Saturday, 11 July 2020

Dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government (11 November 1975): full range of Buckingham Palace correspondence with then Australian Governor-General Sir John Kerr will be available for online viewing from 11am on Tuesday, 14th July 2020

National Archives of Australia, 9 July 2020:

The National Archives of Australia will release the Kerr Palace Letters on Tuesday 14 July. 

National Archives Director-General David Fricker said all the letters will be released without exemption. 

‘In line with the High Court ruling of 29 May, the National Archives has examined the records for public release under the provisions of the Archives Act 1983 and I have determined all items will be released in full,’ Mr Fricker said. 

The records cover the period of Sir John Kerr’s term as Governor-General (1974–77). 

There are six files, which include more than 1000 pages. 

There are 212 letters, many with attachments such as newspaper clippings, reports, and copies of letters related to meetings and events attended by Sir John Kerr during his tenure as Governor-General. 

Applicants that have sought access to the Kerr Palace Letters will be advised of the release date. Mr Fricker said, ‘The National Archives is proud to function as the memory and evidence of the nation, to preserve and provide historical Commonwealth records to the public.’ 

Digital copies of the Kerr Palace Letters will be made publicly available on the National Archives’ website from 11.00am on Tuesday 14 July.

A little snatch of catchup

A few things of interest.....

Clarence Valley, NSW

* Much like the saplings in her hand, Hayley Talbot is hoping her idea to help local bushfire-affected areas will sprout and grow tall.

Ms Talbot, through her business Blanc Space, and project partner ex-professional surfer Daniel Ross have created the Caring for the Clarence project, in which 5000 trees will be planted to help rebuild the local koala population ravaged by bushfires.

Partnering with the NSW Government’s Save Our Species program to fund the initiative, Ms Talbot said she wanted to contribute to the area in a tangible way.

I wanted to do something that has some longevity, that would help us as a community and help our homeland heal,” she said.

While the effort to plant 5000 trees on private properties around the Mororo and Woombah area may seem like a mammoth task for a group reduced in numbers by COVID-19 restrictions, Ms Talbot said they worked at it one tree at a time.

I really feel like it’s been a great example of what any community member can do if they’re passionate and energetic,” she said.

Guided by conservation scientists and using trees of local provenance, the program used data from Google Earth combined with information on koala sightings to plant areas of use to sustain the population.

From there it was about engaging with local property owners because every tree we’ve planted has been on private land,” Ms Talbot said….. [The Daily Telegraph, 1 July 2020]

* Clarence Valley local government area now eligible for federal government drought support administered by St. Vincent de Paul until end of 2020. [Queensland Country Life, 2 July 2020]

One of the largest capital works programs ever seen in the Clarence has passed through council, and is set to provide a $70.6 million investment in local roads and infrastructure during this financial year.

At Clarence Valley Council’s June 23 meeting councillors voted to adopt the 2020-21 budget, paving the way for a significant economic boost to the region.

A significant capital works program totalling $70.6 million has been agreed for the 2020/21 financial year,” Clarence Valley Council’s general manager Ashley Lindsay said.

The key features are $22 million to road and bridge infrastructure projects and approximately $32 million allocated to open spaces, community facility and building projects.” Mr Lindsay said an additional $5.2 million will be generated from the final year of a three-year special rate variation which commenced 2018/2019.

The majority of these funds will be spent on roads and infrastructure asset renewals.

This is the final year of council’s four-year financial improvement plan adopted in June 2017, which lays the foundations for the long-term financial well being of the organisation, and the services, facilities and infrastructure it provides for the community,” he said…. [The Daily Telegraph, 3 July 2020]

COVID-19 Pandemic

* 44% of all those in residential aged care who caught COVID-19 and 9% of older people receiving care services in the home died as a result of this viral infection [Australian Dept. of Health, 5 July 2020]

* COVID-19 growth rate graph 

[ABC News, 9 July 2020]

Liberal Party Politics

* Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, the man who revived Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “economic girly man’’ insult in the Australian political lexicon and privately called Scott Morrison “narcissistic” is set to quit politics sparking a cabinet reshuffle.

Australia’s longest serving Finance Minister has denied growing speculation he will quit politics for months, but has responded with notable silence to three reports in the last month that he plans to resign.

