Western Australia is calling it — fully vaccinated means three shots for more than a million workers in the state. Premier Mark McGowan confirmed yesterday that his mandatory vaccine laws would now state that affected workers must get a booster within a month of becoming eligible (that’s five months after your second shot), The West Australian ($) reports. You can see a list of the jobs that already fall under the broad vaccine mandate here — it’s people like cops, firefighters, and community care workers at the moment, but by the end of January you’ve got to be at least double vaccinated if you are hospitality staff, a vet, a tradie, bakery staff, and many more.
McGowan also bolted shut the border for all interstate travellers, meaning for the first time in more than a year, WA has a hard border with every state and territory, ABC says. Before yesterday people in the NT and Tasmania could go to WA as long as they quarantined for two weeks, but now that’s kaput, WA Today continues. If you normally live in WA but you’re interstate right now, you can apply to go home citing “compassionate reasons”.
Meanwhile Queensland has confirmed a daily record of 186 new cases yesterday, The Brisbane Times reports, while hospitality workers joined the list of people required to mask up from now on. But there could be some good news too! South Africa, which has been at the forefront of the Omicron wave, has seen a drop in cases (from 27,000 to about 15,500 in the past week), as ABC reports, and some experts say it could mean Omicron infections spike quickly then begin to tail off.
WELFARE AND BALANCED
The government will pay $2 million to some of Australia’s poorest communities after settling a class action that argued the remote “work for the dole” program was racist, Guardian Australia reports. The program required 30,000 jobseekers in remote places to work up to 25 hours a week if they wanted the dole — 80% of those people were Indigenous Australians, SBS adds. And the program’s penalties were harsher than those on their regional and metro counterparts — so 10 remote Indigenous communities in WA took it to federal court. They told the court they had the lowest per-capita income in Australia, and that the government had breached the Racial Discrimination Act. NT Labor MP Chansey Paech has previously called the program “modern-day slavery”.
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In other news, the number of people on unemployment benefits has dropped to a pandemic low. The Department of Social Services says 60,000 people moved off JobSeeker or Youth Allowance during October and December, The Australian ($) reports. About 970,000 job seekers are still receiving dosh, and it’s the lowest number since April 2020. We’re actually seeing a 13-year high when it comes to job ads as well — there are about 252,300 roles advertised at the moment, according to National Skills Commission data — that’s 50% more than before the pandemic. The top vacancies are for call centre workers and receptionists.
ON THE BLEACH
A government plan to protect our Great Barrier Reef is useless if our emission reduction target doesn’t change, The Brisbane Times reports. The new plan, which was jointly created by the Queensland and Commonwealth governments after UNESCO called for the reef to be categorised as “in danger”, acknowledges that climate change is the natural wonder’s biggest threat. So what does that mean? SBS says the reef faces rising water temperatures, pollution, more severe cyclones and attacks by crown-of-thorns starfish. And Guardian Australia reports that the reef could be headed to a mass bleaching in January, the fourth in seven years (coral bleaching is a stress reaction when the coral is under extreme heat).
But our 26-28% emission reduction target would see the reef killed off if it was adopted worldwide, the paper’s Nick O’Malley points out. So how are we supposed to lobby the rest of the world to help us protect it without looking like hypocrites, WWF’s Richard Leck continued. If the world warms by 2%, up to 99% of the reef’s coral would be dead, he put plainly.
Worried about seeing a shark this summer? Worry about not seeing any, according to The Conversation — one in eight sharks are now endangered, a whopping 39 species of the sea-dogs. Australia actually has the most species of sharks, rays, and ghost sharks anywhere in the world, with 328 of them hanging out in our waters. We must invest $114 million a year to save them, expert Peter Kyne writes — we recently saw $100 million pledged by the federal government to protect oceans and $57 million for the national threatened species strategy, but a pot put aside for sharks is urgently needed too.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
As we approach the close of this year, retrospection can feel a bit deflating — another year of the pandemic, a new variant taking flight, and then there’s the great unknown of 2022 lurking just around the corner. But sometimes it helps to reframe things, or else at least look for the light in the darkness, and on that token, The New Daily has published a lovely wrap of some positive news stories from this year.
For one, Kamala Harris made history as the first female, the first Black, and the first Asian-American vice president, a major step forward for our influential ally. Tennis greats Ash Barty and Dylan Alcott absolutely smashed Wimbledon to claim career-defining titles, and then our Olympians went on to score a record-equalling 17 gold medals at the Tokyo Games. And remember when a rescue helicopter spotted Anthony “AJ” Elfalak, a missing child who had been lost for three nights in the Hunter Valley?
