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Karen Andrews links June asylum seeker boat arrivals to Labor policy

Josh Butler

Josh Butler

Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews has linked the interception of four asylum seeker boats from Sri Lanka last month to the immigration policies of the new Labor government.

But missing from the former cabinet minister’s criticism was mention of the ongoing economic and social turmoil in Sri Lanka, a situation the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said the government was working to address.

In June, directly following the 21 May election of the Albanese government, Operation Sovereign Borders said four people-smuggling boats were discovered on their way from Sri Lanka. Andrews said it was the highest monthly total of boat arrivals since 2015.

In a statement the Australian Border Force said:

Australian authorities intercepted four maritime people smuggling ventures from Sri Lanka with a total of 125 Sri Lankan nationals on board. All 125 passengers and crew were safely returned to Sri Lanka in close cooperation with the Sri Lankan government.

Sri Lanka has experienced months of upheaval and unrest as anti-government protests agitated for the removal of the country’s former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa following economic troubles, a financial crisis, shortages of food, petrol and power.

Andrews linked the boat arrivals to Labor’s plan to abolish temporary protection visas, which the former Coalition government said was a key component of their border protection strategy.

She tweeted, “Labor should not be weakening our borders by abolishing temporary protection visas,” accompanied by a video with the caption “keep TPVs, the people smugglers are watching”.

Today the Australian Border Force released a report showing the largest number of boats interceptions since 2015.

Labor should not be weakening our borders by abolishing Temporary Protection visas. pic.twitter.com/p2bKLgpZXy

— Karen Andrews MP (@karenandrewsmp) July 29, 2022

We’ve contacted O’Neil’s office for comment. Last week, the minister said in an ABC interview that the government was working to support Sri Lanka through its ongoing turmoil. O’Neil visited Sri Lanka shortly after taking government, and said the two countries were working to address crime and people smuggling. She told Radio National:

Australia is safest in a region of prosperous, functional, strong democracies, of which Sri Lanka was one until very recently. So, we have an absolute national interest here in helping this country get back on its feet.

O’Neil drew a link in her interview between Sri Lanka’s situation and potential people smuggling ventures, reiterating the fact that Australian border policy had not changed. She said:

The most important thing for me to do in my position is to just continue to reiterate to people that Operation Sovereign Borders is Australian government policy. Don’t get on a boat and think that you are going to be able to make a life in Australia. You will be turned back.

There are other ways that we can help Sri Lanka. But coming on a boat is not a pathway to come to Australia. And I would just urge Sri Lankans to understand that there has been no change in government policy.

Key events

That’s it for today, thanks for reading

Here are the main stories on Friday, 29 July:

Enjoy the rest of your evening, we will see you back here tomorrow.

Stranded humpback whale euthanised

A young whale stranded on rocks near Port Macquarie has been euthanised because of fears it would not survive at sea.

According to a statement from the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (Orrca), the humpback was only a week old and was wedged between the rocks in the shallows.

The statement said:

The decision was made to attempt to remove the Humpback from the rocks by ORRCA volunteers, NPWS as well as local lifeguards. The rescue team worked together relocating the little whale to the closest sandy beach area to further assess the whale’s condition.

Upon assessment, this Humpback was noted to be approximately only one week old and had numerous cookie cutter shark bites. It is believed that this young whale had been on its own for at least the last 24hrs before being found by a member of the public wash ashore this morning.

Sadly, due to the fact this whale would still be dependent on its mother for survival and the mother could not be found, the difficult decision was made by the vets in attendance to euthanize this whale this afternoon. It would not have survived on its own if it was taken back out to sea.

A juvenile humpback whale is stranded at Oxley Beach, Port Macquarie. ORRCA volunteers and National Parks and Wildlife are on site. pic.twitter.com/j5prmANhrY

— Ruby Pascoe (@RubyPascoe) July 29, 2022

It is The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever 2022 tomorrow …

… in which people dress as Kate Bush and recreate the film clip to her hit 1978 song.

