The Guardian 2024-03-05 04:31:25


Paul Keating accuses Asio of undermining diplomatic relations with China

Anthony Albanese has flatly rejected former prime minister Paul Keating’s criticism of the domestic intelligence agency, which he alleges is destabilising Australia’s relationship with China.

In a statement issued today, Keating noted reporting by the Nine newspapers which linked the alleged recruitment of a former politician to “a division of China’s Ministry of State Security devoted to Australia”. The story said Asio boss, Mike Burgess, had repeatedly refused to name any overseas intelligence agency.

Here’s part of Keating’s statement:

The kabuki show runs thus: Burgess drops the claim, then out of nowhere, the Herald and The Age miraculously appear to solve the mystery – the villain, as it turns out, is China after all. The anti-China Australian strategic policy establishment was feeling some slippage in its mindless pro-American stance and decided some new China rattling was overdue.

Keating also addressed this criticism to Burgess and other national security officials:

These people display utter contempt for the so-called stabilisation process that the prime minister had decided upon and has progressed with China. And will do anything to destabilise any meaningful rapprochement.

During a press conference on the sidelines of the Asean summit, Albanese was asked about Keating’s statement and whether the actions of Asio had threatened diplomatic relations with China. He was also asked if Australia was sending mixed messages to Beijing. His response was curt:

No.

Asio has been contacted for a response to Keating’s statement.

Three arrested after climate activist Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco and others block traffic on West Gate Bridge

Three charged after climate activist Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco and others block traffic on Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge

Long delays after Extinction Rebellion members parked truck across three city-bound lanes

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Three people have been charged after climate activist Deanna “Violet” Coco and others allegedly used a truck to cause traffic chaos on Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge.

Extinction Rebellion members allegedly parked the truck across three city-bound lanes on the bridge at about 7.45am on Tuesday. They then climbed on top the vehicle and unfurled banners reading “declare a climate emergency” and “climate breakdown has begun”.

Victoria police used a cherrypicker to make the arrests and lower the trio down safely at 9.45am after they allegedly refused to climbed off the truck.

“A 33-year-old NSW woman, a 68-year-old Burnside Heights man and a 51-year-old Williamstown man have been charged with public nuisance, hinder police, obstruct police and obstruction of a roadway,” police said in a statement.

No one was injured during the incident.

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All inbound lanes had reopened by 10.15am, but VicTraffic warned significant delays remained on the West Gate and Princes freeways, M80 Ring Road and the surrounding area on Tuesday morning.

Traffic had earlier stretched back for up to 30km, while roads in Yarraville, Footscray and West Melbourne were also affected by the congestion.

Police alleged the group also lit a flare when on the truck.

Coco was filmed at the protest calling for government action on climate change.

“This is a climate and ecological emergency and our actions every day impact the habitability of our planet for ourselves and for generations to come,” Coco said in a video posted to the group’s Facebook page.

“We’re extremely committed to non-violent direct action, but we are committed to sounding the alarm on the climate and ecological emergency.

“We are asking the government and all levels of society to declare an ecological emergency and to act on that emergency as soon as possible.”

Extinction Rebellion describes itself as a non-partisan movement that uses non-violent action to demand governments take action on climate change.

Its previous demonstrations have included dozens of people blocking the Montague Street off-ramp during peak hour and a man climbing the spire of the Arts Centre Melbourne last year.

Coco was joined on the West Gate Bridge by Brad Homewood and Joe Zammit, according to the group.

Extinction Rebellion said in a social media post the protest was designed to coincide with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Melbourne.

It wants Australia to declare a climate and ecological emergency at the conference and is calling on other Asean leaders to do the same.

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Dutton announces reshuffle after underwhelming Dunkley byelection result

Opposition reshuffles shadow ministry after underwhelming Dunkley byelection result

There have been internal calls for the Coalition to announce more policy in the lead-up to the next election

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Luke Howarth, a conservative, has been promoted to shadow assistant treasurer and minister for financial services in a Coalition reshuffle that also promotes Melissa McIntosh into the shadow ministry.

The Coalition has signalled it will target Labor over home ownership, creating a new shadow assistant ministry for Andrew Bragg a moderate senator, and energy affordability, a portfolio to be taken by McIntosh, a member of the centre right.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, announced the changes on Tuesday after an underwhelming performance in the Dunkley byelection and internal calls for the Coalition to announce more policy in the lead-up to the next election, due by May 2025.

The former shadow assistant treasurer, Stuart Robert, resigned in May, but the Coalition kept the position vacant until now.

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Howarth, formerly the shadow minister for defence industry and personnel, was appointed to take on Robert’s role. Howarth’s old portfolios will go to Andrew Hastie, the shadow defence minister, with Phillip Thompson as shadow assistant minister.

