Australia

Australia to Stop Manufacturing AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine, Blaming “Negative Press” for Lower Uptake

Australia is set to stop manufacturing the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine because fears over side effects mean the jab is “not going to be utilised” as much as others. Health officials have pinned the blame for these fears on “negative press”. The Mail Australia has the story.

The federal Government in November last year contracted Australia biomedical firm CSL to produce 50 million doses of the vaccine at its manufacturing hub in Melbourne.

At the time worldwide vaccine development for the coronavirus was in its fledgling stages and policymakers prioritised domestic production as a necessity during the crisis.

But just one month after its launch in March 2021, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) pulled the pin on younger Australians receiving the dose due to the extremely rare risk of fatal blood clots – about one in 1.6 million. …

ATAGI flip-flopped on their health advice recommending the AstraZeneca jab only to over-50s, before ratcheting up the warning to over 60s – with the age bracket less susceptible to developing blood clots.

Then as the Delta outbreak started ravaging NSW and Victorian in the winter months the medical body suggested it should be considered for over-18s living in a hot spot area.

But by that stage the reputation of the safe and effective vaccine was tarnished and many Australians decided to wait for Pfizer and Moderna supplies to filter into the country from abroad.

“Obviously we don’t want to manufacture something that is not going to be utalised and we will have a number of other options moving into the future,” Associate Professor Paul Griffin from the University of Queensland told 9News.

“It obviously has received a lot of negative press although it’s a vaccine that has proven highly effective and very safe.”

Some of that ‘bad press’ came from a very unlucky source back in June with Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young adding to the disinformation and later being accused of “fear mongering”.

“I don’t want an 18 year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got Covid, probably wouldn’t die,” she said after the Prime Minister urged younger people to consider taking the AstraZeneca jab.

Worth reading in full.

New South Wales Premier Resigns over Investigation into “Breach of Public Trust”

The Premier of New South Wales (NSW) has resigned following the announcement that the Australian state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating her conduct between 2012 and 2018 that “constituted or involved a breach of public trust”. Reuters has the story.

Berejiklian’s shock resignation comes as the state, which has an economy larger than Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia, battles the biggest Covid outbreak in the country and is poised to begin ending months-long lockdowns as Australia sets to reopen international borders in November.

Berejiklian said the issues being investigated were “historical matters” but she felt compelled to resign because of the long time frames likely to be involved in the investigation. She also said the state needed certainty over its leadership amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I state categorically I have always acted with the highest level of integrity,” she said at a news conference.

The ICAC said in a statement on its website that it will hold further public hearings as part of its ongoing investigation, Operation Keppel, on October 18th.

That investigation has already heard Berejiklian was once in a secret relationship with a state legislator who is the focus of its corruption investigation. …

Berejiklian is the second NSW premier to resign because of an ICAC investigation. NSW leader Barry O’Farrell quit in 2014 after giving evidence in which he forgot to tell the commission he had accepted a gift of a $3,000 bottle of Grange wine.

Berejiklian said she had told ministers in her Government if they were the subject of an integrity investigation they should stand aside until their name was cleared, but in her case, as Premier this wasn’t an option. She will leave parliament as soon as a by-election can take place. …

Berejiklian gave evidence at an ICAC hearing 12 months ago, and denied any wrong doing.

ICAC on Friday said the scope of its investigation had widened and includes whether between 2012 and 2018 Berejiklian “engaged in conduct that constituted or involved a breach of public trust by exercising public functions in circumstances where she was in a position of conflict between her public duties and her private interest” as she was in a personal relationship with the then NSW MP Daryl Maguire.

The potential breach involved grant funding promised to community organisations in Maguire’s electorate of Wagga Wagga, and whether she failed to report, or encouraged, corrupt conduct by Maguire. Maguire’s legal representative declined to comment.

Worth reading in full.

