Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Government endorses disability royal commission

The House of Representatives has passed a motion calling for the establishment of a royal commission into abuse and neglect in the disability services sector. Coalition MPs supported a Senate motion, introduced by Greens disability spokesperson Jordon Steele-John on Friday, laying out draft terms of reference for a commission, despite government senators voting against it on Friday. Speaking on the motion, opposition leader Bill Shorten said “we have to recognise that while we’re a nation who devalues people with disability, then we will never get to the root cause of violence and the prevention of violence, abuse and neglect”.

Federal police and national security agencies have raised concern about departmental incompetence and political interference. In Senate estimates yesterday, Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin blamed a lack of timely communication from department of home affairs officials for the detention of refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi in Thailand. Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram admitted that “human error occurred within the ABF process”, resulting in Australia not notifying Interpol that a Bahraini red notice issued on al-Araibi should not be acted upon because of his refugee status. Meanwhile, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general of security, Duncan Lewis, hit out at a front-page report in The Australian last week that claimed ASIO advised independent MP Kerryn Phelps’ medivac bill was a security risk. “When reporting wrongly attributes advice from ASIO, or where our classified advice is leaked, it undermines all that we stand for. Breakdowns in these controls are seriously damaging,” Lewis said.

More than 2000 people died after receiving an automated debt notice from Centrelink in one 27-month period, according to new figures from the department of human services. A total of 663 of those were classified as “vulnerable”, indicating complicating factors such as alcohol or drug abuse, mental health issues, or domestic violence. Greens senator Rachel Siewert said “these numbers are disturbing, and it indicates to me that the department should investigate further”. Earlier this month, Victoria Legal Aid filed a court challenge to Centrelink’s “robodebt” system, which issued more than 70,000 notices for inaccurate or non-existent debts from July 2016 to October 2018. A department of human services spokesperson told triple j’s Hack that “any suggestion that the department of human services' debt recovery efforts have contributed to customer deaths is simply not supported by the facts or statistics”.

And New South Wales opposition leader Michael Daley has announced state Labor would establish a publicly owned renewable energy company if it wins the state election next month. Speaking on Monday, Daley said the state must “produce our own energy, create our own jobs and give energy security to our own people”. Environmental groups welcomed Labor’s accompanying pledge to build seven gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030, with Nature Conservation Council chief executive Kate Smolski calling the policy “a game-changer that would make NSW a leader in clean energy in Australia, slash the state’s carbon emissions by 12 per cent and power about three million households”. The announcement comes a week after NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a scheme offering no-interest loans for solar energy and home storage systems.



“Native title holders of the land, like the rest of the nation, are divided over the Adani project. Indeed, they are far more divided – families are riven, lawyers are engaged in multiple cases, all manner of claims of dirty tricks regarding financial matters and other impropriety are alleged, and individuals’ legitimacy as title holders are being questioned. Now even the United Nations is involved.”


“In September, Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project and the Australian National Maritime Museum reported that they were homing in on the wreckage of the HM Bark Endeavour, the ship Lieutenant James Cook sailed into the waters of the Dharawal nation at Kamay, or Botany Bay, on April 29, 1770.”


“Letissier is unquestionably a product of her times. In her evolution, a cynic might see a marketing ploy, albeit a sophisticated one – an attempt to appeal to a fourth wave of feminism defined by the #MeToo movement, a Western embrace in popular culture of all things ‘queer’, the age of algorithms. As the saying goes, every generation gets the pop star it deserves.”


“Labor has suffered a sharp fall in popular support after a week of incendiary political claims over border protection, with the party leading the Coalition by 51 to 49 per cent in its narrowest result in more than six months. Voters have shifted against Labor in significant numbers amid the escalating row over the refugee medical transfer law passed by Parliament last week.”


“The poll was conducted from a sample of 1200 from Tuesday to Friday, which makes it an imperfect measure of the impact, if any, of the parliamentary vote on asylum seekers on Tuesday.”


“‘The situation is dire. The hospital I was just at ran out of blood while I was there, coincidentally’, stated Dutton at an indoor press conference. ‘Your plump, juicy bodies must be relieved of the additional strain of the rich, red blood that runs through your hot, pumping veins.’ ”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.