In addition to energy affordability, McIntosh becomes shadow minister for western Sydney.

Dutton said McIntosh would work with Ted O’Brien “formulating policies that take the economic pressure of rising electricity prices off families”.

As the Coalition prepares to announce an energy policy including lifting the ban on nuclear energy and nominating potential sites for power stations, it has struggled to explain how it will overcome the enormous cost, long lead-in time and lack of private investment to make them a reality.

Dutton said that Howarth, a Queensland LNP conservative ally, “understands that small business is the backbone of the Australian economy”.

“He has previously run a family business before entering parliament and has a strong understanding of the financial pressures many Australians are currently experiencing under the government’s cost of living crisis.

“Luke will bring his strong command of retail economics to this important role.”

Senator James Paterson, who was appointed to home affairs in April 2023, will now also become shadow cabinet secretary, after the resignation of Marise Payne.

While the reshuffle largely benefits conservatives, Dutton has also promoted moderates including Bragg and Sturt MP James Stevens, who becomes the shadow assistant minister for government waste reduction.

Dutton said that Bragg would bring an “astute policy mind and advocacy” to a “critical portfolio area”. The Coalition has flagged expanding its policy of letting first home buyers access superannuation for a deposit along with other measures to boost home ownership.

Bragg said he was “very pleased” to join the shadow ministry. “Too many Australians feel the great Australian dream is out of reach and they will never own a home,” he said in a statement. “It is unacceptable.”

Senator Paul Scarr will become shadow assistant minister for multicultural engagement.

Senator Hollie Hughes will become the shadow assistant minister for mental health and suicide prevention, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Dutton said “these appointments are excellent additions to the Coalition’s stable and united team”.

“I can assure all Australians that the Coalition under my leadership will continue focusing on the policy issues that matter.”

The reshuffle is the Coalition’s first since April 2023, when Karen Andrews stepped down from shadow home affairs and Julian Leeser resigned as shadow Indigenous affairs minister.

While Howarth and McIntosh were promoted, neither moves into the shadow cabinet, meaning the balance between Liberals and Nationals is preserved.

There were no fresh appointments or demotions for the Nationals, despite some internal pressure on the shadow veterans affairs minister, Barnaby Joyce, over an incident involving him lying on a Canberra footpath and swearing into his phone as a result of combining alcohol and prescription drugs.

The Nationals have arguably been over-represented in cabinet since the promotion of Jacinta Nampijinpa Price in April 2023, prompting suggestions that eventually the Nationals will be required to lose a spot.

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After Scott MorrisonLiberals pick management consultant Simon Kennedy for Cook byelection

Liberals pick management consultant Simon Kennedy for Cook byelection

The party misses the chance to have a female candidate in the safe seat vacated by former prime minister Scott Morrison

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Simon Kennedy will contest Scott Morrison’s seat of Cook for the Liberals in the byelection triggered by the former prime minister’s resignation.

Kennedy, a consultant and the former candidate for Bennelong, won preselection in the first round on Monday night with 158 out of 296 votes, beating the mayor of Sutherland shire, Carmelo Pesce, and war widow and veteran family advocate commissioner, Gwen Cherne.

Morrison announced his resignation in January to take on “new challenges in the global corporate sector” and formally resigned in late February, although no date has yet been set for the byelection.

Kennedy will be prohibitive favourite in the poll, given Morrison’s 12.5% margin, the inclination within Labor not to field a candidate, and the lack of a strong independent challenge.

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In the preselection stoush Cherne fell short, winning just 35 votes, despite backing from the moderate faction and former prime minister John Howard.

Morrison largely sat out the preselection, despite expressing in 2021 that he would “would love to see a woman follow me as the member for Cook when I choose to retire from politics”.

Kennedy is a former partner at McKinsey who moved from Maroubra in south Sydney to contest Bennelong in 2022. He lost the northern Sydney seat to Labor’s Jerome Laxale by 1,954 votes, or 49-51% in two-party preferred terms.

Earlier on Monday the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said Labor hasn’t “made a final decision” on whether or not to contest the election, a call to be made by the New South Wales branch.

“Cook is not a seat that it would be expected that we would win, but we’ll wait and see,” he told ABC Sydney.

“I noticed that the Liberal party have the opportunity to finally select a woman candidate today for Cook.

“But we’ll wait and see whether they actually do or whether it’s yet another bloke sitting behind Peter Dutton just saying no to everything.”

A Liberal party review into the 2022 election recommended a target of 50% female representation in parliament within 10 years or three terms, but the party has made little progress at boosting women in its ranks.

After Roshena Campbell lost the Aston byelection, the Liberals preselected Cameron Caldwell in Fadden, who went on to win the seat, and Nathan Conroy in Dunkley, who lost Saturday’s byelection but will re-contest the seat at the federal election after achieving a moderate swing of more than 3%.

