Covid-19
(Image: AAP/James Gourley)

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

About 80% of NSW’s available intensive care beds are now full, the SMH reports, with approximately one in five of those beds filled by COVID patients. The system is under pressure, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says, but insists that all patients who need medical attention will get it (private hospitals remain an option). Guardian Australia reports that the mandatory vaccine requirements for health workers, as well as frontline and aged care staff, don’t go far enough in protecting the vulnerable. Only those who work in residential aged care — about a third of all aged care workers — have to be vaccinated under the public health order. MP Warren Entsch urged Health Minister Greg Hunt to extend it to include all aged care and disability support workers.

It comes as Disability Services Australia entered voluntary administration, leaving 1600 staff and 1500 people with a disability in the lurch, ABC reports. The not-for-profit cited financial constraints, while shadow NDIS minister Bill Shorten says the government’s “savage cuts” were to blame. It’s particularly galling considering the amount of JobKeeper paid to profitable businesses in 26 weeks was equal to our annual defence spending over the same period, the AFR says. And five weeks later, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg still hasn’t explained why clawback provisions weren’t written into the policy. It’s a grim state of things, and NSW’s 2020 Scientist of the Year Eddie Holmes says get used to it: even in the best-case scenario, we’ll likely be playing cat and mouse with the virus for the rest of our lives, ABC reports.

WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?

News Corp has published 45 articles in two days slamming the ABC for Monday evening’s Four Corners, Guardian Australia reports. The episode was an insider’s take on Fox News’ amplification of former president Donald Trump’s propaganda under the watch of Rupert Murdoch. Indeed the Murdoch empire’s attacks began before the show had even aired — on Sunday, Fox News in New York sent a letter to ABC accusing them of bias and threatening legal action, the SMH reports. And there has been a fusillade of indignation from the local camp ever since. “It had a septic odour, as if it were cobbled together from a trash can with only the rancid bits selected for regurgitation”, former Murdoch editor Mark Day wrote in The Australian ($).

There's more to Crikey than you think.

Get more and save 50%.

Subscribe now

Former Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes said it was a typical gang-up as seen against Gillian Triggs and Yassmin Abdel-Magied, and that commentators at News know the “party line”. But a News Corp spokesperson denied it was a coordinated attack, citing the program’s “obvious failings”. Something seems to be working for them, however, as their audience is growing. News said it had 810,000 subscribers to its Australian mastheads, up from the previous year. Then again, more than 500,000 people signed a petition — the largest ever seen in Parliament — demanding an inquiry into Murdoch’s media metropolis, as The Independent reports.

OBAMA’S TRUMP CARD

In March 2018, Barack Obama urged then-PM Malcolm Turnbull to persuade then-president Donald Trump to respect alliances, The Australian ($) reports. Obama had a “secret” meeting with Turnbull at the InterContinential Hotel in Sydney (which is now a quarantine hotel). According to journalist Edward-Isaac Dovere, Obama said to Turnbull that observing Trump’s presidency affecting the US was like seeing “a good friend drink himself to death and being powerless to do anything about it”.

Obama also urged Turnbull to convince Trump to respect existing international agreements, and Dovere says it actually wasn’t the first time: in 2016, Obama said that, as an “Australian conservative”, Turnbull would have a good shot. And it seemed he heeded the message. You might remember the 2017 leaked conversation between Trump and Turnbull which, for posterity, is really worth revisiting. Like steering a dog through a meat market, Turnbull continually tries to bring Trump back to the points at hand, among them: the resettlement agreement made with the Obama administration that saw some people on Nauru and Manus Island relocated to the US. Trump was ultimately convinced, and rather dismally told Turnbull he was “worse than [Trump] was”.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

The world has said goodbye to Charlie Watts, who passed away peacefully after 50 years of playing with The Rolling Stones. Watts is being remembered as many things. CNN reports that Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart said “his hands and feet danced like Nureyev, so elegant, so graceful”. Elton John said he was “the most stylish of men, and such brilliant company”. His band members posted tributes to him on social media, calling him simply “the best”.

But it wasn’t always so chummy. Perhaps my favourite thing I’ve read was in a book excerpt from Mike Edison. They were in Amsterdam in 1984 when Mick Jagger decided — at 5am — to ring Watts’ room and demand to know where “my drummer” is. As Keith Richards tells it, Watts turned up at Jagger’s door 20 minutes later. He was dressed head-to-toe in a Savile Row suit and tie, shaved and smelling of cologne. “I opened the door and he didn’t even look at me, he walked straight past me, got a hold of Mick and said, ‘Never call me your drummer again.’ Then he hauled him up by the lapels of my jacket and gave him a right hook,” Richards recalls. Jagger reportedly flew back onto a platter of smoked salmon and began to nearly slide out the open window. Richards’ quick thinking saw Jagger pulled back in, saved from a possible death-by-canal, soaked in salmon juice. It was only that Jagger was wearing one of Richards’ favourite jackets that Watts didn’t get a second slug in.

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll. Have a great Thursday.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Three hundred-plus people attended a funeral in Wilcannia, illegally you could argue. Illegally. And we’re now paying the price of that outbreak, and whatever resources you could’ve prepared for, I don’t think you could’ve ever prepared for such an outcome. [It’s] no different to the 16 dickheads in Maroubra that decided to have a party last week that have now infected about 50 people.

John Barilaro

The NSW deputy premier has apologised for his comments, which were in relation to a funeral for a 27-year-old man at a time when Wilcannia was not locked down, funerals were permitted, and police had determined the event was COVID-safe. Barilaro said his comments had been “taken out of context” and also that he had been provided with “incorrect information”.

