SMASH AND GRAB
A Chinese academic here on a research trip was reportedly offered $2000 in a paper package by the “federal government” for intel about his network back home, Guardian Australia says. Sources said a person approached the professor (who the paper didn’t name) in a Brisbane café but wouldn’t say what department they were from — just three days later the Chinese man’s laptop and mobile phone were seized in a raid of his accommodation by the AFP and ASIO. The man, who works at a major Chinese research university as an expert on Sino-Australian relations, flew home early sans tech, freaked out by the surveillance. It comes as a British parliamentary researcher working on China policy has been arrested in the UK for allegedly spying for China, something news.com.au called “one of the biggest-ever spying breaches at Westminster”. The unnamed man had “links” to senior Tories such as Security Minister Tom Tugendhat, whatever “links” means.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the G20 condemning Russia’s “illegal” war in Ukraine went hard enough, even though both Russia and China snubbed the summit, the declaration didn’t mention Russia, it affirmed Moscow and Beijing’s right to disagree and, rather tellingly, Moscow praised the document as “balanced”. The AFR ($) reports Albanese also said — without a lick of self-awareness, folks — both “The science is clear — our climate has already changed” and “Australia has long been a reliable global energy supplier [of coal and gas] and we will continue to be”. As former NSW fire chief Greg Mullins told Guardian Australia last week, it’s as if our government is saying we’re going cold turkey on taking drugs… but we’ve got to sell them to maintain our lifestyle.
SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS
A Federal Court jury could hear the high-profile spat between independent NSW MP Alex Greenwich and former NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham, making legal history, a law expert told the SMH ($). Greenwich is suing Latham for a “defamatory and homophobic” tweet about Greenwich, and University of Western Australia senior lecturer Michael Douglas says “the ends of justice might warrant a trial by jury”, which would be the first time the Federal Court has empanelled a jury in a defamation case. The paper adds the court has discussed before whether defamation cases may be best heard by a jury. Why? Attitudes have changed a lot in the past few decades — including about homosexuality — meaning what we consider defamatory has shifted too.
Meanwhile a man running for local council in Busselton, WA, has written a story for a far-right website called XYZ, describing the goal behind his candidacy is “resisting globohomo”, while arguing that no talent is needed to be a councillor. XYZ is a right-leaning nationalist site known for posting neo-Nazi content (a recent story called Jews a “significant problem for Western civilisation”). The West ($) says Stephen Wells describes himself on Telegram as a “racist, sexist, heterosexualist [sic] Christian, climate change- and COVID-denying, anti-vax-supporting, democracy-scorning, whites-loving shit stirrer”. He’s attended anti-drag protests, called the LGBTQIA+ community “perverts and degenerates” and women in politics as “whores”. Chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission Dvir Abramovich urged the WA Electoral Commission to take action, though looking at the candidate requirements it’s not clear what it could do to stop him.
MISFORTUNES OF WAR
Former journalist Dean Yates, who headed up Reuters’ office in Baghdad in 2007, has described the “crushing, crushing moment” WikiLeaks published video footage of Collateral Murder, the ABC reports. The film came from a US AH-64 Apache helicopter gun sight and showed a deadly air-to-ground attack where two of Yates’ staff died — 22-year-old photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, and 40-year-old driver Saeed Chmagh. Yates, who blamed himself, says his grief and trauma became anger, leaving his family wary of him, but he couldn’t stop. Nine years after the attack, he was diagnosed with PTSD and received trauma treatment that soldiers and first responders usually get. It comes as ABC broadcaster Phillip Adams has written for The Australian ($) that WikiLeaks founder “Julian Assange’s ‘crime’ deserves the Nobel peace prize” because it led to the world learning of US war crimes.
So will our delegation of cross-party politicians to Washington DC later this month progress the whistleblower’s case to return to Australia, as Crikey reported on last week? The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan points out the US “undercut its own case” against Assange by its treatment of Chelsea Manning, who was pardoned by then-president Barack Obama. But Assange’s case has become conflated with the Edward Snowden national security saga in the minds of Americans (he leaked a heap of Five Eyes info, The Guardian explains), an expert told Grattan. Interestingly Snowden is now in Russia, which has probably made the US even more determined to claim Assange’s scalp. Speaking of transparency, NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley’s office is refusing to release documents about the tasering of 95-year-old woman Clare Nowland, the SMH ($) reports. Nowland died seven days later. An FOI from the state opposition resulted in blacked-out documents, with heavily redacted emails and briefings. The cops told me to, a spokesperson for Catley said.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
Die-hard Worm readers may know the sheer unbridled fervour that Fat Bear Week elicits in this writer. It’s an annual competition held in October that crowns the bear who has stacked on the highest number of kilos for the snoozy hibernation months. But enthusiasts are free to tune into the bear cam any time of the year to see the deadly teddies snack on stunned salmon, and it’s fortunate that a few actually do, because they saved a man’s life this week. Fans were admiring the tranquil landscape of Dumpling Mountain in Katmai National Park when a dishevelled hiker suddenly stumbled into view, looked down the barrel of the camera and mouthed the words “Help me.”
Horrified viewers quickly contacted the park’s rangers swearing they’d just seen a hiker on his last legs in the video stream, as The Guardian tells it. There wasn’t a whiff of scepticism among Katmai staff about their “dedicated” Fat Bear Week community’s rather outlandish claim — authorities quickly launched a full-scale search through the 1.7 million-hectare remote area, which led to the rescue of one rather soggy and windblown hiker. The man is reportedly unharmed, but the bear cam saved his life. And it was all thanks to a handful of people who are really big on bears bingeing on the Benedict breakfast basic to bulk their bodies. It seems greed really is good after all.
