“2020: a short film” As Hazlewood power station’s chimneys in Victoria’s Morwell fell to the ground yesterday, one Twitter wag said it was a scene that neatly summed up the year so far…
LEARNING THE LESSONS OF THE BLACK SUMMER FIRES
The $51.3 million raised via a Facebook fundraiser started by funny woman Celeste Barber will stay with the charity she named as the beneficiary – the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Brigades Donation Fund. That’s the decision of the NSW Supreme Court yesterday. And it’s a lesson that other fundraisers might be able to learn from sooner rather than later with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicting bad future fire seasons.
Yep. Many of the 1.3 million people who jumped on board the Barber fundraising juggernaut might not have known how the money could be spent (which is on firefighting equipment, training and admin costs for NSW’s volunteer firefighting crews). As the dollars rolled in well beyond the $30,000 target, Barber undertook to support those at the frontlines of fires across Australia. And despite the RFS and Barber working together to make that happen, they couldn’t clear the legal hurdles. There was one concession made by the court – some funds can be given to the families of firefighters who were killed. Injured firefighters and those who want counselling are also set to benefit. New RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said the funds would be used to make sure “volunteers are better equipped and able to do their job better”. As for Barber, she said that it “turns out that studying acting at university does not make me a lawmaker.”
AND WHAT’S THAT ABOUT FUTURE FIRES?
Yesterday was the first day of public hearings for the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements that was set up in the wake of the fires, kicking off with evidence from the BOM. Climate change means fire season is starting four months early in parts of eastern Oz, the agency’s head of climate monitoring Karl Braganza said. And longer, hotter, drier summers mean more fire risks into the future, he said. “This isn’t a one-off event that we’re looking at here,” he said. The Commission has just three months to hear evidence and make its recommendations to the government in time for next bushfire season.
SQUIZ THE REST
WHAT TO DO WITH SOME SPARE CASH?
What would you do if you found yourself $60 billion better off than you anticipated, even if the money was borrowed? We’d have a good hard think about what to spend it on too… But not Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has ruled out extending the government’s stimulus measures designed to counter the economic shock from the coronavirus crisis. He yesterday accepted responsibility for the biggest budget bungle the country’s ever seen when the JobKeeper scheme was revealed to be about half the size the government believed. With $60 billion less debt than expected, Frydenberg said: “it is regrettable that these forecasts have had to be revised, but importantly no money was paid out”. No doubt PM Scott Morrison will enjoy answering a few questions about it at the National Press Club today where he’ll unveil… drumroll please… the JobMaker program.
HONG KONG CRACKDOWN TO DEAL WITH ‘TERRORIST’ PROTESTORS
Beijing is poised to push ahead with plans for a controversial new security law – something the territory’s security chief has backed as a way to counter “growing terrorism”. Since Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests started in June last year, police commissioner Chris Tang says the increase in violence in the city, including explosives and firearms offences, must be brought to heel. Hong Kong is mostly responsible for its policing and security, but China’s proposed law would see Beijing set up its own law enforcement agencies in the territory. Meanwhile, Australia’s relationship with China is looking more fraught than ever after Beijing warned that we should “distance” ourselves from the US as tensions mount between the two superpowers.
ARDERN SHAKES, RATTLES AND ROLLS
New Zealand’s North Island shook its way through a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that was felt across the country. The quake, which struck at 8am local time about 90km north of the capital, interrupted PM Jacinda Ardern during a live television interview from Wellington’s parliament, known as the ‘Beehive’. Cooler than Queen’s Brian May after a heart attack, she said there was “a decent shake here… if you see things moving behind me. The Beehive moves a little more than most,”. While no injuries or damage were recorded, there have since been at least 45 aftershocks ranging from magnitude 1.7 to 4.4. Sitting on the so-called ‘Ring of Fire’, Kiwiland experiences 50 and 80 tremors each day with most too small for people to detect.
BETTER HEALTH HELPED BY HIGHER INCOMES
Despite having one of the highest life expectancies in the world, new research says that Australia’s long-life rates have stagnated. Analysing death registration data from the past decade, researchers from the University of Melbourne found that around the country, lower-socioeconomic and regional areas are recording nearly double the rate of premature deaths than more affluent and urban areas. That’s been driven by higher rates of smoking, obesity and unequal access to health care, the study says. It also found that premature death rates of those aged between 35-74yo living in at-risk areas have not fallen since 2011. And Indigenous people still lag behind other Australians when it comes to health outcomes. The overall life expectancy for Australians is 80.5yo for men and 84.6yo for women.
GETTING READY TO TAKE OFF
As Elon Musk’s SpaceX prepares for its first people-carrying mission into space on Thursday morning (Oz time), the crew will be doing it in style… Unlike the bulky orange spacesuits of previous expeditions, SpaceX has gone with colour-coordinated spacesuits and a sleek spaceship, all white with black trim. Even the Tesla Model X electric car NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will use to catch a ride to the shuttle will match, replacing the traditional Astrovan. US President Donald Trump and Veep Mike Pence will be in attendance for the launch of the mission, called Demo-2, that is a first for a private company. If/when it happens, it will be a big success for Musk, and a milestone for NASA.
THE FUTURE OF WORK
We’ve long heard that the robots are coming for our jobs. But what’s poor Rover going to do? Is there such a thing as JobKeeper for hounds?