Tuesday, February 09, 2021

ANZ dumps world’s largest coal port

ANZ has refused to continue funding the world’s largest coal export port at Newcastle, under its new climate change policy to cut back on loans to the fossil fuel sector. National Australia Bank has stepped in to help underwrite the port on the promise of a transition program to diversified and sustainable operations, reports The Australian. NAB claims the refinancing will support the port’s long-term shift into non-coal operations, including an automated, multipurpose deepwater container terminal. NSW Nationals senator Perin Davey hit out at the move, claiming banks were putting climate change ahead of the national interest. It comes as fellow National, federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, says farmers are well placed to profit from a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, thanks to carbon farming initiatives that will be unveiled in the May budget. Plans to exclude agriculture from any net zero target face a roadblock in the European Union moving to introduce a cross border carbon tax, which would mean Australian products entering the EU will be hit by a tariff to make up for Australia’s lack of a price on carbon.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday confirmed Australian journalist Cheng Lei has been formally arrested. Cheng disappeared from Chinese state television’s airwaves six months ago without explanation as tensions ramped up between Beijing and Canberra.  Foreign Minister Marise Payne told reporters on Monday that Chinese officials had advised the Australian government of Ms Cheng’s arrest “on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas”. Payne expressed serious concerns about her welfare and conditions of detention. Chinese government spokesman Wang Wenbin urged Australia to “respect China's judicial sovereignty and stop interfering in China's handling of the case... in any way.” 

Myanmar’s military leader has said the army will hold a new election and transfer power to the winner, as tens of thousands of people again took to the streets to protest against the coup. In Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s first remarks since he seized power, he repeated claims that there was fraud involved in November’s election easily won by detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. In response to the growing demonstrations, on Monday the military imposed martial law in parts of Mandalay, sections of the largest city of Yangon and other townships.

Five of nine Australians playing on the first day of the Australian Open have won through to the second round. The winners include Nick Kyrgios, who defeated Portugal’s Frederico Ferreira Silva in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. John Millman was among the Australians to be eliminated, losing in five sets to Frenchman Corentin Moutet. Women’s number one seed Ash Barty headlines day two, facing Danka Kovinić in the evening session. Despite organisers allowing a cap of 30,000 spectators daily, fans stayed away on the opening day with the stands sparsely populated. 

Inside Australia’s military fetish
While Australians grapple with shocking allegations of war crimes levelled against our armed forces, the federal government is moving ahead with a $500 million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial. Today, Mark McKenna, on what our preoccupation with war tells us about who we are.

“Late last year, McGuire made public that he would retire from the presidency of Collingwood at the end of the 2021 season. The announcement, it turns out, came two days after the ‘Do Better’ report was handed to the club’s board. As more detail of the report comes to light, calls for McGuire’s early removal are becoming louder by the day. It is impossible to separate the culture condemned by ‘Do Better’ from the tenure of the man who has been Collingwood president for more than two decades. However, systemic racism isn’t fixed merely by removing the head of any given organisation or institution.”

“Living in a pandemic reminded me of my younger nightclub days, a time when I’d think to myself, You’re in the jungle now. It was before my motor neurone disability had progressed too far, and I could still pass as able bodied if you saw me sitting on a lounge. We usually arrived at the nightclub before the 11pm crowd filled the place. I would slide into a seat at a table, and a friend would put my wheelchair away somewhere out of sight. I would arrange my already too thin legs, my only slightly crooked torso and some slinky little number I had on into something I hoped resembled an able-bodied hottie.”

“But the reality is that Australia’s environment is suffering. Climate change, land clearing, pollution and overdevelopment have wrought carnage … Our government can no longer pretend those calling for the protection of the swift parrot or the Leadbeater’s possum simply want to stand in the way of economic progress. This binary divide no longer holds. Without an environment, there is no economy.”

“South Africa will suspend use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus shot in its vaccination program after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild to moderate infections caused by the new Covid-19 variant first detected in the country … The Australian government has secured 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Health Minister Greg Hunt on Monday told reporters he was not concerned about the efficacy of the vaccine, pointing to data from the United Kingdom which showed ‘strong results’.”

“More concerning, we think, is what might be to come – a dazzling Darwinian dance with poorly rolled out vaccine programs. By this we mean a scenario where a vaccine is being rolled out, yet there is still much circulating virus (as is the case in many countries now), meaning that not only is transmissibility selected for – but so too is vaccine resistance.”

“Packer appeared slightly glazed when proceedings began on Tuesday. His answers tended to the monosyllabic. He frequently asked for questions to be repeated and had to be prompted to recall events. There were long pauses between questions and answers, although it’s impossible to know if that was due to communication lags … Packer has bipolar disorder, for which he now is medicated. But the medication, the inquiry was told, has impeded his recall of events.”

“Listen to our growing collection of screams. Here you’ll find our entire catalog with the newest batch at the top …  There is a backlog of over 95,000 screams waiting to upload. Wow! That’s a lot of screaming!”

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