Monday, January 25, 2021

The luckiest country: Australia goes a WEEK with zero coronavirus cases across the entire nation

Australia has gone a week without a single community transmission of Covid-19, as other nations across the world continue to buckle under the strain of the virus and its ever changing and increasingly dangerous mutations.

While a day without any local cases may seem impossible for other countries battling the virus, for Australia it is slowly becoming the new normal.

But experts are now fearing the Australian government has backed the wrong horse when it comes to vaccines, after not putting in a single order for the highly-effective Moderna jab - which is 94.1 per cent effective.

Instead, the government has bought 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and only enough of the equally effective Pfizer jab to protect five million Australians.

NSW recorded three Covid-19 cases on Sunday all of which are in hotel quarantine, meaning the infected are returning citizens, after the state contained recent outbreaks in the Northern Beaches and Berala in Sydney's west.

In Victoria, the state has gone an incredible 18 days without a single community transmission case following fears the Northern Beaches cluster would completely ruin their long standing streak after it spread across the border.

After enduring a hard three-day lockdown in Brisbane, Queensland also recorded zero new cases of Covid-19.

The rest of the country have continued to record no community transmission as the virus is once again under control.

There is now a total of just 129 active cases of Covid-19 nationally with the rest in hotel quarantine as Australians enjoys some normalcy ahead of a vaccine rollout in February.

Most Australians will have the AstraZeneca vaccine and others will have access to Novavax, with just five million citizen getting Pfizer.

Moderna, of which Australia has zero orders for, and Pfizer have proved to be the most effective in clinical trials.

The reason for the government's failure to secure a Moderna order has been shrouded in mystery, with the nation's top doctor Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly only hinting that the company had been unwilling.

In the meantime, beaches around the country were packed over the weekend with restrictions eased many weeks ago, in stark comparison to the strict lockdowns experienced across Europe.

Many of Australia's close partners, including the UK and the US, are recording huge numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths.

In the past 24 hours, the United Kingdom recorded a massive 33,652 new Covid-19 cases and has suffered a total 97,518 deaths.

The situation is even more dire in the United States, where its Centre for Disease Control predicts there will be 465,000 to 508,000 total COVID-19 deaths by February 13. So far, 417,000 deaths have been attributed to the deadly respiratory virus.

Brazil recorded almost double that of the UK total with 62,334 cases in the past 24 hours and a total of 216,445 deaths since the pandemic began.

ABC ‘clearly wrong’ on Australia Day call, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said “the ABC has clearly got this wrong”, referencing the national broadcaster’s publication of an article yesterday on its website about events being held on January 26.

The piece was headlined Australia Day/Invasion Day 2021 events, sparking upset among some Coalition MPs and conservative commentators.

The piece said January 26 was “one of the most polarising dates on the Australian calendar”.

However the ABC is sticking to its guns, saying while Australia Day is its “default terminology”, a “variety of terms” describe January 26 and “it would be inappropriate to mandate staff use any one term over others in all contexts”.

ABC personality Shaun Micallef said referring to protests as “Australia Day events” would have been inaccurate.

A prominent Indigenous activist has accused politicians of playing the “race card” against Aboriginal Australians, which he claims happens in the run to every Australia Day.

Many Indigenous Australians bristle at the date as it marks the arrival of the First Fleet from Britain, an event which led to many Aboriginal people being killed in massacres and suffering other ill treatment at the hands of colonisers.

Others argue the day marks the foundation of modern Australia and the freedoms enjoyed by all.

A new poll published today found fewer than one-third of Australians support shifting the day from January 26.

The ABC article listed celebrations held under the Australia Day banner as well as demonstrations billed as Invasion Day – hence the use of both terms in the headline.

“The name of our national day is well understood and supported, and for the ABC to suggest otherwise – that in some way Invasion Day is interchangeable with Australia Day – is clearly wrong,” Mr Fletcher said.

He added that the name Australia Day was used in legislation and was “reflected in the usage of the overwhelming majority of Australians”.

He conceded the public broadcaster had editorial independence but he urged it to “correct this inaccurate article” and to “be impartial”.

New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott also chimed in, saying it was “breathtakingly irresponsible” to even highlight that Invasion Day rallies were taking place.

Planned protests are not officially sanctioned due to COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit mass gatherings on health grounds.

