Australia – Page 4 – Michmutters

Not guilty plea entered for Adelaide man accused of attempted rape of schoolgirl at bus stop

An Adelaide magistrate has committed a man to stand trial in the District Court for the attempted rape of a 13-year-old schoolgirl after he told the court he “just doesn’t care anymore.”

Anthony James Stengewis, 52, has been charged with attempting to engage in sexual intercourse without consent and assault with attempt to commit rape.

Staff at the secure mental health facility James Nash House, where Mr Stengewis has been in custody, told Magistrate John Wells that he did not want to appear in court this morning.

“He just doesn’t care anymore,” the staff told Magistrate Wells.

His lawyers then conceded Mr Stengewis had a case to answer.

Magistrate John Wells said he would take that as a “not guilty” plea before sending his case to the District Court in November.

In February, the court heard Mr Stengewis asked the schoolgirl, who was waiting at a Gilberton bus stop, if she had a boyfriend before allegedly pushing her into a garden bed and attempting to rape her.

“The male didn’t stop and there was no-one else around,” the prosecutor said while opposing bail in February.

“The victim started kicking the male to the stomach and groin area.”

The court heard Mr Stengewis was living in a rooming house in Medindie – two-to-three minutes walk from the alleged crime scene — and after the alleged attempted rape walked off in that direction.



How a city is struggling to attract visitors

Sydney is home to many of Australia’s leading cultural institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Australian Museum, Walsh Bay Arts Precinct and the Sydney Opera House. Yet the report said Melbourne has long been accepted as the number one cultural destination in Australia.

Nicolaou said Sydney matches and exceeds Melbourne with its “mix of small and large performance venues that have grown since the removal of lockout laws and councils adopting more relaxed rules around entertainment spaces and trading hours”.

Anything Melbourne can do, Sydney can do better

Venerable public art museums: National Gallery of Victoria v Art Gallery of NSW

New cultural infrastructure: NGV Contemporary v AGNSW Sydney Modern wing and Powerhouse Parramatta

Facelift for performing arts venues: Melbourne’s Arts Center v Sydney Opera House

Major arts festivals: Rising: Melbourne v Sydney Festival; Melbourne Writers Festival v Sydney Writers’ Festival; Melbourne International Film Festival v Sydney Film Festival; Melbourne International Comedy Festival v Sydney Comedy Festival

Major stage shows: hamilton, Moulin Rouge! musical, Come From Away have or will be staged in Melbourne and Sydney

But he said the cost of parking and reliability of public transport needed to be addressed to attract visitors to the CBD – the business lobby advocates free public transport on weekends and more night services from the city to the suburbs.

A spokesman for Arts and Tourism Minister Ben Franklin said the NSW government aimed to make the state the “premier visitor economy” in the Asia Pacific.

“A key pillar to achieving this goal is investing in tourism, marketing and events programs that support and promote a thriving arts and cultural identity for Sydney as the nation’s capital for major cultural events,” he said in a statement.

Sydney’s art bosses said the city lacks a cultural brand and the creative sector “felt unsupported” by Destination NSW, the state government’s tourism agency.

Amyl and The Sniffers perform at the Enmore Theater on August 12.

Amyl and The Sniffers perform at the Enmore Theater on August 12.Credit:Rhett Wyman

“There has been resistance, or at least minimal help, historically from DNSW although the sense is this has changed with new leadership,” the report said.

Powerhouse Museum chief executive Lisa Havilah said it was important to “put First Nations stories first and embed into our beautifully complex Sydney identity, culturally diverse, fine grain experiences – that reflect the true nature of our contemporary identity”.

“It is these experiences that are compelling and distinctive to visitors,” she said.

Labor’s Arts spokesman Walt Secord said western Sydney should be included in the plan to attract repeat visitors.

“The state government has lazily relied on the international reputation of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge to attract one-off visitors,” he said.


“They must be bold. We want international visitors to come back for a second and third time – rather than simply removing Sydney from their bucket list.”

The report calls for a Sydney Arts Precinct linking the city’s cultural institutions such as theatres, museums and major arts companies under an identifiable brand and collaborative body.

“A primary aim of the Sydney Arts Precinct is to attract visitation to the CBD from Sydney and NSW residents using rich cultural content and experiences as the driver,” the report said.

