Australia politics live news updates: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault

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LIVE – Updated at 01:26

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01:26

Global Tech News Daily

How about some proactive, preventative measures and not just these performative, last-minute bandaid electioneering stunts?

— Grace Tame (@TamePunk) February 8, 2022

 

Global Tech News Daily

01:25

Morrison goes on to thank commissioner Kate Jenkins and repeats the speaker’s statement that parliament should have “the high standards of a place where any Australian can aspire to work”.

Morrison said:

[Jenkins] said this is an opportunity for the leaders of our country to transform and commonwealth parliamentary workplaces to become what they already should be. Workplaces where expected standards of behaviour [are modelled], championed and enforced. And where respectable behaviour is rewarded and which any Australian, no matter gender, race, sexual orientation, disability status or age, feel safe and welcome to contribute.

That is our task, she has set it out clearly. We must hold ourselves to the standard, all of us. I hesitate in calling it a new standard, because that [suggests it] should not have been previously. This is a standard that should be outside of time. Because by taking an oath or affirmation that this very table, it means you are a leader. Whatever role in which you serve.

Mr Speaker, we have understood in this place the power of an apology to bring healing and to bring change. I am proud that this is a chamber in which we have done this on so many occasions, but I believe Australia is somewhat unique in this regard.

We … have sought to silence the valid and just complaints of people because there was fear about electoral consequences. I am sorry. We are sorry. I am sorry to [Brittany] Higgins for the terrible things that took place here. And the place that should have been a place for safety and contribution, turned out to be a nightmare. I am sorry for far more than that. [Higgins] had the courage to speak, and so here we are. We are sorry for all of these things, and in doing so, each of us take on accountability for change. For those of us who have perpetuated the bullying and violence, the light will come to those behaviours. As it must.

 

01:25

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has also said sorry, and highlighted the need for immediate action. He said:

(The Jenkins report) catalogues in personal testimony and shocking statistics our failure to (lead by example). It is also a demand that we act right now. We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone in this building as well as every former staff member who stepped up to share their experiences of workplace bullying and misconduct of sexual harassment and most dramatically, of sexual assault. I also knowledge particularly the women who have bravely stood up and called out a culture of mistreatment that brought this issue into the light. I particularly pay tribute to the courage of Brittany Higgins who is with us today.

You have torn through a silence that has acted as the life-support system for the most odious of status quos. To describe your experiences is to relive them. I say to everyone who took part, that took a level of courage that you should never have needed to show. But you did. And we thank you for it.

We also knowledge everyone who has experienced misconduct but could not take part. Indeed, there are many who are not ready to speak and perhaps never will be. But I hope you can take some heart from knowing that this very institution that failed you is at last acknowledging your hurt. Most importantly, we are sorry. We are committing to change. The Jenkins report, with its piercing honesty about the treatment of women and men both, has exposed a damaged culture but no word any of us says in here is worth a thing if it does not lead to action.

We can make a difference but it would take real and sustained effort to create the lasting cultural change that we need. I believe we can do it. I know that we have to. And how we can start doing that is by working across the parliament to implement every single recommendation of the Jenkins report. That is the absolute minimum we should be doing for the staff who are, in so many ways, the fuel and the engine of parliament.

Staff members are drawn to work in politics for many of the same reasons that parliamentarians are. (They) work for and believe in the power of the political process to create change and to make lives better. That work should be valued and recognised, even if it is behind-the-scenes. No-one deserves to feel unsafe or disrespected any workplace, let alone our national parliament. Let us be the example for Australia that the national parliament ought to be.

While the report concerns itself with this place, it is part of something bigger. An overdue national reckoning.

Parliament acknowledges workplace bullying, harassment and sexual assault

01:16

Here is the full statement of acknowledgement:

In the final sitting week of 2021 the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces was published by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

Today, on the first sitting day of 2022, we deliver this statement on behalf of the Parliamentary Cross-Party Leadership Taskforce recommended by Commissioner Jenkins and as a reflection of the Parliament. We acknowledge the unacceptable history of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces.

This issue is of the greatest importance and the responsibility of all people who work in this place. Any bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault is unacceptable and wrong. We say sorry.

