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WSJ Opinion: The Post-Trump Republican Party



Journal Editorial Report: The GOP must now navigate through Trump and Trumpism. Image: Mark Makela/Getty Images

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Wayne Bennett heads bloc of influential figures backing Billy Slater as next Queensland coach


Hatcher has publicly conceded Green’s preference to return to an NRL club within a year, the Sharks being a possibility. While Hatcher has endorsed the return of some of the brilliant players – Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Slater and Smith – who led Queensland to dominate Origin for a decade, he sees their role initially as assistants under Green.

But a rival bloc of QRL directors believe Slater is ready to coach Queensland now, and Bennett was one of the first to offer support.

Billy Slater gives Kalyn Ponga some pointers in Maroons camp in 2019. Credit:Getty

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, who assisted Bennett in Queensland’s surprise 2020 victory, also backs Slater.

Slater’s premiership-winning coach, Craig Bellamy, together with his captain, Cameron Smith, believe Slater could succeed at Origin level immediately.

While Slater’s detractors will say “he isn’t ready”, no coach is ever “ready” for Origin. But three of his prominent supporters – Bennett, Meninga and Bellamy- have all coached at that level, while his fourth backer, Smith, captained Queensland to historic success. It’s expected their endorsement of the Maroons and Slater as an instant fix will create a groundswell of support.

Many former champions don’t succeed as coaches because their skills are instinctive and they lack the patience to communicate with players of lesser ability. Furthermore, they don’t devote as much time to preparation as is necessary.

Slater won the Wally Lewis medal for player of the series in his final Origin campaign in 2018.

Slater won the Wally Lewis medal for player of the series in his final Origin campaign in 2018.Credit:NRL Photos

Slater is a rare player in the sense he was both instinctive and highly prepared, analysing game film long after others had left the clubhouse.

He is also empathetic to the inexperience of emerging players, coaching the Storm’s youngsters, as well as offering advice at AFL club St Kilda.

Origin football, consisting of three highly intense games in the middle of the season, is a different beast to the NRL club competition and it requires as one observer said, “an appetite for risk.”

Slater is willing to gamble, as he did in the 2008 World Cup final in Brisbane when he threw a suicidal pass in the last 20 minutes, effectively gifting New Zealand the victory. But his daring to be different has also resulted in scores of last minute victories for the Storm, Maroons and Kangaroos.

As one powerbroker said, “Paul Green will coach the team not to lose. Billy Slater will coach the team to win.”

Furthermore, Slater has no immediate ambition for NRL football and would be able to devote at least three years to the role.

“He also offers longevity and stability,” the influential observer said. “He will bring Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston back. This is an opportunity of a lifetime to recall the players who gave Queensland their unparalleled success a few years back.”

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Queenslanders like to think they have a mortgage on passion and, if it is the secret ingredient to Origin success, Slater exudes it.

His former Melbourne and Queensland captain, Smith, also possesses passion, but he internalises it, offering glimpses of his desire when he lifts the shutters on the field.

But on football days, passion stalks Slater like a shadow: in the dressing room for the rookies to see, on the training field to maintain the attention of the veterans, and in the post-game analysis where he hides from no-one.

As one of Slater’s backers said when talking about his infectious enthusiasm, “Dour blokes don’t win Origin.”

The QRL board will meet in two weeks to either endorse Hatcher’s preference for Green, or join an expected tide of support for Slater.

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How clean is natural gas and could it fast-track Australia’s post-COVID-19 recovery?


The Tomago aluminium smelter outside Newcastle received a special visitor in September. Prime Minister Scott Morrison wanted to outline how he would use affordable and reliable energy to supercharge Australia’s post-COVID economic recovery. As the single biggest user of energy in the country, the Tomago smelter was an ideal backdrop.

Morrison explained that his government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments had helped support millions of Australians. Now, the government’s JobMaker plan would help create new jobs – and, to do so, it would be necessary to “get more gas, more often and more reliably”.

Getting more gas would be achieved “by resetting our east-coast gas market, unlocking additional gas to drive recovery; paving the way, ultimately, for a world-leading Australian gas hub to support high-wage jobs, including and especially in manufacturing.”

