Keith Pitt
(Image AAP/Mick Tsikas)

H2OH NO

According to the ABC and The Australian ($), Water Minister Keith Pitt will today announce the end of environmental water buybacks and that the Murray-­Darling Basin Authority is to be stripped of its enforcement role, with water-saving efforts to apparently be replaced by upgraded irrigation infrastructure.

The news comes after a study by Wentworth Group scientists founds that 20% of the water expected to flow into the Murray-Darling from 2012-2019 could not be found, despite, as the ABC explains, almost $7 billion being spent to protect the health of the system’s rivers and ecosystems that rely on them.

It also comes after the Coalition government enraged crossbench MPs by gagging debate and forcing through legislation to devolve federal environmental assessment responsibilities to the state, with the ABC reporting that Warringah MP Zali Steggall accused the government of “actually shutting down democracy.”

PS: As Crikey explored more than two years ago, systems of irrigation infrastructure have suffered from a historical misunderstanding of ecological systems i.e. recycling “lost” water that would have instead been returned to the broader environment.

GOING FOR BROKE

Insolvency firms are preparing for thousands of companies going broke by the end of September, The Age reports, “when safe harbour rules introduced in March to help businesses hibernate through lockdowns are due to end”.

As the Morrison government considers extending that deadline, The Australian ($) reports they are also developing a cabinet-level manufacturing taskforce that, loosely based on the National COVID Commission public-private model, will be geared towards incentivising foreign companies with that old standby: tax cuts.

And in a line I’m pretty sure we’ll have to report every Friday for the rest of the year, Scott Morrison will today pressure premiers and chief ministers at national cabinet for a nationally-consistent approach to borders. According to The Guardian, Morrison has secured support for his “hotspot”-based approach from Victoria, NSW, ACT and the Northern Territory governments.

LAW AND BORDER

In a new report that models three separate lockdown scenarios — let ’em rip, NSW-style low-level transmission, and complete eradication — think tank The Grattan Institute has explored how Victoria, NSW and Queensland should move to zero cases in order to avoid a “yo-yo” strategy of opening/closing/reopening the economy.

As Melbourne prepares for a likely extension of at least some of the stage four restrictions until the end of September, The Age reports that the Victorian government is liaising with a select group of business leaders about where it can ease industry restrictions without risking workplace outbreaks. Local restaurants, meanwhile, could also go open-air under a local-state government plan.

PS: In the latest from Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry, the Herald Sun ($) reports that Unified Security’s state manager Nigel Coppick told counsel assisting that he does not know why the security company scored the $44 million contract despite not being on the state government’s preferred supplier list. The company had just 89 permanent staff in March, but ended up employing 1759 people almost entirely through subcontractors.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

I just have a simple request for the premiers tomorrow at national cabinet, and that is take off the football jerseys and put on the Little Johnny Australia tracksuit for a change.

Matthew Canavan

The LNP senator is likely trying to make some kind of point about state borders — and hey, it might even be a valid one! — but honestly who has the energy?

CRIKEY RECAP

Tone Alone: who does the former PM represent? Us, the Poms or whoever will pay?

“Well it didn’t take long for Anthony St John Aloysius Crouchback Savonarola Prebendary Abbott to started playing to the gallery in the UK. Speaking to the Policy Exchange about the ‘dictatorship’ of Dan Andrews, loyally backing up Boris’ plan to get everyone back to school and the office, and — in the weeks before taking his new role as a UK trade adviser — trashing Australia’s relations with China. Thanks, Tone!

“While everyone in Australia is waiting with glee to see the UK public slowly understand the strange, strange man who is Tone, the serious question has to be: who does Tony Abbott now represent, and where do his loyalties lie?”


We know what not to do about the recession, but it seems we’re gonna do it anyway

“There are worrying signs that an ideologically blinkered government isn’t going to pursue the kind of demand-focused policies that are needed to get Australia out of what could be an extended recession.

“While yesterday’s 7% contraction for the June quarter was a little worse than forecasters expected, it lacked the kind of psychological impact negative quarters usually have. We’re all painfully aware of what’s been going on since March, and we also know the Morrison government has worked hard, and successfully, to offset the worst impacts of lockdown.”


Woodside pockets millions from government to clean up its own mess

“Why would the government pay an oil company to clean up its own mess?

“That’s the question raised by a $8.8 million contract the federal government has handed to Woodside Energy on a limited-tender basis to advise it on decommissioning one of its own abandoned oil production vessels.

“In an announcement last month, Minister for Resources Keith Pitt said that the oil company — which sold the vessel in 2016 to a shelf company that has since collapsed — would be providing advice on what would be needed to decommission the facility, which is now threatening to spew oil into the ocean north of Darwin.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Defiant Australian prisoner Yang Hengjun pleads innocence from behind bars in China, demands day in court

Morrison government in talks to buy rights to Indigenous flag ($)

Tax cuts and more: Economists warn tax alone won’t save country

Government owes hotel quarantine security firms more than $10 million

Border closures could cost NSW agriculture $2.3b and put food supplies at risk ($)

Zip Co hires Joe Hockey ($)

Sports rorts: document created by McKenzie’s advisor shows grant approvals were biased, inquiry hears

UK Government facing increasing criticism over Tony Abbott’s potential trade role

Black man suffocated in New York after police officers put hood on him

Europe pushed the limit of how far to reopen. Now it may be too late to prevent a second virus wave

THE COMMENTARIAT

Without accountability there is no justice for my mother’s death in Australian police custodyApryl Day (Indigenous X/The Guardian): “We have spent close to three years fighting for justice for the death of our mum. Last week, we were told that the police officers involved in her death avoided prosecution. This is despite the coroner finding that mum’s death was preventable and that the police officers failed to take proper care of mum’s safety, security, health and welfare.”

Aboriginal flag can unite Australia ($) — Ken Wyatt (The Australian): “The abhorrent practices undertaken by those who produce fake Indigenous art unquestionably erode Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and diminishes economic opportunities for our people. This is why this week, the Morrison government launched a consultation process to grow the Indigenous visual arts industry, and with it, specifically look at ensuring relevant legal protections for Indigenous artists.”

Premiers facing elections play hard ball with hard bordersMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “That old adage ‘never get between a premier and a bucket of money’ has become ‘never get between a premier and a COVID election’. Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, two months from polling day, has been acting with the sort of single-minded political determination and ruthlessness that Scott Morrison might identify with in more normal circumstances.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • ANZ and CBA executives are set to appear at the national COVID-19 inquiry.

Sydney

  • The Committee for Sydney will host webinar event “The think tanks: three ideas to reform Australia” with the new CEO of the Grattan Institute Danielle Wood, Per Capita executive director Emma Dawson and executive director of the Menzies Research Centre Nick Cater.

Northern Territory

  • The Northern Territory Electoral Commission is set to finalise the election result, with dozens of votes set to decide the final seat.

Peter Fray

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