Thursday, February 27, 2020

Tourism faces COVID-19 wipeout

Up to 1.5 million international visitors could be lost to Australia due to the coronavirus and bushfires, as cases of COVID-19 continue to spread globally. A draft Deloitte Access Economics report projects Australia will suffer at least a 10 to 15 per cent drop in travellers this year, reports The Australian ($). Tourism and travel companies have been hit hard, with the Australian Financial Review reporting losses of 10.8 per cent this month for Qantas and 5.8 per cent for Webjet, with the S&P/ASX 200 Index losing $129 billion in three days. The news comes as more cases were reported outside China than inside for the first time, with 427 new cases reported in other countries, compared with 411 in China, where numbers are falling. South America has reported its first case, with a 61-year-old traveller from Brazil falling ill after visiting Italy.

Net zero emissions: A new analysis by ClimateWorks Australia finds that existing technologies can get Australia to net zero emissions by 2050, but deployment of them needs to be massively accelerated. Guardian Australia reports that the target requires a transition to 100 per cent renewables by 2035 and ramp up the rollout of electric vehicles, electrified buildings and improved energy efficiency measures. Anna Skarbek, the chief executive of ClimateWorks, said Australia should also be “vastly scaling up carbon sequestration through forestry to buy us time”. The news comes as mining behemoth Rio Tinto unveiled a $1.5 billion plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050, although climate activists note the plan does not include Scope 3 emissions generated by the end users of the company’s products.

Sports rorts: In Parliament yesterday Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese highlighted 136 emails sent from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office to the office of former sports minister Bridget McKenzie regarding the “corrupt” Community Sports Infrastructure program. Morrison said his office only passed on information and made representations on behalf of proposals. A football club in Morrison’s electorate was given $50,000 for a building that had already been built, reports the ABC.

India clashes: At least 25 people are dead and more than 200 have been injured in four days of violent clashes in Delhi, where Muslims protesting against a discriminatory citizenship law were attacked in a surge of mob violence. Police and India's Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been accused of ignoring the situation, which has led to property damage and a mosque being set on fire.


“Due to its unique topography, this valley – stretching from the foothills of the Blue Mountains and across Western Sydney – is vulnerable to extreme flooding. In it, a series of narrow sandstone gorges along the river system constrict the flow of floodwater from the five major tributaries, causing it to rapidly back up and spill across the floodplain. There are few evacuation routes for the 134,000 people who live and work in the area, a figure forecast to double over the next 30 years.”


“Scott Morrison must regret that he did not use the enormous authority of his shock election win last year to impose a credible climate and energy policy on his fractious Coalition government. This failure of leadership has now painted him into a very tight corner. And the ground rules he’s set out will make it virtually impossible for him to do anything.”


“Pine Gap wasn’t on the agenda at the state dinner in the White House Rose Garden, but the most valuable asset in the US–Australia defence alliance was busy, as ever. Only hours before Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Donald Trump tucked into their Dover sole with parsley crisps, the base had almost certainly helped aim the drone that mistook Afghan pine-nut farmers for Islamic State fighters. Thirty civilians resting after a day in the field in Nangarhar Province were killed.”


“Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci has admitted Australia’s largest retailer let down shareholders as well as staff after revealing the damages bill from a wage underpayments scandal is likely to reach $400 million … One analyst, David Errington from Bank of America, said former executives who had prevailed over the ‘systematic’ underpayments should lose some of their defined benefits superannuation payments or hand back bonuses.”


“Activist group Get Up is targeting one of Australia’s biggest brands, Woolworths, for spending money advertising with News Corp and ‘funding climate denial’. Get Up said the Murdoch press is more reliant on advertising than ever before, noting this makes the media giant vulnerable with advertisers holding the power.”


“Yet some designs, he admits, were perhaps too adventurous. The famed kolaikaran pootu, for instance—aka the murderer’s lock. Legend has it that it was designed to murder a potential murderer. If a would-be killer used the wrong key or tried to pick the lock, a slim knife would pop out from a hidden slit and gouge out his eyes. These locks are now illegal, and haven’t been seen since the 1970s.”

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