Ethiopia files terrorism charges against leading opposition activist

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia has filed terrorism charges against a prominent media mogul and opposition politician from the Oromo ethnic group, Jawar Mohammed, the attorney general’s office said on Saturday.

Jawar, founder of the Oromiya Media Network and a member of the Oromo Federalist Congress party, was arrested in June amid the widespread unrest that followed the assassination of popular Oromo musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.

Jawar and 22 other activists, including Oromo opposition leader Bekele Garba, face charges relating to the violation of anti-terrorism laws, telecom fraud laws and firearms laws, the attorney general’s office said in a statement on social media.

Those charged include journalists and scholars. Bekele is a senior leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress.

They will appear in court on Monday to answer to the charges, the attorney general’s office said in the statement.

Jawar, a former ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, was instrumental in the Oromo protests that brought Abiy to power in 2018. But he became a critic of Abiy, accusing the prime minister of failing to protect Oromo interests.

Tuuli Baayyis, Jawar’s lawyer, told Reuters that they had learnt about the charges from social media as formal charge papers had not been provided to them yet. He did not comment on the charges.

At least nine people have died in the Oromiya region around Addis Ababa following clashes between Ethiopian security forces and protesters demanding the release of the detained Oromo opposition politicians.

The unrest in Oromiya highlights the challenges facing Abiy ahead of elections which were due this August, but were postponed due to the coronavirus crisis.

(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Ros Russell)

Source link

‘Dividendkeeper’: 17 leading companies receiving jobkeeper paid investors $250m in dividends | Business

Seventeen companies in the top 300 in Australia that received government subsidies paid out dividends to investors totalling more than $250m, according to new research by proxy firm Ownership Matters.

In a report sent to clients on Wednesday afternoon, Ownership Matters, which advises superannuation funds and other investors on corporate governance issues, also said 25 companies in the ASX300 index received jobkeeper support payments and then paid their executives bonuses totalling more than $24m.

The report comes amid attacks by Labor and investors on the practice, dubbed “dividendkeeper”, of using jobkeeper payments – which are supposed to support employment during the coronavirus crisis – to prop up dividend payments to shareholders.

Labor MP Andrew Leigh has also raised concerns over the bonuses paid out to executives at companies that have received government support.

Ownership Matters said that up until 30 June, ASX300 companies received a total of almost $1.8bn in government subsidies, of which at least half was jobkeeper.

The subsidies to some companies with overseas operations also included subsidies from foreign governments.

Qantas received the largest government subsidy of $525m, including $267m in jobkeeper, Ownership Matters said. It did not pay any dividends or bonuses.

“Casino operator Crown Resorts was the next largest recipient of JK [jobkeeper] at $111m, followed by Star Entertainment Group receiving $65m; both entities disclosed that a proportion of JK was paid to employees who continued to work,” it said.

Ownership Matters’ figures do not include department store Myer, which on Thursday announced it received $93.1m in jobkeeper, of which $41m went to pay casual or part-time staff, who are likely to have enjoyed a pay rise as a result.

Myer declared a loss of $172m for the year to 25 July, down from a modest profit of $24.5m the previous year.

Ownership Matters said 17 companies that received government subsidies paid dividends after 30 March, the date jobkeeper was announced and almost a month after the Australian government declared the Covid-19 outbreak was a pandemic.

Those included shoe retailer Accent Group, which received almost $25m in subsidies and paid shareholders more than $20m in dividends, and logistics group Qube, which took almost $20m in taxpayers’ money and paid dividends of more than $40m.

On executive bonuses, Ownership Matters said Star was also the biggest recipient of government subsidy to reward bosses with extra payments.

“The casino operator’s board elected to award bonuses as deferred equity to the disclosed executives at an average 40% of target ($1.39m across four executives including $830,000 for the CEO),” Ownership Matters said in its report.

“The cultural signal of a board deciding to pay – and a management team electing to receive – bonuses in a year where a listed entity received significant government subsidies is an important one for investors to consider, especially for listed entities with significant exposure to government as a regulator or customer.”

