ISRAEL AND HAMAS NEGOTIATE CEASEFIRE
Al Jazeera reports that, following truce talks mediated by Egypt, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and Hamas have announced a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, though when the ceasefire will come into action is still being negotiated.
As Al Jazeera’s live-blog explains, Israeli fighter jets continued to pound the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least one Palestinian and wounding several more, while the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told the UN General Assembly that: “If there is a Hell on Earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza.”
A LEVY OF COMPLAINTS
A $3.8 billion pledge in Victoria’s budget to rebuild the state’s mental health system “from the ground up” has been welcomed by the Victorian Council of Social Services and psychiatrist and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry, while the ABC reports that a mental health levy set to raise $843 million each year from big businesses has been slammed by the opposition and Business Council of Australia.
First proposed in the Victorian Mental Health Royal Commission, the levy will apply to businesses with more than $10 million in wages and begin January 1, 2022. Companies will pay a 0.5% surcharge on wages spent above $10 million, and a further 0.5% levy will be applied from their $100 millionth dollar onwards.
The Australian ($) reports that Josh Frydenberg has argued the levy will, along with a previously-announced $2.4 billion increase to property taxes, slow growth, while Guardian Australia notes the funding means the state government has pledged 65% more than the federal government announced in last week’s mental health investment.
The budget also includes a forecast that international students will begin returning from “early 2022” but population growth will remain lower than pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024; a public sector wage bill forecast to jump 17.8% over the budget forward estimates attributed to workers needed throughout the pandemic ($); and other large packages for schools, health and public transport. For details on the latter, see The Age’s comprehensive list and analysis of winners and losers (as much as these things can fit neatly into either).
Lifeline: 13 11 14.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that thousands of AstraZeneca doses are sitting unused in Commonwealth-run clinics across New South Wales, with a lack of demand meaning some sites are operating at less than a quarter of capacity even as some GPs say they are still waiting on supplies.
The news comes after a nurse in Victoria announced this week she administered just one vaccine over the course of an eight-hour shift at one of the state’s mass vaccination hubs.
Epidemiologists continue to urge Australians over the age of 50 not to wait for alternatives to AstraZeneca, with the ABC reporting that Deakin University’s Professor Catherine Bennett has warned against a “false sense of security” as some Australians — cited by both the ABC and respondents to the SMH/Resolve Strategic’s “vaccine hesitancy” survey — suggest they will hold out for Pfizer or Moderna drugs due by the end of 2021.
The call comes after Health Minister Greg Hunt — tackling an admittedly incredibly vexed communication challenge — sparked some confusion for telling eligible Australians to seek that vaccine as soon as possible but also be confident that, “as supply increases later on in the year, there will be enough … mRNA vaccines for every Australian”.
While blood-clotting remains extremely rare among those who receive the AstraZeneca vaccine — and serious cases reportedly dwindle as health experts learn more about the drug — the calls sadly come as a 53-year-old South Australian man is being treated in intensive care with the side-effect health authorities say is linked to the vaccine.
Elsewhere, Scott Morrison has insisted his proposal for a digital vaccination passport for quarantine-free interstate travel is not dead in the water, despite, as Guardian Australia reports, strong pushback from New South Wales and Queensland’s state premiers. See also: whatever happened to the COVIDSafe tracing app.
MESSED UP ROYALLY
Finally, an investigation set up by the BBC has found that it fell short of “high standards of integrity and transparency” over a 1995 interview with Princess Diana, with journalist Martin Bashir found guilty of deceitful behaviour after showing fake bank statements to persuade Diana’s brother Charles Spencer to introduce the pair.
Diana admitted in the interview to an affair and shared intimate details of her marriage to Prince Charles. The ABC notes both the BBC and Bashir have issued apologies, although the latter, who left the broadcaster last week because of ill health, noted he remains “immensely proud” of the interview and said “the bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview”.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
[asked to read out his own finding that, ‘Defence has not clearly demonstrated that the acquisition provides value for money, as it did not undertake robust benchmarking in the context of a sole source procurement’]: Senator, I have been advised that given that that sentence is subject to a certificate issued by the attorney-general, I am prohibited from communicating that to you.
