Home Affairs interfered with damning report

Department of Home Affairs officials demanded that independent researchers water down a report critical of counterterrorism powers allowing individuals to be imprisoned for a crime they had yet to commit, newly revealed documents show.

What we know:

  • In 2018, the Home Affairs Department engaged leading researchers at the Australian National University to review the accuracy of tools designed to assess the risk of someone committing a future terrorism offence (The Guardian); 
  • Australia’s preventive detention regime for terrorism offenders allows individuals to be imprisoned for up to three years to prevent a future crime;
  • The report was damning, finding a lack of evidence had “serious implications” for the validity and reliability of the assessment tools;
  • New freedom of information disclosures show that Home Affairs ordered the researchers to “reconsider how to express your finding” and “revisit the writing tone” to avoid suggestions that “the Australian government should dispense with both tools”;
  • The report was published with some changes, though it remained scathing and the ANU said “no changes were made to the fundamental research outcomes”;
  • The former Coalition government was handed the report in May 2020 but sat on it and did not provide it to courts in cases where continuing detention orders or extended supervision orders were being considered (The Guardian); 
  • A parliamentary committee is reviewing the use of preventative detention orders, with a Liberty Victoria and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties submission calling for their abolishment (Liberty Victoria); 
  • The organisations said “it can never be acceptable to deprive a person of liberty for what they might do in the future, when there is no valid or reliable way of assessing the likelihood of future re-offending”;
  • State governments have also passed laws enabling use of preventative detention for other crimes, which are being used to disproportionately punish Indigenous offenders (The Saturday Paper). 

Musk hits back at ABC

Elon Musk has accused the ABC of favouring “censorship”, after the national broadcaster left X, the social media network formerly known as Twitter.

What we know:

  • The ABC moved this week to dump all but four of its social media accounts on X, citing concerns about toxic interactions and increasing costs (Mumbrella); 
  • The ABC said it had made the decision after experiencing “positive” results from shutting down three of its Twitter accounts earlier this year, which resulted in a “negligible” drop in traffic;
  • Since buying Twitter in 2022, Musk has slashed the company’s workforce and reduced policing of hate speech and harassment;
  • “Concerningly, X has reduced its trust and safety teams,” said the ABC;
  • “Well of course they prefer censorship-friendly social media — the Australian public does not,” Musk posted in response to the move on Thursday (The New Daily); 
  • The ABC is the third big public service broadcaster to remove itself from Twitter, following US broadcasters NPR and PBS in April (The Guardian); 
  • NPR and PBS left Twitter after Musk branded them “state-affiliated media”, later changed to “government-funded media”, which the ABC was also labelled;
  • It comes amid revelations that the US obtained a search warrant for Donald Trump’s Twitter account, with the company’s initial resistance leading to a $US350,000 fine (Politico); 
  • Musk last month rebranded Twitter to X, in a step towards his long-touted plan to create a ubiquitous “everything app” of the future (7am). 

SA nuclear waste dump dropped

Plans for a nuclear waste dump in regional SA have been scrapped by the federal government.

The waste dump was to be built on land at Napandee near the town of Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula (AAP). 

The decision was challenged in the Federal Court by traditional owners, the Barngarla people, who said it was made without consultation, and the court subsequently ruled that the dump could not be built.

Resources Minister Madeleine King told federal parliament she was “deeply sorry for the uncertainty the process has created for the Kimba community” and that the government would look for a new location.

Liberal senator Simon Birmingham said on social media that the “gutless decision reeks of putting short-term politics ahead of Australia’s long term interest”.

Defence land at Woomera in SA has been touted as a likely alternative (AFR $). 

The push for Kimba to host the site had divided the regional town, with detractors questioning the millions spent on building community support (The Saturday Paper).


Cheng speaks out on detention

Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was arrested and jailed in China three years ago, has released her first public statement describing the conditions of her imprisonment.

Cheng said she is only allowed to stand in sunlight for 10 hours a year at the undisclosed jail she is detained at in Beijing (ABC).

“Every year the bedding is taken into the sun for two hours to air. When it came back last time, I wrapped myself in the doona and pretended I was being hugged by my family under the sun,” she wrote.

Her statement was dictated to an Australian consular official in Beijing and given to her partner, Nick Coyle.

Cheng was working as a broadcast journalist at Chinese state-owned media CGTN when she was arrested in 2020 and accused of “supplying state secrets overseas” — an allegation she rejects.

She was put in Residential Surveillance at a Designated Facility (RSDF) — a form of detention criticised by human rights groups where detainees are unable to have contact with the outside world.

Cheng was tried behind closed doors in March 2022 and she is yet to know what verdict was reached.

In a statement Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said: “Australia has consistently advocated for Ms Cheng, and asked that basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment be met for Ms Cheng, in accordance with international norms.”


Dozens killed in Hawaii fires

At least 36 people have died and more than 11,000 evacuated as fires fanned by a hurricane sweep through Hawaii’s Maui island.

The fires torched the resort town of Lahaina and cut off most roads out of the popular tourist destination (Reuters). 

Hawaii Governor Josh Green will tour the devastation on Maui this morning, warning that search and rescue efforts would be “incredibly traumatising” as firefighters discovered more victims.

A mix of dry vegetation, strong winds and low humidity fuelled the fast-moving fires.

Wildfires caused by record-setting heat across the northern hemisphere have forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in Greece, Spain and Portugal, while North America has been choked by smoke from fires across Canada.

July was Earth’s hottest month on record, with bushfire scientists warning Australia could be set for a hot, dry, El Nino-fuelled summer (The Conversation). 


Hopefully that takes away from the crowd a little bit, because … if I could, I’d be watching the Matildas as well.

Adelaide Crows coach Matthew Nicks hopes the Brisbane Lions enjoy less of a home crowd advantage at the Gabba this weekend against his AFL men’s side, with the Matildas playing in the Women’s World Cup a few kilometres away at Suncorp Stadium at the same time. If the Crows coaches box is empty come match day, there won’t be any mystery why (The Guardian).


Postscript: Pedro Pascal denied entry to Pedro Pascal exhibition in Margate

The 48-year-old The Last of Us actor pitched up to the Rhodes Gallery over the weekend to browse the collection – only to find he was denied entry (Metro).