Dominic Perrottet
(Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

FACE FACTS

Never mind “personal responsibility”, here’s the mask mandate. Masks must now be worn in all indoor venues outside the home in Victoria and NSW, Guardian Australia reports. In Victoria, kids as young as eight are required to wear a mask, making it the country’s toughest mask rule, The Age reports, while in NSW the minimum mask age is 12. Meanwhile, in Western Australia, masks are back in all indoor spaces, while large events and nightclubs have been shuttered until December 28, WA Today reports, after it was discovered a backpacker with COVID has been in Perth for the last 12 days.

In addition to flipping on the mask rhetoric, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has also urged people not to line up for a test if they’re asymptomatic because testing sites in NSW are too busy, news.com.au reports. Perrottet continued that, if you get a ping from Service NSW, the first thing to do is monitor for symptoms, and only go for a test if you show a symptom (look out for a scratchy or sore throat along with nasal congestion, a dry cough and muscle pain, especially low back pain, as The New York Times says). Meanwhile, in Queensland, their CHO has called the spread of COVID “inevitable” and “necessary” for the state’s immunity, The Brisbane Times reports, and South Australia has set a new daily case record of 484 infections, ABC says.

About 80% of NSW’s surging cases are the Omicron variant, but there is reason to be optimistic, as ABC reports. NSW’s top health official Kerry Chant says Omicron infections are leading to 60-80% fewer hospitalisations than the Delta variant.

ANDY’S ONE FOR TENNIS

Former world number one Andy Murray has scored a wildcard to the Australian Open, three years after what looked like the last match of his career, The New Daily reports. He’s been runner up five separate times at the Open (second to Roger Federer one time and Novak Djokovic each year after), and then withdrew from the tournament in the last two years. Murray’s battled through a tough recovery from hip surgeries and, earlier this year, a COVID-19 infection, with a current ranking of 134th worldwide. But the 34-year-old made some noise in the US Open this year, pushing Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets, as Guardian Australia reports. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley says he’s super excited to have Murray back, calling him a “firm fan favourite”.

Also in sporting news, skippers are preparing for the annual Sydney to Hobart which sets sail on Christmas, the SMH reports, but it’s set to be a bit of a wild first night with easterly currents and big southerly winds on the way. Plus, for the first time, there’ll be two-handed boats (which have just two crew members aboard) in the running among the 93 boats competing this year. But we won’t be biting our nails for long — usually the race across the water is won within two days.

SHAM-POO AND CONDITIONERS

Scientists have put 300 litres of fake whale poo in the ocean to win part of a $140 million prize pot. It all began in February, when Tesla founder Elon Musk announced the competition to find good ideas about capturing and storing carbon dioxide, as CBNC reports. The team, called WhaleX is vying to be one of 15 awarded a prize, so they dumped the equivalent of two Humpback whale poos in Port Botany. See, the faeces are chomped up by teeny algae called phytoplankton, who absorb carbon. When they die, they sink to the ocean floor, taking the carbon with them.

But don’t worry, Guardian Australia continues, the fake poo is very ocean-friendly, made of aqua-food mixed with seaweed with a little dye added so the boffins can see it. The experiment was conducted in an area which was low on the nutrients in the aqua food, like nitrogen and phosphorus, so it actually neutralised about two tonnes of carbon dioxide. The scientists were psyched by the results and are seeking to replicate them off Western Australia, too.

In another win for the climate, the Beetaloo Basin’s hefty $21 million federal grant has been ruled invalid by a judge, ABC reports. The grant was supposed to speed up fracking in the gas-rich area about 500km south of Darwin, but the court found the government’s move deprived the Environment Centre NT of its legal rights.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Keith is terrorising his neighbourhood in Christchurch, New Zealand. His crimewave began some years ago when he started stealing swimsuits, bras, men’s underwear, shoes, and once, an entire washing line of clothes with pegs attached. He even stole several live eels. But there’s no warrant out for Keith’s arrest — there aren’t even any police on the case. The reason? Keith is a small black cat. He has a particular penchant for pinching steel-capped boots, which the 5-year-old moggy carries home one at a time. A local tradie started leaving weights inside his boots to deter Keith, but not one to be outwitted, the cat simply dragged the boots along the sidewalk back to his house.

But Keith’s casual kleptomania hit a new low when his owners Ginny and David Rumbold found he had flogged — I kid you not — a bong and a ziplock bag of white powder which appeared to be narcotics, Stuff reports. It was not clear whether the petty thief had fallen in with a mangier crowd, so the Rumbolds decided to ground Keith. They returned home to find their Christmas tree stripped bare and an insolent, green-eyed feline staring back at them, the thirst for his criminal lifestyle unsated. Now, two plastic containers filled with Keith’s loot sit at the gate of Ginny and David’s house, labelled with a sheepish apology for Keith’s sticky paws. But the pair adore the pilfering puss anyway — that’s what unconditional love does to a person.

Folks, thanks from the bottom of my heart for your readership and support this year. It’s a privilege to write your Worm, and I hope you’re enjoying my spin on things. As always, feel free to drop me a note about anything — catch me on [email protected] — otherwise, I’ll chat to you bright and early on Monday, January 10.

