(Image: AAP/Bianca de Marchi)

SO MANY DYNAMOS

Independent candidate for Kooyong Monique Ryan is taking the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to court because around 200,000 COVID-positive voters may not be able to vote, as SBS reports. Here’s what happened, as Crikey explains: voters who tested positive after Wednesday can still vote by phone — but voters who tested positive before Wednesday and are still in their seven-day isolation can’t — and they probably won’t get their ballot papers delivered by post in time to vote. Besides, postal voting applications closed at 6pm on Wednesday, leaving them with no voting options. Why can’t they just change the Wednesday cutoff then? Well, it’s written into the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and can’t be changed by the AEC, as Crikey’s Cam Wilson says. So Ryan is lodging a legal challenge against Special Minister of State Ben Morton in the Federal Court today — and I gotta say, it really does seem like something the AEC should’ve planned for. Ryan pointed out on Twitter that the number of voters who tested positive is 1.2% of the entire electoral roll, and it’s certainly enough to determine the result in several close races — including Kooyong.

To another legal proceeding now, Climate 200 backer Simon Holmes à Court has launched a defamation action against The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail and is considering suing Liberal MP Dave Sharma. Each accused Holmes à Court of using a Holocaust reference when he tweeted former PM John Howard appearing in threatened seats like Kooyong was like the “angel of death”. The term was used to describe Nazi death camp physician Josef Mengele — but Holmes à Court said it was in reference to a Saturday Paper story where an unnamed Liberal labelled Howard thus, and besides, the angel of death is originally a biblical reference among others. Indeed a Wikipedia page for the term “angel of death” lists 34 actual or fictional individuals with the moniker. It’s been a bit of a rough week for Holmes à Court, who is also suing Senator Jane Hume for her claims he influences 21 teal independents in the Climate 200 group — he had a run-in with Hume earlier this week which it seems Josh Frydenberg was filming. Frydenberg can be heard saying, “I agree with everything she says”, as The Age reports. Yikes.

NAME NOW ONE MAN

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is going hard on Labor’s costings after yesterday showed the country’s deficit bill would be $8 billion larger under Anthony Albanese, as the SMH reports. The Labor leader has repeatedly said better quality spending (particularly in childcare, skills and training) and slashing money wastage from the budget would act as a counter to the debt (though not offset it completely). But Morrison pointed to the unemployment rate hitting a long-time low of 3.9% yesterday in boasting about his own economic management in light of the costings — though The Australian ($) points out the ASX tumbled yesterday after Wall Street registered its worst day of trading since 2020, so things aren’t exactly going amazingly across the board. The AFR reckons the Coalition is closing the gap between itself and Labor however — a new poll this morning showed Labor’s primary vote has fallen two points to 36%, still ahead of the Coalition’s three-point jump to 35%. Morrison and Albanese are racing to win 74 lower house seats — it’s two short of a majority, but both are counting on crossbenchers to get them over the line, The Age says. Labor needs seven net seats to avoid a hung Parliament.

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So what seats should we watch in the final day of the campaign? The Courier-Mail ($) (a Queensland paper, worth mentioning) reports the Sunshine state will decide the election — Labor could win one to three seats in Queensland, with Brisbane, Leichhardt, and Longman all under the microscope. Of the 30 seats in Queensland, the Coalition has 23 of them, Labor has six, and independent Bob Katter has the remaining one. In WA, it looks like Labor could pick up Pearce according to a new poll from The West ($). It’s the seat recently vacated by former attorney-general Christian Porter, and it’s one of two in WA — Swan being the other — that Labor is hoping to snatch. The Herald Sun ($) says there are 14 seats to watch at this stage, among them Chisholm, Boothby, and Reid.

DRAWN ONWARD

If we reduce our COVID transmission by just 20% we could save 2000 Australian lives this year, The Conversation reports this morning. Our death toll from the virus is rising — but mandates are a dirty word this election campaign. People are sick of the rules, but 5687 people have died with COVID this year since January, and our seven-day average is 315 dead a week at the moment. So who are they? About two in five — or 41% — are in aged care, while about 70% have chronic health issues. About 90% have died “from” COVID (as in, this was the cause of death) while the remainder saw COVID speed things up, so to speak. It’s grim stuff.

