Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Coronavirus: Lockdown a blunt instrument with no guarantees

The Canberra Gallery has been caught in the grip of Labor’s cynicism, turning the Prime Minister’s daily press briefings nastier and more distracting than they should be.

The situation is fluid, and evidence-based economic modelling is in short supply. There is no precedent to follow, no off-the-peg solution and the antidote may be more than a year away. It is a time when wiser heads hedge their bets and prepare to alter their judgments as the facts alter, sometimes by the hour.

The noisier participants, however, have headed quickly in the opposite direction, seeking comfort in the certainty of fresh dogma. The word “lockdown” is their latest totem, just as “Gonski” and “Stop Adani” were not long ago. Once again they’ve responded to a complex challenge with a flight to simplicity, chaining themselves to a gate that long ago seemed to be coming off its hinges.

The lockdown non-solution is social distancing on steroids. We don’t yet know how good it is at separating people from stray coronavirus cells, and the evidence from locked-down nations like Italy, Spain and France looks worse by the day.

We do know that it separates people from jobs and businesses from customers to a far greater extent than intended. The interdependency of the global economy has passed beyond the point where it can be mapped. When you start pulling one thread out of the economy, the rest of it unravels.

On Friday, 17 days after 16 million people were locked down in northern Italy, the country recorded its highest number of deaths in a single day — 919.

Even allowing for the different circumstances in Australia, it is hard to imagine that an Italian-style nationwide lockdown heavily enforced would reduce the spread fast enough to stop our medical services being swamped.

This should come as no surprise to older practitioners in the field of public health.

The sharp reduction in the number of toddlers drowning in backyards in the 1980s and 1990s wasn’t achieved by banning domestic swimming pools.

Neither did we bring HIV/AIDS under control by placing advertisements in The Australian Women’s Weekly. It was controlled with a targeted, scary campaign, the memory of which causes many who watched in their teens and 20s to break out in a cold sweat even today.

Australia stopped toddlers drowning by enforcing the installation of fences and childproof gate locks combined with a strong public health message.

The approach that works, in other words, is to focus on saving the vulnerable, none of whom want to end up in a crowded intensive care unit facing a lonely death.

A poll on the weekend by Roy Morgan demonstrates that voluntary self-isolation is a feasible strategy, avoiding the need for the authoritarian approach some appear to prefer.

In the poll, 84 per cent of those over 65 years of age said they were already self-isolating. Pictures of a crowded beach, then, are an inadequate guide to public behaviour in this crisis.

Most people are relying on their own common sense. With clearer advice from public health officials and some assistance and community goodwill, we can ensure that most of those at risk sit out this pandemic in the comfort of their own homes.

Nobody knows if a full lockdown, the indiscriminate stopping of almost all human activity outside the home, will end the pandemic or how long these draconian measures will have to stay in place. We do know, however, that such measures will come at an enormous cost to employment, welfare and families.

We know, too, that some of the countries doing better in the face of the pandemic, such as Switzerland, Belgium and South Korea, have slowed the rate of infection and death to manageable levels while expressly rejecting this blunt-edged strategy. Circumstances vary so much between nations, however, that we are unlikely to find a universal policy solution until we get a vaccine.

In the meantime, Australia must devise its own solution, informed by the epidemiological data now emerging from the worst-hit countries, and tempered by our knowledge of what happens when sections of our interlocking economy shut down and the human misery that follows.

It seems the total lockdown strategy would damage the economy beyond all recognition if kept in place for very long. The price would be paid not just in jobs and wages, but in loneliness, mental illness, family violence and perhaps even suicide.

In a situation like this, the least-worse solution will always be the one that takes account of the welfare of people. We cannot yet say with any confidence when it will be safe for the elderly to leave their homes. We do know, however, that the view from the worst window of the worst home in Australia is better than the view of the ceiling seen through a ventilator.


Coronavirus crisis: Food supplies in Australia

Australia is a major food-exporting country so there should be no overall shortage.  You might have to buyTasty cheese instead of Jarlsberg but you will survive

Authorities have moved to reassure Australians the country won't run short on food, despite the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on supply chains here and abroad.

Experts say food in Australia is in steady supply for now, but there are warnings that the longer-term supply chain will be affected as the COVID-19 lockdown continues.

Ports Australia says it will take all necessary measures to keep supply chains running while ensuring the protection of maritime workers.

"From ships arriving to unload at our ports, right through to trucks delivering much needed food and goods to the people stacking shelves at retail shops, an unbroken supply chain is critical for community confidence at this time," a spokesman said.

So far, no port staff member has been diagnosed with COVID-19 - a crucial concern for authorities in keeping trade flowing.

According to Dr Giovanni Di Lieto, from the Monash Business School, there will inevitably be an impact on products.

"I don't think essentials will be missing in Australia, even in the worst case scenario of a long-term lockdown, but having said that we need to consider that imports will be severely impacted," he told SBS News.

The impacts could ripple out and affect the supply of other critical goods like medical products, forcing authorities here to fire-up some neglected local industries.

"The silver lining will be that some new opportunities will arise in manufacturing industries that were once abandoned in Australia," Dr Di Lieto said.

As panic buying finally shows signs of abating in our supermarket aisles, Australians have been told they have nothing to fear when it comes to the supply of fresh produce.

But AusVeg communications manager Shaun Lindhe said he anticipates there could be short-term price hikes until supplies reach a level where they fully meet demand.

"We grow a vast majority of our fresh produce in many different growing regions so we are very fortunate that we are not at risk of running out of fresh produce," he said.


CATHOLIC schools across Australia have committed to extending school fee relief for families facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic

National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins said Catholic schools have a long tradition of offering school fee relief and assistance to families facing financial difficulties.

“Catholic schools keep their fees as affordable as possible, but we know many families will be facing serious financial difficulties during this challenging time,” Ms Collins said.

“In each state and territory we are looking at ways to expand on the substantial fee relief arrangements already in place, to ease the financial strain on families, and to determine appropriate measures to best support the needs of families across the country.

“We saw recently through the bushfire season and ongoing drought, that some families are more affected than others, so we need to ensure that the right support and assistance goes to where it is most needed,” she said.

Queensland Catholic Education Commission’s executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry urged families to come forward.

“Catholic schools are acutely aware of the hardships being experienced right across the community and are doing all they can to facilitate the ongoing education of all students,” Dr Perry said.

“I urge any family facing difficulty with tuition fees to contact their school to discuss their situation.”

Ms Collins said financial relief is immediately available to families impacted by the pandemic.

“If families are affected by job losses, business closures or other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge them to speak to their school as quickly as possible, to get immediate relief and determine the level of assistance needed ,” she said.

“We appreciate how difficult it is for parents to come forward with financial concerns, but our schools will ensure each case is handled with care and discretion.

“We understand that many families are already under great pressure and strain, and we do not want them to be further burdened by school fee payments.”

In South Australia, families in Catholic diocesan schools who have lost significant income due to COVID-19 will receive a total school fee remission effective immediately, for an initial period of three months.

Catholic Education South Australia director Dr Neil McGoran said for the state’s regional and rural communities, the COVID-19 pandemic comes amidst a range of other challenges such as bushfires, drought, loss of key industries and increasing unemployment.

“Amongst all the worries that we have at this time – worrying about the payment of school fees should not be one of those things,” Dr McGoran said.

“All Catholic schools in SA are providing fee remissions to families financially impacted by COVID-19 and we will continue to monitor and respond to the impact on our families and our schools.”

Catholic Schools New South Wales chief executive officer Dallas McInerney said it was critical for families in the state’s nearly 600 schools to have certainty.

“Now, more than ever, our families need certainty and support,” Mr McInerney said.

“Catholic Schools NSW is actively considering how best to financially support our families at this time.”

“We are firmly of the view that no child should miss out on a Catholic education because of financial stress; this includes families seeking enrolment for their children for the 2021 school year.”

Helping education: “All Catholic schools in SA are providing fee remissions to families financially impacted by COVID-19 and we will continue to monitor and respond to the impact on our families and our schools.” Photo: Flickr.
In Western Australia, Catholic schools families on a health care card will receive automatic fee concessions, and immediate support would also be available for those who do not qualify for a health care card.

“The health care card discount applies to all year levels from Kindergarten to Year 12, and additional financial considerations are also available depending on each family’s circumstance,” said Catholic Education Western Australia executive director Dr Debra Sayce.

“For parents who do not qualify for the health care card discount, but who are experiencing financial difficulties, arrangements can be made to provide immediate support to assist with tuition costs.”

Ms Collins said Catholic schools would offer a blend of onsite and remote learning arrangements next term.

“Subject to government advice, we anticipate that, by Term 2, Catholic schools will be offering a combination of onsite schooling for the children of essential service workers and remote learning for students at home.”

Nationally, Catholic schools educate more than 764,000 students – or one in five Australian students – in 1,746 schools, the vast majority of which are low-fee schools.


Coronavirus: Qatar Airways increases flights to Australia

Qatar Airways is bucking the global air travel shutdown by increasing flights to Australia despite the coronavirus showing no sign of ending.

The Middle Eastern airline announced it has added 28 additional flights to Australia, equivalent to 48,000 additional seats, and launched its first route between Doha and Brisbane.