But his departure also is set to remind voters of the ongoing leadership fallout within the Coalition over the ascension of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his increasing popularity, dominance and control of the government in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, there was even speculation that he might return to Europe in a diplomatic posting for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But the Belgian-born Liberal senator told friends he is more attracted to making some money in the corporate sector. [, 3 July 2020]

* By the end of this year we will be half-way through this current term of government.

Having decided not to recontest the next election, I can confirm that I have advised the Prime Minister that the end of this year would be an appropriate time for an orderly transition in my portfolio. [Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Statement, 4 July 2020]

* THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: It's only taken PM Scott Morrison a little over 23 months to quietly push Dutton-supporter Mathias Cormann out of the Australian Parliament. Who is next? [@no_filter-Yamba, 5 July 2020]

* The NSW Liberal Party has appointed a former ICAC executive to investigate claims the minutes of the local branch of Prime Minister’s right-hand man Alex Hawke were doctored to secure his power base.

In the most significant development since the scandal was first revealed by News Corp almost two years ago, the party office has confirmed in an email sent to affected branch members on Friday that it has enlisted the former head of the corruption watchdog’s investigations unit, Michael Symons, to head up the internal inquiry.

Liberal MP Alex Hawke. Picture: Kym Smith
The party head office has been in internal turmoil since being made aware of allegations that Mr Hawke’s factionally-aligned heads of the Baulkham Hills branch in his electorate of Mitchell changed the minutes to block the memberships of 10 new conservative members.

Had the new members been recorded accurately at the meeting — held in a western Sydney funeral home — Mr Hawke’s Centre Right faction would have lost control of the branch, potentially putting his preselection in jeopardy.

Control of branches is critical in influencing Federal, State and local government preselections. At a State level, the Baulkham Hills branch is critical for NSW Police Minister David Elliott. [The Daily Telegraph, 5 July 2020]

Eden-Monaro Federal By-election

* At 7:30pm on Saturday 4 July 2020, when First Preference vote counting ceased for the night in the NSW Eden-Monaro federal electorate, it was apparent that an est. 62,22% of voters were not having a bar of Scott Morrison & his hard right Lib-Nats government. [Australian Electoral Commission, 4 July 2020]

At the same time in bushfire ravaged little Cobargo at least 59.68% of local voters refused to give the Morrison Government candidate their First Preference vote.

Even after they appear to have been not so subtly threatened:

the residents of Cobargo – the centre of a tragedy in January – swung to the Liberals on Saturday night. Perhaps this is a bushfire effect in the sense locals accepted the government’s core message during the campaign: the fire clean up will move much faster if you send Fiona Kotvojs to Canberra, rather than a member of the opposition. [The Guardian, 5 July 2020]

* By early Sunday evening 61.71% of all voters in Eden-Monaro who cast a formal vote had refused to give the Morrison Government’s candidate their First Preference vote. So the inevitable happened…..

Research economist discovers ‘Scotty From Marketing’ Morrison’s economic playbook

So, a short recession’s not enough. You want to create a prolonged depression, right?

Perhaps you run businesses that specialise in disaster capitalism. Maybe you want to suckle at the teat of a dying fossil fuel industry for a little longer. It could be that you miss the social division and inequality of the Victorian era. Maybe you’re just a jerk.

Whatever your motivations, this guide will take you through the basic steps of pushing an already struggling economy into a full-blown crisis…

Read the full article here. [The New Daily, 5 July 2020]

About endangered flying foxes

Protecting the Orange Roughy

The orange roughy fishery, which some have dubbed the "posterchild of fishery mismanagement", has been the subject of debate since the 1990s when stocks collapsed after just 20 years of commercial fishing.

It's a fish that can live for more than 140 years and can't breed until around 30 — and conservationists say its unusual biology should make it off-limits to commercial fishing.

But industry groups say they've learnt from past mistakes and can harvest orange roughy sustainably.

Now, acting on behalf of an Australian trawl-fishing interest group, US-based consultancy MRAG Americas Inc has recommended the fishery be given sustainability status.

The consultancy handed down its recommendation last week to MSC, an international non-government organisation that certifies the sustainability of fisheries based on the sustainability of the exploited fish stocks, maintenance of the fishery ecosystem, and responsible management.

Objections were raised by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and conservation group WWF but were dismissed on a technicality, according to AMCS spokesperson Adrian Meder.

Mr Meder said the report contains a number of flaws that show a lack of understanding of the biology of the species and fishery.

"It's the shonkiest piece of greenwashing I think I've seen in my entire career. It gets the basics wrong on so many levels," Mr Meder said…..

