Western Australia’s premier Mark McGowan has slammed deputy prime minister Michael McCormack for publicly demanding states increase their international arrival caps, calling the move “very directly outside the spirit of the National Cabinet”.
McGowan didn’t rule out increasing Perth’s intake to 1025 arrivals per week - an increase of 500 requested by McCormack - but instead called on the federal government to open Commonwealth quarantine facilities as a way of increasing the arrival caps.
McGowan said he was surprised by McCormack’s announcement he had sent letters to state and territory leaders demanding the increases:
“I would have thought these things should be discussed at National Cabinet rather than a letter being released to the press prior to it being brought to the attention of the relevant premiers There are commonwealth facilities out there, defense bases, immigration facilities that could be used for two weeks quarantine for people returning from overseas. I’d urge the commonwealth to have a look at those facilities as a measure
Quarantine and customs is a federal responsibility. But we’re obviously picking up the slack. We’re saying to the commonwealth work with us, don’t palm it all off, don’t say it’s just for states...The Commonwealth can resolve this if it wants to.”
McGowan said increasing WA’s caps wasn’t as simple as allowing more returned Australians to quarantine in empty hotel rooms in Perth, as there were “management and quality” issues.
The Parenthood, an advocacy group for parents, has called on the government to use next month’s budget to develop a plan to address “the pink recession gripping the country”.
It issued the call after the Australia Institute, a progressive thinktank, released modelling showing that men would gain twice as much of the benefit as women if the Morrison government fast-tracks the next round of income tax cuts. You can read more about that modelling in our story from this morning.
The Parenthood’s executive director, Georgie Dent, said rather than bringing forward the tax cuts, the government would be better off investing in universal, high-quality early learning services in order to help women back into the workforce.“The Morrison government prides itself on being sound economic managers yet in the throes of a ‘pink recession’, where women are disproportionately affected by unemployment and underemployment, they’re happy for tax cuts designed in a way that means women lose out.”
Dent said it was time “to proactively design policies and packages that will deliver for women” or there was a real risk of “another generation of Australian women being relegated to life-long economic insecurity and poverty”.
The comments follow a call from Natasha Stott Despoja last month for the government to apply a “gender lens” when it draws up the next federal budget.
Australia’s candidate to the United Nations committee on the elimination of discrimination against women had urged the government to look beyond “shovel-ready” stimulus projects and to support female-dominated, low-paid sectors at the frontline of the pandemic response in the budget in October.
Facebook has appeared at the joint standing committee on electoral matters, defending their handling of electoral misinformation on its platform.
Simon Milner, Facebook’s Asia-Pacific vice-president, outlined what Facebook has done to combat misinformation including:
- Removing 1.5bn fake accounts
- Banning material that suppresses voting or misrepresents the process of voting such as how when and where to vote
- Fact-checking news stories; and
- Banning all foreign ads relating to Australian politics during the 2019 campaign.
But he told the inquiry that in general Facebook does “not fact-check political advertising” with the only exceptions being if they could “lead to real world harm”.
“That’s pretty consistent with regulation around the world. It’s generally accepted that media companies should not interfere with that, because it is effectively interfering in a democratic process.”
Milner put the onus on governments to improve regulation.
“We’d like to see [the field] more thoroughly regulated, so it’s not a case of us as a tech company headquartered in the US making decisions” such as banning foreign ads about Australian politics, he said.
Facebook fact-checked just 17 articles about Australian politics during the 2019 election, but Milner said AI is then applied to treat “thousands” of similar posts.
Milner also called for the Australian election material blackout to apply to digital platforms:
“We’ve taken the position in previous inquiries that if Australian policymakers consider the blackout remains the right policy approach, we would be supportive of extending it to online advertising. To ensure parity between those currently captured and those who aren’t.”
The medical advisory panel to national cabinet never formally recommended hotel quarantine for returned travellers before the prime minister’s 26 March announcement, Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, has confirmed.
When the prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced what came to be known as the hotel quarantine program on 26 March following a national cabinet meeting between Morrison and the state premiers and territory chief ministers, he said the decisions were “based on the medical expert advice that we receive in terms of the restrictions that are necessary to deal with the management of the outbreak of the virus in Australia”.
However, Sutton told Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry that the national committee of chief health officers, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – on which he is a member and advised the national cabinet on Covid-19 – never made a recommendation for hotel quarantine prior to the announcement.
“I think it’s fair to say that the specific question in terms of a recommendation to national cabinet didn’t come up,” Sutton said.
It was a topic of discussion, but there was no formal recommendation, he said, and he wasn’t aware hotel quarantine would be brought in until the press conference.
“It’s fair to say until national cabinet has decided an issue, it’s not a fait accompli ... So I guess no one should expect in advance of federal cabinet deliberations, what an outcome might be.”
Sutton said he ultimately supported the decision to quarantine all returned travellers, and he said he took it “on face value” that it was true when Morrison said the decisions were based on medical advice.
Victoria’s health commissioner, Brett Sutton, has confirmed at least one guest left hotel quarantine not knowing they had contracted Covid-19 and then subsequently passed on the virus to the person who picked them up.
The Victorian hotel quarantine inquiry heard on Wednesday that although Victoria now extends hotel quarantine for an extra 10 days for returned travellers who refuse to be tested for Covid-19 on day 11 of their 14-day stay, the view of Sutton and the Victorian government was that testing should not be mandatory.
In late June, the government reported around 30% of the 18,000 travellers who came through hotel quarantine refused testing.
The inquiry heard one person who completed their quarantine at the Stamford Plaza Hotel left the hotel without being tested and was positive for Covid-19 with a genomic strain linked to the hotel as the source. They subsequently infected the person who picked them up and took them home.
Sutton said this incident contributed to the decision to require an extended stay for those who weren’t tested on day 11.
“I think that that has become part of the reflections on strengthening the testing regimen within hotel quarantine for that very purpose,” he said.
Sutton said while he was empowered to force testing, there was a view of the outbreak team that coercive powers to force testing would not help people be compliant.
“The trust and rapport that is fundamental to being able to engage with people and have the honest provision of information, and also the willingness of people to come forward for testing with an understanding that if they test positive, they will need to go through a process of defining their close contacts constraining where they move to and constraining their behaviours,” he said.
“There is always a trade off, if there is an individual who might not be providing that information, or who might not be compliant with advice, what the consequences might be for the broader community, going forward.”
NSW reports 10 new cases of coronavirus