Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Accused minister to break silence

A Morrison government cabinet minister will today publicly identify himself as the politician at the centre of rape allegations, but he is not expected to step down. The minister, who has engaged the services of MinterEllison partner Peter Bartlett, will categorically deny allegations that he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988 in Sydney. It comes after New South Wales police, which had been leading the investigation into the matter, announced on Tuesday that there was “insufficient admissible evidence” to proceed. Greens leader Adam Bandt on Tuesday joined calls for an independent inquiry into the matter. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted such a proposal on the basis that it is best left to police. A coronial inquiry cannot be conducted into the alleged victim’s suicide in June 2020 until police have completed their own investigations. The federal government meanwhile established a confidential hotline for current and former political staffers to report serious incidents, as recommended in a review launched after the alleged sexual assault of staffer Brittany Higgins.  National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service: 1800 737 732 Lifeline: 13 11 14

The federal government has fallen short of its vaccination target, with just 53 per cent of the 63,140 doses allocated for the first week of Australia’s vaccination campaign delivered. As of February 28, only 33,702 doses had been administered, according to figures from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which the ABC notes is well behind the goal of at least 60,000 doses by the end of February. The initial target, announced in January for the start of the rollout, was 80,000 doses a week. If Australia is to hit its target to fully vaccinate all adults by the end of October, authorities will have to ramp up to 200,000 doses a day. Globally, more than 240 million vaccine jabs have been delivered, with more than 1.5 million shots given per day in China and the United States.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is set to effectively ban a far-right extremist group for the first time with the UK-based Sonnenkrieg Division to be formally listed as a terrorist organisation. The move comes after a recommendation from security agency ASIO and controversy over the absence of far-right groups from the terror list. A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the group had advocated terrorist acts and inspired UK-based extremists using online propaganda. Meanwhile a Victorian parliamentary committee will this morning announce whether it will recommend that the swastika and other Nazi symbols should be banned from public display, after a group of neo-Nazis marched through regional Victoria in January.

Global carbon emissions have returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The development dashes hopes that emissions had peaked in 2019 after Covid-19 lockdowns delivered a historic drop in emissions during 2020. IEA executive director Fatih Birol warned that, “If current expectations for a global economic rebound this year are confirmed, and in the absence of major policy changes in the world’s largest economies, global emissions are likely to increase in 2021.”

The sexual assault crisis that rocked Australia
A cabinet minister in the federal government has been accused of rape, but he hasn’t been publicly identified and the Prime Minister has so far refused to initiate an inquiry into the allegations. Today, Karen Middleton on the sexual assault crisis that has rocked the country.

“Older Australians have been failed repeatedly by an aged care system that is dramatically underfunded and understaffed, overseen by a toothless regulator, run by uninterested ministers, and hides its critical problems, the aged care royal commission found in a scathing final report. The report of commissioners Tony Pagone, QC, and Lynelle Briggs was tabled in the federal parliament ... as Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered $452 million to immediately address some of the system’s most pressing concerns.”

“Brendan Taylor, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, says that in any conflict over Taiwan, ‘The Americans would primarily be interested in our involvement for its symbolic value.’ They might want Australian submarines to help enforce a ‘distant blockade’ to control the ‘choke points’ through which Chinese ships convey vital imports of oil. The United States could also be interested in our EA-18G Growler electronic warfare fighter jets – we have 11, the only country outside America with them.”

FILM

“Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland finds peace in the process of letting go. In this meditative road movie, set in the open landscapes of the American west, the devastating ramifications of the 2008 Great Recession arrive on home ground, on the hard tarmac and the dust of the desert sand. Chronicling a disappearing way of life – once celebrated as the American dream – could easily land with tragedy, but in this film it’s captured as a gentle lament.”

“The federal government has extended the international border ban until June citing the emergence of more highly transmissible variants overseas, leaving at least 40,000 Australians stranded. The extension, announced in a press release on Tuesday evening, will take to 15 months the time Australia’s borders have been shut to the rest of the world, and citizens banned from leaving, unless they seek an exemption.”

“West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has backtracked on a plan to explore keeping border restrictions in place beyond the Covid-19 state of emergency. Amid methamphetamine use dropping 23 per cent in WA, Mr McGowan said on Tuesday morning he was in talks with Police Commissioner Chris Dawson to explore the legality of extending controlled border measures like the G2G entry pass system post-pandemic.”

“When it first happened, several years ago, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young couldn’t understand what it was about. She was speaking in the chamber and senators across the aisle started calling out a man’s name. It was just a name – no allegation – but it hung in the air like a secret. After it happened a couple more times, it dawned on her. Still, she couldn’t quite believe it.”

Each driver is a video consisting of a fixed sequence of movements and gestures. Deep Nostalgia can very accurately apply the drivers to a face in your still photo, creating a short video that you can share with your friends and family. The driver guides the movements in the animation so you can see your ancestors smile, blink, and turn their heads.”

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