Friday, December 31, 2021

ANOTHER white "Aborigine"

There is NOTHING about her appearance that is Aboriginal. But she apparently has some remote Aboriginal ancestry. So what? Two of my remote ancestors were convicts. Does that make me a criminal? Remote ancestry is irrelevant

He actual ancestry is obviously from the British Isles overwhelmingly. She would have a much stronger and more realistic claim by saying she is British

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An Indigenous influencer has hit back at internet trolls accusing her of pretending to be Aboriginal because of her light skin and blue eyes - saying 'it doesn't matter how much milk you put in coffee, it's always going to be coffee'.

Kate Maree Cooper, a 22-year-old TikTok star from central New South Wales, posted a scathing reply to people questioning her heritage on social media on Thursday morning.

She responded to a comment after a user accused her of 'thinking she's Indigenous... but just isn't', saying it was unjustified and hurtful.

'It's not ok, I identify as an Aboriginal woman,' she said.

Kate, who has amassed nearly 370,000 followers on TikTok, said she's a proud member of the Wirdajuri mob, Indigenous Australians from central NSW.

She regularly posts content referring to her Aboriginal roots, and says her appearance shouldn't take away from her traditions.

'Just because I have fairer skin, blue eyes and dye my hair blonde, doesn't take away that I'm Aboriginal,' she said.


Greenie hate on display

Old Parliament House has suffered 'incalculable damage' after a fire ripped through the entrance to the historic landmark, with Scott Morrison branding the destruction 'disgusting' and 'appalling'.

Within hours of the building going up in flames on Thursday, Greens senator Lidia Thorpe posted a tweet - which was hastily deleted - remarking 'the colonial system is burning down'.

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She was quickly slammed for the post, in which she appeared to celebrate the destruction and told followers 'Happy New Year everyone'.

The entrance to the building was engulfed in flames after a smoking ceremony demanding Aboriginal Sovereignty in Canberra grew out of control - with some claiming it was spread intentionally.

Emergency crews arrived to douse the flames, but not before the fire had caused extensive damage to its heritage doors, the portico and the building's exterior.

Demonstrators were heard shouting 'let it burn', amid a tense stand-off with police who used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

The smoking ceremony, which was approved by authorities as part of a protest, was to blame for the blaze while police begin to investigate how the chaos escalated.


ANZ bank’s climate policies stand up to scrutiny after activist attack

A bid by Friends of the Earth and three bushfire victims to have ANZ censured over its climate change disclosures and actions has failed, with a determination handed down that the bank’s actions are consistent with international guidelines.

In early 2020, Friends of the Earth and Jack Egan, Joanna Dodds and Patrick Simons lodged a complaint with the Australian National Contact Point (ANCP) – a government office responsible for promoting adherence to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

The complaint alleged “aspects of ANZ’s disclosures, target-setting and scenario analysis’’ breached the OECD’s guidelines, and that it had failed to be fully transparent about its “indirect emissions”, or those it contributes to by financing the fossil fuel industry.

Following a failed mediation on the issue, an examiner looked at the bank’s disclosure practices, and had found that while there is ambiguity in the guidelines, ANZ had been “undertaking actions and conduct consistent with (them)’’.

At the time the complaint was lodged, Mr Egan, who on New year’s Eve 2019 lost his home at North Rosedale, south of Bateman’s Bay in NSW to a bushfire, said holding large corporations to account on climate change was deeply personal.

“I saw our front deck catch on fire … the flames of the deck were licking into the window spaces and around the doors,” he said.

While he acknowledged Australia had always had droughts and bushfires, he said he was convinced global warming played a role in the severity of the drought and the fierceness of the blazes.

“Many scientists are saying this is well-predicted and it’s a consequence of the global heating,” he said.

The complaint was based on a similar one brought by Friends of the Earth Netherlands against ING Bank, which it said resulted in the bank committing to stronger climate action.

Friends of the Earth said at the time ANZ “remains the biggest financier of fossil fuels among the big four Australian banks, and it has neglected a number of opportunities to improve its direct and indirect environmental impact’’.

“ANZ’s lack of full disclosure about its climate change impacts prevents consumers from making informed decisions about whether or not to engage with the bank,’’ the complaint said.

The determination from the ANCP said the guidelines themselves did not mention climate change, and greenhouse gas emissions featured in only two paragraphs, which said organisations should seek to improve the environmental performance of themselves and their supply chain, and also “encourage” broad disclosure practices in areas where reporting standards are still evolving.

“There is limited explicit direction about climate change in the guidelines,’’ the determination says.

“There is, however, potential relevance from the guidelines’ statement that an enterprise’s environmental management system should include ‘where appropriate, targets … consistent with relevant national policies and international environmental commitments’.’’

It was recognised in the determination that climate change reporting was evolving in Australia, with the ASX, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission addressing the corporate management of climate risk.


Suspected fraud cases prompt calls for research integrity watchdog

Australia’s top scientists have called for a research integrity watchdog to oversee investigations into allegations of research misconduct at publicly funded institutions, declaring the age of self-regulation is over.

The Australian Academy of Science is in discussions with the government over its proposal for a national oversight body to work with any institution that has used public funds to conduct research, including universities, think tanks and the private sector, following a spate of academic research scandals.

It would have statutory authority to handle allegations of serious research misconduct such as fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, leaving issues that fell below that threshold to the governing institutions, and hear appeals if the institutions were deemed not to have dealt with matters fairly or in a timely manner.

The academy’s secretary of science policy, Ian Chubb, a former chief scientist and vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, said he was not suggesting universities were in the business of concealing research misconduct, but the rising number of Inspectors-General and Ombudsmen reflected a general distrust for self-regulation and growing support for independent oversight.

“The era of self-regulation is further in the past than you might like to believe,” Professor Chubb said. “We’re proposing that there be an Australian system for investigating research misconduct that has some real substance to it.”

The academy has engaged Universities Australia, which represents Australia’s 39 universities and has given in principle support to the proposal.

“Universities Australia is actively interested in how the quality and integrity of Australian research can be secured and improved,” chief executive Catriona Jackson said.

Australia and New Zealand are unusual among Western nations for not having an office of research integrity, a version of which exists in the UK, Japan, China, Canada, the United States and 23 European countries.

The proposal for a national oversight body follows a string of allegations regarding image manipulation in scientific papers that have embroiled UNSW, the University of Sydney and Macquarie University and the referral of one of Australia’s top cancer scientists to Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission.

But scientists have been trying to promote an office of research integrity for years. In late 2017, it was discussed at a meeting that involved representatives from the Australia Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Chief Scientist and the office of Health Minister Greg Hunt. People with close knowledge of the meeting said although major research bodies supported the proposal, it was actively opposed by Universities Australia and later shelved.

Professor Chubb said the current model was developed after fellows of the academy raised the issue in May last year. Cases would have to be triaged so the office would only handle the most serious matters, and it was expected to cost around $5 million, though it was uncertain how many cases would emerge.

Among those who raised their concerns was University of Melbourne scientist Peter Brooks, who was commissioned by UNSW in 2013 to investigate a complaint of research misconduct against a senior researcher.

“The terms of reference were incredibly tight, so we couldn’t deviate from those,” Professor Brooks said.

Professor Brooks concluded the professor had committed misdemeanours that fell short of research misconduct, but unearthed other issues during his investigation that the university chose to refer to separate committees, none of which were allowed to make findings about a pattern of behaviour.

“It was a very, very disappointing and unfortunate situation,” Professor Brooks said.

Each of the five committees cleared the professor of research misconduct, finding the breaches were the result of genuine error or honest oversight. UNSW said in a statement the findings were later considered together by a further external independent panel and still found not to constitute research misconduct.

Professor Brooks, who has conducted several investigations into academic misconduct, said the tertiary education system was so reliant on overseas students and research funding that universities could ill afford to lose senior researchers.

At the same time, there were financial and career incentives to researchers who publish prolifically or publish in journals that are classified as high impact. This created conditions for academics to perform sloppy or even fraudulent research. Other scientists then read the papers and spend years trying to reproduce the experiments or develop them further.

“The opportunity costs are enormous because that costs money that could have been used for legitimate research,” Professor Brooks said. “And often they’ve been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, so it’s a really serious issue




Thursday, December 30, 2021

Queensland Covid cases surge to 1,589 with 80 per cent of them Omicron but NONE in ICU - as rapid antigen tests are allowed for visitors

Queensland has recorded 1,589 new cases of Covid but only eight patients are in hospital and none in the ICU.

Another 93 people in hospital who tested positive to the virus are hospitalised, but they being treated for unrelated health conditions.

Chief health officer John Gerrard said 80 per cent of the 6,368 active cases in the state were the Omicron variant, and it appeared to be more dominant in Queensland than other states.

'Case numbers are going to rise very rapidly in the next few weeks,' he said.

'It has a downside in that it's much more contagious than Delta but on the good side it does appear to be a milder disease, particularly for those who are vaccinated.'

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was notably absent from Wednesday's Covid update press conference as Police Minister Mark Ryan fronted the media alongside Dr Gerrard and Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll.

She announced earlier that the state would drop its requirement of a PCR test for entry from January 1, in the face of pressure from other states.

Mr Ryan said that from today, those who wished to come into Queensland within the next 72 hours would therefore be able to use a rapid antigen test as a valid test to enter the state.

