Good morning all,
Canberra has a whopper frost this morning, the first big one of the season. Asylum seekers and climate change continue to dominate the issues of the day - as they have for the past few years. Today the issues take the form of a floating boat of Tamils in limbo and the carbon tax repeal debate.
We also have the heart-rending reports that nine asylum-seeker mothers have been placed on suicide watch after alleged self-harm attempts in detention on Christmas Island. Here is the snap from Oliver Laughland's story today.
Christmas Island shire president Gordon Thomson told Guardian Australia that over the past two days a number of mothers with babies born in detention in Australia had self harmed and as a result were being placed under “constant watch” by individual security officers in the family camp.
“The women believe that if they sacrifice themselves the children will grow up to learn they did the best thing for them, to give them the chance to live in Australia,” Thomson said.
“The conditions women are having to survive are so grotesque that they obviously can’t bear it any more,” he added.
Tony Abbott has given a strong response to the reports, though not in the way you might think. The prime minister says: "if true, it is a "harrowing tale" but then says he will not have:
a policy driven by people who are attempting to hold us over a moral barrel.
Abbott was asked by interviewer Karl Stefanovic: "as a father I'm sure you have great sympathy with these people. If this story turns out to be true, mothers trying to take their own lives in order for their children to stay in this country, it takes it to a whole new level".
I say if it's true Karl and I haven't seen the reports and look, the fact is the people that are on Nauru, they're being clothed, housed, fed, and above all else, they are safe, they are not going to be subjected to any persecution in Nauru.
Now I don't believe people ought to be able to say to us unless you accept me as a permanent resident, I am going to commit self harm.
Now really and truly, no Australian government should be subjected to the spectacle of people saying, unless you accept us I am going to commit self harm.
And I don's believe any Australian, any thinking Australian would want us to capitulate to moral blackmail.
The other part of this story is revealed by the government in The Australian this morning. The paper's splash says the Coalition had "no intention of sending the 153 asylum seekers at the centre of the High Court challenge back to Sri Lanka" anyway. So what is all the fuss about? There is no minister quoted in the story.
Also today, we will follow the trail of the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who is heading to the Pilbara with Abbott to see the place that has boosted both the Australian and Japanese economies. That is, the red earth of iron ore country. This little side trip came about as a result of the PM's trip to Japan with company representatives of Rio Tinto and a host of other business and industry people. Shinzo will tour the West Angelas mine and then attend a formal dinner in Perth.
The senate starts 9.30am and begins with the carbon tax repeal debate again. A sense of expectation is building that the government will gag debate and ram through the vote so keep an eye on that one.