Western Sydney bristles at beachgoers

Images of locked-down Sydneysiders at the beach have prompted debate about unequal treatment of Western Sydney residents, who have less access to open space.

What we know:

  • Media coverage of people at Sydney beaches – including use of telephoto lenses that make scenes appear more crowded than they are – triggered mass outrage over the weekend (SBS); 
  • NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant and former federal deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth noted that the risk of transmission at beaches and parks is minimal;
  • Open space access is more restricted in designated areas “of concern” with higher case numbers in Western Sydney, where people can only go outside for short periods and authorities have removed basketball hoops;
  • NSW Labor MP Jihad Dib, who represents Lakemba, said it was “a classic example of the tale of two cities”;     
  • Analysis shows the LGAs of concern have some of the least open space in Greater Sydney, with residents having to travel further to access large parks (The Guardian). 

FBI releases 9/11 Saudi links

The FBI has marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks by releasing its investigation of the alleged role of Saudi Arabian government officials.

What we know:

  • The heavily redacted document is the first of several such records to be released after US President Joe Biden ordered a declassification review (Reuters); 
  • Biden did so after pressure from victims’ families, who said he would be unwelcome at memorial events unless he acted;
  • The document covers the FBI’s investigation into support provided to the September 11 hijackers, most of whom were from Saudi Arabia;
  • The unredacted sections do not provide direct proof that the Saudi government was complicit in the terrorist attack, but leaves open the possibility individual officials were;
  • The 9/11 Families United group said in a statement the report implicated "numerous Saudi government officials, in a coordinated effort to mobilize an essential support network for the first arriving 9/11 hijackers”; 
  • Victims and their families are suing Saudi Arabia – which denies any involvement in the attack – for billions of dollars;
  • In the wake of the attacks the Bush administration suppressed evidence that could have linked powerful Saudis to the funding of terrorism (The Intercept). 

Coalition eyes counterterrorism powers

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews will today push for a fresh wave of powers to keep terrorists in prison after they have finished their sentences, or expanded monitoring of them on ­release.

In a speech marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Andrews will also highlight a revamp of de-radicalisation programs, including a new focus on young white male rightwing extremists (AFR). 

Andrews will announce plans to convene a national meeting of police and corrections ministers in light of evolving threats, including the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan.

It comes as legal experts note Australia has passed 92 different counterterrorism laws since the September 11 attacks in 2001 – more than anywhere else in the world (SBS).  

There are calls to pass legislation to expand the remit and funding of the chief intelligence watchdog to keep government use of ever-expanding powers in check (Policy Forum). 


Fitzgibbon to retire at next election

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon will retire from federal parliament at the next election, after declaring victory on his campaign to water down his party’s climate change policy platform.

Fitzgibbon, who has represented the coalmining seat of Hunter since 1996, told colleagues he has largely succeeded in getting Labor to voice more support for coal and gas (The Australian). 

The decision by Fitzgibbon brings to an end a family dynasty in Hunter of 38 years, after he inherited the seat from his father Eric, elected in 1984.

NSW Right figures are concerned Fitzgibbon will be replaced by someone from the left-aligned CFMEU or the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union.


Men hogging Covid payments

Men have received most of the emergency income support offered during Sydney’s lockdown, despite women suffering the greater loss of employment.

About 19% of men across Greater Sydney are receiving the disaster payment, compared to 12% of women, according to analysis by Accenture and illion (SMH). 

Women only received 40% of payments despite accounting for about 80% of the decline in employment across Sydney in July.

Accenture managing director Andrew Charlton said the disparity indicates disaster payment criteria may be excluding some women workers.

Across NSW more than a million workers are now relying on the federal government’s Covid-19 disaster payment.


Last questions, please.

Gladys Berejiklian’s press secretary on Sunday cuts short by 20 minutes the NSW premier’s final daily Covid press conference. With infections and deaths continuing to mount after she let Delta spread unchecked across half the country, Berejiklian’s work here is done (ABC).


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