It said investors should be aware of the impact of jobkeeper and other subsidies on company accounts.

“Investors should also give consideration to the sustainability of results in cases where employees receiving JK continued to work and so wage expenses for non-stood-down employees were being directly subsidised,” it said.

“Similarly, judgement should be made about the potential impact of temporary reliefs such as rental deferment (or forgiveness) and lending concessions made in favour of ASX listed entities – major listed landlords had disclosed at least $658.5m in rent concessions to tenants in FY20.”

Source link

AstraZeneca puts leading COVID-19 vaccine trial on hold over safety concern

September 9, 2020

By Deena Beasley

(Reuters) – AstraZeneca Plc on Tuesday said it has paused a late-stage trial of one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates after an unexplained illness in a study participant.

“Our standard review process was triggered and we voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee,” company spokeswoman Michele Meixell said in an emailed statement.

The study is testing a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford researchers at various sites, including the United Kingdom, where the illness was reported.

The nature of the case and when it happened were not detailed, although the participant is expected to recover, according to Stat News, which first reported the trial was halted due to a “suspected serious adverse reaction.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines that as an adverse event in which evidence suggests a possible relationship to the drug being tested.

The suspension of the trial has impacted other AstraZeneca vaccine trials – as well as clinical trials being conducted by other vaccine makers, which are looking for signs of similar reactions, Stat said.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health, which is providing funding for AstraZeneca’s trial, declined to comment.

AstraZeneca’s statement said that “in large trials, illnesses will happen by chance but must be independently reviewed to check this carefully.”

Shares of AstraZeneca fell more than 8% in after-hours U.S. trading, while shares of rival vaccine developers rose. Moderna Inc was up more than 4% and Pfizer Inc rose less than 1%.

Moderna, in an emailed statement, said it was “not aware of any impact” to its ongoing COVID-19 vaccine study at this time.

Nine leading U.S. and European vaccine developers pledged on Tuesday to uphold scientific safety and efficacy standards for their experimental vaccines despite the urgency to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The companies, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Pfizer issued what they called a “historic pledge” after a rise in concern that safety standards might slip in the face of political pressure to rush out a vaccine.

The companies said they would “uphold the integrity of the scientific process as they work towards potential global regulatory filings and approvals of the first COVID-19 vaccines.”

The other signatories were Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co, GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax Inc, Sanofi and BioNTech.

(Reporting By Peter Henderson; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Aurora Ellis)

Source link

AMA president Omar Khorshid on leading doctors out of the coronavirus pandemic

Doctor Omar Khorshid was just a fifth-year medical student when he had his first interaction with the Australian Medical Association.

Little did he know, he would go on to lead the AMA in Western Australia, and then be elected as its national president for the next two years.

It was 1996 when Dr Khorshid and his fellow medical students made some placards and formed a protest outside a national cabinet meeting being held in Perth.

“We were protesting against some changes to Medicare requirements, which were going to fundamentally change our futures as doctors,” Dr Khorshid recalls.

“By the end of the day, we were meeting with health minister Michael Wooldridge and that was a real demonstration of the reach of the AMA.”

Dr Khorshid says there is a limit to what doctors can do outside the policy arena.(Supplied)

Not long after the protest, just as Dr Khorshid was about to start work as an intern, the WA Government tried to impose individual workplace agreements on new doctors.

“It was only the AMA that came to us and said ‘Don’t sign that contract — you will have no rights to collective bargaining whatsoever and you’ll be the only people in the whole public sector who don’t have a union’,” he said.

As a result, the government backed down.

“We did keep that collective bargaining and keep the AMA as our representative and that has been really helpful over the subsequent couple of decades.”

Political drive sparked by experience

The industrial relations stoush was enough to pique the interest of a young doctor.

“Whereas a body like the AMA — which has tens of thousands of doctors on its books — is able to access the highest levels of government, is able to communicate through the media and get messages out and make a difference to public health, to make a difference to the funding of the health system and the way things are organised.”

