TERRORISM ARREST IN YOUNG

A 42-year-old electrician in the rural NSW town of Young has been arrested on two foreign incursion charges and is accused of assisting Islamic State (also known as ISIL) by allegedly designing missile systems and missile detection system.

  • Haisem Zahab appeared in the Young Local Court yesterday after his house was raided by the Australian Federal Police. He was refused bail and will next appear in court on March 8 in Sydney;
  • AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said: “We will also allege that he has been researching, designing and modelling systems to assist ISIL’s efforts to develop their own long-range guided missile capabilities”;
  • The offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment;
  • His uncle Hicham Zahab has previously been named by the AFP as allegedly sending funds to IS; and
  • A moment in the Oz’s James Jeffrey‘s sketch of yesterday’s question time: “Justice Minister ­Michael Keenan approached Malcolm Turnbull with a piece of paper, which the Prime Minister duly read then tore into tiny pieces but didn’t bin.”

SECTION 18C (AND ARGUMENTS ABOUT IT) TO STAY FOR NOW

The government’s report into section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has failed to recommend removing the words “offend” and “insult”, meaning Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will continue to face calls from conservative MPs in the Coalition to remove the words. The joint committee did make 22 other recommendations, including changes to how the Australian Human Rights Commission deals with cases to speed up the process. The usual suspects — Senator Eric Abetz, Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm, and the Institute of Public Affairs — have lined up to criticise the report and call for changes. One Liberal MP who is not in favour of changes is David Coleman. He told the ABC people in his diverse electorate of Banks didn’t want the law changed: “I am of the view that the law has been in place for more than 20 years, I think that it has worked effectively in defending against racial discrimination.”

CHRISTENSEN WHIPPED

Tomorrow will be Queensland MP George Christensen‘s last day as the Nationals Whip, after he handed in his resignation from the role yesterday. Christensen, who has been outspoken on the need for a royal commission into the banking sector and issues in the sugar industry, said: “I realised my constant outspokenness was incompatible with the position in the long term. It was my decision alone, and I wasn’t pushed.”

He told Sky News: “It’s not my intention to leave the National Party, it’s not my intention to leave the government.”

DID HE REALLY SAY THAT?

“If you had a choice you’d say don’t let them in.” That’s Gerry Harvey in an interview with news.com.au on the prospect of Amazon setting up shop in Australia. He thinks the online retailer should be blocked from coming to Australia: “like Donald Trump not letting the Muslims in”. Yes, really.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Packer cashes in chips on sport stars, yacht

Baird throws down gauntlet to nation’s corporate bosses

CBA scandal ‘not systemic’

WHAT’S ON TODAY

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release the gross domestic product (GDP) figures today, and if Australia records another quarter where the economy goes backwards, we would be in a technical recession (this is unlikely to happen). The ABC has a good explainer here.

Canberra: Parliament sits today, including Senate estimates hearings. Yesterday Senate committees heard ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie doesn’t believe it’s her job to advocate for ABC funding, Australia Post’s Ahmed Fahour had a dig at Pauline Hanson and Senator Eric Abetz took issue with rainbow flags.

Washington DC: US President Donald Trump will address Congress for the first time, set to begin at 1pm AEDT. The Guardian reports Trump will include a list of the promises he has made and kept in his first 40 days in the job. Politico has this list of five things to watch for in the speech.

Sydney: A public memorial service will be held to remember former Wallabies, Brumbies and NSW Waratahs lock Dan Vickerman.

Melbourne: AFL boss Gillon McLachlan will address the Melbourne Press Club. 

THE COMMENTARIAT  

Beware the dangers of Shorten-led left-wing populism — Paul Kelly (The Australian $): “Left populism knows what it wants and it has a leader — Bill Shorten, smart and opportunistic. Left populism has respectability, unlike Right populism, and it has the discipline to reap the dividends from the self-destruction of the Right.”

As the Liberal Party continues to fracture, we may be watching its demise — James Walter (Sydney Morning Herald): “Any new leader would need to be a master tactician and negotiator without peer to achieve consensus across this morass. No one currently in the ranks demonstrates such skills. And a return to Abbott or any of his ilk guarantees electoral oblivion. We may be witnessing the end of a once great party.”

Divisions in the Coalition now plain for all to see — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian $): “Turnbull’s colleagues have failed him dismally as they continue to fight over changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and did not even produce a coherent, face-saving Coalition minority report that could form a considered government position.”

The sad truth about education: it’s easier to blame someone else than fix the problem — Ross Gittins (Sydney Morning Herald): “The truth is that we haven’t been spending a lot more in recent times but, in any case, much of what we have been spending hasn’t been spent effectively. Between the federal and state governments, we’ve given more to advantaged schools than don’t need it, at the expense of disadvantaged schools that do need it.”

THE WORLD

Russia has used its veto power to defeat a UN Security Council resolution proposing sanctions on the Syrian government over alleged chemical weapons attacks. A report conducted by the UN found the Syrian government had used chlorine gas on three occasions and accused Islamic State militants of using mustard gas. The US voted in favour of the resolution, which would have blocked helicopter sales and frozen some Syrian assets, leading to a war of words between US and Russian representatives. — Reuters

A report by Israel’s state comptroller has painted an unflattering picture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s leadership during the 2014 war in Gaza, dubbed “Protective Edge”.  The report said little planning went into the operation before it began and that diplomatic alternatives were not considered. During the conflict, about 2100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed. — Bloomberg

Members of the Colombian Marxist group FARC will begin the process of disarmament this week. Almost 7000 former militants have now moved into UN safe zones and will begin handing over their weapons, a process that is expected to be completed by June. — Reuters

A sniper has accidentally fired on a crowd gathered to watch French President Francois Hollande open a new stretch of railway. A waiter and another worker at the event were hit when the weapon was accidentally discharged by a police officer posted on a building. Neither of those struck was fatally wounded. — BBC

WHAT WE’RE READING

Will democracy survive big data and artificial intelligence? (Scientific American): “Big data, artificial intelligence, cybernetics and behavioural economics are shaping our society — for better or worse. If such widespread technologies are not compatible with our society’s core values, sooner or later they will cause extensive damage.”

Mem Fox on being detained by US immigration: ‘In that moment I loathed America’ (Guardian Australia): “I loathed the entire country.”

Meet Donald Trump’s propagandist (Spiegel Online): “He piles up food onto a plastic plate, and then he suddenly takes off his shirt without explanation. With his bare torso, he sits there and shovels meat into his mouth, a caricature of manliness, but also a show of power to the reporter sitting in front of him. He can do as he pleases. Then Jones gets up and holds out a sausage. “Wanna suck?” he asks.”

JPMorgan software does in seconds what took lawyers 360,000 hours (Bloomberg): “The program, called COIN, for Contract Intelligence, does the mind-numbing job of interpreting commercial-loan agreements that, until the project went online in June, consumed 360,000 hours of work each year by lawyers and loan officers. The software reviews documents in seconds, is less error-prone and never asks for vacation.”

Mysterious wave of death strikes the Bahamas’ famous swimming pigs (Washington Post): “When fears about the cataclysmic Y2K millennium bug reached a fever pitch in the late 1990s, two farmers, fearing that food supplies would crash along with computers, bought the pigs and raised them on the island.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

Support journalism that makes things better, not worse.

Rupert Murdoch had never had a US president in his pocket before Donald Trump landed there in 2016.

This week, we explored the relationship between the two men and why Murdoch should be held to account for the making of Trump.

Where do you start with dismantling the media empire that delivered us a phenomenon like Trump?

Here’s one thing you can do: Support the journalism that makes things better, not worse.

Subscribe to Crikey today with the promo code MADEMEN and get 50% off an annual membership.

Hurry, 48 hours only.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW