Australia news LIVE: Labor’s energy bill passes the Senate; Administrative Appeals Tribunal to be abolished – Sydney Morning Herald

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Thanks for joining us today for our final blog of the year. Here are some of the major headlines from today. We wish you all peace and happiness for the holidays.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced that the Albanese government will abolish the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He says he wants to replace it with an administrative review body “that better serves the interest of the Australian community”.
The former Coalition government’s ban on holding citizenship ceremonies on days other than Australia Day has been overturned. Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Andrew Giles has cleared the way for councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on the three days before or after the national holiday – from 23 to 29 January.
Russia launched a new barrage of missile at Ukraine on Friday and air defence systems went into operation across the country, Ukrainian officials said.
As many as 60 Russian missiles had been spotted heading for Ukraine, said Vitaly Kim, who is the governor of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine.
Explosions were heard in the eastern city of Kharkiv and local officials said critical infrastructure had been hit. Local officials in the Black Sea region of Odesa said critical infrastructure had also been hit there.
Fire and rescue workers attend a building hit by a missile in central Kyiv on November 23, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Credit:Getty Images Europe
Reuters witnesses heard explosions in the capital Kyiv. It was not immediately clear if any were caused by missiles getting through air defences.
There was no immediate word of casualties, and it was not clear what critical infrastructure had been hit.
“Do not ignore air raid alerts, remain in shelters,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office said on the Telegram messaging app.
The governor of the northern region of Sumy said there were power outages in his region because of Friday’s missile strikes. Russia has carried out several waves of attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure since October, causing power outages across the country.
Reuters reports that at least ten people, including five children aged three to 15, were killed after a fire broke out on Friday morning at a residential building in Vaulx-en-Velin, near the French city of Lyon.
The provisional body count came from the local authority for the Lyon and Rhone region which said the cause of the fire was not yet known. Flames engulfed a seven-storey residential building in Vaulx-en-Velin in the early hours of Friday morning.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.Credit:Getty Images
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the cause of the fire was not known at this stage.
“There are several scenarios and a probe will be opened,” he said, adding he was in touch with President Emmanuel Macron over the incident.
Around 180 firefighters were at the site. The fire was now extinguished, Darmanin said, adding he was heading to the site.
The former deputy Prime Minister says he was taking one for the team when he downed a whole bowl of the strong pacific island drink sakau – landing himself in hospital briefly.
Nationals MP Michael McCormack drank the sakau – a stronger form of the popular kava drunk throughout the Pacific – while on a bipartisan tour of Micronesia earlier this week. Video from the event shows McCormack looking unsteady and placing his head in his hands, before he is handed a bucket.
Former deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack falls ill after drinking a bowl of strong kava.Credit:Nine
Speaking to the Guardian, McCormack said he’d had five shells of kava in Vanuatu the day before and did not expect it to be stronger.“I was trying to be respectful – I really took one for team Australia,” McCormack said.
He said he was fine for 15 minutes, until all of a sudden, he was not.
“I looked over at [the foreign minister] Penny Wong and mouthed ‘I’m not OK’. I went cross-eyed. I really did. Then someone got me a bucket, and well, yeah,” he told the news outlet.
Kavas are not alcoholic, but they do have narcotic effects. Despite the incident, McCormack said the trip had been worthwhile, including finalising a security deal with Vanuatu.
Google has reinstated ads from Australia’s largest abortion services provider, MSI International, that had been banned for almost two weeks.
A spokeswoman for MSI, which was formerly known as Marie Stopes, said the ads were live but were being shown to a “limited” audience under Google’s birth control ads policy.
“Google is following up on why for this is occurring,” the MSI spokeswoman said.
A Google spokesman said the search giant had reviewed the ads and was in discussions with MSI about revisions to get them back online.Credit:AP
Australian law bans advertisements for prescription medication such as abortion pills but not for healthcare services, such as abortion in general.
The MSI spokeswoman said that Google had initially wanted to remove the term “medication” completely from the website that the ads link to, but relented after MSI argued it was necessary to fully explain medical and surgical abortion procedures.
“The interim solution we agreed on with Google was to remove the word medication from our ad landing page (which is now our homepage) and then they reinstated the ads,” the spokeswoman said. “Any advertising restrictions to services surrounding abortion care are unacceptable as they limit access to critical time-sensitive healthcare.”
A Google spokesman confirmed the ads were back online. The audience limitation on the ads refers to the fact that abortion services advertisements are not allowed in some countries, unlike Australia where they are permitted.
“We have longstanding policies that govern abortion-related ads on Google’s platforms,” Google’s spokesman said. “Abortion inducing drugs are not allowed to be advertised in Australia. After reviewing the ads in question, we communicated with the advertiser, and their ads are now compliant and showing again.”
