New powers to jail refugees for life

A new law rushed through parliament allows the federal government to detain refugees for the rest of their lives or remove their refugee status after it has been granted.

The Migration Act amendment allows:

  • Indefinite detention of a refugee whose visa has been cancelled but who cannot return to their country of origin because they would face persecution there;
  • The minister to unilaterally withdraw a person’s refugee status recognition after it has been granted.

The law ostensibly targets 21 refugees in detention convicted of offences or negatively assessed by ASIO, but rights groups warn the applications are far broader (Guardian Australia). 
Visas can be cancelled for character reasons or “association with a group” suspected by the minister of wrongdoing.
David Burke, of the Human Rights Law Centre, said “the minister should not be able to wave a pen and overturn the fundamental protection the government has given someone”.
The bill was voted into law with Labor support on Thursday after Senate debate was cut short.

Backed up by the budget:

The federal budget this week allocated $464.7m to expanding the capacity of onshore and offshore detention centres (The Conversation). 
The offshore detention system will effectively cost $3.4m per offshore detainee in 2021.

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Reynolds provides police statement on Higgins

Cabinet minister Linda Reynolds has provided a statement to police about the alleged rape of her former staffer Brittany Higgins by a colleague in Parliament House.

Reynolds told Nine News she was “absolutely” prepared to be interviewed by police if needed (SMH).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison meanwhile revealed that an inquiry had restarted into who in his office knew of the allegations.

Meanwhile in NSW:

NSW Families Minister Gareth Ward is under police investigation over sexual violence allegations from 2013.

Ward, who has not been charged and denies the allegations, will stand aside from his ministerial role and remove himself from the Liberal Party room (ABC). 

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Albanese delivers Labor budget reply

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has used his budget reply to commit Labor to a $10b housing future fund if elected.

The fund would cover (The New Daily): 

  • 20,000 affordable housing properties, including 10,000 homes for critical workers like police, nurses and cleaners;
  • 4000 homes for families fleeing domestic violence and older women at risk of homelessness;
  • $200m for maintaining housing in remote Indigenous communities;
  • $30m for veterans’ housing and the homeless.

Labor says the initiative would support 21,500 jobs and apprenticeships in construction.

Albanese also detailed plans to create 10,000 apprenticeships in clean energy, and a new “startup year” fund for entrepreneurs.

“Tuesday’s budget didn’t speak for this country’s future – it only told the sorry tale of eight years of Liberal neglect,” he said.

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Calls to abandon Israel trade plans

Australian and Palestinian human rights groups have urged the federal government to abandon pursuit of a potential free trade agreement with Israel and condemn its actions in Gaza and East Jerusalem.

The Australian Centre for International Justice and the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council urged the Australian government to walk away from the plans (Guardian Australia). 

Israel on Thursday pounded Gaza with more airstrikes and shells and called up 9000 more reservists who could be used to stage a ground invasion (AP). 

Gaza’s Health Ministry said the death toll has climbed to 103 Palestinians, including 27 children.

Hamas has continued firing rockets at Israel, killing six, and at least three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon.

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Crown agrees to cash ban

Crown Resorts could open its Barangaroo casino this year after agreeing to a raft of new measures with the NSW gaming regulator.

The Casino has agreed to (ABC): 

  • Pay a portion of the Barangaroo inquiry;
  • Pay a casino supervision levy;
  • Cease all international junket partnerships;
  • Adopt a cashless gaming model to address money laundering;
  • Phase out indoor smoking.

Crown suitor The Star group – which has proposed a $12b merger with the casino giant – is also expected to introduce the cashless card technology in its Sydney casino (Australian Financial Review).

Crown casino in Perth, which is currently subject to its own inquiry, will do the same (The West Australian). 

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We had to get off our back and onto our knees, then learn to crawl and walk again.

Festival promoter Peter Noble says Covid-19 might have knocked the Byron Bay Bluesfest flat twice, but they’re getting back on their feet for another go at it in October (Tone Deaf).

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Postscript: Which country’s Emergency Alert System siren is the most alarming?

This video includes recordings of emergency broadcasting systems from the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. All of these would be pretty eerie to hear in the middle of the night. I find the one from New Zealand to be especially nerve-racking because there is so much happening at once in it … I would probably curl up into a foetal position if I heard those noises coming out of my phone (Boing Boing).

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