Australia’s environment ministers are planning to phase out a range of “problematic and unnecessary” plastic products over the next four years.
Lightweight plastic bags, straws, utensils and stirrers are among the list of products the ministers want to eliminate by 2025.
The hit list was created to provide greater certainty for industry, as the states have been chasing differing bans on plastic items.
South Australia’s Liberal government has been ahead of the curve, with single-use plastics banned in the state since March.
Victoria and Western Australia already plan to phase out and ban a raft of plastic items by 2023.
Queensland and the ACT have also passed laws to ban single-use plastics including straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates and bowls.
As a result of the meeting, Tasmania and the Northern Territory now have commitments to see single-use plastics phased out by 2025.
PRODUCTS TO BE ELIMINATED:
* Lightweight plastic bags
* Plastic bags misleadingly termed as degradable
* Plastic straws
* Plastic utensils and stirrers
* Expanded polystyrene food containers like cups and takeaway boxes
* Expanded polystyrene packaging
* Microbeads in personal care products
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The UK is no longer a country “where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”, a government-ordered review has said.
The Independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – which was appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests – has published its 258-page report on inequality in Britain.
It explored ethnic and race disparities within education, employment, the criminal justice system and health.
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Race review: ‘There’s a lot of work ahead’
The commission said the UK “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries” although it cannot be considered “a post racial society”.
“Overt and outright racism persists in the UK”, particularly online, the report found, adding that it remained a “real force” and should be taken “seriously”.
But it also said: “Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined.
“The evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism.”
The report argues there is an “increasingly strident form of anti-racism thinking that seeks to explain all minority disadvantage through the prism of White discrimination”, which diverts attention away from other factors behind disparities of outcome.
The report makes a total of 24 recommendations to the government in order to give a “further burst of momentum” in the UK’s progress towards becoming a “successful multicultural community”, including:
• The phasing in of extended school days, starting with disadvantaged areas, as part of a “bold intervention” into education following the impact of the COVID pandemic on pupils • Access to better quality careers advice in schools for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, funded by university outreach programmes • The commissioning of further research into the drivers in “high performing pupils’ communities” to see what can be replicated to support all children to succeed • For organisations “to move away from funding unconscious bias training” and the government “to work with a panel of academics and practitioners to develop resources and evidence-based approaches of what does work to advance fairness in the workplace” • Ditching the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) acronym
One of its major conclusions is that issues around race and racism are becoming less important and, in some cases, are not a significant factor in explaining disparities.
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‘History must be acknowledged to make progress’
It found that children from many ethnic communities do at least as well or substantially better than white pupils in education.
This high achievement for children from certain ethnic communities is creating fairer and more diverse workplaces, the commission added.
Its report said some communities continue to be “haunted” by “historic cases” of racism, creating “deep mistrust” in the system which could prove a barrier to success.
But the commission claimed that there was a “reluctance to acknowledge that the UK had become open and fairer” from some groups.
It was also suggested that the well-meaning “idealism” of many young people who claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence.
The report acknowledged that the Black Lives Matter demonstrations had focused attention on race, but said progress could not be achieved by “cleaving to a fatalistic account that insists nothing has changed”.
It added: “We also have to ask whether a narrative that claims nothing has changed for the better, and that the dominant feature of our society is institutional racism and white privilege, will achieve anything beyond alienating the decent centre ground – a centre ground which is occupied by people of all races and ethnicities.
“We therefore cannot accept the accusatory tone of much of the current rhetoric on race, and the pessimism about what has been and what more can be achieved.”
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Travellers from Queensland will be forced to quarantine upon arrival in WA as the state battles a new outbreak of COVID-19.
Premier Mark McGowan tweeted this evening, “Due to the evolving COVID-19 situation in Queensland, additional steps are being taken to keep WA safe. Effective immediately, Queensland will be classified as a ‘low risk’ jurisdiction under WA’s controlled interstate border.”
“All arrivals from Queensland will now need to complete 14 days of self-quarantine. These new Directions also apply to those people who arrived from Queensland earlier today.”
While the border is not officially closed, a 14-day quarantine requirement means few travellers are likely to come to WA.
Dozens of close contacts of two new Brisbane coronavirus cases are awaiting COVID-19 test results as concerns grow about interstate travel restrictions a week before Easter.
