Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Joint pain
Is bipartisanship on national security cracking?

Chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security Andrew Hastie. Source: Facebook

The Opposition has already signalled that it will capitulate to the government on its foreign fighters legislation, even though it has not accepted all the recommendations of the federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS). It is becoming familiar, as the Opposition capitulated on the future drought fund yesterday, and on the income tax package earlier this month. Labor leader Anthony Albanese defended his approach this morning, and accused the government of acting like an “Opposition in exile”, which is a bit of a mindbender. But there is more than shallow politicking at stake here: the practice of bipartisanship on national security is cracking.

In a statement today, shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally pointed out that since 2013 the government has accepted every single recommendation of the committee, and “should not jeopardise or politicise the important work of the PJCIS”. Andrew Hastie, chair of the committee, may yet have some explaining to do.

Senator Keneally’s statement says that of the 18 substantive recommendations made by the PJCIS, the government response rejects four, partially implements six and ignores one. Keneally adds that “further, there are now new provisions in the legislation which the PJCIS has never considered”. Like Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick, who was interviewed on RN Breakfast this morning, Keneally calls for the government to release the solicitor-general’s advice that shows the legislation is constitutional. But Keneally also makes clear that Labor supports the government’s intention: to allow the home affairs minister to issue temporary exclusion orders to stop foreign fighters returning home. 

Andrew Hastie has not been afraid to assert his independence from the government as chair of the PJCIS: he went public to identify Chinese billionaire Chau Chak Wing as being the subject of a foreign bribery investigation by the FBI during the debate over Australia’s foreign interference laws, and was interviewed on the ABC’s recent Four Corners, for example, on Chinese influence in Australia. Now, on foreign fighters, he should stand up for the work of his committee, which is under increasing scrutiny and has just been tasked with reviewing the whole raft of national security laws impinging on press freedom and whistleblower protection in Australia.

As the Greens and others have long argued, the PJCIS is a closed shop – a two-party stitch-up with no crossbench representation – which has allowed Australia to slowly drift into becoming the police state we suddenly feel like we’re in today. The practice of bipartisanship on national security has been a stultifying influence on our political debate more generally, and if it is going to break down that may actually be a good thing. But if the government wants the PJCIS to work, surely it should not just pick and choose from the bipartisan recommendations the committee makes – and the chair should not sell short the work of the other members. There’s more at stake than the pros and cons of the foreign fighters legislation.

“Police arrived and came directly to us and arrested us without saying a word before doing so. They took us to a police station and kept us seven hours in jail … We have been to many countries, including non-democratic ones, and I have never experienced such strange behaviour.”

French journalist Hugo Clément, who was arrested while filming a direct action to protest construction of Adani’s Carmichael coalmine in Queensland.

“Thank you for the question but, look, this is a grubby smear from those opposite, one of many that have been made and were made during the election campaign, and I have been very clear on this – this was not a discussion about compliance action, it was a briefing from departmental officials on technical aspects of a revised listing under the EPBC act.”

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor fends off a string of questions about his disclosure in a 2017 meeting with the environment department regarding an investigation into alleged illegal land-clearing of critically endangered grasslands by a company in which he has an interest.

On Uluru
Despite hopes that were placed in Ken Wyatt as minister, Scott Morrison says there will be no constitutional enshrinement of an Indigenous voice to parliament. Karen Middleton on the campaign to keep the voice alive.

The total value of infrastructure spending committments by the states, particularly Victoria, most of which is funded by debt, which prompted a warning by credit ratings agency Moody’s yesterday.

“We identified noncompliance in a number of key areas including: adherence to the Journalist Information Warrant provisions; inability to sufficiently demonstrate required privacy considerations; access to unauthorised telecommunications data; statistical issues; record keeping.”

From the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s report on agency use of communications metadata in 2016–17, which was handed to the home affairs minister in November last year and only released yesterday.

The list

“In mid January this year, CCTV footage from inside Darwin’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre was leaked to the ABC ... It showed the boys arming themselves with makeshift weapons before police tear-gassed them. The last time children were seen tear-gassed on national TV was in July 2016, on ABC’s Four Corners. Within 10 hours, a horrified prime minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed a royal commission ... In response to the leaked January video, there was no political outrage, no prime ministerial proclamation and no major public inquiry. Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Michael Gunner simply said the police had his support. What had changed?”

“Experts and commentators have been warning successive governments for years that private health insurance is a policy disaster area. In 2012, economics writer Ross Gittins stated that ‘subsidising private health insurance doesn’t only advantage the better-off (including yours truly), it makes healthcare more expensive than it needs to be’. He put it even more succinctly in 2018: ‘Private health insurance is a con job.’”

“The waste and recycling industry has long warned that Australia’s ad hoc approach to waste management would backfire. Waste collection and recycling is typically seen as a state issue, or one that comes under the local-government mantra of “roads, rates and rubbish”. But without the federal government providing heft and direction, even popular and well-known waste reduction policies can wilt due to opposition from vested interests, or simply come unstuck.”

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?


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