In February the independent MP for Wentworth, Allegra Spender, said the Coalition “can’t just say we’d love to see women – they need to take action on this”.

“You’re seeing in the House of Representatives about one in five Liberal MPs are women, so … the electorate [will] judge whether that turns into action in terms of pre-selection,” Spender said.

Simon Holmes à Court, the founder of the Climate 200 fundraising body for independent candidates, has been spruiking for months for a local campaign group to approach seeking support in Cook.

A Climate 200 spokesperson told Guardian Australia that “nobody has approach for our support yet”.

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Kerry O’Brien says ABC management needs ‘clarity of thought’ as Ita Buttrose departs

Kerry O’Brien criticises ABC, saying management needs ‘clarity of thought’ as Ita Buttrose departs

Former 7.30 and Lateline host uses interview ahead of chair’s final day to argue ABC in danger of losing its way and drifting closer to commercial model

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The ABC is in danger of losing its way and is drifting closer to a commercial model, former TV host Kerry O’Brien has said on the eve of Ita Buttrose’s departure as chair of the national broadcaster.

Buttrose will leave the ABC on Wednesday after five years in the role. She will be replaced by former News Corp Australia chief executive Kim Williams.

Her departure has been overshadowed by ongoing legal action taken by Antoinette Latouff who claims she was sacked from her casual presenting role on Sydney’s Mornings radio program due to her political views and her race.

Speaking to the ABC on Tuesday, O’Brien said the “absolutely fundamental” role of the ABC board was to protect the broadcaster’s independence and ensure it received adequate funding.

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The founding host of the 7.30 Report and Lateline said the leaders of the ABC needed clarity of thought in an increasingly complex world.

“The thing that I would observe, without talking specifically about Ita, the thing I would observe most, is that the greater the complexity you face in an organisation like the ABC, the more vital the clarity of thought that you’re applying to that complexity,” O’Brien told Sally Sara on Radio National.

“And I think at times the ABC has been, I think right now it is still, in danger of losing its way.”

O’Brien said the corporation’s focus on marketing strategies, ratings, demographics and “chasing ambulances” had been disastrous and led to the public losing trust in the ABC.

“I think over a long period of time, the ABC has drifted more and more close to a commercial model,” he said.

O’Brien singled out the use of social media by journalists as another problem – and suggested ABC journalists should be barred from posting personal opinions in the same way judicial officers are.

“I don’t understand how senior management and the board have allowed a process to develop the way it has to the point where it’s caused so much pain and aggravation to the place and to its image,” he said.

According to the ABC, Latouff was taken off the air because she “failed or refused to comply with directions that she not post on social media about matters of controversy during the short period she was presenting”.

O’Brien said on Tuesday he had detected dissatisfaction among ABC audiences who felt they were not being served by the public broadcaster.

“We should be able to look to our public broadcaster with confidence as one of the beacons of our democracy that we can rely on and I think that there are too many of the ABC audience … that have a sense of unhappiness and unease about the state of play at the ABC.”

His former department, ABC News, did not escape criticism, with the award-winning journalist saying when he watched the news now he “regularly has questions to ask about what I see”.

“But I just keep coming back to applying clarity of thought and having a very clear view about what the role of public broadcasting is and how you apply it, about what the values and principles of public broadcasting are and how you apply it.”

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PM grounded again as defence force fleet flies into trouble

New Zealand PM grounded again as defence force fleet flies into trouble

Defence force aircraft draws fresh criticism as Christopher Luxon joins Ardern and Key in list of leaders held up by ageing planes

New Zealand prime minister Christopher Luxon was forced to travel on a last-minute commercial flight to Australia for a summit on Tuesday, after the country’s beleaguered defence force plane was once again grounded over maintenance issues.

The defence force loans planes to New Zealand leaders when they embark on international travel, but the ageing fleet has been plagued with problems in recent years – an issue that Luxon, the former chief executive of Air New Zealand, has previously labelled “incredibly embarrassing”.

Former prime ministers Dame Jacinda Ardern and Sir John Key have both been grounded during trips around the world after RNZAF Boeing 757s and Hercules aircraft broke down. Last year, former prime minister Chris Hipkins was forced to bring a backup plane on a trip to China, over fears the plane he was travelling on was unreliable.

Luxon was scheduled to depart on the NZDF 757 from Wellington airport at 6am on Tuesday. Instead, he had to scramble to catch a flight to Auckland before transferring to a commercial trans-Tasman flight to Melbourne for the Asean summit, Radio New Zealand reported.

The prime minister is attending his first international gathering of leaders, after accepting an invitation from Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese. Luxon missed two bilateral meetings due to the travel delays.

Boeing was contacted for comment, but referred the Guardian back to the defence force.