The carrier is now operating three flights a day from Doha to Sydney, two into Melbourne, two into Perth and one daily flight into Brisbane. Its Adelaide and Canberra routes remain suspended.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the airline was continuing to serve Australians aiming to return home from overseas. "We know there are many people who want to be with their families and loved ones during this difficult time," he said. "We are thankful to the Australian Government, airports and staff for their support in helping us to add additional flights to get people home, and in particular, to bring flights to Brisbane.

Qatar said from March 1 to March 22, it flew 13,458 Australians home. Last week, the airline said it had flown more than 100,000 passengers, with 72 per cent of those flying on March 24 returning to their country of origin.

The Federal Government banned all international visitors from entering the country and all Australian citizens arriving must go into quarantine.

Qantas and Virgin Australia have suspended all international flights and slashed domestic capacity amid the pandemic.


 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

Monday, March 30, 2020

Australia's coronavirus response is reasonable

While it is far too soon to get excited and there is still a long way to go, in the three days to Friday the increase in the number of new cases seemed to have slowed – although community transmission is still a major concern.

Infectious diseases physician and microbiologist Peter Collignon, a professor at the ANU Medical School, observed on Friday night: “Still early but epidemic curve looks like it’s falling. Hopefully that fall will continue and what we are doing now will cause it to keep on falling.”

Unfortunately the rates ticked back up again on Saturday but this is not a disaster as long as the increase can be kept in check and doesn’t explode exponentially as it did in the early days and weeks. This is known as flattening the curve and flattening the curve has been the government’s strategy all along.

University of Melbourne professor of epidemiology Tony Blakely has been explaining this process very clearly for days now – that the whole point is to slow the spread of the virus to manageable levels, not stop it altogether. That requires patience and calm, two qualities sorely lacking in the social media age.

“You don't go in too hard because you actually want the infection rate to pick up a bit and then hold,” he told the ABC.

Or as he explained it to the far funkier readers of news.com.au: “If we are going to ‘flatten the curve’ then we need to chill a bit.”

That’s a pretty simple message on the biggest news site in Australia from one of the top experts in the country. And yet panic merchants are still squealing that we need to shut everything down now because it’s trending on Twitter.

You also have to wonder how many of those calling for total and immediate nationwide lockdowns are spending their own in leafy suburban homes or stately Victorian terraces instead of sharehouses and studio apartments. You have to wonder if it’s their jobs that will be instantly terminated.

Because it’s easy to wish for a recession when you’re rich enough to ride it out. It’s not so easy when you’re a waiter who’s been wiped out or an aircraft engineer now stacking shelves at Woollies.

Of course everyone has the right to voice their opinion – and some of the contrarian views come from very smart minds.

But for others so sure that everything we’re doing is wrong here are two simple questions they might wish to ask themselves to bring the issue into sharp relief:

1. Am I as smart as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer?

2. Am I going to lose my job?

The hard truth is we are facing both a health crisis and an economic one. We have to do whatever it takes to stop the coronavirus from crashing our hospital system but we also have to do whatever it takes to stop it from crashing our economic system, because if the economy crashes, society crashes.

The cruellest part is that the restrictive approach needed to save our hospitals is the opposite of the expansive approach needed to save our economy. This is the great corona paradox.

We are balancing thousands of lives against hundreds of thousands of livelihoods and the threat of even further loss of life in the future as poverty and unemployment cuts people down. Every decision we take has to be measured against the impact it will have not just across society today but in the months and years ahead – and all of this with infinite uncertainty as to what that impact will be. It is an all but impossible needle to thread.

And so for my two cents, I reckon having graduated restrictions that can be escalated or eased as the situation requires – as opposed to the sledgehammer of universal lockdowns based on no medical evidence – seems like a pretty sensible way to go. And most of the people in charge seem to think that too because that’s exactly what we’re doing.

And if anyone thinks they have a better idea to stop a global pandemic while solving the most crippling economic crisis since the Great Depression then perhaps they should put it in an email.


Rights groups in Australia alarmed at new coronavirus police powers

Rights groups have voiced concern about Australia's rollout of COVID-19 restrictions and how these are being policed.

This week, a number of states announced they were issuing on-the-spot fines for individuals and businesses flouting new COVID-19 rules.

Fines will be issued for not quarantining for 14 days after returning from overseas, attending or organising mass gatherings, and disobeying other government directions such as wedding and funeral sizes.

Depending on the state, individuals face $1,000-$13,345 fines and businesses can be fined up to $66,672.50.

While agreeing the crisis necessitates a strong government response to protect the community, rights groups said these heavy fines should be a "very last resort".

"Police should be trying to promote understanding of the new regulations and new restrictions and doing everything they can to get voluntary compliance," spokesperson for the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks told SBS News.

"It shouldn't be a revenue-raising exercise for the government," Mr Blanks said.

"And it's so important that when restrictions are imposed, that proper notice is given to a community, that restrictions are clearly available on government websites. So people can see what it is that they are allowed and not allowed to do."

But he said in this instance, officials "have been struggling to achieve clarity". "This confusion makes it hard for members of the public to know what they are allowed to do," he said.

The Federal Government also announced the army has been brought in to make sure returned travellers isolate for 14 days.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed on Friday that defence personnel would not have the power to issue fines, but would assist state and territory authorities.

Mr Blanks said the military's presence could add to the tension. "It's not a situation where you want to see members of the army on the streets with weapons."

The Human Rights Law Centre said civil liberties should not be forgotten in a crisis.

"As governments across Australia adopt emergency powers to lead us out of this crisis it is important that any response is transparent and proportionate," a spokesperson told SBS News in a statement.

"Any emergency powers or legislation passed in this time of crisis must be clearly expressed, narrowly confined to deal with the immediate public health issues, time limited, and independently reviewed on a continuing basis.

"This crisis must not be seen as an opportunity to advance the infringement of our democratic freedoms. We cannot allow a situation in which Australians emerge from this over-policed and under state surveillance with their democratic rights curtailed."

Associate professor of law at Flinders University Marinella Marmo researches human rights issues. With family members in virus-hit Italy, she is well-aware of how important a government response is to COVID-19. "Obviously, I am anxious but I also think that human rights are here to stay and we need to fight for them every single day," she said.

"Emergency measures [are] introduced quickly and this does not allow for a healthy debate on if and how they infringe civil liberties. Unfortunately, in the eye of the storm we lose track of these matters, but we need to remain vigilant.

"We now know that most emergency measures quickly introduced in the past by different governments around the world have not been withdrawn or completely withdrawn, see terrorist measures, for example.

"Any kind of COVID-19 emergency measure needs to be considered in light of ethical standards and human rights. And if now is not the time, as dismissively we may be told, then soon after the emergency is over."

In laying out the new measures, authorities have stressed that enforcing the rules will save lives.

On Saturday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said giving police the new powers was very important as cases continue to rise in the state. "Everyone's got to take this seriously," he said.

Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville said "we sincerely hope that Victoria Police does not have to issue one of these fines, and people do the right thing".

While NSW Police Minister David Elliott told reporters on Saturday that "everything we have done over the course of the last couple of weeks has been to save lives". "Whether it be closing Bondi Beach, whether it be closing our pubs, these are there to stop people from transmitting disease.

"These rules and regulations are not there to punish anybody. They are not there to issue intermittent justice. They are there to protect lives, they are there to save lives."


Australian Reporter Rita Panahi Takes the WHO, Chinese Regime to Task Over Coronavirus Lies

Australian reporter Rita Panahi slammed China's Communist Regime and the World Health Organization for their failures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. China was so worried about making sure they weren't blamed for the virus that they did everything in their power to keep whistleblowers quiet. Instead of sounding the alarm about the Wuhan coronavirus, the WHO parroted the regime's talking points, saying the virus wasn't transmitted through person-to-person contact. The organization also failed to recommend travel bans to China.

"I want to talk about China's culpability and conduct throughout the coronavirus crisis that began in Wuhan wet market. The Chinese Communist regime not only lied, destroyed evidence and allowed the virus to spread, but it arrested doctors who, back in December, tried to warn the world about what was happening in Wuhan," she explained. "Some of the whistleblowers arrested and accused of fabricating, disseminating, and spreading rumors have since died. Other domestic critics, from a property tycoon to video bloggers have vanished."

"China is not a regime that tolerates dissent," Panahi explained. "China's initial cover-up included destroying lab samples that established, in December, the cause of unexplained viral infections in the Hubei province. How many lives would have been saved if China had listened to experts instead of silencing them?"

A study carried out by the University of South Hampton showed that China could have prevented 95 percent of Wuhan coronavirus infections "if it would have implemented tough measures just three weeks earlier." Instead of being proactive, the regime waited another month before taking action.

"What's just as shocking is the World Health Organization's complicity in this global pandemic," she said. "From the start, the WHO has unequivocally praised China's response and pushed its absurd narratives while ignoring the regime's dishonesty and recklessness."

Panahi reminded viewers that back in January, the WHO shared a tweet citing Chinese health official's who claimed there was no evidence the virus transmitted through human-to-human contact.

