POWER PLAY

Tony Abbott and almost two dozen other Liberal and National MPs have rounded on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the proposed Clean Energy Target, which they say would drive up power prices and hurt the coal industry. At least 22 Coalition members confronted the PM in a tense, three-hour joint party room meeting, demanding that he rule out any changes to Australia’s energy policy that would hurt coal and gas power. It’s a reaction to Chief Scientist Alan Finkel‘s report, released last week, which recommends forcing electricity companies to sell a portion of their power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Coal-loving MPs including Victorian MP Kevin Andrews, Western Australians Rick Wilson, Andrew Hastie, Chris Back and Ben Morton, South Australian Tony Pasin and Nationals Ken O’Dowd, Bridget McKenzie, Mark Coulton, Andrew Broad, George Christensen and Andrew Gee want the PM to promise not to implement the report’s recommendations, which Abbott described as “effectively, a tax on coal”. 

Abbott was the most vocal in his opposition to the target, according to The Australian. Why might that be? An anonymous MP in the room told Fairfax: “Malcolm could lose his leadership over this if he doesn’t listen to us.”

CHINESE DONATIONS FALLOUT

The Labor Party received a donation of “at least $120,000” and “up to $140,000” from “gold dealers linked to a multimillion-dollar tax scam” during the 2016 federal election, it has been revealed. The donations were made by four companies with links to Labor adviser and 2016 Senate candidate Simon Zhou, who has been named by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as being connected to a company that now owes the Australian Taxation Office $20 million in unpaid taxes and penalties after a $143 million gold-trading scandal. Zhou has resigned from the ALP, and yesterday Joint Parliamentary Intelligence Committee chairman and Labor member Anthony Byrne called for a parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference and donations. “This has to be done, even if it involves our own side,” Byrne said. 

The Coalition is making hay of the ABC-Fairfax investigation into Chinese donations and influence-seeking, which has mostly targeted the Labor side. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop brought up the issue of Sam Dastyari‘s links to the Chinese in Parliament yesterday: “We now know that Senator Dastyari’s about-face on the South China Sea had a price tag attached to it, indeed a reported $400,000 was all it took for Senator Dastyari to trash Labor’s official foreign policy position.”

DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL

The board of the embattled Ten Network is expected to put the broadcaster into administration, possibly as early as today, after billionaire shareholders Lachlan Murdoch, Bruce Gordon and James Packer refused to guarantee another $250 million loan. The board will meet today to discuss its options.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Melbourne: A hearing is scheduled for the class action lawsuit brought by current and former Manus Island detainees. Most expect the government to settle rather than proceed to trial, and experts say the Australian government could have to pay compensation to almost 2000 detainees for mistreatment. 

Melbourne: A man will face court today charged with supplying the firearm used in last Monday’s terror attack in Brighton. 

Perth: A court will hear a legal dispute between Clive Palmer‘s private company Mineralogy and its Chinese partner CITIC over royalty payments for iron ore produced at the multibillion-dollar Sino Iron project in the Pilbara.

Brisbane: Former AFP Commissioner Mick Palmer and former director-general of Queensland Corrective Services Keith Hamburger will hold a media conference on “Australia’s failed drugs policy”.

Dili: Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong will meet East Timorese President Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres, Prime Minister Dr Rui Maria de Araujo and senior ministers on day one of her two-day trip to the country. The visit is hoped to smooth relations that have been strained by the ongoing maritime boundary dispute. The dispute centres on which country is entitled to the $50 billion oil and gas reserve in the Timor Sea.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Rethink on Finkel review vital if Coalition is to survive — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian $): “Despite his rhetoric, his chastising of Bill Shorten and ridicule of Labor, Malcolm Turnbull has failed to convince much of his backbench that he’s not being seduced by the Labor lure of cutting emissions ahead of lower power costs.”

Finkel road map takes scenic route to cutting carbon — Richard Denniss (Australian Financial Review $): “A well-designed CET could be a policy breakthrough, but a badly designed one could lock in over-investment in fossil fuels; increase prices; harm long reliability and lead to higher emissions.”

Ten Network situation overrun with conflicts — Tony Boyd (Australian Financial Review $): “It would be a miracle if the business does not go into voluntary administration on Wednesday. Directors will have little choice given the combination of bank debt, poor cash flow and onerous programming agreements.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

Donald Trump’s Attorney-General has had his turn before a Senate Committee looking into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. Jeff Sessions hit out at allegations that he was involved in any such collusion as an “appalling and detestable lie”.

In his testimony, Sessions frustrated Democrats on the panel who accused him of “stonewalling” as he declined to recount details of his conversations with Trump. The hearing is ongoing. — The Washington Post

THE WORLD

The European Union has initiated legal action against Hungry, Poland, and the Czech Republic for refusing to resettle refugees that arrived in Italy and Greece. The countries have refused to take refugees, citing security concerns and issues with the allocation process. Of the 160,00 people in need of assistance, just 21,000 have so far been resettled to date. — Reuters

Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick has stepped aside indefinitely. Kalanick said he needed time to grieve the sudden death of his mother, but the move comes as the company starts to respond to an internal investigation by former attorney-general Eric Holder, spurred by allegations of a poor internal culture and sexism. — CNN

WHAT WE’RE READING

The long, lonely road of Chelsea Manning (The New York Times Magazine): “To an extraordinary extent, she had a more comprehensive view of America’s role in Iraq than the infantry in the field did — often, literally, a sky-level view — and as October ground into November, she found herself increasingly dismayed by a lack of public awareness about what seemed to be a futile, ceaselessly bloody war. “At a certain point,” she told me, “I stopped seeing records and started seeing people”: bloody American soldiers, bullet-ridden Iraqi civilians.”

Oliver Stone on Vladimir Putin: ‘The Russian people have never been better off’ (The Guardian): “Putin and Stone are a classic odd couple. The messy, craggy, ursine Hollywood wildman and the pantherine, inscrutable politician. It isn’t David Frost v Richard Nixon, oil v grease, but more The Jungle Book’s Baloo and Shere Khan transported to the Kremlin.”

A number of reasons I’ve been depressed lately (The Paris Review): “I talk to a longtime friend of the family who tells me with great authority that Hillary Clinton is a member of the Illuminati and that she and her husband have killed scores of people, including children, who they also sexually molested.” 

Why the US needs its own BBC (GQ): “One thing Americans ought to realise in the wake of Trump is that, with respect to media, the free market cannot be the answer to everything. Americans are right to treasure the First Amendment. But the constitutional provision for a marketplace of ideas does not ensure that this marketplace will be of high quality, or provide citizens with the knowledge necessary to function as members of a democratic society. In this sense, America needs a BBC.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

 

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off