COURTING CONTROVERSY

The Victorian judicial system has taken a very dim view of federal Liberal ministers criticising Victorian judges’ decisions concerning terror suspects. Health Minister Greg Hunt, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge have received letters from the Victorian judicial registrar, each saying that it “requires you or your legal representatives to appear before the Court of Appeal on Friday 16 June 2017 at 11.30am to make submissions as to why you should not be referred for prosecution for contempt”. The three were enthusiastically quoted in The Australian on Tuesday slamming Victoria’s approach to terror suspects as an “ideological experiment” that was ignoring the threat posed by terrorism and “eroding trust in the legal system”.  Victoria is considering tough new laws that would allow terror suspects to be detained without charge for two weeks and keep criminals in detention after sentences are served, bringing Victoria’s laws into line with those in the much harsher New South Wales. 

TEN NOT FIVE-BY-FIVE

As expected, Channel Ten was put into voluntary administration yesterday, with administrators KordaMentha appointed to try to sort out the mess. But two of Ten’s three major billionaire shareholders, Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch (the third is James Packer), are not giving up on the embattled network just yet. Gordon and Murdoch have merged their holdings in Ten, which could be part of a strategy to take the network private. Gordon holds 15% of Ten, and Murdoch, 7.5%. The two-out-of-three rule would prevent the pair from buying the network at present, but it just so happens legislation is before Parliament that would scrap that rule and make it much easier for Murdoch and Gordon to privatise Ten. Labor and many of the crossbench oppose the changes, but Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is calling on them to reconsider, calling the Ten fiasco a “wake-up call”. One Nation is reportedly considering changing its position. 

Chanticleer columnist Tony Boyd outlines a series of “coincidences” that led the Ten board to pull the plug:

“It just so happens that one of the coincidences involving the Murdoch-controlled film company occurred around the same time that Lachlan Murdoch and fellow billionaire Bruce Gordon had threatened to sue all the directors of Ten if they went ahead with a recovery plan.

“That threat was contained in a letter sent to the Ten directors on Monday night at 9pm. The same letter was sent to the directors of Ten’s subsidiary companies, which included Ten chief executive Paul Anderson and chief financial officer Dave Boorman.”

US POLITICIANS SHOT IN VIRGINIA

A group of Republican Congressmen has been fired on while at baseball practice, with House majority whip Steve Scalise shot in the hip. Preparing for a charity baseball tournament, the members of the team — which included senators Rand Paul and Jeff Flake — were forced to take cover in the bunker, or on the open field, as a lone gunman continued to unload from the netting next to the field.

The gunman has been confirmed as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, who was shot dead by police, preventing what witnesses said would have been an all-out massacre. Hodgkinson was strongly opposed to Donald Trump and the Republican Party but also had a history of violence towards women. He appeared to be a supporter of Democrat Bernie Sanders.

In response to the shooting, Congress, the President and the Vice-President cancelled their events today. “We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” Trump said.

Sanders said he was “sickened by this despicable act”.

LONDON’S TOWERING INFERNO

A 24-storey residential tower in London has been devastated by fire leaving 12 people dead, a number almost certain to rise. The blaze broke out just after midnight, ripping through the building and trapping residents. Several hundred people were in the building as the fire began.

Discussion has turned to why the building was not better prepared for a fire despite going through a 10 million-pound refurbishment just last year, and locals have already complained that their warnings had been ignored. Prime Minister Theresa May called the tragedy “appalling” and vowed an investigation, while London mayor Sadiq Khan thanked fire fighters.

As fires inside the building continue to burn out, the response has shifted from a rescue to a recovery operation.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Victoria: The Victorian Crime Statistics Agency will release quarterly crime data.

Melbourne: A court mention for Victorian CFMEU state secretary John Setka and assistant secretary Shaun Reardon, who are accused of blackmail. They tried and failed to get charges dropped.

Melbourne: Belle Gibson, the fraudster who faked cancer, will front court today for a penalties hearing. 

Canberra: An Australia China Business Council event will be held at Parliament House, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos both attending this morning. It’s awkward timing as accusations fly of Chinese money and influence on both sides of politics. The Fairfax papers this morning reveal Liberal fundraiser and Tony Abbott-ally John Caputo was asked to intervene in the Australian citizenship application of Chinese billionaire and political donor Huang Xiangmo, despite ASIO warning Abbott about Huang’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Question time yesterday was dominated by accusations of Chinese influence, with Julie Bishop’s attack on the Labor Party deflected by revelations that a Liberal donor had set up an organisation called the Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation. Bishop denied all knowledge of the organisation. 

Canberra: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will today introduce legislation to give the Immigration Minister the power to overturn Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions on citizenship. 

Brisbane: The Queensland Supreme Court will hand down its judgment on the legality of the Queensland government’s approval of Adani’s Abbot Point Terminal expansion.   

Sydney: Controversial former Auburn Council deputy mayor Salim Mehajer and his sister Fatima will face court today over alleged electoral fraud in the 2012 Auburn Council elections. 

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Telstra set to axe 1400 jobs in push to slash costs

Commonwealth agrees to pay Manus Island detainees $70m in class action settlement

THE COMMENTARIAT

Finkel review: a bluffer’s guide for those who haven’t read it — Peter Martin (The Age): “Doing nothing, as Abbott and other non-readers seem to want, doesn’t offer a way out. Worse, it allows the system to become more fragile.”

Josh Frydenberg faces test of power — Rob Harris (Herald Sun $): “Reports of the death of Alan Finkel’s review of energy security are premature. So too are those that claim it has weakened support for the PM among the party room.”

Black spots on road to fixing infrastructure — Anthony Albanese (The Australian $): “After taking office in 2013, the Coalition cancelled all public transport projects not under construction at the time. Since then, it has failed to deliver new investment anywhere in the country.”

THE WORLD

Nine people have been killed in the Somali capital after suicide bomb was detonated at a hotel. Terror group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, with the victims mostly women who worked at the hotel. — Reuters

WHAT WE’RE READING

Why she broke (The Monthly): “The flashpoint was the glimpse that the chef had caught as she drove past the clumsily parked Toyota: the frantic mother hunched over the steering wheel, going off her head while in the back her children went berserk. ‘How many times have I been there?’ whispered my neighbour, a grandmother. ‘I have to know why she broke.'”

Meet the Two Princes reshaping the Middle East (Politico): “The region’s most important relationship may be the dynamic duo of Muhammad bin Salman, the 31-year-old deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and Muhammad bin Zayed, the 56-year-old crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the lead sheikhdom of the United Arab Emirates. They share not only a desire to wage twin battles against Iran and Islamic radicalism, but also a deep appreciation for their conservative Gulf countries’ reliance on the United States.”

Fox News is dropping its ‘Fair & Balanced’ slogan (New York Magazine): “In the annals of modern advertising, ‘Fair & Balanced’ will be considered a classic. The slogan was Ailes’s cynical genius at its most successful. While liberals mocked the tagline, it allowed Ailes to give viewers the appearance of both sides being heard, when in fact he made sure producers staged segments so that the conservative viewpoint always won.”

What it’s really like when people shout at you all day (Medium): “What happens if you work in a profession where absorbing and internalising someone else’s anger is an occupational hazard? A bad interaction with a customer service employee may be nothing more to a customer than an angry note that’s forgotten seconds later  —  but is it nearly as transitory to be constantly on the receiving end of someone else’s primal frustration?” 

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Peter Fray
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