branch-stacking
(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

A LIBERAL APPROACH

According to another branch-stacking investigation by 60 Minutes and Nine newspapers, Victorian Liberal backroom powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan allegedly conspired to use former cabinet minister Kevin Andrews’ taxpayer-funded electorate officers to grow a hard-right faction with Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar.

Bastiaan’s political operation reportedly added dozens of new members to seats nowhere near their real addresses, while other new members report having their fees “paid by ethnic recruiters in breach of party rules”. Both he and Sukkar planned to replace both state and federal Liberal MPs — including Tim Wilson and former minister Kelly O’Dwyer.

Sukkar has denied any involvement in branch stacking and Bastiaan insists he never breached the party’s constitution — although in 2018 he suggested changing that constitution to open up 2020 preselections, “when we’ve got the numbers all eligible.” Andrews has since rejected being “coerced into making decisions on staffing arrangements” but reportedly referred matters to the Department of Finance for review.

PS: In related news, The Australian ($) reports that some state Liberals are lobbying Scott Morrison to clean out the branch amidst infighting and state president Robert Clark’s support for the party’s hard-right activist Karina Okotel.

A STIRLING CONTRIBUTION

According to The Australian ($), Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff has given crucial support to Scott Morrison’s plan to extend emergency industrial relations measures to businesses not on JobKeeper within the next fortnight, as One Nat­ion announces it is “sympathetic” to the proposal and Labor and the Greens prepare to fight the changes.

The changes —  which make it easier to direct an employee to work less, take leave or change duties — also face opposition from the union movement, with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that ads airing this week from the Australian Council of Trade Unions foreshadow a potential WorkChoices-style campaign amidst fears workers could face cuts to their hours without JobKeeper to compensate them.

PS: The New Daily reports that new Treasury figures suggest more than half of the 1.3 million Australians who lost their jobs or were stood down at the start of the crisis returned to some form of work by July, but ABS data shows most of the jobs created were part-time rather than full-time and, further, “effective” unemployment is set to again exceed 13% in coming months.

BRISBANE RESPONDS TO CLUSTER

With the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre cluster at Wacol growing to nine, the ABC reports that the Queensland government has released a list of venues for contact tracing and reimposed a private gathering limit of 10 for South-East Queensland, with no changes to businesses with COVID-safe plans.

Additionally, Queensland has suspended all personal and professional visits to SEQ prisons and community corrections districts. The news comes as prison abolitionist Debbie Kilroy calls for the release of nearly 130 Wacol inmates — some of whom are as young as 13 — who have been forced into de-facto solitary confinement, and launches a legal campaign through Sisters Inside to make bail for 17 young female detainees.

PS: Down in Victoria, where daily cases again just pipped 200 yesterday — and the government similarly has not released low-risk offenders amidst prison outbreaks — The Age reports that chief health officer Brett Sutton is confident the trend is continuing downwards but believes it would be “ambitious” to see cases hitting single digits by the end of stage four restrictions on September 13.

PPS: For how, in the words of today’s SMH editorial, “the police, the courts and the prison system here are stacked against Indigenous people just as badly as they are for African Americans in the US”, check out the third and final part of their investigation into interactions between First Nations people and the criminal justice system.

WE WILL BUILD

On the jobs front, the Herald Sun ($) reports that former Victorian premiers Steve Bracks and John Brumby will join with Federal Senate president Scott Ryan today to launch a bipartisan infrastructure blueprint that includes a second Metro tunnel, an outer-northern suburbs hospital, and a food export hub in Epping.

The stimulus plan, which proposes a total of 66 major projects aimed to create 300,000 jobs over the next two decades, has been created as part of the Commonwealth’s City Deals scheme and has the backing of all 13 councils across an area that, the Herald Sun notes, is expected to house three million people by 2040.

PS: On the other end of the country, the Western Australian government yesterday outlined more than $100 million for a new major roads infrastructure package under the WA Recovery Plan, and launched Building for Tomorrow, a program outlining future transport projects and disruptions.

PROLONGED LABOR?

Nine seats remain too close to call in the Northern Territory election, with the ABC reporting that Labor, which won 11 of the 25 territory seats on Saturday, has a better chance today of discovering whether it can claim two more required for a majority as preferences are counted today.

