Crikey Worm: Budget retort

ON FOR YOUNG AND OLD

A registered nurse at every aged care facility, more carers, better meals and higher wages for aged care staff — Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has taken on perhaps the budget’s biggest glaring omission by promising a $2.5 billion aged care package, ABC reports. Albanese also says Labor would fund cheaper childcare for 96% of all Australian families, The Age continues, but it’s just the first in pre-election announcements with more to come on climate, health, education, skills development, and jobs. Albanese also promised to act on every recommendation in the Respect@Work report (which looked into the treatment of women) and establish the federal ICAC. Albanese concluded by saying we “deserve a leader who holds a hose“.

Interestingly, The West ($) writes this morning, the opposition’s budget reply always takes place at 7.30pm two days after the budget — yet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s historic speech to parliament was scheduled for 5.30pm. Coincidence? You be the judge. “The art of campaigning is all about dominating the agenda. That includes depriving your opponent of oxygen on their announcements,” journalist Mark Riley writes. Zelenskyy took the opportunity to warn Australia that what happens to Ukraine can mean a serious “threat to your country”, continuing that “evil … can instantly cross any distance and barriers, destroy lives,” the AFR reports. Morrison replied (in what one might say was a rather un-Christ-like way) with “you have our prayers but you also have our weapons”.

CHINA BLUE

Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was charged with spy offences in China, has had her verdict deferred after a secret one-day trial, Guardian Australia reports. Cheng, who was CNBC’s China correspondent for nine years, was working for Chinese state media CGTN before her 2020 arrest, the BBC reports. Her two children in Australia have not seen her since. A worried Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Cheng was arrested “on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas”, Al Jazeera reports, and says the government has never been given details of her charge. Australia’s ambassador to China Graham Fletcher was denied entry to her trial (along with other foreign diplomats and journalists), and says he has “no confidence in the validity of the process”. China’s courts have a 99% conviction rate.

It comes as the Solomon Islands has inked a deal with China despite our protestations, the SMH reports, marking China’s first major security stake in the Pacific. It’ll see Chinese navy ships and defence forces based in the Solomon Islands, to protect billions in Chinese infrastructure investment in the small island nation. The ADF says it’ll change its patrolling and maritime activities in response, The Australian ($) reports. So why the worry? Well, geographically the Solomon Islands is a laneway from Australia and New Zealand to Asia — indeed the capital is just 2000km from our shores — meaning it could “cut off supply lines” if conflict was declared. It comes as a new report suggests Chinese state media is spreading Russian fake news that Ukraine needed “de-Nazification” to create strong bonds between the nations.

NDIS TROUBLES

Staff from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) sent a disabled woman’s Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to a doctor to get his opinion, a tribunal has heard. Guardian Australia reports this morning that the woman was applying for the scheme — she had hypermobility spectrum disorder and “other conditions” but had to fight to get access to the support for 21 months. The doctor claimed that the woman did not experience “significant functional impairment” from her chronic pain, with the social media reports forming part of the picture. The Greens senator Jordon Steele-John slammed it as “outrageous”.

It comes as the government has passed what they are labelling “the most significant improvements” to NDIS participant experience since it was founded. NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds says it’ll make payments easier, allows people with a disability a better shot on the NDIA board, and allows NDIS recipients more flexibility in their plans. And yet some say the NDIS is being reined in — ProBono Australia looks at the quarterly report which shows the average plan size per participant fell 4% between 2020 and 2021, from $71,200 in 2020 to $68,500 in 2021. It continues that 34% of participants saw a cut of more than 5% in their budget in the last six months of last year, while the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has received a staggering 400% more disputes from people receiving the NDIS.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Holy moly folks. We have just caught a glimpse of the oldest star ever discovered, thanks to our trusty Hubble telescope, The New York Times reports. Our universe is about 13.8 billion years old — and the light from the star we just saw for the first time is — no joke — 12.9 billion years old, meaning the universe had only been a thing for some 900 million years when it shone the light we saw in Hubble’s photo. More simply, if we imagine that the universe is a 100-year-old grandpa right now, this star’s twinkle is from a time when it was just 7 years old tyke. It boggles the mind to think we can see that far back in time — normally we would never be able to see something so far away.

It was made possible through Einstein’s theory of general relativity — a nearby galaxy cluster acted as a sort of lens to amplify the light by a factor of 10. It’s like the surface of a pool on a sunny day, where the ripples create beautiful patterns on the pool’s floor — except on an astronomical galactic scale. So what do we know about this ancient star? Astronomers named it Earendel, which means morning star, and they think it’s about 50 times the mass of our sun. Teams are scrambling to get the futuristic James Webb Space Telescope to look closer at it so we can work out what it’s made of. “It looks like it’s pretty hot and pretty massive,” says Steven Finkelstein, an astronomer. Just the way we like them — our stars, that is.

Wishing you a little awe about it all today, and have a restful weekend ahead.

SAY WHAT?