There’s not been one for a while, what with the pandemic and all, but there’s events listed across Australia tomorrow in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Canberra, Bunbury, Fremantle, Deloraine (Tasmania), Newcastle and the Bega Valley.

Here’s some pictures from the 2018 event in Sydney:

Mutilated animals dumped in Brisbane park

AAP has this disturbing report:

More than a dozen mutilated animals including a decapitated koala, dogs, birds and possums, have been discovered in an inner city Brisbane park.

Horrified council workers made the macabre discovery at Toowong’s Anzac Park in the heart of the city on Thursday night.

Two 44-litre drums containing soil were found at the scene, with the mutilated animal corpses placed in a pile nearby.

“Officers were called to a location on Wool Street around 6.30pm after the animals, including koalas and dogs, were discovered on a grass verge,” police told AAP in a statement.

“Investigations are underway into the cause of death and the circumstances leading up to them being left.”

Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said it was a “sick act” and the officers who stumbled on the gruesome scene had been offered counselling.

“I’m saddened, disturbed and appalled at what’s occurred here,” Cr Schrinner said.

“It’s now a matter for police who I hope will find the culprits so our courts can deal with them.”

Police and the RSPCA have launched a joint investigation and will scour the city’s network of CCTV footage but have asked anyone with information to contact authorities.

You could do a lot worse than watching some meteors this weekend:

Bettongs released into protected reserve

AAP have this report, for all the bettong freaks out there (of which I am one):

Another 80 brush-tailed bettongs have been released into a protected reserve on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula as efforts continue to ensure the survival of the endangered species.

In two releases during July, 36 of the marsupials were brought from the Upper Warren region in Western Australia and 44 were relocated from SA’s Wedge Island.

In August last year, an initial 40 bettongs from Wedge Island were also released into their new home in the Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park, an area where they’ve been locally extinct for more than a century.

Bettongs once inhabited more than 60 per cent of mainland Australia but habitat loss and introduced predators including feral cats and foxes pushed the species to the brink of extinction.

A brush-tailed bettong is released into South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.
A brush-tailed bettong is released into South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

They are now only found in small pockets of WA, on offshore islands in SA and in a handful of fenced sanctuaries.

The WA bettongs were chosen from a healthy population near Manjimup, 307 kilometres south of Perth.

Representatives from the Narungga people travelled to WA to meet the traditional owners, the Noongar people, and to support ecologists and a team from the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to capture the animals.

The bettongs were given health checks and fitted with tracking devices before being set free.

Ecologists hope the 80 new arrivals will improve genetic diversity and build resilience in the population.

To help ensure their safety, a 25-kilometre predator control fence has been built across the foot of Yorke Peninsula.

McCormack defends grants scheme savaged by audit office

AAP reports that Michael McCormack says he’s “proud” of the program:

Former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack has defended a regional grants scheme following scathing findings of the program in an auditor-general report.

An Australian National Audit Office examination of the former coalition government’s Building Better Regions fund found Nationals-held electorates received $100 million more than they would have if the money had been distributed on merit.

The $1.15 billion fund awarded grants to 1300 projects across the country, with 65 per cent of infrastructure grants handed out to schemes not assessed as having the most merit.

The report said while the program was well designed, money for projects could be overridden by a panel of ministers, which included Nationals MPs and former deputy prime ministers Barnaby Joyce and Mr McCormack.

While the new Labor government has vowed to overhaul the scheme, Mr McCormack said all of the projects were properly assessed.

“Local members know which project is going to serve their communities better than a bureaucrat in Canberra,” he told Sky News on Friday.

“We take on board those local decision makers’ advice and then we act accordingly.”

Nationals member for Riverina Michael McCormack arrives for a Nationals Party meeting at Parliament House in Canberra,
Michael McCormack: ‘I’m proud of what we were able to do.’ Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said she was not surprised by the report’s findings, coming off the back of similar grant funding scandals under the previous government.

