A Taliban fighter (Image: AP/Rahmat Gul)

TALIBAN PUSHES FORWARD

The Taliban has started naming ministers and filling key positions in their “government”, despite protests in two cities and the country’s central bank closing coffers to the group.

Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani, who fled to the UAE as the Taliban breached Kabul, said he left to avoid being lynched, The New York Times reports, but is in consultation to return. It comes as Taliban soldiers fired at crowds and beat protesters and journalists demonstrating in Jalalabad, east of Kabul. At least two people are dead and a dozen are injured, Al Jazeera reports. In the south-eastern city of Khost, photos and videos show hundreds taking to the street in similar protest. The Taliban are being met with resistance from several angles — the central bank chief has said the Taliban will not have access to most of the nation’s cash and gold stocks, Bloomberg ($) reports.

ABC’s Stan Grant says this morning that the Taliban is emulating the Chinese communist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. Though circumstances and motives are different, Grant writes, “Mao has written the script for American defeat from the fall of Saigon to the fall of Kabul”. It’s a fascinating insight into what history teaches us about the methods of a takeover.

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A SORRY STATE

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is warning the worst is yet to come after her state recorded 633 new cases and three deaths. The state’s current virus reproductive rate is 1.3 — that means every 10 people who have COVID-19 could give it to a total of 13 others. And the figure could increase — in the US, the CDC estimates that each person infected with the Delta variant passes it on to between five and 9.5 people, National Geographic reports. From today, those aged 16-39 in Sydney’s 12 hotspots will start receiving Pfizer vaccines (available at 10 different sites), as part of the state’s ambitious plan to inoculate more than half a million people in two and a half weeks, the SMH reports.

Also today, Melbourne has now been locked down during the pandemic for a collective total of 200 days. It’s a grim milestone for millions after six lockdowns during the country’s first, second, and third waves. ABC has taken a look back at the rollercoaster which began on March 30, 2020, when 46 local cases were recorded. Guardian Australia says people are growing complacent of lockdowns, pointing to an illegal engagement party and a takeaway pub crawl in Melbourne in recent days. USYD’s Julie Leask says complacency stems from people thinking rules are unreasonable. One example is the 9pm – 5am curfew in Melbourne introduced this week. Victorian Transport Minister Ben Carroll tweeted that public transport would follow suit and cease during curfew on weekends, prompting many to ask how essential workers are supposed to get to and from work.

SNAP BACK

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has named and shamed Australia as the motivation behind her country’s snap lockdown. NZ has recorded three new cases of COVID-19, after a 58-year-old man’s infection plunged the country into stage four restrictions. His was the first case in 170 days and the first time the Delta variant had officially hit their shores. Ardern was blunt when asked what she would say to her lockdown critics, news.com.au says. “Australia,” Ardern replied. “We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance”.

But her critics seem to be mostly overseas — in a recent survey about 80% of Kiwis rated the government’s COVID-19 response as overall good, Guardian Australia reports. There are growing outbreak fears, however. Just 24% of New Zealand’s population is vaccinated. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder says low supply is to blame — the country went all in on Pfizer but hasn’t received enough yet. NZ’s source case is linked to the NSW outbreak, as the SMH reported.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

A cohort of 179 of our most elite Paralympians is on the way to Japan for the Paralympic Games, which begin next Tuesday night — and it’ll be our biggest ever overseas squad. An inspirational video narrated by Australian Paralympic swim coach Brendan Burkett was played for the athletes ahead of their departure and it’s going to play your heartstrings like a harp.

Burkett begins by mentioning the inaugural Paralympic Games in Rome 1960 before a spine-tingling montage of athletes plays as he reads a poem he wrote. The message of unity and camaraderie is tempered with strength — “You can see the spirit of the Aussie mob, with passion tattooed in their eyes. It doesn’t matter whether we train or compete, we don’t want second prize”, he says.

Burkett said he purposely included words and themes he’s used to encourage his athletes for years, and said they are ready perform “regardless of what is going on in the world”. “You’ve got to be robust to take on the world,” he says.

Hope you feel robust today.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

You would have heard other countries talk about figures of 5000, I note that some are talking about figures of 20,000. But, can I tell you, there are no clear plans about that. Australia is not going into that territory.

Scott Morrison

The prime minister acknowledged that the UK, US, and Canada are each welcoming 20,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees amid the Taliban takeover — almost seven times the amount Australia will take — and made it clear he would not be matching their commitment. But it’s not as though a larger intake is without precedent — during Abbott’s tenure, the Coalition committed to taking 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees amid the crisis in Syria.

CRIKEY RECAP

We’re lab rats in a vast experiment: neoliberalism v interventionism

“The government’s rejection of deficit hysteria and embrace of massive fiscal stimulus supported a rapid recovery (and delivered windfall profits to the bottom lines of many corporations). Closed borders and the abatement of a steady flow of temporary workers helped unemployment recover quickly. The Reserve Bank abandoned its obsessive focus on expected inflation and made higher wages growth a central policy objective. Effective lockdowns proved the key to rapid recovery — until a market-based approach derailed everything in eastern Australia.