STATE WRAP: ‘CLICK FOR VIC’, AND OTHER SUCH THINGS

  • The Victorian government has launched the $1.5 million Click for Vic campaign, which the ABC reports will be rolled out across television, print, radio, digital and social media channels to encourage Victorians to purchase local produce, meals, alcohol and even music
  • On Saturday, the NSW government announced a $45 million grant program designed to cushion the economic impacts of the southern border closure
  • Finally, the Tasmanian government announced a cross-sector Ministerial Advisory Committee to provide advice on how COVID-19 has impacted the learning of Tasmanian students.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

[following Victorian Labor’s branch-stacking scandal in June]: “Anthony Albanese has been totally burned by this scandal … We’re fighting for jobs, they’re fighting each other.”

[following the Victorian Liberals’ branch-stacking scandal last night]: “This is an organisational matter for the Victorian Division of the Party.”

Scott Morrison

Technically, the rules of Australian politics suggest there isn’t actually anything hypocritical about these two statements.

CRIKEY RECAP

Alberici’s departure is a metaphor for the remaking of Australian media

“A journalist lost their job yesterday, one of hundreds to go this year, and thousands in the past decade.

“But the departure of Emma Alberici from the ABC is not just a story about another job lost. It’s a story of how those job losses are remaking Australian journalism — for the worse. It’s sign of the growing conformity in traditional media, including the ABC.”


Milk to cry over: treasurer quietly sinks once-lauded Chinese dairy deal

“Australian-Chinese business relations are now at such a low ebb that the treasurer is not even publicly announcing controversial decisions, but instead letting them leak out without confirming or commenting.

“That’s how Josh Frydenberg seems to have handled the decision to reject China Mengniu Dairy Co’s proposed $600 million purchase of Lion Dairy and Drinks.”


‘It should never have happened’: Albanese speaks out on Witness K

“Labor leader Anthony Albanese has offered the party’s most unequivocal condemnation of the ongoing Witness K and Bernard Collaery scandal, speaking in a live interview on Thursday evening for Crikey subscribers with editor-in-chief Peter Fray and politics editor Bernard Keane.

“Responding to a question submitted by a Crikey reader, he said was ‘very concerned about transparency in this case — the idea that there should be a prosecution of a whistle-blower, for what’s a shameful part of Australia’s history, is simply wrong’.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

China exploits Australia’s lax laws to sign up researchers for secret program ($)

Santos’ claim Narrabri CSG development will lower prices misrepresents government evidence, thinktank says

Second show shut down after Masked Singer COVID cases ($)

‘We can’t keep living like this’: COVID-19 state of emergency opens political divide

AFL, St Kilda apologise to Robert Muir for ‘disgraceful racism and disrespect’

How the system failed 17-year-old Tumut suicide victim Ethan Day ($)

Australian public servant condemns censorship after blogpost cost him his job

Shorten says he was ‘arrogant’, failed to walk in shoes of anxious Australians

New Tennessee law penalizes protesters who camp on state property with felony and loss of voting rights

THE COMMENTARIAT

Lights at the end of a long tunnel ($) — Josh Frydenberg (The Australian): “This pandemic is a wrecking ball through the global economy destroying almost 500 million jobs. It is expected to cause more economies to contract than at any time since 1870. Its impact on global growth dwarfs the GFC with the OECD forecasting a 6% fall this year compared to just 0.1 per cent in 2009. Without question, it is a supply and demand side shock like no other.”

The flag is art, art is copyrightClaire G. Coleman (Meanjin): “There has been much reporting over the past weeks on the “free the flag” movement, and their professed desire to force the Aboriginal flag licensing agreement to be changed. (A Change.org petition is titled ‘Change the licensing agreement around the Aboriginal Flag’). The AFL and many of their clubs have become involved in this movement though what their motivations are is not completely clear, unless it’s the desire to place the flag on their Indigenous round jerseys without permission. This has been misreported by the media as a ban on the flag being flown at the games; it is legal to fly an Aboriginal flag anywhere.:

California has Australian problems nowDavid Wallace-Wells (New York Magazine): “California is Australia now. Beginning late last year, in what is already known as the country’s Black Summer, bushfires burned through 46 million acres, or 72,000 square miles; killed several billion animals, pushing a number of species to extinction or the brink of it; flooding Sydney with air so thick with smoke ferries couldn’t navigate its harbor and fire alarms in office buildings rang out, registering the smoke as proof the building itself was in flame; and forcing beachfront evacuations in scenes that crossed Dunkirk with Mad Max.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Parliament sits for the first time in 10 weeks, with some members participating remotely via video link for the first time in history.

Sydney

  • NSW cabinet will reportedly consider lifting the 33-year-old ban on uranium mining, amidst opposition from conservation groups, unions, Greens and ALP MPs.

Peter Fray

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