The House of Representatives has passed a motion in support of establishing a national anti-corruption body, with the federal government narrowly avoiding losing a vote in the lower house. Attorney-general Christian Porter said the government opposed a crossbench bill establishing a national integrity commission, arguing the bill’s scope could see “hundreds of thousands of civil servants ... potentially be declared corrupt for the most minor matters”. Independent MP Cathy McGowan, who introduced the bill, challenged the government to work with the rest of parliament on introducing an anti-corruption body, asking Porter “what will you do to help us to make this legislation better?”
Independent member for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, has urged the federal government to take action on climate change and end the offshore detention of refugees and asylum seekers in her first parliamentary speech. Speaking in the House of Representatives on Monday, Phelps cited the “imminent disappearance of island nations like Kiribati or Tuvalu, altered food supply, drought, floods, increases in water-borne and insect-borne diseases” as likely dangers facing Australia from climate change in the future, and said Australia’s border protection policy “must not be ... a choice between deaths at sea and indefinite offshore confinement”. Phelps won Wentworth in an October byelection, becoming the first non-Liberal member to hold the seat since the formation of the party in the 1940s.
Indigenous and South Sea Islander rights activist Bonita Mabo has died. An Australian South Sea Islander whose ancestors were “blackbirded” from Vanuatu in the 19th century to work in Queensland’s sugar cane fields, Bonita worked alongside her husband, Eddie Mabo, in the push to establish Indigenous land rights. In 2013, Mabo was named an officer of the Order of Australia “for her lifetime of activism and service,” and last week she was awarded an honorary doctor of letters from James Cook University for “her campaigning for the rights of Indigenous Australians and Australian South Sea Islanders”. In a statement, Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson president Emelda Davis said “Aunty Bonita's contribution to social justice and human rights for First Nations People and the Australian South Sea Islander recognition was monumental and relentless”.
And former opposition leader Mark Latham has agreed to pay damages and legal costs to settle a defamation dispute with ABC Life editor Osman Faruqi. In a series of media appearances and statements last year, Latham claimed Faruqi had engaged in “anti-white racism” and was “encouraging the terrorists”. In a statement, law firm Maurice Blackburn, which represented Faruqi, said “the total sum of damages plus costs could exceed $100,000,” given “the extraordinarily lengthy and unusual first defence filed by Latham in the case”. In August, a federal court judge dismissed Latham’s original defence in the suit, which ran to 76 pages and invoked “the martyrdom of Christians in the Roman Empire … the persecution of ethnoreligious Huguenots in the French Kingdom during the French Wars of Religion of the Sixteenth Century,” and “the segregation and ill-treatment of ethnic Negro people under the doctrine of Apartheid in South Africa between 1948 and 1991”.