Monday, December 14, 2020

Rescue package for oil refineries

Energy minister Angus Taylor will today unveil a rescue package for oil refineries, despite the UN calling for an end to fossil fuel support at a global climate summit.  The support to start on January 1 will provide a minimum 1 cent payment for each litre of petrol, diesel and jet fuel produced by major oil refineries that continue operations in Australia. The first six months of the production payment is worth $83.5 million, with a long-term market mechanism for the payment to come into effect by July 1 next year. It comes on top of $200 million in grants to build an additional 780 million litres of onshore diesel storage. Taylor said the plan protected fuel security at a time when refineries were struggling with depressed demand in the economic downturn, and would create 1000 new jobs and protect workers in the fuel sector. At the global climate summit at the weekend, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the G20 “are spending 50 per cent more in their stimulus and rescue packages on sectors linked to fossil fuel production and consumption, than on low-carbon energy”. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged at the summit to end direct government support for overseas fossil fuel projects.

Residents who have endured flash floods in south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales over the weekend have been warned the worst is yet to come, as “once-in-100-year” rains move down the Australian coastline. The conditions are expected to resemble those of a Category One cyclone. Emergency services have been inundated by hundreds of calls at the weekend, with NSW SES performing four flood rescues in the mid-North Coast and Northern Rivers regions. A severe weather warning is in place from K’gari (Fraser Island), where rains helped contain a significant bushfire, to the NSW border region for heavy rainfall and damaging winds. In the Gold Coast hinterland almost 500mm of rain has fallen in some areas, while waves almost five metres in height were spotted off Byron Bay, where there are mounting fears of beach erosion.

Crown Resorts faces a new shareholder class action centred around allegations that investors were misled by the dysfunctional governance issues connected to possible breaches of anti-money laundering laws. According to The Age, law firm Maurice Blackburn has lodged a claim in the Victorian Supreme Court accusing the casino giant of engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct by telling investors it had “robust” or effective controls in place to ensure compliance with laws to prevent money laundering. The claim alleges the casino operator acted contrary to shareholder interests and will ask the court to consider ordering Crown to buy back shares from affected investors.

Rallies were staged across the United States at the weekend in support of President Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the election, with at least two devolving into violent clashes with counter-protesters that left several people in hospital and dozens arrested. There were scuffles at a protest in Washington DC, where at least four people were stabbed, and police declared a riot in Olympia, Washington, where one person was shot. The rallies were triggered by the refusal by the Supreme Court on Friday to hear a case filed by the attorney-general of Texas, in the latest incident of courts throwing out challenges to the election result.

John Hewson on what’s wrong with politics
Scandal after scandal has battered the authority of the government and diminished the trust the public has in our democratic institutions. Today, former leader of the federal Liberal Party John Hewson on how rorts, mates and marketing took over politics, and how we can take it back.

“‘You know,’ he tells The Saturday Paper, ‘this is a contested space in Australian politics. It has brought down three prime ministers, it’s torn down governments.’ Kean had good reason to fear the people who had torn down those leaders and governments – fellow Liberals and Nationals, the vested interests in the fossil fuel sector and reactionary media. They have come after him, and are still coming.”

The rise of China poses challenges to a really small country with a history so like Australia’s in many ways. New Zealand’s determination not to join the Australian federation and its competitive rivalry with Australia for Britain’s affection in the early years of the 20th century was replaced by a proud assertion of independence from the new global superpower – the United States – in the late 20th century ... Australia, with what the eminent foreign policy adviser Allan Gyngell has described as its longstanding ‘fear of abandonment’, has, by contrast, moved from a close commitment to Britain to an equally great psychological and strategic dependence on the United States.”

“There needs to be a moment of reckoning that the man behind the Christchurch massacre is an Australian. He was born here, and it was in this country that his hatred and racism developed at a young age. While New Zealand’s government has accepted responsibility for intelligence failings that allowed the shooter to slip past checks in the months leading up to the attack, Australia’s intelligence services missed him for many, many years. There has been no contrition.”

“The ups and downs are reflected in Australia’s internet search trends, with the top-10 search terms across key categories revealed by Google ... Toilet paper queries also made an appearance on a number of top-10 lists thanks to this year’s panic-buying madness. ‘Toilet paper’ came in at No.5 on Australia’s most searched ‘news topics’ while ‘Where can I buy toilet paper’ was the most searched ‘Can I …’ question.”

“My local supermarket was carnage yesterday. The bog-roll bandits were back with a vengeance, people had trollies piled high with tinned stuff and were buying up bottled water … As the Brexit clock ticks ever closer to a no-deal departure, people are starting to panic. There’s talk of a food and toy shortage with goods held up in ports. Tesco is stockpiling food in its warehouses and ‘preparing for the worst-case scenario’ – while insisting shortages will only be temporary and telling us not to panic-buy.”

“When I came out as transgender at the age of 17, I wasn’t aware of any public debates against my rights. I didn’t know what percentage of the country would vote against my right to marry, and there weren’t mainstream newspapers accusing people like me of coercing others into irreversible sex-change surgeries. But I also had no positive role models, no vision for what my life could look like in the future and absolutely no guidance.”

“This is a story about a multibillion-dollar international conglomerate, arms manufacturers, a German peace group and renegades who make miniaturized weapons systems out of small shops.
Not that those tiny weapons could actually hurt anyone. Well, not unless you stepped on one.”

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