covid-19 Melbourne Victoria
(Image: AAP/Erik Anderson)

THE LAW IN THE SYSTEM

The Victorian government will amend its controversial pandemic bill, following days of protests across Melbourne, after negotiations with upper house crossbenchers Guardian Australia reports. According to The Agefines for breaching public health orders will be halved, and the premier will have to be satisfied on reasonable grounds before declaring a pandemic. The Herald Sun reports a clause in the initial bill, which would have allowed the government to make pandemic orders based on a attributes protected in the state’s Equal Opportunity Act (which includes religion and political affiliation) has been scrapped.

The Andrews government’s bill which gives the premier power to declare a pandemic, and the health minster authority to make health orders, passed the Labor-controlled lower house last month. Since then, it’s been criticised by legal bodies and human rights groups over its lack of oversight.

But the most vocal opposition to the bill has come from similar elements who were out protesting lockdowns and vaccine mandates earlier this year. Thousands marched across Melbourne over the weekend, with demonstrators gathering on the steps of Parliament yesterday. Among those protesting were an unsavoury mix of neo-Nazis and conspiracy grifters. Crossbench MPs responsible for the bill’s fate have received threats and intimidation. Hopefully the government’s amendments help cool the temperature.

THE COAL TRUTH

COP26 ended with a commitment to phase down coal and adopt more ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets next year. Within hours of the dust settling, the Morrison government confirmed it would be doing neither of those things. After British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the communique at Glasgow sounded the “death knell” for coal, Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney the industry will be around for decades to come (via SBS).

Of course, the Coalition is a broad church, so we got a range of views from government MPs about emissions reduction on Monday. According to the ABC Metropolitan Liberal backbenchers like Jason Falinski and Dave Sharma — who face potential threats from climate-focused independents — have called for a stronger medium-term target. Then there’s the Nationals. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said his party did not sign the COP26 agreement, and maintained there would be no change to the medium-term target, according to Guardian Australia. While the church might be broad, on climate it’s Joyce, not the moderates, who has the power. The coal zealots in the junior Coalition partner, like Senator Matt Canavan, saw the weakened COP26 communique as a “green light” to mine more fossil fuels, news.com.au reports. Asked whether Australia would actually try and phase down coal, Energy Minister Angus Taylor said we would simply respond to consumer demand. In short: coal is still king.

Still, could all this waffle on climate actually be hurting Morrison? The Australian reports the prime minister now trails Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on trust and likeability. Morrison is now calling himself the underdog in the next election. Like the backflips, the mind games too have begun.

AFGHANS LEFT BEHIND

The government hasn’t granted any of the 3000 humanitarian visas for Afghans fleeing the Taliban, a Senate inquiry has heard (via SBS). It’s estimated 150,000 people are waiting on a decision across 32,000 visa applications. Afghans given three month temporary visas to enter Australia who are still in Afghanistan won’t have their visas renewed, the inquiry heard. As Crikey reported at the time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s offer of 3000 humanitarian visas for people escaping the Taliban was far less generous than past Liberal governments’ responses to similar humanitarian crises.

Meanwhile, The West Australian reports there are at least 150 Australians still stranded in Afghanistan. And according to submissions to the inquiry made by the Australian Federal Police, the Taliban’s return to power is making it difficult to continue a probe into alleged war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

SAY WHAT?

It annoys me that, what is that guy’s name? The chairman Sharma with his gavel, ‘I am crying, I can’t do it’, — he wants to talk about shutting down the coal industry but he never talks about shutting down the oil fields in the North Sea, he doesn’t want to shut that down. He wants to shut down industries in other people’s countries, not in his country.

Barnaby Joyce

The deputy prime minister mocks COP26 President Alok Sharma’s tearful apology at the end of the Glasgow climate summit because caring about the future of the planet is just immensely funny stuff.

CRIKEY RECAP

The minister, his blind trust and the NDIS entrepreneur

“A Crikey investigation has raised serious questions about the use of a blind trust by Minister for Employment Stuart Robert to shield scrutiny of his financial dealings.

“The questions relate primarily to Robert’s time as minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) between 2019 and 2021, and his relationship with close business associate and friend John Margerison, who is a leading entrepreneur in providing NDIS services.

“Robert is the only Morrison government cabinet minister to have put a complete wall of secrecy around his assets via a blind trust.

