Monday, June 15, 2020

Recordings detail ‘industrial-scale’ branch stacking

An investigation into Victorian cabinet minister Adem Somyurek has uncovered secret cash drop-offs and “industrial-scale” stacking of branches with fake members in a bid to amass political power. The Age and 60 Minutes unearthed dozens of phone and video recordings that detail how Somyurek allegedly funnelled hundreds of fake members into local ALP branches to increase influence in the state and federal Labor Party. The recordings capture Somyurek ordering others to forge signatures and create false statements, and boasting that he controls two-thirds of the Victorian ALP. As a member of the ALP national executive, Somyurek also has a say over who gets to contest federal seats. He also hits out at colleagues including Premier Daniel Andrews, and labelling Gabrielle Williams, Victoria’s Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence, a “stupid bitch” whom he will “f---ing force … out of the ministry”. The story has sparked calls from across the political spectrum for Somyurek to resign. .

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will outline competing visions of how to recover from the Covid-19 shutdown today at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia function. Morrison will announce $1.5 billion for an immediate start on infrastructure projects, and plans to fast-track larger developments including inland rail from Melbourne to Brisbane, with The Australian reporting the plan involves cuts to environmental regulations ($). Albanese will outline plans for a sustainable recovery built on strengthening the skills of the workforce and building a fair tax system that incentivises work and investment.

Three Morrison cabinet ministers charged taxpayers more than $4500 in 2019 for an overnight trip to Sydney for a lucrative Liberal party fundraiser hosted by Channel Nine, reports Guardian Australia. Stuart Robert, Dan Tehan and Simon Birmingham flew to Sydney on the day of the fundraising dinner before flying out again the following day, charging their flights and overnight accommodation costs to their parliamentary allowances. The federal government is preparing to review the legislation underpinning the MP expenses system, as well as the first three years of operation of the independent parliamentary expenses authority. The Channel Nine event is estimated to have raised $700,000 for the Liberal party, and drew condemnation from Nine’s print journalists who warned it threatened their independence. It comes as close to 70 journalists from The Age wrote a letter to Nine executives expressing their “alarm” over what they say is the increasing politicisation of the Melbourne newspaper under executive editor James Chessell. 

The police officer who shot dead a black man in the southern United States city of Atlanta has been sacked and the fast-food outlet where he was killed has been torched by protesters. A decision on whether to bring charges against the police officers involved is expected on Wednesday. Rayshard Brooks, 27, had fallen asleep in his car while waiting in the drive-through lane of a Wendy's outlet south of the city centre on Friday night. Police claim Brooks failed an alcohol test, resisted arrest and took an officer's taser during a struggle. Video of the incident shows Brooks running away from the officers before he is shot. Demonstrators took to the streets outside the restaurant on Saturday afternoon local time after video of the incident was shared on social media, in the latest protest against police brutality against African-Americans. It comes as anti-racism protesters and far-right nationalists clashed in the UK across the weekend over the taking down of statues.


“Eslake is not opposed to the current government’s efforts to stimulate the construction sector. He actually thinks they should spend more – but spend it on social housing. So why has the government not done this? Why does it prefer to subsidise relatively well-off people into home ownership rather than provide affordable social housing for struggling renters? Perhaps the Australian Election Study offers a clue.”


“The way we have been treated is punitive and petty. But this happens whether we are in a pandemic or not. The irony does not escape us that the police on the east coast have responded to a rally against police violence and brutality with more violence and intimidation. This is an example of why reform just does not, and will not, work to end police violence ... It is not that the system can be fixed, the system is the problem – and this is why these colonial systems must be destroyed.”


“Mines founded in a rush of enthusiasm over the past five years have paused production and are now mothballed. The companies involved are in financial trouble or under strain. Things have gone wrong very quickly. In 2015, some predicted lithium would soon rival iron ore, Australia’s top earner of export income, as a contributor to national wealth. The statement was probably overhyped at the time. Today, it looks ridiculous.”


“Former prime minister Tony Abbott has been awarded a Queen's Birthday honour for, among other things, his contributions to Australia's Indigenous community and border control efforts while he was in office ... Abbott's work in Indigenous affairs included spending a week each year running the government from a remote Indigenous community.”


“Tony Abbott has incorrectly claimed there is ‘no evidence’ the justice system discriminates against Indigenous Australians, attributing disproportionate rates of incarceration of Indigenous people to a ‘higher offending rate’.”


“According to Paula Niedenthal, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies emotional processing ... we really do lose information when we’re operating without the benefit of the lower half of our face, she tells me from her home in Madison, where she has been experimenting with her own growing mask collection. Eyes may be the window to the soul, but mouths and chins, it turns out, are also quite useful.”

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