PELL TO BE CHARGED?

The Herald Sun reports that Victoria Police are deciding on whether to charge Cardinal George Pell with historic sexual abuse. Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions, John Champion reportedly advised police that based on his assessment of the evidence, charges could be laid, but emphasised that it was ultimately up to the police to decide whether to proceed. The Age reports the DPP would not comment on any recommendations in the advice to police.

Pell has consistently denied all allegations of abuse. It was revealed last February that police were investigating allegations of historical sexual abuse against ten boys during Pell’s time as a priest and archbishop between 1978 and 2001.

TRUMP DEFENDS ‘ABSOLUTE RIGHT’ ON INTELLIGENCE

Donald Trump has responded to reports that he shared intelligence with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, effectively confirming the story but defending his right to do so. On Twitter, the president said he had the “absolute right” to share the information, which he said was linked to terrorism and airline safety. The problem with the disclosure, however, is that it may have exposed the source of the intel, reportedly provided to the US by Israel.

BANK TAX FALLOUT CONTINUES

The Australian Financial Review reports the government’s disagreement with NAB chairman Ken Henry (following his scathing attack on the $6.2 billion tax on the major banks yesterday) has turned “personal” with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying he is “talking his own book” and various senior ministers criticising his policies as Treasury secretary.

David Crowe writes at The Australian that banks fear the levy could end up providing Treasurer Scott Morrison or a Labor successor a “blank cheque” by providing the ability to increase the tax without needing a vote in parliament. Meanwhile, the AFR reports the banks are “turning on each other” with smaller members of the Australian Bankers Association such as the Bendigo Bank and ME Bank backing the new tax — a line at odds with ABA chairman Andrew Thorburn, who was among the first to publicly criticise the tax.

DAY TO BE INVESTIGATED

More bad news for former Family First Senator Bob Day, with Fairfax reporting that he is to be investigated by the industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, for allegedly misclassifying his workforce as contractors at his Newstart homes business in Queensland, and thus significantly underpaying them. The implosion of the business lead to the High Court ruling he was invalidly elected and the loss of his senate seat. 

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Centrelink robo-debt correspondence ‘incomprehensible’, Senate inquiry told

Dealmakers salivate as WA looks to sell off public assets

Hundreds of public servants face sack as Immigration outsources visa centres

Ex-Fairfax Media chair Ron Walker backs TPG move

Labor states hold NDIS funding to ransom

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood is among the media bosses to present to the Senate’s inquiry into the future of public interest journalism.

Melbourne: The state funeral for former footballer and media personality Lou Richards to be held at St Paul’s Cathedral.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Why didn’t Turnbull get a budget poll bounce? Because he’s playing on Labor home turf — Peter Lewis (Guardian Australia): “The electorate sees the usual suspects — the very rich and Australian business — as being the winners, unsurprising given they are the two groups to secure tax cuts.”

Inside the fight to lead the Liberal party — Jennifer Hewett (Australian Financial Review $): “Being put into an acting position as federal director with the leader’s blessing was supposed to mean [AndrewBragg became a near certainty to be appointed permanently next month. Instead, it has unleashed a counter campaign by some state presidents and branches as well as the retiring party president, Richard Alston, apparently determined to thwart the PM’s choice.”

To be perfectly fair, Labor’s guilty of NDIS hypocrisy –Paul Kelly (The Australian $): “Labor’s message is that, in the name of fairness, it wants more redistribution, more progressivity and less incentive for aspiration. This is the pivotal issue in the 2017 budget and now the central debate in our politics.”

THE WORLD

Social media is playing an unprecedented role in the Iranian presidential election, with hardliners effectively embracing online platforms for the first time. In the past, liberals and moderates have taken to platforms like Telegram in the millions to spread information that would otherwise be censored. While the Revolutionary Guard has clamped down, banning some aspects of the service and arresting dissenting channel operators, hardliners are now also taking to similar services to spread videos and memes critical of president Hassan Rouhani. — Reuters

The Syrian regime has denied an accusation by US acting assistant secretary of state Stuart Jones that the country is covering up mass executions by burning bodies in a crematorium. The Syrian foreign ministry described the claim as “a new Hollywood story detached from reality”. — Reuters

Britain’s ambassador to Austria, Leigh Turner, has described an incident in which he was forced to clamber up a tree after being chased by a “massive” wild boar. It’s not the first time a political operative from the UK has allegedly been caught in a compromising position with a pig — but former prime minister David Cameron wouldn’t know anything about that. — BBC

WHAT WE’RE READING

Preserving the Russia investigation: a preview of our interview with Sally Yates (The New Yorker): “Yates declined to talk about any classified information, including underlying evidence in the Flynn case, but it seems clear that Flynn’s name was not masked in the reports on the phone call that she saw.”

Your art degree might save you from automation, an AI expert says (Quartz): “While art isn’t on Lee’s list of skills that will be replaced by AI, both large tech companies and small startups have dedicated resources to making AI that can generate artistic images, doodles, music, and entertainment..”

How Kate, William and Harry became Britain’s biggest reality TV show (The Spectator UK): “The younger royals are just too interested in the cringe-inducing world of celebrity and in the popularisation of their own image. At times, it’s hard to tell the difference between the real-life entertainment provided by the princes and those “structured-reality” shows such as Made in Chelsea or The Only Way is Essex, in which fake people act out real and trivial events which become drawn-out sagas.”

How smart is a dog really? (Time): “Dogs are like us in their joy and empathy and inexhaustible curiosity, and we — at least when we’re in their presence — become more like them. We are both better species for our very long union.”

Which countries destroy the environment most (and least)? (Pricenomics): “The gap between demand and nature’s ability to meet that demand has grown steadily since then. Each year we live in ecological deficit–taking more than can be replenished–we draw down the world’s reserves of natural resources. Ensuring we don’t use up the world’s resources is a global effort, though some countries use up more resources than others.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

 

Peter Fray

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