The truth of the matter is that Connie Fierravanti-Wells got done over. She’s one of the best performers up there because she speaks her mind, because she stands up as a woman. For that, she is punished. That is why she has not had a ministry for so long and that is why she was not pre-selected. And that is the truth of the matter.

Jacqui Lambie

The independent senator says Fierravanti-Wells was on the money when the outgoing NSW Liberal called Prime Minister Scott Morrison an “autocrat, a bully who has no moral compass” this week. Lambie went on to describe the PM as a “2-year-old on a temper tantrum” when she was wagering the Nauru deal to get asylum seekers out of indefinite detention on the island and resettled elsewhere.

Houston says sorry as US pastor blows the whistle on Hillsong’s business tactics

“Influential Phoenix pastor Terry Crist, who broke ranks with Hillsong this week, has effectively blown the whistle on Hillsong’s business model which has seen hundreds of millions of dollars slosh through a multinational network of churches that enjoy tax-exempt status in jurisdictions such as Australia, the US and the UK.

“He has also detailed the lengths Hillsong went to to exert control over individual churches in the face of moral and financial scandals.”

Grace Tame holds Australian media to account over Fierravanti-Wells’ exit speech

“Former Australian of the Year Grace Tame got blue-tick Australian journos out in force on Twitter yesterday defending their deadlines when she questioned why outgoing Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ explosive exit speech to Parliament wasn’t on the front pages of every paper yesterday morning.

“This criticism from the outspoken advocate seemed to get on a lot of media people’s nerves. Journalists from Nine papers10 News and Australian Community Media were quick to defensively jump in and let Tame know that they were covering it, it just occurred way past deadline, and that her comments were ‘not really reasonable’.”

A final farewell innings: Shane Warne memorial sends off our beloved drongo touched by genius

“And so I was moved by all of it, because that’s what happens when anyone who formed part of the material of your life dies, and you realise you share that with countless strangers.

“For a very big segment of Australia, no figure like [Shane] Warne — ever present for decades, wrapped up in your memories and those of most people you know, as much as a song that was constantly on the radio when you were young, someone you agreed with people about, even if all you agreed on was that he was worth having an opinion on — will ever come around again.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Tunisia caught between president and parliament as crisis deepens (Al Jazeera)

French intelligence chief Vidaud fired over Russian war failings (BBC)

Justice dept. widens Jan. 6 inquiry to range of pro-Trump figures (The New York Times)

Qatar’s human rights record takes centre stage at FIFA Congress (Al Jazeera)

Revealed: migrant workers in Qatar forced to pay billions in recruitment fees (The Guardian)

Property report: Auckland house prices fall for first time in two years (NZ Herald)

Two Palestinians killed during Israeli raid in West Bank (BBC)

Paul Herman, actor known for ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Goodfellas,’ has died (CNN)

[US] mortgage rates surge to highest since 2018 (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Parramatta light rail setback is a betrayal of Sydney’s new pioneer populations — David Borger (The SMH): “It is now more than seven years since then-premier Mike Baird promised stage two of the Parramatta Light Rail between Parramatta and Olympic Park. The state government had already committed to Stage 1 between Parramatta and Carlingford, a project due for completion next year. It is often forgotten that the original vision involved potential branches to Castle Hill, Bankstown, Strathfield and Macquarie Park.

“Such dreams now look further away than ever. In fact, tens of thousands of residents have been stung by fresh revelations in the Herald that the government is set to indefinitely delay Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2, citing rising costs and labour shortages. These are people who bought into the Victoria Road corridor and Olympic peninsula on the promise of public transport. There was also a justified faith in the government’s reputation for project delivery, given early success stories such as WestConnex and North West Metro.”

I’m tired of judging other people’s COVID choices — Miranda Featherstone (The New York Times): “So many of us are broken, bruised, distrustful and longing for warmth. The satisfying bubble of righteous indignation — or even a simmer of anger — about what others have done or failed to do is easier to tap than the sharp pain of grief or the dull ache of prolonged sorrow and worry.

“I am quick to jump to anger or outrage over precautions that seem harmful to me, such as masking children (or adults!) indefinitely or letting precautions go — such as testing or quarantine measures — in ways that seem obviously harmful. But sputtering at my husband as I scroll through Facebook is allowing myself to be hoodwinked … The virus isn’t going anywhere. The ways that it affects us will ebb and flow. We will have to live with that, and with one another. But I, for one, want to stand on the tallest rock and squawk into the air: a cry of mourning for everything that we have lost.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Online

  • Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor and Labor Energy and Climate Change spokesperson Chris Bowen will speak at the Carbon Farming Industry Forum.

  • Grattan Institute CEO Danielle Wood will tell you what you need to know about the budget in a webinar.

  • Opposition Finance spokesperson Katy Gallagher will speak about Labor’s response to the federal budget with McKell Institute’s Ryan Batchelor, Per Capita’s Emma Dawson, John Curtin Research Centre’s Nick Dyrenfurth, and Chifley Research Centre’s David Epstein.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Author Mirandi Riwoe will discuss her new short story collection, The Burnished Sun, at Avid Reader bookshop. You can also catch this one online.




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