The first rule of Midwinter Ball is you don’t talk about Midwinter Ball (though Crikey has never been one for rules), but someone was talking to veteran Nine journalist Laurie Oakes about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s speech, which included a very funny but diplomatically challenging Donald Trump impression. Oakes, who did not attend the ball and thus was not been constrained by its Chatham House rules, played the leaked audio on Channel Nine. “The Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much. We are winning like we have never won before! We are winning in the polls. We are! We are. Not the fake polls, not the fake polls, they’re the ones we’re not winning in,” the Prime Minister joked.
The speech went down extremely well in the room and is delighting American news outlets, but Turnbull himself is not so pleased that it leaked. Turnbull told 3AW he was “disappointed” the audio had leaked and described the speech as an “affectionately lighthearted” jab at himself. There has been no reaction from the White House yet, but a US embassy statement statement said the United States took the joke “with the good humour that was intended”. Journalists, politicians and their guests are normally very mindful of the ban on spilling the beans on what happens in the room, but many are today saying Turnbull should be more careful and not provoke a potentially unstable important ally.
Rebel Wilson has won her defamation case against Bauer Media for a series of articles Wilson says depicted her as a liar and damaged her reputation and earnings potential. “I had to stand up to a bully, a huge media organisation, Bauer Media Group, who maliciously took me down in 2015 with a series of grubby and completely false articles,” Wilson said outside court. Justice John Dixon will now assess damages. Celebrity publicist Max Markson told Fairfax Wilson could be awarded millions in damages due to lost earnings.
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WHAT’S ON TODAY
Melbourne: Commonwealth Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue will explain to the Victorian Supreme Court why it should not charge Liberal ministers Alan Tudge, Michael Sukkar and Greg Hunt with contempt of court because of comments the ministers made in Tuesday’s Australian criticising Victorian judges’ sentencing of those convicted of terrorism. Colleagues including Simon Birmingham and Arthur Sinodinos have rushed to the trio’s defence, but Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce chose, perhaps prudently, to be more circumspect: “The whole issue about contempt of court is you don’t talk about court proceedings.”
Sydney: Atlassian founder and potential South Australian energy market saviour Mike Cannon-Brookes will be among the speakers at the TEDx conference in Sydney today.
Canberra: Justice Minister Michael Keenan will announce details of the first national guns amnesty since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. The three-month amnesty will run from July 1, and the government is hoping to recover many of the estimated 260,000 illegal guns in Australia, “no questions asked”.
Canberra: The House of Representatives will hold hearings into the Australian film and TV industry, with the Department of Communications, ACMA, the ABC and SBS all set to appear. There will also be a joint hearing into ASIO’s questioning and detention powers.
Adelaide: Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne will participate in a ceremony to officially hand over one of Australia’s three new air warfare destroyers.
The Finkel plan will test Malcolm Turnbull’s ability to deliver significant reform — Michelle Grattan (The Conversation): “On the basis of the polls, this could well be Turnbull’s last term. So his attention must be turning to what he would leave behind for the writers of political history.”
Fractured Coalition still at odds over energy policy — David Crowe (The Australian $): “On their own, Liberal and Nationals MPs can be the brightest and most engaging people you may ever meet. As a partyroom they are a threat to stable policy — and a risk to your power bill.”
Political donations: time for an independent overseer — Sean Nicholls (Sydney Morning Herald): “As has been well noted, a system that capped donations and expenditure would by necessity require them to convince more voters to back them with smaller amounts of cash. The party machines hate this idea as it requires more effort for reward.”
Trap for even the experienced players when having a ball — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian $): “For Turnbull, the danger is that his mercurial character and rhetorical brilliance have led him into a grave error of judgment that has been picked up by a delighted anti-Trump media, questioned the sincerity of his relationship and left him hostage to Trump’s reaction.”
TODAY IN TRUMP
Donald Trump is reportedly under investigation as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. While James Comey, the former FBI director whom Trump fired, confirmed that Trump had not been a subject of the investigation previously, The Washington Post has now reported Mueller is considering allegations that Trump obstructed justice.
Qatar has purchased 36 fighter jets from the US as it continues to resist pressure from neighbours including Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The deal had been planned, but Qatari officials pointed to the sale as evidence the US continues to back their country, despite contradictory statements from Trump. — Reuters
Afghanistan’s destabilising wave of violence has continued with several people killed by a suicide bombing at a Kabul mosque. The Taliban denied it was responsible for the attack, which took place on a day of special reverence for Shia Muslims. — The Guardian
The sky above Los Angeles will be illuminated with a Batman symbol tonight in honour of actor Adam West, who died last week. Star of the 1960s live action Batman and Robin television program, West later appeared as a voice in the cartoon Family Guy. — BBC
WHAT WE’RE READING
Russia’s Massive Protests Reveal a Government Playing by Outdated Rules (The Nation): “The protest showed that the anti-corruption march that Navalny had called on March 26, when more than 1,000 people were detained, including me and other journalists, was not a one-off. He has solidified his image as the opposition’s main leader and Putin’s main nemesis. And his growing support comes from Russia’s youth.”
Rachel Maddow: the Rolling Stone interview (Rolling Stone): “Launched nearly a decade ago, The Rachel Maddow Show, hosted by an openly-gay Rhodes scholar who came to TV news by way of progressive Air America Radio, is now the number-one prime-time news program on cable television. “
It’s alright ma, I’m only cheating: did Bob Dylan crib his Nobel speech from SparkNotes? (The Guardian): “While universities habitually run students’ work through plagiarism-detection software such as TurnItIn, there is no such equivalent for Nobel prize speeches, assumed to be the moment at which an eminent economist, physician, writer or peace-maker has earned a few free hits.”
A resolution condemning white supremacy causes chaos at the Southern Baptist Convention (The Atlantic): “Over the last several years, the Southern Baptist Convention has made ‘racial reconciliation’ one of its priorities, building on work begun in 1995 when it first apologised for its role in sustaining and promoting slavery.”
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