Speaking of aged care, the industry is grappling with outbreaks in almost 30% of the nation’s residential facilities, Guardian Australia reports this morning. The sector is calling for the government to bring back COVID-prevention funding — while workers in South Australia and Queensland are about to walk off the job over unfair pay and conditions. And yet COVID hasn’t been a major focus lately — ABC continues this morning that neither Prime Minister Scott Morrison nor Labor leader Anthony Albanese have announced plans for the long-term impacts of the pandemic — though we have seen medicine cost reduction, more for Medicare and GPs, and senior health pledges to be fair. But the broadcaster’s medical reporter Sophie Scott says we need a plan for more vaccine supply, antiviral medications, and emerging variants. And what about long COVID, she asks? Clinics set up to deal with it are overwhelmed.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

A little pub in England’s south has just won a standoff with one of the world’s biggest brands. It all began when the Star Inn at Vogue, which has been serving up pints of lager for at least 150 years, received a rather terse letter from mega-publisher Condé Nast out of the blue. The stern letter read that the company was concerned about an inferred connection between the pub’s name and Vogue magazine — which has a global readership of 22.5 million. The letter continued with a rather heavy-handed request for the pub to change its name to avoid “problems arising” (hmm, sounds like British speak for “legal proceedings”). Mark Graham, the pub’s landlord for 17 years, read the letter in his little old pub in Vogue and promptly cracked up.

He sat down and patiently responded to Condé Nast that the village of Vogue had been there for a couple of hundred years, and, not to be petty, but, well, we were here first. Graham continued that Madonna had named a hit song “Vogue” in 1990, and Madge had not asked the village’s permission either. Shortly afterwards, a rather sheepish response from the suits at Condé Nast reached Graham. It said: “You are quite correct to note that further research by our team would have identified that we did not need to send such a letter on this occasion”. The company has since sent the pub a framed apology reading “From one Vogue to another — please accept our apologies”. But Graham says he’s thinking he might start up his own Parish publication — and call it Vogue magazine.

Wishing you a win against the odds today too, and have a restful weekend ahead.

SAY WHAT?

Right now, NSW has a minority government. Working with both sides, an independent in that government just had his voluntary assisted dying laws passed. That’s how government should work. That’s what independents can do.

Allegra Spender

Granted she’s not exactly unbiased as an independent candidate herself, but Spender — who is challenging Wentworth’s Dave Sharmapointed out a minority government can have its benefits. Julia Gillard’s minority government saw some major reform, like Gonski, the NDIS, and the Parliamentary Budget Office.

CRIKEY RECAP

Sales and Grimshaw: a tale of two interviews — but only one killer blow     

[ABC’s Leigh] Sales returned to the question. And on it went. This type of interview is very much standard fare nowadays, where tedious quibbling about the norms of interaction often overwhelms any useful discussion about the issues. The problem is partly in the interview method. The approach is somewhat scattergun, relying on questions around a range of issues — a series of separate assaults, with the hope that one will deliver a killer blow. But this rarely happens. Heat is generated, but little light. In all this the viewer is invariably the loser.

“Cue the [A Current Affair’s Tracey] Grimshaw interview. It is interesting that many of her questions covered similar territory to Sales’. These were framed, however, in a very different way — not as a discrete and fairly predictable assortment of prongs, but as part of a larger sequence, one designed to maintain control of the interaction and to keep the agenda squarely in the interviewer’s hands. The success of the approach was clear. By interview’s end, Morrison was rattled and angry.”


PM’s tackle-gate begs the question: if Albanese can’t tackle a small kid, how can he tackle China!?

“The headlines followed pretty quickly. And props to every publication that got ‘bulldozer’ into the headline, but the winner goes to Gizmodo for this one: Australia’s Weirdo Prime Minister Tackles Child to the Ground, Birthing New Meme. But the coverage didn’t stop there — and now we get to the truly icky party of the situation. Acting Minister for Education Stuart Robert (a man who has a few things to tackle as well) fronted up on Radio National this morning and was asked about the tackle.

“His response perfectly encapsulated the Coalition’s attitude to blame-shifting, as he described the event as ‘an error by both of them’. Yes, according to the man in charge of education in this country, the seven-year-old was equally to blame for being tackled to the ground by a full-grown man during a casual training session in a non-contact sport. Righto.”


