Opposition Leader Peter Dutton shed tears while reading aloud a heartfelt letter penned by a grief-stricken police chief after his 18-year-old son was killed in an alleged hit-and-run incident.
South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens issued a two-page statement following the death of his son Charlie Stevens earlier this month, calling the tragedy “the worst news of his life.”
Mr Dutton read the letter to the House on Tuesday in tribute to Mr Stevens and his family, following a conversation with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
“You’re a force of nature and we’ll never forget your beautiful cheeky disarming smile. Son, brother, grandson, uncle, nephew, cousin, friend, workmate, teammate, so much more than just a number on a tragic tally,” he read.
The opposition leader took a pause during his speech, appearing to be in tears, as he read the letter in which Mr Stevens recalled his late son as a “loveable ratbag from the moment he could talk”.
Top bureaucrat to replace sacked Mike Pezzullo
Stephanie Foster has replaced a sacked Mike Pezzullo as the secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, one of the most powerful gigs in the public service.
Mr Pezzullo was dumped from the job after an independent inquiry found he had breached the code of conduct at least 14 times, including using his position to gain personal advantage, failing to protect confidential government information, engaging in gossip and disrespectful critique of ministers and public servants.
The Governor-General accepted the Prime Minister’s recommendation to promote Ms Foster on Tuesday.
“Ms Foster has had an extensive career in the Australian Public Service, including as acting Secretary and Associate Secretary of Home Affairs, and Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,” Mr Albanese said in a statement.
“Ms Foster has held other senior positions in the APS, including at the Australian Public Service Commission, the Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Defence.
“Ms Foster has well-established relationships across the APS and significant policy experience, which make her eminently suitable to the role of Secretary.”
Her five‑year appointment will commenced immediately.
Dutton accused of hypocrisy
A Liberal senator urged the Immigration Minister to release a child sex offender from detention in similar circumstances to those released in the NZYQ case the Coalition is demanding be locked up.
Andrew Giles used two letters from Dean Smith sent in 2022 and 2023 to accuse Peter Dutton of hypocrisy in a fiery question time attack.
“The Leader of the Opposition was silent about Liberal frontbencher Senator (Dean) Smith, his request for a convicted paedophile to be released from detention on Christmas Island,” Mr Giles said.
“Senator Smith acknowledged the seriousness of this man’s offending as we all must but still requested he be released into the community anyway.
“How can the member of the opposition stand by members of his leadership team calling for a paedophile to be released?”
In the second letter, dated February 2023, Senator Smith said he did not “dispute nor condone the seriousness of the crimes” committed nor did he “refute the court’s convictions”.
Mr Giles said Mr Dutton’s silence on the Senator Smith’s actions was an “endorsement”
Ley told to “watch her tone”
Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley has been told to “watch her tone” by Tanya Plibersek after Ms Ley labelled Housing Minister Julie Collins’ interview on ABC a “trainwreck”.
Ms Collins appeared on ABC this morning to announce the introduction of legislation to push forward Labor’s new housing scheme.
In a query directed to the housing minister, Ms Ley referred to her “train wreck interview on ABC News Breakfast”, to which she was met with shouts from Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek who pointed her finger at the deputy leader and told her to “watch her tone”.
This moved House Speaker Milton Dick to step in to break up the chaos.
“The Minister for the Environment will cease interjecting. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is entitled to ask a question. She’ll be heard in silence,” he shouted.
“Just also ask her to temper her language as well.”
Islamophobia also on the rise: Labor
Meanwhile in Senate question time, Senator Murray Watt has urged all sides of politics to recognise both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise in the community.
His remarks came in response to a question by the Coalition’s education spokesperson Sarah Henderson, who was probing the government over its action prior to students skipping school to march in a pro-Palestine rally.
“What action did the Albanese government take prior to these protests to discourage attendance and encourage children to remain in school?” she asked.
Senator Watt said Education Minister Jason Clare had made it very clear the government expected students to stay in school.
He said it was ultimately an issue for the states.
The minister continued, and said more broadly, it was important that politicians approach all these matters in a “non-partisan, non-inflammatory matter”.
“I’d encourage all senators in approaching and discussing these issues to recognise that there are members in all parts of our community who are extremely upset about the events that are going on at the moment,” Senator Watt said.
