FINALLY, TURNBULL DECLARES DONATION

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull donated $1.75 million to the Liberal Party last year, finally revealing the exact figure after months of speculation and yesterday’s donations dump, which didn’t include the huge figure. In an interview with 7.30‘s Stan Grant, Turnbull finally owned up to the donation, saying he put his money towards ensuring Labor did not win government. “I put my money where my mouth is. I stand up for my values, with the money that I’ve made, the money I’ve paid tax on, and Bill Shorten wants to go after me all the time.”

Turnbull had dodged questions about the donation at the National Press Club earlier in the day, after the Australian Electoral Commission’s annual disclosure didn’t include it. Turnbull confirmed on 7.30 this was because the donation was made in the current financial year. For context, Turnbull’s contribution dwarfs the highest individual political donation revealed in yesterday’s disclosure — $1.3 million from mining magnate Paul Marks.

At the National Press Club yesterday Turnbull said he wouldn’t have objections to updating the donations disclosure system to be more transparent and timely:

“I think you would find that the reason that the donations are disclosed in the way they are is historical and administrative, and obviously in the 21st century, just as with parliamentarians’ expenses, the closer, the more timely any matter of public importance, any – any public information that can be disclosed more promptly or in as close to real-time as possible, should be.”

Labor’s Jim Chalmers has accused Turnbull of buying himself the election:

“I think the Australian people will be shocked by this admission — it stinks. Malcolm Turnbull had to buy his way out of trouble in the dying days of his disastrous election campaign.”

OLD KING COAL IS BACK

While it feels like the rest of the world is moving away from coal, the Australian government is moving in the other direction. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg are are considering constructing new clean coal-fired power plants in order to lower electricity prices. The Australian reports:

“Mr Turnbull and senior ministers, including Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, have been in discussion­s since December on what exceptional measures the commonwealth could take to subsidise new coal-fired generation, as well as provide incentives to the states to lift the moratorium on new gas development, which is also having a crippling impact on reliability and prices.”

Turnbull talked up clean coal and Australia’s interest in it at the Press Club yesterday:

“You’d think if anyone had a vested interest in showing that you could do really smart, clean things with coal it would be us, wouldn’t you? Who has a bigger interest than us? We are the biggest ­exporter. Yet we don’t have one power station that meets those requirements,”

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is on board, saying yesterday the Australian government should pay to build new coal-fired power stations. Meanwhile The Australian Financial Review reports the energy industry is not keen on the idea.

G’DAY MATE, YOU SPEAK AUSTRALIAN?

You flew here, we grew here? A new study by the Pew Research Centre shows most Australians don’t think it is necessary to be born in Australia to be a true Australian. Just 13% of respondents said being born in Australia was important, compared to 69% of Aussies who believe being able to speak English is very important to be considered one of us. The study, called “What it takes to be truly ‘one of us'” measured attitudes across the world, and the results are interesting. While 32% of Americans believe being Christian is important to be one of them, just 13% of Australians thought so. The full study is here.

REWRITING HISTORY

In last night’s interview, Turnbull tried to spin his self-made wealth as an attack on Labor leader Bill Shorten:

“He says I’m Mr Harbourside Mansion. Let me tell you this, Stan, I do live with Lucy in a nice house on the water in Sydney. Yes, we do. And we paid for. We pay the expenses on it. We pay – that’s our house. Bill Shorten wants to live in a harbourside mansion for which every expanse is paid for by the taxpayer. That’s the big difference.”

The problem is, it wasn’t Shorten who first labelled Turnbull Mr Harbourside Mansion, it was Peta Credlin

WHAT’S ON TODAY

London: the jury in the trial of Rolf Harris has retired to consider its verdict. Harris is on trial for charges of indecent assault.

Gold Coast: Trade and Tourism Minister Steve Ciobo will launch a new children’s book, Sandy’s Surfer’s Paradise Adventure, at a local school. The book will become part of the school curriculum at schools in Queensland.

Melbourne: Queensland MP Bob Katter will address the Melbourne Press Club today. Do they know what they are in for?

Shepparton: The Senate Inquiry into the Australian Dairy Industry will hold a public hearing in the major dairy town today. Former Muray Goulburn boss Gary Helou appeared via video link at the inquiry yesterday, telling senators he hadn’t misled farmers over the milk price. Today the committee will hear from various farmers organisations.

Napier, New Zealand: Australia is set to take on New Zealand in the second one-day match against the black caps. Rain is forecast, though, so it’s unclear how much cricket will actually be played. 

