Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Nats strife spurs cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to announce a rejigged cabinet today, following the resignation of two Nationals ministers in as many days. Vacancies have been created after Bridget McKenzie gave up the agriculture portfolio on Sunday in response to the sports rort scandal, followed by Resources Minister Matt Canavan offering his resignation from the frontbench to support Barnaby Joyce’s unsuccessful bid to wrest the Nationals leadership from Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Morrison met with McCormack on Tuesday night ($) to discuss potential cabinet appointments. David Littleproud, who was elected as the new Nationals deputy and is expected to take on the agriculture portfolio, left the door open for Canavan and Joyce to rejoin the frontbench one day, along with his own predecessor McKenzie. Queensland backbencher Keith Pitt is touted as a frontrunner for the resources and northern Australia portfolios, and Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester has been tipped for the emergency management portfolio. The reshuffle comes after the first Coalition party room meeting of the year on Monday saw a heated clash over climate policy, with the Nationals pushing strongly for new coal-fired power stations.

Coronavirus evacuees: Australians evacuated from the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan have expressed concern about poor hygiene conditions at the Christmas Island detention centre. Evacuee Belinda Chensay told the ABC the facility is “worse than a prison. I understood that there would be very limited facilities here, but the actual condition is no facilities at all.” Some evacuees claimed to have little to no internet connection, and said they were given credit for the centre's public phones in case of medical issues – but that nobody answered any calls. More evacuees are expected to arrive in coming days. The news comes as the Chinese embassy says it was blindsided by Australia’s decision to close its borders, and wants compensation for Chinese travellers and students affected. The World Health Organisation has called for countries to reconsider travel bans. The coronavirus death toll has risen to 427, with more than 20,000 confirmed cases globally.

Heavy rain for NSW: The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast widespread heavy rain to coastal New South Wales over the next week, and could extend to the fire grounds around Canberra, the south coast of NSW, and East Gippsland in Victoria. Ben Domensino, a meteorologist at Weatherzone, said “we haven't had a weather event like this for at least a year”, with potential localised falls above 200 millimetres that could put out some fires, but also pose a flood risk.

Racial profiling: Senior police in Western Australia have been sitting on a report that shows Aboriginal drivers are much more likely to get fines from police officers than automated traffic cameras. The final report, dated February 13, 2019 and obtained under freedom of information laws by Guardian Australia, recommended further investigation, noting: “These differences are large enough to suggest an uncomfortable distinction between automated camera and police-initiated traffic enforcement, with this distinction heavily correlated with Aboriginality.”


“Counterintuitive though it may be, Scott Morrison does the least damage to the global environment when he is in Canberra, at least in a personal capacity. The same holds for those who sit behind him, on the crossbench and across the aisle. That’s because while they are in Parliament House, or anywhere in the nation’s capital, they are living in a Canberra bubble – a low-carbon Canberra bubble. The ACT gets its electricity from 100 per cent renewable sources: wind and solar.”


“Andy Ewing had never heard of CAR T-cell immunotherapy before it was offered to him as his last hope of beating a relentless form of blood cancer. Ewing, 58, from Berwick, south-east of Melbourne, is among the growing number of cancer patients in Australia who have had CAR’s immunotherapy treatment at a point when, as Ewing puts it, ‘you are waiting around to die’.”


“The public, and not just those communities and teams who have been dudded through this process – and there are plenty of those – know damn well that if they are caught for the smallest discrepancy by the government, whether the tax office or Centrelink, they will be smashed, humiliated, stripped of their supposedly immoral earnings, and subjected to stringent penalties.McKenzie, who was caught misappropriating more than $100 million, was not only exonerated but applauded for delivering a program praised, unsurprisingly, by the lucky winners in the marginal seats.”


“SpaceX took a first step toward offering its Starlink internet service in Australia, after the country’s telecommunications regulator gave initial approval for the satellite network … But SpaceX still may face a fight in Australia, as the country’s telecommunications giant Foxtel wrote a letter of protest to the ACMA regarding Starlink. The TV conglomerate said that Starlink’s services would interfere with Foxtel’s current satellite service.”


“Astronomers have done the calculations, and say many of these satellites will be visible to the naked eye, particularly in the time after sunset and before sunrise, when they’ll most strongly catch the glare of the sun. When there are 50,000 satellites in the sky, ‘you’ll see the sky crawling,’ says Tony Tyson, a University of California Davis astronomer and physicist. ‘Every square degree will have something crawling in it.’”


“A Tasmanian snake catcher in the middle of the island's busy season has witnessed a serpentine cannibalistic drama unfold ... The snakes — both copperheads — were at first thought to have been mating, with the male becoming a post-coital snack. But Mr Daly thought otherwise. ‘I think the young male tried his luck and the female wasn't having it … so she just ended up eating him!’”

In partnership with State Library Victoria, the second Melbourne instalment of Quiz Night will be held in the Library’s brand new event space, the Conversation Quarter.

Participants will enjoy a three-course meal designed by Annie Smithers and drinks will be available to purchase from A Wine Service bar. Plus, there are great prizes to be won.

When: Friday, February 28 | 6.30pm – 10pm
Where: Conversation Quarter, State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Cost: $85 a head (includes a three-course meal).

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