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Strife of the party

A UNITED FRONT

Several United Australia Party (UAP) election candidates have reportedly faced criminal proceedings in court, and “the most serious cases involve nine endorsed UAP candidates” writes The Australian ($). These proceedings include “unlawful assault, domestic violence, stalking, burglary, intentional destruction of property, trafficking of a controlled drug, medium-range drink-driving, and custody of a knife in a public place”, The Australian ($) says. Indeed three candidates are before the courts right now — one for a police apprehended violence order (AVO), the paper adds. When the Oz ($) put this to the UAP’s parliamentary leader (and ex-Liberal) Craig Kelly, he described candidates as the “highest-calibre people I’ve met in my life”. It comes as Kelly told Sky News on Monday it was “theoretically possible” he could become our next prime minister as the party campaign material suggests (ABC election oracle Antony Green says it’s impossible because Kelly won’t win his seat). The chance of the UAP winning any seats is low — but voter preferences going to the Coalition (as they did in Queensland in 2019) can change things. Indeed the SMH says both the Coalition and Labor will need to rely on preferences, with a third of Australians voting for others, a poll this morning suggests.

Speaking of candidates under scrutiny, Labor’s candidate for Parramatta Andrew Charlton will vote in Wentworth this weekend after he revealed his family is yet to move from their $16 million Bellevue Hill home, the SMH reports. The former economic adviser to Kevin Rudd told 2GB he’s been staying in his new Parramatta home most nights and moving “takes time”. Charlton’s Liberal rival Maria Kovicic was like, does it really matter? She’s voting in the Berowra electorate because she lives outside Parramatta’s electoral boundary and says the most important thing is how well you know the area you want to represent. Meanwhile, there are calls for Liberal candidate for Swan Kristy McSweeney to fess up about her big tobacco work — last week, under parliamentary privilege, it was revealed she’d done PR work for vaping and easing poison classifications on liquid nicotine with the TGA, The Age reports. The paper says McSweeney advocated for relaxed vaping and e-cigarette laws during a March 2018 interview on Sky News.

QUAD GOALS

If Labor wins Saturday’s election, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says he will go to the Quadrilateral meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday after being sworn in as leader immediately. He made the comments in an interview with The Australian ($), where he added that if Saturday’s result was not decisive, he’d ask to send a Labor representative with Prime Minister Scott Morrison (who would remain leader during that limbo period). So what’s the Quad meeting anyway? It’s a security discussion between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, and it’s particularly important right now considering the Solomon Islands and China are cosying up together — should Albanese win, no doubt Labor’s policy agenda for $470 million in foreign aid would also be a topic of conversation.

It comes as Albanese’s opposition spokesperson for treasury Jim Chalmers has confirmed Labor will reveal larger debts and deficits before the election, saying “quality” spending was key, the AFR reports. We’ll get a look at Labor’s costings tomorrow, but the paper says Labor’s debt will be higher than the Coalition’s — the bottom line could be $20 billion worse off, the government claims, under Albanese. Much of the election media scrum has been badgering Albanese about releasing the numbers tomorrow — even though that’s when the Coalition released its costings in 2019, in 2013, and in 2010. No doubt much will be made of Labor’s books tomorrow (it certainly plays into the the Coalition’s fantasy that it is a “better economic manager”) but Chalmers says the $20 billion in Jobkeeper support given to companies that didn’t need it and the $5.5 billion spent on French submarines that will never be built are a compelling counterargument, as The Conversation reports.

COST FOR WORDS

In 2018-2019, when Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce was drought envoy for nine months as a then-backbencher, he racked up $675,000 in total expenses — and submitted reports to Scott Morrison on his work via text messages, Joyce told ABC in 2019. So Guardian Australia FOI’d the text messages — the prime minister’s office (PMO) retorted that it would take too long, but the Australian information commissioner ordered the PMO to do it. Yet the PMO is still blocking the release of the messages supposedly containing the reports, saying they are not “documents of a minister,” Guardian Australia reports.

