“Are you highly skilled in issues management…?”
If so, the Victorian Department of Health is looking for a Chief Communications Officer. It promises to be an issues rich environment…
CROSS YOUR FINGERS FOR VICTORIA
And cross anything else that comes to mind as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and health officials prepare to make a call about whether the state will be released tonight from 5 days of hard lockdown. Two locally-acquired cases were reported yesterday – they are close household contacts of a previously confirmed case linked to the outbreak from the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport. Andrews yesterday said the result was “promising” given almost 24,000 tests were processed on Monday.
AND THEN IT’S FULL STEAM AHEAD?
Ease up, turbo… While reports this morning say it’s likely the hard lockdown will be eased with some restrictions remaining in place after Victorian ministers met last night to make arrangements, it’s pending a good result today… For his part, Andrews yesterday said a decision would reflect the health experts’ advice about “whether we can go back directly to the settings that were there on Thursday and Friday or whether we have to ease back into it”. A state of emergency is in place until 26 February, and if today’s result isn’t what he wants, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton could extend the lockdown – for at least part of the state – until then. Regardless of what decision is taken, a freeze on international arrivals into Melbourne will remain in place for now.
TELL ME SOMETHING OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE…
The AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID vaccine has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). “This has been the most efficient and timely process that the TGA, I think, has ever undertaken for any vaccine. And they’ve done it in a way which has cut no corners,” PM Scott Morrison said yesterday. With the light now green, 3.8 million doses will be sent from Europe to Oz in the first week of March. From there, 50 million doses will be produced by CSL in Melbourne to be administered to any Aussie who wants one receiving at least the first of 2 shots by October. It’s an arrangement that makes Australia one of the few nations with a homemade vaccine supply.
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APOLOGIES FOR HIGGINS
Both PM Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds apologised to former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins yesterday after she spoke out about how she was treated following an alleged sexual assault by a colleague in Reynolds’ Parliament House office in 2019. Morrison yesterday said his wife Jenny told him that “You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?” That led him to reflect, he said, and “it shatters me that still, in this day and age, that a young woman can find herself in the vulnerable situation that she was in. Not her doing.” (Cue debate about his ‘father of daughters’ response…) More needs to be done on workplace safety for women, he said, and so formal reviews will be taken into the complaints process for staffers and the treatment of women working in federal politics.
CONCERNS FOR HUNDREDS IN CONGO RIVER DISASTER
Reports surfaced yesterday that at least 60 people died after an overloaded whaling boat carrying 700 people sank in the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s western Mai-Ndombe province on Sunday night. While around 300 people made it to safety, there are fears for 240 others who are still missing. Minister Steve Mbikayi attributed the disaster to too many passengers and cargo on the vessel, and “night navigation also played a role”. He’s called for sanctions to be imposed on the boat’s operators. Deadly boat accidents are not uncommon in the nation because there are few tarred roads, leading to boats being overloaded with passengers.
ARDERN TAKES AIM OVER TERROR SUSPECT
Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern has accused Australia of “abdicating responsibility” for a Melbourne woman who left for Syria to live under Islamic State in 2014. Suhayra Aden, a 25yo dual citizen of Oz and New Zealand, married and had 3 children to 2 Swedish fighters – one child died, as did both husbands. She left New Zealand for Oz with her family as a 6yo and travelled to Syria on our passport. News that she’d been quietly stripped of her Australian citizenship last year came to light when she and her kids were detained by Turkish authorities on Monday as she attempted to enter the country from Syria. “Australia did not act in good faith,” an angry Ardern said yesterday. But PM Morrison defended the move saying it’s the government’s job to “put Australia’s national security interests first”. Reports say more than 60 Australian women and children remain in detention camps in Syria where they have been held since the fall of IS in 2019.
OZ JOINS COALITION TO END HOSTAGE DIPLOMACY
The cases of academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert (who was imprisoned in Iran) and TV anchor Cheng Lei (who is in detention in China) highlight why Australia has joined a coalition of 57 countries condemning hostage diplomacy. Launched by Canada on Monday, the block is attempting to put diplomatic pressure on countries including China, Iran, Russia and North Korea, which are accused of the practice. What is it? Cheng’s case is a good example – some experts say her detention isn’t about her posing a risk to China’s national security but is related to that nation’s disgruntlement with Oz over a range of political issues. So it’s little surprise China’s state-run media labelled the coalition “an aggressive and ill-considered attack designed to provoke China”. Side note: Moore-Gilbert met with PM Scott Morrison last week, and she tweeted her thanks yesterday.
A monster cold snap has settled over parts of North America, and it’s expected to continue into this week. Stretching from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico, more than 150 million people are experiencing a polar vortex that’s brought dramatically sub-zero temperatures (like, it was -40C yesterday in Wisconsin and Minnesota…), record-breaking snowfall, and widespread power outages thanks to a cold front from the North Pole. And parts of Europe are also receiving once-in-a-decade snow, including in the Greek capital of Athens which rarely sees the white stuff. The upside: there’s an excessive number of articles on what to do if your pipes freeze in case you ever need to look one up…
APROPOS OF NOTHING
The legendary Mardi Gras in New Orleans has been cancelled this year thanks to… coronavirus. So people are dressing up their homes and front gardens for locals to do a drive-by. They’re calling it Yardi Gras…
Grape Nuts. Get your mind out of the gutter… It’s an American cereal that’s been in short supply of late, and there’s been outrage on the interwebs with comments like “WHERE ARE ALL THE GRAPE NUTS???” Now you’re invested, you’ll be pleased to know it will return to shelves across the US soon. Phew…
SQUIZ THE DAY
11.00am (AEDT) – Australian Open Tennis – Ash Barty v Karolína Muchová – Melbourne
12.30pm (AEDT) – Minderoo Foundation’s Nicola Forrest, CEO of Thrive by Five Jay Weatherill, and former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley address the National Press Club – Canberra
7.30pm (AEDT) – Australian Open Tennis – Rafael Nadal v Stefanos Tsitsipas – Melbourne
Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi expected to face court via videoconference on charges brought against her by the military
ABS Data Release – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, December; Livestock Products, December
Presidents’ Day in the US
Independence day – Kosovo
Birthdays for Michael Jordan (1963), Paris Hilton (1981), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (1982) and Ed Sheeran (1991)
• the birthday of Banjo Patterson (1864)
• the world’s first superhero The Phantom making his first appearance in comics (1936)
• General Motors announcing it will be retiring the Holden brand (2020)
Want to jazz up your sipping with great conversation about the news and a $100 gift card from Dan Murphy’s? Read the email every day this week and you’ll go into the draw to win. The voucher, that is – the chat cues are yours for free…
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