WA LOCKDOWN TO POTENTIALLY LIFT
According to WAToday, Premier Mark McGowan has announced that Western Australia will exit hard lockdown from 6pm tonight if the state remains free of further COVID-19 cases, with the South West to be released from lockdown rules altogether while interim restrictions such as mask rules indoors and outside will apply to Peel and Perth for the coming week.
The late night announcement comes ahead of a national cabinet meeting today, ahead of which The Australian ($) reports state leaders in Queensland, Victoria, and WA have pushed for the Morrison government to take some responsibility for hotel quarantine programs.
The Morrison government is currently in preliminary talks with the Queensland government over a proposed quarantine facility in Toowoomba, 130 kilometres west of Brisbane, which would allow thousands more stranded Australians to return home but that the Commonwealth would have to fund.
In other local COVID-19 news, The Guardian reports that Dan Andrews does not expect the latest hotel quarantine outbreak to impact the Australian Open, while health authorities investigate the source of infection and have not been able to rule out airborne transmission. 9News notes that Victoria has not seen any immediate border closures, though in WA “a planned relaxing of border controls to Victoria would be paused”, SA has ramped up testing requirements, and ACT and NT have declared certain regions hotspots requiring automatic quarantine.
PS: In updates from WA’s other emergency, ABC notes that firefighters have managed to save the under-threat Shady Hills estate but the perimeter of the bushfire has grown to 136 kilometres.
CHINESE CITY IN PNG?
Chinese company WYW Holding Limited has put forward a $39 billion plan to build a new city on the Papua New Guinean island of Daru, which sits on the nation’s sea border with Australia and, the ABC reports, could be home to an industrial seaport, business district, and free-trade zone.
The Australian ($), which also has access to a leaked proposal to PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape and dated April 2020, notes the “New Daru City” proposal is likely to escalate concerns within Australian security agencies over Beijing’s interest in PNG’s Western Province, where another Chinese company is planning to build a $200 million fisheries industrial park.
Following news that Helloworld CEO and former treasurer of the Liberal Party Andrew Burnes asked staff at the travel company to accept pay cuts to help it survive the pandemic, The Sydney Morning Herald explains Labor used question time to argue the Morrison government’s industrial relations package would prompt a wave of similar moves in a claim the government rejects.
In a shockingly proactive day for the opposition, Labor also asked the Morrison government why it had not followed Canada’s lead and labelled the Proud Boys a terrorist organisation following the US Capitol Hill siege. ABC notes that Peter Dutton said he only puts groups on the list following recommendations from ASIO.
And third, 7News reports that shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers ramped up calls to permanently increase JobSeeker following the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe’s, support of a rate lift as an issue of fairness, rather than macroeconomics, although Chalmers emphasised both are advantages to giving people more than $40 a day to live on.
PS: As The Guardian explains, disagreement over far-right extremism came as the Senate overrode Labor and the Greens to reword a motion condemning far-right conspiracy theories peddled by Craig Kelly and George Christensen to instead decry both far-right and far-left extremism. The latter of which, relative to Christchurch and those Nazis camping at the Grampians, could maybe be those offshore detention protesters who superglued themselves to Parliament House?
VICTORIA BANS CONVERSION THERAPY
Finally, because good news has to happen eventually, The Age reports that Victoria has voted to ban conversion therapy, a practice of trying to brainwash LGBTIQ people that has been slammed by gender and harm experts as a form of torture.
The legislation passed the state’s upper house 27 votes to nine after a 12-hour debate in the upper house, where Liberal MPs Bev McArthur and Bernie Finn defied their party’s position and crossed the floor to vote against the bill.
PS: In the second — that’s right, second — good news story of this morning, NSW’s Hunter Valley is set to be home to the world’s largest grid-scale solar battery, which clocks in at a potential capacity of 1200 megawatts aka roughly eight times the size of the South Australian big battery.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I’d say this, the government rejects Senator Keneally’s thesis, that there is rising extremism in Australia.
Almost two years after the Christchurch massacre, the immigration minister rejects not just Labor but, apparently, ASIO, which in September 2020 reported that up to 40% of its counterterrorism efforts were now directed at far-right extremist activities, up from 10-15% before 2016.
“Where were the headlines about a backbencher flagrantly flouting the PM’s authority? About Morrison’s spectacular U-turn in less than two days from enthusiastically lauding Kelly to a theatrical wrist slap? What much of the press gallery, with a couple of notable exceptions, gave us was pre-prepared narrative of Morrison the authoritative leader flexing his political muscles.”
“Yesterday, as Craig Kelly publicly lambasted Tanya Plibersek, Linda Seymour’s phone lit up.
“As the convenor of a group trying to unseat the member for Hughes, she is used to responding to the MP’s unscientific theories about COVID treatments and climate change. But this week, as Kelly’s radio interview with renowned anti-vaxxer Pete Evans went viral and Scott Morrison defended Kelly at the National Press Club, Seymour has been under siege.”
“The ship has sailed on vaccine equity. Rich countries have preordered enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate their populations multiple times. The World Health Organisation’s vision of equal access through COVAX is at risk of failing and mass immunisation in low-income countries isn’t likely until 2024 — if at all.
“Vaccine nationalism — where countries put their populations first, time and time again — is being met with vaccine diplomacy, with China stepping up as a seemingly charitable friend.”
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Seeking a soft landing between rock and a hard place on JobSeeker raise ($) — Simon Benson (The Australian): “A permanent increase to the underlying JobSeeker welfare payment is no longer a question of if but by how much. This reality has landed Scott Morrison between a rock and a hard place. It can be almost assured that in coming weeks he will announce a perpetual lift in the rate to partially compensate for the axing of the temporary coronavirus supplement on March 31.”
Australia has stupid discussions about everything — Lucy Valentine (The Shot): “It has been a profoundly terrible year. But in the midst of a global pandemic that has taken so much from so many of us, a year that should have reinforced the need for unity and kindness, so many Australians refuse to leave the Murdoch media culture war trenches. God bless our troops.”
Lies, damn lies, and fact checking — David Sirota and Andrew Perez (Daily Poster): “Jeff Bezos this week announced that he is stepping down from his job running Amazon in order to focus more on his other assets, including The Washington Post. Less than 24 hours later, his newspaper’s chief ‘fact checker’ Glenn Kessler published a screed attacking Bezos’s highest-profile political opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for mentioning that Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law benefited rich people and large corporations.”
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