Fans cheered around the world when mega pop star Britney Spears was at long last released from her conservatorship, which really opened up the conversation for so many others dealing with the arrangement. And who can forget the miraculously happy ending for missing girl Cleo Smith and her family in Western Australia? Then, Adelaide football star Josh Cavallo made history when he proudly came out as the first openly gay athlete in the A-League, smashing stigma and becoming an instant role model. Looking forward, you can rest easy knowing it’s going to be a lovely and warm Christmas Day in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and in Adelaide, with temperatures forecast between 24 and 30 degrees, according to the BOM.
Hope you have a little spring in your step today — everything is going to be okay.
Now you go in for the kill shot, the kill shot with an ambush, deadly, because [Anthony Fauci] doesn’t see it coming.
Fox News has — predictably — defended its host who urged young conservatives to confront the United States’ top infectious diseases expert. Fauci was floored, saying he had spent two years trying to protect Americans from COVID-19, and said Watters would likely go “unaccountable” for the “awful” words. In a statement, Fox claimed Watter’s statement was a metaphor — but considering the US is still reeling from the violent Capitol attack spurred in part by the former president’s urging to “fight like hell”, you’d think he’d choose a different one.
“Remember that the original vaccination rollout was intended to be mostly a Commonwealth responsibility: states and territories would vaccinate their frontline health workers while the Commonwealth took care of aged care and residential disability care, then open up to the bulk of the population in stages relying on primary care …
“Now Morrison wants the states to again step up and open up vaccination hubs to shoulder the burden of a booster program that suddenly looks as much of a race as the initial vaccination effort … Meantime, GPs are complaining of a lack of funding and supply to meet the demand purely for those who are deemed eligible for one — which under the federal government’s rules is still only a minority of the population.”
“Remember how we felt around this time last year? How happy and relieved that things might finally calm down, as though the various bin fires of 2020 would respect our calendar, and keep themselves confined to a 12-month period?
“Remember how less than a week after New Year’s Day, a group dominated by the far right and conspiracy theorists attacked and occupied the Capitol building in Washington — and some part of you knew that something similar would be imported here before long? Let’s be clear-eyed about what’s ahead of us. Here is a collection of things that absolutely can — and probably will — get worse over the next calendar year.”
“If Crikey’s Business Awards lived in the United States, they’d be old enough to drive. In fact, these awards are older than the iPhone, Tesla, Snapchat and Amazon. So buckle up for the 16th consecutive Awards, which pay tribute to the business world’s scoundrels, fools and even the occasional superstar …
“To former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, who once claimed that in her post-political business career she would involve herself only with businesses that “meet my interests and the values that I hold”. Perhaps JBish needs a values realignment given her largest and highest paid role was with disgraced financier Greensill, which collapsed in spectacular fashion costing billions of dollars and leaving potentially thousands of people out of work.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
The F.B.I. deployed surveillance teams inside Portland protests (The New York Times)
The Peculiar Economics of 3D Printing (Quillette)
Christmas is coming early to self-appointed political angels who are raking in the big bucks — Michael Yabsley (The SMH): “With the approach of Christmas there is a lot of socially distanced excitement around the surviving COVID-19 safe Christmas parties, especially in the dress circle suburbs of the Eastern Suburbs. Psssst — why? Well, Simon Holmes a Court from Climate 200 has just raised $2 million for worthy, gift needy or greedy independents, in next to no time. That war chest is increasing by the hour. A true Clive Palmeresque display.
“Meanwhile, independent Allegra Spender’s coffers in the once blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth are bulging with around $500,000 for that seat alone — and that’s before Holmes a Court and Climate 200 makes good his pledge. Five hundred thousand dollars is a big lick in anyone’s language. Spender’s community campaign is also looking positively Clive Palmeresque, as political fundraising goes.”
Why BoJo has some lessons for ScoMo — Alexander Downer (The AFR): “That lesson is to maintain the support of the party base. It is critically important for all governments to have the support and enthusiasm of the people who brought them to power in the first place. And no wise leader will ever take his or her supporters for granted. History is replete with examples of leaders who have lost their base. George HW Bush lost the support of Republicans when he, like Johnson, increased taxes in his notorious ‘read my lips’ about-turn.
“Fraser’s political crime was the introduction of retrospective taxes that alienated Liberal voters in many parts of Australia. By contrast, leaders such as John Howard and Margaret Thatcher maintained the support for more than a decade by always listening to their base, understanding their base and making it clear they were there for them. Turnbull didn’t lose the leadership of the Liberal Party because of his economic management but because he lost contact with the base of the party in Australia.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)
Head down to Mornington Park to see Tones and I, Pierce Brothers, Chorus Collective, Voli K and Tay Piggott perform at Music in the Park.
Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)
Lord Mayor Clover Moore and 10 councillors will watch as town crier Graham Keating declares the new City of Sydney Council on the steps of Town Hall. Then there’ll be a smoking ceremony conducted by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council’s Brendan Kerin.