The move will immediately relieve pressure on testing queues in NSW and Victoria.

No test will be required after Queensland reaches 90 per cent of its 16 years and over population with two doses of a Covid vaccine. The state currently sits at 86.14 per cent of people doubled dosed.


Australian company that can make MILLIONS of rapid antigen tests a year is tied up in red tape while the country cries out for an alternative to hours-long PCR queues

An Australian company that can produce millions of Covid-19 rapid antigen tests can do nothing to help the country's testing crisis due to red tape.

Brisbane biotechnology company AnteoTech3 has developed its own 15-minute test that is already regularly used in the US and Europe.

But the Therapeutic Goods Administration is yet to give the company the green light to sell its kits in Australia.

With thousands of Australians queueing up all day to get a PCR test, only to then wait up to another five days for results, chief executive Derek Thomson said the red tape was adding to the delays.

'We've always said that rapid testing has a place to be used to control the pandemic and now we're seeing that play out,' he told the Courier Mail.

The nasal swabs tests are more than 97 per cent accurate, Mr Thomson said, and are done by a health professional and not at home.

'We believe governments should use rapid tests instead of PCR tests for screening of people who are wanting to travel as they do in Europe,' he added.

'There's too much stress on the PCR testing system in all Australian states and it's really not necessary to go to the full extent of doing a PCR test when you've got rapid tests readily available now.'

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk backflipped on her demand for PCR tests from interstate travellers on Wednesday morning.

Those entering the Sunshine State from hotspots can from January 1 provide a negative rapid antigen test instead of having to queue all day for a PCR result.

But rapid tests are hard to come by with the kits flying off pharmacy shelves.

Pharmacy Guild Australia President Professor Trent Twomey said there would be 'scattered supply shortages' of RATs until January 15, before stores would then be 'awash' with testing kits.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said she was 'sure' the federal government was speaking to the TGA about approving different rapid tests.

'We absolutely want to see Queensland businesses be able to produce and provide them in Queensland but it has to be approved - it has to meet our standards and that is up to the TGA whether it does that or not,' she said.


Is solar energy really green?

As the world continues to push towards net zero emissions, more large-scale solar farms will be built in Australia.

But why are they being built on productive agricultural land and are how credible are claims about toxic contamination?

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) is forecasting a massive increase in the number of solar panels in the short term.

The amount of solar power installed in Australia has doubled in the past three to four years, and the CEC is forecasting it will double again in the next couple of years.

Concern is global

Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Program, said solar panels were adding significantly to the world's non-recycled waste mountain.

"But it also poses a growing threat to human health and the environment due to the hazardous elements it contains," Mr Steiner said.

Australia is adding to that mountain by sending 40,000 old panels a year in containers to markets in developing countries.

While that trade provides cheap panels for poorer nations, the UN is concerned that many of them will end up in landfill overseas.

The vast majority of solar panels are made of thin silicon wafers using refined silicon dioxide.

It is the same chemical compound as sand, which is used in making glass, so it is harmless.

The solar cells are connected by thin strips of tin and copper which is sealed and protected under glass.

Almost all of the materials can be recycled and there are several new plants in development that will be able to turn old panels into reusable materials.

There are, however, a small number of panels that were made in the past using cadmium, which is highly toxic and associated with serious health problems.

Some panels are also made with nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a gas that is associated with global warming.

A South Korean study from 2020 raised concerns about contamination from solar panels that are "released into the environment during their disposal or following damage, such as that from natural disasters."

The United States wants to address the problem as well, with a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory from March 2021 pointing to a lack of incentives for recycling companies and confusing and conflicting state regulations.

Are solar farms taking over productive farm land?

The NSW government has set up five renewable energy zones in regional areas where it is promoting the development of solar farms close to large populations and the existing electricity grid.

That means productive farming land is sometimes used to build large-scale solar plants, and farmer Bianca Schultz right is in the firing line.

She owns a property next door to the proposed Walla Walla site in the Riverina in south-west NSW, while the Culcairn project borders her other boundary.

"There's been talk of heat island effects and heavy metal leachate, [while] the visual impact is a large concern for us being directly across the road," she said.

Ms Schultz said the property was used in the past for grazing livestock, making hay, and cropping. She thinks that turning it into an industrial-scale solar plant with just a few employees for maintenance will negatively affect the local economy.

"The on-flow effect on the transport companies, the grain merchants, the rural merchants; it's taking away a lot from our community," she said.


A former Queensland councillor exonerated of fraud has spoken out against the Crime and Corruption Commission after being asked to act as a witness in a separate trial

Trevina Schwarz, a former Logan City councillor, was one of eight councillors to lose their jobs after fraud charges were laid in 2019.

Earlier this year, the councillors were cleared of all charges, prompting the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee, the governing watchdog of the CCC, to examine what went wrong.

Ms Schwarz said she was relieved the charges had been dropped, but the damage to her career and reputation had already been done. "My family and I were so excited for this Christmas, this was to be our first Christmas of many to have this cloud lifted from upon us," she said.

"I'm a person of high integrity and to be charged with the scandalous charge of fraud … I was extremely shameful of something I didn't do."

Last week, Ms Schwarz said she was contacted by the CCC and asked to act as witness in next year's trial of former Logan City Council mayor Luke Smith.

Mr Smith is being accused of corruption and perjury after allegedly accepting a power boat from a political donor to progress the development approval of a hotel.

Ms Schwartz was contacted by the CCC as a potential witness.

"I believe it's highly inappropriate and potentially a conflict for a staff member of the CCC, particularly one that was involved in our case and in the parliamentary inquiry, to be contacting us," Ms Schwarz said.

The Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee has called for a Royal Commission into the CCC and the resignation of chair Alan MacSporran.




Wednesday, December 29, 2021

‘Her views no longer aligned’: Anglicans defend sacking of gay teacher

The Anglican Church has defended the sacking of a gay Sydney schoolteacher this year, saying she was not terminated because of her sexuality but because she believes Christians should be able to enter same-sex relationships.

Steph Lentz was lawfully sacked in January from Covenant Christian School in Belrose, in Sydney’s north-east, after telling the school the previous year she was a lesbian – as first reported by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in August.

In a submission last week to a parliamentary inquiry on the federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill, the Sydney Anglican Diocese used Ms Lentz’s subsequent public remarks to justify her removal from the school.

It quoted two opinion pieces she wrote for the Herald and The Age in which she said she was sacked “because of my belief that a person can be a Christian and be gay” and acknowledged “in relation to sexuality, the school’s statement of belief and my view do not align”.

The submission’s author, the Right Reverend Michael Stead, who chairs the Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s religious freedom reference group, argued Ms Lentz was not “sacked for being gay”, and called that interpretation a “sensationalist headline”.

“Correctly understood, the teacher’s sexuality is not the key issue in this case,” he wrote.

“A heterosexual teacher who held the same theological views on sexuality and relationships, and therefore was unable to sign the statement of belief, would also have had his or her employment terminated. Conversely, there are those in the LGBTIQ+ community who self-identify as ‘celibate gay Christians’ who would be able to sign the school’s statement of belief.”

Ms Lentz is Anglican, but Covenant Christian School is non-denominational and has no connection to the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. Rev Stead said he commented on her case because it had recently received media attention.

“Ms Lentz has changed her religious beliefs, and (as she herself acknowledges) her beliefs were no longer consistent with beliefs of the school. So the issue was not about her same-sex attraction but her inability to sign the school’s statement of belief, and to teach that from a place of personal conviction,” Rev Stead told the Herald and The Age on Tuesday.

“Where a religious body has clearly set out its core doctrines in a statement of belief that is available to employees and prospective employees, it is entirely reasonable that the body should be able to require employees to endorse those beliefs.”

Ms Lentz said the statement of belief she signed did not contain any doctrine on homosexuality. She agreed a heterosexual teacher who was unable to sign up to the school’s views on sexuality was liable to be dismissed – as allegedly occurred with Victorian teacher Rachel Colvin in 2019 – but said that was “no less problematic in my view”.

Existing provisions that allow religious schools to sack or expel LGBTIQ teachers and students are not dealt with by the Religious Discrimination Bill, and have been referred for a separate legal inquiry. However, some government MPs want those provisions removed or amended as a precondition for passing the bill.

In its submission, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney explicitly supports the removal of provisions that allow religious schools to expel gay students. This is “a right that religious schools do not want, and do not use”, Rev Stead writes.

“The exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act are too broad, and give religious bodies the right to do many things that they do not, in fact, do, and are not wanted or required to conduct their affairs in a way consistent with their religious ethos.”

The church also contends that when a religious body’s doctrine clashes with the beliefs of an individual, the religious body’s views should prevail.

To do otherwise “would lead to tyranny of the majority by many minorities, forcing a religious body to accept mutually contradictory doctrines concurrently”.

Ms Lentz said that approach was characterised by “fear and hubris” and that accepting diverse religious beliefs “could provoke a re-examination of the issues, leading to mutually beneficial progress”.


Adani's first Carmichael Mine coal export shipment imminent after years of campaigns against it

The first coal shipment from central Queensland Carmichael Mine is about to leave Australian shores after years of controversy, international media coverage and environmental campaigning against the facility.