In his speech, Morrison mentioned gas 55 times.

The government believes that increasing gas supply and use in Australia is key to rebuilding an economy that has been battered badly by the COVID-19 pandemic but as it champions the fuel and its industry, critics of gas are growing louder, questioning long-held claims about gas’s credentials as a cheap and cleaner source of energy.

Why does the government want more gas? How clean is natural gas, really? And what’s next for its future in Australia?

Credit:Artwork: Matthew Absalom-Wong

Why does the federal government want more gas?

Gas been used in Australia for decades in power generation, heating and manufacturing. The gas that flows into your stove is a fossil fuel, primarily methane, formed over millions of years by the breakdown of micro-organisms. In Australia, large stores of it are found onshore and offshore, bound up in sedimentary basins capped by impermeable rock as well as in shale and coal seams. For domestic use, it is typically extracted by drilling then treated, piped to distribution hubs near cities and industrial centres, and plumbed into homes.

The Coalition backs the expansion of the gas industry for two main reasons.

The first is economic: more gas, the government says, means more affordable and reliable energy to domestic manufacturers that rely on it – thereby boosting employment. A three-fold increase in east-coast gas prices in recent years has been pushing manufacturing firms to breaking point. Energy often counts as one of their big operating costs, and big businesses have been feeling the heat. In 2019, chemical giant Dow announced the shutdown of its plant in Melbourne’s west, citing rising gas prices as a major driver. Sydney-based RemaPak collapsed into administration the same year, saying its gas costs had rocketed from $4 to $16 a gigajoule. Increasing supply and competition by opening up more sources of gas is intended to put downward pressure on prices.

The second is to smooth the electrical grid’s transition from coal. The Coalition and many large companies in the energy industry promote gas as the “transitional” energy source, one that emits far fewer greenhouse gasses than coal but is still capable of dispatching the around-the-clock energy needed to support the growing use of weather-reliant wind and solar generators. The government says it is focused on ensuring that electricity remains reliable and affordable as the market transitions from coal and, for this reason, it is touting gas as the key plank of its plan.

The problem, however, is natural gas also faces some big challenges.

Gas is a heavy source of emissions. While it is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel than coal, it is a fossil fuel nonetheless, and Australia needs to reduce its reliance on all fossil fuels over time in order to achieve its climate targets.

And gas is expensive. Despite the pleas from the manufacturing sector and the government’s best efforts, there is a growing realisation in the industry that the price is unlikely to return to the “good old days” of $4 a gigajoule that eastern Australia has traditionally enjoyed.

The first LNG cargo is shipped to Japan from Chevron's Gorgon LNG project in Western Australia in 2016.

The first LNG cargo is shipped to Japan from Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project in Western Australia in 2016.

Why are prices so high, and will government measures drive them down?

That depends on who you ask.

Gas prices began sharply rising on the east coast in 2017, when commercial and industrial buyers started receiving new contracts offered at above $10 a gigajoule, much higher than the historic levels of between $4-$6 a gigajoule.

This price rise coincided with Australia deciding to sell natural gas in its super-chilled form, known as liquefied natural gas (LNG), overseas. The construction of six new LNG export facilities at Gladstone in Queensland increased overseas demand for Australian gas – our top LNG export destinations are Japan, South Korea and China – and required producers to tap more expensive gas fields to meet their obligations. This linked the east-coast gas market to international LNG prices, pushing up domestic prices.

Australia has become the world’s number one exporter of LNG. In 2019, cargoes of LNG accounted for about $50 billion in export earnings, sealing its position as the country’s second-biggest commodity export after iron ore ($100 billion a year).

Paradoxically, Victoria, NSW and South Australia are facing the danger of winter gas shortages as early as 2023, warns the Australian Energy Market Operator. This is because most gas now being produced in Australia is in Western Australia and Queensland – far from the domestic demand centres that need gas the most in the south-east – while gas output from fields in the south-east such as ExxonMobil’s and BHP’s Bass Strait gas fields, which have traditionally supplied up to 40 per cent of east coast demand – have been in rapid decline.

As Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims explains, when you boost the supply of a product, it should drive down the cost, and this applies to domestic gas. “If we really want permanently lower prices in the south, we need more gas in the south,” he said.

