And on that note, I am, as Murph would say, going to ground the plane.

A very big thank you to everyone who helped me limp along today – Mike Bowers, Katharine Murphy, Sarah Martin and Paul Karp chief among them, as well as everyone else in the Guardian brains trust, including the moderators, for all they do.

And of course, to you, for all the light and shade you bring to Politics Live.

We’ll be back early tomorrow morning. In the meantime – take care of you.

Someone entered the word “fondles” into the Hansard for the first time, and that person needs to take a good hard look at themselves and their life choices.

(This Twitter account tweets each time a new word is entered into the parliamentary record. There is no context, which makes it amusing at the best of times)


— AUHansard_said (@auhansard_said) February 24, 2020


None of the Islamist groups we have ever been briefed on as threats to Australians could be described as “left wing” and are not so described by any of the agencies in any material I have seen. There are specific references to “extreme right wing” threats.

— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyofEM) February 25, 2020

And from Asio itself:

The communal violence threat environment in Australia

While Sunni Islamist extremism is the primary terrorist threat facing Australia, other groups continue to engage in politically motivated violence and the promotion of communal violence. These groups are diverse and have differing agendas, including extreme right-wing and extreme left-wing ideologies. Small subsets of individuals in these groups are willing to use violence to further their own interests. While their activities are concerning, they remain a small part of their broader movements and are presently unlikely to lead to wide-scale violence or pose a threat to social cohesion.

Violence at protests in Australia is rare, and the vast majority of protest attendees are peaceful and support Australia’s democratic ideals. Social discourse around anti-Islam and anti-migration issues has increased, and public protests have become more frequent. These protests provide an opportunity for ideological adversaries to converge, and sporadic violence can result. Recently, violence at protests has mostly comprised small-scale clashes between right-wing and left-wing opponents at anti-Islam protests, or protesters targeting police maintaining public order.

Other groups with overseas separatist agendas are represented in Australia, but their membership is small and their influence is limited. Activities in support of overseas issues are mostly confined to fundraising and ideological support.

You’ll notice there that extreme leftwing terrorism is mentioned separately, to Islamist extremism and are included in the sentence starting with OTHER groups.


Anne Aly, who was a counter-terrorism expert before she entered parliament responded to Peter Dutton’s comments that left-wing terrorism was Islamic terrorism:

The US has upgraded the threat of right wing terrorism.

In Germany a right wing terrorist attack has led to an increase in their threat levels

And in Australia the head of ASIO has repeated that there is an increased threat from right wing extremists.

So which part of right wing extremists does the Minister not understand?

He lined up to lecture Muslim communities about calling out violent jihadism calling it Islamic terrorism. Well now it’s his turn to practice what he preached. Will the minister stand side by side with our law enforcement agencies and call out right wing extremism? I’m not holding my breath.

The day, as seen by Mike Bowers:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy at a press conference
Prime minister Scott Morrison, treasurer Josh Frydenberg, health minister Greg Hunt and chief medical officer Brendan Murphy at a press conference. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Barnaby Joyce
When the self-awareness hits. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Anthony Albanese
Then you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
The coalition, Greens and Independents vote with Labor on a motion to strip Bettina Arndt of her Australia Day honour, only Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts voted against the motion in the senate
The Coalition, Greens and independents vote with Labor on a motion calling for Bettina Arndt to be stripped of her Australia Day honour, only Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts voted against the motion in the Senate. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Well. Today has taken a turn I did not see coming.

Did anyone have ‘the home affairs minister defines leftwing terrorism as Islamic terrorism’ on their #auspol bingo card?


Kristina Keneally, speaking Patricia Karvelas, says she is going to be “generous” and “say perhaps the minister didn’t quite understand the question you were posing”.

Because if I can reflect to your viewers, that Asio itself makes quite clear that Islamic extremism is, it represents a form of terrorist threat.

And that it doesn’t sit upon a left-right continuum.

We need to rely upon the advice of our national security agencies here.

And as was outlined quite clearly last night in a public address to the nation, that Australia does continue to face a significant threat, it is as probable, as he described, a probable threat of terrorist attack in Australia and he pointed to the two sources that he identifies.

… One being Islamic extremism and it is important to note that that is an extreme form of Islam, not all, of course, adherents of Islam, that needs to be made clear.

As well as the, as the director-general pointed out, the growing threat of rightwing extremism in Australia


When the Senate gets it right, by Mike Bowers.

The coalition, Greens and Independents vote with Labor on a motion to strip Bettina Arndt of her OAM, with One Nation opposing the motion
The Coalition, Greens and independents vote with Labor on a motion calling for Bettina Arndt to be stripped of her OAM, with One Nation opposing the motion. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Peter Dutton didn’t make a mistake when he raised the Islamic reference – here was the earlier question and answer on that topic:

Patricia Karvelas: You have been criticised today for referring to leftwing extremism as well as rightwing extremism. Mike Burgess mentioned rightwing extremism about six times in this speech on threats to Australia. Jenny McAllister raised where did you get your advice on using leftwing extremism given he didn’t mention it?

Peter Dutton:

You can use Islamic extremist, you get in trouble for using that, you can use leftwing to describe everybody from the left to the right.

I said today I don’t care where people are on the spectrum, if they pose a threat to our country and want to do harm to Australians then they are in our sights.

I am completely blind to where people are on the spectrum.

I just find it such a semantic and nonsense debate if people are involved in a right-wing organisation, they are planning an attack, they are acting outside of the law, they will be treated no differently than somebody who is an Islamic extremist that is planning an attack in the same way.


Peter Dutton defines 'leftwing terrorism' as Islamic terrorism

Patricia Karvelas:

When you refer to leftwing terrorism do you mean the Islamic groups?

Peter Dutton:

Yes, I do and anybody in between. I don’t care whether they’re neo-Nazis or they’re part of some cell that’s been involved in a fight in the Middle East or trying to recruit people onshore or fund raise onshore.

These are all people that Asio have been interest in and the fact that they have been able to thwart the number of attempts that they have, the fact that they have been able to make arrests and conduct investigations as recently as you point out today indicates that we have a very, very real problem.

We have a problem, big problem, with foreign interference as well in our country. We’re making sure that we can support the agencies to deal with that threat so that we can keep Australians safe.

Islamic terrorists groups are motivated by religion, not, to my knowledge, leftwing political ideals.


Patricia Karvelas pushes Peter Dutton on Afternoon Briefing to explain why he brought up “leftwing” terrorism when Mike Burgess did not mention it.

You can use Islamic extremist, you get in trouble for using that, you can use left wing to describe everybody from the left to the right.

I said today I don’t care where people are on the spectrum, if they pose a threat to our country and want to do harm to Australians then they are in our sights.

I am completely blind to where people are on the spectrum. I just find it such a semantic and nonsense debate if people are involved in a rightwing organisation, they are planning an attack, they are acting outside of the law, they will be treated no differently than somebody who is an Islamic extremist that is planning an attack in the same way.

That has been the approach that I have always taken. I think it is such a juvenile distraction.

The director-general of Asio pointed out, not just this director-general either, Duncan Lewis before him, the fact that ASIO has been concentrating on rightwing extremist lunatic groups and individuals for literally decades.

I just don’t understand why we get bogged down in this language. The bigger issue here is the threat that we face and what we are doing about it and that was the subject of Mr Burgess’ speech last night.


On the flip side, the government, Labor, and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation are all opposing this motion from Sarah Hanson-Young at the moment:

I shall move that the Senate:

1. Notes:

a. The New South Wales Government has lifted its moratorium on floodplain harvesting and water pumping;

b. Water from recent rains has not yet made it down the river and there are still towns without drinking water, dry catchments and storages and fish species facing collapse;

c. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority says it is too early to say whether all storages will receive water or if flows will be enough to connect the rivers;

d. The Queensland Government has also allowed floodplain harvesting which was criticised by the NSW Government;

e. Upstream Basin states making decisions that only benefit them puts the entire river system in jeopardy;

f. The Murray-Darling Basin is on the verge of collapse and family farms, river communities and the environment need national leadership.

