Federal government accused of failing the nation over AstraZeneca vaccine on Q+A as Martin Iles defends Israel Folau

The Australian government has been accused on Q+A of “failing at the first hurdle” when it comes to the nation’s vaccine rollout and problems with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The show aired on Thursday night following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s press conference where he and his team announced the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has a possible link to rare blood clots in a very small number of recipients, would no longer be given to Australians under the age of 50.

Instead, they will be given the Pfizer vaccine, meaning Australia’s already behind-schedule vaccine rollout threatened to slow further.

On Q+A, multiple panellists criticised Mr Morrison for “backing the wrong horse” and not taking a wider approach to acquiring more different vaccines such as those from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

“Australians really set the global standard in looking after one another, locking down in a way that reduced our COVID numbers, and our reward for that was meant to be that we would be able to get back on track and for us to maybe get the jump-start on other countries,” said federal Labor MP Anika Wells, from Queensland.

“It comes down to, I think, the Prime Minister’s judgement about the vaccines that he chose, the numbers of those doses and why.


“When the UK, the US, chose other pathways like Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.”

Asked by host Hamish Macdonald if she was saying the Australian government had “backed the wrong horse”, she responded in the affirmative.

“We’ve been saying since last year, we need more horses in the race. We need five or six different vaccines.”

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman refuted the claim Australia did not have enough vaccine options and said the government had invested in five.

But Indigenous lawyer Teela Reid also said the government had failed and accused them of being incompetent before also saying they had really failed First Nations people.

“I think the country needs options available to be vaccinated,” Ms Reid said.

“It has been absolutely the people who have come together and kept us safe, locked down and done the right thing — and I just think that, you know, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the majority of us are under 50.

“I think that it’s just been completely reckless and unacceptable in a developed country that we are here now and we’re still waiting for the option to be vaccinated.”

While Ms Reid and Ms Wells took the Prime Minister to task over the rollout, other panellists, journalist Antoinette Lattouf and Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Martyn Iles, felt the slow rollout was a blessing in disguise when it came to not too many Australians receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Ms Lattouf said this was a good problem to have while Mr Iles said the pivot in the vaccine strategy was not a massive problem before calling on people to leave people who have vaccine hesitancy alone.

“We don’t need to manufacture a crisis over the vaccine when we just don’t have one, ” Mr Iles said.

“It’s turning out that there’s some benefits of watching the rest of the world go just a little bit ahead of us.

“There are people in the community who have vaccine hesitancy and feel as though they, in good conscience, can’t take the vaccine.

“I actually want to go in to bat for them, I think we can respect someone’s conscience and achieve public health outcomes possibly at the same time.

“Everyone who wants it should get it [but] there’ll be some people who don’t want it, I reckon leave them alone, because the protection of conscience matters.”

‘Melanin count doesn’t change my access to truth’

Issues of gender bias in the halls of Parliament have been front and centre of late and one issue that has been raised is quotas.


Most of the Q+A panel was for the possible introduction of them except for Mr Iles, who drew scorn for, as he put it, being “the stereotypical white guy”.

“Quotas say a couple of things,” Mr Iles said.

“Some of them might be good, but some of them I’m concerned about.

“One of the things it says is that a parliament that is majority man or majority women, or majority one race or another cannot govern in the common interest, cannot govern for the common good, cannot actually seek after what is right and true.

“The melanin count in my skin doesn’t change my access to truth, it doesn’t change my ability to do good.”

It was then that Ms Lattouf immediately called him out.

“But it changes your lived experience,” she said.

“It changes your lens, it changes where you are in terms of privilege.

“It doesn’t mean that you can’t have empathy, it doesn’t mean that you’re not clever and good at your job but you don’t have skin in the game when it comes to women’s issues, when it comes to Indigenous issues.

Regardless of quotas, Ms Reid said they were not the major issue and said other issues should first be examined.

“If you look at the experience of some women at the top, take for example Julia Gillard, that was a horrendous experience to witness as a young woman, but also I can’t even imagine what she’s experienced, and that’s looking at a white woman,” she said.

“I wouldn’t even want to know what a black woman experiences in those contexts.”

Iles defends ACL support of Folau

Mr Iles, who has long been a staunch supporter of former rugby league and union star Israel Folau, featured prominently throughout the show.

In 2019, Mr Iles stood side-by-side with Folau and even helped launch a fund to support the then-rugby star in his legal battle with Rugby Australia after fundraising site GoFundMe pulled down his page asking for financial help for the fight.

Rugby Australia said they had sacked Folau for breaching their social media code of conduct for religious posts he made which also preached homophobic views, before the sides eventually settled.

This week, the Australian Christian Lobby spent a large sum of money on an advertisement in The Daily Telegraph to pressure the NRL into allowing Folau to return to rugby league.

Mr Iles was asked to defend that use of money and his relationship with Folau and the ongoing support he is receiving from the ACL.

Mr Iles began by saying Folau had been misrepresented in the media.


“The media have repeatedly said that Israel condemned homosexuals to hell, that is not the overall point of the post that he made.

“What he said was that sinners are destined for judgement, and yes, Christians understand that as hell … but then he turned to the other side of the coin and he said, ‘and forgiveness awaits to all who repent and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ’.

“He said all of that in his post. Either you believe both sides of that coin — in which case, you are free, you have condemnation and salvation, you have judgement and release, you have repentance, you have faith — or you believe neither side.

Mr Iles rejected a comment by Ms Latouff that Folau had spread hate, saying that was not his motive.

But Mr Zimmerman, who in 2015 became Australia’s first openly gay MP, said that was in his view not the case with Folau.

“I’m not a religious person, but I was brought up in a religious family in the Uniting Church. It may not have been about hate, but it was certainly about love.

Mr Iles then went on to take aim at Rugby Australia and accused them of lying during the 2019 battle with Folau.

“He did not break a contract or a clause, if he did, it would have been relied upon by the tribunal that disciplined him.

“It wasn’t relied on because it didn’t exist.

“That’s a lie that was put out, I believe, by Rugby Australia to try and ruin his reputation.”

Watch the full episode of Q+A on iview.

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Multicultural community leaders say COVID-19 vaccine misinformation failing to be dispelled by government programs

Community leaders say the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination program is failing to dispel myths and alleviate concerns within Australia’s minority groups, forcing them to educate their communities themselves.

More than 750,000 Australians have received either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccination – a number which the federal government hopes to rise to four million by the end of the month.

The fast-tracked roll-out has been met with hesitation by some who felt the vaccines were developed too quickly, despite assurances from medical professionals both are safe.

But community leaders in the nation’s capital said that hesitation was felt strongly within minority groups, and that the government’s education campaigns were “not cutting through” vaccine misinformation.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA? No

Dr Kwaja works at the Canberra Hospital and has been holding voluntary COVID-19 vaccine information sessions for the Islamic community.(

ABC News


One of those leaders is Saleh Khwaja, a doctor at Canberra Hospital and the president of the ACT Australian Islamic Medical Association.

Dr Khwaja said language barriers meant many within Australian’s Islamic community had not understood key information about the roll-out.

“They ask things like: ‘Which vaccine’s more effective? When are we actually going to get a vaccine? I’m hearing questionable things about certain side effects. What’s happening in Europe?'”, he said.

Dr Khwaja organised a forum in Canberra alongside other local Islamic leaders that offered vaccine information in several languages and fielded questions from community members.

He said although the event was successful, one particularly persistent myth surprised him. 

“I was asked whether the vaccine could alter the human genetic code,” Dr Khwaja said.

“And so, we had to take a pause and go, ‘Okay, well, this is the answer to that based on how vaccines work and … it’s pretty much impossible for it to affect DNA’, but it was interesting.”

Is the COVID-19 vaccine allowed during Ramadan? Yes

A woman wearing a headscarf and a man wearing a shirt and jacket sit next to each other outside in a garden.
Zarqa Rana and Tariq Rana are planning to receive COVID-19 vaccines after being assured it was allowed during Ramadan.(

ABC News: Pedro Ribero


Pakistani migrant couple Zarqa and Tariq Rana were one of many within the Islamic community who were initially hesitant to take the vaccine.

The couple wanted to know whether the vaccine’s ingredients were allowed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which begins on April 12 and involves a month of fasting.

They said their hesitancy only waned once they attended Dr Khwaja’s forum.

“Imam clearly mentioned and explained that there were no affects from the COVID vaccine on Ramadan during the fasting, which is from sunrise to sunset,” Mr Rana said.

“Imam actually said it was a responsibility of a human being, according to the Islamic religion, to look after health and the vaccine is a good step towards that … so there is no restriction religiously.”

The couple booked their vaccination the next day and said they were encouraging their friends and family to do the same.

Can I have the same vaccine being offered in China? No

Two photos side by side. One showing a young woman with glasses in an old photo and the other shows an older woman with a scarf
Registered nurse and midwife Chin Wong is president of the ACT Chinese Australian Association and first registered as a nurse in 1976 (pictured left).(

ABC News


Cultural leaders in Australia’s Chinese community said they too found many people in their community had not understood key information about the roll-out.

Nurse and chair of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum Chin Wong said people wanted to know whether they could receive the vaccine that was being administered in China.

Ms Wong said many Chinese migrants got their vaccine information from Chinese news sources, as well as friends and family back home, and that she too had organised community engagement forums to promote the safety and efficacy of the two Australian-approve vaccines.

‘No pain at the moment’

Two woman stand next to each other in front of a kitchen bench
Chairwoman of the Multicultural Association of Canberra Nishi Puri (left) took her 84-year-old mother Kanwal Bawa (right) to get vaccinated.(

ABC News: Ben Harris


Alongside Ms Wong and Dr Khwaja’s forums, a third meeting was held for the national capital’s Hindi community.

The meeting was organized by Multicultural Association of Canberra chairwoman Nishi Puri, who said her 84-year-old mother had been hesitant to receive the vaccination.

Ms Puri’s mother Kanwal Bawa, a multilingual migrant from New Delhi, said Indian news outlets had led her to believe the vaccine had been produced too quickly.

Ms Puri noticed her mother’s concerns were also held by others in the community and organised a local doctor to deliver a presentation in Hindi.

