Victoria stage 4 lockdown looms, cases pass 650


More than 650 cases of COVID-19 will be announced today in Victoria, along with a record number of deaths, according to media reports. 

The state is set to move to Stage 4 coronavirus restrictions within days and stricter measures could reportedly come into force in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to address the numbers and announce any lockdown changes on Sunday afternoon.

According to The Herald Sun, only supermarkets, pharmacies and service stations will be allowed to keep trading in Melbourne, with a possible exception carved out for hardware stores, which could stay open for tradies only. Cafes and restaurants will be able to provide takeaway services.

There will be a huge increase in police patrols, and the cops are expected to use licence plate recognition technology to crack down on non-essential travel.

The Age reports there will be a “near total shutdown” of Melbourne’s public transport network.

ABC Insiders host David Speers on Sunday morning said he understood further restrictions would affect call centres, retail and abattoirs.

“Restaurants and cafes will still be allowed to offer takeaway with strict contactless service provisions. Trams and trains will still run, but Uber and taxi services will be restricted. And the tougher restrictions will apply beyond metropolitan Melbourne,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Queensland recorded one new case of COVID-19 on Sunday after a man who returned from overseas but was granted an exemption to fly domestically from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast tested positive. There were 12 new cases in NSW where Premier Gladys Berejiklian said masks will be encouraged in certain circumstances from Monday. 

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Follow our live coverage of COVID-19 in Australia below.

Live Updates


Sarah McPhee

Mr Andrews will be declaring a state of disaster across Victoria from 6pm tonight, in addition to the state of emergency.


Sarah McPhee

Mr Andrews said he wanted to highlight the number of mystery cases.

“That is, in many respects, the most important number,” he said.

“As of today – and this number will only grow because there are 598 cases that are being investigated by our public health team – but as of today, from work that’s been undertaken in recent days, we have 760, 760 mystery cases.

“They are active cases where we can’t trace back the source of that person’s infection. Either who they got it from or where or how.

“Those mysteries, that community transmission is in many respects our biggest challenge and the reason why we need to move to a different set of rules.”


Sarah McPhee

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says he has some “significant announcements about new measures, new rules for both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria”.

He has confirmed 671 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths.

The victims are three women in their 70s, two women in their 80s, one man in his 90s and one woman in her 90s.

He said six of the seven cases are connected to aged care.


Sarah McPhee

One new case of COVID-19 has been recorded in Western Australia.

“The Department of Health has reported one new case of COVID-19 in Western Australia overnight, a man in his 30s who returned from overseas. He is in hotel quarantine,” WA Health said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

“This brings the total case count to 641.”

The department said the total is reduced from Saturday’s figure of 668 “because historical cases diagnosed through a blood test and indicative of infection in the past are no longer being reported in the daily report or in overall figures”.

“This change has been made to bring WA’s reporting closer into line with other Australian jurisdictions,” it said.


Sarah McPhee

There have been two new cases of COVID-19 recorded in South Australia.

One is a teenage girl who flew from Melbourne on a Jetstar flight, SA chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said on Sunday.

Seven close contacts have been ordered to quarantine.

The second case is a woman in her 20s considered a close contact of a known case.

A woman with COVID-19 has attended a school in SA however it is not yet clear which school.

The Advertiser reports there will be a pop-up clinic to test people at the school on Monday. The name is being withheld by SA Health until the school community has been informed.


Sarah McPhee

The wait is almost over. We are expecting Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to hold a press conference at 2.30pm today.

We’ll have rolling coverage on this blog.


Sarah McPhee

A man in Adelaide has been fined $6360 after going to the gym instead of staying in quarantine for 14 days.

South Australia Police described the penalty on Sunday as “whopping”.

“On 20 July, a 25-year-old man from Woodside, returned to Adelaide after holidaying in New South Wales, via Adelaide Airport and was directed to self-quarantine for 14 days,” SA Police said in a statement.

“An investigation ensued after police received information that the man was breaching those directions.

“The man allegedly admitted to breaching the directions by attending a gym and he was issued six fines totalling $6360.”


Sarah McPhee

Large crowds of shoppers have been photographed outside supermarkets in Melbourne today.

Queues formed outside Costco in Docklands, at Coles in Malvern and other locations across the city.

Victoria is still waiting to hear from Premier Daniel Andrews today to confirm the COVID-19 case numbers, deaths and any new restrictions.

