Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Tech giants lobby against regulations

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”.

Andrew Bolt vs Dark Emu
Andrew Bolt has led a campaign against Bruce Pascoe and his book Dark Emu. But after reading the explorer journals on which the book is based, Rick Morton was unable to find any errors.


“Australia’s security agencies are sceptical about a self-described Chinese defector’s claims of involvement in high-profile espionage and kidnapping activities, and are seeking to rule out the possibility he is a double agent. Security sources say Wang Liqiang’s decision to launch his bid for asylum in the pages of the Nine newspapers and on current affairs program 60 Minutes has elevated the already high levels of caution among those assessing the veracity of his claims.”


“Scott Morrison’s handling of the police investigation into Energy Minister Angus Taylor this week brazenly flouted conventions of propriety and integrity. The prime minister actually phoned the New South Wales police commissioner, Mick Fuller, and then told parliament based on that call he was not required to stand the minister aside. Nobody was more gobsmacked than Morrison’s immediate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.”


“With Healy, Perry and captain Meg Lanning among the standard-bearers, Australian women’s cricket is in something of a golden era, and it is hard to imagine that it was less than a decade ago that a T20 curtain-raiser to a men’s game was the first women’s international broadcast live on free-to-air Australian TV. But professionalism is the new normal, and Cricket Australia’s recently announced parental policy a significant recent breakthrough.”


“Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out accepting a refugee resettlement offer from New Zealand in return for Jacqui Lambie's support on repealing the medical evacuation laws. Mr Morrison was due to sit down with Senator Lambie on Monday as he courts her crucial support to scrap the scheme … successive Labor and coalition governments have for many years declined to accept the offer, fearing it could send a signal to people smugglers.”


“New figures reveal offshore detention would cost taxpayers more than $1 billion over the next three years, as debate around the government's medevac repeal bill continues. A report released on Tuesday by Save the Children, GetUp and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre breaks down the cost of offshore detention to $573,000 per offshore person, per year.”


“She could walk — she learned around age 7 — but only when she looked at her feet. If she closed her eyes while standing, she’d collapse to the floor. It was like her eyesight contained the power to turn on a secret switch and give her control over the body part she gazed upon. Out of sight, her body was beyond her control.”

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