Tuesday, December 11, 2018

May pushes back Brexit vote

British prime minister Theresa May has cancelled a planned parliamentary vote on her government’s draft Brexit agreement today, potentially setting the stage for a leadership challenge. In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, May admitted the plan “would be rejected by a significant margin” if it went to a vote, and that she would head to Brussels in an attempt to renegotiate conditions over the UK’s border with Ireland. MPs have demanded May schedule a vote on the deal before the end of the year, although it could be delayed until January. May had warned on Sunday that Britain “would truly be in uncharted waters” if parliament rejects the Brexit agreement, “with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal”. Ominously for May’s political prospects, Conservative backbencher and Leave advocate Boris Johnson has had a haircut.

Two class actions have claimed the Australian government inflicted torture, crimes against humanity and caused intentional harm to refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. Working with legal advocates at the National Justice Project, lawyers George Newhouse and Julian Burnside QC filed claims on behalf of about 1200 refugees with the High Court on Friday. In a statement, the NPJ said the refugees claimed they had been subjected to “torture, crimes against humanity and the intentional infliction of harm by the Australian government”, and were pursuing a civil case “because a prosecution for such acts under the commonwealth criminal code requires the approval of the attorney general”.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has recommended the establishment of a new authority to regulate the behaviour of digital giants such as Google and Facebook. In its preliminary Digital Platforms Inquiry report, released on Monday, the ACCC recommended the government create “a regulatory authority to be tasked with monitoring, investigating and reporting on the criteria, commercial arrangements or other factors used by relevant digital platforms”, including the display of advertising and news. It also recommended the authority be empowered to investigate whether search engines and social media platforms were “engaging in discriminatory conduct by favouring their own business interests above those of advertisers or potentially competing businesses”.

And rugby league player Jarryd Hayne has pleaded not guilty on one charge of aggravated sexual assault inflicting actual bodily harm. Appearing before Burwood local court in Sydney on Monday, Hayne asserted through his barrister, Richard Pontello, that he “maintains his innocence and maintains he will be pleading not guilty”. Hayne, 30, was arrested last month after allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in her home. The unnamed woman claimed Hayne injured her during the assault, biting her on the groin so severely she required medical attention. Hayne is fighting a separate civil case in the United States over an alleged rape in 2015, while Manly Sea Eagles player Dylan Walker was charged with common assault last week after allegedly assaulting his fiancee.


“In criminal proceedings in Australia, as they currently stand, complainants are not considered participants in the same way as defendants. While a defendant has a lawyer, a complainant does not. Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s duty is not to the individual witness in a case but instead to the court.”


“The public isn’t crying out for corporate tax cuts. On the contrary, it wants more funding for health, education and a welfare safety net. Lower power prices? They’re an issue of public concern, but so too is the truly grave issue of climate change. The Coalition has done nothing to address either. However, many of its MPs believe in freedom of expression for religious organisations and racists, and even support such motions in parliament.”


“I have a friend who on reading about Gaspar Noé’s new film, Climax, made the decision to see the film for its exuberant and wildly joyous first act, and then to judiciously pick up her bag and slip out of the cinema as its darker, vertiginous second act began to unfold. Though I want to encourage those of you who will see the film to stay right to the very end, I acknowledge the film’s formally and visually dissonant second half can tax the patience of a viewer.”


“When Labor party members arrive at their national conference in Adelaide later this month, they will be confronted with a series of large marble tombstone-like plaques bearing the names of all the people to have died as a result of a policy the party supports. The plaques, by artist Alex Seton, are part of the All We Can’t See exhibition devoted to showing the horror of offshore detention, booked as part of the fringe event to Labor’s annual meeting at the Adelaide Convention Centre.”


“Senior Labor frontbencher Tony Burke played down an expected push by some delegates to the party’s national conference next weekend to abandon asylum-seeker boat turnbacks, saying such a  push happened every year at the conference and was defeated every year. ‘I don’t mind that there are some delegates who have that view and they push it, but they haven’t been in the majority in the past and they won’t be in the majority this time’, he told Sky News.”


“Everyone from subeditors to designers were brought on board to make sure no questions were changed at the last minute and Dennis was told it was a done deal when the magazine was sent to the printers eight days ago. After finishing work on Friday, Dennis and Melissa drove down to Beechworth and walked down to the local newsagent on Saturday morning to buy a paper so they could do the quiz over breakfast.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.