AUKUS OPPOSITION GROWS
Australian unions have reiterated their longstanding opposition to a nuclear defence policy, adding to the chorus of concerns over AUKUS led by Paul Keating, Malcolm Turnbull and a range of defence and strategic experts, including Hugh White. Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Michele O’Neil said the ACTU’s “decades-old” opposition to nuclear power, nuclear waste and nuclear proliferation had in no way been influenced by PM Anthony Albanese’s recent $368 billion AUKUS announcement, which she separately criticised for its excessive and unnecessary secrecy.
In answer, Defence Minister Richard Marles reportedly said the government had committed to “continue talking to the Australian people” about the “important endeavour” — forgetting, it would seem, that no such consultation with the community has in fact taken place. As Crikey’s David Hardaker put it yesterday, the only people consulted thus far are those with a “direct interest in expanding Australia’s defence budget”.
Meanwhile, there are reports New Zealand’s Defence Minister Andrew Little may enter negotiations to join the second pillar of the three-part AUKUS deal, which covers the sharing of advanced military technologies, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. But precisely how that arrangement would or could square with the country’s wider anti-nuclear stance within the region — including the Treaty of Rarotonga — remains unexplained.
CANBERRA TUESDAY WRAP
Over to the nation’s capital on Tuesday and Greens Senator David Shoebridge secured the support of the entire Senate crossbench as well as the Coalition to establish an inquiry into Australia’s “broken” freedom of information system. The inquiry will directly investigate the circumstances which compelled the recent resignation of former FOI commissioner Leo Hardiman, who sensationally quit earlier this month after less than a year in the job, as well as the delays, culture of non-compliance, obfuscation and under-funding that has long beset the system.
Former senator Rex Patrick, who is embroiled in legal battles with the government over lengthy delays on FOI reviews and access to Anthony Albanese’s diary, took to twitter to criticise Labor’s opposition to the inquiry, suggesting it confirmed the Labor government was “developing a transparency allergy”. It was view shared by Shoebridge, who posted a picture of a document the government was required to produce under a Senate motion about freedom of information which had, incidentally, been entirely redacted. “Is this an intentional parody from the Albanese government?” he tweeted. “Blocking out information from an order about FOI is high level political irony.”
In what’s proving a thorny week for the government on the transparency and integrity front, debate on the reforms to existing whistleblower laws has also been shelved for the time being due to the tight legislative agenda in the upper house. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus had previously committed the government to implementing the Public Interest Disclosure Act reforms before the commencement of the federal integrity commission, which is expected midyear sometime, but it’s now unclear whether that commitment will be met. The delay comes one day after tax office whistleblower Richard Boyle failed to a secure an immunity from prosecution under the PID Act, placing Boyle — much like war crimes whistleblower David McBride — in the invidious position of facing trial and the prospect of life in prison. Dreyfus has the power to discontinue both prosecutions but has so far expressed an unwillingness to exercise the power.
The Greens meanwhile have also drawn a “line in the sand” over the government’s proposed $10 billion housing future fund, forcing Labor to withdraw the bill until it negotiates in “good faith” with the minor party over a suite of proposed amendments. Among these is $5 billion for social and affordable housing annually and a national agreement to freeze rents for two years. As it stands, Labor’s policy — according to the government’s reckoning — would provide up to $500 million a year in returns to build up to 30,000 social and affordable homes over the next five years. Yet the glaring difficulty with this calculation — quite aside from the fact the fund would have lost $120 million last year and doesn’t guarantee a return — is that there’s already some 176,000 households nationwide on the social housing waiting list. It’s primarily for this reason other Senate crossbenchers, including Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock, have also expressed serious reservations about Labor’s bill.
Having said that, it’s doubtful Labor’s in the mood to compromise. As recently as Monday, Albanese warned that Labor was conversely “happy to have” an argument with the Greens over their opposition to the policy “between now and the next election” — a stance the Greens called “morally repugnant”. So, so much, you might say, for Labor’s pledge not to leave anyone behind.
AND NOW TO NSW
Former NSW Liberal minister Gareth Ward, who was suspended from Parliament last year after being charged with historical sexual assault, was formally arraigned on Tuesday in the Nowra District Court, where he entered pleas of not guilty to the various charges. Outside the court, the now-independent MP told reporters he was “incredibly confident” he would win the case as well as retain the seat of Kiama, where he was leading Labor on a slim margin of 615 votes as of Tuesday evening.