Every workplace should be safe and respectful. This place and its members are committed to bringing about lasting and meaningful change to both culture and practice within our workplaces. We have failed to provide this in the past. We today declare our personal and collective commitment to make the changes required. We will aspire, as we should, to set the standard for the nation.

We thank all of those who participated in the Jenkins Review, acknowledging everyone who came forward to tell us of their experiences. We also acknowledge the many others who could not or did not participate but who may have experienced misconduct. We know that your experiences have had profound and far-reaching impacts on your lives. We have listened and heard you, and we accept your calls for change.

This Parliament should serve as a model workplace for our nation. Only by creating the best workplace will this parliament attract the best people our country has to offer. And only by attracting the best our country has to offer, and listening to the communities we represent, will we deliver the high standards that our country deserves.

Parliamentary workers feel pride in working for their country, and the privilege and honour of making a difference for the Australian people. However, for far too many, it has not been safe or respectful. The Jenkins Review proposes an ambitious program of reform to ensure Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces meet the highest standards. We are fully committed to working across the Parliament to implement all of these recommendations within the timeframes proposed by Commissioner Jenkins.

We have started to act. Last year, we established a new independent complaints process and began providing trauma-informed support for people who have experienced serious incidents working in the Parliament. Members, Senators and staff have undertaken professional workplace training.

Parliamentarians must uphold the highest standards and be accountable for delivering required actions. We know that cultural change has to come from the top – it has to be role modelled and championed by all of us.

While we know we cannot undo the harm that has already been done, we are committed to acknowledging the mistakes of the past and continuing to build safe and respectful workplaces.

 

01:16

“I am sorry. We are sorry,” Morrison said.

 

01:15

Prime minister Scott Morrison says he rises to “enthusiastically support” the statement, and to recognise “all of those who are why we are here today in making this acknowledgement”. He said:

I particularly want to acknowledge Brittany Higgins, whose experience, and more importantly courage, is the reason why we are all here today. And I want to thank her for that. I also want to recognise all of those who have contributed to the Jenkins review. Some 1700 individuals contributed. 935 participated in the surveys from right across this building … those who work and call this place their place of work. 490 interviews were conducted, 11 focus groups were undertaken.

This review speaks of a long-standing culture, generations of culture, in this place and in the building before it, of bullying and harassment that has occurred over this time. A power imbalance over that time that has been exploited. And that exploitation, abuse and harassment has played itself out through terrible traumatic and harrowing experiences. The harassment of staff, particularly female staff, as well as the harassment of female members and senators. Over many decades, the culture [that] perpetuated bullying, abuse, harassment and in some cases even violence became normalised. This has to change, it is changing, and I believe it will change.

 

01:10 Daniel Hurst

Australian officials have been denied consular access to a dual Australian-Chinese citizen who is being prosecuted in Hong Kong under the sweeping new national security law.

The ABC has reported that the man – first arrested on 6 January last year, released on bail the next day and then re-arrested on 1 March – is accused of “conspiring to subvert state power”. The ABC report says the man has spent the past 11 months in jail and faces a potential jail term ranging from 10 years to life, if convicted of subversion.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said:

The Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong was notified by Hong Kong authorities of the arrest of a dual Australian-Chinese citizen under its National Security Law in January 2021.

Officials from our Consulate-General have attended the subsequent court hearings. However, we have been denied consular access despite multiple attempts because the individual is deemed to be a Chinese citizen under China’s citizenship laws, which do not recognise dual nationality. We are in regular contact with the individual’s lawyers and will continue to attend future court hearings.

Australia and many other countries have expressed concern about the erosion of basic freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong and have called on Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to abide by their human rights obligations.

The Hong Kong National Security Law could be interpreted broadly and therefore result in detention that is arbitrary or lacks transparency as well as the removal of basic individual rights.

The man’s case was first mentioned in Australian Senate estimates hearings in October, but there were few details before now.

‘I’m going to help you guys’: Gerard Rennick speaks to anti-vax mandate protest

01:09 Josh Butler

Coalition senator Gerard Rennick has spoken briefly at a growing anti-vaccine mandate protest outside Parliament House, accepting a letter the group wanted delivered to prime minister Scott Morrison.

“I’m going to help you guys fight to end the mandates … make sure our children don’t get vaccinated and make sure we restore our civil liberties and end government overreach,” Rennick told protesters, to loud cheers.

