GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Australia responds to Christchurch tragedy
- The Christchurch mosque attack has dominated political discourse this week, provoking discussion around the use of technology to both promote and condemn acts of terror.
- The Government has announced a new policy to address population growth and congestion.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison has visited a marginal Melbourne seat to announce $70 million in road infrastructure funding.
- The Opposition has pledged $1 billion towards hospital infrastructure improvements.
In the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack last Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a security funding boost for local religious organisations via the Safer Communities Fund and called for a crackdown on the sharing of violent content via online platforms. After footage of last week’s attack was livestreamed on Facebook for more than 17 minutes before its removal, both sides of politics have indicated support for better use of algorithms to remove certain content and said that government may have a role to play in ensuring proper regulation of online material.
The largest online petition in Australian history – racking up over 1.3 million signatures – has called for Independent Senator Fraser Anning to be expelled from Parliament due to controversial comments made last weekend following the Christchurch attack. While there are no legal means to remove parliamentarians unless they are convicted of a crime or are revealed to hold dual citizenship, the Government and Opposition have drafted a joint censure motion condemning Senator Anning’s “inflammatory and divisive comments”.
PM Scott Morrison has rejected claims he once advised senior Coalition colleagues to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment for political gain during his time as shadow immigration spokesperson. In a tense interview with Waleed Aly on The Project this week, Mr Morrison denied that the Coalition has a problem with Islamophobia, and said that during the now-infamous 2010 Shadow Cabinet meeting, he “was acknowledging that there were these fears in the community and that we had to address them, not exploit them”.
Meanwhile, national security agencies are currently reviewing travel advice for those visiting Gallipoli for upcoming ANZAC Day commemorations, following what Mr Morrison has described as “reckless” comments made by Turkish President Recep Teyyip Erdogan in response to the Christchurch attack.
In other major news, the Government has launched a plan to manage population growth and combat congestion in cities. The policy includes a reduction of the national migration cap by 15 per cent to a maximum of 160,000 places; two new regional visas for skilled workers; and new tertiary scholarships in regional areas. Under the plan, the Government will progress works for fast-rail links between cities and invest in road, rail and air infrastructure across Australia. The plan also includes measures to progress new City Deals and the establishment of a Centre for Population to coordinate work between all three levels of government.
Ahead of the upcoming Federal Election, Prime Minister Morrison has visited the key marginal Melbourne seat of La Trobe this week to announce $70 million in funding for upgrades to Racecourse Road between the Princes Freeway and Henry Street in Pakenham. Described as “a game-changer” for the 20,000 drivers who use the route each day, the upgrade will include traffic signals at the Bald Hill Road intersection, improvements to the freeway overpass, and duplication of a connecting road.
Bill’s billion-dollar boost
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has announced that, under a Labor government, states and territories will share in $1 billion for capital works to improve the nation’s public hospitals. Mr Shorten unveiled the plan at the Royal Perth Hospital on Monday as he kicked off a week of campaigning in WA. Delivered via Labor’s previously-announced $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund, the package will support the delivery of new emergency departments, mental health facilities, additional wards, and new palliative care facilities.