Covid drives baby drought

Australia’s birth rate has plunged to a record low of 1.58 babies per woman, decreasing from 1.95 babies per woman since 2010.

What we know:

  • 294,369 births were registered across Australia in 2020, a 3.7% fall on 2019;
  • The ABS reported that the biggest falls were in Victoria and SA, which both saw a 4.9% drop, while Tasmania defied the trend with the rate rising by 1%;
  • “The record low total fertility rate can be attributed to fewer births and birth registrations in most jurisdictions in a year marked by Covid-19 disruptions,” ABS demography director Beidar Cho said;
  • Demographer Liz Allen attributed it the financial insecurity caused by the pandemic overlaid by issues including the high cost of housing and anxiety over climate change (SMH); 
  • Leading economists have called for the federal government to spend more on childcare to make having children more affordable and manageable (AFR); 
  • Women are also having children later in life, with the median age of mothers now 31.6 years;
  • Another new report indicates half of women over 35 who want a child don’t end up having one, or have fewer than they planned (The Conversation). 
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Australia joins diplomatic boycott of Games

Australia is the first major country to join the US diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, in a move dismissed by China as “political posturing”.

What we know:

  • The US has said its government officials will boycott the Beijing Olympics because of China’s human rights atrocities (CNN); 
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia will join the diplomatic boycott as Beijing had not responded to several issues, including the rights abuse accusations (Reuters); 
  • “Whether they come or not, nobody cares,” responded Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin to Australia’s decision;
  • US and Australian athletes will still participate, with a diplomat-only boycott serving as a face-saving measure to express discontent without skipping the Olympics (The Conversation); 
  • Australia had hoped that other countries would go ahead with it or that a joint statement could be organised, and is now waiting to see if other governments will follow suit (SMH); 
  • The UK and Canada did so, both joining the boycott over human rights concerns (BBC);
  • The EU has so far stopped short of signalling it will join, while Japan has said it has not yet decided (NYT). 
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Nitram sweeps AACTA awards

Nitram has swept the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards, with the controversial film on the Port Arthur massacre gunman winning eight prizes including best film.

The drama also won best director for Justin Kurzel, best original screenplay for Shaun Grant, as well as all four actor categories, for leads Caleb Landry Jones and Judy Davis, and supporting actors Anthony LaPaglia and Essie Davis (ScreenDaily). 

“I am grateful I live in a place where art can rub up against difficult things,” producer Nick Batzias said.

David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu was recognised with the lifetime achievement award a week after his death (The Guardian).

His final film, My Name Is Gulpilil, won the award for best documentary.

In one of multiple tributes to the Indigenous great, Leah Purcell described him as “an inspiration, a teacher, a Songman of the highest order and a man of deep culture. We will miss him.”

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Dutton denied full legal costs

Peter Dutton will not receive his full legal costs from refugee activist Shane Bazzi because it would have been more appropriate to pursue the case in a lower court, the federal court has ruled.

Dutton was awarded $35,000 in damages following a six-word tweet from Bazzi in February that said the Defence Minister “is a rape apologist” (SBS). 

The Queensland MP continued to pursue Bazzi for his full legal bill but this was reduced by Justice Richard White in the Federal Court on Wednesday.

White ordered Bazzi pay Dutton’s costs on a scale equitable as if the lawsuit was filed in a Queensland magistrates court, querying why he had not done so.

“Just because it involves a national figure doesn’t mean it's a matter of national importance,” White said.

Dutton in turn was ordered to pay 50% of Bazzi’s legal costs for the latest hearing.

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Indian general dies in chopper crash

India’s top general has been killed in a helicopter crash in the country’s south, with only one survivor among the 14 people on board.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat died along with his wife Madhulika Rawat, on board the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter (CNN). 

The helicopter crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu state while en route from Sulur to the town of Wellington in Tamil Nadu.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, with the IAF declaring “an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident”.

The Indian Army said the 11 military personnel who died alongside General Rawat and his wife would “also be equally missed by everyone”.

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It’s not just going to be north Queensland, or Brisbane that’s going to be experiencing increased mosquito populations, it's going to be all across the country.

If the heavy rains and flood of La Nina don’t completely ruin summer, the plague of mosquitoes that follows should do the trick (7News).

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Postscript: Dream by Wombo

Create beautiful artwork using the power of AI. Enter a prompt, pick an art style and watch Wombo Dream turn your idea into an AI-powered painting in seconds (Wombo Studios).

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