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Emma Elsworthy

Secrecy law reforms shield journalists


Former Coalition attorney-general Christian Porter’s rule that journalists could not be prosecuted for secrecy offences without him personally signing off will be enshrined in law, Brisbane Times ($) reports, as part of sweeping new reforms. Criminal liability would no longer apply to 168 of 875 secrecy offences, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says, adding journalists should never be jailed for “doing their jobs”. Dreyfus says the Albanese government believes in supporting “strong and independent media” — and as you subscribe to Crikey, Worm reader, it’s clear you probably do too. So thanks for being here. Porter’s rule came after the cops raided both the ABC and then-News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s home in two separate and frankly Orwellian incidents.

But public servants who breach confidentiality and cause “public harm” will get their very own criminal offence, the paper adds. It’s per a review Dreyfus commissioned, which suggested the courts should be a last resort after civil and administrative penalties. So what could constitute public harm? If it risked the protection of security and defence of Australia, or life and physical safety, the paper says. It comes as whistleblower David McBride’s team will hear a sentencing date today after the former military lawyer pleaded guilty. The Conversation has a cracking explainer that delves into the years-long saga that began when he gave the ABC info that would become its “Afghan Files” series. To another whistleblower now, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s dad spoke at a pro-ceasefire rally in Melbourne this week, SBS reports. “Rage, a hunger for justice [has] swept around the globe and embraced every human being that is sentient enough to have sympathy for another,” John Shipton said.


Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian could be Optus’ next CEO after Kelly Bayer Rosmarin walked, the SMH ($) says, but parent company Singtel will probably need a successful appeal against the ICAC corruption finding to appoint her to the top job (Berejiklian is managing director of Optus’ enterprise and business services unit). From the corruption watchdog to the corporate one, and ASIC has warned it’s going after environmental investment posers, the AFR ($) reports, with “constant, targeted and ambitious litigation”. Investment funds claiming something is sustainable when it isn’t is harming consumers because they are unwittingly making “misinformed” investment decisions or paying a bogus green premium… and that threatens the integrity of the climate action market. You can dob in suspected greenwashing funds at ASIC.

To the ACCC now and Labor is rewriting the country’s corporate merger rules to give the watchdog more power to block deals between companies, The Australian ($) reports. Right now businesses can merge without checking with the ACCC, which means it has to go to court to unpick deals. That would change for firms over a “certain size”, the paper says, which would need clearance. From business to workers, and a landmark ruling has determined an employee cannot work from home full-time, not even for parenting and health reasons. It’s the first test of the Labor government’s new secure jobs-better pay workplace laws, 7News reports, that say a worker can appeal a boss’ decision to deny flexible work.


Lobby groups working for our food stores and petrol pumps both refused to tell a Senate inquiry how much cash they cop from big tobacco, Guardian Australia reports. The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) represents petrol stations and convenience stores, while Master Grocers Australia (MGA) represents grocery shops. Before speaking at the tobacco and vaping reform inquiry, both were told to lay out any conflict of interest. But AACS and MGA — which supported campaigns against plain packaging reforms, mind you — hid behind “confidentiality expectations” as their reason to not ’fess up. The paper notes MGA has direct access to politicians via its golden ticket, the Parliament House pass — Crikey explains “the orange passes allow holders to roam the building freely and visit politicians’ offices unannounced”.

To other health news, and we’re getting new COVID vaccines targeting Omicron subvariants next month, the SMH ($) reports. Health Minister Mark Butler said ATAGI has approved the XBB.1.5 vaccines (Pfizer’s for people over five, Moderna’s for those over 12). If you’re over 75 or have medical co-morbidities and haven’t been vaxxed this year, this one is for you, ATAGI added. Speaking of COVID, more than 175,000 international students and temporary workers are having their stays in Australia extended under a COVID-era permit (subclass 408), The Australian ($) reports, while more than 100,000 pandemic working visas have been given out in the past four months. The permit will permanently shut down (as in, not take any new applications) in February, however.


Richard Price was sitting, hand outstretched, on the dirty floor at a Long Island animal adoption centre during his lunch hour. A small, shy tuxedo cat was hovering, eyeballing his hand. She secretly longed for a nice stroke on her back, perhaps a wee chin tickle, but humans had not always been kind. Still, he’d been back a few times, and the former feral decided to take a chance on love. “It just sort of won my heart over,” Price remembers of his early meetings with his beloved Mimi, as Stuff tells it. She’d settled in nicely when Price and his wife decided to take a short holiday, leaving her with a family member. Whether she’d decided to brave the wilderness to find her Price or just wanted to go on the road again was anyone’s guess — but Mimi dashed out the door and was gone.

Price searched for her for a year, plastering the neighbourhood, frequenting animal shelters and even peering hopefully at feral cat colonies — to no avail. In the decade since, Price and his wife relocated to Valencia in Spain with three new adopted cats — Patch, Tiny and Groot. But the small hole in his heart had not healed — until a phone call from a New York number asked him if he’d owned a black-and-white cat. Mimi was alive and well. Then another call: a young woman named Julia Ray had fed and even set up a heated cat house for the stray — when she’d decided to sell her home, she considered writing a condition that Mimi would need to be fed by the new owners. Fortunately, an animal shelter had picked her up, twigged it was that missing cat from 10 years ago and called Price. He’s flying home to the US next month to bring her back to Spain. Mimi will probably hide at first, he says, but he knows she’ll walk towards his hand again.

Hoping you find something you’d feared lost today.


Just what we need — a ‘school strike for Palestine’ on Thursday. How many of these lecturing children could even find Gaza on a map?

Andrew Bolt

The conservative commentator appears to argue that a child is not allowed to care about the loss of innocent life — including a reported 5,500 slain Gazan kids — if their cartography is not at an advanced level, or something.


Francesca Albanese on Australian media’s Gaza blind spots and accepting a reporter’s apology

UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine Francesca Albanese (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

“Asked about the viral moments from her National Press Club address, particularly a question from Guardian Australia’s foreign affairs and defence correspondent Daniel Hurst, Albanese said she held no ill will towards Hurst and thought he had been unfairly treated in the online storm that surrounded the clip …

“”[His] was an honest article, and it did reflect the things that we said, unlike another article’. Pressed on the other article in question, Albanese pointed to her interview with the Nine papers’ Matthew Knott, which was headlined ‘Israel should make peace with Hamas, top UN expert on Palestine says’ … She believes he ‘manipulated’ her words.”

Gawenda’s call for censorship of activists is alarming, incoherent and betrays journalism


“No other open letters seem to have drawn any comment from him. Not the open letter signed by some of Australia’s most prominent journalists a couple of months ago condemning the government’s treatment of whistleblowers. Nor the one two years ago calling for the Chinese regime to release Australian journalist Cheng Lei.

“Nor one in 2019 in the wake of police raids on Annika Smethurst and the ABC. Nor one signed by an array of journalists against the Turnbull government’s consideration of privatising the ASIC company database. Nor, for that matter, one that I and Lizzie O’Shea coordinated about Julian Assange in 2011, which was signed by several prominent broadcasters and journalists.”

Fake Mecca scam ads show ‘something going wrong’ with Facebook and Instagram ad platform


“It was, in fact, too good to be true. The advertisement from ‘MECCA AU’ — which used the real Mecca logo and styling — was promoting posts from an otherwise blank Facebook page with three followers. The ‘Shop Now’ button led to a convincing but fake website at, which was nearly identical to Mecca’s real website.

“The website takes your order and payment details but no goods are ever delivered. It’s a scam … The website is one of dozens of fraudulent store websites from Australian retailers found by Crikey. Each of them uses the same tactic: clone a company’s website, create a blank Facebook page, use Meta’s advertising platform to target fans of companies with the promise of cheap sales …”


Shift away from fossil fuels now or face nearly 3C warming by century’s end: UN (CBC)

Nuclear-armed submarine suffered malfunction (BBC)

OpenAI appoints new boss as Sam Altman joins Microsoft in Silicon Valley twist (Reuters)

Is incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon likely to scrub te reo Māori from official government use? (Stuff)

Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv in ‘very important signal’ — Ukraine

Who is Argentina’s controversial new chainsaw president, Javier Milei? (euronews)


In defence of Kelly Bayer RosmarinTony Shepherd (The Australian) ($): “Bayer Rosmarin is an intelligent and articulate leader who has increased Optus’ market share and achieved a record high level of staff engagement. It’s a shame to lose an executive of that capability from a major Australian company. What’s clear is that some politicians rather seem to enjoy the opportunity to grandstand and attack business; as a tactic it distracts the community from the real problems of inflation, cost of living, housing shortages, the costly energy transition, the difficult transition of interest rates back to a normal level and the mounting cost of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, where the penchant for milking the system seems to be in full flight.

“We also have to put things in perspective. Your mobile was out for 12 hours. It was not the end of the world as the other mobile, broadband and landline systems were operating. I shouted a coffee to a bloke I didn’t know because I had cash and the card machine wasn’t working. We can always find a way. In the old days telephone landline outages were common and it was treated as normal. Australia used to be known for its resilience, its capacity to improvise and help each other to get through a crisis, as we do in regional Australia with bushfires and floods. Modern Australia, especially in its urban areas, now appears to be richer in whingers than the so-called whinging Poms of old, who now look like paragons of virtue and patience.”

Australia’s connected to three wars, but only one of them will be measured in decades — Peter Hartcher (the SMH) ($): “First, the war whose duration is to be measured in months, the war between Israel and Hamas. And though it is dreadful, there is some unambiguously good news. A month and a half on, it’s become clear that Hamas’ great enabler and sponsor, Iran, is choosing not to escalate the war. Through its many proxies, Tehran points multiple cannons at Israel’s heart, from many directions. Yet, so far, it has chosen to fire only one — the terrorist guerrilla army of Hamas. Some of Iran’s other proxies are active in attacking Israel, but it’s largely token. Despite frequent threats of escalation against Israel, they are holding fire on their full capabilities.

“It’s awful enough that many thousands of civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, have been killed in this conflict. But many more, perhaps hundreds of thousands, would be killed if the ayatollahs issued the attack order to Iran’s other proxies — Hezbollah in Lebanon, militias in Syria, units in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen. And, of course, the danger would be even more extreme if Iran itself attacked Israel directly. Why is Iran holding back? The ayatollahs frequently vow to drive all Jews into the sea. Why not strike while Israel is under pressure? US deterrence must be a factor. Joe Biden deployed two aircraft carrier battle groups and a submarine to deter Iranian aggression. But it’s also true that Tehran judges the Hamas attack on Israel a success. Hamas’ terrorism goaded Israel into an overreaction. The continuing mass deaths of Palestinian children is distressing the world.”



Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler will speak about Medicare’s future on the eve of its 40th anniversary at the Park Hyatt.

  • Writer André Dao will give the Writers Victoria’s annual State of the (Writing) Nation address at The Wheeler Centre.

Whadjuk Noongar Country (also known as Perth)

  • Former UK House of Lords member Matt Ridley and the Centre for Independent Studies’ Peter Kurti will talk about climate, health and energy policies at the Novotel Perth. Or watch this one online.

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