(Image: Adobe)

Release the bats

In a refreshing change to the normal bat-to-human disease vector, American bat researchers are now socially distancing from their subject for fear of transferring the coronavirus to them. Which, frankly, is more consideration than the furry little bastards showed for us.

Bats, as we know, are essentially leather-winged virus-pouches just waiting to dump zoonotic diseases on unsuspecting species; even benign ones like humans who are just gently going about their personal business, destroying irreplaceable ecosystems and slaughtering animals in unsanitary conditions in regional wet markets.

And while SARS-CoV-19 was most likely a dormant bat virus before hitting the big time as a global human pandemic, it’s worth pointing out only a handful of species have been found to carry it. That means that US-based bats might be susceptible to catching it from the millions of infected Americans — or, since bats are generally immune to their many, many, many, many betacoronaviruses, getting COVID-19 into an otherwise unsullied bat population might even help a new and more terrifying disease develop out of the virus’ ingredients. Yes, bats are not just miracles of immunity, but also biological nightmare laboratories.

As Bat Conservation International chief scientist Winifred Frick explained to Science News, it’s up to the researchers to be the responsible ones: “We can’t tell bats to socially distance. We want to reduce the chance that there’s any pathogen transfer across animals, full stop.”

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap

Typically governments leave their dirtiest moments for Friday afternoons, sporting grand finals or the Xmas holidays. And thus you have to give the Andrews Labor government props for seizing the opportunity of a Tuesday morning when everyone was distracted by the long-awaited lifting of lockdown restrictions in Victoria to quietly send in the police to break up the protest camps and arrest over 50 people protecting the sacred Djab Wurrung birthing trees.

The grove of trees are to be cleared as part of the Western Highway development near Arrarat, a move which was delayed by the setting up of a Djab Wurrung embassy on country as a permanent blockade. There’s a Federal Court challenge against the road on the docket for December too, which makes the sudden flurry of cop-n-chainsaw action seem less a good faith effort by the state government to find a respectful solution and more like a deliberately provocative bit of colonial-flavoured fuckery.

The government claims that the sacred directions tree cut down on Tuesday wasn’t the one covered by the court challenge and nor was one agreed as requiring protection under the agreement signed with the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation. However, it did rather take the shine off an otherwise wonderful moment to discover that the government had specifically chosen a moment of statewide joy and solidarity as cover to move against Indigenous groups, environmental protestors and, especially, their legal observers.

The embassy is still active, though — and hey, now that restrictions have loosened, what a perfect time it is for Victorians to get some much-needed time back out in nature, celebrating the state’s Indigenous past and stopping some underhanded cultural vandalism.

Big jet plane

When JobKeeper was first announced by the Morrison government it was a bold and blunt strategy for keeping the nation economically afloat and there was little time to worry about industry-by-industry nuance — beyond ensuring that universities and the entire arts sector suffered and burned for ideological reasons because an opportunity is an opportunity.

However, it’s now been well over six months and we can assume that anything still in the legislation is there because the government wants it to be. For example, that the eye-watering largesse handed out to the aviation industry is denied to, say, people who keep the flights operating but are technically contractors, but absolutely available to people with private jets.

And thus it has come to light that recently-gutted catering service dnata was not eligible for any of the millions of dollars, while the not-exactly-cash-strapped likes of Crown and Clive Palmer are receiving government money to help avoid the tragic possibility that, God forbid, they would have to fly commercial.

The Transport Worker’s Union’s national secretary Michael Kaine issued a statement fuming that “The federal government has revealed exactly who it represents. While aviation workers have had their livelihoods devastated and thousands of dnata workers have had no pay since March, the Morrison government is funnelling favours to mates.”

And that last characterisation is obviously deeply unfair. After all, would a so-called “mate” of the Morrison government be… um, spending millions on a Queensland advertising blitz during a close election, making negative and baseless claims against Labor?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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