New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
The government has secured key crossbench support for a national cashless welfare card program, with independent senator Jacqui Lambie endorsing the idea. “I've always been a big supporter of the cashless welfare card,” she said. Two One Nation senators and conservative independent Cory Bernardi are set to join her in voting for the proposal, which quarantines 80 per cent of unemployment benefits and other welfare so it is not spent on alcohol, drugs or gambling. Labor and the Centre Alliance are yet to formalise their position. The Greens oppose the plan, as do a number of community advocates. Australian Council of Social Service director of policy, Jacqueline Phillips, said of the proposal: “It costs thousands per person to administer and many people feel humiliated when they have to pay with the card, especially in small towns.” The Morrison government will this week also attempt to pass legislation to trial drug testing for welfare recipients.
Speaking of vulnerable people: More than 110 bushfires are burning across Queensland and New South Wales. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services’ predictive services inspector, Andrew Sturgess, described the conditions as unprecedented for early spring. “This is an omen, if you will, a warning of the fire season that we are likely to see in south-eastern parts of the state where most of the population is,” he said. Acting Queensland premier Jackie Trad said that such conditions were the new normal thanks to climate change. The most serious conditions were around the Gold Coast, where homes had been destroyed along with the heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge. Extreme drought conditions are forcing rural fire services ($) to find ways to extinguish blazes without water.
On the subject of ceasing fire: United States President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had cancelled plans to host Taliban leaders at Camp David for peace talks, because the group had claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a US soldier. Officials suggest the plan was actually cancelled as the Taliban had not agreed to US terms for a peace treaty. Trump attracted criticism from both sides of politics for the aborted summit, with Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois tweeting: “Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn’t renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER.”
In sport: The Australian men’s cricket team has retained the Ashes after defeating England by 185 runs on day five of the fourth test at Old Trafford. The home team had held out for most the day for an unlikely draw, before being bowled out in the final hour. Fast bowler Pat Cummins was the best of the Australian attack, finishing with figures of 4-43, including the key wicket of Ben Stokes. Steve Smith, whose double century in the first innings was key to the victory, said: “It feels amazing to know the urn is coming home.”