But making any changes while a pandemic rages will take a lot more effort than some hastily-made placards and a protest.

“I made the decision to run for this role before the pandemic,” Dr Khorshid said.

A wide shot of AMA president Omar Khorshid sitting in a dark room speaking to an interviewer with his hands outstretched.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dr Khorshid says he chose to stick with the new AMA role.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

As pandemic rages, government attention is a silver lining

Dr Khorshid knows it is a challenging time to take up the position and that a lot of hard work lies ahead.

“There’s a whole lot of urgent stuff going on, but we need to be setting the agenda. We can see the problems in the future,” he said.

“The reality is, it’s all about COVID at the moment and we are struggling to talk about anything else.”

AMA WA president Dr Omar Khorshid speaks to journalists in the fern garden at WA Parliament.
Dr Khorshid says the AMA’s voice is trusted by the public.(ABC News: James Carmody)

But there has been a silver lining — Dr Khorshid says the government is listening.

“There is an understanding by government and by the public that expert opinions and advice should be listened to and acted on during this pandemic,” he said.

“We’ve seen with COVID just how important the AMA has been, not just sometimes to push the government, but also to assist the government in convincing the public that all these draconian measures were actually necessary, that it wasn’t the government overreaching.

Dr Khorshid said while the government had listened in the past, he had never seen it demonstrated so clearly as during COVID-19.

“If you look at telehealth, for example, which is something the AMA’s been advocating for a long time, it was on a kind of 10-year timeframe with the government, and then it was done in a matter of a couple of weeks.”

Pressure mounts over health and aged care funding

Dr Khorshid knows COVID-19 will continue to place extraordinary pressure on the health system.

“Due to the changing financial situation of Australians and of the governments, we’re really going to have to look at what health care is important, how we can deliver it efficiently and how can we make the health dollar go further,” Dr Khorshid said.

As governments, both state and federal, are handing out stimulus payments to various industries as part of their COVID-19 recovery plans, Dr Khorshid says the AMA will be there with cap in hand.

“It will be critical that the health system isn’t cut just to try and balance the budget because there’s not going to be a balancing of budgets coming out of COVID,” Dr Khorshid said.

“And I think health and aged care is an area where stimulus money can go — not just to stimulate the economy, but to improve people’s lives, improve productivity and there is some science behind the fact that investing in health is actually a good decision for governments coming out of recessions.”

A close-up head shot of AMA president Omar Khorshid wearing a full protective face helmet for surgery.
Dr Khorshid is eyeing broad reforms in health and aged care funding during his term.(Supplied)

Dr Khorshid hopes there may be some space next year to raise other issues in the sector.

“We’re not going to achieve change in all these areas, but my aim is to have these conversations well underway during my term, so that we’ve at least got the AMA ready to fight for these things,” he said.

And he has several things to achieve on his list.

And the big ones are?

“Trying to reform the way general practice is delivered and funded, so that the system supports high-quality primary care in general practice — right at the core of our joined-up health system, with the GP as the gateway to all the other, much more expensive care.

“I also want to look at our private hospital and private health insurance system, which at the moment is on fairly weak ground with falling private health insurance rates for five years in a row.

“We can see huge problems coming out of COVID in that sector, so we need some substantial reform because it is critical to our overall health system.”

A crocheted blanket hangs over a food trolley pushed up to a resident (obscured) in a chair at a nursing home.
Dr Khorshid says aged care is under-funded and does not have enough clinical expertise.(ABC Riverland: Catherine Heuzenroeder)

And third on his list is a substantial funding increase to the aged care and public hospital sectors.

“We don’t have a future aging population — it’s here right now, and our public hospitals are full,” he warns.

Fight against obesity crisis is personal

Dr Khorshid says the AMA must also be more proactive in advocating for specific public health measures.

