On a quiet block in the Pyrenees town of Lexton, Grayling’s Gift is a church conversion that encourages quiet contemplation.
With original stained glass windows, a cavernous peaked ceiling, no TV, and very patchy internet, owners Annie and Shane Brereton say it’s an atmosphere that inspires people to relax.
And the boutique accommodation has a vintage clawfoot bath, wood-burning heater and king-sized bed with luxury linen, just to nudge that unwinding process along.
“Everything’s slow,” Annie says. “There are no teabags, everything’s about brewing tea, beautiful watercolour paints, books, and things to really encourage people just to slow down.”
It took about 10 months for the Breretons to turn the run-down, 19th-century church into a luxurious open-plan guest house.
“The floors were termite-ridden – you couldn’t even walk on the floor,” Annie recalls.
The couple would drive up from their Melbourne home on weekends, sleeping overnight in their converted van so they could do all the work themselves.
Annie and Shane were enamoured with the church from the moment they saw it. Found via an internet search of Victorian properties under 100K (though it sold for more), the couple became its owners within 30 minutes of arriving to see it in person.
“Absolutely no due diligence,” Annie jokes. “We got home and went ‘what have we done?’”
But Shane, who’s “an absolute jack of all trades”, was soon at work cleaning bat droppings out of the roof, replacing the rotten floors with salvaged boards from two old houses in Melbourne, and fashioning kitchen cabinetry out of the leftover timber.
Recycled materials are the couple’s first preference when renovating – the church is their second project together.
Annie says their approach is based on “the overarching ethos of reuse and repurpose”, despite the extra time that requires.
“We’re both very focused on sustainability and reuse of materials, so renovating old places is right up our alley.”
A closer look at the individual pieces inside the church confirms the lengths the couple went to in finding salvaged pieces they loved.
Corner seating where guests take their meals was made from two original church pews, which Shane transformed into a bespoke piece of furniture. “We’re really proud of using those again,” Annie says.
The square kitchen sink “we pulled out of a house in Brighton”, and the tiny timber shelf that holds dishwashing detergent was once used to support parishioners’ hymn books.
“That’s what we do,” Annie says. “[The timber] was there, it needed to be reused, and we just saw no need or no value in buying new things.”
And she was thrilled to find a hymn board at the Amazing Mill Markets, 40 minutes away in Ballarat, after searching far and wide for the right thing.
“It’s actually got our little arch windows – exactly the same shape – so it really looks like it’s an original piece even though it’s not. It was such a great find.”
Annie says many of the original church’s artefacts had been removed prior to sale, but there are some pieces they’ve managed to retain, such as bibles from the 1800s.
Members of the local Lexton community have also helped them preserve historic church pieces, particularly their next-door neighbours, former parishioners now in their 80s and “just beautiful souls” who’ve enjoyed seeing lights back on in the church.
Annie says she and Shane are very grateful the community has been supportive of what they’ve done. On auction day, when “pretty much all of Lexton’s population of 200 were at the auction”, she understood how invested locals were in the future of the church – formerly St Mary’s Anglican – after almost 150 years.
“Everybody came up to us afterwards and they were so excited.”
Although the Breretons don’t live there, Grayling’s Gift (named for William Grayling, donor of the church’s land) has become central to Annie and Shane’s lives.
This year they left Melbourne to move closer; their home is now a rural property outside Ballarat, where they can be hands-on hosts and offer a personalised experience for Grayling’s guests.
Bookings have been solid, and Annie’s had to block out a few days in the calendar so she and Shane can do some maintenance at the church, and drink in some of that serenity for themselves.
“It has an energy in it that is just divine,” she says.
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Council advises that it is continuing to practice Social Distancing as recommended by the NSW State Government during the Coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, in line with current Public Health Orders issued by the NSW State Government attendance by the public at Ordinary Council Meetings will resume from the April Ordinary Council Meeting to be held on Thursday, 22 April 2021, however, please note that attendance by the public will only be permitted in line with any current COVID-19 regulations.
To ensure compliance with Public Health Orders, any interest to attend an Ordinary Council Meeting must be registered by email to email@example.com by 4.00pm on the day preceding the Meeting. Therefore for the 22 April 2021 Meeting, registrations must be received by 4.00pm on Wednesday, 21 April 2021. Seats will then be allocated and if requests exceed available seating, Council will allocate seats by way of random ballot and advise accordingly.
