Australia politics live update: Rachelle Miller alleges affair with Alan Tudge ‘abusive', as minister denies claim; final parliament sitting day of the year

Australia politics live update: Rachelle Miller alleges affair with Alan Tudge ‘abusive’, as minister denies claim; final parliament sitting day of the year
© Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian Former media advisor to Alan Tudge Rachelle Miller makes a statement to the media this morning in the mural hall of Parliament House, Canberra.

LIVE – Updated at 23:48

Follow all the day’s news.

 

23:48 Katharine Murphy

On Monday Guardian Australia revealed the powerful parliamentary committee had cleared Christian Porter over his declaration that a trust part-paid his legal fees with money from undisclosed sources.

Nevertheless, it concluded rules should be overhauled to uphold the “intent and integrity” of the register of interests.

The chair of the privileges committee Russell Broadbent has just given a short statement to the House about the alleged leak. He said the unauthorised disclosure was “extremely regrettable” but it was the committee’s view that it would be “difficult to determine with any certainty the source of the unauthorised disclosure”.

He said the leak was particularly unfortunate because the privileges committee should be setting the standard when it comes to strict adherence to parliamentary conventions.

Broadbent fired a warning shot at the press gallery:

Those in the media who decide to use and publish [leaked] material … show their disrespect for the parliament and the important principles that underpin its work.

I want to make it very clear to journalists and their publishers that a potential contempt can be committed … this is serious. I will be writing to the journalist in question and the president of the parliamentary press gallery accordingly.

Broadbent said unauthorised disclosures corrode trust in parliamentary processes “and have a clear adverse impact on our work as parliamentarians”.

Rachelle Miller alleges affair with Alan Tudge ‘abusive’, as minister denies claim

23:46 Amy Remeikis

Rachelle Miller, who came forward to speak about the Canberra culture more than a year ago, detailing her experience after her relationship with minister Alan Tudge ended, has delivered a statement in support of women who have experienced abuse and harassment in the parliament, calling on men to begin addressing the issue.

“I am fully aware that a year ago I said my relationship with minister Alan Tudge was a consensual relationship, but it’s more complicated than that,” she said in front of cameras in the Mural Hall.

“I was so ashamed, so humiliated, so scared, so exhausted. I told the small part of my story I was able to manage.”

Miller said the Liberal party did not have a ‘women problem’ but a ‘men problem’ and said while she had attempted to speak to the prime minister about her experience on more than one occasion, she had been rebuffed:

All I ever wanted was for the government to listen and to acknowledge our experiences in this building,” she said.

“Yet when I spoke out, not a single member from this government contacted me to see if I was OK. One female chief of staff sent me a text and that was it.

“Many former staffers reached out to tell their stories and they were shocking. I’m here because the government will not listen. Despite the prime minister’s claim on Tuesday that he’s willing to hear our experiences, his actions have betrayed that he’s not.

Miller said she was coming forward again in an attempt to have the parliament implement the full suite of recommendations in the Kate Jenkins’ review into parliamentary culture.

Miller said she became isolated from her family and friends during her relationship with Tudge, which she alleged was “emotionally abusive” and on one occasion, was allegedly “physically abusive”.

In a statement on Thursday morning, Tudge rejected Miller’s claims. He said:

I completely and utterly reject Ms Miller’s version of events. Ms Miller and I had a consensual affair in 2017 as both of us have publicly acknowledged. This is something I deeply regret.

Miller said she was not there because she wanted to be, but “because speaking through the media is the only way this government will listen”. She said:

All of us who have survived awful experiences in this workplace, tried to reach out and seek change many, many times before we went to the media. This is our last resort.

The Jenkins’ review showed the perpetrators are mostly male parliamentarians with immense power over their junior victims.

As the prime minister reminded us all on Tuesday, they know they can only be held accountable by the Australian people at the ballot box. They are firmly focussed on their re-election.

