Who Corrects Corrective Services?

Staff at the Alexander Maconochie Correctional Centre have breached the Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Act, after forcibly strip searching a First Nations woman and sexual assault survivor. The woman has multiple lung and heart problems, the latter requires a pacemaker.

A review found that there was no legal basis for the ACT’s mandatory search policies.

DjabWurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara Senator for Victoria Lidia Thorpe, the Greens spokesperson for Justice and First Nations said:

“This is outrageous! The Inspector of Correctional Services’ report stated that corrections staff were not required to consider human rights when conducting a forced strip search. Is this how we treat Black women?

“Our nation signed on to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) which requires a culturally safe, properly resourced, effective and independent oversight mechanism of places of detention.

“It’s critical that the Commonwealth Government shows leadership and provides the necessary resources to implement OPCAT. This is far too important to be patchy and inconsistent across state lines. We need federal leadership to ensure the dignity of everyone in this country is respected.

“First Nations people should be able to feel safe around people working for the government, instead of worrying if they’ll be another statistic in this country’s violent past. Everyone, no matter where they are, has the right to be treated fairly and free from torture.

“We’re talking about a woman who had just been denied release to go to her grandmother’s funeral and threatened to self harm. Before she could enter the Crisis Support Unit, policy required a mandatory strip search. How can they justify forcing a strip search on someone experiencing a mental health crisis?

“Up to 12 staff held her down. Footage shows the woman yelling that she couldn’t breathe, while staff said that this was ‘for her own safety.’ This is a gross miscarriage of justice. She could have died.

“This is a matter of life and death and we can’t rely on Corrective Services to correct themselves. First Nations people are dying in police custody and being traumatised by prison policies that ignore our human rights.

“The Greens are committing to keeping this Government accountable in relation to OPCAT – so that our people are culturally safe, consulted and empowered, every step of the way. Without independent monitoring of places of detention, more of our people will die in custody.”

Polling puts animal welfare on the agenda for federal election

Opinion polling of 1,052 Australians commissioned by the Greens and conducted by Lonergan Research has found Australians are overwhelmingly concerned about animal welfare and supportive of key animal welfare policies ahead of the next federal election. Crucially, strong animal welfare policies can impact voting intention.

Quick statistics:

  • 4 in 5 of respondents (80%) are concerned about animal welfare, with 42% being at least ‘very concerned’.
  • 46% of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate with strong animal welfare policies.
  • 59% of respondents support a ban on live animal export.
  • 54% of respondents support a ban on greyhound racing.
  • 55% of respondents agree that racing animals like horses and greyhounds for gambling and entertainment is cruel.
  • 68% of respondents agree we need stronger animal welfare standards for farm animals.

Key findings and background:

The nationally representative poll found that 80% of Australians are concerned about animal welfare, with 42% being ‘very concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’. 46% of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate with strong animal welfare policies.

Support for a ban on live animal export remains strong, with 59% of respondents supporting a ban, including a majority of Greens, Labor, and Liberal/National voters. In the most recent comparable survey, conducted in 2019 through ABC Vote Compass, support for a ban stood at 58%.

For the first time, national support has been tested for a ban on greyhound racing. A clear majority (54%) of Australians agree that greyhound racing should be banned, with 28% strongly agreeing and 43% more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to ban greyhound racing.

Further, a clear majority (55%) agree with the statement that “racing animals like horses and greyhounds for gambling and entertainment is cruel”, and 51% are more likely to vote for a candidate who advocates for stronger animal welfare standards for racehorses.

More than two-thirds (68%) of Australians agree we need stronger animal welfare standards for farm animals, with a majority (53%) more likely to vote for a candidate who advocates for this.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Greens spokesperson for Animal Welfare said:

“So many Australians are passionate about animal welfare, and want to see the government do more to improve it.

“Both Labor and the Coalition are lagging behind the majority of voters, who want to see live export banned, greyhound racing shut down, and much stronger animal welfare standards for farm animals. Instead, the major parties continue to prop up and actively support cruel industries.

“There’s this assumption that voters don’t usually consider animal welfare when they vote. Well, they do, and they want to elect candidates who care for animals and will act to protect them.

