2 February, 2023
Max Opray is Schwartz Media's emails editor.
Tudge rejects robo-debt fault
Former human services minister Alan Tudge is set to continue his testimony before the robo-debt inquiry today, after being accused by the royal commissioner of trying to intimidate welfare recipients.
What we know:
- In his appearance on Wednesday, Tudge denied he was responsible for his department’s failure to check the legality of the robo-debt scheme (The Politics);
- Tudge said he understood the “income averaging” method central to the scheme could cause inaccurate debts, but didn’t consider its legality because it had already been through a cabinet process involving lawyers (The Guardian);
- Tudge was asked about evidence given by his former press secretary Rachelle Miller, who said that he requested access to the private Centrelink files of all robo-debt recipients who had spoken out, some of which were then leaked to right-wing media (ABC);
- The royal commission was also shown emails from Tudge to his staff in which he edited draft rebuttals relating to recipients quoted in the media (SMH);
- Tudge confirmed he approved the release of personal details but said he was “confident” it was “lawfully done”;
- The commissioner overseeing the high-profile inquiry into the scheme, Catherine Holmes, described it as a “strategy to intimidate people who complained about robo-debt”;
- Tudge will continue his evidence this morning, with his old cabinet colleague and former social services minister, Christian Porter, also due to front the commission today.
Miners dig deep for donations
Mining giants were among the biggest donors to political parties in the lead-up to the 2022 election, according to new data from the Australian Electoral Commission.
What we know:
- United Australia Party founder Clive Palmer’s Queensland-based mining company, Mineralogy, donated more than $120m to the UAP ahead of the 2022 election, for the gain of just one seat (SBS);
- Labor’s total donations were $124m, including donations categorised under “other receipts” from the Minerals Council ($102,500) and energy giant Santos ($69,500) (Crikey);
- The Liberals posted $106.7m in donations and other receipts, and the Nationals reported $11.5m, with donors including Adani Mining, which gave $107,700 to the Queensland LNP, Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting handing $24,500 to the Liberals, and Whitehaven Coal donating $34,250 to both;
- Many fossil fuel companies hedged their bets by spreading their donations across Labor, Liberal and the Nationals — including Beetaloo Basin gas fracking company Tamboran Resources ($200,000), Woodside ($109,930), gas producer Origin Energy ($11,480), and Chevron ($93,090);
- Undisclosed “dark money” donations reached a record-breaking $119m in 2022, comprising up to 40% of major political party revenue (Michael West Media);
- Half of the six biggest political donors were backers of the teal independent movement, with Climate 200, the fundraising vehicle convened by Simon Holmes à Court, donating $1.86m to candidates (The Age);
- The Grattan Institute warns that political donations buy access and influence over public policy, and called for real-time donation disclosures and a lowered threshold (The Conversation).
Vast WA hunt finds radioactive capsule
A tiny, highly radioactive capsule that went missing in a remote region of WA has been found after a vast search.
The 8mm by 6mm capsule was found by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) about 50 km from the mining town of Newman on Wednesday (ABC).
The capsule was found with assistance from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, using specialist equipment to detect radiation.
It was reportedly lost along a 1400km route between Perth and the Pilbara, after it fell out of the back of a truck while being transported from a mine.
“I do want to emphasise this is an extraordinary result — the search crews have quite literally found the needle in the haystack,” said WA Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson.
Senate call for Iran sanctions
A senate inquiry has recommended that Australia list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation and expand the list of individuals targeted by Magnitsky sanctions.
The senate foreign affairs, defence and trade references committee on Wednesday tabled its report into the human rights implications of a crackdown on protesters in Iran (ABC).
It also suggested the government increase the intake of Iranians under various visa programs, “with a particular focus on women, girls and persecuted minorities seeking to escape the regime”.
"Iranians in Australia on temporary visas who cannot safely return to Iran due to the current crisis and policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran should not be required to do so," the report said.
It comes as an Iranian couple were sentenced to 10 years jail each for posting a video to Instagram of themselves dancing in the street, which authorities suggested was linked to the protests (BBC).
Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested during the demonstrations, sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating the rule requiring women to cover their hair.
World Cup hosts in dark over Saudi dollars
Women’s football World Cup co-hosts Australia and New Zealand have hit out at FIFA over appointing Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority as a major sponsor of the event.
“We are very disappointed that Football Australia were not consulted on this matter prior to any decision being made,” said a spokesperson for Football Australia (The New Daily).
New Zealand Football added in a separate statement: “If these reports prove correct, we are shocked and disappointed to hear this as New Zealand Football haven’t been consulted by FIFA at all on this matter.”
Human rights activists joined the wave of criticism about the deal for the tournament, which kicks off in July.
“It would be quite the irony for Saudi’s tourism body to sponsor the largest celebration of women’s sport in the world when you consider that, as a woman in Saudi Arabia, you can’t even have a job without the permission of your male guardian,” said Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White.
Why it’s so expensive to see a doctor
More and more people have to pay to see a doctor, GPs are leaving the profession, and the cost of seeing a specialist is rising at an alarming rate. That’s why the government is promising the biggest overhaul to Medicare in its 40-year existence – the details of the plan could be released any day now.
One person said it reminded them of being home in the NT, and it looked so realistic they half expected a crocodile to be in the water behind them.
Patients with needle phobias are being taken to a virtual reality “happy place” while getting jabbed — in good news for anyone more frightened of needles than of swimming with crocodiles (ABC).
Postscript: When the world ends, why do we all wear flannel?
In the bleakest father-son bonding tale ever told, 2009's The Road, Viggo Mortensen wears a flannel shirt under many layers of feather down/impending doom. Comedy This Is The End (2013) sees Seth Rogen navigate the end days in a checked shirt (like almost every other film he's in). Chris Evans' checked shirt in ice age train heist Snowpiercer, Netflix's 2022 post-apocalyptic series, may be ragged and hidden beneath a mashed-up sweater, but it's still a checked shirt. Why is it, then, that when the world burns, we reach for the flannel? (GQ Magazine)