Secretary of the Home Affairs Department Mike Pezzullo appears before a Senate Estimates hearing at Parliament House in Canberra, on Monday, March 2, 2020. Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

A GLORIOUS DAY IN PARLIAMENT

Day one of Senate estimates delivered on multiple government scandals.

  • Labor criticised Scott Morrison‘s position as the sole permanent member of the cabinet office policy committee, meaning, as The Guardian explains, he can call meetings protected by cabinet confidentiality without other cabinet members.
  • AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw justified why neither Angus Taylor nor Clover Moore were interviewed over doctored emissions data, insisting the matter is “closed”. Taylor later described the investigation on 7.30 as “pretty thorough”.
  • There was a back and forth between Greens senator Nick McKim and Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo over whether information released to The Courier-Mail relating to a refugee’s medical costs were declassified before or after release.
  • Labor accused the Coalition’s $2 billion bushfire recovery fund of not existing. As The Australian ($) reports, only five farmers and small businesses have received loans under the scheme — which is now due for a shake-up, according to the ABC.
  • It was revealed PM&C secretary Philip Gaetjens neither interviewed anyone at the Prime Minister’s office nor, as SBS reports, discovered the 136 emails between Bridget McKenzie and Morrison’s staff.
  • Turns out Sports Australia received several different versions of McKenzie’s colour-coded spreadsheets on the day the 2019 election was called, with projects added and subtracted following those 136 emails, The Australian ($) reports.

Coincidentally, Labor senator Murray Watt was at one point censured for using the word “rorts” to describe the day’s events.

CORONAVIRUS HITS ‘ESCALATING FASCISM’ STAGE OF DISASTER FILM

As Australia records its first two person-to-person cases of coronavirus, the ABC reports South Australia has proposed new laws to make it easier to detain or quarantine people exposed to the virus, while The Conversation notes Attorney-General Christian Porter has detailed existing powers at the federal level.

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The Sydney Morning Herald has three pressing reports out: an investigation into Australian branches of the “secretive cult” Shincheonji behind South Korea’s outbreak; news the University of Technology Sydney is preparing to close its campus if an emergency is declared; and — while less worrying — that packaging shortages from China could affect local chocolate stocks.

GLOBAL CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

An advisor to Iran’s supreme leader has died after contracting the virus, The New Daily reports, and Indonesia has officially recorded its first two coronavirus cases, amid concerns over the country’s quarantine and screening processes, the ABC reports.

Closer to home, despite pleas from global medical experts for the public to stop “panic buying” face masks, which are not effective against the virus but are crucial for other health care providers,  Australian pharmacies are selling out.

THE COALITION KICK THE ABC (OUT) WHILE THEY’RE DOWN

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has “strongly encouraged” the ABC to consider selling capital city offices, notably in Sydney’s Ultimo and Melbourne’s Southbank, as the broadcaster grapples with a funding freeze set to take $84 million from its annual budget and result in up to 200 redundancies, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

TALKING POINT: The ABC might be in even more financial strife, with Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys launching defamation proceedings over the 7.30 investigation into cruelty against former racehorses. And as Crikey detailed last month, there’s also all that pricey, life-saving bushfire coverage they’ve been up to lately.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

We don’t operate like that.

Reece Kershaw

The AFP commissioner laughs off a suggestion that police ought to have interviewed Energy Minister Angus Taylor before deciding that, doctored document or not, it’s all good.

CRIKEY RECAP

A collapsing Chinese economy puts the acid on stimulus-shy government to respond

“After spending the last decade deriding Labor’s response to the financial crisis as inept, over the top and wasteful, the Coalition now finds itself facing a similar challenge after a weekend in which an already poor economic outlook dramatically worsened.”


Virus Watch: footshakes, beer and ignorance

“Australia had its first coronavirus fatality over the weekend as the infection rate continues to climb. Handshakes are now off the table, with the virus having some unexpected consequences for both beer and the environment.”