Pictures: Paul Jeffers/The Australian; Darrian Traynor/Getty Images; Twitter/@jordaaaye


Sarah McPhee

Good news – if you have questions about COVID-19 in South Australia, the information line is back up and running.


Sarah McPhee

Two other venues in Sydney have been highlighted by NSW Health as being locations attended by positive COVID-19 cases.

CANTERBURY-HURLSTONE PARK RSL

* Visited Monday, July 27 from 6.3pm to 8pm

“Patrons and staff of the Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL who attended at the same time should monitor for symptoms and if symptoms develop, seek testing and isolate themselves pending the test results,” the health department said on Sunday.

NEETA SHOPPING CENTRE, FAIRFIELD

* Visited a number of times between July 23 and July 30 including the Soul Pattinson Chemist, Woolworths and Fresco Juice Bar

“While the risk to others is thought low, anyone who visited the shopping centre on these days should to monitor for symptoms and if symptoms develop, seek testing and isolate themselves pending the test results,” NSW Health said.





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Melbourne shoppers cram stores as lockdown looms


Shoppers have been filmed lining up at a Melbourne market as the city – and the whole state of Victoria – awaits news on tough new restrictions.

It comes as Premier Daniel Andrews prepares to detail a stage 4 lockdown for the capital and new measures through regional communities, with more than 650 new cases of COVID-19 to be announced.

It’s understood that today will mark a new record number of deaths.

Racing.com editor in chief Paul Tatnell shared incredible vision on Twitter on Sunday of South Melbourne Market.

“Lockdown panic is well and truly alive,” he said. “Shortage of meat and staples already. One shop likened it to the Christmas rush.”

RELATED: Follow our latest coronavirus updates

Supermarkets across the city have seen long queues of people today as news of the imminent lockdown spread.

While details are not yet confirmed, it’s believed that most retail stores and businesses will be forced to close within coming days under the new measures.

Supermarkets, considered essential services, will remain open but under strict social distancing and health rules.

More to come …



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As a second coronavirus lockdown looms for NSW, industry leaders warn of economic crisis


When most Australian cities were placed into lockdown earlier this year, the economic impact was swift, wiping about $1.2 billion in revenue from New South Wales retailers in April alone.

Despite a resurgence of the virus on Sydney’s doorstep, authorities are reluctant to send the nation’s busiest capital city back into hiding, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying it was simply “an option we don’t want to take”.

Industry leaders agree a second lockdown could have a “massive impact” on the nation’s economy with the potential to cause significant economic damage “in one fell swoop”.

During April and May, about 310,800 businesses registered in NSW applied for JobKeeper, making up more than one-third of applications around the country.

That included more than 1.1 million workers in NSW and 3.5 million nationwide now covered by the program.

National Retail Association chief executive Dominque Lamb said another round of lockdowns could add significantly more pressure.

Dominique Lamb says retailers fear the long-terms impacts of the pandemic.(Supplied: NRA)

“The majority of our head offices sit in New South Wales,” she said.

“We know that there are very large numbers of shopping centres and certainly strip malls throughout New South Wales and of course Victoria as well.

“So it has a massive impact on what happens nationally when we look at those two states — it is incredibly important that we try to secure those economies because ultimately it does impact the entire economy within Australia.

“We are dealing with a health crisis but the economic crisis to follow these events is going to have a very long-term effect on all industry.”

Ms Lamb said at this time of year retailers would usually be preparing to bolster their workforce in the lead-up to Christmas.

“Retailers are saying to us that only 1 per cent of them are looking to put people on at this time and there is significant uncertainty for them — certainly around JobKeeper and their business moving forward and, of course, cuts to JobSeeker, and also what the unemployment rates will mean for discretionary spending.”

Venues hope to remain open

In the suburb of Camden, south-west of Sydney, hotel owner Martin Sinclair is hoping a recent outbreak in neighbouring Campbelltown is quickly brought under control.

A man with short grey hair standing in a hotel bar.
Martin Sinclair’s Royal Hotel in Camden, has made changes to keep patrons safe.(ABC News: Josh Bavas)

Like other venues across the region, his staff at the Royal Hotel have been thankful to finally be back in work and are implementing a raft of changes to make their venue safe.

“No one wants to go back into lockdown,” he said.

“I think with better management, it shouldn’t happen.

“The recent adjustments down from [group bookings of] 20 people to 10 mean we’ve had to come down a little bit further which is fine — just remove some further furniture from the venue.

