Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Townsville floods turn deadly

The bodies of two people have been discovered as floodwaters begin to recede in some areas of Townsville. The two men, aged in their 20s, were found by emergency services workers in the suburb of Aitkenvale on Tuesday. Townsville has received more than its annual average rainfall in the last 10 days, recording more than a metre of rain as of Monday. Prime minister Scott Morrison, who toured the area on Tuesday, brushed off questions from media about the role of climate change in extreme weather events, saying he was “not engaging in broader policy debates today”. Speaking on Monday from Huonville in Tasmania, where bushfires have been burning for weeks, opposition leader Bill Shorten said that “even the most extreme climate deniers are probably at the point of acknowledging that we are having more and more extreme weather events”.

Both major federal political parties have declined to refuse donations from banks and financial institutions implicated in wrongdoing by the financial services royal commission. Speaking on Tuesday, treasurer Josh Frydenberg said banks “should be allowed, like any other legal institution in our community, to support political parties”, while shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said “nobody could suggest that any donation from a bank has influenced the Labor Party”. Australian Electoral Commission data released in January revealed the major banks and industry lobby groups donated more than $1 million to Labor and the Liberal and National parties in the 2017-18 financial year. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has admitted his government was wrong to delay calling the royal commission, saying on Tuesday that “we should have got on with it earlier”.

Prime minister Scott Morrison has hit out at crossbench MPs’ rejection of the federal government’s proposed medical review board for refugees in offshore detention. In a letter to opposition leader Bill Shorten on Monday, Morrison claimed government agencies had warned him that “hundreds of what are now predominantly single males would be transferred from Manus and Nauru in a matter of weeks” if parliament passed legislation allowing refugees to be transferred to Australia on the advice of doctors. Crossbenchers reaffirmed support for the bill, proposed by independent MP Kerryn Phelps, with former Liberal MP Julia Banks saying on ABC’s Q&A on Monday she would “absolutely” support the transfer of unwell refugees. Independent member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, who will retire at the next election, has said she “will not give up on refugees and my voting record speaks for itself on this issue”.

And a journalistic investigation into late soul icon James Brown has claimed the singer and his third wife may have been murdered. In a three-part investigation by CNN, singer and circus performer Jacquelyn Hollander claims Brown raped her in 1988, while friends, family members and doctors called for an autopsy into Brown’s death in 2006. Read the investigation here.



“For two months now, Hakeem al-Araibi has shared a large remand cell in a Bangkok prison with 50 other men. The food is poor, and he worries about the spread of disease. He has no access to a phone and is reliant on others to relay messages to his wife. In addition to his lawyer and consular staff, he is permitted one visitor a day for meetings of no longer than 20 minutes.”


“Human life isn’t priceless. Yours might be, to you, but as a society we put a price on human lives all the time. Courts, insurance companies, actuaries, CEOs, consulting firms, public servants and government ministers all make decisions about the value of life, and the value of death. It’s not secret, but we don’t talk about it.”


“He explains that we are surrounded by quite young forest, that we can tell by the pyramid shape of the mountain ash growing over the tops of the hills that the trees are young. He says we’ll struggle for the rest of the day to find many old trees in the whole system. This was a rare patch of old growth forest that’s now gone.”


“National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn has admitted he is ‘ashamed’ of some of the things that have happened on his watch as he cancelled a period of long-service leave to deal with the fallout from the Hayne report ... While conceding his leadership had not been ‘perfect’ he said he was ‘more determined than ever’ to see the bank do the right thing by its customers and rejected the suggestion it had been ‘greedy’.”


“The big banks and wealth managers are rallying hard on the share market as traders digest a royal commission report that has been described by one leading analyst as a ‘clear win for the banks’ ... In a report titled ‘tough talk, soft recommendations’, UBS banking analyst Jon Mott noted that investors were expecting far more damaging findings and far reaching reforms.”



“According to many people who know him, Mallory has a history of imposture, and of duping people with false stories about disease and death. Long before he wrote fiction professionally, Mallory was experimenting with gothic personal fictions, apparently designed to get attention, bring him advancement, or to explain away failings.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.