NO MORE MONEY BUSINESS
Reveal who donates more than a grand to your campaign — that’s the challenge from Victorian MP Helen Haines, The Age reports, as the fallout over donations from coal millionaire John Kinghorn to independent MP Zali Steggall continues. Haines says she’ll list every donation above $1000 on her website each quarter, and anything above the official threshold of $14,500 within just five days (!), demanding all sides of Parliament do likewise. At the moment donations are revealed eight months after the end of the financial year.
Speaking of, Steggall this morning has actually pointed the finger at Damien Hodgkinson, her former financial controller, over the donation bungle that saw a $100,000 cheque from Kinghorn not initially disclosed, as The Australian ($) continues. Hodgkinson is actually the director of Simon Holmes à Court’s Climate 200 campaign — and Climate 200 reportedly backed Steggall this week amid the drama. Steggall says she and the Warringah Independents board weren’t involved with the cheque, saying the “donation processing and accounting” was Hodgkinson’s job. It remains to be seen whether the bungle means Steggall’s job is untenable.
Speaking of — the Morrison government still has not decided whether to dump stood-aside education minister Alan Tudge, the AFR reports. Rachelle Miller, a former staffer who had a consensual affair with Tudge, alleged he was abusive and once violent. Tudge denies it. An independent investigator (who incidentally also looked into allegations against former High Court judge Dyson Heydon) gave the Tudge report to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on January 28, The New Daily reports. So where is it? Good question — Morrison says he supports the release of it, but no word on the date — or the fate of Tudge — yet. The education minister says he intends to recontest his Victorian seat of Aston at the federal election.
When Peter Dutton was home affairs minister, some 225 funding grants (worth $47.9 million) were approved against the recommendations of the department, the auditor-general reportedly found. Why? The audit cited the influence of lobbying MPs and senators, Guardian Australia reports. Of those 23 projects (worth a combined $7 million) were “assessed as either ineligible or unsuitable”. It’s the finding of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) which looked into the $187 million safer communities grant program, and also found Dutton was more likely to approve grants in Coalition-held seats, ABC continues. But Dutton says funding was fairly neatly split across Labor and the Coalition electorates (about 51.45% to 48.55%), and the auditor-general found mostly there was no clear electoral bias.
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Also this morning Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reportedly urging Coalition colleagues to show how different they are from Labor, Guardian Australia reports. It comes as Morrison turned to the character test bill to corner the opposition on national security during the final sitting weeks of Parliament — basically at the moment if a non-citizen gets more than 12 months in jail, they are kicked out of the country. It mostly affects New Zealanders, and NZ PM Jacinda Ardern has before slammed the bill, as ABC reports, saying offenders can be born in New Zealand but have not lived there all their lives. Morrison reportedly told MPs to play up “the starkness of the choice in front of the Australian people”, continuing “I know how to do that, and I know that is how you win elections. I know what the path is and I’ll be following it”.
NO VAX FOR NOVAK
Tennis player Novak “no-vax” Djokovic has hit the headlines again after saying he’s willing to forego possibly being the best male tennis player in the world rather than be forced to have a COVID vaccine. Djokovic told a rather incredulous BBC sports journalist he’s willing to miss Wimbledon and the French Open over it, continuing that he was “prepared” not to go to Australia. Djokovic rejected the Australian government’s reasoning for deporting him but distanced himself from the anti-vax movement, Guardian Australia continues.
Closer to home, a Western Australian MP has been banned from Parliament after she refused to show either her vaccination status or an exemption, WA Today reports. Legalise Cannabis MP Sophia Moermond slammed her suspension as “medical apartheid” after the was told to go on Tuesday, The New Daily reports. The rule actually only just changed on Tuesday — before then, politicians in WA only had to show their status if there was a lockdown, but an upper house vote made it enforceable all the time. Moermond went on about the vaccine being “unsafe” (there have been 51.1 million doses of vaccine given so far in Australia, and 11 deaths linked to vaccination, a rate of 0.000022%, whereas unvaccinated people are 14 times more likely to die from COVID).
Her comments come as hundreds of anti-mandate protesters marched through Perth, The West ($) continues, with one man dressed as former US president Donald Trump and another in a “Make Australia Great Again” cap. One Nation leader Pauline Hanson “called in” via video link to show support, saying she was sick of “nanny states”. Meanwhile in Queensland, a teacher and some prison guards have joined police staff and health workers on 10 legal challenges about vaccination at work, The Brisbane Times reports. In the sunshine state all healthcare workers had to receive two doses by mid-December, while cops had to get both by January 23. Four of the vaccine mandate challenges will have civil trials in April in the Brisbane Supreme Court.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Former Australian of the Year and victims of sexual assault advocate Grace Tame had more than a few people sniggering when she responded to a photo of her apparently sitting near a bong in 2014, when Tame was 19 years old. Media heavyweight Lisa Wilkinson described the photo’s backlash as a “relentless hit job” — the Coalition denies they had anything to do with it — while ABC journalist Patricia Karvelas called the outrage “disgusting” and “gross”.
Tame had the last laugh when she tweeted a humorous “explanation” for the photo: “Alright, I confess, we were doing a cover of ‘April Sun in Cuba’. On the oboe,” she wrote, an apparent reference to Prime Minister Scott Morrison causing ears to bleed around the country when he strummed a rendition of the 1970s Dragon hit on a ukulele in a 60 Minutes interview that aired on Sunday night.
