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What we know today, Tuesday May 17


Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says he wants positive climate change action to be his political legacy – but won’t increase Labor’s climate targets to appease the teal independents.

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Albanese wants legacy on climate change

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says he wants his political legacy to be positive action on climate change – but insists he won’t increase Labor’s climate targets to appease the teal independents.

The Labor leader made the comments during a question-and-answer session at a business breakfast event in Perth on Tuesday.

Responding to a query about what he would like his political career to be remembered for, Albanese replied: “Acting on climate”.

After days of questions about when Labor would release its policy costings before the election, Albanese told the event details would be unveiled on Thursday.

“One trillion dollars of debt is what we will inherit, we are very conscious about being fiscally responsible,” he said.

The opposition leader remained tight-lipped about his party’s chances when Australians head to the polls, but said the objective was to win at least three seats in Western Australia.

Albanese said he was focused on working hard right up until polls close and was optimistic about the outcome.

“Change can happen faster than you think,” he said.

During an earlier address at the event, Albanese promised he would lean on the leadership stylings of previous prime ministers from the state John Curtin and Bob Hawke should he win the election.

“When I refer to Hawke and Curtin, it’s not an act of nostalgia, but a reminder of what can be done when you come to the table with courage, vision and ambition,” Mr Albanese told the audience.

“A reminder that good government can create profound and lasting change that improves lives. A reminder that, with a better government, we can build a better future.”

Albanese also promised he would use the example of WA Premier Mark McGowan’s leadership should he win Saturday’s election.

The opposition leader has been campaigning alongside the state premier, who claimed a second term in office following a landslide election win in 2021, where state Labor won 53 of 59 seats.

“I will make this firm prediction – I will not do as well in this federal election as Mark McGowan did in the last state election,” Albanese said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Labor announced a $1.5 billion medical manufacturing fund.

The plan, which will help to shore up medical supply chains including vaccines, will form part of a $15 billion national reconstruction fund.

Two more COVID-linked deaths in SA

SA Health has reported 3773 new COVID infections today and two more deaths.

It says two women, in their 80s and 90s, died after testing positive.

There are 246 people with COVID in hospital – two fewer than yesterday.

Seven patients are in intensive care, including three on a ventilator.

Refugee advocate wins Dutton appeal

Peter Dutton’s defamation victory over a refugee advocate’s six-word tweet has been overturned on appeal in the Federal Court.

A judge ordered Shane Bazzi in December to pay $35,000 in damages and some of Dutton’s legal costs after using Twitter in February to label the defence minister “a rape apologist”.

But the Full Court of the Federal Court on Tuesday allowed Bazzi’s appeal, setting aside the December order and dismissed the proceeding.

Bazzi’s since-deleted post contained a link to a 2019 news article quoting Dutton saying some refugee women on Nauru who complained of rape were “trying it on” in order to come to Australia.

Bazzi, through his lawyer, said he was expressing his honestly held opinion that was based on fact.

However, Justice Richard White determined the tweet went beyond the facts of the article, which concerned Mr Dutton’s questioning of the bona fides of the women’s claims.

The judge also rejected a defence of fair comment on a matter of public interest.

But the three appeal judges said while the broad impression was that the tweet was derogatory about Mr Dutton, an “ordinary reasonable reader” would not gain the impression that it conveyed that he excused rape.

“It is not sufficient that the tweet was offensive and derogatory,” they said.

“Mr Dutton had the onus to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that the reader reasonably would have understood that the tweet conveyed the imputation that he asserted it conveyed. In our opinion, he failed …”

Accused SA magistrate fails to stop inquiry

A suspended South Australian magistrate facing sexual harassment and misconduct allegations has failed in his legal attempt to stop an inquiry into his behaviour going ahead.

South Australia’s Court of Appeal rejected the magistrate’s claim that the state’s Legal Conduct Commissioner acted without jurisdiction and beyond its power. The magistrate also argued that one of the witnesses should not have been permitted to have legal representation. That contention was also rejected by the court.

The commissioner, seeking to undertake the state’s first judicial conduct panel inquiry since the position was established, is considering complaints from a number of women in a case first reported by InDaily.

Among his arguments against the panel proceeding, the magistrate questioned the constitutional validity of the Act underpinning the inquiry.

The court’s judgement rejects all of the grounds for appeal against the panel, which was agreed to by then Attorney-General Vickie Chapman in June last year on a recommendation from the commissioner.

It says the establishment of the panel concept by state legislation was designed “to enhance public confidence in the judicial system and to protect the impartiality and integrity of the judicial system by ‘enhancing the existing mechanisms for removal of judicial officers where they are unable or unwilling to appropriately discharge their duties’.

“Were it otherwise, a range of potential misbehaviours by judicial officers, including sexual misconduct, nepotism, bullying and discrimination, might appear to go unchecked, which could only erode confidence in the judiciary and, potentially, detract from the imperative of upholding judicial independence and impartiality and, more broadly, public confidence in the administration of justice…”

Quoting from correspondence, the judgement reveals that the commissioner had conducted a preliminary review of the allegations last year and the magistrate had denied any impropriety.

It says “she (the commissioner) had put the essence of each of the allegations to the judicial officer through his solicitors; and that in the case of some he had denied them, and in the case of others he had admitted some of the conduct but had said it was, in effect, innocuous”.

