IN THE WATCHDOG’S SIGHTS
ICAC is reportedly deciding whether to investigate former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro’s appointment to a plum NY job paying half a million dollars, according to the SMH. There were some truly explosive allegations aired at one of the two inquiries delving into the appointment — among them, former Investment NSW bureaucrat Jenny West saying she was stripped of the role prior last year because it was “a present for someone”, as AFR continues. Big yikes.
So here’s the timeline: West was offered the senior trade and investment commissioner role in August — by October, it was withdrawn. West says her boss at Investment NSW, Amy Brown, delivered the bad news, saying she was “upset” for West who was an “extraordinary performer”, but continuing that West’s gig at Investment NSW doesn’t exist anymore either. So West was made redundant. Barilaro got the job in April and it was made public in June, but he has since stepped down.
Speaking of corruption watchdogs — former Victorian Labor candidate Justin Napoleon Mammarella has admitted to lying to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) about 713 taxpayer-funded envelopes. Guardian Australia reports he pled guilty on Monday to charges relating to a conspiracy to tell the IBAC that the envelopes were for disability services provider Autism Plus — but they were allegedly destined for Labor members in Melton who were endorsing him for the legislative assembly seat.
OUTBREAK AT SEA, SEEING THE OUTBREAK
Victoria’s public hospitals are getting ready to suspend some elective surgery to deal with climbing COVID hospitalisations, The Age reports, as patient numbers reach their highest level since January’s Omicron wave. The state’s ambulance union also warned that up to half of all paramedics dealing with life-threatening callouts are unavailable on any given shift. There are 717 people in hospital with COVID in Victoria, up from 459 a fortnight ago.
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Meanwhile, the Coral Princess cruise ship has informed passengers there are “elevated positive case numbers among crew”, in addition to more than a dozen COVID cases over the weekend, The Courier-Mail ($) reports. As of last night, Queensland Health says there were 100 cases among the 2300 people on board, The Australian ($) reports. Among the passengers were Wendy and her husband Bruce who told the Courier ($) they were angry the company didn’t tell them about the positive cases before they boarded in Brisbane. Wendy said the buffet was self-serve and people were coughing, calling it the “cruise from hell”.
Meanwhile people living with long COVID are frustrated they are unable to access disability support payments. One man told the ABC he feels “forgotten by the government” — which could partly be down to the fact we don’t really know how widespread long COVID is, and haven’t yet universally defined it. The government says it’s any symptoms that linger longer than four weeks, but some sufferers say their ordeal has been months- or years-long now. One study suggested women and those with comorbidities are more likely to have it, while another found about 5% of cases were still suffering three months later — about 400,000 people at least. Guardian Australia’s Melissa Davey delved into it, but attracted some ire online from sufferers, including ABC reporter Jess Davis amid claims she — and the experts she spoke to — downplayed its seriousness.
IN OUR DEFENCE
Deputy PM and Defence Minister Richard Marles has warned that Australia and the US must do more to avoid a “catastrophic failure” in the Indo-Pacific region, The Age reports. Marles made the comments in Washington, continuing that we are seeing “a military build-up occurring at a rate unseen since World War II” and that we “can’t afford to stand still”. It’s his first trip to the US since taking office under the Albanese government.
Meanwhile, the prime minister says Australia could become a renewable energy superpower by turning off coal, the SMH reports. Australia has one of the highest growth rates in renewable energy, plus some of the best critical minerals deposits (and a hell of a lot of sunshine), the paper adds. Albanese has also promised Australia is “ready to do our part” to help create a net-zero world — we’ll deepen our relationship with Pacific Island and South-East Asian nations and triple global investment in renewables by 2050, The Australian ($) reports. Albanese will make the comments today at the Sydney Energy Forum, the paper says.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Melbourne delivery driver Sami was strolling up to a house to drop off some food when he heard a bit of a commotion inside. Dogs were barking ferociously from behind the door, and Sami, suddenly unsure, pauses, wondering what to do. He tentatively asks through the door: should I just leave the food here? To which he hears a man shout, “Get away from the door, mate!”
Sami gingerly places the food down, saying, “One second, please,” before departing the house. How do we know all this? The occupant, Mark, has a security camera. Watching the scene back on his security footage, Mark was devastated. The thing is, Mark was yelling at his dogs to scram, not Sami the delivery driver. As is the Australian way, “mate” is a very versatile word. It can be aggressive or friendly, depending on your tone, and it can be used to refer to beings of all kinds — including our faithful canines.
So Mark uploaded the security footage to his social media, saying, “I’m genuinely losing sleep over this.” He appealed to viewers to help him find Sami so he could apologise, as Pedestrian tells it, and within three days, the video had been viewed more than 30 million times. One of those views was Mara, who immediately recognised Sami the delivery driver as her dad. Proving happy endings are possible, Mark and Sami met up so Mark could apologise and say thank you to him in person. “It was great to meet him and his family, who are so, so proud of him, working to raise money to go and see his son overseas,” Mark said of the interaction. Meanwhile, the food delivery service’s social team announced they would be boosting Sami’s pay for being so sweet.
