IS AFFORDABLE HOUSING A SUPER IDEA?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is facing increasing pressure to allow people to access their superannuation to buy property. “Senior cabinet ministers, led by Resources Minister Matt Canavan, have expressed in-principle support for a proposal that would allow young families to access super contributions based on their personal savings,” reports The AustralianCanavan is joined by Treasurer Scott Morrison and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar in supporting the proposal, according to The Age, but Turnbull, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer are not sure it’s such a good idea. Turnbull described the suggestion as a “debate that’s gone round and round, for a long time”, and keep an eye out in Crikey today for an exhaustive list of every Liberal who has opposed it. 

How will it shake out? Here is well-connected Australian columnist Nikki Savva‘s prediction: “If you have a house, don’t bet it on young people being allowed to access their super to buy one. Bet on older people who downsize being allowed to put the proceeds into super above existing caps. That addresses two issues: loss of base support from last year’s superannuation changes and increasing housing supply.”

APEX PREDATORS EXTINCT, BUT RACE BAITING LIVES ON

Remember the Apex gang, an organised criminal enterprise of Sudanese youth that has terrified Melbourne for more than a year, rioting in the streets at the Moomba festival in 2016 and 2017? It does not exist. And it never did, at least in that form. 

Said The Age: “The so-called Apex gang is effectively dead, and was never a predominantly foreign or ethnic group of offenders, according to Victoria Police.”

Here is Victorian Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton yesterday giving evidence to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Migrant Settlement Outcomes, as reported in the ABC: “Predominantly, a large cohort of that gang was in fact Australian-born offenders … We have charged the leaders of that gang and imprisoned them … We would call them a non-entity in terms of a gang.”

But the Herald Sun, which has run very hard on the Apex gang in the past year, reported the story somewhat differently. There was no mention of “Australian-born offenders”, and Patton’s statement that the leaders of the gang had been imprisoned has somehow morphed into migrant criminals being deported: “Senior police today told a federal committee investigating the settlement of new ­migrants that key Apex leaders were now behind bars or had been booted out of Australia.” And the Hun closed out its story with some statistics about an increase in the number of Sudanese migrants involved in crime, despite Patton’s (unreported) assertions that the Apex gang never comprised a majority of Sudanese migrants. 

EASTER BUNFIGHT

Pauline Hanson has waged jihad (sorry, probably not the right word) on Vegemite and toilets, and now she’s coming for your Easter eggs. In a Facebook video released on Tuesday, the One Nation leader urged Australians to boycott chocolate Easter eggs that had halal certification, such as chocolate behemoth Cadbury. “If you want to get products that’s not halal certified, I would suggest Lindt, that’s not halal certified,” she said. But Hanson’s Islamophobia is now at odds with her strident protectionism, because while it is true that Lindt is not halal certified, it is also true that Lindt is not Australian, a fact not lost on Tasmanian branch secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union John Short. “Any reduction in chocolate sales this Easter because of Senator Hanson’s irresponsible comments directly threatens the jobs of our members and we call on the public to ignore her,” Short said. “She should be putting her effort into making sure that jobs like Cadbury workers’ jobs are safe and secure.”

WHAT’S ON TODAY

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release labour force figures for March today, and the Reserve Bank of Australia will release its half-yearly Financial Stability Review.

Adelaide: The Australian Electoral Commission will conduct a special count to determine who should replace former Senator Bob Day, who was ruled ineligible to have been elected by the High Court earlier this month. Fellow Family First candidate Lucy Gichuhi will receive Day’s votes, all but guaranteeing her a seat. Questions have been raised as to whether Gichuhi had given up her Kenyan citizenship when she became an Australian citizen. This could be an issue for Gichuhi as dual citizens are not permitted to serve in Parliament. 

Canberra: Malcolm Turnbull will return from India today and will chair a meeting of the budget expenditure review committee, the so-called “razor gang” charged with determining cuts for the May 9 budget. 

