Good morning, this is Tamara Howie bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 14 October.
Victoria is “obviously failing” to reach its roadmap targets for lifting Covid-19 restrictions, but that has little to do with perceived weaknesses in its contact-tracing system, epidemiologists and other experts have said. Prof Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist with the University of Melbourne, said the targets on the roadmap’s third and final steps for reopening effectively required elimination of the virus, despite Daniel Andrews repeatedly saying suppression, not elimination, was the state’s strategy. Blakely said given cases were popping up again in New South Wales, even after a period of zero transmission, it was “challenging – if not even foolhardy – for Victoria to now go hard for elimination, given where we are at – a stubborn tail.” The warning comes after three new cases were identified in the regional Victorian city of Shepparton. Residents are being advised to get tested for coronavirus if they feel ill. Questions are also being asked about Victoria’s contact-tracing system and why New South Wales was able to more effectively identify and isolate close contacts and ultimately reduce infection numbers.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption heard that former NSW MP Daryl Maguire asked a business associate to delete messages and emails, and told her that his phone and iPad had been involved in an “unfortunate” tractor accident after he became aware the state’s anti-corruption watchdog was paying attention to him. Maggie Wang, who faced Icac for the second time on Tuesday, told the inquiry Maguire had sent her a message through a friend requesting her to delete messages and emails between the pair. Wang, who said she initially thought Maguire’s concern was “silly”, said she still complied with the request. The Guardian’s Anne Davies writes that while the state’s premier, Gladys Berejiklian, rightly reminds Labor of its poor record on dealing with corruption in office, the Liberal party has failed to learn from it. And Richard Ackland writes in praise of Icac and why Australia needs a real federal anti-corruption body. Hearings continue at Icac today with Maguire set to be questioned.
The Coalition has been blasted over a scheme for older job seekers, with the Restart wage subsidy dubbed ‘an utter failure’ by the Labor party. The federal government has spent less than half what it planned to help older Australians into work and more than 40% of those receiving wage subsidies were out of a job within three months. Only $254m has been spent to help 51,190 mature-age people into work, despite the Coalition promising in 2014 to spend $520m to help up to 32,000 older Australians find a job every year. The news comes as an Anglicare reports says job-hunting conditions for older people and long-term unemployed have worsened since the start of the Covid recession, with eight disadvantaged job seekers for every entry-level position across Australia,
The high number of fatal shark attacks in Australian waters this year has prompted concerns their hunting grounds are changing due to La Niña conditions. Experts say great white sharks, which have killed several of this year’s shark victims, “tend to follow migrations of prey”, such as salmon, which can be influenced by a La Niña event.
The major investors and super funds will lead a push for Australian business to cut emission more than government forecasts. The new “climate league” is calling on insurers, banks and companies to sign up to a goal of reducing national emissions by about 45% by 2030.
A new agency to monitor threatened species in Australia is needed to help halt biodiversity loss, according to scientists. Experts say an agency similar to the Bureau of Meteorology (Bom) could address gaps in data and monitoring of Australia’s threatened species, with current information systems “broken”.
A construction worker has died and two others are in hospital after a roof collapse on a building being constructed at Curtin University in Perth.
Amy Coney Barrett has dodged questions about abortion, health and election law on the second day of hearings before the Senate judiciary committee. Democrats pressed the supreme court nominee with little success on several key issues, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and whether she would vote to overturn a landmark ruling that made abortion legal. Barrett argued that she was not a pundit, citing remarks by Justice Elena Kagan and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg in saying that outside of reviewing a specific case, it was not her place to offer a position. “I am not hostile to the ACA,” Barrett said. “I apply the law, I follow the law. You make the policy.”
Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers have attempted to keep details of a deposition secret, saying unsealing the information about her relationship with Jeffrey Epstein will undermine her right to a fair trial.
Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has mocked Boris Johnson for issuing a “third unilateral deadline” during a meeting with EU ministers, warning that the Brexit talks remain difficult with little prospect yet of the two sides entering a decisive “tunnel” negotiation.
The International Monetary Fund says a combination of carbon pricing and an “initial green stimulus” would turbocharge economic recovery from the coronavirus, and help put the global economy on a sustainable growth path post-pandemic.
The beauty influencer Lauren Curtis sees more potions and gadgets in a week than many people come across their whole lives. And while her podcast, Mental Makeover, is focused on what goes on in your head, rather than your face, she still knows a good product when she sees it. When asked to share her three most useful items, she tossed up plenty of ideas, but shared the ones she really uses.
Doctors appointments have turned digital as the pandemic has swept through 2020, and while there is a poverty of body language in telehealth appointments, there is tenderness too, writes Ranjana Srivastava. “Recognising the need for human connection not captured by a landline, sons and daughters have driven across town with a laptop or smartphone to connect their parents for a “proper” appointment. I realised this only when several patients became very upset when I was “running early”. I was humbled to discover that their children had taken a day off work and never again regarded the telehealth appointment as a lesser visit.”
In today’s Full Story, the Guardian US investigative journalist Stephanie Kirchgaessner talks to Anushka Asthana about US supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s career and personal life – including membership of a secretive Catholic “covenant community” called People of Praise and her views on abortion and the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era law that extended health insurance to millions of Americans.
Football legend Cristiano Ronaldo has tested positive for Covid. The 35-year-old is said to be “doing well, without symptoms, and in isolation”, with no further positive tests reported in the squad before Portugal’s Nations League match against Sweden on Wednesday.
Surf star Adrian Buchan’s has called Australia’s fossil fuel record a “joke”, sharing his thoughts on the climate crisis, Indigenous culture, silver linings in the Covid crisis and the joy of beating Kelly Slater.
More than a million Australians have sought mental health treatment during the pandemic, with a 67% rise in access to some crisis services in Victoria in the last month, according to the Australian. WA Today reports that the AFL will sever ties with Rio Tinto, a sponsor of the league’s Indigenous pathway programs, over the mining giant’s destruction of a 46,000-year-old Indigenous sacred site in the Pilbara. And the ABC reports that researchers are considering using “human challenge studies” to speed up Covid vaccine research and development.
Crown Resorts deputy chair John Horvath to reappear in the witness box as the NSW casino inquiry hearing continues to examine the suitability of Crown Resorts to operate a casino in Sydney.