Australia begins shut down

Things are moving towards lockdowns in Australia, with Victoria and NSW the first states to move.

Victoria: State to progressively shut down non-essential activity over next 48 hours

Victoria will be shut down over the next 48 hours, with only essential services to remain open.

All schools will be shut from Tuesday, as 67 new coronavirus cases were confirmed overnight.

This is the largest one-day increase yet, and brings the state’s tally to 296 cases, at least three of which were acquired through community transmission.

When questioned about suggestions Victoria was pushing for a total lockdown including all non-essential businesses next Tuesday, the Prime Minister said any further restrictions would be discussed this afternoon at a meeting of a medical expert panel with all states participating.

Berejiklian to push for a full lockdown of non essential services in NSW

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she will push for a full lockdown of non-essential services over the next 48 hours with schools expected to close from Tuesday.

“Tonight I will be informing the national cabinet that NSW will proceed to a more comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services. This will take place over the next 48 hours,” she said.

“Supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics, and home delivery will be among the many services that will remain open.

A decision on the closure of NSW schools needs to go to state cabinet, which will be brought forward to tomorrow morning. Ms Berejikllian will then make an announcement.

South Australia to close borders in response to coronavirus pandemic

Declaring a “major emergency”, South Australian authorities have announced tough new measures which will see the state close its borders to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Steven Marshall said the measures, which would be in place from 4pm on Tuesday, were being taken in the “interest of … public health”.

The State Government will establish 12 border crossings where travellers will be required to sign a declaration about their health and ability to undertake mandatory self-isolation for two weeks.

Northern Territory is also closing their border on Tuesday.

Meanwhile in New Zealand: Doctor group – raise threat level now or risk becoming like Italy

A group of doctors and other health workers say the Government has just days or hours to prevent New Zealand from following the path of Italy.

They’ve begun a petition, urging the Government to raise New Zealand’s covid-19 threat to the highest possible level, effectively locking down the country.

Dr Kelvin Ward, an urgent care physician in Wellington, handed the first lot of signatures to the Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield after the his daily press conference announcing the number of new Covid-19 cases.

“It’s not hyperbolic to say we have only hours to prevent the inevitable horrors we see in countries that waited too long.”

“Over 2200 people from the medical community have banded together to inform this hardworking government that New Zealand has only a short time to avoid disaster on the scale of Italy’s coronavirus epidemic – that’s how fast this virus spreads,” he said.

Medical Professionals to PM Ardern: 4 measures to protect NZ from COVID19

Let’s stand together as experts of the medical community and call for the New Zealand Government to immediately follow the examples of Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which resulted in successful containment.

Specifically there should be immediate:
1.     Quarantine (not self-isolation) of COVID-19 positive patients
2.     Extensive testing and contact tracing
3.     Self-isolation of all asymptomatic contacts
4.     Mandatory social lockdown

Currently 3,828 signatures.

A few minutes later (5:32 pm) it’s 4,193

Now it’s 38.840 (9:41 pm)

Aussie bushfires continue, record temperatures

The weather here in southern New Zealand over the last few weeks has been very variable and mostly cool for summer – some will see it as crappy weather.

But it is much easier to deal with than the heat (record temperatures yesterday) and bushfires that continue to force evacuations and wreak havoc, especially in the south east in Victoria and New South Wales.

ABC News:

Fires in NSW, Victoria and SA still burning out of control

Bushfires are threatening dozens of communities in Victoria, a southerly cool change is fanning problems in NSW, and more than a third of Kangaroo Island has burned in South Australia.

The blaze that devastated Corryong was pushed back towards the town, and was also impacting Walwa, Tintaldra and Towong, where officials fear properties have been lost.

It comes after a day of searing temperatures in the region.

All-time heat records were broken at Albury Airport (41.6 degrees Celsius), and at Rutherglen (45.6 degrees Celsius).

NSW fires likened to ‘atomic bomb’, Sydney records hottest day ever

Authorities say at least 15 properties have been destroyed during a horror day — in which a new temperature record for the Sydney Basin was set — with fears of further “damage and destruction” from fires through the night.

During the worst of the day there were 13 emergency warnings across the state, while the mercury in Penrith, in Sydney’s west, reached 48.9 degrees Celsius — a new record temperature for the Sydney Basin.

NSW residents were urged to reduce their power usage after bushfires took out transmitters in the Snowy Mountains.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has received preliminary reports of at least 15 properties lost across the fire grounds — including in the towns of Batlow and Talbingo in the NSW Snowy Mountains, and in Manyana on the South Coast.

Fire and Rescue NSW said it responded to reports of 20 people trapped at the caravan park in nearby Bendalong and was able to free them after extinguishing fires in three homes in the suburb.

Heat records continue to be reset around the country

Heat records around Australia continue to tumble, with the ACT today reaching its highest-ever recorded temperature and Penrith reaching a sweltering 48.9 degrees Celsius.

We are grumbling about 15 degrees here but I’d much rather deal with that than temperatures in the forties.

Army choppers evacuate Victorians huddled on sports ground as six remain missing

Army helicopters are used to help dozens of people escape the fierce fire threat in Victoria, where more than 100 properties have been razed and towns remain at risk.

‘Our worst nightmare’: Video shows luxury resort gutted by fire

The Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island was once a luxury resort, but has now been largely reduced to a charred wreck. It is one of many sites of devastation caused by the island’s bushfire disaster.

