GIVE IT ANOTHER SHOT
National cabinet will hold its first biweekly meeting today to discuss Australia’s failed COVID-19 vaccine rollout, with the ABC noting that mass vaccination centres will be discussed and The Australian ($) reports that Scott Morrison is facing resistance from states with regards to his push for a home quarantine system.
Yesterday, New South Wales recorded three locally acquired cases, after a family was found to have become infected while staying in hotel quarantine. Meanwhile, Victoria announced it will lift the pause on AstraZeneca for those both under and over 50 — now that issues around training and liability have now been resolved — and open three mass-vaccination hubs on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, an investigation is underway over an infection-control breach involving the transfer of a COVID-19 positive patient at the Royal Perth Hospital, The New Daily reports, and the trans-Tasman bubble officially opens today.
And while international borders aren’t lifting for the foreseeable future, Guardian Australia notes that Scott Morrison yesterday announced that vaccinated Australians may be able to travel for “essential” purposes in the second half of 2021 with the possibility of quarantine on return home.
PS: Health Minister Greg Hunt has also suggested the government is developing business cases for Australian manufacturers to produce mRNA vaccines, such as the Pfizer vaccine, at scale. This comes after Greens leader Adam Bandt proposed a publicly-owned mRNA vaccine manufacturer in February.
According to The Australian ($), new Defence Minister Peter Dutton will today overrule an attempt by Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell to implement a recommendation by the Brereton war crimes inquiry to revoke the award of the Meritorious Unit Citation from more than 3000 special forces soldiers as an form of collective punishment.
Dutton will instead announce soldiers will retain their unit citations, awarded to special forces teams for “sustained and outstanding warlike operational service in Afghanistan from 30 April, 2007 to 31 December, 2013, through the conduct of counter-insurgency operations in support of the International Security Assistance Force”, unless they are found guilty of a war crime, are sacked as an accessory, or dishonourably discharged.
The Brereton report originally recommended that, in light of the alleged war crimes, the award be revoked from the Special Operations Task Group entirely to “disentitle the unit as a whole to eligibility for recognition for sustained outstanding service”.
As Crikey explored last week, the news comes after Dutton announced that his first priority as defence minister was to repair a morale slump post-Brereton report and remind troops that the government “has their back”. It also followed The Daily Telegraph’s “Save Their Medals”, which was slammed by the Australia Defence Association for “fundamentally misunderstanding facts” including “the collective (not individual) nature of a unit citation”.
LABOR UNDER AN APPREHENSION
Just a few weeks after the Australian Academy of Science reported the Great Barrier Reef is practically doomed under 2 degrees of global warming, let alone 3 degrees, The Australian ($) reports that Labor’s new resource spokesperson Madeleine King has hit out at a moratorium on new coal mines and, while the party supposedly supports a net zero target, backed coal exports past 2050 ($).
Elsewhere, Scott Morrison and South Australian Premier Steven Marshall have signed an energy agreement that, similar to the one signed in NSW last year, unlocks gas supplies and increases the state’s gas targets. It also includes work on a new electricity interconnector with NSW, set to come in handy with SA hoping to become a net exporter of 500% renewable energy by 2050.
Finally, more than 70 serious injuries to UberEats delivery workers were recorded in New South Wales last year, The Sydney Morning Herald reports, with the state’s work safety authority SafeWorks also warning HungryPanda of the serious risks facing untrained riders often working on student visas.
The news comes after Menulog last week announced it would “trial” minimum wages and entitlements for riders, while also advocating at Labor’s senate inquiry into job security for a new award sitting somewhere between contracting and employment for drivers.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
[on nobody stepping down over the $1.2 billion robodebt settlement v $20,000 watches costing Christine Holgate her job]: It was unfortunately a 30 year practice where the use of average income data from the ATO frankly wasn’t sufficient, until this government actually got advice to say it wasn’t sufficient and therefore funds were actually paid back. It was a longstanding practice of government that just turned out to be incorrect.