Business Sydney is also calling for the appointment of a cultural economy commissioner to spearhead a cultural economy strategy to promote Sydney to locals and visitors as more than just a place for business and shopping.

David Beirman, adjunct fellow in tourism at the University of Technology Sydney, said it would be “crazy to ignore” Sydney’s global icons when promoting the city to domestic and international travellers.

However, state and federal tourism agencies had not given enough emphasis to the arts and culture in the past, Beirman said.

“Effective promotion of Sydney’s cultural scene could add a day or two on the stay of a visitor’s stay in Sydney and each extra day benefits other tourism related businesses and the broader economy.”


Destination NSW’s Feel NSW campaign launched last year features cultural events as well as the state’s natural wonders.

“I think it is far more useful to enhance the profile of Sydney’s artistic and cultural attributes than to waste time and money on declaring Sydney as Australia’s cultural capital,” Beirman said. “Let the product do the talking.”

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Matthew Guy becomes ‘Matt’ as a quasi Victorian election campaign against Daniel Andrews begins

Guy, 48, has been one of the most prominent Coalition figures in Victorian politics for a decade. But, all of a sudden, media releases now use “Matt” instead of the more familiar “Matthew”.

The name tweak was decided after the appointment of Guy’s close friend, Nick McGowan, as chief of staff. It is not clear whether his name will be changed on social media platforms.

New state Liberal chief of staff Nick McGowan (left), seen here with Opposition Leader Matthew Guy in 2018.

New state Liberal chief of staff Nick McGowan (left), seen here with Opposition Leader Matthew Guy in 2018.Credit:AAP

Guy brushed off questions about “Matt”, saying former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called him Matt. “I don’t mind – you can call me whatever you like,” he said.

Andrews said of Guy’s refresh: “I don’t think about him. I think about patients and I think about nurses.”

Eight years and two days ago, three months out from the 2014 election, then-opposition leader Daniel Andrews rebadged himself as “Dan.”

Most of the premier’s associates call him Daniel and most of Guy’s call him Matthew (although some close family and friends use Matt).

As the premier noted on Sunday about his own rebadging, “I’ve been called Dan for a very long time.” Andrews made the switch when he was barely known by the public.

Guy is more well known, Matt or otherwise.


But he is hoping a batch of policies, weariness with Andrews, a buckling health system and gloominess caused by dropping real wages combine to give him a fighting chance.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.


Man charged with firearm offenses over shooting at Canberra Airport to undergo mental health assessment

A 63-year-old man has been charged with firearm offenses and will undergo a mental health assessment after allegedly firing multiple rounds inside Canberra Airport yesterday.

About 1:30pm on Sunday, shots were fired inside the airport, and a man was arrested.

No one was injured.

Police allege Ali Rachid Ammoun arrived at the airport about 1:20pm and sat on some seats near the check-in desks on the first floor.

About 1:25pm, they said he drew a firearm and fired a number of shots into the windows of the building.

Australian Federal Police officers who were stationed within the airport terminal apprehended Mr Ammoun.

The glass has some small holes in it and is clearly damaged, but the panes remain in place.
Bullets damaged the glass windows of Canberra Airport after Mr Ammoun allegedly opened fire.(ABC News: Harry Frost)

The airport was evacuated and plans were grounded for about three hours as ACT Policing and AFP Airport Police worked in partnership to secure the area and confirmed Mr Ammoun was acting alone.

Canberra Airport returned to normal operations about 5:00pm, with flights resuming shortly afterwards.

Alleged shooter to be sent for mental health assessment

Mr Ammoun appeared by video link in the ACT Magistrates Court this morning.

He is facing three charges, including firing and possessing a Smith and Wesson revolver, and intentionally discharging the gun causing another person to fear for their safety.

In court, his only request was that the ABC be excluded.

Magistrate Robert Cook refused the application, saying it was an open court.

Mr Ammoun did not apply for bail, and has been remanded in custody to undergo a mental health assessment at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

The case will return to court on September 5.

Three bullet holes in large glass windows.
At least three bullet holes are visible in the glass windows of Canberra Airport.(ABC News: Harry Frost)

ABC reporter Lily Thomson, who was at the airport at the time, said she heard loud bangs and then saw people running towards her.