“Australians have got zero tolerance for this,” she told ABC TV on Friday.

“Certainly, I’m determined to make sure we have clearer, fairer, transparent processes right the way across the regional grants program that I administer.”

Mr McCormack said he stood by every decision made under the grants scheme, even the ones not properly documented.

“I went out of my way to ensure that the Labor seats were looked after, the independent seats were looked after, sometimes at the expense of coalition seats,” he said.

“I’m proud of what we were able to do.”

Staffing boost for Lambie senators

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Further to our story last Friday that One Nation and David Pocock had their staffing cuts eased, we can now report that the Jacqui Lambie Network’s two senators have had some staff restored.

Guardian Australia understands that both Lambie and her Senate colleague Tammy Tyrrell will each get a total of six staff, the four electorate office staff, one adviser and one assistant adviser.

That’s up from five, which is what Anthony Albanese first proposed, and what crossbench MPs currently get, except those in regional areas.

The United Australia party’s Ralph Babet is meeting the prime minister next week.

ALP national executive intervenes in Tasmania branch

AAP has this report on the news we brought you earlier:

Labor’s national executive has taken over the party’s Tasmanian branch after years of bitter infighting and poor showings at recent state and federal polls.

The party on Friday announced the operations of the state conference and current administrative committee would be suspended for up to three years.

Labor has been in opposition in Tasmania since 2014, with the party suffering a swing against it at the May federal election despite widespread success on the mainland.

State Labor leader Rebecca White, who has led the party to election losses in 2018 and 2021, said the party’s culture needed to improve.

“We need all arms of the party to be working smarter, and better together. Our party was not at its best last year,” she said.

She said the party needed to be more inclusive and have appropriate mechanisms for the handling of complaints and disputes.

Ms White quit as leader following the 2021 loss but was reinstated several weeks later after her replacement David O’Byrne resigned from the role following accusations he harassed a junior employee years ago.

First term upper house member Bastian Seidel quit politics in August, slamming a toxic party environment and leaks.

Former state president Ben McGregor stood down as a candidate in the lead-up to the 2021 state poll over inappropriate text messages he sent to a colleague seven years ago.

He subsequently threatened Ms White with legal action after she said he wasn’t fit to sit in parliament.

Former senators Doug Cameron and Nick Sherry have been appointed as administrators of the branch and will be responsible for governance and administration.

“Tasmanian Labor needs a circuit-breaker to rebuild,” national secretary Paul Erickson said in a statement.

“This intervention is about improving the culture of the branch, reinstating trust, respect, transparency and a party-first approach to internal decision-making.”

Mr Erickson said the decision was supported by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Labor holds two of five federal seats in Tasmania. It won nine of 25 lower house seats at last year’s state poll.

Pretty wild picture from the NT, via the ABC.

Just on the top of the Covid wave again, Victorians. Here’s to a smooth ride down the face and into a glorious spring.

Fresh calls for mask mandate in SA

AAP reports on a push to reintroduce masks amid a surge in Covid cases:

A leading epidemiologist has called for South Australia to reimpose a mask mandate to help bring the current wave of Covid-19 infections under control.

Prof Adrian Esterman told a parliamentary committee on Friday that while the most recent wave of Omicron cases had peaked, measures were needed to lower the increasingly higher troughs between infection peaks.

That would help relieve the severe pressure on the health system, he said.

“If it was me in charge, I’d be introducing a face mask mandate,” Esterman said.

But he said a mandate would only work if there was better messaging around what types of masks to wear, as well as how to wear them and when to wear them.

“Surgical masks aren’t as good as these P2 or N95 masks. Cloth masks simply don’t work against these sub-variants,” he said.

Despite his calls, the chief public health officer, Prof Nicola Spurrier, who also appeared before the committee on Friday, continued to oppose a mandate.

“Masks are only one part of our mitigation strategy,” she said.

“We all know that masks can help and it reduces the transmission potential by about 10%.

But Spurrier said SA also needed to have a legislative ability to impose a mandate, and that was no longer the case with the lifting of the emergency declaration.

