New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
The United States will formally withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but will seek to re-enter the agreement under more favourable terms. Speaking at the White House this morning, US President Donald Trump said: “We’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. If we can, that’s great”. Trump’s decision triggers a formal withdrawal process that will culminate in November 2020, the same month he will seek re-election. World leaders reacted furiously, with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel calling the US withdrawal a “brutal act”. In a statement, former president Barack Obama said “even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I am confident that our states, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way”.
Before the decision, Coalition backbenchers were already urging the government to rethink Australia’s commitment to the Paris accord if the US withdrew. Liberal MPs Eric Abetz, Ian Goodenough, Ian Macdonald, Tony Pasin and environment and energy committee chair Craig Kelly have departed from the government line that Australia will stay committed to its Paris obligations regardless of the US position, with Goodenough telling Fairfax Australia should “not take unilateral action without consultation and national debate”. The news will embolden climate sceptics in the government and deepen the divide between backbench conservatives and Cabinet, placing additional pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has been named as a person of interest in an FBI investigation into ties between Russian intelligence and the Trump presidential campaign. While Farage has not been accused of wrongdoing and is not a suspect in the investigation, his links with hacker Julian Assange, Trump adviser Roger Stone and White House chief of staff Steve Bannon have placed him on the FBI’s radar as a possible source of information. The divisive UKIP figure has appeared on Russian news outlet RT several times, and was an outspoken Trump supporter during the campaign.
And in news that seems especially timely today, a crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf has grown 17 kilometres in the last six days. The speed and direction of the rift’s progress suggest the rift will soon break a large section of ice away from the shelf’s main body, creating an iceberg roughly the size of Trinidad and potentially causing the entire shelf to collapse. It is unknown whether the ice shelf has considered the importance of coal jobs in Wyoming.