Christian Porter says “one” of the issues that requires consultation is the retrospectivity of the commission. He again says the government will take its time doing that consultation.


The next stage for the integrity commission will be a consultation and that will be detailed and extensive. In fact, why is that necessary because it is a serious issue as the Member for Maribyrnong said, a reform of this magnitude is complex and would require extensive consultation and design work. The fact we chose not to conduct that consultation during the height of a global pandemic seems to be to us a matter of some common sense.

But, as I reported in January (and before that) plans to do that consultation had already been delayed – well before the pandemic.

Question time begins

Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:


Where the bloody hell is the national integrity commission?

Tony Smith said the question was “poorly phrased”.

Christian Porter gets the nod to answer:


I can tell you one place it is not, is on the Labor website that had the donate $5 to Labor underneath we need to do more to win back the trust of the Australian people, that is not where it is. That was the Labor version of an integrity commission.

Tony Burke asks him about relevance.

Smith:


I’m just going to say to the Manager of Opposition Business, there was not a reference to alternative policies, I will also say that question would have been ruled out if I took a strict interpretation of the standing orders and I don’t need to detain the House by going through them all I will make a point the question asked in that fashion, you cannot expect it, any other sort of response really, if it is asked in that fashion ironical expression, and it’s fast where something is, I’m going to allow the Attorney General, to address the question.

Porter:


They don’t get irony, unfortunately, if they did they wouldn’t have asked the question that way. They put out, the Member Mark Dreyfus put out an email, something must be done to restore the public‘s faith in government. We need your support to make sure any National Integrity Commission gets off the ground, will you pledge your support, how do you do that?

With a button donating $5 to the Labor Party. It is a very serious issue, Mr Speaker.

Lols – as if the LNP don’t also have donate buttons. Anyways.

Updated

The Australia Institute has put together a timeline of the federal government’s federal integrity commission ‘journey’ so far

You can find that here

Labor’s Michelle Rowland really wants you to hear this:


Departmental officials have today confirmed the cost of the NBN has blown out to $57 billion under the Morrison Government.

In 2013, the Liberals promised their inferior multi-technology mix would cost $29.5 billion. That increased to $41 billion in 2014, to $49 billion in 2016, to $51 billion in 2018.

Under questioning by Senator Green, officials did their best to avoid confirming the figure which Minister Fletcher had tried to conceal from the Corporate Plan.

It is now $57 billion.

Over in the finance committee, the estimates hearing has begun for the afternoon session – the number one topic – the Leppington triangle sale

We are on the downhill slide to question time.

Huzzah

NSW eases restrictions on churches, gyms

With just another two locally acquired cases, New South Wales has eased some more restrictions.

From 23 October:

Religious gatherings and places of worship (EXCLUDING weddings and funerals) can have up to 300 people – as long as they have a Covid-safe plan

Gyms will need a Covid safety marshal only if there are more than 20 people in the gym at one time

Brad Hazzard, the health minister, was also annoyed that Hillsong founder Brian Houston went to the media to complain about restrictions on church functions, saying discussions were going on with religious leaders – but nothing from Houston came into his office.

He told a press conference:


I have heard in the media, on 2GB, that some churches felt that they weren’t being listened to. I assure you, you were and I’m sorry if you didn’t think you were.

But unfortunately I heard those messages through the media, I didn’t hear them to my office.

Where we have had messages come to us, we have tried to to respond through exemption processes.

For example, we have already granted exemptions to St Mary’s Cathedral, St Andrew’s Cathedral, the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, the Central Synagogue.

Hazzard said it would be up to the health officers to determine if Hillsong could hold more people at its church.

Updated

Rod Sims says he has no concerns about having business leaders, such as Nev Power, involved in the Covid commission.


No I don’t, at all. I think getting a wide range of advice to the government is good advice. Sometimes ‘no conflict, no interest’, as a prominent business leader once said to me, I thought that was a rather cute line – provided you are open about things and you know what people’s backgrounds are and you can adjust your thinking accordingly.

But I think getting businesses involved in this time is helpful and my own observation would be that Australian business leaders have stood up pretty well during this crisis. They have done things which I can certainly see were to the benefit of Australia rather than to their own business … This is taking a wider view and making a wider contribution, so that has been good.

Updated

This is the Coalition’s safest seat (against Labor) in the country

On the Google and Facebook media battle, Rod Sims says:


I remember being in Bob Hawke’s office, could be forgiven to media outlets, I think compared to then, our media is more diverse than it was then. I was just saying to people on the table that at the moment, we have various newspapers, but in a sense almost the ABC, when I was growing up, it was radio and TV, but effectively now it is print.

You can go to a website just like all the other websites. That is more effective. You have the Guardian, the daily mail, if you look at who gets the main hits on searches for news websites, the Guardian and the daily mail are right up there.

So of course more diversity in media is better than less. But I think we have more diversity now than in the past. And I suspect in the digital world we will get even more. With a AP, we are just conscious that it is effectively now a new player. We just want to make sure there is not behaviour by other players that sees it knocked out of business. We will be looking very carefully at just how other players might engage with the media that might have that effect. So we will watch very carefully.

Rod Sims tells the press club that since the privatisation of Australia’s ports, there has been “little to no regulation” of monopolies in that sector.

Same goes for airports.

He then moves on to the next battle – the media space:


The media bargaining code is a great example of a tailored solution to a particular market-power issue.

The digital platforms Google and Facebook clearly have market power. It is simply extraordinary how the digital platforms continue to reject that they have market power when everyone else sees it as obvious.

Further, their ‘take it or leave it’ attitude to dealing with news media businesses is damaging journalism, which in my strong view is essential to our society.

And let’s be clear, this is not a case of Schumpeterian creative destruction. The situation we are in is not akin to the car replacing the horse and buggy. The digital platforms do not produce news; rather they are vehicles for the dissemination of views and information which would be all the poorer, including for digital platforms, with a lack of content from professional journalists.

We have all noticed recent offers of money by both Google and Facebook to media businesses. This is due to the pressure the digital platforms are under.

We should get to a sensible outcome on these issues in the not too distant future.

Rod Sims addresses the press club in Canberra today

ACCC chair Rod Sims addressing the press club in Canberra today. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Updated

Meanwhile, in estimates …

Michelle Rowland
(@MRowlandMP)

Just confirmed at #estimates that the cost of the #nbn is increasing to $57 billion.

In 2013, the Coalition promised to deliver their NBN for $29.5 billion. #auspol

Slow. Clap. 👏👏👏

October 21, 2020

Updated

I just learnt something: Rod Sims was one of Bob Hawke’s economic advisers when he was prime minister.

Updated

Helen Haines will introduce a bill on Monday for a national integrity commission.

Helen Haines MP
(@helenhainesindi)

And today in Senate Estimates we learned that the Government’s legislation was written and sent to the Attorney-General back in December. Many in the Parliament have had enough of chasing this rainbow. I’m tabling my own Bill on Monday so we can #BringOnDebate and get this done. https://t.co/DkcK8zQoKD

October 21, 2020

Updated