Australian Politics 2020-04-22 14:57:00


Zero Qld COVID cases but restrictions stay

Queensland is refusing to relax its COVID-19 social-distancing restrictions despite no cases being recorded overnight.

Queensland has recorded zero coronavirus cases for the second time this week as the health minister urged aged care homes' bosses to allow loved ones to visit.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk beamed as she announced there were no overnight cases and the state's total of confirmed cases remains at 1024. The state has undertaken more than 90,000 tests.

"So, that's two zero cases this week. And we are really on the track to be smashing that curve," Ms Palaszczuk said.

She also called on Queenslanders to download a COVID-19 tracking app, which the federal government wants to roll out to monitor contact people may have with anyone who has tested positive.

She said the app would be a crucial step towards relaxing social distancing restrictions. "If we are going to ease restrictions down the track we will need Queenslanders to sign up to that app," she said

There are 20 people in hospitals around the state with seven in ICU, including six on ventilators.

Queensland Health will release a 'heat' map online from midday on Wednesday to indicate the hot spots for COVID-19 around the state while also detailing the number of recovered cases and those in quarantine.

It will also provide a regional breakdown of local government areas, which some other states are already doing.

"We're also going to have active cases, recovered cases, and community transmission," she said.

Health Minister Steven Miles said reports some aged care facilities were refusing visitors and not allowing residents out of their rooms were concerning. He urged "all of those aged-care homes across Queensland to allow family members in to see loved ones". "There is no need for aged care homes to be in lockdown. Families should be able to visit their loved ones," he said.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young agreed, saying the virus had so far been spread in aged care homes by staff, not visitors. "If you're unwell don't go and visit, but if you are well it's important to go and visit and it's important to go and talk to your relative on a regular basis," she said.

She said there were still monitoring a COVID-19 cluster  connected to Cairns Hospital but there were no new additional cases.

On Tuesday, it had been disclosed three COVID-19 cases were detected in Cairns Hospital after a Brisbane technician [a "diversity" hire] visited the pathology lab and was later diagnosed with the illness.

Testing in the far northern Queensland city is now being expanded to rule out further community transmission.

Initial contact tracing of lab staff found nothing but blood tests revealed three employees contracted the virus and have since recovered.


As coronavirus cases continue to fall in Australia, a debate about the need for balance arises

The value of one human life is an old philosophical debate with no unanimous agreement but that the value is finite is generally seen as persuasive

Most Australians accept that temporarily shutting down large parts of the economy is a difficult but necessary part of beating the coronavirus.

But others are using the tough measures as an excuse to engage in a cruel debate that pits the lives of Australia’s elderly against the cost to the economy.

The journal Science first floated the question in late March when it published research under the headline: Experts weigh lives versus economics.

The article discussed the dilemma being faced by macroeconomists who were “more familiar with gauging how interest rates might influence employment”.

“If it turns out a lot of people get infected and have few symptoms, the economically sensible approach might be to let the infection spread and accept that there will be some death toll,” researchers wrote.

Less than two weeks later, the following headline appeared in the Australian Financial Review: Lives matter but at what cost?

The author, John Kehoe, wrote that “there is a high economic and social price being paid” for Australia’s efforts to flatten the curve and save lives.

“Unemployment is surging, businesses are closing, incomes are being slashed. People are hurting,” he wrote.

Then he took it one step further by making the case that Australians over the age of 70 aren’t worth as much as younger Australians.

“Many seniors have had time to enjoy careers, children and grandchildren,” he began. “My father is 68 and insists he’s had a good run. With the swimming pool and tennis club in his Victorian town now closed, his daily pursuits are off limits. His physical fitness and mental wellbeing are suffering.

“Some seniors like him would not put their own life above the livelihoods of their children and grandchildren, if the economic and social costs become too great.”

Unsurprisingly, the piece caused outrage. Journalist Jan Fran was among those who hit back at the “reductionist” argument. “Maybe I’m wrong but none of the spicy ‘let the virus spread to save the economy’ hot takes are written by poor, sick, old or disabled people,” she wrote on Twitter.

“They’re always written by some legend in a suit who did some maths and worked out that your nan is probs not worth saving as much as — say — a young, healthy person who will contribute more to the economy.

“This is true if you think a human being’s value should be measured by their economic contributions. “If that’s the case then just cut the sh*t and say you think some lives are worth more than others because of the money/capital they make/earn/produce. Actually, say it!”

She argued that those willing to sacrifice the elderly to keep the economy running have “flattened what it means to be human”.

But Kehoe isn’t the only one pushing hard to remove strict quarantine laws and reopen businesses. The Institute of Public Affairs was slammed when it released a bizarre video on April 7 arguing that reopening churches, restaurants, cafes, bars and community sport was a “sensible” idea, despite experts everywhere saying the opposite.

