Justin Gleeson Christian Porter
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

PORTER V ABC

Former Commonwealth solicitor-general Justin Gleeson SC will head the ABC’s legal defence against Attorney-General Christian Porter‘s Federal Court defamation suit.

Gleeson joins the ABC’s in-house lawyer Grant McAvaney, Renee Enbom SC, who acted for Rebel Wilson, and Sydney barrister Clarissa Amato, who has previously acted for Nine and the ABC. This group comes up against Porter’s equally illustrious team.

Gleeson served under former prime ministers Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull before an ongoing and public falling out with then attorney-general George Brandis led to his resignation via a remarkably unequivocal letter.

Gleeson has already weighed in on the Porter matter, arguing earlier this month that the prime minister should seek the advice of the current solicitor-general Stephen Donaghue regarding Porter’s position.

UPDATE: An earlier version of The Worm incorrectly stated that Grant McAvaney is a partner at MinterEllison. He is the in-house lawyer at the ABC and a former partner at Minters in Adelaide. He will take part in the ABC’s defence team in the Christian Porter matter. No one currently at Minters is on the defence team against Porter.

POOR DECISION

The government’s changes to the JobSeeker unemployment benefits have passed the Senate with Labor’s backing. As of April 1, it will be $615.70 — well below most definitions of the poverty line. From July, JobSeekers will have to apply for 20 jobs per month.

As reported in The Australian, this represents an increase of $25 per week on the base rate of JobSeeker, but coincides with the cessation of the coronavirus supplement, thus leaving JobSeeker recipients $50 worse off every week (not mentioned in the Oz‘s coverage, for whatever reason).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has partly justified the removal of supports like JobSeeker and JobKeeper with the latest unemployment figures, down to 5.8% according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

THROWN UNDER THE OMNIBUS

Having failed to gain the support of Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff, the government has abandoned the majority of its omnibus industrial relations bill. Measures such as cuts to overtime payments and employer-friendly changes to enterprise bargaining were thrown out during a bad tempered and chaotic senate vote.

The government went further, ditching tougher penalties for wage theft and easier access to underpayment claims, seemingly in retaliation for Griff’s refusal to back the package — despite the fact that the crossbench (not to mention business and unions) supported those changes.

What did get through was a new definition of casual employment, a process for casuals to apply to convert to permanent jobs (which doesn’t apply to small businesses, and which Labor argues is unenforceable anyway) and a reduction in employer liability for misclassifying employees as casuals.

In news that will surprise no one, business groups have copy-pasted the talking points they use for every problem and urged the prime minster not to give up on his IR reform package. Hey, remember when everyone thought Morrison was going to deliver the Accord 2.0?

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

To be honest with you, the app could be the worst idea I have in 2021. But the reality is in five years perhaps it won’t be.

Mick Fuller

In keeping with his generally coherent, well thought out approach to the topic, New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller steps away from and then back toward the “consent app” proposal he had shared with The Daily Telegraph that morning.

THE DIRTY COUNTRY: CORRUPTION IN AUSTRALIA

This week, we launched a new multi-part series, The Dirty Country: Corruption in Australia. If you missed it, catch up on yesterday’s instalment. We’ve made it free to all readers so please share it widely.

Rising secrecy across Australia allows corruption to thrive

“Not merely have we seen journalists subjected to high-profile raids, whistleblowers being prosecuted, the shameful and vexatious treatment of Witness K and Bernard Collaery, and laws dramatically curbing the capacity for intelligence whistleblowers to reveal misconduct, but long-established transparency laws have been degraded.

The effectiveness of freedom of information laws has significantly diminished in recent years: FOI laws have been openly opposed by senior public servants (normally the last to voice an opinion on anything), the head of the Public Service Commission called them “very pernicious”, and the head of one of the biggest departments mocked FOI laws as a low priority for him.”

CRIKEY RECAP

One year on, COVID commission discussions are still held in secret. Why?

“The commission is one of three bodies, including the national cabinet and the Australian Protection Principal Committee, that were deemed ‘committees of cabinet’, meaning their deliberations, ­papers and outcomes are considered cabinet-in-confidence.

