Thursday, October 15, 2020

Berejiklian survives Labor challenge

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has survived two no-confidence motions in state parliament, as her former partner Daryl Maguire admitted on Wednesday to running a “cash for visas” business out of his parliamentary office. The no-confidence motion in the lower house failed along party lines, but in the upper house Legislative Council president John Ajaka used his casting vote to break the 20-20 deadlock in favour of his party’s leader. Crossbenchers withdrew support for government legislation unless the Premier steps aside over the potential awareness of former Liberal MP Maguire’s corrupt behavior. In testimony to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Maguire admitted receiving cash drop-offs of up to $20,000 for operating a cash-for-visas scam, and also charged ($) a Chinese government delegation for an opportunity to meet then-premier Barry O’Farrell. In an intercepted phone recording, property developer Joseph Alha told Maguire he wanted to set up “policy development meetings” with Berejiklian. Maguire said he could not recall if he arranged the meeting. He will continue giving evidence today.

The NSW state government will hold off on plans to ease health safeguards and restrictions ($), after recording 14 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, including 11 locally transmitted cases. Nine cases were linked to the Lakemba GP cluster, the source of which is still unknown. Meanwhile, Victoria recorded seven new cases and five deaths. There were turbulent scenes in Shepparton as hundreds crowded into queues to be tested after a truck driver from Melbourne spread the virus into the town weeks earlier. Authorities say the man, who has a worker permit to travel regionally, initially omitted some details of his journey in discussions with contact tracers. Police are investigating whether any criminal offences had been committed. 

Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie has warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison she would reveal details of a secret deal made in order to win her support for the repeal of the so-called medevac law if he did not do so himself by the end of the year. Senator Lambie has so far refused to disclose details of the negotiations for securing her vote to repeal the law, which empowered doctors to remove sick refugees from offshore detention for treatment. In an interview with 7.30, Senator Lambie said the nature of the deal would be made clear by the end of the year. “And if the Prime Minister doesn't do it, I will,” she said. “So he can go and threaten me with jail or whatever he likes on a piece of paper. I don't care. But if he doesn't tell you by the end of the year, I will.”

Twitter has suspended fake accounts purporting to be African American supporters of US President Donald Trump.  Darren Linvill, a professor at Clemson University who specialises in disinformation on social media, published some examples of the fake accounts on Twitter, accusing them of using “digital black face”. Since he began tracking the accounts on Saturday, Linvill found more than two dozen accounts that collectively had 265,000 retweets or Twitter mentions.

Australia’s medicine shortage
A reliance on imports has left Australia with dwindling supplies of some essential medicines and now experts are warning that manufacturing capabilities at home need to be boosted. Today, Margaret Simons on Australia’s pharmaceutical vulnerability.

“It was almost a month ago, on September 11, that Serco security guards arrived at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and loaded Mojtaba into a car. The Hazara asylum seeker would make the drive from Western Sydney to Canberra handcuffed, wedged between four guards. Their destination was the Afghan embassy, where Mojtaba was compelled to sign travel documents that would send him back to Afghanistan, the country he’d fled eight years ago.”

“In an age where science has become deeply politicised and the role of experts has been fundamentally challenged by those in power, it has become much harder to have esoteric debates about theory. Yet here we are, in the middle of the biggest economic crisis in modern history, having a relatively polite debate about the theoretical definition of money: where it comes from and what we can do with it. Who’d have thought?”

“Two minutes into our conversation, Ted Prior says a series of words that at first make no sense to me: ‘The police force sent me to art school.’ He tells me that he left school at 15 … At 16 he joined the police cadets program, and at 19 was sworn in as a constable. This is when he says it: ‘Then, a couple of years later, I left because the police force sent me to art school.’”

“The Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995, according to a new Australian Research Council (ARC) report. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies research showed the reef's small, medium and large coral populations had all declined over the past three decades, largely due to bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. Lead author Andreas Dietzel said the main cause of coral death was human-induced climate change.”

“Environmental science degrees have been hit with funding cuts of nearly 30%, as experts warn that it will affect Australia’s ability to cope with drought, bushfires, mass extinction, coral bleaching and the effects of global heating. Prof Dianne Gleeson, the president of the Australian Council of Environmental Deans and Directors , said the cut to environmental sciences was ‘one of the largest funding cuts to any university course’, and had flown under the radar.”

“The forecasts don’t paint a pretty picture. The Reserve Bank expects unemployment to climb to 10 per cent by the end of the year and still be above 8 per cent by the end of 2021. In recently published Parliamentary Budget Office scenarios, the economy does not return to potential for the best part of a decade. This is not inevitable though – government policy choices can change this path.”

“All those claims come from a falconer who says he uncovered secrets about Al-Qaeda, Iran, and U.S. intelligence in his work as a falconer for Middle Eastern power players. Alan Howell Parrot, the subject of a 2010 documentary about his falconry called Feathered Cocaine, has shot to new fame on the right after a video interview with him played over the weekend at the American Priority Conference, a pro-Trump event held at Trump’s Miami resort.”

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