AFFORDABILITY PACKAGE TO BE UNVEILED

Treasurer Scott Morrison will give a speech today explaining the government’s plan to tackle housing affordability. According to The Australian, the plan will include “a mutual-obligation superannuation plan for first-home buyers, tax breaks for downsizing the family home in retirement and a social housing plan to alleviate rental stress”. The government is also considering introducing stamp duty for property bought overseas.

But negative gearing does not appear to be going anywhere, with Morrison to double down on his insistence that “mum and dad investors” are critical to the housing market, as 1.3 million Australians own negatively geared investment properties. “Disrupting negative gearing would not come without a cost, especially to renters, let alone the wider economic impacts … this would not be good news for the 30% of Australian households who rent,” Morrison’s speech says. Home ownership rates in Australia are falling, down from 71% in 2002 to 67% in 2014. Young people are hardest hit, with fewer than 30% of those 25-34 on the property ladder, and 52% of those 35-44 owning a home. Both of those figures are down more than 10 percentage points in the past 12 years. 

GET SHORTEN

Andrew Robb‘s much-anticipated report on how it all went so dreadfully wrong for the government during the 2016 campaign recommends Malcolm Turnbull step up attacks on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten if the Liberal Party is to have any shot at retaining power in 2019. Sharri Markson reports in The Daily Telegraph that the review advises “the Prime Minister, his senior leadership team, the federal executive and senior party figures change their campaign techniques, step up research, focus on ethnic voters and call out Labor’s lies, to lift their performance at the next federal election in two years’ time”. Robb found the Liberals were far too slow to respond to Labor’s “Mediscare” campaign and that Turnbull was too hesitant to run a negative campaign. 

The review also says the Liberals must “respect the base”, after lifelong Libs deserted the party 2016, many furious over the government’s proposed superannuation changes. That shift cost the party dearly, with the Liberals struggling to find volunteers to man polling booths and the Prime Minister tipping in nearly $2 million of his own money to the cause in the face of falling donations. And it has got even worse since — a new Newspoll in The Australian this morning shows the level of support for the Coalition for those over the age of 50 has dropped 10 percentage points since the July election last year. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has mostly been the beneficiary of falling Coalition support, with support in primary vote terms now hovering around 10%. 

US STRIKE ON SYRIA

US officials have offered seemingly contradictory responses as to why the US believes regime change is necessary in Syria. US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told CNN that the US’s aim was to defeat Islamic State and then find a leader who would “protect his people” but that “[Bashar al] Assad is not that person”. Speaking to ABC, however, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it would be up to the Syrian people to decide Assad’s fate.

Tillerson also said over the weekend that the US strike on Syria should send a message to other nations and accused Russia of failing to live up to a 2013 agreement to secure chemical weapons in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani have dubbed the strike an act of “aggression” that crossed “red lines”.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Melbourne: Treasurer Scott Morrison will give a speech to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute in Melbourne outlining the government’s “cradle-to-grave” plan for housing affordability, with measures expected to be included in the May 9 budget (more details above). The Australian Bureau of Statistics will also release housing finance figures for February today.

Morrison better have a Comcar with him, as Uber drivers in the Victorian capital will be refusing to take passengers between 6.30am and 5pm as part of a protest over pay and conditions. 

New Delhi: The Prime Minister will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi about defence, security, energy and trade on the first day of his four-day visit to India. This is Malcolm Turnbull‘s first visit to the country since taking office in 2015, and the pair are expected to sign memorandums of understanding concerning defence, the environment, sport, trade and renewable energy. Turnbull is also expected to sign the $900 million deal to build a rail line from the Adani coal mine in central Queensland to Abbot Point, and the visit is also designed to build momentum for a trade deal. India is the fastest-growing overseas market for Australian education, with the number of Indian students studying in Australia tripling since 2011. 

Sydney: Former Catholic priest John Joseph Farrell, who is already serving 18 years in prison for sexual assaults on children in the 1970s and 1980s, will face fresh charges of sexually abusing children in the District Court today. Late last year the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard that Church officials regularly transferred Farrell from parish to parish despite grave concerns high up in the Church hierarchy that he was abusing children.