Orange roughy facts
  • Researchers have caught orange roughy up to 149 years of age, making them one of the longest-lived fish species. It's estimated that individuals may live up to 200 years.
  • They don't reach sexual maturity until around 30 years of age and by fish standards, don't produce a lot of offspring.
  • Orange roughy live between 700 metres and 1500 metres deep. They roam across seabeds but congregate on underwater shelves and seamounts to breed, meaning they can be easily caught in large numbers.
  • The fish are caught by bottom trawling, usually across seamounts.
  • They live in cold water, and in Australia are mostly found off Tasmania, Victoria and the Great Australian Bight.
  • Commercial fishing for orange roughy began in earnest in the 1970s, with the biggest extractions taking place in New Zealand waters followed by Australia.
  • They're also found in the waters of Namibia, Chile, in the Atlantic and south Indian Ocean, however stock data is limited in many of these places.
  • The flesh is pearly white and delicate. [ABC News, 5 July 2020]
Just for the nostalgia

Year 1987
George Harrison: Voice & Guitar
Eric Clapton: Guitar (a Les Paul)
Jeff Lyne: Guitar
Phil Collins: Drums
Ringo Starr: Drums
Ray Cooper: Percussion
Mark King: Bass
Elton John: Piano
Jool Holland: Piano

Pauline Hanson, One Nation’s Racist-In-Chief

Pauline Hanson labelled residents in the nine public housing estate towers "drug addicts" and "alcoholics" who can't speak English, in an interview this morning on Channel Nine's Today Show.

After widespread backlash across the morning, Channel Nine released a statement to announce that Hanson won't be joining the Today Show in the future…..
[SBS News, 6 July 2020]

Rex Regional Express Airine

The more than a little petty and spiteful, Messrs. Lim Kim Hai, John Sharp, Lee Thian Soo, Neville Howell, Chris Hine, James Davis and Ronald Bartsch remain firm in their refusal to continue to fly Rex Express small passenger jets into Grafton Airport in the Clarence Valley.
Leaving the valley without an airline service.

IMAGERex Regional Express revised air routes

Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison uses the old excuse that 'Jen & the girls deserve a break' to bolt out the backdoor once again

* It appears that 'Scotty From Marketing' has been away on holidays for most of the last six days and intends to keep holidaying for another six to seven days.

IMAGE: Found on Twitter

* "As you know, it is a school holidays and Jenny and the girls will be taking some time on the outskirts of Sydney....We have technology where I can be with them and continue to take briefings, calls and meetings in dealing with the situation whether it be Victoria or the other situations in the country. "As a dad, I will take some time but at the same time I can assure you we will remain absolutely focused on the things we need to focus on next week."  [9 News, 10 July 2020]

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Friday, 3 July 2020

Has our dream run over the coronavirus pandemic has come to a sticky end?

Echo NetDaily, June 2020:

Thus Spake Mungo: ahh the Spike

Australia awoke last week to the strains of Spike Milligan’s poignant refrain, ‘I’m walking backwards to Christmas.
It may not be all the way to Christmas, but it could be even further – well into next year, and perhaps beyond that. We don’t know and we can’t tell.
But it is sadly clear that our dream run over the coronavirus pandemic has come to a sticky end. And it has happened on both fronts, the medical and the economic. The cluster of hot spots that emerged from Victoria does not yet constitute the dreaded second wave, but it is worrying, and defies explanation.
For readers of The Australian, of course, it is all too simple: Daniel Andrews unleashed the beast by not clamping down on the Black Lives Matter protests. But hang on – there were protests in other states as well, without clusters emerging, And in any case, not one of the cases in Victoria can be traced to the demonstrations.
So perhaps the problem was that Andrews mismanaged the Cedar Bay abattoir outbreak? Or ignored communicating COVID-19 information to the ethnic communities? One way or another, we have to blame the socialist totalitarian for something.
But apart from the partisan bullshit, the fact that there are clusters at all must serve as a warning, because across other parts, around the world, COVID19 is still raging. It is out of control in Brazil, spreading dangerously in India, working its way through the southern United States and, most disturbingly, making huge inroads in parts of China, where it was thought to have been tamed......
And for the government, the worse news is that the easing of restrictions has not just stalled, but has been reversed in some areas, notably the urgency of opening state boundaries.And despite the predictions of the optimists, we are not yet in reach of a vaccine. This is not good news.
It appears that we are reverting to the old maxim: think globally, act locally. The national cabinet was never much more national than our mish-mash federation, or the constitution that birthed it; it was a useful conceit and helped us muddle through the early emergency, but it was always gesture politics rather than reality....
And now the premiers have declared that it is every state for itself. Some are derestricting like mad, others are more cautious, playing for time. And of course Victoria has gone backwards – even toilet paper is back on the rationing list. This is serious, folks......
And it appears that the other premiers are less than sympathetic. In NSW, Gladys Berejiklian has made it clear that Victorian holidaymakers will not be welcome in her pristine domain – in fact, she has bluntly told them to bugger off.
Australia is still doing fairly well by world standards. Moody’s rating agency and the International Monetary Fund have both offered commendation, ticking us off as one of the best in a fairly miserable bunch.
But the IMF have warned that shutting down the stimulus measures designed to dampen unemployment too abruptly could lead to awful consequences – it has urged caution; a gradual easing, rather than a sudden shut off.
Morrison and Josh Frydenberg seem, reluctantly, to be getting the message. The strictly temporary JobKeeker program, scheduled to end in September, may have to be extended, at least for the most vulnerable sectors of the economy.
And some extra spending is being rolled out; the beleaguered arts are finally getting a boost, although a very minor one, and in the wake of the Qantas stand down, assistance for the airline industry is on the table.
And Morrison is hell-bent on ramping up the nation for business – whatever the consequences. ‘We can’t go “stop, go, stop, go”, we can’t flick the light on and off,’ he insisted, blithely ignoring the fact that this is precisely what he is planning to do with JobKeeker. ‘We’ve got to just keep the focus on keeping the economy open and getting people back into jobs.’ And there is absolutely no need for anxiety about the Victorian outbreak, because ‘we were expecting it.’ Perhaps he was – the rest of us were somewhat taken aback. 
But it is still all about industry and business. Individuals – casual workers in particular – are not considered essential. And of course enemies are still to be punished. The universities, and most of all the ABC, have been singled out for clobbering. Some of us are in this together more than others.
But it’s time to forget about the health crisis – so 2019-2020, We need a new narrative to turn the page into the new financial year. It’s the economy, stupid – and we do mean stupid. Back to Spike Milligan. As the Great Goon might have warbled:
I’ve tried walking backwards
And walking to the front
But all the people stare at me
And ask: who is that silly…’
Yes, quite so. Moving right along…

Thursday, 2 July 2020

One of Murdoch's minions goes after the ABC & accidentally shoots Sky News, a subsidiary of News Corp

Sometimes even in these dark times the news cycle throws up a quiet giggle.

In the Murdoch-Morrison War on the ABC, Australia's public broadcaster......

First salvo

L'l Scotty Morrison routinely swats away a journalist during a doorstop on 29 June 2020:

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve spoken about the need for tax reform out the back of this crisis. Will you consider taking to the next election either an increase in the GST or a broadening of the base of the GST in order to get rid of and decrease other taxes or is that something you would rule out? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what I'm focused on at the moment is the decisions the Government has to make in relation to JobSeeker and JobKeeper and they’re important decisions as we move to the next phase post September. And I've got to say, Andrew, that's where my attention is right now.

JOURNALIST: So it’s something you might consider down the track? 

 PRIME MINISTER: No, Andrew, I'm not going to let you put words in my mouth. I've said what I've said. You know, we're focused on the questions that Australians are most interested in at the moment. And that is, frankly, the next phase beyond JobSeeker and JobKeeper. There is still a lot of work to do there and that's what we're focused on now. 

JOURNALIST: Were you concerned… 

PRIME MINISTER: No, it's not a one on one today, Andrew, there's many other journalists here. I'm happy to give you another one later.

Supporting salvo

News Corp's own NCA Newswire decides this exchange is a perfect opportunity to take another potshot at the ABC:

However there is one small problem with this 'news' report.

Return fire from opposing trenches

And that small problem was at matter of identity:

It would appear that News Corp mixed up Andrew Clennell a political editor over at its own subsidiary, Sky News Australia with an ABC political editor Andrew Probyn.

Thus managing to bring down one of its own media soldiers in a volley of friendly fire.

In future skirmishes perhaps Murdoch's troops could check mugshots before firing off a round - the Andrews are easy to tell apart.

