Friday, July 05, 2019

Tax cut delivers short-term windfall and long-term fears

The Senate has passed the Morrison government’s tax cut package in full, with the Greens the only party to vote against the legislation. The package will cost Commonwealth coffers $158 billion in revenue, but delivers more than 10 million Australians a tax cut of up to $1080 as soon as next week. Having successfully secured the support of independent senator Jacqui Lambie and the Centre Alliance, prime minister Scott Morrison trumpeted the tax cut as a victory for “hardworking Australians quietly going about their lives”. Labor voted for the full package after failing to amend the bill to remove what Senate leader Penny Wong described as the “irresponsible” $95 billion third stage, which will flatten the tax rate to 30 per cent for workers earning between $45,000 and $200,000 in 2024-25. Greens leader Richard Di Natale warned the cut in revenue would in time “hurt people doing it tough”, targeting Labor for its acquiescence. “People held high hopes for Anthony Albanese and if this is a sign of where the modern Labor party are going, well, frankly, we are stuffed,” he said.

The UN subcommittee on prevention of torture expects to be granted “unfettered access” to Australia’s detention centres in an upcoming visit. Subcommittee chair Sir Malcolm Evans told Guardian Australia inspectors had “the right of unannounced access to any place of detention or any place we believe people might be being deprived of their liberty”. The announcement comes as the Northern Territory Government claims the use of spit hoods on minors was “reasonable” at the Don Dale youth detention centre, and as a Senate inquiry delays legislation to abolish laws for sick asylum seekers to be evacuated from Nauru. 

At least 80 migrants are feared dead after a boat capsized en route from war-torn Libya to Europe on Thursday. Four people were reportedly rescued from the inflatable vessel, but one died later in hospital. The mass drowning comes the day after an airstrike killed at least 53 migrants in a Libyan detention centre. 

Missing Australian tour guide and student Alek Sigley has been released from detention in North Korea, following lobbying efforts from Sweden, which unlike Australia, maintains an embassy in the capital Pyongyang. Foreign affairs minister Marise Payne told 2GB that Swedish diplomats met with North Korean officials on Australia's behalf on Wednesday to discuss Mr Sigley's disappearance. “We are deeply, deeply grateful to them,” she said.

In sport, Australia’s world No. 1 tennis player and Wimbledon top seed Ashleigh Barty put aside the apparent snub of being relegated to Court 2, cruising through her second-round women’s match against Alison Van Uytvanck, defeating the Belgian world No. 58 in straight sets 6-1, 6-3. In the men’s draw, Nick Kyrgios lost a fiery four-set encounter to third seed Rafael Nadal. During the 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3) loss, Kyrgios was typically unpredictable, delivering the second-fastest serve in tennis history, an underarm ace, and tirades against his opponent’s “bullshit” serving rhythm and the “pathetic” umpiring. The loss compounds a bad day for the Australian men at Wimbledon, after his compatriot Bernard Tomic was fined $81,000 for not being up to “grand slam standard”. In cricket, Australia has chased down 218 to defeat England in the second ODI of the Women's Ashes. Australia has won the first two ODIs, with one more ODI, a Test and three T20s to go.  

Faith and taxes
As Scott Morrison’s tax cuts make their way through the parliament, there are fresh questions over religious freedoms.


“Davis is an Australian South Sea Islander – one of the descendants of between 55,000 and 62,500 Pacific Islanders transported to Australia in the 19th century to work the cane fields of Queensland and northern New South Wales. The practice was termed ‘blackbirding’ – a fraught, complex word encompassing a spectrum of exploitation ranging from technically consensual but unethical labour contracts to outright kidnapping and slavery. Many of the men who oversaw and financed the blackbirding trade – Robert Towns, John Mackay – have cities named after them.”


“When moderate Liberal MPs swung their votes away from factional ally Julie Bishop and behind Scott Morrison during last year’s leadership crisis, they did so at the urging of frontbencher Paul Fletcher. In the string of WhatsApp messages leaked after former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was ousted in late August, it was Fletcher who told moderates they must back Morrison to counter what he suggested was trickery from Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, the most senior supporter of original challenger Peter Dutton.”


“The defining feature of homophobia is that the people who hate you are picturing you having sex. Michael Kirby once made this point, although not as bluntly. The hatred is a kind of jealousy. The challenge of queer sex is a challenge to the notion that intimacy shared between a man and a woman is somehow special. It isn’t.”


“The government has sought advice on whether former ministers Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop have potentially breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct with jobs they have taken since leaving politics, heading off a push for an inquiry. Senate leader Mathias Cormann said the Prime Minister had written to Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson ‘to seek his guidance’ on the lobbying standards before powerful crossbench Senator Rex Patrick introduced a lobbying inquiry motion - set to pass if Labor backed it.”


“At the time of the meetings, Taylor was the minister for cities and Frydenberg was the environment minister. The meetings were requested via Frydenberg’s office. At the same time federal and state investigations were under way into the alleged poisoning of 30 hectares that contained the grassland on a property in the Monaro region of New South Wales owned by Jam Land Pty Ltd. One of the directors of that company is Richard Taylor, the minister’s brother, and the minister himself holds an interest in the firm via his family investment company, Gufee.”


“‘It’s the great injustice of festival life. While men don’t have to think twice about it, for women the question of when and where to pee is always there. Do you brave a long queue and risk losing your friends, or are you drunk enough to relieve yourself in a more informal setting? Gina Périer, a French architect living in Copenhagen, thinks she has the answer. In a boost for ‘pee-quality’, her company is rolling out Lapee, which she claims is the world’s first industrially-produced female urinal, at this week’s Roskilde festival in Denmark.”

Max Opray
is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.