Friday, April 16, 2021

Today by Rachel Withers


Stretching the point
The idea that Australians could be travelling overseas this year is quite a stretch

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison joining in with daily stretching exercises at a Fortescue Metals Group ore-processing plant in Western Australia this morning. Image via Twitter

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest join in with stretching exercises at a Fortescue Metals Group ore-processing plant in Western Australia, to a soundtrack of Jimmy Barnes’s “Working Class Man”. Image via Twitter

The Morrison government has offered up yet another distraction from its bungled vaccine rollout, hinting at the possibility of overseas travel before the population is fully vaccinated. The prime minister – currently in Western Australia visiting metal processing plants and partaking in made-for-photo-op workplace stretches (set to Jimmy Barnes’s “Working Class Man”, no less) – told a Perth community forum last night that his “first goal” in reopening borders would be allowing vaccinated Australians to leave and return home without going into hotel quarantine, instead quarantining at home or “under some other less-stringent environment”. Never mind that Health Minister Greg Hunt said earlier this week that international travel could remain off limits even once the entire population is vaccinated. Government ministers have been asked about the PM’s suggestion all day, with many enthusiastically talking it up, but the announcement is – like the workplace exercises, like many of the things that come out of Morrison’s mouth these days – quite a stretch. At the rate the rollout is going, the word “vaccinated” isn’t going to apply to many Australians for some time. (The PM yesterday labelled criticism of the program “a bit of a pile-on”.) Others have noted that reopening travel will greatly depend on whether our vaccines reduce transmission of the virus – which is far from confirmed – and on the status of any variants. 

Government ministers enjoyed having some good news to talk about today, even if we are no closer to having any idea when we will all be vaccinated, with the timeline dumped. Defence Minister Peter Dutton told Today that the move to home quarantine should happen “as quickly as we can”, while over on 2GB radio Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that it was “good to be optimistic about this”. Others have been more subdued with their enthusiasm. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News that allowing travel would depend on whether the vaccines – which prevent people from getting sick from the virus – are also successful in preventing them from passing it on, while Treasurer Josh Frydenberg insisted the plan would have to be based on medical advice, saying the PM was “presenting the opportunity that arrives when we do roll out that vaccine more broadly”. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian backed the idea of quarantine-free travel, but said it would depend on getting the vaccine rolled out to most people, not just the travellers (“Look, I think that is a great suggestion, but it does rely on us having the vaccinated population,” she told Today). So that means 2022 at the very earliest, then.

Morrison, whose government deserves some credit for keeping COVID-19 out by shutting Australia’s borders back in March 2020, now seems desperate to reopen them, or at least to keep alive people’s hopes of leaving the country this year. Qantas remains optimistic, and is reportedly sticking to its plan to restart international travel in October, “getting [its] aircraft and people ready”. But there won’t be many of us able to fly in October. Australia isn’t expected to start receiving its all-important second Pfizer order until that quarter of the year, and who knows when even the first order will have arrived in full. Overseas travel is not, as headlines are claiming, “back on the agenda” for Australians, and Morrison’s false hope is not helping anyone.

The prime minister is known for his willingness to stretch the truth, and he’s made plenty of big stretches over the course of the past 12 months – from saying that Australia would be at the “front of the queue” for vaccines to insisting that his government would administer 4 million doses by the end of March. He continued to stretch the truth this week, RMIT ABC Fact Check has found, with his boasts that Australia is outperforming Germany, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan at a similar stage in their vaccination rollouts. Last night Morrison, aided by many in the media, teased Australians with the promise of international travel, with being reunited with loved ones or being able to attend funerals overseas. There are plenty of practical things the federal government could have done to speed up the possibility of Australians being allowed out (or being allowed back in for that matter), from acquiring more vaccines to implementing suggestions for specialised federal quarantine facilities. But until Australia gets its hands (physically) on some more vaccines, the promise of overseas travel for vaccinated Australians will not take us anywhere.


“This is a creep … And the LNP have kept him here.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese criticises Liberal MP Andrew Laming, as Labor announces its candidate for his Bowman electorate.

“The group of performers who take great pride in what they do … have really been victims of extraordinary abuse.”

The often-absent Minister for Women Marise Payne finally speaks out – to slam ABC coverage of the twerking navy dancers, which led to abuse of the troupe.

The real story behind Christine Holgate’s exit
Six months after the chief executive of Australia Post, Christine Holgate, was forced out of her job, she’s now broken her silence. Holgate claims that she was bullied, and has revealed the real reason she believes she was targeted. Today, Paul Bongiorno on what really happened at Australia Post.

The combined total of donations the Liberal National Party of Queensland has accepted from a developer-owned company since February 2020, despite deeming the company a “prohibited donor” two years ago.

“The Morrison government is exploring options enabling women to bolster their retirement savings, after deciding against trying to cap the superannuation guarantee to stop it from rising to 12 per cent.”

AFR

The government’s expenditure review committee is looking at ways to help women top up their superannuation (as opposed to dipping into it), ahead of its promised female-focused budget.

The list
 

“I remember 1987 well. It was the year my parents split up, and the year that Rage first appeared on our screens. I must have begun watching Rage during its first year of broadcast on the ABC, sitting in my dad’s flat, on a small colour TV that (in my memory) only screened in black and white. Until very recently I presumed that the show was older. Right from the beginning Rage had an ageless, mysterious quality, as if it were transmitting, uninterrupted, from a distant galaxy.”

“Cino, a smooth-coated Pequeno, is 17 months old, but already he’s an old hand on the competition circuit. He’s bored into whimpering in his cage, and frantic with excitement when his owner, Jenni McKernan, lets him out. Cino was born in Brisbane as part of the first (and, so far, only) litter of podengos whelped in Australia.”

“Although I think the film fails to illuminate the experience of dementia, and despite its staid and uninspiring construction, I remained committed to the end. This has everything to do with the performance of Colin Firth. His genteel persona is so attractive, his ease before the camera so intuitive, that it’s easy to underestimate the power of his acting. Through his breakthrough performance of Mr Darcy in the TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and his work in the Bridget Jones series, Firth has become almost a cliché of a romantic comedy lead. But what he does in Supernova is breathtaking.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Monthly Today.

@rachelrwithers

 

The Monthly Today

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese after delivering his budget reply speech last night. Image via Twitter

Safety in small numbers

Labor pledges billions for housing (and not much else)

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in Question Time today. Image via ABC News

Back to the future

Will Labor find its spine on the stage-three tax cuts?

Composite image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (image via Twitter) and shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers (image via Twitter)

Whose budget is this anyway?

Could the treasurer and shadow treasurer be in agreement?

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivering the federal budget. Image via ABC News

Spendathon or spinathon?

With an election looming, the Coalition seeks a political recovery


From the front page

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese after delivering his budget reply speech last night. Image via Twitter

Safety in small numbers

Labor pledges billions for housing (and not much else)

Cartoon of a person behind razor-wire fence

Backsliding

The Territory abandons the Don Dale royal commission reforms

Still from Ema

Dance dance revolution: ‘Ema’

Pablo Larrain’s beguiling, difficult film seeks to understand an impenetrable anti-heroine for whom the city is a dancefloor

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

A load of abalone

The trial of Keith Nye highlights how fisheries laws unfairly target Indigenous people