“Of course we recognise that the Jewish community is going through great pain in our community at the moment as the result of the events in the Middle East and equally members of our Islamic communities are going through great pain as well.”
Pressed further, Senator Watt noted “unfortunately we are seeing anti-Semitism on the rise in our community and right across the world at the moment, as we are also seeing Islamophobia”.
“I think it is important that all Australian politicians recognize that both of these things are occurring, that both are wrong, and they both need to be condemned,” he said.
Dutton received detainee documents in 2018, minister claims
Peter Dutton received key documents relating to the detainee high court saga while he was home affairs minister, Labor has claimed.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles made the claim in a letter tabled to the Senate on Monday afternoon as part of a Coalition request to produce documents prepared in NZYQ case and in the case of Plaintiff M47.
Liberal senator James Paterson had requested “any emails, file notes, briefing materials and other written correspondence” provided to the Home Affairs or Immigration Minister or Attorney-General be tabled to the Senate.
According to Mr Giles, the material was received by Mr Dutton in 2018 when he was home affairs minister.
“Documents falling within the scope of the order include material that was provided to the then-Minister for Home Affairs in 2018 relating to the ‘possibility of the High Court making a decision … that the ongoing detention of [Plaintiff M47] was beyond the legislative power of the Commonwealth,’” he wrote.
Mr Giles said the request for documents had included “material of a similar nature” provided to the government in 2023 in relation to the NZYQ case but he declined to release this material.
“On behalf of the government, I am claiming public interest immunity in relation to the documents sought under this order,” Mr Giles said.
“The production of the documents falling within the scope of the order would, or might reasonably be expected to, disclose information that relates to third country resettlement options for those impacted by the High Court’s decision in NZYQ.”
The High Court will on Tuesday afternoon release its reasonings in the NZYQ ruling, which found that a stateless Rohingya man from Myanmar who raped a 10-year-old boy was being held unlawfully in continued detention.
Meanwhile, the Greens also resolved not to support, or help facilitate (so agreeing to extra sitting hours to get through debate) the government’s plans to amend migration laws passed in the wake of the High Court’s decision in the NZYQ case.
Last week, the government rushed through legislation that would make some criminals released from detention required to wear electronic monitoring bracelets and follow curfews.
The House passed the government’s legislation, which patched up the legislation to give the Border Force and Federal Police the powers to enforce the strict conditions.
It also would also make it an offence for those released from detention to work with a minor or vulnerable person, go near a school, childcare or day care centre.
The High Court on Tuesday afternoon will release its reasons behind the decision, delaying the amended legislations’ appearance in the Senate until Wednesday.
The Greens say, on principle, they will not support it. Nor will they support legislation to revoke the Australian citizenship of dual citizens convicted of committing terrorism offences.
AUKUS plan ‘critical’
Pat Conroy has said he is tired of people arguing that $368bn is way too much to spend on nuclear-powered submarines.
Speaking at the National Press Club, the Defence Industry Minister said the government’s multi-decade AUKUS plan to build and purchase nuclear submarines was critical to national security.
He called plans for the joint construction of a fleet of UK-Australian nuclear subs in Adelaide was “greatest industrial undertaking” in the country’s history.
“Hundreds of billions is a large number, but this is a cost over more than three decades. Frankly, many other government programs will cost far more over that period,” he said.
“The federal government is projected to spend many times more on aged care, education and the NDIS than on the AUKUS submarine over to next three decades.”
“Just as spending trillions on social programs over the next three decades will be important for the welfare of Australians, spending billions on nuclear-powered submarines will be important.
‘Father of reconciliation’ gives Voice obit
The “father of reconciliation”, Patrick Dodson, who has resigned as senator for Western Australia, said he was concerned about the legacy of the No vote in last month’s referendum.
He said the 60/40 split in the result showed it was an “Australian problem, not an Aboriginal problem”.
“We need to seriously think of the way in which our civil society (comes) together with diverse differences. We can’t take that for granted,” he said.
“This is an Australian problem we now have and it is the legacy of the No voters.”
He said he was optimistic that the Labor Party would take on the challenges “with courage”, and chart a way forward for reconciliation.
