The government is set to announce a new suite of cuts to the higher education sector, with students and universities expected to stump up more in order to save the government more than $900 million over four years. Education Minister Simon Birmingham will meet university vice chancellors later today, and Fairfax reports he will use a report that shows universities have sufficient funding for most courses they offer, and revenues are growing faster than costs. It’s reported that students will be expected to pay for a larger share of their degrees, and they will also need to start paying back the loans earlier. The universities themselves will also face an efficiency dividend of between 2% and 3%. Cuts to the sector were announced in the 2014 budget by then-education minister Christopher Pyne, but they were never actually passed by the Senate crossbench. Will these cuts go the same way?


With just eight days until the federal budget on May 9, the reports previewing what is in and out of the budget are flying thick and fast. 

Treasurer Scott Morrison has given a budget preview interview to The Australian Financial Review‘s Jennifer Hewett, expanding on last week’s buzzwords of “good debt” and “bad debt”. Morrison said the government can build infrastructure projects “more cheaply and effectively” than the private sector. He’s also optimistic about the Australian economy: “After all these years of really hard slog, not long to go now.”

In The Australian, it’s “welfare cheats” that will feel the heat, with a plan to target those on unemployment payments who only attend Centrelink appointments right before their payments are set to be cut off. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge are quoted in the report, but there’s no real preview of just how the issue will be solved.

The government has also called for a review into GST distribution, with Morrison asking the Productivity Commission to report back on how the distribution of GST revenue between the states affects national producivty and growth. The distribution of the GST has always been an issue for Western Australia, where the state government has long been saying the state is getting a raw deal.


Still on the budget, the Deloitte Access Economics Budget Monitor report warns about “darkness in the heart of the budget”. Deloitte economist Chris Richardson says there are question marks on how close Australia will get to a surplus, pointing to low wage growth as a problem:

“So the net news is good, but not as good as it’s otherwise been, because there’s some darkness in the heart of the budget. The largest single tax — that on wage and salary earners — is disappointing official expectations. Partly that’s because wage growth is lower than a snake’s belly and partly it is because job growth has been lacklustre, especially among full-time workers.”


A special report on the Fairfax websites today gives a chilling insight into workplace bullying. Ginger Gorman speaks to many women bullied in the workplace and looks at the legal and wider implications.


Canberra: Education Minister Simon Birmingham to meet with university vice chancellors. More information above.

Canberra: Deloitte Access Economics will release its budget monitor.

Sydney: Lifeline Australia to hold the Stop Suicide Summit.

New Dehli: Labor foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong will give a speech in India.

Queensland: Labour Day public holiday


The ABC’s self-proclaimed independence is letting down its audience — Kim Dalton (The Age $): “What we have seen consistently is that our most significant cultural institution is vulnerable to unilateral internal change, contrary to stated government policy and in the absence of any public discussion or review. “

Why rush to change when John Coates is a proven winner? — Herb Elliott (The Australian $): “The AOC is one of the most envied National Olympic Committees in the world for its competence and success. It has money in the bank (thanks to Coates) that is being conservatively and wisely managed and used and very importantly the AOC is financially independent of government.”

ACT’s drug-testing trial could help end decades of backward policing — Ross Fitzgerald (The Age): “There is persuasive evidence that pill testing does, at least partly, convert more dangerous drug markets at youth music events into less dangerous markets.”

Sustainability tail wags the Westpac dog — Matthew Stevens (Australian Financial Review $): “The fingerprints of the bank’s public affairs boss Carloyn McCann are plastered all over the potentially self-destructive decision to transform a reluctance to finance a big but marginal Queensland coal mine into a broad and constraining policy decision that risks divorce from the biggest export earner in its home state of New South Wales.” 


President Donald Trump has provoked human rights groups by inviting the strongman president of the Phillipines Rodrigo Duterte to the White House. The man who once called Trump’s predecessor a “son of a whore” and has pushed a massive campaign of extrajudicial executions was invited to visit Washington after Trump made the surprise invitation in a routine phone call. And Duterte wasn’t the only strongman in the region to catch a break from the president. In an interview on Sunday, Trump called North Korea’s Kim Jong-un a “very smart cookie”, pointing to the hereditary dictator’s early rise to power as evidence.

Earlier in the weekend the president skipped the traditional White House Correspondents Dinner in order to attend a mass, campaign-style rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he celebrated his first 100 days in office.


The US military’s official estimate for the number of civilians killed by its strikes on Iraq and Syria since 2014. Estimates from an independent monitoring group puts the number closer to 3000. — Reuters


Turkish police are investigating after the founder of Persian-language television network Gem, Saeed Karimian, was shot dead in Istanbul. Gem TV dubs foreign programs into Persian, and Karimian had been tried in absentia in Iran for spreading propaganda. His family told the BBC he had intended to return to London after being threatened by the Iranian regime in recent months, but Turkish officials suggested the killing could have been linked to business dealings or gangs. — BBC

France has killed more than 20 militants near the border of African nations Mali and Burkina Faso. France has deployed 5000 troops to the area after helping suppress an Islamist insurgency in Mali during 2013. — Reuters 


Facebook admits: governments exploited us to spread propaganda (The Guardian): “Facebook has publicly acknowledged that its platform has been exploited by governments seeking to manipulate public opinion in other countries – including during the presidential elections in the US and France … these efforts go well beyond ‘fake news’, the company said, and include content seeding, targeted data collection and fake accounts that are used to amplify one particular view, sow distrust in political institutions and spread confusion.”

This chart shows how much abortion costs in each state (BuzzFeed): “Abortion drugs cost an Australian patient $38.80, however a woman in regional Queensland can pay upwards of $700.”

In Mexico, ‘it’s easy to kill a journalist’ (New York Times): “Mexico is one of the worst countries in the world to be a journalist today. At least 104 journalists have been murdered in this country since 2000, while 25 others have disappeared, presumed dead. On the list of the world’s deadliest places to be a reporter, Mexico falls between the war-torn nation of Afghanistan and the failed state of Somalia. Last year, 11 Mexican journalists were killed, the country’s highest tally this century.”

Five myths about France (Washington Post): “Myth 1) France is succumbing to far-right nationalism … Myth 2) French unions are extremely powerful … Myth 3) the French tend to surrender in conflicts … Myth 4) the French are not obese … Myth 5) the French drink a lot of alcohol … “

Trump tweets draw ‘tidal wave of threats’ (Politico): “Trump’s free-flowing tweets have invited more threats than his security detail can keep pace to investigate. On top of that, he’s been telegraphing his movements for the bad guys by establishing regular travel patterns in his first 100 days in office. And his very famous family is jetting around the world, draining the resources of a bureau still gasping from the frenzied pace of the 2016 campaign.”