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Crikey

A matter of preference

CHOICE WORDS

WA One Nation Senate candidate and former Liberal MP Paul Filing — who is preferenced by the Liberal Party — compared Premier Mark McGowan’s vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany, The West ($) reports. He also said the anti-vaccination protesters were resisting a “totalitarian government”, suggesting he probably hasn’t googled the definition of the phrase. The Liberal Party is preferencing One Nation for the WA Senate in how-to-vote cards in nine of the state’s 15 electorates — including Andrew Hastie’s seat of Canning, Ken Wyatt’s seat of Hasluck, and Melissa Price’s seat of Durack. It comes as the Liberal Bennelong candidate Simon Kennedy removed two anti-vax volunteers from his campaign who were espousing pandemic falsehoods on a street corner in a video the SMH saw.

Whether we are “a free country” was on the mind of former high commissioner to the Solomon Islands Trevor Sofield, 78, but for a very different reason — he approached Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday at a cheese shop in Tassie to speak about our crumbling friendship with the Pacific nation, but was “manhandled” and pushed around by the PM’s security team. Sofield told the SMH he was shocked, pointing out that not only was he high commissioner for four years, but also a constituent of Bass, where the PM was campaigning. It’s not clear whether the PM realised who he was.

Speaking of sidelining vulnerable people, Warringah hopeful Katherine Deves is in the news again speaking to SMH’s Latika Bourke. Deves “repeatedly burst into tears” as she doubled down on excluding trans women — including children — from sports, but then also said people should be able to speak their mind without their children’s safety being at risk, no doubt completely missing the irony there. Deves has stood by her description of trans kids as “surgically mutilated and sterilised”, as news.com.au reports, and likened her campaign to standing up for the Jews against the Nazis, as Guardian Australia says. In the SMH interview, she also said her six-year-old daughter had questioned her gender by wanting to cut her hair and play rugby, and expressing a wish not to have children. Former PM Tony Abbott says he’s “impressed” with Deves’ “courage” (a possible kiss of death in the seat he lost?) while Treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday reiterated he rejected her “insensitive”, “inappropriate” comments, as The Conversation writes.

PLEDGES AND PROMISES

Labor is taking on modern slavery — under the policy, big companies would have to audit their supply chains to make sure there is no forced ­labour in the mix, The Australian ($) reports. Here’s how: an anti-slavery commissioner would publish a list of places each year with high levels of slavery, and companies importing from those places would need to prove they’re not dealing with goods made via forced labour — could be fashion, homewares, electronics, and more.

The Coalition is also looking internationally today — in this case going hard on borders, with a new pledge to make foreign criminals pay for their own immigration detention. The average time spent in detention is 689 days and costs $456 a day, so that’s $314,184 — how exactly we would make them pay is not clear, but the Oz ($) is not bothering with that small detail. Speaking of dosh — the AFR has spoken to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has promised to “save the vast majority of an expected more than $30 billion revenue windfall from high commodity prices” to tackle inflation. His interview comes as the Coalition attacked Labor for waiting until next week to release independent costings for $7.3 billion in promises and investments. Frydenberg is also in the news this morning for paying promotional models $30 an hour to work as human billboards in a desperate bid to hold on to his once blue-ribbon seat of Kooyong, The Australian ($) adds. Yikes.

VALE MR GURRUWIWI

Vale Mr Gurruwiwi, a globally-celebrated master of the yidaki (also known as the didgeridoo), who has died in Arnhem Land after a battle with illness. His age wasn’t known for sure, but ABC says he was probably in his 80s. His daughter Zelda says his close friends and family feel sad and proud. “He flew with the yidaki, he was travelling with the yidaki,” she said. “He shared that from his own heart to the world”. Mr Gurruwiwi toured all over the world with his music, made yidakis for the band Yothu Yindi, and had “international cult status within the world of didgeridoo players,” the coordinator from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre says.

