Sydney airport covid-19
Signage at Sydney International Airport. (Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

FLYING IT OUT

Our vaccine passports are set to be tested in the US, Britain, Japan, and Singapore, The Australian ($) reports, indicating those may be the first countries Australians can fly to once we reach 80% vaccine coverage. Trade Minister Dan Tehan confirmed on Sunday that the government would be sending out the QR codes that lie at the core of the passport plan to make sure the technology would be working in time for when borders reopen. It comes as the UK shelves their own plans for vaccine passports, as The Guardian reports.

Meanwhile, in Adelaide, defence force personnel will be the first to try home quarantine, after SA Premier Steven Marshall lauded the trial run using facial recognition and geolocation of those quarantining. The technology received a rather spectacular dressing down in US magazine The Atlantic, who called it “Orwellian as any in the free world”.

Some Sydneysiders can enjoy new freedoms today, the ABC reports. People outside hotspots can get together in groups of five outside within 5km of home, and people in hotspots can hang outside for two hours with people they live with. But everyone has to be vaccinated. It comes as the federal government has secured another one million Moderna doses, the AFR reports. That means by November we’ll have 36 million Pfizer and Moderna doses ready to give those aged 12-59 (the ATAGI approved Moderna for those aged 12-15 yesterday). Melbourne’s getting 400,000 of them after Premier Dan Andrews said his state was short-changed, The Guardian reports. Now, rollout coordinator John Frewen says, “it’s just about people now turning up”.

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TIME TO GO?

Longtime Labor outlier Joel Fitzgibbon could be about to quit federal parliament, The Australian ($) says. Fitzgibbon was the defence and agricultural minister in the Rudd-Gillard governments but nearly lost his seat in the 2019 election after a 14-point swing against him. At the time, the Hunter MP vowed to bring “labour back into the Labor Party” and has since spruiked the resource industry and rejected “zealous” climate change talk.

Indeed in November last year he walked from the frontbench after a shadow cabinet barney with opposition leader Anthony Albanese over US President Joe Biden’s win, as The Conversation reported. Fitzgibbon was stripped down by his own party after saying Labor colleague Mark Butler’s belief that climate change helped Biden cinch the win was “delusional”, as The Guardian says. The Oz says Fitzgibbon told colleagues he will leave following months of speculation, but the MP declined to comment when the paper approached him.

ELECTION CRITERIA

The Guardian says the federal election could be called after Australia Day, to take place as early as February or March. Political reporter Amy Remeikis made the prediction in an explainer drawn from common reader questions submitted to their live blog.

It’s full of interesting tidbits — the shortest election campaign is 33 days, as per the AEC guidelines (in Canada, PM Justin Trudeau gave voters just 36 days to decide whether to keep or dump him, as CBC reports), while the longest is 58 days. Voting day usually means bustling crowds and long lines, but the AEC told The Guardian “the delivery of voting services will be different” depending on where we are at with the pandemic. Could Australia be about to see a postal voting conspiracy akin to the widely debunked voter fraud theory spruiked by former US president Donald Trump?

On the question of whether the governor-general can sack the government (1975 is still ringing in many ears, evidently), Remeikis says technically yes, but it’d have to be a brave governor-general to repeat that political scandal. The dismissal had fresh light thrown on it by last year’s revelations in the palace letters, as The Conversation delved into last year.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Are you familiar with the Fermi Paradox? Named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi, the paradox is this: if there are billions of stars that can sustain life — just like our sun — in our galaxy alone, and if our galaxy is one just one of the hundreds of billions in the universe, then where is everybody else? In 2007, the Pentagon confirmed they were setting up a program to gather data on UFO sightings. Former US president Barack Obama said this year: “There’s footage and records of objects in the skies, that we don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory”. For most, however, alien life is the stuff of science fiction, but The Guardian asks: should we take it more seriously?

Former Vermont assistant attorney general Terry Lovelace tells his story of a close encounter. He was sitting around a campfire with a pal in Arkansas when the din of the crickets and frogs went silent. He says three bright lights appeared and hurtled towards them, belonging to a “black triangular prism as wide as two city blocks”. According to Lovelace, he was put to sleep by a blue beam, and when he awoke in his tent, he peered out and saw children in a nearby meadow. His pal told him the children were aliens, who had “taken” them. Lovelace says he suddenly remembered being inside the UFO. An alien encounter or just magic mushrooms? You be the judge.

Hoping you keep an open mind today, folks.

SAY WHAT?

Diversity and equality and multiculturalism can’t just be a trope that Labor pulls out and parades while wearing a sari and eating some kung pao chicken to make ourselves look good.

Anne Aly

The Labor MP, who grew up in the electorate of Fowler, accused her own party of “hypocrisy” after former NSW premier Kristina Keneally was parachuted into the safe seat — pushing aside the preferred candidate, Australian-Vietnamese lawyer Tu Le.