So I’m speaking to all Australians through the media, the appalling treatment of women that happened in the early 90s when I was a teenager, is still happening today.

Remember that when you vote.

Religious discrimination bill still up in the air

23:13 Paul Karp

Despite the government’s deal with four of their Liberal moderate MPs, it’s not clear that the religious discrimination bill will go through the lower house today.

Labor believes that three Liberal MPs are still holding out – Warren Entsch, Trent Zimmerman and Bridget Archer – and the fact the House is starting the valedictory speeches mean the government isn’t ready.

But don’t forget there are also MPs who want to add amendments to the bill that might help Labor prevent a vote today.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly told Guardian Australia:

I can’t see the need to rush it through, it was only introduced the other day. There are only 10 days of parliament in the first half of next year – parliament is meant to be about debate, [the sitting calendar] is an embarrassment. This bill shouldn’t be rushed for the political agenda of the prime minister.

Asked if he would help Labor prevent a vote until the human rights committee had reported back, Kelly said:

It’s the first I’ve heard of this, but yes. I don’t think this should be rushed through at all. To only have a couple of hours for debate today seems almost contempt of the parliamentary process.

Kelly wants to amend the bill to reinsert a provision allowing religious medical practitioners to object to certain procedures.

 

23:06 Sarah Martin

Equality Australia has said Scott Morrison’s deal to win over moderates by promising to immediately make changes to the Sex Discrimination Act is a “bad deal” which offers no more than “what he’s repeatedly promised and failed to deliver for three years”.

Equality Australia said:

If the government is serious about fulfilling its election commitment, it would end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools by delivering simple legislation to stop schools from firing, expelling or discriminating against them for who they are.

What a cynical move to make ending discrimination against gay students conditional on support for a bad Bill that will wind back hard-fought protections for LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability, women and people of faith.

Our laws should protect all of us, equally, regardless of who we are, what we believe or whom we love. If MPs care about preserving protections for marginalised communities, they must oppose this Religious Discrimination Bill or at least send it to an inquiry to consider before debating it.

Under the deal offered to the moderates, the government has said it will remove the section of the Sex Discrimination Act that gives religious schools an exemption to discriminate against students based on their sexuality.

But other exemptions in the SDA, including the same provisions that relate to teachers, remain and will be subject to the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry that reports 12 months after the RDA bill passes parliament.

 

22:50

The House of Representatives has kicked off with prayers and an acknowledgement of country. And so the last day begins in earnest!

 

22:50 Paul Karp

On Wednesday my colleague Sarah Martin reported that the Morrison government has struck a deal with some moderate Liberal MPs to support its contentious religious discrimination bill, agreeing to make immediate changes to protect gay students from discrimination in religious schools.

Under the change agreed to by attorney general Michaelia Cash, the government will introduce consequential amendments to remove section 38(3) of the separate Sex Discrimination Act which allows religious schools to discriminate against another person on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy.

Christian schools are pushing back against the deal.

Christian Schools Australia director of public policy Mark Spencer told Guardian Australia:

The religious discrimination bill should be considered on its merits and voted on today to allow the possibility of passage before the election. Nobody thinks that religious freedom as an election issue is a good idea. However this shady deal on amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act is appalling. 2019 made clear it is not that simple – that is why the experts at the [Australian Law Reform Commission] should be allowed to do their job.

Spencer warned of unintended consequences because removing the section would prevent schools setting “behavioural expectations”and teaching a biblical view of sexual activity such as a prohibition on sex before marriage, or that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Spencer said if the SDA changes are “part of the same package” then Christian Schools Australia would no longer support it.

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Jacinta Collins said Catholic schools “don’t suspend or expel students based on attributes [such as sexuality]” but the NCEC would need to study the detail of the proposed change to ensure it was limited.

Senate report due on car park rorts program

22:28 Paul Karp

A Senate inquiry into the car park rorts program will report today.

The Senate finance and public administration committee has completed its report into the urban congestion fund, which will be tabled this afternoon.

