View from The Hill: Morrison government accepts Victorian closure but won’t budge on High Court border challenges


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison has repeatedly and vociferously championed keeping state borders open.

But on Monday, Morrison was forced to change course, agreeing, in a hook up with premiers Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian that the Victorian-NSW border should be closed.

In a somewhat Jesuitical distinction, Morrison said they had agreed “now is the time for Victoria to isolate itself from the rest of the country. What’s different here [is] this isn’t other states closing their borders to Victoria”.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said later “the Commonwealth accepts the need for this action in response to containing spread of the virus”.

But, Kidd said, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – the federal-state health advisory body so often invoked by Morrison – “was not involved in that decision”.

“The AHPCC does not provide advice on border closures,” Kidd added.

Borders have always been a strictly state matter.




Read more:
Here’s how the Victoria-NSW border closure will work – and how residents might be affected


Even during the high stage of the pandemic, NSW and Victoria kept their border open, unlike Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Monday’s decision to close the border from Tuesday night underlines that we are staring at a dangerous new phase in the evolution of the COVID crisis.

The latest Victorian tally of 127 new cases was a record for the state. Kidd said: “The situation in Melbourne has come as a jolt, not just for the people of Melbourne but people right across Australia who may have thought that this was all behind us. It is not.

“The outbreak in Victoria is a national issue. We are all at risk from a resurgence of COVID-19.”

If the Victorian situation can’t be brought under control quickly – and conditions in Melbourne are complicated, even chaotic – the country could face a new bleak outlook on the health front, with a substantial risk of the virus ticking up elsewhere, regardless of other states keeping out Victorians, and an even deeper than anticipated recession.

Borders have been a source of division among governments from early on.

In particular Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk – now reopening her state’s borders from this Friday though excluding Victorians – found herself under attack from the federal government and also from NSW.




Read more:
Victoria is undeniably in a second wave of COVID-19. It’s time to plan for another statewide lockdown


As well, both Queensland and WA face challenges from Clive Palmer in the High Court over the constitutionality of their border closures. There’s also another case being brought by Queensland tourism operators.

The High Court has sent the three cases to the federal court to look at certain aspects. The WA matter will be before that court on July 13 and 14.

The constitution provides for free trade and intercourse between the states. The key issue is “proportionality” – whether keeping a border closed is reasonable on health grounds at a particular point of time.

The Morrison government, consistent with the Prime Minister’s argument from the get go, is intervening in the cases to argue the borders should have been opened.

WA premier Mark McGowan on Monday was quick to use the Victorian development to call on Morrison to pull out, saying that in light of the Victoria-NSW closure “I’ve asked the Prime Minister to formally withdraw [federal government] support from Clive Palmer’s High Court challenge.

“It does not make sense for the federal government to be supporting a border closure between NSW and Victoria but on the other hand challenging Western Australia’s border in the High Court.

“Quite frankly, the legal challenge, and especially the Commonwealth involvement in it, has now become completely ridiculous.”

But the federal government is refusing to take a step back.




Read more:
Nine Melbourne tower blocks put into ‘hard lockdown’ – what does it mean, and will it work?


Attorney-General Christian Porter noted the challenges were not being brought by the Commonwealth, and said it was the right of any citizen to take legal action if they believed “their basic rights of freedom of interstate movement are being disproportionately taken from them”.

“The Commonwealth has intervened to put evidence and views on the situation … the Court would normally expect the Commonwealth to be involved, given the importance of the issues raised.”

Porter said the Commonwealth’s intervention was to provide its view on whether, constitutionally, border closures were permitted in certain circumstances and not others.

“Clearly the courts will be required to consider whether, in determining these specific cases, border restrictions were proportionate to the health crisis at specific points in time as Australia dealt with the immediate and longer-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Court would expect to hear from the Commonwealth on those types of significant constitutional questions.”

Whatever the legal logic, to be endorsing the Victorian closure but arguing against other states’ abundant caution may be a complicated proposition to defend in the court of public opinion.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Victoria is undeniably in a second wave of COVID-19. It’s time to plan for another statewide lockdown


Adrian Esterman, University of South Australia

Victoria recorded its largest daily increase of 127 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, 16 more than the previous peak of 111 cases on March 28.

As I recently wrote, there’s no formal definition of what constitutes a second wave, but a reasonable one might be the return of an outbreak where the numbers of new daily cases reach a peak as high or higher than the original one.

By that definition, a second wave has arrived in Victoria. So why isn’t the state back in lockdown?

What can be done to bring the outbreak under control?

The current strategy of mass testing and information campaigns in hotspot areas, and quarantining whole tower blocks, may not be working. Regardless, cases are now appearing outside the hotspot areas, among people who were most likely infected before the latest measures were put in place.

The Victorian government must now seriously consider going back into statewide Stage 3 lockdown restrictions. Under these rules, there are only four reasons to leave your home: shopping for food and supplies, care and caregiving, exercise, and study and work if it can’t be done from home. And exemptions to quarantine rules should not be granted.