The provision of a Public Forum before the commencement of Ordinary Council Meetings will also recommence from the April 22, 2021 Meeting. Members of the public wishing to address Council must make application by completing the “Application to Speak at the Community Consultation Session Held Prior to the Ordinary Council Meetings” form which must be received by Council by 12 noon on the Tuesday before the Council meeting. Therefore, for the April 22, 2021 Ordinary Council Meeting, the application form must be received by 12 noon on Tuesday, 20 April 2021.
Please also note that Council meetings will continue to be live streamed and viewable on Council’s website for a period of twelve (12) months from the date of the meeting.
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DOORS SWING OPEN AT COUNCIL MEETINGS “. This post was presented by My Local Pages as part of our Australian events & what’s on stories services.
With the school term underway and students back on campus for the university semester, one set of classrooms around the country are falling increasingly silent.
Private colleges that offer short-term English courses to overseas students are facing financial ruin by border closures wrought by COVID-19 and the looming end of the JobKeeper scheme.
Five colleges, in Sydney, Melbourne, Byron Bay and Cairns, have already shut their doors and the industry is bracing for more closures in the weeks ahead.
In many cases, the “ELICOS” sector is a launching pad for Australia’s $40 billion international student industry.
It plays a critical role in allowing thousands of international students to get a foot in the door, boosting their English skills so they can start university or other study, and gives them a better chance of securing casual work.
For Colombian student Laura Ramos, completing these courses is the first step in her goal to stay in the country long-term and to work as a cinematic make-up artist.
“I’m trying to improve more … when you learn English you can find a job really fast because you have the language,” she said.
According to industry figures, new ELICOS enrolments plummeted by 33 per cent in 2020, and the slide is expected to worsen dramatically this year with no indication of when borders will reopen.
Most of the seats in Ms Ramos’s upper-intermediate English class are empty, and there are several floors at the Melbourne college where she studies that have been unused for months.
The chief executive of the Discover English college, Joanna Kelly, said student numbers were now down by 75 per cent.
Having already let go of half the teaching staff, Ms Kelly said she was bracing for more “heartbreaking” conversations at the end of the month, when JobKeeper support payments finish.
Brett Blacker, from industry peak body English Australia, said there would be widespread pain if Jobkeeper and state-based rent moratoriums ceased.
“We have a lot of colleges which are just dormant and facing closure in the coming weeks and months at best,” he said.
“The number of students that studied here in 2020 was equivalent to 14 years ago, effectively wiping off 14 years of positive growth in one year.”
Federal education department figures show the ELICOS sector was made up of 156,570 students in 2019, before the pandemic.
Chinese students made up about a quarter of the cohort, followed by visa-holders from Colombia, Brazil, Thailand and Japan.
While he supported border closures for health reasons, Mr Blacker said the sector needed government assistance similar to what was recently provided to the aviation and tourism industries.
Mr Blacker said the industry would continue to lobby the federal government before the JobKeeper deadline.
“The battleground — it’s a difficult one when you don’t have the hearts and minds of the broader community to support what is such a great contributor, nationally, here in Australia,” he said.
“With competition — particularly from the UK, USA and Canada — really fierce at the moment, the risk is Australia will lose out.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment said the federal government had supported international education providers by waiving, delaying or refunding a majority of regulatory fees and charges.
Regulations were also relaxed to allow ELICOS providers to run courses online, the spokesman said.
“International students are an important part of the Australian community, and will be welcomed back to Australia when conditions allow,” the spokeswoman said.
“State and territory governments are leading planning for the return of international students to their jurisdictions.
“Any future moves to bring international students into Australia must be done safely and without impacting Australians who want to return home.”
In January, the ABC reported that 30 per cent of Australia’s 542,106 student visa holders were out of the country, leaving many uncertain about if they would be able to complete their courses in-person.
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Sophie Allen’s career as a Melbourne event designer came to an abrupt end last year when COVID-19 restrictions temporarily shut down the events industry.
With no work on the horizon, she was told by her employer the pandemic restrictions would mean she would be “long-term stood down”.
Those same restrictions inadvertently opened the door to a new career — one in regional Victoria.
When international borders shut, Australia’s wool industry quickly found itself in the grips of a shearer shortage.
“My boyfriend is a shearer and he said there was a big demand for rouseabouts,” Ms Allen said.
She moved to the small town of Balmoral, in Victoria’s western district, and hasn’t looked back.
“The income is very consistent and I like the work, so it’s become a full-time job,” she said.
Hundreds of New Zealand workers usually fly into Australia to help shear the clip and shearing crews work across the country.
This year, Ms Allen’s only overseas colleague is Glaswegian backpacker Rhona MacDonald.
Ms MacDonald arrived in Australia last year and, instead of flying home when the pandemic arrived last March, she took a role on a Northern Territory cattle property and, later, as a full-time rouseabout in Victoria.
“I decided it would be better here, living rurally, and it turns out it was better than being back in Scotland,” Ms MacDonald said.
Ms Allen and Ms MacDonald are among a team of young women cobbled together to help with a six-week shearing program at woolgrower Michael Craig’s West Wimmera farm at Harrow, about 400 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.
“We’re a very labour-intensive industry, and this year we’ve put our shed together with a collection of different people,” Mr Craig said.
“I think we’re really fortunate in our shed. There’s a multitude of different people, different backgrounds, and they all get along really well.”
Ms MacDonald has worked in sheds across Victoria. She said each shearing program had been held up by a lack of workers.
“There is a shortage and shearing has been going on a lot longer this year.
“People usually hope to have their sheep shorn at a certain time, and that’s not really been the case this year.”
Inside the woolshed where Ms Allen and Ms MacDonald will work for the next six weeks a sense of optimism hangs in the air.
Initially, the effects of the pandemic and a trade spat with China seemed like they might carry long-term damaging consequences for the wool industry.
While people around the world worked from their homes and the number of weddings and parties plummeted, so too did the price of wool.
“We’ve gone from one extreme to the other, Mr Craig said.
“Combined with the effect of drought, there was a lot of fine wool on the market and we saw this massive drop in price but, 12 months on, surprisingly, we’re back to level prices before the pandemic.”
Demand for tailored woollen clothing like formal suits has almost evaporated, but one bright spot has been a sharp uptick in people wanting comfortable, sports-style woollen garments.
Australian Wool Innovation CEO Stuart McCullough said the industry’s push to incorporate wool into high-performance sporting gear and more casual styles of clothing was paying off.
“A huge amount of wool goes into tailored textiles, so we don’t expect knitwear to supplement that right at the moment,” he said.
“But it continues to grow — accessories are doing really well, hats and scarves [are too] because people are walking to work, so those things are doing very well.
China is buying almost 90 per cent of Australia’s wool exports and consumers there are the main source of demand.
“They’re very important to us, because they not only have the sheer number of people, they’ve got the climate and they have affluence as well,” Mr McCullough said.
“At the moment, from our point of view, it’s all about China.”
Diplomatic tensions between Australia and China have dealt some bruising blows to Australian agricultural exports over the past 12 months.
But while the wool trade faced some harsh economic headwinds, it has been unaffected by the trade tensions.
From January, China opened the door to higher volumes of Australian wool.
Mr McCullough said Australia’s dominance in wool production, and China’s significant wool processing industry, meant the trade was in a stronger position than other commodities.
“From a government-to-government point of view, we have zero control,” he said.
“But from an industry-to-industry point of view, we have great relationships with the Chinese wool industry that have been built over the last 50 years.”
After watching the trade tensions play out last year, Mr Craig has some hesitation about dependency on China as a buyer.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said.
“It’s great we have a market for our product and that there’s a really dedicated processing that goes on in China — that’s fantastic.
“I hope and pray it never happens, but what if China suddenly did decide to shut the market down?”
Back in the woolshed, Sophie Allen says she has no intention of moving back to Melbourne.
Instead, she’s planning on using the money she’s making from working as a rouseabout to start her own regional events company.
“It’s definitely mentally and physically challenging, it pushes you to your physical limits,” she said.
“But if you’re willing to sweat and have a crack, it’s a very rewarding industry, too.”
