Thursday, April 22, 2021

Hunt for missing submarine off Bali

Indonesian authorities have called for urgent Australian assistance to help rescue a submarine missing in the Lombok Strait near Bali with 53 people on board. The 44-year-old submarine was conducting a torpedo drill before Indonesian authorities lost contact with the crew at about 5am AEST. Indonesia’s ministry of defence said an oil spill was located by a surveillance helicopter at the site where the submarine began to dive, which could be a sign of damage to its fuel tank or be a signal from the crew. The 1400-tonne submarine is believed to be in an ocean trench 700 metres deep, but only built to sustain pressure at a maximum depth of around 250 metres. Australia, which counts submarine rescue vessels among its fleet, has reportedly agreed to help. Singapore is believed to have already dispatched its submarine rescue ship to assist, while Indonesia deployed two navy vessels with sonar capability. The navy said an electrical failure may have occurred during the dive.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today announce a $566 million investment in research partnerships with other countries for new technology like green steel and soil carbon sequestration, as he continues to resist pressure on strengthening emissions targets ahead of tonight’s Earth Day summit. The Morrison government will also seek to collaborate with the US and UK on small modular nuclear reactors, which are not yet commercially viable. It comes after the announcement of a similarly sized package for carbon capture and storage and hydrogen yesterday. About two-thirds of the global economy has pledged to hit net-zero emissions by mid-century, but Australia’s current trajectory has it hitting net-zero greenhouse gases in more than 150 years’ time. Senior US officials said Australia’s commitments are “insufficient” and the country cannot rely solely on advancements in technology to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The UK government this week pledged to cut carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035.

National cabinet will meet today for the second time this week, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison pushes to formally commit to bringing forward the timetable for vaccinating patients who are 50 years and over. The premiers and chief ministers are concerned about whether there is sufficient assurance of vaccine supply. A Victorian plan for a Melbourne-based mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility will be presented at the meeting. There will be a push for a high-level briefing on the escalating nature of the pandemic in India, and discussions on whether to allow Australia’s Olympic athletes to jump the queue for Covid-19 vaccines and to skip mandatory quarantine.

An Australian-backed mining company has continued to explore for gold in Myanmar since the army seized power in February, attracting criticism from human rights activists. Access Asia Mining, which counts rugby star John Eales as an investor, is exploring in Shan state. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Eales. Activists are concerned that once Access Asia Mining begins to produce gold, its mines will help fund the Myanmar military, which was behind the recent coup and in a UN fact-finding mission in 2019 found was responsible for human rights violations including murder, torture, rape and sexual slavery.

How Australia is blocking global climate action
World leaders are preparing to meet for a historic global climate change summit. But Australia has already been singled out as a roadblock to taking serious climate action. Today, Mike Seccombe on the global shift towards tackling climate change, and how Australia could hold everything back.

“Controversial ‘robo-planning’ reforms of the National Disability Insurance Scheme could lead to the loss of 1200 jobs within the agency and hugely limit the input of disabled people, according to a proposal prepared for the scheme’s board and executive leadership team. Based on conversations with senior National Disability Insurance Agency figures, leaked memos and comments from agency staff, The Saturday Paper can reveal unprecedented detail about the mooted restructure within the government agency that oversees the NDIS.”

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“Over the past 20 years platypuses appear to have disappeared from 21.3 per cent, or 159,358 square kilometres, of their known historical range … Hawke’s research also offers a disquieting glimpse of a time when platypuses were far more abundant. Records from the 19th century frequently describe sightings of as many as 20 platypuses in an hour or two, often in daylight. Likewise, thousands of platypus skins passed through markets in Sydney and elsewhere, with one furrier in Nowra claiming to have sold a staggering 29,000 furs in the years before World War One.”

“It’s been an awful day in Sydney, a ferocious wind howling around the corners of the hospital. We have been to see a rheumatologist because my mother, who is 101, is convinced she has a dislocated shoulder, despite X-rays that show she doesn’t. The specialist reassures her and gives her a corticosteroid shot in her shoulder joint. Afterwards I push her in a wheelchair to the car park. It’s not easy. When we get home, she is trembling. She looks at me and says, ‘I am dying.’ Her words are like a punch to my chest. And it gets worse.”

“The federal government has torn up four deals between Victoria and foreign nations, including the state's controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) agreement with China — prompting a strong rebuke from the Chinese Embassy. It is the first time the Commonwealth has used new powers that allow it to cancel agreements that state and territory governments, local councils and public universities strike with other countries ... the Chinese Embassy in Australia branded the move as ‘unreasonable and provocative’.”

“Sources in UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss’s Department for International Trade were reported to have said she was planning to throw down the gauntlet over the ‘glacially slow’ progress in negotiations when she speaks to Australian counterpart Dan Tehan in face-to-face talks in London this week. ‘She plans to sit him down in the Locarno Room [in the Foreign Office] in an uncomfortable chair, so he has to deal with her directly for nine hours,’ said the source … who reportedly described Mr Tehan as ‘inexperienced’.”

“For doing my job as an economist, I’ve been called a lot of unprintable things. Just this week, former Labor leader turned One Nation MP Mark Latham called me an ‘economic fairy’ over the call for a moratorium on new coalmines in NSW. An elected official once warned me against giving a talk about coal in the Hunter Valley, saying my safety couldn’t be assured. Homophobic slurs and death threats are simply the price you pay for doing this kind of research in Australia.”

“The 213cm-tall, bright yellow costume reportedly made of ostrich feathers, was found dumped near the south-western end of the circus, with a note saying ‘no harm’ had come to ‘Mr Bird’ … Patrols descended on the area and secured the stolen costume, which contained a ‘letter of apology’ in the beak. The note, which is signed off by ‘The Big Bird Bandits’, begins by offering an apology for taking the costume, and explained that the ‘bandits’ were just trying to cheer themselves up.”

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