French subs dumped for US nuclear deal

The Morrison government will scrap its troubled $90bn submarine contract and partner with the US and UK to switch to an American nuclear-powered submarine.

What we know:

  • Scrapping the deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group after cost blowouts and delays could cost taxpayers up to $400m (AFR); 
  • The new plan also means a switch to nuclear-powered submarines for the first time in Australia’s history, without public debate and despite no local nuclear industry (ABC); 
  • The nuclear-powered submarines would likely be based in WA, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he intended for them to be built in SA;
  • The deal is part of a new trilateral security partnership between the US, Britain and Australia to collaborate on artificial intelligence, cyber, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities (Politico); 
  • The pact is seen as a thinly disguised bid to contain China, with the three countries expected to increase their naval presence north of Australia;
  • Cabinet ministers were given special Covid exemptions to travel to Canberra for the top-secret discussions, with Labor shadow ministers also briefed;
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison tried unsuccessfully to line up a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday about the scrapped deal.
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PM tackles latest Porter mess

Scott Morrison has sought departmental advice over whether the secret donation to Industry Minister Christian Porter from anonymous sources is in breach of ministerial guidelines.

If Porter is found to have breached guidelines he may be forced to pay back the donations, reveal the names of the blind trust’s donors, and/or leave the frontbench (The Australian). 

The donation, which was up to $1m, helped cover the cost of Porter’s defamation action against the ABC over reports of a historical rape allegation.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said the PM seeking advice was “another farcical ‘inquiry’ by Scott Morrison’s right-hand man” that  “follows yet another outrageous scandal in Mr Morrison’s government” (The Conversation). 

The Greens are planning to push a motion of no confidence against Porter in the House of ­Representatives.

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TGA goes after Kelly’s vax spams

Australia’s medicines regulator has demanded United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly cease the distribution of Covid-19 vaccine scaremongering.

What we know:

  • The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) says its lawyers have written to Kelly alleging he breached copyright for using the agency’s reports in his text messages (ABC); 
  • Kelly has sent texts to millions of Australians linking to a UAP website hosting vaccination reports that detail adverse reactions;
  • The TGA issued the copyright claim, and demanded Kelly “stop distributing incomplete extracts of adverse event reports relating to Covid-19 vaccines which the TGA believes could be seriously misleading”;
  • Kelly fired back by threatening the TGA with defamation over issuing a “misleading and deceptive” media release that accused him of distributing information on vaccines out of context;
  • “The letter I have received ... on behalf of the TGA only has raised an issue of an alleged copyright infringement and nothing more,” Kelly said.
  • It comes after Kelly changed his number after Crikey published it – the media outlet has since obtained the crossbencher’s new number and released that too (Crikey). 
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Curfew lifted in Western Sydney

The curfew for the 12 LGAs of concern in NSW was lifted overnight, after the state became the first to pass the 80% single-dose vaccination milestone.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said 47.5% of the over-16 population had now received both doses of a vaccine, with the state to reach the 70% double-dose rate in a “few weeks”, triggering a widespread relaxation of restrictions (ABC). 

NSW recorded 1259 new cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday.
Victoria recorded 423 new cases and two deaths, with Ballarat plunging into lockdown after a surge of cases there, as restrictions eased in Shepparton (The Age). 

The ACT recorded 13 cases after extending the lockdown by a further four weeks (Nine).

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ARIAs scrap gender categories

Australia’s highest-profile music awards show is introducing non-gendered categories in a bid to be more inclusive of non-binary artists.

The ARIA Music Awards will merge the Best Female Artist and Best Male Artist categories into a standalone Best Artist award (The Music Network). 

There will be 10 nominees, instead of the previous five per gender.
“It was clear that the time of excluding non-binary artists had absolutely passed,” said ARIA chief Annabelle Herd.

Responding to concerns that cis-men might dominate the nominee group, she said, “There are issues around recognition of female and non-binary artists that are going to take some work to change, but having a separate category for women is not the way to get equality.”

The ARIAs will take place on November 24 as a digital event, streamed live on YouTube.

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It has a costume of shiny metallic rainbow colours, and it has legs for days.

CSIRO entomologist and RuPaul’s Drag Race fan Bryan Lessard explains why he named the newly discovered Opaluma rupaul soldier fly after the iconic drag star (The Guardian).

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Postscript: Please Contribute To Our Blind Trust

For no particular reason at all, we have set up a blind trust. We’ve heard that it’s a common way for satirical entities and government ministers to accept large donations, without the hassle of having to know where it came from. Easier for us, easier for you (The Shovel).

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