Thursday, July 02, 2020

Coalition divisions in Eden-Monaro

Supporters of New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro are reportedly working to undermine the Morrison government’s bid to win the Eden-Monaro byelection, so the Nationals state party leader can contest the seat at the next federal election. Some within the Nationals camp have been working to ensure Labor candidate, Kristy McBain, receives the party’s preferences ahead of Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs in the Saturday vote behind Nationals candidate Trevor Hicks, despite the official Nationals how-to-vote card preferencing their Coalition partner first. The Nationals deny the allegations. It comes as Barilaro, the NSW Deputy Premier, contradicted Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s claims there have been no cuts to the ABC. Some senior Nationals figures want Labor to win so there is no Liberal sitting member at the next election, as Barilaro would not be allowed to run against a Liberal MP.

Morrison government claims that boosted welfare payments are deterring people from taking up work have been undermined by news that employers are receiving far more applications per position than before the pandemic. According to Guardian Australia, data from employment marketplace Seek showed at the end of June the number of applicants per job was sitting about 16 per cent above February – or-pre-Covid – levels. The measure hit as high as 40 per cent above February levels in April, partly due to fewer jobs being advertised. A National Skills Commission survey finding cited by the federal government to make the claims that welfare was dissuading people from work was based on just a handful of responses. The news comes as thousands of robodebt victims have been advised they will be repaid unlawful Centrelink debts in instalments that could take months.

Private security firms working at quarantine hotels in Melbourne charged taxpayers for shifts never worked, according to unnamed sources ($) cited by The Herald Sun. The practice was connected to understaffing before breaches prompted Covid-19 outbreaks, and along with a host of other alleged breaches will be considered by a probe into hotel quarantine by the Andrews government, to be led by retired judge ­and former royal commissioner Jennifer Coate. Victoria recorded 72 new cases on Wednesday. It comes as hotspots around Melbourne reenter lockdown today, with The Age reporting that VicRoads has moved to stop a surge in driving licence amendments as people seek to change their addresses to non-restricted suburbs.

At least 300 people were arrested on Wednesday in Hong Kong protests against a controversial new national security law passed by the mainland Chinese government. The arrests include at least nine people suspected of violating the national security law, according to police. The laws broaden the powers of local and mainland authorities to investigate, prosecute and punish dissenters, including those living outside China. It comes as Australia’s Defence Minister Linda Reynolds will today criticise ($) China for having “deeply unsettled” the Indo-Pacific region, in a speech at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. 


“From her cell inside Ward 2-A of Evin Prison, on the northern outskirts of Tehran, Kylie Moore-Gilbert wrote a letter last September to her Iranian prosecutor asking for a message to be delivered to the Australian embassy. ‘I am entirely alone in Iran,’ she wrote. ‘I have no friends or family here and in addition to all the pain I have endured here, I feel like I am abandoned and forgotten.’ Two months later, after learning that she had received a 10-year prison sentence on charges of espionage, Dr Moore-Gilbert, a 33-year-old academic ... wrote again to the prosecutor.”


“Recent restrictions on international flights and cruise liners have taken a heavy economic toll on Pacific countries. Several have urged Australia and New Zealand to include them in their proposed travel bubble ... Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama proposed a ‘Bula bubble’, which would allow travellers from Australia and New Zealand to visit and spend their initial quarantine period at a resort. Tourism generates more than a third of Fiji’s gross domestic product, and about 40 per cent of its visitors come from Australia.”


“Following a 15-minute consultation with her GP, Clarke, who is in her mid-30s, was diagnosed with depression and left the surgery with a script for antidepressants and Valium. ‘I’d never felt this way before and the significant change of returning to work correlated exactly with when my symptoms started,’ says Clarke. ‘The doctor didn’t ask anything about my family history of mental illness, or ... to differentiate whether my depression was situational or clinical. He just handed over the script and told me to return to exercise.’”


“With 36,000 registrations since it was announced, there is ‘no doubt’ the HomeBuilder scheme will boost the construction industry, Housing Minister Michael Sukkar says. The $688 million HomeBuilder package, commencing in July, was tailored to Australians wanting to build new homes or make major renovations … ‘We’ve signed on every single state other than Queensland through the National partnership Agreement,’ Mr Sukkar told Sky News.”


“Opening Crowne Plaza on Tuesday, Tasmanian Hospitality Association chief executive Steve Old personally thanked senior bureaucrat Tim Baker for helping ensure some of the project's construction workers were exempt from quarantine upon arrival in Tasmania. Mr Baker was the chief of staff to former premier Will Hodgman and is now secretary of the Department of Primary Industries ... The Tasmanian Hospitality Association donated about $270,000 to the Tasmanian Liberals ahead of the 2018 state election.”


“Investment bank Goldman Sachs has released its very own typeface: an inoffensive set of sans-serif fonts dubbed Goldman Sans. But in the spirit of bankers everywhere, these fonts come with a catch in the contract.”

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