Hello all, Matilda Boseley here to take you through the next little bit of the day on the blog. Thanks so much to Ben Doherty for his amazing coverage this morning!
at 8.43pm EDT
More on Christian Porter:
We’re months away from the trial, but Porter’s defamation case against the ABC is already getting complicated.
An interlocutory hearing down for this morning was complicated by a separate application made by Jo Dyer, a friend of the woman who accused Porter of rape, to stop high-profile Sydney barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC from acting for the former attorney general on the basis she had previously advised Dyer in a separate matter.
Justice Jayne Jagot said this morning that the application meant she would either be forced to stay the proceedings until the Chrysanthou matter was resolved – likely to be later in May – or the barrister would have to be “effectively isolated” from the case until that happened.
The hearing has been delayed until 10.30 while Porter’s other lawyer, Bret Walker SC, is fetched to appear on whether Chrysanthou can be heard in the matter.
The Dyer application is also down for later today but that’s expected to just be a confirmation of the timeline of that matter.
Porter was back in parliament this week.
at 8.29pm EDT
* So it wasn’t Romy after all …
** Contractually mandated, sole pop-culture reference.
at 8.18pm EDT
To Australian politics, and the parliamentary sitting week just concluded:
The Greens want federal parliament to set up an independent commission of inquiry into Christian Porter’s fitness to be a minister and an allegation of sexual assault against him.
In February the ABC reported a cabinet minister had been accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old in 1988 when he was 17. Porter subsequently denied the allegation and has since sued the ABC for defamation.
The Greens senator Larissa Waters hopes to introduce a bill that would set up an inquiry given the allegation will not be directly tested in Porter’s defamation case against the ABC.
at 8.14pm EDT
Also overseas, from Julian Borger: there have been more than 130 incidents of unexplained brain injury known as Havana syndrome among US diplomats, spies and defence officials, some of them within the past few weeks, it has been reported.
at 8.02pm EDT
And to the Middle East:
AFP reports that the Israeli army now says it has not entered the Gaza strip:
Journalist Anshel Pfeffer, who reports for Haaretz and the Economist, has tweeted: “The Israeli army’s line now, after a series of contradicting briefings over the last couple of hours, is that there are no Israeli troops actually inside the Gaza strip right now. Make of it what you will.”
The Israeli army’s line now, after a series of contradicting briefings over the last couple of hours, is that there are no Israeli troops actually inside the Gaza Strip right now. Make of it what you will.
Meanwhile, in 2 hours since Israel began its latest massive attack on Hamas in Gaza, there has been another rocket attack on Ashkelon and Ashdod on average every ten minutes
Here is our report on what we know so far:
at 7.52pm EDT
To our region. Samoa, one of the most stable democracies in the Pacific – the prime minister there is the third-longest serving in the world – is in the midst of a bloodless coup.
It’s an extraordinary situation, and this is a vital explainer from Fiona Ey.
at 7.47pm EDT
From our hard-working friends at AAP:
Defence minister Peter Dutton insists the quarantine system will be able to cope when the travel ban lifts and flights from India resume.
The first plane load of Australians from India will land on Saturday morning after flights were suspended for several weeks to allow the Howard Springs quarantine facility in Darwin to deal with positive Covid-19 cases before more potentially infectious people arrived.
Dutton said the commonwealth had been working closely with the Northern Territory government since the India travel ban was imposed.
“We will continue to work particularly with vulnerable groups to help them back into our country as quickly as possible,” he told Nine on Friday.
“We have put in other measures around pre-flight testing and making sure if we’re bringing people out of a zone like India at the moment we can do it safely so we don’t undo what is a magnificent story here in Australia.”
Complicating that story is mixed messages about the timetable for the vaccine rollout.
Dutton insists everyone willing to be vaccinated will receive two shots by the end of this year.
“Now some people will make a decision that they don’t want the vaccine, and the government is not going to force them to have the vaccine, so let’s be realistic in terms of some parts of society,” he said.
This end of year deadline puts Dutton directly at odds with the prime minister, who has spent the week walking back an end date for the rollout’s completion.
The treasurer and health minister have also clashed on the rollout timeline.
Deputy opposition leader Richard Marles leapt on the mixed messaging.
“You’ve got complete confusion, even with Peter today, as to whether or not there’s going to be two jabs by the end of the year,” Marles said.
“They can’t give you a straight answer in relation to that question and we all know properly vaccinating the country is how we actually more forward and past this in an economic sense.”
