Just on Scott Morrison’s criticism of Icac a little earlier, here is Murph on the last time Morrison went Icac, at the end of last year:
At the start of this week [December 2021], the prime minister told reporters: “Gladys was put in a position of actually having to stand down and there was no findings of anything.”
Fact: Berejiklan resigned as premier in September, voluntarily.
Fact: she told reporters on the day she quit that an alternative scenario – one where she stood aside while Icac conducted its investigation – was “not an option”.
Fact: any findings associated with the current investigation are pending, not absent.
As well as trying to smooth the path for a reluctant Berejiklian in Warringah, we also need to be crystal clear that stoking a public backlash about the evils of prurient anti-corruption bodies also served the prime minister’s own immediate political needs. Morrison was ending the year under pressure because of his failure to legislate the federal integrity commission he promised three years ago.
During his fraught final parliamentary sitting fortnight, in between clubbing the NSW Icac (nosy buggers, who needs them?) Morrison pretended it was Labor’s fault there was no federal integrity commission. He said he couldn’t bring his proposed model to parliament because Labor wouldn’t vote for it, because Labor wanted the nasty Icac in NSW that spied on people’s boyfriends, and nobody wanted that.
The land court will hear opening arguments in the case climate activist group Youth Verdict, with First Nations witnesses, have brought against Clive Palmer’s proposed Galilee coalmine. It is the first time a coalmine is being challenged on human rights grounds in Australia.
Represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, Youth Verdict and The Bimblebox Alliance will argue coal from the mine will impact the human rights of First Nations Peoples by contributing to dangerous climate change. They will also argue the mine would destroy the Bimblebox Nature Refuge which sits on top of the proposed mine site.
In a legal first, First Nations people in Gimuy/Cairns and the Torres Strait Islands of Erub and Poruma will give evidence to the Land Court on Country and in accordance with First Nations protocols.
The court will travel to the traditional lands of First Nations witnesses to hear first-hand how climate change is impacting their lives and what will be lost if climate change is worsened by the burning of coal from new mines, including the Galilee Coal Project.
Scott Morrison has also has a bit to say about the security pact between Solomon Islands and China.
He told the Seven Network this morning:
There is no credible information that suggests that outcome, a naval base in the Solomon Islands.
I know [a base] would be their wish and I know that would be their intent and that is why we have been very proactive over many, many years.
And he told the Nine Network:
… I sent the minister for Pacific to convey clear messages on my behalf to the prime minister, as also I sent up our senior intelligence and security officials up there to both brief him on what our concerns were about this arrangement.
He made his decision. He’d made his decision for some time.
This wasn’t – there was no opportunity, I think, for him to change his mind on this. I mean, it Chinese government doesn’t play by the same rules as other transparent liberal democracies and that means there are vulnerabilities in our region which we’re very well aware of and have been working hard to ensure we can mitigate as we are … as we have in the Solomons but that has been difficult but also in many Pacific countries, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu, Fiji, all of these countries I speak to very regularly.
I have probably spoken to Pacific leaders more regularly than any former prime minister.
Daniel Hurst, our foreign affairs expert, has taken a look at the Coalition’s claims about what Labor has said on China.
You can find the fact check here
Scott Morrison has gone on the attack this morning about a story in the Australian reporting comments by the deputy Labor leader Richard Marles regarding China’s outreach in the Pacific.
The report is based on a speech Marles gave to the Beijing Foreign Studies University, which the Australian has characterised as him advocating allowing China to build bases in the Pacific. Let’s look at what Marles actually said.
In relation to development assistance (not bases!):
Let me be crystal clear: that was and has been a good thing. The Pacific needs help and Australia needs to welcome any country willing to provide it. Certainly the Pacific Island countries themselves do.
On attempting to block China:
Basing our actions in the Pacific on an attempt to strategically deny China would be a historic mistake … Not only would this be detrimental to our regional relationships, it would be a failed course of action. Australia has no right to expect a set of exclusive relationships with the Pacific nations. They are perfectly free to engage on whatever terms they choose with China or, for that matter, any other country. Disputing this would be resented, as the recent past has shown.”
The first thing to note is this is not that different from the Morrison government’s recognition that Solomon Islands has the right to sign a security deal with China.
Acknowledging the Solomon Islands right to do so is not the same as welcoming a deal with China.
But Morrison has gone on the attack, conflating Marles welcoming China’s development assistance with welcoming a military presence.
Asked by Sky News what Labor would do differently, Morrison said:
You only have to ask the would be deputy Labor prime minister Richard Marles. He set it out in quite a tome. He actually advocated for the Chinese government to be doing exactly what they are doing. And arguing Australia shouldn’t be warning against that type of activity and letting it occur. I find the deputy prime minister, alternate … advancing that eight months ago … and then the hypocrisy of trying to criticise the Australian government.
Morrison said the Chinese government “doesn’t play by the same rules” as liberal democracies.
Then there is this exchange between the pair, where Scott Morrison once again attacks the NSW independent commission against corruption.
Andrew Clennell covered NSW state politics for years, so he is on solid ground when questioning the PM on this, but even he seems taken aback by the force of Morrison’s defence.
AC: You got a couple of questions from the People’s Forum the other night about an integrity commission and integrity in politics. If you don’t have politicians subject to public hearings, or search warrants with your model, is that a bit of a protection racket for politicians?
Our integrity commission model has been well designed – 367 pages of legislation $60m budgeted proactively to do its job, has very strong powers…
AC: But it protects politicians.
No, it doesn’t. It applies the same rules to everybody – public servants, politicians, and it focused on issues of criminal behaviour. It isn’t a process of trying people, frankly, in the media that we’ve seen through the Icac process, it doesn’t get into salacious public hearings about whose people’s boyfriends are and run out of jobs, runs people out of jobs before the commission has even finalised it’s results.
AC: She [Gladys Berejiklian] resigned and she chose to resign.
So are you suggesting that what happened and the way that that issue was handled by Icac didn’t contribute to the premier actually deciding to stand down and the way I think quite disgracefully matters of her own public [he means private] life were aired in public.
I mean, the same thing has been very, the same thing happened to Nick Greiner. The same thing happened to Barry O’Farrell. We’ve seen it too many times. These matters should be done in a proper legal process.
AC: Well, Barry O’Farrell …
… where all rights are respected, all rights are respected. And that’s the sort of serious model that I want. I don’t want to show trial. I don’t want a kangaroo court
AC: I understand that.
I want a real integrity commission that’s properly funded. That is legislated. The Labor party has a two-page fact sheet about what they’re modelling, I’ve got real legislation.
AC: Daryl Maguire was taking cash from developers to lobby government officials and he was saying to Gladys Berejiklian, was talking to her about this to her on the phone and she was saying “I don’t need to know about that”. Now does that does that all look above board to you, prime minister?
And those serious matters of any potential criminality on the part of Mr Maguire can be dealt with under the type of model that we’re proposing under the under our integrity commission. Absolutely. Things that involve criminal behaviour.
AC: She wouldn’t be examined, under that model.
Well, if there was any suggestion, and no one has made that suggestion about Gladys Berejiklian. No one at all.
But what we saw in that rather ugly process is a as a strong woman’s private life paraded through in a, I thought just an appalling way.
And I think people from New South Wales, I’m from New South Wales, Gladys did an amazing job to help New South Wales through the pandemic, and the way she was treated in that I just found quite sickening and I think a lot of people did.
That’s not the sort of integrity commission that I think works.
I think the sort of integrity commission that works is the well-thought-through one which has proper rules, which protects the integrity of the process, and protects the integrity of how government is run.
Scott Morrison gets quite offended when the Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell asserts he cares about focus groups and polling.
Clennell: You’re a PM known to to rely heavily on focus groups and polling, perhaps more than any other PM.
Based on what, Andrew.
AC: Well on the formulation of budgets, you often test some of the ideas.
Well Andrew, that is an assertion I don’t share.
AC: OK, even when you took your net zero emissions to cabinet, you produced polling at the time to show what people thought about climate change.
Andrew, doing net zero by 2050 was the right decision for the country. [He continues with the usual climate lines]
AC: You’re big on research, you’re a former state Liberal director. I am not trying to insult you here, I’m just saying – that’s true isn’t it?
Your assertion is that’s what drives decisions and I reject that.
Scott Morrison is in Brisbane, where he is undertaking an absolute morning media flurry.
He is now on Sky News, where he is talking about the same thing he has been talking about all week.
Andrew Clennell: “Your narrative around China appears to be that you’re the strongest and toughest to stand up to them. Yet when it comes to them signing security pact with, the Solomon Islands, it feels like the government is sort of saying there’s nothing we can do about that.
“You are building nuclear submarines they won’t be ready for 20 years – is it a sense that there is lot more bark than bite in terms of your China approach at the moment?”
Well, I don’t think the Chinese government feels that way. That’s why today had been clearly activated – whether it was when we first stood up to the Chinese government in terms of foreign interference legislation, which was led by my predecessor, and supported by me as treasurer, the work we’ve done on foreign investment, the work we did to stand up the China on the pandemic and call for the independent inquiry. All of this, the Chinese the work we’ve done on the quad with with India and Japan and the United States, the Aukus agreement. All of this has been designed to ensure that we can protect Australia’s national interests in a highly dynamic region with the Chinese government, which is very assertive.
It’s almost the end of week two of this never-ending campaign and it’s all about Anthony Albanese having to step back from the trail, after testing positive for Covid.
He was due to fly to Perth and it was the PCR he was required to do as part of entry that showed up the virus. He had visited an aged care home earlier in the day, but was masked up.
Albanese will isolate in his Sydney home but take part in the campaign virtually (as long as he doesn’t get to ill) and Labor’s frontbench has been activated to step into the physical void.
For Scott Morrison, it is still about the security pact between Solomon Islands and China.
We’ll carry all the day’s events as they happen – and you’ll have Murph, Daniel Hurst, Sarah Martin, Paul Karp and Josh Butler to help make sense of it all. Amy Remeikis will be with you on the blog for most of the day.
Grab your coffee (or something stronger, I won’t judge) and let’s get into it.