National: ASIO Warns Parties About Chinese Donations

Australia’s intelligence agency ASIO has warned major political parties against taking donations from two billionaires with links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

A Four CornersFairfax investigation found that ASIO has briefed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott as well as opposition leader Bill Shorten about the threat of CCP influence.

ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis also briefed officials from the Coalition and Labor parties privately in 2015 about billionaire property developers Huang Xiangmo and Chau Chak Wing, who have made a total of around $6.7 million in political donations along with their associates. While Lewis did not tell the parties to reject the funds, he said that the CCP has influence over businessmen, and donations might come with strings attached.

However, the parties went on to accept the money anyway. Since then, the Coalition has taken $897,960, while Labor took $200,000.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari was also found to have repeatedly assisted Huang in his citizenship application, which is currently temporarily blocked while ASIO investigation is still ongoing.

In light of the report, Turnbull ordered a major inquiry into espionage and foreign interference laws.

“The threat of political interference by foreign intelligence services is a problem of the highest order and it is getting worse,” Attorney General George Brandis said in a statement.

“Earlier this year the Prime Minister initiated a comprehensive review of Australia’s espionage and foreign interference laws, which he asked me to lead. I will be taking legislative reforms to Cabinet with a view to introducing legislation before the end of the year.”

National: Health Groups Condemn Pauline Hanson’s Vaccination Statement

Health groups have demanded senator Pauline Hanson to retract her “ludicrous” and “dangerous” statement on Australia’s vaccination programs.

During an interview with ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, Hanson, leader of One Nation party, said that the government’s ‘no jab, no pay’ policy of withholding welfare payments for unvaccinated children is “dictatorship”, and that parents have “a right to investigate themselves” before vaccinating their children.

Experts from health groups have condemned the statement.

“I’m utterly appalled by Senator Hanson’s comments. She needs to realise that she’s a serious player in Australian politics now,” said Dr Michael Gannon, head of Australian Medical Association. “[With] 10 per cent of Australians indicating an intention to vote for One Nation, she can no longer make fringe statements that are dangerous to the health of the whole community.”

Director of Immunisation Foundation of Australia, Catherine Hughes said in an interview with SBS News that Hanson’s statement was “disappointing”.

“She shows a total lack of regard towards the health and safety of Australian children, and doesn’t seem to have an understanding of the value of preventative medicine,” Hughes said.

“By encouraging people to ‘do their own research’ on vaccination, she is insinuating parents have the resources and abilities to conduct better medical research than scientists and doctors. It’s a ludicrous thing to say.”

Hughes also added that Hanson’s previous comments on vaccination’s links with autism and other diseases were “misinformed and dangerous statements” that could influence parents’ decision.

Health director of Grattan Institute, Stephen Duckett told ABC Radio that Hanson has to “apologise and retract that statement”.

“Vaccines are safe. I cannot stress how angry it makes one feel that she is putting lives at risk,” said Duckett.

“If parents choose not to vaccinate their children, they are putting their children’s health at risk, and every other person’s children at risk too.”

Hanson has defended her statement, claiming it was a “personal opinion” which “has nothing to do” with politics. “I had my children vaccinated,” said Hanson. “I never told my children not to get their children vaccinated. All I’m saying is get your advice.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull re-emphasised the importance of vaccination. “Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are putting their own children’s health at risk and they are putting the health of everybody else’s children at risk as well,” said Turnbull on Monday.

“So, that is why vaccination is so important. That is why we have our no-jab, no-pay policy. It has worked very well over the past year and we have seen 200,000 more children vaccinated as a result.”

National: Liberal’s WA Preference Deal with One Nation Questioned

The Liberal party faced questions as its state division preferenced One Nation ahead of the National party for the Western Australia election. Other state divisions, such as Queensland, are reportedly considering to follow suit.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defended the party’s decision on Monday, saying One Nation is not “a single issue party or a single personality party”.

“It is a substantial crossbench party in the Senate and it is taking a policy position on a wide range of issues,” Turnbull said.

“It is not a single issue party or a single personality party. We deal with it constructively and respectfully because we respect the fact that each of those One Nation senators has been democratically elected.”

Turnbull also added that preference deals were up to individual Liberal state divisions.

