Friday, November 13, 2020

Actions of SAS soldiers in crosshairs

A recently completed investigation by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force will see allegations directed at an estimated 10 Australian Special Air Services Regiment (SAS) veterans being referred to authorities, according to The Age. A public summary of the investigation, conducted by senior judge Paul Brereton, is set to be released by Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell next week, but will not name soldiers. Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, reportedly one of the SAS figures under scrutiny, welcomed the establishment of a special investigator’s office and dismissed the Brereton inquiry as founded in “rumours”.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who announced the plan for a special counsel on Thursday, also announced the establishment of a new panel to drive cultural change inside the SAS.

Prosecutors have formally withdrawn 13 charges against News Corp staff and publications over their coverage of Cardinal George Pell’s sex abuse convictions. The backdown comes just four days into a Victorian Supreme Court contempt trial where a range of individuals and outlets face charges of breaching suppression orders. Crown prosecutor Lisa De Ferrari has argued some of the publications, in the days after the guilty verdicts, encouraged the public to seek out international news reports which freely named Cardinal Pell and were not subject to the Australian suppression orders. Defence lawyers effectively countered that claim by noting some of the articles referred to were published after the Australian stories.

Australia has already experienced 1.44 degrees Celsius of warming since 1910, plus or minus 0.24C, according to the latest State of the Climate Report. The Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO report says the rise in temperatures has resulted in increased extreme heat days, heatwaves and raised fire danger. Although 2019 was the hottest year on record, CSIRO research director Dr Jaci Brown says that soon it will not be seen as unusual. “In fact, we think of this decade being hot, but this decade will be one of the coolest in the next hundred years,” she said.

More than 180,000 people have been evacuated, at least six people have died, and 10 others are missing after Typhoon Vamco made landfall in the Philippines on Wednesday night. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the impact of the storm in central Luzon was particularly damaging as it hit the same communities devastated by the Category 5 Typhoon Goni, the strongest storm this year, just 10 days earlier. “The Red Cross holds particularly grave concerns for more than 240,000 people who lost their homes to Typhoon Goni, especially those who are living in makeshift shelters along the coast as this latest storm hits,” the organisation said in a statement, adding that emergency response funds had been depleted by the coronavirus pandemic.

How Biden is changing Australian climate policy
Joe Biden’s victory in the United States has already had ramifications for Australian politics, particularly on the issue of climate change. Today, Paul Bongiorno on the political shockwaves rolling across the Pacific.

“Last year, 22 per cent of people against whom there were proceedings for domestic assault in NSW were women. These figures represent the outcome of a good idea – proactive policing, which encourages officers to arrest, investigate and prosecute in domestic violence matters – meeting bad practice. Women who fight back in a single incident often do so in self-defence and they will admit to doing it. In these instances, they are often charged where their male partner is not.”


“A team led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University announced it had discovered traces of phosphine in the cloud decks of Venus. This toxic gas ... has the odour of garlic or rotting fish, but to scientists it has the whiff of glory and discovery ... Phosphine was entirely unexpected from any geological chemistry on Venus – and if the hotly contested result stands up to scrutiny, this could be the first hint of alien life. Such life must have survived the aeons since the planet’s surface became uninhabitable, clinging to existence high in the cooler clouds.”

“Most of the time I was numb, in a blithe sort of way. My mother’s death hushed me. Most evenings my sister was busy with her trinkets and making up her face in the gilded mirror in her bedroom. She left the house at dusk and stayed out late. I would watch television, making myself stay on one channel no matter what came on. It was a test of willpower and endurance, and I was proud of myself when I withstood the boredom ... I loved television, but I loved looking at myself in the mirror even more, because it was real.”

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison today became the latest world leader to speak with US President-elect Joe Biden, congratulating him on the election outcome … ‘I’ve just spoken to President-elect Joe Biden to congratulate him on his election,’ Mr Morrison said in a post alongside a photo of himself in his office at Parliament House. ‘There are no greater friends and no greater allies than Australia and the US. I look forward to strengthening even further our deep and enduring alliance, and to working with him closely as we face the world’s many challenges together.’”

“Asked if this included the need to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, Morrison replied they did not discuss that ‘specific matter’ … Biden’s election adds to Australia’s isolation, as the Morrison government equivocates on what he now calls the net zero ‘aspiration’.”

“Asia’s summit season starts this week amid some likely distraction in regional diplomatic circles caused by the US presidential election ... it is likely that China will use the events over the next fortnight to boost its regional influence while the United States is focused on the election aftermath. For Australia, caught between its strategic alliance with the United States and its trade partnership with China, these meetings are more important than ever.”

“Whatever your reasons, the administrative staff at the Presidential Library will make it their life’s mission to make your visit educational and inspiring. In fact, for some of the staff who served Trump directly, it’s a condition of their parole!”

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