Greg Hunt
Health Minister Greg Hunt (Image: AAP/Luis Ascui)

GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS HELPING

The Morrison government is considering sending oxygen and ventilators stockpiled at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to India, the ABC reports, but is not, apparently, reconsidering its block on an India-South Africa submission to the World Trade Organisation to suspend vaccine patents.

With today’s National Security Committee of Cabinet likely to result in tougher border restrictions or even a travel ban ($) with India, CNBC explained last week that the WTO proposal from October has been backed by more than 100 countries but is being stonewalled by a small number of richer governments such as Australia, the US, EU, UK, Switzerland, Japan, Norway, Canada, and Brazil.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan last month rejected the plan unless it was altered to protect the millions of dollars invested in their development, while pharmaceutical companies, and now IP kingpin Bill Gates, reject it allegedly on safety grounds.

In other Australian COVID-19 news, the lockdown of the Perth and Peel region ended yesterday after Western Australia recorded no new community spread, although some interim restrictions will remain for the next four days including mandatory face masks in public.

Additionally, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Gladys Berejiklian has challenged other states to take more international arrivals, as new figures show Victoria lagging in terms of returns, while acting Victorian Premier James Merlino and WA Premier Mark McGowan are pushing for more control over who is allowed to leave Australia and return to hotel quarantine.

PS: Note that the latest Newspoll ($) suggests more than two-thirds of Australians support Scott Morrison’s handling of the pandemic — including a majority of Coalition, Labor and Greens ­voters — despite the delayed vaccine rollout and clashes with the states over delivery and hotel quarantine.

PRESSING THE DUTTON

Peter Dutton has made good on previous threats to take legal action over social media posts, with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting the defence minister has commenced defamation proceedings against refugee advocate Shane Bazzi for a tweet labelling him “a rape apologist”.

Bazzi, who this month spoke openly about Centrelink slashing his income support to $0 due to new changes to the partner income test, tweeted “Peter Dutton is a rape apologist” on February 25 with a link to a 2019 Guardian Australia article reporting Dutton’s claim that women on Nauru were “trying it on” by claiming “that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru”.

Dutton has previously extracted an apology from Greens’ Senator Larissa Waters after he claimed to have not been provided “with the she said, he said details” of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations.

PS: For a short list of what kind of language Dutton deems appropriate, check out Crikey’s guide to his views on refugees, the “African gang” conspiracy, and “anchor babies”.

MINING EXPANSION

According to Guardian Australia, the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission has approved Glencore Coal’s mining expansion in the Upper Hunter Valley.

News of the 52 million tonne, eight-year expansion to the Mangoola mine comes after The Australia Institute yesterday found Australian fossil fuel subsidies hit $10.3 billion over 2020-21, including $7.84 billion allocated for the fuel tax credit scheme.

PEACE, IN OUR TIME

Finally, following days of feel-good foreign relations rhetoric, Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo has used an ANZAC Day message to staff to argue Australia should be striving for peace but “not at the cost of our precious liberty” and that “free nations again hear the beating drums” of war amid escalating military tensions in the Indo-Pacific.

The comments, which have been printed in full in an op-ed The Australian ($), follow Peter Dutton’s claim that conflict over Taiwan “should not be discounted”, and comes as Pezzullo is widely tipped to follow his former boss and take over as defence department secretary later this year.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Sure, social media has its virtues and its values and enables us to connect with people in ways we’ve never had before — terrific, terrific — but those weapons can also be used by the evil one and we need to call that out…

I’ve been in evacuation centres where people thought I was just giving someone a hug and I was praying, and putting my hands on people … laying hands on them and praying in various situations.

Scott Morrison

Addressing the Australian Christian Churches conference, our first Pentecostal prime minister speaks of the Devil using social media and God “using” him and Jenny to “provide some relief and comfort” in the wake of Cyclone Seroja. Who exactly was responsible for slashing JobSeeker back below poverty rates, to cite just one policy example, was not discussed.

CRIKEY RECAP

Tasmania has always been a knot of contradictions. And with the state election looming, that’s never been truer

“The small polity of Tasmania has always been a knot of contradictions. A week out from the state election, in which the Liberal Party are seeking a third consecutive term for the first time in the state’s history, this holds.

“Both Premier Peter Gutwein and Labor leader Rebecca White have pledged they will not lead a minority government. But for several reasons, this may well be the reality one of them faces after May 1.”


