Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Race to shape COVID-19 recovery

Renewables advocates and mining sector lobbyists are jostling for federal government support to shape the direction of the recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown. Australian Renewable Energy Agency chairman Martijn Wilder has called for a long-term green stimulus package in line with the European Green Deal, in which 17 European Union nations have agreed to shape their recovery around policies designed to achieve net-zero emissions. Meanwhile, former Howard government minister Helen Coonan, the chair of Crown Resorts and the Minerals Council of Australia, is pushing for a ­national recovery plan ($) involving big business tax cuts and accelerated mining project ­approvals, according to The Australian. Australian Tax Office figures indicate resource giants earned $53.8 billion in revenue in the 2017-18 year without paying any tax. The debate comes as meteorologists warn that this year is on course to be the hottest since measurements began, reports Guardian Australia.

The Five Eyes intelligence agencies are investigating ($) two Chinese scientists who studied live bats in Australia, reports The Daily Telegraph. The move is part of an investigation into whether COVID-19 originated from a wet market, as is widely suspected, or whether the naturally ­occurring virus was accidently released from a laboratory in Wuhan. The CSIRO, which partly funded the Australian research in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said “the suggestion bat research is dangerous without context … is misleading and irresponsible”. The news comes as Foreign Minister Marise Payne responded on Monday to the Chinese ambassador's warnings of a consumer boycott of Australian products over the Morrison government push for a review into the handling of COVID-19. Senator Payne rejected “any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment”.

Thinktank Per Capita has released a new report today estimating that the COVID-19 shutdown could cost taxpayers more than $200 million in payments to privately run employment service agencies. The thinktank has called for reform of the Jobactive system, which sees privately run employment agencies and not-for-profits receive fees for jobseekers. The number is based on a projection of an extra 700,000 unemployed people being assigned to providers during the pandemic, but is likely to be much higher, reports Guardian Australia, with authors Simone Casey and Abigail Lewis noting that providers also receive up to $1550 for each person they place into work.

More than 100 zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums are encouraged to apply for a $95 million federal government support package to help them cover the costs of food, veterinary bills and power and water during the COVID-19 shutdown. According to the ABC, a single lion can eat about $250 worth of red meat a week, while a large chimpanzee enclosure like the one at Sydney's Taronga Zoo can cost more than half a million dollars a year to maintain. Meanwhile the Berejiklian government is considering a $500 million property investment package in New South Wales, buying unsold apartments and fast-tracking construction, reports The Sydney Morning Herald


“The current government’s chequered résumé when it comes to carefully managing personal data will make its attempts to get broad uptake of this app more difficult, as will its history of pursuing ways to enable the massive collection of information about Australians. ‘The government suffers from a trust deficit,’ says Professor Lesley Seebeck, chief executive of ANU’s Cyber Institute. ‘You cannot order or legislate trust. The government doesn’t trust its citizens, so why are citizens expected to automatically trust the government?’”


“Some zealots in the Liberal Party want their former prime minister expelled for disloyalty. Calmer critics contend that he might as well pull the pin himself since he obviously has little in common with his more conservative colleagues. There is a certain amount of sense in this, but it should hardly come as a surprise – such a fallout would not be unprecedented. In fact, there are more former Liberal prime ministers who have walked away from the organisation than have stuck with it.”


“In the year of the plague strange things happen to the idea of theatre. Alec Baldwin live-streams a reading of Orphans. People cleave to some of the great films of plays – from The Philadelphia Story to Long Day’s Journey into Night – and two million people watch the British National Theatre’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors … from Thursday, April 23 – the anniversary of the Bard’s death, and likely his birthday as well – they have been streaming Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare’s greatest happy comedies.”


“A hoax text message claiming to come from the government's newly launched coronavirus app is circulating online ... Off the back of privacy concerns about the data the app may collect, a fake message telling users they have been detected too far from their home has been circulating … The Australian Federal Police will investigate the hoax.”


“New South Wales police says it found no evidence that the document Angus Taylor’s office used to attack City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore ever existed on the council’s website ... Taylor has repeatedly insisted that the false document he used to wrongly attack Moore for her travel-related emissions was downloaded from the council’s own website … NSW police eventually referred the investigation to the Australian federal police. The AFP did not proceed with a formal investigation.”


“The top recipe searched around the world is, unsurprisingly, bread, but other popular ones include homemade churros in Spain and strawberry pie in Algeria — the comforting, familiar, nostalgic stuff that tastes of one’s own better days, wherever they were. In India, puran poli, a sweet flatbread, is appearing on many people’s at-home menus ... Indonesians are trading mashed bananas for potatoes and making deep-fried donat kentang, doughnuts made from mashed potato, usually coated in sugar.”