Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Firefighters call for national summit

Former emergency leaders have called for a national summit to address how to resource bushfire containment in a changing climate. “What we’re saying long term is there needs to be a paradigm shift for how we deal with these fires,” former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue Greg Mullins said. “A big national conversation needs to be had. We need farmers, councils, the military, politics.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday rejected calls for additional help for volunteer firefighters who have been battling blazes since August. The New South Wales coastline is expected to again be blanketed by bushfire smoke today from 83 fires, after Sydney’s air quality hit 12 times hazardous levels on Tuesday, although conditions should be cooler. NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean made the strongest comments yet from a NSW government representative on the link between climate change and bushfires, saying “no one can deny” that climate change is to blame for the smoke haze. “This is not normal and doing nothing is not a solution,” he said. Sky News host Paul Murray said “most people in Australia" are not “losing their minds” over the bushfire smoke, and won't be fooled by “climate change politics”. 

Volcano victims: The official death toll from the volcanic eruption at White Island has risen to six, with New Zealand authorities today hoping to attempt recovery of the bodies of a further eight people believed dead on the island. Of the 31 injured still in hospital, 27 suffered burns to at least 30 per cent of their bodies, with many suffering burns to their lungs. Three Australians are believed among the dead. The Advertiser reports Adelaide engineer Lisa Hosking, 48, is among those critically injured in hospital. Her husband Gavin Dallow and daughter Zoe Hosking are missing. White Island Tours manager Paul Kingi has been lauded for his efforts rescuing tourists in a rubber dinghy. A coroner’s investigation into the circumstances of the deaths and injuries is under way, in parallel with a WorkSafe investigation, as the decision to allow tourists onto the volcano comes under scrutiny.

Euthanasia victory: Western Australia has become the second state in Australia to legalise euthanasia. All 55 amendments proposed by the state’s legislative council were passed by the lower house on Tuesday evening in emotional scenes. To be eligible a person would have to be terminally ill, experiencing intolerable suffering, and likely to die within six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative condition. A person would have to make two verbal requests and one written request, which would have to be signed off by two independent doctors.

Trump impeachment: The United States House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday revealed two articles of impeachment, which charge President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, said Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” by soliciting foreign interference in next year’s election and engaged in a “cover up” of his own alleged misconduct. The judiciary committee reportedly plans to approve the articles later this week, with a full House of Representatives vote expected next week.

The big wedge
Following an inquiry into digital platforms, the government finds itself wedged between News Corp and the tech giants. Both sides are lobbying heavily. Rick Morton on the battle to regulate the internet — or not.


“It was just before 11am on Wednesday when Cormann, the government’s leader in the upper house, walked over to have a not-quiet-enough word with Lambie, upon whose vote rested the fate of the Coalition’s effort to repeal the medevac legislation, a decency forced upon it almost a year ago … Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who was sitting at the next desk to Lambie’s, was one of several people who claim to have overheard what happened next.”


“Trump’s role as deal­maker-in-chief plays out in a reactive and performative form. ‘Winning’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been impossible, so instead a shrunken president, in a shrunken presidency, seeks temporary, televisual victories that he can claim as his own on behalf of his bruised and war-weary nation. American failure in the Middle East did not make a Trump presidency inevitable. But it did make a Trump-like president unavoidable.”


“When Adelaide Crows co-captain Erin Phillips lifted the AFLW champion’s trophy aloft in front of more than 50,000 fans, the Australian women’s basketball fraternity could have been forgiven for viewing the moment with a bittersweet pang. The triumph was the apex of a remarkable cross-code transition by one of the best Australian basketballers of her generation, but the headlines and record-breaking crowds would have been foreign to many involved in Phillips’ old WNBL stomping ground.”


“Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended an overhaul of religious freedom laws as part of a ‘patient’ and ‘inclusive’ process aimed at warding against discrimination … The draft legislation has been updated to ensure charities such as St Vincent de Paul Society, and religious hospitals and nursing homes can hire staff based on their faith.”


“A pharmacist could refuse to dispense contraception and a doctor could refuse to provide fertility treatment under the government's proposed new religious discrimination laws, provided they declined to provide that particular service to all patients. Attorney-General Christian Porter said the second draft of the religious discrimination bill, released on Tuesday, would allow doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and psychologists to conscientiously object as long as it was ‘to a procedure, not a person’ ... Mr Porter used the example of a GP who did not want to ‘engage in hormone therapies’ for a trans person. ‘That's fine, but you have to exercise that in a consistent way, so you don't engage in the procedure at all,’ he told The Sydney Morning Herald.”


“A Brighton man who turned up to Melbourne’s first bathing box auction of the summer as a ‘tyre kicker’ has splashed $305,000 to buy it. Michael Abell was the only bidder for bathing box 76D, revealing he’d almost bought one 25 years ago for $15,000 … The iconic bathing boxes have no electricity connection, no running water, have to follow strict decoration guidelines and can only be purchased by those living in the area. ”

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