"[The WHO] refused to declare a pandemic until March 11th. And, as late as February, it was parroting China in criticizing travel restrictions," she said. "Don't forget that when Scott Morrison and Donald Trump implemented travel bans against China in late January, they did so against WHO's advice."

Both China and the WHO deserve to be held accountable for this pandemic. They could have kept the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading around the world had they admitted the virus began in China and was being transmitted through human-to-human contact. Instead of giving other countries the heads up so they could prepare or make decisions to protect their citizens, China was radio silent and they punished those who spoke out.

Instead of calling it the World Health Organization, we should call it the Chinese Health Organization. At the end of the day, the organization is only concerned about how the Chinese regime looks to the rest of the world.


Australian schools: Digital equity needed for success

For millions of young Australians, it’s home schooling from now on. As well as getting their heads around months of staying inside – often in small apartments with no easy access to big, green spaces – families urgently need to work out how to carry on with learning.

The Prime Minister and other leaders rightly point to the risks facing the educational progress of young Australians as the nation locks down. Given the data showing that many students are already up to three years behind their international peers in reading, mathematics and science, they cannot afford to miss a beat as they watch a very strange school year unfold.

The first of Australia’s two national goals for schooling refers to ‘excellence and equity’.  Excellence in education is already the subject of much debate, but the Covid-19 emergency will exacerbate equity issues, with no guarantee that all young learners can simply switch to high-quality online learning.

And school closures are happening at the same time as most businesses and organisations ramp up their technological capability to keep things going. This is potentially the greatest test of the $50+ billion national broadband network. Our average speeds have improved, but other countries are doing better, and this was probably a major factor for Japan and Hong Kong in their early decision to close all schools.

Ideally, for at least some part of each day, Australian students should be able to see and hear their teachers as well as their classmates. Schools will want to keep students connected and maintain a sense of belonging, otherwise motivation and achievement will go out the window.

But some schools are advising parents that live streaming of lessons cannot occur because of the variation in household internet services and devices.

Every child will need the right device and the necessary software. As in some universities, this might mean offering financial support to students who would otherwise depend on school computers, who cannot afford internet connection or who have a disability.

Enabling equitable access to smart digital technology would be an encouraging sign of the effectiveness of state and territory policies and funding strategies

Australia’s education ministers own Education Services Australia, a national company that claims a “unique combination of education and technology expertise to create and deliver solutions that can be used to improve student outcomes and enhance performance across all education sectors.” ESA built the Australian Curriculum website, among many other projects.

Never has there been a better time for that organisation to show what it can do.


 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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Voting in Queensland. What are the challenges of holding elections in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic?

I observed early voting on Friday and saw long well-spaced queues being supervised by a cheerful electoral officer. 

On Saturday morning, on the main day to vote, one might have expected bigger queues but that is not what I encountered.  Where it was very busy last time, there were no queues at all

There were none of the usual leaflets handed out but there was plenty of signage so that was no problem.  That would certainly have reduced the litter problem

I got my hands sprayed with sanitizer and I used the pencil supplied to mark my ballot paper.

The big miss is that there were no charity stalls cooking sausages.  Election sausages are an appreciated part of Australian elections and, being something of a sausage freak, I certainly missed them.

There are as yet no figures on the turnout to vote but despite compulsory voting, turnout at municipal elections is always well down. From what I saw, it would have been really down in this election.  A lot of people probably saw coronavirus restrictions as a good excuse to skip voting this time.

Countries around the globe have postponed elections due to the coronavirus pandemic but in Queensland, top officials say you are more at risk in the supermarket aisle than the polling booth.

The State Government is pushing ahead with Saturday's planned local government elections and two state by-elections on the advice of its chief health officer.

Authorities said measures like physical distancing, plus a record number of pre-poll and postal votes, meant the risk was low compared to other day-to-day activities like grocery shopping.

The Electoral Commissioner flagged State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers could even be called upon to help maintain physical distancing at the booths during "these extraordinary times".

But the move to go ahead with the elections has baffled some doctors and scientists in the community who believe it is a gathering "we shouldn't have" and is inconsistent with other messages to stay home.

Hygiene concerns have also seen three Brisbane Catholic schools decide to pull out as polling booth venues.

There are around 3.3 million eligible voters across Queensland.

As of 6:30pm Thursday, more than 1 million people had cast their vote early, on top of another 570,000 who registered for a postal vote.

According to Queensland's chief health officer Jeannette Young, there is no risk in going to vote tomorrow with the safety measures in place.

The Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) is telling people to bring their own pen or pencil and stand 1.5 metres from others, while how-to-vote cards or election material won't be handed out.

Its website said hand sanitiser would be provided "where available" for voters and polling officials, and there would be extra cleaning to ensure surfaces were regularly disinfected.


Coronavirus: Coles, Woolworths shelves fuller as customers reduce stockpiling

When I was in my local Woolworhs yesterday morning there was plenty of toilet paper on display and nobody hovering around

Panic buying is stripping the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies with new drastic measures brought in to meet demands.

It would be a stretch to suggest supermarket shelves are back to normal levels, but the big players have said stock is flowing in plugging some of the gaps seen in the last few weeks following an outbreak of hoarding.

Woolworths chief executive officer Brad Banducci told ABC Radio today that, “I’d never thought I’d see the day where I thanked people for not buying things from us.”

Customers continued to purchase at “elevated levels” but the pandemic stocking up was going down which should lead to a dramatic improvement in store.

The Woolies boss said he was also hopeful online delivery, which has seen a surge in demand but has faced huge delays, should run more smoothly from next week.

Coles has told news.com.au that after “unprecedented busy times” there was more food on display.

Nonetheless, it could still be a while before stores are overflowing with toilet roll.

The stripping of some supermarket aisles has been one of the most notable reactions in Australia to the coronavirus pandemic.

The scenes were repeated in the US, Hong Kong and UK but in other countries, including the COVID-19 epicentre of Italy, the shelves have remained stocked.

Woolworths, IGA, Coles and Aldi have been forced to put strict buying limits on products across the store. First toilet paper and hand sanitiser, then pasta and rice and now almost everything in store bar fresh food, meat and drinks.

At one-point Woolworths said it was selling a week’s worth of toilet paper each day.

Social media posts have done the rounds showing Lindt bunnies and Easter eggs being move into the toilet roll aisle to fill the awkward gap. Easter confectionary is in abundance and you can gobble down as much as you want.

But recently, supermarket shelves have slowly begun to look a bit fuller.

Some IGA stores now feature pallets of pasta and tomato sauce in the middle of the store alongside massive bags of rice and flour.

The milk cabinet is stocked and eggs cartons are back in some sizes. Loaves of bread take up more space on the shelves, although often not all brands are in stock.

The supermarkets have consistently said there is no issue with supply and Australia produces three times the food it needs. The issue has been with customers buying far more than they need.

Doing the rounds on ABC TV and radio today, Woolies’ Mr Banducci said there was “plenty coming” into supermarkets

“Hopefully all of our customers are seeing every time they go into store, there is more there,” he said.

As much as ploughing more stock through the network was helping, it was also down to customers “moderating their demand” he said.

“I never thought I’d see the day where I thanked people for not buying things from us, but we do thank them so there’s enough to go around.”

A Coles spokeswoman told news.com.au that its stores were in better shape as well.

“Pleasingly, after unprecedented busy times, our stores now have more stock on display for customers and there are signs that the demand is beginning to slow.”

Coles said busier shelves was due to customers pulling back from over-purchasing as well as increased numbers of staff, suppliers pumping out more products, purchase limits, reducing opening hours and the relaxation of truck curfews on local streets.


Coronavirus: It’s time for us to decide if the cure is worse than the disease

Janet Albrechtsen

In Letters to a Young Contrarian, Christopher Hitchens writes that the essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks but in how it thinks. It is ­intellectual curiosity that matters most. And right now we need more of this key ingredient. A healthy democracy does not die in a pandemic.

Let’s be clear. No one has the wisdom of Solomon or the prophetic powers of Apollo. But finally, this past week, many more people are publicly asking if the cure is worse than the disease. We need more of this intellectual curiosity instead of joining the cheer squad for the Morrison government or the more hysterical Canberra press bubble.

It means probing government decisions, checking herd mentalities, raising differences between expert advice, and understanding that bureaucrats advising governments about the current economic responses to COVID-19 never lose their jobs in a crisis. We should not accept medical advice as the sole source of truth either. Not only is it both contestable and contested, but doctors have a laser-like focus on medical issues and have little or no knowledge of, and sometimes not much interest in, the social, economic or cultural conse­quences of their advice.

A few weeks ago, Guardian Australia political editor Katharine Murphy wondered whether dealing with COVID-19 might be the revenge of the experts. Beware of those who assert that “experts” equal a consensus, or accepted wisdom, or settled orthodoxy. Remember Brexit? These phrases are often used by people who pretend to love a rollicking debate — but only when it suits them. On some matters, they claim consensus to shut people up.

As American intellectual Walter Lippmann once said: “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” And happily, not all people think alike. Consider the comments this week from newly appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth, an infectious diseases specialist at Canberra Hospital. In an interview on ABC radio on Thursday, Coatsworth said the effectiveness of imposing harsher rules around ­social isolation to deal with COVID-19 is “a contested point”.