Bravus Mining and Resources, the Australian arm of Adani, today confirmed the shipment had been assembled at the North Queensland Export Terminal in Bowen.

Bravus CEO David Boshoff celebrated the milestone, calling it a "big moment".

"From day one, the objectives of the Carmichael Project were to supply high-quality Queensland coal to nations determined to lift millions of their citizens out of energy poverty and to create local jobs and economic prosperity in Queensland communities in the process" Mr Boshoff said.

"With the support of the people of regional Queensland we have delivered on that promise."

The shipment comes amid continuing protests against the mine and follows years of fierce campaigning from environmental activists.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said the mine made "a mockery" of Australia's emissions targets.

And, locally, scuba diving guide and Whitsunday Conservation Council spokesperson Tony Fontes said he felt "despair and anger".

"Both state and federal governments supported Adani in opening the mine,and ensuring that the Great Barrier Reef is not going to survive this century" Mr Fontes said.

"[But] one would hope that in the very near future, there will not be a market for thermal coal.

"And it's unfortunate that people that are working in the industry have been misled by the government suggesting that there's a long-term future in working in thermal coal."

However, Bravus insisted Australian coal would have a role alongside renewables for decades "as part of an energy mix that delivers reliable and affordable power with reduced emissions intensity".

In 2016, the Wangan and Jagalingou people voted 294 to one in favour of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani. Subsequent challenges against the ILUA were dismissed in court.

Mine opponents now represent a small portion of traditional owners who, since signing the agreement, have been working with Bravus.

Bravus said the first shipment of coal would be loaded and dispatched, subject to the port's shipping schedule. It did not say when the shipment would leave or where it was going.

"The first export shipment is of a commercial scale and is going to a customer, with further details remaining commercial in confidence" it said.

The company plans to produce 10 million tonnes of coal a year from the mine, to be sold to customers in the Asia-Pacific region at 'index adjusted pricing'.


A major Queensland university has become the latest institution to introduce a Covid-19 vaccine mandate, insisting anyone attending its campuses must be fully-vaccinated from early next year

Queensland’s largest university has mandated anyone attending its campuses must be fully-vaccinated against Covid-19 from early next year, as the state continues to experience a record number of infections.

The University of Queensland has announced from February 14th 2022, anyone attending the institution’s campuses, facilities or sites must be fully vaccinated, unless they hold a valid exemption.

The institution has also issued a warning that students who do not get vaccinated could face “disciplinary” policies if they fail to comply in certain circumstances.

From early January, UQ staff and students would be requested to declare their vaccination status, which must be completed by the end of February 13th.

“UQ has a diverse community that attends our locations every day – often in close settings,” an online post from the university stated.

“An outbreak of Covid-19 would pose a significant health risk to this community and substantially impact our teaching, research and community engagement services.”

UQ is not the first Sunshine State institution to implement such a mandate for students and staff.

Earlier this month Griffith University announced it would require anyone attending its campuses to be fully vaccinated from February 18.

At the time Vice-Chancellor Professor Carolyn Evans warned students they could potentially be unable to finish their degrees unless they were vaccinated.

The UQ statement went on to say while the vaccine may not “prevent you from getting Covid-19”, it would “reduce the severity and duration of the illness, hospitalisation rates and transmission”.

“Vaccination will be a key measure for the University to minimise the impacts from the inevitable spread of Covid-19 next year,” it read.

UQ also said there were some exemptions from the mandate, including people who were under the age of 16, people performing urgent and essential health and safety work, or those responding to an emergency.

But a statement from the university also warned that students could face penalties or disciplinary actions if they failed to adhere to the direction.

“Where alternative workplace or study practices cannot be implemented, and the student is required to attend a UQ location to undertake their studies, the student may need to consider their enrolment options,” the statement read.

“A student’s failure to comply may be considered as misconduct, and may result in student disciplinary proceedings, which may, in turn, lead to penalties being imposed pursuant to UQ’s student disciplinary policies.”


Sydney Festival boycott a blunt instrument that blocks voices of dissent

This week’s fracas at the Sydney Festival over the inclusion of Decadance, a renowned dance piece in the repertoire of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, and the festival’s sponsorship by the Israeli embassy, has followed a familiar script.

In response to the sponsorship, some artists have now withdrawn from the festival, with Khaled Sabsabi saying he was doing so “out of solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause”.

Israel’s largest contemporary dance company, Batsheva is hailed as one of the most important in the world today, having developed its acclaim over the last 30 years during choreographer Ohad Naharin’s time at the helm. During these decades, the company and Naharin himself have pushed every boundary, challenged every taboo, and remain a national treasure.

Naharin’s movement language “Gaga” is world renowned and productions using the dance vocabulary are popular around the globe. Decadance itself has been performed for more than two decades.

As one of Israel’s most well regarded cultural exports, Naharin’s productions are both an obvious inclusion in global events like the Sydney Festival and a way to attract much needed funding for the arts from a local embassy. Equally, it is a hot target for supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which seeks to isolate and pressure the state of Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.

There is nothing out of hand illegitimate – and certainly not inherently antisemitic – about a boycott of Israel. This is particularly so when the call comes from Palestinians themselves whose personal and collective experiences with the conflict trump claims they might be unfairly and disproportionately targeting Israel for opprobrium.

Stories of injustice, as well as the voices of those speaking up against that injustice, are extremely important to amplify on our stages here in Australia. As a blunt instrument which blocks access to important Israeli artists like Naharin, the BDS movement is a counterproductive tool.

I want Australians to see the beautiful art that Naharin creates, of course, but mostly I want us to get to hear his views.

Like countless other Israeli artists, Naharin is one of the most articulate, persuasive and prominent critics of 54 years of Israeli government policies in the occupied territories.

He has raised funds for leading civil rights organisation the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and participated in public demonstrations for Breaking the Silence, an organisation of military veterans who have taken it upon themselves to persuade Israelis of the price paid for the continuing occupation.

Which brings us to the deep irony of what’s happening now. In speaking out against the occupation he “earned” a spot in a despicable McCarthyist campaign peddled by Israel’s ultra-nationalist right-wing and politicians against progressive artists.

Other Israeli icons like Amos Oz and David Grossman were on that list, as was singer Achinoam Nini, a Jewish-Israeli artist known for her stirring Eurovision collaboration with Palestinian Mira Awad and her broader activism for Jewish-Arab equality.

Five years ago, the organisation I run, the New Israel Fund (NIF), brought Nini to perform in Australia where her performances were protested by right-wing Jewish groups because of her peace and coexistence work, while the BDS movement continues to consider her problematic as an Israeli singer and musician.

Platforming these anti-occupation activists and their art can be a very effective tool to help Israelis and others around the world who hold attachments to the place and its people understand the injustice of the occupation.

A cultural boycott which targets them – either directly or by opposing those who fund them – shrinks the discourse, limits the access that influential allies of Palestinians have to the public square, and reduces the pressure within Israel to take serious steps to end the conflict.

Given how much the Israeli government’s policies conflict with Naharin’s own political positions, a meaningful act of subversion could be to play up that divergence.

Little would frustrate the right-wing pro-Israel lobby more than flipping the story into a discussion about how the shining lights of Israeli society – the products of which Israelis are most proud to showcase to the world, to prove itself a worthy member of the family of Western democratic nations – are also the most damning critics of the deep, dark occupation-shaped hole the country is in.

Art is always deeply political and should remain so. Responses which claim it shouldn’t be, hinting that antisemitism is at play, or which use Israel’s new relationships with human rights abusing Gulf dictatorships as a point of reference, do not positively contribute to the discourse around Israel-Palestine or provide a constructive environment for its resolution.

At the New Israel Fund our theory of change – to realise our mission of equality and justice for all – hinges on strategic, impactful investment in civil society organisations at the forefront of the campaign for Palestinian human rights and the realisation of Israel’s founding vision as a liberal democracy.

Success in those efforts will only come when more Israelis realise the toll that half a century of government policies continue to have on Palestinians, and how much they contribute to the degradation of democratic values, norms and institutions inside Israel.

There is a place for pressure on Israelis and their institutions to bring about change. People like Ohad Naharin have a big role to play in applying that pressure at home and abroad – but they most definitely should not be its targets.




Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Queensland scraps day-five testing for visitors

Queensland has scrapped day five COVID-19 tests for interstate travellers as cases spike.

Six cases were in hospital for COVID-19-related symptoms and 83 others were in hospital for other illnesses.

There were no people in the intensive care unit, while 976 patients were currently receiving care at home.

The percentage of Queensland’s population who had received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination was 90.49, while 86.14 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Ms D’Ath also announced the scrapping of the day-five testing requirements, following scrutiny over long waiting times of up to three hours.

“Based on the data we have, I welcome the advice of the Chief Health Officer [John Gerrard] that we can move away from that test,” she said.

“The Chief Health Officer has advised us that the data that we have received just in the last 24 hours can show that we are seeing only about 0.6 per cent positive cases coming from those day-five tests.”

Dr Gerrard said those rates were extremely low.

“I have given a very strong recommendation to the Premier that I believe that performing the day-five test is unnecessary and that these resources are better used elsewhere to test people with symptoms and for other reasons to require testing,” Dr Gerrard said.

Interstate travellers were still required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result within the 72 hours before entering Queensland.