The inquiry examined the commuter car park fund. In June the Australian National Audit Office released a scathing report on the $660m fund, finding not one of the 47 sites promised by the Coalition at the 2019 election was selected by the department.

Rather, sites were handpicked by the government on advice from its MPs and candidates.

The inquiry’s terms of reference included considering the role of the offices of the minister, Alan Tudge, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and deputy prime minister (at the time, Michael McCormack) in determining funding allocation.

In November the committee heard that the allocation of a $4bn urban congestion fund that the Morrison government used for a controversial commuter car parks program would “amount to corruption” if a federal integrity commission existed, according to a former New South Wales auditor general.

 

22:26 Ben Butler

Crown Resorts will allow Blackstone, which wants to take over the troubled casino empire, access to private financial data in the hope the US funds management behemoth will lodge a sweetened offer.

Crown’s board says the $12.50 a share in cash Blackstone is offering isn’t enough. It’s almost $1.50 more than Crown shares closed at yesterday but below the $13 range in which they were trading in the middle of the year.

It will let Blackstone into the dataroom so that it can “undertake initial due diligence inquiries on a non-exclusive basis so that it can formulate a revised proposal that adequately reflects the value of Crown”, Crown told the stock exchange.

Blackstone has already dropped or modified many of the conditions it initially put on its bid, taking on much of the risk that Crown faces from a royal commission in WA that follows similar inquiries in Victoria and NSW that focused on money laundering taking place at its casinos and criminal infiltration of junket operators who brought high-rolling gamblers in from overseas.

Victoria records 1,419 new Covid cases and 10 deaths; NSW reports 271 cases

22:25

Now for the latest on the pandemic front … sadly, there have been 10 more deaths in Victoria. And the state reports 1,419 new cases; NSW 271:

NSW COVID-19 update – Thursday 2 December 2021

In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm last night:

– 94.6% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

– 92.6% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/9PNFSnMsLk

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) December 1, 2021

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/cBA74JDLgR

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) December 1, 2021

Economics update

22:23 Peter Hannam

Quite a bit of chatter this morning on the economics front, particularly about yesterday’s third-quarter GDP result, including the third-largest quarterly contraction on record.

October retail sales figures out from the RBA should be another indicator of how well the rebound from the NSW, Victoria and ACT lockdowns is going.

Looking further forward, meanwhile, there’s this interesting issue about whether Australia’s iron ore industry might turn out to be not very suitable for green hydrogen processes. A lot is at stake, particularly if the steel industry really does shift away from coking coal – which Australia is also a big player in globally.

The Australian Energy Markets Commission, meanwhile, has released its final determination on how to treat new storage, especially big batteries and pumped hydro. This week we flagged the wariness by virtually everybody in the electricity sector that storage was about to be disadvantaged.

AEMC chair Anna Collyer has talked up today’s rule changes:

We have created one single category for storage and hybrids to register and participate in the national electricity market (NEM), called the Integrated Resource Provider (IRP). This makes it simpler and easier for anyone who provides storage or a combination of energy services to enter the market. For large batteries the rule will cut red tape, reduce costs and logistical hurdles to participate in the market. Batteries will no longer need to register twice, to both draw energy from the grid and send it out, as they currently do.

Bruce Mountain, director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre,is not so impressed:

We all know that developing a viable storage industry is a priority as Australia rapidly transitions to variable renewable generation. The AEMC has put itself on the wrong side of the challenge. Instead of smoothing the way, it has pushed the problem to storage providers to negotiate with a monopoly, with the fall back being that if they can not get a good deal from this they can just pay regulated charges. Negotiation with a monopoly is a contradiction in terms. And even worse in many cases the monopoly here will often have a vested interest: but it has no interest in batteries disrupting their monopoly. How can this possibly be in the consumers’ interests?

 

21:57

Who will benefit from the government’s proposed anti-troll social media laws? That’s a very good question. Paul Karp and Josh Taylor have waded through the murk for you. Check it out here:

Related: What are the Coalition’s proposed anti-troll social media laws and who do they benefit?

Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame speak to Fran Kelly

21:43

Two incredible women who have had an enormous influence on 2021 – Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins – have joined Fran Kelly on ABC radio.

Australian of the year and sexual assault survivor Tame said nothing has really changed at the top level yet in the wake of a raft of allegations of sexual assault, harassment and bullying in parliament – including, of course, this week’s report:

It remains to be seen if there’s any actual change. That’s my opinion.

Former Liberal staffer Higgins said the behaviour was “rampant” in the building long before she was there and that we were yet to see any real change:

We know there are structural needs that need to be addressed. None of this is new information.”

Kelly asked Higgins, who was allegedly raped in Parliament House, if she thought the situation would be different today. She replied:

It wasn’t about me, it was about maintaining power … I don’t think fundamentally anything has changed internally within the building policy-wise that would stop this happening to another woman.

She does hope the handling of an alleged assault would be more sensitive now.

 

21:33

Back to Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame. Fran Kelly asked Tame how hard it is for survivors to talk about their trauma. Tame said it was “invariably re-traumatising”:

Certainly I find it quite difficult because this is every day.

She talks about being in the limelight, and the intense public scrutiny, and how glad she is that she met Higgins, who can understand what she’s going through.

 

21:29

If you want to really wrap your noggin around those mitochondrial donation laws and why they’re so important, here’s Full Story for you. Laura Murphy-Oates speaks to reporter Rafqa Touma about her family’s experience:

Related: The push to end a genetic lottery for thousands of Australian families

 

21:26 Luke Henriques-Gomes

Between 280,000 and 550,000 young Australians will be born into poverty in the next decade unless “urgent action is taken to tackle disadvantage”, a new report estimates.

Disrupting Disadvantage, by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, said Australia had made no progress against a UN commitment to halve poverty by 2030.

The report said the proportion of Australians living in poverty remained above 13%, and 17.7% of Australian children under the age of 15 were living in poverty:

Estimates of child poverty suggest that anywhere between 9.2 and 17.7% of children up to the age of 14 are living in poverty. If similar trends continue for the over 3 million children expected to be born in the next decade, between 280,000 and 550,000 of these children will enter child poverty in the future.

CEDA chief economist Jarrod Ball said:

We are still waiting to see the full impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but there is already evidence the pandemic has further exacerbated the financial, employment and health hardships of Australia’s most vulnerable. Unless Australia addresses these issues now, we will be entrenching the next generation of poverty and disadvantage.

By choosing to do nothing and ignoring the need to change Australia’s piecemeal social support system, we are making a choice as a society to commit too many young Australians into entrenched disadvantage.

The report recommends an overarching national agreement between federal and state governments to reduce disadvantage and poverty, including greater data collection.

Welfare groups and other economists have said the easiest way to reduce poverty in Australia would be to lift welfare payments.

ANU research found the temporary $550-a-fortnight increase to welfare payments at the height of the pandemic last year lifted 2.2 million people out of poverty.

 

21:11

Josh Frydenberg also paid a tribute to health minister Greg Hunt, who is expected to confirm his resignation today:

It is a big loss for me and his electorate and the country and for the Coalition.

He’s my best friend in parliament. I was the best man at his wedding. We’re the godfather to our respective children … being the health minister in a once-in-a-century pandemic is a challenge for anyone.

And I think that Greg has done a sterling job … [that] Australia now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and one of the lowest mortality rates in the world is a credit, obviously first and foremost to the health workers, but Greg can also be proud of the part that he played in that outcome.

