Morning mail: EU denies blocking vaccine, bank culture getting worse, NZ travel tips | Australia news

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Good morning. What has happened to 3.1m AstraZeneca vaccine doses that were meant to be administered to Australians by now? That’s one of several big unanswered questions about Australia’s slower-than-expected vaccine rollout. It seems not much has changed after the banking royal commission, according to employees. And if the New Zealand Covid bubble news was music to your ears, don’t miss our yarn on Kiwis’ top tips for your trip.

The European Union says it hasn’t blocked further shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia, contradicting Scott Morrison’s claim that international supply issues are chiefly to blame for missing rollout targets. Overnight an EU spokesperson said the only export request rejected out of nearly 500 received has so far been a shipment of 250,000 doses to Australia in March. The federal government is under fire for the slow pace of the rollout and a lack of transparency about how many doses have been manufactured locally and administered. Crucial data is missing on the government’s vaccine program, including local manufacturing volumes, available doses and herd immunity targets. Now disability services are taking Covid vaccinations “into their own hands”, approaching GPs directly to secure supplies for vulnerable residents, rather than waiting for deliveries to arrive at their facilities. The National Disability Services chief executive, David Moody, said the slow rollout meant they were unable to get the vaccines where their clients lived.

While the vaccine rollout has been slower than hoped in Australia, all American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by 19 April, pushing up the original 1 May deadline by about two weeks. Meanwhile, there are conflicting reports over the causal link between the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots. Europe’s drug regulator has denied it has already established a causal connection, after a senior official from the agency said there was a link. But drug safety experts in the UK believe there could be a causal link but say vaccination programs must continue, with risk mitigation for women under 55.

The culture inside Australia’s banks has not improved in the two years since an overhaul of the scandal-prone sector was recommended by a royal commission, employees say. “If anything, since the RC things have just gotten worse,” one worker said during a focus group where employees rejected statements that they were no longer being paid based on hitting sales benchmarks. “The banks think that no one is watching. Since the royal commission they’re just slipping things back in and it’s now worse than ever.” A retail bank worker for one of the big four banks said the lure of bonuses for making sales, which were banned as a result of the royal commission, had been replaced by the fear of being sacked if targets were not met.

Australia

Former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate says she never agreed to stand down.
Former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate says she never agreed to stand down. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The former Australia Post chief executive, Christine Holgate, has doubled down on her claim she never agreed to stand aside over her controversial gift of Cartier watches to senior executives and alleged the company’s chair repeatedly lied about the saga.

Services Australia has been criticised by a government watchdog for continuing to recoup money from welfare recipients through its botched robodebt scheme after it had admitted the program was unlawful.

An investigation will examine whether staff shortages contributed to the death of a young girl forced to wait two hours for care at a Perth hospital’s emergency department that had four doctors off sick.

The world

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is “seriously ill”.
One of Alexei Navalny’s lawyers says it is a ‘complete outrage’ that prison conditions have made him so sick. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The lawyer for Alexei Navalny has confirmed that the Russian opposition figure is “seriously ill” and has been transferred to a prison sick ward for a respiratory illness after reporting coughing and a temperature of 38.1C.

Ukraine’s president has called on Nato to hasten his country’s membership of the western military alliance in response to a growing build-up of Russian forces on his country’s borders.

Dutch police have arrested a 58-year-old man on suspicion of stealing paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals with an estimated value of US$25m during night-time raids on museums in the Netherlands last year.

Recommended reads

‘Perhaps I could get a certificate, I thought, formally acknowledging that I was no longer Catholic.’
‘Perhaps I could get a certificate, I thought, formally acknowledging that I was no longer Catholic.’ Photograph: Artit Fongfung/Alamy Stock Photo

Like many lapsed Catholics, Monica Dux’s relationship with the church has had some spectacular ups and downs but it turns out excommunication is harder than it seems. If you don’t go to church, does it matter if the church still thinks you’re part of the flock? “The moral of this story is not that excommunication is widely misunderstood by the mainstream Catholic community (and Madonna). It’s that there’s actually no way of quitting the church. According to church doctrine, once you’ve been baptised, the bond cannot be broken. The communion is eternal. You could strip naked, paint JESUS SUCKS! on your butt and streak through the main square at St Peter’s. As far as the church is concerned, you’d still be one of them,” she writes.

International travel is back on the agenda, finally! After the announcement of the long-awaited “travel bubble” with New Zealand, we spoke with seven Kiwi creatives – and Dunedin’s young mayor – to share their inside tips for where to walk, eat, shop and enjoy life once the borders come down on 19 April. From rambles with “epic views” of Otago harbour to “the deepest greens you’ve ever seen” at Lake Kaniere, and the South Island’s “un-funkiest” small town, sometimes it takes a local to know where to go.

Listen

Since 2014, at least $90m of government funding for Indigenous communities has been given to 10 of Australia’s biggest companies under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. This money is meant to tackle the enormous gap in employment and wealth between Indigenous people and the rest of the population.

Indigenous affairs editor Lorena Allam explores whether these funds are going to the right place.

Full Story

Where is the money meant for Indigenous communities really going?

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.

Sport

War, asylum and near death at sea have shaped Asif Sultani’s karate journey from Afghanistan to Australia and now the Olympics. The 24-year-old is a karateka – a karate athlete – and one of 55 sportsmen and women from 13 countries to receive an IOC refugee athlete scholarship, providing them with assistance for training and competitions as they seek to make the final cut for the team for Tokyo.

To the naked eye, the vibe at the national Scrabble championships is decidedly understated. Look a little closer and one might spy the man towards the back wearing glasses, a plain T-shirt and a simply fabulous pair of zig-zagged technicoloured trousers. He and a female opponent are huddled over boards featuring the words “spew”, “vom”, “yay”, “gif” and “equid”.

Media roundup

The ABC reports 15 men aged between 21 and 52 have been arrested for child exploitation material across the Northern Territory and Queensland after a three-month operation targeting child predators was launched in January. Credit Suisse has launched court action to wind up Sanjeev Gupta’s Whyalla Steelworks in South Australia, according to the Australian Financial Review. And the Sydney Morning Herald says land values around Sydney’s new airport soared dramatically even before the land was rezoned, with some properties increasing by almost 250% ahead of planning overhauls.

Coming up

Australian health experts will meet to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine.

NSW coroner Teresa O’Sullivan is due to hand down her findings into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of teenage Sydney siblings Jack and Jennifer Edwards, shot dead by their father John Edwards who then took his own life.

And if you’ve read this far …

Learning another language is hard, but the French proficiency exam required for permanent residency in Quebec, Canada, has drawn attention for its difficulty after native French speakers failed the test.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Morning mail: EU denies blocking vaccine, bank culture getting worse, NZ travel tips | Australia news

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