Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Security sounded alarm over Higgins

A secret inquiry into Parliament House security has spent months investigating how the alleged rape of a political staffer was handled, including concerns over cleaners being sent to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office. The former director of security operations, Peter Butler, repeatedly raised concerns about the March 2019 incident before quitting the role, reports Security officers say that the male staffer who took Brittany Higgins to Reynolds’ office did not have a key, so needed the door opened for them in addition to being signed in. That prompted security to check on the pair the next day, who only found Higgins alone and disorientated. There was then disagreement over whether the office should be cleaned following the incident. The Department of Finance sent in the cleaners, prompting an Australian Federal Police inquiry into whether there had been an attempt to “interfere with a suspected crime scene”. It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied knowledge of the incident at the time and launched reviews into workplace standards and complaints processes.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has tabled an amendment to Coalition legislation to allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to invest in coal projects. Joyce made the move late on Tuesday, claiming he was standing up for jobs in the coal sector. It is not clear if other Nationals will support his amendment. The Coalition is seeking to reform the CEFC to allow it to invest in gas-fired power plants through a grid reliability fund. Labor supports the creation of the fund, but opposes the CEFC being allowed to back loss-making projects and giving energy minister Angus Taylor the power to direct the green bank to look at investing in particular technologies.

Coalition backbencher Craig Kelly has been temporarily banned from posting on Facebook for one week over breaching the site’s “four strikes” policy through the spreading of Covid-19 misinformation. In an interview with Gizmodo, Kelly confirmed the ban and explained how he comes across disproven Covid-19 treatments. “I find most of this from emails and messages on my Facebook Messenger,” he said. “People send me stuff: ‘have you seen this?’” 

Mississippi Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson has filed a civil lawsuit against former US president Donald Trump and attorney Rudy Giuliani, accusing them of conspiring with the far-right groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to incite the January 6 insurrection. The suit cites a post-Civil War law designed to combat the Ku Klux Klan that is rarely put to use. Thompson pointed to Trump’s words and tweets as evidence of preparing his supporters for an attack to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results.

James and the giant breach
A damning report has found Crown Resorts unfit to hold a casino licence in NSW. But what does that mean for James Packer’s operations in other states?

“The business life forms that make up this ecosystem are enormously varied in size and shape, ranging from the tiny – such as the Good Car Company and Jaunt, a Melbourne company that puts electric motors in classic Land Rovers – to those building giant solar and wind farms ... This ecosystem also supports a plethora of less visible species – the tech boffins, financiers, mentors and advisers who are helping behind the scenes. What they all share is a vision of the post-carbon future and an adaptive capacity that is singularly lacking in our national government.”

“Like the dog that caught the car, Australian conservatives have succeeded in a decades-long quest to crush the bargaining power of unions and workers. And, in turn, they have succeeded in crushing average wage growth. But now they seem to have no idea what to do with their trophy. Indeed, the record-low wage growth ‘delivered’ by the Coalition was a major cause of Australia’s anaemic economic growth heading into the Covid-19 crisis, according to the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, and the federal Treasury secretary, Dr Steven Kennedy. Needless to say, the pandemic has only made things worse.”

“The woman in the red cheongsam stands on burnt-orange earth straight out of a Russell Drysdale painting. She has a faraway look in her eyes. Over the following scenes she steals an evening gown and hitches a ride out of town with a biker. She ends up facedown on the road, the promise of the big city still 300 miles away.”

“Australia’s international border policies including the outbound travel ban and inbound arrival caps will be examined by the Australian National Audit Office … the ANAO quietly activated the inquiry in mid-January and has called for submissions on the management of the Australian border to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The policies have left more than 30,000 Australians stranded overseas, a number that has proven stubbornly hard to shift as more Australians opt to come home.”

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has lashed out at Australia for dumping responsibility for a woman and two young children detained at the Turkish border on New Zealand ... Ardern said the woman, who had dual citizenship, left for Australia when she was six and travelled to Syria from Australia on an Australian passport. Ardern said she directly raised the matter with the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and asked that they work together to resolve the issue. ‘I was then informed in the following year that Australia had unilaterally revoked the citizenship of the individual involved. You can imagine my response.’”

“Adult low literacy in Australia is a widespread problem. Despite increases in funding, shifting initiatives and prominent politicians decrying a lack of progress, rates continue to decline. Since 2000, Australia has slipped from fourth to 14th in the OECD’s rankings of reading literacy. The ramifications of these results aren’t just evidenced by a statistical slump – people with lower levels of literacy have fewer job opportunities. They are also massively overrepresented within our prisons.”

“Recent research finds that many diseases, including cancer, tuberculosis, and Parkinson’s, can manifest themselves through volatile compounds that change the person’s scent … For example, patients with Parkinson disease produce an unusually high amount of sebum, a waxy lipid-rich biofluid excreted by the sebaceous glands of the skin, which sensitive noses can detect. Deep Nose could grab this information from the thin air.”

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