Nine publishes a tribute to Morrison the little-known feminist. But who wrote it?

“Crikey has also identified that the photograph of Morrison and Karen Harrington, published by the SMH, was taken on the night of Jen Morrison’s birthday. We have been handed another photograph of the night taken in the kitchen with the Morrisons all together. Other guests included close Morrison family friend Lynelle Stewart, who was Jen’s bridesmaid and who was on the government payroll for a period as a helper at Kirribilli House.

“Stewart’s husband, Tim, was the best-known QAnon figure in Australia until his Twitter accounts were shut down due to “coordinated harmful activity”. If only Stewart — who went by the Twitter codename Burned Spy — could talk, what kind of testimonial might he offer? Alas Morrison has been fighting moves by Guardian Australia for access to texts between him and Stewart on the subject of Stewart’s attempts to have the PM use the term ‘ritual abuse’ in his parliamentary apology to survivors of child sex abuse.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Israel will not investigate Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing (Al Jazeera)

Monkeypox cases investigated in Europe, US and Canada (BBC)

Chinese hackers tried to steal Russian defense data, report says (The New York Times)

Jordan king places half brother Prince Hamzah under house arrest (Al Jazeera)

Afghanistan’s female TV presenters must cover their faces, say Taliban (BBC)

GOP-led legislation would force breakup of Google’s ad business (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

Zelenskyy compares Russian laser threat to nonexistent Nazi ‘wonder weapon’ (The Guardian)

The enduring afterlife of a mass shooting’s livestream online (The New York Times)

[NZ] Budget 2022: Token gesture or real help? How $27 a week compares to actual price rises (Stuff)

Sri Lanka defaults on debts for first time (The Guardian)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Do we even want to solve housing affordability?Waleed Aly (The Age): “That is the philosophical root of all our problems. The moment housing became significantly about wealth accumulation, we created a political imperative that house prices must always go up. So, we constructed tax arrangements to encourage more investors, creating the perverse situation that you might be taxed more for working than for what you make in a passive, non-productive way by owning property. And when house prices inevitably galloped away from those trying to enter the market, our politics has inevitably shrugged and pressed on for a very simple reason: in this environment, housing affordability is widely received as a euphemism for destroying peoples’ investments.

“The result is a system that encourages people to take out loans they can barely afford, further inflating the market so that other people have to take out loans they can afford even less. More than 40% of borrowers are now experiencing mortgage stress, and this is a time of extremely low interest rates. Imagine now interest rates rise and property prices fall. A chunk of those people would default on their mortgages and be unable even to pay back the bank after selling the house. They would be financially ruined. Put simply, falling house prices now mean carnage. And frankly, the political cost of that greatly outweighs the cost of letting those who are locked out stay there.”

Numbers fly as unedifying campaign draws towards its closeMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “But the dying days have also seen some new economic figures that go to the heart of this election battle. The wage price index, released on Wednesday, underlined how people are going backwards in our now high inflation environment. It increased by 2.4% over the year to March, when inflation was 5.1%. This played for Labor, which is running hard on cost of living. Then on Thursday, the latest unemployment number, 3.9% in April, reinforced the government’s mantra on jobs …

“Labor left its release of its policy costings until Thursday, effectively as late as possible. It admitted it anticipated a scare campaign. But it has gambled that, now that deficits are enormous, having a cumulative deficit just $7.4 billion above the government’s $224 billion in the budget won’t be politically damaging. (The figure is $8.4 billion when a last-minute government saving announced this week is taken into account.) The Labor differences, compared to the budget, are: $1.1 billion in 2022-23; $1.7 billion in 2023-24; $2.2 billion in 2024-25; and $2.3 billion in 2025-26 … In other words, Labor argues it has a gap of only a few billions, and casts the extra spending as boosting productivity.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio and Star of the South’s Erin Coldham will speak at an event exploring Victoria’s burgeoning offshore wind industry.

  • Writer Helen Garner will join Sean O’Beirne, author of the recent monograph On Helen Garner, to discuss Helen Garner.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Writer Andrew Leggett will chat about his poetry anthology Losing Touch at Avid Reader bookshop. You can also catch this one online.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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