Queensland health authorities revealed on Saturday night the latest man to test positive hosted a house party for about 25 guests before his result came back, ignoring a direction to self-isolate.
The 26-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday night, one day after his friend, who had been infectious for a week.
All party guests have been ordered into quarantine and are being tested.
Queensland Health are also tracking down people who may have come into contact with the men at 24 exposure sites and asking them to isolate and get tested.
Earlier on Saturday Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says there’s no evidence of widespread community transmission.
“We are very comfortable where things are at the moment, and Queensland is responding incredibly well, so if everyone keeps up their testing and the contact tracing we’re very comfortable with where we are,” she told reporters.
The cluster has sparked a lockdown of Brisbane City and Moreton Bay council area hospitals, aged care facilities, prisons and disability services providers.
NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT have also declared those two council areas as hotspots and all travellers arriving from there must self- isolate and get tested upon arrival.
Tasmania is only warning Brisbane and Moreton Bay travellers to get tested if they become ill, while South Australia and the Northern Territory have not changed their travel rules.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged states and territories to be balanced and “proportionate” in their response to the outbreak.
He says the ongoing vaccine rollout has changed “risk calculations” and he’s confident the Queensland government has control of the situation.
“The economic recovery we’re seeing in Australia now is leading the world, and we want to keep that happening, and we don’t want to prevent that from happening by any possible disproportion or overreaction in response” Mr Morrison told reporters.
“The Queensland government’s got this, they’ve got a strong tracing system, they’ve got a very strong public health system there in Queensland. I have a lot of faith in that, I’ve seen it in action before, and I think we’ve got to backup people to keep this under control, and I have no doubt the Queensland government will do that.”
The Brisbane cluster has also put a number of Easter sporting fixtures in doubt amid concerns about travel restrictions.
Melbourne’s Good Friday NRL clash with Brisbane is under a cloud while the Gold Coast Suns return to Queensland is up in the air.
The Victorian government’s new rules caused a stir at the Suns’ AFL match in Geelong on Friday night, where some fans and commentators who had been in Brisbane in the past fortnight were ordered to leave mid-match.
The Lions’ AFLW team are also in Victoria and are due to play Melbourne at Casey Fields on Saturday afternoon.
Canterbury are already in Brisbane for their NRL clash with the Broncos on Saturday night, while Parramatta have been there since March 12.
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Marise Payne insists the Morrison government shares “the same ambitions” as the incoming OECD chief, Mathias Cormann, for a green recovery from the pandemic.
The foreign minister made the claim despite the government’s promotion of a gas-fired recovery and despite research showing Australia was the worst performer among the world’s 50 largest economies for “green recovery” spending to kickstart economic growth.
Payne on Thursday faced a range of questions about the language embraced by Cormann, the former Coalition finance minister, during his successful campaign to become the next secretary general of the Paris-based OECD.
During a Senate estimates hearing, the Labor senator, Tim Ayres, pointed to Cormann’s backing of “an inclusive and future-focused recovery, including a green recovery” and “accelerating the transition to a lower emissions future”.
When asked whether the government agreed with the need for a green recovery, Payne said it “would agree with the incoming secretary general’s observations around a strong, sustainable, cleaner recovery”.
“I’m not going to quibble about words, senator – there’s nothing in what you’ve just put to me that this government doesn’t agree with,” Payne said.
Pressed on whether anyone in government had ever described its post-pandemic response as a green recovery, Payne said: “We don’t have to use the same language as Mr Cormann to share the same ambitions … our record on renewables stands for itself.”
Ayres then asked: “Did [former] minister Cormann say what he needed to say to be elected or is there a transformation that’s occurred here?”
Payne replied: “I really reject that reflection on Mr Cormann, senator Ayres. I really reject that reflection.”
When asked whether she had ever heard Cormann use the green recovery phrase before he launched his OECD campaign, Payne said: “I don’t have an 11 years of collected works of Mr Cormann.”
Helen Stylianou, a Dfat first assistant secretary, said Cormann had committed during the campaign “to drive ambitious and effective action on climate change using the OECD’s particular capabilities to guide members to be able to achieve those net zero emissions by 2050”.
Stylianou confirmed that climate change was “discussed in many of his meetings” with representatives of OECD member countries during the campaign.
She said Cormann had emphasised during his meetings that the debate in Australia was not about the ambition, but how to get there.
