Category Archives: Australia

COVID-19: Victoria State in Australia reports 81 fresh cases.


Australia’s coronavirus hotspot Victoria state said its death toll from the virus rose by 59 and there were 81 new cases.

The death tally includes 50 people in aged-care facilities who died in July and August, the state health department said in a tweet. Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, reported 15 deaths and 113 cases a day earlier.

The state capital, Melbourne, is nearing the end of a six-week lockdown put in place to slow the spread of the virus but authorities said restrictions may continue beyond the planned end date after daily cases rose on Thursday.


COVID-19: Anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne turns riot.


Police detain protesters rallying against virus restrictions in the capital of Australia’s hardest-hit Victoria state.

  • Police in the Australian city of Melbourne have made arrests among a crowd of about 300 people protesting against the coronavirus lockdown.
  • India’s caseload topped four million, while South Korea posted its lowest daily tally in three weeks. 
  • Iraq’s health ministry warned hospitals may “lose control” in the coming days after the country recorded its highest single-day rise in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
  • More than 26.5 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and more than 872,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 17.6 million people have recovered.


In: Shinny days ahead for Australia’s rooftop solar industry.


Coronavirus lockdowns and low interest rates are encouraging more Australians to install solar panels on their roofs.

The coronavirus pandemic has not deterred Australians from installing rooftop solar panels in ever-greater numbers, driving what is expected to be another record year for growth in green power generation.

The increased number of people working from home, more spending on home improvement and low interest rates are encouraging households to install solar panels, the Clean Energy Regulator said in a report on Thursday, revising up its forecast for new installations by 7%.

Australia already has one of the highest rates of rooftop solar in the world, driven by falling costs, an abundance of sunshine and a surge in electricity prices over the past decade.

The country is on track to match 2019’s record for 6.3 gigawatts of new renewables capacity this year, the Clean Energy Regulator said in a report on Thursday, with the contribution of new small-scale solar power at 2.9 gigawatts.


Around 29% of suitable households now have panels installed on their roofs, according to the report.

“Australia now has over 2.4 million rooftop solar PV systems on residential dwellings with a combined capacity of 9.7 gigawatts,” the regulator said.

Australia’s rooftop solar installation rose by 41 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago, new figures show [File: Tim Wimborne/Reuters]

“While each individual system is small, together they form one of the biggest generators in the electricity grid.”

Australians’ embrace of solar has created headaches for energy market planners, reducing demand for traditional generation and caused bigger fluctuations in electricity use across the day.


Here are the other key findings from the CER’s quarterly report:

  • Rooftop solar installation rose by 41% in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago, despite a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19
  • Large-scale renewable projects have added 2 gigawatts of capacity so far this year, with the total expected to reach 3.4 gigawatts in 2020
  • There were 43 projects registered under the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund program in the first half of the year, already surpassing 2019’s total
  • Total emissions reduction from the Renewable Energy Target and Emissions Reduction Fund is expected to be approximately 54 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent in 2020, compared with 48 million tons in 2019



Pay Media Firms: Facebook threatens to ban News Sharing in Australia


Australian government wants the social media giant to pay for local publishers’ content amid pressure from Murdoch.

Facebook Inc. plans to block people and publishers in Australia from sharing news, a move that pushes back against a proposed law forcing the company to pay media firms for their articles.

The threat escalates an antitrust battle between Facebook and the Australian government, which wants the social-media giant and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to compensate publishers for the value they provide to their platforms.

The legislation still needs to be approved by Australia’s parliament. Under the proposal, an arbitration panel would decide how much the technology companies must pay publishers if the two sides can’t agree.

Facebook said in a blog posting Monday that the proposal is unfair and would allow publishers to charge any price they want. If the legislation becomes law, the company says it will take the unprecedented step of preventing Australians from sharing news on Facebook and Instagram.

“This is a decision we’re making reluctantly,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships. “It is the only way to protect against an outcome that will hurt, not help Australia’s media outlets.”


Facebook is still working through the details of how it would block articles from being shared, she said.

‘Heavy-Handed Threats’
Responding to Facebook’s announcement, Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: “We don’t respond to coercion or heavy-handed threats wherever they come from.” Forcing digital platforms to pay for original content would help create “a more sustainable media landscape,” Frydenberg said in a statement.

