SHORTEN’S ‘CLASS WAR’ IN BUDGET REPLY

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten delivered his budget reply speech last night, in which he said he would increase taxes for Australia’s highest earners. The Australian has called it an act of “class war“. Shorten said only those earning more than $87,000 a year should face the government’s 0.5% increase in the Medicare levy, which will fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Under the Labor plan, top tax earners (earning more than $180,000) would have a tax rate of 49.5%, making permanent the deficit levy, which was due to expire this year, the Australian Financial Review reports.

Shorten also said Labor would restore $22 billion funding to schools, which he said would be cut under the government’s Gonski 2.0 policy, The Guardian reports.

JIHADI TO FACE AUSTRALIAN COURT

An Australian Islamic State terrorist could face court in Melbourne within a year, as authorities are trying to extradite him from Turkey, the Herald Sun reports. Neil Prakash is in a high-security prison on the Syrian border, and the Hun reports that investigators from Melbourne’s counter-terrorism team are travelling to Turkey to negotiate the extradition.

POLITICAL ‘GAMES’ OVER ADANI MINE

The Courier Mail reports that the Adani mine could be at risk because of “political games” Labor is playing over the mine. The mining company reportedly can’t make a final call on whether to go ahead with the Carmichael coal mine until changes are made to native title legislation. Labor would not agree to extend Parliament’s sitting to today so the changes could be passed.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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Mark Latham could be NSW kingmaker

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: Defence secretary Dennis Richardson to address the National Press Club.

Sydney: Former Australian of the Year finalist Eman Sharobeem to continue giving evidence to ICAC inquiry.

TODAY IN TRUMP

US president Donald Trump has offered a new explanation for why he fired FBI Director James Comey, calling him a “showboat” and a “grandstander”, insisting that he would have sacked Comey even if he had advice otherwise. The White House has previously said the move was made on the advice of the Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and deputy Attorney-General Rod J Rosenstein. Now Trump says Rosenstein’s advice didn’t matter: “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation. He made a recommendation. He’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

Trump has admitted he asked Comey if he was under investigation by the FBI but has also insisted that he is not under investigation.

THE COMMENTARIAT

When I heard about welfare drug testing, I thought of a young mother I once treated — Richard Di Natale (The Guardian): “If we take away support payments at exactly the time when those people need it most, we’re writing a recipe for disaster. Those people won’t give up heroin or ice, but many will turn to illegal methods to support their habit, from dealing drugs to prostitution or theft. Far from addressing the social ill of addiction, this proposal will compound it.”

A generous man of wit, whimsy and wisdom — James Jeffrey (The Australian): “Mark [Colvin] may have been a man of profound depths, but boy was he gleeful splashing through the shallows. Then, just after another round of silliness, he’d turn around and give you what felt like half the universe.”

Politicians wake up in the land of the middle ground — Laura Tingle (The Australian Financial Review $): “It’s all a bit much to grasp for many in Parliament House: a curiously flat Coalition backbench in Parliament on Wednesday was unnerved by the extent of the shift in positions, uncertain how it would go down with voters, aware that there is a long way to go in the rebuilding of a relationship with jaded voters.”

Echoes of Howard — Sharri Markson (The Daily Telegraph $): “Malcolm Turnbull has signed off on very conservative policies that will appease the Coalition base that has been disappointed in him. Think axing 457 visas, the welfare drug tests, the tough citizenship test and the new multiculturalism statement. These policies are popular with mainstream Australians, who are tired of the bleating from the politically correct and infuriated by people who reject our core principles, like Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Such is their irritation, they’re even infuriated by those who defend her.”

THE WORLD

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron has announced a diverse list of political outsiders as candidates to contest next month’s parliamentary election. His party, En Marche, will run 428 candidates, of which only 24 are currently serving members of parliament. More candidates are yet to be announced, with 577 places to be contested. The party says more than 19,000 applications were received, and the youngest candidate is 24 and the oldest is 72 years old. — BBC

New South Korean President Moon Jae-in has told Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call he intends to resolve a dispute over an American missile-defence system deployed in the country that has caused tension with China. Moon said he would send a delegation to Beijing to discuss the issue, and Xi invited his counterpart to visit the Chinese capital as well. — New York Times

US director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has told a Senate hearing the security situation in Afghanistan would likely get worse  over 2018 even if there were a “modest increase” in the US presence in the country. — Reuters

WHAT WE’RE READING

Emmanuel Macron, the novel (Project Syndicate): “Like the eleventh-century Danish King Canute, who commanded the waves not to strike his throne, and then, setting his throne on the beach, demonstrated the fragility of his empire to the flatterers and dreamers who imagined him to be master of the universe, Macron will have to behave modestly.”

Opinion: Blasphemy verdict mainstreams Islamization in Indonesia (Deutsche Welle): “Indonesia has long enjoyed a positive reputation for practicing a moderate and tolerant form of Islam. But the situation in the world’s most populous Muslim nation doesn’t appear to be so positive any longer. Radical forces across the country are gaining strength and seeking to transform the currently pluralistic democracy into an Islamic state.”

What’s Digitization Doing to Health Care? (Motherboard): “New software is industrializing medicine by turning doctors into data entry clerks — and making them suicidally depressed in the process.”

Bezos, Gates, and Bloomberg donated 0.004% of their net worth to fight the next financial crisis (Quartz): “Let’s face it, another financial crisis will happen. It’s completely inevitable. As a Bank of England policymaker said earlier this year, there simply isn’t the data to predict when the next crisis will come, or what it will be. To prepare for that eventuality, investors and philanthropists — including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg and Pete Peterson — have donated $10 million to set up a crisis-response project.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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