encryption

CYBER-CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

The Australian government says the Chinese government hacked Microsoft in January, in a rare public accusation in line with key allies the US, Britain and the EU. The attack, made possible through vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange email software, affected tens of thousands of computers and networks worldwide — including here in Oz — earlier this year.

In a joint statement, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said the government had “serious concerns about malicious cyber activities by China’s Ministry of State Security”, ABC reports. UK’s Dominic Raab went a little harder, saying the Chinese government “can expect to be held to account” if it doesn’t stop this “systematic cyber sabotage”.

A statement from the White House said China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) paid criminal groups to hack, including ransomware attacks, and extort companies (mostly in the private sector) for millions of dollars. But it ended up costing billions in stolen intellectual property, ransom payments, and cybersecurity, “all while the MSS had them on its payroll,” US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken said.

The New York Times said it’s the first time the US has accused China over the large-scale attack, while New Zealand and Canada are also expected to release similar statements, The Australian ($) says.

It comes as Telstra announced yesterday it was considering buying mobile networks in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu, and that the Australian government would help pay for the acquisition. The Wall Street Journal calls it the latest move from the government to limit Chinese influence in the region.

COVID-19 STATE WRAP

The community in south-west Sydney, already under a heavy lockdown, is reeling after a woman in her 50s died from COVID-19 yesterday. The woman is understood to be “the mother of twin removalists charged with breaching public health orders after travelling from Sydney to the Central West” the ABC reports. It’s NSW’s fifth death from the Delta outbreak.

Victoria’s lockdown will be extended beyond midnight after the state recorded 13 new cases (all linked to existing outbreaks) yesterday. All of the cases had spent time in the community, including one at a Melbourne pub where hundreds watched the Euro football final, The New Daily reports. Chief health officer Brett Sutton urged hope in his state, telling them there was “no other jurisdiction in the world that has driven the Delta variant back down to zero” as Victoria had in the last lockdown. Guardian Australia breaks down the state’s current restrictions and answers common questions, and the Herald Sun ($) unpacks what the state’s latest crowd overhaul means for the AFL and other big events.

South Australia has become the latest state to impose restrictions — ­including shutting non-­essential retail and allowing outdoor dining only — after the state recorded three local cases. Among them: an 81-year-old man who contracted the virus overseas, completed hotel quarantine in NSW and returned to Adelaide, and two close contacts of the man, both aged in their 50s, The Australian ($) says.

In the ACT, Scott Morrison arrived in Canberra on Monday in preparation for the upcoming parliamentary sittings after receiving an exemption from ACT Health as an “essential worker”, Guardian Australia says. Sydney MPs have been told they’d better get ready for 14 days of downtime, however – they have to quarantine if they’re headed to Canberra.

FULL OF HOT AIR

The world’s largest carbon capture and storage project has fallen short of burying 80% of the carbon dioxide produced from gas wells off the coast of Western Australia, the SMH reports. Energy titan Chevron promised the WA government when they were in the development stage of the $54 billion Gorgon project that it would offset the emissions, but the five-year deadline passed on Sunday.

A shortfall of 4.6 million tonnes remains after 5 million was injected underground. Chevron could face a bill of more than $100 million if required to offset all emissions, Guardian Australia says. Ian Porter, a former oil and gas industry executive who is chair of the advocacy group Sustainable Energy Now WA, slammed it as “a shocking failure of one of the world’s largest engineering projects”. The $3 billion development received $60m in federal funding.

HEARD IMMUNITY

ABC’s Annabel Crabb is continuing to lift the lid on women’s experience in Australian parliament, finding there is one experience they have in common. Former foreign affairs minister and stalwart of the Liberal party, Julie Bishop, calls it “gender deafness”.

“It happens if you’re the only woman in a room and you come up with an idea or you say something,” she says. “So often, there’s no response. And then the next person speaks. And then the next one actually appropriates your idea. And then all the men around the table nod and say, ‘What a good idea’. And you’d be there, ‘Didn’t I say that? Did no one hear me?’.”