High on that list will be a sugar tax.

sugar cane in bin
A sugar tax is high on Dr Khorshid’s agenda as AMA President.(ABC Rural: Tom Major)

“Our response to the obesity crisis in Australia is inadequate so far,” he said.

“If we don’t alter the amount of sugar that Australians are drinking in their fizzy drinks, eating in their junk food, we are going to continue to struggle more and more with rising rates of diabetes, obesity and all the complications that flow on from those two conditions.”

That’s a message close to Dr Khorshid’s heart.

During his early medical career, he developed a range of health issues.

“I slowly developed some health issues, blood pressure, cholesterol, reflux — all of which my father had, my brother had — I just assumed they were genetic.”

Lifestyle advice a game changer

Dr Khorshid began taking a range of medications to treat the issues.

“But they weren’t really working very well and I wasn’t super healthy.”

A head and shoulders shot of AMA president Omar Khorshid sitting in a dark room talking during an interview.
Dr Khorshid credits a visit to his GP with changing his life.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

During that period, he was about to become a first-time father.

He says a visit to his GP changed his life.

“I kind of knew I was overweight, but I didn’t really think that all these health issues stemmed from that — I just assumed they were genetic.”

The GP suggested an intermittent fasting diet.

Six months later, Dr Khorshid was 20kg lighter and no longer needed the five medications for chronic health conditions he’d been taking for years.

That visit to a GP not only changed his life and health outcomes, it helped shape his views on health policy, particularly a national obesity strategy.

“I had no comprehension that those health issues could have been related and of course the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) would have been paying for my medications for six years, so that health expenditure on me has gone down because of that one conversation with a GP.”

It’s a conversation he now wants to have with policy makers, but he realises while all resources are focused on the pandemic, getting anyone to listen will be the struggle.

Source link

Ashley Dickerson: Leading Fashion and Glamour Model Reveal Her Workout, Diet And Beauty Secrets

Ashley Dickerson is a leading Fashion and Glamour Model. She is handled by 10 Management a Chicago based boutique agency dedicated to management of top tier talent.

Women Fitness President Ms. Namita Nayyar had a candid interview with Ashley Dickerson, a leading fashion and glamour model where she talks about her workout, diet, and beauty secrets.

Namita Nayyar:

You are a stunning model. Introduce us to two memorable instances from your journey down the world of modeling? How did it begin?

Ashley Dickerson:

I started modeling when I was 19. I was discovered on a “scouting cruise” where models and agents could meet and interact over a course of 4 days. That is where I met my manager and got a contract with my first agency in Cape Town, South Africa! I lived there for four months just working and getting to know the city and the culture. I would have to say that was one of the most memorable times of my life and my career!

Namita Nayyar:

Having done numerous photo shoots. Five tips to prepare for a photo-shoot? Your say on body shaming?

Ashley Dickerson:

Working in Miami, I shoot a lot of swimwear so I really have to be in shape at all times and be consistent in everyday life. I don’t necessarily diet, I mainly just focus on eating nutritious foods and being consistent with working out! The day before a big photo shoot, I like to take a hot yoga or Pilates class, do my nails, and do a face mask. I also love drinking a detox tea for a few days until the shoot which really helps clean out my body makes me feel my best!

In terms of body shaming, I don’t think its right for anyone to tell someone else how they should look! I’m all for fitness and being healthy but everyone is made differently and with different body types. So whatever

Namita Nayyar:

A healthy breakfast for you includes? What do you like to have for dinner? Supplements essential for boosting immunity.

Ashley Dickerson
Ashley Dickerson:

My favourite thing to have for breakfast is Banana pancakes! I know it doesn’t sound very healthy, but they actually don’t have any flour in them. Only 2 eggs, 1 banana, and cinnamon. I usually drizzle them with a little agave and a side of fruit.

Being a pescatarian, I don’t eat any meat. So I love to make a pasta dish with shrimp and veggies! Another dinner go-to is a grilled shrimp salad with avocado.

