Thursday, November 08, 2018

Mixed bag of midterms results

The Democratic Party has taken control of the United States House of Representatives in the midterm elections, while Republicans have maintained control of the Senate. Unusually high voter turnout translated into significant gains for Democrats in the House, who needed a net gain of 23 seats. The result has empowered congressional Democrats to investigate various aspects of president Donald Trump’s administration, including the president’s tax returns, the inappropriate use of political office for financial gain and possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. While Trump claimed the night was a “Big Victory” for Republicans, attorney-general Jeff Sessions resigned this morning. Sessions, the first sitting Senator to endorse Trump's presidential campaign, was frequently criticised by the president for recusing himself from the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the political process.

While Democrats won gubernatorial races in Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico and Michigan, the party failed in tightly fought contests in Florida and Georgia that were marred by accusations of widespread voter suppression. The elections saw the first Muslim women, the first Native American women and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, as well as America’s first openly gay elected governor in Colorado with the election of Jared Polis. For the first time, more than 100 women – mainly Democrats – will sit in Congress. In other ballots, voters in Florida passed an amendment restoring voting rights to more than 1.5 million ex-criminals, Arkansas and Missouri raised the minimum wage, and Michigan legalised recreational marijuana consumption. The US is now either halfway through Donald Trump’s presidency, or there are six more years to go.

The principals of several Sydney Anglican high schools have apologised for signing a letter asking the government to preserve their right to turn away LGBT students, teachers and staff. In an open letter sent last month, 34 school principals asked federal education minister Dan Tehan to preserve exemptions to the federal Sex Discrimination Act allowing them to discriminate on the basis of sexuality and gender identity. The letter sparked a backlash, with thousands of students, parents and alumni signing letters and petitions demanding the principals withdraw their request. Sydney Church of England Grammar School principal Dr Tim Wright told Guardian Australia the controversy was “the most humiliating moment of my career”, saying he had “let [the school] down”.

The federal government has urged China to end the detention of more than 1 million ethnic Uighurs in the country’s west. In a statement delivered at the United Nations, Australia called on China to “immediately release individuals currently detained” and “cease the practice of arbitrarily detaining Uighurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang”. Muslims in the western province are held in mass internment camps, where they are forced to renounce Islam, cut ties with family members abroad and pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. The statement comes ahead of foreign minister Marise Payne’s first visit to Beijing.

And the actor at the centre of the Geoffrey Rush defamation case did not want her complaint made public, a Sydney court has heard. Representing The Daily Telegraph in its defence against Rush’s defamation suit, barrister Tom Blackburn SC said Eryn Jean Norvill “didn't want to make a formal complaint” and “certainly didn't speak to any journalists” over allegations Rush groped and harassed her during a 2015 production of King Lear. Blackburn said Norvill had no motive to lie about the allegations, saying “she desperately, desperately wanted to stay out of the limelight” and she came forward in the case “to make sure it didn’t happen again”. Last week Rush’s lawyer, Bruce McClintock SC, accused Norvill of telling “a whole pack of disgusting lies” to smear Rush’s name. The case continues.



“During the height of the panic about the so-called Apex gang, Issac Gatkuoth’s face was routinely splashed across the front page of the Herald Sun. The paper described him as ‘a thug’, the ‘leader of the pack’. He was blamed for the 2017 suicide of Sam Newman, a teenager he had pointed a gun at during an armed robbery in 2015.”


“By the time our nation acquired this anonymous prime minister, he had been treasurer for three years ... Scott Morrison’s mystery is the result of assiduous work, achieved across a lifetime. If we do not know who Morrison is, it is not because he hasn’t been asked. It is because he has worked hard not to tell us.”


“Tom Keneally has been at the game of writing novels for a long time now. Although he has always been an uneven writer, the best of his work is made to last ... With the passage of the years, the supremacy of the craftsmanship has tended to win out.”


“Former Labor leader Mark Latham has joined One Nation and confirmed he will lead the minor party in NSW as he seeks to enter the upper house at the upcoming state election. Declaring the stakes were ‘too high’ for him to stay on the sidelines, Mr Latham announced the move on Alan Jones’ 2GB radio program on Wednesday morning flanked by federal One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.”


“Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham were set to appear on Studio 10 on Wednesday morning following the announcement the former Labor leader will run for a spot on NSW’s Legislative Council for One Nation. But there was a major glitch with the planned interview. Mark Latham didn’t turn up, leaving his new party’s leader to talk to Studio 10 alone while sitting beside an empty chair – an unmasked symbol of his absence so early in his time with One Nation.”


“Australia’s defamation laws are incredibly strong – so strong, that they’ve impinged the growth of our local #MeToo movement. This means that, for the most part, claims of misconduct and abuse continue to circulate in our creative industries as ‘open secrets’. With that in mind, Freudian Nip did what they do best and wrote an assumedly funny sketch for Tuesday’s episode of The Feed on SBS – but that’s not what aired.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.