Parliament opens with climate priority

New MPs are set to be sworn in on the first day of parliament today, as Labor makes key concessions to win support for its climate legislation.

What we know:

  • The first sitting of the 47th Parliament of Australia will largely be taken up with ceremonial proceedings, including a speech from the governor-general, a 19-gun salute, and the swearing in of new members (ABC); 
  • Former prime minister Scott Morrison, who remains an MP, will skip the first week of the new parliament to instead speak at an event for former world leaders in Tokyo (The New Daily); 
  • The new Labor government wants to introduce at least 18 pieces of legislation in the first week;
  • One of the first will be its climate legislation, set to be introduced on Wednesday;
  • Amid negotiations with the Greens and teal independents, Labor is rewriting the bill to make clear the target of 43% emissions reduction by 2030 is a minimum that could be upgraded over time (SMH); 
  • Another change would also insert the new emissions target into the objectives and functions of key agencies such as the CSIRO, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Infrastructure Australia;
  • The Climate Change Authority will provide public advice on progress towards achieving the target, and if the climate change minister doesn’t agree with the expert advice they will have to table a response outlining the differences (The Conversation); 
  • Greens leader Adam Bandt said the party was “pleased the government has listened to some of our concerns about the bill, and we are continuing negotiations about remaining issues, including the opening of new coal and gas mines,” (The Guardian). 
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Hospitals record Covid high

Australia's Covid-19 hospitalisations have hit a new record, while cases and death rates are now the third highest in the world per capita.

What we know:

  • Hospitalisations reached a record 5450 on Monday, exceeding January’s high of 5390 during the first wave of Omicron infections (Al Jazeera); 
  • In the past week, Australia recorded the third highest number of both deaths and cases per capita globally among major nations (ABC); 
  • Experts are pleading with the public to wear masks, get PCR tests if symptomatic and get boosters;
  • “If you look at other countries, a number of countries in Europe still have stronger mask mandates than Australia, and they have a lot higher compliance,” said epidemiologist Mike Toole;
  • Despite official advice to work from home, data from Victoria’s Department of Transport indicates there has been no noticeable change to commuter numbers into Melbourne’s CBD (The Age); 
  • As leaders ignore calls from their chief health officers for mask mandates, politicians have become “the tail wagging the dog” on precautions (The Saturday Paper). 
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Retailers turn off facial recognition

Bunnings and Kmart have paused use of facial recognition technology in their stores as the privacy watchdog investigates the practice.

The Wesfarmers-owned retailers took the decision in the wake of an investigation by consumer group CHOICE (itnews). 

Bunnings managing director Mike Schneider confirmed the technology had been switched off, claiming it had been used to prevent verbal and physical abuse against staff.

“For absolute clarity, an individual’s image is only retained by the system if they are already enrolled in the database of individuals who are banned or associated with crime in our stores,” Schneider said.

A spokesperson for Kmart said “our use of facial recognition technology for the limited purpose of preventing criminal activity such as refund fraud is appropriate and its use is subject to strict controls”.

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Federal Court halts rainforest dam

The Bob Brown Foundation has succeeded in its legal challenge to halt a tailings dam inside the takayna/Tarkine rainforest in Tasmania.

The Federal Court ruled that the initial Morrison government approval for works on the MMG heavy metals mine was invalid (ABC).

Justice Mark Moshinsky found that former Environment minister Sussan Ley did not properly consider the forest’s status as the habitat of the rare Tasmanian masked owl.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown welcomed the decision, and said the 100-odd environmentalists who had been arrested while campaigning at the site should now be compensated.

“They are the environmental citizen heroes who stood firm when the minister and government failed them and the law,” he said.

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Junta executes Burmese activists

Myanmar’s ruling military has executed four democracy activists it accused of helping to carry out “terror acts”.

The country’s first executions in decades sparked widespread global condemnation (Reuters). 

Sentenced to death in closed-door trials, the men had been accused of helping a resistance movement to fight the army that seized power in a coup last year.

Democracy campaigner Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Jimmy, and former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, an ally of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, were among the executed.

The two others killed were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.

State media said “the punishment has been conducted”, but did not say when, or by what method.

Masked protesters demonstrated in response in Yangon, chanting and carrying a large banner down a street that read “we will never be frightened” before turning to run.

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As a Manly fan, I’d be more than okay for those players to not play in this game, or ever again for the club.

Manly fans react to the news that seven players will miss the clash against the Roosters this round, where the NRL club will unveil its pride jersey. The outs are set to include: Josh Aloiai (homophobia), Jason Saab (homophobia), Christian Tuipulotu (homophobia), Josh Schuster (homophobia), Haumole Olakau’atu (homophobia), Tolu Koula (homophobia) and Toafofoa Sipley (homophobia) (news.com.au).

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Postscript: Chess robot breaks seven-year-old’s finger during tournament in Russia

The robot broke the child’s finger. This, of course, is bad,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told Russian news agency TASS. Said Lazarev: “The child made a move, and after that we need to give time for the robot to answer, but the boy hurried, the robot grabbed him. We have nothing to do with the robot” (The Verge).

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

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