I’ve never been a fan of consistently taking supplements. There are a lot of fruits that can naturally boost your immunity such as oranges and lemons that I like to incorporate into my diet rather than using supplements.

Full Interview is Continued on Next Page

This interview is exclusive and taken by Namita Nayyar President and should not be reproduced, copied or hosted in part or full anywhere without an express permission.

All Written Content Copyright © 2020 Women Fitness 

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Source link

Yegor Zhukov: Leading Russian opposition blogger beaten up

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Yegor Zhukov is a prominent critic of President Putin

A prominent opposition blogger in Russia, Yegor Zhukov, has been beaten up in Moscow and taken to hospital for treatment.

Police have launched a criminal investigation into the assault.

His supporters posted a photo on Facebook of his bloodied and swollen face. The attack happened near his home on Sunday evening, they said.

In December Zhukov, 22, was given a three-year suspended jail term for “inciting extremism”.

A police statement quoted by Interfax news agency said Zhukov had told investigators that “two unidentified men had attacked him on Rashchupkin Street and injured him”.

Zhukov is now also a political commentator on Russian radio. He was arrested last August during protests against the exclusion of independent and opposition candidates from Moscow council elections.

Earlier on Sunday, Zhukov said on his YouTube channel that he had been rejected for a master’s course on cinema at Moscow’s prestigious Higher School of Economics, after initially being accepted for it. He linked that rejection to this political activity.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionYegor Zhukov among supporters outside a Moscow court

German concern over Navalny

In Berlin, Russia’s most famous campaigner against President Vladimir Putin, the blogger Alexei Navalny, remains in intensive care in an induced coma, suffering from suspected nerve agent poisoning.

Germany has called on Russia to do more to clarify the suspected poisoning. Mr Navalny was flown out of Russia nine days ago. On Friday the hospital said he was in a serious but stable condition.

His supporters believe he was poisoned by a cup of tea he drank at an airport in Tomsk in Siberia, before boarding a flight.

Commenting on relations with Russia, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said they were under “dark clouds”.

“Sanctions remain in place, and will for as long as the basis for them does not change. And at the moment there are also some dark clouds and of course we expect Russia to contribute more to the clarification of the Navalny case than it currently is.”

Source link

Carlton emerge as “leading contender” for star free agent

Carlton has emerged as a leading contender to secure GWS Giants free agent Zac Williams, according to AFL Media.

The rebound defender remains out of contract at the Giants beyond the current season and the report states that the Blues are targeting the defender in the upcoming trade and free agency period as they look to add extra speed to their side.

According to the report, the likes of Essendon and North Melbourne are also interested as Williams decides whether he wants to stay at the club beyond 2020.

Williams has played seven games for the Giants this year and remains one of the most sought-after free agents ahead of next season.

The 25-year-old has played 109 over eight seasons for the AFL’s newest club.

Source link

Audit finds ‘serious’ financial irregularities at one of Victoria’s leading Chinese schools

An independent audit of one of Victoria’s biggest Chinese language schools has uncovered a list of financial mismanagement issues and called for further investigation.

It concluded Xin Jin Shan Chinese Language and Culture School (XJS), which is partially taxpayer-funded, does “not have adequate governance policies, procedures and practices” to comply with funding guidelines, particularly in relation to financial controls.

The ABC obtained a copy of the audit report into the XJS after successfully challenging a decision by the Victorian Department of Education and Training to refuse a Freedom of Information request.

The XJS is a charity which, with two affiliated charities — the Eastern Chinese Language School and the Western Chinese Language School — teaches Chinese language to thousands of Victorian students.

XJS received more than $1 million in funding from the Victorian Government in 2019.

The audit into XJS was conducted in September last year and was first revealed by the Herald Sun newspaper that same month. Until now, its findings have not been made public.

The XJS was founded in 1992 by a group of Chinese migrants including Haoliang Sun, the school’s current chairman.

