Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Morrison resists shutting out One Nation

Prime minister Scott Morrison has refused to rule out preferencing One Nation ahead of Labor and the Greens at the next election after an Al Jazeera investigation revealed senior One Nation representatives sought funding from the US National Rifle Association. At a press conference on Tuesday, Morrison compared the Greens’ support for an inheritance tax to One Nation’s attempts to loosen gun laws, saying “those extreme views that are a danger to Australia are not hostage to the left or the right of Australian politics”. Morrison previously refused to be drawn on preferencing One Nation during an interview with The Project’s Waleed Aly last week. Nine newspapers reported on Tuesday that five years ago Morrison had requested $9 billion from the federal government’s expenditure review committee to build a network of mass detention centres for holding migrants in Australia on bridging visas. Morrison’s proposal was reportedly vetoed by then treasurer Joe Hockey, who objected on humanitarian grounds. A spokesperson for Morrison said the prime minister had no recollection of making the proposal.

Senior One Nation figures James Ashby and Steve Dickson have claimed they were drunk when they were filmed talking about soliciting millions of dollars in donations from the National Rifle Association while in the United States. At a press conference on Tuesday, Dickson said the discussion took place after “we'd arrived in America [and] we got on the sauce”. He said it was out of character. “I don’t talk like that publicly. We were three men talking together and having scotches for about three or four hours. That is the truth of the matter,” Dickson said. Dickson did not address comments he made at an NRA rally about gun control advocates and the Greens, saying “we’re going to kill them”.

Indigenous advocacy and social services organisations have reacted furiously to the federal government’s expansion of cashless welfare across the Northern Territory. Family and social services minister Paul Fletcher announced on Monday that starting in 2020, almost 22,500 welfare recipients would be moved from the existing BasicsCard – which quarantines 50 per cent of a person’s income – to the cashless debit card, which quarantines 80 per cent. In a statement on Tuesday, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair Dr Jackie Huggins said cashless welfare “shames and stigmatises our peoples for their disadvantage, robs them of their financial freedom, and exacerbates pre-existing social challenges such as financial harassment”. The changes would require parliamentary approval, making their passage unlikely before the next federal election. Meanwhile, legal and social welfare groups have criticised the Northern Territory government’s decision to extend discretionary powers to youth detention centre guards. Criminal Lawyers Association NT president Marty Aust said the new laws, which run contrary to recommendations made by a 2017 royal commission into abuses at the Don Dale centre, marked “a dark day for justice in the NT”.

Federal Labor has announced it would instruct the Fair Work Commission to determine the level and feasible introduction time of a “living wage” if it wins government at the next election. Speaking on Tuesday, shadow employment minister Brendan O’Connor said that under Labor, “the commission’s highest priority will be making sure no person working full-time in Australia need live in poverty”. The policy is a victory for the union movement, which has been pushing for an overhaul of industrial relations laws as part of its Change The Rules campaign. Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus welcomed the news, describing the proposal as “an essential and fantastic first step to fixing our broken wages rules”.

The deaths by suicide of dozens of young Indigenous people this year has prompted a nationwide campaign to address mental illness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Speaking at the Monday launch of Stronger Together, a suicide prevention campaign by mental health advocacy network R U OK?, Yupungathi and Meriam woman Dr Vanessa Lee, who helped develop the campaign, told the ABC’s Hack program on Triple J that “the recent prevalence of deaths this year highlights the hopelessness and that inability for young people to express themselves and tell us what they're feeling”. Many of the young Indigenous people who died by suicide recently were young women living in remote areas.

And Centre Alliance senator for South Australia, Rex Patrick, has called for a senate inquiry into far-right extremism in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack. In a media release on Monday, Patrick said “there has undoubtedly been greatly more surveillance of mosques and Muslim worshippers than far-right extremist groups as well as social media and internet chat rooms they use to share their hateful ideas. There is in fact a real dearth of hard information and analysis on right-wing extremist violence in Australia”. Meanwhile, media outlets would be subject to greater regulatory scrutiny and higher standards under a policy announced by the Greens on Tuesday. The party’s communications spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, said the Australian Media and Communications Authority would be given increased powers “to ensure hate speech does not infiltrate mainstream news, whatever medium it comes through”.


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“Australia has no reliable statistics on right-wing attacks, but we do at least – unlike the US – have a leader calling for us to ‘disagree better’. The message does not yet seem to have sunk in with some. In Monday’s edition of The Australian, Janet Albrechtsen was as intemperate as ever, blasting ‘ratbags’ on the left as being as bad as Senator Fraser Anning, who blamed the victims of Christchurch for their own deaths, simply because they were there.”


“How many must-watches are out there right now? How many of them do you know about because of social media? Every week now, or so it seems, Twitter explodes with praise for the culture’s latest and greatest home run. Perhaps not surprisingly, given how quickly it has become most people’s preferred method of watching anything, Netflix is usually the company that has hit it. Before Russian Doll it was Sex Education. Not long before that, it was Bird Box.”


“At the Pyrmont headquarters of Australian South Sea Islanders – Port Jackson, Aunty Shireen Malamoo is holding court. More accurately, Malamoo and chairwoman Emelda Davis are conferring in the living room of Davis’s home. Headquarters is the front room down the hall. Over pastries and Weet-Bix, Malamoo, a founding member of the ASSI-PJ board, reflects on the work done by the organisation Davis co-founded in 2009.”


“The Greens are more dangerous than One Nation in many ways. They would close down whole sections of the Australian economy. Now, they are very, very dangerous people in their ideology ... I think it’s fair to say the Greens are significantly more dangerous to Australia and its prosperity.”


“As minister for justice from 2013 to 2017 and minister for counter-terrorism from 2015- 2017, I worked closely with our law enforcement agencies to help make Australia a safer and more secure nation. Counter-terrorism funding increased substantially and we strengthened our intelligence capabilities, passing legislation to strengthen our ability to investigate, monitor, arrest and prosecute home-grown extremists and returning foreign fighters.”


“Daley said he would recontest the leadership, but as he pointed out months ago, mediocre white people from Sydney don’t stand a chance for employment when put up against more competent Asians with PhDs. NSW Labor president Mick Lemon says it will be a hard task to orchestrate, but they do have Jihad Dib in the seat of Lakemba, who is a highly educated MP of Lebanese background, which technically makes him West Asian.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.