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Emma Elsworthy

China not a place for the naive: Cheng Lei


“Naive” Australians should not go to China because it is not the same place it was 20 years ago, Australian journalist Cheng Lei told the ABC’s Q+A last night. Cheng was imprisoned for more than 1,000 days over breaking a media embargo in China by a few minutes — she warned Australians to be wary of “purporting to be protecting … national security” because it’s such a broad term. She added, rather tongue in cheek one might think, that those wanting to learn Mandarin could go to Taiwan. To those detained onshore now and today the High Court will reveal its reasons for overturning 20 years of legal precedent regarding indefinite detention of stateless non-citizens. The Australian ($) reports 141 have been released so far, with tracking devices on 138 of them.

This comes as News Corp boss Lachlan Murdoch was among 600 Australian business, political, sporting and community leaders who signed a letter condemning discrimination “including Islamophobia, but focus on anti-Semitism, which has been the most pronounced”, the AFR ($) writes (the letter said a 482% surge but the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said its figure is now at 591%). Other signatories include Slater & Gordon chairman James MacKenzie, Reserve Bank board member Carol Schwartz and AIA Australia boss Peter Yates who said he experienced discrimination as “a young Pom when I arrived here aged seven”. Former premiers Daniel Andrews, Gladys Berejiklian, Anna Bligh and Mark McGowan signed too, the SMH ($) said.


The Bunurong Land Council has gone into administration after allegations of $150,000 worth of fraud and corruption, The Age ($) reports. The Indigenous council manages cultural heritage plans from Melton to Mornington Peninsula and into Gippsland, and the collapse means development projects across Victoria may face delays of up to five months, the paper says. It comes as nearly eight in 10 No voters believe Indigenous peoples should have a say in matters that affect them, compared with nearly nine in 10 Yes voters. It’s the finding of an ANU survey that suggested it was the mechanism and parts of the model that Australia said No to, study co-author Nicholas Biddle told the ABC. The survey also found just two in 10 people who hadn’t finished Year 12 voted Yes, compared with six in 10 who had a uni degree.

To another survey now and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has a negative net approval rating for the first time this term, Guardian Australia reports. some 47% of respondents disapprove and 42% approve, leaving him with -5. We need more cost-of-living relief, 66% said — such as power price caps (70%), rent increase limits (62%) and mega profits taxes (55%). It’s much of the same in The Australian’s ($) coverage, where half of all respondents said they were in a worse financial position than two years ago. Albanese will meet with caucus today — “spooked” Labor MPs want Treasurer Jim Chamers’ 10-point, $23 billion cost-of-living plan to go harder, the paper writes.


Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann said to his friends “Let’s get lit” and took cocaine after he found out Brittany Higgins had accused him of rape. He has always denied he raped her and the case was dropped out of fear for Higgins’ health. The Herald Sun ($) reports he admitted to taking coke while on the stand yesterday in his defamation battle with Ten Network and Lisa Wilkinson because he had “spiralled pretty quickly” that evening. (This is a different case, one might note, to the two rape charges he faces in Queensland.) “I’m sorry, your reaction to spiralling was to ask to have cocaine brought to you?” Ten’s silk asked.

There were several other times Lehrmann admitted to lying, the SMH ($) reports, including telling his then-boss Linda Reynolds he was visiting his mother (he wasn’t), and that he didn’t know a News Corp story (that ran before Ten’s The Project episode aired) was about him (he told a court the opposite earlier this year). Is this shaping up to be a self-own, the likes of which we haven’t seen since probable war criminal Ben Roberts-Smith’s spectacular failed defamation case? This morning The Australian ($) has a video of Lehrmann holding a drink and singing slightly tweaked Clash lyrics: “I fought the law and … Bruce won.”  I suppose we’ll see, won’t we?


A little old man shuts a red front door and hobbles down a road in Ireland with a bunch of white gerberas which he lays down carefully in a cemetery in the next scene. He takes his paddy cap off and pauses, shuddering a little with emotion. Then he’s walking down a rather grey and wintry street, shooting a hopeful smile at two laughing young people who don’t notice him. Then it cuts to him approaching hopefully a man reading a newspaper, only to be met with a raised front and back page instead of an obliging face. The crestfallen old man, walking stick in hand, spots two people and a small Maltese dog wandering into a warm and festive pub, so he follows them in and sits alone, sipping on an inky black Guinness.

The dog promptly scrambles up onto his bench for a head scritch, attracting the attention of the woman. There’s no dialogue, but she appears to ask if she and her partner can join him, and he acquiesces with a wondrous look on his line-etched face. The three shake hands in an apparent introduction, and the final message is that there are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet. It’s just a TikTok video that a small pub named Charlie’s filmed — a little amateurish in places, but it’s captured the hearts of the internet, with 8.2 million views and counting. One guy said the pub was his local as a youngster, calling the ad beautiful. It could be any Irish pub, another said, calling them the “heart of the community” for many Irish towns: “Pop in grab any stool and have a chat & the craic for the next couple of hours. Long may it continue.” A third agreed: “A wee smile or chat makes a big difference.”

Hoping you don’t mind a yarn with a stranger today.


It is a strong-held tenet that our journalists’ personal agendas do not influence our reporting on news events. This applies across the board, including to our coverage of the current war in Israel and Gaza. Any newsroom staff who signed this latest industry letter will be unable to participate in any reporting on production relating to the war.

Tory Maguire

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age executive editor has been criticised by staff for “hypocrisy” considering she went on a paid week-long trip to Israel (and the West Bank) in 2017.


