Robodebt triggers welfare overhaul
Australia’s welfare system will undergo a major overhaul after the Albanese government agreed in full or in principle to all 56 recommendations of the robodebt royal commission.
What we know:
- In announcing the acceptance of recommendations, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the illegal automated debt recovery program “was not an innocent mistake, this was a deliberate, calculated scheme” (ABC);
- Royal commissioner Catherine Holmes made 56 recommendations including more face-to-face service support options, clear review processes where decisions have been automated, an oversight body that can audit automated decisions and six-year limits on debts (The Saturday Paper);
- Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said he had already acted on several, including halting use of external debt collectors, improving communications with welfare recipients and employing 3000 extra staff at Services Australia to process payments faster (SMH);
- The federal government will invest $22.1m in the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Office of Legal Services Coordination and Office of Constitutional Law (The Mandarin);
- New transparency laws covering all federal agencies will allow people affected by government automated decisions to review them, and departments will be required to explain how algorithms and artificial intelligence work (AFR $);
- The federal government however rejected a “closing observation” from the report to repeal part of the Freedom of Information Act that grants documents seen by the federal cabinet an exemption from publication;
- Dreyfus declined to comment on whether criminal prosecutions would proceed or about any possible investigations being conducted by the recently established National Anti-Corruption Commission (The Australian $);
- Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher however reaffirmed that the Australian Public Service Commission was investigating 16 referrals concerning current and former officials identified in the royal commission’s report;
- But there is still no timeline for the investigations into code of conduct breaches, which means key public servants are likely to escape disciplinary sanctions while in their jobs (The Mandarin);
- The Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and welfare recipient Kristin O’Connell called for the immediate suspension of all Services Australia debts until “a safe system can be worked out” (The Guardian).
Hate crimes spike over Gaza conflict
The conflict in Gaza has triggered a spate of hate crimes in Australia, with death threats made against Palestinian and Jewish Australians.
What we know:
- Hash Tayeh, the Palestinian-Australian owner of the Burgertory burger chain, says he has moved his wife and young child into a safe house after receiving a threat on his life over social media (ABC);
- Tayeh, a vocal supporter of the pro-Palestine movement, said an anonymous message told him he would be made a "shahid", an Islamic term for a Muslim martyr, in a threat that came shortly after the Caulfield store of his fast-food chain was firebombed;
- The firebombing prompted a pro-Palestine protest at a park near the burnt-out shop and opposite a local synagogue, which was evacuated, prompting subsequent apologies by protest organisers;
- Two young Jewish men were assaulted the next day by men who told the victims they had come to Caulfield because of the protests, prompting the deployment of an extra 60 police officers to the suburbs of southeast Melbourne (The Australian $);
- In the NSW city of Newcastle, the home of a Jewish rabbi was defaced with graffiti urging people to “Kill the Jews this morning”;
- The NSW government is moving to tighten laws against hate speech, threats and incitement to violence, although opposition leader Mark Speakman cautioned that the law not be “weaponised against controversial free speech which doesn’t justify a criminal sanction” (SMH);
- Some 63% of respondents to a new Essential poll indicated they were concerned about hostilities between Palestinian and Israeli communities in Australia (The Guardian).
McBride trial begins
Whistleblower David McBride has declared “today I serve my country”, on the first day of his trial for allegedly leaking classified government documents.
McBride will front the ACT Supreme Court for the next three weeks for alleged leaking of hundreds of documents detailing alleged war crimes in Afghanistan (SBS).
He is facing five charges, including theft of Commonwealth property, breaching the Defence Act and unauthorised disclosure of information, with a potential life sentence in prison on the cards.
In the Senate on Monday, a Greens motion calling on Dreyfus to end the prosecution was defeated.
The Human Rights Law Centre has sharply criticised the prosecution of McBride, and has launched a pro bono legal support service to help defend whistleblowers in Australia (The Monthly).
Hacked freight operator back online
Port operator DP World has begun resuming operations at its ports, following a cyberattack that brought freight shipments to a halt.
DP World expects about 4000 containers will move out of the four terminals on Monday following successful tests of key systems overnight (SMH).
The attack had stranded an estimated 30,000 shipping containers across DP World’s yards nationally, with the port operator managing 40% of Australia’s container shipments.
“The ongoing investigation and response to protect networks and systems may cause some necessary, temporary disruptions to their services in the coming days,” a DP World spokesman said.
Cybersecurity expert David Tuffley warned that the “skills needed to mount such an attack suggest a foreign state actor trying to undermine Australia’s national security or economic interests” (The Conversation).
Cameron returns to halls of power
Former British prime minister David Cameron has made a surprise return to politics, becoming foreign secretary.
Cameron was appointed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a cabinet shuffle in which he sacked home secretary Suella Braverman, a hardliner who drew anger for accusing police of being too lenient with pro-Palestinian protesters (The Independent).
Cameron was appointed to the House of Lords, the first foreign secretary to serve in the unelected upper chamber since Peter Carrington in the 1980s.
The appointment comes despite Cameron’s involvement in a controversial lobbying campaign for the business of Australian banker Lex Greensill, in which the former PM held a personal economic interest (The Guardian).
Gotta break some more hearts about claw machines, because the claw as well confirmed rigged.
Australian TikToker Katie Clark bought a used claw machine, only to discover an instruction manual that reveals the arcade game’s true purpose: an early primer for children to learn the whole world is a rigged game (news.com.au).
Postscript: Dior launches baby skincare line including a $230 perfume
The line includes La Mousse Très Fondante foaming cleanser ($95), Le Lait Très Tendre moisturising milk ($115) and L'Eau Très Fraîche cleanser ($95). There are also two scented alcohol-free waters at $230 each, created by Dior’s famed perfume director Francis Kurkdjian – the man behind Baccarat Rouge 540. The scents are said to be reminiscent of “sweet childhood memories with light notes of fruit, pillowy cotton and velvety petal” (Indy100).