RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
“We want all the LGBTIQ people in the community to know that we are supporting you, that we have done our best, and that’s all that we can do. I just say: please stand strong because we will win this.”
That was Shelley Argent of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, one of the plaintiffs in the unsuccessful High Court challenge to the validity of the government’s postal survey on marriage equality. Yesterday, following a unanimous decision, High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel dismissed the challenges, saying, “Section 10 [of the Appropriation Act], on its proper construction, did authorise the Finance Minister to make the determination”, and ordered that the plaintiffs pay costs — which could total well over $200,000 according to The Daily Telegraph. And that’s about all the court said — detailed reasons behind the decision won’t be published for a while yet.
For now, both sides of the debate (and of politics) are preparing their cases. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used question time (during which the decision was handed down) to ask whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would co-sign a letter with him calling on all Australians to vote Yes — Turnbull declined.
Now, as 16 million voters prepare to receive their ballots next Tuesday, the focus turns to what happens next. The ABS-run survey is not currently covered by the same legislation that circumscribes campaign promotional material during an election, which has already allowed for some questionable material to surface. Into that legal lacuna, the government is hoping to hastily introduce legislation that would require ads to be authorised, and — if Labor and the Greens get their way — sanctions for misleading and deceptive conduct.
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The Australian, unsurprisingly, wants to know what all this means for religious freedom, with David Crowe writing on the front page of the fears that “the strict campaign laws would shut down free speech”, while Dennis Shanahan gives a sympathetic ear to Dr Chris Middleton, who, after helming a petition opposing the Australian Medical Association’s support for marriage equality (he eventually resigned on that account), has been the subject of an open letter saying his petition contributed to “increased depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal behaviour”. The letter was written by a third-year medical school student and signed by over 2000 doctors.
POWER PRICES CRISIS
The government’s other preoccupation is, of course, energy prices. Currently at the centre of this is the the Liddell coal-fired power station in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, which is scheduled to be de-commissioned in 2022. The government is trying to convince owners AGL to sell the station instead, leading to a series of public contradictions between the two. AGL have been very firm that they are getting out of coal, and have made “no commitment to sell the Liddell Power Station nor to extend its life beyond 2022”.
According to an anonymous Macquarie Generation engineer who worked at the neighbouring coal fired Bayswater plant — quoted today in Fairfax — that’s for the best; it would cause anyone attempting to extend its life “mammoth problems”.
“It’s just never been a good plant,” he said. “It’s never been reliable.”
Two private companies, Delta Electricity and a second that did not want to be named, have expressed interest in buying the station. However, in today’s Guardian, Delta is accused of causing “a litany of alleged environmental damages… in its operating of the Vales Point coal-fired power station on Lake Macquarie, 130km south-east of Liddel” in a report by Environmental Justice Australia.
Meanwhile, the Oz claims AGL may face increased scrutiny after analysts at Ord Minnett said AGL was the “biggest beneficiary of higher wholesale prices”.
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Samoa: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to attend Pacific Islands Forum, leaving Labor’s favorite target, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, in charge.
Canberra: A public hearing for the Senate inquiry into the Australian Border Force Amendment (Protected Information) Bill 2017.
Perth: WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt and Premier Mark McGowan will present the newly elected Labor state government’s fiscal priorities for 2017-18, at a post state budget breakfast.
Melbourne: Justice Minister Michael Keenan will provide an update on firearms surrendered under the National Firearms Amnesty since July 1.
Hobart: Public hearings will be held in Hobart into acute aged care services in Tasmania.
Sydney: MasterChef judge George Calombaris will be sentenced after being charged for assault for allegedly shoving a a 19-year-old after the A-League grand final in Sydney.
Sydney: RBA governor Philip Lowe will deliver brief remarks at Bank of China Sydney Branch’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Dinner.
Gold Coast: Champion iron man Dean Mercer, who died of a heart attack, to be farewelled at a service at the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre in Carrara from midday.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Stop sounding the alarm, put out the fire— David Crow (The Australian): ” The report from the Australian Energy Market Operator forces all sides of politics to think about extending the life of coal-fired power stations or making big decisions to shift to gas-fired power that can work as a “strategic reserve” when the shortages come. This plays to the Coalition’s strengths against the push for renewables from Labor and the Greens. But the repeated warnings carry political risks for the Prime Minister and Frydenberg. What are voters to think of a government that releases warning after warning while seeking more time to make a decision?”
Malcolm Turnbull catches a break — now he must grab it — Mark Kenny (Sydney Morning Herald): “There has been much pseudo-democratic posturing and strategic miscalculation on both sides, but for the defeated High Court petitioners, Turnbull’s procedural win must become theirs also. That’s because their imperatives have suddenly aligned: to rescue the credibility of what opponents had characterised as an abysmal process.”
CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY
Razer: we need sound arguments, not ‘respectful debate’ (whatever the shit that is) — Helen Razer: “Politicians show us very little respect. They have created or permitted precisely the conditions — wage stagnation, long work hours, mortgage stress, the alienation of underemployment, unaffordable education — in which the tools or the hope for ‘respectful debate’ are unavailable to most. And most media commentators simply start from a foundation not of thought, but of antagonism. They rarely even ‘debate’ matters of grave importance, but simply ‘debate’ the way they are spoken about. And so, we have this peculiar set of local commentators who offer little but vulgarity, and explain their vulgarity as necessary, because the other side made them do it.”
The day the right didn’t like market forces, when coal-fired power was on the line — Bernard Keane: “AGL is being savaged by conservatives for planning to close a power station at the end of its life. David Leyonhjelm, usually to be found enthusiastically supporting freedom, deregulation and allowing people to do what they bloody well like, took to Sky News yesterday to condemn AGL. ‘I’ll be closing my AGL account and going elsewhere,’ he piously intoned, before moving out of the Sky studio to give a media conference to reannounce his boycott (alas, no one showed up because he’d called it at the same time as Scott Morrison was holding a presser, but never mind).”
Border Force overpays officers, then threatens to call debt collectors — Charlie Lewis: “Border Force officers have been told to repay thousands of dollars of overpaid leave within weeks or potentially face debt collectors. An email seen by Crikey, sent to approximately 2000 employees across Border Force’s various agencies, sets out incorrect crediting of leave across the last two years due to a software glitch.”
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