Thursday 23rd of September 2021

sick of the fudge...

















Despite some questioning about a military man being in charge of the vaccine roll-out, when it comes to communicating, Lieutenant General JJ Frewen is a refreshing change from the pollie-speak and fudges we hear all the time. 

At a Tuesday news conference, after his virtual meeting with the states and territories, Frewen answered questions directly and briefly. 

He was distinctly "forward leaning", indeed pre-empting the content of the roundtable Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and he were to have with business representatives the following day. 

Frewen sounds like a man who knows what he's doing. Coming days will tell whether that's the reality.

(You can find a touch of scepticism in certain state quarters.)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is naturally inclined to put faith in the military, especially after his Sovereign Borders experience. But bringing in Frewen was also a response to what was becoming a desperate situation. It was a call to triple-0. He's now very impressed with the general and relying on him heavily.


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dog days....

NSW will face a "disaster" if lockdown ends before the state eliminates the current COVID-19 outbreak, the head of Australia's medical association says.

Key points:
  • The president of the AMA says a restricted way of living must remain the norm in NSW for now
  • Epidemiologist Raina MacIntyre said the lockdown was working but more vaccines were needed
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said NSW would receive 300,000 extra doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca next week

NSW Health announced 38 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Thursday, making it the highest number of new infections in 24 hours in over a year. 

Chief health officer Kerry Chant said 40 cases were in hospital, including 17 people aged under 55. Of those, 10 were aged under 35.

The Australian Medical Association's president Omar Khorshid told the ABC it was not feasible for NSW to continue life as normal like other countries have.

"There's no such thing as living with the Delta [variant] for NSW. We must eliminate the virus from the community before opening up again, otherwise we will see a disaster."

Dr Khorshid foreshadowed the hospital system becoming destabilised if it overloads with extremely sick COVID-19 patients putting pressure on other areas. 

"We've seen 10 per cent of cases already in hospital. Just multiply that to thousands and thousands of cases.

"Imagine what you might experience if you need to go to hospital for urgent care such as with a heart attack or cancer."

The key reason that Australia differs from our overseas counterparts who have opened up despite the Delta strain being present relies on immunity


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August 5 2021…

delta dictatorship...

The NSW government is facing its most difficult decision of the pandemic with senior ministers cautiously canvassing abandoning a zero local transmission strategy and accepting the Delta strain of COVID-19 will circulate in the community.

Three senior ministers, who would not speak publicly due to cabinet confidentiality, have acknowledged the state has reached a “fork in the road” where it must choose between a lockdown to eliminate COVID or living with the virus.


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Few countries have imposed more frequent and more stringent lockdown measures to combat Covid-19 than Australia. Their efforts have been so restrictive that the British Medical Journal likened them to a “health dictatorship.” 

Other’s are less critical. A Forbes article published in March suggests, even while US cases were in steep decline, “there is still much we can learn from their [Australia’s] response.” Dr. Anthony Fauci specifically praised Australia for its “containment and management of emerging variants.”

These compliments may have been premature. 

After experiencing 110 cases of the delta-variant of Covid-19, Sydney is now reinstituting a two-week lockdown (Syndey’s population is about 5.2 million). Fearing additional outbreaks, Darwin, Melbourne, and Perth have also reinstituted lockdown measures. 

Despite ordering other recent lockdowns to slow the Covid-19 variant spread, Australia’s political leaders remain steadfast in their beliefs that swift and frequent lockdown remains their best option. As Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said, “The risk is real and we need to act quickly, we need to go hard, we need to go fast.”

Other countries are following their example. 

Facing similar Delta-variant outbreaks, New Zealand, Bangladesh, and some regions of Portugal are under various forms of lockdown. Across the globe, the highly infectious delta-variant of Covid-19 has been identified in 85 countries, mainly impacting unvaccinated populations. 

The variant currently makes up only about 20 percent of new infections within the US, and nearly half of the population is fully vaccinated. However, fear that there could be more Covid-19 outbreaks on the horizon is spreading. 

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb expressed concern that the delta variant could infect school-aged children and might cause “dense outbreaks” in less vaccinated portions of the country. 

President Biden has stated he will not consider lockdowns as delta-variant infections spread (although he has not ruled it out). The much more significant concern for future pandemic policy and personal freedom is what power the President will exercise if the delta variant continues to spread. 

President Biden once considered travel bans to Florida for failing to abide by the CDC’s guidelines for reopening. Since taking office, he also signed 49 executive orders, demonstrating a willingness to exercise executive authority as he sees fit. Although in the brainstorming phase of developing a vaccination plan to combat the delta variant, some liken the administration’s efforts to “the trappings of a political campaign, complete with data crunching to identify groups that can be won over.”

How, where, and how much the delta-variant of Covid-19 will spread across the country is anyone’s guess. But as fear spreads, our government is well-positioned to increase its authority over a concerned public. Sadly, politicians seeking opportunism whenever it comes is a much easier bet to make.


