NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (Image: AAP/Dan Himbrechts)

GLADYS TIDINGS

Fallen premier Gladys Berejiklian is set to rule herself out of the running in Warringah, the SMH reports this morning. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have been holding out hope Berejiklian — who had a pretty high approval rating despite a watchdog probe into possible corruption — would be a new Liberal hero in an election race peppered with independents, (a good thing, as former PM Malcolm Turnbull told Guardian Australia). The ABC’s Andrew Probyn reports Berejiklian will go into a corporate career instead, partly to avoid the gaze of the public eye.

ICAC’s important no matter what the PM or Liberal Jason Falinski say, according to Berejiklian’s successor and former 2IC Dominic Perrottet. He made the comments in a National Press Club address last night, as The Canberra Times reports, again showing colleagues at loggerheads over big-ticket issues (yet majorly delayed policy). Falinski told the SMH the people of NSW didn’t care about ICAC’s findings, and the PM has openly derided the watchdog’s handling of Berejiklian.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are taking the Commonwealth to the High Court, The New Daily reports, over a rule that forces them to change their name. The Democratic Labour Party is also appealing a ruling that they have to change theirs too, after the Labor Party complained. Both major parties say it’s too confusing for voters, but the Liberal Democrats say the government is trying to “cripple this little party with the bludgeon of legislation”.

GAMES THEORY

Australia has followed in the US’ footsteps in boycotting the Beijing Winter Olympics next year, as the SMH reports. It doesn’t mean our athletes won’t go, however — it’s a diplomatic boycott, meaning our usual delegation of officials and politicians won’t be headed over. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin wasn’t bothered, saying “whether they come or not, nobody cares”.

But the prime minister’s special envoy to the 2032 Olympics, Liberal MP Ted O’Brien, asked what choice did we have? The treatment of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang can’t be ignored, he says. China reckons the camps where Uyghurs are held “re-educate” in order to combat “Islamist militancy in the region”, as BBC explains, but human rights groups say China is committing crimes against humanity and possibly genocide in the camps.

Support for the Olympics boycott is bipartisan — in backing the strong message, opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong also pointed to the treatment of tennis player Peng Shuai. Shuai, as one of China’s most famous athletes, caused major waves when she accused Zhang Gaoli, the former vice premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, of sexual assault on social media. Officials quickly scrubbed almost all references to the allegation off China’s highly regulated internet, The New York Times explains, and the International Olympic Committee says they still don’t know whether Shuai’s safe, five weeks on.

HOT-DUTTON ISSUE

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has attracted a rather terse note from a federal court judge who found that refugee activist Shane Bazzi defamed him, Guardian Australia reports. The federal court decided that the case could have been fought in a lower court, and so Justice Richard White slashed the federal court’s sizeable legal costs owed to Dutton, saying “just because a case involves a national figure does not mean it is of national importance”. Dutton’s lawyers argued that he holds a national office, but White replied that all are equal before the law, “irrespective of the position they hold”, SBS continues. White told Bazzi to pay the equivalent costs of the Queensland court instead, with Dutton to pick up the difference.

It’s all over a six-word tweet Bazzi posted claiming Dutton was a “rape apologist” alongside a story where the minister was quoted saying some female refugees were “trying it on” with rape claims. White found that Dutton had questioned the truth of claims, but didn’t believe Dutton thought the crime was not significant. Because the tweet hadn’t affected Dutton’s day-to-day job, White awarded damages of $35,000 plus the legal costs, as The New Daily reports.

Dutton’s former department is in the spotlight after Home Affairs completed a pandemic “stress test” before COVID-19 emerged, but didn’t hand the report on, The Canberra Times reports. The stress test found we were ready for “ordinary crises” but not ready for a significant or “near existential crisis”, saying our reliance on trade meant closing our borders during a pandemic would do more harm than good. A probe found the report hadn’t been handed on because it found problems we didn’t know how to solve.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

When it comes to the holiday season, each of us usually think of something a little different — maybe it’s some quirky family tradition you’d never want others to witness, or a recipe involving food crimes (like combining cinnamon and peas), or even hanging some hideous tree ornament (the origin of which no one’s quite sure). But some things are more universal, and one of those might be the chirping sound of the lustrous Christmas beetle, as Helen Sullivan writes in The Guardian. Or the “cockchafer”, as they were once called (and are still in Europe). And before you scold me Mum, they really are — just ask the fictional character of Jim Dixon in Lucky Jim, who asks “Look here, you old cockchafer, what makes you think you can run a history department?”

But the Christmas beetle wasn’t always a cause for joy. Indeed in 1478, they appeared in a French court to stand trial for destroying crops under the spell of witches. The beetles were, incredibly, found guilty and banished. A good public relations campaign saw cockchafers rebranded as Christmas beetles sometime in the centuries after, named for their appearance around this jolly time of year. Sullivan writes rather beautifully that, if you hold a little beetle in the palm of your hand, it does seem a little bewitched. “The spell commands it to keep walking, to burrow its surprisingly strong legs endlessly forwards, like the end of the year growing steadily nearer and just as steadily receding”.

Hope Thursday brings a little magic too.

SAY WHAT?

Well, I don’t think it’s a good idea to promote what they’re saying by constantly drawing it to people’s attention. I’m not seeking to do that. I don’t agree with them.

