Worksafe’s hotel quarantine breach penalties are a warning for other employers to keep workers safe from COVID


Alex Collie, Monash UniversityVictoria’s occupational health and safety regulator, Worksafe, has charged the state’s health department with 58 breaches for failing to provide hotel quarantine staff with a safe workplace.

The breaches occurred between March and July 2020, and at up to A$1.64 million per breach, could amount to fines of $95 million.

This should serve as a warning to all employers to start assessing their workers’ safety against COVID and how they can mitigate these risks, ahead of the nation reopening.




Read more:
Here’s the proof we need. Many more health workers than we ever thought are catching COVID-19 on the job


Remind me, what is Worksafe?

States and territories have responsibility for enforcing laws designed to keep people safe at work: occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

Worksafe Victoria is responsible for and regulates OHS in Victoria. It’s responsible for making sure employers and workers comply with OHS laws; and it provides information, advice and support.

Victoria’s parliament has given Worksafe the power to prosecute employers if they breach OHS laws. In 2018-19, it commenced 157 prosecutions which resulted in nearly A$7 million in fines.

Unlike some other state OHS regulators, Worksafe also manages the Victorian workers’ compensation system.

Why did Worksafe charge the health department?

Worksafe charged Victoria’s Department of Health with 58 breaches of sections 21 and 23 of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Act requires employers to maintain a working environment that is “safe and without risks to health” of employees. These obligations extend to independent contractors or people employed by those contractors.

Worksafe is alleging that in operating the Victorian COVID-19 quarantine hotels between March and July 2020, the Department of Health failed to maintain a working environment that was safe and limited risks to health, both to its own employees and to other people working in the hotels.

Essentially Worksafe is stating that through a series of failures, the department placed government employees and other workers at risk of serious illness or death through contracting COVID-19 at work.

Worksafe alleges the Victorian health department failed to:

  • appoint people with expertise in infection control to work at the quarantine hotels
  • provide sufficient infection prevention and control training to security guards working in the hotels, as evidence shows training can improve employees’ safety practices
  • provide instructions, at least initially, on how to use personal protective equipment, and later did not update instructions on mask wearing in some of the quarantine hotels.

Worksafe undertook a 15-month long investigation, beginning in about July 2020. It’s possible the trigger for this investigation was a referral from the Coate inquiry into hotel quarantine, but that has not been stated.

Is it unusual for a government regulator to fine a government department?

It’s not that unusual. Government departments are subject to the same OHS laws as other employers in the state, and so Worksafe’s powers extend to them as well.

In the past few years, Worksafe has successfully prosecuted the Department of Justice, Parks Victoria and the Department of Health, resulting in fines and convictions.

In 2018, for example, Worksafe prosecuted Corrections Victoria (part of the Department of Justice) after a riot at the Metropolitan Remand Centre in 2015 that put the health and safety of staff at risk.

The riot occurred after the introduction of a smoking ban in prisons. Worksafe considered prisoner unrest was predictable and its impact on staff could have been reduced by having additional security in place in the days leading up to the smoking ban.

In that case the Department of Justice pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined A$300,000 plus legal costs.

What does this mean for other employers?

This case highlights that employers have obligations to provide safe working environments for their staff, and other people in their workplaces. This extends to reducing risks of COVID-19 infection.

These obligations don’t just apply to government departments. They apply to every employer in the state.

Employers should ensure they have appropriate systems and policies in place to reduce COVID-19 infection risk to their staff. This includes, where appropriate, physical distancing, working from home, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), good hygiene practices, workplace ventilation, and so on.

Employers should consider the risks unique to their environment and address them appropriately, in advance of the nation reopening when we reach high levels of COVID vaccination coverage.

Some employers in high-risk settings – such as health care, retail and hospitality – will need to do more to protect their workers than others.

What happens next for the Vic health department?

The case has been filed in the Magistrates court, with an initial hearing date set for October 22. It will progress through the court system from there. Most prosecutions are heard in the Magistrates Court although some proceed to the County Court.

If the Department of Health pleads guilty, the courts will determine if a fine should be paid and how much. The court may also determine if a conviction is recorded.




