British prime minister Theresa May has vowed to see off a challenge to her leadership over her government’s proposed Brexit agreement. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and junior ministers Suella Braverman and Shailesh Vara resigned their positions shortly after May’s cabinet approved a draft Brexit deal, while backbencher and “hard Brexit” advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg sought to trigger a no-confidence vote in May’s leadership by writing to the Conservative Party’s parliamentary group, the 1922 Committee. May urged her colleagues to “unite behind the agreement reached in cabinet”, warning that “nobody can know for sure the consequences that will follow” if it is rejected in Parliament.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has walked back comments from trade minister Steve Ciobo that there was a “less than 5 per cent chance” Australia would move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Fairfax reported on Wednesday that Ciobo privately told his Indonesian counterpart, Enggartiasto Lukita, that Australia was unlikely to follow through on Morrison’s proposal in October to shift its embassy. The idea was greeted with hostility in Indonesia, with foreign minister Retno Marsudi warning that moving the embassy could endanger an Indonesia-Australia free trade deal. Morrison said on Thursday he was “not aware” of Ciobo’s comments, adding that “they don’t reflect the views of the government”. In a meeting with Indonesian president Joko Widodo on Wednesday, Morrison said a final decision on the embassy would be made by Christmas.
Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion approved nearly half a million dollars originally earmarked for tackling Aboriginal disadvantage and delivered them as grants to pastoral and fishing groups, despite those groups not asking for money. Documents tabled in the Senate on Thursday showed Scullion approved $460,000 in Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding for the NT Amateur Fishermen's Association, the NT Cattlemen's Association and the NT Seafood Council because “there is a clear need for the stakeholder [groups] to be better informed on Aboriginal issues in the Northern Territory”. The Senate also heard on Wednesday that Scullion awarded a $1.4 million IAS grant to North Australian Remote Management Consultants, a consulting company that employs Country Liberal Party president Ron Kelly, who previously worked as Scullion’s chief of staff.
And the Victorian government has promised to introduce free sanitary products in state schools if it wins the state election next weekend. The $5 million, Australian-first policy would see tampons and pads in all female, unisex and accessible toilets by the second half of 2019. Health minister Jill Hennessy said the initiative was designed to “break down the stigma of menstruation and ensure it does not impact on a student’s ability to be comfortable at school and ready to learn”. Last month, federal parliament agreed to exempt sanitary products from the GST after years of campaigning by gender rights activists.