GOING, GOING, GONE
The NSW Coalition has experienced a near decapitation as three of its most powerful politicians have resigned — along with outgoing Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and close ally senior moderate Andrew Constance (who’s taking a tilt at federal politics), Nationals leader John Barilaro has hung up his proverbial hat, too.
Barilaro, self-christened “Pork–Barrel-aro”, said the time was right for him to leave politics — he took a month of mental health leave last year at the height of the koala policy stoush, and he’s suing FriendlyJordies — describing the defamation proceedings as taking a toll. But as Guardian Australia reported, Barilaro didn’t (and, to be fair, wouldn’t be allowed to) say whether corruption watchdog ICAC is looking into him, as they are Berejiklian. His federal counterpart Barnaby Joyce has slammed ICAC, calling it “not the great righteous process, it’s a little bit Spanish Inquisition”, as ABC reports. Bring back the comfy chair, as the Python boys say.
So where to from here for the country’s most populous state as it claws its way out of its COVID crisis? ABC’s election oracle Antony Green has written a cracking explainer. The probable incoming premier Dominic Perrottet will inherit three byelections which will take the temperature of voters after the exodus. The NSW Coalition was elected with a slim majority (though has the support of several crossbenchers), but Green says federal Labor would be out of pocket for the country’s next election if it throws money at trying to win the by-elections.
The Australian Defence Force will be increasingly distracted by climate change crises and less attentive to security risks, a former ADF chief has told Guardian Australia. Chris Barrie, a retired admiral, says during the bushfire and flood crisis the ADF didn’t recruit extra people, but they were expected to pitch in. He warned the defence force Australia can afford will “never be big enough” to deal with concurrent events — like China’s increasingly hostile military actions and extreme weather. Basically, something’s gotta give.
It comes as renewable energy generation increased by 15% last financial year — but more than three-quarters of Australia’s electricity still came from fossil fuels, The Australian ($) reports. Energy Minister Angus Taylor says it shows we need more gas, as he green-lit Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s gas plant (which he says will become a green hydrogen generator by the end of the decade, as reported by AFR).
But solar would make us richer, a think tank says. Rewiring Australia found we’d each pocket an extra $5443 a year if all home appliances and cars ran on solar-powered electricity — slashing a third of our emissions along the way, Guardian Australia reports. Saul Griffith, a Biden administration adviser on climate, said our abundance of sun and low population density positions us as a renewable energy world leader. He says: “If we go first, we’ll be selling those technologies to California. If we don’t go first, they’ll be selling them to us”.
NOT A HARD PILL TO SWALLOW
We just bought 300,000 doses of a pill that cuts COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths in half — according to a trial, SBS reports. The pill, which is in late-stage trials, is called Molnupiravir — the TGA needs to approve it yet, but if they do, it’ll be available from early next year. It’s actually the first antiviral pill on the market for COVID-19, news.com.au says. We already use a couple of other intravenous COVID-specific treatments in Oz: antibody treatment Sotrovimab and antiviral treatment Remdesivir. Australia was actually one of the first regulators worldwide to authorise the use of the Remdesivir, as the TGA says. But so far vaccines appear to be the best way to protect yourself from the harmful effects of COVID.
Speaking of, Israel has become the first country in the world to strip citizens of their vaccination status — if they were double vaxxed more than six months ago, news.com.au reports. Israel has a vaccine passport for restaurants, hotels, clubs and private gatherings, but 2 million people could lose it if they don’t take up a third “booster” shot. Israel has double vaccinated over 60% of its population with Pfizer so far. Social media video appears to show demonstrations about the ruling at the weekend.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Fran Bak is quite literally the only tourist in the whole country of Bhutan, as Traveller reports. The small predominantly Buddhist Kingdom, tucked between India and China, is home to about 750,000 people. Like several others, Bhutan’s economy relies on tourism, but borders have been closed for more than 12 months. Bak, from San Francisco, was the first and only person to be granted passage during that time. It’s her second time there, and she’s a diehard fan — her first trip, she says, was like being in “Disneyland”.
So why Bhutan? It’s a pretty happy place — literally. It’s known for its Gross National Happiness (GNH), as BBC Travel says, which was introduced in the early ’70s, and takes into account sustainable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, preservation of culture, and good governance. Basically everything that’s “needed to live a good life”, says Khedrupchen Rinpoche, a spiritual master. There are also spectacular Himalayan landscapes, striking monasteries, and lush forests to admire. Bak is loving life, exploring remote regions and sleeping in homestays instead of hotels. “Bhutan’s like a drug,” she explains. “It opens you up, and that’s all you crave.”
Hope the wanderlust is flowing today folks — travel isn’t far away.
There will be consequences as a result of people not getting themselves vaccinated … push will come to shove at some point in the future.
These rather ominous words belong to the WA health minister, who warned his state that “challenging” times were on the way once the border opens up in late November. In the 18 months since the pandemic kicked off, WA has recorded 1109 cases — that’s slightly less than Victoria’s daily case total yesterday.
“On the assumption that it was currently conducting investigations or inquiries into the allegations of corrupt conduct listed below, which ministers would be sitting on the backbench instead, waiting for their names to be cleared? …
“Angus Taylor: ‘Watergate’ ($80 million of public money used to buy water licences from a company of which Taylor had been a director) and ‘Grassgate’ (illegal land clearing by a Taylor family company about his involvement in which he allegedly misled Parliament), and the allegation that his office forged a document to discredit Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.”
“I am certainly not suggesting that the Nationals leader and deputy premier was in anyway relishing his boss’ demise. Or that he was in any way part of the white-anting, undermining, backstabbing, plotting, knifing or other untoward behaviour behind the scenes in the shitshow that is the current NSW government. (Or did I say that already?)
“But I would bet that whatever weasel words he used to explain the timing of his decision, Barilaro is not leaving in a show of solidarity with Our Glad. I do not expect to see his name pop up on that growing change.org petition ‘Don’t let Gladys go’.”
“Perrottet, like [David] Clarke, has links to Opus Dei, a shadowy conservative Catholic sect … Unlike Clarke, whose views on social issues like abortion and gay rights were viewed as too extreme, Perrottet has managed to cast himself as the more reasonable face of the Christian right, a treasurer who focused on boring, wonky stuff like stamp duty reform rather than the low-hanging fruit of culture wars …
“[But] a year earlier, he’d argued welfare led to family breakdown and childlessness. And while such outbursts have been toned down since becoming treasurer in 2017, there’s plenty more about Perrottet which is already giving Labor, totally bereft six months ago, a new sense of hope.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Battling Delta, New Zealand abandons its zero-COVID ambitions (The New York Times)
Wuhan in early shopping spree for COVID-19 test kits (The Australian) ($)
At a glance: Key revelations from the Pandora papers (The Guardian)
China Evergrande unit flags possible takeover bid (The Wall Street Journal)
In Mexico, nearly 100,000 people are missing (The New York Times)
Instagram’s mental health emergency (Quillette)
Hard man will have to govern for all — Brad Norington (The Australian) ($): “However, in the NSW crisis cabinet Perrottet firmly opposed Berejiklian in July when lockdown restrictions were extended. In public comments, Perrottet has seemed a government contrarian, arguing NSW needs to be opened up, not locked down. One news outlet reported — though Perrottet later insisted he had “no recollection” of saying it — that he’d said the state’s chief health officer, Kerry Chant, should take a pay cut if it turned out COVID restrictions were imposed unnecessarily.
“These are words unlikely to emanate from Perrottet’s lips when he takes full responsibility for the state’s welfare, needing to rely on frank and fearless advice, and support from experienced hands in cabinet such as Brad Hazzard and Mark Speakman. No doubt Perrottet will receive support, and pressure to remain firm, from advocates of opening up NSW. He is at least assisted by timing: his instalment as premier happily will coincide with the Berejiklian-led government’s approved path out of lockdown as NSW vaccination rates hit their targets and ‘freedom day’ arrives next week for the vaxxed.”
Lessons learned from many months of interrupted schooling — Julie Sonneman, Jordana Hunter (The Age): “There will be many lessons learned in the past 12 months. For example, the flexibility that exists in the current tutoring program may be more beneficial for high-performing schools than others. Some schools need more support to design and deliver the tutoring initiative effectively — supporting these schools is essential to ensure equitable outcomes for students.
“Tutoring should also be better directed at the schools and students who need it most, including schools in poorer parts of our communities, students in secondary school who are at risk of disengaging, and students in the early primary years — prep and grades 1 and 2 — who may have found it especially hard to engage with online learning.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Education Minister Alan Tudge is among the keynote speakers at the Australian International Education Conference, held online.
CSIRO research network’s Jon Whittle will speak with Tech Council of Australia’s Kate Pounder about improving Australia’s digital competitiveness, held online.
Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean are among the speakers at “Rewiring Australia”, an online event by the Australia Institute.
Radio National’s Sarah Kanowski will be in conversation with author Jonathan Franzen about the latter’s new book, Crossroads, held online.
Writer Helen Garner will be in conversation with author Charlotte Wood about the latter’s new book, The Luminous Solution.
Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)
ABC Classic FM’s Martin Buzzacott will be in conversation with writer, musician and broadcaster, Ed Ayres discussing the latter’s new essays on music, Whole Notes, at Avid Reader. Catch this one online too.
Kaurna Country (also known as Adelaide)
Adelaide University Law Students’ Society will host a free Aboriginal law seminar at Piper Alderman Moot Court.