George Christensen vaccine mandate
(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

GEORGE CHRISTENSEN CLAIMS $50,000 IN ‘E-MATERIAL’

Nationals MP George Christensen claimed an eye-watering $50,000 last year in internet advertising expenses, Guardian Australia reports, at the same time as he was firing out Facebook ads calling for an end to vaccine discrimination and “medical apartheid”. Facebook data shows the outgoing MP spent $85,000 over 18 months — including an estimated $25,000 on a single ad that calls to “end the vaccine discrimination”. Christensen wouldn’t tell Guardian Australia whether his ads were funded by the taxpayer, but it’s sure to be another thorn in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s side today after the PM told Christensen to “go quietly” into retirement, as SBS reports. So would Christensen be breaking the rules? Well, they’re a bit vague — pollies can claim for electoral duties including “facilitating and participating in debate”, the government says, which his increasingly conspiratorial ads may hypothetically fall under, as ABC delved into.

Also this morning, The SMH reports more than three-quarters of NSW’s $100 million in pokie revenue has gone to Coalition electorates and battleground seats across NSW — even though large chunks of it came from Labor-strongholds in Sydney’s southwest like Bankstown, Cabramatta, Lakemba, Campbelltown, and Prospect. They received little to nothing, the paper adds, even though they’re home to nine of the top 10 clubs in NSW for net pokie profit. The $75 million given out between 2013 and 2021 is bound to raise an eyebrow — among the projects is a $236,523 ‘‘meandering garden pathway’’ in the Southern Highlands and $142,675 to replace an equestrian arena for a pony club in Terrigal.

TIME FOR A FEDERAL ICAC?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been doing damage control after Attorney-General Michaelia Cash told the AFR that the government won’t waste time on the federal ICAC before the election. The federal ICAC looks increasingly like another broken election promise from Morrison, but he insisted yesterday there was still time to introduce the integrity bill. There are as few as 10 days for Parliament to meet before the election, but independent Helen Haines says, so what? ‘‘If the government wanted to, it could introduce it tomorrow,’’ she told the SMH. Cast your mind back to last year and you may remember gutsy Haines forcing the issue when she got a brief majority in the House of Representatives for her bill to create a federal watchdog with teeth, as Women’s Agenda reports. Cash blamed Labor for the delay, but the Centre for Public Integrity says the Coalition model would be the weakest watchdog in the country, as The New Daily adds.

Speaking of watchdogs: former Labor MP Adem Somyurek is calling for Victoria’s ICAC to probe the “biggest political scandal of Victoria’s history” again — the so-called Red Shirts scandal, as the Herald Sun ($) reports. The rort saw nearly $400,000 in taxpayers money spent on paying electoral staff to campaign in the 2014 election — Somyurek says they never even met the MP they were employed by, but rather sat in an office and campaigned for Labor. Somyurek is no stranger to scandal himself — he was sacked in June 2020 amid branch stacking allegations, as ABC reports.

DAY 2 OF ZACHARY ROLFE MURDER TRIAL

A murder trial will continue today in the Northern Territory over the death of Indigenous teenager Kumanjayi Walker, who was allegedly shot dead by NT police constable Zachary Rolfe. The jury watched difficult body camera footage yesterday where Walker, who was 19, was pinned on a mattress by another police officer, The Australian ($) reports. Rolfe reached around and fired his gun “point-blank” in the mid-region of Walker, according to the crown prosecutor.

It’s the time period — 2.6 seconds — between the first and other two shots that is at the centre of arguments, as The Washington Post ($) reports, as the court considers self-defence. Rolfe has pled not guilty to murder, manslaughter, and ­engaging in a violent act causing death, Guardian Australia writes. Cultural elder Lindsay Japanangka Williams says the community is still shaken and “we want justice for our family, ­Kumanjayi Walker”, the Oz ($) continues. In the 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, there have been at least 489 Indigenous deaths in custody, according to the government.

If you’d like to follow our coverage of the Rolfe murder trial, Hannah Ryan will be at the NT Supreme Court in Darwin again today to bring you coverage of day two. You could listen live from around 3.30pm AEST via Crikey’s Twitter account — here’s the link to the space where we’ll be going live — or catch up on our website.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Richard Epstein is a 78-year-old guy who started ice skating a few years ago. His daughter posted a video of him doing his routine on the ice rink, mentioning that Epstein also has stage four prostate cancer. More than 2.7 million people watched the video, and it’s difficult to say exactly why — Epstein himself says it’s “just an old guy going around in circles”, but something about it resonates. It’s the mortifying reality of being known — of choosing to undertake something you have no idea how to do, the magic that happens when you do it anyway and, amazingly, get a little better at it.

Epstein says he always feels a little nervous before he hits the ice, and wonders if he’ll stumble. It’s a barrier he works through because he knows beyond it lies “the feeling of being well, having accomplished something, feeling a little proud of myself”. He was not that confident kid on the sporting field — or in his adult life, for that matter. He says he always thought he’d grow up to be “relaxed and cool and comfortable in my own skin … I’m still waiting”. But when he’s out there, it takes him away from himself for a bit. The wind blows through his hair, and there’s the joy of gliding and turning. Sometimes in life, he says, “I do things out of my comfort zone, and good things happen”.

