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.
Technology companies Facebook, Google and Twitter are lobbying the Morrison government to roll back its response to the competition watchdog’s digital platforms inquiry. The Australian reports that the company representatives met MPs in Parliament House last week to push back against recommendations from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission on curtailing the dominance of the social media and search giants. Cabinet was expected to discuss the issue on Monday, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg flagging on Sunday that a response to the inquiry may be delayed until next year, despite receiving the results in July. The Morrison government is reportedly considering whether to set up a digital platforms unit to lead further investigations. The news comes as Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg defended his company’s decision not to take down political ads that contain false information. “What I believe is that in a democracy, it's really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying, so they can make their own judgments,” Zuckerberg said.
Driest spring prompts bushfires: A bushfire on the New South Wales south coast cut off escape routes for local residents and destroyed at least one home on Monday. In Queensland, where 50 fires are burning, residents of Woodgate were told to leave in advance of a bushfire. Australia just concluded its driest spring on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. An average of 11.9mm of rain fell across the country in November, with the low rainfall linked by the weather bureau to the early start to the bushfire season. Another month of above-average temperatures is expected in December, with the weather bureau projecting that 2019 will be among the top four hottest years on record. The news comes as a report released by Oxfam finds that climate-fuelled disasters drove more than 20 million people a year from their homes. The report was released to coincide with the start of two weeks of critical United Nations climate negotiations in Madrid.
Indigenous eye surgery contract: Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, awarded a $2.2 million contract for health services never put out to tender to a business connected to Liberal Party donors and a former candidate. Nine newspapers report that the contract for eye surgery at double the market rate raised the ire of a senior staff member who objected to the move, according to documents linked to a confidential Department of Finance investigation seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Christensen Philippines visits: Marjorie Lamsen, the manager of an adult entertainment bar in the Philippines, has claimed that Nationals MP George Christensen was a “very regular visitor” at the venue and “a big spender”. “The weakness of George is women,” she said. “He would usually give allowances to these people.” Christensen took at least 28 trips to the country between 2014 and 2018, with federal police concerned he was at risk of being compromised. The MP has consistently labelled scrutiny of his travels as a “vile smear”.