They just raised a good point on the ABC regarding that $30m Western Sydney land deal. Now that the AFP is investigating it, public servants before Senate Estimates next week will decline to answer questions, citing the AFP investigation.
I have long memories of this from when the AFP was investigating the leak about the AWU raids to media a few years back, and the investigation took quite a while.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, has described Scott Morrison’s announcement about extra flights for stranded Australians and the use of the Howard Springs quarantine facility as “too little, too late”.
The prime minister announced this afternoon that the government was working with Qantas to arrange extra flights from London, New Delhi and Johannesburg, with priority given to the most vulnerable Australians.
Wong provided us with her response a short time ago:
“According to Qantas, the charter flights announced by Scott Morrison today will get just over 1,300 Australians home. That leaves almost 28,000 still stranded, facing more cancelled flights, expensive business or first class fares – all with no guarantees they’ll be home by Christmas. This announcement is too little, too late – with too many stranded Australians still left behind.”
The High Court challenge to the lockdown in Victoria is unlikely to get a hearing until early November, AAP reports.
Justice Virginia Bell on Friday held a fast-tracked directions hearing, just four days after the case was filed on behalf of Mornington Peninsula hotelier Julian Gerner and his business, Morgan’s Sorrento.
The State of Victoria said it was still to decide how it would defend the case and asked for another week to file papers.
Justice Bell called for the case to return to court on Tuesday afternoon for another directions hearing, with a view to a hearing on 6 November.
While the state government had had the claim since Monday, it needed time to determine whether to fight it in full or only on legal grounds, barrister Kristen Walker QC told the High Court on Friday.
The case returns to the court on Tuesday at 2.15pm.
Here’s the latest from the daily Victorian chief health officer press release:
There have been a total of 4931 people tested across Shepparton since the concerns about an outbreak there.
One of today’s new cases is a household contact of an existing case.
The other case, which remains under investigation, relates to a patient at the Royal Children’s Hospital. All close contacts are being tested and isolated.
Of today’s two new cases, there are single cases in Greater Dandenong and Knox.
Active cases are at 157, 14 people are in hospital and none in intensive care. There are 10 active cases among healthcare workers, and 14 in aged care settings.
NSW Health has said all staff and children who attended Great Beginnings Child Care Centre at Oran Park between 2 and 13 October must isolate for 14 days since they last attended.
A family and an educator at the centre have tested positive since 8pm last night, linked to a previous case reported on 13 October.
The centre closed on 13 October, and has not reopened.
I asked the Digital Transformation Agency whether this was true, and whether the Covidsafe app was going to stop working on 2 November, and was told they are “already aware of this issue and it will be resolved prior to API 28 expiring”.
The new hearing for the hotel quarantine inquiry comes at the end of a week where the inquiry requested more phone records from premier Daniel Andrews’ private office, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and from Telstra, over the mystery of who made the decision to use private security in the botched program.
The head of DPC, Chris Eccles, resigned after his own phone records showed he had called then-police commissioner Graham Ashton at a key point in time on 27 March, when the program was announced. That was in contrast to the evidence he gave the inquiry.
A new hearing is surprising, largely because the inquiry finished holding hearings at the end of last month, prior to this new evidence coming to light. It suggests there could be something in the phone records that requires witnesses to be called back before the inquiry, or perhaps even new witnesses who have not appeared before.
The inquiry is still due to report to government on 6 November.
We have just been informed that the Victorian hotel quarantine inquiry will hold an extraordinary sitting at 2pm Tuesday 20 October.
The inquiry has not provided any more detail yet.
A number of Covid-19 clusters in NSW are causing concern for South Australian authorities but there have been no moves to reimpose border restrictions, AAP reports.
Premier Steven Marshall said five clusters are of concern to SA, but particularly the one centred on Bargo, 100km southwest of Sydney.
On Thursday a new mystery case was reported there – a man in his 70s – suggesting the virus had spread further than the hotspot clusters of Sydney’s west and south-west.
“We are increasingly concerned about clusters in NSW,” Marshall said on Friday.
