REYNOLDS EXTENDS LEAVE
Note: This story discusses sexual assault and suicide.
Following news of Linda Reynolds’ “lying cow” comments and apology, The Conversation reports that the defence minister has obtained a medical certificate to extend her leave until April 2. Reynolds, who faces calls to step down from opposition figures, will consequently miss a both week of the Senate and a week of Senate estimates.
The Australian ($) notes the move has created crisis briefing plans for acting Defence Minister Marise Payne to take charge of the controversial $90 billion submarine program and the ADF’s response to the Brereton war crimes report.
Christian Porter’s leave has also threatened the planned introduction of Morrison government’s industrial relations legislation, with key crossbenchers Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff arguing Porter was so engaged with the bill that acting Attorney-General Michaelia Cash will not be able to deal with remaining details in time.
The news comes after Kate Jenkins announced that Australia is at a “tipping point” on discussions over sexual harassment, with Guardian Australia adding that, as part of a workplace culture review prompted by Brittany Higgins’ allegation, the sex discrimination commissioner will consider whether ministers should have powers to hire and fire staff.
Additionally, ABC’s Four Corners will air a special tonight on the historical allegations against Porter, which he denies, titled “Bursting the Canberra Bubble”.
PS: Amid increased media speculation over “Recovered Memory Theory” (RMT) — including here at Crikey — it is perhaps important to emphasise two key things. Firstly, that the woman in question communicated her allegations in her diary and to friends as early as 1989, as well as to a sexual assault counsellor eight years ago. Secondly, there is a marked difference between accredited forms of treating neurophysiological impacts of trauma (such as Medicare-subsidised Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and RMT, which a 2004 Victorian inquiry found no evidence of in the state, and which trauma therapists argued was not used by health professionals but instead perpetuated by “false memory activists for political purposes”.
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PAYNE SUSPENDS MYANMAR MILITARY PROGRAM
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has suspended the Morrison government’s bilateral Defence Cooperation Program with Myanmar’s military, after soldiers and military-controlled police killed dozens of protesters last week in the wake of the February 1 coup.
The program, which is focused on non-combat areas such as English language training and disaster management, continued throughout 2017 and 2018 despite reports of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya people.
Tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters again took to the streets yesterday despite the escalating crackdown, which, Al Jazeera reports, includes overnight raids targeting activists and officials from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy.
PS: Across the South China Sea, at least nine activists have been killed following simultaneous raids in the Philippines, which come just two days after Rodrigo Duterte ordered government forces to “kill” and “finish off” communist rebels.
Finally, ahead of International Women’s Day today, the Grattan Institute last night released a report on the COVID-19 recession’s gendered impacts, which demonstrated that women:
- Lost more jobs than men; almost 8% at the peak of the crisis, compared to 4% for men
- Shouldered more of the increase in unpaid work, including supervising children learning remotely; women took on an extra hour each day more than men, on top of pre-existing heavier loads; and
- Were less likely to receive government support — JobKeeper excluded short-term casuals, who, in the hardest-hit industries, are mostly women.
Now, The Age reports, Grattan chief executive Danielle Wood is calling for female-focused stimulus measures in services sectors, childcare, and aged care. Industry Super Australia strategic engagement director Gemma Pinnell has also called to scrap the superannuation contribution threshold of $450 a month (per job), which disproportionately impacts women holding multiple part-time jobs.
PS: For more, see Crikey’s guide to how the Morrison government failed to consult with the Office for Women for key responses i.e. early superannuation access, removing free childcare in late 2020, and a pandemic budget that did little for women but stimulates male-dominated industries such as construction.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
At the macro level, I couldn’t be happier that there is this shift that has occurred so that women are coming forward and so that there is a mood for change so that sexual abuse can somehow hopefully be better recognised, and reform of the system.
At the micro level, though, if it’s someone you know, and if they claim that they’re innocent: boy, it’s a difficult issue.
Peter van Onselen
The News Corp and Ten journalist caps off an episode of ABC’s Insiders on historical rape allegations against the attorney-general.
Christian Porter, who denies the allegations, is a personal friend of van Onselen’s, a conflict the show acknowledged but proceeded with regardless.
“Always look at the framing of issues by politicians and the media, as a good guide to what they want you to avoid thinking about.
“In relation to the need for an independent inquiry into the allegations against Christian Porter, that framing — being pushed by both the government and a number of high-profile right-wing journalists — is that it’s a simple issue of law and order versus mob rule/trial by media/social media pile-on. Scott Morrison went so far as to suggest a refusal to call an inquiry was because ‘rule of law is essential for liberal democracies’.”
“You’ve got to feel for Bridget McKenzie. The former Nats deputy leader and agriculture minister resigned over a small part of her involvement in the sports rorts affair, and is the only senior Coalition MP to ever face a consequence since Morrison became PM. But of course McKenzie’s fall was calculated, taking considerable heat off Morrison over his office’s involvement in the rorting.
“Other rorters have been more fortunate. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton allegedly turned community safety grants into a multimillion-dollar slush fund, news of which broke three weeks ago and is already forgotten. We still don’t really know why Dutton’s department gave more than $400 million in contracts to a tiny private security firm called Paladin. We still don’t really know what the go is with the au pairs.”
“Hearing about sexual assault can be difficult and potentially triggering, especially for survivors. But throughout February it has been difficult to avoid.
“Allegations of rape and revelations of a toxic culture in Parliament have dominated headlines, and frontline services have told Crikey they’ve been struggling to cope.
“A spokesperson from Blue Knot Foundation — which helps adults traumatised as children recover — said there had been a 10% increase in calls, though numbers have since returned to normal levels. “
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Victoria’s bail laws are broken and need to be fixed — Monique Hurley (The Age): “Right now, nine out of 10 women entering prison haven’t been found guilty of a crime — they are in pre-trial detention. How did we get here? The bail reforms introduced by the Andrews government in 2018, which were intended to target violent men like James Gargasoulas who killed six people and injured many others in a violent car attack on Bourke Street, have in practice impacted women experiencing poverty and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women the most.”
True solidarity with women means no more slave-made fast fashion ($) — Grace Forrest (The Australian): “We don’t have to look back 100 years for examples of the exploitation of female workers in fashion. Less than eight years ago, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, an epicentre of global garment production for many Australian brands, collapsed. Some 1132 workers were killed and more than 2500 were injured. That same year was the fashion industry’s most profitable. And yet, despite the horror of the worst workplace disaster to hit the garment industry, global fashion retains the ugly title of being one of the world’s most exploitative and polluting industries. Human rights violations, exceptionally poor health and safety regulations, and one of the lowest minimum wages in the world have become the norm.”
Here’s why I won’t reveal the medivac deal I made with the PM — Jacqui Lambie (The Canberra Times): “In October last year, I made a promise I’d quickly break. I told a reporter that if the prime minister didn’t reveal what we agreed during the debate around medivac, I’d do it myself. It was out of absolute frustration. But when the deadline passed, I was left with a choice. Do I come through on what I said, or do I back down? Normally, if I give my word, I keep it. But it’s more complicated when that means harming the people you’re trying to protect.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will air at 7:30pm AEDT, Channel 10.