Friday, September 04, 2020

Coalition ends water buybacks

Federal water minister Keith Pitt will today announce the end of water buybacks from irrigators, and release a report that finds the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will fail to meet a recovery deadline. Buybacks, which conservation groups have described as the “cheapest, quickest and most efficient” way to improve the river system’s health, will be replaced with “off-farm” projects such as upgrading irrigation infrastructure to improve water efficiency. About two-thirds of water recovered under the plan has been purchased from irrigators. Pitt will also strip the Murray-­Darling Basin Authority of its enforcement role and hand it to the inspector-general of water resources. He will publicly release two independent reports, one on the social and economic impacts of the Basin Plan, which recommended recovery efforts should be slowed to match “the capacity of communities to cope”. The other, focused on the river system’s health, finds plans to recover 450 gigalitres by June 30, 2024 are falling short. 

The national cabinet meeting hosted by Prime Minister Scott Morrison with premiers and chief ministers will today discuss definitions for Covid-19 hotspots in the states and territories, as the federal government pushes to relax cross-border travel. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described Queensland’s new benchmark of 28 days of no community transmission in NSW before removing its border controls as “a pretty tall order”. States will also be urged to back a national agricultural code to ensure Australia’s food production is not jeopardised by border closures. A panel of state and federal health officers rejected the code earlier in the week.

A federal inquiry will in the coming weeks look into copyright issues surrounding use of the Aboriginal flag. After a motion in the Senate passed on Thursday, a committee will seek to establish who is financially benefiting from the existing arrangements, and the options the federal government has to “enable the flag to be freely used by the Australian community”. The motion, passed in the Senate on Thursday, follows criticism of non-indigenous company WAM Clothing, which has sent cease and desist letters for usage of the flag on clothing without paying royalties. The company is one of three licensees for the flag chosen by flag designer and Luritja artist Harold Thomas. 

Queensland veterinarian Lukas Orda has been named as one of two Australians missing after a livestock ship navigating through Typhoon Maysak went missing in the East China Sea. Rescuers are still searching for the ship, which had 43 crew members and 5867 cattle on board. Rescued seaman Sareno Edvardo, a Filipino chief officer, was found wearing a life vest and drifting in the waters. He said the ship sank in rough weather. The ship sent a distress call early on Wednesday.  New Zealand, where the cattle were loaded on the ship for a journey to China, has suspended live exports in reaction to the tragedy.


“Two key national security watchdogs have offered a final warning as they leave office about the intrusive powers being granted to Australia’s security agencies. The inspector-general of intelligence and security, Margaret Stone, who finished her five-year term on Sunday, raised concerns in her last written submission to parliament’s joint committee on intelligence and security (PJCIS) about proposed changes to the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation relating to tracking devices, external scrutiny and interrogating children.”


“As we mourn the visionary actor’s untimely death and reflect on his career, it is also important to acknowledge his role as a mentor to a new generation of black creatives. In his 2018 speech, Boseman commented on recent student protests against university policies, in which protesters had occupied the main administrative building for nine days in order to demand better housing, lower fees and reforms to policing ... He added that getting involved in such negotiations would prepare students to fight for issues that they believed in, in a world that was ‘considerably more cruel and unforgiving than any debate here’.”


“No police officer will face criminal charges over the death of Tanya Day. No officer will be investigated, charged or held personally responsible, despite the coroner finding an ‘indictable offence may have been committed in connection’ to her death.”


“Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is reportedly considering bringing forward planned income tax cuts in an effort to help boost spending ... If you are earning $40,000, the 2022 tax changes would add $8.75 a week to your pocket, or $455 a year. Anyone earning $60,000 or $80,000 could expect $10.38 extra a week or $540 a year. Australians earning $100,000 a year would find an extra $21.63 per week in their pay packet, or $1,125 a year.”


“Tax cuts might be part of the federal government’s COVID economic recovery plan, but slashing public spending has been slammed as creating an ‘inequality grenade’ that will further exacerbate already yawning social divides opened up during the pandemic … Alison Pennington, senior economist with the Centre for Future Work at The Australia Institute, said fast-tracking billions in tax relief for the already well-off would spell ‘danger’ for the wider economy.”


“Fast-food rivals McDonald’s and Hungry Jacks have become embroiled in a trademark dispute over hamburgers, setting the stage for a legal battle over which one has the right to call their burgers ‘big’. McDonald’s launched Federal Court proceedings against Hungry Jacks late last week, claiming its competitor has ripped off the ‘Big Mac’ and ‘Mega Mac’ with its latest burgers the ‘Big Jack’ and ‘Mega Jack’.”

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