Albanese rallies around higher education

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has unveiled a higher education policy at a rally in Western Sydney, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison engaged in his own election campaign-style events.

What we know:

  • Albanese revealed a $1.2bn plan to create 65,000 new university and TAFE places if it wins next year’s election (ABC); 
  • Labor would cover fees for 465,000 TAFE places in the areas hit hardest by Covid-19, such as hospitality, tourism and construction;
  • Up to 20,000 new university places will be created, with priority for First Nations Australians, people in remote and regional areas, and those who are the first in their family to study at university (The Conversation); 
  • “We are seeking renewal – not revolution,” Albanese told the rally in the marginal Liberal-held seat of Reid;
  • Morrison meanwhile visited the Bathurst 1000, meeting race fans and taking a lap in the safety car, before meeting volunteers and farmers in flood-affected Forbes in NSW;
  • It comes as the final Newspoll for the year records Labor’s two-party lead unchanged at 53-47 (Poll Bludger); 
  • The Coalition is shielding itself from scrutiny in the leadup to the election, with just 10 parliamentary sitting days for the first six months of 2022 (The Saturday Paper). 
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Pfizer jab approved for over 5s

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine has been provisionally approved for children as young as five.

What we know:

  • The Therapeutic Goods Administration provisionally approved the vaccine for all children aged five to 11 years old (ABC); 
  • Expert advisory group ATAGI will now guide the government on whether it is offered to all kids at once, or just to the immunocompromised at first;
  • The approval has prompted the Australian Medical Association to call for the WA government to further delay the reopening of borders to until 90% of the population aged over five is fully vaccinated (ABC); 
  • Experts say children’s anxiety about needles can be eased by being provided information about the vaccine ahead of the injection (The Conversation); 
  • Vaccines for children under five are expected to be approved in the US early next year (NPR). 
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China’s regional dominance slips

China’s move towards isolationism during the pandemic has seen it lose a path to “undisputed primacy” in Asia, according to a ranking of regional powers.

Beijing’s score fell for the first time since the list was released publically in 2018 in the Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index, as the country wrestled with demographic challenges, financial system troubles, and greater isolationism (Nikkei). 

The US reversed a period of decline, with the Biden administration brokering better diplomatic relationships and engaging in vaccine diplomacy in the region.

Australia’s ranking declined slightly, with a fall in its regional defence networks capability after committing to a narrow alliance with the US and UK with new submarines now not due for decades. 

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Nationals Christmas party fracas

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s office says an apology has been issued over an “incident” at a Nationals Christmas party involving senator Sam McMahon.

A witness said McMahon threw several punches towards Nationals federal director Jonathan Hawkes as colleagues were putting the senator into a taxi (ABC). 

"The Deputy Prime Minister has been advised that there was an incident at the Christmas party on Thursday night – a contrite apology has been given and accepted," a spokesperson said.

The Country Liberal Party senator, who sits with the Nationals in Canberra, is currently in home quarantine in the NT.

She was elected to the Senate in 2019 after replacing CLP stalwart Nigel Scullion.

It comes after Joyce urged his party to be careful when getting drunk in public, and if any colleagues were drunk, “don’t just call them a cab, put them in a cab” (The Saturday Paper). 

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Gardening Australia’s Peter Cundell dies

Gardening guru Peter Cundall has died aged 94 after a short illness.

Cundall began his media career in 1967, launching one of the world’s first gardening talkback programs for a Launceston radio station (The New Daily). 

In 1969 he launched a weekly television program first called It’s Growing, then Landscape, before settling on its long-time title of Gardening Australia.

Politically active throughout his career, Cundall was arrested in November 2009 for protesting against a proposed pulp mill near his home.

“Called back to the earth he loved and nurtured for a lifetime on World Soils Day,” wrote Gardening Australia‘s current host, Costa Georgiadis.

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Watch this four minute long apology from Peta Credlin. And remember it the next time she maliciously tees off on someone, or about something, without foundation.

Victorian Minister Martin Pakula urges people to watch the Sky News host’s apology to Melbourne’s South Sudanese community, after she maliciously teed off on them over a Covid-19 outbreak last year (SBS).

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Postscript: Escape Artists

Tired of cloistered life, Joan had allegedly faked an illness and, with the help of various accomplices, constructed a dummy with her physical traits. She then escaped the convent, where the mannequin was discovered by her fellow sisters and promptly given a sacred burial (Lapham’s Quarterly).

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