Tuesday, April 06, 2021

New Zealand travel ready for take-off

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is today expected to announce the opening of a trans-Tasman travel bubble to begin within weeks. She will reveal the details of the plan at 2pm AEST, with The Australian reporting that quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand is anticipated to return on April 12 or 19. Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry tourism chief John Hart said “the 19th was pretty much definite”. Air New Zealand is already adding more flights to its schedule in anticipation of the changes. The New Zealand Herald reports that the bubble will operate on a regional basis, meaning a Covid-19 outbreak in a particular state or area won’t necessarily rule out travel between other parts of the two countries, unless people can freely travel in and out of the state where the cases have appeared. People won't need to be vaccinated for travel, but will need to fly on dedicated flights for quarantine-free visitors so as not to mix with other travellers. Ardern will warn New Zealanders of the possibility of being stranded in Australia at short notice, without insurance coverage or financial support from the NZ Government. 

National Disability Insurance Agency officials inserted an entire chapter into a supposedly independent assessment of NDIS legislation and made changes to almost every part of the document. A Freedom of Information request from The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that the chapter devoted to introducing independent assessments was inserted by a public servant. The new three-hour assessments will see health professionals employed by one of eight providers paid by the government to “determine the significance of a person’s disability”. The assessment panel cannot include the person’s usual therapists. The measure was labelled by disability advocates as a cost-cutting measure. It comes as The Saturday Paper reports that state and territory ministers were furious about being shut out of the redraft, which transfers authority to the federal government.

Labor’s financial services spokesman, Stephen Jones, has written to 90 Coalition MPs urging them to vote down the Morrison government’s planned overhaul of superannuation. Jones warned that plans to grant the government the ability to block funds from making spending decisions and investments it does not like could see investment decisions “weaponised in parliamentary decision-making”. Some Coalition MPs want to curtail the ability of super funds to engage in “politically motivated advertising campaigns”, which the bill may be able to prevent. The Senate economics legislation committee is holding two days of public hearings this week in Sydney and Melbourne to discuss the proposals. The committee is due to report by April 22.

Torrential rain, floods and landslides caused by tropical cyclone Seroja have left at least 91 people dead in Indonesia and Timor-Leste, with dozens more missing. The disaster on Sunday turned small communities into wastelands of mud and uprooted trees, forcing thousands of people into shelters. Downpours are expected over the next day as the storm triggers offshore waves as high as six metres. Labor’s spokesman for international development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, called for the federal government to prepare to help with food shortages. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said on Monday it was providing immediate support to Timor-Leste's government.

One month, four more Aboriginal deaths in custody
Over the past month there have been four Indigenous deaths in custody across Australia. Now, a new organisation has been created to help their families fight for justice. Today, Madeline Hayman-Reber on the grassroots group supporting families whose loved ones have died in police custody.

“There are further concerns surrounding some of those women who have been elevated to the taskforce, in particular Amanda Stoker, a member of the Queensland far right who vocally opposes abortion and transgender rights, and who has accused women who call out harassment of being ‘weak’ and ‘playing the gender card’. Australian of the Year Grace Tame added fuel to the criticism on Tuesday night, noting on Instagram and in an interview that Stoker had supported Bettina Arndt’s ‘fake rape crisis tour, aimed at falsifying all counts of sexual abuse on [university] campuses across the nation’.” 

“The entirety of the G7 is now committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Australia will confront an uncomfortable reality as a special guest of the group’s next gathering in June when we find ourselves isolated among the developed countries in the room. For the first time, China also now has a time line to decarbonise its economy, and more than 70 per cent of Australia’s trade is now with jurisdictions committed to making the same transition ... our refusal to act on climate change will continue to hamstring any effort to genuinely step up our engagement in the Pacific Islands, which are on the front line of this crisis.”

“When he was nine, Joost Bakker and his family moved to Australia. They did so because the world in which they lived was falling apart. ‘We migrated to Australia because Holland was fucked: dead fish floating in the river, acid rain, forests were defoliating, and the smog in Europe was out of control. If you fell in the canals as a kid, you’d be straight to the doctor or the hospital. That’s how toxic it was.’ Ever since, Bakker has wanted to save the world.”

“The cashless debit card rollout is set to return to the East Kimberley, after the federal government last week announced its temporary freeze of the program would come to an end. The cashless debit card was introduced to the East Kimberley in April 2016 to limit the portion of social welfare payments spent on alcohol, gambling and other products and activities considered socially harmful … According to the Department of Social Services, it is expected a further 267 income support recipients will be transitioned onto the program in the East Kimberley over the next two months.”

“Crown Resorts, the casino giant facing royal commissions in two states over allegations of facilitating money laundering and allowing junkets linked to organised crime to bring in high-rolling gamblers, is among the big companies that have received millions in federal government funding to employ Aboriginal people. A $3.6 million grant to Crown Resorts is one of several awarded to big corporations from the Indigenous advancement strategy.”

“Unlike other countries that have been grappling with widespread Covid-19 outbreaks, Australia’s management of the virus had seemingly granted the country the time to plan and prepare. However, much of that seems to have been squandered.”

People are starting to notice. They gather on the banks of the canal. SCORNFUL ONLOOKERS: Look! That woman is blocking 12 per cent of global trade! I try to hide my face as I frantically spin the boat-wheel. It comes off in my hands. Sirens blare. Oh no! Boat cops.

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