RORT IN THE ACT?

Coalition MPs were allowed to lobby for regional grants that they weren’t eligible for, the SMH reports. It’s the latest in a string of revelations in what appears to be yet another rorts drama — the Building Better Regions program saw 88% of its $300 million total kitty given to Coalition-held or marginal seats, as The New Daily reports. A third of regional seats are held by Labor, but they were allocated 16% of the funding.

Nationals MP Anne Webster revealed yesterday that MPs were given the opportunity to “push” projects which fell short of the criteria, which was presented in a colour-coded system that showed the close misses. It’s a very familiar detail for those who recall the ins and outs of the sports rorts drama, as news.com.au reported at the time. Labor’s infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King was livid, calling it “another taxpayer fund completely hijacked by Barnaby Joyce“. We’ll know more next May, when Australian National Audit Office will release a report into the program.

Also in grants news — the NSW government is throwing their weight behind green hydrogen in an attempt to become a world leader in its production, the SMH says. A total of $3 billion in grants — plus fee waivers for producers — will reportedly see the region become one of the cheapest worldwide to make green hydrogen. The process basically involves using renewable sources such as wind and solar to split hydrogen from water, the paper explains.

A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW

The nation’s capital is on track to become the world’s most vaccinated city, Guardian Australia reports. So far 72% of the ACT is vaccinated, but leader Andrew Barr says he expects 99% of his 430,000 constituents will be vaccinated by “the end of November”. So how’d they do it? Barr says mass vaccination hubs made it easy to get an appointment and made wastage almost non-existent; the ACT has “close to 100% utilisation rates”, he continues. Also, the ACT government had their own outreach programs for vulnerable and disadvantaged folks to get the jab, which Barr says proved super helpful in bridging the gap.

The ACT’s lockdown will finish after midnight on Thursday, The New Daily continues, when “Ken Behrens” can go to the hairdresser, gather outdoors in groups of 25, invite five people over, and go out for dinner or a drink (with capacity limits). Non-essential retail will remain limited to delivery or click-and-collect until October 29. The ACT’s border is being flung open to surrounding NSW residents from exempt border postcodes too, though ACT residents can’t go into NSW unless it’s for an essential reason — for now.

A DOSE CALL

UAP politician and billionaire Clive Palmer imported 1118kg of hydroxychloroquine — an unproven and possibly dangerous drug that conspiracy theorists spruik as COVID treatment — which has been destroyed. Palmer promised to donate 32.9 million doses of the drug to the Australian government last year. After it became clear that the antimalarial drug does not treat COVID, the government declined the donation. But about 5 million doses arrived anyway, and after sitting at Melbourne Airport for 8 months, were sent for destruction. Palmer requested that his name and logo be printed on the 32.9 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, Guardian Australia adds.

The Age’s Liam Mannix writes this morning that some people who want to “debate vaccines, or lab leaks, or lockdowns, or ivermectin” are simply unwilling to be convinced. He says it’s partly down to an interesting phenomenon — confirmation bias (that’s hunting information that supports our view) and its evil twin, the backfire effect (when someone is given new information that opposes their view, but they dig their heels in instead of shifting). His advice? Listen empathetically, look for the motivations behind their views, try to redirect their critical analysis onto their own conspiracy theory — and avoid name-calling.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Have you hugged an alpaca lately? Alpaca therapy is one of the numerous forms of therapy in use at an old folks home in Germany. The alpacas — whose fur is known to be ultra-soft — visit the 152 elderly residents at the Awo home in Thuringia for a scratch, a brush, and a cuddle on a regular basis — and the photos are adorable. Patients with dementia particularly enjoy spending time with the alpacas, the head of the retirement home says.

So what is it about the alpaca that makes it so special? Cranfield Alpacas founder Pamela Houston says she thinks they can actually read her mind — or at least pick up on her emotions. Either way, alpaca therapy is definitely on the rise, according to The Telegraph ($). The fluffy animals are popping up everywhere — alpaca trekking companies are seeing rising bookings ($) for their “walk and talks”, while alpaca yoga and alpaca picnics are now available too. Last year, online bank Monzo’s co-founder Paul Rippon called time on his fast-paced corporate world to move to Northumberland and care for his 300-strong alpaca herd instead. “To come here and shovel some alpaca crap is a slow, comfortable counterbalance to that life,” Rippon says.

Hope you find some balance and comfort in your Wednesday, too.

SAY WHAT?

I know I’ve lost the argument. My whole company’s against me. I know that against these huge players, all the big political parties, my own employer, all the media and big media outlets, what am I? Just someone on the sidelines. Someone just howling on the sidelines, but telling you the truth.

Andrew Bolt

The Murdoch provocateur realised he has been left behind when every News Corp tabloid paper in the country included a 16-page climate action wraparound on Monday. But it didn’t stop Bolt from calling the editorial campaign “rubbish”, continuing — quite correctly — that most of those newspapers basically drove then-PM Kevin Rudd’s global warming policies and Labor’s carbon tax into the ground.

CRIKEY RECAP

It’s time to call it out: Scott Morrison doesn’t care about secular accountability

“On one level Morrison can be understood as another opportunistic politician who knows he can get away with it. Yet there is another set of facts which explains his actions, at least in part, and that is that he sees himself as truly accountable only to God.

