Friday, December 21, 2018

Buckingham quits NSW Greens

New South Wales upper house parliamentarian Jeremy Buckingham has quit the Greens, claiming the party has been taken over by “an extreme left faction” with a “Marxist agenda”. Multiple state and federal Greens MPs called on Buckingham to resign following allegations of sexual assault and bullying, all of which Buckingham denies. Buckingham flagged his intent to run at the state election in March as an independent, saying he was “not afraid to go rogue”. Fellow state Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, who has criticised the party’s response to the Buckingham allegations, said she “[shared] many members' concerns at how he has been treated”. Buckingham said he may run for the lower house seat of Newtown, currently held by Greens MP and critic Jenny Leong.

Academics in Aboriginal affairs have criticised a government review into Indigenous deaths in custody as “largely worthless”. In an open letter prepared by researchers at the Australian National University’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, 32 academics from 12 institutions said a Deloitte Access Economics review into government responses to the 1991 royal commission on Aboriginal deaths in custody “gives a misleadingly positive view” of the issue, and may “risk increasing Aboriginal deaths in custody” if its advice were followed. The Deloitte report, tabled in the Senate in October, found that 78 per cent of the royal commission’s 339 recommendations had been fully or mostly implemented by state, territory and federal governments. The academics claimed that figure “substantially overstate[s] the progress made towards implementing the RCIADIC recommendations”, noting that Deloitte seemingly neglected the advent of paperless arrests in the Northern Territory, rising rates of Indigenous youth incarceration and the expansion of Aboriginal incarceration for misdemeanours such as offensive language and non-payment of fines.

An internal review of the Australian Border Force has found “alarming levels of sexual harassment and bullying” among staff. The 2017 review, also known as the May report, was ordered by former ABF commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg and obtained by Guardian Australia under freedom of information laws. It found the ABF’s culture was “influenced by favouritism and nepotism” that privileged white men over other groups, and promoted a military-style culture that attracted and benefited “cowboys, too aggressive and too keen to use weapons”. Quaedvlieg said he found the conclusions “shocking”, citing “things in the realm of sexual harassment, or at least sexually harassing comments, innuendos, disadvantaging in the workplace, particularly towards women, but also to other minority groups”. In a statement earlier this month, ABF commissioner Michael Outram said “these behaviours will not be tolerated within the ABF”.

In the United States, Republicans, intelligence agencies and foreign allies have reacted with concern to president Donald Trump’s declaration that the US will withdraw troops from Syria. Speaking in a Twitter video on Thursday, Trump said that “we have won against ISIS” and that “it’s time for our troops to come back home”. While Islamic State lost control of the eastern city of Hajin, its last urban stronghold, last week, under secretary to the United Kingdom defence ministry, Tobias Ellwood, said the group had “morphed into other forms of extremism” and that “the threat is very much alive”. The decision seemingly took the Pentagon and other branches of the defence and intelligence establishment by surprise, contradicting statements on the administration’s Syria policy made days earlier. In an open letter, six Republican senators urged Trump to reconsider, calling the decision “a premature and costly mistake” that “emboldens ISIS, Bashar al Assad, Iran and Russia”.

And former independent federal MP Rob Oakeshott will run in the regional New South Wales seat of Cowper at next year’s federal election. Oakeshott, who supported the Gillard Labor minority government in 2010, retired from politics in 2013 and unsuccessfully ran for the seat of Cowper in 2016. The National Party holds Cowper by a margin of less than 5 per cent, with the seat likely to be in play due to the retirement of current member Luke Hartsuyker and a series of scandals involving senior Nationals figures.

Have a good holiday break. The Briefing will return January 29.



“Kids are still dying at Australian music festivals – the latest, Callum Brosnan, 19, died in the early hours of Sunday morning after a suspected overdose at Sydney Olympic Park. Sixteen others were hospitalised at the event, Knockout: Games of Destiny, with a further 130 seeking treatment. In September, it was Diana Nguyen, 21, and Joseph Pham, 23, who both died at the Defqon.1 music festival in Western Sydney.”


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“Hi Mark! Remember Cambridge Analytica and when 2 million people left Facebook? What a year it’s been.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.