From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Marles mauled. What is Labor’s position on the Royal Australian Navy’s role in exercising its right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea? New opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles followed his predecessor Stephen Conroy’s pre-election line last week, telling Fairfax’s James Massola  “the ADF, the navy should be fully authorised to engage in freedom of navigation operations. It’s important that we are asserting our rights to navigate the high seas under international law.”

The now-departed Conroy earned a rebuke from the government back in July — Julie Bishop says Australia’s aim should be to “de-escalate tensions” in the area, which places us slightly at odds with the Americans, who are focused on ensuring the Chinese know they regard the South China Sea as international waters.

Marles similarly copped a rebuke — this time from Paul Keating, who roasted him. “You don’t outsource decisions like this to a naval commander. Or even to an admiral. This question goes to the very essence of democracy and to the doctrine of civilian control of the military.”

The Prime Minister endorsed Keating’s comments yesterday, as Marles “clarified” that he meant it should be a political decision, not a naval one. Marles was speaking from Honolulu, where he was attending the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, so perhaps he was saying exactly what his American friends wanted to hear from Australia?

Remember WikiLeaks — which Marles hates with a passion — outed him as a source for US diplomats in a cable that memorably includes “Marles said he places a strong emphasis on an increased Australian presence in Asia”. Despite his “clarification”, it sounds like Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon would be very happy that Marles is in a place like Defence.

‘All class’ indeed. Yesterday Crikey‘s Bernard Keane reported that a pro-greyhound racing group had threatened participants in the McHugh Inquiry, where whistleblowers had made submissions and given evidence about the cruelty of the greyhound industry. National Greyhound Racing United posted on its Facebook page on Monday, in anticipation of Mike Baird’s back-down on the greyhound racing ban: “We will enjoy this victory, then we will turn our attention to those that made submissions in the McHugh report, their crime will not go unpunished.”

It seems threats are the main form of communication for the NGRU. Yesterday the group’s Twitter account sent this tweet to Keane, writing: “All class this bloke” with an emoji representation of a gun pointed at a person’s head.

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The tweet has since been deleted, but it shows the level to which the debate has sunk.

Dickheads on a plate. While it has been three months since the federal election on July 2, we are still making our way through a series of first speeches from senators of all political stripes. New Labor Senator for Queensland Anthony Chisholm today tweeted his rejected ideas for his first speech, including “a national number plate commissioner to crack down on tools who order shithouse personalised number plates”. While Ms Tips approves of the sentiment behind the idea, terrible personalised number plates, especially ones with numbers instead of letters, are such a convenient “dickhead-identification” tool. They really must stay.

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Return of the White Australia Policy. Speaking of first speeches, Pauline Hanson’s NSW One Nation colleague Brian Burston gave his first speech to the Senate yesterday afternoon, and like Derryn Hinch he tested the president’s patience with a very long speech that focused almost entirely on immigration and the Australian identity. He opened with a new version of an acknowledgement of country:

“I acknowledge Australia’s historic nation, forged by Christian explorers and pioneers from Britain and other European lands who created the federal Commonwealth under the Crown, and I acknowledge Australia’s first peoples, the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, who have become valued members of our nation.”

Burston massively overstated the magnitude of Australia’s refugee intake and linked refugees with an increase in crime, including “drive-by shootings”:

“Australia’s refugee intake is so large that it surpasses many countries’ immigration programs. Nevertheless, we do not select the intake for employability or cultural compatibility. The result is too often havoc in Australian society: carjackings, home invasions, flash riots and drive-by shootings. And, of course, when citizens object, there are endless complaints under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, administered by the ethnocentric Human Rights Commission. The refugee intake should be subject to the same basic criteria applied to immigrants, otherwise we continue to wound our own society. The precedent for selecting refugees responsibly was the very large intake following the Second World War, which had positive results. But refugees were selected according to the same criteria applied to immigrants.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Burston seemed to advocate for an immigration policy with similar principles to the White Australia Policy:

“Immigration restriction is a principle wider than the White Australia Policy. The motivation for the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 was threefold: to maintain high wages, preserve social cohesion and protect national identity. British and European immigration was thought to meet all criteria, not without reason. Immigrants from Anglophone countries continue to assimilate most quickly.

“One Nation does not advocate racially selective immigration but does seek to minimise cultural incompatibility, evident in the case of Islamic immigration. A predictable objection from Liberals and Labor is that they are opposed to selecting immigrants on the basis of identity. What immoral nonsense.

“That is why One Nation promises to discriminate by cultural and religious identity in selecting migrants and refugees, because any country that does not restrict immigration, to preserve its identity and thus social cohesion, will lose it sooner or later, sooner if it is a country as attractive as Australia.”

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