WHEN DONNIE MET MALCY

White House press secretary Sean Spicer has confirmed at the morning’s press conference that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet with US President Donald Trump for the first time in New York next week, after the pair’s widely reported hostile phone call earlier in the year. This time, Spicer managed to pronounce the PM’s name correctly, after previously calling him Prime Minister Trumble. In a press release this morning after Spicer let the cat out of the bag, Turnbull said he would travel to New York on May 4 to meet with Trump and attend a black-tie dinner to commemorate the Battle of Coral Sea hosted by the America-Australia Association.

“My meeting with President Trump will provide an opportunity to reaffirm our alliance and the United States’ engagement with the Asia-Pacific,” Turnbull said.

According to the Australian Financial Review Australia’s man in the US Joe Hockey and former ambassador to Australia John Berry had been trying to line up the event for the two men to meet for quite a while, but the meeting — following Turnbull’s secret-but-expected trip to the Middle East to thank the troops on Anzac Day — means the PM will be away from Australia for up to four days in the lead-up to the budget the following week.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE PARTIES TIE THE KNOT

Cory Bernardi and officials from Family First are today expected to announce the merger of Family First and Australian Conservatives, under the latter’s name, and led by Bernardi. This will mean Bernardi will have two members in South Australian Parliament — Dennis Hood and Robert Brokenshire — but not an additional senator in federal Parliament. This is because recently elected Family First Senator Lucy Gichuhi — due to sit for her first week as the new Bob Day in just under a fortnight —  is reportedly not keen to join the new merged party, and will instead sit as an independent. The move will boost the party’s numbers in the South Australian election, due in March next year, to give it a bigger base to work from in the lead-up to the next federal election.

It raises questions as to how long these talks had been going on, and whether the High Court might have looked differently on the Day case and the election of Gichuhi if it had known Family First itself was about to dissolve.

HOUSING HOUSING HOUSING

Another Newspoll conducted for The Australian today finds that despite the push from conservatives for first-home buyers to be able to access their super for a property deposit, voters are opposed to the idea — but they do favour cutting tax breaks for investors. Interestingly, those most in favour of accessing super are those aged beteen 18 and 34, but even then it is a slim majority at 52%.

One potential super policy that might get support in this area is a proposal to the government in this budget to offer exemptions to retirees on tax on money put into super as a result of downsizing or selling the family home. Fairfax today also reports that shadow treasurer Chris Bowen will give a speech warning about the impact of interest-only loans and investor loans on the financial system and housing affordability later today.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is today expected to announce a $400 million funding commitment for rail links connecting suburbs in western Sydney to the proposed new airport to be built in Badgerys Creek, if Labor wins the next election.

Hobart: The Senate inquiry into Centrelink’s automated debt notice system is in Canberra today and will hear from Mission Australia, debt collectors Dun and Bradstreet and the Department of Human Services.

Brisbane: Crime and Corruption Commission hearings into the conduct of candidates in the Gold Coast local council election continue.

Darwin: The NT royal commission into juvenile justice and child protection continues in Darwin.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Stop the rich-bashing: they pay their share — Judith Sloan (The Australian $): “The bottom line is that it is simply not possible to squeeze the rich or companies any more in order to fix the budget without doing ­immense harm to the incentives for hard work, risk-taking and ­investment.”

Give Malcolm Turnbull a chance — Miranda Devine (The Daily Telegraph $): “Conservatives have to accept the reality that Turnbull is Prime Minister. He won the election, albeit by one seat. He is the legitimate Liberal leader and he deserves a fair go.”

Scott Morrison is trying to have and eat the housing affordability cake — Jennifer Hewett (Australian Financial Review $): “Anzac Day was always that for veterans and their families, of course, but for many years now, it has been embraced and celebrated far more enthusiastically by the younger generation than by the baby boomers. That is even in – or perhaps in reaction to – a culture of superficial, instant celebrity, even in a country struggling with the sharper intersections of the threat of terrorism and social integration, even given permanent wars in the Middle East where it seems impossible to ever declare victory.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

US President Donald Trump has backed off a demand that Congress immediately find funding for a wall along the Mexican border. Trump was facing the prospect of a government shutdown over the issue, an unusual prospect given Republicans control both houses of Congress. As the Trump administration struggles to secure funding for the project, press secretary Sean Spicer again insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall at some point in the future.

On the other side of the world, Ivanka Trump has been having some troubles of her own, inspiring groans at a panel event that included Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde when she suggested her father had been a champion of families and women.

THE WORLD

Facebook is again under pressure over its editorial policies after a 21-year-old Thai man used the platform to livestream the murder of his infant child, reportedly after a fight with the child’s mother. The incident follows another high-profile case in the US, where a man posted a video of a murder to Facebook before becoming a fugitive. Thai authorities said the video was quickly removed once Facebook had been notified. — BBC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has abruptly cancelled a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel after the visiting minister refused to cancel a meeting with two Palestinian rights groups. Despite being sent an ultimatum, Gabriel declined to cancel planned meetings with Breaking The Silence and B’Tselem. — The Guardian

The number of people killed in Venezuela since major political demonstrations broke out just over three weeks ago has risen to 26. According to the state persecutor’s office, 15 of those fatalities occurred at demonstrations while the other 11 were the result of night-time looting. — Reuters

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Psychiatrists cite their ‘duty to warn’ about an unfit president (New York Magazine): “Psychiatrists and psychologists operate under a norm — the so-called Goldwater Rule — that their professional organizations made up in 1973, forbidding them from diagnosing public figures they haven’t been able to evaluate in person. In the face of minimal trust at home and abroad in President Donald Trump’s stability and his tenuous grasp of reality, a group of eminent professionals are daring to depart from the party line and declaring exception to the rule.”

The media bubble is worse than you think (Politico): “The national media really does work in a bubble, something that wasn’t true as recently as 2008. And the bubble is growing more extreme.”

Exposing the darkness within: Domestic violence and Islam (ABC): “Australia’s all-male imams are often encouraging women to stay in violent situations.”

‘The real misery is in the countryside’: support for Le Pen surges in rural France (The Guardian): “One retired builder had switched from Communist to Marine Le Pen – in part as a protest vote, in part because she would “get rid of” what he described as “a certain population” of immigrants, and also because “I like her a lot”. He felt she would sort out pensions and the economy.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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