Bishop’s tenure with the Liberal party came to a rather dour end when she was passed over in the leadership battle (which very nearly saw a Prime Minister Peter Dutton, before the derailment to Scott Morrison in the ninth hour) despite Bishop having half a decade’s experience as a commanding and internationally-respected foreign minister. Incidentally, Bishop became deputy leader of the Liberal party the same year Morrison entered federal politics (2007).

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Here it is, folks: a silver lining has emerged out of the dreariness of this pandemic. Australia’s 2020-2021 vintage is the largest in the nation’s history of winemaking, with about two million tonnes of grapes crushes throughout Australia’s wineries — and conditions for this vintage have been near perfection.

That’s according to Wine Australia, who said our South Australian friends have produced 52% of the total harvest (here’s looking at you, Barossa), with an overall 44% uptick compared to the vintage before (which was sadly hindered by fire and drought). Queensland wins the “most-improved” gong, with production increased by 112%, bringing it to 0.2% of the country’s total.

There will be loads of great plonk coming out of this year’s vintage — including many small wine-makers able to bottle their first vintage or make their second, Guardian Australia says. In addition, 2021 wines will be worth ageing, with several — like chardonnay — notable for maturing a bolder and more tasteful personality over time. Just like moi.

Hope you find the silver lining today.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

We have never said that all DV is untrue and used as a Family Court bargaining chip, however when we point out that ‘SOME’ is, we get howled down by the ‘DV Industry’

Shane Prior

The Queensland police union executive member made a lengthy post defending a claim, (which has been called factually incorrect) but in referencing the “DV Industry”, dog whistled (unwittingly or not) men’s rights activists, who often use the term when arguing the system is rigged against men and that domestic violence is non-gendered. One woman a week dies from domestic violence in Australia.

CRIKEY RECAP

Who should replace Katie Hopkins in the Big Brother house? We have a few thoughts

“As reality TV fans try to process the comet-like arrival — and departure — of UK macho mouth Katie Hopkins, the industry is abuzz with talk of possible replacements for her now-vacated spot on Big Brother. The prerequisites for the role appear to be impeccable credentials in attracting controversy, shameless self-promotion, capacity to polarise people regardless of issue, and a strong record of hot takes.

“As many wags have pointed out, Australia is not exactly short of suitable candidates, so Crikey has whittled the competition down to this shortlist.”


Is it possible to conquer the fear of dying from COVID? There are lessons from the 1940s

“While COVID (in an unvaccinated population) is clearly more lethal than influenza, it is about 1/100th as damaging as the 1918 Spanish Flu. Across the world, 99.96% of people have not died from COVID, and for those who have fallen victim, 89% had a pre-existing condition, while the median age of death from COVID is, in almost all countries, above that nation’s life expectancy.

“The CDC reported that on average COVID victims had four comorbidities. Even before vaccinations, COVID actually killed a relatively small number of people on a global scale, and those who tragically died were almost all already sick or very old. That said, because there are almost 8 billion people on Earth (which is a lot), 4.1 million deaths seems like a huge number (when not compared to the 8 billion).”


Finally, a bullshitter we can trust

Jon-Bernard Kairouz has been “predicting” NSW’s daily COVID-19 caseload via TikTok videos before the numbers are officially announced. And until today, when his prediction of 109 turned out to be off the mark, he was on a winning streak. Many suspect he has a very good leak inside the NSW Health Department — which seems like the only plausible route for the information he releases a couple of hours after officials have collated the day’s numbers.