Charities are warning Tweed Heads is a food insecurity hotspot and they are running out of supplies to meet rapidly growing demand.

ABC News,  June 2020:

Charities are warning Tweed Heads is a food insecurity hotspot and they are running out of supplies to meet rapidly growing demand. 

Agape Outreach founder Theresa Mitchell said the number of people asking for food assistance has almost doubled since the advent of coronavirus. 

"Before COVID we were feeding up to 400 people a week, now we're feeding up to 700," she said. 

"We are getting 1,600-1,700 kilograms of food donated a week, but we can go through 700kg a day. 

"A run we did last week we had 150 hot meals. We didn't get halfway through the places we were going to. We bought $100 of pizza on top and we still had to turn people away." 

Tweed region facing unique challenges 

Agape services the stretch between the northern Gold Coast and Byron Bay, where Ms Mitchell said all communities were experiencing increased hardship as a result of coronavirus job losses. 

Food recovery charity OzHarvest is making hot meals

Tweed, however, has few big businesses to provide major chunks of funding and faces unique accessibility issues with pockets of population dotted in remote areas. 

"There are a lot of people who can't get here [to access food] because of lack of funds to do that," Ms Mitchell said. 

"Every person walking in the door would ask us for a petrol voucher but we're not funded, we don't get money from everywhere, so we can't give them." 

Demand becoming unsustainable 

The Gold Coast manager of food rescue organisation OzHarvest, Sally Anderson, said servicing Tweed's growing demand is unsustainable. OzHarvest figures show that in May 9,299kg of food was delivered to the nine charities it supports in Tweed Heads, but less than a third of it was contributed by donors from that area. 

"That identifies to us that Tweed donors would never be able to fill the demand of the food relief that is required by the charities down there," Ms Anderson said. 

"We make up the rest by donating Gold Coast food that we have collected to meet that food demand down at the Tweed end. 

"We are all a community, regardless of whether there is a border there or not, but in the next 12 months we will be facing some tough times. 

"Tweed really needs some attention so we would love it if we could get some support down there and we are trying to connect with local businesses."

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The Morrison Government's COVIDSafe app has not identified any close contacts of a person infected with coronavirus who had not already been found through manual contact tracing

The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 June 2020:

The federal government's COVIDSafe app has not identified any close contacts of a person infected with coronavirus who had not already been found through manual contact tracing, despite being downloaded by more than 6 million Australians in two months. 

As the number of infections soars in Victoria, Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick said the government was being dishonest about the effectiveness of the app, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison touted as "sunscreen" against major outbreaks and as the key to lifting restrictions..... 

The $2 million app — downloaded more than 6.44 million times and launched amid the height of the pandemic in Australia on April 26 — was built to help assist state and territory contact-tracing teams uncover close contacts of infected COVID-19 cases who may have been within 1.5 metres of them for more than 15 minutes in public places such as restaurants, cafes or shops. 

But testing data provided to the Senate showed its effectiveness, particularly on Apple iPhones, remains an ongoing issue. The testing data, released to the Senate's select committee on COVID-19, shows when an iPhone is locked there remain issues with the app detecting another nearby iPhone user. 

Only 25 to 50 per cent of the time did it work on May 26 in locked iPhone-to-iPhone testing. At launch, it was worse, working only 25 per cent of the time or less for locked iPhone to locked iPhone. When it was running in the background, the app also didn't work well. Issues were also prevalent on Android smartphones, with problems remaining on May 26, especially when the app's testers tried to get iPhones and Androids to share information. 

At the app's launch, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said: "To be effective, users should have the app running in the background when they are coming into contact with others. Your phone does not need to be unlocked for the app to work." 

Labor's government services spokesman Bill Shorten accused the government of being "secretive" about the app's dysfunction. "The current app is clearly not working well enough and the government is being secretive about how often it has actually made a difference," Mr Shorten said..... 

On the app's launch day, 6696 Australians had coronavirus. Since then, a further 926 cases have been identified, many returned travellers. Of the 926, only 40 of those have had the COVIDSafe app and have allowed health officials to look at their close contact data..... 

On Wednesday, Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said his contact tracers had downloaded the app's data 30 times but had not identified anyone who wasn't already uncovered through the manual interview process..... 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed on Thursday that NSW health officials had downloaded people's contact data from the app 10 times. 

But the NSW Health Department confirmed on Saturday no contacts or cases had been identified using the app.....