LABOR PLAN TO COOL OVERHEATED HOUSING MARKET

The opposition will today announce its plans to put the brakes on runaway house prices, including higher fees for foreign property investors and limits on self managed super funds borrowing to buy property. Labor leader Bill Shorten and shadow treasurer Chris Bowen will reveal seven measures in all, on top of previously announced proposals to change negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions. Treasurer Scott Morrison has already signalled housing will be a centrepiece of next month’s federal budget, and Labor’s plan includes a “bond aggregator” model, which has also been promoted by Morrison. The Australian reports the head of the government’s financial system inquiry, David Murray, supports the plan to limit borrowing by super funds, and he has said the government should follow Labor on the move.

TURNBULL AND ABBOTT, WHERE TO FROM HERE?

After yesterday’s news that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had personally stepped in to make sure former PM Tony Abbott was re-elected at last year’s federal election, the tension between the two, and its effect on the government, is making headlines in a few ways.

Abbott said yesterday that he was disappointed the polling that showed he was in danger of losing the seat of Warringah had been leaked to the media. “We got a good result but I do want to make this point that this sneaky and underhand business of leaking needs to stop. It really does need to stop. It is absolutely corrosive of trust.”

It’s also reported this morning that members of the Liberal Party are hoping former prime minister John Howard will act as a peacemaker between the two, with factional issues also spreading to the NSW branch of the party.

MOVE TO THE BUSH: APVMA BOSS SAYS NO

The plan to move more public servants to the bush has hit a few hurdles, with the boss of the Australian Pesticides and and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), Kareena Arthy, quitting, according to the ABC. One in five staff members have quit the agency rather than move from Canberra to Armidale. Elsewhere, both the Grattan Institute and the Productivity Commission have slammed the plan to decentralise more agencies away from Canberra as an expensive move with few benefits to regional areas. The Grattan Institute’s Brendan Coates said: “We’ve been trying this for a hundred years, to move people and jobs and economic activity to the regions from the city, and it hasn’t worked up until now and there’s no reason to think that this will be any different.”

Government-funded think tank the Regional Australia Institute has a different line though, saying moving 100,000 public servants out of major cities will have a benefit to the economy.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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HE REALLY SAID THAT

“Because otherwise other people­ are working for you, and those people are not slaves for you. The people at home are not slaves for the people who don’t want to work, so get off your ­backside and have a crack and do your best.” That’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce saying that there is a contract between the unemployed and taxpayers, and that unemployed people should “get off your backside” to get a job. Helpful.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Labor will release its housing affordability plan. Details above.

Sydney: US Vice President Mike Pence arrives in Australia tonight, ahead of meetings tomorrow with Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. It’s expected issues with North Korea as well as trade will be on the agenda for discussion.

Darwin: Hearings for the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory continue.

Brisbane: The Crime and Corruption Commission probe into corruption at the 2016 Queensland local government elections will hold hearings again today, with federal MP for Blair Shayne Neumann to be called as a witness.

THE COMMENTARIAT

It’s no longer just fear of 457 visa foreigners as we hunker down on the economy — Laura Tingle (Australian Financial Review $): “Whether or not goat herders are able to get a 457 visa in future, the more important point is that people who do get 457 visas will no longer be so sure that they can get permanent residency.”

457 visas: we are deporting a policy that works — David Crowe (The Australian $): “Australia has been taking thousands of edu­cated and capable migrants who already have good jobs and are no drain on the welfare system. Now it wants to turn them away and expand a permanent underclass of temporary foreign workers.”

Are we truly ready for the consequences of a war with China? — Nick Xenophon (The Age) “Australia must not get involved in a South China Sea conflict until every member of the Australian Parliament has voted on it, and explained their reasons individually – not hide behind a party line.”

Can decentralising the Australian Public Service actually work? — Markus Mannheim (The Age): “Recent history suggests office moves will be resisted so strongly that, eventually, they either won’t happen or the move will transform from an ambitious relocation to the opening of a smaller “branch office” in a regional town, with most staff staying in the city headquarters.”

THE WORLD

The Champs Elysees has has been evacuated after one police officer was killed and two further officers injured in a shooting. The alleged assailant was killed by security forces, and an anti-terror investigation has been launched. The attack occurred as candidates made their final pitches to voters before the country’s presidential elections on Sunday. — BBC

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has survived a corruption investigation that threatened to remove him from power. In a split decision, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled by three votes to two that accounts belonging to Sharif’s family exposed in the Panama Papers did not constitute sufficient evidence to remove him. The drama is not yet over for Sharif, however, with the court ordering a further probe into his offshore wealth. — BBC

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will face off with hardline opponent Ebrahim Raisi in national presidential elections in May. The match-up was confirmed after Iran’s electoral vetting agency approved the two candidates but barred former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from entering the race. — Reuters

WHAT WE’RE READING

Facebook is becoming a 21st-century Roman Colosseum for murder (The Guardian): “It is on us, not them, apparently, to solve their very deep and disturbing ethical problem: that of being a platform where anyone can post an atrocity, despite the company’s stated policy against images or videos ‘for sadistic pleasure or to celebrate or glorify violence’.”

Marine le Pen’s bait-and-switch foreign policy (Foreign Policy): “Le Pen has taken traditional French ideas about the country’s place and role in the world and flipped them on their heads. She presents her ideas in rhetoric that sounds very French in its seeming adherence to classical legalism, but the details reveal a clear departure from the pro-U.N., pro-Europe, Germany-friendly position France has stuck to for decades. By selling her foreign policy in terms familiar to voters, she obscures just how radical a change it would be.”

Bill O’Reilly and the upside of corporate cowardice (New York Times): “You know there is a lot of fear in corporate America when it actually penetrates the hard exoskeleton of Rupert Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News announced that it will part with its star host Bill O’Reilly weeks after a New York Times investigation into sexual harassment charges led more than 50 companies, under pressure from protesters, to pull their ads from ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ … it wasn’t politics that did in Mr. O’Reilly. It was just business.”

How to name a dog (Garden & Gun): “Dogs have been hanging out with people for over ten thousand years. They are empty vessels we fill with a reflection of ourselves; or, alternatively, they come ready-made with their own strong personalities, which, insane as they sometimes are, we accept, because they accept ours. Having a dog is possessing a life, and dogs are in fact like children, but better, because they don’t grow up to rob banks or hate you. They love you the same until they die.”

Satellite images suggest North Koreans were playing volleyball at their nuclear test site last weekend (Washington Post): “It wasn’t just the volleyball, they noted. The North Koreans appeared to be no longer pumping water out of the tunnels used to test weapons, while vehicles and trailers near the entrance to these tunnels appeared to have been moved.”

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Peter Fray

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