Independent audit uncovers financial mismanagement

While the 33-page audit by independent consultants HLB Mann Judd found that the school was compliant on some accreditation requirements, the report makes a number of adverse findings, including:

• long delays in the depositing of large amounts of cash for tuition fees into the school’s bank account;

• an ‘unusual increase in tuition fee amounts’ over three years that was not matched by a corresponding increase in the number of students;

• inadequate record-keeping, including a lack of supporting documentation for $15,000 in donations to the Xin Jin Shan Library, and a $13,000 contract with CAN Media Services, which was signed and became effective one month after the services were provided;

• donations totalling $125,000 to the Xin Jin Shan Education Foundation and Xin Jin Shan Library, where the auditors ‘could not identify the business purpose of these payments’;

• transactions between related parties creating a potential conflict of interest, such as a $35,000 per annum lease agreement with Suns Group Corporation and another $85,000 per annum lease agreement for a property owned by a committee member;

• an agreement to pay a separate entity, XJS Service Centre an estimated annual fee at August 2019 of $280,000, which the auditor calls a ‘high service fee’ for the size and complexity of the school’s operations; and

• a lack of employment contracts for staff and a lack of documented policies relating to bonuses, incentives and allowances.

Haoliang Sun is the chairman of both Xin Jin Shan Library and Xin Jin Shan Education Foundation.(

Mr Sun is the chairman of both Xin Jin Shan Library and Xin Jin Shan Education Foundation.

Mr Sun is also a part owner of CAN Media Services, a part-owner in Suns Group Corporation and owner of the property leased by the school for $85,000 per annum.

The XJS Service Centre is a business name registered with ASIC and Mr Sun is listed as a name holder.

Audit findings ‘completely unacceptable’

The auditors recommend the Department consider an in-depth review of the school’s fee collection practices to check “whether the monies deposited into their bank accounts represent the student’s tuition fee”.

It also recommends the Department review instances of poorly documented spending to check “whether the payments are linked to school activities and not paid for personal-related transactions”.

The report makes positive findings about a number of practices that comply with accreditation and funding requirements. They include a charter setting out the requisite policies, detailed attendance records, properly registered teachers and a separate bank account for DET funding with at least two signatories.

In a statement, Mr Sun strongly denied there had been any impropriety at the school.

“I believe that our school has conscientiously implemented the relevant provisions of the Department of Education on the use of funds,” he said in a statement.

He thanked the auditors “for pointing out the problems in our school’s financial management, which we have and are improving.”

The street view of Xin Jin Shan Library with banners reading
The audit found a lack of supporting documentation for $15,000 in donations to the Xin Jin Shan Library.(Google Street View)

XJS is accredited by the Education Department as a community language school, an authorised provider of VCE Chinese, and an approved third-party provider for international students wishing to study in Melbourne.

The Department labelled the audit findings “completely unacceptable” and demanded further information from the operators.

“The 2019 audit report into the Xin Jin Shan, Eastern and Western Chinese Language Schools found serious and concerning instances of non-compliance by these schools with some of the accreditation requirements and funding agreements,” a spokesperson for the Department told the ABC in a statement.

“We are committed to ensuring the integrity of the Community Language Schools Funding Program and we take very seriously any instances of non-compliance. As such, it is our expectation that these matters are addressed urgently.

“If we are not satisfied with the response from these schools, we will take immediate action to either recoup funds, suspend funding, or terminate the agreement.”

Another audit will be conducted in October 2020.

A spokeswoman from the Australian Charities and Non-for-Profit Commission said she was unable to comment on XJS specifically due to secrecy provisions in ACNC legislation.

The ACNC can investigate charities it suspects have breached the ACNC Act or governance standards, including those believed to be not pursuing their charitable purposes, not operating in a not-for-profit manner, or providing private benefits to members.

“Where there is evidence of a breach, the ACNC will use its regulatory powers,” the spokeswoman said.

Educational bodies are often also registered as charitable entities and required to report their finances to the ACNC each year. All charities registered with the ACNC are able to apply for income and GST tax exemptions.

