THE ROAD TO NOWHERE
The Morrison government has torn up four agreements between Victoria and foreign countries, including two linked to the Andrews government’s Belt and Road Initiative deal with China. It’s the first use of federal veto laws covering states and territories, local governments, and public universities since the scheme was introduced last December.
While Victoria’s memorandum of understanding and framework agreement with China was non-binding, the ABC explains that federal ministers have privately complained the agreements allowed China’s government to split the Australian domestic consensus on the BRI and hand Beijing a public relations win.
The other two agreements are more obscure: a 1999 MOU designed to encourage scientific cooperation between Syria’s Ministry of Higher Education and the Victorian Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training, and a 2004 agreement between Victoria’s education department and an Iranian government agency.
The move is certain to reignite tensions between China and Australia and creates something of a precedent; as Eryk Bagshaw explains at The Sydney Morning Herald, the move comes after China’s deputy ambassador Wang Xining complaint at the National Press Club yesterday about the Turnbull government becoming the first to outwardly ban Huawei three years after the fact.
PS: Incidentally, the news comes hours after the NSW government announced a $100 million payout for China’s state-owned Shenhua corporation over plans for its Watermark coal mine, ending a 13-year battle with local farmers.
PPS: In another international stoush, Britain’s Trade Secretary Liz Truss has texted Australian counterpart Dan Tehan to smooth things over after she was cited personally calling him “inexperienced” and complaining that progress for the free trade talks in London is “glacially slow”.
FLIGHT OR FIGHT
The Northern Territory Howard Springs quarantine facility is dealing with more than 20 COVID-19 cases — its highest number since it began handling repatriation flights last year — with the majority coming from India in the wake of the country’s record second wave.
Roughly two months after recording a daily caseload of less than 25,000, India is recording about 294,000 infections and 2000 deaths a day, with the Financial Times reporting that a potential new variant has overwhelmed both hospitals and crematoriums.
Yesterday, the Australian Medical Association NT branch president Robert Parker called on national cabinet to “very seriously” look at placing a pause on repatriation flights coming into Howard Springs from India.
Western Australia’s Health Department has confirmed two people contracted COVID-19 in hotel quarantine in Perth, news The West Australian ($) reports has seen Mark McGowan also suggest a potential flight ban. NSW is also examining a potential spread in a second Sydney hotel.
Elsewhere, national leaders will today discuss fast-tracking the AstraZeneca vaccine for over-50-year-olds, while the Victorian government yesterday pledged $50 million for an mRNA vaccine facility.
In another energy pledge ahead of Joe Biden’s climate summit today, The New Daily reports that Scott Morrison will announce $565.8 million for “new international technology partnerships” in commercialising low-emissions technology across five priority areas:
- Clean hydrogen
- Low-cost energy storage for solar and wind
- “Green steel” and aluminium
- Soil carbon projects; and, for the second time this week,
- Carbon capture and storage.
The news follows similar energy announcements yesterday notably lacking the word “renewable” — $275.5 million for hydrogen, $263.7 million for the fossil fuel sector’s great Trojan horse, carbon capture — as well as a $1 billion deal with South Australia that, in part, increases the state’s 2023 gas targets by 50 petajoules/year it is not projected to need.
While Guardian Australia notes both the US and Japan are expected to pledge to roughly halve their emissions by 2030 and Britain on Tuesday pledged a 78% cut below 1990 emissions levels by 2035, Morrison has yet to announce any emissions targets beyond Tony Abbott’s 2030 goal of 26-28% below 2005 levels.
Hilariously, Morrison yesterday claimed he will seek to direct today’s summit to focus on “the ‘how’”, claiming “there has been enough conversations about the ‘when’, it’s about the ‘how’, now.”
PS: None of this has stopped Australian newspapers today breathlessly reporting “PM’s global tech fix for emissions” (AFR $) or that Morrison will “promote practical action and achievement over ambition at Joe Biden’s climate change summit” (The Australian $), whatever that means.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I don’t want to see taxpayers’ money going into an alleged education when children are going to walk away thinking that police are somehow racist … This sort of indoctrination is going to scare these children away from the police, it will put their lives in danger…
We don’t have a race problem here in Australia.
“The Morrison government is scrambling to talk up how many injections were delivered this week as the states begin to open mass vaccination centres. But there is little detail about which Australians are getting which vaccines each day, or what age groups, and other vital information that would help paint a picture of the program’s success, even in its early phase.
“‘If [Accenture] were paid $8 million, then where is their data?’ Professor Peter Collignon at the Australian National University’s medical school said. ‘Knowing what’s happening with this vaccine is very important. The data is there. The more that is available the better.’”
“More than 25,000 Australians living in residential disability care, and those who care and provide crucial services for them, appear to have fallen off the government’s vaccine schedule.
“After early consultation and plans to engage the sector were shown last week to have not been followed up by contact with the network of disability support providers, yesterday the Health Department confirmed the grim failure.”
“Scott Morrison might have allegedly bullied Christine Holgate out of her Australia Post job, publicly humiliated her, and cut across the lines of independence designed to protect government enterprises from political interference… but it was far from the first time for him.
“Indeed, Morrison’s behaviour has strong echoes with his role in a political furore which, though little known in Australia, played out dramatically in New Zealand more than 20 years ago.
“Dr Gerry McSweeny was a firsthand witness to the shenanigans known as the ‘tourist wars’ and remembers well the role Morrison played as the director of a new government tourism agency.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
There will be more Derek Chauvins — Adam Serwer (The Atlantic): “During his closing argument, Steve Schleicher, one of the prosecutors trying the former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, insisted that jurors could convict Chauvin without convicting policing. ‘This is not an anti-police prosecution,” Schleicher told the jury. “It’s a pro-police prosecution.’ For his part, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, told the jury that ‘all of the evidence shows that Mr Chauvin thought he was following his training. He was, in fact, following his training.’”
Australia all set for embarrassment at Biden climate summit — Cait Kelly and Josh Butler (The New Daily): “Australia will be an international embarrassment at the US-led climate change summit this week, as other countries put a firm foot down to reduce emissions. That is the message from climate scientists and economists who argue our country is in the best position in the world to take advantage of a renewable future. All it has to do is make the leap.”
In nation’s cafes, COVID vaccine rollout pushes coal off the menu ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian): “Peter Dutton’s first mission as Defence Minister was to restore the government’s battered reputation among a core constituency, serving and former soldiers. Personnel and veterans were angry over what they saw as grossly unfair punishment meted out in the Brereton report on alleged atrocities in Afghanistan recommending 3000 Afghan veterans, culpable or not, be stripped of their Meritorious Unit Citation.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Josh Frydenberg will present “Your Economic Pathway Post-COVID” as part of The West Australian’s Leadership Matters series
The NSW Government will convene a stakeholder meeting, the CBD Summit, to develop Sydney’s post-pandemic recovery.
Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein and Labor leader Rebecca White will speak at an election debate.