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(Image: AAP/Kelly Barnes)

Warning: This newsletter contains the name of a deceased Indigenous person. His name has been reproduced with his family’s consent.

MAYDAY

It looks like the federal election will be held in May — the last possible month it can be — after the federal budget was brought forward by almost two months to March 29, The New Daily says. If going to the polls with a budget feels familiar, it might be because Prime Minister Scott Morrison did the same thing back in 2019. It’s probably in an effort to campaign as “better” economic managers than Labor — a myth, Guardian Australia’s Peter Lewis writes, considering the Hawke-Keating Labor government saw Medicare and super make us wealthier and more equitable, while Rudd-Gillard used the GFC to invest in energy efficiency and affordable housing. In between? “Stasis”, he claims.

Then again, AFR’s Phil Coorey says, if the government cans the idea of a federal budget altogether, the election could take place as soon as mid-March — which would make this sitting week of Parliament the final one for the Morrison government this term. Yikes. Under the timetable released yesterday, there’ll be just 10 measly sitting days between January and March — though The Age’s Tony Wright says don’t fall for that “ruse”. Labor’s Tony Burke reckons there’s no way the federal ICAC bill will go ahead if there are actually only 10 days left — there’s just no time. The highly contentious religious discrimination bill’s vote will probably be postponed, too, the SMH adds.

NO PAYDIRT

Former attorney-general Christian Porter didn’t breach parliamentary rules when his legal fees in a defamation case were paid by an anonymous donor, Guardian Australia reports. The findings, from an investigation into his funding when he sued ABC and reporter Louise Milligan, will be tabled today. He later discontinued the case, as 2GB reports. But the committee did find that the rules really need to be overhauled — MPs need to have the “greatest” transparency when they get gifts (like cash). They’re supposed to declare gifts worth several hundred dollars, but Porter’s legal fees were in a public trust and he claimed he didn’t want to expose the donors, as ABC explains.

So what next for Porter? The SMH’s James Massola reckons both Health Minister Greg Hunt and Porter might retire from politics at the next election, though they deny it. Porter’s seat of Pearce has a shrinking margin — from 7.5% down to 5.2%. We know for sure that seven other Coalition MPs will — they’re Kevin Andrews, Ken O’Dowd, Nicolle Flint, Andrew Laming, John Alexander, Steve Irons, and George Christensen, leaving room for a new cohort. Natalie Baini won’t be among them, though — the lawyer nominated as a Liberal candidate for the marginal Sydney seat of Reid earlier this year but cancelled her Liberal party membership and is running as an independent now. She says she tried to flag misconduct issues towards women and was dismissed, as Guardian Australia reports.

VALE DAVID GULPILIL RIDJIMIRARIL DALAITHNGU

Trailblazing Indigenous Australian icon David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu has died four years after being diagnosed with lung cancer, Guardian Australia reports. He was 68. The Yolngu actor starred in Crocodile Dundee, Rabbit Proof Fence, Australia, Storm Boy, Walkabout and many other films and TV shows over an illustrious career spanning 50 years. ABC‘s Matt Garrick writes that Dalaithngu “opened the eyes of audiences across the Western world to strong, positive depictions of Aboriginal Australia” and was a born natural in front of the camera. South Australian Premier Steven Marshall says Dalaithngu “shaped the history of Australian film” and was also “one of the greatest artists Australia has ever seen”, The Australian ($) adds.

His fame brought some cool celebrity brushes too — Dalaithngu partied with John Lennon, smoked weed with Bob Marley, and had “crazy” times with Dennis Hopper, ABC continues. But his connection to family and country remained — “When I get paid for a film, I share with family, that’s what I do with my money,” Dalaithngu said in 2002. Upon the revelation of his prognosis two years back, his daughter Phoebe said her dad would be going to the Dreamtime soon, as The West writes. A superb 2021 documentary called My Name Is Gulpilil is worth checking out if you can track it down — hopefully ABC iView will bring it back.

WHOOPS!

A quick correction, folks: Yesterday’s Worm stated that Peter Dutton was home affairs minister. He was home affairs minister until March this year, when he became defence minister. Sorry — my bad!

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

A bunch of locals in northern England headed up to the local pub last Friday night for an extremely on-brand British evening — to watch Noasis — a cover band of the iconic rock group Oasis. The stouts were flowing, people were drunkenly singing along to “Wonderwall”, and people were embracing as the pub’s fireplaces kept them all cozy and dopey. The snow was falling outside, but there wasn’t much thought given to that until someone tried the doors. A metre of snow had sealed all 61 of them in — patrons, the band, and seven employees. What else was there to do but declare a pub sleepover?

The group ended up being snowed in until Monday morning. They took pub quizzes, watched Grease and Mamma Mia!, and sang karaoke, according to manager Nicola Townsend. She chronicled the sleepover on Facebook and said people ended up quite emotional when saying their goodbyes on Monday. “We’ve had such a good time meeting new friends, getting to know new people,” she says. Needless to say, a lot of Oasis was enjoyed during the pub sleepover, to the point where some of the pub-goers started their own cover band — called Snowasis.

Hope you make the best of it today too, folks.

If you’re feeling chatty, drop me a line, tell me what you like or loathe about the Worm, or anything — [email protected]

SAY WHAT?

