Friday, July 26, 2019

Foreign fighters legislation passes Senate with bipartisan support

Civil liberties groups warn new counter-terrorism laws could see Australian journalists and whistleblowers refused entry to Australia. The “temporary exclusion” bill yesterday passed the Senate with bipartisan support, allowing the government to block Australians suspected of extremism from returning to the country for up to two years. Labor supported the laws despite expressing concerns. “Given the Minister for Home Affairs’ track record at crying wolf and bending the truth, if there’s one minister that requires oversight, it’s the Minister for Home Affairs,” Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally told Parliament. Australian Lawyers’ Alliance spokesman Greg Barns said the bill ($) could block people considered an indirect risk to security. “When whistleblowers, media organisations and journalists have published information about misconduct in military operations in the past, such exercises have been labelled as assisting terrorism,” he said in a statement to The New Daily. The legislation was rushed through against the recommendations of a bipartisan committee, and includes sections the Law Council of Australia warns could be at odds with the constitution

Documents leaked to the ABC indicate the plan for tackling alcohol abuse that kills 6000 Australians a year has been watered down by the alcohol industry. The 2017 draft strategy specified the alcohol industry “would not be eligible for membership of the reference group” that formulated policy, but after Health Minister Greg Hunt met with industry leaders, references ruling out alcohol industry involvement were subsequently removed. The leaked draft showed references to "increased risk of serious harm and the development of harmful drinking patterns" replaced with phrases that suggest alcohol is an “intrinsic part of Australian culture and it plays a central role in most people's social lives." Western Australian Health Minister Roger Cook is one of a number of state ministers now refusing to endorse the strategy, saying: “I'm not sure why we need to see it watered down, Minister Hunt now needs to re-examine his conscience.” A spokesman for Hunt said: “The Morrison Government is committed to reducing alcohol-related harm for all Australians through a range of measures.”

The final report of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s digital platforms inquiry will be released today, and is expected to zero in on the domination of Facebook and Google, demanding greater scrutiny of their operations and market power. In the US, Facebook was this week hit with a $7.1bn fine for privacy violations.

In his first address to the House of Commons as British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson pledged to renegotiate the Brexit deal with the European Union and ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit as a “top priority”. The statement followed the first meeting of Johnson's new cabinet, who he claimed had all committed to leaving the European Union by October 31 with “no ifs, no buts”. The cabinet has a radically different look to predecessor Theresa May’s team, with 17 former senior ministers either axed or stepping down. In a phone call with Johnson, European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told the new PM that the Brexit deal arranged by May is “the best and only agreement possible”. Johnson also promised to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system, and spoke with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the phone in one of his first conversations with foreign leaders.

Australia won gold and broke a world record in the women's 4x200 metres freestyle final at the world swimming championships in Gwangju, South Korea. Ariarne Titmus, Madison Wilson, Brianna Throssell and Emma McKeon completed the relay in 7 minutes, 41.5 seconds, beating China's old record set at the 2009 world championships in Rome during the rubber suit era. In the men's 200m breaststroke semi-finals, Australian Matthew Wilson equalled the world record, and compatriot Kyle Chalmers won silver in the 100m freestyle final.

Labor strategy and ‘the secret agenda’
The Labor Party has come back to parliament with a plan to ignore Scott Morrison, making the most of an ill-disciplined backbench.


“Australia’s prime minister is in the process of being publicly joined at the hip to Trump, an out-and-loud white supremacist. In a world where governments and peoples tend to be conflated, the prime minister has created a dynamic in which Australia and Australians risk being perceived as racists by association in the eyes of the world. And Trump, with his appalling treatment of people crossing the US–Mexican border, can point to Australia as the inspiration for his policy of deterrence.”


“Papua New Guinea is still struggling with governance, it’s true. This is due to how rapidly it has moved from more than 1000 tiny, subsistence nation-states to a single country. Its eight to nine million people speak 860 distinct languages. For instance, in the Nuku District, just inland from Aitape, in the West Sepik Province, the people speak at least thirty-seven languages. It’s no wonder the biblical story of the Tower of Babel resonates so strongly in the nation.”


“A house is always something else. It is Australia’s preferred zone of disorganised metonymy, standing for more trouble, hope and inequality than can easily be named. Who gets to have a house, and who doesn’t, and what happens to which kinds of people once they are inside them? Polites grew up with a fear of homelessness.”


“In December, a report commissioned by Wing raised the possibility of more than 10,000 drone flights a day over the ACT when - and if - the service is fully developed. Ten thousand flights a day represents 10,000 households benefiting from the convenience of deliveries to their door, and deliveries not being made by using global warming petrol engines. Drone flights take traffic off the road but raise different problems for those under the flight paths.”


“Google-affiliated drone delivery firm Wing has been accused of profit shifting during its world-first service currently rolling out in Canberra. Financial results lodged with ASIC revealed Wing recorded payments of $3.2 million to the Alphabet group of companies, which includes Google, in 2018. After accruing more than $5 million in revenue in Australia, the tax expense for the local arm was noted as $144,434. Australia's company tax rate is 30 per cent, or approximately one third of profit.”



“What I’m about to share may shock you and may also shake the very foundation for your love of tacos. It may even violate that sacred trust that we all have painstakingly built with our favorite neighborhood taquero, but it must be disclosed. There is a fake guacamole that has very quietly sauced our tacos for who knows how long now. It is a confusingly neon-green, avocado-less crime against taco humanity that no taquero will ever proudly admit to committing. A false guacamole made from … blended calabacitas (Mexican squash), without a single buttery slice of ripe avocado in sight.”


Your chance to win a double pass to the Canberra Writers Festival

The Saturday Paper invites readers to enter the draw for a chance to win one of 20 double passes to the Canberra Writers Festival. The pass can be used for an event of your choice up to $25. The festival will take place from August 21-25. For more information on the program, please click here.

Entries close at 11.59pm AEST on Sunday, July 28, and the winners will be notified on Monday, July 29.

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