SAY WHAT?

My judgment is that the best candidate to win Gilmore is my friend Andrew Constance. I hope to have the opportunity to work closely with him should he be selected.

Paul Ell

The super-popular Shoalhaven Heads lawyer — described by Constance himself as a rising star — has taken one for the team and stepped aside so the former NSW transport minister can have a better shot at being elected to the federal seat. Constance said he was super appreciative, but still faces a battle winning the seat back from Labor’s Fiona Phillips who nabbed it with 3.3 point swing at the last election.

CRIKEY RECAP

Crikey’s 2021 Politician of the Year shows that, yes, we can have good government

Crikey’s Politician of the Year has found a way to route around the damage of the climate wars to deliver ambitious reform. NSW’s then-environment minister now Treasurer Matt Kean has been the driving force behind NSW’s strong emissions abatement target of 50% by 2030 — nearly double Scott Morrison’s target — and the massive investment in renewables that is behind it.

“And he has achieved it with none of the internal rancour that has marked the Coalition in Canberra for more than a decade. Instead, the NSW Nationals are committed to the target.”


I’ve never seen Love Actually, but it’s a hate crime and I want the perpetrator jailed

“I’ve tragically acquired enough information about Love Actually in the last 18 years to offer a sound opinion anyway, Plus, I can read Wikipedia. And on that basis I offer you the following things to hate about it …

“A prime minister has an affair with a staffer! Hello! On what planet is that OK? In a world where using the wrong pronoun can get you cancelled for life, how is this film still treated as acceptable fare? Billy Bob Thornton is supposed to be an evil lecher, but how is Grant any different just because of his diffident, slightly stammering English charm? They’re both predators.”


Do you want the good news or the bad? Well, you’ll be lucky to get either

“Crikey gave Australian journalism its ’emperor has no clothes’ moment in May with its dossier of lies and falsehoods. How Australia’s media responded tells us how we can expect big shifts like this to percolate through an increasingly heterodox news media.

“And in right-wing voices like the News Corp media? It turned out to be something best ignored. Although it wasn’t easy when by year’s end even passers-by interrupted prime ministerial press conferences with shouts of ‘Liar!’”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

US to put nuclear submarines on fast track (The Australian) ($)

Putin addresses Ukraine, COVID, Navalny in annual news conference (Al Jazeera)

Hong Kong removes statue that memorialized Tiananmen victims (The New York Times)

China puts city of 13m in COVID lockdown before Olympics (Al Jazeera)

US intel and satellite images show Saudi Arabia is now building its own ballistic missiles with help of China (CNN)

Hundreds of shooting victims treated at Auckland’s hospitals amid surging gun violence across city (NZ Herald)

EU to combat taxation ‘race to the bottom’ with 15% rate for big companies (The Guardian)

Turkey has calmed its economic crisis for now. Here’s what could restart it. (The Wall Street Journal)

Harry and Meghan release first photo of Lilibet on Christmas card (The Guardian)

Coldplay to stop making music as a band in 2025 (BBC)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Flawed argument unmasks hypocrisy and irrationalityPeter Van Onselen (The Australian) ($): “We mandate seatbelts, yet doing so barely impacts on others. Governments do it because the science is overwhelming that it protects people from themselves. Seatbelts are about saving yourself; masks help save others too. Most jurisdictions have banned indoor smoking in public areas for the same reason: to protect citizens from passive smoke and its harmful effects. Doing so happens to also protect smokers from themselves to a certain extent, but the primary goal is societal protection.

“Indeed, why we have vaccination mandates for certain professions and certain vaccines should be a more contestable discussion than mask mandates. Notwithstanding their obvious benefits. Forcing people to stick something into their arm and banning them from societal human rights leaves me infinitely more uncomfortable than mask mandates. Yet there are people who die in a ditch arguing against masks but not vaccines.”

Proxy advice reform is about transparency and accountabilityJosh Frydenberg (The AFR): “First, advisers providing proxy advice to institutional clients will need to hold an Australian Financial Service Licences (AFSL) to provide advice. Second, proxy advisers will be required to share their advice on a company with that company on the same day it is provided to institutional clients. These two reforms both commence from February 7, 2022, to align with the mini-AGM season which commences in the first quarter of next year.

“Third, proxy advisers will need to be independent of their institutional clients. In applying the independence test, consideration should be given to ownership structures, personnel arrangements and capacity to influence decision-making. Fourth, superannuation funds will be required to publish more detailed information about their voting record at company meetings. This includes whether they received proxy advice and the voting position taken on each resolution in which they exercised voting rights on behalf of members. These final two reforms start from July 1, 2022.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Billboard is throwing its annual Xmasfest Melbourne party at Billboard The Venue on Russell Street, with DJs and giveaways. Dress up is encouraged.

Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)

  • Archbishop Anthony Fisher will deliver the homily during the midnight mass leading into Christmas at St Mary’s Cathedral.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Head along to St Paschal’s in Wavell Heights for the Christmas Eve mass this evening.