Friday, March 25, 2022

Australia faces the near certainty of new Covid variants, waning ­immunity from vaccination and rising cases as it heads into winter, epidemiologists have warned

As far as I can see, the claim below that our existing vaccines stop Omicron is false. But even if it is true, the death rate from Omicron is the tiniest fraction of the population, much smaller than other causes of death -- such as road accidents, heart disease etc. And the deaths are mainly among the old and ill, who would probably die soon anyway.

I am alive today because of an immune-boosting therapy and am grateful for it but I don't think that the whole society should be victimized to prolong the life of a few elderly. I have had two shots of AstraZeneca some time ago but, failing no new evidence, I can see no reason to get any "booster". I am 78 so it is a considered decision. I will however go along with it if it becomes mandatory -- for the sake of peace

Burnet Institute chief executive Brendan Crabb said Australia’s lagging booster rate was “extremely worrying” and blamed the states for pursuing policies that had made people believe the virus was no longer a serious threat and that life could go back to normal.

“We’re going to face a situation with new viruses, waning immunity that will lead to a virus surge and a highly disrupted society,” Professor Crabb said. “The thing we do know is that unpredictable variants are likely, and waning ­immunity is definite, so we need to plan for that or else we will be caught out once again with all the health and economic and social disaster that comes from that.”

Australia’s booster rate of the population aged over 12 is just under 60 per cent compared to a 94 per cent double vaccination rate. The rollout in the five to 11 age group has also been sluggish, with only 49 per cent of children having received their first dose.

Despite the slow booster take-up, Australia’s vaccine advisory group is preparing to announce a fourth dose strategy, likely to ­initially be recommended for ­immunocompromised people.

A major study in the New ­England Journal of Medicine, ­released on Thursday and based on data from young healthcare workers in Israel, found that a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine can restore antibody levels to the peak seen after the third booster dose, but does not boost them any further. The scientists who carried out the study said this indicated people’s maximum immune ­response was seen after three doses, and a fourth would have only marginal benefits in young healthy people.

The study comes as the Omircon subvariant BA. 2 continues to spread, fuelling rising case numbers particularly in NSW, where cases exceeded 24,000 on Thursday for the second day in a row. As well, a new variant dubbed Deltacron – a hybrid of the Delta and Omicron variants – was being monitored around the world.

“We’re going to continue to see new viruses, that is a certainty,” Professor Crabb said. “A third of the world has never seen one dose of vaccine, and those countries are factories for new variants.

“The lower third dose rate of vaccination in Australia is ­extremely worrying, and I think fostered by the confusing attitude people get from the top, from federal and state governments, that says ‘don’t worry too much about Covid anymore’. But as the virus has become Omicron, the third dose became absolutely essential. It really is the difference between possibly saving your life or having severe disease or not.”

Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett said Australia was likely to have double the number of cases of Covid-19 in ICU per 1000 people during winter than Denmark had, because Denmark’s booster rate was 13 per cent higher than Australia’s.

“At the peak of their Omicron wave, for every 1000 cases they had one person in ICU. In Australia at the moment, for every 1000 cases we have two people in ICU.

“That’s the difference. Push up your booster rate by 10 per cent in your total population and you can potentially halve the ICU rate.”


Bald Hills Wind Farm ordered to stop emitting night-time noise, pay neighbours damages in landmark ruling

A Victorian court has ordered a wind farm in the state's south east to stop emitting noise at night in a momentous court decision.

The Victorian Supreme Court today found the noise from the Bald Hills Wind Farm at Tarwin Lower created a nuisance to its neighbours ordering damages and an injunction.

John Zakula and Noel Uren took civil action against the wind farm last year, telling the court that "roaring" intermittent noise from the wind turbines caused health problems and loss of sleep.

In a precedent-setting decision, Justice Melinda Richards said the company had not complied with its noise permit conditions and ordered a permanent injunction over the wind farm, with an initial three-month period to fix the issue.

The injunction will require the Bald Hills operators to "take necessary measures to abate" emitting loud noise at night.

"Bald Hills has not established that the sound received at either Mr Uren's house or Mr Zakula's house complied with the noise conditions in the permit at any time," Justice Richards said.

