Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Fury over India travel ban

Australians impacted by the shutdown of all travel from India have slammed the federal government’s decision and called for dedicated mass quarantine facilities. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced a temporary halt on flights from the Covid-stricken country until May 15 at the earliest. Of the 9000 Australians trapped in India, 650 are classed as vulnerable. The measure, which goes beyond anything imposed during the height of the US and European waves of infections, abandons Australians who have been trying to get home for more than a year amid constantly changing travel restrictions and cancelled flights. Indian-Australian Sydney resident Deepa, whose husband is stranded on the subcontinent, is among those echoing state government calls for federal authorities to set up a mass quarantine facility, telling The Guardian, “They’ve stopped seeing us as citizens … if they want to make sure everyone who comes into quarantine in Australia presents no Covid risk, then why do they even have a quarantine system?” Morrison has committed to supplying medical aid, including 500 ventilators to India, which on Tuesday recorded a further 323,144 new infections and 2771 deaths. 

Two more Indigenous deaths in custody have been recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of fatalities since the start of March to seven. Corrective Services NSW has confirmed a 37-year-old Indigenous man was found dead at Cessnock Correctional Centre on Tuesday morning. He was found unresponsive in his cell before being pronounced dead about an hour later. Corrective Services NSW and NSW Police are investigating the incident, and the coroner has been notified. Corrections Victoria on Tuesday meanwhile revealed an Aboriginal man had died at Port Phillip Prison on Monday evening in an incident reported to have been related to a medical episode. The coroner has been notified as has the Aboriginal Justice Caucus, and a smoking ceremony is being arranged. The latest deaths come less than two weeks after mass protests were held to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the end of the landmark royal commission into Indigenous deaths in custody. Greens Senator and Gunnai Gunditjmara Djab Wurrung woman Lidia Thorpe said “The answers are clear. They’ve been clear for thirty years.”

Legal firm Shine Lawyers will this morning file a class action against the federal government on behalf of 800 Stolen Generations survivors and descendents from the Northern Territory. Shine Lawyers said the survivors are seeking compensation for the hurt and trauma they experienced, and for their loss of culture and connection to Country. The federal government has previously opposed paying compensation, saying last year that there was no established legal obligation for it to do so. Shine Lawyers, which will formally file the class action in the New South Wales Supreme Court, said it is too early to say how much in compensation they will ask for. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today travel to the Northern Territory to ­announce a $747 million defence package to enhance land combat capability and support expanded “war gaming” with the United States. The NT News reports four of the NT’s ADF training sites will be overhauled, with the Bradshaw Field Training Area to be upgraded to include “urban operations training facilities”. It comes after Home Affairs Department secretary Mike Pezzullo, widely tipped to soon take over as secretary of the Department of Defence, warned the “drums of war are beating” and that Australia must be prepared “to send off, yet again, our warriors to fight”. The comment earned a rebuke from West Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan, who said government figures needed to “tone it down” as tensions with China escalate.

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Peter Dutton has long been one of the most controversial ministers in the federal government. Now, at a time of rising global tension, he’s become the Minister for Defence. Today, Karen Middleton on Peter Dutton’s new job, and the concerns already being raised in the Defence community.

“The prime minister’s evolving language ... was seen as preparing his base for a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. But if the prime minister was indeed readying the right-wing climate change deniers in his party, emissions reduction experts are already pre-empting any shift with a warning that a long-distant target alone is not sufficient. ‘Net zero by 2050 is easy to say,’ Climate Council spokesperson Andrew Stock tells The Saturday Paper. ‘But without interim targets that are meaningful and met, it’s almost worthless. It’s just words.’”

“McKinnon was one of those ‘characters’ – a man’s man – who, then as now, tend to do rather well in Australia. When he retired in 1962, station owners praised him as a ‘sterling friend’ who ‘played the game over the years, and … carried out his duties with justice and tact’. Put more simply and brutally, McKinnon did a great deal of valuable dirty work for the nervous white population of Central Australia. And he was a sufficiently clever liar to get away with a career notable for its racism and violence, at a time when most of white Australia was eager to believe lies about life on its frontiers.”

“Not since John Travolta asked to try the $5 milkshake Uma Thurman ordered at Jack Rabbit Slim’s has anyone cared so much about the cost of a milkshake. But it turns out that prices have gone up a bit since 1994.”

“Those who dislike Morrison’s politics felt entitled to mock his beliefs and malign his church even though we live in a society that is meant to respect freedom of religion … And what is so horrifying? That the nation’s leader is a person of faith? This has been true for most prime ministers. Kevin Rudd made no secret of his Christian beliefs and spoke to the media after church on Sundays. Tony Abbott was known for his Catholicism before he won the 2013 election.”

“‘Brother Stewie,’ the prime minister said, name-checking Employment Minister Stuart Robert, a fellow Pentecostal. Robert has recently been promoted to the government’s powerful Expenditure Review Committee. Then there was ‘brother Matt’, who’d ‘recently joined us’. This was West Australian Liberal Matt O’Sullivan, elected to the Senate in 2019, who graduated into politics via billionaire Christian businessman Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation … Here was proof of the outsized influence of Pentecostalism within the Australian government.”

“It is important to remember that these stories did not risk national security. They invited criticism, not danger. The raids on the ABC and the home of a News Corp reporter were about government embarrassment. The warrant executed at the ABC was obscenely broad. It allowed police to ‘add, copy, delete or alter’ material held by journalists there.”

“Unable to leave on his own without breaching his contract and paying a fine, he instead begged viewers to send him home and deliberately performed poorly in the hope of being voted off … His pleas went unanswered, however, and he was propelled through three months of competition and 10 episodes, plus supplemental digital content. A fanbase which had taken to his grumpy, anti-celebrity persona, or were perhaps driven by schadenfreude, urged each other to vote for him and ‘let him 996!’ in reference to China’s digital industry culture of chronic overwork - 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Others called him ‘the most miserable wage slave’, and celebrated him as an icon of ‘Sang culture’, a Chinese millennial concept of having a defeatist attitude toward life.”

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