2. Calls on the NSW Government to reinstate the moratorium on floodplain harvesting and water pumping.

This is the next step in this

Pauline Hanson & One Nation the lone voices defending the atrocious victim blaming comments of Bettina Arndt. Yet more reason she is not appropriate to be the Deputy Chair of the Family Law Inquiry. I’ve written to my fellow Fam Law Committee members today asking for her removal.

— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) February 25, 2020

Malcolm Roberts being put in charge of counting two people may be the greatest contribution he has made to Senate business, in his entire career

Malcolm Roberts just had the easiest counting job the Senate has ever seen.

Ayes: 55


Every single senator, except One Nation are voting for this motion.

One Nation, like the cheese, sit alone.

Government to support motion to strip Bettina Arndt of OAM

This isn’t surprising, given where government MPs have been on this for days now.

The Coalition will support Labor's motion condemning Bettina Arndt and calling for her to be stripped of her Order of Australia. Pauline Hanson says One Nation will oppose it #auspol

— Tom McIlroy (@TomMcIlroy) February 25, 2020

Pauline Hanson has used the Queensland police as her cover.

More information: Labor says the motion is carefully written to not criticise the Queensland police. The government says politicians shouldn't be able to strip honours #auspol

— Tom McIlroy (@TomMcIlroy) February 25, 2020

Jim Chalmers on Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg walking back expectations for a surplus that they created themselves:

The surplus is a test that they set for themselves and it remains to be seen whether they will meet that test.

We won’t know until the end of September whether there has been a surplus for the year that we’re in now.

The Government promised a surplus in its first year and every year after that. So far they’ve only delivered six deficits.

They are yet to deliver that first surplus they promised all those years ago. The priority should be supporting bushfire affected communities, businesses and workers and families.

We’ve said for some weeks now that that should be the highest priority. The surplus is a test that they set for themselves and it remains to be seen whether they will meet it. I listened carefully to what the Treasurer and Prime Minister said today about the Budget.

I think what we’re seeing is the usual predictable, clumsy, ham-fisted expectation management from the Treasurer who seems to wander around expecting a pat on the back for an outcome that has not yet been realized.

We will see if it’s realised in September.

The New Zealand minister for Māori development has released this statement:

Minister for Māori Development and Associate Minister for Trade and Export Growth Hon Nanaia Mahuta and Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP will this week sign a collaboration arrangement to deepen the Trans-Tasman working relationship on indigenous issues.

It is believed to be the first standalone bilateral arrangement of its kind in the world and aims to promote economic, social and cultural advancement between New Zealand and Australia.

The Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement signing between the two Ministers will be held on Friday 28 February at:

· 12:30-12:40pm (TBC) at the residence of the Australian Governor General Admiralty House, 109 Kirribilli Ave, Kirribilli NSW 2061, Sydney, Australia

This is coming up in the next 15 minutes or so (from Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong:)

I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move that the Senate:

  1. Notes that:
    1. On the same day that Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said it was inappropriate to suggest the murder of a woman and her children by her husband could be an instance of a husband being driven too far, Ms Bettina Arndt, who received an Order of Australia honour in January, nonetheless said”keeping an open mind and awaiting proper evidence, including the possibility that Rowan Baxter might have been driven too far.”
    2. The statement of Ms Arndt has the potential to bring the Order of Australia, instituted by Her Majesty The Queen, into disrepute.
    3. Order of Australia awards are a privilege and an honour and come with responsibilities.
  1. Agrees that:
    1. Ms Arndt’s comments are reckless and abhorrent.
    2. The values that underpin Ms Arndt’s views on this horrific family violence incident are not consistent with her retaining her Order of Australia.


Question time ends.

Richard Marles to Melissa Price:

Is the minister’s so-called announcement of a 60% Australian industry content on the future submarine contained in any contract between the Australian government and Naval Group?


I recall standing here over a week ago where I clearly outlined that, in the contract, we are in the design phase, and at the end of the design phase we will then be in a position to agree what the AIC contribution was going to be

But good news: it’s a great opportunity to talk about it. The good news is that now we have, our own minister for defence, has now met with her French counterpart.

And now they have agreed that the AIC in the submarine contract will be no less than 60%.

That is good news, Mr Speaker.

But what my job, and what our job is on this side of the House, is to make sure that we maximise.

Because that is the contractual objective in the contract. We will work hard to ensure that it’s beyond 60%. I repeat, once the design phase is finished, we will then progress to that. But this is incredibly good news and I’m disappointed that the deputy leader of the opposition does not see it for what it is.


Meryl Swanson to Scott Morrison:

Prime Minister, the community of Williamtown and surrounds in my electorate has been deeply affected by PFAS contamination.

When will the prime minister release the government’s response to the report into PFAS contamination, which was tabled in this parliament in December 2018?


And I thank the member for her question on this very important matter. As you would be aware, the issues surrounding PFAS have been going back over many, many government administrations. They go back over many ...

Over this government’s administration, over the previous government’s administration, and many more beyond that, Mr Speaker.

This government decided to actually take action on this issue. And as the member would be aware, we are currently engaged in mediation with the parties.


Richard Marles to Melissa Price:

My question is again to the minister for defence industry: can the minister explain why she counts the work of French language school Adelaide’s Alliance Francaise as local content?

These questions are based on this story from the Australian, published last week:

Defence says contracts for a French language school, a­Barossa Valley resort and the management consultancy that employs former defence minister Christopher Pyne are evidence of Australian industry involvement in the nation’s $80bn Future Submarines program.

Defence released a list of 137 “subcontractors” to the submarine project last week to placate local firms after French company Naval Group warned that Australian suppliers might not get 50% of the subs’ contracts.

But the list includes just six defenc­e equipment suppliers and 28 engineering or technical services firms, while only about 50 are Australian-owned and operated.

The list is dominated by general­ services businesses, including­ accountants, travel agents, lawyers, recruiters, hotels, and fleet managers.

Price says there are a lot of small- and medium-sized businesses that will benefit from the submarine contract.

She finishes with this:

We are committed to the submarine program, on time, on budget, and on spec.

It’s already delayed, and the costs have already blown out.


Vincent Connelly continues to be possessed by the ghost of a community theatre thespian who was doomed to serve as a stage hand and spent every performance in the wings, acting out the lead actor’s lines.

Richard Marles to Melissa Price:

Can the minister explain why she counts nights in the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort as Australian industry content for the future submarines?

Narrator: she could not.

Peter Dutton in the “How safe are you” dixer once again “both sides” the terrorism threat.

Mike Burgess mentioned “rightwing extremism” six times in his annual speech on threats to Australia. He did not mention “leftwing” extremism or terrorism at all.

And yet:


Whether it’s the United Kingdom, the United States, France, anywhere in the world where we’ve seen these people act out, there is the capacity for these people, whether they’re on the right wing, whether they’re on the left wing, anywhere in between – it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, Mr Speaker.

The fact is that we will deal with that threat, and we will make sure of that ...

Well, it’s funny that the Labor party should interject, because they cut money from Asio. And if you think we’re going to take a lecture from those people who, on 19 occasions, when we’ve introduced legislation to support Asio and the federal police, they’ve opposed it, Mr Speaker.

Or they’ve sought to water it down. And when they were in government, they cut money from Asio.

So, I don’t take a lecture from the Labor party. They want the public to believe that there is no difference between the Labor party and the Coalition when it comes to border protection or national security. They are weak on both. And we know that the previous leader of the opposition was particularly weak when it came to border protection.This guy, with his glass jaw, takes the cake. Watch him in question time. He has a glass jaw and he demonstrates it every day.


Australian defence force inspector general investigating unlawful killings allegations

The inspector general of the Australian defence force’s 2018-19 annual report has been tabled in the Senate and reveals new details of the investigation it has been conducting into Australian special forces’ conduct in Afghanistan.

After interviewing 338 witnesses, the inspector general has revealed “there were 55 separate incidents or issues under inquiry covering a range of alleged breaches of the law of armed conflict, predominantly unlawful killings of persons who were non-combatants or were no longer combatants, but also ‘cruel treatment’ of such persons”.

It said:

The inquiry is also examining incidents relevant to the organisational, operational and cultural environment which may have enabled the alleged law of armed conflict breaches. The inquiry is not focused on decisions made during the ‘heat of battle’. Rather, its focus is the treatment of persons who were clearly non-combatants or who were no longer combatants.”

The inspector general said the inquiry “is now approaching the final stages of evidence-taking”.

The inspector general described its task as “very difficult” because the investigation was prompted by “vague rumours” of wrongdoing and it had taken time to gain the confidence of special forces who have spent their career “in an environment in which secrecy is treated as fundamental”.

The inspector general has committed to report to the chief of the defence force with a conclusion about whether the laws of armed conflict were breached.

It suggested this might provide “closure” to serving and former soldiers and special operations command “by exposing past misconduct where appropriate to do so, enabling it to be considered separate from but informing the present and future development of the command”.


Scott Morrison:

I was referring specifically to the report I cited in my earlier answer. In that report, it says, “In one instance, ministers explicitly decided to waive the project eligibility criteria for an application they wish to fund. The awarding of funding to projects also disproportionately favoured ALP-held seats,” Mr Speaker.

It went on to say, “The minister’s office did not make any records outlining the extent to which each application had been assessed or how the application was ranked in respect to other competing applications.”

Mr Speaker, what I am aware of is that the Leader of the Opposition threw the rule book away when he ran projects for infrastructure when he was the minister.

How dare he come here and throw mud, when he’s covered in it himself?

Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:

My question is to the Prime Minister: And I refer to his misleading of Parliament in a previous answer. Isn’t it a fact that the evidence given by the Australian National Audit Office to the Senate Committee referred to section 4.32 and 4.33 of the Audit Office report that indicate that 272 ineligible projects were funded?

(He got there for this one, with 10 seconds to spare)


I note the member has asked me a question in relation to my earlier answer. And in my earlier answer, I made reference to the Audit Report findings in relation to the program administered by the member for Grayndler, Mr Speaker. So, let me speak a little to those matters.

As he’s introduced that into his question, Mr Speaker. That project, it said in the report, eligibility and compliance checking process was developed by the department, but was abandoned partway through. Its implementation was not replaced with an alternative. “Projects located in electorates held by...

The Labor side of the house gets very loud, and Albanese raises a point of order on relevance.

Tony Smith:

The Leader of the Opposition can resume his seat. I get his gist.

...I’m just going to make two points, because I listened... I don’t like people interjecting. You just saw with the previous question from the member for Mallee, because it’s my job to listen very closely.

Now, the Leader of the Opposition making statements about misleading - you know, that’s a very sort of abject term. And, of course, if he wanted to pursue that, he would need to pursue that by way of a motion of deliberately misleading, which he well knows.

Even asking a question about a minister, or a prime minister, “misleading” does open things up.

That opens things up for a minister or prime minister to defend themselves. That’s the first point.

Defend themselves. And there’s lots of precedent with that. The other thing I listened to very closely, because I have allowed - it is reference to a previous answer, as I have made in previous rulings, that doesn’t... It does open the door, but it doesn’t open it to an extent, as the member for Isaacs discovered, that you can just, by merely stating that, go to any matter you wish to.

But I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister, who said he would refer to that on that basis “a little”. So, I’ve - listening to him, and the Prime Minister is able to do that briefly by way of comparison

Anthony Albanese doesn’t get his question to Scott Morrison out in time:

And I refer to his previous answer, where he again misled the parliament when he said there was nothing in the audit office report that contradicted his previous statement to the parliament.

I refer him to sections 4.32 and 4.33 of the report, which says: “In addition to program ineligibility, this situation suggests, particularly in respect of the eight completed projects so selected for funding under the program may not have required – the Australian government funding to deliver the project ...

So we move on to a dixer.


David Littleproud somehow manages to mess up his own dixer, and is pulled into line by Tony Smith for answering a question he was not asked.

The minister will resume his seat for a second. No, your microphone is off for a sec. I’m just gonna say to the minister, I refer him to what I’ve said about the ability to briefly compare and contrast. I’m glad I listened to the question.

No, I can see the prime minister ... I can tell the prime minister and others, what was actually asked did not include alternatives. And I listened very closely to the question. I have a transcript of it here. Let me be blunt. I’m not sure it was planned, but I know what was asked. And the minister was not asked for alternatives.

So, he needs to confine himself to the question, which was: “Given the significant changes facing the agriculture sector as a result of drought and bushfires, how is the government backing industry during difficult times?” And it ended with the words “difficult times”.


This is still for sale in the Liberal party store

It appears to be as “limited edition” as the surplus itself.


Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:

The prime minister has now had more than one full sitting day to correct his misleading of the parliament that only eligible projects were funded under his sports rorts scheme. Why has he failed to correct the record when the auditor general has given evidence to the Senate that his claim is just not true? That, in fact, 43% is the correct figure?


I thank the member for his questions. And the comments that I made on that matter were made on the basis of the information that was available to me from the ANAO report ... Mr Speaker, that ANAO report, at the time of my making that comment, Mr Speaker, made only one reference – one reference – to ineligible projects, as best as I’m aware, on page nine.

It said: ‘No applications assessed as ineligible were awarded grant funding.’ And that point was reiterated by the ANAO during the committee hearing.

When speaking to the committee on Thursday 13 February, in response to a question from Senator Canavan, “Was there a project that received funding that was assessed as ineligible by Sports Australia?”

Mr Speaker, the answer to that was: “No.

“That’s what the ANAO responded to in relation to that matter. And I would refer the ANAO report to the leader of the opposition, and he will not find in that report anything to contradict the statement that I made at that time, Mr Speaker, relying on that report.

For context, none of the projects Sports Australia put forward were ineligible. But the minister’s office took so long to approve the grants, that by the time funding was awarded (using the ministerial discretion) projects had become ineligible.

And we know that the minister rejected Sports Australia’s recommendations to decide on her own funding priorities. Which were in marginal and targeted seats.

So none of the projects put forward by Sports Australia were ineligible. But that didn’t mean that none of the funded projects were ineligible.


Angus Taylor is playing his favourite game of “cherrypicking the emissions reductions numbers” as a dixer.

Here is what is actually happening:


There are so many backbenchers who unmask themselves as the worst sort of teacher’s pets in their delivery.

Tracy Flick could take lessons.

This afternoon I will move for the Senate to acknowledge the sixth anniversary of Reza Barati's murder on Manus Island, and ask for a minute's silence.

— Nick McKim (@NickMcKim) February 25, 2020

Mark Butler to Scott Morrison:

Is the prime minister critical of the New South Wales government for committing to net-zero emissions by 2050?


We’re working with the NSW government. We’re working with the NSW government. And just a few weeks ago, the premier and I stood together and we agreed a plan, some $2bn, to invest in what is happening in NSW and in Australia, to achieve important targets, Mr Speaker.

And we have a plan. See, that’s the thing, Mr Speaker. That’s what the leader of the opposition doesn’t understand.

He doesn’t have a plan, he just has some sort of vague commitment to something 30 years from now.

See, I’m happy to work with the NSW government, because they have a plan and we have a plan, and together we’re implementing that plan.


Michael McCormack is doing his leadership impersonation, but despite his characterisation of his own reviews, the crowd is not rolling in the aisles.

Needs improvement.


Frydenberg mocks Labor's 'wellbeing budget'

Probably not the smartest attack line, given Scott Morrison’s stated mission to improve mental health, suicide rates, and child welfare in this country.

Josh Frydenberg mocks the “wellbeing budget” Jim Chalmers has spoken on (which has been adopted by New Zealand).

There’s a very innovative approach from the member for Rankin, who likes to tax a lot, Mr Speaker.

His very innovative approach, Mr Speaker, which, when he was burnishing his leadership credentials the other day at the Australia Institute, is to deliver a ‘wellbeing budget’, Mr Speaker. A ‘wellbeing budget’.

