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 Senate has voted to extend trials of a cashless welfare card for two years, after the federal government failed to secure the numbers to make the controversial scheme permanent. After debate that stretched late into Wednesday evening, the government made last-minute amendments to placate Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff, who abstained from the vote and gave the Coalition sufficient numbers to pass the legislation. The amendments also permit welfare recipients in the Northern Territory to opt into the scheme, short of the Coalition’s original plan to force NT residents onto the cards. The cards quarantine up to 80 per cent of a recipient’s welfare payments so money cannot be spent on alcohol or gambling, with the trials held in towns with large Indigenous populations such as Ceduna in South Australia. The bill, described by critics as a “racist” policy that disproportionately impacts Indigenous Australians, was opposed by Labor, the Greens and independent crossbenchers Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie, but passed with the support of One Nation.
The interim report from a federal parliamentary inquiry has recommended that Rio Tinto pay compensation to traditional owners for destroying the sacred Juukan Gorge caves. “Never again can we allow the destruction, the devastation and the vandalism of cultural sites as has occurred with the Juukan Gorge — never again!” the report reads. The inquiry recommended Rio Tinto work with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura traditional owners to reconstruct the ancient structure and adjoining water system, which has been used for 46,000 years. It also called for a moratorium on all mining in the Juukan Gorge area, and for the WA government to refrain from considering any new Section 18 applications for consent to damage heritage sites until the state passes new Aboriginal heritage laws proposed for next year.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has flagged he could modify industrial relations legislation that risks leaving some employees being worse off, after the government’s proposed plans were met with fierce opposition from Labor and the unions. Porter said the broader industrial relations bill was “not a ‘take it or leave it’ situation’’, after a proposal to give employers more power to bypass the Fair Work Act’s “better off overall” test dominated question time, with the bill to now be subject to a Senate inquiry. One Nation cast doubt on whether it would provide crossbench support to the bill, which it described as overly complex. The Senate, meanwhile, passed the Coalition’s union demerger bill, which was supported by Labor, clearing the way for the breakup of the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union in 2021.
An inquiry into extremism in Australia will go ahead following a push by Labor’s Home Affairs spokesperson Kristina Keneally to look at the rising threat specifically posed by right-wing extremists. The inquiry will look at all forms of extremism in Australia, not just the far right. The inquiry will look at how extremists tried to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic, and examine possible changes that could be made to the Commonwealth’s terrorist listing laws to address current and emerging threats. It comes as an 18-year-old New South Wales man espousing neo-Nazi views was arrested and charged with terror offences on Wednesday after allegedly encouraging a mass casualty terrorist attack.