Bearing witness

What kind of democracy stands by as journalists are killed by the dozen?

Today marks the International Day in support of Palestinian Journalists – a day nominated by the International Federation of Journalists to show solidarity with their Palestinian counterparts. According to the Federation, 102 journalists and media workers have been killed since the war broke out, 95 of them Palestinians, in what UN experts have described as the “most dangerous conflict for journalists in recent history”. That figure, horrifying as it is, pales in comparison to the growing number of Palestinians killed by Israel over the past few months, which is expected to pass 30,000 this week – almost as many as the number of Ukrainian soldiers who have been killed in the two years since Russia’s invasion, where the number of civilian casualties is far lower. The Israeli government is pressing ahead with plans to attack Rafah – the southern border town where an estimated 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering – despite gentle admonishments from its allies, in what feels like the most dystopian of groundhog days. When, if ever, is the Australian government going to take a proper stand against this genocide?

You could hear the desperation in the voice of Greens leader Adam Bandt today, as the minor party yet again moved a motion calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. Now is the time, he argued, to impose sanctions, to stop military exports to Israel, and to restore funding to UNRWA. “But the bare minimum,” he added, “the bare minimum that should be able to be done, and agreed on by everyone across this parliament, is that the invasion must stop. This catastrophic loss of life must stop!” Labor offered its stock standard response to this while voting it down, with Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Tim Watts telling parliament that the government supported efforts to “broker an extended cessation in hostilities” but was “not a central player in this conflict”. It’s unclear why this means the government cannot take a firmer stand in parliament, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares that the Rafah offensive “will happen”, whether or not a captives deal is reached.

This, of course, is a tightrope that Labor has been walking for many months now, trying not to alienate either side of this “debate”. The government has continued to tweak its language over the past few weeks; Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently joined with his Canadian and New Zealand counterparts to express “grave” concerns over Rafah, urging the Israeli government “not to go down this path”. But things are reaching an unbearable point, as it becomes increasingly clear that these mild warnings are not working. There is a reason an active member of the US Air Force yesterday set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declaring that he would not longer be complicit in genocide (he has reportedly subsequently died). As Bandt argued today, a motion in the House of Reps calling for a ceasefire really is the least that parliamentarians can do.

The government remains desperately wedded to its position, seemingly convinced that it cannot make any difference, and that it will only lose votes by trying. But it looks increasingly cowardly, as journalists unions (including Australia’s own Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance) come forward to show support for Palestinian journalists and to call for an immediate ceasefire. It is at times hard to keep looking at the devastation coming out of Gaza; the Albanese government is no doubt banking, in part, on the fact that most have stopped paying attention. But today is a day to show solidarity with those still bearing witness on the ground, putting their lives on the line to show what is really going on in Gaza.

“I’m really throwing down the gauntlet to the government. They’ve talked a big game on integrity … I would say to the government: if not, why not?”

Independent MP Helen Haines calls on the Albanese government to support her bill cracking down on pork-barrelling, questioning why Labor would be against making grants more accountable. Finance Minister Katy Gallagher put forward similar legislation from Opposition, but it remains to be seen whether she is still in favour.

“I do think we can disrupt the east coast market with a focus on mainstream middle, commonsense journalism, and economically conservative, socially progressive. That’s what we’re about.”

Anthony De Ceglie, editor-in-chief of Kerry Stokes’ new outlet The Nightly, says the online paper will be aimed at the “mainstream middle”. The outlet is backed by billionaires such as Gina Rinehart, will feature ads from Woodside and BHP, and has hired former Australian boss Chris Dore (who was stood down over lewd comments) to report on politics.

52-48

The latest two-party preferred result, as Labor maintains its narrow lead over the Liberals ahead of the Dunkley byelection. Polls of the seat put the two parties at 50-50, with both attempting to paint themselves as the underdog.

Labor considering HECS relief and fee changes

Education Minister Jason Clare has hinted at changes to university course fees and increased support for students paying HECS and HELP debts, as the government weighs up the 47 recommendations in the Australian Universities Accord final report. Some are sceptical, with AFR education editor Julie Hare noting that the report shares many of the noble “equity” aims of the 2008 Bradley review.

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