From the didgeridoo to another Australian icon, the Great Barrier Reef — Labor has announced $224.5 million to establish a national threatened species program that’ll take on the backlog of almost 200 overdue and outdated species recovery plans, Guardian Australia reports. It’ll also include $24.5 million for koala conservation. Also in Queensland, brace for flooding today if you’re in Brisbane, as heavy rain continues to pummel the south-east of the state, The Brisbane Times says.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

A chaotic supermassive black hole at the centre of our Milky Way, some 4 million times heavier than the sun, and as round as one of Mercury’s trips around the sun, has been photographed. But he’s a gentle giant, astronomers swear, on a near-starvation diet. The photograph — the first-ever of Sagittarius A* — kind of looks like a radioactive doughnut, but it was incredibly difficult to capture. Light acts kind of strangely around black holes, bending and twisting in the gravity as it gets sucked into the abyss. Indeed the Hollywood hit Interstellar’s representation of black holes was actually kind of spookily accurate — in 2019 we hadn’t actually seen a photograph of a black hole yet, yet the fictional Gargantua’s event horizon (which was based on theory) turned out to be bang on visually.

Speaking of accuracy — turns out Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was right again — Sagittarius A* is precisely the size his equations suggested. Astronomers say all galaxies have these black holes at the centre, sucking in all sorts of intergalactic snacks like torn stars, but this one is curiously eating very little — the equivalent of a single grain of rice over a million years. It’s actually a good thing for our visibility as it allows us to gaze deeper into Sagittarius A*. Overall, astronomers are pretty happy. “It is the cowardly lion of black holes,” one boffin from Taiwan said affectionately. Another from the US asked “What’s more cool than seeing the black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way?” while a third remarked, “We love our black hole”.

Hoping someone talks about you the way scientists talk about a monstrous and all-consuming black void — and have a restful weekend ahead.

SAY WHAT?

This election is a case of whether voters wish to change the curtains or keep them to avoid the cost as the current curtains work well and no one has proven to us whether the replacements will keep the sun out of our eyes, the carpet from fading and stop other countries from peeking through your window to see what you’re up to.

Barnaby Joyce

The Nationals leader and deputy PM became the latest victim of an extended metaphor at the National Press Club, where he also randomly sported a nose bleed. It could’ve been about the Lodge’s curtains, or perhaps about our national security, or inflation impacting the curtain industry, perhaps sun safety, or even, at a pinch, a commentary on daylight savings.

CRIKEY RECAP

Female voters are queueing up to belt Scott Morrison, and it could get very ugly

“When did the collapse in female support for Morrison happen? Roy Morgan polling provides some clues. It tracks male and female two-party-preferred outcomes. Both male and female support for Labor pulled away dramatically from support for the Coalition in 2021 — but at different dates. Male support suddenly shifted in November-December, and began a steep trajectory of rising support for the ALP.

“That coincides with the period when the government’s failure to secure rapid antigen tests, and the inability of people to find any, was dominating the news. But women turned towards Labor much earlier in the Roy Morgan data: in February, when Brittany Higgins emerged to reveal her ordeal and treatment by the government. At that exact point, female voters — who were about evenly split on the parties over the pandemic — shifted to Labor, and it only got worse after that.”


Backbenchers give Morrison more to worry about in key marginals

“NSW Treasurer Matt Kean, the wettest of Liberal wets, warned that the teal wave could purge the party of moderates and drag it towards crazy land, currently inhabited by the US Republican Party. Tony Abbott, meanwhile, urged Warringah Liberals fleeing the sinking ship to fight in other seats to stay and back Deves.

“The anti-trans stuff resurfaced today when Morrison, alongside Bass MP Bridget Archer, was announcing a $55 million mental health partnership with the Tasmanian government. An emotional Archer spoke with rare honesty about her own struggles with mental health issues. But she then faced a series of questions about the struggles of transgender people, in light of Deves’ comments.”


What the hell is going on with Alan Tudge?

“To put a cherry on top of the mystery Tudge sundae, he has rarely been sighted. In fact, for a red hot minute #whereistudge was trending on Twitter. Rumour has it our own correspondent-at-large Guy Rundle was trying to track him down but to no avail. It was Sky News that found him, campaigning in his Melbourne electorate. When asked about the payout to Miller, Tudge said: “As the prime minister said, he’s unaware and I’m unaware. It’s a matter for the Department of Finance.”

“So neither the PM nor the minister/not minister at the centre of the case have any idea why there’s been a $500,000 payout — it’s just a finance thing. Tudge was sure of one thing though, telling Sky News: ‘The prime minister has made clear that should we be reelected and I’m in a position to step back up, then I shall do so’.”

THE COMMENTARIAT

It’s Albanese’s to lose, as Morrison looks for some momentumMichelle Grattan (The Conversation): “The Liberals have left their launch, to be held in Brisbane on Sunday, until the last moment. New policy will be announced. Morrison needs to garner some momentum from it for the home run. Next week will see the release of important economic data, on unemployment and wages. The government will be hoping the unemployment figure, most recently 4%, will have a three in front of it. That would be good news for the Coalition’s economic pitch.

“The wages number could play to Labor. Wages growth was 2.3% in the year to December. Any increase on that for the year to March would be expected to be small. The Reserve Bank has forecast wage growth of 2.7% in the year to June, indicating it doesn’t anticipate much in March. If next week’s figure is modest, Labor will be able to use it to highlight its case that many people are going backwards in real terms, given the 5.1% inflation rate. One skill in politics is to be able to turn a negative into a neutral, or a positive, and Albanese did this in the argument over wages and inflation this week.”

Structural Reform — dissent is not a mandate for disrespectLynda-June Coe (IndigenousX): “Having our people and community understand this at the granular level is paramount. Appealing to white Australia should not be the priority. Where is the justice my ancestors and Elders have fought for and never been afforded? It was never in my ancestors’ vision to sit at the coloniser’s table and merely advise. My Elders demanded the seating at our tables — we are sovereign. A ceasefire to the hostility that has endured for two hundred years on just terms, our terms. This is the position of many First Nations and the justice that we seek. The silencing and exclusion of such a standpoint raises concerns about the deliberateness of recent attacks on Black women whose opposition to such a campaign is telling. Are the voices of Black women not worthy of articulating a pathway out of our shared struggle? Who benefits from this violent uptake of (intra) colonising Black women even more so?

“I remind those who seek to label sovereign Black women as divisive, as trouble-makers, as invalid, and invisible that it is these Black women who are doing the heavy lifting day in and day out in our communities. These Black women are not afraid to stand up to the establishment and to the status quo uncompromising in their beliefs and politics out of fear of being unpopular with the latest government-funded campaign or co-design. It is these very women who speak truth to power, that should be listened to and respected, for they do not just represent themselves, but our past and our future. It is this fundamental issue that both major parties and its supporters do not quite enjoy accepting – the Greens do encompass growing support and a potential home base amongst Indigenous communities, especially in New South Wales and Victoria and more importantly Black women. Our voices won’t be silenced and will be reckoned with.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

NZ woman charged with murder of daughter Tillie at a cult in Australia (Stuff)

Taliban tightens gender segregation rules in Afghanistan’s Herat (Al Jazeera)

Thailand will give away 1 million weed plants (The New York Times)

United States passes 1 million COVID deaths (BBC)

Twitter freezes hiring as 2 senior executives leave the company (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

Shireen Abu Aqleh: thousands attend state memorial in West Bank (The Guardian)

More than $7 trillion has been wiped out from the stock market this year (CNN)

[Canadian] Liberals drop southwestern Ontario candidate over homophobic slur on social media (CBC)

North Korea: ‘First’ COVID cases prompt strict national lockdown (BBC)

Twenty-year search for Rwanda genocide suspect ends in Zimbabwe grave (The Guardian)

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Actor Richard Piper will perform in a modern opera which celebrates Leonard Cohen using poetry, music, images and text, held at The Edge, Federation Square.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Author JP Powell will chat about her latest novel, Deception Bay, at Avid Reader bookshop. You can also catch this one online.

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)

Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)

  • NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, Buildcorp’s Josephine Sukkar, and Chief Executive Women’s Sam Mostyn will be on a panel at a fundraising event for NSW rehabilitation centre Odyssey House.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong will take part in the 2022 Foreign Affairs Debate at the National Press Club.