STATE YOUR CASE
Oh, the state of things, as Shannon Molloy writes for news.com.au: “Queensland and Western Australia are closed. Sydney has been in lockdown since the end of June while Melbourne is now the most shut-in city in the world”.
Queensland has recorded a mystery COVID-19 case, the first local spread in weeks, ABC reports. The case will be included in today’s data. The man, in his 30s, works in aviation, but curiously has not been overseas or interstate lately, as news.com.au reports. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is refusing to say whether the sunshine state’s borders will open for Christmas, but has flagged that revised modelling from the Doherty Institute — which will inform the decision — will hit her desk this week. CHO Jeannette Young said people could only “prepare and hope” — and get vaccinated of course — as the Brisbane Times says.
Two more weeks of lockdown, Sydney — that’s the message from Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who says October 11 will see heaps of restrictions ease in her state — for the vaccinated. Among the eased restrictions: five visitors at home, bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes, as well as retail, gyms and sport facilities to reopen (all with person limits), Greater Sydney travel limits scrapped (though no regional travel) plus more, as the SMH details. By October 11, 70% of the over-16 population in NSW should be fully vaxxed, while ABC’s numbers whizz Casey Briggs tweeted that “NSW will almost certainly reach the 80% restriction easing day on either Mon Oct 25 or Mon Oct 18”. But the unvaccinated will wait ’til December for their restrictions to ease in NSW, as Guardian Australia reports.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
TAKING FUEL FROM THE FIRE
Both deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and senator Matt Canavan have held up the UK as an example of the potential consequences of net zero in Australia in the last few days. In what is admittedly a pretty funny admission of his readership proclivities, Joyce said he could trust it because had read it in The Guardian, so it wasn’t just “some right-wing rant”. Guardian Australia asks this morning — are they right? Yes and no. The UK is in a genuine energy crisis, mostly caused by gas prices quadrupling in the last year. Gas is imported from overseas, Adam Morton continues, and Europe had a freezing winter in 2020-21 which gobbled up gas storages. But it couldn’t happen here, Morton explains. We get just 6% of our energy from gas, and it’s not set to rise even when we phase out coal. Also we extract our own gas (and ship three quarters of it overseas).
It comes as pumps in the UK went dry as people panic-bought petrol, BBC reports — but there was no shortage to begin with, say the government and oil companies. The rush on petrol has led to some people sleeping in their cars, while others are resorting to violence. Ironically, the rush caused an actual shortage — two-thirds of 5500 independent outlets have since run dry. The conspiracy seems to have grown out of another shortage — lorry drivers. Last week, as Bloomberg reported, BP said was temporarily closing a “handful” of its petrol stations because of a lorry driver shortfall.
SAFE AS HOUSES
More than one in five potential home-buyers borrow more than six times their income, the AFR reports. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has told regulators they can start sketching a plan to see less high-debt home loans doled out. The problem is this: if interest rates jump, or if there is another surge in job loss, the housing market and the economy could face serious heat. But the clampdown would surely hurt prospective first-home buyers, who are walking into an already ballooned housing market that has far exceeded wage growth, as Business Insider reports.
And it’s not just a city problem: during the pandemic, regional home values have actually risen faster than in the cities, as The Australian ($) reports. NSW regional prices surged 21.1% last financial year compared to 15% in Sydney. Greg Jericho writes in Guardian Australia that, even though some are getting rich, the fact Australia’s household wealth is “utterly dependent upon land prices going up” is not a good thing. “That sound this week was of a generation locked out of the housing market letting out a howl of despair directed, quite rightly, towards those whose only good fortune in life was to be born earlier than they were”, he says.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Mantras: fruitless hocus pocus or a powerful tool to help you achieve your dreams? It’s hard to say — but they’ve definitely helped American Olympic silver-medallist Courtney Frerichs rise the ranks in steeplechase, an incredibly tricky obstacle course in athletics
Her first mantra, given to her by her college coach, was just four powerful words: “Expect nothing. Achieve everything”. Frerichs says it lit a fire in her and she repeated it over and over as she bolted her way through a qualifying final at 23. As she prepared for the world championships, she says another caught her eye: “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire”. She thought about it constantly as she endured ruthless training sessions. In 2018, her coach kept repeating a simple instruction to her: “Let yourself run”. A poetry-advice hybrid, Frerichs says it allowed her to “relax and execute” her way through a Monaco competition.
After encountering injuries and pandemic setbacks, Frerichs worked with a psychologist on her next mantra. They settled on one powerful word: “belong”. Belonging in the race, belonging in her career, belonging in her life.
Hope you feel a little belonging today, too.
It’s another trip overseas … and I’ve spent a lot of time in quarantine. I have to focus on things here and with COVID. Australia will be opening up around that time. There will be a lot of issues to manage and I have to manage those competing demands.
