Thursday, October 24, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Fantastic. Great move. Well done, Angus.

How much longer can Angus Taylor keep his job? The minister for energy and emissions reduction is a scandal-magnet who now stands at the centre of accusations of criminal conduct, which Labor said in Question Time today should be investigated by the NSW police. Guardian Australia’s revelation that the minister made claims regarding the travel expenses of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore on the basis of a doctored document, which his office provided to The Daily Telegraph, is extremely damaging for the government. Taylor flatly denied allegations of forgery in the House today, and refused any demands for evidence he and his office had nothing wrong. His answers beggared belief.

If Taylor avoids accountability for another scandal, it cements the impression that the hapless minister is above the law, protected by the prime minister himself. Taylor survived by the skin of his teeth today, as the government was forced to use its numbers to shut down debate before the House rose for another month off. But the pressure on Taylor will continue to rise until the public finds out: where did the fake document come from?

Never mind, for the moment, that Taylor is the minister for energy and emissions reduction on whose watch both electricity prices and greenhouse gas emission have gone up. Never mind that he is the subject of a burgeoning controversy over the illegal clearing of protected grasslands by private company Jam Land, or that his explanation as to why he had a meeting with compliance officials from the environment department is still unravelling. Never mind that Taylor was implicated in the watergate scandal over an $80-million publicly funded water buyback from a private firm, Eastern Australia Agriculture, of which he was once a director and which is a wholly owned subsidiary of a Cayman Islands–based entity. Hell, never mind that Taylor habitually misleads the public about his government’s track record on climate action – the ABC called him a fact-check zombie today for repeating a false claim that won’t die about a supposed billion-tonne emissions turnaround – or how Australia is going to meet its Paris goals for 2030 down to the last tonne. Never mind the many train-wreck interviews. Never mind, in short, that Angus Taylor so far has proved to be an accident-prone, completely ineffective minister and a liability for the Morrison government.

At first, Taylor’s response today was to “make no apology for suggesting that the Lord Mayor should take real and meaningful action to reduce the City of Sydney’s carbon emissions instead of hollow virtue signalling through letters”. In Question Time, Taylor assured the House that the forgery was not made by him or his office, and tried to get on the front foot by rejecting the Opposition’s assertions as “bizarre”, claiming that Labor was “all smear and no idea”. That is simply bluster. A fake document with doctored travel figures was provided to The Daily Telegraph by Taylor’s office, according to the newspaper’s correspondence with the lord mayor. Taylor could clear this up by releasing the original document his office supplied to The Daily Telegraph for its metadata history to back his claims that it was downloaded from the City of Sydney website. He should do so. If he can’t do that, surely his time is up.

“While the bill’s explanatory memorandum sets out governance arrangements such as existing and contemplated agreements and access policy, they are not adequately set out in the current bill. In the committee’s view, robust safeguards and appropriate oversight mechanisms should be explained clearly in the legislation.”

Andrew Hastie, chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, rejects the government’s draft legislation for laws to establish a national facial recognition database.

“To give you a taste of the quality of this journalism, let me quote from the article itself: ‘The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have been unable to independently verify the material’. Now, as someone who has spent 50 years in journalism and media management … I have never seen a quality news organisation publish a story it openly admits it hasn’t been able to verify.”

At today’s Crown Resorts AGM, executive chair John Alexander, former editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review, dismisses the latest in a string of allegations of Crown links to organised crime.

Lock ’em up
Australia is almost alone in its willingness to lock up primary-school-age children for criminal offences, but “tough on crime” politics means there is little will to change this. Mike Seccombe on the push to lift the age of criminal responsibility.

The extra stimulus spending demanded in the Nationals’ 10-point drought strategy, which is currently before cabinet.

“It is absolutely clear from any assessment of what is required to meet the Paris climate targets – to which Australia is a signatory – that no new fossil-fuel developments can be allowed. This means no new coalmines in Australia, or elsewhere. In fact, our challenge is to phase out existing fossil-fuel facilities over the next couple of decades, with just transition plans in place to support workers and communities affected.”

Professor Will Steffen, head of the climate team at ANU and one of 47 experts to sign an open letter urging the NSW government not to overrule state laws that require climate-change impacts to be considered in the assessment of new coalmines.

The list

“In the current climate of increased scepticism about who has the right to tell the stories of marginalised groups, there are few incentives for novelists to wade into the ethical quagmire of Australian foreign policy. For these reasons, journalist Anna Krien’s debut novel, Act of Grace – which plunges headlong into the aftermath of the Iraq War – feels provocative and risky, but also refreshingly ambitious.”

“Soldiers, the police and others whose job can expose them to trauma are at least given some training on how to deal with it and what to expect. Victims of crime … are almost always taken entirely by surprise.”

“A BuzzFeed News analysis found that in the three months before the 2016 US election the top 20 fake-news stories on Facebook generated more engagement (shares, reactions and comments) than the top 20 real-news stories … Facebook’s algorithm, designed to engage people, had simply given Americans what they wanted to read.”

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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