In a statement, a defence force spokesperson said the Boeing 757 flew to Wellington on Monday and was serviceable on landing.

During the pre-flight checks this morning, crew became aware of a technical fault with the nose landing gear system,” they said. “Flight safety remains paramount and the crew and engineers are working hard to rectify the issue.”

Its second 757 is in Christchurch undergoing scheduled maintenance and was unavailable as back up.

With each breakdown, there are calls to bring forward a scheduled replacement of the 757s, which is due later this decade.

Acting National leader and finance minister Nicola Willis, said the incident was “not ideal” while suggesting plans to replace the aircraft were unlikely to be brought forward.

“The number one priority isn’t getting politicians to meetings. The number one priority is working well with our partners internationally to ensure we can defend our country and our interests,” she said.

Defence minister Judith Collins said the defence force does “an enormously good job with very, very old kit”.

“Essentially you’re talking about classic cars, but it’s planes,” she said.

“It’s an engineering issue … it’s embarrassing, it’s difficult. But every time we this happens we talk about the need for alternatives and every time we look at it it’s so expensive and frankly we’re in a cost of living crisis.”

In 2022, Ardern was left stranded in Antarctica overnight after a Hercules broke down. A 757 broke down on Ardern’s official visit to the US in 2022, and she took a commercial flight home from Melbourne in 2019 after another engineering issue. A trade mission to India headed by Key in 2016 was cut short after a 757 was grounded in Townsville, forcing the prime minister and his entourage to stay the night while they waited for a backup plane.

Opposition leader Chris Hipkins said Labour would not argue with the government if it wanted to replace the craft ahead of time.

“If they decide to upgrade the 757s, they’d have my support,” he said.

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

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PM grounded again as defence force fleet flies into trouble

New Zealand PM grounded again as defence force fleet flies into trouble

Defence force aircraft draws fresh criticism as Christopher Luxon joins Ardern and Key in list of leaders held up by ageing planes

New Zealand prime minister Christopher Luxon was forced to travel on a last-minute commercial flight to Australia for a summit on Tuesday, after the country’s beleaguered defence force plane was once again grounded over maintenance issues.

The defence force loans planes to New Zealand leaders when they embark on international travel, but the ageing fleet has been plagued with problems in recent years – an issue that Luxon, the former chief executive of Air New Zealand, has previously labelled “incredibly embarrassing”.

Former prime ministers Dame Jacinda Ardern and Sir John Key have both been grounded during trips around the world after RNZAF Boeing 757s and Hercules aircraft broke down. Last year, former prime minister Chris Hipkins was forced to bring a backup plane on a trip to China, over fears the plane he was travelling on was unreliable.

Luxon was scheduled to depart on the NZDF 757 from Wellington airport at 6am on Tuesday. Instead, he had to scramble to catch a flight to Auckland before transferring to a commercial trans-Tasman flight to Melbourne for the Asean summit, Radio New Zealand reported.

The prime minister is attending his first international gathering of leaders, after accepting an invitation from Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese. Luxon missed two bilateral meetings due to the travel delays.

Boeing was contacted for comment, but referred the Guardian back to the defence force.

In a statement, a defence force spokesperson said the Boeing 757 flew to Wellington on Monday and was serviceable on landing.

During the pre-flight checks this morning, crew became aware of a technical fault with the nose landing gear system,” they said. “Flight safety remains paramount and the crew and engineers are working hard to rectify the issue.”

Its second 757 is in Christchurch undergoing scheduled maintenance and was unavailable as back up.

With each breakdown, there are calls to bring forward a scheduled replacement of the 757s, which is due later this decade.

Acting National leader and finance minister Nicola Willis, said the incident was “not ideal” while suggesting plans to replace the aircraft were unlikely to be brought forward.

“The number one priority isn’t getting politicians to meetings. The number one priority is working well with our partners internationally to ensure we can defend our country and our interests,” she said.

Defence minister Judith Collins said the defence force does “an enormously good job with very, very old kit”.

“Essentially you’re talking about classic cars, but it’s planes,” she said.

“It’s an engineering issue … it’s embarrassing, it’s difficult. But every time we this happens we talk about the need for alternatives and every time we look at it it’s so expensive and frankly we’re in a cost of living crisis.”

In 2022, Ardern was left stranded in Antarctica overnight after a Hercules broke down. A 757 broke down on Ardern’s official visit to the US in 2022, and she took a commercial flight home from Melbourne in 2019 after another engineering issue. A trade mission to India headed by Key in 2016 was cut short after a 757 was grounded in Townsville, forcing the prime minister and his entourage to stay the night while they waited for a backup plane.

Opposition leader Chris Hipkins said Labour would not argue with the government if it wanted to replace the craft ahead of time.

“If they decide to upgrade the 757s, they’d have my support,” he said.

