‘Draconian’ detainee laws passed
Labor has rushed laws through parliament in a late night sitting that grant ‘draconian’ powers over people released from immigration detention.
What we know:
- The laws place strict curfews and electronic ankle monitoring devices on former detainees released after the High Court banned indefinite immigration detention (ABC);
- Labor had originally intended curfews and monitoring to be at the discretion of the minister, but Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles revealed it had agreed with the Coalition to make this mandatory (The Guardian);
- Other Coalition amendments that Labor agreed to include a mandatory minimum sentence for breach of visa conditions, with each day of breach considered a separate offence; and a stipulation that people can’t go within 150m of a school or childcare centre;
- The High Court decision has so far resulted in the release of 84 people, with the legality of a further 340 people in detention for more than a year also in doubt;
- Those released have failed a “character test” applied to non-citizens seeking a visa, or have had adverse security findings made against them, but cannot be deported either because they are refugees, stateless or refused by other countries;
- Most have been convicted for crimes ranging from violent assault to traffic offences, but have served their time already;
- Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has framed the court’s decision as “the government’s mess”, which Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil says Dutton “knows to be untrue” (The Politics);
- The Greens accused the government of capitulating to pressure from Dutton, and warned the new laws are highly exposed to a High Court challenge themselves;
- “I can’t count how many times this chamber has had to sit late into the evening because both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party decide that it’s time to ram through some draconian law that limits freedoms, the rights and the human rights protections of refugees in this country,” said Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young;
- Labor’s Murray Watt rejected the contention that the conditions amounted to imprisonment, but acknowledged the amendments “add constitutional risk”;
- It comes amid fresh revelations that the $80m paid by the Home Affairs Department to Papua New Guinea’s government less than two years ago to look after the refugees left there when Australia’s offshore processing regime ended has already been spent (The Age).
Israel expands offensive south
Fuel shortages have shut down communications across Gaza and threatened the “immediate possibility of starvation”, as Israel expands its offensive into the south of the besieged territory.
What we know:
- Internet and phone services collapsed across Gaza on Thursday for lack of fuel, threatening a potentially long-term communications blackout (AP);
- It is the latest in a series of blackouts that have left people in Gaza unable to call ambulances, reach dispersed family members and provide updates to international media;
- The UN World Food Programme warns the “immediate possibility of starvation” in Gaza, where only 10% of necessary food supplies are available with fuel shortages severely impacting bread production and preventing aid trucks from reaching their destination (CNN);
- In southern Gaza the Israeli military has dropped leaflets telling civilians to leave ahead of a further expansion of the offensive (The Guardian);
- Israel had previously ordered residents of the north to flee to the south, with two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s population of 2.3m left homeless with all space in the southern towns crammed;
- Israeli troops for a second day searched Al-Shifa Hospital in the north for traces of Hamas, displaying guns they claim were found hidden in one building, but are yet to release any evidence of allegations of a central Hamas command centre hidden under the hospital;
- The Israeli military took select international media on a tour of the hospital, where journalists interviewed doctors who say they have been working without power, food or water for days, and that patients have died as a result, including newborn babies (BBC).
Students strike for climate justice
Thousands of students across Australia are set to skip school today to strike for climate action.
Students will be joined by Torres Strait Islanders, who are in Melbourne for hearings in the landmark court case they brought against the Australian government for climate inaction and will speak at the climate strike (Canberra Times).
Melbourne will hold one of nine protests for the School Strike 4 Climate, which will also feature protests in Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Taree, Byron Bay and Noosa.
Students have been provided with a “climate doctor’s certificate” pre-signed by climate experts, which they can present to schools to explain their absence.
“The climate doctor’s certificate signed by three leading climate scientists is so that protesters like us can feel a little more confident joining in the protests,” said Joey Thomson, 16, one of the organisers of the Melbourne strike.
Education Minister Jason Clarke criticised the movement, arguing that “I want our kids to be passionate, I want our kids to care about democracy and I want our kids to care about the future, but I also want our kids at school.”
The certificate is one new addition to a school strike climate movement that has evolved its focus from climate action to climate justice (The Conversation).
Funding pulled for 50 big builds
Fifty infrastructure projects across Australia will no longer receive federal funding, in a bid to repair a $33bn budget blow out.
The Geelong Fast Rail, the Sydney to Newcastle faster rail upgrade, the Truro Bypass and the New England Highway project are among those to lose federal funding (SBS).
Funding was also axed for commuter car parks in Queensland and NSW backed under the Coalition and labelled as pork-barrelling by Labor.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said the cuts represented projects that were not realistically going to be delivered with the available funding, had made little to no progress over a significant amount of time, or did not align with national priorities.
“From now on, the Australian government’s investment infrastructure will focus on productivity, sustainability and liveability,” she said.
The Labor premiers of NSW, Victoria and Queensland were critical of the plan, however, on the basis the funding had already been promised to the projects.
Cold Enough for Snow wins PM’s prize
Jessica Au’s novella Cold Enough for Snow has won the 2023 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction.
Judges awarded the $80,000 prize to Au for providing “a fresh way of considering the responsibilities of being, and being alive” (The Conversation).
In his review Andy Jackson described Cold Enough for Snow as “a generous meditation on the subjectivity of experience, and how the stories held within a family can be strangely disparate, especially when migration is part of their history” (The Saturday Paper).
The Non-fiction prize went to Sam Vincent for My Father and Other Animals, a memoir of taking on his family’s farm.
The poetry prize went to Gavin Yuan Gao’s debut collection At the Altar of Touch, which explores the complexities of cross-cultural and queer identity.
I do thank my grandmother back in 1985 when I was seven to think about my future and my children's future.
NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles denies her shares in Woodside, originally bought by her grandmother, represent a conflict of interest as she embarks on a major expansion of the gas industry. Unfortunately an investment into fossil fuels might not quite deliver the future for children that her grandmother originally anticipated (ABC).