Thursday, April 29, 2021

Treasurer holds off austerity budget

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today pledge to delay plans for budget repair measures, as he unveils a new target to drive unemployment below five per cent. In a Canberra speech that creates room for further big-spending measures in the May 11 federal budget, Frydenberg will lower his previous unemployment target of up to 5.5 per cent as the threshold for budget repair, arguing that a new paper by Treasury finds that the rate of unemployment below which inflation and wages are expected to accelerate “needs to have a four in front of it”. Wages growth sits at a sluggish 1.4 per cent, while unemployment was 5.6 per cent in March, although the end of JobKeeper is expected to see this increase. Frydenberg has abandoned the Coalition’s debt and deficit rhetoric as he oversees the largest budget deficits since World War II, with a shortfall of $150 billion expected for 2020-21. The treasurer will flag that spending cuts will eventually come however, while pledging not to increase tax rates or take “any sharp pivots towards austerity”.

Five Iranian refugees detained in a Darwin hotel for more than a year are taking the federal government to court for false imprisonment and negligence. The group came by boat to Australia in 2013 before being detained on Nauru until they secured a medical transfer to Darwin. The case alleges the Commonwealth unlawfully detained the group after the Immigration Department processed their asylum claims and found them to be genuine refugees. "This lawsuit is going to expose to Australia and the world the cruel conditions these innocent people are being subjected to," lawyer John B Lawrence SC said. This includes witnessing their close friend Omid Masoumali, 24, set himself alight in front of United Nations officials in 2016 in protest. It took 31 hours for the Australian government to evacuate the badly burned man to a Brisbane hospital, where he later died.

India’s official Covid-19 death toll has passed 200,000, with a further 3293 fatalities and 360,000 new infections recorded on Wednesday in the space of 24 hours. The real number of deaths is thought to be far greater, with many not being officially recorded. It comes as a Guardian analysis reveals India has fewer cases per capita than either the United States or the United Kingdom during their respective Covid peaks, where numbers were also believed to be undercounted. The findings have prompted University of New South Wales epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws to question the unprecedented ban on all flights from India to Australia as  “an act out of fear”. She says the Morrison government must offer a route home for citizens “to ensure there is no misconception the ban is in any way racist”.

Australia has been accused of standing in the way of efforts to free up the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines at a meeting of World Trade Organization member states on Friday. Supported by more than 115 other countries, India and South Africa will appeal for patents to be temporarily waived on Covid vaccines and technology until global herd immunity is achieved. More than 700 Australian medical officials and academics have now signed a letter calling on the federal government to throw its support and influence behind the intellectual property waiver. Australia argues that the common law implications should be explored before it could enter into negotiations in support of the waiver. The United States and European Union are opposed to the waiver being waived. 

The Murdoch plan to save Fox
Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is one of the most powerful corporate influences right around the world, but in recent years it’s been through radical changes. Now it looks like Rupert is starting to hand power over to his son Lachlan. Today, Paddy Manning on Lachlan Murdoch’s ambitious plans.

“‘They handcuffed three of my friends,’ Kasra Mirabi says. ‘One Iranian, one from Bangladesh and other one from Pakistan.’ Mirabi, an Iranian refugee, was forcibly removed from the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel and Apartments in Brisbane on Friday, April 16, along with 18 other men. They had been detained at the site by the Australian government. It was a ‘hurried evacuation’, according to refugee advocate Ian Rintoul. ‘It was a very panicked move by Border Force and Serco,’ he says. Mirabi says he was playing with his phone in his room when security staff came in and quickly ushered the men onto waiting buses. ‘They moved us by force and they didn’t allow us to take our property,’ he says.” 

“Changkuoth Jiath still recalls sitting on a plane as a seven-year-old in 2007, leaving behind Ethiopia and the only life he knew. Born in the refugee camp where his mother and father lived for more than a decade after fleeing crisis-ravaged South Sudan on foot, he and his parents and siblings were immigrating to Australia. The thrilling concept of inflight movies and a memorable first viewing of Night at the Museum was a contrast with one particularly odd-tasting food on the plastic airline tray. Cheese, they called it.”

FICTION

“Then I offer a new disclosure, buoyed by the sudden attention. About how when I am in the country, and the moon is bright enough, I like to go jogging on a long stretch of tar. It feels effortless, the body releases a chemical at night that makes running easier and less taxing, you run forever and it’s like running into a void – all that’s out in front is a rich and complete darkness.”

“NSW Police has announced a proposal to make dating apps safer but Match Group, the parent company of Tinder and Hinge, has told Hack it has not yet agreed to implement the changes. NSW Police raised the possibility of using artificial intelligence to scan conversations between users for ‘red flags’ and also proposed a ‘portal’ for police to access reports of sexual assaults made to dating apps.”

“The proposed partnership with law enforcement sits within a broader project of escalating police surveillance fuelled by platform-verification processes. Tech companies offer police forces a goldmine of data. The needs and experiences of users are rarely the focus of such partnerships … Data collected could potentially include usernames, gender, sexuality, identity documents, chat histories, geolocation and sexual health status … there’s also the risk flawed data on ‘potential’ offenders may be used to train other predictive policing tools.”

“In just a few short years, Roberts-Smith’s life has changed dramatically. In a 2013 interview with INTHEBLACK, a business industry magazine, he said, ‘I’d like people to say, “I met Ben Roberts-Smith and he’s a great businessman – oh, and did you know in 2010 he got a VC.”’  These days people are more likely to say, ‘I met Ben Roberts-Smith, the media executive accused of being a war criminal, and I’m a little scared because Nick McKenzie says the guy apparently buried plastic lunch boxes full of drone footage in his backyard.’”

“To get slander removed, many people hire a ‘reputation management’ company. In my case, it was going to cost roughly $20,000. We soon discovered a secret, hidden behind a smokescreen of fake companies and false identities. The people facilitating slander and the self-proclaimed good guys who help remove it are often one and the same.

A note to our readers:

Next week, The Briefing will be relaunched as Post. It’s the same sharp analysis you are used to, delivered to your inbox every weekday — just with a new look and feel. All subscribers will be offered Post automatically, so you don’t need to do anything — just enjoy it when it arrives.

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