Morning mail: Brisbane Covid cluster grows, more sexual misconduct allegations, renewables offer energy security
Hello, and happy Monday. It’s Imogen Dewey here, with updates about Brisbane’s growing Covid cluster, still more sexual misconduct allegations in parliament, and some big news about renewables.
Australian health authorities are scrambling to track down contacts of two Brisbane friends who tested positive for coronavirus, amid fresh concerns about the outbreak growing. A third case was announced yesterday morning. NSW Health is contacting thousands who’ve returned from Brisbane in the past week, and you can see a list of possible exposure sites in Queensland.
Liberal MPs are calling for drug and alcohol testing of MPs as part of a shake-up of political culture following a series of sexual misconduct allegations plaguing the Morrison government. Reports emerged yesterday of another alleged incident of harassment, with Nationals MP Anne Webster making a complaint against someone who harassed her in Parliament House. Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming will quit parliament at the next election over his “appalling” behaviour towards women, including an incident where he allegedly photographed a woman’s bottom. Perhaps reflecting on all this, a cross-factional group of Victorian Liberals intends to move for gender quotas – as will the moderate faction of the NSW party branch.
Labor is also dealing with a historical sexual assault allegation “concerning a senior Labor figure” which has reportedly been referred to police. It comes as the party prepares for this week’s national conference. Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese faces a union push to stop MPs voting in support of free trade agreements struck by the government, in a controversial motion heading for a showdown at the special virtual meeting of delegates. He says this week will finalise a “clear narrative” to take to the next election, with dozens of policies from the last election under Bill Shorten to be dumped.
Renewable energy and batteries can secure Australia’s electricity grid as effectively as coal and gas, research out today suggests. “The business model underpinning coal and gas is collapsing before our eyes,” energy economist Prof Bruce Mountain said.
Police in Victoria have admitted a focus on Isis-inspired terrorism meant the online presence of rightwing extremists such as Brenton Tarrant was not “front of mind” before the Christchurch massacre.
The Australian parliament is investigating a major technical disruption that resulted in MPs and senators losing email access over the weekend, while the Nine Network scrambled yesterday to fix “technical issues” it attributed to a cyber-attack.
Unions are urging the government to lift the minimum wage after the jobkeeper payment ended on Sunday, saying low-income earners will spend the money and help stimulate economic recovery.
Myanmar security forces yesterday opened fire on mourners gathered for the funeral of one of the 114 people killed the previous day, according to witnesses. With more than 440 people now dead, fear is starting to turn to fury.
Kurdish forces in north-east Syria have begun a security operation inside the al-Hawl refugee detention camp in an attempt to eliminate Isis sleeper cells that have become increasingly active over the last few months.
Boris Johnson has made an orchestrated gesture of defiance to Beijing by meeting a cross-party group of MPs and peers sanctioned by China for their stance on human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
“I was not more deserving but simply lucky. The cruel lottery of access to mental health treatment infuriates me.” As a journalist covering the royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system, Georgie Moore immediately recognised the catastrophic dysfunction of an infrastructure in crisis mode. While no sum can make any system completely seamless, she says “the least terrible response must be to start with much, much more funding. And to not turn off the tap when it stops being news.”
Even before Covid-19, Melbourne’s latest cultural festival, Rising, was always going to favour local artists. “No one will believe us,” says co-artistic director Hannah Fox. Amalgamating the 35-year-old Melbourne international arts festival and White Night, the first season of Rising kicks off on 26 May. With more than 130 events, the 12-day-schedule is also big on participation – one highlight involves “a lot of mud, a lot of discourse, and it’s recommended you don’t bring your best clothes”.
This Easter there’s an abundance of ethical, artisan Australian chocolate. Lee Tran Lam peels back the foil wrapper to find some of the best. There’s the “adult Cherry Ripe”, chocolate made from native ingredients, and seasonal flavours inspired by hot cross buns and carrot cake. As one maker points out: “It’s incredibly hard to re-educate a market that has been trained to buy a $2.50 block of choc from the grocery aisle.” But these treats prove it’s worth paying up.
Australia has ramped up the practice of deporting people who commit crimes while living here on visas – a policy that’s seen deportations to New Zealand skyrocket. Today on Full Story, Guardian reporter Ben Doherty explains the history of this policy and how a series of recent controversies over deportations have pushed tensions between the two countries to an all-time high.
Saudi Arabia has spent at least US$1.5bn on “sportswashing”, a new report reveals. In a bid to obscure its poor human right record, the kingdom has touted itself as a new leading global venue for tourism and events, from chess championships to golf.
A defiant half-century by Ash Gardner steered Australia to a six-wicket victory in their opening women’s Twenty20 international against New Zealand in Hamilton.
It might well be time for the AFL to consider the implementation of a decision review system. What’s the worst thing that could happen? It chews up time? It interrupts the flow of the match? The score review system achieves that and we seem happy enough to sit through the rock-and-roll of replays to (mostly) arrive at the correct decision.
According to the Brisbane Times, historic Boydtown near Eden on the NSW south coast is set for a name change because of associations with the slave-trader Ben Boyd. Top stockbroking firms exaggerated their own failure rates to suggest a controversial ethics exam, reports the Australian Financial Review, as part of a campaign against industry education reforms. Also in the AFR, “about half of Australia’s left-of-centre voters” are open to nuclear energy.
The city of Minneapolis is bracing for Monday’s opening arguments in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, who was Black, in the city last May.
There’s a parliamentary inquiry into robodebt, and NSW inquiry hearings into coercive control.
And if you’ve read this far …
Many of us will have felt the grip of claustrophobic isolation over the past year, but US lawyer Steven Donziger has experienced an extreme, very personal confinement: he’s now been under house arrest for 600 days, the result of a Kafkaesque legal battle stemming from his crusade on behalf of Indigenous Amazonians.
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