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

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Insurers announce premium hikes after Labor approves increases

Private health insurers announce premium rises after Albanese government approves increases

Mark Butler says premiums will rise by 3.03% on average, as some providers outline larger increase

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The federal government has approved private health insurance premiums increases amounting to an average of 3.03% this year, but already one major insurer has said their prices will rise by 4.1%.

The private health industry has defended the rises as being below inflation and similar increases to other insurance products, but said costs to private health facilities like wages, staffing and cybersecurity were also on the rise.

The health minister, Mark Butler, on Tuesday announced the annual rise in private health premium, three weeks before the price changes come into effect on 1 April. He said the 3.03% increase, which was the average rise across the sector, was lower than annual rises in inflation and wages, and had been decided after “considering [insurers’] years of record profits”.

“While we know that any increase will be hard to bear during a global cost-of-living crunch, the Albanese government has ensured that health insurance premiums will fall relative to Australians’ wages,” Butler said in a statement.

Insurers had reportedly asked for an annual increase as high as 6%, a number Butler had rejected late last year. Private Healthcare Australia, the industry peak body, has been contacted for comment.

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Butler last week shrugged off criticism from the Coalition for not having announced the increase earlier, saying it was “not unusual at all” for such decisions to be made in early March.

On Tuesday, he said individual insurers had a “responsibility to clearly explain to their policyholders any changes to their premiums”.

While the minister painted the government’s decision as a response to cost-of-living concerns, the first insurer to announce an individual increase, NIB, said its premiums would rise by an average 4.1% – above the average outlined by Butler.

It came after Butler’s statement outlined “wages rising by 4.2% and inflation increasing by 4.1% in 2023” – meaning NIB’s premium rise was on par with wage and inflation increases.

In an announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange, NIB’s chief executive, Mark Fitzgibbon, said the increase reflected “the return of hospital and ancillary treatment post Covid-19 and a rise in health and medical treatment costs”.

Fitzgibbon said that “inflation has moved back to long-term trends and it’s crucial that insurers are able to price for this”. The insurer noted its previous increase in 2023 and 2022, 2.72% and 2.66%, were its two lowest increases in the past 20 years.

Fitzgibbon denied insurers were “sitting back passively responding to inflationary pressure by just lifting premiums”, saying NIB offered health and wellbeing programs as well as other health management.

Medibank announced a 3.31% increase, also above Butler’s industry average, but below what the company said was the industry’s 10-year average of 3.8%.

“We know many households are doing it tough at the moment, and our focus has been to balance the impact of rising health costs with the need to keep premiums affordable for our customers,” said Medibank’s chief customer officer, Milosh Milisavljevic.

“Premium increases are never welcome, which is why we have worked hard to ensure this year’s is as low as it can be, despite rising health costs in the private system. “

Medibank’s increase applied to Medibank and AHM products.

The shadow health minister, Anne Ruston, accused the government of having “shamelessly delayed” its announcement on increases to private health insurance premiums until after the weekend’s Dunkley by-election.

In a statement to Guardian Australia, Ruston claimed it was “the price hike the Government wanted to hide.”

“It is the longest Australians have had to wait in 15 years to find out how much more they will need to fork out for private health insurance,” she claimed.

“We also know that this is only an average industry price increase, so some consumers will be paying substantially more than the increase announced today – with less time to budget or shop around.”

Private Healthcare Australia CEO Dr Rachel David said health funds “do not want to increase premiums by a single dollar”, but claimed they couldn’t avoid it, pointing to rising costs and increasing consumer claims.

“Both hospital and extras claims have skyrocketed in the past year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels. The latest APRA data shows in the year to December 2023, health funds paid a record $23.6 billion for claims – 10% more than the previous year,” David said.

“In the current economy, it is becoming more challenging to keep private hospital care sustainable without increasing premiums.”

David called on the government to reduce costs of medical implants and surgical supplies, and remove funding for “low value care and harmful medical devices” – claiming such reforms could help reduce consumer costs.

The Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) said increased premiums must help ensure the sustainability of private hospitals. Its chief executive, Michael Roff, called on private insurers to help support the sector and “not profits”.

“The onus is now squarely on the health insurance companies to ensure the ongoing viability of Australia’s private hospitals following today’s premium increase announcement,” the APHA said in a statement.

Roff said private hospitals were facing workforce pressures and rising costs, claiming some facilities had been forced to close. He said health insurers were “experiencing record profitability and clearly have the capacity to come the aid of hospitals”.

“Unfortunately, we will continue to see private hospitals close or reduce services unless health insurance companies put sustainability of the private health sector before their own profits,” Roff said.

