MPs poised to pass climate bill

Labor’s climate bill is set to pass the lower house this morning, with the Greens and Liberal MP Bridget Archer indicating they will back the proposal.

What we know:

  • Greens leader Adam Bandt confirmed on Wednesday his party would back the Albanese government’s bill to legislate a 43% emissions cut by 2030, but vowed to continue pushing Labor to stop new coal and gas projects (Renew Economy); 
  • Liberal MP Bridget Archer will cross the floor to support Labor’s primary legislation but not the amendments bill, which she says will impact infrastructure projects (SBS); 
  • Archer said climate change required urgent action and “transcends ... political beliefs and socioeconomic circumstances”;
  • The legislation will then progress to the senate during the next parliamentary sitting fortnight in September, where it is also set to pass with support from the Greens and independent David Pocock (The Guardian); 
  • Business groups called for the Coalition to rethink its opposition to the climate bill, arguing that ensuring the policy would survive a change of government guaranteed investment certainty (AFR $); 
  • However, a forthcoming UNESCO scientific report is understood to state that the new climate target is still not enough to protect coral reefs (SMH); 
  • The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast that if the rest of the world acts consistently with Labor’s target, global warming will hit 2C and lead to the degradation of 99% of the world’s coral reefs.
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Labor cuts ‘unrealistic’ productivity forecasts

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has slashed forecast gains in national productivity by a fifth, saying the Coalition based the projections on unrealistic predictions.

What we know:

  • The Albanese government has cut the estimate for future annual productivity growth from 1.5% to 1.2%, potentially shaving billions of dollars from expected future economic output (The Guardian); 
  • Chalmers said the previous forecast, based on the Intergenerational Report and budgets of the Morrison government, was unrealistic;
  • “They never got near it but budget after budget, they pretended they would and hoped no one would notice,” Chalmers said;
  • It comes as the Productivity Commission releases a report finding Australia’s productivity growth has retreated over the last two decades and is now increasing at its lowest rate in 60 years (AFR $); 
  • A key challenge is that the Australian economy is now 90% service-based, which traditionally is harder to shift in productivity terms (Smart Company); 
  • The body found people should aim to work smarter, not harder or longer, harnessing innovation, data, digital technology and cyber security, and a skilled and educated workforce;
  • However, productivity boosts alone don’t guarantee an improvement in living standards, with almost all of the benefit of recent gains going to business owners — not workers (Crikey). 
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Albanese details Voice plan

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has backed away from plans to only reveal key details about the Voice to Parliament after a referendum.

Albanese on Wednesday retreated from his earlier position, flagging that he wanted to give Australians space to “walk on this journey” and discuss the proposed referendum (SMH). 

The prime minister last weekend said that Australians would be simply asked if they supported enshrining an Indigenous Voice in the constitution, without being told much further detail — a suggestion that attracted widespread criticism.

The plan was inspired by the failure of the 1999 republic referendum after disagreement over what republican model would take.

On Wednesday, Albanese indicated a model for the Voice outlined by professors Marcia Langton and Tom Calma in a 2021 report would be central to the debate and design.

The proposed model envisions 24 elected or appointed members, comprising two from each state, territory and the Torres Strait, and a further five members from remote areas, and a Torres Strait Islander living on the mainland.

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Covid vaccine approved for under-5s

A new paediatric Covid vaccine will be made available for 70,000 Australian babies and toddlers with serious health conditions.

The vaccine will only be accessible to under-5s at highest risk of being hospitalised with Covid (The Age). 

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended the vaccine be given to children aged six months to five years with conditions including type 1 diabetes, severe immunodeficiency, complex congenital heart disease, chronic lung disease and severe cerebral palsy.

The body said that under-5s not in the listed risk categories “have a very low likelihood of severe illness from Covid” but that the advice was subject to change based on vaccine supply and availability.

Another paediatric vaccine by Pfizer potentially provides an alternative for under-5s, but its assessment in Australia has only just begun.

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Lab creates embryos from stem cells

Scientists have created the world’s first synthetic embryos, bypassing the need for sperm, eggs and fertilisation.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel grew a mouse embryo outside the womb without the use of sperm or eggs, instead relying entirely on stem cells (ZME Science). 

They found the stem cells could be made to self-assemble into embryo-like structures with an intestinal tract, the beginnings of a brain and a beating heart.

“The embryo is the best organ-making machine and the best 3D bioprinter – we tried to emulate what it does,” said Professor Jacob Hanna, lead researcher on the study.

The breakthrough will help scientists gain a better grasp of how stem cells work and how they might help cure various diseases.

It does raise ethical questions around the potential creation of a live animal, or even humans, solely from cultured stem cells in a lab.

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60,000 years they’ve been calling it K’gari; I think it’s about time we started to do exactly the same.

Queensland resources minister Scott Stewart explains that the proposed new official name for the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island isn’t actually so new after all (Brisbane Times).

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Postscript: Notable People

The map shows the birthplaces of the most “notable people” around the world. Data has been processed to show only one person for each unique geographic location with the highest notability rank (Tjukanovt).

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

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