Monday, March 02, 2020

National summit to tackle plastics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil new Commonwealth procurement rules to increase demand for recycled products at a national plastics summit in Canberra today. Commonwealth agencies would need to consider environmental sustainability and use of recycled content in every procurement decision under the new approach, reports Guardian Australia. Morrison will also pledge to match industry investment in recycling infrastructure dollar for dollar. The Boomerang Alliance and the World Wide Fund for Nature called on the government to mandate that all plastic packaging be reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025, but environment minister Sussan Ley said mandating plastic targets could lead to increased cost for consumers and be impossible to regulate. McDonalds and Nestle will be among companies ($) to pledge they will reduce plastic waste at the summit. On Sunday, more than 630,000 people participated in Clean Up Australia day, collecting 16,500 tonnes of rubbish.

COVID-19: Four more Australians have tested positive for COVID-19 after recent visits to Iran. The cases in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland come after 78-year-old Perth man James Kwan became Australia's first fatality due to the virus, after he holidayed aboard the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan, which was placed under an extended quarantine. The virus has now infected more than 88,000 people and spread to more than 60 countries around the world; with Armenia, the Czech Republic, Qatar, Ecuador, Luxembourg and Ireland experiencing their first cases over the weekend.

Summer stretching: Australia is experiencing an extra 31 days of summer heat every year compared to half a century ago, according to new analysis. The Australia Institute examined data from Bureau of Meteorology weather stations between 1999 to 2018 and compared it to Australian weather records from 1950 to 1969, and found winter conditions reduced by about three weeks. “Those average summer temperatures are starting a lot earlier and they're finishing a lot later, so summers have become twice as long as winters in the last five years,” said climate and energy program director from the Australia Institute, Richie Merzian. Federal Greens leader Adam Bandt will this week introduce a bill into parliament to formally declare a climate emergency, mandating the establishment of a “war cabinet” to tackle the crisis.

Uighur forced labour: Nike, Apple and a manufacturer building trains in Australia are among dozens of companies implicated in forced Uighur labour, according to a new report by the US State Department-funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The ASPI report estimates that 80,000 Uighurs have been transferred from re-education camps into factories that supply the brands. “Local Chinese governments and private brokers are paid a price per head for workers on the labour assignments,” ASPI found. Chinese officials denied any commercial use of forced labour from Xinjiang.


“A half-billion-dollar fund, set up ahead of last year’s federal election, has drawn ire from key state governments who say they were not consulted about the projects, some of which cannot be built as promised. Of the 46 projects funded in the past year across four states, all but three are in Liberal-held marginal seats. The projects are part of the Urban Congestion Fund, now worth $4 billion, set up two years ago primarily to fund roads but expanded last year to include railway car parks.”


“‘I worry that our food systems will fail; there won’t be enough food and water to go around. Towns in Australia are already running out of water. I worry that less and less of Australia will be habitable because of the heat. I worry that the rule of law will fall. In my darkest moments I wonder if I should be burying cans of food somewhere for when it all goes down. But where? Violence against women will go up, entire populations will become refugees, how do we deal with that? Will it start wars? Invasions? People fighting each other over food and water?’”


“It has led to fake news and conspiracy theories, often targeting Chinese communities. It has also affected internal politics of affected countries. China has postponed its National People’s Congress, the annual meeting of parliament, which was due to begin on March 5. Iran’s outbreak may have added to its record-low voter turnout of 43 per cent at last week’s parliamentary elections. Far-right politicians in Europe have been calling for border checks and closures.”


“At least three protesters were removed from Sydney's Mardi Gras parade on Saturday night after they reportedly tried to halt the Liberal Party float. Oxford Street was brought to a temporary standstill when NSW Police had to intervene and remove three festival-goers who reportedly attempted to block the political party from progressing at about 10pm. In a statement posted to Twitter authorities said … ‘NSW Police are disappointed with their actions, which did not comply with the conditions of the event or the spirit of the celebrations.’”


“The first Mardi Gras was a protest against police brutality, during which Kings Cross police officers beat and arrested peaceful protesters. Decades later, the NSW Police has never apologised, and so should not be allowed to ‘play nice’ at one of the most important queer events of the year.”


“TikTok has created a celebrity manufacturing machine that operates faster and more powerfully than any social media platform that has come before it, turning average teenagers into international stars in a matter of weeks, sometimes days. For many kids who’ve experienced it, it’s exhilarating — until it isn’t ... Now, even users who downloaded TikTok as a joke are saying they don’t know how to escape it.”

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