The Andrews government cannot identify any legislation it needed to override, but experts say that is the point.When Daniel Andrews signed a declaration for a state of disaster in Victoria at 1.43pm on Sunday, it was a part of a final salvo in a battle to control a resurgent and invisible enemy.
Wang Liqiang, the alleged Chinese spy who defected to Australia, is in significant danger, warn experts. Wang, who the Chinese government say is being investigated for fraud, has made a claim for asylum and is staying at an undisclosed location in Sydney. John Blaxland, a security and intelligence expert at the Australian National University, told The Guardian “If I was his minders, I would be looking to double up on protection duties.” The concerns come after the death of Bo “Nick” Zhao in a Melbourne hotel room in March, after a Chinese espionage ring reportedly approached him to run for federal parliament. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age report that suspected senior Chinese intelligence operative Brian Chen, who is understood to have approached Zhao, also allegedly tried to infiltrate the CSIRO. The news comes as district council elections in Hong Kong delivered an unexpectedly heavy defeat to pro-Beijing candidates, with pro-democracy representatives sweeping nearly 90% of 452 district council seats.
Westpac scandal: Embattled Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer has privately told the bank’s senior leadership that mainstream Australia did not care about the paedophile money scandal, and there was no need to “overcook” their response. The Australian ($) reports that in a closed-door meeting on Monday, Hartzner told executives that allegations Westpac facilitated millions of transactions connected with paedophilia, money laundering, and terrorism was “not an Enron or Lehman Brothers” level of scandal. He reportedly apologised for cancelling Christmas parties, explaining it would not “look good if we have our staff whooping it up with alcohol”. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Monday said Westpac’s leaders had given “a free pass to paedophiles”. Westpac shares are under pressure, and the company is potentially facing more than $1 billion in fines, lost government contracts, as well as potential class actions.
Government blocks Labor FOI: The federal environment department has blocked a Labor freedom of information request to access emails regarding Angus Taylor’s use of false figures to critique the City of Sydney’s travel expenditure, reports Guardian Australia. The department claimed exemption from a freedom of information request lodged by Labor because they relate to an unspecified “ongoing process”. The emails were sent the day after the revelation of the controversy.
Assange supporters speak out: Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has said Julian Assange would pay an "unacceptable" price if extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States, where he faced decades in prison on charges of leaking classified diplomatic cables. Rudd joins a disparate group of Australian politicians to come out in defence of the Wikileaks founder, with actor and Assange supporter Pamela Anderson also in Australia to lobby politicians. More than 60 doctors on Monday put their names to an open letter saying they feared Assange's health was so poor he could die inside a British prison while awaiting extradition hearings.