(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

REPRESENTATIVE OF HOUSES

Anthony Albanese has pledged $10 billion in his budget reply speech for a housing future fund aimed at delivering 20,000 social housing properties across its first five years, with the ABC explaining about 10,000 houses would be set aside for frontline workers and another 4000 for women and families escaping domestic violence.

Returns from the fund would go towards maintaining homes in remote Indigenous communities, crisis accommodation, and specialist services for veterans experiencing homelessness.

Albanese further pledged $100 million over four years for cash payments to 10,000 apprentices working in “new energy” areas such as rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades and green hydrogen, and to criminalise wage theft, arguing the Coalition had behaved “like an eight-year-old child” who “threw a tantrum” by dumping wage theft provisions in its industrial relations package earlier this year.

And with Australia’s debt headed towards $1.6 trillion, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers has opened the door to winding back phase three tax cuts for high and middle-income earners.

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However, Guardian Australia explains Labor also sided with the Coalition yesterday to pass two controversial pieces of legislation:

  • A bill that would allow the government to indefinitely detain refugees and remove their refugee status; and
  • Another to extend the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to 2026 and “expanding its ability to invest in projects that achieve economic and population growth by allowing it to provide financial assistance to entities other than states and territories”, something which the Greens warns will allow Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt to turn the NAIF into a slush fund for fossil fuels (Pitt last week used a rare veto power to quash a $280 million NAIF loan to a wind and battery hub in Queensland on the basis it is “inconsistent” with the Morrison government’s policies.)

Additionally, while Albanese invoked growing up “in a council house in Camperdown, the only son of a single mum on the disability pension”, the Labor leader’s speech did not mention JobSeeker or welfare reform at all.

PS: For the Greens’ part, Adam Bandt’s budget response led with a plan to tax “obscene pandemic profiteers”, which, based on how much the top 122 richest Australians’ wealth increased between March 2020 and March 2021, would raise $29 billion.

ANOTHER MINISTER STEPS DOWN OVER ALLEGATIONS

Note: This story discusses sexual assault.

New South Wales Families, Communities and Disability Services Minister Gareth Ward has stepped down and moved to the crossbench pending a police investigation into allegations of sexual violence, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Ward denies the allegations and revealed himself to be the subject of a strike force state police had earlier announced were investigating accusations dating back to 2013. The news comes after former Nationals MP Michael Johnsen quit in March after denying accusations of raping a sex worker in the Blue Mountains in 2019, a move that triggered a byelection for his Upper Hunter seat set for May 22.

Elsewhere, new National Disability Insurance Scheme Minister Linda Reynolds has announced she is prepared to be interviewed by police after providing a statement for their investigation into the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins.

And the Greens have proposed federal parliament set up an independent commission of inquiry into Christian Porter’s fitness to be a minister and an allegation of sexual assault, which he denies.

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

GAZA DEATH TOLL RISES

Palestinians have marked the end of Ramadan, the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday, under continuing aerial bombardments by Israel, with Al Jazeera reporting Gaza’s death toll has reached at least 103, including 27 children, along with at least six Israelis and one Indian national. Among the targets of Israeli jets was a media building in Gaza.

Footage has also emerged of mobs in Israel appearing to attack Palestinian citizens — along with allegations of attacks on Israeli synagogues, vehicles and police officers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he will deploy the military to quell “anarchy” instigated by his government’s attempts to forcibly evict Arabic Sheikh Jarrah residents and raid the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network has organised vigils and rallies across the country this weekend.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

[asked why he said Taiwan operates under “one country two systems”]: What we know is that we have a situation with China where we’ve recognised, we’ve recognised, how they see these relationships within the region, particularly in relation to Taiwan, formerly Hong Kong and things of that nature. And so Australia understands that and that’s always been the basis of our policies.

[asked if he’d simply made a mistake]: No.

Scott Morrison

In claiming he meant to say Taiwan operates under “one country, two systems” when his own office retroactively pretended he meant Hong Kong, the prime minister again ditches the global consensus and 50 years of bipartisanship in favour of China’s position.

