Borders open to visa holders

Visa holders from overseas can from today enter Australia for the first time since the pandemic began, while mainland Australians can now cross Bass Strait to visit Tasmania.

What we know:

  • Fully vaccinated skilled workers and international students are now allowed to enter Australia, almost two years since international borders closed (Canberra Times); 
  • “We have missed their presence dearly and couldn't be more delighted to welcome them back from today,” said Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson;
  • Fully vaccinated travellers from mainland Australia in turn can now enter Tasmania, as long as they return a negative Covid-19 test in the 72 hours before they arrive (7News); 
  • In NSW, unvaccinated residents will regain the same freedoms as those who are fully vaccinated, and density limits in all settings will be removed (Nine); 
  • It comes as experts warn of a Covid-19 case spike in NSW, with 804 new infections on Tuesday, and more than 200 patrons testing positive at a single nightclub event in Newcastle (Nine). 
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Pork barrel rolled out to Coalition seats

Liberal seats have received three times as much federal funding as Labor electorates, according to an analysis of more than 19,000 grants.

What we know:

  • Coalition-held seats around the country received more than $1.9bn over three years while Labor electorates got just under $530m (SMH); 
  • Many adjacent seats fared very differently, with wealthy Wentworth securing $33.5m in grants while the neighbouring Labor seat of Kingsford Smith received just $4.1m;
  • The Labor-held seat of Perth received almost $4.6m in grants, while the adjoining Liberal marginal seat of Swan received $48.6m;
  • Liberal-held Braddon in Tasmania received $83.4m, equating to  $1108 for every voter, compared to $2.8m for Labor’s Franklin seat, at $38 a voter;
  • 15 of the 20 least-supported seats were held by Labor, with almost all of them relatively safe;
  • Drought-affected and expansive electorates with small, isolated communities got the most assistance, led by $101.7m for Maranoa held by the Nationals’ David Littleproud;
  • Two key marginal seats – Corangamite in Victoria and Braddon in Tasmania – were among the 10 best-supported electorates in the country, receiving $55.2m and $83.4m respectively;
  • The analysis only covers grants allocated by the local MP or government ministers, so does not include programs such as the Coalition’s railway station car parks, which were funded in a different manner (The Age). 
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NRL player charged over child abuse comments

Former NRL player Brett Finch has been charged with child abuse material offences over alleged conversations in an online chat room.

Finch is among eight men in NSW accused of involvement after police raids at properties in Surry Hills, Stanmore, Petersham, Cranebrook, Gerroa, Shoal Bay and Coffs Harbour over the past month (AAP). 

The former Melbourne Storm player was arrested on Tuesday at a Sans Souci home in Sydney’s south, where police also seized a mobile phone.

He was charged with five counts of using a carriage service to transmit, publish or promote child abuse and was granted conditional bail to face Sutherland Local Court next month.

“We will allege that each of the men arrested by detectives over the past month expressed desires to engage in sexual activity with children, and in some cases attempted to access child abuse material from other users of the service,” Detective Superintendent Jayne Doherty said (Daily Telegraph). 

Finch’s solicitor Paul McGirr stressed it was not alleged Finch had shared any child abuse material.

“And there’s no evidence from the police to suggest otherwise,” McGirr said.

It comes a week after Finch revealed he had called in sick to a radio job in order to go buy drugs, before being caught by his family.

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Climate 200 calls out donor double standard

The Climate 200 group has hit back at the Morrison government’s call for MPs to dob in the group under new electoral donation laws.

Simon Holmes à Court, the convener of Climate 200, said it was “crazy” the Liberal Party was “impinging on a reasonably held expectation of privacy” by donors to charities so soon after it was “demanding complete privacy” for donors to the Legal Services Trust, which part-paid Christian Porter’s legal fees (The Guardian). 

Climate 200 has raised millions of dollars for a series of independent candidates challenging sitting Liberal MPs in inner-city constituencies.

Holmes à Court said everyone above the $13,400 disclosure threshold would be revealed “as per the AEC requirements, months before the Liberals” donors.

He added the Coalition failed to understand that “Voices of” volunteer organisations also being targeted don’t collect money for the candidates they promote.

“Voices of groups aren’t political organisations receiving disclosable donations – they’re volunteer organisations helping their candidates with sweat not money,” he said.

Liberal MP Jason Falinski defended the government’s handling of the issue.

“You might say I’m self-interested because they [Climate 200 and Voices of Mackellar] are running against me – but it’s pretty outrageous it can act as a front group for candidates claiming to be community independents,” he said.

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Solomons opposition figure arrested

A leading member of the opposition in the Solomon Islands has been arrested in connection with deadly riots.

United Party president John Kwaita was reportedly arrested by armed police at his home on unspecified charges connected to rioting last month (SBS). 

Anti-government protests sparked widespread looting and arson in the capital Honiara, leaving three dead and causing $94m worth of damage.

Two of Kwaita’s United Party MPs had backed a failed vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare earlier this month.

Ally Peter Kenilorea told supporters late on Monday that Mr Kwaita, “one of our nation’s prominent leaders”, was in police custody.

“I call for calm at this time. I am still trying to ascertain further details and what charges are being laid against him,” he said.

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It’s like a turducken of bin fires … a bin fire, inside a bin fire, inside a bin fire. And then garbage and a flaming bag of poo inside the successive three bin fires.

Glen Le Lievre does not feel particularly grateful for the 2021 news cycle — even if it did provide him with enough material to win Political Cartoonist of the Year (ABC).

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Postscript: Photos of the Dangerous, Tight-Knit World of Australian Rodeo

They’re all in amazing outfits. The detail that goes into their chaps, it’s amazing. That juxtaposition of very tough men in very colourful outfits is quite a sight (VICE).

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