Sorry, Morrison hasn’t announced a real increase in defence spending


The media is psyched about Scott Morrison’s planned maximize in defence expending — apart from that it is really absolutely nothing additional than what we already fully commited to years ago

(Image: AAP/DARREN ENGLAND)

If you read the papers today, you’d be forgiven for pondering Scott Morrison was heading to announce a large raise in shelling out on unique new weaponry (“slicing edge”, “hypersonic”, “strike capacity”, and many others, and so on) to fight the seething menace of China.

“New missiles for defence in $270 billion arms build-up” claimed the AFR. “Scott Morrison shoulders arms to China in 10-yr,$270 billion strategy,” explained The Australian. “Australia to commit $270 billion setting up more substantial military to get ready for ‘poorer, much more dangerous’ planet” the ABC informed us. The usual suspects like Peter Jennings of ASPI were being exhumed from their bunkers to endorse the expending.

Fairfax journalists, at minimum, pointed out towards the conclude of “Australia to acquire ship-killing missiles and change focus to Indo-Pacific” that “this is not an maximize in Australia’s defence paying in actual conditions outside of the standing quo”.





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Future Drought Fund’s first round of spending for farmers announced by Federal Government


The Federal Government has revealed how it will spend the first round of its $5 billion Future Drought Fund, designed to help farmers better prepare for dry times.

This round of money will assist farmers to become more financially savvy, while also funding better climate data information, research and development, and natural resource management.

Federal Agriculture and Drought Minister David Littleproud said the Government would allocate $20 million to help farmers develop and improve their business plans.

Mr Littleproud said refining financial literacy will work together with investment in a climate data service.(Supplied: David Littleproud)

“But our job as a Government using Australian taxpayers’ money is to give our farmers the very best tools possible to make them even more profitable.”

The Future Drought Fund was first announced in 2018 and allows the government of the day to provide $100 million each year for preparedness and so-called resilience programs.

Mr Littleproud said “refining farmers’ financial literacy” would work together with a $10 million dollar investment in a new, online climate data service, tailored to farmers’ needs.

He said the digital platform would provide “regional specific climate data” to allow farmers to make “real time decisions that gets them ahead of drought rather than behind it”.

Looking through a barbed wire fence to desolate paddocks as trees are pummelled by wind. Dust haze on horizon paints out the sky
Wind is blowing topsoil away and farmers fear it will take years for some landscapes to recover.(ABC News: Lucy Barbour)

The announcement comes after a Government-appointed committee, headed by former National Farmers’ Federation president Brent Finlay, conducted a six-week tour of rural communities to find out how farmers wanted the Future Drought Fund spent.

“This is not about whittling away money,” Mr Littleproud said.

“We as Australian taxpayers have a proud record of having a safety net, and that’s what we provide to not only Australian farmers but to the individuals out there to have a safety net when things don’t go your way.”

Farmers welcome climate data spend

Wool grower Oliver Kay, who farms at Bungarby in southern New South Wales, questioned whether money should be spent teaching farmers how to develop business plans.

“Farmers should be doing that themselves already, that’s just a no brainer,” he said.

“So there’s no excuse for any farm business not to have clear plans for the path based on what’s happened previously.”

But Mr Kay welcomed the investment in an online climate data information service, which would likely draw on information from the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO, and the Department of Agriculture.

Another $20 million dollars will be spent on drought research and development, and $15 million on natural resource management.

That could include grants for individuals and farmer groups to improve their local landscapes by maintaining ground-cover and improving soils.

South Australian pastoralist Gillian Fennell said the Government had “done business plans to death” and would have preferred to see money spent on improving farm and town water infrastructure.

“There’s no amount of business planning that will help you get rain out of the sky and help you get water onto your crop or your cattle or sheep,” she said.



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Surprise election pledge to ban fracking announced by new NT party Territory Alliance


New political party Territory Alliance has used a turbulent session of Parliament to announce it will ban fracking in the Northern Territory if it wins the August NT election.

Leader Terry Mills flagged the party’s surprise new policy in Parliament on Tuesday morning immediately after the chamber noted the anti-corruption watchdog’s findings about Speaker Kezia Purick, who has resigned her position.

The policy sets the party apart from the Labor Government and Country Liberals Opposition, which both support development of the NT’s onshore gas reserves through hydraulic fracturing.

In the statement, Mr Mills said the decision was based on “widespread community concern” and said the economic case for fracking had become unviable. 

“Under a Territory Alliance government no more production permits will be issued, existing exploration licences will not be renewed and current operations [will be] subject to tough community and environmental safeguards.”

Territory Alliance will take its new fracking policy to the August NT election.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

The party’s policy document cites concerns about water contamination and greenhouse gas emissions and declining investor support for gas projects.

Mr Mills had previously said he was “not enthusiastic” about fracking but supported the onshore gas industry’s development in the short to medium term.

Territory Alliance ‘desperate’ before election: CLP

In Parliament, Mr Mills accused Labor of betraying voters who thought they were promised a ban on fracking at the last election. 

But prior to the 2016 election, Labor did not promise a ban on fracking.