Gone are the days of measuring GDP, gone are the days of measuring unemployment, gone are the days of lower taxes and balanced budgets, Mr Speaker. What are you gonna get from the member for Rankin’s ‘wellbeing budget’, Mr Speaker? Double the hugs and triple the taxes, Mr Speaker. Double the hugs and triple the taxes, Mr Speaker.

Now when Labor hasn’t delivered a balanced budget since 1989, when the Berlin Wall was still standing, of course you’ve gotta look for something else to measure, Mr Speaker.

And we know the member for Rankin was co-architect with the member for McMahon in $387bn of higher taxes. Only the Coalition could be trusted to create a stronger economy and more jobs.”

Good to know that the wellbeing of the Australian public is considered such a laughable matter by the treasurer.


Jim Chalmers to Josh Frydenberg:

Why won’t the treasurer admit that since he took over, economic growth has almost halved, wages growth has stalled, consumption growth has weakened, business investment and productivity have declined, underemployment has increased, government debt and household debt have reached new record highs, and that all of this happened before the fires and the coronavirus hit?

“Give us a hug! Come over here for a hug!” Labor MPs yell (I would bet the drawer full of chocolate I have one of these came from Ed Husic.)


Mr Speaker, where’s the member for Rankin when you need a hug in this place, Mr Speaker? Where is the member for Rankin?

He’s sitting across from you, minister.


Now, the member for Rankin mentioned unemployment, Mr Speaker ...

(Yadda, yadda, yadda, when Labor was in power etc ...)

Mr Speaker, I can inform the House that in January of this year, when ... that the IMF has said that Australia’s economic growth will be higher than the United States’, higher than the United Kingdom, higher than France, higher than Germany, higher than Japan, higher than Canada in 2020 and 2021.

Mr Speaker, the facts tell the story that the Australian economy has grown on the Coalition’s watch, Mr Speaker.

More small businesses are being created. More people have found jobs and, importantly, we have delivered lower taxes, Mr Speaker. More than $300bn of lower taxes have passed through the parliament.

Only the Coalition can be trusted to deliver a stronger economy and more jobs.


Josh Frydenberg still doesn’t know how to use a microphone, however he has discovered an octave only dogs can hear, so six of one.

We are back on the “Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches” dixer train and the five molars I have ground down with stress fractures from gritting my teeth so hard over the past couple of years are less painful than this.


Marles and Dutton get into slanging match

Richard Marles and Peter Dutton have a slanging match across the chamber as Scott Morrison finishes that answer, which is as useful as looking for meaning in a Justin Bieber song.


Richard Marles to Scott Morrison:

Last night the director general of Asio said the extreme rightwing threat in Australia is real and it’s growing.

Also last night, the UK government prescribed additional rightwing extremist groups.

Why has the Australian government not listed a single rightwing extremist group as a terrorist organisation?


It is this government that restored the funding to our intelligence agencies, our border protection authorities, that those opposite, when they were in government, stripped out and left Australians vulnerable on their watch.

In 2013, Mr Speaker, this government came to office to keep Australians safe, and no government has invested more and applied itself more to give those who are working on counterterrorism in this country the resources they need to go after those who would seek to do Australians harm.

That includes rightwing extremists, Mr Speaker.

That includes Islamic terrorists – extremist Islamic terrorists, Mr Speaker. Whatever their cause of hate, whatever their motivation to do Australians harm, this government is standing up to them with the resources and the commitments and the legislation and the powers and the tools that those opposite never had the stomach to put in place.

And on each occasion, Mr Speaker, it would seem that every time we’ve sought to get stronger national security legislation achieved in this place, those opposite have sought to water it down.


Scott Morrison is continuing the managing of expectations over the budget surplus it says it has already delivered, but has not – and may not – because of outside influences.

It’s true to say, Mr Speaker, that the Australian people, the Australian economy, has had its fair share of damaging impacts, particularly in recent times and in recent years, Mr Speaker. And we certainly don’t need any more.

We are not immune from these things, but, Mr Speaker, we are well prepared.

And our government, over the course of the last six years, has been ensuring that as we go into these very difficult crises that we have been managing in recent times, that our sensible and disciplined economic management has been putting Australia in the best possible place to deal with these types of crises.

And, Mr Speaker, when we do things in a disciplined and responsible way, we think them through. Where we have goals to create jobs, we have plans to create jobs, and we implement those plans to create jobs, Mr Speaker. When we say and we go to the Australian people and we say we’ve got record funding to put in schools and hospitals and to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we have the careful, disciplined budget management so the Australian people know we can deliver on those commitments, which we are, Mr Speaker.

That’s what careful, disciplined, responsible economic management is based on.”


Question time begins

Chris Bowen to Greg Hunt:

There are Australian survivors, including one pleading with the government to respond to the parliamentary report into Australia thalidomide tragedy before more survivors die. Why hasn’t the prime minister responded to this report which was handed down in March last year?


I’m actually very pleased to receive this question. It’s a matter of extreme importance. No government in the last 50 years has taken it as seriously as us.

Those Australians who suffered from thalidomide and all of the consequences were given a grave injustice.

On my watch, in my time, on our watch, in our time, it is our goal to do what no government has previously done. And that is to ensure that there is justice, that there is an apology, that there is vindication, and that there is support going forward.

I note – I heard an interjection from the member for Maribyrnong. This is an issue for which he did not provision for at the election. Having said that, we are now working very carefully through a once-in-a-generation response to an issue which has not been dealt with previously by any Australian government in any systemic fashion over 50 years.

And we will provide that response in a way that no other government has ever done.

And as I said, I note that, given the opportunity to make a provision for this, the opposition did not.

The member for Maribyrnong, as leader, did not. The shadow minister, as shadow treasurer, did not.

But we will take steps to do what no government has ever done, and we are working through that calmly and carefully and appropriately to deliver justice to those thalidomide victims who have never before been given that justice.

You’ll note that Hunt just blamed the opposition for not coming up with a response to a report it has had, as the government, since March last year.


It’s the downhill slide to QT.

Today’s topics should be a pretty easy guess.


Equinor is the third major company to pull out of the Great Australian Bight.

BP abandoned its plans in 2016.

Chevron followed suit in 2017.

That these are commercial decisions tells you everything you need to know about where the fossil fuel industry is heading.

Keith Pitt: Equinor's decision 'disappointing'

Resources minister Keith Pitt has responded to Equinor’s decision to pull out of the Great Australian Bight:

The discussions I’ve had with Equinor indicated this is purely a commercial decision.

There are no other influences at all. It is quite simply a suppressed world oil price, a look at the risk ... The Great Australian Bight is a frontier exploration area.

It is challenging. It is costly. Those companies make a decision based on a potential return.

And I completely understand why they’ve made the decision.

Regardless, it is disappointing for Australia.


That sound you hear is Wayne Swan’s satisfied sigh as he places his whisky class back down on his desk.

Scott Morrison was asked whether or not he believed Australians would forgive him for not delivering the surplus he already said he delivered (if indeed, that is what happens):

What the Australian people are looking for as we deal with this crisis – as we’ve dealt with many others others in recent times – is the calm, measured, information- and fact-based approach, being upfront and honest with the Australian people about what we see every single day.

The chief medical officer has been doing that on a daily basis with his counterparts now for many weeks.

I think Australians are better placed, I’d argue, than most anyone in the world today in understanding what is happening in their own country when it comes to how these issues are being managed.

So we’re just going to calmly, maturely, soberly, continue to deal with these issues.

The budget will be brought down in May: it will contain the information as we know it at the time.

But Australia would not have been as well prepared for dealing with these series of crises that we have been dealing with now for months were it not for the calm, sober, and methodical financial discipline that we have put in place over the last six years. We didn’t rush to any panic solutions or panicked options.

I remember last year, people last year – in October, in August, in September, telling us to splash money around.

On goodness knows what. We kept our heads at that point, and we’ve kept our heads as we’re continuing to move through these crises now.

And we’ll continue to keep our heads because that’s what the Australian people elected us to do.


Government MPs have met in Canberra, with the partyroom discussion focused on the ramifications of the coronavirus on a range of industries, including tourism, education and trade.

But the prime minister, Scott Morrison, told MPs that while the effects will be “tough”, the virus did not give the government a “leave pass” to not act on the other issues that Australians expected the government to be focused on, such as aged care.

MPs were also assured by the health minister, Greg Hunt, that the government had a “pandemic plan ready to go” if it was required.

One MP urged that no taxpayer-funded bail-outs be provided to the university sector to compensate for the impact of the virus, saying universities were well placed to absorb the cost. Morrison used the warning about the economic consequences of the rapidly spreading virus to criticise Labor for adopting the target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“Given the economic challenge, Labor’s reckless approach on the economy is particularly troubling, signing up to a target with no knowledge of what it would cost,” he said.

“I won’t commit to anything that I don’t know the cost of, if I don’t know the impact on jobs. It is not about being for or against the target. The leader of the opposition has got no plan; he has got no clue what the impact would be.”

Morrison said the government needed to know the cost before making a decision on targets, while also criticising Labor for not yet outlining its 2030 target.

“The question is what will Labor do in 2030 if elected? What measures will they have in agriculture and transport? And they can’t answer those questions.”

Morrison, however, did concede that Australians wanted “jobs and lower emissions”.

“They want both, and we have a plan for both,” he said.

MPs also discussed other issues, including the costs of passenger security screening for regional airports and the government’s bushfire response.


PM says no one could have predicted the coronavirus

It’s almost like sometimes there are things governments can’t control when it comes to its budgets, and you can make promises and not deliver? *cough global financial crisis cough*

Scott Morrison says there is no way the government could have predicted the coronavirus last year. The government has not said it will be delivering a surplus, but, as we have been saying for months now, the language has changed from when Morrison said this in May last year:

“I said we brought the budget back to surplus next year.”

Morrison now:

What we’ve noted about the impact of this global virus is that the information changes almost every day, both on the clinical side as well as what we’re learning about the economic impacts.

The duration of what the impact of this virus will be, and its impact around the global economy, is also not known at this point.

So, again, we can respond to questions where the answer is known in relation to that matter.

We’ll obviously, at this point – those variables can’t be fully considered and, by the time we get to the ... I haven’t finished my response yet. Settle down.

What I’m saying is: we will deal with that at the time of the budget.

Now, when we framed the budget a year ago, I mean – hands up those who thought there was going to be a coronavirus epidemic when the budget was released last May. Of course no one did.

These are unknown global shocks.

So we’re dealing with those shocks and we’re processing that through how we look at the budget as we go into May and beyond.


Is the government still able to guarantee a surplus?

Scott Morrison:

As we work through this crisis, what we’ve been seeking to do – and I’d encourage others to do the same – speculation doesn’t help anybody.

Information and facts do.

When we stand here before you and we talk about these matters, what we’ll relay is the information and the facts that we have.

We’re not going to speculate on these matters.

We’ve got a process that we’re working through to consider the economic impacts, but also to continue to look at those ways that we can seek to alleviate some of those impacts where we can. But that is not a simple exercise because the impacts are economy-wide.


Josh Frydenberg says the impact of coronavirus (now officially called Covid-19) will be “more significant than the bushfires”.

Not only that, its impact will be broader:

Treasury have told me they haven’t finalised their advice on the economic impact of the virus.

They say there’s considerable uncertainty around what exactly that impact will be, but they are continuing their discussions with the key players in the economy who are impacted. But the message is very clear: the impact will be more significant than the bushfires, and it plays out more broadly across the Australian economy.


Stepping out of federal politics for a moment, WA’s Labor treasurer, Ben Wyatt, has announced he will not seek re-election in March next year.


Josh Frydenberg continues:

As the prime minister referred to, I have been talking to people in the building industry who have expressed concern about their ability to get product in the event that the Chinese factories remain closed for a period of time.

Our message today is that the Australian economy is remarkably resilient. It is in its 29th consecutive year of economic growth.

In fact, that was something that was marvelled upon by other nations at the G20 meeting in Riyadh. We’ve seen our labour market remain relatively strong in recent months.

We have seen more than 1.5m jobs being created. We have seen our housing market stabilised; we have seen strong export volumes and our commodity prices have held up as well, even in the event of the coronavirus.

So, Australia, with its AAA credit rating, in its 29th consecutive year of economic growth, with our economic plan that we continue to implement, will continue to see Australia remain strong, despite the economic challenges we face.


Economic impacts of coronavirus are 'significant'

Josh Frydenberg is once again lowering expectations for the budget, laying out the impacts to the budget over the past year or so. That surplus the government promised in the next financial year is looking as increasingly shaky as the grammar used to describe it:

The Australian economy has been facing a number of economic shocks that have been beyond our control.

The trade tensions between the United States and China, the ongoing drought, the fires, the flood and now the impact of the coronavirus.

At the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors’ meeting in Riyadh, the issue about the impact of the coronavirus was the top priority.

There were concerns expressed about the shutters going up on the global economy and it wasn’t just those countries that were geographically approximate to China, namely Singapore, Japan and Korea, but it was also economies in countries further afield, like Italy, that were feeling the effects.

The International Monetary Fund has stated that they see – and, of course, this is preliminary work – that the impact on the global economy will be about 0.1 of a percentage point in the year 2020.

That would see the IMF’s forecast for global growth come down from 3.3 down to 3.2%.

Here in Australia, the economic impacts have been significant, as the prime minister referred to, not just the tourism and education sectors, which together contribute around $16 billion to the Australian economy, but also agriculture, and the destruction to end-to-end supply chains.


Scott Morrison gives coronavirus update

The prime minister is giving an update to the Covid-19 situation in Australia:

The evidence of that has been demonstrated in these many weeks now that have passed since the coronavirus has become an even more significant issue as each week has passed.

We are learning more and more about the virus and the government’s decisions from the outset have been exercising an abundance of caution.

That abundance of caution, I think, has been rewarded in the outcomes that we have so far been able to achieve.

But we’re not complacent going forward. So far, our measures have proved to be effective.

I can confirm that of the 15 cases that had previously been identified here in Australia that were sourced from Wuhan, all 15 of those patients have now been discharged and have overcome the virus.

There are, as you know, seven other – what the chief medical officer – advises me are mild cases from the passengers on the Diamond Princess and they are the only remaining cases that we have in Australia today.

I note that there are some 30,000 Australians – and more – and Australian residents and close family members and others who have arrived under the existing travel bans since 1 February of this year.

As you know, there were exemptions put in place for those Australians and those other groups. There has been not human-to-human transmission of the virus outside of the groups that I mentioned before, from the Diamond Princess and the group that came from Wuhan. So, outside of those groups, there has been no human-to-human transmission in Australia.


Sarah Hanson-Young calls for world heritage protection for Great Australian Bight

Sarah Hanson-Young on Equinor’s decision:

The decision of oil giant Equinor to pull out and dump its plans for oil drilling in South Australia’s gorgeous Great Australian Bight is a huge win for South Australia. A massive win for the community, for the environment, and our fishing and tourism industries.

This had been a long-fought fight. Thousands of people were involved in sending a very clear message to this foreign company that we didn’t want them in South Australia.

We didn’t want them ruining our beautiful beaches and destroying our coastline.

It’s quite clear that South Australians want to protect the Great Australian Bight.

They want to give it world heritage protection.

The best thing the government can do now is to embrace the community sentiment to back world heritage protection and to celebrate how good our bight is. South Australia has a very positive future.

A fishing and tourism industry, a renewable energy industry that can power not just our state, but the whole country into the future.

This age-old dirty oilfield proposal was never going to fly. The company, of course, had said that it pulled out because it just doesn’t stack up commercially. It didn’t stack up with community sentiment, didn’t stack up with the environment and it doesn’t stack up economically.


Labor’s position to adopt a net zero emissions target by 2050 was discussed in a meeting of MPs in Canberra on Tuesday.

One MP asked how the party ensured it kept the focus on the “jobs and opportunities” that come with climate action.