“We’ve certainly lost a lot of bookings from those groups of 20, but at the end of the day we’re still open and we’re trying to do the best we can for the local area and our clients.”

Work hours bouncing back — for now

While some industries might be bouncing back, fortnightly data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and technology company Deputy has found other sectors still struggling to increase working hours for staff.

The joint report looked at rostered hours across 30,000 businesses in New South Wales.

It found rostered hours in hospitality are still down 33 per cent compared with February.

Chief economist at PricewaterhouseCoopers Jeremy Thorpe said another lockdown could impact half of the Australian economy “in one fell swoop”.

A man staring at a camera and smiling.
Economist Jeremy Thorpe says a balanced approach is needed.(Supplied)

“Take hospitality, almost 80 per cent of people who worked irregular hours lost their hours after six weeks,” he said.

“We’ve seen a recovery in that time but still we’re 33 per cent down on the number of hours when compared to February.”

“We’ve already got the Victorians shut down, the real risk is if New South Wales also goes into a significant period [of shutdown] — that’s more than half the Australian economy in one fell swoop,” he said.

“Clearly we’ve got to manage our health crisis first and foremost, but it’s got to have a delicate balancing act from an economic perspective.”

Reduction in rostered hours sector by sector compared with February 14, 2020
April 24, 2020 May 8, 2020 June 5, 2020 June 19, 2020 July 3, 2020
Healthcare -36 per cent -16 per cent -2 per cent -6 per cent 5 per cent
Hospitality -78 per cent -70 per cent -60 per cent -41 per cent -33 per cent
Other services -43 per cent -28 per cent -19 per cent -20 per cent -7 per cent
Retailers -49 per cent -33 per cent -15 per cent -13 per cent -2 per cent

Analysis of rostered hours across 30,000 NSW workplaces. (Data supplied by PricewaterhouseCoopers and technology company Deputy.)

About 95,000 jobs could be at risk

KPMG chief economist Brendan Rynne said about 95,000 jobs in NSW could be directly impacted by a second round of harsh restrictions.

“The best guide to understanding what the cost will be is to really look at what happened during the first lockdown and use that as pretty much a proxy for what we would anticipate to occur,” he said.

“From about the middle of April, employment’s really started to gather some positive momentum upwards.

“Thursday’s ABS [Australian Bureau of Statistics] labour force data showed about 81,000 new jobs were filled in New South Wales in the month alone between May and June.

“Going into a second lockdown is probably going to impact about 95,000 jobs in New South Wales that have come back on [since April], and those 95,000 jobs in fact create about $2.5 billion worth of gross state product each quarter.

“Despite the best intentions of people working from home, there are still many parts of the economy that can’t do that, and so when you actually have to turn the lights off and stop working, economic activity just grinds to a halt.”



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Nightmare scenario looms for higher education with no obvious solution


Closed borders and a pressured quarantine method are indicators of a devastating time forward for universities dependent on overseas students.

(Impression: Unsplash/Eriksson Luo)

Australia faces main losses from its $38 billion export income bigger education and learning sector except if the government and college leaders can take care of a diabolical dilemma created by the Melbourne lockdown and the require to further more curb what is now just a trickle of foreign arrivals at airports throughout the state.

And with all intercontinental flights to Melbourne suspended, options to allow for at least a little range of overseas college students to return to Victoria have been place on hold.

But with significant troubles exposed in the Victorian quarantine procedure for incoming travellers, and other states warning their devices had been struggling, the federal authorities is going to reduce down on inbound intercontinental vacation — which at the second is nearly fully Australians returning from abroad.





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Development battle between Darwin’s Deckchair Cinema and RSL gets political, as NT election looms


A tropical outdoor cinema and a century-old RSL are locked in an increasingly tense and political stalemate over harbourside land, with supporters from both sides unwilling to back down.

More than 10,000 people have joined the Deckchair Cinema’s fight against plans for a new RSL to be built on Darwin’s Esplanade, signing a petition tabled this week in Northern Territory Parliament.

Deckchair Cinema is concerned about noise and light pollution from the proposed neighbouring club.

“Our entire existence is under threat,” said the Darwin Film Society’s deputy chair John Schier.

Film society members said the Darwin RSL’s move was “not negotiable” and they were preparing for a public battle starting with a rally at the club’s proposed site in early July.

The RSL’s president said if hopes for a new headquarters being built next to the town’s Cenotaph were knocked back the club would consider moving out of the NT capital after 102 years.

