Wednesday, June 03, 2020

US defends free press crackdown

The US ambassador to Australia has said his country remains committed to a free press, as Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed a formal complaint over a police assault of Channel 7 media during a brutal crackdown on non-violent protests outside the White House. Ambassador Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr tweeted the statement late on Tuesday, after cameraman Tim Myers was hit live on Sunrise. This occurred as police tear-gassed a protest against the police killing of African-American man George Floyd, to create space for a photo opportunity for US President Donald Trump. The US Press Freedom Tracker counts 192 total press freedom violations so far during the protests, including targeted assaults of media representatives in the field. The tension between the countries comes shortly after Trump invited Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to attend September's G7 meeting at Camp David in Maryland.

Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden has hit out at Trump’s “blinding ego” in his handling of the protests, which has included call ups of the national guard and plans to deploy the military. Speaking in Philadelphia, one of the dozens of cities engulfed by protests and rioting over systematic persecution of African-Americans by police, Biden said: “When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people's house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the President is more interested in power than in principle.”

News Corp publications are reporting that the Morrison Government’s construction stimulus package will require home improvements to be worth about $100,000 to be eligible. The scheme will also allow people to access funding for constructing a new home, with reporting a means test will be applied so only households with a combined taxable income of less than $200,000 or less than $125,000 for singles are eligible. It comes as national housing and homelessness organisations release a report forecasting that the construction of 30,000 social housing homes over the next four years would save between 15,540 and 18,050 jobs a year. If the federal government made the $ 7.7 billion investment, it would generate direct jobs for construction workers and indirect jobs in the local community, as well as provide benefits for social housing residents, according to modelling by SGS Economics and Planning.

The federal Department of Agriculture has refused to grant an exemption to Australia’s  seasonal livestock export ban to allow 56,000 sheep to be transported to the Middle East on a new ship, after the original vessel the Al-Kuwait was locked down in the port of Fremantle by a Covid-19 outbreak among the ship’s crew. The ban on live export during the northern hemisphere summer is intended to prevent sheep overheating and dying on vessels from heat stress between June and November. The sheep due to travel on the original shipment are penned at a feedlot south of Perth, which is costing the exporter tens of thousands of dollars a day. Options for transporting the sheep include flying in a new crew to transport the sheep on board the original vessel after it is cleaned, or sending a different ship to dock at Fremantle to pick them up.


“Ryan Crompton of Risk Frontiers, an outfit that provides risk-assessment services, including what it calls ‘catastrophe modelling’, told the commission that between 1900 and 2015, heatwaves were ‘Australia’s deadliest natural hazard’. ‘They account for almost half of the total number and almost five times the number of fatalities than do bushfires,’ he said.”


“All the way into 2019, in fact, the Morrison government was still contemplating an expansion of the robodebt dragnet. The whole grotesque scheme was always, quite obviously, an ideological exercise: an attempt to blame the structural problems of a capitalist economy upon the poor. As if, without all those shameless welfare cheats stealing dollars from the system, we’d all be living in the promised land, free of strife and deficit.”


“First there was the ceasefire, ushered in by the pandemic. Now, Scott Morrison says, is the time for unions and the government to lay down their weapons and come to the table to negotiate the terms of the peace. As a show of good faith the prime minister has put away the stick – shelving the Ensuring Integrity Bill, for the time being. What’s being offered as a carrot is less clear.”


“Hundreds of protesters have rallied in Sydney in solidarity with widespread protests against police brutality in the United States and against Indigenous deaths in custody in Australia … The Sydney rally follows a similar action in Perth on Monday evening, the first of several Black Lives Matters protests planned across Australia this week.”


“Plan your trip to and from the protest carefully. Avoid crowded public transport – consider driving or riding a bike if possible – and follow social distancing rules if you must travel by bus, train or tram. Make sure you bring hand sanitiser and use it liberally … Indigenous Australians are an at-risk demographic for Covid-19, as are Māori and Pasifika, so you need to think carefully about the risk you may pose to others if you turn up while experiencing symptoms.”


“The number of users of an app which lets people listen in to police radio broadcasts across the country is nearly doubling everyday during the protests, according to its developer. As of Monday morning, '5-0 Radio' had skyrocketed above apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to the most popular paid app, and the second most popular free app on the Apple App Store, according to Apple's own rankings.”

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