Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Ardern joins national cabinet

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will participate in Australia’s national cabinet meeting of state and federal leaders today, to discuss a “trans-Tasman bubble” to open up travel and business between the two countries. Ardern, who will join the meeting via video link in a historic first for a New Zealand leader, said “it is going to take us a bit of time to see we can do that safely”, noting the two countries were fortunate to have such low numbers of infections that such an arrangement was already under consideration. Morrison government sources told The Australian ($) it was likely all state border restrictions would need to be lifted before Australians could travel to New Zealand. The meeting will also consider virus-safe workplaces. It comes as Ardern pushes back against opposition claims Kurdish author and refugee Behrouz Boochani benefited from a politicised process to claim asylum in the country, describing the suggestion as “offensive”.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will deliver a speech today at the National Press Club outlining the road back to opening up the economy, revealing Treasury estimates that the restriction measures are costing Australia $4 billion a week. The speech comes as a new report from the Clean Energy Council forecasts that accelerating proposed wind and solar projects could contribute more than 50,000 jobs and $50 billion in investment towards Australia’s economic recovery. The industry group argues that taxpayers do not need to carry the full financial burden as private investors want to participate, with regulatory reforms the key to fast-tracking development.

Australian intelligence agencies have claimed a research document shared with them by the United States under the Five Eyes partnership, which links Covid-19 to a Wuhan laboratory, was largely based on news reports and contained no material from intelligence gathering. Intelligence officials told The Age they had still not been provided with any strong evidence that the outbreak began at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as claimed by United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday.

Police officers are among six people alleged to have received and shared a photograph via Whatsapp depicting former North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley being interviewed by police, reports The Age. Senior constable Shane Reid has been stood down and is expected to be charged over sharing the photographs, which showed Laidley wearing a wig and make-up. In the NRL, Gold Coast Titans player Bryce Cartwright is the first player to reject a league plan ($) to vaccinate against the flu, as part of measures to restart the competition. Cartwright, who is an anti-vaxxer, will likely need to sign a waiver before being allowed to compete, reports The Daily Telegraph.


“Months on from the worst bushfire season on record, torched homes still stand as angry reminders of a crisis that killed 34 people and seemed poised to fundamentally change our nation’s relationship to climate change …  Hearings start this month, with the commission’s final report due by the end of August. When it comes to the question of climate change, however, the commission’s remit is limited.”


“After 250 years, Lieutenant James Cook is back in the headlines – for all the wrong reasons. The gallant sailor has become the latest focus of the pointless and destructive culture wars between the left and the right, each contending for their version of Australian history ... But readers may still have been confused: Cook was obviously a riddle. Was the real man a progressive or a conservative?”


“Fanning China’s suspicion of Canberra’s motives is the fact Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed the pandemic in a phone call with United States President Donald Trump the week before. According to a briefing note from the prime minister’s office, they discussed the ‘importance of transparency’. Trump ... has since announced he is launching his own inquiry into China. The PMO insists the Morrison government’s inquiry proposal has nothing to do with Trump’s. ”


“Despite being pummelled by rising bad debts, the bank earnings reports for the 2020 first-half show Australia's biggest financial institutions are strong enough to withstand the COVID-19 crisis … analysts probed about how much capital could be eroded if the economy struggles out of the virus by more than banks anticipate. But buffers appear large enough to cover even the banks' most bearish downside economic scenarios.”


“Westpac has pledged to end its financing of thermal coal projects by 2030, heartening activists and leaving ANZ as the only one of the big four banks not to set an exit date for its support of the fossil fuel … Mr Vincent called ANZ ‘the fossil fuel industry's biggest champion in Australia.’”


“Putting a virtual choir together is a painstaking, deconstructed version of learning a song the conventional way. After independent practice, Ludwa has each of his 30 singers plug their headphones into their laptops, listen to a starting pitch and tempo track, then sing along into their phones and send him the result … People are recording in their houses, with outside traffic, roommates, pets, and the occasional crying baby in the background.”

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