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All episodes by Karen Middleton
Is Australia’s regime of secrecy over?
Critics say Australia may be the world’s most secretive democracy, with a patchwork of laws and obstacles standing in the way of transparency and press freedom.
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton, on Australia’s secrecy laws and whether the government’s overhaul will go far enough.
The ceasefire and the Israel–Hamas war protests
Israel’s government has agreed to a four-day ceasefire with Hamas in exchange for the release of 50 hostages held in Gaza – but promises to push ahead with military operations after the pause ends. The agreement falls short of the total ceasefire that protesters have been calling for.
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton, on the protests, the parliament and the challenges facing Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
'Handsome boy': Albanese meets Xi Jinping
It’s been a long time coming, but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese finally met Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. So how did it go? Why are both leaders so keen to restore ties? And can the relationship be repaired without compromise?
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton, on Albanese’s four days in China.
Inside the new China-Australia relationship
For three years, China and Australia had virtually frozen their diplomatic ties – our largest trading partner and regional superpower was not picking up the phone. But there’s been a rapid turnaround in the relationship. Ahead of a visit this week by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, we’ve seen the release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei and the scrapping of trade tariffs.
Today, fresh from a trip to Beijing, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper, Karen Middleton, on whether we’re entering a new era in Australia’s relationship with China.
‘Liars and cowards’ in the ADF
The royal commission into veteran suicides is probing the ugliest parts of the Australian Defence Force and casting doubt on its ability to protect the wellbeing and safety of its people. One former military chaplain says when she sought advice after being assaulted by a colleague, she was told to deal with it herself.
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton on lies, cowardice and poor leadership in the ADF.
Inside the leaking of the Lehrmann trial inquiry
It was an inquiry meant to get to the bottom of why the trial of Bruce Lehrmann had to be abandoned. Its goal was to improve the justice system and how it handles sexual assault cases. Instead, the inquiry has ended in a complete shambles.
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton, on how an inquiry meant to bring healing, ended up doing so much damage.
Beyond PwC: The big consultancy rip-off
It started with PwC, but now accusations are being levelled at the other big consultancy firms in Australia. Over the last 10 years, more and more government decision-making has been outsourced to multi-billion dollar firms in lucrative contracts.
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton on the big four consultancies – and why one contract between Deloitte and the Home Affairs department had to be terminated.
Why Peter Dutton referred David Van to a body without real powers
Parliament is struggling with how to handle the case of Senator David Van, who continues to strenuously deny allegations of sexual harassment and assault levelled by Senator Lidia Thorpe and others.
The case shows how, more than a year after the Jenkins review into the culture at parliament house, it remains uniquely incapable of handling complaints, finding the truth and providing a safe workplace for all.
The people who knew the truth about PwC for years
The Australian Tax Office suspected that PwC used confidential information to help their big corporate clients get richer – seven whole years ago.
But they did shockingly little about it. They didn’t even share that information with government ministers.
The reason, they say, is that their hands were tied – that bureaucratic rules kept them from exposing one of the biggest scandals in the history of our tax system.
We can say it now: Ben Roberts-Smith is a war criminal
Ben Roberts-Smith dined with prime ministers, attended the Queen’s funeral as a hero and was held up as an icon of the Australian Defense Force. In fact, a huge portrait of him still hangs in the Australian War Memorial today.
But now, a court has found that allegations Ben Roberts-Smith is a murderer, a war criminal and a bully who disgraced his country have been proven.
Today, Chief Political Correspondent for The Saturday Paper and author of ‘An Unwinnable War’, Karen Middleton on how the truth about Ben Roberts-Smith was proven and what it means for the legacy of Australian action in Afghanistan.
The Budget: What’s in it for you
Treasurer Jim Chalmers promised a responsible budget, and one that helped Australians as costs soar. There was some relief, but it wasn’t as generous as some advocates hoped.
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton, on Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ first full May budget.
Why is the ADF ‘not fit’ to deter China?
Missiles that can precisely target enemy forces 500 kilometres away are the future of the Australian defence forces, according to the recent defence strategic review. What we are defending ourselves with today is woefully inadequate for our strategic circumstances, the review found.
But other big questions are emerging: how will we pay for the changes it’s proposing? Can we save money on purchases we’ve already agreed to? And how will our neighbours react to a more capable Australian military?
Who is Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price?
After a week that forced a reshuffle on the Coalition front bench, Peter Dutton had to announce a new spokesperson for Indigenous Australians – he needed someone who would enthusiastically support his ‘No’ position on the Voice to Parliament.
His choice was Jacinta Nampijinpa Price – a first-term senator. So who is Dutton’s new pick?
Can a deal be done to get us affordable homes?
Renting or buying a home is not getting any easier in Australia – and the future could get even worse if we don’t do something.
The government wants to build new houses with an investment fund, the Greens want a rent freeze and more guaranteed funding for affordable homes – and negotiations are becoming the latest flashpoint in a bitter dispute between the two parties.
ASIO is worried you’re helping foreign spies
Our intelligence community used to believe terrorism was the greatest threat to Australians. But today, Australia’s domestic intelligence agency, ASIO, says the biggest threat we’re facing is actually from foreign spies.
According to the agency, it’s not just politicians and military officers who are being targeted – it’s everyday people, who might not know they’re giving away information that could cost lives.
The day the Reserve Bank got grilled
Philip Lowe, the governor of the RBA, has already had to apologise for his forecast that interest rates weren’t likely to rise until 2024. It was under that pressure that Lowe made his way to Canberra last week to answer questions about his decision-making.
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton on what Philip Lowe said in Canberra, and whether his job is on the line.
Lidia Thorpe and the Greens: How did it come to this?
Tension in the Greens over the Voice to Parliament has culminated this week in the abrupt defection of high-profile Senator Lidia Thorpe.
Publicly, Greens Leader Adam Bandt is calling her resignation ‘sad’. Privately, other Greens members are reportedly calling it a catastrophe.
Spotlight: Inside Anthony Albanese’s election night
Almost a decade of conservative government in Australia has ended. Votes are still being counted, but it looks like the Liberal and National Party have suffered their worst result in decades.
The Greens, independents and minor parties have had historic wins and will wield significant power in the new parliament.
How not to fund your future leaders, Scott Morrison-style
It was the governor-general’s pet project, a foundation that promised to nurture the future leaders of Australia. But the elite foundation never came to be – the new government has axed it.
So why did the governor-general put his name to it? Why did Scott Morrison decide to fund it before it was viable? And who was advocating for it?
What’s inside Labor’s first budget?
A Labor government has handed down a budget for the first time in nine years. It isn’t the budget that many might have imagined in May when the party won the election.
Now, a global economic storm appears to be gathering momentum. So what’s in this budget? Who’s getting money? Who is missing out? And how does it set up this term for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
How agencies access personal phone data
Police and security agencies often have access to a wealth of personal information about the people they’re investigating — including phone calls, texts, emails and metadata.
Access to that information is supposed to occur under very controlled circumstances. But there’s evidence that’s not what’s happening.
Spotlight: A night at the opera — How Whitlam and Kerr fell out
After a 10-year legal battle, the “palace letters” were finally released. In full, they show how Gough Whitlam’s relationship with the governor-general broke down - and how involved the Queen was through this collapse.
Today, we revisit our episode from 2020 with chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper, Karen Middleton.
Scott Morrison and the secretive $18m grant
Before he was voted out, the former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison received a pitch from the Governor-General David Hurley: the taxpayer should fund a foundation for ‘future Australian leaders’.
We don’t know much about the merits of the program, who would get selected and what kind of training they would get – but it was promised the funding.
New questions over whether Scott Morrison acted lawfully
Amid the controversy over Scott Morrison’s secret ministry appointments a new question has emerged: did the former Prime Minister act unconstitutionally?
Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton on the question of whether Scott Morrison may have acted unlawfully.
What’s next in the Morrison ministries saga?
Today, the Prime Minister will reveal legal advice on Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to five ministries.
While the country waits to hear about what legal dilemmas the affair entails, the former prime minister’s colleagues are responding both privately and publicly.
One year since the fall of Kabul: Who was left behind?
It’s been one year since the Taliban swiftly took control of Afghanistan as the US pulled out after 20 years of war. In the days following the takeover, foreign countries rushed to evacuate diplomatic staff from Kabul.
Thousands of Afghans were also airlifted out, but many, even those who worked directly with Australia and other foreign nations, remain trapped.
The secret jailing of an Australian spy
A former intelligence officer in Canberra was charged, sentenced, and jailed in complete secrecy in 2018.
It was only after he brought his own legal complaint, and a couple of journalists noticed some security guards in the courthouse, that anything about his case was made public.
‘He saw the sky turn crimson the day the bomb was dropped’
Labor is working through the specifics of the nuclear submarine deal Scott Morrison set up before he lost office. Some in the party believe AUKUS was established in part to wedge Labor on the issue of non-proliferation.
So what is next for the plan to buy nuclear submarines? And what can Labor do to ensure their purchase doesn’t undermine a commitment to ending nuclear wars?
How Peter Dutton blocked Indigenous names for bases
An exclusive report by Karen Middleton has revealed that last year, Peter Dutton intervened to cancel an Australian Defence Force plan to give military bases dual English and Indigenous names. Today, Karen Middleton on Peter Dutton’s decisions as Defence Minister and what they tell us about his approach to change.
How did the Liberal Party get it so wrong?
As votes are still being counted in an election that has reshaped the political map. What do the results mean for the future of Australian politics? What will the greatest challenges for the new parliament be? And where will the battle lines be drawn?
The Vote: Inside Anthony Albanese’s election night
Almost a decade of conservative government in Australia has ended. Votes are still being counted, but it looks like the Liberal and National Party have suffered their worst result in decades. The Greens, independents and minor parties have had historic wins and will wield significant power in the new parliament.
The Vote Panel: Could Scott Morrison win again?
It’s all come down to this. On Saturday night, Australia will decide it’s next government and next Prime Minister. The final week of the campaign saw Scott Morrison, who is trying not to be a bulldozer, bulldoze a child during a media appearance at youth soccer training in Tasmania. And Labor released the costings on its policies, just two days out from the election.
The Vote: Inside the campaign bus on the final days
At this stage of the campaign, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader can travel to three different states in a single day, visiting key seats and making announcements to win over undecided voters. Where are they going, what’s their pitch, and which campaign is more confident heading into election day? Today, Karen Middleton takes us inside the whirlwind final days of the campaign trail.
The Vote Panel: Wage wars and leaked polls
With just one week to go until election day, the debate over the minimum wage has taken the spotlight. And the polls are showing some Coalition strongholds are at risk of falling. So what can we glean about how Labor and the Coalition are gearing up for the final days of the campaign, and should we trust the polls this time around?
The Vote Panel: Everyone is promising houses
As we close in on election day, housing affordability has become a central issue of this campaign. People’s mortgages are going up and it could put upward pressure on rents.
So, how are cost of living pressures factoring into the decision voters will make in just two weeks time?
The Vote Panel: Three weeks in and it’s all about to start
Today, Anthony Albanese is set to end his isolation and return to the campaign trail after he tested positive for Covid-19 last week. As he returns to campaigning in-person, the cost of living has become an even more pressing election issue and a deal between China and The Solomon Islands has opened up a surprising avenue of attack on the Coalition.
The Vote: Who is Anthony Albanese?
With an election called, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has six weeks to convince Australia he would make a better prime minister than Scott Morrison. The challenge is to avoid the mistakes of the last Labor election campaign, but as a small target, can he still be inspiring enough to win over voters? Today, Karen Middleton on Anthony Albanese’s rebrand and what it tells us about Labor’s strategy.
The true story of how Scott Morrison got to parliament
Fifteen years after winning the safe seat of Cook, the true story of Scott Morrison’s ugly preselection fight can now be revealed. For the first time, statutory declarations show how Morrison allegedly used race and religion to undermine a rival.
The power struggle threatening Scott Morrison’s re-election
Time is running out for the Liberal Party to select candidates in a number of key seats, ahead of the federal election. And there are allegations that one senior minister - close to the Prime Minister - may be holding up the process to deliberately engineer a crisis. Today, Karen Middleton on the power struggle within the Liberal Party that is threatening their re-election chances.
The toxic culture in Parliament House
A new report released by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner has revealed a toxic workplace culture in Parliament House, with nearly half of the women working there experiencing sexual harassment and bullying. Today, Karen Middleton on what the Jenkins Report tells us about Australia’s political culture.
The proposed law that could legalise discrimination
The federal government has finally introduced a religious discrimination bill to parliament. And there are concerns that they could make it easier for individuals to discriminate against marginalised communities, like the queer community, without consequence. Today, Karen Middleton, on what the religious discrimination bill actually entails, and why Scott Morrison is so desperate to pass it.
The corruption inquiry exposing Labor's culture
Victoria’s anti-corruption commission has heard damning evidence about the political culture at the heart of the state’s Labor party. The investigation has already forced the resignation of a number of state government ministers. Today, Karen Middleton on what the consequences might be for the Labor party both in Victoria and federally.
Why Labor is sending Keneally to Cabramatta
The move to parachute Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally into the western Sydney seat of Fowler has exposed the rifts and rivalries within the party. But it's also raised a bigger question, is Labor doing enough to make sure its candidates actually represent their voters? Today, Karen Middleton on what is really driving the battle for Fowler, and what it says about the Labor party.
What have we learned from the War on Terror?
The anniversary of 9/11 this week, along with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has seen politicians, military leaders and the public reflect on the past two decades. But what has really been learned from these events that shaped world history? Today, Karen Middleton on the aftermath of 9/11 20 years later.
What went wrong with Australia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan
Coalition forces had been planning their withdrawal from Afghanistan for months, but it’s now emerged that intelligence reports failed to forecast how quickly the country would fall, and the impact that would have on the evacuation. Today, Karen Middleton on what went wrong with Australia’s withdrawal plan and what it means for those trapped in Afghanistan.
What’s next for Afghanistan
After twenty years of war, invasion and occupation, US and Australian defence personnel have finally withdrawn, ending one of the longest military engagements in modern history. The Taliban swept the country, seizing the capital, Kabul, and retaking control. Now there are fears for millions of Afghans facing life under a repressive regime. Today, Karen Middleton and Ramish Salimi on the latest developments in Afghanistan, how we got to this point, and what the future looks like for Afghans.
The debate over vaccinating children
Throughout this pandemic one group in particular have been at the forefront of key policy debates: young people. But as we’ve learnt more about the virus, a new fault-line has emerged: the question of how and when to vaccinate young people.
The $660 million election slush fund
A scathing new report has found that in the lead-up to the last election the federal government spent more than half a billion dollars on infrastructure projects heavily targeted to seats held by the Coalition, or seats they were trying to win. Today, Karen Middleton on what happens when hundreds of millions of dollars and 47 car parks meet a federal election.
It’s textbook ‘how not to run a war’
After 20 years of war, Australia gave three days’ notice before closing its embassy in Kabul. But the decision leaves hundreds of local staff vulnerable to retaliation by the Taliban.
Josh Frydenberg's big-spending budget
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has handed down what is expected to be the government’s last budget before the next federal election. Today, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper Karen Middleton on what’s in the budget, and what it says about the government’s political priorities.
The government vs. Grace Tame
The Morrison government has ordered an urgent review of the Australian of the Year award process. It denies the review is linked to Grace Tame’s appointment, but comes after criticism from the outspoken Australian of the Year.
What Peter Dutton did next
Peter Dutton has long been one of the most controversial ministers in the federal government. Now, at a time of rising global tension, especially in our region, he’s become the minister for Defence. Today, Karen Middleton on Peter Dutton’s new job, and the concerns already being raised in the Defence community.
The fight to overhaul Australia’s vaccine rollout
Federal and state governments are locked in a high stakes battle over the future of Australia’s vaccine rollout. On Monday Scott Morrison held an emergency meeting of the national cabinet to develop a new vaccine strategy. Today, Karen Middleton on where Australia’s rollout went wrong, and the plan state governments are pushing for.
As Australians march for justice, Christian Porter sues
Thousands of Australians marched in cities and towns across the country yesterday. The protests were sparked by allegations of sexual harassment and assault in federal parliament. Today, Karen Middleton on the march for justice, and whether the government is taking notice.
The sexual assault crisis that rocked Australia
A cabinet minister in the federal government has been accused of rape, but he hasn’t been publicly identified and the Prime Minister has so far refused to initiate an inquiry into the allegations. Today, Karen Middleton on the sexual assault crisis that has rocked the country.
Tanya Plibersek: Labor after Covid-19
As Labor prepares for a possible early election, Tanya Plibersek says the party is ready to confront the government over shortcomings in its handling of the pandemic.
Dutton’s new plan to spy on Australians
The federal government has proposed new laws that would give federal police the power to spy on Australian citizens. But the decision contradicts the government’s own review into national intelligence. Today, Karen Middleton on the controversial expansion of national security laws.
Locked up for being sick
The passage of the medevac legislation last year allowed sick refugees in offshore detention to travel to Australia. The legislation was bitterly opposed by the federal government. Now those refugees say they’re being punished as a result. Today, Karen Middleton on what happens when a government is forced to implement a law it opposed.
The climate threat to Australia’s leaders
Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese are caught between a global shift towards more serious climate action and pro-coal members of their respective parties. Today, Karen Middleton on how Australia’s political leaders are grappling with climate policy.
Who is responsible for Australia’s war crimes?
Detailed accusations that Australian soldiers in Afghanistan committed war crimes have drawn widespread condemnation from around the world. But who is ultimately responsible? Today, Karen Middleton on the disturbing and shocking allegations involving Australia’s most elite military unit, and our collective shame.
Sacked after speaking up
Recent scandals and allegations of workplace bullying have put the spotlight on the treatment of women in Parliament. Today, Karen Middleton on the unique power dynamic between politicians and the people who work for them.
Australia’s diplomatic blind spot
Australia’s relationship with Indonesia has a significant impact on our culture, economy and national security. But despite our proximity, it’s often been a relationship defined by tension as well as indifference. Today, Karen Middleton on Australia’s regional blind spot, and why it’s time we started engaging more closely with South-East Asia.
Budget 2020: Getting on with the jobs
Josh Frydenberg’s second budget is a world away from the surplus he was predicting last year. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, debt is on track to hit $1 trillion and the Treasurer is talking up a jobs-led recovery.
The politics of a coronavirus vaccine
A coronavirus vaccine is the best chance the world has of returning to some kind of normal, but the stalling of one of the most viable candidates last week was a reminder that nothing is guaranteed. Today, Karen Middleton on the Australian government’s plans and the likelihood of a vaccine in 2021.
Another death in detention
The Australian government is currently holding over fifteen hundred people in immigration detention centres across the country, and many have been detained for years. Today, Karen Middleton on the fate of one those detainees, and the secrecy surrounding our immigration detention.
