Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hanson voices Port Arthur trutherism

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has been caught on camera questioning the legitimacy of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre that prompted tighter firearms laws in Australia. The second part of an Al Jazeera investigation revealed that Hanson was aware of One Nation Queensland leader Steve Dickson and adviser James Ashby’s efforts to secure support from the American National Rifle Association, and that she did not accompany them “because I thought it was not a politically smart move for me to do”. Speaking about Port Arthur, Hanson said: “an MP said it would actually take a massacre in Tasmania to change the gun laws in Australia. Those shots, they were precision shots. Check the number out … a lot of questions there.” In a secretly recorded meeting with US-based Koch Industries, privately owned by philanthropists and right-wing supporters, Dickson offered to alter Australia’s electoral system, saying “we can change the voting system in our country, the way people operate, if we've got the money to do it”. Dickson and Ashby also discussed the legalities of funnelling donations from American organisations such as the NRA through domestic lobby groups to One Nation.

Three Aboriginal children have won a landmark legal battle against the New South Wales state government over the death of their father from exposure to asbestos. The state Dust Diseases Tribunal ruled on Wednesday that Housing Commission contractors were to blame for exposing Daniel Ingram, the childrens’ late father, to asbestos fibres in a Cowra public housing estate when he was a child. Ingram died of mesothelioma aged 37 in 2013, and the NSW Housing and Land Corporation (previously the Housing Commission) attempted to evict his three children from their home two years later. Striking out the corporation’s defence, judge Wendy Strathdee said in her ruling that Ingram’s children “have suffered great prejudice as a consequence to the defendant’s delay and failure to comply with court orders”.

New South Wales police are investigating claims made by high-profile independent political candidate Rob Oakeshott that a fake Instagram account created in his name has been attempting to derail his election campaign. Oakeshott, a former state and federal MP who is contesting the mid-north coast seat of Cowper, said on Wednesday that a constituent alerted him to an Instagram account falsely set up in his name, and that “politics does get dirty at times”. Screenshots of messages sent by the account, published by the ABC, showed the account’s administrator attempting to solicit large donations and flirt with a woman. Oakeshott won more than 45 per cent of the two-candidate-preferred vote in Cowper at the 2016 federal election, losing to the Nationals’ Luke Hartsuyker.

Secular and non-religious chaplains could be allowed into Victorian schools after the state government settled a legal case arguing Victoria’s school chaplaincy program was discriminatory. The state department of education changed the description of a suitable school chaplain on Monday to include people of “any faith or no faith”, also noting that “it is possible for a chaplain who does not have a religious affiliation to be endorsed by a religious organisation”. The case was brought against religious services provider Access Ministries, which previously stipulated that applicants to the program had to be Christian. Rationalist Society president Meredith Doig welcomed the ruling, saying she was “glad that the Victorian government accepts that anyone who is qualified should be eligible to be a school chaplain, regardless of their religion”.



“New laws in Victoria that will allow police to obtain DNA from suspects as young as 15 without a court order are ‘overkill’, according to crossbenchers and legal groups who warn they could have ‘disastrous unintended consequences’ ... Previously, an oral DNA swab could only be taken from a suspect following a court order or once someone was charged with a criminal offence.”


“‘Creating’, wrote Albert Camus, ‘is living doubly’. He was thinking about Proust when he wrote those words – the Frenchman’s assiduous assembling of the living details of his world. The carpets, the flowers, the wallpaper patterns, the dresses, the table settings, the jewellery and walking sticks, the teacakes and bed blankets: the sheer clutter of stuff in space and time. His imagination was like some nightmare from which Marie Kondo wakes screaming.”


“Earnest love songs by floppy-haired balladeers such as Lewis, musical versions of pulpy and predictable romance novels, must include a handful of clichéd motifs  – rainy nights, early morning cab rides home, counting minutes and seconds and moments until a lover leaves, picking up broken pieces of shattered objects or admitting doing so is impossible, sharing problems with a bottle of something brown.”


“The footage allegedly records an NRA lobbyist telling both Dickson and Ashby that it would benefit the US pro-gun movement if Australia’s gun laws were relaxed. ‘That helps us because the biggest argument we get from folks is, “Well, look at Australia,”’ he says.”


“From 1979-1996 (before gun law reforms), 13 fatal mass shootings occurred in Australia, whereas from 1997 through May 2016 (after gun law reforms), no fatal mass shootings occurred. There was also significant change in the preexisting downward trends for rates of total firearm deaths prior to vs after gun law reform.”


“Of all the cooked things Australia does, erecting giant statues of things like guitars and bananas is somewhere in the middle. Why did we decide to build the Big Merino? It’s a sign of Goulburn’s thriving wool industry, but why was it really built? Could it have been intended as a safety precaution in case Australia’s Big Things came to life and turned sinister?”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.