LOST FOR WORDS
The Australian government has told an interpreter for the ADF in Afghanistan that a humanitarian visa was issued to him in error, ABC’s Four Corners reports this morning. The interpreter had reportedly been waiting eight years to move to Australia when he finally received his visa. He told ABC he was just 10 metres away from Kabul airport’s suicide bomb blast and, shaken, had fled with his young family across the border to Pakistan. He received the email on Friday from the Department of Home Affairs alerting him that the visa had been issued in error.
It comes as former UK prime minister Tony Blair has warned the Taliban could use bioweapons in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was speaking to a defence think tank ahead of the 20 year anniversary of 9/11, The Age reports. Blair, a former Middle East peace envoy, said that bio-terror might seem like science fiction, but “we would be wise now to prepare for their potential use by non-state actors”. He also said that Europe faced the most immediate risk following the Taliban’s takeover because of proximity.
As we approach the anniversary of September 11, which falls on Saturday, there are poignant stories being told about how some here experienced the aftermath. Randa Abdel Fattah, writing for The Conversation, said one young Muslim girl told her: “I’ve always had this almost preconceived guilt attached to me”. Michael Mohammed Ahmad, writing for The Age, recalls the principal of his school telling his class “the perpetrators were Middle Eastern and Muslim, like yourselves”.
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SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
In what will be a tough pill to swallow for many families separated by state lines, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was granted a lockdown exemption to visit Sydney for the Father’s Day weekend, Guardian Australia reports. But you might not have guessed it from his Instagram post to mark the day — the PM posted a photograph of his family that he said was taken earlier in the year. The ACT CHO said Morrison would not need to quarantine for two weeks upon his arrival back in Canberra on Monday.
Many others were not as lucky as the PM for Father’s Day, with families meeting at the barricades between states to celebrate the day, described both as a “party-like atmosphere” by the ABC and as a display of “cruelty” by The Australian ($). It’s not the first time the PM has come under scrutiny for travelling — his G7 itinerary in June included several stops in the UK so Morrison could explore his family ties.
It’s not been a great week for the PM, really — his speech at the Women’s Safety Summit attracted public rebukes from both former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins and Australian of the Year Grace Tame. Tame, a sexual assault survivor, questioned why Morrison “appropriated private disclosures from survivors to leverage his own image” after Morrison shared the contents of letters detailing different women’s experiences with sexual violence.
A LIGHTBULB MOMENT
In some positive climate change news, Australian experts say we could get most of the way to net zero emissions by just electrifying everything, ABC reports. Saul Griffith, an inventor and adviser to US presidential campaigns, says it would be the cheapest and fastest method, suggesting households could replace petrol cars with electric vehicles and gas heaters with reverse-cycle air conditioners. Plus, if three-quarters of households used rooftop solar, implementing all of these measures together could see us cut emissions by 80% by 2035, according to estimates.
Meanwhile, Guardian Australia reports, the NSW government has set their sights on a zero extinction target for national parks — the first time an Australian government has done so. In announcing the commitment, Environment Minister Matt Kean says it will help protect species facing extinction and comes in the wake of the threat posed to the state’s koala population after the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Australians don’t have to head to the polls until next year, but already the federal election chatter is beginning ($). It can be, at times, a rather exhausting lead up to the day, jammed with pollies pontificating and posing, granted, but the day itself is usually pretty fun. We head down on a Saturday, get ourselves a democracy sausage (a source of wonder for some outside of Australia) and unfold practically a king-sized bedsheet of a ballot. This year, the federal government is trying to lessen the confusion caused by fringe or emerging parties using words similar to established parties (like the Liberal Democrats), but perhaps it could be worse.
In Russia, candidates have been known to change their actual names on the ballot to confuse voters. Think of it as a decoy tactic — a name-double splits the vote for that person into two, then the person who would have come second ends up with the most votes and is elected. But the tactic has been taken to new heights, and one Boris Vishnevsky is dismayed. When the senior liberal politician saw the voting poster in his St Petersburg district, he half-expected to see two other candidates named Boris Vishnevsky. What he didn’t expect were body doubles too — three near-indistinguishable Boris Vishnevskys staring back at him, each with a near-balding head of grey hair and matching greyish stubble. Apparently, the other two men had grown facial hair and maybe even photoshopped their faces to increase the likeness.
“Every time there are elections we say these are the dirtiest elections there have ever been,” said (the original) Vishnevsky. “I’m sure we’ll say the same at the next elections, too.”
