Hunt and Porter join retirement club

Federal parliament wraps up for the year today, with Health Minister Greg Hunt and former attorney-general Christian Porter set to retire from politics.

What we know:

  • Hunt is expected to call time on his 20-year political career, despite repeatedly claiming he intends to contest the next election (AFR); 
  • Hunt holds the seat of Flinders on a margin of 5.6%, with former Liberal staffer Zoe McKenzie among likely Liberal preselection candidates;
  • Porter announced his retirement on Wednesday, declaring “I have experienced perhaps more of the harshness of modern politics than most”, after he was criticised over rape allegations and secret donations to fund his legal bills (The Guardian); 
  • “Porter isn’t leaving [because] of ‘harshness of politics’ — he’s had nothing but brutish protection from Morrison and cabinet who closed ranks around him when allegations were exposed and rabid cheerleading of half [the] Murdoch press,” tweeted Sally Rugg, national director of Australians for a Murdoch Royal Commission; 
  • Porter’s ordinarily safe seat of Pearce could prove difficult to hold for the Coalition, given its margin has been slashed to 5.2% by a redistribution and the popularity of the Labor state government;
  • The two politicians will join seven other retiring Coalition MPs – Kevin Andrews, Ken O'Dowd, Nicolle Flint, Andrew Laming, John Alexander, Steve Irons and George Christensen;
  • Six Labor MPs are also departing parliament – Sharon Bird, Julie Owens, Warren Snowdon, Joel Fitzgibbon, Nick Champion and Chris Hayes;
  • Today is the last sitting day for the year, and could also be the last time parliament meets before the next election (7News). 

Labor cuts charity donor deal with Liberals

Labor has helped pass a bill that forces charities to reveal donors for all advocacy, in exchange for the Coalition agreeing to drop its proposal to require voters show identification at the 2022 federal election.

The deal comes despite the Coalition appearing to lack the numbers to pass either bill (The Guardian). 

Under the deal struck between the Coalition and Labor, the proposed legislation was changed to raise the new disclosure threshold from $100,000 to $250,000, and rename political campaigners “significant third party”, to address concerns charities’ status would be under threat for their advocacy.

The charities sector has expressed disappointment with the bill, which now requires they demonstrate they are non-partisan to maintain their status, which could be imperilled by advocacy spending above the threshold.

Charities have warned that the legislation aims to stifle protest, particularly when civil disobedience is involved (The Saturday Paper).


Victorian pandemic bill over first hurdle

Victoria’s pandemic legislation is set to be made law today, following a marathon 21-hour debate.

The overhauled bill passed through the lower house, where the government controls the numbers, just after 7pm on Wednesday (The Age). 

It’s expected to clear a final vote in the upper house with the support of four crossbench MPs on Thursday.

The bill was substantially amended from the initial version, with legal experts saying it will include the most rigorous safeguards against human rights abuses in the nation.

A review of the legislation will take place 18 months after it is given the royal assent.

Under the changes, it will be up to the premier to declare a pandemic and the health minister to issue public health orders, replacing the current state of emergency powers that leave the decision to the chief health officer.

A new independent panel of experts will be set up to review detention orders imposed, and a  non-government MP will chair a joint parliamentary committee.

Aggravated offences will be dropped, as will planned rules that would have allowed the government to explicitly discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnicity or religion to protect public health.


Weatherill catches Covid at school reunion

Former SA premier Jay Weatherill has tested positive for Covid-19, as the state records its first instances of local transmission since reopening the borders.

Weatherill was at a school reunion on Saturday in Norwood, in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs, with other interstate travellers (9News). 

He has taken part in a number of high-level meetings during his time in SA while visiting from his home in Perth, including with Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas.

Malinauskas said he would get tested and isolate for the time being.

SA’s parliament will be adjourned on Thursday morning, and all MPs and staff directed to avoid in-person meetings (ABC). 

At least two other South Australians caught the virus after attending the event, with authorities suspecting it came from an interstate traveller.

They are the first cases of local transmission in SA since the state’s borders reopened eight days ago.


New laws target human rights abusers

Australia is set to get sweeping new laws allowing targeted sanctions on individual perpetrators of serious human rights violations, after the legislation passed the Senate with unanimous support late on Wednesday.

It is expected to sail through the lower house today with bipartisan backing (SBS). 

The laws will also allow Australia to impose travel bans to prevent offenders from using the country as a safe haven.

The legislation allows for the targeting of human rights abusers, corrupt officials and cyber hackers.

Australian Centre for International Justice executive director Rawan Arraf said the introduction of the targeted sanctions laws were “long overdue”.

“We hope the Australian government will approach the use of this new sanctions power consistently, equally and free from double-standards,” she said.


Katy Perry is an artist. Artists are emotional people.

Katy Perry’s manager explains why the American singer disparaged an Australian designer who shares the same name, with the two locked in a court battle over trademark rights to the name on branded clothing (ABC).


Postscript: How The World’s Foremost Maze-maker Leads People Astray

Fisher will happily design a labyrinth inscribed with religious quotations for a megachurch in North Carolina; a maze adventure with an artificial volcano, lake, and safe room for a Middle Eastern princess; a thumb-size maze tattoo for an anonymous female client; and a vertical maze for a fifty-five-story skyscraper in Dubai, with meanders that double as balconies ... he told me that he has won nine Guinness World Records for superlative mazes of various sorts. “Of course, I wrote the rules about how a maze qualifies for the Guinness Book of Records,” he added (The New Yorker).


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