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Open the gates? politicians seeking opportunism? 


Extra police are set to enforce coronavirus restrictions in Sydney’s south-west on Friday, but the mayor of Fairfield believes people think they “have been mistreated”.


On the news, daily on Sydney TV, one can hear the groans of newsreaders not able to mention the "cultural" hubs from which most of the cases "are coming from"... And now with the police enforcing Covid-19 rules, the "cultural" sensitivities are getting more sensitive...


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August 5 2021…

ah gladys!...


"We’ve demonstrated in NSW that there’s an alternate way to heavy-handed lockdowns”, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a Liberal Party conference in May. “We made sure that we had the systems in place to be able to weather whatever came our way so that we would never go into lockdown again.” A month later, ten days into an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta strain of COVID-19 in Sydney, she finally relented.

At that point, late June, epidemiologists were already saying the lockdown had come too late. The government ignored expert advice that going hard and going early would provide the greatest public safety. Events have proved the experts right and the government wrong. Now, it looks like they have lost control. We are currently seeing the consequences of the gamble that the NSW government was prepared to take to keep business profits flowing.

Since 16 June, when the first case of the Delta strain was registered, the numbers have risen exponentially: 43 cases by 23 June, 204 by 30 June and 357 by 7 July. A further 82 have been added in the two days since. There are now 285 cases linked to the Bondi cluster. Worryingly, there are 37 cases that have not been linked to a known case or cluster, with a further 117 linked to these 37 unlinked cases. There are 43 people with COVID-19 in hospital. Ten are in intensive care, four of whom require ventilation.

Hence the transformation of Berejiklian from 8 July’s “All the experts have said if every single person does the right thing, that we can get to where we need to go at the end of the three-week period”, to 9 July’s “Unless there is a dramatic change, unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the numbers, I can’t see how we would be in a position to ease restrictions by next Friday”.

But the government’s half-hearted response so far has given the virus a head start.

The consequences are not just for individuals who contract the virus. As Australian Medical Association President Omar Khorshid pointed out on 8 July: “Around 10 percent of the cases are already in hospital. Now just multiply that out to thousands and thousands of cases, which is the inevitable outcome within a very short period of time if restrictions are eased. And just imagine what the hospital system will look like”. 

On 9 July, the NSW government was forced by this dire circumstance to tighten the lockdown. New limits on individual behaviour have been introduced, such as only one person per household being allowed to leave the home for shopping, and only two (not the previous ten) being allowed to exercise together. 

But the glaring omission remains the number of businesses that are able to remain open. Instead of closing all non-essential businesses, the government merely proclaimed that “browsing” is now prohibited when we are at the shops.

With a kind of gallows humour, Sydneysiders have invented a new game regarding this “mockdown” or “lockdown lite”. You can find it in the comments on the NSW Health Facebook page or on any talkback radio show. It involves coming up with the most non-essential thing that’s open. Is it the six different Bunnings, a raft of shopping centres from Maroubra to Eastern Creek, Harvey Norman, Rebel and other sportswear shops, Beds R Us, Supercheap Auto or Kathmandu (all of which have already been exposure sites)? Or is it that you can visit your second home if it is also within greater Sydney? Or that the essential Gucci and Louis Vuitton (as well as the more downmarket fashion and shoe shops) are still open?

More seriously, these locations are also workplaces where infected workers have had to turn up and unwittingly infect their colleagues (such as at construction sites in Toongabbie and Auburn, where there are now several cases). Despite government and media blaming the size of migrant families for the spread of the virus, health authorities say a number of workplace clusters have “seeded” the virus in the western Sydney area, with mingling among family members possibly contributing.

The consequences of allowing non-essential businesses to keep operating was demonstrated dramatically when the number of close contacts identified by NSW Health doubled overnight on 8 July from 7,000 to 14,000 due to a number of large venues being exposure sites. One of these was IKEA. About 2,000 close contacts are now linked to this totally unnecessary exposure.

All non-essential businesses should be closed, including non-essential retail, non-essential construction sites and other industries that, by remaining open, are forcing workers into unsafe workplaces where the virus is spreading.

While no NSW government press conference is complete without Berejiklian telling everyone that they should be taking the outbreak of COVID-19 seriously, she is the one whose refusal to take it seriously in the first place has led to this situation. The failure to enact a serious lockdown soon enough has let this outbreak grow, and means that the lockdown must be extended and strengthened. For that to mean anything, action has to be taken nationally.

As late as 8 July, Berejiklian was still saying that “NSW has kept the virus at bay for 18 months”. No, that was Victoria. The rest of the country has done the heavy lifting on eradication. The NSW government’s failure puts everyone in the country at risk. NSW is the most populous state, and it borders the two next biggest, Victoria and Queensland.