Testing should no longer be a choice. People in 14-day quarantine should be tested on day 11, and if they refuse, made to go into another 14 days of quarantine. Breaking quarantine should be a serious offence.

Far better communication is needed to explain why these measures are essential, and health authorities should ensure their messaging also reaches those who do not speak English as a first language.




Read more:
Multilingual Australia is missing out on vital COVID-19 information. No wonder local councils and businesses are stepping in


People should be encouraged to wear face masks whenever outside. There is increasing evidence they are effective in areas of high transmission.

Much more must be done to educate the public about panic buying. If necessary, Australian Defence Force personnel could be used to deliver food and essential supplies to those at high risk, and assist with logistics.

The newly announced closure of the New South Wales and Victoria border is welcome, and probably overdue. It comes after a returned traveller who quarantined in Melbourne tested positive to the virus after working at a Woolworths in Sydney.

Some people living in border communities will be granted an exemption from this closure, including those whose nearest health provider or place of work is just across the border. Hopefully they will be closely monitored and regularly tested.

Finally, all other states and territories should rally to assist Victoria. It is in everyone’s interest to defeat this outbreak.

Where to from here?

At this stage, the situation is unclear. Daily cases could still rapidly increase, or we could have reached the peak and we might start seeing cases subside. However, the number of new cases each day isn’t necessarily the critical factor. More important is the daily number of new community-acquired infections. Because we have no idea where these people got infected, it makes controlling the situation very difficult.

Other cases are not a major threat as it’s possible to contain them with quarantine and contact tracing. If necessary, additional staff experienced at contact tracing can easily be brought in from other states.

The first epidemic wave was controlled by imposing severe restrictions. Unfortunately, history might have to repeat itself.


This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.The Conversation

Adrian Esterman, Professor of Biostatistics, University of South Australia

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

Can I cross the NSW-Victoria border? There are exemptions, but you’ll need a very good reason


Jon Iredell, University of Sydney

The NSW-Victorian border will be closed as of midnight Tuesday this week, the NSW and Victorian premiers have announced, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The announcement comes amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Victoria, which has returned several postcodes to Stage 3 Stay-At-Home restrictions and instituted a “hard lockdown” in at least nine Melbourne tower blocks.

In a press conference on Monday morning, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said people seeking an exemption to the temporary border closure will be able to apply through the Service NSW portal.

It’s good exemptions are available – but it’s crucial these options are not abused. The exemption option is there for people who really need it but please don’t treat it as a challenge.

We all have a shared responsibility to do all we can to limit the spread of COVID-19. That means staying home if unwell, practising physical distancing where warranted, washing hands diligently and getting tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.


The Conversation, CC BY-ND

What we know about exemptions to the border closure

In her press conference, Berejiklian said

Tomorrow midnight is when all Victorians will be prevented from coming across the border unless they have a permit […] The next 72 hours will be difficult, for some people who normally travel across the border for their daily lives will be restrained until we get the permit system in place and we hope that will happen in the next two days.

When asked about people who already had flights or train trips booked, Berejiklian said

There will always be exemptions due to hardship cases, people can apply for permits or exemptions. And so, for those reasons, we anticipate there will still be some flights and trains services available. There will also be NSW residents returning home […] we will be relying on them to self-isolate.

In the same press conference, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said:

it will be difficult, not impossible, but difficult to make that crossing. There will be delays whilst we work through who are essential workers.

Victorians in NSW would be allowed to return to Victoria, the ABC reports. A NSW government press release said “NSW residents returning from a Melbourne hotspot are already required to go into 14 days of self-isolation. This requirement will be extended to anyone returning from Victoria. This will be backed by heavy penalties and fines.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said:

There will be a facility for people who live on those border communities to be able to travel to and from for the purposes of work, the purposes of the essential health services they might need… [but holidays would] not be an acceptable reason.

Infectious diseases clinicians and researchers in my field realise this will be frustrating for many people, especially as it comes during school holidays. But the risk of cross border transmission is very real.

Please don’t treat the border closure as a challenge, or seek exemption unless you have a very good reason to do so. Many of us will miss out on much-anticipated family catch-ups and events; it is sad but necessary, unfortunately. Any cross-border movement increases risk and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to minimise it. It’s not even a law enforcement issue; it’s about doing what’s right.

Everyone feels frustrated but moving across the border right now really does magnify risk and we risk losing control.

It’s possible to have trivial or even no symptoms but still be capable of spreading COVID-19.

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Don’t dismiss it as ‘just a cough’

Australians have a culture of soldiering on when sick and dismissing symptoms as “just a cough” or “just a runny nose”. We really need to change that mindset and make sure we get tested if we have any symptoms at all, and physically distance from others.

The key messages are to wash hands and if you’re at all unwell, cover your cough and face, stay home, self-isolate and get tested.

Testing in Australia is phenomenally available. We are so lucky to have such great testing facilities so easily accessible and we should avail ourselves of them.