“I just assumed people were running for their flight,” she said.

But she said she realized something was wrong when people started screaming “run.”

She said she was left feeling “shaken” afterwards.

“It’s just the feeling of not knowing, that’s quite terrifying,” she said.

“As soon as we got out, people were on their phones to loved ones, hugging each other, that kind of thing.”

Airport CEO praises police response

People seated on a plane.
Passengers waited on grounded planes while the airport was locked down during the police response to the shooting.(ABC News: Mark Alexander)

Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron said despite the “terrifying” nature of the incident, authorities had responded well.

“We had our team both on-site and others coming into play straight away,” he said.

“The AFP has trained for these sorts of situations, where you have an armed intruder in an airport environment, and they have teams that are in place and they respond and indeed engaged immediately.

“In this case the offender was calm and submitted to their arrest.”

He said police had worked “incredibly efficiently and effectively” to sweep the airport and ensure no one else was involved.

“In fact, it was a pretty quick process, taking about three and a quarter hours for the terminal to be fully reopened,” he said.

More security at airports not needed: expert

John Coyne, the head of the Border Security Program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said the shooting was extremely rare by Australian standards, and there was not much more airports could do to respond to such an incident.

He said extra security at the front entrance, a measure suggested by some, could actually create even more of a risk.

“That could be a good idea, but then all of a sudden you’ve got large crowds of people lining up in the close vicinity of cars on the sidewalk waiting to go in, so that’s an even bigger target where even more casualties could occur ,” Mr Coyne said.

“I’ve always asked, can you make an airport really secure? And I always say, yes you can — what you can do is you can make sure that no plans fly, no one works at the airport and that there’s no travellers, because everything after that is a compromise.”



Police take man into custody in hunt for gunman after shooting at Barra Close home in Leeming

Police have taken a man into custody in their hunt for a gunman after a shooting at Leeming.

The 37-year-old is assisting officers as they investigate the incident that took place at a Barra Close home about 1.20am on Monday.

Police raced to the property after a weapon, believed to be a shotgun, was fired.

A neighbor said they heard two shots in the night.

It is believed a young family lives at the property which was targeted.

No one was hurt and those involved were known to each other. It is not known whether the incident is bikie linked.

Investigators are yet to confirm if it was a drive-by shooting but more information is expected from a police press conference at 11am.

Police are hunting a gunman.
Camera IconPolice are hunting a gunman. Credit: simon santi/The West Australian
Police on the scene in Leeming.
Camera IconPolice on the scene in Leeming. Credit: 7NEWS/7NEWS

As of 10am, there was still a big police presence at the home, with officers knocking on the doors of nearby homes and forensic officers combing the area for clues.

Forensics officers had started moving their attention from the home to a patch of grass about 150m from where the shooting took place.

Other officers were seen taking photographs and putting items into bags.

The home is across the road from a bus stop in the quiet, apparently family-friendly street. Toys are stretched across several front lawns.

An officer outside the home.
Camera IconAn officer outside the home. Credit: simon santi/The West Australian
Police on the scene in Leeming.
Camera IconPolice on the scene in Leeming. Credit: 7NEWS/7NEWS



Prime Minister to investigate claims of Scott Morrison’s secret ministry grab during COVID-19

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the government will investigate claims former prime minister Scott Morrison swore himself in as joint health, finance and resources minister during the height of the pandemic.

Mr Albanese says the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is seeking legal advice from the solicitor-general.

The ABC understands then-health minister Greg Hunt agreed to Mr Morrison’s joint position as a safeguard to incapacitation from COVID-19, but that Matthias Cormann was not told that Mr Morrison had appointed himself as joint finance minister.

Former resources minister Keith Pitt has told the ABC Mr Morrison also used his self appointment to Mr Pitt’s portfolio to block a controversial petroleum exploration licence.

Prime Minister Albanese said the revelations were “extraordinary”.

“The people of Australia were kept in the dark as to what the ministerial arrangements were, it’s completely unacceptable,” Mr Albanese said.

This is very contrary to our Westminster system. It was cynical and it was just weird that this has occurred.”

Mr Albanese said it was a serious allegation, but also “just weird”.