She said SA Health’s views on a mask mandate or reimposing other social measures, such as density limits, could change should a more severe virus variant emerge.

SA reported another 3,148 Covid-19 cases as well as eight more deaths on Friday.

There are 341 people in hospital with the virus including 11 in ICU.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Matthew Guy dismisses concerns over candidate’s transgender comments

Victorian opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has asked reporters to “give me a break” when questioned over comments made by Liberal candidate Moira Deeming attacking transgender rights and her claim LGBTQ+ children were being taught to be “narcissistic”.

Deeming, a teacher and Melton councillor, was preselected at the weekend to represent the Liberals in the Western Metropolitan Region, replacing outspoken MP Bernie Finn ahead of the November state election.

In a 2020 interview, Deeming described Victoria’s Safe Schools program as created by “paedophilia apologists”, claimed teachers were actively trying to change children’s gender and sexual identity, and criticised initiatives aimed at celebrating gay and transgender students, saying they were “teaching them to be really narcissistic”.

The full story is here:

Brett Sutton to give Victoria Covid update at 4.15pm

In a somewhat triggering moment, we’ve just received word that the Victorian chief health officer, Brett Sutton, is going to be providing a Covid update around 4.15pm.

Remember when we always feared that the later it was, the worse the news would be? And Friday arvo is absolute take out the trash time … but I’m sure it’s nothing.

Karen Andrews links June asylum seeker boat arrivals to Labor policy

Josh Butler

Josh Butler

Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews has linked the interception of four asylum seeker boats from Sri Lanka last month to the immigration policies of the new Labor government.

But missing from the former cabinet minister’s criticism was mention of the ongoing economic and social turmoil in Sri Lanka, a situation the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said the government was working to address.

In June, directly following the 21 May election of the Albanese government, Operation Sovereign Borders said four people-smuggling boats were discovered on their way from Sri Lanka. Andrews said it was the highest monthly total of boat arrivals since 2015.

In a statement the Australian Border Force said:

Australian authorities intercepted four maritime people smuggling ventures from Sri Lanka with a total of 125 Sri Lankan nationals on board. All 125 passengers and crew were safely returned to Sri Lanka in close cooperation with the Sri Lankan government.

Sri Lanka has experienced months of upheaval and unrest as anti-government protests agitated for the removal of the country’s former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa following economic troubles, a financial crisis, shortages of food, petrol and power.

Andrews linked the boat arrivals to Labor’s plan to abolish temporary protection visas, which the former Coalition government said was a key component of their border protection strategy.

She tweeted, “Labor should not be weakening our borders by abolishing temporary protection visas,” accompanied by a video with the caption “keep TPVs, the people smugglers are watching”.

Today the Australian Border Force released a report showing the largest number of boats interceptions since 2015.

Labor should not be weakening our borders by abolishing Temporary Protection visas. pic.twitter.com/p2bKLgpZXy

— Karen Andrews MP (@karenandrewsmp) July 29, 2022

We’ve contacted O’Neil’s office for comment. Last week, the minister said in an ABC interview that the government was working to support Sri Lanka through its ongoing turmoil. O’Neil visited Sri Lanka shortly after taking government, and said the two countries were working to address crime and people smuggling. She told Radio National:

Australia is safest in a region of prosperous, functional, strong democracies, of which Sri Lanka was one until very recently. So, we have an absolute national interest here in helping this country get back on its feet.

O’Neil drew a link in her interview between Sri Lanka’s situation and potential people smuggling ventures, reiterating the fact that Australian border policy had not changed. She said:

The most important thing for me to do in my position is to just continue to reiterate to people that Operation Sovereign Borders is Australian government policy. Don’t get on a boat and think that you are going to be able to make a life in Australia. You will be turned back.

There are other ways that we can help Sri Lanka. But coming on a boat is not a pathway to come to Australia. And I would just urge Sri Lankans to understand that there has been no change in government policy.



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