Labor fast-tracks immigration laws

The Albanese government will today introduce new laws it hopes to race through parliament, in response to a landmark High Court ruling that prohibits indefinite immigration detention.

What we know:

  • The federal government will today introduce the migration amendment (bridging visa conditions) bill and the crimes and other legislation amendment (omnibus No. 2) bill  (The Guardian); 
  • The bills will reportedly criminalise breaching of bridging visa conditions, which formerly was punishable by immigration detention, but is no longer possible after the High Court decision;
  • The opposition – which has offered bipartisan support for legal changes – will only be briefed at 7.15am today about the proposed laws before parliament resumes at 9am (The Age); 
  • Immigration Minister Andrew Giles and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said in a statement that “the government will introduce and seek to pass this legislation tomorrow to further respond to the High Court’s decision”;
  • The Coalition has been railing at Labor all week over the High Court decision, which resulted in the release of 83 people from detention, who all had their visas cancelled on character grounds;
  • Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on Wednesday pushed a motion lamenting the “breakdown in social cohesion” over the release of “hardcore criminals” (The Politics); 
  • The Human Rights Law Centre’s acting legal director, Sanmati Verma, said that “additional restrictions and criminal penalties on people released after years of unlawful detention” would be “substituting one form of punishment for another”;
  • “Every single day, Australian citizens who have been convicted of an offence, even serious offences, re-enter the community after serving their time,” Verma said. “Why does this government think that migrants and refugees in the same position pose a different or greater risk?”

Hospital raided by Israeli troops

Israeli troops are raiding Gaza’s largest hospital, where they have ransacked rooms and interrogated Palestinians as they hunt for hostages and alleged major military headquarters of Hamas.

What we know:

  • Israeli forces launched a raid into Al-Shifa hospital about 2am local time and appeared to remain there more than 15 hours (AP); 
  • The Israeli army released video showing soldiers carrying into the hospital boxes labelled in English as “baby food” and “medical supplies”;
  • In a tense situation, Israeli troops moved between buildings conducting searches of the hospital, where thousands are sheltering from the broader Gaza conflict;
  • Surgeon Ahmed El Mohallalati said “one of the big tanks entered within the hospital from the eastern main gate, and... they just parked in the front of the hospital emergency department”, and described “continuous shooting from the tanks” (Reuters); 
  • A senior Israeli military official said soldiers had “found weapons and other terror infrastructure” on the premises;
  • Hamas called that assertion “a continuation of the lies and cheap propaganda" it said Israel was pumping out to justify "its crime aimed at destroying the health sector in Gaza";
  • The health ministry said 40 patients, including three babies, had died since the hospital’s emergency generator ran out of fuel on Saturday;
  • WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Israeli incursion into Al-Shifa was “totally unacceptable … hospitals are not battlegrounds”.

Masks urged as Covid returns

State health authorities are reintroducing masks and other measures in response to a Covid-19 wave sweeping the country.

Cases of the virus are up nearly 25% nationally in recent weeks, and much more in some states (The New Daily). 

In Queensland, more than 221 infected people are in hospital and hospitals and health services have the option to make masks mandatory.

NSW Health is also encouraging the return of mask wearing in crowded indoor areas, while some Melbourne hospitals reinstated mask mandates for visitors earlier this month.

However, there is a lack of political will to make masks mandatory, given the intense politicisation of mask wearing that developed across the pandemic (The Saturday Paper). 

AMA president Steve Robson has called for more mask wearing in healthcare settings, saying “You can do it immediately — you don’t need to install infrastructure or anything like that. You can put a bloody mask on.”


Ikea joins stone bench ban

Ikea will join Bunnings in phasing out controversial engineered-stone products from its Australian stores.

“We have been monitoring the issue, including the recent analysis and recommendation from Safe Work Australia on the risks associated with engineered stone products,” Ikea Australia said in a statement (Nine). 

It comes the same week that Bunnings announced it would phase out engineered stone by the end of the year.

CFMMEU national secretary Zach Smith welcomed the homewares giant’s ban on the stone, which can cause the lung disease silicosis when cut.

“Bunnings and IKEA have beaten our federal, state and territory governments to the punch — we need an immediate announcement from all work health and safety ministers locking in a ban,” he said.


Calls for peace at ARIAs

Troye Sivan and Genesis Owusu have dominated the 37th ARIA awards, with the latter using his speech to speak out about the war in Gaza.

Sivan won four awards including best solo artist, as well as the publicly voted Song Of The Year award for “Rush”, which claimed Best Engineered Release and Best Produced Release (The Music). 

Genesis Owusu also had a strong night, taking home three ARIAs including album of the year for Struggler.

Owusu used his speech to call for a “free Palestine”, declaring: “ceasefire now, ceasefire now, ceasefire now” (NME). 

Prior to that, Jet frontman Nic Cester, taking the stage for the band’s induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, spoke out about “the destruction committed through war” and how music is an “antidote” at a time when “a lot of people have been divided and been struggling with this”.

Other performers to secure an award include King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, who won best rock album for Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushroom and Lava.

Kylie Minogue won best pop release for Padam Padam, in her 18th ARIA award.

Best classical album went to the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard Tognetti for Indies and Idols.


THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT ______ is unfit due to a major climate health concern.

Leading climate professors have pre-signed climate doctor’s certificates for students who plan to skip school to attend nationwide climate protests this Friday. Symptoms include “increased anxiety”, “elevated stress” and “feelings of despair”, which are presumably at epidemic levels given the state of the planet kids are set to inherit (School Strike 4 Climate).


Postscript: ‘It never ends’ – the book club that spent 28 years reading Finnegans Wake

Starting in 1995, between 10 and 30 people would show up to monthly meetings at a local library. At first they read two pages a month, eventually slowing to just one page per discussion. At that pace, the group – which now meets on Zoom – reached the final page in October. It took them 28 years. Fialka, who started the group in his early 40s, is now 70. “I don’t want to lie, it wasn’t like I saw God,” Fialka said, of reaching the book’s end. “It wasn’t a big deal” (The Guardian).