At least three Liberal MPs have signed a petition to force a party room meeting, raising the likelihood of another leadership showdown between prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former home affairs minister Peter Dutton. Today is the final parliamentary sitting day until September 10, imposing a deadline on any potential leadership challenge. Dutton’s supporters spent Wednesday canvassing potential swing votes, while Dutton told 3AW Melbourne radio that “if I believe that a majority of colleagues support me then I would consider my position” and challenge again. Meanwhile, attorney-general Christian Porter asked solicitor-general Stephen Donaghue QC for advice on whether Dutton was constitutionally eligible to remain in parliament following revelations about his financial interests in childcare centres that received Commonwealth funding.
A 12-year-old asylum seeker girl on Nauru has been taken to hospital after trying to set herself on fire, while a 17-year-old girl is refusing all food, drink and medical treatment. Guardian Australia reports that the 12-year-old made repeated suicide attempts in recent weeks, before sustaining injuries on Wednesday as she tried to set herself alight before family members intervened. The 17-year-old girl has been diagnosed with resignation syndrome, which medical sources on the island fear is a growing “contagion” among depressed and suicidal children. On Wednesday New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said she wanted to meet directly with detainees when Nauru hosts the Pacific Islands Forum in September.
Travel agency Flight Centre has been accused of rampant overpricing and employee exploitation by current and former staff. Speaking to the ABC, former Flight Centre travel consultant Olivia Little said staff were explicitly told to mark up customers’ flights by hundreds or thousands of dollars. “Say the flight was $1500, they would mark up and say ‘oh, the flight is $1800’,” Little said. Former employee Renee Olofsson said the attitude of Flight Centre managers on deliberately inflating prices was “this is how we operate; this is how you make money; this is part of your job”. Pay slips reveal Flight Centre employees receive as little as $33,500 a year, a pay level that encourages them to mark up flights and earn commissions to boost take-home pay.
And in the United States, two senior figures in president Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign have been convicted of serious financial crimes. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, admitted in a New York district court to illegally paying two women at Trump’s direction to prevent them from speaking publicly about alleged affairs they had with Trump. Without naming Trump directly, Cohen said he made the payments “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office … for the principal purpose of influencing the election” as part of a guilty plea on multiple counts of tax evasion and fraud. Minutes after Cohen’s plea, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to disclose a foreign bank account.