“Perhaps this explains why we didn’t order enough vaccines. I mean, the Minister for Health might have thought the Prime Minister was ordering them because he was also the Minister for Health, and he thought the Minister for Health was ordering them,” Mr Albanese joked.

Former Morrison minister slams secret appointments

Nationals leader David Littleproud, who served as agriculture minister under Mr Morrison, told ABC Radio this morning he did not know the former prime minister had sworn himself into several roles.

“That’s pretty ordinary, as far as I’m concerned,” Mr Littleproud said.

“If you have a government cabinet, you trust your cabinet.”

Mr Littleproud said to his knowledge, the then-Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was also not made aware of Mr Morrison’s self-appointments.

“These are decisions of Scott Morrison. I don’t agree with them, and I’m prepared to say that openly and honestly,” Mr Littleproud said.

Little proud looks off camera, bordered by two silhouetted figures.
David Littleproud says the former prime minister was wrong to secretly swear himself into several roles.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Mr Morrison also used his self-appointment to the resources portfolio to overrule the then-minister to block a petroleum exploration license off the NSW Central Coast.

National MP Keith Pitt told the ABC he “certainly made inquiries” when Mr Morrison told him about the joint-appointment, but ultimately accepted the move.

“I certainly found it unusual, but as I said I worked very closely with Scott through a very difficult period through COVID,” Mr Pitt said.

“I’m just not going to throw him under a bus, I just won’t.

“It was clearly something I was concerned about, as you would expect.”

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten, who lost the 2019 election to Mr Morrison, said it was a bizarre decision by the former prime minister.

“To find out he was ghosting his own cabinet ministers, goodness me, he was off on a trip,” Mr Shorten said.

“Honestly I’ve never heard of this, in World War II I’m not aware John Curtin swore himself in as Defense Minister … I don’t know what was going through [Mr Morrison’s] head.

“If he felt the need to do it, why not tell people? Why be secretive?”

Mr Albanese said he would not pre-empt the findings of the solicitor-general as to whether the former prime minister broke the law.

But he noted it was possible there were other secret appointments made by Mr Morrison.

Constitutional expert says self-appointments were inexplicable

Professor Anne Twomey, an expert in constitutional law, said it was “confusing” how Mr Morrison may have taken joint control of several portfolios.

Professor Twomey said only the Governor-General can swear in a minister, but noted reports that Mr Morrison may have found an administrative workaround.

She said there were already provisions for other ministers to take over portfolios if a minister is incapacitated, and it seemed unnecessary.

“What on Earth was going on, I don’t know, but the secrecy involved in this is just bizarre,” Professor Twomey said.

“You just wonder what’s wrong with these people that they have to do everything in secret.”

live updates

By Shiloh Payne

That’s all for the press conference

To recap, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he will be seeking legal advice from his department after revelations Scott Morrison appointed himself to multiple portfolios.

Here’s what we know:

  • Mr Morrison granted himself powers of Health, Finance and Resources Minister at various points when he was Prime Minister.
  • Some Ministers knew at the time, but others didn’t.
  • Mr Albanese has described the former prime minister’s actions as contemplated for the democratic process.
  • Mr Albanese will be briefed on the claims later this afternoon.

The solicitor-general will also be providing advice.

By Shiloh Payne

PM describes Morrison’s actions as ‘contempt for democratic process’

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Scott Morrison’s appointments as different ministers could have caused confusion in the government.

“Perhaps this explains why we didn’t order enough vaccines,” he says.

“The Minister for Health might have thought the Prime Minister was ordering them because he was also the Minister for Health and he thought the Minister for Health was ordering them.”

“What we know is that this is a shambles and it needs clearing up and the Australian people deserve better than this contempt for democratic processes and for our Westminster system of government, which is what we have seen trashed by the Morrison Government.”

By Shiloh Payne

Key Event

Will the solicitor-general look into this?

The Prime Minister is taking questions.

He was asked if the solicitor-general will look into these claims regarding Scott Morrison, here’s what he says:

“I have asked the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet,” he says.

“We will be seeking advice from appropriate people including the Solicitor-General about all of these issues.

I’ll be getting a full briefing this afternoon. This is dripping out like a tap that needs a washer fixed and what we need is actually to get the full flow of all the information out there and then we’ll make a decision about a way forward here.

“But these circumstances should never have arisen.”