“People need these face-to-face workshops in their own language by their own GPs,” Ms Puri said.

The federal government has allocated $1.3 million to multicultural organisations as part of a wider $31 million communications campaign.

Vaccine information has also been translated into a number of languages online, but Ms Puri said that was likely inaccessible for older generations.

“For senior citizens like my mother, there is a lot of information in different languages online, but she doesn’t use the internet,” she said.

Ms Puri said instead a face-to-face meeting meant a doctor could convince her mother that any possible side effects would be outweighed by the benefits.

Ms Bawa was vaccinated last week.

Ms Puri said her mother told her that any “misgivings were 80 to 95 per cent gone”, and that her newfound immunity meant she could soon safely travel to the Gold Coast to “enjoy the sunny beaches”.

What you need to know about coronavirus:

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NHS ‘failing’ people from ethnic minority backgrounds, study shows


he NHS is “failing” people from ethnic minority backgrounds, according to England’s most extensive study of the issue.

The University of Manchester study found the average health of 60-year-olds from Gypsy or Irish Traveller, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Arab groups to be similar to a white British 80-year-old.

The study found unfairness in NHS services is exacerbating health inequalities, with people from some ethnic minority groups more likely to report insufficient support from local services to manage health conditions.

Lead author Dr Ruth Watkinson from the University of Manchester said: “This suggests the NHS as an institution is failing people from some ethnic groups.

“Policy action is needed to transform healthcare and wider support services to make sure they meet the needs of all individuals in England’s multi-ethnic population fairly.

“But policymakers also need to address the structural racism that makes it harder for people belonging to ethnic minority groups to access socio-economic opportunities because poverty is a major cause of poor health.”

Approximately 12 per cent of the British adult population is from an ethnic minority background, but these communities have experienced higher rates of infection and mortality during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study, published in Lancet Public Health, used the England-wide GP Patient Survey to analyse responses from almost 1.4 million adults aged over 55, surveyed between 2015 and 2017.

The sample included 152,710 people who self-identified as belonging to an ethnic minority group — the largest-ever sample.

In 15 out of 17 ethnic minority groups, health-related quality of life was worse on average than for white British people, with inequalities generally wider for women.

Mattey Mitchell who is Romany and a health campaigns officer at Friends, Families and Travellers said: “For the Romany people, these findings reflect a stark and familiar reality.

“We’ve learned to accept this reality as the norm, but this study reminds us it is not. In turn, I hope it will remind others that the sharp edge of inequality has a very real and dangerous impact on peoples’ lives.”

The two ethnic groups who were healthier than white British people were Chinese men and women, and black African men.

The study found large differences between ethnicities often grouped together in broad categories. For example, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Chinese ethnicities are often categorised as “Asian”. But the study found people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnicity often had the worst disadvantage in health whereas people of Chinese ethnicity had a “relative advantage”.

Co-author Dr Alex Turner said there was a need for “more nuanced research”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This Government is committed to ensuring everyone has access to high quality healthcare, regardless of where they live or who they are.

“That’s why we are levelling up across this country – so that everyone can have the opportunity to enjoy a long and healthy life.

“Our NHS Long Term Plan, which is backed by an extra £33.9 billion for the NHS by 2023/24, puts tackling health inequalities at its heart and we have established a new NHS Race and Health Observatory to tackle the specific health challenges facing people from ethnic minority backgrounds.”

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#NHS #failing #people #ethnic #minority #backgrounds #study #shows

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‘Insiders’ ends year in harness with News Corp – spruiking the failing Coalition

Sunday’s final ABC ‘Insiders’ program for the year showed again why the flagship current affairs program has fallen short in 2020. Alan Austin reports.

Most Australians expect the national broadcaster to be factual, accurate, neutral and to resist the control Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp exerts over Australia’s news media. Most editions of Insiders this year have disappointed.

Item one

Opening yet another soft interview with a Morrison Government minister on Sunday (13 December), presenter David Speers asked Communications Minister Paul Fletcher whether Google or Facebook – which the Federal Government has ineptly attacked – had indicated if they would disallow Australian news content on their platforms. Easy yes or no question.

After a long, uninterrupted ramble, viewers received no clarity. Fletcher answered a different question: What wonderful things has your marvellous Government done in this policy area? He was not pushed on the original question.

Item two

More disturbingly, guest panellist Jennifer Hewett from Nine Entertainment’s Australian Financial Review (AFR) on Sunday defended the Federal Government on jobs policy, saying:

“ABS statistics show the casualisation of the workforce stayed at about twenty per cent over 20 years.”

That is not true. When Hewett has asserted this in the AFR – where she is free to say whatever she wishes – she has not quoted any dataset. Current ABS reports put the figure much higher. Most analysis shows casualisation has increased in recent decades and accelerated over the last four years, pre-COVID.

Most instances where Insiders now spruiks News Corp’s false anti-Labor and pro-Coalition narrative relate to the economy.

Item three

A week earlier, on 6 December, Speers said, “I want to turn to the economy”, and then did so with a clip from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg:

“The Australian economy has demonstrated its remarkable resilience. And Australia is as well-positioned as any other nation on earth.”

