NEW KING COAL

Australia could get a new coal-fired power plant, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg yesterday announcing moves to secure Australia’s energy supply.

“I’ve said in the past that I think that, as Australia is the lar­gest seaborne exporter of coal, it would be good if we had a state-of-the-art, clean-coal power station in Australia,” the PM said. A new power plant could be funded by “reverse-auctions,” The Australian reports, to replace the ageing power stations we have.

The Calition party room yesterday decided to support 49 of the 50 recommendations in the Finkel report, leaving just the Clean Energy Target unendorsed. 

WOULD-BE BOMBER SHOT IN BELGIUM

A man has been shot at the Brussels Central railway station after setting off a small explosion. The man initially detonated a shopping cart, according to a witness, and triggered an evacuation of the station. He reportedly had a suicide vest on and was “neutralised” after being fired on by military at the site. No one was injured apart from the man responsible for the explosion.

CHRISTENSEN CROSSES THE FLOOR

Nationals MP George Christensen crossed the floor last night to vote with Labor in a bid to prevent the Fair Work Commission from reducing Sunday penalty rates for workers in some industries. The vote just failed to pass at 72-73. Christensen was criticised by Labor last week after choosing not to vote to debate a banking inquiry bill put forward by the Greens, despite previously advocating for a royal commission into the banks.

He says we shouldn’t read too much into it, though, telling Fairfax: “I support the Turnbull government, I am a member of the Turnbull government, I voted on the issue, not on confidence in the government.”

REMEMBER THAT NAME: ROSALIND CROUCHER

The government has announced the new president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Rosalind Croucher, currently the boss of the Australian Law Reform Commission. The appointment was quickly panned by the Institute of Public Affairs, which labelled Croucher “Triggs-lite”, although The Australian‘s Chris Merritt says comparisons to current AHRC president Gillian Triggs “judges her by the wrong standard”. 

Croucher’s predecessor clashed with the government and faced a sustained attack by sections of the conservative media and government for years. 

“Prof Croucher has had an illustrious career as a lawyer and member of the academy,” Attorney-General George Brandis said of Croucher as he announced her seven-year term.

“Her strong leadership of the ALRC, and expertise in complex areas of the law, has enhanced its respected public image.”

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

In the last week of Parliament before the winter recess, an update on how the government is going in passing its legislative to do list:

Gonski 2.0: The back and forth over Gonski 2.0 continues, with reports yesterday that the government had offered the Catholic education sector an extra year before the new system would come into place, but Catholic leaders later said no such offer had been made. The Greens are expected to make their decision on whether to support the changes today.

Citizenship changes: Labor says it will block changes to that would make it tougher for migrants to become Australian citizens. The government must now rely on the Senate crossbench to pass the changes.

Media reform: The Australian Financial Review reports the Greens have offered a compromise on abolishing the “two out of three” rule, as long as there are other protections for media diversity.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: New Senator Lucy Gichuhi will give her first speech, and the government will continue negotiations on the Gonski 2.0 and media reform bills. The Senate inquiry into the Centrelink robo-debt debacle is due to release its report today.

Canberra: Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will speak at the National Press Club.

Sydney: State of Origin II is tonight, with New South Wales hoping a home game against Queensland will give them the edge to take the series.

Brisbane: Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale, who resigned earlier this month, is expected to face court charged with extortion and assault, after he was arrested yesterday.

Sydney: Adam Cranston, son of former Australian Tax Office deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, is expected in court for a directions hearings over alleged Tax Office fraud.

Canberra: The protesters who disrupted question time late last year will face court.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Is Finkel the new Gonski? — Rebecca Huntley (Guardian Australia): “In response to the question, “Would you support a clean energy target if it results in energy prices increasing,” 75% would support it if there was no change to prices (not a surprise, no pain for a lot of gain). But interestingly, 41% would continue to support such a target despite a 5% rise, a result which counters the orthodoxy about price rises and low emissions targets.”

Almost half of us fear China could become a threat — Michael Fullilove and Alex Oliver (The Australian $): “…the annual Lowy Institute Poll, released today, has found that most Australian adults are disillusioned with the direction the world is taking and their trust in the US has declined. But, despite this bleak outlook, Australians remain surprisingly positive about globalisation, trade and Australia’s engagement with the rest of the world.”

Australia’s bulwark against the far right — David Smith (New York Times): “The way Australians imagine our nation is very different from how American or French citizens imagine theirs. We have never been a great power, or seen ourselves as the center of the world. Nor do we know the painful sense of having lost that power, or fearing we will lose it.”

Rosalind Croucher is not ‘Triggs lite’ but a welcome antidote — Chris Merritt (The Australian $): “Croucher’s restraint, coupled with her approach to freedom of speech, should reassure those who have come to see the Human Rights Commission as the greatest threat to a fundamental freedom.” 

THE WORLD

An American warplane has shot down an armed Iranian drone in Syria, which was heading towards US-allied forces. It’s not the first time the US has downed such a craft, but the incident comes at a time of heightened tension between the US and the allies of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, including Russia and Iran. Amidst the chaos, Australia has suspended its air missions over Syria. — New York Times

For the first time in 25 years, work has begun on a new Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The news was announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted an image of a bulldozer at the site. Although new settlements have not been built since the mid-1990s, the number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank has massively increased, and rogue settlements have occasionally appeared. — The Guardian

WHAT WE’RE READING

The White House press briefing is slowly dying (The Atlantic): “Asked why the briefings are now routinely held off-camera, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said in a text message ‘Sean got fatter,’ and did not respond to a follow-up.”

Behind a bookcase, a secret passageway leads to a trove of Nazi artifacts in Argentina (Washington Post): “The trove also includes a bust relief of Hitler, magnifying glasses embossed with swastikas (as well as a photo of Hitler holding the same or a similar instrument), a large statue of an eagle above a swastika, silverware, binoculars, a trumpet and a massive swastika-studded hourglass.”

In China, a store of the future — no checkout, no staff (MIT Technology Review): “A glass door slid open, and he stepped inside … a holographic human face with a calm expression and neatly cut bangs greeted him. There was no sound, just a move of the face from one side to another. He liked the ease with which he could buy things: all he needed to do was scan the bar code using a smartphone app with his banking card information registered in it. As he approached the exit, another glass door slid open automatically to let him out.”

Man jailed for dangling baby from window in Algeria (BBC): “The man posted a picture of himself holding the baby out of a window in a high-rise building with the caption: ‘1,000 likes or I will drop him.'”

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