The risk is if we don’t observe the border closures sensibly, minimise spread and test appropriately we will do excessive damage to the economy or lose control of the outbreak – or both.




Read more:
Nine Melbourne tower blocks put into ‘hard lockdown’ – what does it mean, and will it work?


The Conversation


Jon Iredell, Professor, Medicine and Microbiology (conjoint), University of Sydney

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

Here’s how the Victoria-NSW border closure will work – and how residents might be affected



Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Burridge, Macquarie University

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the border between his state and NSW will close after 11:59pm on Tuesday to prevent the coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne from spreading further.

It will be the first border shutdown between the two states since 1919, when the Spanish flu epidemic prompted the NSW government to close its borders with Victoria, Queensland and South Australia to slow the spread of the virus.

What will this new shutdown mean for residents on both sides of the border and what are the potential longer-term consequences of the closure, as well as those between other states?

How will residents be affected?

There are more than 50 land crossings between NSW and Victoria, peppered between the coast and South Australia. Last year, NSW welcomed more than 4.7 million overnight visitors from Victoria.

There are also a number of interconnected communities along the length of the border, most notably Albury-Wodonga along the Murray River. There are some 89,000 people living in those towns, according to the 2016 census. Other large border towns include Echuca, Swan Hill and Mildura.




Read more:
Border closures, identity and political tensions: how Australia’s past pandemics shape our COVID-19 response


Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many states have announced similar border “closures”. It should be noted, however, that borders rarely, if ever, close completely. They are designed to act as filters, allowing officials to decide who, or what, crosses.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the border closure after talks with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Daniel Pockett/AAP

In other states with closed borders, residents in border communities have been given permits or exemptions to cross for specific reasons, such as specialist work or to care for sick relatives.

Permits for the NSW-Victoria border will likely be made available for residents of border communities like Albury-Wodonga and for those who believe they must cross for “exceptional circumstances.”

The permit system will also likely allow people to cross the border for health care. The Albury and Wodonga health system is unique in that it straddles the state line, providing service to 250,000 people in the region. The state of Victoria runs the Albury Hospital, even though it is located in NSW.

Trade is also unlikely to be highly affected. The NSW-Queensland border has been closed since March, but freight trucks have generally been allowed to continue to cross unfettered, though perhaps more slowly than usual.

Constitutionality of border closures

Even though there have been few disruptions, this has not stopped challenges to the High Court over whether such closures are constitutional.

Section 92 of Australia’s constitution says

trade, commerce, and intercourse among the states, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.

There are some exceptions to this freedom, though, particularly when it is necessary to protect the people of a state from the risk of injury from inbound goods, animals and people.

COVID-19 has generally been accepted as a reason for imposing border closures.

This has happened in Australia before. In January 1919, during the Spanish flu outbreak, a case of influenza arrived in NSW from Victoria.

NSW unilaterally closed the border between the states, followed by other closures (notably between NSW and Queensland). Some people tried to circumvent the border restrictions by taking to the sea.

The NSW-Queensland border was closed in March, causing traffic back-ups and headaches for residents who live there.
Jason O’Brien/AAP

Have there been border disputes before?

Victoria officially became an independent colony on July 1, 1851, with the border defined under the Australian Constitutions Act as

a straight line drawn from Cape How (sic) to the nearest source of the River Murray and thence the course of that river to the eastern boundary of the province of South Australia.

A boundary survey was conducted in the 1870s by Alexander Black and Alexander Allan to demarcate the straight line portion of border through the often mountainous terrain between the two colonies.

Disputes over the boundary have persisted since then, with reports noting that fishermen blew up the original cairn at Cape Howe to avoid license fees.

These disputes eventually found their way to the High Court in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in regards to the boundary along the Murray River. The entirety of the river was found to sit within NSW in the 1980 ruling of a case involving bizarre circumstances – the jurisdiction of a murder that took place on the shoreline.

In 1984, the straight-line border between the states was resurveyed by the Department of Surveying, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and renamed the Black-Allan line in honour of the first surveyors. The border was not officially recognised in name until 1998 by the Geographic Place Names Act.




Read more:
Nine Melbourne tower blocks put into ‘hard lockdown’ – what does it mean, and will it work?


What do border closures mean long-term?

One point of concern in the states’ response to the pandemic is the way it has changed the way we talk and think about borders. We have begun to separate ourselves from our neighbours.

And while the political rhetoric that goes back and forth between states has been mostly trivial in nature (think of Andrews’ comment about who would want to travel to SA), there is a risk of longer-term damage to relations between states.

Perhaps more importantly, some cross-border residents have been subjected to abuse for legitimately crossing state lines, often identified by their license plates.

Health experts have also disagreed over the need for border closures, with some saying there is a lack of evidence for their effectiveness in curbing disease transmission. However, even these messages have been mixed, and some have been politicised.

How NSW and Victoria proceed in managing their highly crossed and integrated border will throw up previously unforeseen challenges that Black and Allan were unlikely to have considered while navigating the alpine terrain between the colonies 150 years ago.