Panellist Phillip Coorey, also from Nine Entertainment’s AFR, followed this with:

“It’s unarguably good news. You’d much rather be in our position than probably anywhere else on the globe at the moment, economically.”

These claims asserted that compared with other countries, Australia’s economy is faring well. This is clearly and demonstrably false.

The hook for this segment was the quarterly growth figure in gross domestic product (GDP) which had just come in at 3.3%. But of the 55 countries which had reported quarterly GDP growth for the September quarter, Australia’s 3.3% growth ranked equal 47th out of the 55. The average was 9.9% growth – three times higher than Australia’s puny 3.3%.

Australia’s jobless rate is now 7.03%. This ranks 41st out of 91 countries with current data at Trading Economics.
Australia’s economic rankings are currently the lowest they have ever been. Clearly, the comments by Frydenberg and Coorey are not just inaccurate, but the opposite of the truth. (This segment has been the subject of a formal complaint to the ABC.)

Yet no-one on the panel corrected them. They were all happy for this false impression to be broadcast.

Australia’s unemployment ranking statistics now worst ever

Item four

The recent Federal Budget papers showed the Coalition had added more gross debt in the preceding seven months than the previous Labor Government incurred in five years and nine months.

In brave defiance of the prevailing ethos that negative stories about the economy are suppressed, The Age’s Shane Wright referred on 11 October to the ‘huge amount of debt’ and ‘a sea of absolute red’ in the Budget.

Speers dismissed that with a nonchalant shrug:

“We’re getting used to it, I guess.”

Then changed the subject.

Item five

Speers asked new Finance Minister Simon Birmingham on 29 November the cost to taxpayers of flying his predecessor, Mathias Cormann, around the world chasing an OECD job in Paris he has zero chance of getting.

The Minister ducked and weaved, prattling instead, untruthfully, about Australia having a great economy and being a global player — for three minutes and 52 seconds.

The presenter should have halted the interview, asked the Minister to get the number, then come back before the program ended to complete the interview but Speers did not.

Item six

Questioned on the specific benefits to Australia of Cormann getting the OECD job, Birmingham again had no answer and wasn’t pressed. Cormann’s manifest failures as Finance Minister – worst debt increase in the OECD, severe loss of national net worth, ever-deepening deficits and others – were, as usual, assiduously avoided.

Mathias Cormann would be a disaster for the OECD

Item seven

Audio was played on 15 November of Attorney-General Christian Porter addressing the direct question:

“Did you ever have intimate relations with a staffer?”

Porter’s contorted response was anything but a negative. Yet Insiders panellist Lanai Scarr, an ex-Murdoch reporter, agreed with Speers that it was a sound answer:

“Yeah, absolutely. It was a denial by him that he had slept with a member of staff.”

It was not. Yet no-one on the panel called this out.

News Corp still sets the agenda

Insiders has not shifted its reliance on News Corp personnel since this was highlighted by IA in April here and, hilariously, here by Jordan Shanks in July.

Of 138 guest appearances in the 46 programs this year, 36 were current News Corp employees, another 23 were recent departees (Lanai Scarr, Patricia Karvelas, Dennis Atkins and others). If we include David Speers’ 46 appearances, that is a total of 105 News Corp appearances out of 184. That’s 57%.

There is no need to use anyone from News Corp. It ceased to be a genuine news outlet years ago, as confirmed by the company itself and a U.S. Federal judge in September. In McDougal v Fox News, News Corp lawyers argued – successfully – that their reporters could not be guilty of defamation because they do not report factually. They are employed to concoct “non-literal commentary” — also known as falsehoods.

If we add talent from the other pro-Coalition media giant, Nine Entertainment, the number of 2020 Insiders appearances was 138. That’s 75%.

With more than 30 major media organisations in Australia and 56 newsrooms represented in the Canberra Press Gallery, there is no justification for the ABC’s continuing collaboration with information manipulators.

Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read an update HERE and contribute to the crowd-funding campaign HEREAlan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist, Daily Kos diarist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanAustin001

Taylor, the AFP and the 'Insiders'

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Sir Donald Bradman’s first baggy green cap bought by businessman after failing to sell at auction

Sir Donald Bradman’s first test cap has been sold for $450,000, setting a new record for one of the cricket legend’s baggy greens, less than a week after it failed to meet its reserve price at auction.

The 1928 cap was put up for sale online just under a fortnight ago and, despite predictions it could fetch more than $1 million, only attracted a top bid of $391,500.

But auction house Pickles today confirmed it had sold for a “record-breaking” figure, and had been purchased by businessman Peter Freedman, founder and chairman of Sydney electronics company Rode.

Gavin Dempsey from Pickles said it was a record sale price for a Bradman baggy green.

The sale price surpasses the amount fetched for Bradman’s 1948 cap, which sold at auction for $425,000 in 2003.

The cap attracted extra interest because of its connection to former accountant and convicted fraudster Peter Dunham, who was gifted the cap when he was a young neighbour of Bradman.

Victims of Dunham, who was jailed earlier this year, had expressed hopes the sale of the cap could help recoup funds stolen from them.