“Leaving Darwin would be the next option,” said Darwin RSL sub-branch president Stephen Gloster.

A digital rendering of the proposed RSL project.(Supplied)

Artist’s impressions of RSL released

Artist impressions of the “family friendly” multi-million dollar RSL proposal have today been released to the ABC, months after they were first shown in a confidential Darwin Council meeting.

The RSL’s former CBD clubhouse burned down in 2018.

The proposed site for the new clubhouse sits on Darwin Council land currently used as a carpark, less than 100 metres from Deckchair, and Mr Gloster said the RSL’s plans would be ready and formally presented to council “within weeks”.

He said the Cenotaph site was sacred to veterans as it overlooked the battleground of arguably the most important World War II event in Australia’s history — the Bombing of Darwin in 1942.

Party lines drawn on stoush

With an NT election looming on August 22, the battle has also become drawn along party lines.

NT Labor has offered its support to Deckchair, while the Country Liberal Party candidate is backing the new RSL, providing “it fits into a broader plan” for the CBD electorate.

“I see it as a pretty significant site for the RSL, with the Cenotaph turning 100 next year,” said CLP candidate Toby George.

“And the concerns of the Deckchair can be mitigated.”

The Deckchair petition was tabled in parliament by Labor’s Paul Kirby, the Port Darwin MLA, who said he formed his view while doorknocking the surrounding streets.

“We think the RSL has every right to have a footprint and a proposal in the CBD, but certainly not right on top of Deckchair,” Mr Kirby said.

Territory Alliance candidate Gary Strachan said he was against the RSL’s plans but that he would support a new clubhouse being based in a revamped Smith Street Mall location.

“We don’t need drinking and gambling going into a park — it’s a stupid idea,” Mr Strachan said.

According to ABC election analyst Antony Green, Port Darwin is held by Labor with just a 2.8 per cent margin, and has been largely a CLP stronghold since 1977.

A photo of a man at a desk.
Darwin RSL sub-branch president Stephen Gloster says the new RSL will be “family friendly”.(ABC News: Matt Garrick)

Deckchair remains ‘wary of council’

The RSL’s Mr Gloster said council had been “very supportive” of the RSL’s plans in early meetings.

This advocacy by Darwin Council and its Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis prior to the idea going through proper development processes has been questioned by Deckchair supporters.

“We’re very wary of the council,” said Mr Schier.

“We’re concerned about the openness of the council and its decisions.”

Mr Vatskalis, a Darwin RSL member, has recused himself from any votes on the plans due to the conflict.

When asked about its support for the new RSL, a spokeswoman said “council met, in a confidential meeting with the RSL, to discuss their concept for a new RSL building on the council-owned car park site adjacent to the Cenotaph in Bicentennial Park”.

“A formal proposal for the RSL’s concept has not yet been received, and until this happens, council has no further action to take,” the spokeswoman said.

An exact date of the confidential meeting was not revealed.



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Wall Street rewrites market playbooks as second wave looms


MSCI’s broadest measure of international stocks shows member companies trading at more than 19 times next year’s earnings. These kinds of levels haven’t been seen since the dot-com bubble burst in 2002. And what’s worrying is they come as millions of people are cast into unemployment by what the United Nations has called the most challenging crisis since World War II.

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“The fact that the central bank of the world’s reserve currency is buying everything from government bonds to corporate debt is floating all boats,” said Devani. “The tipping point will be when there’s enough clarity on what the long-term impact of the virus is.”

That point hasn’t arrived and some stock investors expect eye-watering valuations for at least the remainder of 2020.

“Money pumped by central banks and governments will keep the PEs higher and we will have to work with that,” said Nader Naeimi, head of dynamic markets at AMP Capital. “PEs correlate with excess liquidity.”

Optimists suggest earnings may rebound to support the valuations but others are unconvinced.

Covenant Capital fund manager Edward Lim has downgraded his view of stocks to neutral and is on guard for more black-swan events.

“Finding tail-risk hedging strategies and uncorrelated returns have become even more urgent for us,” said Singapore-based Lim.

At the moment everybody is getting some sort of uplift. As we move through this phase, there will be a lot more differentiation between the winners and losers.

Pacific Investment Management’s Robert Mead

Nowhere is the Fed’s influence more pervasive than in the world’s biggest debt market. Its pledge to spend at least $US120 billion a month on asset purchases, and a possible return to the 1940s-era policy of yield-curve control, are anchoring interest rates on short-dated Treasuries near record lows.