Wishing you a little miracle today too.
In the stage to Lausanne I tore my glute muscle. It’s like pedalling with one leg. I fought it yesterday, I really wanted to see if I can get past this point of pain [but] it’s just too much. It’s like having a knife in your arse, more or less. So it’s pretty brutal.
The Australian yellow jersey hopeful has withdrawn from the Tour de France with a pain in the ass. He finished fourth last year — but during this year’s ninth stage, he had to put this year’s race behind him, having bottomed out his perseverance. Feel better soon, O’Connor! We’ll be cheering him on at the Vuelta a España later this year instead, and no doubt the 26-year-old West Aussie will be back on the Tour next year.
The Uber Files show how a tech company convinced the world it was innovative rather than just illegal
“At the core of Uber’s business was an exploitative business model that relied on a new class of underpaid, insecure workers now accessible due to the invention of the smartphone. Combined with access to a flood of cash from investors desperate to park their money somewhere useful in a global low-growth environment, this allowed the tech company to rapidly receive a multibillion-dollar valuation with tens of millions of users in dozens of countries across the world.
“The company courted a generation of users who were lured in by a useful product with a seamless user experience at an unbelievable price. People based life decisions around where to live and whether to buy a car around a heavily subsidised product that relied on a supply of cheap labour willing to work in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. This, of course, didn’t last.”
“The relationships go back a long way: Trump became a celebrity in the 1980s courtesy of Murdoch’s tilt to gossip in the New York Post. Morrison first won Liberal preselection off The Daily Telegraph’s reporting (subsequently found to be, in part, defamatory at the Tele’s expense).
“Johnson has been a long-time family ally, standing up for the Murdochs as London mayor over the News International phone-hacking scandal, sticking fast even once it came out that he, too, had been hacked, shrugging it off with a ‘they all do it’ insouciance. He was a regular guest of Rupert Murdoch, hunkered down in the English countryside through COVID.”
“Of course, Morrison was by this stage a known entity, having taken over the prime ministership in the 2018 leadership spill. And as electoral history records, he came into government very light on policy, and the PM seemed to have decided less (talking) was more. He had a honeymoon — from the journalists.
“But that wasn’t always the case. Back in 2018, when Morrison officially took over from Malcolm Turnbull, his first seven weeks in the role looked very much like Albanese’s. In fact, he was busier. The former treasurer had 40 media interviews — 15 on TV, 25 on radio.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Most Democrats don’t want Biden in 2024, new poll shows (The New York Times)
Twitter stock drops after Elon Musk looks to nix deal (The Wall Street Journal) ($)
Four ways to avoid a Covid meltdown — Greg Sheridan (The Australian) ($): “The Victorian government was the worst with irrational extremes in social control. The 8pm curfew held no health benefits at all. Civil libertarians, though often wildly overstating their case, did a service to the debate by contesting these rulings, even as the vast majority of the population perfectly sensibly obeyed whatever rules were mandated. The federal government’s main mistake was wild overspending, with the dreadfully designed JobKeeper scheme a case in point. So there’s lots to criticise in our performance.
“But overall we did very well, saving many tens of thousands of lives, expressing a good deal of social solidarity, and with our health professionals performing magnificently. We always think a virus will become more infectious and less deadly. But there’s no guarantee of that. The virus doesn’t care whether it’s more or less deadly. It just wants to survive by being more infectious. Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 achieve that mainly by dodging acquired immunity. Soon there will be vaccines that target Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. But who knows what the virus will be up to by then? Mostly viruses ravage completely ‘naive’, or previously unexposed, communities that haven’t built up any immunity. There are only a few things we can reasonably do now.”
We must defend our ancient history from further desecration at Murujuga — Raelene Cooper and Josie Alec (The SMH): “We are Mardudhunera and Kuruma Marduthunera traditional custodians of Murujuga, also known as the Burrup Peninsula, in Western Australia. This week, we travelled to the United Nations in Switzerland to bring awareness of the destruction and desecration that industry has already, and is intending to, inflict on Murujuga and the sacred rock art there. We use the word ‘inflict’ as it best describes the way we feel about the impact of industry on the area – it is an attack on our culture, the plants, animals, water and air of Ngurra (Mother Earth).
“Murujuga is home to over a million petroglyphs and rock art engravings, tens of thousands of years old. It is currently nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but this Country and world heritage have not been protected. Government and industry have acquired land under duress, creating division and chaos. Industry has removed and destroyed our rock art in another form of cultural genocide. This has caused loss of our traditional livelihoods, traditional Indigenous knowledge and our spiritual relationship with the land. There has been displacement and ecological degradation.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy and Essential Media’s Pete Lewis will unpack the fortnight’s political news in a webinar held by The Australia Institute.
Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Energy Minister Chris Bowen, special adviser to the Australian government on low-emissions technology Alan Finkel, the International Energy Agency’s Fatih Birol, Fortescue Metals Group’s Andrew Forrest, Institute of Energy Economics Japan Tatsuya Terazawa, Siemens Corporation’s Barbara Humpton, and US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will speak at Sydney Energy Forum 2022.