HOT AIR ON GAS

There has been something of a mixed reaction to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s announcement of plans to prevent gas companies from exporting gas out of Australia when there is a shortage in the domestic market. Fairfax today reports that both the companies themselves and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have expressed doubt at the PM’s initial claim that wholesale gas prices could be halved as a result of the intervention.

The Australian reports that the companies are also complaining that the government intervention in the market could create “sovereign risk” and limit investment, while there are also complaints that state governments sitting on gas reserves, and the federal government is considering a “use it or lose it” policy with state governments to get them to free up reserves.

INLAND RAIL TO BE FUNDED BY ‘GOOD DEBT’

The Australian Financial Review and other Fairfax papers report that Turnbull is expected to announce that the “good debt” held by government — as differentiated from bad debt like Medicare and welfare by Treasurer Scott Morrison yesterday — would be used to invest in infrastructure. This will likely include a rail link to the planned Badgerys Creek airport in Sydney, $6 billion in funding for the airport itself, and $10 billion to fund the unicorn of Australian rail projects — the inland rail project between Melbourne and Brisbane.

Fairfax’s Peter Martin reports that the switch in priorisiting what is reported in the budget to the net operating balance — which excludes debt accrued for infrastructure investment — would drop the deficit from $37.5 billion in 2016-17 to $1.3 billion in 2019-20. But he quotes economists warning that the government should tread carefully in choosing what infrastructure to invest in. The phrase “cost-benefit analysis” was a favourite of Turnbull’s in opposition to the NBN, and economists are urging the government to ensure infrastructure investment will be worth it. 

HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT IMMINENT

The Daily Telegraph‘s Sharri Markson writes today that it is almost certain that the federal government will bring all of Australia’s security agencies into one giant Homeland Security-style mega department later this year, modeled on the US and UK versions. Attorney-General George Brandis has long resisted such a move, but with his expected departure later this year to London, there appears to be a push for it. Despite all the national security and privacy-invading new laws, the government claims it is still heavily reliant on the US for intelligence and wants an agency that will be able to return some of the favours.

The so-called Department of State likely won’t be announced until well after the budget, Markson reports, when Turnbull wants to do a cabinet reshuffle. If it happens, it is likely that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will be the minister responsible, with his secretary Michael Pezzullo also tipped to follow him to lead the Department of State.

HE REALLY SAID THAT

“As the Cronulla Sharks number one ticket holder I know how important it is to keep a winning team together. Chris Jordan has been an important part of our winning combination on multinational tax avoidance, and I’m pleased he’s re-signed for many more seasons to come,” Treasurer Scott Morrison on announcing the re-appointment of ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan to the role until 2024. Let’s go Sharks.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Queensland Government in culture of cover-up as reports suppressed

Crackdown on online gaming giants

Anatomy of a fake news story: How a muslim politician became a Facebook villain

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and federal assistant minister for cities and digital transformation Angus Taylor will attend a summit in western Sydney, and Berejiklian will give the second annual Lachlan Macquarie lecture focused on western Sydney at 3pm.

Perth: Woodside, BP, Chevron, Shell, BHP, and ExxonMobil will all be giving evidence before the Senate Economics References committee on corporate tax avoidance in Perth.

Melbourne: Lord Mayor Robert Doyle will host a “vaccination cafe” in Melbourne Town Hall to encourage people to get the annual flu shot.

Darwin: The royal commission into juvenile detention and child protection will hold another hearing today.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Gas crisis? We were told it was coming five years ago — David Crowe (The Australian $): “Mesmerised by more than $175 billion in capital spending on new liquefied natural gas export hubs, business leaders and politicians were too complacent about local supply.”

Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘tough’ stance on migration is doomed to fail — Waleed Aly (The Age): “Eventually it won’t do to leave Australians neither protected from the world, nor ready to compete with it. That leaves a hole no gesturing can fill.” 

THE WORLD

A man believed to have been planning a terror attack has been arrested near Westminster Palace, in London. The 27-year-old was taken by police after a tip-off from within the Muslim community and was arrested just metres from where Khalid Masood initiated his recent car and knife attack on Westminster Bridge that left four people dead. The man arrested today is alleged to have been carrying knives. — The Guardian

A Russian spy ship has sunk off the coast of Turkey after colliding with a vessel from Togo that was carrying livestock, according to Turkish media reports. All 78 members of the Russian crew were rescued. — BBC

The “days since a Fox News host took a holiday after a sexism controversy” counter has been set back to zero. Bill O’Reilly acolyte and rising Fox star Jesse Watters is “taking a vacation” with his family after appearing to make a lewd remark regarding Ivanka Trump‘s handling of a microphone. While O’Reilly never returned from his holiday after allegations of sexual harassment forced him out of the network, Watters said he would be back at work Monday. — HuffPost

WHAT WE’RE READING

Social unrest is France’s biggest risk (Bloomberg): “The signs of pent-up social discontent are everywhere. Some 63 percent of young French claim to be ready for a ‘large-scale revolt.’ The head of France’s general directorate for internal security warned that the country was ‘on the verge of civil war. ‘The numbers of days lost to strike action is the largest among comparable countries; 40,000 cars are set ablaze annually in France’s often ghettoized suburbs. The portion of voters who rejected mainstream political offerings — over 40 percent — was higher than at any time in France’s modern political history.”

The Hungarian rise and fall of Sebastian Gorka (BuzzFeed): “Washington’s standards may be lower than Budapest’s.”

The dark allure of conspiracy theories, explained by a psychologist (Vox): “Belief in conspiracy theories arises from a combination of anxiety, pessimism, and overreliance on using simple answers to explain complicated problems … the theories are a tool by which people can feel more in control, and find explanations in a scary and turbulent world.”

How online shopping makes suckers of us all (The Atlantic): “Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us.”

Alex Jones tries a Hulk Hogan move (Bloomberg): “The Trump-backing conspiracy theorist and the exhibitionist ex-wrestler aren’t exactly appealing figures for the avatar theory of the self. It’s still worth asking: Should the courts take seriously the idea that a public persona is legally different from the private identity of someone who’s in the news?”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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