Parliament House
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

LIFTING THE LID

Walking with fake binders to ward off sexual advances, forced tongue kisses from MPs, intense bullying from senior figures, preferential treatment to male journalists, a suicide attempt, marriage breakdowns — the bombshells of Kate Jenkins’ report just kept on coming, as Guardian Australia explained. The sex discrimination commissioner spoke to 1700 Parliament staff, including 147 former and current parliamentarians, The Conversation says, finding one in three staff — and two in three female parliamentarians — have been sexually harassed. The New York Times put it dismally when it described Australian Parliament as “a cloistered, alcohol-fuelled environment where powerful men violated boundaries unchecked”.

Sky News has a good breakdown of the stats — around a third of respondents experienced bullying, and around a quarter say they were harassed by an actual parliamentarian. Yet only 11% of people said they’d made a complaint, the SMH says. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he was appalled though not surprised, as BBC reports, yet fell short of committing to the report’s key recommendations. They include an independent complaints body, a better code of conduct, and stringent alcohol policies (one submission says politicians have been known to vote on legislation after drinking booze). Morrison’s tasked Finance Minister Simon Birmingham to work with the opposition on the way forward — the Herald says offenders could have their salaries withheld and be suspended from Parliament.

NOT SO OPEN AND SHUT

Leaders of the states and territories got together with Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday and decided they won’t make international arrivals isolate for longer than three days, the SMH reports. International students and visa-holders will wait another two weeks after the international border reopening was delayed til mid-December, in line with our Asia-Pacific neighbours, as Al Jazeera says. Victorian Premier Dan Andrews says he won’t be shutting his state border, and NSW counterpart Dom Perrottet says only incomers from nine African countries would go into 14-day hotel stints, AFR reports. Interestingly, Omicron has been found in the Netherlands dating back a week before it was thought to be found for the first time in South Africa, The Guardian says.

So what’s coming for us as the world grapples with this new variant? Commonwealth CMO Paul Kelly basically says ask me in two weeks — that’s when we will have a better idea. So far, we think Omicron has milder symptoms, and Moderna’s CEO says our vaccines are probably less effective against the variant, CNN says. It’s all taking place within a pretty intense fourth wave overseas — France had an astounding 47,000 new cases on Tuesday, while the UK had 39,716 cases, The Guardian’s live blog says.

CAR PAY DIEM

Labor is reportedly binning the vehicle emission standard policy which would’ve set a fuel standard for motorists — it was part of a 2019 campaign promise that was supposed to see electric cars make up half of all new car purchases in 2030, the SMH reports. It prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s accusation that Labor was trying to “end the weekend” — that didn’t age well, did it? So what climate policy is Labor going to the polls with? Only a handful of shadow ministers know, but climate spokesman Chris Bowen will reveal all to journalists who’ll no doubt grill him at the National Press Club on Monday.

Speaking of chewing the fat — did Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Victorian Premier Dan Andrews stage a barbecue photo for social media? Federal Liberal frontbencher Jason Wood pointed out on Facebook that the hunks of meat had no grill marks lining them. He also said he would not be caught dead at a barbecue in a woollen jumper or a suit. But Andrews cut to the bone of the conspiracy when saying they’d simply seared the steak before grilling it, Guardian Australia reports. Fair game? You be the judge.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

If you’re looking for a new book, check out The New York Times’ year in review — they’ve rounded up their selection of the 10 best books released in 2021, and there are some cracking reads in there. Among them, When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, a mosaic of modern history’s greatest thinkers who experienced the highs and lows of our most core-shaking scientific breakthroughs — a story that feels particularly important as the boffins across the world seek to understand and prepare us for what some say could be an era of pandemics.

Also worth checking out is Pulitzer Prize finalist Red Comet — a searing new look at Sylvia Plath, a prolific writer who died by suicide aged 30. Author Heather Clark’s take on Plath resuscitates her pop-culture reputation as a “doomed madwoman” and instead places her firmly back into her rightful place as one of the most significant writers of last century. And poet Patricia Lockwood — who, incidentally, started an instant Twitter meme after a post about her cat Miette — returns to print after her memoir Priestdaddy with her new book, No One is Talking About This. It’s an often hilarious and poignant look at how we relate to each other online and in person, the absurdity of our lives picked apart with all the grace of a prose poem.

Hope you get a little bit of quiet time today, folks.

SAY WHAT?

Well hang on, I’m still here. You sit down. Sit down, boofhead. I’ve got the call, sit down.

Anthony Albanese

The Opposition Leader told Defence Minister Peter Dutton where to go during a fiery session in Parliament yesterday. In his usual oratory gymnastics of absurdity, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had somehow answered a question about climate change with a longwinded rant about how the Greens and Labor are apparently forming a coalition. Albo was in the middle of imploring the speaker when the defence minister seemingly glided over to his own side’s microphone to speak. Dutton promptly returned to his seat, while Labor roared with laughter.

