Australian Politics 2020-10-29 15:43:00


Football association bans the Australian national anthem from major series

The NRL has abandoned the national anthem for the game’s biggest showpiece event, the State of Origin series.

It will be the first time in 40 years the anthem will not be played before the kick-off when the series begins in Adelaide on Wednesday night.

The independent commission made the controversial decision at a meeting on Wednesday after consultation with the chairmen of the NSW and QLD organisations.

The explanation given was that the event is not a contest between international countries.

However the NRL has confirmed the anthem will remain for grand finals and Test matches.

The anthem became a huge issue in the NSW camp last year when Blues stars Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr spoke out before the game about their refusal to sing.

The Daily Telegraph understands the NSW Rugby League was against scrapping the anthem but bowed to the wishes of the NRL.

While Indigenous Blues opted against singing the anthem last year, NSW stars including captain Boyd Cordner, Jake Trbojevic and Damien Cook said they would sing the Australian national anthem “loud and proud”.

NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler had vowed to support any indigenous Blues players who wish to remain silent for Advance Australia Fair in 2020, saying: “Our anthem, it definitely needs work”.

Earlier this year, the ARL Commission scrapped the national anthem at the annual All Stars match on the advice of the game’s indigenous players.

Coronavirus: Sad side-effect is our meek acceptance of Premiers’ power grab

And so the recovery begins. Lily-white Victorians are emerging from their homes, their forearms shielding themselves from the sun as they take tentative steps. Young children are discovering there is another world outside their five kilometres radius.

Cafés and restaurants on Carlton’s Lygon Street are chockers, families amble through the botanical gardens, crowds flock to St Kilda beach, and in the city’s south-east region marauding gangs will once again commit home invasions and carjackings.

Normality will not be restored overnight, however. Paradoxically, the absence of circling police drones will keep many awake who are accustomed to hearing their sound. Likewise, it will be a disconcerting experience for motorists to drive without stopping at checkpoints to produce papers. People will chat with their neighbours over the fence as opposed to reporting them to the authorities. East Germany made the transition, and surely Victoria can. Assuming of course there is no third wave.

Artists, musicians, and poets are probably writing peans for the Andrews government. You can expect soon to hear actor Magda Szubanski will be narrating the upcoming production “Dan, the Musical” in honour of the Victorian Premier.

The official Victorian version of the state’s recovery will make for amusing reading.

Yesterday Health Minister Martin Foley claimed the state’s contact tracing system had withstood the “stress test of the real world”; while Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton maintained it was the best in the country. Spare us. This is the same department which only two months ago was using spreadsheets, pen, paper, and fax machines for contact tracing.

It would be premature to talk of Australia having beaten COVID-19, but not so to talk about the virus’ legacy. Sadly, it is a depressing one overall. To begin with, it has shown how ill-suited a federation is to deal with the crisis. Unlike New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who presides over a unitary system of government, the preferred approach of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his cabinet largely meant naught when it came to the issue of a co-ordinated response.

Even calling our country a federation is a stretch. We are at best a confederation. Apart from NSW, the states have become fiefdoms. Almost overnight, being an Australian meant nothing if you attempted to cross a state border. South Australia, for example, at one stage was denying entry to Victorians in border towns who needed lifesaving medical treatment in Adelaide, while at the same time making plans to fly in 800 foreign students to its three universities.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein even ordered all non-Tasmanians to leave the island in March, declaring “I make no apologies for working hard to keep Tasmanians safe”.

Presumably he does not plan to expel GST allocation, which makes up 40 per cent of the state’s revenue.

A panicked response that leads to an arbitrary closure is one thing. But premiers playing to populist sentiment in closing their borders is another, as demonstrated by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in her re-election campaign. As someone with a reputation as a vacillator and a mere figurehead, she seized on the virus to portray herself as a resolute leader. In doing so she shut out far north NSW residents, many of whom are dependent on Queensland hospitals for treatment.