Unsurprisingly, Tame’s photo got a lot more flack than other, far more powerful figures admitting much more than the old photo implied. Former PM Malcolm Turnbull revealed on national TV that he’s “smoked pot”, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr once ate a pot brownie, and the literal ACT Police Minister Mick Gentleman says he smoked weed in the ’70s. Besides, cannabis is legal in 18 US states, throughout Canada, and in South Africa — as well as our very own ACT.
Wishing you a smooth and relaxed Wednesday dudes.
I’ve been deposed as leader of the Liberal Party trust by the right wing of the party, working with right-wing media … which is basically in coalition with the Liberal and National parties and government, and their MO [modus operandi] is one of a terrorist. But what they basically do is say: ‘Unless you give us what we want we will blow the joint up’.
The former PM held nothing back when he seemed to compare News Corp with, well, a terrorist organisation — though Turnbull did not name News Corp specifically, the behemoth’s boss Rupert Murdoch has long been accused of instructing his newspaper editors about their coverage to sway elections.
“Employment Minister Stuart Robert’s inability or unwillingness to disclose key financial details means he should be treated in the same way as former attorney-general Christian Porter who resigned last year over the operation of a blind trust set up to accept donations for his defamation proceedings against the ABC, Senate estimates has heard.
“A Crikey investigation into Robert’s blind trust and investments raised a series of unanswered questions about the minister’s financial dealings, Labor Senator Murray Watt said. He asked Trade Minister Simon Birmingham why Robert had not met the same fate as Porter.”
“The project, run by the former independent member for Indi Cathy McGowan, had invited the Statler and Waldorf of Australian politics — Turnbull and his Queensland mate Kevin Rudd — to opine on media and democracy … it was Turnbull who really let fly on a few topics, including the character of the current PM.”
400% surge in people with disabilities disputing their NDIS plans — but what is being done about it?
“As previously revealed by Crikey, a huge number of people with disabilities show up to the AAT without legal representation — 20% in 2019-20. Ninety-eight per cent of NDIS matters didn’t go to a tribunal hearing, with cases dropped or settled after meeting with legal representatives of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
“Meanwhile, the NDIA throws money at external legal firms, while also using its team of in-house lawyers. Freedom of information documents show that across 2020-21 the NDIA paid $17.3 million to legal firms representing external legal matters — an increase of 30% from the previous financial year.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Russia says some troops pulling back from Ukraine border but exercises continue (The Wall Street Journal) ($)
Prince Andrew settles sexual abuse lawsuit with Virginia Giuffre (The New York Times)
Several dead after Spanish trawler sinks off Canada (Al Jazeera)
Stocks rebound after Russia says it will withdraw some troops from Ukraine’s border. (The New York Times)
Bunbury, WA — just one of Australia’s many places named after the killers of Indigenous people — Paul Daley (The Guardian): “Perth historian Chris Owen recently focused on WA’s third-largest city — situated on Noongar Wardandi country — in a recent post on his Darkest West Australia page, where he routinely chronicles the state’s shocking pre- and postcolonial violence against Indigenous people. Bunbury is named after Colonel Henry William St Pierre Bunbury, a British army officer who arrived in the colony in March 1836 and who, in just a year-and-a-half, earned a reputation as one of the harshest proponents of colonial ‘justice’ (a genteel euphemism for ‘killing’) in the history of the place.
“Bunbury wrote in his journal that the country wasn’t much to his liking, but ‘the Natives seem inclined to be quiet since I shot a few of them one night’ … It is equally clear that Stirling’s reference to adherence to ‘the law’ when it came to his intent to ‘tranquilise’ (another quaint euphemism) the Indigenous warriors (and their non-combatant families) was nothing but a charade. Theoretically, according to English law, the Indigenous custodians of the land upon which the WA colony was imposed were British subjects and, consequently, subject to — and protected by — imperial law.”
The joy of cooking (insects) — Tala Schlossberg, Kirk Semple and Jonah M. Kessel (The New York Times): “Mealworm soup. Chile-lime cricket tacos. Charred avocado tartare with ant larvae. In the West, edible insects have long been the domain of food adventurers, with few other takers — even as billions of people elsewhere on the planet count insects as a part of their traditional diets … It’s a matter of numbers. The world’s population is booming. So, too, is agricultural production to meet the growing demand for food. Yet agriculture, particularly the production of meat, is a big driver of environmental harm.
“Scientists have warned that unless we make major adjustments to the kinds of food we eat and how we produce it, we have no chance of meeting our climate goals. A change in dietary patterns, especially reduced demand for meat, would help relieve pressure on the environment and mitigate global warming. That’s where insects come in. Though the research is still nascent, the early evidence suggests that some edible insects offer a more environmentally sustainable alternative to some conventional livestock. Insects also offer tremendous potential as pet food and a feed source for conventional livestock.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
The Wheeler Centre presents an interactive series about an imagined climate crisis led by storyteller Bernard Caleo.
Small Business Development Corporation will host a workshop for Western Australian business owners about doing business in a COVID-19 world.
UNSW’s Australian Human Rights Institute and The Human Rights Law Centre will host a discussion on Australia’s Modern Slavery Act.
Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)
Former NSW premier Bob Carr, ABC’s Antony Green and Stan Grant, and The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan are among the speakers at CEDA’s annual Economic and Political Outlook forum.
Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)
Climate 200 founder Simon Holmes à Court will speak to the National Press Club about “Independents and Climate — The Hope to End the Lost Decade”.