covid-19 melbourne holiday inn victoria
(Crikey Worm: AAP/Luis Ascui)

JUST INN CASE

Melbourne’s Holiday Inn cluster has jumped to 13, the ABC reports, after officials last night declared another two household cases on top of two declared earlier in the day along with one hotel worker. However, Victoria’s list of exposure sites has not been updated since late Wednesday.

States continue to reimpose border measures against Victoria, with Queensland to reintroduce border declarations from 1am Saturday and 9News explaining that Mark McGowan yesterday confirmed WA will keep its border closed to Victoria for another week, with a decision on other states set for today.

Elsewhere, Al Jazeera reports that head of the UK genetic surveillance programme Sharon Peacock has warned that the B.1.1.7 variant — which was first recorded in Kent in September — is likely to “sweep the world” and become the most dominant global strain of the virus.

PS: In arts news, the Adelaide Fringe festival has been left scrambling ahead of its February 19 start date, The Guardian reports, after South Australia shut its border to Melbourne residents.

RORT RED-HANDED?

According to The Age, Labor has asked the Auditor-General to examine the federal Safer Communities Fund after department documents revealed Peter Dutton diverted $8.5 million to 53 handpicked projects ahead of the 2019 election, only five of which were in safe Labor seats.

The documents, first revealed under Freedom of Information by 7.30, show Dutton personally moved almost half the total pool of funding away from recommended security cameras and safety lighting projects to his handpicked ones in January 2019.

In other rort news, Bridget McKenzie is due to appear today 3pm AEDT at the Senate Inquiry into the Administration of Sports Grants.

PS: As Australia continues to wait for a worse-than-toothless national anti-corruption body, The Australian ($) reports the Morrison government is developing plans for a new agency capable of investigating allegations of corruption, sexual harassment and bullying against judges.

CROWN OF THORNS

Crown Resorts director Andrew Demetriou has tendered his resignation to chairwoman Helen Coonan, The Australian ($) reports, while chief executive Ken Barton is expected to formally step down today following pressure from two state gaming regulators and the casino operator’s biggest institutional shareholder, Perpetual’s head of equities Paul Skamvougeras.

The ABC also understands Barton signaled his intention to resign in a meeting with Coonan yesterday, after the Bergin Report specifically called for his departure and two other board members stepped down on Wednesday.

After the NSW report found money-laundering at Crown’s Melbourne casino, The Age reports the federal Labor party are considering banning donations from Crown. This would follow similar decisions by WA Labor and WA Liberals.

RENEWED HOPE

Finally, and in another example of the WA Liberals lapping their federal counterparts, Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup yesterday launched a $400 million renewables plan that would see all publicly owned coal-fired power stations close by 2025.

The plan, which the ABC reports includes $100 million for transitioning coal communities, also offers what could be the first time a Liberal party has outflanked its Labor counterpart on global warming.

Conversely, WAToday reports that two major projects expected to blow a million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in their first year — Mitsui’s Waitsia onshore gas project in the Mid West and Fortescue Metal Group’s gas-fired power station in the Pilbara — were approved during lockdown and days before the WA government entered pre-election caretaker mode.

PS: Remember how the Morrison government was considering using taxpayer funds to underwrite a coal-fired power station part-owned by Liberal downer Trevor St Baker? Well The Guardian reports that’s over, but only because the company has abandoned its bid.

PPS: On the Labor end, Joel Fitzgibbon has, shockingly, hit out at shadow energy minister Chris Bowen’s very accurate claim the coal sector is under strain, making familiar denialist claims in an op-ed at The Australian ($) over Australian coal lowering emissions in Asia and demand for the resource to last “for decades to come”.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

I’m very disturbed about your personal comments about people. It’s not just one or two, I think you deleted a thousand tweets. And it wasn’t just about Republicans. I mean, you called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut.

… I want the record to reflect that I did not call Senator Sanders an ignorant slut.