CRIKEY RECAP

Glass houses? MPs and staffers post under aliases on fake social media accounts

“Thousands of Wikipedia entries have been edited by anonymous government officials and political staffers. In 2016, the heads of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Health, Agriculture and Parliamentary Services departments were ordered to investigate possible breaches of government IT policy after offensive edits were made from government IP addresses.

“One of the most concerning changes appears to have been made by someone on Defence network in May — the Schutzstaffel (Nazi SS) Wikipedia page was edited to state it was ‘justified’ in killing Jews.”


New writing on Morrison speaks volumes about lack of character and conviction

Morrison understands that for his suburban market, as Oscar Wilde says, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Same with his word-salad press conferences and speeches — there’s always something in there for everyone. (Kelly’s book is usefully paired with Lech Blaine’s Top Blokes which looks at the onlookers to demonstrate how the target audience reacts to the act.)

“There’s a danger for Morrison in these too-close searches for his inner self. Meshed together they set Australia’s political narrative, turning passing commentary into accepted wisdom. Once set, it’s hard to shift. And right now, it’s setting against him.”


Omicron is a wake-up call: we can’t just vax the rich

“It doesn’t look good. Wastewater analysis from South Africa’s Gauteng province suggests that the variant is highly infectious. Hospitalisations have quadrupled in two weeks, with 18% in intensive care, and are starting to tick upwards in other parts of the country.

“Regarding its purportedly ‘mild’ effect, we are better off listening to Harvard-trained epidemiologists rather than local moonlighters. Even if symptoms are mild, letting it rip — as suggested by the leading light of the hairshirt brigade — is a bizarre idea. It’s basically inviting the virus to mutate again.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Another NZ ‘marine heatwave’ is unfolding: here’s what that means for you (NZ Herald)

Taiwan seeks closer ties with Australia amid China aggression (The Australian) ($)

Late Kyah Simon strike helps Matildas earn 1-1 draw against US (The New Daily)

Tens of thousands march against military rule in Sudan (Al Jazeera)

Unvaccinated travellers over the age of 12 barred from planes and trains [in Canada] as of today (CBC)

Omicron COVID variant ‘present in Europe at least 10 days ago’ (The Guardian)

Inflation in eurozone soars to 4.9% — highest since euro was introduced (The Guardian)

‘This is a new wave’: Hundreds of Cubans seek refuge in Greece (Al Jazeera)

Dozens of former Afghan forces killed or disappeared by Taliban, rights group says (BBC)

Bali was slammed with tourists before COVID. Now it’s slammed without. (The Wall Street Journal)

House of Gucci: Family hits out at ‘insulting and painful’ portrayal (BBC)

THE COMMENTARIAT

When house prices soar, everyone forgets who suffers mostRoss Gittins (The Age): “The more the number of people moving from renting to owning is restricted by high house prices, the more the growing number of renters puts upward pressure on rents. Rents are rising much faster than prices in general, or than wages.

“Our thinking is still heavily influenced by the Great Australian Dream, which sees renting as a temporary state while young couples save the deposit for a home. In truth, many of the roughly one-third of households living in rented accommodation have never had high enough incomes to afford a home of their own. So, many people will live all their lives in rented accommodation and their proportion is growing as many middle-income couples who, in former times, would have moved on to home ownership, now do so at a much later age — or go into retirement as renters.”

Work doesn’t need to a be a finish line you cross at the end of an exhausting weekAmanda Wallis, Gaynor Parkin (Guardian Australia): “Some of the best initiatives range from actively encouraging sick and holiday leave to setting protocols for limited access to email and planned shared recovery times where meetings are not booked in — like around lunch times.

“Tackling presenteeism and being truly present is the antidote to our ‘always on’ culture — where our thinking, emotions and actions race. Being authentically present helps to calm the overwhelm, the stress spiral, and the need to work late to ‘show face’. It is creating space to rest and recover, an emphasis on outcomes rather than hours worked, greater collaboration and creativity and, ultimately, greater productivity and performance.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • The Foundation for Rural Regional Renewal is holding a webinar on the results of its Heartbeat of Rural Australia report.

  • The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has released a new book called Seeking Asylum: Our Stories and several of the contributors will hold a reading, held online.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • Transparency International Australia’s Serena Lillywhite, the Centre for Public Integrity’s Geoffrey Watson, and NSW Council for Civil Liberties’ Pauline Wright will discuss a federal ICAC at the National Press Club.

  • ANU will host an Energy Update where experts from the university will discuss the energy sector and net zero emissions. You can catch this one online too.

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)

  • Premier Mark McGowan will discuss the WA economy and policy priorities in a “State of the State” address.

Wurundjeri Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • The L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Ceremony will celebrate four outstanding Australian female scientists.