US President Donald Trump is on the verge of his second impeachment, with a vote under way in the House of Representatives. Democrats have a majority in the House, and seven Republican members have indicated they will vote to impeach. House speaker Nancy Pelosi says Trump must be removed from office, calling him “a clear and present danger to the nation we all love”. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has confirmed there will be no Senate trial before January 19, resisting calls for an early return from recess, meaning the trial will take place in Biden’s term. Trump has put out a short statement that looks a lot like a tweet, calling for “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO violence of any kind”. The city of New York has announced it will terminate its business contracts with the Trump Organization, joining major golf tournaments and banks in abandoning the president.
Queensland is considering sending international arrivals to remote work camps, as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk calls for a quarantine overhaul, following an outbreak of the highly infectious UK strain in one floor of a Brisbane hotel. Queensland Health, police and managers of the proposed facilities will meet today to discuss the idea, which was originally floated in mid-2020 but abandoned as community transmission dropped off, The Australian reports. Hundreds of returned travellers have been ordered to repeat quarantine over the hotel outbreak, which has generated six linked cases. On the vaccine front, the federal government is seeking new deals to boost supplies, with hopes of securing Moderna stocks, while reassuring Australians that the less effective AstraZeneca will still protect them. The Daily Telegraph is using its front page to spruik a COVID SUPERNOVA: the government is in talks to domestically produce the “promising” Novavax vaccine, which uses similar technology to the University of Queensland’s since-abandoned protein-based vaccine, and is still undergoing clinical trials overseas. Australia has secured 51 million doses.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute is concerned that the Biden administration may disengage in the Indo-Pacific and ease up on China, with executive director Peter Jennings calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to visit Washington soon after the inauguration to shape the president’s thinking on his nation’s role in the region. Beijing authorities have told the owners of almost 8 million tonnes of Australian coal floating off the Chinese coast that their cargo will not be unloaded, The Australian reports, dashing hopes the trade ban would be lifted in the new year and worsening the humanitarian crisis for the 1500 sailors caught in the deadlock. Industry sources expect the ban to run beyond March, with China willing to pay a premium to secure other coal supplies through its freezing winter. First coal, now cherries: China’s state-owned Global Times has reported that Australian cherries are “inferior” in taste and quality.
Human Rights Watch has released its annual report, and Australia has not fared well, with harsh lockdown measures, the mistreatment of refugees, and a failure to address longstanding abuses against First Nations people all harming its global standing. The Australia chapter of the World Report 2021 points out many issues with the nation’s heavy-handed response to Covid-19, often singling out Victoria, including its “discriminatory approach” in suddenly locking down 3000 people in public housing towers. Executive director Kenneth Roth singles out the US, calling Trump a “disaster for human rights”. Australia director Elaine Pearson told Guardian Australia the US Capitol attack should be a “wake-up call”, urging the government to counter the growth of right-wing extremism.