"Noise from the turbines on the wind farm has caused a substantial interference with both plaintiffs' enjoyment of their land. "Specifically, their ability to sleep undisturbed at night in their own beds in their own homes."

Damages for 'distress' and 'annoyance'

The court ordered the operators of Bald Hills Wind Farm to pay the men a total of $260,000.

The court said Mr Zakula, who lives about a kilometre from one of the company's wind turbines, is entitled to damages of $84,000 for "distress, inconvenience and annoyance".

Mr Uren sold his property next to the wind farm in 2018, but the court said he should be paid $46,000 in damages.

Justice Richards also ordered the wind farm operator to pay aggravated damages of an additional $84,000 for Mr Zakula and $46,000 to Mr Uren.

"Bald Hills' conduct towards both Mr Uren and Mr Zakula was high-handed and warrants an award of aggravated damages," Justice Richards said.

In her judgement, the Supreme Court judge also made a pointed comment about the renewable energy push and the rights of neighbouring landholders.

"The generation of renewable energy by the wind farm is a socially valuable activity, and it is in the public interest for it to continue."

She said it should not be a "binary choice between the generation of clean energy by the wind farm and a good night's sleep for its neighbours". "It should be possible to achieve both."


NZ refugee deal ‘not open to future arrivals’

Australia has implemented a deal with the Ardern government to resettle up to 150 refugees a year in New Zealand nearly a decade after an agreement was struck in 2013.

Under the three-year deal, New Zealand will accept up to 450 refugees who have been banned from ever settling in Australia because they arrived by boat or were intercepted at sea.

They include refugees currently on Nauru and others on temporary protection visas in Australia.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the deal would also not be available to future boat ­arrivals, and that no one who ­attempted to come to Australia by boat would ever be allowed to stay.

“This arrangement does not apply to anyone who attempts an illegal maritime journey to Australia in the future,” she said. “Australia remains firm – illegal maritime arrivals will not settle here permanently. Anyone who attempts to breach our borders will be turned back or sent to Nauru.”

Those to be transferred under the agreement must be confirmed as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and not be on a path to ­resettlement in the US or another country.

Labor home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally welcomed the announcement, describing it as a “humiliating backflip” by Scott Morrison who said as recently as 2018 that the arrangement would restart the people-smuggling trade.

“(Former home affairs minister) Peter Dutton foolishly backed-in Mr Morrison, saying New Zealand is being ‘marketed and pitched’ as a destination by people-smugglers,” Senator ­Keneally said. “That was not true then, and is not true now – as the Morrison government has been forced to admit today.”

She said the policy reversal was a bid to protect inner-city Liberal seats, and declared “only Labor will restore humanity to Australia’s immigration policies, while also protecting Australia’s borders”.

The 450-person agreement won’t be able to resettle all of the 112 refugees on Nauru together with the 1168 who have come from offshore detention to Australia for medical treatment.


Albo flunks it

This week Australians, and in particular Australian women, were given a unique insight into the true character of the man who wishes to lead this nation – and indeed, come the end of May, may be our next prime minister. And it is not a pretty sight.

The saga and sad death of Senator Kimberley Kitching is a defining moment. After years of modern Labor lecturing and haranguing not only their political opponents in the Liberal party but every Australian male in and out of the workplace about their ‘toxic masculinity’ and their unacceptable bullying and poor treatment of women in the workplace, it turns out that one of the most dangerous workplaces of all is in fact within the Labor party.

How else to explain the words of Kimberley’s best friend, secretary of the Health Workers Union, Diana Asmar, who wrote in the Herald-Sun that, ‘Having spent much of the last 48 hours of her life with her and holding her hand in the middle of a suburban Strathmore street as her soul left her, I have no doubt that the workplace bullying Kimberley endured by her Labor colleagues, inflicted on her over many years, significantly worsened her health. Specifically, she was under severe stress caused by workplace bullying at the hands of Labor’s senior leadership group.’

Faced with this appalling allegation, Anthony Albanese has shown his true character. He chose to duck and to hide. To obfuscate and to evade. To dissemble and to distract. There will be no inquiry into the alleged shocking behaviour of Labor’s most senior women, we are told, because apparently Kimberley didn’t ‘formally’ complain, or some such officious twaddle.

