Boss of failed startup Milkrun defends company performance
By Nick Bonyhady
The boss of failed rapid grocery delivery startup Milkrun has defended the company’s performance and claimed it did better than its many critics believed.
Dany Milham, who previously founded the Koala mattress company, blamed the Milkrun’s closure this week on the deteriorating economy rather than problems with its business model revealed months ago by this masthead.
“MILKRUN grew to be a larger and more disruptive business, with better unit economics than many people on the outside realised,” Milham said in a LinkedIn post.
“Not only did we create a brand that was beloved by customers, and raise the bar for customer service, remarkably we went from zero to one million orders in just 15 months.
“Importantly, our hubs reached breakeven ahead of plan, proving that the business model can work in Australia at an appropriate scale.”
Milkrun is closing today and has said it will pay all of its debts and workers’ entitlements in full.
Claims Voice could change Aus or Anzac Day baseless: former High Court chief justice
By Paul Sakkal
The former head of Australia’s top law court has labelled the deputy Liberal leader’s claim that the Voice to parliament could change the dates of Australia Day or Anzac Day as baseless.
Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said this morning that the scope of the proposed Indigenous advisory body was “undefined” and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese couldn’t rule out “the Voice [having] a de facto veto role on … national days of commemoration such as Australia Day or Anzac Day”.
Australia’s 12th High Court chief justice, Robert French, said the claim had “no substance”.
French, who has given advice on the wording of the proposed constitutional alteration to create the Voice, said the body could argue in favour of changing the date of Australia Day if it chose to, but “it would be no more than advice”.
“I’ll be polite about it … I don’t know what a defacto veto role is,” he said at a parliamentary inquiry into the referendum wording in Canberra.
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles attacked Ley for her remarks, writing on Twitter: “For Sussan Ley to use this day for her own political agenda says everything about the Coalition.”
Former judge Kenneth Hayne held the same view as French.
Megan Davis, one of the leaders of the Voice push, said: “How on earth could the Voice ‘cancel’ Anzac Day? Unbelievable. Such bad faith arguments.”
She also wrote on Twitter that most Indigenous people did not support changing the date of Australia Day.
Robert rejects any imputation or allegation of improper conduct: spokesman
By Michael Bachelard
Back to the parliamentary committee inquiry into former federal minister Stuart Robert, a spokesman for Robert responded: “Mr Robert again rejects any imputation or allegation of improper conduct you assert in your inquiry.”
“From evidence provided to the Committee today, it is clear Bill Shorten, the SMH and The Age have used stolen and allegedly tampered with emails for political purposes and to write articles that have asserted improper conduct to which Mr Robert has strenuously and consistently rejected,” the spokesman said.
“This is something Bill Shorten, the SMH and The Age need to reflect on.”
Shorten has been approached for comment.
Analysis: The US intel leak is one of three bombshell disclosures
Steering back to world news, Chris Zappone writes how the recent leaks of highly classified US intelligence rattled Western governments, however are just the latest in a series of intelligence disclosures involving great powers.
US Air Force National Guard member Jack Teixeira, 21, was arrested on Thursday. The FBI said Teixeira was arrested “in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorised removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defence information”.
The leaks of classified data found on gaming platform Discord has exposed US intelligence on Ukrainian battlefield positions, the scale of US penetration of Russian targets, as well as US pressure on South Korea to provide ammunition to Kyiv.
Zappone outlines other leaks involving great powers include a look into Russia’s disinformation campaigns while others offer insights into its deepening relationship with China.
Read the full piece here.
MP Zoe Daniel calls on AFL and NRL to ban gambling logos on match shirts
By Paul Sakkal
Independent federal MP Zoe Daniel has called on the AFL and NRL to match the English Premier League’s decision to ban gambling firm logos from the front of match-day shirts.
The world’s biggest soccer competition announced today it would outlaw gambling firm shirt sponsorships by 2026. It was seen as a positive step by anti-gambling activists, though they criticised the lack of action to address pitchside gambling advertising, which they say is more prevalent than shirt-front ads.
Daniel, a leading voice on gambling harm, said: “It is high time for the AFL and the NRL to gather round and get ahead of this before public sentiment overtakes them.
“As the UK example demonstrates if they don’t do it voluntarily overwhelming community sentiment will force government to act. My campaign to rid our screens of gambling advertising always draws massive support from the community every time I raise it publicly.
“I intend to table a private members’ bill next month to ban gambling advertising on television.”
Stuart Robert-linked contracts need closer scrutiny as department links revealed: inquiry
By Michael Bachelard and Nick McKenzie
Breaking news in the parliamentary committee inquiry into former federal minister Stuart Robert and his dealings with a consulting firm called Synergy 360.
Remember, this is the company that was co-owned by two of Robert’s friends, David Milo and John Margerison, and to which Robert gave advice.
