CROSSING A LINE
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of holding the government to “ransom” and seeking to “extort money” in an interview with morning show Today. The acidic comments came after Palaszczuk said she would consider keeping her border closed to Victoria and NSW when the 80% vaccine threshold was met, unless the federal government offered cash for her state hospitals, as the Brisbane Times reports. More than 11,000 Queenslanders remain stranded in NSW or Victoria, the paper adds, some living in tents, while many families remain split across borderlines.
But Palaszczuk’s not the only one fearful of an outbreak — this week eight state and territory health ministers wrote to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt pleading for more cash to bolster public health systems as the country nears its reopening, as news.com.au reports. And Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid agrees, saying “every state and territory has a crisis with its public hospitals”.
It comes as four of the biggest hospitals in northern Queensland issued “code yellow’’ alarms yesterday, which saw them divert ambos away in a situation that was described as “unprecedented” by emergency doctors as beds approached capacity, The Australian ($) says.
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ZERO TOLERANCE FOR ZERO TOLERANCE
New Zealand has admitted it can’t stop Delta. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed they would be abandoning the COVID-zero strategy in favour of the suppression approach instead, as CNN reports. Ardern made the comments in announcing the country’s roadmap out of lockdown, saying the Delta strain has proven to be “a tentacle that has been incredibly hard to shake”, as The New York Times reports.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for Kiwis, who have lived through a pandemic that, in New Zealand, saw some of the lowest cases and deaths worldwide, according to John Hopkins University data. But six weeks ago a single Delta infection plunged their country into lockdown — despite the quick response, there were two dozen cases reported yesterday, mostly in Auckland. The NZ Greens — who usually back Ardern’s Labour government — have slammed the move away from elimination, saying it risks the country’s health system and puts their Maori population at risk. The country’s vaccination program began last month, and since then, about 47% of its over 12 population are fully vaccinated, Guardian Australia says.
Thumbs around the world went idle yesterday as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp went down for six hours. It probably wasn’t a malicious attack, as The Conversation explains — more likely a regular old outage. Although many may have welcomed the downtime from the social giants, people in countries such as Myanmar and India where “Facebook is synonymous with the internet” suffered without the communication tool, as The New York Times reports. Indeed many found themselves locked out of websites and even their smart TVs, which sometimes operate off of Facebook logins, throwing into sharp relief just how reliant we’ve become on one Silicon Valley company.
But it wasn’t the only drama the mega-company faced yesterday. Whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former employee of Facebook, has accused the company of not only being aware of the hate, violence and misinformation on its platform but of designing an algorithm that actually “amplifies division, extremism, and polarisation”, as CNN reports. Haugen continues that she believes the dissolvement of her department — the civic integrity unit — allowed rioters to plan their January 6 insurrection at Capitol Hill, as NPR says. Haugen’s due to give evidence to Congress on Tuesday about how the platform is harmful to young people.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Director Peter Jackson modelled an orc — a sort of goblin-looking antagonist in The Lord of the Rings — after Harvey Weinstein as a “sort of fuck you” to the then-Hollywood titan, the star of the series says. Actor Elijah Wood revealed the intentional doppelganger in a podcast this week, saying: (pardon the french, folks) “The guy is fucking incarcerated. Fuck him”.
Weinstein, now a convicted rapist who has been accused of a swathe of sexual assault incidents dating back decades, was at the time one of Hollywood’s most powerful — and intimidating — figures. Back then, Weinstein tried to force Jackson to condense three LOTR books into one film. Aside from the crushing weight on the epic tale’s storylines, the move might’ve seen the now billion-dollar franchise never materialise. When Jackson refused, Weinstein said “two films then” but secretly slashed the budget. So Jackson took an incredibly big risk — he leaked the script. It could have seen the whole project go up in smoke, but fortunately, New Line Cinema’s Bob Shaye loved what he read and agreed to fund the trilogy. And the rest is cinematic history — LOTR is now considered one of the greatest movie series ever made.
Wishing you vision and conviction on this Wednesday, folks.
The NSW government has been very poor financial managers, they now have massive deficits and massive debts, they managed COVID very badly and you can see the consequences … To be frank with you, I’m tired of listening to their whinging.
The characteristically mouthy WA premier wasted no time in insulting NSW’s new premier (and former treasurer) Dominic Perrottet just hours into his new gig. McGowan made the comments in the midst of rumours that pressure from Perrottet on the federal government could see the national GST revenue carved up differently. The GST helped WA turn out its biggest ever surplus this year, but Perrottet says his state is worse off after the 2018 GST shakeup.