Read more:
Soon you’ll need to be vaccinated to enjoy shops, cafes and events — but what about the staff there?


The Conversation


Alex Collie, Professor and ARC Future Fellow, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

With a post-lockdown Victoria in sight, the more we can contain transmission now, the easier the road ahead


Catherine Bennett, Deakin University and Hassan Vally, La Trobe UniversityVictoria’s roadmap out of lockdown, released today, marks an important milestone. It’s a clear commitment to delivering on the National Plan, and provides much-needed clarity on where we are heading and what the next few months will look like. It is staged and sensible, striking the balance between opening up and maintaining a level of control over transmission.

The roadmap charts a course of staged reopening as more Victorians become vaccinated. It’s informed by modelling from the Burnet Institute, which makes some sobering predictions on the number of cases and the strain on our health system, no matter what course we take from here.

It steps us through what things will look like as we move from 80% of those aged 16 and older having had at least one dose, to 70% fully vaccinated, through to and 80% and beyond.

The potential risk of easing restrictions will be managed through a continued focus on outdoor activity and leveraging the lower risk of infection and, even more so, hospitalisation, in the growing number who are fully vaccinated.

Having a clear vision for where you are heading can make all the difference, especially when the time horizons are now within weeks. We need this, as it will still be a difficult transition through “the gateway” to living with COVID.

Balancing the risks

The roadmap was only one of five scenarios the Burnet team modelled and is in fact the least cautious. But the decision was taken to balance these risks with the direct and indirect health costs of delaying the easing of restrictions further.

The modelling forecasts twice the peak in case numbers, ICU admissions and deaths under the proposed path compared with staying under lockdown, or the other more restricted scenarios.

But it also shows that maintaining high levels of testing can mitigate some of this additional risk.

We have a road out, and one we can make less costly by testing when symptomatic, and abiding by the public health orders now the end is in reach.

So what does the plan say?

When 80% of Victorians have had a single vaccination dose

At 80% single dose coverage among those aged 16 and over, expected by September 26, the travel limit in Melbourne will extend to 15km.

Outdoor activities such as basketball, golf, tennis will be allowed, subject to the same people limits as picnics: two adults if unvaccinated, or up to five fully vaccinated.

In regional Victoria, final year VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) students will be allowed back to study onsite. Masks will no longer be required for beauty or personal care services.

When 70% of over-16s are double dosed

October heralds the staged return to partial onsite schooling, with further changes once 70% of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, expected by October 26.

This marks the official ending of what we know as lockdown.

The curfew will also end in metro Melbourne and outdoor hospitality will open to those fully vaccinated.

Weddings and funerals will be allowed outdoors for up to 50.

Students from all years will be able to return to face-to-face learning for at least part of the week in both Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Regional Victoria will also see further easing with up to 30 fully vaccinated patrons allowed indoors in hospitality venues.

When 80% of over 16s are double-dose vaxxed

When we get to 80% double dose coverage, projected for November 5, all of Victoria will share the same more modest restrictions.

Indoor activity will open further for those fully vaccinated, including retail, and caps will lift to 150 for organised indoor events and 500 outdoors.

Private gatherings of up to 30 people outdoors will be allowed, but only ten guests are allowed in the home, the setting deemed the highest risk.

Masks will only be required indoors.*




Read more:
We’ve become used to wearing masks during COVID. But does that mean the habit will stick?


By the end of the year

By year’s end, as we exceed 80% of adults fully vaccinated and aim for 80% including 12- to 15-year-olds, more visitors to the home will be allowed, possibly extending to 30 by Christmas.

International travel might be possible by then too, at least to low-risk countries.

Interstate travel will also be on the cards, although this might be limited to New South Wales and ACT until other states also move to living with the virus.

Why lift restrictions on outdoor activities and for the vaccinated?

It makes sense to use outdoor settings and individual and population vaccination protection to progress on this road out to manage transmission risk.

Remaining unvaccinated is a greater risk now, even with these rules in place – 204 people in hospital this week, and only 1% of these fully vaccinated.

Vaccine passports won’t be a permanent fixture, but allow us to do more things earlier than otherwise possible.