The boundary marker monument on the NSW-Victoria border in Genoa, an area affected by this summer’s bushfires, reminds us of the need for cross-state cooperation on issues that are not confined neatly within borders.




Read more:
Lockdowns, second waves and burn outs. Spanish flu’s clues about how coronavirus might play out in Australia


The Conversation


Andrew Burridge, Lecturer in Human Geography, Macquarie University

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

Melbourne tower lockdowns unfairly target already vulnerable public housing residents



James Ross/AAP

David Kelly, RMIT University; Kate Shaw, University of Melbourne, and Libby Porter, RMIT University

This week, the Victorian government unilaterally placed the residents of nine public housing towers in inner Melbourne under “hard lockdown” due to the “explosive potential” of increasing COVID-19 cases.

The lockdown requires all residents of these estates to remain inside their homes for at least five days, placing around 3,000 residents under special punitive measures that apply to no one else in Victoria. Residents are “reeling”.

The lockdown is being enforced by a significant police presence on the estates, with officers on every floor, no warning and immediate effect. Other outbreak areas have been given more than 24 hours’ notice for similar numbers of coronavirus cases.

Outbreaks in more affluent areas, such as the Mornington Peninsula, have not been met with the same harsh restrictions.

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Emma King, the Victorian Council of Social Service CEO, described the lockdown of the estates as looking “like a crime scene”. A pandemic response should not be a crime scene. It is a collective, public health issue from which no one is immune.

The government’s justification for this action is that residents of public housing are vulnerable and living in high density with many shared spaces. The latter is true of any large apartment building in Melbourne.

Quarantine from Toorak to Broadmeadows should look the same if we are following public health guidelines. If living conditions in public housing are riskier than elsewhere then we need to ask why.

If it is true that communities in housing stress are more susceptible to pandemics, we need to ask how and why this should be true in such a privileged country as Australia.




Read more:
Overcrowding and affordability stress: Melbourne’s COVID-19 hotspots are also housing crisis hotspots


Public housing has been suffering for decades

What is unfolding in Melbourne this week is the product of a punitive public housing system whose residents have been neglected for decades. The status of “vulnerable” that governments so blithely apply to public housing tenants does not come from nowhere.

Vulnerability is not an objective condition, but the result of a system geared toward inequality and enabled by policy choices. Public housing in Victoria is the product of decades of neglect, disinvestment and stigmatisation by governments and media.

The amount of public housing in Victoria has been declining in real terms for at least two decades, with fewer dwellings in 2019 (64,428) than in 2009 (65,064). Victoria has the lowest proportion of public housing of all the Australian states.

At the same time, the number of people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity in Victoria has increased to 100,000, according to waiting lists. Repeated inquiries and reports point to inadequate investment, poor maintenance and lack of strategy. Overcrowding is a function of a broken system.

These conditions directly feed a narrative of decline that is used to stigmatise, detain, constrain and displace public housing residents.

It is no coincidence the estates under lockdown are also earmarked for “socially-mixed” redevelopment and privatisation, which will break up the existing communities and provide even fewer places for those on lowest incomes.

There are alternatives to a hard lockdown

The public housing lockdowns are a police-led intervention in an already over-policed community. There is now welcome evidence of social services engagement, but this comes as a secondary consideration.

The residents of the affected towers do not need more policing. They have community-based and grassroots organisations such as RISE that have been actively engaged as members of the community. The spike in cases demands a health care response, not a police response.




Read more:
Nine Melbourne tower blocks put into ‘hard lockdown’ – what does it mean, and will it work?


The Victorian government did not have to look far for existing models, such as the Aboriginal-led COVID-19 response across Australia, which demonstrates the effectiveness of community-led initiatives.

The most effective models for delivering public housing at a scale that can address need are also well-known to policy-makers and academics. Yet this government continues to pursue policies that reduce the amount of public housing available.

What Victoria needs is more and better quality public housing and supportive community-building practices that grant everyone the same dignities. Let’s trust those living in public housing.

If the right information, in the right language, with trusting relationships with government and other authorities were enabled, this public health crisis could be worked through in a just and equitable way. As it seems to be in all other sections of Victorian society.




Read more:
Victoria is on the precipice of an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak. Will the new measures work?


The Conversation


David Kelly, Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University; Kate Shaw, Future Fellow, University of Melbourne, and Libby Porter, Professor of Urban Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

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

Nine Melbourne tower blocks put into ‘hard lockdown’ – what does it mean, and will it work?


Philip Russo, Monash University

The Victorian government’s decision to “close and contain” nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne represents a significant escalation in the fight against COVID-19. Under the stringent new rules, some 3,000 residents will be placed under “hard lockdown” and banned from leaving their homes for at least five days.

This move, announced by Premier Daniel Andrews on Saturday, also sees the Flemington and North Melbourne postcodes added to the ten already placed on stage 3 lockdown earlier in the week.

