Senate estimates has heard that Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, attended a meeting with a representative of Helloworld, an ASX-listed travel company in which he owns a substantial stake, as it sought further government contracts. In a statement to Senate estimates, former Helloworld executive Russell Carstensen detailed how Helloworld chief executive and Liberal Party treasurer Andrew Burnes instructed him to fly to Washington, DC in order to meet Hockey to discuss the travel arrangements of Australia’s diplomatic corps in the Americas. Carstensen said Burnes told him he was able to secure the meeting because “Hockey owes me”. Carstensen also said officials overseeing the Whole of Australian Government travel and accommodation contract, and some in the department of foreign affairs and trade, were “uncomfortable” with the meeting, as Hockey owns $1.3 million worth of shares in Helloworld. Attorney-general Christian Porter said on Thursday that the contract has not yet been awarded.
Former foreign minister Julie Bishop has announced her retirement from politics at the next federal election. Speaking in the House of Representatives on Thursday, Bishop said she had decided to retire as she believed the Coalition would be re-elected, and that it was “time for a new member to take my place”. Bishop served as deputy Liberal leader for 11 years under four leaders, gaining 11 votes when she contested the party leadership in August. After announcing her retirement, Bishop left the chamber while prime minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to her in a speech. Bishop holds the seat of Curtin in Perth’s western suburbs by a margin of more than 20 per cent.
Lawyers representing refugee advocacy organisations are organising challenges to the federal government’s plans to send offshore detainees to Christmas Island, rather than the Australian mainland, for medical treatment. Human Rights Law Centre executive director Hugh de Kretser told Nine newspapers the HRLC would challenge transfers where “there was medical evidence [treatment] couldn't be appropriately provided on Christmas Island”. Christmas Island Shire chief executive David Price warned last week that the island could not provide adequate medical care for seriously ill people, saying that residents were medivacked off the island “quite regularly here for medical reasons as it's only a small regional hospital”.
And federal government MPs have responded furiously to a pledge from international mining giant Glencore to cap its coal production due to climate change. Glencore, Australia’s biggest coal miner and the 14th-largest company in the world by consolidated revenue, announced on Wednesday that it would “limit our coal production capacity broadly to current levels” and move to “invest in assets that will be resilient to regulatory, physical and operational risks related to climate change”. Liberal-National Party member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, hit out at “the latte-sipping Greens that are trying to destroy the coal industry”. Glencore had been targeted by the investor activist group Climate Action 100+, which is pressuring major mining and energy companies to transition away from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the Australian dollar fell by one per cent on Thursday after the Chinese port city of Dalian banned shipments of Australian thermal coal, likely for diplomatic reasons.