New South Wales

New South Wales to Lift Restrictions – But Only for the Vaccinated

The Government of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, has announced that it will soon lift a wide array of restrictions – but only for those who are vaccinated. From November 8th, double-jabbed residents will be allowed to invite an unlimited number of visitors into their home, while the unvaccinated will continue to be subjected to stay-at-home orders, being preventing from entering many public places which the vaccinated can enter. The Guardian has the story.

Under the original roadmap, restrictions were supposed to ease from December 1st. The N.S.W. Premier, Dominic Perrottet, said the changes were due to the State’s high vaccination rate, with authorities pushing N.S.W. to hit 95% double dose coverage.

“We said from the outset that this was the key for our state to be able to open up safely”, Perrottet said. “Everybody has done an incredible job to ensure N.S.W. can ease restrictions in a safe and considered way earlier than we planned. [This] is one last push and I believe that we can get to that 95% mark”.

The changes also delay when restrictions ease for unvaccinated people – either when the state hits that 95% fully vaccinated rate or by December 15th, whichever occurs first.

This means unvaccinated residents will continue to be barred from businesses, gyms and venues for at least two weeks more than expected.

Perrottet said the delay was to ensure the state could continue reopening “safely” and hoped it would incentivise people to get the jab.

“Ultimately we want a united society and we believe by moving that date back to December 15th will incentivise” he said.

Caps on gym and dance classes remain, but entertainment venues with fixed seating will open to 100% capacity. Indoor swimming pools will also be able to reopen.

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.

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.

Zero-Covid Disaster Continues as New Zealand Extends its Lockdown and Sydney Places Residents Under House Arrest Until October

Advocates of zero-Covid have a lot to answer for. New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden has just announced that the three-day lockdown imposed earlier this week in response to one coronavirus case – you read that correctly – is being extended for a week, following a rise in positive test results to a whopping 31. Meanwhile, Gladys Berejiklian, the Premier of New South Wales, announced that Sydney would remain in lockdown until the end of September. In certain parts of the city, a 9pm to 5am curfew will be imposed and outside exercise restricted to one hour a day. New Zealand has seen only 26 Covid deaths in a population of five million, while Australia has chalked up 974 in a population of over 25 million – yet the insane zero-Covid policy means just one positive case can prompt a lockdown, as we saw in New Zealand earlier this week. MailOnline has more.

Ardern, who is trying to sustain a zero-Covid strategy through strict border controls and lockdowns, initially announced the national shutdown would last three days but on Friday had to succumb to the inevitable and extend it to at least a week.

Vast swathes of Australia are also under zero-Covid lockdowns and residents of Sydney were told they will have to stay home until at least October under strict lockdown rules that will not be lifted until at least 70% of the population are fully vaccinated.

When it hits that vaccination target, the restrictions will be lifted under a “freedom roadmap” similar to the one implemented in the U.K. months ago.

New Zealand initially brought in its lockdown over one case but Ardern said that officials were still trying to assess the scale of the outbreak, which emerged in Auckland this week and has now spread to Wellington.

“We just don’t quite know the full scale of this Delta outbreak. All in all, this tells us we need to continue to be cautious,” she said.

Worth reading in full.

Daily Sceptic contributor Ramesh Thakur, Emeritus Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, has an excellent piece about Australia’s descent into an authoritarian dystopia in the Japan Times. Here’s an extract:

Australia has morphed from being the envy of the world last year for its incredible pandemic management to international incredulity at the brutality of its authoritarian measures to “crush and kill the virus”.

In America, popular conservative TV host Tucker Carlson calls Australia a “COVID dictatorship”. With unconscious irony, the video clip was removed from YouTube. His colleague Laura Ingraham was incredulous at learning that soldiers and police helicopters were patrolling Sydney’s streets and skies to enforce the lockdown.

The premier of Australia’s largest state said on Aug. 14th, at a time when the Taliban were making lightning advances across Afghanistan, that this current pandemic is “literally a war”. The U.K. Telegraph said in an editorial, “How has it come to the point that Australia needs to call up the military to eradicate a virus that is now endemic in the world?”

Beijing is enjoying a moment of schadenfreude. In an article in Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, Lu Xue recalled comments from Foreign Minister Marise Payne that were critical of China’s aggressive pandemic management. “Some countries,” she said in June 2020, “are using the pandemic to undermine liberal democracy to promote their own more authoritarian models.” Lu added, “Now, quite ironically, it turns out that Canberra plans to send its military personnel to help enforce social lockdown.”

The authoritarian streak has seen various instances of what some people would call inhumane treatment. At a time of zero active cases in Canberra, a woman was denied permission to fly to Queensland to see her dying father. A mother from across the border in New South Wales lost her baby last year after being unable to get timely treatment in Brisbane because of the time it would have taken to fill out the paperwork to cross the state line and enter the hospital to receive emergency care.

A fully vaccinated Sydney grandmother was also recently denied a permit to go to Melbourne to help care for her grandchildren while her daughter battles advanced breast cancer. And in a country town in February, a pregnant woman posting on Facebook to support a peaceful protest against Victoria’s lockdown was handcuffed and arrested in her house in the early morning hours, still in her pajamas.

Worth reading in full.

Australia’s Phantom Menace

We’re reprinting a piece that appeared in the Australian recently by the Commercial Editor Steve Waterson, who has kindly given us permission. He wrote it just before a two-week lockdown in the city was announced, following the recording of 18 new positive test results. Here is an extract:

Not much has changed in the last year. Our visionary ‘leaders’ have come up with nothing new, save a revved-up vocabulary to keep us on the edge of our toilet seats: the anthropomorphised, cunning and clever virus hides and pounces when we least expect it, for it is a “beast” that, unlike any other matter in the universe, travels “at the speed of light”.

So scary is it that everyday descriptions are inadequate. Only the language of airport thrillers and Hollywood can capture the Clear and Present Danger of Jason Bourne’s Delta Variant; that’s why borders have to be “slammed shut” and the virus “hunted down”, “crushed” and “eliminated”. “Flatten the Curve”, an early instalment of the Pandemic Wars franchise, was nowhere near sexy enough.

Sadly, instead of action heroes leading us to safety (whatever that looks like), we have premiers tootling by again in their clown cars – parp, parp! – stuffed with their supporting cast of chief chuckle officers and assorted buffoons, blindly seeking a way out of the quagmire of hypocrisy and contradiction they have created.

Worth reading in full.