Scott Morrison
(Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

A TALL BORDER

Scott Morrison has rejected suggestions that more than 40 COVID-positive Australians and around 30 of their close contacts were “unfairly blocked” from their Qantas flight from India over the weekend, Guardian Australia reports.

However Morrison concedes problems with the pre-flight testing regime after the ABC revealed at least three blocked Australians later tested negative and that the contracted pre-departure screening lab, CRL Diagnostics, had its accreditation suspended by the nation’s laboratory board in April. Morrison also said the next federal priority will be working on returning international students, after states such as New South Wales and Victoria announced plans to do so.

Amid debate over Australia becoming a “hermit kingdom”, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has called to link vaccine targets to a timeline for reopening the international border. Former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth has also called for Australia to eventually end the “false idol” of eradication after achieving a certain level of immunisation, while leaked audio recordings reveal Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton told healthcare workers something similar last month.

The latest Newspoll ($), however, suggests 73% of Australians support closing the border until at least mid-2022.

And the Western Australian government has introduced an increased COVID-19 testing protocol for hotel quarantine, moving from testing overseas arrivals on days two and 12 to days one, five and 13.

PS: That Newspoll ($) also suggest 44% of voters think the 2021-22 budget will be good for the economy — the highest approval rating since Peter Costello’s 2007 budget — but the support has not impacted the two-party-preferred vote, which Labor continues to lead 51-49.

DEATH TOLL RISES IN GAZA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged “it will take time” before his government lets up its assault against “terrorist organisations”, Al Jazeera reports, after early-morning air raids in Gaza killed at least 42 Palestinians — the highest toll yet across seven straight days, including from Saturday’s bombing of a media building — and flattened at least two residential buildings.

The Gaza Health Ministry has said at least 192 people, including 58 children have been killed in Gaza over the past week, while Israeli forces have killed at least 13 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres yesterday called for an immediate ceasefire at a Security Council meeting, while Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has told the session that “Israel is persecuting our people, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

The Biden administration had earlier tried to postpone the session, and has repeatedly proclaimed Israel’s “right to defend itself” but remains increasingly isolated in its refusal to condemn the Netanyahu government. US progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib have criticised party leadership and labelled Israel an “apartheid state” — with Ocasio-Cortez noting this is a description employed by the UN, Human Rights Watch, and Israeli rights group B’Tsele — while, here in Australia, tens of thousands marched in “Free Palestine” rallies over the weekend.

OILED FOR CHOICE

Finally, Scott Morrison will today unveil a $2 billion oil package that will encourage Australia’s two remaining refineries — in Queensland and Victoria — to stay operational with offers of up to 1.8 cents per litre of fuel they produce until 2030. The ABC explains the number of refineries in Australia halved since October, when BP decided to close its Kwinana refinery in Western Australia just months before ExxonMobil announced the closure of its Altona plant in Melbourne’s west.

Elsewhere, The Australian ($) reports that South Australia’s government has pledged to “respond quickly” amid shaky talks between the owner of the Whyalla steelworks, GFG Alliance, and its proposed refinancer, US-based lender White Oak, as the UK’s Serious Fraud Office probes steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta’s parent company.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Is there some work being done on change? Yes. Is that going to be in legislation this year or next? I don’t know.

Natalie Hutchins

Following news Dan Andrews’ “toughest in Australia” bail laws saw a Victorian jailed for stealing a Bubble O’Bill, the corrections minister admits the Labor government is looking to tweak the measures. Just not, necessarily, before the next election.

CRIKEY RECAP

Ransomware attacks are surging, but governments are too conflicted to do anything other than sound warnings

“While ransomware attacks are multiplying rapidly for private corporations, don’t expect our cybersecurity agencies to do much other than warn about them. In fact, they remain a core part of the problem of what will become a key element of 21st century life — the vulnerability of even the largest corporations to being locked out of their own data and systems.

“By one count, ransomware attacks have increased 62% globally since 2019, and more than 150% in North America. That skewing reflects the fact that several major ransomware groups operate with relative impunity from Russia, on the proviso that they never attack Russian institutions.”


Why is Australia still behind on COVID shots? Beyond politics, there are kinks in the supply chain

“Australia has nearly 9 million COVID-19 vaccines onshore. The vaccine supply chain line is long, convoluted and involves expensive private contractors to oversee, advise and staff the rollout.

“Just 2.89 million of those doses have made it into arms — and just 279,000 of those are in residential aged or disability care. Just 11% of Australians have received their first dose. Australia ranks 34 out of 37 OECD countries for single doses per 100 people.”


Coalition conservatives frustrated by Josh Frydenberg’s ideologically confused ‘Labor-lite’ budget

“Once upon a time, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg deified Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, architects of the great neoliberal experiment.

“But the pandemic killed ideology, as Frydenberg himself once put it. On Tuesday night, he hammered another nail in ideology’s coffin, delivering a big-spending budget that appeared to stray a long way from much of the Coalition’s traditional small government ethos.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Josh Frydenberg defends wages policy despite workers facing real pay cut

‘Nothing’ in the budget for public hospitals under pressure

Australian grid used the least coal on record last summer as renewables shone

Upper Hunter by-election: Nats in narrow 51-49 lead in crucial seat for Berejiklian ($)

141,000 new apprentices but Labor doubts how many more will sign up

Tourism WA faces mass exodus as half of board resigns ($)

Powercor proposes 20 big batteries for Victoria renewable energy zones

Adani admits breaching environmental conditions for Carmichael coalmine

Backlash at Craig Mclachlan’s Channel 7 interview

Property hit by $2.7b tax austerity plan in Victoria ($)

These Uyghurs were locked up by the US in Guantanamo. Now they’re being used as an excuse for China’s crackdown in Xinjiang

Facebook’s secret rules about the word “Zionist” impede criticism of Israel

THE COMMENTARIAT

Gaza attack on media offices will deepen fog of warPeter Greste (The Sydney Morning Herald): “In times of conflict, the way the parties conduct themselves is a good indicator of their values and principles. So it is with the current crisis between the Palestinians and Israelis, and in particular, the latest attacks on the media based in the Gaza Strip. On Saturday, an Israeli air strike destroyed an 11-storey apartment building used by local and international media companies, including the Associated Press news agency and Al Jazeera, my former employer. It followed similar strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday targeting high-rise residential buildings that foreign and local journalists also used as offices.”

Victoria’s tax grab ($) — The AFR View (AFR):Josh Frydenberg’s expansionary federal budget and the Reserve Bank’s nailed to the floor cash rate are trying to pump up the economy to create labour market pressure that pushes up wages and inflation. The massive property tax grab announced by Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas before Thursday’s state budget pushes in the opposite ‘austerity’ direction. A federal Coalition government is spending more. A Labor government in Victoria is taxing more, including in a way that will push up housing costs. And it’s clamping down on public servant wage rises, too.”

Israel doesn’t have a “right to exist” — but Israelis and Palestinians doBen Burgis (Jacobin): “The idea of a two-state solution never made much sense. The West Bank and Gaza are geographically disconnected, and the Gaza Strip takes up all of 140.9 square miles. Under the terms of a future two-state deal, the residents of this tiny strip of land, densely packed with refugees from elsewhere in Israel/Palestine, wouldn’t be able to travel anywhere else in their country without venturing through the territory of a hostile military power that could deny such permission at any time. Does that sound like a meaningfully independent nation?”

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  • The Disability Royal Commission will hold a one-day hearing to examine the approach of the Australian government and its agencies to the vaccination of people with disability and disability support workers.