Much of the federal government’s efforts to rein in runaway prices has been focused on increasing availability of supply, including incentives to encourage the opening of new gas fields, support gas production and invest in pipeline infrastructure.

But there are doubts about whether the government’s interventions in the gas market will succeed in lowering prices or if they are “swimming against the tide”. As energy experts at the Grattan Institute think tank explain, the cost of producing gas in Australia has been steadily increasing over time, and the cost of supply has increased as low-cost sources have become depleted. Gas could once be provided for $4 per gigajoule or less, but today eastern Australian gas fields will struggle to supply gas for less than double that amount.

“Eastern Australia still has plenty of gas, but it does not have a lot of cheap gas – especially in the southern states,” the Grattan Institute says. “Large new resources exist, but are either relatively expensive – such as Santos’ Narrabri coal seam gas field in NSW – or far from major markets – such as the NT’s Beetaloo Basin shale gas fields.”

At energy giant Santos’ massive coal-seam gas development planned at Narrabri, for instance, analysts are projecting that the cost of delivered gas will not be lower than $8 a gigajoule.

Australia’s biggest gas producers say new east-coast projects have production costs of up to $8.25 per gigajoule, and that’s before transport, distribution and other commercial costs are factored in, according to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

“At $4 a gigajoule most Australian natural gas would stay in the ground and less production would place upwards, not downwards, pressure on prices,” the industry group says.

Other investors are betting on a different means of lifting supply: proposing floating terminals to import and re-gasify LNG from elsewhere in the world to reduce the risk of shortfalls and boost competition.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (centre) visits the Tomago aluminium smelter near Newcastle with Angus Taylor, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction (second from left), in September.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (centre) visits the Tomago aluminium smelter near Newcastle with Angus Taylor, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction (second from left), in September.Credit:Tomago Aluminium

Whatever the cost, will using gas help reduce Australian greenhouse gas emissions?

The Morrison government and many of the nation’s biggest energy companies believe it will. “There is no credible energy transition plan, for an economy like Australia in particular, that does not involve the greater use of gas as an important transition fuel,” Morrison said in January 2020, arguing that switching from coal to gas had helped other nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

When it comes to electricity, this is true: burning gas releases fewer emissions than coal, and using gas to displace coal in power stations around the world has contributed to lower emissions.

Gas is also touted for its role in supporting the power grid’s transition away from coal to a greater uptake of renewable energy by helping to ensure reliability of supply and keeping a lid on price spikes. Because gas-fired power plants can ramp up and down and dispatch “baseload” energy into the grid whenever needed, many believe gas must play a key role in supporting the shift to renewable energy for those cloudy and windless days when conditions for generating solar or wind energy are unfavourable.

But gas has an Achilles’ heel: it is still a global-heating fossil fuel. An estimated 19 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by gas.

But gas has an Achilles’ heel, the Grattan Institute says: it is still a global-heating fossil fuel. An estimated 19 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by gas and its long-term use must be reduced over time in order for the world to meet the goals of the Paris agreement to limit global warming.

There are also growing questions among scientists about the extent of unmeasured methane emission leaks, known as “fugitive emissions”, which escape during drilling and processing. If the methane escapes unburnt into the atmosphere, in its first two decades it is a devastating 84 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

One new study in the US estimates that 2.3 per cent of gas eventually leaks, either at the point of extraction or at some stage during its processing and transport. In some areas, the figure could be far higher. And nearly 10 per cent of gas for export is burnt in the process of liquefying it for shipping.

In August, a group of 25 scientists became so concerned about the support offered to the government’s gas plan by Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, that they took the unorthodox step of writing a public letter to him to voice their opposition.

“The combustion of natural gas is now the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the most important greenhouse gas driving climate change,” they wrote.

“On a decadal time frame, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

“In Australia, the rapid rise in methane emissions is due to the expansion of the natural gas industry. The rate of methane leakage from the full gas economy, from exploration through to end use, has far exceeded earlier estimates.”

Finkel responded that he believed gas would benefit the environment by aiding in the integration of renewables.

ExxonMobil is still extracting gas from Bass Strait.