“The Commissioner’s letter concluded: ‘You will see that the complaints raise allegations of varying seriousness. In my opinion each is credible, and each is worthy of inquiry by a panel. If some or all are substantiated they could be viewed as demonstrating inappropriate conduct and the engendering of inappropriate relationships in the workplace over a long period of time. In my opinion they could justify removal’.”

The panel isn’t a criminal investigation, rather a mechanism to examine the behaviour of judicial officers.

The full judgement has been published online.

Labor’s poll lead narrows as major party support erodes

Labor enters the final days of the campaign within reach of claiming a narrow majority but faces a fraught run home as its support falls and voters desert the major parties.

A Roy Morgan poll finds Labor ahead of the Coalition after preferences by 53 to 47 per cent, a drop in its headline support of 1.5 points.

This would represent a swing of 4.5 per cent toward the Opposition since the last election and its strongest share of the vote since the 1983 election.

But beneath the headline figure the poll finds much shallower underlying support for Labor partly caused by voters spurning the major parties in record numbers.

“There is still the prospect of Australians waking up to a hung Parliament on Sunday morning,” Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine said.

“It is more important than ever for the ALP to finish strongly in the last few days of the campaign.”

Such a shift in support to Labor would notionally deliver the party, accounting for the concentration of its support in different states, a gain of up to ten seats, or two more than needed to command a majority on the floor of Parliament and provide a Speaker.

But election swings are not uniform; even if such projections were replicated nationally only a few seat contests would need to buck the trend to frustrate Labor’s ambitions to govern in its own right.

The penultimate poll of the campaign finds changes in voter behaviour and party support even more likely to worry the Opposition.

Labor’s primary vote share is down 1.5 points this week, putting it on level pegging with the Coalition on 34 per cent.

Such levels, Levine notes, would represent a record low in major party support not seen since Labor was pipped at the post by the Anti-Socialist Party in 1906.

Read the full poll report at The New Daily.

Coalition prepares to release election costings

The Coalition is preparing to present its election costings to voters as Labor refocuses on Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capabilities.

The costings are expected to be released today, ahead of the Opposition doing the same later this week, just days out from the May 21 vote.

Despite Labor remaining ahead in the polls, Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to hope he can pull off consecutive election wins as Liberal leader.

Asked if he would stand down in the event of a hung parliament or Liberal loss on polling day, Morrison was defiant.

“That’s not something I’m contemplating because I’m not contemplating that being the scenario,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 program on Monday night.

“I’m focused on one thing and that’s ensuring our government continues.”

Meanwhile, Labor will on Tuesday announce a $1.5 billion medical manufacturing fund.

The fund will be part of Labor’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund to shore up medical supply chains, including vaccines.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says he would also commission the development of a medical manufacturing industry plan to determine how local businesses can secure government contracts.

“Serious countries should make things. Serious countries should be led by builders, not bulldozers, which is how I would lead a future Labor government,” Albanese said.

Crow Milera says Walker racism wounds took time to heal

Adelaide Football Club’s Indigenous leader Wayne Milera says it took time to again be comfortable around Taylor Walker after the star forward’s racism ban.

Walker was suspended by the AFL for six games last August for making a racist comment when he was a spectator at a state league game.

“Obviously it was pretty tough and it was very disappointing from my end, a senior figure at the club doing that, someone you look up to,” Milera told reporters on Monday.

Milera, the Crows’ most experienced Indigenous player, said repairing the relationship with Walker wasn’t simple.

“It was always going to take time,” he said.

“You take a long time to build a relationship and when something like that happens, it damages that relationship, so it’s not going to be fixed all of a sudden.

“He’s done his apology and said sorry to us and said sorry to the club.

“It’s just about him now acting on what actions he is going to do going forward and we have seen that.

“I am comfortable with him at the club. I can’t tell you how long exactly it took but it definitely took some time to be comfortable.”

Milera described Walker’s racism furore as “a pretty full-on time, pretty stressful”.

“But just to voice your feelings to him and sort of voice the feelings of the community, that was pressure from my end just to put that on him,” Milera said.

“He got the feeling of how we were feeling.”

Sweden’s NATO bid hits snag

Sweden will formally apply for NATO membership in the next few days, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson says but its accession process, and that of Finland, hit a snag when NATO member Turkey’s president said he would not approve either bid.

Sweden and Finland need each of NATO’s 30 members to approve their applications.

The ratification process had been expected to take up to a year although Turkey’s objections have thrown that into doubt.

At a news conference, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Sweden and Finland should not bother sending delegations to Ankara to persuade Turkey to support for their bids.

“Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisations,” Erdogan said.

“How can we trust them?”

He called Sweden a “hatchery” for terrorist organisations with terrorists in parliament.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken up Europe’s security architecture and forced Sweden and Finland to choose sides after staying out of the US-led NATO alliance during the Cold War.

Sweden’s Social Democrat government, worried the country will be vulnerable while its application is considered, had been hoping for a quick ratification process.

But Turkey’s objections, which NATO leaders initially hoped would not cause a major delay, now look to present a serious obstacle.

The decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply to NATO set the two countries on a path toward ending policies of military non-alignment that had defined their defence strategies since the start of the Cold War.

“We are leaving one era behind us and entering a new one,” Andersson told a news conference on Monday.

She said Sweden’s application could be submitted in the next couple of days and would be synchronised with Finland.

“NATO will strengthen Sweden, Sweden will strengthen NATO,” she said.

The decision to abandon the military non-alignment that has been a central tenet of Swedish identity for two centuries reflects a sea change in public perception in the Nordic region following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

– With AAP, The New Daily and Reuters

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