Thursday, November 15, 2018

Anti-corruption push from crossbenchers

Federal crossbench MPs will introduce legislation establishing a national anti-corruption body in coming weeks, placing pressure on the federal government to implement greater oversight of parliamentarians, lobbyists and public servants. Independent MP Cathy McGowan said a 200-page draft bill was being prepared in consultation with governance expert AJ Brown, to be finalised by the time parliament resumes later this month. Incoming member for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, promised on Wednesday to push for “a National Integrity Commission”, increasing the likelihood of a tied vote if the bill comes to the House of Representatives. Former Supreme Court of Victoria justice David Harper added his voice to the push, writing in Fairfax newspapers on Wednesday that “the lack of a federal anti-corruption agency remains a reason why we have never come close to being corruption-free”.

The family of a 20-year-old apprentice metalworker who died in a Melbourne factory has questioned why he was sent to the workplace by the Australian Industry Group, despite a report a month earlier identifying serious safety hazards. Dillon Wu died in October after inhaling toxic fumes while working at a factory owned by tanker company Marshall Lethlean. Wu’s employer, Ai Group, sent him to Marshall Lethlean on placement a month after receiving a WorkSafe Victoria report warning of serious health and safety risks for employees working in confined spaces. Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said “our indications were and continue to be that it was a safe place of work”. Members of the dead man’s family said Ai Group had not contacted them since his death, but had sent flowers through a florist. “The minimum human morality for the agency is to come over to give us a reasonable explanation,” Dillon’s father told the ABC.

Health minister Greg Hunt has extended the opt-out period for the controversial My Health Record online medical records system, bowing to pressure from the Senate. A Labor attempt to push the deadline back by 12 months was defeated, with crossbenchers agreeing instead to a three-month extension, ending on January 31. People trying to opt out of the system before the original November 15 deadline reported widespread problems, including website outages and swamped phone lines. More than 1 million people have opted out of the service, with cybersecurity experts warning against the potential for breaches of privacy and abuses of sensitive information.

And environment minister Melissa Price has hit out at international development minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells for describing her as “an environment minister on L-plates”. Writing for Fairfax on Wednesday, Fierravanti-Wells said Price had damaged the government’s “good work and practical support for the Pacific” by insulting former Kiribati president Anote Tong at a Canberra dinner in October, saying Price’s behaviour “demonstrated a lack of diplomacy, understanding and respect for one of our nearest neighbours”. Labor senator Pat Dodson and others present at the dinner claimed Price told Tong “I know why you’re here … For the Pacific it’s all about the cash”. Price told ABC Radio National’s Patricia Karvelas that she was “deeply, deeply wounded” by the comments from Fierravanti-Wells, saying “I can assure there will be a few phone calls once I get off the phone from talking to you, Patricia”.



“Prime Minister Scott Morrison could be described as Trump Lite plus a combination of toe-curling folksiness, condescension and religiosity. Like President Trump, he is fundamentally incurious. On issues raised with him, he either knows the answers already, or has no desire to hear the case for and against a proposition. He is essentially a door-to-door salesman.”


“There is a spectre hanging over the sixth and final season of House of Cards: the spectre of Frank Underwood. Or is it the spectre of Kevin Spacey? In October last year, Spacey became one of the first high-profile targets of the #MeToo movement after a series of sexual misconduct allegations against him came to light. Rather than cancelling the show outright, Netflix cancelled Spacey instead, scrapping the two episodes that had already been shot and hastily rewriting the rest.”


“For 12 of the 15 years that he presented The 7.30 Report, the single most constant presence in Kerry O’Brien’s working life was John Howard. ‘Every few weeks, and often more frequently, we’d sit down to yet another interview’, the former ABC broadcaster writes in his upcoming memoir. ‘It became a kind of endurance test.’ ”


“Hundreds of people have gathered outside NSW parliament to protest proposed changes to the state’s adoption laws, fearing they will lead to another ‘stolen generation’ ... Birth parents will have two years to be reinstated as primary carers before an alternative permanent home is found, in a bid to prevent children bouncing between families for years on end.”


“Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, a 22-year-old Bundjalung woman and law student, was removed from her parents at age 11 ... Until she left the care system at age 18, she lived only with white families. ‘I was really confused at one point because I had foster carers tell me, “When you go to school don’t tell people you’re Aboriginal because they’ll treat you differently”,’ she said.”


“A campaign to build a Big Peanut in Queensland has humbly accepted its loss to a Big Melon in a competition to find Australia’s next Big Thing. The Queensland town of Kingaroy offered its congratulations to the nearby town of Chinchilla – known as the ‘melon capital of Australia’ – after it became the proud owner of the four-tonne, nine metre-long watermelon on Wednesday.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.