ACCUSATIONS AND APOLOGIES
Note: This story discusses suicidal ideation.
Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming has issued an apology in parliament following a 9News report into allegations he engaged in digital harassment of two women in his Brisbane electorate, one of whom said he repeated false allegations that she misappropriated funds from her employer, local charity Night Ninjas, which led her to contemplating suicide.
Laming, who issued the apology after the news report prompted a meeting with Scott Morrison, is also accused of bullying a second woman, who claims he rang her school and asked for her timetable and, on another occasion, hid in bushes and took photos of her in the park, which she reported to police.
Elsewhere, Guardian Australia revealed that Brittany Higgins has made a formal complaint to the prime minister’s chief of staff, John Kunkel, to investigate whether the office had negatively backgrounded against her or her loved ones.
Morrison later confirmed an inquiry process was underway and, in an interview with A Current Affair’s Tracy Grimshaw, suggested Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds will play an “important role” in his cabinet when they come back from leave but likely take on new positions.
PS: After allegations of negative backgrounding were first aired by Network Ten journalist Peter Van Onselen in February, Morrison had been very careful not to give a direct answer to more than a dozen questions in parliament as to whether he had investigated them i.e. “I’ve no knowledge of [backgrounding] and I would never instruct that. I would never instruct such a thing”.
PPS: In state news, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NSW detectives will today speak with suspended Nationals MP Michael Johnsen over allegations he raped a sex worker, which he denies, while his absence has plunged the Coalition into minority government.
SCHEME AGAINST SCHEME
According to a draft of proposed legislative changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald, the Morrison government is considering “denying funding to Australians with acquired brain inquiries and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder” and slashing avenues of appeal for participants to save government costs.
The proposed overhaul would also concentrate more power in the hands of the minister, currently Stuart Robert, and dilute the influence of state and territory governments, which contribute almost half the annual funding.
News of the proposal comes after the ABC yesterday revealed how several corporations with clear conflicts of interest stand to benefit from the government’s controversial plan to require third-party eligibility testing for “independent assessments”.
Specifically, while companies are not allowed to carry out assessments in areas where they provide other NDIS services, groups that won contracts (i.e. “Allied Care Group”) have the same parent company as NDIS service providers (i.e. Zenitas Healthcare).
FRESH TALKS ON DJAB WURRUNG TREES?
Finally, after almost three years of Djab Wurrung people protesting the planned expansion of Victoria’s Western Highway and destruction of sacred trees, the Herald Sun ($) reports the Andrews government is looking to reset discussions amid concerns VicRoads began negotiating a $1 million Credit Trading Agreement with Martang — the area’s first Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) — at the same time as it was seeking approval to build the upgrade.
VicRoads has informed the Supreme Court, in its latest legal stoush, that it intends to work on a new Cultural Heritage Management Plan and meet with the site’s current RAP, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation. Which, as Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe explained at Crikey back in 2019, also faces accusations that it does not represent Djab Wurrung people.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
[on whether the Morrison government has ever mentioned a “green recovery” from the global recession, as invoked by incoming OECD chief Mathias Cormann]: We don’t have to use the same language as Mr Cormann to share the same ambitions … our record on renewables stands for itself.
The foreign minister claims the government that stacked a COVID-19 commission with gas figures — in order to recommend Australia throw millions at gas companies to justify Scott Morrison’s “gas-led recovery” — also supports a “green recovery”; it’s just they haven’t used those words, per se, or done anything about it.
THE DIRTY COUNTRY: CORRUPTION IN AUSTRALIA
Today, we publish the last installment in our multi-part series, The Dirty Country: Corruption in Australia. Catch up on yesterday’s piece here.
“In the last two decades, just five donors have accounted for a quarter of the donations in Australian federal politics. And the overwhelming majority — more than 98% — of those and other donations go to political parties rather than individual candidates. This gives parties themselves huge power over candidates, reducing political competition further.
“All this raises the natural question of how we might reform Australian campaign finance laws.”
“This is not normal. It’s not normal in Australian politics. It’s not normal in any workplace, not in this century at least. There is no doubt that if Scott Morrison was the CEO of any decent-sized corporation, major investors would have spoken out and the board would have sacked him. That’s now the standard in corporate Australia, supposedly the sector that the Liberal Party so enthusiastically represents.
“But many press gallery journalists continue on as if this is all stock-standard stuff, not a government and prime minister in crisis. Their coverage continues to be about political tactics, why Labor is playing this wrong/has its own problems, why this isn’t resonating outside Canberra, what announcements will give substance to Morrison’s genuine change of heart.”
“Every year the federal government gives out tens of thousands of contracts to private businesses through a busted process which goes on behind closed doors.
“The contracts provide plenty of jobs, but the government doesn’t advertise more than half of them publicly. In 2019-20, $1.5 billion of your cash was splashed around the private sector under the table.
“But the government doesn’t seem worried about it.”
“The Bank of Queensland (BoQ) capital raising fiasco for retail investors covered in Crikey last week has already had an impact on the market, with share registry giant Computershare yesterday unveiling an $835 million capital raising — which showed it had learned all of the key lessons.
“First up, Computershare didn’t include any form of selective institutional placement in its capital raising, instead launching the 34th so-called PAITREO offer seen on the ASX — a pro-rata structure which treats all shareholders equally and is renounceable, meaning that non-participants are automatically compensated for their rights.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
‘Immediate anger to anything you say’: The online abuse aimed at women journalists — Anne Hyland (The Sydney Morning Herald): “They arrive via comments, direct messages, or tweets. The rape threats, the death threats, the explicit language — the mildest might be slut, whore or bitch — then there is the criticism of appearance, hairstyles, figures and clothing, or the comments that they are lucky to have a job. Welcome to being a prominent woman in the media, where doing your job draws extreme hatred and work-related threats online, which are usually anonymous.”
PM, Tories have a better way of boosting women in politics ($) — Nicolle Flint and Jason Falinski (The Australian): “Political parties on the left, which tend towards central planning imposed by powerful authoritarian bodies, generally have quotas. Centre-right parties with their beliefs in universal rights and freedoms tend towards open democratic decision-making. Such organising principles makes the use of quotas difficult.”
The worst is not over in the crisis tearing at Scott Morrison’s government — Michelle Grattan (The Conversation): “‘Is your leadership safe?’ Scott Morrison was asked on the ABC on Thursday. The Prime Minister’s leadership is quite safe, but that the question was put says volumes for how embattled he’s become in a few weeks. As did some early words in his answer. ‘What suggestions are you picking up there?’ These days Morrison gets out of bed each morning not knowing what disturbing, sometimes bizarre, story might hit him before he retires for the night.”
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