Thursday, May 14, 2020

Coalition tables draft security laws

The Morrison government will today push legislation granting new powers to Australian Border Force, one day after proposing controversial draft laws bolstering the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said the ABF legislation, which has sat in the Senate for almost 18 months without being debated, was needed to seize drugs and mobile phones belonging to people in immigration detention. He argued under current laws ABF officers had to rely on local or federal police. Sniffer dogs would be allowed to search detention facilities, and phones could be seized if detainees were accessing child pornography or material deemed to be extremist. Labor Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally said the Coalition had not explained the sudden need for the extra powers. The move comes as legal experts question draft laws that would allow ASIO to interrogate 14-year-old suspects, and place tracking devices on cars or in bags with only internal approval. Greens deputy leader Nick McKim accused the federal government of using the pandemic as cover to pass the laws.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will today release its April jobs report, with analysts predicting a record number of unemployed. Payroll data collated by the ABS suggests more than 900,000 people lost their job in six weeks, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The numbers will not come close to fully reflecting the impact of the Covid-19, as they won’t include Australians who have kept jobs through JobKeeper payments. Meanwhile, researchers have mapped which suburbs are most vulnerable to concentrations of job losses, finding that workers in already-disadvantaged suburbs are at particular risk.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has hit out at the “corrupt and chaotic” Queensland Labor government over its bid to purchase Virgin Australia. “Premier (Annastacia) Palaszczuk has almost bankrupted Queensland, and now in the middle of a crisis they want to buy an airline,” tweeted Dutton. Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick in response told Dutton to “stick to cruise ships”.

Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Jayson Westbury has resigned ($), after attracting criticism for his comment that A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw “needs to be given a firm uppercut or a slap across the face” over a segment on the TV show about travel refunds. In a statement on Wednesday he said his comments should not have been taken literally but were unacceptable. Westbury attracted criticism from domestic violence groups and from Grimshaw herself. He told A Current Affair he had sent a letter of apology to the Nine presenter, who had yet to receive it.

Buzzfeed is closing its dedicated Australian and United Kingdom news outlets “both for economic and strategic reasons”, a spokesperson said. The company has furloughed its 10 UK news staff and four in Australia, as part of a plan to give up on local news and politics to focus on news that “hits big” in the United States. It comes as Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Wired, lays off about 100 US employees and temporarily furloughed a similar number as the media sector faces a downturn in advertising revenue.


“Newmarch House ... first learnt one of its workers tested positive for coronavirus on April 11. It had been five days since her last shift at the facility, after working back to back since the start of April. A week later, on April 18, a 93-year-old resident at the facility became the first to die from the virus. All of those who’ve succumbed in the past month have been elderly residents. Containment of the outbreak may have been possible, were it not for a medley of errors at all levels that expose historic, systemic flaws in the nation’s aged-care system.”


“With packets and cans back on supermarket shelves, it is easy to forget that only two months ago a food shortage seemed to top the national security agenda of many Australians. But now, as they can once again satisfy their apparent fondness for meals of rice and crushed tomatoes, the real food-security conundrum is emerging.”


“Back when people actually went to an office to work, Cass and I used to meet at the ABC to record a bunch of interviews for our podcast ... She moved in when coronavirus was just starting to loom. She’d been with us only a week or two when we realised that we probably wouldn’t be going into the office anymore, that we couldn’t socialise with friends and life as we knew it was about to drastically change.”


“Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has confirmed the Federal Government's coronavirus tracing app is now working after all states and territories signed up to allow its use. Professor Kelly said 5.6 million Australians had now downloaded the COVIDSafe app. ‘I can announce the app is fully functional,’ he said during an update in Canberra on Wednesday afternoon.”


“It has the largest penetration rate of all contact trackers in the world, having been downloaded by 38% of Iceland’s population of 364,000.  But despite this early deployment and widespread use, one senior figure ... says the real impact of Rakning C-19 has been small, compared with manual tracing techniques like phone calls. ‘The technology is more or less … I wouldn’t say useless,’ says Gestur Pálmason, a detective inspector with the Icelandic Police Service who is overseeing contact tracing efforts ... 'it has proven useful in a few cases, but it wasn’t a game changer for us.’”


“Officers patrolling in the Roxbury area early Monday were approached by a person who said an animal may have escaped from the zoo. They ‘were met by an extremely large, slightly intimidating, and quite beautiful, male peacock,’ police said ... One officer found a peacock mating call on his phone and lured the bird to a fenced-in yard.”

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