Scott Morrison religious discrimination bill
(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

DISCRIMINATION NATION

The Coalition will support the religious discrimination bill after Prime Minister Scott Morrison got partyroom support yesterday — despite an amendment that allows schools to expel transgender kids, the SMH reports. “My appeal to you is to come together and think about our team,” Morrison told the partyroom — by allowing Australian children to be discriminately kicked out of school, one assumes.

Opposition assistant treasurer Stephen Jones shared a gut-wrenching story in Parliament yesterday in urging the government to take longer to consider the bill. Jones’s family is reeling after his 15-year-old nephew Ollie took his own life recently. “He was uncertain about his gender and struggled with his mental health,” Jones says in his moving speech that Guardian Australia transcribed. “Now he is gone and we will no longer be able to love him and support him on his journey throughout life”. Jones says, don’t get me wrong, “I support freedom of religion,” but “what message do we want to send to our kids?” He continued that a parent’s love and protection can only go so far, and then a kid has to go into the world. “We as parliamentarians have the power to shape that world,” he says. The religious discrimination bill, which has been rejected twice so far, will be again considered on Thursday in the first contentious parliamentary vote of the year, The Australian ($) reports.

So what the heck is going on with these amendments? The bill protects gay students, but Attorney-General Michaelia Cash reckons to allow fluid gender identity would be at loggerheads with single-sex schools. A “horrified” Liberal MP Bridget Archer is taking a stand, saying she’ll cross the floor in objecting to the bill that could “risk lives”, The New Daily reports. Speaking of Archer, she scored a last-minute ticket to sex abuse advocates Brittany Higgins’ and Grace Tame’s joint speech at the National Press Club today, but was told by the party whip it was “up to the PM” whether she could go, news.com.au says. Reportedly Archer was cleared to go after journalist Samantha Maiden rang the prime minister’s office, alerting them she was writing the story up. Archer is a survivor of child sex abuse.

Invest in the journalism that makes a difference.

EOFY Sale. A year for just $99.

SAVE 50%

MAJOR REPORT ABOUT CARE WORKFORCE TO REMAIN HIDDEN

The Coalition is refusing to make public a major report about the care workforce, Guardian Australia reports. The government has had the report since September last year after it was commissioned in March. It was supposed to looking into the care and support workforce in several places — aged care, disability care, veteran care and mental health care — to work out a way forward through the pandemic and strategies right up to 2050. Minister for Employment Stuart Robert got the report five months ago.

It comes as nurses across NSW have voted to strike on February 15, the SMH reports, over hospital staffing levels, pay, and working conditions amid the Omicron outbreak. It means Sydney’s biggest hospitals like Royal Prince Alfred, Prince of Wales, Liverpool, and Westmead could see a mass walkout for anywhere between eight and 24 hours. Yikes.

And yet the pandemic doesn’t seem top of mind for Victoria’s Opposition Leader Matthew Guy who has been photographed not wearing a mask inside Parliament, news.com.au reports. Victoria Police are investigating the photographs showing Guy alongside former Essendon AFL coach Kevin Sheedy, who spoke to the partyroom on Tuesday morning. Masks are mandatory inside for anyone older than eight, but — incredibly — Guy posted the maskless photos on his Facebook without a second thought. Wondering if he thinks “the full force of the law” should come down on him too?

A BET EACH WAY

The Age has a good story this morning about casino giant Star Entertainment reportedly telling high rollers to pretend they live outside of NSW. Two former staff say they’d tell big punters from NSW to get interstate drivers licences or even passport stamps to “prove” an overseas or interstate address — the idea was to qualify for hefty rebate programs, which saw gamblers get a cut of The Star’s turnover. It means The Star Sydney might’ve paid millions less than they should in tax to the state government.

Also this morning banks are being urged to stop gamblers from online betting binges that can see hundreds of thousands of bucks disappear, the Herald Sun ($) says. It cited a recently study that showed gambling was up 300% during the pandemic. Financial Counselling Australia’s Lauren Levin says Australian banks should ban people from using credit cards to place bets, as the UK has done. One recovered gambler retold a story about transferring $50,000 to his gambling account once, and even then, marvelling at the fact no one from the bank checked in with him, as they might if your card is used overseas for instance.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Do you ever feel like you’re going round and round in life? That you’re stuck and you can’t get free? That you’re… tyred? A crocodile in Indonesia with a motorcycle tyre stuck around his neck for six years has finally had it removed. The 4m spiky guy had been eluding capture and local concern for him had been growing. He’d even been given a local nickname — “buaya kalung ban”, which means crocodile with a tyre necklace. The authorities in Palu, Central Sulawesi offered a reward to anyone who could help the poor buaya, though backtracked when they considered they’d offered cash to, you know, catch and corner a deadly creature. Australian crocodile wrangler and wildlife television presenter Matt Wright even attempted to free the croc in 2020, to no avail.

The wily crocodile actually previously escaped capture twice until local resident Tili, 35, had enough. Tili, a bird-seller, used chicken as bait (who can resist that?) and after a three-week effort, Tili and about a dozen locals were able to carefully drag the crocodile to shore and get that the tyre off his noggin once and for all. The (assumedly) happy croc waddled back into the river tyre-free, where more than 30 of his mates are known to hang out too. “I just can’t stand to see animals hurt. Even snakes, I will help,” Tili says. The moral of the story? Don’t litter.

Wishing you the kindness and courage of Tili today, folks.

SAY WHAT?

