NSW enters new Covid reality

NSW will today make Australia’s first attempt to “live with the virus”, as authorities lift lockdown rules during a major Delta outbreak.

What we know:

  • Cafes, restaurants and bars are allowed to open from today, the caps on numbers at events and homes will increase, and movement restrictions will be eased (ABC); 
  • Bars, restaurants, shops, gyms and a hairdresser opened at one minute past midnight, to celebrate the moment restrictions lifted (Nine); 
  • Gyms and fitness studios are offering free workouts and improved ventilation to entice clients back (SMH); 
  • Experts called for at-home rapid antigen testing to be rolled out as restrictions ease (SBS); 
  • International borders could re-open for vaccinated NSW travellers as early as November 1 under a fast-tracked plan (news.com.au);
  • Victoria meanwhile will allow 10,000 fully vaccinated fans to attend the Melbourne Cup next month, and the same number will be allowed to attend Oaks Day and Stakes Day if vaccine targets are achieved (ABC); 
  • Victoria recorded 1890 new Covid cases and five deaths on Sunday, while NSW recorded 477 new cases and six deaths.
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Nats demand power to stop net zero

The Nationals have called for new powers to halt climate change action if rural communities suffer economic hardship, in their latest demand to support net zero emissions targets.

What we know:

  • Nationals Senate leader Brid­get McKenzie will today call for a legislated assessment mechanism to “monitor and review the impacts of Australia’s emissions reduction strategies on regional Australia” every five years (The Australian); 
  • The mechanism would allow the nation to hit the “pause button” if climate targets negatively impact regions;
  • The National Farmers’ Federation wil today lobby for compensation for carbon sequestration, including historic land clearing regulations that pre-date the Kyoto period (The Guardian); 
  • The Australian agriculture sector is highly vulnerable to climate change and a major contributor to emissions (Science.org); 
  • A new report warns that overreliance on carbon offsets including tree planting on agricultural land could be threatened by increased fires, heatwaves and drought (Grattan Institute). 
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Star aligned to organised crime

Casino operator Star Entertainment has been enabling suspected money laundering, organised crime, fraud and foreign interference within its Australian casinos.

What we know:

  • Star Entertainment, which runs casinos in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, has portrayed itself as the cleanskin casino company compared with scandal-hit rival Crown Resorts (SMH); 
  • Internal company documents, court cases and law-enforcement intelligence briefings reveal that from 2014 to 2021, Star cultivated high-roller gamblers allegedly associated with criminal or foreign-influenced operations;
  • Star allowed Chinese high rollers to use special debit and credit cards to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars from its hotels, which disguised gambling activity as hotel expenses;
  • Pokies player Mende Trajkoski turned over $175 million at the casino before being arrested in connection with the import of three tonnes of cocaine;
  • The NSW gaming regulator claimed it was unaware of alleged criminal infiltration and money laundering at The Star Sydney and would investigate (SMH). 
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ACT criminalises stealthing

Women’s rights groups have called for  “stealthing” laws to be enacted across the country, after the ACT criminalised the act of removing a condom without a partner’s knowledge or consent during sex.

The ACT passed laws identifying stealthing as a criminal act, defined as “where consent is given on the basis that a condom be used during sexual intercourse and the alleged offender either removes the condom or does not put on a condom at all and intentionally does not inform the other person” (SBS). 

Similar laws were passed in California on Friday — the first US state to criminalise the practice (NPR). 

Although there is an untested legal argument that stealthing may already be illegal across Australia, women’s rights groups say passing specific laws about the practice will help educate the public and increase the likelihood victims will come forward.

“If we don’t have strong laws that are really clear, then it is really hard to do that public education that is necessary to change behaviour and start preventing it,” Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia’s Hayley Foster said.

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Twiggy reveals hydrogen plans

Billionaire mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has unveiled plans to build the world’s largest green energy hydrogen manufacturing plant in Central Queensland.

The $115m first step of the Fortescue Future Industries project alone is expected to double the world’s green hydrogen production capacity, with an initial capacity of 2 gigawatts per annum (Renew Economy). 

The development will focus initially on hydrogen electrolysers before moving on to wind turbine equipment, solar PV cells and electrical cabling.

The project is expected to create hundreds of green energy jobs in Gladstone, the hub of Queensland’s coal and LNG industries.

Forrest intends for his own company to be the biggest initial customer, as he seeks to develop more than 100GW of renewable hydrogen capacity by 2030.

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Tony Abbott is a failed and pitiful politician. His recent despicable and insane performance in Taiwan fully exposed his hideous anti-China features.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra responds to Tony Abbott’s provocative speech during a visit to Taiwan. Every former prime minister needs a hobby, but perhaps Abbott could stick to surfing instead of kickstarting World War III (ABC).

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Postscript: The Death of Ronald McDonald

No one can pinpoint the exact date that he disappeared. The 58-year-old always knew how to stand out from the crowd: bright red hair, a painted face, long shoes. In 2004, a small sample of children found him to be more recognisable than Founding Father George Washington and Jesus Christ, the son of God himself. But no one raised the alarm when he stopped appearing on British TV screens ... When was the last time you sat on a bench with his cold plastic arm stretched stiff behind your back, a rictus grin frozen on his face (Vice)?

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