Read more:
Vaccine passports are coming to Australia. How will they work and what will you need them for?


But it could be worse – or better

It’s important to recognise that the steps along the way may end up looking somewhat different depending on case numbers, perhaps for the better.

Lower case numbers as we start this transition will put us in a better position, as the Doherty modellers reported last week. So the more we contain transmission while in lockdown, the easier the road ahead and lowest impact on hospitals.

The immediate challenge has not changed. We still need to do everything we can to keep case numbers from rising and, if possible, bring them down. We still need to get vaccinated as quickly as possible and push coverage in those over 16 up to 80%, and beyond.

What has changed is that we can see clearly where we are heading and how our hard work to prevent further waves while waiting for the vaccine roll-out now translates into greater freedoms in coming months.

This is a critical transition period that will test us all, and it helps to see vaccination levels that can provide some relief within reach after a gruelling 18 months. With the end of this “pre-vaccine” phase within sight, a final push to control transmission over this last stretch makes this a safer and quicker passage through the gateway to living with the virus.

If we do better than the Burnet modelling assumes by getting tested when symptomatic, vaccinated or not, and abiding by the rules in place, we will come in well under the forecast case and death counts.

Victoria and NSW are watching and learning from each other as each state eases out of lockdown while keeping a level of control over the virus. Success will reassure other states and territories of how this can work, and allow Australia to once again be open for business.




Read more:
NSW risks a second larger COVID peak by Christmas if it eases restrictions too quickly


*Correction: This article originally said masks would only be required outdoors. This has now been corrected.The Conversation

Catherine Bennett, Chair in Epidemiology, Deakin University and Hassan Vally, Associate Professor, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus Update: Australia


Australia: Coronavirus Update


Your rights under Victoria’s ‘authorised worker’ vaccine mandate: an expert explains


Daniel Pockett/AAP

Giuseppe Carabetta, University of SydneyRacing to hit vaccination targets and lift the restrictions making Melbourne
the world’s most locked-down city, the Victorian government has announced plans to
make COVID19 vaccinations mandatory for an estimated
1.25 million of the state’s 3.5 million workers.

The proposed order will apply to all “authorised providers” and “authorised workers” whose work requires contact with others. By October 15 they must show proof they have received or booked their first vaccination, or have a medical exemption from a authorised practitioner. Anyone without an exemption must be fully vaccinated by November 26.

Separate deadlines apply for those subject to Victoria’s existing mandatory vaccination directions covering health care, construction workers and teachers.

Who are the ‘authorised’ providers and workers?

An authorised provider or worker is any business or person exempt from the orders to shut or work at home during lockdown.

The “authorised providers” list includes supermarkets, restaurants and cafes providing takeaway services, bottle shops, banks, post offices, news agencies, petrol stations, child care services, schools and mobile pet-grooming services.




Read more:
Who can’t have a COVID vaccine and how do I get a medical exemption?


The “authorised workers” list covers more than 70 categories. It includes health practitioners, emergency workers, essential services workers, those who work in courts or the administration of justice, manufacturing, public transport, professional athletes, zoo workers, faith leaders, actors and parliamentarians.

In short, if your work can’t be done from home, your job is most likely on the list.

Will there be any exemptions?

The mandate is yet to be finalised, so the precise scope of
exemptions is unclear.

However, the government has said
there will be an exemption for those unable to be vaccinated on medical grounds, as determined by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

The list of accepted medical reasons is short. Any exemption must be certified by an authorised medical practitioner.

How will the mandate become law?

The state government has the power to make public health directions including mandating vaccines under Victoria’s Public Health and Wellbeing Act and associated state-of-emergency powers.

It is the same mechanism by which vaccinations for sectors such as construction have been mandated.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, similar provisions have enabled the Department of Health to direct hospitals and health providers to require workers to be vaccinated against diseases such as influenza and hepatitis B.

This was achieved through amendments to Victoria’s Health Services Act and Ambulance Services Act.

Doesn’t this conflict with the Fair Work Ombudsman’s advice?

No. The Fair Work Ombudsman has previously issued guidance on the conditions that make it “lawful and reasonable” for an individual employer to require that employees be vaccinated.