The latest response follows the identification of 108 new cases in Victoria on Saturday – the second-highest daily count in Victoria since the pandemic began. Of these new cases, 23 were from 12 households in these housing estates.




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There are many questions relating to this decision. But first we must acknowledge, as Housing Minister Richard Wynne already has, that “people living in these public housing towers are some of the most vulnerable people in our community”.

While it is vital for the wider Victorian public that the tower block residents follow the rules, they will also need support during the lockdown. Already there are reports the strong police presence is triggering fear, as well as concern about further employment loss and financial stress.

It is vital close health and welfare supervision is provided, and all standard requirements for normal daily living delivered to their door. The government has waived residents’ rent for the next two weeks, and promised hardship payments of A$1,500 to residents forced to miss work and A$750 to those without employment.

The “close and contain” strategy is fundamental in outbreak control. Restricting residents’ movement aims to prevent further spread of the virus by sealing off known hotspot sites for the duration of the coronavirus’s incubation period.

The strategy is similar to that used in aged care facilities with reasonable success, and Andrews has refused to rule out further hard lockdowns in other sites with significant COVID-19 clusters.




Read more:
Victoria locks down 36 Melbourne suburbs to try to control COVID-19 spike


Will the hard lockdown be successful in containing the virus? We know the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is spread via close contact with droplets from an infected person, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Physical distancing, good hygiene, avoiding large gatherings, and isolation are the best defences.

Housing estates are characterised by their close confines and shared community spaces. Furthermore, Victorian Public Tenants Association executive officer Mark Feenane has acknowledged that “overcrowded living conditions” would assist the spread of the virus. Sadly, conditions in these tower blocks are ripe for spreading COVID-19.

Its not hard to do the maths. In an uncontrolled outbreak with a reported reproductive rate (the number of new cases spawned by each known case) of around 2, and cases doubling every four days, it is easy to see how 23 cases in 12 homes could rapidly escalate to hundreds or thousands if no action is taken. So the action to “close and contain” and test all residents is a sensible and necessary move.

The next move will depend on the test results and the number of further cases during the five-day hard lockdown. Unfortunately it is hard to say with confidence how many new cases may be identified.

So what happens next? Today (Sunday) there were 74 newly discovered cases in Victoria. Of these, four are residents of the towers. Across the state there are 543 active cases, and thousands of close contacts of those cases are in isolation while they await the results.

As Andrews has warned, further postcode lockdowns may be inevitable. What is uncertain is how many postcode lockdowns would have to occur before the decision is made to reinstate stage 3 restrictions across the entire state.




Read more:
Lockdown returns: how far can coronavirus measures go before they infringe on human rights?


For those Victorians not in lockdown, the message has never been clearer. Stay at home if you are unwell, get tested if you have symptoms, maintain physical distancing, and practise good hand hygiene.

The nine tower blocks are currently the focal point, but all Victorians have a role to play.The Conversation

Philip Russo, Associate Professor, Director Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, Monash University

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

Labor likely to win Eden-Monaro; Andrews’s ratings fall in Victoria



Labor’s Kristy McBain Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At Saturday’s Eden-Monaro byelection, Labor’s Kristy McBain currently leads the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs by a 50.7-49.3 projected margin in The Poll Bludger’s Eden-Monaro election page. This page has all the numbers, including booth by booth results. The projected margin is an estimate of the margin once all votes are counted, not the current margin. McBain is given a 74% win probability.

Primary vote projections are currently 38.5% Liberal, 35.3% Labor, 6% National, 6% Greens and 14.2% for all Others. Had preference flows at the byelection been similar to the 2019 federal election, the Liberals would have won. But Labor currently has 50% of all preferences, a 10% swing on preference flows to Labor.

While the Greens lost vote share, much of it went to Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP), which won 2.5%. Labor also benefited from the “donkey vote” coming from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. The Shooters were first on the ballot paper, with Labor ahead of the Liberals.

If Labor holds on in Eden-Monaro, it will be a huge relief for Anthony Albanese. Analyst Peter Brent wrote in Inside Story that, while no government has gained an opposition-held seat at a byelection in almost a century, the lack of a personal vote for the sitting MP in opposition-held seats means they are far more likely to swing to the government at a byelection than in a government-held seat.

In 2013, the Abbott government achieved a 1.2% two party swing in former PM Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith at a byelection. Had that swing occurred Saturday, the Liberals would have gained Eden-Monaro.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Saturday is crucial for Albanese but July 23 is more important for Morrison


Premiers still have high ratings, but Andrews falls in Victoria

In late April, Newspoll polled the ratings of the six premiers, and this exercise was repeated last week. Samples were 500-550 for the mainland states, and 311 in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein had the best ratings in the June premiers’ Newspoll, at 90% satisfied, 8% dissatisfied (net +82). His satisfaction rating overtook WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan in April (89%) as the best ever for a premier or PM in Australian polling history.

Gutwein’s net approval was up nine points from April, while McGowan slid four points to a still very high 88% satisfied, 9% dissatisfied (net +79).

