new zealand
(Image: AAP/David White)

NEW RULES FOR NEW ZEALAND

According to the ABC, Australia’s eastern states have imposed new quarantine restrictions on New Zealand travellers after the number of COVID-19 cases linked to an Auckland high school grew to eight.

While NZ authorities believe the outbreak, which prompted a lockdown on Sunday February 14, is under control, NSW Health has also announced it is contacting travellers who have arrived from the country since Saturday and recommended that, as a precaution, they should get tested and isolate until they get a negative result.

The news comes after private aged care company HealthCare Australia revealed that a doctor who incorrectly gave two elderly Queenslanders a “higher than the recommended dose” of the Pfizer vaccine had not completed the required immunisation training.

Additionally, NSW will further ease restrictions from 12.01am tomorrow, with up to 50 guests to be allowed per household and 30 people on wedding dancefloors — but, curiously, not changes to protest limits of 500 people.

And over in America, NBC reports that documents released by the US Food and Drug Administration suggest Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine is overall safe and highly effective — 86% — against COVID-19’s most severe outcomes.

PS: In other travel news, The Age reports the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has received almost 28,000 complaints over trips that never happened due to the pandemic, with around 30% still seeking refunds.

HIGGINS MAKES FORMAL COMPLAINT

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has made a formal complaint to the Australian Federal Police over her alleged rape in March 2019, the ABC reports, while Peter Dutton has revealed he was told of the allegations by the AFP days before Higgins went public.

This is because Higgins contacted police six days earlier to signal she was considering reopening the investigation, unwittingly triggering rules the AFP introduced post-media-raids to inform the Home Affairs minister of politically-sensitive investigations.

Below are some other updates from another proud day for the Australian Parliament:

  • One Nation rehired convicted rapist Sean Black to work in its Queensland head office in December 2020, just months after he completed a 2018 jail sentence for rape and assault (Guardian Australia)
  • Former Labor MP Emma Husar has written an open letter to Anthony Albanese over the party’s “deadly” silence after allegations of since-dismissed sexual allegations were leaked to BuzzFeed in 2018, before speaking further on the matter to both Sky News and 7.30
  • Unnamed Coalition MPs and industry figures have spoken to The Australian ($) questioning the return of Linda Reynolds to the Defence portfolio, after she was admitted to hospital following increase scrutiny over her handling of Higgins’ alleged rape
  • Scott Morrison has claimed it has “long” been his view that Craig Kelly should not have employed longtime adviser Frank Zumbo, who is currently subject to an apprehended violence order and allegations of inappropriate behaviour by young interns (Guardian Australia).

1800 Respect: 1800 737 732; Lifeline: 13 11 14.

A MINE STATE OF AFFAIRS

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the Morrison government has excluded protections for Indigenous sites recommended in a recent federal review in its new environmental reforms.

The news comes as Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group apologises to Wintawari Guruma people for clearing land on a heritage site in Western Australia, The New Daily reports, after an “administrative error” saw the company begin works earlier than scheduled and without a community representative as required by a government instruction.

It is the second incident of its kind this week, after BHP reported damage to a culturally significant site in the Pilbara, despite increased pressure on iron ore giants after Rio Tinto’s destroyed two sacred shelters last year.

FRUITS OF LABOR

Finally, Labor has voted in support of a Greens motion to bring JobSeeker above poverty rates — which, as Crikey has explained previously, can range from between $816-$1100 a fortnight depending on the definition — although Corangamite MP Libby Coker later made clear the party has still not settled on a concrete figure.

This comes after policy experts at The Conversation found the Morrison government’s plan for a $614 fortnightly rate bring Australia’s welfare payment from the worst in the OECD to the second-worst after Greece.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

This is not ‘kids being kept in cages’, this is — this is ‘kids…’ this is a facility that was opened that’s going to follow the same standards as other HHS facilities.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki

In another trick right out of Australia’s playbook, the Biden administration rebrands Donald Trump’s horrific “kids in cages” immigration policy with the totally fine “kids in a slightly-nicer Trump-era detention facility they simply cannot leave”.