That guidance includes “tiers” of work to help assess if vaccination was justifiable. But these aren’t relevant if a direct law – in this case a public health direction – mandates vaccination.

Is there any legal recourse?

There is a legal challenge currently before Victoria’s Supreme
Court. This has been lodged by couple Belinda and Jack Cetnar. Their core
argument is that mandates are discriminatory and contravene human
rights.

One difference between this challenge and those being made in the NSW Supreme Court against the NSW government’s vaccine mandates is that Victoria has a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

At the hearing setting the trial date for the Cetnars’ challenge, Justice Melinda Richards noted the Cetnars had grounds to argue their case under the charter but queried other arguments they presented in their written documentation.

These included the mandate contravening the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act and the Nuremberg Code.

So what about discrimination and human rights?

Vaccination status is not a prohibited ground under discrimination law, so the mandate cannot be challenged as unlawful discrimination on this basis.

Adverse treatment on the basis of health or disability may amount to unlawful discrimination in other circumstances, but the new rules allow for this.

Human rights law allows for limitations on human rights where necessary to protect public health and the fundamental right – to life. However, such restrictions must be necessary and proportionate to the risk and balanced against individual rights.

This principle is reflected in Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, and in the position of bodies such as the World Health Organization.

In December 2020, at press conference, WHO’s immunisation director Kate O’Brien said the organisation didn’t favour vaccine mandates.

However, a WHO policy brief published in April notes vaccine mandates “can be ethically justified, as they are crucial to protecting the health and well-being of the public”. This comes with important caveats:

While interfering with individual liberty does not in itself make a policy intervention unjustified, such policies raise a number of ethical considerations and concerns and should be justified by advancing another valuable social goal, like protecting public health.

Ultimately it may be necessary for the courts to determine whether the new
rules strike an appropriate balance.

However, it seems unlikely any
court will overturn such a mandate, given vaccination is
effective, the mandate will be temporary, apply only to onsite
work, provide medical exemptions, will alleviate pressure on the
health system and help ease existing restrictions (which also
infringe on individual liberty).

Who will be responsible for enforcing these rules?

Workers covered by the proposed mandate will be required when working to carry an authorised worker permit confirming they have been vaccinated. Businesses will be responsible for issuing these permits, and for ensuring all employees onsite have a permit.

If an authorised officer attends a workplace and finds workers without a valid permit, both employers and employees can be fined.




Read more:
What are the protests against Victoria’s construction union all about?


The penalties are the same as other breaches of restrictions or directions. On-the-spot fines of up to $1,817 can be issued to individuals and up to $10,904 for businesses for not having a permit.

A court can impose a fine of up to $21,808 on individuals and $109,044 on employer for issuing worker permit to an employee not meeting the permit requirements.


Correction: this article has been updated to clarify the vaccine mandate has not yet been passed into law.The Conversation

Giuseppe Carabetta, Senior Lecturer, Sydney University Business School, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus Update: Australia


We may never be able to predict earthquakes – but we can already know enough to be prepared


Hadi Ghasemi, Geoscience Australia and Phil R. Cummins, Australian National UniversityYesterday’s earthquake in eastern Victoria shook the ground for hundreds of kilometres around and damaged buildings as far away as Melbourne – and took many people by surprise.

While Australia doesn’t compare with seismic hotspots like New Zealand and Japan, relatively small quakes are expected, with Geoscience Australia’s quake tracker listing more than a dozen in the past week alone.




Read more:
Melbourne earthquake: what exactly happened, and what’s the best way to stay safe from aftershocks?


Even though earthquakes happen all the time, we still can’t predict when the next one will strike, or where, or how big it will be. Unfortunately, we may never be able to make that kind of prediction.

But we can estimate the likelihood of future quakes – and often, that’s enough to make sure our cities are prepared to cope with them.

Why we can’t predict earthquakes

Earthquakes are caused by sudden slips or ruptures in the rock beneath our feet, driven by the movement of the enormous tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust.

The exact timing and location of one of these slips are impossible for us to know in advance. Nobody has ever found a reliable and repeatable indicator that a quake is about to happen. We would need a highly detailed model of all the rock everywhere inside the Earth and an understanding of how it responds to tectonic stress to even stand a chance of predicting an earthquake.

