GOVERNMENT TO ABBOTT: THANKS BUT NO THANKS

The government has shut down Tony Abbott‘s call to abolish mandatory targets for renewable energy, with Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg telling The Australian the government had “no plans” to change the 2020 Renewable Energy Target. The opinion piece in Saturday’s Australian is just the latest in a string of “helpful” interventions by Abbott, and it has been described as a “Kevin Rudd moment” by an unnamed frontbencher in the Oz. In the Fairfax papers, it’s reported the op-ed means Abbott has ruled himself out of contention to replace Sussan Ley as health minister.

LEY REPLACEMENTS CIRCLE

Speaking of replacing Sussan Ley as health minister, odds are on Senator Arthur Sinodinos to get the gig, with the Australian Medical Association welcoming the possible change. The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Kate McClymont writes today ICAC’s Operation Credo could still cause trouble for Sinodinos. Victorians want a Victorian sport minister, the Herald Sun reports, but don’t they always?

TPP NOT DEAD YET

The Trans Pacific Partnership could still live, if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe have their way. The future of the TPP looks shaky, with US President-elect Donald Trump promising to ditch the 11-country deal. After talks over the weekend, the Australian government says it’s still too early to pronounce the TPP’s death. Trade Minister Steve Ciobo told the Australian Financial Review: “We’re only 10 months into a 24-month ratification process so I think we just need to give the Americans time,” which seems very optimistic to us.

It’s believed Turnbull and Abe also discussed Japan’s whaling program, and images from anti-whaling activists Sea Shepherd show what the group alleges to be the hunting of whales in Australia’s Antarctic whale sanctuary. Josh Frydenberg says the government is “deeply disappointed” about the whaling.

DEBT COLLECTION CHANGES, BUT NO HALT TO ROBO-NOTICES

The government has acknowledged problems with its automated data-matching system for debt recovery notices, with a suite of changes to the way people are notified about debts reported in The Australian today. While the program will continue, and at the same rate as before, debt notices will now carry the 1800 number for Centrelink, which was previously available only online, language in the letters will be simplified, and people will no longer be required to start paying back debts while a review of the debt is underway. GetUp-commissioned polling by ReachTEL shows that 46.2% of those surveyed supported stopping the program.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Darwin: Inquest into the death of three-month-old Shakti Amar, who died in the hospice at Royal Darwin Hospital on October 16, 2013. Amar was the child of asylum seekers and had been a detainee at Darwin Airport Lodge.

Perth: (Don’t call him former) Senator Rod Culleton is in court again today, with another petition for bankruptcy, this time from Frank Bertola. Bertola is one of the men arrested at Culleton’s hearing in December. Culleton defended himself on the Today Show this morning, saying he was still solvent and deserved his day in court to prove it.

Melbourne: It’s the first day of the Australian Open, with many Aussies taking to the court. Bernard Tomic, Ashleigh Barty, Nick Kyrgios, Sam Groth, Destanee Aiava, James Duckworth and Jaimee Fourlis will represent the green and gold. Sir Andy Murray is on centre court today, and Roger Federer and Angelique Kerber will play tonight. The full schedule is here.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Turnbull wrong to abandon tax reform process — Tony Abbott (The Weekend Australian $)“…the government’s first move this year should be to introduce legislation to protect existing renewable generation but to remove all further mandatory use requirements.”

Abbott slapped down as Turnbull opts for ‘minimalist’ reshuffle[] — Michael Gordon (The Age): “Having indicated a desire to return to the front bench late last year, Mr Abbott appears to have concluded that Mr Turnbull has no intention of accommodating him, so he will exercise his right to speak freely from the backbench.”

Politicians are elected but by no means are they representative — Jennifer Oriel (The Australian $): “It is difficult to deduce how the [World Economic Forum] maintains global power with so little demonstrable capacity for evidence-based reasoning and its devotion to neo-Marxist ideology.”

THE WORLD

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May will call for national unity in a major speech on Brexit this week. British papers have reported May will push forward with a “clean and hard” exit from the European Union, which would include leaving the single market. In an interview, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond hinted Britain could lower its corporate tax rate to stay competitive after Brexit, a possibility it might use as leverage when negotiations begin with the EU. — Reuters

A Middle East peace summit in Paris has re-stated its commitment to a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel. The statement warned against unilateral actions, which was aimed at US President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Neither Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are present, and Netanyahu has criticised the conference as “rigged”. Abbas will meet French officials after the event, while Russia is also hosting separate meetings with Palestinian officials. — BBC/The Guardian

Prison riots in Brazil have left 10 people dead after rival gangs clashed in a jail in the country’s north-east. Brazil has been struggling to curtail violence in its overcrowded incarceration system recently, with 100 people killed in riots earlier this month in separate events. — BBC

WHAT WE’RE READING

As Brexit tremors ripple, the Rock of Gibraltar shudders (The Washington Post): “The negotiations, due to last two years, could leave tiny Gibraltar especially vulnerable. Its residents know this well, and it helps to explain why 96 percent of Gibraltarians who voted in the June referendum opted for “remain.””

Ruqia Hassan: the woman who was killed for telling the truth about Isis (The Guardian): “In her last Facebook post, Hassan wrote: ‘I’m in Raqqa and I received death threats. When Isil arrest me and kill me it’s OK, because [while] they will cut [off] my head I will have dignity, which is better than living in humiliation.'”

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Peter Fray

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