A night at the opera: How Whitlam and Kerr fell out
After a 10-year legal battle, the “palace letters” were finally released last week. They show exactly how Gough Whitlam’s relationship with the governor-general broke down.
Setting up for the second wave
With Victoria one week into its second shutdown, and NSW on high alert, there are new fears about what a second wave could mean for Australia’s coronavirus recovery.
Morrison’s rule by ‘Henry VIII’ clauses
During Covid-19, the government has been increasingly using ‘Henry VIII’ clauses to bypass the parliament and make laws that are never voted on.
The push to expand ASIO’s powers
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has recently introduced legislation to expand the surveillance powers available to Australia’s domestic spy agency. Lawyers and civil rights groups are concerned the proposed laws are too broad. Today, Karen Middleton on the attempt to expand ASIO’s powers in the midst of a pandemic.
Australia’s worst coronavirus cluster
The decision to allow passengers on the Ruby Princess to disembark led to Australia’s biggest coronavirus cluster, and it’s now being investigated by a number of inquiries. Today, Karen Middleton on what happened in the hours leading up to the ship’s docking.
Anthony Albanese’s pandemic response
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is juggling the need to appear constructive while holding the government to account. But what does the public actually want from their opposition during this crisis? Today, Karen Middleton on the Opposition’s tactics in a pandemic.
The other holes in Australia’s quarantine
Confusion between different levels of government has exposed flaws in Australia’s strict quarantine measures, and they go beyond the case of the Ruby Princess. Today, Karen Middleton on the other holes in Australia’s quarantine.
Surviving the economic turmoil of coronavirus
What happens when everyone in a household loses work because of coronavirus? Today we look at the human cost of unemployment and what the government is doing to help people survive.
How billions in government spending could be unlawful
In the past year, the government has directed nearly $5 billion to various schemes using a process lawyers say is likely unconstitutional.
Sports grants are the tip of the iceberg
As the government deals with the Bridget McKenzie scandal, questions are being asked about other larger grant programs.
What is Labor doing on coal?
Anthony Albanese says ending Australian coal exports won’t halt climate change. He says we need to cut emissions, but Adani should get on with it and start digging in the Galilee Basin.
What happened to David Savage
Seven years ago, David Savage was injured while working for the Australian government in Afghanistan. He has fought since to have his compensation settled and the truth of what happened acknowledged.
The cabinet maker
Since becoming prime minister, Scott Morrison has stamped himself on the cabinet process. There will be more PowerPoints, and less debate about issues he sees as being routine.
ASIO officers broke law on warrant
We don’t know what exactly happened or what ASIO was investigating; those details are secret. We do know that early last year the spy agency broke the law while conducting an operation.
Out of office
As Labor waits for a review of its election loss, and another into the operations of its NSW branch, Anthony Albanese is wrestling with divisions inside the party.
Cash and the black economy
New legislation will restrict the way Australians use cash. But there are concerns the laws could jail people for using legal tender.
As Brian Toohey releases his major book on national security in Australia, he reveals that American spies have been working here without detection.
Cyber spy powers
Home Affairs is pushing for new powers to allow the Australian Signals Directorate to embed in corporate computer systems – transforming the body into one that disrupts crime and other attacks.
Despite hopes that were placed in Ken Wyatt as minister, Scott Morrison says there will be no constitutional enshrinement of an Indigenous Voice to parliament. Karen Middleton on the campaign to keep the Voice alive.
As the government produces legislation to temporarily ban foreign fighters from returning to Australia, there is growing concern over whether existing citizenship legislation is unconstitutional.
Morrison’s inner circle
Scott Morrison’s inner circle is a group linked by faith and friendship – and now, the front bench. Their ties were confirmed during the leadership spill last year.
Sacking Scott Morrison
Before entering parliament, Scott Morrison ran Tourism Australia. He was sacked by the minister, but the details of what happened have never been made public.