The Indonesian government has threatened to cancel a free trade deal with Australia after prime minister Scott Morrison proposed moving Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Foreign minister Marise Payne flew to Jakarta to meet her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on Tuesday, while the Council of Arab Ambassadors will release a statement today asking Australia to clarify its position. Two days before Morrison’s announcement, Marsudi walked alongside Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al Maliki on the Walk for Peace and Humanity, a pro-Palestine demonstration in Jakarta. Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president Bishop George Browning said Morrison floated the idea to shore up support from Sydney’s Jewish community in the upcoming Wentworth byelection, saying “it must be the first time in Australian political life that a government has tried to shore up its chances in a byelection by using foreign policy”.
The federal government has scrambled to respond to widespread criticism after voting on Monday for a Senate motion that included white supremacist language. Attorney-general Christian Porter blamed an “administrative error” by one of his staffers for the vote, which saw 23 Coalition senators support a motion by One Nation leader Pauline Hanson proclaiming “it’s okay to be white” ‒ a phrase commonly used by racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Porter’s explanation was undercut by tweets sent by ministers, including himself, expressing support for the motion, and by Queensland MP Luke Howarth, who told Sky News “it was a mistake” to backtrack on the motion and that “it would have been perfectly okay” had the wording been different. Labor senate leader Penny Wong called the incident “a shameful episode in this chamber”, labelling Coalition senators “sheep” for supporting the motion.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has indicated he would allow refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention to resettle in New Zealand if parliament passes a bill permanently banning them from ever coming to Australia. Responding to growing pressure from medical peak bodies and government backbenchers, Morrison urged ($) the Senate to support a bill that would “prevent that backdoor movement of people from New Zealand into Australia”. Labor, the Greens and several crossbenchers remain opposed to the measure, which Centre Alliance senator Griff Stirling called “cruelty for cruelty’s sake”. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly offered to accept Australia’s offshore detention inmates since being elected last year.
And the Senate will investigate the ABC’s independence after the government supported a Greens motion referring management of the broadcaster to the standing committee on environment and communications. Greens communications spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young, who moved the motion, said the inquiry would “investigate recent instances of political interference and the undermining of the broadcaster’s independence”. The probe will focus on former managing director Michelle Guthrie’s sacking by the ABC board, the broader conduct of the board and former chair Justin Milne, and “the political influence or attempted influence of the government over ABC editorial decision-making”.