Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Inhumanity wins
The medevac repeal means Australia can once again deny proper care to sick people

© Lukas Coch / AAP Image

After months of build-up, and potent language suggesting she would not engage in horsetrading over humanity, independent senator Jacqui Lambie’s shock decision to back the repeal of the medevac laws is a betrayal that will haunt her politically. Citing unspecified national security concerns cuts no ice when the hundreds of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru present no threat to Australia. Lambie’s crocodile tears in the chamber this morning count for nothing compared with the needless suffering that will be inflicted on sick people who will be denied proper and timely medical treatment henceforth, to Australia’s shame. Condemnation of Lambie’s decision from Labor, the Greens and other crossbenchers has been swift and unequivocal. Doctors and refugee advocates who have, until now, taken Lambie at her word are dismayed. And open democracy in Australia takes another step backwards after unpopular legislation passes due to a secret deal between an authoritarian-leaning government and a personality politician. If Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton want to call that a win, they’re welcome to it.

In the Senate this morning, ahead of the crucial vote, there was speculation about a secret deal that had been done. Government leader Mathias Cormann denied that this was the case, a denial that was apparently contradicted when Lambie declared her intentions, saying: “I put a proposal to the government, and since then we have worked together really hard to advance that proposal. We’ve worked to an outcome I believe we both want, which is an outcome where our borders are secure, the boats have stopped and sick people aren’t dying while waiting for treatment. As a result of that work, I’m more than satisfied that the conditions are now in place to allow medevac to be repealed.” That certainly sounds like a deal, although Lambie did not use the word.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale jumped up and put on the record that either Cormann or Lambie must be lying. Addressing Cormann directly, Di Natale said: “We’ve just heard that you and Senator Lambie have worked on a secret proposal, in good faith, that she cannot disclose for so-called national security reasons, and you, only a few moments ago, stood up and said there was no deal. In fact, you walked over to Senator Lambie and said, ‘Is it okay if I say there’s no deal?’ We heard you say it. Who’s lying? Who’s misleading this parliament?”

Later on in Senate Question Time, as Guardian Australia reported, Di Natale asked a more pointed question about whether there had been an exchange of letters with Lambie. Cormann did not rule it out, saying: “I won’t go into private conversations … What I can say is there has been no deal to change our stance on border protection or anything else. We provided briefings, we did not provide any undertakings to change policy … We provided detailed information about what the policies of the government are.”

The prime minister stuck to a similar script at a press conference this afternoon, saying he’d fulfilled a promise to the Australian people by repealing the medevac laws, and would not be drawn on the substance of any deal the Coalition had struck with Lambie. When pressed on whether that might include a resettlement option, potentially to New Zealand, Morrison chose his words carefully: “The government is always looking at ways to resettle those who are on Nauru.”

Perhaps there is a resettlement deal, which Lambie hinted during the past fortnight was her one condition for supporting the medevac repeal. The opacity is farcical. And if Australians are in the dark about what happened today, what are those hundreds of asylum seekers held in PNG and Nauru to make of it, and what it means for their future? Meanwhile, Sky News Australia has been told that the Ardern government has been informed that Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani, detained for more than six years on Manus Island but who recently travelled to New Zealand, has applied for asylum there.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul today decried a “shocking campaign of orchestrated leaks, lies and misinformation in the government’s efforts to have the medevac bill repealed. The minister himself has directly approved 86 per cent of all medevac applications. There has never been a connection between people seeking asylum and national security … The government cannot escape its responsibility for those they are holding offshore. We expect the government to transfer all those approved by medevac and to continue processing the applications that have been made.”

This morning Lambie also voted against a Labor amendment that would have spared those people already in the medevac process. The prime minister was effusive in thanking her this afternoon, and sought once again to make political mileage out of cruel border protection policies. “I am pleased that [Senator Lambie] has enabled us to shut the door that Labor sought to prise open last year,” he said. “Thankfully the Australian people had their say on May 18, and they said ‘shut that door’, and we did that today on the basis of their endorsement at the last election.” 

“We need a strong #NIC to investigate matters like this. The public has a right to know if there is corruption. We need donation reform.”

Zali Steggall calls for a national integrity commission after revelations in the Nine newspapers that government backbencher Gladys Liu secured access to the federal government for Chinese company Brighsun, which has donated money to the Liberal Party, and which was subsequently implicated in a probe into suspected drug money.

“Since the bill was voted on last week in the Senate, issues have been raised which were not raised with the government during consultations on the bill … Anyone who looks at this bill objectively and rationally can see it in no way prevents organisations from continuing to work in their members’ interests where they do so lawfully.”

Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter reintroduces the union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill to the House of Representatives after it was rejected by the Senate last week.

George Megalogenis on Australia’s next decade
As the first two decades of the 21st century come to an end, George Megalogenis considers Australia’s place as a middle power and the demographics that will change our parliament.

The amount by which Australia’s economy grew in the September quarter, lower than the 0.6 per cent expected by market economists, taking annual gross domestic product to 1.7 per cent.

“Decisions under section 501 to cancel, refuse or revoke a mandatory cancellation may be made by the minister or a delegated departmental decision-maker. When a decision is made to cancel or refuse a visa under section 501, or not to revoke a mandatory cancellation, all relevant information and circumstances, including the impact on the individual and the individual’s family, are taken into account. The department works closely with our integrity and law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of misconduct and corruption.”

A home affairs department spokesperson responds to questions about why convicted drug trafficker William Betham was spared deportation, after it was previously claimed Betham had boasted to a fellow detainee that he could get his visa back in exchange for financial payments.

The list

“In November, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of prospective NATO ‘brain death’: ‘You have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its NATO allies. None,’ he said … Responding to this incoherence has been challenging, and Australia’s response has been an incoherence of its own. Under Coalition governments it has been equally supportive of both the Bush doctrine and the Trump doctrine, even though they are in opposition.”

The Crown celebrates the stoicism of Queen Elizabeth, whose job is to be nothing but a fitting symbol, but, to remain engaging, that stasis requires sympathetic figures by way of contrast. Take a bow Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), now a defiant heir forced to sacrifice his personal happiness. On the show the Windsor’s failings are always the result of systematic deficiencies, but as Prince Andrew’s recent failings have shown, real life doesn’t always offer such favourable accommodations.”

“There is one particular question Andrew Bolt does not wish to answer. In correspondence with The Saturday Paper, the News Corp columnist was asked three times whether he has read Bruce Pascoe’s best-selling history of Aboriginal Australia, Dark Emu. Each time, he evaded the question. It is useful, then, to start an examination of his attacks on the author with this in mind.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


The Monthly Today

Image of prime minister Gough Whitlam addressing reporters outside Parliament after his dismissal by governor-general John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Palace fetters

An elected Australian government could still be dismissed by the Queen

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cluster struck

A second wave of COVID-19 cases is dragging the country down

Image of Barnaby Joyce

‘It’s our fault’

Barnaby Joyce says Nats to blame for the Coalition’s Eden-Monaro defeat

Welcome flat

Australia will not take tens of thousands of Hong Kongers

From the front page

Image of prime minister Gough Whitlam addressing reporters outside Parliament after his dismissal by governor-general John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Palace fetters

An elected Australian government could still be dismissed by the Queen

David Gulpilil at the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 2016.

The many faces of David Gulpilil

Gulpilil’s surrealist performances reveal our collective unconscious

Still from ‘Contempt’

The death of cool: Michel Piccoli, 1925–2020

Re-watching the films of the most successful screen actor of the 20th century

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cluster struck

A second wave of COVID-19 cases is dragging the country down