A LONG SHOT
Top infectious disease expert Professor Sharon Lewin has called on Australians not to put off getting COVID-19 vaccinations, explaining to The Sydney Morning Herald that doctors have learned more about the rare blood-clotting condition linked to the AstraZeneca shot and are beginning to see milder cases.
At the same time, Guardian Australia reports that more than 1.5 million shots — or about one in every four distributed — are now sitting unused in clinics across the country. Scott Morrison yesterday declared he was “not overly troubled” by a new survey in the Nine papers suggesting almost 30% of Australian adults are unlikely to get immunised, although projections by the Blueprint Institute also show that, going off current vaccination rates, it would take until November 2022 for vaccinations to hit five in six Australians.
The news comes amid criticism of the government’s communication strategy and open-ended plan to reopen international borders; the SMH and The New Daily report that several public health experts have called for better communication and a federal advertising campaign, while head of the Australian Medical Association Dr Omar Khorshid has explained that a plan for 2022 would help foster a sense of urgency.
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Elsewhere, 51-year-old Sunil Khanna has become the third Australian reported to have died of COVID-19 in India, with the ABC noting Khanna passed on April 29 while his elderly mother died a day later.
PS: In the latest federal-state divides, The Australian ($) reports Gladys Berejiklian wants an end to internal borders in Australia — putting her at odds with Morrison, who has called for a state version of vaccine passports — while Annastacia Palaszczuk has accused the federal government of “cherry picking” regional quarantine proposals.
NETANYAHU REBUFFS CALLS TO DE-ESCALATE
Benjamin Netanyahu has apparently knocked backed a message from Joe Biden that the US president expects “a significant de-escalation … on the path to a ceasefire” on Wednesday, with Al Jazeera reporting the Israel prime minister announced his government is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met”.
Israeli fighter jets continued to pummel Gaza Wednesday morning, destroying residential buildings and killing at least four people including journalist Yusef Abu Hussein, while a Palestinian protester has been killed and dozens wounded by soldiers in occupied West Bank. Palestinians across both territories and Israel have also engaged in a general strike.
Elsewhere, Israel has fired artillery at Lebanese targets in response to four rockets launched from the territory, Reuters notes, while Gaza is now battling water shortage and COVID-19 outbreaks on top of the daily air strikes.
In the US, Biden has been booed by hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters during a visit to an electric vehicle plant in Michigan, while The Hill reports that a group of progressive House Democrats led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have introduced a resolution designed to block a US$735 million arms sale to Israel.
PS: After Scott Morrison declared last Friday that Israel “unquestionably has the right to defend itself … and, equally, Palestinians need to be able to live safely” — and Foreign Minister Marise Payne and shadow minister Penny Wong called on both sides to stand down — head of the Australian Centre for International Justice Rawan Arraf has argued in an interview with Sydney Criminal Lawyers that the Morrison government “has been the most pro-Israeli government that we have seen in Australian history”.
Finally, the Victorian government will today hand down a budget showing a $16.5 billion turnaround from 2020’s debt forecasts — with net debt set to reach $138.3 billion by 2023-24. This is down almost 11% on the $154.8 billion outlined in November’s state budget — which The Australian ($) reports is attributed to a recovery in the property market, increased GST revenue and the creation of 240,000 jobs since September.
But Treasurer Tim Pallas has also confirmed figures from a state audit completed last month and says the budget will show cost overruns and time delays averaging 30% across infrastructure projects worth more than $100 million.
The Age notes the budget will include an extra $1.37 billion for the Metro Tunnel after it agreed to split the $2.74 billion blowout with the consortium building the project. Pallas also said plans for an extra $2.4 billion in property taxes are not, in the Nine papers’ words, meant to “vilify Victorians who had been successful”, an apparent response to campaigns from property developers as reported in the AFR ($).
