WORK FOR THE DOLE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK?

The Turnbull government is considering scrapping Tony Abbott‘s signature work-for-the-dole scheme as it hunts for budget savings, reports James Massola in the Fairfax papers. Abbott introduced the idea in 1998 as a Howard government minister, and it was one of his first policy achievements. A group of backbenchers are lobbying Treasurer Scott Morrison to save the scheme, with one describing it as “red meat for the base”. Last year’s budget diverted $500 million from work for the dole to the government’s controversial PaTH internship program, but kept $648.5 million in the Abbott initiative. The expenditure review committee has not yet made a decision on the program.  

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Melbourne: Victorian Finance Minister Robin Scott and Mental Health Minister Martin Foley will announce more money for a new WorkSafe initiative promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Also in Melbourne, Victorian Legal Aid managing director Bevan Warner will give evidence to the Senate inquiry into the Centrelink robo-debt notice scandal. Yesterday South Australian Council of Social Service CEO Ross Womersley told the inquiry the system of using data-matching to chase down Centrelink recipients the agency believed had received more than their entitlements was fatally flawed and should be scrapped. An ombudsman’s report into the system, released yesterday, found numerous problems with the way it had been implemented. Commonwealth ombudsman Richard Glenn said in the report the robo-debt notice system put the burden of proof on the welfare recipient to prove they had done nothing wrong, which was “not reasonable or fair”.

Canberra: Preliminary data from the 2016 census will be released. The 2016 census was notoriously controversial, with many opting to boycott the survey rather than provide data for what they felt was a tool of state surveillance

New Delhi: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue talks today and are expected to release a joint statement early this afternoon. Turnbull had been expected to pursue Tony Abbott‘s plans for a free trade deal in India while in the country, but Turnbull yesterday shelved that idea, saying: “You know you can sign an agreement anytime, it’s a question of whether it’s got the provisions that make it valuable and worthwhile from Australia’s point of view.” A key sticking point is said to be India’s push to loosen the rules for 457 visa holders, which would allow more temporary Indian workers into Australia. The government does not want a repeat of 2015, when the union movement ran a scare campaign against a similar proposal for Chinese foreign workers. 

WE ARE NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER

“If he wants to dud me then he’ll get dudded every chance he gets. The love affair, or bromance, that people have written about is over.” That’s 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley, more than a little miffed that Scott Morrison gave an interview to the ABC’s Jon Faine yesterday morning instead of appearing on his regular 2GB slot. It must have been love, but it’s over now. And just in case Moz ever for a second got to thinking he was irreplaceable, Hadley told The Daily Telegraph: “I guess Cory Bernardi would be more than happy to come on and talk. Maybe the former prime minister.” 

REMEMBERING JOHN CLARKE

Satirist John Clarke, known for the razor-sharp comedy including Clarke and Dawe, died while bushwalking in Victoria over the weekend. New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English tweeted his condolences for the Kiwi native.

Malcolm Turnbull said Clarke was “more than a satirist” who had a “canny knack of saying just enough to hit the target, and no more”.

“His laconic wit was rarely wide of the mark. I should know,” he said. Bill Shorten said Clarke was the “sharpest, driest wit on Aussie TV”. “The first thing to understand about John Clarke is that he was a genius,” wrote Science Show host Robyn WilliamsJonathan Green wrote: “He had a higher calling: to the fine precision of his craft.” 

And collaborator Bryan Dawe told the Fairfax papers: “He was such an insightful, generous, gorgeous human being, and I’m so fortunate and honoured to have been his friend and co-conspirator for so long”.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Eddie Obeid’s family questioned over Circular Quay cash profits

Mental health cost blowout to hit NDIS

Labor says ageing coal-fired power stations need ‘orderly’ retirement plan

THE COMMENTARIAT

Scott Morrison opens fire on housing but silver bullets ricochet — Jennifer Hewett (Australian Financial Review $): “The federal government’s insistence that it’s all about supply — largely a state and local government responsibility — is sounding increasingly less persuasive to those demanding help.”

Liberal defenders of free speech curiously silent over banning of Bassem Tamimi — Jeff Sparrow (Guardian Australia): “Do we detect a pattern emerging here? Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, our politicians stand up for free speech if — and only if — they like what’s being said?”

GST change is a plain and simple tariff, Scott Morrison — Chris Berg and Sinclair Davidson (The Australian $): “Working to lower company tax, high wage structures and reducing red tape would benefit Australians far more than protectionist measures for their small-business constituency.”

THE WORLD

Pressure is being heaped on Russia by Britain and the US in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, a close Russian ally. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters that this week’s G7 meeting would discuss further sanctions on Russian and Syrian officials. His US counterpart Rex Tillerson, who is set to travel to Moscow later this week, described Russia as “incompetent” and said the US would defend innocent civilians “anywhere in the world”. Despite once awarding the “Order of Friendship” to Tillerson, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said the pair were not scheduled to meet during Tillerson’s visit. — The Guardian / New York Times / Reuters

Fifty-seven members of Boko Haram have been killed after the Islamist group attacked a town in Niger, according to the country’s Defence Ministry. Boko Haram has killed approximately 15,000 people in its attempts to install an Islamic state in Nigeria, with violence spreading to neighbouring countries including Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. — Al Jazeera

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Exclusive: Spyware firms in breach of global sanctions (Al Jazeera): “Posing undercover as a middle man buying equipment for the South Sudanese and Iranian governments, our reporter James (not his real name) was able to negotiate deals to acquire surveillance tools that Iran is prohibited from buying and that would cause serious human rights concerns in South Sudan.”

Maggie Haberman: The New York Times reporter Trump can’t quit (CNN Media): “There may be no reporter Trump respects, and fears, more than Haberman. He may bash and beat up on the Times, and her, but he inevitably returns to her to share his thinking and participate in interviews. He does so because, in addition to having known her for so long, he knows that she matters, that she will not treat him with kid gloves but not be unfair either, that she commands the respect of the political communities in both Washington and New York.”

White House on edge as 100-day judgement nears (Politico): “Staffers, including counselor Kellyanne Conway, were broken into three groups, complete with whiteboards, markers and giant butcher-block-type paper to brainstorm lists of early successes. One group worked in the hallway.”

Disillusioned with fine dining, one of the world’s great chefs took on fast food. It has been harder than he ever imagined (California Sunday Magazine): “Why does our society always serve the worst food to the neediest people?’ It makes no sense. And everybody always says, ‘That’s just the way it is, there’s no other way,’ but we are going to prove that whole paradigm is fundamentally false.”

There are three sides to every argument (Ted.com): “Thanks to technology, all the tribes on the planet can, for the first time, get in touch with each other. And the big question facing us is: How do we deal with our deepest differences, given the human propensity for conflict and the human ability to devise weapons of enormous destruction?”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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