Howard Springs quarantine facility
Howard Springs quarantine facility (Image: AAP/Glenn Campbell)

REPATRIATION PLANS

The federal National Security Committee has signed off on a plan to begin repatriating the roughly 9000 Australians stranded in India once the travel ban is lifted next Saturday May 15, with the ABC adding that the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs facility will be used to quarantine arrivals.

Scott Morrison is expected to announce further details today, with the first repatriation flight expected to leave almost as soon as the ban ends, with a capacity to bring home around 200 passengers. Around 900 Australians listed as vulnerable by the Department of Foreign Affairs will be given priority, while it is unclear when commercial flights will restart. Howard Springs, for context, had its capacity boosted to 2000 per fortnight in March, while The Age reports that national cabinet will today discuss lifting quarantine caps in other states.

The news comes as New South Wales health officials search for a “missing link” between an eastern Sydney man who tested positive to COVID-19 on Wednesday with the same strain as a returned traveller from the United States — which currently is not subject to a travel ban — after the man’s wife tested positive yesterday. Gladys Berejiklian yesterday announced new restrictions for Greater Sydney including a limit of 20 guests per household and mask requirements for indoor venues and public transport.

NSW Health has updated its list of exposure sites, which now includes a Fratelli Fresh in Sydney, Tuesday April 27. In response to the new cases in New South Wales, states such as Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia have begun to apply restrictions and New Zealand has paused its quarantine-free travel bubble with NSW.

And in a busy day for local COVID-19 news:

  • Authorities are investigating five new reports of blood clotting potentially linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine (ABC)
  • The legal challenge against the travel ban is due to begin Monday (The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Most of Australia’s 38-strong Indian Premier League contingent have departed for a long and indirect journey home via the Maldives (Guardian Australia)
  • And, as Crikey reported yesterday, Australia has cheered on the US waiving vaccine patents despite Trade Minister Dan Tehan rejecting a waiver in March unless it was altered to protect the millions of dollars invested in vaccine development.

PS: Guardian Australia reports that in a move community leaders recognise largely as damage control, Morrison’s Facebook page is spending $2000 on ads targeting Indian-Australians to explain his travel ban.

$40M EARMARKED FOR GAS PROJECTS

Following recommendations for a “gas-led recovery” from a National COVID-19 Commission coincidentally stacked with gas executives, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Morrison government will hand out nearly $40 million in next week’s budget to fast-track pipelines, storage projects, and Andrew Forrest’s proposed LNG import terminal.

The news comes after Resources Minister Keith Pitt deployed rarely-used ministerial powers in March to quash a $280 million loan from the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility for the Kaban green energy hub. Guardian Australia reports the wind farm and battery project had been projected to reduce Queensland’s electricity prices by $461 million over its lifespan and create over 250 new jobs.

Pitt, who has quite a history advocating for coal, argued that despite the well-established economics of renewables he “is not convinced that the project will lower energy prices” and that it is “inconsistent with the objectives and policies of the Commonwealth” i.e. supporting “dispatchable” and “firm” sources such as coal, gas, and hydro.

PS: As RenewEconomy explained in March, proposed changes to the NAIF would further empower the minister to, say, fund a bunch more gas projects proposed by gas executives on the National COVID-19 Commission.

PORTER V ABC

Christian Porter has sought a temporary court order that three schedules of the ABC’s defence against his defamation claim “be treated as confidential” and not be distributed to third parties, with The Sydney Morning Herald explaining that the former attorney-general is ultimately seeking a court order striking out the schedules and one paragraph.

Porter’s lawyers are also seeking to remove the three schedules from the court files through Federal Court rules that cover “scandalous material” or material that is “otherwise an abuse of the process of the court”.

An ABC spokesperson said “the ABC supports having all materials in these proceedings, which are in the public interest, open to public scrutiny”.

INDIGENOUS VOICE TO PARLIAMENT IN SA

Finally, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has revealed plans to create Australia’s first Indigenous Voice to Parliament by the end of this year, with The Australian ($) reporting it will comprise a 13-member advisory committee open only to First Nations people.

Marshall, who joins NSW Liberal senator ­Andrew Bragg in calling on Scott Morrison to plan a referendum in time for the next term of parliament, explained a special election will be held where Indigenous South Australians will vote for six representatives, another six members will be appointed by the state ­government, while the 13th, who will be the chairman, will be the state’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement, Roger Thomas.