If you’ve been following today’s coverage closely, you’d know that one of the big political stories of the day is how Labor has relaxed the rules governing when local councils can hold citizenship ceremonies.
We want to know what you think.
Independent Mackellar MP Dr Sophie Scamps has welcome the Attorney-General’s decision to abolish the Administrative Appeals Tribunal saying its politicisation was a main driver for her integrity bill.
She plans to introduce her ‘Ending Jobs for Mates’ Bill with the aim of making government appointments more transparent from next year.
Mackellar MP Sophie Scamps.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
“Despite the important role the AAT played in our democracy, the weak appointment process, lacking transparency and accountability, allowed it to be manipulated and stacked with ‘friendly’ political appointments,” she said. “The appointment of many former MPs, unsuccessful political candidates, staffers and factional allies to these highly paid taxpayer-funded jobs led to the body being politicised rather than independent.
“The politicisation of the AAT is one of the main drivers behind my ‘Ending Jobs for Mates’ Bill which I am currently working on with the Centre for Public Integrity.”
Shadow Attorney-General Julian Leeser has accused his government counterpart of aiming to stack the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s replacement “from the start.”
“The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has been a vital part of Australia’s administrative law system for almost half a century and the Government’s decision to purge it is about making the Labor government less accountable,” Leeser said in a statement.
Liberal MP and shadow attorney-general Julian Leeser.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
“This government is all about settling political scores. This announcement undermines the work of the tribunal in holding this Labor government to account.”
Dreyfus announced earlier the new appointees to the existing tribunal, and its eventual replacement, would be elevated on the basis of merit, criticising the Coalition as having “irreversibly damaged” the AAT by stacking it with Liberal-aligned members.
Leeser described the AAT as “an institution that has stood the test of time because it has done its job holding governments of all political persuasions to account.“
“This Christmas season announcement shows how little this government wants scrutiny on any of its decisions. This is simply about Mark Dreyfus purging a vital legal institution and settling scores with his political enemies,” he said.
The NSW gambling regulator has extended the independent management of Star Entertainment Group’s flagship casino until at least mid-January 2024.
The NSW Independent Casino Commission notified The Star that Nicholas Weeks’s contract had been extended by 12 months to January 19, 2024.
The Star casino in Sydney.Credit:Oscar Colman
The regulator imposed a record $100 million fine on the group in October following a state inquiry but came short of revoking Star’s licence to operate its casino, choosing instead to implement Weeks as independent manager and holder of the coveted licence for a period of 90 days.
Earlier this week, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission launched civil proceedings against 11 former and current executives and directors over alleged breaches of the Corporations Act, claiming they failed to properly oversee anti-money laundering protocols at the company’s casinos.
The national consumer watchdog has launched federal court action against property wealth spruiker Dominique Grubisa who runs DG Institute, for allegedly making false or misleading representations about his wealth programs.
The ACCC alleges that between April 2017 and November 2022, Master Wealth Control Pty Limited, trading as DG Institute made false or misleading representations in the promotion and sale of two paid programs to prospective students via free in-person seminars, online webinars and videos, as well as on the DG Institute website. The ACCC alleges the programs, known as the Real Estate Rescue program and the Master Wealth Control program that DG Institute offered to consumers, breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
DG Institute founder Dominique Grubisa.
The ACCC also alleges DG Institute made false or misleading representations in the delivery of the Master Wealth Control program. It claims Dominique Grubisa, the director and CEO of DG Institute, was allegedly involved in this conduct through her role in drafting, authorising and making the statements made on video and in promotional and program materials.
Between July 2018 and November 2022, DG Institute made representations to prospective students of the Real Estate Rescue program that they would be taught its so-called ‘equity deal’ strategy based on the premise that if a bank repossesses and sells a home, the homeowner loses all their equity because “banks don’t give change”.
“The strategy involved identifying homeowners who may be in financial distress, including by monitoring court lists to identify possession, divorce or probate proceedings, and then approaching homeowners to attempt to reach agreement to purchase the homeowner’s property, or sell it on the homeowner’s behalf,” the ACCC said.
“Prospective students were told to convey to those homeowners that they could help the homeowner achieve a better outcome than they would if the bank repossessed their property because in that circumstance the entire proceeds of sale, including the homeowner’s remaining equity in the property, would be retained by the bank.”
The ACCC alleges this was misleading because in the event of repossession, a bank is only entitled to the amount owed to it plus reasonable associated costs. So, a homeowner may retain some of the value of their equity when their house is sold, depending on their individual circumstances.
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