a rogue driver who allegedly smashed through a road barrier. The police praised the four young sleuths' sketches, saying they were officially part of the investigation. The children were waiting to cross the road when they witnessed the driver, a woman with short blonde hair.”

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