At the same time, expectations for the economy to normalise has led to bets for 10-to 30-year yields to rise, leading strategists from Bank of America to Morgan Stanley to recommend so-called steepener trades.

Mark Nash, the head of fixed income at Merian Global Investors in London, is taking this as a cue to look at the strategy, which profits as yields for long-end bonds climb faster than those with shorter maturities.

“We’re nervous long bonds at these levels,” said Nash. “When things look better, when the macro data picks up and you can rely on it not being hit by another wave of the virus, then you start to sell Treasury bonds again.”

Playbooks are also getting reinvented in emerging markets – where asset prices are shrugging off a severe contraction in many economies. Again, that’s due to the role central banks are playing.

This trend is well underway in Indonesia where 10-year bonds have erased most of their losses from the coronavirus crisis. In India, the rally is even more pronounced with yields hovering near the lowest in more than a decade as the central bank scoops up bonds in the secondary market.

Both countries are projecting the worst economic growth in years, while also flooding debt markets with issuances to fund stimulus spending.

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“Asia is again becoming a preferred destination amongst EM investors due to better fundamentals compared to other EM regions,” said Edward Ng, a portfolio manager at Nikko Asset Management Asia in Singapore.

Meanwhile, swings in foreign exchange are picking up again – another sign that investors can’t decide between fear over a second wave of infections and optimism that economies are starting to mend.

Nowhere has this been more evident than the Australian dollar, which plunged to an 18-year low in March then rebounded 28 per cent in the space of three months.

This is not the way currencies of developed economies typically move, said Jane Foley, a currency strategist at Rabobank in London.

“By the end of the year there is still significant risk of a nasty turn lower,” said Foley, cautioning that the Australian dollar could retest 60 US cents if investors recalibrate their expectations for global growth.

Volatility will also be prevalent in the US dollar, which is set to rebound from current lows as global growth improves, according to Stephen Jen of Eurizon SLJ Capital in London.

Using the “dollar smile” analysis, Jen expects the currency to “transit from the left side to the right side more swiftly than in any other cycle in modern history.”

That recalibration may be when markets return to a more normal state of affairs, and consensus forms over how to price assets in a world that has lived through the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus.

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That may not come until 2022, going by Fed projections over when it could start raising policy rates again.

“At the moment everybody is getting some sort of uplift,” said Pacific Investment Management’s Robert Mead. “As we move through this phase, there will be a lot more differentiation between the winners and losers.”

Bloomberg

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Fresh storm looms, may boost monsoon march, says Met dept | India News


NEW DELHI: After Amphan and Nisarga, a third storm could be heading for the Indian coast around June 10-11. But unlike the previous two, this one may lack the force of a cyclone, not pack in the brute force of a cyclone, but may develop into a depression, entering Odisha from the Bay of Bengal and giving a major push to monsoon’s advance into central India as well as east and northeastern states.
The storm is likely to begin as a low-pressure system in east-central Bay of Bengal around June 8, the India Meteorological Department (IMD said. Weather models currently show the storm crossing Odisha around June 11, and moving towards Vidarbha and adjoining areas of Madhya Pradesh.
“It could develop into a depression but is unlikely to strengthen into a cyclone. It’s too early to predict the strength and path because the system is yet to form. But current indications are that it will give a major boost to monsoon’s advance through rest of south India, and its movement into central India and the east and northeast,” said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, head of IMD.
This is the time of the advance of monsoon, and a low pressure system coming in from the bay of Bengal is a good signal, he added.
The southwest monsoon, which entered Kerala on its normal date of June 1.
According to some weather models, the system forming in the Bay of Bengal will bring good rains from June 10 onwards in Odisha, and many parts of central, east, northeast and south India, and also bring moisture into north India.
“With the formation of a low-pressure system in Bay of Bengal around June 10 and its movement towards Madhya Pradesh, moisture leaden easterly winds are expected into Delhi-NCR through Uttar Pradesh. In association with this system, thunderstorm with light rain accompanied with gusty winds of the speed of 50-60kmph during the evening of June 11 till June 13, with peak activity on June 12, would occur over Delhi-NCR, UP, Uttarakhand and east Rajasthan. Isolated heavy rain is also expected over UP and Uttarakhand during this period,” said an update from IMD’s regional weather forecasting system in Delhi.



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Leadbeater Decision Looms as Forest Beater


A court decision regarding a small possum might have significant ramifications for Tasmanian forestry.

The judgement in Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum vs VicForests was labelled as “a historic win for Australia’s forests and threatened species” by The Wilderness Society.

Environmental Justice Australia, who represented FLBP in the case, said that “it will have implications for native forest logging and threatened species protection around the country.”

“Not only do VicForests’ forestry operations damage or destroy existing habitat critical to the survival of the two species, they also prevent new areas of forest from developing into such habitat in the future,” said Justice J Mortimer of the Federal Court in her Judgment Summary.

“This is the Franklin Dam of forest legal judgments,” said Amelia Young, National Campaigns Director for the Wilderness Society.

“The case has laid bare the staggering unsustainability of industrial native forest logging and the catastrophic failures of governments in stopping their own agencies from sending our wildlife into the abyss of extinction.”

The case examined whether Victorian state government forestry agency, VicForests, when logging in threatened Leadbeater’s possum and greater glider habitat, should continue to be exempt from the national Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). An earlier judgement in these proceedings had confirmed that where logging was having a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance, such as threatened species, and was not being conducted in line with a Regional Forest Agreement, it was therefore not exempt from national environment law.

Justice Mortimer upheld the central aspect of Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum’s case, finding both that VicForests operations were having a significant impact on the Leadbeater’s possum and greater glider as per s.18 of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act 1999; and that the s.38 exemption is invalid.

“Our message to decision-makers, our message to industry, is to accept the judgement and clean up their operations—whether in the forests, at the sawmill or paper factory, or on the shelves of stationary or hardware stores,” said Young. “And do this today.”

She said that Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum and Environmental Justice Australia, together with citizen scientists and the local community, worked tirelessly to bring this court action.

TWS said the decision raises key questions about logging everywhere in Australia, including Tasmania, where conducted under Regional Forest Agreements. “It confirms that the states have to follow their own laws, or, at a minimum, see their operations called in for assessment under national environment law,” said Young.

“Only 1 percent of unburnt and unlogged Mountain Ash forest now remains, after decades of fire and logging. Endorsed by Sir David Attenborough, the Great Forest National Park would provide real and lasting protection to some of Victoria’s—and the world’s—rarest plant and animal species,” Young concluded. The Great Forest National Park is a proposed park system to protect the critically endangered Mountain Ash ecosystem of the Victorian Central Highlands and home to much of the remaining Leadbeater’s possum habitat.

Greens Leader and Forests spokesperson Cassy O’Connor MP said the Gutwein Government and the state’s forestry GBE are on notice following the landmark Federal Court decision.

“In Tasmania, the tragic story of species’ decline is much the same,” she said. “Independent scientists have confirmed ‘Sustainable’ Timbers Tasmania logging operations are clearfelling and burning endangered swift parrot and wedge-tailed eagle habitat.”

“That’s why STT has repeatedly failed to secure Forest Stewardship Certification. It is driving species to extinction while Resources Minister, Guy Barnett cheers it on from the ministerial benches.”

She said the ‘mendicant’ native forest logging industry is now on notice.

“It has operated for decades secure in the belief it stitched up such a rolling, favourable resource security agreement with state and federal governments, it didn’t have to comply with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.

Now, a huge question mark hangs over the native forest logging industry here.”

She said the spotlight is now on the Gutwein Government and STT and their “oversight of the loss of critical habitat.”

O’Connor believes that any other individual or entity that unleashed such damage on the natural environment would be subject to the EPBC Act.

“The Greens will be working with conservation organisations, environmental lawyers, independent scientists as well as citizen scientists, to expose the native forest logging industry’s role in driving species such as the swift parrot and wedge tailed eagle to extinction against the very principles of the EPBC Act,” she said.

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Decision day looms for United States on Hong Kong


American uncertainty about Hong Kong was etched into its response from the very first day it reverted to Chinese control.

Then-secretary of state Madeleine Albright flew in for the 1997 celebration but made a point of snubbing one event. Voicing a fear that residents’ political freedoms might disappear, she skipped the opening of the new Hong Kong legislature.

That fear of lost autonomy is now materializing and, a quarter-century later, the United States is running into a hard deadline for picking a path on Hong Kong.

The main difference now is that the U.S., no longer the unrivalled superpower it was in 1997, is running low on options for influencing events within China.

As pro-democracy politicians get arrested and Beijing prepares a law expanding its control over the country’s free-market, free-speech enclave, CBC News reached out to a half-dozen North American authorities on China.