Coatsworth also challenged the ABC’s message that the broadcaster’s medical reporter, Norman Swan, is the go-to guy on COVID-19. “I disagree with Norman when he thinks that this is going to be over in weeks if we go for harder and faster lockdowns,” Coatsworth said. “I don’t think they’ve thought through the impact on Australia and Australians of doing that.”

It is no bad thing to push back. John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine in epidemiology and co-director of Stanford’s Meta-­Research Innovation Centre in the US, questions the official death rate of 3.4 per cent put out by the World Health Organisation.

No one can accurately tally up unrecorded cases of COVID-19 and that single fact renders the modelling inaccurate. If the true fatality rate is closer to 1 per cent or even lower, Ioannidis says, then “locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be ­totally irrational”.

Veteran left-liberal commentator Thomas Friedman also has broken from the pack about this pandemic. Writing in The New York Times this week, Friedman is asking whether the cure is worse than the disease. Friedman spoke with David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Yale-­Griffin Prevention Research Centre in the US, who questions the current “horizontal interdiction” — basically, shutting down commerce and limiting movement by large parts of the population.

Katz posits a more surgically targeted “vertical interdiction” strategy to sequester and protect the more vulnerable after a short, sharp period of lockdown of two weeks, rather than a longer, unsustainable and economically ruinous approach that will deliver its own devastating health costs.

Katz suggests that “the rejuvenating effect on spirits, and the economy, of knowing where there’s light at the end of this tunnel would be hard to overstate”.

“Risk will not be zero,” he told Friedman, “but the risk of some bad outcome for any of us on any given day is never zero.’’

Again, none of us has the perfect set of answers. And no leader should be demonised for changing tack. US President Donald Trump wants to reopen the US economy by Easter. It may not happen, but Trump offers hope instead of the dark, uncertain and confusing ­tunnels many of us face in other countries.

It was breathtaking to hear Anthony Albanese claim this week that the Morrison government needed to avoid a tension “between dealing with the health issues and dealing with the economic issues”. Is he kidding?

Was this brazen politics or reckless stupidity? There are devastating social costs arising directly from decisions to shut down businesses and shunt away people.

If Albanese cannot grapple with that, then he has no rightful claim to be the alternative prime minister.

The tensions are immense. Poverty kills people, too. Losing your job through no fault of your own is soul-destroying. Facing extended unemployment can wreck the prospects and futures of millions of people. People and families need to know how they will pay their bills and buy food.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert assured me on ­Sunday evening that the myGov bureaucracy was primed for huge numbers of newly unemployed Australians desperately seeking help on Monday. It had already been road-tested by the bushfire crisis, he said.

This is not a time for cockiness. The system crashed the next day under the weight of demand. I had passed on the minister’s assur­ances to try to allay the concerns of hardworking decent people who lost their jobs on Sunday night.

Can Robert imagine what it is like to stand in a long line on a pavement during a pandemic to ask for money because a job has been taken from you overnight by a decision made by government?

The next day, Robert tried to wash the egg off his face by claiming there had been a cyber hack ­attack. It wasn’t true.

Robert still has his job.

We are tearing at the social fabric of communities, shutting down footy and pubs and church ser­vices. GPs tell me of their concerns about the devastating mental health consequences of enforced social dislocation. Are we potentially creating a powder keg that we will one day rue?

Being forced into lockdown in dysfunctional and even dangerous households doesn’t bear thinking about. But we must, surely, consider all these tensions as part of every single decision made to deal with COVID-19.

A woman who lives on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, 165km from Adelaide, was due to have a hysterectomy in Adelaide on Thursday. On Wednesday morning, she was told all elective surgeries were cancelled, effective immediately because of government directives. Early Wednesday afternoon, she was told her surgery would go ahead after a change to the rules. Later that day, she was told it was cancelled again. Her distress is immense.

At another Adelaide hospital, a nurse went to work on Monday, only to be told to stay home the next day because of new self-­isolation rules that applied to her after a trip to Sydney on the weekend. On Tuesday, she was asked to come to work after all. She was told that the rules about self-isolation applied only to people arriving after Tuesday 11am.

This confusion is across industries, across the country.

To be sure, leaders are doing their best in the most frightful circumstances. As the Prime Minister spoke to the nation on Tuesday evening following a meeting of the national cabinet, who could imagine telling the country that a ­funeral must have no more than 10 mourners, or that a big birthday party for a two-year old cannot go ahead in these times?

It is unthinkable. But that does not mean we must be unthinking.


Coronavirus: Petulant pointscorers show their true colours in a crisis

Mainstream Australians are handling this coronavirus crisis far better than members of the political/media class who display their usual petulance, partisanship and ego-driven posturing — characteristics that apparently are immune even to the challenge of a deadly pandemic.

Despite lives being at risk and millions of compatriots facing dire economic prospects (let alone ­global ramifications that don’t bear thinking about), some politicians and journalists are more ­intent on game-playing than team-playing. Thankfully, the politicians who shoulder the burden of power — Scott Morrison, his senior ministers, and the state and territory leaders — are wearing their heavy responsibility well and acting accordingly, so far.

Along with Morrison, the Labor premiers — Daniel Andrews in Victoria and Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland — have stood out. But clearly all in the national cabinet are doing their bit.

The responses of these leaders cannot be perfect, simply by dint of the complexities they face; and for the same reasons, they won’t ­always agree. But the dedication, co-operation and steadfastness of the territory, state and federal leaders is encouraging.

Despite some exceptions — fruit-loops rumbling over toilet paper or people travelling while under a coronavirus cloud — most of our fellow citizens have been phlegmatic and organised. The fuss over Bondi Beach last Saturday came just a day after ­social distancing rules were toughened and looked like a final hot-weather fling before descent into a long, lonely winter. At shops, schools and workplaces, most people have calmly been preparing for isolation, helping out friends and sharing concerns. This sober behaviour in testing times stands in stark ­contrast to the attention-seeking and scaremongering among the media/political class.

Journalists whose job it is to clearly communicate news and information have been more intent on critiquing the government’s communications, second-guessing expert advice, nitpicking complex responses, overlooking per­sonal responsibility and raising fears. It is almost beyond belief that adults living through a worldwide dilemma as severe as this would spend more time sharing their top-of-mind views of government ­policy and mocking insignificant communications glitches or policy adjustments than attempting to explain public responsibilities and how to exercise them.

Their employers must wear some of the blame for not demanding better. Many of these journalists and commentators have been humiliated over their political predictions in recent years; they used the bushfires to try to exact revenge on Morrison and now seem to think it might be clever to try to pin the conse­quences of this crisis on his actions.

Just like the former firefighters who linked their climate alarmist points to the likelihood of summer bushfires at the height of a drought, these critics are on a safe bet because we all know the trauma will get worse and they will attempt to claim vindication.

People who said he went too far sending Australians evacuated from Wuhan to Christmas Island for quarantine now demand he shuts the country down harder and faster (it seems easier to call for an economic bloodbath when you have a permanent public sector salary or have never hired or fired anyone in your life).

When it comes to political consequences, these people are likely to be wrong again because the reason they have been so erroneous on border and climate policies, and on every election from Morrison’s to Donald Trump’s to Brexit, is because they underestimate the intelligence of the public. And they are doing that again.

But politics isn’t what matters. The scale of the human cost, medically and economically, dwarfs any of that, and the danger is that the political/media class will help to foster confusion and alarm.

At a time of unprecedented strains on our society, they could help foment unrest and division just when we need to be committed to a shared strategy for the common good.

Surely it is only hysterical journalists and partisan politicians who could get excited that a 30-minute time limit on haircuts was overturned because it was impractical; given what else was happening, most people would have just nodded their heads and moved on. Likewise hysteria about people lining up on arrival at Sydney airport — they had been crammed on planes for many hours, eating and sleeping cheek by jowl, and are required to go into 14 days of full isolation — but journalists went into overdrive, dress­­ing it up as a scandalous oversight. Perhaps the real stuff-up of the Ruby Princess is where their attention should have been focused, but that would have demanded concentration on one episode for more than 24 hours. We have often seen shrill media behaviour over much less weighty matters and wondered how they would handle a real crisis — now we know.

Anthony Albanese showed commendable and sensible bipartisanship early in the week when parliament sat, helping to pass the economic rescue package. But it was always going to be hard for Labor to resist joining the puerile criticism and putting itself in a position to benefit from future trauma — by Wednesday it had given in to that temptation.

Just walking the streets or driving around our cities now, we see it has changed in ways we thought we would never see. And it will be getting worse in coming weeks and months; we are about to be ­seriously tested. Friends, family and strangers out of work, broke and despondent; friends and relatives sick and worried; not being with the ones we love; not knowing what comes next. In these circumstances, people who have a voice in the public domain need to use it well; constructively for the common good.

No government should be free from scrutiny but there are ways to point out mistakes or make suggestions that are more useful than damaging. If Albanese watches Andrews and Palaszczuk, he will see how he can be constructive and grow in stature through this crisis, rather than be diminished.

In the mainstream, most of us are dramatically changing our lives with great trepidation but a minimum of fuss. Stocked up on essentials, households are switching to working from home, with children learning there too, while tens of thousands of others already are tossed out of work and methodically go through the frustrating process of applying for welfare.

