Australian troops deployed to Solomons

Australia will deploy federal police, diplomats and troops to the Solomon Islands, following rioting in the capital Honiara.

What we know:

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that the deployment is in response to a formal request by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (The New Daily); 
  • Some 23 Australian Federal Police will be deployed immediately, with a further 50 soldiers arriving in the coming days to be stationed for several weeks;
  • On Wednesday, protesters arrived on the steps of Solomon Islands’ Parliament demanding the prime minister’s resignation (Al Jazeera); 
  • Many of the protesters had arrived from Malaita, the country’s most populous island, which has close ties to Taiwan and feels excluded from economic development;
  • Sogavare’s decision to extend diplomatic recognition to China in 2019 created a schism with the Malaita provincial government that has grown ever since;
  • The initially peaceful protests soon escalated, with some people attempting to storm the parliament;
  • Police in turn fired tear gas at the protesters, who descended into rioting and razing buildings;
  • Several shops owned and operated by ethnic-Chinese residents of the capital were destroyed;
  • China on one side and the US with Taiwan on the other are competing for geopolitical influence over the country (The Interpreter). 
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Morrison baulks at integrity ‘kangaroo court’

Scott Morrison has accused critics of wanting a “kangaroo court”, after Liberal moderate Bridget Archer crossed the floor to support a push to establish a federal integrity commission.

What we know:

  • Morrison cited the ICAC inquiry into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian as reason not support a federal integrity commission that allowed public hearings (The Guardian); 
  • “The premier of NSW was done over by a bad process, an abuse … I’m not going to have a kangaroo court taken into this parliament,” Morrison said;
  • It follows Archer crossing the floor to give an independent corruption commission proposal a 66-64 majority (The Examiner); 
  • However, a technicality in the chamber’s rules means there had to be an absolute majority of 76 MPs in favour to proceed – a near impossibility amid the pandemic rules, with about 10 politicians from each side absent from Parliament this week (SMH); 
  • Independent MP Helen Haines, who proposed the legislation, blasted the “undemocratic technicality” that stopped the motion from succeeding;
  • Archer, the seventh government MP or senator to cross the floor this week, was ushered into a meeting with Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Marise Payne, where she declined the offer of a “pair” for next week (The Conversation); 
  • Archer’s marginal seat of Bass is one of the key seats where the federal election is expected to be won or lost (The Saturday Paper). 
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First Nations murder investigations probed

A Senate parliamentary inquiry will examine the policing processes used in First Nations murder and missing persons investigations.

Greens senator and Yamatji-Noongar woman Dorinda Cox helped secure the support of the Senate to establish the inquiry, which will examine the policing processes used in the investigations (ABC).

The former WA police liaison officer said the inquiry would collect data to assess the disparity in resources allocated to cases involving First Nations women and children.

“It will have a look at all of the investigative practices, policies, resources that are committed to create evidence and to gather evidence for these cases,” Cox said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 11 times more likely to die due to assault than non-Indigenous women and are hospitalised due to family violence-related assaults at 32 times the rate of non-Indigenous women.

The inquiry will look to identify “concrete and effective” actions to remove systemic causes of all forms of violence against Aboriginal women and children.

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Human rights pick takes on jab mandates

Australia’s controversial new human rights commissioner Lorraine Finlay has officially started in the role, prioritising restoring rights and freedoms she says have been lost during the pandemic.

The former Liberal candidate said her focus would also be on freedom of speech, religion, movement, association, and human trafficking (The Mandarin). 

Finlay warned the federal government it needed to “be careful” when imposing broad vaccine mandates across the country (PerthNow). 

It comes after bureaucrats privately raised concerns about Finlay’s appointment as Human Rights Commissioner, worrying that the lack of a transparent selection process would attract public criticism (Crikey). 

She has opposed gender quotas for women, advocated the abolition of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, and called an Indigenous voice to Parliament “political segregation”.

Australian of the Year Grace Tame called Finlay’s appointment a “grave mistake”, pointing to her appearance on a YouTube video with men’s rights activist Bettina Arndt.

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NZ Opposition leader ousted

Judith “Crusher” Collins has been ousted as leader of New Zealand’s National Party opposition, following a crisis caucus meeting on Thursday.

Collins was voted out after she stripped former leader Simon Bridges of his portfolio following allegations that he made comments of a sexual nature towards a caucus colleague five years ago (The Spinoff). 

The move came after extended speculation she would be deposed as the Nationals lag in the polls and libertarian party ACT surges to contend as the main opposition party (Stuff.co.nz). 

Interim leader Shane Reti is the fifth Nationals leader in four years, with a sixth to be elected next Tuesday.

Contenders including Bridges as well as Auckland MPs Mark Mitchell and Christopher Luxon.

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There’s a sense of the government being dragged kicking and screaming to where they should be.

Former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel emerges as the latest independent to challenge for an inner-city Liberal seat — the Melbourne bayside seat of Goldstein. The incumbant Tim Wilson is likely kicking and screaming as we speak (The Age).

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Postscript: Pot twist — Australian company wrongly named by Taliban over Afghanistan cannabis deal

A small Australian medical services consultancy has found itself embroiled in a mix-up after being wrongly identified in a business deal with the Taliban to set up a cannabis processing plant in Afghanistan (SBS).

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