Morrison spies more powers

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pressing for a suite of new surveillance powers, after the Australian Federal Police helped lead a global effort to hack encrypted messages, leading to the arrest of hundreds of suspects.

What we know:

  • More than 800 organised crime suspects across at least 16 countries were arrested after being tricked into communicating via AN0M, an encrypted app designed by police (news.com.au); 
  • Fronting a press conference with AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw on Tuesday, Morrison criticised Labor for what he framed as obstruction of three surveillance bills;
  • Shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally said any claim the bills didn’t enjoy Labor support was a “flat-out lie”, arguing they were the subject of an inquiry by the bipartisan national security committee (InnovationAus); 
  • The proposed laws would grant unprecedented online account takeover powers, cross-border access to communications data, and alter security checking processes at aviation and maritime ports (itnews); 
  • Kershaw said that access to the AN0M app for three years made him believe even more was to be gained by targeting more popular messaging apps;
  • Police called for alleged drug trafficker Hakan Ayik, on the run in Turkey, to hand himself in after he played a key role in unwittingly recommending the app to criminal associates (ABC). 
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Upper Hunter goes solar

A renewable solar-hydro energy plant will be built on the site of the Liddell coal-fired power station in the Upper Hunter region of NSW.

Operator AGL has engaged energy firm RayGen to develop the new plant, which will use a field of mirrors to direct sunlight onto a tower of solar panels, which in turn store energy in water reservoirs in conjunction with batteries (ABC). 

AGL and RayGen also revealed plans to build a $27m plant in north-western Victoria using the same technologies (Renew Economy). 

The planned 2023 closure of the Liddell power station has led the federal government to commit to building a controversial, taxpayer-funded, gas-fired power station in nearby Kurri Kurri.

It comes as AGL largely lost its court case alleging Greenpeace had breached copyright and trademark laws through use of its logo in a campaign that described the company as the nation’s “biggest climate polluter” (The New Daily). 

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Dutton tries to block book

Defence Minister Peter Dutton is pushing back against the publication of a book by a military sociologist whose report sparked the investigation into alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers.

Samantha Crompvoets, who was commissioned by Defence in 2015 to provide a report on special forces culture, is planning to release a book on the war crimes allegations (news.com.au). 

The Australian Government Solicitor’s group has written to Crompvoets’ publisher concerned the book could breach national security, after Dutton said he was seeking legal advice on the matter.

Dutton last week said he did not plan to approve similar contracts in the future to examine army culture.

Crompvoets has also been targeted on the internet by veterans groups, including one that published her phone number online and suggested she needed to be bashed with “a chunk of 4 X 2 at full swing”.

It has also emerged that Dutton ignored the warnings of senior Defence officials by intervening to stop special forces troops from being stripped of military honours over war crime allegations (SMH).

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Plans to resettle Biloela family

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the federal government is looking at resettling the Biloela family in one of two countries, after the youngest girl in the family was airlifted to hospital for emergency medical care.

“I understand the United States is the first of those and that New Zealand is also an option,” said Payne, who ruled out a return to Australia (ABC). 

A spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said potential resettlement in either of the two countries applied “to all those in detention waiting for resettlement”.

Australian-born Tharnicaa Murugappan, who turns four next week, has been diagnosed with sepsis and pneumonia and was flown to Perth Children's Hospital.

The family, who have been held on Christmas Island since August 2019, were denied permission to travel with Tharnicaa, with only her mother Priya was allowed to go.

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PM push for WTO reform

Scott Morrison will today call for reform of the World Trade Organization to better protect countries from economic coercion.

In a speech in Perth before he flies out for Singapore and then on to the G7-plus meeting in Cornwall, Morrison will call for the WTO to revive its binding dispute settlement system, after the former Trump administration refused to appoint new judges to the body (ABC). 

He will also make a thinly veiled reference to China’s campaign of trade punishment against Australia, and double down on calls to investigate the origins of Covid-19.

He will attempt to paint Australia’s climate action in a positive light without making any new commitments, ahead of a G7 meeting where emissions reduction is expected to be a top priority.

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I don’t think Dan Andrews drove the sub that took Harold Holt to China.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas responds to the Liberal party fanning wild conspiracy theories about the prolonged sick leave taken by Premier Daniel Andrews. Given both Holt and Andrews vanished in the same seaside town of Portsea, we surely can’t rule it out (The Age).

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Postscript: At Pizza Pacaya, the Oven Is an Active Volcano

His first hunch was to roast steaks or braise chicken. But he soon realized that he would need to climb the volcano with too many side dishes on his back. As he scouted the landscape, he saw huge caves of drying lava populating the landscape. That’s when it hit him: what if he used the caves as pizza ovens (Atlas Obscura)?

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