Thursday, February 14, 2019

Far-right parliamentary punch-up

A series of sexual harassment allegations involving One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and United Australia Party senator Brian Burston has led to a physical altercation in Parliament House. In a speech to the Senate on Monday, Hanson accused an unnamed senator of “serious sexual harassment” against a staff member. “Just because you wear the red pin does not doesn’t give you permission to place your unwanted hands, or lips, on your staff”, Hanson said. In a letter of complaint sent to the department of finance last year and published by media outlets on Wednesday, an unnamed female staffer alleged she “was speaking to BB [Brian Burston] in his private office when he offered to fuck me to make things better”. Burston vehemently denied the claim, calling it “bullshit” and accusing ($) Hanson of sexually harassing him twice. Responding to those allegations in turn, Hanson told 7 News “I might be 64 now, but I tell you what, I’m not that desperate”. In an incident photographed by The Australian ($), Burston and Hanson’s chief of staff, James Ashby, scuffled outside parliament’s Great Hall. Security officers were later called to Hanson’s parliamentary office after several streaks of what a staffer claimed was blood were found on the suite’s door. When asked for comment after the incident, Burston replied “fuck you. It’s all a set-up”.

Prime minister Scott Morrison has ordered the mothballed detention centre on Christmas Island be reopened to cope with what he described as “the prospect of arrivals as well as dealing with the prospect of transfers”. Government ministers reacted furiously on Wednesday to the historic passage of independent MP Kerryn Phelps’ medivac bill by the Senate, with finance minister Mathias Cormann falsely claiming that “rapists, murderers and paedophiles will still get a free pass into this country” under the law. Justice Party leader Derryn Hinch, whose support secured the bill’s passage in the Senate on Wednesday, said “the home affairs department assured me today [the refugees] will remain in detention in some manner or form – they will not be coming here and wandering around the streets of Australia”.

Aboriginal protesters shut down federal parliament on Wednesday to draw attention to the Murray-Darling water crisis and fracking in the Northern Territory. Activists from Indigenous youth climate movement SEED occupied the Parliament House foyer as part of the Water Is Life campaign, protesting rising sea levels affecting Torres Strait Islander communities, fish deaths in the Murray-Darling river system and the lack of consultation with Indigenous people on water policy. Meanwhile, Aboriginal rights group Grandmothers Against Removals used the 11th anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations to stage a protest outside New South Wales parliament against the state government’s forced adoptions policy. Writing in Junkee, Bundjalung woman Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts recounted her experience of being taken from her father by Family and Community Services. “I was eleven years old when I heard the sirens throughout the housing commission streets in the middle of the night, followed by my father saying, ‘I am sorry bub, but they are coming to get you’”, Turnbull-Roberts said. “I do not accept your apology, I accept the process of healing and appropriate action.”

And independent MP Andrew Wilkie has shunned a Labor push for extra parliamentary sitting weeks to pass legislation in response to the banking and financial services industry royal commission. Speaking to The Australian ($) on Wednesday, Wilkie said any extra sitting weeks in March would be “so soon, and so few, as to not allow time to properly prepare, scrutinise and debate the necessary bills in both houses of parliament”. With the support of much of the House of Representatives crossbench, Labor is pushing to recall parliament for two extra weeks to implement the royal commission’s recommendations. Fellow independent Bob Katter said on Wednesday that he was negotiating “substantial action” on the commission’s recommendations with prime minister Scott Morrison, including a proposal for the government to issue low-interest loans to cattle farmers.



“There is a new war on Australia’s doorstep. After 57 years of sporadic fighting, military crackdowns, killings and detentions by the Indonesian authorities against the West Papuans, the Free West Papua Movement last week declared war on the Indonesian government. Speaking in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, its chairman, Jeffrey Bomanak, said fighting wouldn’t end until Indonesia came to the negotiating table to discuss independence for the West Papua region.”


“Christine Caine is a prodigy of Sydney’s Hillsong Church, which counts pop singer Justin Bieber among its international worshipers. She rose through the ranks as a youth leader before branching out on her own, and remains close to founders Brian and Bobbie Houston. Though Caine still regularly preaches with the Houstons, she has swapped Western Sydney for a beachside community south of Los Angeles.”


“In 2015, two inmates of a maximum-security prison in upstate New York – Richard Matt and David Sweat – had escaped. They trudged together for several weeks through dense forest towards the Canadian border before separating. Matt was eventually shot and killed by authorities; Sweat was also shot, but he survived. What made their story of more than momentary fascination was that a third figure, the female supervisor of the men’s prison sewing workshop where both worked, had helped them get away.”


“The prime minister declared that every new boat arrival will be on Bill Shorten’s head’, slamming the opposition leader as ‘weak’ on national security ... The prime minister says his conclusions are based on advice from the Border Force and ASIO, which states potential illegal immigrants ‘will probably be interested in any perceived or actual pathway where resettlement in a Western country is guaranteed, even if such a pathway includes a period spent in detention’.”


“While the number of boats attempting to get to Australia has declined over the past five years from the hundreds of boats that arrived between 2009 and 2013, the government’s own data provided to a Senate committee in December revealed that boats are still attempting to get to Australia and are being turned back or taken to their country of origin by Operation Sovereign Borders.”


“After spending her entire life avoiding being tortured and killed by a tyrannical terrorist organisation that has taken control of her home country after several failed US military operations, one opportunistic refugee has today received the news she’s been waiting to hear for years.”

Love the weekly ritual of The Saturday Paper Quiz? Now trivia fans can come together for a grand night of quizzing in partnership with State Library Victoria, Melbourne.

Participants will enjoy a two-course meal designed by Annie Smithers and drinks will be available to purchase from A Wine Service bar, curated by Blackhearts & Sparrows. Plus, there are great prizes to be won.

Stay tuned for future Quiz Night events around the country.

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.