“The turbulence of the pandemic has not diminished Australians’ love for animals. In fact, it possibly has strengthened it, with so many companion animals across the country keeping people company during very difficult and lonely times.

“The time of exploiting animals for profit is coming to an end. More and more people want to see an end to animal cruelty and for animals to be treated with compassion and care.

“I’ve always known that our communities care deeply about animals. Now, we have even more evidence.”

Methodology Statement:

The research was commissioned by The Office of Senator Mehreen Faruqi (Australian Greens) and conducted by Lonergan Research in accordance with the ISO 20252 standard, and in compliance with the Australian Polling Council Quality Mark standards (www.australianpollingcouncil.com). Lonergan Research surveyed 1,052 Australians 18+ between June 25 and June 29. After interviewing, data was weighted to the latest population estimates sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and from the AEC. Our long methodology statement and questionnaire can be found at http://projects.lonergan.team/2427-2/

Wrong way, go back on nuclear subs

The Greens have slammed the Morrison Government for upping its assault on lutruwita/Tasmania’s oceans and waterways.

Greens Senator for lutruwita/Tasmania, and Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans, Peter Whish-Wilson said:

“Make no mistake today’s announcement is the unofficial start of Scott Morrison’s election campaign.

“This is clearly sabre-rattling, preparing Australia for a khaki election and designed to be a distraction from the fact this Government is plagued with scandal and corruption.

“Short on detail but deeply concerning in its intent; building nuclear submarines in a new alliance with the US is a major provocation that ups the ante in a regional arms race and makes all Australians less safe. This in particularly risks the health of our oceans and coastal communities.

“lutruwita/Tasmania’s oceans have been under constant attack from this Government.

“The last thing we want is dangerous nuclear reactors lurking off our coastlines.

“This is the contempt the Liberals hold for Tasmanian communities: they want to blast our oceans with seismic testing, expand oil and gas drilling in Bass Strait, pollute our waterways with fish farm expansion, and now they want to expose our oceans to floating nuclear reactors.

“The potential for accidents is significant, as has been shown recently with hundreds of safety issues reported in Scotland, and the European Union found that further research was needed on the impact of radiation on oceanic ecosystems resulting from nuclear submarines.

“A nuclear submarine accident off any coastline could spell disaster for the thousands of Tasmanians and Australians whose livelihoods depend on our fisheries and healthy oceans.

“The Greens are a party of peace and non-violence and have a long history of opposing nuclear submarines and nuclear energy projects. We simply won’t let this stand.”

Incredulous, infuriating: the Tasmanian devil recovery plan set to be axed by Morrison Government

The Greens have condemned the Morrison Government for proposing changes to conservation planning decisions that would see the Tasmanian devil recovery plan scrapped.

Greens Senator for lutruwita/Tasmania Peter Whish-Wilson said:

“Tasmanian devils are endangered and their recovery from the infectious cancer that decimated their population is far from over.

“Australia’s in an extinction crisis and recovery plans are one of the key instruments that we have to help threatened species recover.

“The proposal to scrap the Tasmanian devil’s recovery plan is frighteningly short-sighted, but what we have come to expect from this government.

“This is a case in point example of the federal government’s attempts to offload their environmental responsibilities to the states.

“Abandoning the Tasmanian devil now, after so much time and money and love has been poured into keeping the treasured species alive and healthy, is a cruel death sentence.

“Aside from the facial tumour disease the Tasmanian devil still faces significant threats from land clearing, mining, forestry and from becoming roadkill.

“Federal funding has been critical to the Tasmanian devil’s survival, but this ended in 2017. I recently wrote to Environment Minister Sussan Ley urging her to provide more federal assistance to help the devil recover – but this has clearly been disregarded.

“The public now has a limited time to oppose this reckless proposal, and I urge them to jump through the unnecessary hoops the Government has put in place to have their voice heard.

“The Greens will continue to fight for stronger federal environmental laws including a zero-extinction target, stronger environmental protections and an independent watchdog to hold governments, miners and developers to account.”