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It was a night when stars accepted awards in tracksuit bottoms, pyjamas and hoodies from rooms with too many doors, and the hosts presented from different coasts (albeit with a whizzy background to make them appear united).
But despite heading into the 78th Golden Globes under a cloud of criticism over lack of diversity and dubious nomination choices, the ceremony was relatively hitch-free.
Finishing (almost) on time, and with an admirable cast of winners (including a host of British stars) there were laughs, tears and glimpses of stars’ homes across the world as Hollywood enjoyed its first big awards ceremony of 2021.
We take a look at seven of the best bits of the night.
Daniel, you’re on mute!
With hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting from two separate locations (Poehler at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles and Fey at NBC headquarters in New York) and all the nominees attending virtually, there were bound to be a few technical hitches.
It started well, with near-seamless backdrops and the pair joking about being together – with Fey’s disembodied arm reaching through the screens to stroke Poehler’s hair.
More from Chadwick Boseman
But the first prize announcement didn’t go to plan, with the sound cutting out for British star Daniel Kaluuya’s Zoom acceptance speech.
“As you can see, we unfortunately have a bad connection,” said previous winner Laura Dern, who was presenting the award. But as she started to apologise and congratulate Kaluuya, the sound returned.
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British stars like Emma Corrin and Sacha Baron Cohen were among the big winners at the Globe Globe Awards this year.
“You’re doing me dirty!” he joked. “Is this on? Can you hear me now?”
It was unclear whether Kaluuya was at fault, or the sound engineer behind the scenes, but finally the 32-year-old was able to give his acceptance speech loud and clear, thanking Judas And The Black Messiah director Shaka King, the cast and crew, and his character’s son and wife as well as rapper Nipsy Hussle.
Zooming with children and animals
It goes without saying that there was no proper red carpet this year, so instead of fashion porn we got to see the nominees in their natural habitats. And it was top marks for those who included kids and pets in their Zooms.
Winners including actor Mark Ruffalo and Minari director Lee Isaac Chung gave their children cute cameos during their speeches.
The Undoing’s Nicole Kidman and Ozark’s Jason Batemen also had their little ones to hand adding a little family fun to the industry night.
:: Golden Globes 2021: All the TV and film winners
Extended family got a nod too, with nominee Kate Hudson seen on camera with family members at one point, including her screen-legend mother Goldie Hawn with her long-term partner, Kurt Russell.
And for those keen to get some quality animal time, we got to see Emma Corrin’s cat and Sarah Paulson’s dog as they waited for their category to be announced – Olivia Coleman was particularly overjoyed at the pet presence, encouraging pet owners to go get their animal for more screen time.
just catching up on the globes. nothing to say really except it was great that jodie foster kissed her wife and their dog got squished between them pic.twitter.com/bgYe9RsPFP
Meanwhile, Regina King’s dog, Cornbread, stole the spotlight in her pre-show interview, getting himself nice and comfy like a good boy in his dog bed, behind her as she chatted away.
Jodie Foster also had her dog with her as she won in her category, with the pooch wearing a bow to match Foster’s jazzy pyjamas – the perfect chilled out evening combo to win an award in.
Too many doors and sports casual outfits
British star John Boyega spoke for the world in Zoom meetings over the last year, when he admitted he was wearing a tux on top, but joggers down below.
Accepting his award for best TV supporting actor for his role in Small Axe, the 28-year-old star said he was celebrating “home alone”.
Admitting he was “shocked” to win the prize, he raised a leg to the camera, before confessing: “I’m wearing Balenciagas guys. I got tracky bottoms on my bottom, and they’re comfy, but this is exciting!”, before going on to thank those who gave him opportunities in his career.
Bill Murray rocked a neon-streaked Hawaiian shirt which he paired with a martini Bond would have been proud of; Jason Sudeikis wore a multi-coloured hoodie which he said he deemed “most appropriate” and Sandra Oh looked cosy in a padded green parka as she presented from a snowy slope – complete with a sledding dinosaur being slowly pulled across the screen in the background.
Meanwhile, social media couldn’t believe how many doors Jeff Daniels had in his house.
With the 66-year-old The Comey Rule star sat in what appeared to be a bedroom – with a half-made bed in the background – and wearing a check shirt, many also praised his laid-back dad vibes.