It promised a moratorium on fracking while a scientific inquiry took place.

Lia Finocchiaro is wearing a red dress and black blazer and looks seriously at the camera.
CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro criticised the Territory Alliance position on fracking.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Both Labor and the CLP have promised to implement all the recommendations of that scientific inquiry, which found the risks of fracking could be managed, but are yet to outline plans to offset the resulting greenhouse gas emissions.

CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro dismissed the pre-election change in position by Territory Alliance as a desperate” bid for votes.

“Gas is an important part of our economic future going forward and what Territory Alliance need to do is explain to Territorians how it’s going to fill the gap in jobs that the gas industry would have provided,” she said.

Matt Doman from the gas industry peak body, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, said the announcement was “extremely disappointing” and put jobs and investment at risk.

“It flies in the face of the [scientific inquiry’s] key findings that any risks associated with onshore gas development and hydraulic fracturing can be managed by effective regulation — which the Territory has in place,” he said.

But Shar Molloy from the NT Environment Centre said she wanted more detail on the commitment from Territory Alliance and stronger election policies from all sides of politics about using the Northern Territory’s renewable resources to drive the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“Going forward with fracking puts at risk our water, puts at risk our climate and it’s certainly questionable whether it’s even going to bring any economic benefit to the Territory, whereas very clearly pursuing a renewable economic recovery will,” she said.



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South Australian 2020 Queen’s Birthday honours recipients announced


At home in the Adelaide Hills, Silvio Apponyi’s work fills every corner of his shed-cum-studio.

COVID-19 has slowed his work, but wood shavings and half-finished sculptures still crowd every surface.

With years of experience creating bronze sculptures, Mr Apponyi is taking home a piece for himself, after being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in this year’s Queen’s Birthday list.

While Mr Apponyi is thrilled with the honour, he said it is not what drives him.

“I don’t do it for the recognition but, wow, it’s a wonderful acknowledgement that you’re doing something worthwhile,” he said.

The International Sculpture Symposium was the brainchild of Balhannah sculptor Silvio Apponyi, seen here in 2012.(ABC News)

His sculptures are now installed across the globe, but Mr Apponyi wanted more art closer to home.

“My wife and I decided there weren’t enough artworks in the Adelaide Hills and we decided, well, if we were going to live in the Adelaide Hills we want to do something to be part of this community and make something happen,” he said.

After achieving huge success over a lifetime of sculpting, Mr Apponyi has now turned his focus back to the community.

Mentorship of young artists and passing on years of knowledge has become his passion.

“The real joy is seeing these young people just grow,” he said.

“To think you can give them a little boost and help them along. That’s what is good for me, that’s the joy.”

He is one of more than 60 South Australians taking home honours this year, with some of the state’s most unique industries, including wine, cheese and art being awarded.

Five Indigenous visual artists celebrated

Paintings with words on them being held up by Aboriginal people on the side of a red hill
A tribute to Mumu Mike from his community.(Supplied: Meg Hansen)

Indigenous artists from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands were also honoured, with five local artists receiving awards.

Vincent Namatjira, Peter Mungkuri, Nyurpaya Kaika Burton, and Tjunkaya Tapaya will all be awarded Medals of the Order of Australia for their services to Indigenous visual art and the community.

Founding member of the Mimili Maku Arts centre Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams will also receive an OAM, after his death in March last year.

His wife, Tuppy Goodwin, said her husband paved the way for artists in Mimili.

“He even wrote his story down, for people to learn. He wanted everyone around the globe to hear and understand about Anangu land and Tjukurpa.”

Winemaker becomes sixth-generation recipient

A bald man holding a wine bottle
Winemaker Bill Hardy has become the sixth generation of his family to receive honours with a Medal of the Order of Australia.(ABC News: Dana Morse)

Joining the artists is Hardy’s wine mogul Bill Hardy, who will become the sixth generation of his family to receive honours.

His four decades in the wine industry has earned him a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Spending almost two decades as the face of the company came with challenges, and missing a lot of time at home, but Mr Hardy said he was grateful for the opportunity to sell the rest of the world on Australian wine.

“I had a lucky career,” he said.

“I used to always do my presentations by telling people about Australia and where it fit into the wine world.”

Cheesemaker honoured after bushfires destroy stock

For cheesemaker Kris Lloyd, becoming a Member of the Order of Australia is a welcome highlight after bushfires destroyed thousands of kilos of stock over the summer.

Her family business has always produced South Australian food, but she was never expecting to become a cheesemaker.

“It was a very accidental career, to be perfectly honest,” she said.

A woman sitting at a table with a wheel of cheese covered in flowers
Cheesemaker Kris Lloyd has come a Member of the Order of Australia.(ABC News: Dana Morse)

“None of us knew how to make cheese, that was a small problem.”

Now she has 20 years of experience in the dairy business, Ms Lloyd is all about innovation in the industry.

“One of the things I’ve always been really keen to do is new and original work, and be as creative as possible,” she said.

She is hoping for a bright — and cheesy — future.