Environment Minister puts up white flag on saving our wildlife and native plants

Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young responded to the Minister for Environment’s proposal, released for public comment today, to not have recovery plans for 28 ecological communities and 157 threatened species:

“By seeking to rewrite the government’s obligations, the Minister is putting up the white flag on saving our wildlife and native plants.

“Downgrading the level of obligation the on the Minister is downgrading the protection of our native animals and species.

“Let’s call a spade, a spade, this is all about letting the Minister off the hook – the Morrison Government has dropped the ball on protecting our environment and wildlife and now they want to change the rules and responsibilities.

“Pressure is building on Australia to sign up to global targets to stop extinction. This move takes Australia in the opposite direction. We need more effort and stronger laws for species protection, not less.”

Senator Hanson-Young questioned the Minister, Department, Threatened Species Commissioner and Threatened Species Scientific Committee about this proposal in Senate Estimates in May. At that time, she was advised 167 recovery plans were outstanding and that 150 species would instead just be required to have Conservation Advices which each of them already have. See here from page 54.

Medicare bulk billing rates at all time high

More Australians than ever are receiving their medical care at no cost to themselves, with the latest Medicare data showing that almost nine out of 10 visits to the GP in 2020-21 were bulk billed, with no out-of-pocket cost to the patients.

In the last 12 months to June 2021, the GP bulk billing rate was at an all-time high of 88.8 per cent. This is 1.2 percentage points higher than the previous year and 6.5 percentage points higher than in 2012-13.

Across all Medicare services, the bulk billing rate reached 81 per cent, an increase of 4.5 percentage points since 2012-13.

A total of 377.2 million medical services were bulk billed to Medicare in 2020-21, 34.1 million more than in the previous year.

The Australian Government’s rapid and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic is reflected in today’s record-breaking figures.

Telehealth changes to Medicare introduced for the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to high bulk billing, while also reducing the risk of spreading the disease in the community.

GPs provided 38 million consultations via phone and 769,543 via video over the last 12 months and Medicare benefits were also paid for 5 million phone consultations and 2.3 million video consultations provided by specialists and allied health professionals.

The temporary telehealth items represented 22.6 per cent of GP consultations and 9.9 per cent of all Medicare services in 2020-21.

As part of the 2021-22 Budget, the Government committed more than $65 million from 1 January 2022 to boost bulk billing rebates and provide more affordable healthcare for patients in regional, rural and remote areas.

Our Government’s commitment to Medicare and bulk billing remains rock solid. These figures show that we are supporting the health and wellbeing of Australians more than ever before.

First million doses of Moderna arrive from Europe

The first consignment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses has arrived in Australia and will be administered by community pharmacies around the country from the end of next week.

Almost 350,000 doses arrived last night as part of Australia’s original contracted supply, with a further 700,000 from the additional million doses secured from European Union member states due to arrive tomorrow.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, welcomed the arrival of the doses and said they were the first of two million to be supplied by Moderna in September from their Belgium plant.

“We expect that these doses will be distributed to more than 1,800 community pharmacies across the country and put in into the arms of Australians in the next week,” Minister Hunt said.

“A further 1,800 community pharmacies across the country will start to receive doses the week commencing 27 September.

“To date, we have administered over 24 million COVID-19 vaccines across Australia, with more than 70 per cent of Australians having received a first dose and 45 per cent having received a second dose. These are important achievements as we move closer, every day, to the vaccination rates required for us to safely reopen our country.

“The additional Moderna vaccines will provide more opportunities for Australians to get vaccinated, including those aged 12-15 who recently joined the rollout, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t received a COVID-19 vaccine yet to book one today.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended the use of the Moderna vaccine for Australians aged 12 and over.

Nationwide, more than 3,640 pharmacies have already put their hands up to administer the Moderna vaccine.

Australia has an advance purchase agreement with Moderna to secure 25 million doses of the vaccine – 10 million this year and 15 million in 2022. The Moderna vaccine doses will go through the standard TGA batch-testing process as all other COVID-19 vaccines.

To book a COVID-19 vaccination today, visit https://www.australia.gov.au/

National Cabinet Statement

National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, recent outbreaks of COVID-19 and the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy.