Food is addictive. You take someone on heroin, put them in one room, and someone hooked on cheese, put ’em in another room, and you take it away, I challenge you to tell me the person who’s hooked on heroin and who’s hooked on cheese.

Eric Adams

The new mayor of New York City raised some eyebrows when he compared cheese to heroin. Adams, who is vegan, had been advocating a more plant-based diet, but admitted on Monday he eats a little fish. The plot thickened when it was reported he’d been spotted eating chicken and beef too — but Adams told reporters that New Yorkers should not “worry about what’s on Mayor Adams’s plate”.

CRIKEY RECAP

Scott Morrison ‘invested’ $4m of public money in a Christian group. For such a time as this?

“Residents were told that any same-sex attraction was a lie from the devil, and was sin. Anyone who was LGBTIQ was forced to undergo a form of gay conversion …

“By late 2019 — six months after Morrison announced the $4 million grant — the Esther Foundation success story started to unravel. A new CEO investigated the backlog of complaints. As a result the foundation and its founder, Patricia Lavater, parted ways … Speaking to Crikey, Patricia Lavater denied the foundation was opposed to homosexuality.”


GoFundMe removes Convoy to Canberra campaign, refunds $179,000 to donors

“Thousands of anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and sovereign citizens in trucks, vans and cars had made their way to the nation’s capital last week in protest against a variety of grievances ranging from vaccine mandates to an unfounded belief in the illegitimacy of the Australian government.

“It had been inspired by a similar protest in Canada that led the mayor of Ottawa to declare a state of emergency … GoFundMe has told Crikey the campaign has been removed by its trust and safety team after going through its vetting and verification process.”


A house badly divided: the government’s problems go beyond a flailing Morrison

“With News Corp openly backing Scott Morrison being replaced by either Peter Dutton or Josh Frydenberg, it’s worth reflecting on the kind of political party a successor would inherit. Although Morrison is now a serious burden on the Coalition’s electoral hopes and shows no competence or policy substance, the government’s problems don’t end with him.

“There are more minor problems such as the loss of talent in the three years since Malcolm Turnbull was ousted, and poor quality ministerial staff. But the overwhelming problem is serious divisions over fundamental issues.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

UN: 13m face hunger in Horn of Africa as drought worsens (Al Jazeera)

Anti-vaccine mandate protesters at [New Zealand] Parliament pitch tents for the night (Stuff)

Macron holds talks with Ukraine leader as Moscow denies deal to de-escalate (The Guardian)

‘A sense of crisis’ for wasabi, a pungent staple of Japanese cuisine (The New York Times)

Israeli soldiers open fire at car in Nablus killing Palestinians (Al Jazeera)

Peloton CEO John Foley to step down, firm to cut 2800 jobs (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

Biden to tout Australian company’s new electric vehicle charging plant in Tennessee (CNN)

Ex-Pope admits errors in handling of abuse cases (BBC)

‘Fearful’ downtown Ottawa residents flee their homes as [Freedom Convoy] protest continues (CBC)

Two suspected British Islamic State recruits seized by Taliban at border (The Guardian)

2022 Oscar nominations announced (CNN)

THE COMMENTARIAT

The ABC’s budget hasn’t been restored — it’s still facing $1.2b in accumulated losses over a decadeAlexandra Wake, Michael Ward (The Conversation): “ABC Chair Ita Buttrose is ‘delighted’ and Managing Director David Anderson says he now has ‘certainty’ for planning. However, the Morrison government’s pre-election announcement it would restore the ABC’s budget to 2018 levels doesn’t come close to making up for what has been lost in cuts to funding and staff …

“As we noted in our research in 2019 and 2020, a total of $783 million was removed from ABC funding between 2014 and 2022. As the table below shows, these accumulated funding losses include a series of budget announcements, cancelled funding contracts, reduced or ended specific programs and implemented major cuts. In fact, taking into account the government’s latest announcement, we now calculate the ABC’s accumulated lost funding from fiscal years 2014-15 to 2024-25 will reach a staggering $1.201 billion.”

Sorry, PM, but you’re just not up to the jobJanet Albrechtson (The Australian) ($): “When Morrison describes the aspirations of Australians, it’s like reading a Hallmark card. He never braves the harder stuff, the values a democracy depends on to function. Truth be told, I can’t work out what values excite him politically. Except winning. In some ways he’s the Liberal Party’s Kevin Rudd, only less annoying.

“Morrison is a mix of middle management and marketing man. One week he’s handing out a bonus to aged-care staff because the system is in crisis. It won’t fix the crisis but may win a few votes. The next week he’s playing apprentice hairdresser for the cameras, washing a woman’s hair. If Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Howard or Bob Hawke had done this, I would have said the same: it’s weird and it’s creepy.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Online

  • The University of Technology Sydney is hosting a webinar on relations between Australia and China, marking 50 years of diplomatic ties, with speakers like China Studies Centre’s Minglu Chen, Former Liberal MP Warwick Smith, and Financial Times’s Wang Feng.

  • World Climate Research Programme’s Joint Scientific Committee’s Helen Cleugh will speak at ANU’s Climate Update 2022, an online event about how our climate is changing and how we are responding to these changes in Australia and around the world.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins will speak to the National Press Club.

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp will speak to a CEDA lunch about ideas for revitalising the city’s CBD.

Save this EOFY while you make a difference

Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

We’ve pushed our journalism as far as we could go. And that’s only been possible with reader support. Thank you. And if you haven’t yet subscribed, this is your time to join tens of thousands of Crikey members to take the plunge.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
SAVE 50%