Two people have died in fires on Kangaroo Island.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been under fire in a different way – his handling of the crisis continues to be criticised.

He returned from Hawaii last week when criticised for holidaying while Australia burns. A couple of days ago news showed him being jeered when visiting fire affected areas – twice he bizarrely forced handshakes with people who were obviously not wanting physical contact with him. Now:

‘Like being sold to at a funeral’: Morrison slammed for running political ads during fire crisis

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been lambasted for releasing videos on social media advertising his Government’s response to the country’s current bushfire crisis.

His mishandling of a crisis is a big contrast to Jacinda Ardern’s empathy and understanding.

Scott Morrison says he won’t be distracted after being abused, snubbed by bushfire survivors

The extent of Saturday’s damage won’t be known until after daylight arrives today in Australia.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said the true extent of the damage would not be known until daylight on Sunday.

“Southerly winds have come through, [and there are] a lot of reports of property loss. They won’t know the full extent until tomorrow (Sunday),” he said.

“Predicted weather conditions lived up to prediction; it’s been awful. We’ve seen fires down in the Snowy Mountains that got so big they were putting lightning out 20 to 30 kilometres ahead of the main fire.”

A cold front has moved through but that was the cause of worsening conditions yesterday.

What makes a horror fire danger day?

The extent of the fires:

https://myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au/

Law and Order Party? Or Posturing Populist PR Party?

National are trying to promote themselves as ‘the law and order party’, but are at risk of being seen more as a shallow, cynical, posturing populist PR party.

It may be popular to pick on gangs, and for good reason, some gang activities deserve condemnation. But we have had gangs for decades, and political rhetoric hasn’t made them disappear.

One problem with National’s ‘Strike Force Raptor’ proposal to harass gangs, which Simon Bridges described as “devastatingly effective” in Australia, is that they may disappear from view, but not go away.

National PR:

I don’t know what “take back control” is supposed to mean. Does National want the Government to take control of the drug trade? National has opposed liberalisation of cannabis laws, which leaves the drug for gangs to sell.

RNZ: Australian ex-cop blasts National’s ‘Strike Force Raptor’ plan

A former Australian detective has ridiculed National’s zero-tolerance approach to gangs, saying the strategy has been a “disaster” across the ditch.

National leader Simon Bridges repeatedly described the unit as “devastatingly effective” and referenced media reports which claimed it was driving outlaw bikies into extinction.

But former NSW detective Mike Kennedy told RNZ that was “nonsense” and Mr Bridges was “living a dream” if he believed that.

“He needs to pull his head out of whatever it’s stuck in because … [gangs] exist. They’re always going to exist. They just go underground.

“I’m not a bleeding heart liberal,” he said. “But [the zero-tolerance strategy has] just been a disaster.”

Dr Kennedy spent much of his time with the police as an undercover officer working in organised crime and is now a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University.

He said there was no evidence to suggest that gang numbers had fallen dramatically since the formation of Strike Force Raptor a decade ago.

“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are unregulated, so how would you know?” he said. “They’re not required to pay a fee … and register with government. So any suggestion that the numbers are down is just nonsense.”

Dr Kennedy said the problem had just been driven underground.

“People don’t stop being members of groups just because they’ve been arrested. They go into jail, they reinforce themselves, they come out, [and] they get more of a reason to remain in the group they’re in.”

Police officers needed a working relationship with communities, including gang members, so they would cooperate with investigations, he said.

 

A NSW Review of police use of powers under the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2012

Under the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2012, the Supreme Court can declare that an organisation is a ‘criminal organisation’ and make control orders in relation to its members. These orders may restrict the ability of members to associate with each other and recruit others to the organisation, and prohibit them from participating in a range of otherwise lawful activities. Overall, the declaration and orders may disrupt and restrict the activities of the organisation.

Despite the concerted efforts of a dedicated unit within the Gangs Squad of the NSW Police Force, which spent over three years preparing applications in preparation for declarations under the 2012 Act, no application has yet been brought to Court. As a result, no organisation has been declared to be a criminal organisation under the scheme. The NSW Police Force advised us that work on these applications ceased in 2015, and that it does not intend to resource such work in the future.

During consultations with our office, operational police advised us that the procedural requirements of the Act are onerous, resource-intensive, and involve difficulties that ultimately prevented police making an application to the Court. The decision to stop working on applications was made against the background that police have been provided with other powers they can more effectively use to target OMCGs and other criminal organisations, such as a modernised consorting offence, expanded
powers to search for firearms, and restrictions on entry to licensed premises by people wearing OMCG ‘colours’ and insignia.

Police in other states and territories have experienced similar difficulties in successfully implementing comparable legislation. No declarations have been made in relation to any organisations.

In my view, given the problems identified by police that have prevented them from exercising the powers under this Act, and the fact that police have alternative powers to disrupt the activities of criminal organisations, it would be in the public interest for the Act to be repealed.

I have made this the only recommendation in my report.

Professor John McMillan AO
Acting Ombudsman

(November 2016)

National’s proposals were not hard policy, they said they were only at a ‘discussion’ stage, but their PR tried to push populist buttons. They seem to have put a lot more work into PR than research.

Or maybe Bridges just doesn’t care as along as he attracts some votes. It’s debatable whether that will succeed, especialy if their propasals unravel.