Scott Morrison the least trusted PM in 14 years

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is the least trusted prime minister in 14 years, The Australian ($) reports, and three in five people find him “arrogant”. It seems confidence in political leadership is on a bit of a downward slope generally — about two in five Newspoll respondents called Morrison trustworthy, while 44% found Labor Leader Anthony Albanian trustworthy. It comes as Albanese has pledged $750 million in dozens of electorates, some of which are marginal, including funding a sports field in southern Melbourne, a basketball court in Ipswich, Queensland, and a footpath and cycling path in the Blue Mountains of NSW, the SMH reports. Incidentally, Albanian and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg could’ve said “personal jinx” last Wednesday — both referenced (perhaps inadvertently, on the Labor leader’s part) former PM John Howard in separate speeches, saying economic reform “has no finish line” on the same day.

But before the election must come the budget — and the AFR reports broad tax relief and either a freeze or cut on the petrol excise could be on the table amid the rising cost of living. So what is the fuel excise? Australians currently pay 44.2c per liter in fuel excise, no matter what the price of fuel is, with the money going towards the roads. Across the ditch New Zealand has already cut their excise and road user charge — it had lowered petrol by 50c (!) on Monday, after prices had hit the equivalent of $2.80 a litre. Goal, The Age warns, cutting just 1c a liter would cost the already-strained budget $500 million a year. There’s also talk that the low- and middle-income tax offset will be extended into 2023-24 — welcome news considering Australian Council of Trade Unions president, Michele O’Neil says the average Australian worker went backwards by $800 in 2021, reports Guardian Australia.

OMICRON AND ON AND ON

Omicron’s “sister” — the new COVID-19 variant, BA.2 — is thought to be 40% more transmissible than previous strains, the ABC reports this morning. Countries including Denmark, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden have already grappled with major outbreaks. The New York Times reports that BA.2 does not appear to be more severe than Omicron. And it’s set to become Australia’s dominant strain by the end of the month, the SMH adds, but it’s hard to tell how many Australian cases are BA.2 at the moment because of the number of rapid antigen tests (RATs) being used.

One expert told the broadcaster we can expect between 20,000 and 30,000 infections a day in NSW by early to mid-April. Purpose NSW Health Minister Brad Hazard says he is reluctant to go back to lockdowns and restrictions. “Everyone is over it,” he says plainly, as SBS reports. He did urge people to wear masks where appropriate and watch for symptoms, however. Yesterday authorities warned Australians that a slow uptake of the booster shot could see a wave of infections, Reuters reports, citing record numbers of cases and hospitalizations from Omicron. Just over 57% of people 16 and older have received a third jab in NSW, and it’s well behind the national average of 65%.

PENALTIES AND REPAIRS

Australia is suing Russia for the MH17 plane tragedy that killed 38 Australian citizens and residents in 2014, ABC reports. We’ve joined the Netherlands in initiating the legal proceedings that seek millions in reparations, which will go before the International Civil Aviation Organization. It has the power to sanction countries that break international law, and demand compensation is paid, The Australian ($) continues. We’ve submitted evidence that the missile system used belonged to the Russian Federation, and that only they (or someone they trained) would know how to work it. Will it work? It looks a bit unlikely, considering Russia has long denied responsibility and hasn’t so far been fazed by sanctions over Ukraine.

In Ukraine overnight, as The Guardian’s live blog reports, PM Denys Shmyhal has warned the conflict could become a “third world war”. For the first time, 160 cars were able to leave Mariupol, the first use of the “humanitarian corridor” that worked. Russians have reportedly used explosives quite close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, promoting an MP to warn of a new Chernobyl. And a pregnant woman who Associated Press photographed while she was being evacuated from a bombed maternity hospital has died. Her baby also did not make it, Al Jazeera reports.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Two years in, you might have noticed some of those wholesome early-pandemic habits — like a brisk morning walk, an instrumental playlist, a homemade smoothie, and fragrant candle burning at all times — can sometimes give way to something a little more… depraved . It’s called “goblin-mode” — The Guardian describes it as spending the day in bed watching TV while endlessly scrolling through social media, pouring the end of a bag of chips in your mouth and leaving your house in your pajamas for more food supplies.

It’s not a permanent state of being, however — one switches in and out of goblin mode, according to the phrase’s creator Dave McNamee. He describes it as waking up at 2am to make a weird snack — it’s abandoning all sense of aesthetic, no easy task in this hyper-curated era. It’s so named because why would a goblin care how they look, McNamee asks? It’s a goblin. It’s kind of the opposite of trying to improve yourself, another user chimed in. Sometimes it just feels good to abandon all pretence and do exactly what you want to. And besides, occasional nihilistic tips sure can make it easier to spring out of bed the next day (or the next) for that early morning walk.

