Wednesday, March 11, 2020

ASIO warns of ‘race war’ threat

A classified ASIO intelligence report warns that Australian white supremacists may launch a terrorist attack in a bid to “accelerate the race war”. The report, obtained by The Saturday Paper, details concerns that the far-right movement may commit an attack inspired by the Christchurch terrorist attacks, in which an Australian man killed 51 Muslims. The analysis claims Australia’s far-right has evolved from “loose, fragmented networks” to “highly structured, security aware, and strictly vetted groups, largely consisting of white males”. The document describes how the aspirations of these groups follow a line from recruitment, to preparation, to the establishment of a “white enclave”, to “race war”.

COVID-19: The Morrison government will today unveil a $2.4 billion coronavirus health package, including 100 “pop up” fever clinics, tele-consultation measures, and a communications campaign. The effort comes as queues of people line up outside hospitals for tests, despite not meeting the guidelines recommended for testing. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned “extreme measures” would need to be taken to contain the virus. Meanwhile, the legal arm of Business NSW has told thousands of employers ($) that personal or carers leave was not available for full-time or part-time workers who require­d isolation but were not yet diagnosed. Globally, Italy is under total lockdown as the country grapples with the spread of COVID-19, but new cases are dropping in China and South Korea. 

Trump mixed messages: At least 750 people have been infected by COVID-19 in the United States and 27 have died, with President Donald Trump claiming that the crisis is both a media beat-up and tweeting that it proves “we need the Wall more than ever”. US conservatives have taken to calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus” or “China virus”. Meanwhile, six more states go to the polls in the Democratic primary to determine the party’s presidential nominee, with Senator Bernie Sanders seeking to arrest the momentum of former vice-president Joe Biden.

Pell appeal begins: Cardinal George Pell’s appeal bid will begin in Canberra today, where it will be heard by the full bench of the high court. The 78-year-old was jailed for six years last year for sexually abusing two choirboys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. Meanwhile, The Australian reports ($) that Pell may face new sex abuse claims separate from previous convictions.

Submarines criticised: A new report to be launched at the National Press Club today warns that the $80 billion Future Submarine Program is “dangerously off track” and urges the adoption of nuclear submarines. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds rejected the premise of the report and said the new submarines were on schedule for construction to begin in 2023.


“Morrison brandished a sheaf of papers, held together with a bulldog clip and bearing an image of a virus, and announced he was implementing an ‘emergency response plan’ to the threat of COVID-19 … Even though Australia was ahead of the game ‘at this point’, Morrison said, it was now necessary to ‘elevate our response to this next phase’. And such elevation could involve some quite draconian measures.”


“We were told that all the grants signed off by the then sport minister, Bridget McKenzie, were eligible – until they weren’t. The government followed the caretaker convention – until it didn’t. The PM’s office was never directly involved in the decision-making process – until it was. This was all shown conclusively in evidence given in Senate Estimates. But the prime minister is utterly unconcerned: he has his story and he is sticking to it ... The pork has been delivered; now for the porky pies.”


“For big stars, a stellar social brand can take an athlete from wealthy to obscenely rich. For the likes of Somerville, impressive Instagram, Facebook or WeChat numbers can mean the difference between being an amateur and being a professional. Unfortunately, in pursuing her sporting ambitions, she has to deal with the dickheads, trolls and creeps who plague women on social media.”


“Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt on Tuesday announced the federal government will put $700 million to the Indigenous rangers program from next year until 2028 … Environment Minister Sussan Ley said rangers had knowledge of country that benefited their local communities. ‘Traditional knowledge is helping to inform modern environmental science in managing our landscapes, protecting native species, and in the ways we adapt to changing climates,’ Ms Ley said.”


“Of greatest significance is the fire management from Indigenous community-based ranger groups, which has led to one of the most significant greenhouse gas emissions reduction practices in Australia … A more active savanna burning regime over the last seven years has led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of more than seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.”


“As COVID-19 spreads rapidly around the world, people are eager to keep up with developments at its epicentre in Wuhan, China. But government censorship, partisan media and misinformation have led many to feel the public isn't seeing a full picture of life in a city on lockdown. So some have developed a creative solution to bypass the gatekeepers and go straight to the source: Tinder.”

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