Mark McGowan
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan (Image: AAP/Richard Wainwright)

FOLLOWING BORDERS

Western Australia will not open its borders on February 5 anymore, Premier Mark McGowan confirmed last night, blaming Omicron. He says there’s no new reopening date at the moment — it’ll be worked out in the next month, ABC reports. February 5 was set to see quarantine-free travel to WA, but the date delay will see holidays and long-awaited family reunions cancelled — for now.

McGowan wants to see the booster rate at 80-90% (about 25% of people 16+ have received theirs so far, as news.com.au reports) but did confirm eased compassionate exemptions from February 5, WA Today continues. You could get an exemption if you have direct family connections, to go to funerals or visit the ill, if you’re a family member of an approved traveller, and if you need medical treatment — FYI this list isn’t exhaustive so check out more here. Quarantine is still required, however.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid (who’s from WA) tweeted that he was gutted, calling McGowan a “one trick pony” and continuing that he hoped for more courage from the premier. Khorshid says the delay is down to a “failure by the WA govt” to prepare, saying hospital staff probably don’t feel ready for an influx of Omicron cases, but have little hope anything will change by delaying it. Opposition Leader Mia Davies agreed, saying West Australians were making sacrifices to “buy more time for a government that has clearly squandered the past two years”, The West ($) continues.

PALMERGEDDON

Google says they’re trying to stop Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party from posting misinformation — paying to advertise it, on the other hand, seems to be a different story. During a parliamentary inquiry into online safety, Google Australia’s Lucinda Longcroft told MP Tim Watts the mega-company “do not seek to profit” from misinformation, as SMH reports. The UAP has spent $5 million on advertising their videos on YouTube (Google owns YouTube) in the last five months, and Google has removed four of the party’s videos for breaching their misinformation rules (about $100k worth, the paper says). The videos got millions of views before being deleted.

Among the videos removed were ones of UAP’s Craig Kelly spruiking hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for COVID (neither are proven to work and can be very dangerous). Incredibly — I kid you not, folks — Kelly is actually a member of the parliamentary inquiry. He asked Longcroft, don’t you think you’re causing harm by denying people access to information recommending hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin? To which Longcroft basically replied, uh — no, we definitely trust the experts. What a world.

Incidentally, Palmer has promised the most expensive election campaign in history, The Brisbane Times reports. It’d have to be more than the $80 million he spent at the last election, one would assume, when he didn’t win a single seat, SBS adds. He’s leading the UAP’s Senate ticket.

AGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Kids should not drive forklifts, national cabinet says, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested the idea (oh, dearly departed John Clarke, if only you could see this). CFMEU’s Jade Ingham accused Morrison of a “brain fart” in suggesting child labour fill in the gaps, asking what’s next, “a return to children leading pit ponies into coalmines and sweeping chimneys?” The idea was met with a rather broad swathe of scoffs — everyone from state and territory leaders to shadow spokespeople, unions, and even the country’s cartoonists. A sheepish Morrison says national cabinet “agreed to proceed no further with the issue of 16-year-old forklift drivers”.

Meanwhile, Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt are really upping their attacks on businesses who say the federal government shorted the supply of RATs. Morrison called them “absurd allegations”, as AFR reports, but several suppliers — like Werko, HiCraft and Adelaide Direct Stationers have all told customers that their orders had been diverted to the government instead, SBS adds. Even Queensland Rail have had two orders requisitioned, according to Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey, who tweeted last night he stands by his claim. The government is allowed to requisition the RATs as per the Health Act, but Hunt is being really emphatic that it hasn’t, saying suppliers are “lying” and he’s reporting them to the ACCC.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

A teenager called Zara Rutherford has become the youngest woman to fly solo about the world. Rutherford, 19, made the 51,500km trip in a two-seater plane that only measures about 6.7 metres long. It was not without drama, as The New York Times tells it. She flew across the frozen empty stretches of Siberia, was barred altogether from Chinese airspace, and dipped as low as 560m over the Atlantic Ocean to avoid clouds (her plane was not certified to fly on instruments alone).

Rutherford battled thunderstorms in Florida’s hurricane season and Californian wildfire smog which seeped into her plane. She made a snap decision to land in North Carolina — the airport was so remote she couldn’t get a taxi, so she hitchhiked. As she flew to South Korea, she nervously kept an eye on the winds, which at one stage were forcing her plane towards North Korean airspace. She lost radio contact for hours when heading to Greenland, and her parents were more than a bit relieved to receive a text reading “I’m alive” once Rutherford landed.

The sky is not the limit for Rutherford, who wants to be an astronaut. But for now, she’s happy to be on land again for a while. She reflected on her incredible feat after finishing up in Belgium. “One thing I’ve learned on this trip,” she says, “and I think this applies to everyone, is that you’re capable of more than you think you are”.

Wishing you a little spring in your step today folks — and have a restful weekend ahead.

SAY WHAT?

It’s just a little disappointing when they are making so much noise between first and second serve, I guess some people just have a low IQ.

