Dominic Perrottet NSW
Dominic Perrottet (Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

RATS IN THE CRADLE

Kids in NSW and Victoria will be swabbed twice a week, along with their teachers, in the much-awaited back-to-school plans confirmed by the two most populous states. In NSW, 12 million rapid antigen tests will be pumped into schools in preparation for the start of term one next week, as ABC reports. Masks are mandatory for high schoolers, and there’s a heap of air purifiers headed to schools too. But there’ll be no more contact tracing nor closing down schools if there’s a COVID case, as the SMH continued. Younger kids have now missed a quarter of their schooling life, Premier Dominic Perrottet via SBS says, which is quite astounding if you think on it.

In Victoria, masks will continue to be enforced for a younger cohort — Years 3 and above, ABC reports, but interestingly, the twice-weekly testing will be voluntary in Victoria, not mandatory, as The Age reports. The state government say they’ve got 14 million rapid antigen tests put aside for schools and early childhood centres. People working in education are considered “essential workers” in Victoria as of last week, so they don’t have to isolate if they are a close contact. But that also means they have to get a booster, Sky News adds. And if too many staff fall ill, retired teachers and final year university students will substitute in.

Kids are facing a “generation-defining” disruption between the restrictions and the contingencies like remote learning, less community sport, and social distancing, Guardian Australia reports. About a third of parents say the pandemic has damaged their kids’ mental health, while a little less than a third say they’ve delayed their kids’ healthcare because of fears over the virus. A paediatrician with the Children’s Hospital Westmead says he hopes schools take resilience-building and student care seriously to see Aussie children get back onto a brighter path.

MERCURY RISING

We’ve got two heatwaves causing sweaty pits around the country at the moment. The mercury in Perth has surpassed 40 degrees six days in a row now, news.com.au reports, the hottest run of days in 13 years. A bad bushfire kicked off yesterday in Perth’s north, which was described as “contained but not controlled” as of last night, The West ($) says. Meanwhile, sweltering Melbourne saw temperatures of over 32 degrees at the weekend and it’s set to continue this week, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned, with highs of 34 degrees on the way as the Australian Open enters its second week. In the Top End, heavy rain could see a cyclone form, according to Sky News Weather. The east coast is a little more settled, with days hovering near 30 degrees in several places.

Meanwhile, Tennis Australia has dumped a big fossil fuel partner. Last February, it joined forces with Santos in what was meant to be a multi-year relationship, calling Santos its “official natural gas partner” and splashing the Santos branding all over last year’s Australian Open. Tennis Australia confirmed to Guardian Australia they’d terminated the partnership but were tight-lipped when asked why. All speculation of course — but tennis is one of those sports acutely affected by increasing heatwaves, a marker of a worsening climate crisis. Cast your mind back to 2014, and you might remember the Open was halted after 1000 crowd members got heat exhaustion, as The Age reported at the time. Plus, 7600 people angrily petitioned the Open’s boss after the Santos relationship began last year, as climate activist group 350 Australia says.

OUT OF DATE

Labor does not want to change the date of Australia Day (this Wednesday) but says consider spending the day differently — that’s according to opposition Indigenous affairs spokes­woman Linda Burney, as reported by The Australian ($), who encouraged Australians to explore and reflect on our history. It is, after all, the “beginning of dispossession and usurping of the rights of First Nations people,” she says, adding that she’ll be attending events that celebrate Indigenous culture and history (plus some citizenship ceremonies).

Whether you celebrate, and how you do, is worth thinking about. The Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council’s Nathan Moran told the SMH it’s a “vexed and complicated” issue that hasn’t seen consensus from the Indigenous community. He shared that some Indigenous artists grapple with whether to participate in events — on the one hand, it celebrates their culture, he explains. But on the other, does it skim over what is, to many, a day of pain?

The Australia Day organisation’s view is that it is a day that acknowledges the “contribution that every Australian makes to our contemporary and dynamic nation”, as 7 News reports. Whatever you decide, SMH has a roundup of different events — like an “Invasion Day” rally, a charity swim, a dawn reflection, a combined forces salute, a vigil, and more. Or stay home and flick on the broadcaster — it’s a jam-packed morning and evening on the ABC, ending in a live concert with performances from William Barton, Casey Donovan, Shane Howard, and Delta Goodrem.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Michael Sharrow sat down to his computer, preparing to write an email that defies belief. As the superintendent of Michigan’s public schools, he’d had his fair share of the fanciful, the unexpected, the challenging — you know, the stuff that defines teenagehood. But never this. “Let me be clear in this communication,” he typed in an email to parents. “There have never been litter boxes within MPS schools”. But he’s not debunking a classroom cat rumour. Sharrow was setting the record straight that no, despite the rumours, students supposedly “identifying as cats” were not provided with the feline toilet facility.

The rumour seems to have started with a member of the public named Lisa Hansen, who rather dubiously claims in a video that she was told litter boxes had been added to the unisex bathrooms for the students. She described herself as “equally stunned” and “furious”, decrying the “agenda” being pushed through schools — and the nation! Won’t somebody think of the children! Then, the co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party Meshawn Maddock saw Hansen’s video. Maddock took to Facebook to write “Kids who identify as ‘furries’ get a litter box in the school bathroom … Parent heroes will TAKE BACK our schools”. Oh, for Pete’s sake. There have been no reports of students “identifying as cats”, and Sharrow wrote to parents that he found it unconscionable that he was writing the email — but no, despite what a fairly senior Republican and loudmouth claim, all students use regular old toilets.

