Labor Senator Sam Dastyari warned a prolific Labor donor with links to the Chinese Communist Party that his phone was likely being tapped by intelligence agencies. During a meeting at businessman Huang Xiangmo’s Mosman home last year, Dastyari told Huang they should speak outside and leave their phones in the house. The meeting occurred after ASIO head Duncan Lewis warned that some political donors were acting on behalf of the Chinese government. Huang’s donations to federal and state political parties came to attention last year, when his Yuhu Group settled legal and travel bills on Dastyari’s behalf. Speaking to Fairfax, Dastyari denied that he “did anything other than put to Mr Huang gossip being spread by journalists”, and said he visited Huang “to tell him that I did not think it was appropriate that we have future contact”.
Autism and Asperger’s syndrome awareness groups have criticised Don Burke’s self-diagnosis as “an Asperger’s person” to defend charges of sexual harassment and assault. Burke claimed he had Asperger’s in an A Current Affair interview with Tracy Grimshaw on Monday, calling it a “failing” and conceding that he hadn’t “been medically diagnosed”. Autistic Advocacy Australia and New Zealand chair Katherine Annear said Burke’s comments risked creating “a conflation between this kind of predatory behaviour and Asperger's”, pointing out that people on the autism spectrum were more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of a carer than be abusers themselves. Children’s author and former Burke’s Backyard reporter Jackie French recanted her support for Burke yesterday, saying he was “not the man I once knew”, while Fairfax has revealed Burke refused to withdraw as an ambassador for a government anti-domestic violence campaign in 1993 after women complained he had abused them.
A man has been charged with terror-related offences in Melbourne after allegedly attempting to obtain a gun and “try and kill as many people as he could” at New Year’s Eve celebrations in Federation Square. Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 20, appeared before Melbourne’s Magistrates Court yesterday having been charged with preparing to commit a terrorist attack and gathering documents to facilitate a terrorist act. Victoria Police deputy commissioner Shane Patton said authorities had been monitoring Ali’s online presence for some time, noting that he “would become particularly energised, for a lack of a better word, when overseas events occurred and would express a great deal of interest in committing an attack himself”. In a video recorded at the 2015 “Innocent Until Proven Muslim?” conference, Ali relates how he refused approaches by security agents to become an informant. Worshippers at Werribee’s Virgin Mary mosque and Warsame Hassan, Ali’s employer at a Footscray computer business, told India Samvad Ali had never shown signs of radicalisation.
Liberal Senator Dean Smith’s same-sex marriage bill is set to pass the Senate after amendments from Greens and conservative senators were defeated in a late-night sitting. Amendments allowing civil celebrants to refuse same-sex weddings, creating two definitions of marriage, letting parents remove their children from classes teaching content against their “marriage beliefs” and allowing teachers and doctors to discriminate against same-sex couples were all defeated, as Labor voted in a bloc to speed the bill’s passage. Smith’s bill will pass the Senate today and move to the House of Representatives for final passage next week.
Queensland opposition leader Tim Nicholls has refused to concede defeat in the state election, saying Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should go into opposition if Labor does not reach the necessary 47 seats to form majority government. In his first press conference since the Saturday election, Nicholls said “we don’t know the outcome of this election” and urged Palaszczuk to “go into opposition if she does not reach the number 47”. While vote counting continues, most election predictors have Labor taking between 47 and 48 seats in the new parliament. The ABC’s election calculator predicts the LNP will take between 39 and 40 seats, leaving it unable to form majority government without crossbench support.
Rock group Gang of Youths, singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, singer Amy Shark and hip-hop duo A.B. Original were the big winners at the ARIAs yesterday. Accepting the award for Best Urban Album for A.B. Original’s debut release, Reclaim Australia, rapper Briggs said “we made ourselves extremely uncomfortable trying to make this record, trying to upset all those rednecks” and exalted that “the date’s changin’ ” while performing a cover of Kelly’s Dumb Things. Accepting one of their four awards, Gang of Youths vocalist David Le’aupepe said “this country was built on a strong Indigenous people and on the backs of immigrants”, saying that the band are “Pacific Islanders and we’re very proud of our heritage”.
And, as The Briefing goes out, North Korea has reportedly launched a ballistic missile over Japan. If Donald Trump’s finger slips, I’ve been your host.