Lockdown in Katherine lifted from 5pm today
NT chief minister Michael Gunnar has confirmed that there are no new cases in the town of Katherine, and that the government has decided to end the lockdown from 5pm today.
He said the mask mandate will remain until Friday, however, and that people must wear masks when they cannot maintain social distancing.
Some more from the new Lowy Institute podcast with Penny Wong:
Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson was asked how she would reassure Southeast Asian countries about the Aukus arrangement. Wong said it required “engagement” and less emphasis on Anglosphere narratives:
“Whenever we’re dealing with Southeast Asia, we have to remember the way in which historical narratives can shape people’s interpretation of events. We still have a way to go in demonstrating to the Southeast Asian nations that we’re not simply a primarily Anglo-outpost post-colonial power, and we’ve only recently had a prime minister who kept talking lovingly of the Anglosphere.”
(That would be Tony Abbott.)
“So, we have to remember that how some things are understood and received is in part informed by historical frames, and so we need to be very clear about the modern Australian narrative about who we are. Part of that on Aukus, I think is to remind people that this is ‘in addition to’ not ‘instead of’. So a partnership between the US, Australia and the United Kingdom that shares greater technology that is actually quite unremarkable. It’s what we already do. It’s been formalised into an agreement between governments. It’s not an alliance, it’s not a treaty. It’s an articulation and a formalisation of what we already do. And part of the problem with the way in which it was announced is because Mr Morrison sought to make it as big as he did, it was interpreted, I think, differently in the region.”
On China, Wong said Australia’s relationship with Beijing had “deteriorated in great part because China has chosen to become much more assertive, and at times aggressive, and … because China is engaging in coercive economic activity”. She said that was “something all of us should be pushing back on”.
Wong argued there were enduring differences in the relationship that would need to be managed regardless of who was in power in Canberra – including on human rights and the South China Sea – but added that the Australian government should not inflame rhetoric for domestic political purposes. Wong said as foreign minister she would “talk much more openly about the experience of Chinese-Australians through this period”, pointing to research showing it had been “a very difficult time”.
The full podcast can be found here.
Lockout in Darwin extended by 24hrs
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has announced that the Darwin “lockout” has been extended for 24 hours, to Tuesday night.
It comes as NT did not record a new case, but Gunner said a venue that held a Melbourne Cup party was not properly maintaining the territory’s Covid protocols, which was where the source case visited.
Gunner said the lack of check-ins meant contact tracers need more time to find all the close contacts, which is why the lockout has been extended.
The Bureau of Meteorology has escalated a severe thunderstorm warning for areas in greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains/Hawkesbury, Maitland/Cessnock, Gosford/Wyong and Sydney areas.
BOM says that “damaging, locally destructive winds” and “large, possibly giant hailstones and heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding are likely.”
The SES is advising people to move their cars to cover, secure items around the house, and to stay indoors where possible.
Labor has called on the Australian government to conduct an internal review of the handling of the Aukus nuclear-powered submarines announcement.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, said she believed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had become less influential in Canberra, and she hoped that was “part of the explanation for the latest debacle”. She told the Lowy Institute podcast, The Director’s Chair:
“In terms of most recent diplomatic stoush, I hope that DFAT and the national security community do undertake an internal review about what has gone wrong in terms of the Aukus announcement and the clear diplomatic problems with the French, and some of the public statements of the Americans.
If it is the case that the advice was good, but [Scott] Morrison didn’t take it, then there’s clearly only an issue at the political level. But I suspect there are also things that should be learned about how this was managed in government, in terms of the advice of the department and whether that advice was influential. It’s interesting, isn’t it?
The submarine announcement is grounded in a capability argument and there is a compelling capability argument [for nuclear-propelled submarines]. But as you know, when you make a decision in the national interests which you know is going to be a difficult decision to land, you have to do the whole job and you have to focus on what is it that we can do to minimise the blowback, minimise the damage to Australia from landing such a decision. Clearly, that was not done. And I hope those in the leadership of the department and the broader national security community take this opportunity to reflect on that.
I think there are demonstrable failings from our leaders, politicians, some demonstrable failings from Mr Morrison, but I hope at a bureaucratic level that there is some thinking about it.”
The podcast was recorded on Friday but released today. Incidentally, former Labor prime minister Paul Keating is due to address the National Press Club on Wednesday and has been scathing about the Aukus plan.
So I wanted to just go back to agriculture minister and deputy leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud’s appearance on the ABC this afternoon. He was asked why Australia hasn’t moved further away from coal, especially in light of international pressure.
But Littleproud stood firm in his support of coal, arguing it is needed to “keep the lights on”:
We are believing in technology. We are getting back to the first principle is that it is about reducing emissions. If technology can reduce those emissions with coal and gas then why wouldn’t we invest in those technologies?