Nine staff accuse editors of ‘hypocrisy’ for sidelining employees who signed Israel-Palestine letter

SMH editor Bevan Shields and Age/SMH executive editor Tory Maguire (Images: Age/SMH/Private Media)

“Nine papers’ journalists are despairing after The Sydney Morning Herald and Age newsroom leaders banned staff from covering the Israel-Palestine conflict if they had signed an open letter criticising Australian media’s coverage of the war …

“Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) communications director Mark Phillips told Crikey that the journalists’ union had written to Nine management ‘calling on them to refrain from targeting staff’ and had sent a message out to staff as well.”

Hypocritical Pezzullo brought undone by the media he railed at


[Mike] Pezzullo is an object lesson for anyone tempted to trust national security bureaucrats. The Immigration and then Home Affairs secretary liked to portray himself as a bureaucratic hard man dedicated to serving whichever government was in power with attack dog-like efficiency. Not only did he want to censor journalists, he wanted leakers to be locked up.

“He railed at leaks ‘designed to play into a Canberra game about which agency is asking other agencies to expand its powers and remits’. Yet behind the scenes, he was engaged in exactly that game, including by sharing a confidential document with [Scott] Briggs. ‘Just for you. Sent to PM and MHA a few minutes ago. Do not pass on.’ The hypocrisy is extraordinary.

Guns, prisons and landlords — what does New Zealand’s new government have planned?


“Nup. Sorry, kiddos. Loving you for richer or poorer isn’t a priority right now — just like climate change, which went completely unacknowledged. But don’t worry, because the rather right-wing ACT party has managed to get an agreement from the thrupple to do a full rewrite of the Arms Act! Which is exactly what a country barely three years past one of the worst civilian massacres carried out by a man with easy access to automatic firearms really needs — a clear pathway to using an AR15 …

“Um, okay. Skipping ahead, what about sickness and health? Unfortunately, not great news if you are one of the Māori population who on average die seven years earlier than non-Māori. All three parties agreed to scrap the Māori Health Authority only 16 months after its establishment.“


Deal reached to extend Gaza truce by two days, Qatar and Hamas say (Reuters)

Israel ‘stealing organs’ from bodies in Gaza, alleges human rights group (euronews)

Repeal and reserve: The 5 things the [NZ conservative] government has promised to do by Christmas (Stuff)

Paris mayor quits X, calling social media site a ‘gigantic global sewer’ (The Guardian)

COP28: UAE planned to use climate talks to make oil deals (BBC)

North Korea moves heavy weapons to border with South (The Guardian)


All talk, no action means AUKUS is headed for the rocks – Greg Sheridan (The Australian) ($): “In reality pillar two has little prospect of delivering anything substantial because we are not spending on, or ordering, any new capability. The idea is it might lead to our selling more exports into the US market. However, to secure this we are legislating to impose in effect all the burdensome, labyrinthine restrictions the US imposes on its defence exports on to our own industry. This may or may not help us sell stuff to the US but it probably makes it harder for us to do business with Japan, South Korea and Europe. It’s also more difficult, even dangerous, for non-defence firms to bring their technology into the defence space because they suddenly have a whole new raft of regulatory requirements they must meet. And it’s still by no means clear the US Congress will ever accept the idea they should establish jobs in Australia rather than jobs in their own congressional districts to supply basic US defence needs.

“There are other ways the security trends are against us. There’s no evidence that Congress will actually decide some time next decade to sell us three Virginia-class nuclear submarines. Similarly there’s no evidence the Albanese government is making serious preparations to achieve that. The Americans almost certainly won’t sell us a nuclear submarine unless we promise we’d commit it to any serious military engagement the Americans were involved in within our region. In the event of such conflict, I think we should and would support the Americans. But we can’t make such a commitment in advance or we cease to have sovereignty over our own defence forces. Similarly, we can’t make such a commitment in secret because the Americans selling us the subs couldn’t use a secret commitment to reassure their own people.”

Trump has a master plan for destroying the ‘deep state’Donald P. Moynihan (The New York Times) ($): “When he was president, his administration frequently targeted officials for abuse, denial of promotions or investigations for their perceived disloyalty. In a second administration, he would simply fire them. Trump loyalists reportedly have lists ready of civil servants who will be fired because they were not deemed cooperative enough during his first term. The third part of Mr Trump’s authoritarian blueprint is to create a legal framework that would allow him to use government resources to protect himself, attack his political enemies and force through his policy goals without congressional approval.

“Internal government lawyers can block illegal or unconstitutional actions. Reporters for The New York Times have uncovered a plan to place Trump loyalists in those key positions. This is not about conservatism. Mr Trump grew disillusioned with conservative Federalist Society lawyers, despite drawing on them to stock his judicial nominations. It is about finding lawyers willing to create a legal rationale for his authoritarian impulses. Examples from Mr Trump’s time in office include Mark Paoletta, the former general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget, who approved Mr Trump’s illegal withholding of aid to Ukraine. Or Jeffery Clark, who almost became Mr Trump’s acting attorney-general when his superiors refused to advance Mr Trump’s false claims of election fraud.”




  • ABC’s Alan Kohler will speak in a webinar about his latest Quarterly Essay on housing.

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • European Patent Office president António Campinos will give the 2023 Francis Gurry Lecture on intellectual property at Melbourne Law School. You can also catch this online.

Yuggera and Turrbal Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Griffith Business School’s Nick Barter and Christopher Fleming will talk about their new book, Future Normal: 8 Questions to Create Businesses Your Children will be Proud Of, at Avid Reader bookshop.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • Minister for Defence Industry, International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy will address the National Press Club.

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