The biggest change in net approval was Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. His net approval fell 18 points to +40, with 67% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied. Andrews’s fall appears to be related to the recent spike in Victorian coronavirus cases, not the Adem Somyurek branch stacking affair. His net ratings on handling coronavirus fell sharply from +74 to +47.

NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian had a +42 net approval, down from +46, with 68% satisfied and 26% dissatisfied. SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall had a +52 net approval, up from +47, with 72% satisfied and 20% dissatisfied.

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continued to trail with a +24 net approval, though that was up eight points. 59% were satisfied and 35% dissatisfied. The Queensland election will be held in late October.

Scott Morrison had a +41 net approval in last Monday’s federal Newspoll. Palaszczuk trails Morrison, Andrews and Berejiklian are about level, Marshall is above him, and McGowan and Gutwein are far ahead.

A good US jobs report, but there’s a long way to go

The June US jobs report was released Thursday. 4.8 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate dropped 2.2% to 11.1%. While the unemployment rate is far better than the 14.7% in April, it is far worse than during a normal economy.

The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans that are employed – rose 1.8% in June to 54.6%. But at the lowest point of the recovery from the global financial crisis, the employment ratio was 58.2%.

The surveys used for the jobs report were conducted in mid-June, before the recent spike in US coronavirus cases, which peaked at over 57,000 on Thursday. This new spike may derail an economic recovery.The Conversation

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

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

Why some people don’t want to take a COVID-19 test


Jane Williams, University of Sydney and Bridget Haire, UNSW

Last week, outgoing chief medical officer Brendan Murphy announced all returned travellers would be tested for COVID-19 before and after quarantine.

Some were surprised testing was not already required. Others were outraged some 30% of returned travellers in hotel quarantine in Victoria had declined to be tested.

This week, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said more than 900 people in two Melbourne “hotspots” had declined door-to-door testing.

Again, there was outrage. People refusing COVID-19 tests were labelled selfish and rude.

A positive test result, together with contact tracing, gives public health authorities important information about the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in a community.

So why might people at higher risk of a positive result be reluctant testers? And what can we do to improve testing rates?

The many reasons why

Reluctance to be tested for COVID-19 is not unique to returned travellers in hotel quarantine or people living in “hotspot” suburbs.

In the week ending June 28, FluTracking, a voluntary online surveillance system, reported only 46% of people with a fever and cough had gone for a COVID-19 test.

That can be for a variety of reasons.

A medical test result is not a neutral piece of information. People may refuse medical testing (if they have symptoms) or screening (if no symptoms) of any type because they want to avoid the consequences of a positive result.

Alternatively, they might want to avoid the perceived burden of the test procedure itself.

Reasons may relate to potentially losing money or work

Many reasons for avoiding testing are likely to be structural: a casualised workforce means fewer workers with sick leave and a higher burden associated with having to isolate while waiting for test results. After a COVID-19 test in NSW, for instance, this can take 24-72 hours.

Then there’s the issue of precarious work. If people can’t attend work, either waiting at home for test results or recovering from sickness, they may lose their job altogether.




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If we want workers to stay home when sick, we need paid leave for casuals


In the case of hotel quarantine, a positive result on day ten will mean a longer stay in isolation. Hotel quarantine is not an easy experience for many, particularly if quarantining alone.

An extension of time at a point where the end is in sight may be a very difficult proposition to stomach, such that avoiding testing is a preferable option.

Another structural issue is whether governments have done enough to reach linguistically diverse communities with public health advice, which Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton recently admitted may be an issue.

Through no fault of their own, may people who don’t speak English as a first language, in Victoria or elsewhere, may not be getting COVID-19 health advice about symptoms, isolation or testing many of us take for granted.




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Multilingual Australia is missing out on vital COVID-19 information. No wonder local councils and businesses are stepping in


People might fear the procedure or live with past traumas

Reasons may be personal and include fear of the test procedure itself (or fear it will hurt their children), distrust in government or public health systems, and worry about the extent of public health department scrutiny a positive result will bring.

People may also feel unprepared and cautious in the case of door-knocking testing campaigns.

We can’t dismiss these concerns as paranoid. Fears of invasive procedures are associated with past trauma, such as sexual abuse.

People who have experienced discrimination and marginalisation may also be less likely to trust governments and health systems.

COVID-19 can also lead to social stigma, including blame and ostracism, even after recovery.

As with any health-related decision, people usually consider, consciously or not, whether benefits outweigh harms. If the benefit of a test is assumed to be low, particularly if symptoms are light or absent, the balance may tip to harms related to discomfort, lost income or diminished freedoms.

Should we force people to get tested?

Although federal and state laws can compel certain people to undergo testing under limited circumstances, acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly said it was “a last resort”.

Forcing a person to undergo a test contravenes that person’s right to bodily integrity. This is the right to make decisions about what happens to your own body, without outside coercion.

It also involves medical personnel having to override their professional responsibility to obtain voluntary and informed consent.