Morrison magics up technology to blind media opinion on climate — and it worked like a charm for a journalistic nanosecond

“Credit to Scott Morrison. He’s spent the past week busily feeding the most profound yearning of Australia’s traditional media: that the Liberal Party is (finally) making some profound climate change paradigm shift.

“But it’s a weak gruel: cooked up out of nothing more than a couple of speeches, an insult crafted for what he understands as his base and the working class semiotics of a high-vis dance routine alongside one of the country’s billionaires.”


Dutton relishes new China hawk role as warnings escalate over Taiwan

Dutton isn’t alone in warning about the prospect of a war over Taiwan. Over the last year, Australia’s political and foreign policy establishment have become a lot more comfortable speaking plainly about potential Chinese aggression in the region.

“Just weeks ago, former defence minister Christopher Pyne warned the prospects of a ‘kinetic war’ in the Asia Pacific, most likely over Taiwan, were far higher than during his time in office. Tony Abbott also raised his concerns about Chinese aggression at a speech in Auckland last week.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Australia Post audit reveals $7000 spent on smart watches and luxury pens before Holgate

Women-friendly measures to be rolled out beyond the budget ($)

This think tank wants to eliminate tax returns for nine million people

UnitingCare, which runs Wesley and St Andrew’s Hospitals in Brisbane, hit by cyber attack

Federal Labor weighs Tasmanian branch takeover ($)

MP Craig Kelly ‘absolutely outraged’ after Facebook removes his page for misinformation

Minister says quality teaching, not more school funding key to better results

Greensill made scramble for cash months before collapse, US court filings claim

NSW flood repair work contracts to stay local under ministerial order

Far-right activist storms council after worker labelled Parkdale Secondary students ‘oppressors’ ($)

Kevin McCarthy, four months after January 6, still on defensive Over Trump

Thailand’s prime minister fined for breaking face mask rule

Zaghari-Ratcliffe handed another prison sentence in Iran

THE COMMENTARIAT

We need to face the hard truths of hotel quarantineAndrew Miller (The Sydney Morning Herald): “We got here because some federal infection control experts who have the ear of power made bad calls early in 2020 saying airborne spread is insignificant, so PPE is not required when more than 1.5 metres away, and N95 masks are not necessary for most COVID-19 contact. This has proved to be the biggest own goal of the pandemic and means these boffins are to blame for many outbreaks, including the 4000 healthcare worker infections in Victoria in 2020, and resultant painful lockdowns. Backing down now means ending their careers in the limelight as expert advisers, so it is hard to shift that dogma even in the face of obvious reality.”

Indigenous Voice must be heard for nation to be whole ($) — Anthony Albanese (The Australian): “Next month it will be four years since the release of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in which First Nations people called for ‘constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country’. With grace, patience and unadorned power, the statement’s authors mapped out the path forward for us as a nation. As the statement made clear, though, the first step must be the enshrinement in our Constitution of an Indigenous voice.”

Oscars 2021: 5 experts on the wins, the words, the wearable art and a big year for womenJulia Erhart, Ari Mattes, Dan Golding, Harriette Richards, and Tom Clark (The Conversation): “Chloé Zhao has made history at the 93rd Academy Awards as the first Asian-American woman and first woman of colour to win Best Director. She won for Nomadland, which Zhao also edited, produced, and adapted as a screenplay (from the book by Jessica Bruder). Only one other woman has ever won Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2008. Zhao and fellow nominee Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) were just the sixth and seventh women to receive nominations.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Hobart

  • The Australia Institute will host the Clark Electorate Candidates Forum at City Hall.

Melbourne

  • Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project will launch their new report “Bridging the Department’s Visa Blindspot”, a look at laws preventing people seeking asylum from obtaining bridging visas and therefore access to work, education, Medicare, income support etc, in an online panel event including refugee advocate Sister Brigid Arthur and lawyer Greg Hanson.

Canberra

  • ACTU President Michele O’Neil will present “Budget 2021: What’s next — business as usual, or a working economic recovery for all?” at the National Press Club.

  • Parliamentary inquiries into NDIS independent assessments, the federal COVID-19 response, laws to ban goods produced by Uyghur forced labour and the Australia Post Cartier watch scandal will conduct hearings today.

Adelaide

  • All South Australian politicians who have introduced voluntary euthanasia bills over the past 26 years will speak at a protest calling for reform outside state parliament.

Australia

  • Malcolm Turnbull will discuss “Coal, Climate Change & Conservatives” in an Australia Institute webinar.

  • 2021 Stella Prize winner and author of The Bass Rock Evie Wyld will speak in conversation with judge Elizabeth McCarthy in an online Wheeler Centre event.

Peter Fray

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