New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency. After deciding not to do so last week, the United Nations health body opted to go ahead with the declaration after a health regulations committee meeting on Thursday in Geneva, citing the spread of the virus outside of China. At least 8100 people have been infected in mainland China, with more than 100 cases reported overseas in at least 15 countries. China reported its biggest single-day jump in novel coronavirus deaths on Thursday, with the toll rising by 38 to 170. New cases in Queensland and Victoria have lifted Australia’s number of coronavirus infections to nine. Australia is among the countries planning evacuations of its citizens from China, but is still in negotiation with local authorities. A cruise ship carrying up to 7000 passengers has been put into lockdown at an Italian port after two Chinese passengers were thought to be carrying the virus, although preliminary tests were negative. Panic about the virus has triggered global discrimination against Chinese people.
NSW energy deal: The federal and New South Wales governments have agreed to energy and climate deals worth nearly $3 billion, in a bid to increase gas supply and support emission reduction initiatives. NSW has committed to inject an additional 70 petajoules into the east coast market - which could mean increasing gas use in the state by about 60 per cent, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. In exchange it will secure funding to upgrade the energy grid and invest in initiatives such as methane capture from landfill and carbon farming. It has not been specified how much emissions would be reduced under the plan. As an energy source, gas emits less carbon than coal, but is still a significant contributor to global warming.
Bushfire legal action: Three bushfire victims together with Friends of the Earth Australia will launch a claim against ANZ to hold the bank accountable for financing fossil fuel projects. The complaint alleges that the bank has failed to adhere to the Paris Agreement reduction targets across its lending portfolio. “It is illegal for someone to light a bushfire, and we believe it is illegal for companies to finance the burning of our common home,” said Friends of the Earth legal officer Emila Nazari. Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation is calling for a cap on fuel tax credits for big business, arguing that taxpayer support for diesel fuel essentially puts public money into heating the climate. The organisation suggests putting the $4.5 billion annual saving towards rural and regional renewal in the wake of the summer bushfire crisis, reports Guardian Australia. The news comes as a 15,000-hectare blaze approaches Canberra.
Australian Open tennis: American Sofia Kenin upset Australian top seed Ashleigh Barty 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday. The world No. 15 will play Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in Saturday night’s women’s final. In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic defeated an injury-hampered Roger Federer in straight sets 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-3 to progress to the Sunday final.