Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Welfare cut pushes more into poverty

New analysis shows an additional 330,000 welfare recipients will fall below the poverty line when the Morrison government reduces the coronavirus supplement at the end of the year. The Australian National University modelling shows the $100 cut would see the number of people living in poverty grow from 3.49 million to 3.82 million by January. Researcher Ben Phillips told Guardian Australia that his analysis defines the poverty line as $370 per week, which is 50 per cent of median income after housing costs. It comes as SBS reports a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday recommended a proposed expansion of the cashless debit card scheme pass parliament. The proposal would see almost 25,000 welfare recipients in the Northern Territory and Cape York permanently moved onto the cards, prompting concern from Labor and human rights groups. Recipients in other areas with significant Indigenous populations, including the East Kimberley and Goldfields in Western Australia, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland, and South Australia’s Ceduna region, would also be lumped with the cards. 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s deputy chief of staff Sabina Husic has resigned after an complaint was posted online that aired a series of uncorroborated claims against personnel in the federal opposition leader’s office. The anonymous document, which was posted on a specially created web page on Monday, was described by Albanese as “fake”. No one has claimed responsibility for the letter or revealed who wrote it.  Husic resigned on Tuesday afternoon, claiming she had been “the subject of a malicious, false, fake and defamatory attack” on her character. “I have been on leave for the past three weeks to respond to my mental health needs,” she wrote to Mr Albanese’s chief of staff Tim Gartrell. Her brother Ed Husic is a western Sydney MP, who was recently returned to Labor’s front bench following the resignation of Joel Fitzgibbon.

The head of Australia’s special forces, Major General Adam Findlay, has been appointed to a special role advising the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, on how to implement the recommendations of the Brereton war crimes inquiry. Some anonymous former Special Air Service Regiment members told The Australian it was inappropriate to appoint someone from inside special forces command to the position, arguing there would be conflicts of interest when it came to implementing the inquiry findings. It comes as Hadi Marifat, the executive director of the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organisation, calls for a compensation scheme for the Afghan victims of alleged war crimes committed by Australian special forces. A public summary of the inquiry is set for release on Thursday. 

Australia and Japan have signed an “in-principle agreement” paving the way for a defence pact in the face of rising tensions with China. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the move after holding their first face-to-face meeting in Tokyo. Japan has not struck a pact on a foreign military presence since the Status of Forces Agreement it signed with the United States 60 years ago. Morrison also held talks with energy company executives in Tokyo on Tuesday, laying out Australia’s plan to export hydrogen to Japan. He told them Australia shared Japan’s commitment to net zero emissions but that it was too early to commit to a 2050 target date.

Here come the vaccines
A huge, global effort to try and find a vaccine for coronavirus is showing growing signs of success. A number of possible candidates are moving into the final stages of testing, and some are even hitting production lines. Today, Rick Morton on when Australians might see a coronavirus vaccine.

“The federal government is refusing to reveal the results of an investigation into a bullying complaint involving the office of Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, including to the woman who made it. The Department of Finance has rejected an application from Wyatt’s former chief of staff, Kate Johnson, made under freedom of information laws, for access to a copy of the report into the complaint she made two years ago against Wyatt’s former policy adviser Paula Gelo.”

THE NATION REVIEWED

“Rickert’s business, Barkala Farmstay ... is set in a clearing of she-oak and eucalypts that echoes with the damp banjo sound of eastern pobblebonk frog calls. It’s a whimsical, wild hacienda strewn with ceramics from the onsite pottery studio and centred around a towering stilt house that looks like Snugglepot and Cuddlepie had a go at redecorating Baba Yaga’s hut. But Rickert is not alone in expressing hope for a renaissance in the tourism industry, and fear for what the gas-field project will do to it.”

“One fascinating aspect is ASIO’s archived footage. As Alva Geike observes, the intelligence was more than likely gathered by men in ‘dusty pink suits’. While The O’Kaysions’ ‘I’m a Girl Watcher’ subversively plays over the footage, ASIO’s mandate is typed on screen: ‘The Women’s Liberation (Army) is a subversive movement. It is not concerned with political subversion, but with subversion on a higher level, the destruction of the nuclear family.’”

“Adelaide’s coronavirus cluster started with a medi-hotel worker, but South Australian health authorities maintain there hasn’t been a breach in safety protocols. To date, health authorities have linked 34 cases to the Parafield cluster … The cluster's origin has been traced to a cleaner who worked at the Peppers Waymouth medi-hotel, in Adelaide's CBD. Health authorities have confirmed she infected two security guards.”

“South Australia’s policy of only testing staff at medi-hotels when they have coronavirus symptoms has been widely criticised by medical experts as the state scrambles to contain a dangerous outbreak in the community. The first locally acquired infection in SA since April has been traced to a cleaner working at a hotel in central Adelaide that housed quarantine travellers. Staff weren’t required to be regularly tested but this has changed as the number of infections from the cluster climbs to 20 with fears it will increase further.”

“The conservative line goes: If Magna Carta embodies our human rights, why do we need a Human Rights Act? Importantly, for Wilson’s brand of Institute of Public Affairs-inspired human rights, the number one consideration is property rights. ‘Property rights are human rights … Preservation of property rights is central to the human rights cause’ … to claim that Magna Carta is the antidote to a modern charter of human rights is one of the painfully idiotic theses now deemed suitable for schoolchildren.”

“A lengthy and bitter election campaign that dragged in competing interest groups and was sullied by a voter fraud scandal came to an unlikely end ... when a fat, flightless and nocturnal parrot stunned pundits to claim an upset victory. The kakapo, officially the world's heaviest parrot, won New Zealand's Bird of the Year vote ... It became the first bird to win the contest for a second time — a feat not explicitly prohibited by the country's constitution — and snatched victory thanks to the competition's unique and convoluted voting system, having lost the outright popular vote to the Antipodean albatross.”

Competition: Your chance to win a double pass to Melbourne Fringe

The Saturday Paper invites readers in Melbourne to enter the draw for a chance to win a double pass to a Melbourne Fringe show of their choice.

Melbourne Fringe Festival 2020 is a celebration of the tenacity and spirit of artists, of our community’s need for connection and creativity, and of Melbourne’s extraordinary resilience. This is a festival with art online, in your home, on the streets of Melbourne, delivered to your letterbox, in a bath, via a call to a hotline, in the rain, in a virtual gallery with 3D furniture and more.

Entries close at 11:59pm AEDT on Tuesday, November 17, and the winner will be notified on Wednesday, November 18.

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