A VIAL-ABLE OPTION
Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has announced that phase three trial data for its protein-based vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, demonstrates 70% efficacy, a figure that could jump as high as 90% if a lower first dose is used.
The news comes after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna recorded, respectively, 95% and 94.5% efficacy rates for their mRNA-based drugs last week; the former could now be approved for distribution as soon as this week in the UK and December 12 in the US.
However, The Sydney Morning Herald notes the latest results will be seen as a triumph because Oxford’s protein-based candidate is both cheaper to produce and only requires refrigeration, rather than extremely cold temperatures, for storage.
These traits are especially important for distribution in low- and middle-income countries — as NDTV explains, current deals for such countries show the AstraZeneca-Oxford candidate accounts for more than 40% of expected supplies — and the company is expected to roll out hundreds of millions of doses by the end of the year.
PS: In local updates, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has told A Current Affair the airline will change its terms and conditions to require passengers to demonstrate proof of vaccination to board international flights. Joyce, who does not touch on the legalities of the move, also flagged the possibility of similar rules for domestic travel.
A WASTE OF ENERGY?
With the Coalition government approaching year eight of its energy policy vacuum, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Energy Minister Angus Taylor is pushing for a national framework to force increased transparency on state and territory government energy policies.
The announcement, at an energy and climate summit hosted by the Australian Financial Review, was followed by speeches calling for an end to indecisiveness on market reforms from Audrey Zibelman, outgoing chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator, as well as complaints about states going it alone on energy policy from AGL head Brett Redman.
Elsewhere, The SMH reports Gladys Berejiklian wants her ambitious, renewables-heavy energy plan to be passed by the end of the year, after the sole state politician who opposes the legislation — One Nation’s Mark Latham — tried to stymie it with 249 amendments.
An Ipsos survey has also found the majority of Australians support action to meet the Paris Agreement and a net zero 2050 target, while The Guardian explains that research by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization put greenhouse gasses at record levels despite COVID-induced lockdowns.
THE RIGHTS THING TO DO
According to The Mandarin, the Victorian government will include a two-year Secure Work Pilot Scheme in today’s budget to provide up to five days of sick and carer’s pay for workers in highly-casualised, vulnerable industries such as aged care, cleaning, hospitality, security, and supermarkets.
The announcement follows outbreaks spread by low-income workers in the state’s privatised aged care system. While $5 million will go towards consultation on the design of the two-year pilot, any future ongoing scheme will be subject to an industry levy.
Attorney-General Christian Porter and Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien have both slammed the ultimate proposal as a tax on Victorian businesses, with Porter instead calling for an unspecified mechanism to “strengthen the ability of workers to choose to move from casual to permanent full or part-time employment if that is what they want to do”.
PS: In other COVID-related industrial news, The Australian ($) reports that several private schools are freezing tuition fees in 2021 in a move the paper says signals an end — or at least pause — of a 20-year cycle of above-inflation price rises across the sector.
MOMENT OF TRUTH: BLINKEN A NOD
According to CNN, Joe Biden is poised to nominate veteran foreign affairs policy adviser Antony Blinken as secretary of state, as the president-elect prepares to make his first round of Cabinet announcements Tuesday.
Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state under Barack Obama, has advised on Russia’s incursion into Crimea in 2014, the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden in 2011, and the fight against ISIS.
While much more moderate than current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Blinken also oversaw the US increase weapon supplies to Saudi forces in its war against Yemen, and co-founded WestExec Advisors, a consulting firm The Intercept explained back in 2018 was set up to help tech firms navigate Pentagon contracts.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I’m going to say it: Masks and lockdowns don’t work.
The US Marines, with the strictest of quarantine controls, couldn’t stop the spread of COVID-19. Read the article.
As Victoria records 24 days of no new cases after hitting a daily peak of 725 in August, the LNP MP claims lockdowns don’t work because an American libertarian economics journal mischaracterised a navy study of two groups “quarantined” in facilities with shared dining facilities and bathrooms.
“Don’t be fooled for a minute into thinking what is building into the biggest attack on superannuation for decades by the government has anything to do with policy.
“If it did, Josh Frydenberg wouldn’t have leaked parts of the retirement incomes review, by a panel led by former senior Liberal staffer and Treasury official Mike Callaghan, to friendly journalists at the Financial Review and The Australian ahead of its release last week, or held a media event to discuss it 40 minutes before the release of the actual report on Friday.”
“A climate-focussed political action group which backed winning candidates in the last federal election is planning to expand its operations. If Climate 200 can repeat its 2019 success it could influence the outcome of the next election.
“The non-partisan group, which supports candidates who want action on climate change and political integrity, was set up by environmental campaigner and adviser Simon Holmes à Court and in part funded by tech billionaire Michael Cannon-Brookes just before the May 2019 election.”
“Barry O’Farrell, the former NSW premier who resigned over a bottle of Grange, is enjoying that most plum of post-political postings as high commissioner to India. He’s also been chumming it up with one of the country’s most notorious far-right Hindu nationalist organisations.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
If that is not who we are, then who are we? — Luke Pearson (IndigenousX): “After news of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan made headlines, it was only a matter of time before a politician uttered the words ‘This is not who we are’. Australia has been trying very hard for a very long time to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to the idea of ‘we’.”
Coronavirus: Why state border closures passed court test ($) — George Williams (The Australian): “The lockdowns around Australia have generated few court challenges. By and large, people have complied with the law without protest or resort to litigation. This reflects community support for governments during the pandemic, as well as a pragmatic assessment that the courts are unlikely to intervene.”
Joe Biden’s silence on ending the drone wars — Elise Swain (The Intercept): “President-elect Joe Biden has maintained silence for years on the controversial and continued use of so-called targeted killings — lethal strikes by drones, cruise missiles, and occasionally military special operations raids. Biden has never publicly disavowed or criticized former President Barack Obama’s legacy of expanding the use of drones, nor made clear his own policy on the continuation of targeted killing conducted by the Department of Defense and, clandestinely, the CIA.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Kerry O’Brien will moderate a Griffith University panel event, “After the pandemic: Imagining the future” with cancer researcher Nigel McMillan, social researcher Dr Rebecca Huntley and programming director Mik Auckland.
The Wheeler Centre will host “Fringe Debate: Should Culture Be Cancelled?” as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, with hosts Jean Tong and Lou Wall, with Evelyn Araluen, Ash Flanders, Vidya Rajan, Moira Finucane, Stuart Daulman and Zoë Coombs Marr.