Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Liberal Right misusing staffers

New leaks reveal assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar directed the employment of right-wing factional operatives in the Victorian electorate office of senior Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, in apparent breach of parliamentary rules. According to private messages leaked to The Age, Sukkar also sought the removal of Andrews' electorate officer, who was resisting the scheme. Andrews' staff were told to help with recruiting of new members, including Mormons, for the right-wing faction of powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan, who this week resigned from the party over branch stacking allegations. The staffers also arranged a gala fundraising dinner called “A Night for the Right” featuring Andrew Bolt as guest speaker. MPs are required to appoint and manage their own staff, which are meant to conduct tasks relating to an MP's constituents, not factional work.

The Victorian Government's bid to secure authority to extend a state of emergency by up to 12 months appears set to fail ($), but some crossbenchers have indicated they will support a shorter extension. A state of emergency grants the premier and chief health officer authority to impose public health restrictions, such as requirements to stay at home, without the need for parliament’s approval. Victoria recorded 148 new Covid-19 cases and eight deaths on Tuesday. The extension plan also attracted criticism from federal Coalition MPs on Tuesday, as the Morrison government ramped up criticism of Victoria’s handling of the pandemic. In response to Labor targeting the federal government in question time over aged-care failures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed “unacceptable” hotel quarantine failures in Victoria for deepening the crisis. 

Concerns over hotel quarantine are also growing in New South Wales, with the state government moving 366 returned overseas travellers out of a Sydney hotel, which has been dumped from the state’s quarantine program overnight. The Travelodge Hotel in central Sydney was found to not meet the expectations of authorities during an audit carried out by police, a claim the hotel rejects. The travellers, who had complained of “atrocious” hygiene conditions, have been moved to other hotels in the city. The state recorded three new cases on Tuesday, as restrictions on the NSW-Victoria border are set to ease within days.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today detail plans to recruit up to 500 additional Defence Force reservists, as part of a scheme to bring forward $1 billion of military spending to boost the economy. Further employment will also be offered to reservists who have lost civilian income. A number of existing military projects will be brought forward, including upgrades on protected mobility vehicles such as the Army’s Bushmaster.


“Nursing students at Australia’s largest provider of nurses, the Australian Catholic University (ACU), fear they will be unable to graduate this year, due to the impact of Covid-19. Required to attend on-campus classes to complete their degree, despite state government advice prohibiting face-to-face learning, ACU nursing students ... feel they’re being exposed to unnecessary risk during a pandemic. Yet, as Victoria’s healthcare workforce faces unprecedented strain, the prospect that nursing students may not graduate this year is itself cause for concern.”


“Even among the undistinguished lightweights of Scott Morrison’s outer ministry, Colbeck is something of a nonentity. He emerged from the building industry in Tasmania in 2002, and soon after gained a casual vacancy as a parliamentary secretary in the Senate … he was in the right place at the right time. Scott Morrison thought it imperative that Tasmania should have a minister, and Colbeck was considered the least worst choice available. So, he got his guernsey in aged care.”


“It has been said that Scott Morrison’s great skill is for accidents. He even made his leadership look like one, moving a column of votes at the last minute. For a while now he has pretended that the destruction of the university sector is an accident, too. He ignored the calls to offer JobKeeper, and waited for the staff to be sacked. He pretended not to notice, as a sector dependent on international students lost its key revenues.”


“Australian workers took more out of their superannuation accounts in the June quarter than they put in – the first time net contributions have been negative ... Labor seized on the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority quarterly statistics, released on Tuesday, saying they show the effect of $33bn withdrawn so far under the early release scheme. Scott Morrison defended the scheme in a fiery question time exchange, accusing Labor of standing in the way of workers accessing their own money.”


“Government MPs Gerard Rennick and Tim Wilson say they would welcome a nearly five per cent drop in their taxpayer-funded superannuation payments after Australia's biggest super fund lobby described 13 Coalition MPs as hypocritical for opposing a rise in the super guarantee. An analysis from Industry Super Australia of the nest eggs of specific MPs who oppose a move to put an extra $20 billion a year into superannuation funds through a higher rate shows an average $63,000 extra per politician has been netted above the 9.5 per cent rate.”


“Lohr was living alone and took to observing the new normal Parisians were living through from his balcony, eventually taking pictures of passersby to share on Instagram. ‘I gave an interview before the lockdown claiming that I wouldn’t be able to be creative staring at a wall in front of me, and then ended up shooting a 608-page book,’ the photographer tells AnOther.”

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