TODAY IN TRUMP

Former FBI director James Comey has gone on the record in front of a Senate Select Committee today, accusing Donald Trump of firing him because of his Bureau’s Russia investigation, alleging the administration defamed him and lied, and testifying that Trump personally pushed him to drop an investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Comey also revealed he told a friend to leak his memo of the meeting to a reporter in response to a tweet from Trump warning Comey that he should hope there aren’t any recordings of their conversations.

We’ll have a full report on the two days of tumult surrounding Comey’s testimony in Crikey later today.

COME WHAT MAY

Voting has closed in Britain’s general election, with the day marked by long lines outside voting stations around the country. The final poll had the Conservative party up by 12 points, though polls put the party’s lead between one and 12. It is not the result Prime Minister Theresa May hoped for when she called the election seven weeks ago. Guy Rundle will have his report live from the scene in today’s Crikey Insider. — The Guardian / Reuters

FINKEL NOT FICKLE ON ENERGY SOURCES

This afternoon, Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel will release his long-awaited review of the security of the energy market after briefing leaders at the COAG meeting in Hobart. Multiple reports from Fairfax and News Corp this morning suggest that the review will say that the clean energy target will have the lowest impact on power prices — even lower than doing nothing. A clean energy target would begin operating by 2020, with Australia keeping the renewable energy target until then. The Australian refers to the proposal as “all carrot and no stick” because energy producers would be rewarded for investing in clean energy, but not penalised via a carbon tax. 

To avoid another Hazelwood situation — which was closed down with just six months warning — the Finkel report will reportedly recommend a three-year lead time for the shutdown of coal-fired power stations.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has extended an olive branch to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull indicating that Labor could potentially support a low energy target, and put the climate change political fight to bed, but as always, the backbench of the Coalition may cause trouble. Reports suggest that Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has been briefing the right wing rump of the Coalition backbench ahead of the report’s release to try to get them on board.

STATES PROPOSE FEDERAL JAIL

Ahead of today’s Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting in Hobart, the Herald Sun reports that Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia are pushing for a proposal for federal prisons to house the most dangerous prisons — including those charged with terrorism offences. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been fighting with the states all week over who exactly should have responsibility for parole for terror suspects. Fairfax reports today that figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the number of people in prisons has surged by 40% in the past five years.

Early reports had claimed that the Brighton gunman Yacqub Khayre was blocked from federal deradicalisation programs, but it has been reported today that Khayre was involved in Victorian deradicalisation programs in the six months before this week’s terror attack. The Australian reports, however, that the Islamic Council of Victoria has withdrawn support for the state-based program. In New South Wales, the The Daily Telegraph reports that while 100 inmates are being monitored, just 12 have gone through that state’s own deradicalisation program.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson wrote a letter to the prime minister calling for actual internment camps for people on what she believes are “terrorist watch lists” (the government has confirmed no such list exists, just active ASIO investigations) until we can be sure they are safe. Human Rights groups have called the proposal deeply disturbing.

As Crikey Worm publishes, Victoria Police are undertaking a counter-terrorism operation related to the Brighton siege in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

YOU CALLED ME

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has a letter in the Australian Financial Review today claiming that he finds it hard to hold out hope that Turnbull will ban foreign donations when Turnbull blocked Rudd’s attempts to reform political donations in 2008. Rudd claims that the legislation was a first step that would have changed the whole donations game. 

“It was intended as the first stage of donation reform, but even that would have given Australia a fairer and more transparent system of political donations, still sadly lacking today,” he wrote.

The Australian also reports that Dr Chau Chak Wing — one of the donors making headlines over his support for Labor and the Coalition — has said that he made donations to the major parties in response to approaches for donations from those parties. In fact, the paper states, a senior member of the PM’s election campaign team directly solicited Chau for a donation at last year’s election — well after ASIO chief Duncan Lewis had warned the parties on accepting donations from Chinese-born billionaires with ties to China’s communist party.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Hanson gags ABC over leaked tapes.

Google scrambles to fix Google Maps renaming Margaret Court Arena.

WHAT’S ON FOR TODAY?

Hobart: State and territory leaders meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for COAG.

Hobart: Chief scientist Alan Finkel‘s report on the security of the energy market is expected to be released at 2pm.

Canberra: Attorney-General George Brandis to open National Archives Facility.

THE COMMENTARIAT

No magic bullets in Alan Finkel’s review — Graham Lloyd (The Australian $): “The long-term trend towards renewable energy may be clear. But there is a danger the response to today’s energy market blueprint from the Chief Scientist will be clouded by climate-change ideology and naked politics at the expense of sensible long-term strategy.”

Donations and Alan Finkel will raise Canberra’s temperature — Laura Tingle (Australian Financial Review $): “The risks in energy and climate change policy now, it seems, come from lone wolf operators like Tony Abbott rather than the powerful institutions of our economy.”

Saying ‘enough is enough’ is to misunderstand terrorism completely — Waleed Aly (The Age): “The truth is that while hard police power is undoubtedly important, the track record of governments trying to eliminate terrorism predominantly by force isn’t an encouraging one.”

THE WORLD

Qatar’s leaders have struck a defiant tone in the wake of a worsening diplomatic fallout with major regional powers including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE. Foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani vowed to continue pursuing the country’s independent foreign policy, and dismissed the impact of a blockade on the country. “We can live forever like this, we are well prepared,” he said. The country has been boosted by assistance from Turkey and Iran, while President Donald Trump appears to have eased back his initially ardent support for Saudi Arabia. — Reuters

WHAT WE’RE READING

Statement for the record, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (James B Comey): “When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, ‘I want to talk about Mike Flynn.'”

The 6 things that need to happen for Labour to win (New Statesman): “Based on what happened in 2015, it’s quite possible that Labour MPs in big cities will increase their majorities, but those in small town England will have a catastrophic night.”

The loneliness of Donald Trump (Literary Hub): “I have often run across men (and rarely, but not never, women) who have become so powerful in their lives that there is no one to tell them when they are cruel, wrong, foolish, absurd, repugnant. In the end there is no one else in their world, because when you are not willing to hear how others feel, what others need, when you do not care, you are not willing to acknowledge others’ existence. It is as if these petty tyrants live in a world without honest mirrors, without others, without gravity, and they are buffered from the consequences of their failures.”

The curious case of the disappearing nuts (Outside): “In California, millions of dollars’ worth of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are disappearing. Farmers are perplexed, the cops are confused, and the crooks are getting richer.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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