This shouldn’t surprise us; our national character continues to evolve, but at its heart is the same spirit that has helped us through wars, bushfires, floods, droughts and recessions in the past. There are many reasons this COVID-19 pandemic will be more testing, but there are also reasons for medium-term optimism.

One reason this crisis is more challenging is because some of the attributes that have helped us weather earlier crises are weaknesses now. Our “she’ll be right” calmness, our communal spirit and our egalitarian gregariousness conflicts with the need to dramatically change our ways and keep our social distance.

Our habits and responses are not as compliant as those in other cultures or systems. The self-­reliance and autonomy that stood us in good stead during previous disasters can hinder our acceptance of orchestrated responses now. Our healthy scepticism towards authority needs to be shelved as we all learn to follow the rules. But we are doing it, and we will get there. Indeed, it strikes me that much of the public has been ahead of the government from the outset.

The hoarding of groceries began long before governments were talking about lockdowns. People had seen what happened in China and realised we could face periods of isolation, so they began preparing. This was all eminently ­rational, even if the focus on toilet paper, the selfishness of some hauls and the behaviour in some episodes was unedifying. Most people have made sure their pantries are full and their prescriptions are filled, and they have done it in an orderly manner, often ensuring that friends and family are taken care of too.

People discussing options, sharing items and ideas, and bunkering down for what they know will be an extremely tough period: this doesn’t generate media ­reports but it happens to be the ­reality around us. This is the history we need to forge — a stoic and innovative ­nation withstanding a crisis for the ages thanks to co-operative federal leadership and a cohesive ­society.

Let’s just hope it isn’t undermined by the delinquency of our political/media class.


 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

Friday, March 27, 2020

Landlords won't be able to evict tenants struggling to pay rent due to COVID-19

So who is going to pay the landlords' bills?

Australian landlords won't be allowed to evict tenants as part of a rental rescue package aimed at protecting those struggling throughout the coronavirus crisis.

State governments are reportedly working on the interventions to protect the eight million people in rental homes.

The federal government is also reportedly considering income tax cuts for landlords who reduce the rental amount that tenants must pay.

The Australian Financial Review cited sources on Thursday as saying state and federal treasurers were discussing the idea as a way of providing relief for renters struggling financially amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The AFR reported that under the option property investors would need to waive or reduce rents and in turn pay less income tax.

A similar plan will likely be introduced to protect small business owners who cannot pay their rent due to forced closures under social distancing restrictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed the measures in a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders on Wednesday night.

Tenants would need to prove they were suffering hardship as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis in order to avoid being evicted.

Hundreds of thousands of hardworking Australians have been left jobless as a result of Mr Morrison's tough stance on flattening the curve of the virus

On Wednesday alone, some 280,000 people indicated they would need financial assistance from Centrelink.

Pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas and gyms earlier in the week before adding beauticians and food courts to the closures from Wednesday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he understood the need to protect tenants during this difficult time - but didn't want to see landlords who still have to pay their mortgages suffer as a result.


Qld.: Pupil free week from Monday so teachers can prepare for remote learning

QUEENSLAND will close schools from next week to all but the children of essential workers.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced schools would move to pupil-free days from next week, although anyone with a job would still be able to send their children to school.

“Next week Queensland schools will move to student free days ... schools will remain open to allow children of essential workers and vulnerable children to remain at school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

The ruling applies to all schools, not just state schools.

It comes as independent schools had already moved online, with some bringing forward the end of term to offer alternative learning from home next week.

“Next week will give independent school staff valuable time to test and refine their alternative learning from home arrangements and undertake important preparations for what shape school education could take from Term 2. Independent School Queensland executive director David Robertson said.

He commended school principals and the dedication of all school staff in “working closely with their communities” and doing everything in their power to safeguard student and staff health and wellbeing and maintain learning.

The pupil-free days will allow teachers to remain at work and prepare future learning materials, Ms Palaszczuk said.

Education Minister Grace Grace said Queensland did have to “prepare for what the potential future may be”.

“So from Monday the 30th of March, we will be moving to student free days, but we do stress that schools will remain open for children of essential workers, that is those who are required in the workplace,” she said.

“It is vital we remain open for these workers because we don’t want to put pressure on the economy.”

“Schools are open for essential workers and workers required in the workplace ... and obviously vulnerable children will be catered for as well,” Ms Grace said.

“We are planning for all kind of scenarios... and that’s why next week is important for teachers to be given the time to plan the learning materials for what may be needed.”

Kindies will follow suit with pupil-free days next week so that teachers can prepare remote learning and activities for children as well.

Long daycare centres will be open but Education Minister Grace Grace asked parents to adhere to strict isolation requirements and that only the essential workers and workers required in their workplaces use daycare centres.

“Teachers will move to developing remote learning for students and all those learning materials for what may lie ahead,” Ms Grace said.

The Palaszczuk Government has until now maintained a national line that schools were safe to attend, although had told parents they may choose to keep their children at home this week if they were available to care for them there.

The Premier said the health advice that schools were safe had not changed.

“Let me give this very clear message to parents who will have their children at home next week: They should be learning from home, they should not be out in the shopping centres,” she said.

And she said they should not be visiting any grandparents with risk-factors for coronavirus.

When asked how long the measures would be in place and if they would continue after the term break, the Premier said they were preparing for “every scenario”.

Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said she was happy with the decision.

“By reducing the numbers of children at school, we can make sure our older and vulnerable teachers aren’t in classrooms and increase the amount of social distancing in our schools, so it’s the perfect solution,” she said.

The Queensland Teachers’ Union also welcomed the decision for students to be given pupil-free days and to move Queensland schools from “business as usual”.

“Teachers will be engaged in preparation and planning in their schools around remote and flexible delivery into the future should schools close as a consequence of the national response to the pandemic,” QTU president Kevin Bates said.

“Schools will continue to provide supervision for children of essential services workers and vulnerable children including those in out of home care, students with disabilities who do not have medical complications and children for whom no other appropriate care arrangements are available - for example if both parents are working and their child could be at school and supervised.”

Health Minister Steven Miles said the state could have lost up to 30 per cent of its health staff if schools had completely closed. “It’s incredibly important that our health staff continue to be able to send their children to school,” he said.

“Modelling by our hospitals suggested if they had been unable to do that it would have potentially impacted on 30 per cent of our health workforce.

“We are already working on the basis that a proportion of our health workforce will get sick and that we will need to cover them.”

“We can also cover those that don’t have alternative arrangements for their children’s learning so it’s incredibly welcomed by our hospitals and our health staff that they will be able to continue to access schools.”

Dr Miles urged parents considering asking grandparents to look after children to consider the health of the elderly and those most vulnerable to the virus.

The pupil-free days ruling comes after the Department of Education issued all Queensland schools with two-weeks worth of school work that can be delivered online and via paper copy.

Two-week units of school work for Prep to Year 10 was made available to all Queensland schools on March 17, with subsequent rollouts of content.

Packs of school work are already available to parents and students with various activities in line with the national curriculum for each year level and answers available for parents to help them with their child’s learning.


Qantas A380 makes historic direct flight from Australia to London

Qantas' A380 services to London usually fly via Singapore.
(CNN) — You might think the time for record-breaking flights is over, with airlines and airports across the world grinding to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But by a strange twist of fate, Qantas will -- for a matter of days -- be running the first-ever A380 passenger flight between Australia and London.

So how did this come about?

Qantas will be suspending all its international flights by the end of March, with its flagship QF1 "Kangaroo Route" from Sydney to London via Singapore making its last departure from Sydney on March 26, reports Executive Traveller.

However, Singapore Changi Airport will be banning transit passengers from March 24, leaving Qantas in a bit of a pickle.

So, in a switcheroo on the Kangaroo Route, Qantas will now be doing a 90-minute fuel stop at Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory instead, before flying the 16-plus hours on to London.

It's the first time that Darwin and London will be linked by a direct service -- but not the first time Darwin's been a stop on this prestigious route.

As chance would have it, Darwin was a stop on the original Kangaroo Route in the 1930s, which took 37 days and included 10 stops. "The return fare was about £400 -- the equivalent of two years' minimum wages, making the journey very much one reserved for the rich and famous," Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings, told CNN Travel in 2017.

Darwin falls on the most direct path from Sydney to London, making it ideally positioned for the quick stopover before the 17-hour flight onwards to London.

Qantas' last fight on the returning QF2 flight from London to Sydney via Darwin will take off March 27, landing the next day.

Goodbye to the superjumbo. Qantas is grounding all 150 of its planes until at least the end of May, including their 12 A380s.
However, with Airbus ceasing production of the superjumbo by 2021, and airlines already retiring those in their fleet, it could well be the last chance for passengers to ride in one of Qantas' red-tailed A380s, notes the One Mile At A Time aviation website.

Although the double-decker megajet was a consumer favorite, "The 380 was a bad business decision in the first place," explains Kenneth Button, professor of public policy at George Mason University.

"Boeing had it right when it argued that more passengers wanted direct flights rather than going via large hubs linked by superjumbos and getting to/from the hubs by single-aisle planes -- which was what Airbus thought would happen.

"Hence the 787 with medium capacity, fuel economy and long-range (and ability to be used in a freighter context) triumphed," he tells CNN Travel.

Qantas has been involved in a few remarkable aviation moments in recent times. Last November, Flight QF7879 from London to SYDNEY became the world's longest passenger flight by a commercial airline both for distance, at 17,800 kilometers (about 11,060 miles), and for duration in the air, at 19 hours and 19 minutes.

While in March 2018, a Qantas jet made the first direct flight from Australia to the UK, a Boeing Dreamliner voyaging from PERTH to London.

These Darwin-London flights might not be such legendary aviation moments, but they are another strange twist in what is a very tumultuous time for the industry.


Coronavirus: People being told to go against instincts

Boris Johnson’s bold but sombre, schoolmasterly instruction: go home and do as you’re told, is asking the British people to go against every instinct in their political culture.

The big Anglo-Saxon countries - the US, Britain, Australia - are encountering a distinctive set of problems coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

They are asking their populations to give up familiar freedoms for a civic purpose.

More than any other cultures on earth, the Anglo-Saxon cultures - perhaps now more accurately called the Anglomorph cultures, nations with the civic shape of their British/American heritage - prize freedom as their cardinal civic value.

They have fought bitter civil wars, and even more bitter world wars, to seize and preserve their freedoms.

Five minutes ago, Johnson himself led a brilliant Brexit campaign with the slogan: Take back control. Now his message is: Relinquish control!

Where Britain has gone in lockdown, Australia will surely follow in coming days.

In Britain, in the US and in Australia large numbers of people have point blank refused to take social distancing seriously.

Common sense has been abundantly absent, from Bondi Beach to Miami holiday celebrations to a thronging London bar and cafe scene up to a day or two ago.

The disarray in the US, with states all going their own way, state and federal governments in conflict, and partisan rancour so toxic that Congress cannot even pass a stimulus package, is truly shocking.

Donald Trump declaring flatly that he is going to re-open the economy soon undercuts the seriousness of the message that people need to practice social isolation if they’re going to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsein Loong, told me this week it was important for any government to go into a crisis “with some social capital”.

His people believe the mainstream media, trust the government in a crisis, believe their government tells the truth and generally obey government instructions.

In the Anglomorph cultures, none of that is true.

Maybe that’s sometimes a good thing. In this crisis, it’s absolutely deadly.

London and much of the UK are singularly ill suited to a home-based lockdown.

My wife and I lived in London for three months last year in a tiny flat in Barons Court, just beyond West Kensington.

It was the smallest space I’ve ever inhabited. The dining, living and kitchen space were about the size of a large ensuite bathroom in any self respecting McMansion and the bedroom required careful sliding around the edge of the bed.

But it was perfectly fine for a temporary stay partly because life in London is not lived at home. Walking 300m left or right took me to many tiny coffee bars, cafes, small super markets and pubs. You never had coffee at home because all these places functioned as your living room.

In Australia we drive to the super market and do a big shop once a week, or even less often, unless we particularly enjoy shopping. In Barons Court everyone it seemed went to the markets and food stores every day. Everyone went to the pubs every night. You watched the football in the pub, you read the newspaper in a cafe, you bought your supplies almost daily for those rare occasions when you ate at home.

Our refrigerator was the size of a few - very few - stacked shoe boxes. We backed on to a building site which was always noisy. None of this mattered because our time in the apartment was sparse.

Imagine being locked in full time, with the prospect that lock down might last weeks, months.

And our apartment, on the top floor, was very good by London standards. The people in the semi-basement ground floor at the front had their window open on to the building’s always full garbage bins. The apartment at the back opened onto the noisy, dust-generating building site.

Cabin fever would set in after about a day. Keeping symptom-free people, especially young people, confined in apartments like that, and there are many much smaller and more crowded all over London, will require the spirit of the blitz in an era of routine, narcissistic civil disobedience.

That’s very tough.

 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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Smoke from Australia's bushfires killed far more people than the fires did, study says

Smoke is particulate pollution and the study below looked at a standard measure of that pollution: PM2.5. And there is a great deal of prior research on pollution of that sort. 

The conventional assumption is of course that inhaling such pollution is bad for you.  The Australian experience would however seem to show that is is NOT very bad for you.  Australians were not dying like flies while experiencing it. They seemed to be going about their business in their usual way, in fact.

So how have the authors below got their apparently alarming findings:

Modelling garbage.  They had no real data on the health of  Australians at the time at all. They just used conventional assumptions to estimate what the effects would have been. But the conventional assumptions are crap, to use a technical term.  The existing research on particulate air pollution (PM2.5.)shows effects that range between no effect and effects that are so weak that no confidence can be placed in them. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here

The conventional assumptions take the occasional tiny effects that turn up in some research to build a great castle on, if you will forgive my prepositional impropriety. So you get statements that pollution causes such and such an ailment, without mentioning the very fragile evidential basis for such a posited effect.

So after that useless modelling it will be interesting if the authors do something more useful in the future -- such as comparing actual recorded deaths and morbidity during the smoke affected period with the same period in the previous much clearer year.  My hypothesis -- based on the actual prior research -- is that deaths and disease in the same period of the two years will differ trivially, if at all.

The "study" is just a grab for government funding

Smoke pollution that blanketed Australia’s south-east for many months during the bushfire crisis may have killed more than 400 people, according to the first published estimate of the scale of health impacts – more than 10 times the number killed by the fires themselves.

The figures, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, are “definitely alarming”, according to Chris Migliaccio, who studies the long-term effects of wildfire smoke at the University of Montana in Missoula and was not involved in the research.

Lead author Fay Johnston, an epidemiologist at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, estimates 80% of Australia’s population of about 25 million was blanketed by smoke this summer.

“The fires were unprecedented in Australia’s history, in terms of vast amounts of smoke, the huge populations affected by the smoke and the long duration,” she said.

Sydney experienced 81 days of poor or hazardous air quality in 2019, more than the total of the previous 10 years combined.

“When you’re affecting millions of people in a small way, there are going to be enough people at high enough risk that you’re going to see really measurable rises in these health effects,” Johnston said.

As data on hospital admissions, deaths and ambulance callouts was not yet available to researchers, Johnston and her team instead modelled the likely medical consequences of the pollution, which is the “the only other way to get a quick ballpark idea of the health impacts,” she said.

To come up with a picture of the overall health burden of smoke exposure, they looked at existing data on death rates and hospital admissions to get a baseline. They then modelled how the known levels and extent of smoke exposure across the southeast, during the height of the crisis from 1 October to 10 February, would have affected these.

Their results estimate that over this period there were 417 premature deaths, 3,151 extra hospitalisations for cardiorespiratory problems and 1,305 additional attendances for asthma attacks. This compares to 33 who reportedly died as a direct result of the bushfires.

Many of the deaths and hospitalisations are likely to have been older patients with heart disease or lung problems, such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema – but severe asthma attacks will likely have resulted in deaths in younger people too, Johnston said.

In patients with pre-existing cardiorespiratory issues, smoke exposure promotes inflammation, stresses the body and makes blood more likely to clot, increasing the risk of a heart attack. “In someone at high risk, subtle changes due to stress … can be the precipitating factor for a very serious or terminal event,” she said.

Guy Marks, a respiratory physician and epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney who was not involved in the research, said the findings “highlights the importance of the health consequences” and is useful in estimating fire-related deaths that may not have been recognised as the result of smoke exposure.

The findings concur with previous studies of the health consequences of wildfire smoke in North America, but the numbers “are more drastic, potentially as a result of the unprecedented nature of the exposure,” Migliaccio said. He added that while previous studies found increases in hospital visits, the addition of large numbers of premature deaths in the Australian study is significant and disturbing.

Migliaccio said that due to climate change increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires “these types of exposures are increasing in number and intensity, making this kind of research vital.”

To look into just such effects, a consortium of 10 air pollution researchers from across Australia, led by Marks and including Johnston, have already put up their hands for $3m in government funding, which became available in the wake of the crisis.

The research proposal, funding of which has yet to be confirmed, aims to plug significant gaps in knowledge about the health impacts of bushfire smoke and how these might be mitigated.

Marks says that questions he and his colleagues hope to address include whether there is anything unique about health effect of air pollution caused by bushfires, what the long-term effects of exposure are, and what the effects might be on newborn babies and pregnant women.

The researchers – all members of a collaborative consortium, The Centre for Air Pollution, Energy and Health Research (CAR), funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council – also hope to study whether it’s possible to filter air to make indoor refuges safe from pollution, and if public health advice can be improved.


Coronavirus: How much of our village do we burn to contain this?

Australia is trapped in the ultimate vicious circle of the COVID-19 threat — governments are impos­ing a massive recession on the economy and liquidating jobs on a huge scale, with inevitable conflicts among political leaders about the depth of the pain they impose.

The core calculation is that the community is better off with mass job losses than seeing the hospital system in intolerable crisis. Put brutally, the calculation is that people are better off unemployed than sick or dead.

The reality, however, is these are different groups: it is the young and middle-aged who are losing their jobs, while those most likely to get sick are the retired elderly, often with existing health issues. The Morrison government’s fiscal measures so far are geared to small-business jobs and equity, with many vulnerable people getting­ job and income assistance.