Anthony Albanese talked about state governments and the number of organisations that already supported carbon neutrality by 2050, highlighting the position as creating “more jobs, cheaper power, and lower emissions”.

“The truth is, many in the government want to support net zero but because of the division in the government they cannot,” Albanese said.

“The challenge to debate Scott Morrison on climate is a challenge that will be repeated. If Morrison had confidence in his arguments he wouldn’t always avoid debates.”

He said there was both a challenge and opportunity for “an enormous amount of jobs”, pointing to a hydrogen hub in Fremantle, a solar plan in Gladstone to power an aluminium refinery, and the take-up of solar panels in Blacktown.

“People are choosing cheaper energy with renewables.”

Another also mentioned remarks made by Peter Dutton about there being both left- and right-wing extremists, saying rightwing extremism was not a “political label”, it was a term used by security agencies.

Labor MPs also discussed legislation before parliament, with MPs deciding to wait for Senate committee reports before deciding a final position on the government’s proposed bill to ban cash transactions over $10,000 and legislation that will allow workers to opt out of superannuation funds nominated in their workplace deals.

It will also wait until court action on a proposed site for medical nuclear waste is concluded before considering its position on legislation to establish the new dump site near Kimba, which was voted on by the local council.

A decision on a Greens bill to include a climate trigger in the EPBC Act will also be deferred until it is examined by a Senate committee.


The prime minister has called a press conference in the blue room for 12.40.

That’s the second most important press conference location.

This must be above politics – and Bettina Arndt’s comments must be condemned.

Today Labor will move to have her Order of Australia withdrawn.

Because victims of family violence should never, never be blamed for family violence.

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) February 25, 2020

The bells are ringing. What insanity will greet us today? Who knows? This is the Australian parliament, where insanity is considered a political strategy.


Cue the immediate outcry of politicians capitulating to PC warriors, and influencing independent processes if the Order of Australia board, which as Sam Maiden reported yesterday is reviewing the honour, agrees it should be stripped.

Just a reminder: a Senate motion doesn’t mean she will lose it. Just that the Senate thinks she should.

Senator @JacquiLambie will be supporting the motions to strip Bettina Arndt of her Order of Australia. @PaulineHansonOz says she’s aware of the motion #auspol

— Annelise Nielsen (@annelisenews) February 25, 2020


Sarah Hanson-Young is celebrating the Equinor decision to pull out of its $200m Great Australian Bight drilling plans:

South Australians love our gorgeous bight and we want it protected for future generations and the rest of the world to come and experience.

What we need now is world heritage protection. The Greens’ bill for world heritage listing would give the bight the protection it needs and deserves from any other oil and gas companies proposing to put it at risk. I call on all other members of parliament to back it.

This decision also shows this is the beginning of the end of fossil fuels. Opening a new fossil fuel basin in the middle of our ocean was always madness. Moving to net zero emissions by 2050 means we must reduce pollution now, not give the green light to new polluting projects.


Labor proposes a multi-faith service to mark the first anniversary of the Christchurch tragedy

Hello good people of blogs, just grabbing the quiet time on Tuesday to let you know that Anthony Albanese has written to Scott Morrison proposing a service to mark the first anniversary on 15 March of the Christchurch shootings.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 22 March 2019.
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 22 March 2019. Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

The Albanese letter reads: “Australia and New Zealand have long enjoyed a close relationship – one of kinship and shared history. The fact that an Australian citizen is facing trial for launching those violent attacks on Christchurch mosques that killed 51 people and injured some 49 others is a sorrowful aspect of that shared history.”

Albanese continues:

While there are many ways that Australia could mark the first anniversary of this sad day, I urge you to hold a national, multi-faith service on Sunday 15 March 2020. I recommend that the service be held in either Sydney or Melbourne, in recognition of the largest Muslim populations in Australia.

Obviously this suggestion from the Labor leader comes in the context of a brisk debate that’s broken out here this morning about violence by left- or right-wing extremists (triggered by Peter Dutton’s both sides-ism this morning in response to a speech from the Asio boss).


The party room meetings are on as we write this, so things are a little quiet. We’ll bring you what happened inside, once they are out

Keith Pitt’s office is all over the Equinor announcement:

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt says the decision by Norwegian-based energy company Equinor to discontinue its oil exploration program in the Great Australian Bight, offshore from South Australia, is disappointing but the company is not leaving Australia.

“Equinor has made it clear this was a commercial decision and the company will continue to be part of the Australian oil and gas industry,” Minister Pitt said.

“I know many will find Equinor’s decision not to proceed with this oil exploration project in the Great Australian Bight extremely disappointing, and it is particularly hard for South Australia.

“The Liberals and Nationals government remains committed to encouraging the safe development of Australia’s offshore petroleum resources, which is overseen by a world-class independent regulator in the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema).

“The Bight Basin remains one of Australia’s frontier basins and any proposals for new oil and gas fields in this area will be assessed fairly and independently.”


Equinor scraps Great Australian Bight drilling plans

This is pretty big, given the fight to stop this in the first place: Norwegian fossil fuel company Equinor has abandoned its plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight.

That follows BHP pulling out in 2016.

Why? The company says it doesn’t make commercial sense for it to continue the operation, despite being given approval late last year.

It says it has concluded that its exploration drilling plan is “not commercially competitive” compared with other exploration opportunities. In December, Equinor was granted environmental approval to drill 372 kilometres south of the Nullarbor coastline, despite protests.

— Gabriella Marchant (@gabby_marchant) February 24, 2020

Breaking!! Oil giant Equinor has scrapped plans to drill in South Australia’s gorgeous Great Australian Bight.
This is a huge win for the community, the environment and SA’s tourism and fishing industries.
Good for the planet & jobs. Congratulations to everyone who fought so hard

— Sarah Hanson-Young💚 (@sarahinthesen8) February 24, 2020

However, we ARE preserving Holdens as historical artifact.

Arts Minister Paul Fletcher says the government will require General Motors to preserve culturally and historically significant objects once it closes operations in Australia. Heritage laws could stop some vehicles, photos, documents and plans being taken overseas #auspol

— Tom McIlroy (@TomMcIlroy) February 24, 2020


This is the June 2019 recommendation Tim Watts was speaking about, from the Australian taskforce to combat terrorist and extreme violent material online report:

Recommendation 4.3 — Relevant Australian government agencies, academia, researchers, and civil society bodies that monitor and review terrorist and extremist organisations to share with digital platforms (where legally and operationally feasible) indicators of terrorism, terrorist products and depictions of violent crimes.


But we know that “lefties” are often on Peter Dutton’s mind.

You dirty lefties are too easy. Enjoy your weekend.

— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) December 9, 2011


Tim Watts continued:

Again the government is unable to point to a single initiative it is pursuing to achieve this, instead it points to its taskforce to combat terrorist and extreme violent material online report and tells us that this is all the platform’s responsibility.

But the taskforce last met in June 2019 – there have been no public progress reports since.

Nor has there been a ‘testing event’ simulating government and industry responses to a terrorist scenario per recommendation 4.1 of the taskforce report.

There’s been no funding of research to better understand and prevent white nationalist radicalisation online in Australia.

The Department of Home Affairs tells us that it supports the expansion of the global internet forum to counter terrorism, an industry-led initiative to help smaller platforms vet extremist content.

So then why isn’t Australia a member of its advisory committee, which is the only way that states can exercise influence?

We don’t know whether a single far-right organisation has been shared with online service providers – consistent with recommendation 4.3 of the taskforce report?

Rightwing terror is increasing and it was an Australian – almost one year ago – that was responsible for a historically obscene massacre.

We need to be doing much more to prevent it ever happening again.


Tim Watts on far-right extremism

Labor MP Tim Watts spoke on the far-right extremism threat in Australia last night in the chamber:

The government also says it’s spent just under $6m a year on countering violent extremism programs since 2013-14.

However, both funding streams are directed at ‘all potential drivers of radicalisation to violence’ and it’s unclear how much, if any, of this is targeting those at risk of far-right and white nationalist narratives.

