Monday, April 19, 2021

Labor backs coal beyond 2050

Labor’s opposition resources spokesperson Madeleine King has come out in support of thermal coal exports beyond 2050, in a position at odds with achieving the ambitions of the Paris climate accord. In an interview with The Australian, the West Australian MP simultaneously backed Anthony Albanese’s commitment of net-zero emissions by 2050 and continued export of both thermal and metallurgical coal for decades to come. “I think we go beyond the middle of the century, I really do,” she said. King said Labor was “absolutely not supportive one bit” of a push by Malcolm Turnbull for a moratorium on new coalmines in the Hunter Valley and that coal will experience “a slow gradual decline in demand”. According to analysis by Climate Analytics, coal for electricity needs to be phased out globally by 2040 to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the desired outcome of the Paris climate agreement. King’s comments come ahead of a virtual climate summit of world leaders this week, to be livestreamed for public viewing. The United States and China released a joint statement ahead of the summit pledging to cooperate to tackle the climate crisis. 

The first of new bi-weekly national cabinet meetings focused on the country’s vaccine rollout will be held today. Options on the table for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s meeting with state and territory leaders include accelerating vaccinations for people aged over 50, prioritising aged care and disability support workers, and opening up mass-vaccination sites. Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said the Prime Minister must come out of the meeting with a clear plan that gives more responsibility to the states. “We need state governments that have the experience and the capability in the mass delivery of healthcare to be a central part of this vaccine rollout,” he said. Just 1.5 million vaccine doses have been administered across Australia so far, including roughly 22,000 on Saturday. Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said Australia is about 90th in the world in terms of vaccines delivered per capita.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton will today officially overrule Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell’s decision to strip the citations from more than 3000 special forces soldiers, which was recommended by the Brereton inquiry into war crimes. Dutton’s ruling means soldiers will retain their unit citations unless they are found guilty of a war crime, are sacked as an accessory to an alleged crime, or dismissed for failing to uphold army standards. Justice Brereton’s report found up to 25 special forces soldiers were involved in the alleged murders of at least 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners.

The global death toll from Covid-19 passed three million on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The figure is believed to be a significant underestimation because of possible government concealment and cases overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak. Brazil accounted for one-quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, with deaths running at about 3000 a day as the country faces a highly contagious variant that is sending more young people into intensive care and prompting shortages in critical sedatives. India meanwhile is experiencing its own surge, with more than 180,000 new infections in one 24-hour span during the past week. The country has suspended vaccine exports as the crisis worsens. The situation is more promising in countries with advanced vaccination rollouts. In the US, where more than 560,000 lives have been lost, hospitalisations and deaths have dropped and businesses are reopening.

Closing the loophole in Australia’s sex discrimination laws
The recent wave of allegations in federal parliament have highlighted that the law that’s supposed to protect women from harassment doesn’t actually apply to politicians. Today, Chris Wallace on the surprisingly dramatic history of Australia’s sex discrimination act.

“The story of Christine Holgate’s removal as chief executive of Australia’s postal service goes well beyond what she says was a prime minister and a chairman bullying a woman out of her job. It is now also the story of an alleged secret plan to run down, break up and sell off bits of Australia Post – a plan intended to boost the government’s bottom line – and of tactics employed to get rid of an executive standing in the way.”

“The Bobby Storey funeral helped to spark the recent violence, but a deeper cause was the ongoing tension stirred by Brexit. Britain’s departure from the European Union has led to the creation of trade barriers in the Irish Sea  ... These barriers avoid the need to create a hard border between Ireland, which is still a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is not. Such a border would have outraged nationalists and endangered the fragile peace. But the new barriers in the Irish Sea create an effective separation between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain, angering and worrying unionists.”

“Defence Minister Peter Dutton occupies a hallowed place in the culture wars. This is the man who once valiantly decried ‘cancel culture’ and criticised Netflix for removing shows that had racially offensive content by saying ‘removing that sort of content from online or from our television sets, I just don’t think makes any sense’. But it seems the Defence minister has changed his tune on free speech, allegedly issuing defamation threats to some Twitter users.”

“The environment minister, Sussan Ley, has rebuffed a push by her state counterparts to be kept in the loop about the Morrison government’s plans for climate action ahead of international talks in Glasgow in November – telling them she is not responsible for mitigation efforts … Ley is understood to have said she could not commit to brief or coordinate with them on climate change mitigation efforts because that would go beyond the bounds of her portfolio responsibilities. Angus Taylor has responsibility for climate action in the Morrison government.”

“A bilateral energy and emissions agreement worth more than $1 billion has been struck between the federal and South Australian governments … The agreement includes a gas target of an additional 50 petajoules a year by the end of 2023, plus a stretch target of 80 petajoules a year by 2030. Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the increased targets would lead to benefits for both South Australia and the national electricity market. ‘The focus on gas will help South Australia meet its own gas needs and assist efforts to prevent forecast shortfalls in the broader east coast gas market from 2023, as part of our gas-fired recovery,’ he said.”

“There aren’t the really stupid sort of culture war issues in New Zealand that we get in Australia so much. They seem to be just dealing with the practicalities of the issues facing the day. It seems to be very decisive leadership. It's not all talk in clichés compared to what we do.”

“A Stoke-on-Trent neighbourhood is being terrorised by a phantom food thrower after cabbages, broccoli, and even feta cheese has been hurled into gardens. Clare Middle was stunned to discover the first cabbage had been thrown into her backyard on March 10  … around a month later she discovered another cabbage, along with a wheel of cheese, had been thrown over the fence of her Hartshill home. The 32-year-old mum then spoke to her Northcote Avenue neighbours and found she wasn't the only one being met with cabbage chaos in her back garden every month.”

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