Diplomatic fallout from nuclear subs

Australia’s decision to join a new alliance with the US and UK and embrace nuclear-powered submarines has triggered diplomatic fallout across the world, with China and France slamming the decision.

What we know:

  • A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the move “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race” (BBC); 
  • France's foreign minister described Australia's decision to cancel its $90bn submarine deal in favour of US nuclear-powered submarines as a “stab in the back” (The Guardian); 
  • New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, whose country was notably excluded from the pact, said Australia’s new nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters under the nation’s nuclear free policy (Reuters); 
  • Labor has provided conditional support, but wants to know the full cost of the new plan and the abandoned French deal, on which at least $2.4bn has already been spent (SBS); 
  • Greens leader Adam Bandt described the plan as “a dangerous move that will make Australia less safe by floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities”;
  • Former PM Kevin Rudd said the deal left Australia “strategically naked”, with the first submarine potentially not built until 2040 (ABC);
  • Requirements for local construction have dropped from 60% under the old plan to just 40% for the nuclear subs, which may be primarily built in the US or the UK (Crikey). 
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Jab mandates across industries

Victoria has given construction workers one week to get vaccinated, as a national mandate for aged care workers to get jabbed comes into force today.

What we know:

  • Up to five fully vaccinated adults in Victoria or two non-vaccinated people will be able to meet outdoors from Saturday (The New Daily);
  • The construction industry will be subject to mandatory vaccinations from September 23, with the week’s notice triggering a “mad rush” across the industry (The Herald Sun); 
  • 95.8% of aged care workers have had their shot as the national mandate comes into force today, with national cabinet to discuss extending it to all healthcare workers (SMH); 
  • Critical procedures at a Sydney hospital were suspended after two unvaccinated nurses worked while infectious with Covid-19 last week (SMH); 
  • The US, Italy, Canada and Indonesia are among the growing list of countries to introduce some form of vaccine mandate (Reuters); 
  • About 3000 health workers in France have been suspended after failing to get vaccinated by the national deadline (BBC). 
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Labor warns Google over misinformation

Labor has written to Google demanding steps to counter misinformation in the run-up to the next federal election.

Labor’s national secretary Paul Erickson wrote to Google Australia’s managing director Mel Silva to urge safeguards so its platforms and advertising capabilities aren’t “exploited for misinformation” (The Guardian). 

Erickson highlighted Covid-19 misinformation on Google platforms including YouTube by United Australia Party figures Clive Palmer and Craig Kelly.

He noted the UAP “is already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on political advertising, including on Google’s platforms”.

Erickson suggested extra resourcing to resolve complaints and clear timeframes for approving political advertisements.

A spokesperson for Google noted it was one of the first signatories to commit to the Australian code of practice on disinformation and misinformation earlier this year.

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Salmon moratorium muddies waters

An immediate one-year moratorium on new leases and exploration permits will be imposed on Tasmania’s salmon industry, after a backlash over its environmental impact.

The state Liberal government on Thursday announced it will develop a 10-year plan promising no net increase in leased fish farm areas, stronger compliance, and a focus on land-based fish farming and deeper waters (The New Daily). 

Author Richard Flanagan, whose investigation into the industry sparked a backlash that saw some mainland restaurants boycott Tasmanian salmon, said “it’s not a 10-year plan but a three thimble con trick to cover for a rogue industry in deep crisis” (The Mercury). 

Flanagan this year blew this whistle on salmon hatcheries contaminating Hobart’s drinking water and creating green algal blooms (The Monthly). 

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Queensland legalises euthanasia

Queensland has legalised voluntary assisted dying for people with a terminal illness, the fifth state in the country to do so.

The legislation passed the state parliament with 61 votes in favour and 30 against, after MPs from both major parties were granted a conscience vote (Brisbane Times). 

Only three Labor MPs opposed the bill while 10 MPs from the LNP supported it.

“This bill is fundamentally about compassion, but it is also about giving back control to people who have had their autonomy stripped from them by illness,” Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

To access euthanasia, Queensland adults must have been diagnosed with a medical condition that is advanced, progressive, will cause death within 12 months, and is causing intolerable suffering.

The person must be assessed by two doctors, make three separate requests, and they can change their mind at any time.

The bill will come into effect in January 2023, bringing Queensland into line with Victoria, SA, Tasmania and WA.

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While it is great news that they are not going to face ... deportation, there is that ever-looming threat of ‘okay, well what happens in another three months’?

Angela Fredericks, friend of the Biloela Tamil family, welcomes the small mercy of a three month bridging visa for the Murugappans, but wonders why the mercies have to be quite so small in the first place (ABC).

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Postscript: A Spectacularly Colourful Shot of an Oak Leaf Tops Nikon’s 2021 Photomicrography Competition

Unless they were under a microscope, it would be difficult to see the shimmery barbs of a louse claw or cracks running through a single piece of table salt. The winning entries of the 47th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition unveil these otherwise imperceptible features, showing the unique textures, colours, and shapes in stunning detail (Colossal).

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