Daniil Medvedev

The rowdy crowd at Rod Laver Arena seemed to be yelling “siuuuu” — it’s become somewhat of a catchcry at the Australian Open (but actually originates from football megastar Cristiano Ronaldo). Medvedev thought they were just booing but joined in on the joke when it was explained to him, even writing “siuuuu” on a camera lens. He was somewhat less of a good sport in conversation with Eurosport about the crowd afterwards.

CRIKEY RECAP

Coalition ‘hypocrisy’: bang on about academic freedom and then block research it doesn’t like

“Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert faces mounting anger from academics, university leaders and the opposition after he quietly vetoed six Australian Research Council grants on Christmas Eve.

“An open letter addressed to Robert and Council CEO Sue Thomas, signed by 138 members of the ARC’s college of experts, senior researchers across a range of disciplines who play a key role in assessing prospective grants, slammed the minister’s decision to block the projects on ‘national interest’ grounds.”


Hoarding RATs: is Morrison lying about something he should actually be doing?

“The United States had approved home testing in December 2020; the UK in January 2021. As has been usual throughout the pandemic, the TGA has dragged its feet on approvals. At the time its head, John Skerritt, said that was because the government had prevented it from approving tests any earlier …

“At the same time as Morrison and Hunt were delaying home testing, they were refusing to consider sourcing the tests. We now know the Australian Medical Association urged the government to develop a plan to source RATs but was rebuffed.”


Ten’s Celebrity bounces back against Nine’s tennis coverage

“Nine’s tennis audience fell by between 200,000 and 300,000 from earlier nights — 658,000 for the early evening, 623,000 later — and the Open was beaten by Ten’s I’m A Celebrity with 781,000. And there was 710,000 nationally for 7.30 on the ABC — current affairs more popular than the tennis?

“The record 152 from Glenn Maxwell was watched by 466,000 on Seven in the late BBL game, and the first double hat-trick by Cameron Boyce was watched by only 307,000 national viewers. The BBL finals start tomorrow night.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Jobless rate falls to 4.2%, lowest since GFC (The Australian) ($)

At least two killed, several wounded in Lahore bomb blast (Al Jazeera)

[US] home prices in 2021 rose 16.9%, the highest on record (CNN)

China cuts benchmark rates to bolster flagging economy (The Wall Street Journal)

‘The treeline is out of control’: how the climate crisis is turning the Arctic green (The Guardian)

Ex-pope Benedict accused of inaction in sexual abuse cases (Al Jazeera)

On Ukraine, Biden flusters European allies by stating the obvious (The New York Times)

Fact check: A look at Biden’s first year in false claims (CNN)

Most ‘Havana Syndrome’ cases unlikely caused by foreign power, CIA Says (The New York Times)

[NZ] cafe owner who showed fake QR code linking to anti-mandate page prosecuted (Stuff)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Scott Morrison’s ministerial team looks far from match-fitMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “In canine terms, Barnaby Joyce is of a breed that poses risk to their owners. He may or may not hold up the Nationals’ regional vote but could be costing the Coalition support in the cities, where independent candidates make much of declaring their Liberal opponents ‘vote with Barnaby’. Peter Dutton, who still carries a leadership baton, is a classic head kicker but seems to be keeping his own head down. He is expected, however, to step up his activity soon and will be central to the national security theme in the government’s election campaign.

“On climate policy, Angus Taylor, a poor communicator, will need to be wary of miscuing in trying to demolish Labor’s policy. The Coalition won’t get away with exaggerations like 2019. Given Morrison’s vulnerability among female voters, the PM also needs ministers who can mount a convincing case on women’s policy. But Minister for Women Marise Payne hasn’t shown herself up to the task – she hates venturing into the media, and is tied up with her main portfolio of foreign affairs. There is no Julie Bishop in the ranks.”

Festival boycott the futile work of ‘useful idiots’Paul Fletcher (The Australian) ($): “When Australians look at Israel, what they see is the only multi-party democracy in the Middle East — not an ‘apartheid state’. They see an ally and friend: a country with which Australia has excellent diplomatic relations and longstanding cultural and people-to-people ties. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign is not supported by either of the major political parties. The principal cheerleader for this boycott has been Hamas, which is proscribed by the Australian government as a terrorist organisation.

“Hamas controls Gaza — and notoriously deals with its opponents by throwing them alive off of tall buildings. Of course, the last thing Hamas cares about is a vigorous and lively artistic and creative scene in Australia. But it is surprising that a group of Australian performers and creatives would seek to sabotage one of Australia’s leading arts festivals. It is doubly surprising that group would do so when the arts and creative sector has been hit hard by COVID, with performances cancelled, venues closed and artists losing their gigs.”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Online

  • The Lowy Institute will host a Q&A with UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss, about “building a network of liberty” with opening remarks from Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne.

Stoney Creek Nation Country (also known as Launceston)

  • MONA FOMA kicks off, running in Launceston for the next three days (then in Hobart from January 28). Today’s event will be a summery showcase of musicians and performers at Royal Park.

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor and Resources Minister Keith Pitt will attend the arrival of the Suiso Frontier in Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula — it’s the world’s first liquid hydrogen carrier.