The chairman of Australia’s competition regulator, Rod Sims, said Facebook’s threat was “ill-timed and misconceived.” The proposed legislation seeks to bring “fairness and transparency” to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news businesses, Sims said in a statement.

Google has also raised alarms about Australia’s proposal. The measure “would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse” Google Search and YouTube, and “put the free services you use at risk in Australia,” Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, wrote in an open letter.


Media’s Struggles
The Australian government has said it’s trying to level the playing field between the tech giants and a local media industry that’s struggling from the loss of advertising revenue to those companies. In May, for example, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. announced plans to cut jobs and close or stop printing more than 100 local and regional newspapers in Australia.

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp accuses Facebook and other tech platforms of deriving ‘immense benefit from using news content created by others’. Facebook says Australia’s plan to make it pay for content is unfair [File: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg]

The Australian-born Murdoch has for years advocated that Facebook and Google pay for news articles that appear on their platforms. And News Corp. has lauded government efforts to force the two companies to pay for news.

Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, was quoted widely as saying: “The tech platforms’ days of free-riding on other peoples’ content are ending. They derive immense benefit from using news content created by others and it is time for them to stop denying this fundamental truth.”

Yet Facebook’s decision to block news on its platform could prevent publishers from reaching a wider audience. In the first five months of 2020, the company said it sent 2.3 billion clicks from its News Feed to Australian news websites.


‘Insignificant’ Loss
The decision could also limit the appeal of Facebook’s social-media platform to Australians who use it to read news. However, Brown said removing news articles from Facebook in Australia would be “insignificant” to its business because they are a small fraction of what users see.

Australia’s new rules are part of a global push by government agencies to regulate the tech giants. In some countries, officials are concerned not only that Facebook and Google are capturing much of the advertising dollars that have sustained journalism, but also with the types of articles getting shared. The stories that tend to go viral on Facebook are those that stoke emotion and divisiveness, critics argue.

In April, France’s antitrust regulator ordered Google to pay media companies to display snippets of articles. In June, Google said it would pay some media outlets that will be featured in a yet-to-be-released news service in Germany, Australia and Brazil.

Last October, Facebook introduced a separate news section, paying some publishers whose stories are featured. Brown declined to share numbers on the popularity of the Facebook News tab, but said nearly all of the readers are a new audience for publishers. Last week, Facebook said it plans to expand the news section to other markets globally.


Storyline: Australia set to probe Chinese influence in public universities.


Australia’s parliament is set to probe alleged foreign interference at public universities, a government minister said Monday, as concerns grow about Chinese influence.

A proposed inquiry by the security and intelligence committee follows a series of controversies over China’s clout on Australian campuses, ranging from hacks of university data to questionable financial donations and intimidation of Beijing’s critics.

Concerns have also been raised about the nature of research links between academics and scientists in the two countries.

Alan Tudge, the minister for population and cities, told Sky News the mooted inquiry was the latest government attempt to tackle spiralling foreign interference now at “levels not seen since World War II”.


The move comes after Canberra announced last week that it was seeking new powers to scrap deals between local authorities and foreign countries that threaten the national interest — sweeping powers that would extend to universities.

It also comes less than a year after Australia announced new guidelines for universities for research collaboration, cybersecurity, and international partnerships.

FILE: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (C) attends a videoconference with G20 leaders to discuss the COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Parliament House in Canberra on March 26, 2020. Gary Ramage / POOL / AFP

Tudge said the inquiry would “go further” than previous probes into alleged foreign interference.

“We need to be assured and the public need to be assured that there isn’t that foreign interference in our universities sector,” he said.


He did not say if the probe was aimed at China.

The Australian newspaper reported that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton outlined the terms of reference for the inquiry in a letter Sunday to committee head Andrew Hastie, a government parliamentarian and outspoken China critic.

Advisors to Dutton did not respond to a request for comment.

The university guidelines announced in November push public institutions to enhance cybersecurity systems, undertake due diligence before signing partnerships with overseas organisations, and train staff to recognise foreign influence attempts.

Academics have been urged to be wary of sharing knowledge on sensitive topics and discern how joint research with international scholars could potentially be misused.


Schools and government officials also committed to more intensive consultation to protect Australia’s national interests.

Beijing has repeatedly denied interfering in Australian campus life.

China-Australia relations have reached a new ebb in recent months, with the two governments at loggerheads over trade and competing for influence in the Pacific.

Tensions spiked in April when Australia infuriated China by calling for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.