Pro-democracy protesters are arrested by police in Hong Kong on May 24. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

‘The beginning of the end of Hong Kong’s uniqueness’

When asked if the U.S. is still capable of affecting Hong Kong’s trajectory, Lynette Ong, an expert on China and authoritarian politics at Toronto’s Munk School, hesitated.

“Maybe. Maybe, possibly,” she said.

“I hate to say this, but I think it’s the beginning of the end of Hong Kong’s uniqueness.” 

The general view of the experts contacted was that Washington still has several tools at its disposal. It can punish rights abusers with sanctions, grant U.S. visas to protesters, and threaten Hong Kong’s crucial trade status.

But they shared three warnings. 

First, such actions might not work. Second, they might even rebound to harm the U.S. And, finally, there’s a high-ranking wild card: U.S. President Donald Trump.

Anti-government protesters set up roadblocks under umbrellas during a march against Beijing’s plans to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong on May 24, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Trump: the ultimate wild card

It’s still unclear if Trump cares about Hong Kong. 

The president has sent mixed signals. On the one hand, he promised last week he’d react “very strongly” to any Beijing power-grab, and elaborated Tuesday, saying he’d have an “interesting” announcement within days. He’s also made standing up to China one of his main re-election arguments

Yet there’s scant evidence of Trump taking an interest in the political freedoms of China’s semi-autonomous region. 

Just check his Twitter feed. He tweeted 118 times during the three-day Memorial Day long weekend. Hong Kong didn’t come up once.

Meanwhile, police turned a water cannon on thousands of pro-democracy protesters crowding the streets of Hong Kong as they marched against China’s move to ban secessionist and subversive activity.

WATCH | Thousands in Hong Kong protest China’s national security bill on Sunday:

Protesters and police clash in Hong Kong as thousands take to the streets to push back against a Chinese national security bill some warn could erode Hong Kong’s autonomy. 2:04

“I don’t think [Trump] actually cares about the human rights stuff,” said Bill Bishop, a writer and businessman who’s lived in both capitals, Beijing and Washington, and who now writes a daily China newsletter, Sinocism.

What makes Trump unpredictable on this issue, Ong said, is his policy will be guided by his own short-term political calculations, not long-held values.

Lou Dobbs, a usually staunchly pro-Trump TV host, even erupted in frustration the other day over what he views as a mostly all-talk China policy from the White House. 

What triggered the Fox host’s ire was the release of a national security strategy that he called “pablum” and “nonsense” with respect to China.

Pan-democratic legislator Chu Hoi-dick scuffles with security during Legislative Council’s House Committee meeting, in Hong Kong. ( Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

It included one reference to Hong Kong calling for continued autonomy, and promising to be “candid” about U.S. interests in the region. 

The security strategy noted that Hong Kong has 85,000 American citizens and more than 1,300 American businesses.

Three potential U.S. policy tools

A former Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney, said it’s still possible for democracies to influence the course of events in Hong Kong.

He said it’s imperative to push back and buy time for Hong Kong residents to vote this fall in their legislative elections, which might allow them to send a strong pro-democracy message.

“[These Beijing actions would be] the final nail in the coffin in terms of Hong Kong’s autonomy,” Mulroney said.

“It’s very late in the day. But it’s not too late.”

Mulroney identified three broad sets of actions the U.S. and allies might take:

— Migration: Protesters should be reassured, Mulroney said, that they would be allowed to enter the U.S. if they have been arrested for political dissent. 

Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a weekend interview with NBC that he expects an exodus of financial capital and human talent from Hong Kong: “You’re … going to have a terrible brain drain.”

Bishop, however, said he doubts Trump would open the immigration floodgates — he’s actually restricting immigration during the pandemic.

— Sanctions: Mulroney said the U.S. and allies could freeze assets and deny entry to rights-violators.

Bonnie Glaser of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said there could be targeted sanctions against entities and individuals who violate the terms of the 1984 U.K.-China agreement.

The agreement promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after the transfer, meaning until 2047.

— Stripping Hong Kong’s status: Under the 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act, the United States treats the region as distinct from China. The agreement allows for freer trade and travel. 

Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, sits with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during a June 30, 1997, banquet for the handover of the territory to China. (Reuters file)

Now, under a U.S. law passed recently with near-unanimous support, the State Department must report each year to Congress on whether Hong Kong still deserves that special status, based on its current political, media and legal freedoms.