“If you’ve ever wanted evidence that the ABC are out of touch with reality then yesterday was exactly the case,” Mr Elliott told Sydney radio station 2GB.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said January 26 should be referred to as Australia Day.

“This Australia Day we should walk together, side-by-side, as one to reflect, respect and celebrate all that makes us Australian – Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” he said.

Indigenous leader and one-time Liberal Party candidate Warren Mundine said the history of January 26 wasn’t in dispute, but Australia should “stop focusing on things that divide us (and) focus on the real issues and making them better”.

That wasn’t a view shared by prominent Indigenous activist Dr Stephen Hagan, who was behind the long-running and ultimately successful campaign to have Coon cheese renamed.

He told he was “100 per cent” in favour of the ABC’s decision to use both Australia Day and Invasion Day.

“I support using both terms if for no other reason that it keeps up the conversation which leads to truth telling,” Dr Hagan said.

“When people say the ABC shouldn’t use the term Invasion Day, what they are saying is they do not support Aboriginal people”.

Dr Hagan noted that New Zealand’s national day, Waitangi Day, marked the signing of a treaty between Britain and the local Maori population which established the modern nation, rather than the day UK forces arrived in Kiwi shores.

Mr Hagan accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for using the “race card” with their comments leading up to Australia Day.

“From the PM’s stupid and pathetic comments about the condition of (those in the First Fleet) to McCormack making a reference to all lives matter, they always use the race card – they never miss a beat”.

Labor’s Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney also supported the ABC’s use of different terms for the day depending on what was being referred too.

The ABC did not respond to Minister Fletcher’s comments that the article was “incorrect”. But in an earlier statement it defended its use of several names for January 26. “The default terminology for the ABC remains ‘Australia Day’.

“We also recognise and respect that community members use other terms for the event, including ‘26 January’, ‘Invasion Day’ and ‘Survival Day, so our reporting and coverage reflect that.”

The broadcaster said that the term “Invasion Day” was not interchangeable with “Australia Day,” but rather was used in the context of events that are billed as such.

It added that both the Macquarie and Australian Oxford dictionaries listed “Invasion Day” and “Survival Day” as “roughly synonymous” with “Australia Day” particularly for Indigenous Australians.

“Given the variety of terms in use, and the different perspectives on the day that the ABC is going to cover over the course of the long weekend, it would be inappropriate to mandate staff use any one term over others in all contexts.”

Andrew Bolt: No Australia Day will satisfy activists determined to imagine Australia as an illegitimate state

Sky News host Andrew Bolt asks how trashing Australia and its history helps anyone move on and says “it just keeps us stuck in the past”. Mr Bolt said “terrible things happened but look around us, a hell of a lot of good…

Fine, change the date of Australia Day from January 26. Let race activists — even Cricket Australia — pick any other they prefer. I’ll happily go along with that if they agree to a deal: to then also celebrate the creation of this great country.

Think that will happen?

Trouble is, too many activists are against not just the date of Australia Day, the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, but against the very idea of this nation.

That’s why no concession seems to work — not the apologies, the kneeling, the “barefoot circles’, the “welcome to country”, the smoking ceremonies, the acknowledgement of country, or even the $30bn a year of Aboriginal welfare spending.

The goalposts just get moved, and rage and division grow.

Just weeks ago we saw again how this no-win game plays out, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison decided, on his own, to change words of our national anthem from “young and free” to “one and free”. He said he’d bought the (false) claim “young and free” was offensive because it suggested there was no Aboriginal history before whites arrived.

But have the activists who once refused to sing our “racist” anthem now started to belt it out?

As if. Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, who identifies as Aboriginal, sneered that changing “one word” would make no real difference, and the head of Sydney’s Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council said we actually needed a whole new anthem to “reflect the true identity of Australia rather than, in my words, a very terrible past”.

Labor frontbencher Linda Burney, who was raised by her great aunt and uncle, of Scottish descent, but identifies as Aboriginal through her father, simply demanded more concessions — such as changing our constitution so people with Aboriginal ancestors get a race-based advisory parliament.

Others now push for more changes to our anthem to get this elusive “unity”. They want a verse sung in one of the 300 or more Aboriginal languages.

But when the Wallabies decided last year to sing the national anthem in two languages before their game against Argentina, that wasn’t enough, either.

Latrell Mitchell, one of the NRL indigenous stars, raged: “When will people understand that changing it to language doesn’t change the meaning!”