Mr Freedman has said he intends to tour the cap around the country in early 2021, and is pleased to be able to share a piece of memorabilia from the “Aussie legend”.

“Not only [was he] one of our greatest talents on the sporting field and one of the most revered athletes of all time, but [he was] an icon of Australian fortitude and resilience,” Mr Freedman said.

“I have some exciting plans for the baggy green that will see it travel the country and shared with sports fans and cricketing communities.”

Peter Freedman, founder of electronics company Rode, bought the baggy green.(Supplied)

The cap has been on loan to the State Library of South Australia since 2003.

Mr Dempsey said ensuring Bradman’s baggy green gets shared with the Australian public was the best outcome.

“We’re thrilled the Australian people can get close to this iconic piece of sporting memorabilia and we thank Mr Freedman for facilitating an ongoing appreciation of Sir Donald Bradman’s achievements,” Mr Dempsey said.

The current record price for a baggy green remains just over $1 million, for Shane Warne’s Test cap.

Mr Freedman’s other recent purchases include one of Kurt Cobain’s acoustic guitars, for $9 million.

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Cyber attack on US government: Biden accused Trump of failing on security | US News

The president-elect is known for favouring a tone of unity but in his pre-Christmas address he tore into Donald Trump for failing to prioritise America’s cyber security. 

One of the biggest cyber attacks in US history emerged last week. Hackers spent months exploring the systems of dozens of government agencies and corporations including the US Treasury, the departments of homeland security, state and defence. Federal officials warn the attack is still ongoing.

Joe Biden said indications suggest the culprit behind the attack is Russia and that the hack was being planned from as early as last year.

“This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch, while he wasn’t watching,” said Mr Biden. “There’s still so much we don’t know. But we know this much; this attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security. It was carefully planned and carefully orchestrated.”

Mr Biden said once he understands the extend of the damage the US will respond and “probably in kind” suggesting some sort of retaliatory move. Joe Biden also said the current administration is not sharing everything it knows with his transition team.

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US ‘will respond’ to alleged Russian cyber attack

The intelligence community, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr have also said Russia was likely responsible for the hack. But Donald Trump has cast doubt over Russia’s role on Twitter and hinted at China’s involvement.

“The Trump administration needs to make an official attribution,” said Joe Biden. “It is still his responsibility as president to defend American interests for the next four weeks, but rest assured that even if he does not take this seriously, I will.”

The president-elect said he was prepared to spend billions of dollars on reinforcing America’s cyber security but couldn’t say for sure if the current systems were safe.

This is just one of many crises facing the United States as the pandemic’s second wave continues to soar in much of the country. Mr Biden warned the darkest days are still ahead in the fight against coronavirus.

Meanwhile he welcomed a $900bn (£6.7bn) coronavirus relief bill passed in Congress on Monday. After months of wrangling, the funding was regarded as underwhelming by many but essential to millions of struggling businesses and the unemployed.

Joe Biden called this a “down payment” on what is actually needed and said he’d ask lawmakers for more help after he takes office on 20 January.

Donald Trump has remained largely quiet regarding most of these issues on Twitter. His tweets show little evidence he is still running the country but continue to peddle baseless claims about a rigged election.

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Airline crew slapped with $1000 fines after failing to quarantine in Sydney

More than a dozen international air crew members have been hit with $1000 fines after they allegedly failed to quarantine upon their arrival in Sydney.

NSW Police on Friday alleged several crew members from the flight, which arrived in Sydney from South America on 5 December, left their Mascot accommodation and frequented nearby businesses.

They subsequently fined 13 crew members $1000 each.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday told reporters the incident wasn’t believed to have caused COVID-19 transmission and is not connected to the emergence of a 28-strong coronavirus cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches.

It comes as international air crew arriving in NSW will from Tuesday be forced into supervised hotel quarantine arrangements until their departure.

“Since that (incident) we’ve been working with authorities on how we can manage it, working with airlines in relation to how we can manage it, it’s a very complex set of circumstances,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the situation was “delicate” because airlines wanted a uniform national policy for their air crew members. Concerns for crews’ mental health have also previously been raised.

“We actually don’t want them to say, ‘we aren’t flying into NSW’. We want them to continue flying freight and Aussies coming home,” Mr Hazzard said.

International air crew arriving in Sydney will from Tuesday be held at two police-supervised quarantine hotels until their flight back out of the country. This typically occurs within 72 hours of their arrival.

Airlines are currently in charge of ensuring air crew quarantine compliance.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus. Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.

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Russia Fines Google for Failing To Remove Banned Content

A Moscow court fined Google on Thursday for not taking down online content banned by the Russian authorities, the latest in a series of escalating penalties against the U.S. tech giant.

Google was found guilty of repeatedly failing to delete search results “containing information prohibited in Russia” and was fined 3 million rubles (around $41,000), state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said. 

Roskomnadzor said Google was only partially compliant with current laws, noting that on average 30 percent of links to banned extremist or pornographic material or content related to suicide was not taken down.

The state-run Interfax news agency said Thursday’s ruling was the fourth such recent fine against Google over its failure to hide banned content. 

