LET’S MAKE A DEAL
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could get a David Hicks-style plea deal with the US that would see him return to Australia, United States ambassador Caroline Kennedy has told the SMH ($). She said such a resolution to the Department of Justice’s case against him is possible despite US Secretary of State Antony Blinken coming across hard-lined about the matter. Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton said Kennedy’s comments show the US wants to be done with the 13-year-long saga, but what would that look like exactly? Law expert at the ANU Don Rothwell told the paper the US could downgrade Assange’s 17 espionage charges for a guilty plea — he’s already done four years in a UK prison, and the rest of the sentence could be done in Australia. But Assange fans might say it’s hard to imagine him ever pleading guilty, or going to the US to do so.
Meanwhile former senator Rex Patrick is still trying to get access to 22-year-old Timor-Leste sea boundary negotiations documents after former attorney-general Michaelia Cash barred him from it on national security grounds. Guardian Australia reminds us it came prior to the bugging operation revealed by whistleblowers Witness K and Bernard Collaery. Patrick had to stand outside the Melbourne AAT hearing room while the government argued against the release of the documents, he writes for Michael West Media, adding he couldn’t even have a lawyer present. Turned out Cash’s decision was an “overreach” because the documents were “clearly not confidential”, the AAT’s deputy president reportedly told Patrick, even though Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus upheld the non-disclosure when he took over the job from Cash. Patrick says it shows Dreyfus has been “captured by the security apparatus” and “lacks the moral fortitude to sit in the attorney-general’s seat”. Yikes.
THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN
Bruce Lehrmann deserves $6 million in compensation, according to Bruce Lehrmann. The former Liberal staffer told Seven’s Spotlight last night that he “may never work again” after being “smeared and slammed” for three years (in January he was working at a winery in Tasmania, the Daily Mail reported, but anyway). Lehrmann added he was “innocent” (the first trial was aborted due to juror misconduct; the second one out of fear for accuser Brittany Higgins’ health, and the charges were dropped giving him the presumption of innocence) and said he was now studying to be a lawyer, news.com.au ($) reports. Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds also spoke to Seven to say she was the “perfect villain” in the saga, and that she maintains Higgins took a jacket from her wardrobe, not from the charity bin.
Meanwhile the family of the refugee Reza Barati has reached an undisclosed settlement with the government and the security firm G4S after the 23-year-old was beaten to death by guards and contractors in 2014. His Iran-based parents told Guardian Australia he came to Australia to seek safety; instead he was “murdered in a detention centre” having done “nothing wrong”. Some 77 people were injured in the riot, and three years later Papua New Guinea ordered Australia to shut its Manus detention centre. About 75 refugees and asylum seekers are still held in PNG, the paper says, and the Australian government refuses to say how much it’s costing. Staying in the region a moment, and Beijing isn’t picking up calls from the US, one of America’s most senior military officials says via the SMH ($), heightening the risk of conflict. Stephen Sklenka has worked for two combatant commanders who couldn’t reach their counterparts — arrogance is dangerous when we’re all “flying and operating high-performance machines”, Sklenka, the deputy commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, warned.
Home insurance now costs 50% more in flood-prone areas such as NSW’s northern rivers, Guardian Australia reports, the highest increase in 20 years amid intensifying natural disasters. Average coverage was up by 28% in March compared with last year, bringing it to about $1894 a year, but one in eight homes (1.24 million) spend double that ($4000). That’s more than four weeks of their salary, the Actuaries Institute’s report added. What else can people do but ditch home insurance and risk losing everything, peak bodies are wondering. Meanwhile, Labor’s “same job, same pay” plan could end mining forever, the Minerals Council of Australia says via The West ($). Oh no! The policy closes the loophole whereby bosses undercut the wages of staff using contractors, and the lobby group claims it may extend to service contractors such as construction, catering and legal (where a third party has a contract for more than a year). Sounds fanciful but OK.
