WAR OF WORDS
Russia’s ambassador to Australia claims we have been “brainwashed” to take Ukraine’s side in the war, the SMH reports. Dr Alexey Pavlovsky spoke to the paper about the importance of dialogue in the face of “drastic differences” between our nations. Pavlovsky’s position in Australia is tenuous at the moment after Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong flagged we’re thinking about kicking him out of the country. But Pavlovsky said it’d be an eye for an eye if we did, as Russia is poised to boot our top diplomat in Moscow, Graeme Meehan. Yesterday the government rolled out more financial sanctions and travel bans on 28 people, including those involved in “sham” annexation referendums in Ukraine. But there are signs of hope in the press this morning — the Ukrainian flag is again flying in the key eastern bastion of Lyman, news.com.au reports, just a day after the Kremlin called the region part of Russia in a lavish ceremony.
Meanwhile, the Albanese government has announced an inquiry into war powers, Michael West Media reports. The parliamentary inquiry is a welcome first step for pundits who believe Parliament should vote before we go to war — loads of nations have constitutions that stipulate more democratic approaches to the decision — but not us, Canada or New Zealand. Labor’s Julian Hill will chair the inquiry after Western Australian MP Josh Wilson pushed for it. It comes a week after Defence Minister Richard Marles said Australia would back Ukraine in a protracted war, SBS reports. It’ll be support in the long term, hopefully enabling Ukraine to end the conflict, but comes amid heightened anxiety over Russia’s nuclear might.
A POX ON POKIES
Did you know Australia is home to a fifth of the world’s pokies? It’s an astonishing fact, considering we have less than half a percent of the world’s population, as The Washington Post ($) reports. Forget Vegas — it means Australians have the worst average gambling losses in the world, about $1000 for every person every year. And in NSW there’s a pokie machine for every 80 people. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says enough is enough and has promised to reform the sector that taxes the “misery of others”, saying he can’t watch vulnerable people throw “their life savings down a poker machine”. He said that when he was treasurer it was dismal to see revenue from pokies approach $2 billion a year. Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said it was a “historic first” to even hear a premier say these things. But the cashless gaming card trial has been delayed until next year, Perrottet confirmed. It’s an opt-in wallet with spending limits and spending data.
Meanwhile Perrottet is unfazed by an exodus of Coalition MPs — in fact, it’s a good sign, The New Daily reports. Among those leaving so far are Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes, lower house speaker Jonathan O’Dea, Corrections Minister Geoff Lee, Riverstone MP Kevin Conolly and Vaucluse MP Gabrielle Upton. But the premier reckons there will be more, and says turnover is good in that it gets new blood into politics. Stokes’ resignation comes after a 15-year stint, during which he failed to win the leadership when former premier Gladys Berejiklian stood down, as the SMH reports. Upper house Liberal Natasha Maclaren-Jones will seek preselection for his seat of Pittwater.
HOME FROM SYRIAN CAMPS
A secret ASIO mission is bringing home the families of Islamic State members from Syria, The Australian ($) reports. Sixteen Australian women and 42 children in a detention camp near Iraq’s border will be repatriated — they’ve been stuck there for three and a half years after the fall of the IS “caliphate” in March 2019. Federal government policy since then has prevented their return, something the Albanese government is overturning in the rescue mission. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil didn’t say much, as The Age writes, only that it’s in the name of protecting Australians while preserving our national security. But their return will be contentious. Some may be charged with entering Raqqa and Mosul (it was illegal for Australians to go there at the time), but there may not be evidence enough to charge others. However, authorities are also aware some women were children when they were taken there, or else duped into going there.
Speaking of national security, O’Neil says the 10,200 Optus customers whose personal records were published last week should cancel their driver’s licences and passports right now, as Guardian Australia reports. Optus emailing people is not enough, she continued — Optus needs to get in touch with each one to warn them. Government Services Minister Bill Shorten agreed, saying an ad in newspapers at the weekend fell short too. O’Neil is livid that Coalition-era paltry cybersecurity legislation was in place during this breach. The laws were “absolutely useless to me”, she said. The whole thing is a little exhausting for Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, The Australian ($) reports, who was spotted holidaying at her $4 million luxury estate in Bowral at the weekend.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Last year, an Egyptian archaeologist named Ola El Aguizy was headed up a quiet, studious team in Saqqara, near Cairo. Saqqara is an ancient cemetery that served as a sacred final resting place for royals and other important figures during the millennia of ancient Egyptian history. Looking around in the open space, El Aguizy was sure of it — this was Ptah-em-wia’s tomb. Ptah-em-wia was the treasurer in the time of King Ramses II — meaning he controlled the purse strings during the greatest, most widely celebrated, and most potent pharaoh’s reign in ancient Egypt. During one subsequent exploration in the open-air tomb, however, something caught El Aguizy’s eagle eye. The remnants of a vertical shaft in the centre of the courtyard was excavated, and further inspection revealed it was eight metres deep. It took her team an entire week to carefully extract the sand. It’s not like you can back a bobcat in there — her team used the painstaking method of a bucket and a hand-operated rope winch instead. What remained, upon completion, was a dark hole into the unknown.
