Daily News Roundup

April 14, 2021




The Prime Minister will convene twice-weekly meetings of the national cabinet for the foreseeable future to get the COVID-19 vaccination program “back on track.”

Just three days after quietly announcing on Facebook that he will abandon “targets” for the vaccine rollout including the original pledge of delivering the vaccination of all eligible adults by the end of the year — Scott Morrison has announced the national cabinet will once again take centre-stage.

It follows pointed criticism from the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Health Minister Brad Hazzard that the delivery of vaccines was patchy and that states were sometimes being left in the dark over supplies.

The Prime Minister said he accepted there are “serious challenges we need to overcome caused by patchy international vaccine supplies, changing medical advice and a global environment of need caused by millions of COVID-19 cases and deaths.”

“National Cabinet will convene on Monday 19 April and will meet bi-weekly for the foreseeable future until we solve the problems and get the programme back on track,’’ Mr Morrison said.

“I have requested that the National Cabinet and our health ministers move back to an operational footing — to work together, closely, to tackle, head on, the challenges we are all facing with making our vaccination programme as good as it can be.

“There are issues we are trying to deal with as a federal government, and I have been upfront about those. But amongst the states and territories, they are also tackling their own unique issues and working together we are all going to be in a better position to find the best solutions.”


The 70km/h suction whoosh of Australia’s first underground waste disposal system will replace the clanging and rattling of some rubbish trucks and wheelie bins by June, reports the Brisbane Times.

Automated underground rubbish systems are in place in cities including Stockholm, Seoul, Barcelona, London, Singapore and Beijing, but not in Australia. 

Over the past five years, a 6.5-kilometre network of underground pipes has been placed under a section of Maroochydore, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, in the first phase of the innovative waste-disposal technology rollout. 

It will be Australia’s first underground, automated household waste system.

In September 2016, Swedish company Envac won the contract to build the waste disposal network under 52 hectares of Maroochydore’s new, master-planned central business district.

At the time, Envac regional president Chun Yong Ha asked why Australia’s waste collection services were so far behind developments in Europe and Asia.

“My belief, based on my experience in other countries, is that our system will revolutionise waste collection in Australia,” Mr Ha said.

“And in Australia, it is rather strange that the waste collection has remained conventional for so many years.”

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Envac specialists from travel to Australia to commission the first phase of the waste disposal system.

Now, Envac teams have arrived on the Sunshine Coast to complete their inspections of phase one.

A 10 metre-tall waste collection station and the first part of the underground piping, including the link from underneath the apartments and offices spaces to the nearby waste collection station, are finished.

Sunshine Coast Council planning services group executive manager James Ruprai said the Envac technical experts would assess the complete system.

“Waste and recyclables from buildings and public realm bins in the new Maroochydore City Centre will move by vacuum pressure at up to 70km/h through a 6.5-kilometre network of underground pipes to a collection station,” he said.

The vacuum would be created by a series of 110-kilowatt motors that suck recyclable and general waste to an airtight, soundproofed collection station just outside the CBD.

“The collected material will then be transferred to disposal or recycling facilities,” Mr Ruprai said.

“This innovative system will remove the need for conventional waste collection trucks to service bins on streets, which will have many benefits for traffic and amenity in the new CBD.”

Envac Australia managing director Tony Kutra said talks had been held with other Australian councils, governments and developers of larger master-planned communities.


As Prince Philip’s body now lies in rest at Windsor Castle, thousands of kilometres away in the Pacific there are some who believe that his spirit will now return to them, reports the ABC.

For decades, people in several small villages on the Vanuatu island of Tanna have revered the Duke of Edinburgh, believing the prince was the physical representation of an ancient warrior leader.

“He is the spirit of kastom so we pray through the sacred kava ritual,” a spokesman for Yaohnanen village, Jimmy Joseph Nakouo, said.

Since news of his death filtered through — mostly by international journalists — people in the villages of Yakel and Yaohnanen have come to pay their respects.

At Yaohnanen village, the Union Jack flag flew at half-mast and hundreds of people took part in a small ceremony under a large banyan tree in the centre of the village, called a nakamal, or meeting place.

Men drank kava — a traditional beverage popular in many Pacific island countries — which is made from the kava plant’s ground roots and has a mildly euphoric effect.

It is a significant part of Vanuatu’s “kastoms”, the country’s traditional cultures and customs.

Jean Pascal Wahe, who works at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, visited both villages this week.

“They are sorry [to hear of his death] but they’re also glad because they say his body will remain in the UK but his spirit will return to Tanna,” he said.

But there are also questions now as to who might take on the special relationship they had with Prince Philip.

In 1974, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited the New Hebrides, before it became Vanuatu, where the Prince handed over a white pig to a member of the Tanna community during an event in the capital, Port Vila.

Anthropologists said the gift catapulted him into the centre of a long-running prophecy that has its roots in the clash of culture between the early European missionaries and the traditional tribes.

People in the villages of Yakel and Yaohnanen have an ancient legend that tells of a group of warriors who left, a long time ago, to fight a war on a faraway island so as to preserve their culture.

“The spirit of kastom tried to protect people from Christianity … [the spirit] told the people, ‘I need to go to the source of the threatening’,” Mr Nakou said.

“That’s the time [it] went to England.”

According to the prophecy, the leader of the group vowed to one day return with a rich, powerful and white wife.

This is how the islanders saw Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1974, believing him to be a physical representation of the ancient warrior leader returning home.

It is believed that the Prince’s gift of the pig allowed the people of Yaohnanen and Yakel to form a strong link with him.

They wanted him to live in their villages and followers, who are estimated to now stand at around 400, patiently waited for his return.

Kirk Huffman, an anthropologist who has known members of the Prince Philip movement since the 1970s, said it is common for tribes on Tanna to believe in prophecies or “visions”.

“These sorts of visionary movements have been going on … for centuries,” Mr Huffman said, who is also an honorary curator of Vanuatu’s National Museum.

“You get visions and you try and attract followers, that’s one of the cultural ball games on Tanna.”

He said that such beliefs play an important role in Tannese culture, which “doesn’t follow linear logic and they don’t have to because there are lots of other logical systems around”.

“In the white man system, we’re all brought up on this jolly stupid linear education system which blinds us to this whole much wider view of reality.”

But he said the world’s interest in the Prince Philip movement has also played a role.

“The more film crews that arrive, the more supporters they get. It’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way”.

There was regular correspondence between Prince Philip and his followers dating back to the late 1970s and in 2007, five members of the community visited him for a meeting at Windsor Castle as part of a UK Channel 4 television series.

While Prince Philip’s followers believe that his spirit will now return to Tanna, they have also held discussions about his possible successor.

Kirk Huffman said that in line with Vanuatu culture — where the customs dictate that the chiefly titles are passed on to male descendants — they might transfer their allegiance to the next in line, Prince Charles.

Cultural officer Jean Pascal Wahe said that followers have not yet made any decisions but would leave the matter to the Royal family.

“They’ve said that if [Prince] Charles wants to continue to hold this title … and maintain the connection, then that would be fine,” he said.

“But if not, the spirit of Prince Philip would go into one of his other adult children, or a grandchild, and in the future, they could continue the connection”.

But anthropologist Kirk Huffman said it was likely the group would continue to use the name of Prince Philip.

He said he was also recently advised that it may even become a political movement, following in the footsteps of another group, the John Frum Movement, which is also on the island of Tanna.

“They stand in the local elections, they have a Member of Parliament,” he said.

“What’s going on is actually traditional internal power politics. Clan alliances … jealousies, all sorts of stuff. That’s fascinating.”

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