Melbourne Victoria lockdown COVID-19
(Image: AAP/James Ross)

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

On Sunday Victorians will be given a glimpse into what life will look like in the leadup to Christmas, AFR reports. The announcement will follow the state reaching the vaccine milestone of 70% of adults having received at least one dose, which is set to be reached on Friday. Premier Dan Andrews said Sunday’s widely-anticipated roadmap “talks about what we’ll do in the rest of September, October and November”, in terms of schools, social gatherings, the economy, business, and more.

The Age predicts that outdoor socialising could be “days away”, as the government has previously promised to increase the travel limit to 10km and the exercise limit to three hours when that 70% milestone was hit. Regional Victoria actually reached it already — on Monday — while the metro centre (home to three-quarters of Victoria’s population) is hurtling towards it ahead of the originally forecast date of the 23rd.

It’ll be a welcome relief for people soldiering through their sixth lockdown. But many Australians are finding ways to keep busy, it seems. In NSW, there was a record number of babies born in the second quarter of 2021, Guardian Australia reports. More than 19,000 babies were born between April and June — a 9% spike.

There's more to Crikey than you think.

Get more and save 50%.

Subscribe now

TAXING ISSUES

The OECD says Australia is relying too heavily on income tax revenue, The Australian ($) reports, amid our ageing population. The Paris-based economic organisation (led by former finance minister Mathias Cormann since June) says state and federal governments should introduce sweeping tax reform, otherwise we’re going to see rising public debt until 2060, the OECD’s report predicts.

It suggests that we could either increase our GST or widen its scope. Last year the GST turned 20, but there’s long been chatter about raising it from its 2000 level as it’s relatively low compared to other OECD countries. Plus, the Australian National University’s Robert Breunig says, raising the GST “has the extra benefit of taxing people’s accumulated wealth as they spend it”.

The OECD report also found we’ve weathered the pandemic better than most so far, but we’re exposed to risk from our trade stalemate with China, demand for our fossil fuels waning, and the carbon tariffs we might be slapped with, The Guardian says. The broad-ranging report also said it’s time to review the Reserve Bank — for the first time in 40 years — accusing the RBA of leaving us exposed to post-pandemic risk, the SMH reports. Indeed house prices recently jumped $52,600 in three months — a dismal development for everyone except the landed gentry — but the RBA is refusing to touch interest rates, as ABC reports.

HOT AND BOTHERED

Do you remember fewer heatwaves when you were younger? The data agrees. The mercury is soaring past 50 degrees twice as much as it did in the ’80s, BBC analysis has found. Between 1980 and 2009, temperatures passed 50 degrees about 14 days a year, but since 2010 that number has risen to about 26 times a year. The University of Oxford’s Friederike Otto said it was “100% attributed to the burning of fossil fuels”.

About 90% of the $540b in global farmer subsidies are damaging our health, destroying nature, driving inequality, and accelerating climate change, UN agencies say. And beef and milk — the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions — are receiving the biggest chunk of the change, The Guardian reports. One rather quirky offset idea is potty-training cows, according to the BBC. Cows can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by urinating in a special pen that collects and treats their waste. Researchers rewarded a cow for relieving itself in the pen, then moved that cow further away and rewarded it for walking over. Eleven of the 16 cows were trained, they say.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

An Italian man is living as a hobbit and the Lord of the Rings stars are all about it. The 37-year-old pastry chef bought a slice of land in the countryside of Bucchianico, and he’s been building his own Shire à la Middle-earth. He even cosplayed with friends who were dressed as an elf, dwarf, hobbit, and sorcerer and trekked 200km to Naples to throw the “One Ring” into Mount Vesuvius. Nicolas Gentile said being a super-fan of the Tolkien series was not enough — he wanted to live his obsession and it’s pretty convincing stuff.

Elijah Wood, who played Frodo Baggins in the multi-billion-dollar film franchise based on the books, sent a series of video messages to Gentile on Monday. Wood said it was “incredible” to see Gentile’s commitment to the bit and that he loves the costumes. Billy Boyd, who plays Pippin Took in the same series, called for people to help Gentile build the Shire, which “would be a wonderful thing”. Gentile says it’s not about avoiding the real world. “Far from it,” he continues. “I am living my dream, my adventure. By purchasing that piece of land, I have removed it from a reality that I don’t like and am shaping it the way I want.”

Hope your imagination runs wild today, folks.

SAY WHAT?

Part contribution to the payment of my fees by a blind trust known as the Legal Services Trust. As a potential beneficiary I have no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust.

Christian Porter

That’s a fancy way of saying former attorney-general Christian Porter has no idea who donated to cover part of his legal fees when he sued ABC’s Louise Milligan for her coverage of a rape allegation against a then-unnamed Cabinet minister. Porter identified himself in an emotional press conference but has strongly and continually denied that the alleged sexual assault took place. Porter has dropped his defamation claim.