Wishing you the confidence of a pre-hibernation bear today.
It’s great to be back with you after my two weeks off, and I’ll be writing your Worm from my home town of Newcastle for the next fortnight. Up the mighty Knights.
[Peter Dutton’s] own Indigenous affairs [spokeswoman] killed it on Thursday night. Not only that, his Coalition partner is absolutely not going to entertain another referendum.
Make no mistake, the Cape York leader warned, the opposition leader is lying about holding a second referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition, and Nationals Leader David Littleproud wouldn’t sign off on one even if he did.
“It’s been a difficult week for big business, with Qantas distracting everyone from what employers thought the real issue should be — Labor’s outrageous industrial relations changes to better protect ‘contractors’ and to criminalise wage theft. Like most IR changes in favour of workers — and the Fair Work Act itself, back when Julia Gillard secured passage of it in the Rudd years — it will end investment, destroy productivity, smash economic growth and otherwise usher in the four horsepeople of the apocalypse.
“The case of the wage theft element of the bill is interesting, however, as the lobby group for the biggest businesses, the Business Council of Australia (BCA), can’t bring itself to oppose criminalisation. That might relate to the fact that, by our count, 39% of BCA members have been pinged for underpaying workers. And that includes some of the worst offenders, such as Wesfarmers, BHP, the big banks, the Go8 universities and a number of big law firms.”
“ACAC is a separate chapter, affiliated with the MEAA, that protects the distinctive interest of Australian humorous artists who a) stumbled into the job as no-hopers round the office, b) are good drafters, but really stupid, c) are talented illustrators who should never have been allowed to write their own material, d) were once good cartoonists now suffering age-related cognitive decline and/or e) are children of better cartoonists who needed a gig.
“Our members perform a vital service that other cartoonists cannot fulfil. With our distinctive lack of understanding of basic political frameworks, naïve sentimentality, clouded thinking, ignorance of the history of racist imagery, and shit sense of humour, we fill the spaces that right-wing media would otherwise leave blank. We do the thankless work: drawing a picture of Alan Joyce standing with suitcases full of money next to a flight attendant who says …”
“Just as advocates for marriage equality had made no provisions for penguins being forced into loveless same-sex unions, this week has shown that Voice advocates may not have adequately considered the unintended consequences of moves to address inequality, however well-intentioned.
“2GB host Ben Fordham brought us the story of the future of the Naremburn Tennis Courts, and claims that the club has been cast into a storm of uncertainty thanks to an unresolved Aboriginal land rights claim concerning the site. He’s dedicated two days to the issue, interviewing Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Nathan Moran, state MP for Willoughby Tim James and former Tennis Australia president Steve Healy.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
How Philip Lowe was caught on the cusp of history — Ross Gittins (The SMH) ($): “Outgoing Reserve Bank boss Dr Philip Lowe was our most academically outstanding governor, with the highest ethical standards. And he was a nice person. But if you judge him by his record in keeping inflation within the Reserve’s 2 to 3% target — as some do, but I don’t — he achieved it in just nine of the 84 months he was in charge. Even so, my guess is that history will be kinder to him than his present critics. I’ve been around long enough to know that, every so often — say, every 30 or 40 years — the economy changes in ways that undermine the economics profession’s conventional wisdom about how the economy works and how it should be managed.
“This is what happened in the second half of the 1970s — right at the time I became a journalist — when the advent of ‘stagflation’ caused macroeconomists to switch from a Keynesian preoccupation with full employment and fiscal policy (the budget) to a monetarist preoccupation with inflation and monetary policy (at first, the supply of money; then interest rates). My point here is that it took economists about a decade of furious debate to complete the shift from the old, failing wisdom to the new, more promising wisdom. I think the ground has shifted again under the economists’ feet, that the macroeconomic fashion is going to swing from monetary policy back to fiscal policy but, as yet, only a few economists have noticed the writing on the wall.”
The Indigenous Voice to Parliament is nothing to fear — Chris Kenny (The Australian) ($): “Before I get into this horridly divisive and increasingly personal Voice debate, let me share some positive words about what is, after all, an optimistic and uplifting proposal. The case for voting Yes has not been put more eloquently, or pithily, than by Paul Kelly — not this paper’s esteemed editor-at-large who writes powerfully against the Voice proposition, but Paul Kelly, the nation’s greatest singer-songwriter. In an elegant and heartfelt Facebook post of about 250 words, Kelly springboards from the intrinsic value of 60,000 years of Indigenous culture. ‘That this gift and this deep history are not yet recognised in our founding document seems to me a huge hole in our soul. And a big knock to our idea of ourselves as the land of the fair go,’ writes Kelly.
“Yes, the fair go, it has long been my favoured summary of the Voice proposal. ‘Recognition is not achieved with fine sounding words and feel-good statements but by promising to listen,’ Kelly goes on, dismissing the patronising alternative of preambular symbolism and cutting to the core request. Kelly then references the chasm in life outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. ‘That yawning gap is unfair and diminishes us all. By saying Yes to a Voice and listening to it, we can tackle these problems in a more effective way.’ Yes, it diminishes us all, which is why the Voice proposal is not only about uplifting our Indigenous brothers and sisters but about binding us into a better nation.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)
Author Mirandi Riwoe will talk about her new book, Sunbirds, at Better Read Than Dead bookshop.
Yuggera and Turrbal Country (also known as Brisbane)
Author Leah Kaminsky will talk about her new book, Doll’s Eye, at Avid Reader bookshop.