How things stand
This is where we will leave our live coverage for today. To recap on the main news:
- Labor has upped calls for the defence minister, Linda Reynolds, to resign over the way she handled her former staff member Brittany Higgins’s allegation that she was raped in the minister’s office. Anthony Albanese said Reynold’s position is “simply untenable”.
- NSW police said evidence suggests that Melissa Caddick is dead. The police commissioner said the chance she cut off her foot, which was found last month, and is still alive is “pretty fanciful”.
- Australia has suspended its military cooperation with Myanmar.
- Foreign minister Marise Payne said for Christian Porter to face an independent inquiry into allegations of rape would be “unprecedented”.
- The NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said it would be “almost impossible” to proceed with a police investigation into the allegations made against Porter without the complainant, who died last year. Police have confirmed they are unable to investigate.
- A report has found the coronavirus recession hit women harder than men.
- Labor has proposed that large Australian companies publicly disclose the wage gap between male and female employees.
- Wentworth MP Dave Sharma was criticised for handing out flowers to random women to mark International Women’s Day.
- Former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said she was shocked but not surprised to hear the allegations of sexual assault in parliament house and said change would have to come from the top, from the prime minister.
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said targeted support for the tourism industry is on its way but shot down suggestions of a broader jobkeeper extension, saying “there should be no expectation of another economy-wide wage subsidy”.
- Queensland announced a $200 travel voucher scheme for domestic tourists.
- Former Nationals leader John Anderson announced he would run for preselection for the senate in NSW.
- There were no new cases of Covid-19 in the community in Australia today. NSW has just passed 50-days Covid-free.
Thanks for your company. You can catch the blog again tomorrow morning.
The boyfriend of a 21-year-old woman found dead in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges is set to face court.
The 20-year-old is accused of failing to report the death.
The woman’s body was found in a shallow grave at Moralana Creek, north of Hawker, on Monday, police said.
She was last seen at North Plympton in Adelaide on Friday and reported missing the following day.
Her boyfriend was arrested and police alleged he took detectives to the location of the gave.
The Kurralta Park man is set to appear in Port Augusta magistrates court on Tuesday accused of failing to report the death.
Labor MP Anika Wells is also on Karvelas’s program. She said Sharma’s decision to hand out flowers on International Women’s Day was ... ill-conceived.
David, mate – of all weeks, this wasn’t the week to say it with flowers. I know you’re good in this space, I know you have good intentions and you want to see progress, but I also hope you can see out of this that – it was, you know, for many women, just another uninvited advance from a man who expected a woman to be grateful for it.
The frustration, coming back to this reckoning, good women look at good men like yourself and see if that wasn’t the right thing to do, how can we have faith that things aren’t going to get better?
Sharma, unsurprisingly, disagreed. He said:
You can take this issue seriously and you can address them seriously, as I have on your program now and I have all through the last week. It doesn’t mean this should only be one channel of transmission about these things, you know?
This is the sort of the nature of political debate that Twitter tries to get you into a binary thing, you’re either for us or against us, you have to be this and you can’t be that. I fundamentally don’t accept that. We lose something of our humanity if all we’re trying to do is pile on people or join the mob as saying you’re out of tone or tone deaf. I don’t intend to adopt it.
So, will he hand out flowers again next year?
Absolutely. I will do it on any number of other occasions.
Dave Sharma gave out flowers on International Women's Day to 'bring joy'
You may have seen Wentworth MP Dave Sharma’s International Women’s Day tweet this morning, which showed him wandering his electorate handing out flowers to women.
It was probably meant to be a nice gesture but, to the great surprise of absolutely no one except maybe Sharma and his advisers, it backfired.
Sharma was asked, by Patricia Karvelas on ABC, why he decided to do that. Apparently he just wanted to bring a bit of “joy”.
Because it’s meant to be a day of celebration. It doesn’t mean we pat ourselves on the back and say that everything is great. International Women’s Day is meant to be a celebration of women, celebrating women’s achievements and recognising how far we’ve got to do. It’s meant to be an element of happiness to the day, as well as reflection.
I gave out flowers to bring joy and give a smile to people.
Did it work? Karvelas asked.
I don’t tend to read the reactions on Twitter because it’s quite demoralising. The reaction on the ground was overwhelmingly positive.
Alex Lee, from SBS’s The Feed, said the woman featured in the photo is a friend of hers. She shared screenshots of a message in which the stunt was described as “completely weird and wrong”.
I felt like saying this doesn’t make me want to vote for you, mate.
Sharma was asked about this reaction and said he was not expecting to get votes out of it.
It was an exercise designed to mark International Women’s Day and have a pleasant surprise on the Monday morning.
Wentworth MP Dave Sharma is on ABC TV and was asked whether he believed his colleague, defence minister Linda Reynolds, should resign over her handling of a rape allegation made by her staff member Brittany Higgins.
Look, I don’t think she should resign. I think she should be entitled to take sick leave. We all should be – any politician from either side of politics. I think that Linda Reynolds did what she thought was best and right in the circumstances of that case. And I don’t think she necessarily thinks she got everything right and good faith and attempting to protect the rights of the victim and respect the agency of the victim. I have examined my own conscience and if I was placed in the same situation, I wouldn’t get it right either.
He was then asked: what does it take for a minister to be sacked in the Morrison government?
An awkward laugh, then:
Well, look, it is a hypothetical. But I don’t think anything that Linda has done warrants the sort of attack that Labor is making. I know they’re trying to make a political point. I don’t think she should have said them. These were things said a week or two ago, rather than two years ago. If we’re talking about the substance of the claim here, I love to hear, [if] it was a Labor minister, what they would have proposed to have done differently.
The Victorian health department says 844 Covid-19 vaccination doses were administered in the state on Sunday, bringing the total number of doses administered since the rollout began on 22 February to 14,422.
