Monday, February 11, 2019

Labor set to fold on medivac bill

Shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann has indicated Labor would likely withdraw support for a bill giving doctors the authority to approve the transfer of asylum seekers and refugees in offshore detention to Australia for medical treatment. Speaking on Sunday, Neumann said the party wanted to ensure “the minister has final discretion over medical transfers”, signalling its likely support instead for a medical advisory board proposed by the government. Speaking to Barrie Cassidy on the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, defence minister Christopher Pyne claimed that all 1000 offshore detainees could qualify for transfer if parliament passes independent MP Kerryn Phelps’ medivac bill. “They'll be coming to Australia one way or the other saying that they have a need to because of ill-health”, Pyne said. However, Pyne refused to answer questions from Cassidy on why almost all detainees in offshore detention were too ill to be treated outside Australia, saying only “it’s not easy being tough on borders” and that Labor was “too weak to stop the boats coming to Australia”. Opposition leader Bill Shorten will meet today with home affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo for a briefing on Phelps’ bill.

At least 17 Australian residents are reportedly being held under China’s crackdown on the Uighur ethnic minority in the country’s west. Guardian Australia reports that 15 Australian permanent residents and two residents on spouse visas have been detained by Chinese authorities while on trips to visit relatives, with many being placed in the “re-education” camps where up to 1 million Uighurs are being held by the Chinese government. Uighur rights advocate Nurgul Sawut has urged the federal government to take stronger action, saying Australia’s diplomatic corps should “locate these people to tell us if they’re alive or dead”.

Environmental not-for-profit group the Wilderness Society will campaign to unseat high-profile Liberal MPs at the next federal election. The group is targeting seats held by those it has described as “the worst offenders for nature destruction” – former prime minister Tony Abbott and former environment ministers Greg Hunt and Josh Frydenberg, all of whom face challenges from independent candidates running largely on climate change issues. The trio is also being targeted by progressive lobby group GetUp!, which commissioned a poll showing on Sunday that Abbott was trailing independent candidate Zali Steggall in the seat of Warringah.

And in the United States, high-profile senator for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, has declared her candidacy for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Launching her campaign in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Warren called president Donald Trump “a product of a rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else”. Trump responded by invoking Warren listing her racial identity as “American Indian” on a Texas State Bar form in 1986, then making a mocking reference to the Trail of Tears relocations of Native Americans by writing on Twitter “see you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!”



“Despite a year of scarifying public evidence about the behaviour of Australia’s financial institutions, culminating this week in royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s excoriating report, it seems there are still those in the banking system who remain oblivious to the gap between the way they behave and what customers are entitled to expect.”


“A massive hole cleaves the earth on Bathurst Street in Sydney’s CBD. The hole is the proposed site for the Greenland Centre, a towering 235-metre residential high-rise. The developer has posted a notice at the site, making perfunctory mention of the rightful owners of the land – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – whose practices, the developer says, have been ‘irrevocably altered’ by colonisation. The notice strategically ignores the lived relationship that Eora peoples still have to the land.”


“I am 74 and acutely aware that every minute of every day our planet is hotter than when I was a boy, due to the burning of fossil fuels. Storms, droughts and bushfires are all the worse, as predicted 30 years ago. Yet the rate of burning of fossil fuels is still growing in 2019, as is the consequent heating. The planet’s biosphere has already warmed by one degree since my youth, and it is predicted to be two degrees hotter by the time girls and boys now in primary school reach my age.”


“If Australia is to avoid the prospect of thousands of new asylum-seekers, including children, filling reopened detention centres, crossbenchers will vote against Kerryn Phelps’s medivac bill in the House of Representatives ... Under the failed policies of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments, thousands of asylum-seekers streamed in on hundreds of flimsy vessels, filling detention centres and forcing the government to open new ones.”


“An editorial in the influential newspaper The Australian launched a scathing attack on both John Howard and Kim Beazley before Saturday’s poll. ‘The system has failed to produce candidates who offer what Australia needs – to look beyond the war against terror and the phoney war on boat people’, said the paper.”


“The furniture chain Ikea has apologised after becoming the latest offender to leave New Zealand off a map. An eagle-eyed Reddit user spotted that the shop is currently selling the map with a blank space where the country should be.”


Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.