“Our response to the coronavirus outbreak has decimated our society, ruined thousands of lives, turned Australia into a police state and, worst of all, put hundreds of thousands of Australians out of work,” the think tank’s policy director Gideon Rozner argued.

He said it was time for state and federal governments to come up with a plan to win the lockdown and let people rebuild their lives.

“Do it safely with appropriate social distancing measures in place, but do it now, not in six months, not in one month. Now, because Australians were not meant to live like this, and we cannot allow this to go on any longer,” he says. “Enough is enough. It is time to begin to end this lockdown now.”

Of course, to do so would be catastrophic. New modelling from the Doherty Institute and Monash University shows that Australia, plainly, is not ready.

It reveals that if Australia’s reproduction number — how many people could be infected by just one case — increased from below one to somewhere around 2.5, there could be more than 70 deaths in just three weeks’ time.

“If we lift measures, and it depends how much you lift them, but if we were to lift all of them and we get back to a reproduction number of 2.5, then we’re back on an exponential curve,” Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

“The numbers would get up to 10,000 in a matter of weeks. So we have to keep the reproduction number below one in order to maintain the pressure down on the numbers that we have in Victoria.”


Qld. Government introduces 'fairness formula' so tenants impacted by coronavirus can renegotiate leases and avoid eviction

A 'fairness formula' will be introduced in Queensland to help struggling tenants and landlords renegotiate leases amid the coronavirus lockdown, after proposed new rental laws were widely criticised.

The rental market is one of several sectors that have been impacted by the global health crisis, with many tenants unable to make payments after losing their jobs.

The state government last week proposed a set of measures to help protect tenants who cannot pay their rent from eviction and if their lease expires during the crisis, but landlords complained those steps were too much in favour of renters.

New guidelines are expected to be released on Wednesday after the legislation is passed, The Courier-Mail reported.

'While we expect most tenants and property owners to come to an agreement, where this is not possible, we will provide a compulsory, free, fair and independent conciliation service to resolve issues,' Housing Minister Mick de Brenni said in an email on Monday.

Under the revised proposals, tenants must be able to prove they have lost at least 25 per cent of their income, or that their rent exceeds 30 per cent of their income, to access COVID-19 rental relief measures.

A tenant would also not be able to break a tenancy agreement without being able to prove a a loss of at least 75 per cent income of income.

The original legislative framework was widely denounced by the real estate sector, which said tenants - who could originally claim relief without proof - were being protected at the expense of landlords. More than 400,000 letters of complaint were received by the Labor Government.

Mr De Brenni said the government had made changes that aimed to strike a better balance between protecting the rights of landlord and tenants.

'Tenants and property owners in significant financial distress are also being supported through a $20 million rental grant package, announced with the framework over a week ago,' he said.

Real Estate Institute of Queensland CEO Antonia Mercorella said they are satisfied with the revised framework. 'It also ensures stability for the Queensland property market as well as for consumer confidence going forward,' she said. 'It provides both tenants and property owners with certainty and clarity surrounding the Prime Minister's no eviction moratorium.

'The minimum income reduction threshold for tenants to meet before they qualify for the protection measures is in line with other jurisdictions (stated and territories).


Rule of law meets Covid-19

In the space of just a few weeks, the rule of law in Australia has both triumphed in the High Court’s judgement in Pell v The Queen and taken a battering from state governments’ social distancing rules under emergency powers invoked in the name of fighting Covid-19.

The rule of law does not mean imposing the iron fist of a police state, shades of which are to be found in the states’ restrictions. It means, among other things, transparency and lack of ambiguity in the law and the absence of arbitrary action in its application and enforcement.

Most of us accept the need for some social distancing rules to apply for a short period, but the current restrictions go to absurd lengths, lack clarity, leave too much leeway for arbitrary action by officials – and for all those reasons offend against the rule of law.

The relevant NSW ministerial order, for example, includes a list of acceptable reasons for people to leave their place of residence and puts all other reasons – a very large and unspecified residual – as in the unlawful category. This approach offends against the very idea of a free society in that it is a law defining what we CAN do, not what we CANNOT do. Free societies don’t need to be told what they can do.

The inconsistencies, ambiguities and potential for misinterpretation in the NSW order abound. Little wonder that people don’t know what they can and can’t legally do and police and bureaucrats are making up their own interpretations as they go.

The rule of law isn’t like a decoration to be taken down when it becomes inconvenient to the exercise of state power. It is there to protect our freedoms from abuses of state power. The Berejiklian government should immediately rescind this repugnant ministerial order and replace it with something that is less restrictive, unambiguous and defines what residents of NSW cannot do, not what they can do.

In the meantime, it would not be a bad thing if everyone in possession of one of those on-the-spot police fines exercises their right not to pay it and to have their case heard by a court.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here