Opposition leader Bill Shorten has promised to legislate for a federal anti-corruption commission if Labor wins the next election. Speaking to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Shorten said a federal integrity commission was needed to restore public confidence in the political system “because the most corrosive sentiment in democracies around the world is the idea that politicians are only in it for themselves”. Shorten said the commission would be modelled on the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, that it would be “independent and well-resourced, secure from government interference” and “effectively operate as a standing royal commission”. Labor began contemplating changing its historic opposition to a federal anti-corruption body after Australian Federal Police officers raided union offices in October, while minor parties such as the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party have long supported such a body.
Media outlets have warned new security laws being introduced by the government could severely curtail press freedom. In a joint submission to the joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security, News Corp, Fairfax, the ABC and 11 other media groups said the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 “criminalises all steps of news reporting” and creates “a real risk that journalists could go to jail for doing their jobs”. The bill’s secrecy provisions would outlaw possession or publication of unauthorised classified documents, and criminalise the publication of information that may “harm or prejudice Australia’s international relations” or “relations between the Commonwealth and a state or territory”, potentially outlawing any reporting on international and domestic trade, foreign affairs, and taxation.
Indigenous rights activists and supporters have rallied behind Melbourne Invasion Day protest organiser and Yigar Gunditjmara/Bindal woman Tarneen Onus-Williams after Victorian Liberal MPs called for her to be sacked from her position with the Koorie Youth Council. State opposition MP Tim Smith said Onus-Williams should be fired for saying “fuck Australia, hope it burns to the ground”. In an interview after the rally, Onus-Williams said her remarks were “a metaphor, not actually a statement to be taken literally”, saying “the current system isn't working”. Former Victorian premier and notorious golliwog collector Jeff Kennett concurred, telling The Australian ($) her comments undermined the KYC’s mission of promoting “understanding and appreciation of all things Indigenous”. The #IstandwithTarneen hashtag has trended nationally on Twitter in response to the calls for Onus-Williams to resign.
And Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has announced the nation will hold a referendum on the question of legalising abortion in May. Ireland has some of the world’s strictest anti-abortion laws, outlawing all abortions except to save the life of the mother, and the Irish Constitution contains provisions guaranteeing “the right to life of the unborn”. Opinion polls suggest voters are likely to strongly back liberalising abortion laws in line with parliamentary committee recommendations legalising abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy. Varadkar said abortion in Ireland was “unsafe, unregulated and unlawful” and “this is a decision about whether we want to continue to stigmatise and criminalise our sisters, our co-workers and our friends or whether we are prepared to take a collective act of leadership to show empathy and compassion.” In Australia, abortion officially remains illegal in NSW and Queensland, while conditions vary widely between other states and territories.