Monday, February 01, 2021

Covid case shuts down Perth

Perth and surrounding regions have begun a five-day lockdown, after a hotel quarantine security guard tested positive to Covid-19. In an emergency press conference on Sunday, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said the hotel the guard worked at housed returned travellers positive with the UK and South African strains of the virus. McGowan added that the guard may also work as a rideshare delivery driver. The lockdown began at 6pm on Sunday, applying to the whole Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region. Provided they wear a mask, residents can leave the house for essentials, medical needs, work, and exercise within their neighbourhood for one hour a day with one other person. Queensland, NT and Victorian health authorities have declared the locked-down regions a hotspot, with visitors required to enter isolation. Federal politicians arriving from Perth into Canberra for the parliamentary sitting week were ordered to go directly to their accommodation and await instructions. The positive case ends a ten-month streak without community transmission in WA. Local health authorities are updating a list of possible exposure sites.

In an address to Canberra’s National Press Club today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will reveal how $1.9 billion in funding for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout will be spent. “We’ll have thousands of points of presence across Australia – hospitals, GPs, pharmacies, respiratory clinics, Aboriginal health services and a specialist surge workforce,” Morrison will say. Australia’s 5800 community pharmacies will be invited to participate in the rollout. He will reiterate that vaccinations will be free for all, but that there may be some delays due to potential export controls on European-manufactured vaccines. Priority groups, including the elderly, can expect their first jabs in late-February. 

Game show host Andrew O’Keefe has been charged by police over an alleged domestic assault on his partner in Sydney on Sunday. Police allege that O’Keefe, a founding member of domestic violence charity White Ribbon Australia, assaulted his partner at an apartment in Sydney at around 1am on Sunday. He was subsequently granted bail on the condition that he does not contact or approach her unless through a lawyer, and stays away from her home.

Russian police detained more than 4000 people on Sunday, as protesters took to the streets demanding the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, was among those detained. In Vladivostok, dozens of protesters escaped the police on the frozen waters of the Amur Bay and circle danced. His supporters called for new nationwide demonstrations ahead of Navalny’s trial, which is set to start on Tuesday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russia to release Navalny and criticised the crackdown on protests.

The sailors stranded at sea because of Australia's trade war
Right now hundreds of ships carrying Australian coal are stranded in Chinese ports. More than 1000 sailors have been trapped on board for months now because of one reason: Australia’s escalating trade war with China.

“Scandals are nothing new in Australian politics, but the way they have piled up in the recent years of Coalition government points to a critical shift in our governance. Acts of malfeasance and impropriety have become more than isolated episodes, more than egregious slips or embarrassing failures. Unexplained and unresolved, they are open wounds on the body politic, overlapping and now chronic.”

“As the most powerful person on the planet, Joe Biden, said ... clean energy presents an opportunity to solve the climate crisis and boost the economy at the same time. ‘When I hear the words “climate change,” ’ Biden tweeted, ‘I hear another word: “jobs.” ’ But when Australia’s prime minister hears the words ‘climate change’, it seems he hears the word ‘Canavan’. And when our opposition leader hears them, he hears ‘Fitzgibbon’. They hear and fear the names of the climate dissidents in their party ranks.”

“As someone who has worked both as a casual academic and on contract at a number of different universities, I can confidently say wage theft occurs in almost every part of the job. Lectures are misclassified as tutorials and tutorials as ‘practice classes’ so staff can be paid at a lower hourly rate than they are entitled. Casual academics hired to ‘co‑ordinate’ subjects find they have to write the subject content from scratch, before they even have a contract. Woefully inadequate hours are allocated for marking, preparing tutorials and writing lectures.”

“Google is the dominant search engine in Australia — it has 94 per cent of the web search market in Australia — but there are other search services … DuckDuckGo is a search engine that has recently risen in popularity thanks to a commitment to protecting its users’ privacy … Another interesting and recent proposal of an alternative web search engine is Ecosia. This system is unique as it focuses on sustainability and positive climate impact.”

“In light of the possibility Australia’s access to Google’s search engine could be removed, Mr Frydenberg said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had spoken to the CEO and president of Microsoft about the company’s search engine Bing. ‘They’re watching this very closely and no doubt see opportunities here in Australia to expand too,’ Mr Frydenberg said.”

“Further obscuring the donations picture are the hundreds of ‘associated entities’ – businesses, companies, unions and foundations, such as the Free Enterprise Foundation, set up to collect money and pass it on to the parties with which they are aligned. And, as we have recently learned, there are also the secretive ‘clubs’, such as ... Joe Hockey’s North Sydney Forum, which charge membership fees – up to $22,000 in Hockey’s case – to business figures and lobbyists in return for access. The fees are then ‘consolidated’ (read: laundered to remove identities of members) and passed to the party.”

“When Press Secretary Jen Psaki began ... by announcing that American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters would now be present at all White House news briefings, many deaf and hard of hearing Americans celebrated this historic first. But it turns out the first ASL interpreter chosen was not such a change from the previous administration after all. Heather Mewshaw … appears to manage a group of ASL interpreters who provide sign language accompaniments to right-wing videos. Some of these videos have featured vaccine misinformation, conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the January 6 riots at the Capitol, and false claims about Michelle Obama being transgender.”

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