CRIKEY RECAP

Kerry Chant’s ‘new world order’: how a throwaway comment went viral with conspiracy theorists

“Some of the attention came from anti-government conspiracy theorists who said that the phrase proved that Australia’s strict COVID-19 public health measures were actually something more sinister. Everyone from anti-vaxxers to QAnon believers to one of the world’s biggest right-wing YouTubers Steven Crowder shared it on Facebook, Twitter and Telegram. Many sharers seemed to be sceptical of the conspiracy, but were sharing it because they expected it would pique the interest of fringe social media users.

“Of course, the use of the phrase wasn’t an announcement by a state’s chief health officer that she was installing herself as a global monarch. (If that was the goal, it would be ill-advised to announce it at a press conference until power had already been seized.) The idea is ridiculous to anyone not already primed to believe it.”


‘I’ve never encountered anything like this’: vaccine misinformation puts pressure on GPs

“I tend to give them medical evidence and refer them to reputable sources like the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre which is a fantastic website that spells out a lot of the myths and evidence … It’s a very small subset, but there are people who — even if you spend half an hour with them running through safety and efficacy data — just don’t want to hear it …

“Some people have concerns about mRNA vaccines or concerns around fertility (there’s no evidence that any vaccine has impacted fertility), but others have told me their church leaders say vaccines are the work of the devil, which is obscene and incredibly disappointing.”


How much JobKeeper flowed offshore? $110 million and counting

“In the case of the 20% of JobKeeper payments that Ownership Matters found went to ASX300 companies that enjoyed increased earnings in 2020 rather than a significant fall in revenue, those payments simply added to profit, often ending up in increased executive bonuses or increased dividends to shareholders.

“Given total foreign investment in Australian equities was around $675 billion last year — separate from foreign direct investment (over $1 trillion) or loans ($1.3 trillion) — and the total value of the ASX was around $2.2 trillion, around 30% of dividends would have flowed offshore. That means, on a conservative basis, around $110 million in JobKeeper payments would have flowed to foreign shareholders from Australian-listed companies that didn’t need it.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Taliban says women can study in gender-segregated universities (Al Jazeera)

The remarkable backstory to Emma Raducanu’s historic US Open tennis win (SBS)

Home Affairs Minister Karen ­Andrews to seek new powers for terrorist lockdown (The Australian) ($)

F.B.I. releases newly declassified document related to Sept. 11 attacks (The New York Times)

Spanish wildfires drive thousands from homes close to Costa del Sol (The Guardian)

French abortion film wins on big night for women at Venice festival (SBS)

Why there hasn’t been another 9/11 (The Wall Street Journal)

Morocco’s king appoints billionaire Akhannouch to head government after election win (The Guardian)

IAEA and Iran reach agreement to avert nuclear deal crisis (Al Jazeera)

Louis Armstrong and the spy: how the CIA used him as a ‘trojan horse’ in Congo (The Guardian)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Why the Premier was right to cancel the 11am presserJoseph Friedman (The SMH): “Since announcing on Friday that she would suspend the daily coronavirus press conferences, Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s action has been labelled ‘an absolute disgrace’, ‘a failure of leadership’, ‘going into hiding’ and ‘abandon[ing] ship at moment of greatest crisis’. But the notion that showing up equals accountability is misguided …

“… each day at 11am, those of us working, studying and languishing at home flick on the TV or click play on the live stream to catch the latest case numbers, hospitalisation rates, and, tragically, deaths. We flock to the live blogs, scrolling endlessly and generating huge traffic for media organisations. But what are we really gaining? Unless the daily briefing contains a major announcement that demands questions of the decision-makers, such as tightened or loosened restrictions, vaccination supply updates or details on hospital bed capacity, the daily press conferences are counterproductive.”

Kristina Keneally’s house switch stops one row, starts anotherMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “While Keneally’s installation may be a snub to some locals, it should be noted it doesn’t deprive ALP branch members of a rank and file ballot they would otherwise have had. Through a peculiar arrangement that goes back decades and has its origins in branch stacking, the preselection process for Fowler, a seat designated for the right, is very top down. The right faction selects its candidate, who is then rubber stamped by the party.

“Keneally’s facilitated passage into Fowler is the latest break for the one-time NSW premier who lost the 2011 state election. She was a favourite of Bill Shorten and the candidate chosen to contest the 2017 Bennelong byelection. Then after Sam Dastyari quit the Senate as a result of revelations he’d promoted Chinese interests, Keneally took the casual vacancy. After the 2019 election Keneally became the opposition’s deputy Senate leader, elbowing out right numbers man Don Farrell. This put her number four in Labor’s hierarchy. As home affairs spokeswoman she aggressively took the fight up to then home affairs minister Peter Dutton. They were well matched.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Nobel Prize-winning immunologist and pathologist Peter Doherty will speak at a webinar on how to balance COVID-19 elimination and suppression strategies.

Kaurna Country (also known as Adelaide)

  • Women in Business Regional Network will host a dinner at the Barker Hotel to discuss the importance of business values.

  • Six SA Government agencies will present about support and services for small businesses at an information session at Cove Business Hub.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • CCIQ’s Luisa Baucia and Workhaven’s Jo Mason will speak at an information session about the impact of domestic and family violence in the workplace.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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