One Twitter fan wrote: “Jeff Daniels is definitely live-streaming the Wings playing Chicago while waiting for his category to come up…”, while another joked: “Jeff Daniels Zooming into the Golden Globes from every college student’s first off-campus apartment”.
Other notable props that caught attention on Zoom included the meme-tastic cut-out of Bernie Sanders in his mittens from the US inauguration which Ratched’s Cynthia Nixon chose to position behind her, and the first female winner of the director prize in 25 years, Chloe Zhao, celebrating her Globe by raising a green ceramic mug.
Ben baked for the occasion
Turns out Ben Stiller isn’t just a comedy talent, he’s also a bit of a baker.
As the 55-year-old took to the stage to present the award for best actress in a musical or comedy he shared with the world his new penchant for cakes.
He told the socially distanced audience: “It’s hard to believe it’s been a full year since the last Golden Globes. But, like many of us, I’ve used that time to look inward and grow. I’ve come to fully understand the nature of crypto-currency. I read a book. I finally got around to dying my hair grey.
“Like so many other resilient Americans, I learned to bake. A delicious banana bread, in the form of a Golden Globe.”
Producing the cake trophy, which looked more like chocolate sponge than banana bread in truth, he was all of us sharing our biggest lockdown achievement with friends over a virtual cuppa.
Princess Di and Mrs T
With Princess Diana back in the news thanks to Prince Harry and Meghan’s forthcoming interview with Oprah Winfrey, the late British royal received a mention at the Globes too.
As royal drama The Crown stormed the TV categories – winning four awards overall – newcomer Emma Corrin paid tribute to Diana in her speech, saying: “Thank you so much to Diana, you have taught me compassion and empathy beyond anything I could ever imagine.
“On behalf of everyone who remembers you so fondly and passionately in our hearts, thank you.”
Corrin and Josh O’Connor, who play Prince Charles and Diana in The Crown, were named best actor and actress in a TV drama, while the Netflix series won the gong for best drama overall.
The show also scooped another win thanks to American star Gillian Anderson, who was named best supporting actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher.
In her speech, Anderson gave special thanks to the hair and make-up team, who gave her the “Thatcher helmet” hairdo that saw her through the part.
Tears for Chadwick
It was widely expected the late Chadwick Boseman would receive an award posthumously for his final role, as a trumpet player in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but that didn’t make the moment any less poignant.
The actor’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward Boseman, fought back tears as she accepted the award for best actor in a drama film, as did actress Renee Zellweger presenting the award.
Boseman, best known for Black Panther, died in August, aged 43, due to complications related to colon cancer.
“He would thank God, he would thank his parents, he would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices,” his wife said in her speech, and thanking Boseman’s team and his Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom co-stars.
“He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you ‘you can’, that tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you were meant to be doing at this moment in history,” she said.
“And I don’t have his words but we have to take all the moments to celebrate those we love. So thank you HFPA, for this opportunity to do exactly that.
“Hon, you keep ’em coming.”
Boseman’s death came as a shock to Hollywood, with the star having kept his illness private. His films including Black Panther, Da 5 Bloods and Avengers: Endgame were all shot when he was available between surgeries and chemotherapy.
‘It is great to be black at the Golden Globes’
Meanwhile lack of diversity was a running theme of the night – perhaps most sharply lampooned by Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen, who thanked the “all white” HFPA for one of the two awards he picked up on the night.
Following a week in which it emerged that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which organises the awards, has no black members, it was no surprise to see celebrities highlighting the issue.
This Is Us star Sterling K Brown joked: “It is great to be black at the Golden Globes… back at the Golden Globes.”
The HFPA acknowledged it was not diverse enough in the lead-up to the ceremony, and members also made the point on stage during the event, too, promising to do better.
Starting in her opening monologue with Poehler, Fey said that while awards shows are seen as “stupid”, inclusivity remained important.
Dan Levy, star and creator of hit comedy Schitt’s Creek, said in his acceptance speech he hoped next year’s ceremony would be voted for by a more inclusive HFPA.
“In the spirit of inclusion, I hope that this time next year, this ceremony reflects the true breadth and diversity of the film and television being made today, because there is so much more to be celebrated.”