In a development that beggars belief, the prime minister of Australia — the leader of the world’s largest carbon polluting country per capita — hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll turn up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The summit is considered the most significant meeting on climate change since the signing of the Paris Agreement.
“The extent of Australian knowledge of the plans for Assange is likely never to be clarified because Australia’s intelligence agencies are able to operate behind a bipartisan wall of secrecy far stronger than that which applies to US agencies, where independent congressional oversight, a better-protected media, a stronger whistleblower culture and better disclosure laws mean much more scrutiny for intelligence agencies.
“In Australia there’s virtually none, with limited parliamentary oversight, brutal gag laws for intelligence officials, vexatious prosecutions and police raids on journalists willing to try to pierce the secrecy … What sparked the CIA’s fury at WikiLeaks and set it to planning to kidnap or murder Assange was that WikiLeaks in 2017 revealed a trove of CIA software exploits, known as ‘Vault 7’, which had been stolen from the intelligence agency.”
“In the past five years the Liberal National Party has rapidly switched its rhetoric from vast opportunity to imminent threat. Only two years ago Australia slashed its aid to the region by 42% to lift aid to the Pacific — one of the Morrison government’s more ham-fisted attempts to counter China. Then followed some incohesive flip-flopping that has been the hallmark of the Coalition’s attitude to South-East Asia.
“Indonesia has long been considered Australia’s most important relationship in the region. Yet Australian actions belie this rhetoric: Australia spied on the wife of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono; Tony Abbott attacked Indonesia for putting to death Australians who broke anti-drug laws; Julia Gillard surprising Jakarta with the news that US marines would be based in Darwin.”
“Labor, independent and Greens senators have demanded Phil Gaetjens appear at a Senate inquiry hearing into the government’s attempt to keep the national cabinet secret despite a federal court judge ruling it was not a cabinet and therefore not entitled to secrecy …
“Committee chair Liberal Senator Claire Chandler said a letter from acting Secretary of the PM&C Stephanie Foster on Friday did not specify why Gaetjens was unable to appear, but inferred it was because he was travelling with the prime minister.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Facebook to pause work on Instagram kids version amid controversy (The Wall Street Journal)
Talk of deceit and outright lies as Turnbull feud hits court (The Australian) ($)
Home and contents insurance premiums spike after floods, storms and bushfires (The Australian) ($)
China to clamp down on abortions for ‘non-medical purposes’ (The Guardian)
Why Washington was so ecstatic about Morrison’s AUKUS pact —Peter Hartcher (The SMH): “In the event of all-out war, the US wants Tokyo’s 22 subs and Canberra’s six to complement the US fleet of 68. Japan’s have been pencilled in to operate in the north and Australia’s in the south. This is where AUKUS come in. It includes in-principle agreement from Washington and London to supply Australia with nuclear propulsion technology for a new fleet of eight submarines instead of the planned 12 diesel-electric subs, now ditched.
“Why was this greeted rapturously in Washington? ‘The long-term prospect of eight nuclear-powered RAN subs prowling the Pacific resets the naval balance of power,’ says Mike Green of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. ‘The Collins class subs’ — the existing Australian fleet — ‘couldn’t get up to the choke points that are approaches to Australia and that are important to the US’, he tells me. Nuclear powered subs have greater range and speed and underwater endurance than conventional.”
For farmers, climate change is both headache and a motivator — Tony Wood (The AFR): “First, the agriculture sector is the one most directly affected by our changing climate. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences estimates that changes in seasonal conditions over 2001 to 2020 have reduced average farm profits by 23% compared with pre-2000 conditions.
“Second … about 75% of Australia’s beef production is exported, and the risk posed by international actions was recently recognised by the previous leader of the Nationals, Michael McCormack. The third reason for farmers to be actively engaged is that planting trees and rebuilding the carbon in soils delivers productivity benefits to agriculture beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These actions also remove CO2 from the atmosphere, something that will be necessary across all sectors as we move towards, but fall short of, zero emissions.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy and Essential Media’s Peter Lewis will discuss the fortnight’s political news in a webinar for the Australia Institute.
Alison Evans, Hayden Moon, Stevie Lane, and Nevo Zisin will hold an online panel discussion on liberating from the gender binary for the Wheeler Centre.
Artist AViVA will be in conversation online about her new book, self/less, a young adult fiction novel about a world where self-expression is banned.
Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)
Foreign correspondent Peter Greste will be in conversation with journalist Mark Willacy discussing the latter’s new book, Rogue Forces. Catch this one online, too.
Bindjareb Country (also known as Mandurah)
The Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) 2021 Conference kicks off, a three-day sustainability event.