The Liberal party has denounced Pauline Hanson’s party multiple times in the past. In 2001, then Liberal prime minister John Howard said One Nation should be preferenced last in Liberal how-to-vote card due to the party’s racism. Before the 2016 election, Turnbull said, “Pauline Hanson is, as far as we are concerned, not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene. You’ve got to remember she was chucked out of the Liberal Party.”

Leader of the National party and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Turnbull’s decision was “disappointing”, and warned Turnbull not to stray from the Liberal-National alliance.

“We won’t, but it could easily be that the National Party could stand in every Lower House seat in Perth and preference another party. What would that mean? You’d lose a heap of seats, simple as that,” said Joyce.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has criticised the Liberal party’s preference deal with One Nation, saying it is a desperate move from a party that has condemned Pauline Hanson and her group in the past.

Shorten said he had advised Labor party to preference One Nation last for the next federal election. “It’s clear to me that One Nation’s political agenda clashes with Labor values,” said Shorten in a statement to his party. “Labor believes in an Australia where no-one is limited by their faith, their race, by where they were born or who they love. That’s not the Australia of the One Nation party… In the Labor Party, we choose what we stand for – and it’s not fear, division or the politics of ‘us vs them’.”

National: Turnbull Announces Security Briefing Plans for Political Leaders amid Concerns of Cyber Attacks

Defence intelligence officials will be giving security briefings to Australia’s political party leaders next month, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Tuesday.

Turnbull said the briefing plan was prompted by concerns following a United States intelligence report claiming that Russia had interfered in the 2016 elections through cyber means.

Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Department of Homeland Security said in a report that Russian intelligence agents had allegedly hacked into and leaked the emails of the Democratic National Committee.

“This is the new frontier of warfare — the new frontier of espionage. It’s the new frontier of many threats to Australian families, to governments, to businesses,” Turnbull said.

“We all have a role to play to ensure our cyber security and that includes the custodians of our electoral system and democracy.”

Turnbull’s cyber security adviser, Alastair MacGibbon will be joining officials from the Australian Cyber Security Centre to brief the politicians.

Assistant Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan said that while there was no indication that Australia had been targeted, it was important to raise awareness among political leaders in the country.

“We have seen no indication whatsoever that anyone has sought to use cyber influence on our elections or on our electoral system, but obviously our democracy goes to who we are as Australians and we have to do everything we can to protect that,” Tehan told the ABC.

Labor has accused Turnbull of putting his political purposes ahead of national security concerns by announcing the briefing through the media.

“It is a long-standing convention that the activities of our intelligence agencies and specific security vulnerabilities are not made public or discussed publicly in detail,” wrote shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus in a letter to the prime minister. “This is irresponsible in the extreme – Australians have every right to expect their prime minister would put national security ahead of their own political purposes.”

National: Trump’s Presidency Might Disrupt Australia-US Refugee Resettlement Deal

The election of Donald Trump into US presidency could overturn the Australia-US refugee resettlement deal, experts say.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that refugees on Nauru and Manus Island would be relocated to the US through a one-off deal.

Under the deal, refugees who do not accept resettlement to the US would be sent to Nauru and provided a 20-year visa to stay or return to their origin country.

However, concerns arise that Trump might not keep the agreement when he takes office in January.

“In all likelihood, the only way it’s going to happen is if the refugees are transferred to the US before inauguration day [January 20],” Niels Frenzen, immigration clinic director at the University of Southern California school of law told Radio National.

“If the US has not already begun its own vetting or so-called background checks until now, if you look at the time the US has taken to vet Syrian refugees … it’s unlikely that that could be accomplished in a few months.”

Mark Krikorian, the executive director at the Centre for Immigration Studies said Trump, whose policies contradicts the agreement, might not keep the deal.

“We [America] have a good relationship with Australia — one of our closest allies in the world,” Krikorian said.

“If this were a unique situation that there was no way for Australia to deal with, I could see extending them a helping hand, but this is just a matter of shipping these illegal immigrants to the United States.”

Both Krikorian and Frenzen suggest that the resettlement could be finished before January 20 under several conditions.

Frenzen said refugees could be settled before Trump’s inauguration if vetting had been “ongoing” and the US had been negotiating with Australia since January.

