Australia politics live news: Albanese to campaign virtually after Covid diagnosis; Morrison attacks Icac again; 29 Covid deaths | Australia news


PM: ‘Australians can’t be themselves, are walking on eggshells’

That exchange continues and gets to the real nub of why Scott Morrison is standing so strongly behind Katherine Deves – because he wants to talk about “cancel culture” and appeal to Australians who feel they “can’t say anything any more”.

(Cancel culture doesn’t really exist, and in any case Deves has not been cancelled, but may have been silenced by the Liberal campaign, and the comments she has made were not from a decade ago, but as recent as early this year.)

Q: Yeah, exactly. Look, we all make mistakes. We all say the odd thing that’s wrong, that we regret. I’m not denying that, but there were a lot of really vicious comments in her past and to just sort of say a blanket, ‘oh well, I’m sorry for that’, doesn’t that go to her beliefs, though? Is this not different?

Morrison:

I think people do learn about these things over time, and I think they do learn, that they need to be more careful and more sensitive about the way they approach what are very sensitive issues. And this should be an adult, sensitive, mature debate showing respect for each other and it not being taken off into other issues around broader debates on sexuality. This is a practical issue of women and girls in sport and trying to get some common sense arrangements so girls and women get a fair go. That’s what it’s actually about at the end of the day. Now, those who disagree with her on that, I suspect they’re the ones who’ve been travelling over all her old comments and all of that for one simple purpose, so that they could take her out of the debate. Now, I’m not going to allow that to happen.

I think a lot of Australians feel sometimes that they haven’t expressed things well in the past. And so they walk around on eggshells in the office, they walk around on eggshells in their community and feel that they just can’t, you know, be themselves. And we all have to be sensitive about these things. But at the end of the day, this election is not about any of those issues.

There was then this exchange about the Liberal Warringah candidate, who Scott Morrison handpicked, Katherine Deves.

Q: OK. One of your candidates, Katherine Deves, has come under fire for her social media posts linking cross-dressing men, trans women to sexual predators, saying they are more like serial killers. Why haven’t you disendorsed her?

Morrison:

Katherine Deves is raising three girls of her own. She lives in Manly. She put herself through the Solicitors Administration Board course to become a lawyer, and she has been an advocate for standing up for women and girls in sport. And there are comments she’s made in the past, which she’s been very clear about were insensitive, and that’s not how she would seek to continue to pursue those issues to stand up for women and girls in sport. And lots of people have trolled over her old posts and all of those things. She’s made it very clear that she believes that they were insensitive. And so I think she should be given the opportunity to be heard on her own merits now as she’s putting herself forward as a Liberal candidate there in Warringah.

But I think it goes to another issue now, and that is where people have said things in the past, as she clearly has, and now she’s standing for public office, she knows she needs to be more sensitive about those issues. For what particular purpose mostly? So it doesn’t detract from the big point that she’s making, which is about having common sense when it comes to women and girls playing sport in this country and getting a fair go. And, you know, we can’t be running around all the time walking on eggshells, on everything.

… And there’s been quite a pile on, as you would’ve seen … and I’m not joining that pile on. And she has said that that’s not how she wants to pursue it. She believes those comments were insensitive and she’s moving forward. And I think people should give her a go on that basis.

China ‘doesn’t play by same rules’ as Australia – Morrison

It then comes to this exchange where Scott Morrison doesn’t rule out Solomon Island government officials were bribed by China:

Q: When you say China doesn’t play by our rules, are you saying that that China has bribed ministers, people in the Solomon Islands government?

Morrison:

We are very well aware of what China has done in many other countries around the world, and we have a very good understanding about how they operate in the Pacific. As prime minister, I think what is the best thing for me to say is they don’t play by the same rules as transparent liberal democracies.

Q: That sounds pretty loaded, it sounds like a yes.

Morrison:

What it sounds like [is] that they don’t play by the same rules as transparent liberal democracies.

Previously, Morrison and Peter Dutton, when addressing that question, have been careful to say “leaving Solomon Islands to the side” before speaking of “bribes”.

Back to Scott Morrison’s media blitz this morning. He was asked on the Seven network why Australia didn’t send a more senior minister to Solomon Islands.

Here is the exchange (as per the official transcript):

Q: So why isn’t our … foreign minister there? Why did we send junior people? The US is sending a delegation. It doesn’t feel like we’re taking this as seriously as you say.

