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ELECTRIC GREEN

The Greens are proposing a $40 billion rethink of electricity, ABC reports, which would see the Snowy Hydro become a not-for-profit renewables generator, coal and gas plants phased out by 2030, and a reversal of a $600 million cash injection into a Hunter Valley gas plant. Dare to dream? The Greens could hold the balance of power in the May election, and although it ruled out a Labor coalition, the third-largest party could still hold serious leverage.

This news comes as Origin Energy confirms it’ll close its Lake Macquarie coal-fired power plant seven years earlier than planned (by 2025), The Australian ($) reports, because of the low cost of renewables. The NSW government hopped to it, confirming they’d bolster energy sources in addition to Eraring’s second life as a battery-operated site. Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor says he’s “bitterly” disappointed, saying a 700-megawatt battery that “lasts for two hours” can’t replace a 2800 megawatt coal fire power station. His NSW counterpart Matt Kean was like, duh — “He knows full well that we’ll be unlocking existing supply — it’s not a battery replacing a power station”. So could the price of electricity rise? Energy Users Association of Australia’s boss told the Oz there could be higher prices for a couple of years.

During an interview on 2GB, Taylor was pretty grumpy about Origin’s decision, which he only became aware of the night before. Origin has been speaking to Kean for six months but apparently asked to keep things confidential. Why? Well, Guardian Australia writes, companies are frustrated with the federal government’s sluggish approach to electricity’s changing face. Consumer cost is often held up as the trump card, but the Australian Energy Market Operator has before said we can handle it. The Guardian’s Adam Morton says Origin may have learnt from AGL’s similar move that if you tell the government, it’ll pressure you to stay open.

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ENDS MIDNIGHT

HUAWEI OR THE HIGHWAY

The former boss of ASIO is livid about Liberal Senator James Paterson’s “grubby” attack yesterday, Guardian Australia reports. Paterson, who is the chair of Parliament’s committee on intelligence and security, said Dennis Richardson had backed Chinese telco Huawei to be a part of our 5G rollout back in 2018 (Huawei was later barred from Australia amid security concerns, as cnet reported). Paterson says he thinks it was a top decision, even if Richardson “disagrees”. Except Richardson wasn’t in government in 2018 — he was during Huawei’s stab at 4G involvement though, and Richardson was against Huawei. At the time, however, AFR reports, he did float the idea of a tough cyber-security unit — like the UK did — instead of just banning Huawei outright.

So why did Paterson even say it? Well, along with heading up ASIO, Richardson is also the former secretary of the departments of foreign affairs and defence and Australia’s former ambassador to Washington. So it made waves when Richardson accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of politicising national security — something a lot of people are saying, as Reuters reports — not that Morrison cares, as AFR continues. Richardson questioned why Morrison is trying to make himself look tougher on China, as Sky News reports, considering it’s a bipartisan issue. Outspoken Senator Jacqui Lambie put it succinctly when she said yesterday, “I don’t even know what their policies are … how about get back to basics going into an election instead of slagging each other off?” as news.com.au reports.

MORE ARGY BARGY

Yesterday, your Worm included candidates in the Climate 200 family from coverage in The Australian ($), including former mayor Despi O’Connor. Hmm — not quite — there’s actually been a tussle between independents in the seat soon to be vacated by Health Minister Greg Hunt. O’Connor was running as part of the Voices of Mornington Peninsula, but decided to go it alone instead. That saw doctor Sarah Russell endorsed in Flinders — though it is not clear now which woman will receive the Climate 200 funding, the SMH reports. O’Connor was invited to apply, the fund’s executive director says, but Russell is allowed to as well.

Speaking of argy bargy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has given the NSW Liberals 10 days to get themselves sorted otherwise he’ll step in, the SMH reports. The NSW Liberals are at factional civil war but the standoff means the Liberals still don’t have candidates in key seats like Farrer, Mitchell, and North Sydney. For the second time yesterday, the party’s state executive failed to endorse two members of Morrison’s cabinet — Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley — as well as Trent Zimmerman, which would’ve protected them from a local preselection. What a mess.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Every summer, battalions from coast to coast ready themselves. Some practice holding one leg up in the hopes of eliciting sympathy. Some perfect their throaty squawk, an unyielding demand for food. Others set their sights on what’s worked before — the area near bins certainly, but in particular the outdoor diners. Their objective? A salty hot chippie. Seagulls are a constant fixture when dining alfresco, but one cafe near Sydney’s Opera House has decided to bring in an unusual type of security to keep the gulls at bay — Ziggy the border collie.

Ziggy is just one of several dogs chasing the seagulls before they can snatch food, and the cafe staff can’t believe how well it’s working. “It’s been a gamechanger,” one manager told the BBC. He says food replacement has drastically declined, as has the amount of broken glassware and plates. “It’s been absolutely amazing,” he continued. Dog handler Carla Shoobert says it’s a tough gig to get — “we do use dogs that already have a temperament that’s more inclined to chase things,” she says. And the cafe-goers are loving it too, with one saying there’s no more stomping to scare the gulls away. Only relaxation as you enjoy the priceless harbour view.

Wishing you a bright idea today, folks, and have a restful weekend ahead.

