Tuesday, June 09, 2020

How can 60,000 go to protests when Anzac Day marches were banned and there are still strict limits on weddings and funerals? Outrage over 'double standards'

The decision to allow enormous protests on the streets of Australian cities has led to a flurry of calls for all COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted completely.

Over 60,000 Black Lives Matter protesters flooded the streets of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide on Saturday afternoon, despite being urged not to by their governments.

Sydney protesters were controversially given the green light at the last minute, after organisers launched a successful appeal against the NSW Supreme Court's decision of a day earlier which had ruled the protest illegal.

The Court of Criminal Appeal's decision outraged many, who claimed it was insulting to the millions of Australians who have suffered but done the right thing over recent months.

They include business owners - some of who have been financially crippled forever - and families who have been unable to attend the funerals or weddings of loved ones.

Rules vary across Australia, but in NSW - where the court ruled protests legal - pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants can have no more than 50 people. Funerals and church gatherings have the same limit, while weddings can have no more than 20 guests.

Former federal senator and long-time broadcaster Derryn Hinch pointed out that just a few weeks before the protests, Australians were banned from gathering on Anzac Day to remember our fallen soldiers.  'You weren't allowed to honour our fallen on Anzac Day but thousands can breach lockdown rules and social distancing in Melbourne and Sydney,' Hinch tweeted.

While the protests - sparked by the death of American man George Floyd - received approval from the courts, they were opposed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australia's leading health officials.

Brendan Murphy, the nation's Chief Medical Officer, said while people have a right to protest, mass gatherings were 'dangerous' in the midst of a pandemic.

But the government's finance minister Mathias Cormann went further, slamming those who protested as 'selfish' and 'incredibly self-indulgent'.  'It does impose unnecessary and unacceptable risk onto the community,' Mr Cormann told Sky News on Sunday morning.

In the wake of the decision by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, talkback lines were flooded with calls from irate listeners.

Many had been forced to shut down their businesses, unable to attend a loved ones' funeral or had to forgo seeing elderly relatives for months because of a ban on visits to nursing homes.

Mark Levy, who was hosting the Saturday afternoon program on Sydney radio station 2GB, was at a loss to explain to listeners why the protest can go ahead without social distancing but crowds could not attend sports games.

'I don't have a problem with people protesting, but at the moment when we're trying to get the economy back, we're trying to get people back to work, people are being told to social distance,' Levy said. 'We can't got to the football, we can't go to pubs or clubs in big numbers, I don't know how people are able to take to the streets in their thousands.'

NSW Liberal politician Jason Falinski echoed those sentiments on Twitter and said it was unfair to give the green light to the protests but not everything else.  'Before you can have equality, you must have equality before the law. You can't apply health orders to weddings, funerals, and ANZAC Day but not to protests' Mr Falinski said. 'Otherwise you can't have equality.'

Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said that after the protests received the go ahead, the continuing with any other restrictions was 'illogical'.

In particular he pointed to the continued closure of Queensland's borders which has been crippling for the state's tourism operators.

'If we can have this protest then there is no justification for the ongoing (illogical) restrictions on our lives,' Mr Newman said. 'I bet the protesters details weren't recorded as would be required at any pub, club, restaurant or gym. And by the way, have some courage and open the border now.'

Queensland funeral director Wes Heritage told The Courier Mail he had watched on as grieving families struggled to come to terms with the fact only 10 people could attend the service for their loved ones.

Mr Heritage said any outbreak caused by mass gatherings would only make things even harder.  'We've nursed grieving families through the tough restrictions on funerals and now we're really happy to where we've got to - we don't need a backward step,' he said. 'We've been so strict and successful and would hate to see this protest create an issue that imposes further restrictions on families.'


China tourism warning against Australia 'just the tip of the iceberg'

A furious China has let rip at the government saying guidance for its citizens to no longer visit Australia may be “just the tip of the iceberg”. It has warned that Australia could soon “completely lose the benefits of Chinese consumers”.

It’s a further ratcheting up of China’s animosity towards Australia which has already seen it impose tariffs on barley and accuse Canberra of being at the beck and call of the US.

The comments have come in weekend editorial from English language Chinese newspaper The Global Times. The paper is widely seen as a Communist Party mouthpiece that does Beijing’s bidding and accused Australian politicians of “attacking” China.

The editorial zeros in on Australian objections to recent guidance from the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism for its citizens to think twice before heading off to Australia in the future. The warning, issued on Friday, said there had been a “significant increase” in racist attacks on “Chinese and Asian people”.

