China rages against ‘Asia-Pacific NATO’

China has criticised Australia’s “colonial mentality” over the Solomon Islands and participation in an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO” with the US and UK, as regional tensions continue to mount.

What we know:

  • Two Australian intelligence chiefs quietly travelled to the Solomon Islands to raise concerns over a security agreement that the country is about to sign with China (ABC); 
  • The heads of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Office of National Intelligence met with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Wednesday to discuss “core security concerns”;
  • Sogavare gave no sign he would abandon the deal;
  • The arrangement has concerned Pacific neighbours as it would allow China to use its military “to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects” in the country, which has suffered anti-Chinese riots in recent years (ASPI); 
  • China denounced Australia and New Zealand for their ­“colonial mentality” and claims that a military base would be built were “misinformation” (The Australian $); 
  • China separately accused the US, UK and Australia of trying to build an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO” after the countries announced they will jointly develop hypersonic weapons (ABC); 
  • The country also condemned the US-proposed sale of equipment related to the Patriot air defence system to Taiwan, saying China would “take strong measures to resolutely defend its sovereignty and security interest”.
  • It follows Australia’s defence minister Peter Dutton announcing $3.5bn for long-range strike missiles for fighter jets and warships, as he warns of “an act of aggression by China towards Taiwan” (The Defense Post).
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Morrison berated in pub

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced further criticism out in public and from within his party over his leadership and handling of preselections.

What we know:

  • Morrison was confronted by angry locals while visiting the Edgeworth Tavern in Lake Macquarie on Wednesday night;
  • A disability support pensioner berated Morrison at length over a lack of financial support for older Australians and failed promises to introduce an integrity commission (ABC); 
  • Another woman at the pub videoed herself appearing to take a selfie with a grinning Morrison, only to tell him: “congratulations on being the worst prime minister we’ve ever had.” (news.com.au); 
  • Michael Towke, who accused Scott Morrison of “racial vilification” in a Liberal ballot more than a decade ago, has made fresh claims a federal cabinet minister texted him to say, “I believe you” (SMH); 
  • A Liberal party member seeking a high court challenge against federal intervention in NSW preselections has been expelled from the party (The Guardian). 
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Rockliff set for Tasmania’s top job

Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff is set to become the next Tasmanian premier, as the party waits to see if his main rival will challenge or push for the deputy role.

The moderate Liberal confirmed he would stand as premier in a party meeting on Friday, following the retirement of outgoing Premier Peter Gutwein (The Mercury). 

State Development Minister Michael Ferguson is considered the main potential challenger, but there are reports the conservative has ruled out a tilt at the top job (The Australian $). 

Instead he appears set to challenge for the deputy position, which Attorney-General Elise Archer is also pushing for.

Archer, from the southern seat of Clark, publicly pitched herself as providing the right geographical and gender counterweight to Rockliff, who is from the northwest seat of Braddon.

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Commonwealth argues for ‘alien’ powers

The Australian government has argued in court that Parliament should have the power to define “aliens”, to allow the deportation of Aboriginal non-citizens and dual nationals.

Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue made the submission on behalf of the Commonwealth in a High Court appeal seeking to overturn a ruling that Aboriginal people cannot be deported, even if they lack Australian citizenship (The Guardian). 

The case relates to Shayne Montgomery, a New Zealand citizen who has argued that because he is culturally adopted as Aboriginal he cannot be an alien for the purposes of the constitution.

Donaghue argued that Parliament should have the power to define “aliens”, unless it seeks to exclude people who “could not possibly answer that description”, such as people born in Australia.

Craig Lenehan, also representing the Commonwealth, argued “there is no universal, one-size-fits-all test of Aboriginality”, but a test for the purposes of immigration law should include biological descent because it provided an “unambiguous” limit.

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Uni staff quit over interference

A group of academics has quit the Australia India Institute at Melbourne University, alleging interference by the Indian High Commission.

A letter signed by 13 affiliated fellows sent to vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell alleges the Indian High Commissioner to Australia intervened in the institute’s activities, blanketing research or views unflattering to India (The Age). 

The academics claim there was a reluctance to publicise commentary on caste and race, and that official events had “carried the flavour of propaganda”.

They say events on India that were “likely to be controversial” have been discouraged.

The institute was designed in 2009 to strengthen relations with India, at a time of reports of attacks against Indian students in Australia.

The university claims decisions not to publish particular articles were “not restrictions of academic freedom, but rather are an exercise based on editorial judgement as practiced by academic institutions everywhere”.

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Basically [Brian Houston] said ... ‘This church is mine. I will make your life small. I will squash it’.

Two former pastors accuse Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston of sending threatening emails regarding the transfer of their church and money. As Jesus proclaimed in his Sermon on the Mount: blessed be the meek, for they can be intimidated into giving up their assets (ABC).

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Postscript: Mark Zuckerberg Says Meta Employees ‘Lovingly’ Refer to Him as ‘The Eye of Sauron’

Some of the folks I work with at the company — they say this lovingly — but I think that they sometimes refer to my attention as the Eye of Sauron. You have this unending amount of energy to go work on something, and if you point that at any given team, you will just burn them (Consequence).

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