Outbreaks sweep the nation

An emergency meeting of Australia's national security committee will today consider Covid-19 spot fires in NSW, the NT, WA and Queensland.

An unscheduled national cabinet meeting could also be held as soon as today as concerns mount regarding the Delta strain of the virus that took hold in Sydney (SBS). 

What we know:

  • Sydney recorded 30 new locally acquired cases and a raft of new exposure sites on Sunday, as the NSW government faced criticism over the time taken to decide to lock down the city (SMH); 
  • The Greater Darwin region entered a 48-hour lockdown after the detection of five new cases at a mine where hundreds of fly-in fly-out workers were potentially exposed (NT News); 
  • WA tightened its border controls, placed new restrictions on Perth and Peel, and updated exposure sites after a positive case entered the state from Sydney (Nine); 
  • Queensland recorded three new local cases, including one worker returning from the NT mine, and added more than 20 new exposure sites (7News); 
  • Canberra will make face masks mandatory indoors from Monday due to connections with NSW (Canberra Times). 
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Laming sues Milligan

Liberal MP Andrew Laming has launched defamation action against ABC journalist Louise Milligan for tweets that he claims damaged his “personal and professional reputation”.

Federal Court documents claim Milligan defamed him on social media after revelations he took a photo of a young woman as she bent over at her workplace (The Australian). 

The woman later complained to police, who cleared Laming of any criminal offence (ABC). 

The documents claim Milligan’s tweets were “sensational, accusatory” and had a “spiteful tone”.

“Question: If Andrew Laming (who BTW was one of the names volunteered to me in the off the record conversations with women staffers and politicians in research for Inside the Canberra Bubble) is leaving at the next election because of a series of incidents he admits to, why not now,” one of Milligan’s posts read.

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Joyce promotes supporters

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has reshuffled the party’s front bench, replacing his detractors with key supporters who helped his return to the deputy prime ministership.

The changes:

  • Barnaby Joyce has given himself infrastructure, transport and regional development;
  • Bridget McKenzie replaces Mark Coulton on regional communications and regional education, and also takes on regionalisation, drought and emergency management;
  • Andrew Gee assumes veterans’ affairs and defence personnel, replacing the highly rated Darren Chester;
  • Keith Pitt is pushed out of cabinet but will retain the outer ministries of resources and water;
  • David Littleproud will be responsible for agriculture and Northern Australia;
  • David Gillespie takes regional health and deputy leader of the House;
  • Kevin Hogan gets assistant minister to the deputy prime minister and assistant minister for local government;
  • Susan McDonald will be the envoy for Northern Australia;
  • Former leader Michael McCormack was overlooked and will be relegated to the back bench (ABC). 
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Smaller, older Australia

Australia is predicted to be smaller and older than previously expected, according to the latest intergenerational report.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today launch the latest edition of the five-yearly report, which finds the pandemic has slowed both Australia’s birth rate and inflow of migrants while increasing government debt (The Conversation). 

The report downgrades the 2015 forecast of a national population of 40m by 2054-55 to 38m by 2060-61.

Roughly 23% of the population is estimated to be over 65, up from 16% today.

Aged care spending is projected to nearly double as a share of the economy.

Despite this, the Coalition remains committed to limiting the tax take to 23.9% of GDP.

“Growing the economy is Australia’s pathway to budget repair, not austerity or higher taxes,” Frydenberg will say.

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Charities warn laws will “muzzle” them

Australian charities say new restrictions proposed by the Morrison government are an attempt to “muzzle” their advocacy work.

The rules, which are expected to be tabled in the Senate within days, could see charities lose their tax-deductible donation status if they promote trespass or property damage (The Guardian).

They could also be targeted if they use social media accounts to “actively promote” others to engage in unlawful activities.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, who oversees the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, says the regulations are needed to crack down on activist organisations “masquerading as charities” (SBS). 

Charities say the laws will enable them to be deregistered for minor offences like staff members blocking a footpath at a public vigil or speaking or tweeting in support of a public demonstration.

“This is an astonishing overreach of power in a democracy. The effect is to muzzle charities on politically sensitive issues,” Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said.

An alliance of 77 organisations including Amnesty International and The Fred Hollows Foundation took out a full-page national newspaper ad last week calling for the plan to be abandoned. 

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I’m fit, I’m strong, I’m healthy.

After injuring his back in March, Victorian premier Dan Andrews returns to work today — no doubt just in time for News Corp to find a way to blame him for the Covid-19 outbreaks sweeping the nation (Nine).

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Postscript: A Rhythmic Stop-Motion Short Reveals the Juicy Insides of Tropical Fruit Slice by Slice

Toronto-based animator Kevin Parry peels back the layers of kiwi, mangoes and other tropical fruits to unveil their colourful, fleshy insides from skin to core. Paired with a satisfying track of succulent, cracking sounds, the timelapse cycles through even, cross-section cuts that presents the juicy fare in a rhythmic progression (Colossal).

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