Coalition ramps up foot-and-mouth panic

Livestock industry leaders have condemned “alarmist” reactions to the discovery of viral fragments of foot-and-mouth disease in Australia, as Coalition leaders call for border closures in response.

What we know:

  • Viral fragments of foot-and-mouth disease have been picked up at Adelaide Airport and Melbourne retail and warehouse sites (ABC); 
  • The viral fragments are not “live” virus and cannot be transmitted to livestock, while live virus is a significant concern for animals such as cattle and sheep but represents no threat to human health;
  • Shadow Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews is one of multiple Coalition politicians calling for the borders to be closed with Indonesia, which is battling an outbreak of the disease;
  • “This is not something that Labor can take a softly softly approach, and if this means they have to slam the border shut to Indonesia, to Bali, they need to be taking serious action and doing so,” Andrews said (The Guardian); 
  • Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie offered to personally wash the shoes of airport arrivals (news.com.au); 
  • Livestock industry leaders rejected calls for the border to close, and commended the federal government’s management of the issue, which includes the deployment of sanitation foot mats at airports (The Age); 
  • Patrick Hutchinson, chief of the Australian Meat Industry Council, said people were “losing their minds” about thongs in Bali, but this was a medium-impact, low-probability risk;
  • “The big issue for us is infected food products entering Australia, which in turn have to enter the livestock food supply chain, and be consumed by animals in order for that to then start,” he said;
  • Foot-and-mouth disease has long been endemic in dozens of countries that Australia has open borders with, including China and India ( World Reference Laboratory for Foot-and-Mouth Disease). 
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Unions fight for right to WFH

Unions are pushing to have the right to work from home included in enterprise bargaining agreements, arguing the measure would help keep workers safe from Covid.

What we know:

  • Unions representing white-collar workers are negotiating with employers to include the right to work from home in agreements (SMH); 
  • They include the National Tertiary Education Union, the Finance Sector Union, and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance;
  • “One of our big concerns is employers seem to think their only obligations are to the public health orders. We say they have an obligation to minimise hazards and reduce risks,” said the NTEU’s national assistant secretary, Gabe Gooding;
  • Craig Laughton, chief of peak employer body the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association, said industry awards could be modernised to recognise working from home “in some iteration”;
  • The Australian Council of Trade Unions called on employers to allow employees to work from home, and provide free rapid antigen tests and Covid leave at full pay (Human Resources Director); 
  • Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, has called on employers to let staff work from home this winter to control the “significant new threat” posed by the latest Omicron subvariants (The Mandarin); 
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said it is up to workplaces to handle working-from-home arrangements during the winter wave;
  • Employers have diverged on the issue of working from home, with Telstra and Westpac encouraging it while NAB is instead urging mask wearing indoors and social distancing in the office (The Australian $). 
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Biden tests positive for Covid

US President Joe Biden has tested positive for Covid and is isolating at home with mild symptoms.

The mild symptoms and diagnosis protocol for Biden will mean isolating and "working and resting" at the White House residence, an official said (CNN). 

It is the first time the 79-year-old, who has had his fourth vaccine shot, has contracted Covid.

"I guess you heard, this morning I tested positive for Covid. But I've been double vaccinated, double boosted. Symptoms are mild and I really appreciate your inquires and concerns,” Biden said.

White House officials claimed Biden would continue to work while isolating, despite him being in a high risk age group for Covid.

The number of staff at the White House residence will be reduced to the “bare minimum” in light of the diagnosis.

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Gender neutral parents form scrapped

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten has scrapped a consent form for new parents that used the gender neutral term “birthing parent” in the wake of News Corp criticism.

Sall Grover, the founder of a female social network that excludes trans women, said on Twitter that the use of the term birthing parent is “exclusionary, alienating and derogatory towards every woman [who] wants to be and is called ‘mother’” (Pedestrian). 

Her comments were featured in an article in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday, after which Shorten moved to stop using the forms, which were used in a trial at three hospitals (The Guardian). 

“They will be replaced with new forms that use the word mother not birthing parent which is consistent with other Medicare forms,” he said.

Trans equality advocate Jackie Turner criticised the move, saying “it is the role of government to ensure services and programs respond to the needs of everyone, including transgender and gender diverse parents”.

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Italian PM quits as coalition crumbles

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has submitted his resignation after coalition parties withdrew their support for his government.

His coalition partners the Five Star Movement, the centre-right Forza Italia and the far-right League, all boycotted a confidence vote in the government, triggering the resignation (Politico). 

The Five Star Movement had opposed a new decree aimed at lowering inflation.

The next step is to call for a snap election in late September, as Italy grapples with an escalating energy and cost-of-living crisis.

Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank, thanked Italy’s lower house after applause in support of him when he announced he would resign.

““Thanks — even central bankers have a heart,” he said.

Right-wing parties are expected to win the vote and take power, with Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party, the favourite to take over as prime minister.

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This was a premeditated attempt at character assassination and an affront to Afghan culture.

Fearing articles by Lynne O’Donnell would embarrass the Afghan government, Taliban officials detained the Australian foreign correspondent and forced her to tweet a retraction — ultimately attracting even more global attention to the stories they hoped no one would read (The Age).

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Postscript: Mysterious pink glow in sky over Australian town revealed to be from local cannabis facility

Residents in the northern Victorian town of Mildura were left pleasantly dumbfounded on Wednesday evening when the night sky was set ablaze with an eerie pink glow. “It was very bizarre,” said Tammy Szumowski. “I was on the phone to my mum, and my dad was saying the world was ending.” (The Guardian)

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

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