covid-19 scott morrison nebuliser
(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

GAS MONEY

Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor will today confirm plans to build a 660 megawatt gas power plant at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley through a $600 million equity investment via the publicly-owned Snowy Hydro Limited, news dutifully announced by The Australian ($) as stepping in “to keep power prices down and the lights on”.

This is despite the Australian Energy Market Operator finding that the 2023 closure of Liddell’s coal-fired power station would create a maximum shortage of just 154 megawatts, and, as Guardian Australia explains, that batteries, pumped hydro, or demand management would all be cheaper options than the Kurri Kurri project.

Fresh from paying gas figures to recommend the federal government fund the gas industry, the news comes after the Morrison government moved yesterday to expand the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s remit to fund carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. This is after they pledged $263.7 million for CCS through the federal budget, and despite the fact parties of both stripes have spent more than $1.3 billion on that particular Trojan horse with roughly nothing to show for it.

It’s been a busy week for Morrison and Taylor, who on Monday pledged more than $2 billion, carte blanche, for Australia’s last two oil refineries.

Elsewhere, a new report from the International Energy Agency yesterday found that countries should add “no new oil and gas fields … and no new coal mines or mine extensions if it is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in the energy sector”, and, as RenewEconomy explains, that coal use should plunge 90% to just 1% of total energy use globally, fossil gas demand by 55%, and oil by 75%.

PS: For some extra cronyism points, note that Santos has donated more than $1 million to the Coalition since 2010 and has former executive David Knox running Snowy Hydro, while the Kurri Kurri gas plant is projected to run, on average, just one week per year (coincidentally on gas from Santos’ proposed massive coal seam gasfield at Narrabri).

52K PALESTINIANS DISPLACED

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has put the number of Palestinians displaced by Israeli air strikes in Gaza at 52,000, while Reuters adds that a separate statement by Amnesty International said the strikes on residential buildings could amount to war crimes and calls on the International Criminal Court to investigate.

Israel claims its hundreds of strikes have hit only “legitimate military targets” and does what it can to avoid killing civilians. However, Amnesty has documented at least four destroyed residential homes: two belonging to the Abu al-Ouf and al-Kolaq families on May 11, killing 30 people including 11 children; the al-Atar family’s three-storey building on May 14, which killed a mother and three children; and the home of Nader Mahmoud Mohammed Al-Thom, where he lives with eight others, on May 15.

At least 217 Palestinians have been killed since the attacks begun, including 63 children, while 12 people have been killed in Israel, including two children. As Al Jazeera notes, strikes continued in Gaza on Tuesday as Joe Biden expressed support for a ceasefire in a call with Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel shelled Lebanon in response to six failed rocket launches from southern areas of the country.

PS: Footage from Sky News UK yesterday shows Israeli police with a “skunk gun” used to spray Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem with a rancid-smelling mixture, a measure ostensibly deployed against protesters but one locals and rights groups describe as a form of collective punishment.

SHOTS IN THE DARK

Finally, a survey by The Sydney Morning Herald and research company Resolve Strategic suggests vaccine hesitancy in Australia has hit 29% of adults, a jump from previous Ipsos surveys in February and September, apparently driven by doubts over vaccine side-effects.

The poll comes after Scott Morrison admitted the government needs to “step up” its efforts to vaccinate people living in disability care, with just 4% of residents thus far immunised. Guardian Australia explains he continues to fend off pressure to set a date for reopening even as the Australian Medical Association joins calls for a “plan for 2022”.

And 47-year-old solar industry pioneer Govind Kant has become the second Australian to die from COVID-19 in India, while Qantas has announced it will use a different laboratory to screen passengers after some people were denied repatriation due to false positives. India, CNN reports, was hit on Monday by the strongest storm on record to reach its west coast, even as it continues to face record deaths from the pandemic.

PS: Morrison’s comments over people in disability care come as new Minister for the National Disability Scheme Linda Reynolds argues the scheme is too reliant on individual public servants’ judgement and “their natural empathy”, in a defence of the government’s proposed “independent assessment” scheme. Reynolds also argued the plan to use private contractors is not universally despised by disability groups, despite more than 20 organisations signing an open letter from Every Australian Counts calling for it to be dropped.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

But as important as income support is, it’s not the full story. It’s not the only lever…

Because disadvantage has become so concentrated, a ‘place’ strategy that supported 10 communities in each state and territory could benefit over 50% of all Australians facing adversity. We could likely do this without more spending.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers

Labor, apparently petrified of being seen to throw too much money at ending poverty, proposes some hot new neoliberal alternatives to just doing what the Coalition did last year and doubling income support.

