Sunday, April 17, 2022

First infection of new Covid variant detected in Australia

NSW has reported a case of Omicron XE infection brought in by an overseas traveller.

The state was also the first to report a case of another recombinant strain dubbed Deltacron, with that variant spreading two Queensland within 24 hours of being detected.

There are fears a further relaxing rules for international arrivals will see more - and potentially deadlier - variants enter the country.

XE is a combination of the two Omicron variant subtypes BA.1 and BA.2.

The variant is what’s known as recombinant, meaning it is a mixture of the two different strains and has characteristics of both.

More than a thousand cases of XE have been recorded in the UK and cases have also been detected in Thailand, India and Israel.

It’s presence around the world suggests it has been spread by open borders and international travel.

From Monday, international arrivals will no longer need to test negative to Covid-19 before leaving for Australia, meaning more cases of new variants could arrive in the country.

“As the Covid pandemic has progressed, we’ve repeatedly seen the arrival of new viral variants,” University of Leeds virologist Grace Roberts wrote in The Conversation.

While the properties of XE are not yet well known, Dr Roberts said there did not appear to be cause for additional concern.

“We know that Omicron XE has the majority of its genetic information, including the spike protein, from the Omicron sub-variant BA.2, which is the variant predominating in the UK at the moment,” she said.

“ It is likely, therefore, that the characteristics of omicron XE (such as transmissibility, severity of disease and vaccine efficacy) are similar to those of BA.2.”

NSW recorded 17,856 positive cases of Covid on Thursday, with a total 1582 Covid cases admitted to hospital, including 71 people in intensive care, 23 of whom require ventilation.

The state also recorded 21 Covid-linked deaths on Thursday, including one person who was over 100-year-old. Of those that died, three people were not vaccinated


Labor ditches Republic referendum plans

Anthony Albanese has quietly ditched plans for Labor to hold a vote on whether Australia should become a Republic in its first term as government, and will instead focus on establishing an Indigenous voice to parliament.

A Labor spokesman said if elected, the “voice to parliament” model – ensuring First Nations people have a say on policies and laws affecting their communities – would be the only referendum the party was committed to pursuing in their first term in office.

The decision represents a marked break from the previous election, when former opposition leader Bill Shorten committed $160m for an in-person ballot to determine public support for establishing independence from the British monarchy.

With cutting ties to the Commonwealth contingent on constitutional reform, the in-person vote, rather than the postal vote plebiscite model used during the vote on same-sex marriage, would have been used to assess as the first step before a full referendum was held later.

In a statement later provided to The Australian, a Labor spokesman excluded the reference to the “first term in government”, instead emphasising the voice to parliament would take constitutional priority.

“As we have made clear, Constitutional Recognition and a Voice to parliament for First Nations people remain Labor’s constitutional reform priority and we would pursue this in government before any further steps are taken on the matter of an Australian Republic,“ a Labor spokesman said.


Anthony Albanese’s trainwreck of a first week highlights a very real and deeper problem inside the Labor party – its very structure promotes mediocrity, writes Peter Gleeson

THE fundamental problem with the Labor Party in this country is that it promotes and encourages mediocrity because of the way it is structured.

The factions have delivered up Anthony Albanese as the alternative Prime Minister, when there are at least a dozen better options.

Labor’s Left faction – more interested in climate change than jobs – is killing what was once a great political movement for the working class man.

Favours are called in, unions demand promotions, factional tit-for-tats create division and the next thing you know the best talent is sidelined.

A great example is Queensland, where the Right faction’s Cameron Dick, the Treasurer, is easily Labor’s best performer, albeit he has drunk the Koolaid on the dark art of political deception and spin.

Yet the deputy premier, Steven Miles, of the Left, will be Annastacia Palaszczuk’s successor because his faction clearly has the numbers. The result is that Queensland gets second best. Hopefully, the voters will sort out that anomaly.

The same applies at the federal level. Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is from the all-powerful Left faction, a nasty cult who “love taking on the Tories’’.

Yet Albanese is a plodder. He’s got little dash, a product of Labor’s assembly line of colourless, highly disciplined, win at all costs politicians, who cut their teeth in the hurly burly of factional brawls and rigged pre-selections.

He doesn’t even have the courage to call out a cohort of women in his party that have proven themselves to be the antithesis of what Labor touts for its females – empowered, ambitious and bold.

The real tragedy of this modern-day Labor obsession with mediocrity is being played out right now during the federal election campaign.

Albo – nice guy that he is – is being exposed as a bumbling fool. The rigour and blowtorch environment of a warts and all campaign is a stark reminder of what it takes to be the Prime Minister.

Failing basic tests around the unemployment rate and the cash interest rate is a sad reflection of how the Labor Party is its own worst enemy.