THE COMMENTARIAT

Malcolm Turnbull, the incredible shrinking PM, goes mute on Pauline Hanson — Katharine Murphy (Guardian Australia): “Last May, Pauline Hanson was, according to Malcolm Turnbull, ‘not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene.’ Presumably that’s a true expression of his actual view. But realpolitik means you have to mute your values.”

Malcolm Turnbull’s coal embrace will leave critics cold — Phillip Coorey (Australian Financial Review $): “Politically, it’s another example of how even if he is genuinely being pragmatic, as he insists, those who do not like him will believe the worst and cite it as yet another example of the Turnbull not being the man he once was.”

Hey, lawmakers, blaming the homeless is stupid, wrong and won’t fix anything — Michael Short (The Age): “Homelessness is not a crime, and it’s not a political issue. It’s a human and social issue, but has been turned into a political football by knaves and fools.”

Here is a failsafe proposal to slash health costs: start spending now — Tony Cunningham (The Australian $): “Deloitte ­Access Economics has calculated that investing in health and medical research delivers at least a $3 return for every dollar invested. This return comes from improved diagnostics, new drugs and other treatments, vaccines and the evidence needed to give effective ­advice on how to prevent medical conditions from occurring in the first place.”

Section 18C: a bad law that finds racism where there is none — Jacinta Nampijinpa Price (The Australian): “If you criticise Islam, you risk a threat to your life. If you criticise Aboriginal people in any way, shape or form, you are labelled a racist or bigot if you are white. You may also risk a threat to your life if you are Aboriginal like me.”

THE WORLD

Donald Trump has announced Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee to fill the seat on the US Supreme Court vacated after the death of Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is considered a strongly conservative ideologue but has a solid reputation as a thoughtful and eloquent jurist. After Republicans in the Senate obstructed Barack Obama’s pick for the position, Democrats and liberal groups are considering a protracted fight to keep Gorsuch out. Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer indicated his side would filibuster, a move that would force Republicans to pinch eight Democratic votes in the Senate in order to confirm their pick. — New York Times

Two former cyber-security experts from Russia’s FSB intelligence agency and an executive from a software company have been charged with treason and face allegations that they worked for US interests. Russia does not publicly release the details of allegations in such cases, but rumours are swirling that the men are linked either to efforts to hack US voting systems or are tied to a group that gathers and releases unflattering information on Russian politicians. — BBC

The presidential ambitions of French Republican nominee Francois Fillon are now hanging by a thread. Fillon had been the frontrunner until allegations emerged that he had given his wife a fake job in his parliamentary office. French television news and callback radio continue to be dominated by the scandal, and some of Fillon’s own party members are now speaking out against him. Facing calls for his resignation, Fillon has denounced the campaign against him as a left-wing “coup d’etat”. — BBC

New United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a statement criticising countries that practice discriminatory border policies and undermine refugee protection programs. The former UN High Commissioner for Refugees did not name US President Donald Trump, but he appeared to be responding to his recent executive orders. Guterres noted that states had the right to manage their borders in order to prevent terrorist infiltration but also said discriminating on the basis of religion, ethnicity or nationality was unprincipled and could enable terrorist propaganda. — The Guardian

WHAT WE’RE READING

Shrinks battle over diagnosing Donald Trump (Psychology Today): “Can Donald Trump or any public figure be deemed to have mental illness, even based on specific, well-publicized criteria reflecting observable behavior? Is it ethical or appropriate for mental health professionals to venture into public acts of diagnosis?”

Sweet death: how the sugar industry created a global crisis (New Statesman): “It might be difficult to understand how, in a scientific age, this has been allowed to happen. The simple answer is that the science can never be conclusive enough. Those who do not want to believe it, for ideological or economic reasons, can excuse themselves.”

The desperate battle to destroy ISIS (The New Yorker): “Of the forty-odd men who’d been in Intisar, twenty-two had been seriously injured and two killed. Nearly everyone else was hurt to some degree. Four of the swat team’s seven Humvees had been destroyed and abandoned on the battlefield. Two others were out of commission. Later that night, I met Rayyan in the house where he was staying, by himself. His eyes downcast, his voice almost a whisper, he said, “They defeated us.””

5 key cases to understanding Neil Gorsuch (Politico): “One area where Gorsuch might break with the high court’s other GOP appointees is on criminal justice. Just last year, Gorsuch questioned why a seventh-grader accused of disrupting his gym class with fake burping sounds was arrested by a school resource officer and charged with a petty misdemeanor.”

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Peter Fray

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