“I don’t think there is a decision (on borders or other measures) which is imminent.
“But our focus since day one has been to listen to the expert advice, act quickly and keep the people of South Australia safe. That won’t change into the future.”
Labor’s shadow transport and infrastructure minister Catherine King has welcomed the AFP investigation into the Western Sydney airport land deal, and says Labor will pursue it in Senate Estimates next week.
This is a piece of land, the acquisition of which the deputy prime minister told us was a bargain and it was a good decision and the prime minister dismissed as being just an issue of poor process. There is something very fishy about what has gone on here. Labor welcomes that the Australian federal police is investigating. And we will have questions for the department and ministers at Senate Estimates on Monday but it’s absolutely vital, if we’re to have any confidence at all in the Morrison government’s billions of dollars that is going into Western Sydney airport, billions into infrastructure programs, we need to get to the bottom of what has happened.
King says Labor did not make the referral to the AFP.
No new cases in South Australia.
Here’s more detail from AAP:
Federal police are investigating possible criminality in the sale to the Commonwealth of a parcel of land near the Western Sydney airport.
An auditor-general report found the federal infrastructure department did not show appropriate due diligence in paying $30m for the 12ha Leppington Triangle, which was worth only $3m.
It paid 22 times more per hectare than the NSW government spent on its portion of the land.
An Australian federal police spokeswoman told AAP on Friday the agency was conducting an investigation to identify potential criminal offences relating to issues identified in the auditor-general report.
“This investigation remains ongoing, and it is too early to speculate on potential outcomes, so no further comment will be provided,” she said.
Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack recently described the sale as a “good decision” despite it being “very much over the odds”.
The audit also found infrastructure department officials had engaged in unethical conduct and failed to ensure proper probity.
The department has since appointed an independent investigator to examine the land deal and staff conduct throughout the purchase.
The ABC is reporting the Australian Federal Police has launched an investigation into the land for the new Western Sydney airport that the government paid ten times too much for.
Interesting to see South Australia has set up a pop up testing clinic. It could be nothing. We haven’t had reports of any local cases from there, but we will update you when that information comes through.
It could just be concern over the local transmission cases in NSW, given people from NSW can now travel into SA.
Interesting thread from a WA minister.
If you watch the politics around borders, the federal government is putting pressure on Queensland, and then Victoria over the ongoing restrictions, but very little on WA, where it is very popular, or Tasmania.
Or the fact that all the other borders, including SA and NSW, are still closed to Victoria. There’s not even a discussion around when that will change, yet. (To be fair, we can’t go further than 5km from home.)
With that, I’ll hand you over to Josh Taylor who will take you through the afternoon.
Melbourne friends, my fingers and toes are crossed for some restrictions to be eased on Sunday. Stay well, don’t lick anyone outside of your bubble, and I’ll see you next week.
Final question is should the Western Australian borders come down now, given that the chief health officer of WA has told a parliamentary committee that travel bubbles between states should be fine?
(As someone with an extremely squishy niece who I have not yet been able to meet because of the border closure: yes please.)
That’s a matter for the Western Australian government. Again, I’ve had no quibble with the Western Australian government about the decisions they’ve made. They should be made on health advice.
Where there are borders, domestically, in this country they should only be there for as long as they need to be and they should come off as soon as the medical advice permits that. And that’s the only reason why those borders should be in place. And the Western Australian premier has always said that those borders have been there for those reasons.
And I’ll leave it to others to make judgements about what has been said by the Health Minister and the Chief Health Officer in WA. They also need to be done on a consistent basis and there can’t be double-standards about it, and there needs to be common-sense applied to ensure that the wheels of commerce continue.
Borders, of course, can provide some further protection. They are no substitute, though, for a world-class contact tracing system. There are no substitute for a world-class testing regime. They’re no substitute for ensuring Covid-safe behaviours and practices. Sometimes people can get a bit more confident when the borders are up and ignore some of those practices, and that actually puts everybody at great risk. You may forget the virus but, I can tell you, the virus won’t forget you. We need to continue to manage our Covid response on that basis.
Read the original article at The Guardian