Monday, September 14, 2020

Australians profiled in China’s database

A Chinese military contractor engaged in spreading disinformation and promoting conflict has amassed profiles on tens of thousands of Australians ($), as part of a database targeting influential figures. The database of 2.4 million people, including 35,558 Australians, has been leaked from Shenzhen company Zhenhua Data, believed to be used by China’s Ministry of State Security, reports The Australian Financial Review. The information includes details of partners, relatives, photographs, political associations, and criminal records. It appears to be drawn from social media, news stories, confidential bank records, job applications and psychological profiles. Of the list, 656 Australians are singled out as being of “special interest” or “politically exposed”, including current Victorian Supreme Court judge Anthony Cavanough, retired rear admiral Raydon Gates, and former foreign minister Bob Carr.

Australia’s oil refineries will be subsidised by taxpayers to stay open, while $211 million will be committed to build an additional 780 megalitres of onshore diesel storage, under a federal plan to shore up fuel security. Companies will also face new obligations for storing a minimum number of days worth of fuel physically in Australia, with 24 consumption days of petrol and 28 days for diesel. The Morrison government hopes grants for new storage will be matched by state governments or industry. The plan is projected to cost $2.5 billion over 10 years, most of which is earmarked for refinery subsidies.

Coronavirus restrictions have slightly eased from today in Melbourne, with bubble buddies for people who live alone, and exercise or social interaction out of the home for up to two hours, split over a maximum of two sessions. The social interaction can be “with one other person or the members of your household”, as long both parties live within 5km of the meeting point. Outdoor playgrounds can be used again, along with outdoor fitness equipment. Public libraries and toy libraries are reopening for click and collect only. Melbourne’s curfew has been moved an hour back to 9pm. In regional Victoria, public gatherings of up to five people from up to two households are now allowed. Victoria recorded 41 new cases on Sunday, and seven deaths.

Advocates are warning that immigration detention practices during the pandemic have sparked a rise of self-harm incidents. SBS reports that self-harm incidents in several detention facilities have been higher in the first seven months of 2020 than the yearly average between 2016 and 2019. Between 2016 and 2019 there were an average of 71.5 self-harm incidents inside Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation each year, jumping to 99 self-harm incidents in the first seven months of 2020. Medical experts and asylum seeker advocates argue the trend is the result of a lack of mental health resources in detention facilities and a failure to respond to the heightened isolation of detainees because of Covid-19 restrictions. Lifeline: 13 11 14

Exclusive: Brett Sutton's leaked call
A leaked briefing from Victoria’s chief health officer has contradicted public statements on contact tracing, and highlighted flaws with the privatised response to coronavirus in the state. Osman Faruqi details the extraordinary call, and what it means for Victoria’s roadmap out of the pandemic.


“Its origins lie in the changes made under the Howard government in the late 1990s, which ushered in a 23-year failed experiment; a live study of human patients that saw falling care standards, dramatic loss of professional skill and soaring profits. The Saturday Paper can reveal that Rozen, who is senior counsel assisting the commission, will recommend an end to this experiment when he makes submissions ... this week.”

“Capitalism. Bullshit jobs. Debt. Wasteful bureaucracy. Global justice. Since David Graeber passed away on September 2, obituaries have repeatedly pointed to the unusual breadth in his work.”

“The scarring effects of long-term unemployment are well understood. Recent papers from Treasury and the Productivity Commission reaffirm that young people who enter the job market in a period of high unemployment have poorer employment prospects and lower wages for many years down the track … What does good stimulus look like?”


“Historic wildfires are burning millions of acres and destroying homes in California, Oregon and Washington state, as officials brace for more fatalities and evacuations. The fires have killed at least 33 people across the states and dozens more are missing. More than 1 million acres of land in Oregon have been burned and at least 10% of the state’s population is in evacuation zones.”


“The Australian experience suggests there’s a risk of misinformation flaring up to downplay climate change’s role in the carnage ... There are early signs of conspiracy theories that ‘antifa’ are intentionally lighting fires. A Republican senate candidate seemed to be one of the first, and the claim has now spread virally on Facebook ... in the town of Mollalla, Oregon, unidentified men armed with AR-15 machine guns forced three journalists to leave town, amid rumors of ‘antifa raids.’”


“Australia is unusual in the world in that it can more than feed itself – producing more agricultural products than we can consume. That is thanks to the Basin. More than 3 million people rely on the river system for their drinking water. If you eat nuts or fruit or bread or meat or rice or vegetables, drink milk or wear cotton, then you are likely tangibly connected to the Murray–Darling. But we are all in trouble.”


“We are collecting the sounds of woodlands and forests from all around the world, creating a growing soundmap bringing together aural tones and textures.”

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