One group involved in the protests has asked supporters to sign an open letter which is critical of Covid vaccines, which they claim will be “presented to the prime minister on Tuesday”. The letter claims that protesters “will bring hundreds of thousands sending you into hiding and we will take this country back for the people”.

Labor senator Murray Watt, a long-term critic of his fellow Queenslander Rennick, tweeted that the Coalition MP was “working against Morrison govt policy”.

Australia politics live news updates: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian Hundreds of protesters at Parliament House this morning opposing vaccine mandates. Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

‘State-sanctioned discrimination’: Ian Thorpe attacks bill

01:04

Olympic champion Ian Thorpe is standing up to speak about the religious discrimination legislation on behalf of Equality Australia – he’ll be followed by a range of speakers, who are all calling for the bill to be opposed.

Thorpe, who is a mental health advocate and came out as gay in 2014, said it amounted to “state-sanctioned discrimination” that would “gain rights for one group of people, while excluding another group of people”. He said:

The prime minister promised that there would not be a gay student not allowed in school and now it’s been considered trans is not classified in the category as well … this is a group of people that we should be protecting. We want to see (this bill) disappear. It has no friends in parliament, it hasn’t… this is the third time this bill (has come around) and it is something that we would prefer to see squashed.

The delegation includes representatives from the Hindu Council of Australia, the Australian Council of Social Services, and transgender year 12 student Olivia Stewart.

Australia politics live news updates: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian Former olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe opposes the religious discrimination bill. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Nurses protesting over aged care crisis at Parliament House

00:57 Melissa Davey

Aged care nurses are descending on Parliament House this morning protesting dangerous staff shortages, underpayment, and a lack of personal protective equipment – issues that persist more than two years since the Covid-19 pandemic began and despite numerous inquiries into the aged care sector.

“I’m here because I care, our residents deserve better” @anmf_federal pic.twitter.com/KkjdfRyPCj

— 🧶🧶🧶 unravellednurse 🧶🧶🧶 (@jsam_1967) February 8, 2022

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s federal secretary Annie Butler said nurses are “fed up with this government for abandoning aged care workers and residents”:

Every day that Mr [Scott] Morrison fails to act on safe, minimum staffing ratios, fails to deliver a decent, permanent pay rise for underpaid workers and fails to show our aged care workers and residents dignity and respect, is another day that elderly Australians in nursing homes continue to suffer.

A piece published by the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, led by the University of Wollongong’s Prof Kathy Eagar, calculates that aged care residents comprise 0.74% of the Australian population and 0.59% of Covid-19 cases. Yet they represent 36.87% of all Covid-19 deaths in the pandemic so far.

Eagar and her colleague Anita Westera wrote that ongoing systemic failures in aged care were exacerbated by issues including decisions to end lockdowns and ease restrictions based on vaccination rates rather than whether the aged care sector was prepared; aged care booster programs not being complete before restrictions were eased; poor access to rapid antigen tests; and inadequate personal protective equipment.

Other issues identified by the authors include poor pay for staff, less experienced staff being employed to cut costs, “a long-held agenda within the centre of government to curtail projected costs associated with an ageing population” and the commonwealth’s “hands-off approach to aged care”. They wrote:

The current crisis yet again reflects the reactive and iterative policy making that has characterised aged care in recent decades. And while responsibility for aged care remains centrally controlled at the national level, this is unlikely to change.

 

00:45

Australian Defence Force personnel have been deployed across Australia for Operation Aged Care Assist. 1,700 men and women of the ADF will take up additional duties in aged care facilities to help Australians most in need. pic.twitter.com/vGYnzZvuHs

— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) February 8, 2022

The Greens say bill is ‘throwing trans kids under the bus’

00:45 Josh Butler

Further to Paul Karp’s reporting on the argy bargy between the Coalition and Labor on the religious discrimination bill today, the Greens have flagged introducing amendments in the House and Senate to update what they claim is an “appalling” proposal.

A Greens spokesperson told a media briefing after their party room meeting that they would introduce more modest amendments in the House. They hoped Liberal moderates may support them, rather than proposing “stronger” amendments in the Senate where the government does not control the majority.

