Summer Schwartz° Thursday, December 31, 2020

Covid creeps across the nation

The rest of the states may be feeling vindicated in their decision to close their borders to Sydneysiders, with three new locally acquired cases in Melbourne believed to be linked to the NSW outbreak. The three cases, which bring an end to Victoria’s 61-day streak of no community transmission, are not returned travellers, presenting the first big test for Victoria’s revamped contact tracing system. Epidemiologists are warning of a national spread, with Deakin chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett telling The New Daily that the entire country needs to be alert (but not alarmed) because the virus is out in the community. Not if WA has anything to do with it: the state government is, unsurprisingly, foreshadowing changes to border arrangements with Victoria. For her part, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has tightened New Year’s restrictions for Greater Sydney, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains, following yesterday’s concerning 18 cases, with household guests capped at five and outdoor gatherings at 30. Expecting a similar announcement from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in 10, 9, 8...

More than 2 million Australians will have their welfare payments cut tomorrow, with the coronavirus supplement to be reduced from $250 to $150 a fortnight from January 1. People on JobSeeker payments will now receive a base rate of $715.70 a fortnight, down from a peak of $1115 earlier this year. Analysis by the Nine papers has revealed the areas that will be worst affected by the cut, including tourist regions, Melbourne’s outer suburbs and western Sydney. Welfare campaigners, economists, Labor and the Greens are calling on the Coalition to abandon the cut, arguing it will hurt the nation’s economic recovery and leave many people trying to get by on just $50 a day. University fees will also skyrocket in some disciplines from tomorrow, with the government’s controversial Job-Ready Graduates Package taking effect. New law and humanities students will pay up to 113 per cent more under the scheme. Happy New Year.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has told former prime minister Kevin Rudd that China wants our relationship back on track “as early as possible”, Nine reports. Striking a note of reconciliation during a conversation live-streamed two weeks ago, Wang said the deterioration was not something Beijing wanted and that the two could be partners again, though the ball was in Australia’s court. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has attempted to reopen a dialogue with China, but the government claims their calls have gone unanswered. Meanwhile, a suspected Chinese submarine drone has been found in waters strategically important to Australia, the ABC reports. The unmanned sub, which collects oceanographic data valuable to naval planners, was found by an Indonesian fisherman in the middle of a crucial maritime route linking the South China Sea to Darwin. An Indonesian-based security analyst says the drone raises “many questions, especially how it managed to be found deep inside our territory”.

At least 26 people have been killed and 60 wounded in a suspected terrorist attack on the newly formed Yemeni government at Aden airport. Multiple explosions and gunfire erupted shortly after a plane carrying the prime minister and cabinet members landed, with another mortar hitting the city’s Mashiq Palace, where politicians were taken following the attack. Civilians, journalists and government officials are believed to be among the dead, with casualties expected to rise, though no one on the plane was injured. The new unity government was sworn in last week, part of a power-sharing deal between the Saudi-backed president and the Emirati-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council, currently in charge of Aden. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Summer Schwartz will be off on New Year’s Day, but we’ll see you next week. Stay safe, and enjoy your bubbles within your bubbles. 

Summer Schwartz°

Summer Schwartz is a daily email of news and analysis.

Sign up for free and get summer break access to all journalism from The Monthly and The Saturday Paper.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Anna Krien • THE Monthly (JUN 2020)

What do we really know about the growing presence of Google, Apple, Microsoft and more in the education system?

Anna Krien's major essay on the use of screens in schools, and Big Tech's growing control of education:

Read more

Leanne Altmann • THE Saturday Paper (OCT 2020) 

The beverage director for Andrew McConnell’s restaurants selects her current crop of favourite wines and non-alcoholic beer.

Read more

Richard Denniss • THE Saturday Paper (AUG 2020) 

“There is a famous thought experiment, known as ‘the trolley problem’, that asks us to imagine ourselves driving a trolley – or a tram, for Australians – and having to choose between staying on the current track and running over five innocent people or switching tracks to kill only one person. You aren’t allowed to slam on the brakes or ding the bell, you have to choose. So, what would you do?”

Read more

Lane Sainty • 7am podcast (SEP 2020)

A federal court has been re-examining controversial psychiatric treatments used in a Sydney hospital in the 1960s. The treatments drew the attention of the Church of Scientology, and led to a Royal Commission. Today, Lane Sainty on what happened at Chelmsford, and the journalist caught in the middle 30 years on.

LISTEN NOW

Kerry O'Brien • THE MONTHLY (JUL 2019)

Celebrating the contribution of an Australian media legend.

Kerry O'Brien profiles a legend of Australian journalism in his twilight days.

Read more

Christos Tsiolkas • THE Saturday Paper (JUN 2020)

In his latest film, It Must Be Heaven, Elia Suleiman continues to explore the absurdity and tragedy of being Palestinian, and weaves in a moving contemplation of the ageing body.

Read more

Annie Smithers • THE SATURDAY PAPER (OCT 2020) 

Read more

Rachel Withers is the editor of Summer Schwartz.