George Christensen

A CULTURE OF SECRECY

Nationals MP George Christensen has blocked the release of documents relating to an AFP evaluation into his frequent travels to the Philippines. Nine reports it was prevented from accessing police records, as well as a letter sent to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, under freedom of information laws, because “a third party has objected to the disclosure of those documents”. As Inq explained back in October, Christensen was under “evaluation” by the AFP — a process that could have but did not proceed to an official investigation.

Meanwhile, Kate Johnson, former chief of staff to Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, has spoken out, accusing the minister of fostering a toxic culture in his office, after Wyatt refused to release a confidential report into the alleged bullying.

FOREIGN INFLUENCE TASKFORCE

Cabinet has signed off on the creation of an ASIO-led elite intelligence taskforce ($), dubbed the counter foreign interference taskforce, in a bid to detect foreign influence attempts, The Australian reports.

ASIO will now be able to share classified intelligence with the Australian Federal Police, combining security and criminal investigations to determine whether foreign suspects should be charged under criminal espionage offences passed last year. The creation of the taskforce is said to be un­related to recent reports of Chinese influence, with the government saying it has been in development for months. The unit, which requires no legislation, will launch with initial, new funding of almost $90 million.

CLIMATE ANXIETY

For the first time, the Ipsos Issues Monitor poll has found the environment to be the top issue concerning Australians, Nine reports. In November, 32.1% of respondents rated the state of the environment among their biggest anxieties, surpassing healthcare, cost of living and the economy.

The UN will today launch its two-week climate conference in Madrid, with secretary-general Antonio Guterres describing the world’s efforts to limit emissions as “utterly inadequate”. Labor is using the 10th anniversary of the defeat of its emissions trading scheme to bash the Greens, with Senate leader Penny Wong and frontbencher Pat Conroy blaming the minor party for the fact Australia is still without an effective policy.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

The real challenge for the moderates, for all of us, for the Liberals in the Liberal Party is the one thing we ­cannot be, now or ever, is quiet Australians.

Malcolm Turnbull

The former PM used a speech at his farewell function to call for moderates to be “loud Australians” ($) on climate change.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Jacqui Lambie to meet with the government on medevac repeal

Homosexuality vilification complaint lodged against Folau

Surplus taking a hit as wages and drought hit bottom line

Trust in change is the biggest political battle, Labor’s Ed Husic warns

Transparency fears as My School overhaul considered

Woolworths class action estimates underpayment bill as high as $620m

Riot police out in force as thousands march to up pressure on Hong Kong government

Digital platforms response delayed ($)

NSW: World-first mobile phone detection cameras rolled out

Protests erupt in India over alleged gang rape and murder of woman

Yang Hengjun: Chinese officials try to ‘break’ Australian writer with daily interrogations

PM drags ‘witness’ Attorney-General Christian Porter into ‘doctored documents’ scandal

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Top bureaucrat charged with rorting, while Indigenous family is evicted over broken Hills hoist

“The Department of Communities is a mega-bureaucracy whose portfolio encompasses child protection, housing, disabilities, local government, youth justice, and Aboriginal affairs. Whyte, who is in hospital after an apparent suicide attempt over the weekend, is assistant director-general. He used to run the Department of Housing when it was a standalone portfolio. He lives in a $3 million mansion in one of Perth’s leafiest streets. Meanwhile, I’ve lost count of the number of vulnerable Indigenous families whose public housing tenancies have been terminated for a few hundred dollars of debt.”


Parliamentary committee commits massive privacy breach

“The House of Representatives economics committee has been caught up in a massive breach of privacy, having accidentally published the filled-out witness forms — including emails and phone numbers — of members from the federal banking watchdog set to appear before the committee next week. Crikey noticed the breach after trying to download a media release about the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s (APRA) planned appearance before the Standing Committee on Economics this coming Monday. Instead, the file contained the Hansard Witness Forms completed by six senior APRA staff. Crikey alerted the committee secretariat to the privacy breach, who yelled ‘Oh, CRIKEY!’ (yes, really).”


Nanny statists come for online booze delivery

“FARE’s attack on online alcohol delivery is an example of how consumers can’t win with nanny statists — that there’ll always be yet another form of behaviour that paternalists want to modify. Instead of either driving to purchase more alcohol (which creates risks to themselves or others) or going to a public venue to consume alcohol (which increases the risks of physical assault, falls and other accidents) consumers ordering alcohol online remain home. This may not seem significant, but drink-driving, assault and falls are some of the key risk factors that inform the development of alcohol consumption guidelines by the National Health and Medical Research Council.”

THE COMMENTARIAT

The importance of medevac ($) – Jana Favero (The Saturday Paper): “Without hope and action, the government wins and people will remain in limbo. They are trying to wear us down. Make no mistake, their strategy is intentional. They see the changing tide and they will try every tactic to divide us. To use fear to save their political egos. To make us think the community doesn’t care about refugees. We see you, Peter Dutton. We see you, Scott Morrison. And we see the kind of country you are trying to manipulate us into being. But we are better than that, as are many of our elected representatives. We are strong, fair, humane and we believe people should be treated decently. Fighting to save medevac is part of this.”

Cult that defines Trump’s power is just a few scratches away from the surface in AustraliaGreg Jericho (The Guardian) It was no coincidence one of the first things Morrison did when becoming PM was to talk about “gender whisperers” in school, despite that not being a thing at all and that it only served to kick one of the most marginal groups in society while appealing to those who gain succour in pretending their ignorant view of the world is not crumbling around them. When coupled with a continual denigration of certain media outlets (notably the ABC, the old Fairfax and, very much, Guardian Australia), the tactic is to drive your core supporters towards reading news from only certain outlets, especially those who likewise love to punch down. And when that is done you can carry on in your own little reality.”

Chinese whispers influence journalists who probably don’t have a clue ($) – Chris Kenny (The Australian): “Sometimes this is the hardest question for journalists to test rigorously and objectively — why has the story come to them? The journalists will know they are being used for some purpose — that the source will have a clear motivation for going public — but it is another matter to know whether the stated reasons are legitimate or whether, in a field where national interests, ­information and agents are routinely gamed, the media itself is being played. A handful of people are likely to know exactly what has transpired in these controversial cases. But, sadly for us, none of them are likely to be journalists.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority will appear before the house economics committee at a public hearing as part of its review of the 2019 APRA Annual Report.

Sydney

  • NSW’s Law Enforcement Conduct Commission will hold a public hearing into the strip-searching of several young people at the Lost City music festival on February 23, 2019.

  • The 27th Colloquium on Pensions and Retirement Research will be held.

Melbourne

  • The disability royal commission will hold public hearing into group homes and housing options for people with disabilities in Victoria.

  • The Australian Tennis Awards will be held at Crown Palladium.

Brisbane

  • The Environmental Defenders Office will hold a press conference objecting to Clive Palmer’s coal mine proposal for the Galilee Basin. 

Hobart

  • Academics, students and legal practitioners from around the world will discuss legal issues relating to the Antarctic and Arctic in a four-day polar law symposium.

  • The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will release a 2019 report on the state by Deloitte Access Economics.