The first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have now arrived at hospital vaccination hubs in Victoria, and it will begin being administered this week.
Prof Benjamin Cowie from the Doherty Institute was among those vaccinated today.
Australian music industry legend Michael Gudinski will be remembered at a state funeral later this month.
The state funeral will be held at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Wednesday 24 March.
The 68-year-old died last week and will be buried at a private family funeral this week.
Former sex discrimination commissioner says she was not surprised by Parliament House sexual assault claims
Former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has been speaking on ABC News.
She was asked by host Patricia Karvelas for her reflections on the sexual assault allegations that have rocked Parliament House.
Is it shocking? Absolutely. Is it surprising? I have to say I haven’t been surprised, Patricia. What we see in the parliament is power asymmetry, so women having less power than men. We see a culture which is one which is not necessarily built on dignity and respect. And I think what we’ve seen and heard in the last few weeks is some of the stories about the human harm that’s actually happening on all our watch.
So, you may know I led a number of reviews looking at sexual harassment in different organisations, and often what I see is a culture where demeaning attitudes about women are actually – they’re not stamped out, they’re normalised. And where because of power imbalances, women just don’t feel they can speak out when something happens.
Broderick said she fully supported the current sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, being asked to conduct a review of parliamentary culture. But she said a review alone wouldn’t cut it.
I think what Kate and I understand, given we have been sex discrimination commissioners, it starts with the leadership ... Words are cheap and easy, but what are the actions you take as leaders? So, am I modelling dignity and respect in the interactions I have with people all across the parliament as a leader?
So many organisations I go into, Patricia, there’s a gulf between the workforce generally and the leadership. So the leadership is saying: well, we need to treat people with dignity and respect, but actually they’re not modelling that behaviour. And we are what we do, not what we say. So I think it starts there.
And then of course it’s about holding people to account. I love, you know, the fact that particularly of men, male allies [are] stepping [up]. Why should it sit on women to hold people to account? When Steve the unfunny joker is once again recounting the sexualised joke, why is on me to call him out? It needs to be on other men. Because sexual assault doesn’t jump out of nowhere, it comes from a culture that allows demeaning attitudes about women.
Immigration minister Alex Hawke has issued a new ministerial direction for the character test, which will make family violence “a primary consideration” of decision-makers when deciding on visa cancellations and refusing visa applications.
A statement from Hawke’s office said:
This direction reinforces the government’s intolerance for family violence by requiring decision-makers to consider family violence as a primary consideration when making visa determinations.
It also requires decision-makers to seriously consider other forms of unacceptable behaviour towards vulnerable people, such as the elderly, who are often the target of serious non-violent crimes including fraud, extortion, exploitation and neglect.
In addition, the direction reflects the government’s strong stance against forced marriage and worker exploitation.
Continuing on that interview, the editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly, Juliet Reardon, has been offering her reflection on ABC.
She was asked about the allegations of racism against a member of the royal family – that is, the comment about Archie’s skin.
Racism was very key to this interview and I suppose it is not very surprising given it was Oprah doing the interview.
We know that Meghan has felt that she has been dealt with in a racist way ever since he joined the royal family. I think most of that has come from her perception of what has been in the media. Interestingly, she says she hasn’t read what is in the media but her friends have told her that. She feels that the royal family should have protected her against that racist coverage.
Equally, this comment about the colour of Archie’s skin. That did make me gasp, I have to say. It is very difficult to hear that sentence. I don’t know what the context of that sentence was. I don’t know any member of the royal family to be in any way racist, quite the opposite, so it is deeply shocking. We don’t know if that came from a member of the royal family of the royal household.
I would love to know what context could possibly justify such a remark.
On Harry’s comment that he could see history repeating itself, with Meghan being hounded by the media as his mother, Diana, was hounded, Reardon said:
It is not quite the same, though. We haven’t seen Meghan chased down the street by photographers, paparazzi.W e haven’t seen that level at all. What he is talking about is the attacks in the media, and I would like to say that those attacks mostly come online and in social media, not in the national newspapers. They might perceive them to be there but that is not where they start.
You may have caught snippets of Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview. One of the more jaw-dropping moments was the revelation that an unidentified member of the royal family asked about the skin colour of their son, Archie.
In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, so we have in tandem the conversation of, ‘You won’t be given security, not gonna be given a title’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.
Extremely bad and racist areas. Well done, royals.
Back to the main issue of the day/week/month.
Labor senator for NSW Tim Ayres was speaking to a local radio station in Inverell this morning, and was asked about the Morrison government’s response to the alleged sexual assault of a staff member in Parliament House, and allegations of a 1988 sexual assault made against the attorney general, Christian Porter, which Porter has denied.
Ayres accused Scott Morrison of attempting to manage the issue as a political problem, saying:
The problem at the heart of Scott Morrison’s response to these is that what appears to have happened is that he’s opted for political management, trying to protect the interests of the government every time rather than putting the interests of the complainant first, rather than dealing with the issue, substantially and seriously on its merits.
That’s what’s wrong with the Morrison government’s response. When each of these issues has come along, it has characterised its approach.
Friends Russell Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, went missing on a camping trip in the Victorian high country in March last year.
It is still not clear whether they met with foul play. Victoria police today said they received an item over the weekend which could be relevant to the investigation — but they won’t say what it is.
More from AAP:
On Friday, missing persons squad chief Det Insp Andrew Stamper made a fresh plea for assistance, especially to any travellers heading to the state’s high country over the long weekend.
Stamper said police could not leave any “what ifs” in their investigation and it could not be done without the public’s help
Hill, 74, left his Drouin home on 19 March last year and collected his friend Clay, 73, from her home in Pakenham in his white Toyota LandCruiser.
They then travelled through Licola, spending a night at Howitt High Plains before heading into Wonnangatta Valley on March 20.