Australia: New South Wales Police Commissioner Refuses to Enforce Vaccine Passport Rules

The Police Commissioner of New South Wales, Mick Fuller, has said his officers will not be checking the vaccine status of people in restaurants, cafes or pubs, in defiance of the Health Minister’s insistence that it is the police’s responsibility. The Guardian has the story.

The Government is preparing to make public health orders that bar unvaccinated people from entry to certain businesses and venues, until at least December 1st.

Attention has quickly turned to how the orders will be enforced, and whether the onus will fall on individual businesses. Questions about enforcement prompted conflicting accounts on Tuesday.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said… his officers would not be patrolling venues to enforce vaccine status.

“The role of police in terms of vaccine passports, we will not be walking through restaurants, cafes and pubs checking if people are double vaccinated,” he said.

“[But] we will certainly be assisting restaurant owners and shop owners if they are refusing entry to someone – we’ll certainly respond to assist those people.”

Speaking to the media later on Tuesday, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said police would be responsible for enforcing the public health orders.

“If the law says you have to be double vaccinated, then of course the police will enforce that, they have no choice but to enforce that,” he said.

Hazzard also indicated venues wouldn’t face fines if an unvaccinated person was allowed entry. Asked why businesses would bother to argue with unvaccinated people if they are not to face a penalty, Hazzard criticised the media for obsessing over minutiae.

Worth reading in full.

Can Australia Still Describe Itself as a Liberal Democracy?

There’s a good piece in the Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer, asking at what point Australia will have to stop calling itself as a liberal democracy and acknowledge that it has become a police state. Here is an extract:

Up to now one of Earth’s freest societies, Australia has become a hermit continent. How long can a country maintain emergency restrictions on its citizens’ lives while still calling itself a liberal democracy?

Australia has been testing the limits.

Before 2020, the idea of Australia all but forbidding its citizens from leaving the country, a restriction associated with Communist regimes, was unthinkable. Today, it is a widely accepted policy. “Australia’s borders are currently closed and international travel from Australia remains strictly controlled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” a government website declares. “International travel from Australia is only available if you are exempt or you have been granted an individual exemption.” The rule is enforced despite assurances on another government website, dedicated to setting forth Australia’s human-rights-treaty obligations, that the freedom to leave a country “cannot be made dependent on establishing a purpose or reason for leaving.”

The nation’s high court struck down a challenge to the country’s COVID-19 restrictions. “It may be accepted that the travel restrictions are harsh. It may also be accepted that they intrude upon individual rights,” it ruled. “But Parliament was aware of that.” Until last month, Australians who are residents of foreign countries were exempt from the rule so they could return to their residence. But the government tightened the restrictions further, trapping many of them in the country too.

Intrastate travel within Australia is also severely restricted. And the government of South Australia, one of the country’s six states, developed and is now testing an app as Orwellian as any in the free world to enforce its quarantine rules. Returning travelers quarantining at home will be forced to download an app that combines facial recognition and geolocation. The state will text them at random times, and thereafter they will have 15 minutes to take a picture of their face in the location where they are supposed to be. Should they fail, the local police department will be sent to follow up in person. “We don’t tell them how often or when, on a random basis they have to reply within 15 minutes,” Premier Steven Marshall explained. “I think every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app.”

Pretty proud? It’s beyond parody.

Worth reading in full.

Victoria Playgrounds Were Closed to Stop Parents Meeting, Not to Stop Covid Spreading Among Children

Much has been written on the damage of playground closures on young children during lockdowns. To add insult to injury, a Victoria health official has admitted that playgrounds in the state weren’t closed because children were spreading Covid – for which there was (and still is) no evidence – but to stop parents from being able to meet. The Mail Australia has the story.

Victorian children who have spent months living in fear of becoming infected at their local playground have finally been told there was no real evidence they were going to catch Covid playing on the swings. 

In a stunning admission sure to enrage Melbourne families, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton admitted  on Wednesday the parks were banned for the last month to get at parents. 

It is not the first time Professor Sutton has taped-up Victorian playgrounds because of their supposed threat to children. 

