Parliament House
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

MISINFORMATION AND A PAUSED INVESTIGATION

Note: This story discusses sexual assault.

Parliament House security guard Nikola Anderson has recounted to Four Corners her experience of seeing Brittany Higgins on the night and morning of her alleged rape.

Anderson has specifically hit out at claims by Scott Morrison and others in government that the man accused of the rape had his employment terminated over an undisclosed “security breach” given that guards followed protocols on the night. She also says the AFP have not interviewed her.

As The New Daily details, the news comes after Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet — and Morrison’s former chief of staff — Phil Gaetjens revealed that, on March 9, he “paused” his review into what Morrison’s staff knew about the allegations, following an alleged request by police.

However, AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw denies directly requesting a pause on the internal review, only that police raised concerns over a potential “intersection” of inquiries. And while Gaetjens says he emailed Morrison and his staff, news.com.au notes the prime minister last week claimed had not been provided any “update”.

Morrison denies misleading parliament.

PS: Gaetjens also refused to answer several questions out of alleged concern for the AFP investigation, instead taking them on notice “for the benefit of Ms Higgins”. Rebuffed questions include whether Morrison’s staff had retained lawyers in relation to PM&C’s review.

PPS: As of yesterday, Morrison has also avoided nine separate questions on whether he asked his staff if they backgrounded journalists about Higgins’ partner, David Sharaz, who last month alleged the office had released information to reporters and that he left his job at a Canberra media monitoring company over concerns of government contracts.

1800 Respect: 1800 737 732; Lifeline: 13 11 14.

WEATHER: THE STORM

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned that “around 10 million Australians in every mainland state and territory” with the exception of Western Australia faced weather warnings last night as two major systems collided over “an area similar to the size of Alaska”.

As The Sydney Morning Herald reports, this meant wind, rainfall and surf warnings across the entire New South Wales coast. The NSW State Emergency Service received 1485 requests for assistance in the 24 hours to Monday night, while the Australian Defence Force will support flood emergency efforts from today. news.com.au also notes a landslide has closed one of the major roads out of Sydney, Bells Line of Road, which connects Richmond in western Sydney with the town of Bell in the Blue Mountains.

Drier conditions are forecast for most of NSW and southern Queensland by Wednesday, and while wet weather is set to continue tomorrow in Tasmania and Victoria the system should be clear of the continent by Thursday.

For the latest updates, see BOM’s national weather warnings, ABC Emergency’s postcode/suburb guide, or NSW State Emergency Service’s interactive Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley map.

A BUNCH OF WANKERS

Material provided to Channel 10 and The Australian ($) shows at least four Coalition staffers filming themselves performing solo sex acts on the Parliament House desks of female MPs, and, subsequently, sharing the material on Facebook Messenger over a two-year period ending last year.

The ABC notes that, in a statement, Scott Morrison has condemned the material and confirmed at least one of the men has been sacked.

LESS-THAN-SUPER PLAN DITCHED

Finally, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Women Marise Payne revealed in estimates last night that the government will ditch its early-release superannuation scheme for survivors of domestic abuse,  following complaints of its potential for financial coercion and impact on survivors’ long-term financial security.

The news comes as the Morrison government, which briefly brought social security payments above poverty rates last year, prepares to end the coronavirus supplement and bring the rate up just $25 a week — i.e. slashing $50 per week from total payments — starting April 1.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

[Australian-born Kayaan Katyal, a six-year-old with cerebral palsy, has been denied a visa because he] would be likely to result in a significant, undue cost to the Australian community in the areas of healthcare and/or community services.

Department of Home Affairs representative

Because the Migration Act explicitly allows discrimination based on disability, Home Affairs rejects a family’s visa application on their estimations that Kayaan — a boy with an Australian birth certificate — would cost $1.23 million to survive over 10 years.

THE DIRTY COUNTRY: CORRUPTION IN AUSTRALIA

Catch up on our multi-part series, The Dirty Country: Corruption in Australia. We’ve made it free to all readers so please share widely.

