MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

The government’s balance sheet could look better than expected at next month’s federal election, the Fairfax papers report, due to improved returns from iron ore. Extra revenue from resources will go straight into reducing the deficit, government sources say:

“One government MP told Fairfax Media a ‘really tight clamp has been put on spending’ and that ‘windfalls on the revenue side will show up in the coming weeks. Expect the deficit to be lower’.”

It’s not all a rosy picture though (and definitely not that simple), with The Australian reporting the budget will be the 10th in a row to be delivered with a huge deficit — Treasurer Scott Morrison will be aiming to get it below $30 billion, David Uren writes.

The government is also attempting to add almost $3 billion to its bottom line through pursuing multinational companies for unpaid tax. The Daily Telegraph reports Google and Apple are among the companies to be hit with bills between $250 million and $800 million. It’s expected some of the companies will fight the bills in court.

NEW DAY FOR SENATE

Former Family First senator Bob Day was never eligible for election in the first place, the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, ruled yesterday. While the judgment gives more of a clue on who will replace Day in the Senate, there are still questions about whether a recount will deliver votes to the second person on the Family First ticket, and whether Kenya-born lawyer Lucy Gichuhi will also be ineligible. There is speculation Gichuhi might not have renounced her Kenyan citizenship before the election, although she maintains that she is not a Kenyan citizen. 

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Soldier a victim of ‘psychological warfare’

Centrelink debt recovery: Social Services Minister saw no analysis before saying system working ‘incredibly well’, FOI documents show

Syria chemical weapons attack: removing dictator Bashar al-Assad ‘not an option’

‘It is time’: Tony Nutt resigns as Liberal party’s federal director

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Treasurer Scott Morrison will address the AFR’s Banking and Wealth summit, speaking on the need for big business to publicly back the next phase of tax cuts the government wants to pass.

Sydney: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet President of Nauru Baron Divavesi Waqa.

Sydney: Former Seven employee Amber Harrison is counter-suing the company, with Julian Burnside QC to argue her case. The fight between Seven and Harrison has taken a few turns in the past 48 hours, with reports in The Australian, the Australian Financial Review and also with us in Crikey.

Canberra: Former prime minister Tony Abbott‘s Pollie Pedal charity event is expected to ride through the nation’s capital.

Rockhampton: Locals are still watching the Fitzroy river with concern, while insurance companies are tallying up the bill caused by Cyclone Debbie across the country.

Sydney: Former prime minister Bob Hawke will launch a beer bearing his own name. Hawke’s Brewing Company will roll out Hawke’s Lager at Sydney watering holes. No word yet on whether the launch will involve skolling a schooner.

Palm Beach, Florida: US President Donald Trump will host Chinese President Xi Jinping.

DISPATCHES FROM THE CULTURE WAR

We won’t go into the details, but the same sections of the media that targeted the Safe Schools program in high schools are now in a spin of outrage over the Victorian government’s Respectful Relationships program in preschools. The Australian and the Herald Sun are very angry about kids not playing with dolls. 

THE COMMENTARIAT

Inglorious Day of irony draws to close as senator’s election ‘invalid’ — Sarah Martin (The Australian $):”In a case of mind-spinning irony, Day wanted the taxpayer to pay rent on the building which housed his pet conservative projects, including the Samuel Griffith Society, the political office of Family First, and a planned new chapter of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance which rails against government spending.”

A woman’s wage has nothing to do with what her husband earns — Tanya Plibersek (Sydney Morning Herald): “As long as the Liberals argue that it’s just fine for women to have their pay frozen while their partners earn more than them, we’ll never achieve pay equity.”

Housing: Malcolm Turnbull increasingly isolated over capital gains tax — Peter Martin (The Age): “It’s hard to find anyone, apart from speculators themselves, who doesn’t now think that a 50 per cent tax discount is too generous a reward for speculation. And even many of them would probably support a Labor-style move that stabilised prices by protecting their discount while cutting it for those who followed.”

ABC bias on show in Hanson attack — Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun $): “It interviewed a swag of former One Nation members or employees who clearly had an axe to grind — they’d been sacked, or stopped from using Hanson’s party to run their own race.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

President Donald Trump‘s controversial chief strategist and former executive chair of Breitbart News Stephen Bannon has been removed from the National Security Council. There was an outcry when Bannon was originally appointed to the council, a body that political advisers do not usually join. His removal appears to bolster the power of new National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who took over from General Michael Flynn after he was fired for lying to Vice-President Mike Pence.

While Trump has declined to say exactly how, he’s also changed track on Syria. After seeing footage of an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime, the President said: “I will tell you it has already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.” Trump had previously said he did not intend to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

THE WORLD

The fallout from this week’s reported chemical weapons attack in Syria continues, with a raft of claims and counter-claims being put forward. Here’s how key players have reacted:

  • Russia claims the weapons were not used by its close ally, the Syrian government. It says the poison gas might have belonged to the rebels and leaked after their position was bombed;
  • US officials flatly rejected Russia’s assertion. The country’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, appeared to threaten unilateral action if the UN didn’t take action;
  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the attack was designed by Assad’s government to test the US and implored the country to clarify its position; and
  • A draft resolution condemning the attack is before the UN Security Council but is likely to be vetoed by Russia.

Reuters

Iceland’s parliament will debate the world’s first anti-pay gap legislation. The law is supported by the centre-right government as well as the opposition and would subject companies with more than 25 staff to audits and fines if they do not pay their male and female staff equally. — BBC

Pepsi has pulled an advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner that depicted the celebrity removing a blond wig and joining a diverse protest to hand a Pepsi drink to a police officer. The advertisement was mocked for using protests against police violence to sell soda, while some right-wing critics saw it as a sop to calls for diversity on television. — USA Today

WHAT WE’RE READING

CNN had a problem. Donald Trump solved it (New York Times Magazine): “Had Trump lost the election, CNN would probably have returned to its previously scheduled struggle for survival. Instead, it has become more central to the national conversation than at any point in the network’s history since the first gulf war.”

President Trump’s wild charge that Susan Rice committed a crime, explained (Vox): “The Rice flap, on close inspection, isn’t a story about the Obama administration purportedly spying on the Trump campaign. It’s a story about how far the conservative media and some congressional Republicans are willing to go to muddy the waters around Donald Trump’s wildest and least defensible ideas.”

Meet the food delivery workers in the decentralised Dickensian online gig economy (Medium): “They’re on drugs. People have tried to jump on the bike, open the food box. Some of them have tried to jump on the bike and ride off.”

These high school journalists investigated a new principal’s credentials. Days later, she resigned. (Washington Post): “Everybody kept telling them, ‘stop poking your nose where it doesn’t belong,’” newspaper adviser Emily Smith told The Post. But with the encouragement of the superintendent, the students persisted.”

30 questions for Pepsi about its protest imagery-inspired soda commercial (Slate): “Does Pepsi really think that protesters carry signs saying, simply, “Join the conversation”?” 

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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