Speaking of politician oversight, a rare alliance of 31 former judges has backed a stronger federal corruption watchdog and warned we are at risk of the “corrupt exercise of power” if the government does not act, the SMH reports. The open letter also rejected the public criticism of NSW’s ICAC, after Morrison infamously declared the watchdog a “kangaroo court“. The judges called for a commission that can hold hearings and respond to public complaints — Morrison’s self-lauded model falls short of both. Meanwhile, former Liberal candidate Di Sanh Duong allegedly used a $30,000 donation to a hospital to ingratiate himself with controversial Education Minister Alan Tudge (who was then a minister for urban infrastructure), a federal investigator has told a court. The Age reports Duong has been charged with preparing an act of foreign interference after an investigation by spy agency ASIO and the federal police. Yikes.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Last week, a gang of thieves broke into a 300-year-old temple in India. It was a temple dedicated to Lord Balaji, who is believed to be an incarnation of the Hindi god Vishnu. The thieves went straight for the statues, no doubt imagining the pretty penny they’d get for them on the black market. One of the statues was made of Ashtadhatu, a sacred alloy of eight metals: gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron, and mercury, while silver ornaments used to decorate the deities were gleaming nearby. The gang swiped the lot, dragging 16 idols in total out of the sacred temple in Uttar Pradesh and gleefully making off with their loot. Satisfied the next night with their flawless heist, the gang laid down to rest their heads.

Only rest was not to be found — the gang were tormented by vivid nightmares bringing them distress. Then they found they couldn’t eat during their waking hours. On Monday, they couldn’t take it any longer — the group returned 14 of the stolen idols near the house of the temple’s chief priest in the Chitrakoot district, no doubt praying it was the end of the matter. Police inspector Rajiv Singh said they also left behind a confession letter that read: “We have not been able to sleep, eat, and live peacefully. We are fed up with the scary dreams and are returning your valuables.” Evidence of transcendent powers above, or an ode to the power of the simple human conscience? You be the judge, folks.

Wishing you a far more peaceful day ahead.

SAY WHAT?

You don’t hold a hose, you weren’t in your tinnie plucking people off rooftops, you weren’t doing 16-hour days in PPE on COVID wards, you didn’t get enough vaccines soon enough, you didn’t get enough RATs so that we could finally have a holiday interstate for Christmas, and China is set up, based in the Solomons. Do you think maybe you slightly over-egged the part about saving the country?

Tracy Grimshaw

The veteran journalist didn’t miss when she asked the PM about him saying he “saved” the country at his launch party on Sunday, with Grimshaw citing his bushfire gaffe and infamous Hawaiian holiday, the sluggish vaccine rollout, the RAT shortage, and the Solomon Islands’ recent pact with China. A slightly flustered Morrison responded “Well, that’s quite a long list you’ve been able to pull together,” to which one might respond, the credit’s all yours, ScoMo.

CRIKEY RECAP

Once a bulldozer, always a blunt-force machine: the new ScoMo looks pretty much the same as the old one

“Instead, Morrison took credit for Australia’s pandemic response. And perhaps some of that is even justified, but wouldn’t a softer, more inclusive and introspective Morrison Mark II consider what might have been done differently? Or how we could assist those who continue to struggle in the pandemic’s aftermath? So many missed opportunities to show off the new-beaut Morrison Mark II.

“He stuck by his line that he was aware of the China-Solomon Islands deal, but wouldn’t it have been refreshing for him to admit what a genuine regional setback it now presents? Or that the tax system is unwieldy, not fit for purpose and in need of reform, but that he couldn’t promise to fix that in the next three years? It appears Morrison Mark II, like his predecessor, will not cop criticism. Or admit fault. Or even hint at a vulnerability. Morrison Mark I was tough and brash and rammed through, because that’s what the nation needed.”


Women voters stopped Trump from getting a second term. Will they stop Morrison?

Scott Morrison exemplifies such conduct. His understanding of women, and what matters to them, appears confined to what he hears from his wife and daughters. This is a prime minister who, by his own admission, failed to grasp the gravity of sexual assault allegations inside Parliament House until his wife urged him to think about them as a father and how he would react if his girls were attacked.

“A leader who chose International Women’s Day in 2019 to declare that women’s advancement should not occur at men’s expense. A politician who refused to address, or even meet with, the women’s March4Justice last year, instead claiming that he was too busy. A man who quipped that his mates asked him to be special envoy to meet with Pamela Anderson regarding Julian Assange. Small wonder he is seen as having a ‘woman problem’.”


