Sydney cut off from country

Sydney has been cut off from the rest of Australia and placed under tightened restrictions, after recording 16 new local cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday.

What we know:

  • People who live or work in the local government areas (LGAs) of City of Sydney, Waverley, Randwick, Canada Bay, Inner West, Bayside and Woollahra are forbidden to leave the city for the next seven days unless required (Nine); 
  • Nine people tested positive after attending a West Hoxton birthday party with a person who worked at the exposure site of Westfield Bondi Junction;
  • New restrictions came into force yesterday afternoon for Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Shellharbour, including no more than five visitors to any household (Nine); 
  • NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said there was “zero” truth to reports the state was planning to announce a lockdown by Friday (; 
  • WA and SA closed their borders to NSW, while all other states targeted the seven LGAs (ABC); 
  • Only 20% of the NSW population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot (ABC). 

Visas granted to Biloela family

Immigration minister Alex Hawke has granted three members of the Murugappan family bridging visas, providing the asylum seekers with work and study rights in Perth.

What we know:

  • Hawke exercised his powers under the Migration Act to grant the three-month visa after deciding it was in the public interest;
  • “This decision allows three members of the family to reside in the Perth community on bridging visas while the youngest child’s medical care, and the family’s legal matters, are ongoing," said Hawke.
  • The one family member excluded is four-year-old Tharnicaa, whose illness prompted the family’s medical evacuation from Christmas Island to Perth;
  • “While we welcome Priya, Nades and Kopika being granted bridging visas, we wonder what precisely is the minister’s objective in denying little Tharni one,” said Home to Bilo spokesperson Angela Fredericks;
  • The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Kon Karapanagiotidis said it was a positive step but noted bridging visas didn’t offer “security, permanence or the chance to call where their kids were born home” (The New Daily). 

It comes as:

  • The High Court overturned a landmark legal ruling that had secured the release of a Syrian refugee (SBS);
  • The ruling found the federal court had erred in its decision that the refugee was unlawfully detained as no arrangements had been made for his deportation;
  • The refugee has been asked to pay the government’s legal costs for the case, and may face a return to potentially indefinite detention.

Nationals launch water war

The Nationals blindsided Liberal colleagues on Wednesday, proposing amendments to a government bill in a bid to reduce environmental flows under the basin plan.

The party’s Senate leader Bridget McKenzie denied the move was linked to Barnaby Joyce reassuming the leadership, claiming it had been secretly developed for “months” (The Guardian). 

Liberals joined with Labor on Wednesday evening to defeat two sets of amendments proposed by the Nationals.

The amendments proposed:

  • Banning the government from buying back water from farmers to return it to the environment;
  • Removing requirements that 450 gigalitres be returned to the river unless it achieves “neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes”;
  • Prohibiting further water being taken when the plan concludes in 2024.

Roberts-Smith denies making threats

Ben Roberts-Smith has been accused in court of threatening a fellow SAS veteran and pouring petrol on a laptop to burn evidence.

Taking the stand in his defamation trial against the media, Roberts-Smith denied writing a threatening letter to the soldier who he allegedly gave “one chance to save” himself about investigations into allegations of war crimes (Canberra Times). 

Roberts-Smith also denied allegations he intimidated another soldier whose house was raided by police after an anonymous complaint was made about “illegal weapons”.

The Victoria Cross winner in addition defended his pouring of petrol on a laptop and setting it on fire as his standard approach to protecting private information such as passwords.


Sky News radicalising the regions

A dedicated 24-hour Sky News Regional channel becoming available on free-to-air television has sparked concerns that country Australians will be radicalised by the increasingly right-wing media outlet.

Sky News will replace its broadcast deal with the WIN network with access to Southern Cross Austereo's regional markets reaching up to 7m Australians (ABC). 

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd warned the decline of regional newspapers would see Sky’s “Fox News” style approach dominate.

“What I fear is it will entirely skew local debates about local concerns and local communities in a particularly mad direction,” he said.

That includes the channel’s boosting of conspiracy theories such as the “Great Reset” and that climate change is a hoax (Crikey).


Covid vaccination allocations horizons.

In an official document the federal government rebrands its vaccine targets as a “horizon” — you know, that distant place which never gets any closer no matter how fast you run towards it (


Postscript: The soothing, slightly sinister world of productivity hacks

What began around 2013 with floral bullet-journal spreads and biology notes titled with calligraphy is now a cottage industry with the frenzied energy of a speed run through Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Everything is beautiful and pulsating with stress, and pastel notebooks and frothy matcha lattes bracket 15-hour days of studying, work, and “self-improvement” (Vox).


Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.