Let every woman in the Australian workforce now know that as far as Labor’s leadership team is concerned, your safety from bullying and mental anguish at work counts for nothing if you happen to challenge the groupthink of the favoured, pampered, self-important, female Labor elite.

The man who may soon be the prime minister of this nation has defined himself, under pressure, as a weakling, a coward and a hypocrite. A man who chooses protecting the Labor brand over investigating the most egregious allegations against his own senators. Who chooses to dismiss the suffering of a dead colleague because she didn’t fill in the right forms.

Which begs the question, how would a Prime Minister Anthony Albanese behave under genuine sustained and intense pressure? The world is a far more dangerous place than even just a few years ago when ‘Albo’ became leader of the opposition. In the next parliamentary term we are likely to see some truly terrifying world events unfold. A nuclear Iran. Russia continuing to flex its muscles. China on the march. A flailing American president. Roaring inflation. Who knows what nightmares lie ahead? If ‘Albo’ can’t even stand up to three ‘mean girls’, how on earth will he deal with the mean boys?


Tougher laws introduced for ‘economic vandals’ after third day of climate protests

Protesters who disrupt any bridge or tunnel across greater Sydney will now face penalties of up to $22,000 or two years jail, as climate change activists caused chaos at Port Botany for a third consecutive day.

The state government on Thursday said tougher regulations were needed to deter protesters after emergency services were forced to remove a man suspended from a pole across a container railway blocking all trains in and out of Port Botany.

In a further escalation, federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke exercised his power to cancel the visas of two German nationals involved in the protests this week.

Mr Hawke said he had cancelled the visas of both men on “good order grounds” and said they would be removed from Australia as soon as possible.

“People have to understand we have zero tolerance for temporary visa holders committing crimes in Australia,” he said.

Acting Premier Paul Toole insisted enhanced state penalties would crack down on protesters that impacted the daily lives of the community.

“Groups like Blockade Australia, they have gotten a lot smarter than ever before. They’ve got legal teams that are actually doing work for them to actually work out what the penalties might be,” he said.

“We’ve had enough. We’re not going to tolerate this any longer.”

An amendment will be made immediately making it an offence to disrupt any bridge or tunnel across Sydney. The government will then bring legislation to Parliament to expand the law to include roads and industrial and transport facilities.

NSW Police will also establish a strike force dedicated to addressing the climate protesters, targeted to the Port Botany region with mounted police, dogs and aviation at its disposal.

“Strike Force Guard will ensure Police are always one step ahead of the protesters to make sure we crack down on this economic vandalism,” Mr Toole said.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the change was needed because the current fine of $2,200 was failing to deter activists.

“That’s not enough of a deterrent to economic vandals,” Mr Speakman said. “It’s almost a small license fee to pay to cause millions of dollars of havoc so that needs to be increased.”

Roads Minister Natalie Ward said the new legislation would be brought to the parliament urgently.

Thursday’s protest, which began about 7.30am, followed two demonstrations by a man on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The German national suspended himself from a nine-metre pole across a busy intersection in Port Botany on Tuesday before climbing a pole on Sirius Bridge on Wednesday. He was arrested by police on both occasions.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter said officers were now searching for one of the German brothers charged over this week’s protest.

“His brother, who we are looking for at the moment we ask, please come forward and make it very easy for both the authorities and yourself,” Mr Cotter said.

Two women were also charged on Thursday morning as a result of the protests.

Police said officers were called to Port Botany following reports two vehicles parked on Penrhyn Road were blocking the entrance to the container terminal in both directions.

One of the protesters, a 71-year-old woman, was sitting in a truck with a bike lock secured to herself and the steering wheel. The second protester, a 57-year-old woman, was sitting on top of a second truck.

The women were arrested and charged with encouraging the carrying on operation for the commission of a crime, not obeying police directions and preventing free passage of a person, vehicle or vessel.

Both were given conditional bail to appear at Waverley Local Court on April 20.

Speaking on 2GB radio on Thursday morning, federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews slammed the protest group.

“Their behaviour is appalling. I encourage them to stop,” she said.




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