The media bargaining code passed the Senate overnight.
Facebook is still having pass ag tantrums:
Peter Dutton was also asked if he had an update on Linda Reynolds, who remains on medical leave after being admitted to Canberra hospital yesterday:
I haven’t had an update this morning. I sent a message to Linda yesterday.
I think all of us, as Penny Wong did graciously yesterday, but others in the media as well, want Linda to get well as quickly as possible.
These are all high-pressure jobs. And Linda has been under pressure over the course of the last couple of weeks, and she obviously has a pre-existing medical condition.
She’s done the right thing in seeking medical attention for that.
And I hope that she’s back at work as quickly as possible, and I think, you know, we need to think about the fact that … I mean, people sometimes forget that members of parliament are human beings and have emotions and feelings and the rest of it.
And I think it’s important for us to not speculate about what her job is and all of that.
The priority is for Linda to get better and to be back at work as quickly as possible. And I certainly hope that’s the case.
Peter Dutton, a former police officer, explained his decision not to inform the prime minister of his knowledge like this:
I made a judgment that I had received a briefing from the Australian federal police commissioner about a sensitive matter.
I took a decision that I wasn’t going to disclose that to the prime minister. I think that was the right decision.
And when the media inquiries came in, we provided information, not to his office about the detail, the detail of the allegation, it was at a higher level, which is the basis on which I was briefed by the AFP commissioner, more in terms of process, as the commissioner advised me at the time.
And there are other matters, unrelated to this, obviously, that I was briefed on during that discussion with the commissioner on the 11th.
And as I say, I have those regular briefings with him, and I don’t disclose the rest of that information, as a courtesy to the prime minister’s office on the 12th, when there were media inquiries, we provided some detail to him just that the AFP had an interest in this matter.
And I wasn’t provided with the “she said/he said” details of the allegation. It was at a higher level.
There was no alert/warning for that Peter Dutton press conference.
And still no answer on why the AFP decided to enact its “alert the home affairs minister” guideline on 11 February 11 2021, but not in early 2019 when it was first made aware of the allegations. A complaint does not need to progress for the AFP to follow those guidelines.
This about sums it up:
Should the AFP have gone to Peter Dutton earlier (given the guidelines say the home affairs minister should be alerted to issues like this, even if a complaint is not taken forward)?
No, I don’t. And, again, when Brittany first engaged with the Australian federal police, the police made a decision at that point, as is publicly known now, to engage with minister Reynolds and with Brittany.
Brittany had made a decision, perfectly understandable, for her own reasons not to make a complaint to the police until – a formal complaint to the police until yesterday. And now the matter needs to be investigated.
So, I think it’s very clear here that the rule of law needs to operate, we need to follow what are long existing protocols. That is, if the police have a formal complaint, they are allowed to conduct that investigation, and we don’t want to compromise any potential prosecution.
These matters shouldn’t be speculated on publicly. And the AFP commissioner, as I say, has been very clear on his advice on that matter.
Peter Dutton then turns the blame back to the prime minister’s office for not informing the prime minister of the allegations when it was alerted, on 12 February:
I think the prime minister has been very clear about his frustration and anger at the fact that he wasn’t provided with information earlier by his office.
He’s been very clear to the parliament and to the public about that as well, and you would expect him to be angry. A mistake was made. He wasn’t informed by his office, and he’s sought to rectify that, and there’s now obviously an investigation that’s under way.
Peter Dutton said he “formed the judgment” the rape allegation “was not to be disclosed”:
I honour the relationship that I have with the Australian federal police commissioner and I don’t compromise that. I don’t seek to compromise the integrity around his investigations.
And if I don’t need to disclose something, I don’t. And I formed the judgment that that was not to be disclosed …
I mean, I receive briefings from the Australian federal police commissioner on a regular basis, and in some cases the commissioner, or, indeed, the director general of Asio, will provide a briefing to the prime minister where I won’t get a briefing because the matter is of national security importance or other matters that are sensitive that it’s deemed appropriate by the commissioner to only inform the prime minister. That is entirely appropriate.
It’s operated under this administration, under other administrations, and that’s the way the AFP has always operated. And I think the commissioner has done exactly the right thing.
Peter Dutton is now having to address questions about why he was informed of Brittany Higgins’ allegations by the AFP on 11 February – and why he didn’t tell the prime minister about it. He tells reporters:
As you know, the Australian federal police re-engaged with Brittany, or Brittany re-engaged with the Australian federal police on 5 February.
The sensitive investigation board met on the morning of 11 February, and they made a decision that the investigation was sensitive.