CRIKEY RECAP

Sins of the father — The dark past of Australia’s megachurch

“The stakes are high. In the pantheon of Australian religious leaders Houston is a major figure — and not just because of his closeness to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. If found guilty the consequences would be immense. The massive Hillsong enterprise, locally and globally, is built entirely around him and his wife, Bobbie. Hillsong is Houston in a way that doesn’t feature in other churches.

“Then there’s the threat it poses to the corporate behemoth that the church has become. Houston is a director of a maze of Hillsong enterprises. There are 19 Hillsong entities registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC), where they enjoy a variety of tax breaks. Under the Corporations Act you cannot be a company director if you are convicted of an offence that involves dishonesty and is punishable by at least three months’ jail.”


Spywhale: inside the AFP’s two-month April Fools’ joke that didn’t make it off the ground

“How many Australian Federal Police does it take to come up with an April Fools’ joke? At least six, according to emails released in response to a freedom of information request. A trove of internal correspondence leading up to April Fools’ Day 2021 shows how ACT policing staff brainstormed, developed and ultimately shelved a surveillance-themed parody of Skywhale, the Patricia Piccinini-designed hot air balloon popular in Canberra.

“Australian police forces use social media as a key outreach strategy, peddling memes and other humorous content to build an audience and communicate messages. On February 9, the AFP’s acting social media manager sent an email asking someone to come up with April Fools’ Day concepts, noting that they’d done jokes in the past: “Please keep in mind when brainstorming sensitivities in public opinion at the moment and please consider how each of your ideas may be perceived”.”


PwC, the consulting firm behind botched vaccine rollout, gives partners a pay rise

“The consulting firm that pocketed $11 million from the government’s botched vaccine rollout — and kept the details of the contract secret for eight months — has rewarded its partners with an 18% pay rise. The Morrison government gave PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) a 12-month contract in December to act as a ‘delivery partner’ for the vaccine rollout. But the details of the contract were kept secret for months after the Health Department revealed it was ‘mistakenly’ left off the AusTender website.

“On Tuesday PwC announced its partners will take home an 18% increase in profits off the back of a boom in business, thanks in part to the soaring amount of work coming from the government during the COVID-19 recovery. This is despite the firm slashing jobs during the pandemic and receiving more than a dozen sexual harassment and serious misconduct complaints. The starting income for a PwC partner is about $350k, according to the AFR.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Lakeisha Patterson helps kick-start Australia’s gold rush in Tokyo Paralympics swimming program (ABC)

Baby on Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album cover sues band for child porn (CBS)

62 new community cases — Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield (NZ Herald)

Biden to host summit with tech moguls on combating cyberattacks (Al Jazeera)

Taliban tell Afghan women to stay home from work because soldiers are ‘not trained’ to respect them (CNN)

Delta Air Lines to impose $200 monthly charge on unvaccinated employees, add testing requirements (The Wall Street Journal)

India woman who accused MP of rape dies in self-immolation (BBC)

Infographic: Lebanon is about to run out of water (Al Jazeera)

Roger Federer’s biggest legacy? It might be his billion-dollar brand. (The New York Times)

THE COMMENTARIAT

PM’s bold gamble could lock in the electionPeta Credlin (The Australian): “As Malcolm Turnbull discovered in 2016, elections are contests, not coronations. You don’t win by minimising differences with the other side and expecting to be rewarded for past achievements. You win only when you’re able to persuade voters that, on balance, their lives will be better with you and your party in government …

“But with the vaccine rollout now gathering speed, and with NSW, especially, well on track to hit 70% double-jabbed within two months, the Labor premiers may have overplayed their hand. Certainly, Anthony Albanese now fears that, hence Wednesday’s sudden conversion to the Doherty Institute’s formula for opening up. Provided he holds his nerve, Morrison has a window to change the contest from an argument over how well he has managed the rollout to an argument over who wants to keep us locked up more or less forever.”

Is democracy getting in the way of saving the planet?Kate Aronoff (The Guardian): “In France, the far-right National Rally — formerly the Front National — has made ecological politics a key part of its rebrand away from Holocaust denial. Jordan Bardella, the party’s vice-president, has called borders “the environment’s greatest ally”, casting foreigners as rootless cosmopolitans divorced from the land. The aim is not to reach net zero faster — neither party has laid out workable plans to do so — but to endear climate-conscious voters to an ethno-nationalist cause.

“It’s not just the right, however, that has considered a turn away from democracy for the planet’s sake. Back in 2010, the influential climate scientist James Lovelock suggested that it ‘may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while’ to curb emissions. More recently, centrists such as Michael Bloomberg have started to see corporations as more reliable engines of climate progress. As much as US and UK liberals have talked up the promise of spreading democracy throughout the world this century, though, many centrists — as the Progressive International’s David Adler wrote in 2018 — are pretty down on democracy itself.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Journalist Peter Greste speaks on a panel by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) on integrity, accountability and trust in media.

Wadandi Noongar Country (also known as Margaret River)

  • It’s day two of CinefestOZ, a five-day film festival with red carpet events, film premieres, industry Q&As and more.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Entomologist Tim Heard is in conversation with author and bee advocate Dean Haley discussing his new book, The Honey of Australian Native Stingless Bees.

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)

  • Wirrpanda Foundation hosts Black Coffee, an informal networking event with Indigenous-owned businesses and organisations.

There's more to Crikey than you think.

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

And now you get more from your membership than ever before.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
Get more and save 50%