LATE NIGHT IN SENATE BUT NO WINS FOR GOVERNMENT

The Senate sat late into the night debating changes to the section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which were ultimately voted down. The words “offend, insult or humiliate” won’t be replaced by “harass” after Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon team and Jacqui Lambie defeated the government’s changes. There are reports that the government is likely to be more successful in legislating changes to the Australian Human Rights Commission and its processes when dealing with complaints under section 18C. After years of debate over the issue, Labor’s Sam Dastyari accused the government of filibustering on the issue. “Let’s just be clear what’s going on here,” he said. “It’s 11.30pm — you still don’t have a deal.”

Attorney-General George Brandis described it a “sad day”, Tony Burke said it was a win for “anyone who has experienced racism”, and Conservative Senator Cory Bernardi claimed a conspiracy, arguing Labor and the Coalition might have worked together to draft a poorly drafted law that was doomed to failure.

Senators will have to front up again this morning, with the government determined to pass its cut to the company tax rate before the May budget — and again the government is not guaranteed the numbers it needs. The Guardian reports Nick Xenophon says he will only support the cut for businesses with annual turnover up to $10 million, while One Nation and Derryn Hinch have been convinced to support cuts for businesses with annual turnover up to $50 million. The government’s original plan was for the tax cut to eventually apply to all companies.

DEBBIE NOT DONE WITH US

Tropical Cyclone Debbie isn’t done with the east coast of Australia just yet. After battering towns like Bowen in North Queensland, the storm system, now known as ex-cyclone Debbie, is bringing torrential rain further south in Queensland and even down to northern New South Wales. Residents of Lismore were told in the early hours of this morning to evacuate immediately, with the SES saying the situation is serious as the floodwaters look set to break the town’s levee. In Queensland an emergency alert has been issued for the Logan river, while 90,000 properties remain without power in the south-east of the state. The ABC is live-blogging during the day.

BISHOP V BACKENCHERS

After she was left out in the cold on the China extradition treaty by her parliamentary colleagues, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has lashed out at backbenchers, telling Fairfax: “If we are going to say these safeguards are worthless, that means we will never have an extradition treaty that doesn’t have the same legal system as our western democracy.” Bishop says Australia would still have the ability to say no to China if, for example, the death penalty were involved in a request for extradition. The Foreign Minister also indicated she would have talks with Labor on the issue. 

WHEN YOU SAY NOTHING AT ALL

“Oh dear…” That’s 3AW’s Neil Mitchell as he realised Employment Minister Michaelia Cash wouldn’t be able to explain how the government had come to the figure that many people on low incomes lived in high-income households, or just how many people that was.

NEW COP, NEW CROOK

New South Wales officially has a new top cop and a new top crook.

Former Labor state minister, famed glutton and lover of suckling pig Ian Macdonald has been convicted of public misconduct. The verdict comes on the back of a corruption finding by NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) relating to the granting of a mining licence to former CFMEU boss John Maitland. While a minister, Macdonald ran up thousands of dollars of spending on the public purse, including a $6000 honeymoon with his third wife.

Now on bail, Macdonald will be sentenced in May.

On the other side of the scales of justice, Mick Fuller has been named as the state’s new top cop. Fuller has vowed to curb infighting that has plagued the senior levels of the NSW force in recent years.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Morwell: It’s the last day for workers at the Hazelwood power station, after the gradual shutdown of the station’s eight boilers earlier this week. The Herald Sun reports union representatives will be on site today, as well as an AC/DC cover band.

Darwin: The Royal Commission into Child Detention and Protection in the Northern Territory will release its interim report today.

Canberra: The Senate will sit again today in order to debate the government’s proposed company tax cuts. Lower house MPs are also required at Parliament House, to ratify any amendments to bills that get passed in the Senate.

Sydney: New president of the Business Council of Australia Grant King will address a lunch held by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Sydney’s population tops five million, ABS data shows

Islamic State baby killers: Father had contacted Australian government in bid to escape war

THE COMMENTARIAT

One Nation: just who are the Coalition trying to appease here? — Laura Tingle (Australian Financial Review $): “A few figures: 98 per cent of One Nation voters in 2016 were native-born; a third were under the age of 44; One Nation voters identify themselves as “working class” at a rate (66 per cent) strikingly higher than Labor (45 per cent).

Shorten keeps Turnbull on the ropes with help from Abbott — David Crowe (The Australian $) “Labor taps into the frustra­tions of Australians with limited job prospects and finds it is all too easy to paint the Prime Minister as a millionaire who does not care.”

Company tax debate stalls, Senate oversteps its authority again — Mark Kenny (The Age): “Notwithstanding its gormless “jobs and growth” election campaign, there can be no gainsaying the fact that the Liberal Party’s most singular and uncomplicated message throughout, was its enterprise tax plan to forego some $48 billion in revenue over 10 years by lowering the company tax rate to 25 cents in the dollar.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

US President Donald Trump has made his daughter Ivanka Trump‘s role in his administration official, appointing her as an adviser, but to assuage concerns about the role, she won’t be paid.

“I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the President in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” a statement from Ivanka Trump said. Trump will join her husband, Jared Kushner, as an unpaid adviser to the president. 

THE WORLD

US lawmakers have suggested that not only did Russia “try to hijack” last year’s presidential election, but the Kremlin might have also interfered in the United Kingdom’s shock Brexit vote. Vladimir Putin dismissed the allegations as “nonsense” and “irresponsible”. — BBC

The United Nations has announced the war in Syria has passed a grim milestone, with more than 5 million displaced Syrian refugees now living in neighbouring countries. Another 6.3 million are still within Syria’s borders but have been forced from their homes. Taken together, the figures show fully half of Syria’s 22 million people have been uprooted and forced to flee their homes because of the brutal civil war. — The Guardian

WHAT WE’RE READING

Whoosh-wishing through life with Jared Kushner (Salon) “You hear that sound?  That whoosh-wish, whoosh-wish, whoosh-wish happy, joyful sound?  You know what it is?  It’s the sound International Man of Mystery Jared Kushner makes as he skips along the corridors of power.”

All signals point once again to war in Gaza (Bloomberg View) “During the Obama years, we faced a Gaza crisis roughly every two years. It doesn’t take a genius to predict another round — one can feel it coming, like the change of seasons. Each conflict saw Israeli civilians under fire and left Gaza civilians in agony, and the next one will as well.”

Richard Dawkins: We need a new party — the European party (New Statesman) “It’s grotesque that David Cameron, with the squalidly parochial aim of silencing the Ukip-leaning wing of his party, gambled away our future and handed it over to a rabble of ignorant voters like me. I voted — under protest, because I never should have been asked to vote, but I did.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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