Last year he closed them for months during Victoria’s second deadly wave, which killed more than 800 after leaking out of his own bungled hotel quarantine scheme. 

On Wednesday, the Professor told long suffering Melbourne parents the actual reason he closed playgrounds in the first place was because of them. 

“My advice on playgrounds originally was because we saw that people were using it as a loophole to have de facto meetings across households, neighbourhoods, families,” he said. 

“In allowing playgrounds to open again, absolutely with the wellbeing and considerations of kids in mind, but we’re going to have QR codes as a mandated requirement.”

Melbourne parents had pleaded with Premier Daniel Andrews to introduce such a scheme back on August 16th, when he announced for the second time the only avenue of enjoyment many kids had would be banned. 

Their calls had fallen on deaf ears at the time as Professor Sutton claimed he was acting on evidence that playgrounds were a serious transmission risk to children who played at them. 

“We are investigating a potential transmission in a playground,” he claimed.

“It is not definitive and maybe we will not be able to make it definitive but it looks like there has been transmission in a playground.”

He backed-up the cruel plan with news the Delta variant of Covid had been spread between children walking home from school.  

The next day, playgrounds across Melbourne were taped off under threat of serious fines if children attempted to use them. 

On Wednesday, Professor Sutton said he would allow just one parent or guardian to attend playgrounds with their kids. 

He warned those parents not to even contemplate removing their masks while there. 

“You will not be removing your mask to eat or drink because that’s when transmission occurs, It’s been said across Australia this virus moves with people. If we don’t have those human interactions, we can’t infect others'”

When pressed again for any scrap of evidence to support transmission of the virus at playgrounds, Professor Sutton could provide none. 

“We have suspicions about transmission maybe occuring at playgrounds, but you don’t have to jump to specific instances to know how transmissions have occured [sic] indoors and outdoors between adults, between kids round the world,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

NSW to Record Patients as Dying “With” Instead of “From” Covid

New South Wales (NSW) health officials have admitted that not all of the state’s ‘Covid deaths’ have actually been caused by Covid and say they will start recording patients as dying “with” instead of “from” the virus. Better late than never, I suppose. The Mail Australia has the story.

[NSW Health’s] Dr. Jeremy McAnulty made the admission during Sunday’s Covid briefing as the state recorded 1,218 new cases of coronavirus. …

Dr. McAnulty said the change in language was because it was “very difficult to know” whether someone with Covid died from the virus, or another health complication.

“We know when elderly people die, they can have a range of comorbidities, and also, being old increases your risk of death,” he said.

“Covid may often play a role in the death, but it may not. Sometimes, some of our cases who have sadly died appear to have recovered from Covid, and then they have died of something [else].

“We report people who have died ‘with’ Covid, unless there is a very clear alternative.”

He added that it was difficult for doctors who were looking after patients to know exactly how much the virus contributed to their death. …

Earlier this month, Ady Al-Askar a forklift truck driver from Liverpool collapsed in his shower after contracting Covid from his wife Yasmin who works in aged care. 

The 27 year-old was isolating with his wife in their unit in Sydney’s southwest and barely showed any Covid symptoms before his untimely death. 

However, heart conditions reportedly run in the Al-Askar family, and his cousin, Khalid Thijeel, told the Mail Australia he believed it was this that cost the man his life, not the virus. …

Paramedics who responded to the emergency reportedly confirmed that Ms Al-Askar suffered heart failure, whereas the hospital and Dr Chant specified that Covid was a contributing factor in his death.

A few weeks later, Osama Suduh from Sydney’s Covid-hit south-west, became the state’s youngest recorded victim of Covid – though he died of meningitis.

Worth reading in full.

‘No Jab, No Job’ Policy Introduced for NSW Teachers

Teachers in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, will be sacked if they choose not to get vaccinated against Covid, the State Government has announced, as part of its plan to reopen schools from October. The Mail Australia has the story.