Krikorian also suggested that President Barack Obama might accelerate the processing period, as he had previously sped up the assessment of Syrian refugees from 18-24 months to only three months.

“It’s entirely possible the administration will rush the admission of the illegal immigrants you all have offshore in order to get them in under the wire before January 20 when Trump becomes president,” said Krikorian.

National: Turnbull Says Cabinet May Consider Changes to Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 18C

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that his cabinet is considering an inquiry into freedom of speech in relation to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, a backflip from his August statement that the Government had “much more pressing priorities”.

Section 18C makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” people based on their race or ethnicity.

Turnbull said the Coalition conservatives’ calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the issue had “considerable merit”.

“There is a view that the bar that is set is too low, in other words, that proscribing conduct which insults and offends is too much a restriction on free speech,” Turnbull told ABC Radio on Monday.

Turnbull also called for the Human Rights Commission to “urgently review” the way it handles section 18C complaints after a Brisbane judge dismissed a case against three Queensland students.

The students were accused of social media vilification of an Indigenous officer on campus.

“What it shows is that the Human Rights Commission must urgently review the way in which it manages these cases,” he said.

“To have a case like that – which will have involved the expenditure of considerable Commonwealth money, taxpayers’ money, considerable money on behalf of the students, imposed enormous stress on them – and have it chucked out, struck out as having no reasonable prospects of success, what the court was saying, what the judge was saying to the Human Rights Commission is, ‘You’ve been wasting the court’s time. You’ve been wasting government money.'”

A number of Coalition politicians have voiced their support for an inquiry.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi tweeted, “It’s about time, but the real question is why it has taken so long? The abuse of 18C has been evident for years.”

Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie said while the Government would like to protect minorities, it also sought to defend “one of the most important elements of democracy, which is free speech”.

The opposition has criticised Turnbull’s backflip. “The Prime Minister is willing to trade race hate protections to protect himself from his backbench,” said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

National: Michael Kirby’s View On The Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite

No one beats around the bush quite like Malcolm Turnbull. Continuing his history of a few semi-broken promises in his best Liberal fashion, Mr. Turnbull has now proven his sitting-on-the-fence nature by introducing the unwanted same-sex marriage plebiscite. A fantastically half-arsed idea in an attempts to shift the gay marriage decision to voters.

Source: Yahoo
Source: Yahoo

Former High Court Justice, Michael Kirby has expressed his views on the plebiscite warning that it’s ‘alien’ towards the constitution, stating it would establish a ‘bad precedent’ that would weaken Australian parliaments.

Source: Punjab Tribune
Source: Punjab Tribune

Mr. Kirby also reiterated that the same-sex vote was unnecessary, pointing out that there was no plebiscite on important national issues such as abolishing the White Australian Policy and that gay Australians deserve the right to equality too.

Source: SMH
Source: SMH

Mr. Turnbull has distanced himself from making any further comments and the plebiscite will not be held until next year. Until then, it will be a while before Australia can have same-sex marriage.

National: Q&A Mitch Fifield says ‘Australia shares responsibility for Nauru’

Liberal frontbencher Mitch Fifield admits that Australia has a “shared responsibility” for the asylum seekers and refugees at Nauru detention centre in ABC show Q&A, Monday, August 22.

Fifield was responding to Tracey Donehue, a former teacher at Nauru Regional Processing Centre who asked about the responsibility of the Australian Government for asylum seekers, as witness accounts – including hers – of detainees’ mistreatments continue to be ignored.

Fifield suggested that the Federal Government has a responsibility to investigate incidents of abuse and assault on Nauru. “There wouldn’t be incident reports filed if they weren’t for the purpose of being investigated,” said Fifield.

Last month, government files leak revealed a wide range of abuse allegations, including assaults, sexual abuse, child abuse and poor living condition in the detention camp.

Liberal frontbencher and Immigration minister Peter Dutton said while the case would be investigated by Nauruan authorities, “some people do have a motivation to make a false complaint”.

“I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault because in the end, people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country,” Dutton told 2GB Radio.

“Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia. Certainly, some have made false allegations.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government will assess the information, while former immigration minister and current treasurer Scott Morrison claim the files should not be taken as fact. “It’s important to stress that incident reports of themselves aren’t a reporting of fact, they are reporting that an allegation has been made of a particular action,” Morrison said.