Monday, April 26, 2021

Australia in line to cop US carbon tax

US President Joe Biden is eyeing a carbon border tariff to pressure countries with high emissions like Australia into taking climate action, echoing a similar European Union plan. As Biden unveiled a plan to cut US emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030 at last week’s climate summit, his administration also warned carbon border adjustments would be considered to ensure American industry did not face “an unfair competitive disadvantage”. The European Union is already on the path to legislating its plan to do similar, with a detailed proposal due by mid-year for introduction in 2023. Trade Minister Dan Tehan told the Australian Financial Review on Sunday that he had expressed concerns to the US and Europe about the “protectionist measures”. He pushed instead for “the complete liberalisation of environmental goods and services” to free up access to emissions reduction technologies. Analysis by the Victoria University Centre of Policy Studies found the EU plan would see Australian coal production fall by 3.8 per cent and the price of steel exports to the EU rise by 10 per cent. A new report from The Australia Institute meanwhile finds fossil fuel subsidies have cost state, territory and federal budgets roughly $10.3 billion over the past financial year.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan is lobbying other state leaders for even tougher international border restrictions, as Perth and Peel enter the third day of a Covid-19 lockdown linked to a hotel quarantine outbreak that originated with a returned traveller from India. There have been two cases of community spread connected with the outbreak so far. “I’ve been in communication with one or two premiers, I’m pretty sure everyone will be pretty keen to reduce the number of people leaving Australia during Covid to go to a wedding or an athletics meet or even to a funeral,” he said. McGowan and the federal government have traded blows over the weekend border restrictions and quarantine, with the WA Premier also pushing for people to be quarantined in federal immigration facilities such as on Christmas Island rather than in hotels. Perth and Peel residents will today find out if the lockdown, which was due to end today, will be extended. 

India on Sunday set a global daily record of new Covid-19 infections for the fourth straight day, registering 349,691 new cases and 2767 deaths. Both numbers are believed to be significant underestimates as suspected cases are not included and many deaths are being attributed to underlying conditions. The country’s crematoriums have been overwhelmed with an unprecedented rush of bodies, forcing facilities to skip individual ceremonies and exhaustive rituals that Hindus believe release the soul from the cycle of rebirth. “The virus is swallowing our city’s people like a monster,” said Mamtesh Sharma, an official at Bhopal’s Vishram Ghat crematorium. The extraordinary rise in cases has been attributed to a number of crowded political campaign events and religious festivals in March combined with a highly virulent new strain of the virus.  

A missing Indonesian submarine has been found cracked apart on the seabed in waters off Bali, with Indonesia’s military chief Hadi Tjahjanto confirming the crew perished in the disaster. "With deep sadness, I can say that all 53 personnel onboard have passed," he told reporters. Rescuers had used an underwater submarine rescue vehicle supplied by Singapore to get a visual confirmation of the vessel. Search vessels, reconnaissance aircraft and submarine rescue ships had been deployed to scour a zone of about 34 square kilometres. Authorities have not given an official explanation for the accident, but said that the submarine may have suffered a blackout and left its crew unable to resurface. They discounted an explosion, however, saying that the evidence suggested the submarine came apart as it was crushed by water pressure at depths of more than 800 metres.

Richard Flanagan on Tasmania's toxic secret
The billion dollar Tasmanian salmon industry promotes itself as environmentally friendly, healthy, and good for the state. But when you look a little closer, the environmental and social impacts are alarming. Today, Richard Flanagan on the real impacts of Tasmania’s salmon farms.

“As Australians were waking to news of the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin – the police officer whose murder of George Floyd last year sparked a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement – New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott was in the middle of his own media blitz about BLM … Elliott was speaking about a story on the front page of The Daily Telegraph, fed to the media by Mark Latham, the NSW leader of the far-right party One Nation. The article detailed that a school on Sydney’s leafy north shore was apparently displaying ‘anti-police’ BLM posters made by students. Elliott accused teachers at the school of ‘brainwashing’ children with ‘anti-police propaganda’.”

“For weeks, speculation has swirled around Lachlan Murdoch’s return to Australia. Plans to launch Fox News here have been breathlessly reported, linked to the local launch of a news streaming service. Other stories have considered whether the Fox co-chair and chief executive, and son of founder Rupert, may have ceded effective control of the company to in-house counsel Viet Dinh, a former assistant attorney-general in the Bush administration and godfather to Lachlan’s eldest son, Kalan. Neither story is true.”

“The opposition is at pains to make clear it is not the government, and certain decisions are matters for government. This is true. But on the issue of climate change, the Morrison government is leaning its full weight into pushing Australia backwards. And Labor is the line. So when the party says it supports Australia exporting coal past 2050, we slip backwards once more.”

“Australian troops will not return to Afghanistan, even if the nation's security deteriorates in the coming years, according to new Defence Minister Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton said it was ‘very unlikely’ Australian troops would return to Afghanistan if the situation got any worse. ‘We don't have any plans to go back in. I can't see how that's possible in the foreseeable future,’ he told the ABC's Insiders program.”

“The Australian defence minister, Peter Dutton, has said a conflict involving China over Taiwan cannot be discounted but he insists the government’s focus remains on having ‘good relations’ with Beijing. Dutton was on Sunday asked about the prospect of a ‘battle over Taiwan’ following remarks from the former defence minister, Christopher Pyne, and the ex-prime minister, Tony Abbott, about China’s expansionist plans in the region. ‘I don’t think it [conflict] should be discounted,’ Dutton said.”

“Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film Minari – a cathartic and intimate portrait of an immigrant family – was inspired by a Willa Cather quote: ‘Life began for me, when I ceased to admire and began to remember.’ For years Chung avoided writing about his childhood, preferring to tell other stories. From his 2007 directorial debut, Munyurangabo – a documentary-style film shot in Rwanda in 11 days and filmed in the Kinyarwanda language – to his next two films, Lucky Life and Abigail Harm, his projects were often inspired by the lives of others.” 

“The 15 participants lived in the Lombrives cave in south-west France with no phones, clocks or sunlight. They slept in tents, made their own electricity, and had no contact with the outside world. The project aimed to test how people respond to losing their sense of time and space ... The director of the project, French-Swiss explorer Christian Clot, said time seemed to pass more slowly in the cave.”

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