The plan will enforce mandatory vaccination for all teaching staff by November 8th, as schools begin a staggered return to face-to-face education from October 25th.

A NSW Department of Education survey revealed almost 70% of staff had received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 40% double jabbed.

But one in 10 workers said they were not booked in or planned to get immunised within the next month.

In a webinar video seen by Daily Mail Australia, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education Georgina Harrison warned staff about the mandatory jab requirement.

“It will mean under the public health order that they (teachers) are lawfully unable to work for us, and we will have to look at measures such as leave without pay until someone could get vaccinated, or possibly terminating their employment because it will be a requirement of employment,” Ms. Harrison said.

“This is a really significant and serious step, it has not been taken lightly. Know that it has been taken on the very best health advice about what will protect our whole school community the best as we plan for return.”

The move has outraged One Nation leader Mark Latham, who took to Twitter in a fury on Saturday to criticise the vaccination mandate.

“NSW Department of Education employs 100,000 people. Staff survey shows 10% do not plan to be vaccinated,” he wrote.

“Under yesterday’s mandatory vaccination announcement up to 10,000 are to be sacked by November. How can this be the policy when Covid is not a high-risk illness for children?”

Worth reading in full.

Australia is Falling Apart

by Guy de la Bédoyère

Steve Waterson’s latest piece in the Daily Sceptic provoked me to finish an essay I’ve been putting together for a while.

As an historian, what really strikes me now is how brief the Covid crisis has been so far. Yes, I know it seems like 500 years since we were last able to travel freely and not hear about the pandemic on the nightly news. But in historical terms this is nothing. What will define the era is the social, political, and economic fallout and, trust me, that’s barely started. Governments are going to fall, millions of people are going to be ruined while others make fortunes, and some countries are going to disintegrate. But when, where or how is yet to be seen. This will take years – decades – but I think you can see the signs of fragmentation and epic change already – almost all self-inflicted as a result of the hysteria that has consumed us since early 2020.

Let me make it clear from the outset: I love Australia. I’ve been there several times and travelled long distances. My maternal grandfather, whom I never met, died in Sydney. Two of his brothers died out there. I have lots of relatives in Australia and many close friends in places as far apart as Wodonga VIC and Denmark WA. I’ve constantly discussed with them what has been going on, and only escaped myself in late March 2020 on one of the last flights out of Perth.

I was in the process of writing this piece when another article, this time by a pharmaceutical executive, about the terrible predicament Australia and New Zealand have placed themselves in, appeared on the Daily Sceptic. I decided to press on, because I hope this will complement that piece by showing just how dangerous that predicament is.

I have watched with apprehension and astonishment at the direction Australia and New Zealand have travelled in the last 18 months. One thing I know very well is that those in the present never learn from the past. It’s also true that the past does not determine the future. I’m not in the business of predicting what will happen. There’s been too much of that since the Covid crisis broke and much of it has been wrong. But we can see what might happen or what could now happen.

Early in this crisis, I wrote a piece for this site called Britain’s Covid Reich. In it I explained a central tenet of the totalitarian state: intolerance of diversity. This is an environment in which any variance from the state’s ideology is seen as a threat to the state. I had not envisaged when I wrote it that 15 months later I would be looking at a country on the other side of the world heading even further down that road. Not only that, but it looks dangerously like a country that could fall apart.

Both Australia and New Zealand have hitherto bought into the zero-Covid crock of gold at the end of the rainbow, though at least some Australian politicians, and quite a few of their subjects (the best word for them now), have woken up to the realisation that there is no future in that policy. But so far much of what their national and regional governments have done has been justified by claims that zero-Covid will be the outcome.

But the pandemic has created, and been allowed to create, destabilising circumstances that may be epoch-changing. We haven’t even yet reached the point in most countries where it is time for a major election. When the Black Death hit in the middle of the 14th century, the impact in terms of deaths, reaching up to half the population, was obvious. It took generations for the social, political, and economic effects to reveal themselves fully.