“I think there will be lots of good things moving forward. We’re very positive,” she said.

Long-running MP recognised

Former Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer sitting by the beach
Lyn Breuer served as the member for Giles for 17 years.(ABC News: Tony Hill)

Former Whyalla mayor and local MP Lyn Breuer was also recognised with an OAM for her significant work in local and state government.

She served 17 years as the Member for Giles — South Australia’s largest state electorate — and came up against opposition when she was trying to get pre-selected to run back in 1997.

“Well I did and I thought, well, that is a great step for women.”

Between 2010 and 2013, Ms Breuer was Speaker of the House of Assembly, and said she was responsible for bringing the MPs to order when things got rowdy.

“I threw Steven Marshall, our current Premier, out many times, almost daily at one stage,” she said.



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Dates for stage two and three easing of coronavirus restrictions in Canberra announced


Physical distancing restrictions will be eased further in Canberra from Saturday May 30, clearing the way for gatherings of up to 20 people and allowing gyms to reopen, assuming the current efforts to supress coronavirus continue to work.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has laid out the timeline for the ACT to ease COVID-19 restrictions over the next four weeks.

The plan is to move to stage two restrictions on May 30, then stage-three “COVID-safe” restrictions by June 19, as long as infections stay under control.

“If we continue on our current path of suppressing new COVID-19 infections over the next 10 days, then we will move to stage two on Saturday, May 30,” Mr Barr said.

Agreed under the National Cabinet, the second stage of restrictions would allow up to 20 people to gather and the reopening of higher-risk businesses, such as gyms, cinemas, beauticians and tattoo studios.

If the ACT eased restrictions again on June 19, gatherings of up to 100 people would be allowed, all accommodation areas would be reopened and consideration would be given for pubs and clubs to resume business.

Strip clubs and brothels would remain closed.

A man at a cafe with a dog under the table.
Allowing up to 20 people to gather could clear the way for the reopening of some smaller cafes and restaurants.(ABC News: Alkira Reinfrank)

Mr Barr said the ACT Government would be assessing all available evidence and data every three weeks to determine whether those dates need to change.

“The ACT will continue to base our public health decisions on public health advice,” Mr Barr said.

“We will also engage with industry stakeholders on practical implementation measures as we step through each stage of easing restrictions.”

Coronavirus committee calls for release of plan

Two couples sit in different parts of the cafe, where only a few tables are available.
Some restaurants and cafes reopened last weekend, with only 10 people allowed at any one time.(ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)

The dates announced by Mr Barr came after the COVID-19 pandemic response committee yesterday recommended a step-by-step process for reopening be published by the Government.

The tri-partisan committee was established to provide advice to the Government as it responded to the pandemic.

It said the ACT Government should release a model to the public similar to that prepared by the Northern Territory Government.

Committee chair Alistair Coe said the community had expressed there was a lack of clarity on a roadmap out.

“Some jurisdictions have been very explicit about what their roadmap looks like, including certain steps and what is permissible at each of those junctures,” Mr Coe said.

Mr Coe said the three-step Commonwealth guide was useful, but the ACT needed to spell out its own targeted response that suited the local economy.

The committee also made recommendations for the Government to: ensure care providers had access to personal protective equipment; release additional funding to help service providers shift online; and establish clear rules for the safe reopening of cafes, restaurants and other venues.



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JEE Mains, NEET 2020 exam dates announced by HRD Minister


NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Human Resource and Development on Tuesday announced the fresh schedule for Joint Entrance Exam-Mains (JEE-Mains) and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).

As per the announcement the JEE (Mains) 2020 will be conducted between July 18-23 while NEET 2020 will be held on July 26, 2020.

“JEE-Mains will be held from July 18-23, while JEE-Advanced will be held in August. NEET will be conducted on July 26,” Nishank said.

A decision will soon be taken on the pending CBSE Class 10, 12 board exams, he added.

While Joint Entrance Exam-Mains (JEE-MAINS) is conducted for admission to engineering colleges across the country, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is held for medical colleges.

The entrance exam schedule for the doctors/engineers was announced by the HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ on May 5.

The exams were postponed due to nationwide lockdown announced to contain the Covid-19 spread.

More than 15 lakh students across the country have registered for NEET this year, which is the gateway to medical colleges in India, whereas more than 9 lakh have registered for JEE Mains, the entrance exam for all other engineering colleges except IITs.

The HRD Ministry’s National Testing Agency (NTA) had also given students an option to change their opted centres for the two tests as students have moved to different places since the lockdown.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has yet to announce the remaining Class X and XII remaining examinations, however the paper evaluation work is to begin soon. Many states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh have started their exam papers evaluation work.



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Internal memo: Kickstarter announced it will likely lay off employees and restructure the business as projects are down ~35% YoY with "no clear sign of rebound" (Ashley Carman/The Verge)




Ashley Carman / The Verge:

Internal memo: Kickstarter announced it will likely lay off employees and restructure the business as projects are down ~35% YoY with “no clear sign of rebound”  —  Talks are starting with the union  —  Kickstarter announced in an internal memo today that it’s likely going to lay off employees.





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