Why Senator Dodson is leaving politics
Senator Dodson, who entered the Senate in 2016, has been absent from parliament for much of the year amid his battle with cancer.
His last day as senator will be Friday January 26 – three days before he turns 76.
“It will be a good day to retire,” he told reporters.
In a statement on Tuesday, he said while his health was “slowly improving”, he no longer felt capable of “satisfactorily” fulfilling his duties as senator.
He said it was an “honour” to serve as a senator and thanked Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for appointing him as special envoy for reconciliation and implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“I also place on the record my high regard for his decision to proceed with the recent referendum,” he said.
“I am grateful for the professional and kindly attention of many medical staff over the past few months, and I wish to thank all those people who sent their best wishes during my absence from parliament.”
He was met with a standing ovation during the Labor caucus meeting on Tuesday morning.
In his own statement, Mr Albanese said Senator Dodson’s news filled him with sadness but also with gratitude.
“Patrick Dodson is a great Yawuru man, a wonderful Australian, and an excellent human being,” he said in a statement.
“You would gladly follow him into battle yet he’s made it his life’s work to make peace. “From the moment he entered parliament, he has made this place a better one.
“It has been my great fortune to be able to count Senator Dodson as a colleague and my enduring happiness to be able to count him as a friend.
“On behalf of the Labor family he gained when he became a senator for Western Australia, I wish Pat nothing but the very best as he focuses on his own health. He leaves parliament with our thanks and with our love.”
When Aussie vape crackdown will begin
The first stage of sweeping reforms to crack down on the “disturbing growth” of vaping among young Australians will come into effect on January 1.
A total ban on the importation of disposable single use vapes is set to come into effect on that day, as will a new scheme dictating how therapeutic vapes can be prescribed by medical professionals.
Then, from March 1, further changes will roll out, including a ban on personal vape imports, a ban on the importation of non-therapeutic vapes, and a requirement for importers and manufacturers to abide by new Therapeutic Goods Administration standards.
Product standards for therapeutic vapes will be strengthened throughout 2024, namely a limit to flavours, a requirement for pharmaceutical packaging, and a reduction in the amount of nicotine in each device.
The latest data shows that almost one in seven 14-to 17-year-olds, and one in five 18-to 24-year-olds currently vape.
Health Minister Mark Butler has indicated the government will introduce legislation next year to prevent domestic manufacture, advertisement, supply and commercial possession of non-therapeutic and disposable single use vapes.
“Vaping is creating a whole new generation of nicotine dependency in our community. It poses a major threat to Australia’s success in tobacco control and the Albanese Government is not going to stand by and let this happen,” Mr Butler said.
“Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit. It was not sold as a recreational product – especially not one targeted to our kids but that is what it has become.”
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the Australian Border Force would play a major role in the crackdown.
“What we do at the border will make a difference but reducing the amount of vapes in the community requires a multifaceted approach across all levels of government, involving both enforcement and better education around the harmful impact of vaping,” she said.
‘We are united’: Move to end anti-Semitism
Former state premiers and federal politicians, business leaders and high profile media figures are among the hundreds of prominent Australians who have signed an open letter denouncing racism, specifically anti-Semitism.
The letter, which ran as a double-page advertisement in Tuesday’s newspapers, highlights a 482 per cent rise in anti-Semitic incidents over the last seven weeks and calls for all Australians to be treated with respect, inclusivity, and dignity.
It points to an increase in “offensive language, vandalism and harassment occurring on our streets, university campuses and outside public Australian landmarks”.
It acknowledges the “heightened feelings of threat being felt” by the Jewish-Australian community, and affirms their right to safety.
The letter more broadly says racism is “deplorable and abhorrent” in any form, whether it be towards Jewish, Muslim, Asian, or Indigenous Australians.
“We will not tolerate such conduct in our workplaces and firmly reject it in our communities,” the letter said.
“All Australians are entitled to be treated with respect … We stand against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and any form of racism in our workplaces, hiring practices, and business dealings.
“Together we are united.”
Among the 600 signatories – with more set to join the pledge online – includes former premiers Daniel Andrews, Gladys Berejiklian, Anna Bligh and Mark McGowan.