National Cabinet continues to work together to address issues and find solutions for the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 82,202 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 1,138 people have died. More than 35.2 million tests have been undertaken. Testing has increased nationally over recent days with 1,574,446 tests reported in the past 7 days.

Globally there have been over 226.9 million cases and sadly over 4.6 million deaths, with 674,536 new cases and 11,033 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in many countries around the world.

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out continues to expand. To date over 24 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including 302,141 in the previous 24 hours.

In the previous 7 days, more than 1.9 million vaccines have been administered in Australia. More than 70.4 per cent of the Australian population aged 16 years and over have now had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including over 85.3 per cent of over 50 year olds and more than 91.9 per cent of over 70 year olds.

More than 45.3 per cent of Australians aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated including more than 64.5 per cent of over 50 year olds and more than 73.2 per cent of Australians over 70 years of age.

Today, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly provided an update on current outbreaks of COVID-19. The Chief Medical Officer noted the outbreaks in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.

All leaders reiterated the importance of Australians, especially those in vulnerable groups, to get two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Professor Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health, provided an update on the work being done by the Commonwealth and all states and territories looking at health system capacity for managing COVID-19 cases during Phases B and C of the National Plan, and the Chief Medical Officer provided an update on the Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine (TTIQ) work underway through AHPPC. Leaders discussed in detail the health system capacity within jurisdictions, with further analysis to come back to the next meeting of National Cabinet. NSW and Victoria provided an update on the detailed planning already underway in their jurisdictions.

National Cabinet received a briefing from Lieutenant General John Frewen, DSC, AM, Coordinator General of the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce (Operation COVID Shield). National Cabinet welcomed the roll out through pharmacies of the Moderna vaccine from next week. Further work is underway to support booster shot roll out, subject to approvals.

State and territory leaders received an update on work underway in some jurisdictions to progress home quarantine trials for fully vaccinated Australians. All jurisdictions agreed to integrate an individuals’ record of COVID-19 immunisation history into state and territory check-in apps. The record of COVID-19 immunisation history will be used within these check-in apps as per requirements under state and territory public health orders.

All leaders agreed that National Cabinet has strengthened relationships between governments by facilitating regular discussions in the national interest, founded on the same principles of trust, confidence and collaboration which underpin State, Territory and Commonwealth Cabinets. Today National Cabinet members have provided a joint statement reaffirming this, which is attached.

National Cabinet agreed to meet next on Friday, 1 October 2021.

COVID-19 Risk Analysis and Response – Taskforce

National Cabinet received an update from Professor Jodie McVernon of the Doherty Institute and Mr Phil Gaetjens, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, on the Doherty modelling of additional scenario and workstreams, and the Taskforce report on reopening.

Doherty’s sensitivity analysis found that the Delta variant can be managed at vaccination rates of 70% and 80% when combined with appropriate test, trace, isolate and quarantine (TTIQ) practices and public health and social measures (PHSMs) to control transmission and to manage capacity of the health system.

Doherty’s sensitivity analysis showed that, even if an outbreak starts with hundreds or thousands of cases, its original conclusions for transitioning to Phases B and C of the National Plan at 70% and 80% vaccination rates respectively remain robust.

The sensitivity analysis confirms that, when daily case numbers are in the tens or hundreds, movement to Phase B can be achieved with vaccination rates of 70% when combined with low-level PHSMs and partial TTIQ or alternatively baseline PHSMs and optimal TTIQ.

When daily case numbers are in the thousands, applying medium PHSMs in the locations of concern would be prudent and improve outcomes as Australia moves to Phase B at 70% vaccination rates, before shifting to low PHSMs from 80%. Given the pace of the vaccination roll out, the transition from 70% to 80% by jurisdiction is modelled to take around two weeks.

Doherty is now undertaking further work that focuses on synergies between vaccination, TTIQ and PHSMs at a small area level and for high-risk groups and settings, including Indigenous Australians and schools.

Professor McVernon noted the impact of COVID-19 on children is already incorporated in the Doherty’s previous modelling and the setting of targets. The best way to protect children is for the adult population, including their parents, to get vaccinated, as they are more likely to transmit COVID-19, and children experience less severe health outcomes from COVID-19.