“Crikey’s investigation shows:

  • Robert and Margerison were co-directors of a company which made investments with and for Robert up until Robert was elevated to the Morrison ministry
  • The Robert-Margerison company was registered at the same address as Margerison’s NDIS-linked companies. The address is that of accountant Sean Beasley, based at Robina on the Gold Coast
  • Robert has provided no detail on the blind trust or who is running it. He has declined to answer Crikey‘s questions, including whether or not the trust is being run by Margerison.”

The government just created a popular new enemy: Ita Buttrose

“ABC chair Ita Buttrose has opened fire on the federal government in the biggest contretemps between the two organisations since the Iraq war, demanding a Senate inquiry into the ABC’s complaints-handling process be axed, terming it ‘an act of political interference designed to intimidate the ABC and mute its role as this country’s most trusted source of public interest journalism’.

“Buttrose’s extraordinary statement uses language stronger than that of any recent ABC chair to attack an inquiry initiated by Liberal backbencher Andrew Bragg, the former retail superannuation spinner who has developed a record of attacking media outlets that don’t hew to the Coalition line.”


Extremists, conspiracy theorists, politicians and ordinary Australians mingled at Melbourne protests

“Researchers from anti-fascist group White Rose Society noted that federal United Australia Party MP Craig Kelly was photographed with Stuart von Moger, an Australian neo-Nazi who was part of the now-defunct Lads Society. Kelly confirmed that he had security on the day but said he couldn’t recall the names of the personnel.

“Liberal state MP Bernie Finn, who spoke at the protest, authorised a print advertisement for the rally in the Herald-Sun on Saturday. The advertisement linked directly to the Telegram channel for the organisers, who have repeatedly featured speakers with extreme beliefs in their events. Finn’s office did not return a call for comment.

“Liberal Democrat state MP, David Limbrick, shared a picture of himself at the rally saying that the government is smearing protestors as ‘extremists’. (In the background, a ‘NO VAX’ sign can be seen between other signs.)”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

AVO sought against William Tyrrell foster parents over alleged child assault (The Australian)

‘Not above scrutiny’: Morrison backs Senate inquiry into ABC complains (TheSMH)

Biden to tell Xi ‘follow the rules of the road’ at first summit (The Age)

SA to be home to ‘fine food, wine and weed’ under Greens cannabis plan (The Advertiser)

Māori tribe tells anti-COVID vaccine protesters to stop using its haka (The Guardian)

A watered-down COP26 deal as Delhi chokes (BBC)

Independents vow to tap climate angst to destabilise incumbents (AFR)

‘Ghost guns’: Firearms kits bought online fuel epidemic of violence (The New York Times)

US journalist Danny Fenster released from Myanmar prison (Al Jazeera)

THE COMMENTARIAT

I’m a writer, an academic and a trolley boyBenjamin Muir (SBS): “I’ve found that when people ask, ‘What do you do for a living?’ they’re not asking out of interest. It’s the litmus test for how much respect they need to afford me. You might think people judge solely off how much money you make, but it’s not that simple. Your average plumber easily doubles the income of your average practicing artist, and yet, most of the time people want to talk to the artist. Social capital is a strange thing and perhaps it’s a hangover from a bygone time when the relationship between education, class and prestige was more straightforward. Nevertheless, we all wear different masks in our day-to-day lives, and how people react to you is dependent on theirs.”

The planet is on the clock and Australia has an inexplicable position on climate change – it really isn’t funnyKatharine Murphy (Guardian Australia): “When it comes to climate policy, it’s never prudent to say we’ve hit peak preposterous, because this is Australia. There are always new depths to plumb. But we were certainly peak preposterous adjacent on Monday when Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor attempted to explain why Australia had just signed a commitment to look at its 2030 emissions reduction target — but our target wouldn’t be changing because it was both immutable and completely redundant.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Eora Nation (also known as Sydney)

  • The annual Australian Reconciliation Convention will be held, marking 20 years of Reconciliation Australia.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • The Senate Committee Inquiry into the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will hold a public hearing.

  • The Business Council of Australia and companies will appear at a public hearing into procurement practices for government-funded infrastructure.

Kulin Nation (also known as Melbourne)

  • A state funeral is being held for the former governor of Victoria, Sir James Gobbo AC CVO QC, at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.

Australia

  • Google Australia will hold a special launch event to detail a significant initiative, in building a stronger digital future for Australians. The event will feature a series of keynotes from a range of speakers.