Australia has fallen dramatically short of its vaccine targets for the end of March, as controversy grows over a failure to inoculate health workers connected to the Covid-19 Brisbane outbreak. Australia has administered 597,000 doses, more than 3.4 million shots short of a 4 million dose target set for the end of March. The target, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in January, was later revised to the end of April, although Australia is not on track to hit that either. The Queensland government blamed inconsistent supply of vaccines from the Commonwealth for the failure to vaccinate two health workers in Covid-19 wards at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, who subsequently spread the virus as part of an outbreak that sparked a three-day lockdown of Greater Brisbane. Federal authorities have urged Queensland to stop stockpiling doses and distribute what it has on hand. From today, health workers in the state must have been vaccinated before treating Covid-positive patients. A further eight cases of community transmission were discovered on Tuesday and exposure sites recorded beyond Brisbane in Toowoomba, Gladstone, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.
Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will today announce a plan to cut import taxes on electric vehicles worth less than $77,565, and exempt them from fringe benefits tax. The plan, to be unveiled at the party’s national conference on Wednesday, marks a shift away from sales targets that the Coalition aggressively campaigned against during the 2019 election campaign. Albanese will also promise $200 million to build 400 community batteries to provide solar power to 100,000 households. The party is also wrestling over proposed amendments at the conference from the Australian Workers’ Union and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union that would strengthen support for new gas projects, despite their catastrophic impact on the climate.
Australian of the Year Grace Tame has criticised the appointment of Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker to a new role as Assistant Women’s Minister in the frontbench reshuffle. “The new Assistant Minister for Women is someone who previously endorsed a ‘fake rape crisis’ tour, aimed at falsifying instances of sexual abuse on school and university campuses across Australia,’’ Tame said at a Griffith University event. Transgender Victoria advocate Sally Goldner has also expressed concern at Stoker’s new role, over “derogatory and emotive comments about transgender people”. Stoker’s website includes a petition that outlines her belief that a “transgender agenda” is forcing “everyday Australians” to reject “objective truth”.
Chinese leaders have finalised changes to Hong Kong's electoral system that will see the number of directly elected representatives fall and the number of China-approved officials rise in an expanded legislature. A new vetting committee will monitor candidates for public office and work with national security authorities to ensure they are loyal to China and abide by a controversial national security law. Since the security law was imposed, most pro-democracy activists and politicians have found themselves ensnared by it, or arrested for other reasons. Chinese authorities have said the shake-up is aimed at getting rid of “loopholes and deficiencies” that threatened national security during anti-government unrest in 2019 and to ensure only “patriots” run the city.