Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Thailand frees Hakeem al-Araibi

Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi has been freed by Thai authorities after the Bahraini government dropped its extradition request against him. Al-Araibi was detained for more than two months after flying to Thailand for his honeymoon in November. Acting on an Interpol red notice issued by the Bahraini government, Australian authorities tipped off their Thai counterparts without informing them that al-Araibi was a refugee. Former Socceroos captain and SBS commentator Craig Foster, who spearheaded the #SaveHakeem campaign, said al-Araibi’s release was a victory for “people everywhere standing up for good, pushing back against regimes who flout international law, for human rights”.

The federal Labor Party has proposed amendments to independent MP Kerryn Phelps’ medivac bill, setting the stage for a historic vote in the House of Representatives today. The amendments, agreed to by the federal Labor caucus on Monday, would give the home affairs minister more time to consider the medical transfer of offshore detainees too ill to be treated on Manus Island or Nauru, and wider scope to reject them on security grounds. Speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, prime minister Scott Morrison said he was “not going to find a middle ground” on the Phelps bill. “This is the problem with [opposition leader Bill] Shorten on national security or borders or anything else – he thinks it's something you trade on … On national security, on border protection, these things are absolutes – and Labor never gets this”, Morrison said. The crossbench will meet today to decide whether to support Labor’s amendments, ahead of a final vote in the afternoon.

The royal commission into the aged care sector has heard from the family of a man who was overmedicated and suffered unexplained bruises before his death in Adelaide’s Oakden mental health care facility in 2016. The commission, which began hearings in Adelaide on Monday, heard testimony from Barbara Spriggs, whose whistleblowing about her husband Bob’s treatment at Oakden helped spark several investigations into the facility and the broader state of aged care. Spriggs told the inquiry that “speaking out lifted the lid on a problem which was much wider than the way Bob had been treated”. Only 900 of Australia’s 2000 approved aged care providers have supplied the commission with required five-year summaries of substandard care incidents. The hearings continue in Adelaide until February 22, with a final report deadline of April 30 next year.

And federal small business minister Michaelia Cash will be cross-examined this week over an Australian Federal Police raid on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Workers Union in 2017. Cash will be called as a witness in a civil case between the AWU and the Registered Organisations Commission, established by the Turnbull government in 2017 to monitor union activity. Cash has long refused to answer questions about her office’s role in the raid, notice of which was leaked to the media. Cash’s former media advisor, David De Garis, admitted in federal court on Monday that he was the source of the leak, while declining to say who tipped him off “on the grounds it may incriminate me”. AWU national secretary Dan Walton claimed “there's been a misuse of government resources, a misuse of government powers by Minister Cash, to commence an investigation into her perceived political enemies”.



“The Phelps bill, somewhat amended, passed the senate on December 6, the final sitting day of last year. But the government shut down parliament before it could be considered by the house of representatives. The government remains terrified it could lose when the proposal begins again in the lower house. All the signs suggest it will be a nasty, dirty fight. Indeed, it already is.”


“There is no doubt that living organisms are in a class apart, almost magical in their amazing properties. Yet they are made of normal matter. In the past few years, however, the secret of life is finally being revealed, and the missing link between matter and life comes from a totally unexpected direction.”


“As a freelance writer, the nature of the work is inherently unreliable. But beyond dealing with the rotating roster of editors, expected fast turnarounds and a rapidly evaporating pool of subeditors, contributors are being asked to protect the brand at all costs. At the same time, the brand offers little in the way of support for those providing all of its saleable content.”


“One of Australia’s most senior cabinet ministers says politics is trapped in a self-obsessed and panic-prone spiral that is damaging parliament’s ability to work for the good of voters. Defence minister Christopher Pyne has linked his damning verdict on the state of Australian politics to the overthrow of Malcolm Turnbull last August, accusing his own colleagues of bowing to ‘irrational pressure’ from ‘shouty’ commentators and warning this is now an entrenched problem.”


“Government frontbencher Christopher Pyne claims all asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru could ‘qualify’ to travel to Australia, if the Opposition continues to support a contentious bill about medical transfers ... Pyne was repeatedly questioned how he could back up the Coalition’s argument that about 1,000 people on Manus Island and Nauru were so unwell that doctors would recommend they be moved to Australia.”



“While his party’s standing remains strong, few voters are able to identify him without first being told exactly who he is. The news is a relief for his campaign team after a weekend stuff-up where he seemingly failed to arrive at his own rally. According to sources, Shorten was actually present at the event, and even went on stage, but nobody realised that he was the Labor Party’s leader.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.