We can already see how political opportunism has taken hold, especially in the United Kingdom where the SNP has fallen over itself to exploit Covid for its own advantage, despite the fact that its measures have been even less effective than in England. Now in the second Covid year, far from opening up, more and more countries are seeking opportunities to restrict access. The consequences are likely to be parochialism, ignorance, border tensions, and ever more friction over resources.

My fear though is that Australia, of all the developed modern democratic states, has set out down a path that could in extremis result in the country breaking apart. Let’s not beat about the bush (a more appropriate term for Australia than anywhere else). This is a country that already teeters on the brink of viability. Natural disasters have the potential to destroy large swathes of Australia’s agriculture on a permanent basis. The country has never developed industry to a level that could serve it properly, preferring to rely on selling natural resources to China to make into things that get sent back to Australia. The national infrastructure is ramshackle. It was already the case that the individual states are more interested in their own futures than the country’s. That’s especially evident in WA, marginalised by Australian national politics.

Australia is to some extent only a nation in name. Western Australia, one of the least populous states, is also the largest. Apart from air travel, it is connected to the rest of Australia by a few scrappy roads, easily taken out by a single cyclone, and one railway. For years its colossal mineral resources have bankrolled the country’s wealth. That has caused no end of frustration to Western Australia which benefits less than most states from any federal handouts. Few Australians from the rest of the country ever bother with going to WA. There is little love lost between WA and the eastern states.

There is therefore an incipient sense of nationalism in Western Australia. It’s no more than a conceit at the moment, but Covid is accelerating the sense of frustration. Only now is the federal Government getting it together with the vaccine rollout and desperately trying to roll back the terrible mess it’s made. The chaotic response exhibited until recently has not been Australia’s finest hour. The fiasco has ridden on the back of the zero-Covid fantasy, a Land-That-Might-Have-Been.

I had this from a relative in Queensland, a senior academic in the university there:

The vaccine roll-out has been bungled although it is now getting better organised – this disorganisation is/was caused by our system of state and federal government, where the states actually are responsible for health delivery, vaccinations etc., but the feds for some strange reason decided they would be in charge – but had no mechanism to distribute it – so it was outsourced to a private trucking company and that failed – so there is now an army person in charge – that has improved it.

The NSW Government also approved vaccinations for grade 12 boys from one of the wealthiest private schools while not getting aged care workers or health workers vaccinated. Then they decided that grade 12 students generally should take precedence so they could go back to school, then essential workers should take precedence, then this group, then that group – so eventually every group seems to be the group with precedence. No wonder there is confusion.

So as of yesterday [last week] only 25% of eligible adults were fully vaccinated and 40% with one and its patchy across the country. So there is a lot of anger directed at the federal Government, but they have put an army general in charge of vaccine distribution and that has speeded things up by the looks of it – and he does not get angry or shout at reporters, members of the public, etc., and he does not disappear for days at a time.

In the midst of all this, WA is no hotbed of freedom. The state (which has a huge ex-pat British population) has been as keen on lockdowns as any other (though it has had remarkably few lockdown days – about 12 compared to Victoria’s 160+). But as Delta has taken a foothold in Victoria and New South Wales, WA has battened down its hatches further. WA is essentially closed to the rest of the country, desperate to keep Covid out at any price and terrified of what might happen if it gets in.

The individual states are asserting their autonomy and doing so with ever more strident bio-authoritarian measures, some buying deeper into zero-Covid. The destruction of individual freedoms in Australia and the epic speed with which that has happened has no parallel in the modern world in a modern democratic state. Yes, I know these have been hitherto widely welcomed by Australians, but you’d have to be spectacularly naïve to think that such support will necessarily be sustained. In 1943, Germany was full of people who fanatically supported the Nazis. Two years later the country was full of people shaking their heads and wondering what on Earth they’d been thinking.