ExxonMobil is still extracting gas from Bass Strait.

What’s next for gas?

So far, there is no sign that any Australian governments have had their enthusiasm for gas dampened.

Conventional onshore gas exploration will soon be allowed in Victoria when a moratorium lifts mid-year. Scientists have been studying the geological conditions in parts of the state they believe could hold large amounts of gas, which could be used for commercial operators and households. In their third progress report, scientists found the geology of the Otway Basin has the potential to hold a substantial amount of conventional gas but it was too early to be sure. The Otway Basin covers 155,000 square kilometres with 80 per cent located offshore.

The government agency Geological Survey of Victoria has also been assessing the Gippsland Basin for its gas potential. The Gippsland Basin covers 46,000 square kilometres and is also both onshore and offshore.

The onshore sections of both basins seem the most likely sites to be explored for gas. In the Otway Basin, it’s too early to say how many wells would be created in the event the moratorium is lifted. The gas industry considers it highly unlikely that any drilling or wells would be permitted in national park areas. As was the case when the NT partially lifted its moratorium, wells would most likely be limited to private farmland.

The earliest sources of new gas that will help shore up supply in the tight south-east market, however, are likely to be from imported LNG. There are several LNG import terminals being proposed in Victoria and NSW, including power giant AGL’s proposed facility in Western Port, Viva Energy’s plans for an “energy hub” at the site of the Geelong oil refinery and the Port Kembla Gas Terminal, which is being developed by mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s private company Squadron Energy.

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Analysts expect the Port Kembla terminal to be the first, forecasting a final investment decision to be reached as early as the first quarter of the year. Squadron is aiming for gas imports to start flowing by 2022, ahead of potential winter supply shortfalls from as early as 2023.

How much does the world still want gas? Globally, demand went into free fall during last year’s COVID-19 disruptions, and remains volatile. But a freezing winter in the northern hemisphere and an acute shortage of gas have sent demand soaring, and sent prices, briefly, to unprecedented levels.

As the fleet of big batteries expands and the technology behind them improves, renewables will continue to eat into the gas market.

Still, longer-term, the economic drivers behind gas are rapidly changing as the world focuses on the climate crisis. China, Japan, South Korea – Australia’s three biggest LNG customers – and Europe have committed to mid-century net-zero targets (China’s in 2060) with the United States, under new president Joe Biden, expected to do the same, as well as to encourage more ambitious global climate action. This will require fewer fossil fuels in their energy mix, including gas.

Meanwhile, the costs of gas’s competitors keep falling, with the IEA recently declaring solar to be the cheapest energy source in history. As the fleet of big batteries expands and the technology behind them improves, renewables will continue to eat into the gas market.

Investment funds, banks and insurance companies are also declaring policies that would bring their lending and financial practices in line with Paris targets, which is seeing them increasingly questioning and sometimes abandoning gas along with coal, says analyst Tim Buckley at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“Two years ago [financial institutions] were looking at coal and tossing it under the bus, hoping that that would satisfy everyone. But this year they are looking at all the fossil fuel industry. They are throwing gas under the bus too.”

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Why Trump fans may be affected by mass psychosis


​Sticks and stones may break your bones … but words can incite you to use them.

The events at the US Capitol were shocking. But not unexpected. Especially to those who have been studying the psychology behind US President Donald Trump’s MAGA movement.

Leading a force of 100 militia to the US Capitol on January 6 was a serving US army psychological warfare officer.

Captain Emily Rainey is part of the 4th Psychological Operations Group based at strife-ridden Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

She has a specific job: “(To) use the power of influence to shape the global security environment and achieve United States national security goals.

She has a distinct skills set: “Specialise in unconventional capabilities, cultural expertise, language proficiency, military deception and advanced communications techniques encompassing all forms of media.”

Rainey says she was acting as an independent citizen during off-duty hours. But the weapons she wields were in full effect around her.

It was an unlikely convergence of dissimilar extremists sharing a common goal.

Nazis. Orthodox Jews. Evangelical Christians. Followers of the prophet QAnon. Republican MAGA enthusiasts.

