Australia’s Family Court is effectively over, with Pedestrian.TV reporting that a bill merging the system with the Federal Circuit Court passed the Senate last night thanks to the Coalition, One Nation, and key crossbencher Rex Patrick.
Critics, which include Labor, the Greens and Jacqui Lambie, warn that removing the specialist system exposes survivors of family violence to unnecessary risk, and more than 155 family law stakeholders, including 13 retired judges, have signed the Law Council of Australia’s open letter slamming the collapse of “the Family Court into the generalist, chronically under-resourced and over-burdened FCC”.
Patrick, as news.com.au notes, secured a government amendment guaranteeing a minimum of 25 specialist family law judges, with the Independent senator noting the original bill could bring the total to zero; for context, and while it will not be a like-for-like situation, there are currently 37 judges on the Family Court, including 10 in the Appeals Division and down from a high of 44 in 2008.
The ABC reports that in response to the proposed news media bargaining code, social media giant Facebook has announced that it will “restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content”.
A statement released by Facebook declares that “the proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content”, and they lay out the different impacts of the restrictions on different audiences.
In addition to changes to how the platform can be used in Australia, the restrictions will mean that people overseas “cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news pages”.
MAN AT CENTRE OF RAPE ALLEGATION CHECKS INTO HOSPITAL
Note: This story discusses sexual assault and suicidal ideation.
According to The Daily Telegraph ($), a former Liberal staffer at the centre of the Morrison government’s rape scandal has checked himself into a Sydney hospital seeking psychiatric care, with the paper noting the man has not self harmed but was concerned.
Today, news.com.au reports that Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith and the President of the Senate Scott Ryan have joined the list of people privy to some details of an “incident” alleged to have happened at Parliament House, which, two years later, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins this week publicly announced to be an alleged rape. The revelations come from the Presiding Officers of Parliament House detailing negotiations with the Australian Federal Police around handing over CCTV footage of the night in question.
Yesterday, Higgins declared the Morrison government has “questions to answer” over its handling of the incident, urged Scott Morrison not to engage in victim-blaming rhetoric, and announced she was only made aware of some details of the night after going public this week; “I didn’t know that security guards let me into Minister [Linda] Reynolds suite. I didn’t know that a security guard came into the office multiple times seeing me in a state of undress.
Following criticism over appointing a Liberal MP to review how Liberal MP handle complaints of sexual harassment, Morrison yesterday announced an independent review, The Sydney Morning Herald notes.
PS: After Anthony Albanese yesterday suggested Labor would be updating its sexual harassment policy, The Australian ($) reports that ALP’s working group on the issue last year identified 11 flaws the party faces i.e. “political tribalism”, “power imbalances”, and “impact on career trajectory”.
The Northern Territory has revoked its hotspot declaration for Greater Melbourne, the ABC reports, meaning some people will be released from quarantine and free travel has now resumed.
Additionally, Western Australia announced it will end its hard border with Victoria from 12.01am Saturday, although travellers will have to undergo 14 days of self-quarantine and take a COVID-19 test on day 11.
The announcements come as Victoria exits hard lockdown, with spectators allowed back at the Australian Open but several new general rules — i.e. masks indoors and in crowded places, home gatherings of five, public gatherings of 20 — to remain in place until next Friday.
PS: In science news, The Age reports that research led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has found that, relative to adults, infection-fighting cells in a child’s immune system more rapidly target COVID-19, “clearing” the body before it can take hold.
According to the ABC, Dylan Alcott has won his seventh straight Australian Open, while, in another late night result, The Age reports that Stefanos Tsitsipas has come back from two sets down to beat Rafael Nadal in a “career-defining performance”.
In the women’s, prepare for the match-up of the year as Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams meet today in the semi-finals.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I hope you can wear it, mate, because you’re going to see a lot more hurt going on in these families, and more suicides going on.
I hope you can sleep in the night time. Quite frankly, you disgust me.
Speaking to Attorney-General Christian Porter, the Tasmanian senator delivers a eulogy for Australia’s family court system that, based on what literally anyone in the legal system will tell you, should go down in history as darkly prescient.
Note: This story discusses sexual assault.
“With his government now engulfed in the scandal of its mishandling of the alleged rape of staffer Brittany Higgins, Scott Morrison faces the consequences of two long-running features of his political persona.
“There is now an obvious and serious discrepancy between what Higgins has said about the role of the Prime Minister’s Office in the aftermath of her alleged assault in Parliament House, and Morrison’s own claims — reflected in material circulated to journalists — that she is wrong.”
“The first political victim of the alleged parliament house rape scandal is almost certainly going to be Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. Not just because she should be demoted for her appalling mishandling of this sordid episode but because her demise might suit Scott Morrison politically.
“After all, when was he ever so quick to publicly rebuke a minister for anything? One would hope it was because he now appreciates the gravity of the issue — but you can’t help but think Reynolds was not in the ministerial protection racket.”
“Brittany Higgins’ public rape claims — again, not the alleged rape itself, just her going public with it — has sparked a flurry of activity from the Liberal Party.
“Member for Curtin Celia Hammond will review workplace culture and work with party whips and MPs to improve workplace standards and protect staff; deputy secretary of governance and public service reform Stephanie Foster will also look at the formal processes and links between the Department of Finance and parliamentary staff.”
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Why rush to lockdown if contact tracers had it in hand? ($) — Natasha Robinson (The Australian): “Amid the layers of justification that Daniel Andrews sought to weave for the five-day Victorian lockdown, it was the state’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton who cut through the spin. Asked what the crucial factor was in authorities being able to arrest the spread of the Holiday Inn cluster, he gave a ringing endorsement of the ability of his state’s contact tracing to keep up with the UK variant.”
It’s past time to confront Canberra’s toxic culture — Editorial (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Brittany Higgins, the former Liberal staffer who alleges she was raped on a couch in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’s parliamentary office, has every right to be angry. While the truth of the alleged incident is for the courts to decide, there is no doubt that from the moment she returned to work, she was treated appallingly.”
The left has slightly loosened the cold grip of austerity under President Biden — Max B. Sawicky (Jacobin): “If you have not been pleasantly surprised by the opening moves of the Biden administration, you should be, at least a little bit. One of the most promising areas has been fiscal policy, given the tilt of the incoming Council of Economic Advisers. After all, two of the three nominees to the council, Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein, have institutional roots in our tribe, economics-wise. The third, professor Cecilia Rouse of Princeton, is more prestigious, but also more conventional.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
ABC journalist Raf Epstein will speak in conversation with ABC US bureau chief Zoe Daniel Daniel and Roscoe Whalan on their new book, Greetings from Trumpland, for an online Readings event.