Thursday, December 05, 2019

Senators call for Taylor inquiry

Scandals continue to swirl around Energy Minister Angus Taylor, with key developments in the grasslands inquiry and the doctored documents saga. A Senate committee on Wednesday found Taylor “consciously used his position as an MP and minister” to try to influence an investigation into clearing of grasslands at a property he part owned, reports Guardian Australia. The committee recommended that Prime Minister Scott Morrison order an inquiry into the actions of the minister and treasurer Josh Frydenberg, concluding it was “inconceivable that Mr Taylor was unaware that he and his family stood to benefit directly from his actions”. In a dissenting report, Coalition senators said the evidence showed Taylor had “acted appropriately”. The news comes as Liberal staffer Josh Manuatu was on Wednesday identified as the person who obtained doctored documents used by Taylor to attack Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Government sources told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Manuatu would not lose his job over the matter. Taylor said he has established “an administrative point of contact” with police investigating the matter. 

Witness J: The ABC has reported on the reasons for the secret arrest and trial of “Witness J”, who was convicted without any media reporting or public scrutiny. A former military intelligence officer, “Witness J” is a Duntroon graduate who served in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. While undergoing a revalidation of his security clearance, there were some anomalies in his answers, which led to concerns about his conduct as a single man in the South-East Asian capital in which he was posted. This coincided with a mental health crisis, with the ABC told that he was infuriated by the accusation, and complained internally via email and other unsecure electronic means, in correspondence that identified agents. His employer said “Witness J” had breached secrecy provisions. John Dowd, a former NSW Liberal leader, attorney-general and Supreme Court judge, questioned the need for such tight secrecy. “Society has to be very careful in the circumstance in which we hold limited-publicity trials and it's important that we know the extent of such trials and the reasons for them,” he said. 

Trump leaves early: United States President Donald Trump cancelled a planned news conference scheduled to follow the NATO meeting in London on Wednesday, after video of other world leaders mocking him emerged. “When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington,” he tweeted. “We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days.” Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” for being one of the leaders caught on camera joking about him. The developments come as three constitutional lawyers testified at Trump’s impeachment hearing that his actions toward Ukraine were the worst examples of misconduct in presidential history.

Trip to the sun: NASA has released the first data from a probe that travelled closer to the sun than any satellite before. The data showed that energetic particles which hurtle out from the sun are more varied and numerous than previously thought. Scientists are hoping to better understand this phenomenon as these outbursts can affect the global power grid, telecommunications and other satellites.

Angus Taylor’s hydrogen scandal
Hydrogen will be a major renewable energy source, and can be produced by splitting water atoms. But the government is ignoring this low-carbon option to ensure Australia’s hydrogen industry is controlled by fossil fuels.


“With the threat of oil exploration in these remote waters, however, old covenants are being reconsidered. Surfers, the Mirning traditional owners and coastal communities are now attempting to draw attention to the bight, where the government has granted the Norwegian oil giant Equinor a title to drill. Last Saturday, about 20,000 surfers gathered in 50 beach locations for what Doherty calls ‘the biggest coastal environmental action in Australian history’. They were joined by surfers across the globe, who staged a collective paddle-out – surf culture’s memorial ritual – to champion the bight, one of the Earth’s last pristine marine ecosystems.”


“Tanya Day, 55, boarded a Bendigo to Melbourne train. She was drunk and, as an Aboriginal woman, 10 times more likely to be arrested by Victoria Police for public drunkenness than a white woman ... Before being locked in the divvy van, Day merely said, ‘This again.’ The officer sought to assure her that ‘it wasn’t like that’, a racist arrest. But later that evening, when the officer found a ‘heavily intoxicated’ white woman on the street, he did not arrest or place her in a cell, but gave her a lift to an address of her choosing.”


“By now the gatekeepers at the entrance to the Rhodes Scholarship must be rewriting the requirements. What a collection of political mugs they have delivered us in recent years: The Mad Monk, Malcolm Trumble and Grassgate Gussy Taylor. All Rhodes, and all terrible at their politics. Old Cecil must be turning in his plot, not to mention having his statues torn down and splattered with red paint.After all, he only wanted to gift scholarships to chaps who were committed to truth, courage and moral fortitude. How did Gussy slip through the selection committee?”


“With today's acknowledgement and apology by Rugby Australia, we have been vindicated and can now move on with our lives to focus on our faith and our family. We started this journey on behalf of all people of faith, to protect their rights of freedom of speech and religion. We now look forward to the federal government enacting the legislation necessary to further protect and strengthen these rights for all Australians.”


“Today’s settlement shows that Australia doesn’t need a Religious Discrimination Bill. While the details are confidential it is clear that Rugby Australia did not back down on its support for the LGBTIQ+ community, and have indicated again that they do not agree with the damaging and hurtful statements made by Israel Folau.  We commend them for standing by the principles of equality in the sport.”


“Emphasising that she cared deeply about the environment, the Conservative councillor drew a chorus of groans and laughter, and a shout of ‘rubbish’, as she said: ‘It’s all about us – there is no such thing as government, government’s just people.’ … She eventually resorted to clambering onto the school bins and climbing a fence to escape.”

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