Elsewhere, The Mandarin reports of a $986 million plan to rollout 25 new energy efficient trains, while the government’s acceptance of all recommendations from its mental health royal commission yesterday signals a potential new mental health levy to fund service improvements.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
[Doug Cameron, via Twitter]: So Phillip Coorey is running cover for Morrison and his dumb decision to publicly fund a gas fired power station. The compliant RW media will not critically analyse crazy govt decisions. Justifying ideology over the environment is cowardly failure of journalistic integrity.
[Phillip Coorey, via text before being tweeted by Cameron]: Hey Doug, the unions, the workers, the bosses and some of your former colleagues say that power station is needed to keep the smelter open and stop AGL and others gouging manufacturers on price and costing jobs. Remember when you used to care about that stuff and didn’t think government intervention was a bad idea when the markets failed the people? You’re a fraud mate.
Doug Cameron and Phillip Coorey
Sure, “cons” for the government’s Kurri Kurri gas plant include it being a polluting, costly, and redundant gift to Coalition donors, but we officially have a “pro” after the news inspired this tit-for-tat between a former Labor senator and the AFR’s political editor.
“Nothing says influence quite like having your own member of parliament — in the case of Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest it is WA Liberal Senator Matt O’Sullivan, a Christian politician who appears to have already had an outsize influence on the federal government despite his brief time in Parliament.
“O’Sullivan was elected to the senate in 2019 from number-three position on the Liberal ticket having spent the last 10 years of his working life at Forrest’s charitable foundation Minderoo.”
“Has there ever been a project that so neatly fits the government’s political agenda as well as the commercial interests of its mates?
“The $600 million subsidy announced for a gas plant in Kurri Kurri makes no commercial sense for the taxpayer, but there are windfalls everywhere you look for Liberal donors.
“From the owners of the proposed site through to the Hunter Gas Pipeline and on to the Santos’ Narrabri gas project, there are vested interests as far as the eye can see.”
“Penny Wong didn’t want to talk about the book she was there to launch. Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman used the release of Red Zone — The Sydney Morning Herald international editor Peter Hartcher’s deep-dive into the growing threat of Xi Jinping’s China — as an opportunity to excoriate the Morrison government’s opportunistic, misguided handling of foreign policy.
“Delivering a stump speech which had been dropped to media overnight, Wong lashed out at an approach to China that was often ‘frenzied, afraid and lacking context’.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Scott Morrison: pictures do not replace leadership in action ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian): “Amazing pictures of a touring Prime Minister going out of his way to show whoever he is visiting he is one of them guarantee him a run on the news. The poses help tell or sell the story of the day. But they do not count as leadership. That is sort of what Dominic Perrottet, the NSW Treasurer, was getting at when he tried to give the prime minister a big prod to lift his game, or rather his vision, above the polls. More gingerly a clutch of his backbenchers have finally shown signs of life to urge discussion of when and under what circumstances international borders can be reopened.”
As a Palestinian and ex-journo, the coverage of Gaza by Aussie media outlets has devastated me — Jennine Khalik (Pedestrian.TV): “I’ve been watching the events unfold, feeling helpless — a helplessness compounded by the poor, biased media coverage from mainstream, commercial Australian media outlets, including those I worked at. This past fortnight, we have all been watching the dispossession of Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah, and when finally the news was reported, after the silence, it was referred to as ‘clashes’. That’s the word used by our media to describe the forced evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, by illegal Israeli settlers and Israeli forces: ‘clashes’.”
Government-owned firms like Snowy Hydro can do better than building $600 million gas plants — Arjuna Dibley (The Conversation): “Australian governments (of all persuasions) have not often used the companies they own to lead in clean energy innovation. Many, such as Hydro Tasmania, still rely on decades-old hydroelectric technologies. And others, such as Queensland’s Stanwell Corporation and Western Australia’s Synergy, rely heavily on older coal and gas assets. Asking Snowy Hydro to build a gas-fired power plant is yet another example — but it needn’t be this way.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Sinologist Linda Jaivin will discuss her new book The Shortest History of China in an Avid Reader online event.
The Grattan Institute will host webinar event “How to reignite policy reform in Australia” with former public servants Martin Parkinson and Don Russell, as well as inaugural chief executive of the think tank John Daley.