Dr Gerrard said despite the large number of cases, there were few patients with COVID-19-related symptoms in hospital. “This indicates that the vaccines are working,” he said.

Dr Gerrard urged people to stay home while waiting for their COVID-19 test result. “We have noticed that when people get this report some of them are going straight to the emergency department, even if they are quite well,” he said.

“This is causing a little bit of a problem in some of our emergency departments, and it’s not necessary. “Please go to the emergency department only if you have significant symptoms like breathlessness or chest pain.


Queensland hugely popular: ‘No one anticipated 400k visitors’

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced today the Government would be bolstering staff numbers at the state’s testing centres following days of long lines at clinics.

She admitted officials had never anticipated that 400,000 people would apply to enter the state when borders reopened earlier this month.

Interstate travellers also must have evidence of a negative CPR test 72 hours before entering Queensland – but Ms Palaszczuk again today signalled that could also change to a rapid antigen test, with a decision to be made by January 1.

Meanwhile, the Premier announced bookings for children aged 5 to 11 to get their vaccine would open from December 27 ahead of school resuming after the summer holidays. Children won’t be able to get the vaccine though until January 10.

“We’ve seen an excellent uptake in vaccination from children aged 12 to 15 and we expect a similar positive response from parents of younger kids,” Ms Palaszczuk said. Children will receive two doses, administered eight weeks apart.

Earlier, Queensland has recorded 784 new cases of Covid-19, with the State Government now opening bookings for under-12s to get a coronavirus vaccine.

There are four people in hospital, with one – an 85-year-old man – described as moderately to severely unwell. He is not in intensive care.

Ms Palaszczuk said the health system was coping well with Omicron outbreaks, but that the government would monitor the situation carefully. A total of 72 health and hospital staff have now tested positive to Covid-19, with 350 in quarantine.


How China’s trade war with Australia backfired

Economic sanctions of any kind rarely have much success

Australia hasn’t broken. Eighteen months after Beijing launched its trade war against Canberra, its economic impact was negligible. And the world’s resolve has only hardened.

“I think China’s preference would have been to break Australia. To drive Australia to its knees,” US National Security Council Indo-Pacific affairs advisor Kurt Campbell said earlier this month. “I don’t believe that’s going to be the way it’s going to play out.”

It already hasn’t.

“The bottom line: Beijing’s attempt to bully Canberra has been a spectacular failure,” says USAsia Centre research director Jeffrey Wilson.

And because of Australia’s example, Beijing faces a growing backlash in 2022.

“If this is what decoupling from China looks like, Australia’s resilience suggests the costs are far lower than many have assumed,” added Dr Wilson. “That fact will not be lost on other countries that have differences with China.”

The attempt at economic coercion began in April 2020. Beijing was incensed that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had made a public call for a wide-ranging investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan. It risked damaging the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) reputation.

So it attempted to silence him. And set an example of what happens to nations that contradict the CCP. Australia’s $150 billion export market with China was its weakest link. So it was hit with a trade war.

Barley. Beef. Coal. Copper. Cotton. Gas. Lobster. Sugar. Timber. Wheat. Wine. Wool. All were suddenly subject to various tariff, dumping, hygiene and quality challenges. In essence, China stopped buying them.

But Beijing’s seemingly reflexive wolfish aggression triggered an unanticipated response. Former Australian diplomat Philip Eliason says it triggered a “sacred values” response. That’s why Australia was so willing to dig in its heels, regardless of the cost.

And that cost has turned out to be unexpectedly small.

Concern about the economic cost of standing up for such principles is declining. As one market closes its doors, others tend to open elsewhere on the international stage.

Australian Treasury estimates put the cost of Beijing’s sanctions at some $5.4 billion. But at least $4.4 billion of that was recovered through finding new markets.

For example, China switched its coal purchase to Russia and Indonesia. That left their previous buyers out in the cold. So, the likes of South Korea and Japan simply turned to Australia.

“(This led) Australian coal producers’ export earnings to rise this year — not exactly the effect China had in mind,” Dr Wilson concluded. “While the adjustment process is not pain-free, it is far less costly — and less of a deterrent to political action — than most assume.”

And the value of Australia’s exports to China grew – thanks to surging iron ore prices – over the past year. It’s not in Beijing’s interests to interrupt the flow of that strategically vital resource.

“Australia’s experience offers an important lesson: Trade decoupling does not automatically mean trade destruction,” said Dr Wilson. “Indeed, Australia’s resilience may now be inspiring others to take a stand.”


Aussie wine icon Penfolds’ genius move amid brutal trade war with China

The relationship between Canberra and Beijing first began to sour in 2016, resulting in a diplomatic freeze – but things stepped up a notch last year, when around a dozen Australian goods exports were slapped with tariffs.

Coal, barley, beef, timber, lobster and wine have been among the casualties, and earlier this month, we learnt just how crushing the spat has been.

According to an eye-opening report from the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) in early December, Australia’s exports across 12 key commodities impacted by Beijing’s sanctions plummeted by a staggering $17.3 billion in the first nine months of 2021, compared with 2019.

Professor James Laurenceson, the director of ACRI at UTS, told many Australian brands and livelihoods had been devastated by the ongoing trade war.

“When you start looking to the longer term, a lot of the cost will depend on whether the Chinese market continues to outperform alternate markets as it has done for the past 20 years – for example, research shows that for the past 15 years, China has added 60 million people to the middle class every year, and that far exceeds anywhere else – India is nowhere near that,” he said.

“So when we’re locked out of the Chinese market, diversification is all well and good, but all we can try and do is sell to smaller, slower-growing markets, and that comes at a cost.

“In 2017 an Australian government foreign policy white paper forecasted that China’s economy would add more new purchasing power than the US, Japan, India and Indonesia combined, and if that’s true, it does suggest the cost from being locked out and having that disruption to the Chinese market is going to rise over time.”

Aussie icon’s ‘clever’ move

Prof Laurenceson said the impact on some commodities such as coal and barley were less severe as sales were simply able to be diverted elsewhere.

But other industries like wine were beginning to “really struggle” – although he said some Australian brands, such as the iconic Penfolds, had taken some “really clever” steps to stay in the game.

“Penfolds is a flagship Australian wine brand, and guess what they are doing? They are still selling in China, and they are sourcing product in California rather than the Barossa Valley,” he said.

“So it’s an Australian brand going into China, but the product is not actually Australian – California grape growers are benefiting from that trade now, and we will see more and more Australian companies do things like that – and good for them, they are keeping the brand afloat, but it comes at a price to the Australian economy.

Meanwhile, Prof Laurenceson said it was a similar story with the rock lobster industry, which was locked out of China last November.

While the industry feared a looming disaster at the time, fishers simply started selling to Hong Kong instead, with the lobsters then smuggled into China via a so-called “grey route”, which meant that “sales have hardly been affected” by the sanctions.

Prof Laurenceson said sadly, he didn’t believe the trade war would be resolved any time soon.

“I see no reason for China to suddenly turn around and change tack – Kurt Campbell, Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific tsar, said in a speech to the Lowy Institute recently that he expects in time China will re-engage with Australia, ‘on Australia’s terms’, but why would China choose to re-engage on Australian terms?” he said.

“If anything, this deadlock would end with a mutual agreement, but this idea China would come with its cap in its hand begging to have us back is utterly ridiculous to me.

“The prospect of Beijing doing a 180 degree turn is almost zero.”

Prof Laurenceson said while many nations currently had issues with China, Australia was unique in the sheer range of sanctions it faced.

“New Zealand, Korea, Japan – what really sets them apart is … the way they manage diplomacy with more caution,” he said.




Monday, December 27, 2021

Only a handful of Covid patients in ICU have Omicron and most are unvaccinated with underlying health conditions as Delta drives hospitalisations - not the new variant

The first major study into Omicron in Australia has revealed the new variant is responsible for very few hospitalisations and the majority of those are unvaccinated.

NSW Health released data on who is actually sick with Covid even as cases surge, finding Delta is responsible for most of the state's severe cases.

Most of the patients being treated in intensive care are unvaccinated, many with underlying health conditions.

There are 52 people in ICU, 34 of whom are unvaccinated. That rose slightly to 55 by Monday morning.

All but a handful of these patients are infected with the Delta variant rather than the new Omicron strain, which early studies indicate is less severe.

'Everybody in NSW is probably going to get Omicron at some stage. Everyone in Australia,' NSW Health minister Brad Hazzard said.

'From early indications NSW Health believe the majority of ICU Covid patients have the Delta variant. Health are seeking to confirm this through additional tests.'

Despite another 6,324 new infections on Monday, officials encouraged people to live life normally as studies indicate Omicron isn't as serious as its predecessors.

Covid patients need to be cleared by a medical professional before leaving isolation, but Mr Hazzard said Australians could manage it with rapid antigen tests, plenty of fluids, and paracetamol.

Mr Hazzard also pleaded with Australians to only get a PCR test if they had symptoms or were directed to as a close contact, and instead to use rapid antigen.

He said the time delay at overwhelmed clinics meant results would take so long, residents could catch the virus between testing and getting results.

'If you have a test today and then you are visiting Aunty Mabel in three or four days, it may well be that by then, you are positive,' he said.

'A far simpler, far quicker measure would be simply to be get a rapid antigen test… preferably half an hour or an hour beforehand.