Scott Morrison

The PM seemed to turn on reporters when asked whether outgoing Nationals MP George Christensen and Liberal Senator Alex Antic were unpicking government health messages during their recent interviews on far-right US programs, with Morrison arguing that the coverage was drawing public attention — seemingly forgetting that’s a democratic news media’s job. He said that he’d spoken to Christensen about it at least, who he thought should “quietly go into retirement”.

CRIKEY RECAP

Why this former Liberal minister will be voting for an independent candidate

“It was grassroots distrust in the major parties that led to the formation of Voices of Goldstein. It has been conducting many kitchen-table conversations across the electorate and the major concerns that have been raised will be pursued by [Zoe] Daniel if she is elected.

“To win voter confidence, Daniel has released an excellent statement of policies that stem from these immediate personal discussions throughout the electorate. It is important for Australia that we return to the democratic process, and the election of Zoe Daniel will help advance that return.”


How Dan Andrews’ border bureaucracy nightmare was inflicted on Victorians

“Claims that people were ‘primary carers’ were in the first instance disbelieved, even when backed by letters from medical professionals. A woman who had changed her name after marriage faced demands for her birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate and driving licence.

“Some simply never heard back the department, or were given no reason why they were rejected. Many double-vaccinated people were rejected out of hand. Only 8% of 33,000 applications were approved.”


Why anti-vaxxers are wrong to co-opt ‘my body, my choice’ as a slogan

“This is why pro-life officials in Mississippi can keep a straight face in court as they defend a law that guts the right of American women to choose to control their body by ending a pregnancy, while simultaneously demanding a stay on President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for what the judge who granted it agreed was the importance of ‘maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions’.

“The bodily choices of some, it seems, are more important than those of others.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

World’s largest hydrogen plant slated for Port Pirie (The Australian) ($)

India defence boss, wife and 11 others killed in helicopter crash (Al Jazeera)

Finland’s PM sorry for clubbing after COVID contact (BBC)

Haitian commission sends message to Canada, US — stop meddling in our government (CBC)

[Government spokesperson for climate summit] Allegra Stratton resigns after No 10 Christmas party video (The Guardian)

Olaf Scholz has been elected Germany’s new chancellor, ending Angela Merkel’s 16-year tenure (SBS)

Instagram head faces senate hearing on potential dangers for young people (The Wall Street Journal)

Trump freezes 2024 Republican primary before it even begins (CNN)

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson kicked out of Parliament for ‘right-wing fascist’ comment (NZ Herald)

Man arrested in Paris over Jamal Khashoggi killing is released (The Guardian)

Protecting Prince Harry cost Canadians more than $334,000 (CBC)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Single-issue indies promise much but can do littleDave Sharma (The Australian) ($): “Holmes a Court nominates integrity, gender equity and climate change as the most important issues facing the country. If he genuinely cared about such issues, you’d think there would be Climate 200 candidates running in several seats across the country to raise the profile of these issues. That such candidates are standing only in Liberal-held seats is revealing of the true motivation: to defeat the Liberal Party at the next election.

“Neither of these political forces makes an attempt to engage with the other major issues facing us as a nation. There is no mention of economic recovery from COVID, fiscal repair, economic reform or the myriad national security challenges Australia faces. It’s as if they think Australia runs on autopilot, and that parliament has the luxury of pursuing single issues and special projects. I can understand the superficial appeal of such candidates. They can say whatever the public wants to hear and engage in populism without consequence.”

The Pandemic Is Beating PutinAlexey Kovalev (The New York Times): “A deadly virus can’t be ignored, jailed, exiled or co-opted — nor can it be locked down without great economic cost. That puts President Vladimir Putin of Russia in a bind. The pandemic, perhaps his hardiest foe to date, has starkly revealed the limits of his power.

“The past several weeks have been especially painful. Daily infections in the country have hovered around 35,000 — while the official figures, probably undercounted, record over a thousand deaths each day. (And that’s before the Omicron variant, newly found in Russia, circulates widely.) The misery is largely due to the low vaccination rate in the country: After a nearly yearlong campaign, only 41% of the country’s people are fully vaccinated, a lower number than in Laos or Cape Verde. The Kremlin has itself to blame”

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • University of Melbourne’s Kristy DiGiacomo, and University of Sydney’s Peter Windsor will discuss the effects extreme temperature can have on livestock, in a webinar by farmers and veterinarians climate action groups.

  • Former foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans will speak via webinar on human rights in Cambodia.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Writers Krissy Kneen and Kristina Olsson are in conversation with author Ashley Hay about the latter’s new book, Gum: The Story of Eucalypts & Their Champions. Check this out online too.

  • Federal opposition for families, social services and Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney and Assistant Minister for Children and Families Michelle Landry will launch the new Family Matters report via webinar, which looks into the ongoing removal of Indigenous children from homes.

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Victorian Minister for Innovation Jaala Pulford will chat about the Digital Skills Program, the Precincts projects and her innovation agenda at HoldingRedlich.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • Nine News’ Chris Uhlmann will discuss the importance of a shared identity in protecting freedom in the face of authoritarian regimes at a new series called ACU’s Ethos: Public ethics and the future of Australia.