The other day James Delingpole and Toby made a podcast in which they discussed Australia. They focused on Dan Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, and wondered how such an ordinary person could have become such a leader passing one arbitrary measure after another and speaking furiously about anyone who dares to challenge him.

The prohibition in Victoria on mask lifting to consume alcohol has plumbed new depths, but it was only to be expected. Resorting to increasingly puerile rules is a characteristic of a beleaguered authoritarian regime and marks the point where punishing the people and hurling abuse at them for their treachery and failings is the last resort. It’s straight out of the totalitarian leader’s textbook and is a sign of desperation.

One gathering Andrews was spitting blood about was an Orthodox Jewish engagement party. Last year I read a piece about some Orthodox Jews in New York whose views were very clearly expressed. If the choice was between following their way of life or being criminalised, they would choose the former even if it meant death.

It takes a certain amount of political acumen, wisdom, knowledge, and experience to understand that. It’s a cultural lesson Dan Andrews has yet to learn. In all seriousness, it is my belief that if Australia and its states continue down this path they are already only a short distance from one or other of the administrations seeking to detain without trial, and even suspend elections ‘until the crisis is over’. This is no indulgent and silly warning produced by my overactive imagination. This is what happens in authoritarian states. Over and over again. 

The police in Victoria are already using protests to legitimate the severity of their own response. I’m not going to justify violence on anyone’s part, but the emergence of violent protests and the violent suppression of protests is an inevitable outcome of protracted limitations on personal freedoms. Even so, they mask what is probably far more widespread subversion. There are three possible outcomes: the crisis abates, the violence subsides and Australia goes back to normal, or the state succeeds in ramping up its controls to far more drastic levels and terrorising the population into acquiescence, or, in response to the suppression, the violence escalates to a far more serious and potentially fatal level in one city or another, attracting wider support and tipping towards the point of popular revolt.

Right now in Australia Covid is starting to drift out of control. The reality that Delta cannot be restrained without turning every house into a prison cell is just starting to sink in. It means the core justification of the measures, the utopia of zero-Covid, cannot be attained. Ever.

In the meantime at the very least WA is on a path that, if the crisis doesn’t fade, could one day lead to a secessionist movement. If that sounds ludicrous, you only need to consider the SNP’s secessionist dream, openly espoused and given huge momentum by capitalising on Covid. As a WA friend has just said to me: “We’ve never mattered over here.” When it comes to national elections all the votes are in Victoria and New South Wales.

Western Australia is now proudly seeing itself as ‘Fortress WA’. Even compassionate reasons to cross the border from the east are disregarded, though needless to say politicians can move around freely. The tension is rising with the other states, but the premier Mark McGowan is sticking to his guns because as far as he is concerned life is normal in his state – if you can call life ‘normal’ in a place you cannot leave. There’s a lurking fear that the clock is ticking with Delta, but right now WA seems content to make hay while the sun shines, locked away in a paradise cut off from the rest of the world (and some of WA is a paradise, believe me). The economy is doing just fine – apparently. And most of the voters are on message. 

“The Covid situation seems to have enhanced that sense of Western Australia doing it itself and going its own way,” says University of Western Australia Social Demographer Amanda Davies.

There’s a subtext though. WA’s hospitals are already in crisis. A Covid outbreak could cripple the system.

WA’s stance and the mess elsewhere in Australia under the oppressive controls on movement and protest are leading to a pivotal moment in the nation’s history and with implications for the rest of the world.

I make no prediction about what will happen. What I do know about authoritarian states is that, unless checked, they eventually become even more ruthlessly authoritarian, aided and abetted by part of their terrorised populations, or they collapse and their leaders end up either vilified, in prison, or at worst executed. Ultimately they always collapse. It’s only a question of time and Australia’s clock is ticking.

Is change afoot? Gideon Rozner, an Australian at the Institute of Public Affairs, insisted in his piece in the Telegraph: “We Australians are sick of the zero-Covid delusion and the country’s ‘epidemiological time warp’.”