There have undoubtedly been a number of attacks on Chinese Australians during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the Australian Human Rights Commission reported that one in four people who lodged racial discrimination complaints in the past two months were targeted because of COVID-19.

In April, news.com.au reported on a shocking video that showed a gang allegedly attacking a pair of Chinese students as they were on their way home in Melbourne.

A Hong Kong student was also reported to have been punched in the face in Hobart for wearing a mask, during the early stages of the pandemic.

However, Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham rejected Beijing’s claim that Australia was unsafe for Chinese visitors.  In a statement on Friday he said Australia was “the most successful multicultural and migrant society in the world”.

“The Chinese Australian community is a significant and valued contributor to that success story,” he said.

“Millions of tourists from all corners of the world demonstrate their confidence in Australia as a safe, welcoming and amazing destination by visiting each year, often returning multiple times.”

But the Global Times editorial hit back, naming Mr Birmingham directly as well as Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack who also criticised the travel warning.

“Their objections are feeble in the face of the facts,” the editorial stated. “Even the Australian media outlets have repeatedly reported stories of Chinese-Australian or Asian-Australian people experiencing increased racist attacks across the country.

“It is unlikely for those Australian politicians to overlook such overwhelming media coverage on increased racism, but political motives may probably make them turn a blind eye to it.”

The paper said the politicians were pushing back against the travel advisory because the government was “nervous” at the loss of Chinese tourists which pump more than $12 billion into the economy and account for 27 per cent of foreign spending by visitors.

“Australian politicians have always readily launched attacks against China even when they know clearly that their assertions are unjustified, because they are too easily swayed by US political attitude and too eager to win US favours.”

Australia’s supposed dependence on the US has been a recurring theme in Chinese media diatribes against Canberra in recent months.

The increasingly angry rhetoric has coincided with a number of Australian policy decisions that the government has made against Beijing’s wishes.

China was apoplectic with rage at Australia’s leading role in the push for a World Health Organisation inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and only reluctantly backed the investigation last month. It continues to suggest the inquiry was at the US’ behest.

Tensions had also been simmering over Canberra’s decisions to lock out Chinese tech firm Huawei from the building of Australia’s 5G network.

In recent months China has urged international students to “be cautious” about studying in Australia. China has also announced an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and black-listed four major beef exporters due to labelling violations.

Beijing has denied the new trade measures are a retaliation.  “It is Australia’s unfriendly attitude, not the travel alert, that may really scare away Chinese tourists and students,” this weekend’s editorial said.

“From its push for a US-led inquiry into COVID-19 to its interference in the Hong Kong affair and the upcoming overhaul of its foreign investment rules that are expected to tighten scrutiny over foreign investment, Australian politicians are demonstrating their antipathy toward China.

“It is what they do, not what they say, that really determines which direction China and Australia will go.”

The paper suggested China could launch further action against Australia unless it modified its behaviour.

Certainly, Beijing would be keen for less international attention on its chipping away at Hong Kong’s autonomy which gives citizens there far great freedoms than their mainland counterparts. There have been suggestions Australia would look favourably on Hong Kongers looking to emigrate.

“If Australia wants to retain the gain from its economic ties with China, it must make a real change to its current stance on China, or it will completely lose the benefits of Chinese consumers,” it ranted. “The tourism loss may be just a tip of iceberg in its loss of Chinese interest.”

It’s an ominous threat from China that knows all too well that Australia, like many other nations, needs to kickstart its economy following pandemic-related lockdowns.

China is Australia’s number one export market with minerals, food and beverages some of the most in demand Australian commodities.

According to figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade figures, China imported over $100 billion worth of iron, coal and gas from Australia and $123 billion in goods and services in 2017-18.

Last month it was reported that China had drawn up a list of other Australian products to hit.

These include wine, seafood and fruit which could see more thorough and time-consuming customs checks, increased tariffs and even consumer boycotts spurred on by China’s state-controlled media.


Australian doctor calls for Black Lives Matter protesters to self-isolate amid coronavirus fears

President of the Australian Medical Association Tony Bartone said there was a real "risk" of a virus flare-up.

"If everyone was wanting to keep the rest of the community safe, anyone who attended those rallies really should stay home and keep away from the rest of the community for at least two weeks," Dr Bartone told 3AW's Ross and John.

"More importantly, if they develop any symptoms they need to get tested immediately."

Rally organisers distributed masks among crowds on Saturday, with demonstrators told to use hand sanitiser and social distance where possible.

But Dr Bartone said the safety measures did not annihilate the risk of the virus spreading.

"No matter how much hand sanitiser, no matter much the masks were being worn, for those periods of time there is a risk of the virus passing," he said. "They should really think about what they've done over the weekend."

