Coalition votes down Porter inquiry

The Coalition has successfully voted down a bid to have former attorney-general Christian Porter investigated over his financial disclosures, in defiance of the Speaker of the House.

What we know:

  • Labor called for Porter to be referred to the House privileges committee to consider whether he had breached parliamentary rules over mystery donations (ABC); 
  • Porter resigned as a minister after revealing mystery donors helped fund his defamation action over reporting by the ABC of a historical rape allegation;
  • Speaker Tony Smith agreed to Labor’s request to allow debate, declaring “I am satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out”;
  • Coalition MPs voted against the motion to ensure it was defeated 52 to 49 – the first time the House has blocked a referral to a committee after the Speaker finds a prima facie case;
  • “If this is allowed to stand, the register of members’ interests is obliterated in terms of being a disclosure document,” said manager of opposition business Tony Burke (SBS); 
  • Leader of the House Peter Dutton proposed that the privileges committee launch a broader inquiry into anonymous donations, referencing the crowdsourcing campaign for Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young's defamation action;
  • Attorney-General Amanda Stoker recently indicated that the federal government’s proposed national integrity commission may be able to identify who contributed to Porter’s legal fund (The Saturday Paper). 
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Australia feels heat on climate

The Morrison government has been inundated with a new wave of diplomatic and business pressure to increase its climate targets, as a new report finds Australia the worst among developed nations on the issue.

What we know:

  • A new Climate Council report ranked Australia last among 31 developed nations on track to cut emissions, and equal last for its dependence on fossil fuel use and exports (Renew Economy); 
  • France’s ambassador called on the Morrison government to match the climate commitments of NSW and Victoria, warning short-term 2030 targets were particularly important (SMH); 
  • Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and his partner Annie pledged to devote $1.5bn by 2030 to efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C (AFR); 
  • An alliance of major Australian big businesses unveiled more ambitious 2030 targets, including Rio Tinto’s pledge to halve emissions (The Australian); 
  • Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is expected to deliver his party’s terms for accepting any net-zero deal to Prime Minister Scott Morrison today;
  • Analysis of the parliamentary register of interest finds five Nationals MPs and senators own shares in fossil-fuel companies (Crikey). 
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Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity

A Brazilian senate investigation has recommended President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with crimes against humanity over his handling of Covid-19, which has killed more than 600,000 Brazilians.

Senators leading the probe also accused Bolsonaro of charlatanism, incitement to crime, falsification of documents, irregular use of public funds, and preventive sanitary measure violations (CNN). 

Bolsonaro´s three sons are among 65 others also recommended to be charged with a variety of alleged crimes.

The senate report criticised the government’s discouragement of social distancing masks and vaccines, and its push towards ineffective treatments such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.

Allegations of genocide against Indigenous communities, which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, were dropped from the text due to a lack of consensus.

The commission’s senators are expected to vote on the final report next week and, if approved, the document will then go to Bolsonaro ally Attorney-General Augusto Aras.

The inquiry’s rapporteur Renan Calheiros also called for the report to be submitted to the International Criminal Court.

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Sweeping changes advised for cryptocurrency

A senate inquiry has recommended changes to taxation laws and regulatory regimes to encourage cryptocurrency businesses to Australia.

The committee recommended new powers for Treasury to control cryptocurrency exchanges, protecting investors, and the creation of a new governance model that would allow companies to be run by an internet community instead of executives (AFR). 

Crypto start-ups would be able to challenge debanking decisions at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, and banks would be required to conduct due diligence on players rather than enforce blanket bans.

The inquiry also advised that crypto miners be incentivised via a company tax discount to use renewable energy to generate their computer power.

Labor senators called for AUSTRAC to work with digital currency exchanges to ensure that Australia’s controls “do not create a permissive environment for terrorism financing and cybercrime”.

The global crypto market is worth $3.3tn, with more than 3m Australians thought to own cryptocurrency.

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QR codes to verify Indigenous art

The federal government has unveiled a plan to roll out QR codes that allow customers to check the authenticity and cultural significance of Indigenous artwork, in a bid to tackle fraud.

The initiative is part of a $27m annual funding boost for the Indigenous arts sector for five years (ABC). 

The funding will also help 80 remote and regional Indigenous arts centres connect to the NBN and be trained on how to connect to online markets.

The Commonwealth is also considering a certification system to ensure imitation Indigenous art can be readily identified as fake.

In 2018, a parliamentary inquiry found Indigenous artists felt cheated by mass-produced souvenirs pouring into the country from overseas and “stealing” their culture.

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I hope it’s helped the readers of the AFR think differently about those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

Former NSW Liberal minister Pru Goward responds to the backlash against her AFR column in which she tries to boost the reputation of the “underclass” by describing them as “lacking in trust and discipline”, “highly self-interested” and “appalling” housekeepers who “neglect … their children” (The Guardian).

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Postscript: What Does It Take to ‘Kill’ a Monument?

A research project tracks every statue of a racist figure that fell last summer — and suggests the possibility of their resurrection is looming (Hyper Allergic).

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