'If you're not particularly sick, you probably don't need to be doing very much except probably taking some Panadol if you've got a temperature and making sure you're drinking plenty of fluids.'

Free rapid tests will be rolled out from 2022 onwards at the NSW government looks to normalise living with the virus.

'Take personal responsibility, socially distance, follow the rules that are in place … but we are about instilling confidence in our people, confidence has been key,' Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

'Whether that's consumer confidence, business confidence.

'We are going to get through it… let's not look at the negative, let's look at the positive.'


‘Very interested’: Israel eyes closer security ties with Australia

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has opened the door to deepening security ties with Australia and the Five Eyes spying network to counter Iran’s cyber attacks and combat terrorism.

Mr Lapid said Australian law enforcement agencies now had the opportunity to hunt Hezbollah’s global terror network after the Morrison government last month declared the Lebanese group a terrorist organisation.

In an exclusive interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Mr Lapid said Israel was “very interested in deepening our ties with Australia and with all countries in the Indo-Pacific”.

Mr Lapid said striking a free trade agreement with Australia was also a priority which would “expand trade and help create jobs in both our countries”, and floated the prospect of direct flights between the two countries.

His comments suggest that Israel wants to become more relevant in the Indo-Pacific region amid escalating tensions between China and the United States.

In recent years, there have been calls from many national security experts for an expansion of the Five Eyes spy network - which includes Australia, the United States, Britain, New Zealand and Canada - with Japan and Israel named as potential additions.

Mr Lapid said Israel already had extensive ties with Five Eyes nations, including an “incredibly close intelligence-sharing and security partnership with our closest ally, the United States”, but would look to deepen the relationships.

“We’re focused on continuing to deepen these ties through their existing frameworks and agreements, and we would consider any other options for expanding these ties should they present themselves,” he said.

Australia in November listed all of Lebanese political party and militant group Hezbollah as a terrorist entity, making it a criminal offence to be a member.

Mr Lapid, who spoke with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne last month, said Israel was “interested in deepening our security cooperation with Australia” in light of the move.

“A major first step in this regard was Australia’s decision just last month to declare the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation,” he said.

Australia to back international definition of anti-Semitism
“Australia is one of a number of countries around the world to do so in just the past two years, and the decision will give Australian law enforcement agencies the tools necessary to fight Hezbollah’s global terror network.

“We are glad that Australia has come to the right conclusion that Hezbollah is a cruel terrorist organisation which endangers the citizens of all countries.”

He said countering Iran’s state-sponsored cyber attacks and its support for “brutal dictators and terrorist proxies” should also be a priority for both countries after signing a memorandum of understanding on cyber security in 2019.

“In the cyber realm, Iran and its proxies frequently attack security, economic, and even civilian infrastructure in countries all around the world,” he said. “As a global cyber security leader, Israel certainly has expertise and experience to share with Australia. And we know Australia is today prioritising and making record investments in cyber security, which will offer even more ways for Israel to learn from Australia as well.”

The Israel-Palestine conflict continued to be a source of tension in the Australian Labor Party this year after an outbreak of violence in May which included protests, rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and Israeli airstrikes targeting the Gaza Strip. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in July slammed a Labor motion backed by former NSW premier Bob Carr calling for a boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, saying it was counterproductive and not supported by anyone in his party room.

Asked whether divisions within the broader ALP movement were a concern, Mr Lapid said Australia’s friendship towards Israel had “thrived under the leadership of governments left, right and centre in Israel, and led by both parties in Australia”.

”Our friendship is also based on shared values including commitments to human rights and the fundamental elements of democracy – a free press, an independent judiciary, a strong civil society, and religious freedom,” he said.

He also said Israel was “grateful” for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to support the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition on “antisemitism”.

Critics of the definition, including the Palestinian movement and human rights groups, have warned it could be used to stifle legitimate debate about the Israeli government and threatens freedom of speech.

Mr Lapid said Mr Morrison’s decision was “yet another example of Australia’s consistent friendship towards Israel and the Jewish people, which also includes standing up against horrendous bias against Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, in international institutions such as the United Nations”.


As Omicron COVID cases continue to surge, the race is on to find a variant-proof vaccine

In a state-of-the-art science lab, nestled into the genteel slopes of the NSW Southern Highlands, a group of genetically engineered mice have become frontline soldiers in the fight against COVID-19.

The mice have been inoculated with carrier proteins – used as the early building blocks of a new generation of vaccine — that scientists hope will make them resistant to any variant of SARS-CoV-2.

While still very early days, the goal is to create a variant-proof vaccine that is effective against not just the coronavirus mutations we have grappled with so far, but anything the virus throws at us in the months and years ahead.

“We are using some pretty cutting-edge technology,” says Deborah Burnett, a vet-turned-research officer with the Garvan Institute’s Immunogenomics Lab. “If the COVID-19 pandemic had happened even five years ago we would not have been able to do the kind of work we are doing now.”

As COVID-19 cases surge through the community with bleak predictions on how high the numbers will go, and the sheer anxiety of living with so much uncertainty — will you encounter COVID on a trip to the supermarket? How sick are you likely to become if infected? Who might you unknowingly transmit it to? Will hospitals cope? – the steady progress of science continues to offer hope.

Universal vaccines are the next great goal in efforts to control COVID-19, and Burnett and the Garvan Institute are not the only ones focused on their promise.

Vaccine researchers in the US and Norway, for example, are also progressing with variant-proof vaccine candidates.

And at Sydney’s Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Sarah Palmer and Eunok Lee are doing promising research into a variant-proof COVID booster shot.

The question now, Palmer says, is not so much how do we fight SARS-CoV-2, but "how do we fight a variant?"

"I think the best way to fight these variants is to develop a universal booster," Palmer says.

Back in the Southern Highlands, Burnett explains that the mice used in the trials are raised in a controlled, pathogen-free environment so their immune system has not been primed by exposure to any other viruses.

The mice are not given COVID-19, rather they are immunised with different carrier proteins sourced from a database of 192,000 different coronaviruses and mutations. Burnett then studies individual cells to determine what antibodies the mice have made from a lab at Garvan's Darlinghurst research hub in Sydney.

"We have access to these amazing mice that have been genetically engineered to make fully human antibody responses to vaccination,” she says.

"These mice really are quite ground-breaking technology and the next best thing you can have to a human. They give us ability to explore things that were previously very difficult to study in anything other than human trials."

The Garvan mouse trials, being undertaken in collaboration with UNSW’s RNA and Kirby institutes, uncovered a surprising finding: immunisation with proteins from related viruses like SARS-CoV-1, or bat viruses, generated a more significant antibody response to key sites than using proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19.

“This was a pretty surprising and key finding and potentially suggests that maybe the ideal vaccine targets we should be using to protect people from COVID-19 could actually be proteins derived from related viruses rather than from the actual virus that causes COVID-19,” Burnett says.


Bad examples from America

As soon as Wall Street decided America had an inflation problem and would soon be putting up interest rates, our local geniuses decided we’d soon be doing the same.

Small problem – we don’t have a problem with inflation. Our money market dealers know more about the US economy than they know about their own. To them, we’re just a smaller, carbon copy of America. If you’ve seen America, you’ve seen ’em all.

The Americans have a lot of people withdrawing from the workforce – leaving jobs and not looking for another – which they’re calling the ‘Great Resignation’. Wow. Great new story. So, some people in our media are seizing any example they can find to show we have our own ‘Great Resignation’.

Small problem. Ain’t true. Following the rebound from the first, nationwide lockdown in 2020, our “participation rate” – the proportion of the working-age population participating in the labour force by have a job or actively looking for one – hit a record high. With the rebound from this year’s lockdowns well under way, the rate’s almost back to the peak.

A lot of America’s problems arise from the “hyperpolarisation” of its politics. Its two political tribes have become more tribal, more us-versus-them, more you’re-for-us-or-against-us. The two have come to hate each other, are less willing to compromise for the greater good, and more willing to damage the nation rather than give the other side a win. More willing to throw aside long-held conventions; more winner-takes-all.

The people who see themselves as the world’s great beacon of democracy are realising they are in the process of destroying their democracy, brick by brick – fiddling with electoral boundaries and voting arrangements, and stacking the Supreme Court with social conservatives.

Donald Trump continues to claim the presidential election was rigged, and many Republicans are still supporting him.

It’s not nearly that bad in Australia, but there are some on the ‘Right’ trying to learn from the Republicans’ authoritarian populism playbook.

When your Prime Minister starts wearing a baseball cap it’s not hard to guess where the idea came from. Or when the government wants to require people to show ID before they can vote, or starts stacking the Fair Work Commission with people from the employers’ side only. Enough.




Sunday, December 26, 2021

Nadia Bokody: Sex dwindles at Christmas, but you can save it

I am not sure we should be getting sex advice from a lesbian but what Nadia says below does sound pretty right to me

About a month ago, my girlfriend brought me home to meet her parents. The trip did not go well.

Stress and sleep deprivation bubbled over into a terse exchange during lunch, and ultimately, a not altogether discreet argument.

