GOVERNMENT STICKS WITH PLEBISCITE

The federal government has ensured marriage equality will remain an issue for the foreseeable future, committing to again attempt to get a bill through the Senate for a plebiscite on the matter, and then move on to a ” a non-legislated, voluntary postal vote” in the words of Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. This option is considered the most likely, with  The Age describing the plebiscite legislation bill as “doomed”. Interestingly, the Australian Financial Review’s Phillip Coorey uses the phrase “when it fails” in his front-page story, while on the Fin‘s website, the more diplomatic “if” is used. Either way, the plebiscite legislation is likely to fail, given the staunch opposition from Labor, the Greens, Nick Xenophon and Derryn Hinch

And if (when) the bill doesn’t pass the Senate, the phrases “non-legislated,” and “voluntary” both open up more issues for the government. While Cormann reiterated that the government was confident it could fund a postal vote without legislation, marriage equality advocates, likely to boycott the vote, will launch a High Court challenge against its legitimacy. Even plebiscite architect Tony Abbott feels a voluntary approach lacks authority. The plan has also attracted criticism for its outcome — in the event of a yes result, MPs will be allowed to vote with their conscience. In the event of a no vote, there will be no vote in Parliament at all. An MP who supports marriage equality told The Australian this summed up the double standard the Liberals had applied to the issue.

Perhaps the only people who will actually be happy with this outcome will be the Australian Christian Lobby. ACL head Lyle Shelton told The Australian that if the Coalition were to allow a free vote on marriage equality, the ACL might actually campaign against a Coalition government for the first time,  directing its members to support minor ­right-wing parties like Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives.

The Nationals will join the fun today at a joint party meeting, and they are expected to support the moves to present the legislation to the Senate again.

Either way, with the bill likely to fail in the Senate and a postal process likely to take months the issue is, as Crikey’s Bernard Keane put it, “not going away“.

DEAD ASYLUM SEEKER ‘DENIED HELP’

Police have launched an investigation into the death of Iranian asylum seeker Hamed Shamshiripour, who was found dead on Manus Island on Monday. Foul play has been ruled out in the case of the 31-year-old, the fifth man to die in offshore detention on Manus. Advocacy group Doctors for Refugees called the death “another preventable tragedy”.

According to Iranian refugee, journalist and fellow Manus detainee Behrouz Boochani, Shamshiripour had a long history of mental illness, homelessness and distress, but told Fairfax that “Australia didn’t offer him any medical treatment”.

Shamshiripour’s death comes amid growing tensions in the lead up to the October 31 closure date of the Manus Island detention facility.

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: Coalition joint parties meeting — Liberal and Nationals MPs will gather for their regular sitting week meeting.

Canberra: Tibet’s first democratically elected political leader, Lobsang Sangay, will speak about “Tibet and Australia: how can democracies survive a rising China” at the National Press Club.  

Sydney: Former ACTU president Martin Ferguson will address the Sydney institute, saying that the Fair Work Act has swung the balance too far in favour of unions. 

Sydney: City Council trucks are expected to roll into Martin Place’s tent city to relocate residents to a “safe space”.

Brisbane: Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale will face court, charged by the CCC charged with attempting to pervert justice. 

THE COMMENTARIAT

It’s a primary vote record as Shorten exploits division — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian $): “Don’t worry about the artificial deadline the Prime Minister set himself of 30 losing Newspolls — based on two-party-preferred results, the Turnbull government has already racked up the most sustained run of poor primary vote results for the Coalition in Newspoll history.”

Aboriginal health, treaties and an Aboriginal voice: closing the gap — Ian Ring (The Age): “Internationally, while comparisons are fraught with technical difficulty, it appears that the health of Australia’s Indigenous population still lags behind that of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, New Zealand and the USA.”

After Garma, we must learn from the failures of the referendum campaign — Michael Mansell (Guardian Australia): “The referendum proposal always lacked merit – it subordinates Aboriginal people, reduces us to advisers instead of decision makers and would be just another advisory body to be ignored. It was never going to have legs.”

THE WORLD

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has offered a warm welcome to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, potentially signalling a turnaround on his previously hostile approach to Washington. Duterte has pivoted his country away from its traditional ally towards China, a major switch given the interest both powers have in the South China Sea, where the Phillipines has a number of contested claims. “We are friends. We are allies,” Duterte said, a notable shift in tone since he called previous US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore”. — Reuters

North Korea has responded to a new round of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, calling them a breach of sovereignty and vowing to never relinquish its weapons. The country promised massive retaliation against the United States despite the fact the new measures were also supported by its lone ally, China. — New York Times

The fate of South African President Jacob Zuma has been thrown into doubt, with a court clearing the way for a vote of no confidence in parliament. With divisions deepening in the governing African National Congress, it’s unclear whether Zuma has the numbers to survive the challenge. He could be dumped from office on Tuesday if it succeeds. — BBC

WHAT WE’RE READING

The man who wrote those password rules has a new tip: N3v$r M1^d! (Wall Street Journal): “Most people make minor changes that are easy to guess, he laments. Changing Pa55word!1 to Pa55word!2 doesn’t keep the hackers at bay. Also off the mark: demanding a letter, number, uppercase letter and special character such as an exclamation point or question mark — a finger-twisting requirement.”

Have smartphones destroyed a generation? (The Atlantic): “Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.”

Housing is a growing political problem for the Conservatives (The Economist): “Building such houses may breed Tories: the party boasted a huge lead among owner-occupiers and a slimmer one among voters with mortgages at the last election, according to Ipsos MORI, a pollster.”

Weaning itself from elephant ivory, China turns to mammoths (New York Times): “The legal importation of mammoth ivory, which comes from creatures that vanished more than 3,600 years ago, has skyrocketed in China as dealers and carvers seek a substitute to meet the demand.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

 

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Peter Fray
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