However, suppose we understand the large forces driving the tectonic plates and the current level of earthquake activity, and we also study where faults have ruptured in the past. In that case, we can estimate the likelihood that different types of earthquakes might occur in the future.

What we can predict

To calculate the probability of future earthquakes, we look at the seismic activity measured since the development of seismometers about 100 years ago and knowledge of earlier earthquakes from the historical record, and combine these with information about the faults in the Earth’s crust where quakes can occur.

Australia has relatively little seismic activity, but we know there are hundreds of small faults beneath the Australian landmass. These are places where pressure created by the movement of tectonic plates can cause fault rupture or “slip”, which we experience as earthquakes that generate seismic waves and ground shaking.

Red lines show faults beneath Victoria detected by scientists. The orange circle shows the location of yesterday’s quake.
Geoscience Australia

When we discover a fault, from studying earthquakes or looking at aerial imagery, we often send out teams of geologists to dig trenches across the fault to find traces of past, often prehistoric, earthquake rupture. Depending on the type of signature past earthquakes have left in the soil profile, we can estimate the age and extent of fault movement and develop a history of earthquake activity extending hundreds or often thousands of years into the past.

Identifying prehistoric events is important because the time between large earthquakes on major faults may be longer than the instrumental or even historical record. Without knowledge of prehistoric events, we would have to rely exclusively on the relatively short history of instrumentally recorded earthquakes.

This may cause us to miss the big earthquakes that happen very rarely. We know that longer faults, for example, can usually produce bigger quakes – so if even if we haven’t seen a big quake at a long fault, we know it may be possible in future.




Read more:
The earthquake that rattled Melbourne was among Australia’s biggest in half a century, but rock records reveal far mightier ones


By combining knowledge of the large earthquake history of nearby faults, and the level of activity of random, smaller earthquakes that may not rupture major faults but occur often enough to be estimated from the instrumental record, we can make a computer model of the likelihood of earthquake occurrence.

For this earthquake occurrence model to be helpful in estimating hazard, we also need to calculate the strength of ground motion generated by each earthquake. This depends strongly on the depth, location, and size of each earthquake.

The ground motion also depends on the properties of rock in the Earth’s crust through which the seismic waves pass, with some rocks absorbing more energy than others. It also depends on the local geology and soil profile near the site of interest, with softer soil leading to stronger ground motion.

Mapping hazards

At Geoscience Australia, we have mapped some of these probabilities in the National Seismic Hazard Assessment. For everywhere in Australia, this map shows the ground motions that may be exceeded over the next 50 years, at certain levels of probability.

National Seismic Hazard Assessment of Australia map.
Geoscience Australia, CC BY-NC

This ground motion, usually expressed in terms of a fraction of the acceleration of gravity at the Earth’s surface, is what we call the seismic hazard. Its potential to damage things we value – buildings, for example, or human lives, is what we call “risk”.

From the “risk” point of view, we may not necessarily care if the hazard is high in a place where there are no people, for example, but we may be very concerned if the hazard is high in a big city.

Yesterday’s earthquake is a good example of this: a magnitude 5.9 earthquake in country Victoria is an exciting novelty for most, but the same earthquake occurring in Melbourne would cause huge problems.

Building codes use hazard maps like this to specify how much shaking buildings in an area need to withstand to keep the risk at an acceptable level. Engineers then make sure their buildings are constructed so they won’t fall when they experience the level of ground shaking forecast in the hazard map.




Read more:
Earthquakes don’t kill people; buildings do. And those lovely decorative bits are the first to fall


However, until the 1989 Newcastle earthquake, no one realised the Australian building code needed to account for earthquake hazard. Many buildings built before this may be vulnerable even to the level of ground shaking forecast by the hazard map.

An earthquake of magnitude 5.9, if it occurs as far from Melbourne as yesterday’s earthquake did, shouldn’t cause significant damage to buildings that follow the current building code. The fact that it did likely means some buildings are built to a lower standard, and indeed we can see from news photos that many of the damaged buildings look like they were built before 1989.