 

21:10

Here’s Josh Frydenberg again, this time on ABC television. He warns there will still be “ups and downs” with Covid, and is repeating his message about the recovery. Then he’s gone on to the contentious voter ID laws:

The Labor party was not in favour of it and we reached an accommodation on other aspects of improving the integrity around electoral laws and various thresholds for further accountability. But at the same time, we do believe that voter IDs important and that’s why we announced it in the first place, but didn’t have the support in the parliament to introduce it.

Paul Karp reported on the wheeling and dealing here, and please enjoy First Dog’s take on the laws here:

Related: These voter ID laws are obviously not about voter fraud because there isn’t any | First Dog on the Moon

 

21:10

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been on ABC radio this morning talking up the nation’s economic recovery (this was a strong theme in parliament yesterday, and is sure to be a recurrent theme today).

Australia’s economic recovery will hinge on households and businesses spending some of the $370b in savings socked away during the pandemic.

“From the start of this pandemic, we’ve had a stronger recovery in all but two major advanced economies.”

– Treasurer, @JoshFrydenberg

— RN Breakfast (@RNBreakfast) December 1, 2021

 

21:09

I mentioned those pollie farewells earlier … there’s another one of huge import in the political sphere. It’s ABC veteran, legend, *insert other epithets here* Fran Kelly’s last day on Radio National breakfast today. She told Amanda Meade the job still thrills her but “it will be nice to breathe out a little”. Fair enough! Read morehere:

Related: Fran Kelly bids a ‘bittersweet’ farewell to ABC’s Radio National Breakfast after 17 years

 

21:08

Perpetrators and bullies “still believe they’re untouchable”, former Liberal party adviser Chelsey Potter has told political editor Katharine Murphy. Her voice joins former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins in calling for swift action after that shocking report into parliamentary behaviour this week. Murph has all the details here:

Related: Former parliament staff warn Scott Morrison to act on Jenkins review or face backlash from women

Former South Australia premier tests positive for Covid

21:08

Some very Adelaide news from … Adelaide. Former South Australia premier Jay Weatherill flew into town from his new hometown of Perth. Unfortunately, he brought Covid with him.

SA has been pretty much Covid-free, and bracing for it to come in after opening the borders on 23 November. Who’d have thought it would be the former state leader carrying it? (He wasn’t the first, but still …)

What’s more, Weatherill met state opposition leader Peter Malinauskas, so now state parliament has been adjourned (although Malinauskas has now had a negative result. And Weatherill did a bunch of media interviews and had meetings with SA’s movers and shakers, so contact tracers have their work cut out for them. The ABC has more details here.

Good morning

20:29

We’ve made it. The last sitting day of the year. And what a year!

But there’s still a lot to get through before the people flee parliament to go out into the summer.

We’re expecting health minister Greg Hunt to announce his resignation, which of course follows Liberal MP Christian Porter’s announcement he’ll quit yesterday. There’s a bunch of other MPs, too, who are on their way out (or onwards?).

Some late-ish news from yesterday, in case you missed it. Legislation for partial DNA donations passed – that’s the mitochondrial donation bill known as Maeve’s law.

There’s sure to be ongoing discussion of sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins’ report into parliamentary workplaces. Pressure will be kept on prime minister Scott Morrison to act, and quickly.

And we’re set for some more palaver over religious discrimination. Some moderate Liberal MPs have been brought over the line with late amendments but it may not be enough to get the legislation through.

Stay tuned. Our political team is all set for this monster day. Mike Bowers will bring you the visual delights, while Katharine Murphy, Daniel Hurst, Paul Karp and Sarah Martin are here to entertain and inform you. It’s Tory Shepherd on the blog for now, with Amy Remeikis picking up later on. Hold on tight!

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© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer Laura Mount became a doctor – she visibly winces at repeating such a cliche – to help people. Also, she was ... Read more »

Yemen's internet service returns after four-day outage following air strike

© Reuters/KHALED ABDULLAH People wait outside TeleYemen company to get satellite internet connection amid an outage of internet service in Sanaa (Refiles to insert dropped abbreviation p.m. in paragraph 4) ... Read more »
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