Keep it real today, folks.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
Compassionate reasons does NOT include meeting up with a stranger you’ve met on a dating app
The state health authority tweeted that dates organised on Tinder did not fall under the rather ambiguous reason to leave home during the lockdown, flourishing the tweet with the peach emoji, an apparent reference to a rather plump derrière, often used in reference to sex.
“The commission also does critical work on sexual harassment and sexual assault. On these, Finlay’s views are in line with the Sky News set. She believes moves to adopt an affirmative consent model on sexual assault laws — under way in NSW — would undermine due process and the presumption of innocence for alleged perpetrators. In fact, she’s been making this argument since 2018, when she appeared on a YouTube video with men’s rights activist Bettina Arndt.
“Finlay’s appointment is just the latest instance of the Coalition targeting and stacking the AHRC. In 2013, the Abbott government appointed former IPA policy director Tim Wilson, now a Liberal backbencher, as Human Rights Commissioner. Earlier that year, staff at the Institute had called for the Commission to be abolished. At the time, attorney-general George Brandis openly admitted ideology played a part in Wilson getting the gig.”
“On Monday morning, Nine papers reported that News Corp’s metro papers and news channel Sky News Australia would launch a ‘company-wide campaign promoting the benefits of a carbon-neutral economy as world leaders prepare for a critical climate summit in Glasgow later this year’. The target, even if taken up, would leave the federal government lagging behind the US and UK and drag it in line with many banks, insurers and other companies.
“This report comes as a Senate inquiry into media diversity holds a hearing on Sky News Australia’s suspension from YouTube. The details of the campaign show it is even smaller than it first appears. News Corp papers and Sky will campaign for two weeks in October. The Australian will be excluded from the campaign, and ‘dissenting voices’ — a euphemism for the staunchest climate change denialists who inhabit many of its top perches — will be expected to ‘reframe’ their arguments.”
“There is also a huge list of underlying health conditions that can increase the severity of COVID-19. While forms of cancer, lung disease, liver disease, kidney disease or heart conditions are the most obvious, the same can’t be said for everything. Asthma — something 11% of Australians have — is also on that list.
“All together, the list encompasses a spectrum of health disorders, diseases, disabilities and even lifestyle choices. This includes pregnant women, obesity, substance abuse and even people who have smoked tobacco regularly at some point in their lives. The line between letting underlying health conditions take the blame for the virus and blaming COVID-19 victims for having those conditions is as blurry as comorbidities get.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
IFM puts infrastructure on green path with 40% lower carbon emissions target (The Australian) ($)
Why a COVID-19 vaccine for children is taking so long (The Wall Street Journal)
Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former president, is granted medical parole (The New York Times)
Platitudes and sentiment at women’s safety summit won’t cut it: when will PM learn? — Katharine Murphy (Guardian Australia): “Having the summit, Morrison said, was a gesture of ‘shared determination’. Some had come to the summit with personal experiences of brutality. Some were there because of a lifetime of advocacy. ‘And then there are others of us who have come here with open ears and open hearts to learn from your experiences and to make the changes we need to make for the better.
“’So, let us gather together in that sense of unity, in that sense of shared respect for each other, for what has brought us all to the table.’ Respect is a worthy objective. But the thing about respect is it has to be earned. Women such as Tame have won the respect of a nation because they survived lived experiences that are universal, and unspeakable, and they deploy these experiences to make structural change. Listening — and Morrison on Monday presented himself as a leader who is now listening — is certainly a start. But Higgins is exactly right: platitudes and warm sentiments won’t cut it.”
Women accept secondary income earner role at their financial peril — Jessica Irvine (The Age): “But human capital is often the biggest asset we own. Our ability to generate income from our skills and know-how is an important contributor to living standards pre and post-retirement. And that can be harder to quantify. When women walk away from relationships with lesser developed skills in the paid workforce, they can be in real trouble. Herein lies the seeds of Australia’s burgeoning crisis of homelessness among older women.
“Nobody wants to think about their marriage ending. It’s certainly not an easy topic to introduce into couples’ discussions. But protecting mum’s human capital needs to become a key element of all family discussions about how best to divvy up paid and unpaid work during the pandemic, and beyond.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The Burnet Institute’s Brendan Crabb and the Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss will discuss the importance of vaccines alongside the test, trace, isolate, and quarantine approach in a webinar.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton will give a keynote address on business opportunities and national security priorities via webinar for the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia.
University of Sydney vice chancellor Mark Scott will speak about universities delivering future workforces in a webinar by the Committee for Sydney.