My ineptitude at moderating my emotions in tense situations meant that, instead of putting my best foot forward, I quite likely left her family with the impression our relationship is more problematic than an episode of And Just Like That

Of course, we aren’t perfect. I cry often over small things, have a propensity to be unnecessarily dramatic (if you haven’t texted me back in 13 minutes, I’m already holding a focus group)

My girlfriend can be snappy when she’s in a bad mood, consistently leaves clusters of long black hair in my bathtub, and says “I love you” when we’re sitting together on the couch – at which point, I usually turn and realise she’s speaking to her dog.

Regardless of our flaws, we’re very happy most of the time. Blissful, even. Which makes it all the more frustrating that, for the few short days we were with her family, we were the least palatable version of ourselves.

That’s the thing about stress, though. It has a habit of bringing out the worst in us, and it’s usually our intimate relationships that bear the brunt.

The real deathblow? This often translates to a drop-off in physical intimacy.

I got to thinking about this recently because, with arguably the most anxiety-inducing time of year upon us, research shows we’re all feeling more frazzled and less amorous than ever toward our partners – women, especially.

A Stanford University study that looked at over half a million women’s annual sexual activity logs confirmed there’s a steep decline in our interest in sex around Christmas.

And it makes perfect sense.

After all, who wants to get it on when they’re still fuming about the fact they received an ironing board cover instead of the necklace they explicitly circled in that conspicuously left out Michael Hill catalogue??

Thankfully, there’s a cure for festive sexlessness, and the specific kind of anxiety that comes with wanting to reassure your girlfriend’s parents their daughter isn’t saddled with a neurotic argument-monger (or, you know, at least not the latter).

Connective acts like holding hands, extended eye contact and kissing are all linked to decreased cortisol and a boost in the feel-good, calming hormone oxytocin (which, incidentally, also helps us feel more bonded with our partners

Ironically, the more of these non-sexual activities you participate in, the greater likelihood there is you’ll end up getting it on under the mistletoe after all. Because the calmer we feel, the easier it is to become sexually aroused.

All that said, on what is supposed to be a day of peace and love, we should also probably cut our partners some slack if they’re not exemplifying Christmas cheer.


‘Not if, but when’: Uncomfortable Covid truth Australians have to face

As countless Christmases sit ruined by a renewed spike in Covid-19 cases following the arrival of the Omicron strain, a large number of Australians seem to be asking the same thing: will I eventually get coronavirus, no matter what precautions I take?

One expert has said it’s now almost inevitable that we will all come into contact with Covid-19.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” he said.

After almost two years of the pandemic, just over 1 per cent of Australians (282,589) have contracted the virus, but the latest strain has experts worried about the potential for an exponential rise in cases.

The good news from the early scientific consensus is that while Omicron is easier to catch than earlier strains of the coronavirus, it’s effects are less severe.

The first official UK report into Omicron revealed the risk of hospitalisation is between 50 to 70 per cent lower than those with the Delta variant.

In South Africa, virus watchers are tentatively declaring the latest wave has already hit its peak.

Francois Venter, a medical professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, predicted that at the current rate of decline Omicron would “be pretty much gone” from all of South Africa by the end of January.

The figures bode well for Australia, where cases have surged to record levels in recent days, but we are still yet to see similar increases in hospitalisations or deaths.

Despite the positive results, Australians still remain cautious with several forced into isolation and locked out borders on the eve of the Christmas season.

‘Not a matter of if, but when’

Medical director for infection prevention at the Mount Sinai Health System, Dr Bernard Camins believes Australians have to come to terms with the fact they will be exposed to someone carrying the virus in the future.

“I’ve been telling this to anyone who would listen: It’s not a matter of if you get exposed to the Omicron variant or any other variant of the coronavirus, it’s a matter of when,” he said. “Everyone will run into somebody with a Covid infection,” reported NBC.

However, Dr Otto Yang of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA says just because you are exposed, it does not mean you will definitely contract the virus, regardless of the strain.

“I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that everybody will get Covid-19,” he told the US Today Show. “I would prefer not to learn to live with Covid. I would prefer to get rid of it, and theoretically, it’s possible.

“The scenario that I’m hoping will play out is that the numbers of Covid cases are reduced drastically to the point that there are small outbreaks here and there that are easily contained and most of the population is not being exposed.”

Early hope that a double dose of the vaccine would severely reduce the chances of catching and spreading the virus have been dashed after NSW recorded a record high number of 6200 daily cases on Christmas Day, with a statewide vaccination rate of 93.5 per cent.

Dr Yang has encouraged the population to get their booster shots for the best possible protection against the Omicron strain.

“It’s looking very much like people who get a booster have protection against getting it,” he continued, adding there will “always be a possibility” for you to contract the virus regardless of vaccination status.

Director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Dr Rochelle Walensky said “there are going to be breakthrough cases of Omicron, but they will be certainly milder if you’re vaccinated and boosted”.

“Certainly, your outcome is going to depend on your vaccination status. We will see that those who are vaccinated and boosted will have less severe outcomes, less risk of mortality.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has encouraged Australians to get their third vaccine dose after authorities moved the interval between jabs from six to five months.

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) head Professor John Skerritt told reporters that “unfortunately the answer is we’ll have to wait and see”.


‘Kisses are out’: New Year’s Eve Covid-19 warning for Sydney and Melbourne

For the second year in a row, NSW residents are looking at a pared back New Year’s Eve – but now with health recommendations that you shouldn’t even have a midnight kiss.

Last year, the Northern Beaches Covid-19 cluster forced Sydney revellers to have just five guests over at their homes on December 31.

This time around, there are no restrictions on how many people you can invite to your end of year bash, but epidemiologists are warning people to be sensible in what could end up being a superspreader event.

In particular, a cheeky midnight smooch is not recommended as Omicron cases surge past 6000 a day in the state.

And Victorians haven’t been spared either, as surging coronavirus cases also spark concerns across the state.

“Hugs and kisses are out this year but big smiles are in,” University of Sydney infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy, told The Daily Telegraph.

Former World Health epidemiologist Adrian Esterman joked to the publication: “If both parties wear a face mask when they kiss, we’ll be pretty safe.”

However, there was a ring of truth to what he said, with one expert even going a step further and calling for face masks to be worn outside.

Epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter told The Herald Sun: “It’s better to not go at all, or to watch the fireworks from the car, but if you do go, make a wise decision and wear masks outdoors because you won’t be socially distanced.”

Earlier this week, NSW and Victoria both reintroduced face mask mandates as case numbers continued to mount across the two states.

In NSW, anyone over the age of 12 has to wear a face mask at all indoor settings except inside a private home. Victoria has the same rule except for people from the age of eight years old onwards.

Face masks must also be worn in the southern state will at all major events where there are more than 30,000 people present.

It’s not all bad news for New Year’s Eve, though.

Another epidemiologist thinks holding an event outdoors is a huge game changer which bodes well for the end of year festivities. If you are outside you have much better ventilation.

“If you have got masks on and you aren’t close to people, if you are careful not to hug and/or kiss your family, but just … give them a big smile, you can do a bunch of stuff that makes it safer outside and I think they [big events] can go ahead.”

He added in warning: “I think people should be as careful as possible. I know about a family event at Christmas yesterday. They did all of the right things and already someone is positive.”


Australia's vaccine certificates not accepted in some EU countries

The Australian Government's International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) is designed to open doors in foreign lands, but it might not work for all doors.

The certificate contains a QR code in a format adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. That QR code can be read by airlines and immigration authorities to prove you've been vaccinated, but many restaurants, bars, indoor entertainment venues, galleries, museums and other places in Europe also require proof of vaccination status, and the ICVC might not do that.

In The Netherlands for example, you need a coronavirus pass to enter the Van Gogh Museum, obtained via the country's CoronaCheck app, but those vaccinated outside the EU only qualify if they are a Dutch national or were vaccinated in Aruba, Curacao or St Maarten

Austria has the Grune Pass, the green passport, and according to the pass' website ( "Persons who have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 can prove this with officially recognised vaccination passes such as … the e-vaccination passport." The ICVC would appear to qualify, but that might not cut the mustard with the maitre'd at die Wilderin restaurant in Innsbruck.

However some countries make it easier. In France, foreign nationals can apply for a COVID Certificate, a passe santaire, at selected pharmacies, provided they can prove they've been vaccinated with an approved vaccine, and all those administered in Australia are (

According to the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy will accept the ICVC as the equivalent of its Green Pass, allowing you to drink and dine in bars and restaurants ( There's a good chance a restaurant in Bologna or an art gallery in Bari might not know that, so better carry the ministry's injunction as proof.

This problem is not insurmountable. The EU has a Digital COVID Certificate that allows free travel across its borders and entry to indoor venues. That certificate is available to non-EU citizens vaccinated outside the EU provided their country is a member of the EU's Digital COVID Certificate (EU DCC) program. Several non-European countries are, including Panama, Ukraine and, since mid-November, New Zealand, but not Australia.




Saturday, December 25, 2021

Warship Construction Hits Major Delay as Faulty Aluminum Imported from China Found

“It was made in China” is a phrase that is often used to explain why something is shoddily made, or cheap.

The Royal Australian Navy is now experiencing this firsthand after getting poor-quality aluminum from China, which is now prohibiting the launch of new patrol boats.

In March, shipbuilders announced a delay due to the botched materials, which are believed to have been sourced from Wuhan, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Austal, the shipbuilder company awarded a contract to supply the navy with six vessels, said that “the aluminium had been independently certified by a globally accredited certification company prior to arriving at Austal,” according to the ABC.

