Midnight approaches for Coalition

The Coalition has been accused of waiting until “five minutes to midnight” to rush key legislation through a hostile senate in the final parliamentary fortnight for 2021.

What we know:

  • The Morrison government is set to release legislation for a religious discrimination act, a commonwealth integrity commission, and voter ID laws (The Guardian); 
  • “They promised it before the last election, and here we are at five minutes to midnight, fiddling,” said Labor shadow minister Chris Bowen of the religious discrimination act;
  • Indigenous affairs minister Ken Wyatt is also set to present to cabinet a report on long-delayed promises of an Indigenous voice to parliament;
  • The controversial voter ID laws are unlikely to pass this year, as key crossbench senator Stirling Griff considers referral of the bill to an inquiry (The Advertiser); 
  • Many of the initiatives are likely to require Labor support, as three Coalition senators and One Nation have threatened to withhold their votes for government legislation in protest over vaccine mandates (SMH); 
  • One Nation leader Pauline Hanson will introduce a bill to parliament this week to try to force vaccine mandates to be relaxed.
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Door opens to overseas students

The Morrison government will today unveil a further easing of border restrictions, after the travel bubble between Singapore and Australia opened on Sunday.

What we know:

  • The Morrison government will ease restrictions on overseas students, skilled workers and humanitarian visa holders (AFR); 
  • After NSW and Victoria eased quarantine requirements, international students on Sunday flew into the country as travel reopened for the fully vaccinated between Australia and Singapore (Reuters); 
  • Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson said they were the first international students to enter Australia since small numbers returned in November last year;
  • “We understand these initial numbers are small, but they are a clear signal of the intent to allow many more students to return to classes and our communities soon,” Jackson said;
  • There are about 130,000 international students remaining outside Australia, she said;
  • A further 500 international students will arrive on December 7 as part of a NSW government initiative.
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Far right cartoons draw an audience

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is planning a second season of her animation series, as the far right turns to cartoons and irony to spread propaganda.

What we know:

  • Hanson has started discussions with Melbourne studio Stepmates to produce a second run of her cartoon that ridicules her opponents and presents her in a favourable light, after the first attracted half a million hits a week across social media platforms (The Australian); 
  • The new episodes, to feature Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, would coincide with the parliamentary term after May next year;
  • The series has experts concerned Hanson is drawing in unsuspecting viewers to convince them she has competence and integrity, and plans to dial up the polemic in future videos (The Guardian); 
  • Stepmates is run by two white male cartoonists, Mark Nicholson and Sebastian Peart, who have made the Trumpian vow to “make Australia funny again” (Pedestrian); 
  • In the US, far-right groups have harnessed memes and irony to spread their messages, which they downplay as “just a joke” when challenged (NPR); 
  • Right-wing activists are also trying to “red pill” kids by releasing children’s books that tout their ideology (Rolling Stone).
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Ousted Sudanese PM reinstated

Sudan’s ousted prime minister Abdalla Hamdok has been reinstated, after signing a new power-sharing agreement with the military leader who deposed him in a coup.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan signed the deal on Sunday with Hamdok, which sees the release of all political prisoners detained during the coup (Al Jazeera). 

The deal also stipulates that a 2019 constitutional declaration be the basis for a political transition.

“We should all come together to let the people decide who will take and hold the reins of power,” Hamdok said.

Dozens of protesters have been killed in mass demonstrations since the coup last month.

The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) civilian coalition dismissed the new deal, calling for protests to continue and for the military leaders responsible for the coup to face justice.

“We affirm our clear and previously announced position: no negotiation and no partnership and no legitimacy for the putschists,” the FFC said in a statement.

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Video released of missing tennis star

Unverified photos and videos appear to show Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai in public, after growing international concern over her whereabouts.

Peng had not been seen in public since she accused former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli on November 2 of coercing her into sex at his home (BBC). 

Official China Open tournament photos appear to show Peng among guests at the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Finals.

The state-backed Global Times meanwhile posted a video purportedly showing Peng having dinner at a restaurant in Beijing.

The UN, White House, and fellow players including world No.1 Novak Djokovic had called for proof of Peng’s whereabouts since she made the allegations (Tennis 365). 

The Women’s Tennis Association had also threatened to pull out of the Chinese part of its tour over Peng’s disappearance.

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I haven’t listened to it.

Weekend Sunrise host Matt Doran forgot to take care of one key detail before flying with a camera crew to London to interview Adele about her new album. Adele in turn reportedly decided not to listen to Channel 7’s pleas for access to the interview footage they paid $1m for (Pedestrian).

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Postscript: Asteroid Close Calls

Asteroids just 20m wide can destroy a city. So far, humans have discovered 266 asteroids with possible diameters of this size that have passed or will pass closer to Earth than the moon. This chart shows each flyby at its relative distance from Earth (The Planetary Society).

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