Additional reporting by Joanna McCarthy

Source link

Pansexual man leading push for safe space in regional community

From bingo to karaoke and dedicated nightclubs — venture into any capital city on a Friday or Saturday night and you will see a celebration of drag queens and kings and expressions of identity.

But acceptance and celebration of identity is not always the norm once you travel out of the bright lights of the big cities into the nation’s lesser-populated regional areas.

Pansexual man Cody Dolan, 23, knows this all too well having dealt with his own personal struggles around mental health and identity while growing up in regional South Australia.

Safe space for regional youth

The Riverland resident leads a local LGBTQI+ group through headspace that keeps its members safe by preventing people from joining for the sole reason of outing locals in the community.

“We’re trying to find a way to be able to bring new people into the group, while still protecting those who are in the group, because not all of them are out yet,” Mr Dolan said.

Cody Dolan says more education around sexual and gender diversity is needed in regional Australia.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

“A new member has to be invited by an existing member to make sure people aren’t joining just to find out who’s in there and spread that around.

“That’s really what we’re trying to protect against, and we want to let people come out in their own time, in their own way.”

Mr Dolan said the freedom to be yourself was a privilege that still did not exist in some parts of the country.

A person with pink and purple hair is smiling with their eyes closed. They have blue, purple and pink eyeshadow and red lips.
Cody Dolan is hoping to pursue his dreams of becoming a drag queen when COVID-19 restrictions ease.(Supplied: Cody Dolan)

“I could walk around Adelaide or Sydney and no-one even bats an eyelid. It would be my own life, my own story,” he said.

“It’s difficult for people to find someone they are attracted to in that sort of a setting and there’s almost every guarantee that they’re not going to be open to the idea.”

Drag queen dreams

The mental health advocate said his experience of coming out as pansexual had been a loving and supportive one, thanks to understanding from his family and friends.

This level of support has lead Mr Dolan to take the initial steps to pursue his dreams of becoming a drag queen.

“She’s a fashion student … and together we’ve been talking about our performance plans.

“I’ll give anything a go once.”

A man and a woman are standing on a bridge, laughing. You can see trees and a river behind them.
Cody Dolan and Brianna Webber don’t let their beliefs get in the way of being friends.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

Different beliefs lead to common ground

Fashion student friend Brianna Webber met Mr Dolan while growing up in the Riverland, but now lives in Adelaide for her studies.

She said her Christian beliefs made her and Mr Dolan unlikely friends, but she had learned so much from him over the course of their friendship.

A man and a woman are sitting on a grassy hill by the river. They are smiling.
Brianna Webber says she loves watching drag performances and is excited to help Cody become a drag queen.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

“I had zero clue about the LGBTQI+ community beforehand but, especially in the past two years, I’ve had a lot of questions Cody’s been able to answer and now I have a lot more understanding.”

The pair are in the process of designing costumes, practising routines, and preparing for a post COVID-19 world when Mr Dolan, or ‘Pan-duuh-monaay’, can make his debut on the stage.

“I think eventually and hopefully in the not-so-distant future, people will understand, accept and welcome the changes that are coming to this world.”

Source link

Business pushing hard to open state borders during coronavirus, but leading economists urge caution

Business groups pressuring politicians to reopen state borders quickly should not ignore the health and economic benefits of the coronavirus lockdowns, two leading economists say.

But calls for a more nationally coherent approach to state border closures and reopenings do have merit, they added.

High-profile executives in the tourism industry have become the latest group of employers to call on state and territory political leaders to reopen state borders to allow interstate travel to resume.

In an open letter on Thursday, hundreds of tourism representatives, including Flight Centre Travel Group chief executive Graham Turner and Helloworld Travel executive director and chief executive Cinzia and Andrew Burnes, implored state political leaders to stop making ad hoc policy changes around border crossings, saying the uncertainty it was creating was having a devastating effect on the domestic tourism industry.

They have asked state and territory governments to work together quickly to install efficient screening protocols for travellers on borders so interstate travel can resume “in a safe and sustainable manner”.

