12 cases, two deaths; Detention plan set for defeat

 

Victoria has recorded 12 new cases of coronavirus overnight, along with two deaths.

Metropolitan Melbourne's 14-day rolling average has been driven down to 26.7.

It's a further drop from Wednesday's average of 29.4.

The tally, now firmly below 30, has exceeded the state's 30 to 50 case range required to move to the second step on the government's COVID-19 road map recovery plan from September 28.

That step will allow childcare to reopen, schools to begin a staged return to classrooms and outdoor gatherings of up to five people from two households.

The low figure also points towards a possible easing of lockdown restrictions before the scheduled date in late October.

Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to provide an update later on Thursday morning.

It comes as Victoria's upper house looks set to block a controversial bill that would grant extraordinary powers to detain potential COVID-19 spreaders.

A survey of Victorian crossbenchers revealed not one supports the bill in its current form.

Chief among their concerns are the unprecedented powers the bill would give to police ­officers, PSOs and other authorised officers to detain people they deem a COVID risk.

Protesters take to Queen Victoria Market to rally against lockdown restrictions earlier this month Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Protesters take to Queen Victoria Market to rally against lockdown restrictions earlier this month Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said he would not support the "offensive" bill, so the government needs to secure the votes of at least four crossbenchers.

"The government could appoint literally anyone off the street, give them powers to enter your house, to search your house, to detain you, not because you've committed a crime but because they think you might," Mr O'Brien said.

"That is the sort of thing you see in a communist state."

 

The government was on Wednesday negotiating with key crossbenchers, with Premier Daniel Andrews confident the bill would be passed.

Prominent Victorian lawyers have rallied against the bill, lobbying MPs to block it in the upper house.

Key crossbenchers including Reason Party leader Fiona Patten have indicated they will push for amendments.

Herald Sun front page, Thursday. Download the digital print edition (subscribers only)
Herald Sun front page, Thursday. Download the digital print edition (subscribers only)

Half of the 12 crossbench MPs indicated to the Herald Sun they would oppose the bill in its current form. The others were undecided.

"I'm not a civil libertarian but I understand it gets to a point where we start to head down a road where we don't want to go," Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Jeff Bourman said.

A Liberal Democrats spokesman said the position of members Tim Quilty and David Limbrick was clear: "No, no way, you've got to be kidding, nope."

Former Labor MP Adem Somyurek said he was exploring his options.

As well as the controversial detention measures, the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020 extends a range of temporary changes made by the previous omnibus bill, introduced in April.

However those measures, many of which allow the ongoing operation of essential public services during the­ ­pandemic, could expire if the bill is not passed.

They include the use of audiovisual technologies for the running of the courts and local government as well as support payments for people with long-term workplace injuries.

"There are some things there that couldn't be allowed to run out or there would be significant consequences," Mr Andrews said.

"I would hope that through good-faith discussions, a majority of legislative councillors would come to the same view."

Mr O'Brien said he would support the immediate extension of the emergency provisions if they were split from the controversial measures.

But Mr Andrews said he was confident that wouldn't be necessary.

"I think it's perfectly possible for the Legislative Council to work through a bill line by line," he said.

"I don't predict outcomes in the upper house but I can predict that our negotiation and our conversations will be in good faith."

Last month the government had to back down from plans to extend the state of emergency provisions for a year to secure upper house support.

DAN'S COVID DETENTION LAW EXPLAINED

 

Melburnians get out for their daily exercise during stage four lockdown. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling
Melburnians get out for their daily exercise during stage four lockdown. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling

 

 

HEALTH UNION CALLS ON PREMIER TO SACK HEALTH MINISTER

A leading health union is calling on Daniel Andrews to sack his "clueless" Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, accusing her of "breathtaking incompetence".

Ahead of the embattled health minister's appearance at the hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday, Health Workers Union boss Diana Asmar has begged the Premier to demand Ms Mikakos's resignation.

"For the good of your government, for the good of health workers I represent, and for the good of all Victorians, Ms Mikakos must go," she wrote in a letter to Mr Andrews on Wednesday.