“The actor and comedian starred as ‘The Oracle’ in a sketch show called The Forecast, which has the tagline ‘News, before it happens’. He says he uses the Kairouz Probability Algorithm for his ‘predictions’. In his videos, whiteboards are filled with apparently random mathematical symbols and the occasional Venn diagram.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

‘Common sense finally prevailed’: Koroibete cleared, free to play Bledisloe opener (The SMH)

Has your trip been cancelled because of COVID? Here are your rights to a refund (The New Daily)

Bob Carr calls for Unesco to recognise ‘urgency of threat’ facing world heritage-listed Blue Mountains (Guardian Australia)

Tokyo Olympics serves up dream gold medal showdown for Ash Barty (The Australian) ($)

Great Barrier Reef gets tick for coral regrowth but factors behind decline ‘getting worse’ (Brisbane Times)

Interim Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph to step down (Al Jazeera)

Third Covid Wave Upends Fragile South Africa, a Warning for Developing World (The Wall Street Journal)

Cyprus showcases ancient undersea harbour (The New Daily)

January 6: First Capitol rioter sentenced to prison time (BBC)

Showdown over millions in mining royalties to Indigenous trust (The SMH)

Germany floods: Government rejects criticism over flood warnings (BBC)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Life or death for Hazaras: Australia has a moral obligation to act, nowSitarah Mohammadi and Sajjad Askary (Guardian Australia): “The allied forces are leaving Afghanistan — and already the Taliban are killing individuals. Specifically targeted is Afghanistan’s Hazara community. Hazaras are predominantly Shia Muslims, hold liberal values and promote education. Their educational and cultural success since 2001 pose a living contradiction to Taliban dogma.

“As two of the wealthiest nations in the Asia-Pacific region, which regard themselves as promoters of freedom, democracy, and human rights, Australia and New Zealand have a meaningful capacity to intervene and provide resettlement options … If Australia abandons these high-risk groups in need of our help, the Taliban will kill them. No one wants to leave their homelands. Ever. But with the Taliban preparing to reclaim power the choice for Hazaras is to leave — or to die.”

Essential things of life? Depends on where you liveGreg Craven (The Australian) ($): “Now, [Gladys] Berejiklian has succumbed substantially, further restricting non-critical retail businesses and temporarily closing down construction. But while her health orders are hardly soft, they are still a little less Stalinist than Melbourne’s. Really, what we are fighting about is the difference between being locked down and locked up. Until now, NSW understood the difference.

“None of this has much to do with genuine health regulation. This is about power and politics. In terms of power, the new COVID aristocracy of bureaucrats, woke journalists, and health commentators yearns for yet more control over a dim population. As for politics, this all turns on the rehabilitation of [Daniel] Andrews. If his present tough essential services lockdown can triumph over past NSW slackness, perhaps we will forget all those deaths, pointless curfews and the North Face jacket.”

Who put that racist lout of a mouth Kate Hopkins on Australian TV?Peter FitzSimons (The SMH): “Phillip Adams once said of Pauline Hanson that she is ‘little more than a fart from the deep colon of the Australian psyche’, and [Katie] Hopkins is a rough British equivalent, giving expression to Britain’s worst thoughts, from sneering at the obese and those with disabilities to likening migrants crossing the Mediterranean to ‘cockroaches’ and ‘feral humans’, to talking about the virtues of — and I am not making this up — the ‘final solution’ for Muslims. On and on.

[Muhammad] Ali showed that the model of saying outrageous things and collecting a tithe as the mob (of lovers and haters) gathers, works. He clearly harnessed the hate to make the world a better place. In the case of Hopkins, it has been quite the reverse, and the networks know that. When, in the future, they can’t help themselves and try to harness hate for profit, they need to be called out early and strongly. We are watching you bastards.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy is in conversation with Essential Media’s Peter Lewis about the fortnight’s political news in a webinar for the Australia Institute.

  • Authors Karina Kilmore and Nicola West discuss West’s new thriller book, Catch Us The Foxes, in a webinar for Readings.

Canberra

  • Katharina Bonzel launches her new book, National Pastimes: Cinema, Sports, and Nation at the Australian National University.

Darwin

  • The Strengths in Conversation Project launches the Sector Needs Report 2021, which explores the primary prevention of family and domestic violence in Darwin.