Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières has called on the federal government to immediately evacuate all refugees and asylum seekers from Nauru for mental health reasons. At a press conference in Sydney on Thursday, MSF Australia director Paul McPhun said “there is nothing humanitarian about saving people from sea only to leave them in an open-air prison”. MSF was ordered to leave the country on Friday following a Nauruan government order, with the charity confirming on Wednesday that “all its international staff have now left the island”. MSF doctors said there had been 78 suicide attempts or incidents of self-harm in the past 11 months, including an attempted suicide by a nine-year-old. Two days before marking World Mental Health Day on Wednesday, health minister Greg Hunt said the government would not intervene to restore mental health services on Nauru.
Australian Federal Police officers have raided the department of home affairs offices in Canberra as part of a probe into leaks against home affairs minister Peter Dutton. Departmental emails detailing Dutton’s involvement in the case of several au pairs granted visas on short notice were leaked to the Labor Party last month, leading to Dutton narrowly surviving a no-confidence vote in the House of Representatives. Nine Network political editor Chris Uhlmann reported that the AFP “have agreed to hand over all documents they seized in raid on Home Affairs to the Clerk of the Senate, after a request from Labor”. Former Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg claimed he had “referred multiple leaks to the AFP” and has received “no current advice on their acceptance, status or progress”.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has pledged to introduce lower tax rates for small and medium-sized businesses five years earlier than planned. The $3.2 billion cuts would lower the tax rate for businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million from 27.5 per cent to 25 per cent by the 2021-22 financial year, rather than from 2026-27 as currently legislated. Opposition leader Bill Shorten did not commit to a position on the proposal, saying Labor “are not ruling it out and we are not ruling it in”. Former Coalition treasurer Peter Costello criticised the length of time given for the planned cuts, saying “we can't deliver in this term so we will make you promises on what we will do three terms from now … It’s a parallel universe and if anybody believes it you are silly.”
And Telstra chair John Mullen has defended executive pay and bonuses after shareholder dissent ahead of next week’s annual general meeting. In a letter lodged with the Australian Stock Exchange on Thursday, Mullen said Telstra must “have competitive remuneration practices in place to attract and retain the talent required to deliver on our ambitious and market-leading strategy”. In June chief executive Andy Penn – who will earn $4.5 million this year – unveiled a plan to cut 8000 jobs as part of $2.5 billion in savings.