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Five key takeaways from the US supreme court ruling on Trump ballot ban

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US supreme court ruling on Trump ballot ban: five key takeaways

Donald Trump can remain on the presidential ballot but the question of whether he was guilty of insurrection unresolved

The US supreme court ruled on Monday that former president Donald Trump cannot be kept off the ballot in Colorado, foreclosing a series of legal challenges the Republican frontrunner faced in multiple states as he seeks a return to the White House.

The 14th amendment’s third clause, enacted after the US civil war, seeks to prevent people who were elected officials who engaged in insurrection from then holding office again. It has been rarely used since, but was resurrected by advocacy groups and voters who claim it applies to Trump because of his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

The court’s nine justices agreed that a state can’t remove a federal candidate from its ballot. Though the decision was unanimous, briefs filed separately indicate tension among the justices about how far the majority opinion went.

Because the case involved an obscure part of the constitution, the court had to parse questions of how the clause works and to whom it applies. And, perhaps most critically, the court’s decision held tremendous capacity for disruption during an election year with a leading candidate known to rile up his followers.

Here are some key takeaways from the decision and the broader context at play.

State v federal rights at heart of issue

The core of the decision rests simply on the interplay between state and federal rights.

Though states administer federal elections, the court decided states have no authority to remove a candidate from the running under Section 3. Instead, the majority opinion noted, the 14th amendment “expanded federal power at the expense of state autonomy”. Allowing states to do as Colorado did would “invert the Fourteenth Amendment’s rebalancing of federal and state power”.

The language of the clause doesn’t include any direction on how a state could enforce it, the majority said. Only Congress is mentioned as an enforcer, they argue.

States could, and did, use the section to disqualify state candidates from holding office if they violate the insurrectionist clause, the majority wrote.

This federalism argument was clearly agreed to by all nine justices – though the majority opinion goes on further to suggest how Congress might act to enforce the clause in the future.

Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson all wrote, in two separate opinions, that the majority opinion went too far.

The decision that states lack the authority here “provides a secure and sufficient basis to resolve this case”, the liberal justices (Sotomayor, Kagan and Jackson) wrote. “The Court should have started and ended its opinion with this conclusion.”

Tension among the justices on how far the ruling goes

The justices’ unanimity in the belief that the Colorado court couldn’t remove Trump was fractured by two addendums that strike at the extension of the case beyond its scope.

The court’s majority – conservative justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch – specified how the insurrectionist clause would need to be enforced. It would require an act of Congress to determine who would be ineligible to hold office because of insurrection, they wrote, relying on another section of the 14th amendment to make the case.

The liberal justices, in one separate opinion, and the conservative Barrett, in her own, said the majority went too far by prescribing what kind of process would be needed.

The case did not require the justices to “address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced”, Barrett wrote. Because of the sensitivity of the issue and its context, the justices should have left it with the federalism justification alone. “In my judgment, this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency,” she wrote.

The liberal justices took this disagreement further, saying the majority opinion moved into constitutional questions it didn’t need to as a way to “insulate this court and petitioner from future controversy”.

The case did not involve federal action; it was a state court in Colorado that decided Trump could not be on the ballot there. The majority did not need to move into contested federal issues, the liberals said. “These musings are as inadequately supported as they are gratuitous.”

No decision on whether Trump engaged in insurrection

What’s left entirely unsaid in the court’s opinions issued on Monday: whether Trump engaged in insurrection.

A finding that Trump had himself engaged in insurrection would have been required for keeping the former president off the ballot. The clause says that a person could be disqualified from holding office again if they had “engaged in insurrection or rebellion”.

Trump and his team fought against this claim, saying his actions after the 2020 election did not constitute an insurrection. Instead, he argued, 6 January was more akin to a “riot” and his comments to his followers, which some have contended amounted to incitement, were protected by the first amendment. In Colorado, the state supreme court had concluded that he incited his followers to engage in insurrection, which met the definition for engaging in insurrection.

The legal cases against Trump over his election subversion will continue unabated by any opining by the high court about whether he is an insurrectionist.

The potential for mayhem/violence was high because of this case

The 2024 election was already marked by tension because of the presence of Trump; his ability to direct his followers is unparalleled in American politics.

The cases against Trump in several states – for election subversion, hush-money claims, keeping classified documents and business fraud – have not injured his standing with his followers, but instead seemingly solidified or even amplified their support.

The 14th amendment cases entered into this fraught dynamic, throwing yet another legal bomb, albeit an obscure one, that gave Trump’s followers further belief that there is a conspiracy against Trump’s ability to run for re-election.

On the campaign trail, Trump has used these legal liabilities to his benefit, claiming they are evidence of election interference and a sign that President Joe Biden, not he, is a threat to democracy.

A survey focused on political violence conducted by the University of Chicago’s Chicago Project on Security & Threats in January showed that the court’s decision on the 14th amendment held the potential for further support of political violence, regardless of how the court decided, because of the extreme partisan divide on the issue.

