Australia politics live news updates: parliament returns; anti-vaccine mandate protests to continue; 38 Covid deaths in Victoria and NSW

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LIVE – Updated at 23:09

Follow the latest updates live.

Anti-vaccine mandate protests to return to Parliament House

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23:09 Josh Butler

Anti-vaccine mandate protests will return to Parliament House today, to coincide with politicians returning to Canberra, with huge crowds expected.

Global Tech News Daily

Labor’s shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally warned that some protesters “seek to do real harm” and that the groups “contain individuals that our national security agencies are worried about”.

“Some of these protesters actually want to undermine and overturn democracy,” Keneally told a press conference. She noted a protester who was arrested last week after police allegedly found a gun in his car:

Global Tech News Daily

Not all the people who are here to protest are here to protest peacefully … There are individuals here who have expressed support for doing physical harm, indeed execution of parliamentary representatives, judges and the like.

Protest leaders told supporters in social media videos to remain “peaceful”. However, at a small protest outside parliament on Monday, one speaker gave a speech saying “we are coming for you … we are emptying this building” and warning of a “mess”.

Keneally also accused the federal government of “currying favour with extremists”, citing support for the rallies from Coalition MPs George Christensen and Gerard Rennick, and former Liberal Craig Kelly. She called for prime minister Scott Morrison to pull his members into line:

Mr Morrison needs to take seriously the integrity of our parliament, the security of our parliamentarians, and the staff who work here and indeed make clear to members of his government, it is not appropriate for them to be going out and giving support to people who seek to enact violence upon this building.

Kelly told Guardian Australia on Monday that he planned to sign in a small contingent of protesters into parliament today, potentially to hold a press conference and try to meet with Morrison or Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Morrison’s office said the PM had no plans to meet the protesters.

Read more detail on the protests here:

Related: Australian parliament’s Covid rules could block anti-vaccine protesters’ entry

 

23:07

They were “communicated in confidence”…

Related: Aukus row: Scott Morrison’s office refuses to release full text exchanges with Macron

 

22:53

Some context on the latest Covid numbers from Peter Hannam, who reports that hospitalisations are slightly down from yesterday:

(Third time’s a charm): NSW #covid deaths increase by 4 to 18, and hospitalisations are down 1.5% extending a run of recent falls. ICU patients are down 3.6%, extending that recent promising slide too. https://t.co/Khi0nl7tGm

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) February 7, 2022

 

22:38

I’m already terrified of my mortgage. This won’t help:

So ANZ has joined the other three big banks in lifting fixed income lending rates. https://t.co/0XaPSt3pUx has them lined up. Meanwhile, investors are back picking June as the month the RBA will lift the official cash rate to 0.25% p.a. pic.twitter.com/AMP92mcqrV

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) February 7, 2022

 

22:37 Paul Karp

The bin fire of the religious discrimination bill is not as simple as same-sex attracted kids to be protected and trans kids to be forced to wait.

Because the draft amendments Scott Morrison has proposed to the Sex Discrimination Act are so narrow they only prevent same-sex attracted students from expulsion, not from other forms of discrimination.

So Labor and equality advocates are concerned that other forms of punishment of gay, lesbian and bisexual students will still be allowed (short of expulsion), as will pregnancy discrimination.

Labor has been coy about the fact it has seen draft amendments, relying on the fact that attorney general Michaelia Cash has said the bill isn’t final until it’s passed their party room, which explains why shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus told the Labor caucus it hadn’t seen the final bill.

Related: Religious discrimination bill will not protect trans students from expulsion, Simon Birmingham confirms

 

22:25

To my fellow survivors – those who have spoken out publicly at great personal cost, those who have spoken out anonymously like I have, and those who suffer in silence: never forget that you are strong, resilient and amazing people. Others may call me overly optimistic, but I believe that there is now real momentum for change.

Related: I was sexually assaulted by an Australian parliamentarian’s chief of staff – I believe change is coming| Former political staffer

Victoria records 9,785 Covid cases and 20 deaths

22:12

Victoria has recorded 9,785 new Covid cases and sadly 20 deaths.

We thank everyone who got vaccinated and tested yesterday.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives.

More data soon: https://t.co/OCCFTAtS1P#COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/88tarwQe24

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) February 7, 2022

NSW records 9,690 Covid cases and 18 deaths

22:08

New South Wales has recorded 9,690 new Covid cases and 18 deaths.

