Thursday, November 12, 2020

Rudd petition secures inquiry

The Senate has voted in favour of establishing an inquiry into media diversity in Australia, after more than 500,000 people signed a petition calling for a royal commission into the dominance of the Murdoch media. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who moved the motion that secured the support of Labor and some of the crossbench, will chair the inquiry into the influence of media concentration on democracy and challenges faced by news outlets in the digital landscape due to the impact of global platforms Google, Facebook and Twitter. Hanson-Young said the popularity of the petition highlighted the increasing concern of Australians about media diversity. “The cosy relationship between the Coalition government and News Corp should be scrutinised,” she said. Rudd welcomed the move on Twitter but did not mention the Greens, noting that “Labor and the minor parties” had taken a “useful first step to a full Royal Commission.” The inquiry will report back by March next year.

The Senate on Wednesday evening passed a bill to establish the Morrison government’s $4 billion JobMaker hiring credit scheme, after One Nation abandoned support for protections added to the legislation despite voting for them a day earlier. The program gives employers $200 a week for employing a jobless person under 30 and $100 for hiring those aged 30 to 35. The safeguards would have disqualified employers found to have sacked a worker in order to get the payment, and imposed transparent reporting requirements. One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had presented the minor party with unemployment data for people under and over 35 that had changed the party’s stance. Labor and the Greens accused Senator Hanson of selling out older Australians.

Hong Kong’s 15 pro-democracy legislators have pledged to all quit in protest, after four opposition members of the chamber were disqualified by the city government. The disqualification of the four politicians came after China’s parliament adopted a resolution allowing the city’s government to expel legislators deemed to be supporting Hong Kong independence, colluding with foreign forces or threatening national security, without having to go through the courts. The move will result in the legislature being occupied only by pro-Beijing politicians.

The US state of Georgia’s chief election official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, has announced that the state will conduct a recount by hand of every ballot cast in the presidential race. Raffensperger said Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump currently stands at 14,111 votes. Raffensperger has been the target of significant criticism from fellow Georgia Republicans in recent days, with senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler calling for his resignation over unfounded claims of voter fraud promoted by Trump. The senators both face crucial run-off elections that will decide which party controls the senate.   

New South Wales has bounced back from a game one State of Origin loss with a 34-10 belting of Queensland at Sydney’s Olympic stadium to level the series. The Blues conceded the first try of the match, but then controlled proceedings in scoring six tries to one. The result keeps the series alive going into the decider at Brisbane’s Lang Park next week.  

Yanis Varoufakis on making billionaires richer
The world is struggling to contain the fallout of the coronavirus, but has the pandemic exposed something more fundamentally broken about our economic system? Today, Yanis Varoufakis on where things went wrong, and how to envisage a fairer world.

“At the survival centre, which is operated by the university where I study, I asked if I could have some groceries. One of the women working there took me to a small room with shelves of non-perishable goods and big storage buckets filled with clothes. She gave me a plastic grocery bag and told me to help myself. I picked up a few things, feeling guilty and ashamed. She told me to take a little more so it would last longer. She asked why I was there and as she did I felt my throat constrict and my eyes well up.”

“The Bull sisters took their gospel-singing Tongan background and perfectly blended harmonies and carved a decades-long career as both quintessential musician’s musicians and popular favourites. ‘I like the challenge of creating something out of nothing,’ says younger sister Linda. ‘And then what happens at the end of that process is you get a song that you can sing for years.’”

“Emily Barclay and Tom Ward like going to amusement parks. But Emily is too scared to go on any of the roller-coasters, so Tom has to do so on her behalf. Their approach to the quiz is much the same. Tom goes hurtling towards answers he clearly doesn’t know, while Emily chimes in from a safe distance. The daffodil is the national flower of which British country? What nationality was Hans Christian Andersen? And in what year were white Australian women given the right to vote?”

“Australians' continuing anger at cost of living pressures may be justified with new research showing prices on everyday necessities growing far quicker than those of life's little luxuries … for essentials, prices rose by 14.8 per cent ... If tobacco is excluded, the costs of non-essential goods increased by just 6.4 per cent.”

“Unemployed Australians say the Prime Minister’s plan to pull the nation out of ‘neutral’ by cutting JobSeeker will only push willing workers backwards – and under the poverty line. On Tuesday, the Morrison government announced that it would extend the Coronavirus Supplement until March 31. At the same time, Scott Morrison confirmed the rate would be slashed by $100 a fortnight on January 1.”

“Going back all the way to the mid 1990s, John Howard is faced with this kind of aging tsunami and demographic cliff. And they were looking at the numbers and they knew that in a decade, two decades, three decades time, there wouldn't be the same tax base to support a fully functioning aged care system in Australia without significant reform. Now, being of the ideological bent that they are, the changes that they wanted to push through that they believed would take this problem off their hands was pretty much complete deregulation.”

“Antonio Arrighi steered his boat into the Mediterranean Sea, just off the Italian island of Elba, and with the help of a small crew lowered a wicker basket full of grapes into the sea. Then another and another. That day, the farmer and his team sank 200 kilograms of fruit into the ocean. What looked like a baffling act of dumping was, in fact, a loving tribute to the past. Five days after submerging the grapes, divers plunged into the sea to retrieve them.”

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