Parliament hears Zelensky’s plea

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Australia for armoured vehicles and more weapons in a direct plea to federal Parliament.

What we know:

  • Zelensky addressed via videolink a a joint sitting of Parliament, in which he called for Bushmaster armoured vehicles to help his forces fight against Russia (ABC); 
  • Speaking via a translator, Zelensky claimed Russia posed a direct threat to Australia, referencing the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 by Russian-backed separatists over eastern Ukraine in 2014, which killed all onboard, including 38 Australians;
  • “If the world had punished Russia in 2014 for what it did, there wouldn't be this invasion in Ukraine in 2022,” he said;
  • Zelensky asked for assistance by appealing to the emotions and then the national interest of Australians (The Conversation); 
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison in response announced $25m in extra support for Ukraine, including tactical decoys, unmanned aerial and ground systems, rations and medical supplies (AAP); 
  • The aid package was announced alongside an additional 35% tariff for all imports coming from Russia and Belarus;
  • Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese also addressed Zelensky, telling him: “For you to share precious minutes with us at a time like this is an act of profound generosity, and we thank you.”
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Labor promises aged care boost

Anthony Albanese has pledged to spend an extra $2.5bn on aged care if Labor is elected, using his budget reply speech to make his pitch for returning the party to government.

What we know:

  • Albanese proposed around-the-clock nurses for aged care homes, better nutrition standards for residents’ food, and higher pay for workers (ABC); 
  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission would also get more funding as well as new powers to oversee the sector (The Age); 
  • “If we want to change aged care in this country for the better, then we need to start by changing the government,” Albanese said;
  • He also pledged to drive investment and jobs in renewable energy, and prioritise local manufacturing and infrastructure;
  • “Australians know that the cost of everything is going up – food, petrol, rent, childcare, doctor’s bills – and their pay has fallen behind,” Albanese said;
  • “So let’s be really clear about this: you can’t put the worst-ever decade of wages growth down to a long run of bad luck”;
  • Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the government had put $19.2bn into aged care in response to the royal commission and accused Labor of making sweeping promises without full funding;
  • The wage boost would come through an appeal to the Fair Work Commission, meaning Labor cannot cost it precisely as it does not know how much of an increase the body would recommend.
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Cash splash fuelling rate rise

A leading economist has warned that the short term cash injection of the federal budget will increase interest rate rises in coming months.

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said the budget “risks overstimulating the economy at a time when it is already strong, further adding to inflationary pressures and adding to the amount by which the RBA will have to hike interest rates” (news.com.au). 

He said the extra stimulus in the budget increases the chance that the first rate hike will be 0.4% rather than 0.15%.

Oliver expects the first rate hike in June and the cash rate to reach 0.75% by year’s end and 1.5% next year.

It comes as the housing boom finally shows signs of easing in Sydney and Melbourne (ABC). 

Prices in Sydney and Melbourne fell by 0.2% and 0.1% respectively.

However, national home values continue to rise, up 0.7% on the back of increases elsewhere, led by a 2% rise in Brisbane and 1.9% in Adelaide.

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Tame calls out PM’s sympathy for Smith

Former Australian of the year Grace Tame has criticised Scott Morrison after he appeared to condone Will Smith’s Oscars night assault on comedian Chris Rock.

Speaking on Brisbane radio station B105 FM on Thursday morning, Morrison said he “understands” why Smith was moved to slap Rock in defence of his wife (The New Daily). 

“I’m also fiercely defensive of anyone who would say anything about [my wife] Jenny, so I can understand,” Morrison said.

He added he could understand why some men resorted to physical assault, before adding “that’s not how you roll”.

Tame condemned the Prime Minister’s comments on social media.

“Show sympathy for acts of violence using love as the excuse, sure that’s a great message from a Prime Minister,” she posted.

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Putin demands roubles for gas

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree saying foreign buyers must pay for Russian gas in roubles from April 1 or have their supplies cut.

Putin on Thursday said buyers of Russian gas “must open rouble accounts in Russian banks. It is from these accounts that payments will be made for gas delivered starting from tomorrow” (Reuters). 

Major European capitals have rejected the move, with Germany describing it as “blackmail”.

It leaves Europe facing the prospect of losing more than a third of its gas supply, with Germany activating an emergency plan that could lead to rationing.

British and Dutch gas prices were up 4% to 5% after the announcement.

The move has boosted the Russian currency, which fell to historic lows after the February 24 invasion but has since recovered.

It comes as US President Joe Biden orders the release of up to a million barrels of oil a day from the United States’ strategic petroleum reserve (Al Jazeera). 

The US and other nations have banned imports of Russian oil and gas over the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

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We are very sad that many good and popular services for different reasons are halting their work in Russia … we are even sadder about what absolute shit is sometimes being offered up as substitutes.

As social media networks boycott Russia, underwhelming imitations have emerged in their place. One Russian parody of Instagram mocks the trend, allowing users to post black-and-white “sad-grams” to lament their online isolation (The Guardian).

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Postscript: From Ancient Egypt to Teotihuacán, Centuries-Old Palettes Illuminate the Role of the Painter

For all the paint fragments found throughout the ancient world, on murals, pottery, sculpture, and scrolls, surprisingly few ancient paint palettes have been uncovered ... The palettes we do have, many of which still contain traces of original pigment, show us how people painted, but they also tell us about the role of the painter in ancient civilizations (Hyper Allergic).

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