The government has ordered 25m doses of Moderna vaccines, giving its rollout a shot in the arm.
Marles said the vaccine deal should have been secured last year.
“The reason why we are now back on the queue is because the work they’re doing now they didn’t do last year when it mattered,” he said.
“This time last year we knew vaccines were in the pipeline. It was then the government should have been actually spreading the country’s risk.
“Instead they bet the house on the idea AstraZeneca being manufactured in Australia would be able to do the whole job.”
The first 10m doses of Moderna are due to arrive this year while the rest – booster jabs for different variants – are slated to be delivered next year.
The Moderna jab has not yet been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration but the company is expected to apply for that soon.
People under 50 are set to receive the Moderna vaccine.
CSL is already making the AstraZeneca vaccine in Melbourne; the Pfizer vaccine is fully imported.
A clear flow of supply will be needed as GPs begin the rollout to all Australians aged over 50 next week.
at 7.33pm EDT
Survey finds confidence in Morrison government has dipped below 50%
The ANU’s centre for social research and methods has released longitudinal survey data showing that confidence in the federal government has dipped below 50% for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The survey of 3,200 adults found a very large decline in confidence from 54.3% in January to 45.4% in April. Confidence peaked at 60.6% in May 2020, but the current score is still higher than the lows of 27.3% the federal government hit in January 2020 after the summer bushfires.
Study co-author Nicholas Biddle said:
There has been a large decline in the number of Australians who said they would vote for the Coalition. In January this sat at 40.3%. In April this was 37.3%. Between January and April satisfaction with the direction of the country also declined – dropping from 78.9% of Australians saying they were satisfied to 75.7%.
There were also some interesting findings about sexual harassment:
More than three-quarters of Australians (76.8%) think “men getting away with committing sexual harassment or assault” was a major problem
Almost three-quarters of Australians (71.6%) said “women not being believed when they claim that they have experienced sexual harassment or assault” was also a major problem
A minority of Australians (40.9%) say “employers firing men who have been accused of sexual harassment or assault before finding out all the facts” was a major problem
A slightly larger number (41.9%) think “women claiming they have experienced sexual harassment or assault when it hasn’t actually occurred” was a major problem.
To me, that suggests allegations of sexual harassment or assault are incredibly divisive. And the issue is a lot more nuanced than believing men or believing women as a good chunk of the sample must have said both that men get away with harassment but women claim it happened when it didn’t.
at 7.51pm EDT
In September last year the government lost a case in the federal court which ordered it to release a Syrian refugee it was holding in immigration detention indefinitely.
Yesterday it pushed through legislation which allows it to detain refugees indefinitely, potentially for the rest of their lives.
The bill ostensibly was written to strengthen Australia’s non-refoulement obligations: that is, confirming it would not send refugees back to a place where they would face harm.
But it has also given ministers in the home affairs portfolio extraordinary powers of detention, and even to withdraw recognition of a person’s refugee status – their right to be protected from harm.
The Morrison Government has broad powers to cancel visas of refugees for a range of minor reasons.
Now it has the power to even overturn the refugee status of these people and send them back to harm
Refugee status must not be a day-by-day propositionhttps://t.co/qbzlaoSG3X
at 6.36pm EDT
To return to the federal budget:
Jessica Sier reports:
Housing affordability is likely to remain a crippling problem for Australia’s low-income earners, community housing providers say, and Tuesday’s budget fails to address supply shortages and the rental crisis gripping the regions.
Although the industry is relieved housing affordability is on the national agenda, it said the government’s plan to provide $124.7m over two years to support homelessness and affordable housing falls short of the needed infrastructure spending.
“It’s just not going to change the dial on the bricks and mortar problems we have,” Rob Ellis, the general manager community services and housing at BaptistCare, a provider of community housing, said.
“We’re talking about women and children becoming homeless and having no place to go, and we often have to turn them away because we literally don’t have any houses. It’s terrible.”
at 6.32pm EDT
Israel appears to have launched its most intense attack on Gaza so far.
Israel’s military has said “ground troops” have begun attacking in the Gaza strip after days of airstrikes, prompting fears of a ground invasion.
“[Israel defence forces] air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza strip,” the military said in a statement just after midnight local time, without providing further details.
Shortly afterwards, in an apparent reference to the operation, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: “The last word was not said and this operation will continue as long as necessary.”
Hazem Balousha, a journalist in Gaza city, said residents heard intense bombardments and attacks to the north of the strip since just after midnight.
“It lasted half an hour,” he said. “Very loud; buildings were shaking. My building was really shaking.”
