Thursday, November 07, 2019

Morrison reveals drought relief

The federal government will today unveil a major drought relief program, including a $1bn concessional loan package. Loans will be available up to the value of $2m for farmers and $500,000 for small businesses. “Farmers will not have to pay a cent for the next two years, and even after that, interest only on a discounted rate,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. They will have to make interest-only repayments in years three to five, and pay interest and principal during years six to 10 of the repayment. Other measures include about $200m of grants in a “special drought round” ($) to be redirected from the Building Better Regions Fund for 128 drought-declared local councils, which will also be eligible to apply for a share of an extra $139m for a Roads to Recovery supplementary payment for road infrastructure. The move comes in response to severe criticism of the drought response from farming groups, the Labor opposition, and leading figures in the Nationals. The news comes after the New South Wales government on Wednesday sacked drought co-ordinator Jock Laurie less than a year in the job. The role will be replaced by a new office dedicated to drought.  

Labor review: Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill will this morning present the results of their review of the surprise federal election loss. Leader Anthony Albanese will make a public response at the National Press Club on Friday. The Courier Mail ($) reports the review shows that former leader Bill Shorten was unpopular, policies were too numerous and controversial, and the campaign was flat-footed and tone deaf. The New Daily reports that Albanese had a heated confrontation with frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon over the latter’s call to water down climate targets first in private last month, and then a second time at a shadow cabinet meeting. At the end of the meeting, climate change spokesman Mark Butler rose to announce he would be declaring a “climate change emergency” in parliament, which an unnamed Labor frontbencher told The New Daily was “a crock of shit”.

Technology used by stalker: A 38-year-old man set up an online application that allowed him to track the movements of his ex-girlfriend and gave him control over the stop and start function of her car, the Hobart Magistrates Court has heard. The court heard he monitored her movements both by “physical covert surveillance” and “review of data”. “I was in shock and fear for my life when I realised he was stalking me and had control of my car,” the victim told the court. Today, the federal Industry Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews will release guidelines for artificial intelligence that suggest its use should prevent discrimination, respect privacy and only operate in accordance with their intended purpose, always with human oversight.

Underpayment of workers: Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has told The Australian ($) that the Coalition could empower the Fair Work Ombudsman to punish the directors of companies that underpay their workers by banning them from ­sitting on boards. The ABC reports that underpaid workers sometimes wait years for repayments even when companies have admitted to the practice. The news comes as the Australian Tax Office deputy commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn warns company directors they will face audits if they continue to hide behind “very clever” finance chiefs, and must take responsibility for the tax risks being run by their companies, reports The Australian Financial Review ($).

The death toll of inequality
There is a widening gap in Australia between the life expectancy of the rich and the poor. On some figures it is as much as 10 years. Mike Seccombe on the death toll of inequality.


“Senior officials from Services Australia, formerly known as the Department of Human Services (DHS), have acknowledged that 10,000 robo-debt notices were sent out earlier this year after staff error caused the system’s algorithm to unpause … Where there was an anomaly, the software automatically sent a letter asking for more information, which, depending on the answers given, initiated the debt-recovery process – all without human oversight.”


“But the ruling faction of the Liberal Party loathes liberalism, and is conservative only in confounding ways. They are for small government, and for big government surveillance regimes; for freedom of the individual, and camps for the indefinite detention of innocent people; for freedom of the press, and for raiding the homes of journalists and sending whistleblowers to jail; for standing up for ‘dinkum’ Australian values, and being the White House hamster; for globalisation as it relates to capital, but not as it relates to the United Nations; for farmers clinging to their land, and for international agribusiness.”


Blinded by the Light, a new film from director Gurinder Chadha, transposes Springsteen’s message and ethos to late ’80s Britain, drawing upon the American legend’s back catalogue as a means to explore the coming of age of a British–Pakistani teen. Here, the crossfire is manifold – of family and self, new and old culture, ambition and obligation.”


“Some teachers are ‘resisting diversity’ in their classrooms and failing to cater for disabled students, the disability royal commission has been told. Special education teachers say despite some students having ‘complex needs’, there is no reason they cannot attend and thrive in mainstream schools.”


“Data released in May showed Australians between the ages of 18 and 34 living with disability were incarcerated at three times the rate of those in the same age group without disability last year. People living with disability aged 35-54 were incarcerated at twice the rate of those without disability.”


“James Dean, who died in a 1955 car crash at the age of 24, is making an unexpected return to the big screen ... ‘This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us,’ said Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide, which represents Dean’s family alongside more than 1,700 entertainment, sports, music and historical personalities, including the likes of Burt Reynolds, Christopher Reeve, Ingrid Bergman, Neil Armstrong, Bette Davis and Jack Lemmon.”

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