Afghan aid workers abandoned

Hundreds of Afghans facing Taliban threats over their involvement in Australian aid projects have been denied access to a ­special visa program.

What we know:

  • Correspondence from Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s office advised an Afghan aid worker involved in a AusAID ­infrastructure project he would not be considered for a visa (The Australian); 
  • “Unfortunately, you are not eligible for certification under this visa policy as you were not considered an employee of one of the Australian government agencies,” the letter read;
  • Retired Army Major Stuart McCarthy said the rejection letter was a “death warrant”, with 15 of the man’s former colleagues already feared murdered;
  • About 50 Afghan aid workers are heavily involved in Australian-led projects such as the Children of Uruzgan program;
  • They and their families, along with 100 contracted security guards and their families, will instead have to join the offshore asylum-seeker queue;
  • Roughly 200 Afghan interpreters employed by the Australian government are also still in the country awaiting immigration rulings;
  • The Department of Home ­Affairs said 230 Afghans had been granted special visas since April 15.

It comes as the situation further deteriorates in Afghanistan:

  • Australian troops formally left Afghanistan last week with the US also on the way out (ABC); 
  • The Taliban continues to make gains, taking over six districts in Badakhshan province (Reuters); 
  • More than 1000 Afghan soldiers fled to neighbouring Tajikistan to “save their own lives” after Taliban militants overwhelmed them.
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Banks makes allegations

Former Liberal MP Julia Banks has come forward with allegations that an MP inappropriately touched her, releasing extracts of a new memoir and conducting a host of interviews.

In the interviews and book she claims:

  • A cabinet MP slid his hand up her leg to her inner thigh during an event in the prime minister’s wing during the Turnbull government (ABC); 
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought to discredit and undermine her through intermediaries “like a menacing, controlling wallpaper” when she decided to leave Parliament after Malcolm Turnbull was deposed (news.com.au); 
  • That Morrison tried to hide her away when she did not vote for him during a leadership spill (Crikey); 
  • She would not take part in a review into workplace culture in Parliament House because she had no trust in the confidentiality of the process (The Guardian); 
  • Instead Banks would send a copy of her new memoir to the Jenkins review, but would go no further “based on my first-hand experience with the Morrison government”.
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AstraZeneca contract under wraps

The Federal Department of Health has refused to publicly release its vaccine supply agreement with AstraZeneca on the basis it would damage national security.

What we know:

  • The AstraZeneca vaccine was the cornerstone of the initial vaccine plan, with 50 million doses to be manufactured locally;
  • letter of intent has been made public but not the full contract;
  • The Department of Health denied FOI requests to reveal the contract in full on the basis of a “real and substantial risk to national security” (ABC); 
  • Another reason cited was to protect AstraZeneca's commercially valuable information;
  • Gavin Hayman, of global advocacy group Open Contracting, said the details should be made public as “national security is best served by building public trust in the entire vaccination program”;
  • The EU, UK, US, Mexico and Brazil have released substantial parts of their AstraZeneca contracts;
  • review of vaccine delivery capacity in the Pacific has also been kept secret;
  • The federal government has spent more than $5bn on vaccines, but it is unknown how much of that went to AstraZeneca.
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NSW warned against lifting lockdown

Experts have cautioned NSW against lifting lockdown too early, after the state recorded another 35 local Covid-19 cases.

NSW registered 35 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, 24 of which were in isolation while infectious.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the “next few days are critical” as to whether the lockdown will be lifted on schedule by the weekend.

Biosecurity expert Raina MacIntyre recommended Sydney only lift lockdown if there were five or fewer new cases in the community reported on Friday morning (AFR). 

Australian National University research indicated lockdowns in place long enough to get community transmission to zero provided more benefits than those eased too early (news.com.au). 

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Amazon and Rio Tinto mistrust

Amazon and mining giant Rio Tinto have rocketed up the rankings to be counted among Australia’s top 10 least trusted brands for the first time.

The annual ranking from Roy Morgan is drawn from a survey of more than 20,000 people (The New Daily). 

Amazon’s distrust rating soared after extensive coverage of mistreatment of workers, while Rio Tinto’s reputation suffered in the wake of the destruction of the Juukan Gorge sacred site.

Crown Resorts, subject to multiple royal commissions over alleged connections to organised crime, and Uber, linked to the deaths of delivery drivers, made the top 20 most untrustworthy brands.

Woolworths and Coles were rated as the two most trusted brands.

“Their supply of food and drink (and toilet paper) [kept] the economy moving, and households well-stocked, during several lockdowns which forced the closure of other retailers for sometimes months on end,” said Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine.

Bunnings, Aldi and Qantas rounded out the top five most trusted brands.

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Targeted Dream Incubation is a never-before-seen form of advertising … the dreamer is in the driver’s seat to create a chill, relaxing ad inspired by our visual and audio stimuli.

The waking nightmare of unchecked capitalism is now a literal nightmare, thanks to “soundscapes” from Coors beer that infiltrate the dreams of consumers (The Guardian).

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Postscript: The Psychological Benefits of Commuting to Work

Many people liberated from the commute have experienced a void they can’t quite name. In it, all theaters of life collapse into one. There are no beginnings or endings. The hero’s journey never happens. The threshold goes uncrossed. The sack of Troy blurs with Telemachus’s math homework (The Atlantic).

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