Prominent business figures including News Corporation chairman Lachlan Murdoch and his wife Sarah, Seven owner Kerry Stokes, Telstra chair John Mullen, Wesfarmers chair Michael Chaney and billionaire Lindsay Fox are also among the signatories.
The open letter comes as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is set to meet with family members of Israeli hostages held by Hamas on Tuesday.
Five relatives have travelled from Israel, and will meet with a number of senior politicians to plead for their help in freeing their loved ones.
A number of hostages have been released by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners since a ceasefire began on Friday, but more than 200 remain uncontactable by their loved ones.
Mother of hostage speaks out
The mother of a 22-year-old man held hostage in Gaza said she is living in fear while waiting to hear when her son will be released by Hamas.
Iris Haim, the mother of Yotam Haim, said Hamas militants kidnapped her son from his home in Kibbutz in the early hours of October 7.
She said his condition and whereabouts are currently unknown and that families were “praying every day” that their children would be listed for release by the terrorist group.
“We don’t know anything about him. As a mother, it is my wish that he’s kidnapped not dead,” Hs Haim told a press conference.
“We want him back soon.”
Ms Haim joined four other family members and loved ones who have called on the immediate release of 240 hostages thought to be held in Gaza.
They spoke outside Canberra’s Parliament House ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday afternoon.
It comes after a reported 69 hostages were freed by Palestinian militant group Hamas over the first three days of a mutually agreed truce. A total of 33 Palestinians were released from Israeli prisons on Monday, according to Israeli authorities.
Greens to wave through workplace changes
Labor’s plan to introduce more than 100 amendments to its contentious industrial relations bill won’t stop the Greens from supporting them in the House this week.
But that’s only if the government agrees to support some amendments, including on criminalising superannuation theft and clarification on the definition of seasonal work to protect academics and teachers on fixed term contracts.
The government resolved in its own caucus meeting on Tuesday morning that it would support the Greens’ amendments. Labor wants the Closing the Loopholes bill to be passed through the lower chamber by the end of the parliament sitting week.
The Teal independents have raised concerns about dealing with such a large number of amendments in such little time.
But the Greens are unphased and say they’re comfortable to have the bill passed if they’re amendments are agreed to, arguing the Senate will have time to work through any other issues next year after an inquiry
The party is also continuing negotiations over a right to disconnect — so workers can’t be contacted outside of office hours – to be included in the legislation but have resolved to push that fight to the Senate.
It comes as the upper house agreed for a conference to be requested between the Senate and the House of Representatives, in a bid to break the impasse over the legislation.
A conference is when the two Houses of Parliament come together to seek an agreement on a bill when the usual procedure of exchanging messages fails.
The last time this was attempted was 1950 and the last time a conference was successfully held was in 1932.
Crossbench senators Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock were behind the motion after two attempts to have the uncontentious parts of the government’s IR mega-bill split.
Earlier this month, the pair were successful in splitting the legislation in the Senate so that parts of the bill that benefited workers, silicosis sufferers, and family violence victims, could be passed before Christmas.
The pair essentially challenged the government to vote down the legislation when it returned to the lower house. But the government never put the legislation up for a vote.
Senator Lambie said they would not give up on trying to see life saving changes pass before Christmas.
“Minister (Tony) Burke can give these vulnerable Australians the support they need right now. All he has to do is put his big boy pants on and vote for his own legislation,” she said.
The minor party will also move a motion to put pressure on the government for a national ban on engineered stone, which has been linked to the incurable disease silicosis.
It says the government’s rhetoric that it is a state issue doesn’t stack up and will suggest Labor could easily move to legislate a national import ban.
Nazi salute outlawed
Publicly performing the Nazi salute will be made a criminal offence in Australia as part of the government’s latest effort to combat hate crimes.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus will introduce amendments to the government’s Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill on Wednesday, which will make the Nazi salute an illegal hate symbol.
Mr Dreyfus said the Bill sends a “clear message that there is no place in Australia for acts and symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and terrorist acts”.
“The amendments will ensure that no one will be allowed to glorify or profit from acts and symbols which celebrate the Nazis and their evil ideology,” he said in a statement. “There is absolutely no place in Australia for hatred, violence and anti-Semitism.”