NUMBER TO REMEMBER: SIX

That’s the number of times Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull used the word “sycophant” or “sycophantic” in his excoriating take-down of Labor leader Bill Shorten in Parliament. It was 20 minutes where the PM actually looked alive, exclaiming:

“He is a simpering sycophant, blowing hard in the House of Representatives, sucking hard in the living rooms of Melbourne. What a hypocrite!”

The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy commented:

“Seven months of pure frustration and fury lifted him to his feet. It was a levitation, a daylight miracle. His shoulders squared, rigid, the voice strained as he unleashed on the Labor leader.”

The Oz‘s James Jeffrey writes:

“The atmosphere on the government benches changed so quickly from resigned to surprised to delighted, it’s amazing no one got the bends.”

The Age‘s Tony Wright writes:

“For a fine blazing moment there, Turnbull and the Coalition could forget the insults of President Donald Trump, the betrayal of Cory Bernardi, plunging polls, the harping of media commentators.”

Labor is defending itself by saying the speech will backfire with voters — but they would say that.

WELFARE CUTS HIDDEN IN CHILDCARE BILL

Yesterday started looking positive for the government’s new childcare reform bill, but when news broke that the omnibus bill also included hidden cuts to welfare for young job seekers it didn’t seem so rosy. While the bill would benefit parents using childcare, it would also force young unemployed people to wait four weeks until they could claim a payment, and unemployed people under 25 would only be able to claim Youth Allowance — $45 a week less than Newstart. Crossbench Senator Derryn Hinch told Fran Kelly this morning the government was unlikely to get the whole bill passed.

DUTTON VISA CHECKS LABELLED ‘TRUMP-LIKE’

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is seeking more powers to deport people from Australia, with a bid to be able to review existing visas based on a person’s nationality. Labor has called the powers “Trump-like”, because they could allow the Immigration Minister to target someone to have their visa “revalidated” depending on where they are from. At first Labor supported the changes, but now Labor’s Shayne Neumann says the powers go too far: “The public interest test is undefined, open to broad interpretation and could be abused to pursue a political agenda in the guise of public interest.”

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: The final day of the first sitting week of Parliament; will Turnbull repeat yesterday’s question time theatrics?

Brisbane: Clive Mensink, nephew of Clive Palmer and sole director of Queensland Nickel, is due to appear in the Federal Court today to answer questions over the company’s collapse — but he’s still jetsetting around the world and says liquidators should pay for him to interrupt his holiday.

Sydney: Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe will address the A50 Australian Economic Forum Dinner. As Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer wrote last month:

“Responsibility for economic policy has thus defaulted to the Reserve Bank, whose handling of monetary policy and jawboning on issues like housing are watched with far greater interest by markets than anything from politicians or Treasury.” 

Sydney: NBN Co and Suncorp group will release half-yearly results, and AMP will release full year financial results.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Liberals know Malcolm Turnbull is their best bet — Niki Savva (The Australian $): “Abbott has grown ­nakedly defiant and increasingly confident that he will reclaim the leadership. However, even senior Liberal MPs who were once solid Abbott backers now concede there is no coming back for him.”

Turnbull must be dumped as PM, Liberals turn to the Right — Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun $): “Turnbull clearly cannot do that job. He is a man of the left who is unconvincing even when he tries to do the conservative thing, whether now attacking Labor on its mad green energy schemes or on its refusal to let the public decide whether to allow same sex marriage.”

Look out, the Liberal circus is back in town — James Campbell (Herald Sun $): “Then there’s Peter Dutton … If Turnbull were to go, my money would be on him.”

There’s a way out of Turnbull’s economic problems – not embracing Bernardi — Peter Martin (The Age): “The obvious way out is for the government to borrow itself (using extraordinarily low rates), allocate the money to worthwhile projects pre-identified by Infrastructure Australia, and then farm out the building work to the private sector.”

Donald Trump, you’re wrong: my father’s murder wasn’t the tragedy the world missed — Alpha Cheng (Sydney Morning Herald): “It is clear that the US President gives limited regard to the victims and survivors of these incidents. It is clear that he will use any loose facts and stories to justify an anti-immigration, anti-Muslim and anti-humanity agenda.”

THE WORLD

UN officials have told Reuters that as many as 1000 Rohingya Muslims may have been killed during an ongoing military crackdown in Myanmar. Tens of thousands of Rohingya continue to flee Rakhine state, where they live under apartheid-like conditions, excluded from citizenship and subjected to violence at the hands of police and the army. National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has long been criticised for keeping quiet over anti-Rohingya violence, though her governing party still has little control over the army. — Reuters

Former children’s television host and musician Rolf Harris has been acquitted of three sex assault charges. An English jury cleared Harris of allegations that he groped a blind and disabled woman in 1977, among others, though failed to return a verdict on four other counts. Harris remains in jail over child sex offences of which he was convicted in 2014. His lawyers said they expected him to be released this summer. — BBC

Paris has endured a fourth successive night of anti-police protests and riots after a young man from a public housing estate was allegedly beaten and anally raped with a baton by police. The young man, known as “Theo”, appeared on television with outgoing President Francois Hollande from his hospital bed to appeal for calm, though the torching of cars and bins occurred again last night. — The Guardian

WHAT WE’RE READING

The revolt against the elites (The Weekly Standard): “Even the dull politics of Australia have been in turmoil. Politics in Australia are so dull that the name of the conservative party is the Liberal party. But Australia has had five prime ministers in six years.”

Inside the crash of Fling, the startup whose founder partied on an island while his company burned through $21 million (Business Insider): “Insufficient computing resources weren’t Fling’s only problem. Within weeks of launching, people were using the app to send nude photos and sexual material to strangers.”

Trump’s faux-pas diplomacy (Politico): “As for the calls that did result in leaks or unpleasantries, State Department officials have been struggling to manage the fallout, according to an agency official.”

A crack in an Antarctic ice shelf grew 17 miles in the last two months (New York Times): “Once the crack reaches all the way across the ice shelf, the break will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE 

 

Peter Fray

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