BIRMO’S GONSKI NIGHTMARE

How hard is it to spend $18 billion on Australia’s education system? Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Education Minister Simon Birmingham are finding out just how hard, with the prospect that more Coalition MPs will cross the floor to oppose the Gonski 2.0 funding reforms in protest against the cuts to the Catholic education sector. Yesterday we learnt that Liberal Senator Chris Back was considering crossing the floor, and now former cabinet minister Kevin Andrews has demanded that modelling shown to the crossbench also be shown to government MPs in today’s joint party room meeting.

“The modelling has not been provided to the party room — I hope it will be provided tomorrow,” he told Fairfax.

In The Australian, a senior executive of the Catholic Education Commission has signalled that Birmingham has failed to convince the sector, saying the government will “wear this like an albatross around its neck until the day of the next election”.

If Back does cross the floor, the government will require 11 more votes to get the bill passed, meaning it must deal with the Greens. The Australian Financial Review reports that the party is divided over the prospect of supporting legislation so staunchly opposed by the Australian Education Union, with no breakthrough achieved at last night’s party meeting. “We will be destroyed if we do a deal with the government,” one source told the AFR‘s Phillip Coorey.

There’s now a chance that the legislation won’t get passed this week.

MAN ARRESTED AFTER ANTI-MUSLIM TERROR IN LONDON

A man from Cardiff has been arrested after allegedly carrying out an anti-Muslim terror attack in London. Darren Osborne is being held after a van hit people near a mosque in Finsbury Park just after midnight. Nine people were taken to hospital after the attack and one person is dead, although the man who died is believed to have been ill before the incident. PM Theresa May called it an attack on “the innocent going about their daily lives — this time British Muslims as they left a mosque having broken their fast and prayed together at this sacred time of year.”

HE REALLY SAID THAT

The governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia has said Australians should ask for a pay rise, saying there is a “crisis” in wage growth in Australia. Philip Lowe told the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum: “At some point, one imagines that’s [low jobless rates] going to lead to workers being prepared to ask for larger wage rises. If that were to happen it would be a good thing.”

Lowe also had an optimistic view of the global economy. “But globally things are better. Animal spirits have been missing for quite a while, and they might just be starting to come back.”

SENATE INQUIRY INTO SHOPPIES

The Labor-aligned Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association faces a Senate inquiry in responses to wages scandals that have dudded its members out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Workers at some of Australia’s biggest employers, like McDonald’s, Coles and Woolworths, are covered by union deals that leave them earning less than minimum rates. The push for the inquiry was led by independent Senator Nick Xenophon, but it is supported by the government, Labor and the Greens.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Australian Defence files to be moved out of privately owned data hub after Chinese buy-in

Australian man escapes Bali’s Kerobokan Prison with three other inmates

Former union leader Kathy Jackson faces 164 criminal charges

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: Parliament sits today, and the halls of power are all saying “Gonski”. The Coalition joint party room meeting and the Labor caucus meeting are today. The government passed the bank levy late last night.

Sydney: The New South Wales government will hand down its budget, with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to announce a $4.5 billion surplus.

Canberra: An event to show support for the Australian Christian Lobby will be held at Parliament House tonight, hosted by Matthew Canavan and Zed Seselja.

Darwin: Hearings for the royal commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory continue today. Yesterday the commission heard that the number of child protection cases more than doubled after NT intervention.

Melbourne: The AFL is set to announce a new enterprise bargaining agreement has been reached with players ahead of tonight’s Hall of Fame dinner.

Sydney: The Australian Rugby Union will hold an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the axing of one of the Australian Super Rugby teams.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Disaffected Libs keen for PM to walk a shorter plank — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian $): “From some within the ­Coalition the discount to Turnbull’s benchmark for failure is 30 per cent, suggesting there will be trouble for him if the Newspoll losing streak — now at 14 in a row — goes above 20.”

NSW schools could be $60 million worse off due to union stance on Gonski 2.0 — Peter Goss (Sydney Morning Herald): “So now, as the Senate prepares to vote on Gonski 2.0, the AEU is in the bizarre position of arguing for less money for government schools. If Gonski 2.0 is voted down, funding will revert to the 2013 Education Act.”

Malcolm Turnbull’s leaked speech is not the real problem with the Mid-Winter ball — Shaun Carney (Herald Sun $): “Long may the Mid-Winter Ball continue — but livestreamed, and available to all.”

THE WORLD

American student Otto Warmbier, imprisoned in North Korea and released while in a coma less than a week ago, has died. The 22-year-old had been detained for 17 months by the secretive regime after allegedly stealing a propaganda sign, and the North Korean government says he fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. This is disputed by US doctors. “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” his family said in a statement. — ABC

Tensions between rival superpowers are increasing in Syria after military strikes by the US and Iran. On Sunday, US forces shot down a Syrian jet, which they said had dropped bombs near forces allied to the US. In the wake of that strike, Iran fired missiles at Islamic State fighters, another first, which Iranian officials said was in response to the recent IS attack on Tehran. Allied to Iran and Syria, Russia has responded angrily to the US strike, hinting it might shoot down US planes if they venture west of the Euphrates River. — Reuters

French prosecutors are investigating a potential terror incident on the Champs Elysees after a man with explosives and weapons in his car rammed a police van. The assailant died in the collision but no officers were harmed. — The Guardian 

WHAT WE’RE READING

Do we need women’s news? (New Republic): “What, exactly, is ‘women’s  news?’ Flipping through women’s magazines and clicking on women’s blogs, you’re pointed to fashion, sex, and childrearing. When it comes to politics, you are told that women’s issues are reproductive rights, gender discrimination, paid family leave, and sexual assault. Issues like foreign policy and the tax code—not so much.”

Maldives, tourist haven, casts wary eye on growing Islamic radicalism (New York Times): “The Maldives’ unusual approach to tourism, in which a single island houses a single resort, has also meant that entire islands without robust security teams are vulnerable to being seized.”

‘We didn’t recognise that he was dangerous’: our father killed our mother and sister (The Guardian): “The two brothers started to worry: only days before, they had both helped their mother and sister move out, after a lifetime of emotional abuse and psychological control. But surely Lance wouldn’t do anything that would make the international news?”

The man who knew too much (BuzzFeed): “When police entered the red brick house in Oxfordshire, they found the body of a stocky, bushy-haired scientist sprawled across the kitchen floor. Blood from severe wounds in his neck, arms, and stomach pooled around him.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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