The latest news is that Qantas is wheeling its A380s out of storage and cranking them up for a restart in December for flights to the U.S. and the U.K. The Chief Executive Alan Joyce says: “Public sentiment is changing dramatically. People are saying ‘we need to have a path out of Covid, a path back to our pre-Covid lives’.”

Is he right? I certainly hope so, but Alan Joyce is really talking about the eastern states. WA for the moment is reading from another script. The stakes have never been higher, and especially for Australia as a country which it has only been since 1901. Here we see enshrined the potential fallout of Covid and the ruinous attempts to control it, as divergent interests and different priorities take over, whether in Australia or countless other places. It falls to only a few years to be turning points in world history. 2020 is going to be one of them but all bets should be off for now when it comes to the shape of things to come.

Where’s Cromwell When You Need Him? Australia’s Leaders Need to be Told: “In the Name of God, Go!”

We’re publishing another of Steve Waterson’s peerless rants today. Waterman is the Commercial Editor of the Australian and one of the country’s finest columnists. This one’s a humdinger.

It’s tedious for the youngsters, I know, but we of more advanced years love to reminisce about the olden days, when nobody was permitted to shirk from home and we had to try a little harder to get ahead. You’d put in the hours and a dab of sycophancy to climb the corporate ladder; even career criminals had to work their way up from petty crime to probation to a spell in prison.

We have it much easier these days: just ask Trong Duc Nguyen, the 31 year-old Cabramatta man who has gone straight to jail for two months after committing the hitherto unknown crime of travelling by train and bus from Sydney to Tenterfield. Small mercies, though; at least he didn’t travel the other way then write a mawkish song about it in New York.

Trong’s punishment this week for breaching a public health order was entirely reasonable, according to police, who said “it indicates the level of seriousness of the matter”. Lucky for Trong he didn’t have the virus. I may be mistaken, but I think that might carry the death penalty up Armidale way.

Enjoy this taste of what awaits us as the police state tightens its grip on our liberties. To drive home the seriousness of “doing the wrong thing”, the NSW Police Commissioner decided on-the-spot fines for health disobedience needed to be bumped up to $5,000.

My sense is that $1,000 was already enough to put people off going without their masks, but I suppose if you’re on $649,500 a year it does seem like a trifling sum. Doing the wrong thing isn’t a problem for his officers, however. “We have to shape the behaviour of people,” he told them in a recent video. “If you write a ticket and get it wrong,” he added, “I won’t hold you to account for that.”

Sydney Anti-Lockdown Protest Organiser Sentenced to Eight Months in Prison

One of the organisers of a recent anti-lockdown protest in Sydney has been sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison for helping to plan an “unauthorised” demonstration and for breaking other lockdown-related rules. He will serve a minimum of three months in prison. The Guardian has the story.

Anthony Khallouf, 29, one of the organisers of last month’s anti-lockdown protests and a key figurehead in the broader movement surrounding it, was arrested by police in Sydney on Thursday after travelling from Queensland in breach of public health orders.

Khallouf appeared in Hornsby local court on Friday, charged with breaches of public health orders, including travelling from Queensland to Sydney and his involvement in planning an unauthorised protest for this weekend.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of not complying with a direction relating to Covid, encouraging the commission of crimes, and false representation resulting in a police investigation.

New South Wales police said in a statement on Friday afternoon that he was sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison, with a non-parole period of three months.

Khallouf is the founder of Australians vs The Agenda, one of the larger anti-lockdown groups with more than 12,000 followers on Telegram. Originally from Victoria, last year he was charged with incitement for allegedly helping to organise a protest in Melbourne.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Damien Cave writes in the New York Times on Australia’s reliance on quarantine infrastructure as a long-term answer to Covid.

The problem… is that even humane quarantine amounts to a forced retreat. The decisions made by governments about who poses a risk are rarely politics-free, and frequently go beyond medicine to fears shaped by emotions and biases.

Also worth reading in full.