Costco will change the way New Zealanders shop: 4 expert tips for getting the most out of a bulk buy

Multiple delays and a NZ$60 entry cost have done little to quench enthusiasm for New Zealand’s first Costco, with New Zealanders lining up for more than 90 minutes recently for a chance to buy a membership to the store. A members-only warehouse retailer, the store will sell a wide range of products including food and grocery items, clothing, electronics, furniture and more. Commentators and people familiar with the brand have claimed the store will disrupt the duopoly that currently dominates New Zealand’s grocery sector. But to enter the warehouse you must pay a membership fee, set at $60 a year...
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COVID changed drop-off and pick ups – but parents can still have a strong relationship with their child's educators

One of the most obvious changes COVID has made to early childhood education in Australia has been around drop-offs and pick-ups. Pre-pandemic, parents would come into centres and help their child settle in every day. During this time, they could see where their child spent their day and chat informally to educators. But COVID has seen this stop or become sporadic. It is now common for parents to just drop their children off at the front door or gate, as centres and preschools/kindergartens try and control the spread of the virus. Understandably, this can leave families feeling disconnected from their...

A clean energy grid means 10,000km of new transmission lines. They can only be built with community backing

If you drive through central Victoria, you might wonder at the signs reading “Piss off AusNet” in shop windows or even mown into grassland. Communities and farmers are pushing back against plans for new 85-metre towers and transmission lines needed to transmit renewable power to the cities. Expect to see many more of these stories in coming years. To decarbonise by 2050, we must build more than 10,000 kilometres of new high-voltage transmission lines to carry renewable energy. That’s according to the Australian Energy Market Operator’s new plan for the energy system, which Labor committed to before the election. But...

Nukes, allies, weapons and cost: 4 big questions NZ's defence review must address

New Zealand’s commitment this week to send a further 120 defence staff to assist with training the Ukrainian military underlines how quickly the geopolitical landscape is changing. Earlier this month, US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s provocative (some would say reckless) Taiwan trip set off another round of sabre-rattling by China and a breakdown in bilateral discussions with the US. More recently, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman suggested New Zealand could be invited to join AUKUS, the defence alliance focused on the Indo-Pacific region and aimed at countering China’s rising influence. Taken together, these events show why...

View from The Hill: The Liberals would be better off with Morrison out of parliament

Liberal frontbencher Karen Andrews wouldn’t be alone among her colleagues in believing Scott Morrison should quit parliament. Andrews, home affairs minister in the former government, on Tuesday declared the Australian people were “betrayed” by Morrison’s installing himself in five portfolios, including hers, in secret arrangements. She was one of the ministers not told he’d moved in. Nor, most remarkably, was treasurer Josh Frydenberg (who a few months later stayed at The Lodge) informed he had a ministerial bedfellow. Likewise finance minister Mathias Cormann. Andrews has another reason for a heightened sensitivity to Morrison’s willingness to flout conventions and propriety. When an...

Barilaro report fails to put NSW government integrity crisis to rest

It took George Orwell just one line to describe a political dystopia: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” In contemporary NSW politics, it seems, it takes two inquiries, multiple press conferences, rolling media coverage, and a ministerial resignation. At 57 pages, the Ernst & Young report into a senior NSW government trade appointment to the Americas takes only five pages to get to the heart of the matter. Then it takes a different direction. “Public servants and the public alike”, states the report’s author, former public servant, Graeme Head, “should be able to have...

Word from The Hill: On Scott Morrison's bizarre power grab

As well as her interviews with politicians and experts, Politics with Michelle Grattan includes “Word from The Hill”, where she discusses the news with members of The Conversation politics team. In this podcast, politics editor Amanda Dunn and Michelle discuss this week’s revelations that former prime minster Scott Morrison had himself secretly sworn into five different portfolios. They talk about the criticisms some are making of Governor-General David Hurley for his role, and the political fallout which has seen one Liberal frontbencher, Karen Andrews, saying Morrison should leave parliament. Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Wildlife recovery spending after Australia's last megafires was 13 times less than the $2.7 billion needed

Few could forget the devastating megafires that raged across southeast and western Australia during 2019-20. As well as killing people and destroying homes and towns, the fires killed wildlife and burnt up to 96,000km² of animal habitat – an area bigger than Hungary. Under climate change, megafires will become increasingly common. This is likely to leave many species needing help at the same time, over vast areas. So our new research, released today, devised a way for conservation scientists and others to determine which actions, and where, will best help wildlife recover. We also put a price tag on these measures. We...

People with intellectual disability can be parents and caregivers too – but the NDIS doesn't support them

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare last month released its report on people with disability. It shows two in three people with disability aged 35 to 44 years have parenting responsibilities and over one in five people with intellectual disability aged 15 to 44 years have children. While it is estimated 0.41% of Australian parents have intellectual disability, international evidence shows most people with intellectual disability who become parents are classified in the “low” to “borderline” intellectual functioning range. So they may not identify with a label of intellectual disability. The real percentage of parents in this category is...