The Greens’ amendments would include removing section 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act, which says it is “not unlawful” for religious schools to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is central to today’s controversy around transgender students not being protected against expulsion, under the current government proposal.

The Greens are “really disappointed” Labor hasn’t spoken more strongly in opposition to the current bill, the party spokesperson said, and claimed the current proposal was “throwing trans kids under the bus”.

Queensland records 5,178 Covid cases and 12 deaths

00:27

Queensland has recorded 5,178 new Covid cases and 12 deaths. About 700 people with the virus are in hospital, and another 22 in intensive care.

 

00:23

Getting down to business (part 2):

The first sitting day of 2022 will get underway at midday today. You can find our order of business (the Red) on ParlWork https://t.co/W0mvG4D8zj

One of the first items of business on the #Senate‘s agenda is the swearing in of Senator Mirabella as a senator for Victoria

— Australian Senate (@AuSenate) February 8, 2022

 

00:23

Getting down to business (part 1):

Good morning! The House resumes for the first sitting of the year at noon. Today will begin with a statement from the Speaker. The first order of the day is the resumption of debate on the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills. Full program: https://t.co/pWJxbQVHJK pic.twitter.com/IpEcwEFso8

— Australian House of Representatives (@AboutTheHouse) February 8, 2022

Victoria seeking legal advice on religious discrimination bill, Andrews says

00:22 Benita Kolovos

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews was also asked for this thoughts on the federal government’s religious discrimination bill. He said:

I think everybody should be treated fairly, properly and that’s exactly the arrangements that we have in place … In terms of the interaction between changes at a Victorian level and a commonwealth level, well there’s a few things to be settled there.

Late last year, the Victorian parliament passed laws banning religious schools from sacking or refusing to hire staff based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Andrews confirmed the Victorian government is seeking legal advice on how to defend its laws if the federal bill passes:

We will use any and all legal avenues to defend those who ought to be treated fairly and equally and might not be under any arrangements where a commonwealth act overrode or set aside provisions of a state act that duly passed the parliament.

Andrews said he wanted “every student to be treated equally”. He continued:

I want every Victorian to be confident, safe, respected, included for who they are. And I must say it’s pretty offensive for some in the community to equate sexual orientation or gender identity to a choice not to get vaccinated. That’s the wrong choice. People’s identity is not a matter of choice; who you are is who you are, who you love, is a matter for you. You should be treated fairly and equitably. You should not be discriminated against based on who you are. That’s just my view. It also happens to be the view of the Victorian community.

Australia politics live news updates: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian Daniel Andrews speaks to the press in Melbourne this morning. Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP

 

00:20 Paul Karp

The former Labor leader, Bill Shorten, has responded to reports the government will protect gay students from discrimination but not transgender students, by noting it is a “hypothetical” but that prime minister Scott Morrison promised to protect students from all forms of persecution.

He said:

We’re five minutes to midnight and he [Morrison] is having to be dragged across the concrete by the fingernails.

Shorten said Labor is “against discrimination” and religious freedom is “a core value” but you don’t improve the rights of some while taking away from the rights of others.

As to how Labor will resolve the balance between religion and other rights – there’s still nothing definitive until the Coalition settles its final bill.

 

00:04 Ben Doherty

The head of Australia’s Communications and Media Authority, Nerida O’Loughlin, is speaking at the International Institute of Communications Asia Telecommunications & Media Forum 2022 today.

She is on a panel alongside Than Htun Aung, the deputy director general of Myanmar’s Posts and Telecommunications Department. That department, under the control of Myanmar’s illegal military junta, is responsible for widespread surveillance of citizens across the country.

Advocates argue inviting representatives of the junta to speak at international conferences legitimises the Myanmar military regime:

🤯Australia’s @acmadotgov chair Nerida O’Loughlin speaking on a panel TODAY on “protecting citizens & consumers” w/ a #Myanmar junta official responsible for surveillance & censorship of media & civil society! Hosted by @The_IIC.#ACMA: Stop reputation laundering for terrorists! pic.twitter.com/KRryfXLQCd

— Justice For Myanmar (@JusticeMyanmar) February 7, 2022

 

00:00

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 more talk of tomorrow’s National Press Club appearance by Grace Tame and Higgins, who have become good friends through all of this.