Whether or not a victory in Kiama will see Ward returned to the chamber remains something of an open question, however, given both Premier Chris Minns and former premier Dominic Perrottet pledged during the campaign to move a new suspension order if reelected. On that front, one of Australia’s leading legal minds, Anne Twomey, has cast doubt on the logic of a second suspension in the circumstances, pointing out it could be perceived as defying the will of the people. “People had not had a chance to say if they thought it was appropriate [last year],” she told The Sydney Morning Herald. “If he is voted back in when people know there are these charges against him, you can’t really say people have in any way been deceived. They made a choice.”
Counting continues in NSW, with Labor sitting on 45 seats — two short of majority — and is leading in one of the five yet to be called.
SHOOTING THE SOUL OF A NATION
Another day, and another school shooting in the United States. The latest massacre — this time in Nashville, Tennessee — has left three children and three adults dead, not including the attacker, who was shot dead by police on site. As has become typical in the reporting of these tragedies, the shooter’s age, identity, criminal history and weapon choice is known — this time ex-student 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, no criminal history, one semi-automatic rifle and two handguns. And, as has also become eerily predictable, the usual apologists for the gun lobby have offered their thoughts and prayers — this time one Andrew Ogles, a Republican from Nashville, pictured here with his wife and children in 2021, all but one child holding weapons in front of a Christmas tree. The only thing seemingly yet to pass is the usual denial and obfuscation of the gun lobby.
President Joe Biden labelled the Nashville shooting “heart-breaking”, imploring Congress to take legislative action to stop the carnage. “We have to do more to stop gun violence,” he said. “It’s ripping our communities apart, ripping the soul of this nation.” It was a sentiment echoed by Barack Obama, who tweeted the government was “failing our children”, with guns now the leading cause of death for children in America. Indeed, this year alone there have already been 89 school shootings — a number which firmly sets the country on a path to surpassing last year’s record 303 shootings.
Sticking with the US, it bears mentioning that Donald Trump — who reportedly flirted with the idea of gun control more than once during his presidency — has increased his national lead in the Republican presidential primary. The national poll, undertaken by the Centre for American Political Studies at Harvard, gives Trump a 26-point national lead over his chief rival, Ron DeSantis.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
It’s a strangely ineffable feeling, looking into your beloved pet’s eyes one moment and, the next, over their shoulder at the destruction they’ve visited on your shoes, a certain favourite book or two or even your carpet or blinds. “To hate or not to hate?” isn’t the first question which ordinarily springs to mind, but rather “to hate and for how long?”. That is, of course, until you look back over at your pet, and it you with its usual penetrating gaze, leaving neither of you in any doubt that you won’t be getting cross after all.
Our friends over at The Guardian haven’t explained the mechanics of this most vexing and charming of human-canine and human-feline experiences. But they have asked readers to share their stories of it, along with the all-important photographic evidence. One such response involved a rescue Parson Russell terrier by the name of Lucy, who shamelessly took a chunk out of a $400 boutique retirement cake. Despite the fact Lucy “showed no remorse” whatsoever, her owner told The Guardian she was nonetheless quickly forgiven. Another owner likewise recounted the time their border collie-Jack Russell mix, Cache, “moved” — and by “moved” they meant utterly destroyed — the venetian blinds, yet one look at the pup and all was forgiven.
Indeed, the only reader response that truly hedged a little on the forgiveness scale turned on the antics of a three-year-old labrador called Wilma, whose owner had dutifully sent in a complete shopping list of items lost to the lab’s destructive ways. “Most of my daughter’s dolls are [also] now amputees,” the owner eventually said, pointing out he was resigned to the fact his wife had forgiven Wilma “for all of it”. He, on the other hand, was “still working on it”.
Expect a visit from me … That’s not a threat, it’s a guarantee.
The radio shock-jock threatened journalist Mitchell Van Homrigh after the latter reported Sandilands’ disparaging remarks about competitors in the Paralympics in September 2021. On Tuesday, the broadcasting regulator (ACMA) said both incidents breached basic standards of decency and, as a result, Sandilands will undergo “sensitivity training”.
Source : Crikey