The bold suggestion comes as infectious diseases physician Sanjaya Senanayake told Today that recent protests could trigger a spike in infections. "I think from a public health point of view in the middle of a COVID crisis it was a risky thing to do," Associate Professor Senanayake said.

But Prof. Senanayake said that quarantining "tens of thousands of protesters" may not be a feasible option for authorities.

Australia's chief health officers will today meet to discuss the next step in easing coronavirus restrictions, which could see gatherings of up to 100 people, most employees returning to their workplace and interstate travel.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee would consider the mass rallies which occurred when assessing the national cabinet's three-step plan for states and territories.


Pacific islands plead to join Australia-New Zealand travel bubble

Countries have contained Covid-19 but tourism drought is causing severe economic damage

Tony Whitton recently swapped managing one of Fiji’s largest luxury resorts to handing out food parcels to 550 of his staff who were furloughed because of Covid-19.

Now he has joined hundreds of tourism operators in an appeal for Pacific island nations to be included in an Australia and New Zealand “travel bubble” that could rescue their businesses and some of the most tourist-dependent economies in the world.

“This virus is literally a dagger right through our hearts,” said Mr Whitton, who owns Rosie Group, a family business established in 1974.

“We have had no new cases in Fiji for a month and we are moving towards eradication. I view this travel bubble as our only hope during hopeless times.”

New Zealand and Australia have both suppressed the spread of Covid-19 and are progressively reopening their economies and hope to open a “Trans-Tasman travel bubble” by September.

We have had no new cases in Fiji for a month and we are moving towards eradication. I view this travel bubble as our only hope during hopeless times

Pacific nations are lobbying to join the proposed zone. Most governments in the region closed their borders in March to halt the spread of the virus, which health experts warned could decimate communities that have limited access to healthcare and suffer from high rates of diabetes and other ailments.

The closure kept the virus out of a dozen Pacific nations. But it came at a massive economic cost to a region reliant on tourism, which accounts for a third of jobs in Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu, and at least 40 per cent of gross domestic product. The IMF forecasts the island economies will shrink by 5.8 per cent, 3.3 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively in 2020.

“A travel bubble that includes Fiji alongside Australia and New Zealand would do far more good than any aid or assistance,” said Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji’s economy minister, who has warned government revenues could halve in 2020-21 due to the pandemic.

Fiji is trialling a contact-tracing mobile app to boost its case for inclusion.

The loss of Australian and New Zealand travellers, who make up almost two-thirds of tourists in the region, is crippling Fiji’s economy. Up to 340 hotel and resorts are closed and at least 86,000 people are out of work, according to the Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association.

“Tourism has the proven ability to bounce back and drive the recovery of other sectors, we need to kick-start the tourism industry as early as is safely possible,” says Fantasha Lockington, FHTA chief executive.

Travel bans are not just hitting tourism. They are disrupting seasonal work schemes that enable tens of thousands of Pacific islanders to travel to Australia and New Zealand to undertake farm jobs and send money back to their families. The World Bank has forecast a 13 per cent decline in remittances in the Pacific this year.

Pacific airlines will require state bailouts after spending A$2.5bn ($1.7bn) on new planes over the past three years, according to a report by the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think-tank. Last week, Fiji Airways laid off half its workforce and requested a A$227m government loan.

The Asian Development Bank also warned that reduced air and sea links would increase food security concerns for small island nations with limited agricultural production.

“Because there is less trade demand in the world there will be less ships going with food to these countries and other important imports,” said Emma Veve, deputy director-general of the ADB’s Pacific department. “Some countries are already stockpiling food.”

New Zealand and Australia have indicated Pacific nations will probably only be considered for inclusion in a travel bubble after it has been established, in part to protect vulnerable populations.

“The last thing we want to do is imperil those populations,” said Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister.

Some health experts say it might be safer for New Zealand, which is on course to eradicate the virus completely, to create a travel bubble with Pacific nations that are virus free rather than Australia, which is still reporting a handful of cases.

“It would be more logical to start the bubble with [Pacific nations completely free of the virus] once New Zealand has eliminated it,” said Nick Wilson, professor of public health at the University of Otago.

He said some virus-free Australian states, including the Northern Territory and Western Australia, could also join such a bubble as long as they kept their borders closed to states where the virus was still present.

Such an outcome would provide a lifeline for Pacific tourism operators and communities that rely on them for income, say advocates.

“We could all stay in our rooms out of fear forever, in which case we’d probably die of starvation. Or we could venture out, take a calculated risk and manage those risks,” said Mr Whitton.


 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

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