Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sick refugees shunted to Christmas Island

Sick refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention will be taken to Christmas Island rather than the Australian mainland if a medical panel recommends they need treatment unavailable on Nauru or Manus Island. Speaking on Monday, department of home affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo told Senate estimates that “if specialised treatment is only available on the mainland, then the mainland will of course be utilised”. Shire of Christmas Island CEO, David Price, criticised prime minister Scott Morrison’s decision last week to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre, saying “we just wouldn't have the capacity here to deal with people coming here for medical reasons, both physically and mentally”. Meanwhile, the Nauruan government has banned the medical transfer of residents based on the advice of online consultations. Refugee advocate George Newhouse told Nine newspapers that the move meant “Australia is now unable to comply with its own laws”, and that “this could form the basis of a fresh constitutional challenge to offshore processing”. Opposition leader Bill Shorten signalled Labor would not oppose the move, saying “the issue here is the safe treatment of people within the context of strong borders”.

Finance minister Mathias Cormann has faced a grilling at Senate estimates over $2730 of free travel he obtained for his family by phoning the chief executive of travel agency Helloworld. Senate estimates heard on Tuesday that Cormann obtained free family flights to Singapore from Helloworld CEO and Liberal Party treasurer Andrew Burnes. Cormann claimed he did not notice when the flights were not charged to his credit card, and that he had “absolutely no involvement” in a lucrative government travel and accommodation contract awarded to Helloworld weeks after the bookings were made. Helloworld chief financial officer Michael Burnett said on Tuesday that the tickets “were never intended to be free”, and that Cormann’s card was not charged due to an administrative error.

The aged care royal commission has heard that almost 4000 assaults were reported in Australian nursing homes in the last financial year. Speaking on Monday, federal health department secretary Glenys Beauchamp revealed that 3773 incidents had been logged in the 2017-18 financial year, not including incidents in which mentally impaired elderly people attacked fellow residents. Last week geriatrician Edward Strivens told the commission aged care workers were “reaching for the script pads too early”, potentially endangering patients by over-prescribing painkillers, antidepressants and sedatives.

The office of the Australian Information Commissioner has launched “preliminary enquiries” into the conduct of Liberal MP Tim Wilson over the inquiry he chaired into Labor’s policy to end franking credit rebates. Nine newspapers reported earlier this month that Wilson had passed the private details of people who signed a petition on his government-funded website,, to fund management firm Wilson Asset Management without their knowledge. Wilson has been widely criticised over the inquiry, which was used by Liberal politicians to solicit donations and encourage attendees to join the party.

And in the United States, independent senator for Vermont, Bernie Sanders, has announced his candidacy for the Democratic party presidential nomination in 2020. In an email to supporters announcing his run, Sanders denounced president Donald Trump as “a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction”, and if elected Sanders pledged to create “a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice”. Sanders, 77, enters a crowded Democratic field of popular progressives, such as Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and California senator Kamala Harris.



“I have been so impatient to organise myself, because I lost so many precious years. I haven’t rested properly since I arrived – I go anywhere, accept any invitation, do whatever I can to achieve goals I never thought possible. Now I know that through hard work I can be whoever I want to be. I have control of my life, and everything can be solved with time.”


“If ever there was a transformative moment in the career of Ben Quilty, who made his name with art about young male risk-taking – getting into fights and drinking, taking drugs and speeding in cars – it happened after a trip to Afghanistan, in 2011, where he was an official Australian war artist. Not when Quilty, who had grown up in a north-west Sydney suburb, was exploring the rugged terrain in Tarin Kowt and Kabul by Chinook and on foot, but in the anxious aftermath.”


“Jake Webb is a truly exceptional songwriter but his knack for melody has to be his most remarkable gift. His tunes leap across unwieldy chord combinations, always sounding effortless and mellifluous. It cloaks his depressive poetry with a lighthearted buoyancy that will deceive the casual listener but that also gives the songs a piquancy that intensifies with every listen.”


“The ACT government will allow pill testing at this year’s Groovin’ the Moo music festival in Canberra. Chief minister Andrew Barr has given the green light for a trial at the event on April 28 at Exhibition Park, following a successful Australian-first trial last year.”


“It appears that any Facebook users who have responded to a satirical event about leaving a poo on NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s doorstep might find that they have received a DM from an active member of the NSW Police Force.”


“Cormann – whose recent family holiday was funded by a travel company – said he was still learning how things worked in Australia, since moving from Belgium 25 years ago. ‘You guys have all of these strange little traditions like eating seafood at Christmas and talking to taxi drivers. I’ve learnt a lot of them, but I’ve got to say this convention of paying for your own overseas holidays is new to me. How lovely!’ ”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.