NSW COVID-19 update – Tuesday 8 February 2022

In the 24-hour reporting period to 4pm yesterday:

– 95.5% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

– 94.1% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/becR5mIv38

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) February 7, 2022

 

22:06

Josie Coles credits independent MP Zali Steggall for finding her and others a spot in the gallery:

Not one person in the Government has advocated for us, still haven’t heard anything from them. We are so lucky to have an ally and supporter in @zalisteggall who has fought to secure a number of spots in the gallery for us today for this acknowledgment. https://t.co/5jJLIq9H35

— Josie Coles (@josiemcoles) February 7, 2022

 

22:03 Daniel Hurst

There were some reports from Cambodia late last night that the Australian economist Sean Turnell had been released after a year of detention in Myanmar. Those reports credited Cambodia’s leader with securing his release.

Unfortunately that’s not the case at this stage.

A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement late last night:

The Myanmar authorities have advised DFAT that professor Sean Turnell remains detained. Following the foreign minister’s statement of 6 February marking the one year anniversary of professor Turnell’s detention, the Australian Government repeats its call for professor Turnell’s immediate release, and for his rights and welfare to be upheld.

 

21:58

Labor leader Anthony Albanese was sporting ABC socks at the church service this morning, possibly in response to yesterday’s announcement that the national broadcaster’s funding would be restored.

Australia politics live news updates: parliament returns; anti-vaccine mandate protests to continue; 38 Covid deaths in Victoria and NSW
© Provided by The Guardian Anthony Albanese at a special ecumenical service to commemorate the start of parliament for 2022 at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Kingston, Canberra. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Barnaby Joyce did not join other leaders in the front row:

Australia politics live news updates: parliament returns; anti-vaccine mandate protests to continue; 38 Covid deaths in Victoria and NSW
© Provided by The Guardian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce at the service this morning. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

 

21:55

Rachelle Miller also talked about the ongoing impact of her experience. She said:

I’ve had days where I’ve driven past (Parliament House) and just burst into tears. The impact is significant on me. But I’m speaking on behalf of a lot of people who for whatever reasons, valid reasons, are not speaking out about their experiences.

I like to feel like I’m speaking on behalf of them as well.

 

21:54

Brittany Higgins is now also expected to be in Parliament House for that statement. It’s still astounding that the women who suffered the worst of parliament’s workplace culture and spoke out about it weren’t invited all along. Another former staffer, Chelsey Potter, says no one from the government has contacted her:

As @rachellejmiller confirms on @RNBreakfast, we will now be attending the acknowledgement today

However, this is only due to women outside of the government who have strongly advocated on our behalf, making this happen

As yet, no one from the government has contacted me at all https://t.co/V0TE356pZH

— Chelsey Potter (@chels_e_potter) February 7, 2022

 

21:53

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said prime minister Scott Morrison wrote to him proposing a conversation about the religious discrimination laws. “Those discussions have not taken place,” he said.

Albanese said the Coalition is still debating the legislation.

“They’re having a party room (meeting) and they’re in dispute,” he said.

Morrison says religious discrimination bill about ‘binding Australia together, not forcing it apart’

21:37

Prime minister Scott Morrison is speaking now, after this morning’s church service. He starts by speaking about the religious discrimination bill.

Morrison says many people of faith have come to Australia to escape discrimination and he doesn’t want them to be discriminated against here.

For many Australians, their faith and religion is their culture. You can’t separate them. When you listen to their stories, they will tell stories over hundreds of years and even longer, about how they as a people of faith and religion have survived through some of the worst things you can possibly imagine in countries around the world. But they came here to Australia so they could get away from that. And they could start a new life. So they could have their religious faith and they could have their belief and they could have their community and they could have their culture, and they would not be discriminated against. I don’t want them to be discriminated against.

Before the last election I said I wanted there to be laws in place that ensured their freedom from that discrimination. That’s what this is about. There’s many other laws in our parliament, many other laws that deal with many other things. And there’s time and place to deal with those. But on this day, it’s important that we remember that for so many Australians, it doesn’t matter if you’re Hindu, if you’re Sikh, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, if you choose to have no religious faith at all, we sing Australians ‘one and free’ and I hope that means something today as we gather together and seek to put in place the opportunity for those who wish to live their religion and live their faith, binding Australia together, not forcing it apart. This is why I made that pledge before the last election, and that is why I continue to stand very strongly on this point.