By Shiloh Payne

‘Nothing about the last government was real, PM says

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says there is an ‘absolute need’ for clear transparency.

“This isn’t some local footy club,” Mr Albanese says.

“This is a government of Australia where the people of Australia were kept in the dark as to what the ministerial arrangements were.”

“It’s completely unacceptable.”

By Shiloh Payne

PM: ‘Whole lot of questions arise’ from Morrison portfolio claims

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says claims that Scott Morrison took on additional portfolios as “extraordinary and unprecedented”.

He says he will have briefings on the situation when he returns to Canberra this afternoon.

“A whole lot of questions arise from this,” he says.

“What did Peter Dutton and other continuing members of the now shadow ministry know about these circumstances?

“How is it that the Australian people can be misled whereby we know now that Scott Morrison was not only being Prime Minister, but was Minister for Health, was Minister for Industry and Science at the same time as resources, was the Minister for Finance, and we had the extraordinary revelation that Mathias Cormann, apparently, wasn’t aware that Scott Morrison was the Minister for Finance as well as himself.”

By Shiloh Payne

Key Event

You can watch the press conference here

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is speaking in Melbourne.

You can watch it here:


By Shiloh Payne

Anthony Albanese is speaking in Melbourne

Close up of Anthony Albanese.  He wears glasses with a black frame and a suit with a yellow tie.
(Supplied: James Alcock)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is speaking to the media in Melbourne.

He is expected to discuss the government’s plans to investigate claims that former prime minister Scott Morrison had secretly sworn himself into three ministerial positions at the height of the pandemic.

There are claims Mr Morrison swore himself in as joint health, finance and resources minister.

Good morning, I’m Shiloh Payne and I’ll be taking you through the latest updates.

posted , updated



Glider pilots travel to WA’s south chasing waves in the skies above the Stirling Range

Every year, glider pilots make their way to the Great Southern region of WA in search of particular air conditions, called a wave.

These waves are strongest in the winter.

While they usually don’t mean much to a pilot, surrounded by mountains and hills, gliders can use these waves to reach the same height as commercial flights from Perth to Sydney — almost 30,000 feet.

A glider, often referred to as a sailplane, is an aircraft designed to fly without an engine.

A small plane is visible in a blue sky with wispy white clouds.
The glider, or sailplane, relies only on air currents to stay up and soar.( ABC Great Southern: Olivia Di Iorio)

Syd Dewey has been a glider for 30 years and described the phenomenon using a rock analogy.

“If you’ve ever seen a rock in water, and the water flows over it, it drops right down behind the rock,” he said.

“But then a wave comes up behind it that’s higher than the rock. So we try and find that primary wave just behind the rock, and we ride the very front of that.”

This season, gliders from the Gliding Club of Western Australia and the Beverley Soaring Society traveled to the Stirling Range, east of Albany, to take to the skies.

The club members consist of hobbyists, commercial pilots, and air force cadets.

They apply for special permission to reach commercial heights.

Flying alongside the birds

A man with a shaved head and a dark green coat stands in front of a small white plane.
Matt Gibson says flying in a glider is incredibly peaceful.(ABC Great Southern: Olivia Di Iorio)

This season was Matt Gibson’s first time visiting the Stirling Range to fly, despite gliding for more than 15 years.

He was introduced to the sport when the Air Force cadets offered scholarships for gliding.

“I’ve always loved flying, I’ve always been amazed at how something that’s made of metal or wood or something so heavy, can hold itself up in the air like a bird can,” he said.

With no engine, the glider, or sailplane, gets towed up into the sky by a plane.

A rope connects the tail of the plane to the nose of the sailplane.

“Then it’s up to us to learn the air currents, the thermals, and the weather, and use that to our advantage to climb up,” Mr Gibson said.

Once the sailplane has caught the air currents it unleashes from the plane so it can fly alone.

Two small planes fly off a runway connected by a rope.
The glider has no engine and is towed by another plane to reach the skies.(ABC Great Southern: Olivia Di Iorio)

“In a glider, it’s so peaceful,” he said.

“In a normal plane, it can be quite loud, and you can feel the vibrations and they tend to fly a bit faster than we do here.

“But gliding you just hear the soft rush of the air going past the canopy and you can see birds, sometimes eagles, come and fly next to you.”

