Wednesday, April 07, 2021

EU denies blocking millions of vaccines

The European Union has denied claims made by the Morrison government that it blocked the export of 3.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Australia. While defending missed vaccine targets on Tuesday, Morrison claimed that the major AstraZeneca shipment had been blocked, while Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said “we were three million short by the EU. They cut us short.” European Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer responded that the only request that had been denied was the highly publicised 250,000 doses from Italy last month. Locally produced vaccines have also been delayed, as reports only 832,200 doses have been distributed with a further 2.5 million doses stuck in cold storage as AstraZeneca undertakes batch testing in Europe. It comes as Guardian Australia reports that residential disability care providers who were supposed to have received doses by now are circumventing the federal government’s system and approaching general practitioners directly to secure supplies for vulnerable residents.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Tuesday that a trans-Tasman travel bubble will open up from 11.59pm on April 18 Wellington time (9.59pm AEST). Air New Zealand and Qantas both plan to ramp up flights on April 19, with Virgin Australia to hold off until September due to uncertainty over “evolving border requirements”. Travellers have been warned to factor in the possibility of travel disruptions before buying tickets to New Zealand. Immigration and health authorities are next exploring plans to open up to Singapore within months, followed by other nations with low Covid numbers such as Fiji, Vietnam and Thailand. Australia’s slow rate of vaccinations may be an issue as Singapore has indicated it will require vaccination certificates to resume quarantine-free travel.

Labor charities spokesperson Andrew Leigh has called for a parliamentary investigation into Scientology, expressing concerns about its “unprecedented” wealth and shifting of assets into Australia. He threw his support behind the Greens push for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to investigate Scientology, and also flagged the potential for a federal parliamentary committee to conduct its own inquiry. It comes after The Age reported that the Church of Scientology had shifted tens of millions of dollars into Australia from offshore and had made $65.4 million in tax-free net profits since 2013. The Church of Scientology Australia described the story as fake news and said all its funds are derived “from the substantial contributions of parishioners. All funds are used to further the churches’ religious and humanitarian mission.”

Aboriginal actors Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt have detailed allegations of racism while working on the set of Neighbours. Clanton said in an Instagram post it had been “lonely, triggering and traumatising to work in such a culturally unsafe place”. She highlighted instances of a white actor calling another actor of colour a “lil' monkey” and two instances where the “n-word” was openly used. Wyatt, who was a cast member between 2014 and 2016, echoed Clanton’s concerns, saying he had walked in on a conversation in which a racial slur was used.

The plan to lock up more Indigenous children
In 2015 the Northern Territory government announced a Royal Commission into Youth Detention, but six years on almost every single young person in prison in the NT is Indigenous. Now, the NT government has announced new laws that could see even more young Indigenous people locked up.

“Last Saturday, shortly after lunchtime, it all exploded. The WhatsApp group – set up between state and territory disability ministers and the then Commonwealth minister, Stuart Robert – had been seething with anger for a while. Then suddenly it was too much. ‘I may actually self-combust with incendiary rage before this thing is over,’ the ACT minister for Disability, Emma Davidson, messaged her colleagues.” 

“In the same week thousands of people rallied around the country to protest against the sexual assault, harassment and discrimination of women, the prime minister’s office was firmly focused on a far less public crisis. Two days after the March 4 Justice, Scott Morrison’s principal private secretary called in a factional Liberal player from New South Wales to discuss one woman in particular: Melissa McIntosh, the member for the marginal seat of Lindsay. McIntosh is a member of Morrison’s centre-right group in parliament, known colloquially as the Morrison Club – a guaranteed vote for the prime minister.”

“Aaron Patrick is a journalist who writes for The Australian Financial Review. He’s exactly how you’d imagine him to be: looking as though he was moulded from wet dough in the basement of the Institute of Public Accountants, with a vast collection of blue
and salmon shirts and ties to reflect his mood ... Patrick this week wrote a column about journalist Samantha Maiden, and thought it necessary to inform the public that she was suspended from her high school.”

“Online hackers published the private information of 533 million Facebook users. This data, which includes phone numbers, account IDs, full names and physical locations, is enough to expose millions of Aussies big time. A total of 7.3 million Aussie Facebook accounts have been included in the breach. That means almost a third of the whole country is now vulnerable to low-level hackers looking to exploit their information online.”

“The besieged Liberal National MP Andrew Laming operates more than 30 Facebook pages and profiles under the guise of community groups, including at least three masquerading as news pages, and another posing as an educational institute. The Bowman MP, who is on leave from parliament to undertake empathy counselling following complaints about his behaviour towards women, uses the sites to promote political material and attack his Labor opponents through pages classified with Facebook as ‘community’ and ‘news’ groups.”

“Your stomach is full, but will you say no if I hold my finger dipped in melted dark chocolate to your lips? What if your house is empty and your stomach is full, but you have a bowl full of crunchy somethings sitting in your lap that will make the nothing on television seem bearable? What if inside and out of the house is a constant barrage of powerful images convincing you that the crunchy crap tastes fabulous, and it costs only four dollars for two jumbo packs?”

“There’s something thrilling about a skill that isn’t a means to an end but the end itself, whose value in doing it is just doing it, simply because you can. Yet it’s more than showing off. It’s about seeking an elusive, almost mystical state of precarious, dynamic balance. You’re chasing a sweet spot, a moving target that’s constantly shifting in every dimension, including the one inside your head.

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