“The question then is whether governments and business will understand the lessons from the grand experiment, or simply revert to status quo ante economic thinking about the need for governments to curl up into as tiny a ball as possible and let markets get on with maximising individual freedom and personal welfare, and skewing policy towards the demands of business.”


After empire: Afghanistan failure leaves Australia lost in a more uncertain world

“After two decades of occupation and several more of interventionist meddling, the West’s mission to rebuild Afghanistan in its own image ended as it always would. For the United States’ great imperial war machine, it is with a humiliating moral, military and strategic failure. America built and armed the Taliban, invaded to remove the Taliban, failed to weed out the Taliban, and finally surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban.

“For Afghans it ends with a terrifying future and abject dejection at being abandoned by the West. And for Australia it should end with recriminations and a gnawing sense of uncertainty. For decades we conducted our strategic policy under the dogmatic belief that the uncontested American empire would last forever. But the fall of Kabul proves those days are over — leaving a more volatile world.”


How to make an incumbent PM call an early poll: first, live in vaccine-happy Canada

“As Australia plunged into its wintry third wave amid the deadly Delta reign, a world away in Canada the mostly vaccinated Canucks are enjoying an endless summer with mostly minimal restrictions … Banking on citizens’ collective spring-in-their-step as Canada’s warm weather coincided with slightly eased restrictions, Trudeau called an early election this week.

“Having far exceeded its American neighbour, Canada has the eighth-highest vaccination rate in the world. More than 70% of people 12 and over are fully vaccinated, and almost 80% have received their first dose of the four vaccines offered: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Australia approved all four of these vaccines too, and is also home to 12 million fewer people than Canada. So what exactly did the Canadians do better than us?”

THE COMMENTARIAT

Liberal Party’s proud tradition of advancing Indigenous reformJosh Frydenberg (The Australian) ($): “While Buraadja covers the critical issues involved in Closing the Gap, its conclusion is that it is only part, but not the whole, story. This is where Senator [Andrew] Bragg enters the contested space of the Uluru Statement and the Voice, advocating for it to be enshrined in the Constitution. I will not go as far as Gladys Berejiklian or Steven Marshall, who launched this book in other states, by advocating for this type of constitutional change, but rather am more focused on the purpose and the goal that change is designed to achieve.

“Change must unite us, not divide us, and needs to be bipartisan. Negotiation, consultation and flexibility is required. It cannot be a take it or leave it proposition. Constitutional change in Australia, requiring a double majority, is historically very difficult to achieve. Whatever form change ultimately takes, we cannot afford for it to fail. As my colleague, Julian Leeser, chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs, has said, ‘the key issue is not words in the constitution, but whether it will genuinely give voice to Indigenous people across Australia on the issues that affect them most’.”

On the day Kabul fell I refused to leave — I am not ready to give up on Afghanistan yetObaidullah Baheer (Guardian Australia): “The day Kabul fell will stay with me for a very long time. Rushing to pack your life into one bag, trying to find places to hide valuables in the house and walking away from a place you called home: these are all harrowing scenes I thought I would only read in fiction. I had to get out to get a few things on that night the president fled the country.

“I saw a convoy of armed forces vehicles speeding up behind me as I drove. Despite having vacated the lane for them, I saw one car overtake me from the wrong side and a tank started moving into my lane. I barely dodged it but it managed to break my side mirror. The convoy kept driving ahead of me and I could see that they were not Taliban nor army officials. Criminals and crooks had managed to loot armed forces garrisons and government offices, exploiting the absence of security in the city.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Christian Porter tries to prevent publication of unredacted ABC defamation defence (Guardian Australia)

SA quarantine escapee lied to fool police (The New Daily)

English comedian Sean Lock dies of cancer aged 58 (ABC)

Ash Barty lifts the lid on Olympic village life (news.com.au)

Israel extends COVID restrictions to three-year-olds as cases surge (BBC)

Japanese F1 Grand Prix cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns (news.com.au)

How Haiti was devastated by two natural disasters in three days (The New York Times)

Socceroos: Doha set to be named as venue city for Australia’s World Cup qualifier against China next month (The Australian) ($)

‘We can’t begin in 2049’: Chris Bowen calls for stronger climate goals as he signals Labor’s plan (Guardian Australia)

COVID vaccine: US plans to offer booster COVID jabs in September (BBC)

Giant bird-eating centipedes are restoring ecological balance to Phillip Island (The Advocate)

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • It’s day three of the Better Futures Forum, with the architect of the Paris agreement and former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, the deputy to the US Special Envoy on Climate Jonathan Pershing, and former Irish president and UN Climate Envoy Mary Robinson.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • The Australia China Business Council Queensland is hosting a panel discussion exploring education strategies for the Chinese market.

Larrakia Country (also known as Darwin)

  • The NT government will host a Women’s Leadership Network event with Charles Darwin University’s Sam Jacobs to discuss authenticity.

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)

  • Chair of Infrastructure WA John Langoulant discusses the WA State Infrastructure Strategy at an event hosted by Professionals Australia.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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