VACCINE THE LIGHT
Gladys Berejiklian has announced that more than 5 million of New South Wales’ roughly 6 million adults would have to be vaccinated before her government considers reopening its international border, The Sydney Morning Herald reports, with the premier adding that people over 50 should not delay vaccination as “we have no assurance of future supply chain to the vaccine”.
According to The Australian ($), Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens is working with state counterparts on a reopening roadmap that could include restriction-free domestic travel for vaccinated Australians, fewer restrictions on vaccinated international arrivals, more travel bubbles, and new quarantine arrangements for international students and specialist occupations.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner also supports lifting border restrictions for vaccinated Australians once the territory achieves herd immunity, but said there is not yet enough clinical evidence to name a threshold.
The news comes after Scott Morrison yesterday recommitted to his international border reopening target of mid-2022, while Virgin Australia’s chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka called for a shorter timeframe, faster vaccine rollout, and protection of vulnerable groups, in which case, “some people may die, but it will be way smaller than with the flu”.
The NT News ($) reports Morrison spruiked a “proposal” to use Bladin Village as another quarantine site to help deal with agricultural work shortages. Gunner however has described the plan to use Bladin Village, which currently houses Index worker and US Marines, as “unlikely”.
Elsewhere, the Disability Royal Commission has heard that fewer than 1000 people living in residential disability homes have been vaccinated, while the ABC explains that a new Health Department report shows just 75% of vaccines distributed in Australia have been administered.
And at The Conversation, researchers at the Sydney Policy Lab and the Culture Strategy at the University of Sydney have explained their five-point reopening plan that includes pilot programs ahead of full vaccination for crucial industries, “immunity passports”, and new risk-weighted quarantine measures.
PS: For some international context, the SMH explains that one of the great COVID-19 success stories, Taiwan, is currently in lockdown amid a fresh outbreak and — with some citizens apparently rejecting the vaccine in lieu of any urgency and in favour of waiting for side-effects — just 1% of its population of 23.5 million immunised.
ISRAEL’S LATEST WAVE OF ATTACKS
According to the Associated Press, the Israeli military has unleashed another wave of heavy airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, with Israel claiming it destroyed 15km of “militant tunnels” and the homes of nine Hamas commanders. At least 200 Palestinians have been killed over the past week, including 61 children. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.
Amid growing international focus on Israel, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has vetoed a third attempt this week by the United Nations Security Council to call for a ceasefire and condemn Israel’s military action; the US, for context, provides the country with US$3.3 billion annually in carte blanche foreign military financing.
Blinken however did state he has not been shown evidence supporting Israel’s claim that Hamas operated in a Gaza building housing AP and Al Jazeera journalists, and has called on the Netanyahu government to provide “justification” for that particular strike. This is despite a senior Israeli diplomatic source telling The Jerusalem Post yesterday the government had shown the US “the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building”.
A DEBT EACH WAY
Finally, ahead of the Victorian budget dropping on Thursday, the AFR ($) reports that neither federal Labor nor the Australian Council of Trade Unions have condemned the Andrews government’s plan to slash $3.6 billion from the state’s public service over the next four years, a plan that includes slashing $350 million in salary funding for public servants, despite both criticising the federal Coalition for stagnant wage growth and, specifically, tying Australian Public Service pay rises to the private sector Wage Price Index.
On the other end of the spectrum ($), Scott Morrison has slammed the state government’s plan to increase property taxes by $2.5 billion to help pay down debt from the pandemic.
Other pre-budget drops include almost $350 million to upgrade Victoria’s forensic mental health hospital, $70 million to establish public fertility care services, and $1.3 million to support survivors of family violence and their pets.
PS: While not directed at Victoria, it’s worth noting that the latest Newspoll ($) suggests 60% of voters supported the second federal COVID budget’s spending agenda over plans to reduce public debt.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
So while ABC supporters boast a high percentage of trust levels, in reality only 15.4% of Australians are choosing to watch it.