RELATED: ‘Bombs, shooting’: US in on the brink

All had been convinced – against all evidence – that massive voter fraud had denied Mr Trump a second term in office. All had been incited to impose their delusions on their elected representatives in US Congress.

What resulted was an insurrection: “An organised attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country, usually by violence.”

How did it come to this?

AMERICA, WHAT’S GOTTEN INTO YOU?

“Should lawmakers ever again be tempted to argue that social media platforms ought to be no-holds-barred free-speech zones, they would do well to recall the fear and the heartbreak of January 6: The day the internet came for them,” writes Wilson Centre disinformation expert Nina Jankowicz. “The effect of disinformation, conspiracy theories and extremism was on display for the entire world to see.”

It was a colourful sight.

Costumed followers of the internet “prophet” QAnon. Christian crusaders under a blood-red cross. Then there was the Nazi swastikas and white-supremacist symbology.

All proudly paraded on the steps of the US Capitol.

RELATED: ‘Death spiral’: USA’s horrifying new normal

It’s easy to dismiss those we disagree with as being ignorant fools.

Idiots. Jerks. Stupid. Crazy. Clowns. Buffoons.

However, such simplistic dismissive terms can conceal a raging “mind war” playing out in society around us. And such words can be applied to hide an insurrection in plain sight.

It’s a form of psychological warfare.

It’s about offering up an enticing way to make sense of the world. This sense can shape perceptions. It can induce behaviours. The trick is generating a sense that suits a strategic goal.

It can be economic marketing. It can be political motivation. It can be religious fervour. It can be propagandist manipulation.

Or it can be all of the above.

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

“I think it goes back to the basic way that our brain processes information. We can’t even look at clouds and pieces of toast without trying to connect the dots and see faces or elephants or pictures,” says University of Texas psychologist Professor Mary McNaughton-Cassill.

Brains also like stories. It gives context to details – thus reinforcing memory.

It’s why conspiracy myths are so enticing.

“Research shows that if you tell someone a story and you leave out a key component, like you don’t mention how they got across the river, later, people will fill in (their own) details,” the professor adds. “We’re looking for ways to try to make sense, and our brain will connect all sorts of things.”

But emotion also has a decisive role to play in delusion.

“Yes, there is great injury, anger and redirectable energy for hatred, which Trump harnessed and stoked for his manipulation and use,” says forensic psychiatrist Dr Bandy Lee. “The emotional bonds he has created facilitate shared psychosis at a massive scale.”

She told Scientific American that the appeal of militias and myths is a sign of deep turmoil within the United States.

Societal change. Income inequality. Disempowerment. This, she says, has produced an environment ripe for “narcissistic symbiosis”.

“The leader, hungry for adulation to compensate for an inner lack of self-worth, projects grandiose omnipotence – while the followers, rendered needy by societal stress or developmental injury, yearn for a parental figure,” says Dr Lee.

And Trump’s inner turmoil is contagious, she says.

“When a highly symptomatic individual is placed in an influential position, the person’s symptoms can spread through the population through emotional bonds, heightening existing pathologies and inducing delusions, paranoia and propensity for violence – even in previously healthy individuals.”

Such human frailties have been identified by marketers, lobbyists, political campaigners, propagandists – and psychological warfare officers – as useful tools. And social media has given them the means – for the first time – to manipulate masses in real-time.

MASS RADICALISATON

It was a tactic exploited by Islamic State (probably with a little covert help from Russia): To manipulate vulnerable, disaffected followers worldwide and incite them to violence.

It was called radicalisation.

Now, that same process is playing out across all levels of society.

“The conspiracy information ecosystem is highly international, and here in Australia conspiracy groups are often dominated by narratives and content emerging from the US,” warns Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) analyst Elise Thomas. “Ripples are already reaching Australia – and are likely to have implications for our own elections in 2022.”

The dividing lines between mainstream and fringe are shifting dramatically – even vanishing.

And there’s growing unanimity among analysts that profit-seeking social media algorithms are behind the deep penetration of distorted truth.

“Breaking through that echo chamber is critical or else we’ll see more violence,” warns former Department of Homeland Security extremist expert Elizabeth Neumann.

She says the threat of online extreme right-wing “rabbit holes of disinformation” keeps her up at night.

