Julian Assange bail
Court artist sketch of Julian Assange (Image: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire via AP)

BAIL, OUT

Julian Assange has been denied bail just days after a UK court found the US prison system would put him at risk of suicide, the ABC reports, with Judge Vanessa Baraitser citing fears the WikiLeaks founder could abscond ahead of the extradition appeal.

The decision comes after Scott Morrison announced Assange would be “free to return home if he wished” in the event that extradition is unsuccessful — an offer Assange’s legal team rejected, as it would allow America to restart the extradition process with Australia — but continues to rebuff pressure to appeal to the US to drop charges entirely.

WikiLeaks has since said it would appeal the bail rejection.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

MEETING EXPECTATIONS

According to The Guardian, Scott Morrison has called a snap national cabinet meeting for Friday to discuss a proposal to “strengthen the COVID safety” of international travel following the emergence of the more-infectious strain in the UK. The meeting will also provide an update on national immunisation plans.

It comes after both Victoria and NSW yesterday identified a mystery case each, with the ABC explaining the former may have been caught at either Chadstone Shopping Centre (December 26) or the MCG (December 27).

News of the latter, a Wentworthville man in his 30s, comes as the state government bans more Western Sydney residents from today’s SCG Test, which will still go ahead — Health Minister Brad Hazzard gave a rather specious justification over mental health grounds — but will mandate masks and cap crowds at 10,000.

Exposure sites for Victoria and NSW continue to be updated.

RUNOFF RUNDOWN

Finally, the Democrats are on the brink of controlling US Congress for the first time in a decade after Reverend Raphael Warnock beat Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and Jon Ossoff claims victory over David Perdue in Georgia’s runoff election, although CNN reports results from the latter race are still too close to call.

And as Trump supporters in Congress plot to block Joe Biden’s certification today on the basis that they do not like the results, Rudy Giuliani has claimed Mike Pence can cast aside the Election Counting Act and send results back to state legislatures for reconsideration.

PS: In other fallout from the November election, supermarket chain Albertsons has announced plans to fire drivers across California and replace them with gig economy workers who, thanks to the passage of a proposition backed by Uber, Lyft etc, are classified as “independent contractors” rather than employees.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

If I carry weight I feel like a retard, how are you going to do anything to surprise your man when you need a hydraulic crane just to turn over in bed?

Bobbie Houston

While 2003-era ableism and body-shaming are perhaps lesser Hillsong controversies, they cannot help but sour one of its co-founder’s recently-unearthed pieces of merchandise; the amazingly-titled CD, Kingdom Women Love Sex.

CRIKEY RECAP

Ben Roberts-Smith may come to regret suing over reports on alleged war crimes

“One of the truisms of defamation actions is to avoid getting into court if there are skeletons in the closet.

“In those circumstances, the best advice is generally to not sue because the process is expensive and intrusive and can destroy reputations, particularly if the media organisation decides to take you on by pleading a truth defence.”


The powerful names behind the decision to go ahead with the Test at the SCG

“For years there has been no higher board in the land. The Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust was the holy grail for ambitious corporate types and influence seekers looking to stamp their authority on Australia’s national sport.

“Now the trust has merged with (or should we say taken over?) Venues NSW to form a super agency that oversees every stadium in the state. And this week the new body is at the centre of a decision to go ahead with the new year Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) during the latest COVID-19 outbreak — against the advice of many health experts.”


Home of the fair go? The divide between rich and poor is about to get even more obvious

“In 2020, Australians may have been, at least ostensibly, ‘all in this together’. A war-like national mobilisation increased social solidarity, and the federal government reluctantly improved our paltry, patchy welfare state.

“Yet we enter 2021 as a society marked by deepening economic cleavages between the haves and have-nots.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Compound ablaze as Christmas Island detainees riot

Northern beaches first to benefit from $500 million restaurant voucher stimulus

NSW tightening protocols on hotel quarantine drivers to stop COVID-19 spread

Vatican debunks $2.3b Austrac transfer allegation ($)

The marriage that defined a generation: A love letter to Kimye

EU regulators have authorised Moderna’s vaccine, making it the second shot available in Europe

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un admits his economic development plans have failed at ruling party congress

Georgia voters want congress to start fighting for them

Sudan signs deal to normalise relations with Israel

THE COMMENTARIAT

Little justice in treatment of alleged abuse victimsLouise Milligan (The Sydney Morning Herald):Craig McLachlan, Kyle Daniels, George Pell. Just a handful of men, in 2020, acquitted of sex offences. We must accept the courts’ decisions, but these sorts of high-profile cases have a chilling effect on people coming forward to complain of already under-reported crimes.”

Republicans will pay for Typhoon Trump ($) — Tom Switzer (The Australian): “And as bizarre as it sounds, it is entirely reasonable to believe the outgoing President wanted the Republicans to lose the two Georgia Senate seats. (The last time a Democrat unseated an incumbent senator there was in 1986.) This is because, in his mind, a dual loss would have supported his fallacious allegations of widespread voting irregularities.”

How capitalist competition hobbled the COVID-19 vaccine rolloutCostas Lapavitsas (Jacobin): “Big pharma firms like Pfizer are marketing COVID-19 vaccines for a profit, yet the research behind them would have been impossible without universities and public funding. The lack of an international public health response has placed capitalist profit over human need — and will leave billions of people unvaccinated.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW