Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Banks face grilling over coal

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg has backed a proposed inquiry chaired by Coalition climate sceptic George Christensen that would interrogate banks refusing to finance coal investments. Christensen, the proposed chair of the parliamentary probe, would question banks such as ANZ that are refusing to finance new coal projects and insisting clients begin to decarbonise. Frydenberg gave his approval for federal resources minister Keith Pitt to request the inquiry through the Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Global ratings agency Moody’s on Tuesday warned $4.5 trillion of debt was at very high or high risk because of environmental concerns, with coal mining and coal terminals at greatest risk. It comes as the Morrison government warns China’s ban on Australian coal may breach World Trade Organisation obligations and the China-Australia Free-Trade Agreement. Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested China’s carbon emissions would be worse due to the loss of Australia’s “cleaner” coal.

Former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer looks set for extradition to Australia in order to face charges of child sex abuse after Israel’s Supreme Court threw out an appeal. “With the issuance of our judgement, all the arguments are closed and the declaration of extradition takes final effect,” a justice ministry ruling said.  Justice minister Avi Nissenkorn tweeted he welcomed the ruling and would sign off on the extradition order “without delay”. Three sisters say they were abused during their time at the ultra-orthodox Adass Israel school more than a decade ago. Leifer has denied the allegations against her.

The soldier pictured drinking from a prosthetic leg of a Taliban insurgent has stood aside from the most senior special forces position in the military, reports The Australian. Warrant Officer John Letch, the command sergeant major and right-hand man to the Special Operations Commander of Australia, has given up his position and is considering his options. Photos are believed to exist showing other soldiers and officers drinking from the leg. Special Air Service Regiment and Special Operations Task Group commander Jono Beesley meanwhile has left the army following the publication of the Brereton war crimes report last month. Beesley was Special Operations Task Group commander in Afghanistan from January to July 2013, during which time the group severed the hands of dead Afghans to identify them.

United States Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has finally acknowledged Joe Biden’s election victory and referred to him as President-elect, after the Electoral College made the win official on Monday. “The Electoral College has spoken,” the Republican party senator McConnell said from the Senate floor, adding, “Today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.” Many senior Republicans still refuse to acknowledge Biden’s clear victory, including House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin said “the fact that it took six weeks for my colleagues to recognise reality and stop undermining our Democratic process is sad and disappointing”. Incumbent US President Donald Trump continues to baselessly claim that the election was rigged.

Australia's responsibility for the Christchurch massacre
The Royal Commission report into the Christchurch terrorist attacks led to an apology from the New Zealand government. But in Australia, there’s been an unwillingness to grapple with how the shooter was steeped in a culture of far-right extremism. Today, Shakira Hussein on Australia’s responsibility

“Far from not having to choose between China and the US, Australia increasingly found its choices over-interpreted by both Beijing and Washington. As the US rivalry with China deepened, the bar for loyalty was raised ever higher: soon China hawks in Washington were muttering that only Canberra’s willingness to endure real economic pain was sufficient to demonstrate it was prepared to stand up to China.”

“Oodgeroo’s poetry was like a shield to use against the weapons of government policy, which had long been used to silence our voices. She spoke in a language we understood, and told the stories of our sovereign world, of unceded rights, of the law stories, of the great suffering and poverty of our families battling to survive the theft of land, theft of children, rampant racism, brutal treatment, institutionalisation and living conditions in which you would not have kept a dog.”

“The evening light is fading on the Hawkesbury and my husband and I are starting to panic. We’re under strict instruction to moor our rented houseboat before the sun sets and things are not going well. Keith’s job is to point the boat at a buoy and motor slowly alongside while I stand at the prow with a giant stick, ready to hook the buoy-rope, pull it aboard and tie up. I make contact, thread my hook through the mossy loop and draw the heavy rope into the air. Victory! No! Failure!”

“Their room in the 4.5-star hotel has no balcony and the window doesn’t open. The sun streams in and heats up the room in the afternoon. ‘We had an extremely hot afternoon because we forgot to check the weather to close the curtain to run away from the heat,’ Ms Phung says. ‘I miss fresh air so much.’”

“Kurdish refugee Moz Azimi told Junkee that he was only told yesterday that he would be moved to an undisclosed location, and forced to share a room with someone else ... ‘It is terrible. People look at this hotel as a 4-star hotel, but inside this floor it is a torture centre,’ said Azimi. ‘I have been locked up in the place for more than a year. I have been transferred to Australia for medical help and we haven’t received any medication. For PTSD they didn’t give me anything. All my life I am inside a room. My life is a room. Inside this room I try not to die.’”

“Scientists produce a synthetic copy of the messenger RNA (mRNA) of the virus – essentially the instruction pamphlet for assembly – and inject it into the human body. In the case of the Pfizer candidate, the mRNA strand is the code for the full-length ‘spike protein’ of the coronavirus. Because there have been so many other coronaviruses, researchers know it is this spike protein, which gives the virus particle its distinctive crown-of-thorns surface covering, that triggers the body’s immune defences.”

“Odds are Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the father of Futurism and a dedicated provocateur, would be crestfallen to discover how closely his most incendiary gastronomical pronouncement aligns with the views of today’s low-carb crusaders. In denouncing pasta, ‘that absurd Italian gastronomic religion,’ his intention was to shock and criticize the bourgeoisie, not reduce bloat and inflammation.”

The Saturday Paper invites readers to enter the draw for a chance to win one of ten double passes to NomadLand, courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. The third feature film from director Chloé Zhao, NomadLand features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.

Passes are physical tickets that can be used at participating cinemas nationwide.

Entries close at 11.59pm AEDT on Thursday, December 17, and the winners will be notified on Friday, December 18 via email.

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