CRIKEY RECAP

From Frydenberg campaign to big bucks tribunal job — the sweet rewards of party service

“There’s a new twist to the tale we’ve been reporting of how Liberal Party loyalist Karen Synon came to be appointed to a $500,000-a-year job at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) by fiat of Attorney-General Christian Porter.

“Synon, we can reveal, publicly supported Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s election campaign for the Liberal seat of Kooyong in 2019. And there’s a picture to prove it.”


Diversity hit between the eyes as old media pockets about 90% of big tech cash

“Old media got what they wanted: free money, with almost 90% of the cash destined to line the pockets of News Corp, Seven West Media and Nine.

“Based on published figures, these three stand to gain about $110 million of the $125 million on offer to private media from Google. Expect a similar split in the Facebook deals.

“This free money will undermine media diversity by subsidising old media and by prioritising their content on the web, making almost uncrossable the gap between their resources and the resources of start-ups. It threatens to hurry on the death of printed papers.”


Ignored and given scraps: Office for Women demeaned by Morrison government

“The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women is supposed to ‘deliver policies and programs to advance gender equality and improve the lives of Australian women’.

“It’s a big job. Yet it has just a handful of staff, offers meagre grants, and is rarely consulted about topics within its jurisdiction.

“The office hasn’t responded to Australia’s landmark report on workplace sexual violence, and has yet to comment on the multiple allegations of rape and assault in Parliament House.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Facebook over-enforced Australia news ban, admits Nick Clegg

New standards imposed for rooftop solar panels to protect electricity grid

Landmark media bargaining code passes the Senate following new Facebook deal

Browns Plains fire: Dossier of DVO breach proof not enough to protect Doreen ($)

COVID committee condemns ‘secretive’ Morrison government for withholding key information

‘WA Inc’ Brian Burke’s donations tip for Premier Mark McGowan ($)

Climate crisis bigger concern than pandemic for Australian businesses, survey finds

Jayapal, AOC and progressive Democrats push ‘overhaul’ of US immigration system

THE COMMENTARIAT

Facebook got everything it wanted out of Australia by being willing to do what the other guy wouldn’tJoshua Benton (niemanlab): “Australian regulators have been arguing for months that Facebook derives huge value from the news stories shared on its platform — and that, as a result, Facebook should be forced to compensate the Australian publishers who create them. As with the Hungarians above, Australia’s play can be simplified to: We have something you find incredibly valuable, and unless you give us what we want, we can destroy it. To which Facebook, by unilaterally banning Australian news stories, responded: You have a really messed up idea of who finds what valuable here. Here, watch me shoot the hostages and show how illusory your ‘leverage’ really is.”

Leadership can’t take a holiday, we need PM out in front ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian): “Three standout events so far this year have seen the ‘bad Scotty‘, the one who took off for Hawaii during the bushfires, the one who doesn’t get it, the one the ‘good Scotty’ is powerless to control, take charge. They were the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington; allowing Craig Kelly’s damaging rogue behaviour to continue unchecked for so long; and the handling of rape allegations by former staffer Brittany Higgins.”

“An affront to anyone who believes in democracy” — Benjamin Reilly, John Phillimore, Sarah Murray, and Martin Drum (Inside Story): “But despite the government’s dominance in the lower house, its attempts to update the electoral system — described by former WA Labor leader Jim McGinty as ‘an absolute affront to anyone who believes in democracy’ — continue to fall victim to the non-government majority in the state’s upper house, the Legislative Council, and its own lack of ambition. Modest changes to the political donation and campaign expenditure rules failed to pass the Legislative Council in December 2020, just before parliament was prorogued.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Melbourne

  • Netball great Sharni Layton will launch her memoir No Apologies in an online Readings event.

Peter Fray

Follow the team that follows the money

Nobody digs into corruption in this country better than Crikey does.

Now we’re digging even deeper with our new multi-part series, The Dirty Country: Corruption in Australia, where our team lifts the lid on corruption, telling us how it’s done, who wins and what it costs.

Get involved. Follow the team that follows the money. Save 50% on a year of Crikeythat’s just $99 for an annual membership — when you subscribe today with the promo code CORRUPTION.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW