ALBANESE OZ TRIP
UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur Francesca Albanese has denied an accusation from UN Watch’s executive director Hillel C. Neuer that her trip to Australia was paid for by Palestinian lobby groups, saying it was UN funded. Neuer wrote to UN secretary-general António Guterres to ask for Albanese’s immediate removal from her post, claiming her trip to Australia was funded by Australian Friends of Palestine Association and Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, as well as the Free Palestine Melbourne and Palestinian Christians in Australia. He claimed it was an apparent breach of the UN’s code of conduct, UN Watch says, which bars experts from taking any gift, favour or remuneration. But Albanese responded that her trip was “paid by the UN as part of my mandate’s activities” and slammed “yet another trail of egregiously false claims” against her. In a statement to Crikey, the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network said it, together with The Australian Friends of Palestine Association, supported but did not fund Albanese’s trip. UN Watch is a non-governmental org that monitors the UN’s performance.
Meanwhile overseas and a four-day Israel-Hamas ceasefire will begin at 4pm AEDT today, the ABC reports. Around 200 trucks carrying aid and fuel will enter daily, Hamas said, and 13 Israeli women and children will be released later today. To parents and kids back home now, and if you earn less than $80,000 you should get free childcare. That’s according to the Productivity Commission, the ABC reports, which is urging the government to allow families to get up to three days of subsidised care a week no matter how many hours they work. (At the moment people with an income under $80,000 get 90% subsidised care and it goes down by 1% for each $5,000 they earn above $80,000.) And we need to protect kids from porn, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says, via the SMH ($), using age verification technology. It would work by handing out electronic access “tokens” to those who can prove they are over the age of consent, the paper says, but Crikey’s Bernard Keane notes the messy legislation has proven “unworkable” elsewhere. Plus, would you trust a porn site with your passport or driver’s licence?
Reader note: This newsletter has been updated with Francesca Albanese’s response to the accusations, including that her trip was paid for by the UN.
GINA FOR PM?
Folks, we sure are hearing a lot from Gina Rinehart at the moment — is Australia’s richest person preparing for a tilt at politics? From online scams to the fuel excise and now a twin-city Commonwealth Games — the mining billionaire has penned a letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, signed by the mayors of the Gold Coast and Perth, to get behind the dual-host idea, The Courier-Mail ($) reports. This comes after Queensland ruled out hosting the games after the forecast came in at $700 million. Yikes. Meanwhile Rinehart’s kids say they have smoking gun docs that their mother committed fraud by destroying their trust fund, the SMH ($) says. It’s over mining assets their grandpa Lang Hancock left them — they’ve accused Rinehart of taking more than her 51% share.
To another fossil fuel queen now, and the footage ABC handed over of the climate protest at Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill’s place led to more people being charged with criminal offences, cops reportedly told Disrupt Burrup Hub campaigner Tahlia Stolarski. Some were arrested right after the protest in August, but three others were charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence just this week. Remarkably the ABC still won’t confirm it handed the Four Corners footage over and wouldn’t reply to questions Guardian Australia put to it. Meanwhile Brookfield has successfully delayed a vote from shareholders about its takeover plan of Origin Energy, infuriating objector AustralianSuper which owns 17%. Brookfield needs 75% or more to get this deal across the line, the AFR ($) says, and it’s got until December 4 to persuade everyone else.
Opposition spokesman on Home Affairs James Paterson says “the boats start again” when Labor gets in, Sky News Australia reports, after 12 people were dropped off in a remote part of Western Australia. Paterson, the boats quite literally never stopped, despite ScoMo’s campy trophy. The Coalition government turned back two to three boats every year from 2016 to 2020 (or else flew asylum seekers home in “takebacks”), as Guardian Australia reported, compared with the nine in 18 months under Labor (four-ish boats a year). But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good soundbite, I s’pose. The 12 people have been taken into custody — it’s not clear yet whether they are asylum seekers or fishermen, something Sky’s Max Melzer didn’t bother to add until 12 paragraphs into his story.
Meanwhile The Australian ($) reckons Anthony Albanese is a liar. It details several of his statements at odds with one another (him telling Sky this week he doesn’t discuss private meetings on the sidelines with any world leader but revealing last month he raised Julian Assange’s plight; him telling an event on Monday he hadn’t taken leave this year but had done so in April). The apparent false equivalence of referring to Albanese’s criticism of Scott Morrison’s many lies is laughable for any Crikey reader familiar with our dossier of 50 Morrison lies and falsehoods. Speaking of — former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann has admitted he gave “mistaken” evidence to the cops in his interview, the ABC reports. He said he didn’t have any alcohol in Linda Reynolds’ office, but a video played in court showed bottles of alcohol on his older desk that he admitted he would’ve brought to the former defence minister’s office.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
The hum-like drill of dolphins echolocating was in an aural dance with the gargantuan clock-like ticks of sperm whales, and Chris Watson was distraught. The wildlife sound recordist could not hear what he longed for — the haunting wails of the blue whale through the waters of the Seychelles in the vast Indian Ocean. He was part of a research team that fixed a sound trap to the seabed complete with microphone, batteries and recording devices. It captured a quarter of every hour, while on the surface Watson would spend hours a day listening to a hydrophone — an underwater microphone — that dangled deep into the water. The largest mammal on earth was devastatingly absent. It’s no wonder. In a single year during the 1930s, as the BBC tells it, whalers killed about 30,000 blue whales, according to the International Whaling Commission, and then the Soviet whaling fleet nearly wiped them out in the 1960s.
After the year was done, a crestfallen Watson and his team retrieved their seabed recording device with heavy hearts. But some analysis in the sound lab revealed nothing short of a miracle. Blue whales were there, and they were calling to each other using their signature low-frequency song — not detectable by the human ear. What we can typically hear is the higher frequency harmonics — it’s the loudest noise in the animal kingdom and the equivalent of a jet engine in the air. That allows blue whales to effectively yell out over thousands of kilometres, though it’s not an amazing seduction technique. But that’s exactly what they were doing — most of the singing detected by Watson took place in March and April and “they sing during the breeding season”… meaning the Seychelles could be a new breeding or nursery area for the blue whale.
Hoping you feel a sense of awe about it all today, and have a restful weekend.
There’s a body positivity movement, right, that has emerged. My concern as a health professional is that … it’s normalising weight gain in young women and then this can lead to cascading problems, particularly when they become pregnant, and they gain weight during that pregnancy and then they’re unable to shift that weight and that just leads to other problems later in life.
If the Victorian Labor MP thinks being comfortable with your body could cause problems, wait until she hears about bulimia and anorexia nervosa, the re-emergence of “heroin chic” in fashion and pop culture, people abusing the diabetes drug Ozempic to the point of shortages, the damaging and sometimes deadly consequences of fat phobia, and the insidious lifelong discomfort of being quietly trained to loathe one’s body.
“For reasons that are unclear, Nine newspapers are also backing this, with both stories and editorials hyping moral panic over children accessing pornography and backing ‘papers please’ requirements for adult sites. The story resulting from Sakkal’s question was thus labelled ‘Minister puts trust in porn industry to shield children from harm’.
“Sounds like ‘you can’t trust the porn industry’ is the preferred angle of attack from Nine newspapers — a strange argument to make given they support mandating handing key identity documents to that industry. Perhaps they haven’t quite thought that one through?”
“As we noted at the time, ARC (which also boasts our former deputy PM John Anderson on the advisory council) attracted a wide variety of conservative luminaries — indeed we wonder if former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce was influenced by any of the intellectual currents he encountered there when he was moved to today share his thoughts about the assassination of JFK.
“They were also joined by our last PM Scott Morrison, Liberal MPs Angus Taylor, Andrew Hastie, James Paterson and Dan Tehan, and former NSW premier Dominic Perrottet. But who else? … lonesome Yes campaigner Julian Leeser was a more surprising attendee. Then there was …”
“The 12 months covered in the latest tax report include substantial economic disruption from the latter stages of the pandemic, so it’s understandable that companies such as Qantas, Sydney Airport, Stockland and Wilson Parking reported no profits and paid no tax for the year.
“But overall, the BCA membership reported a total income of $927 billion, up $200 billion from pandemic-dominated 2020-21, and $200 billion in taxable income, compared with $164.4 billion the previous year. But taxes paid only increased from $38.6 billion to $44.4 billion. That means the average tax paid across the 100 or so BCA members fell from 23.5% to just over 22%.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
The government will underwrite risky investments in renewables — here’s why that’s a good idea — Tony Wood (The Conversation): “In principle, it’s a good idea for two reasons. First, it provides a much greater level of certainty for investors. Difficulty getting people to invest in the renewable energy sector is one of the reasons why we’re not on track. In this case the government will be paying directly, holding auctions to guarantee a certain revenue for those who invest in these projects. In other policy instruments it’s really the consumer who ends up paying. The way it’s done, through ‘contract the difference’, is pretty sensible, in that the government is only underwriting the risk, rather than the full amount of money. If the revenue the project actually generates in the market is within the agreed range, the government doesn’t pay anything.
“But if the people who invested are not getting the agreed amount of financial return, the government will pay the difference. Or most of the difference anyway, through a formula yet to be worked out — but the government will certainly be contributing towards that difference. On the other hand, it’s not a one-sided arrangement. If the project generates more revenue than the agreed ceiling, that money goes back to the government. So the government’s not signing up to an open cheque book. Second, this approach puts all the responsibility for reliability of the grid in the hands of the states.”
Justice for the Palestinians and Security for Israel — Bernie Sanders (The New York Times) ($): “Let’s be clear: this is not going to happen on its own. Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party was explicitly formed on the premise that ‘between the Sea and the Jordan [river] there will only be Israeli sovereignty’, and the current coalition agreement reinforces that goal. This is not just ideology. The Israeli government has systematically pursued this goal. The last year saw record Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, where more than 700,000 Israelis now live in areas that the United Nations and the United States agree are occupied territories. They have used state violence to back up this de facto annexation. Since October 7, the United Nations reports that at least 208 Palestinians, including 53 children, have been killed by Israeli security forces and settlers. This cannot be allowed to continue.
“Mr Netanyahu has made clear where he stands on these critical issues. So should we. If asking nicely worked, we wouldn’t be in this position. The only way these necessary changes will happen is if the United States uses the substantial leverage we have with Israel. And we all know what that leverage is. For many years, the United States has provided Israel substantial sums of money — with close to no strings attached. Currently, we provide $3.8 billion a year. President Biden has asked for $14.3 billion more on top of that sum and asked Congress to waive normal, already-limited oversight rules. The blank cheque approach must end. The United States must make clear that while we are friends of Israel, there are conditions to that friendship and that we cannot be complicit in actions that violate international law and our own sense of decency.”
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)
Writers André Dao, George Haddad, Leah Jing McIntosh, Jo Riccioni and Andrew Sutherland will speak at the 2023 Small Press Network Book of the Year Award at The Wheeler Centre.
Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)
Comic artist Sarah Firth will talk about her debut graphic novel, Eventually Everything Connects, at Better Read Than Dead bookshop.