“While it’s possible millions of people found Kelly’s ad through YouTube’s algorithm or came via social media, there are signs that these views aren’t organic … Take the ‘Stop the lockdowns’ video — it has just 6000 likes and dislikes despite having more than 8 million views …
“The UAP has only 30,000 subscribers, too — just a fraction of the total views — which means this large audience came through other means. But it doesn’t appear that this audience came through traditional social media channels … The UAP’s views are inconsistent. On September 27, the channel’s videos were viewed 1.8 million times. The next day? Essentially none”
“We know who Australia’s biggest polluters are. Every year, the government publishes data on the largest sources of scope 1 greenhouse emissions (that is, directly produced as part of the production process of a facility) and scope 2 emissions (indirectly produced). Unsurprisingly, that list — led by AGL Energy — is dominated by large coal-fired power companies and gas companies.
“But the list doesn’t capture scope 3 emissions (emissions produced indirectly by a business) and it particularly doesn’t capture the scope 3 emissions from the burning of Australian thermal coal exports around the world. Nor does it capture the impact on emissions and climate policy of a company’s actions. Is it seeking to exit fossil fuels, or separate its fossil fuel business from the rest of its portfolio?”
“From next month, fully vaccinated Australians will be able to leave and reenter Australia as they please as the country sheds its hermit kingdom status. It’s fantastic news for those looking to travel, take a holiday or visit family. But the freedoms only apply to citizens and permanent residents.
“Those on temporary visas won’t be able to reenter the country without an exemption, which has thus far proven difficult to score. Many are calling for the government to prioritise exemptions and visas for those wanting to visit family on compassionate grounds.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Facebook’s apps went down. The world saw how much it runs on them. (The New York Times)
In a pandemic, how do 20,000 safely meet to fight climate change? (The New York Times)
PM Boris Johnson denies crisis as UK military delivers fuel (The New Daily)
Should Scott Morrison go to Cop26 in Glasgow? Not if he’s planning a climate con job — Bill Hare (Guardian Australia): “Morrison’s government continues to promote policies that would keep coal in the power system and that would create blockages to solar energy, dubbed ‘coalkeeper’ and ‘solar stopper’, respectively. Fortunately, the states are jacking up against this, but that has not stopped him. He has no policies to accelerate the rollout of electric vehicles, and his government appears antagonistic to this technology. Australia is alone in the developed world for not having motor vehicle CO2 efficiency standards, and our fleet efficiency is going backwards.
“Morrison does not support green hydrogen, instead he is focusing on so-called ‘clean hydrogen’ — hydrogen made with fossil gas, deploying carbon capture and storage which goes under the marketing name of ‘blue hydrogen’. Blue of course is a marketing colour that is designed to have a soft appeal to consumers, but there is nothing soft or nice about blue hydrogen. And it will not reduce emissions. So should Scott Morrison go to Glasgow? Sure, but only if he does his homework.”
Having too much time in lockdown to confront the truth of our mortality — Julie Szego (The Age): “I’ve been ‘ageing in place’ for about 18 months, on or off. Mostly ‘on’ because living in the world’s most locked down city the ‘off’ times slip the memory. Or is my memory slipping because I’m arriving at yet another juncture in this female life when ‘brain fog’ is a verified biological fact? Women are said to experience brain fog when they’re post-childbirth, pre-menstrual, and perimenopausal. I can remember a time when male columnists in conservative publications would shit-stir about women and their cycles of fog, claiming this proved they’re too temperamental to hold positions of power.
“They were right. Men are far more reliable: reliably capricious and ego-driven. But most of us have experienced the paradox of time in a global pandemic: it marches relentlessly on even as our lives stand still. And there’s only so many chores we can do, only so much Netflix we can watch. In the creepy silence of a weekday morning, we’re forced to confront the truth of our mortality.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa is among the speakers at the Australia Institute’s Inaugural Regional Climate Diplomacy Forum, held online.
ABC Radio National’s Paul Barclay will be in conversation with journalist Mark Willacy about the latter’s book, Rogue Forces, held online.
Nigel Featherstone and Michelle Tom will be in conversation about the latter’s new memoir, Ten Thousand Aftershocks, held online.
Author Michelle Aung Thin, editor-in-exile of Myanmar Now Swe Win, and foreign correspondent Peter Greste discuss press freedom, held online.
Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher will give an address to the National Press Club about governing in the digital age.
Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)
Writer Krissy Kneen will be in conversation with author Charlotte Wood about the latter’s new book, The Luminous Solution: Creativity, Resilience and the Inner Life.