Gladys Berejiklian NSW COVID-19
(Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

OPEN PLAN

NSW’s reopening plan has dropped. Pubs, gyms, hairdressers, nail salons, and retail will reopen to the vaccinated, while up to five people can gather indoors, and trips to regional NSW will be allowed. For all the details, check out this handy explainer from Guardian Australia.

But several communities in rural NSW are reeling amid Delta crises. Yesterday a man in his 60s became the third Indigenous person to die after contracting COVID-19 in western NSW, ABC reports. He was not vaccinated, NSW’s deputy CHO Marianne Gale confirmed. It comes as almost a third of Indigenous people in far north-west town Enngonia are now infected, Guardian Australia reports, with frontline health workers describing the public health response as “chaotic”. The disease has claimed the life of one Indigenous woman in the community, aged in her 70s. Bourke Aboriginal Health Service’s Claire Williams said health services were at breaking point, and that it’s “not very clear who’s really in charge”. Meanwhile, in mostly Indigenous town Wilcannia, 13% of the town’s population (102 people) are infected, ABC reports. The crisis could be partly exacerbated by overcrowded housing making isolating impossible — so a fleet of 30 motor homes arrived in Wilcannia on the weekend. But Broken Hill’s Mayor Darriea Turley says NSW’s far west needs more government support.

IN HIS DEFENCE…?

Then-defence minister Kevin Andrews spent his last hours in the role trying to promote a staffer to a top military post, The Age reports this morning. Andrews, who was booted from the portfolio in 2015, installed conservative factional player Nick Demiris to the role of inspector-general of the defence force for a five-year term. But Demiris didn’t have the military or legal experience to equip him for the key defence role, the paper reports. Then-PM Malcolm Turnbull was reportedly furious and overturned the decision days later.

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Also this morning, the SMH reports that Australia is in talks with France to give French warships access to our naval bases. It comes ahead of the Australian government’s push to lock in the next stage of the $90 billion future submarine program next week. The program effectively doubles our submarine fleet amid an increasingly tense situation in the waters north of us. But the French company building the submarines has had a torrid relationship with our government, and last month appointed Jane Halton, who reviewed our hotel quarantine system, to its board in an effort to mend ties, as AFR reports.

And Indonesian troops might be joining us too — Guardian Australia reports that the two countries are stepping up their relationship and chatting about Indonesian troops training together with Australian troops on our soil — a “historic first”, their defence minister said.

ON THE SURPLUS SIDE

WA has reported a staggering $5.6b surplus in their state budget — their biggest ever — thanks to GST revenue and high iron ore prices, The Australian ($) reports. WA keeps 70c of every dollar of GST revenue (a change made possible by then-treasurer Scott Morrison, incidentally), while iron ore prices are at $121 a tonne this financial year, as news.com.au says. But experts say healthcare and aged care remain vulnerable in the budget as border controls stop new blood from bolstering the critical sector workforce. The AMA’s WA president Mark Duncan-Smith pointed to a budget cut of $210m in 2022-23, saying “What we may see in the future … is great buildings and shiny buildings, but no one to be paid to work in them”.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged WA residents to get vaccinated, warning that the state needs to “get your hospital system ready, get your health system ready, and push through”. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard echoed the PM’s sentiments, saying he felt sorry for people in WA who could remain locked in until April 2022, saying “this virus gets in everywhere eventually”, as Perth Now reports.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Dreaming of a completely free day with nothing on the agenda, no pesky chores, no commitments, nada? Turns out we love having nothing to do for four hours and 59 minutes — any longer than that and we start to feel bummed out. Researchers have concluded a human’s wellbeing begins to drop when we have five or more hours of free time, The Guardian reports. After that time period, we begin to feel unproductive and purposeless, the University of Pennsylvania’s Marissa Sharif says.

Sharif and her team looked at two studies of more than 35,000 participants to determine the sweet spot. And it turns out what we do during our free time can determine how we feel about ourselves — solo and non-productive activities create a negative effect, but spending our free time socialising made us feel good. Easier said than done, granted, considering nearly half the country remains in lockdown. The Age has a great guide to the best shows and movies to check out this weekend, depending on your taste. Or check out Real Housewives of New York — writer Katie Cunningham says it made her look forward to ageing. But remember — no more than four hours and 59 minutes, folks.

Have a joyful weekend ahead, chat to you next week.

SAY WHAT?

It was about trade. It wasn’t about climate agreement — it was a trade agreement. I do trade agreements and in trade agreements I deal with trade issues. In climate agreements I deal with climate issues.

Scott Morrison

The PM acknowledged reports that the UK dropped climate pledges from the free trade deal so the Australian Government would agree to it. An email from an unnamed UK official shows government ministers agreed to delete a commitment to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees to ensure the deal with Australia got across the line.

CRIKEY RECAP

JobKeeper is a plague on many houses, not just the Lodge or the seat of Kooyong

“It’s not just Gerry Harvey’s problem. There’s now a widespread perception that greedy businesses have ripped off taxpayers, with a bill running over $10 billion. At the same time, business collectively are demanding a rapid reopening of the economy, as backed by the NSW and Morrison governments …

“Business has been unsuccessfully attacking lockdowns and border closures for 18 months, urging that the virus be allowed to run free so that businesses could stay open. But now the real test is coming: whether government plans to let the virus circulate in order to open up can withstand the surge in hospitalisations and deaths that will result, and whether leaders of states like WA, Tasmania and Queensland that are coping perfectly well without the virus should be forced to allow the virus in in the name of reopening borders.”