Stripping that status would be “the nuclear option,” Glaser said, triggering a chain-reaction of consequences for businesses and individuals.

Canadians would feel it, too, Ong said.

Any pension fund, capital market or business with interests in Hong Kong would be affected.

“That would have quite massive ramifications. That’s not a decision that should be taken lightly,” Ong said. “It has implications not only for the United States — but for everybody. For you and me.” 

The death of Hong Kong?

Will any of this scare China’s president, Xi Jinping, into reversing course?

“To be honest, not much at this point [would make a difference],” Bishop said. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for a plenary session Monday of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, where new security laws for Hong Kong are under discussion. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

“The U.S., the international community, can condemn and punish. But I think it’s very unlikely — if in fact not totally impossible — that any such punishment will actually lead to Beijing changing its decision or modifying its behaviour.”

The author of a just-released book on Hong Kong, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, is equally skeptical. He says the Chinese Community Party mainly cares about domestic opinion.

And what Chinese people are already hearing from state-controlled media is that foreigners are stirring up the Hong Kong protests, said the University of California professor and historian.

Wasserstrom said international pressure might once have had greater impact. His book, Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, isn’t entirely pessimistic about the city’s future.

Wasserstrom’s book begins with a striking contrast. He compares Hong Kong and West Berlin, fellow Cold War hubs, beach-heads for free expression and free markets against a sea of authoritarianism.

American presidential lore lionizes the speeches John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan gave in Berlin, where a wall fell; communism crumbled; and the U.S. emerged as an uncontested power.

Now the world awaits the U.S. response — as Hong Kongers install virtual private internet networks at a frenzied pace, fearing the rise of a new digital iron curtain.

Anti-government protesters demonstrated on New Year’s Day to call for better governance and democratic reforms in Hong Kong. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)





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Warning to put South West trips on hold as ‘rare’ storm packing dangerous winds looms


“Areas west of a line approximately from Karratha to Esperance are likely to be affected by Sunday, with the worst conditions near the coast, and by Monday those strong winds will contract to southern parts of the state and into the south-east of the state.”

There would be a broad area of wind gusts reaching up to 100km/h, while the most dangerous winds of up to 130km/h were possible in areas close to where any low pressure systems might form.

Rainfall would be widespread across the state, with isolated falls of up to 100mm near the coast from Karratha to Kalbarri. Further south, Albany could have falls to 50mm.

Much of the Wheatbelt and pastoral areas would get some rain out of the system, Mr Ashley said.

Waves could exceed 8 metres, particularly on Monday, which could lead to severe erosion. Authorities urged West Australians to stay out of the water.

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The weather event was not only unusual because of the way it would form, but also that it had the potential to impact such a large area of the state, from Exmouth in the north all the way south to Albany.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner country operations Paul Ryan said the community must take action now to secure their properties, predicting losses of roofs and patios, particularly in the south west of the state where homes were not built to standards required in the north.

“There is potential for significant damage to buildings, so we ask the community to take measures today, immediately,” he said.

This meant tying down objects such as trampolines and furniture and securing sheds. If building works had been undertaken during the COVID-19 lockdown DIY-ers must ensure these were made safe to ensure objects didn’t become “deadly projectiles”. The same warning applied to construction companies.

“During the peak of the storm stay indoors, and stay up to date on the emergency WA website,” Mr Ryan said.

The storm will hit hardest near the coast. Credit:Sandra Klyne (Perth Weather Live)

Mr Ryan said the department received one call for help per minute during the last storm to strike WA and were currently preparing for worse.

Authorities are worried many people have planned South West getaways for the first weekend since regional border restrictions were eased. They called on people to hold off on these plans or come back to Perth early on Sunday morning.

Peter Sewell, Main Roads director of metropolitan operations, said there were additional crews on standby around the state and across the freeway network to deal with any signal failures.

There had already been an increase in traffic headed south and he urged travellers to reconsider their plans.

Travel early on Sunday if you must, but driving on Sunday will be very busy so please reconsider plans that would have you driving, he said.

Western Power head of operational maintenance Matthew Cheney said the authority was ready to respond to any hazards that might arise, and had ramped up the number of crews ready.

“We urge our customers to stay safe during that time, and to have a plan should there be an impact to their power as the storm comes through,” he said.

He urged homeowners to secure their properties, noting about 80 per cent of damage caused to Western Power infrastructure during storms was through flying debris.

People should stay away from damaged power lines and call Western Power immediately to respond.

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