Furious Greens leader threatens to sue

Adam Bandt refused to condemn the protests but said ‘everyone deserved ‘ to have a safe workplace. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Greens leader Adam Bandt has threatened legal action against Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus after Labor joined the Coalition to accuse the minor party of inflaming tensions around the war in Gaza.

In a statement released on Thursday, Mr Bandt said his lawyers had written to Mr Dreyfus about remarks he made on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing about protests occurring outside senior Labor MPs’ electorate offices in recent weeks.

“My lawyers have written to the Attorney-General regarding what I consider to be defamatory statements he made about me and the Greens,” Mr Bandt said in a statement he later read out to reporters.

“I understand a number of media outlets have chosen to stop broadcasting and publishing his statements because of legal concerns. I welcome their restraint.

Greens leader Adam Bandt is threatening legal action against the Attorney-General. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is yet to comment on Mr Bandt’s legal letter. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“I think that the first law officer of this country should not make utterly unfounded statements and spread disinformation. No politician should do that.”

Following a confrontational question time session on Wednesday, Mr Dreyfus told ABC that he was “concerned” about the Greens party’s role in the protests after protesters had reportedly “criminally damaged” private property.

This came after senate estimates was told there had been 725 threats made to MPs over the last financial year.

Mr Bandt denied any Greens involvement in the protests that have shut down electorate offices, later telling reporters the debate was an attempt to “detract and detract” from the “slaughter” occurring in Gaza.

“There is no place for violence in politics, there is no place for violence in this country. Everyone deserves a safe workplace,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s electorate office has been out of use since January because of safety concerns posed by continuous protests. Picture: X
The Prime Minister’s electorate office has been out of use since January because of safety concerns posed by continuous protests. Picture: X

Earlier, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek told Sky News that the Greens had misrepresented the government’s position.

“We’ve got Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi standing outside Labor MPs’ offices encouraging the crowd to continue to blockade,” she said.

“We’ve seen young Greens posting videos of the defacing of Peter Kalil’s billboard with ‘victory till revolution’ and ‘death to the ALP’.

“This is a party that has deliberately misrepresented the position of the government. They’ve said we’re selling weapons to Israel, but we’re not. They say that we support genocide when plainly that is a completely offensive and distressing thing to say.”

Senate estimates was told on Wednesday that Australia had granted eight permits to send defence-related equipment to Israel since October 7, but they were related to items needing repair that would be sent back and used by defence and law enforcement personnel.

Officials also confirmed that Australia had contributed to a supply chain for items used in F-35 aircraft after the US signed a $3bn trade agreement with Israel’s defence ministry to acquire 25 fighter jets earlier this week.

Dutton labels Greens ‘evil’

In an escalation of tensions among party leaders, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton took to 2GB to call the Greens party “evil” and declared Mr Bandt as “unfit to be in office”.

“People need to have a conversation with their kids and their grandkids (and) with their next-door neighbours just about how evil the current Greens party is and that they’re nothing about the environment, they’re all about radical causes,” he told Ray Hadley.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the Greens were evil. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“And somehow, Adam Bandt, who I think is unfit to be in public office, has led a party now that is central to what we’re seeing on campuses and the distribution of hate and anti-Semitic messages online, the chanting of river to the sea etc.

“People in the Jewish community are living in fear, and when people say that this is a repeat of the 1930s, every decent honourable Australian should stand up to make sure that it’s not.”

Greens continue pressure on defence contracts with Israel

Kicking off the final sitting day of the fortnight, Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather questioned the prime minister over a contract involving an Israeli weapons company.

Elbit Systems, one of the largest suppliers of the Israeli military, was awarded a $917m contract to supply systems for the Australian army.

Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather pushed the government on Israeli defence contracts in question time. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there had been no defence exports to Israel. . Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The contract relates to the procurement of infantry fighting vehicles with South Korean company Hanwha.

Asked if Labor would scrap the contract given its opposition to the war in Gaza, Mr Albanese

said Australia had not exported weapons or ammunication to Israel in the last five years.

