Morrison picks trans rights fight

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s support for Liberals moving to ban transgender women from competing in women’s sports has attracted criticism from party moderates and equality advocates.

What we know:

  • Morrison on Monday expressed admiration for Liberal senator Claire Chandler and Liberal candidate for Warringah Katherine Deves for spruiking a bill on the issue, and said he would have “more to say” on it (SBS); 
  • “I welcome Katherine’s selection, pleased to play a role in that, I think she's raised very important issues … I think Claire Chandler has also been outspoken and brave on these issues,” he said;
  • Chandler’s bill would change the laws to “clarify” that the operation of single-sex sport on the basis of biological sex was not discriminatory;
  • Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown condemned Morrison’s expression of support;
  • “We need our politicians to stop using trans people as political footballs,” she said;
  • Liberal senator Andrew Bragg said a change wasn’t necessary because the Sex Discrimination Act already contained carve-outs for strength and stamina (The Guardian); 
  • Other government moderates, who declined to be named, expressed concern that Morrison was elevating the controversy during the election;
  • “I don’t know why we’d go near this stuff – we don’t need this during an election campaign,” one Liberal MP said;
  • Chandler on Monday sent out an email to supporters asking for donations to a $45,000 fund to fight against “radical activists pushing their gender fluid ideology and silencing women”;
  • An Equality Australia survey of almost 7800 people showed one in three LGBTIQ voters was either undecided or considering changing their vote this election (The Australian $). 
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Liberals bleeding NSW members

The internal fight within the NSW Liberals over preselections has led to a mass exodus of members.

What we know:

  • 325 members have quit this year, compared to just 102 members in 2020 and 160 in 2019 (SMH); 
  • Recruitment has also fallen to 1211 — compared to the 2319 new members signed up in 2019, although that was an election year;
  • The membership figures were presented to the party’s state executive meeting on Friday night;
  • The figures do not include those who had allowed their membership to lapse, but had specifically quit the party;
  • The exodus comes after local branch preselections were abandoned in 12 NSW seats following an intervention by Morrison and Immigration Minister Alex Hawke;
  • “The damage Hawke and Morrison have deliberately caused to the Liberal Party will long outlast Morrison’s prime ministership,” an anonymous member of the state executive said;
  • It follows revelations that in 2007 Hawke recruited Michael Towke as a clandestine operative for the Liberal right, before Tawke was rolled by Morrison for preselection in the safe seat of Cook (The Saturday Paper).
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Officers escape Afghan war crimes

No officers have been sacked or demoted over failures identified in the war crimes inquiry into Afghanistan, following a directive from Defence Minister Peter Dutton.

The Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, has shelved any punishment for seven senior army officers who failed to prevent war crimes and has exonerated a further 21, saying they should “learn from their experiences” (The Australian $). 

The war crimes allegations were detailed in the Brereton inquiry, which found “credible information” that 25 special ­forces soldiers killed 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians.

Dutton ordered that the military wait for criminal investigations into the findings of the inquiry before officers faced any consequences.

Defence, however, has issued termination notices issued to 17 lower-ranked soldiers for “alleged failure to meet ADF expectations and values”.

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Covid cases to vote by phone

Australians who have to isolate due to Covid-19 restrictions will be able to vote by phone, under new rules for the upcoming federal election.

The Australian Electoral Commission has confirmed a telephone voting system will be in place for confirmed cases or close contacts (SBS). 

Voters who have missed pre-polling and postal vote options will have to formally declare that they are subject to a health order to access the measure.

The AEC is also in negotiations with state and territory chief health officers to allow close contacts to leave the house on election day so they can vote (The Age). 

It comes as authorities weigh up when to generally relax requirements for close contacts of positive cases to isolate for seven days.

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Finland and Sweden set to join NATO

Finland and Sweden look set to join NATO in a matter of months, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

US defence officials said the invasion has been a “massive strategic blunder" that is likely to see the Nordic neighbours bid for membership of the alliance (BBC). 

Finnish MPs are expected to receive a security report from intelligence officials this week ahead of a decision by the middle of the year.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party, which has traditionally opposed NATO membership, is also reviewing its stance on the matter.

“When Russia invaded Ukraine, Sweden's security position changed fundamentally,” the party said in a statement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia would have to “rebalance the situation” with its own measures were Sweden and Finland to join NATO.

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Is that a serious question? Anthony Albanese didn’t know the unemployment, alright, so what?

Former Liberal prime minister John Howard, who faced plenty of gotcha questions in his decades in politics, proves an unlikely defender of the Labor leader, after Albanese failed to recite the correct unemployment rate and reserve bank interest rate (SMH).

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Postscript: Thieves make away with 500-tonne iron bridge in Bihar

The villagers said that over several days the thieves chipped off parts of the iron bridge by posing as State Irrigation Department officials engaged in dismantling work of the bridge as it had become old and decrepit. A parallel new concrete bridge was laid nearby over the rivulet (The Hindu).

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