Australia politics live news updates: parliament returns; anti-vaccine mandate protests to continue; 38 Covid deaths in Victoria and NSW
© Provided by The Guardian Scott Morrison during the opening of parliament at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra today. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

 

21:34

#BREAKING Former Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller has confirmed to @PatsKarvelas that she is now invited to attend the acknowledgment of bullying and abuse in parliament today. An investigation into her allegation against Alan Tudge is unresolved. He denies wrongdoing @SBSNews

— Anna Henderson (@annajhenderson) February 7, 2022

 

21:34

Once again, Paul Karp has dug through the details to bring them to you. Here’s the latest on protections for transgender students:

Related: Religious discrimination bill will not protect trans students from expulsion, Simon Birmingham confirms

 

21:33

Now Morrison is asked about whether the bill will protect transgender students. He says the current bill does not endorse the existing law. “That bill does not do the things you’re saying,” he said.

He’s talking about the religious discrimination bill – but according to reporting in the Nine newspapers, it’s a parallel discussion over the sex discrimination laws that would protect students on the basis of their sexuality, but not on the basis of their gender. Morrison said:

You’re referring to an existing law that was introduced by the Labor shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus. He put that in place. This bill does not seek to endorse that arrangement. That’s an existing law. What we’re dealing with here today are not those matters. Those are going through a process with the Australian Law Reform Commission. We’re dealing with discrimination against people for their religious belief and faith. That bill does not do the things you’re saying. There was an existing law introduced by the Labor government in Parliament.

Yes, it’s all a bit of a word salad, served up with some sneaky sauce. But we’ll keep working through it and bring you the latest today.

 

21:12

Katharine Murphy has the latest Guardian Essential poll. It includes a “modest rally” for prime minister Scott Morrison:

Related: Guardian Essential poll: voter anger cooling at Morrison government handling of pandemic

Peter Dutton says he hasn’t ruled out taking legal action against Bob Carr

21:07

The defence minister Peter Dutton has told the Today show he is reserving his right to take legal action against former NSW premier Bob Carr, who doubled down on his claims that Dutton was the “mystery minister” who called prime minister Scott Morrison a “psycho”. Dutton said:

It was not me. I mean, every family’s got this crazy uncle that wakes up from the rocking chair and sort of in a startled way shouts out something and I just don’t know what is going on with Bob Carr. Is he the full quid or not? He’s a bizarre guy. He hasn’t produced any evidence. He’s now saying if it’s not me, then the person needs to come forward to prove my innocence. I just find it bizarre. But anyway, I just find it bizarre. But anyway, I think he has discredited himself.

He hasn’t produced any evidence and you can’t just make a claim and then back away from it. But that’s what he’s done. I think it’s embarrassing for him and I think most journalists frankly have treated him as a bit of a joke and this sort of relevance deprivation syndrome cuts in for a lot of former politicians as we’ve discussed on the show before.

Asked if he’d take legal action, Dutton said Carr’s post was still up, it was defamatory, and that he reserves his right.

“Let’s see what happen,” he said. “I think he should take it down and hopefully sooner than later.”

Australia politics live news updates: parliament returns; anti-vaccine mandate protests to continue; 38 Covid deaths in Victoria and NSW
© Provided by The Guardian Minister for defence Peter Dutton. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Trans children excluded from protections in religious discrimination bill

20:59

Simon Birmingham has confirmed to ABC’s Radio National that under the federal government’s religious discrimination bill, transgender students could still be expelled. As the federal government tries to keep both conservatives and moderates happy, it has made amendments to its original bill to protect people’s sexuality, but not their gender. More to come.

 

20:57

ABC’s Patricia Karvelas has asked Labor’s Tony Burke about the laws. She asks him if the amendments have more protections for gay students, but not transgender students.

“I’m not sure we have seen the final amendments,” Burke says.

He says they won’t see the final version until the government has had a further meeting.

“The prime minister previously said he would end discrimination for all students and he should be true to his word on that.”

