CATASTROPHE AND A POLICY RETHINK: THE LATEST IN ENERGY

Is Australia heading for an “energy catastrophe”? BlueScope Steel chief Paul O’Malley says we are, with high prices and unreliable supply creating issues for businesses. As part of the steel giant’s financial briefing yesterday, O’Malley told analysts “without energy security jobs are going to leave the country in droves”. The Australian reports O’Malley saying: “We’ve been trying to call this out for five years, about gas supply shortfalls, and it’s real now; we’ve been calling out issues around a lack of planning on power, and it’s real now.”

In other energy news, Fairfax reports Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said a speech yesterday consumers were taking control of their own energy sources and energy prices were going up, even with the repeal of the carbon tax (which Peta Credlin admitted last week was never a tax in the first place).

MS BISHOP GOES TO WASHINGTON

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has traded North Korea’s demilitarised zone for Washington, travelling to the US capital for meetings with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in what Fairfax’s Daniel Flitton writes will be a “closely scrutinised” visit following recent controversies in relations between Australia and the US. “Questions will undoubtedly be raised over whether Australia is acting in response to Mr Trump‘s outrage over the refugee deal,” he writes.

SCOMO’S BANKS AND BLIGH DUMMY SPIT

It’s a tantrum that will barely rate around most water coolers, but it is the talk of the town in Canberra and at the big banks. Treasurer Scott Morrison says he won’t deal with the new chief of the Australian Bankers’ Association Anna Bligh, choosing to bypass the former Labor Queensland premier and speak directly to bosses of the big four banks. Morrison denied to broadcaster Ray Hadley yesterday that he had cancelled meetings with the banks (although his staff have cancelled meetings), and Jennifer Hewett writes in the AFR “while the Government’s public show of temper is typical of its increasingly strained relations with the banks, it also shows excessive political short-sightedness”. It’s been reported that Morrison’s communications director, Sasha Grebe, applied for Bligh’s job, and Grebe resigned from Morrison’s office on Sunday. As the Oz‘s Richard Gluyas writes, “Canberra should really get a grip”.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Seven West and Amber Harrison will have their day in court, with the media company seeking to gag Harrison and prevent further releases of embarrassing documents over Twitter. The News Corp tabloids papped Harrison in Melbourne yesterday, writing: “Ms Harrison is now unemployed and receiving financial help from her family after leaving her job and going public with details of alleged drug-fuelled romps with Seven CEO Tim Worner.” Harrison is not expected to appear in court, although Seven is lawyering up. Meanwhile, some who have been in Worner’s position have offered some pertinent advice.

Sydney: Fairfax will release its half-yearly financial results this morning, with reports speculating the company will announce the spin-off of real estate arm Domain. The company has been brushing off rumours of selling off Domain for years, but is this really it?

Brisbane: Nephew of Clive Palmer and sole director of Queensland Nickel at the time of its collapse Clive Mensink will face court today. As reported in The Australian, it’s been a long time coming, with Mensink enjoying luxurious travel while the court chased him in order to grill him on the company’s collapse, which led to 800 job losses.

Canberra: Former Defence Chief Angus Houston and Professor Rory Medcalf will address the National Press Club today on the future of Australia’s relationship with the US. In a preview of the speech published in the Australian Financial Review, they say “now is not the time for Australian policy makers to change ANZUS or imply that we are ready to move away from the alliance”.

Melbourne: BHP Biliton will release its half-year financial results.

Bali, Indonesia: The prosecution in the case of Australian Sara Connor and her British partner, David Taylor, accused of murdering an Indonesian policeman, is expected to outline what sentence they want in the case. The ABC has more detail on what to expect today.

THE COMMENTARIAT 

Rosie Batty says she ‘can’t get through to George Brandis’ — Jenna Price (Canberra Times): “And as for Attorney-General George Brandis, who has overarching control of funding for legal organisations that work to prevent more violence and more chaos, [Rosie Batty] has nothing, no way of making an impact on him.”

Why Australia needs to move to fixed four-year terms for the federal Parliament — David Coleman (Sydney Morning Herald): “These short terms are out of step with the rest of the world. Most democracies elect their parliaments for four or five years – only a very small number have unfixed three-year terms.”

SBS campaign — Face Up to Racism — makes assumptions that insult Australians — Susie O’Brien (Herald Sun $): “I, for one, don’t particularly welcome the idea that I’m not only bigoted but dumb as well. Apparently, I’m too dim to know how racist I am.” 

TODAY IN TRUMP

US Vice-President Mike Pence has told European leaders they must contribute more to their defence budgets but that the US remains committed to NATO. Pence has been meeting with leaders of NATO and the European Council, who said they were encouraged by the talks but are reportedly anxious to hear the same sentiments expressed directly by President Donald Trump. In Iraq, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis assured the Middle Eastern nation the US military was not there “to seize anybody’s oil”. And Trump has chosen Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser, after previous nominee Mike Flynn was forced out following revelations of accusations of domestic violence. — BBC / Reuters / New York Times

THE WORLD

Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has survived an attack on his convoy in Tripoli. No casualties were suffered after unidentified gunmen opened fire on the UN-backed leader. Based in Tripoli, al-Sarraj’s government has struggled to assert control over large parts of the country. — Al Jazeera

French police have raided the offices of far-right party Front National as part of an investigation into the misuse of European funds. Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is accused of using funds designated for assistants to pay her bodyguard and has refused to pay the money back outright. Le Pen leads rival contenders Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron in a recent poll, though the same survey indicated one of the pair would go on to beat her in a second round run-off. — The Guardian

Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali has implored the world to address Myanmar’s mistreatment of the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group. Around 270,000 refugees have been forced to flee to Bangladesh, and Ali’s call was echoed by Norwegian counterpart Borge Brende, who is currently visiting the country. — Reuters

Brazilian football superstar Neymar will stand trial on corruption charges. Prosecutors are seeking a punishment of up to two years jail for the forward, alleging the true cost of his transfer to the Spanish club Barcelona was hidden and that a company that owned part of the rights to the deal was underpaid. Even if Neymar is convicted he is unlikely to spend and time in prison. — ESPN

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Enemy of the status quo (Slate): “Social media has a very specific impact: It weakens the power of insiders and strengthens the power of outsiders. As a result, it favors change over stability—and constitutes a big, new threat to political systems that have long seemed immutable.”

Australia’s new normal … as city temperatures hit 47C people shelter from the deadly heat (The Guardian): “In the Australian Arms Hotel, where the only women present are those working behind the bar, dozens of men are cooling off after a day’s work. Brian, a big, taciturn Englishman with a beer belly and a long bushranger beard, is a fan of the Australian climate, but the heatwave has forced him to revise his position somewhat.”

In Trump’s volleys, echoes of Alex Jones’s conspiracy theories (New York Times): “Mr. Jones, 43, has been around for a while. Like every media outfit in the Trump era, his platforms have gotten record traffic and, he told me last week, seen increases in revenue, with ads for water purification systems and for supplements to enhance “brain force” and virility.”

Anthony Bourdain’s moveable feast (New Yorker): “In Hanoi, one of Obama’s staffers told him that, until the episode aired, some people in the White House had been unaware of the extent of the unexploded-ordnance problem in Laos.”

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Peter Fray

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