In a powerful speech accepting an honorary lifetime achievement award, Jane Fonda said: “Let’s all of us – including all the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards – let’s all of us make an effort to expand that tent. So that everyone rises and everyone’s story has a chance to be seen and heard.”
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The Town Council has requested mediation, provided for under the Land Acquisition Act, as the NT Government pursues compulsory acquisition of Anzac Oval for its proposed national Aboriginal art gallery.
CEO Robert Jennings said the request had been the subject of three conversations with representatives of the NT Government, with no clarity of response.
Councillor Marli Banks reminded her fellow Elected Members of the resolution that binds them on this issue.
Moved by Cr Eli Melky, seconded by herself and supported unanimously at the Special Meeting she called on 7 May 2020 to respond to the threat, it resolves that council “will challenge any attempt made by the NT Government to compulsory acquire Anzac Oval.”
Reading between the lines, as Cr Banks was choosing her words carefully so as not to breach confidentiality rules, she was reacting to a softening of position within council.
The resolution is clear, she said, and it means that officers don’t have authority to change direction, nor does any one Elected Member.
Cr Matt Paterson countered with another resolution of council, dating from December 2019.
It’s worth quoting in full, although his point was around “looking for a solution”, emphasising the resolution’s provision for negotiation with the NT Government on the site.
Moved by Cr Paterson, seconded by Cr Eli Melky, it reads:
1. Council has determined their National Aboriginal Art Gallery site preference as listed below and seek to proceed into negotiations with NT Government on the chosen site:
The southern portion of the Council managed Anzac Oval site (Lot 678) with a linear connection to the former Anzac Hill High School site to the north (owned by the NT Government). This proposal would leave the oval surface, grandstands, Youth Centre, Totem Theatre and 50+ Centre retained. That Alice Springs Town Council negotiate the southern portion of the Council managed ANZAC Oval Site once the Northern Territory Government provide Alice Springs Town Council evidence of custodian support of the location.
2. Confirm their strong belief in the formation of a multilateral partnership group of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal representatives that can drive forward the National Aboriginal Art Gallery project in an inclusive, effective and consultative manner for the benefit of the Alice Springs community, the Territory and the organisation.
The lack of “evidence of custodian support” has been the sticking point oft-quoted, including by Cr Paterson.
The government feels that it has cleared that hurdle with the letter from Lhere Artepe supporting the Anzac location – a position rejected by the Mparntwe custodian group.
With the possibility having been floated of Lhere Artepe retracting their support, Cr Banks drew her colleagues’ attention to the report in the Alice Springs News, published while last night’s meeting was in train, that the government will proceed at the Anzac site, irrespective of any change coming now.
“We’re in a very precarious position,” said Cr Banks, given the “highly contested, volatile conversation, complex history” of the matter.
She was not prepared “to concede defeat” despite the NT Governments “standover and intimidation” seeking to “allow this process to bulldoze through.”
She called for as much information as possible to be made available to the public “to guide where we are going.”
The whole art gallery process has been noteworthy for the lack of public information or, when it has been available, it has been either brief to the point of cryptic or massaged to the government’s message.
Image at top: The drawn-out saga around the possible use of Anzac Oval initially got a lot of public attention, more than most issues, but it has quietened now. Here people gather for a rally in September 2018 ahead of a council meeting, to protest the possible change.
Last updated 29 January 2021, 4.09pm.
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Vietnam’s Communist Party congress has gathered this week to select new leaders and outline policies for the next five years.
Vietnam’s Communist Party meets every five years to pick leaders and map out policy
Prisoners of conscience have more than doubled in the past five years, Amnesty International says
Tensions with China and the tech boom will impact Vietnam’s future
But leaked documents indicate the current Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, will remain in the top job.
After being praised for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam is expected to prioritise economic growth through technological revolution, while tense relations with China are expected to loom large.
Human rights groups, meanwhile, have slammed Vietnam’s record on jailing activists — including an Australian citizen.
Bon Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Community in Australia, said some in the diaspora expect little change in the homeland many of them fled in the 70s and 80s.
“We normally have a saying, that in order for us to predict what will happen in the future, we just have to [look at] what happened in the past,” he said.
