Push to reveal Porter’s secret donors

Voices from across the political spectrum are demanding that former attorney-general Christian Porter reveal the identity of those behind a blind trust that helped pay his legal bills.

What we know:

  • A blind trust made a part contribution to cover the costs of Porter’s defamation action against the ABC (The New Daily); 
  • “As a potential beneficiary I have no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust,” Porter claimed in his updated register of interests;
  • Labor shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Prime Minister Scott Morrison should force Porter to disclose who was behind the trust;
  • “If Mr Porter genuinely doesn’t know who his donors are he shouldn’t accept their money,” Dreyfus said (AFR); 
  • Greens senator Larissa Waters said the issue highlighted the inadequacies of laws governing donations to politicians;
  • Former PM Malcolm Turnbull equated the arrangement to having legal fees “paid by a guy in a mask who dropped off a chaff bag full of cash” (news.com.au).
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Instagram harms mental health

Facebook has privately found that Instagram is toxic to the mental wellbeing of teenagers, especially girls, but has downplayed the issue publicly, according to a leak of studies undertaken by the social media giant.

What we know:

  • The internal research by Facebook, which owns Instagram, found “we make body-image issues worse for one in three teen girls” (WSJ);
  • The researchers found that among teenagers who reported suicidal thoughts, about 6% in the US and 13% in the UK traced them back to Instagram (CNBC); 
  • 25% of teens said the app made them feel “not good enough”;
  • The company had downplayed the mental health impacts while keeping the research private;
  • It comes as Facebook plans to build a version of Instagram that can be used by children under the age of 13;
  • Hours after Facebook’s research was leaked, social media rival TikTok announced plans to redirect users showing signs of distress to suicide-prevention resources (Bloomberg). 
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No miscarriage link to vaccines

New research indicates pregnant women who have an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine are no more likely to miscarry than unvaccinated pregnant women.

The US Centers for Disease Control found  there was no increased risk of miscarriage among nearly 2500 pregnant women who received an mRNA  vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna before 20 weeks of pregnancy (The New Daily). 

A separate US analysis of more than 100,000 pregnancies confirmed that the rate of miscarriage among vaccinated women is the same as that in unvaccinated women (JamaNetwork). 

Australian doctors are concerned about the number of unvaccinated expectant mothers in hospital with Covid-19 symptoms (The Australian). 

Unvaccinated pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the virus (Nature). 

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RBA rejects push for rate rise

RBA governor Philip Lowe has pushed back against calls to raise interest rates to cool the housing market, after mean house prices surged another $52,600 in three months. 

In his annual address to the Anika Foundation on Tuesday, Lowe said the Reserve Bank of Australia won’t be lifting interest rates to dampen out-of-control house prices (ABC). 

“It’s something that as a citizen I would like to see addressed, but as a central bank we can't do anything about,” Lowe said.

He said he would only lift the cash rate when wages growth hits 3%, and inflation sits between 2-3%.

New Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed property prices rose by 6.7% in the June quarter.

The mean price of homes grew by $52,600 in three months to reach $835,700, up from $689,400 a year ago. 

The cash rate target is sitting at a record-low 0.1%, fuelling the rapid growth in house prices.

It comes as the OECD calls for an independent review of the RBA, which it says has failed to meet key economic targets in recent years (SMH). 

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Maori call to rename New Zealand

New Zealand’s Māori Party on Tuesday launched a petition to change the country’s official name to Aotearoa and for other places to be rebadged under their original te reo Māori names.

The petition, which drew more than 5000 signatures on its first day, calls for Auckland to become Tāmaki-makau-rau​, Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara​, and Christchurch Ōtautahi (NZ Herald). 

“Tangata whenua are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardised and ignored. It's the 21st century, this must change,” said Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declined to support the move, but said place names could be used interchangeably as te reo Māori is an official language.

Efforts to return places – even small reserves and streams – to original te reo Māori names have attracted fierce criticism from conservatives (stuff.co.nz). 

An interactive web map shows all the te reo Māori place names across the country. 

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Kristina Keneally was born in the United States ... and is another great Australian success story of a migrant who’s come here and became the NSW premier.

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese defends his party’s controversial move to parachute Keneally into a safe Western Sydney seat at the expense of local Vietnamese-Australian lawyer Tu Le. Indeed, Keneally will have to migrate all the way from the wealthy white enclaves of the Northern Beaches (SBS).

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Postscript: Can Birds Help Us Avoid Natural Disasters?

Scientists tracking golden-winged warblers in the central and southeastern United States recorded what’s known as an evacuation migration, when the birds flew up to 1500km to evade an outbreak of tornadoes that killed 35 people and caused more than US $1bn in damage. The birds fled at least 24 hours before any foul weather hit, leaving the scientists to deduce they had heard the storm system from more than 400km away (Hakai).

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