Holgate threatens to sue Coalition ministers

Good morning, and welcome to the second edition of Post — the new name for The Briefing.

Christine Holgate has issued a Wednesday night ultimatum for Coalition ministers, threatening to sue if they don’t agree to mediation regarding her controversial departure from Australia Post.

The context:   

  • A lawyer for Holgate set the deadline at a Senate hearing on the former CEO standing aside after outrage over her gifting of luxury watches to staff members (Australian Financial Review);
  • In a statement, Holgate’s lawyer said that “in order to avoid time-consuming and costly litigation for all parties”, cabinet ministers Paul Fletcher and Simon Birmingham should come to the table;
  • The ministers, who have joint responsibility for Australia Post, are yet to agree to the demand;
  • Australia Post chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo told the hearing his organisation wanted to enter into mediation but the timeframe given was unreasonable (ABC);
  • Australia Post director Tony Nutt declared that if he had been in charge at the time “the wretched watches wouldn't have been bought” and Holgate would still be in the job.
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Nev Power does his duty

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday disbanded the National Covid-19 Commission Advisory Board, declaring that the emergency phase of the pandemic is now over (The Mandarin).

Morrison thanked the business executives on the board for answering “the call for their country”.

What exactly did they accomplish? 

  • Due to an extraordinary lack of transparency (Crikey), nobody is quite sure;
  • Labor Senator Katy Gallagher, chair of the committee scrutinising the federal Covid-19 response, said last year it was “impossible to work out or understand what they are up to” (The Saturday Paper);
  • Led by longtime resources sector executive Nev Power, the board ignored conflict-of-interest concerns to help devise the federal “gas-fired recovery” (Renew Economy). 
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Coalition cops friendly fire over India ban

The Morrison government is dealing with criticism from its own MPs over harsh penalties for Australians who return from India as the country deals with a worsening Covid-19 outbreak.

Liberal politicians to raise concerns include MPs Dave Sharma, Fiona Martin and Julian Leeser, while senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells expressed concern about “the precedent it sets for making it illegal for Australians to return home” (Guardian Australia).

Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan suggested “let’s fix our quarantine system rather than leave our fellow Australians stranded” (SBS).

Conservative commentators have also hit out at the move, with Andrew Bolt saying “it stinks of racism”.

Former Test cricketer Michael Slater, who had to flee India as the outbreak took hold, warned the federal government it had “blood on your hands” (Fox Sports). 

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Gymnastics shamed over body shaming

new report from the Australian Human Rights Commission detailed a failure “at all levels” to protect gymnasts from physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

A focus on an ideal body and “winning-at-all-costs” contributed to an increased risk of abuse, the report found.

The recommendations include development of a support program to address eating disorders, investigations of child abuse allegations and establishment of a reporting phone line.

The response: Gymnastics Australia immediately apologised and vowed to implement all 12 recommendations — of which an apology was one (Fox Sports).

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Secret trials slammed

The Human Rights Law Centre has described an “unprecedented” secret Australian trial of Witness J as reminiscent of “authoritarian states”.

The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor is reviewing the charging and sentencing of a former military intelligence officer  in 2018 without any public knowledge (Guardian Australia).

Witness J pled guilty to the disclosure of confidential information and served out the sentence.

In a submission to the review, the HRLC called for safeguards for the National Security Information Act and the inclusion of an open justice advocate to ensure such a secret trial is to “never be repeated”.

Other cases partially hidden due to the Act include one against against former military lawyer David McBride, accused of leaking documents to the ABC, and against barrister Bernard Collaery along with his client Witness K.

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I strongly hope that the Bathurst Regional Council can continue to explore options for a go-kart track, which seems to have significant support if it were to be placed at another location.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley delicately attempts to make peace with Australia’s go-kart fanatics, after she blocked them from careening around a sacred Indigenous site atop Mount Panorama (7NEWS).

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Elderly couple uses military Morse code training to escape Tennessee assisted living facility

They listened and listened until the beeps and boops finally made sense. And then it was time to go. A husband and wife briefly escaped from a secure memory unit at an assisted living facility ... by using military experience with Morse code to decipher and memorise the code to an electronic door lock, according to Tennessee Department of Health documents (Nashville Tennessean).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.