Religious Discrimination Act
(Image: Unsplash/Stefie Zawa)

CLEARING THE WAY FOR DISCRIMINATION

Teachers could be sacked over sexuality, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has confirmed. The SMH reports that Cash’s submission to the inquiry states the religious discrimination bill “would allow a religious school to consider a person’s religious beliefs about issues such as sexuality” if it is part of their religion’s “doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings”. Guardian Australia continues that safeguards for LGBTIQ kids have also been delayed — Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed to the changes so four moderate Liberal backbenchers would back the bill, but the attorney-general walked back the promise last month, saying the protections would need to wait 12 months.

Meanwhile, one of Sydney’s longest-running gay hate crime cases has finally ended in a murder conviction. American doctoral student Scott Johnson fell to his death some 30 years ago in a Sydney area frequented by gay men, as ABC reports — it was ruled a suicide during a time where former Australian officials described police as “hostile” towards the community and thus reticent to investigate, The New York Times adds. After a long campaign from his unconvinced brother Steve, and later a million-dollar reward for information from the NSW Government, a Sydney man named Scott White, now 50, was finally arrested last year. White’s frank admission to the court on Monday was “Guilty, I’m guilty, guilty”, and he was convicted of Scott’s murder yesterday, the SMH reports.

WHAT THE FRACK

Australia equalled our hottest day on record yesterday — the mercury reached 50.7C in Onslow, WA at about 2:30pm, the BBC reports. Usually the temperature in Onslow is 36.5C around this time of year, WA Today adds. It comes just days after the EU’s satellite confirmed the last seven years have been the hottest on record — heatwaves are just one of the several dire outcomes the IPCC say humanity will suffer from if we do not act on climate change.

Australia, as one of the world’s biggest per-capita emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, is breaching human rights — that’s the conclusion of the World Report 2022 from Human Rights Watch, who said our government’s climate policy is actively unstitching our human rights record. It’s the first time there has been a Climate Change Policy and Impacts section as part of the organisation’s annual assessment.

Queensland’s emissions target of a 30% reduction by 2030 would be “[blown] out of the water”, an expert has told Guardian Australia, if the Lake Eyre basin is opened up to fracking to extract gas. Origin Energy got the green light in late December to explore the area — which is one of the last major free-flowing desert river systems — but fracking could see 199m tonnes spewed into the atmosphere every year. The government says the lease is for “exploration only” at this stage.

WHO SMELLS A RAT?

The federal government bought $62 million worth of rapid antigen tests on Monday, Guardian Australia reports, but is it undercutting the free market Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed to honouring? RAT wholesalers Adelaide Direct Stationers and Sydney’s HiCraft both say the government had seized their rapid antigen test orders, SBS reports — the latter called it a “Government Emergency Requisition”. But the government has denied it pushed in line, ABC reports — in a statement, it said it was “not seeking to place itself ahead of other commercial and retail entities”. Meanwhile, in the US, President Joe Biden has tweeted overnight that the government will distribute 1 billion at-home COVID tests, free of charge — quite the juxtaposition.

So, to paraphrase Morrison’s own infamous tagline, where the bloody hell are they? Well, some RATs are being given to close contacts and to people who need them to work, ABC reports, and the demand-supply issue for everyone else should start to right itself in the next four weeks. Priceline, Soul Pattinson, and Pharmacist Advice will get 2.75 million RATs in mid-February and are set to receive smaller shipments until then, while Hough Pharma (which supplies Coles and Woolies) said its 2 million weekly stock distribution will double at the end of January.

Yesterday saw a staggering 92,264 COVID cases reported in NSW, but two-thirds of that were RAT results dating back to January 1, The New Daily reports — the results were uploaded en masse into the government app after the new button went live on Wednesday. What’s in a case anyway, Jill Margo asks in the AFR this morning? She says asymptomatic people have “no more than a little patch in the throat” of virus – -what’s known as a small viral load — and can be hardly infectious. So why include them as a “patient” in the case totals, she asks, considering how anxious it’s making everyone?

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

It’s Sunday night and a woman in Zhengzhou is getting ready for a blind date. Her family had set the date up — it was one of a bunch that the woman, known only as Ms Wang, was going on after she’d arrived in the city from her home of Guangdong in China’s south. Perhaps sensing that he had some competition, one of the eligible bachelors had upped the ante. He boasted of his impressive cooking skills and invited her around for a sumptuous homecooked meal. Sure, she had replied, thinking if she doesn’t get butterflies from him, she’d just bail. As she was finishing her meal, however, Zhengzhou was plunged into a snap lockdown.

The pair were forced to hang out at his place for days, which Ms Wang began documenting on Weibo to a huge reception. Unfortunately, sparks didn’t fly between the couple. Not that she minded, according to Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper. “Besides the fact he’s as mute as a wooden mannequin, everything else [about him] is pretty good,” she says. The woman added that his cooking skills turned out to be pretty average, but the fact that he was enthusiastic about doing the cooking was awesome. She’s looking forward to the outbreak tailing off, and says she hopes “that my single sisters also find a relationship soon”.

Wishing you some butterflies today.

SAY WHAT?

No pubs, no bottle shops, no gym, no yoga classes, no gigs, no dancefloors, no hospital or aged care visits.