Ezekiel versus vaccine passports: how a Christian backlash could stall the push to 80% jab rate

“When it comes to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and religion, look no further than the United States, where white evangelical Christians are the most opposed, by a long way: 24% were classified as vaccine refusers in a recent US poll — twice the rate of the secular population. In Australia the role of religion has not been so clear.

“But now there is an organised backlash from conservative Christians in the form of a national petition called The Ezekiel Declaration. Started by three Baptist church ministers from Queensland, the declaration calls on the federal government to halt plans for a vaccine passport. The Baptist minister and social justice campaigner Reverend Tim Costello fears that The Ezekiel Declaration is ‘sowing seeds of vaccine hesitancy’ which would ‘likely see Australia never reach the 80% vaccination figure set by the prime minister’.”


Scott Morrison’s airbase red carpet photo op broke Defence protocol, emails reveal

“Scott Morrison’s photo op during an airbase visit — which went viral after people noticed an unusual red carpet welcome from an honour guard — was preplanned and broke with normal protocol, according to internal Defence emails. The prime minister posted an image of himself visiting the Williamtown RAAF Base to virtually attend the national cabinet on his Instagram on May 7.

“The image, which depicts Morrison walking a red carpet with an honour guard of Air Force service people saluting, was criticised as being out of step with normal procedures for previous prime ministers. Both former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull told the ABC they’d never had an honour guard or red carpet welcome at bases.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

The Taliban’s new government includes wanted terrorists. Here’s what we know (ABC)

NAB changes logo to JAB to encourage vaccination (The Australian) ($)

9/11 families return to ground zero with a mission; ‘Trust me, it will get better’ (The Wall Street Journal)

Lion adds another craft brewer, Stone & Wood, to its portfolio (The Australian) ($)

First passenger flight departs Afghanistan since US withdrawal (Al Jazeera)

Biden to order vast majority of federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated (The New York Times)

France accuses Patel of blackmail in row over Channel migrants (The Guardian)

Trump admin sought to play down troop injuries in Iraq: Official (Al Jazeera)

Netherlands proposes radical plans to cut livestock numbers by almost a third (The Guardian)

At U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic Moves One Step Closer to Grand Slam (The New York Times)

Facebook and Ray-Ban are rolling out smart glasses that actually look cool. Will anyone buy it? (CNN)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Morrison is wedged between Biden and Barnaby in forging climate policy for GlasgowMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “The US sees Australia as a poor performer and demands more. Firstly, it wants a firm commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, not Morrison’s current fudge of net zero as soon as possible, ‘preferably’ by 2050. Secondly, it wants Australia’s current limited ambition for 2030 to be improved, which is an especially hard ask (although an alternative would be for Australia to talk about some other medium-term target — say 2035).

“What Morrison signs up for in his Glasgow policy will come down in large part not just to what Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is willing to accept but what Joyce is able to deliver. Sources say Joyce does not want to make Morrison’s position difficult for Glasgow. The two men are pragmatists; they are anxious to avoid friction in this pre-election period. But whether Morrison, who is autocratic by nature, fully understands the situation Joyce finds himself in is less clear.”

Victoria’s new Guy looks west for path to victoryAnnika Smethurst (The Age): “For Guy to have any chance of pulling off a McGowan-style comeback, he will also have to improve his personal brand which has been tarnished by controversial planning decisions and his infamous lobster dinner with alleged mafia bosses. It’s no coincidence that Guy, who described his 2018 election loss as a ‘humbling’ experience, is already showing signs of change.

“He has ditched the tie and his trademark aggression. So too, the personal attacks on Daniel Andrews. Calls for the abolition of the safe schools bullying program have also been replaced by a pledged to employ a dedicated mental health specialist at every Victorian school if elected in 2022. McGowan’s political reincarnation might serve as inspiration for Guy, but his is just one example of a politician who has gone on to win government after losing their first elections as leader.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Doherty Institute director Sharon Lewin and Monash University’s Edwina Wright will speak about current and emerging issues related to COVID-19 in a webinar.

  • The ADF’s Duncan Lewis and retired US Army general David Petraeus will discuss the 20 years since 9/11 in a webinar held by the United States Studies Centre.

  • Members of Queensland’s Treaty Advancement Committee Mick Gooda and Jackie Huggins discuss their work in advancing the Path to Treaty process in a webinar.

Larrakia Country (also known as Darwin)

  • NT Minister for Health Natasha Fyles, Prime Minister’s National Suicide Prevention Adviser Christine Morgan, and Youth Representative Sizol Fuyana are among the speakers at the World Suicide Prevention Day breakfast.

Giabal Country (also known as Toowoomba)

  • Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers’ three-day festival of food and wine kicks off.

Nipaluna Country (also known as Hobart)

  • Australian Universities Procurement Network’s Trisha Striker and UTAS’s Craig Deegan will speak about organisational accountability for modern slavery.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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