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Moment for truth

Crikey logo Crikey 3/03/2021 Chris Woods
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PRESSING ISSUE

Note: This story discusses sexual assault and suicide.

The cabinet minister at the centre of rape allegations is expected to address the Australian public this morning, with the ABC reporting that government sources indicate he will front a press conference, deny the allegations, and not step down from his position.

The man has reportedly sought legal advice from defamation lawyer Peter Bartlett, a partner at MinterEllison, while the Morrison government apparently hopes this morning’s statement “will mark the end of the matter”.

The news comes after NSW police declared their examination of the claim “closed” on the basis that, after the woman’s death last year, there was “insufficient admissible evidence” to proceed, while news.com.au reports that a photo has emerged of the alleged victim and minister on the night of the claimed incident.

Malcolm Turnbull had earlier in the day called for the man to identify himself, while Barnaby Joyce has added his voice to calls for an independent investigation.

PS: In state news, an Equal Opportunity Commission review has found eight people reported sexual harassment by South Australian MPs or their staff in the past five years. The Sydney Morning Herald also reports that the NSW Liberal Party has adopted a mandatory Code of Conduct and Ethics that targets harassment and includes a pledge, not yet codified in the party’s constitution, to establish an autonomous Conduct Review Committee for complaints.

1800 Respect: 1800 737 732; Lifeline: 13 11 14. 

MEANWHILE, IN RACISM NEWS

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a new Lowy Institute report finds that a whopping one in five Chinese-Australians report being physically threatened or attacked because of their heritage over the past year, with most blaming the global pandemic and the breakdown in relations between Australia and China.

In other racism news, The New Daily reports that British neo-Nazi group Sonnenkrieg Division will become the first right-wing group to be formally listed as a terrorist organisation.

Elsewhere, SBS investigates how a neo-Nazi was able to use Telegram to gain thousands of followers after uploading a video of himself punching a black security guard at Channel Nine. The assault, which led to two arrests, occurred ahead of the airing of a segment by A Current Affair, into “homegrown extremists”.

OPEN AND SHUT

The Victorian government has extended its state of emergency until December, The Age reports, after crossbenchers agreed to a new bill in return for reduced lockdown penalties for children and a new fines review officer for appeals.

Meanwhile, the Morrison government has extended the international border ban until June, citing the emergence of more transmissible COVID-19 variants — a move that leaves at least 40,000 Australians stranded amid quarantine caps.

LIBERAL MEDIA

Finally, in terrific news for media diversity, The Australian ($) reports that chairman of Nine Entertainment and former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello has assumed a greater role in the day-to-day running of the media giant amid a deepening split between directors aligned with competing broadcasting and print divisions.

Outgoing chief executive Hugh Marks has reportedly been absent from the past week’s investor meetings ahead of his resignation in November and has left key negotiations with Google and Facebook to Costello and Chris Janz, who runs publishing.

Separately, Nine sources point to the speed at which an independent investigation was established into deputy chairman and former Fairfax chairman Nick Falloon — who The Sydney Morning Herald revealed has been accused of allowing his son to use a corporate membership at a prestigious Sydney golf club — relative to Costello’s reluctance to examine Marks’ conduct after he disclosed a personal relationship with former senior executive Alexi Baker.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

On the critical issue of taking ambitious and effective action on climate change, it is essential that the OECD provide global leadership. Achieving global net zero emissions by 2050 requires an urgent and major international effort.

Mathias Cormann

The former finance minister and top-two candidate for OECD Secretary General has come a long way since calling Julia Gillard’s carbon price “a very expensive hoax”, gutting it, and leaving Australia with a seven-year policy vacuum.

CRIKEY RECAP

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Most male cabinet ministers went to private schools. Most sexual assault accusations come from private schools

“The Morrison ministry has long been criticised for being a boys club. Members are overwhelmingly white men who attended private schools. In fact, this has been common in both Labor and Liberal cabinets for decades.

“Recently, thousands of testimonies from young women have been collated in a public word document detailing sexual assault by, predominantly, young men who went to private boys’ schools in Australia. The wave has prompted parents and students to demand better teaching of sexual consent in Australian schools.”

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‘Presumption of innocence’, ‘matter for the police’, ‘rule of law’ — politispeak rules, OK

“The ‘matter for police’ statement gives the government and the minister a get-out-of-jail-free card. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) doesn’t have jurisdiction over this sexual assault. It says it’s liaising with relevant state authorities. NSW Police, which does have jurisdiction over the incident, suspended their investigation last year after the woman making the allegations died.”

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Aged care will stay broken until our leaders show heart and humanity

“At a Queensland hospital last Wednesday, an elderly gentleman wanted to urinate. Politely, he asked the nurse for a bottle, common in hospitals and aged care homes that allow someone to go to the toilet from their bed.

“The nurse told the 87-year-old that she was sorry, but there were only two of the $13 bottles for the entire public ward of the hospital. Was it possible for him to wait?”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

NSW Police confirm human remains found at Mollymook did not belong to Melissa Caddick

Frank Zumbo was investigated for alleged bullying while working for South Australian government

Bees revealed as Australia’s most dangerous venomous creature

Victorian Liberals to fight planning process on social housing building blitz

Record low interest rates until 2024 could deepen divisions between Australia’s haves and have-nots

Tropical Cyclone Niran upgraded to category two as wild winds and heavy rain soak north Queensland

‘False’ details in reports made after pub brawl, arrest of trans woman Anya Bradford ($)

Climate change could put insurance out of reach for many Australians

Swiss Muslims denounce ‘burqa ban’ proposal as referendum nears

Hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls released unharmed following armed mass kidnapping, says state’s governor

THE COMMENTARIAT

NSW police rape case closure means there is clear precedent on how to behave ($) — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian): “Parliamentarians, politicians, media and victims’ advocates all have a template based on their own behaviour when Bill Shorten, who had been subjected to a decades-old rape allegation, was told Victorian police would not proceed with the case for lack of evidence he identified himself. The then opposition leader said how terrible it had been, how abhorrent the allegation was and how it was untrue.”

We need to spend more on aged care and we need to spend it smarterEditorial (The Age): “The funding question, meanwhile, can only be faithfully answered once the government demonstrates the courage of its stated convictions. Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the existing aged care system, where the focus is on funding providers, as ‘constrained’. He pledged instead “a needs-based system that puts the person at the centre”. Surely the Australian public should only be asked how much they are willing to pay for such a system after Morrison and his government have set out their design for it.”

Michael Gudinski: how a titan of the industry shaped Australian music for five decades Liz Giuffre (The Conversation): “In the book 25 years of Mushroom Records, published in 1998, Michael Gudinski described himself as ‘Chairman, Mushroom Group of Companies and music fan’. There could be no better description of Gudinski, an icon of the Australian popular music industry, who has died at the age of 68.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Australian of the Year Grace Tame will address the National Press Club.

  • Jacqui Lambie will discuss “The Importance of the Crossbench” in an Australia Institute webinar.

Melbourne

  • Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Anne Applebaum will discuss her 2020 book Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, an examination of the longstanding struggle between democracy and dictatorship, in a Wheeler Centre webinar.

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