Stylianou said she had read “with some amusement” a news report that Cormann had travelled with a colour-coded spreadsheet of OECD countries’ emission reduction targets.
“There were fact sheets included as part of a briefing which Mr Cormann received across a range of issues, all issues of interest to OECD members, covering policy issues under discussion in the OECD,” she said.
“Part of that briefing did relate to emissions and there were some colours on some pages but there was no colour-coded spreadsheet.”
Officials confirmed that Cormann made two separate overseas trips, the first from 8 November to 10 December and the second from 16 January to 25 February, as part of the campaign.
Only the first trip involved use of a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft – and the costs of that are expected to be reported by the defence department by 30 June.
Cormann travelled on the RAAF aircraft to visit 15 countries – Turkey, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Austria, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, France, Colombia and Chile.
Stylianou said the second trip, involving visits to just the United States and France, was able to be done using commercial flights.
The purpose of that trip was to press his case with officials in the new Biden administration, and then to “base himself at the headquarters of the OECD” in Paris, she said.
To date, the Australian government has not formally committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, even as a range of allies and trading partners embrace the goal.
Asked if she welcomed the Biden administration’s adoption of a commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, Payne said: “We welcome the Biden administration’s engagement on all of these issues.”
Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, asked whether the US adopting that commitment was a negative or positive development in the global fight against climate change.
Payne replied that US engagement, including rejoining the Paris agreement, was “all a net positive”, before repeating Scott Morrison’s recent rhetoric on net zero.
“Our goal is to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible and preferably by 2050,” she said.
Australia’s ambassador for the environment, Jamie Isbister, was also asked whether net zero was being raised with him in the lead-up to the Cop26 summit in Glasgow later this year.
“Yes, through the negotiations there are a range of parties who are continuing to encourage greater ambition and commitments by countries,” Isbister said.
The government is expected to release a long-term strategy before Cop26. Isbister said that long-term strategy could potentially include an emissions reduction target but “that’s a decision by government”.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been grilled about how he could not have known the depth of the issues faced by women during a heated interview with Tracy Grimshaw on A Current Affair.
During the 30-minute sit down aired on Thursday night, the Prime Minister was questioned about the government’s handling of allegations involving former Liberal Staffer Brittany Higgins and historic rape allegations made about Attorney-General Christian Porter, which are strongly denied.
When the PM said he had been working to understand the outrage being felt by women Grimshaw bluntly asked him: “where have you been?”
“If you are saying you have been aware of the enormity of this issue preceding Brittany Higgins coming out a month ago, if you’d been aware of it,” Grimshaw began to say.
“At a different level,” Mr Morrison said.
“This has taken me deeper into this issue than I have appreciated before.”
He then continued: “You have lived with it every day, you have lived with it I’m sure your whole life.”
“But you’re not on an island,” Grimshaw responded.
“Or maybe you’re in a bubble, you must know, you’ve got a wife you love, you’ve got daughters … how did you not know the depth of it?”
Mr Morrison said he, like many men in the country, had a different experience with the issue.
“This is the difficult part of this. You understand it in a way that only you could. I have a different experience to yours as do many men in this country.”
“It was truly shocking that this could take place here (in Parliament House) to a young woman who had worked so hard.
“We look at these things and go ‘how could such acts of (alleged) violence take place?’
“We are now starting to get beyond this issue where we see it most, in the most violent and other most obvious forms.
“I may not have always got it as much as people would like me to, but I assure you, I am doing everything I can to understand it as best I can.”
Ms Higgins claimed she was raped by a colleague in Minister Linda Reynolds office at Parliament House in March, 2019.
The former staffer lodged a formal complaint with the Prime Minister on Thursday, accusing his office of “backgrounding” against her partner.
She raised the claim earlier this month when she addressed protesters outside Parliament House for the March 4 Justice rallies.
Thousands of people across the nation called for action against gendered violence in parliament after Ms Higgins came out about her alleged rape.
“I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately his team actively discredited and undermined my loved ones,” Ms Higgins told the crowd.
The Prime Minister did not attend the historic rally but said he would meet organisers “in private”.
“I treated that protest the same way I have treated other protests and provided respectful opportunities for people to meet and talk seriously about this issue in the office of the Prime Minister,” he told Grimshaw.
He revealed he had not directly been in contact with Ms Higgins since she had spoken out but insisted his public apology was sincere.