CRIKEY RECAP

Scott Morrison wants a big, simple country. With Labor dumbstruck and blindsided, he’s getting one

“In response, the commentariat have near-unanimously concluded that Labor has nowhere to turn. This is to take politics as a one-dimensional, two-setting game. The right cuts spending, Labor opens it up. Well, it’s probably right about that too, but only because Labor accepted that framing some time ago and stopped offering any critique of what the Coalition was doing — essentially de-developing the country by killing any possibility of being a research and development country in order to kill the sectors it produces because they are reliably left-wing.

“The Coalition wants a big, simple country, with a static education level, mid-level industries and a lot of un-value-added raw materials dug up and sold.”


The secret spending in the budget. So many sensitivities…

“Cashless debit card: The government will continue to fund a controversial cashless debit card, but won’t tell us by how much because of “ongoing negotiations with potential commercial partners”. It’s pretty much the same story as last year.

“Rum Jungle: The government is spending money rehabilitating the uranium mine at Rum Jungle, Northern Territory. But the cost is undisclosed because of commercial sensitivities.

“Decommissioning oil fields: The receipts of a levy on offshore oil production to cover the costs of decommissioning the Laminaria-Corallina oilfields in the Timor Sea won’t be revealed because of commercial sensitivities.”


Violence, destruction and death in Israel play right into Netanyahu’s hands

“Another flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians is the inevitable result of Israeli political dysfunction and Palestinian perseverance.

“Israel hasn’t had a stable government for years after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu successfully dragged his country through four elections without a clear result. Despite standing trial on corruption charges, his Likud Party still received the highest number of seats in the March election — but not enough to lead a majority in the Knesset.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

NT government’s Howard Springs quarantine takeover to begin with India flight on Saturday

‘We lost our child’: parents of girl who died after wait at Perth hospital say system must change

Fair Trading inspectors find ‘structural issues’ at major Sydney apartment development

Experts say Australia could complete vaccination program by December

Presbyterian Church of Queensland put into receivership

Australia must ‘live with COVID’, prominent Australians urge ($)

Wayne Fella Morrison inquest: guard took ‘pre-planned’ trip after death in custody, court hears

Israeli company Elbit Systems to fight ADF snub on ‘security’ fears ($)

After slamming Trump, lawmakers silent on Biden drone export policy

THE COMMENTARIAT

Five years after Don Dale, it seems young black lives still don’t matter Teela Reid (The Sydney Morning Herald): “This week, as Northern Territory politicians debated legislation that is set to fail a whole new generation of First Nations youth, the Parliament closed its doors to the public. Young Indigenous advocates, opposed to the tough new laws, were arrested for alleged disorderly conduct and removed from the precinct, facing maximum penalties of a $6600 fine or 12 months imprisonment. They simply stood their ground in the public gallery and raised their right fists in peaceful and silent protest as parliamentarians debated these shameful laws. Leaders of the grassroots group, Uprising of the People, Millima May and Sharna Alley, were among those arrested. Free speech is not free for our young mob.”

Budget 2021: ‘Campaign launch’ a political misfire ($) — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian): “There is an attempt, in light of the sense that the public still don’t know Albanese although he’s been an MP for 25 years and was deputy prime minister, to link his early, tough life in inner-city Sydney with his public housing policy — but it is unlikely to shift votes. Wage stagnation remains central to the ALP response and there are policy promises to support that theme but, unable to credibly attack the budget’s expenditure and debt levels, Albanese’s policy alternatives shift to the familiar left on public housing, training and sexual harassment.”

The bombs of EidSamah Sabawi (Meanjin): “After my call, I check my phone. So many messages from Palestinians in Australia, in Palestine, in the US… it’s like someone has flicked on a switch and we all became connected as one. The younger ones have so much energy and they are taking the world by storm. A social media storm. I have a few — very few — messages from the media looking for interviews and I decline. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t go on TV and defend the basic humanity of my family. I think of an interview I saw on the ABC: a Palestinian Australian academic was asked to explain what the settlers’ point of view was. Imagine, in your only three minutes, you are asked to explain the justifications of your oppressor.”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Brisbane

  • Queensland unions will rally outside the office of Senator Amanda Stoker, the Assistant Minister for Women and Industrial Relations, over sexual harassment in the workplace.

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

Liz
North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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