With an audience share average of 15.4% percent across all ABC channels, the ABC would undoubtably be a viable competitive and commercial media organisation that could operate independent of taxpayer funds.
If the ABC is as trusted as its staff and supporters claim it is, then it has nothing to fear from privatisation or reform.
The Institute of Public Affairs
Because $783 million in cuts by the Coalition is just not enough, the neoliberal wonks at the IPA deploy some fuzzy audience figures to argue the ABC is not Australia’s most trusted media organisation. But, even if it was — and it absolutely is — the broadcaster should be privatised, obviously.
Private contractors get $156m to vaccinate Australia’s most at-risk. Why can’t we know what they’re doing?
“Details of the contracts have remained highly secretive. The contracts have not been listed on AusTender and requests for details, made in Parliament and by Inq, have been ignored.
“The four contractors are no strangers to political donations: Sonic Healthcare gave $533,500 to the Liberal Party between 2011 and 2017 (and $55,000 to Labor during the same period), making it the fourth-biggest donor from the health industry ahead of the 2016 election.
“HCA is owned by private equity firm Crescent Capital which has contributed $208,250 the Liberals, Labor and the Nationals since 2016-17. And it has been linked to former Labor senator Sam Dastyari.”
“A new law that would help foreign governments surveil people in Australia has been given the tick of approval from Parliament’s security committee pending a list of proposed changes that would add additional safeguards and beef up oversight.
“If passed, the law would make it quicker and easier for a network of nations to exchange telecommunications data — obtained via real-time wiretapping, stored communications or records — belonging to its citizens and those from foreign nations.”
“What exactly is the government’s wages policy in the wake of the budget?
“It’s claiming a damascene conversion to the need for wages growth and fiscal policies to achieve it, but it looks a lot more like Augustine’s ‘Lord make me pure, but not yet’.
“If the budget forecasts are to be believed, the government is pumping extraordinary spending into the economy for what, over forward estimates, will be zero net real wages growth. They’ll fall this coming financial year, flatline from 2022 to 2024, and finally rise a small amount in 2025.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Inaudible — Randa Abdel-Fattah (Meanjin): “It’s hard not to feel broken. I do not know how to face the fact that 73 years of settler colonial violence and ethnic cleansing does not vibrate in people’s ears, heads, hearts and chests so loudly that they will do everything in their power to stop it. I no longer know what it will take for the sound of a Palestinian family being ripped apart by a bomb, or a family pleading to remain in their homes, to ring in people’s ears. I do not know how to face the fact that people I personally know who profess to be progressive, human-rights loving, anti-racist, decolonial, intersectional, open-minded refuse to so much as whisper one word: Palestinian.”
Blame Joe Biden for return to pre-Trump Gaza ($) — Greg Sheridan (The Australian): “The appalling suffering in the Gaza Strip, and the equally appalling rocket terror in Israel, are at least partly the fault of Joe Biden’s shockingly misguided approach to the Middle East. Welcome back to the pre-Donald Trump Middle East, where Iran is empowered and its proxies, of which terror group Hamas that rules Gaza is one of the most deadly, are much more lethal. Welcome back to the dismal, failed paradigm of Barack Obama’s Middle East.”
Why should Jarryd Hayne’s crime against a woman get a lesser sentence than Cody Ward’s drug offences? — David Heilpern (The Sydney Morning Herald): “There were two prison sentences in recent weeks that, when compared, give real pause for thought. The first of these was Jarryd Hayne, who was sentenced for two counts of sexual assault to five years and nine months with a minimum period of three years and eight months. He pleaded not guilty and was found guilty by a jury. Eloquently, the victim described the impact on her in these terms: ‘My body remembers and my mind won’t let me forget.’”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Josh Frydenberg will deliver a post-federal budget address at a Business NSW event. Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy is also set to deliver a briefing on the federal budget at an Australian Business Economists event.
Legal researcher Dr Liz Curran will launch her new book, Better Law for a Better World, at Readings as part of the Victorian Law Week.