Mr Morrison told Grimshaw he would be willing to meet with Ms Higgins but she had not asked to speak with him.
“She hasn’t expressed an interest in doing that with me but she is very welcome to,” he said.
The Prime Minister also said Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ comments calling Ms Higgins “a lying cow” were “disgraceful” and “out of character”.
When asked if Mr Porter and Ms Reynolds would be moved from their portfolios, he said he was “working through those issues now”.
“One is on mental health leave and the other is on physical health leave. Linda in particular, had a very serious coronary condition. She is being seeking help for that for the past month, as you can see in the chamber, that distress she was under.
“There is a further effect on her physical health. We are still talking to her doctors and her and with her permission, we are working through that with Linda now in terms of what duties she can perform.”
Mr Morrison said the Attorney-General and Defence Minister would continue to play a “very important role” in his cabinet but could not say if they would remain in their current roles.
He again defended Mr Porter, and said the police had decided there was no further investigation that would take place into the historical allegations against him.
“What I have done is to respect the rule of law in this country and how people need to be treated under that rule of law,” Mr Morrison said.
“The only system we have when it comes to understanding, and for treating these issues fairly, is to do its job.
“The police have decided that there is no further investigation.”
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The elections watchdog is looking into whether Conservative Party donations were used to fund part of the renovation of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat.
The Electoral Commission said it is trying to figure out whether any of the funds relating to the renovation should have been declared under the law on party political donations.
Responding to its disclosure, the Conservative Party said all reportable donations were correctly declared in compliance with the law.
The investigation follows reports by the Daily Mail that about £60,000 of party funds were used to cover the reported £200,000 cost of doing up the official four-bedroom flat above 11 Downing Street that Mr Johnson lives in with his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and their baby, Wilfred.
A commission spokeswoman said: “We are in contact with the party to establish whether any sums relating to the renovation works fall within the regime regulated by the commission.
“If so, they would need to be reported according to the rules specified in law, and would then be published by the commission as part of our commitment to the transparency of political finance.”
Sources from the Conseratives said, like all parties, they are in regular discussions with the commission.
A party spokesman said: “All reportable donations to the Conservative Party are correctly declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them and comply fully with the law.
“Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in government transparency returns.”
Earlier in March, Mr Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said Conservative Party funds were “not being used to pay for any refurbishment of the Downing Street estate”.
However, the accusations have not stopped.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson “cannot keep on dodging questions” about the refurb.
“The British people have a right to know how much money has been spent and where that money came from,” she said on Saturday.
“Given the government’s track record of handing out contracts to Conservative Party donors and cronies, if the money to pay for this work has indeed come from donors then the public will rightly be demanding answers over what access and special favours these donors may well be expecting in return.”
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Armenia’s prime minister has set an early parliamentary election for June as he seeks to defuse the country’s political crisis.
The opposition, which has demanded Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation, demanded that he step down before the vote.
Armenia has been gripped by political tensions after suffering a humiliating defeat last year in an armed conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory within Azerbaijan that Armenia-backed separatists controlled for more than 25 years.
The opposition has pushed for Pashinyan’s resignation, and its supporters have been blocking government buildings and barricading streets to press the demand.
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Asylum seekers could be sent to processing centres abroad under the home secretary’s plans to overhaul the immigration system, according to reports.
The British overseas territory of Gibraltar is a location under consideration by officials, according to The Times, as well as the Isle of Man and other islands off the British coast.
Priti Patel has vowed to stop migrants making the perilous journey across the English Channel and is expected to publish details of plans overhauling the UK’s asylum and immigration system next week.
The Times said plans due to be set out will include a consultation on changing the law so that migrants seeking asylum can be sent to processing centres in third countries.
It follows a series of leaks last year suggesting the UK government was considering a number of offshore policies akin to those used in Australia.
These included sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island, more than 4,000 miles from the UK, to be processed, and turning disused ferries out at sea into processing centres.
The ideas were dismissed by critics at the time as unfeasible, while Labour condemned the suggestion of an asylum processing centre on Ascension Island as “inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive”.
The government believes sending migrants to third countries for processing would be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), according to reports.
The Times said the new legislation will include life sentences for people smugglers and the establishment of migrant reception centres on government land, with many currently being housed in hotels.
