The Morrison government will spend close to $90 million on a new counter foreign interference task force to target those believed to be undermining Australia's national interests. The initiative will for the first time ($) see domestic spy agency ASIO share intelligence with the Australian Federal Police, as well as drawing on the Australian Signals Directorate, aerial and satellite intelligence gathered by the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, and financial intelligence unit obtained by Austrac. The government said the creation of the task force, which was signed off by cabinet last week, was not prompted by recent reports of Chinese interference. “Our security and intelligence agencies have been clear that the threat from foreign interference has never been greater,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement. The move comes at the start of the final parliamentary sitting week for the year, with plans to repeal medevac laws expected to be top of the agenda.
FOI request denied: Nationals MP George Christensen has blocked the release of information about a year-long federal police probe into his travels to the Philippines over a four-year period, report The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Between 2014 and 2018 he took 28 trips to the Philippines. The Australian Federal Police has refused to release a key document on the grounds it would “involve the unreasonable disclosure of personal information”. The news comes as the former chief of staff to Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, accuses the minister of fostering a culture of bullying.
NSW Bushfires: An emergency warning has been issued for a bushfire north of Batemans Bay on the New South Wales south coast, as close to 130 fires burn across the state. The NSW Rural Fire Service warned that it was too late to leave the area between Kiola and North Durras, with residents urged to seek safe shelter. Residents in Durras, Pebbly Beach, Depot Beach, Pretty Beach and Bawley Point had earlier been told to evacuate either north towards Ulladulla or south towards Batemans Bay.
Worker underpayment: A class action led by former night manager Cameron Baker against Woolworths estimates the company underpaid workers by $620 million. Woolworths says the proceedings are “without merit” and the true underpayment figure is $300 million. The news comes as The Australian Financial Review reports that Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter will today release a discussion paper that seeks to change the conflict-based narrative on industrial relations by proposing businesses embrace employee share schemes, flat accountability structures and giving workers a voice in decision-making.
Torture allegations: Lawyers for Australian citizen Yang Hengjun, who has been held by authorities China for most of this year, say he is subject to daily interrogations, shackled by his wrists and ankles, in a bid to get him to confess to allegations of espionage. The news came as freed Taliban hostage Timothy Weeks spoke publicly for the first time since his release. He said he never gave up hope during three “long and tortuous” years in captivity, and that he formed tight bonds with some of his captors.