NO WAGE GROWTH ADDS TO JOBS TENSION

Wages fell 0.5% in the three months to December last year, new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show. The Fairfax papers report the sharpest drop in wages in eight years comes at the same time company profits are surging. The figures come while the government is still trying to push through its cuts to the company tax rate, while it is under attack over the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates on Sundays. The Australian reports the CFMEU is going to wage a “WorkChoices” style campaign against the changes to penalty rates, even though its members are not affected by last week’s decision. The government may find itself alone in defending the cuts to penalty rates; the Australian Financial Review reports the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Retailers Association won’t be running campaigns on the issue, even though they supported the decision.

ABBOTT WON’T BE BACK, BUT TURNBULL NOT IN THE CLEAR

Speaking of jobs tension, members of the government have a lot to say about jobs — their own.. Last night on The Bolt Report independent Senator Cory Bernardi said Tony Abbott would be welcomed in his new Australian Conservatives party with a “warm, welcoming embrace”. The AFR‘s Phillip Coorey reports conservative members of the Liberal Party aren’t looking to change leaders back to Abbott, despite damning polling numbers. “We’d be better off losing rather than turf out another leader. It would break the party,” a “senior conservative” is quoted as saying. In the Daily Telegraph, Sharri Markson writes government members are preparing for life in opposition — just eight months after the election. Markson reports that discussions have started around who would be leader and deputy leader of the Liberals in opposition after 2019, with Peter Dutton, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison in the mix.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

People who criticise Centrelink’s debt recovery could have personal information released to ‘correct the record’

QBE chief John Neal’s bonus cut by $550,000 after relationship with secretary

Cambodia cancels counter-terrorism exercise with Australian military saying it’s too busy with elections

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: Parliament sits today, including the second day of Senate estimates hearings. What will really be the topic of discussion is the report into the Racial Discrimination Act, which is due to be released today. It is expected that the report will recommend changing the controversial section 18C of the act, replacing the words “offend, insult, and humiliate” with “harass” and “intimidate” with “vilify”. Section 18C of the act is one of the issues that conservatives in the government have campaigned on, so it isn’t great timing for the prime minister. 

United Kingdom: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will continue hearings. It heard from Australian David Hill yesterday that offenders should be “named and shamed”.

Sydney: Harvey Norman will release its half-yearly results, but without an analyst call. Gerry Harvey told Rear Window it was because “I just got sick of people picking a fight for the sake of picking a fight”.

Melbourne: Embattled baby formula giant Bellamy’s will hold an extraordinary general meeting to hear a call from major shareholder the Black Prince Foundation to ditch some board directors and appoint Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron and others to the board. 

THE COMMENTARIAT  

Turnbull should learn from Labor’s fight plan — Chris Kenny (The Australian $): “Bill Shorten is schooling Malcolm Turnbull in politics. Even without a substantive policy point to give him ballast or intellectual heft he is having a field day.”

Politically, the government seems on a hiding to nothing in the penalty rates battle — Michelle Grattan (The Conversation): “Whenever [the government] tries to neutralise some issue, it puts Shorten in its sights, seeing him (without much evidence these days) as a weak point. If ministers were banned from saying “Shorten” for a week, they’d be struck nearly dumb.”

White-anted Turnbull has no choice: he must buckle to Abbott — Peter Van Onselen (The Australian $): “Whether he adopts ­Abbott’s policy recommendations, promotes him to shut him up or finds some other way to shut down his attacks is for Turnbull to ­decide. But he has to act.”

Malcolm Turnbull must resist a tilt to the right — Craig Emerson (Australian Financial Review $): “If the electorate had truly shifted to the right, why has Labor established such a commanding lead in the polls? It’s not as if Labor has shifted to the right in pursuit of One Nation voters, what with its policies on renewable energy, same-sex marriage, Palestine, penalty rates and putting One Nation last on all how-to-vote cards.”

Catholicism has done more harm to Australia than Islam. Where’s the outrage? — Kristina Keneally (Guardian Australia): “Why isn’t the outrage machine demanding the Catholic prime minister condemn this horrendous and sustained attack on Australians every time the commission hears from another victim of Catholic abuse?”

TODAY IN TRUMP

The Trump administration has outlined some details of its first budget, which is set to include a 10% increase to defence spending, offset by significant cuts to other federal agencies and foreign aid. The President is tasked with sending a budget request to Congress, which is then converted into a set of appropriations bills that must be passed by Congress and agreed to by the White House. Negotiations between Trump and Congress are expected to take several months.

Discussing the budget situation and the prospect of tax cuts, Trump said he would first need to sort out the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, saying that “nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated”.

THE WORLD

Moonlight has won the Oscar for best picture after the award was initially and erroneously handed to the producers of La La Land. A comically error-ridden night climaxed with the La La Land team being invited on stage to collect the award only to be notified the wrong envelope had been opened, forcing them to announce the mistake and then allow the Moonlight crew to replace them. Elsewhere, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, and Australian producer Jan Chapman had her face shown during the “in memoriam” section in spite of the fact she is still alive. Full list of winners here. — New York Times.

The Islamic State-linked terror group Abu Sayyaf has executed a 70-year-old German tourist in the Philippines. Jurgen Kantner was one of 27 hostages currently being held by the group, which has enriched itself though kidnappings and piracy. The group beheaded two Canadian tourists last year. — Reuters

The Israeli air force has bombed five targets in Gaza after a single rocket was fired from the strip on Monday. According to the air force the targets were linked to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the territory. — Haaretz

WHAT WE’RE READING

The big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media (The Observer): “Welcome to the future of journalism in the age of platform capitalism. News organisations have to do a better job of creating new financial models. But in the gaps in between, a determined plutocrat and a brilliant media strategist can, and have, found a way to mould journalism to their own ends.”

How Robert Mugabe ruined Zimbabwe (The Economist): “Zimbabwe once enjoyed an abundance of natural resources, a booming agricultural sector and a wealth of human capital, but over the past 37 years Mr Mugabe has managed to squander nearly all of it.”

Why facts don’t change our minds (The New Yorker): “Stripped of a lot of what might be called cognitive-science-ese, Mercier and Sperber’s argument runs, more or less, as follows: Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to coöperate. Coöperation is difficult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.”

PSV keeper’s own-goal blunder picked up by Hawk-Eye to crush title hopes (The Guardian): “With the score 1-1, Zoet saved a close-range header from the Feyenoord defender Jan-Arie van der Heijden in the 82nd minute, but as he clutched the ball to his chest a screen on the referee Bas Nijhuis’s wrist lit up.”

Targeting a sanctuary (The Intercept): “It is not uncommon for homeless and low-income immigrants to virtually disappear into the U.S.’s immigration detention system. Prisoners are frequently shuffled around between more than 200 detention facilities, the majority of which are run by private companies.” 

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Peter Fray

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