In 2018, Russia fined Google 500,000 rubles (around $6,800) in particular for failing to remove calls for demonstrations from opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

In 2019, Google was fined 700,000 rubles for a repeat offense, and the Russian authorities earlier this year also handed Google a penalty of 1.5 million rubles over the same issue.

The Kremlin has in recent years ramped up controls over the internet, ostensibly to fight extremism.

But government critics have denounced official oversight of the web as a means to stifle debate and silence dissent.

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Dear America – You Are Delusional, and Failing at Everything You Undertake

Orlov is one of our favorite essayists on Russia and all sorts of other things. He moved to the US as a child, and lives in the Boston area.

He is one of the better-known thinkers The New Yorker has dubbed ‘The Dystopians’ in an excellent 2009 profile, along with James Howard Kunstler, another regular contributor to RI (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is headed for a jarring and painful crack-up.

He is best known for his 2011 book comparing Soviet and American collapse (he thinks America’s will be worse). He is a prolific author on a wide array of subjects, and you can see his work by searching him on Amazon.

He has a large following on the web, and on Patreon, and we urge you to support him there, as Russia Insider does.

His current project is organizing the production of affordable house boats for living on. He lives on a boat himself.

If you haven’t discovered his work yet, please take a look at his archive of articles on RI. They are a real treasure, full of invaluable insight into both the US and Russia and how they are related.

Back in the days when I was still trying to do the corporate thing, I regularly found myself in a bit of a tight spot simply by failing to keep my mouth shut.

I seem to carry some sort of gene that makes me naturally irrepressible. I can keep my mouth shut for only so long before I have to blurt out what I really think, and in a corporate setting, where thinking isn’t really allowed, this causes no end of trouble. It didn’t matter that I often turned out to be right. It didn’t matter what I thought; it only mattered that I thought.

American involvement in the middle-eastern project is now limited to Putin’s sporadic courtesy calls to Trump, to keep him updated.

Of all the thoughts you aren’t allowed to think, perhaps the most offensive one is adequately expressed by a single short phrase: “That’s not gonna work.”

Suppose there is a meeting to unveil a great new initiative, with PowerPoint presentations complete with fancy graphics, org charts, timelines, proposed budgets, yadda-yadda, and everything is going great until this curmudgeonly Russian opens his mouth and says “That’s not gonna work.”

And when it is patiently explained to him (doing one’s best to hide one’s extreme irritation) that it absolutely has to work because Senior Management would like it to, that furthermore it is his job to make it work and that failure is not an option, he opens his mouth again and says “That’s not gonna work either.” And then it’s time to avoid acting flustered while ignoring him and to think up some face-saving excuse to adjourn the meeting early and regroup.

I lasted for as long as I did in that world because once in a while I would instead say “Sure, that’ll work, let’s do it.” And then, sure enough, it did work, the company had a banner year or two, with lots of bonuses and atta-boy (and atta-girl) certificates handed out to those not at all responsible for any of it. Flushed with victory, they, in turn, would think up more harebrained schemes for me to rain on, and the cycle would repeat.

It is probably one of the main saving graces of corporations that they do sometimes (mainly by mistake) allow some thought to leak through. The mistake in question is a staffing error in promoting those constitutionally incapable of keeping their mouths shut or shutting off their brains. Such errors create chinks in the monolithic phalanxes of corporate yes-men and yes-women.

Trump is too old to be a reformer or a revolutionary. He is of an age when men are generally mostly concerned about the quantity and consistency of their stool and how it interacts with their enlarged prostates.

The likelihood of such mistakes increases with the agony of defeat, which causes attrition among the ranks of qualified yes-sayers, creating holes that can only be plugged by promoting a few non-yes-sayers. However, this only seems to work in the smaller, hungrier corporations; the larger, better-fed ones seem to be able to avoid experiencing the agony of defeat for a very long time by moving the goal posts, outlawing any discussion of said defeat or other similar tactics. Eventually the entire organization goes over the cliff, but by then it is of no benefit to anyone to attempt to inform them of their folly.

It is much the same with governments, except here the situation is even worse. While the smaller, hungrier governments, and those blessed with a fresh institutional memory of extreme pain, do not have the luxury of lying to themselves, the larger political agglomerations—the USSR, the EU, the USA—have the ability to keep themselves completely immunized against the truth for historically significant periods of time.

The USSR clung to the fiction of great socialist progress even when it was clear to all that the cupboard was bare and there were rats gnawing through the rafters. The EU has been able to ignore the fact that its entire scheme is one of enriching Germany while impoverishing and depopulating eastern and southern Europe, neglecting the interests of the native populations throughout. And the amount of self-delusion that is still currently in effect in the USA makes it a rather large subject.

Regardless of how great the lies are and how forcefully they are defended, a moment always comes when the phalanx of truth-blocking yes-men and yes-women stops marching, turns and runs. This event results in a tremendous loss of face and confidence for all involved.

It is the crisis of confidence, more than anything else, that precipitates the going-off-a-cliff phenomenon that we could so readily observe in the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s. I have a very strong hunch that similar cliff-diving exercises are coming up for the EU and the USA.

But for the time being I am just another disembodied voice on the internet, watching from the sidelines and periodically saying the unfashionable thing, which is: “This isn’t gonna work.” However, I’ve said this a number of times over the years, on the record and more or less forcefully, and I feel vindicated most of the time.

