Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Third minister implicated in branch stacking

Federal Labor is considering an overhaul of the party’s Victorian division, as secret recordings implicate a third state government cabinet minister in the branch stacking scandal. According to tapes obtained by The Age and 60 Minutes, cabinet minister Marlene Kairouz encouraged parliamentary staff to work on branch-stacking activities with her Victorian Right factional ally Adem Somyurek, who was sacked by Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday over the scandal. Kairouz is caught on secret recordings in the meeting earlier this year urging employees to take over a stacking operation she claims involves her senior advisers. She also describes Labor’s Left faction as "all white" branch stackers, joking that the Left is the Ku Klux Klan. It comes after assistant treasurer Robin Scott, a factional ally of Somyurek, resigned over the controversy. Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has vowed a “proper examination" of the Victorian division of the party. Somyurek resigned his membership of the Victorian ALP before a planned expulsion by the national executive. The origins of the recordings have not been disclosed.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and his wife Catherine Shaw billed taxpayers for return flights to Melbourne on a RAAF special purpose jet to attend an exclusive soiree at the Melbourne Cup, reports Guardian Australia. McCormack justified the trip on a government plane, believed to cost $4600 an hour, by reannouncing a three-year-old funding pledge for a sports hall. He made the trip after being gifted tickets by Tabcorp to attend the Cup in Flemington’s Birdcage, alongside other ministers, gambling executives and mining billionaire Gina Rinehart. McCormack returned to Canberra via Sydney while his wife went back home to Wagga Wagga.

New research has highlighted a raft of problems with NSW and federal government Covid-19 communication to culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Research author Dr Alexandra Grey of the University of Sydney Law School told SBS News that her work indicated the NSW government may have fabricated social media engagement with fake tweets in simplified Chinese. The research also found official pandemic material in languages other than English has not been disseminated effectively, prompting shopfronts to use unofficial signage that may not be accurate. It comes as Respect Victoria launches a six-language campaign to highlight the issue of elder abuse due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a debate on systemic racism and police brutality, following a request from Burkina Faso on behalf of 54 African countries. The body will examine the “current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests” this Wednesday. The lawyer representing the family of police brutality victim George Floyd, Ben Crump, tweeted that his legal team had submitted an urgent appeal to the UN to intervene, which would include “encouraging the U.S. government to press federal criminal charges against involved officers and making recommendations for systemic police reform.” The US left the UN Human Rights Council two years ago over what it says was mistreatment of Israel. 


“Predictive policing refers to the use of new technologies such as facial recognition, video surveillance systems and social media monitoring to collect and analyse data, which then predicts whether an individual is likely to commit a crime ... Leanne Weber, of Monash University, says these tools tend to amplify racial bias … New South Wales Police Force has long applied an ‘intelligence-led proactive policing policy’ titled the Suspect Targeting Management Plan.”


“On one hand, he acknowledges he will have to keep spending, ‘and that’s going to feel uncomfortable at times’ ... Morrison urged his troops to stay disciplined and united behind him as he’s taking ‘the principles that we hold dear and applying them in a whole new way to those unprecedented challenges we now face’. On the other side of the dilemma is the question of when to start withdrawing the JobKeeper and beefed-up JobSeeker unemployment payments.”


“For those already there, a walk down Macrossan Street, Port Douglas’s main strip, is an unsettling experience. The two tourist information and reservation centres are closed; even their phone numbers have been disconnected …  the ice-cream shops have closed, along with most of the restaurants. Mocka’s Pies is one of few to remain open, with takeaway its core business. But its crocodile-laksa and bush-kangaroo pies appeal almost exclusively to international clientele and, as far as anyone can tell, there is not a single tourist anywhere in Port or the surrounding area.”


“Indigenous Australians are significantly over-represented in the number of strip searches conducted by police in New South Wales, representing 12% of all searches in a two-year period despite only making up 3.4% of the state’s population. The Guardian can reveal that between 2016 and 2018 police in NSW conducted 1,183 strip searches on Indigenous people in the state, including one 10-year-old and two 11-year-olds.”


“Recommendations about what an indigenous voice should look like will be ­delayed until at least November, ending almost all hope the Morrison government will be able to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition before the next election. A report on the voice to government, a process led by Marcia Langton and Tom Calma, was due to be handed to Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt by the end of June.”


“The petition is the latest idea for a Covid-19 strategy for the UK, where new cases continue to climb. The petition suggests the British Government declares war on New Zealand and then surrenders, so that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can take over the reins in the UK, as part of international law that states that you become the de facto government of a country you defeat in war.”

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