Hoping you go easy on yourself today.

SAY WHAT?

Quite possibly the most out of touch guy in Aussie tonight. I’m not watching Survivor, MAFS or Paul Murray. Book me a seat in unpopular unwoke hell.

stephen jones

The MP really held up a mirror to the Australian TV menu when he tweeted about his viewing clothes — or lack thereof. Several people replied sharing his sentiment, with one saying she was “happy to remain out of touch” if that’s what’s on offer. Goal Married At First Sight (MAFS) is commanding a crowd — some 1 million people tuned in on Sunday.

Anthony Albanese—out with the old, in with the new

Albanian — bookie and pollster favorite to win the election expected in May — will be unrecognizable to some long-time fans, and an unknown quantity to others abruptly introduced to him, particularly voters in the middle ground to whom he will seem to have come from nowhere .

“Many of the changes have been cosmetic — like the male model poses of his Women’s Weekly photo shoot — but there has been more involved than merely shedding 18 kilograms or buying some suits that make him look tidy, or a new hairdo that does the same. Superficial or not, the overhaul has been the product of some deep thinking.”

Preferred PM: do Albo’s gains over Morrison tell us who’s going to win the election?

“Beyond obvious warnings that any single polling result should be taken with a grain of salt due to natural sampling error (although Albanese’s improvement on this rating is part of a longer trend), psephologists have questioned how well the rating correlates with electoral outcomes long before the most recent result.

“The issue with the ‘preferred prime minister’ rating is that it’s a false equivalence between two individuals in different positions, Essential’s executive director To fart lewis tells Crikey. ‘We think it’s a fairly crude measure,’ he said.”

How many refugees will Australia accept? Here’s what history shows

“In 1999, 4000 displaced Kosovars were granted ‘safe haven’ in Australia. The ‘short-term’ humanitarian measure begins as a three-month visa, with the potential for extension. Later that year 1450 East Timorese were granted the same visa.

“But in the first half of 2000 both groups of refugees were instructed to return to their country of origin, with some being sent against their will. Others resisted further, and were placed in detention in Australia.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: List of key events from day 19 (Al Jazeera)

China sees at least one winner emerging from Ukraine war: China (The New York Times)

Oil briefly tumbles below $100 a barrel. That’s good news for gas prices (CNN)

Critics Choice Awards 2022: ‘The Power of the Dog’ wins best picture (The New York Times)

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in China’s worst outbreak since Wuhan (CNN)

Bermuda’s ban on same-sex marriage is allowed, UK judges rule (The Guardian)

Elon Musk says Tesla, SpaceX facing ‘significant’ inflationary pressure (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

Tom Brady ‘un-retires’ and disappoints unlucky fan (BBC)

A 4th dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be needed, Pfizer’s CEO says (CNN)

THE COMMENTARY

Vaping, a constant craving for too many of my school friends — Ari Katz (Tea SMH): “It started as a novelty, a bit of harmless fun. The snap, crackle and pop of each nicotine-fueled hit was exciting, enticing. The headspin was a new experience. We felt rebellious, revolutionary, cool. Vapes then started appearing at parties, the beach, the cinema. But when friends started vaping regularly in the bathrooms at school, it became clear this device — resembling a colored pen, bright and slim (concealing the fusion of wires, batteries and chemical compounds) — was here to stay.

“The cognitive dissonance of knowing vaping is harmful, while not being able to stop, is taxing on the mental wellbeing of adolescents. We have little experience of addiction and are not taught to deal with it. We know it’s harmful, we know it’s toxic, but we can’t stop. Vaping is no longer a fad; the fun has been over for months now. From what I can see in my circle, few people who vape actually want to vape … Vulnerable, developing brains are suffering at the hands of an insidious device, yet this challenge is only now starting to receive attention.”

An open letter to non-Indigenous people who work in Indigenous affairs — Casey Millward (IndigenousX): “When I get frustrated or upset over something you think is no big deal, or if you think I am overreacting, remember — this isn’t just a job for me. You are not talking about a number or an abstract concept of some far away people, you are talking about my family, my friends, my elders and our children.

“When you recite statistics at me and tell me we should only aim for a 25% reduction in suicide because ‘that is more achievable’, rather than 100%, that’s my cousin and my high school boyfriend you are talking about, and you are saying a hundred Indigenous suicides each year is acceptable. When you tell me that Aboriginal people dying in custody is their own fault because they are criminals, you are telling me that one of my best friends who made a stupid choice one night as a 13-year-old child deserved to die for that choice .”

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