But upon checking the aluminum, a company spokesperson it was problematic.

“A random spot check subsequently conducted by Austal indicated that it did not meet Austal’s quality requirements,” the Austal spokesperson said.

This will cost the Australian navy tens of millions of dollars since it will now have to keep its older fleet working. The ABC estimated that it will cost an extra $44 million to keep the old fleet afloat.

China’s faulty materials are now costing everyone in Australia.

“As always, taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for their stuff-ups, and our Defence personnel are left without the capabilities they need, when they need it,” Shadow Assistant Defence Minister Pat Conroy said, according to the ABC.

It should come as no surprise that China’s materials are lacking in quality. This year, China has been struggling with its aluminum production and has scaled it back in many ways.

As China has supposedly tried to scale back on energy consumption and emissions, the aluminum industry was one of the first to suffer, the South China Morning Post reported.

This spiked prices to a 13-year high. It also, apparently, made quality plummet.

Australia should have taken the crises in China into account before ordering supplies for their navy from the communist nation


Queensland records 765 new COVID-19 cases, no-one in intensive care

Queensland has recorded 765 new cases overnight — another daily case record — with 151 of those cases confirmed as the Omicron strain, Health Minister Yvette D'Ath says.

Health authorities are currently looking at how rapid antigen testing kits can be used, Ms D'Ath says. There were 33,971 tests recorded and there was now 2,147 active cases in the state.

There are only five people being treated in hospital due to mild and moderate symptoms from the virus. Ms D'Ath said a person who was being treated in an intensive care unit has now been moved out.

There has been 90.36 per cent of eligible Queenslanders aged 16 and over who have received one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 85.88 per cent are double vaccinated.

Ms D'Ath said the number of people in quarantine had decreased and she understood the challenges of spending Christmas in isolation.

"We thank those … people who are in quarantine, who are probably missing time with family and friends today," she said.

"We know it's difficult but we are so grateful for what you're doing, and I just want to reinforce [that to] all those people interstate who have done the right thing and got their PCR tests."


Federal government’s Christmas Eve veto of research projects labelled ‘McCarthyism’

The Morrison government has been accused of using the cover of Christmas to politicise research funding, after a federal minister vetoed grants for six recommended projects.

Proposed research relating to climate activism and China were among the projects recommended through Australian Research Council processes but blocked by the acting education minister, Stuart Robert.

Robert has argued the projects he rejected “do not demonstrate value for taxpayers’ money nor contribute to the national interest” – but the decision, announced on Christmas Eve, has drawn criticism from education figures and the federal opposition.

The vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, Prof Brian Schmidt, said that in a liberal democracy it was “completely inappropriate for grants to be removed by politicians, unless the grant rules were not followed”.

The Victorian Labor senator Kim Carr said the government was using Christmas Eve to “sweep under the carpet” its “further politicisation of the ARC and research” in Australia.

Carr, a former minister for research under the Rudd and Gillard governments, tweeted: “Their McCarthyism subverts research which was recommended by the ARC.”

The winning Discovery Projects for next year were finally revealed on Friday, with a report published on the ARC website saying it had received 3,096 applications for funding commencing in 2022.

The report said 587 of those projects had been approved for funding, totalling $259m over five years.

“Of the unsuccessful applications in 2022, 51 were found not to meet eligibility requirements and six were recommended to, but not funded by the minister,” the report said.

A spokesperson for Robert said the minister had approved “98.98%” of the 593 Discovery Projects the ARC recommended, but had not accepted the following six:

Robert’s spokesperson said the minister “believes those rejected do not demonstrate value for taxpayers’ money nor contribute to the national interest”.

“After going through a peer review process, it is clear to the minister the application of the national interest test is not working in every case,” the spokesperson said.

“This test should ensure taxpayer-funded Australian government research funding is directed to areas of national importance and delivers public value. It’s why in his letter of expectation the minister asked the ARC to strengthen the test.”




Friday, December 24, 2021

Why won’t governments fix housing affordability?

Becausre they CAN'T. No government has ever found a way. And the reason is simple. Housing is a commodity like everything else that is bought and sold. And anything that is bought and sold is governed by the law of supply and demand. If the demand outstrips supply, the price will rise. So it follows that there is only one way to get the price of housing down. You have to increase the supply of it

But governments put up lots of obstacles to block an increase in supply, -- principally land use restrictions. And local governments are big on both lande use restricions and building restrictions. So local governments have to be stamped on to increase the supply of housing. And that is politically dynamite any time it is attempted. Existing homeowners like the restrictions. They keep "riff raff" out of their neighbourhoods

Rapidly rising property prices have led to increasing concerns around affordability, but support for government intervention may actually decline as affordability worsens, a new paper suggests.

Authors of the study argue that homeowners seek to protect their property price gain from being taxed away or undermined by growing housing supply, resulting in less support for government intervention in housing market inequality.

While based on European data, local experts and economists say it points to the challenge of rolling out reforms to improve housing affordability when more people, and voters, are homeowners than not.

Grattan Institute household finances program director Brendan Coates said the politics of improving housing affordability was fraught because most voters already owned a house or investment and mistrust any change that might dent property prices.

“The interest of homeowners tends to outweigh the interest of renters. There’s that classic adage from John Howard who [as prime minister] said that no one is complaining in the streets about their house value going up,” Mr Coates said.

The political consequences of housing (un)affordability, published in The Journal of European Social Policy earlier this month, used data drawn from European and British social surveys and an analysis of British elections to explore the relationship between housing affordability – house prices relative to incomes – and the demand for redistributive and housing policy.

Authors Ben Ansell, a professor at Nuffield College and the University of Oxford, and Asli Cansunar, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, found consistent evidence that declining affordability, driven by increasing house prices, decreases support for interventionist housing policy, especially among homeowners across Europe, and increased votes for the conservative party in the UK.

The beneficiaries of unaffordability, who they noted were those who own property, will prefer to keep policies and parties in place that keep prices high and rising, they concluded. However, while citizens on aggregate become less supportive of intervention, this masked a growing polarisation in preferences between renters and owners in less affordable regions.

Mr Coates said the research design was plausible in the European context, and that poor affordability would likely impact the preferences of political constituents. However, it was not clear if the politics would play out the same way in Australia, noting that at the last election, when Labor was promising changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount, the electorates that swung to Labor tended to be those of higher income earners, while lower income electorates swung toward the Coalition.

However, Mr Coates also noted it was inner city working-class suburbs that had won big in the “housing lottery” as prices climbed over the years, as they were the group with the largest share of their wealth in housing, while the wealth of higher income earners was typically more diversified.

Mr Coates added there was a clear trend in Australia, though, of wealthier areas being more resistant to increased housing supply, but this was driven by multiple factors and not just potential concern of downward pressure on property prices.

“The real question in the Australian context, where there are clearly more house owners than renters making housing policy transformation really hard, is whether there is enough interest from baby boomers … sufficiently worried about whether their kids can ever buy, that leans them more to reform.

“Or whether the solution [they reach] is to double down … by giving [their children] more access to the bank of mum and dad [to get into the market].”

Mr Coates said both tax reform and increased supply would be key to improving housing affordability in Australia, and worried about staunch proponents of either approach downplaying the other at the current inquiry into housing affordability and supply in Australia, when both were clearly needed.

Independent economist Saul Eslake said supply side reforms were only part of the solution and the federal government needed to back away from policies that inflate housing demand, and had been pursued by both sides of government, such as first-home buyer grants, negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount.

It was a tragedy that Labor had walked away from proposed changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax, he noted, with the opportunity for such reform now possibly gone for a generation.

A greater focus on building more social housing was also needed, with both parties allowing the proportion of such housing to decline egregiously over the decades.

Appearing before the affordability inquiry last month, he asked members of the committee whose interests they were most concerned about: the 11 million Australians who already own at least one property, and the more than two million who own more than one, or the minority, albeit a growing minority, who have been unable to buy. He noted their answer would determine what they recommended to Parliament, with their report expected early in 2022.

Mr Eslake said while politicians shed “crocodile tears” for young Australians struggling to get onto the property ladder, there was a huge gulf between what they say and do. However, Mr Eslake, who also referenced Howard’s comments, acknowledged most homeowners did not want to see government action that would stop the value of their property going up.

“There is a very large constituency that is resolutely opposed to anything that would dampen the rate of house price inflation, yet that is surely at the heart of what you have to do if you’re going to solve the affordability issue.”

Mr Eslake said it was unclear if Australians had become any more opposed to redistribution policy as affordability declined, but noted that while Australia had quite a progressive income tax transfer system, wealth was taxed very lightly compared to other countries.

Any polarisation in preferences between renters and owners was less obvious locally, Mr Eslake added, saying he was often surprised that there was not more anger from young Australians about the way in which the market has been rigged against them by their parents’ generation. But even if they were to adapt their voting behaviour, he said, who would they vote for, with no big reforms on the table from either party.

The last federal election showed the concern homeowners had for housing reform.

Economist Jim Stanford, director of The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, said that in the context of declining housing affordability it made sense for homeowners to be more cautious about their future and reforms, as they could feel more insecure in their situation, but was sceptical of the paper’s suggestion that they had benefited from unaffordability, noting few could sell off property without needing to buy elsewhere.

