Ukraine declares state of emergency

Ukraine has declared a national state of emergency as shelling intensifies in eastern regions occupied by Russian troops.

What we know:

  • The 30-day state of emergency could restrict the freedom of movement for conscripted reservists, curb media reporting and lead to personal document checks (Reuters); 
  • The Ukrainian government also announced compulsory military service for all men of fighting age and told its citizens in Russia to leave;
  • Ukraine’s military said one soldier had been killed and six wounded in increased shelling by pro-Russian separatists;
  • Ukrainian government websites went offline, with Russia allegedly behind the cyber attacks;
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned of the possibility of cyber attacks here after unveiling sanctions on high-profile Russian individuals, banks and key industries (The Conversation); 
  • The Institute of Energy Economics forecast that Europe could see out the winter on existing gas reserves if Russian imports stop – unless temperatures unexpectedly drop (The Guardian); 
  • War could also disrupt the food supply chain, with Russia and Ukraine together representing 29% of the global wheat export market (CNBC); 
  • At a special session of the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world was “facing a moment of peril” and criticised Russia’s “perversion” of the term “peacekeepers” to describe its troops moving into Ukraine (CBS); 
  • Russia could be partly motivated by the prospect of the expansion of NATO, despite members ruling out Ukraine joining in the foreseeable future (The Saturday Paper). 
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Fossil fuel emissions underestimated

Australia’s largest fossil fuel companies systematically underestimate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions they will produce, according to new analysis.

What we know:

  • A report by the Australian Conservation Foundation found a fifth emit significantly more greenhouse gases than originally estimated in government approval processes (The Guardian); 
  • Some fossil fuel operations emit more than 20 times what was predicted before they were approved;
  • Gas giant Chevron was the worst offender, with its Gorgon LNG plant producing an additional 16m tonnes of emissions;
  • Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coalmine was another major offender, emitting three to four times more greenhouse gas emissions than initially estimated;
  • ACF lead environmental investigator Annica Schoo said it proved the federal government’s safeguard mechanism was ineffective;
  • It comes as the Morrison government reissues almost $20m in grants to gas drilling projects in the Beetaloo Basin after the federal court thwarted its first attempt (Renew Economy); 
  • A new study meanwhile finds climate change has intensified the water cycle and shifted at least twice the amount of freshwater away from warm regions than previously thought (The Guardian).
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Inflation outpacing pay rises

Pay rates are growing at the fastest rate since the start of the pandemic, but inflation is surging even faster, leading to a decline in real wages.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday released figures showing a 0.7% increase in wages across the final three months of 2021 (The Market Herald). 

That takes annual growth up to 2.3%, the highest growth rate since mid-2019 – well short of the 3.5% inflation over the same period.

Since the 2019 election, inflation has outpaced wage growth by 0.8% – the first time this century that real wages have fallen during a parliamentary term (The Age). 

The ACTU said the gap between inflation and wages growth meant a person on an income of $68,000 had suffered an $832 pay cut in real terms in the past year.

Economist Sarah Hunter said the figures would force the Reserve Bank to hold back an early lift in interest rates.

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Private eye recounts Roberts-Smith letter drop

A private investigator who worked for Ben Roberts-Smith has told the Federal Court the war veteran asked him to take the blame for allegedly sending threatening letters to another soldier.

Private investigator John McLeod says Roberts-Smith handed him several sealed envelopes at a Bunnings store in 2018 to deliver (ABC). 

The court was told Roberts-Smith provided McLeod an address for a former Special Air Service Regiment colleague.

When McLeod heard allegations that Roberts-Smith had sent threatening letters, he severed ties with the war veteran after calling him a “weak dog”.

The testimony was part of a defamation case pursued by Roberts-Smith against the media over articles published in 2018.

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Bankrupt Probuild shuts building sites

Hundreds of tradies have been kicked off worksites after building contractor Probuild was put into administration.

Its South African parent company appointed administrators after propping up the Australian builder with $132.1m over four years (AFR $). 

Probuild was undertaking $5bn of work across Australia, including Greenland Centre, Sydney’s tallest residential building.

The squeeze on materials and labour were among the challenges facing the company, along with delays to the 47-level Queen St project in Brisbane.

In 2021, the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation withdrew its offer to buy Probuild Constructions for about $300m as the federal government would likely reject the takeover bid on national security grounds (The Australian $). 

The company has more than 500 workers but the collapse could leave thousands more subcontractors out-of-pocket, with the company owing $311.6m in trade and other payables.

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Don’t bother removing your review … you will burn in hell.

The owner of a luxury Airbnb property in regional Victoria has been charged for a second time with allegedly menacing someone, after a guest left an online review describing the accommodation as “just okay” (The Age).

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Postscript: Their bionic eyes are now obsolete and unsupported

What happens when cutting-edge implants fail, or simply fade away like yesterday’s flip phones and Betamax? Even worse, what if the companies behind them go bust (IEEE)?

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