But by 9 July, only the WA Labor government and the Liberal government in South Australia had thrown up hard borders to anyone entering from NSW. The Labor premiers of Queensland and Victoria have allowed residents to return from Sydney without proper quarantine arrangements in place. With quarantine failures being the lynchpin of every outbreak since Australia’s borders were closed, that’s not good enough.


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s**t floats...

It feels like these last two weeks have marked a serious inflection point in the progression of Australia’s pandemic experience.

To be blunt, it’s as if we’ve collectively lost our s**t.

It began with Scott Morrison’s late night news conference, Zoomed from The Lodge, after his self-proclaimed world-stage brilliance in talks with Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong, at the G7 in Cornwall, with Boris Johnson in London and Emanuel Macron in Paris.


Always keen to spot a way out of a tight corner, Morrison gave himself some cover and wriggle room to ramp up the vaccine roll out by saying if you’re under 40 and you want AstraZeneca, check with your GP and see if you can get some kind of permission.

From there the feathers flew, the pigeons were out of the coop and there was bird poop all over the place.

By mid-week, Labor premiers and, in the case of Queensland, health advisers were slamming Morrison.

The debate soon became ragged.

In Brisbane, Annastacia Palaszczuk faced a brittle and nasty news conference in which her ego rubbed up against equally precious personalities in the media pack.

A week later New South Wales Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian was subject to a similarly fractious exchange with her local band of reporters.

The Palaszczuk news conference occurred the day after her chief health officer, and governor-in-waiting, Jeannette Young, – a career health administrator – let her inexperience in the science of immunology and epidemiology get the better of her.

Young suggested she knew more than both the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom and Australia’s medical regulators, by indicating the AstraZeneca vaccine might kill young Australians.


It was a foolish call by any measure and undid a lot of goodwill built up over a year of good, safe and trustworthy administration (which just happens to be Young’s specialty).

The spiteful Brisbane news conference shocked locals who thought the anger from the media towards the politicians and officials, and in the other direction as well, was doing anything but instilling confidence at a time it was in great need, coming as it did after Queensland’s third “snap” short lockdown for the year.

This week’s Gladys Berejiklian news conference was of a different order but just as ill-fated.

On Tuesday the New South Wales government decided to extend its two week lockdown for another seven days but conspired to keep it from the public until the following morning.

The local media was brought into the circle and given a drop on the news – provided it wasn’t published or broadcast until after midnight.

When journalists turned up for the Premier’s daily reading of the case numbers, they were annoyed they’d been made part of the media strategy. Nastiness resulted.

This ‘aren’t-we-clever media’ stuff has been one of the least attractive developments in this time of pandemic, nowhere more so than in Canberra where the journalists’ drip works harder than a blood bank in a war zone.

After Ms Berejiklian dropped herself in a dunny cart she’d hired, her preferred prime minister came to her rescue.

Morrison emerged for a second news conference in the last fortnight, this time to ostensibly announce the terms of reference and make up of the royal commission into defence and veteran’s suicide.

After belittling this immensely important and serious subject – relegating it to an aside in the news cycle – Morrison demonstrated a preference for NSW over Victoria and Queensland (something he denied bumptiously) by giving out more cash and providing additional vaccine doses.

He did this mainly through a 1500-word salad introduction which contained more double-speak, deflection, diversion and distraction ingredients than you’d find on a shelf of Yotam Ottolenghi recipe books.

Morrison is now so adept at shape-shifting, finger-pointing, excuse-conjuring and shameless denial that he can get away with just about anything.

By yesterday morning the Prime Minister had arrived at a new rhetorical happy place: “And we’re hitting those (vaccination) marks, (which) we need to hit now. And so we keep that up (in) Australia, we get this thing done.”

The Guardian’s Amy Reimikis has outlined a detailed rollout for our vaccine effort tracking the rhetorical twists, the promised and actual delivery and the rubbery nature of it all.

If any other government tried this kind of thing they’d be shamed out of office. With Morrison at the helm we call it par for the course.

Morrison’s one great trick is to constantly keep us confused with his blatherskite style and night-is-day assertions.

A politician who makes Teflon appear sticky, Morrison understands the key to maintaining the public’s general adherence to his bulls***ting ways is to stay one stride of confusion ahead of comprehension.

If the public understood what was going on, he’d be punished in a brutal reckoning.

As an aside, will the Queensland government ever learn how to deal with its citizens trying to get into the state for what are clearly exceptional, compassionate reasons?

After a flurry of these cases prior to the state election last year, Palaszczuk, her then-health minister Steven Miles and Young said a ‘special unit’ would be established to cut through the bureaucratic roadblocks stopping people from seeing a dying relative in hospital or attending a funeral.

This week we saw the latest such case which was, again, handled with the rigid lack of empathy you’d expect from a lumberjack. It surely cannot be that hard to act with compassion and kindness.

The only ray of light in a bleak week is the fall in public support for the three governments who treated their populations like fools.

The Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland were all marked down in their handling of the pandemic.



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