Insurance companies also use hazard maps to determine the likelihood of damaging earthquakes and set their premiums accordingly.

So, while we can’t tell you where the next earthquake will strike or how big it will be, we can quantify the likelihood of ground motion intensity at the location of interest to make sure we’re all ready for it.The Conversation

Hadi Ghasemi, Senior Seismologist, Geoscience Australia and Phil R. Cummins, Professor, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Melbourne earthquake: what exactly happened, and what’s the best way to stay safe from aftershocks?


James Ross/AAP

Mark Quigley, The University of MelbourneA magnitude 5.8 earthquake has struck about 115 kilometres east of Melbourne in Victoria, causing damage to buildings and forcing residents to evacuate across the city. The quake, which started near Woods Point at a depth of 12km, was also felt in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and even as far as Launceston, Tasmania.

I and the co-author of this article, Dee Ninis, work as earthquake scientists at the Seismology Research Centre. Researching earthquakes is our life’s work. Here’s what you need to know to understand why today’s earthquake happened, and the geological conditions that triggered it.

Where was it exactly?

On-ground sensors distributed by the Seismology Research Centre have confirmed the earthquake was of a 5.8 magnitude, with an epicentre about 60km south-east of Mansfield in Victoria. The preliminary focal mechanism of this earthquake is strike-slip, meaning the rocks likely slid past each other laterally on what is probably an east-west oriented fault.

The earthquake was felt across the region at around 9.15am today. Geoscience Australia had received 32,409 felt reports as of when this article was published.
Screenshot/Geoscience Australia

Australia experiences fewer earthquakes than plate boundary regions, such as New Zealand. Many of Australia’s suspected neotectonic faults (faults which have hosted earthquakes in recent geological times) have not been thoroughly investigated, commonly due to lack of funding and resources for earthquake research.

However, earthquakes basically happen for the same reason in Australia as they do in New Zealand: there is a buildup of elastic strain energy in the crust, which eventually needs to be released. And most of this energy release occurs due to the rupture of weak zones in the crust, called faults.

Geoscience Australia hosts a database of what we think might be active faults across Australia, but few of these faults have been studied on the ground.

Most of the neotectonic faults near today’s earthquake were identified from remote elevation data — and this alone doesn’t reveal information such as when, how big and how often previous earthquakes on these faults occurred.

What we look for here is displacement at Earth’s surface, formed by movement during previous quakes. Such displacement is only caused by moderate to large earthquakes relatively close to the surface.

If it’s deep enough, it’s entirely possible for a quake to happen at a fault that never ruptures the surface — so we can’t see evidence for it. At a magnitude of 5.8 and a depth of 12km, we don’t expect today’s event to have an associated surface rupture, although it is remotely possible.

The Conversation’s readers sent in their accounts of the earthquake, which was felt across Melbourne’s suburbs.
The Conversation

Is this an unusual event?

While some early reports suggested today’s earthquake was the “largest on-land earthquake in Australia since 1997”, this isn’t the case. Australia has an earthquake of magnitude 6 or higher every six to ten years, on average. That’s based on an instrumental record going back about 150 years.

The 2016 Petermann Ranges earthquake in the Northern Territory was a magnitude 6.1 quake. And while Australia is not a tectonic plate boundary, it is still quite seismically active.

This morning’s earthquake was the largest onshore quake ever recorded in Victoria. Other recent earthquakes include two magnitude 5 quakes: one in 1996 near Mt Baw Baw, and one in 2012 near Moe.

But just because we haven’t seen such a high-magnitude earthquake in our time doesn’t mean they don’t happen. For instance, there is geological evidence for a possible magnitude 7 earthquake occurring sometime between 70,000 and 25,000 years ago, on the Cadell Fault near the Victorian town of Echuca.




Read more:
The earthquake that rattled Melbourne was among Australia’s biggest in half a century, but rock records reveal far mightier ones


Earthquakes are more intense and frequent in plate boundary regions. The Pacific plate boundary, which passes directly through New Zealand’s South Island, lies to Australia’s east.

But despite this — and although the tectonic deformation rates across Australia are lower than the deformation rates at plate boundary regions — Australia has seen earthquakes in places you wouldn’t expect (unless you’re an earthquake scientist).

