tonga volcano eruption
Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano (Image: Planet Labs PBC via AP and AAP)

FULL IMPACT OF TONGA ERUPTION STILL UNKNOWN

The eruption of Tonga’s underwater volcano matched the force of Mount Vesuvius which obliterated Pompeii in 79AD, with about 1000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, The Age reports. That means it was “one of the bigger ones” in recorded history, one expert told the paper. Australia and New Zealand have sent surveillance flights, but we still don’t know the extent of the damage — mere moments after the volcano erupted, the mammoth underwater cable connecting Tonga to the rest of the world went dead, and could remain so for two weeks, BBC reports. Incredible satellite imagery shows the cloud mushrooming about 30km up into the air on Saturday evening. Sadly, the body of a British woman has been found in the aftermath, news.com.au reports.

So what caused this? Well, there are about one million undersea volcanos, meaning three-quarters of our volcanic activity is actually under the water, Al Jazeera explains. This one erupts once every 1000 years and the last one happened in 1100 AD, ABC adds, so it’s roughly on time. As for the tsunami warnings it caused in places like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United States and Canada, some are speculating the volcano may have partially collapsed from the force of the explosion, CNN reports — but it’s just too early to tell.

Small tsunami waves were still being recorded as late as Monday afternoon, The Conversation says, with 82cm recorded at the Gold Coast and 77cm on NSW’s south coast. It might not sound like much, but these waves are totally different to our normal waves in their speed and force. In Bateman’s Bay yesterday, hour-long waves were recorded — yet your average wave only takes about 15 seconds to come in and go back out.

PRIMARY CARES

The Coalition’s primary vote has dropped below Labor’s for the first time, according to research conducted for the SMH by Resolve Strategic. Support for Scott Morrison’s Coalition has dwindled five points down to 34% amid the government’s handling of the pandemic, economy, jobs, and health, while Labor’s approval has climbed three points to 35% since November. Morrison remains the preferred leader over Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, though Morrison’s margin has been narrowing — on health, aged care, and jobs, voters preferred Albo, though when it comes to the pandemic handling and the economy they preferred ScoMo.

It seems the Coalition’s favourite distraction is still making headlines — tennis deportee Novak Djokovic’s French Open plans are likely kaput now too, ABC reports, after a spokesperson for France’s Ministry of Sport said there would be “no exemption” for anyone who doesn’t have a vaccine pass — somewhat of a groundhog day for Djokovic who was detained and eventually kicked out of Australia for the same reason.

Incidentally, Border Force is back in the headlines this morning, this time for demanding a returned holidaymaker from Fiji hand over his phone — and his passcode. Officials spent 30 minutes in another room with the phone, a software developer known only as James told Guardian Australia. Officials are actually allowed to get your passcode under the Customs Act if they suspect you may be “of interest for immigration, customs, biosecurity, health, law-enforcement or national security reasons”, a fairly wide scope that actually requires a warrant within our borders.

RATS AND SINKING SHIPS

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has revealed the most accurate rapid antigen tests from more than a dozen on the market. They rated the tests by “sensitivity” — the idea is the more sensitive a test, the more accurate the result, as 7 News explains. Among the top performers: All Test, Hough, JusChek, My Covid Test, Orawell, RightSign, and TESTSEALABS — check out the TGA’s site for more info. But it might not be any use if you can’t find one — and it seems some have had enough.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is threatening to walk off the job, The Australian ($) reports, unless employers provide the elusive tests free of charge. It’s also demanding better masks — like the N95 or P2 masks — and way better ventilation to keep staff safe. ACTU secretary Sally McManus outlined the demands after a crisis meeting on Monday, saying some employers are “making people go to work when they’re sick”, the AFR continues (under the Fair Work Act, workers can legally stop work if they feel there’s a threat to their health and safety). But a recent survey of 7000 business owners found 86% couldn’t find any RATs for their staff, according to the National Retail Association — a supply-demand stalemate.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

HBO’s gritty epic Game of Thrones, based in a vague medieval era, isn’t known for its historical accuracy — but sometimes truth is at least as strange as fiction. Fans who watched the undignified end of character Lord Tywin Lannister, who was shot with a crossbow while perched on his bathroom throne on the show, might be interested to hear a similar tale from history — that of Erasmus, who lived in the world’s largest castle inside a cave. Still nestled an incredible 123m up a rocky cavernous cliffside of southwest Slovenia, the castle of Predjama was once home to the robber-baron. In the mid-1480s, after a quarrel, a German emperor ordered a siege upon it and blocked food deliveries in an attempt to starve Erasmus. But a gleeful burgrave, holed up safely in the hard-to-reach castle, taunted his opponents by bringing in fresh cherries from 20km away, using his secret passageways.

Erasmus, who historians say was a bit of a Robin Hood figure, met his end after being betrayed by a servant, who lit a wood torch one day when the guy was in the outhouse. A cannonball killed him “mid-bowel movement”, as CNN Travel puts it. Fast forward to 2011, and writer George RR Martin, who penned A Song of Ice and Fire, the the book series Game of Thrones is based on, visited the cave-castle after a book signing in nearby Trieste. “On the way home, we stopped at the most amazing castle, built into the mouth of a huge cave. Definitely have to model some castle in Westeros on this one, it was an eyeful, especially by night,” he wrote in a blog post afterwards.