Arguing that Holgate’s scandal is incomparable to the fact no one lost their job over robodebt despite it costing a total of $1.2 billion, the employment minister glosses over the fact the Coalition in 2016 automated that flawed income-averaging system, aimed to “recover” $3.7 billion, reversed the onus of proof, and went on to oversee the deaths of more than 2000 recipients.
“On an overcast morning in March, about 100 Indian students gathered at Jantar Mantar, an 18th-century observatory in the centre of New Delhi to send a message to Scott Morrison: let us back into Australia.
“Sandeep Kaushik, one of the organisers, travelled nearly five hours from the northern city of Chandigarh to be there. He’d spent the last five years studying accounting at Universal Business School Sydney and driving taxis on the side before an accident forced him back home to recover.”
“The trouble with the Germans is they’ve got no word for schadenfreude. No but seriously, the other day I was thinking about how we need a word that denotes the particular combination of schadenfreude and genuine pity.
“The occasion of that was of course the strangled tweet by The Australian’s Adam Creighton all the way from Washington: ‘Covid19 has killed free speech’ tweeted the foreign correspondent of a national platform.
“‘Covid 19 will be the most formative event of my life. Virtue signalling dominates truth. The West is finished.’
“Despite claims about foreign governments and bad luck, it’s clear that the vaccination rollout debacle was very much made within the Morrison government. It was the government that failed to plan for the predicted outbreaks of vaccine nationalism, and the government that placed too much reliance on a single vaccine.
“That adds to the two other major pandemic-related failures by the Morrison government — the expensive and useless COVIDSafe app, and the failure to protect aged care residents in Victoria.
“On the economic front, the government has been far more successful: JobKeeper worked very well (although profitable corporations have been allowed to keep billions of dollars in unmerited taxpayer support) while the HomeBuilder program kept the construction industry going.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Thirty years on, I sense the same storm brewing around Aboriginal deaths in custody — Pat Dodson (Guardian Australia): “When a 28-year-old Aboriginal man hanged himself in the Brewarrina police cells on 6 August 1987, his family and the Aboriginal community (at least half the population of the town) blamed foul play by the police, and violent protests erupted. For prime minister Bob Hawke, it was “the one death too many” that led to his establishing in October 1987 the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody (RCIADIC). As Commissioner Hal Wootten QC would finally report, Aboriginal suspicions that the Brewarrina man was killed by police were ‘not unreasonable or unnatural’; such suspicions were ‘voiced all over Australia.’”
Andrew Peacock brought talent and personal style to the Liberal Party ($) — Paul Kelly (The Australian): “Andrew Sharp Peacock was a gifted son and diligent servant of the Liberal Party during his long 28 years in the national parliament — conspicuous for his natural political talent, his touch of personal magnetism and deep understanding of Australia’s role in the world. Having succeeded Sir Robert Menzies in 1966 in the seat of Kooyong, Peacock was forever stamped with the aura of being a future prime minister but his career can only be understood in the context of his prolonged rivalry with Malcolm Fraser and then with John Howard. While Peacock failed to achieve the highest office this disappointment rarely afflicted him, and he lived a rich and fulfilled life.”
Once a winner — Frank Bongiorno (Inside Story): “In a sense, it’s the ordinary image-making of democratic politics, and hardly sets Morrison apart as unusual. But there does seem to be something unusual about Morrison’s obsession with image at the expense of substance, which is hard not to connect with the path he trod to get into parliament via tourism marketing and political campaigning. If Tony Abbott governed like an opposition leader, it would be fair to say Morrison does so like a campaign director. This might be helpful in winning elections — it’s worked once, anyway — but as a foundation for leading a country it’s often been found wanting.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Historian Sheila Fitzpatrick will discuss her latest book White Russians, Red Peril in a Readings webinar with Melbourne University’s Stuart Macintyre.