For instance, the Tennant Creek earthquake sequence in 1988 saw three separate shocks erupt within 12 hours, with magnitudes of 6.2, 6.3 and 6.6 (the main shock).

What about aftershocks?

Several aftershocks followed the main event this morning, some occurring within the hour. In an earthquake sequence, an “aftershock” is defined as an earthquake that’s smaller than and which follows the main shock. The strongest aftershocks come soon after the main event and slowly taper off.

We do expect the region around today’s earthquake epicentre to remain active, and we will probably have more felt events in the next few days. In fact, we would expect aftershocks to continue up to decades afterwards, although through time most of these will become too small to be felt (the Tennant Creek earthquake sequence of 1988 is still ongoing).

If, under unfortunate circumstances, we experience an even larger earthquake soon — then that will become the main event, and the quake from this morning will be designated a “foreshock”.

So we all have to stay alert. Even if the aftershocks aren’t as intense in magnitude, smaller quakes can still be incredibly damaging depending on their depth and location. In the 2011 Christchurch disaster, it was an aftershock of magnitude 6.3 which wreaked the most havoc, and led to many people’s deaths.

How to prepare?

In terms of personal safety, the best thing to do during an earthquake is drop to the ground, take cover and hold on. If you’re inside a house or other building, try to crawl under something sturdy to protect yourself, such as a solid table. This will help save you from anything that might fall.

If you experience a quake while you’re outside, make sure you’re as far away from buildings and other structures as possible, as these too can fall on you. You need to be in an open area. Victoria’s State Emergency Service has more recommendations on what to do, including:

  • staying away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls and anything that could fall such as lighting fixtures
  • not using a doorway unless you know it is strongly supported and is close to you
  • keeping in mind the electricity may go out, and sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

Finally, if you’re considering any activities that might put you at risk, such as roofing, gutter cleaning, and other activities that involve the use of ladders, it is prudent to reconsider whether these are essential in the short term.


Acknowledgment: this article was co-authored by Dee Ninis, who works as an earthquake geologist at ESS Earth Sciences’s Seismology Research Centre based in Richmond, Victoria.The Conversation

Mark Quigley, Associate Professor of Earthquake Science, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition still well ahead in NSW poll, Newspoll premiers’ ratings, and WA upper house electoral reforms


AAP/Bianca de Marchi

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA New South Wales state Resolve poll for The Sydney Morning Herald gave the Coalition 41% of the primary vote (down two since July), Labor 30% (up two), the Greens 11% (down one), the Shooters 2% (up one) and independents 10% (steady).

Resolve does not provide two party estimates, but analyst Kevin Bonham estimated 53-47 to the Coalition, a two-point gain for Labor since July. I previously covered issues with the independent vote in Resolve and the lack of two party estimates.




Read more:
Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


Incumbent Liberal Gladys Berejiklian led Labor’s Chris Minns by 48-21 as preferred premier (55-16 in July). This poll would have been conducted concurrently with the August and September federal polls from a sample of about 1,100. The federal Resolve polls in those months have had a strong lean to the Coalition compared with other polls (see below).

By 65-17, voters supported “the plan to ease restrictions in mid-October with 70% vaccination rates”. The SMH article implies the Coalition’s position was stronger in September than August, as vaccination uptake makes reopening soon realistic.

The same situation applies to the federal government. Once lockdowns are over, the economy is likely to rebound quickly, and this will assist the Coalition in an election in the first half of next year.

Newspoll: Andrews has best approval out of Vic, Qld and NSW premiers

The Poll Bludger reported that Newspoll asked for premiers’ ratings in last weekend’s poll from a larger than usual national sample of 2,144.

The states considered were NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Victorian Labor premier Daniel Andrews had a 64-35 satisfied rating (net +29). Queensland Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had a 57-38 satisfied rating (net +19). Berejiklian had a 56-40 satisfied rating (net +16).

On handling COVID, Palaszczuk scored far better than her overall rating at 67-31 good, while Andrews and Berejiklian scored nearly the same (63-35 good for Andrews, 56-41 good for Berejiklian).