That is essential. Australia is a far richer nation than in the 1930s, with the better-off able to cope for a long time by accessing their saving­s and wealth, a reality highlighting the need for the financially powerful — banks, landlords, cashed-up big companies — to meet their wider social responsib­ilities. The debate over equity and “who carries the burden” will be critical and dangerous.

Yet the events of the past several­ days expose the dilemma: this is not a crisis where the un­precedented action from the government and the Reserve Bank can restore confidence, as occurs in a purely economic or financial crisis. The total fiscal and monetary response from the authorities is greater than 10 per cent of GDP and will continue to grow. We have seen nothing like this intervention in our lifetimes. In an ortho­dox downturn it would have a dramatically beneficial impact.

Yet it is not enough. It cannot suffice. Nor will a third fiscal package suffice, despite its necessity. The packages are definitely worthwhile but economic instruments cannot beat a pandemic.

This is not to belittle the impressive bipartisan parliamentary session­ on Monday that passed an expanded $84bn stimulus support package — a tribute to both the Coalition and Labor — while the US congress was still squabbling over the scope of its package. Here is genuine good news: our parliament stood up. It offered an ­example to the nation, rare given its dismal efforts in recent years.

The agonising contradiction in our public policy can hardly be comprehended: the government is pumping money to sustain jobs and activity while its health measures throw demand off the cliff and keep consumers in home detention. The economic arm fights the health arm, a contradiction unavoidable yet deeply destructive.

The Morrison government and RBA interventions are essential yet markets will not stabilise, rising unemployment cannot be checked and falling demand cannot be reversed until progress is seen on the health front. This is the roadblock to the future. As Scott Morrison told parliament, the nation faces its gravest test since World War II.

Yet evidence of progress against the virus is limited. Infections nationwide exceed 2000, doubling every three or four days. There is growing evidence the health response — on which everything depends — has been inadequate. The next three weeks should offer a clearer judgment.

Defending the progress, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the nation­ has prevented “the onset of the spread”. The delay has bought time for the hospital and medical system to better prepare. The seven deaths in the first 1000 cases are fewer than in most other countries (the toll is now eight). Hunt said that with 147,000 tests our testing levels were high, and positive results, at only 1.2 per cent, compared with 13 per cent for the US and 5 per cent for Britain.

The fear, however, is that Australia’s response has been too late, too geared to mitigation not suppression, too focused on a strategy for the hospital system rather than a strategy to shock the public and force behavioural change. The government plan has been to slow the virus but keep the economy running. This policy spans a six-month timeline, yet it is fraying. What happened last Sunday was an outbreak of panic and urgency from Victoria and NSW with premiers Dan Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian lurching towards more radical economic shutdowns, despera­te to check the spiral of infections in their states. Morrison wound back some of their push that evening.

Two events symbolise the failure — the Bondi Beach fiasco and the Ruby Princess blunder when passengers, some sick, were allowe­d to disembark in Sydney, the upshot on Tuesday being 133 cases from the boat. The conclusion is that governments have not been sufficiently ruthless because the health advice was not suffic­iently forward leaning.

The national cabinet agreed on Sunday night on a stage-one nation­wide shutdown from Monda­y covering a range of non-essential services — clubs, pubs, restaur­ants, cafes, gyms. Non-essential­ travel should not occur. The AFL and NRL seasons are suspended. These collective decis­ions threw thousands out of work. This is not just a job crisis, it is a life crisis. Many people are losing the social reference points that sustained them. How much of our village­ do we burn to escape the virus?

The speed of the virus exceeds the speed of human decision-­making. Governments are like a retreating army, surrendering one fallback position after another. With each fallback, the economy shrinks further. The final retreat is social and economic lockdown. Talking with ministers on Monday they agreed the core economy — factories, construction, manufacturing, mining — must stay operational, there must be limits on how much of the economy is closed. Tougher action seemed certain to emerge from the national cabinet on Tuesday night. Stage two of the shutdown might be rolled out. Does it make sense to lock down the entire Australian economy? No, not yet. Morrison warns that decisions will have long-run consequences. One thing is obvious: the economy cannot be locked down for six months. The real issue the national cabinet should address is where to draw the line as measures are tightened.

Having blundered in his early response, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has gone towards lockdown: Britons will only be allowe­d to leave their home for essential­ shopping, daily exercise, medical needs and limited work travel. This is an admission of earlier containment failure.

One task Australia needs to improve is dramatising the message. Forget the nonsense about putting a non-politician in charge to speak the truth. There is no such person and no such truth. Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said: “It is impossible to overreact to this crisis.” A better line, perhaps, is that “it is impossible to exaggerate the warnings”. And the warnings have not been strong enough.

On the economic side, the government knows another package is necessary, and probably soon. It needs to address larger business, that is, businesses with a turnover above $50m. These companies carry individual clout. If some fell over, the consequences would be dire. The government needs to think of measures that offer permanent tax relief and investment incentives for the companies that make a difference, and extend its concept of the bridge to a corporate tax policy that endures.

The final aspect of the vicious circle is that the longer the economy is put in the freezer, the more permanent damage will be done. There will be a recovery but it will take years. The US didn’t properly recover from the Great Depression until World War II. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warns unemployment there could hit 20 per cent. Josh Frydenberg said our Treasury has costed about a million Australians getting the new coronavirus supplement payment. Australia faces the grim prospect of a peak in unemployment over the past half century.

Don’t think politics has been suspended. On Monday Labor did two things — voted for the package but outlined a critique of the government, saying its measures were too slow, with too many gaps and needed to be implemented faster with guarantees for workers. This policy split will be pivotal at the next election.


Outback bonanza on hold

MAJOR projects across out-back Queensland worth almost $3 billion — which could create jobs and change the fortunes of hard-hit country towns — are sitting on the drawing board, a major pipeline report has revealed. Outback Queensland covers two-thirds of the state but has just a few hundred million dollars of funded infrastructure projects, the annual report card by the Queensland Major Contractors Association and the Infrastructure Association of Queensland says.

But with the global heat on to move to renewables, outback Queensland and its 82,513 residents could be sitting on a new-age gold mine with "significant mineral resources and value-added processing which would support global efforts to move to a clean energy economy including bauxite/alumina/aluminium, nickel, copper, cobalt, silver, lead, zinc and rare earths metals, particularly in the North West Minerals Province centred around Mount Isa and Clon-curry", the report says.

It is also the site of some of the state's biggest planned renewable energy projects, including the Aldoga Solar Farm, worth $120 million. While the solar farm is funded, a long list of big projects are still on the drawing board, including the Kidston Solar Project Stage 2 ($140m), Kidston Transmission Project ($100m) and the Kidston Pumped Hydro Storage Project ($200m) along with the massive Copperstring Transmission Line worth $1.5 billion.

QMCA boss Jon Davies said a big impediment to developing the North West Minerals Province was the State Government-owned rail line which is susceptible to floods.

"There's big opportunities for developing the North West Minerals Province," he said. "There are plans to upgrade (the rail line). That is an area that the government could look at expediting."

Without government support, the huge swath of state remains captive to the mining and commodities market, with 94 per cent of projects unfunded. "In 2019-20 there is only $70m in funded activity, while $225m remains unfunded," the report says.

"Funded activity only peaks at $82m in 2022-23, supported by a section of the $238m Mount Isa to Rockhampton Corridor Upgrade and the $120m Aldoga Solar Farm,"

The report says the outback region has the lowest ratio of "funded to unfunded" major project work in Queensland. "Ninety-four per cent of activity in the pipeline is currently unfunded," it says. "The negative outlook ... is further highlighted by the proportion of unfunded project activity which is considered 'unlikely' — more than 50 per cent of the $3bn unfunded total."

From the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of 22.3.20

I don't know if my granddaughter will remember me when this all ends

By Mick Barnes, a resident in a Sydney aged-care home.

Lockdown they call it. They could have said clink, the jug, stir, the slammer, nick, the calaboose, or any number of racy euphemisms. Or Lockup, because that’s what they’re doing, locking us up, without a trial, they’re taking away our liberty. They don’t even have to round us up to impound us. We were already there, captive but not yet prisoners.

OK, COVID-19 must be contained if it is to be beaten. But to find yourself locked up on your 84th birthday is deflating, humiliating, when you’ve done nothing more antisocial than hobble down the treacherous street, a hazard to younger pedestrians.

There are 200,000 of us in aged-care Lockdown. A lot of us take it personally. What will I do without my beautiful, endearing Veronica? She’s eight months old and we’re cut off by the curfew. She’s reached that fascinating stage ... she gives me a long steady stare when I come into view and gradually breaks into the most beatific smile, holding me in a state of suspended ecstasy, a state of shared love. Her tiny hand reaches out and grasps my finger.

We tried bonding at a distance yesterday. Her parents parked the car nearby and Veronica, in her capsule, locked her eyes on mine. The magic smile lingered, turned perplexed. Why didn’t I come closer? I don’t know when we’ll be within hugging distance again. Grandkids are barred entry and nobody has any idea how long Lockdown will last. I hope she remembers me when the virus mist lifts.