Sydney: Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce will hold a media conference in Sydney on Cyclone Debbie, and why it is the Palaszczuk government’s fault that flood-affected farmers and landholders in Queensland have so far been unable to secure federal relief money. Joyce said yesterday the $25,000 natural disaster grants had not yet been made available to people in Queensland because the Queensland Premier had not yet filled out the proper paperwork requesting the grants for her state. 

THE COMMENTARIAT

Tony Nutt’s successor must rescue Liberals — Niki Savva (The Australian $): “No one can remember a time when the Liberal Party was in such a parlous state. It is in crisis. It has no money, no modern campaign infrastructure and few experienced personnel.”

ALP’s property reform stand nothing but a negative for WA — Peter Van Onselen (The Australian $): “Winning seats in the west will be made harder for Labor while simultaneously spruiking a negative gearing policy, which can easily be characterised as damaging the WA housing market.”

Everyone wins with the work for the dole scheme, except bludgers — Caleb Bond (Daily Telegraph $): “No one owes you a living. Certainly not when it’s funded with the money the government pinches from my pay packet every week.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

A week was once thought to be a long time in politics, but in the age of Donald Trump even two and a half minutes can feel daunting. In a clip of that length doing the rounds today, Trump recounts eating “the most beautiful” chocolate cake while ordering the bombing of Syria, gratuitously flatters his interviewer for “treating me so good for so long”, and goes on to accidentally say he fired missiles at Iraq. Trump, who did not notice the error, was corrected by Fox News host Maria Bartiromo. He had fired on Syria, not Iraq.

Also on Wednesday Trump was also contacted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who encouraged a peaceful resolution to the renewed tensions with the country Trump has now refers to as “the menace of North Korea”.

THE WORLD

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his counterpart Sergei Lavrov. It was unclear whether Tillerson would meet with Putin after US-Russia relations hit a low this week, but the pair did eventually meet for about two hours. Despite the talk, both countries continue to trade rhetorical blows over the issue of the Syrian civil war, with Putin saying that under Trump, the level of trust between the two nations had “deteriorated”. Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution pushing Syria to co-operate with an investigation into the alleged Sarin gas attack. China abstained, and Bolivia was the only country to join Russia in voting against the motion. — Reuters / BBC

Two suspects have been taken into custody after a bomb attack on a bus carrying players from the prestigious German football team Borussia Dortmund. A note was left at the scene linking the attack to German involvement in Syria and prosecutors confirmed the pair arrested were “from the Islamist spectrum”. Dortmund’s players had been heading to a champions league clash against French league team Monaco, which was delayed by 24 hours as a result. They lost the eventual fixture 3-2. — New York Times

WHAT WE’RE READING

The world’s reefs are dying. Here’s how to save them (The Economist): “The bounty that reefs provide accrues to those living near them, and in the short term. Without strong property rights, the result is an unfolding tragedy of the commons, in which fishermen and tour operators destroy the resources they rely on.”
 
Why Assad used chemical weapons (Reuters): “Why would Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has consolidated control over Syria’s largest cities in the past year and put the rebels on the defensive, risk a new international backlash by using chemical weapons? If he’s winning, why would Assad take such a risk?”
 
This Easter, it’s the Catholic Church that needs redemption (Guardian Australia): There would have been a time in which I would have attended church every day of this week. Holy Week marks the key message of the Catholic Christian faith: that Jesus suffered, died, was buried and on the third day he rose again, breaking the bonds of death and redeeming humanity … This Holy Week I won’t be at church.”

About the tun-toting, one-legged Kentucky woman seeking justice … (Marshall Project): “If Hollywood is looking for a script about a murder case with a series of memorable characters and surprising plot twists it could do far worse than consider the travails of Susan King. She’s a gun-toting, hard-charging, possibly clairvoyant, one-legged woman who was convicted of murder and effectively exonerated. She then sued Kentucky police officers for malicious prosecution …”

Second opinion from doctor nets different diagnosis 88% of the time (Study Finds): “When it comes to treating a serious illness, two brains are better than one. A new study finds that nearly 9 in 10 people who go for a second opinion after seeing a doctor are likely to leave with a refined or new diagnosis from what they were first told.”

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Peter Fray

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