The Biden Administration is taking the same trajectory as us. If we get back to first principles and all this lauded advice that comes from overseas, is to reduce emissions. You can go do that with technology.
The ABC’s Patricia Karvelas brought up that Australia could immediately achieve that by elimination coal, but Littleproud said coal is essential:
You have to be able to turn the lights on at night and you have to be able to turn the air conditioner on when you need it. You need baseload power and that is the challenge we have.
Isn’t that the point of batteries?
That is where that technology is moving but it is not to the scale that would support a reliable energy source.
That is why we are moving as quickly as we can, not just investment in renewables but also in terms of carbon capture and storage. If you can reduce emissions, who cares how you do it, as long as you are reducing missions that are the first principle you want to get back to and that is what we will try to achieve with technology.
Making sure we are making the investment and not just adopting here in Australia but around the world. Those men and women that are working in mines will not just have jobs today but will be in 2030, 2040 and 2050 and we will have reduced emissions, I would have thought that is a good thing.
Save the Children was not alone in stressing the scale of the crisis in Afghanistan in a Senate inquiry this afternoon.
Tim Watkin, director of policy and advocacy at at the Australian Council for International Development, said the worst was yet to come as winter set in.
Watkin told senators:
“If there is one point we want to impress upon you, it is the scale of the humanitarian crisis unfolding across Afghanistan and the urgency that is needed in response … Over half the country is living in extreme poverty; 23 million people are forecast to face acute hunger; in the middle of a pandemic, the health sector is ‘hanging by a thread’; the situation is so desperate that starving Afghans are being forced to sell their own children to feed the rest of their family. We know the Australian government is working with its counterparts on how to deal with the Taliban, but the longer we take, the more the Afghan people will suffer.”
Watkin urged Australia to take an active and leading role in multilateral efforts to resolve operational challenges which are restricting the provision of life-saving aid.
“That means making the case for humanitarian safeguards in the UN sanctions regime. There are precedents at the UN on similar sanctions regimes, but for Afghanistan they are not being exercised. Beyond the immediate crisis, Australia – with its international partners – should plan to preserve the development gains that have been made. Humanitarian assistance is a bandage solution: it will not replace the provision of public services which are under threat and at-risk of collapse.”
Watkin also said the Australian government must strengthen efforts to support safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan and increase the humanitarian refugee intake.
An aid group has told a Senate inquiry that Afghanistan is “rapidly evolving into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.
Addressing a committee examining Australia’s engagement with Afghanistan, Save the Children said more than 10 million children were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
“Without immediate action from governments like Australia, the situation will become catastrophically worse,” said Mat Tinkler, the deputy chief executive of Save the Children Australia and the director of international programs.
Tinkler called on the Australian government to increase funding, with a commitment of at least $100m in new flexible humanitarian funding provided on a multi-year basis. He also reaffirmed called for the government to increase the humanitarian intake to a minimum of 20,000 places for Afghans, and support their safe passage.
“We have supported a number of our own staff to evacuate and have appreciated the cooperation and support of the Australian government.”
Weighing in to the contentious issue of talking with the Taliban, Tinkler said Australia should also work with other governments to determine “a common, constructive and principled modality for engaging with the Taliban both in Doha and in Afghanistan”. He said this engagement “should be grounded in and pursued with the view to ensure the protection of rights including women and girls’ rights, humanitarian access, and the provision of essential services”.
The inquiry also heard from Save the Children’s Afghanistan country director, Chris Nyamandi, who joined the hearing from Kabul.
Nyamandi said Save the Children had had a measure of success in negotiating access with the Taliban:
“I think the biggest issue that we are negotiating on is for female aid workers to be allowed to work and we have seen positive signals on that. However it’s clear that the Taliban authorities do not have the capacity, they do not have the resources, they do not have, in some ways, the political will to move on some important pieces. There is a general sense of a lack of urgency. If children are dying here in Kabul, then you can imagine what has happened in remote districts that we do not have access to. It will be important to exert a little bit more pressure so that there is a sense of urgency on what needs to be done to save lives.”
Agriculture minister and deputy leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud, is on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, squirming under questioning of the government’s climate policy.
Asked if Australia is ignoring the calls of its neighbours in not setting out a more ambitious climate target, Littleproud danced around the question:
No, we are acting. We took a commitment of 26- 28%, we signed up to that. We believe that we will meet somewhere closer to 35%.
I think we have a lot to be proud of, there will be plenty that we’ll see from the sideline with gratuitous advice, but our record is strong. We will meet the 2030 commitment and we have a target or net zero by 2050. We have said to the world clearly that we are going to try and reach that and we have a strong record of achievement.
