WHAT’S ON TODAY

Los Angeles: Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will signal to new US President Donald Trump that Australia wants the US to play a role in Asia in an address in the US this morning.

“Australia believes that now is the time for the United States to go beyond its current engagement in Asia, to support Asia’s own peace, and to capitalise on the era of opportunity that long-term US investment has already created,” she will say in a speech at the US-Australian Dialogue event as part of the G’Day USA program.

London: Treasurer Scott Morrison is also on the international speaking circuit today, but he will be focusing on tax cuts, telling British business leaders Australia risks being left behind by the country’s company tax rate. Morrison will use the precedent set by Britain, which cut its own company tax rate to 20% as part of his continued push to drop Australia’s company tax rate to 25%. 

PerthRod Culleton is back in court today, this time appealing his bankruptcy declaration in a bid to stay on in Parliament. In an interview with Farm Online, Culleton accused Senate President Stephen Parry of acting prematurely in declaring his time as a senator was over: “To me Senator Parry has clearly jumped the gun — it’s very public now — he’s mucked up the pH in my swimming pool.”

“His pH has fouled the water of my swimming pool — it’s become very acidic.”

Melbourne: The finals of the Australian Open are almost a blast from the past, with Rafael Nadal taking on Grigor Dimitrov in order to set up a final against Roger Federer on Sunday night. Meanwhile on the women’s side of the draw, Venus Williams saw off Coco Vandeweghe and will take on her sister Serena in the women’s final on Saturday night.

Tomorrow marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, heralding the Year of the Rooster.

GREENS SEE RED

In an exclusive report in the Fairfax papers, tensions between factions in the Greens have been laid bare, with NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon saying: “The Bernie Sanders experience in the US shows that people with radical and anti-establishment policies can win mass support. How the Greens inspire people to join with us and vote for us is our challenge in 2017.”

Former party leader Bob Brown has hit back at Rhiannon, saying “When it comes to political white-anting, Lee is the Greens’ version of Tony Abbott.”

Factionalism in the NSW Greens has been bubbling along for months, and the divisions spilling into the front pages is not a positive sign for the leadership of Richard Di Natale.

THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO A SCIENCE LAB

Headlines across the media today breathlessly report that scientists have grown an embryo that is part-pig, part-human, with hopes it could lead to growing human organs for transplants inside other animals. Science Magazine says the research breakthrough doesn’t herald unbridled good news — it actually shows that growing organs in large animals is a long way off.

 

THE COMMENTARIAT

Two more years of Shorten negativism puts him at high risk — Peter Van Onselen (The Australian $): “The last thing we want or need is another new PM who, like the dog that catches the car, wins office but doesn’t know what to do next.”

Donald Trump: Time to rise above[] — John Hewson (Sydney Morning Herald): “The electorate will cut Turnbull a lot of slack, if he is prepared to lead, to set a clear, realistic, deliverable, policy agenda, and be seen to be working to deliver.”

Small business doing it tough, big-time — Tom Elliott (Herald Sun $): “Alcoa’s name is an acronym for “ALuminium Company Of America”. It is foreign-owned. As a result, the hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds we give it to remain open are exported to shareholders overseas. Apart from subsidising jobs in Portland, how can such generosity benefit the rest of us?”

THE WORLD

The European Union is pushing ahead with plans to establish migrant camps in Africa and send people back to the continent before they have can make claims for asylum. The plan presents enormous difficulties given the lawless state of Libya, where the UN-backed government exerts little control. Most of the people crossing from Libya to Europe by boat are believed to have little chance at being granted asylum, and 4500 drowned during attempted crossings last year. — Reuters

The President of Mexico has cancelled a visit to the US after President Donald Trump‘s tweets about building a wall between the two countries. Enrique Pena Nieto announced the change in plans via Twitter, but Trump claimed the decision not to meet was mutual. Nieto says Mexico will not pay for the wall to be built, even though Trump continues to say the neighbouring country will be made to pay the US back somehow. “I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form,” he said in a television interview. — The Guardian

French prosecutors have opened an inquiry into Francois Fillon, the man most likely to prevent far-right leader Marine Le Pen from winning the country’s presidential election later this year. The inquiry started after a newspaper reported Fillon’s wife had received a salary for working as a staff member in his parliamentary office but that she had not completed any work. A member of the right-wing Republican Party, Fillon’s scandal-free image had been his major asset. — Reuters

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has updated its famous Doomsday Clock, adjusting the time to two and a half minutes to midnight. The clock is now the closest to midnight it has been since 1953, when the US and Soviet Union tested their first thermonuclear weapons. In explaining the decision, members of the organisation cited the lack of action on climate change, worsening relations between Russia and the US, the ongoing armament of countries like Pakistan, India, and North Korea, and the presidency of Donald Trump. — New York Times

WHAT WE’RE READING

Peter’s Choice: I asked my student why he voted for Trump. The answer was thoughtful, smart, and terrifying (Mother Jones): “Liberals must listen to and understand Trump supporters. But what you end up understanding from even the sweetest among them still might chill you to the bone.”

I tried moving to the country. Now I spend the savings travelling to Sydney (Guardian Australia): “You don’t so much move to Sydney as get funnelled there. In some industries, a stint in Sydney is almost impossible to avoid.”

How Heywood Hill, the most beloved bookshop in London, is surviving in the digital age (Vanity Fair): “Heywood Hill is now assembling libraries at the rate of one or two a month. It could be for a school (‘300 books that every intelligent teenager should read’), or for the VistaJet founder Thomas Flohr and his daughter, Nina, who commissioned a 4,000-volume library devoted to 20th-century art and design for their Swiss chalet.”

Busting black myths: the truth about our first peoples (New Matilda): “There is a growing body of evidence that Aboriginal people could have been the first astronomers, gazing into the night sky and entwining their science with their daily lives. They used the night sky for navigation, and to chart the seasons, to determine when was best to plant and harvest.”

Why Russia is about to decriminalise wife-beating (The Economist): “Some of the opposition to domestic-violence laws stems from a rational fear of allowing Russia’s corrupt police and judiciary more power over family life.”

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Peter Fray

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