Prime minister Scott Morrison has vowed to target union power and environmental regulations if the Coalition maintains government at the federal election. In an interview with Nine newspapers today, Morrison accused the Labor Party of wanting to “hypercharge an Environment Protection Authority, which will basically interfere and seek to slow down and prevent projects all around the country”. Hitting out at “green tape” and “lawfare” tactics used by environmental campaigners to derail mining and gas projects, Morrison promised new laws cracking down on animal rights protesters. Morrison also cast the election as a referendum on the influence of trade unions, saying a Labor government would “basically give militant unions of this country a blank cheque and unhindered interference in the Australian economy”.
Two Reuters journalists jailed by the Myanmar government for more than 500 days have been released following international pressure. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December 2017 and charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act over their reporting on the Myanmar military’s killing of 10 ethnic Rohingya Muslims. The report the two men co-authored, Massacre in Myanmar, won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting last month. The pair were sentenced to seven years’ jail in September last year, but were pardoned this month by president Win Myint as part of a wider amnesty marking Thingyan, the Burmese New Year. in a statement, Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said “since their arrests 511 days ago, they have become symbols of the importance of press freedom around the world”.
In Papua New Guinea, MPs have called for a vote of no-confidence in prime minister Peter O’Neill, bringing a month-long political crisis to a head. Former finance minister James Marape, who resigned from cabinet last month over the government’s handling of a $16 billion contract with a French oil and gas company, has been nominated as alternative prime minister by opposition politicians, many of whom resigned from O’Neill’s ruling People’s National Congress party in recent weeks. While both sides claimed conflicting numbers of supportive MPs, the final outcome will not be known until the motion is voted on next week.
And United Australia Party leader Clive Palmer has lost a High Court attempt to delay the publication of election results. A full bench of the High Court ruled in favour of the Australian Electoral Commission on Tuesday, finding that the AEC did not need to wait until polls closed in Western Australia and the Cocos Islands before publishing early voting figures in eastern states. Palmer’s lawyers argued that Western Australian voters who voted late on election day could be unduly influenced by figures from east coast seats. Had Palmer’s challenge been successful, the AEC would have been prevented from publishing all but basic polling figures until 9.30pm AEST.