“How do I help people that have, unbeknown to them, become radicalised in their thought?” she asks. “They hold views they didn’t hold 10 years ago because all they listen to is that infotainment. Unless we help them break the deception, we cannot operate with 30 per cent of the country holding the extreme views that they do.”

THE SPIDER’S WEB

“The Capitol is our goal. Everything else is a distraction. Every corrupt member of Congress locked in one room and surrounded by real Americans is an opportunity that will never present itself again,” read a message posted to thedonald.win message board. “The final solution is the only solution.”

It was one social media post of millions.

Like the rest, its significance was overlooked – or ignored.

“Social media created this perfect storm,” Ms Jankowicz says. “Recommendation algorithms on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube prioritise engagement over truth, meaning that a search for natural health remedies, for instance, could lead users in only a few clicks to far more dangerous content.”

This, she says, explains how Capitol Hill’s “QAnon shaman” – adorned in furs, horns and Nordic tattoos – can be so obsessed with organic food.

“I monitored an ‘alternative health’ group on Facebook. Soon after I browsed through the group, Facebook suggested I join groups related to white supremacy,” Ms Jankowicz says.

Critics highlight how obscure recommendation algorithm systems (the AI selecting what posts or videos you see) will push viewers toward increasingly extreme content in a quest for clicks.

This presents an opportunity for search engine optimisation experts to “engineer attitudes”.

“The government and social media platforms have for too long refused to take seriously – or worse, embraced – this underbelly of the internet,” Ms Jankowicz says.

“Social media platforms aided and abetted their growth by driving vulnerable audiences to their content. And Republican officials, including Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, legitimised the theories rather than condemned them.”

MIND WARS

“We don’t trust the government. We don’t trust the Congress. We don’t trust the Supreme Court. We don’t trust science. We don’t trust medicine. We don’t trust the media for sure. So, who do we trust? Well, we trust our tribe. We trust conspiracy theories that tell us what we want to hear,” University of Maryland Professor Arie Kruglanski says.

Making matters worse is that people don’t like to change their minds.

Even less admit to themselves they were wrong.

It’s a fundamental problem for those combating radicalisation – be it political or religious, or both.

“People who harbour delusional narratives tend to bulldoze over reality in their attempt to deny that their own narrative is false,” Dr Lee says.

And that denial runs deep.

“Cult members and victims of abuse are often emotionally bonded to the relationship, unable to see the harm that is being done to them,” she says. “After a while, the magnitude of the deception conspires with their own psychological protections against pain and disappointment. This causes them to avoid seeing the truth.”

“Leadership matters,” says Kori Schake, a former senior adviser in the State Department, Defense Department and the National Security Council. “It really matters that the President of the United States is an arsonist of radicalisation. And it will really help when that is no longer the case.”

Dr Lee agrees. To a point.

“When the mind is hijacked for the benefit of the abuser, it becomes no longer a matter of presenting facts or appealing to logic,” she says. “Removing Trump from power and influence will be healing in itself.”

But it’s no magic bullet.

“The danger is that another pathological figure will come around and entice them with a false ‘solution’ that is really a harnessing of this resistance.”

COUNTER-ATTACK

“The events at the Capitol are still a loud wake-up call,” Ms Jankowicz says. “The United States has finally been shocked into understanding that the information people consume online has real-world consequences for public health, public safety and democracy.”

Exposure, Dr Lee says, is the key.

Confrontation isn’t helpful “for it will only rouse resistance,” she says.

“The problem with condemning conspiracy theories is that it plays into the conspiracy theorist’s mind,” adds Viren Swami, a social psychology professor at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK.

Persuasion won’t likely work either.

“The problem with conspiracy theories is if your basic premise is that everything you’re being told is false and there is a big secret event happening behind the scenes, then no matter what you’re told, you just assume that that’s propaganda,” Professor McNaughton-Cassill says.

The alternative is to enable believers to discover inherent contradictions for themselves.

Denied outside reinforcement, Dr Lee warns conspiracy adherents will suffer disillusionment, trauma – and anger.

“And this is all right – they are healthy reactions to an abnormal situation. We must provide emotional support for healing, and this includes societal support, such as sources of belonging and dignity.”

