NEW DATA CHALLENGES BUDGET FORECASTS

Analysis and scrutiny of last week’s federal budget continues, with new information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and global ratings agency Standard and Poor’s challenging the government’s narrative. The Australian reports that the private sector wage growth is going backwards, putting the government prediction of a return to surplus in doubt, while at The Australian Financial Review  Jacob Greber writes that while S&P have preserved Australia’s triple A credit rating “for now” they have described the Government’s economic claims as “too optimistic” and insist the outlook “remains negative”.

The Fairfax papers add the Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey which showed consumer confidence at it’s lowest point since January to the mix, and describe the situation as a “triple blow of bad economic news” for Prime Minister Malcolm Turbull.

TODAY IN TRUMP

In the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey, the bad news stories for the president keep rolling. After facing scathing criticism for sharing classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, it has been revealed Trump pressed Comey to drop an investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” Trump said, according to a memo Comey wrote at the time — a memo that somehow has been read to the New York Times.

Flynn was earlier forced to resign after misleading Vice-President Mike Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador.

BANKS FORCED INTO TRANSPARANCY AND SECRECY

The Australian Financial Review reports ACCC chairman Rod Sims believes his new powers should give banks pause before passing on the government’s proposed $6.2 billion tax on onto customers. He is further quoted in The Australian saying he is willing to deploy the full investigative power of the office to investigate any such behaviour, to the point of reading bank chiefs’ emails.

One subject the banks won’t be transparent on, however, is any details of the tax, with Fairfax reporting that Treasurer Scott Morrison will require the big four banks and Macquarie bank to sign a non-disclosure agreement before handing over the draft legislation. The Guardian reports Australian Bankers Association chief Anna Bligh‘s displeasure over the move, which she says makes it illegal to test the legislation “in the public sphere.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

‘People are getting angry’: Health funds accused of ‘obscene’ profits

ATO chief’s son charged over alleged $100m scam

HMAS Adelaide dry-docked as Defence struggles to fix billion-dollar military ship

Manus Island crackdown failed to persuade asylum seekers to leave

Libs set targets on sharks

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Adelaide: Federal and state education ministers to meet and finalise their plan to take to COAG on school funding at Adelaide town hall.

Brisbane: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to hold a press conference on infrastructure with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Finally, a foundation the Coalition can build on –Niki Savva (The Australian $): “The next budget, or the one after, assuming there is time before the next election, has to include income tax cuts. If the economy is stagnant, they can be sold as a means of reinvigorating it; if the economy is chugging along nicely, then they can be afforded. “

Coalition’s bid to catch welfare cheats at odds with real story — Judith Ireland (Sydney Morning Herald): “According to the Treasury’s analysis, unemployment payments will be relatively stable over the next four years. The overall increase in cost is largely due to the ageing population, the full rollout of the NDIS and growth in childcare support.”

The ABC show teaching kids to sympathise with ISIS — Miranda Devine (The Daily Telegraph $):”Behind The News or “BtN”, watched by more than a million students aged between 8 and 13 each week, is the kiddies’ version of the Green Left Weekly, with a leftist slant on everything from refugees to climate change and terrorism.”

I perfected my look in parliament, then took it to the catwalk for fashion week — Anne Aly (Guardian Australian): “I had been perfecting my “look” in parliament, practising the Stunned Mullet in question time, along with my other signature looks, ‘Deer in the Headlights’ and ‘What you talkin’ bout Willis’.”

THE WORLD

Chelsea Manning, a whistleblower who copied thousands of US military documents and provided them to WikiLeaks, has been freed after serving a record seven years in prison. Manning had been sentenced to a 35-year prison term but had it commuted by Barack Obama in the final days of his presidency. — New York Times

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has compared the treatment of Venezuelan officials outside of the country with that of Jewish people living under the Nazi regime. The inflammatory remarks came in the wake of a string of videos showing Venezuelan officials being met with protests and insults in foreign countries. “We are the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler pursued,” Maduro, who has delayed elections and been accused of taking dictatorial powers, said. — The Guardian 

WHAT WE’RE READING

Free Chelsea (The Verge): “Though she has been in military detention for as long as the world has known who she is, she’s become a global figure — we see her everywhere. ‘Free Chelsea’ posters are a common sight at gay pride parades: a pencil sketch of her face framed by the long hair she isn’t allowed to grow in prison. Her story and her writings have been turned into an opera and half a dozen theater pieces.”

At a besieged White House, tempers flare and confusion swirls (New York Times): “In private, three administration officials conceded that they could not publicly articulate their most compelling — and honest — defense of the president for divulging classified intelligence to the Russians: that Mr. Trump, a hasty and indifferent reader of his briefing materials, simply did not possess the interest or the knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would harm American allies.”

Why voters in Tehran are worried about the Donald Trump effect (The Independent): “The presidential election campaign in Iran is tense and the outcome increasingly tight. The great fear of the liberals is that Ebrahim Raisi, once a judge in the ‘death commissions’ which sent thousands of political prisoners to the gallows and firing squads, may win … the man who may help bring this about is Donald Trump, whose baleful shadow hangs over this vitally important election.”

Detroit: from bankruptcy to books (Ozy): “The future of Detroit hasn’t been written yet, but as the city turns the page on its economic troubles, it might just get a lovely surprise ending. A phoenix is rising as an influx of young entrepreneurs, musicians, visual artists and, of course, hipsters have begun to transform the city.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

It’s time to book your next dose of Crikey.

Through the week, news comes at you fast. Every day there’s a new disaster, depressing numbers or a scandal to doom-scroll to. It’s exhausting, and not good for your health.

Book your next dose of Crikey to get on top of it all. Subscribe now and get your first 12 weeks for $12. And you’ll help us too, because every dollar we get helps us dig even deeper.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.