“I am pleased to state that export permits are required for a wide range of goods and technology, many for civilian and commercial purposes,” the prime minister said.

Labor shuts down vote on campus anti-Semitism inquiry
Government MPs have shut down parliamentary debate on a Coalition-backed inquiry into anti-Semitism on university campuses after Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser attempted to suspend standing orders on Thursday morning to bring on a vote.

Mr Leeser’s private member’s bill would have established a commission of inquiry that would “exclusively focus on anti-Semitism on university campuses in Australia”, with royal commission-like powers.

Liberal MP Julian Leeser pushed to suspend standing orders and bring on a vote over his private member’s bill. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Addressing the parliament on Thursday morning, Mr Leeser cited instances where Jewish university students had experienced anti-Semitic behaviour, with some spat at and taunted with swastikas.

The office of Jewish staff members at university campuses had also been urinated on, he said.

Mr Leeser also took aim at university vice-chancellors, arguing they had failed to protect their Jewish students and staff.

“Unfortunately, the government’s plan is not to have a stand-alone judicial inquiry to deal with anti-Semitism on campus but to have a general anti-racism inquiry running for two years dealing with racism against First Nations peoples, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” he told parliament.

“Can I say as a Jewish Australian I am so sick and tired of his government, the human rights commission, universities and other bodies in Australia being unable to say anti-Semitism without saying Islamophobia in the same breath.

“To fail to singularly identify and call out the particularity of anti-Semitism and indeed the largest increase in anti-Semitism in our history in and of itself anti-Semitic.”

Following a rise in pro-Palestinian protests on tertiary campuses, Jewish students have reported increased levels of harassment and intimidation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

But Labor members moved to adjourn debate, removing the bill from the legislative agenda

While acknowledging the “appalling hatred” levelled at Jewish Australians, Labor frontbencher Mark Butler said it was not appropriate timing for the bill to be debated.

“This is not the way we are going to deal with a bill,” Mr Butler said.

“There is no way any government is going to agree to a motion that seeks to bring on legislation, to deal with it in an hour (with) absolutely no notice given to the government.”

Former immigration detainee charged with alleged visa breach

A 29-year old Iranian-born man has been charged by the Australian Federal Police in Perth after allegedly failing to comply with his visa-mandated curfew.

“It will be alleged the man breached the conditions of his Commonwealth visa on Monday 3 June, 2024, by failing to observe his residential curfew obligations,” the AFP said in a statement.

The offence, in breach of the Migration Act, carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a $93,000 fine.

It is understood the alleged offender is among the former immigration detainees, including the stateless Rohingya man known as NZYQ, who were released after the High Court ruled in November last year that indefinite detention was unlawful.

The man is expected to appear in the Perth Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Australia can avoid recession: Chalmers

Despite sluggish economic growth Australia’s economy is steering in the right direction, Treasurer Jim Chalmers says.

Australia’s GDP expanded by 0.1 per cent, cutting annual growth to 1.1 per cent from 1.5 per cent in December, figures released on Wednesday from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed.

It’s Australia’s weakest growth rate since the 1990 recession. Picture: NewsWire / Nikki Short

Speaking to ABC Radio National, Dr Chalmers said the economy had “slowed considerably” but tempered economists fears that the country was heading into a recession.

“We expected it to be very weak and it was. The point that we’ve made about the budget is that in this context, you get a lot of free advice. People say you should slash and burn in the budget, you shouldn’t be providing cost of living relief,” he said.

“What these national accounts have proven really is that advice was horrendously wrong. We got the budget right because we’re repairing the budget, we’re fighting inflation, but we’re doing that in a way that doesn’t smash an economy which is already weak.”

Dr Chalmers added that the oncoming stage 3 tax cuts, which will average about $36 extra a week for most taxpayers, likely won’t increase spending enough to raise inflation.

“The tax cuts are already factored into the Reserve Bank’s thinking and the Treasury’s thinking in the forecast provided by both of those institutions,” he said.

“Some people will spend them, some people won’t, but I think the cuts will arrive at precisely the right time. They’re only a few weeks away.”