Synergy 360 helped companies procure millions of dollars of taxpayer funded contracts, some of which were from departments of which Robert was later the minister.
Margerison, who also ran Robert’s local fundraising committee, was asked about an email from 2017 in which he wrote that he intended for any future earnings from his 20 per cent shareholding in Synergy to be sent to another company called APUT.
Margerison has just told the committee that APUT refers to a company called Australian Property Trust (APT).
It’s never been shown before whether Robert stood to receive a financial benefit from Synergy’s dealings, but he did have an interest in APT.
Margerison told the committee he received no funds from Synergy, but the 2017 email suggests that Margerison had planned to send future earnings to APT.
Robert’s register of members interest from 2017 recorded that he held a stake in APT.
Margerison told the committee, “I had a business relationship with Mr Robert at one point in time, that finished about the end of 2018.”
Robert became assistant treasurer in August that year, and minister for government services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme from May 2019.
Margerison said that, until the business relationship ended, 45 per cent of the earnings from Synergy 360 into APUT would have gone to his family trust, 45 per cent to Robert’s entity and 10 per cent to others.
Robert has been approached for comment.
Indigenous leaders warn of Voice fearmongering
By Paul Sakkal
Some of Australia’s most prominent indigenous figures have rubbished suggestions the Voice to parliament could disrupt the nation’s system of government, warning against fearmongering and racism.
Senior Voice proponents are appearing today at the first hearing of a key inquiry into the proposed words that would be inserted into the Constitution if the referendum were to succeed.
Professors Megan Davis, Marcia Langton and Tom Calma faced questions from Liberal MPs on the parliamentary committee about the potential risks posed by allowing the Voice to lobby ministers and bureaucrats.
Read the full story here.
This afternoon’s headlines at a glance
By Caroline Schelle
Thanks for reading our live coverage this morning.
If you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know:
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been named as one of Time magazine’s most influential people.
- But, Ukraine’s Australian ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko requested Albanese to attend the NATO summit to be held in Lithuania.
- Cyclone Ilsa destroyed Pardoo Roadhouse in WA’s north with winds exceeding 280km/h wiping out the property.
- The government and the opposition have traded barbs on Northern Territory crime rates and concerns about child sexual abuse.
- Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley denies the opposition is scaremongering ahead of the Voice to parliament referendum.
- And in overseas news, the man allegedly behind intelligence leaks in the US has been arrested by the FBI.
I’ll be back next week, but my colleagues will keep you updated throughout the afternoon.
AEC expands ‘direct enrolment program’ for remote communities
By Caroline Schelle
Australia’s electoral body expanding its program for direct enrolment after trials in remote communities.
The trials were carried out in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory and resulted in 1400 new enrolments, Australia’s Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said today.
Direct enrolment is used to help some Australians meet enrolment obligations using trusted third-party information – such as Centrelink or motor registries – and means they do not need to complete an enrolment application.
“To directly enrol someone the law requires not just the verification of trusted data but also a notification – we’ve now established new methods for that following careful consideration and trials,” Rogers said.
He said using community mailbags and email as notification methods for people without mail delivery was effective in many instances.
“These processes are now part of the AEC’s ongoing direct enrolment program for the next application to be processed soon across the country and will assist in further raising enrolment in remote communities.”
The change adds to the recent addition of Medicare cards as a form of evidence for identity to enrol, as well as modernisation of forms.
“Rising enrolment nationally, and rising Indigenous enrolment rates, are both the result of hard work we’re continuing to invest in what is a great base for democratic participation ahead of the 2023 referendum and future elections,” Rogers said.
Liberals fight against Labor ‘purge’ on tribunal stacking
By Paul Sakkal
Liberal appointees facing the sack from the tribunal that reviews government decisions are pushing to limit the scale of a Labor overhaul, have labelled it a McCarthyist partisan purge.
A potential target of Labor’s push to end political appointments insists the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has performed above expectations and should be spared from wholesale changes that could dump dozens of Liberal-aligned tribunal members.
The Albanese government announced in December that the AAT would be abolished and its 128 members – who make decisions on migration cases, NDIS applications and veterans compensation claims – would have to re-apply and prove their qualifications to work at a reshaped tribunal.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has declared that the AAT lacked quality, efficiency and independence, partly resulting from the appointment of a slew of former Liberal MPs, candidates and party members.
But Liberal MP Julian Leeser, speaking last month in his then-role as shadow attorney-general, and AAT deputy president Denis Dragovic, a former Liberal preselection candidate who earns more than $500,000, argued against what they describe as radical reform proposals.
“It is important to ask the question, why have thousands of surveyed users experienced a substantially improved interaction with members and staff of the tribunal?” Dragovic said in a leaked submission to the government’s review, that has been circulating in the legal community.
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