Friday, February 14, 2020

Audit Office: Almost half of sports rorts projects ineligible

The Senate hearing into the “sports rorts” scandal has heard evidence, presented by the Australian National Audit Office, that 43 per cent of projects were ineligible for grant funding. The evidence is at odds with the defence repeatedly put forward by the now ex-sports minister Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, that all approved projects qualified. The ANAO also revealed that Morrison’s office had a direct hand in funnelling $100 million in funding to marginal or target seats, with colour-coded spreadsheets and “dozens” of emails being shared between his office and that of McKenzie. Of 290 projects that were funded, 272 had already commenced work before agreements were signed, which would usually make those project applications void.

China travel ban extended: The government has extended the temporary travel ban for all non-Australians travelling from China for another week. The decision was made as the death toll of the coronavirus, now labelled COVID-19, climbed by a further 242 people as of yesterday. Scott Morrison said his government had “not taken the decision lightly” and that the ban would be reviewed on a weekly basis. The original ban was due to end on Saturday, but would now last until at least February 22. The Chinese embassy expressed “deep regret and dissatisfaction” in their response to the news, describing it as an “overreaction”. Tourism operators have also warned the extension will further impact the industry.

Man found dead, woman missing in floodwaters: The body of a 75-year-old man has been found in the Mary River in the Sunshine Coast, which burst its banks in the heavy rains of the past week. The man was an experienced kayaker known for going out in flood conditions. The search has also resumed for a 26-year-old woman, Yang Chen, who went missing on Wednesday while walking near Gorge Falls in the Tallebudgera Valley. It is feared she may have slipped and fallen. South-east Queensland has been hit by flash floods following heavy storms this week, while the northern part of the state is bracing itself for another heatwave.

Too early to call end of drought: Sydney Water is keeping level-two water restrictions in place, despite the deluge of rain that has inundated Greater Sydney and the surrounding regions with more than 700mm of rain over the past week. While the Nepean Dam is overflowing and Warragamba catchment has increased by more than 30 per cent, Sydney Water representatives say it is too early to see if recent falls are a temporary drought relief or the beginning of long-term drought recovery. 

All NSW fires contained: For the first time since the fire season began in September last year, all fires in New South Wales have been contained thanks to recent heavy downpours across the state. More than 30 fires have been extinguished this week because of the rain, leaving only 24 blazes still burning. 

Matildas one step closer to Tokyo 2020: In soccer, the Matildas drew 1-1 with China overnight in an Olympic qualifier. The draw places the Matildas at the top of Group B to face off with Group A runner up Vietnam in March. China will go on to play fellow Group A team, South Korea.  

August Diehl and Valerie Pachner embrace in A Hidden Life.

“The film is based on the life of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant farmer who refused to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler and was imprisoned and executed for being a conscientious objector. A remorseful Catholic Church beatified Jägerstätter in 2007 but A Hidden Life isn’t interested in his saintliness.”

Former Resources minister Matt Canavan.

“Andrew Baldock was putting his kids to bed when his father called from overseas to say he had just spoken to the then federal Resources minister, who had good news. After five years, Matt Canavan had chosen their 7500-hectare cereal and sheep property near Kimba, South Australia, as the site for a proposed nuclear waste storage facility. Others might have been devastated; they were thrilled.”

The cast of The Feather in the Web at Red Stitch, featuring Michelle Brasier, Emily Milledge, Patrick Durnan Silva, Belinda McClory, George Lingard and Georgina Naidu.

“Coyle’s work – which includes a web series and a number of solo shows – has often been called ‘surreal’. It’s a word that does a lot of heavy lifting these days, mainly to mean ‘doesn’t make a lot of sense’; but to be fair, this play deserves the moniker a little more than most.”


“Morrison told parliament that despite the best of intentions, investments in new programs and bipartisan goodwill, Closing the Gap ‘has never really been a partnership with Indigenous people’.

‘We perpetuated an ingrained way of thinking, passed down over two centuries and more, and it was the belief that we knew better than our Indigenous peoples. We don’t. We also thought we understood their problems better than they did. We don’t.

‘They live them’.”


“On Thursday the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission – the state’s police watchdog – handed down the findings of its investigation into the Suspect Target Management Plan (STMP), an opaque system of ‘preventive policing’ so closely guarded by NSW police that individuals are often not aware they are a target. The two-year investigation found that while the STMP had been designed to monitor repeat offenders and prevent crime it often involved ‘intrusive’ policing tactics, ‘unreasonable surveillance’ and ‘harassment’ that could in some cases increase young people’s risk of entering the justice system.”


“Your name may be Emily, but to me, you’re a bright, sunny swath of five letters with an ‘E’ and an ‘I.’ When I meet you again later, I may think your name is Emily or Jille or Ellie. Those three names ‘look’ remarkably similar to someone who operates as I do...”

Anna Horan is a Melbourne-based editor and writer.