Nationally, Scott Morrison had a -4 net approval in Newspoll; he was at +15 in Queensland, -3 in NSW and -16 in Victoria.

Nationally, Morrison had a 49-48 poor rating for his handling of COVID, unchanged from six weeks ago. By 53-42, voters expressed more concern with relaxing restrictions too fast than too slowly (62-34 in January).

WA upper house electoral reform: group ticket voting and malapportionment to be scrapped

The massive WA Labor landslide at the March state election gave them large majorities in both chambers of the WA parliament – the first ever Labor majority in the upper house.




Read more:
Coalition and Morrison gain in Newspoll, and the new Resolve poll


Labor set up a committee to look at reforming the upper house’s electoral system. There are two current major problems: malapportionment and group ticket voting (GTV). The Mining & Pastoral region and Agricultural region elect one-third of the upper house on just 10% of the state’s population. GTV allowed Daylight Saving to win a seat in March on just 98 primary votes.

Labor will adopt the committee’s proposals to change to a statewide election of 37 members, up from the current 36. GTV will be replaced by optional above-the-line voting, in which a single “1” above the line will stay within the party it is cast for. Voters can number “2”, “3”, etc, above the line to continue directing preferences after their original party is excluded.

This system is the same as is currently used in elections for the NSW and SA upper houses. However, these states elect half their upper house at each election (21 seats up each election in NSW and 11 in SA). The WA proposal is for all 37 seats to be elected at once, so the quota will be just 2.63%.

With optional preferential voting, parties will be able to win seats from much lower vote shares than 2.63%. It’s likely to lead to cluttered ballot papers at the next election.

ABC election analyst Antony Green has much more on the WA reforms. I hope the Victorian government scraps GTV before the 2022 state election – Victoria is now the last Australian jurisdiction with GTV.

Other state developments: NT, Victoria and Tasmania

The Labor Northern Territory government gained Daly at a September 11 byelection by a 56.0-44.0 margin over the CLP, a 7.2% swing to Labor. Bonham said this is the first time a government gained from an opposition at a byelection anywhere in Australia since Benalla (Victoria state) in 2000.

Matthew Guy ousted Michael O’Brien as Victorian Liberal leader at a leadership spill on September 7. Guy led the Liberals to a landslide defeat at the November 2018 state election.

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted August 7-9 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 49% (steady since the May election), Labor 28% (steady) and the Greens 13% (up one). Incumbent Peter Gutwein led Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier by 59-29 (61-26 in EMRS’ last state poll in February).

Coalition leads on estimated preference flows in federal Resolve poll

A federal Resolve poll for Nine newapapers, conducted September 15-19 from a sample of 1,606, gave the Coalition 39% of the primary vote (down one since August), Labor 31% (down one), the Greens 10% (down two), One Nation 4% (up two), Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party 3% and independents 9% (down one).

No two-party estimate was given, but Bonham estimated 51-49 to the Coalition, a one-point gain for the Coalition.

There’s divergence in voting intentions between Resolve and Newspoll, which was 53-47 to Labor. But there’s been movement in all recent polls to the Coalition, which was up one in Newspoll and up two in Morgan to a 52.5-47.5 Labor lead.

49% gave Morrison a good rating for his performance in recent weeks, and 45% a poor rating, for a net +4 rating, up five since August. Albanese’s net approval was up three to -16. Morrison led as preferred PM by 45-26 (46-23 in August).

The Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 42-24 on economic management (44-19 in August). On COVID, the Liberals led by 37-24 (37-22 last time).

Canadian election called two years early gives nearly status quo result

I live blogged the results of the Canadian election that PM Justin Trudeau called two years early for The Poll Bludger. At the 2019 election, Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals won 157 of the 338 seats and the Conservatives 121, despite a 1.2% lead for the Conservatives in vote shares. In 2021, the results are nearly the same.

The German election will be held Sunday, with polls closing at 2am Monday AEST. Parties need to either win at least 5% nationally or three of the 299 single-member seats to qualify for a proportional seat allocation. The Guardian’s poll aggregate
suggests the overall left parties have a narrow lead over the overall right. I will be live blogging for The Poll Bludger.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.