Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying last night knocked back calls to apologise over a graphic, photoshopped image shared by spokesperson and deputy director general for the ministry’s information department, Zhao Lijian, in response to the Brereton report.
While Scott Morrison called for an apology over the “repugnant”, falsified image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child, the ABC reports that Hua instead called for Australia to apologise to the people of Afghanistan.
Three pieces of context to note as this story presumably continues today:
- ADF chief Angus Campbell did issue an apology to the families of the dead on the report’s launch, while Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne made a direct apology to Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani. Morrison also called Ghani ahead of the report’s release to express “his deepest sorrow over the misconduct by some Australian troops”
- Although Payne has since called the doctored image the most “egregious” example of social media disinformation she had witnessed in her career, the photoshop appears to (tastelessly) reference genuine allegations aired in the report of SASR members murdering two 14-year-old boys on the suspicion they were Taliban sympathisers
- Zhao has a long, apparently successful history of deliberately inflammatory tweets; as Buzzfeed reported in a profile last year, the 48-year-old official gained global fame for a since-deleted response to global criticism over the Xinjiang internment camps by claiming: “If you’re in Washington, D.C., you know the white [sic] never go to the SW area, because it’s an area for the black & Latin. There’s a saying ‘black in & white out’, which means that as long as a black family enters, white people will quit, & price of the apartment will fall sharply.”
PS: Morrison also acknowledged that there are “undoubtedly tensions” between the two countries in a likely reference to China slapping Treasury Wine Estates with a 169% tariff; as Crikey explained yesterday, that measure follows similar, recent examples of Australia deploying anti-dumping laws against China i.e. BlueScope’s benefiting from tariffs on steel imports in Australia and the US.
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DESTRICTIONS IN SA
According to 9News, South Australia lifted a series of COVID-19 measures overnight, including reopening the Victorian border, allowing stand-up drinking in pubs, and removal of patron caps on businesses.
The measures come after the state recorded no new cases yesterday, although authorities continue to urge anyone on SAHealth’s contact tracing list to be tested.
As the ABC explains, the news also comes after SA’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier apologised to a 30-year-old infected man falsely accused of breaching quarantine; while still potentially contagious at the times he visited local shops, the man was only listed as a close contact of a COVID-19 patient, and had no obligation to remain in quarantine after initially testing negative.
PS: In other COVID-19 news, The Guardian reports that Moderna has announced that final trial results of its vaccine showed 94% efficacy and no severe diseases among participants, meaning the company will now follow Pfizer/BioNTech in seeking emergency approval from international regulators.
According to The Australian ($), the Morrison government is finalising industrial relations reforms that would see employers pay a single, higher rate to retail, hospitality and restaurant workers, and that the Fair Work Commission would be required to approve enterprise agreements within 21 days.
Employer and union sources speaking to the paper after months of roundtable discussions also say the government is proposing to create “life of project agreements”, where the same wage and conditions apply “for the construction lifeline of new major projects worth more than $500 million” or projects of lesser value deemed to be of national and/or employment significance.
MOMENT OF TRUTH: LOTS OF DIVERSITY IN THE POLITICAL CENTRE
President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team has released a list of seven women for key communications positions, including his long-time communications director Kate Bedingfield taking on the same mantle at the White House.
While the team was keen to emphasise that, “for the first time in history, these communications roles will be filled entirely by women”, rumoured picks for cabinet positions confirm Biden’s commitment to “centrist” Democrats with conservative histories.
Notably, NPR reports that Biden recently tapped the president of Clinton-aligned think tank the Center for American Progress president, Neera Tanden, as the head of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Tanden, as The Daily Poster explains, is a long time aide to Hillary Clinton who pushed CAP’s 2010 proposal to reduce social security benefits in 2012 as Biden advocated for the deficit measures under the Obama administration. Emails leaked between Tanden and Faiz Shakir, a journalist at CAP’s media outlet arm, also revealed she advocated for asking Libyans to use oil revenues to “pay” the US back for bombings in the country.
Additionally, Axios reports that Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, despite allegations that the former mayor’s work to suppress body camera footage of a Chicago cop murdering a Black teenager constituted a cover-up.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
Australia has welcomed migrants from China for more than 200 years and Australians of Chinese background have added immensely to our nation.
In a day filled with dubious claims and horrific images, at least we have the acting immigration minister publicly forgetting — and/or just flat-out forgetting — the White Australia policy.
“Australia’s trade agreement with China — it’s not a free trade agreement (FTA), despite Coalition claims to the contrary — was borne of Tony Abbott’s desperation to appear to have an economic policy.
“Having been elected on the basis of all the things he’d stop — boats, climate action, deficits — he turned to ‘free trade agreements’ with a number of regional countries as a facade of a positive economic policy.”
“The hypocrite of the year award is heating up with a tight race between billionaires Bruce Gordon and Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and the entire Chinese and Russian governments.
“Let’s take a look at the nominees.”
“Australia’s popular media — particularly television — has been a willing follower of the Liberal government’s long campaign to Americanise Australian attitudes to the military. There’s been a deliberate PR strategy to turn the Australian military in part into a secular saint of Australian values and in part a tool to provide an apolitical shield for the government’s most political acts.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Honour your climate commitments, Australia, signed your Pacific neighbours — Anote Tong (The Sydney Morning Herald): “On December 12, 2020, leaders from across the world will gather virtually for the annual United Nations Climate Ambition Summit. While the coronavirus pandemic has meant much has changed in the last few months, Pacific demands for action on climate change have not. Indeed, climate change remains the single most pressing security threat to our Blue Pacific region.
Cold War lessons for countering Chinese threat ($) — Paul Dibb (The Australian): “It has become fashionable to claim the Cold War was nowhere near as dangerous as the situation we face with China. It is true that today’s China poses a much more multifaceted economic and domestic political challenge to Australia than the Soviet Union did. However, it is not true that we are in a second cold war with a military threat from China comparable to that of the Soviet Union.”
Mark Latham’s bill seeks to ensure trans and queer children remain in the closet — Liz Duck-Chong (The Guardian): “The research on this is clear — gender diverse young people exist, and their genders are not able to be suppressed, converted or reprogrammed. They struggle when their identities and lives are disparaged or not taken seriously, and flourish when they are affirmed and respected. However, the true danger of a bill like this is not in its dismissal of the science, but how it positions its concept of ‘core values’ and parental primacy as neutral, instead of what they really are: ideological.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Australian of the Year 2020 James Muecke will present “Silent no more” at the National Press Club.
Jennifer Robinson, a barrister, and a member of the legal team acting for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, and Peter Cronau an investigative journalist, Four Corners producer, and co-editor of new book A Secret Australia, will discuss the anthology and WikiLeaks’ impact in Australia Institute webinar “Webinar: A Secret Australia Revealed By Wikileaks Exposés”.
Budget estimates will begin for the 2020/21 Victorian budget, while the Parliament of Victoria’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee will hold its third round of hearings for the COVID-19 inquiry.