Wednesday, March 24, 2021

PM apologises for News Corp blunder

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has issued a late-night apology on Facebook after News Corp forcefully denied his suggestion the media company faced its own sexual harassment allegations. Morrison expressed “deep regret” over his deflection of a question from Sky News in a press conference yesterday on sexual misconduct, by arguing News Corp’s HR department was dealing with alleged harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet. “I especially wish to apologise to the individual at the centre of the incident .... I had no right to raise this issue and especially without their permission,” he said. News Corp chairman Michael Miller rejected Morrison’s claim, saying the incident was “about a workplace-related issue, it was not of a sexual nature, it did not take place in a toilet and neither person made a complaint”. It follows news that the staffer fired for allegedly masturbating over a female MP’s desk was a longtime Liberal aide who had input into combating sexual harassment in parliament. Morrison on Tuesday signalled that he was open to introducing female quotas in the Liberal party as part of his response. 

The worst of NSW’s rainstorm is believed to have passed, as the risk from wild weather and swollen rivers shifts to the south of the state and into Victoria. According to the NSW State Emergency Service, more than 40,000 people have been evacuated and almost 7000 remained without power early this morning after more than a metre of rainfall was dumped in parts of NSW. A severe weather warning remains in place for the Illawarra, South Coast, Central Tablelands, Southern Tablelands and Snowy Mountains regions, with expected wind gusts of up to 100km/h and damaging surf on the coast. In Victoria, the coastline from Mallacoota west to Sorrento has been warned to expect heavy rainfall that could lead to flash flooding and damaging winds similar to the NSW South Coast. In Queensland, the Gold Coast was “ravaged” by intense flooding, with more storms possible on Wednesday morning.

More than 800,000 locally produced doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine have been approved for use by the national medical regulator. Therapeutic Goods Administration approval is required for every batch of vaccines supplied in Australia, with all subsequent batches to go through the same individual process. It comes as Guardian Australia reports that doctors have been told the vaccine rollout experienced “significant” week one delivery errors, including a failure to send some shipments of needles to accompany the vials.

Tasmania will legalise voluntary assisted dying after the state’s upper house passed landmark euthanasia legislation. In a sitting of the upper house late on Tuesday night, approval was granted to the amended bill, which will now be sent for royal assent. The state will become the third Australian jurisdiction to legalise euthanasia, allowing the practice for people suffering from advanced, incurable and irreversible conditions that are expected to cause their death within six months. Sisters and voluntary assisted dying campaigners, Natalie and Jacqui Gray, who lost their mother Di to cancer in 2018, celebrated the news on the Your Choice TAS Facebook page. “Tasmania – today, we have ALL won!” they wrote.

First came the fires, then the floods
Nearly 20,000 people have been evacuated as Australia’s east coast suffers from the worst floods in more than half a century. NSW’s mid north coast, one of the worst hit regions, was also devastated by the Black Summer bushfires.

“What the prime minister didn’t reveal was that this was a ‘security breach’ in which the actual security guard involved was never even interviewed. As Nikola Anderson, who was working in Parliament House on March 23, 2019, told Four Corners, ‘What was the security breach? Because the night that we were on shift, there was no security breach. Their pass enables them to be where they want to be within Parliament House.’” 

“I never thought Prime Minister Scott Morrison was such a watcher of Pakistani politics. He must be, because his response to the March 4 Justice rallies has been to see them as an achievement of ‘a vibrant liberal democracy’, pointing out how ‘such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country’. It’s the kind of hurdling over a low bar that is all too familiar to anyone who’s migrated from a developing nation where a corrupt political class oversees the disenfranchisement of its populace.”

“Here we are, raised in a tiny pocket of this gigantic project, the genocidal con job that was the British Empire. The connections aren’t simple to trace, even though they are pervasive. They’re invisible but palpable, like the air that is insensibly filling with carbon dioxide, slowly at first, but now faster and faster, turning up the heat on the tiny, fragile bell jar that is our planet. I can step back and see the effects; I can see the damage that is written on us. But cause and effect? They are skewed, slant, indirect, multiple.”

“New Zealand house prices should increase at a slower rate because of new government policies designed to help first-home buyers, but anyone hanging out for a big crash could be disappointed, economists say. The New Zealand government announced on Tuesday that it was removing property investors’ ability to deduct mortgage interest from their rental income tax bill, extending the bright line test, lifting caps for First Home Loans and grants, and offering NZ$3.8 billion to fund infrastructure.”

“Named Mars House, the digital home designed by Kim was sold on non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace SuperRare for 288 Ether ($512,000), a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin. Based on blockchain technology, NFTs act as digital certificates of ownership and enable digital artworks or designs to be bought, sold and collected. Described by SuperRare as ‘the first NFT digital house in the world’, Mars House is a 3D digital file that can be experienced in virtual reality.”

“Laughter is hard work. You see or hear something funny and – fwoop! – it’s uncontrollable: a bullet-train from your lungs, up your throat, out your mouth. It can make your cheeks sting, guts hurt, squeeze your brain like a sponge, even challenge your bladder. Susan Provan has two laughs. The first is an oh-yes-that’s-good-gear chuckle; low energy. Laugh number two is louder, still contained, a near-guffaw when something’s tickled her. Mid-strength cheer.”

“A Lego guitar and a ‘war tuba’ are among the highlights of this year’s Guthman Musical Instrument Competition.”

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