Having outperformed the world in containing coronavirus, Australia’s lack of action on climate change will precipitate a much greater crisis.If the Morrison government were really answerable to the Australian people rather than vested interests, it already would have agreed to a more ambitious climate response. That’s what the overwhelming majority of people have long wanted.
The Law Council of Australia has warned Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton against rushing through new surveillance powers before Christmas that would allow police to take over online accounts. The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 was introduced into the federal parliament on Thursday, with Law Council president Pauline Wright cautioning that the four remaining parliamentary sitting days is insufficient time for debate. She warned Dutton against repeating the rushed passage of encryption laws, which were waved through parliament in the last days of 2018. The Law Council and Digital Rights Watch are concerned about the legislation allowing the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to add, copy, delete or alter data in private online accounts. Dutton said the bill would only apply to paedophiles, terrorists, and people trading gun parts, but the legislation extends to investigation of any crimes that carry jail time of three or more years.
On Thursday the United States registered more than 3100 Covid-19 deaths, a record number, while the number of Americans hospitalised with the virus has eclipsed 100,000 for the first time. There are more than 200,000 new cases a day as the country faces a difficult winter ahead. Efforts are under way to reduce vaccine hesitancy among the American population ahead of hoped approvals of Covid-19 vaccines, with a recent poll indicating 42 per cent of Americans would refuse to take it. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are volunteering to get their vaccines on camera to promote public confidence, and Facebook is banning claims about vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. YouTube and TikTok also said they would remove false claims. US and European authorities criticised the United Kingdom for rushing approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, insisting on a more thorough assessment.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg billed taxpayers almost $5000 to take the prime minister’s private jet on a short trip to Sydney where they attended Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas party. They left Canberra after 6pm that evening going to the party also attended by Australia’s richest man, Anthony Pratt and the Crown casino boss, John Alexander, before returning to the capital before 9am the next morning. Guardian Australia reports that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton also took the flight, although it is unclear whether he attended the event.
A new report from the Australian Human Rights Commission has found that detainees are spending a record amount of time locked up in Australia’s immigration detention system. The report found the average length of detention in September 2020 was 581 days. More than one in five detainees had been held for longer than two years in 2019. As of September 2020, there were 1534 people in immigration detention. The report makes recommendations, including the release of all parents who have dependent children, ending use of hotels in Melbourne and Brisbane as detention centres, and expediting access to medical treatment for all medical transferees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The federal government rejected 26 of the commission's 44 recommendations.