Friday, February 28, 2020

Health ministers prepare for pandemic

Federal health minister Greg Hunt will meet with state and territory ministers today to prepare for a possible COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. “We are doing all of that work across medical stockpile, personal protective equipment, supply chain, in particular personnel,” he said ($). “One of the things we’re most focused on is to make sure that we have the personnel capacity if there is a surge within our hospitals and medical system.” Although the World Health Organisation has not yet declared a pandemic, the Morrison government is also setting up extra screenings at airports, lockdown plans for aged-care facilities, and plans for economic support for affected industries. The news comes as Saudi Arabia announced plans to stop foreign pilgrims from travelling to the holy city of Mecca to address the growing COVID-19 outbreak in the region, months ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Taylor pushes carbon capture: Energy Minister Angus Taylor will today argue for investment to move from wind and solar to unproven alternatives such as carbon capture and storage, and will assert that emissions targets are ineffective. In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum, Taylor plans to argue “top down” emissions reduction targets have failed globally, reports Guardian Australia. “Wind and solar are economic as a source of pure energy at least, and the government should not crowd out private sector investment,” he will say. “We must move our investments to the next challenges – hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, lithium and advanced livestock feed supplements to name a few”. Carbon capture and storage is yet to prove commercially viable for fossil fuel power plants. The news comes as The Adelaide Advertiser reports former resources minister Matt Canavan criticised Equinor for walking away from oil drilling efforts in the Great Australian Bight, and had been working on a plan to penalise oil companies that abandon offshore exploration.

Ardern meets with Morrison: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will meet with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison today in Sydney. The two will discuss the deportation of long-term Australian residents to New Zealand, climate policies, and COVID-19 plans. They will also witness the signing of a landmark Indigenous Collaboration Agreement between the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, and Minister of Maori Development, Nanaia Mahuta.

Secrecy against public interest: In his annual report to parliament, independent national security legislation monitor James Renwick has warned “unnecessary secrecy” is against the public interest and fuels fake news. He highlighted the example that the United Kingdom regularly published statistics showing the number of counter-terrorism arrests, convictions and acquittals. “There is simply no good reason not to do it, it would encourage public confidence and it is something which should be repeated more widely,” he said. Meanwhile, a British judge on Thursday refused a request by Julian Assange’s lawyers to let him sit with his defence team during his extradition hearing. The case has been adjourned until May 18, with the court hearing that the Wikileaks’ founder’s alleged offences are solely political as he was trying to change US government policy by exposing wrong-doing and war crimes. 


“If my dermatologist, Dr W, was impressed with my physique she didn’t say. In any case, she was not there to appreciate the art, as evidenced by the way she was inspecting the sun’s brushstrokes upon my canvas, close enough that I could feel her breath. She centred her magnifier on blemishes on my back, my arms, my inner thighs. She even peered into the spaces between my toes, explored behind my ears, fossicked through my hair … ‘So,’ I asked her, during that first consult, ‘that spot on my leg – should I be worried?’”


“A petition was launched through on behalf of the Chinese–Australian community, condemning the News Corp papers’ sensationalism as ‘downright offensive and unacceptable race discrimination’ and calling for a public apology. It has since garnered more than 80,000 signatures. The Saturday Paper can also report that Colour Code, a GetUp! spinoff that campaigns on First Nations and multicultural causes, is organising a mass representation to the Australian Press Council about the headlines.”


“Asian histories are folded into Australian identities with the same weightlessness and (in)visibility given to Scottish, Irish or English heritage. There’s the same ordinariness ... neither exoticised nor fetishised. The trauma that’s explored through the show isn’t, either, the simple image of immigrant suffering that has long been the acceptable face of ‘ethnic’ culture in white Australia. It’s more complicated and individuated than that: the pain doesn’t emerge from ethnicity, but from life itself.”


“Brad Williams, an American comedian with dwarfism himself, set up the GoFundMe with a $10,000 target to send Quaden to Disneyland to boost his spirits. In four days, the fundraiser ... is now sitting at over $450,000. Because we can’t have anything good in the world, people started to pick at Quaden’s past to try and cancel the 9-year-old ... the wild conspiracy theory started that Quaden was not a child, rather he was an 18-year-old man who had scammed the world.”


“Almost a week after a gofundme page raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to send Quaden Bayles and his mother Yarraka to Disneyland, the family say they will decline the trip as they want the funds to go to charities that need it ... The family has earmarked Dwarfism Awareness Australia, and Balunu Healing Foundation as two organisations they would like to see benefit from the funding.”


“‘I don’t know if I should say this or not,’ the Knives Out director said in a new Notes on a Scene video. ‘Not because it’s lascivious or something, but because it’s gonna screw me on the next mystery movie that I write. But forget it, I’ll say it, it’s very interesting. Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies—but, and this is very pivotal, if you’re ever watching a mystery movie, bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera.’”

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