DIGGING A DEEPER HOLE
Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith allegedly buried USB sticks filled with damning photographs and evidence of potential war crimes inside a child’s lunchbox out the back of his Sunshine Coast home, sources have told a joint 60 Minutes–Sydney Morning Herald investigation, in an apparent bid to defy military Inspector-General Paul Brereton’s inquiry and police investigators.
The cache shows an Australian soldier placing two military souvenir coins over the eyes of a killed Afghani man — credible evidence of the war crime of desecrating a corpse, former defence force chief Chris Barrie says — as well as several damning photographs from the unauthorised “Fat Ladies Arms” bar in Tarin Kowt, southern Afghanistan, including: a soldier dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes with a noose; others simulating a sex act with an object taken from a model camel; and further evidence of people drinking from the prosthetic leg of a Taliban fighter allegedly killed by Roberts-Smith outside the laws of combat.
The investigation also found evidence that Roberts-Smith organised a letter threatening a witness to the Brereton inquiry and, in a series of recordings, lauded his boss at Seven West Media, Kerry Stokes, for financing and publicly supporting his fight to “destroy” those in politics, the media, and the SAS who have accused him of war crimes.
Roberts-Smith is currently suing Nine for defamation over a 2019 report airing allegations he kicked an Afghani civilian off a cliff.
PS: For more on how Stokes’ support works beyond that $1.9 million loan for Roberts-Smith’s defamation case, check out Crikey’s guide to Seven West and News Corp’s coverage of the allegations.
SHOTS IN THE DARK
In a message posted to Facebook last night, Scott Morrison has claimed there are too many uncertainties following news of the AstraZeneca warnings to replace a previous October target and outline a schedule for vaccinating Australians against COVID-19.
The news came with the latest new daily data report showing about 1.16 million vaccinations have now been dispensed, along with other state-federal data that, as Guardian Australia explains, comes as part of a new system agreed to by national cabinet following confusion over supplies and concerns about a lack of transparency. It also follows sustained criticism over the delay by Labor, with shadow health minister Mark Butler arguing on Insiders yesterday more deals should have been sought with pharmaceutical companies last year.
Elsewhere, the Herald Sun ($) notes that the federal government is considering a combined clinic plan proposed by GPs that would allow them to run vaccination clinics in community halls or sporting facilities.
PS: On the workforce front, The Australian ($) reports that Restaurant and Catering has joined Business NSW and the National Farmers Federation in calling for another minimum wage delay from the Fair Work Commission.
STORM HITS WA
Tropical Cyclone Seroja began moving inland last night north of Geraldton, Western Australia, with the ABC reporting that wind gusts hit upwards of 170kph during landfall.
The storm hit WA’s coast south of Kalbarri at 8pm AWST last night as a category three system, before falling to category two around 10pm as it moved inland. Damaging winds and flash flooding was still forecast in some areas south and inland through to Wheat Belt communities due to intense rainfall.
Finally, and despite weeks of allegations of harassment, The Australian ($) reports that Coalition MP Andrew Laming has not withdrawn his nomination from preselection and will today face the LNP’s candidate vetting committee.
This comes after Scott Morrison resisted pressure to call on the LNP to stand down Laming, and instead insisted he not recontest the next election.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
I’ve heard inside some of these meetings Scott Morrison was gobsmacked there was even a gender pay gap, because he can’t understand why you would have women and men paid differently for doing the same job, and you’ve got some of his colleagues say, ‘Well, prime minister, that actually does happen’.
So you would have noticed that two weeks ago the prime minister actually started talking about the gender pay gap, but maybe a day or so before that he had no understanding that that actually happened.
An attempt to illustrate how Scott Morrison has apparently transformed “from someone who didn’t understand it at all to someone who is getting some understanding”, this claim by the ABC’s political reporter was slammed as “demonstrably false” by the prime minister’s spokesperson and is fairly easily disproved.
“Imagine how good the political competition would look if the opposition was led by women. Imagine if, instead of another man standing opposite another man in Parliament and apologising for the constant cases of sexual harassment, sexual violence, bullying and misogyny across party lines, it was a woman standing there explaining exactly how her party would address it.”
“Five Aboriginal people have died in custody since early March. Since the landmark royal commission report into Aboriginal deaths in custody exactly 30 years ago, more than 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died while in police care. The Commission examined 99 deaths in custody and found of those people, 43 were removed from their families as children.
“The connection between experiencing the protection system as a child and incarceration as an adult has been known for decades. Yet Aboriginal children are still being removed from their families and culture at disproportionately high rates.”
“In response to the landmark [email protected] report, the government has announced it will fund sexual harassment education and training programs for a wide range of people, from school kids to professionals and judges.
“On the surface, this seems like a good thing. But overlaying harassment education in environments and workplaces that are already hostile can sometimes make sexual harassment worse, leading to victim blaming, increased inequality and backlash.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Read the State Coroner’s full statement on Indigenous deaths in custody — Teresa O’Sullivan (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Every First Nations death in custody represents the loss of a valued individual, family and community member. Every First Nations death that comes before this court is a tragedy. We cannot separate the issue of First Nations deaths in custody from the over-representation of First Nations people within the criminal justice system, nor can we separate it from the colonial history of this nation.”
For first time since World War I the states are the boss ($) — Greg Craven (The Australian): “There are huge political implications here, probably long-term. First, once the states have escaped from their box, it will be hard putting them back, and they will not go quietly. Second, some states — notably NSW — have performed very creditably in difficult circumstances. Citizens will note and remember. Third, and very worrying for Canberra, we live in an age of empathy. In a postmodern world driven by identity politics, it matters enormously how a politician displays feelings toward a crisis and its victims, whether COVID, bushfires or sexual violence.”
Climate agencies are being gassified as Australia ramps up international greenwash — Ketan Joshi (RenewEconomy): “The heat is on for Australia’s government to create a fabricated impression of climate success and sell that fabrication to the world to stave off criticism. Last month, there was a full-effort trial run of this process during the election campaign of Australia’s former finance minister and now new Secretary-General of the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Mathias Cormann. That mostly involved painful contortions of Australia’s emissions data and climate targets, and it seems that it worked pretty well for Cormann.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The parliamentary inquiry into media diversity will hear from Malcolm Turnbull, American climatologist Michael E. Mann, Crikey’s editor in chief Peter Fray, and more.