“There is ample evidence that Morrison and those around him consider him to have been chosen by God — dating back to before he entered Parliament in 2007. There is strong evidence, too, that he sees divine intervention when it comes to key moments in his personal and political life. There was the ‘miracle’ birth of the Morrisons’ first daughter. The ‘miracle’ of his 2019 election win. The sudden appearance of a painting of a soaring eagle as a direct message from God on the election trail.”


Craig Kelly, Clive Palmer and Reignite Democracy Australia are making an anti-vaxxer super group

Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer’s UAP has bankrolled some of this popularity. More than a million dollars has already been spent promoting Kelly’s election ads on YouTube, about 20 times the next closest spender during the same period. Palmer has reportedly pledged to spend as he has in elections past. But they have no real party structure. It’s all top-down, with two blustering public figures at the top.

“The combination of the two forces is worrying for public health: what can a group with both an organised ground game and a penchant for going viral and using social media to reach millions do with the resources of a mining magnate who’s willing to spend?”


Meet the 5 guys using Google Docs and Twitter to debunk ivermectin

“The idea that anyone can debunk bullshit is cool. On the other hand, it feels a bit grim that the burden of overturning evidence for the biggest problem in the world right now fell to five guys and not, like, the World Health Organization. I spoke to two Aussie members of the group, Kyle Sheldrick and Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, who explained to me how the world wide web changed everything about how science works now.

“It used to be that you would submit something to a publication like Science and, after jumping through enough hoops, your research could be published. If you had doubts about a published study, you could respond by writing a letter to the publication. Months would pass before anything happens, if something happens. When the internet killed the gatekeeper, it opened the floodgates.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Nick Xenophon preparing to return to federal politics (The Australian) ($)

Top UN court sides with Somalia in sea border dispute with Kenya (Al Jazeera)

What the future may hold for the coronavirus and us (The New York Times)

World’s largest Byzantine wine factory uncovered in Israel (CNN)

North Korea: Kim Jong-un vows to build ‘invincible military’ (BBC)

Our underwater future: What sea level rise will look like around the globe (CNN)

Sally Rooney declines to sell translation rights to Israeli publisher (The New York Times)

Greece quake: Strong tremor shakes Crete (BBC)

Afghanistan ‘at make-or-break point’ says UN as G20 ministers meet (The Guardian)

Lego pledges to remove ‘gender bias’ and ‘harmful stereotypes’ from its toys (SBS)

Pandemic modeller warns NZ could hit ‘160 cases a day’ in coming weeks (NZ Herald)

Japan’s island-shaped curry inflames tensions with Korean neighbours (The Guardian)

At least 15 dead after heavy rainfall and flooding in northern China (CNN)

THE COMMENTARIAT

News Corp’s turnaround on climate crisis is a greenwashKetan Joshi (Guardian Australia): “Despite the shiny cover, the ‘Mission Zero’ campaign makes a show of repeating many of the climate-delay talking points that have caused so much damage over the past decade. ‘The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow … some energy experts believe we will still need gas- and coal-fired power to keep the lights on 24/7.’ That’s severely disconnected from the modern realities of electricity generation, in which zero carbon grids are theoretically understood and practically getting closer every day.

“Another example involves News Corp uncritically repeating the greenwashing campaigns of some of Australia’s most severe emitters. AGL Energy has openly decided to breach a 1.5C-aligned trajectory by keeping its coal plants open well into the 2040s. Ditto for Energy Australia and Alinta Energy, both justifying this on the grounds that shutting down coal would cause ‘blackouts’. It’s the worst of corporate climate delay, but it’s heralded as if it’s a grand turnaround on climate.”

Why I hope NSW does not embrace voluntary assisted dyingMike Baird (The SMH): “The independent Christian charity I lead runs three palliative care units, supporting hundreds of inpatients every year, with thousands more supported by our team in the community or in aged care. Our multidisciplinary palliative care teams find that people often conclude they need to end life because they don’t understand that palliative care will vastly reduce their symptoms without prolonging their life.

“They have not heard that palliative care does not promote futile treatments, pointlessly keeping someone from dying who is ready to die. Instead, with exceptional, holistic skill, palliative care eases the way from life to death without influencing the timing, but uplifting the experience. They have not heard that in the face of a prognosis that seems devoid of hope, palliative care teams are hugely successful at restoring and maintaining hope in a way that is often completely unexpected and would otherwise have been abandoned.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Shadow Minister for Families Linda Burney, SNAICC’s Catherine Liddle, and the Assistant Children’s Guardian for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, Richard Weston are among the speakers at the Adopt Change National Permanency Conference 2021, held online.

  • Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates will address the National Press Club with a speech called “Tokyo and Beyond”, held online.

  • Radio personality John Safran will chat about his new book, Puff Piece: How Philip Morris set vaping alight (and burned down the English language, held online.

  • Travel writer Tony Wheeler and Traveller.com.au’s Craig Platt launch of Tim Richards’s new book, Heading South, held online.

  • Stella Prize-winning author Emily Bitto will launch her new book, Wild Abandon, held online.

  • Shadow Minister for Climate Change Chris Bowen will launch Climate of the Nation 2021 with the Australia Institute, held online.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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