“Never thought watching a chess tournament online would grab my attention so strongly.”
Tweeted Indian billionaire Anand Mahindra on the competition that’s gripped the nation – the Chess Olympiad. But in a virtual showdown with Russia, the internet dropped out, forcing a draw. If India was playing the Czechs, we could say Czechmate…
AUSSIE ARRESTED AS AUS-CHINA RELATIONS PLUMMET
Foreign Minister Marise Payne last night confirmed a high-profile Australian television anchor for the Chinese Government’s English news channel has been detained in Beijing. It capped off a worrying day for Australia’s relationship with our biggest trade partner as China launched a new investigation into our wine exports.
WHO IS THE TV ANCHOR?
Her name is Cheng Lei, she’s 49yo and is an 8-year veteran of CGTN where she hosted a show called Global Business. She previously worked as a China correspondent for US business network CNBC and has appeared on ABC TV’s Q&A. Our government was advised on 14 August that she’s been placed under ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’ in Beijing – a form of detention where she may not have access to lawyers for up to 6 months before being arrested or charged. Cheng’s two young children are with family members in Melbourne. In a statement, they said “due process will be observed and we look forward to a satisfactory and timely conclusion to the matter.” The ABC last night noted that Cheng “was trusted to present coverage of some of the nation’s most politically sensitive events, including China’s annual political congress.” The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a new travel advisory in July warning Australians they may face “arbitrary detention” in mainland China. Cheng is the second Australian to be detained in Beijing after Yang Hengjun was detained in January 2019 on espionage charges.
AND THERE’S A NEW COMPLAINT ABOUT OUR WINE?
Yep. China is double-parked when it comes to investigations into our wine exports. A new one was launched yesterday, this time into alleged government subsidies. It follows Beijing’s announcement two weeks ago that it’s investigating claims Australia ‘dumped’ wine on Chinese markets – an accusation that’s been denied. With more than a third of our wine exports going to China, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said “the government will work with our internationally-renowned wine industry to mount the strongest possible case against these claims.” Which means both arms of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are hard at work on negotiating around our deteriorating relationship with China…
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RUDD AND KEATING’S SUPER TAG TEAM
The Morrison Government was warned off abandoning legislated increases to the compulsory superannuation guarantee by former prime ministers Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd yesterday. With employers currently contributing 9.5% of workers’ salaries to their super accounts, that’s set to go to 10% next July, rising to 12% by 2025. PM Scott Morrison and Coalition ministers are said to be thinking about putting the plan on ice given the economic downturn. But the former Labor PMs say that would be “grand theft Liberal Party-style” and “a cruel assault by Morrison on the retirement income of working Australians, and using the cover of COVID to try and get away with it.” Both Morrison and Treasurer Frydenberg say there are “no plans” to make any changes. But you know what John Maynard Keynes (might not) have said about changing your mind…
DESPITE ALL THAT, HOT AIR IS DOWN
Australia’s carbon emissions will hit a two-decade low when the 2019-20 numbers are settled, official data suggests. Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, emissions are expected to drop 8% compared to the previous year and would see carbon emissions the lowest Australia’s produced since 1998. Led by a 79% decline in jet fuel emissions over the April-June quarter, petrol emissions were also down 25%. The electricity and agriculture sectors also posted substantial declines, largely thanks to an increase in renewable energy. The final cut of the data is due in November.
BETTER COORDINATION NEEDED FOR FUTURE DISASTERS
With just 2 months left to run, the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements – issued some ‘interim observations’ yesterday. Set up in the wake of the devastating Black Summer bushfires, the Commission’s takeout so far is that there’s plenty of work to be done before we are ready for big fires and other disasters in the future. That means high levels of cooperation across state and federal authorities – and businesses, communities and individuals. The National Cabinet that was formed to deal with the coronavirus crisis seems ready-made for this task, the report said. When it comes to being in the thick of it, a better warning system needs to be sorted out ASAP with the ‘watch and act’ level seen as particularly confusing. One bright spot: things look better for the coming fire season.
COURT SET FOR A STRANGE US OPEN
With a depleted field of competitors and sans crowd and media, the US Open tennis tournament has kicked off in New York. It’s the first major tennis outing since January’s Aussie Open, and COVID-19 restrictions will see players live in a “controlled environment” where they will be regularly tested for the virus. And players will have to retrieve their own sweaty towels this year – news which at least one ball kid received with a sigh of relief… Men’s world #1 Novak Djokovic and women’s #8 Serena Williams are among the few tennis stars who are participating. And there are a handful of Aussies to get behind…
AND MUSIC’S WEIRDEST NIGHT OF NIGHTS
The MTV Video Music Awards never disappoint… Pandemic-themed performances with a mix of pre-recorded and in-person winners made for an unusual show. The evening’s top award of video of the year went to The Weeknd (and his fake busted nose) for his mega-hit Blinding Lights. But it was Lady Gaga’s masks that dominated the night. In fairness, she did also take out 5 awards including artist of the year and top song for her Rain On Me duet with Ariana Grande. A red carpet gallery? We got you, dawg…
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12.30pm (AEST) – Rachel Noble, Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate, to deliver her first speech since her appointment earlier this year – via the ANU TV YouTube channel
ABS Data Release – Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, June; Building Approvals, July
Start of Asthma Week (on until 7 September)
Birthdays for Dr Phil (1950) and Zendaya (1996)
• the opening of the Sydney General Post Office (1874)
• the start of WWII after Germany invades Poland (1939)
• US, Australia and New Zealand signing the ANZUS defence treaty (1951)
• the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic (1985)
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