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MP urges colleagues to back voice – as it happened

MP urges colleagues to back voice – as it happened

That’s where we’ll leave the blog for today – thanks so much for joining us. Here is a wrap of the day’s biggest stories:

  • A New South Wales police officer has been charged and will appear in court next month after allegedly tasering a 95-year-old woman with dementia.

  • The Treasury confirmed that it has referred the PwC tax scandal to the Australian Federal Police for a criminal investigation.

  • Liberal MP Julian Leeser urged his colleagues to back the Voice.

  • The ABC managing director appeared before Senate estimates and said he was “worried about” First Nations staff.

  • Hawthorn Football Club CEO Justin Reeves resigned, the club has confirmed, due to the “personal toll” and need to focus on his wellbeing in a “difficult period” for the club.

  • A 15-year-old boy was taken into custody after discharging a firearm in the carpark of a school.

  • The defence minister, Richard Marles, said Australia is “not about to be invaded”.

  • Scott Morrison argued that the Indigenous voice will cause “confusion, uncertainty”.

  • The former attorney general Christian Porter will not act for billionaire Clive Palmer in his $300bn lawsuit against the federal government.

  • Anthony Albanese and Narendra Modi held a press conference following the end of their bilateral meeting.

  • Daniel Andrews said landlords can claim his tax hike as a deduction.

  • More than 100 Australian academics and scholars called on the government to rethink its nuclear-powered submarine plan, arguing it is risky, expensive and will increase dependence on the US.

Elsewhere, the Treasury has confirmed that it has referred the PwC tax scandal to the Australian Federal Police for a criminal investigation.

Treasury secretary Dr Steven Kennedy said in a statement released tonight that recent revelations on the extent of the scandal is behind the referral:

PwC Australia’s former head of international tax, Mr Peter Collins, improperly used confidential commonwealth information.

The emails that the Tax Practitioners Board tabled in parliament on 2 May 2023 highlighted the significant extent of the unauthorised disclosure of confidential commonwealth information and the wide range of individuals within PwC who were directly and indirectly privy to the confidential information.

In light of these recent revelations and the seriousness of this misconduct, the Treasury has referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police to consider commencement of a criminal investigation.

The Tax Practitioners Board moved to ban former PwC partner Peter Collins from acting as a tax practitioner until next year. Collins was the partner who leaked confidential government tax plans, with a 148 page document released by Senate estimates showing the extent of the breach.

Good evening, Mostafa Rachwani with you this evening with breaking news that a New South Wales police officer will appear in court next month after allegedly tasering a 95-year-old woman with dementia.

The 33-year-old senior constable has been told to appear in court over the offences of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault.

He will appear at Cooma local court on 5 July and remains suspended from duty without pay.

Police say Claire Nowland was armed with a steak knife at the time of the incident, which occurred at an aged care facility in Cooma.

NSW police commissioner Karen Webb and deputy commissioner Paul Pisanos will address the media this evening to provide an update.

Investigations into the critical incident continue.

No answers today in Senate estimates over Clive Palmer litigation

There has been plenty of argy bargy in Senate estimates with the Attorney General’s Department this afternoon, much of it over Clive Palmer’s penchant for litigation against Australia.

To be more precise, much of it is about Greens senator David Shoebridge’s frustration at officials taking many of his questions on notice.

One thing that was confirmed, though, was that there are two other actions – besides the whopping great $300bn one – under way, as Paul Karp initially wrote here:

Universities welcome Australian-India migration partnership

The peak body for Australia’s tertiary education sector has welcomed the finalisation of migration and mobility partnership between Australia and India, announced today.

Universities Australia’s chief executive, Catriona Jackson, said the body fully supported growing the nation’s “flourishing” relationship with our neighbour, describing universities as playing a key role in “maximising the economic potential” of the relationship.

The Australia-India migration and mobility partnership arrangement will support the flow of more students, researchers and skilled people between our countries. This is a good thing.

Before the pandemic, international education contributed around $40bn to Australia’s economy, with Indian students contributing $6.1bn of that total figure in 2019.

We already have more Indian students studying in Australia than before the pandemic, but it is in our interest to build on this.

Jackson said the new arrangement would also allow for greater collaboration between researchers and fill skill shortages in Australia.

Lesser: voice will focus on ‘real work’ rather than ‘culture wars of Twitter’

Leeser said he believed the voice would focus on issues around health, education and employment, saying:

Frankly, it will have too much real work on its hands to worry about the boring culture wars of Twitter.

He rubbished claims that it would give “special privilege” to Indigenous people.

I know there are many Liberal and National voters wrestling with how to vote at the referendum. To them I say I believe what the voice is seeking to accomplish is in accordance with our values and history.

We might not trumpet our virtue as others do, but we have always been on this journey.

Liberal MP Julian Leeser says the Indigenous voice is in keeping with conservative values and history, imploring his Coalition colleagues to back the referendum.

The longtime voice advocate has rubbished key criticisms of the no campaign, but still had kind words for the conservative identities pushing the anti-voice vote, calling for respectful debate around the looming public vote. He told the House of Representatives:

The voice is advisory. It won’t be Moses handing down the tablets from the mountain. The parliament will still be the democratic centre of our national life.

He said the voice’s role would be simply to advise – likening its advice to that given by other government organs.

Just like the security services, the chief medical officer, chief scientist, Dfat and so many agencies advise.

They will have no interest in where the Department of Finance purchases its paperclips or recycled paper, as some have claimed. It will not run programs or dish out grants. And it will have no interest in submarines as some no advocates suggest … And if the voice wants to lambast the RBA on interest rates – I say join the queue.

Earlier today, a rally was held in Sydney calling for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (it was meant to be timed with Joe Biden’s visit, but we know how that turned out …).

His wife, Stella Assange, spoke prior to a march down the CBD streets. Have a geeze at the action here:

AG’s office coy on potential new claims against commonwealth from Clive Palmer’s company

Earlier in May Guardian Australia revealed that Clive Palmer’s company Zeph Investments had given notice it intends to sue Australia in a fresh case, in addition to an existing $296bn claim, with a potential third claim in the works.

The two new prospective investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) claims were revealed in budget papers, and the attorney general’s department told the Guardian the claims were “unrelated on their facts to the arbitration already on foot”, that is, are new matters that could expose Australia to further legal liability.

But at Senate estimates on Wednesday, officials from the attorney general’s department refused to answer questions from Greens senator, David Shoebridge, about what the new claims are.

Asked what was in Zeph’s notice of intention to seek arbitration, the acting general counsel, Jesse Clarke, told the committee “it would be for Zeph to articulate the claim”.

He said:

I don’t propose to answer. [The matter] could continue to a notice of arbitration, to which the commonwealth would then respond. It would do so at that time.”

When Shoebridge noted there can’t be any prejudice to Zeph, because it already knows what’s in the notice, Clarke replied:

That’s not the basis of my reluctance. It’s because our role is to defend the commonwealth in those proceedings. To speculate on what may be in that claim, could prejudice the commonwealth’s litigation strategy.

Shoebridge then insisted on an answer, but Clarke took the question on notice for the government to consider whether it will claim public interest immunity, blocking the content of the notice.

Shoebridge said this showed how “damaging” ISDS claims are for democracy, that the arbitration is a “secret process”. He said it was “deeply unsatisfactory” that officials would not answer.

Minister closes office after break-in

Minister for immigration Andrew Giles has closed his office in the northern Melbourne suburb of Thomastown following an overnight break-in. He says an “unacceptable toll” has been taken on electorate staff in the past few months in the wake of ongoing protests and graffiti.

Parliamentary committee to examine Victorian rental crisis

Victoria’s rental crisis will be placed under the microscope of a parliamentary inquiry, despite the Andrews government blocking the Greens’ attempt to establish the probe.

Last week, exiled Liberal MP Moira Deeming sided with the Andrews government in voting down an attempt by the Victorian Greens to establish an inquiry into the state’s worsening rental crisis. But a non-government dominated parliamentary committee has self-referred an inquiry that will examine the rental crisis and housing affordability.

The Greens’ renters’ rights spokesperson, Gabrielle de Vietri, backed the committee investigating issues contributing to the housing crisis:

The rental crisis in Victoria is out-of-control. We’re seeing retired women sleeping in cars and families with school kids living in tents.

Voice referendum not ‘front and centre’ MP Le says

Earlier today, former prime minister Scott Morrison had a go at sporting bodies coming out in support of the voice (which his party has rejected), saying:

While keenly interested in the NRL’s opinion on hip-drop tackles I don’t think I will be referring to them the constitutional advice in making my decisions on this matter.

Labor MP Louise Miller-Frost and independent MP Dai Le were asked about his view on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing.

Miller-Frost said sport was a “very important part of our society” and it’s “entirely appropriate” for codes to have a position.

