Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Hunt joins ranks of sick politicians

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has been admitted to hospital with a suspected infection, bringing the number of Morrison government ministers that will miss today’s cabinet meeting to three. Hunt will be kept overnight for observation and is being given antibiotics. Hunt’s office said his condition was not believed to be related to the AstraZeneca vaccination he received on the weekend. Other missing federal frontbenchers include Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, on sick leave on the advice of her cardiologist in the wake of a sexual assault allegation in her office, and Attorney-General Christian Porter, who took mental health leave last week after denying a rape allegation. It comes as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been moved to a specialist trauma unit overnight after breaking ribs and damaging vertebrae when he fell on wet stairs at a Mornington Peninsula holiday rental. Victoria’s Deputy Premier James Merlino will serve as acting premier as Andrews recovers, with the seriousness of his injuries casting doubt over a return to parliament next week. In the federal arena, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has taken on Reynolds’ portfolio and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has taken on Porter’s, but there are no arrangements for another minister to take on Hunt’s duties. 

WA Premier Mark McGowan has defended his strict border policy, after New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian described internal border closures as embarrassing. Berejiklian told a business summit that state border closures were never necessary and should be abandoned once all high-risk people are vaccinated. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state premiers would need to better justify future border closures once the vaccination program had gained pace. McGowan, on the campaign trail for a WA state election he is expected to win in a landslide, disagreed with the suggestion to treat Covid-19 like a bad flu once the population is vaccinated. “We will keep the border option available to us to prevent the virus coming in into the future,” he said. It comes as his electorate office along with that of federal Labor MP Madeleine King were evacuated after receiving suspicious foil-wrapped packages.

Two Indigenous people have died in custody in New South Wales in the past week, with their deaths only reported because a bureaucrat was questioned in a parliamentary hearing. Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin revealed the news at a Budget Estimates session, due to questioning by Greens MP David Shoebridge. Severin said an Indigenous man in his mid-30s died last Tuesday at a hospital that treats prisoners. Authorities claim his death was natural and that he had multiple medical issues. An Indigenous woman in her mid-50s died in her cell at Silverwater women's prison three days later. Severin said it was believed she had killed herself. He added that the government does not publicise deaths in custody. 

Fifteen police officers and four civilians have been injured during International Women’s Day demonstrations in Mexico’s capital city, as thousands of women protested against gender violence across the country. Feminist groups took to the streets of Mexico to protest violence against women in a country where about 10 women are murdered every day. In Mexico City, demonstrators marched to the National Palace, which had been fenced off, as were some 30 historical monuments across the capital. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador justified the fence as a way to avoid violence during the protests, while feminist groups described it as a “wall of shame”.

Why is Australia’s vaccine rollout taking so long?
Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout is already behind schedule, but while the headlines have focused on issues with supply and delivery, there are much deeper problems. Mike Seccombe on the challenges to the federal government’s vaccination plan, and what’s at stake if we don’t get it right.

The commission’s final report comes two-and-a-half years after Scott Morrison first called the aged-care inquiry on September 18, 2018, in one of his first acts as prime minister. Speaking then in his personal courtyard at Parliament House in Canberra, Morrison denied that in his previous role as treasurer he had stripped more than $2 billion in care subsidies from the sector since late 2015. ‘No, I don’t accept that,’ he said. ‘If people want to put questions, they’re not allowed to put lies.’ But the commissioners he appointed lay out the truth clearly in their report.”

“The headquarters of the infamous Australian cult The Family has been gifted to Victoria’s Tibetans in an unexpected move that has angered many in the Tibetan community, the policeman who investigated the cult’s crimes, and its survivors, who have been fighting in the courts for compensation. Santiniketan Lodge, as the low-lying red-brick building is known, was for three decades The Family’s temple, hidden among the trees on three hectares in the Dandenong Ranges on Melbourne’s outer fringe.”

“For years, there have been calls for reform of Australia’s notoriously restrictive defamation laws, not least because of the chilling effect they have on allegations of sexual assault. The burden of proof falls too heavily on those who seek to publish, journalists have long argued, and the defences offered are too meagre, too indifferent to the public’s right to know. ‘I think it is fair to say that current defamation laws no longer strike the perfect balance between public interest journalism and protecting individuals from harm,’ Christian Porter himself told the National Press Club in 2019.”

“Republicans should not see the Oprah interview as a major boost to their cause — there are hard yards to be done. Beyond the odd account on Twitter, there is no significant campaign in place to take advantage of the political opportunity this scandal presents … The Australian Republic Movement have a website, a well-known chair in Peter FitzSimons … but it is hard to argue the group has a high profile in the broader community.”

“The Victorian government in Australia is holding an inquiry into the ongoing effects of the violent dispossession and genocide of Aboriginal people during colonisation by the British empire and racist policies by Australian governments ... It will be given a remit to investigate both historical and ongoing injustices against Aboriginal Australians and has been compared to South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission.”

“It is impossible to overstate the legacy of Jack Mundey. The long life of the brilliant but humble trade unionist was one of integrity, decency and vision. He changed Australia forever, and his influence extended around the civilised world. He brought a new term into our vocabulary – green bans – which led to the formation of a revolutionary Greens party in Germany, and then in many other countries. At home, he transformed the progressive parties in Australia – not only the eponymous Greens, but also the now defunct Democrats and the still evolving left in the ALP.”

“Although these lapses in memory might seem entirely random, some researchers have identified the culprit as the actual doorways. Many studies have investigated how memory might be affected by passing through doorways. Astoundingly, these studies show doorways cause forgetting, and this effect is so consistent it has come to be known as the ‘doorway effect’.”

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