This year the gliders haven’t had much luck with riding waves, with the cloudy skies proving too dangerous.

Mr Gibson was planning to fly over the famous Bluff Knoll, but instead flew its length all the way down to Ellen’s Peak.

Always on the lookout

There are lots of calculations and observations, which gliders need to follow.

“We’re constantly scanning and looking into the sky, because we have a pattern that we fly when we’re taking off and landing,” Mr Gibson said.

A small white plane sits on grass.
Gliders take off from a grass lot behind the Stirling Range Retreat.(ABC Great Southern: Olivia Di Iorio)

“You learn how to listen to what the glider is telling you in terms of the air around the glider, looking at the weather, making sure you don’t get into bad situations.”

Syd Dewey is part of the Beverley Soaring Society, the biggest gliding club in Western Australia.

A man in a white cap and blue checked shirt adjusts a plane wing.
Syd Dewey has been flying for more than 30 years.(ABC Great Southern: Olivia Di Iorio)

“We flew about a quarter of a million kilometers last year,” Mr Dewey said.

“So since November we’ve done 247,000, which is more than any other club in Australia.”

During the pandemic their membership increased significantly.

“We’ve had about a 50 per cent increase to our membership. It’s something to do with COVID, maybe having nowhere to go,” Mr Dewey said.

“People can learn to fly quite easily — some people have gone alone almost in two weekends.”



Declining rate of volunteering heralds ‘collapse in community life’: minister

Community and charity groups are dealing with plummeting rates of volunteering, and Charities Minister Andrew Leigh is on a mission not only to stem the drop-off but halt the crisis in community participation.

Reports compiled by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show the number of volunteers has been steadily falling each year. It estimated there were 3.3 million volunteers in 2020, and the census found just over 2.9 million people had done voluntary work in 2021, or about 14 per cent of those who answered.

Charities Minister Andrew Leigh wants to tackle what he sees as a collapse in community life.

Charities Minister Andrew Leigh wants to tackle what he sees as a collapse in community life.Credit:Rhett Wyman

At crisis helpline Lifeline, the search for volunteers is a constant and has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Our phones are ringing. 24/7, obviously, and tech service now is 24/7 – and [we have] around 3000 phone calls a day. So we always need more volunteers at Lifeline, that’s for sure,” acting chief executive Robert Sams said.

Lifeline had experienced a small peak of people looking to help out in the early days of the pandemic when they suddenly weren’t working or going out, but that had dropped away again.

“We hear across the sector, and definitely here at Lifeline, that, for one, their availability, volunteers are affected [by illness] like all of us, and two, I think people are genuinely tired and fatigued. There’s been a lot in the last two years to cope with,” Sams said.

Lifeline experienced a small peak of people looking to help out in the early days of the pandemic but that has dropped away again.

Lifeline experienced a small peak of people looking to help out in the early days of the pandemic but that has dropped away again.Credit:Kate Geraghty

As well, volunteering tended to be a discretionary thing for people and thus was one of the things they dropped as they looked for more space in their life.

But Leigh says the problem is broader than volunteerism. Australians are now less likely to be a member of a community organisation, go to religious services, be a union member, play a team sport, give blood, and don’t have as many friends or know as many neighbors as they used to.


Why Anthony Albanese needs to get real on tax cut talk

But this symbolic importance – as the possible representatives of a seismic shift in voters’ attitudes – is at odds with the amount of legislative power these new MPs have in the House, which is close to none. How much attention should they get?


If this is a tricky question for the media, the government, at least, has decided to give some of them – the teals – quite a bit. The conventional wisdom is that this is because Albanese wants them to win again, depriving the Liberals of seats.

This is probably right, but the other reason, I suspect, lies in their symbolic power. Each time he gets their vote he sends a message to voters that he is part of the emerging sensitive centre; that the weight of reasonable opinion has moved away from the Coalition. This is power too.

Is the parliament important or unimportant? Is the parliament a symbol, or a body with a practical operation as a venue for accountability and the passage of important legislation? Are the teals historically important or the product of a moment? The answer to all of these may be “both”, and that is fine. What the government must avoid is running from one extreme to the other depending on circumstance.