Trump called the decision “very well-crafted” and said he thought it would bring the country together. Most states were “thrilled” to have Trump on the ballot, he said, but others didn’t want him on there for “political reasons” and because of “poll numbers”.

The court clearly considered the political implications

While courts often claim to avoid wading in on political questions, politics clearly played into how the court decided on this case. The implications of how removing Trump could play out electorally are contemplated throughout the opinions.

The potential that a candidate could be ineligible in some states, leading to a “patchwork” effect, would disrupt voters, the majority wrote in their opinion.

“An evolving electoral map could dramatically change the behavior of voters, parties, and States across the country, in different ways and at different times,” the majority wrote. “The disruption would be all the more acute – and could nullify the votes of millions and change the election result – if Section 3 enforcement were attempted after the Nation has voted. Nothing in the Constitution requires that we endure such chaos – arriving at any time or different times, up to and perhaps beyond the Inauguration.”

It wasn’t just politics with the election itself or the public at large that came into view; the political dynamics between the justices showed through as well.

The liberal justices jabbed at the majority opinion for its extension of the case into how Congress would need to act, claiming that was an attempt to “insulate all alleged insurrectionists from future challenges to their holding federal office”.

Barrett, in her separate opinion, tried to strike a conciliatory note. She called attention to the fact that the court unanimously decided on a “politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election”. The court’s goal, she said, should be to turn down the national temperature instead of inflame it.

“For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine Justices agree on the outcome of this case,” she wrote. “That is the message Americans should take home.”

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Matildas star charged with racially aggravated harassment of London police officer

Footballer Sam Kerr charged with racially aggravated harassment of London police officer

Chelsea player and Matildas captain faces trial over January incident involving officer responding to taxi fare dispute

Sam Kerr, the Chelsea and Australia footballer, is to face trial in the UK accused of the racially aggravated harassment of a police officer.

The 30-year-old appeared in court on Monday accused of using insulting, threatening or abusive words that caused alarm or distress to an officer who was responding to a complaint over a taxi fare in Twickenham, south-west London, on 30 January 2023.

Kerr, who appeared at Kingston crown court via video link, spoke only to confirm her name and to enter a not guilty plea to the charge, the Daily Mail reported.

In a statement, the Metropolitan police said: “Samantha Kerr, 30 (10.09.93) of Richmond was charged via postal charge requisition on 21 January with a racially aggravated offence under Section 4A Public Order Act 1986.

“The charge relates to an incident involving a police officer who was responding to a complaint involving a taxi fare on 30 January 2023 in Twickenham.”

Kerr is expected to go to trial in February next year with two police officers scheduled to give evidence. The trial is due to last four days.

A statement from Football Australia said it was “aware of the legal proceedings involving Sam Kerr in the United Kingdom.

“As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to provide further comment at this time,” it added. “Our focus remains on supporting all our players, both on and off the field. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide support as appropriate.”

As Australia’s captain, the striker is one of the country’s most recognisable sportspeople after the Matildas’ run to the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand last year.

In May, the footballer carried her country’s flag at the coronation of King Charles in Westminster Abbey.

Last month, Kerr agreed a contract extension with the current Women’s Super League champions, Chelsea. The forward will miss the remainder of the current season after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament on a mid-season training camp in Morocco.

Kerr joined Chelsea midway through the 2019-20 season and has scored 99 goals in 128 games for the team.

She has also won the Golden Boot twice, was runner-up to Spain’s Aitana Bonmatí at the Ballon d’Or awards last year, and finished second on the Guardian’s list of the top 100 female footballers in 2023 after being third in 2021 and 2022.

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Conservative-backed lawsuit takes aim at alleged diversity quotas

Conservative-backed lawsuit takes aim at alleged diversity quotas in Hollywood

Lawsuit against CBS backed by former Trump adviser claims Seal Team writer was denied advancement due to network’s DEI policy

CBS Studios and its parent company Paramount have been sued by a writer for Seal Team alleging discrimination through the network’s diversity quotas, in what is likely the opening lawsuit against efforts to improve diversity in Hollywood following the supreme court’s decision to dismantle affirmative action.

Brian Beneker, a script coordinator for Seal Team, filed the lawsuit in California federal court on Wednesday, and is represented by a legal group funded by the former Trump adviser and far-right anti-immigration activist Stephen Miller.

Beneker alleges that he was repeatedly denied a staff writer job on the show after the implementation of an “illegal policy of race and sex balancing” that supported the hiring of “less qualified applicants who were members of more preferred groups”, namely women, racial minorities and those who identify as LGBTQ+. He seeks at least $500,000 and a court order making him a full-time producer on the series as well as barring any further diversity-based hiring practices.