In his maiden speech to Western Australia’s Parliament in 1996, a young Mark McGowan made much of his background as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy, a role in which presumably he put aside provincial yearnings. “It was Labor that successfully led this nation through the darkest days of both World Wars,” he said, lauding in particular the leadership of Prime Minister John Curtin.

As leaders, both Curtin and McGowan shared a couple of traits. Both were elected by the citizens of WA, but neither was born or raised in that state. That is where the similarity ends. Curtin was a principled man who unified the country under his leadership. Conversely, McGowan has opportunistically used the greatest threat to Australia since World War II to pick a fight with the rest of the country, having closed WA’s borders since March, even to residents from states and territories that have long recorded no cases of community transmission of the virus.

McGowan has insisted he is acting on health advice. But being a parochial braggart, he gave himself away earlier this month with his audacious declaration that opening WA to South Australia and the Northern Territory would bring no economic benefit. “All we would do is lose jobs, were we to open to those states,” he said. “They’re only saying all this for very self-interested reasons because we have higher incomes and people who are more used to travelling and therefore we will have more tourists from West Australians go to the east.”

As they say, if you wish to ascertain a man’s character, give him power.

Every Australian has a constitutional right to cross state borders, but that means little if the federal government does not act against those who would infringe it.

By and large, the Morrison government has only made token efforts to defend this right, instead relying on a proxy, that being mining billionaire Clive Palmer, who has initiated proceedings in the High Court against the WA Government.

According to Attorney-General Christian Porter, the Commonwealth simply wanted to realise “moderate middle ground” when it intervened when the matter was before the Federal Court, but he later withdrew from proceedings. It was both pusillanimous and disheartening. As such, any subsequent protest by Morrison against state closures merely emphasises his government’s impotence.

But only a fool would leave it to governments to protect civil rights, and this is an area where Australians have let themselves down badly. This virus has proved the anti-authoritarian element no longer exists in the Australian psyche. We have largely accepted questionable restrictions on our liberty but have condemned journalists who have insisted leaders account for these decisions. As evident in polling regarding support for border closures, premiers such as McGowan and Palaszczuk have delighted in our malleability.

And it is not just the politicians who increasingly exercise control over our lives. Thanks to the creeping effect we largely accept that officials in the form of anti-discrimination tribunes and human rights commissioners will regulate our behaviour. Now the virus has accelerated the rise of the bureaucratic class. Who could forget Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young, who, having blocked interstate relatives from attending funerals, decided to admit Hollywood actor Tom Hanks because “entertainment and film bring a lot of money into this state”. Excuse me?

That is not to say that everything that follows this virus is bad. For example, it is refreshing to see people have little time for the climate change evangelists and rent-seekers. Yes, I am talking to you, Zali Steggall, the federal MP and self-proclaimed “climate leader” who is desperately seeking relevance. And for us OCD types, it is joyful to see the proliferation of automatic soap dispensers.

But perhaps the most evident legacy is the burgeoning government debt, which is expected to rise to $1.5 trillion by the end of the decade. We simply cannot continue this taxpayer-funded largesse. Instead we need innovative ideas to instigate an economic recovery.

On that note, it is vital when deciding that issue to utilise those parts of industry that have been dormant because of the virus. My big idea is to lobby Parliament to allow the deportations of non-citizens in cases when the person commits an offence that results in six months or more imprisonment (currently the minimum is 12 months).

This could be the answer to Qantas and Virgin’s recovery. Just think: we would need to commission an entire fleet of planes for the trans-Tasman route alone. I am not sure what is the most attractive proposition: the recovery of our airline industry or the thought of Jacinda losing it. What is your big idea?

Lloyd's insurer Apollo to stop underwriting Adani coal mine from Sept. 2021

Adani is big enough to self-insure

Lloyd's of London firm Apollo has written insurance for Adani Enterprises' Carmichael thermal coal mine which expires in Sept 2021 but is not planning to provide any further insurance for the mine, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

Carmichael has provoked controversy in Australia because it would open up a new thermal coal basin at a time of growing concerns over global warming, in a region that is in need of jobs.

