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.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to announce a rejigged cabinet today, following the resignation of two Nationals ministers in as many days. Vacancies have been created after Bridget McKenzie gave up the agriculture portfolio on Sunday in response to the sports rort scandal, followed by Resources Minister Matt Canavan offering his resignation from the frontbench to support Barnaby Joyce’s unsuccessful bid to wrest the Nationals leadership from Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Morrison met with McCormack on Tuesday night ($) to discuss potential cabinet appointments. David Littleproud, who was elected as the new Nationals deputy and is expected to take on the agriculture portfolio, left the door open for Canavan and Joyce to rejoin the frontbench one day, along with his own predecessor McKenzie. Queensland backbencher Keith Pitt is touted as a frontrunner for the resources and northern Australia portfolios, and Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester has been tipped for the emergency management portfolio. The reshuffle comes after the first Coalition party room meeting of the year on Monday saw a heated clash over climate policy, with the Nationals pushing strongly for new coal-fired power stations.
Coronavirus evacuees: Australians evacuated from the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan have expressed concern about poor hygiene conditions at the Christmas Island detention centre. Evacuee Belinda Chensay told the ABC the facility is “worse than a prison. I understood that there would be very limited facilities here, but the actual condition is no facilities at all.” Some evacuees claimed to have little to no internet connection, and said they were given credit for the centre's public phones in case of medical issues – but that nobody answered any calls. More evacuees are expected to arrive in coming days. The news comes as the Chinese embassy says it was blindsided by Australia’s decision to close its borders, and wants compensation for Chinese travellers and students affected. The World Health Organisation has called for countries to reconsider travel bans. The coronavirus death toll has risen to 427, with more than 20,000 confirmed cases globally.
Heavy rain for NSW: The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast widespread heavy rain to coastal New South Wales over the next week, and could extend to the fire grounds around Canberra, the south coast of NSW, and East Gippsland in Victoria. Ben Domensino, a meteorologist at Weatherzone, said “we haven't had a weather event like this for at least a year”, with potential localised falls above 200 millimetres that could put out some fires, but also pose a flood risk.
Racial profiling: Senior police in Western Australia have been sitting on a report that shows Aboriginal drivers are much more likely to get fines from police officers than automated traffic cameras. The final report, dated February 13, 2019 and obtained under freedom of information laws by Guardian Australia, recommended further investigation, noting: “These differences are large enough to suggest an uncomfortable distinction between automated camera and police-initiated traffic enforcement, with this distinction heavily correlated with Aboriginality.”