Meanwhile WA-born Resources Minister Madeleine King says “every east coast-based parliamentarian and journalist” should go to Perth airport at 5am to see the fly-in-fly-out workers mining our country “to ensure our nation’s continued prosperity”. Tapping my finger on my favourite New Yorker cartoon again. King says Australia’s energy and resource exports (gas, coal, iron ore, gold and aluminium) will hit $459 billion a year, and inner-city dwellers would do well to remember the importance of the bush. But King also points out we’re the biggest source of lithium, and a top producer of cobalt and rare earths needed for EVs, positioning us well to become a clean energy superpower. “New mines are being planned and existing mines expanded,” she said, presumably in reference to critical minerals, though the Australia Institute’s coal mine tracker reminds us “there are 25 additional proposals for new or expanded coalmines currently waiting for federal government approval”.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Texas woman Peggy Jones was spending a pleasant blue-sky afternoon pottering around doing some work in the yard when a snake fell from the sky and wrapped its slithery body around her right arm. She started screaming her head off and the snake lost it completely, pecking its head at her glasses while holding on to her limb for dear life. Jones was whipping her arm around to fling the critter from her, screaming perhaps fittingly for Jesus Christ himself to save her from this biblical peril. It wasn’t Christianity’s lord and saviour but a handsome hawk, with black and white plumage, that soared in majestically from the heavens, or at least a nearby patch of sky.
With avian grace it plucked the stroppy snake from Jones’ arm (after two or three rather, erm, inelegant and bloody attempts) and took flight, leaving Jones wondering what the heck just happened. Was it divine intervention from a greater power, some sort of parable for the way faith saves us from evil? Nah. Turns out the clumsy hawk had dropped its lunch on the woman and went down to get it back, no matter how torn up her arm was in the process. Still, social media users are “praying” for Jones speedy recovery, The New York Times ($) adds rather wryly.
Hoping you are safe and sound on your Monday morning. It’s great to be back after my week off, and a rather large thanks to the inimitable Anton Nilsson for filling in so elegantly in my absence.
Look, I don’t want to be Captain Killjoy on this but … I think business has a point here … We live in a great nation — we can celebrate our wins — but we have to get on and pay the bills and make sure that the country keeps going.
The Nationals leader says business can’t afford a public holiday if the Matildas win the World Cup, though Prime Minister Anthony Albanese points out that the public holiday for Queen Elizabeth II’s death led to an economic uptick for small biz. It’s ultimately up to the states, Albo says, adding they’d “fold like tents” if we win.
Labor’s defence of American empire, Israel and a shrinking nation
“The perception is reinforced when cast against the grim realities of domestic Israeli politics. Though tit-for-tat violence is nothing new in the occupied territories, it’s notable that the recent waves of Israeli settler rampages correspond with the expressed agenda of the Israeli government, which so happens to be the most right-wing, ultranationalist, religious and increasingly illiberal coalition in the country’s 75-year history.
“With de facto annexation of the occupied West Bank in the government’s sights, it’s no coincidence much of the bloodshed and chaos that’s ensued in recent months has often shadowed government decisions to expedite many thousands of new illegal settlements in the territory. The level of violence is such that it’s even drawn rebukes from Israeli intelligence and police chiefs, the country’s defence force and the United States, all of which have labelled it settler ‘terrorism’. And yet …”
Katy Gallagher can find billions in savings — if she gets her department to crack the whip
“All this should be rough music to the ears of Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, who has been front and centre in Labor’s efforts to portray itself as the party that has brought an end to 15 years of deficits. With the budget expected to return to deficit beyond this year when a one-off revenue boost from commodity prices fades, Gallagher’s work of instilling fiscal discipline in the government is only just beginning.
“That her own officials are missing in action when it comes to checking how $80 billion a year is spent on procurement across the Commonwealth is thus bad news indeed. As committee chair Julian Hill notes in his (exclamation mark-laden) preface to the report: ‘Finance needs to lead! Finance is the system steward and regulator — so own it! To be effective, finance needs to have more clue what’s actually happening in the system’. He’s right.”
