Friday, March 05, 2021

Italy blocks vaccine bound for Australia

Italy has blocked the export of 250,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Australia, in the first-ever use of special powers introduced to protect the European Union’s supply. The ruling applies to AstraZeneca doses, with the company involved in a spat with the EU over delivering tens of millions fewer doses than agreed. According to the Italian foreign ministry the shipment was stopped because of the “continuing shortage of vaccines in the EU” and that Australia is not considered a “vulnerable” country in the context of the pandemic. Italy reported 339 Coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday and 22,865 new infections, while Australia is experiencing no known community transmission. With the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine already under way in Australia, the AstraZeneca rollout is set to begin today, with the first doses to be administered in South Australia. The first 300,000 AstraZeneca doses arrived by plane in Sydney on Sunday. CSL plans to manufacture the vaccine in Australia, with the first locally produced doses expected in late March.

A law firm representing former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has demanded an apology from Defence Minister Linda Reynolds after reports the minister called her a “lying cow”. Higgins came forward last month with allegations she was raped in Senator Reynolds' office by a colleague in 2019. The firm issued a concerns notice, which is a communique sent to a person who has allegedly made defamatory statements, calling for “an immediate and unequivocal public withdrawal” of the comments. It comes as the parents of the woman at the centre of the rape allegation against Attorney-General Christian Porter joined a call for an independent inquiry into the matter. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday rejected the move, likening any such probe to a “mob process”.

Documents released under freedom of information laws reveal details of Australia’s controversial defence co-operation partnership with the Myanmar military. Activists have called for Australia to end the relationship due to the 2017 ethnic cleansing campaign waged against the Rohingya minority and the recent military coup. The ABC reports that the documents detail efforts to avoid publicity for the program, and for Australian defence staff to “ensure to the extent possible that participants in our programs have not committed the sorts of human rights violations seen in Rakhine”. They also detail how two soldiers were recommended for Australian training despite having served with a unit linked with ethnic cleansing. It comes as the Australian government calls on Myanmar’s “indefensible” violent response to protests to cease, after 38 people were reported killed on Wednesday when security forces opened fire on peaceful anti-coup protesters.

Voluntary assisted dying is all but certain to be legalised in Tasmania, after the state’s lower house passed a bill late on Thursday evening. With both Liberal and Labor members permitted a conscience vote on the bill, the final vote of 16 in favour and six against will have the bill returned to the Legislative Council for approval. A person would be eligible to access voluntary assisted dying if they were aged 18 or over, met residency requirements, had decision-making capacity, were acting voluntarily and were suffering intolerably from a relevant medical condition.

Inside the Christian Porter strategy
The Attorney-General has so far refused to resign, denying the rape allegation levelled against him. He’s been supported by senior ministers and the Prime Minister. Today, Paul Bongiorno on how Scott Morrison fought alongside Christian Porter to keep him in his job, and what happens next.

“Our prime minister is a man who was undistinguished in his career before being parachuted into parliament in 2007. Marketing and personal networking were his game ... Despite his avowed familiarity with the Good Book, he’s no more equipped to speak on moral issues of national significance than any random and grasping PR hack. We should now mark the fact that matters of honour, crime, trauma, transparency and responsibility have been deadened under the weight of his political impulses, the essence of which is a kind of shameless rat cunning. Self-protection is preferred to moral seriousness.”

“A decision to ‘designate’ whether a digital platform has to negotiate – and possibly be subjected to arbitration – must ‘take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses’. This line has invited worry about whether the law might allow big tech companies to negotiate with big media players, voluntarily and outside the code, and therefore be deemed to have made sufficient contribution to journalism – leaving behind smaller organisations.”

“Produce gluts are now upon us. For all the home gardeners out there, this is the time of year that tomatoes and zucchinis become slightly problematic – there are just so many of them. Whereas tomato growing is not guaranteed to be full of joy – some years they boom, some years they bust – it seems that zucchinis always flourish, for everyone.”

“In the past few weeks, explosive allegations of sexual assault and harassment have engulfed some of the highest offices in the country. It’s led to a national conversation about systemic issues and how allegations are treated in our halls of power. And right now, it feels like a reckoning.”

“Saturation media coverage of stories involving sexual violence can also trigger retraumatisation. This is particularly the case when people in power, including senior members of the government, publicly deny, downplay or refuse to act on allegations ... Self-care strategies can help individual survivors manage their trauma during times of heightened media reporting or exposure to other triggers. There are comprehensive guides available for survivors, and those who support them, outlining effective strategies for coping with trauma.” National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service: 1800 737 732

“Shine Lawyers are acting on behalf of thousands of Australian women who have been left with life-altering complications after receiving mesh implants. It is alleged the pharmaceutical company put profit ahead of duty of care by downplaying the risks of the mesh and not conducting randomised controlled trials on the device’s safety and efficacy.”

“On the day of the photo, I remained in the tide pool as the tide was too low to venture outside of its boundaries. In one of the shallowest parts of the pool I noticed an octopus. I placed my camera near its den and the octopus started interacting with it. It came completely out of the den and to our amazement it started shooting pictures!”

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