IN FINE FORM
Saturday’s anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne was the “most violent” in nearly 20 years and was the first time police have used non-lethal weapons during a lockdown protest, Guardian Australia reports. More than 4000 people took to the streets to object to lockdown, with some letting off flares. Around 200 people were arrested. It came before Prime Minister Scott Morrison called lockdowns “not a sustainable way to deal with the virus” on Sunday and said the plan remains unchanged to see them become “unlikely” once 70% of the population is vaccinated. He told ABC’s Insiders that lockdowns would do “more harm than good” but only once the vaccination target is met, Guardian Australia reports.
Revellers in Warrnambool paid for a big Saturday night with more than just a hangover, after the entire state of Victoria plunged into lockdown at 1pm that day. Police say $100,000 in fines were given to 19 party-goers, the Herald Sun ($) reports. The fine for attending a gathering is a whopping $5452 in Victoria.
In the country’s east yesterday, NSW recorded 830 cases (another record), while Victoria recorded 65 and the ACT recorded 19 (there were none recorded in Queensland). On Saturday, a record 196,000 vaccine doses were given across the country.
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EVACUATIONS FROM AFGHANISTAN
Australia has evacuated 300 people from Afghanistan from more than 28,000 people evacuated by 20 countries so far, Al Jazeera says. It comes as the Taliban’s deadly reign intensifies in the country, which has seen crowds swell at Kabul airport as hopeful men, women, and children desperately seek a flight out. Seven people are known to have died in the crush, The New Daily reports. Nine countries have so far evacuated more people than Australia — among them, the US who has taken 17,000, the UK (3821), Germany (2000), Pakistan (1100), Italy (1000), Turkey (583), France (570), India (552), and Denmark (404).
The Australian government sent visa rejection letters to 100 panicked former staff at the Australian Embassy at the weekend who were apparently unknowingly already approved for a visa, Guardian Australia reports. A lawyer claimed the 100 DFAT rejection letters all had the same reference number and were not signed, before the department clarified that “anyone rejected for an at-risk employee visa is now automatically considered by the Department of Home Affairs for a different humanitarian stream,” Guardian Australia reports. Australia closed its Kabul embassy in May.
It came as leading Taliban figure Khalil Ur-Rahman Haqqani repeated claims that all Afghans should feel safe in the Islamic Emirate, and a “general amnesty” has been given to the 34 provinces.
BOMBSHELL AFTER BOMBSHELL
TV anchor Gretchen Carlson, who was immortalised on the big screen after Australian actor Nicole Kidman portrayed her in Bombshell, has spoken to ABC’s Four Corners in a pretty good get for the current affairs program. Carlson, a star anchor at Fox for 11 years before exposing Fox boss Roger Ailes as a sexual predator, lifted the lid on how Fox became a dangerous propaganda vehicle for former president Donald Trump.
Carlson said Fox was always a conservative alternative to CNN but that its motto, “fair and balanced”, was upheld for many years before the Trump era. “I think that they allowed the former president to dictate what news they put out to the American people,” she said. “We’re in a dangerous political climate in our country right now, sort of on the precipice of whether or not we’re going to actually believe facts or we’re not.” The episode airs tonight on ABC, and they’re also going to live stream it on Facebook if you’d prefer to watch it that way.
Incidentally — Trump has been booed at a rally in Cullman, Alabama, after he told supporters he recommends they take the COVID vaccines, Guardian Australia reports. He told the crowd he had already been given his, and upon hearing the jeers, told the rowdy group they’d be the first to know if “it doesn’t work”. Trump was vaccinated while in office, after being hospitalised with a more severe infection than people realised, The New York Times reports.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Once a handy accessibility tool used by the hearing impaired, subtitles have become commonplace for many TV binges worldwide. A 2019 tweet that innocently asked whether subtitles should be in cinemas garnered more than 75,000 likes, prompting The Guardian to ask why so many like to “watch with words”. And every day, countless transcribers make it possible — sometimes writing in near-real-time, in the case of live news. It’s no easy job. Just ask Mitch Bowey.
The 34-year-old was assigned the ACT’s COVID press conference on the second day of the capital’s lockdown. But when the ACT’s leader expressed his appreciation for his constituents’ adherence to the lockdown, there was one word Bowey missed: Canberrans. The term he wrote — which went live to air — was “Ken Behrens” — and a meme was born. An instant (and non-existent) celebrity, Ken Behrens went on to be thanked (tongue-in-cheek) by ACT Health in a tweet, while the Canberra Raiders temporarily changed their name to the Ken Behren Raiders on social media. ACT Health’s app update added the term to its bug update, while ACT Police even made up a haiku about him.
Be the Ken Behren you want to see in the world today folks, and stay safe.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
The Wiggles are free to do what they like. It was nice while it lasted. But you go woke, you go broke.
The senator made a fairly mean-spirited comment about the four new Wiggles announced on Sunday, three of whom are women — an Ethiopian Latin dancing champion, an Indigenous yoga teacher, a skateboarding dancer, along with a male Filipino former Justice Crew member. But founding Blue Wiggle Anthony Field celebrated the decision, describing the diverse line-up as years in the making and saying organisers “want children to see a mirror of themselves”.
Berejiklian trashing the reopening plan is giving Morrison a nasty headache
Aug 20, 2021
“Gladys Berejiklian’s debacle in New South Wales has already inflicted considerable political damage on Scott Morrison and threatens to present him with a messy political problem for which there are no easy solutions. The Berejiklian problem is pretty simple: the reopening plan agreed to by national cabinet didn’t envisage COVID running rampant when vaccination rates hit 70%. On current form, NSW is likely to still have hundreds of cases a day, and a steady stream of deaths, when that milestone is reached.
