PLAYGROUND POLITICS: NEW ALLIES AND ENEMIES

The government has found some unlikely allies in its bid to reform education funding, with the Greens signalling they are open to discussions on the plan.

That’s if the plan gets to the Senate at all. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is once again facing dissent from his predecessor Tony Abbott, who said on 2GB yesterday there would be vigorous debate on the policy in the party room. “I just know that it’s been almost an article of faith in our party since the time of Menzies that we were the party that promoted parental choice in education,” he said.

Other influential voices, like that of Sydney archbishop Anthony Fisher, have spoken out about funding cuts to Catholic schools. The Australian is foreshadowing a revolt by government MPs over the plan:

“One Liberal MP said if ‘this isn’t fixed and soon’, there would be a partyroom showdown next week. ‘I have no idea what they are thinking … I can’t believe it,’ the MP said.”

FAIRFAX ON STRIKE

Fairfax staff walked off the job yesterday after the company’s bosses announced $30 million in budget cuts would mean job losses for more than a quarter of the newsroom. Staff at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Australian Financial Review, the Brisbane Times, Newcastle Herald and WA Today voted to strike for a week, while Canberra Times staff voted to “work to rule”, meaning they will report, but not fill gaps left by the strike.

The unprotected action is taken in response to news that 125 jobs will be cut after years of similar cuts.

As Crikey‘s media reporter Emily Watkins writes, the cuts also mean “contributors’ payments would be capped, and the use of casuals would be ‘significantly reduced’ to save about $3 million a year”.  

While today’s papers are mostly filled with stories written before the stop work and wire copy, Fairfax bosses will struggle to fill the pages over the coming days, including after Tuesday’s federal budget. Fairfax’s chief political correspondent James Massola said on the ABC last night the post-budget editions were usually among the best-selling papers of the year.

There’s also the possibility Fairfax could go to the Fair Work Commission to force staff back to work.

In solidarity, today’s Crikey Worm does not link to Fairfax, and will not do so for the duration of the strike.

STILL HELPING: TONY ABBOTT ON WESTERN VALUES

“The march of identity politics has rendered today’s left-of-centre politicians incapable of appealing to the West’s high culture as the best antidote to racism and to all other forms of discrimination.”

As well as appearing on 2GB yesterday, former PM Tony Abbott gave a speech on Western values in Perth, including a pointed slap on the back for Malcolm Turnbull, congratulating his push on Australian values in the citizenship test.

HE REALLY SAID THAT

“It’s a recognition of her work and the courage she has exhibited in the face of very withering criticism from the government from time to time.” — Professor Spencer Zifcak, acting president of Liberty Victoria, quoted in The Guardian, over the organisation’s decision to award the Voltaire award to Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs.

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

New York: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will land in the Big Apple before a 48-hour stay in the city to meet US President Donald Trump. While May 4 is the anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the meeting itself will take place tomorrow AEST.

Whyalla: Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce will be in the South Australian town for the announcement of a merorandum of understanding between Adani bosses and Arrium steel for the South Australian company to manufacture steel for the rail link to the Carmichael coal project if it goes ahead. The deal would be worth $70 million. Interestingly, The Australian, The Australian Financial Review and the Adelaide Advertiser claimed this story as an exclusive this morning.

Canberra: Education Minister Simon Birmingham will address the National Press Club on the government’s funding plans for education. 

Sydney: NAB will release half-year financial results.

Sydney: Rio Tinto, Caltex Australia and Santos annual general meetings will take place today.

Sydney: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her New Zealand counterpart Gerry Brownlee will hold a joint press conference.

Adelaide and Sydney: Students plan to protest at the offices of Education Minister Simon Birmingham and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over cuts to higher education.

Sydney: The NSW government will formally apologise to the families of those killed in the Granville train disaster.

Brisbane: Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe will address the Economic Society of Queensland.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Malcolm Turnbull’s rail decision gets lost inside a pork barrel — David Uren (The Australian $): “The inland rail from Melbourne to Brisbane, bypassing Sydney, is highly likely to cost the economy more than it delivers.”

The department of youth: we need a strategy to stop the war on young people — Brendan Churchill (Guardian Australia): “The real generation war is not between baby boomers and their millennial offspring, rather it is one being waged by the government against young people.”

Prime Minister’s schools plan is already a failure — Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun $): “It’s not money that’s holding us back, yet here’s a Liberal government now claiming more money will save us. What a sellout. “

Fairfax sackings: brutality rules at Greg Hywood’s place — Mark Day (The Australian $): “Fairfax says it intends to use more contributors to fill its column­s, but it intends to pay them less. It is a recipe for disaster, for if a publishing company cannot­ offer journalistic quality, it has nothing to offer.”

National security? Data laws misused to spy — Jon Lawrence (The Daily Telegraph $): “As Friday’s mea culpa from the AFP demonstrates, the practical ­reality is that it’s impossible to provide special protection to any subset of the population in the context of an indiscriminate data retention scheme.”

THE WORLD

The head of the FBI James Comey has responded to allegations that his agency influenced the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election, saying the suggestion makes him “mildly nauseous”. Days before the election, Comey notified Congress that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The investigation went nowhere, but Clinton recently said Comey’s decision to write to Congress, along with Russian interference, lost her the election. — New York Times

North Korea’s state media has published a rare criticism of China. With reports that China and the US are working together to bring forward a new round of sanctions against the rogue state, the article responded to reports in Chinese state media outlets and warned: “China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations.” — Reuters

There are tentative signs that the two major players in Libya’s devastating civil war could be moving towards an agreement. The country has been flailing since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with the UN-backed government in Tripoli facing off against a rival government in Tobruk. But experts warn the path to full elections and efforts to end other Islamist insurgencies will be fraught. — The Guardian

WHAT WE’RE READING

I’m an ex-Facebook exec: don’t believe what they tell you about ads (The Guardian): “The hard reality is that Facebook will never try to limit use of their data unless the public uproar reaches such a crescendo as to be un-mutable. Which is what happened with Trump and the ‘fake news’ accusation: even the implacable Zuck had to give in and introduce some anti-fake news technology. But they’ll slip that trap as soon as they can.”

Hamas announces a new policy platform (The Economist): “No less a hawk than Naftali Bennett, the education minister, says Israel should do a deal with Hamas. The revised charter is, above all, a rebranding effort to win favour with suspicious Arab states and with the West.”

How Trump is undermining press freedom around the world (Washington Post): “When political figures in the United States deride the media for helping citizens hold their government accountable, they encourage foreign leaders with autocratic goals to do the same. When U.S. officials step back from promoting democracy and press freedom, journalists beyond American shores feel the chill.”

Venezuela is heading for a Soviet-style collapse (Foreign Policy): “Venezuela is not the first developed country to put itself on track to fall into a catastrophic economic crisis. But it is in the relatively unusual situation of having done so while in possession of enormous oil assets. There aren’t many precedents to help understand how this could have happened and what is likely to happen next.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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