TUDGE BROKE LAW SAYS LABOR LEGAL ADVICE

It is “reasonably clear” that Social Services Minister Alan Tudge broke the law by releasing personal information of welfare recipient Andie Fox to The Canberra Times, legal advice commissioned by the Labor Party says. Robert Richter QC told Labor “the disclosure of Fox’s information would be punishable by up to two years imprisonment if proven in court”. Fox, who had been publicly critical of Centrelink’s debt recovery procedures, found her personal information had been sent to a journalist as part of the minister’s efforts to “set the record straight”. Tudge maintains that the release was lawful and has rejected the advice given to Labor. Lawyer Michael Bradley wrote for Crikey on the department and the minister’s defence of the release at the time: “It’s such a wilfully devious misreading of legislative language and intent that ‘sophistry’ just doesn’t cut it as a description.”

GOVERNMENT PRESSURES LABOR ON TAX

The government is taking last week’s win on a company tax cut and using it to wedge Labor, with Treasurer Scott Morrison giving interviews to both The Australian and the Fairfax papers taking aim at the opposition. “Labor must now explain whether they are going to increase taxes on small business or support the government to get expenditure under control,” Morrison says in the Oz, while Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has a similar line in the Fairfax papers. “Bill Shorten must tell us clearly whether he will keep them [company tax cuts] or scrap them should he win the next election”, Cormann said. On Insiders yesterday Morrison said the government would consider trying to pass the full cuts to companies with revenue above $50 million a year before the next election if there was a chance the legislation could pass.

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Rockhampton: The Queensland city is preparing for its worst flooding in 60 years, as rain from ex-tropical cyclone Debbie continues to threaten parts of Australia’s eastern coast.

Lismore and Murwillumbah: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will tour flood-affected areas of northern NSW today. The PM will also travel to flood-affected areas of Queensland.

Canberra: Afghanistan President Dr Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is in Australia and will meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

COMMENTARIAT

Malcolm Turnbull hears the voters’ siren call, and it’s a klaxon — David Crowe (The Australian $): “Turnbull and his government have gone backward on every indicator in today’s Newspoll — primary vote, two-party vote, preferred prime minister and both measures of leadership net satisfaction.”

There’s another solution to the housing crisis that no one wants to discuss — Tony Walker (Sydney Morning Herald): “Against this background and given planning snafus by NSW and Victoria too numerous to mention but including successive Victorian governments’ failure to plan adequately for a bulging population to Melbourne’s west, the time would seem to have arrived for a searching discussion about optimum population distribution. That includes the sacred cow of net overseas migration.”

There is nothing free about Mark Latham’s speech — Annabel Crabb (The Age, Saturday): “There comes a time in every man’s life when he realises that he is not a commercial hit.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

Donald Trump‘s former national security adviser Michael Flynn initially failed to declare payments from two Russian sources in financial disclosures, which were recently released by the Trump administration. In his initial declaration, Flynn failed to note two payments, including a speaking fee paid by the Kremlin-backed news network Russia Today. A second amended filing submitted at a later date disclosed the payments.

The same documents have also revealed a trove of potential conflicts of interest relating to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom are now serving in senior government adviser roles but continue to benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investments.

THE WORLD

Venezuela’s government-aligned Supreme Court has backed away from a decision that stripped the opposition-led Congress of power. The decision had provoked criticism from many directions, including from Socialist President Nicolas Maduro‘s own Attorney General. Maduro, who took over from Hugo Chavez, now faces calls for next year’s election to be brought forward as the political and economic crises in the country show no signs of easing. — Reuters

Twenty people have been killed at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan after being attacked by men armed with batons and knives. The deadly violence is believed to have been perpetrated by the shrine’s custodian Abdul Waheed, who local police say has confessed. “The suspect appears to be paranoid and psychotic, or it could be related to rivalry for the control of shrine,” regional police chief Zulfiqar Hameed told media. — The Guardian 

Rescue teams are battling to recover hundreds of missing people in Colombia after some regions received one-third of their monthly rainfall in just one night. The downpour triggered massive landslides with at least 200 killed, forcing a major rescue operation involving 1100 police and soldiers. — BBC

WHAT WE’RE READING

The trauma of facing deportation (The New Yorker): “In Sweden, hundreds of refugee children have fallen unconscious after being informed that their families will be expelled from the country.”

“Housing First” takes second place (Inside Story): “The most successful approaches, exemplified by initiatives in the United States and Europe, see homelessness as a public health issue and take action accordingly. They take a preventive approach, drawing on analogies from public health and recognising that prevention is more effective and efficient than cure.”

What counts as rich now? (The Saturday Paper): “Just when you thought Australians could not get any more deluded about their relative good fortune, along comes a whole new cohort of well-to-do whingers.”

“Scientific racism” is on the rise on the right. But it’s been lurking there for years. (Vox): “These ideas about an outside cultural threat and an internal genetic threat to white America, moreover, were in circulation well before the emergence of the alt-right or the Trump campaign. In their modern form, they have been tolerated, even nurtured, in mainstream conservative circles for more than 20 years.”

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Peter Fray

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