But the best defence says ASPI’s Elise Thomas is early – and honest – inoculation.

“It means speaking out swiftly, strongly and publicly against purveyors of conspiracy theories and disinformation about elections – regardless of who they are, or which party they belong to.”

IT’S NOT OVER YET

Fired chief of US cybersecurity Chris Krebs warns it will take years to undo the disinformation surrounding the Trump presidency.

“Over the next couple [of] years, we have to continue chipping away at the disinformation and the propaganda and the lies that have been spread over the last several years to generate and motivate and incite these actors,” he told US media this week. “The narrative’s been set; it’s been ingrained. I’m sure the President will continue to claim that the election was stolen, whether for fundraising opportunities or just to shield his ego.”

“We should consider the President, his followers and the nation as an ecology, not in isolation. Hence, what he does after this presidency depends a great deal on us,” Dr Lee says.

The worst possible outcome is for Trump to establish a “shadow” presidency.

“He will have no limit,” she says.

And new conspiracies are already being manipulated to divisive ends warns Ms Thomas.

“We should probably anticipate that the growing nexus between the fringe right-wing and fringe anti-Chinese Communist Party actors … will lead to particular individuals or groups being falsely accused of being agents of Chinese influence or somehow under the sway of the CCP, or that the election has been ‘hacked by China’,” she warns.

The consequences of such lies are real, including distracting security agencies from actual interference operations.

“You’d hope Australian politicians from all parties would not be so profoundly negligent, or prove to have such a weak commitment to democratic values and processes. However, there are some worrying signs,” Ms Thomas says.

Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer | @JamieSeidel



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Cyclone Kimi forms off Queensland



A tropical cyclone named Kimi has formed about 140 kilometres north-east of Cooktown.

It is currently a category one system and is expected to move south-west and cross the north tropical coast between Cape Flattery and Ingham on Monday morning.

It may reach category two before making landfall.

As the cyclone approaches, destructive gusts of 130kph could be felt between Cape Flattery and Cairns.

Gales with gusts to 120kph may develop about coastal and island areas between Cape Melville and Cardwell from Sunday evening.

The region has been on flood watch for the past two days, with predictions of heavy rainfall from late Sunday.

Daily totals of between 50 and 100 millimetres are expected.

The Bureau of Meteorology warned that rivers could rise rapidly as the area is already saturated from rainfall in the last two weeks.

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Australia vs India LIVE updates: Series on a knife-edge on day three at Gabba



After a rain stopped play at tea on day two, India return to the crease more than 300 runs short of Australia’s first innings total with eight wickets in hand.

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Frozen Waterfall Near Green Bay Dazzles Visitors


<p>A frozen waterfall at Wequiock Falls State Park outside Green Bay, Wisconsin, delighted visitors through January. Among them was photographer Eric Curtin, who shared this video of the frigid but beautiful scene on Friday, January 15. Credit: @EricWCurtin via Storyful</p>

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Your 2021 money survival guide


The coronavirus supplement was cut again from $250 to $150 on January 1, payable until the end of March 31. It was previously $550. This has been bolstering the unliveable JobSeeker rate.

The silver lining is another economic support payment of $250 in March – if you are receiving an eligible payment or are on a concession card on February 26.

There have been cuts to JobKeeper, too, assuming your employer meets the decline-in-turnover test.

From January 4 the now two-tiered rate has become $650 for part-time employees (down from $750) and $1000 for full-timers (down from $1200).

The plan is to end this on March 28. Until then, don’t forget you may be able to claim both payments.

Borrowing traps

A widespread relaxation of lending rules which the government wants to introduce this year has hit a roadblock in Parliament but may still be on the table. For you, that means borrower beware… stress test any potential loan amount to make sure no more than one-third of your salary covers loan repayments.

If you are one of the many people refinancing their mortgages, there are a couple of prevalent pricing ploys.

Many of the cheap interest rates you see advertised are for fixed rates only and often roll over to an inflated variable rate at the end of the term. I advocate you only ever fix half the total of a loan.

Be aware, too, that some bargain-basement mortgage rates from non-bank lenders do not come with “real” offset accounts, so your money is only available through redraw.