Beneker is represented by the America First Legal Foundation which, backed by Miller, has filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging corporate diversity practices afoul of civil rights guidelines against such major companies as Starbucks, McDonalds and Morgan Stanley.

Beneker’s suit against CBS is the organization’s first of this kind against an entertainment company, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The suit comes less than a year after the supreme court ruled against affirmative action in Students for Fair Admissions v Harvard. In that case, the court ruled that the university’s diversity guidelines for admission, which included race, violated the 14th amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Though the ruling did not directly affect companies, which are governed by separate sets of federal and state anti-discrimination laws, experts anticipated a wave of lawsuits against corporate diversity practices.

Beneker, who has worked as a script coordinator for Seal Team since 2017 and occasionally wrote some episodes as a freelancer, alleges in the complaint that he was passed over for hiring as staff writer multiple times in favor of Black or female candidates, who he claims had less experience. Per the complaint, when Beneker asked a superior in 2019 why a Black writer was hired instead of him, he was told that CBS needed to meet diversity quotas for its writers’ room. He further claims that since 2020, when Bedeker says he was assured he would get a staff position, the show has hired six additional writers, all female.

“During Season 6 (in approximately May of 2022), two female writer’s assistants, without any writing credits, were hired as staff writers,” the complaint says. “The first of these two hires was black. The second identified as lesbian.”

According to the CBS Entertainment Group’s CEO, George Cheeks, in a 2022 interview, the network set a goal that all writers’ rooms on primetime series must consist of at least 40% minorities for the 2021-2022 season, and that 17 of 21 shows hit or exceeded that target. That goal was pushed to half of all series for the 2022-2023, as part of an effort to “more accurately reflect diversity both on-screen and behind-the-camera”.

The suit claims that such practices “created a situation where heterosexual, white men need ‘extra’ qualifications (including military experience or previous writing credits) to be hired as staff writers when compared to their nonwhite, LGBTQ, or female peers”.

The complaint claims violations of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which bars racial discrimination in the making of private contracts, and title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion and other characteristics. The complaint further questions the legality of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion programs that specifically address race, many of which were implemented or bolstered after the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

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Cookie Monster and Ohio senator make odd allies in US shrinkflation complaint

Cookie Monster and Ohio senator make odd allies in shrinkflation complaint

Democratic senator Sherrod Brown endorsed the Sesame Street star’s complaint on products getting smaller as prices remain same

The Ohio Democratic senator Sherrod Brown endorsed a key voice in the American public square – Cookie Monster – in a complaint about shrinkflation.

“Me hate shrinkflation!” the Sesame Street character posted on social media on Monday, referring to an economic phenomenon Merriam-Webster defines as “the practice of reducing a product’s amount or volume per unit while continuing to offer it at the same price”.

“Me cookies are getting smaller,” Cookie Monster added, appending a frowning face emoji.

Brown, a leading progressive in the US Senate facing a tough fight for re-election, said: “Me too, Cookie Monster. Big corporations shrink the size of their products without shrinking their prices, all to pay for CEO bonuses. People in my state of Ohio are fed up – they should get all the cookie they pay for.”

Cookie Monster’s tweet was not the first from a Sesame Street character to make news in recent weeks. Last month, Elmo, the particularly toddler-friendly red furry muppet, prompted an outpouring of existential dread when he simply asked followers: “How is everybody doing?”

Nor was Brown the first prominent Democrat to seize on shrinkflation as a campaign issue. Last month, Joe Biden used a video released on Super Bowl Sunday to say the American public was “tired of being played for suckers” by makers of popular snacks.

“Some companies are trying to pull a fast one by shrinking the products little by little and hoping you won’t notice,” the president said.

“Sports drinks bottles are smaller, a bag of chips has fewer chips, but they’re still charging just as much. As an ice-cream lover, what makes me the most angry is that ice-cream cartons have actually shrunk in size.”

On Monday, Biden – or at least the White House social media team – took time to join Brown in backing Cookie Monster’s complaint.

“C is for consumers getting ripped off,” a retweet of Cookie Monster’s original message said. “President Biden is calling on companies to put a stop to shrinkflation.”

Biden’s love for ice cream is as well known as Cookie Monster’s love for cookies, though both president and puppet advocate for children to eat healthy foods too.

Among some observers, meanwhile, Brown’s agreement with Cookie Monster about the evils of shrinkflation prompted thoughts of another similarity between the senator and the Sesame Street star.

Both are known and celebrated for distinctive, gravelly voices.

The historian Kevin M Kruse once said Brown sounded “like Tom Waits smoked a carton of Pall Malls and gargled hot asphalt”.

Cookie Monster – originally provided by the celebrated puppeteer Frank Oz, now performed by David Rudman – has also been widely compared to Waits.

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