Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Developer lobbied Nats over koalas

New South Wales Parliament will today debate a motion of no confidence in Deputy Premier John Barilaro, as fresh revelations indicate his opposition to a koala habitat policy were at the behest of a property developer. NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay moved the motion on Tuesday, arguing the NSW Government would remain unstable with Barilaro as Deputy Premier, after he and fellow Nationals last week threatened to move to the crossbench over koala protection measures. It comes as The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the only concerns regarding the policy forwarded to Planning Minister Rob Stokes by Barilaro were from a major property developer. Barilaro claimed the concerns were raised by farmers. “We [are] not aware of any other correspondence from the Deputy Premier representing the concerns of any individual farmer, timber company or peak industry body,” a spokeswoman for Stokes said.

Australian police accessed the communications of top Chinese diplomats and named Chinese consular official Sun Yantao in a warrant, as part of an investigation into political interference. The ABC reports the Australian Federal Police are investigating whether China’s consulate in Sydney was used to conspire with a New South Wales MP's policy adviser, John Zhisen Zhang, in a plot to infiltrate the Labor Party. In a letter to the federal government, Zhang accused Australian authorities of breaching the Vienna conventions on diplomatic and consular relations by intercepting his communications with Chinese diplomats. 

Victoria’s anti-corruption agency will take control of an investigation of police officers who allegedly stomped on a man’s head and hit him with a car during an arrest in Melbourne's north on Sunday. The man is in an induced coma after police kicked and appeared to run him over and stomp on his head. Robert Redlich QC, commissioner of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, said “the community is rightfully concerned if someone is injured during an interaction with police”. Victoria police initially suspended the officer responsible for kicking the victim, but took no action against the officer who drove a vehicle that hit the man.

Four debut novels have been included on the shortlist for this year’s £50,000 ($88,000) Booker Prize, featuring stories about climate change, the hardship of life in Zimbabwe, dementia, and the women soldiers of 1935 Ethiopia. The diverse lineup of writers include Tsitsi Dangarembga, Diane Cook, Avni Doshi, Maaza Mengiste, Douglas Stuart and Brandon Taylor. Hilary Mantel has missed out, after being tipped for a third win for The Mirror and the Light, the third title in a trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, in which the previous two both won the prize.

“Before the federal government had even received Prof Samuel’s interim report, it was already drafting legislation to hand over environmental responsibility to weaker state regimes.


Rupert Murdoch's next move
Australia has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world, and that concentration could worsen as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp launches a new service. Today, Mike Seccombe, on how the Australian Associated Press was nearly shut down, and now faces the prospect of being starved out.


“Lying on its side, amid piles of logging slash, the tree seems to have been chopped down for no apparent reason. If it was felled by loggers, they have left it behind. In its crown is a large hollow. A termite mound stands next to the stump, defaced with a crudely spray-painted smiley face in fluoro green. The colour of the paint is the same used ... to mark the habitat and trees that are to be retained.”

“On a recent winter’s afternoon, not for the first time, Dr John Gill blamed Scientologists for his personal and professional demise. He had taken the oath just minutes earlier, the glare of the computer screen reflecting off his glasses as he swore, by Almighty God and into the Microsoft Teams videoconferencing app, that he would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the tragic and peculiar events of 50 years ago.”


“It’s impossible not to be conscious of the politics surrounding the release of Disney’s flying martial arts, picturesque live-action remake of Mulan. A noisy campaign to boycott the film has been growing since its star, Chinese actor Liu Yifei, voiced support for the Hong Kong police during the city’s pro-democracy protests last year, culminating with this week’s revelation that it was partly filmed in Xinjiang, where human rights abuses are alleged against Muslim Uygurs.”

“Recordings of key meetings on the bungled hotel quarantine scheme have revealed Victoria's emergency management boss did not believe Australian Defence Force troops were needed to support the program.”

“A member of the Australian Defence Force has been fined $1000 for inviting a guest to his Sydney hotel room during mandatory quarantine. NSW Police said in a statement ADF officers working as security at the hotel on Hickson Road in Sydney heard a female's voice in the man's room about 12.45am today. The 26-year-old man in quarantine is a serving ADF officer who had returned to Australia from overseas deployment.”

“International student income has subsidised research, helping our leading universities rise in the international rankings, which in turn attracts more students, particularly from China’s prestige-conscious market … The result is either a virtuous circle, or a vicious one, depending on your point of view. In the wake of the borders closing, it looks more vicious.”

“Victoria has doubled its contact tracing capacity overnight with the purchase of a new Brother 8360p LazerFax.  A spokesperson for the Victorian government said the decision to make the purchase came after a $32 million review by consulting firm KPMG. ‘What this review revealed was that our contact tracing needed to improve. A second $48 million review confirmed that,’ the spokesperson said.”

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