Hoping something makes you feel a little awe today.

If you’re feeling chatty, drop me a line, tell me what you love or loathe about your Worm — or anything. I’m on eelsworthy@crikey.com.au.

SAY WHAT?

Well, the specific cases, Ben, I mean, it’s not clear that to my information that someone in that case is actually a refugee. They may have sought asylum and been found not to be a refugee and have chosen not to return, and … that happens in this country, people aren’t found to be refugees and they won’t return.

Scott Morrison

The prime minister falsely told 2GB radio yesterday the refugees detained in the infamous Melbourne hotel that held tennis player Novak Djokovic were not refugees. Wrong, Human Rights Watch’s director Elaine Pearson says — most of the 30 people held there had their refugee status formally granted by Morrison’s own government, some several years ago.

CRIKEY RECAP

The great public policy mystery: just why is the Morrison government so inept?

“We’ve previously connected the routine incompetence of the Morrison government to Scott Morrison’s obsessive lying, and to the fact that Morrison by his own admission runs government for his mates i.e. as a protection racket, in which corporations purchase policy outcomes in exchange for donations and post-political jobs.

“Morrison’s preference for media conferences and press releases over actual substance is obviously another factor. But it’s time to look beyond just the personal characteristics of Morrison’s government to see if this repeated failure is becoming systemic in Canberra.”


As God is our witness, Hillsong’s mosh pit antics were perfectly legal

“NSW Police confirmed on Friday that it would not be issuing a fine to Hillsong for breaching the current public health order prohibition on singing and dancing in certain contexts, despite the government having stated that it was ‘clearly in breach’.

“Judging from the video footage Hillsong had been promoting on social media, a very large number of unmasked young people had been doing a pretty good impression of a mosh pit, presumably apart from the drugs and sexy time antics.”


With little fear of pushback, anti-vax politicians still rally to the cause

Antic is one of a handful of Coalition MPs and senators who have railed against COVID vaccines, mandates and pandemic restrictions and are accused of spreading misinformation. Others on that fringe also expressed their support for Djokovic over the past week …

“Over the weekend, Queensland Senator Gerard Rennick, who uses his Facebook page to promote unverified stories of alleged adverse vaccine reactions, used the Djokovic affair as an opportunity to renew his attacks on vaccine mandates.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Greece punishes unvaccinated elderly with monthly fines (Al Jazeera)

Eastern Europe tests new forms of media censorship (The New York Times)

3 killed in suspected Houthi drone attack in Abu Dhabi (CNN)

‘Death sentence’ fear for dissident Yang Hengjun in Chinese prison (The Australian) ($)

Rolls-Royce, Bentley, BMW sales surge as cheaper brands lag behind (The Wall Street Journal)

Anne Frank betrayal suspect identified after 77 years (BBC)

[Canada’s] House Price Index rose 26% in 2021, fastest pace on record (CBC)

China’s coal production hit record levels in 2021 (The Guardian)

Ex-leader Poroshenko returns to Ukraine to face treason case (Al Jazeera)

Will AI spell the end of capitalism? (Quillette)

French far-right candidate found guilty of hate speech (BBC)

China’s births hit historic low, a political problem for Beijing (The New York Times)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Perhaps Australia needs ‘lucky’ leaders, because no side has much control over the economySatyajit Das (Guardian Australia): “Firstly, Australia’s economy is dependent on external events, particularly commodity prices and the performance of our trading partners, especially China. Over the last half a century, successive commodity booms and the emergence of Japan, China and India have underpinned Australian living standards and shielded the nation from major downturns …

“Other critical factors largely outside government control are COVID-19 and geopolitics. The virus affects expenditure on health and income and industry support. Activity is influenced by mobility disruptions, which impact demand (tourism, foreign students, hospitality and personal services) as well as supply (quarantined staff, worker and skills shortages and supply chain breakdowns). Sino-US tensions bedevil relations with Australia’s largest trade counterparty.”

Why we need ‘me’ time at workConor Sen (Bloomberg via The Age): “If workers are expected to be on call at night and on weekends — their off time disrupted at unpredictable intervals — then it makes sense for them to push to reclaim some of the traditional work week for personal time. Information-centric industries aren’t the same as working in factories — busy times ebb and flow more than others … There were already socially-acceptable ways of having downtime at work when most people actually went into an office for the day — running out for a coffee or lunch, chatting with colleagues around the water cooler, looking busy on a computer. So it makes sense that with more work days being spent at home, customs will evolve.

“For some that might mean a Friday brunch on a slow workday, for others it might be doing a Peloton ride at 10 am. Perhaps it’s mowing the lawn in the early afternoon before it gets hot. These types of activities shouldn’t be seen as subversive or taking advantage of the company, but a recognition that many jobs have bouts of downtime, and if you’re working at home there are different ways of using that downtime than when you’re physically in an office surrounded by coworkers.”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)

  • The WA government’s Small Business Development Corporation is hosting a free session about how to start a small business.

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Digital gallery The Lume Melbourne is presenting a full immersive Van Gogh exhibition with video and light (The Lume is inside the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre).

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • The State Library of Queensland is hosting a creative workshop led by Bearly Engineering for kids aged 8-12 years old.

  • Cross River Rail and STEM Punks will lead a workshop where kids aged 8 and older will design Brisbane’s future Olympic Village in 3D.