Hill was last heard from on that day over HF radio, while Clay had told friends she was heading away and was expecting to return by 29 March.
There will be a march for justice next Monday, 15 March.
Organisers say the march will be to demand an independent inquiry into allegations of sexual assault and misconduct by members of parliament and staff, and another independent inquiry into gendered violence in Parliament \House.
The march will kick off at noon at Town Hall in Sydney. Details here.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers was also on Cairns radio today. He is arguing for the targeted extension of jobkeeper in industries that have not been able to recover from the pandemic, like tourism.
Chalmers told 4CA that Cairns was on “life support”:
I think it’s a really important story to tell about Cairns because the national economy is recovering from recession, but not all parts of Australia are recovering as fast as we’d like. And my fear is that the government doesn’t understand that places like Cairns are still struggling because they rely on international visitors, in particular, and that’s why we’re calling on the government to responsibly, in a targeted way, extend jobkeeper.
My fear is that they just don’t understand what’s happening here. And that’s why the treasurer is shown up empty-handed today.
The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said there would be targeted support for the tourism industry but that there “should be no expectation of another economy-wide wage subsidy”.
It’s been really clear for some time now that the economy of Cairns and the surrounding areas is struggling because of that lack of international visitors. I think this time of year I’m told something like 3,500 international visitors, usually per day. About $5m per day into the local economy that’s not happening. And so you don’t have to be a genius to understand what’s happening here, and what needs to be done.
You just need to listen to people. And, unfortunately, I think by showing up empty handed, they’ve shown that they don’t understand.
John Anderson, the former deputy prime minister and former leader of the Nationals, who resigned from parliament due to prostate cancer in 2005, has put his hand up for Senate preselection in NSW.
Anderson told the Australian he felt running for the Senate was the best contribution he could make to the party, but stressed he would operate as a backbencher and would not seek the leadership from fellow NSW National Michael McCormack.
Last year I was asked to consider how I could best help the party and I undertook to carefully and honestly consider what I could do.
After careful thought, and much encouragement from others, I feel it is right for me to at least offer to play for the team that I once captained for another season.
In a bit of forward sizzle for what his Senate run would look like, Anderson played the classics. He told the Australian that Australia’s “freedom and prosperity” were under threat from “those who seek to denigrate or even attack them, from both within and without”; and that the nation was currently “deeply divided by the poison of identity politics, which so powerfully pits us against one another and denigrates our past”.
Sticking with the Pacific, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern says the country has signed an agreement to buy an additional 8.5m doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough for 4 million people.
This brings our total Pfizer order to 10 million doses, or enough for 5 million people to get the two shots needed to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
New Zealand’s original agreement with Pfizer was for 1.5m doses, enough for 750,000 people.
Ardern said New Zealand decided to make Pfizer the country’s primary vaccine provider off the back of its 95% efficacy at stage-three trials.
The news comes a day after Auckland came out of its week-long lockdown, with no new cases reported on Monday.
New Caledonia to enter two-week lockdown after nine cases reported
New Caledonia will go into lockdown for two weeks after nine Covid-19 cases were reported in the community.
The Pacific island nation was considered coronavirus-free until the cases were detected on Sunday.
Nearby Wallis and Futuna also reported its first Covid-19 case this weekend, and now has six reported cases.
About 5,000 people have been vaccinated in New Caledonia and vaccinations have yet to start in Wallis and Futuna.
More from Radio New Zealand:
The source of the outbreak in Noumea had not been established but it is believed to be linked to the emergence of Covid-19 in Wallis and Futuna.
Passenger flights between the two territories have been suspended and internal flights in New Caledonia as well as flights between Wallis and Futuna are being stopped.
The New Caledonian government has asked anyone who arrived from Wallis and Futuna since 25 January to isolate and contact the health authorities.
The French prefect in Wallis and Futuna said the first case was detected in a school principal who weeks ago had been allowed to leave quarantine after returning negative Covid-19 tests.
The individual fell ill and tested positive for the coronavirus, with reports saying he may have to be evacuated to Noumea.
In New Caledonia, schools and businesses will close.
Anyone in public will be required to carry an attestation justifying their movement.
Let’s go back to treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s press conference in Cairns this morning, in which he was talking up the tourism industry and also crushing hope of any extension of the jobkeeper program.
According to AAP, Frydenberg also said he would talk to Qantas boss Alan Joyce about bringing Qantas-branded flights from Japan to Cairns to recapture the Japanese tourist market (rather than just Jetstar flights, which is currently the carrier’s only option on the Japan-Cairns route).
Speaking on Cairns radio 4CA, Frydenberg said:
I think it is really important to recapture that Japanese tourist market — it’s a lucrative market for Cairns.
Jetstar is obviously a different product. Qantas is more of a premium product and that is important for the Japanese tourist sector.
He said he understood Joyce would visit the area soon.
International borders remain closed in both Australia and Japan. Japan is due to begin vaccinations in May.
It would not be International Women’s Day without some depressing statistics about the Australian Securities Exchange.
There are just 10 female CEOs in the ASX200.
You may recall this story from 2015 about there being more men named Peter in a CEO or chair position at ASX200 companies than there were women. That balance may have swung in favour of women by 2021, because the number of female chairs has risen from 11 to 24. But I haven’t recently surveyed the Peters.
Some progress is being made toward gender representation on boards: women now occupy more than 35% of all board positions in the ASX50 and 33.4% in the ASX200. The target is 40% representation, to allow for some flexibility — so that’s a minimum of 40% women, 40% men, and 20% to do with what you like.
Only one company on the ASX 200 — Silver Lake resources, a gold producer near Kalgoorlie – has no female directors.
This data comes from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors. CEO Louise Davidson said:
It is very encouraging to see the number of women directors continuing to increase. But it is disappointing that the number of female chairs and CEOs continues to languish.