The news comes after Victoria announced a truth and justice royal commission in March as part of treaty talks, and as all states and territories but NSW, Western Australia, and Tasmania begin work towards treaty agreements.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

[Encrypted communication] platforms are used almost exclusively by SOC [serious and organised crime] groups and are developed specifically to obscure the identities of the involved criminal entities and enable avoidance of detection by law enforcement.

They enable the user to communicate within closed networks to facilitate highly sophisticated criminal activity.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

In arguing only criminals use encrypted platforms and that the government should therefore give it a slew of new surveillance powers, ACIC not only glosses over refugees, journalists, and most of parliament but, technically, anyone who uses its own website.

CRIKEY RECAP

Dodgy deals, broken promises: reef outfit shows how the private sector does it

“Born dodgy, continue dodgy: that’s the story of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s staggering $440 million handout from Josh Frydenberg in 2018, when the Turnbull government had some extra cash and decided it was a good idea to give it to a little-known body linked to business luminaries, including then-Business Council chair Grant King.

“Now the auditor-general has looked at how the foundation has spent taxpayers’ money, and in particular whether it fulfilled its promise that it would magically leverage taxpayer funding into $300-400 millions of additional private sector funding.”


60 Minutes’ ‘greatest misadventure’ forced Nine into damage control — and its cameraman to hell and back

“The jailing of a 60 Minutes crew over a botched child abduction attempt in Beirut in 2016 was a public relations nightmare for Nine, which swung into crisis management 101 to save its leading current affairs program.

“But five years on from the saga, 60 Minutes cameraman Ben Williamson, who was tortured in Beirut, lives in the grip of a debilitating case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”


Why is George Christensen suddenly promoting books from Amazon?

“Less than a week before his announcement, Christensen took a break from his normal newsletter content to promote a list of ‘must reads’.

“‘I wanted to give you my top 10 reading list on today’s issues so you can track down copies for yourself and become more informed than probably most journalists and many members of parliament and senators are!” he wrote.

“The books ranged from the Australian conservative Kevin Donnelly’s latest anti-leftist screed Cancel Culture and the Left’s Long March to Jordan Peterson’s new book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. Each article linked to an Amazon listing.

“What Christensen didn’t mention was that he will be taking a cut of the books’ sales.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

ACTU leads push for pent-up pay hikes after rebound ($)

Scott Morrison accidentally endorses Beijing position on Taiwan in foreign policy blunder

Government diverted cash from $31m safer communities grants to ineligible projects

Rio Tinto defends not stripping bonuses from executives who left amid Juukan Gorge outcry

Blow for Anthony Albanese as judge derails poll plans ($)

Judge criticises government for allegedly refusing to tell grieving mother about son’s robodebt

Morrison warns NDIS faces billion-dollar cost blowouts without changes

Truck hits five pedestrians in Melbourne’s Southbank, leaving two critical, before fleeing scene

SA hospital staff put on alert after computer glitch adds digit to medication dosages

Indonesia deploys 400 troops to Papua

THE COMMENTARIAT

Grattan on Friday: Unblocking the passage from IndiaMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “It became clear this week repatriation flights for Australians stranded in India would have to resume ASAP after May 15, whatever the COVID situation in that country. By going too far in its effort to stop individuals using a third-country ‘loophole’ to get home, the Australian government made it impossible to keep shut the direct flight pipeline.”

Can’t beat the border populists, so the PM has joined them ($) — Phillip Coorey (The Australian Financial Review): “Just because something is politically popular does not necessarily make it right. Time and again over the past year we have witnessed hardline actions by governments and law enforcers that have infringed on basic liberties and rights, all in the name of keeping us safe. In all cases, it has led to political reward while at times raising questions as to the necessity of it all.”

Europe’s carbon tariff plan will ‘trigger a race to the top’, but there will be tensionsFrans Timmermans and Josep Borrell (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Lawmakers and European governments have agreed on the European Climate Law, which anchors our climate-neutrality target in statute. With the Green Deal as our growth strategy and our 2030 emissions-reduction target of at least 55%, the EU is well on the way to achieving climate neutrality by 2050. But Europe is not alone: a critical mass is developing globally as more countries strengthen their decarbonisation commitments.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The Senate COVID committee will take evidence today with a focus on the India travel ban.

Sydney

  • The disability royal commission will hold an additional hearing day on barriers to education for students with disability.

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
JOIN NOW