Perhaps it is not the position the former prime minister is advocating … it is pleasing to see that we have not only the sports organisations but the faith-based organisations, major companies coming out and supporting the voice … at the end of the day we will know when the referendum happens.

Le said she’d spent a lot of time on the ground and had picked up her community were not engaged with the referendum and it wasn’t “front and centre”.

I will remain undeclared. I will leave it to the people to make the judgment at the end of the day what they want to do. It is a referendum at the end of the day.

Independent MP for Fowler, Dai Le: ‘I will remain undeclared.’

Cash queries resignation of AAT president in Senate estimates

There have been many questions in senate estimates about the appointment and resignation of Fiona Meagher as president of the administrative appeals tribunal (AAT).

Meagher quit abruptly at the end of last year after a pretty chaotic time. The government is working on a new form of the body, and today appointed a new president – Emilios Kyrou.

Shadow attorney general Michaelia Cash asked the attorney general’s department whether Meagher was pressured to resign, whether she was offered a payout or compensation, whether her commission as a federal court judge was called into question, and a range of other questions. She asked Labor senator Anthony Chisholm for a “guarantee that neither the attorney general nor his office put pressure on [her] to resign”.

“You’re putting a slur in the guise of a question without producing any evidence … as a fishing exercise,” Chisholm said.

I’m confident that the attorney general acted appropriately at all times. It’s an offensive question.

Trip was to be with family, Nationals leader says

Still on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, Nationals leader David Littleproud has appeared following revelations he has repaid travel expenses he claimed after leaving parliament early to travel to the Gold Coast in February.

Littleproud said the travel was to be with his family, not to purchase a unit, which he did three days prior.

The proximity of the Gold Coast airport was close to my home and the decision was made that I thought I could go back to either one of those ports [the Gold Coast or Brisbane]. Subsequent to that, the advice was my only port was Brisbane, I wasn’t aware of that and I made an error of judgement in not knowing that.

… I take it very seriously about my travel and how I spent Australian taxpayer money but to remove any doubt, I’m simply paying for the whole trip, even though it was really close to price in airfares from Canberra to the Gold Coast and to Brisbane because of the proximity. It’s important we uphold integrity in that and we try to do the right thing but we made the mistake in getting the wrong advice.

Asked if the property was an investment, he said it would be an investment and at “some juncture” would be a retirement home for him and his wife.

This was simply about going home, not about purchasing a unit.

Nationals leader David Littleproud: ‘I take it very seriously about my travel and how I spent Australian taxpayer money.’

Mineral deal will strengthen US-Australia alliance, resources minister says

Meanwhile, on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, resources minister Madeleine King has appeared following a joint deal with the US on critical mineral exports to reduce Australia’s reliance on China.

King said it was an “important step” in strengthening the US-Australia alliance and would work to unblock the processing of Australia’s “vast reserves” of critical minerals.

We need to power this industry are really very quickly because of the Green revolution the whole world wants to undertake, and right now we know that most of those supplies are coming from one country and we need to be a competitor and America is going to help us …

This is about cooperation, as it always has been with the US. We work together … having American government investments and American corporate investment in our critical minerals industry is something that is unequivocally a good thing for the nation.

Netball Australia only body yet to back the Uluru statement

In a statement, Butchulla and Gubbi Gubbi woman and Football Australia general manager of First Nations, Courtney Fewquandie, said:

Football Australia, under the attentive guidance of Niag, remains committed to continuing to support football in its role in promoting the advancement of recognition and culturally informed decision making with First Nations people.

It leaves the country’s netball organisation as the only major sporting body to have not committed to a position.

Netball Australia are conducting education processes about the referendum for players and staff.

Tennis Australia has previously committed its support to the Uluru statement but has not yet confirmed its position on the voice to parliament.

Football Australia announces support for Indigenous voice to parliament

Football Australia has re-affirmed its support for the Uluru statement from the heart including the Indigenous voice to parliament.

It follows Rugby Australia, the NRL and the AFL which in recent weeks confirmed their support for the yes campaign in the voice referendum.

The chief executive of Football Australia, James Johnson, said:

Our National Indigenous Advisory Group (Niag) have been instrumental in guiding Football Australia through key milestones, including our support for the Uluru statement from the heart in full, as we bring to life our commitment to being recognised as a leader in embedding respect and recognition of First Nations voices and traditions.

Albanese previously compared India’s prime minister to hit musician Bruce Springsteen, now he’s lighting up the opera house in his honour.

The rockstar visit continues.

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