The benefits of having more women in governance roles are well-established. More diverse boards make for better governed companies which is intrinsically linked to long-term shareholder value.
Investors have long recognised the value of board gender diversity ... In 2021, it is no longer acceptable to have zero women on the board of a large Australian company. For laggards, the time for excuses is well and truly over.
Western Australia recorded two new cases of Covid-19 in hotel quarantine overnight.
One of the positive cases is a man in his 30s, and one is a man in his 50s.
There are currently seven active cases of Covid-19 in the state, all in travellers in hotel quarantine.
Some 968 people were vaccinated in WA yesterday, bringing the total number of vaccinations in the state to 7,840.
Thank you to Matilda Boseley for taking you through the morning’s news.
To other, tangentially related news, the Australian Industry Group has called on the government to go ahead with its controversial workplace reforms despite the industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, being on leave.
More from AAP:
The Coalition’s industrial relations omnibus bill is before the Senate after passing the lower house last month.
But there is speculation the legislation will not be brought on for a vote when parliament resumes next week.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox called on the government to reject calls for a delay. He said on Monday:
There is no reason at all why the bill should be delayed.
The bill is too important for our economy, workplaces and jobs. The national interest needs to be put ahead of opportunistic calls for delay.
The government needs three of five crossbench senators to pass the legislation, which is fiercely opposed by Labor, unions and the Greens.
The Coalition has dumped the most contentious part of the bill, which would have given the industrial umpire more scope to allow enterprise agreements that don’t meet the better-off-overall test.
But there remain key sticking points including provisions around converting from casual to permanent employment and changes to conditions.
Willox said Porter oversaw the drafting of the bill after chairing working groups of industry and union representatives.
The bill is the culmination of nine months of hard work by government, industry and union representatives.
It will make a series of modest but very important amendments to the Fair Work Act ta will assist the economic recovery
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has warned the changes will give big business more power over workers and increase insecure employment.
Cabinet minister Michaelia Cash is in charge of Porter’s portfolios while he is on leave.
A Senate committee is due to hand down a report on the legislation on Friday.
With that, I will hand you over to the competent hands of Calla Wahlquist to take you through the rest of the day.
Payne has once again been asked if she would support calls for an independent inquiry into contested historical rape allegations levelled against attorney general Christian Porter.
Payne says she believes the matter concluded with the NSW police saying they could not investigate:
We have very well-established judicial and legal processes in this country to deal with matters of criminal allegation. Those processes have been under way in law enforcement agencies in New South Wales and have been concluded by those agencies.
Whether others take place, including in South Australia, will be a matter for officials and not a matter for politicians of any sort to engage in or to comment on.
Importantly, we have seen the establishment of the independent review into these issues in the national parliament, in the workplace, that Minister Ruston and I share with our parliamentary colleagues, including Mr Joyce. That review will be absolutely vital for addressing the system and the environment and the cultures that exist within Parliament House.
Minister for foreign affairs, Marise Payne, and minister for families and social services Anne Ruston are speaking now.
They have used International Women’s Day to launch the $18.8m third phase of the national campaign to reduce violence against women and their children.
But as you can imagine, the questions being asked have a lot more to do with the current perceived cultural issues surrounding the treatment of women in the Liberal party.
Minister Ruston, do you think given these allegations we have seen in Canberra that parliament is setting an example for women in Australia to mark?
I think we do need to set an example for the Australian public, we are a privileged workplace but also a very different workplaces. We are a fly-in-fly-out workplace and we also find there are 227 members and each and every one of them is a separate employer within Parliament House.
And that is why think it is so tremendously that the sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins is able to undertake this very specific insight into the kinds of reports that would reflect the needs of such a unique workplace.
I think yes, we do need to set an example and I’m looking very much forward to the findings of Kate Jenkins on how she thinks that Parliament House can be changed, the processes that can be changed at Parliament House, to make sure that we do that.
Travel vouchers available for Queenslanders holidaying domestically
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced the government will provide $200 travel vouchers to help encourage Queensland residents to holiday in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region rather than going interstate over the next four months.
People will have between 8 and 11 March to enter the draw to score one of the 15,000 vouchers which can be used on tourism experiences in the areas between 15 March and 25 June.
Palaszczuk has been campaigning for some time for the federal government to extend economic support for tourism operators in the area, but Canberra has so far maintained that this was now in state hands.
Palaszczuk said this scheme would keep tourism dollars in the region:
The vouchers give people the chance to go on tours and experience some of the attractions in the far north and we’ll cover 50% of the cost, up to $200.
The vouchers can be used for trips to the Great Barrier Reef, guided tours around the region, bungee jumping, day spas, and entry to wildlife parks, zoos and aquariums...
It’s expected the initiative could generate an extra visitor spend of up to $14m for the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef economy.
Tonight’s Four Corners program, Bursting the Canberra Bubble, may be a must-watch but it has some serious competition from the highly anticipated Oprah interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex which will be on air at the same time on the Ten network.
The exclusive interview with the couple, A right royal spill, airs at 7:30pm on Ten for two hours, and Four Corners starts at 8.30pm.
The ABC story contains new information that the woman at the centre of the Christian Porter rape allegation spoke in detail to a sexual assault counsellor about her claim eight years ago.
Reported by investigative journalist Louise Milligan, the program can also be seen on ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.
Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah is airing now.
It’s tough to watch live in Australia (although I think Channel 10 is playing it later tonight) but if you want to follow along check out our royal live blog below:
A South Australian man has been arrested after police discovered a shallow grave during an investigation into the suspected death of a 21-year-old woman.
The Kurralta Park man, 20, was on Monday arrested for failing to report a death after police found the grave in the Flinders Ranges, north of Hawker.
