FOOL'S GOLD: LEY TO PAY BACK TRIP COSTS

Health Minister Sussan Ley spent two consecutive New Year's Eves on the Gold Coast at taxpayers' expense, News Corp's Annika Smethurst reports today. Ley was forced to apologise and pay back the cost of four trips to the Gold Coast that didn't meet ministerial standards, after it was revealed that she bought a high-rise apartment on a trip to the area in May 2015. She owns property and her husband owns a bin-cleaning business in the area. She has asked the Finance Department to review all her Gold Coast trips, while the opposition has called for the minister to resign or be sacked.

ONE NATION, DIVIDED

Short-lived One Nation candidate Shan Ju Lin has doubled down on homophobic comments that led the party to dump her on Saturday. Speaking to the ABC, she said:
"The gay community always say they are born like that … the best way to know if they're born like that, they at least need to have a medical consultation so they know if they're born like that or not. "But now instead of that the government is putting Safe Schools in our education system. I just linked all of this together and it made me so worried and so angry."
Lin also said she had been dumped via a Facebook message from One Nation leader Pauline Hanson's senior adviser James Ashby, without a chance to defend herself to Hanson. The Australian is reporting the incident has opened a rift in the party, with Hanson and Ashby on one side and the party's "old guard" on the other. Lin has posted screenshots on Facebook of messages supporting her and criticising Ashby, whose tactics are not popular with some members of the party.

REFUGEE DEAL 'MADNESS', SAYS REPUBLICAN

Australia's refugee swap deal with the US is looking increasingly unlikely, with a Texas Republican Congressman telling Fairfax:
"I am confident President-elect Trump will do everything in his power to put an immediate stop to this secret Australian-US refugee deal that should have simply never happened in the first place."
Hardliner Brian Babin has called the deal "madness" and "exactly what the American people soundly rejected in November with the election of Donald Trump".

SHORTEN SPEAKS ON CENTRELINK DEBT FIASCO

In the weeks before Christmas, we broke the news that Centrelink’s new automated data matching system was severely flawed and sending out spurious debt notices to people for payments going as far back as 2010. In the weeks since, the story has exploded, with the opposition and the Commonwealth Ombudsman demanding answers as more and more people come forward with stories of intimidating behaviour by both Centrelink and debt collectors. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called for the program to be suspended immediately, telling Fairfax: "This stuff-up has delivered a summer from hell for thousands of people who have done absolutely nothing wrong." This is despite Labor's role in starting data matching at the welfare agency. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Social Services Minister Christian Porter have both defended the new automated system, saying that it is working as intended and problems with it are minor. The minister in charge of the program -- Alan Tudge -- has not seen fit to cut short his leave to address the criticisms. The Centrelink Twitter account has began referring people to Lifeline, and some recipients of debt notices have had their debts slashed after being featured on the ABC's 7.30.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

London: Disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris is set to face trial over seven new charges of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. Los Angeles: The Golden Globes awards start at noon AEDT, with predictions that La La Land will sweep the prestigious film and television awards. Sydney: Sydney Sixers versus Melbourne Renegades in the BBL.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Lay down the law of common sense to entitlements -- David Crowe (The Australian $): “There is zero tolerance for a politician’s excessive travel claims at a time when the community is being asked to tighten its belt.” Manus Island: Australia's dirty little secret -- Michael Gordon (Sydney Morning Herald): “The truth is the Manus detainees are a mixed bunch, including writers, artists and professionals; men so traumatised they still refuse to leave their rooms after the violence that engulfed the centre in 2014; and some who drink too much and chase women; those who consider themselves the walking dead and those who retain the capacity to dream and hope.” Keeping safe from cyber criminals is always about common sense online -- Dan Tehan (Herald Sun $): “If your password is “Password1” and you use that for all your online accounts, you’re simply not using common sense. So in 2017, make it a point to update your password.”

THE WORLD

At least four people were left dead after a truck rammed into Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem. The attacker was identified by Israeli police as a Palestinian living in annexed East Jerusalem. He was shot dead during the attack. -- Reuters A tape has emerged of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussing a quid pro quo with Israeli media mogul Arnon Mozes. Under the deal the PM would limit the circulation of a rival newspaper owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson -- one of Netanyahu’s most vociferous backers -- in return for more positive coverage in Mozes’ newspaper. The scandal comes at a perilous political moment for Netanyahu, who is being investigated by police as part of a corruption probe. -- Haaretz/The Guardian A 26-year-old has been charged and could face the death penalty after opening fire and killing five people at the baggage claim of the Fort Lauderdale airport, Florida. Iraq war veteran Esteban Santiago had multiple run-ins with police and had his firearm taken from him at one point, though eventually it was returned. Investigators are still trying to determine the motive for the shooting. -- Washington Post Donald Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus says the President-elect accepts that Russia engaged in cyber attacks affecting the US election. Trump has previously suggested the hacking could have come from other sources, such as China, or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”. -- Reuters

WHAT WE’RE READING

The elite roots of Richard Spencer’s racism (Jacobin): “Bourgeois reporters seem shocked to meet a racist who is apparently one of them, not some cartoonish working-class stereotype, drinking a Budweiser in a t-shirt and mangling English like Archie Bunker.” Egypt’s failed revolution (The New Yorker): “He had never joined a political organization or issued a statement; in fact, he hadn’t spoken a single word on the day of his arrest. His interrogations had been a farce of suspicion, fear, and confusion. Every time he had entered a voting booth in Egypt’s fledgling democracy, he had spoiled his ballot. And yet he had spent six weeks as a political prisoner, an experience that seemed utterly senseless.”

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