There was nothing for it — El Aguizy, who is 70, climbed into the bucket and was lowered in. When she reached the final chamber, somewhere no other human had been for thousands of years, she realised something spectacular was there. Hailed as a “dream discovery,” she found the giant granite sarcophagus belonging to Ptah-em-wia. It was covered in hieroglyphs indicating just how important he was to the king, and a carving of sky goddess Nut covered his chest with opened wings to protect him in death. It’s extremely rare to find a complete sarcophagus in its original tomb — usually burial chambers were reused in different periods. But this one was completely untouched, save for some sticky-fingered grave robbers who fleeced the burial treasures. One expert says El Aguizy’s discovery is particularly cool considering she’s an Egyptian archaeologist, following a long history of Western discoveries. Not to mention she’s also a grandma!
Wishing you the guts of Ola El Aguizy hopping into that bucket for your Monday morning.
It wasn’t the opposition’s task, I said on my first day in the job, to make weak compromises with a poor government; but to be a clear alternative. Incidentally, we always take seats off Labor when we make climate an economic issue that will cost jobs and raise prices; rather than a moral issue requiring swift change to a survivalist lifestyle lest the planet self-immolate by 2030.
The former PM shared his vision for how the Coalition can revamp itself by *checks notes* thinking of climate action as a pesky job killer instead of a planet killer, an astonishingly tone-deaf false dichotomy in 2022.
“Did you hear the news? A trusted institution has just announced that it suffered a data breach and I’m afraid to tell you your details were included. What a shame! I am your assigned scammer and I am looking forward to using the personal information to enrich and amuse myself at your expense.
“It doesn’t matter whether I was personally responsible for the hack or if I’m just opportunistically using information exposed by someone else, I plan to make the most of it. So, tell me what data you had leaked and I’ll share how I will ruin your life.”
“This week’s episode of the ABC’s Q+A program, currently in what appears to be the last throes of terminal decline, looked at racism, with the Hawthorn AFL club scandal under the spotlight. One of the panel members, selected presumably on the basis of relevance, was Alan Jones.
“Interesting choice. Jones, of course, is a legendarily successful broadcaster and social commentator — a high priest of conservatism to his followers, an expensively dressed Sandilands with better grammar to his detractors. Jones’ career has too many lowlights to catalogue, but of particular significance is his role in the Cronulla race riots of 2005. On his top-rating 2GB show, Jones said this about ‘Lebanese males’ in the Australian community, who he called ‘vermin’ and ‘mongrels’ …”
“Some bits of Britannia Unchained are accurate, if stating the bleeding obvious — the UK is bad at teaching maths and sciences. Nearly all the rest is a bundle of prejudice, ignorance and an appalling lack of self-awareness. The book claims that the failure to teach maths or promote people with engineering and science backgrounds can lead to top civil servants, business leaders and even politicians who are almost innumerate.
“Britannia Unchained also explains ‘economic professors tear their hair out at the poor mathematics knowledge of students’. It’s worth noting that this book was written by the now prime minister, who has a degree in PPE, and the current chancellor, who has a degree in classics.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
American prisoners are released from Venezuela and Iran (The New York Times)
It is the great paradox of being human: we change but we stay the same — Brigid Delaney (Guardian Australia): “We run on two speeds. There is the eternal in us, a sovereign everglow, always burning like a tabernacle light. But there is also — on another plane, a more material plane — progress. We evolve. We accumulate experiences, move around, change our minds, have sudden shifts in mood or job or relationships or passions or temperament or health. Over time we grow out of old behaviours, we get tired, domestic and professional responsibilities pile up. We change. We stay the same …
“One of my first jobs was at a fried chicken joint in Warrnambool called Ollies Trolleys. About a year after I started, there were mysterious meetings, men in suits coming in, a new atmosphere in the store. What was going on? Something was afoot. When I asked him, my boss, an ex-seminarian named Norm, quoted what he claimed was Dante: ‘I will not change but I will not stay the same.’ It sounded like a koan or a riddle (I have been unable to verify if it was actually Dante who wrote it). But now, years down the line, I think it contains a deep truth about life and I remember it often.”
Creative destruction: even pandemics have their upsides — Ross Gittins (The SMH): “Fortunately, advances in medical science mean our pandemic has cost the lives of a much smaller proportion of the population. And believe it or not, advances in economic understanding mean governments have known what to do to limit the economic fallout — even if we didn’t see the inflation coming. Governments knew to spare no taxpayer expense in funding drug companies to develop effective vaccines and medicines in record time.
“Even so, it’s still far too soon to be sure what the wider economic consequences will be. Changing China’s economic future is one possibility. Come back in 50 years and whoever’s doing my job will tell you. Even at this early stage, however, it’s clear the pandemic has led to changes in our behaviour. Necessity’s been the mother of invention. Or rather, it’s obliged us to get on with exploiting benefits from the digital revolution we’d been hesitating over. Who knew it was so easy and so attractive for people to work from home — with a fair bit of the saving in commuting time going into working longer. And these days many more of us know the convenience of shopping online — and the downside of sending back clothes that don’t fit.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)
Writers with disability Alex Creece, Gemma Mahadeo, Anna Jacobson, Beau Windon and Sarah Stivens will speak about the future of health using performance, poetry, essay and memoir, at an event held by the Wheeler Centre.
Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)
Small business owners in Western Australia can attend a cyber security workshop run by The Small Business Development Corporation.