TERROR IN BERLIN

Twelve people are confirmed dead after a truck was deliberately driven through crowds at a Christmas market in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said it was a terrorist attack, and Islamic State has claimed responsibility. A Polish man was found shot and stabbed in the front seat of the vehicle, and German police initially arrested a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker allegedly seen fleeing the scene. But that man has now been released, and police are working under the assumption that an armed perpetrator is still on the loose. Far-right parties in Germany and abroad have seized on the incident and criticised Merkel’s decision to let in a record number of refugees. They are calling the victims “Merkel’s dead”. 

FEDERAL CASH FOR BADGERYS CREEK JUST WON’T FLY

You want to operate a second Sydney airport? You can pay for it yourself, the federal government has told Sydney Airport Corporation, confirming that it would not commit additional taxpayer funds to the project. But the company says it does not want to pay the $5 billion to $6 billion necessary to build the project, telling the ASX: “Given the significant challenges the project will face, Sydney Airport has consistently stated that the project would require material support from the commonwealth to make it commercially viable.” Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure Paul Fletcher says Sydney Airport will have until May to decide whether it wants to proceed, but the company says it wants nine months to consider its options.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT

“Sometimes zombies should just stop walking in the night and go back to their tombs.” — crucial crossbench Senator Nick Xenophon, indicating he and his NXT colleagues would not be keen on backing the government’s so-called “zombie savings measures”, or government proposals that have stalled in Parliament. Treasurer Scott Morrison says that Australia’s AAA credit rating will be safe only if the Senate passes the zombie measures, and that there will be no other budget cuts put forward.

THAT’S WHY THE CALL IT THE BLUES

A report into a bugging scandal in the New South Wales police department has found that senior officials, including Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn, acted unlawfully in spying on more than 100 senior NSW police officers between 1999 and 2001. The NSW Ombudsman’s office said Operation Prospect was the “largest single investigation ever undertaken by an Ombudsman in Australia”. There have been calls for Burn to step down in the wake of the report, which recorded five adverse findings against her. It’s a headache NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione does not need right now, with the department already reeling from the investigation into its handling of the Lindt cafe siege.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Western Australia: A 55-year-old man will face the Magistrate Court today over the manslaughter of Elijah Doughty, an indigenous Kalgoorlie teenager who died after the motorbike he was riding was allegedly struck by a ute. His death sparked angry protests in Kalgoorlie, with many calling for the charge to be upgraded to murder.

Queensland: The Queensland cabinet minutes from 1986 will be released as the 30-year embargo comes to an end. As that is toward the end of the highly contentious Joh Bjelke-Petersen years, there could be some very interesting reading material in the minutes.

Victoria: The state’s Supreme Court is set to rule on whether juvenile offenders can be transferred to Barwon adult prison. Some teenagers at Barwon prison are kept in isolation in their cells up to 20 hours a day.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Australia’s Brave Whistleblower Nurse — Roger Cohen (New York Times): “[Lynne] Elworthy, who was supposed to return to Manus this week on her regular rotation, has been told she will not be going back. She has, it seems, been fired for her honesty.”

Why I’m sorry our credit rating wasn’t downgraded this week — Ross Gittins (Sydney Morning Herald): “Only when the public experiences the ratings agencies’ inability to have much effect on the interest rates we pay will they lose their power over our governments, and the pollies lose credit ratings as a political football.”

Budget deficit hoo-ha is about 0.5% of GDP — Beth Webster (The Conversation): “National governments do not, and should not, behave like a private household. They do not have to balance their budget. Their responsibility is to maintain full employment and keep inflation in check.”

The Productivity Commission’s copyright changes would decimate Australia’s creative industries — Adam Suckling (Sydney Morning Herald): “The Productivity Commission treats the creative industries with disdain. In its draft report, it declared an author’s copyright in their work ideally should be as little as 15 years in length.”

WHAT WE’RE READING

A supposed outpouring of online hatred against Jo Cox, a murdered MP, was exaggerated (The Economist): “We estimate that, in reality, of hundreds of thousands of tweets mentioning the MP by name, the number that celebrated her death was at most 1,500, and probably much lower.”

Larry Colburn, Who Helped Stop My Lai Massacre, Dies at 67 (New York Times): “Mr. Thompson, Mr. Colburn and Glenn Andreotta, the copter’s crew chief, found about 10 villagers cowering in a makeshift bomb shelter and coaxed them out, then had them flown to safety by two Huey gunships. They found an 8-year-old boy clinging to his mother’s corpse in an irrigation ditch and plucked him by the back of his shirt and delivered him to a nun in a nearby hospital.”

THE WORLD

Six people have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey. All bar one are relatives of the shooter, Turkish police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas, who killed Andrei Karlov in front of journalists gathered for a press conference. Both Russia and Turkey have portrayed the shooting as an effort to destabilise an ongoing diplomatic thaw between the nations. — Reuters 

Families of three men killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, are suing social media sites for providing material support to Islamic State. While tech companies in the US are shielded from the content hosted on their sites, the suit argues that by promoting content through algorithms, the companies are interacting with the content directly and are therefore legally responsible. Companies named in the suit include Facebook, Twitter and Google — Daily Mail 

Swiss police do not believe that a 24-year-old who opened fire on a Zurich Islamic centre had any links to terror groups or to other terror incidents in Europe this week. The shooter — who shot himself after the incident — injured three people and is believed to be linked to a separate fatal shooting on the weekend. — Bloomberg

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Peter Fray

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