Labor’s ‘zero carbon emissions by 2050’ promise is a fantasy. Here’s why

“The ALP has come up with a new policy: net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It’s been encouraged by public opinion. It had to come up with something, what with its pro-coal stance on Adani and the challenge of comprehending the bushfires.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

‘Ethical’ super funds invest in coal, oil, gas

Imprisoned academic deserves more sympathy than Assange, Sharma says

Nova Peris speaks candidly on Q+A about life in politics and the ongoing fight for Indigenous Australians

Jacinda Ardern brushes off criticism from Peter Dutton on deportation stance

Could it get easier for people to say yuck stuff about women in the workplace? Attorney-General: no, lawyers: yes.

Reserve Bank expected to cut rates amid calls for more government spending

Margaret Court’s church set up consulate for anti-gay African regime

Another Indigenous man has walked free from immigration detention after the “aliens” case

Huawei’s Nick Xenophon ‘must sign up to the foreign influence register’, Andrew Hastie demands

Tasmania boosts renewable hydrogen aspirations with $50m “action plan”

More than 80,000 Uighurs sent to work in factories across China, report finds

Investors look to salvage parts of AAP as newswire faces closure

THE COMMENTARIAT

The Treasurer is missing the mark ($) — Richard Denniss (AFR): “Treasury’s Intergenerational Report (IGR) will be out soon and if it’s anything like the last four, it will provide far more detail on the future costs of Youth Allowance than on the costs of climate disasters. While Joe Hockey’s 2015 IGR states that “extreme fire weather has increased, and the fire season has lengthened” his report provides no estimate of what this will cost the budget.”

Police need faster access to overseas information to fight crime and keep Australians safe ($) — Reece Kershaw (The Australian): “In 2020, communication happens instantly. Emails, messages, videos and countless volumes of data are sent between countries at the tap of a screen. It would be difficult to accept waiting months or even years for a response. Yet this is the reality law enforcement agencies often face when requesting data from overseas, particularly from the US, with much of our electronic information settling somewhere near Silicon Valley.”

‘People are crying and begging’: the human cost of forced relocations in immigration detentionMichelle Peterie (The Conversation): “As monotonous as detention can be, detainees are not allowed to become comfortable. Between July 2017 and May 2019, there were 8,000 involuntary movements within the system. Some of these were deportations, but others were forced transfers between facilities.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong will both launch National Security College head Rory Medcalf‘s new book Contest for the Indo-Pacific: Why China won’t map the future at The Australian National University.

  • CEO of Indigenous support agency Djirra Antoinette Braybrook will present ANU’s 2020 Pamela Denoon Lecture on “Making First Nations women safe and strong”.

  • Senate estimates hearings will today focus on communications, finance, the Attorney-General’s department, agriculture and water.

  • The federal government’s agriculture forecaster ABARES will host its annual two-day conference.

  • Historian Frank Bongiorno will launch Professor John Uhr and Dr Shaun Crowe’s new book Novel Politics: Studies in Australian Political Fiction at ANU.

Melbourne

  • Victorian Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams will launch the Centre for Innovative Justice’s latest research The PIPA Project: Positive Interventions for Perpetrators of Adolescent violence in the home.

  • The Age journalist Nicole Precel will host a panel discussion at The Wheeler Centre on the issues raised in Nine’s 2019 documentary The Invisible Crime: Are We Failing Victims of Sexual Violence?

  • Cancer Council Victoria will launch a new AI tool that monitors how products that increase risk of cancer are marketed to children.

Sydney

  • American climatologist Michael Mann will speak on “Our House Is On Fire: How Universities Can Become Advocates For Action” at the University of Sydney.

Brisbane

  • Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner will present “Building a Better Brisbane – Vision for the Future” at Victoria Park Golf Complex.

Australia

  • Multiple events will be held this week ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8.

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Peter Fray
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