If you are building or renovating a home, the HomeBuilder program for grants up to $25,000 has been extended to March 31, 2021.

Health insurance breaks

There are a couple of changes in health insurance, an industry seen as under pressure as people look to cut costs.

Many health insurers were great at pausing premiums for people in financial hardship. If you are still struggling, just ask.

However, while the annual April price increase was delayed until October last year (it was 2.92 per cent), there will be another 2.74 per cent rise in April. This is the smallest increase since 2001.

Also, in recognition that COVID-19 has created high youth unemployment and people are living at home longer, adult children can now stay under their parents’ policies until age 31 (previously 25). This is when the lifetime health cover loading kicks in and prices ratchet up 2 per cent for every year they do not have their own cover.

Help always at hand

If you do not have an emergency fund of cash stockpiled – preferably six months’ salary in the bank or a mortgage offset account if you have a home loan – and you run into financial trouble, there is assistance you can access.

First, get an income statement from Centrelink and take it to a community provider, such as St Vincent de Paul or the Salvation Army, which could help you to pay food, fuel or medical expenses. You need to meet certain criteria; food help is basically a given but other requests are not always granted.

Second, if you have a concession card, tell your service providers in case they will grant you a discount or special deal. These might extend to council rates on your home, bulk-billed doctor trips, subsidised pharmaceuticals or cheaper public transport.

Whatever you do, do not throw yourself at the mercy of predatory payday lenders or rent-to-buy schemes (both of which the government is finally acting to curb).

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If you are in danger of defaulting on any bill, go to your provider and ask for leniency.

If you need immediate cash – say for a broken refrigerator or a big car repair bill – there are no-interest and low-interest loans schemes issued through Good Shepherd micro-finance.

An Australia-wide network of financial counsellors can point you in the right direction. Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or find them at ndh.org.au.

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Greater Brisbane’s ‘red zone’ status downgraded


Victoria will loosen its border restrictions on people travelling from Greater Brisbane from 6pm on Saturday.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the region would be downgraded from a red to an orange zone after Queensland appeared to have contained the spread of the latest COVID-19 cluster, all cases of the UK mutant strain linked to the Grand Chancellor Hotel.

Mr Andrews said Victorians wanting to return home and visitors would be able to apply for a permit and then travel freely after they took a test within 72 hours of arriving and received a negative result.

The new permit system for all domestic travel, introduced earlier this week, is based on a traffic light system.

Travellers who visited “red zones” in the past 14 days are not permitted to enter the state unless they have an exemption.

“It is a condition of entry and it is a condition of staying safe and staying open. So we will boost our testing capacity, but again there will be queues, there will be lines, just like there is every single day,” Mr Andrews said.

He suggested plans to travel to Brisbane be postponed.

“This virus moves so fast, so rapidly and we have to follow the advice and be as risk-averse as we have been,” he said,

“We simply can’t allow outbreaks. We can’t do anything that would make it more likely that we finish up with community transmission.”

Chief health officer Brett Sutton said the situation in Greater Brisbane was “looking good”.

“There has really been no community transmission beyond the (Grand Chancellor Hotel) cleaner and her partner,” Professor Sutton told reporters on Saturday.

“There has been extensive testing of the many close contacts of those who had already left hotel quarantine.”

Prof Sutton said travellers who developed COVID-19 symptoms after receiving a negative result should be retested.

He added there was no change to borders restrictions with Greater Sydney because there were still cases of community transmission being recorded.

Mr Andrews said he was “hopeful” an announcement would be made in a couple of days and would be based on health advice.

Victoria recorded no new locally acquired cases for the tenth consecutive day on Saturday, but there were three new infections from overseas travellers who are hotel quarantine.

There are currently 26 active cases in the state.

Late on Friday, the WA government announced Victoria would be considered ‘low risk’ as of Monday, meaning people from the state will be able to enter without a special exemption but must still follow strict conditions including 14 days self-quarantine at a suitable premise.

Also on Friday, airline Emirates suddenly announced flights between Dubai and Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane would be suspended until further notice.

The last flight to Melbourne will be on Tuesday while the final flight from the city to Dubai will be the following day.

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