What we learned today, Friday 15 January
Health experts have cautiously endorsed the Victorian government’s decision to push ahead with hosting the Australian Open, saying the positive Covid-19 test recorded by former world number one Andy Murray before arriving at the tournament showed the protocols were working.
As Victoria recorded no new cases of the virus for the ninth day in a row on Friday, the health minister, Martin Foley, confirmed that both Murray and American Madison Keys had returned positive coronavirus tests and would be unable to travel to Melbourne without first returning a negative test.
“Mr Murray and the other 1,240 people as part of the program, need to demonstrate that if they’re coming to Melbourne they have returned a negative test,” he said.
“Should Mr Murray arrive, and I have no indication that he will, he will be subject to those same rigorous arrangements as everyone else.”
Australia’s Department of Agriculture is making inquiries after the American Pigeon Racing Union claimed that Joe, a pigeon that was thought to have travelled to Australia from the US, is actually a fraud – a revelation that may well save his life.
The public rallied to the defence of Joe after Australian agricultural authorities said he would be euthanised to prevent the risk of diseases from the US being transmitted to Australian native birds.
The racing pigeon was believed to have survived a 15,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the United States to Australia after Melbourne local Kevin Celli-Bird discovered the exhausted bird in his backyard on Boxing Day. Some speculated the bird may have hitched a ride aboard a cargo ship, rather than flying the entire distance.
It was originally believed that the pigeon’s blue tag was evidence that he had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on 29 October, but this assertion has now been thrown into doubt.
The American Racing Pigeon Union posted a statement on Facebook saying the tag on the bird was not a genuine American Union band.
South Australia drops travel rules for Brisbane
Victoria police believe mother responsible for Tullamarine deaths
Fears about 'human cost' of China coal standoff
The Morrison government is appealing to China to rule out discriminating against Australian coal, with the resources minister raising fears about the “human cost” of the standoff as seafarers are stuck aboard more than 70 ships waiting to unload the product.
In an interview with Hlcarpenter.com Australia, Keith Pitt said the cost of coal had increased as a result of the impasse but Canberra was “yet to hear anything through official channels” about any change in Beijing’s treatment of the Australian commodity.
Like other Australian ministers, Pitt has been unable to secure a call with his Chinese counterpart amid ongoing tensions in the relationship between the two countries, but he said he remained hopeful of dialogue: “My door’s always open.”
The comments came after the opposition said Australian exporters faced another grim year driven by tensions with China.
Labor raised fears of “a humanitarian crisis brewing off the coast of China” with about 1,500 seafarers believed to be aboard the 73 ships.
Beijing has told the owners of nearly 8m tonnes of Australian coal to find new buyers because the cargo will not be unloaded in China, according to the Australian newspaper, but China’s embassy in Canberra has yet to respond to Hlcarpenter.com Australia’s request for confirmation.
Pitt said there were about 70 ships “in what’s called the stack, waiting to unload” Australian coal. The resources minister said this coal had already been purchased and paid for by the Chinese buyers, but raised concern about the welfare of the seafarers.
“Clearly, there’s a human cost to these delays,” Pitt, a Queensland Nationals MP, said in a phone interview on Friday.
Zero community transmission across Australia
The federal opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, and his health spokesman, Chris Bowen, are renewing their accusation the Morrison government is shifting responsibility for quarantining international arrivals onto states.
The criticisms come amid questions about how Covid-19 spread in a Brisbane hotel being used to quarantine international arrivals, and the Victorian government’s efforts to bring international students to the state and international tennis players to the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The federal government wants you to think they’re not in charge of quarantine. They want to push responsibility onto the states. That’s not leadership.
Bowen also tweeted:
As state premiers grapple with how to deal with contagious strains of the virus, the Morrison government is missing in action.
This week, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told Hlcarpenter.com Australia there are 37,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents registered as being overseas and unable to return home.
The number of stranded is expected to increase after Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia halved their quarantine intake for at least a month.
Stranded Australians have accused Dfat of attempting to remove some of those registered from its tally of those stuck overseas.
Dfat has previously denied taking this measure in December. Hlcarpenter.com Australia contacted Dfat for comment.
American Racing Pigeon Union says the bird 'Joe' is a fraud