CRIKEY RECAP

Craig Kelly changed his number. It’s 0429 493 241. If you text him again, we have a suggestion for what you might write

Craig Kelly continues to spam Australians with his unwanted texts. Last week he unleashed a new and more offensive one linked to out-of-context ‘vaccine adverse events’ data from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, plainly designed to undermine public confidence in vaccines.

“Kelly also changed his phone number after Crikey published it and encouraged people to politely tell him what they thought of his spamming them … Who knows, perhaps Kelly will see the light and understand how annoying it is to be spammed by people wanting political support, and decide that politicians should be subjected to the same rules as everyone else.”


Australia stumbles into a rework of our rights, and leaders refuse to lead the way

“That’s the vacuum. For all businesses and organisations like churches, clubs, sporting associations and so on, there is no choice but to confront the questions: can we and should we place restrictions on how individuals will be allowed to interact with us based on whether or not they’ve been vaccinated?

“The law so far as the business-customer relationship is concerned, is clear: there is no law preventing a business from declining to deal with a customer, including by denying them entry to the premises on the basis that they are unvaccinated. Australia’s anti-discrimination laws are a mish-mash of state and federal legislation, but the basic design is common: discrimination is unlawful only with respect to certain protected attributes, such as gender, race, age, pregnancy, disability.”


Outflanked on renewables by the NSW Coalition, time is right for Fitzgibbon to go

“In that role he was noteworthy for three things: being an early sceptic of the F-35 scheme; being the subject of an alleged intelligence operation in relation to his friendship with Chinese-Australian businesswoman Helen Liu; being the only Rudd minister to lose his spot when he resigned in relation to his brother Mark [Fitzgibbon] — the head of health insurer NIB — using [Joel] Fitzgibbon’s office in the ministerial wing for lobbying.

“By contemporary standards, Fitzgibbon’s offence looks positively innocuous, but Rudd had better standards of conduct than governments before or after him. It didn’t cruel their relationship — Fitzgibbon became one of Rudd’s chief lieutenants in the former PM’s incessant campaign of destabilisation against the Gillard-Swan government that opened the way to the Coalition’s rapid return to power in 2013.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

‘Urgency’: Vaccine blitz to target First Nations communities before lockdowns lift (NITV)

Online activity during COVID lockdowns sees surge in cyber attacks and espionage (ABC)

New Zealand Māori Party renews push to change country’s official name to Aotearoa (SBS)

Afghan foreign minister urges countries to engage with new gov’t (Al Jazeera)

Trudeau energized by anti-vaccine protests in Canada election few wanted (The Guardian)

Booker Prize shortlist 2021: British-Somali author Nadifa Mohamed makes history, Americans dominate (ABC)

Is Russia’s defence chief emerging as Putin’s possible successor? (Al Jazeera)

Apple event begins, set to feature new iPhone lineup (The Wall Street Journal)

Worried Trump could ‘go rogue,’ Milley took top-secret action to protect nuclear weapons (CNN)

Paul Kelly honours Eddie Betts in song (The Australian) ($)

THE COMMENTARIAT

The lives lost to undervaccination, in chartsEmma Pierson, Jaline Gerardin, Nathaniel Lash (The New York Times): “The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are extremely effective in protecting against COVID-19 deaths as well as hospitalization. We can estimate how many lives might have been saved with higher vaccination rates by looking at the number of deaths on each day and assuming that unvaccinated people died of COVID-19 at 11 times the rate of vaccinated people.

“We modelled each state separately and modelled people ages 18 to 64 and people 65 and up separately, since they have very different mortality rates and vaccination rates … The results are striking: During the latest coronavirus wave, in July and August, at least 16,000 deaths could have been prevented if all states had vaccination rates as high as the state with the highest vaccination rate.”

In clash of the targets, we’re all the big losersJanet Albrechtsen (The Australian) ($): “It’s not hard to predict a direct relationship between the size of the benefits that accrue from targets such as this and the resentments that this process will stoke. As soon as you attach benefits to membership of more than one group, you need a hierarchy of groups and the means to settle disputes about that hierarchy. In a job contest between a middle-class girl and an equally qualified working-class boy, who wins? What if one has an ethnic background and the other has a physical disability?

“Once we started down the road of identity politics, it became inevitable that groups of people would subdivide into smaller and smaller groups to lay claim to categories of victimhood that derive the greatest benefits. It’s easy to predict that well-to-do boys and girls will start talking in broad accents to secure top billing in some corporatised hierarchy of victims.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan will speak about the role of the ADF in disaster response via webinar for the University of NSW.

  • Author and journalist Benjamin Law will be in conversation with author Yves Rees about the latter’s memoir All About Yves.

Larrakia Country (also known as Darwin)

  • Australian of the Year NT 2021 Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann will speak at the first-ever East Arnhem Empowerment Conference across Galiwinku and Nhulunbuy.

Wurundjeri Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Journalists Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland will discuss the former’s new book, Daring to Fly, at the Melbourne Press Club.

  • Recently released medivac refugee Farhad Bandesh and Greens candidate Celeste Liddle will speak at the Wheeler Centre about the power of protest.

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%