SEE YOU LATER, 18C?

The Liberal party room has overwhelmingly backed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s plan to alter section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. Turnbull yesterday won approval to move forward with legislation removing the words “insult, offend and ­humiliate” and replace them with “harass or intimidate”.

The PM has two problems, however. The first is pressure from ethnic groups, who have come out against the changes. The second is that he faces opposition from Nick Xenophon‘s key voting block in the senate. Xenophon could back changes to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s complaints process but has indicated he will oppose the “offend, insult and humiliate” change.

SYRIANS GET VISAS, MIGRANTS TO GO REGIONAL

The federal government is working on a plan to divert migrants away from Sydney and towards regional centres. Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke dubbed the plan a “key priority” and positioned it alongside the government’s newfound enthusiasm for easing the pressure on housing prices. The Daily Telegraph also reports all 12,000 visas put aside for Syrian refugees have now been issued with the majority of those resettled understood to be living in New South Wales.

PETER DUTTON A FIGHTER … AND A LOVER

After telling CEOs to “stick to their knitting” instead of speaking out in favour of marriage equality, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been outed as part of a push to deal with same sex marriage during the current term of parliament. A Fairfax report today says Dutton has joined forces with fellow conservative Minister Mathias Cormann to establish a postal vote plebiscite. This form of a plebiscite would not need to be established by a parliamentary vote, freeing the Coalition to keep its election promise and clear the issue from the agenda.

GILLARD GETS NEW ROLE

Former prime minster Julia Gillard is set to become the first ex-prime minister since Malcolm Fraser to head up a not-for-profit group. Gillard will serve as chairwoman of mental health group Beyond Blue, taking over from former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett who described the handover as “the sweetest baton of all time.”

CHINA EXPORTS TO BEEF UP

Beef exporters are expected to be among the winners when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Australia this week along with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and a 100-strong delegation from China. The Australian reports the number of beef producers licensed to export to China will be increased. In an opinion piece published in the same paper, Premier Li warned that the isolationist policies of the past had caused “untold suffering”.

NUMBER TO REMEMBER: 33

That’s how many Australians made this year’s list of international billionaires, compiled by Forbes magazine. The highest ranked Aussie billionaire battler was Gina Rinehart, coming in at No 69 with an estimated wealth of $US 15 billion.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives tonight with a delegation of 100 leaders from China for talks on trade, global instability, and key regional questions.

Canberra: PM Malcolm Turnbull will give an address at the Australian Migration Settlement Awards at Parliament House where he is expected to discuss the ongoing resettlement of 12,000 Syrian refugees.

Washington, DC: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in the US for talks on ISIS, and will meet US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Canberra: Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos will address the National Press Club.

THE COMMENTARIAT

It’s hard to keep reading when bad news stacks up — Alan Stokes (The Age): “The landmark research on too much bad news turns 21 this year. In 1996 Kinnick, Krugman and Cameron drew on the 1957 idea that media ‘narcotises dysfunction’ by exposing people to so many social problems that they become addicted to the knowledge and believe talking about the issues  is enough to fix them. In short, apathy by media overdose.”  

18C: Turnbull nails flag to freedom’s mast — Paul Kelly ( The Australian): “The problem for Labor and Nick Xenophon if they reject all these changes to the wording of the act is that they highlight the fact the current law is flawed and that they don’t want the law to say the test is Australian community standards. Good luck with that position in public forums.”

500 years after Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, what have we learned? — Desmond Manderson (The Sydney Morning Herald): “On the 500th anniversary of More’s little book, the time has surely come to take some risks. The goal will not be to find a utopia that everyone can agree on. On the contrary, More’s imaginary world was designed to place in stark relief the failures and the betrayals of the world as it actually existed. Utopia is u-topos — no place.”

Enjoying freedoms of which millions can only dream — Caroline Overington (The Australian): “They don’t come for the beaches or for the babes. No, the reason Australia ranks No 1 in the world as a place to live — or at least 20 points higher than, say, China — is that Australians are protected in all their endeavours by an intricate, invisible structure of rights, including, but not limited to, freedom of religion and assembly; the presumption of innocence; the separation of powers; an independent judiciary; and the inalienable right of a cartoonist to both shine a light, and poke the bear.” 

THE WORLD 

French Interior Minister, Bruno Le Roux has resigned following an investigation into whether he provided his daughters with “fake jobs”.  Le Roux has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and says he is resigning so as not to “undermine the business of Government”. Employing family members is a lawful and fairly common practice in France’s National Assembly. However, it was alleged that contracts issued to Le Roux’s daughters coincided with an internship and a pre-study course. Le Roux insisted all the work they were paid for was completed. — BBC

Syrian rebel groups have launched a second attack on north-eastern Jobar district of Damascus in three days. A spokesman for rebel group Failaq al-Rahman — who are fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army and al-Qaeda affiliate Tahir al-Sham — told Reuters: “We launched the new offensive and we restored all the points we withdrew from on Monday.” The attack is seen as an attempt to relieve pressure on the rebel groups brought on by the siege tactics and increased bombardment employed by Government forces in recent weeks. — Al Jazeera

The tomb in which Jesus Christ’s body is believed to have been interred following his cruxifiction is to be unveiled in Jerusalem’s Old City today. The sacred Christian monument underwent a nine month, $4 million restoration by roughly 50 conservators from the National Technical University of Athens. The unveiling will be attended by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, and a representative of Pope Francis. — The Guardian

TODAY IN TRUMP

The Donald Trump administration has issued strict new security measures on nine airlines operating out of ten airports in North Africa and the Middle East, banning electronic devices such as laptops and tablets (essentially, anything larger than a smart phone) in their cabins.  Such items will have to be stored in checked luggage. The ban, again aimed at Muslim majority countries has been criticised by travel industry groups over a lack of detail and clarity. US Travel Association executive vice president Jonathan Grella issued a statement asking that authorities “clearly and quickly [articulate] the details of the new policy to enforcement personnel and the flying public.” The UK government issued similar restrictions within hours.

Meanwhile, Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme court has told his Senate confirmation hearing that no one (including the President) is above the law. Gorsuch insisted further that no one had asked for any promises as to how he would rule on contentious topics and if he had been asked to overturn the Roe V Wade abortion ruling during his interview, he would have “walked out”.

WHAT WE’RE READING

The multi billion-dollar spy agency you haven’t heard of (Foreign Policy): “Few civilians have any idea how advanced these military eye-in-the-sky drones have become. Among them is ARGUS-IS, the world’s highest-resolution camera with 1.8 billion pixels. Invisible from the ground at nearly four miles in the air, it uses a technology known as “persistent stare” — the equivalent of 100 Predator drones peering down at a medium-size city at once — to track everything that moves.”

These parrots can make other parrots ‘laugh’ (National Geographic): “Forget the  laughing kookaburra — kea are the birds that really tickle each other’s funny bones.The highly intelligent parrot has a specific call, that — like human laughter — puts other parrots that hear it in a good mood. This makes the kea the first known non-mammal to show contagious emotion, joining the ranks of humans, rats, and chimpanzees.”

What happened to Ivanka? The liberal hope of the Trump administration remains silent (Los Angeles Times): “Although friends described her core beliefs as more in tune with the Democratic Party, Ivanka appears to have put family loyalty to her father above her own political views … While she may have softened President Trump’s stance on equal pay for women and childcare for working mothers, he has pushed ahead with hard-line conservative measures on immigration, the environment and domestic spending, leaving liberals feeling betrayed.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

 

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW