Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Staffer’s rape claim ‘put job on the line’

Former federal ministerial staffer Brittany Higgins plans to reactivate a police complaint about an alleged sexual assault in Parliament House in early 2019. In interviews with news.com.au and Network Ten’s The Project, Higgins alleged she was raped by a male colleague in the office of the then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds. She says he lured her there under the pretence of needing to pick something up on the way home from a work function. Higgins claims that key people within the government failed to offer enough support, with Reynolds and the acting chief of staff setting up a meeting with Higgins over the matter in the same office where the alleged rape occurred. Higgins said she decided not to pursue a complaint with the police as she felt pressure that it would affect her job, similar to other female staffers who have reported sexual harassment allegations while working for Coalition ministers. Higgins also said that she was denied access to CCTV from Parliament House from the night of the alleged assault, despite the fact another member of the staff had seen it.

The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has touched down in Australia, with 142,000 doses arriving in Sydney from Europe. Australians will begin receiving the vaccine from next Monday, according to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Authorities will release 80,000 doses of the vaccine next week, with 50,000 going to states and territories to vaccinate frontline quarantine and health workers, and 30,000 to aged care and disability care residents and workers. Hunt added that if the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration the rollout will expand substantially.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has declared the state is “well-placed” to lift restrictions at 11.59pm on Wednesday due to low case numbers over the last three days. “I’m able to say that these numbers, you never want positive cases, but these numbers are pleasing and I think we are well-placed,” he said. Victoria recorded just one new local case of Covid-19 on Monday. Another case was also detected in hotel quarantine, with more than 25,000 tests conducted in the past 24 hours. The newest case is a woman who worked in psychiatric units at The Alfred hospital, Northern Hospital and Broadmeadows Hospital, forcing the wards into lockdown.

Myanmar police and military forces have fired at peaceful protesters during demonstrations in the northern city of Mandalay, although it is unclear whether security forces had used live ammunition. News portal Frontier Myanmar reports that soldiers shot randomly into people’s homes, with images on social media showing people injured by what appeared to be rubber bullets. There were other clashes on Monday, including in Yangon, where demonstrators rallied despite a heavy military presence and an overnight internet blackout. Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to appear in court via video conference this week over charges brought against her by the new military junta.

The colonisation of space
The early era of space exploration was dominated by romantic ideas of universal connectedness. But the increasingly privatised nature of the space industry has obscured that vision. Ceridwen Dovey on the new space industry entrepreneurs, and why we should be worried about what they’re planning.

“A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, every mainland state in Australia has seen transmission of the virus from hotel quarantine. In recent months, the virus has breached quarantine in Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne, with leaks becoming more frequent, not less. While none has so far resulted in an outbreak on the scale of Melbourne’s second wave, experts are worried it would take only a single guest with a high viral load to spark one. Which prompts the question: Why isn’t Australia most important line of defence against this pandemic working as it should?”

“Paul Pisasale resigned as the mayor of Ipswich in a white hospital gown, red socks and star-spangled pyjama pants, three weeks after sniffer dogs located $50,000 cash in his luggage at Melbourne Airport. It was June 6, 2017. ‘Mr Ipswich’ was 65, with dyed brown hair, a face like a smashed crab, and the uncomfortable frown of someone who usually never stopped smiling. ‘I love this city,’ he said, voice quivering as the cameras clicked. ‘I think it’s one of the most exciting cities on Earth … Where do you start?’”

“Stunning everyone and overturning centuries of tradition, Eddie McGuire has now become the first white Australian ever forced from his job due to a prolonged commitment to racism. This has confused a country accustomed to the established method of dealing with racism in Australia, wherein the victim is pushed out of their job, hounded in the press and media, labelled a ‘sook’ because our discourse is just barely above ‘I’m rubber and you’re glue, and what bounces off me sticks to you’, before it’s claimed that racism is a thing that happens only in America.”

“Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has hinted that the federal government is considering permanently increasing JobSeeker … 7NEWS understands the ‘future rate’ of JobSeeker will not be as low as the pre-pandemic level of $40 a day, but will be less than the current rate of around $50 a day.”

“Jobseekers may get a permanent boost to their payments but lose smaller benefits worth hundreds of dollars a year ...  supplementary payments include the energy supplement, which starts at $8.80 per fortnight ... the remote area allowance ($18.20 per fortnight for a single person); language, literacy and numeracy supplement ($20.80 per fortnight); approved program of work supplement ($20.80 per fortnight); pensioner education supplement ($62.40 per fortnight); and the mobility allowance ($97.90 per fortnight).”

“Tamil couple Kokilapathmapriya ‘Priya’ Nadesalingam and Nadesalingam ‘Nades’ Murugappan and their two daughters will stay on Christmas Island awaiting a Federal Court hearing into the last-ditch asylum claim by their youngest daughter, Tharunicaa … Their journey through Australia’s byzantine refugee application system since Priya’s and Nades’s separate arrivals between six and seven years ago highlights the system’s terrible human costs – costs fully intended by its architects to deter refugees from arriving by boat.”

“Order a samosa as an appetizer, and an Indian friend might point out ... that this is similar to a British restaurant offering sandwiches as a first course. Offer an American a hamburger patty coated in thick demi-glace, and they’ll likely raise an eyebrow at this common Japanese staple dubbed hambagoo. Each of these meals or dishes feels somehow odd or out of place, at least to one party, as though an unspoken rule has been broken. Except these rules have indeed been discussed, written about extensively, and given a name: food grammar.”

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