An Australian anthem would not represent him in any language, because he was Aboriginal: “Understand what you’re being proud of. I stand for us, our mob!”

MITCHELL, at least, is honest about the real end game for many race activists.

Their problem is not with a few words in the anthem, the Union Jack in our flag, or holding Australia Day on January 26.

Their problem is with history. With Australia itself. With the creation of an essentially European nation on what was Aboriginal land.

This is why Australia Day is denounced as a “day of shame”, too embarrassing now for Cricket Australia to even mention in Mondays’s three Big Bash games.

This is why Tarneen Onus-Williams, an organiser of a big Australia Day protest in Melbourne three years ago, shouted, “F. k Australia” and “I hope it burns to the ground”.

This is why actor and playwright Nakkiah Lui screamed in front of an applauding ABC audience: “F. k whitey! Shit on your colonisation … Burn this place to the ground!”

This is why so many of our guilty-white — like writer Bruce Pascoe — prefer to call themselves Aboriginal, even when they have no known Aboriginal ancestors.

This rejection of Australia is now pushed by the ABC, our reckless national broadcaster, which on Sunday groaned: “For those whose history is being denied (on Australia Day), this isn’t a war of words, but an exhausting yearly exercise in defending the pain of their existence … Those are people who cannot cheer for a country that was built on the dispossession and loss of their people.”

No Australia Day will ever satisfy activists determined to imagine Australia as an illegitimate state that makes all Aboriginal Australians feel a constant “pain of their existence”.

What do they imagine will fix things? Evicting all non-Aborigines? A new apartheid, with different voting rights or homelands for different races? Forcing non-Aborigines to constantly apologise for their very presence?

Where is reconciliation if Australia is divided by race?

Right now, “reconciliation” is a fraud we should confront.

So, fine, let’s change the date of Australia Day. But only when activists agree that they, too, will then celebrate with our flag and our national anthem. That would be a brilliant deal.

I am genuine in wanting unity. Are they?

Postgraduate enrolments soar as jobseekers wait out competitive market at university

Australians are enrolling in postgraduate university courses in numbers tipped to reach record highs.

Max Kaplan hadn't had any luck landing a job after completing his engineering degree at the University of New South Wales.

Throughout 2020, he applied for several jobs a week, but to no avail.

"It was a little bit crushing at times when I was facing rejection after rejection," Mr Kaplan said. "You go through five years of uni, a year of work, and still can't find anything … it feels like you've wasted your time."

Despite graduating with honours from a university placed third in the nation for employment, he is now preparing to study a masters of mechatronic engineering at the University of Melbourne.

He believed further specialisation was the best way to spend the next two years while the job market bounces back. "I'm trying to wait out the bad job market and hopefully find myself in a bit of a better place," he said.

Postgraduate courses, on average, cost more than $20,000. "It's a risk I'm willing to take," Mr Kaplan said.

Last year, enrolments in postgraduate study rose sharply across the country.

The universities with the highest growth in enrolments for specialised courses included:

University of New South Wales — 26 per cent
James Cook University — 20 per cent
University of Queensland — 19 per cent
Charles Sturt University — 18 per cent
University of Melbourne — 13 per cent
Curtin University — 10 per cent

Professor Andrew Norton researches higher education policy at the Australian National University and said enrolments historically rose when the economy suffered. "In recessions more people look for education because it's harder to find a job," Mr Norton said.

The official unemployment rate has fallen by 0.9 per cent since its 7.5 per cent peak in July 2020. More than 900,000 Australians remain out of work.

Mr Norton expected university enrolments to hit record highs in 2021. "People with postgraduate qualifications generally do better than those with bachelor degrees, regardless of their subject areas," he said.

In northern NSW, Elizabeth Rose has returned to university to upskill after taking a three-year break from working as a counsellor. The 60-year-old has enrolled in a Graduate Diploma of Psychology at James Cook University in Queensland.

The university is forecasting a 24 per cent increase in both undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments this year.

"I just want to do something … I need to get my brain into gear and investigate more issues," Ms Rose said.

She saw an opportunity to boost her income and fill a gap in mental health support in the regional town of Grafton - a need she said had been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

"There aren't that many psychologists in town, and people are waiting sometimes four and five months to get in," she said.

She said age was not a barrier to achieving her career goals.




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