“That secrecy is due to be tested by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in May after independent Senator Rex Patrick launched proceedings against the government after two freedom of information requests for minutes of the national cabinet meetings were knocked back.”


Taxpayers forked out JobKeeper billions to companies raking it in

“It’s hard to know where to start given the scale of the largesse. Suffice to say there were not many examples cited of listed companies which lost money in 2020 but were kept afloat by JobKeeper.

“In aggregate, 75 of the ASX300 companies helped themselves to a total of $2.45 billion in Jobkeeper subsidies in calendar 2020; 66 were still on the teat for the December half year when most lockdowns, excluding Victoria, were done and dusted.”


Watch out, Labor — Libs’ cultural warriors can change tack on sexual harassment

“The rapid dumping of Liberal adviser Andrew Hudgson is a sure sign the Morrison government is doing some rapid course correction in the way it deals with matters of sexual harassment and more.

“Hudgson, who until yesterday was an adviser to Victorian Christian rightist Michael Sukkar, was named by Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor as having called her a “meth-head c*nt” in public last year.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Mark McGowan makes himself Treasurer in sweeping cabinet changes

Prime Minister Scott Morrison under fire on Q+A for comments relating to women’s march and democracy

From threats of violence and death to ‘ISIS whore’: more female MPs detail abuse

Indigenous Voice co-chairs reject Noel Pearson call ($)

‘Enforcer’ to head superannuation at APRA ($)

New inquest for Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing begins in June

‘Never too old to learn’: Politicians vote for sexual consent training in Parliament

Steven Marshall will pledge to build a city arena for concerts and sports to replace the Adelaide Entertainment Centre ($)

Fear becomes a constant companion for Asian-Australians as racist attacks surge

Luxury sneaker retailer Sneakerboy pursued by tax office for $1.2m ($)

‘Listen and learn’: Liberal MP urges Scott Morrison to convene a women’s summit

THE COMMENTARIAT

Scott Morrison keeps making bad situations worseNikki Savva (The Australian): “Scott Morrison’s political epitaph threatens to be condensed into six words: ‘I don’t hold a hose, mate.’ Those words have reverberated ever since he coined them to excuse his absence in Hawaii during the Black Summer bushfires. They have become shorthand for his perceived refusal to take responsibility, for disappearing when bad news strikes, then too often blame-shifting when things go wrong. This is not to say political necrosis has set in for Morrison. Far from it. But he has entered a dangerous phase. Unless he changes, he runs the risk of falling victim to the Churchill syndrome of winning the war then losing the recovery.”

An iConsent app? That’ll press a girl’s buttons, Commissioner  — Kerri Sackville (The Age): “In yet another Groundhog Day for Australian women, a middle-aged white male has proposed a solution to the problem of sexual violence. No, it’s not a plan to educate men on how to treat women with respect. It’s not a strategy to reduce the sense of entitlement many men feel over women’s bodies. Oh, and it’s certainly not a pledge to believe women who allege sexual assault, or to make the process of seeking justice easier and less traumatic. No, ladies, it’s an app.”

We are aiming our wrath at the wrong people for the slow vaccine rollout – the Federal Government is at fault — David Penerthy (The Advertiser): “The success of the vaccination program will hinge on achieving a sufficiently high public uptake. With mad theories and understandable doubts existing in the community, seeing our leaders roll up their sleeves will hopefully set some minds at rest. But in terms of responsibility, we are aiming our wrath at the wrong people when it comes to the slowness of getting our hands on the vaccine. It required a co-ordinated national response led by the Federal Government – and it is on that front that the government has been found wanting.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Perth

  • Mark McGowan‘s reshuffled cabinet is to be sworn in today at Government House in Perth.

Canberra

  • Victorian and Tasmanian traditional owner groups are to address the federal parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of an ancient heritage site at Juukan Gorge on the challenges of protecting Indigenous heritage.

  • AEC to release details of redistribution in Western Australia, resulting in the loss of one seat.

Melbourne

  • Hearing between the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and Citigroup Global Markets Australia

  • Judgment in injunction application by Victorian Labor MP and former cabinet minister Marlene Kairouz, who argues branch stacking charges against her are invalid.

Peter Fray

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