Labor’s mixed signals on mates don’t augur well for a reset from the Morrison years
“Qantas doesn’t need donations to maintain its hold over both sides of politics, and Labor is proving as assiduous a defender of the dismal airline’s interests as the Coalition ever was. Labor has cut funding for domestic airfare monitoring by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, sparing Qantas the periodic embarrassment of being shown to be gouging passengers, and refused to establish an independent complaints-handling body for the aviation sector, despite Qantas being the most complained-about company in the country.
“Most of all, Labor has blocked the expansion of capacity by Qantas competitors, especially Qatar Airways. Clearly the government, and Infrastructure Minister Catherine King, hoped that any controversy over that would have vanished by now, but if anything the inexplicable decision is garnering more and more media attention — a situation not helped by King’s weird, constantly changing explanations of why she blocked Qatar, including that it was to protect jobs, when in fact it would have increased employment in Australia.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Israel says no Jerusalem base for Saudi envoy to Palestinian Authority (Al Jazeera)
Trump heading for Republican ‘coronation’ as 2024 rivals struggle to stop him (Reuters)
Maui fire: 93 killed as governor warns of ‘significant’ death toll rise (BBC)
Georgia prosecutors have messages showing Trump’s team is behind voting system breach (CNN)
Polish prime minister to hold referendum on EU’s immigration plan (The Guardian)
Chris Hipkins shaking off Jacinda Ardern, taking Labour back to the old school (Stuff)
The lost boys of the American right — David French (The New York Times) ($): “Terrible stuff. And even more terrible is the realisation that I could fill this entire column with other examples of right-wing bigotry, from Christian nationalists, a former Trump speechwriter, a former Daily Caller editor and one of Tucker Carlson’s former top writers. And this is hardly a complete list. The problem is so widespread that Aaron Sibarium, a rising star reporter for The Washington Free Beacon, recently posted: ‘Whenever I’m on a career advice panel for young conservatives, I tell them to avoid group chats that use the N-word or otherwise blur the line between edgelording and earnest bigotry’. What is going on? Why are parts of the right — especially the young right — so infested with outright racists and bigots?
“…To understand the cultural dynamic, I want to introduce you to an obscure online concept, no enemies to the right. A tiny fringe adopts this mindset as a conscious ethos, but for a much larger group, it is simply their cultural reality. In their minds, the left is so evil — and represents such an existential threat — that any accommodation of it (or any criticism of the right) undermines the forces of light in their great battle against the forces of darkness. Attack the left in the most searing terms, and you’ll enjoy the thunderous applause of your peers. Criticise the new right, and you can experience a vicious backlash. The result is a relentless pull to the extremes.”
As a lifelong feminist, being a stay-at-home girlfriend sounds pretty good — Katy Hall (The Age) ($): “For, as it stands, the social contract we are handed is not worth signing. It’s not surprising women are opting out in droves. We are told to value education, which women are doing by attending university at a higher rate than ever before. But we’re graduating with more debt than our male peers and entering a job market where we will consistently earn less than them, so much so that men will earn approximately $1 million more than us throughout the course of our careers. We’ll also be offered fewer promotions, have around $136,000 less in superannuation and have a 41% chance of experiencing sexual harassment while doing our jobs.
“… And if you really want to succeed both professionally and romantically, you’ll need to dedicate a portion of your wage for the length of your working life to dying your hair, styling your hair, removing unwanted hair, applying creams and serums that promise to reverse signs of ageing, and having micro-amounts of toxins injected into your skin to paralyse your muscles when the lotions invariably don’t work … Add all of this to a cost-of-living crisis, growing class inequality and the earth burning and flooding itself on a terrifyingly regular basis and suddenly it doesn’t seem so surprising that women aren’t eagerly signing on the dotted line.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Yuggera and Turrbal Country (also known as Brisbane)
Indigenous leader Noel Pearson will give the QUT Meanjin Oration about the Voice to Parliament at the QUT Gardens Theatre. You can also catch this online.
Author Laura Elizabeth Woollett will talk about her book, West Girls, at Avid Reader bookshop.