“In fact, the NSW premier has given up on getting cases to zero, with the inevitable mathematical logic that easing lockdown restrictions while the virus is circulating in the community will see numbers soar. But she wants to stick to the plan of easing come 70%, as does Morrison. Berejiklian, if she’s still premier by then, feels she needs to offer people in Sydney something other than six months in lockdown.”
After Kabul, there’s a golden opportunity for Australia to stand on its own two feet
Aug 20, 2021
“Decades before it got rid of its own sclerotic communist government, Russia attempted to thwart Iran by helping to boot out the shah, and then gained control of Afghanistan. That effort ended in tears too, shortly before the US turned up in Afghanistan. Now China will be salivating at the prospect of advancing its belt and road project at an unusually rapid pace as it tries to trump its major power rivals, with a strategy and resources already in hand.
“What should Australia do? The easiest and most predictable thing is to once again do nothing and fall into line with US strategy, which will keep aiming to thwart China and Russia. But we don’t need to. Other US allies probably won’t. It’s difficult to see South Korea or Japan doing that openly. The major Europeans allies — Germany, France and the UK — probably won’t either. Neither will India and other Asian countries with substantial militaries.”
Aug 20, 2021
“No. That’s just wrong. If anyone did interpret the cartoon that way — and I’m not saying they didn’t — then they, like the Press Council, missed the joke. The fact that it wasn’t a funny joke is beside the point. So is the fact that Leak was being unfair to Biden. To insist that the cartoon overstepped the line of what should be allowed to be said in public would be to say that, where the subjects of racism and sexism are concerned, irony and satire are absolutely off limits.
“What makes this decision completely perplexing is the comparison with how the Press Council handled another controversial cartoon: Mark Knight’s 2018 depiction in the Herald Sun of Serena Williams having a tantrum at the US Open. To me that cartoon was patently racist, not in its subject matter or words but in the caricature of Williams, depicting her as a racial stereotype of an African-American woman with all the exaggerated features that trigger reflection of past horrors.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
As Biden faces a political crisis, his party looks on in alarm (The New York Times)
Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon hits highest annual level in a decade (The Guardian)
Outspoken US vaccine sceptic Phil Valentine dies of COVID-19 (The New Daily)
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to step down in November (Al Jazeera)
Existing framework there to encourage companies to slash carbon emissions: report (The SMH)
Decision day looms as experts wonder if New Zealand will ever return to normal (NZ Herald)
Don Everly of the Everly Brothers dies at 84, seven years after younger brother Phil (ABC)
Cryptocurrency Companies Are Leaving China in ‘Great Mining Migration’ (The Wall Street Journal)
Manchester United held to draw by Southampton, Kane returns for Spurs (The SMH)
Josephine Baker to become first Black woman to enter France’s Panthéon (The Guardian)
Ex-Manager says R. Kelly thought Aaliyah, 15, was pregnant with his baby (The New York Times)
Finding love in a hopeless place (The New Yorker)
COVID rules: Unchecked leaders lock us into states of mental desperation — Nick Cater (The Australian) ($): “The desire to protect everyone’s health as best as we can in a pandemic will, of course, require some freedoms to be temporarily curtailed. Yet the mantra that falls so often from the lips of premiers, that nothing is more important than avoiding infection, simply isn’t true. One person’s right to good health must be balanced against the freedom of another to earn a living or operate a business. It should be balanced against the freedom to worship or the freedom of teenagers to mingle with their peers to alleviate adolescent distress …
“Josh Frydenberg’s insistence on Friday that attempts at eradication will not succeed signalled a shift in strategy in Canberra. Perhaps some state leaders, too, may be starting to realise that exchanging liberty for health and safety is a bad bargain. How could they not? They, too, must be receiving the reports of the number of teenagers presenting to emergency wards for self-harm, of home-schooling parents in cramped homes at their wits’ end and the volume of calls to Lifeline. They, too, must be doubting if the potential anguish avoided by the measures is still greater than the sum of anguish caused.”
Today’s decisions lock in industry emissions for decades — here’s how to get them right — Alison Reeve (The Conversation): “Around 30% of Australia’s emissions come from the industrial sector — from facilities such as coal mines, liquefied natural gas platforms, steel smelters, and zinc processing plants. These facilities have long operating lives — up to 30 to 40 years, sometimes more. This means facilities that start up tomorrow will probably still be operating in 2050. Older facilities have only one replacement cycle between now and 2050.
“Companies don’t have 10 chances to get on the pathway right. They have one. Planning to replace an ageing asset starts well before it is due to end its life, and companies can only consider realistic options. They can’t assess costs and risks on technologies that are still in the lab. If low-emissions technologies aren’t available or commercially feasible when decisions are made, what firms do install will lock in decades of future emissions … Every decision we make from now on will affect our chance of reaching net zero and escaping catastrophic climate change.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Writer Melanie Saward will be in conversation with author Paige Clark discussing the latter’s collection of short stories, She Is Haunted.
Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)
Indigenous theatre company Yirra Yaakin presents Bilya Kaatijin, the fourth and final story in the company’s Kaatijin series at the Subiaco Library.
PwC Consulting director Kristy Porter will discuss the digital divide and how we can prepare the workforce of the future at PwC Perth.
Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)
PeakCare Queensland and the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies will hold a consultation on e-safety for young people at the State Library of Queensland.