And at that stage, as you’re aware, the protocols provide that the Australian federal police commissioner then informs me, which he did on the morning of 11 February.
I took a decision at that time that I wasn’t going to inform the prime minister because this was an operational matter.
And I have a special responsibility, as the minister for the Australian federal police, to receive briefings, as I do on a regular basis, from the commissioner.
I don’t instruct him how to conduct his investigations, I don’t impede his investigations, I don’t seek to influence his investigations.
As has been the case for my predecessors, and that’s obviously entirely appropriate. I formed a judgment that I was not going to provide that information or disclose the information, which the commissioner had provided to me, I must say, at a high level, more around the process than the detail of the alleged offence.
On the 12th, the following day, though, there were media inquiries that came into the government.
And I formed the judgment at that stage that my chief of staff should inform the prime minister’s office, which took place. And that’s what happened on the 12th.
Last night Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy interviewed Ross Garnaut at the ANU about his new book Reset.
While dealing with the challenges and opportunities of recovering from Covid-19, Garnaut was asked by the audience why Australia had handled coronavirus so well but climate change so poorly.
He responded that the threat from Covid is more immediate – death – whereas the harms from climate change seem more distant (and accrue to others); and secondly, that there were powerful vested interests in Australia in the fossil fuel lobby.
Kennedy then offered a third explanation: that Australia tends to do better with challenges that can be solved by unilateral action rather than global coordination.
He cited removing tariffs as an example of unilateral action that had “brought great return”. So far most countries’ responses to Covid have not been “globally coordinated” but each has acted out of self-interest.
I’m hopeful that in the vaccination stage we will see a more globally cooperative approach – that will be important for those [developing] countries you mentioned.
Kennedy argued that the best way to achieve our self-interest in the long term was to act in a globally coordinated way.
Mark Butler appeared on ABC News Breakfast, where he was asked about the former Labor MP’s Emma Husar’s open letter to Anthony Albanese, and subsequent media interviews, where she accuses Labor of hypocrisy. Husar says she was not supported by the party when she was “slut shamed” in a BuzzFeed article published in 2018. Husar had always denied the salacious aspects of the article but did not contest the 2019 election after the allegations were raised.
An independent investigation found there had been no reason for Husar to resign, and no basis for many of the complaints made against her. Husar sued BuzzFeed for defamation and settled out of court.
Husar has spoken to Sky News and the ABC saying she was abandoned by the party, and felt used by its leader, Albanese:
The Labor Party have ridden their sanctimonious high horses like it’s not happening on the Labor side – but were absolutely complicit with their silence in 2018.
Butler was asked about Husar’s experience and said:
I heard the comments and I heard what Emma has had to say over the last few days. She obviously went through an incredibly distressing experience here in Parliament House and I think we’ve been upfront that there is a broad cultural challenge we have in this building that crosses political parties.
We’re doing all we can to try to deal with that challenge. Over the 25 years I’ve been involved in the party, we’ve seen a massive increase in the representation of women, such that half of the caucus are women, half of the shadow cabinet are women, half of our leadership group are women. That’s leading to a change but we still have more to do.
The NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, says the state government will hire 125 new firefighters for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to help protect important habitat and environmental sites during future fire disasters.
The announcement is in response to the state’s independent inquiry into the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfire season and is one of the items in a new five-year plan for fire management and ecosystem recovery released today.
The plan is the NSW government’s “medium-term” response to the disaster and includes proposals to help ecosystems recover from the fires and better protect wildlife and habitat from future fire threats.
They include continued assessment and monitoring of wildlife and habitats that were worst hit by the fires, developing tailored plans for fire-affected species, updating conservation policies to recognise fire as a major threat, updating the state’s maps of environmental and cultural assets, and protecting habitat that is likely to become even more critical to the survival of species in a changing climate.
We know from the best available science that, due to a changing climate, bushfires are likely to become more severe and more frequent.
This plan will help us to protect and support our state’s unique and precious biodiversity for the long term.
Over at the Parliament House International Women’s Day breakfast, I’m told speakers are serving up a call for the investigation into parliamentary culture be made completely independent from the government/political parties.
There are also a few empty tables. In a post-Covid world, over catering isn’t really a thing anymore, so the empty tables stand out.
There were no cases of Covid recorded in Victoria yesterday.
You may remember that the government watered down an inquiry into far-right extremism in Australia by making it about all extremism, including leftwing.
Well, the submissions are starting to roll in to that inquiry.
And Asio’s submission makes it clear what it considers to be a growing threat to Australia. This was written before a white man painted a swastika on his head and attacked a First Nations woman and her daughter in WA with a makeshift blowtorch.
The Senate committee looking at the government’s Covid response handed down a report late yesterday.
As Katharine Murphy reports:
The Senate committee probing the Morrison government’s management of the pandemic has excoriated the government for deploying public interest immunity claims to “wilfully obstruct access to information crucial to the committee inquiry”.
The second interim report by the committee, tabled on Wednesday night, lays out “multiple instances” where important information sought by the committee during the inquiry had been withheld by government on grounds of public interest immunity.
The chair of the committee, Labor senator Katy Gallagher, declared the blocking conduct needed to be called out because the current generation of senators “must stand up for the powers and purpose of the Senate”.
It’s even more interesting because, despite having government senators sitting on the committee, there was no dissenting report.
Auckland has been declared a Covid hotspot by most of Australia, meaning travellers from New Zealand no longer have access to quarantine-free travel – at least for now.
Queensland, Victoria, and NSW require travellers from NZ, who have arrived in the last week (from the 20th) to get a Covid test and isolate until they receive their result. Travellers who arrive on flights from the declaration will have to go into hotel quarantine (or return to NZ).
Auckland now has eight cases linked to its cluster.
There is no more cursed event than an International Womens’ Day breakfast.
I don’t know who came up with it or why they continue, but still they persist.
The great thing about International Womens’ Day events is how many men are invited to talk at them, because Dolly forbid men feel left out on a day which is meant to be about spotlighting women’s issues. (And yes, there is an International Men’s Day, it’s 19 November, and you can organise your own damn breakfast/morning tea if it means that much to you.)
Scott Morrison is the guest of honour at this year’s parliament event.
Last year the prime minister said he didn’t want women’s advancement to come at the expense of men:
See, we’re not about setting Australians against each other, trying to push some down to lift others up.
That is an absolutely liberal value, that you don’t push some people down to lift some people up. And that is true about gender equality too.
We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.
Last week Morrison said his wife, Jenny, had helped “clarify” the allegations Brittany Higgins had made by asking him what he would want to happen if it were his daughters.
Welcome to the last sitting day of this parliamentary session. It’s taken us years to get to Thursday and, judging by the fraying tempers and stretched patience on display yesterday, it’s going to be a long one.
Brittany Higgins has given a statement to police and an investigation is now officially under way again. ACT policing sent this out late last night:
Update regarding alleged assault at Parliament House in March 2019.
· ACT Policing can confirm it is investigating this matter after receiving a report about an alleged assault at Parliament House in March 2019. No additional comment will be made during the investigation.
· No other formal reports associated with this matter have been made.
· ACT Policing encourages members of the public to report any form of assault committed against them. All such reports will be appropriately considered and victims will be supported via ACT Policing’s Victims of Crime team and dedicated specialist support services.
With an investigation now under way, you won’t get many answers in parliament – we saw at the beginning of this ministers batted away questions by saying they believed it was part of a police investigation. It wasn’t at the time but now that it is, you won’t get too many more answers from the government.
There are still questions about why the AFP decided to alert Peter Dutton to Brittany Higgins’ case on 11 February, the day before the journalist Samantha Maiden went to the PMO with questions. Subsequent reporting from Maiden and Christopher Knaus reveals Higgins’ approach to the AFP on 5 February inadvertently sparked a process that led to Dutton being advised:
News Corp Australia reported on Wednesday night that the Australian federal police (AFP) was approached by Higgins on 5 February and she advised them she was considering reopening the complaint. The Guardian understands that prompted the police to flag the matter with Dutton as politically sensitive. News Corp reported Higgins was not aware Dutton would be alerted in such a manner.
But the AFP had been aware of the complaint since March 2019.
As Chris reports:
Police guidelines say the home affairs ministers must be informed about politically sensitive matters “at the earliest opportunity”. If those guidelines were followed, Dutton could have been told of the alleged rape two years ago, when Higgins first reported the incident to police stationed at Parliament House in March 2019.
We’ll see if we find out any more on that today.
Linda Reynolds remains on medical leave after she was admitted to Canberra hospital yesterday for a pre-existing medical condition.
Meanwhile, Scott Morrison is the guest of honour at an International Womens’ Day event at parliament.
We’ll let you know everything that happens across the day, with the Guardian brains trust, as always, at your disposal. You have Katharine Murphy, Daniel Hurst, Paul Karp and Mike Bowers in Canberra, with Amy Remeikis at the blog helm.
I’ve already had four coffees and have been staring at a wall since 4am, so this should be fun!
Let’s get into it.
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