Inside prison, the sombre mood is tinged with anger; contempt for what’s happening outside. A lot of us are old enough to remember The War, remember how we pulled together to fight the common enemy. We remember when “a fair go” meant that for everyone; it was not a hollow catchcry of the political class.

We’re disgusted at the selfish greed the virus has exposed. The Dunny Wars over toilet paper, the rich who cleared out the supermarkets to stock their freezers. There’s loathing here for those cretins who posed as carers to crash the pensioner-only hour at supermarkets. I remember my aunt in World War II giving away her food ration coupons to a poor family over the road.

"What a miserable nation we’ve become," a frail little woman pushing her walker says. Nobody argues with her.


 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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

BHP flags huge job offering for State

BHP will hire an estimated 1000 people in Queensland to support its mining operations across the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Nationally the mining giant plans to add 1500 to its work-force.

A spokesman said the vast majority of the jobs, an estimated 1000, would be in Queensland. The new jobs will be offered as six-month contracts and cover a range of skills needed by BHP operations in the short term.

The mining giant said it would also roll out a support program for its suppliers, including 600 small and indigenous businesses in Queensland.

The new jobs it has on offer include machinery and production operators, truck and ancillary equipment drivers, excavator operators, diesel mechanics, boilermakers, trades assistants, electricians, cleaners and warehousing roles across BHP's coal, iron ore and copper operations in Queensland, Western Austra-lia, NSW and South Australia. "These jobs will support and bolster our existing workforce during this difficult time;" the mining giant said.

The new positions will be offered through existing labour hire partners and BHP contracts in each state. Following the initial six-month contract, BHP said it would look to offer permanent roles for some of the jobs. BHP said it would continue to assess the program and may increase the number of jobs.

BHP acting minerals Australia president Edgar Basta also said as part of BHP's social distancing measures, it was introducing more small teams with critical skills to work "dynamically across different shifts". "We are stepping up and providing jobs and contracts," Mr Basto said.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 21.3.20

‘Closing Uluru climb was a mistake’, says ex-ranger

It was a decision that captivated the nation and brought thousands of people to the Red Centre for their final chance to climb Australia’s most iconic rock. And now the man who oversaw much of that says it was wrong.

Greg Elliot, until recently the head ranger at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, personally supervised some of the last days of climbing. He shepherded scores of domestic and international visit­ors through the gates to march nose-to-tail to the top.

Mr Elliot worked in the park for seven years, two as head ranger, before retiring and leaving this week. He looks back on the World Heritage Listed landmark’s most controversial episode since the Chamberlain affair as a missed opportunity to help Aboriginal people and enhance tourism experiences.

“It’s a negative decision,” Mr Elliot said. “They should have changed it, made it a safer endeavour and then charged people for it.”

He envisions something akin to the Sydney Bridge Climb up Uluru’s flanks, a plan he says was at one point seriously considered.

Mr Elliot said rather than explore that, bureaucrats chose to manipulate the rock’s Aboriginal owners toward closing the climb, so they could remove their liability for its poor safety record while blaming someone else.

“The power of persuasion is a wonderful thing,” he said. “If enough people get told a story enough times, and that story has an element of truth to it, then they will change their opinion on that thing because they’ve heard it enough times … that happens all over the world, in every walk of life, and I’m convinced this is very strongly what aided and abetted this closing of the climb.”

Mr Elliot agrees the old climb was too dangerous. Among the absurd things he saw were parents carrying newborn babies in backpacks — “that guy slips, and that kid’s done” — and a bloke who lugged snow skis to the summit to take a photograph.

And although he would like to see Aboriginal cultural sites in the park better protected, he does not understand why progressively more of them have been declared off-limits. “How can something all of a sudden become sacred when it wasn’t sacred in the past? Or it wasn’t deemed to be as sac­red so no one could go there?

“The rock is the same rock. It hasn’t changed much, apart from the fact there’s a lighter stripe going up on the one face.”

Traditional owners have described feeling intimidated into keeping the climb open and ­said if the leaders who first allowed climbing had suspected hordes might follow, they would have stopped it.

A Parks Australia spokesperson said the climb’s closure was decided by the Aboriginal-majority park board of management, and the decision represented the fulfilment of Anangu’s long-held request for it to be closed and “this was evident in the public statements made by Anangu and the many celebrations Anangu held in Mutitjulu community and at Uluru to mark the climb closure”.


Education experts say scrapped tests puts focus on future of schooling

NAPLAN testing has been scrapped for 2020, and new social distancing measures have cast doubt over how schools will continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came as Brisbane Girls Grammar School told parents it would deliver the final week of term remotely, as they prepare for the likelihood to do the same for all of Term 2.

In an extraordinary move the national benchmark test, NAPLAN, was yesterday cancelled by education ministers — for the first time since it began in 2008 — over fears of the extra anxiety caused by coronavirus and the stress it has already placed on schools.

State Education Minister Grace Grace said the current advice was that schools should remain open. "The valuable time of school leaders, teachers and support staff should be spent either providing continuity of learning for our students or preparing to deliver possible curriculum at home," she said.

Ms Grace also revealed school attendance had dropped 5-6 per cent compared to this time last year, blaming the reduction on children being sick (not corona-related) and parents needing to self isolate. Independent and Catholic education systems and unions advocating for teachers already swamped with work-load during the public health crisis supported the move.

And education experts have said the move brings the future of schooling into sharp focus with calls for non-essential education to be scrapped for the system already grappling with increased work-load, stress and panic of preparing for schools to close in the event of an outbreak.

OTU president Kevin Bates said cancelling NAPLAN was the right move given the massive disruption in the community and schools caused by COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday said gatherings, not including schools, should limit crowds to one person per four square metres. Mr Bates said while the advice on social distancing had merit in the community, it would be impossible for schools to follow as they would need a school hall for each classroom. "It's another confusing message," he said.

QUT education curriculum and pedagogy expert Kelli McGraw said anyone who thought coronavirus would not disrupt learning was "kidding themselves" and more focus should be given to student well-being. An option would be to suspend a half-year report in schools which already "maxes out" teachers.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 21.3.20

War hero Ben Roberts-Smith interviewed by police over alleged killing

The Australian Federal Police has interviewed former SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith over allegations he kicked an Afghan prisoner off a cliff in a serious development in the long-running saga involving Australia’s most decorated Afghan veteran.

Legal sources confirmed that the federal police recently requested Mr Roberts-Smith to attend a formal interview to respond to allegations made by special forces insiders that he kicked a detainee off a cliff in September 2012.

Sources with knowledge of the situation say the Victoria Cross recipient recently attended a police interview in Canberra and, as is standard practice, was cautioned that what he said could be used against him if he was ever criminally prosecuted. While the AFP does not comment on investigations, requesting to interview a subject normally comes near the end of an exhaustive probe and after critical witness statements have been collected.

About 90 minutes after Mr Roberts-Smith's lawyer, Mark O'Brien, was contacted by The Age and Herald for comment, The Australian's defence writer Paul Maley quoted Mr Roberts-Smith confirming the police interview had taken place, and claiming he had volunteered for it.

In September, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that an AFP taskforce was investigating Mr Roberts-Smith over allegations he kicked a handcuffed and innocent detainee, Ali Jan, off a cliff in the village of Darwan in September 2012. The Darwan taskforce has obtained co-operation from SAS witnesses and support staff willing to testify on oath against the decorated soldier. A second police investigation is looking into allegations Mr Roberts-Smith is implicated in the summary execution of a man at a compound in southern Afghanistan in April 2009.

The Age and Herald are not suggesting Mr Roberts-Smith has been found guilty of any war crime, only that he is the subject of police probes sparked by allegations made by his SAS colleagues.

Mr Roberts-Smith is one of the most decorated veterans to have served with coalition forces in Afghanistan, has stridently denied all wrongdoing and has launched a defamation case against The Age and Herald for first uncovering and reporting the allegations made about him by his fellow soldiers.

While the AFP’s focus has for many months been on him, it is almost certainly going to open up a third probe into a different soldier from another SAS squadron. This follows the broadcast on the ABC’s Four Corners program of footage of an SAS 3 squadron soldier shooting an apparently unarmed and subdued Afghan in May 2012. That soldier was still active until last week, when he was stood down in the wake of that footage being aired.

Many more AFP probes could follow depending on the findings of a long-running military Inspector-General's inquiry into war crimes.

The organisation revealed in its recent annual report that Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Paul Brereton had, over four years, been probing multiple alleged executions involving SAS and Commandos.

Several of these cases are those reported over the last two years by The Age and Herald, according to defence personnel.

They include a case involving the confession of a Commando who admitted to personally executing an Afghan prisoner and also witnessing other executions. Another case involves claims made in 2019 by SAS medic Dusty Miller that an injured prisoner was taken from his care and allegedly executed in March 2012.

Defence sources said that for the past two years, the Inspector-General has focused on allegations of war crimes involved the SAS’s 2 squadron. Mr Roberts-Smith is one of the 2 squadron members under investigation.

The release of the vision on ABC’s Four Corners of an Afghan man being shot has spurred fresh inquires into the conduct of 3 squadron as well, according to defence sources. This has the potential to delay the imminent release of the Brereton report, despite increasing political pressure for the historic and likely damning inquiry to be completed.


 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