One year into Taliban control, Afghans face poverty and repression and Australia cannot turn a blind eye

One year after the fall of Kabul, life is difficult and precarious for almost everyone in Afghanistan. More than half of the 40 million people of this troubled country are facing severe malnutrition and grinding poverty, and 90% struggle with food insecurity. In a land of widows and orphans, disaster has struck the many households where women were the breadwinners. Now most women are blocked from returning to their places of employment and business, with only 15% of women able to work. They risk beatings, and worse, if they leave the house without a male guardian, and even...

Why unemployment is set to stay below 5% for years to come

Unfathomably, Australia’s unemployment rate has sunk to 3.5%. Even harder to believe is that it will soon sink lower – perhaps even this week, when the update is released on Thursday – and after that, if the ANZ’s forecasts are correct, dip below the next threshold to two-point-something for the first time since 1974. That this can be happening at a time when interest rates are soaring and households are tightening their belts belies standard analysis. So what’s driving this new ultra-low unemployment? It’s been harder for employers to get workers, because borders were closed, and because of unusually high rates...

Scott Morrison made himself treasurer days before the 2021 budget

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison installed himself in five portfolios – including treasury – just days before the May 2021 budget. Anthony Albanese gave details of his predecessor’s extraordinary actions at a Tuesday morning news conference. The prime minister said he had sought advice from the solicitor-general on the legality of what had happened, which he would receive on Monday. “I am seeking further advice as to the use of these extraordinary powers by Scott Morrison.” Morrison became health minister on March 14 2020, finance minister on March 30, 2020, home affairs minister and treasurer on May 6 2021, and minister...

NDIS fraud reports reveal the scheme's weakest points

Last year, nearly A$45 million in National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) payments were cancelled as they were thought to be fraudulent. But more recent estimates suggest that may be nowhere near the level of fraud occurring in the scheme. Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission chief Michael Phelan has warned as much as $6 billion a year might be being misused, including by organised crime syndicates. The reports cast shame on criminals taking advantage of people with disability. They also reveal the stress points within a disability support scheme that has lost the trust of many participants and needs greater oversight. ...

Witty and relevant, a stage adaptation of Alice Pung's Laurinda is filled with intelligence and humour

Review: Laurinda, directed by Petra Kalive. The Melbourne Theatre Company’s Laurinda is a smart re-framing of Alice Pung’s classic coming-of-age novel about the racism inherent in the privileged world of private school culture. In a bizarre twist of magical-realist fate, jaded school principal Lucy Lam (confidently and energetically played by Ngoc Phan) journeys back in time to inhabit her 15-year-old schoolgirl self, newly arrived at an elite private girls school. Lucy must navigate the challenges of being one of the few Vietnamese students in an environment riddled with confusing new rules and systemic barriers, reigned over by a truly ghastly trio of...

Linguistics locates the beginnings of the Austronesian expansion – with Indigenous seafaring people in eastern Taiwan

The study of Indigenous languages spoken in maritime South-East Asia today has shed new light on the beginnings of the Austronesian expansion. This was the last major migration of people spreading out across the Pacific Ocean and, ultimately, settling Aotearoa. Scientists all agree that people speaking Austronesian languages started out from Taiwan and settled the Philippines around 4,000 years ago. They used sails as early as 2,000 years ago. Together with other maritime technologies, this allowed them to disperse to the islands of the Indo-Pacific ocean. There they assimilated with existing populations and eventually reached as far as Easter Island to...

One of the brightest stars in the sky is evolving and dying before our eyes

Nothing lasts forever, including the stars in our night sky. One of the brighter and more notable stars in our sky is Betelgeuse, the bright red supergiant in the shoulder of Orion. In late 2019, astronomers around the world grew giddy with excitement, because we saw this giant star get fainter than we’ve ever seen it before. Since Betelgeuse is at the end stages of its life, there was some speculation this might be a death rattle before the end. But the cause of the “great dimming” wasn’t entirely clear until now. New preprint research awaiting peer review, led by Andrea Dupree...

PNG elections show there is still a long way to go to stamp out violence and ensure proper representation

Despite Australia “stepping up” its relations with the Pacific since the election of the Albanese government, one of the notable things about the recent national election in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was the almost complete lack of coverage of it in Australian media – except for the odd report of violence. 2022 election outcome For the record, voting took place across the country from July 4 to 22. Counting was supposed to be completed and writs returned by July 29, but that was extended to August 4. On August 9, with 99 of the 118 seats declared, the National Parliament met to...

Costs of Sydney's driverless train conversion outweigh the benefits

The NSW government’s industrial dispute with rail unions over the new intercity trains is tipped to add hundreds of millions of dollars to costs on Australia’s largest infrastructure project that has already blown out by billions. But even without overruns pushing the cost of the driverless-train project to more than A$55 billion, the economics of the “Sydney Metro” project are questionable – in particular the decision to cannibalise parts of the existing Sydney train network to create one of the four planned automated routes. The new driverless trains – as used in megacities throughout the world – have fewer seats, increased standing...