Liberal MPs join gallows protest

State Liberal MPs have mingled with a mob chanting violent slogans on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament in protest of proposed pandemic laws, while plans to extend NSW emergency powers have been abandoned.

In Victoria:

  • Up to 500 protesters occupying the steps of Parliament forcibly ejected a journalist and issued violent threats, including one speaker who said of Premier Daniel Andrews, “I look forward to the day I get to see you dance on the end of a rope” (The Age); 
  • Video of the protesters shows them gathered around a wooden gallows on Monday chanting “Freedom”, “Traitor”, and “Hang Dan Andrews” while attempting to place the head of an inflatable doll of the premier through the noose;
  • Four state Liberal MPs mingled with the protesters on Tuesday, including Bernie Finn, who last week shared a doctored picture of Andrews dressed as Adolf Hitler;
  • Finn posted a selfie with the mob, which he described as “a couple of thousand of my closest friends”;
  • The protests are against a bill that gives the premier and health minister the power to declare a pandemic and make public health orders, with debate extending late last night (7News); 
  • It is all but guaranteed to pass after the government made amendments to secure the support of three crossbench MPs, including that parliament will be given immediate ability to scrutinise any order (The Guardian). 

In NSW:

  • Premier Dominic Perrottet dumped a bill seeking to expand the state’s Covid-19 emergency powers until 2023 (The Australian); 
  • It had been approved by cabinet but faced opposition from Liberal backbenchers in a bitter partyroom backlash;
  • Health Minister Brad Hazzard had been pushing to retain the powers to require quarantine or self-isolation for people exposed to Covid-19 (7News); 
  • Perrottet said he’d defer the decision on extending the powers until 2022.
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Covid hits remote NT communities

Aboriginal Territorians make up all nine new cases of Covid-19 recorded in the NT, sparking concerns that the virus is spreading undetected in vulnerable remote communities.

What we know:

  • The new cases bring the NT cluster to 11 cases in total, with the town of Katherine and the remote Aboriginal community of Robinson River going into lockdown for a week (NITV); 
  • The cases include a 65-year-old woman in Royal Darwin Hospital, and a 71-year-old man and 5-year-old twin sisters in the care of the Centre for National Resilience at Howard Springs;
  • Robinson River has about 350 residents and 77 per cent of those eligible for vaccination have had two doses, while vaccination teams are also on the ground in Borroloola, about 100km from Robinson River;
  • “This is potentially our Wilcannia moment,” said Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT chief John Paterson, in reference to the largely Indigenous NSW town ravaged by Covid-19;
  • It comes as TV personality Ernie Dingo is set to drive from Perth to the Pilbara as part of a federal government campaign to boost vaccination rates among Indigenous communities (ABC); 
  • As of November 9, 81.1% of Australians aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated, but just 54.5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated (NewsGP). 
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PM’s office stalled on Higgins FOI

The department of prime minister and cabinet stalled on providing documents about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins for so long it breached freedom of information law.

In April, the department received a FOI request for documents relating to its handling of the case (The Guardian). 

The request asked for emails sent or received by a specific official that contained the keyword “Brittany”.

Although the FOI captured just 20 relevant documents, the department secured multiple extensions for the inquiry, and still failed to meet a legally imposed deadline of June 4, 2021.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner found the incident breached FOI law.

The department claimed it had been delayed by the complex and sensitive nature of the request, and by an apparent requirement that “all PM&C FOI decisions are to be noted by relevant senior executives and the prime minister’s office”.

A decision was eventually made in July 2021, when the department released just two of 20 relevant documents.

The rest of the documents were blocked for reasons including personal privacy and that they could compromise the efficient and proper conduct of the department.

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Coal protesters face 25 years jail

Two anti-coal protesters face up to 25 years in jail for blocking railways to the world’s largest coal port.

Claire Tobin, 28, and Emily Wood-Trounce, 24, have been charged with a range of offences that include acting with intent to kill or injure person on railway, and to cause obstruction to railway locomotive or rolling stock and endangering safety of person on railway (The Daily Telegraph). 

Court documents allege Tobin suspended herself with a rope to a tree across railway lines, while Wood-Trounce locked herself on to a steel pipe concreted into the edge of the railway.

At a hearing at Newcastle Court the pair was granted conditional bail, ordered to return to Victoria and banned from re-entering NSW.

“The allegations are a result of calculated disruption to coal in the rail corridor,” said police prosecutor Rebecca Witherspoon.

Since November five officers have arrested 18 people including the two women in relation to protests by Blockade Australia.

A Blockade Australia spokesperson said “threatening protesters with 25-year prison sentences for blocking coal trains without causing physical harm to anyone is a draconian overreach of police power” (The New Daily). 

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Cabinet waters down faith discrimination bill

The Morrison government cabinet has signed off on a dramatically scaled-back version of its proposed religious discrimination bill.

The so-called Folau clause to give people more right to offend others when making claims on the basis of their faith has been scrapped (The Guardian). 

Also dropped is the ability for health providers to refuse treatment on the basis of “conscientious objection” after complaints from health experts about the implications for abortion and contraception.

It also retains a clause that allows faith-based institutions such as religious schools to discriminate against people who do not share their faith.

Liberal MP Katie Allen has reserved the right to cross the floor on the legislation over her concern it could still enable discrimination, while conservative MP George Christensen may do the same because it does not go far enough.

It comes as religious leaders condemn a Victorian government move to prohibit faith-based schools from refusing to hire teachers or enrol students based on their gender identity or sexuality (The Age). 

 

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The publications by the Seven Network led to Mr Flowers being made the subject of hate around the nation ... and resulted in him being hospitalised with a severe panic attack.

Indigenous man Terrance Flowers takes Seven to court over incorrectly claiming he abducted Cleo Smith —  reminding Australia that defamation actions have a useful function beyond silencing the critics of powerful politicians (NITV).

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Postscript: QAnon, fan fiction, and the blurry line between reality and fantasy

The conspiracy theory, which borrowed from the creative writing community to tell its story, has more in common with Harry Potter than you might think (The Story).

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