Friday, March 26, 2021

Coalition floats major cuts to NDIS

The federal government is considering a raft of cost-cutting measures for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including the denial of support to people suffering acquired brain injuries and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. A draft of proposed legislative changes to the NDIS, leaked to The Sydney Morning Herald, would make it easier to cut off support to claimants if they are in prison, living in external territories such as Christmas Island, or do not subject themselves to new independent assessments. The overhaul would transfer more authority to the federal minister and reduce the power of state and territory governments that contribute almost half the funding. The plan also floated removal of the “reasonable and necessary” test for the provision of support and services that allowed for participants to claim for trained sex therapists, although a spokesman for NDIS Minister Stuart Robert ruled out the removal of the term. Disability advocates warn the proposed changes would remove avenues of appeal for participants denied funding.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has lodged a complaint with the Prime Minister's Office, accusing its staff of spreading rumours to the media about her partner. Higgins, who alleges she was raped by a former colleague in a ministerial office two years ago, said she was told by journalists at News.com.au, the Daily Telegraph and Channel 10 that backgrounding was occurring. Higgins made the complaint after Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the ABC that nothing had been raised with his office regarding the allegation of backgrounding. Morrison later in the day ordered an inquiry into the matter. He also forced Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming to deliver a public apology for the MP’s online harassment of two women in his Queensland electorate. Morrison last night was grilled by A Current Affair's Tracy Grimshaw, telling her “I’m doing everything I can, as best as a bloke can frankly”.

American white supremacist group The Base is recruiting neo-Nazis in Australia, and has appointed a local leader who planned to launch a propaganda campaign in front of Parliament House. Audio recordings and internal files leaked to The Age reveal interviews in which local applicants are vetted for membership, including at least three men who expressed support for the New Zealand mosque massacres. Australians who have attempted to join include former federal One Nation candidate Dean Smith and members of local neo-Nazi group The Lads Society. The Base is one of the groups that domestic counter-terrorism agency ASIO has considered advising the government to proscribe.

A salvage company has said that the giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal like a “beached whale” may take weeks to free, as officials halt all ships entering the channel. The 400-metre long Ever Given is blocking transit in both directions through one of the world’s busiest trade routes, through which roughly 30 per cent of the world’s shipping container volume transits through. The ship got stuck sideways in the canal amid strong winds and a dust storm. Dredges are working to clear sand and mud from around the ship while tugboats, in conjunction with Ever Given’s winches, work to shift it. Rescue teams from the Netherlands and Japan will work with local authorities to design a more effective plan to refloat the vessel, said owners Evergreen Marine Corp. A total of 206 large container ships, tankers carrying oil and gas, and bulk vessels hauling grain have backed up at either end of the canal.

Scott Morrison says he’s listening. Should we believe him?
Scott Morrison told the women of Australia this week he was listening to their concerns. But since then the Liberal Party has been rocked by more and more allegations of bad behaviour and sexism.

“Omar bin Osama bin Mohammed bin ’Awad bin Laden, the fourth eldest son of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, plays a YouTube video titled ‘The Last Cowboy Song’. He mixes paint on a wooden palette and puffs on an antique German hunter tobacco pipe. On his canvas, it’s midnight in the American south and the silhouette of five cowboys, in wide brim hats, is illuminated by a campfire. ‘It means freedom,’ explains Omar.”

“The country has about six doctors per 100,000 people; Australia has about 370. Hospitals have already been forced to cut services due to the increased demands from the Covid-19 outbreak. Port Moresby General Hospital has put out calls on Facebook for donations of emergency supplies of face masks, face shields, gowns and gloves, as well as power generators ... the hospital’s chief executive, Paki Molumi, told the ABC’s Natalie Whiting that 114 staff – or about 10 per cent of the workforce – had tested positive for Covid-19.”

“Rick Morton writes prose like drag artists perform gender: with unabashed enthusiasm, stylistic flair and carefully calibrated exaggeration. Readers are first distracted by the glitter-bombs of wit on display. Only afterwards do they note the pathos and intelligence on which the act is built.”

“Following talks between the music industry and government over recent weeks, the arts and entertainment sector will receive a lifeline as the JobKeeper cliff approaches. The latest effort by the PM hopes to boost 230 projects and support 90,000 jobs. The federal government announced $135 million in support today, including $125 million in additional RISE funding and another $10 million to music charity Support Act. RISE is designed to support festivals, concerts, tours and productions.”

“But of the federal government’s earlier $250 million rescue package for the sector, budgeted for the 2020/2021 financial year, three-quarters is yet to be spent. $50 million of that has been quarantined for insurance for the film industry, which is yet to make a claim; and an additional $85 million – around a third of the full budget – is yet to be distributed.”

“The Morrison government is being warned that its changes to the JobKeeper wage subsidy have only delayed the country hitting an economic cliff, with a growing number of now unviable businesses facing bankruptcy in coming months. While the extension of a scaled-down JobKeeper until at least March 28, 2021, will ease the immediate pressure on businesses and their staff, it has also highlighted fears that, for some, the program is only postponing the inevitable.”

“In what it says is a win for consumers, the federal government has moved to a Netflix model of political scandal distribution, releasing 3 years’ worth of content all at once. A spokesperson for the government said in 2021 people wanted to be able to access scandals at their own pace, rather than the traditional model, which saw them released once every few months.”

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