Pushed on the matter, and with reference to the UK government’s climate change committee chair, Lord Deben saying Australia is “a real disappointment to the world”, Littleproud reproduced his line:
Well, look, there is plenty of free, gratuitous advice playing around the world at the moment. But what counts is action. When you go and make a national commitment and you live up to it, that speaks louder than a lot of the platitudes that applauding around the world at the moment. We have credibility and standing in meeting our commitments and beating them.
The Northern Territory has passed the 80% first dose mark today, leaving Queensland as the only state or territory yet to reach that mark.
NSW is expected to hit 90% fully vaccinated today or tomorrow, with Victoria sitting on 84% double-dose vaccinated.
Queensland currently has 67% fully vaccinated and 79.9% single dose rates.
Western Australia is currently sitting on 64% fully vaccinated, and the ACT is on 95.1% double dosed.
NSW Health have released a report on the vaccination status of Covid cases in the NSW Delta outbreak, and found that a majority were unvaccinated.
The report looked at cases between June and October this year, and showed that 63.1 % of cases during the Delta outbreak reported they were not vaccinated.
Over 9% reported having one dose and 6.1% were fully vaccinated. 21.7% of respondents had an unknown vaccination status.
Throughout the NSW outbreak, across all ages, people who have received two doses of vaccine have substantially lower rates of Covid-19 and severe Covid-19 than unvaccinated people.
However, vaccination does not completely protect people from infection and other recommended public health measures should continue to be observed.
Of the 47 cases who died with Covid-19 who had two doses of vaccine, their average age was 82 years; 29 (61.7%) were residents of aged care facilities and the other 18 had significant comorbidities.
Of the 30 admitted to ICU, 26 (86.7%) had significant co-morbidities and 4 had no reported comorbid conditions.
An email notifying electric vehicle drivers in New South Wales that they can now apply for support on new car purchases has revealed the contact details of 400 people.
The data breach occurred when an email titled “NSW EV Strategy – Rebate and Stamp Duty Exemption incentives now open for applications” from the Tax Reform Taskforce was sent out on Monday morning.
Roughly 400 people who had previously expressed interest in the program were CC’d into the message making their personal email addresses visible to everyone in the chain.
A sender of the message later attempted to recall the email, but by then it was already too late. The New South Wales Treasury was contacted but did not immediately respond for comment.
Electric vehicle drivers in New South Wales can now apply to have stamp duty on vehicles which cost up to $78,000 reimbursed on purchases of new and used cars, while $3000 rebates are being offered on the first 25,000 EVs sold in the state.
Now onto some delightful weather news, with the Bureau of Meteorology issuing severe thunderstorm warnings for large parts of Australia, and with an ‘exceptionally wet and stormy’ week of weather ahead for eastern and central Australia. Fantastic.
In south-east Australia, temperatures are forecast to be between six and 16 degrees below the seasonal average, with snow above 1,000 metres expected in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania as the cold front continues.
In Melbourne, showers are expected from Wednesday through to Sunday, with a peak of up to 30mm of rainfall expected on Friday along with southerly winds of between 25 and 45km an hour.
You can read more on the report from Caitlin Cassidy at the link below:
Guests at a Melbourne Cup afterparty are being urged to get tested, after three people tested positive at a party to celebrate winner Verry Elleegant.
The event was held at the Society Restaurant on Collins Street, and included two jockeys, owners and racing industry figures. The party reportedly complied with state guidelines, with all attendees needing to be double vaccinated.
But Brae Sokolski, a part owner of Cup winner Verry Elleegant, told the SMH that guests should get tested, after he returned a negative test.
It comes after two people at the Melbourne Cup tested positive last week, with calls for those who attended to get tested.
The Victorian state opposition are calling for the government to introduce ‘test and stay’ policy for students.
Under the current policy, unvaccinated children will be allowed to return to school after they’ve been exposed to the virus at school, after returning a negative test on day six. They will then need to take a rapid antigen test before school on days eight and 14 of their quarantine.
Shadow education minister David Hodgett has called for the government to adopt an alternate approach, and allow children to stay at school while doing daily rapid antigen tests, with no quarantine:
Test and stay is a successful policy that is being used in Massachussetts. If you Google it, you’ll see that policy initiative saved 48,000 in-person school days. We think it’s a good policy and it’s worth trying here.
Hospitality workers are holding a “funeral” in Adelaide to protest the effect Covid restrictions have had on the industry.
Marching down Hindley Street in Adelaide’s CBD as part of a staged funeral procession, marking the “death” of the industry.
Restrictions on the industry won’t lift under the state’s reopening plan until 90% of the eligible population are double vaccinated, which might not happen until early next year.