SA joins lockdown club

Parts of regional NSW and the entire state of South Australia have been put into week-long lockdowns, after both areas detected Covid-19 cases likely connected to the Sydney outbreak.

In SA:

  • SA has entered a seven-day statewide lockdown after Adelaide’s Covid-19 outbreak grew to five cases (InDaily); 
  • There are more than 35 exposure sites so far, with particular concern over a positive case who dined at a popular restaurant; 
  • South Australians will only be allowed out to provide essential care, seek medical assistance, to buy essential food and other goods, for essential work, or to exercise for up to 2.5 hours;
  • Schools and construction sites will close.

In NSW:

  • The Orange, Cabonne and Blayney council areas in NSW’s central west will enter a seven-day lockdown, after a pet food factory worker in Blayney tested positive (ABC); 
  • People can leave homes for essential shopping, medical care or compassionate needs, vaccination, exercise, work and education;
  • Schools will stay open with all staff required to wear masks indoors and outdoors;
  • NSW reported 78 local cases on Tuesday and continues to add new exposure sites;
  • Construction sites will reopen on July 31, with their closure triggering a fierce industry backlash (SMH). 

In Victoria:

  • Victoria’s lockdown will be extended for seven days to next Tuesday (Nine); 
  • The state recorded nine new local cases, with the official total of 13 including four reported a day earlier.
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Fossil fuels raking in support

Australia has increased its fossil fuel subsidies by 48% since signing the Paris climate agreement in 2015, according to a new report.

The analysis of G20 countries found they collectively provided more than $4.4tn in subsidies for fossil fuels, with Australia increasing its spending the most (BNEF). 

G20 nations collectively did cut fossil fuel funding by 10% from 2015 to 2019, but those increasing spending, led by Australia, prevented cuts in line with what is needed to undertake the energy transition.

The $4.4tn sum could fund 4232GW in new solar power plants, the report found.

The G20 agreed in 2009 to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, but did not define inefficient.

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Bezos follows Branson to space

Jeff Bezos was launched to the edge of space on Tuesday with three fellow passengers, just one week after fellow billionaire Richard Branson did similar with his own rocket.

Bezos took the 11-minute autonomous flight with an 18-year-old from the Netherlands, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas, and his brother, before landing in a Texas desert (AP). 

The founder of Amazon and space company Blue Origin, with a personal fortune of $206bn, was criticised for spending his vast wealth on vanity projects instead of paying more in taxes or addressing inequality (New York Magazine). 

“I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this,“ Bezos said of the flight, prompting criticism of exploitative work conditions at the company (The Verge). 

More flights are planned for wealthy customers, as the billionaire space race kicks off a new era of privatised space tourism (Vox). 

Bezos’ safe landing will disappoint those who hoped he would explode up there (Crikey).

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Crown not worth the gamble

Crown Resorts is not suitable to hold Victoria’s sole casino licence, the royal commission’s lead lawyer has told the inquiry.

Counsel assisting Adrian Finanzio SC said the inquiry had heard a litany of evidence that Crown engaged in illegal conduct encouraged by a culture that put profit ahead of integrity (The New Daily). 

“This is not a case of isolated or trifling indiscretions or breaches, capable of easy and quick rectification … no amount of restructuring can restore confidence in it as a proper person to hold a licence,” he said.

He also recommended that Crown Resorts executive chair Helen Coonan is unsuitable for the job as “her inaction in the past clearly contributed to the current problems” (The Australian). 

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Payne eyes return to Afghanistan

Australia is considering reestablishing a presence in Afghanistan, just one month after abandoning its Kabul embassy.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne is reviewing a staged return that begins with intelligence officers stationed possibly within the CIA’s Kabul headquarters (ABC). 

Australian diplomats may then return to the Afghan capital, potentially housed on a temporary basis by the US or UK before any embassy reopening.

There are concerns the full withdrawal of all Australian personnel is limiting intelligence in the country as the Taliban makes steady territorial gains.

The final decision to withdraw Australia's civilian, military and intelligence contingent was reportedly made by federal Cabinet’s National Security Committee in May.

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Permanent staff ... objected to the lawfulness of the program and were moved to other duties. An insecure workforce of about 800 labour hire employees were then brought in by Services Australia to implement robodebt.

Public sector union boss Alistair Waters reveals that when Services Australia needed to illegally harass people in precarious economic circumstances, they turned to the only hires desperate enough to do the work — other people in precarious economic circumstances (The Mandarin).

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Postscript: Tokyo Olympic beds are sturdy, organisers say after ‘anti-sex’ report

The cardboard beds at the Tokyo Olympic Village are “sturdy”, organisers reassured on Monday, after a report warned they weren’t strong enough for sex. Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan filmed himself jumping repeatedly on a bed to prove the point, after the report claimed the beds were deliberately flimsy to promote social distancing. “The beds are meant to be anti-sex. They're made out of cardboard, yes, but apparently they're meant to break with sudden movements. It's fake — fake news!” McClenaghan said (Japan Today).

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