Dutton dog whistle over botched rescue

Defence minister Peter Dutton has sought to defend the failure to evacuate people before the Taliban took control of Kabul, speculating that Afghan interpreters who aided Australian troops might pose a security threat.

What we know:

  • Only 26 passengers boarded a near-empty RAAF evacuation flight on Wednesday, with missing Australians and Afghans unable to pass Taliban checkpoints (ABC); 
  • The federal government had been warned for months to provide safe haven to Afghans who worked with Australia;
  • Dutton defended the slow processing of visa applications of Afghan guards and interpreters, suggesting they were “males of fighting age” who could commit “an atrocity” (The Guardian); 
  • Former Australian Army captain Jason Scanes was “disgusted” to hear Dutton “attacking and besmirching the good name of those interpreters”;
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged on Wednesday to take in an initial 3000 Afghan refugees over 10 months, drawn from the existing 13,750 annual refugee cap (The Age); 
  • Morrison added “we do believe we’ll be able to do more than that”, in the face of criticism that the offer paled in comparison to Britain and Canada’s pledge to take 20,000 Afghans each;
  • He warned Afghans already in Australia on temporary protection visas who came by boat would not be given permanent residence (The Conversation).
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NSW suspends elective surgery

Most elective surgeries at private hospitals in NSW will cease to free up capacity to tackle the worsening Covid-19 crisis, after the state registered a record 633 new cases.

In NSW:

  • All Category 2, 3 and 4 non-urgent elective surgery procedures will cease from August 23; 
  • Private hospital staff will be redeployed to the vaccination effort and other demands placed on the NSW public health system by the pandemic (Daily Telegraph); 
  • NSW Health is prepared to quadruple its current ICU capacity of 500 beds if required, with ventilators available for each bed;
  • It comes after the state recorded a new high of 633 Covid-19 cases and three deaths (Nine); 

Across the country:

  • Victoria recorded 24 new cases for a second day in a row, with a diverse range of people testing positive (ABC); 
  • “We have accountants, we have architects, we have a sex worker, we have members of the Orthodox Jewish community, and we have a pizza guy,” said Covid-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar of the current outbreak;
  • The ACT recorded another 22 Covid-19 cases, all of which have been linked to existing cases (Canberra Times); 
  • NT chief minister Michael Gunner expects the Territory’s lockdown will end today at noon after no new cases (NT News). 
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Woodside set to carry the can

Investors have expressed concern about Woodside’s $41bn plan to absorb the fossil fuel assets of BHP, warning it will expose the company to heightened climate risks.

Van Eck Australia investor Jamie Hannah said Woodside is “taking on petroleum assets at a time when the world is moving away from fossil fuels” and will be left exposed to remediation of ageing oil fields (AFR). 

Green groups in turn have expressed alarm that Woodside has not guaranteed it will pay for decommissioning of oil and gas fields it inherits from BHP (The Guardian). 

It comes as new analysis reveals nearly one in three directors of Australia’s largest banks have worked for firms operating in the oil, gas and mining industries (DeSmog). 

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Tudge bristles at post-colonial curriculum

Education Minister Alan Tudge has demanded that the draft national curriculum for Australian schools be rewritten, as it presents an “overly negative view” of the nation.

In a letter to Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority acting chairman Norm Hart, Tudge said he would not endorse the curriculum as it focused on western civilisation’s history of “slavery, imperialism and colonisation” (The Australian). 

“Important historical events are removed or reframed, such as the emphasis on invasion theory over Australia Day,” he wrote.

Tudge also highlighted concerns about a move towards open-ended problem-solving activities in mathematics.

The ACARA board meets today and tomorrow to discuss feedback to the proposed curriculum update, which aims to address falling student rankings.

Some experts warn the declining results are linked to federal funding going to schools that need it the least, and a neoliberal business model approach to education (The Saturday Paper). 

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Porter pushes to suppress ABC case

Christian Porter has resumed his courtroom battle with the media, demanding that outlets never publish documents the ABC used in its defence of the former attorney-general’s defamation action.

The Federal Court heard Porter’s request on Wednesday, months after he settled his case against the ABC over reporting of sexual assault allegations (The New Daily). 

Porter wants to ensure media outlets never publish the ABC's unredacted defence without judicial permission.

Much of the ABC’s defence and parts of Porter’s reply were redacted after the former attorney-general submitted that the defence contained “scandalous” and “vexatious” material.

Interveners who obtain documents inaccessible through a court process were bound by an implied obligation to only use those documents for the court proceedings, a barrister for Porter said.

Lawyers for Nine and News Corp said the “de facto suppression order” isn’t possible as Porter does not own the 37-page document.

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I’m speaking to more and more farmers who are baiting up already. [Mice] can have six to 10 babies every 19 to 21 days after they start breeding.

If you thought the reproduction rate of Covid-19 was alarming, CSIRO mouse expert Steve Henry has some news for you about the second wave of the mouse plague (Nine).

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Postscript: Wally the walrus to get ‘floating couch’ to stop him sinking boats

The 800kg male juvenile has left a trail of destruction in his wake – after hauling himself onto several small boats to rest, causing thousands of euros worth of damage … Seal Rescue Ireland has now secured a sturdy pontoon, with three raised sides, which looks like a floating couch. It is ready to be deployed quickly if there are more sightings of Wally in busy harbour areas (Irish Examiner).

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