Republican Senator John Kennedy

The confirmation of centrist Democrat Neera Tanden to run Biden’s Office of Management and Budget was always going to be pretty weird considering her history of abusing critics online (and, if we count that time a reporter got lippy about Hillary Clinton’s support for the Iraq War, physically).

CRIKEY RECAP

If the National Party is the answer, what on earth is the question?

“This morning’s RN Breakfast interview with Water Minister Keith Pitt tells you everything you need to know about the shonky, negligent shambles the National Party has become. A melanoma on the face of the Australian body politic.

“Starting in that faux jocular ‘aw shucks I’m a country boy’ tone Nats love (‘yeaaaaaah hiiiiii Fran….’) Pitt quickly found that he would have to answer actual questions about the Productivity Commission report on national water supply. It was painfully clear that he probably hadn’t read the report — which is strong on water recycling for urban needs, and rights buy-backs, and scathing about new infrastructure, i.e. dams, which can be up to 50 times as expensive as other solutions.”


Does the oil and gas lobby have a new friend in Canberra?

Mathias Cormann’s replacement in the Senate has been described as an ‘ordinary citizen’ from ‘small beginnings’, a bar owner with no experience in politics who unexpectedly found himself in Canberra.

“But beneath the wave of PR spin that welcomed Senator Ben Small’s appointment to Parliament is a savvy political operator who has spent considerable time working his way up in the Liberal Party while also being employed at one of Australia’s most powerful companies, oil and gas giant Woodside.”


Impeachment 2.0: Trump’s no-show trial is an immoral sham and a criminal shame

Donald Trump keeps making history — this time around it’s as the only person to be tried twice for impeachment by the US Senate.

“His defenders, of course, have condemned the proceedings. They argue the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. They claim his first amendment right to free speech protects him. They deny he violated his oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States by inciting a mob to storm the Capitol.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Australian Proud Boys filmed threatening critics at a business and a home

Union labels solar a “cowboy industry” after Queensland project lay-offs

Christian Porter set to give IR changes the boot ($)

Sean Turnell speaks with Australian ambassador about ‘his health and welfare’ after Myanmar coup arrest

Media outlets guilty of contempt in George Pell trial didn’t read suppression order or seek legal advice

South Australian schools tackle ‘period poverty’ with free pads and tampons for students

Head of WA Police Union Harry Arnott stood aside amid police investigation

Trump impeachment: Graphic video shown as ex-president called ‘inciter in chief’

Australia’s top infectious diseases expert Doctor Nick Coatsworth forced to defend policy and AstraZeneca vaccine on Q+A

India, China agree to pull back troops from disputed Himalayan lake after months-long standoff

Iranian nuclear scientist killed by Israeli automated gun: Report

THE COMMENTARIAT

How the media cracks down on critics of IsraelNathan J. Robinson (Current Affairs): “Already, it was clear that I was explicitly being censored for sending a tweet critical of Israel. My editor made it clear that were it not for the tweet they would have accepted my pitches. Mulholland’s assurance that Guardian [US] writers are ‘free’ to speak their minds was clearly false. You’re free, but if you go after Israel, your pitches go in the wastebasket. My editor admitted as much to me directly, by saying that the denial of my pitches was the direct result of the tweet.”

Gladys Berejiklian needs to make big reforms now COVID is under control ($) — Anna Caldwell (The Daily Telegraph): “There are of course a number of major fights the government has looming — the biggest on the books being pokies reform and stamp duty reform. Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello has signed himself up for what could be one of the biggest brawls of the term. Dominello wants to transition poker machine players to registered pre-loaded cashless gaming cards in a bid to stamp out money laundering and to minimise harm.”

Sky News is utterly unhinged, extraordinarily dangerousDave Milner (The Shot): “Lurking on the fringes of Rupert Murdoch’s social engineering project, News Corp, Sky News Australia is more dangerous to our democracy and our social fabric than we like to admit. It is a dirty bomb of white grievance, of conspiracy theory, of being wrong far too often for something pretending to be the ‘news’ – almost entirely because of its extraordinary right-wing political bias. Bias with such overwhelming weight it crushes all basic journalistic standards and principles.”

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