Some states have indicated they will introduce punishments for refusing testing. They include an extension of hotel quarantine and the potential for fines for people not willing to participate in community testing.




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Lockdown returns: how far can coronavirus measures go before they infringe on human rights?


Forced testing will backfire

We don’t think forced testing is the way to go. A heavy-handed approach can create an antagonistic and mistrustful relationship with public health institutions.

The current situation is not the only infectious disease emergency we will face. Removing barriers to participating in public health activities, in the immediate and long term, will enable people to comply with and help build trusted institutions. This is likely to create an enduring public good.

Victoria is trying to make testing easier. It is offering a test that takes a saliva sample rather than a nasal swab, which is widely perceived to be unpleasant.




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Explainer: what’s the new coronavirus saliva test, and how does it work?


This may encourage parents to have their children tested. The test is less sensitive, however, so the gains in increased uptake may be lost in a larger number of false negatives (people who have the virus but test negative).

Ultimately, we need to understand why people refuse testing, and to refine public health approaches to testing that support individuals to make decisions in the public interest.The Conversation

Jane Williams, Researcher at the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine (VELiM), University of Sydney and Bridget Haire, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Kirby Institute, UNSW

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

Victoria’s coronavirus contact tracers are already under the pump. What happens next?



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Gerard Fitzgerald, Queensland University of Technology

The emergence of significant community transmission of COVID-19 in Melbourne over the past week is greatly concerning to the whole of Australia.

Earlier this week, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said the state was struggling to cope with the volume of contact tracing required for more than 2,500 people in self-isolation, who must have all their close contacts traced and contacted:

[…] we’re at the limits of managing that number.

Since then, the number of cases in Victoria has risen further still.

What options are available for increasing the pool of contact tracers in Victoria, or any other state that finds itself handling significant rises in COVID-19 cases?




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Remind me, what are contact tracers?

The key strategy to preventing further community transmission is to identify all cases through extensive testing, isolate people who test positive, and then trace their close contacts.

These contacts require initial testing to see if they are also potential spreaders, but more importantly they need to be isolated and closely monitored. Should they develop symptoms, they also need to be tested.

The process of identification of cases, ensuring isolation and monitoring, identifying contacts and following up each of those requires extensive effort.




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Explainer: what is contact tracing and how does it help limit the coronavirus spread?


Every patient who tests positive needs to be interviewed to identify where they have been during the potentially infective stage of the disease, and who they may have come into contact with.

In some circumstances, this may be limited to family members, while in others it may involve following up others who may have been in the same locations, such as workplaces, restaurants, shops or public transport.

All these people need to be made aware of the risk and followed up. This is challenging in a free society. It requires cooperation from the community. It also requires understanding that some who may be spreading the disease are not aware they are doing so.




Read more:
Lockdown returns: how far can coronavirus measures go before they infringe on human rights?


This task is traditionally the role of public health workers — including doctors, nurses and those with specific public health qualifications — called contact tracers.

They are the real heroes of this effort, doing mundane work below the radar to keep the community protected.

In normal circumstances, these staff monitor diseases that are present in the community and identify and follow up notifiable disease such as measles, HIV, hepatitis or tuberculosis.

These public health workers have been working desperately hard for months and now those in Victoria are being asked to step up to the mark again.




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How can we expand the pool of contact tracers?

The public health workforce needs to be expanded rapidly to handle the increased workload. There are several ways to do this, some of which have already been implemented in Victoria.

We could reallocate people from other public health functions, which could immediately provide a ready and well-trained workforce.

But this will impact other vital public health protections, including surveillance of other disease, health promotion, screening, early diagnosis and intervention. Diverting staff from these efforts may also have long-term health consequences.




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Staff could be deployed from other agencies, including the Australian Defence Force.

While readily available and well-disciplined for the task, only some of these people have the necessary expertise to identify cases and trace contacts. Others may need to serve in support roles.

Options include calling in the Australian Defence Force to add to the pool of contact tracers (Department of Defence Australia).

Other states and territories could provide support. However, this may require people to relocate to Victoria with the personal disruption implied, as well as the enhanced risk to them and to their families and communities when they return.

This sharing of public health resources across state borders requires significant national cooperation, which has been evident in other parts of Australia’s COVID-19 response.

Finally, people may be recruited from the pool of partly trained people (public health students). While they may lack the practical skills, they will at least bring theoretical knowledge to perform some targeted tasks with specific training. For instance, they could work with experienced personnel to help maintain records or identify contacts.

We have a lot at stake

This new outbreak in Victoria threatens to overwhelm the system’s public health capacity. If that occurs, we can expect large numbers of deaths to follow. We are not there yet, but this outbreak in Victoria is placing the whole country at risk.

So public health workers need all the help and support the Australian community can provide.The Conversation

Gerard Fitzgerald, Emeritus Professor, School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology

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

Lockdown returns: how far can coronavirus measures go before they infringe on human rights?



DANIEL POCKETT/AAP

Stan Winford, RMIT University

As of this morning, ten “hot spot” postcodes in Melbourne’s suburbs have gone back into Stage 3 coronavirus lockdown.