We have rolling coverage of that worsening conflict here:
at 6.27pm EDT
“All of us were incredibly shocked and distressed by what unfolded yesterday afternoon.”
And with that, the premier’s strained press conference is done.
“As I understand it, he has not been contacted by police, and the extent of any allegations isn’t known.”
The premier learned of the allegations through media reports.
“After the reports came out, I spoke to him and asked whether he’d done anything wrong. He denied any wrongdoing. I asked him whether police had contacted him and he said no.”
There is a significant political element to this. The loss of Ward from the government benches following the resignation of Michael Johnsen (also over sexual assault allegations) has left the Berejiklian government in minority. There is a byelection for Johnsen’s former seat of Upper Hunter next weekend.
at 6.20pm EDT
Berejiklian says Gareth Ward has ‘done the right thing’ stepping aside
Gladys Berejiklian has spoken briefly to the media this morning about the allegations of sexual violence made against MP Gareth Ward.
“What transpired yesterday afternoon was extremely concerning and distressing. Mr Ward has done the right thing in stepping aside from his ministry and also the Liberal party room,” she said.
“At this stage I have no further information.”
The report of those allegations is here. Ward denies them.
at 6.18pm EDT
We are reliably informed NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian will hold a press conference imminently. We shall bring you that when it happens.
at 6.00pm EDT
The federal government tried to stop the publication of an academic paper that found it needed to drastically increase its spending on threatened Australian wildlife.
Internal documents released to Guardian Australia under freedom of information show senior officials in the federal environment department spent months pressuring scientists from the government-funded Threatened Species Recovery Hub.
The scientists had drafted a paper in 2019 that compared Australian threatened species funding with that in the US. They found Australia was spending just a tenth of what the US dedicated to trying to recover endangered wildlife.
The documents show that before a meeting with two of the hub’s scientists at the University of Melbourne, the department drew up options, including “don’t publish the paper” or remove references to the government program.
at 6.05pm EDT
Thursday night was the traditional budget-in-reply speech from the leader of her majesty’s opposition. The indefatigable Sarah Martin covered Anthony Albanese’s address to parliament:
Albanese will establish a $10bn social housing fund to build 30,000 affordable homes for vulnerable Australians and frontline workers if Labor wins the next federal election, as he promised to “deliver for working families” as prime minister.
He also pledged to create 10,000 energy apprenticeships, criminalise wage theft, and make employers responsible for workplace sexual harassment.
Saying Labor was committed to “building back stronger” after a pandemic that had seen Australians make incredible sacrifices, Albanese said the country deserved a government that was “worthy of your efforts”.
“I want Australia to emerge from this crisis stronger, smarter and more self-reliant, with an economic recovery that works for all Australians,” he said.
at 6.11pm EDT
Morning fellow travellers. Friday. The end of the week beckons, the sunlit uplands of the weekend your reward. Ben Doherty with you for a little while.
Much moving this week. The budget has dominated the parliamentary week, with experts arguing the financial blueprint for the nation fails to address Australia’s housing shortage and homelessness.
Thursday night’s budget in reply speech from Anthony Albanese carried a $10bn pledge for a social housing fund if Labor wins the next election.
Internal documents released to Guardian Australia show the federal government tried to stop the publication of an academic paper that found it needed to drastically increase its spending on threatened Australian wildlife.
The prime minister has denied he spoke in error when described the formulation of Australia’s one-China policy, answering a question about support for Taiwan by referencing “one country two systems” – a policy that governs Hong Kong. There is no mention of Hong Kong in the transcript.
The NSW MP Gareth Ward has stepped down down as minister over sexual violence allegations, denying “any wrongdoing” but saying he will leave the Liberal party room while police investigate.
And, after accusations of online harassment and abuse against Andrew Laming, Scott Morrison’s warm welcome to the MP this week feels like a rebuke to Australia’s women, writes Sarah Martin.
The government also passed legislation allowing it to indefinitely detain refugees, a law written in response to being ordered by the federal court to release a Syrian refugee it was warehousing in detention.
Internationally, Oliver Holmes reports Israel’s military is drafting a plan for a possible ground operation in Gaza, as it presses ahead with a fierce air offensive on the enclave and as Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, fires volleys of rockets deep into Israel.
India’s rampant wave of Covid infections continues. More than 4,000 people died from the virus on Thursday, according to official figures. The real toll is likely factors higher.
at 6.14pm EDT
*** With material from The Guardian. Full article 👉 Read More ***
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