Adani has begun construction at Carmichael, which will start by producing 10 million tonnes of coal per year together with an associated rail project, and expects first production in 2021.

"We participate in one construction liability policy in respect of Adani Carmichael...this particular policy terminates in September 2021 after which we will no longer provide any insurance cover for this project," chair of Apollo Syndicate Management Julian Cusack said in the memo.

"We have recently declined to participate in an additional policy relating to the port and rail extension and have agreed that we will not participate in any further insurance policies for risks associated with this project."

Cusack confirmed to Reuters via LinkedIn that he had written the memo. Adani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many insurers, mainly in Europe, have scaled back their exposure to coal.

Lloyd's of London, which has more than 90 syndicate members, does not have an overarching policy on coal, though the Stop Adani campaign says 17 Lloyd's insurers have ruled out insuring the mine.

"It is encouraging to see that 27 major insurers, including those which have previously underwritten this disastrous project - like Apollo - are now refusing insurance to Adani," said Pablo Brait, campaigner at Australian action group Market Forces.

"The project will help open up a massive new thermal coal basin in the midst of a climate crisis...any insurer that provides coverage for Adani's coal operations in Australia is seriously risking its reputation."

Australia defies international pressure to set emissions targets

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will not be dictated to by other governments' climate change goals, declaring he is not worried about the future of Australia's exports despite four of the country's top trading partners adopting net-zero emissions targets.

China, Japan, Britain and South Korea, which account for more than $310 billion in Australian annual trade between them, have all now adopted the emissions target by 2050 or 2060, ramping up pressure on Australia's fossil fuel industry. Coal and natural gas alone are worth more than 25 per cent of Australia's exports, or $110 billion each year.

"I am not concerned about our future exports," Mr Morrison said on Wednesday. "Australia will set our policies here. Our policies won't be set in the United Kingdom, they won't be set in Brussels, they won't be set in any part of the world other than here."

As the Prime Minister spoke in Canberra, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in was addressing his own parliament in Seoul announcing his country would also pursue a net-zero target by 2050.

"Transitioning from coal to renewable energy, the government will create new markets, industries and jobs," Mr Moon told the National Assembly on Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a phone call on Tuesday encouraged Mr Morrison to take "bold action" on climate change and "emphasise the importance of setting ambitious targets to cut emissions and reach net zero".

Responding to the UK government's version of the phone call, Mr Morrison said Mr Johnson understood that Australia would make "sovereign decisions" on the targets it set.

"It shouldn't come at the cost of higher prices for the daily things that our citizens depend on," he said.

"One thing the British Prime Minister and I agree on is that achieving emissions reductions shouldn't come at the cost of jobs in Australia or the UK."

Major Australian export companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP, major agriculture groups and multinational food companies are pursuing carbon neutrality, which experts say is a move to avoid being stung with trade tariffs or charges by countries that have set net-zero targets.

The Morrison government has argued it will comply with the terms of the Paris climate agreement by reaching net zero by sometime in the second half of the century but has not set a firm target.

Mr Morrison claimed on Wednesday that Australia's emissions had fallen by 14 per cent since 2005, compared to 1 per cent for New Zealand and 0 per cent for Canada. The comparison of emissions reduction between different countries has been disputed with differences over methods and the use of carryover credits. Mr Morrison said the world would "not really make a lot of progress" without widespread renewable technology to ensure developing economies like India and Vietnam could also reduce emissions.

"Our record on this speaks for itself. When we make commitments in Australia's interests then we will meet those commitments as well," Mr Morrison said.

But top scientists contend that for Australia to honour the Paris agreement - which requires countries to follow the best available scientific advice on how to limit global warming to less than two degrees — the country must reach net-zero emissions before 2050.

The federal government’s opposition to commit to reaching the target by 2050 also puts it out of step with all states and territories, which are pursuing carbon-neutral goals.