Auditor-General Grant Hehir
After losing a long FOI battle over a 2018 Defence audit with Independent Senator Rex Patrick, former-attorney general Christian Porter’s final twist of the knife — gagging the auditor-general from explaining his results to MPs and senators — means that while you and I can read a sentence in a public document aloud, the guy who wrote it cannot.
“Somewhere amid the Big Macs and hot apple pies an extraordinary scene played out in a suburban McDonald’s which, 20 years on, still has ramifications for the men involved — and the ever-expanding Hillsong Church.
“It was here in the fast food fantasia of McDonald’s Thornleigh in Sydney’s north that two of the biggest names in the Australian Pentecostal movement met to dispense quick justice to a man who had been sexually abused as a child.
“The deal was done with the promise of $10,000. In exchange, the then-38-year-old victim Brett Sengstock signed a soiled McDonald’s napkin.”
Vaccine hesitancy is a by-product of a society where science has lost its grip and distrust runs wild
“The governments of the day were determined to wipe out TB — correction: wipe out TB in non-Indigenous people, where it persists to this day — and so they just made ya do it. Like they made kids have the polio Sabin vaccine, sweet pink fluid on a tiny spoon. Lined up at school and just given it. There was a very occasional religious exemption, but that was it. Today the notes regarding anti-vax beliefs would knock out half the class.
“Mass vaccination relied on three things. At the deepest level a sense of collective life, in which mutual obligation minimised notions of free-floating risk. That has now been atomised, so individual senses of risk separate from their actual likelihood. Second, a belief and trust in science as the frontier of human betterment; that the small number of people who were scientists and doctors were on the side of the masses, despite and because what they do was utterly incomprehensible to most. Finally, there was the regimentation of a mass society, in which lining up to do stuff — from kinder to school, to the Repco/Heinz/Ford factory — was just what most people did for most of their life.”
“Independent federal MP Craig Kelly has been working with a couple of young YouTubers who’ve previously promoted conspiracy and fringe theories — including accusing Australian politicians of running a paedophile ring and calling COVID-19 a ‘scamdemic’.
“Since the maverick MP left the Liberal Party room, he has begun dabbling in more video content that he shares to social media with video production help from Dougal Cameron and Joel Jammal, who each produce fringe video content on YouTube and Facebook.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Treasurer goes all in on the Robin Hood approach to funding — Annika Smethurst (The Age): “With state and federal elections due by the end of next year, this budget has handed the Coalition — at both the state and federal level – a political weapon. In Victoria, the Andrews government holds 55 of the 88 seats in the lower house to the Coalition’s 27. That gives it a comfortable buffer. Labor now represents affluent suburbs such as Hawthorn, Sorrento and Surrey Hills, and this budget suggests it doesn’t necessarily care if it holds them.”
SAS still a place for the best of the best ($) — James Paterson (The Australian): “The geopolitical climate we confront, identified in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, will demand as least as much, if not more, of our special forces as the past decade has. The update identified the rising risk of state-on-state conflict in our region, the Indo-Pacific, and the increasing use of grey-zone tactics that occur below the threshold of war but still threaten our national interests, such as cyber attacks, covert influence and economic coercion.”
Crony capitalism: Morrison’s gas spending masks a deeper coal addiction — Ketan Joshi (RenewEconomy): “There’s one statistic that was included in the International Energy Agency (IEA) net zero report earlier this week that stands out above every single one. The thing about no longer investing in any new fossil fuel infrastructure was big, but to me, advanced the call for OECD countries to completely shut down their coal-fired power stations by the year 2030 to align with net zero by 2050 is the really, really big one.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission will hold its live webinar “Exposing corruption: how IBAC handles complaints” as part of Law Week 2021.
Mount Gambier, SA
Advocates for voluntary assisted dying will hold a candlelight vigil.
Rallies for the School Strike 4 Climate movement will take place in all capital cities and dozens of other cities and towns.