Leadership speculation over ‘four pillars’
More than 1,500 delegates have converged for a nine-day congress behind closed doors in Hanoi to vote on a Central Committee of about 200 people, who will select the Politburo of about 19 members.
Four key leadership positions, known as the four pillars, will be selected — the Communist Party general secretary, the state president, the prime minister and the national assembly chair.
It’s been heralded as the most significant congress since 1986, when economic reforms led to Vietnam opening up.
Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at UNSW Canberra, said the event was a highly-orchestrated affair, with the party’s policies already decided and the leadership roles widely known in Hanoi’s political circles.
Though Mr Trong is tipped to stay on as General Secretary, current Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will reportedly become President, while senior party figures Pham Minh Chinh and Vuong Dinh Hue are speculated to fill the roles of Prime Minister and National Assembly Chairperson respectively.
Mr Trong, 76, who is also the President, has already served the maximum two five-year terms and is well past the mandated age limit of 65, though he received exemptions in the past.
Professor Thayer said there had been a logjam in Vietnam’s political machinery, where Mr Trong, who was reported to have suffered a stroke in recent years, tried but failed to anoint his successor.
“That’s because they can’t reach a consensus on who’s going to replace him.”
The four pillars have not been confirmed, however, and may not be known until the final day of the congress, on February 2.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been approached for comment.
Dr Huong Le Thu, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Vietnam’s Communist Party would ensure a level of continuity, regardless of who held the key positions.
She said Mr Trong made efforts to ensure his legacy — especially his anti-corruption campaign — will continue, even if he doesn’t get another term.
Mr Nguyen said although Vietnam was a one-party state, there were many factions.
“They are desperate to hold onto the old system, and they don’t want to change that,” he said.
“However, the world is changing, and if Vietnam wants to be part of it, it also needs to change as well.”
Technology revolution in the post-COVID economy
Vietnam’s draft socio-economic development plan sets a very high aspiration for economic growth, according to Dr Hoa Thi Minh Nguyen, a senior lecturer at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University.
Their economy grew by almost 3 per cent last year despite the pandemic, which “lent an enormous credence to the Communist Party and the Government of Vietnam,” Dr Nguyen said.
But she added Vietnam’s GDP would need to grow by an “unprecedented high growth rate” of 11 per cent, not 7 per cent as stated in their draft plan, if it were to achieve its economic goals by 2025.
She said the country was primarily focusing on attracting foreign investment, the technological revolution and the digital economy, which included developing high-tech Silicon Valley-like areas near Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam’s population is expected to reach 100 million by 2025, and its middle class is projected to grow from 13 per cent to 25 per cent by 2035, which could increase its potential as a market for Australian goods.
“Vietnam has been and will be a big customer [for Australia] because of the consumer economy and urbanisation,” she said.
Vietnam has also benefitted from the US-China trade war — Dr Nguyen said when the Trump administration put higher tax rates on Chinese products, many manufacturers moved their factories out of China to Vietnam.
The China relationship is due to shape the next five years for Vietnam in other ways too, Dr Le Thu said.
“Vietnam-China relations in the context of the South China Sea is currently most tense, compared with other claimant states,” she said, adding that will have implications for the entire region, including Australia.
“This is a very critical time. Vietnam has thus far responded to the COVID-19 exceptionally well and is on a fast recovery trajectory,” Dr Le Thu said.
“But this is not going to be easy. There are also plenty of other challenges ahead, including the dynamics of US-China relations, [the] future of global trade and the overall global recovery.”
Vietnam slammed for ‘draconian’ rights record
According to Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra, Vietnam’s assault on human rights and freedom of expression has intensified in recent years.
In the past five years since the last congress, the number of “prisoners of conscience” has more than doubled, from 84 in 2016 to 170 today.
“The Vietnamese authorities’ intolerance of peaceful dissent has peaked under the outgoing leadership. The nomination of new national leaders provides an invaluable opportunity for Vietnam to change course on human rights.”
Human Rights Watch also criticised a crackdown on journalists and bloggers this month, in the lead up to the congress, saying the party was “sending people to prison for posting their views and opinions on Facebook”.
Bon Nguyen from the Vietnamese Community in Australia said if Vietnam were to change its approach to silencing dissent, the party feared it would appear “weak” to the Vietnamese diaspora.
