Australian Politics 2022-01-14 09:53:00


The hottest temperature ever recorded in Australia on Thursday

Recorded by whom? The BoM record does not go back very far and gets more unreliable the further back it goes. As Watkin Tench observed, in 1790 in Sydney, birds and bats were dropping dead out of the trees it was so hot. I know of no such indidents in recent times

Australia has recorded its equal hottest day ever on Thursday as large swathes of the country endure hot, humid and sticky weather.

The town of Onslow, on Western Australia's northwest coast, reached 50.7C just before 2.30pm on a sweltering day for the Pilbara.

The previous hottest day ever recorded in Australia of 50.7C was set in the outback South Australian town of Oodnadatta back in 1960.

The weekend is looking milder in other parts of the country with possible rain in Sydney on Friday and Saturday but clearing by Sunday and maximum temperatures not exceeding 30C.

Brisbane will be slightly warmer seeing temperatures reaching the low 30s but there will be relief from the rain with fine weather forecast.


Republic model a hybrid horror doomed to sink

The latest model for an Australian republic is a radical, dangerous and impractical experiment with democracy.

If implemented, it would politicise the election of an Australian head of state and risk undermining the authority of the prime minister by having a popularly elected president.

Under the new model, the constitutional power of the states and territories would be greatly enhanced. Each would be allowed to nominate its own candidate for an Australian head of state, while the federal parliament could nominate up to three candidates.

A direct election would also be required. The public would be forced into choosing the head of state from an unwieldy shortlist of nine to 11 candidates determined by the selections made by state, territory and commonwealth parliaments.

This is not the elegant model Australia needs as it contemplates the shift towards becoming a republic – a transition it should make and which is being brought into greater focus as the Queen enters her final twilight years.

The Australian Republic Movement has instead proposed a model that would present profound new challenges for Australian democracy.

Firstly, the large shortlist at the popular vote would increase the risk of a political-style contest emerging between candidates, each of whom would be free to run their own populist campaigns.

The states would be likely to back their own candidates and there is no bar on former politicians being nominated, meaning a candidate like Julia Gillard could be endorsed by Victoria and pitched against other well-known former politicians endorsed by other states.

Secondly, a preferential voting system would apply under the new model proposed by the ARM. This could see a new head of state or Australian president elected on only a small primary vote of perhaps as little as 20 per cent. It would also encourage politicking. What is to stop deals being struck between presidential nominees just as they are between political parties, with candidates telling supporters who to preference on the ballot paper?

The successful presidential candidate would be the person who maximised the preference flow.

Thirdly, the proposal fundamentally changes the constitutional system where the governor-general is appointed on the recommendation of the prime minister. The states have no voice in this process. But the new model would imbue them with constitutional authority.

What is the reason for this? One explanation is that for any model to succeed, it would need to win the support of a majority of states as well as a majority of the national vote.

The question is whether the ARM is attempting to secure success at the expense of the most constitutionally sound model.

Finally, the objections to a directly elected head of state would still remain. The ARM model still insists on a popular vote to ensure an Australian head of state remains “in the hands of voters”.

This means the president is elected by the people and the prime minister is not.

Tony Abbott, one of the most prominent opponents to an Australian republic, immediately seized on the problem.

“A president accountable to the people would be a rival to the prime minister accountable to the parliament, and government would become unworkable,” he said.

This problem would be especially acute in the event of a demagogic populist making the presidential shortlist.

The unsuccessful 1999 referendum was sunk by the division within the republic movement over whether the head of state should be elected through a special majority of federal parliament or directly by the people.

The new ARM proposal is trying to satisfy both camps – this is a hybrid model. But this is also its weakness. It is too complicated, impracticable and presents unacceptable risks to Australia’s democratic system.

Its chances of winning the support of both sides of politics are slim.


Aged care home bans loved ones from waving at residents through windows to stop COVID spread

How absurd. Sounds like some apprentice Hitler at work

Extreme 'no visitors' policies are being imposed on distressed residents in COVID-19 affected aged care homes in Queensland, with one facility banning visitors from even waving through windows.

The policies, which potentially breach the industry code of practice, are being implemented as the homes grapple with an explosion of COVID-19 cases.

More than 52 facilities in Queensland have now reported at least two infections, according to federal Health Department statistics, and yesterday three people in residential aged care died from COVID-19 in the state.

Aged care homes have brought in rolling lockdowns in some cases to try and combat the infections while dealing with staffing shortages and delays in COVID-19 testing.

However, exacerbating aged care residents' stress appears to have been a mixed interpretation of visitor policies during the lockdowns, some of which have been occurring intermittently since before Christmas.

The Council on the Ageing (COTA) code of practice for the industry states aged care residents are entitled to have an "essential visitor" regardless of the COVID-19 outbreak status in a facility.

But yesterday, the ABC obtained correspondence from a Bundaberg aged care home sent to relatives of the home's residents that appeared to contradict the code.

The January 12 correspondence from the Churches of Christ-operated Gracehaven Aged Care Service stated the Queensland government's "public heath department" had made a "no visitors" ruling.

"While we are in lockdown, relatives are not allowed to visit their loved ones, either outside a window or outside in our garden area,'' the correspondence from the management of the Gracehaven home at Bundaberg said, which was sent on January 12.


Australian-made RATs await bureaucratic approval amid rapid antigen test shortage

As Australians struggle to get hold of a COVID-19 rapid antigen test, several Australian companies have been waiting months for local approval of their RATs.

Currently, only one of the 22 home tests approved by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is made locally, with 16 sourced from China, two from the US and the others from Korea, Singapore and Germany.

However, with the global Omicron wave seeing demand for RATs surging around the world, there are concerns Australia's current supply shortage could be exacerbated if planned shipments are diverted elsewhere.

In particular, with the vast bulk of Australia's tests coming from China, a worsening Omicron outbreak there could further threaten supply if tests bound for export were requisitioned by the Chinese government.

Several Australian companies have developed COVID RATs locally, although at least two are waiting on TGA approval for tests that are already in use in Europe or North America.

Brisbane-based AnteoTech is one of those.

Its chief executive Derek Thomson, told the ABC that a lack of supply was inevitable during major waves of new COVID variants such as Delta and Omicron without much earlier planning and investment by Australian governments.

"We were always going to run out of supply, and that's exactly what happened over the Christmas period," he said. "It caught the governments on the hop, caught all the manufacturers on the hop.

"And so we're in the position that we're in. We've got a massive wave, we're saying that the frontline defence to that wave is rapid antigen testing, and no-one can buy one. So it's a disaster."

AnteoTech has received some government funding, such as a $1.4 million commitment from the Queensland government early in 2021 and a nearly $2 million refund under the federal Research and Development Tax Incentive Scheme.

However, despite the financial support, the lack of government support for using RATs in Australia meant the company's focus shifted to Europe.

"We obviously could have poured a lot of money into the Australian market but, when we looked at it, the governments had a stance or policy that they weren't going to use RATs," Mr Thomson explained.

"There was really no indication that the governments were going to change their policies or stance around the use of RATs."

Another Brisbane-based company, Ellume, also looked offshore to market its RAT, already selling millions of tests to the US government and through retail outlets there, although the ABC understands it is now also in the process of seeking regulatory approval for its tests in Australia.