Many would also worry about their children and see that their kids did not “have a hope in hell” of buying a decent property, if poor affordability continued.

“I don’t think they are better off, even middle-class homeowners would be better off with a policy that thought of a housing as a more basic service. I don’t accept that they have made money off this boom [and just want] to continue to,” he said.

However, the last federal election had shown the concern homeowners had for housing reform, Dr Stanford said, noting that rightly or wrongly, those who saw themselves as housing investors could be influenced by scare campaigns against policies that made a lot of sense, like Labor’s proposed change to negative gearing.

“The government tried to portray it as a tax on homeowners, which is nonsense, but given how the election unfolded everyone is going to be curious about what they propose in this election, that experience sort of ratified the point … with this article.”

Dr Stanford said a big part of the solution would be building up Australia’s supply of non-market housing, which governments had basically walked away from over the last generation, with the time right for an ambitious plan to build more social and affordable housing.

Housing Minister Michael Sukkar and shadow minister for housing and homelessness, Jason Clare, were contacted for comment.


Australia to get the first of its nuclear submarines FIVE YEARS ahead of schedule as America fast-tracks $90billion project in face of rising tensions with China

Rising tensions with China have fast-tracked the delivery of the first Australian nuclear submarine under the $90billion deal with the USA and the UK.

Australia now looks set to launch its first nuclear-powered submarine five years ahead of schedule as the West braces for confrontation with China.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has revealed the UK and US are 'pulling out all the stops' to speed up the massive project.

The controversial deal - which saw Australia abandon its contract with France for a fleet of diesel submarines - could now see the new subs coming into operation in the first half of the 2030s.

They were originally not expected to join the Australian naval fleet until 2040 at the earliest, but the US Defense Department is pushing to bring the timeline forward.

It comes as fears grow of a stand-off between the West and China over Taiwan, with Australian pledging to support any US response if the situation escalates.

'I think we are advancing at a quicker pace than what we could have imagined even at the time of the announcement,' Mr Dutton told The Australian.

'There has been no game-playing, no roadblocks, they are pulling out all stops to make this work. It’s a capability that we want to acquire quickly and we are in those discussions right now.'

He added: ' I think it’s the Americans’ desire to see us with capability much sooner than 2040 and obviously options are being explored at the moment.

'I believe very much we can realise the capability in the first half of the 2030s and we are absolutely working towards that and I am only encouraged, not discouraged, out of the conversations we have had.'

Mr Dutton also hinted the submarines could even be built in Australia, despite the current lack of suitable shipyard facilities or nuclear power knowledge.

Australia has yet to decide if they will be using the US Virginia Class nuclear submarine design or the UK's similar Astute Class.

But any move to manufacture them in Australia will require training shipyard workers, new equipment and specialist nuclear experts.

Some experts have predicted that may not be possible within the new shortened timeframe to rush the submarines into service.

However moving production to Australia may be inevitable as Mr Dutton said the UK and US had limited spare production capacity to build the Australian submarines.

And he said work was already underway with the international partners on designing local shipyards.

The new timeframe now matches the original plan for the introduction of the axed French submarines which were due to come into service in 2035.

Australia's current Collins Class submarines would need major overhauls to extend their service life beyond 2038, making it vital to get the nuclear subs in the water as soon as possible.

The deal with the US and UK is for eight nuclear submarines, and they are likely to be built in Adelaide if the plan to manufacture them locally goes ahead.

China branded the AUKUS deal as 'extremely irresponsible" and has now pushed its backing for a nuclear-free treaty for south-east Asia.

A Chinese government official Lijian Zhao said the deal will 'intensify regional tensions, provoke a military arms race and threaten regional peace and stability.'

Mr Dutton said the rhetoric against Australia should be seen as just part of China's attacks on all the other nations which oppose it and speak up against them.

He added: 'We want a productive and fruitful friendship with China. 'But we have values that we adhere to and we will not deviate from those values and adherence to international law.'


Climate, the far-Left and the devilish problem facing the Greens

Rachel Griffiths, the Golden Globe-winning Australian actress, is no stranger to prompting public debate through outrageous stunts.

In 1997 the Muriel’s Wedding star famously paraded semi-naked outside Melbourne’s Crown Casino in protest of a state government she claimed was “raping” the city of its dignity, compassion and sense of community. When asked by a journalist why she felt the need to be topless, Griffiths replied: “If I didn’t flash my tits, you wouldn’t have put me in the paper.”

It’s what makes Griffiths’ most recent political commentary all the more interesting.

When the Australian Greens party announced a proposal to ban horse racing and impose a 1 per cent levy on all bets to fund a transition, Griffiths was outraged.

“When the planet is melting this will not help you save it. Focus on carbon emissions/boosting infrastructure and you might make a difference,” she wrote on Instagram this week.

She said a ban on the nags would only alienate any Greens voter who was over 40 living outside all but six inner-city postcodes and “help re-elect a government you won’t have a voice in”. Griffiths, who coincidentally now plays a crossbench MP in ABC political drama Total Control, neatly highlights the challenge the Greens have in the coming months.

It is an increasingly contested space for minor parties to find relevance, cut-through and, importantly, air-time. It will be even harder as the election looms with several climate-focused, progressive, independent candidates stealing their limelight as they fight for seats that not so long ago the Greens had hoped they might one day win.

In Melbourne the Greens vote in both Higgins and Kooyong leapfrogged Labor in recent years and put them both firmly in the targets of Adam Bandt’s party. But the independent push is now costing them members, donors and likely volunteers at voting booths on election day.

And so once again chances of winning any of the 10 or so lower house seats identified on the party’s regular triennial hit list are already looking bleak.

The Greens vote has for more than 15 years now been highly influenced by the wider context of the public debate and the issues which voters perceive the election to be about. Loyalty levels of its voters are well below those of the major parties, but if issues which are strongly associated with the Greens are front-and-centre then they can be assured of some success. If not, things go backwards.

While the Greens have often targeted “soft” Labor voters, they’ve found there are equally a lot of “soft” Greens voters that they can - and often do - lose at each election.

Which begs the question, what is the relevance of the Greens at the next federal election? Can they ever again match the almost 12 per cent of the vote achieved under Bob Brown in 2010 or has their influence peaked?

On Sunday this masthead reported that businessman Graeme Wood, who has poured more than $2 million into their campaigns over the past decade, had grown frustrated with the party. The founder of online travel company Wotif said they needed a “shot in the arm” because the party’s support had not increased in the past decade.

Wood isn’t the only big donor over the Greens. David Rothfield, an environmental campaigner and philanthropist who donated half a million dollars to the Greens, Labor, and activist group Get Up, has quit the party. He’s joined the “Voices of” movement to oust incumbent Liberal MP Tim Wilson in the seat of Goldstein.

Former Wallaby [Rugby footballer] David Pocock, who is tight with a number of Greens figures, is standing as an independent for the Senate in the ACT. Those close with him say he stands a better chance of being elected without the baggage of the party and is assured of their preferences in a jurisdiction where the Greens vote is north of 17 per cent.

Pocock, outspoken on social justice issues and was once arrested after chaining himself to a digger at a NSW coal mine protest in Leard State Forest, says he is open to receiving money from businessman Simon Holmes a Court’s Climate 200 fund, a war chest of as much as $20 million to bankroll candidates who are cutting the Greens lunch.

The party can take credit for consolidating its 10 per cent of the vote over a decade but has all but dealt itself out of negotiations by regularly ruling out deals with the Coalition. The handful of times it was prepared to reach deals with a conservative government it was torn apart with bitter internal feuding.

So, why would Anthony Albanese agree to a power-sharing deal if he can’t win a majority at the next election? He knows Bandt would always back a Labor government on supply.

Bandt hopes to make the Greens the biggest third party in the Senate’s history by adding two seats at the next election. But when he promises he’ll win extra lower house seats and influence government policy, that’s what he will be judged on.

The Greens’ long-term issue is that they’ve become the natural home of anyone who is concerned about climate, but also of the far left. And when their broader policies alienate those who care about the climate but aren’t of the far left, that’s when a Climate 200-backed independent might be a more appealing choice.


Paradise Dam will be rebuilt to full capacity

The State Government has determined Paradise Dam will be completely rebuilt following detailed investigations and extensive safety works.

It comes after work to lower the dam’s spillway and install the temporary crest were completed earlier this year amid ongoing concerns about the dams structural capacity.

Minister for Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water, Glenn Butcher said the dam would be rebuilt to full capacity.

“From the start of this process we’ve said the solution must deliver water security and safety for the people of Bundaberg – this option delivers both,” Mr Butcher said.

“We’ve heard from the Deputy Prime Minister and other Federal Government representatives that they’re open to providing funding for this project.

“We’ve been working with them collaboratively and will continue those discussions. “Further details about the project will be released in the new year.”

Member for Bundaberg Tom Smith thanked the Bundaberg community for its patience. “I know this has been a tough time for our community and the agricultural sector,” he said. “I’m really proud of how our community has come together to work with the Government to find a solution on this project.

“I can also confirm today that irrigators will not be asked to pay the cost of returning the dam wall to full height.

“These works, once underway, will be a significant undertaking that will also create hundreds of jobs in our region.