‘Sycophantic’: Dutton launches attack on PM

Mr Dutton during question time. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Peter Dutton has accused Anthony Albanese of engaging in a ‘close and sycophantic relationship’ with former New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern after a debate over visa cancellations spilt over into question time.

Labor is revising a ministerial direction that enabled an independent tribunal to allow dozens of foreign criminals to stay in Australia.

Seizing on reports that Direction 99 was formed to appease New Zealand’s concerns about the removal of its own citizens, the Opposition Leader demanded Mr Albanese justify a meeting with his former Kiwi counterpart back in 2022.

“Why did this weak and incompetent Prime Minister put his close and sycophantic relationship with Jacinda Ardern ahead of the safety of Australians?” he asked.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton took aim at the Prime Minister over the Direction 99 stoush during Question Time. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Mr Albanese was seen laughing at Mr Dutton’s question. NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Mr Albanese criticised the opposition for voting against legislation to reform the body which made the visa decisions, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, before slamming the assertion as “absurd”.

“What we do is we determine our own policy according with our own interests and that is what we have done and, indeed, the request publicly from New Zealand was to remove section 501,” he said.

“We did not do that. We have created a pathway for better citizenship for New Zealand people who have been here to have that pathway to citizenship and I am pleased that, indeed, 20,000 plus Kiwis now call themselves Australian citizens as well.”

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles during question time. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

After confirming that Direction 99 was indeed his own initiative, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said New Zealand had no stake in the matter.

“What I can say is this – in putting in place ministerial direction, I had regard to our national interest and common sense, including the protection of the Australian community, and that was the advice that I was given,” he said.

eSafety row erupts on trans speech

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said she would not be “drawn” on the transgender debate after Liberal Senator Claire Chandler asked her whether women were potentially putting themselves at legal risk by misgendering a trans person.

The eSafety website states that refusing to use a trans person’s preferred pronouns online or posting a video that ‘deadnames’ them, or refers to them by a name they no longer use, is a form of gendered hate and may become the subject of an eSafety investigation.

Ms Chandler, at a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday, asked Ms Grant whether a woman who refers to a biological male criminal who identifies as a woman as a man in an online forum was guilty of gendered hate in the view of the commission.

“I think I will take that on notice,” Ms Grant replied.

eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant appeared before Senate estimates at Parliament House on Thursday. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“I am not required to provide a personal opinion, nor would in a case like this. Nor would I make an on-the-spot Judgement about a particular live investigation without the proper investigations being done.

“So I’m not going to be drawn on that Senator, thank you.

Commissioner Toby Dagg said the commission’s position on gendered hate had been informed by consultation with the LGBT community.

“The resources reflect that kind of advice,” he said.

Ms Grant said political commentary was protected in the Online Safety Act.

“You are wanting to engage me on a political debate … no I am not going to censor any political commentary about trans or anti trans material, that is not my role.”

Ms Grant said most social media platforms prohibit misgendering and deadnaming as part of their hate speech policies.

“Nine out of 10 trans Australians have experienced serious online hate or violence online,” she said.

Mr Dagg said it was difficult to give “definitive” answers on whether material might become the subject of an eSafety investigation or take-down notice without looking at specific facts or circumstances.

“It’s very difficult to work in a hypothetical sense at Senate estimates,” he said.

“It’s difficult for me to be definitive either way.”

China lifts beef export ban

China has lifted punishing restrictions on five Australian beef exporters.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the details were “still emerging” but confirmed on Thursday the trade tariffs would be removed “with immediate effect” for five cattle producers who were hit with a snap ban four years ago.

“That is fantastic news for Australia’s cattle producers, for the meat processing industry, for the workers in those industries and, of course, for Australian exports,” Senator Watt told the ABC.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has welcomed the latest breakthrough on China’s trade restrictions. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“What we’ve worked out is that even so far as over the export bans that have been lifted by China, that has worked out to $3b in extra exports for Australia.”

China banned beef imports from a total of eight Australian abattoirs amid a diplomatic fallout between 2020 and 2021, that halted an estimated 35 per cent of the country’s beef exports into China.

The Chinese government also imposed a snap ban on Australian lobster, which remains in place.

Trade barriers on other Australian-made products including barley, cotton and wine have progressively lifted since 2022.

Free-to-air showdown

The Greens are set to introduce an amendment to prevent major Australian sporting events from being blocked behind paywalls.

Australia’s anti-siphoning laws give free-to-air television stations broadcasting rights to big events like the AFL and NRL but do not cover online streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Binge.

The federal government, however, has drafted a new law that would no longer guarantee free sport across digital devices.

Amid a crucial senate vote, Greens communications spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said she plans to “drill” Labor over the changes during a senate estimates hearing on Thursday.

The Greens will move an amendment to block changes to Labor’s subscription sports scheme. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“I’ll be drilling them over just how unfair this is, that half of Australians are going to be locked out of watching sport for free,” she said.

“If you have a smart television, if you watch sport on your television, phone, tablet or computer, you won’t be able to get access to sport for free, which is just un-Australian, frankly.”

‘Don't roll your eyes’: Anger over frontline demand

Women’s Minister Katy Gallagher has agreed that frontline domestic violence programs needed more funding but disagreed with claims from women’s safety advocates that Labor hadn’t invested enough to fix critical sector shortages.

Greens senator Larissa Waters asked the Minister for Women why during a “national crisis” Labor did not allocate new money in the budget towards frontline programs.

Senator Gallagher said significant funding had been directed towards housing and income support, citing previous investments into to the National Plan to End Violence against Women in the first two budgets.

Ms Gallagher has defended the government’s funding of frontline workers in the domestic violence programs. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“I accept your proposition that you don’t think there’s enough funding going to frontline services but I would respond with there is new money in this budget to support women’s safety,” she said.

Senator Gallagher added “some” of the funds would go towards frontline services.

“I would also point out that traditionally the funder of frontline services for women’s safety is a responsibility of the states and territories,” she said.

This response prompted an eye-roll from Senator Waters, who appeared via remote video link.

“Don’t roll your eyes – we live under a federation model … and all governments had signed up to the national plan,” Senator Gallagher responded.