Scramble to vaccinate First Nations

A new federal government plan has been belatedly unveiled to fast track vaccinations for Indigenous Australians, who have been left behind in the rollout despite being identified as a vulnerable group.

What we know:

  • An extra $7.7m in funding will support additional “vaccine liaison officers” employed “to ... provide culturally safe messaging, address vaccine hesitancy, facilitate informed consent and conduct health promotion activities” (The Guardian); 
  • Funding to First Nations Media will go towards a “package of culturally appropriate public relations content”;
  • 30 regions with significant Indigenous populations will be prioritised in the rollout;
  • Indigenous vaccination rates lag behind overall state rates, from 10% in the ACT to 16.7% in NSW and SA;
  • Victoria appeared to be the one exception, but health authorities on Monday admitted an extra 26,000 vaccine recipients had been wrongly classified as being Indigenous due to a software problem;
  • Indigenous elders told a NSW parliamentary inquiry on Monday there had been a failure to adequately consult and coordinate with Indigenous medical services in Covid-hit remote communities in the west of the state (NITV); 
  • Aunty Monica Kerwin from Wilcannia, where more than one in six residents of the majority Aboriginal population have now tested positive, said she warned the government a year ago that overcrowding would pose an issue for any potential outbreaks;
  • “Our opinion wasn't valued at that level... it was heartbreaking,” she said.
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Climate risk to national security

The report warns that climate-driven water scarcity and rising sea levels could spark global conflict and trigger an unprecedented refugee crisis (The Guardian). 

It argues that the federal government’s financial support of the fossil fuel industry is actively undermining Australia’s national security, and a lack of action on climate is leading to a loss of geopolitical influence in the Pacific.

Lead author and former defence director Cheryl Durrant said Australia should reduce its emissions by 75% (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035 to minimise risks.

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Berejiklian caught in sports rort

Gladys Berejiklian’s own Treasury officials initially advised against a $5.5m grant pursued by her former partner Daryl Maguire, but the money was later approved from a fund overseen by the NSW premier.

Berejiklian was last year responsible for the fund that set aside the money for the Australian Clay Target Association in Maguire’s electorate when she was state treasurer (ABC). 

According to an internal government memo from December 2 last year, the grant submission first came to the Expenditure Review Committee from the Office of Sport, with the timeline noting “treasury advice – sub not supported”.

The clay target grant is under investigation by ICAC.

The Australian Clay Target Association emailed a number of members in July warning against speaking to the media about the matter.

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Man arrested over 3D-print gun plans

An alleged right-wing extremist has been arrested by counter-terrorism police and accused of possessing a blueprint to 3D-print a gun.

Mitchell Priest from Orange has been charged over the illegal digital blueprint following a police raid (SMH). 

An investigation into Priest began less than two weeks ago when the Australian Border Force intercepted a package containing a firearm component.

Footage provided by police shows a Nazi flag hanging in the man’s house.

AFP Commander Stephen Dametto warned that 3D printed firearms represent a serious threat.

“We will take action if we have evidence a person intends to manufacture a firearm,” he said.

A number of far-right figures in Europe have been arrested after using the technology to print weaponry (Al Jazeera). 

A German Neo-Nazi sentenced to life in prison for killing two people in 2019 possessed a sub-machinegun with 3D-printed plastic components.

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Returning soldiers to be tracked by app

South Australia is set to expand its trial of a controversial home quarantine facial recognition app to include returning defence personnel.

Users are required to check in by using facial recognition and geolocation within 15 minutes of a random request (InnovationAus). 

Failing to check in and then answer a call will result in a compliance officer being sent to the address.

The app, being tested on about 50 returnees from NSW, will now be used for dozens of defence personnel coming back from overseas.

WA is using a similar app, with the potential for the technology to be rolled out nationally.

Privacy and civil rights advocates have raised concerns over the use of facial recognition to track the location of individuals.

“I’m really concerned about this normalisation of surveillance and surveillance technology under the cover of Covid, where people become used to or accept all of these intrusions into their life,” said Australian Privacy Foundation vice-chair Dr Monique Mann.

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The company qualified for the JobKeeper wage subsidy program in Australia and received throughout 2020 a total amount of $4,756,500.

If you thought Gucci handbags were expensive, just wait until you find out what taxpayers paid the Italian luxury bag producer for nothing at all (Michael West Media).

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Postscript: At The Turtle Club In The Shadow Of 9/11

It’s impossible not to imagine someone bursting onto the set with frantic news from Manhattan. Cut! the director calls. Two planes have just hit the World Trade Center. The towers have collapsed with many still inside. He immediately holds an impromptu vigil with the cast and crew. Dana Carvey is still in full turtle-man makeup and costume, solemnly pondering the deaths of thousands (Defector).

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