The Doherty modelling confirms that with high vaccination and appropriate TTIQ and PHSMs to constrain outbreaks, overall cases and deaths are expected to be similar in order of magnitude to annual influenza.

The updated Doherty scenario and Taskforce summary is available on www.pmc.gov.au.

National Code on Boarding School Students

With school holidays starting in some states today, National Cabinet endorsed the National Code on Boarding School Students, previously considered by the AHPPC. The Code provides nationally consistent arrangements that help boarding school students, parents, carers and boarding school staff travel across borders between school and home, while also allowing states to take a risk-based approach to health and safety.

Porter’s got to go

The Greens say the Prime Minister should dump Christian Porter from his Ministry, and that the so-called “investigation” into whether the secret donation is a breach of Ministerial Standards is yet another delaying tactic from a government allergic to transparency and accountability.

Greens deputy leader and spokesperson on democracy Senator Larissa Waters said:

“It’s patently obvious that Christian Porter has breached the PM’s own Ministerial Standards, and punting it to Gaetjens is clearly a delaying tactic, given his form.

“The Prime Minister’s Ministerial Standards prevent a Minister from seeking or encouraging gifts in their personal capacity and note the need for declaration and transparency. It is not acceptable for a Cabinet Minister to accept money without having to declare how much it was and who it was from.

“The PM should stop protecting his mates and simply dump Porter from the Ministry. If he doesn’t do that, Greens leader Adam Bandt will move a motion of no confidence in Minister Porter when parliament resumes, and I will do the same in the form of a censure motion in the Senate.

“We also need to know who set up this blind trust, who contributed to it and how much was given. That’s why the Greens will use all parliamentary levers available to try to bring the transparency and integrity that is lacking in this faux disclosure.

“Yesterday I wrote to the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, seeking an investigation into whether the failure to disclose the source of the funds is in breach of the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018. If it is not a formal breach, but there is any concern of possible influence, I have asked the Secretary to refer the matter to the Standing Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests.

“I have also asked the Chair of the Standing Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests whether that Committee can compel Minister Porter to disclose the identity and amounts of donors. If the answer is as I fear – that the rules don’t require that – Adam Bandt and I will move for changes to the Register of Interests rules in both chambers to ensure that ‘blind trusts’ cannot be used to obscure the identity of donors.

“This government has no regard for parliamentary standards and no care for the damage it’s doing to public confidence in our democracy.

“The hypocrisy is shocking, when Liberal backbenchers have been on the attack against charities, NGOs and Voices for Independents campaigns claiming public interest in greater transparency.

“This whole sorry saga is yet more proof that we need a federal corruption watchdog and much stronger donations caps and disclosure limits.”

$10 million to enhance digital frontline health care

The Morrison Government is investing $10 million in research projects using the latest digital and mobile technology to improve primary health care delivery.

Australian researchers can now apply for grants to undertake this critical research through the landmark Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

Two areas of primary health care research will be funded – one to test and implement new applications of existing wearable electronic devices, and the other to examine new ways to deliver point-of-care testing, particularly for those in rural and remote areas.

Whilst most patients in Australia can access pathology testing services, point-of-care testing has the potential to significantly enhance access to diagnostic technologies and clinical management models, including patient engagement, compliance, safety, and satisfaction.

By further understanding wearables, it’s hoped that digital health will allow individuals to better manage their own health and lifestyle as part of a coordinated care with their GP, requiring fewer visits to their GP.

Research is the key to better health care and treatments – and the Australian Government is investing record amounts in Australian health and medical research.

Our Government is committed to using digital information, as well as new health technologies and tools, to remotely deliver quality, convenient health care to Australians, regardless of location.

The grant opportunity will be managed through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). It is funded over two years from 2021–22 to 2022–23.

The grant opportunity is under the MRFF Primary Health Care Research Initiative. This Initiative provides $45 million over nine years to enable or support an increase in Australia’s evidence base in primary health care through research to improve service delivery and patient outcomes and translate this knowledge into action.

The Government’s $20 billion MRFF is a long-term, sustainable investment in Australian health and medical research helping to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to the sustainability of the health system.