He is expected to face the Port Augusta magistrates court on Tuesday.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has defended the pace of the vaccine rollout saying it can only be rolled out as fast as it’s being supplied by the federal government, reports AAP.
Queensland gave 6,300 people their first doses of the Pfizer jab last week, against a target of 3,000, but there’s been media criticism of the state’s slow rollout compared with other states.
But the premier said no concerns were raised about the speed of Queensland’s vaccine drive during a national cabinet meeting last Friday and the state could only roll out the jabs as fast as it received supplies from the federal government.
All of this is being done in consultation with the Commonwealth, so please don’t disrespect the process...
We want to get it right, we want it to be rolled out smoothly, and of course we are making sure that the people have the adequate training to do this.
It is very important, if we want to see more strength in our economy nationally we need to make sure that people are taking up the vaccine.
Health minister Yvette D’Ath said the federal government had averaged out the numbers of vaccine doses supplied over a month rather than send Queensland the actual numbers shipped each week.
The state had to adapt to fluctuating vaccine shipments from Canberra, she said, so it could not rely on the averages being suggested.
We are adapting very quickly to the numbers that we’re getting, but the Commonwealth are adjusting these numbers on a regular basis how much we’ll get.
And in some cases, as in the figures I was given like last week, we’re getting triple what we expected and they have to last us for a few weeks because they can’t necessarily guarantee (how much) we’re going to get each week.
Queensland just opened the first two AstraZeneca hubs in Logan and Bundaberg on Monday.
Wentworth Liberal MP Dave Sharma’s idea for International Women’s Day seems to have backfired this morning after he handed out what I believe are pink carnations to women.
Sharma tweeted this out this morning:
So far he has got about 150 likes and more than 1,000 comments. Never a good sign!
The general consensus seems to be “women would prefer an independent inquiry into contested historical rape allegations levelled against Christian Porter and not hothouse flowers please”.
Teenage girls attacked in a Sydney park
The NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller has condemned an “appalling” attack on two teenage girls in a Sydney park on International Women’s Day.
The 16-year-olds were allegedly physically assaulted by three men on Saturday night at Pirrama Park, Pyrmont, in inner Sydney.
Fuller told Sydney radio 2GB that the video of the attack was “appalling”.
It is ... a cowardly act...
I’ve never seen such disgraceful footage.
Three men aged 21, 23 and 29 have been charged with affray and assault. They will appear before central local court on Tuesday.
Anti-sexual harassment taskforce launched in Victoria
I mentioned before that Victoria would launch a new task force to examine allegations of sexual harassment in Victorian workplaces. The AAP has more:
The task force, due to report later this year, will look at strengthening reporting obligations around sexual harassment, acting premier James Merlino said.
A workplace that is not free from sexual harassment is an unsafe workplace...
Behaviour must be called out and acted on – and that starts with changing workplace culture.
The taskforce will look at strengthening the occupational health and safety framework to address sexual harassment, clarify employer obligations and encourage and support workers to speak up.
A key initiative will be looking at a mandatory incident notification scheme.
It will also consider measures to prevent the misuse of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment matters.
It’s been more than half an hour since the words “rule of law” have appeared on this blog so let’s change that I guess.
The government has become a bit of a broken record with this line on the Porter allegations and the treasurer has not broken ranks in this press conference.
He was asked by a reporter if Australians have confidence in a government where “two senior cabinet ministers are missing in action”:
Well, obviously we wish Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds only good health and it’s been a challenging time in the parliament and quite a decision stressing time in the parliament.
Christian Porter has made his statement. And we have said very clearly that we need to respect the rule of law and the police process. And the New South Wales police have spoken. So we look forward to him returning to work.
With respect to Linda Reynolds, she’s also put out her statement and we look forward to her returning to work. As you know, she has a particular heart condition. That’s challenging, whether it’s for you, for me or for anybody who may have also a medical ailment.
We only wish her and Christian Porter well. In the meantime, Marise Payne is not only taking on the responsibility of the foreign affairs portfolio but also defence portfolio responsibility, and Michaelia Cash is taking on the responsibilities of Christian Porter’s portfolio.
It’s worth noting again the attorney general Christian Porter vehemently denies allegations that in 1988 as a 17-year-old he raped a 16-year-old girl at a debate competition in NSW.
We are less than half an hour away from the much anticipated Oprah Winfrey interview with Prince Harry and Meghan.
If you wanted to prep and get up to speed here is a little quick reading guide for you.
First and most importantly, if you can’t get access to CBS (and honestly who can) you can follow along with the amazing Helen Sullivan on the Guardian Royal live blog.
Next YouTube pranksters tricked experts into being filmed reviewing Oprah Winfrey’s special with the Sussexes. You can read all about it here:
And US fans of The Crown are loving the Harry and Meghan royal soap opera. Read the American perspective on the drama here:
Frydenberg has been teasing a new, target support package, set to be announced soon, but has been fairly coy with any exact details of the support.
We’re still finalising those details but it’s a matter of days. These are important issues that we’ve been working on for some time. We’ve done an extensive amount of work...
What I’ve heard from some businesses that I’ve met is that some are doing well and others are finding it a bit more challenging. Some are actually doing OK and some even better than OK through this pandemic.
So it’s about targeting that support but also providing opportunities for those who are doing OK to even take on more more workers, which is going to be good news for people across the country.
But don’t get your hopes up for a “jobkeeper 2.0”.
There should be no expectation of another economy-wide wage subsidy.
Now the federal treasurer discussing jobkeeper in far-north Queensland is fairly brave given the premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has repeatedly called on the federal government to continue economic supports for Queensland tourism businesses that have been impacted by international border restrictions.
Frydenberg has taken a swipe at Palaszczuk during his press conference, saying the federal government has already done its fair share of the economic heavy lifting.
I also want to point out that when it comes to our support, we committed $251bn. $150bn has rolled out already. So there’s still $100bn of committed support still to roll out.
Our support was the equivalent of 13% of GDP. Across the states, their average was at 6% of GDP. In New South Wales, they committed 7% of GDP. In Victoria, they committed 9% of GDP. Here in Queensland, they committed only 2% of GDP, which is less than what we’ve seen across other states, unfortunately.
But the federal government, under Scott Morrison, has done the bulk of the heavy lifting here and will continue to provide support.
Frydenberg confirms a targeted support package for tourism and travel sector on the way
So just for context, Frydenberg is visiting Cairns to speak with businesses about the ongoing challenges they face from Covid-19 as the jobkeeper cut-off date looms.
He reiterated today that although some support will be available for some impacted industries, including the tourism and travel sector, no new economy-wide support payments will be available once jobkeeper ends.
What we want to do is to back businesses that back themselves. That’s really important. Businesses have got skin in the game as they go forward from here.
So we’ve put in place the jobkeeper program. That ends in March. We’ve got other programs continuing to roll out with support. But we’re also looking at other measures.
NSW Covid-19 free for 50 days
NSW has just reached a massive milestone, being free from any new local Covid-19 cases for 50 days.
This is especially impressive as 22 days ago was the first time the state reached the “elimination” milestone of two Covid-19 free incubation periods since the start of the pandemic.
The federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg is speaking now from Cairns.
And Albanese is finishing off the press conference with an omnibus collection of the prime minister’s wrongdoings. I assume this is a list the opposition leader can rattle off in his sleep by now.
I think this is a government and a prime minister who has prioritised political management rather than prioritising what’s appropriate. I think there has been a lack of leadership from this prime minister which is consistent with a characteristic of this prime minister.
The person who said he doesn’t hold a hose during the bushfires. The person who has handed over responsibility for essential federal government roles, including quarantine, including who comes to Australia, to the state.
This is a prime minister who here has not availed himself of the information that is before him.
This is a prime minister that doesn’t take responsibility and taking responsibility starts with accountability and one of the concerns here that I have and Labor has is that this government avoids accountability at every step, will stop not just on these issues, but in areas like sports rorts, in areas like the abuse of taxpayers funds, including for community safety programs.
This is a government that walks away from its responsibility at each and every opportunity. Our job as the opposition is to hold them to account, we will do that. We will do that in a responsible way.
But this prime minister, clearly in the way that he conducts government processes, more and more Australians are looking at this and just saying this is a prime minister who isn’t fulfilling his responsibilities.
Albanese has once again called for an independent inquiry into the historical rape allegations levelled at attorney general Christian Porter, saying the story clearly isn’t going away:
In spite of some of the reporting that has been made, Labor has been completely responsible here. We have said that it is entirely appropriate that any examination of these issues be consistent with the principle that people are innocent until proven otherwise.
But the fact that you are asking questions here today at this press conference is an indication of the fact that this has not been examined. There has not been any investigation, because the New South Wales police have found that because of the tragic death of the woman at the centre of these allegations then it is not possible for them to conduct an investigation. That is what they have found.
So any examination of what has occurred over the last two weeks would suggest that it is obvious that there is a need to examine these issues independently because if not it will be examined through questions like the one I have just received.
Albanese says Reynolds must go
Opposition Anthony Albanese says the defence minister Linda Reynolds must resign or be fired after she reportedly called her former staffer and rape victim Brittany Higgins a “lying cow” on the day Higgins when public with her allegations that she was not provided with enough support from the government after the alleged attack.
Reynolds has been off work with a serious underlying health condition so has been unable to answer further questions about the situation.
Albanese says regardless of health, her position is “simply untenable”:
The prime minister himself, he expressed he is dismayed at the fact in Question Time, in response to a question from myself, that she had not informed him according to him, for two years, that there was a reported sexual assault in her personal office, just metres from the prime minister’s office.
My follow-up question on that day was, does the prime minister have confidence in the minister? Because I would have thought given his first answer, it was clear that he did not ... he essentially said that her performance wasn’t appropriate...
My view is on that day she should have resigned or been removed from her position ... The minister then also had to go into the Senate and correct the record not once but twice. She gave incorrect information consistently in the Senate. This isn’t something that had happened recently whereby the minister shouldn’t have been on top of the detail, this is evidence of two years ago, 2019. The minister had two years to prepare.
Thirdly, the fact that the minister referred to Brittany Higgins as “a lying cow” is, in my view, just completely unacceptable.
It sends all the wrong messages to women who are brave enough to come forward and Brittany Higgins has shown incredible bravery. So that’s before we get into the portfolio with the debacle over the submarines and over a range of other issues as well.
But I would have thought, on those three counts, that Linda Reynolds’ position is simply untenable.
More from Albo:
The third element is to show leadership.
The Commonwealth cannot ask the private sector to do something without showing leadership ourselves, and under a Labor government, we would have an audit across all of the departments of the Australian public service, using the workplace gender equality agencies tools in the first year to identify exactly where these issues are.
The fourth is important, to strengthen the ability and the capacity of the Fair Work Commission, to order pay increases for workers in low-paid, female-dominated industries.
Albanese says Labor will also ban secrecy clauses that prevent workers from discussing their pay:
The second component is to prohibit pay secrecy clauses and give employees the right to disclose their pay if they want to.
Now, I think most Australians would find it extraordinary that there are clauses that prohibit people from saying what their working conditions are.
What that does, the secrecy clauses, is provide a handbrake as well so there can’t be a comparison to see whether women and men doing exactly the same work are paid exactly the same amount.
In this removal would be another element in dealing with the stagnant wages that we see holding back our economy over the last eight years.
Labor proposes large companies publicly disclose gender pay gap
Albanese is laying out Labor’s plan to help close the pay gap if they were voted into government, and it seems the main focus will be on transparency.
Today, we have four new components to close the gender pay gap: the first is to legislate so that companies with more than 250 employees will have to report their gender pay gap publicly.
Initially, that number will be 1,000 and that will be phased in over four years to give companies the time to do that.
What we know, is that companies already have to report the gender pay data to the workplace gender equality agency, but at the moment, no one knows what the outcomes are. That makes no sense.
It will be reported in both managerial and non-managerial pay components as well.
Albanese has pointed to the UK to show that this kind of policy can be effective in closing the gap.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is speaking now about the gender pay gap.
The governor-general has used this year’s International Women’s Day to call for more women to be nominated for Orders of Australia.
David Hurley released this statement this morning:
On International Women’s Day we celebrate the achievements of women in our community. It is also a day to choose to challenge ourselves.
One of my priorities is to ensure more outstanding Australian women are celebrated through the Order of Australia...
People don’t put their hand up to be recognised and they’re not selected. They’re nominated by peers and considered and recommended by an independent Council...
For too long women have been underrepresented in the system. Fewer women are nominated for recognition and that means fewer receive the recognition that they deserve. It isn’t right and I’m determined to change it. I need your help.
The Herald Sun is reporting that the acting Victorian premier will today launch a workplace sexual harassment taskforce.
I’ll bring you updates from this once James Merlino stands up.
I mentioned before that NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller was speaking on Sydney radio this morning.
During this interview, Fuller suggested allegations of historical rape levelled against attorney general Christian Porter “probably” would not have made it to court, even if the alleged victim was still alive.
Porter has categorically denied these allegations.
NSW police have previously said they were unable to investigate the case, largely due to the woman taking her own life in 2020, but Fuller said today it may have been difficult to prosecute even if she was able to testify.
Unfortunately, in this case, we hadn’t been able to take an admissible statement from the [alleged] victim in this matter...
It is not impossible but almost impossible to proceed with a matter like this without the victim.
The matter itself, even with the victim, probably would’ve struggled to get before a court; these are challenging matters, particularly when they’re historic.
Samantha Armytage to leave Sunrise
After eight years co-hosting Sunrise with David Koch, Samantha Armytage has surprised everyone by announcing she’ll leave the show this week.
Armytage, who has been a lightning rod for tabloids over her love life and her appearance, recently got married to wealthy farmer Richard Lavender. She said this morning that she needed to spend more time with her family.
“I don’t think any of us want to do the same thing forever,” she told viewers in a teary farewell.
Armytage is leaving while the show is on top of the ratings, well ahead of Nine’s Today.
She will stay with Seven but has not revealed in what capacity.
Australia to suspend military cooperation with Myanmar
As tensions in Myanmar rise, Australia has announced it suspended military cooperation with the south-east Asian country, and will redirect aid to non-government organisations.
This comes in response to escalating violence in the wake of last month’s military coup.
Foreign affairs minister Marise Payne said the government has raised grave concerns about the army’s treatment of protestors which has progressively become more hard-line and violent ever since the ousting of democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February.
Payne was asked on ABC radio national this morning why Australia stopped short of imposing trade sanctions on the nation, but she declined to answer directly:
We have looked at the nature of the limited bilateral defence cooperation programme we have had and that has been suspended.
We’ve also looked at the development programme and development support that we have provided and redirected with an absolute focus on the immediate needs of some of the most vulnerable and poor in Myanmar, which is one of the poorest countries in Asean.
Payne said there was a continuing concern for Australian economic professor and adviser to Suu Kyi, Sean Turnell, detained in Yangon with limited consular access for over 30 days.
The United Nations says security forces have killed more than 50 people to stamp out daily demonstrations and strikes in the south-east Asian nation since the military overthrew and detained Suu Kyi.
Well over 1,700 people have been detained under the military junta.
What do you mean you haven’t read Guardian Australia’s International Women’s Day coverage yet?
Well, it’s time to fix that. After a traumatising week for many, we asked 12 women on International Women’s Day about the fight for gender equality and what still needs to change.
You can read their answers here:
On International Women’s Day political reporter Amy Remeikis has written about how the culture of parliament follows women after they leave, and how silence has become central to starting their new lives:
It should have been easy: speak to the women who have left politics in recent years, across parties and roles, about their experiences and the culture they encountered in the federal parliament.
After all, they got out. There has to be reasons. Insights. A freedom to finally say what they feel.
“I’m so sorry, I just can’t. I’ve spent the last few days thinking about it, and I just don’t feel like I can deal with all the messages and phone calls and all that. I’m just trying to get by,” one said.
It’s not unusual for women to remain quiet, even as their own story is being hijacked. Silence is written into history and fables as a cautionary tale.
You can read the full story below:
NSW police say evidence suggests alleged fraudster Melissa Caddick is dead
NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller says although investigations are continuing, he is satisfied with the evidence that alleged fraudster Melissa Caddick is dead, reports AAP.
On Sydney radio station 2GB this morning Fuller acknowledged there are many conspiracy theories circulating about the fate of Caddick, but when asked if he was satisfied she was dead he replied: “Yeah, I am.”
There’s always a chance she cut her foot off and is still alive but that’s pretty fanciful but nevertheless, we haven’t closed this case...
We are still looking for her remains and we’re still looking for where the funds may be.
Fuller appeared to dismiss claims Caddick may have met with foul play.
There’s a very slim chance that is the case but we haven’t closed this case.
The 49-year-old went missing last November, a day after corporate watchdog Asic executed a search warrant at her eastern Sydney mansion.
A report released last week into her financial affairs indicated she had likely misappropriated about $25m of investors’ funds.
The only remains that have been found is her decomposing foot, which washed up in a running shoe on a beach about 400km south of Sydney.