Internationally, for example:

Carving the Ukraine away from Russia, having it join the EU and NATO and building a NATO naval base in Crimea “wasn’t gonna work.” The Ukraine is a part of Russia, the Ukrainians are Russian, and the Ukrainian ethnic identity is a Bolshevik concoction. Look for a reversion to norm in a decade or two.

Destroying and partitioning Syria with the help of Wahhabi extremists and foreign mercenaries supported by the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel while Russia, Iran, Turkey and China stand idly by “wasn’t gonna work”; and so it hasn’t.

Giving Afghanistan “freedom and democracy” and turning it into a stable pro-Western regime with the help of invading NATO troops “wasn’t gonna work,” and hasn’t. Western involvement in Afghanistan can go on, but the results it can achieve are limited to further enhancing the heroin trade.

Destroying the Russian economy using sanctions “wasn’t gonna work,” and hasn’t. The sanctions have helped Russia regroup internally and achieve a great deal of self-sufficiency in energy production and other forms of technology, in food and in numerous other sectors.

All of these harebrained schemes, hatched in Washington, have backfired grandly. Those who have pushed for them are now reduced to just two face-saving maneuvers: blaming their political opponents; and blaming Russia. And these two maneuvers are set to backfire as well.

In the meantime, the world isn’t waiting for the US to shake itself out of its stupor.

The fulcrum of American influence in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia and the petrodollar. In turn, Saudi Arabia rests on three pillars: the Saudi monarchy, Wahhabi Islam and the petrodollar. As I write this, the next king, Mohammed bin Salman, is busy hacking away at all three: robbing, imprisoning and torturing his fellow-princes, working to replace the Wahhabi clerics with moderate ones and embracing the petro-yuan instead of the now very tired petrodollar.

Not that any of these three pillars were in good shape in any case: the defeat of ISIS in Syria was a defeat for the Saudi monarchy which supported it, for the Wahhabi clerics who inspired it and, consequently, for the petrodollar as well, because Saudi Arabia was until now its greatest defender.

The new guarantors of peace in the region are Russia, Iran and Turkey, with China watching carefully in the wings. American involvement in the middle-eastern project is now limited to Putin’s sporadic courtesy calls to Trump, to keep him updated.

And so here’s my latest prediction: Trump’s goal of “making America great” “isn’t gonna work” either.

The country is so far gone that just taking the first step—of allowing the truth of its condition to leak through the media filters—will undermine public confidence to such an extent that a subsequent cliff-dive will become unavoidable. It’s a nice slogan as slogans go, but Trump is too old to be a reformer or a revolutionary. He is of an age when men are generally mostly concerned about the quantity and consistency of their stool and how it interacts with their enlarged prostates.

Perhaps he will succeed in making America great… big piles of feces, but I wouldn’t expect much more than that.

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Farm labour incentives failing and the result could be crops left unharvested

Attempts to encourage Australians who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic to take up farm work appear to be failing, despite cash incentives to help cover accommodation and the cost of moving to rural areas.

The nation’s horticulture industry is projecting a shortfall of 26,000 fruit and vegetable pickers this harvest season due to the shutting of international borders that has kept many working holiday-makers locked out.

According to figures from the Federal Department of Employment, a program that offers Australians who move to regional areas to take up harvest jobs has only attracted 148 workers in the month it has been operating.

The Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program offers workers up to $6,000 to cover things like transport, accommodation, and uniform — provided the employee works a minimum of six weeks.

“The numbers really aren’t surprising,” said Tyson Cattle from horticulture lobby group AusVeg.

The nation’s horticulture industry is projecting a shortfall of 26,000 workers this harvest season.(ABC News: Nathan Morris)

The ABC understands that a similar initiative in Queensland, the Back to Work in Agriculture Incentive Scheme which offers workers who relocate up to $1,500 in rebates, has only had one successful applicant in the two months it has been operating with 30 people in the process of applying.

Despite that, Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the program — initially announced as a trial for two regions in the south-east of the state — will now be extended.

“We are pleased with the early stages of the incentive scheme and we are now making it available to farms statewide,” Mr Furner said.

However, the lack of Australian workers, as well as international ones, has farmers like Queensland Granite Belt apple and strawberry grower Nathan Baronio worried.

“Unfortunately we haven’t seen a significant amount of people taking advantage of the current schemes,” he said.

“We already saw this in October, but when you don’t have enough staff you walk away from the crop.

“We walked away from six and a half acres of strawberries. It resulted in crop loss of about $500,000 to $600,000.”

A man wearing a blue tshirt and cap stands in the middle of rows of strawberries, with a strawberry in hand.
Applethorpe grower Nathan Baronio says he’ll struggle to get the workers he needs in the coming weeks.(ABC News: Nathan Morris)

Bureaucratic nightmare for farmers

Lee Fox, a grain grower in Victoria’s Wimmera region, recently signed on a new worker through the Federal Government’s relocation assistance scheme and got the worker’s accommodation and relocation costs covered.