Brisbane: A new report from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, released today, will reveal the extent of bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef is far worse than previously thought. In more bad news for the reef, Cyclone Debbie has reportedly devastated numerous reefs around the Whitsundays. Damage assessment is ongoing. 

THE COMMENTARIAT

Indians are also young and free — Malcolm Turnbull (The Australian $): “Through the government’s New Colombo Plan, I want to see more and more young Australians choosing India as a place to study and boost their own qualifications and experience. India’s demand for our minerals and resources remains high. But education is a new pathway to shared prosperity.”

Labor ran rings around the Libs in 2016 election, and it showed — Peta Credlin (Herald Sun $): “As they say in politics, the fish rots from the head. Leaders are supposed to campaign like their life depends on it. In political terms, it usually does. Most days Turnbull looked like he wanted to be somewhere else.”

Syria missile strike: Now Donald Trump is just another war president — Tom Switzer (Sydney Morning Herald): “Some cautionary lessons should have emerged from the six-year civil war that has cost 400,000 lives, displaced millions and created a refugee crisis … First lesson: be wary of the injunction “Don’t just stand there; do something”.”

Cuts to the $22 billion NDIS behemoth would cost more in the long run — Jessica Irvine (Sydney Morning Herald): “Everyone knows the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a great idea, but hopelessly over budget — an expensive Labor extravagance — right? Don’t buy the lie.”

THE WORLD

Egypt has again been rocked by violence with two attacks on Coptic churches killing at least 40 people as they joined Palm Sunday worship. Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks, with other explosive devices defused at a boys’ school and a Sufi shrine. Egyptian Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II was present in one of the churches as it was attacked but was not harmed. In less three weeks time, the country will be visited by Pope Francis. — New York Times

A second suspect has been arrested in relation to a truck attack in Stockholm that killed four people. The original person arrested in relation to the terror incident has been identified as a failed migrant who was supposed to leave the country earlier this year. In response to the attack, 20,000 Swedes joined a “lovefest” vigil against terrorism. — BBC

Far-right French presidential contender Marine Le Pen has denied that France was responsible for rounding up Jews during the Second World War. Under Nazi occupation, French police helped detain 13,000 Jews for Nazi officers, an act that presidents Jacques Chirac and Francois Hollande later apologised for. “I think that generally speaking if there are people responsible, it’s those who were in power at the time,” Le Pen said. “It’s not France.” — The Guardian

WHAT WE’RE READING

The spoils of war: Trump lavished with media and bipartisan praise for bombing Syria (The Intercept): “New wars trigger the worst in people: their jingoism, their tribal loyalties, their instinct to submit to authority and leaders. The incentive scheme here is as obvious as it is frightening: great rewards await political leaders who start new wars.”

Exposing Adani’s environmental and labour abuses (The Saturday Paper): “In rural India, we are challenged daily by coal. When people think about coal power stations causing pollution, most think immediately of China. But here in India, pollution causes more than 3000 premature deaths every day — with the pollution spewed out from coal power stations one of the leading causes.”

As Trump defends O’Reilly, Fox uses ‘Access Hollywood’ tape in harassment seminars (Hollywood Reporter): “One employee of 21st Century Fox details a company presentation and expresses shock at seeing the president’s infamous Billy Bush conversation: There was an audible gasp in the room, like, ‘Can you believe this is happening?’”
 
A girl was found living among monkeys in an Indian forest. How she got there is a mystery (Washington Post): Amid a troop of monkeys in the Katraniaghat forest range in northern India roamed a naked human girl, playing with the primates as if she were one of them. She looked emaciated, her hair disheveled. But she appeared to be in a comfortable state, until the police arrived.”
 
France’s far right, once known for anti-Semitism, courts Jews (New York Times): “The National Front has long been widely viewed in France as toxic, but by declaring itself a shield for French Jews, it may have found an effective way to allow many voters to justify breaking a taboo.”

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