Morrison:

Well, I disagree with you on that. We not only, I mean, they have made their decision. And so the foreign minister was not the right person to send at that time. We communicated a very clear message to the prime minister through the minister of Pacific that no one was going to convince anybody at that point, they had made their decision. And so we communicated a very clear message to the prime minister.

I’ve spoken to the prime minister on many occasions about these types of issues going back to my face-to-face meeting with him, both there in the Solomon Islands, at various other Pacific Islands Forum meetings. And we’ve been talking over a long period of time. And so these issues are far more complex than just sending a foreign minister and apparently that’s going to solve it all. That is a very simplistic understanding of the issue. This is very complex. In the Pacific islands, you don’t throw your weight around. That’s what I used to see from old colonial powers.

They don’t want to see that. They want to see family working together, supporting each other, which has been our approach. Now, as you’ve seen, the person who would be deputy prime minister of Australia, if the Labor party were elected, actually advocated exactly what China is doing in the region.

And I think that makes an absolute mockery of the shrill criticism of the government – that if the Labor party advanced over the course of these past few days, when the very person they claim to be their Pacific expert, Richard Marles, actually in August or thereabouts of last year, was writing to say that what China is doing right now is something they should be doing.

And I just think that that is what is incredibly concerning, that if Labor were elected, their deputy prime minister, the person who wants to be their defence minister, actually believes that this is what they should have done.

Federal court overturns AI ruling

Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor

The full bench of the federal court has overturned a lower court ruling that artificial intelligence systems can be considered “inventors” under Australian patent law.

The July 2021 ruling had found Dr Stephen Thaler’s Dabus system could be considered the inventor of an emergency warning light and a type of food container, after the commissioner of patents had previously rejected the patent application.

The full federal court, however, found naming Dabus as the inventor did not comply with existing patent law, in a ruling earlier this month.

However, the court left open the door to whether AI could, in future, be considered inventors:

In filing the application, Dr Thaler no doubt intended to provoke debate as to the role that artificial intelligence may take within the scheme of the Patents Act and Regulations. Such debate is important and worthwhile. However, in the present case it clouded consideration of the prosaic question before the primary judge … In our view, there are many propositions that arise for consideration in the context of artificial intelligence and inventions.

The court said that includes whether a person who is an inventor should be redefined to include artificial intelligence, and how that would be defined in working with the person who invented the AI system.

The court said that would “require more consideration” but indicated it would lean more into being a policy and legislation decision – that is, something parliament would have to consider – and then up to the courts to interpret.

Ben Doherty

Ben Doherty

Members of Australia’s Afghan Hazara diaspora will hold a candlelight vigil on Friday night in Sydney to commemorate the victims of the high school terrorist attacks in Afghanistan this week.

On Tuesday, the Abdul Rahim Shahid high school and the Mumtaz Educational Centre in western Kabul were hit by coordinated bombing attacks that are believed to have killed dozens and injured more than 100. Accurate figures are difficult to ascertain: witnesses reported Taliban authorities kept them from reaching the wounded victims or prevented them from being taken to hospitals.

The schools were in Dasht-e-Barchi, a predominantly Hazara ethnic neighbourhood in the west of the capital.

Friends in Sydney please join us tomorrow for a candlelight vigil to commemorate and mourn the recent cowardly attack on Hazara school students in Kabul by the T.ban pic.twitter.com/v1rc5LAnws

— Zaki Haidari (@ZakiHaidariAU) April 21, 2022

Zaki Haidari of the Saba group said:

Abdul Rahim Shahid high school was the largest high school in the country – it housed 30,000 students and over 400 teachers in three daily shifts. It was also one of the most successful high schools because its graduates passed the university entry examinations with very high success rates.

The impact of this horrible incident has been immense on the Hazara community in Australia, including the prominent Hazara communities living in the Cumberland council area as well as across Sydney, whose families and close relatives reside in the same area of Kabul where the continuous attacks on the Hazaras have been taking place.

Through this event we hope to raise awareness about the injustice and severity of Hazara genocide in Afghanistan and demand that the Australian and international community take accountability for this outrageous human rights violation.

The candlelight vigil begins at 6pm at Granville Town Hall, 10 Carlton Street, Granville, in Sydney.

That’s where the press conference ends.

Q: The latests polling is showing that Scott Morrison is unpopular and Anthony Albanese is equally unpopular. You came in today and have been comfortable – are you the leader people have been looking for?