However, Ms Fox said it took her a month to organise the paperwork with the relevant Government departments and labour service providers — a problem for many farmers who often source many of their causal workers at the last minute, depending on when the crop is ready.

“I really am very doubtful that many farmers have access to this scheme because the paperwork and time involved in chasing how you access the program from both ends is exhausting,” she said.

A woman with red hair, blue shirt and orange necklace stands in a canola crop that's ready to harvest.
Wimmera grain grower Lee Fox says incentives for worker schemes are a bureaucratic nightmare.(ABC Rural: Angus Verley)

Despite the bureaucratic nightmare, the worker she employed, Wayne Russel, said the money has made his move from Melbourne to the Wimmera a lot easier.

“The allowance will be covering some fuel receipts and work clothes, but the major expense will be accommodation, which for me will be about $4,500. I’m very grateful for it,” he said.

Mr Russel was stood down from his job as a Qantas A380 pilot as the pandemic halted international travel and has embraced the new machinery he will now pilot — harvesters and boom sprays.

A man wears a blue shirt and cap, sitting behind the steering wheel of a large piece of farm machinery.
Wayne Russel was stood down from his job as a pilot with Qantas and has taken up farm work.(ABC Rural: Angus Verley)

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said cash incentives for Australian workers were only one part of the solution to the rural labour hire problem, and said states should be focussed on allowing more Pacific islander workers into the country to help fill the gap.

“We haven’t relied on it [the relocation incentive scheme], we have made sure that we have had complementary measures to try and tackle this in any way we can with domestic supply as well as international supply [of workers],” he said.

“The pressure needs to be on to act and act quickly.”

Western Australian has had more success with it’s own incentive program, the Primary Industries Workers’ Regional Travel and Support Scheme, which allows workers who go bush for a job to claim a $40 a night accommodation rebate and a travel allowance of up to $500.

The scheme has had 212 successful applicants since it launched two months ago, and 251 are still pending.

The ABC understands the South Australian Government is finalising a $5.5 million plan of its own to provide relocation assistance to workers.

Tough sell to Aussie workers

Even before COVID-19, attempts to get out-of-work Australians to take up farm jobs through cash incentives have often flopped.

The Coalition Government’s $27.5 million Seasonal Work Incentives Trial, which offered out-of-work Australians on welfare an extra $5,000 per year to pick crops, found placements for fewer than 500 people despite budgeting for 7,600 positions.

The Victorian and Western Australian agriculture ministers have been lobbying the Federal Government to let people who are receiving JobSeeker payments to continue to get that money even if they are working in low-paying farm jobs.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said she believed it would help resolve the potential labour shortage crisis this harvest, but was frustrated the Federal Government had not yet considered the proposal.

“We think that it’s not going to cost any additional money, and if we don’t do it we simply aren’t going to get the people out there doing the job,” Ms MacTiernan said.

Workers harvesting cauliflower in the early morning on a farm at Werribee.
There are growing concerns that this summer’s harvest will be in disarray if international workers don’t arrive.(ABC News: Jess Davis)

Federal Labor agriculture spokesperson Ed Husic backed the calls by his state labour colleagues.

“If the states have put forward this idea in terms of JobSeeker I can see the attractiveness of it,” he said.

“Can the Government just please get out and tell us what their view is?”

Mr Littleproud said it was a “long bow” to expect dual payments, through JobSeeker and farm work, to be enough for urban jobseekers to uproot themselves.

He said many unemployed people were not prepared to travel hundreds or thousands of kilometres from their home for work due to things like family commitments.

The Agriculture Minister said cash incentive programs were only meant to complement existing measures to address the potential worker shortage, such as the restart of the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme.

Call for Pacific travel bubble

AusVeg is calling on the Federal Government to consider including Pacific island nations with no COVID-19 cases in the trans-Tasman travel bubble that already guarantees quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders coming to Australia.

a worker in the field picking raspberries
Tasmania will receive 700 seasonal workers this month from Pacific nations.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

Analysis by consultancy firm Ernst and Young puts the worker shortage nationwide at 26,000 — a gap which AusVeg says could be better and more quickly filled by some of the 22,000 visa-ready workers from Pacific Island nations who are being held up by various quarantine restrictions.

“We think that is a step in the right direction,” the firm said.

While Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa have recorded recent COVID-19 cases, countries like Nauru, Tonga, Kiribati, Micronesia, Palau, and Tuvalu have not.

Currently, Pacific island workers are allowed into the country provided they quarantine as per the rules of the state they are arriving in.

However, who pays for that — the worker, the farmer, the state government, or a combination — has been a source of contention which has delayed significant planeloads of workers.

“The states have agreed that they want to handle their own quarantine process … but what that’s done is really add another layer of bureaucracy in terms of hoops in which growers and industry needs to jump through in order to bring in these workers from COVID-free nations,” AusVeg’s Tyson Cattle said.

Tasmania is due to receive 700 workers this month after the State Government there agreed to foot the bill for hotel quarantine, while workers and farmers will share the cost of the chartered planes to get them there.

The Home Affairs Department said that 953 Pacific workers have arrived in Australia as part of the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme since they restarted in August, far short of the 26,000 shortfall the horticulture industry has predicted.

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