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President Joe Biden says Russian President Vladimir Putin will face consequences for directing efforts to swing the 2020 US presidential election to Donald Trump, and that they will come soon.
“He will pay a price,” Biden told ABC News in an interview that aired on Wednesday. Asked what the consequences would come, he said, “You’ll see shortly.”
His comments come after a US intelligence report on Tuesday bolstered longstanding allegations that Putin was behind Moscow’s election interference, an accusation Russia called baseless.
At the same time, Biden noted that “there’s places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together” such as renewing the START nuclear agreement, adding that the two leaders have a known history.
“I know him relatively well,” Biden said, adding that “the most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience … is just know the other guy.”
Of Putin, Biden said he does not think the Russian leader has a soul.
Asked if he thought Putin was a killer, he told ABC: “I do.”
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House Democrats are moving forward with their plan to add the District of Columbia as the 51st state of the union and this time they have supportive leaders in the Senate and the White House on their side.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has been leading the statehood charge in Congress, predicted earlier this year “there’s never been a time when statehood for the District was more likely.”
The first step will take place Monday, when the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing on Norton’s 51st state legislation, aptly titled H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has pushed to have a statehood bill on President Biden’s desk within his first 100 days in office, will be among the witnesses testifying. Biden is supportive of D.C. becoming the 51st state.
DEM SENATOR INTRODUCES DC STATEHOOD BILL — BUT EFFORT FACES UPHILL BATTLE
Bowser has framed statehood as a civil rights issue where taxpaying U.S. citizens have been disenfranchised for the last 200 years and denied democracy.
Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., speaks during a news conference ahead of a District of Columbia statehood bill vote on Capitol Hill on Thursday, June 25, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
With Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and the White House, Bowser said in January that the momentum toward statehood is “a promising sign that our country is finally ready to right this historic wrong.”
D.C. statehood already passed the House last June but it died in the GOP-led Senate. House leadership is committed to bringing up statehood for a vote again this year and 214 Democrats have co-sponsored the legislation — or just about all of the Democratic caucus which sits at 220 members currently.
With the Senate now in Democratic hands, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., is leading the effort there for statehood. So far, his statehood legislation has 40 of the 50 Democratic senators signed on as co-sponsors. However, without changing the legislative filibuster, Carper would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to meet the 60-vote threshold to advance — an uphill climb in a divided Senate.
D.C. has a population of more than 700,000 residents ‒ greater than Wyoming and Vermont ‒ but the residents don’t have voting members in Congress or full control over local affairs. However, the District of Columbia pays more in federal taxes than 21 states and more per capita than any state, according to the 2019 IRS data book.
HOUSE PASSES DC STATEHOOD BILL: HERE’S HOW IT WOULD WORK
Under the plan, the 51st state would be called “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” named for Frederick Douglass.
D.C. would have full control over local affairs and full representation in Congress, which would amount to two senators and one representative in the House based on the current population.
The area around the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court and National Mall would be carved out into a federal district controlled by Congress and named the “Capital.”
Republicans have been firmly against D.C. statehood, calling it a Democratic power grab designed to tip the balance in the Senate in favor of Democrats by adding two senators from a liberal stronghold.
During the hearing Monday, Republican House members will have one witness, Zack Smith of the Heritage Foundation.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton speaks on Capitol Hill on July 23, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
GOP members intend to say H.R. 51 is unconstitutional and raise concerns about Democrats’ failure to consider the practical and financial implications of D.C. statehood, D.C.’s “radical” policies and the progressives’ political motives behind D.C. statehood, according to a Republican Oversight Committee aide.
“D.C. statehood is all about Speaker Pelosi and liberal Democrats consolidating their power to enact radical policies nationwide like the Green New Deal, packing the Supreme Court, and eliminating the filibuster,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the top Republican on the oversight committee.
Comer said H.R. 51 “is a dangerous political power grab that will ensure more government intrusion into Americans’ daily lives.”
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The push for statehood comes after House Democrats passed H.R. 1, a massive restructuring of election and campaign finance laws that Republicans also panned as a power grab. That legislation now sits in the Senate, where it also requires 60 votes to advance.
H.R. 1 would set federal guidelines for elections such as automatic voter registration; restoring voting rights to felons after they have completed their sentences; and expanding early voting access and absentee voting. The legislation also allows voting without an identification card if a voter signs a written statement attesting to their identity, under the penalty of perjury.
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