Jason Clare:

A few laughs in the room there … Albanese is the leader this country needs … The answer is clear, and I think Australians will see that of the course of the last four weeks of the campaign … it is time to give him a go.

They have a choice here, between honest Albo and smirking Scott. Australians will make that choice very clear. Australians will vote for hope, change, a better future.

If Scott Morrison is saying that it is as good as it gets, [that’s] so out of touch. It is time to get out of the Lodge and into the real world.

We have real plans here, the can build a real future and relieve the childcare pressures of mums and dads who want to work more. We can fix that.

Australian who cannot find a doctor in the bush and cannot afford one in the city. We can fix that. There are too many young people, let alone older people, who cannot afford to buy a home. We need to make it easier for them. If the Liberal party doesn’t think this is true, there are lots of Australians that have had enough of the rorts, enough of the lies, and they want a government they will do something about it.

That is what we will do if we are honoured to be elected on May 21.

Q: Back to the testing regime and so on required to the diagnosis. [Was] Anthony Albanese doing daily testing?

Jason Clare:

… He was doing daily rats.

Q: Did you take extra precautions now to make sure that those senior members of the shadow cabinet that haven’t got Covid are protected.

Clare:

I think it’ll be the same with the Liberals – make every practical precaution you can, wear a mask when appropriate All practical precautions. But let’s not … think that you can stop Covid from coming to you; 40- or 50,000 Australians are getting it.

We have another advantage in this campaign, because we [have a strong team] here and we will showcase that over the next few days.

Q: Twenty-five per cent of people in the crowd remain undecided about either leader. Doesn’t that show that Anthony Albanese cannot afford to lose any time away from the public view?

Jason Clare:

I think of what it shows is that the election will be tight. It will go down to the wire, every vote will count. We have to fight for every vote, convince people that we have the plan to build a better country, strengthen the economy, make Australia a fairer, better place. And we can do that, we are not a one-man band. We are a strong united team and we can show that over the course of the next few days.

Q: Obviously Anthony Albanese spent some time in Brisbane and was preparing for the debate. Members of the Labor inner sanctum, are they close contacts?

Clare:

To the best of my knowledge they are not classified as close contacts. Nor do I think anybody in this room is, is that right? They’re doing the normal things that you have been doing, the daily tests to make sure that they are monitoring the systems and checking themselves to make sure they are OK.

Jason Clare, Labor’s campaign spokesman, at the press conference in Sydney today
Jason Clare, Labor’s campaign spokesman, at the press conference in Sydney today. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Q: Australians are going to see a lot more of Scott Morrison on the stump in marginal seats. Making announcements over the next seven days, and very little of Anthony Albanese outside of isolation when he’s well. Does the Labor campaign consider that a positive or a negative?

Jason Clare:

It’s just the reality. It’s the reality. You get COVID you’re in iso. There’s no alternative to that. We planned for this for months. It’s inevitable that people will get COVID if they’re out and about. I see this an opportunity, I got to say. Not only do we have a better plan, we have a better team.

Q: Australians seeing more of the Prime Minister. Is that a positive or a negative for your campaign?

Clare:

Well, I think it’s a positive for our campaign. The more they see of Scott Morrison, the more they will realise this government has run out of puff. Let me take you back, Mark, to the debate again. Think about the questions that were asked at that debate. Right off the bat, the first question was about housing affordability. People were saying, we’re finding it harder for our kids to be able to buy a home. Next question was about aged care.

People terrified about putting their parents into aged care. Then there was a question about the NDIS. People worried about the cuts to funding for their autistic child. And then there was a question about corruption. It shows people care about corruption. Scott Morrison didn’t have any answers to any of that. Just excuses. Albo had real practical plans to help all of those people. What those people were saying at that debate wasn’t gotcha. It was help me. And Labor’s got plans to help them.

Scott Morrison didn’t have anything there other than excuses. That’s why I said yesterday voting for this government again, after they’ve been in power now for almost a decade – would be like staying in a taxi that’s run out of petrol. It won’t take you where you need to go. They have run out ideas, run out of things they want to do. It’s all short-term fixes, no long-term plans.

I think Australians looking at this government, and they’ll look harder at Scott Morrison over the course of the next weeks and the weeks after that, will say to themselves, this government doesn’t deserve to be rewarded with your vote. And after all of the fighting that’s going on, inside the Liberal Party, fighting amongst themselves, attacking the Prime Minister, this government needs time in opposition to fix themselves.