It is often said, reasonably enough, that Scott Morrison had contemplated for parliament. That was true, but what was particularly egregious was the way his public approach was chopped and changed. When he needed the parliament to seem important, he said it was; when he lost a vote, or when he tried to hold him to account, he was happy to dismiss it. This undermined the parliament; Unfortunately for him, it undermined Morrison too.

Much of the government’s impact so far has come from symbols: speeches, meetings, and, yes, parliament. A paradox for Albanese is that, while he is quite good at the symbolic work of politics, his political appeal to him remains on seeming to be someone who does not grandstand, who is less concerned with image and more with quiet action.


The stage 3 tax cuts occupy interesting ground. It is clear Albanese sees them partly as symbolic: a part of his pact with the Australian people to deliver his election promises from him. The problem with the cuts, though, is mostly practical: they are poor policy, hurting the budget for a little point, spending money in the wrong place.

To say that they are “already legislated” gives them a mythic, symbolic status they do not deserve. If the government is considering scrapping them, as it should be, then it must work to shift the discussion to a more practical ground.


High Court justice selection a matter of good judgment

Unless you are a lawyer or a law student, you have probably never heard of Pat Keane. The Honorable Justice Keane, AC, to give him his proper title, is the oldest person on the High Court. He reaches the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 70 at the end of October.

Filling Keane’s vacancy will be the first of two appointments the Albanese government will make to the court in this term. The Chief Justice, Susan Kiefel, reaches what judges sarcastically call “the age of statutory senility” in January 2024.

Patrick Keane being sworn into the High Court in 2013.

Patrick Keane being sworn into the High Court in 2013.Credit:alex ellinghausen

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus will be now turning his mind to whom to appoint as Keane’s successor. He will also be giving some long-term thought to who should be the next chief justice.

Unlike the United States, the appointment of members of Australia’s highest court is seldom controversial. That is because, with rare exceptions, attorneys-general from both sides of politics have had the good sense to recommend eminent men and women in whom the public can have complete confidence. On the four occasions that I took recommendations to cabinet for High Court appointments (Justices Nettle, Gordon and Edelman, and Kiefel as chief justice) there was near to universal acceptance of my choices. The only murmur of criticism came from a few on the extreme right, who complained that the appointees were not ideological enough. Which they were not; they were chosen on merit alone. I took the straightforward view that those who sit on the High Court should be the most accomplished lawyers in the land.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel was nominated by George Brandis.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel was nominated by George Brandis.Credit:AAP

The appointment of High Court judges is a process over which the attorney-general usually has almost complete control. It is he or she who decides what name to take to cabinet. Most, if not all, political colleagues will have no idea who the nominee is. They look to the attorney-general as the one person familiar with the senior members of the judiciary and the bar and, basically, trust your judgment. Of course, it is prudent to clear the name with the prime minister first. When Sir William Deane retired in early 1996, Tony Fitzgerald was understood to be the nominee of his fellow Queenslander Michael Lavarch, until Paul Keating (having been lobbied, so it was rumoured, by Neville Wran) blindsided his attorney-general with Michael Kirby.

A recommendation is made after consultation, although there is little but custom to govern who should be consulted. The only formal requirement is s. 6 of the High Court of Australia Act, which requires the Commonwealth Attorney-General to “consult with the attorneys-general of the states” (although not of the territories). That usually consists simply of a letter soliciting their views; predictably, they propose a senior judge or barrister from their own state. When Nicola Roxon was the attorney-general, she extended me, as her shadow de ella, the courtesy of seeking my views; it was a practice which I followed when Dreyfus was my shadow of her.

The most important consultations are with the senior members of the judiciary. This is ultimately at the attorney’s discretion, but by convention the chief justice of the High Court, other members of the court, the heads of the other federal courts and the leaders of the legal professional bodies should be consulted. The attorney-general’s department will also put forward its views.

What surprised me was how self-selecting the shortlist is. While there are many eminent judges and QCs, like any profession, the best of the best are generally acknowledged as such by their peers – their reputations won by decades of practice and the respect their judgments command. The attorney-general also must pay heed to the federal structure: the court should not be too much dominated by a single state. (In the late 20th century, due to the high number of judges from Sydney, Victorian barristers would sarcastically refer to it as the New South Wales Court of Appeal.)