She said that in all the union's dealings with the health minister, "not once has she displayed even a basic understanding of her portfolio."

Read the full story here.

 

 

MINISTERS DENY KNOWLEDGE OF SECURITY GUARD DECISION

 

Two government ministers have become the highest-ranking witnesses to tell the hotel quarantine inquiry they don't know who decided to hire private security to guard quarantine hotels.

Police Minister Lisa Neville and Jobs Minister Martin Pakula - key members of the crisis council of cabinet - said on Wednesday they hadn't made the decision and did not know who did.

Their failure to identify the decision maker ramps up pressure on Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Premier Daniel Andrews - the last two witnesses to front the inquiry before hearings wind up on Friday.

Read the full story here.

 

 

Lisa Neville gives evidence at the hotel quarantine inquiry on Wednesday.
Lisa Neville gives evidence at the hotel quarantine inquiry on Wednesday.

 

Martin Pakula also fronted the inquiry.
Martin Pakula also fronted the inquiry.

 

ANALYSIS: CONGA LINE OF DENIERS TURNS HOTEL INQUIRY INTO FARCE

 

The hotel quarantine inquiry has been running since July 20, and has spent 21 days taking evidence from people directly involved in designing and running the program.

In all that time, not one person has admitted making the decision to shun the Australian Defence Force and instead use private security firms. A conga line of government types, from state controllers to deputy secretaries, departmental secretaries, commissioners and ministers, have insisted not only did they have nothing to do with the decision, they didn't even express a view on it.

Taxpayer-funded lawyers have quibbled over the use of words such as preference, direction, formal and informal, to ensure the finger of blame does not end up pointing at any particular government department or individual.

Read the full analysis here.

 

PANDEMIC COULD CHANGE VICTORIANS' PRESCRIPTIONS

All Victorians will soon have access to electronic prescriptions under a fast-tracking of new technology to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

After the successful introduction of electronic prescriptions across Melbourne since August, the Australian Digital Health Agency will roll out the program across the rest of the state in coming weeks. To boost the effectiveness of telehealth consultations, patients can choose to receive an electronic prescription via email or text message rather than paper from their doctor.

The text or email contains a token pharmacists can use to unlock the prescription from a secure, encrypted electronic delivery service.

Although the technology had been on the drawing board in recent years, Australian Digital Health Agency interim CEO Bettina McMahon said it was fast tracked in March after technology and health groups witnessed the impact of COVID-19.

Since then more than 34,000 electronic prescriptions have been received by Melbourne patients.

"From the first electronic prescription in May, we tested the system in over 20 locations across Australia which gave us confidence that we were ready to do this in August across the whole of Melbourne," Ms McMahon said.

Maffra pharmacist Vin Naidu, who has been trialling the electronic prescriptions at his Live Life Well pharmacy, said younger patients had embraced the technology.

 

MENTAL HEALTH CASH INJECTION AMID LOCKDOWN WOES

A $21.3 million package to help providers of mental health, alcohol and drug services reopen in a safe way has been announced amid increased levels of anxiety and depression among Victorians.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the funding would help keep workers in a single setting where they need to have face-to-face services, while continuing telehealth services wherever possible.

"That involves extra funding for those services to pay workers more on their hourly and sessional rates to keep people at a single service, and to minimise the transfer of employees around different service providers," he said.

 

"It also extends the opening hours of services so as to make sure that the demand of people who need those face-to-face services can be spread out over a longer period of time and minimise the chances of numbers of people congregating for those services."

The funding will also deliver a series of minor works programs, including bed-based services, community alcohol and other support services, day programs, family and specialist care programs, Aboriginal community controlled organisations and complement the increasing use of digital health services.

Mr Foley said there had been increased levels of anxiety and depression among Victorians.

 

 

MORE NEWS

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PREMIER HINTS AT EASING OF RESTRICTIONS

 

Originally published as Dan's controversial detention plan set for defeat


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