Hope this brings a smile to your face — enjoy your Monday.

SAY WHAT?

I think it’s clear that we’re not going to eliminate Omicron, it’s now about how we suppress and manage Omicron … We have, in all but name, lockdowns over east. It’s essentially lockdown by default.

Amber-Jade Sanderson

Western Australia has finally admitted a zero-COVID approach is not going to work. The health minister made the comments yesterday, following last week’s revelation that the hard border would not come down on February 5 as planned. But Sanderson, in defending that controversial decision, attracted ire by pointing the finger at the eastern states as somewhat of a worst-case scenario. What lockdown? Some pointed out that people are flocking to the Australian Open, Big Bash League, pubs, beaches, and even the streets in the east.

CRIKEY RECAP

Ridiculed even by his own side, Scott Morrison is Australia’s weakest PM

“Not all the mockery of Morrison was on workforce issues. One of his backbenchers ridiculed him for his handling of the fetid anti-vaxxer George Christensen. LNP Senator Gerard Rennick opined on Facebook

“Rennick (and don’t you love it when a national politician earning more than $200K a year reckons he’s not part of the elite) can make these sort of comments because Morrison can’t threaten him with anything. Rennick is a backbench senator whose term doesn’t expire until 2025 …”


Fortress WA: what State Daddy’s border U-turn means for the election

McGowan’s insistence on keeping his border has annoyed the Morrison government no end. It’s also reminded Australians that we live in a federation, and there’s very little Canberra can do to make WA keep its borders open.

“Only the High Court can potentially force McGowan’s hand. In November 2020, a constitutional challenge against the hard border brought by mining magnate Clive Palmer failed. Last year Attorney-General Michaelia Cash threatened that if the state failed to reopen at 80% vaccination, another stronger challenge could come its way.”


Siuuu Kyrgios, and the Australian Open’s ‘low IQ’ crowd

“It might make some of the world-class players who have found themselves on the receiving end of the chant during this tournament sleep a little better at night, but the outcome is the same.

“It’s disrespectful and off-putting for players. Plus, as the widespread use of ‘Let’s go, Brandon’ (now synonymous with ‘Fuck you, Biden‘) in the United States shows, the words don’t really matter as long as everyone understands the intent.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Blinken says ‘a single additional Russian force’ entering Ukraine would trigger US response (CNN)

German navy chief resigns over Ukraine comments (BBC)

Cameroon nightclub fire: More than a dozen dead in Yaounde blaze (Al Jazeera)

Nusrat Ghani: Muslimness a reason for my sacking, says ex-minister (BBC)

Secret ballot to elect president of Italy begins as Berlusconi drops out (The Guardian)

Syria prison attack kills more than 100, clashes ongoing (Al Jazeera)

[Canada’s] BC to allow COVID-positive and double-vaxxed patients to share hospital rooms (CBC)

The Cincinnati Bengals could reach the Super Bowl, and no, I am not making that up (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

“Not necessarily nice things” uncomfortable truths in Succession (Quillette)

On this day: Apple releases first Macintosh computer (The New Daily)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Australia Day: A respectful, unified path beyond bitter annual debateAndrew Bragg (The Australian) ($): “Australia Day should not be moved. Rather it should continue its augmentation and be complemented with a new national day for which there are three reasons. First, changing dates is a denial of the truth, which the Uluru Statement calls for. The truth is Australia is a very good country, but it has often been a bad country for Indigenous people. Our history has been both good and bad. There is no denying that January 26, 1788 was a significant date in our history. We shouldn’t paper over this fact …

“Australia Day is evolving to incorporate the full expression of our history in a respectful manner. In Sydney, the first point of contact, the day begins with the WugulOra (one mob) morning ceremony at Barangaroo with Land Council chair councillor Yvonne Weldon. There is a traditional smoking ceremony that burns through the previous night on Goat Island (Me-Mel). The National Australia Day Council under Danni Roche has adopted the tagline ‘Reflect, Respect, Celebrate. We’re all part of the story’. Australia Day has evolved.”

Australia must heed urgent calls for increased visa places for AfghansSajjad Askary, Sitarah Mohammadi (The Age): “On Friday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke announced that the Australian government will be allocating 15,000 visas to Afghan nationals — 10,000 humanitarian visas, and 5000 for family visas under the migration program. While this was welcome news, what was missing from the headline was the fact that the allocation would be made over the next four years, and the humanitarian visas would come out of an already existing annual humanitarian program of 13,750 …

“It is also deeply concerning that five months after the return of the Taliban to power, no humanitarian visas have yet been granted by the Australian government, and this latest announcement, after so many months of uncertainty, still leaves humanitarian places unfilled. By contrast, in 2015 the Abbott government pledged 12,000 additional visas to Syrian refugees on top of the 13,750 existing humanitarian visas. Such a commitment is urgently needed from the Morrison government to prevent persecution and killings that will inevitably result from Taliban oppression of vulnerable groups and ethnic minorities.”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • The state and territory recipients for the 2022 Australian of the Year Awards will go to a reception at Government House (Yarralumla).

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Writers and critics Ronnie Scott, Elizabeth Flux, Daniel James, Mark Brandi, Declan Fry, and Michael McGirr will be at the Queen Victoria Gardens to discuss the shortlisted books for the 2022 Prize for Fiction, ahead of the 2022 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)

  • Singer-songwriter Stewart Herbertson will host Second Shot, a retrospective about the comebacks, supergroups, and one hit wonders of the 1980s, held at His Majesty’s Theatre, downstairs at The Maj.