Thursday, December 17, 2020

Cards fall for Crown’s casinos

The Victorian Government is launching a review of Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino licence, as executive chairman James Packer is sued by a casino security guard over an alleged assault. The state’s gaming minister Melissa Horne has brought forward the review due in two years to determine if Crown is suitable to hold a casino licence. It comes after damning hearings in New South Wales which cast doubt over the future of the company’s $2.2 billion Barangaroo casino in Sydney. Crown Resorts nevertheless secured permission from NSW authorities for a liquor licence on Wednesday, paving the way to open “non-gaming operations” at Barangaroo in two weeks. The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority will wait until the findings of the inquiry into Crown’s suitability to hold a casino licence are handed down in February before making a decision on gaming activities. Iskandar Chaban, a former security guard at Crown casino in Melbourne, is pursuing Packer for aggravated damages in the Victorian Supreme Court over allegations the billionaire assaulted him on New Year's Day in 2016 before threatening to have him sacked.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today announce that $11.2 billion has been shaved off the projected cost of JobKeeper payments in his mid-year budget update. The total cost of the JobKeeper payment is dropping from $101.3 billion to about $90 billion, based on 640,000 fewer people needing wage subsidy support in the final three months of the year compared to projections, the second massive shortfall in the wage subsidy’s budget. The wage subsidy is set to expire in March next year. 

The Victorian and New South Wales governments are both eyeing more oversight of quarantine arrangements for international airline staff, after a van driver for flight crews in NSW contracted Covid-19 at the weekend. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Wednesday said the new case – the first instance of community transmission since December 3 – showed the need for urgent discussions with airlines and the federal government. An agreement between national governments means flight crews enter Victoria and New South Wales and undertake their own “Covid-safe” accommodation in private hotels, outside of official hotel quarantine programs. It comes as NSW Health confirmed a further two new cases of Covid-19 on Sydney's northern beaches and warned everyone in the area to be alert for even the mildest of symptoms.

The global effort to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to poor countries faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving nations with no access to vaccines until 2024, internal documents say. The World Health Organisation's COVAX program is the main global scheme to vaccinate people in low and middle income countries. In internal documents reviewed by Reuters, promoters say the program is struggling due to a lack of funds, supply risks and complex contractual arrangements which could make it impossible to achieve its goal to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021. 

Dutton’s new plan to spy on Australians
The federal government has proposed new laws that would give federal police the power to spy on Australian citizens. But the decision contradicts the government’s own review into national intelligence. Today, Karen Middleton on the controversial expansion of national security laws.

“The team of foreign forces, who were identified to locals as Australians, arrived with an Afghan National Army (ANA) special forces unit. The first house they entered was Abdul Karim’s. They patted him down, searched his building and left. He and his wife, Bibi Khadija, were still inside when, seconds later, the sound of gunfire rang out from the direction of Ali Mohammad’s house. Bibi Khadija said to Abdul Karim, ‘I think they’ve killed my father.’ He tried to reassure her: Ali Mohammad was an old man; he posed no threat. The soldiers must have been firing into the mountains.”

“What does collective action look like at the end of the world? Who will prepare the meals for those hungry for sustenance and liberation? In Admit the Joyous Passion of Revolt, her second full-length collection, Elena Gomez demands her readers consider what the body needs as it resists its own oppression. A glorious retort to late-stage capitalism and all the ways it distracts us, this collection spins together a bleak map of what it means to exist today, while forcing us to consider all the parts of ourselves we have already offered to a system that yearns for our surrender.”

“The first time it rang, the boys froze. Rocco backed away. I gave Valentino a small push. ‘Go on, answer it.’ Wary, our six-year-old picked up the bone-yellow handset and listened, not saying a word. Suddenly his eyebrows shot up and he slammed the handset down. ‘It was Grampy,’ he whispered, looking at me wide-eyed.”

“Foam whipped up by wild seas and strong winds has blanketed beaches on the Gold Coast. Families and children have been playing in the bubbles, with piles more than a metre in height in some areas. Waves of foam have swamped the Currumbin Beach Surf Club, with tourists and ocean photographers stopping to take photos of the bizarre sight.”

“People are being warned to stay out of sea foam that has appeared on the beaches of northern New South Wales and Queensland in the wake of severe storms this week, with sea snakes and hazardous material hidden in it. Storms have lashed the two states, bringing heavy rain, flooding and coastal erosion. The foam is formed by the churning of seawater with algae, salts, fats and other pollutants.”

“It hasn’t been easy, with tasks such as appointing a Covid-19 safety officer, drafting club-specific Covid-safe plans, installing QR code generators and policing their use added to a seemingly endless list of jobs for already stretched volunteers ... Cricket Victoria’s regular correspondence with clubs has carried a clear Covid-19 message: playing the game is a privilege, not a right. Sanitising balls, wearing masks when not on the ground and the absence of that cricket staple, the shared afternoon tea, have tested wills.”

“In her parents’ kitchen, 15-year-old Teddie fills a stockpot with water. She places the detached head of an American Girl doll (whose neck strings allow for such blunt dismemberment) atop a towel in a bowl, pours a small amount of warm water in the neck opening, and steps back to wait. Once the vinyl is heated enough to melt slightly and become squishy, she takes a wooden spoon from a kitchen drawer and pops out the doll’s eyes, laying them aside carefully — if they get any water on them, they’ll turn silver — before adding special fabric dye to the boiling pot on the stove.”

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