The biggest chill: Australia discovers a new way to curb freedom of the press

“The media have erupted in predictable anguish: Nine has had the orders stayed and has promised to appeal, and you won’t find support for the court’s decision anywhere much. The claims that this will chill investigative journalism and is an existential risk to press freedom are for a change not overblown.

“The courts have to perform delicate balancing acts all the time, and the contest between free speech and personal reputation is a particularly challenging one. It is true that, once published, dirt never quite goes away. In very rare cases, there is a good argument for preventing the defamation before it happens. But going that extra step, allowing an outsider inside the editing suite — wow, that is big.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Libyan rival PM leaves Tripoli after clashes between forces (Al Jazeera)

Buffalo suspect planned attack for months, online posts reveal (The New York Times)

UFOs: Few answers at rare US Congressional hearing (BBC)

UK sets out new law to change post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade (Al Jazeera)

NZ edges towards grim milestone of 1000 COVID deaths. Who and where has it hit hardest? (NZ Herald)

German prosecutors seek 5-year jail term for Nazi guard aged 101 (The Guardian)

Elon Musk says Twitter deal can’t move forward without clarity on fake accounts (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

Biden to host leaders of Sweden and Finland at White House as countries look to join NATO (CNN)

North Korea’s COVID outbreak is continuing to spiral, with more than 1 million suspected infections, state media reported (The New York Times)

Four people killed, several injured in gas explosion near a school in northwest Nigeria (CNN)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Elections used to be about costings. Here’s what’s changedPeter Martin (The Conversation): “The last week of campaigns used to be frantic, behind the scenes. In public, right up until the final week, the leaders would make all sorts of promises, many of them expensive, with nary a mention of the spending cuts or tax increases that would be needed to pay for them. Then, in a ritual as Australian as the stump jump plough, days before the vote the leaders’ treasury spokesman would quietly release pages and pages of costings detailing ‘savings’, which (astoundingly) almost exactly covered what they were spending, meaning they could declare their promises ‘fully funded’.

“It was a trap for oppositions. Whereas governments seeking reelection could have their savings costed by the enormously-well-resourced departments of treasury and finance before campaigns began, oppositions were forced to rely on little-known accounting firms with little background in government budgeting. The errors, usually not discovered until after people voted, were humiliating. In 2010, a treasury analysis of the opposition costings prepared by the Coalition’s treasury spokesman Joe Hockey and finance spokesman Andrew Robb found errors including double counting, booking the gains from a privatisation without booking the dividends that would be lost, and purporting to save money by changing a budget convention.”

Outgoing MP Tim Smith may be incomingStephen Brook and Samantha Hutchinson (The Age): “How soon is too soon for the return of Tim Smith? The state Liberal MP has announced he will leave his lower house seat at the November state election after he drunkenly crashed his car into the fence of a Hawthorn home last October. The Liberal Party preselected former Josh Frydenberg staffer Jess Wilson to take his place. So it is a bit of a stretch to imagine that the outgoing Smith might be incoming at the November election, heading for the state’s upper house.

“Nevertheless, that option is being discussed. Even Winston Churchill’s wilderness years were of a considerable length — 1929 to 1939 — but the political cycle has sped up considerably since then. Smith, 38, resigned from the opposition frontbench after he crashed his six-week-old Jaguar into the Hawthorn family home in late October while twice the legal alcohol limit. He lost his licence for 12 months but agreed to serve out his term. However, party members are mooting a potential position in the upper house. ‘It’s one of the options, but I am not sure if there is anything available,’ a Liberal source said.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Online

  • Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy and Essential Media’s Pete Lewis will unpack the fortnight’s political news in a webinar for the Australia Institute.

  • Photographers Atong Atem, Shannon May Powell, and James J. Robinson will talk about the power and politics of photography at The Wheeler Centre.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Authors Tanja Beer, Linda Hassall, and Julian Meyrick will launch their books Ecoscenography: An Introduction to Ecological Design for Performance, as well as Theatres of Dust: Climate Gothic Analysis in Contemporary Australian Drama and Performance Landscapes and Australia in 50 Plays at Avid Reader bookshop. You can also catch this one online.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • The Grattan Institute’s Danielle Wood, Brendan Coates, Marion Terrill, Tony Wood, and Stephen Duckett will talk about policy priorities for the next government at the State Library of Victoria.