Hoping you venture a small step outside the box today, too.

SAY WHAT?

The road ahead is about to get very difficult, and so in many ways, the worst is still to come, and we are at the start of the pandemic now.

Mark McGowan

Starting the pandemic again, wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy, would you? The WA premier has changed some of the rules in the west including halving quarantine periods, saying everything the state had done during the last two years — vaccinations and boosting hospital beds among them — were to prepare for this moment. He couldn’t help but make it a competition though, saying WA was “better prepared than any other state in Australia”.

CRIKEY RECAP

PM’s focus on Joyce the wrong move when misery and death is the aged care norm

“Certainly Morrison seemed to suggest all was not well with Joyce, referring to how he had been ‘in a different headspace last year, both professionally and personally’.

But that’s Morrison’s way — criticism of him by colleagues is always brushed off as the result of some sort of implied mental health issue. Julia Banks’ criticism of the bullying, abuse and misogyny she’d endured from Liberal colleagues when Morrison ascended to the prime ministership saw Morrison suggesting she needed support.”


Morrison had evangelical Christian Mike Pompeo on speed dial for two years. Who knew?

“The PM and Pompeo were in contact ‘weekly, not necessarily on the phone, but we were regular correspondents’. And the point of nexus? ‘We’re evangelical Christians,’ Morrison said.

“The assertion puts paid to the idea that Morrison keeps his religion and politics separate. The revelation also underlines the secretive nature of Morrison’s conduct of national affairs. Who knew that the Australian prime minister and the apocalyptic Christian Pompeo were email and phone buddies during a critical phase of Australia’s relationship with China?”


The revolution’s here and it’s being led by women who refuse to be painted as victims

Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame wield enormous power. They’re well connected, famous and relentless in their drive for justice. Importantly, neither are affiliated with Labor or the Greens, showing the anger around the state of politics isn’t just about party preference, but about the shitty behaviour inside Parliament …

“Tame’s stoic reception of Morrison’s and her refusal to smile, Joyce’s texts, and Higgins’ public frustrations at her allegations ignored and cast aside by the Liberal Party show one key thing …”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Most to gain’: Bob Carr doubles down on Dutton text claims (The New Daily)

Three alive, seven missing after Nigeria oil vessel explosion (Al Jazeera)

Free community college is off the table, Jill Biden says (The New York Times)

Boris Johnson sang ‘I Will Survive’ to new communications chief Guto Harri (BBC)

China’s Peng Shuai breaks international media silence on sexual assault allegations (SBS)

New Zealand Māori party calls for a ‘divorce’ from Britain’s royal family (The Guardian)

Spotify CEO apologises to employees for Joe Rogan, says he doesn’t believe in ‘silencing’ him (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

Tunisia police lock doors of legal body, stop staff from entering (Al Jazeera)

Ottawa declares state of emergency as police boost enforcement, target protest’s fuel supply (CBC)

Syria’s Kurds wanted autonomy. They got an endless war. (The New York Times)

THE COMMENTARIAT

[Brazilian President] Bolsonaro tried to stop kids getting vaccinated, and failedVanessa Barbara (The New York Times): “Not content with that dismissal, he then asked for the names of the health officials behind the approval, saying he wanted to release their identities so the public could ‘come to its own judgments’. This was, to put it lightly, reckless: Over the last few months, the agency’s directors have been receiving hundreds of death threats from people who oppose children’s vaccination. (What’s next? Lynching sanitation workers? Setting fire to penicillin prescriptions?) …

“The president, however, does not seem able to accept that Brazilians are ‘vaccine maniacs’, as he scornfully put it. 82% of Brazil’s population is immunized with at least one dose, and even most anti-vaxxers dutifully take their jabs. Commitment to vaccines comes in strange places … Mr. Bolsonaro’s main argument, though, is that the death rates don’t justify the effort. Well, according to our Health Ministry, 1467 children 11 or under have died of COVID-19.”

We know ‘the system’ has long failed Aboriginal people — so why not cyberpunk it?Matthew Tjapaltjarri Heffernan (IndigenousX): “Indigenous people have been (and continue to be) the first to experience dystopic government/corporate overreach, from the testing of nuclear and biological weapons through to being the test subjects for cruel social and cultural upheaval programs such as the stolen generations, the Northern Territory intervention, and countless other occurrences of sacred site destruction and land dispossession …

“Technologies such as the blockchain, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens come with considerable economic risks, scammers and environmental costs … However, I hold maybe a naïve optimism for Indigi-futurism and the ways in which we can cyberpunk these systems. We can hide our heads in the sand or pass on responsibility for glacial-speed policy responses to respective governing bodies, or we can hack these systems and adapt them to create economic development opportunities, new modes of artistic expression or even further the cause of Indigenous self-determination. Combining these systems with our culture’s 60,000 years of knowledge — we might even be able to save the planet.”

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  • Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy and Essential Media’s Pete Lewis will discuss the fortnight’s political news in a webinar for The Australia Institute.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)

  • Lawyer Stephanie Kate Judd will deliver a lecture called “The Dignity of our Limits” which will explore law, literature, philosophy, politics, boundaries, and bioethics.

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)