I’ve never seen someone’s body or body parts wash up 400km south of Sydney and in reasonably good condition ... but that’s not to say it can’t happen.
Other bones and remains found on surrounding beaches did not belong to Caddick.
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14.
I mentioned before those new figures that show the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the pay disparity between men and women.
The opposition leader Anthony Albanese is set to front media to discuss Labor’s pay gap strategy at 10.30 am.
I’ll bring you updates on that when they stand up.
Minister for foreign affairs and acting defence minister Marise Payne also spoke this morning on ABC Radio National.
She was asked as the most senior woman in government if the prime minister consulted with her before deciding no independent inquiry is needed into the historical rape allegations against Christian Porter. (Allegations Porter categorically denies.)
The prime minister has made decisions in relation to that in consultation with appropriate colleagues...
Most importantly, I think what the prime minister has emphasised is that there are well established processes in the form of our justice system, which are for determining whether criminal allegations, can be proven, and that is the strong view of the prime minister and of the government in this matter.
Payne appears to be adhering pretty closely to the government’s “rule of law” stance on an independent inquiry.
I absolutely understand and appreciate that this is an extremely difficult set of circumstances. In fact, it is unprecedented. And it would be unprecedented if we moved to establish an inquiry of this nature based on an allegation in the way in which we see it occurring now.
That would mean that any person in Australia in any role in any job can be put in the position of ignoring the rule of law, ignoring the processes of justice that are well established for determining where the criminal allegations can be proven.
Report finds women more likely to lose jobs and do more unpaid work during Covid recession
Australian women were hit by a “triple whammy” during the Covid-19 induced recession, with a new report from the Grattan Institute finding women were more likely to lose their jobs and do a lot more unpaid work, and less likely to get government support.
The report notes during the peak of the economic shock last April, almost 8% of Australian women lost their jobs, and the total hours worked by women went down by 12%. Male employment went down 4% and hours worked by 7%.
The report says last year’s recession – the first in Australia for three decades – “magnified existing labour market disadvantage”.
You can read the full report below:
There have been no local Covid-19 cases in Victoria today, marking the 10th doughnut day in a row:
Side note: is anyone else insanely excited for the Harry and Meghan interview at midday?
Essentially the pair have agreed to talk about their controversial decision to step down from royal duties, and people hope the interview will lay bare the alleged mistreatment they faced from the palace.
But ahead of this much anticipated “tell all” with Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth has given her Commonwealth Day address back in the UK.
The 94-year-old monarch has urged unity in the Commonwealth, saying the pandemic has been “a time like no other”.
The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others...
We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings, and I hope we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community.
Kristina Keneally has also urged prime minister Scott Morrison to launch an independent inquiry into historical rape allegations levelled at attorney general Christian Porter, which Porter categorically denies.
[Morrison] has right now key members of the national security portfolio, key members of the national security committee of cabinet, who are unable to come to parliament and do their job.
If the prime minister does not make a decision on Linda Reynolds, and if he does not show leadership, and order an independent investigation into Christian Porter, then he is putting his own political interests ahead of the safety and security and national security of Australia
Keneally says Reynolds must resign as defence minister
Shadow minister for home affairs Kristina Keneally is speaking to Radio National now and has called for defence minister Linda Reynolds to resign.
Reynolds is currently on sick leave due to an underlying health condition but has come under fire in the recent weeks for her handling of allegations her staffer, Brittany Higgins was raped by another government employee in her ministerial office.
Reynolds also hasn’t denied calling Higgins a “lying cow” on the day the allegations were made public, upset with Higgins’ characterisation of the support she received after the alleged attack.
Keneally says her position is untenable:
I am floored that any minister could say an alleged rape victim, that they are a lying cow and think that there are no consequences.
Linda Reynolds should not and must not stay in this portfolio. If she does not go then the prime minister needs to take leadership and make a decision here...
Keneally has also questioned Reynolds’ capacity to do her job from a medical perspective.
She needs to be able to turn up to the parliament, and answer questions, and if she is not well enough to do that, then we have to seriously ask, is she available to do the job as defence minister? This is a key national security portfolio.
I do wish her well, I hope she returns to help you, but needed defence minister who can turn up and answer questions in parliament, and in estimates.
In positive news, the Sky Whale has taken flight for International Women’s Day! And she has even been joined by the very handsome Sky Papa in her adventures over Canberra.
Please enjoy these photos:
Good morning, Matilda Boseley here, and happy International Women’s Day!
It’s a new week! Let’s hope it isn’t as eventful as the last one.
One of the main things to look out for is the reports from Adelaide of a “very strong” positive Covid-19 wastewater result.
The state doesn’t currently have any known positive cases in the community, but wastewater testing does tend to be very sensitive. A spokesperson for SA Health says the result is still being investigated as it’s possible that the result may be picking up Covid-19 positive travellers from a medi-hotel or an old case who is still “shedding”.
The detection is coming from the north-eastern part of Adelaide’s CBD, an area covering around 12,000 people living and working.
In that catchment is the Pullman quarantine hotel but this does not generally hold people who test positive to Covid-19, but the Tom’s Court Hotel, where infectious people are held, is outside the area.
Authorities have urged anyone with even extremely mild symptoms in the area to get tested.
Something to look out for today: ABC investigative journalist Louise Milligan reports that the woman who accused attorney general Christian Porter of raping her in 1988 sought out a therapist to discuss the allegations eight years ago.
The Guardian has not independently verified this meeting, but according to the ABC this is believed to be the first time the woman disclosed the story.
Porter vehemently denies the allegations.
This will form part of tonight’s Four Corner’s episode looking into the contested rape allegation against Porter. Friends of the now-deceased woman have thrown their support behind an independent inquiry, telling the program such an inquiry would stop what has been labeled a “trial by media”.
Well with that, why don’t we jump into the day?