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!

Morrison not committing to watching Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins speech

07 Feb 2022 23:59

Quick flashback to prime minister Scott Morrison this morning, when he was asked if he would tune in to hear Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame speak at the National Press Club tomorrow. He said:

Well, it’s going to be a busy week, I don’t get the opportunity to listen to all those speeches, but I’ll certainly ensure that I’m aware of what they have said, and I’m certainly, like the rest of the country, very interested in the contribution that they make and the contribution that they have made.

I think the contribution they have made, as I said, has brought forward some very important issues that we’ve had to deal with and we should deal with and were long overdue, and I’m very pleased that they have been in the actions we’re taking together as a parliament to address those very serious issues.

Australia politics live news updates: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian Grace Tame will speak at the National Press Club alongside Brittany Higgins today. Photograph: Rob Blakers/AAP

Tasmania records 601 Covid cases

07 Feb 2022 23:52

Tasmania has had a small increase in new Covid cases, with 601 recorded overnight after a few days in the 400s, AAP reports. Ten people are in hospital, one of them in intensive care.

New reported cases up on yesterday = 601

Hospitalisations steady at 15

ICU steady at 1

No deaths pic.twitter.com/POzlSS6yRB

— COVID Tasmania (@CovidTasmania) February 7, 2022

Daniel Andrews welcomes border reopening, announces free RATs for kids in childcare

07 Feb 2022 23:41 Benita Kolovos

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, spoke to reporters in Melbourne earlier this morning.

He welcomed the federal government’s decision to reopen the Australian border to tourists and all visa holders, provided they have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine:

Firstly, I think we all were a bit amused at the timeline that had been put forward by the commonwealth government around Easter, I thought that was … some time off and perhaps we could do better than that. It’s great yesterday that the commonwealth were able to confirm that it will be much sooner than that. That’s good for the economy, for jobs, so that’s something that we fully support.

Andrews said national cabinet is still awaiting advice from Australia’s independent expert group on vaccination, Atagi, on whether it will change the definition of fully vaccinated to mean three doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. He said:

They (Atagi) must be getting very close to making that decision. We’ve got a national cabinet meeting on Thursday, hopefully we can receive it before then or at that meeting.

All the international evidence, all the advice I get from our team is that three doses is what’s required in order to be as safe as it can be.

Andrews said if the definition of fully vaccinated changed for Australians, he expected the same would apply for international arrivals:

That would be consistent with the approach they’ve taken … Let’s just wait and see what Atagi comes up with. But I think it’s highly likely, the weight of evidence suggests a booster or third dose is not really an optional extra. It’s critically important and it’s not just for now, there’s also for whatever comes at us when the weather turns later in the year.

Andrews announced free rapid antigen tests will be made available for children aged three to five attending early childhood services in the coming weeks. The program, which involves children being tested twice a week, will be “voluntary, but highly recommended”, he said.

 

07 Feb 2022 23:33

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

Anti-vaccine mandate protests to return to Parliament House

07 Feb 2022 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.

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:

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

 

07 Feb 2022 23:07

They were “communicated in confidence”…

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

 

07 Feb 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

 

07 Feb 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

 

07 Feb 2022 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

07 Feb 2022 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

07 Feb 2022 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

 

07 Feb 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

 

07 Feb 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.

 

07 Feb 2022 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: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© 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: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce at the service this morning. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

 

07 Feb 2022 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.

 

07 Feb 2022 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

 

07 Feb 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’

07 Feb 2022 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: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian Scott Morrison during the opening of parliament at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra today. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

 

07 Feb 2022 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

 

07 Feb 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

 

07 Feb 2022 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.

 

07 Feb 2022 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

07 Feb 2022 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: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian Minister for defence Peter Dutton. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Trans children excluded from protections in religious discrimination bill

07 Feb 2022 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.

 

07 Feb 2022 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.”

 

07 Feb 2022 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

 

07 Feb 2022 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: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian David Littleproud. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

 

07 Feb 2022 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: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© 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: PM apologises to Brittany Higgins as parliament acknowledges history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault
© Provided by The Guardian The laying of wreaths. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

 

07 Feb 2022 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’

 

07 Feb 2022 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).

 

07 Feb 2022 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

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