Thursday, February 18, 2021

Senate dismisses Family Court

The Senate has narrowly passed controversial changes to fold the Family Court of Australia into the Federal Circuit Court, with the Coalition securing the support of One Nation and independent Senator Rex Patrick. On Wednesday night, the Senate passed a bill 30 votes to 28 to merge the two courts into a single entity known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court. Attorney-General Christian Porter says it will simplify the system and resolve up to 8000 additional cases each year. The proposal was opposed by Labor and the rest of the crossbench, with independent Senator Jacqui Lambie warning that Federal Circuit Court judges were already forced to churn through cases like “someone in a burger joint … rushing about to get your orders filled and out the door as fast as possible”. An open letter signed by more than 150 experts in the area of family law, warns the changes will “increase cost, delay and stress for families” by putting further stress on the overburdened Federal Circuit Court. Community Legal Centres Australia chief Nassim Arrage said “the merger would move away from a specialist family court model, exposing survivors of family violence to unnecessary risk”.

Facebook has announced it is now preventing publishers and users in Australia from sharing or viewing news content on its platform, ahead of the passage of mandatory bargaining code laws that would force tech giants to pay news organisations for linking to their content. It comes as a host of news organisations have secured deals with Google. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is the latest to strike a deal, with Google offering “significant” payments to display content from outlets across the world such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and The Australian on its News Showcase platform. Google and Nine struck a five-year $30 million-a-year cash deal on Wednesday, while Seven also reached a similar arrangement

Victoria’s five-day lockdown has lifted overnight, but masks will remain mandatory indoors and outdoors where individuals cannot physically distance from others. The state formally recorded no new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, but a “weak positive” was detected in a resident of the Twin Parks aged care centre. The man had tested negative twice recently and had the virus last year, with authorities believing the positive result was linked to “persistent shedding from a previous infection”.

Australian Dylan Alcott has won his seventh-straight Australian Open quad wheelchair singles title, after defeating Dutchman Sam Schroder  6-1, 6-0. As Stefanos Tsitsipas’ eventual victory over Rafael Nadal stretched into a fifth set on Rod Laver Arena, Alcott and Schroder’s final was relocated to the smaller Margaret Court Arena and began after 11pm. Critics questioned why the final wasn’t delayed to tomorrow for an earlier start and with crowds allowed back in with the end of Victoria’s lockdown. In the women’s competition, world number one Ash Barty lost her quarter-final to Karolína Muchová 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.

Tanya Plibersek: Labor after Covid-19
As Labor prepares for a possible early election, Tanya Plibersek says the party is ready to confront the government over shortcomings in its handling of the pandemic.

“A light drizzle fell across Adelaide last Saturday morning as Jackie Chen and Say Leng Kapsis began setting up for a protest that was months in the making … Standing between shops that had closed their doors ahead of the protest, the pair spoke of 150 or so businesses they’d been tracking in the Adelaide metropolitan area that paid their workers less than $15 an hour. ‘In Africa, there are blood diamonds,’ Kapsis said. ‘Here, in SA, we want no more blood bubble tea.’”


“In the exploits of the Anzacs, we are encouraged to see our values and our emotions, as if the act of remembering war is merely a vehicle to exhibit our own beneficence. Morrison has claimed that the Australian War Memorial’s redevelopment will allow it to display more of its collection and proudly tell the stories from recent years in Afghanistan, Iraq ... the new galleries will also showcase Operation Sovereign Borders, as well as feature live crosses to training exercises and current defence activities. Will we see post-match interviews? Reflections on the game? Replays of golden moments?”

“A horse is a horse, of course, of course – unless it’s on the ski slopes of Austria’s St Anton. Then you remember the place’s nickname. ‘St Manton’ attracts – or it did in the before times – roving squads of men intent on besting the sharp angles of this patch of the Tyrolean Alps, considered the cradle of alpine skiing. Boisterous blokes bond over silly things such as pairing up within a horse costume for a four-legged ski run before letting loose at the village’s legendary après scene.”

“Don’t point too many fingers at Texas wind turbines, because they’re not the main reason broad swaths of the state have been plunged into darkness. While ice has forced some turbines to shut down just as a brutal cold wave drives record electricity demand, that’s been the least significant factor in the blackouts, according to Dan Woodfin, a senior director for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid. The main factors: Frozen instruments at natural gas, coal and even nuclear facilities, as well as limited supplies of natural gas, he said.”

“It’s five years since South Australia’s 2016 blackout, in which precisely the same sequence of events occurred. A pattern is now clear. Major blackout events, usually instigated by grid stress related to climate extremes, become opportunities to attack renewable energy. Media articles, political pronouncements, tweets, Facebook posts, everything – the entire media ecosystem assumes that renewable energy must have done it and runs hard with it. And of course, later, it comes out that fossil fuel failures played a significant or even majority role in the cluster of causes of the event – none of which is covered with the intensity of the original stories.”

“The federal government is refusing to reveal the results of an investigation into a bullying complaint involving the office of Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, including to the woman who made it. The Department of Finance has rejected an application from Wyatt’s former chief of staff, Kate Johnson, made under freedom of information laws, for access to a copy of the report into the complaint she made two years ago against Wyatt’s former policy adviser Paula Gelo.”

“After committing one of the ‘biggest blunders in banking history,’ Citibank won't be allowed to recover the almost half a billion dollars it accidentally wired to Revlon's lenders, a US District Court judge ruled. Citibank, which was acting as Revlon's loan agent, meant to send about $8 million in interest payments to the cosmetic company's lenders. Instead, Citibank accidentally wired almost 100 times that amount, including $175 million to a hedge fund. In all, Citi accidentally sent $900 million to Revlon's lenders.”

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