 

20:43

Don’t let this pass you by today – rogue Nationals MP George Christensen has used $10,000 a month in taxpayers’ money to pay for “e-material”. (And no, he wasn’t promoting the science). Sarah Martin reports:

Related: George Christensen claims $10,000 a month for ‘e-material’ as he ramps up anti-vaccine mandate Facebook ads

 

20:38

Hey, just in case you’d forgotten about deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce calling prime minister Scott Morrison a liar and a hypocrite, nationals deputy leader David Littleproud is talking about it on ABC television.

He’s worried that the text saga is distracting from the Nationals’ real message.

He’s trying not to, but he’s still talking about the texts.

Littleproud says the Nationals will be campaigning on the “wombat trail” out in rural and regional Australia, but that Morrison and Joyce will (at some point) be out on the hustings together.

Australia politics live news updates: parliament returns; anti-vaccine mandate protests to continue; 38 Covid deaths in Victoria and NSW
© Provided by The Guardian David Littleproud. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

 

20:31

Before today’s firehose really gets going, here are a couple of pictures Mike Bowers took last night of the Last Post ceremony.

Australia politics live news updates: parliament returns; anti-vaccine mandate protests to continue; 38 Covid deaths in Victoria and NSW
© Provided by The Guardian Prime minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese at the Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on Monday night. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Australia politics live news updates: parliament returns; anti-vaccine mandate protests to continue; 38 Covid deaths in Victoria and NSW
© Provided by The Guardian The laying of wreaths. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

 

20:31

Paul Karp is keeping a eye on all the religious discrimination argy bargy, here’s the latest:

Related: Morrison signals attempt to pass religious discrimination bill ‘in the near future’

 

20:28 Katharine Murphy

Morning all. When parliament sits at noon, the presiding officers in both chambers will deliver a statement of acknowledgement about deficiencies (to put the problem diplomatically) in the workplace culture at Parliament House.

This implements one of the recommendations of the Jenkins review. (Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins ran an inquiry last year into workplace culture triggered by allegations raised by the former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.)

Today’s statement is a public apology to people who have endured bullying, harassment or worse while working for the commonwealth. As well as the formal acknowledgment, today’s statement will outline next steps in reform.

After the presiding officers have delivered the statement, party leaders will speak. When I checked in with Higgins yesterday, she had not seen the wording of today’s statement.

As I reported yesterday on the blog, former staffers who have led the push for change are also disappointed that the closure of the building to the public will prevent them attending today’s statement. The government says provision will be made for some visitors.

(Tory here, rudely busting into Murphy’s piece – there is some chatter around this morning that the rude oversight will be rectified. I’ll let you know as soon as I do).

 

20:25

See change in action. I encourage you to watch the opening of Parliament today for the historic Statement of Acknowledgment to Parliament: @AusHumanRights recommendation 1 of #SettheStandard Join House of Reps here https://t.co/M2zoLejt12 https://t.co/M2zoLejt12

— Kate Jenkins (@Kate_Jenkins_) February 7, 2022

 

20:19

It’s the first sitting day of 2022, and if sitting day eve was anything to go by, it’ll be firing on a number of fronts.

The religious discrimination bill will be up for debate. At this stage it seems rather unlikely that prime minister Scott Morrison’s hope it will unite the parliament will be fulfilled. He’s off to the traditional parliamentary ecumenical service at 7.30am, so thoughts and prayers are on the way.

There will be a statement of acknowledgement in parliament around midday. It was a recommendation of the Jenkins review that the workplace culture of bullying, sexual assault and harassment in parliamentary workplaces should be publicly acknowledged. That was a recommendation of the Jenkins review, and there is word it will include an apology. It’s likely there were other apologies flying around yesterday amid news that former staffers Rachelle Miller and Brittany Higgins had not been invited – despite being instrumental in the review itself.

That is likely to have been remedied. Shortly I’ll bring you some more info on that statement.

Then there’ll be a much-anticipated National Press Club appearance by Grace Tame and Higgins, who have become good friends through all of this. And we haven’t even got to question time yet!

Those text messages from Barnaby Joyce and the mystery minister disparaging the PM are still the topic of talk, as a symptom of internal strife. And there’s some strife without, as those pesky anti-vaccine protestors continue to threaten chaos.

As for legislation for a federal Icac … wait and see. There have been mixed messages about whether the government will prioritise integrity over other issues.

Mike Bowers will bring you pictorial excellence, while Katharine Murphy, Sarah Martin, Daniel Hurst, Paul Karp and Josh Butler will be playing whack-a-mole with everything that is going on today. Strap in!

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