“The events of recent weeks, in particular the ongoing changes to policies around borders and access to interstate travellers, have resulted in crippling uncertainty among tourism operators and would-be travellers alike,” the open letter said.

“Guests who had previously been prepared to postpone travel have now cancelled in light of the latest announcements on long-term border closures.

“We need interstate borders to remain open. We need certainty that domestic travel is accessible so that Australians can recommence making travel plans and so we can get employees and businesses back to work.”

Complaint follows Business Council push

The complaint from tourism operators comes days after the Business Council of Australia — and more than 20 other business lobby groups — called for a national framework to govern how state border controls were being applied.

“What has emerged is a patchwork of inconsistent state and territory-based rules that ignore the reality of the way small and large businesses operate across borders and Australians live their lives,” the groups said in a joint statement this week.

“The administration of domestic border controls varies significantly across the country with massive differences in processes for border pass applications, quarantine requirements, and essential worker/traveller exemptions.

“This has caused unintended consequences and exposed Australians to unnecessary risk. It has also significantly impacted on health services, local communities, supply chains, and the ability of businesses to safeguard and create jobs.”

Those sentiments echo calls last week from Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce for a transparent “rules-based” approach to border closures based on scientific evidence, not politics.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) also applauded the recent decision by National Cabinet to develop a national Agricultural Worker Movement Code to facilitate the safe interstate movement of agricultural workers during the COVID-19 lockdowns, so farmers could still get workers when they needed them.

The BCA and the NFF have been warning that much economic damage has resulted from piecemeal state border closures, though neither organisation has supplied data to support their arguments.

They said they had been relying on what they were hearing from their members.

Coherent approach over ‘political grandstanding’

Chris Richardson, a director of Deloitte Access Economics, said it was a complicated situation because the push to reopen state borders should not ignore the economic importance of healthy consumer confidence.

He said private consumption accounted for 55 per cent of Australia’s nominal gross domestic product, so it was vital to protect the confidence of households by keeping the virus under control nationally.

“There are positives coming from the closures because the virus generates economic and health negatives, but it’s a genuine trade-off,” he said.

“I was struck by the August consumer confidence data, which saw consumer confidence in New South Wales fall twice as much as in Victoria.

“But it’s a tricky line to walk. Some of the more recent stuff, with some of the stranger demands coming from state premiers about the need for federal MPs to quarantine upon their return from Canberra, there does appear to be some political grandstanding.”

Saul Eslake, an independent economist, said during this crisis he had deliberately tried not to second-guess the health advice on which governments were making decisions.

However, he said it would be beneficial to have a more coherent plan for state borders, especially for border communities, because there appeared to be very few COVID cases or deaths along state borders and he was struggling to understand the logic behind some of the tougher border restrictions.

“I know there are farming properties that straddle borders, and there are people in little towns for whom the major service centre is on the other side of a state border, particularly in western Victoria,” Mr Eslake said.

Mr Eslake said it was reasonable for small town mayors and the NFF to ask for more flexibility.

“But that’s not the same as saying that someone who works for a company that’s a member of the BCA ought to be able to fly to Perth as much as he would want to,” he said.

“I wouldn’t support that at all.”

Mining industry faring well despite COVID lockdowns

Mr Eslake said the mining industry appeared to be the least affected of private sector industries by the COVID shutdowns, and it was still faring relatively well.

Data this week showed mining investment only slowed a little in recent months, and it was still up for the year, whereas non-mining investment has just experienced its steepest falls since the global financial crisis.

“There are some issues around FIFO [fly-in, fly-out] workers for mining companies,” Mr Eslake said.

“My neighbour here in Hobart actually FIFOs into Western Australia, and he’s thinking about moving there for three months or something to manage the border issue.

Mr Eslake said the recent Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer confidence survey, which Mr Richardson mentioned, showed just how concerned households were about the economic outlook.

That’s something that would not be improved if coronavirus outbreaks spread to other states currently with few or no cases of community transmission.

Source link