Turnbull backs teal independents

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will today encourage Australians to vote for independents, as momentum builds for challengers attempting to take once-safe Liberal seats.

What we know:

  • In a speech to the Harvard Club of Washington DC, Turnbull will say moderate voices have become marginalised in the Liberal Party on issues like climate since his departure (SMH); 
  • The former prime minister will note there is also growing support for independent candidates who are progressive on climate and social issues;
  • “If more of these ‘teal’ independents win, it will mean the capture of the Liberal Party will be thwarted by direct, democratic action from voters,” Turnbull will say;
  • It comes as Scott Morrison denies he has abandoned Liberals in inner-city electorates, with the Prime Minister yet to visit seats such as Wentworth and North Sydney (7News); 
  • Morrison did not directly address questions about whether he was “toxic” in the inner-city, but said his main focus was on seats where Labor was challenging the Coalition (The New Daily); 
  • Kooyong independent Monique Ryan meanwhile said that the Morrison government had done “nothing good for us in the last nine years” in a debate with the incumbent Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg (The Age); 
  • Independent Wentworth candidate Allegra Spender hit out at incumbent Liberal MP Dave Sharma for preferencing Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party second in how-to-vote cards (SBS); 
  • The Coalition has attempted to paint its new challengers as “fake independents”, spent big on billboards in the formerly safe seats, and minimised use of the Liberal logo in campaign material (The Conversation). 
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Conspiracies abound in defence debate

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has engaged in a fiery debate with his Labor ministerial counterpart Brendan O’Connor, as the Coalition unveils new defence spending plans.

What we know:

  • Dutton declared in the Thursday debate he has “no doubt” the Chinese Communist Party wants the Morrison government to lose the election (The Guardian); 
  • Dutton doubled down on previous rhetoric that a Labor government would “appease” China;
  • O’Connor criticised Dutton for fanning a “conspiracy theory” and said both major Australian parties had the same policy in dealing with a “more assertive, more aggressive, more coercive” China;
  • The pair derided each other as weaker on border security, and O’Connor shot down Dutton’s inflammatory commentary about joining any prospective US war in Taiwan;
  • “I think that you would put us in an incredibly precarious position if Labor again decided to break the alliance with the United States. I think that that would be a travesty,” Dutton responded;
  • O’Connor said the suggestion that Labor would break the alliance was absurd;
  • It comes as Dutton announced that the federal government will co-fund a $140m unmanned submarine development program with a US military firm (Innovation Aus); 
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison meanwhile will today announce a $108m plan to help train an additional 1500 workers for the nation's defence industry (Canberra Times).
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Detention leak details self-harm

Asylum seekers detained by Australia in Nauru are still frequently attempting suicide and self-harming, according to leaked emails from the island nation’s police force.

A trove of hundreds of thousands of Nauru Police Force emails were published this week by hackers protesting Australia’s policy of mandatory offshore processing (Crikey). 

Wilson Security, which is contracted by the Australian government to run Nauru’s processing centres, briefs the Nauru police each month on self harm, threats to self harm, hunger strikes and other incidents.

The emails reveal regular reports that detail threats and acts of arson, inciting riots and suicide attempts — and indifference and jokes among Nauru police about these incidents.

One police officer forwarded an email showing gruesome images of an asylum seeker who had slit their wrists, with the message: “Refer photo evidence of our drama detainee” with a smiling emoji.

The Australian Federal Police has contacted the company hosting the email leaks and asked to have them taken down, even after acknowledging “whistleblower protections and free media” in Australian and Icelandic law, because it is “enabling criminal activity”.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

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LNP candidate gives false address

A Queensland LNP candidate has falsely claimed he lives in his electorate when the address is in fact a derelict house.

Vivian Lobo, who is standing in Queensland’s most marginal seat of Lilley in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, provided false evidence to the electoral commission about his address (The Australian $). 

Neighbours said that no one had lived at the house for at least a year, which was deserted, empty of furniture and attached to an overgrown garden.

Lobo actually lives a 23-minute drive away in the upmarket suburb of Windsor in the neighbouring electorate of Brisbane.

The AEC classifies registering a false address as enrolment fraud, which can carry a penalty of 12 months’ jail.

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WHO counts 15 million Covid deaths

A new World Health Organization report finds almost three times as many people have died during the Covid-19 pandemic as official data shows.

According to the report there were 14.9m excess deaths associated with Covid-19 by the end of 2021 — well above the 5.4m officially recorded (Reuters). 

The figures reflect people who died of Covid-19 as well as those who died as an indirect result of the outbreak, including people who could not access healthcare for other conditions when systems were overwhelmed.

It also accounts for deaths averted during the pandemic, such as fewer road accidents during lockdowns.

The numbers are also far higher than the official tally because of deaths that were missed in countries without adequate reporting.

Almost half of the new tally of deaths were in India.

The report suggests that 4.7m people died there as a result of the pandemic, mainly during a huge surge in May and June 2021.

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The best parliaments are hung.

Greens candidate Stephen Bates advertises his wares on Grindr, in a bid to attract the voters of his dreams (The Guardian).

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Postscript: This Aussie Artist — Whose Alter Ego Should Be ‘The Milk Bar Kid’ — Immortalises Fading Parts of Australian Culture in His Nostalgic, Hyperreal Paintings

His portraits depicting suburban nostalgia are hyperreal, immortalising a fading part of Australian culture – including snack bars and video-rental shops like Blockbuster and Video Ezy – in an incredible amount of detail (Broadsheet).

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