In these suburbs, stay-at-home restrictions will be enforced by police patrols, “booze bus”-style barriers and random checks in transport corridors. In what Premier Daniel Andrews described as “extraordinary steps”, people moving in and out of these suburbs will be asked by police to identify themselves and provide one of four valid reasons for being out. Otherwise, they could face fines.

It seems likely that ever-more restrictive public health measures will be adopted should the coronavirus outbreak continue to worsen. With measures to protect public health competing with individual rights in what appears to be a zero-sum game, there are legitimate questions about how far the government can go before it reaches the outer limits of the law.




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Compulsory testing

In two suburbs of Melbourne, over 900 people have refused to be tested for coronavirus. The reasons vary, but include people being concerned about having to self-isolate and not understanding the dangers of the virus, as well as privacy reasons.

These refusals aren’t explicitly linked to increased transmission rates, but some disgruntled residents in locked-down suburbs and others have called for compulsory testing.

Existing laws already enable compulsory testing, but they have not yet been used. The March declaration of a human biosecurity emergency under the Biosecurity Act empowers the health minister to issue directions considered necessary to prevent or control the spread of coronavirus.

Under the act, these powers must not be used in a manner that is more restrictive and intrusive than necessary. However, there are few other obvious limits on these powers.

Door-to-door testing is now under way in parts of suburban Melbourne.
James Ross/AAP

The Victoria Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 gives the chief health officer the power to compel a person to take a test. To use this power, the officer must believe the person either

is infected with the infectious disease or has been exposed to the infectious disease in circumstances where a person is likely to contract the infectious disease.

Unlike the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act, this power seems constrained to being used as a measure of last resort. The Victorian act refers to the consideration of alternatives and a preference for the

measure which is the least restrictive of the rights of the person.

Such orders could be reviewed or challenged in the courts, but more practical challenges, including the need to have police present when conducting compulsory testing, may explain why this measure has not yet been used.

Quarantine restrictions

In the state of emergency currently in force in Victoria, the chief health officer also has the power to detain or restrict the movement of any person for as long as necessary to eliminate or reduce a serious risk to public health.

The hotel quarantine program relies on this power. While the chief health officer must review the need for the continued detention of people at least once every 24 hours, there are no other obvious limits on this power.

In practice, international travellers entering Victoria receive notices imposing a 14-day quarantine with permission to leave their hotel rooms only for medical care, where it is reasonably necessary for physical or mental health, on compassionate grounds, or if there is an emergency.




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The quarantine program in Victoria has been a clear failure, due to the alleged breaches of public health protocols.

An independent inquiry into the program is being conducted by retired judge Jennifer Coate, and Corrections Victoria will take over supervision of the program from the private security contractors who had been running it.

It is possible the newly appointed authorities – with prior experience managing prisoners – may adopt a more restrictive approach.

People detained under the new regime may find it more difficult, for example, to get permission to leave their rooms for supervised outdoor exercise. If this approach is disproportionate to the health risk, and causes or contributes to a person’s ill health, court action may ensue.

Possible infringements on human rights

Public authorities responsible for the management of people in quarantine must balance their role mitigating public health risks with their duty to protect the human rights of those in their care and custody.

In a civil society, fundamental freedoms and individual liberties are highly valued, and intrusive powers should be used only where necessary. In a state of emergency, some limitations of rights may be necessary, but any such limitation must be necessary, justifiable, proportionate and time-bound.

Unless it is overridden by parliament, the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 continues to apply during a state of emergency. Although no charter rights are absolute, this act has been used successfully by people challenging the conditions of their detention.

Governments across Australia have extraordinary emergency powers at their disposal, and have been prepared to use many of them in response to the pandemic. Although the courts have considered the impact of coronavirus on existing laws and procedures – such as the right to protest in the face of social-distancing measures and increased risks to the health of prisoners – they have yet to scrutinise some of the key public health measures adopted.

Despite the deference of courts to public health measures in the face of a deadly infectious disease, there are limits, and it seems inevitable that some limits will eventually be reached.

Returning overseas travellers have been forced to quarantine in hotels since early in the pandemic.
Scott Barbour/AAP

Questions over legitimacy

There are also limits to the effectiveness of these measures when people perceive them as unfair.

People obey laws and comply with rules when they see them as legitimate, not because they fear punishment. If the rules are unclear, or the process of developing them poorly explained, they may feel like postcode lottery to residents. This, in turn, could bring more dissatisfaction with lockdown measures and fail to effect behaviour change.

During times of emergency, it is critical powers with the potential to limit human rights and deprive people of liberty are properly communicated to the community and used with restraint.

This is not only important for the protection of individual rights, but also to prevent lasting damage to the rule of law. Ensuring that respect for human rights remains a central concern of government responses to the pandemic will build confidence and resilience in our communities and our institutions as we emerge from the crisis.




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The Conversation


Stan Winford, Associate Director, Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University

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