Nationals dismiss net zero plan

Nationals candidates have undermined Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s climate pitch to inner-city Liberal seats, escalating attacks on his net zero by 2050 emissions policy.

What we know:

  • Morrison unveiled $275m in funding for new hydrogen hubs in Townsville and Gladstone on Tuesday (AFR $); 
  • Former Nationals minister Matt Canavan dismissed the pitch, declaring the hubs weren’t needed and new coal plants should be built instead (SMH); 
  • Morrison was forced to clarify that his net-zero-by-2050 plan was “absolute policy” after a Nationals candidate said the deadline was not binding and Canavan declared the target “dead”;
  • The Prime Minister also hit out at Labor’s commitment to a carbon credits scheme under the emissions safeguard mechanism as a revived “carbon tax” that would hit the mining sector (The Guardian); 
  • On the weekend, Labor’s shadow climate spokesperson Chris Bowen clarified that coalmines would be included in the plan, after the shadow assistant climate spokesperson, Pat Conroy, had said they would not;
  • Labor leader Anthony Albanese complied with demands from 2GB radio host Ray Hadley on Tuesday to reiterate the same pledge once uttered by former prime minister Julia Gillard, that “there will be no carbon tax, ever” under a government he leads (The New Daily); 
  • It follows a Coalition scare campaign last week misusing energy figures to attack Labor’s energy plan (The Saturday Paper); 
  • The Liberal Party’s candidate for the Melbourne seat of Macnamara, Colleen Harkin, has meanwhile said that describing global warming as a climate emergency is almost child abuse (The Age). 
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Labor shakes up foreign worker scheme

Labor has announced it will effectively axe Australia’s agriculture visa before a foreign worker could arrive on the scheme, if it wins government.

What we know:

  • The Coalition’s agriculture visa was announced last year but no workers have arrived on it (ABC); 
  • Last month a deal was reached with Vietnam to allow workers in on the Coalition’s visa, but tax legislation to allow foreign workers to be employed in Australia has not yet been heard in parliament;
  • Labor will respect the Vietnam deal, but will scrap the visa and instead establish a new agriculture stream within the existing Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme;
  • An Albanese government would pay the costs of Pacific workers travelling to Australia, allow them to bring their families, and promote permanent residency on a new Pacific Engagement Visa;
  • Farmers groups have reacted negatively, claiming the proposed changes to the visa would restrict the number of partner countries to the Pacific region and result in fewer workers on Australian farms (The Guardian); 
  • It comes as agricultural businesses prepare for the introduction of a guaranteed minimum wage for fruit pickers on Thursday after a Fair Work Commission ruling (ABC). 
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Uncle Jack Charles speaks his truth

Victoria’s Indigenous truth-telling commission has opened public hearings, with actor and activist Uncle Jack Charles the first Indigenous elder to speak.

The commission will seek to establish an official public record of Indigenous experiences since the start of British colonisation (The Guardian). 

Charles described how he was taken from his Bunurong mother as a four-month-old after being discovered at Daish’s Paddock in northern Victoria, and was moved to a city mission and then to the Box Hill Boys’ Home, where he was abused by staff and other boys.

The commission will recommend reform and redress by June 2024 and the findings will guide Victoria’s Treaty negotiations.

Organisers expect a large number of submissions and will accept them in writing, audio or video form, or as an object such as an artwork, cultural artefact or photo.

Cobble Cobble woman and Referendum Council member Megan Davis has warned of the danger that truth-telling could see performative storytelling in place of meaningful structural change (The Monthly). 

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WA drops most Covid restrictions

WA will join the rest of the country in easing Covid restrictions including mask mandates, venue capacity limits and close contact isolation requirements.

As of Friday, masks will no longer be required except on public transport, in hospitals and other high-risk settings (The West Australian). 

Capacity limits will be removed at all venues, as will proof of vaccination requirements for entry.

Close contacts of positive Covid cases will no longer have to quarantine for seven days if they are symptom-free, but will have to wear a mask when outside the home, avoid high-risk settings and take a rapid antigen test daily.

Travellers to the state will no longer be required to be triple vaccinated, and the G2G pass system will also be dropped.

WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the state’s cautious approach had avoided the “mass loss of life, long rotating lockdowns and economic devastation” seen across much of the rest of Australia and globally (WA Today). 

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Russia cuts gas link to Poland

Russia has told Poland gas will be cut off from today, in the first sign Moscow will follow through on its threat to end gas exports to countries that don’t comply with its demands.

Russian energy giant Gazprom told Poland’s PGNiG it will halt gas supplies from Wednesday morning (Reuters). 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that “unfriendly” countries open accounts at Gazprombank and make payments for Russian gas imports in euros or dollars that would be converted into roubles.

Poland has repeatedly said it would not comply with the new scheme, despite relying on Gazprom for about 50% of its national consumption.

Polish authorities claim gas supplies are secure, as the country has gas links with Germany, Lithuania and the Czech Republic.

Poland has been a strong critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday it announced a list of 50 Russian oligarchs and companies, including Gazprom, that would be subject to sanctions.

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Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?

Jeff Bezos questions whether Elon Musk buying the ‘town square’ of Twitter will see him quell criticism of China, given the Tesla CEO’s desire to sell electric cars there. As the proud owner of leading newspaper The Washington Post, the Amazon founder knows a thing or two about the benefits that come with owning the town square (Inc).

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Postscript: Strange rumbling noises in California house turn out to be 5 bears hibernating in crawl space

Some California residents last week finally figured out the source of strange rumbling and snoring noises in their home — a mother bear and her four cubs had been hibernating beneath the South Lake Tahoe house (NBC News).

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