The future is a gas, gas, gas… while the roadmap back to the office is choked with problems.
Bunfight at the border
The reopening of state borders is emerging as the latest source of tension between premiers.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian wants them open to stimulate interstate tourism, as does the industry which has been smashed by the double whammy of bushfires and the pandemic. Berejiklian has deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly on her side, who said there was no medical evidence for continued closures.
But this morning Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk said she “won’t be lectured to by the worst-performing state in Australia”.
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Palaszczuk, under advice from the state’s chief health officer doctor Jeanette Young, wants a month of zero transmission before reopening borders, and said they might stay shut until September. Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has also dug his heels.
“I know the NSW premier is unhappy, I know Mr Birmingham is unhappy. But frankly, bad luck,” he said. “It might inconvenience the NSW premier and some people from the eastern states, but frankly, I don’t give a damn.”
Meanwhile, Pauline Hanson wants to take Palaszczuk’s border closure to the High Court. The far-right senator reportedly has a constitutional lawyer working pro bono to argue that it contravenes s92 of the constitution, which dictates “trade commerce and intercourse among the states … shall be absolutely free”.
So much energy poured into gas
It’s a really good time to be in the gas industry.
The government has released its emissions technology investment roadmap — which sets energy priorities over the next three decades — and it points to a substantial role for gas in the post-pandemic economy.
It has been criticised for failing to push an energy mix that will lead to a meaningful reduction in emissions.
But it’s also another example of the post-pandemic push for gas. This week the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, which has deep ties to the gas industry, recommended a $6 billion gas pipeline.
And in a leaked report in The Guardian, Andrew Liveris, the former Dow Chemical boss advising the commission, recommended Australian taxpayers underwrite the gas industry’s expansion.
Shot in the arm for vaccine hopes
Optimism about a coronavirus vaccine seems to be creeping up.
An Oxford University team says it will have a vaccine ready for human use by September. Meanwhile, immunologist Professor Peter Doherty told Leigh Sales on Monday that he was “pretty bullish” about the possibility of a vaccine, and thinks large numbers of people could be being jabbed by early to mid 2021.
While there has been much scientific focus and investment on creating a vaccine, many take years or decades to develop, and getting one out by 2021 will be an incredible effort.
The next big task will be ensuring significant production, and getting it out to the world. That’s a challenge that has led to warnings about “vaccine nationalism”.
Also worrying is the rise of anti-vaxxers during the pandemic — getting a whole population vaccinated could require a public health campaign that cuts through waves of disinformation.
The commute from hell
As a return to working from the office gets closer, how will social distancing be maintained during rush hour?
New rules in Sydney came into place this week limiting buses to 12 passengers. Seats have stickers on them telling passengers where to sit. But drivers are also being told not to refuse any passengers.
Anecdotally it doesn’t seem like these rules are being followed.
Fears about the virus could force far more people to drive to work. If commuters switch to cars, Sydney’s CBD will need an extra three square kilometres of parking space. Melbourne will need 2.4 square kilometres.
To avoid gridlock, 85% of commuters will have to cycle, walk or keep working from home.