Friday, September 11, 2020

Koala rebellion faces deadline

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has given seven Nationals ministers a 9am deadline to back down from their mutiny over a koala habitat policy, or she will strip them of their portfolios. Nationals MPs convened an emergency meeting to discuss a response, but the party had no clear resolution at its conclusion. The crisis was sparked by Deputy Premier John Barilaro declaring on Thursday that National Party MPs would effectively sit on the crossbench but retain their ministries because they opposed a policy that he said would limit the way property owners could manage their land. The announcement prompted Berejiklian to call Barilaro to a meeting that lasted less than a minute, where she issued the ultimatum. The showdown throws the future of the Berejiklian government into doubt, leaving the government potentially short of a parliamentary majority.

The Covid-19 travel shutdown has claimed another victim, with Australian budget airline Tigerair shut down. Customers with Tigerair tickets will be able to use travel credit to fly with parent company Virgin Australia. In a statement emailed to customers on Thursday night, Tigerair said the decision was a tough one. “There is no denying these are tough times for everyone in the travel and tourism industry,” the statement said. In early August, Virgin Australia's new owner Bain Capital said it planned to end the Tiger Australia brand. Virgin Australia will retain the air operator certificate with plans to revive a low-cost carrier when the travel market recovers.

The London extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been postponed because of fears one of the lawyers representing the United States might have been exposed to Covid-19. Assange is fighting extradition to the US, where he is wanted for conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law over the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks. Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the case until Monday after being told one of the lawyers representing the United States had been exposed to the virus. The lawyer was tested on Thursday, with the result due on Friday.

Actress Dame Diana Rigg, who starred in the original The Avengers television series and Game of Thrones has died at the age of 82. She also played Tracy, who married George Lazenby’s James Bond in the 1969 film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Rigg had a highly regarded theatre career, including a Tony-nominated performance as Mrs Higgins in My Fair Lady on Broadway in 2018. Rigg’s daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, said she died of cancer after being diagnosed in March. “She spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession,” she said. 

Scott Morrison’s shattered cabinet
Scott Morrison is waging a war on two fronts this week. He’s locked in a battle with state governments to reopen borders, and he’s increasingly blaming the Victorian government for the severity of the state’s second wave. Today, Paul Bongiorno on the growing political divide across the country.


“It’s the kind of photo anybody could take with their smartphone. A sign in a child’s scrawl sits in the front window of a red-brick suburban home alongside soft toys: ‘Thank you for our shopping. We love you.’ Capturing both the frustration of life indoors and the effort to reach out ... this picture could become one of the hundreds of mundane moments collected by cultural institutions to document how the coronavirus is changing everyday life.”

“The reason Australia doesn’t have a death tax – when almost every other developed nation does – can be traced back 40 years to a fear that old people would move to the Gold Coast to avoid paying one. On such absurd grounds, Australia has forfeited hundreds of billions of dollars and inequality has deepened.”

“Of course I don’t condone stealing, but I have come across extraordinary wild fruit trees in both urban and rural areas. Often the fruit may look pretty gnarly and have mottled skin but, depending on the tree and season, this fruit can hold the greatest flavour ... Just be sure to give them a good wash.”


“The Andrews government is seeking legal advice on proposed new federal laws which could tear up its controversial Belt and Road agreement with China, potentially setting up another fight over foreign policy with the Commonwealth. The Morrison government last week released draft laws which would allow the Commonwealth to cancel foreign agreements which contradict Australia's national interest.”


“It’s fairly clear the Commonwealth has the constitutional power to do this. Nevertheless, the inclusion of Australian public universities in this regime is problematic … the bill as tabled creates potential for overreach. This is because the question of whether a university agreement is covered or not will turn on the nebulous determination of whether the foreign university has ‘institutional autonomy’.”


“AUSTRAC alleges that Westpac has breached the Act more than 23 million times since 2013. That points to systemic failures ... rather than failures of individual employees – for which Westpac’s entire executive must bear responsibility. According to AUSTRAC, Westpac has known since 2013 of the risks that certain ‘frequent low value payments’ to the Philippines and South-East Asian countries are associated with child exploitation.”


“Their pink-feathered heads plunge underwater to suck up mud and other debris from the sandy bottom. Filter-like plates called lamella trap shrimp and other aquatic creatures before dispersing the rest through the sides of their bills. Make sure you turn the volume up to hear the ungainly birds’ equally strange noises.”

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