WA GRADUALLY REOPENS
Mark McGowan has announced further eased restrictions for Perth and Peel, with ABC explaining that interim restrictions lasting from Saturday, May 1 to May 8 will mean masks are still mandatory for indoor workplaces and public transport, indoor private gatherings will be capped at 30 people, and spectators will be permitted at outdoor sport.
Sunday’s AFL western derby at Perth Stadium will go ahead with the crowd capped at 75% capacity, while McGowan also announced financial aid grants of $2000 will be provided for some of the most affected small businesses, namely those in hospitality.
Elsewhere, the Herald Sun ($) reports that doses of Pfizer vaccines continue to be wasted under the Morrison government’s rollout, with insiders reporting that certain deliveries of the drug — which has a shelf-life of five days after being unpacked — can give authorities just a day to administer all doses.
The head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Professor John Skerritt, has also announced that “the current evidence does not suggest a likely association” between two recent deaths and their AstraZeneca vaccinations, Guardian Australia explains.
And more than a year after the government chose to exclude universities from JobKeeper, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Education Minister Alan Tudge will today announce a $53 million package for private higher education institutes, VET colleges, and English language schools to survive without international students with an extra 5000 short course places, adapted business models, and slashed registration fees.
PS: As Al Jazeera’s live blog of India’s outbreak notes, millions have voted in the final phase of a marathon election in West Bengal. Packed election rallies, including one in West Bengal headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just last week ($), and religious festivals have been blamed for the country’s record-breaking surge.
MORRISON HITS THE GAS
Scott Morrison is expected to announce the construction of a 660-750MW taxpayer-funded gas-fired power plant in New South Wales’ Hunter region, RenewEconomy reports, after last year setting the energy sector an ultimatum ending today to make firm “final investment decisions” to construct 1000MW of “dispatchable” power to replace the Liddell power station. Which, even assuming no more capacity gets built when it comes offline in 2023, the Australian Energy Market Operator projects would only leave a shortage of 154MW.
Additionally, the government’s advisory panel the Energy Security Board has released a shortlist of options for the redesign of the National Electricity Market in the face of an influx of renewables and retirement of coal generation. The Australian ($) uncritically reports that Angus Taylor prefers a plan to — shock horror — keep fossil fuels economically sustainable for longer by paying coal, gas, hydro, and batteries for generation capacity rather than just consumed power, which falls as wind and solar enter the grid.
The new plant would be built at the site of the former Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter near Newcastle through the government-owned company Snowy Hydro, and has been criticised as unnecessary and polluting by Australian Conservation Foundation as well as anti-competitive by Zali Steggall. When queried by Four Corners over the disparity between the 1000MW ultimatum and 154MW maximum shortfall, Taylor only argued “that’s reliability, there’s also affordability”.
PS: While the ABC and RenewEconomy put the Kurri Kurri gas plant at 750MW, the Oz reports that negotiations with EnergyAustralia over a proposed 300MW gas plant in the Illawarra mean that “all signs point to the government building a 660MW gas generator”.
MORE LAMING ALLEGATIONS
Four more women have come forward to accuse Andrew Laming of inappropriate behaviour, the ABC reports, with one alleging the Liberal MP made her feel uncomfortable during and immediately after a domestic flight, and another accusing him of persistently asking local female staff on a delegation to the Philippines for their phone numbers.
Laming, who was also accused of inappropriate contact with women on Facebook, has said all of the complaints are “utterly without substance”.
PS: In a timely speech to the United Israel Appeal NSW donor dinner in Sydney last night, Scott Morrison has criticised the “growing tendency to commodify human beings through identity politics” and declared freedom rests on “taking personal responsibility”.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
What I have realised is that part of the symptoms was I was almost overly empathetic because I was getting involved in stuff I shouldn’t have, getting immersed and obsessed and determined to ‘fix it’.
After issuing an “apology” for bullying two women online and denying allegations his photograph of another bending over was inappropriate, the Liberal MP discovers his real problem through the magic of an online empathy course.
Cue the crocodile tears and claims of victimhood as the Old Boys Club shirks responsibility for sexual violence
“Responsibility is a hard pill to swallow. Claiming victimhood when women expose harassment, bullying and sexual violence is much easier — and it’s often done by those very same men quick to call out the ‘woke brigade’.
“Notably, Liberal MP Andrew Laming has used a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as his scapegoat after being caught out harassing women, while The Courier-Mail’s long-time columnist Mike O’Connor has come forth in defence of the boys, arguing 2021 has been hard for men.
“Cue my tiny string quartet.”
“Amanda Stoker, the assistant attorney-general, doesn’t like the term ‘anti-racism’. She hates it so much she got the Australian Human Rights Commission to scrap a tender enhancing a much-needed anti-racism campaign, according to a report in Guardian Australia.
“Why did the senator take issue with ‘anti-racism’, which on its surface sounds like an objectively good thing? It’s because, according to a spokesperson, anti-racism is closely related to critical race theory, a once-obscure set of academic ideas that has somehow become a bogeyman for culture war conservatives the world over.”
Can you hear the drums, Pezzullo? With Australia barely out of Afghanistan, Defence boss-in-waiting rattles his own sabre
“Well, if you’re going to announce futile military adventures I guess the morning of April 25 is the time to do it. On the day that we remember the thousands of lives thrown away in an effort to make Turkey British, Department of Home Affairs head Mike Pezzullo announced we might soon be going again. This time to get between China and Taiwan apparently. Or, to put it more exactly, China and another bit of China.
“Pezzullo took the opportunity for portentous quotation, intoning that, ‘in a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat — sometimes faintly and distantly, and at other times more loudly and ever closer’.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Grattan on Friday: Australians should not be left stranded in India — Michelle Grattan (The Conversation): “Getting the right ‘balance’ is one of the main challenges when framing and executing policies. The difficulties of achieving this are being exposed currently on two fronts — the repatriation of Australians and relations with China. The politics of risk and fear have been central in managing COVID from the start. State and territory leaders in particular have been risk-averse, and they’ve won praise and votes for it.”
Treasurer’s jobless target is aimed at the next election ($) — Phillip Coorey (AFR): “Women make up the bulk of low-income earners and would be most affected by the withdrawal of the [low and middle income earner tax offset], more so after independent analysis published by The Sydney Morning Herald showed the tax cut would not fully compensate for the LMITO. The government feared Labor would exploit this, just as it tried to exploit the withdrawal of JobKeeper and the paring-back of JobSeeker. Outwardly it can argue the extension is a confidence measure, one that will generate economic activity and jobs.”
A major test for Shell’s massive multi-purpose greenwashing juggernaut — Ketan Joshi (LobbyWatch): “Shell’s climate plans, which it released in February, have been recently formalised into an ‘energy transition plan’, which it plans to present to its board at the company’s Annual General Meeting in May. It is the first real test of whether badly insufficient climate plans will be welcomed or criticised. There wont be another update until 2024. ACCR was one of several major groups, including Greenpeace and Oil Change International, to sign a letter urging investors to vote against Shell’s problematic climate plans. It’s an advisory vote, not a binding one, but Shell have not exposed their climate attitudes to this style of scrutiny before, and so this is a vital decision.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union will launch its campaign for a new government schools agreement and its latest State of Our Schools survey.