Q: Are you trying to get Australians to elect Anthony Albanese as opposed to kick out Scott Morrison?

Jason Clare:

Well, we’re saying two things: one, this government doesn’t deserve to be re-elected. They don’t deserve to be rewarded with your vote after all of the failures of the last decade. As Albo said the other day, Australia is the best country in the world, but we deserve a better government. Australians don’t kick out governments lightly or often, but they kick them out when they are failing them, when they’re incompetent – instead of focusing on you, they’re just fighting among themselves. I’ve got to tell you, this government is the trifecta. It ticks all three of those boxes.

Q: One of the arguments is when it comes to Labor’s attack over what happens in the Solomon Islands – Mr Albanese said that Labor would engage better in the region. There’s no substantive policy about what you would do differently. What would Labor do? Do we need better fuel reserves, do we need increased funding to the region? Was would you do differently, other than saying you wouldn’t have this problem?

Clare:

We’ll talk more about that during the campaign. I hear your question.

Q: It’s the big issue.

Clare:

And where does it start? Picking up the phone. Talking to people. You know, the prime minister makes a lot about his relationships with the Pacific. And talks a step-up. As Albo said the other night, it’s a stuff-up. That starts with engagement. It’s people to people, talking to people. It’s on the phone and also face to face. That’s where this government stuffed this up. Everyone has said the foreign minister should’ve been there. We’ve got Marise Payne even refusing to have a debate about Penny Wong. She won’t debate Penny Wong in Australia and she won’t go to the Solomon Islands.

If you’re serious about Australia’s national security … [and] you want to engage, get on a plane. What happened instead? The foreign minister went to a business function and some bloke called Zed got sent there.

Q: There’s a situation where you could have the smartest economic mind in the Labor caucus seeing fundamental flaws in this policy, the NDIS. How is that not problematic? And secondly, just on the implications of Mr Albanese having Covid, one of the challenges he faces in and you face is he’s largely unknown with voters. We see that in poll after poll. How damaging is it, therefore, he’s going to spend the next week in his home in Sydney and unable to crisscross the country interacting with voters?

Jason Clare:

I think real problem is the Australians know Scott Morrison too well. They know he abandoned them during the bushfires. He failed them by not buying enough vaccines when we were stuck at home, when half the country was stuck at home. They know he failed them during the floods when people were stuck on their own roofs waiting for helicopters. They know this government has deliberately kept their wages low for a decade. They know this government has rorted taxpayers money for their own benefit. They know that Scott Morrison’s own party call him a liar. And know this government has no real plans for the future other than trying to drag themselves across the line on May 21. That is Scott Morrison’s problem.

Q: Can I ask about Andrew Charlton, the Labor candidate in Parramatta, his comments about the national disability insurance scheme. Anthony Albanese said it was a great Labor reform. He wrote in an … op-ed. This is the quote: “This is becoming most of the serious design flaws.” He’s been recruited for his economic expertise.

Jason Clare:

This is a great Labor legacy. I agree with him on many things, but not this. I think more problematic is the things he’s done to the NDIS. Let’s be real about this. There’s two types of people on the NDIS at the moment, there’s people who had their funding cut and there’s people who are terrified about getting their funding cut.

Just give you one example: his name is Jacob. He lives in my electorate. He’s a teenager now. He has autism and he’s looked after by his dad. His mum is not there because she died of a brain tumour. His dad has been to my office three times because the funding has been cut three times.

Every time we’ve had to go back in and try to get more funding for him. The last time all his dad wanted was a carer so he can get respite on the weekend. You can’t understand how hard it is for Jacob’s dad until you spend time in his house.

Let me give you one more – this is important, you raised it. I met Stella at Bankstown hospital about four or five years ago. Stella was in the hospital for three years. Why? Because the NDIS hadn’t got around to putting the changes into her house so she could get out. That’s the reality. That’s the real world.

That’s what is happening here and there’s thousands of stories like that. The NDIS – your question in essence is about can you make it better? You bet we can.

Q: It’s about the design and the problem of sustainability, given the huge trajectory of the cost. No one is saying it’s not important. It’s so important.

Clare:

My answer so to you is the NDIS is a great Labor legacy. But we need to continue to make it better. Have a look at what Bill [Shorten] said the other day, talking about the sort of fundamental reforms needed to it. One of them is more staff. One of the problems Jacob’s dad has is getting to even talk to anyone.





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