Mark McGowan

There will be no downward dog, the WA premier promised, unless you’re vaccinated — health and fitness studios are part of a growing list of places that the unvaxxed are locked out of come January 31. Indeed a shorter list could be where the unvaxxed can go — to get takeaway food, as well as roadhouses and petrol stations, the ABC says. And McGowan said you’d better get used to it — the new laws will be in place for “years to come”.

CRIKEY RECAP

Scott Morrison’s staff tried to stop the release of red carpet air base documents

“When Scott Morrison was given the red carpet treatment during his visit to an RAAF air base last year, it was met with disbelief — including from former Defence staff and prime ministers who said they had never been given the same treatment.

“… correspondence reveals that a staff member from the PMO attempted to block the release of all but one document prepared for release by claiming they were ‘out of scope’, a classification rejected by Defence.”


Djokovic’s latest self-sabotage ensures his legacy will be controversy, not tennis

“Not only has he risked his own ability to play the first grand slam of the year, but he has threatened the already tenuous support he had Down Under. After winning his record-extending ninth Australian Open in 2021, the moniker ‘the king of Melbourne Park’ was thrown around to mirror Rafael Nadal’s ‘the king of clay’.

“But while Nadal’s unprecedented dominance at the French Open was acknowledged with a statue unveiled earlier this year, it’s hard to imagine Melbourne accepting any such accolade for the Australian Open’s most successful male competitor.”


You’re fired! Boards let it all hang out when sacking their CEOs

“The difference now is boards appear far more willing to be honest about the reasons for dismissals. A decade ago, Truong’s firing would have almost certainly been referred to along the lines of a ‘resignation to spend more time with his family’.

“Truong’s dismissal comes after the public removals of financially successful Cleanaway CEO Vik BansalOil Search’s Kieran Wulff (albeit partially on medical grounds) and the infamous (and ultimately unjustified) removal of popular Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate. (Holgate had the reverse problem: she was fired for being too generous to senior executives.)”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Model risks president-PM balance, says Bob Carr (The Australian) ($)

Prince Andrew returns all royal patronages to the Queen amid sex abuse court saga (The SMH)

Russia says NATO talks ‘unsuccessful’ as Poland warns of war (Al Jazeera)

Trading threats, the US and Iran inch closer to a nuclear pact (The New York Times)

Boris Johnson: Ministers rally round PM as he faces calls to quit (BBC)

Hong Kong activist re-arrested for remarks ‘endangering national security’ (SBS)

Indonesian woman flogged 100 times for adultery, man gets 15 lashes (The Guardian)

German court sentences former Syrian colonel to life in prison (Al Jazeera)

Nigeria lifts 7-month ban on Twitter (The New York Times)

Canada: Unvaccinated father loses right to see his child (BBC)

‘Dancing through the water’: rare sighting of blanket octopus in Great Barrier Reef (The Guardian)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Labor will get on with vital works Coalition has ignoredCatherine King (The Australian) ($): “Under Labor, Australia went from 20th to second on the international league table that ranks countries by the scale of the investment they’re making in infrastructure; we got on with projects such as upgrading the Bruce Highway, duplicating the Pacific Highway and building the Hunter Expressway. We built the projects Australians need now and began the process of building those we will need in the future.

“All Australians have seen where the federal government’s disdain for process and planning leads — car park rorts, land scandals at Western Sydney Airport, broken promises and project after project being delayed into the ever-distant future. Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher, writing in this newspaper earlier this week, urges us to ‘stick with the Coalition government’, but why on Earth would we want more of the same? The Morrison-Joyce government certainly won’t get better in a fourth term.”

This isn’t your old toxic masculinity. It has taken an insidious new form.Alex McElroy (The New York Times): “Even as men’s groups committed to positive change gain prominence, our society still broadly enforces traditional masculinity norms and restrictions. And online there are plenty of spaces where extremely toxic behaviour is encouraged and applauded — some of which also deploy the language of vulnerability. In incel forums, for example, rather than working through the pain of being sexually rejected, men lash out at the women they feel they deserve — occasionally resulting in horrific violence.

“So, what’s to be done? Though men’s discussion groups and more nuanced male leads on TV cannot, on their own, shift our expectations of manhood, the fact that they exist and are gaining popularity counts for something. ‘Men cannot change if there are no blueprints for change,’ bell hooks wrote in her 2005 book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, where she uses feminist thinking to show men how to overcome their conditioning. The hard part is yet to come. Change is taxing and boring and scary. It requires humility and vulnerability — the real stuff, not the cheap imitation. And it requires letting go of what some men feel entitled to. The rewards, however, will make this effort worthwhile.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • Sydney Festival’s at-home digital program will livestream Thaw — viewers will see a colossal block of ice weighing 2.7 tonnes, suspended 20 metres above Sydney Harbour, with a solo performer perched on top. Sydneysiders can head down and watch.

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)

  • The Ambitious Leaders Network will hold a sundowner hosted by author Katie-Jeyn Romeyn, with guest speakers like BHP’s Cathy Barclay and 29Metals’ Robert Gelson, held at the Duxton Hotel.

Kaurna Country (also known as Adelaide)

  • Marine Megafauna Foundation’s Andrea Marshall and several others will speak at Scuba in the Pub about how we can protect the marine environment, held at the Rob Roy Hotel.