PORTER KNOW BETTER
Four Corners has revealed that Attorney-General Christian Porter was warned by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017 after being spotted “kissing and cuddling” a young staffer at Canberra’s Public Bar, due to Turnbull’s concern the then-married minister could be at risk of compromise or blackmail.
The report notes that acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge angrily pressured a journalist to delete a photo of Porter and the woman and was, separately, engaged in an affair of his own. Barrister Katherine Foley has also made allegations of sexist and inappropriate behaviour against Porter dating back to his time studying and lecturing in Perth.
Tudge has since issued an apology while the attorney-general has rejected reports of the bar incident — including alleging that the “other party” rejected the story but was not quoted in the program — and accused ABC journalist Louise Milligan of not contacting his office for comment. The story, however, includes a response from Porter alleging he never had a complaint from Turnbull over his work as attorney-general “until the last week of his prime ministership when we had a significant disagreement over the Peter Dutton citizenship issue”.
Porter also argues that “given the defamatory nature of many of the claims made in tonight’s program, [he] will be considering legal options”.
In response, executive producer Sally Neighbour said the bar incident had not been rejected by anyone and was witnessed by at least five people speaking to the program, while Milligan said she gave the attorney-general two weeks to reply but “he provided nothing [and] his staffer kept telling us he couldn’t possibly put” the story to Porter.
PS: Just to remind everyone of the political pressure the ABC faces, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that ABC managing director David Anderson yesterday told Senate estimates that he had received about “half a dozen” emails from ministerial staffers questioning whether the story “was in the public interest”. Chair Ita Buttrose also told Anderson a staffer contacted a member of the ABC board over the story.
NOT A SHOT IN THE DARK
Drug company Pfizer has announced that early trials of its vaccine candidate suggest it may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, although this is based on 94 confirmed cases in a study that has enrolled 43,538 participants across the US and five other countries.
AP explains that Pfizer, which developed the drug with German partner BioNTech, has cautioned that the initial protection rate might change by the time the study ends.
While the US Food and Drug Administration has warned it is unlikely any vaccine will arrive before the end of the year, and that limited initial supplies will be rationed, Pfizer is nonetheless on track to submit an emergency use authorisation application later this month.
PS: While the Trump administration has already tried to take credit for the development, Pfizer head of vaccine development Dr Kathrin Jansen has told The New York Times the company did not take part in the public-private “Operation Warp Speed” or take money from the US government.
According to The Australian ($), the Morrison government will extend the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement up March 28 — the same date as the expected end to JobKeeper — and again slash the payment, this time from $250 per week to $150 subject to cabinet approval.
The news comes after the Coalition ignored the unemployment rate in the 2020-21 budget, and weeks after Social Services Minister Anne Ruston told Senate Estimates the government sees no need for a “narrow definition of poverty”.
PS: The Grattan Institute found in June that the permanent JobSeeker rate of $287.25 a week — which has not changed in real terms for over 25 years — is still $179 below the relative poverty rate, and $255 below the “Henderson line”. So uh, good luck for March, 1.5 million Australians!
MOMENT OF TRUTH: CONCESSION PRIZE
Finally, The New York Times reports that Joe Biden has named a 13-person COVID-19 taskforce — which includes Dr Rick Bright, a former top vaccine official in the Trump administration who submitted a whistleblower complaint to Congress — as America surpassed 10 million cases and continues to hit record daily highs.
While Donald Trump is apparently no closer to conceding the election, CNN reports there is plenty he can do in his final two months as a “lame duck” president, including: firing enemies in government; executive orders; and pardons for allies, family members and — potentially, its a legal weird spot because no one has ever done it — himself for federal crimes.
According to Jacobin, the Trump administration has also issued a final screw you to foreign farmworkers by freezing their wages until 2023.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
Hey, this is not what we do on Wednesday nights, this is an off the record environment, we don’t take photos of each other.
Alan Tudge (according to former Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller)
“For right-wingers unwilling to embrace conspiracy theories and promote the narrative that Trump was robbed, there’s much solace-seeking in the narrative that Trump is some sort of political genius who tapped something ‘liberal elites’ don’t understand.
“That’s despite Trump losing the popular vote (for the second time) bigly, by over 4 million votes, and Biden heading for a convincing 300-plus electoral college vote.”
“Hidden messages encoded in television broadcasts? That’s normally a sign of psychosis. Now, it’s how best to understand what’s happening in the US between Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump.
“Murdoch is using his US newspapers and television to send this message to an audience of one: ‘time’s up’.”
“Could Joe Biden become the worst Democratic president since Jimmy Carter, as his detractors suggest?
“Or can I suggest that being as good as Jimmy Carter wouldn’t be a bad thing either.
“Biden declared yesterday: ‘This is the time to heal in America’. He has said all along that his main goal would be ‘to restore basic decency and honesty’. The best precedent for that is indeed president Carter.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
From coal to criticism, this isn’t the first time the Coalition has tried to heavy the ANZ — Saul Eslake (The Conversation): “Last week, the fifth most senior minister in the Morrison Government, Agriculture Minister and Deputy National Party Leader David Littleproud, threatened the ANZ bank with ‘every lever at the federal government’s disposal – including the availability of deposit guarantees’. His concern was an ANZ statement about climate change.”
Biden’s mandate for moderation ($) — Larry Hogan (The Wall Street Journal via The Australian): “Precisely because I want him and America to succeed, I’d like to offer Mr Biden some unsolicited advice. If he is going to heal and unify the nation, he must start by recognising that this goal is in conflict with the Democratic Party’s lurch leftward. Pushing a far-left agenda would bitterly divide the country. It may be what the loudest voices in Mr Biden’s party are demanding, but he wasn’t elected to divide and disrupt. He won the election because America is fed up with bitter partisanship, divisiveness and dysfunction.”
Biden wins, but now the hard part begins —Ryan Grim and Akela Lacy (The Intercept): “At the same moment that those votes from heavily progressive cities beset by protests were putting Biden over the top, House Democrats were locked in a tortured, three-hour conference call on Thursday. Centrist after centrist lambasted the party’s left for costing it seats in the lower chamber and threatening its ability to win the Senate. It created a surreal juxtaposition: Had progressive organizing on the ground around left-leaning issues driven registration and turnout for Biden where he needed it, or had it hurt the party more broadly? Or was it both?”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas is set to hand down the delayed 2020/21 state budget.
Christos Tsiolkas and playwright playwright Dan Giovannoni will discuss the unique third adaptation of Loaded — an audio experience, to replace a play that has been cancelled due to COVID-19 — in a webinar with the Wheeler Centre.