Backbench revolt over PM’s agenda

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing backbench revolts in every direction, with moderates and conservatives threatening to withdraw support for different parts of his legislative agenda.

What we know:

  • Tasmanian Liberal Bridget Archer said she is “offended” a religious discrimination bill is being prioritised over a federal integrity commission, and is prepared to cross the floor to support an independent proposal (The Guardian); 
  • A group of moderate Liberal MPs have gone public with calls to address the treatment of gay students in the religious discrimination legislation (SMH); 
  • NT Country Liberal Party senator Sam McMahon is considering crossing the floor to vote against the federal government's proposed voter ID laws, over concerns of the impact on Indigenous voters (ABC); 
  • Coalition backbencher George Christensen, part of a group of conservatives threatening to withhold support for government legislation over vaccine mandates, crossed the floor to vote with Labor on a litigation funding bill (7News); 
  • Christensen called for civil disobedience as he likened state and territory Covid-19 restrictions to the regimes of Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot (ABC); 
  • “State premiers are racing down that familiar path, trying to outsmart each other, drunk on power, setting up their own biosecurity, police states completely medical apartheid,” he said; 
  • Morrison declined to directly condemn Christensen by name over the call for civil disobedience at a time when death threats have been levelled over vaccine mandates.
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Morrison jig of joy over gas approval

Prime Minister Scott Morrison claims he “did a bit of a jig” after hearing one of the biggest fossil fuel projects in Australia had achieved final investment approval.

What we know:

  • In a speech to the Business Council of Australia on Wednesday, Morrison said he had celebrated Woodside’s decision to go ahead with the $16.2bn Scarborough gas project in WA (The Guardian); 
  • “I did a bit of a jig out of the chamber … I just could not be more thrilled about that. It is such a shot in the arm for the economy and it will power us into the future,” Morrison said;
  • He said Australia’s plan to achieve net zero emissions did not mean “walking away from our strengths” such as gas;
  • The Conservation Council of WA said Woodside represented the most polluting fossil fuel development in recent memory;
  • In May, the International Energy Agency said limiting global heating to 1.5C meant development of new fossil fuel projects had to stop this year;
  • WA Premier Mark McGowan meanwhile threatened that his government would intervene to “keep industries open” if a Supreme Court action overturned environmental approval of Scarborough (ABC);  
  • Protesters blocked off a road leading to Woodside's Burrup Peninsula site in opposition to the planned expansion.
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Dutton wins defamation case

Peter Dutton has been awarded $35,000 in a defamation action against refugee advocate Shane Bazzi over a tweet that accused the Defence Minister of being "a rape apologist".

Bazzi’s six-word tweet linked to a story quoting Dutton saying some refugee women on Nauru who alleged they had been raped were “trying it on” in order to come to Australia (SBS). 

The tweet was posted hours after Dutton drew criticism for referring to the “he said, she said” details of former Coalition staffer Brittany Higgins’s rape complaint.

Bazzi, through lawyer Richard Potter SC, told the court he was expressing his honestly held opinion that was based on fact.

But the Federal Court determined the tweet went beyond the facts of the article.

It follows Dutton arguing that taxpayer funds should be available to members of parliament for defamation actions as a “workplace entitlement” (The Saturday Paper). 

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Rapper sweeps night at the ARIAs

Ghanaian-Australian rapper Genesis Owusu has dominated the ARIAs, securing four awards including the prestigious Album of the Year for his debut Smiling With No Teeth.

Owusu also bagged Best Hip-Hop Release, Best Independent Release and Best Cover Art (NME). 

“This means so much to me. For all those people, Goon Club worldwide, eccentrics, Black people, know that it’s not up to us to change for people but it’s up to people to catch up and see what they’ve been missing out on,” Owusu said while accepting the award.

Others to secure multiple awards include The Kid LAROI, who picked up Best Artist and Best Pop Release, while RUFUS DU SOL was recognised with Best Dance Release and Best Group.

Newcomer Budjerah won his first ARIA as the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist.

In the fan-voted categories, Lime Cordiale won Best Live Artist, Vance Joy landed Music Video of the Year, and Taylor Swift got the nod for Best International.

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DART fired to collide with asteroid

NASA has launched a spacecraft that it plans to smash into an asteroid, in a mission that serves as a test run should a space rock ever need to be deflected from a collision course with Earth.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) craft blasted off a California launch site on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (Physics World). 

It will travel for 10 months before slamming into a binary asteroid, to see if the kinetic impact of a spacecraft could deflect its path.

The target is a 780m diameter asteroid called Didymos, which is orbited by the smaller 160m Dimorphos.

The mission also contains an imaging satellite that will detach before the collision to record the impact – and whether the asteroid was deflected.

“DART is a critical next step for planetary defence. It is, on the surface, a simple test, but we will not completely understand what will happen until we do it,” said planetary astronomer Cristina Thomas from Northern Arizona University.

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Penny Wong’s speech today could have been written by Paul Keating.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton hits back at Wong’s criticism of his China rhetoric by equating her speech to a Keating oratory — which is a bit like criticizing someone for only running as fast as Usain Bolt (news.com.au).

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Postscript: Walmart pulls children’s toy that swears and sings in Polish about doing cocaine off its website.

An Ontario grandmother who bought an educational toy for her 15-month-old granddaughter was shocked when the dancing cactus started swearing and singing about doing cocaine. “This toy uses swear words and talking about cocaine use,” Ania Tanner told CTV News Toronto. “This is not what I ordered for my granddaughter” (CTV).

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