What makes it even worse for Labor is that two of its young guns – Jim Chalmers and Jason Clare – are super impressive. Both are from Labor’s Right faction, which like in Queensland, does not have the numbers in caucus.

Chalmers, the Treasury spokesman, is deftly throwing people off the scent about exactly what Labor will do with tax and their pay packets.

It is clear that they will come in with a sledgehammer, especially for those earning big coin, and tax them to within an inch of their lives.

Then there’s Jason Clare, who has been put up as Labor’s campaign spokesman. Clare is articulate and across every facet of his brief.

His mop up job on Anthony Albanese’s first day stumble was a masterclass, dismissing it as Albo simply being human, when in fact it was a trainwreck.

But he was believable and stuck to message. The text I got after his ABC 7.30pm performance from a good judge was – why isn’t this bloke running for Prime Minister?

Labor doesn’t have the intellectual capacity or courage to embrace Chalmers and Clare, the next generation, because, well, ahem, it’s Albo’s turn.

He’s done the hard yards, he deserves a shot. The problem for Labor is that if PM Scott Morrison outguns him during the campaign – which looks increasingly likely – they may face another three years in Opposition.

Until Labor rids itself of the archaic factional structure that determines who gets the spoils, the electorate will continue to be served up second rate fare.


Break out the popcorn and get ready for one hell of a rollercoaster ride when the best debate of the federal election takes place

Break out the popcorn and get ready for one hell of a rollercoaster ride when the best debate of the federal election takes place on the Gold Coast on Tuesday night.

Sky News host Paul Murray and yours truly will try the political equivalent of herding cats when the so-called maverick’s debate is held.

The combatants include United Australia tsar Clive Palmer, One Nation guru Pauline Hanson, the Stetson-wearing Bob Katter and former Queensland premier and Liberal-Democrat Senate contender, Campbell Newman.

You’d go a long way, anywhere in the world, to find four politicians with the conviction, and quirkiness, of those four people.

This is an important debate, for many reasons. The Sky news audience, especially in the bush, is huge.

People in regional and rural Australia have abandoned the ABC because of its pro-Labor and Greens rubbish, and they’ve come across to Sky.

As such, Palmer, Hanson, Katter and Newman will be competing for the minds and souls of many of these people during this debate.

They are popular in the bush, many sharing Hanson and Palmer’s pro-choice mantra on mandatory vaccination.

Both Hanson and Palmer remain unvaccinated, and it is only that premier Annastacia Palaszczuk lifted the vaccination mandate at pubs and clubs that the event could go ahead on the Gold Coast.

Palmer and Hanson will be vying for the same voter demographic. They are seen as rebels with a cause by their base.

Palmer is spending a fortune on this election campaign, with the slogan “freedom, freedom, freedom’’ his catchcry to appease those who are fed up with lockdowns and border closures and governments running people’s lives.

At his campaign launch on the Sunshine Coast today, Palmer will also talk of his plans to keep mortgage rates below 3 per cent and a massive resources tax that will pay down our $1 trillion debt over the next 20 years.

Palmer cannot be underestimated. He faces a tough job to win House of Representative seats but he may secure a Senate spot and the UAP’s preferences will be crucial in a number of contentious lower house seats.

Hanson is a great political survivor, with a fearless outlook for calling a spade a shovel. She remains hugely popular, especially in Queensland, and is mobbed like a rock star wherever she goes. She will be fired up for this debate. She loves the combative nature of these things.

Bob Katter, 76, is an extraordinary politician, having held the seat of Kennedy, in the state’s west, since 1993. Before that he was a Minister in the Bjelke-Petersen government.

Katter has forgotten more about politics than most of his MP colleagues, and while he is known for his colourful language, this debate format will suit him down to the ground.

Then there’s Newman, who was Queensland premier from 2012-2015 before losing to Annastacia Palaszczuk, in a poll many thought he could not lose.

He is now going around with the Liberal-Democrats after becoming disenchanted with the Liberal Party under Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Newman will thrive at this debate. He remains articulate and focused but he certainly doesn’t have the party machinery, or budget, of Palmer and Hanson.

The debate will unquestionably have a resounding theme around governments interfering in our lives.

For many, our experience with the Covid-19 pandemic has solidified a belief that government has gone too far, imposing draconian laws that have hurt people badly.

Many people have lost their livelihoods and their mental health has been challenged during the pandemic.

As such, there’s a growing sense that many voters are going to shy away from the major political parties and park their choice elsewhere.

That’s why this debate is important. The winner will likely become a political kingmaker. The debate airs at 8pm this Tuesday on Sky News. Make sure you wear your crash helmet.




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