The government also claims its social cohesion package responds to this commitment – but the programs funded under this package are overwhelmingly for promoting the inclusion of multicultural communities, not targeting those at risk of white nationalist propaganda.

Watts also spoke on what Australia has done in regards to the ‘Christchurch call’, which was put in place after the Christchurch massacre and is designed to have governments work with social media and internet platforms to ‘counter violent extremism in all its forms including through the development and promotion of positive alternatives and counter-messaging’.

In response the Department of Home Affairs tells us that it ‘undertakes a range of activities to promote positive alternatives and counter the messaging depicted in violent extremist propaganda’.

A ‘range of activities’ the government couldn’t even give a single example of anything they were doing in this space.


My colleague Josh Taylor asked who nominated the not-an-actual-psychologist for an Australia Day honour.

You’re not allowed to know.

Council of the Order of Australia, under the Governor General, rejected my FOI on docs about Bettina Arndt's honour. I knew I'd probably get this decision but just wanted it on the record.

— Josh Taylor (@joshgnosis) February 24, 2020

While we are on the topic of rightwing extremism it is worth pointing out that overnight, the UK added another rightwing group to its terrorism list:

A neo-Nazi group is to become the second extreme rightwing outfit to be banned as a terrorist organisation in the UK, the home secretary has announced.

Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD), members of which have been jailed for serious offences, is to be proscribed, making membership of the group illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, Priti Patel said.

Another order will recognise the extreme rightwing group System Resistance Network as an alias of the already proscribed neo-Nazi organisation National Action.

Having a look at Australia’s list, we have listed exactly none.

That is despite both Duncan Lewis, the former Asio boss, and now Mike Burgess, both pointing out the growing rightwing extremism threat in Australia.


Budget crunch time is coming. Andrew Tillett, from the Australian Financial Review, had this story which points to just how hard balancing the budget is proving for the government:

A cash-strapped Morrison government is considering leasing warships to alleviate an upcoming budget crunch for the defence department as construction gets under way on a slew of multibillion-dollar projects.

Finance minister Mathias Cormann has told defence companies to come up with ‘innovative’ financing proposals if they want the green light for new military hardware.


Pollies v press touch footy

It was Barnaby Joyce’s favourite morning of the year: the pollies v press touch football match.

The politicians lost.

Barnaby Joyce at the annual pollies v press gallery touch football match on the Senate oval on Tuesday morning.
Barnaby Joyce at the annual pollies v press gallery touch football match on the Senate oval on Tuesday morning. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


In his speech, Mike Burgess mentions “right wing” six times. He does not mention left wing at all.

Rightwing extremism has been in Asio’s sights for some time, but obviously this threat came into sharp, terrible focus last year in New Zealand.

In Australia, the extreme rightwing threat is real and it is growing. In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology.

These groups are more organised and security conscious than they were in previous years.

We continue to see some Australian extremists seeking to connect with like-minded individuals in other parts of the world, sometimes in person. They are not merely seeking to share ideology and tactics.

Earlier this year, Asio advice led to an Australian being stopped from leaving the country to fight with an extreme rightwing group on a foreign battlefield.

While these are small in number at this time in comparison to what we saw with foreign fighters heading to the Middle East, any development like this is very concerning.

Meanwhile, extreme rightwing online forums such as the Base proliferate on the internet, and attract international memberships, including from Australians. These online forums share and promote extremist right wing ideologies, and encourage and justify acts of extreme violence.

We expect such groups will remain an enduring threat, making more use of online propaganda to spread their messages of hate.

While we would expect any rightwing extremist-inspired attack in Australia to be low capability, ie a knife, gun or vehicle attack, more sophisticated attacks are possible. And we also need to be mindful of state-sponsored terrorism as states seek to use terrorism to further their goals.

This dispersal of the terrorist threat and the range of actions they might choose to carry out will continue to complicate our efforts to combat the threat they pose.

We will need to continue to monitor a threat spectrum that stretches from self-radicalising lone actors across the range of extremist ideologies through to experienced terrorists associated with long standing extremist groups.


Dutton gives a 'both sides' answer

And here is the question and answer which gave us the “both sides” answer from Peter Dutton, in response to Asio boss Mike Burgess’s comments about growing rightwing extremism threats in Australia:

Q: Just on the question of blindness to ideology, the director general made some pretty specific comments about rightwing extremism. It’s coming up to the anniversary of the Christchurch terrorist attack. Do you need to acknowledge that there is a particular and growing threat from rightwing extremism in Australia?


Well, I think, again, we made the point when [Duncan] Lewis was the director general that Asio has been working on rightwing extremism literally for decades in our country.

And I just don’t care honestly – you can portray me in whatever way you like.

If somebody is going to cause harm to Australians, I just don’t care whether they’re on the far right, far left, somewhere in between, they will be dealt with.

And if the proliferation of information into the hands of rightwing lunatics or leftwing lunatics is leading to a threat in our country, then my responsibility is to make sure our agencies are dealing with it and they are.

They look at the threat posed by an individual or organisation and they’ll deal with it. And that’s what I think Australians would expect.


Oh, it looks like Peter Dutton has been studying the Scott Morrison question deflection technique.

Cool. Beans.

Q: Is nuclear technology safe?

Dutton: I’ve dealt with that issue.

(And yes, we ask again, and yes we push, but we cannot force someone to answer a question.)


Michelle Rowland also stopped by doors this morning to lay out Labor’s lines for the coming day when it comes to defending its climate policy:

We know what happens next in this movie – we’ve seen it before. There’ll be a scare campaign, there will be untruths, there will be Liberal propaganda sent out on every medium trying to convince Australians to be scared. Well, the reality is that this is not a time to be making Australians who already have uncertainty about everything from stagnant wages to the economy of our country, and the global economy [scared]. It’s not a time for scare campaigns. It’s a time to listen to the experts; it’s a time to take action because the cost of inaction cannot be borne.


Women’s Legal Service Queensland says it is time for an “emergency response” from the commonwealth in relation to domestic and family violence. It has set out three priorities it says need to be implemented as soon as possible if there is to be any chance of properly addressing the scourge:

1. Legislation to remove the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and create emphasis on safety in the Family Law Act;
2. Establishment of a family law system domestic violence death review process to understand and prevent family law deaths;
3. Restore and build funding to specialist legal services with the aim that calls for help don’t go unanswered.


Mark Butler is holding a quick press conference to talk Labor’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

He says it is not only in line with what Australia has committed to with the Paris agreement, it is also, increasingly, what Australians want (even if they didn’t vote for it at the last election).

It’s not just polling which is pointing that way though. Zali Steggall’s climate bill, which includes a petition to have it treated as a conscience vote, now has 50,000 signatures, with every electorate in Australia represented.


Dutton says spy agencies will deal with threat posed by 'rightwing or leftwing lunatics'

Australia’s spy boss, Mike Burgess, used his annual address last night to warn of the growing rightwing terrorism threat in Australia.

As Ben Doherty reported:

Burgess said while violent Islamist fundamentalism remained Asio’s primary concern, the threat of rightwing extremism – of the type espoused by the Australian-born Christchurch killer – was ‘real and growing’.

‘In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology.’

Burgess said Australians were signing up as members to international white supremacist hate groups such as the Base, where members use online platforms to share extremist rightwing ideologies and encourage each other into committing acts of violence.

‘We expect such groups will remain an enduring threat, making more use of online propaganda to spread their messages of hate.

‘While we would expect any rightwing extremist-inspired attack in Australia to be low capability, ie a knife, gun or vehicle attack, more sophisticated attacks are possible. And we also need to be mindful of state-sponsored terrorism as states seek to use terrorism to further their goals.’

An Australian earlier this year was stopped from leaving the country to fight with an extreme rightwing group on a foreign battlefield after authorities received a tip-off from Asio.

Peter Dutton responded to that with:

Well, I think, again, we made the point when [Duncan] Lewis was the director general that Asio has been working on rightwing extremism literally for decades in our country.

