Morning mail: Victorian ALP to debate moving Australia Day

Morning mail: Victorian ALP to debate moving Australia Day


Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 24 May.

Top stories

Victorian Labor will debate a resolution shifting the date of Australia Day to 9 May in a precursor to a conversation expected at the party’s national conference in July. Party sources have confirmed there is discussion behind the scenes about drafting an Australia Day motion for the ALP national conference on the basis that 26 January is, as the Victorian resolution notes, “offensive to Indigenous people”.

It says: “The state conference notes that 9 May could be an alternative date of national celebration as 9 May 1901 marks the date of the first meeting of the commonwealth parliament, the day upon which Australia became a self-governing and independent commonwealth.” Bill Shorten has empathised with the concerns of Indigenous people but has made it clear he does not support changing the date. The Victorian conference will also debate an urgency motion calling for an end to offshore immigration detention.

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Yulia Skripal has said she wishes to return to Russia “in the longer term”, despite the nerve agent attack on her and her father, Sergei. In her first in-depth interview since being discharged from hospital, Skripal said being the subject of a global diplomatic crisis was frightening. “I woke to the news that we had both been poisoned,” she said, adding: “We are so lucky to both have survived.”

Doctors on Nauru have pleaded with the Australian Border Force to move an Afghan refugee off the island for palliative care. The oldest Afghan Hazara held on Nauru, 63-year-old Ali, has advanced lung cancer and his prognosis, according to doctors familiar with his case, is “dire”. Ali’s health has deteriorated precipitously over the last two months and doctors have repeatedly told the ABF he requires care that cannot be provided on Nauru. He is now in the Australian-built RPC1 camp on the island, which doctors there have said is “dangerously inadequate”.

The traditional owners of Kingvale Station on Cape York peninsula have said clearing occurred on the property without their knowledge, and sacred burial sites that are hundreds of years old are at risk from further bulldozing. “If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t see them,” says Mike Ross, chairman of the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation in Cape York. “Olkola people graves. They were there long before pastoral leases and anyone came into this country.” The Queensland government has taken legal action against Kingvale station’s owner over a 2016 clearing of 500 hectares that was an alleged breach of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act, which requires property owners to take reasonable steps to ensure activities on properties do not harm important cultural sites. The station’s owner denies the allegation.

The level of contamination on land the Department of Defence is trying to sell has again raised questions about its history of environmental management, which has been criticised in audit reports spanning a decade. One block being sold is a 127.8-hectare Maribyrnong site, a former explosives factory. The federal and state governments see the land as a “major strategic redevelopment opportunity” because it’s the largest remaining urban infill site in metropolitan Melbourne, with room for 6,000 homes. But the land is known to be heavily contaminated. Defence used more than 130 chemicals to make armaments on the site and the majority of its rehabilitation is expected to be left to developers.


NFL owners have issued guidelines saying teams will be fined if their players or staff kneel for the national anthem. Dozens of NFL players have knelt during the anthem over the last two seasons as a protest against social injustice. The players’ union is deeply unhappy with league’s new policy.

Australia has become the latest host country unwilling to “share its dream”, after 250 or so Commonwealth Games athletes and officials seeking to stay highlighted a basic rule of thumb: never believe what a country says about itself during a mega-event, writes Marina Hyde.

Thinking time

The world’s longest cat-proof fence

The world’s largest cat-proof fence has been completed in central Australia, creating a 94 sq km sanctuary for endangered marsupials. The 44km fence – made of 85,000 pickets, 400km of wire and 130km of netting – surrounds the Newhaven wildlife sanctuary, a former cattle station that has been bought by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Endangered species including the bilby, the burrowing bettong and the mala (also known as the rufous hare-wallaby) will have a chance to replenish their populations, safe from feral cats.

The British actor Ian McKellen says half of Hollywood is gay, yet in the movies gay men don’t exist. In an interview, McKellen, who is 78, was asked about the controversy surrounding the decision not to show the young Dumbledore as “explicitly gay” in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sequel. McKellen, who had been approached to play Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, said: “Well, nobody looks to Hollywood for social commentary, do they? They only recently discovered that there were black people in the world.” He also criticised Hollywood’s treatment of women.

On 29 May, Australian subscribers will head to Netflix to watch the fifth season of Arrested Development in concert with the rest of the world. They won’t find it. That’s because Foxtel holds the “first-run” rights to the Netflix-produced show in Australia – meaning it can premiere the program before anyone else – and will air all new episodes of the comedy back-to-back on 30 May. That a show Netflix revived belongs to its competitor is just one of many blips on the Australian streaming landscape, which has only got messier since Netflix officially became available on our shores three years ago.

Media roundup

Age front page

The Age reports that the Liberal party insider at the centre of “Lobstergate” is still active in the party, despite suggestions he would move on after trying to funnel donations from an alleged mafia boss to help the Victorian opposition leader, Matthew Guy. The Advertiser reports that South Australian farmers are struggling to kill hundreds of wild dogs attacking their stock south of the state’s dog fence, and the government has hired two full-time trappers. And Australian aid groups have vowed to examine their own behaviour after the prostitution scandal that hit UK aid groups this year, the ABC reports.

Coming up

Marchers will rally outside NSW parliament to show support for the creation of safe access zones around health facilities that provide abortions as parties vote on the measure inside.

The federal court will deliver its judgment in Asic’s rate-rigging case against Westpac at 10am in Sydney.

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