The federal government and its contractors will pay more than $70 million plus costs to 1905 asylum seekers and refugees. The landmark out-of-court agreement, believed to be Australia’s largest ever in a human rights case, settles a class action brought by Slater and Gordon on behalf of current and former Manus Island detainees. The government denies responsibility for mistreating and falsely imprisoning the plaintiffs as part of the settlement, as well as the group’s claims the government deliberately denied them their rights and failed to provide basic care. Immigration minister Peter Dutton christened the settlement “Labor’s border bill”, denied the settlement entailed an admission and lashed out at “ambulance-chasing legal firm Slater and Gordon”.
Continuing a horror day for the government, three federal ministers have been ordered to appear before the Victorian Court of Appeal tomorrow to explain why they should not be charged with contempt of court. Health minister Greg Hunt, human services minister Alan Tudge and assistant to the treasury Michael Sukkar will face court after criticising the Victorian judiciary for what they called “soft” sentences for people convicted of terror-related offences. Foreign minister Julie Bishop was also forced to deny knowledge of a company – set up by a prominent Chinese donor to the Liberal Party – called the “Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation”. Chinese businessmen have donated more than $500,000 to the Western Australian Liberals in the last three years, and Chinese mining boss Sally Zou, who set up the foundation, donated $460,000 to the Liberals in the 2015-16 financial year.
While Labor had fun at Bishop’s expense in Question Time, the opposition also had a highly forgettable day. The “Glorious Bishop” revelations arose as Bishop attempted to grill Labor over former agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s extensive ties to property mogul and suspected foreign intelligence operative Helen Liu. In a stirring show of bipartisanship, Labor briefly joined the Liberals in opposing calls for a transparent probe into parliamentary corruption. While attention was focused on the unfolding Chinese donations scandal, Labor also voted for the so-called “Adani bill”, watering down provisions in the Native Title Act that require mining companies to secure Indigenous Land Use Agreements from traditional owners.
Television network Channel Ten has gone into voluntary administration. Administrators were appointed and Ten secured a 48-hour trading halt after media billionaires Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch refused to provide the network with a $200 million line of credit to finance a restructure. Gordon and Murdoch joined their holdings in Ten hours after the announcement, leaving them in a strong position to take over the network if proposed changes to media ownership laws are passed. Media experts Cory Bernardi, the Reverend Fred Nile and Reclaim Australia blamed Ten’s ailing fortunes on The Project host Waleed Aly.
Overseas, at least 12 people have died in a fire that engulfed a London public housing tower block. The 24-storey building in Notting Hill’s Lancaster West housing estate had been the subject of petitions from residents concerned for years about the tower’s fire safety, while witnesses and firefighters noted that cladding added last year to improve its outside appearance may have contributed to the fire’s intensity.
And in the United States, several Republican lawmakers and political staffers have been shot ahead of an early morning congressional baseball game. Republican majority whip Steve Scalise has undergone surgery and is in a critical condition, as is lobbyist Matt Mika, while two Capitol police officers were also injured. The gunman, a 66-year-old Illinois man, reportedly volunteered for the presidential campaign of Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, who said he was “sickened” by the news.