SAY WHAT?

I’ve never been to a rally for Donald Trump, and what we’ve seen here this week is the importation of Trumpian rhetoric, where truth doesn’t matter and facts don’t matter.

Anthony Albanese

The opposition leader sparked an uproar in Parliament after using the Trump card to skewer his opponent Scott Morrison about falsehoods amid accusations the PM has weaponised national security this week.

CRIKEY RECAP

What in the Wordle is caulk?

“Caulk was the most-searched word or phrase on Australian Google yesterday, beating out a fatal shark attack and Prince Andrew’s settlement for the top spot.

“The spike of searches could be considered evidence of something that much of the web seems to be in consensus about: that since The New York Times acquired the word game for a tidy seven-figure sum, the words have been getting harder. The NYT says this is just a ‘coincidence’ — and, look, I believe it.”


‘We need to walk free again’: former resident of Pentecostal-linked centre calls for accountability

Beth Panton was 17 when her family sent her to Esther House. Like others in the Pentecostal-linked facility, the family was deeply religious. Both her parents worked as missionaries. Panton stayed for four years. After graduating from the Esther rehab program, she returned to work with the young women and girls …

“But Panton’s view of Esther house changed dramatically. By early 2020 she decided to take complaints about Esther to the WA police.”


Red China? Scott Morrison’s problems are local. Very local

“Demonstrating that one should no longer prognosticate on election outcomes until all the votes are counted, a different picture of Saturday’s NSW byelections is now emerging. Instead of a small swing against Labor in Strathfield, there appears to have been a small swing in two-party-preferred terms to Labor’s Jason Yat-Sen Li, with both major parties losing votes to walking inner-west cliché Elizabeth Farrelly running as an independent.

“And Willoughby has become lineball after prepolls swung much more strongly in favour of independent Larissa Penn than expected, leaving another walking cliché, right-wing white male Liberal Tim James, on tenterhooks.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Nationals failed to disclose $1m payment until after AEC audit (The SMH)

Simon Nellist: Sydney shark victim named locally as British man (BBC)

[New Zealand] student not just top of class but top of world for English (NZ Herald)

‘Like a war zone’: Deaths in Brazil floods, mudslides top 100 (Al Jazeera)

Apple boss Tim Cook faces backlash to £73m pay package (BBC)

Liberals pressed for more evidence to justify invoking controversial Emergencies Act (CBC)

Concern Australia’s listing all of Hamas as a terrorist organisation will harm ordinary Palestinians (SBS)

Dutch PM apologises for state’s role in abuses in 1940s Indonesian war (The Guardian)

France, European allies announce military withdrawal from Mali (Al Jazeera)

Russia accuses Ukrainian military of ‘crimes’ in report to U.N (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

How rich is Donald Trump really? (CNN)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Morrison has sown the seeds for a scare campaign, and Albanese doesn’t know whether they’ll growMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “The government’s campaign over the past fortnight’s parliamentary sitting has been full of gross exaggeration and, on the issue of policy on China, it has been outrageous and irresponsible. It’s a mark of Morrison’s desperation, and it carries risks of backfiring. The question remains, however, whether the assault will be effective. Or will the government just harm itself by going over the top?

“We’ve seen many scare campaigns through the years that have had little regard for the truth. Labor’s ‘Mediscare’ claims in 2016 about an alleged Coalition threat to Medicare was potent, despite lacking substance. But the Morrison government’s effort is among the most brazen. Without a compelling positive agenda of its own, the government believes — or hopes — that Albanese, who is still not well defined in the public’s mind, is potentially a soft target in the two key policy areas where the Coalition usually has an advantage — national security and economics.”

Colleagues aren’t celebrated much in the annals of friendship — but I’ve really missed mineBrigid Delaney (Guardian Australia): “The pandemic also destroyed weak ties — the friendships, acquaintances and pleasant interactions that occurred as a byproduct of our daily lives. It might have been the barista you saw every day, or the security guard you talked to several times a day at your office, or the other parents at the school gate. It’s also our colleagues — people we don’t select to spend time with but often end up physically with for longer periods than our families. Or we did, before.

“While it can feel like some old friendships are disintegrating before our eyes, now is the time to rebuild the weak ties in our lives. A weak tie won’t replace your childhood best friend, but strong weak ties can improve wellbeing and a sense of being connected with wider communities … Many of these previously vibrant work friendships are on ice. Or people have left (without a leaving do, without ceremony, a card, or… anything). New people have started – in fact they started so long ago they are no longer new. But all this is also exciting. It feels like renewal. Our weak ties are waiting for us — all we have to do is connect.”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Kaurna Country (also known as Adelaide)

  • The Adelaide Fringe Festival (February 18 to March 20) kicks off! There’s loads on, with comedy, music, theatre, and workshops held across Adelaide and South Australia.

Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)

  • Motivational speaker Turia Pitt and dual Olympic Gold medal swimmer Bronte Campbell are among those at a Healthy You 2022, a brunch and yoga session at Centennial Park.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Journalist Pip Courtney is in conversation at Avid Reader with ABC Breakfast host Lisa Millar discussing her memoir Daring to Fly: The TV star on facing fear and finding joy on a deadline. You can catch it online too.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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