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.
The Nationals and the Greens will determine their respective leaders in party meetings today, on the first sitting day of Federal Parliament in 2020. Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce says he “will put my hand up” to challenge Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for the lead role in the Nationals party, after federal MP for the Queensland seat of Wide Bay, Llew O’Brien, announced he would move a motion to spill the leadership. Queensland senator Matt Canavan offered to resign his frontbench role as Minister for Resources and Northern Australian to support Joyce, and is also facing a potential conflict of interest over a $20 million loan to the North Queensland Cowboys, of which he is a member. The spill comes after deputy leader Bridget McKenzie resigned on Sunday over the sports rorts scandal.
Greens leadership: The Greens will also appoint a new leader, after Richard Di Natale announced he was leaving the Senate to spend more time with family. Federal MP Adam Bandt announced he would stand for the leadership, with Senator Larrisa Waters declaring she wished to remain as deputy leader. The Katter’s Australian Party is also undergoing a transition, with Queensland MP Bob Katter handing the leader role to his son Robbie in order to have more time to “get at the throats of enemies”.
Coronavirus evacuation: The first Australian citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan have landed on Christmas Island. The 243 evacuees were flown from China on a Qantas 747 to a Royal Australian Air Force base near Exmouth on the West Australian coast on Monday, with 72 then boarding a charter flight for Christmas Island, where they will be quarantined for 14 days. Three more charter flights will take the rest of the evacuees, reports The Australian ($). A lone passenger from the Qantas evacuation plane has been transferred to Perth over a pre-existing health condition for “home isolation”, according to The West Australian ($). More than 600 Australians registered their interest in being evacuated from the virus epicentre of Wuhan, where China has built most of a new hospital for patients in just 10 days. The Age reports that “dozens” of Australian residents will be flown to New Zealand as part of that country’s evacuation efforts. The news comes as universities claim ($) Chinese students with valid visas to study in Australia were put in detention, subjected to hours of interrogation, and had their belongings confiscated by Border Force personnel when flights from China arrived in Australia on Sunday. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced it is working with Google, Twitter and Facebook to combat the spread of dangerous misinformation about the virus.
Democratic nominee: The process to decide the challenger to United States President Donald Trump in the 2020 election officially begins today, with Iowa the first state to have a say in the Democratic Party nomination process. Four candidates are considered serious chances to win the Iowa caucus, with Senator Bernie Sanders, the runner-up to Hillary Clinton in 2016, narrowly leading in the polls ahead of fellow progessive Senator Elizabeth Warren and two moderates, the former US vice-president Joe Biden and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigeg. National polls indicate Biden and Sanders are currently the frontrunners. Sanders and Warren had to balance their Iowa campaign with commitments in the Senate for Trump’s impeachment trial, for which the closing arguments are being made today.