CRIKEY RECAP

Goopy Gwyneth’s all at sea, but her latest ideas aren’t just a bit of harmless fun

“The woman who gave the world the yoni jade egg and the This Smells Like My Vagina Candle now wants to bring back cruises. As in, sticking a bunch of people on a floating petri dish.

“Goop founder and renowned woo-woo peddler Gwyneth Paltrow has announced the first Goop cruise, where you can hang out with her.

“Goop at Sea is promising an ‘incredible roster of cutting-edge doctors, practitioners and thought leaders’, and Goop’s ‘very best healers’ to bring you the ‘ultimate wellness experience at sea’.”


A sham? Morrison’s secretive national cabinet comes under legal blowtorch

“A legal showdown this week could unravel a key part of the Morrison government’s secrecy regime, allowing Australians to finally view deliberations inside national cabinet and the now defunct National COVID-19 Commission.

“Independent Senator Rex Patrick is challenging the notion that the national cabinet is a cabinet and entitled to cabinet confidentiality rules. If he is successful, the government will have to release deliberations, papers and outcomes from the national cabinet if requested under freedom of information.”


Business fails to make its case on borders as government, community comfortable with hermit Oz

“Sections of the business community have pushed for the reopening of borders pretty much all the way through the pandemic, backed by News Corp and The Australian Financial Review. At no stage have they made headway in the public debate. Despite News Corp whining about the ‘populism’ of Labor premiers, border closures have proven a massive electoral winner.

“Indeed, so attractive a political model is border closures that Scott Morrison — once happy to attack state premiers for slamming borders shut at the first cough — has joined their ranks, pushing back the reopening of Australia’s international borders into the middle of next year, criminalising Indian-Australians seeking to return, and suggesting that even a fully completed vaccination rollout might not be enough to allow a return to normal international travel.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Penny Wong accuses Scott Morrison of stoking China tensions for political gain

Budget spending cuts likely once COVID recovery complete, Treasury secretary admits

Furious Crown executive threatened to go to minister over regulator’s high-roller concerns, inquiry told

Tools down: developers baulk at property tax ($)

Queensland government to introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation into parliament next week

Rider wins landmark case against ‘callous’ Deliveroo as gig economy workers push for rights

Mark McGowan backs Scott Morrison’s refusal to set date for reopening Australia’s border ($)

Indonesia pushes to reopen fractious maritime border talks ($)

Darwin’s Arch off Galapagos Islands collapses into Pacific Ocean

Roger Federer suffers shock upset loss to Spain’s Pablo Andujar in return to tennis

THE COMMENTARIAT

IEA says net zero by 2050 within reach, but the world needs to do moreKetan Joshi (RenewEconomy): “Australia’s government has, notoriously, shied away from short-term climate action. Unabated coal-fired power is only set to reach zero by around 2050 due to natural retirements, rather than 2030, as required for advanced economies in the IEA’s scenario. It has also refused to set mandates or targets for electric vehicles or heat pumps in gas fuelled homes — the IEA suggests in their report 60% of all global car sales ought to be electric by 2030.”

Don’t cut library funding. Indeed, increase it ($) — Michael McGuire (The Advertiser): “No doubt [SA Treasurer Rob Lucas] will comfort himself that in the extraordinary circumstances the state finds itself, it is the right thing to do. That anything approaching a slash-and-burn austerity budget would condemn the state to unnecessary economic hardship. But again, it is likely Lucas will look to snip spending where he can. Aim for what may appear to be soft targets that won’t prompt too much of a political backlash before next year’s state election. There has been some speculation that the state’s libraries could be one such easy mark.”

Why super funds fear inquiry may stall their climate-change pushCharlotte Grieve (The Sydney Morning Herald): “There is a parliamentary inquiry taking place looking at investment screens that impact the country’s exports, including thermal coal. It came after a string of industry super funds launched climate policies last year that made net zero emissions targets and pledged to fully exit investments in thermal coal companies. The coal industry has used the review as an opportunity to fight back against institutional investors that no longer see value in their assets, labelling moves to dump coal stocks as an opportunistic attempt to appease environmentally conscious fund members.”

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The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers will deliver a post-budget address at the National Press Club.

Sydney

  • Independent Senator Rex Patrick’s challenge against the national cabinet’s entitlement to cabinet confidentiality rules will be heard in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

  • Immigration and Citizenship Minister Alex Hawke, Australia’s “most successful migrant property developer” Harry Triguboff, and BIS Oxford Economics chief economist Sarah Hunter will formally launch Urban Ideas’ “Migration Matters — Immigration and the Economy” report.

Logan, Queensland

  • The City of Logan and community partners will hold a vigil to remember victims of domestic violence.