No-one has the right to enter into our intimacy. Under these blackmails and conditions, [Novak Djokovic] probably won’t [play]. I wouldn’t do that.

Srdjan Djokovic

The tennis star’s dad told Serbian TV that he expected Novak — who is on the fence about the Australian Open — probably won’t go amid vaccine mandates. He may not get to decide one way or another — Tennis Australia’s chief says there are a lot of unanswered questions about the new variant of concern, Omicron. Meanwhile, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz has been ruled out of the Davis Cup Finals after testing positive for COVID-19.

CRIKEY RECAP

Something happened in South Africa on November 24 — and now the world is frantic

“On November 23, weeks after the new variant started spreading in South Africa, the positivity rate was a relatively low 2.1%, a fraction of what is being reported in Europe. That rate has certainly increased in the past week, hitting 9.1% on Friday, but it’s difficult to determine how that has been impacted by the increased testing regime.

“South Africa also has very low vaccine coverage — only 24% of the population are fully vaccinated. Another way to assess Omicron’s impact is by the movement in fatalities (which, unlike cases, are not affected by changing the testing criteria).”


PM’s social media bill won’t stop trolls, but it will help the powerful seek revenge

“While Australia’s media often talks about its strict and expensive defamation laws for publishers, the flipside is that anyone hoping to pursue a defamation claim must also have means beyond what most people have available: specifically large amounts of money and time to burn.

“This law does practically nothing to improve access to justice. Realistically speaking, most average Australians would not be able to afford to sue someone for defamation, and any potential costs awarded would be dwarfed by legal fees they paid.”


Anonymity is power — and the PM wants it for himself and his mates, not his critics

“Individual politicians are not averse to using online anonymity either. Angus Taylor has created fake accounts to shower himself with praise. Andrew Laming was revealed to operate dozens of Facebook accounts. Right-wing Queenslander Amanda Stoker has used pseudonymous accounts to defend herself. Government MPs also host anonymous disinformation on their sites.

“And then there’s Christian Porter’s readiness to rely on anonymous funding to pay his legal bills for his unsuccessful legal action against the ABC. And the Liberal and National Parties’ refusal to reveal donations below the legal disclosure threshold.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Scott Morrison’s border pause over Omicron threat (The Australian) ($)

South Africa wants Omicron travel ban lifted (Al Jazeera)

DOJ moves to limit Bannon media circus over January 6 investigation (CNN)

Nissan to spend $17.6b on battery-powered vehicles over 5 years (The Wall Street Journal)

Taliban and 9/11 families fight for billions in frozen Afghan funds (The New York Times)

Nelson, BLM and new voices: why Barbados is ditching the Queen (The Guardian)

Telcos handed stronger powers to block scam text messages (SBS)

Apology after BestStart COVID cluster hits babies as young as eight months old (NZ Herald)

Iran and world powers begin Vienna talks to restore nuclear deal (Al Jazeera)

Sweden’s first female PM returns after resignation (BBC)

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey expected to step down as chief executive — reports (BBC)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Are new COVID variants like Omicron linked to low vaccine coverage? Here’s what the science saysJennifer Juno, Adam Wheatley (The Conversation): “For now, any relationship between vaccine coverage and new SARS-CoV-2 variants is unclear. There are two main factors that could lead to the development of new variants. First, low vaccine coverage might increase the risk of new variants by allowing transmission within a community. In this case, high viral replication and person-to-person transmission provides plenty of opportunity for the virus to mutate.

“Alternatively, as vaccination rates rise, the only viruses that will be able to successfully infect people will be variants that at least partially escape the protection of vaccines. This scenario might require continual global surveillance efforts and new vaccines to maintain long-term control of the virus, similar to the flu.”

The English turned Barbados into a slave society. Now, after 396 years, we’re freeSuleiman Bulbulia (The Guardian): “From 1627, the English settled on the island, wiping away any traces of the original inhabitants, the Arawaks, who had lived here for centuries. People with good financial backgrounds and social connections with England were allocated land in this new colony; Barbados’s strong connection and staunchly British attitude earned it the title of Little England.

“The English turned Barbados into a slave society, a slave economy, which would be replicated in several parts of the ‘new world’. It was known as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Caribbean. It is a history that we can never be proud of, but one that we must understand … this is a new era, in which all Barbadians must take pride and take ownership. As for Little England, these times may call for a new term of endearment.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Former chief scientist Penny Sackett, independent Helen Haines, founder of 1 Million Women Natalie Isaacs, and Traditional Owner and guardian of the Mardoowarra, Lower Fitzroy River Anne Poelina are among the speakers at The Women’s Climate Congress’s National Congress of Women, held online.

  • Athens’ Chief Heat Officer Eleni Myrivili’s and Blacktown City Council CEO Kerry Robinson will chat about different approaches to extreme heat, held online.

  • Writer of Quarterly Essay Australia’s The Reckoning Jess Hill will be in conversation about #MeToo and the politics of rage, held online.

  • Authors Sharon Duggal and Maxine Beneba Clarke are among several speakers discussing representation and inclusion in contemporary fiction publishing, held online.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • It’s day two of The Southern Space Symposium 2021 at the National Press Club, with speakers like Minister for Defence Industry, Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price and Ambassador of Japan to Australia Shingo Yamagami.