Morrison retreats from vaccine mandate

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backflipped on vaccine mandates, following a rebellion of Coalition senators that threatens to derail his parliamentary agenda.

What we know:

  • Five Coalition senators crossed the floor to vote for a failed One Nation bill that would have overridden state government vaccine mandates (The Age); 
  • Two of the five, Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic, have threatened to withhold their support for all government bills over the issue;
  • To defuse the rebellion Morrison declared business owners should set their own rules on vaccinations for customers and staff, in a dramatic reversal of previous support for mandates (The New Daily); 
  • The prime minister targeted rules in Queensland in particular preventing unvaccinated people from visiting cafes;
  • The opposition noted Morrison was singling out a Labor state government rule also applied by the Coalition government in NSW, and had repeatedly backed vaccine mandates for workplaces previously;
  • Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie unleashed a scathing speech in opposition to One Nation’s vaccine bill, declaring “Being held accountable for your own actions isn't called discrimination – it is called being a bloody adult” (SBS); 
  • It comes amidst a rising tide of protests against vaccines and lockdowns globally (Crikey). 
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200,000 expected as borders open

Hundreds of thousands of international visa holders have been granted the green light to enter Australia, while domestically a Covid-free state has for the first time opened up to NSW and Victoria.

What we know:

  • Skilled migrants, international students, humanitarian as well as working holidaymakers and provisional family visa holders will all be allowed into Australia from December 1 (SBS); 
  • The federal government has estimated 200,000 migrants are expected to take up the offer between December and January;
  • The visa holders must have received a vaccine approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration and provide proof of their vaccination status;
  • Domestically, SA has become the first Covid-free state to open its borders to areas with community transmission of the virus (7News); 
  • Arrivals will need to be double vaccinated against Covid-19, and may also be subject to some other requirements such as testing or monitoring for symptoms;
  • Despite the easing restrictions, Air New Zealand has nevertheless cancelled 1000 trans-Tasman flights over continued border uncertainty (NZ Herald).
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Woodside doubles down on fossil fuels

Woodside has finalised a takeover of BHP's oil and gas portfolio and granted final approval to a massive WA gas project, while Shell launched its own takeover bid.

What we know:

  • Woodside is now one of the 10 largest fossil fuel developers in the world, after finalising a $40bn deal to absorb BHP’s petroleum assets via an all stock merger; (MarketScreener); 
  • The company simultaneously announced the final go-ahead to spend $12bn on the Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 LNG project off the coast of WA (Reuters); 
  • The Conservation Council of WA claimed federal authorities had failed to assess Scarborough over vast quantities of emissions that could imperil the Great Barrier Reef (Energy Bulletin); 
  • It comes as fellow fossil fuel giant Royal Dutch Shell bought Australian green energy retailer Powershop as part of a $729m deal (The Guardian); 
  • Shell is also seeking to ditch the “Royal Dutch” from its name, and move its corporate base to the UK from the Netherlands, in what critics say is a bid to escape mounting tax and climate activist pressure (Quartz); 
  • Blockade Australia climate change activist Eric Serge Herbert has meanwhile been sentenced to 12 months ­behind bars for his role blockading coal trains in the Hunter Valley (The Daily Telegraph); 
  • It follows a global climate conference where Australia turned its pavilion into a “fossil fuel coffee shop” (The Saturday Paper). 
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AFP responds to threats against MPs

The Australian Federal Police claims to have responded to threats against politicians over the weekend, as anti-vaccine protester aggression prompts a review of safety protocols for elected representatives.

“On the weekend, we had to mobilise a number of resources based on specific threats against different members of Parliament,” said AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw (The Age). 

Kershaw added he was working with Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews on a review of safety arrangements.

A gallows was taken to an anti-government rally in Melbourne last week, where protesters threatened Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Andrews and federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese have accused Scott Morrison of failing to unequivocally condemn the violent rhetoric of protesters.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has also faced threats from anti-vaxxers.

The growing extremism has been stoked by News Corp journalists and United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly (The Monthly). 

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Wong accuses Dutton of sabre-rattling

Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong will today accuse Defence Minister Peter Dutton of “amping up” the threat of war with China for political gain.

“Amping up the prospect of war against a superpower is the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history,” she will say (ABC). 

Earlier this month Mr Dutton said it was “inconceivable” that Australia would not back the US if there was a war over Taiwan.

Wong said Dutton’s provocative commentary could actually feed into Beijing’s narrative that war or unification with the mainland are the only two options facing Taiwan.

Her speech comes after former prime minister Paul Keating criticised Wong for choosing a “reasonably quiet political life” by aligning with the Coalition on foreign policy (ABC). 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping meanwhile has said he will consider signing a South-East Asia nuclear weapon-free treaty, in an apparent response to the nuclear submarine deal between Australia, the UK and US — although the subs are nuclear powered, not nuclear-armed (Nikkei). 

A Pentagon report earlier this month said that China is nevertheless on track to quintuple its nuclear arsenal by 2030 to at least 1000 warheads.

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As the Leader of the Opposition will know, because I texted him from the plane when I was going on that leave, and told him where I was going and he was fully aware of where I was travelling with my family.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison again vanishes into a fugue state of alternative facts, falsely claiming he told Labor leader Anthony Albanese that he was going on holiday to Hawaii during the Black Summer bushfires (news.com.au).

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Postscript: The story of storyboarding: exploring the hidden art form behind films

Peeking behind the panels of this unseen discipline, we look into a multifarious world of artwork made to stay on the drawing board (It's Nice That).

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