The Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly is giving an update on Australia’s COVID-19 response this afternoon.
The Black Lives Matter protests that filled the streets of Australia’s cities at the weekend made a powerful argument about tackling systemic racism here and in the United States. But they also raised a terrible dilemma concerning the balance between protecting public health and freedom of political expression.
The right to protest is an essential part of our democracy and at any other time the street marches would have deserved unequivocal praise for demanding justice not just for George Floyd – the African-American man killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota – but also for Australia’s Indigenous population.
The justice system puts Indigenous people in prison at a rate 15 times higher than that of the general population. We cannot ignore the shame of more than 430 Indigenous Australians dying in custody over the past 30 years. “There is not one blackfella here who’s not been touched by someone killed or maimed in custody,” Ted Wilkes, a Nyungar academic from Western Australia, said at the Melbourne march on Saturday.
Yet the 30,000 people in Melbourne and 20,000 in Sydney were very likely to have been in breach of the social distancing rules designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Although many participants were wearing protective masks and used hand sanitiser distributed by the organisers, the marchers were sometimes packed in tight. There is a risk that if one of them was infected they could have spread the disease to many others.
After injuries, doubts and a detour into the classroom, Melbourne Storm utility Chris Lewis made his belated NRL debut on Friday night.
At the age of 27 he was the oldest player to debut in Storm colours and he waited until the last five minutes to get on field, but it was worth the wait for two of his biggest supporters.
Without crowds, Storm found a novel way to get Lewis’s parents Mick and Pauleen into AAMI Park.
The club made them the designated ball retrievers, and they chased errant balls between plays.
The retired teachers had driven eight hours to Sydney from their home in the tiny northern NSW town of Ashford, then flown to Melbourne for the game.
TV cameras caught Lewis with a beaming smile when he ran on; what audiences couldn’t see was that he was smiling at his mum, sitting alone in the stands.
The NRL is still keen to pursue the development of Hawk-Eye style technology to rule on forward passes despite the financial crunch of coronavirus halting its potential arrival in the NRL earlier this year.
If it wasn’t for COVID-19, Manly may have beaten the Eels on Saturday night viainstantaneous proof that Tom Trbojevic’s pass went backwards.
Before the coronavirus pandemic brought sport around the world to a halt, the NRL had several companies working towards producing technology which would categorically tell match officials whether a pass was forward or not.
The world-first technology wouldn’t have mimicked the Hawk-Eye used in cricket or tennis but rather tracked a player’s hands when they passed the ball, since that is the factor which determines whether a pass is deemed legal or not.
A Black Lives Matter protest in Perth expected to attract thousands of people is set to go-ahead next Saturday despite current COVID-19 restrictions limiting mass outdoor gatherings to 300 people.
The rally, which will be the second BLM protest in Perth within three weeks, prompted leaders to call on organisers to apply to the Police Commissioner for an exemption to allow for the more than 300 people expected and stick to the social distancing rules.
Premier Mark McGowan on Sunday would not say he’d cancel the June 13 protest at Hyde Park that has attracted the interest of more than 19,000 people on Facebook for fear that banning it would attract even more people.
The recent BLM protest in Forrest Chase on WA Day attracted at least more than 1000 people, not all adhering to social distancing rules, to raise awareness of Indigenous Australian deaths in custody.
Melbourne’s three race clubs have ramped up pressure on Racing Victoria not to slash prizemoney for signature events like the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups and the Cox Plate, with a decision on stakes for the major Spring Carnival races due next month.
Josh Blanksby, chief executive of the Melbourne Racing Club and his Moonee Valley and Victoria Racing Club counterparts Michael Browell and Neil Wilson all believe that racing, having weathered the coronavirus storm better than most believed it could, should look to shore up its time-honoured races, not cut them in value.
”We need to have a conversation now about how we can maintain our great races at their current levels. We would love to see the prizemoney for the 100th running of the Cox Plate kept up to its $5 million level,” said Browell.
”It has not turned out to be quite the doomsday scenario that people were fearful of, and we should be doing everything we can to keep our great races at the top level.”
Victoria is in a position to be a peacemaker and help repair the fractious relationship between Canberra and Beijing, which hit new lows after Australia pushed for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a China expert.
However, another expert says Premier Daniel Andrews’ defiance over the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative could add further tension to the China-Australia relationship, which is the most fraught since the 1970s, and be a “vehicle” for Beijing to promote its agenda.
Weihuan Zhou, an international economic law expert at the University of New South Wales, said Victoria’s decision to remain steadfast to its commitment to the BRI could be an opportunity to improve bilateral relations between the two countries.
But if the state government walked away from the memorandum of understanding it first signed in 2018, it could potentially send a “bad message” to Beijing, albeit without severe consequences.
We’ve had the lockdown. Now what will the recovery look like? If the last week is any guide it’s going to involve a lot of construction.
On Tuesday Scott Morrison stood in front of vast earth works to announce extra funding for a rail link to the new western Sydney airport.
“This is how Australia makes its way back out of the COVID-19 crisis,” he said as giant bulldozers and trucks worked in the background.
Two days later the Prime Minister unveiled a scheme to give $25,000 grants to those building a new home or undertaking substantial renovations.
State governments have also pledged to bring forward “shovel ready” construction schemes to boost employment and stoke demand.
Governments have traditionally spent up big on transport projects and public buildings during economic downturns.
Building infrastructure can lift demand in the short-term and, if good projects are selected, lift the economy’s productivity in the longer term.
But there’s a glaring bias – most of the direct beneficiaries from construction spending will be men. Analysis published recently by the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows 88 per cent of those employed in that sector are men.
When the Morrison government in April urged foreigners to ‘go home’ if they could not support themselves through the pandemic, Chilean citizen Alfredo Dattwyler heeded the call.
He cut short his English studies in Perth, and flew his young family to Sydney on what was supposed to be the first leg of a long journey home to Santiago. He’s been in Sydney ever since, without an income.
Like more than 200 compatriots, Mr Dattwyler was stranded when major South American airline LATAM began cancelling flights in response to COVID-19 travel restrictions and closure of borders.
He is now a spokesman for a group of increasingly desperate Chileans imploring their government to work with LATAM to fly them home, and calling on the Australian government to press Chile to help.
While mainly made up of younger workers and students, the group also includes elderly visitors to Australia, and children. Some have had flights cancelled up to six times.
“Scott Morrison said ‘immigrants should go home’ so we panicked and bought tickets,” said Mr Dattwyler.
“Then LATAM started cancelling flights without notice and without any answers when we asked why.”
The global death toll from COVID-19 passed 400,000 this evening [AEST] according to Johns Hopkins who report the figure as 400,013 as of 7.30pm.
Johns Hopkins also lists the number of cases worldwide as over 6.91 million.
Australia has 102 deaths and 7259 cases.