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.”