He said the Vietnamese regime would deal with cases in “draconian ways” to send a warning shot to other activists or dissidents.
“I don’t think that’s going to change, unfortunately,” he said.
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Patrick Edward McCaughey, 23, was taken into custody at around 7 p.m. Tuesday in White Plains, New York, and charged with assaulting a police officer, civil disorder and unlawful entry, officials said.
In McCaughey’s initial court appearance on Wednesday, a judge ordered him held without bail, citing the suspect’s danger to the community.
“What we see in that video from this defendant is extraordinarily disturbing,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Krause said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Gianforti said footage clearly links McCaughey to the disturbing attack on Officer Daniel Hodges.
“This video is crystal clear, you can clearly see the defendant’s face and you can see officer Hodges’ face as he’s screaming out of pain,” Gianforti said.
The suspect has been unemployed since late 2019 and lives with his parents, according to McCaughey’s defense attorney, who had argued for a $150,000, which was denied.
The Justice Department criminal complaint says McCaughey repeatedly told the officer “just go home” and “come on man, you are going to get squished, just go home” while allegedly using a police shield against the officer during the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol Building.
“If it wasn’t my job, I would have done that for free. .. It was absolutely my pleasure to crush a white nationalist insurrection… and we’ll do it as many times as it takes.”
Despite the excruciating pain Officer Daniel Hodges appeared to be in during the attack, he later told reporters he was happy to do his duty.
“If it wasn’t my job, I would have done that for free,” he said. “It was absolutely my pleasure to crush a white nationalist insurrection, and we’ll do it as many times as it takes.”
The charging document says McCaughey pinned Hodges’ body between the riot shield and the lower West Terrace door as “a separate rioter begins violently ripping off Officer Hodges’ gas mask, exposing Officer Hodges’ bloodied mouth.”
McCaughey was allegedly seen leaving the Capitol on security cameras after he struck other officers with the shield, the document says.
Messages left by NBC News for McCaughey and his family, at publicly listed phone numbers based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, were not not immediately returned by early Wednesday evening.
“The vicious attack on Officer Hodges was abhorrent and quintessentially un-American,” Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said in a statement.
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Joe Biden is expected to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20.
Despite the violence seen in the Capital building on Jan 6, the US Congress confirmed Mr Biden will become the next President of America, after they certified 270 Electoral College votes this Thursday, Jan 7.
After Congress approved Vermont’s votes, Mr Biden has reached the number of Electoral College votes needed to become the President of America. He has, therefore, defeated Donald Trump by 306-232.
Then, following the fatal events on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump committed to a peaceful transition of power for the first time.
In a statement from the White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Trump announced he “totally disagreed with the outcome of the election” but confirmed, “there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”
He continued: “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
The traditional outdoor ceremony is set to go ahead – though the coronavirus pandemic could scale back the usual celebrations.
When and where is Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony?
In keeping with tradition, the inauguration will be held on Wednesday January 20, in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC.
Mr Biden will be required to take an inaugural oath before assuming his duties and will deliver a public address.
Could the ceremony be held behind closed doors?
Given the violence seen last night and the coronavirus pandemic, there are some on social media who are calling for this year’s inauguration ceremony to be held behind closed doors.
The mayor of DC has extended a public emergency declaration until January 21, the day after inauguration. This order empowers officials to reduce the hours of operation for businesses, order people off the street if a curfew is issued, and expend funds as needed to protect public safety, suggesting that city officials have the power to prevent people from gathering for the event.
She said: “President Trump continues to fan rage and violence by contending that the Presidential election was invalid,” and said, “some persons can be expected to continue their violent protests through the inauguration.”
The ceremony could also break traditions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The US has seen the worst outbreak in the world, recording more deaths and cases than any other country.
Festivities are likely to be scaled back, with public health measures including mandatory mask-wearing, temperature checks and social distancing in place.
The Presidential Inauguration Committee has planned a nationwide Covid memorial for the day before the inauguration.
The committee said that cities and towns around the country will be invited to light up their buildings and ring church bells at 5:30 p.m. E.T. on Jan. 19 in a “national moment of unity and remembrance.”
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