And I just don’t care honestly – you can portray me in whatever way you like. If somebody is going to cause harm to Australians, I just don’t care whether they’re on the far right, far left, somewhere in between, they will be dealt with.

And if the proliferation of information into the hands of rightwing lunatics or leftwing lunatics is leading to a threat in our country, then my responsibility is to make sure our agencies are dealing with it and they are.

They look at the threat posed by an individual or organisation and they’ll deal with it. And that’s what I think Australians would expect.


Scott Morrison was asked about what he would be doing about domestic violence. Anne Aly, who first revealed her domestic violence experience in her memoir, is featured in her local paper today, talking about what she went through. Morrison says it will once again be on the Coag agenda.

Countering domestic violence and dealing with family violence is a priority every day for my government.

Not just on any one day. Every single day. Because every single day women are confronted, and children, with horrendous family violence.

And so each and every day we are putting in place the plan, the fourth national action plan, a process that was actually started by the previous Labor government, and in a few weeks’ time Coag will be coming together again and this will be one of the many topics that will be on that agenda, working together.

We have record funding going into this from the federal level and there will be a fifth action plan and a sixth action plan, and that will be done by working together.

This issue doesn’t know politics. It just knows that there is hurt and pain and tragedy and devastation to families and every day addressing that is a priority for me and my government.

He left before he could be asked about whether or not the not-a-psychologist should be stripped of her Order of Australia award.


The other half of Kristina Keneally’s doorstop was taken up on the motion Labor wants to move:

Today in the Senate we will have a vote on a motion put forward by senator Penny Wong and myself calling on the Senate to agree that the comments by Bettina Arndt in relation to family violence do not underpin the values of the Order of Australia and I encourage all senators to stand firm, to reject the abhorrent and reckless comments of Bettina Arndt and to make clear that there is no excuse for family violence.

There is no excuse for what happened to Hannah Clarke and her three children, it was a murder plain and simple, but there is nothing plain and simple about the tragedy that is domestic violence.

And there is nothing plain and simple about using your position with an Order of Australia to spread comments that could be seen to be inciting violence, that seem to be condoning violence.

And I note that Liberal senators such as Sarah Henderson and Hollie Hughes have been speaking out on this and I welcome their comments.

I look forward to the Senate later today voting on this motion and I encourage all senators to reflect upon it and vote to recognise, and to endorse, that Bettina Arndt’s comments are not reflective of the values that underpin the Order of Australia.


The climate wars (it’s been 84 years) continue in Australia’s political discourse.

Kristina Keneally opened with this volley this morning, giving unexpected praise to some fellow politicians on the other side of the fence:

You might not expect a former Labor premier of New South Wales to say this, but let me just reflect: how good is Gladys Berejiklian?

I mean, here is a Liberal leader in NSW who’s being quite clear with the community. Net zero emissions by 2050 is a NSW target, Gladys Berejiklian says, and it’s because it is right in line with the Paris agreement.

But Gladys Berejiklian is leading, Steven Marshall in South Australia is leading, right around the country, the business community is leading.

Our farmers even know they have had, here in Australia, our farmers have had some $1bn wiped off the crop production across the last two decades because the climate is changing, and what are our farmers doing? They’re changing. Our farmers are aspiring to net zero emissions not by 2050, but by 2030.

So we’ve got farmers, we’ve got the business community, we’ve got state and territory governments, we have 73 government across the world leading in this and we’ve got Scott Morrison, an ad man with no plan, failing to show up. No wonder Australians are frustrated and disappointed in their prime minister.


Peter Dutton has called a press conference for 9.15am in the Senate courtyard.

That will be about this:

Foreign interference in Australia is higher than it has ever been, and “sleeper agents” for foreign powers have lain dormant for years in Australia before being uncovered, the head of Australia’s domestic spy agency has warned.

In a wide-ranging annual threat assessment address delivered in Canberra on Monday night, the director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio), Mike Burgess, reiterated earlier security agency warnings that a terrorist attack in Australia is “probable”, and said that rightwing extremism, brought into “sharp terrible focus” by last year’s Christchurch massacre, was manifesting in “small cells” of adherents gathering to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons and disseminate “hateful ideology”.

The intelligence chief said the threat of rightwing extremism was real and growing, and that the number of overall terrorism leads under investigation had doubled over the past year.


This is the motion Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong will be hoping to move:

1) Notes that:

a) On the same day that Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll said it was inappropriate to suggest the murder of a woman and her children by her husband could be an instance of a husband being driven too far, Ms Bettina Arndt, who received an Order of Australia honour in January, nonetheless said “keeping an open mind and awaiting proper evidence, including the possibility that Rowan Baxter might have been driven too far”.
b) The statement of Ms Arndt has the potential to bring the Order of Australia, instituted by Her Majesty the Queen, into disrepute.
c) Order of Australia awards are a privilege and an honour and come with responsibilities.

2) Agrees that:

a. Ms Arndt’s comments are reckless and abhorrent.
b. The values that underpin Ms Arndt’s views on this horrific family violence incident are not consistent with her retaining her Order of Australia.


Good morning

It’s party room meeting time in Canberra, which means climate policy will once again be in the spotlight, as both sides grapple with how to move forward.

Barnaby Joyce has moved things in a very Barnaby Joyce way, pointing the finger at his colleagues in the NSW state government for setting a net zero emissions 2050 target. He says it’s a lame attempt to secure Greens preferences.

Matt Canavan is also waging war against a net zero emissions policy which he says is just being put forward for “warm glow in the cities”.

That would be the same policy that more than 70 countries – so far – have signed up to. Because it is part of the Paris agreement. And because it is necessary to, you know, SAVE THE PLANET.

Labor’s first big policy announcement is what started this latest incarnation of a climate policy debate. While the government has had fun sticking it to Labor, it is also trying to work out what it is going to do. It hasn’t ruled out heading in that direction itself, because it doesn’t really have a choice. But the Nationals, as always, are the ones causing issues. Wading through it, is going to be a pretty sticky job. But increasingly it is where the public wants the government to go (despite the May election result).

As Katharine Murphy reports:

A clear and growing majority of Coalition voters support the Morrison government adopting a net zero target for 2050, with support for that proposition climbing 12 points in a month, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.

The latest fortnightly survey shows a majority of Australian voters support net zero either strongly or somewhat (75%, up four points in a month), and 68% of Coalition voters in the sample hold that positive view. Last month, the proportion of supportive Coalition voters was 56%.

The decisive shift in positive sentiment from Coalition voters follows calls from within the government to consider the 2050 target, and Labor’s decision late last week to sign on to net zero – confirmation that has reignited the climate wars in Canberra. While the Morrison government is leaving its options open on a 2050 target, its current messaging is suggestive of substituting a technology roadmap for a target.

The debate about net zero dominated parliament on Monday. The Coalition is blasting Labor for adopting the target in the absence of a fleshed-out plan to get there, while Labor and the Sydney independent MP Zali Steggall are pressuring the government to detail the impact of failing to act to prevent dangerous global heating.

The other issue bubbling along is the Australia Day honour bestowed upon a woman who has continually pushed an MRA agenda, including most recently, providing for the possibility that a man who murdered his wife and three children by setting them on fire may have been “driven too far”. Liberal and Labor politicians have called for her to be stripped of the honour.

Congratulations to the Queensland police for keeping an open mind and awaiting proper evidence, including the possibility that Rowan Baxter might have been “driven too far.” But note the misplaced outrage. How dare police deviate from the feminist script of seeking excuses...

— Bettina Arndt (@thebettinaarndt) February 20, 2020

Pauline Hanson’s role in the latest family law court inquiry is also in the spotlight after she “not all menned” the tragedy. Hanson did her usual “you don’t know what I’ve been though” cry warble in the Senate to fight back against the calls, but don’t expect that issue to be dropped either.

You have Mike Bowers, Katharine Murphy, Sarah Martin and Paul Karp with you. I have not yet had a coffee, but will fix that as soon as I get my head around the day. Which would be easier with a coffee.


Let’s get into it.



Amy Remeikis

The GuardianTramp

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