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Scott Morrison has praised the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, for showing leadership during the pandemic.
We reported earlier today on this blog that the pair had agreed to a new Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership between the two countries, along with deeper cooperation on security issues. But Covid-19 was clearly the most pressing issue in the talks, given that there has been a recent rise in infections in PNG and Victoria.
According to a readout issued a short time ago by Morrison’s office, the two leaders reflected on “the devastating impacts of Covid-19 on their respective people and economies”. Morrison went on to commend Marape on “his leadership during the pandemic, especially his success suppressing community transmission and keeping it out of PNG’s remote villages”.
Marape – who visited Australia last year – was reported to have said he was sorry that last summer’s bushfires and now Covid-19 had prevented Morrison from being able to visit PNG this year. Marape was also reported to have thanked Australia for ongoing support and investment – including in the Coral Sea cable link – “especially at a time when Covid was affecting Australia’s own economy”.
Interestingly, Morrison said he was “very conscious of his responsibility in forums such as the G20 to speak up on behalf of our Pacific family and their needs”. The statement doesn’t mention climate change, but Pacific countries have repeatedly urged Australia to do more.
Last year Marape told the Guardian the region’s big countries had a responsibility to help the smaller island countries over the impact of climate change.
The department of health has also just confirmed Sutton is going nowhere. He’s on a few days’ leave.
Sutton resignation reports are ‘false’
Senior sources spoken to by Guardian Australia within the department of health and the premier’s office have told us that reports Victoria’s chief health officer has resigned are “false”.
Guardian Australia understands he is on leave, which has been misinterpreted by some as him having stood down. Guardian Australia also called the Victorian opposition, who say it’s not true.
Labor and The Greens have split from the Coalition over a plan to make it easier to ban mobile phones and perform strip searches in immigration detention.
The Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee has just published its report on proposed changes to the Migration Act, which we covered here. Labor and the Greens filing dissenting reports, while the three Liberal senators endorsed the bill.
In response to concerns the bill could leave detainees without mobile phones, the Liberal senators recommended the government make arrangements that “ensure detainees have access to communication facilities that will reasonably meet their needs, and enable timely, and where appropriate, private contact with friends, family, and legal services”.
In their dissenting report, the Labor senators Kim Carr and Anthony Chisholm said the government should either withdraw the bill or “significantly amend” it to address concerns.
Those concerns included that it was too broad with “sweeping measures” that were not tailored to high-risk detainees.
“The government has failed to make a case for why this situation cannot be handled on a case by case basis or through existing legislation,” the dissenting report said.
They also said that the positive benefits of mobile phones to detainees and their welfare had been overlooked by the government, in favour of “generalised accusations of misuse”.
The Labor senators also suggested that the government should provide extra protections for staff in detention centres, and respond to reports and allegations of dangerous behaviour by some staff.
The Greens senator Nick McKim also dissented, describing the bill as “irredeemable”.
You can read the report here.
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