Lambie details PM’s threat

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie has alleged that Prime Minister Scott Morrison said she risked jail time if she disclosed details of a secret refugee deal.

What we know:

  • The Tasmanian senator claimed Morrison told her she risked jail time if she went public with details of the deal in a “quite threatening” exchange (news.com.au); 
  • Lambie disclosed the accusations in an interview published hours after the Morrison government announced it would take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees a year;
  • She said the Morrison government agreed to get hundreds of asylum seekers off Manus Island in exchange for her support to repeal “medevac” laws in 2019 (The Saturday Paper); 
  • Lambie said Morrison kept the details, which included a private agreement to accept the New Zealand offer, in a safe in Parliament House;
  • The New Zealand deal will have the country take up to 150 refugees a year for three years, for a total of 450 refugees (SBS); 
  • Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said refugees resettled in New Zealand “will not be able to come to Australia permanently” and that future refugee arrivals will not be eligible for the deal.
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Liberal donor secures Ukraine coal gift

The Morrison government did not approach any other major coalminers before pledging to buy 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal from a major Liberal donor to give to Ukraine.

What we know:

  • The Prime Minister on Sunday announced the purchase of coal from Whitehaven to donate to the Ukrainian government;
  • Asked if he had contacted other coal companies, Resources Minister Keith Pitt said Whitehaven was “the first company to give a positive response to the request” (The Guardian); 
  • “Given the urgency of the request I contacted Whitehaven management directly, who indicated they could provide the coal for Ukraine without disrupting existing contracts despite high international demand,” Pitt said;
  • Pitt added that the cost of acquiring the coal and sending it to Ukraine was “still being finalised” three days after publicly committing to the purchase;
  • Coalminer New Hope Group confirmed it had “not been approached by the federal government”;
  • The 70,000 tonnes is worth $31m and would only power a medium-sized coal-fired generator for up to five days (Renew Economy); 
  • It comes as dozens of nations pledged at a meeting of the International Energy Agency to radically reduce imports of Russian oil and gas over the invasion of Ukraine (AP); 
  • IEA executive director Fatih Birol warned the effort should not see heavily polluting coal replace Russian energy supplies, and that “the fight against climate change shouldn’t be a victim of Russia’s invasion”.
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ATAGI recommends winter booster

The nation’s top vaccine advisory group will today recommend a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose for vulnerable Australians ahead of winter.

ATAGI will recommend the fourth jab ahead of a feared surge in winter cases, as part of a transition to recommending a seasonal Covid-19 vaccine, similar to the flu shot (ABC). 

The recommendation will apply to over 65s, Indigenous Australians aged over 50, immunocompromised people, and residents of aged and disability care homes.

The first doses will be administered from the beginning of April.
ATAGI will also stress the importance of receiving a flu vaccine this year, warning the country could be in for a bad season.

It is also expected to recommend people wait between four and six months between vaccine doses or their last infection with the virus.

Australia recorded 36 deaths of people with Covid-19 on Thursday (ABC). 

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Morrison drops disgraced pastor

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has distanced himself from Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston, who has resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards two women.

Houston resigned from the church on Wednesday after complaints about his conduct by two women that led to an internal investigation (The New Daily). 

“I must admit we were very disappointed and shocked to hear the news,” Morrison said.

“My first thoughts were with the victims, as they’ve been rightly described, and so very concerned and the actions that have been taken are entirely appropriate.”

Morrison, who is a Pentecostal Christian but attends another church, falsely said he had not been to Hillsong for about 15 years.

Morrison’s last high-profile visit to Hillsong was actually in July 2019, when he joined thousands of Hillsong worshippers onstage for the corporation’s annual conference (Crikey). 

Morrison has cultivated links to Houston and Hillsong for years as a core part of his political identity (Crikey). 

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Perth casino survives damning report

Crown Resorts has been found unsuitable to hold a gaming licence in WA, but will be allowed to keep it anyway.

A Perth Casino Royal Commission found evidence of money laundering, junkets with links to criminals, and a failure to minimise gambling-related harm (ABC). 

The commission made 59 recommendations for Crown, the regulator and the government.

These include limits on gaming machines, increased penalties for regulatory offences, more staff for the regulator, and replacing the existing Casino Control Act.

WA Racing and Gaming Minister Tony Buti said some of the first actions his government would take in response to the report included changing legislation to give the minister greater power to direct the casino watchdog.

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I do not understand these Instagram influencers … who go out there, because it is idiotic.

WA Lands Minister John Carey welcomes the passage of a bill closing down an abandoned asbestos-mining town, which might have been Instagram-friendly but was definitely not health-friendly (ABC).

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Postscript: First patient to communicate via brain implant asks to hear Tool album

In the first study of its kind, scientists were able to communicate with a late-stage ALS patient using a brain implant and neural signals. Among the few requests he painstakingly communicated was a desire to listen to a Tool album (and loudly) (Lambgoat).

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