COVID-19 social distancing
(Image: AAP/Scott Barbour)

MELBOURNE ‘REOPENS’

Restrictions in Melbourne have eased overnight while masks remain mandatory outdoors, as health authorities continue to investigate the source of four cases in a Reservoir household within the city’s north.

As the ABC explains, the Morrison government has ended emergency payments and withdrawn the city’s hotspot declaration, despite reduced venue capacities, gym closures, and other ongoing restrictions i.e. a controversial ban on non-urgent elective surgeries.

The husband of a Victorian woman who tested positive to COVID-19 on the Sunshine Coast also tested positive yesterday, while, on top of existing exposure sites identified throughout the week, new venues were added in: Victoria (Bundoora, Epping, Heidelberg, and Thomastown); New South Wales (Coonabarabran, Dubbo, Forbes and Moree); and Queensland (Baringa, Buddina, Caloundra and Moffat Beach).

Tragically, a 52-year-old woman has died in New South Wales from a blood clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, prompting experts to urge Australians to be informed but not alarmed over the rare side-effect after a second woman died earlier this year.

Elsewhere, the Herald Sun ($) reports that trainee and recently-retired doctors, nurses and paramedics are being recruited to nearly double Victoria’s vaccination capacity. The state’s government is also reportedly in conversation with the federal government about starting immunisations at more than a dozen chemists in remote regional and outer urban areas.

And Wyndham Council in Melbourne’s west has set up its own mass vaccination clinic, according to The Age, in lieu of federal and state action despite residents suffering almost 1000 cases last year.

PS: In much lighter post-pandemic news, The West Australian ($) reports that Mark McGowan and Clive Palmer are about to meet face-to-face after a judge ordered them to make a genuine attempt at settling their defamation battle outside of court.

CHINA SYNDROME

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has advised Scott Morrison to try to engage with China amid escalating rhetoric from Australia, while both leaders pledged to developing infrastructure for a travel bubble including a mutually recognisable digital vaccine certificate.

Morrison, who earlier this week received support from Japan against China’s “economic coercion”, is now en route to Britain for a G7-plus meeting to push that particular button — and promise exactly nothing for climate action — before heading to France to meet with Emmanuel Macron.

While yes, peaceful de-escalation is one option, The Australian ($) reports that Peter Dutton has thrown $10 billion at completely rebuilding six of the navy’s Collins-class submarines, doubling an initial plan to extend the life of just three boats, while a $90 billion+, opaque plan for 12 new French Attack-class subs has blown out to the point the first will not be ready for service until 2035.

Dutton has also called for greater US military presence in the Asia-Pacific to counter China’s influence, and the ABC has learned of a proposal to form a new joint US marines and ADF training brigade based in Darwin. Love of guns aside, it is again worth baring in mind how anti-China, “strong-man” rhetoric feeds into the Coalition’s domestic political strategy.

PS: Over to China itself, a new Amnesty International report accuses the government of crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, with more than 50 ex-detainees of Xinjiang internment camps detailing practices amounting to torture while researchers allege systematic, state-organised mass imprisonment and persecution of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the region.

ON TRACK, FOR NET ZERO

Finally, New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance is set to unveil a 2025 net zero emissions target for Sydney’s trains, the SMH reports, along with a plan to retrofit some harbour ferries with electric engines.

The push to power NSW’s train network with renewables comes after the Queensland government pledged another $1.5 billion for its renewables and hydrogen jobs fund ahead of next Tuesday’s state budget, RenewEconomy explains. The Palaszczuk government established the $500 million fund last September as one of the state governments to go it alone with a green recovery.

On the other end of the spectrum, energy companies including the federally-owned Snowy Hydro have hit out at a potential market rule-change favoured by Angus Taylor that would effectively subsidise ageing coal generators.

PS: Ahead of Queensland’s budget day, The Courier-Mail ($) also reports that more than half a billion dollars in health cuts have been axed after a furious campaign by hospital boards, although Queensland Health will still have to make $1 billion in savings already slated last year.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

My message to the Liberals who say privately they want the Biloela family to go #HomeToBilo:

Speak Out! Tell Karen Andrews publicly what you’re saying privately!

What is the point of being an MP, unless you are willing to use your voice for justice, compassion and the fair go?

Kristina Keneally

The shadow home affairs minister issues a highly principled call at a vigil to return Priya, Nades, Kopika, and Tharunicaa home to Biloela. Presumably, any Labor MPs who privately oppose the party’s policy of detention are now just as welcome to tell Keneally publicly.

CRIKEY RECAP

Is the government softening on the Biloela family?

“As three-year-old Tharnicaa Murugappan lay in a hospital bed with sepsis and pneumonia, her family hoped it might be enough to spur a bit of compassion in Canberra, and bring an end to their more than 1000 days in immigration detention.

“This morning, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews tried to put the genie in the bottle — after days of talk about overseas resettlement, she returned to the Coalition’s familiar terrain of stopping the boats.”


We ignored China’s abuses out of self-interest. Now we’ll be the big losers calling them out

“What’s the deal with inviting Australia to everything we’re not really part of? It started with the Eurovision song contest, and now we’re getting to go to the G7, like a bunch of rubes who get to sit at the big table.

“We’re not the only ones being invited, but the others — South Korea, India and South Africa — are all much larger in terms of population and heft.”


Ben Roberts-Smiths tells of a broken heart after media companies outline how they’ll show he’s a murderer

Ben Roberts-Smith told his defamation hearing in the Federal Court in Sydney today that hearing a lawyer describing him as a multiple murderer broke his heart.

“‘I spent my life fighting for my country and I did everything I could to make sure I did it with honour,’ he said. ‘I cannot comprehend how, on the basis of rumour and innuendo, anyone could say that in a public forum. It’s devastating, quite frankly.’”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Australian swimmer Maddie Groves quits Tokyo Olympic trials, citing ‘misogynistic perverts’ in the sport

‘A grant or a bribe?’: MP questions John Barilaro in parliament over $50,000 funding request

Melbourne’s first safe injecting room ‘fulfilling its purpose’, research finds

David Dungay Jr’s mother takes fight against Indigenous deaths in custody to United Nations

City high-rise residents fear for safety amid ‘terrifying’ creaking

Alinta calls for federal government to take lending role in coal ($)

IOC executive board proposes Brisbane host the 2032 Olympic Games

The Sydney suburbs where sexual assault reports doubled this year

Writers, researchers and thinkers sign letter to Scott Morrison in protest for National Archives of Australia ($)

Scott Morrison must embrace carbon tariffs to protect economy: Report

‘Miraculous’ mosquito hack cuts dengue by 77%

Coral reefs across the world ‘in danger’ as scientists note slowing calcification

Celebrations (and questions) greet US vaccine donation plan

THE COMMENTARIAT

Grattan on Friday: Scott Morrison’s quest to be a Biden ‘bestie’Michelle Grattan (The Conversation): “Given how deleterious for Australia China’s behaviour now is, the government’s reaction is not surprising. But there is also the risk of it becoming seriously counterproductive. In Western Australia, there’s concern China could threaten that state’s iron ore exports. Critics don’t buy the federal government’s argument this would be against China’s own interests and so is unlikely.”

Our goal is to build back bigger, greener and better prepared ($) — Boris Johnson (The Australian): ” I will ask the G7 and our guests to contribute more towards the Global Partnership for Education’s target of raising US$5b ($6.5b) for schools in the developing world. And as more children enter the classrooms, we must create jobs to match their talent and safeguard the environment they will inherit. The G7 can take forward both aims by supporting a green industrial revolution and promising to halve our carbon emissions by 2030, in order to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees.”

Your G7 greenwashing guide: How Australia will feign climate ambitionKetan Joshi (RenewEconomy): “Credit stealing: Australia’s renewable energy industry has grown dramatically since it first emerged in the mid 2000s. Rooftop solar, in particular, is world-leading. But this was seeded by a policy from the previous government, the Labor party, and directly and aggressively opposed at the time by the current government. In effect, they are taking credit for their own failure to stop renewable energy growth. It’s cynical.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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