Transparency gap: business interests become conflicts of interest — and few seem to care

“Former defence minister Christopher Pyne has come under scrutiny for his growing client list of defence contractors. His two lobbying firms represent companies that won millions in government contracts while he was a minister, and prompted a formal warning from the attorney-general.

“Conflicts have also been on display inside the Queensland Labor government. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s former political adviser Cameron Milner was a key adviser to the government during the state election in October at the same time as he was working as a lobbyist for industry.”

CRIKEY RECAP

What a lovely pandemic: Australia’s 250 richest now own the equivalent of 25% GDP

“If you found 2020 a tough year, you’re obviously not rich enough.

“It’s been a good pandemic for Australia’s richest people, and The Weekend Australian (of all places) has now revealed just how good: the total wealth of the richest 250 Australians is up about 25%. That’s a jump from $377 billion to $470 billion.

“This fact was buried deep on page 82 of the paper’s glossy magazine insert, The List. I’m sure you didn’t expect the Murdoch media to go all Thomas Piketty with their rich list, but here we are.”


High stakes, big sums: the economics of Christian Porter’s defamation trial

“There’s a rumour going around among the sewer rats of Twitter that taxpayers are funding Christian Porter’s defamation claim against the ABC. That rumour is false. Numerous sources have reported the attorney-general won’t get taxpayer funding for the case.

“Still, litigation of the kind he’s pursuing — taking on the ABC with the cream of the Sydney bar on his side — doesn’t come cheap. Tally up the legal costs and it’s way out of reach for most Australians. And even for an attorney-general on an ever-increasing salary it’s a huge financial burden.”


Personal lives: have male MPs been getting away with too much under the shield of privacy?

“ABC reporter Leigh Sales is rethinking staying away from politicians’ personal lives following revelations of sexual violence in Parliament.

“Speaking to the Sydney Media Club on Wednesday, Sales said she had been doing a lot of ‘soul-searching’ on the issue in recent weeks: ‘Have I been educated in, and almost brainwashed, into a system that has protected powerful men at the expense of women … like their wives, or their staffers?’”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Former MP Daryl Maguire recommended for criminal prosecution by ICAC

Christian Porter will return to work on full $370,000 salary despite delegating some duties

David Honey set to become leader of WA Liberals

Probe into LNP’s secretive banned property developer donation dinners ($)

Brereton war crimes investigations start still months away: Chris Moraitis

Australian government says minor, 15, ‘requested’ to be deported to New Zealand

Paper cuts: Qld government to axe compulsory print media advertising

Country Fire Service review into Kangaroo Island fires highlights systemic failings ($)

‘Abhorrent, violent ideology’: Australia lists extreme right-wing group as terrorist organisation for first time

AstraZeneca vaccine is 79% effective against symptomatic COVID-19, company says

Israel revokes permit of Palestinian foreign minister

Saudi-led coalition intensifies Yemen air raids, hits grains port

THE COMMENTARIAT

The Morrison government will never get serious about stopping sexual harassment at work Jenna Price (The Sydney Morning Herald): “When Kelly O’Dwyer announced an inquiry into sexual harassment at work midway through 2018, I was pathetically excited. Excited because I believed I would see the end of the terrible hurt and exploitation of women at work and, selfishly, an end to the job of so many older women as de facto counsellors.”

One veteran on average dies by suicide every 2 weeks. This is what a royal commission needs to look at — Deborah Morris and Ben Wadham (The Conversation): “This is an important day for the veteran community. After five years of campaigning for a royal commission, parliament has backed a motion to establish one. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also signalled he would no longer oppose the move.”

In too deep: housing on the floodplain ($) — Ian Dinham (The Australian): “The flooding in the Hawkesbury-Nepean area in western Sydney is not unexpected. Since the 1990s, various studies and reports have highlighted the extreme flood risks in this valley. As recently as June last year, the NSW State Emergency Service released a ­report — Hazard and Risk in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley — that details why the floods in this area are so large and deep, and why they are so dangerous.”

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